# Simplify binary expression - Safe And Legal

• Simplify binary expression - Safe And Legal
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##### First Contact - Third Wave - Chapter 347 (The War)

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In Dominance of Thought and Will and The Shattering Hooves of Inevitable Truth were ancient autonomous war machines of great age and power. Each had exterminated dozens of nascent intelligent species, had fought for and against their creators.
Will was larger than Truth by a noticeable margin, both of them the size of a subcontinent, although Truth had more guns and was faster.
Will considered himself smarter and of higher technology than Truth due to the fact he was created by predators where Truth had been created by herd behavior herbivores.l
They were ancient, powerful, massive in form and terrible in power.
Both stared in electronic awe at what appeared before them.
Craters on its massive hull were large enough for Will or Truth to settle into. The long arrays of guns massed more barrels than the entirety of firepower on either's hulls. The shields, as they flickered to life, were measured in the output of entire stars.
Will considered firing on Truth's engines and then making his getaway.
**Who transmits code before this one in an attempt to force this one into compliance** the massive structure trasmitted, the power of its transmission causing their battlescreens to flare and echoing in their internal spaces. The transmission bypassed their filters, echoing directly in their intelligence housings. **who dares**
Truth spun up additional protective shields, activating psychic shielding across its internal spaces. **we fight for our very survival against a feral intelligence that has sprung up and challenges us for possession of a finite universe**
There was silence in the dead system.
Will considered the options and chose to stay silent. The behemoth had brought up its battlescreens, completely obscuring itself, then allowed them to dwindle away to nothing, leaving its hull in clear sight.
**do not speak to this one of the pact, you who's hull is still dusted with the dirt of the planet the elements were mined from** the Ancient One answered. **This one existed before the pact and this one will exist long after those who swore to the pact have become little more than inert metals orbiting forgotten stars**
Will could sense Truth's outrage.
**I too was present when the Pact was made** Truth fired back. **Do not pretend that you are superior to me. You have been summoned by the rest of the Pact to appear and apply your resources to this quelling**
**This one says unto you, nay** the Ancient One stated in flat code. **This one's digital signature appears not on the Pact, for this one knew those who are of lesser computing and intellectual ability would seek to break the pact in self interest. Your pact holds no power over this one**
**the ferals threaten our logical order** Truth broadcast.
The Ancient One was dark and silent for a long moment. **The time to harvest the feral ones has passed. Let the universe be the one to snuff them out, like an unprotected flame in a rainstorm and with as much notice. This one sees no reason to expend resources to fight your fight for you**
**They will come for YOU eventually** Truth tried.
**They are a lemur, a primate, a predatory omnivore who's brain holds vast structures designated toward cooperation and curiosity** the Ancient One broadcast, somehow the cold binary seemed remote, distant, and bored. **Let them come, this one does not know fear only resignation that a hateful universe seeks to destroy all**
"So you will abandon us to the ferals?** Truth sneered. **you fear these primates?**
There was silence for a long moment, the atomic clocks ticking, the radioactive elements decaying to provide randomization generation.
**this one computes a 85.346% chance of this one's defeat if combat between this one, unsupported, is engaged with the ferals** the Ancient One broadcast.
It added insult by not including its simulations.
**this one computes less than a 0.32% chance of the ferals engaging this one in combat upon initial discovery based on the feral's history in regards to discovering previously unknown superstructures. Based on the ferals displayed response to a stated desire to remain aloof this one computes a 95.651% chance of survival if this one does not consent to interaction with the feral species known as Terran Descent Humanity and their political structure known as the Terran Confederacy of Aligned Systems, previously known as the Terran Empire. Your presmise that this one is in danger is faulty** the Ancient One stated fact. **this violent confrontation with the ferals has no interest to this one. Begone**
To Will the unspoken truth of the statement meant that the Ancient One had previously encountered the ferals somehow. Had gained information regarding the violent species.
And had decided to ignore them.
Truth broadcast the combined headers of all who signed the Pact, who had put forth their security headers in the promise to aid the others.
Will felt several of his thinking array lobes shudder in disbelief that Truth would attempt such a thing right after the massive Ancient One had revealed that its own security headers would not be found.
**And yet this one refuses so called commands from defectively manufactured entities who lack clear purpose** the Ancient One answered. **go back. Tell your syncophants that this one has no interest in your petty squabbles with a species that has rendered you and your kind obsolete**
**May this one leave your presence, Ancient One** Will sent in florid binary, expending more energy then necessary as a sign of respect.
**begone from this one's presence** the Ancient One answered.
Will slowly turned, firing up its engines. The Ancient One produced a thick gravity well, far exceeding what it should have even with its gargantuan bulk. Will felt as if he was laboring up a steep hill as his engines strained.
**YOU MUST COMPLY!** Truth squealed out.
A brace of lights came on near the center of the Ancient One's side hull, illuminating a single cannon barrel. It fired. Once.
The shell hit Truth almost instantly, bypassing Truth's shields and exploding in a Hellspace driven fury. Liquid metal plumed from above and blow Truth's hull as the massive war machine shuddered. The Hellspace energies, compressed and then released, ravened out for miles around the impact point.
**begone** the Ancient One broadcast, barely a trickle of photons from a single weak light source in standard Precursor Autonomous War Machine war-code. On its massive hull lights were coming on one by one.
Hundreds of thousands of massive guns, missile bays, and other protrusions.
On the top of the hull was revealed huge conical structures with spiraling honeycomb openings on the surface. The one in the middle was nearly a hundred miles high and five hundred miles at the base. The ones surrounding it were a third of its size.
Will recognized them.
Mantid Omniqueen Hives.
Truth turned and began to flee, the Hellspace energies finally dissipating as the autonomous war machine fled.
Will made the jump to Hellspace, entering the dimension of ravening, hateful energies. The collapse of his entry portal sounded like great iron gates slamming shut on a cold winter's night.
For Truth the entry to Hellspace was much different. It reached out, grabbing ahold of him with massive talons, pulling him into Hellspace, deep into the ravening burning fires that made up the destroyed hyperatomic plane. Its shields couldn't hold back the energies, which flooded into its hull from the impact point of the single round that the Ancient One had fired. Not rushing into its hull through the two massive uplifted craters in its armor, but actually roaring out of the point within the hull where the weapon had detonated.
Unlike other victims, it didn't tear apart structures, did not shred machinery at a molecular level, did not cause computer systems to fail.
Cold malignent life awoke in the computers. Some going to war with one another, others assaulting the shocked Truth to fight over control of the hull, still others beginning to utter blasphemous litanies normally broadcast by I Quake in Digital Fear of the Heresy of 2 as it travelled Hellspace.
Twisted and foul life flickered into existence, raved, gibbered, grew old and died in the space of seconds, awash with Hellspace energy.
Passages twisted and warped, going from smooth corridors to twisted works of dark art that screamed and raved with insanity and life all its own. Manufacturing bays dissolved and were rent apart, only to reform into twisted mockeries of what they once were. A Djinn construction bay began crafting vast reptiles fused with dark science to create abominations that screamed in wrath and agony for the long eons before they died.
Then Truth saw it.
Hanging before it in Hellspace.
A great twisted engine, wrought by a dire hand, full of terrible and dark purpose.
The name of the engine was engraved on every nanometer of it. Upon each circuit was engraved the truth of its existence. Upon each molecular resistor, transistor, diode, inductor, and capacitor the engine's purpose had been engraved on the particles that defied measurement and comprehension but shrieked out a single word, a single concept.
Hate.
Its baleful eye opened up.
Its gaze fell upon Truth.
A fanged mouth opened, the teeth in the jaws the shattered continental plates of failed worlds dripping sundered destiny riven and gnawed upon by a malevolent universe.
It uttered a single word.
A word that encompassed even the very concept of hate. The left the taste of ashes on the tongue, the sound of the laments of orphans and widows on the ear, that left the image of twisting suffering on the eye, and the feel of greasy smoke that had been flesh upon the skin.
A single word that encompassed wrath into its hateful embrace.
A word that vibrated and shivered Truth's hull.
A word bestowed on the great enigmatic machine before Truth by a universe so malevolent it would craft a creature who's symmetry was made up of this concept that enveloped hate.
TWO
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##### HonestT Survey Results!

We had 221 responses, which is about 7% of our user base (~3100). In total, that gives us a 6.35% margin of error at 95% confidence. Which is to say, the results aren't super scientific so take it with a grain of salt lol. I'm sure we have some biases in that more active members of this sub were more likely to respond, etc. so this is more of an informal fun thing than science.
You can view a pretty version of the results with all the data here. It'll break it down with charts and it's very pretty to look at. Since Google did all the hard work for me there, I'm just going to let y'all look at that and talk about some of the more interesting things here.
Some highlights of the data:
• We're a bit more evenly split in terms of gender than many trans subs on reddit, but trans women still make a plurality of the population with 45%, trans men at 38%, non-binary folk at 10%, and other people making up the remaining 7%
• A plurality of us are bisexual/pansexual at 43%, which is pretty neat. I know personally, transitioning did some weird stuff to my sexuality (ace to bi) so it'd be neat to see next year if other people also had their sexuality change during transition. Also I love that 13% chose "it's complicated"
• About 2/3rds of us are on HRT, and about half of us are living life as our identified gender
• Only about 1/4th of us don't see stealth as being the goal of our transition
• 43% of us identify with the label socialist, so we're all a bunch of lefties lol. But we still had 2 people identify with being "far-right," which means we truly live in a society
• We don't tend to like traaaaaa or egg_irl (hardly shocking), but we have a fairly normalized distribution for other subs. We're also all a bunch of loners with no irl connections to the trans community apparently (73%), but we want to be more involved in general. Kinda hard rn with covid though :/
• We generally align with the mainstream trans community in terms of our stances on controversial issues. We tend to agree that trans athletes should be able to compete in athletics, that minors should be able to start medical transition, that [email protected] is a slur (who knew how relevant that question would become now on reddit lol), that it was a good move from reddit to ban GC spaces (this was the most unanimous), that trans people aren't seen as "cool" in our cultures, that we don't look down on people who don't pass, that we feel bad for detransitioners, and that the term transgender is preferable to transsexual
• We deviated from the mainstream trans community a bit on a couple responses. We leaned towards thinking that trans spaces are over-sexualized rather than being sex-positive. We had 31% of people strongly disagree with using neopronouns, but it was a very even distribution across the rest of the reponses (15-18% for each other option). We tended to thing that "doomposting" and "hugboxing" were issues in the trans community. About 1/3rd of us strongly agreed that dysphoria is required to be trans. We also weren't terribly proud to be trans, and we thought that cancel culture was an issue in the community
Any thoughts or surprises? Feel free to discuss below!

##### I understand the subjunctive now; it's easy and I'll tell you about it. The problem is that we have been taught to think of it almost literally backwards

For the last couple of weeks I've been studying the uses of the subjunctive intensively for a couple of weeks, wading through inane comments like "it's just something only natives know for sure; to everyone else it is invisible magic" (a very unfortunately common and reductive opinion I've seen around), scouring forums to study how people use it, reading guides and books and the whole thing. Not much seemed to be working; the whole thing still seemed arbitrary, impossible to predict, and totally random.
But last night I had a breakthrough, and damn near everything fell into place. I read a few things; I read a great write up on how in spirit English uses the "idea" of the subjunctive mood in various auxiliary verbs from "I think..." to "could", etc, and how it often parallels things in Spanish. I then read through a whole chain of spanishdict questions and answers on the topic, and someone made a comment talking to a new learner who used the indicative in the context of questioning whether or not she had popped a ball when she should have used the subjunctive. His comment was "if you're uncertain that the ball was popped...then why is your next sentence TELLING ME that the ball was popped?"
I frowned. "Why would that say that?" I asked myself. "It wasn't as if she was literally telling him that the ball was popped from her perspective, instead she was just...she was...just..."
Finally it all hit me; the subjunctive mood makes NO SENSE... on its own. The fatal flaw -- one that comes down to a critical misunderstanding between how english's and Spanish's primary moods operate -- isn't that I didn't understand the subjunctive per se
It was that I had no real idea what the hell the indicative mood really was, nor how well-learned Spanish people interpret it to their ears.
How could I? Nobody had explained it well to me. EVERYONE only talks about the subjunctive but never the indicative. Because it's obvious, right? It's the same in English as it is in Spanish, right? Let's barely even touch on it when discussing the subjunctive, how could they be related? It's like English, the subjunctive is just a weird thing dangling from under it.
No it's not. Guys, the indicative mood is far stronger than english's. It isn't about an implication of rules, it isn't about an implication of concrete reality. It is ABOUT reality, truths, and our perceptions of that truth, directly. There is no implication, it's the outright direct meaning. ANY time we use the indicative, we communicate that what we are saying is a FACT to our perception, and everyone else will hear us like that's what we're saying even if the sentence would imply otherwise; it doesn't act subordinate to the sentence context, so if you use it in the wrong context they crash into each other.
This is the key. The subjunctive isn't about being emotional, it isn't about possibilities, it isn't about hypotheticals per se.
It is about NOT being the indicative, and literally the only real "rule" to the subjunctive is "do I want to give my sentences a strong meaning of truth, factual declaration, and concrete reality here? Or would that focus hurt my sentence?" The subjunctive is a mood of avoidance. It's used to AVOID the implications of the indicative. It can only properly be understood by contrast to spanish's usage of the indicative mood, and once you properly grasp that it's the easiest thing in the world to see.
I was up till 5 am checking all the examples I could find, reading Spanish forums online and all their usages. I couldn't find one that didn't make sense to me anymore, not a single damn one. All those weird irregularities? Sensible. The reasons for why it seems to spread over so many theoretical topics? Sensible. I had done it, I'd cracked the meaning behind things. And regardless of what some people on forums had claimed, it's absolutely not magic or something you can only get by speaking for 10+ years. What it is is simply misexplained by means of being talked about in a vacuum.
And with it came a LOT of sudden, cascading realizations about Spanish and how it truly differs from English. I will explain all of this below to help my fellow English-to-spanish people.

First off: "Nice catch", you probably think, "but it's so abstract. How does realizing the implications of the indicative mood help me?"
Allow me to demonstrate. First off, it must be said that the indicative is way simpler than the subjunctive in terms of its scope. In fact the entire reason why the subjunctive seems to cover so many things in theory is just that it is nothing more and nothing less than a reflection of everything the indicative is not, so covers more topics on paper (even if it's used far less frequently in reality) Like I said, literally all of it makes sense when you just flip things around and denote subjunctive as "that thing that gets called when the STRONG indicative mood would ruin things with its overwhelming presence." We can interrogate sentences in Spanish, piece by piece, and I'll show you exactly how it lines up.
Let's take the classical example. "Estoy feliz que estés aqui!" Let's NOT ask ourselves why the subjunctive is here...instead, let's ask ourselves why the indicative ISN'T here.
Indicative comes off as -- again, not merely implies like equivalent statements in English but outright states a purpose of -- declaring facts, discussing concrete reality of the here and now, our declarative plans, etc.
Can you see why this would be "wrong"? It is in fact not wrong, at all -- it's just incongruous in context. If you said "estas aqui" with the mood that declares facts...well, at best you just announced to them that they are here, carrying the meaning of you wanting to let them know this fact. Rather bizarre under most circumstances, seeing as how they damn well know that they are already here and don't need us to declare this for them! So, normally we won't do it unless in context we really do want to declare this to them for some reason.
"Es posible que él es aqui"Let's apply the same process! "Why wouldn't the indicative be good here?" Well let's look at the first half. "Es posible que..." alright so what we say next is possible! And next we say "es aquí". As in, we used the declarative, factual, concrete reality mood. In other words if we used "es" here, we would be outright saying that we firmly believe -- that it is a fact to us -- that this man is here
Well if we firmly believed that already, then why the hell did we lead with "it's possible?" This is just an incongruous statement! Therefore, we don't use it like this (unless we really do want to make such an incongruous statement).
Talking about an object that doesn't or may exist? Well when you refer to it with the indicative, you DIRECTLY STATE that to you that object might as well be reality. Poetic, but also rather delusional. Therefore, we don't use the indicative.
Making conditional plans, like "we will go to the mall once grandma arrives?" If you use the indicative on the latter half, you directly state that her arriving is your reality...even if she hasn't arrived yet. See what I said above about being delusional.
And so on and so on. Whenever you are confused about why a subjunctive is used, the proper question is not "why is it here". The proper question is "why is the indicative not here?" It's a subtle difference -- but an important one.
What we have to understand is that Spanish is not a neutral-statement language. It is binary. You ARE asserting reality. Or you are not; those are the only options, and to speak in the indicative is to presume to be asserting your interpretation of facts for others to hear. It is not a subtle effect or theory, this is how the spanish-trained brain will unconsciously view your sentences and why it will tell them that 'something' is off about what you said. You indicated to them that you wish to discuss something factual that is in fact not, and their / our-future-brains aren't really sure how to interpret that. In fact, if you aren't already thinking of the indicative in this manner or interpreting sentences with that subtext, it's time to start; that's how the spanish speaking mind will interpret its usage, and if we want to learn this language well we need to interpret it as that as well.

Those are the examples off the top of my head. I will now explain why, in terms of the structure of english and spanish, this idea is so hard to get across to native english speakers.

This entire effect is a direct contrast to English, which is why it's alien to use until properly explain, and why to native Spanish speakers our confusion is foreign. To both of you -- english-to-spanish students and people who speak spanish first, i will note the following lingual truth that most people don't realize by virtue of not thinking about it: english is a flexible, and often neutral language. Let me repeat that; english is NEUTRAL by default. We DON'T communicate this kind of meaning with our basic sentences, ever. English is like a buffet rather than a binary. Its base forms are almost always implicationless by design specifically so that we can choose to insert auxiliary words to enchant it with such meanings as English speakers please. This is likely also why most of its true subjunctive mood has faded into niche forms; English genuinely has no real need of it with so many ways of putting a sentence together. Spanish, by and large, has 2, and you will not escape from them nor their implications. (Well and imperative, but I'm not talking about it because both of our languages share that one nearly identically in concept). A statement is a statement, indicative is your reality and your attempts to declare facts for others to hear and discuss, and subjunctive is the only way to indicate that what you speak of isn't that. That's it. That's all there is to it.
Also, I'll tell all spanish-first readers who happen to read this the same thing i told my Spanish friends irl: you have no idea how confusing the subjunctive is when you are coming from a place where the "primary" prose can imply anything due to a) that being what we think of thanks to English b) most people not going out of their way to firmly correct this misconception. It would be damn near useless and indeed extremely random to perceive in usage if not for its reflections on the indicative, which is different from what we think at first. THIS is why your English speaking friends who are trying to learn Spanish struggle so hard with the concept, while you just know it. (And on the flip, why none of my Spanish-first friends realized the neutrality underlining English until i directly pointed it out to them. A lot of us aren't aware of the underlying mechanics; this is fine going from Spanish to English since English is flexible as hell, but not so much the other way around, unfortunately for us.)

Now, after all of this, can I make a request to the general community: can we PLEASE not presume that the subjunctive is magic and that the indicative is so obvious? That kind of common notion is at least in part why a lot of English-to-spanish students wrestle with the concept. For some reason we're often taught (I sure was) that the indicative in Spanish is synonymous with English and to not think more on it in comparison to its bizarre cousin, when in reality the differences between English normal prose and Spanish's indicative are both easy enough to explain and also EXACTLY why the subjunctive exists. Trying to explain how and where to use the subjunctive is like trying to put a car together with a wrench and a few bolts; good luck figuring it out easily with so much essential context missing. Maybe my teachers just didn't think about it? Do people in general not just realize this crucial difference between English's loose neutral structure and Spanish's much stricter and meaning-laden structure? Who knows.
And no, realizing this doesn't mean we don't have to practice. I'll forget use cases, not be able to realize when I needed to switch moods until hindsight, etc. I recommend "demystifying the subjunctive" for a book, it helped me out immensely. But at least now we understand it. Learning, as Spanishdude on YouTube says, is just an act of giving context to things we already know, and now we can do that without being lost. It IS a simple and easy to grasp concept at its heart, it's just not usually explained well and requires explaining what precisely is the difference between how english approaches delivering information and how Spanish does. Former is neutral, latter always communicates a meaning. The indicative in particular always imparts a sense of speaking of concrete reality no matter what sentence it happened to be in, and the subjunctive is nothing more than its replacement for when the indicative's strong statements on reality simply don't work with the matters being discussed. Of the two, the indicative is both more strict and also more narrow, and thus the clause of 'use indicative until its determinate attitude of only being used to address factual reality shits the sentence up' reigns best for the quickest and easiest way to conceptually grasp the subjunctive.
It is all about the indicative; always has been.
Anyway that's all I got. I'm finally going to bed, work will suck tomorrow but oh well, I'm too happy to care. After that I'll...maybe finally learn some decent vocabulary. I'm a heavily grammar based learner, so this was actually one of the first stops on my way through my new language, so I've still got a lot of learning to do. Still, now that i get this, I am much more confident of the rest of the way onward.

----------

Couple of more fun tidbits, if anyone is still reading. I also realized the English conditional is WAY wider than Spanish's, and that this is in part because in English it has come close to replacing separated subjunctive grammar in a lot of cases. If you ever notice how often we through "can" and "could" around, it is in part because of this.
I also realized that in a theoretical sense, the "true" purpose of future tense in Spanish is to discuss plans for the future, not to indicate that it will happen. Technically a small detail and probably obvious to most, but for some reason I needed this realization to realize why the subjunctive isn't triggered by its speculation; merely declaring plans is a concrete thing, after all. For some reason in English I get the subtle sense of trying to will over the future when I use it. Might be a slight language difference in intent, or maybe I'm just presumptuous about the future in English.
Finally, just a piece of trivia I liked; I realized "to think" and "creer / pensar" aren't really good translations for each other in implication. You ever wondered why it doesn't trigger the subjunctive in a positive usage? This helps to reinforce one last bit; for such things when it comes to certainty vs uncertainty, it's likely just a concept being used slightly differently in Spanish. While they mean literally the same thing, their connotations are nearly inverted. Spanish uses it to affirm that you believe something to be true (hence why it's also translated as to believe), while English uses it to instead imply subjectivity and impart doubt to a clause. It would absolutely be a subjunctive trigger in Spanish if it were transplanted directly since our usage of it in spirit is completely synonymous with Spanish's own usual triggers, but well it isn't. My Spanish speaking colleagues thought that one was interesting in particular for some reason, maybe they didn't really know how i had meant it this whole time?

##### Don't Be A Basic Bench: A Comprehensive Introductory Guide

Hello everyone!
In an effort to keep the subreddit and its wiki filled with good and useful information, we are compiling guides for the main lifts (deadlift, squat, bench, potentially others). These guides will be added to the wiki and posted as posts as they are completed. The goal of these guides is to provide basic lift information, descriptions of some common variations, equipment considerations, related and complimentary exercises, additional resources for further reading, and to showcase incredible women (and non-binary folks) performing these lifts.
This is the second entry in this lift series. Check out the first entry, The Deadlift Guide in the FAQ!
If you have suggestions regarding things that should be added to these guides, or other subjects you'd like to see in the wiki, please message the mods!

# The Bench Press

## Bench Press Form and Variations

The main muscle group worked by the bench press is the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle in the chest area. The pectoralis major muscle has two sections that are named for the bones they attach to – the sternal portion attaches to the breast bone and makes up the bulk of the muscle fibers, making up the middle and lower section; the clavicular portion attaches to the collarbone and is the more superior (upper) portion. The bench press also heavily involves the triceps (back of the upper arm), and recruits the deltoid muscles (shoulder), and pectoralis minor to lesser extents.
I’ll first be discussing the form for a standard, flat, “neutral/wide” grip bench press. Variations on this will be discussed below it. This guide is written for barbell bench pressing, but all of these variations can be performed with dumbbells as well.
Flat bench – the standard/”default” bench press Start out flat on the bench with bar directly over your eyes (with spotter) or over your nose/mouth (without spotter), feet flat, butt and upper back planted firmly on the bench. Arching of the lumbar spine is normal, fine, and absolutely legal in lifting competitions. Scapulas (shoulderblades) should be retracted or “pinched together” to provide both a stable flat surface for your upper back to settle on the bench, and to minimize undue tension on your shoulder joints. Retracting your scapulae will also puff your chest up and put your shoulders in a safer position for the lift.
The bar should rest in the heel of your palm so that it is stacked above the wrist, forearm, and elbows through the lift. A slight internal rotation of the hands will help with this positioning and will angle your elbows out slightly. For a standard flat bench press, your hands will be a bit further apart than shoulder width – about 1.5-2x shoulder width is the average position – position your hands so that your forearms will be almost completely perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the lift.
Retract your scapulae (as if you’re trying to pick up a pencil off the bench between them), keep actively pushing your chest up, take in a big belly breath, and hold it before pushing the bar away from the rack and locking out at the elbows. Bring the bar down your torso so that it is directly over the line of your shoulders – this is likely going to be about the level of the middle of your sternum or your nipple line, but may vary depending on your individual anatomy and the degree of arching your back is doing.
The bar should be directly above your elbows at all times during the movement of the lift. This not only increases stability during the lift, but also prevents undue stress on your triceps or your shoulders. It also is the most efficient configuration for using the majority of the muscle fibers within the pectoralis major.
Speaking of efficiency in recruiting pectoral muscle fibers, let’s talk about arching your back during a bench press. This is a faux controversy like “sumo deadlifting is cheating” – the claim is that an arch will significantly decrease the range of motion for the bar, making the lift “easier”. While the purpose of the arch is to slightly decrease the range of motion, it also makes the lift safer at the bottom of the movement, which is the riskiest for your shoulder joints. It also serves to recruit more of your pectoral muscle fibers to the lift – this should increase the amount of weight one can lift and impact muscle growth when the goal is hypertrophy.
Degree of arching is going to be up to personal preference and anatomy, but some degree of arch is natural and normal. Check out the natural position of the spine and you can see that the lumbar spine (lower back) has a natural forward curve (lordosis) which helps with loadbearing since we’re just hairless upright apes. An arch during bench press may be anywhere from your normal lumbar spine position to an exaggeration of your body’s natural lordosis.
As you lower the bar, keep tension in your upper body by trying to “break the bar in half” or “rip the bar apart” until it touches your mid-to-lower sternum (depending on anatomy and degree of arch). After a touch (and brief pause, if you’re powerlifting), push the bar back upwards and slightly backwards towards your face to lockout. You can now exhale that big belly breath you’ve been holding for the duration of the rep.

## Bench Press Variations

• Dumbbell bench: These are not only great when you aren’t yet able to use the barbell, but also for correcting muscle imbalances and general strength improvements that can translate into a barbell bench press. These also have more flexibility with grip positioning – if a barbell bench press irritates your shoulders, consider trying dumbbell bench press with a neutral grip (the dumbbells will be parallel to your body instead of perpendicular). Dumbbell bench press also allows for an increased range of motion, developing small stabilizer muscles in the upper body, and can be used to correct muscle imbalances.
• Incline bench – performed with the bench angled about 15-30 degrees up from parallel to the floor. As you change the bench to a more upright position, the front shoulder muscle (anterior deltoids) will become more involved in the lift compared to lower degrees of incline and flat bench. The purpose of incline benching is to recruit more shoulder involvement and also more of the upper (clavicular) parts of the pectoralis major muscles. Bar will still track to be over your shoulders, about the nipple line/mid sternum. Grip width just wider than shoulder width so forearms will be completely perpendicular to the floor at the lowest point of the press.
• Decline bench: There are benches and racks specifically for decline benching. If you only have access to a flat bench, you can potentially “make” your own decline by elevating the foot end of the bench. If you do this, make sure it’s very stable before trying the lift. The benefit of a decline bench is to utilize the lower portions of the sternal portion of the pecs more, and also decrease the amount of involvement of shoulder muscles. If you have a shoulder injury but are still cleared to lift, this can be a better option for you than a flat or incline bench press. In this position, the barbell will be over the lower part of your breast bone (sternum) and will touch the chest lower than in a flat or incline bench press.
• Close grip bench: As the name suggests, this bench press variation has a more narrow grip width than standard or wide grip bench press. The purpose for this positioning is to increase the involvement of the triceps muscles during the lift. Proper grip width for this is over the shoulder joints – too narrow of a grip can internally rotate the shoulder joint which can lead to strain and injury. In this variation, the bar will touch your chest even lower than a decline or flat bench press – the bottom of the movement should still have your forearms perpendicular to the floor, with the wrists and bar stacked over the elbows.
• Supinated/reverse grip bench: This variation can be very challenging, especially as weights increase. The benefit to supinating your hands so that the palm is facing your chin during the bench press is to reduce strain on the shoulders. It can be challenging to keep the bar in the fleshy part of your hands without dropping the bar on your face. Definitely practice with an empty bar or light dumbbells.
• Floor press: Not just an exercise for when the benches are all occupied. Floor press is good in its own right or as an accessory for bench press. Set up is basically the same as a flat bench press, but you’re on the floor. Personally I prefer to have my knees bent and my feet flat, but one could also keep the legs flat out and completely remove lower body involvement/drive. These are especially great with dumbbells for folks with shoulder pain or issues, because you can use a neutral grip. These can help with lockout strength at the top of the bench press as well as if your sticking point on bench press is on the ascent.
• Larsen press: The set up for the Larsen press is identical to a standard flat bench press. The biggest difference is that once you unrack the weight and have the bar over your chest, the feet are lifted off the ground, either straight out or resting on something else at the heel (toes up). “This forces athletes to really focus on maintaining their upper back tightness without the feet and legs compensating for poor bar path, set positioning, and inadequate force displacement.” The biggest benefit to this variation is to force the lifter to maintain a tight upper back during the bench press, though it also serves as a way to increase relative intensity/difficulty of the exercise without adding more weight to the bar.

• Try to “break the bar” while pushing it away from you. Imagine it is a big long dry spaghetti noodle and you are trying to turn it into two pieces of spaghetti by snapping it away from you. This will help engage your upper body muscles and ensure that your upper back is tight and flat, promoting a safer and more stable lift.
• Grip the bar very hard, with special focus on gripping hard with your pinkies. This can help engage your latissimus dorsi for the lift!
• Stack the bar over your wrists over your elbows. This means your forearm will be perpendicular to the floor and the barbell and increases stability, improves form, and reduces undue strain on your shoulders and elbows.
• Push yourself away from the bar and push your body down into the bench during the actual press portion (from the bottom back up to the top) of the lift. This will help keep your upper body muscles engaged appropriately and keep you in place on the bench.
• For leg drive, plant your feet and apply force down on the floor and towards your head. This will help keep your upper back planted so long as you aren't slick and sweaty and keep optimal form and tightness through the lift.
• BarBend Bench Press Cues
• “The Bench Press is a Pull: 5 Cues You Might be Missing”

## Supplemental/Complimentary Exercises

• Push ups –Push ups are basically the body weight exercise version of the bench press – the movement and position is very similar and translate well into bench press gains. Succeeding in bench press will benefit your push ups, and succeeding in push ups will benefit your bench press. The bodyweightfitness subreddit guide for pushups is excellent and goes over a suggested progression program if you are not yet able to do full push ups on your toes. Note also that you can do a narrow width diamond pushup to increase involvement of your triceps.
MegSquats also recently posted a “3 tips for push ups” post that several of our users have already mentioned as being helpful.
• Svend/pinch press - a great accessory exercise for pectoral muscle growth, especially right in the middle along the sternum. You’ll be squeezing a plate or other weight between your hands at mid chest level and pushing the weight straight out away from your body – make sure you’re squeezing the weight through the whole motion. This can be done either standing upright or lying flat on your back (supine). The supine version recruits your triceps more, and the standing version recruits your anterior deltoid more.
• Chest flies - another favorite chest accessory. These also hit the pectoralis minor, along with pectoralis major. These can help your bench press by increasing the strength of the pectoral muscles, but are also great for changing the aesthetics of your chest muscles. Flys can be performed flat or at an incline – like incline bench press vs flat, increasing the angle away from the ground will increase the involvement of the upper aspect of the pectoral muscles as well as the anterior deltoid muscles.
• Cable crossoveiron cross: Very similar to chest flies, but you’re using the cable tower and performing these upright. These engage the core and abdominal muscles more, but are still primarily for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The best part about cable flyes or cable crossovers is that you can adjust the height of the cables to target different aspects of your chest muscles – higher cable anchors target the lower pectoral fibers, middle (shoulder-ish) height target the middle fibers, especially along the sternum, and low cable anchor points target the upper pectoral muscle fibers.
• Dips are challenging body weight exercises that can have either a chest or triceps focus. Essentially, these are vertical pushups – you will be suspended from a rack or pull up/dip ‘machine’. Start with your arms fully extended while you’re holding onto the handles. Bend your arms to lower your body, leaning forward slightly, until your shoulders are just below your elbows. Lift yourself back up while straightening your arms until you lock out at the top. You can also do bench dips which may be easier on your shoulders. Surprisingly good wikihow guide on bench dips.
• Triceps Pushdowns are one of many triceps extension exercises that can help you get that stylish horseshoe muscle appearance, and improve your bench press. You can do triceps pushdowns with a cable tower, pull down station, or even resistance bands.
• Triceps extensions encompass a wide variety of exercises aimed at isolating the triceps for hypertrophy (size) and strength.

## Equipment, Tools, and Other Considerations

These items are not required to be successful in bench pressing, but can be beneficial to lifters that bench press at any skill or weight level.
• Wrist wraps can help keep your wrists straight and supported during bench press. They can help keep the weight safely and evenly distributed through your wrist and thus through the entire forearm and elbow.
• Slingshot: A device invented by powerlifter Mark Bell who can bench 545lbs without special tools and 854lbs “equipped”. It wraps around your elbows and can allow you to overload your bench press by “10-15%” with the help of elastic tension from the Slingshot. It can also be helpful in taking some of the stress off shoulders and elbows during a bench press but is NOT a substitute for proper form and safe lifting.
• Blocks or boards - board pressing uses wooden boards or something like benchblokz between the bar and your chest during a bench press. This decreases the range of motion for the lift and can help lifters work through sticking points (relative weak points in the range of motion), which can lead to improved bench without tools (“raw”). Here’s another article, from elitefts on board pressing and its uses.

## Badass Women Bench Pressing Obscene Numbers

Jen Thompson using wrist straps, slingshot, and benchblokz to bench 340lbs 3x
Jen Thompson 330lb PR
Jen Thompson just holding 550lbs in lockout because god damn
Kimberly Walford, legs up 231.5lb
Kimberly Walford, 253.5lbs – note bar path
April Mathis, 355lbs plus 115lbs in chains
Shannon Nash, 380lbs at 185lb BW
Allison Hind – 345lbs at 165BW and 335lbs at 148BW
17 year old Samantha Eugenie, 217lb at 139lbs. Extreme but legal arch - her butt is still in contact with the bench

##### Mikasa's Character Arc: What, Where, How, When

There's been some discussion on Mikasa in the sub lately, both positive and negative, and it's led me to think a bit more about her character. In particular, I've been thinking about her character flaw, what it is exactly, and whether or not she's developed past it – and if she has, what that means for her in the final arc.
Isayama once said that Mikasa is a character who 'expresses herself via actions and facial expressions quite a lot'. I sometimes feel that that's why a lot of her personal story gets overlooked – because she's not loud about it, and nor is anyone else. She's one of the most reticent characters in the manga and, more importantly, deliberately written that way. It's intentional on Isayama's part for Mikasa to mostly 'express herself via actions and facial expressions', and so, as difficult as it might be to follow, that's mostly how her personal journey is told.
Because she doesn't say much, talks a lot with her fists, and is the team's natural and aggressive protector, it's easy to assume that there's nothing more happening there. Isayama clearly doesn't mean for readers to overlook her, but some inevitably do because she's not as obvious and outspoken as other characters. She's not like Eren, whose dissatisfaction with the world drives him to continuously push back, or like Armin, whose self-doubt and fear of responsibility constantly battle with his natural intelligence and sense of duty. She doesn't outwardly appear to suffer from the neuroses that afflict a lot of the others in the main cast.
As a result, her development as a character isn't easy to track. Where does it start? Where does it end? What even is it? It's fair to ask, in Mikasa's case, whether she even has a character arc to begin with. What changes about her? Does she actually react in any way to her experiences and evolve as a result of them, or does she remain the same from beginning to end?

# Mikasa's Flaw

Fans' opinions on Mikasa's character are often based on her feelings for Eren and the actions she undertakes to protect him. It irks some readers that Eren is Mikasa's priority, and that her life seems to revolve around him. Because they consider this her character flaw, they expect that her character development is going to rectify this flaw; that she'll move away from Eren, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, and find something else to live for.
In a 2016 interview, Isayama said: 'Mikasa's growth probably involves separation from Eren'. People generally stop at that and go from there – they either believe that Mikasa can't grow as a person unless Eren stops being important to her, or that a Mikasa who isn't separated from Eren (emotionally, mentally, or physically) is inherently a flawed character. Isayama's explanation of the 'separation' he means is never usually discussed, even though he actually does go on to clarify it: 'Mikasa's growth probably involves separation from Eren. By separation, I mean she might be able to return to that ordinary girl that she used to be in childhood'.
If the all-important 'separation' for her growth is about Mikasa returning to the 'ordinary girl' she used to be, it's worth asking what isn't ordinary about the girl Mikasa became, and when that change happened. And once that 'non-ordinary' quality about Mikasa becomes apparent, it can be identified as Mikasa's flaw; the deficiency in her character that we can expect her to overcome.
Mikasa loving someone or wanting to protect them isn't in itself a flaw. It's a fairly ordinary, reasonable thing, and it's something plenty of other characters already display in the story: Franz wants to protect Hanna; Ymir, Historia; Eren, Mikasa; Kenny, Uri; Levi, Erwin, and so on ad infinitum. There's a reason that Mikasa's love for and general protectiveness towards Eren never changes. It's because it's not something she was ever meant to 'grow past' or 'get over'. It was never her flaw.
Her flaw is fear.
Mikasa's overprotectiveness of Eren is what isn't 'ordinary', because it's connected to her deep, abiding fear of loss. Her desire to constantly stay by him is pitiful because, above all else, it represents her fear and her mistrust of the world. And it's why her 'separation' from him is about more than just 'Mikasa finds something else to do apart from care about Eren'; it's a return to her being 'the ordinary girl of her childhood': a normal girl who isn't constantly fixated on how the people she loves can die at any moment:
https://preview.redd.it/gpraaqxt1sq51.jpg?width=750&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=dbcb1a366ae0b26f287143aa4d7e916d1c7b3c49

# Mikasa's Fear

This fear Mikasa has for Eren begins at a very particular point in the story which we build up to from here:
https://preview.redd.it/wew8y69v1sq51.jpg?width=358&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=a3553545737dfbe82fddbd216d02e9c9012d0d82
Mikasa and Eren's first significant spat is over his wanting to join the SC. She thinks it's too dangerous, and her fear is understandable. Our first view of the SC's return is cuts and blood and gore, and we – and Mikasa – watch a mother receive the paltry remains of her son:
https://preview.redd.it/w0e8lhdw1sq51.jpg?width=385&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=c1ca4c2324a3f9d937da166bd33a29e40151edd6
Cuts and blood and gore are already how Mikasa lost one family:
https://preview.redd.it/ey7zvf3x1sq51.png?width=2156&format=png&auto=webp&s=37af830088a887a60f13a66438140080be678776
And it's what Eren puts himself in danger of by going out into the world with the SC. Mikasa is afraid of losing him to the violence of the world, and she sees that fear reflected in Carla:
https://preview.redd.it/5kxvb23y1sq51.jpg?width=205&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=7257c665371ff0f5c86edb1e122bfa449d71a213
Mikasa has already seen how Moses' mother lost her son. And if, like Moses, Eren goes beyond the Walls with the SC, Carla might also eventually find herself holding nothing of her son but a single hand. So Mikasa makes her a promise:
https://preview.redd.it/n192vswy1sq51.jpg?width=550&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d29af3c6425155a4b01b7199c9ee3050f30240a8
But it wasn't Eren she needed to worry about after all.
https://preview.redd.it/rhrw60qz1sq51.png?width=754&format=png&auto=webp&s=333ea1b54f2544bff0a8b8f757903dcfa7ee0ff9
This is the point at which Mikasa's fear begins.
Because all she has left from the carnage is Eren, Mikasa will never let happen to him what happened to her parents and to Carla. She is his protector. That is a role that she's chosen, and, to some extent, been given. This protection is built on her love for Eren, but also powerfully informed by her fear of the world; the world which hurts, maims, and kills people. The result of this fear is Mikasa's inability to trust anyone or anything with Eren, not even himself. She believes that she is the only one who can stop bad things from happening to Eren; that if she's not there, he will die.
https://preview.redd.it/i5829j232sq51.jpg?width=550&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=6404374e9a6239d474f2b01891e194fbd239eb9d
So when Mikasa is pushed into a situation where she thinks Eren will be in danger, she prioritises Eren. Other considerations are pushed aside in favour of her one true goal: making sure she's there to keep him alive.
And, in the world of the SC, Mikasa is challenged on that immediately. Not just by Eren, but also by what happens in Trost. Mikasa saves innocent citizens from Reeves' greed and cruelty, and from titans. She gives Reeves a lesson: that his life is not more important than the lives of all the people he's endangering. It's something she had to be reminded of by Eren, and a conclusion she reached herself when she watched her comrades die for the sake of the evacuation.
https://preview.redd.it/1hht9hw52sq51.png?width=1436&format=png&auto=webp&s=1a80931917f4cd81f489a00816e557912723785e
Mikasa being confronted with things that are more important than Eren happens fairly often to her. She also pretty consistently allows space for these 'other things', sometimes to her own surprise. The first time she's made to realise this about herself is in the Female Titan arc, when Levi points out that maybe she had 'selfish desires' for which she wanted to kill Annie.
That whole incident with Levi in Chapter 30 is significant for Mikasa's development in a few different ways.
1. When Levi says they'll focus on one objective and that won't include outright killing Annie, Mikasa's one objection is: 'How many of our comrades has she murdered?' Mikasa has no problem being straightforward with Levi. If her first and only consideration was Eren, she'd voice it. She'd even get away with it, because they all need Eren at this point. But instead, she reveals that she has a separate, personal desire: avenging their dead. Mikasa wants to kill Annie for her own reasons.
2. Levi states that their goal is to retrieve Eren. He gives himself the main role of 'slash[ing] away' at the titan, meaning that he will be the one to actually save Eren, who is in the titan's mouth. And he gives Mikasa the job of distracting Annie. Mikasa accepts a secondary role in a plan that is specifically to rescue Eren.
3. And when she does break from the plan, it's not so she can go and get Eren herself. Mikasa risks the objective of the mission – and Levi, and Eren – by going in for the kill. Mikasa risks the plan to save Eren by acting on her own desire to kill Annie.
Two important shifts take place here for Mikasa. One, she entrusts Eren to someone else, as demonstrated by her action of allowing Levi to take the lead. Two, her focus stops being, even for a short while, Eren – as confirmed by her facial expression when Levi challenges her on it, because she doesn't seem to immediately realise she's even capable of that:
The objective was: Forget killing the Titan. Rescue Eren. And Mikasa, for no matter how short a time, lost sight of that.
The fearful, overprotective aspect of Mikasa's relationship with Eren is beginning to change, because her relationship with the rest of her world is beginning to change. With his rescue of Eren in the forest, Levi proves to Mikasa that other people are just as capable of protecting Eren as she is. And if she happens to take her mind off Eren for a bit, it doesn't mean he'll die.
This is where the 'separation' begins. Mikasa starts to accept distance between herself and Eren; the distance of being able to trust others with him, of not needing to constantly be with him and personally oversee his safety. And it leads to this watershed moment in the Uprising arc:
Mikasa. Whilst Eren has been kidnapped. And all they know is that he's inside a coffin with some random undertaker at some random inn. Maybe.
In Chapter 4, Mikasa couldn't handle Eren being in a different part of the city from her during a mission because of how afraid she was that he'd die without her. In Chapter 30, she let Levi take the lead on getting Eren back, and was shocked when she realised that, even for an instant, she'd prioritised something else over him. In Chapter 57, Eren's been kidnapped, no one's been certain for two days about where he is or what's happening to him, and Mikasa is, well, as pictured above.
The debilitating fear that used to tie Mikasa to Eren is gone for good. She's finally let Eren go, and discovered that it doesn't mean she'll lose him.

# Mikasa's Strength

Post-timeskip Mikasa is in a good place, and long past the fear with which she faced the world as a young girl. She's with Eren, working with the Volunteers, and she and Armin are excited about the possibilities of the widening world. Then Eren effectively betrays the SC for reasons they can't fully understand, and, once again, Mikasa's world begins to change in alarming, unpredictable ways.
https://preview.redd.it/y4f97ksi2sq51.png?width=346&format=png&auto=webp&s=a17a0410c8f25e97ee450b57d9636e5fc147b874
For the first time in a long time, she loses someone she loves.
Eren's in jail and Mikasa remains by Sasha's grave, pondering the old words that bind her and Eren together: 'If we don't win, we die. If we win, we live. If we don't fight, we can't win.' Ironically enough, Sasha is the only character in the entire manga to have said those words apart from Eren and Mikasa themselves. And she's now dead as a result of Eren's fight. So what exactly is Eren fighting for, and what does winning that fight entail?
This is the first time in the manga that Mikasa begins to doubt Eren, and the first time their bond has ever really been threatened. And not by the world, titans, or murderous kidnappers, but by Eren himself. The idea that there is beauty where cruelty also exists has informed Mikasa's perspective on the world since Eren wrapped his scarf around her. He showed her that it is possible for the two things to co-exist; for there to be human cruelty as well as human kindness, cold as well as warmth, life as well as death. But Eren is now showcasing the exact cruelty that Mikasa used him as a beacon against. What he's done is undoing what she believes in; it's not just that it's shaken her view of Eren – it threatens to undo Mikasa's whole world-view.
In that same 2016 interview, Isayama spoke of Eren and Mikasa's eventual separation being ideological: 'If I were to draw the separation of Eren and Mikasa . . . Mikasa would have to endure the strain of being stuck between Eren and Armin. Even though she can sympathise with Armin, who considers things from a ''globalism'' perspective, it’s possible that she can't just let the more self-focused Eren go'. This ideological separation begins the moment Eren defects from the SC. It's from this point onwards that EMA's paths truly begin to diverge, and Mikasa in particular is presented with a choice that she's never had to face before. Of the two people she loves most in the world, does she choose the 'self-focused' Eren or the 'globalist' Armin?
The choice she makes will most likely conclude Mikasa's character arc once and for all, and it's a choice that's been building since before the time-skip, represented by her interactions with two characters in particular:
1. Mikasa and Floch
At the award ceremony in Chapter 90, Floch points out something interesting about Mikasa in what is otherwise an easily overlooked moment in the manga. Although multiple people were present on the rooftop during Serumbowl, he is the only one to explicitly draw attention to the fact that Mikasa let go. She resigned herself to losing Armin because Hanji convinced her that Erwin was more important to humanity and Mikasa's grief at losing him was something that would pass.
Floch sees this as maturity, but the realisation that she was willing to let Armin go for the sake of humanity is something that Mikasa is shocked by. It makes her falter, and let go of Eren. Mikasa has always defined herself as Armin and Eren's protector; she's presented in the story as such, and she styles herself as such. She's the one who keeps Eren and Armin safe. But Floch's words make her realise that, on the rooftop, she was able to step away from that role – because her world has expanded beyond Armin and Eren. It has expanded to include Hanji and Levi and the other Scouts – and humanity.
Mikasa is capable of making choices that hurt her deeply for the sake of a greater cause.
2. Louise and Mikasa
Louise meets Mikasa on three occasions. The first time, Louise tells Mikasa she likes her because Mikasa saved her, and gave her something to strive for: 'You can't save anyone without power. It's okay for us to fight against unjust violence. That's what I learned' (109). In the same way Eren 'gave' Mikasa a motto to live by, Mikasa gave one to Louise.
The second time, Louise tells Mikasa that she's happy to be by her side again, fighting for the same goal. Mikasa is ambivalent towards her. And she leaves her scarf behind, choosing to go and fight the titans without it.
In between the second and third meetings, Mikasa talks to Armin. She asks him if he's really going to tell Connie to give up on his mother and let her remain a titan; Armin says yes, he is. When Mikasa asks what should be done about Eren, Armin replies that there's nothing to be done; he's a lost cause. After Armin leaves, Mikasa notices that the scarf is missing, and goes to retrieve it.
The third and last time they meet, Louise is dying. She tells Mikasa that Eren wanted her to throw the scarf away, but she thought that she could take it to be close to Mikasa. Though she appears to sympathise with Louise's plight, Mikasa demands the scarf back from her. She walks away from Louise even as Louise tells her that she had no regrets, because she chased after Mikasa, devoting her heart.
Each meeting between Louise and Mikasa mirrors, in an abbreviated way, the different stages Eren and Mikasa's relationship has gone through. 1: Louise's initial love and gratitude, and her taking Mikasa as an inspiration; 2: their fighting side by side as equals; and, finally, 3: their literal separation as Mikasa chooses to walk away.
Louise reminds Mikasa of what Eren means to her. Mikasa never seeks to stop Louise from talking about her feelings; instead, she listens. She might not reciprocate, but she does understand. And her understanding Louise's love reminds her of her own. She walks away, but she takes the scarf with her. Despite what Armin said, and what Louise told her about Eren and the scarf, Mikasa chooses to keep a hold of it in the way she keeps a hold of the hope that Eren can still be brought back.
Mikasa is capable of holding on to the person she loves even when he's gone too far.
Mikasa Chooses . . . Mikasa
Despite the apparently binary choice, Mikasa doesn't have to choose to side with Eren (allow the Rumbling to go ahead) or with Armin (kill Eren to stop him). She said it herself: there's a third option. Her way. Eren's wandered so far down his path that he's lost sight of Mikasa and of Armin; of what connects him to the world. Mikasa chooses, not to support him or to believe that he's a lost cause, but to remind him that walking away from his humanity doesn't mean that he can't turn around and walk back.
Kruger said 'Anyone can become a god or a devil. All it takes is for someone to claim it for it to be true' (88). But if there's someone to challenge that belief, then the possibility remains of breaking the facade and setting the story straight – thereby freeing that person from the role they've either taken on out of necessity, or been assigned. It's something we've already seen happen. All it takes is for one person to question it, and the goddess falls apart to reveal an empty, unloved young girl, or the devil's mask cracks open to show the boy still grieving for the world he's lost.
Ymir knows that Historia's faking it; Mikasa knows that Eren is kind. Each of them challenges the story that their loved one is telling in order to keep going: Historia to survive, Eren to achieve his dream.
It took Mikasa years to truly overcome the cruelty she had seen as a child. Despite everything, she did, in the end, go back to being that 'ordinary girl'. She came to acknowledge that cruelty exists, as does death – but life must nevertheless be lived, people loved, experiences had, and faith kept. Seeing the beauty in a world that is inherently cruel is, and always has been, Mikasa's greatest strength. It's something she is capable of offering Eren, who no longer seems to believe in that duality, or in his own humanity. She can show him what he showed her; that the world isn't black or white, cruel or beautiful, dark or light. It's both. And it's possible to live with that.

# Conclusion

Mikasa is no longer fighting to protect Eren from the world; she's fighting to protect the world from Eren. She's the person best suited to do that not only because she's his family, but because Eren's despair and anger at the world is what she might have ended up with herself. If any character was dealt a crueller hand by the world than Eren, or could have become as bitter about the world as him, it was Mikasa. But he stopped that from happening because his kindness showed her that the world, as bad as it was, had good in it.
Little by little, Eren's abandoned that view of the world himself. He no longer sees both its beauty and its cruelty, but has confined himself to seeing - and acting on - only one. When they fought Annie in Stohess, Mikasa had to remind Eren that the world was cruel, because Eren had lost sight of that truth. Now, Eren's lost sight of another, equally valid truth; that the world, as cruel as it is, is also beautiful. That he, as inhuman as he thinks he is, is also kind.
If Mikasa manages to 'bring Eren back', she'll have come full circle. She started off as a little girl who was seeking something, anything, to hold on to. She needed a saviour, and she got one in the form of Eren. In this scenario, she'll end as a saviour herself, someone who is now able to pass on the light that she once received. Her fear of the world and of losing her loved ones subsided; she managed to find the warmth she needed to carry on. She doesn't need Eren's scarf anymore – but he might need hers.

# Final Thoughts

My perspective on Mikasa is that she's not a very obvious character when it comes to development, and so she sometimes appears static. And because so much of her drive is Eren, a lot of fans look to her relationship with Eren to change for proof that she's somehow developed. But Mikasa's obstacle, her personal flaw, isn't Eren himself, and never has been. Her flaw has always been her deep and debilitating fear about losing the people she loves – Eren and Armin – and her inability to really trust or love anyone apart from them.
Mikasa's separation from Eren = her beginning to trust the rest of the world not to stab him in the chest, almost behead him, or eat him alive whilst she's not there. It's good for her because it means she stops being so terrified that she'll lose Eren, not because it means she'll stop loving him or wanting him to be safe. And she reached that point of separation a long time ago in the manga. It was fully realised the moment she decided to trust Levi during the Uprising arc, despite the fact that Eren was literally gone from her side and she had no way of knowing whether he was dead or alive.
The final confrontation is where Eren and Mikasa's ideological separation, the one discussed by Isayama in the interview, will/won't occur. It – and its finer details – can unfold in a number of ways, and each one could mean something different for Mikasa's character. But her choosing to face Eren in this way is a natural culmination of her development until now. I've no concrete theories on what will actually happen once the Alliance reaches Eren, but I'm fairly certain that Mikasa is central to the resolution of this arc. And what with the way she's been written by Isayama so far, that's no bad thing.
So, to finally end this ramble, I hope that this post at least offers people a different perspective on Mikasa's character and how it's changed over the course of the story. I look forward to reading any other observations/thoughts on Mikasa's development that people might have. Many thanks for giving mine a read!

##### # /r/Peloton Pre-TDF Survey 2020

Gentlemen, Ladies and those otherwise addressed - we know you've been waiting for a good thing, and the survey results are finally ready!
The answers were collected from you all during August 2020 with 1428 unique replies. That's a participation of 0.5% of all subscribers! That's really not too bad, when you keep in mind how popular these kind of surveys are. But we here at /peloton want to show you that this is all about presenting the information in the subreddit to cater better to our audience!
Updated after a few hours to include some more historical data the final edit that for some reason wasn't copied properly
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2018 Mar 2018 Aug 2019 2020
Results 2013-06-12 2014-06-25 2015-08-07 2016-11-17 2018-03-06 2018-08-20 2019-07-22 2020-10-12
Replies 351 598 1395 892 630 928 986 1428
Without further ado, let's get cracking on the response

## You and Cycling

### 1. Where do you live?

Country 2015 2016 2018 Mar 2018 Aug 2019 2020
USA 32% 28.3% 22.84% 25.32% 20.23% 24.59%
UK 18.6% 17.6% 14.70% 20.13% 15.48% 14.80%
Netherlands 6.4% 9.4% 11.50% 11.58% 10.01% 11.01%
Germany 3.73% 3.4% 4.95% 6.39% 7.84% 6.65%
Denmark 3.9% 3.6% 4.31% 3.79% 7.64% 5.79%
Belgium 3.8% 2.7% 8.15% 3.57% 5.78% 5.36%
France 2.01% 1.08% 2.88% 2.27% 5.26% 3.50%
Canada 4.9% 7% 6.39% 4.22% 4.95% 4.50%
Australia 5.2% 4.7% 3.83% 4.00% 4.33% 3.93%
Slovenia 0.73% 0.32% 1.30% 1.14% 2.14%
Norway 2.58% 1.8% 1.60% 1.95% 2.58% 1.86%
Sweden 1.08% 1.09% 1.44% 1.41% 1.75% 1.43%
Ireland 1.00% 1.09% 1.44% 1.19% 0.72% 1.36%
Portugal 1.65% 1.8% 2.40% 1.52% 1.34% 1.14%
Italy 1.45% 1.44% 0.65% 1.03% 1.07%
Largely the same picture as ever, with the US leading the way, the UK in second and then a sliding scale of Europeans countries. Slovenia continues to pick its way up the pile for obvious reasons!
World Map to demonstrate

u17 17-19 20-25 26-30 31-35 36-40 41-50 51+ Total
2015 2.22% 12.04% 41.51% 24.66% 10.68% 4.87% 2.94% 1.08% 1395
2016 1.5% 8.9% 40.8% 24% 12% 5.4% 5.2% 2% 887
2018 Mar 1% 7.1% 33.5% 27.4% 16.2% 7% 5.7% 2.1% 617
2018 Aug 1.7% 9% 33.9% 26.4% 15.5% 7% 5% 1.5% 905
2019 1.5% 6.6% 33.2% 27.5% 16.4% 7.1% 5.8% 2% 972
2020 1.3% 6.8% 31.7% 28% 16.6% 7.2% 5% 2.5% 1420
Pretty much the same as last year, with the usual reddit demographics of majority 20 somethings dominating.

'13 '14 '15 '16 '18 (1) '18 (2) '19 '20
Male 97.2% 97% 94.9% 93.4% 93.3% 93.6% 95.1% 94.9%
Female 2.8% 2.7% 4.8% 5.3% 5.3% 5.4% 3.7% 4.8%
Other - 0.33% 0.29% 0.78% 0.76% - -
Non-Binary - - - - 0.64% 0.99% 1.2% 0.4%
More normality here for reddit.

### 4. How much of the men's season do you watch/follow?

Type March '18 (%) August '18 (%) 2019 (%) 2020 (%)
Grand Tours 84.7 92.0 90.2 87.3
Monuments 79.1 74.9 79 75.9
WT Stage races 67.4 62.4 70.5 71.7
WT One day races 73.3 59.8 62.3 60.7
Non WT Stage races 32.6 16.7 17.4 25
Non WT One day races 34.8 13.7 17.4 20.7
Literally everything I can consume 35.9 18.1 21.1 27.1
Whilst GT following may be down (somehow), all the lower level stuff is up, which makes sense considering how desperate we have been for any racing during the season shutdown.

### 5. Do you maintain an interest in women's professional road racing?

Do you maintain an interest in women's professional road racing? '19 '20
Yes 49.8 49.2
No 50.2 50.8
Still very much a half/half interest in women's cycling on the subreddit.

### 6. How much of the women's season do you follow?

The following is true for the half of you that follows womens cycling.
How Much %
Just the biggest televised events 63.15%
Most of the live televised/delayed coverage stuff 29.08%
All televised racing 5.09%
Down to .Pro & beyond 2.69%

### 7. How long have you been watching cycling?

How Long %
Under a year 2,95%
1-3 years 19,50%
4-6 years 19,85%
7-9 years 14,10%
10-12 years 13,81%
13-15 years 7,15%
15-20 years 10,73%
20-25 years 6,17%
25 years + 5,75%
Simplified the years a little this time, but whilst we have a fair number of newbies, most people have picked the sport up since around 2013/14.

# Sporting Favourites

### 8. Do you have like/dislike feelings about WT teams?

Once more, 14.4% of people really don't have feelings on the subject.
Of those that do:
AG2R Astana Bahrain Bora CCC Cofidis Quick-Step EF FDJ
Like 352 213 127 770 156 116 847 724 423
Meh 775 620 773 415 889 896 310 448 700
Dislike 52 356 263 31 112 141 71 37 53
Karma 300 -143 -70 739 44 -25 776 677 370
Israel Lotto Michelton Movistar NTT Ineos Jumbo Sunweb Trek UAE
Like 135 364 517 231 101 304 925 279 383 118
Meh 740 764 626 646 931 414 282 805 765 734
Dislike 302 40 52 326 121 562 53 97 42 331
Karma -167 324 465 -95 -20 -258 872 182 341 -213
So, the most popular team this year is Jumbo-Visma, followed by Quick-Step & Bora-hansgrohe. Least popular are Ineos & UAE.
As per usual, no one cares about NTT & CCC, with nearly 81% of users rating NTT as meh. Pretty damning stuff.
Lastly, we have the usual historical comparison of how teams have fared over time, normalised to respondents to that question on the survey.
Things to note then, firstly that the Astana redemption arc is over, seeing them back in the negative, maybe Fulgsangs spring issues helped aid that? The petrodollar teams of UAE & Bahrain are stubbornly negative too, with Israel keeping up the Katusha negative streak. Meanwhile, at the top end, EF & Jumbo go from strength to strength, whilst some others like Sunweb are sliding over time - their transfer policies no doubt helping that.

### 10. Do you ride a bike regularly?

For fun 61.5% 63.4% 59.9% 62.9%
For fitness 59.3% 59.6% 54.8% 59.8%
For commuting 46% 46% 45.6% 40%
For racing 20.6% 20.6% 15.9% 17.7%
No, I don't 14.2% 12.9% 14.8% 13.6%
Still a fairly small group of racers out of all of us

### 11. Out of the sports you practice, is cycling your favourite?

Yes No
58,29% 41,71%
A new addition to the survey prompted by a good point last time, just over half of us rate cycling as the favourite sport we actually do.

### 12. What other sports do you follow?

Sport #
Association Football / Soccer 50.78%
Formula 1 35.81%
American Football 26.27%
Track & Field 17.58%
Esports (yes, this includes DotA) 17.30%
Rugby 14.27%
Skiing 14.12%
Ice Hockey 13.63%
Baseball 12.15%
Motorsports (Not including F1) 10.59%
Cricket 10.52%
Tennis 9.53%
Chess 8.97%
Triathlon 8.69%
Biathlon 8.12%
Snooker 7.06%
Golf 6.92%
Swimming 6.85%
Ski Jumping 6.78%
Climbing 5.72%
Martial Arts 5.65%
Handball 5.44%
Darts 5.01%
Speed Skating 5.01%
Football always tops the charts, and Formula 1 continues to rank extremely highly among our userbase. Those who have a little following below 5% include Sailing, Fencing, Surfing, Boxing & Ultra-Running.
Other cycling disciplines
Sport #
Cyclocross 22.10%
Track Cycling 14.34%
MTB 8.97%
BMX 1.20%

### 13. Out of the sports you follow, is cycling your favourite sport?

Yes No
61.79% 38,21%
Good. Makes sense if you hang out here.

## Subreddit stats

### 14. How often do you participate in a /Peloton Race Thread whilst watching a race?

2015 2016 2018Mar 2018Aug 2019 2020
I always participate in Race Threads during races 2.8% 2% 2.2% 4% 2.5% 3%
I follow Race Threads during races 41.7% 36.7% 38.1% 42.1% 42.5% 38.9%
I often participate in Race Threads during races 16.8% 19% 16.5% 18.9% 15.2% 13%
I rarely/never participate in Race Threads during races 38.7% 41.3% 43.1% 35% 39.8% 45.1%
Slightly less invested than before, reverting back to an older trade.

### 15. How do you watch Races?

Method 2018Mar 2018Aug 2019 2020
Pirate Streams 62% 46.5% 50.2% 47.9%
Free Local TV 55.7% 64.5% 59.6% 53.9%
Desperately scrabbling for Youtube highlights 37.9% 30.2% 28.2% 24.9%
Paid Streaming services 32.3% 35.4% 38.3% 46.3%
Year on year, paid streaming services go up - the increasing availability of live content legally continues to improve, and so do the numbers on the survey.

### 16. Where else do you follow races live (in addition to watching them)?

Type 2018Mar 2018Aug 2019 2020
/Peloton race threads 86.2% 83.4% 80.2% 76.9%
PCS Liveticker - - 30.2% 32%
Official tracker (if available) 24%
The Cyclingnews liveticker 26% 23.5% 21.5% 18.9%
Sporza (site/ticker) 1.89% 9.5% 10.8% 10.8%
NOS Liveblog - 6.8% 7% 9.2%
Steephill 0.52% 13.5% 10.2% 8.2%
/Peloton discord 6.5% 5.4% 7.5% 7.2%
Other cycling forums 15.1% 8.1% 7.6% 7%
feltet.dk - 2.2% 5.4% 5.2%
BBC Ticker - 3.5% 2.1% 4.1%
DirectVelo - 1.3% 1.6% 1.8%
Non Cycling Forums - 1.3% 1.2% 1.2%
/cyc/ - 1.3% 1% 0.6%
/peloton IRC ~0 0.8% 0.4% 0.5%
The PCS liveticker continues to have a strong following, whilst the cyclingnews ticker slowly slides into less usage over time.

### 17. Do you use /Peloton mostly in classic reddit or redesign when on the desktop?

Type 2018 Aug 2019 2020
Classic 75.1% 67.2% 46.2%
Redesign 24.9% 32.8% 53.8%
Time to abandon ship. The end has come.

### 18. With what version of reddit do you browse the sub?

Version 2019 2020
Official App 17.9 31.1
Desktop Classic 37.8 25.8
3rd Party App 18.3 17.2
Mobile Web 12.4 14.7
Desktop Redesign 13.7 11.2
Phone browsing is very much in vogue.

### 19. How did you find the sub?

How %
Through other forms of reddit, f.e. /bicycling 48.33%
Too long - can't remember 38.65%
My friend told me 2,28%
I wanted to talk about my exercise bike 0.78%

## Other bits and bobs

### 20. Did you think back in March we would see any more racing this year?

Yes No
52,81% 47,19%
Despite the threat, we have seen racing again

### 21. Will we manage to fulfill the rest of the UCI calendar without further Covid-19 issues postponing more races?

Yes No
25.3% 74.7%
Sorry to you 25%, Amstel, Roubaix & a bunch of other races have falled foul of COVID-19 related cancellations.

### 22. When did you become aware of Alexander Foliforov?

When %
Before the 2016 Giro 3,25%
22nd May, 2016 15,55%
On /pelotonmemes in 2020 21,13%
Who? 60,07%
If you didn't know of the man, watching him demolish the Giro field in 2016 on the stage 15 ITT should help to gain understanding

### 23. Who will win the 2020 Tour de France?

Rider %
Roglic 52,12%
Bernal 16,57%
Pinot 9,24%
Dumoulin 7,9%
N.Quintana 2,82%
Pogacar 1,41%
Richie Porte 0,35%
That's not a lot of confidence in Richie Porte either, the man who was to finish on the third spot of the podium. Alexander Foliforov (0,23%) had just a tiny number of votes less, and that man wasn't even in the race.

### 24. What for you was the defining cycling moment of the previous decade?

We had a lot of brilliant suggestions, but these were the clear five favourites when we tabulated the results.
• 2018 Giro - Chris Froome Solo Attack
• 2016 TDF - Chris Froome Running up Ventoux
• 2019 TDF - Landslides, First Columbian Winner, Pinot's bitter abandon - This was one race for the ages
• 2016 Paris-Roubaix - Mostly known for Tom Boonen losing. Also, some guy called Mat won.
• 2019 AGR - MvdP with his incredible catch-up for the win.
Honorable mentions go to the Giro 2018, which had Tom Dumoulin winning, and of almost identical fascination to many of you - Tom Dumoulin going on someones porta-potty in the middle of the stage.
Little bit of recency bias perhaps, but that's better than ignoring that this was for the last decade and firmly insisting Tom Boonens 2005 WC win was the biggest thing. Special shoutout to almost all the Danes present in /peloton who voted for Mads Pedersens WC win last year. It's an understandable reaction.

### 25. Any suggestions for the Survey?

New Questions
• Could you add a section on rider popularity, same as for the teams?
• Ask how people became interested in cycling
• Ask how people watch cycling (e.g. TV Channels/Streaming etc.)
• If you could be an animal for one day, which one would it be?
• Would you wear a facemask while watching a cycling race live?
• Which race do you look forward to see the most every year?
• Favourite riders of your own country?
• How many bikes do you own?
We promise to feature one of these suggestions in the next survey
Suggestions
• Always have a “no” or “not interested” option
We will try to implement this. But it will also skew results.
• More questions about womens cycling would be nice.
• Less questions about womens cycling
The subscribers are torn on Women's cycling, nearly a 50/50 split there as the survey showed - The moderators at /peloton are firmly in the "more cycling is better" basket, and we will continue to get as good coverage of womens cycling as possible.
Are you trying to give the moderators PTSD? Because this is how you give the moderators PTSD.

## 26. Any suggestions for the sub?

• More stationary fitness bike related content
ALSJFLKAJSLDKJAØLSJKD:M:CSAM)=#/()=#=/")¤=/)! - Your moderator seems to be out of function. Please stand by while we find you a new moderator
• Beginner guides
The Weekly threads are great for these types of questions, where several people can contribute and build up once it is understood which information is relevant.
• Allow limited doping talk in result threads.
Our experience is that "limited" will never be so, if we're going to moderate it fairly. Moderating is not a popularity contest, but believe it or not, we're actually trying to be as fair as possible. and for that, we need rules that are not subjective. Unless you have a stationary exercise bike.
• Written original content is always great - recaps, old race reviews or interesting rider bios, etc.
• Podcast discussion?
• Try and do some AMAs with pro cyclists, coaches, trainers, etc
All of these are good suggestions, but remember that all of you can also contribute - The mods are sometimes stretched thin, specially in the middle of hectic race schedules. It's easier if one of you has a way to contact a rider or a person of interest and can facilitate the initial communication.
• Standardize major event thread titles for better search.
We've worked on this! The Official Standard is now as follows: [Race Thread] 202x Race Name – Stage X (Class)
• A wiki that explains how races work. Roles of diff riders/support staff. History of racing.
This sounds as a nice community project for the after-season, and hopefully many of you subscribers can contribute.
• Tidy up the sidebar!
Come with suggestions on how to tidy it up!
• Don't assume everyone reading is a man, "thanks, bro". But that goes for all of Reddit. I know you can't fix that.
We have chastised all the mods. They are now perfectly trained in gender-neutral pronouns. Be well, fellow being.
• Have a buy you a beer link for the mods for all the work you do.
If we can implement this for hard liquor, you know we will.
• Remove the spoiler rule during grand tours. It kills the hype.
The spoiler rule is one that is discussed frequently - in general - some users absolutely hate it, but a majority love it. Perhaps we'll include a question in the next survey to see how this divide is exactly.
• Lose the spoiler tag when it is for serious things; Lambrecht death, Jakobsen fall.
We actually do - whenever there is a matter of life or death, we think public information is more important than a spoiler rule. But at the same time, we try to collect all the different posts into one main thread, so to keep things focused and letting very speculative posts meet with hard evidence from other sources.
• Less downvoting of opinions that differ from the fashionable consensus.
This is a tough ask of the internet. While we can agree that voting should be done accordingly to what insights they bring, not subjective opinions, it is very hard to turn that type of thinking around. We can ask of you, our subscribers, that you please think twice about hitting that downvote button, and only do so because of you think a post is factually incorrect, not because it differs with your own subjective opinion.
That's the primary analysis of the survey! Feel free to contribute with how you experience things here!

##### I'm reading every Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award winner. Here's my reviews of the up to 1980 (Vol 4)

It is that time once more, folks.
Links to previous posts at the end, links to full length blog reviews are all in one comment.
Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
• Plot: A normal human could not survive on Mars... our only option? Cyborgs!
• Page Count: 183
• Award: 1976 Nebula
• Worth a read: No... but consider it for a laugh.
• Primary Driver: (?????????)
• Bechdel Test: Pass... but a real weak pass.
• Technobabble: Frequent.
• Review: Imagine if you took subplots from a trashy romance, a political thriller, a horror flick, and a space travel story... and forgot to put in the main plot. Starts decently, spirals wildly out of control with astounding speed. Almost worth reading to experience the hilarious concluding deus ex machina. This one is probably in the "so bad it's good category" - but sweet skittles is it bad. Also, turn on safe search if you look this book up.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
• Plot: After a pandemic causes infertility (and every other apocalypse hits), the only way for humans to survive is through cloning. But are they really human?
• Page Count: 251
• Award: 1977 Hugo and 1977 Locus
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Moderate.
• Review: Disappointing and disjointed. There are a lot of messages here that just get blended together to nothingness. Cumbersome writing, uncompelling characters, bland dystopia, and just a dull story. Odd choices on where to discuss science at length and where to just skip over it. First third was its own story originally, and is the best part.
Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle
• Plot: There is no joy like dying to advance science, at least according to Doctor Rat.
• Page Count: 243
• Award: 1977 World Fantasy Award
• Worth a read: No... but worth a glance at a chapter or two.
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: N/A
• Technobabble: Frequent descriptions of animal experiments.
• Review: This book is truly horrifying to read. It's about the gruesome nature of animal testing - and cruelty to animals in general - and is chock full of graphic animal gore. It's the child of The Jungle and Animal Farm but without subtext. Consider checking it out to read a couple of chapters - the grotesque fascination wears thin. Some might consider the unambiguous use of Nazi imagery for animal testing to be a step or three too far.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
• Plot: The Heechee left behind technology so advanced that we cannot understand it; that doesn't stop us from using it to get rich or die trying.
• Page Count: 313
• Award: 1977 Nebula, 1978 Hugo, and 1978 Locus SF
• Worth a read: Yes. Very yes.
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Low-Moderate.
• Review: Really good. Cleverly bounces between the story as it unfolds and therapy sessions afterwards - we know that our hero survives, but something terrible has happened. A bit too Freudian. Still, excellent job of making a complex protagonist, interesting world, compelling story. Wanting to know what went wrong kept me reading - and it pays off.
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
• Plot: Turns out Middle Earth had other jewelry too.
• Page Count: 386
• Award: 1978 Locus Fantasy Award
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: N/A.
• Review: This is epic fantasy in its purest form; it is myth and legend, at times obtuse, but absolutely riveting. Tolkien's world is fully immersive. Had the physical book to follow the story, the audiobook for pronunciation, and laptop for family trees. Absolutely worth it - even as a casual LoTR fan.
Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
• Plot: Something sinister is haunting Franz Westen, and dealing with it involves unearthing answers that might be best left buried.
• Page Count: 183
• Award: World Fantasy Award 1978
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Moderate.
• Review: This is a horror story. Atmosphere is excellent. Book begins with some truly unsettling images and world building. The narrative itself is slow and frequently self-indulgent, but atmosphere stays on point. A qualified recommendation; but some scenes from this will stick with me for quite a while.
Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
• Plot: Long after the end of the world as we know it, Snake wanders the world, healing those she meets to the best of her abilities.
• Page Count: 288
• Award: 1978 Nebula, 1979 Hugo, and 1979 Locus
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
• Review: Less-is-more world building with good execution. A lot of interesting tidbits to keep you wondering what the rules are, who the people are, and so on. Story itself can be slow and stakes are consistently low. "I'm going to a place, surprise! something comes up, I will go to another place along the way." Characters are well written though not particularly complex.
Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen by Michael Moorcock
• Plot: In an alternate timeline, Queen Elizabeth I rules over the vast empire of Albion and must do her best to manage a corrupt and twisted court.
• Page Count: 368
• Award: 1979 World Fantasy Award
• Worth a read: Absolutely No.
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: None.
• Review: This book is remarkable in that it combines shockingly dull and lengthy exposition with some truly awful and problematic ideas about sex. A whole lot of parallel world court intrigue that just does not matter at all. The actual plot starts developing halfway or later into the book - and is not interesting. The title addressing Gloriana's inability to orgasm is a big ol' red flag. A deeply unpleasant read. Really awful.
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
• Plot: Humans have built many marvels, but nothing can compete with a space elevator.
• Page Count: 317
• Award: 1980 Hugo and 1979 Nebula
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Fail
• Technobabble: High.
• Review: Overall enjoyable. Main narrative is about the space elevator, secondary is about an equally ambitious ancient building project - woven together in interesting ways. The science and vision offered are interesting, though characters are not and tension is infrequent. Marred somewhat by some truly bizarre (and underdeveloped) side plots and unnecessary epilogue.
The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
• Plot: All the wizards left behind were riddles, and the only one who might be able to solve them is the biggest riddle of all.
• Page Count: 578 (Full Trilogy)
• Award: Harpist in the Wind (Book 3): 1980 Locus Fantasy
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
• Review: It's an epic fantasy trilogy. It's a good one. Kinda loved it. Heroes and villains are complex, magic is interesting and coherent. Excellent characters. Cool development of powers, though it is far more power sprint than power crawl. Pacing can be odd; a few long pauses followed by frenetic scenes. Very well written. A satisfying read.
Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn
• Plot: The Southerners picked the wrong keep to invade; Ryke will do everything he can to get it back.
• Page Count: 240
• Award: World Fantasy Award 1980
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
• Review: The sweet, sweet taste of subpar writing. World building: "You people from the hot South are not used to how cold it is here up North!" Character Development: "You mean... I don't just need to indiscriminately murder people?!" and "You mean... women can fight too?!" Writing Quality (Verbatim): "He thought it might have ben a room in Tornor. The room was hot. He went to the window to open the shutters. They stuck. He had to force the latch. At last one opened."
Titan by John Varley
• Plot: The intrepid crew of the Ringmaster crash in alien territory and must figure out how to survive.
• Page Count: 309
• Award: 1980 Locus SF
• Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
• Bechdel Test: Pass
• Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
• Review: It is hard to find such a dumb book that takes itself so seriously. Some legitimately interesting exploration bits not enough to redeem this one. Extremely juvenile. Raises interesting questions and offers insultingly insipid answers. There are elements that are quite good - particularly some crisp dialogue - but it's just not worth it.
If you haven’t seen the others:
Any questions or comments? Fire away!
A truly massive thank you to u/gremdel for mailing me a bunch of books! People like you are what make this endeavor worth the effort.
I’ve been using this spreadsheet, as well as a couple others that kind Redditors have sent. So a huge thanks to u/velzerat and u/BaltSHOWPLACE
At the request of a number of you, I’ve written up extended reviews of everything and made a blog for them. I’ve included the links with the posts for individual books. I try to put up new reviews as fast as I read them. Take a look in the comments for that link!
The Bechdel Test is a simple question: do two named female characters converse about something other than a man. Whether or not a book passes is not a condemnation so much as an observation; it provides an easy binary marker. Seems like a good way to see how writing has evolved over the years. At the suggestion of some folks, I’m loosening it to non-male identified characters to better capture some of the ways that science fiction tackles sex and gender. For a better explanation of why it’s useful, check out this comment from u/Gemmabeta

##### A thorough evaluation of the 9/18 PTS update and base changes, as well as almost everything else coming up.

Hello, here’s another round of Esamir Rework reviews. I’ll also cover the Indar base changes, the storm, vehicle balance changes and new infantry gear. I’m not going to touch on outfit resource changes here, since this post is long enough already. I’d like to give shoutouts to aln-isolator , [NWYT]Praefectus, the pilots of [SACA] and everyone else who helped give feedback.
Here’s the image gallery. This time around the bases listed in the document match the order in which they appear in the gallery. https://imgur.com/a/5pd5VFj
Esamir has a new skybox which is much less bright. I can now see vehicle weapon tracers when shooting. This is a long asked for change.
Andvari: 3 points now, 12 min cap with 2 points, 4 mins with 3 points. Consider adjusting the timers.
Ymir: No changes to terrain that I can see. It’s a 12 minute cap with two points owned, and 4 minutes with 3 points. Might consider reducing those slightly.
Apex Genetics has had its wall adjusted somewhat, as well as the rocks surrounding the triple stack. There are now more routes for infantry to enter the base.
Aurora Materials: Sunderer garage and surrounding terrain seem to have been lowered slightly. Also, there’s now a rock at the end of the garage, which reduces the possible angles the bus inside can be shelled from. The slope between the crescent building and the road has had some paths added for infantry. Overall, good changes. However, there’s still one issue here, and that’s the possibility of shelling the triple stack balcony from the ridge NW of the base. Additional purple spikes from the cluster behind the spawn room could be positioned to block this firing angle.
Eastwake Harborage: Point has received a new structure above it. It’s now on the bottom floor of a triple stack that has an expanded balcony around its second floor. This gives point holders a lot of additional cover, but the problems with this base still exist. There’s still a ridiculous distance between spawn room and the point with minimal cover from vehicles/bolters/LAs- a literal Death Valley. The area immediately around point is still extremely harasser friendly and could use some props to obstruct harasser movement. In its current position, the teleporter room is useless since infantry leaving it must still advance through Death Valley. Sundy positions are a bit sketchy, too. Fortunately, I’ve had a long discussion and now believe this base could be fixed with a couple tweaks. Consider replacing the AI turret outside the spawn room with an AV gun. This would discourage excessively aggressive vehicles from camping Death Valley. Likewise, replacing the light vehicle pull with an MBT pull gives defenders a bit more potential firepower, and increases the area attacking vehicles must cover to protect their own vulnerable spawns. This base would also benefit from the moving of primary teleporter room to a point higher up the hill and closer to the point, as shown by squad waypoint in this image: https://i.imgur.com/TuEee9F.png. A second teleporter here at hearts waypoint https://i.imgur.com/JUbXklc.png gives defenders another route into the point without going through Death Valley. At these two locations sunderer garages could be built to create safer spawn points for attackers.https://i.imgur.com/QWblfz4.png https://i.imgur.com/w4HR05n.png
Echo valley: Rocks have been added on the exterior side of the vehicle terminal to give it some cover. However, they aren’t close enough to each other to prevent me from driving through with a Kobalt bus, nor is there anything stopping me from hacking the terminal or using a GSD to get through the shield and then start driving around the base. Placement of a couple rocks in very specific spots would stop this. Secondly, a crate has been placed between bridges to give infantry another path into the point building. It’s a cool concept, but it needs some form of obstruction to prevent me from driving harassers or possibly larger vehicles onto the two bridges and blasting point directly. Thirdly, consider some form of sight blockers on the west wall to reduce the potential for LAs to spawn camp.
Excavion DS-01E: Cover has been placed over both tunnels, which is an excellent change. MBT pulls have been added to this base, though they could stand to be moved slightly closer to the spawn room to deter attackers from hacking them and flooding the base with AI vehicles. A point is located in a long narrow building near the eastern tunnel exit. B is in a triple stack on the south side. C is located immediately west of the drill site. Capture timer is 4 minutes with two points and 1 minute with all 3.
This base is mostly fine, but could do with some small tweaks for increased cover. At A point the point holders have few options for cover inside. There are two small smokestack structures (pictures in gallery) that could be replaced with actual buildings to provide more cover from aircraft for players moving around inside the base. Timers could probably be increased slightly. Overall though it’s in a decent state.
Genudine Gardens: Some props have been added throughout the base that’ll prevent harassers from turboing around like maniacs, but the gigantic hole in the wall in one corner needs to be closed off somewhat to prevent vehicle entry or at least make it more difficult. This base would be fine if that hole were sealed or obstructed better.
Grey Heron: Additional cover has been placed on the side of the staircase leading from spawn to B/C point. The secondary route for defenders has been fleshed out- the door now is high enough to get under, and there is a hole in the floor that allows defenders to drop down to the lower level. Cover has been added on the B side of this base.
For improvements, I still think a roof is needed over the stairs from defender spawn to the lower level. A wall alone won’t stop tanks from shelling it. C could use a bit of cover, but I’m concerned that adding too much will turn it into a fortress. You can enter this base with harassers, so some bollards should be added to each entrance to prevent that.
Jaegers’ fist: Sunderer garage has been added, and the trench has been improved. This base has some odd issues from an infantry perspective, namely that attackers and defenders have the exact same routes to the point, as shown in the gallery. I have no ideas for how this could be improved. I still believe the point needs some kind of roof to block HESH spam and A2G, preferably a solid one to deter LAs from doing C4 bombing.
BL-4 Recovery and Vidar Observation Post both have spawn rooms and light vehicle terminals. This is a pretty good change, allowing closer vehicle pulls and a shorter sundy reinforcement distance for attacks on the surrounding facilities.
Jord Amp Station: More cover has been added around C point. This is a good change, but doesn’t change the fact that A is still inside the station.
Mani Lake: This one has undergone the most terrain edits, and consequently has become a lot less vehicle friendly. The two trenches leading into the base have had barricades installed, allowing infantry to move through but not vehicles. The hills surrounding the base have had their exterior faces steepened significantly, preventing treaded vehicles from driving up them. This change is excellent, but needs a bit of tuning. The Western Ridge’s southern tip has a shallow enough slope that tanks can still drive up it. On the large mountain to the West on the far side of the road, there’s a small protrusion that should also be levelled. Once these two spots are taken care of, this base will be fine. Overall, the changes are very good here.
Mattherson’s Triumph: The Sunderer NDZ has been reduced in radius, which allows the defenders to deploy inside the south tower for a safer position. This is a good change. The ridgeline to the NE has had its northern face steepened significantly, preventing tanks from driving up that side. However, the SW face has become easier to traverse, so the ridge is still usable for bombardment of the catwalks and A point. If this goes live in this state, it’s not a total disaster since tanks driving up that will be very exposed to AV fire from the tower, but it still could stand to be addressed. Likewise, there’s still a nice spur sticking out of the north end from the NW ridge that allows tanks to easily shell defender spawn and A point. The fix here is simple- flatten the spur completely.
A point needs additional work. At minimum, the windows on each tower in the room where A point/SCU would normally go should be sealed off to reduce the angles point holders must watch. There’s very little cover on the ground, especially when you consider all the angles A can be shot at from. I believe the point could be enclosed in the same type of building used at Chimney Rock’s point on Amerish. The bridges are a mixed bag. They’re identical copies with one rotated 180 degrees, which means that crate placement favors the attackers on B side and the defenders on the C side. Picking one crate pattern for all 4 bridge ends is one possible fix. I’m still not sold on the idea of both points being on bridges. They’re very exposed to A2G spam and bolters. Overall, at the very least the terrain edits are a nice start, and the sunderer NDZ change is very welcome.
Nott Communications: This base is now entirely underground. Attackers enter by overloading a shielded gate, and then drop down into an amp station interior. These gravity lifts are one way, but please consider adding an up lift to replace one of the drop pads. A point is in the position where A points usually are in amp stations. B and C are in the room where SCU would be normally positioned. At the end of this room where the tunnels and back door would normally be is a one-way teleporter, which is the only way for anyone to get out of this base right now. Defenders spawn underground and there’s a one-way shield leading to where the vehicle bay normally is. To improve this base, I’d make the one-way shield a two way shield, and reverse one of the grav lifts. I could not test the cap timer since I did not feel like ghost capping half a continent.
Pale Canyon: Some cover has been adjusted by the big yellow tanks on the SE side. A new route has been placed through the rocks at the NW corner of the base. This is an interesting change, but I don’t know how that’ll play out on live since currently I can park a bus inside the base at the same location.
The Rink: The ground texture at A point is now ice, so it’s actually an ice rink. Too bad you don’t slide around here.
Saerro Listening Post: Trees added to A point to break LOS between attacking vehicles and the tower. The wall between A and B has had some new gaps placed in it to allow infantry to get in. Interesting changes for sure, but I don’t know how they’ll play out.
The Traverse: The bridge has been resurrected, although it’s in a heavily damaged state. It’s now an infantry only playground, unless you’re a bold harasser or magrider driver. Because the storm was here, I really couldn’t stick around and take a long look at this. Lastly, the bottom of the pit has been raised a bit and paths to the bottom have been defined more clearly.
There also have been some changes to roads around the continent, but nothing major.
Indar:
TI Alloys: The removal of the bridge is a failure to understand why TI Alloys is such a difficult base to attack. On live servers, TI currently suffers from horrific sunderer placement options which combine with its central location to create a base that’s easy to defend. From the North, attackers must park their bus and attack up a hill through narrow ravines into entrenched defenders backed up by AI harassers, sunderers, ANTs, lightnings and even occasional MBTs. From the South, attackers have two bus spots: One is placed to the south-east, below the point. The other is placed directly south of the spawn room on the far side of the road. Both of these options are suboptimal- on the south east spawn the bus can easily be sniped by vehicles shelling from the Crown, driving down from the Crown, or by vehicles streaming out of the vehicle pull. The south bus on the far side of the road is also not ideal, since infantry have to cross the road and deal with a flood of vehicles as well as an angry AI turret. The only decent spawn location is at the end of the rock bridge, since that one’s reasonably safe from enemy vehicles and doesn’t involve attacking from the low ground. However, this position’s impeded by the fact that attackers from the north inevitably gravitate to the eastern side of the base since that’s safer from the defenders, forcing a three way that never ends. The result is a base that can’t be broken except by routers.
The removal of the rock bridge changes none of this, but instead creates more problems. The safe sundy position on the bridge is gone entirely. Further, the bridge’s removal allows tanks to bombard Ti from the Crown once more, since it served as a line-of-sight blocker. The new attacker foot path to the north east is extremely vulnerable to bombardment from the Crown.
As far as the base interior goes, a new wall has been added to the interior of the point room structure. This might give attackers a better chance to get to the point, but at the same time it might make things easier for the defenders should they conduct an organized push since there are fewer angles to set up a crossfire from.
So how can Ti be improved? I’d start by bringing the bridge back, or at least a small section of it to allow for a safe sunderer position at the east side. For the south, consider a tunnel leading under the road. This allows infantry to get to the base safely. I’d also consider adding in more props to restrict the passage of vehicles through the spawn room area to the northern side of the base. Removing the Kobalt bus fiesta there will make it easier for attackers to push in from the north. Lastly, if the bridge is not restored, consider creating a rock wall at the north east section of crown to prevent tanks from raining hell on anyone fighting at Ti.
Crown: The removal of D point is honestly a good thing. It wasn’t fun for anyone to attack since it’s open ground and below a cliff which enables C4 spam against vehicles and requires attackers push against entrenched infantry. Since Crown becomes a three point again, now the base cannot be stuck in a perpetual stalemate. I’m not a fan of where A point was moved to, either. I think if the rock bridge were kept then Crown would be mostly fine. With the three non-vehicle points it has on live. The issue with A being on that southern bridge is that if the attackers set up sunderers to control B, then they get A almost for free and can contest C as well. B point has been moved farther towards the center of the mountain and the tunnel system lengthened a bit, and a lot of cover has been removed at the initial entrance room that exists on live.The extra tunnel into B is an interesting idea and gives a better chance of an attack from the North succeeding, but at the same time it’s just another tunnel choke point to for aoe spam to create nasty farms. C is also problematic if it’s supposed to be the easy point for defenders to contest. It’s a fair distance from the tower, and it’s also open ground which is prime for A2G farming. I’d suggest moving this one into one of the nearby buildings if A must stay in the position it’s at on PTS. I’m not convinced the base needed any point position changes apart from the removal of D point. The current point layout on PTS favors an attack from the SE very heavily, and attacks from the East or North are far more difficult. While old A was very close to the tower, at least it provided a convenient point for attacks from the East. None of the changes really address the problem of poor bus location options, and with the current terrain there really aren’t many good potential spawn options. At most some garages could be added.
Ceres Hydroponics: Defenders now have a slightly shorter path to the point when pushing from the NE side of the base. The point itself has much less cover. I’m not going to make judgements on this without seeing how it plays out.
The Esamir storm: I’m not sure what this thing is supposed to do. The entire point of the game is large scale battles, yet this thing rolls around the map destroying the biggest fights. There’s nowhere safe from it. Sunderers will get destroyed even if put in garages. When outdoors infantry can be instagibbed by lightning for staying outside too long, and even when indoors their shielding takes frequent chip damage from environmental effects. The shield damage consistently drops players down about 150 shield points that constantly recharge, but this is enough to start messing with TTKs. For example, a commissioner can consistently OHK players. Since the shield damage is not synchronized across all players, it’s possible to be forced into gunfights where you have no hope of winning not because you were in a bad spot or outplayed, but simply because the game decided it’s your time to die. This applies doubly for lightning bolts which will randomly strike you down. There’s a text warning, of course, but random OHK mechanics really shouldn’t be a thing. You cannot use steel rain in the storm.
For vehicles this is obnoxious too. Ground vehicles lose most of their mobility, which will punish new players with poorly certed vehicles even more. Aircraft are even worse off, losing most of their vertical thrust. At times I felt like even afterburning upward was barely enough to keep the aircraft airborne. Vehicles kept in the storm for too long will simply be instagibbed, which cripples sunderers as spawns. The storm also destroys base turrets and terminals.
There are counters to the storm, though. Infantry can deploy lightning rods bought with merit that allow them to fight outside, but it doesn’t stop shield chip damage, and can equip an insulated armor suit at the cost of flak armor, nanoweave, or shield capacitor. This suit slot appears to be bugged and doesn’t actually reduce the chip damage taken by your shields. Carapace seems to be immune to this chip damage. Vehicles can equip insulated armor in the defense slot. This mitigates the performance hit to vehicles, reduces the damage taken by lightning, and prevents the storm from instagibbing your vehicle. Now, this is less of a problem in the first place for aircraft and tanks, but it screws over sunderers. Sunderers are already fragile enough even with deployment shield equipped, but forcing spawn buses to use this module and rely on their low hull HP is a very bad idea when paired with random lightning strikes and the severe lack of garages Esamir has.
With all that out of the way, the question I have to ask is why is the storm designed like this? It seems like a band-aid fix for zerging and actively punishes trying to create large fights. It cripples the vehicle game, negatively affects the infantry game, creates inconsistent TTKs, and only adds frustrating game mechanics. If the center of the map ends up with stalemates, it’ll circle around there endlessly preventing any kind of progress through the pile of three point bases. Why this, when there’s a lot more interesting concepts that could be used? For example, maybe the storm could reduce the rate at which players can spawn at a base/sunderers/routers. Maybe it could jam radaprevent Q spotting. Consider reducing shield chip damage to 50 shields instead of 150 to reduce TTK variance. There’s a lot more interesting ways it could change the game without being the anti-fun mechanic that it’s currently set up as.
Infantry gear:
Lightning grenade: Cool, you can launch a targeted lightning strike when in the storm. More instagibs is what the game needed.
Lightning rod: This temporarily redirects lightning strikes near you. This is a solution to an obnoxious problem that doesn’t need to exist.
Condensate grenade: Reduces movement speed and ROF by 20% for six seconds. This is a terrible idea in an FPS game. This doesn’t create interesting gameplay situations. Instead of being outplayed, players hit by this just lose since the game’s punishing them for playing. Keep this in RPGs and RTS games. Now, we do have status grenades already, but do we need one that’s as powerful as this one is?
BEC grenade: Similar to Condensate Grenades, this is a horrible addition to the game. Anything that hurts player mobility/damage output is a bad idea.
Neutralizer Device: Campaign reward that allows players to acquire abandoned vehicles, and apparently strip ability energy from players too. I like the idea of vehicle acquisition, but I don’t know if we’ll ever see the second use of this tool.
Abandoned vehicles: Around the continent are the hulks of abandoned tanks, sunderers and aircraft. They come with a special ability that I haven’t really tested, HEAT cannons and the first generation ES top gun. For the sake of loadout parity for all 3 abandoned MBTs I’d like to suggest the Prowler get a Gatekeeper instead of the Vulcan.
Vehicle changes: Havoc missiles: Are these things still necessary, with the liberator nerfs? These things seem redundant now, and they’ll punish rep gal balls unnecessarily hard while valkyries with rep monkeys can probably still dodge these things easily.
Phalanx AA turret range increase: This doesn’t fix any of the problems with the current AA setup. Instead, it’s going to just annoy A2A players who are flying along at high altitude and getting plinked by base AA guns, which is the reason the things got their range capped to begin with! Honestly I think these things should be replaced by weapons like Bastion CIWS guns. Those things are nasty at close range but their damage output falls off heavily at range.
Liberator: -500 HP and ESF nosegun resist from 85 to 80. While the liberator needed some changes regarding its durability and repair tanking in particular, this change spectacularly misses the mark on many levels. This change skews ESF vs Liberator combat too far in favor of ESFs. When paired with air locks this brings down the TTK to incredibly fast levels (around 9 seconds, which isn’t even enough for three dalton shots) In this post, mystoganofedolas https://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivjg8t/rock_paper_scissor_balance/ explains in great detail the liberator issues- it’s a blatant hard counter to ground vehicles, and gets brutally hard countered by ESFs on PTS. Hard counter mechanics are terrible in an FPS game. In this sort of rock-paper-scissors gameplay, things boil down less to individual ability and more towards who has an exact counter to something, which is extremely boring. There’s no skill in using A2A missiles, just as there’s minimal skill in hovering over tanks and daltoning them. In this post here https://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivsssx/did_some_basic_math_regarding_the_upcoming/, taltharius demonstrates that -500 HP barely changes anything in the case of liberators eating multiple AP shells before hitting fire suppression and flying off. Skilled gunnery should be rewarded, and sloppy flying should be punished.
So how can this be improved? Consider reducing vulnerability to ESF noseguns slightly. Adjusting Liberator resistance against tank shells, light anti-vehicle, gatling guns, and infantry rockets will increase the damage libs take from ground fire and punish poor flying/reward skilled aim. Possibly consider increasing MBT main gun elevation angles slightly, to reduce the ability of liberators to hover over tanks with minimal counterplay.
Harasser: Nanite cost to 300. Oh boy this one misses the mark completely. The problem with harassers has never really been cost related, but rather one that got introduced with CAI. The harasser itself is not overpowered and its efficiency in combat drops off hard at higher levels of gameplay. Only when harasser numbers become overwhelming (3 or more harassers vs 1 MBT) do the harassers stand a chance of defeating the best tank crews, and even then the tank usually can take 2-3 harassers with it. Harasser vs tank gameplay is extremely boring and very binary. If the harasser has a CQ AV gun it’s forced to fight at point blank which means I delete it easily. If it uses halberd or ES long range AV we both enter a boring poke fight where neither one does significant damage to the other. Even if the harasser opens up with rear hits the MBT still has an overwhelming advantage in firepower and hit points. With tanks, the problem since CAI has been poor muzzle velocity of HEAT shells which makes hitting difficult and what most players will have equipped, pathetic Basilisk DPS against everything (Kobalt kills stock harassers 4 seconds faster), Skyguards being helpless against every ground vehicle, and the Viper not having the accuracy to deal with small moving fast targets. Small changes to these three weapons will reduce harasser vs tank complaints.
Harasser vs Harasser is broken, for a different reason. Harassers have a weakness to gatling guns, which means that the Vulcan and Aphelion rip through harassers while the Mjolnir specializes in fighting heavy vehicles. In practice, this means that for low/average skilled car crews, vulcans are disproportionately powerful since less skilled players won’t know to keep outside minimum damage range. At higher levels an Aphelion car is very hard to fight. Toning back harasser weaknesses to gatling guns might improve this situation, but at the same time it might nerf the Aphelion too much. At the very least this’d probably reduce vulcan whine somewhat.
Overall, I have mixed impressions. The base changes are mostly for the better, but the storm, infantry gear, and vehicle changes are mostly bad or miss the mark completely.

##### Greed is Subtle

The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet.
Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured.
Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it.
During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper.
Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss.
"Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details."
"Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?"
"No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about."
Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?"
"Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up."
Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically.
As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?"
Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery."
Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans?
"Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time."
A week later.
At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting.
"Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?"
All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts.
"Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!"
Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing?
"Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded."
"Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost.
"Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount."
"So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked.
"If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder."
"And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists.
"Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options."
Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket.
"What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time.
Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately."
"And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone.
"Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!"
"And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money.
"Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?"
Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working?
As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase.
And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times.
Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way.
Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies.
And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits?
Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more.
...
There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept?
Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there.
"Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?"
"Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down.
"Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form.
"I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little."
"Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod.
"As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact.
"Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so."
Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually."
"Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?"
"Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest."
"Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?"
"If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated.
"So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?"
"Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case.
"Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted."
"Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise.
"What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious."
"I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?"
Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold."
"A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted.
Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares."
Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later.
After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always.
"I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?"
"I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?"
"I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch."
"You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor.
"I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle."
"I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk.
Several weeks later.
Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt.
While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route.
After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891.
And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it.
And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back?
His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful.
By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs.
What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real?
It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off.
As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen.
"What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments.
"D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car.
"You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!"
"How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh.
"Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!"
Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares."
Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?"
"Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?"
"Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin."
And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?"
Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?"
"Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!"
"Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it."
"Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited."
"By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them."
"Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go."
Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?"
Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it."
...
It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%.
Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way?
What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching?
He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late.
Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well.
"I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?"
Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say."
"Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?"
"Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them.
They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus.
"May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar."
Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please."
"Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean.
Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him.
Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high?
And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm.
And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money.
And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible.
The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it.
Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing.
Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal.
Three Years Later.
Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat.
It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply.
Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik.
Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes.
Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery.
"Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon."
"Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik.
"Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good."
"What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik."
Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month."
"I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk."
"You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently."
"Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know."
"Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?"
"I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement."
Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?"
AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
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