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Greed is Subtle
The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Space-time rippled as the Horns of Glory snapped into real space. The normally smooth transition from FTL subspace travel back to the laws of relativity was instead dangerously jarring, as the inertial dampeners struggled to hold the innards of the massive warship in their proper places. After straining mightily for the briefest of moments, they failed, throwing Admiral Halon Va and the rest of his bridge crew violently into their restraining harnesses. The ship shuddered under the immense stress, then settled, drifting silently through space on minimal power. “Tactical, get me a status report for the fleet on screen now. I want updates the instant ships jump in.” The Admiral’s voice was still firm and authoritative; it was taking every last shred of resolve he had to keep it that way. “Lieutenant Roshin, put a detail together and work with medical. I’m sure that re-entry caused more than a few extra injuries. Get as many of the crew patched up and ready for emergency action as fast as you can. I want a full casualty report as soon as possible. And if you find Science Officer Lentith and he’s still alive, send him to the bridge immediately.” Admiral Va settled back into his command chair, drawing creaking sounds from the over-stressed frame as it absorbed the weight of his massive form. The bridge was completely silent now, the command crew entirely focused on the tasks at hand. Or they were too afraid to say anything; Va couldn’t be sure. He was thankful for their silence, though. He didn’t have any answers for them about his failure. Keying in a few commands on the command panel at his station, the damage report for his ship popped up, the bridge lights flickering from the extra power draw. The Horns of Glory floated before him in hologram form. Long and slender, the ship was over two kilometers from bow to stern. At least, it had been a few hours ago. The forward 20 percent of the holographic ship was flashing red, indicating heavy damage. This was inaccurate, however, as the forward 20 percent of the ship simply wasn’t there anymore. The graceful lines and carefully crafted angles of the ship's armor were an unrecognizable slagged mess, and deep gouges had been cut into the inner decks all over the ship. Whole sections were missing amidships, two of the main reactors were offline, all the primary weapon batteries had been completely destroyed, and most of the critical systems were barely functioning. It was a miracle that she had survived the jump. That morning, Horns of Glory had been the greatest feat of Arien’Ra engineering, and it was now a barely functioning hulk. And it had all happened under my command, thought Va. He had no time to wallow in his failures, however, as at that moment tactical finally reconnected to the fleet command systems. The hologram of Horns of Glory quickly scaled down, appearing as a small, flashing, red point of light floating in loose formation with several other points of light. Most of them were flashing red as well. A constant stream of data and various reports scrolled down the right side of the hologram, listing in no uncertain terms the doom that Va had subjected his command to. If Va had thought that the bridge was quiet before, it was nothing compared to the complete stillness that now settled over them. No one so much as moved a muscle, as they all sat in stunned silence, reading the reports. Occasionally, the hologram would flash, and a new point of light would join the formation, adding more data to the pile spelling out their damnation. After 30 ticks, new points of light had stopped appearing. Admiral Halon Va had lost over 60 percent of his fleet, and not a single other dreadnaught had survived the slaughter. His defeat was total, and the Federation navy was crippled. Science Officer Beredarin Lentith had been the first member of his family not to enroll in command school in eight generations. They had been some of the finest members of the fleet the Vorqual race had ever contributed to the Federation. His brothers and sisters had all enrolled, which meant that as far as he was concerned, his family had more than fulfilled their duty to the Federation. Military life wasn’t for him, anyway; he wanted to explore. The Federation had been around for over 3000 years, and there were still vast swathes of the galaxy that they knew nothing about. They were still encountering new species every few hundred or so years, and there was nothing he wouldn’t give to find the next one. That had been the dream that directed him away from the military and into academia. The odds of actually finding a new race were so small, though. There were still at least 200,000,000 unexplored systems in the galaxy. There just wasn’t time to visit them all... He snapped out of his reverie as he stepped over the body, or rather, what was left of the body, of a Zelnassi marine. Most of it was just a green stain on the corridor wall at this point, though there had been enough of the chitinous armored torso to partially obstruct his path. The young lieutenant quickly continued on towards the bridge. If he was being honest with himself, becoming an expert on the area of unexplored space directly between the Federation and it’s largest military rival wasn’t the smartest of ideas. Between his family reputation and his unique knowledge base, he was just asking to get pressed into service. Which was exactly what had happened immediately upon the recent outbreak of hostilities. And now here he was stepping over corpses, marveling at the fact that he had somehow survived this long. He still couldn’t believe the insanity of the Dominion forces. Boarding an enemy ship MID-COMBAT. It was like something out of a youngling’s tale from before space travel. It was pure madness, but there were the bodies to prove that it had happened. He gingerly stepped around the remains of yet another Zelnassi. The signs of battle continued all the way to the bridge, where he found security forces still holding quickly fortified positions around the bridge entrance. There were more Zelnassi bodies at their feet. Berendarin shuddered. He had been closer to death than he thought. He quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He could only imagine why he was needed on the bridge so urgently. The door slid open, and Lentith walked into a completely silent room. Admiral Va was slouched at his command station, his enormous arm propped up on the chair arm and supporting his massive, horned head. Lentith didn’t even know that Arien’Ra COULD slouch. Nevermind that the fastidious Admiral could or would ever do such a thing. Maybe things were somehow worse than he thought. No one seemed to notice him enter, so he announced himself to the Admiral. Though he didn’t shout, his voice echoed in the deathly silent room, startling most of the bridge command. Two of the other Vorqual officers swore, and the tiny Jezren manning the com station let out a high pitched sound somewhere between a squeak and chirp. Berendarin would have found it quite funny if the situation wasn’t so dire. Admiral Va immediately snapped back to being the hulk of muscle and horn that imposed his will on a room just by being in it. His booming voice only added to his authority. “Science Officer Lentith. I’m glad to see you’re still alive. Are you seriously injured?” Berendarin had almost forgotten that he had walked the entire way to the bridge holding a bandage to his head just above his left eye. The drop out of subspace hadn’t been kind to him. He pulled the bandage away, revealing a dark orange stain on the bandage and a crack in the bone plate above his eye. “I’m fine, sir, just one of the outer plates, and the bleeding has already stopped.” “Good. Commander Vortith is currently overseeing the emergency repairs. Take his seat. You are going to help me find a way back home.” “Sir? I’m sorry I don’t understand. Why don’t we just go back the way we came?” “That’s not possible. Most of our supply ships and tenders were destroyed when that third wave of Dominion ships hit our flank. Almost all of our pre-prepared fuel reserves are gone. On top of that, some of our ships are so damaged that they don’t have another long jump in them. And if we run into any enemy ships, the whole rest of the fleet is done for. We barely qualify as a fighting force in the state we’re in.” “Is it really that bad?” “It’s worse, but we don’t have time to get into the details. You’re the expert on this section of the galaxy. I need you to find the fleet a hiding hole. Somewhere away from the known jump routes through the Spur. Any system where we can use the few miners we have left to scavenge up some fuel, and get some critical repairs done while we’re at it. And from there either wait for reinforcements or get ourselves patched up enough to limp home. Wherever it is, it needs to be close. I’m not leaving any ships behind because they can’t make the jump.” “Oh. Just that?” The lieutenant knew that Arien’Ra were strict herbivores, but with the look that the Admiral shot him, he couldn’t help but think about the fact that his head would easily fit into that giant, molar filled mouth. “And away from any known pirate hideaways. Like I said, our fleet can’t take any more fighting. And find it quickly. It won’t be long before the Dominion fleet locates us.” “I. Uh. Sure. I’ll see what I can find.” Berendarin shrank into the commander’s chair next to the enormous Arien’Ra, desperately wishing he had been more professional. If he had acted like a proper soldier, it might soften the blow of telling the Admiral that what he wanted was next to impossible. If he had a few weeks, he might be able to find something. So much of the Spur was still un-surveyed. The odds of there being anything useful to the Admiral in the databases was absurdly low, and there was even less of a chance he’d be able to find it in time for the information to matter. He began pouring through his notes anyway. It was better than waiting around to die, which, if the situation was as dire as the Admiral made it sound, was the only other option. He spent the next hour lost in his notes, finding nothing, while the bridge crew went about piecing the ship and the fleet back together. The young scientist had all but given up on the Admiral’s impossible request when a raucous cheer went up from everyone on the command deck. “Sir,” The coms officer called out, “The Consul’s Pride just dropped out of subspace and is hailing us, sir. The main communication screen lit up, and Berendarin Lentith looked to see the face of his oldest sister on screen, strapped into the captain’s chair of her dreadnaught. He let out a sigh of relief; Baraquen was his favorite sibling. Her uniform was drenched in a deep orange blood stain at the shoulder, and she was covered in what looked like flecks of green gore from a Xelnassi. The artificial gravity was clearly malfunctioning, as the captain’s restraining harness was the only thing keeping her from floating around her bridge. But the bone plates of her jaw were turned as always into her calm, self assured smile “My apologies for the delay in joining you, Admiral Va. We had some… guests shut down our drive mid jump. We had to deal with them before we rejoined the fleet. I assume there is a plan to get us back to federation space?” “It’s good to see you in one piece, Captain Lentith,” the Admiral responded. He was barely able to keep the relief from his voice. “And there is indeed a plan.” Berendarin returned to his research as the two ranking officers in the fleet went over the details of their current predicament. He was glad his sister had survived, and not just because they were close. It would have been a terrible blow to the whole family to have lost not only their future matriarch, but the ship she commanded as well. A member of his family had been commanding that dreadnaught uninterrupted for the last 5 generations. Military service had never appealed to Berendarin, but his family history was certainly still important. And then the solution to the current problem hit him like a driver round. He let out a gasp and tore into his notes with a fervor. Both Admiral Va and his sister’s projection turned to look at him, but he didn’t notice. After a few seconds of curious silence from the rest of the onlookers, Berendarin practically jumped out of his seat. “Admiral, I think I’ve got something that will work.” The young Lieutenant punched a few commands into his datapad, and a set of stellar coordinates popped up on the navigation terminal. “It’s a main sequence star, about 500 light years from us, fairly close to the edge of the Spur. It’s not anywhere near any established jump routes. The Consul’s Pride made me think of it.” He nodded towards his sister’s face on the ship's screen. “Our great, great grandsire took the Consul’s Pride through the system on her shakedown run a little over 300 cycles ago. Chased a band of Qorthi slavers out of the system. The outer four planets are all gas giants. If we can’t find Helium 3 there, I don’t know where else we should look.” On screen, Captain Lentith looked impressed, but Admiral Va clearly didn’t seem too sure. “We’re supposed to be going away from Dominion forces, not into them. What were the Qorthi doing there?” “There are also four rocky inner worlds in the system, Sir, according to reports from the encounter. Apparently, the third planet is a Class 7 Deathworld, and the Qorthi were running some experiments on the primitive lifeforms there. They were caught completely by surprise by the Consul’s Pride, and it was the first time that she fired her weapons in anger. I can’t find any reports of Dominion ships in that section of the Spur since.” There was a long pause before Va responded. “Good work, Lieutenant. I knew my trust in you wasn’t misplaced.” Admiral Va replied, before turning to the rest of the bridge and booming “Coms! Tactical! Get those coordinates to every ship in the fleet. I want every ship we have left formed up and ready to jump as soon as possible. Any captain who feels that his drives can’t make the jump is to focus all repair efforts on getting their drives functioning immediately. I will transfer repair crews from less damaged ships to more damaged ships if that means we jump even a tick earlier. Get to it everyone. I’m not losing any more of my fleet today.” The four revolution long jump to Science Officer Lentith’s newfound sanctuary had done wonders for Halon Va’s mental state. The initial shock of his fleet's terrible defeat had worn off, and he had been able to focus on what came next. Repair crews were able to stabilize most of his ship's core systems, and he was no longer worried about the life support systems cutting out and killing the rest of his crew. There had also been time for him to visit with the wounded. To thank them for their sacrifices. He had expected it to be an act of contrition, maybe even a chance to start begging for forgiveness. But there had been no anger in his crew, and no blame hung on his horns. Most had just been relieved that he had survived, and had expressed as much. He would be forever grateful to them for that. Most importantly, the four revolutions in hyperspace had given the admiral time to really think about what had gone wrong in the nebula. He had barely rested in the preceding four revolutions, spending every scrap of spare time in his office, pouring over records from the battle. That’s where he found himself now, tucked behind his massive ceramic and titanium alloy desk of Tellarim design. It had been custom made for him upon his promotion to this command, a gift from the high admirals and the council. It was the only luxury that Va allowed in his office. The rest of Va’s space he kept strictly utilitarian. There were no trophies adorning his walls, as was customary for other members of his species. The plain bulkheads of his office were instead lined entirely with screens, and each of them were now filled with footage and reports from the battle, running on loop. Va soaked it all in. The more he watched, the more a singular conclusion crystallized in his mind. He had done everything right; he was sure of that now. 1000 years of doctrine and theory for fighting the Dominion had gone into his preparation for that battle, and he had followed it to the letter. And he had been winning. Then that attack on his flank by the Zelnassi had blown all of that out of the airlock. Something significant had changed in the way the Dominion fought... Commander Vortith’s voice rang out over the com system. ”Admiral Va, we’ll be transitioning back to real space in moments.” “Thank you. I’ll be there shortly. And get Science Officer Lentith to the bridge. I want him nearby just in case. He’s the only one who has any idea of where we are.” The Admiral pulled himself from his desk. He would have to leave the rest of his analysis for later. There was just enough time for him to reach the bridge and settle into his command chair before the Horns of Glory snapped back to real space. This time, the inertial dampeners held. “Tactical, status report.” “All ships accounted for, Admiral. Though the Consul’s Pride, several cruisers, and three of our escorts are all reporting massive failures in their Drive Cores. They won’t be jumping anywhere anytime soon.” “Wonderful.” Va wasn’t sure if he meant that sarcastically or not. “Get scans up and running and deploy the pickets that aren’t crippled in a standard scouting formation. How close are we to the nearest gas giant?” “We’re approximately half a light tick from the system’s innermost gas giant, sir.” “Excellent. Deploy the rest of the fleet. Put us in a high orbit around the planet in a defensive formation, and get our miners working immediately. Once our orbit is stable, I want every hand, paw and hoof in the fleet working on repairs.” “Yes sir.” Admiral Va settled into his command chair for a long shift. It would be a drawn out, boring process to refuel the ships. With his fleet limping along, and only two functioning miners, it would take far longer than it should. After all the chaos of the last few revolutions, boring would be a welcome change of pace. Va started to relax, sinking into his chair’s acceleration padding. His fleet and his crews were finally safe. The first priority would be to get one of the subspace beacons repaired and to get word back to the Federation that the fleet still existed. And hopefully call for aid. He was sure to be stripped of his rank as soon as contact was made, but hopefully he would avoid a Tribunal. That was an unpleasant prospect… “Sir, we have unidentified ship signatures appearing from around the planet we’re approaching.” Va had never heard panic in the voice of his young sensors officer before, but it was certainly there now. Va understood the sentiment, though. He found it difficult to keep the panic from his own voice as he started issuing orders “Bring the fleet up to combat status immediately. How many ships are there?” “I’m showing 35 individual signatures. All approaching us at combat speed and still accelerating. At current speeds, they will intercept us in just over 30 ticks, sir.” “I want details as soon as you have them, Lieutenant. Size, make, estimated firepower. Who they are. And keep scanning the system. Find out where they came from.” The panic had partially subsided for Va. 35 unknowns was not too terrible a threat. He still had almost 240 warships under his command. Still, if there was a way to avoid combat, he had to try. His fleet couldn’t suffer any more losses. “Coms, any attempt by these unknown ships to contact us?” “I”m not sure, sir,” the diminutive Jezren at the coms replied. “There’s nothing on standard communications channels. The ships are transmitting something, but I can’t figure out what it is.” “Admiral,” the Lieutenant at the sensors station called out. “I think I might have an idea of where these ships came from. Preliminary scans show there is extensive urbanization on the third and fourth planets, as well as what appear to be habitation sized artificial satellites around the second and sixth planets. One of the moons of the gas giant we’re approaching shows signs of habitation as well. All of them are emitting significant signal pollution. This system clearly already belongs to someone, and they’re broadcasting everywhere.” Halon Va, High Admiral of the Combined Federation Fleets, turned, slowly and with as much composure as he could muster, to face the young science officer seated to his left. Berendarin sat, mouth agape, staring transfixed at the sensor readouts in front of him. Va had never seen a Vorqual more confused in his life. “I want answers, Officer Lentith.” “I… I don’t.. This doesn’t make any sense,” the young science officer stammered. “There shouldn’t be anything here.” “Admiral,” The comms officer cut in, “The signal that we’re picking up from the unknown ships is definitely some kind of communication. I managed to put together audio from it.” “Play it,” commanded Va. A series of short, guttural, and completely unintelligible sounds came over the speakers in reply. There was a short pause before the sounds repeated themselves again. “Coms, what was that?” “No idea, sir, but it’s being transmitted on loop. If it is intended as a communication, our translators have no idea what to do with it.” “Admiral.” The voice came from Va’s left, and was barely audible. Va turned yet again to look at the young science officer. His gaze was locked on the tactical readout, and there something in his eyes that Va couldn’t recognize. A mixture of pure terror and something else. Was it wonder? The young Vorqual’s voice was still barely above a whisper when he continued to address the admiral: “I think we should run the transmission through First Contact Protocols.” Captain Benjamin Alvarez-León slammed against his restraining harness as the USCS Aurora started it’s decel burn. He had pushed the engines on the outdated cruiser to their limits, and the ship groaned in protest as it started counteracting his rather zealous acceleration orders. He hoped that his mad scramble with his small squadron of outdated ships had been an overreaction. The alternative was something he’d rather not think about. All Ben had was the reserves; the rest of the fleet was on maneuvers at Sirius. The Admiralty had wanted to test the new, fully modernized fleet’s maneuvering abilities in the gravwell of a binary system. And, in their infinite wisdom, they decided they needed ALL of the new fleet assets, leaving nothing in Sol except for the handful of cruisers and escorts that couldn’t match the capabilities of the modern ships. A handful of cruisers and escorts that were now hurtling towards more than 200 unknown contacts. It was the unknown part of all of this that was unnerving Ben. There were no familiar energy signatures. No familiar scan data. No IFF. No signals coming off the contacts of any kind for that matter. Two of the contacts were too big to even be ships. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were moving towards Jupiter in formation, Ben wouldn’t even think they WERE ships. “So what do you think, Alexi?” Ben asked, turning towards his second in command. “You and the rest of the bridge crew are always making inane bets. Have you whipped up an over-under for what we’re throwing ourselves at yet?” “Haven’t had time,” came the quick reply from Ben’s right. The short, stocky man from Vladivostok was missing his trademark joviality. “Though, my money is on them being Ithacan, sir.” Ben bristled at Alexi calling him sir. They’d been friends for twenty years, damnit, and had been practically joined at the hip since going through the Academy together. Outranking him still felt a little off. Now was hardly the time to worry about formalities, though. “What makes you think they're from Ithaca?” “It’s the only thing that makes sense. The locals have been getting increasingly radical, and Ithaca is the only sector where reports of piracy have been increasing.” “Yeah, I could see a rebellion coming from Ithaca,” Ben added slowly, turning over that scenario in his head. “But there’s no way they could swing something of this magnitude. There aren’t even any shipyards in the sector. And even if there were, there’s no way they could keep the construction of over two hundred ships a secret.” Alexi could only offer him a shrug in response. It was at that moment that the coms station informed him there was a transmission incoming from the unidentified ships. Ben instructed the ensign to play it, and the bridge was suddenly filled with a stream of grotesque bleating noises and strange grunts, with the occasional recognizable syllable interspersed throughout the transmission. Ben thought he picked out ‘dentify’ from the mess, but he wasn’t sure. There was a long moment of silence on the bridge. “What the hell was that?” When no one had any answers for him, Ben tapped his command console and recorded a new message to broadcast. “This is Captain Alvarez of the USCS Aurora. Unidentified ships, please clarify. Your transmission is badly garbled. We did not receive your identification. You are still trespassing in Commonwealth space and are on an unauthorized course towards Jupiter. Begin decelerating immediately and re-identify yourselves.” He wouldn’t admit it to the crew, but Ben was profoundly unsettled. Something was deeply, deeply wrong about this whole situation. Not only was he vastly outnumbered by these things, but they were unwilling to communicate properly. He was almost believing this whole thing was some kind of bizarre prank. “How much longer before we can get a decent visual on these things? “Any moment now, sir.” A new transmission arrived just then, and Ben had it played back immediately. This time, instead of almost bovine bleats and grunts, the sounds coming over the speakers were mostly intelligible. Or, they would have been, if any of the syllables were in the right order. It was almost like a toddler was rattling off all of his new favorite sounds, spitting them out in a random order and not knowing how they went together. There were still a few heavy grunts sprinkled in, just for good measure. Before Ben could process this new joke of a transmission, the contacts finally started slowing. In a matter of moments, the strange wall of contacts was hanging lazily in Jupiter’s orbit, barely moving fast enough to keep their orbit from decaying. They were still in perfect formation. “Huh. Well, I guess that’s something.” With nothing to do but sit back and wait as his ship closed the distance, Ben tried to relax and began running over all of the possibilities in his mind of what the new contacts could be. He came up with nothing. Well, nothing feasible, anyway. He took a series of long, calming breaths, trying to clear his mind and focus. This was no time for his imagination to be running wild. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that logic was failing him. Something was off. Something… “Captain, bringing visual of the unknown contacts up on screen now.” Ben actually felt his jaw drop. Every contact on his display was clearly a ship. Most were long and spindly, wrapped in layers of some kind of highly reflective armor; a fleet of crystalline arrows hanging in the darkness. The two largest contacts, which Ben had just moments ago thought were too big to be ships, were large enough on the screen for him to clearly see details. In addition to their immense size and strange armor, both ships were dotted with what were clearly weapons platforms, though what kind, Ben couldn’t tell. Noticeably, almost all of the ships on his screen were heavily damaged. Chunks were missing from some ships, and most had deep lines gouged into their hulls. Any form of decorative paint or markings had been burned away. Something had put these ships through absolute hell. But still, the damage could not take away entirely from the elegance of the ship’s designs. They were graceful and sleek, completely different from anything Ben had ever seen before. It was all so different. So strange. So very, very… Alien. Despite every effort he had made to avoid the word, it finally forced itself to form inside Ben’s mind, and forced him to acknowledge the reality that legitimate, extra-Solar life was hanging in the darkness in front of him. It forced him to acknowledge the screams he had been suppressing in the back of his mind. The screams of his imagination crying out in glorious triumph over reality. And with those screams came a deluge of accompanying thoughts and emotions. He was a child again, staring up at the stars above Armstrong and wondering what else, and who else, was out there. He was a teen again, signing his name to the Academy enrollment paperwork, determined to get out there between the stars and see the galaxy himself. He was a young officer again, screaming and pleading with the Admiralty to at least consider a modern First Contact scenario. He was sitting in his command chair now, hurtling towards honest-to-god aliens, all of his dreams made manifest in an instant. He was overwhelmed. He was terrified. And he had never imagined that he could feel such elation. It was the young warrant officer at the coms that snapped Ben out of his reverie. “Sir, the contacts are hailing us on all standard channels, requesting a video feed.” She sounded very, very nervous. Ben immediately stood up, straightening his uniform as best he could. “If they’re anything less than genocidal monsters, I’m going to offer them aid and repairs. As long as they’re peaceful, there’s no reason not to extend them the full hospitality of humanity.” “Ben,” Alexi asked, clearly choosing his words carefully, “Are you sure that’s the… Wisest course of action? How will the Admiralty respond to Goddamned alien ships docking at Hephaestus?” “Alexi, in the 250 years the Commonwealth has existed, the First Contact protocols haven’t been updated since the charter was signed. No one has cared. This has been nothing but a fantasy for most people. I am NOT letting this opportunity get away. Every child that has ever looked up at the stars and wondered finally got an answer, and I will not waste this moment. We’re making friends, the Admiralty and the government be damned.” “You do realize you’re potentially deciding the fate of our entire species on a whim, right?” “Is there someone else you’d prefer to have making this call?” Alexi, apparently deciding that there was not, stood up and straightened his uniform, standing next to his friend as he ordered the connection of the video feed. The channel connected, and the human bridge crew found themselves looking at the bridge of a ship crewed by not one, but three alien races. The largest alien in the center of the screen opened its mouth to speak. This time, instead of bleats and grunts, a choppy, mechanical voice that didn’t sync up to the alien at all proclaimed from the bridge speakers in broken, stuttering English: “I. Am Admiral. Halon. Va. Of the Federation of. Sentient Races. Greetings and. Welcome. To the. Galaxy.” Ben couldn’t suppress his smile. “On behalf of the United Solar Commonwealth, and all of Humanity, greetings, and welcome to Sol. Your ships look like they’ve had a bad time on your way here. If there’s any way we could aid with your repairs, we’d be happy to help.” Slave 782 slammed his right appendage onto the control console hard enough to rupture his outer membrane and smear ichor over the panel. It had been four days since the battle in the nebula, and with the latest round of reports, he finally had to admit that the rest of the Federation fleet had escaped him. It was a minor frustration, all things considered, but the escape prevented this from being a total victory. Still, he had proven his worth to his owners in this battle, and his experiments with the Zelnassi had paid dividends beyond his wildest imagination. He had earned a command today, and with every success in that command, his ability to bargain for his people's freedom only increased. For what he would be asking, it might take the total defeat of the Federation to earn that kind of leverage. Also frustrating, but not a task that he couldn’t handle. It would be a long war, he was sure, but like his owners, he was patient. He would earn his freedom, even if it meant reducing the entire Federation to glass. Author Wiki Series Wiki NEXT
Bug Fables is Paper Mario TTYD but a little better AND a little worse - and that's high praise!
Lil intro: So Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an indie game, put together by Panamanian dev duo Moonsprout Games, to follow the legacy of the original two Paper Mario games. Now as someone who would name Paper Mario 2 in my top 5 games since it came out in 2004, I'm happy to report Bug Fables is an excellent successor to that legacy and the few negative comparisons that can be made seem to me to be the result of the difference in scale of available resources between Nintendo and Moonsprout. The prologue and first chapter introduce the explorers league and the three main characters who enlist together to further their own goals, which are given time to gestate while the world and characters are established. The player characters, a standard trio of an honour-bound knight, a feisty rogue, and a dry humoured, aloof mage, are tasked with adventuring across the lands of Bugaria to collect MacGuffins by the Ant Queen's royal blade Maki. This typical plotline is interrupted and diverted in interesting ways, and the trio of different attitudes keep the dialogue fresh. It's especially nice to see the trio's dynamic shifting as they grow closer. All this to say the writing is about on par with Paper Mario 2, what it lacks in (comparative!) charm it makes up with in coherence. The better: There's a lot in this game that could be pulled pretty directly from its inspirations, but in many cases those ideas have been reinterpreted to suit Bug Fable's setting, characters, and unique aspects. This starts with the three main characters allowing a good amount of customization via levelups and badges, which in turn allows for a large variety of strategies to be employed in combat. This is improved by Bug Fables excellent badge selection; very few (often expensive) badges only add power and most badges include trade-offs or otherwise incentivize normally unusual strategies. This deeply strengthens the customization by eliminating the obvious choices for all situations that the Paper Mario games had. Another large improvement was the use of the trio with the Tattle function, allowing every NPC, enemy, and room to be an opportunity for optional characterization between the teammates. Comparatively, in the Paper Mario games this characterization was limited to Goombario and Goombella, with cutscenes being the only chance other partners could be characters at all - often interchangeably. Often in Bug Fables I would extend a boss fight just so I could hear each of the trio's reaction to the enemy. Beyond that, many features just seem so much more streamlined than in the Paper Marios: the transit systems fit better into the world and were available sooner though money-gated early on to preserve difficulty, the game economy was balanced to allow for resource scarcity or exploitation without either being tedious as well as having purchases worth saving up for, and a lot of freedom in where and how to travel is given remarkably early on which allows for certain items or badges to be rushed. Best of all, a lot of the lore, world building, and characterization is optional, allowing for uninterested players, replayers, or speedrunners to bypass many walls of text. So many features like these struck me as something a dev would include in a post-release patch, and they make the game much smoother to play. Lastly, the biggest improvement for me was the difficulty: after the first battle a zero cost Hard Mode badge becomes an option, which keeps the battles threatening til lategame. This is such an important improvement as it turns the early game into a resource balancing act, which encourages thoughtful battling, using the cooking system, and creating badge builds. Unlike in Paper Mario, items are relevant all game long with the best items being simple, if expensive, cooked items that won't win fights on their own. Also, superblocking reduces damage by 1 more than blocking, removing the binary "all or nothing" aspect of superguarding. The only times combat felt unfair was when one enemy had an unpreventable, single target status effect which twice caused me to lose by unluckily targeting my buffed bug, and another when a rapid shot status ailment attack one-shot my tank after a marathon of battling. Additional difficulty options are also available, tho I haven't play around with them yet. The worse: The "in the field" controls are somewhat finicky, especially when the camera angle in large or curved rooms adjusts as you move. Additionally, most field skills are usable 360 degrees around the leading character, as opposed to Mario skills which usually are restricted to Mario's direct left or right. This can lead to some spatial confusion, as positioning 2D character models to use 2D animations in a 3D environment can be frustrating - dodging enemy shots while trying to engage in combat comes to mind. This is also true of several platforming puzzles; solving the puzzle was frequently much easier than executing the solution. While this was barely an issue that took longer than a minute, I could see how it could be frustrating, especially without certain badges. I also felt that a lot of the decorations in areas could have questionable physics models. Poking around behind foreground or midground items could feel awkward, as their meshes sometimes didn't feel like what the graphics reflected - especially when the item was large enough for the backside of the object to have to be assumed. Lastly, some of the side content felt unfleshed-out: interesting characters used for a single fetch quest or function, cool side areas with a single purpose, or just unused potential like a sea with two islands. Add to this that the enemy variety was good for the story (exactly one instance of palate swaps, and one area of mostly reused enemies) but lacking for side areas, and my biggest problem with the game is there isn't slightly more of it. Also: The music is consistently great, with very few songs not memorably contributing to an area/event's mood. Midway thru the game, the battle music changes to reflect the upped stakes and that's just great. Snakemouth Den and several boss tracks being standouts for me. Conclusion: With Bug Fables being an indie dev game as well as a first release its possible the 1.1 patch and/or DLC could change some of the rougher parts, but even besides this it is a solidly great game within the genre. With a bit of sequel baiting sprinkled into the endgame, I'm very impressed by Moonsprout and I may actually change my Sticker Star created rule to never, ever preorder once Bug Fables 2 is announced. If the improvement between this game and its sequel is as big as between the Paper Marios, it could easily be my favourite game of all time.
At the end of the Second World War, Europe realized that their hold on their colonial holdings was slipping fast. Most of them began to draw up plans to gradually grant independence. The people within these countries however had different priorities. They saw their chance to break from the colonial masters and took it. In 1950, only Egypt, Liberia, Ethiopia, and South Africa could be considered independent, by 1965 the vast majority of nations were on their own. Some flourished, some languished, but almost all improved with their newfound freedom. At this time, the world was locked in a struggle between Western Democracy and Communist Dictatorship. With little warning, a new theater opened in the Cold War. Africans were given the decision of who to side with. As an enemy of their former masters, the Soviet Union made a natural ally, and Socialism's anti-imperial (theoretic) stance appealed to people in post imperial regions of the world. Since independence, seventeen African nations have had a government which self-identified as socialist, six of those as Marxist-Leninist. Like Africa itself, socialist movements in the continent were varied and diverse. Ranging from self described socialist Nelson Mandella becoming celebrated world wide for his devotion to peace and equality to Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose violence and economic mismanagement killed thousands. The purpose of this post is to describe the ideological origins and tenets of African socialism, with a look at what makes it distinct from mainstream Communist movements. On this map red shows those states which identified as Marxist, yellow shows those which identified as with a variety of other forms of socialism, and green shows those which more closely fall under the Arab Socialist movement and will not be discussed here.
Broadly speaking, African Socialism drew inspiration from two main sources, the traditional body of socialist literature and that of the Pan-African movement. Socialism Both the ideological tenets of socialism and the practical concerns socialist nations played a role in African nations adopting socialism. Most of the nations of Africa were in a struggle for freedom from capitalist European countries and found a natural ally in the Soviet Union. Following WWII, it was in many ways a binary choice to side with the US or USSR. Those who led rebellions or coups against US backed leaders had few options other than the USSR. Political concerns aside, there were many reasons why socialism was ideologically attractive to educated Africans. Socialism is at its base revolutionary. "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite!” With even a cursory glance at Marx, it doesn't take much imagination to see why people oppressed for decades would turn to him. The anti-Imperial rhetoric of socialism (regardless of the actual aggression of the USSR and PRC) was another motivating factor. In this case, I point to Vladimir Lenin's Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this work, Lenin points towards imperialism as a symptom of the capitalist system. However, one of the reasons this work remained applicable after the collapse of most overseas empires is due to his characterization of imperialism. One example he gives in the book speaks of US domination of the Argentine beef industry. According to Lenin, though the US never carved out a concession area or installed a governor general, they used economic power to dominate the industry and exert control over the country. This characterization rang true for many people who looked at the efforts taken by former colonial powers looking to retain their economic stakes in their old colonies. One of the problems socialists face in implementing their policy is that Orthodox Marxism is heavily based on the conditions of 19th century Western Europe, and when applied outside of those conditions, thinkers need to reconcile the inconsistencies with the conditions on the ground. While we will look at how various African leaders adapted the ideology, one sub-ideology which played a major role in African Socialism was Maoism. Orthodox Marxism focuses heavily on a revolution based around industrial workers. Early 20th century China, much like post-colonial Africa had little in the way of industry. Mao re conceptualized the idea of the proletariat to include peasant farmers and made the revolution as agrarian as it was industrial. For example, the first president of Socialist Madagascar released an ideology book heavily inspired by Mao's Red Book. China also served as an alternative source of support in the event of a conflict with Russia; Somalia received aid from the PRC when they were at war with Soviet aligned Ethiopia. Pan- African Movement The Pan-African movement did not solely influence the African Socialist movement. In fact, almost all post-colonial governments took inspiration from many of the tenets of movement. Nor were all the central figures socialists, indeed Emperor Halie Salassi of Ethiopia was about as far from socialist as could be. However there was a degree of mutual influence in a number of places. The start of it can be traced to Jamaican thinker Marcus Garvey. The Pan-African colors and the icon of the Black Star both came from him. Kwame Nkrumah mentioned him directly as an influence. This remained on the nationalist and pan-nationalist side of African socialism. This and racial empowerment remained a constant theme in African socialism, with many African thinkers rejecting class reductionism. African's tended to be acutely aware of the role of race in world politics and used it in conjunction with class and capitalist interest to explain the world. Another major thinker was American W. E. B. du Bois. One of the founding members of the NAACP and author of one of the first sociological works about African Americans, Du Bois is one of the most important figures of the American Civil Rights Movement. Du Bois was in reality a Social Democrat, who often saw world communist governments as a means to an end for black people. In Socialism and the American Negro, he referred to the New Deal as a America's foray into Socialism. Though a stalwart supporter of democracy he visited Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin personally. He was a strong opponent of colonization and spoke to young leaders in the 1945 Pan-African congress. There he met future President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. He would become a mentor to Nkrumah and move to Accra in his final days.
Many of the most interesting and successful movements in Africa were non-Marxist-Leninist. They took local beliefs and attitudes and molded socialism to fit them. These were incredibly diverse, ranging from forms of social democracy to far more authoritarian structures. The leaders ranged from educated elites to guerrilla leaders. The first socialist governments sprang up at independence and continued through the Cold War. These are some of the more notable ones. Consciencism Few other thinkers have had near the lasting influence on African politics and philosophy as Kwame Nkrumah. Born to a poor family in the British Gold Coast, Nkrumah was sent to school by his family where he excelled. Interested in Politics and Philosophy, he saved money to pay to visit the United States. He worked menial jobs to put himself through school at Lincoln University and University of Pennsylvania. In the US he became close to expat and American leftists as well as enjoying African American culture. After graduating he went to the London School of Economics. This is where he began political organizing. He returned to the Gold Coast where he founded the Convention People's Party. When the British began increasing local rule, his party swept. When the British did not meet the demands of the Ghanian people, he became a champion of the people with his down to earth nature and organization of general strikes. When Ghana was given full independence, he was the overwhelming choice. A strict empiricist, Nkrumah sought to make an organic political philosophy that was designed to change as the material needs of the country changed. He determined that the welfare of the individual was the most important concern of the government and society. It was from this lens that he criticized capitalism, contending that it reduced man to a means to achieving the goal of profit. He pointed to traditional African values, Islam, and European influences as the three ideological tides that shaped Africa. The latter two he condemned, though admitted their merits where he saw them (such as the French education system), and gave qualified approval to the first. African society was to be, in spirit but not practice the driver of society. This meant that pan-Africanism and historical study were to be focused on, but the actual institutions such as tribalism, traditional monarchy, and class hierarchies were to be abandoned. This is where socialism came into Nkrumah's Consciencism. It was not out of devotion to Marxist thinking, but out of a belief that socialist economic structures would be the most effective way of leading the country to prosperity. In a 1967 address he gave in Egypt he stated "Socialism is not spontaneous. It does not arise of itself. It has abiding principles according to which the major means of production and distribution ought to be socialized if exploitation of the many by the few is to be prevented; if, that is to say, egalitarianism in the economy is to be protected. Socialist countries in Africa may differ in this or that detail of their policies, but such differences themselves ought not to be arbitrary or subject to vagaries of taste. They must be scientifically explained, as necessities arising from differences in the particular circumstances of the countries themselves." To Nkrumah, Socialism was not prescriptive, but rather a process where one used communal ownership as needed to create a better society. He was a believer in the idea of scientific socialism in believing that socialism came from the natural needs of the people, rather than an ideological devotion. Ujamaa If Nkrumah was a product of the study of Philosophy, Julius Nyerere was a product of the study of anthropology and history. Unlike Nkrumah, Nyerere was the product of elite lineage. His father was a chief who earned the favor of both the German, and later British Administrations in Tanganyika. He was chosen by the British to receive education to be a local leader and studied at Makerere College before finishing his post graduate work at University of Edinburgh. Upon returning, he founded the Tanganyika African National Union, which pushed for independence from the UK through non-violent protest. His philosophy of Ujamaa, meaning familyhood in Swahili, became the guiding ideology of the party and independent Tanganyika (and Tanzania after their unification with Zanzibar). In this ideology, Nyerere posits that socialism is the natural state of African people. Before the introduction of Western influences, African people lived in an equal and communitarian society. While he admits the existence of elites he countered that the relative equality of means meant that there was no comparison to modern economic structures. For Africans to be prosperous, they had to return to the social structures as well as the spirit of pre-colonial Africa, while accepting modernizations that would benefit the common man. He posited that African society had a natural social value attached to work, and this work was done, not to the benefit of a capitalist elite, but to the benefit of society, thus with the fruits of labor belonging to society, they could be considered socialist. Through a return to these structures, they could have a socialist society that was structured on the needs of Africans, rather than those of 19th century Europeans. He regarded Marxists as rigid and dogmatic, stating that, "The works of Marx and Lenin are regarded as holy writ… We find them condemning others actions because they do not accord with what the 'priests of scientific socialism' have decided is the true meaning." His ontology marked the community as the basic unit. He believed in socialism through consent of the people, but not necessarily through democracy.
Marxist-Leninist nations in Africa tend to fill a different niche that those of non-Marxist states. Non-Marxist states tended to grow from movements within the countries with a locally based variant of socialism guiding the development of government structures. Marxist states on the other hand tended to come from the geopolitical needs of the nation. They tended to lean heavily into the support of the Soviet Union or People's Republic of China. These governments tended to be criticized by Orthodox Marxists both within the countries and abroad for simply slapping a Marxist aesthetic on a run of the mill authoritarian state. This is not universal, and depended on the leader and movement. Thomas Sankara (referred to as the African Che Guevara) is celebrated by leftists for his attempts to organize Burkina Faso, whereas his successor Blaise Compaoré simply co-opted Marxist symbolism until the end of the Cold War when it was dropped entirely. The two states I will profile show a best and worst case for African Marxists. Benin Nothing I write would be complete without me mentioning Benin somewhere. The Republic of Dahomey gained its freedom from France August 1st, 1960. At that time Hubert Maga, a school teacher turned politician from the North was named first president. Benin is divided into three broad super-cultural groups (though there are a total of 64 ethnic groups). The Fon in the South, the Yoruba in the East, and the Bariba and other Muslims in the North. The Maga government was soon overthrown and the country rapidly switched between a number of governments, each dedicated to giving as much as possible to their constituent area before being removed from office. This changed in 1972 when a young army officer named Mathieu Kerekou led a successful coup. Kerekou was different in the sense that he had no real ties to any of the political families that had been competing for power. He also ended the system of clientism that had defined Dahomeyan politics to that point (though some contend he showed bias against the Fon. Strongly nationalistic, Kerekou made his hatred for the French clear early on, pointing to them as the cause of many of the country's problems and the patron of the old regime. In 1974, Kerekou changed the country's name from the Republic of Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin and formally adopted Marxism-Leninism as the guiding ideology of the nation. Oil reserves and refineries as well as the banking system were rapidly nationalized and Kerekou made overtures to international communist nations for aid. Austerity programs were also quickly ended. The North Koreans were particularly close allies. Curiously, Kerekou worked to retain warm relations with the United States. Peace Corps remained in operation through his entire presidency and working in the American embassy was considered a strong stepping stone. The practical effects for the average Beninese person varied from urban to village. Local leaders were required to be members of the People's Revolutionary Party, and extreme corruption and inefficiency meant that few resources radiated outside of population centers. Instilled with a strong labor union tradition during French occupation, the national labor movement was consolidated into a single approved union that was basically mandated to follow government orders. Unionized workers as well as students were the chief opponents of the regime and faced significant surveillance and harassment. This started to change in the mid 80s as it became clear that the regime's economic reforms weren't working. Benin was lagging behind its neighbors Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria. On top of this, student groups and workers in unofficial unions were demanding change. Simultaneously, the election of Francois Mitterrand in France opened a new era in Franco-Beninese relations, shifting the nation back to Western alignment away from the moribund USSR. Under mounting pressure, Kerekou agreed to a constitutional referendum and free elections. Upon his loss, he gracefully stepped down in 1991, but was reelected in 1996. Having dropped Marxism, he led his second term as a moderate liberal, doing little to harm the economic and political reforms of the early 90s. Ethiopia Ethiopia, on the other hand, faced the fullest horror of Communism and likely suffered to a similar extent to Ukraine and China. In 1970, the Solomonic Dynasty leading the Empire of Ethiopia was one of the oldest royal houses in the world dating back to 1270 and drawing its lineage back to the Biblical King Solomon. Their last Emperor was Halie Selassie, celebrated among Pan-Africanists as one of the only African leaders to resist colonization. Though celebrated by the diaspora, Selassie's rule was authoritarian and secretive. In 1973, a famine hit Ethiopia. Rather than petition for aid Selassie covered it up, and only accepted aid on the contingency that it was given in secret. The inaction of the Emperor prompted a revolutionary council known as the Derg to take over. This council quickly moved to numerous industries. Eritrean, Tigre, and Somali nationalists took advantage of the situation to launch offensives against the government. When the Carter Administration warned the Derg to cease the human rights violations they were committing in the crackdown, they cut ties with Washington and invited East-German and Soviet military advisors. In the Tigre region, the Ethiopian military embarked on a scorched earth offensive to quell the rebellion. Using such tactics in a nation with food security concerns was probably ill-advised. The offensive in the North consumed around two thirds of the national budget. The problems the Derg had created were compounded in 1983. In 1982, the rains failed and there was risk of another great famine. Having become an international pariah due to the extreme violence of Derg forces, the international community was reluctant to give aid and the Reagan administration lobbied heavily against it as part of his campaign to halt Communism in the Horn of Africa. When the famine hit in earnest, the Derg mobilized to create collective farms. These farms were incredibly inefficient, consuming 82% of imported fertilizer while contributing only 15% of grain production. To staff these farms, people from offending areas, particularly Tigre were forcibly removed from their homes and shipped to location. Africa Watch estimates that around 50,000 people died on these farms alone, comparing conditions to the Ukrainian farms in the days of Stalin. In total, as many as 1.2 million people were killed, 2.5 million displaced, with Human Rights Watch estimating that around half could be attributed to government actions.
Socialism is a phenomenon that struck the African continent in many ways across the Cold War era and beyond. Its incarnations were as diverse as the groups it affected. This is by no means an exhaustive look at African socialism, but simply a chance for the reader to find a starting place for further study and give context to an under studied part of the world. Indeed, there were many important people and thinkers left out, such as Cheikh Anta Diop, Walter Rodney, and Siad Barre. Please let me know in the comments what if anything you would like to learn more about. If you found the philosophical analysis or historical fact more interesting, I would be happy to write more about it. Sources African Socialism Revisited- Kwame Nkrumah Ujamma – The Basis of African Socialism- Julius K. Nyerere Drought, War, and the Politics of Famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea- Edmond J. Keller Applying the weapon of theory: comparing the philosophy of Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah- Tomáš František Žák Three African social theorists on class struggle, political liberation, and indigenous culture : Cheikh Anta Diop, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah - Charles Simon-Aaron Socialism and the American Negro- W. E. B. Du Bois Benin- Chris Allen
Wall Street Week Ahead for the trading week beginning June 29th, 2020
Good Saturday afternoon to all of you here on StockMarket. I hope everyone on this sub made out pretty nicely in the market this past week, and is ready for the new trading week ahead. Here is everything you need to know to get you ready for the trading week beginning June 29th, 2020.
Fragile economic recovery faces first big test with June jobs report in the week ahead - (Source)
The second half of 2020 is nearly here, and now it’s up to the economy to prove that the stock market was right about a sharp comeback in growth. The first big test will be the June jobs report, out on Thursday instead of its usual Friday release due to the July 4 holiday. According to Refinitiv, economists expect 3 million jobs were created, after May’s surprise gain of 2.5 million payrolls beat forecasts by a whopping 10 million jobs. “If it’s stronger, it will suggest that the improvement is quicker, and that’s kind of what we saw in May with better retail sales, confidence was coming back a little and auto sales were better,” said Kevin Cummins, chief U.S. economist at NatWest Markets. The second quarter winds down in the week ahead as investors are hopeful about the recovery but warily eyeing rising cases of Covid-19 in a number of states. Stocks were lower for the week, as markets reacted to rising cases in Texas, Florida and other states. Investors worry about the threat to the economic rebound as those states move to curb some activities. The S&P 500 is up more than 16% so far for the second quarter, and it is down nearly 7% for the year. Friday’s losses wiped out the last of the index’s June gains. “I think the stock market is looking beyond the valley. It is expecting a V-shaped economic recovery and a solid 2021 earnings picture,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. He expects large-cap company earnings to be up 30% next year, and small-cap profits to bounce back by 140%. “I think the second half needs to be a ‘show me’ period, proving that our optimism was justified, and we’ll need to see continued improvement in the economic data, and I think we need to see upward revisions to earnings estimates,” Stovall said. Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, said she expects the recovery will not be as smooth as some expect, particularly considering the resurgence of virus outbreaks in sunbelt states and California. “Now as I watch what’s happening I think it’s more likely to be rolling Ws,” rather than a V, she said. “It’s not just predicated on a second wave. I’m not sure we ever exited the first wave.” Even without actual state shutdowns, the virus could slow economic activity. “That doesn’t mean businesses won’t shut themselves down, or consumers won’t back down more,” she said.
In the second half of the year, the market should turn its attention to the election, but Sonders does not expect much reaction to it until after Labor Day. RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Democrat Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points, and the odds of a Democratic sweep have been rising. Biden has said he would raise corporate taxes, and some strategists say a sweep would be bad for business, due to increased regulation and higher taxes. Trump is expected to continue using tariffs, which unsettles the market, though both candidates are expected to take a tough stance on China. “If it looks like the Senate stays Republican than there’s less to worry about in terms of policy changes,” Sonders said. “I don’t think it’s ever as binary as some people think.” Stovall said a quick study shows that in the four presidential election years back to 1960, where the first quarter was negative, and the second quarter positive, stocks made gains in the second half. Those were 1960 when John Kennedy took office, 1968, when Richard Nixon won; 1980 when Ronald Reagan’s was elected to his first term; and 1992, the first win by Bill Clinton. Coincidentally, in all of those years, the opposing party gained control of the White House.
The stocks market’s strong second-quarter showing came after the Fed and Congress moved quickly to inject the economy with trillions in stimulus. That unlocked credit markets and triggered a stampede by companies to restructure or issue debt. About $2 trillion in fiscal spending was aimed at consumers and businesses, who were in sudden need of cash after the abrupt shutdown of the economy. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin both testify before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday on the response to the virus. That will be important as markets look ahead to another fiscal package from Congress this summer, which is expected to provide aid to states and local governments; extend some enhanced benefits for unemployment, and provide more support for businesses. “So much of it is still so fluid. There are a bunch of fiscal items that are rolling off. There’s talk about another fiscal stimulus payment like they did last time with a $1,200 check,” said Cummins. Strategists expect Congress to bicker about the size and content of the stimulus package but ultimately come to an agreement before enhanced unemployment benefits run out at the end of July. Cummins said state budgets begin a new year July 1, and states with a critical need for funds may have to start letting workers go, as they cut expenses. The Trump administration has indicated the jobs report Thursday could help shape the fiscal package, depending on what it shows. The federal supplement to state unemployment benefits has been $600 a week, but there is opposition to extending that, and strategists expect it to be at least cut in half. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 12.2% from 13.3% in May. Cummins said he had expected 7.2 million jobs, well above the consensus, and an unemployment rate of 11.8%. As of last week, nearly 20 million people were collecting state unemployment benefits, and millions more were collecting under a federal pandemic aid program. “The magnitude here and whether it’s 3 million or 7 million is kind of hard to handicap to begin with,” Cummins said. Economists have preferred to look at unemployment claims as a better real time read of employment, but they now say those numbers could be impacted by slow reporting or double filing. “There’s no clarity on how you define the unemployed in the Covid 19 environment,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. “If there’s 30 million people receiving insurance, unemployment should be above 20%.
This past week saw the following moves in the S&P:
The economy is moving in the right direction, as many economic data points are coming in substantially better than what the economists expected. From May job gains coming in more than 10 million higher than expected and retail sales soaring a record 18%, how quickly the economy is bouncing back has surprised nearly everyone. “As good as the recent economic data has been, we want to make it clear, it could still take years for the economy to fully come back,” explained LPL Financial Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Think of it like building a house. You get all the big stuff done early, then some of the small things take so much longer to finish; I’m looking at you crown molding.” Here’s the hard truth; it might take years for all of the jobs that were lost to fully recover. In fact, during the 10 recessions since 1950, it took an average of 30 months for lost jobs to finally come back. As the LPL Chart of the Day shows, recoveries have taken much longer lately. In fact, it took four years for the jobs lost during the tech bubble recession of the early 2000s to come back and more than six years for all the jobs lost to come back after the Great Recession. Given many more jobs were lost during this recession, it could takes many years before all of them indeed come back.
The economy is going the right direction, and if there is no major second wave outbreak it could surprise to the upside. Importantly, this economic recovery will still be a long and bumpy road.
Nasdaq - Russell Spread Pulling the Rubber Band Tight
The Nasdaq has been outperforming every other US-based equity index over the last year, and nowhere has the disparity been wider than with small caps. The chart below compares the performance of the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 over the last 12 months. While the performance disparity is wide now, through last summer, the two indices were tracking each other nearly step for step. Then last fall, the Nasdaq started to steadily pull ahead before really separating itself in the bounce off the March lows. Just to illustrate how wide the gap between the two indices has become, over the last six months, the Nasdaq is up 11.9% compared to a decline of 15.8% for the Russell 2000. That's wide!
In order to put the recent performance disparity between the two indices into perspective, the chart below shows the rolling six-month performance spread between the two indices going back to 1980. With a current spread of 27.7 percentage points, the gap between the two indices hasn't been this wide since the days of the dot-com boom. Back in February 2000, the spread between the two indices widened out to more than 50 percentage points. Not only was that period extreme, but ten months before that extreme reading, the spread also widened out to more than 51 percentage points. The current spread is wide, but with two separate periods in 1999 and 2000 where the performance gap between the two indices was nearly double the current level, that was a period where the Nasdaq REALLY outperformed small caps.
To illustrate the magnitude of the Nasdaq's outperformance over the Russell 2000 from late 1998 through early 2000, the chart below shows the performance of the two indices beginning in October 1998. From that point right on through March of 2000 when the Nasdaq peaked, the Nasdaq rallied more than 200% compared to the Russell 2000 which was up a relatively meager 64%. In any other environment, a 64% gain in less than a year and a half would be excellent, but when it was under the shadow of the surging Nasdaq, it seemed like a pittance.
The US equity market made its most recent peak on June 8th. From the March 23rd low through June 8th, the average stock in the large-cap Russell 1,000 was up more than 65%! Since June 8th, the average stock in the index is down more than 11%. Below we have broken the index into deciles (10 groups of 100 stocks each) based on simple share price as of June 8th. Decile 1 (marked "Highest" in the chart) contains the 10% of stocks with the highest share prices. Decile 10 (marked "Lowest" in the chart) contains the 10% of stocks with the lowest share prices. As shown, the highest priced decile of stocks are down an average of just 4.8% since June 8th, while the lowest priced decile of stocks are down an average of 21.5%. It's pretty remarkable how performance gets weaker and weaker the lower the share price gets.
It's hard to believe that sentiment can change so fast in the market that one day investors and traders are bidding up stocks to record highs, but then the next day sell them so much that it takes the market down over 2%. That's exactly what happened not only in the last two days but also two weeks ago. While the 5% pullback from a record high back on June 10th took the Nasdaq back below its February high, this time around, the Nasdaq has been able to hold above those February highs.
In the entire history of the Nasdaq, there have only been 12 periods prior to this week where the Nasdaq closed at an all-time high on one day but dropped more than 2% the next day. Those occurrences are highlighted in the table below along with the index's performance over the following week, month, three months, six months, and one year. We have also highlighted each occurrence that followed a prior one by less than three months in gray. What immediately stands out in the table is how much gray shading there is. In other words, these types of events tend to happen in bunches, and if you count the original occurrence in each of the bunches, the only two occurrences that didn't come within three months of another occurrence (either before or after) were July 1986 and May 2017. In terms of market performance following prior occurrences, the Nasdaq's average and median returns were generally below average, but there is a pretty big caveat. While the average one-year performance was a gain of 1.0% and a decline of 23.6% on a median basis, the six occurrences that came between December 1999 and March 2000 all essentially cover the same period (which was very bad) and skew the results. Likewise, the three occurrences in the two-month stretch from late November 1998 through January 1999 where the Nasdaq saw strong gains also involves a degree of double-counting. As a result of these performances at either end of the extreme, it's hard to draw any trends from the prior occurrences except to say that they are typically followed by big moves in either direction. The only time the Nasdaq wasn't either 20% higher or lower one year later was in 1986.
In the mid-1980s the market began to evolve into a tech-driven market and the market’s focus in early summer shifted to the outlook for second quarter earnings of technology companies. Over the last three trading days of June and the first nine trading days in July, NASDAQ typically enjoys a rally. This 12-day run has been up 27 of the past 35 years with an average historical gain of 2.5%. This year the rally may have begun a day early, today and could last until on or around July 14. After the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, NASDAQ’s mid-year rally had a spotty track record from 2002 until 2009 with three appearances and five no-shows in those years. However, it has been quite solid over the last ten years, up nine times with a single mild 0.1% loss in 2015. Last year, NASDAQ advanced a solid 4.6% during the 12-day span.
Tech Historically Leads Market Higher Until Q3 of Election Years
As of yesterday’s close DJIA was down 8.8% year-to-date. S&P 500 was down 3.5% and NASDAQ was up 12.1%. Compared to the typical election year, DJIA and S&P 500 are below historical average performance while NASDAQ is above average. However this year has not been a typical election year. Due to the covid-19, the market suffered the damage of the shortest bear market on record and a new bull market all before the first half of the year has come to an end. In the surrounding Seasonal Patten Charts of DJIA, S&P 500 and NASDAQ, we compare 2020 (as of yesterday’s close) to All Years and Election Years. This year’s performance has been plotted on the right vertical axis in each chart. This year certainly has been unlike any other however some notable observations can be made. For DJIA and S&P 500, January, February and approximately half of March have historically been weak, on average, in election years. This year the bear market ended on March 23. Following those past weak starts, DJIA and S&P 500 historically enjoyed strength lasting into September before experiencing any significant pullback followed by a nice yearend rally. NASDAQ’s election year pattern differs somewhat with six fewer years of data, but it does hint to a possible late Q3 peak.
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Micron Technology, Inc. $48.49
Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Monday, June 29, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.71 per share on revenue of $5.27 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.70 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 71% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.40 to $0.70 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 29.00% with revenue increasing by 10.07%. Short interest has increased by 7.6% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 8.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 0.9% below its 200 day moving average of $48.94. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 46,037 contracts of the $60.00 call expiring on Friday, July 17, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.4% move in recent quarters.
General Mills, Inc. (GIS) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.04 per share on revenue of $4.89 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.10 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 69% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 25.30% with revenue increasing by 17.50%. Short interest has decreased by 9.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 2.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.8% above its 200 day moving average of $54.91. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Wednesday, June 24, 2020 there was some notable buying of 8,573 contracts of the $60.00 call expiring on Friday, July 17, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 3.0% move in recent quarters.
FedEx Corp. (FDX) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.42 per share on revenue of $16.31 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.65 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 61% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 71.66% with revenue decreasing by 8.41%. Short interest has increased by 10.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 43.9% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.6% below its 200 day moving average of $140.75. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 25, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,768 contracts of the $145.00 call expiring on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.7% move in recent quarters.
Conagra Brands, Inc. (CAG) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:30 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.66 per share on revenue of $3.24 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.69 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 66% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 83.33% with revenue increasing by 23.99%. Short interest has decreased by 38.3% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 6.3% from its open following the earnings release to be 6.4% above its 200 day moving average of $30.68. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,239 contracts of the $29.00 put expiring on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.8% move in recent quarters.
Constellation Brands, Inc. (STZ) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:30 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.91 per share on revenue of $1.97 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.12 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 53% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 13.57% with revenue decreasing by 13.69%. Short interest has increased by 20.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 5.2% below its 200 day moving average of $178.34. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, June 9, 2020 there was some notable buying of 888 contracts of the $195.00 call expiring on Friday, October 16, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 3.1% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 5.7% move in recent quarters.
Capri Holdings Limited (CPRI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.32 per share on revenue of $1.18 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.34 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 39% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.68 to $0.73 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 49.21% with revenue decreasing by 12.20%. Short interest has increased by 35.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 56.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 44.0% below its 200 day moving average of $25.67. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 4, 2020 there was some notable buying of 11,042 contracts of the $17.50 put expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 10.8% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.7% move in recent quarters.
X Financial (XYF) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 5:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 25% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 55.00% with revenue increasing by 763.52%. Short interest has increased by 1.0% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 1.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 37.7% below its 200 day moving average of $1.47. Overall earnings estimates have been unchanged since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 4.9% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Acuity Brands, Inc. (AYI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:40 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.14 per share on revenue of $809.25 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 42% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 51.90% with revenue decreasing by 14.60%. Short interest has increased by 48.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 2.4% from its open following the earnings release to be 23.4% below its 200 day moving average of $110.25. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 9.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.2% move in recent quarters.
Methode Electronics, Inc. (MEI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.77 per share on revenue of $211.39 million. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 45% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 24.19% with revenue decreasing by 20.53%. Short interest has increased by 6.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 1.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 9.0% below its 200 day moving average of $32.97. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 18.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.1% move in recent quarters.
UniFirst Corporation (UNF) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.17 per share on revenue of $378.28 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.25 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 44% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 52.44% with revenue decreasing by 16.63%. Short interest has decreased by 2.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 14.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 8.4% below its 200 day moving average of $186.14. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 7.0% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Practicing SR since July 2017; currently have a 3+ month streak
2 accounts got shadowbanned for uploading this post. Spam filter kept on removing it this post. Messaged the moderators, but received no answer. Removed many links, so check post history for full version. First time making a Reddit post. Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes Brief summary of post:
History of Journey
Using Subliminals (affirmations converted into audio) to reprogram the subconscious, overcome nocturnal emissions, and turbo-charge the Law of Attraction
Experience from meditation retreats
Massive booklist covering psychotherapy, spirituality, and general books such as negotiating and advanced social skills
Fundamental shifts that occurred
Experiences with semen-retention benefits
How I overcame and conquered negative entities
Tantric meditation method that actually works with zero side effects
Experience on speaking Japanese for 1 full hour with native speakers without notes after 3 months of learning
Terminology: Wet dream/WD – sexual dream causing semen emission while sleeping Nocturnal Emission/NE – semen emission occurring while sleeping even without dreaming Semen-retention/SR streak – avoiding porn, masturbation, and ejaculation whether conscious or unconscious Nofap Hardmode – avoiding porn, masturbation, and conscious ejaculation. Unconscious ejaculation/WD is considered fine. As the title suggests, my current streak started in the middle of June 2017. Haven’t watched any porn or masturbated in 3 years. Experienced almost all the benefits such as massive attraction (men, women, children), an aura/energy surrounding me, enhanced charisma, less need for sleep, insane levels of energy, drive, and motivation, zero anxiety or fear, massive confidence occasionally bordering on arrogance, increased manifestation/LOA, people admiring/respecting me for no reason, online attraction, less procrastination, better athletic performance, greater creativity/intelligence, the desire to live a purposeful life, greater emphasis on spirituality, and much much more. Could probably write several posts just on the benefits themselves. Only thing that didn’t improve was my skin, which was later fixed using subliminals. It’s been a long journey, so I’ll start with background information, and later elaborate on how I managed to go from nocturnal emissions every 5 days (avg) to having a perfect SR streak for 3 months. Used to watch anime which led to hentai (2013), and eventually western/japanese porn. Don’t even bother to search these terms on Google. It’s not worth it. Thankfully, those days are long behind me. As a side-note, I discovered the nofap/semen-retention subreddit in November 2017. Didn’t even know about SR before that. I was raised a Catholic in a fairly religious family. Always started various streaks, and eventually broke them due to boredom/emotional coping/curiosity about new videos. Thankfully, I got good grades, read books, and was interested in self-development, but all that time spent on porn was a complete waste. Assuming I spent at least 2 hours everyday for 4 years (1460 days), it amounts to 122 complete days or around 4 months in total. It’s pretty sad on reflection, but at least the experience is now absorbed, and I can write this post. On June 2017, after summer break started and final exams were over, I decided to permanently quit this habit. Downloaded an application called Cold Turkey and completely blocked all websites I used to visit. Now use Leechblock, which is available on most browsers (also use it to block/restrict access to non-NSFW websites which impair productivity like ESPN). Started 30 minutes of daily meditation (mindfulness + metta). Still continue the habits to this day, although the length is increased to 1 hour. Read Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana and Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg for instructions. Have re-read these books multiple times. Mindfulness will allow you to be self-aware of your mental conditioning, while metta (feeling compassion for yourself, a friend, neutral person, and enemy) can remove thoughts of lust and fundamentally alter your mental programming. Compassion is a very powerful exercise. Read “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer” while you’re at it and learn tonglen. All of these books contain zero fluff, and are invaluable reads. Started drinking 16 glasses of water (thought it would help skin, but helped in other ways), and doing 100 pushups + 100 sit-ups everyday. Increased it to 200 pushups + 200 sit-ups after 1 month. After 2 months, I made a decent amount of gains (SR helps), and people started asking me workout tips and what gym I go to. Had a Kindle Paperwhite, which is frankly one of my most valued possessions. Still works perfectly fine after 5 years, and costs only $130. Buy one now. Read a lot of books mostly consisting of biographies/spirituality/practical social skills/800+ page novels for around 6 hours per day. Still try to read for at least 15 minutes/1 chapter even when extremely busy. Will post a small booklist at the end of this post. You can upload books to it for free if you lack money. Visit (gen.lib.rus.ec), download the ebook in epub/mobi format, open it with Calibre (https://calibre-ebook.com/), and send it to Kindle using USB. Knowledge is an investment that produces continuous returns. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his time just reading! and takes action based on that knowledge. Even managed to have the motivation to learn Japanese by joining a foreign language exchange website. People, especially women, accepted and sent a lot of invitations to have a conversation; didn’t realize online attraction was due to SR back then. None of us showed our faces, so my physical appearance had nothing to do with it. From experience, the best way to learn a language was to make a phrase sheet with the most common phrases/questions, such as “okay”, “that’s awesome”, “what is that word in English/Japanese?” Basically a human AI bot. Don’t waste time trying to learn how to write the alphabet, although my primary purpose was to learn how to speak. Google Translate is good enough to understand the pronunciation. I learned Japanese primarily by watching Terrace House. First watched the episode with subtitles, then re-watched it without, while simultaneously writing all the connectives/conversational phrases. You can try unique methods to remember, but brute-force memorization/review worked the best. Never tried Anki since it was cumbersome to use. For the accent, the best way is to watch Japanese people trying to speak English, and try to mirror their accent as much as possible. It honestly helps. After 3 months, I could have a full 1 hour conversation in Japanese with a native speaker without looking at any notes. I wasn’t “fluent” (still stuttered and made mistakes), but it was a huge amount of progress for starting from scratch. Eventually after 6 months, I gave up practicing/speaking the language. I was mainly trying to fulfill a childhood fantasy, and I’m glad I tried since I learned a lot from it and got to talk with interesting people. But in reality, I stopped watching anime, and honestly never needed to speak Japanese in real-life. Now I barely remember any of the words, except a few basic phrases. Could probably last 30 seconds of full conversation at best. So, everything was going great until December 2017. During this time period, I probably had wet dreams/nocturnal emissions every 1 – 2 months. Barely felt much difference since there was a decent time interval between emissions. Drank 2 glasses of water everyday before bed, slept on my stomach, and ate spicy food (practices that cause nocturnal emissions), but was perfectly fine. However in December I started having emissions every 2 weeks. Initially didn’t care about it. In January it started happening every 1 week. Nothing really changed in my life during this time to cause emissions to increase. Then it started happening every 5 days, every 3 days, sometimes even 2 days in a row! Most of you will have no idea how terrible it feels to be on top of the world, and then suddenly crash down. The difference between living life with/without SR benefits is night and day. Even after sleeping 10 hours, I used to feel completely exhausted. People ignored me, or worse started “joking” around me. Complete disrespect by friends, family, and acquaintances. No energy/motivation to do anything. Constant brain fog, could barely concentrate. Felt even worse than my porn days when I ejaculated everyday. Voice completely shot, started feeling anxious about oral presentations for no reason, when I always excelled. Felt like my soul was dying. Those were really dark times. People started saying I “changed”, and started pointing out and constantly magnifying my flaws. It’s strange how people exaggerate our skills/talents on SR, while they completely ignore them post WD/ejaculation, and focus only on your flaws/mistakes. It makes you lose trust in everyone around you, as if all of them are energy vampires who only like you due to SR. I grew desperate. During this whole time I meditated, practiced no lust/no arousal as best as possible since July 2017, yet emissions increased massively in frequency. Some occurred due to sexual dreams, but most were nocturnal emissions. Thought I had a UTI at first, and went to a general practitioner. He didn’t seem very reliable, so I went to a prominent urologist. Did all sorts of tests, paid a good amount of money, and the doctor said everything was fine. Having nocturnal emissions every 5 days was perfectly normal at my age. Encouraged me to masturbate regularly if it became an inconvenience :) So medical science obviously failed. Started following all the tips/methods in this subreddit, and believe me I tried almost everything no matter how uncomfortable or time-consuming. Omad, avoid food/water before bed, vegetarianism, tantric meditation, different diets, various sleeping positions, no/increased meditation before bed, no/more exercise, yogic exercises, qigong, some tips mentioned by Soaring Eagle, prayed to God. None of them worked. The only method I didn’t try extensively were kegels. Initially tried a normal + reverse kegel routine, then found an article by coincidence on this subreddit about someone who permanently damaged their penis from doing kegels. Immediately stopped, thank you to that person for sharing your experience. It’s as if the universe was looking out for me. Best to avoid such risky methods even if you’re desperate. Currently sleep on my back since it avoids any "accidental physical stimulation" from occurring. So this nocturnal emission phenomena continued for over a year. Some methods worked better than others, while for some, I wasn’t sure if it was merely the placebo effect. In mid-2019 I came across subliminal videos (finally the good part!) on YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0W5AB1sGr0) This video explains it more thoroughly, but basically you convert affirmations (sentences like “I am happy/smart/handsome”) into audio using text-to-speech software and reprogram your subconscious mind. Tried a beauty subliminal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEXaAsm-Iys) as a joke, but the next day I noticed changes in my facial structure. Listened for an hour the first day, which was easy given the music. You have no idea how amazing it feels to know that you can control your reality just by using your mind. Completely magical. Supposedly it works due to the Law of Attraction; you can find out more by reading/watching “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, and later reading all the books by Neville Goddard. Started using a skin subliminal as well (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqi8Q80pspk and later moved onto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COxz8hvl14Y ), and now my skin is completely normal. Visited prominent US dermatologists, tried all sorts of acne medicine including Accutane, and even did SR, yet none of them worked. Skin was pretty terrible, and I was glad it got fixed. Took around 4 months of daily listening although it can be shortelonger depending on your belief, blockages, and levels of positivity. There’s a CIA document on holographic universes, astral projection, time travel, and psychic powers if you need scientific validation: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00788R001700210016-5.pdf Disclaimer: Although there can be bad subliminal makers, they are very rare, and there has been only 2 of them in the history of the community. Someone named MindPower and Rose subliminals. The vast majority (99%) put positive affirmations. It’s best that you verify by checking all the comments, seeing their subscriber count, general personality, etc, but ultimately there’s no guarantee. The only way to make sure the affirmations are 100% positive and safe are to make them yourself or use a subliminal that blocks negative affirmations. One thing to note is that physical change (biokinesis; search that term)/spiritual subliminals utilize the prana in your body to a certain extent to make changes. It makes sense since physical change is essentially a psychic poweenergy work. So your SR benefits/aura might temporarily decrease. Hydration is also recommended, and you will notice feeling thirsty. Personally drink 20 glasses of water everyday. Obviously, my interest now turned towards using subliminals to cure nocturnal emissions. Unfortunately there’s a huge lack of subliminals regarding semen-retention or those targeted towards nocturnal emissions. Initially bought a subliminal using a paid request (you pay a subliminal maker for a specialized subliminal), but it didn’t work that well. Desired to be permanently free of nocturnal emissions, or at least reduce the frequency to once a month. So I decided to make my own subliminal. The affirmations will be posted below, and this is how I eventually cured my nocturnal emissions. Steps on how to make your own subliminal:
Write all the affirmations in a word document and save it.
Download text-to-speech software like Balabolka and output the audio file in wav format (you want both uncompressed + lossless)
Optional but recommended; download an audio editor like Audacity, and fast-forward the audio as much as possible using the “Change Tempo” effect. Personally I speed the audio to one second and then loop it 1000x. Continue the process as much as possible, but never make the audio length less than 1 second. Some subliminal makers make their subliminals even more powerful by creating multiple audio streams of their affirmations using different voices, merging all the voices together, and speeding them up. It’s called layering. Why super-sped affirmations work better can be somewhat explained by this article (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sensorium/201812/experiments-suggest-humans-can-directly-observe-the-quantum), but science still doesn’t have all the answers. Will take time.
Affirmations Link:https://www.reddit.com/pureretention/comments/hg0tjb/practicing_sr_since_july_2017_finally_conquered/ (same content; scroll down to the subliminal section and download the affirmations file from the mega link) Listened to this personal subliminal for 1 hour everyday for an entire month. Still listen just to be safe. Took months of testing and editing affirmations to make it perfect. Experienced massive sexual dreams on certain days, more than normal, and found out that entities could be responsible. Try to avoid this subreddit as well, since reading the posts can trigger memories. More energetically sensitive now, and sometimes there’s a lot of low-vibrational energy. On a side-note, porn cripples your aura and invites negative entities (https://www.awakeningstaryoga.com/blog/expanding-away-from-porn-aura). Non-subliminal solutions:
The entire channel is a gem; these were some of the best. Have used them for a few months and feel much lighter and peaceful; experienced only headaches due to subconscious absorbing the affirmations, but zero negative effects. Advice: Remember to immediately download any subliminal video you find that is useful in wav format (https://www.savethevideo.com/download). Subliminal channels are sometimes deleted by YouTube (spam filter) or the creators themselves. Waited 3 whole months before deciding to make a Reddit post to make sure the method was 100% foolproof. Remember many people offering solutions in the past, yet 1 month later they would have another wd/nocturnal emission. The first month there was a lot of fear. Will I have a wet dream/nocturnal emission tonight? Was so traumatized it was difficult getting to sleep every night. After the 2nd month, I experimented with sleeping on my stomach and eating/drinking before bed. Nothing happened. Stopped recently to stay careful. After 2 years of suffering, this is a method that has worked. Try and see for yourself. Present day: How do you feel now? Some days it’s meh (due to flatline) like today; on other days I feel divine. No idea why flatline still occurs. Have regained all the benefits, feel love and happiness all the time. Experience intense states of bliss in meditation more frequently, although it’s just a distraction. Religiously/Spiritually I’ve moved from Christianity to Buddhism/Advaita Vedanta/parts of New Age. Found them more practical and useful in life. Was inspired to aim for spiritual enlightenment after reading “The 3 pillars of Zen” by Philip Kapleau. Read it, it might change your life. Have attended a number of meditation retreats now, along with 10-day ones. Everyone reading this post should try it. Understood how much our mental programming defined us, and that we aren’t are thoughts. Our childhood traumas define so much of our habitual reactions. Realized its okay to feel bored rather than chasing after constant stimulation. Even attended a Jhana retreat, which is exclusive for people who have attended prior retreats. Entered intense states of meditative absorption, understood the permeability/impermanence of reality, and had all sorts of mystical experiences. Experienced past lives; can confirm my mind did not make it up, since it’s an experience you can constantly replicate using the same methods. Before attempting such methods, you need to have the ability to sit down and meditate continuously for at least 3 hours. If you live in the US, attend IMS (Insight Meditation Society) or any prominent Vipassana/Theravada related retreat. Zen is a valid form of enlightenment, but it personally felt unstructured. Gave up music, took time since I was convinced it was needed for creativity. Instead, it was just a substitute source of dopamine and a way to avoid my emotions. Have much less brain fog after quitting. Only communicate using regular phone calls these days, which no one uses, and Snapchat/WhatsApp for texting. Avoid stories, waste of time. Instagram/TwitteFacebook are a waste of time unless you are using it for business purposes. The only social media you really need is LinkedIn. Women: You’ll learn more about them by reading romantic novels, Korean mangas, and watching Kdramas then reading all that seduction/red pill stuff. Focus on general charisma (men and women) instead of a specific gender. Read “The Charisma Myth” by Olivia Fox Cabane; it’s the most practical book on social skills I have ever read, and possibly the most life-changing as well. Teaches you self-awareness, applies Buddhist psychology to social interaction. Used to train executives in Google, read it now (and do all the exercises). The bibliography sent me on a rabbit hole that made me read ton of books on psychotherapy, meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism; this was before SR. Inspired me to practice meditation, although the habit only became regular after SR. Read books such as Crucial Conversations by Al Switzer, Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, How to Talk so Kids will Listen by Adele Faber (works very well in general since even adults have childhood programming, and can act like children), Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss (FBI's chief international hostage and kidnapping negotiator from 2003 to 2007), Getting More by Stuart Diamond (trains negotiators at Google), and Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff (more theoretical but useful). Also read The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan Pease and What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro. These are all books that will greatly improve your human interactions and contain limited fluff. Have re-read all of these books in difficult times, and they have never let me down. You should read it as well. Even if you become a monk, there’s lots of social infighting even in monasteries. Highly-developed social skills are invaluable whenever you are dealing with individuals. Read “How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie once in a while, since most forget to apply his “basic” advice. Learned a lot about oral presentations by watching Alan Shore on Boston Legal (TV show). Current position in life? Studying for a bachelor’s degree. My family is financially well-off, and my father is paying for my college tuition and dorm. Scholarships aren’t available for all income levels. Although I come from “privilege”, the above information can help anyone regardless of their financial position. We live in an era where information is accessible to all social classes, so excuses aren’t that relevant. If you’re practicing SR, you are already 20 steps closer to success. The tips above can be applied for free as long as you have a computesmartphone. Read books starting from today, knowledge is a source of power. People spend so much time reading the news, scrolling social media feeds, reacting to comments, chatting about useless things with friends, binging shows on Netflix, browsing YouTube/Reddit, that time quietly passes by. Time is the most valuable commodity you have; don’t waste such a limited resource on things that will contribute nothing towards your purpose in life. Once it’s spent, you can never get it back. Personally, I schedule the next day before going to bed. Leisure, Reading, Schoolwork, Meditation, everything is mapped out perfectly. Try to eliminate habits that just waste time and stick to your schedule perfectly (working on it myself). If you feel tired after work/studying, take a nap or meditate instead of receiving even more stimulation from videogames, YouTube, or other artificial dopamine sources. Try NoSurf.
The End of Your World by Adyashanti (fantastic writer; must-read if you have had an awakening experience or believe you are "enlightened")
How to Attain Enlightenment -> The Essence of Enlightenment by James Swartz (best introduction to Advaita Vedanta I have read so far)
I am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
In the Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi (best introduction to Buddhist scripture)
Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright (secular perspective but informative; his previous book The Moral Animal is a good introduction to evolutionary psychology. Read this first if you are non-spiritual)
Wisdom Wise and Deep by Shaila Catherine (comprehensive introduction by one of the best Jhana teachers in the US)
Manual of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw
Emptiness: A Practical Guide by Guy Armstrong (good introduction to the Buddhist version of reality)
Books by Loch Kelly (practical guide to non-dual meditation practices within Buddhism; The Little Book of Being by Diana Winston may be a better introduction)
Seeing that Frees by Rob Burbea (really advanced but profound)
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa (Taiko is decent as well, but this one was a masterpiece)
Romance of the Three Kingdoms trans. Moss Roberts
The Dream of the Red Chamber trans. David Hawkes (read it in the summer of 2017, profound but not all may see the deeper meaning)
The Nine Cloud Dream trans. Heinz Insu Fenkl
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Inspirational for Entrepreneurs, however don’t start adopting this book as economic philosophy. It’s just a novel!)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (read now if you are experiencing an existential crisis)
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment + The Brothers Karamazov (optional reading; prefer Pevear translation)
Perry Mason and Sherlock Holmes Series (pleasure reading but not useless)
Psychotherapy (never visited a therapist, but found these useful):
Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro (by the founder of EMDR, best practical book on trauma and exercises to resolve it)
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (another immensely practical book on recovering from trauma)
Breaking the Cycle by George Collins (best practical workbook on sexual addiction I have read; all should read)
Get out of your mind and into your life by Steven Hayes (Was mentioned in the charisma myth booklist; take control of your thoughts and mind by the founder of ACT)
Mindful Compassion by Paul Gilbert and Choden (prominent researcher on compassion applied to therapy; part one can be boring, but part two on practical exercises is invaluable)
Feeling Book by David Burns (rightfully a classic book on therapy and CBT; read if you are suffering from depression)
Healing Development Trauma by Laurence Heller (best book on the impact of childhood/development trauma but meant for therapists, might explain why we use addiction to cope from childhood memories; google ACE study as well)
The Boy who was raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry (stories about children experiencing trauma. Increases empathy for yourself and others; you realize how childhood trauma affects how a lot of people think and behave)
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Jackson MacKenzie (fantastic book on recovering from relationship abuse. Many of us have emotional baggage that fuels coping and addiction loops. Read Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas as well.)
Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff (optional reading, but complimentary)
For biographies, read those of presidents and important leaders. Also about famous/successful individuals. Read all of Ron Chernow’s books. Abuse the Amazon Search Engine and look through their categories. Reading biographies can fundamentally enhance your worldview so you realize that real-life issues are much more nuanced and gray rather than black and white. Also shows how successful people deal with difficult crises and their perspective on life. Especially for public policy. If a President implements an economic policy that has short-term gains, but long-term loss, he has a greater chance of being re-elected. However, short-term loss in favor of long-term gain is the correct policy. Employ critical-thinking! Avoid cable news even if you need to stay informed. Don’t even have a television in my house. Unnecessary. Just read 2 – 3 reputable news sources for 20 minutes max. Sometimes I even avoid the news since there’s too much negativity. https://www.reddit.com/kundalini/comments/1unyph/a_tantric_perspective_on_the_use_of_sexual_energy/ (tantric meditation technique that actually works; you are supposed to do it for 1 hour. Optional.) https://www.reddit.com/kundalini/comments/2zn8ev/grounding_201_two_effective_quick_methods/ (energetic protection + grounding method after doing the tantric meditation) Avoid learning Mantak Chia’s techniques from a book, since some have suffered side-effects to their energetic/biological body. For NEO, Tibetan buddhists practice meditation for 13 years before attempting it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karmamudr%C4%81). Not easy. Not sure about women, since SR streak is more important. Don’t pick a partner to fulfill some kind of emotional void, or due to societal programming where women are held to be the ultimate goal. Spiritual Enlightenment is the ultimate goal now, but even enlightened people need money for food and shelter. Youtubers I follow are Graham Stephan, Ryan Serhant, Rupert Spira, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUX1V5UNWP1RUkhLewe77ZQ (cured women objectification for me; wholesome content) although mostly I avoid the website. Easy to loose track of time. Avoid smoking, alcohol, recreational drug use (https://www.elitedaily.com/wellness/drugs-alcohol-aura-damage/1743959), casual sex (https://mywakingpath.wordpress.com/tag/aura/; sensitive images but useful), and fast food. Budget your money, and learn how to save as much as possible. Hope everyone reading this post experiences their definition of success and leads a purposeful life. Will end it by stating two quotes that have inspired and guided me: “You yourself have to change first, or nothing will change for you!” ― Hideaki Sorachi “It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than you were yesterday.” ― Jigoro Kano (Founder of Judo) Update 1, 2, 3: Added a post summary and the audio as well in the affirmations link Update 4: https://starseedsunited.com/negative-entities-and-psychic-attacks (basic article on entities) Some solutions are posted above. Updated* daily routine:
Then drag the column and press Shift key together to the right of the column you want to be right of it, you can see there appears a I line. Then release the key and mouse. You can see the Column A moves right to the Column B. If you want to move the column left, you can select the column and drag it with Shift key to the left of the column you want to left to it. Move row up/down. To move row ... Anzeige. Visual Basic ist eine Programmiersprache von Microsoft. Über bestimmte Programme, wie etwa Excel, kann ein VBA-Editor geöffnet werden.Im Folgenden zeigen wir Ihnen, wie Sie diesen ... Some of you have heard my neighbor's dog bark in a video or two that I recorded. While I was busy explaining how to do something awesome in Excel, this dog would decide to bark, adding her own two cents to the lesson. Quite a few of my VBA class students have grown used to it. So much that they complain when a lesson doesn't have a couple of woofs. But I digress. So coming back, one of the ... I'm trying to hide all the columns to the right of a table, but the sheet in the workbook is not allowing it. I've selected all the columns to the right and deleted them, cleared them, checked that all objects are displayed in the excel options, and that no comments are in the cells. The sheet is also unprotected. There's literally nothing in the cells in the columns I want to hide and yet I ... In this section are the easy and straightforward options to cut down on file size. If you don’t want to alter the contents of the workbook, try these options first. 1. Remove “blank space” in your sheets. This is definitely the most common source of large Excel file sizes, and fortunately one of the easiest to fix. Excel has a “used range” for every sheet in your workbook. The larger ... Excel binary workbooks have almost no real difference compared to the common file extension, xlsx, except that it will not be compatible with 3rd party software other than Excel. If you're just impatient and wish to open large workbooks faster, saving as xlsb can reduce the file size by roughly 1.5x and loads up to 3x faster, from experience. Bit Operation AND. Bitwise operator AND check if either the right operand and the left operand is true. In other words, operation AND returns zero in all cases except where the corresponding bits of both operands are 1.
How to Shift Everything Down in Excel : Using Microsoft ...
Recommended trading platforms: https://visit.company/binary https://visit.company/ayrex Instructions about how to use binary options trading calculator with ... MS EXCEL BASIC KNOWLEDGE Hello Viewers welcome Into the Microsoft Office Expert, In this tutorial, we learn Microsoft Office, How to change ms excel sheet right To left some time we ... Subscribe Now: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=ehowtech Watch More: http://www.youtube.com/ehowtech Shifting everything down in Excel doe... I recommend making a bet for binary options at the moment when the currency pair schedule makes a sharp shift, either up or down, and making an opposite bet. If you can see a continuous trend ... Video showing a binary option trading strategy. The video describes the trading strategy as well as the market and timeframe. It then shows how the strategy can be backtested using Excel and looks ... remove blank cells excel - fill blank cells in excel with value from above. how to quickly delete all blank rows with excel vba. fill in blank cells in excel...