What Is The "Nap" In Betting? - LBC

[PI] Chaun - Superstition - 4896 Words

In Farhan O'Rourke's opinion, the hardest part about being a leprechaun was the money laundering.
When he was young, his father told him keeping his identity concealed would be the hardest part of his life, what with all the hunters and blackmailers looking to steal his stash. His father had been right, though the advice was mostly related to how to disguise habits and appearances. The man never would have guessed that in today's age of technology, a leprechaun was ten times more likely to be outed by a financial auditor than a bounty hunter.
Farhan was as close to a modern day 'chaun as one could find these days. At 5'6'', he was tall for his kin, and thanks to his local barber, his dyed hair was now closer to the color of mud than his family's signature red. He didn't much care for the color green, and never wore it out unless he really needed luck on his side, and even then he was discreet about how much of the suggestive color he flashed.
To this day, nobody had guessed the true nature of Farhan by his appearance, not even his own girlfriend.
Disguises were easy. But the criminal side of it all? The lies and deceit, the back room deals with shady brokers, the constant evasion from the probing eyes of regulators, always covering ones tracks, every financial decision calculated and meticulously planned, all so he could spend his own gold? Now that was the true plight of today's leprechaun.
And moving 'chaun gold was a dangerous game to play. In the last year alone, twenty five of Farhan's kind had been outed while being investigated for suspicious financial activity. To his credit, nobody was better at pushing pots of gold into banks than Farhan O'Rouke. Forever the entrepreneur, he had made a career out of helping other leprechauns move their ancient stashes into the digital age undetected.
Farhan claimed he hadn't been caught because he was careful. His friends told him that no amount of care could protect him from the age of information. They told him he was just lucky.
He didn't argue with that point. After all, he worked extremely hard for his luck.
That's enough, Farhan reminded himself, looking out over the giant racetrack before him, a giant oval of trampled mud. From somewhere above him, an announcer's voice crackled from an outdated PA system, rattling off the names and numbers of race horses like an auctioneer. No more worrying about business on your day off.
It was a typically overcast New Jersey day, alternating between heavy drizzle and outright downpour, the gray of the sky seeping down to mingle with the crowd shivering inside their raincoats. Necks craned up over a roof of umbrellas to catch a glimpse of their chosen horse, all lost in an indecipherable cloud of haze rounding the far bend. The mass of bodies slowly retracted away from rain, huddling together under the giant overhang shielding the grandstands, as a mist blurred the race horses into dark, dancing shadows.
From inside the folds of his coat, Farhan felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. That would be Elizabeth Gregory again, the nosy prude from the Securities Exchange Commission.
Christ almighty, he thought, switching his phone to 'Do Not Disturb'. I couldn't even buy bloody Apple stock without her sniffing up my arse.
Elizabeth was most likely auditing the flurry of trades he had brokered on Friday, minutes before the stock market had closed. He hadn't even been working for a client then, the trades were simply a favor for his family; liquidating uncle Connor's horde of gold so he could put his dear, sweet daughter through college.
Connor told Farhan he was a blessing from god. Farhan told Connor this was the last time he was sticking his neck out for his lazy, careless ass so his daughter could get plastered for four years at a community college.
It had been a simple manuever – Farhan had opted to move his uncle's life's savings via a series of investments into a fake company named Foulchemy, officially registered as, “A Delaware-based, eco-friendly research firm which aims to develop the science of turning fecal matter into precious metals.”
Compared to his past endeavors, the transaction had been minuscule, but Elizabeth had flagged it anyways. That was just the kind of person Elizabeth was, it seemed.
Farhan had bought off Elizabeth's predecessor at the SEC with a one-off bribe of a little less than less than twice his hourly rate. The poor bastard made shit for hourly wages, had three mouths to feed back home, and hated his job, a trifecta of circumstance that made turning a blind eye to Farhan's financials the easiest decision of his life.
All was well until the poor sod was laid off without warning, and Elizabeth had stormed in like a hurricane and taken over all his open cases. Farhan quickly discovered she had been far less receptive to his friendly 'gifts' and was going to be pain in his ass. Now it seemed she had taken bothering him outside of her working hours, too. Some people needed to get a life.
The leprechaun was brought back to the present by the boom of the racing announcer's voice, which was now frantic with excitement. The crowd started to cheer, as a shale-gray filly broke out of the pack of racers ike a heat-propelled missile.
“And Wailing Banshee, the 33-1 longshot, takes a commanding lead!”
Farhan's heart quickened as he heard the name. That's it lass, keep it up.
As the horse picked up momentum, Farhan felt something ancient stir within his chest, like an energy roused from a deep slumber. An energy that thrummed through the veins of his arms and tickled his ears. Farhan knew the sensation well; it was the old blood in him, and now it was gracing him with a bit of fortune.
It seemed with every beat of his heart, the gray horse distanced itself from the field by another length. He was so concentrated on the horse pulling away that he barely felt the punch on his right shoulder. “Fookin' hell Farhan, look at 'er go!”
Farhan turned to face his girlfriend Maddie Reilly, her red curls bouncing in front of her freckled face excitedly. He gave her a wink and a sheepish smile. “I told ya to pick that pony, no? She's got some fire in her belly, that one. Saw her throwin' around the stable-hands before the race and knew she was mine.”
“How much you put on her, anyway?”
Farhan produced a lighter and a crumpled pack of cigarettes him his pocket. He shook one out of the pack and sparked a light on his first try. “Seven.”
“Dollars?”
Seven dollars?” He laughed. “Was I was bussed here by my retirement home? Do I carry around a coin purse? Is my name Eleanor? I didn't put seven dollars on that demon horse. Seven hundred, woman.”
Maddie's eyes widened. “Seven fookin' Benjamins on a longshot? You're daft.”
“What's so daft about trusting my gut?”
“I can't even trust my gut with seafood.” She gave him a poke in the ribs. “Looks like drinks are on that magic gut of yours tonight, yah lucky bastard. And I'd fancy a nice steak dinner too, now that I think of it.” She winked at him. “Treat your woman right and you might even get lucky again tonight.”
Farhan took a puff of smoke and frowned. “Don't jinx it, Maddie.”
“What's there to jinx?” The beast stormed down into the final stretch, at least fifteen lengths ahead of its closest pursuer. “No one's catchin' her.”
You can always jink it, Farhan thought uneasily, letting the smoke from the cigarette curl around his face. Farhan's father had taught him that being lucky was not a gift, but a skill that took years of practice to master.
Superstition was a powerful force of nature, and putting in the legwork made all the difference. People like Farhan did well with the ponies because they manipulated circumstance into their favor. As a devoted believer, Farhan was always careful around breakable, reflective surfaces. He avoided the cracks in the sidewalks at all costs. And he always registered new shell companies in groups of three.
Wailing Banshee thundered toward the finish like a horse hearlding the apocalypse, teeth gnashing, eyes wild, but nobody but Farhan was watching. The crowd was already starting to disperse out of the grandstand, back towards the betting windows to wager on the next race. Maddie tugged at his arm to follow, but Farhan stood planted in place. His veins were thrumming again, but this time the sensation filled him with a sense of malaise that made his skin itch and tingle.
“Wait Maddie,” he said, reaching into his pocket and fishing out his wallet. He began to rifle through the flaps, searching for the brittle four leaf clover pressed into one of the numerous leather sleeves.
And then it happened.
Wailing Banshee stumbled, nearly lost its balance, and then came up lame. The jockey ignored the shrill cry and whipped at the horse's flank, urging it forward to finish the race, but the animal was no longer taking orders. It had been spooked by something and veered off the track, then jumped over the barrier and into the enclosed infield grass.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd and the announcer's voice crackled back to life. “And Wailing Banshee has removed itself from the field, and now this race is still up for grabs again! Here they come, down the stretch now. It's a mad dash for first place, neck and neck...and...it...is...Black Cat! Black Cat wins by a hand! At 13-1 odds, the rookie takes first in a shocking turn of events!”
The grandstands were roaring, the world was spinning, and Farhan livid.
He unleashed a barrage of obscenities that would have made a sailor blush, as a of crew stable hands rushed out after the rogue horse, which was now trying to buck its jockey off its back like a bull. Maddie stood frozen beside him, still parsing the events that had unraveled in front of her eyes.
“What the hell just...”
“It's fookin' fixed!” Farhan yelled, grabbing the unresponsive Maddie by the hand and tugging her towards the exit. “The whole things fookin' fixed.”
Maddie blinked. “Farhan, what are you on about?”
“Something meddled with the race!” he said angrily, shouldering through the crowd with a reckless aggressiveness that prompted several angry looks from his victims. “Wasn't a fair fight at all. Something's meddled with it!”
“It was a bit odd,” Maddie conceded, as they bobbed through the sea of heads. “Yah sayin' Wailing Banshee's jockey threw the race?”
“No damn it, don't you listen woman? I'm sayin' something's meddled with it.”
Maddie's face flashed with anger, and she tore her hand away. “Farhan O'Rouke, the hell's gotten into you? It's shit you lost your money, but yah don't have to take it out on me.” She humphed, hands on her hips. “It was a stupid bet anyways.”
He took a deep breath, feeling his frustration mount, and forced himself to swallow his anger. “Sorry Maddie,” his voice softened, “didn't mean to snap. Somethin's just got me mixed up right now.”
“I'll say.”
He took a look towards one of the video monitors broadcasting the aftermath of the race. The horse named Black Cat was trotting around in an easy victory lap, a hulking steed the size of a war horse, its coat so dark that you couldn't tell its eyes from the rest of it. The jockey wore a black and silver checkered uniform, and was bobbing up and down on the horse rhythmically with each stride. He waved at the camera, his pale face twisted into a smile that ended before it reached his dark eyes. As Farhan watched the image on the television, he had the strangest feeling that the jockey was smiling directly at him through the screen.
“He wasn't in the race,” Farhan whispered, and the back of his neck prickled.
“What?”
“At the start of that race, there wasn't any horse named Black Cat. Would've noticed it. A man like me never puts his money on a race with an omen like that.”
“Won't argue with that logic,” Maddie said, failing to hide the exasperation in her tone, “but what's to say you didn't just overlook it?”
“I didn't overlook it. There was only twelve horses in this race at the start. Look, Black Cat is horse number 13. Wasn't in the gate at the start of the race. Somehow it got changed.”
Maddie blew one of her red curls out of her face. “Farhan, that's mental. Look over there, at all the people queued up to collect their winnings. If Black Cat wasn't in the gate at the start, then how could they have bet on...”
“I don't know,” Farhan said, looking back at the smiling jockey on the screen, as a feeling of dread clenched his stomach. “I don't fookin' know.”
If was already 10:30 AM the next morning when Farhan stumbled through the broken door of his tiny office, disheveled and hungover. He hadn't bothered to iron his shirt, and his faded red tie dangled loose and untied from under his collar. He had been out late drinking with Maddie, drowning his sorrows until the early hours of the morning, trying to convince his girlfriend that some type of malevolent entity had robbed him of his winnings. His efforts had been largely unsuccessful, and now he had nothing but a headache to show for his trouble.
From the front desk, a young, wiry teenager wearing an over-sized pair of glasses was rapping away at his keyboard, whistling to himself.
“Hello Farhan,” his assistant Rudolph said cheerfully, looking up from the cramped front desk, as his boss dropped his briefcase on his foot and swore. Rudolph was only nineteen, and much unlike Farhan, he still possessed the boyish positivity of someone that had not let the world beat him down “Have a good weekend?”
“Had a bloody awful weekend,” Farhan said, trying the massage ache out of his temples. “Lost it big on the ponies. Hope yours was better than mine.”
As a matter of fact, it was the first time Farhan could ever remember going out gambling and losing money. The 'chaun was so lucky with his wagers that he always had to claim his annual winnings as a separate source of income.
“Sorry to hear that boss,” Rudolph said, his voice upbeat. “Me mum says gambling will always catch up to you in the end though. You want to know where I went?”
“Course I do. Where'd yah go, Rudolph?”
“I went snorkeling!”
“Snorkeling?” Farhan raised an eyebrow. “Here in New Jersey?”
“There's a place they got down on the shore you can go. Yes, I know what yer thinking, there aren't any dolphins up here, but we saw lots of crabs and sea bass! Fascinating creatures, them.” Rudolph pointed over at the kitchenette counter on the far side of the room. “Coffees still hot. Go ahead and kill it, mum says I was already born with caffeine in my veins.”
“Thanks lad.” Farhan plucked a styfoam cup from the cupboard and dumped the last dregs of the viscous brown substance into it.
The office was a disaster, he realized, as he took a sip of the scalding liquid. He pondered renting out a bigger space, if not for him, then for Rudolph. Currently, the boy was the only full time worker that Farhan employed, but still, the lobby was so small and cluttered with piles of files and cabinets that the assistant barely had any room to move.
His business was doing well enough that he could afford the expenses of a new office, the real problem was that buying a bigger place would look funny to auditors if he didn't hire more than one employee to fill the bigger space. Farhan preferred to keep his business dealings close to the chest, and Rudolph was one of only a few people in the world that he trusted with his secrets. Expanding his operation would involve expanding that circle of trust, and Farhan wasn't ready to take that leap yet.
“Any new messages?” Farhan asked, wincing at the bite of the coffee's taste.
“A couple from Elizabeth Gregory this morning. Says she's been trying to reach you.”
Farhan groaned. “Fer fook's sake. What did you tell 'er?”
“That you were currently paragliding in Scandinavia and would call her upon your return.”
“Good lad.” Farhan gave his assistant a pat on the shoulder, then squeezed past the front desk towards his office in the back, spilling a bit of coffee on himself in the process.
His personal office was about the same size of the lobby, the walls crammed with cabinets piled high with stuffed manila envelopes and loose sheets of paper. Farhan slumped down at his hand crafted oak desk, the only decent piece of furniture in the room, and pulled up his calendar on his laptop, still lying open from the Friday previous. No appointments until four o'clock today. Perhaps he could just take a quick nap...
BZZZZZZ
The intercom buzzed again, and Farhan picked his head off the desk, wiping the rope of drool from his mouth. Still only 1:30pm.
“Farhan,” Rudolph's voice broke through the intercom's crackle, “visitor for you.”
“Huh?” Farhan rubbed his eyes, “don't got none today.” He let his head fall back onto the desk with a thunk. “I'm not here. Tell 'em to fook off.”
There was a pause. “Umm, Farhan. I think she might be a cop.”
He bolted up straight. “What? Is she a cop or not?”
“I don't know. Think so.”
“Did you ask 'er?”
“No.”
“Some help you are. Keep her occupied then. I need a minute.”
Farhan dashed over to the wardrobe in the back of the room and threw it open, clearing away rows of shirts and suits to reveal a mirror, and fumbled to fasten his tie around his neck. He ran a finger through his thinning hair, combing it with his fingers, and sprayed a dash of cologne on himself.
“Alright Rudolph, send her – ” he broke off when he noticed he was no longer alone in his office, though he could not recall hearing his door open. The visitor was a slender blonde woman dressed in dark slacks, her hair pulled back in a tight no-nonsense ponytail, staring back at him through serious dark eyes. He did not know how long she had been standing there, but judging by the way she was leaning against the door frame, she had not just arrived.
“Hello Mister O'Doyle,” the woman said, walking further into the room without invitation, the waft of something sickly sweet permeating the room. “Hope I'm not interrupting anything.”
Bleedin' hell Rudolph, what the hell am I paying you for?
“Of course not,” Farhan said with a practiced smile, gesturing at the chair across from his desk. “Please, take a seat.”
The woman crossed the room gracefully, her long legs covering the room in just a few strides, and took her seat, keeping her eyes fixed on Farhan the entire time. The way she navigated the room without ever breaking her stare was more than a little unnerving, and Farhan felt the back of neck start to prickle.
He seated himself at his desk, and for a moment neither party said anything, electing simply to stare at one another, and Farhan used the moment to evaluate the woman.
She was smartly dressed – silk navy blouse, designer slacks – her choice of lip-stick a dark cherry red. The golden bracelet hanging from her left wrist was a fine piece of jewelry, and the giant diamond hanging from a solid gold chain around her neck was even finer. Farhan could tell the woman was not cop – cops generally could not afford such shows of extravagance – and yet something about her demeanor put him on edge.
“So,” he said, reclining back in his chair, “how can I help you today, ma'am?”
“You can start by telling me about yourself.” The woman's eyes bore into him, as if reading into his soul, a particular look made him feel very vulnerable. “Mr. O'Rouke, what kind of shop do you run here? It's quite a small operation for someone with so many different companies tied to his name.”
Ah, a blackmailer. Farhan smiled, feeling himself settle back into his element. He had dealt with blackmailers before. Start with a small bribe, test the waters. Buying them off is always easiest, if they are agreeable.
“I try to stay modest to my roots. Not one for excess. How do you know so much about me?”
She pursed her lips, clutching at he designer purse. “I have my sources.”
“Not one to share, eh? Let me guess, it was....actually, don't tell me. Couldn't care less.” He reached down towards the bottom drawer of his desk, and pulled it open. Inside he spotted his checkbook, nestled snugly between a pack of playing cards and his dad's antique revolver. “So then, just what exactly is it going to take to make you go away?”
Still the woman said nothing. Then, quite bizarrely, she smiled at him.
Farhan thought the smile was not a normal thing to do at that point in the conversation, but decided to take it as an affirmation, and reached for his checkbook. “How does ten thousand sound – ” he paused, because just then the lamp on his desk flickered. Like a sixth sense, he felt the blood in his veins – the old blood – thrum to life, roused from its stasis once again.
Something was wrong.
“Wait a second...” Farhan said slowly, rising back up to study the woman. The woman's smile had widened to malevolent levels, though her eyes remained cold and unblinking. He was struck with a sudden sense of deja-vu. “Who are you?”
In response, the woman dug her hands into her designer purse and produced a silencer pistol, pointing it at the leprechaun. “I know what you are,” she stated coldly, “and my employer wants you dead.”
Farhan's face paled. “Your employer?”
“That's correct.” Her smile widened. “Now, I'm going to give you one chance to live. Tell me where you keep your gold and I won't paint the walls with your brains.”
Farhan blinked. Thinking quickly, he gestured down at the desk drawer. “Easy lass. My checkbooks just down there. I'll write a check for whatever you want. Double whatever your employer is paying you, okay?” The revolver glinted back up at him from next the checkbook, sitting there like a signal from a higher power. Slowly he lowered his hand down towards the drawer. “Now, why don't you put down the weapon and take your bribe like an adult.”
“I don't want your money,” the woman said, and the barrel of the gun inched closer from across the desk. “I said I want your gold.”
Farhan was sweating again, rivulets running down his back. “There's been some mistake. I don't touch the stuff, the return on investment for precious metals just isn't what it used to – ”
“I'm not fucking around, leprechaun,” the woman said, rising to her feet. “Tell me where you hide your gold. The real stuff. Last chance.”
The gun was in his face, but oddly, Farhan's fear was evaporating. He could feel the old blood throbbing in his veins, the effect borderline euphoric, even in the face of imminent danger. It had been a long, long time since he had felt the twinge pulse through his veins so strongly, and it seemed to tell him not to submit to whatever was happening right now.
“You won't do it,” Farhan said, staring the woman down. “Now fook off.”
The energy in Farhan's veins surged, and suddenly he was gripped by a sneeze and spasmed backwards, falling out of his chair. He felt the bullet graze his left ear before he heard the pop from the silenced weapon.
A fortunate miss, by any account, and one that would have split his temple had he not sneezed at that precise moment. For all his faults, Farhan was still a leprechaun, and a lucky one at that.
His right hand plunged down into the desk drawer, and within a heartbeat Farhan had loaded and cocked his father's old revolver. He didn't keep the weapon in his desk for protection, he kept it because his father once told him it had saved his life. Keep it close, he said, keep it close for good luck.
The woman was circling around the desk, looking for her target, but her steps were measured and cautious. Recklessly, Farhan thrust the barrel of the gun out above the desk, pointing it in the woman's general direction, then squeezed the trigger. He didn't bother wasting any time aiming, letting his luck do all the work to guide his shot.
There was a deafening bang as the antique weapon discharged. It was followed by a grunt, as the bullet found its mark in his aggressor's neck.
The woman staggered backward, clutching at her wound with both hands, as her pistol hit the ground with a clatter. Then her knees gave out and she toppled backwards, gasping.
Farhan stood up and took a step towards the woman, his antique gun trained on her chest. As he approached the fallen woman, he heard a sizzling sound, like an alka-seltzer tablet dropped into water, and noticed that the woman seemed to have something that looked like vapor emanating off her body.
She stared up at him from the ground, her face contorted into an odd juxtaposition of rage mixed with the same wide smile, as if it was painted on her. The steam wafted upward, distorting her face like a fun-house mirror.
“You can't hide forever, Mister O'Rouke,” the woman said, the sneer twisting into something grotesque. “That luck of yours will soon expire.”
The lights flickered and there was a crack like a lightning strike. Farhan lost his vision momentarily, an after-image of the woman's smile burned into his retinas like a camera flash. He shut his eyes from the blinding light, and then all was quiet.
The leprechaun opened his eyes. The woman was gone, nothing left but a black scorch mark burned into the carpet where she had been lying a moment.
Farhan spun about wildly, looking for any sign of the woman. She was no where to found, and as he searched the room, he felt dread pitting in his stomach, the same dread he had felt back at the race track.
His search was interrupted by a loud bang at the door. “Farhan?” Rudolph's voice called. “What's going on? You okay?”
Farhan threw the door open, and his assistant sprang into the room, looking worried and confused. “I thought I heard a gun shot,” he stammered, wild eyed. His gaze found revolver, still hanging limply from Farhan's grip, and froze. “Why were you shooting?”
“The woman you let in,” Farhan said. “She was...never mind what she was. She shot first. It's her fault.”
“But Farhan,” Rudolph said, looking alarmed. “I never let her in. You seemed...un-presentable, so I told her to come back later. She left.”
“What?” Farhan said. “She was here.”
“I watched her leave. No one entered your office.”
“Okay then.” Farhan tucked the revolver into his belt, his mind racing. “Rudolph, I need you to burn every sensitive document in this office. Then gather your things. Can yah do that fer me? ”
Rudolph blanched. “What? Why?”
“Because we're leaving, and I don't know when we'll be back.”
“Is it the feds?” Rudolph started to shake. “Oh god. They found us, didn't they?”
Something found us lad, Farhan thought, but it wasn't the damned feds.
There was an after-image of the woman's smile still dancing across his vision. The same smile he had seen from the jockey riding Black Cat. A smile meant for him and only him. I know who you are, it said. I know who you are, and I'm coming for you.
To the leprechaun, one thing was clear. Something was hunting him. And whoever it was, it scared him far more than a lifetime sentence in federal prison.
“Is it my fault?” Rudolph asked, already gathering papers up in his arms. The boy's head was down, focused on his task. “I knew I wasn't careful, I told me mum that we were – ”
“Don't be a git,” Farhan said, and began to help his secretary. “The blame is all mine. Now hurry up. We're leaving in ten minutes.”
“But...where will we go sir?”
“Doesn't matter,” Farhan said. “But we can't stay here anymore.”
submitted by ghost_write_the_whip to WritingPrompts [link] [comments]

My Writing Prompts Superstition Contest Entry - "Chaun"

Hey all,
So just a quick announcement (and sorry to disturb all you Ageless fans with a notification).
For the last two months, /WritingPrompts has been holding it's annual first chapter competition. This year's competition had over 100 entrants in total, including several published authors.
Well, today the winners were announced, and...umm...I won First Place!
Obviously, it's been a pretty good day :)
Just wanted to share that. You can find the original submission here, although in the coming days, I'm going to do some editing based on some critiques I've received and keep a more polished working version below. This will be more of a side-project, with Ageless still being a priority.
That's all, hope you enjoy!

'Chaun

In Farhan O'Rourke's opinion, the hardest part about being a leprechaun was the money laundering.
When he was young, his father told him keeping his identity concealed would be the hardest part of his life, what with all the hunters and blackmailers looking to steal his stash. His father had been right, though the advice was mostly related to how to disguise habits and appearances. The man never would have guessed that in today's age of technology, a leprechaun was ten times more likely to be outed by a financial auditor than a bounty hunter.
Farhan was as close to a modern day 'chaun as one could find these days. At 5'6'', he was tall for his kin, and thanks to his local barber, his dyed hair was now closer to the color of mud than his family's signature red. He didn't much care for the color green, and never wore it out unless he really needed luck on his side, and even then he was discreet about how much of the suggestive color he flashed.
To this day, nobody had guessed the true nature of Farhan by his appearance, not even his own girlfriend.
Disguises were easy. But the criminal side of it all? The lies and deceit, the back room deals with shady brokers, the constant evasion from the probing eyes of regulators, always covering ones tracks, every financial decision calculated and meticulously planned, all so he could spend his own gold? Now that was the true plight of today's leprechaun.
And moving 'chaun gold was a dangerous game to play. In the last year alone, twenty five of Farhan's kind had been outed while being investigated for suspicious financial activity. To his credit, nobody was better at pushing pots of gold into banks than Farhan O'Rouke. Forever the entrepreneur, he had made a career out of helping other leprechauns move their ancient stashes into the digital age undetected.
Farhan claimed he hadn't been caught because he was careful. His friends told him that no amount of care could protect him from the age of information. They told him he was just lucky.
He didn't argue with that point. After all, he worked extremely hard for his luck.
That's enough, Farhan reminded himself, looking out over the giant racetrack before him, a giant oval of trampled mud. From somewhere above him, an announcer's voice crackled from an outdated PA system, rattling off the names and numbers of race horses like an auctioneer. No more worrying about business on your day off.
It was a typically overcast New Jersey day, alternating between heavy drizzle and outright downpour, the gray of the sky seeping down to mingle with the crowd shivering inside their raincoats. Necks craned up over a roof of umbrellas to catch a glimpse of their chosen horse, all lost in an indecipherable cloud of haze rounding the far bend. The mass of bodies slowly retracted away from rain, huddling together under the giant overhang shielding the grandstands, as a mist blurred the race horses into dark, dancing shadows.
From inside the folds of his coat, Farhan felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. That would be Elizabeth Gregory again, the nosy prude from the Securities Exchange Commission.
Christ almighty, he thought, switching his phone to 'Do Not Disturb'. I couldn't even buy bloody Apple stock without her sniffing up my arse.
Elizabeth was most likely auditing the flurry of trades he had brokered on Friday, minutes before the stock market had closed. He hadn't even been working for a client then, the trades were simply a favor for his family; liquidating uncle Connor's horde of gold so he could put his dear, sweet daughter through college.
Connor told Farhan he was a blessing from god. Farhan told Connor this was the last time he was sticking his neck out for his lazy, careless ass so his daughter could get plastered for four years at a community college.
It had been a simple manuever – Farhan had opted to move his uncle's life's savings via a series of investments into a fake company named Foulchemy, officially registered as, “A Delaware-based, eco-friendly research firm which aims to develop the science of turning fecal matter into precious metals.”
Compared to his past endeavors, the transaction had been minuscule, but Elizabeth had flagged it anyways. That was just the kind of person Elizabeth was, it seemed.
Farhan had bought off Elizabeth's predecessor at the SEC with a one-off bribe of a little less than less than twice his hourly rate. The poor bastard made shit for hourly wages, had three mouths to feed back home, and hated his job, a trifecta of circumstance that made turning a blind eye to Farhan's financials the easiest decision of his life.
All was well until the poor sod was laid off without warning, and Elizabeth had stormed in like a hurricane and taken over all his open cases. Farhan quickly discovered she had been far less receptive to his friendly 'gifts' and was going to be pain in his ass. Now it seemed she had taken bothering him outside of her working hours, too. Some people needed to get a life.
The leprechaun was brought back to the present by the boom of the racing announcer's voice, which was now frantic with excitement. The crowd started to cheer, as a shale-gray filly broke out of the pack of racers ike a heat-propelled missile.
“And Wailing Banshee, the 33-1 longshot, takes a commanding lead!”
Farhan's heart quickened as he heard the name. That's it lass, keep it up.
As the horse picked up momentum, Farhan felt something ancient stir within his chest, like an energy roused from a deep slumber. An energy that thrummed through the veins of his arms and tickled his ears. Farhan knew the sensation well; it was the old blood in him, and now it was gracing him with a bit of fortune.
It seemed with every beat of his heart, the gray horse distanced itself from the field by another length. He was so concentrated on the horse pulling away that he barely felt the punch on his right shoulder. “Fookin' hell Farhan, look at 'er go!”
Farhan turned to face his girlfriend Maddie Reilly, her red curls bouncing in front of her freckled face excitedly. He gave her a wink and a sheepish smile. “I told ya to pick that pony, no? She's got some fire in her belly, that one. Saw her throwin' around the stable-hands before the race and knew she was mine.”
“How much you put on her, anyway?”
Farhan produced a lighter and a crumpled pack of cigarettes him his pocket. He shook one out of the pack and sparked a light on his first try. “Seven.”
“Dollars?”
Seven dollars?” He laughed. “Was I was bussed here by my retirement home? Do I carry around a coin purse? Is my name Eleanor? I didn't put seven dollars on that demon horse. Seven hundred, woman.”
Maddie's eyes widened. “Seven fookin' Benjamins on a longshot? You're daft.”
“What's so daft about trusting my gut?”
“I can't even trust my gut with seafood.” She gave him a poke in the ribs. “Looks like drinks are on that magic gut of yours tonight, yah lucky bastard. And I'd fancy a nice steak dinner too, now that I think of it.” She winked at him. “Treat your woman right and you might even get lucky again tonight.”
Farhan took a puff of smoke and frowned. “Don't jinx it, Maddie.”
“What's there to jinx?” The beast stormed down into the final stretch, at least fifteen lengths ahead of its closest pursuer. “No one's catchin' her.”
You can always jink it, Farhan thought uneasily, letting the smoke from the cigarette curl around his face. Farhan's father had taught him that being lucky was not a gift, but a skill that took years of practice to master.
Superstition was a powerful force of nature, and putting in the legwork made all the difference. People like Farhan did well with the ponies because they manipulated circumstance into their favor. As a devoted believer, Farhan was always careful around breakable, reflective surfaces. He avoided the cracks in the sidewalks at all costs. And he always registered new shell companies in groups of three.
Wailing Banshee thundered toward the finish like a horse hearlding the apocalypse, teeth gnashing, eyes wild, but nobody but Farhan was watching. The crowd was already starting to disperse out of the grandstand, back towards the betting windows to wager on the next race. Maddie tugged at his arm to follow, but Farhan stood planted in place. His veins were thrumming again, but this time the sensation filled him with a sense of malaise that made his skin itch and tingle.
“Wait Maddie,” he said, reaching into his pocket and fishing out his wallet. He began to rifle through the flaps, searching for the brittle four leaf clover pressed into one of the numerous leather sleeves.
And then it happened.
Wailing Banshee stumbled, nearly lost its balance, and then came up lame. The jockey ignored the shrill cry and whipped at the horse's flank, urging it forward to finish the race, but the animal was no longer taking orders. It had been spooked by something and veered off the track, then jumped over the barrier and into the enclosed infield grass.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd and the announcer's voice crackled back to life. “And Wailing Banshee has removed itself from the field, and now this race is still up for grabs again! Here they come, down the stretch now. It's a mad dash for first place, neck and neck...and...it...is...Black Cat! Black Cat wins by a hand! At 13-1 odds, the rookie takes first in a shocking turn of events!”
The grandstands were roaring, the world was spinning, and Farhan livid.
He unleashed a barrage of obscenities that would have made a sailor blush, as a of crew stable hands rushed out after the rogue horse, which was now trying to buck its jockey off its back like a bull. Maddie stood frozen beside him, still parsing the events that had unraveled in front of her eyes.
“What the hell just...”
“It's fookin' fixed!” Farhan yelled, grabbing the unresponsive Maddie by the hand and tugging her towards the exit. “The whole things fookin' fixed.”
Maddie blinked. “Farhan, what are you on about?”
“Something meddled with the race!” he said angrily, shouldering through the crowd with a reckless aggressiveness that prompted several angry looks from his victims. “Wasn't a fair fight at all. Something's meddled with it!”
“It was a bit odd,” Maddie conceded, as they bobbed through the sea of heads. “Yah sayin' Wailing Banshee's jockey threw the race?”
“No damn it, don't you listen woman? I'm sayin' something's meddled with it.”
Maddie's face flashed with anger, and she tore her hand away. “Farhan O'Rouke, the hell's gotten into you? It's shit you lost your money, but yah don't have to take it out on me.” She humphed, hands on her hips. “It was a stupid bet anyways.”
He took a deep breath, feeling his frustration mount, and forced himself to swallow his anger. “Sorry Maddie,” his voice softened, “didn't mean to snap. Somethin's just got me mixed up right now.”
“I'll say.”
He took a look towards one of the video monitors broadcasting the aftermath of the race. The horse named Black Cat was trotting around in an easy victory lap, a hulking steed the size of a war horse, its coat so dark that you couldn't tell its eyes from the rest of it. The jockey wore a black and silver checkered uniform, and was bobbing up and down on the horse rhythmically with each stride. He waved at the camera, his pale face twisted into a smile that ended before it reached his dark eyes. As Farhan watched the image on the television, he had the strangest feeling that the jockey was smiling directly at him through the screen.
“He wasn't in the race,” Farhan whispered, and the back of his neck prickled.
“What?”
“At the start of that race, there wasn't any horse named Black Cat. Would've noticed it. A man like me never puts his money on a race with an omen like that.”
“Won't argue with that logic,” Maddie said, failing to hide the exasperation in her tone, “but what's to say you didn't just overlook it?”
“I didn't overlook it. There was only twelve horses in this race at the start. Look, Black Cat is horse number 13. Wasn't in the gate at the start of the race. Somehow it got changed.”
Maddie blew one of her red curls out of her face. “Farhan, that's mental. Look over there, at all the people queued up to collect their winnings. If Black Cat wasn't in the gate at the start, then how could they have bet on...”
“I don't know,” Farhan said, looking back at the smiling jockey on the screen, as a feeling of dread clenched his stomach. “I don't fookin' know.”
If was already 10:30 AM the next morning when Farhan stumbled through the broken door of his tiny office, disheveled and hungover. He hadn't bothered to iron his shirt, and his faded red tie dangled loose and untied from under his collar. He had been out late drinking with Maddie, drowning his sorrows until the early hours of the morning, trying to convince his girlfriend that some type of malevolent entity had robbed him of his winnings. His efforts had been largely unsuccessful, and now he had nothing but a headache to show for his trouble.
From the front desk, a young, wiry teenager wearing an over-sized pair of glasses was rapping away at his keyboard, whistling to himself.
“Hello Farhan,” his assistant Rudolph said cheerfully, looking up from the cramped front desk, as his boss dropped his briefcase on his foot and swore. Rudolph was only nineteen, and much unlike Farhan, he still possessed the boyish positivity of someone that had not let the world beat him down “Have a good weekend?”
“Had a bloody awful weekend,” Farhan said, trying the massage ache out of his temples. “Lost it big on the ponies. Hope yours was better than mine.”
As a matter of fact, it was the first time Farhan could ever remember going out gambling and losing money. The 'chaun was so lucky with his wagers that he always had to claim his annual winnings as a separate source of income.
“Sorry to hear that boss,” Rudolph said, his voice upbeat. “Me mum says gambling will always catch up to you in the end though. You want to know where I went?”
“Course I do. Where'd yah go, Rudolph?”
“I went snorkeling!”
“Snorkeling?” Farhan raised an eyebrow. “Here in New Jersey?”
“There's a place they got down on the shore you can go. Yes, I know what yer thinking, there aren't any dolphins up here, but we saw lots of crabs and sea bass! Fascinating creatures, them.” Rudolph pointed over at the kitchenette counter on the far side of the room. “Coffees still hot. Go ahead and kill it, mum says I was already born with caffeine in my veins.”
“Thanks lad.” Farhan plucked a styfoam cup from the cupboard and dumped the last dregs of the viscous brown substance into it.
The office was a disaster, he realized, as he took a sip of the scalding liquid. He pondered renting out a bigger space, if not for him, then for Rudolph. Currently, the boy was the only full time worker that Farhan employed, but still, the lobby was so small and cluttered with piles of files and cabinets that the assistant barely had any room to move.
His business was doing well enough that he could afford the expenses of a new office, the real problem was that buying a bigger place would look funny to auditors if he didn't hire more than one employee to fill the bigger space. Farhan preferred to keep his business dealings close to the chest, and Rudolph was one of only a few people in the world that he trusted with his secrets. Expanding his operation would involve expanding that circle of trust, and Farhan wasn't ready to take that leap yet.
“Any new messages?” Farhan asked, wincing at the bite of the coffee's taste.
“A couple from Elizabeth Gregory this morning. Says she's been trying to reach you.”
Farhan groaned. “Fer fook's sake. What did you tell 'er?”
“That you were currently paragliding in Scandinavia and would call her upon your return.”
“Good lad.” Farhan gave his assistant a pat on the shoulder, then squeezed past the front desk towards his office in the back, spilling a bit of coffee on himself in the process.
His personal office was about the same size of the lobby, the walls crammed with cabinets piled high with stuffed manila envelopes and loose sheets of paper. Farhan slumped down at his hand crafted oak desk, the only decent piece of furniture in the room, and pulled up his calendar on his laptop, still lying open from the Friday previous. No appointments until four o'clock today. Perhaps he could just take a quick nap...
BZZZZZZ
The intercom buzzed again, and Farhan picked his head off the desk, wiping the rope of drool from his mouth. Still only 1:30pm.
“Farhan,” Rudolph's voice broke through the intercom's crackle, “visitor for you.”
“Huh?” Farhan rubbed his eyes, “don't got none today.” He let his head fall back onto the desk with a thunk. “I'm not here. Tell 'em to fook off.”
There was a pause. “Umm, Farhan. I think she might be a cop.”
He bolted up straight. “What? Is she a cop or not?”
“I don't know. Think so.”
“Did you ask 'er?”
“No.”
“Some help you are. Keep her occupied then. I need a minute.”
Farhan dashed over to the wardrobe in the back of the room and threw it open, clearing away rows of shirts and suits to reveal a mirror, and fumbled to fasten his tie around his neck. He ran a finger through his thinning hair, combing it with his fingers, and sprayed a dash of cologne on himself.
“Alright Rudolph, send her – ” he broke off when he noticed he was no longer alone in his office, though he could not recall hearing his door open. The visitor was a slender blonde woman dressed in dark slacks, her hair pulled back in a tight no-nonsense ponytail, staring back at him through serious dark eyes. He did not know how long she had been standing there, but judging by the way she was leaning against the door frame, she had not just arrived.
“Hello Mister O'Doyle,” the woman said, walking further into the room without invitation, the waft of something sickly sweet permeating the room. “Hope I'm not interrupting anything.”
Bleedin' hell Rudolph, what the hell am I paying you for?
“Of course not,” Farhan said with a practiced smile, gesturing at the chair across from his desk. “Please, take a seat.”
The woman crossed the room gracefully, her long legs covering the room in just a few strides, and took her seat, keeping her eyes fixed on Farhan the entire time. The way she navigated the room without ever breaking her stare was more than a little unnerving, and Farhan felt the back of neck start to prickle.
He seated himself at his desk, and for a moment neither party said anything, electing simply to stare at one another, and Farhan used the moment to evaluate the woman.
She was smartly dressed – silk navy blouse, designer slacks – her choice of lip-stick a dark cherry red. The golden bracelet hanging from her left wrist was a fine piece of jewelry, and the giant diamond hanging from a solid gold chain around her neck was even finer. Farhan could tell the woman was not cop – cops generally could not afford such shows of extravagance – and yet something about her demeanor put him on edge.
“So,” he said, reclining back in his chair, “how can I help you today, ma'am?”
“You can start by telling me about yourself.” The woman's eyes bore into him, as if reading into his soul, a particular look made him feel very vulnerable. “Mr. O'Rouke, what kind of shop do you run here? It's quite a small operation for someone with so many different companies tied to his name.”
Ah, a blackmailer. Farhan smiled, feeling himself settle back into his element. He had dealt with blackmailers before. Start with a small bribe, test the waters. Buying them off is always easiest, if they are agreeable.
“I try to stay modest to my roots. Not one for excess. How do you know so much about me?”
She pursed her lips, clutching at he designer purse. “I have my sources.”
“Not one to share, eh? Let me guess, it was....actually, don't tell me. Couldn't care less.” He reached down towards the bottom drawer of his desk, and pulled it open. Inside he spotted his checkbook, nestled snugly between a pack of playing cards and his dad's antique revolver. “So then, just what exactly is it going to take to make you go away?”
Still the woman said nothing. Then, quite bizarrely, she smiled at him.
Farhan thought the smile was not a normal thing to do at that point in the conversation, but decided to take it as an affirmation, and reached for his checkbook. “How does ten thousand sound – ” he paused, because just then the lamp on his desk flickered. Like a sixth sense, he felt the blood in his veins – the old blood – thrum to life, roused from its stasis once again.
Something was wrong.
“Wait a second...” Farhan said slowly, rising back up to study the woman. The woman's smile had widened to malevolent levels, though her eyes remained cold and unblinking. He was struck with a sudden sense of deja-vu. “Who are you?”
In response, the woman dug her hands into her designer purse and produced a silencer pistol, pointing it at the leprechaun. “I know what you are,” she stated coldly, “and my employer wants you dead.”
Farhan's face paled. “Your employer?”
“That's correct.” Her smile widened. “Now, I'm going to give you one chance to live. Tell me where you keep your gold and I won't paint the walls with your brains.”
Farhan blinked. Thinking quickly, he gestured down at the desk drawer. “Easy lass. My checkbooks just down there. I'll write a check for whatever you want. Double whatever your employer is paying you, okay?” The revolver glinted back up at him from next the checkbook, sitting there like a signal from a higher power. Slowly he lowered his hand down towards the drawer. “Now, why don't you put down the weapon and take your bribe like an adult.”
“I don't want your money,” the woman said, and the barrel of the gun inched closer from across the desk. “I said I want your gold.”
Farhan was sweating again, rivulets running down his back. “There's been some mistake. I don't touch the stuff, the return on investment for precious metals just isn't what it used to – ”
“I'm not fucking around, leprechaun,” the woman said, rising to her feet. “Tell me where you hide your gold. The real stuff. Last chance.”
The gun was in his face, but oddly, Farhan's fear was evaporating. He could feel the old blood throbbing in his veins, the effect borderline euphoric, even in the face of imminent danger. It had been a long, long time since he had felt the twinge pulse through his veins so strongly, and it seemed to tell him not to submit to whatever was happening right now.
“You won't do it,” Farhan said, staring the woman down. “Now fook off.”
The energy in Farhan's veins surged, and suddenly he was gripped by a sneeze and spasmed backwards, falling out of his chair. He felt the bullet graze his left ear before he heard the pop from the silenced weapon.
A fortunate miss, by any account, and one that would have split his temple had he not sneezed at that precise moment. For all his faults, Farhan was still a leprechaun, and a lucky one at that.
His right hand plunged down into the desk drawer, and within a heartbeat Farhan had loaded and cocked his father's old revolver. He didn't keep the weapon in his desk for protection, he kept it because his father once told him it had saved his life. Keep it close, he said, keep it close for good luck.
The woman was circling around the desk, looking for her target, but her steps were measured and cautious. Recklessly, Farhan thrust the barrel of the gun out above the desk, pointing it in the woman's general direction, then squeezed the trigger. He didn't bother wasting any time aiming, letting his luck do all the work to guide his shot.
There was a deafening bang as the antique weapon discharged. It was followed by a grunt, as the bullet found its mark in his aggressor's neck.
The woman staggered backward, clutching at her wound with both hands, as her pistol hit the ground with a clatter. Then her knees gave out and she toppled backwards, gasping.
Farhan stood up and took a step towards the woman, his antique gun trained on her chest. As he approached the fallen woman, he heard a sizzling sound, like an alka-seltzer tablet dropped into water, and noticed that the woman seemed to have something that looked like vapor emanating off her body.
She stared up at him from the ground, her face contorted into an odd juxtaposition of rage mixed with the same wide smile, as if it was painted on her. The steam wafted upward, distorting her face like a fun-house mirror.
“You can't hide forever, Mister O'Rouke,” the woman said, the sneer twisting into something grotesque. “That luck of yours will soon expire.”
The lights flickered and there was a crack like a lightning strike. Farhan lost his vision momentarily, an after-image of the woman's smile burned into his retinas like a camera flash. He shut his eyes from the blinding light, and then all was quiet.
The leprechaun opened his eyes. The woman was gone, nothing left but a black scorch mark burned into the carpet where she had been lying a moment.
Farhan spun about wildly, looking for any sign of the woman. She was no where to found, and as he searched the room, he felt dread pitting in his stomach, the same dread he had felt back at the race track.
His search was interrupted by a loud bang at the door. “Farhan?” Rudolph's voice called. “What's going on? You okay?”
Farhan threw the door open, and his assistant sprang into the room, looking worried and confused. “I thought I heard a gun shot,” he stammered, wild eyed. His gaze found revolver, still hanging limply from Farhan's grip, and froze. “Why were you shooting?”
“The woman you let in,” Farhan said. “She was...never mind what she was. She shot first. It's her fault.”
“But Farhan,” Rudolph said, looking alarmed. “I never let her in. You seemed...un-presentable, so I told her to come back later. She left.”
“What?” Farhan said. “She was here.”
“I watched her leave. No one entered your office.”
“Okay then.” Farhan tucked the revolver into his belt, his mind racing. “Rudolph, I need you to burn every sensitive document in this office. Then gather your things. Can yah do that fer me? ”
Rudolph blanched. “What? Why?”
“Because we're leaving, and I don't know when we'll be back.”
“Is it the feds?” Rudolph started to shake. “Oh god. They found us, didn't they?”
Something found us lad, Farhan thought, but it wasn't the damned feds.
There was an after-image of the woman's smile still dancing across his vision. The same smile he had seen from the jockey riding Black Cat. A smile meant for him and only him. I know who you are, it said. I know who you are, and I'm coming for you.
To the leprechaun, one thing was clear. Something was hunting him. And whoever it was, it scared him far more than a lifetime sentence in federal prison.
“Is it my fault?” Rudolph asked, already gathering papers up in his arms. The boy's head was down, focused on his task. “I knew I wasn't careful, I told me mum that we were – ”
“Don't be a git,” Farhan said, and began to help his secretary. “The blame is all mine. Now hurry up. We're leaving in ten minutes.”
“But...where will we go sir?”
“Doesn't matter,” Farhan said. “But we can't stay here anymore.”
submitted by ghost_write_the_whip to ghost_write_the_whip [link] [comments]

Demolition Days, Part 28

That reminds me of a story.
Continuing
Javen Spanner calls Jerry to have him remind me that we have a meeting planned and tonight would be a good time. I ask Jerry to call him back and accept for me.
Properly showered and decontaminated, I show up at the Spanner Ranch once again. I know where to park, I know which do to go to.
The butler greets me and takes my duster and hat as usual.
“Drawing room, Mr. Rock. Mr. Spanner is waiting.”
“Thank you, Jeeves.” I never did learn the guy’s real name.
Once again into the den. Javen greets me warmly and tells me to pour him and me a drink.
“Double bourbon and branch, neat?” I ask.
“Good man. I don’t like to have to tell anyone anything twice.” Javen remarks.
I decide to make two. I hand Javen his drink and ask what’s on his mind.
“First off, Sani sends his regards. Says you finally finished that work you were doing and just wouldn’t quit. I like that. Determination.” He says.
“Ah, Sani. He’s a real character, isn’t he?” I reply.
“He likes you. You could have gone off on him and gotten abusive. Hell, you’re twice, three times his size. But you stuck to your guns and got the job done. Good. Sani was impressed as well.” He says.
“It was…necessary. It was a key to figuring out the area.” I reply.
“Determined and motivated. I like that.” He hits a silent button on his desk.
I sip my drink and wonder curiously.
“Have a cigar” Javen says as he offers me his open humidor.
“Thanks. Cuban. Oh, very nice.” I say.
Javen leans back in his big leather chair and smile.
Jeeves walks in a few minutes later pushing a cart with some largish object on it, covered with a white tarp.
“Ready for another?” Javen asks.
“Sure,” I reply.
Javen goes and gets the drinks. Hands me mine and stands next to the cart.
“Curious?” he asks.
“A bit”, I reply.
He pulls off the tarp. “Here, this is for you.”
It is a hand-tooled leather, custom Western saddle, burnished until it shines. Silver Conchos, silver this, and silver that. It is exquisite.
“Whoa. Thank you, Mr. Spanner. But what…”
He cuts me off. “Come over here and look at this” he instructs me.
I go over to the saddle and he points out the name “Esme” hand-tooled into the fore and aft of the saddle. I know there are names for every part of a saddle, but I don’t know them, so front and back it is.
He also shows me where it was created: it was signed “Spanner Saddlery. Torreon, New Mexico”.
That’s it, I’m stumped.
“Whoa, Javen. Wow. What can I say but thank you?” I sputter.
“We take care of our own out here. You helped me, I help you. Thank you.” Javen says to me.
“Again, it’s beautiful. Esme will just love it.” I say.
“And you too when you give it to her.” He chuckles.
I smile and do my best ‘aw, shucks’ Andy Rooney routine.
“Now, come. Another drink and we will talk business.” Javen says.
We get our own drinks as Jeeves takes my keys to deposit the saddle in my truck.
“Now, Rock. I have a business proposition for you”, Javen says. “How much longer are you going to be in school?” he asks.
“At least a year until I finish and defend my thesis. Then maybe two or three more if I decide to pursue my Ph.D.” I explain.
“What would you say if I offered you a Vice President position at Spanner Enterprises once you finish your Master’s?”, Javen asks.
“I’m not sure,” I replied.
“Well, I am. I could use someone like you. Smart, determined, motivated. I’ve got so damn many irons in the fire, I can’t even count them much less keep control. I need someone like you. Good pay, good benefits, use of the whole Spanner Empire’s resources. What do you think?” he continues.
“Would that be here in Torreon? “ I ask.
“Depends where you want to live. I’ve got houses in Cuba, Torreon, Albuquerque, Farmington, Taos. Take your pick.” He says.
“Javen, I’m honored and I thank you. I will have to give this a lot of thought, though. Can I have some time to think it over? See, I might possibly be getting married when I graduate as well. So there’s another consideration.” I say.
“Take your time. Make sure before you leave New Mexico that I have all your contact information. It’s not time-critical. I know you need to finish your Master’s. But after that, you let me know what you want to do.” Javen explains.
“Absolutely, Javen. Let me chew it over for a while. I will definitely give you my decision as soon as I sort a few things out.” I say, still reeling.
“Well let’s have another drink and a spot of supper, shall we?” Javen smiles.
I don’t remember a thing from the ride back to camp that night. My mind was a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.
I awoke the next day to pummeling rain. A cold front had run headlong into a warm front and the results were leaking out all over northern New Mexico. It was windy, somewhat dark, and raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock. Most unusual weather for this part of New Mexico at this time of year.
My tent, well repaired, was high and dry so I decided it’d be madness to go into the field today. I’d never get across any of even the minor wadis and everything would be turning to sticky mud for the next couple of days. Luckily, John let me store Esme’s saddle in his house until Jerry and Bets left for Texas.
I had an unplanned day off. I had plenty of cigars, loads of beer and such and some work I could do while I was imprisoned. After 5 hours of mapping and re-correlating sections, I grew restive. Maybe some coffee would help. I wandered over to the office to see if anyone had made a recent pot.
It continued raining so I just slogged it over to the office in cargo shorts, T-shirt, and the cheap tennis shoes I bought in Cuba; I didn’t want to ruin my fuzzy-bunny field slippers in this mess. Plus, I was tired of all the shit I got every time I wore them.
John, Derek, and Ace were all in the office, can’t weld too much when it’s 100% humidity.
There was a pot of semi-fresh coffee and I helped myself to a cup.
“This weather normal? “ I asked.
“Not really” Ace replies.
“It happens, but not for years. You’re lucky to see this.” Derek adds.
John calls me over to the window, “Rock, take a look at this.”
The ditches we blasted and dug were filling with runoff water but seemed curiously ‘alive’.
“So, Dr. Science, what the hell’s that? He asks.
“Dunno,” I reply. “Let’s go find out.”
We all troop out in the rain and look into the filling culverts.
“What the fuck? “ Ace says.
“That’s weird,” I say and bend down to scoop up some of the bubbling water.
“Holy shit!” I exclaim, “Its toads. Thousands of toads!”
Seems there’s this species of estivating toad that makes its home in this part of New Mexico. They are the New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata) and go absolutely sex-crazy and reproductively obsessed when there’s a soaker like today. They’re not protected or anything, but unusual. They show up only once every few years and only for a day or so.
And a perfect way for me to supplement my bank account.
Dr. Nax wants are representative herpetofauna; herpetofauna meaning both reptiles and amphibians. And currently, we’re up to our hip boots in amphibians.
“John,” I ask, “You got a landing net by any chance?”
“No, but I’ll wager Jerry does out on his boat.”
We run over to Jerry’s house and ask if he has a landing net. He does, it’s in his boat out back, and we could borrow it, if we return it when we’re done.
“Will do” I yell as we run back to retrieve the net.
“Ace, take the net and start scooping out toads. I’ve got to get some buckets. I’ll give you a six-pack for helping me.” I yell.
“On it, Rock!” Ace yells back.
“Holy wow”, I think, “This is a bonanza! At even a buck or two each, it’s money in the bank!”
I run back with my buckets, mis-negotiate a corner, and go face-first into the wet, sloppy New Mexico mud.
“Fuck it. I don’t care. I’m washable.” I think as I run toward my meal ticket.
There were toads everywhere, particularly in the slit-trenches we built. They were full to overflowing with water. The toads burbled out with it.
I was trying to grab the slippery bastards and throw them in a bucket, but they were fighters. I was slipping and slopping around, and just getting covered in mud. I didn’t care. This was too much fun.
Ace slips and he joins the mudmen corps. He didn’t care as long as he earned his six-pack.
John was doing well and had gotten about a dozen of the croakers into my bucket when he joined the corps. Of course, we were all too polite to laugh…too much.
One after another, we all got covered thickly with mud. I had buckets of toads but kept going, maybe there were more than one species here. This was for SCIENCE!
Danny wanders over after some church-related meeting. Due to the flooding, the frothing, and the toads didn’t see the slit-trench and stepped right into it. He went all in three and a half-full feet.
Danny picks himself up as he asks what’s going on.
“Toads! We all yell back.
“So?”
“Rock collects them for his museum. Get over here, these bastards are slippery.”
Figuring he’s already soaked and filthy, he does help out.
After an hour or so, I’ve got five five-gallon pickle buckets full of amphibians. I tell everyone to wait here, I’m going to get my truck.
Jerry walks over to see what all the commotion was and sees his whole crew, plastered with mud, sitting around and on my truck. We were all drinking beer, or Orange Fanta, as I had bought some in case Danny ever came back over to our side, actually as a mixer for some of the local firewater, smoking cigars and laughing like loons.
“Rock. You are a very bad influence on my workers” Jerry laughed as he shook his head.
I spent until 0330 the next day fixing, formalin-ing, and collating toads. There turned out to be four different species. I couldn’t tell the difference, but Dr. Nax could.
“Now that’s a representative herpetofauna,” I said to no one as I creaked back to my tent.
After a day to recover, Jerry comes over and asks if I’d like to ride the pipeline with him.
Once a week, someone takes the one-ton company pickup and rides from one end of the pipeline to the other for visual inspection. It’s a full day affair and Jerry thinks it’ll give me a good overview of areas I’d either normally avoid or not see.
I respond in the affirmative and we take off on our journey. It was a long, hot, dusty drive.
Truth be told, it was boring as hell. Sure, there were some places of interest, but since there were so many out here, these were moderately ‘OK’ versus the ‘Wow’ of the others I was working with.
We drive all morning and Jerry says, “Hey, I know a good lunch spot. You’d never find it if someone didn’t show it to you. Maybe you can tell us what it is.”
We drive for a while longer and pull off to the left and go seriously bush for a mile or so until we come to a clearing surrounded by short, badlands-type outcrops a few dozen feet tall.
We park and Jerry say “Come over here and look at this. What is it?”
I look at the ground and there are dozens of felled trees, all lying on top of one another. Huge trees, fully 40 or 50 feet in length and 3-4 feet in diameter, all lying around like thrown jackstraws. Thing was, they were all solid quartz. It was a fossilized Late Cretaceous log jam.
Jerry was right, I’d have never found this on my own.
I took seven rolls of film and ran through each one of them. I mapped as best I could and noted the locality on the geological maps I was building.
“Holy hell, Jerry”, I say. “If I’m reading this right, this is at the very top of the Late Cretaceous.”
“Yeah, and?” he says.
“This, if I’m reading this right, might be the New Mexico result of the Yucatan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. I’ve seen the tsunami deposits in Texas from the event, and the fallout in North Dakota and Nebraska. This could be a result of the asteroid impact tsunami, and the wiping out of local coastal forests. Jerry! This is incredibly important shit! Holy hell! This could be the find of a career!” I was jumping up and down.
“Oh, good. I’m glad I brought you here then.” He flatly says.
I just goggled at this lack of enthusiasm.
A few days later, after I map the fossil log jam and sample and document it as much as I can, I’m out riding around the country looking for likely looking outcrops. I come around the corner and run directly into Sani on his horse. He motions for me to pull over so we can talk.
Sani Yáʼátʼééh shi akʼis”, I greet him.
Yáʼátʼééh Kǫʼdził-hastiin”, Sani replies.
“Kind of hot today,” I say.
“Yeah. Dusty too.” He agrees.
I grab a couple of cold beers out of the cooler and hand one to Sani.
“What’s up? “ I ask.
“I was looking for you. You found the trees?” he asked.
‘Yeah. What a find. Jerry showed me. It’s an amazing locality.” I replied.
“I asked Jerry to take you there. You needed to see it, I was told,” he said.
I knew better than to ask ‘by who’?
“Thank you. Most appreciated.” I reply.
“Now you follow me. There is trouble ahead. Kǫʼdził-hastiin will fix it, I was told.”
“Sure. I’ll follow you. OK?” I said.
Wordlessly he hands me his empty beer, mounts his horse, and waits for me to follow.
I drive about 10 miles, right off the edge of my map area. We stop at a small collection of hogans, the native structures in which the locals sometimes live.
Sani motions me over to a structure on the side of the compound. Turns out it’s a hand-dug and relatively ancient water well.
The problem was, it was dry.
Sani tells me that it gives good water, sometimes running high, sometimes running low, but always sweet water. Now, it’s dry. This is bad.
Kǫʼdził-hastiin will make it work,” Sani tells me.
“Sani, I’ll do my best,” I reply.
I go over to my truck, get some climbing gear as its big enough to enter and a flashlight as its 35 or so feet deep and dark at the bottom. I back my truck up so I can tie off and rappel down into the well.
There’s some junk down here, tree branches and the like but the thing that I notice is the amount of very fine sand covering the bottom of the well. This well was choked off by the recent rains. Too much runoff, and when it subsided, it left a load of sand and clay which plugged up the porosity of the aquifer.
Easy fix. If you know what you’re doing.
I climb out of the well and Sani just looks at me with those big brown eyes and weather-beaten visage.
“No problem. I can fix it. Take a bit of time, but I’ll have it up and running by late this afternoon.” I say.
Sani shakes his head yes and goes back to talking with some of the other locals.
Two round trips and a few buckets of well-bottom schmoo later, I’m sitting on the back of my truck, wiring up a blasting harness. Sani comes over and asks how I’m doing.
“OK, just need to clear out some of that sand, create some new fractures and you’ll have plenty of water. I’ve got to blast, so keep everyone away. I don’t know the local lingo for FIRE IN THE HOLE, literally. So, just tell everyone to stay away until I give the all-clear.” I tell him.
Kǫʼdził-hastiin has spoken. It will be done.” Sani tells me.
What to use, what to use? Dynamite? Too messy, lots of leftovers after a shot. C-4? Nah. Probably too much shock. Primacord? No. What to use?
A lightbulb goes off. “Binary liquids!” No residue and I can use an empty beer can for the charge. I‘ve got lots of those. The aluminum will be atomized and won’t contaminate the water.
Beer. Is there nothing it can’t do?
I mix up 8 ounces of my new binary liquid explosive. It’s really stable and even a bullet out of a gun won’t set it off. I rig a blasting cap to the top of the beer can and spool out 50 feet of demolition wire.
Back in the bottom of the well, I dug a hole about two foot deep and set the charge. I cover and tamp it well so the blast goes down and sideways instead of up. I ascend up out of the well and toss all my gear into the back of my truck.
I pull away from the well a few feet and rig to blast. I look around and there’s no one to be found, even Sani’s disappeared. I hit the horn three times, yell fire in the hole, feeling a bit weird. But I stop and take a look around, just to be certain no one’s around.
Can’t see anyone, so I hit the horn again and go back to the blasting machine.
FIRE IN THE HOLE! Literally.
I say “HIT IT!” and push the big red shiny button.
There’s a hellacious THUMP and the ground literally shakes.
I quickly rewind what demo wire is left and wander over to the well and shine my flashlight down to the bottom. There’s a lot of dust and swirling, and if I listen carefully…
“I hear water. Good.” Sani says, sneaking up behind me and scaring the hell out of me.
I listen for a few minutes and don’t hear anything. I toss a small rock in and hear a rewarding splash.
“Mission accomplished,” I tell Sani.
“See, I was told Kǫʼdził-hastiin will fix it,” Sani says matter of factly.
Jerry and Betsy were hitching up their boat, getting ready for their annual fishing trip holiday down to South Padre in Texas. He calls me over for a confab.
“Rock, here are the house keys. I didn’t put the key to my gun cabinet on the ring since I figure you already have that covered. Please look after my place and keep the mud to a minimum,” He laughs.
“Don’t worry, Jerry. I’ll watch and take care of this place like it’s my own.” I reply.
“Help yourself to any food in the fridge or freezer and don’t worry about replacing it. It’ll just go bad otherwise. Hope you and Esme, that’s her name, right? Have a good time. See you September first. We’re gone.” He says.
Betsy comes over and gives me a quick hug. “Thanks for this Rock. I feel better leaving the house in good hands,” she says.
“Don’t worry about anything. We’ll take great care of your place and guard all your stuff. Now, GIT! And have a great vacation.” I tell her.
I decide to leave my tent up as I don’t want to tear it all down and it’ll give me a good place to unwind, smoke and do my mapping. I want to live in their house, not squat.
Long John brings Esme’s saddle over and we both stand there looking at it.
“Damn, Rock. Javen is tighter'n a bull's ass in fly time, and he gave you this? Holy hell. He must really like you. That saddles gotta be worth four or five thousand dollars, easy.” He notes.
“No shit?” as I had no idea what horse riding kit cost, “Did I tell you he offered me a job?”
“As what? Drinking and Boone companion?” John chuckled.
“No. Vice President of Spanner Enterprises,” I reply.
“No shit?” John goggles, “People would kill for a job like that. When do you start?”
“Don’t know. Don’t even know if I’m going to take the job. I’ve got to finish my Master’s and that’s a year. Then, Ph.D.? I don’t know. Then there’s Esme.” I explained.
“Damn. That’s a lot on your plate. Hell, you take that job, and I’ll be working for you as Spanner Enterprises owns 50% of this plant. Now there’s a revolting thought.” He laughs.
“I just don’t know,” I tell him. “You’re right, things just got a lot more complicated.”
A couple of days later, I’m out mapping to the west. I note that I’m only a few miles shy of the Scavada wash. The next thing I know, I’m parking at the Scavada Trading Post and Silver Bullet Station.
“Hello, the trading post!” I yell as I enter.
“Hello “Kǫʼdził-hastiin. Enter!” Fred chuckles.
“Where the hell did you hear that?” I ask.
“News travels fast on the res. You’re quite the celebrity.” Fred tells me.
Fred grabs two beers and we stand around the front desk, chewing things over.
“Sani speaks highly of you. I heard of your introductions out at the grim Mount Badass. He pranked you good. He likes you.” Fred chuckles.
“You know Sani?” I ask semi-rhetorically.
“Everyone knows Sani,” Fred replies.
The door opens and two locals come in. Fred greets them.
They turn to look at me and say “Yáʼátʼééh Kǫʼdził-hastiin”.
I guess I am becoming a local celebrity.
They stopped in to see if Fred would spot them a beer or two on credit.
Fred says: “Guys, you know my rules. No credit. No free beer. Unless you have money or something to trade…”
One of the older gents turns to me and says, “Maybe Kǫʼdził-hastiin would like to hear of our stories from the war.”
Fred looks at me and says “For return of a beer. Tales for booze.”
I said I’d rather like hearing of their exploits.
They were Code-Talkers during World War Two. No matter what age they were, meet an older male local and they were a Code Talker. But if there were Talkers or not, they provided some entertaining stories. Definitely worth a beer or two.
After a couple of hours, they left and I had an idea.
“Fred, my girlfriend’s coming for a visit. Is that jewelry there on pawn or is it for sale?”
“Most of its ‘dead pawn’; they pawned it and never redeemed it. I sell it to help keep this pile of shit running”, he replies.
“That’s quite the collection. Does it come with a Kǫʼdził-hastiin discount?” I ask.
“Make me an offer.” Fred chuckles.
I leave an hour or so later with 5 exquisite native necklaces, a couple of pairs of earrings and a silver concho belt. Total cost, 75 bucks. Lots of turquoise, lots of bone and shell, all quite striking.
Well, Christmas is coming and all that.
In our last letter, I sent Esme a map detailing directions to Cuba. I wanted to meet her there, have a spot of lunch or dinner, pick up any supplies she might need and then have her follow me out to Lago de Estrella gas plant.
Well, today was the day she was driving in.
I waited for her at the Atomic Bar. It had a good view of the only approach into town from Albuquerque and it was cool and the beer was cheap.
Finally, I see a gun-metal gray Chevy Nova come wheeling into town.
She’s here!
I run outside and flag here down. The reunion was quite moving. I had missed her more than I had realized. A monumental decision was made that moment, that day, standing in the dusty parking lot of the Atomic Bar.
“Hungry?” I ask her.
“Famished.” She replies.
“Let’s go across the street. The food there I incredible.” I suggest.
“Lead the way.”
After checking for the nonexistent traffic, we go over to the Cuba Café, enter, and grab an empty table.
Sindy comes over with menus and asks if I’d like my usual.
I reply “Yes, make it two.”
Esme looks at Sindy and Sindy stars daggers back.
“So, you’re a regular here? I would have expected that across the street.” Esme chuckles.
“Oh, I’m just a regular celebrity around these parts,” I say.
Sindy returns with our beers and I say “Where are my manners? Sindy this is Esme, Esme this is Sindy. She helped me out when I first hit town.”
“Hello. Nice to meet you” Esme says.
“Yeah, hi” Sindy glacially says and shuffles off.
“Helped you out? How so?” Esme asks.
“Well, she brought me my laundry once; gave me the lay of the land. All very proper and above board. Nothing else. She’s married, well, separated. Everything was nonphysical and friendly.” I say.
“Oh, I see. Well, it was good you made friends while you were out here. The tone of your letters made it sound like you were forced into being a monk or hermit.” Esme says.
“I was simply pining away for my one, true love” I poured it on with a bucket.
“Good. You should. Now, tell me all about Cuba, New Mexico.” She says.
“Nope, you tell me all about Alpine, Texas first,” I reply.
We spent the rest of the day filling each other in about our respective summers. It was so good to see her, I hope she likes the crowd out at the gas plant.
“Well, we best be off. It’s not that far to the plant, but the roads are kind of windy and I got lost several times. Best take it slow and be certain.” I say. “Need anything from town before we head out?”
“No, I’m good. Gassed up in Torreon, so I’m still pretty full.” She says
“OK, then. Let’s go to your new home.” I snicker.
We arrive at the gas plant without getting lost nor sidetracked. I show here where to park and grab her luggage.
“Welcome to Lago de Estrella!” I say as we enter Jerry and Betsy’s place.
“Wow. Sure beats the tent I’ve been living in these past three months.” Esme says.
I show her around and she says she’s tired but would love a shower.
I show her the place and grab some towels for her.
“Where do you want your luggage”, I ask, sheepishly.
“In the bedroom, silly. Where else?” She says.
The cosmic karma fairy has indeed been generous to Kǫʼdził-hastiin.
The next day, Esme says she’d like a day off after her long drive and field camp.
I need to go out and map a few more areas.
She says: “Go. That’s what you’re here for. Don’t let me alter your plans. Knowing you, you’ve got time mapped out to the second. Go. I’ll be fine.”
“If you go out, watch for Danny and Beth, they’ll try and convert you. Ace will try to be his most flattery goofy self, he’s harmless. Watch out for the tall character, he’s Long John. He’s into pranks and practical jokes. Again, mostly harmless.” I say.
“OK, go. I’ll probably be napping anyways. I’m beat after a full summer of climbing mountains.” She says.
“Oh, yeah. Stay out of the spare bedroom. Jerry doesn’t want anyone in there.” I lie. It’s where I hid the saddle.
“Sure. No problem. Now go so you can get done and get back.” She tells me.
Yep, now I know I made the right decision.
I drive out and look at my field notes. I need to map an outcrop of coal where the locals have been filching the stuff for use in heating and cooking. It’s not technically illegal, as this stuff is local, at least in this outcrop, low yield and never be targeted for mining. But, it does technically belong to the company that has leased the lands. Still, it’s not very much and…
I stop as Sani is on his horse, right in the middle of the road.
After the usual greetings, he instructs me to follow him.
Here we go again.
Right to the coal outcrop where I was headed.
“Sani, what’s the deal?” I ask.
“Many people depend on the coal here. But look, there is no coal here, just rock. I was told Kǫʼdził-hastiin will know what to do. I was told where to find you, and now I bring you here.” Sani says.
“Sani”, I say, “This is weird. I was planning on coming here today. I told no one except Esme. Oh, yeah. My girlfriend is in town, I’d sure like you to meet her.” I say.
“This I know. I will meet her. But first you need to talk to rocks.” Sani direct.
“OK, Sani. No problem. Let me look at what’s going on and I’ll see if I can figure it out.”
“You will. That’s what I’ve been told.” He says.
I get my kit out of the truck and attack the outcrop. It’s about 60 feet wide and 20 feet tall. It’s mostly low grade, sub-bituminous coal. Late Cretaceous in age, Fruitland Formation. I start to map the outcrop after photographing it and get a sense of what was going on here during deposition.
The rock Sani referred to was a medium-coarse grained sandstone. I start to dig around it and see it’s a point-bar deposit. That means it’s not laterally extensive and hasn’t displaced the coal. It’s just a fluvial distributary or levee-break sand that cut through the coal swamp, probably from a storm, and deposited a blob of sand in the middle of the coal swamp. Everything got buried and lithified, and well, Bob’s your uncle.
It’s a textbook case of a fluvial point bar, so I photograph it some more and retire to my truck tailgate to update my maps and integrate this discovery into my maps. Plus, it’s hotter than the hinges of hell, so I grab a cigar and a beer.
“Please, make it two,” Sani says after sneaking up on and startling me and making me bash my skull on the top of the truck cap.
“Sneaky Indian” I chuckle as I hand him a cold one.
Kǫʼdził-hastiin talk to rocks?” Sani asks.
“Yes, I have. I’ve got it figured out. It’s a sand bar from an ancient river. Just continue to remove the coal around it and it’ll eventually just fall away.” I tell him.
“But that will take much time. Maybe past winter.” He looks hopefully to me.
“Or, I could hurry its departure; if that’s what you want,” I say.
Sani closes his eyes, nods, and smiles.
This one’s going to be quick and dirty. There’s no one that I can see for miles, except for Sani. I haven’t gone old school for a long while and have plenty of dynamite. I’m going to show that sandstone what for.
Sani watches as I pound a stake in several places around the sand body.
“Shot holes” I explain.
Weird, a couple of the shot holes I poke yield a feeble flow of water. Out west, they’re termed “tiñaja”, a coal that acts as a spring. The water is blood red, rusty, and foul-smelling.
Hydrogen sulfide. Definitely not potable water as some are.
I go to tell Sani what I plan and he’s disappeared again. Damn, he’s stealthy.
I rig it up old school. Full sticks of 60% in each hole, blasting caps with super-boosters tied to Primacord. All leads tied back to one length of Primacord and that terminated in a safety fuse igniter. Pull the pin, pop the cap, the fuse ignites and heads for the Primacord. Primacord detonates at 25,000 feet per second, actuates all the blasting caps and boosters simultaneously, and boom. No more sandstone.
Since we’re out in the middle of nowhere, no houses or hogans in sight, I didn’t bother with cutting down the charges. Sure, I could have gotten away with less, but where’s the fun in that?
I lay on the horn three times to warn the mule deer, rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, and Race Runners that the show is about to begin.
FIRE IN THE HOLE as I yell even there are no people anywhere in sight, even after my horning.
“HIT IT!” I say out loud and pop the safety fuse cap.
I get in my truck and back up about 75 yards, perpendicular to the blast path.
Three minutes later, there is a titanic explosion as all eight stick of 60% detonate simultaneously. Evidently, as I found out later, with water flowing through the cleats and fractures of the coal, there will be coal seam gas.
I didn’t know that at this point. I do now. Coal seam gas is eminently flammable.
The explosion was heard in Cuba I found out later.
Well, the sandstone point-bar disappeared and there were piles of coal lying everywhere. A new outcrop of coal had appeared and it was free of sand bodies. Just nicely fractured, low-grade coal for whoever needed it.
I pulled my truck up to further inspect the results. Damn, that was a bit more energetic than I had counted on. Still, it all worked out. No need for mining coal, just gather it up.
I make my notes and enter the data in my field notebook and blaster’s required paperwork when someone grabs my shoulder from behind.
After landing back on Earth, I see Sani standing there with a smile on his face.
“I was told Kǫʼdził-hastiin would fix it. You have. Thank you.”
“Fix it? I almost put it into orbit. Tell whoever comes here for coal there’s bad gas here too. Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs. There should be no problem out in the open like this, but later if digging here, watch out for enclosed spaces. That stuff is nasty, it’ll kill you in low concentrations. If I get a sign made can you have it translated into the language so they might know?”
“No need Kǫʼdził-hastiin. They will know. They will be told. They will heed.” Sani says.
“OK, then. Well, do you want me to help clean some of this mess up? It did kind of go everywhere.” I asked.
“No, Kǫʼdził-hastiin. You did what was needed. Thank you.” And with that, he turns, gets on his horse and leaves.
Since I’m out in the field, I notice I need gas. What better excuse for a Scavada visit?
“I figured that was you”, Fred says over a cold Silver Bullet. “Really rattled the rafters. That old illegal mine? Hell, it’s gone now, I bet.”
“More or less. It’s just a lot safer and available.” I reply.
“Oh, I hear your main squeeze made it in. When you going to drag her out here so we can meet?” Fred says.
“Never. She’s too pure for the likes of you.” I chuckle.
“An insult! I am wounded!” he feigns real injury.
“See?”
“Hey. I’ll be on my best behavior. Drag her out here. I’d like to meet her and tell her all sorts of lies about your sordid past out here.” He laughs.
“Yeah. We’ll see. Maybe in a week or so,” I say.
“Give her the saddle yet?” he asks.
[Stunned] “How the hell did you know about that?” I ask.
“Ain’t no secrets on the res, Kǫʼdził-hastiin.” He chuckles.
I spend the next week out in the field. Sometimes Esme comes along, but she prefers to just take a bit of a breather after her field studies.
Time is wrapping up for me. After Lago de Estrella, I’m off to Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana. I’m going to meet Dr. Jak and the museum folks there to recover some dinosaur fossils found the previous season. They need my truck and me back on the job.
Esme has a new job waiting for her back in Brew-city. Parting will be such sweet sorrow.
So, I plan to make the best of it with the time we have until life intrudes and we have to go our separate ways; for a while at least.
Out in the field, we’re at the fossil log jam Jerry showed me. I had to show Esme and get her ideas, she’s a geologist as well. I’m on the ground, slowly digging around one tree trunk, thinking I saw a glint of bone in the tangled mess.
Esme walks over and nudges me. “Rock, there’s some guy on a horse over there. He’s just sitting there, watching us.”
To be continued…
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[EN] General guidelines for aspiring top 10 tierers.

Hello, I’m Holorin and I’m back with the guide as promised. School, graduation, and Kanon left me with no time to write this guide. But mostly laziness.
I achieved 1st on Kaoru’s Fleeting White Day Musical, 2nd on A Fair and Fluffy Competition, 3rd on Little Smiley Steps, 73rd on Hello, My Happy World and I have also supported people to multiple high placings on various events. While I’m not the most qualified to talk about this (cough Eclipsed 14 straight top 10 placings cough), I hope the advice that come from my experience will help the aspiring tierers! Without further ado, let’s dive into the mountain of information that I’m going to dump on you.

Warning: A lot of words ahead. TL;DR at the end.

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I. Planning

Tiering high (t10 or better) requires careful planning and good execution of the plan. As a wise man once said: 80% of the tiering battle is won during the planning phase - eatsomepapers (achieved two 1st, 2nd, 3rd and a top 10 finish). If any parts of your plan do not go accordingly, you are in danger of acquiring a very expensive t100 title. Nobody wants their money and effort go to waste, so make sure your planning leaves little for failure. I will be going over the process of planning chronologically, but these don’t necessarily have to be followed in the same sequence.
 

1. Decide on the event of your dream.

The reasons for your choice can be anything, but they usually are a combination of the following:
Of the five reasons, the one before the last is the most deceptive. If other people have the same mindset as yours and they decide to aim high, an “easy” event can turn into a bloodbath. On contrary, you might be a Roselia lover like a large portion of the player base, and everyone could have the same mindset of “Roselia events are insanely competitive”, which can lead to an uninspiring top 10. No one really knows how competitive an event can be and how many people are going for the titles, so your best bet is to ask around and hopefully gauge how hard you need to go to achieve your goal.
 

2. Review your team for that event.

If you checked off the good team box from the previous part, move along. If not, do stay because this is one of the most important thing that makes or breaks your plan. With the introduction of uncapping in the WW server, the difference between a high bp 150% bonus team and a moderate bp 130% is way bigger than before. Uncapping also means that the score of your multi-player room matters a lot more now, but that is for the next section.
So what does this mean? It means that first of all, if you don’t have a 150% or 140% bonus team with decent bp, you will be at a huge disadvantage. Earning less EP per song means that you will need to spend more money and time to reach the same amount of EP as your competitors, as well as having less time to rest. It doesn't mean that you can't top 10 with a 120-130% team. You just need to play much more than other people.
There is always a fix for that, and it’s pulling for the banner 4 stars to boost your team. I don’t recommend this unless you have budgeted a certain amount of stars to pull as well as the determination to stick to your budget. I have heard stories of more than 6 digits of stars being spent without getting the cards you need. Before we get sparking, at its core, gacha is gambling and there is always a chance that you don’t get what you want no matter how much money you spend.
 
My recommendation: Go to bestdori, look up your event’s optimal team, then put in your best team for that event and compare the EP difference. My rule of thumb is that unless the event is focused on less-popular characters, having a difference of more than 10% is putting you in a very difficult position (which is why I needed to pull for Kaoru in White Day when I have been and always will be a gacha nonbeliever). If you are still determined even though your team is severely worse than the optimal team, decide if you can stomach the cost of gacha / playing more + spending more on refills. From my experience though, I can say this with 100% confidence: Optimal teams are not necessary unless you are in a very competitive event for top 3.
 

3. Decide how are you going to tier the event

You might ask, is there any other way then just play the game? Well that’s true, but your final placing depends on how efficient you’re playing the game. There are three “types” of tiering, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
 
3.1 Pubbing: Using the matchmaking function of the game. This is how most players play the game.
 
Advantages Disadvantages
You will almost always be able to keep playing the game no matter the time of the day. Comparing to the other two methods, your rate of EP gain will almost always be the worst. Non-meta songs will be chosen, people will have centers that are not scorers, people disconnecting because they don’t get their song choices, ... Overall it’s very volatile.
You don’t rely on anyone else, so you can play at your own pace with your resting schedule.
 
With that said, sometimes pubbing will actually be better than the two alternatives below because of the 24/7 availability. However, if you plan to do this for the whole event, you’re going to have a bad time. The only event type that pure pubbing would work is VS live with a meta event song. You don’t rely on other people for EP gain, and no one will grief your games because they will lose flames if they do so.
 
3.2 Using the game server discord: Utilizing the multiplayer channel of the discord for rooms. Most of you who are reading should know of the existence of the server and utilize it. If not, look at the sidebar and join!
 
Advantages Disadvantages
Meta songs will be chosen. Most people will have good scoring leads (even though skill levels won’t always be maxed). Overall, your EP gain will be much better than pubbing, but still a notch below the final method. You’re relying on other people to fill your room. Thus, there will be “dead hours” which most of the players in the discord server will not be playing, and your rate of songs per hour will suffer.
No griefing You don’t have the freedom to play whenever you want as you should aim to play in active hours.
 
This is very viable in less competitive events as well as more competitive events if you’re dedicated enough. As an example, Yune used the discord server with his incredibly disciplined 18/6 (playing / resting) schedule to a 2nd place finish on a very competitive Persona 5 collab event.
 
3.3 Being in a dedicated tiering server: Basically having other high tier aimers to play with the whole event, as well as dedicated helpers. Definitely the most exclusive out of the three types.
 
Advantages Disadvantages
Your EP gain per hour will be pushed to the max. Only the most meta songs will be chosen, people having fully leveled scorers as center, and generally no time lost at all. Dead hours are still a thing, but less so than the second method.
You will also be in a small community that helps your tiering experience better, as playing etuze for 20 hours a day can kill you mentally. Access to these servers depends on you being prepared and not afraid to reach out. Thus availability is not 100% for everyone.
 
This is the reason why most of the time, you would see players in the top 10 leaderboard have the same "clan" tag in their usernames. For a player who does not belong in the circle (sounds very snobby but it’s just friends who tier really hard and help each others), you have two options to increase your chance of getting in these servers: Actively ask around for the correct player to talk with regarding your event and your aim, or made your aim to be known in the game server discord and hope that you will be scouted. Again, I know that it sounds very snobby but at its core, it’s just people helping others to achieve their goals.
 
Conclusion: Of all the three methods, of course it’s easy to see that being in a dedicated tiering server would give you the best chance to achieve your tiering goal. However, it does not mean you are automatically given the title. You still need to work for it, albeit saving time and money due to the superior efficiency of the rooms. It doesn’t mean that you cannot t10 or better with pure pubbing or using the game server discord either. At the end of the day, efficiency be damned if you can consistently play more to make up for it - whoever has the least downtime wins.
 

4. Prepare the time and money needed:

Going for a top 10 or better finish is generally a very taxing decision, as you will need to sacrifice other aspects of your life in order to do so. Of all those things, time and money are the two most important ones.
 
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II. Executing

Now that you have everything planned out, you still need to execute in order to achieve your goal. For the execution part aka playing the game for most of the days, everyone has a different routine that they are comfortable with. Some high tiering players prefer to have at least a 3-4 hours sleep, some prefer multiple short naps in a day, some prefer going until they die (shoutout to Binh and Niboshi for 50+ hours). You need to discover your own preferences, but here are some general tips that apply to everyone:
Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, before going for a top 10 run, try to achieve a top 100 title in a semi-competitive to competitive event without using any flame boost or stars for refill. This will serve as practice for your top 10 run. The amount of time and effort you need to put in for a flameless top 100 is comparable to that of a top 10 attempt, without the financial burden of refilling / gacha-ing. If you can’t achieve or you’re not comfortable throughout the journey, high tiering life may not be for you. With the practice, maybe you will discover what routine fits you the most for that all important top 10 attempt.
 
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TL;DR:

Planning:
Executing:
 
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I hope this is helpful for any players out there who wants to get a shiny top 10 title in the future. If you have any questions, ask away and I'll try my best to answer them.
Plan carefully, know your limit, and stick to your plan. Happy tiering!
submitted by Ritofix to BanGDream [link] [comments]

[Spoiler] All Lore for Solstice Armor Sets

Hi all! As detailed in my other post going over all of the new and changed items, every piece of rare or legendary Solstice armor has its own lore tab. Here's all of them, compiled:
Edit: All Done! Enjoy!
As stated in the OP, each of the pieces of Solstice Armor has its own Lore. They appear to give a few different perspectives on what happened after the Tower fell. Super interesting.
Here's the rundown:

Titan Rare Set

Solstice Helm (Rekindled) (Item)
Stare into the sun and get burned.
"Zavala, we did it! The shields are down!"
The Titan Vanguard looked to the sky. That Ghost was right: The topaz glow of the Cabal command ship's shields flickered and disintegrated. Zavala wasn't a man who smiled often, but there were a lot of firsts today.
"All friendlies, focus fire on that capital ship! The Tower does not fall today!" He launched himself from behind cover, weapon snapping to his shoulder, the not-smile still curling his lip. These Cabal were going to learn—
Severed.
It was like lava on his chest. Shock, pain, anger, emptiness. The breath rushed from his lungs, and his weapon clattered to the ground. The sounds of war buzzed into quiet. But no matter—he'd been lower than this. And his fists of thunder were more dangerous than any rifle. He drew upon the Light, and... nothing.
His eyes widened. He froze for an instant... and a Cabal slug took him in the side.
The Light is gone, he thought. Over and over. The Light is gone. Then: You're their leader. They need you. Now more than ever. Get up. Get up!
He roared in defiance, lurching back to his feet. He would see them all safe. Even if it meant his life.
Solstice Gauntlets (Rekindled) (Item)
Sometimes the battle burns you up.
Amanda was quiet, but Zavala could still hear the anger before her voice came back over the comms. "Due respect, Commander, I ain't got time to come be your chauffeur. There are thousands of people like me stranded down there in the City."
"The City is lost." He hated saying it, but he knew it in his bones. "And we're all the same now, Holliday. The Light is gone. We have to regroup."
"You mean run." Even angrier now. It was infectious.
"I mean live to fight another day. We don't have the luxury of rescue flights anymore. The longer we stay here, the tighter the noose."
"Then go! What's stopping you? You know how to fly a ship."
"Not like you. You're the best pilot in the system, Amanda. And you're the only one who can keep our ships in the air once we're away from Earth."
"Dammit, sir, we can't just leave them here."
"I've already made my decision. If humanity is to survive..." He'd leave the betting to Cayde, but he knew the odds were slim. "This is the only choice we have."
Silence. For a few seconds this time. "All right." Her voice cracked. He understood.
Solstice Plate (Rekindled) (Item)
Memories of the City burn in your heart.
He made himself look at the numbers. Seventy-three ships lost in the exodus. Seventy-three ships full of people looking to him for guidance. Guardians and civilians alike. All Zavala could give them was a noble death.
Almost none of the vessels had been outfitted with weapons. Transports and supply skiffs, barely holding together outside Earth's atmosphere, trying to punch through a fortified Red Legion blockade. Like prey animals limping through a pack of lions. It was a massacre.
The only reason the fleet made it past the Moon was because the Red Legion focused so heavily on Earth. In that, they seemed like the Cabal Zavala knew. Single-minded. Incapable of thinking more than a few moves ahead. But he knew this Dominus Ghaul wouldn't give up that easily. So they kept moving.
But what next? Zavala had a plan, of course. He always had a plan, Titan Vanguard or no. But what he really needed was information. He needed—
"Deputy Commander Sloane, reporting for duty, sir."
Zavala closed his eyes. And for a brief moment, he relaxed.
Solstice Greaves (Rekindled) (Item)
Go swift as a steed newly awakened.
"Guardians: The City is lost. If there is any Light left in the system... we rally on Titan. Be brave."
Zavala released the record button and looked to the two of them again. Sloane's face revealed nothing, as usual. Amanda was faking an encouraging look. He sighed. "You don't like that one either."
Amanda looked at Sloane, then back to Zavala, clearly not sure what to say. It was Sloane who spoke. "Sir, you want your message to inspire this new resistance. The language you use is..." She was trapped between her usual loyalty and her usual bluntness.
"You make it sound like we've already lost." Amanda said, her hand hovering over the delete button. Zavala raised an eyebrow. She wasn't trapped by anything.
"Holliday's right, Commander. We're not burning the bulk of our fuel supply to get to Saturn and turtle up. You said it: We're going there to rally. People need something to rally to."
He looked down at the recorder for a long moment. When he spoke, his eyes were still downcast. "They need to know the truth. I owe them that. Activate the beacon."
Solstice Mark (Rekindled) (Item)
Battle scars may burn and leave a mark.
"Confirmed, sir. Nearly one hundred percent of the Arcology is infested. And... we lost both teams."
Zavala didn't turn to face Sloane. He just stared at the rise and fall of the methane oceans.
"But we know our enemy now, Commander. We may not have our Light, but we have the advantage. Give the order, and we'll storm the place. Burn it all down if we have to. The Hive deserve nothing less."
"I was a fool to come here. In the shadow of our worst enemy." He looked up to the hole in Saturn's rings, his back still to her. "I thought the strength of our resolve and the treasures of the Golden Age were more powerful than whatever fuels those... demons."
Sloane hated hearing him talk like this, but it was the only way he seemed to talk these days. "You weren't wrong, sir. It may be the only place in the system the Cabal won't go. A perfect launching pad for us to strike back. We'll suppress the Hive, and—"
"Pull them out. All of them. Get them back to safety, and post guards on our side of the bridge."
"Commander—"
"Dismissed."

Titan Legendary Set

Solstice Helm (Resplendent) (Item)
Sometimes you have to become the weapon.
"Bah." The Red Legion invader said something in its unknowable language. It gestured with its right hand toward a Guardian who lay still, groaning and trying to get up. Even from his perch on the balcony above, Theus-7 knew mockery when he saw it.
Below him, chaos. Crowds cowered in the archways of collapsing buildings. Cabal rampaged around the open courtyard, shooting and throwing and overturning. Nothing, no one in their way was untouched. The Cabal closest to Theus drew his sidearm, aiming at the still-sputtering Guardian beside him.
Theus drew his hand cannon and got the shot off before it could, then got a clean shot on another Cabal terrorizing a group of children. It wasn't long before the Red Legion focused fire on the balcony—he was a Sentinel, though, and he knew what to do.
He leapt down, drawing on the power of the Light to form his shie—
But the Light's gone out.
The air left his body. The ugly face of the Red Legion got closer. Nothing left to do.
He shouted at the crowd to run as he primed a grenade.
Solstice Gauntlets (Resplendent)
If you can't have a blast, make one.
Beneath a dead tree, Esta Tel scanned the bridge above her as she hurried to fasten the wires at the end of the cable to her detonator. Looked good. Bare road on one end of the bridge, buildings in the way on the other, but everything looked clear from down in the ravine.
The Cabal would be making a run in exactly three minutes. Time to go.
She watched the buildings up above, listening. Heard engine sounds.
When she saw a vehicle come into view, she clicked the detonator. Ten seconds.
But it wasn't Cabal. It was a medical vehicle. Moving fast onto the bridge.
Five seconds. All the blood drained from her face. She decided before she knew what she was doing.
Shouldered her sniper rifle. Aimed for the junction of her wire and the explosives under the bridge. Shot it out. The wire fell as the medical vehicle crossed.
In the distance, she heard the Cabal coming. Finally.
Shoot the explosives.
Click. No more rounds. No time to think.
Solstice Plate (Resplendent)
Finish what you begin, at your own pace, with a focus unmatched.
Lyria Graemer shoved herself further into the nook underneath a cable support and looked down, waiting for Mattox-9 to make his way up. As he climbed using the fasteners she'd driven into the wall of the Tower, he met her eyes and gave a thumbs-up.
Eight more stories and they'd be right below the Speaker and the Cabal brutes who held him. Just a little further.
Graemer heard distant popping and saw puffs of smoke from below. Looking down, she saw Red Legion troops on the ground, firing up at them.
She looked to Mattox. He nodded.
"Climb!" she said, drawing her rifle. He reached her ready to crack a joke—she knew that face—but the clang of metal on metal interrupted him. Mattox's head shot forward, and as it snapped back up, the red light of his eyes flickered to black. Graemer's rifle fell from her hands as she hauled his body up—they could still finish this together.
Shots all around her. She snarled as one caught her in the side. The Cabal weren't letting up.
Graemer activated her grenades and loaded them into Mattox's rocket launcher. Then, clutching the body of her oldest friend, she dove down.
As they reached the enemy, the world exploded to black.
Solstice Greaves (Resplendent)
Stand your ground until you're the last one standing.
Daimos-22 whipped his free arm as he called to the crowds of Humans, pleading with them to hurry. The compound must have been their home for years—that was his guess based on the armfuls of possessions passing him. But it was flooding now. Sinking.
The tunnel—the only one that hadn't flooded, made of cracked, rotten wood and brittle metal—was barely big enough to stand in, but it would get them to the surface. "Come on!" the Titan called as they streamed past him.
Children and old folks crying. "I know," he said, straining not to shout. "But we have to move."
A woman dropped her enormous suitcase, and he kicked it aside. She looked back at the bag, and then she was gone in the crowd.
The whole structure groaned. Daimos looked up, scanning up and down the tunnel. It didn't sound right at all.
The section of roof above him split open, and the whole tunnel buckled. He could hear the tension grinding in his arms as he pressed on the roof. Hold.
He kept calling out, and they kept running past.
He held and held. And when he let go, he knew he was the last one left.
Solstice Mark (Resplendent)
Birds fly in formation so they do not lose their way.
"Anokai Tai, checking in."
The Titan listened for a response as he throttled the Wayfarer Z over the rubble of a collapsed building and onto what had once been a busy road. He watched for activity. Nothing yet.
"Tai, we see you," the voice on the radio came back. "About twelve klicks to the rendezvous point."
The Titan accelerated, staying low. He was picking up a pair of Guardians—two more just like him who had been passing information to an offworld ship when their vehicle was destroyed. Just a few weeks ago, he would have scoffed at putting three people on a Sparrow. Now pickups like this were almost normal.
A large Legion ship—he didn't know what kind—lay strewn across his path. He pulled back on the stick to rise over the wreck, but something within the Sparrow sputtered.
A second later, that something caught fire.
No no—
The Sparrow slammed down onto the cratered road. Plasma bolts flew past Tai. Ambush.
Tai leapt off the Wayfarer Z and ducked behind it, firing as a platoon of Red Legion emerged from the wreck. He managed to get two before the Sparrow exploded.

Hunter Rare Set

Solstice Mask (Rekindled)
Hide your true face from the sun, lest you get burned.
"Now is not the time, Cayde." Sword strike. Forty-one Cabal down.
"On the contrary, my horned friend." Throwing knife. Thirty-six. "These red lesions are burning down our house. The stakes have never been higher!" Hand cannon. Thirty-seven. "Let's say… two thousand Glimmer a head."
"Ikora said 'Red Legion,' you fool. And no." Sword strike. Forty-two and forty-three.
"Five thousand."
"I will not wager against you when our home—"
Severed.
"Wh— What is this? Cayde, what have you done to me? Another trick to win a bet we haven't made?"
"Ugh."
"Cayde!"
"No, you big ox! I can't… ugh. Can't you see that it got me too? Look out!" Sidearm. Thirty-eight.
"The Light is beyond my reach. My Ghost is empty." Sword strike. Forty-four. "This means…"
"They need us. We should split up." Throwing knife. Thirty-nine. "I'll sweep the streets, you take the—"
"Ten thousand." Sword strike. Forty-five. "THESE are the highest stakes." Sword strike. Forty-six. "You want a bet, Hunter? Let's bet. The only prize is our lives. For all time.”
Hand cannon. Firefly! Forty, forty-one, forty-two. "You're on."
Solstice Grasps (Rekindled)
Hold too tight and it could all slip away.
"How many was that? I sorta stopped counting a while ago."
Cayde's whisper is loud enough to be heard by any Red Legion nearby, but he'd solved that problem with three flashes of his knife in the last two minutes. His Ghost doesn't respond.
"Never mind, never mind. You know, this would go a lot faster if I could draw 'em out somehow. Use something for bait. Something small."
His Ghost still doesn't respond.
"Not like you. Something without a big glowy eye. Wait, shh-shh-shh…"
He ducks into the shadows. Two Legionaries flanking a Goliath tank waddle past his hiding spot. No need to be a hero, he thinks. At least, not a dead one. Not yet.
"Three more blocks and we're in business. You sure you can still access the terminals?"
No response.
"You're right, I shouldn't doubt you. Just because we haven't touched the Light in nine hours doesn't mean that you can't still, you know, do your thing with the beam. But you're my last hope, little buddy. Zavala's gonna take years to build up his big space fleet. Ikora's gonna sit and stare at a Traveler-shaped hole in the ground for just as long. It's up to us now. You with me?"
A loud whisper: "Always."
Solstice Vest (Rekindled)
Memories of lost loves burn in your heart.
"Vanguard emergency override, auth chartreuse seven seven dash six."
[Good morning, Hunter Vanguard. Automated voice help system engaged. How can I help you today?]
"I need to take down a giant space rhino before he sees me."
[I assume you're referring to a Cabal enemy. Can you provide me with any more information?]
"He looks like a fifteen-foot-tall spiky cloud with wings and a cape."
[That doesn't align with reference images I have on file. Is he wearing some kind of special armor?]
"Either that or he's got a real weird body. We're talking weirder than usual."
[How can I help you today?]
"Sorry. Sorry. So we need to kill this Ghaul guy. I need ideas. How did that one fireteam take down Crota again?"
[They infiltrated the Ascendant Realm and confronted him at his Oversoul throne.]
"OK, that's probably not gonna work here. What about Skolas?"
[Please specify: when he met his execution in the Prison of Elders—]
"Nope."
[—or when he brought his House of Wolves across time through Vex time gates—]
"Now we're talking! Vex stuff. Teleporting. How do I do that?"
Solstice Strides (Rekindled)
Jump not from the pan into the flames.
"So your name is 'Failsafe'?"
"Yes! And your name is the Cayde unit!" ("You're an Exo. Human brain in a robot body. Weird mouth lights.")
"Wait, who was that?"
"Who was who? I am me!"
"It doesn't matter. You don't know what'll happen if I do this. You're an AI, just like one back home that told me about this place."
"That is incorrect!" ("I'm about a thousand times smarter.")
"If you're so smart, how come you crashed your big ship into a horse moon?"
"That is very rude!"
"Look, we don't have a lot of time. I'm just gonna wire up this Vex teleporter to my triple jump circuits. What's the worst that could happen?"
"Based on my cycles analyzing Vex portal technology, one of the many alarming yet likely outcomes is that your body and consciousness are separated into two distinct antimatter dimensions!"
"Ah, you're making that up. Here goes."
"Please wait a moment, Cayde unit! I have not encountered anyone else on 7066 Nessus since the crash of the Exodus Black." ("I'm not good at being lonely.") "If you are absorbed into a quasi-space pseudorealm—"
"Sorry, Failsafe, gotta be brave here."
Dzzt.
Solstice Cloak (Rekindled)
Mistakes can burn, even in the dead of night.
"So that's it for now, Ace. I don't think I'm gonna get out of this one. Not the most heroic way to go out for your ol' dad, I'll admit, but… hurk! Ah, shoot. Gotta start over. How long was that one, Failsafe?"
"Two hundred thirty-six seconds since the last teleportation! You never told me that Ace was your son! How wonderful!"("And super sad.")
"That's the theory. Saw the name in a journal in my pocket when my Ghost first rezzed me. Seemed as likely as anything else."
"So you don't know if your son truly exists?" ("That's super-duper sad.")
"Nope. But you don't know what happened to your crew. Does it change how you feel about 'em?"
"Not at all!" ("But they're still dead.")
"There you go. Now do me a favor and start the recording again, will ya? Not sure h—"
"Cayde unit, I have great news! A ship similar to yours has entered the gravitational radius of this planetoid!"
"What?! All right! Uh-oh. Listen, the next teleport's about to happen. Don't tell them that I got in over my head, OK? Tell them it was some kind of Vex trap or something. Got it? Failsafe?"

Hunter Legendary Set

Solstice Mask (Resplendent)
Knowledge is power. Seize it all.
Dax Etono moved through the darkness of the Red Legion storehouse as quietly as he could until he reached the control panels at the far end. He looked around, hoping the towers of equipment and storage containers would keep him hidden.
Lit the panel up.
This panel would generally be used by its owners just for inventory on this one unit. After the Cabal had seized the buildings here, however, the Guardians realized the Legion had unlocked the network to such a degree that if you could access any panel, you could get in almost anywhere in their systems. Dax pulled the buckle from his belt—a mag-hack. He let it click against the panel, and it started to copy over information. Tons of it.
The lights came on. Dax cursed, turning around. Footsteps echoed from both entrances. No enemies were visible yet. He drew his weapon and retrieved the mag-hack. Flicked a switch on its smooth metal side. At least he'd get the Vanguard some of the data.
Three Cabal rounded the corner, firing. Dax took aim to defend himself as information began blazing across the galaxy.
Solstice Grasps (Resplendent)
Do more than survive. Change your reality.
"You can make anything sound like no big deal if you say it the right way."
Gemma Nixx knew that from very early on, and yet it still never ceased to bother her. You could say, "The Red Legion is wiping out innocent people all around the City," all matter-of-fact. But now, as she led maimed and hollow-eyed stragglers through ridges of junk and cratered earth, those words swelled and distorted until they were her entire reality.
You could say, "You've lost your regenerative ability, but you're still able to fight." But saying it didn't get her new feelings across. The pressure of the rebar she grabbed to steady herself was not pain; yet, like every sensation now, it stung in her brain.
"This way!" Gemma located a hatch and held it open, watching as the survivors filed in.
Then she slammed it shut, and a few seconds later, the hidden transport the people had crawled into revved its engine and burst from a pile of debris. Gemma watched them go.
She waved and saw a puff of smoke in a burnt-out building a quarter mile away. Then she saw a hole in her hand. And then nothing.
Solstice Vest (Resplendent)
Adrift in a blazing sea, heroes become memories.
He was floating just about one meter off a comms satellite. I know, 'cause I was talking to him. Not in person—I was manning about 30 weather drones, so I had this array of camera views and readouts. I see him drifting there, drill in hand, by an open panel.
This was a Guardian, with a capital G. I mean, it makes me laugh now. I was thinking, I've seen that guy win ten in a row in the Crucible. Why is he fixing a satellite?
He told me, all casual, that the comms had been acting up, and he was saving the regular maintenance crew a trip into orbit in the middle of a storm. I even asked myself at the time, wow, do Guardians do that?
Anyway, I came to find out, the second the sensors beyond the Wall started going dark, he'd suspected sabotage. Came straight to investigate. He didn't want to freak me out.
He was one of the first that we lost during the invasion. The screen just filled with orange and white. Gone.
Solstice Strides (Resplendent)
Flames lick at your heels but you are too fast.
Do you know what it takes to keep moving when you're so afraid—SO afraid?
In the EDZ, we were starting to mount an organized defense. It was still Cabal territory. She and I drew the short straw to hit a rolling transport: a fat Cabal train on wheels coming out of a munitions depot and heading for the Farm.
So we're waiting behind a ridge and the carrier approaches. She blasts it with her Grenade Launcher. The shell slams into a tread on the carrier and it just… sticks. Doesn't blow up. I look at her. She's gritting her teeth.
While I'm still in shock, she leaps to her feet, hops on a Sparrow, and zips about a mile down the road. I watch through the binocs. She pulls out a sidearm and aims from behind a bunch of steel girders. Shoots at the shell in the transport tread. Takes another shot. Three. Five. It's unlike her to miss.
Then I see why: her whole body is shaking with fear.
Finally she detonates the shell. And I mean, I have never seen a blast like this. An orange dome that reaches almost all the way back to me. It melts the rubber on my goggles.
It was the right move. You don't come back from that, though.
Solstice Cloak (Resplendent)
Let the fear in your bones drive you to resist.
Before they took the Traveler away, we thought we were tough. All of us. But man, without the Ghosts, we became real vulnerable for a while. At least I did. Ghaul absolutely had us pegged.
A bunch of Fallen were trying to establish a base of operations near the old Nessus crash site after the boss left. When Trake and I arrived on Nessus to help organize resistance against the Red Legion, we engaged the Fallen—we couldn't let them build up their forces.
So the ground trembles when one of the Fallen transports blows up, and I lose my grip on my rifle—it slips right down the ridge we're taking cover behind. I've never felt so stupid, and I… I couldn't move.
Trake shakes me out of my stupor, and we scramble over the ridge to get my rifle. I slide down and grab it while he covers me. It feels like the world is frozen in place. I can still picture him shooting round after round as we head back to safety.
He's right on my heels, but… I'm sorry. No, he, uh, he was hit in the neck and, uh, that was it.
The fear—I can't describe it at all. But I remember it in my bones.

Warlock Rare Set

Solstice Hood (Rekindled)
Beloved cities burn in your mind's eye.
She hadn't touched the ground since she leapt from the rubble of Tower North.
As the ship spiraled toward the flames below, Ikora Rey Blinked from its wing to the back of an Interceptor and shoved three Vortex Grenades into its propulsion emitters. Blink.
To the nose of a Harvester. Four shotgun blasts to its antigravity cores. Blink.
Atop another Thresher. She glanced over her shoulder at the Traveler and bared her teeth at the perversion attached to its surface. Her Nova Bomb disintegrated the front half of the ship, and she leapt away. She would destroy them all for what they'd done to the City, to the Tower, to the Speaker. She would—
Severed.
Everything went dark. Her fingers went numb. She tried to Blink to the Thresher as her sight returned, but there was nothing. The Light...was gone?
She plummeted toward the ground, her mind racing. No grenades. Think. No Nova Bomb. Think. She emptied a clip into a billboard below her, and it collapsed into a heap on a rooftop. She tried to tuck into a roll, but her body still slammed into the tangle of metal.
Ikora struggled to move. Her shoulder was probably separated. Her powers were gone. But she'd be damned if this was the end. She pushed herself to her feet, eyes ablaze, and charged her next target.
Solstice Gloves (Rekindled)
Heat can burn as much as it warms.
/hidden anticipher accepted/ /missive from first follows/ /180 seconds to erasure/
my hidden. we knew this was one of our futures.
my seat of power is gone. guardians, scattered like embers and stomped out as easily. this red legion are just cabal, yes, but with enough complacency, even the most thuggish of our enemies can destroy our world.
end your operations. make for your safehouses. do not attempt clandestine strikes against our occupiers. lives are a currency we cannot afford to spend. wait for our conquerors to show the same complacency that led to our defeat. we will outlast them. we will make them pay.
chalco, if you still draw breath, know that you were right. we lost sight of what was out of our sight. it will be the last time we make that mistake.
eris, if your quest has not claimed your last life, know that we have not given up on you. when we rise again, there will be a home for you once more.
the rest of you: hide. watch. wait for word from me. and if that word never comes, you all know what to do.
/missive from first ends/
Solstice Robes (Rekindled)
Even the warmest light can sometimes burn you up.
She didn't need her Light to kill a Marauder with a single palm strike to the skull.
Ikora let its body drop to the forest floor and watched its Ether drain into the dirt. It was like the days after her Ghost first revived her—when she would disappear into the wilderness and dare the unseen to challenge her.
This was the eleventh Fallen she'd taken down since she'd been within sight of the Shard, and the last one standing between her and recovering her power.
She turned to the Shard and took a step toward it. Another step, past two Dregs she'd taken from above an hour earlier. Another step, over a Wretch that had caught her off-guard right after. One more step as she stretched out her palm to touch the surface of the Shard, closed her eyes, and waited.
And waited.
Nothing.
Her eyes shot open, and she stared at the cast-off piece of the Traveler. Silent. Disbelieving. Furious. Pleading. Then... serene.
She stood for another minute, staring, then performed a few calculations in her head. She looked to an empty spot in the sky.
Io.
Solstice Boots (Rekindled)
Courage sometimes requires standing still.
The Red Legion ship curled in for a landing above Echo Mesa, and its engines went dark. The canopy retracted, and its pilot climbed out.
Ikora's feet touched the surface of Io for the first time as a Guardian without Light. It felt wrong. But not as wrong as—
The ground shook as three Red Legion Harvesters flew overhead. Not as wrong as them.
This place, this holy place, this place more sacred to Guardians than any other in the system... now a thoroughfare for Cabal to tread upon without reverence. To tunnel through without regard. To befoul without a thought. Ikora's anger had bubbled to the surface often since this war had begun, but seeing the Red Legion here had her as persistently furious as any time she could remember.
She checked her provisions and ammunition. The Vex were here as well, but she knew that as long as she stayed away from the machines, they would present no threat. She would deal with them later. For now, she set out for the Red Legion base she had flown past on her initial descent.
It might cost her everything, but she would make them pay.
Solstice Bond (Rekindled)
The brightest lights sometimes burn out fastest.
Ikora bit down on the empty rocket casing she'd hollowed out, her grunt of pain muffled enough that she didn't bother seeing if anyone heard. The shrapnel was out of her shoulder, finally. It fell from her fingers to the rocks below.
She didn't know how long she'd been here on Io. One more thing that had drifted away in her new life without Light. She didn't know how many Red Legion she'd killed, but she knew how close she'd come to dying herself. She had the scars to remember.
Her shotgun was lost, lying broken outside the guard tower of a Red Legion base a few klicks east. She'd emptied it into an Incendior and then used it to bludgeon a Psion into the ground. But the ships didn't stop flying overhead. The patrols didn't become any less frequent. Nothing had changed.
Nothing—except for her. Injured, exhausted, powerless. With nothing to show for her—what, heroism? No. She could admit that now. She closed her eyes. Just for a minute.
When she awoke, she was looking at it: the last place the Traveler touched. She slowly got to her feet and walked to the cliff's edge.
And waited.

Warlock Legendary Set

Solstice Hood (Resplendent)
In the blink of an eye, life can turn from sweet to bitter.
From the cockpit of her jumpship, Kanmu mouthed words in almost perfect sync with the voices behind her. She'd spent most of this assignment ferrying Cryptarchs from planet to planet, and these scholars always had the same conversations over and over again.
She pantomimed a deep belly laugh right on cue.
Something was wrong this time, though. That laugh didn't sound right. Looking behind her, she realized one of the Cryptarchs was choking—probably on one of those hard candies they always seemed to have. She freed herself from the cockpit and hurried back to them, finding the afflicted scholar doubled over and gasping.
She positioned herself behind him, and time slowed. As her arms wrapped around the form in front of her, she made a fist with one hand and grasped it with the other, trying to pull up into the abdomen.
Don't break the ribs. Hands up higher. Pull up faster. More force. Not that much force! Don't break the ribs! Don't—
And then it was out. A hard candy. Of course. Kanmu laughed, relief coming over her.
Putting a reassuring hand on the recovering Cryptarch's back, she turned back to the front of the ship just in time to see an orange ball of energy soar into view from beyond the horizon. It was headed straight for them.
A sharp inhale as she rushed to the cockpit. They had to leave. There was still tim—
But there wasn't.
Solstice Gloves (Resplendent)
Shoulder the weight of time and keep going.
Pain. Just… just pain. The word banged around his skull, crept down his body, echoed through his bones. There'd been a time before the pain, but Kalumet Ziv couldn't remember it now. He leaned harder into Aiza-3, who nearly buckled at the unexpected weight shift. She steadied herself quickly, and they carried on.
"Do you need help up there?" From behind them, Ivola's footfalls were uneven, owing to the hole in his right thigh. Ziv wasn't sure he could help if he wanted to. Aiza must have felt the same way.
"No, just had to readjust." They continued in exhausted silence toward the extraction point, staying among the rubble as far from the road as they dared get. They'd traveled this way for hours—the only survivors of a Cabal ambush—and had covered almost no ground.
Far in the distance, a familiar sound—vehicles. Several of them. A Cabal convoy appeared over a far-off ridge, and the last granules of hope Ziv had been hoarding away left him. They had no chance like this.
Not if he stayed with them.
He let go of Aiza and slid to the ground. The Exo reached down and grabbed his arm. "You have to try, Ziv. We can't stop here. Not now."
He twisted out of her grasp. "YOU can't." Understanding, Ivola shook his head. Looked about to speak. Ziv interrupted. "I can buy you time."
Aiza and Ivola looked at each other. Back at the convoy. They knew he was right.
A brief goodbye, an embrace, and they were gone, ducking behind debris and rubble at already twice the speed.
Crawling closer to the road, pain screaming through each movement, he waited for the others to be far enough that he could draw the Cabal past them.
From there in the dirt, he shouldered his rifle and started shooting.
Solstice Robes (Resplendent)
The right perspective can give you the perfect advantage.
Nethe Pav breathed, tried to find time within time. She was cut off from her exit, the path in front of her blocked by rubble from her own blast. She had taken out three Cabal—they'd fired on her nonstop for what felt like hours but was surely minutes—and now there was one left, wounded, still behind her. She figured she could just leave it.
She was wrong. From behind her came sounds of the lumbering beast. Turning, she fired.
Nothing. Her weapon was dead or jammed or—it didn't matter. She threw it down and crouched behind a pillar with her blade as the Cabal fired. Once. Twice. Click.
The clatter of its rifle hitting the ground. Nethe peered around the pillar in time to see it advancing with its own blade drawn.
Leaping from cover, she went for the neck. So did he.
They both connected.
Solstice Boots (Resplendent)
Time flies with the speed of birds on their way out of winter.
Serrano laughed as he walked, listening to Cayde-6 on his headset. The Exo was bragging about a distraction he'd used on a Cabal that involved—did he hear that right? A chicken? And more than once? Seemed the Red Legion had weaknesses, and some of them were odd.
The story took his mind off his aching legs. His ship had blown up miles outside the City, but he finally saw the Tower coming into view. He was deep into a daydream about napping when he heard a crash up ahead.
Serrano picked up speed as he approached a curve in the road, and when he rounded it, he saw the dust cloud first. As it cleared, he saw the overturned Sparrow and, worse, the Guardian underneath it. His heart sank as he ran toward them, but as he got closer, he could tell it was too late. He touched the Guardian's shoulders, bowing his head for a moment.
His gaze turned to the Sparrow. A guilty pang made him hesitate, but this Guardian didn't need it anymore. He righted it and climbed on.
Flying fast around a curve, Serrano spotted a troop of Cabal firing and closing in on an encampment. The cowering civilians managed to get a couple good shots against the invaders as he watched, but they wouldn't get enough before the Cabal surrounded them.
Then he saw the Incendior among the beasts. That was the answer.
Serrano turned the Sparrow, aiming straight for the flamethrower in the Cabal's oversized hands and cranking the thrust.
He had just enough time to appreciate the surprised Incendior's face.
Solstice Bond (Resplendent)
Clarity of purpose is a moment that comes but once.
It wasn't fair.
Marlenx-3 hated to think in those terms, but that was the truth. She was deep in the Inverted Spire looking for Cabal security, and there was only one reason. Some Guardian—who had allegedly gotten their Light back—was trying to make it through this place to find whatever it housed. She was just here to help clear it out, along with several other Guardians who weren't so blessed.
If she bought it now, there was no coming back.
She ducked into a stairwell and whipped around. Nothing. "Got an empty stairwell here," she said into her headset.
Marlenx ran up the steps and pushed through the next door. Swept left, then right. A corridor stretched in both directions.
Footsteps down below. She shut the door behind her and went down the left hallway, toward the closest door. As her hand touched the doorknob, she heard a sound behind her.
Gun at the ready, she spun around. A door had opened down the hall, and another Guardian was staggering through. No weapon. Wounded.
In that moment, everything became clear. This was why she was here. She held up her hand. Stay there.
She hurried back into the stairwell and shot off the handle, then turned to face the coming sound.
Fair had nothing to do with it.

Various Cosmetics

Editing these in per request
Estival Excursion
Returning home is never as fast as you want it to be.
The silence from the radio was deafening. Uncomfortable, Ghost outlined a figure-eight in the air.
"Why don't we… do an after-action report? The radios will come back on. I'm sure of it." Ghost cleared his throat.
"Report ALPHA SIX FOUR BLUE PHI. Visual inspection and scans at Mount Esja confirmed the debris came from the Reef." He paused.
"We attempted communication with Awoken allies. Signals to the Queen's Wrath, the Trials beacon, and even intel source GREENRAVEN went unanswered."
He sighed. "That likely attracted the enemy attention that followed. For the record, I'll take the blame—trying to call Petra was my idea."
"The site was under observation by remnants of the House of Winter. Unlike many of the Fallen we've seen lately, they bore the crests and colors from one of the original Eliksni factions. They were starving and desperate. But none of them tried to flee."
Ghost let the words hang in the air for a moment. "Returning to the Tower for a debrief."
They flew in silence for a long moment before Ghost activated the comms again—and despite the static, spoke into the void. "Tower Approach, this is City Hawk 7-2-3, please respond."
continued in a comment below as I'm at the character limit...
submitted by Eander to DestinyTheGame [link] [comments]

Tip #1 Speed Wins Races. 2 Minute Tips: Horse Racing Series. Clinton Anderson Presents Running Scared: Training An ... What Does Chalk Mean in Horse Racing? Mean Mary on fast banjo - Iron Horse - YouTube Breakdown: Death and Disarray at America's Racetracks ...

Name: Stephen, Horse-sham Qualification: Misplaced childhood Answer: As with most things in gambling, it’s French in origin. It’s from a card game called Napoleon, where the best hand you can have is called a Napoleon, shortened to a nap. What Does Nap Mean in Horse Betting? If you regularly check out the latest horse racing betting news and odds, you’ve probably heard the word ‘nap’ used regularly. This refers to a tipster’s selection as the best bet of the day, and it’s arguably the closest you’ll get to a sure-thing in the world of horse race wagering. Here is the leaderboard for today's horse racing competition run in conjunction with the Racing Post. Every day, each tipster is required to supply their best bet - referred to as their nap - with the profit and loss figure shown based on a theoretical £1 stake at SP (starting price). Current Naps Competition Started: Monday 1st June 2020 It is primarily associated with horse racing, although it can cover any event, sporting and non-sporting, that is open for betting. The word ‘nap’ originates from the French card game Napoleon. In this game, a ‘nap’ is the best hand you can get. Betting on horse racing would be very easy if we could all just back the nap of a given tipster but the truth is there is always risk and unpredictability in this sport. It always pays to do your own research and/or look around at what other people are saying about a race but following a nap is usually a good place to start.

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Tip #1 Speed Wins Races. 2 Minute Tips: Horse Racing Series.

Horse trainer Clinton Anderson shows a horsewoman how to gain the respect and trust of her aggressive horse. Learn how to train an aggressive horse. Subscrib... A 2012 New York Times investigation of the U.S. horse racing industry revealed a pervasive culture of drugs and lax regulation. This documentary was nominate... This tip talks about speed in horse races and what to look for to find more winners. 2 Minute Tips: Horse Racing. This is a handicapping series presented by runhorse.com, where we offer a 2 minute ... A pit bull attacks a horse, luckily no animals were harmed and it all ended well for both pitbull and the horse. Watch a whole herd run to greet a new rescued baby elephant, "Dok Geaw", at Elephant Nature Park. Dok Geaw is one year and nine months old. He is an orphaned...

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