Thunder Valley Casino Express Bus - instagetbobus.co

I live in a small mining town in the mountains of Colorado. Someone is building a massive casino nearby, Pictures Included

I grew up in a small mountain town named Eureka. It was founded in the late 1800s during the gold rush, but after the mines dried up the town began its slow descent into decay. Half the houses are empty or abandoned now.
You can see a picture of the kind of houses here in Eureka:
First house
Second house
When a massive construction project began nearby, it was the talk of the town for weeks. Why would they build something in a sleepy dying town like Eureka? It wasn’t until my sister Selene talked to a few construction workers that we discovered they were building a casino.
A casino up in the mountains, over two hours away from Denver. None of us could understand why they’d chosen here of all places. After a few months of work, the casino was done.
I took a picture of the town with the completed casino in the background to the right. The ten-story-structure sticks out like a sore thumb off in the distance.
Town+Casino
After the casino opened, they hired a few dozen members of the town, offering high paying jobs to work as dealers or cleaning staff. I was already employed as a firefighter, but my sister Selene got a job as a blackjack dealer. She’s a widow with two young kids, so the paycheck was a real lifesaver.
Still, something about the situation seemed too good to be true. The jobs over there paid far too well, and the management was far too accommodating. The fire station where I work is located high on a hill overlooking the town, so I began watching the casino from a distance each day.
I had initially thought that the casino was located in a terrible location, but I was apparently wrong. True, Eureka was hours from any major city, but despite that, a bus full of people arrived every morning and left every evening.
One night I was over at my parent’s house and had dinner with Selene and her kids. I asked her about her experience as a dealer.
“It’s Ok,” she said. “Just a little boring I guess.”
“Boring?” I asked. “I’m surprised you don’t have your hands full.”
“Why’s that?” she asked. “It’s like you said, Eureka’s too small. I never have people playing cards. The casino is almost always completely empty.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that. If the place was always empty, what happened to the people who I’d seen arriving on buses? “I’ve been keeping an eye on the building,” I said. “A bus full of people typically arrives around 9 AM every day.”
“Really?” she asked, looking confused. “If that’s true, I’ve never seen them.
“I can see it from the fire station,” I said. “If you head out for a smoke break at 9 AM, you’ll probably see them arriving.”
“Interesting,” she said. “I’ll do that. If they’re being processed for their organs or something, I’ll let you know.” She laughed.
“Har har,” I said sarcastically.
The next night she sent me a text calling me over. When I arrived, she was nearly breathless with excitement.
“Orin, You were right,” she said. “A big group of people did arrive, but they didn’t walk into my part of the casino. Instead, they all walked into an elevator at the back of the building. I’m not sure where that goes.” She looked thoughtful. “It was weird. They looked… How can I say it? Desperate? Something about the whole situation was very off. I’m gonna check out the elevator tomorrow.”
I told her to be careful, though, to be honest, I was excited to hear about what she discovered. When I visited my parent’s house the next night, I found her two kids there alone. They told me that Selene had never returned from work.
I called all her friends, then all our neighbors, but no one had seen her since she left for work that morning. Our conversations regarding the casino flooded my mind, then a plan began to form.
Early the next morning I walked across town in my nicest pair of jeans and a button-up shirt. I pushed through the door to the casino and saw that Selene wasn’t lying. The place was all but deserted. Three dozen slot machines crowded the walls surrounding a few tables interspersed throughout the floor of the casino. The only players in the whole building were Bob and Donald, two locals.
I walked up to a nearby table where Bridget, a girl I’d gone to high school with, was shuffling cards. She broke into a grin when she saw me. “Hey Orin, you here for a few rounds of blackjack?”
“I wish,” I said. “No, I’m here to ask about Selene. She never made it home last night.”
Bridget’s expression darkened. “Really? Have you asked around?”
“I already called around. Have you seen her?”
She shook her head. “No, our schedules rarely line up. I’ll be sure to let you know if I--” Her eyes focused on something behind me, and she cut herself off.
I turned around to see the casino’s pit boss watching us both. He was a tall thin man in an impeccably clean black suit. When I turned back towards Bridget, she was looking down at the table and shuffling cards absent-mindedly.
“Well, if you hear anything, let me know,” I said.
She nodded, so I turned around and headed for the pit boss. I stuck out my hand. The temperature of his hand was so hot that I had to pull my hand away after a few seconds.
“Have… have you seen my sister Selene?” I asked. “She hasn’t been seen since her shift here yesterday.”
He smiled. “Sir, this floor is for players. You’re more than welcome to head to the tellers for chips, but barring that I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
I stared at him for a long second before stalking towards the door. When I looked back, he was talking with Bridget.
I checked my watch. 8:55 AM, just as I’d planned. I walked around the back of the building and waited as the morning bus pulled around the building. I waited for the telltale hiss of the opening doors and the sound of people descending before I rounded the corner and joined the crowd. None of them paid any particular attention to me as I walked with them into the casino.
The crowd walked through a side door down a hallway to an elevator. Small groups of people entered the elevator as the rest of us waited for our turn. I shot a glance at the casino patrons, surprised at their diversity. There seemed to be people from all different countries and ethnicities. I heard one speaking Japanese and another speaking what sounded like an African language.
My turn came along with a few other patrons in the elevator. A sickly woman hobbled into the elevator beside me carrying an IV that was still connected to one of her veins. We piled in and rode up to the top.
The elevator rose for a few long seconds. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but I steeled myself for something horrible. The elevator’s speaker let out a TING, then the doors opened.
We all walked out onto what looked like a standard casino. Another few dozen slot machines ringed the walls, but on this floor, they were almost all occupied by customers. I took in the scene, confused at why they’d have a ground floor that was almost completely empty when this place was almost--
Selene was dealing cards at a nearby table.
I jogged over and sat down at an open seat. None of the players around me paid me much attention.
“Selene!” I said. “Are you OK? Did you spend the night here last night?”
Her eyes were glassy and confused. She looked up at me with a dumb expression and didn’t respond to my question.
“Selene?” I asked.
“What’s your bet?” she asked me. “This table is for blackjack players only.”
“I…” I trailed off, looking at the players around me. None of them were betting with chips of any kind. “What’s the minimum bet?” I asked.
“Three years,” she responded.
“Three years then,” I said, not knowing what that referred to.
Selene nodded, then began dealing cards. I shot a look down at my hand. King and a 9. Selene dealt out cards for herself, showing a 9. I stood, then leaned forward again. “Should I call the police? Are you--”
“Congratulations,” she said tonelessly.
An almost impossibly warm hand grabbed my shoulder. I spun to see the pit boss I’d spoken to earlier. He gave an impressed smile. “Orin, was it? I’m impressed, truly. Would you mind if I had a word with you?”
I shot a look back at Selene who was dealing the next round of cards. Then I got to my feet, balling my hands into fists. “What did you do to her?”
The pit boss clasped his hands behind his back. “Nothing more, and nothing less than what I’m going to do to you. That is, offer you the chance to play.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
The pit boss nodded his head towards a nearby slot machine. A woman in a wheelchair pulled a lever and watched the flashing numbers spin. They exploded in a cacophony of sirens and flashing lights. “WINNER WINNER WINNER!” The machine screeched.
The woman in the wheelchair put her feet on the ground and stood up on a pair of wobbly legs that had clearly never been used before.
“As in any other casino,” the pit boss said, “you must wager for the chance to win.”
“She... won the use of her legs?” I asked, feeling light-headed. “Wait,” I said. “I played blackjack just now. ‘Three years,’ Selene told me. What does ‘three years’ mean?” I asked.
“Three years of life, of course. Did you win?”
My mouth felt dry. “I-- Yes, I won.”
He smiled warmly. “Congratulations. I hope you enjoy them. I can tell you from personal experience that watching the decades pass is a bore. Give it some time and you’ll be back to spend them.”
I watched the pit boss’s face. He couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me, and I was in my early thirties. I looked around at the casino. No one was playing with chips of any kind. “So what?” I asked. “I won years of life. That woman won the use of her legs. What else can a person win here?”
“Oh, almost anything. They can win almost anything you can imagine.”
A cold feeling settled in my stomach. “And what do they wager?”
His eyes flashed with greed. “Almost anything. They can wager almost anything you can possibly imagine. Anything equal in value to the item they want in return.” He nodded towards a nearby roulette table.
A man stood by the table, cradling his hands. “Another finger,” he called out. He only had three fingers remaining on his left hand. As I watched, the ball came to a stop, and another finger disappeared from his left hand.
The pit boss extended his hands. “Feel free to try any of our games. Bet and win whatever you’d like.” He reached out and snatched my hand. A feeling of intense warmth passed up my arm to my chest. “There,” he said. “I’ve even given you some house money to get you started. An extra decade of life, on me.”
I ripped my hand away, staring at him in horror. Then I looked back at Selene. Something clicked in my mind. “You offered her the chance to play. What did she want?” I asked.
“Her husband,” the pit boss said. “Quite the sad story. He died two years ago. She wanted him brought back to her.”
“What did she wager?” I asked.
“She wanted the chance to win a soul, the most valuable object in existence. I’m sure you can imagine what she needed to wager for the chance to win it. What she wagered is unimportant. The important question is: What do you want, Orin?”
I stared at Selene with a flat expression. “I’m sure you can imagine.”
His eyes flashed with greed again. “How wonderful. The casino could always make use of another dealer. Feel free to make your wager at any one of our games; I’ll be eagerly awaiting the results of your night. Oh, and do take advantage of our waitresses. We always supply food and drink for ‘high rollers’.” He walked away.
I spent the next few hours trying to decide which game to play. I was going to be wagering my soul, so I wanted the highest chance possible. Slots and roulette were out. I’d done some reading online about counting cards, so I figured that blackjack gave me the best odds.
I walked up to Selene’s table and sat down. “Bet?” she asked with that same toneless voice. “Three years,” I said.
I spent the next hour or so doing my best to remember how to count cards. I knew that low cards added one to my count and high cards decreased it by one, but the casino used three decks. I had read something about how that was supposed to change my calculation, but I couldn’t quite remember how.
Every time I won a hand, I cursed myself for not putting everything on the line. Every time I lost, I breathed a prayer of thanks that I’d waited. And all the while, I kept track of the count.
I had lost fifteen years of life when the count finally reached +5.
“Bet?” Selene asked.
“I wager my soul so you can be free,” I said.
The table around me fell silent. Selene’s eyes flickered, but she showed no other emotion as she dealt the cards. I watched my first card, punching the air in excitement when I saw a Jack. My excitement turned to ash when my second card was a four. Fourteen.
I looked at her hand. One card was facedown, but the faceup card was a King. I swore loudly, staring down at my hands.
“Hit?” she asked. The entire table was silently watching me.
“Hit,” I said, not looking down. The table erupted in cheers. I looked down to see a 7 atop my two other cards. 21. Blackjack.
I looked at Selene who flipped over her facedown card to reveal a 9. 19. I won.
The glassy look left her eyes immediately. She looked around in surprise, then her eyes locked on mine. “Orin?” she asked, then almost immediately began to cry. The entire casino broke out in cheers.
I grabbed her hand and headed for the elevator. The doors had begun to close when the pit boss reached out with a hand to stop them.
“Congratulations,” he said, beaming. He seemed to be honestly excited.
“Shouldn’t you be upset?” I asked.
“Not at all. Casinos love it when we have big winners. It inspires the other players to make larger bets. I imagine I’ll gain two or three dealers before the night is through from your performance.”
“Great,” I said flatly. “Now let us go.”
“Not yet,” he said. “You didn’t just win, Orin. You got a blackjack. And blackjack pays out 1.5 times your bet. You won your sister’s soul and more.”
I stared, not sure what to say. “What are you saying? I won half a soul extra?”
The pit boss grinned wildly. “Just remember what I said. You’ll find living for decades and decades to be a boring experience. After a few centuries, you’ll be back to gamble that half a soul away. Congratulations!”
He removed his hand, and the elevator doors slammed shut.
I helped Selene back to her house. Her children were relieved. I watched them cry, then moved into the kitchen to start making dinner.
It’s been a few days since that experience. The casino is still out there, and buses full of people still arrive. I… I cut my hand pretty bad a few days later. When I checked it an hour later, it had already healed, no scar or anything. I’m not sure exactly what I won at that casino, but there’s no way I’m ever going back.
X
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I live in a small mining town in the mountains of Colorado. Someone is building a massive casino nearby, Pictures Included

I grew up in a small mountain town named Eureka. It was founded in the late 1800s during the gold rush, but after the mines dried up the town began its slow descent into decay. Half the houses are empty or abandoned now.
You can see a picture of the kind of houses here in Eureka:
Abandoned House
Non-abandoned House
When a massive construction project began nearby, it was the talk of the town for weeks. Why would they build something in a sleepy dying town like Eureka? It wasn’t until my sister Selene talked to a few construction workers that we discovered they were building a casino.
A casino up in the mountains, over two hours away from Denver. None of us could understand why they’d chosen here of all places. After a few months of work, the casino was done.
I took a picture of the town with the completed casino in the background to the right. The ten-story-structure sticks out like a sore thumb off in the distance.
Town+Casino
After the casino opened, they hired a few dozen members of the town, offering high paying jobs to work as dealers or cleaning staff. I was already employed as a firefighter, but my sister Selene got a job as a blackjack dealer. She’s a widow with two young kids, so the paycheck was a real lifesaver.
Still, something about the situation seemed too good to be true. The jobs over there paid far too well, and the management was far too accommodating. The fire station where I work is located high on a hill overlooking the town, so I began watching the casino from a distance each day.
I had initially thought that the casino was located in a terrible location, but I was apparently wrong. True, Eureka was hours from any major city, but despite that, a bus full of people arrived every morning and left every evening.
One night I was over at my parent’s house and had dinner with Selene and her kids. I asked her about her experience as a dealer.
“It’s Ok,” she said. “Just a little boring I guess.”
“Boring?” I asked. “I’m surprised you don’t have your hands full.”
“Why’s that?” she asked. “It’s like you said, Eureka’s too small. I never have people playing cards. The casino is almost always completely empty.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that. If the place was always empty, what happened to the people who I’d seen arriving on buses? “I’ve been keeping an eye on the building,” I said. “A bus full of people typically arrives around 9 AM every day.”
“Really?” she asked, looking confused. “If that’s true, I’ve never seen them.
“I can see it from the fire station,” I said. “If you head out for a smoke break at 9 AM, you’ll probably see them arriving.”
“Interesting,” she said. “I’ll do that. If they’re being processed for their organs or something, I’ll let you know.” She laughed.
“Har har,” I said sarcastically.
The next night she sent me a text calling me over. When I arrived, she was nearly breathless with excitement.
“Orin, You were right,” she said. “A big group of people did arrive, but they didn’t walk into my part of the casino. Instead, they all walked into an elevator at the back of the building. I’m not sure where that goes.” She looked thoughtful. “It was weird. They looked… How can I say it? Desperate? Something about the whole situation was very off. I’m gonna check out the elevator tomorrow.”
I told her to be careful, though, to be honest, I was excited to hear about what she discovered. When I visited my parent’s house the next night, I found her two kids there alone. They told me that Selene had never returned from work.
I called all her friends, then all our neighbors, but no one had seen her since she left for work that morning. Our conversations regarding the casino flooded my mind, then a plan began to form.
Early the next morning I walked across town in my nicest pair of jeans and a button-up shirt. I pushed through the door to the casino and saw that Selene wasn’t lying. The place was all but deserted. Three dozen slot machines crowded the walls surrounding a few tables interspersed throughout the floor of the casino. The only players in the whole building were Bob and Donald, two locals.
I walked up to a nearby table where Bridget, a girl I’d gone to high school with, was shuffling cards. She broke into a grin when she saw me. “Hey Orin, you here for a few rounds of blackjack?”
“I wish,” I said. “No, I’m here to ask about Selene. She never made it home last night.”
Bridget’s expression darkened. “Really? Have you asked around?”
“I already called around. Have you seen her?”
She shook her head. “No, our schedules rarely line up. I’ll be sure to let you know if I--” Her eyes focused on something behind me, and she cut herself off.
I turned around to see the casino’s pit boss watching us both. He was a tall thin man in an impeccably clean black suit. When I turned back towards Bridget, she was looking down at the table and shuffling cards absent-mindedly.
“Well, if you hear anything, let me know,” I said.
She nodded, so I turned around and headed for the pit boss. I stuck out my hand. The temperature of his hand was so hot that I had to pull my hand away after a few seconds.
“Have… have you seen my sister Selene?” I asked. “She hasn’t been seen since her shift here yesterday.”
He smiled. “Sir, this floor is for players. You’re more than welcome to head to the tellers for chips, but barring that I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
I stared at him for a long second before stalking towards the door. When I looked back, he was talking with Bridget.
I checked my watch. 8:55 AM, just as I’d planned. I walked around the back of the building and waited as the morning bus pulled around the building. I waited for the telltale hiss of the opening doors and the sound of people descending before I rounded the corner and joined the crowd. None of them paid any particular attention to me as I walked with them into the casino.
The crowd walked through a side door down a hallway to an elevator. Small groups of people entered the elevator as the rest of us waited for our turn. I shot a glance at the casino patrons, surprised at their diversity. There seemed to be people from all different countries and ethnicities. I heard one speaking Japanese and another speaking what sounded like an African language.
My turn came along with a few other patrons in the elevator. A sickly woman hobbled into the elevator beside me carrying an IV that was still connected to one of her veins. We piled in and rode up to the top.
The elevator rose for a few long seconds. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but I steeled myself for something horrible. The elevator’s speaker let out a TING, then the doors opened.
We all walked out onto what looked like a standard casino. Another few dozen slot machines ringed the walls, but on this floor, they were almost all occupied by customers. I took in the scene, confused at why they’d have a ground floor that was almost completely empty when this place was almost--
Selene was dealing cards at a nearby table.
I jogged over and sat down at an open seat. None of the players around me paid me much attention.
“Selene!” I said. “Are you OK? Did you spend the night here last night?”
Her eyes were glassy and confused. She looked up at me with a dumb expression and didn’t respond to my question.
“Selene?” I asked.
“What’s your bet?” she asked me. “This table is for blackjack players only.”
“I…” I trailed off, looking at the players around me. None of them were betting with chips of any kind. “What’s the minimum bet?” I asked.
“Three years,” she responded.
“Three years then,” I said, not knowing what that referred to.
Selene nodded, then began dealing cards. I shot a look down at my hand. King and a 9. Selene dealt out cards for herself, showing a 9. I stood, then leaned forward again. “Should I call the police? Are you--”
“Congratulations,” she said tonelessly.
An almost impossibly warm hand grabbed my shoulder. I spun to see the pit boss I’d spoken to earlier. He gave an impressed smile. “Orin, was it? I’m impressed, truly. Would you mind if I had a word with you?”
I shot a look back at Selene who was dealing the next round of cards. Then I got to my feet, balling my hands into fists. “What did you do to her?”
The pit boss clasped his hands behind his back. “Nothing more, and nothing less than what I’m going to do to you. That is, offer you the chance to play.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
The pit boss nodded his head towards a nearby slot machine. A woman in a wheelchair pulled a lever and watched the flashing numbers spin. They exploded in a cacophony of sirens and flashing lights. “WINNER WINNER WINNER!” The machine screeched.
The woman in the wheelchair put her feet on the ground and stood up on a pair of wobbly legs that had clearly never been used before.
“As in any other casino,” the pit boss said, “you must wager for the chance to win.”
“She... won the use of her legs?” I asked, feeling light-headed. “Wait,” I said. “I played blackjack just now. ‘Three years,’ Selene told me. What does ‘three years’ mean?” I asked.
“Three years of life, of course. Did you win?”
My mouth felt dry. “I-- Yes, I won.”
He smiled warmly. “Congratulations. I hope you enjoy them. I can tell you from personal experience that watching the decades pass is a bore. Give it some time and you’ll be back to spend them.”
I watched the pit boss’s face. He couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me, and I was in my early thirties. I looked around at the casino. No one was playing with chips of any kind. “So what?” I asked. “I won years of life. That woman won the use of her legs. What else can a person win here?”
“Oh, almost anything. They can win almost anything you can imagine.”
A cold feeling settled in my stomach. “And what do they wager?”
His eyes flashed with greed. “Almost anything. They can wager almost anything you can possibly imagine. Anything equal in value to the item they want in return.” He nodded towards a nearby roulette table.
A man stood by the table, cradling his hands. “Another finger,” he called out. He only had three fingers remaining on his left hand. As I watched, the ball came to a stop, and another finger disappeared from his left hand.
The pit boss extended his hands. “Feel free to try any of our games. Bet and win whatever you’d like.” He reached out and snatched my hand. A feeling of intense warmth passed up my arm to my chest. “There,” he said. “I’ve even given you some house money to get you started. An extra decade of life, on me.”
I ripped my hand away, staring at him in horror. Then I looked back at Selene. Something clicked in my mind. “You offered her the chance to play. What did she want?” I asked.
“Her husband,” the pit boss said. “Quite the sad story. He died two years ago. She wanted him brought back to her.”
“What did she wager?” I asked.
“She wanted the chance to win a soul, the most valuable object in existence. I’m sure you can imagine what she needed to wager for the chance to win it. What she wagered is unimportant. The important question is: What do you want, Orin?”
I stared at Selene with a flat expression. “I’m sure you can imagine.”
His eyes flashed with greed again. “How wonderful. The casino could always make use of another dealer. Feel free to make your wager at any one of our games; I’ll be eagerly awaiting the results of your night. Oh, and do take advantage of our waitresses. We always supply food and drink for ‘high rollers’.” He walked away.
I spent the next few hours trying to decide which game to play. I was going to be wagering my soul, so I wanted the highest chance possible. Slots and roulette were out. I’d done some reading online about counting cards, so I figured that blackjack gave me the best odds.
I walked up to Selene’s table and sat down. “Bet?” she asked with that same toneless voice. “Three years,” I said.
I spent the next hour or so doing my best to remember how to count cards. I knew that low cards added one to my count and high cards decreased it by one, but the casino used three decks. I had read something about how that was supposed to change my calculation, but I couldn’t quite remember how.
Every time I won a hand, I cursed myself for not putting everything on the line. Every time I lost, I breathed a prayer of thanks that I’d waited. And all the while, I kept track of the count.
I had lost fifteen years of life when the count finally reached +5.
“Bet?” Selene asked.
“I wager my soul so you can be free,” I said.
The table around me fell silent. Selene’s eyes flickered, but she showed no other emotion as she dealt the cards. I watched my first card, punching the air in excitement when I saw a Jack. My excitement turned to ash when my second card was a four. Fourteen.
I looked at her hand. One card was facedown, but the faceup card was a King. I swore loudly, staring down at my hands.
“Hit?” she asked. The entire table was silently watching me.
“Hit,” I said, not looking down. The table erupted in cheers. I looked down to see a 7 atop my two other cards. 21. Blackjack.
I looked at Selene who flipped over her facedown card to reveal a 9. 19. I won.
The glassy look left her eyes immediately. She looked around in surprise, then her eyes locked on mine. “Orin?” she asked, then almost immediately began to cry. The entire casino broke out in cheers.
I grabbed her hand and headed for the elevator. The doors had begun to close when the pit boss reached out with a hand to stop them.
“Congratulations,” he said, beaming. He seemed to be honestly excited.
“Shouldn’t you be upset?” I asked.
“Not at all. Casinos love it when we have big winners. It inspires the other players to make larger bets. I imagine I’ll gain two or three dealers before the night is through from your performance.”
“Great,” I said flatly. “Now let us go.”
“Not yet,” he said. “You didn’t just win, Orin. You got a blackjack. And blackjack pays out 1.5 times your bet. You won your sister’s soul and more.”
I stared, not sure what to say. “What are you saying? I won half a soul extra?”
The pit boss grinned wildly. “Just remember what I said. You’ll find living for decades and decades to be a boring experience. After a few centuries, you’ll be back to gamble that half a soul away. Congratulations!”
He removed his hand, and the elevator doors slammed shut.
I helped Selene back to her house. Her children were relieved. I watched them cry, then moved into the kitchen to start making dinner.
It’s been a few days since that experience. The casino is still out there, and buses full of people still arrive. I… I cut my hand pretty bad a few days later. When I checked it an hour later, it had already healed, no scar or anything. I’m not sure exactly what I won at that casino, but there’s no way I’m ever going back.
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Sandman: Homecoming - 7 - The Son of Phantasos

OOC:
Below are all the published chapters of Sandman: Homecoming, for your convenience. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 - The Forgemaster's Assistant
Chapter 2 - The Shelf Cloud
Chapter 3 - The Birthday Present
Chapter 4 - The Old and the New
Chapter 5 - The Son of Phobetor
Chapter 6 - The Guilty and the Innocent
Chapter 7 - The Son of Phantasos
I felt bad leaving Camp without much an explanation to my friends, but it was like Brandon said. Sometimes people just leave Camp. I guess I understood what he meant now.
“Last stop, Manhattan station. Everybody out!”
I got off the bus, my now expired, expensive, one-way ticket shoved in the pocket of my signature jacket as I hopped down onto the concrete, muscling through some of the adults that had been on the trip into the city with me. My backpack, the one with the wings, was in my hand, and my Plate of Medusa was on over my shirt and jeans, but none of the passengers seemed to give me much of a glance. My dream-catcher key-chain was shoved into my pocket too. All that was left was-
“That’s one hell of a frisbee, son,” the attendant said, a short, round man with a dark combover style haircut. He wore glasses that made his eyes look larger than fishbowls. He’d been unpacking the bus for the passengers, and was now holding the shield that Jay had given to me, which I took and slung over my shoulder. He continued. “And you’re wearing a… bullet-proof vest, too?”
“Competitive frisbee is pretty hard,” I said simply.
“You’re damn right it’s hard,” he said, a smile now adorning his face. “Don’t let anyone tell you that’s not a sport to be proud of. Go get ‘em, son!”
“Thanks, have a nice day!” I waved at him, then I made my way through the terminal and into the greater city of Manhattan. I’d seen a bit of it from the bus window while riding over the bridge, but it was different up close. I’d been so used to the Greek and cozy architecture of Camp Half-Blood that I’d almost forgotten about the skyscrapers and city streets beyond the Camp’s forcefield border. They looked a lot different now then they did during the Cull, when streets were nearly flooded with blood.
I wondered just how many monsters lurked around the corner, waiting to eat me when I found myself alone. I shifted my dream-catcher key-chain out from my pocket and into my hand.
I got directions to The Henrietta and made my way across the city, crossing every corner thinking it would be my last. When nothing happened, and I made it to the lobby of the Henrietta, I found myself faced with a new concern. The lobby alone looked like something out of a King’s castle, with chandeliers made of more glittering jewels than I’d seen in my entire life. Rich people in fur coats came and went with bellboys following them like shadows, carrying loads of equipment I figured even the Heracles kids back at Camp would have had a hard time with. The adults, all dressed to the nines, gave me some pretty sour looks. No doubt I looked a bit shaggy, and I got the feeling that your average thirteen year old wasn’t even allowed in the lobby of a place like The Henrietta. Was I sure this was the place Albert had wanted me to meet him at?
I fished around for money in my pocket, pulling out a few crumpled twenty dollar bills and some drachma in change, coins I doubted would do me much in the way of favours at the front desk. The man there stared me down like I was a stray dog. He was tall and thin, with white hair kept perfectly clean and suave. He had a pencil thin mustache of the same colour, and a fed up expression. I imagined dealing with rich people all day didn’t make you very accommodating.
“Your business.” The thin man was talking to me, leaning over the pristine counter lined with gold and red velvet. “Are you here to sell... chocolates, perhaps? One of the local school donations?”
“Uh, no,” I said, wondering what he saw when he looked at me, carrying a shield on my back, and a linothorax over my clothes. “I’m… uh, well, I’m meeting a friend, here.”
“I highly doubt that,” the man said, rolling his eyes as he went back to his computer terminal. He didn’t seem in the mood for any further conversation. “Run along now, street rat. I’ll call security if you’ve forgotten where the exit is.”
“No, that’s fine,” I said. “I can make my way out.”
“Perfect. Leave please.”
“Right,” I said. I felt embarrassed. Clearly this wasn’t the right place. I turned to leave, but my suspicions were proven false by the figure that now stood in the threshold of the sliding glass doors of the Henrietta.
He was almost taller in person, I thought, but he was much more clean looking than the last time I’d seen him. Maybe he’d finally gotten some sleep, now that we had an agenda. Albert strode into the lobby wearing a plate set of celestial bronze. He was more shiny than the decorative furniture. His black hair was freshly styled short and clean, and his beard was trimmed down to stubble once again. His blue eyes were piercing azure in contrast to the dull orange glow of his armour. I wondered what all the mortals saw when they looked at him.
“I have a reservation,” he said calmly, giving me a wink as he walked towards the front desk. “I see my friend was trying to check in? It should be under Albert Ethans. The Observer’s Suite, top floor.”
“Ah, mister Ethans,” the thin man said, though he didn’t look apologetic in the slightest, simply looking quizzical as he sorted through some documents on his desk. “You’re the… Twitch… Streamer? Is that correct?”
“Yep,” Albert said. He looked like he was trying to stop himself from laughing.
“And you’re paying in… cash.”
“Yep.”
“Very well,” the thin man said, “you seem to have cleared this with my superiors over the phone.” The man turned from his computer and folded his hands, grinning wider than I’d seen most people capable of. “Your receipt should be in your bag, as is listed in your file.”
“Right, right,” Albert said, and he knelt down in front of the desk. Suddenly, seemingly from no source at all, grains of sand started to formulate and solidify, like a small sand structure of a duffle bag. Albert placed his hands on the sculpture, and suddenly it wasn’t one anymore, but instead a solid bag, a bag he then unzipped to show rolled wads of cash. It looked like something a bank robber might have. He smiled at me again, closed the bag, and as quickly as it had appeared, the bag simply crumpled into the ground like any sandcastle might under the slightest amount of pressure. In a few more seconds, the sand was gone entirely, and Albert had paid for our rooms with more cash than I’d seen in my entire life. I followed Albert to the elevator, watching as he pressed the top-most button and closed the doors behind us.
“What was that?” I asked, still thinking about the bag, “and… he didn’t even, like no one noticed?”
“Barry, come on,” Albert said. “I’m wearing a full set of armour, and no one noticed that either. Mortals see what they want to see. That little trick was no different.”
“Hell of a trick,” I said.
“It’s one you can learn,” Albert said with a smile, leaning against the wall of the elevator as it shot upwards to the suites of The Henrietta. “Once the Dreamscape trusts you, it can keep things for you. Have you ever noticed how you always have your stuff when you go to the Dreamscape? The connection works both ways.”
“Oh,” I said, as the golden doors of the elevator opened, and an equally exuberant hallway stretched out before us. I followed Albert, who seemed to know where he was going. I continued to speak. “Well, I’ll get practicing.”
“Sure, but another night.” Albert had stopped before a set of double doors and swiped a keycard he’d gotten from the thin man at the desk. A light at the base of the doors shifted from red to green. “Tonight we’re just gonna hang out. We catch our train tomorrow.”
~
It turns out that you can do a decent amount of hanging out in a luxury hotel suite, especially when you’ve got nothing to do until tomorrow morning.
Camp Half-Blood had easily been the best place I’d ever lived, but even inside its magical borders there were amenities it couldn’t afford. The Henrietta, on the other hand, had anything a thirteen year old boy could ever want. Our room had a hot tub, a crazy big TV with endless cartoons, game systems, room service - which I tried for the first time - and brochures for free fast food. It was a paradise.
“There’s a place like this in Vegas,” Albert said, taking a slice of pizza and folding it in half as he took a giant bite. “The Lotus Casino, I think it’s called. Just remember that name if you ever take a trip there.”
“Awesome,” I said, my thumbs fumbling over the controller as I tried to play Super Smash Bros, a game I’d played with Brandon on occasion. I was getting in a lot of practice tonight, but I was still pretty terrible. “I’ll look it up.”
“Well, no,” Albert said with a chuckle, “I mean you should try and avoid it. Monsters own the place. They use it for luring demigods and trapping them with luxuries. Time works differently there, so you could be trapped for years without even realizing it.”
“Oh,” I said, looking towards the clock on one of the many nightstands in our gorgeous room. It read 1:13am. I’d realized I’d lost track of time pretty quickly, which meant I probably wouldn’t survive my trip to the Lotus Casino. “Well, thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“No problem, Barry,” Albert said, dipping his pizza crust in some sauce I didn’t know the name of. “It’s a big world out there, you’d do well to- Wait, pause the game.”
I hit the start button on my controller, and looked over to Albert. We were both in pajamas, essentially, wearing t-shirts and sweatpants. Even in something so casual Albert had a cautious, almost terrified look on his face.
“What is it?”
Albert held his hand out to me to silence my questions. I tried to listen for something, to hear what Albert was hearing. I didn’t hear anything unusual, but I realized I must have left the shower running, because there was hissing coming from a different room.
But… I didn’t leave the shower running. And the bathroom wasn’t in that direction.
“Shit,” Albert said, and he rolled off the bed to grab his sword. It was a simple thing made of weathered celestial bronze, with more dents and grooves than I’d seen on any training sword at Camp. It had seen more fights than I had, that was for sure.
“What’s happening,” I said, grabbing my key-chain out from my pocket. “What’s going on?”
The door burst open, and there I saw monsters I hadn’t seen since my first summer at Camp Half-Blood. I’d only barely made it away from them before, but that was before my training. Still, even with all the knowledge of combat Jay had managed to shove into my brain, nothing really prepared you for the real thing.
Three scythian dracanae hissed at the threshold of our suite, and after a moment of silent pause, they pounced.
OOC:
Thank you so much for reading! Barry has officially left Camp!
Next Time in Sandman: Homecoming
A familiar face talks. Barry holds a grudge. There’s an explosion in New York.
submitted by princeoftheoneiroi to CampHalfBloodRP [link] [comments]

Coastguard #9 - Those Whose Sins Mark Their Bodies

DCNext Proudly Presents…!

COASTGUARD

Issue #9: Those Whose Sins Mark Their Bodies

Written by Fortanono
Edited by dwright5252, AdamantAce
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Meet-and-greets were always Marc Silvera’s favorite part of the day. Back in his youth, he loved the thrill of heroism, the adrenaline that came with fighting against dangerous people and bringing them to justice. Now, it was much less about adrenaline as it was before; he got his enjoyment from knowing that he made others’ lives just a little bit safer, helping them sleep more easily. Luckily, Josiah Power’s booths in the Polynesia Resort’s cafeteria boiled that right down to a science.
Dan and Courtney would always get the most fans, considering that they ran their own media platforms at one point; Helga and Curtis would occasionally hang around his booth for the fans. Ray and Thunder each had their own devoted lines, with their fans from Tulsa and Metropolis often making pilgrimages to New Coast to visit them. The ceremonially empty booth to the left of Marc was there for Vibe, who had attracted a lot of people placing down flowers and mementos, paying their respects. It was still hard for Marc to believe that he was really gone.
Marc’s was always the shortest line. He knew why; for a long time, the second Commander Steel was a small-town urban legend whose existence was unconfirmed. The name was also associated with a military group that many disapproved of or outright loathed, Marc himself chief among them after all these years, who was a willing participant in it. Finally, there was the third reason: Commander Steel was not a welcoming figure to most. His helmet kept out any sign that he was even a human, which was no longer a valid assumption for superheroes. In a lot of ways, he understood why children would even be scared of him. He liked to pretend that this didn’t bother him, but he knew deep down that it did, just a little.
Even still, he did have several people who came over to meet him. A tall woman with red hair and excessive amounts of makeup walked up to him, her young son in tow. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old, Marc thought. He sat down on a wooden chair nearby and smiled behind his mask.
“Hello there,” Marc chuckled. “What’s your name, young man?”
“Collin,” he smiled, hiding his face in his hands, his dirty mop of red hair covering his eyes.
Marc laughed heartily, almost as if he were a mall Santa. He felt like the kids needed to know that he wasn’t as scary as he seemed behind the mask, and laughing was the best way of doing that. Collin couldn’t see how wide he was smiling behind the visage, the tear of joy running down one of his eyes. “Now Collin, why don’t you sit on my lap and we can take a picture together?”
“Yeah!” Collin said. “I love you, Commander Steel. I want to be a superhero like you when I grow up.”
“Oh, is that so?” Marc said joyfully, smiling as Collin climbed up into his lap. He hid a grimace; as much as he enjoyed the job, seeing someone so young determined to be someone who put their life on the line was very off-putting to him. The camera flashed, taking a picture of Collin with his hero, and Marc just let the moment rush over him.
“Remember to enjoy your stay at New Coast Polynesia Resort!” he called out behind them as they left the line. He always felt weird saying that, but Josiah told them to, and it wasn’t like he didn’t want them to have a fun vacation.
The next person moved forward in the line, a teenage boy wearing a camo button-down shirt. “Hey, Commander Steel,” he said gleefully. “You’re so awesome. It’s so cool that I get to meet you.”
Marc went through the rounds, but he wasn’t focused on the boy anymore. Instead, Marc stared transfixed as the next woman in line, a middle-aged Black woman with a short bob of shoulder-length grey hair, wearing a black dress with grey and blue accents. His stomach dropped as he finished up with the kid in camo, turning to the woman in front of him.
“Jenna,” he said, coming out as little more than a breath. He stood up from his chair. “Why are you here?”
“Trust me,” she said with her lips pursed. “I didn’t want to come just as much as you probably don’t want to see me. Something came up.”
Marc stared at her, not saying anything.
“Richards’ sentence is up,” Jenna muttered coldly. “I was hoping he’d changed, but he’s on a bus straight to New Coast. I just wanted to warn you and your team, knowing what he’s capable of.”
“Yes, of course,” Marc said as his former wife left the line. He turned to her and called out as she walked away. “Hey, hey, you have a fantastic rest of your life, whatever you’re doing.” She didn’t respond.
Marc turned to the next guest, his mind not fully there. As his experience with Jenna faded from his mind, he realized that something much worse was about to happen, and he had to warn the team about it.
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“Okay,” Curtis said, his back against the wall of Room 103. The members of Coastguard were gathered in their costumes, having come back from the meet-and-greet minutes earlier. “A quick recap on the Phosphorus situation for Courtney: We’ve been able to take out some street-level guys who were peddling narcotics, but none of them claimed they had ever seen the man’s face. He apparently keeps very little company; only those he trusts ever see who he truly is.”
“By the way,” Anissa said, “Congrats to Courtney for the awesome work she’s done in Opal City! We’re starting to see headlines roll in, and it’s very impressive.” Immediately, everyone in the room around them began to clap and cheer, turning to Courtney who was sitting in her new red-and-green costume.
Courtney looked between her teammates and smiled. “Thanks guys,” she said. “It means a lot.” She turned to Curtis, her expression turning more serious. “Anything on ThirteenthFloor? That seemed like a really big deal when I left, but no mention of it so far.”
Curtis nodded. “Yeah, yeah, that’s a thing. Helga and I are working on reverse-engineering the tech in the buildings, but no results yet. Anyone else have pressing concerns?”
Helga raised her hand. “As you may recall,” she began, “Acrata managed to escape from New Coast after arrest. I recently received word that she may be returning to the city, planning something big. If you spot her, do not be light when apprehending her, and bring her to me as soon as you can.”
“Dammit,” Dan said. “I was hoping I’d never have to see her again. That fight kept me sore for days. We’ll be on the lookout if she returns.”
“Anything else?” Curtis asked.
Marc removed his mask and raised his hand slowly. “Yes,” he said meekly. “Unfortunately, there’s… someone else has shown up here. An old enemy. Curtis, bring up records for Mark Richards, also known as the Tattooed Man.”
Curtis turned to a nearby monitor and began searching the web. He pulled out a mugshot of a tall, bald man with a tattoo of a dragon coiled around the top of his head. On the side of one of his cheeks was another tattoo, a small piece that resembled a rose with a thorny stem. “This your guy?”
“Yes,” Marc said. He stood up and took a deep breath, addressing his teammates. “A long time ago, I lived in a small town in Maryland called Liberty Hill. Standard small-town fare; most of the criminals were just normal people who had a bad run. This man was different. He showed up, and within months he had killed any gang members who didn’t work for him. With every man he murdered, he got a new tattoo, and these weren’t ordinary tattoos. They gave him powers, and every time I fought him he had a new trick up his sleeve.”
He sighed and paused before continuing. “I became obsessed with him. It was unhealthy, and it cost me my marriage. Finally, 15 years ago, I caught him. He served his time, and now it seems like he’s come back for revenge. I'd like to humbly request your help in finding him and making sure he doesn't cause further harm. Mark Richards is incredibly dangerous, and we need to treat any encounter we have with him with utmost caution. He will kill us if we don’t.”
The room fell silent for a few seconds before Curtis broke the silence. “Okay,” he said. “The Tattooed Man, Public Enemy Number One. Don’t worry, Marc; we will make sure that we stop him before he can hurt us.”
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Mark Richards knocked on the door of a townhouse in what looked like any other upscale neighborhood. This development was designed by one of Josiah Power’s friends, he had remembered, but it had never seen use as the designer’s company went down for fraud several months ago. Even though it looked like an ordinary housing development, a far cry from the tourist trap in New Coast’s city center, it was also the home of many of New Coast’s more sinister elements. With the development never having been in use, it was the perfect place for shadowy figures to hide in such a bright city.
The skull on Mark’s forearm sensed some sort of danger. Mark willed it to be quiet as a young woman, tall and lanky with blonde hair and blue accents, opened the door. She seemed to have a lot of tattoos herself. “Wow,” she said, staring at him up and down. “I’m going to need the name of your inker. That is some good art.”
“I’ve had a lot of inkers,” Mark chuckled. “My first tattoo was from a slave-driver in Moldora. The second one was from a serial killer. I tend to get them from the worst of the worst, and it pays off.”
“Ooh, nice,” she said. “I take it you’re here to see the big man? I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you. You should hope so, at least.”
Mark nodded. “I believe we already had an appointment scheduled.”
“You are correct,” she laughed. “He's been talking about you all day.”
Mark walked into the house and down the corridor to a room at the end. If an ordinary homeowner lived here, the room he entered would probably be furnished as a dining room, possibly as a playroom for their children. However, the New Coast crime lord that lived here had turned the room into a sort of makeshift casino; slot machines padded the sides of the walls while a poker table served as the room’s centerpiece.
In the far corner were two couches, on one of which sat the man Mark presumed to be Phosphorus. He looked young and arrogant at first glance, reminding Mark of a cocky kid who thought he could run a business back in Liberty Hill, but who would always fall to Mark in the end. The heart tattoo on the left side of Mark’s chest came from him; his sins were driven by his heart rather than his brain, and that’s why Mark had defeated him. It was a fitting tattoo to remember him by. The major difference between Phosphorus and that kid was abundantly clear, though. Phosphorus wore an unbuttoned white jacket with no shirt; across his chest and extending down his left arm, his skin glowed a brilliant red-orange. Underneath the glow, Mark could see his ribcage, lit up by the man’s special ability.
“Heh, on time I see,” Phosphorus chuckled. “I knew I could count on you.”
Mark took a seat on the couch across from the crime lord. “Of course,” he said. “This business is always about impressions, and I’ve come to know that that means dependability as well as fear. Meet your opponents first, before you destroy them. And I believe that in a couple of months, I may have to destroy you.
“So it’s true then,” Phosphorus said. “You’re gonna hang around a while? That’s unfortunate. Oh well.”
“Nice to meet you. I’d shake your hand, but I’ve been told that’s not really a good idea.” Mark stretched out on the couch, throwing his arms behind his back. “So you’re the Phosphorus, huh? I expected someone a little older to have been behind the work you’ve done. It’s impressive.”
“Call me Alec,” Phosphorus said. He paused for a second. “I’m old enough. Besides, I’ve got a damn good reason why I’m doing this. Pardon the wordplay, but it’s a fire in my heart, so to speak, y’know? A drive.”
Before Mark could respond, Alec’s breathing started tensing up. He turned his head to the doorway of the room. “Melanie! Food!” he shouted. The blonde woman from before quickly came over with a man in a suit, tied up and restrained. She dropped him at Alec’s feet before leaving, not saying a single word.
The man’s expression turned frantic. “No, wait, please. Do anything. Ta--take my kids, instead. My wife. I can help you!” He was quickly shut up by Alec’s searing-hot left hand on his mouth, as the man quickly vaporized into thin air. Only a skeleton remained of where he was once standing.
“Wow,” Mark said, shaking his head. “That is impressive, I have to say. Not exactly a good dude there, either. Guess you know how to pick ‘em.”
“Yeah,” Alec laughed. “I only eat the rich types, people who have no spine or soul. That, and people who disappoint me, of course.” Alec paused for a second. “You know, I never wanted to be a criminal. I started this because I had to; if I don’t feed, I’ll die, and feeding ain’t exactly something you want to do in the open. But now? I’d say it feels pretty good. Not perfect, y’know? But it’s getting there.”
Mark nodded. “I get it, I really do. You know, you and I have the same power, so to speak.”
Alec gave him a confused look.
Mark cleared his throat. “I was on deployment in Moldora several years ago. I was a young soldier, about your age, and I had just killed a few men for the first time. Every day, their voices screamed in my head. So we were taking down this horrible waste of a human being; he had enslaved thousands of men, women and children to work for the worst kind of people. And the night before the raid, I asked him how he did it. That man showed me the art of sin-grafting; for every sin he committed, he added just a bit more ink to his body. He kept the memories of those he killed in the tattoos. Well, I thought it was bullshit, but then he tattooed this dragon onto me.” He pointed at his first and favorite tattoo, the dragon that coiled around his bald head.
“From that day on, whenever I kill someone, I tattoo myself with something to remind me of them. And I always use this special ink, which gives the tattoo life. Power. Doesn’t make it right, but it makes it damn near worth it. Now you, you have to kill people to live. I dunno how you got into that predicament, but you realized the same thing I did. If you get power from your sins, then it’s more than worth committing them, don’tcha think?”
Alec’s expression soured. “I think you’re fucking wrong about me,” he said. He stood up, towering over Mark. The skull on his shoulder sensed that he was in an incredible amount of danger. Mark said nothing; he wanted to see where this would go.
“I’m not a monster,” Alec huffed. “I was a good kid who wanted to do the right thing, and this bitch made me into who I am now. And my father just lets her stay by his side. He doesn’t notice shit. He doesn’t realize who that woman is. And so I’m here to fucking destroy the city he’s created, to burn it down to the bedrock on which it stands.”
Mark raised an eyebrow. “Your father is Josiah Power? I see it. I think you’ll realize you’re a lot more like him than you imagine.”
Alec lunged at Mark, nearly putting a hand on him. Acting quickly, Mark summoned the dragon from the tattoo on his head. Immediately, the ink turned into a violet energy construct of a serpent, lunging forward at Alec and releasing a sonic blast. Alec flew across the room, landing among the slot machines on the other wall.
“See, you’ve got this terrifying power,” Mark chided. “But I got so many years on you it’s hard to imagine. That, Alec, is why I will take this city.”
Alec writhed in pain as Mark stood over him and left. This was not the pain he felt when he hadn’t fed in a while, nor was it the pain he felt from Mark knocking him into the wall. No, this was omnipresent, coating every nerve of his body like it did when he was hungry, but ten times stronger. He cried out, bringing himself to his feet and stumbling out the door of the room. He had someone he needed to see.
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“Help,” Alec gulped, grabbing Helga’s wrist in the hallway of the New Coast Polynesia Resort. He was wearing gloves, of course; he couldn’t let anyone else know about his abilities. Nearly collapsing, Alec straightened himself using Helga’s body as a support.
“Alec,” Helga said, faking a smile. “You know, you are the last person I expected to see today. I have to say, I am very impressed with what you’ve managed to accomplish with your abilities. Seems like they’re treating you better than I had expected.” She paused for a second, looking around for bystanders. There were none. “Come into Room 104 with me, and we can talk. I don’t want to have to do to any others what I did to you.”
The two of them walked further down the hall, entering Helga’s personal lab as Helga closed the door behind him. It was just as pristine, Alec thought, as the one Helga had imprisoned him in, although it was considerably smaller. Alec had only seen the inside of this lab from the small glimpse he had gotten when he had asked Helga to help save the day. The worst mistake of his life, Alec thought. He cared about his father for one moment, wanted to help save his life, and it cost him gravely.
“I take it you have questions about your newfound powers?” Helga turned to the door and latched it shut. “Don’t worry; I’ve soundproofed the room much better since our last encounter. I could yell at the top of my lungs that you were Phosphorus, and Curtis in the next room wouldn’t do so much as to look up from his computer.”
Alec nodded. “You said that this power would kill me. Everything’s starting to hurt like a bitch; I fed on my way here and it didn’t help. I need answers.”
“Well,” Helga said, “I wish I could give you all the answers you need. Primer is a very imprecise science, and it reacts differently for every person that it works on. That being said, none of the powers triggered by your specific primer have killed anyone in less than 6 months. Trust me when I say I’ve done extensive research on this one.”
Alec winced. He imagined Helga Jace, the kind hearted TV personality dedicated to treating people with metahuman conditions, giving hundreds of people the same treatment he had. It made so little sense, but with what he had seen of Helga in the past few months, it still fit perfectly.
Helga continued as Alec sat himself down on a nearby hospital bed draped in thin paper. “That being said, any sort of pain you might experience is par for the course, and none of it is a sign of your impending death. Most of it will make you want to die, but you’ll be fine for several more months at least. Now, unfortunately, I still have work to do that my team can’t know about, so curing you would not benefit me. But so far, you’ve been exemplary in your discretion about these matters. Not to mention the immense distraction you’re providing for them; they barely have time to think about anything I’m doing.”
Alec nodded. He resisted attacking Helga outright, as he knew she was his only chance at salvation. That did not mean that he wasn’t ready to do so. Instead, he looked her in the eyes and weakly spoke. “Will this new pain go away?”
“Hard to tell. I could help run some tests, but as hard as it may seem to imagine, I don’t know everything about every power that comes my way. Most likely, though, there will be high points and low points, as there are with every disease. I can tell from your demeanor, for example, that you’re feeling significantly less pain than when you literally grabbed me, even if it doesn’t feel that way. By the way, don’t scare an old lady like that, especially with your specific ability.” Helga chuckled wildly. Alec felt sick to his stomach, even though these past few months had hardened him. This, he thought, was what true monsters looked like.
“Fine,” Alec said, standing up. “You know what? I don’t need any more help. I got money, I got power, I got ladies, and it’s all because of your experiment. When the power does start to kill me, I’ll be here. But until then, I’m not coming through this door again.”
Alec left Room 104 and began to leave the hotel. Helga was right; as he got up, the pain had begun to fade. After a few seconds, it had all but disappeared for the time being. He got to the lobby, where he immediately noticed a new complication. Josiah Power, his father, was standing over the desk, talking to the receptionist. Before he could turn the other way, he saw Alec standing there. He fell silent, his gaze softening.
“Alec,” he muttered, coming closer. “I thought… I thought you left the city.”
The rage that Alec felt that first night in the hotel began to bubble up again, but he kept it down. “Hey, Dad. Yeah, I was gone for a while, but I’m… I couldn’t leave.” He paused, considering his next words carefully. “I think I’m ready to talk to you again.”
“That’s fantastic,” Josiah smiled. “Take your time; you don’t owe me anything. But if you want, maybe we could get dinner sometime?”
Alec nodded. “I think I’d like that.” It was a lie, he told himself; he had to come up with something on the spot. But it worked in his favor; if he had a relationship with his father again, the betrayal would be much sweeter when he got to that point. He couldn’t wait to see Josiah’s face as he realized who he truly was. But that had to wait.
As he left the lobby, he smiled. The pain may come back, but those who deserved it would also feel his pain in due time.
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”Alright,” Curtis said through his microphone. ”We’ve spotted the Tattooed Man in Kim’s area. Anyone currently in the field, converge on 44th Street and H. We need to take him down sooner than later.”
“Got it,” Ray said, hovering high above Josiah’s central shopping district in New Coast before taking off due west. Below him, Thunder, Blue Devil and Commander Steel patrolled the streets; each of them began to make their way to the location in question through a series of Dan’s portals. As he arrived on location, Ray began to take in the sites around him.
The area of the city that one of Josiah’s associates, Terrence Kim, developed felt much more like a normal city than a theme park. That said, it still felt like a theme park, if only because of how sleek and untouched the buildings were. Towering white-and-blue skyscrapers surrounded the wide streets of this area, with tropical foliage in planter boxes along the sidewalks. Palm trees dotted the curbsides, which featured parking spaces where the cars would face the curb. What took Ray by surprise the most, however, was how empty this part was. Not all of Kim’s territory was available to the public yet; only the bare minimum was completed.
Ray landed on the street as Dan, Anissa and Marc portalled in behind him. Several blocks ahead of them, the Tattooed Man was smoking a cigar. He quickly noticed them and put it out before turning to them.
The Tattooed Man let out a hearty chuckle as he took a few steps forward. “Well, well, well. You finally found me. Hey Marc, how’s the missus doing? You know, I could tell that she was stalking me when I got out. I served my time, why do I need to get harassed for what I’ve already done?”
“Seems like it was well worth it,” Commander Steel said. “Considering where you ended up, Mark, you can’t take the high ground here..”
“This small talk was never my favorite part. Let’s get this over with.” Two violet wings of energy sprouted from the Tattooed Man’s back, allowing him to tower over the other heroes. Ray immediately met him in the sky. From a sword tattoo on his left arm, he summoned a blade of energy that he immediately gripped with both hands before charging at Ray.
Ray dodged the Tattooed Man’s first attack, responding with a barrage of light blasts. From the ground, Commander Steel fired his own bolts of energy from the wrist-cannons Helga had designed for him. The sword dissolved and was replaced by a shield that grew from a small tattoo on the back of the criminal’s left hand. For several seconds, the Tattooed Man sustained the heroes’ continuous fire, but it was interrupted when the Blue Devil portalled onto the shield and began punching at it over and over again. The Tattooed Man dissolved the shield and dived out of the way, flying higher to avoid further attacks. Ray chased after him and Dan portalled himself back onto the ground.
“Now this, this is fun,” the villain chuckled to himself. “Marc, why couldn’t you learn to fly, or build some glider or something? Sky battles are awesome!” The dragon on the top of the Tattooed Man’s head came loose, chasing after Ray. He fired out a concentrated beam of light while flying away, but the dragon kept going. Before he could stop it, the dragon screamed, letting loose a powerful high-pitched sound, and Ray fell to the floor.
The Tattooed Man landed on the ground, his wings dissolving as he stood over the fallen hero. “Now this will be a fun one to ink. I wonder, how should I remember you by? I’d do a lightbulb, but I don’t think you’re that bright to begin with.”
A bolt of energy from Marc’s cannon stopped the villain from finishing Ray off, hitting his right shoulder and making him turn to the other heroes. Thunder leapt up onto the side of a nearby high-rise, tackling the criminal from behind as he was distracted. She began to force a pair of handcuffs onto him, but the Tattooed Man quickly summoned his wings again, knocking Thunder down as he turned to the skies.
The lightning tattoo on the villain’s right arm began to let out a violet glow. From the skies, he fired powerful beams of lightning. The first hit Anissa, knocking her down; the second and third were fired at Commander Steel. A metal shield expanded from the hero’s own right arm, protecting him. As the Tattooed Man flew down, a portal from the Blue Devil intercepted him and brought him face-to-face with the two heroes left standing.
The Tattooed Man readied another bolt, knocking Dan clean out. “Now,” he chided, “it’s just the two of us. Like old times, isn’t it?” He resummoned the sword and began exchanging blows with the soldier. Commander Steel quickly discharged another energy blast, which knocked the Tattooed Man a few steps backwards as he began to charge up another lightning bolt.
He stopped. The skull tattoo on his shoulder began to sense another presence nearby.
From above, another hero flew down, clad in a pristine silver costume with glowing accents. In the center was the letter “T” in a circle, clearly the symbol of the hero Mister Terrific. He glided on what looked like two green glowing disks that appeared to be made of pure energy. He looked down at some sort of holographic console emanating from his wrist. The Tattooed Man quickly recognized that this must be the Blue Devil’s associate, the one who once worked for Mister Terrific. The villain was used to recognizing Commander Steel’s body language, even behind that mask of his, and he knew that his enemy was just as surprised as he was.
The new hero’s drones quickly surrounded the Tattooed Man, opening fire with green laser-blasts all around him. The Tattooed Man couldn’t take it, and quickly fell unconscious himself.
”Hey,” Curtis said as he flew down. ”I noticed you needed help.”
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“So, wait,” Ray began to say as the heroes converged in Room 103. Helga had just finished performing medical care on the three members of Coastguard who were knocked out during the battle, and they were now calling a meeting to discuss what had happened. “You’re--you’re a hero now? When?”
Curtis nodded. “Not always; I’ll be on comms for a lot of the time. But when you guys need it, Helga and I developed this suit. I’ll be calling myself the Technocrat.”
“Cool,” Ray said. He poked at the Technocrat suit, which was standing up in the corner of the room, connected to a charger.
“I’d have to disagree,” Anissa said. “Curtis, you’re incredibly important to us. We can’t risk something happening to you.”
Curtis nodded. “Well, unfortunately, it’s not really your choice. I’ll make extra sure to choose my battles; don’t worry. But it’s important to me that you are all safe. The Tattooed Man would’ve killed all of you if I hadn’t come out there. And with Courtney in Opal half the time and Cisco… you know… we need more hands on deck.”
“He would’ve killed you, too, if he had known you were coming,” Anissa remarked. “And now, everyone who comes to New Coast will know about you. Nothing’s changed; you just had the element of surprise this time.”
Dan, who was sitting in the corner, finally spoke up. “Look,” he said. “I get why you’re worried, Anissa, I really do. I’m worried, too; like, really terrified outta my mind that my friend’s gonna get hurt doing this. But if there’s someone who can pull off this stuff, it’s Curtis. I wouldn’t try and stop him, either; he’s a very stubborn man.”
“Alright,” Anissa huffed. “But I’m not gonna like it.”
“The only question,” Marc laughed, “is what flavor of ice cream he’s gonna be. I can’t think of any grey ice-creams.”
“That’s for Josiah to figure out,” Curtis smiled. “If I had to pick? Probably mint chocolate-chip. All of your weird fruit flavors are upsetting to the palate.”
Everyone laughed around them, except for Anissa. It still didn’t feel right for Curtis to be going out there, and she knew that feeling wouldn’t change. But they were right; she had to deal with it.
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Mark Richards woke up. His surroundings didn’t feel familiar, but they clearly weren’t any sort of prison. The building he found himself in was some sort of makeshift cabin made of wood. He was tied to a wooden chair on a grass floor. He looked at the ceiling; above him, the panels of wood were ornately painted in patterns of green and silver.
“Where am I?” he asked, dazed.
A man walked over to him in a red-and-brown robe. Draped over him was a green cape decorated with one glowing red gemstone on it. The first thing Mark noticed about his face was his two piercing green eyes, which seemed to see into his soul.
“Greetings, Mark,” the man said. “I know you have many questions, but trust me when I say I am not an enemy.”
Mark chuckled dryly. “When I’m tied to a chair like this, that’s usually hard to imagine.”
“We both know that those bindings would not hold you if you did not want them to,” the man said in a monotone voice. “We simply had to restrain you, as you tended to flail around when unconscious.” He walked over to Mark and untied the knots that kept him tied to the chair. “My name is Samuel, and we have the same goals: to destroy Coastguard and to rule New Coast City. I am gathering people close to the Coastguard, people with vendettas against their members. You fit these criteria easily; another one of these people has already been clamoring to meet you.”
A tall, thin man with pale skin and dark hair walked over to him. He wore a suit and tie that had clearly been hastily put on. Mark stood up and shook his hand.
“Hi,” he smiled, speaking in a nasal voice. “Michael Clarion, occultist extraordinaire. Pleased to meet you. I also just got out of prison. Now, I have a lot of questions about your tattoos. They are mystical in origin, correct? I’m very interested to discuss the finer points of this with you.”
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Here’s how to change yourself with consistent small habits with James Clear’s Atomic Habits

Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear
In Atomic Habits, Clear lists out the importance of habits, the fundamentals on how habits work, and how to set and stick to them. If you are at a low point in your life or want to know how to stick to your reading habit, this summary will have the answer. If you want to see a formatted pdf version of this post, I have it on my Google Drive:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZqnQHdite1vWENYaCcKL28MDvfIfRTWo/view?usp=sharing
Note: This summary is formatted with ADVICE followed by QUOTEs and FACTs. If you want a tl;dr of this summary, just skim through the ADVICEs and only read the quotes, facts, and examples if you're skeptical.
Contents of the summary:
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The Fundamentals

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Advice To make earth-shattering improvements, do not seek for massive changes, but change by just making small improvements on a daily basis
Quote “If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line.”
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Advice Be patient with your habits
Fact The effect of small habits are delayed. You don’t immediately see good results from good small habits, and neither bad results from small bad habits. But, overtime, they compound to something much larger.
Quote “Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. ”
Fact: Why people stop building positive habits: They see that they’re failing to make a tangible result and decide to quit.
Quote “It is not until months or years later that we realize the true value of the previous work we have done.”
Quote Small changes often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. You need to be patient.
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Advice Focus not only on making good habits, but also removing bad ones
Quote Habits are a double-edged sword. They can work for you or against you
Positive compounding

Negative compounding

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Advice Focus on systems rather than setting goals.
Fact Society worries about setting specific, actionable goals, but the real results lie when you focus on the system.
Quote “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
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How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

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Three layers of behaviour change:
Outcomes: Concerned with results (ex: publishing book, general goals)
Process: Concerned with changing your habits and systems (ex: new gym routine)
Identity: Changing your beliefs, worldview, self-image, and judgements.
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ADVICE Focus on who you wish to become rather than what you want to achieve
EXAMPLE Being offered a cigarette and saying “No thanks. I’m trying to quit” vs. “No thanks. I’m not a smoker.” Small difference but one is a goal and the other is a shift in identity.
QUOTE The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.
FACT Once your pride gets involved in your habit, you’ll fight hard to maintain them.
QUOTE “True behaviour change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.”
FACT The reason why your positive habits fail to stick is because they conflict with your current identity.
FACT Feedback loops: “Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.”
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ADVICE Know what result you want, work backward to find what type of person could get those results. Work to become that person by continuously accumulating small habits.
TWO STEP PROCESS TO CHANGING YOUR IDENTITY
  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
QUOTE The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
QUOTE “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
QUOTE The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
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The Science Of How Habits Work
QUOTE The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
  1. Cue: Triggers brain to initiate a behaviour
  2. Craving: Motivational force behind every habit. “Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state.”
  3. Response: The actual habit performed. If friction is low and the reward is great, the response will be carried out.
  4. Reward: End goal of every habit. “The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward.
FACT We chase rewards because they satisfy us and because they teach us that these actions are worth remembering in the future.
FACT “If a behaviour is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit.”
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THE FOUR LAWS OF BEHAVIOUR CHANGE
How to Create a Good Habit
How to Break a Bad Habit
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The 1st Law: Make it Obvious

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ADVICE Create a habits scorecard to observe what is going on
QUOTE This is one of the most surprising insights about our habits: you don’t need to be aware of the cue for a habit to begin. You can notice an opportunity and take action without dedicating conscious attention to it. This is what makes habits useful.
FACT Many of our habits are performed subconsciously
QUOTE Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing.
QUOTE The process of behaviour change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
HOW TO CREATE A HABITS SCORECARD
  1. List out all of your daily habits
  2. Looking at each habit, ask yourself if that habit is a good, bad, or neutral habit. Mark each habit on the list as such.
  3. If a habit is hard to determine with step 2, ask yourself: “Does this behaviour help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?”
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ADVICE Create an implementation intention: “I will BEHAVIOUR at TIME in LOCATION”
FACT The two most important cues that can trigger a habit are time and place.
QUOTE People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.
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ADVICE Use Habit Stacking to build new habits
QUOTE One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behaviour on top. This is called habit stacking.
QUOTE Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.
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ADVICE Create a habit using the habit stacking formula: “After CURRENT HABIT, I will NEW HABIT”

FACT Once you have a basic structure, you can begin creating longer stacks by chaining your small habits together using the Diderot Effect.
Case 1:
Case 2:
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ADVICE Create general habit stacks:
FACT “Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.”
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ADVICE Design your environment such that cues of preferred habits are obvious.
FACT “When the cues that spark a habit are subtle or hidden, they are easy to ignore.”
FACT “Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behaviour. The context becomes the cue.”
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ADVICE “Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking.”
FACT It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.
QUOTE Every habit should have a home.
QUOTE A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose is an environment where habits can easily form.
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ADVICE Cut bad habits off at the source by changing your environment or eliminating the cues.
QUOTE So, yes, perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.
FACT “A habit that has been encoded in the mind is ready to be used whenever the relevant situation arises.”
FACT People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.
FACT You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves of habit have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely—even if they go unused for quite a while.

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The 2nd Law: Make it Attractive

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ADVICE “If you want to increase the odds that a behaviour will occur, then you need to make it attractive.”
FACT “It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.”
QUOTE Whenever you predict that an opportunity will be rewarding, your levels of dopamine spike in anticipation. And whenever dopamine rises, so does your motivation to act.
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ADVICE Combine habit stacking + temptation bundling:
QUOTE Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
HOW
After CURRENT HABIT, I will HABIT I NEED.
After HABIT I NEED, I will HABIT I WANT.
Case 1: If you want to read the news, but you need to express more gratitude:

Case 2: If you want to watch sports, but you need to make sales calls:

Case 3: If you want to check Facebook, but you need to exercise more:

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ADVICE “Join a culture where (1) your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour and (2) you already have something in common with the group.”
FACT “Behaviours are attractive when they help us fit in.”
FACT “The culture we live in determines which behaviours are attractive to us.”
FACT “The normal behaviour of the tribe often overpowers the desired behaviour of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.”
FACT “We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).”
QUOTE One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour.
FACT People imitate the habits of the close, the many, and the powerful
FACT “Whenever we are unsure how to act, we look to the group to guide our behaviour.”
FACT We try to copy the behaviour of successful people because we desire success ourselves.
FACT “If a behaviour can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.”
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ADVICE Associate hard habits with positive experience
HOW: Reframe your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks
Case: Exercise
QUOTE Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit. FACT Every habit has a deeper underlying motive other than surface desires.
FACT Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient problems.
FACT “Your current habits are not necessarily the best way to solve the problems you face; they are just the methods you learned to use.”

QUOTE Once you associate a solution with the problem you need to solve, you keep coming back to it.
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The 3rd Law: Make it Easy

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ADVICE Focus on taking action rather than planning and strategizing.
QUOTE The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
QUOTE We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action.
FACT Planning, strategizing, and learning makes it feel like you’re making progress real when you’re not.
QUOTE You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.
QUOTE Habit formation is the process by which a behaviour becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.
QUOTE The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.
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ADVICE Make your habits convenient
HOW Increase the friction associated with bad behaviours and reduce the friction associated with good habits. When friction is high, habits are difficult, and vice versa.
QUOTE Human behaviour follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
FACT The less energy a habit requires, the more likely it is to occur
QUOTE Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
QUOTE Reduce the friction associated with good behaviours. When friction is low, habits are easy.
ADVICE Set up your environment so the next time you perform a good habit will be very easy and very hard to do a bad habit.
QUOTE Prime your environment to make future actions easier.
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ADVICE Use the two minutes rule
QUOTE The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
ADVICE Enforce the two minute rule if you believe you are tricking yourself. Force yourself to quit after exactly two minutes if you don’t feel like working on it.
QUOTE The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.
QUOTE Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.
QUOTE Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis.
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ADVICE Consider habituating an easier habit if it leads to working on a more difficult habit

QUOTE Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behaviour for minutes or hours afterward.
QUOTE Many habits occur at decisive moments—choices that are like a fork in the road—and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.
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ADVICE Make doing bad habits difficult by using a commitment device
QUOTE A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behaviour in the future.
QUOTE Onetime choices—like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan—are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time.
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ADVICE Find ways to automate your habits whenever possible
QUOTE Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behaviour.
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The 4th Law: Make it Satisfying

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ADVICE Add immediate pleasure to good habits and immediate pain to bad habits.
FACT “We are more likely to repeat a behaviour when the experience is satisfying.”
FACT ”The human brain evolved to prioritize immediate rewards over delayed rewards.”
FACT “The Cardinal Rule of Behaviour Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”
QUOTE To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.
QUOTE The first three laws of behaviour change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behaviour will be per formed this time. The fourth law of behaviour change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behaviour will be repeated next time.
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ADVICE When selecting rewards for habits, do not select rewards that run counter to what the habit is about.
QUOTE Incentives can start a habit. Identity sustains a habit.
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ADVICE Use immediate pleasure to start a habit, but slowly it would be unnecessary and habit will become self sustaining
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ADVICE Track your habits
QUOTE One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.
QUOTE A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit—like marking an X on a calendar.
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ADVICE Tracking habits should be as automated and simple as possible
FACT It is difficult to start a habit, it is even more difficult to start a habit and start a habit tracking habit at the same time.
ADVICE Only manually track your most important habits.
ADVICE Immediately measure and mark your habit after finishing a session.
QUOTE Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.
QUOTE Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
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ADVICE Get an accountability partner to make doing bad habits unsatisfying
FACT We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it has immediate painful consequences.
QUOTE In general, the more local, tangible, concrete, and immediate the consequence, the more likely it is to influence individual behaviour.
QUOTE An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.
QUOTE A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behaviour. It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful.
QUOTE Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.
Advanced Tactics: How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great
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ADVICE The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.
QUOTE The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
QUOTE As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored.
QUOTE Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
FACT Really successful people feel the same lack of motivation as everyone else, however, they still find a way to practice despite the boredom.
QUOTE Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.
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ADVICE To master a field, you need to layer improvements on top of one another.
QUOTE Right when things are starting to feel automatic and you are becoming comfortable—that you must avoid slipping into the trap of complacency.
ADVICE Engage in reflection and review to make sure you are still improving
Every summer:
QUOTE Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.
━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
ADVICE Keep your identity small
QUOTE The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.
QUOTE The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you.
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09-13 23:06 - 'Credit to u/victorvictor1 for this / Yup. Trump was over a billion in debt and the Russians [bailed him out]. / ► Trump was first compromised by the Russians in the 80s. In 1984, the Russian Mafia began to use Trump [real e...' by /u/urielteranas removed from /r/politics within 0-5min

'''
Credit to u/victorvictor1 for this
Yup. Trump was over a billion in debt and the Russians [bailed him out]1 .
► Trump was first compromised by the Russians in the 80s. In 1984, the Russian Mafia began to use Trump [real estate to launder money]2 . In 1987, the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, Yuri Dubinin, arranged for Trump and his then-wife, Ivana, to enjoy an all-expense-paid trip to Moscow to consider business prospects. Seven weeks after his trip, Trump ran full-page ads in the Boston Globe, the NYT and WaPO calling for the dismantling of the postwar Western foreign policy alliance. The whole Trump/Russian connection started out as laundering money for the Russian mob, then evolved into something far bigger.
► In 1984, David Bogatin — a convicted Russian mobster and close ally of Semion Mogilevich, a major Russian mob boss — met with Trump in Trump Tower right after it opened. Bogatin bought five condos from Trump at that meeting. Those condos were later seized by the government, which claimed they were used to launder money for the Russian mob. (NY Times, [Apr 30, 1992]3 )
► Felix Sater is a Russian-born former mobster, and former managing director of NY real estate conglomerate Bayrock Group LLC located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower. He is a convict who became a govt cooperator for the FBI and other agencies. He grew up with Michael Cohen--Trump's former "fixer" attorney. Cohen's family owned El Caribe, which was a mob hangout for the Russian Mafia in Brooklyn. Cohen had ties to Ukrainian oligarchs through his in-laws and his brother's in-laws. Felix Sater's father had ties to the Russian mob. This goes back more than 30 years.
► Trump was $4 billion in debt after his Atlantic City casinos went bankrupt. No U.S. bank would touch him. Then foreign money began flowing in through Bayrock (mentioned above). Bayrock was run by two investors: Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official who drew on bottomless sources of money from the former Soviet republic; and Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman who had pleaded guilty in the 1990s to a huge stock-fraud scheme involving the Russian mafia. Bayrock partnered with Trump in 2005 and poured money into the Trump organization under the legal guise of licensing his name and property management.
► In July 2008, the height of the housing bust, Trump sold a mansion in Palm Beach for $95 million to Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch. Trump had purchased it four years earlier for $41.35 million. The sale price was nearly $54 million more than Trump had paid for the property. Again, this was the height of the recession when all other property had plummeted in value.
► Semion Mogilevich was the brains behind the Russian Mafia. Mogilevich operatives have been using Trump real estate for decades to launder money. That means Russian Mafia operatives have been part of his fortune for years. Many of them owned condos in Trump Towers and other properties. They were running operations out of Trump's crown jewel.
► From Craig Unger's AMA: "Early on, a source told me that all this was tied to Semion Mogilevich, the powerful Russian mobster. I had never even heard of him, but I immediately went to a database that listed the owners of all properties in NY state and looked up all the Trump properties. Every time I found a Russian sounding name, I would Google, and add Mogilevich. When you do investigative reporting, you anticipate drilling a number of dry holes, but almost everyone I googled turned out to be a Russian mobster. Again and again. If you know New York you don't expect Trump Tower to be a high crime neighborhood, but there were far too many Russian mobsters in Trump properties for it to be a coincidence."
► So many Russians bought Trump apartments at his developments in Florida that the area became known as Little Moscow. The developers of two of his hotels were Russians with significant links to the Russian mob. The late leader of that mob in the United States, Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, was [living at Trump Tower]4 .
► According to a Bloomberg investigation (3/16/2017) into Trump World Tower, “a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states.”
► In 2013, Federal agents busted an “ultraexclusive, high-stakes, illegal poker ring” run by Russian gangsters out of Trump Tower. They operated card games, illegal gambling websites, and a global sports book and laundered more than $100 million. A condo directly below one owned by Trump reportedly served as HQ for a “sophisticated money-laundering scheme” connected to Semion Mogilevich.
► The Russia Mafia is part and parcel of Russian intelligence. Russia is a mafia state. that is not a metaphor. Putin is head of the Mafia. So the fact that they have been operating out of the home of the president of the United States is deeply disturbing.
► Rudy Giuliani famously prosecuted the Italian mob while he was a federal prosecutor, yet the Russian mob was allowed to thrive. Now he's deeply entwined in the business of Trump and Russian oligarchs. Giuiani appointed Semyon Kislin to the NYC Economic Development Council in 1990, and the FBI described Kislin as having ties tot he Russian mob. Of course, it made good political sense for Giuliani to get headlines for smashing the Italian mob.
► A lot of Republicans in Washington are implicated. Boatloads of Russian money went to the GOP--often in legal ways. The NRA got as much as $70M from Russia, then funneled it to the GOP. The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee lead by McConnell got millions from Leonard Blavatnik. In the 90s, the Russians began sending money to top GOP leaders, like Speaker of the House Tom Delay. Unger's book alleges that most of the GOP leadership has been compromised by RU money.
► At the Cityscape USA’s Bridging US and the Emerging Real Estate Markets Conference held in Manhattan, on September 9, 10, and 11, 2008, Trump Jr. was frank about the tide of Russian money supporting the family business, saying "...And in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets."
► Eric Trump told golf reporter James Dodson in 2014 that the Trump Organization was able to expand during the financial crisis because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
► Russian oligarchs [co-signed]5 Trump's Deutsche Bank loans
Trump now gleefully takes cues from Putin:
► At the end of 2018, Putin and his allies made a strong push for a resolution that would justify their country’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and reverse an 1989 vote backed by Mikhail Gorbachev that condemned it. There is no one on this side of the Atlantic who thinks the USSR was justified in invading Afghanistan. Out of nowhere, on January 2nd, Trump came out strongly supporting Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.
► Trump went against American intelligence on North Korean missiles. He told the FBI he didn't believe their intelligence because Putin told him otherwise. "I don't care, I believe Putin"
► Trump met in secret with Putin the G20 summit in November 2018, without note takers. 19 days later, he announced a withdrawal from Syria. Trump conducted FIVE completely private meetings and conferences with Putin, and has gone to great lengths to prevent literally anyone, even people in his administration, from learning what was discussed.
► Withdrew troops from Syria on Putin's birthday, and [gave the US military base to the Russians]6
► Refused to enforce sanctions legally codified into law - and in some cases reversed standing sanctions on Russian companies.
► He has denounced his own intelligence agencies in a press conference with Putin on election meddling - and publicly endorsed Putin's version of events.
► Trump pulled out of the INF treaty with no explanation, which allows Putin to create long-range hypersonic missiles that threaten Europe with impunity. The US already has all the weaponry that the INF would ban the development of, so this offers us literally nothing, while allowing Russia to develop powerful new weapons to challenge our allies.
► Demanded Russia get invited back into G7
► Pushed the CIA to [give American intelligence to the Kremlin]7
► Withdrew from the Open Skies treaty
► Received intelligence in 2019 that Russia was paying bounties for dead American soldiers and hasn't done anything about it by the time of this writing.
► Announced troop withdrawal from Germany (America's missile defense from Russia and forward operating base against Russian aggression)
► Trump continues to threaten to pull out of NATO, a move so catastrophically stupid, so inconceivably cosmically myopic, I truly can't express the profundity of the idiocy. Pulling out of NATO would be like the only guy in a prison yard with a shotgun just throwing it over the fence for absolutely no reason, giving the people with crude homemade shivs complete power.
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Author: urielteranas
1: *oreignp*l***.co*/2018/12/2*/how-r*s*ian-mo*ey-help*d*s*ve**r*m*s-bus*n*ss/ 2: www.washi**tonpost**om/outloo*/is-t**re-*-case-fo***rum*-putin*co**a*ora*i*n*y**r*-*efor*-the*campaign/2*18/08/1*/*0578*1e-9*40-11*8-8**1-***80*1fdf4*_stor*.h*ml 3: w**.nytime*.**m/***2*0*/30/*yr*gi*n/entrep*eneu*-wh**left-us-*s*back-awaiting-sentenc*.*t** 4: n*wrep**li*.**m*art*cle/*4358*/trum*s-rus*ian-l*undromat-tru*p****er-l**u*y-hig*-*i**s-dirty-m*ney-in*ern**io*al-crime-sy*dic*te 5: www.washi**t**ex*miner*com*news/lawrence*od*nn**l*s*urce*says-russ*an****garchs-co-*ign*d-t*um*s-*euts*he-b*nk-*oa** 6: w**.reu*e*s.*om/a*ti*le/u*-*yria*security**ussia/russia-lands-forces**t-*ormer*u**-a*r*b*s***n-nor*h*rn-*yria*idUSK*N1*P*XN 7: www.ju*tse*u*it*.*rg*71279**rum*-push*d-c*a-to-give-intel**g*n**-*o-*remlin-while-takin*-******ion-a*ain*t-*ussi*-arming*ta*iba*/
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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 13 Glitch Vs Laverne

The results are in for Match 11. The winner is…
The Graveyard Shift, with a score of 70 to Underground Exodus’s 64!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity The Graveyard Shift 18-12
Quality The Graveyard Shift 22-20 Reasoning
JoJolity Underground Exodus 20-22 Reasoning
Conduct TEAM 10-10
As things settled, it was hard to tell if it was a fight that had occurred or purposeful demolition. In the middle of it all, sitting atop of one of the only remaining operational washers near the back, Byte had helped himself to a bag of SunChips from the destroyed snack machine as he waited for the load of linens to finish it’s final spin. Thanks to a last-second LOAD, he looked just about no worse for wear, standing out like a sore thumb amongst the carnage. He took the few minutes of relative silence to reflect, his gaze passing over his unconscious opponent laying face-down on the damp floor.
“Boy, that escalated quickly.” His token stream-of-consciousness mumbling coming through even with a mouth full of chips, “I guess it really does kill some people to be patient. I wonder how much it’ll be to fix this place? Fira better be damn happy for all this, maybe I should ask for a raise. Are there any sodas layin’ around-”
Just as the Mandible hopped down to his feet to look for a beverage, the front door of the laundromat swung open, causing Byte to duck down out of reaction. He was expecting company, but had hoped to be long gone before they showed. An amazingly tall suit-vested man stands in the door frame with a look of shock and wonder on his face, tattoos of ‘shading’ adorning his shaved head to make it seem oddly angular. He lets out a long whistle as he strolls in, surveying the damage. “Sweet mother of FUCK, what happened in here?!” Byte knew how bad this all looked, knowing he’d need some kind of cover if he had hopes of fooling the Syndicate capo, so without hesitation deftly smashes his own hand with his hammer. The pain was tremendous, but he manages to keep the screams internal as he bolts up from his spot.
“Kilroy! Thank god you’re here!” Byte lied, holding his now broken hand weakly as he puts on an air of hopeless panic. “You shoulda seen this lady! She was flying all over the place, smashing into walls like some kinda monster! Completely tore up the place!”
Kilroy hurried his pace at the sign of a survivor, moving to get in close. “...you’re from that restaurant, right? The one that stiffed the elders? The hell are you doing here?” The tall man nearly trips on the unconscious body of Marlin, only further adding to his confusion.
“Our machine is shot at the restaurant, I came here to clean some stuff.” Byte motions to the active machine with his broken hand, inciting a wince that he exaggerates for effect. “Then that... Monster came in and just started destroying the place! I dunno how she was putting these holes in the walls, it was insane!”
Kilroy stooped over the chain-bound woman’s unconscious form, nudging her head lightly with a finger before shaking his head. He crouches down for a closer look, mumbling under his breath, “Wonder what these chains do…”
Byte’s eyes shoot wide, managing to keep his thoughts internal for a change. When Kilroy dropped into Elephant Bones the other week, he made no hint toward being a stand user himself, even saying that the Syndicate is actively hunting them down. Byte had even successfully SAVEd a copy of the capo to see what he had on him; did he deliberately let Byte do so? Just what the hell is the Syndicate about?
“So you took her down by yourself?” The question snapped Byte out of the parade of questions in his head, meeting Kilroys glance with his own. Suddenly Byte had a very strong feeling that he shouldn’t stick around any longer, and moved to go retrieve his wash which had thankfully just ended.
“Uhh, yeah! I got lucky with a swing of the hammer, caught her as she was spinning around…” Byte’s mind raced for an exit as he pulled the damp linens free, every minute he hung around here was endangering everyone back at the base. ”Listen, did you need me for anything, or can I head back? Fira needs these ASAP and I’m already running behind, she can be a real nightmare when she’s pissed.”
Kilroy laughed, his disposition seeming oddly bright. “I know exactly what you mean, I kinda wanna clear out before the boss gets here myself.” Byte gulped. “Shouldn’t you at least dry those things? Maybe get that hand looked at?”
They both glanced over at the destroyed rows of dryers, to Byte’s relief, not a single one seemed to be in working order. “Nah, we got first aid back at the gym. And I think our dryer still works.” Bundling up the linens back into their garbage bag, Byte heads for the door. “Good luck with all this, and uhh, hope we can see you back at-”
“One more question, if you don’t mind.” Byte froze as he reached the door at Kilroy’s suddenly raised voice, the guy was pretty unstable when he paid them a visit, too. “Did you happen to see the Archbishop during the fight? Big guy in blue robes, probably handing out change.”
Oh god, a witness. Byte shook his head. “He left before she came in. Went that way.” He pointed down the street, still inching out of the building. Kilroy seemed relieved, waving at the Mandible as he returned to surveying the scene.
Byte immediately broke into a speed-walk, heading down the street and away from danger, cursing his luck at rock paper scissors the entire way.
People continue to fight for petty reasons, in this match and the recently-concluded one, but when this goes up, there is still yet a day yet to vote in a match of performers and their supporters spreading a message of love.
Scenario:
Outside The Devil Blue, Waterfront District, 11:46 AM
The past few weeks had been odd for the staff over at the Elephant Bones and Duke’s Gym. Ever since Shelldrake’s encounter against that ice-flinging man over at the Los Fortuna Airport, they’d found themselves in more and more conflicts against other stand users, and had heard about many more taking place in various parts of the city.
The knowledge of these encounters, and the realization that the rest of the staff could very well end up in more of these very soon made a certain sense of unease hang over the restaurant. The utter chaos that surrounded it every day didn’t change, but it peered through in those rare moments of quiet, as much as some of them liked to ignore and forget it.
It was for that reason that Tiger “Glitch” Ricky made her way over to The Devil Blue, despite the high end resort’s “vibes” being as far away from the Elephant Bones’ as possible. The moment London overheard something about a supposed underground doctor working from the confines of the resort and notified the rest of the team, Glitch bolted outside the restaurant and made her way over to it as quickly as possible. As entertaining as it was, the whole “taking Shelldrake to the vet to heal his broken wing” debacle made the team realize the necessity of alternative treatments for stand related injuries.
Glitch knew that the treatment would likely be incredibly expensive and far out of her or her teammates’ paychecks, but keeping it in mind for any emergencies could certainly help in the future, right? And worst case scenario, if she found nothing, at least she’d be able to help herself to some delicious grub!
Then again, she had no idea where to find this supposed clinic.
Glitch leaned down on her cane, summoning Vida Loca and looking at the area around her. She was in the middle of a large plaza, The Devil Blue’s entrance in front of her. Behind her was the ferry station which she’d just arrived from, and to her sides were many stores and restaurants selling a variety of goods. Glitch kept these spots in mind for the near future, thinking about the delicious food they contained and making sure to figure out how to get her hands on some of it.
Truthfully, Glitch didn’t have much of an idea of what the hell she was planning on doing, but that didn’t matter, because she never did. She hopped around the plaza and the surrounding alleyways, keeping an ear out for the rustling of food packages amidst the sea of noises while exploring them, “helping herself to” (stealing) a few packets of chips for herself along the way. After enough skittering around, she made her way through an alleyway, Vida Loca alongside her, the gargantuan cat squeezing tight to fit, and blocking the path through. They were near an odd building - though it was an “information center” for the nearby nature reserves in the archipelago, it seemed unreasonably large to be solely for such a thing.
“Umm… Excuse me, miss!” An upbeat man’s voice could be heard coming from in front of Vida Loca, the stand separating between him and Glitch. “I’m trying to pass here, and your stand is in the way! It’s important, you know - I’ve gotta meet with Hull! Oh, wait, you probably don’t know who he is, right? He’s… uh... The own- wait no, I should stop before I accidentally reveal something too confidential, haha-” Before the man could finish his rambling, Glitch started climbing onto Vida Loca’s back, peering at the man from above.
From what she could make out, the man was blond and of average height. Vida Loca’s face, meanwhile, was squeezed into the nearby wall and facing the direction opposite him, so tapping into its senses wasn’t much of an option. “Hmmmmrgh...” Glitch let out an odd noise, legs wiggling and moving about as she climbed up more and more, until she found herself sitting on the stand. She then tried to climb on top of it in an attempt at looming over the man, before nearly slipping off, frantically struggling before using some vibrations to stop her in place and sitting down. She looked over at the man’s blurred face, making out a wide grin, which she responded to in kind. “Hehe,” maybe this man had information that would be useful for her.
“See, I’m looking for an underground clinic for stand users or something like that. Should be around here, but I can’t find it! I’ve been looking for so long that I managed to snatch three packets of crisps already!” as if to accentuate the number, she put her arm forwards and raised three fingers “And crisps are great! But I want to find this clinic as well!” Glitch raised her arms into the air in exasperation. “Now, if you tell me where the clinic is, or help me find it in some other way, I’ll get Vida Loca to let you pass! Does that sound good?”
There was a slight pause as the man tilted his head, before breaking out into laughter. “Hahaha! Wow, that’s one hell of a deal! About the clinic, I’m afraid to say that you’re gonna have to wait a bit more! See, it’s actually right here,” he says, pointing at a nearby, unassuming door “and I help run it, but we’re closed for the next hour! Me and Peres have some work to do and meetings to attend, so you’ve gotta wait! Don’t worry though, I’ll make it up to you - I’ll let your crisp stealing slide for now, haha!” Another fit of laughter.
Glitch’s expression shifted into a pout. So she was stuck here for another hour? Bleh! Seeing her expression, the man chuckled again “What’s the problem? I’m sure you’ll find something fun to do here for an hour, you know. Well, it probably won’t all be very legal, and the guards here might try to kick you out, but that’s not something I gotta deal with so I don’t really care, haha!” With that final sentence, the man crouched forwards and deftly ducked under Vida Loca’s body and between its tall legs, passing through.
“See ya!” Turning around, he waved to Glitch with a smile and walked back into the crowds of the plaza. “Plrrrgh…..” Glitch grumbled to herself, thinking about what she could do for the hour. She did overhear some of the resortgoers over in the plaza talking about going to the pool, so that could be fun. Sure, she was almost 100% sure that she wasn’t allowed in there, but what was the harm in sneaking in, eh?
She hopped off of Vida Loca, and with a pep in her step, began making her way over to one of the resort’s pools.
The ferry to the Devil Blue, Waterfront District, roughly 11:30 AM.
Laverne Cassiel wasn’t one to show it well, but they were definitely feeling slightly on edge here, and internally, criticising such an attitude. You can’t be on edge when you’re going to a luxury resort… You’re supposed to be at your best of moods when you go to do something nice, something extravagant… People will know that something is off, something is the matter.
Though troubled, it was not on their face nearly as much as they’d thought, however; it wasn’t so much that people were avoiding them based on a bad mood, so much as one did not talk to strangers on a ferry so much as they spoke to strangers on a bus, but also multiplying that by the disconnect of opulence towards those ‘not worth’ associating with.
“You hear about the prices on Niters? I’ve been absolutely dying to give these a try, demand is higher than ever, and the supply just… Tanks? What’s with that?” A random guy, hipster-looking, foodie, maybe, was complaining to a similarly bougie-looking friend, shaking his head.
The other man nodded, groaning. “I hear you, I hear you so hard… I wasn’t going to eat the stuff, seafood is against my diet, but I was going to prepare such wonderful pictures of a Niter Blowfish Tartare for my food blog… I’d already put down my deposit, contacted a local photographer and everything! I’ll have to get into their kitchens and find some, no matter the price, or my clout is ruined.”
Laverne had seen pictures of the stuff, and frankly, that guy was a moron if he thought it possible to make those things even remotely photogenic, even if he was probably making the right call not wanting to put it in his mouth; if Laverne ever had the opportunity, they would sure as hell wait for the other guy to take a bite. Had they heard it right, though? They were harder to find now or something?
Of course it made sense for the Devil Blue to get them in lighter capacity, if anyone in the area was, but what could be causing the shortage, so soon after they seemed to be becoming more common than ever? There was apparently an incident of sorts here not a few days ago, though people were keeping shush on just what the hell was going on because of that.
Honestly, Laverne didn’t actually care all that much. Their assessment was that it related to whatever in the area would sometimes cause people to ‘disappear’, and whatever that was was probably injured or forced to retreat now (not dead… If it was dead, the supply would stop entirely, which was not the case) and ODIN was trying to keep the news quiet. Least the news made it a lot more comfortable for them to travel by ferry for what they really cared about that day: this Devil Blue resort apparently had a clinic which serviced the Stand-using underground. Doubtless, in times of growing strife like these, a place like that would be an informational hotbed, tactically vital to get in good with.
Though even the decision to investigate that today had been an improvised one, determined on the spot to be a sound tactical decision for one tipping point of a reason: they were being followed, and needed to get the hell away from that.
Roughly an hour ago - Sound’s Garden, near Heartache Casino
For the past several days, the members of Red Carpet Renaissance had all a strange feeling about them. While always it seemed there were eyes upon them in Los Fortuna, for some reason, it had been different in recent days. There was a particular sense to everyone that there was someone, specifically following them, and nobody knew who it could be, or why.
Laverne, though they had yet to report this, had a feeling about where it came from, correlating when it started: it began the day after Kimijo Kaneko went to investigate that damn baseball game. Sure, some people on that chat program were doing their moral grandstanding about what happened there, pretending they’re better than that, that her opponent being a good man makes any of what she did different from every damn fight every damn day in this city, but all of them, it seemed, were at least for the moment wise enough not to put their money where their mouth is and actually follow up on it, and if they had, they’d probably be in some nightmare backroom right now.
This feeling, it was different, as if someone had started to take the entire team more seriously… Which, itself, meant a lot to unpack.
They had actually been trying to follow a sheepish event manager’s association with the owner of the casino that day, see if they couldn’t find something worth blackmailing him over and making him feel ‘indebted’ to them, but that case hadn’t been going smoothly as it could, and as they combed over the area, that is when they saw ‘them.’
A thin figure clad head-to-toe in black, jacket zipped up with a fuzzy-looking trim, biker gear, with orange underneath, and a distinct-looking helmet that looked like something out of a science-fiction film, mouthpiece something like a helmet of armor, visor black, lines and circles along the surface. The morning light reflected off of the visor hard enough to make Laverne squint. This person sat upon a sleek-looking sports bike, revving it at them.
When Laverne looked their way, the figure seemed to drive away, but kept showing up throughout the area, and more and more, Laverne got the distinct feeling this person was exactly the bad news they were waiting for…
They had to lose them.
So naturally, Laverne did just that, utilizing their Stand in a diversionary effort that seemed to successfully draw the figure away, and figuring that an offshore hotel was just the place to lose a biker for a little while. Besides that, within a few minutes of their reflection, the ferry wasn’t a minute away from reaching port at the Devil Blue. They could focus on this now, and not that bastard.
“H-hey, check this out! Someone’s driving on the water!”
The hipsters were speaking to one another, one handing the other a set of binoculars to look out on the waters due North of them, towards the mainland. The other, then, remarked in alarm. “Oh, my god! Is that the Black Angel, here? Oh, ooh, what a sight, what a sight!!”
“It definitely is, look at that!”
“Lemme see,” Laverne said, speaking up now before going ahead and seizing, with little resistance, the binoculars still around the first guy’s neck, going wide-eyed at what appeared on the other end.
The damn motorcycle was uneasily yet consistently making its way along the water, tires spinning as it raced forward against the momentum of the waves. The rider was the same, and what Laverne had read as a trim of fuzz around the upper torso of their jacket, now, flying just behind them as they advanced like a pair of short wings.
Shit, seriously?
Fucking hell, of course it’s a Stand or a Stand User or something.
Would Laverne have to fight on the way to this place..?
Wait, no, never mind. As they looked around, they saw the ferryman overhear just that, muttering into a radio too far, too quietly, to hear them, but close enough to see that the words ‘angel’ were being mouthed on their lips.
Ah, the island was close at hand, certainly closer to arrive at than this ‘Black Angel’ was fast, and some strong-looking people were coalescing around the ferry docks.
Keeping it cool, as the boat found its way to a stop, Laverne walked away, the sounds in the fading distance of a woman saying, “did you forget already? You’re not welcome on this island. Set so much as a wheel on the pavement before this resort you approach, and you know what comes next.”
Though the future was uncertain on whether or not they would cross paths again, for the rest of their time on the island, that was the last Laverne Cassiel saw of the Black Angel. Preliminary research made security seem lax here (they don’t deal with VALKYRIE at all, which is… Rare, for a high-profile private business like this), but it seemed they were just holding out for the important things… They couldn’t help but crack a private grin at how this poor bastard had followed them all this way, only to get turned away near instantly. Haha! Victory: Laverne. Serves you right for wasting my morning! Now, onto making use of this new place..!
They soon, like Glitch, learned that this ‘Peres’ was out, that they couldn’t get into the clinic without either breaking and entering (not that they were morally above it, but it wasn’t necessary) or waiting for that point…
Well, they’d come to a resort island, and knew for the time being that they were completely safe, so why not try to live a little to kill time?
A pool within The Devil Blue, Waterfront district 12:02 PM
Upon sneaking her way over a fence and into the resort’s pool, Glitch found herself with a severe case of choice paralysis. She stood out like a sore thumb, sprawled out on a lounger, ear perched out, picking up on and discerning between the wide variety of going-ons at the pool with a mischievous grin on her face the whole time. She could start off by taking a plunge, or perhaps use Vida Loca to get someone else to take one, or maybe go on a trip to the bar for a snack, or do one of the million other ideas that popped into her head!
“Heheh- oh!” before she could get too comfortable, she heard something very interesting - the sound of someone jumping over the fence, just like she had previously done. “Hmmm….” summoning Vida Loca for a better look, she saw Laverne, catching the investigator right in the middle of a decidedly illegal act. Not that Glitch cared, or even knew much about this odd person, but her interest had certainly been piqued.
Just as Glitch had taken notice of Laverne, so did they take notice of her, or more precisely, of Vida Loca’s massive form, staring right at them. With a quick shuffle they attempted to get out of the stand’s sight, preferring to avoid any unnecessary encounters with other stand users in what was supposed to be their way of killing time. However, Glitch wasn’t going to let them get away, and Laverne quickly found her right on their trail, wanting something to do with them. Instead of running away and possibly drawing more attention to themselves, Laverne opted to wait for Glitch to arrive.
And arrive she did, hopping towards Laverne and stopping in front of them, leaning in to get a close look at them and letting out an curious “Hmmrgh...” , which Laverne responded to by leaning back and putting a distance between them and this nuisance. “Do you want something, miss...?” they asked, faking confusion. With any luck, this person will leave them alone and they’ll be able to go on with their day.
“Glitch! I couldn’t help but overhear you jumping over the fence to get in, so I decided to go over and greet you! I did the same thing, you see, hehe...” She said, giggling to herself. Laverne looked back at them, a straight face hiding their annoyance at Glitch’s harassment.
“And I’m Laverne. I do believe that it’s best to keep a low profile in these situations, so it’s best for us to stay away from each other. If we make a scene and are caught, we’ll be kicked out of here, and I’m sure you’d rather-” “Boooooooooooooring!” Glitch interrupted Laverne with a loud shout, attracting the attention of some of the resortgoers, who’d begun murmuring between themselves. Laverne knew they needed to get away from this person if they wanted to stay in the resort.
“Hmm. Feel free to do whatever you want, Glitch, but I’m just here to relax, so I’ll be keeping a low profile. Here, take this and go find something fun to do.” Laverne said, taking a ten dollar bill out of their wallet and tossing it in the air, leaving Glitch to chase after it while they slunk away.
Glitch, on her end, was quite pleased by the bribe, and immediately found herself spending it all on snacks which she quickly gobbled up. With the bribe money and snacks gone, she once again found herself thinking of what to do, keeping an ear out for interesting occurrences. A little boy slipping into the pool, an arguing couple, Laverne talking with a staff member about something…
She decided to focus on the latter, and managed to pick up on their conversation. Laverne was mentioning some sort of nuisance that had snuck into the pool, a short woman who was currently in the- wait. They were talking about HER, weren’t they?! They were trying to get her kicked out!
Gasping out loud at the sheer audacity, Glitch was utterly shocked! This person, whom she had seen as a kind benefactor who had given her spending money, a comrade who had snuck into the resort just like she had, was trying to get her kicked out! “Hrrrggh…” She growled in annoyance. Laverne had just made this personal! They were trying to get her kicked out? Nonsense! She’d get them kicked out instead!
Laverne, meanwhile, hadn’t been successful in getting the staff to escort Glitch out of the premises. Something about them not having “sufficient evidence”, apparently. They turned over to look at her, only to realize that she had caught onto their attempts, as evidenced by her angry expression and the fact that her stand was out, staring at them as well. She pointed over to Laverne menacingly, her body language practically screaming ‘I’ll get you kicked out instead, just you wait!’.
“Tch,” This wasn’t perfect, but no matter. Laverne looked around the pool area, taking everything in. The positions of the employees, the items in the area, and the resortgoers… All predictable. The one anomaly was her, Glitch. She seemed so odd, with her utterly simple desires and her desire to one-up them. Laverne was an expert of deduction, but their expertise was completely unnecessary when it came to trying to tell what this woman was thinking.
She wanted to challenge Laverne? So be it. They were sure they weren’t going to lose.
OPEN THE GAME! (credit to magistelles for the image!)
Location: A fenced-off area with two pools, one regular (20x48) pool and one diving pool (20x20, very deep), one of many such areas within The Devil Blue. The whole area is 80 meters long and 44 meters wide, each tile being 4x4 meters. The light grey areas on the map are the walkways, and the light green ones are grassy areas on the side of the pool. The dark grey paths going over the pool are bridges, tall enough that they can be passed under. The purple rectangles indicate the positions of the diving boards, one being 1 meter tall, one being 5 meters tall, the final being 10 meters tall. The brown tiles represent the bar area.
All across the pool’s perimeter on the walkways, there are many lounging chairs for relaxation and umbrellas for shade, with resortgoers occupying many of them. A few are situated on the grass as well. Some of the resortgoers have left their bags on the loungers, containing a variety of different items that one might take to the pool, alongside cash and their room keycards. There’s also the bar area, serving basic food and drinks to whomever may need it, provided they have the cash for it.
Goal: Get the employees in The Devil Blue to kick your opponent out! If you act overly suspicious, the resort employees will ask you for your room keycard and attempt to investigate you.
While the employees won’t bother you unless you bother them first, they’ve got a few rules they expect you to keep:
  • You must have a keycard to be within the pool
  • Don’t bother or attack the other resortgoers and ruin their stay
  • Don’t carry any dangerous objects within the pool area
  • Don’t destroy any resort property
If the employees spot you breaking any of the rules, or are given evidence of you doing so, they will begin questioning you and ask for your room keycard. If one is shown to them, they will let you off with a warning, and if one isn’t, they will kick you out. After you’re let off with a warning, you will be kicked out if you’re reported and approached an additional time.
Additional Information: Resortgoers can be found all around the area, with 222 physicals and a 3 in “dear god just let me calm down in peace”. Unless you’re really annoying them, they’ll try to ignore you and go on with their lives, and if you do annoy them enough, they’ll complain about you to the employees.
The employees are situated mostly around the bar area and around the gates, but are also dotted around the perimeter of the pool, overlooking the goings-on of it, though they’re situated sparsely enough that there’s substantial “deadzones” that their sight doesn’t ordinarily cover. They have 222 stats, and a 4 in collective memory - they communicate with each other efficiently, remember your faces and which keycard you supposedly have, and will call you out if they spot you breaking any of the rules multiple times.
Any stand users that are currently within the area, if there even are any, don’t seem to really care about you letting your stands out and won’t pay it any mind. However, if any resortgoer is injured in a severe capacity due to your stands for a reason that can’t be explained away as anything else, the pool will be closed and you will lose the match.
Team Combatant JoJolity
Graveyard Shift Tiger “Glitch” Ricky “My tail is second only to my face! I want to rub it on my teeth and then lick it back all pretty!” Though Laverne has interrupted your plans somewhat, the reason you came to the pool in the first place was to have fun, and you’re not gonna let that change! Make sure to have as much fun as possible while trying to get Laverne kicked out!
Red Carpet Rennaisance Laverne Cassiel “Look! My right hand! It turned back into wood again! It’s not gonna turn back into a hand anymore! This is bad, Toshizaku!” As opposed to Glitch, you’re not the type to be so blatant about your actions and attempts at kicking Glitch out. Remain subtle throughout your strategy, make sure that your clay statues aren’t exposed for what they truly are in front of the bystanders!
Link to the Official Player Spreadsheet
Link to Match Schedule
As always, if you would like to interact with the tournament community and be among the first to get updates for the tournament, please feel free to PM a member of our Judge staff for an invite to our Official Discord Server!
submitted by Dungeon_Dice to StardustCrusaders [link] [comments]

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