Top 10 MCU Characters

Now that the Avengers saga has ended, my attention into the MCU has ended too.  After 22 films, this franchise did something no other film series could have dreamed of, and all others who have tried have failed.  DC has been the absolute worst.  It looks like they’re walking away from that now.  Good on them.  I think the rest of Hollywood has walked off from it too, as they all have tried and failed.  Marvel did the impossible, and will never be able to do it again.  So now that it’s done, let’s talk about my favorite characters in the running saga.  Lots to talk about here.

10. Nebula
I actually didn’t think much of the first Guardians movie when it came out, aside from one of my favorite characters, who you will see much higher up on this list.  But Nebula started growing on me with the second movie.  She went from a generic villainess to someone with a complicated backstory who didn’t know what she wanted.  By the time Infinity War rolled out, she’s disillusioned with Thanos and is trying to get revenge, only to find that in the end, it only got her more alone, as her sister had died.  Once we see her in Endgame, she’s come full circle, trying to be a good person, and make up for misdeeds.  What’s more, she’s bonding with people outside of the circle we knew of.  It helps that she’s kinda hot, in that blue chick sorta way.

9. Black Panther (Only in Civil War)
I didn’t like the Black Panther film.  At all.  It was preachy, and stupid.  This character started out with so much promise, it’s a shame that it all went down the tubes.  However, when you first meet him in Civil War, he was a fun character.  Out for blood after the murder of his father, you like this guy from the first meeting.  He is distrusting of outsiders, and in a situation that is ugly.  With the death of his father, he goes from a man seeking vengeance to seeing what that mission leads to, ultimately choosing to show mercy and look to taking up the mantle of hero.  Helps that he was pretty badass in the film too.

8. Drax
This dude is just too much fun.  Like I said earlier, I didn’t like the first Guardians movie all that much.  By the second, all the characters in there really came into their own.  And this guy is just too much.  It’s so ironic that Dwayne Johnson gets so much recognition as an actor when every movie he is in is shit.  Meanwhile, here’s a guy who goes from wrestler to actor and does it flawlessly.  This character is so adorable.  His deadpan way of talking about things that are absurd is just the best.  When they find the body of Thor in Infinity War and he is talking about how handsome he is just tickles me pink.  Dave Bautista is the only man I can see making a role like this work.  It’s part of why I want to see Guadians 3, if only to see how that saga ends.

7. War Machine
I’m so glad they changed the actor on this to Don Cheadle.  This guy had so much great comedic timing.  Plus, the chemistry between him and Robert Downy Jr. was so much better than the first guy.  Col. Rhodes, Stark’s best friend, makes for a great superhero.  More of a sidekick to Iron Man, but that’s not a bad thing.  He’s a soldier, after all.  He likes to know where he fits into things.  I’m one of those people who actually liked Iron Man 2, and his debut in that was pretty fantastic.  I do admit that Civil War would have been more powerful if he had died in it, but you know what, seeing how his arc also comes full circle in Endgame was worth it.  Cool suit of armor, badass, and played by a fun actor.  What’s not to love?

6. Doctor Strange
I mean, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch.  You kinda knew that he was going to end up on this list.  God this dude just exudes cool.  Like, so much.  Having his ego up against Stark’s made for some of the best content in Infinity War.  And I did like the movie where he gets his namesake.  It was a formula that was done to death, but it was all in the execution.  The crazy fractal world of magic was rad.  Seeing his personal journey from an arrogant surgeon to the Sorcerer Supreme was believable.  I hear that the next film with him is going to be a straight-up horror movie, with a lot of Lovecraftian themes.  We’ll see if that is any good.  I’ll admit that a superhero horror movie has a lot of potential.  Especially with this character.

5. Thanos
One of the things that Marvel was (rightly) criticized for is having lame villains.  So when the previews were coming out for Infinity War, the big question was – what is Thanos going to be like?  What is this villain that they have been building up for so long going to be like?  What we got blew everyone away.  This dude was unbelievable!  Josh Brolin brought him to life in a way that no one else could.  His beliefs about the universe, and the forces that drove him were just spectacular.  A drive and dedication for a cause that has some real-world questions.  As morally awful as it is, overpopulation is a problem.  What should be done?  That’s hard to say.  Plus, he dies like an absolute boss.  When Stark gets the stones and does the snap, destroying everything, he dies with a lot of dignity.  Just sitting down and accepting it.  Such a boss.  Glad that the film series goes out on one of the definitive high points.

4. Nick Fury
It’s Samuel L. Jackson.  You had to know that he was going to be on this list.  Now, aside from the stupid shit in Captain Marvel that ruined some pretty epic lines in Winter Soldier, this dude has been excellent.  He’s a soldier, and a man of secrets.  He wants to do the right thing by the world, but often has a bad habit of being his own worst enemy.  Still, we see him change over the course of the narrative.  If it wasn’t for the dumb shit in the equally dumb movie Captain Marvel, his badassery in the franchise would be uncontested.

3. Rocket
This little bastard is the one thing about the original Guadians movie that stood out.  I love this character so much.  A lot of it is behind the guy doing the voice.  Rocket is just the best.  He’s a violent bastard who loves killing.  He’s a complete antihero, stuck doing heroic things with his friends, but doing little things to undercut it wherever he can.  His history is more than a little soft spot, and that’s one of those things that hasn’t really been explore, but still.  The scene in Infinity War, where he watches Groot die, again, was just heart-breaking.  Then we see in Endgame where he covers Groot when the ship is firing on them, not wanting to let his young charge get hurt again.  That familial relationship is just the best.  Sassy, badass, loves guns, and has a heart of gold under a streak of bad bits.  There’s nothing I don’t like about this character.

2. Spider-Man
I cannot tell you how much I love that they FINALLY got this character right.  For those of you who didn’t know, I HATED the Tobey Macguire version.  With the heat of a thousand suns.  The Andrew Garfield version had potential, but then wasted it.  Tom Holland, on the other hand, is just perfect.  When we first meet him in Civil War, he’s this adorable awkward teenager, just trying to do the right thing.  It begins the absolutely touching father-son relationship between him and Stark.  Homecoming was a good continuation of that.  It has the two cementing this.  However, the death in Infinity War was so heart-breaking.  The look in his and Stark’s eyes as he is vanishing away, and then in Endgame where he has to say goodbye to this man who is a mentor to him.  Great stuff.  This character is loads of fun, and only gets better.  Haven’t seen Far From Home, hear good things.  Will Netflix it, someday.

And my favorite MCU character is…

1. Iron Man
I mean, who else?  Robert Downy Jr. brought this character to life a way that ONLY he could.  No other actor could have made this character work in the way he did.  His perfect mix of sarcastic ego and genuine drive to do the right thing makes for a fantastic juxtaposition.  From the first time we meet him, you see his personal goal of finding redemption for his weapons being used against people he cares for.  This goal is what carries him all the way to the final choice he makes, to end Thanos and friends with a single snap of his fingers, with the Infinity Stones.  How his character went out in Endgame was inspiring.  I will say that the ending bit with him and the speech being delivered through a hologram was cheesy.  It would have had more weight if it was just a message he recorded and it showed the funeral and maybe having people move forward around him.  He’s gone from the franchise, and that’s the biggest reason I’m checking out.  Nobody else can take the reigns of this character like Downy Jr.  Nobody.

Until next time, a quote,

“No, it’s you who doesn’t understand!  Thanos has been on my mind for the last six years, since he sent an army to New York, and now he’s back!  And I don’t know what to do.” – Tony Stark, Avengers: Infinity War

Peace out,

Maverick

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Let’s Answer: 100 Ways to Make Life Easier for Trans People

I did the one where it talked about how to make life easier for black people and for women.  These lists are awful and I always feel drained at the end of them, but here’s another list and it caught my attention.  Let’s talk about 100 ways that I can make life easier for trans people.  Here’s a link to the article.

1. Respect people’s pronouns. This is really not very complicated! If someone tells you how they identify, you have no say on the matter. Use the pronouns they use.

Sure, why not.  So long as it isn’t some stupid pronoun like xir/xirself or ze/zeself, I got you.  If you’re gonna pull that shit, then my pronouns are master/master.  So you have to say to your friends – master said my pronouns are dumb.

2. Still on pronouns: if you don’t know somebody’s pronouns and want to get it right, either use gender neutral pronouns (i.e. they/them/their) or quietly and discreetly speak to the person and ask. Be aware of your surroundings and those around you before doing so – do not out this person or put them in an unsafe situation.

Nah.  I don’t think so.  I’m gonna use the pronouns I think fit the gender as I see it unless told otherwise by the person.  I don’t get into this gender-neutral world that people want to live in.

3. Trans folk can use gender neutral pronouns, so please do not assume that we must adhere to a binary.

You can use whatever terms you want.  I don’t care.  Free country.  And can we PLEASE stop using the world “folk.”  It’s fucking people.  I swear, when I hear them use the term “folk” unironically, I think of the Pepperidge Farm commercials.

4. Try to start removing binary language from your everyday conversations. If we all make conscious efforts to steer away from gendering everything, this will have a knock-on effect that stops our learnt obsession of having to divide everything into binaries.

Um, no.  I’m gonna speak how I see fit.  If you don’t like it, don’t talk to me.

5. Trans women are women. This is not up for debate – so don’t try to.

I’m fine with a trans person identifying themselves however they wish.  Not my concern nor my problem.

6. Trans men exist! We are often overlooked or forgotten, so try to remind yourself that we are out here and can find the male cis world hard to navigate.

There is this assertion this person has, that people like me just hate trans people on the face of it, so we refuse to acknowledge their existence.  I’m anti-SJW, after all.  Again, I’m fine with trans people identifying themselves with whatever gender they want.  Even idiots like Milo Stewart.

7. Call out transphobia WHEREVER you are! Even if a trans person is not present, be our defence. Hateful language perpetuates the dangerous cycle of violence.

Yeah, no.  If someone’s talking to me and they say some hateful shit, I might be like “dude, what the fuck?”  But if I just hear something someone is saying, I’m going to leave them alone.  Much as I would hope other people leave me alone when I talk to other people.

8. Understand and be vocal that transphobia is never “funny,” “in jest,” or “banter.”

If I’ve learned anything from the Cyberpunk 2077 nonsense, it’s that what constitutes transphobia is always evolving with you people.  So tell you what – I’ll make the jokes I wanna make.  If you don’t like them, you can not talk to me.  In fact, let’s start that right now.

9. Don’t refer to us as a whole. Do not make sweeping generalisations about every trans person. We are all individual people with different opinions.

Can someone tell the writer of this article that?  This entire fucking post is about how to treat an entire community of people as if they are all the same.  Irony, it’s a learned art.

10. Reject the idea that transitioning looks like one thing. People wish to transition in various ways. If someone doesn’t want to or can’t medically transition, this does not mean they are “less trans.” There is no such thing as “less trans” or “more trans.” This is a personal journey that doesn’t need to tick any boxes in order for the transition to be validated – by anyone!

I couldn’t possibly care less about how people transition.  For real.

11. NEVER ask anything about our genitalia or body. “So… do you still have everything down there” as a puzzled hand flutters near our privates is not ever going to be OK. That is final.

This depends on the situation.  If we’re getting hot and heavy and I know that you’re trans, I have every right to ask.  If we are in a sexual situation, as part of consent, I have a right to know what I’m getting myself into.

12. Oh, let’s not forget that we do not all know each other. The queer community is bigger than you think.

Again, articles like this treat the LGBT community like a Borg collective.  I happen to know it’s bigger than one would think.

13. Try to refrain from using language that is heavily influenced or derived from queer culture if this is not your community. Words and phrases are a way of communication in code for a large majority of the queer community (like “reading”). Language creates a dialogue within the queer community that is meant to protect and ensure safety.

I’m sorry…what?  The term “reading” is part of the gay community?  The fuck?  Yeah, fuck you.  I will use whatever terminology I want, and if you don’t like it, you can suck it up like a big boy/girl.

14. Do not enter queer or trans safe spaces without a queer person asking you to be there or without making sure that allies are welcome.

No worries there, whoever, because I have no desire to go to a queer/trans safe space.  At least not without someone asking me to be there.  People who designate an area a “safe space” are probably not the kind of people I’m going to like getting to know.

15. When you are in queer spaces, repeat: “This is not my space, I will not fill it” and actually do what you say.

See previous answer.

16. Be aware of your hands. Do not touch people without consent in all spaces – and especially queer spaces – and especially avoid touching trans people who often are triggered by physical contact involving parts of their body.

You know what, this I agree with.  Don’t touch me, ever.  I don’t like to be touched, and I guess you don’t, so tell you what – you don’t do to me, I won’t do to you.

17. If you are called out for being offensive, do not argue. This is not a debate. Apologise. Take a moment to reflect. If necessary, leave or give the space over to those you have offended or upset.

If someone calls me out, I absolutely will argue, because they are making a spectacle of something.  Someone wants to talk to me in private, that’s something else.  But you call me out in public, I’m gonna argue with you all day.  You started that fight, not me.

18. Never try to argue with a trans person that something isn’t transphobic.

No.

19. Remind us that being trans isn’t a burden or a bad thing!

It absolutely isn’t a bad thing, but given that most of the population isn’t trans, and society doesn’t have the same view on it that it does on the gay community, it has a burden.  Technically, being gay is a burden too because the average person is straight.  Being gay is a minority situation.  We all have our crosses to bear.  Sorry if you don’t like that, but reality doesn’t conform to what you want the world to be.

20. Recognise the strength and power of your voice.

Okay.

21. Now use it.

Using it now, to reply to you.

22. If a trans person is being verbally assaulted, made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or being attacked in any way and needs your help – open your mouth.

If someone asks for my help, I’ll do so, but I’m sorry – I’m not gonna put myself in a difficult situation without someone asking.  That’s a huge imposition.

23. This being said, do not become the ally that speaks over or for a trans person in this situation. Ask if we want you to step in because there’s nothing more frustrating than cis person silencing you. It happens enough, jeez!

See, this kinda makes my point about why I do nothing unless asked.  Because these people don’t appreciate it when people go out of their way.  And wait, didn’t you JUST SAY that people should step in in a situation where someone is being verbally or physically attacked?  Gotta say, your yin-yanging on ideas is a real doozy.

24. Talk to us about more than gender! Movies, what we had for dinner, our next holiday – anything that isn’t constant emotional labour.

Tell you what – you don’t talk to me about your gender, I won’t talk to you about it.  I have no more desire to talk about that than apparently you do.

25. Take us off your mood boards. Book us, pay us, and celebrate us.

…What?

26. Do not fetishise trans folk. We are not your sexual experimentations, tokens, or reason to rebel against your parents. We are not here for you.

I’ll be sexually attracted to whatever I’m sexually attracted to.  You have no more right to tell me how to conduct myself in what I want than I do you.

27. Criticise the media. Write to the newspapers, institutions, and publications that are spreading hate towards the trans community. Create polls and petitions. National news portrays us as monsters and threats to society. We can’t stop them from doing that on our own.

Making fun of conservative news is a good pasttime of mine.  Not on your behalf, but because they say so much stupid shit that’s comedy gold.

28. Learn what Mx means.

No.

29. Talk to the generation above you – your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. You can’t always change traditional mindsets, but you can give them a new perspective.

I come from a conservative-ass extended family.  My own parents are cool, but the rest run the gamut.  And I know for a FACT that if I broach any of these subjects with them, it will just start a fight.  I’m trying to avoid these people as much as I can already.  Don’t need to add that to the problems.

30. Support the generation below; speak to young kids. Make them aware that gender is a spectrum and they don’t have to commit to one gender for their whole life. Educate them on their freedom and choices.

Yeah, no.  Here’s what I’ll do for the gender below – if they are super young, I ain’t gonna say shit.  When they are old enough for gender dysphoria to manifest, then I’ll talk to them about how that works, and say that they can look into if they want to see about transitioning when they are old enough to make an informed decision, or not.  I’m not gonna give kids bad information like you lot.

31. Don’t buy gendered things for kids around you. This just pushes the ideas that boys must like blue and girls must like pink and only one of them can play football in their spare time. I don’t even particularly like either colours!

Good for you.  As for me, assuming I buy something for a child (highly unlikely), I’ll get them whatever I think they’ll like.  Fuck your stupid-ass opinion.

32. Stop pretending only trans people experience name changes or surgery. Me changing my name and a friend getting married and changing her surname meant we had to go through some similar legal process. Help trans folk with these legal procedures, whether that’s telling us which bank is easy to change your name with or going through the deed poll process with us. It means it doesn’t feel like these are “trans issues” – they’re just really confusing forms that nobody quite understands!

This sounds like a huge imposition on my time and I don’t actually care enough about your issues to do anything, so no.

33. Share your platforms. I am tired of cis people talking about trans health. Ask us to talk, educate, share our stories, and pay us. This way you don’t get the credit for the lives we live.

Oh fuck off.  I’m not talking about your issues.  And I’m not paying you for anything.  What should people pay you for, existing?  Are you an Instagram influencer now?  Wanna do some Internet panhandling?  I’m sure a decent chunk of the people who are seriously trying to discuss stuff like this are doctors and people who understand these issues from a scientific standpoint.

34. Support trans artists. Rock up to our exhibitions. Buy our books. Listen to our podcasts. Use your social platforms to share the incredible things we do despite the adversity we face.

I’m sure they don’t have this opinion of Blaire White.

35. Don’t expect trans folk to always congratulate you for being an ally. Sometimes you’re just being a good person. I don’t get a gold star for just being a good person.

I don’t think you are a good person.  I think you’re a judgmental asshole who I have no desire to know.

36. Donate to organizations and charities that are set up to aid and help trans folk. There are so many organisations struggling with funding. Without lots of these resources we can’t access things like mental health services and free meet-ups.

I donate to charities I think will do the most good.  You do the same, and power to ya.

37. Do not tell us what RuPaul, Trump, or the Daily Mail said about us. Chances are we already know.

Good for you.

38. Post about the #blacktranslivesmatter campaign – highlight that trans people of colour are targets of violence.

I have ZERO respect for any of these identity politics hashtag movements.  Kindly fuck off with that nonsense.

39. If you are dating a trans person, try to understand their triggers. For example, me and my partner call my menstrual cycle “Lucifer.” So if I text her to say “Lucifer is here,” she knows to bring chocolate and pillows. You can also try covering tampon or pad boxes and wrapping with cute cartoons or their favourite colour.

My Groj, do you people want to be coddled.  I won’t be an asshole if I know something is a sensitive subject for you, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to pamper your ass.  Christ, what world do you think you live in?  This is why people say that Gen Zed/Millennials can’t handle life.

40. Do not tell us we “are playing the victim,” WE ARE THE FUCKING VICTIM.

Yeah…you kinda made the point about how you play the victim.

41. Do not attend panels that address gender and/or trans identity if everyone on the panel is cis.

There will never be a point, in my life, where I will be attending a panel about gender/trans issues.  Ever.

42. Give trans creatives platforms to share work that aren’t all about being trans.

Why do I have to give this to you?  All the social media you could ask for exists.  And we know that right now it has a very hard-left bias.  So why do you need me to give you a platform?  You couldn’t ask for more by yourself.

43. Do your research. For all ignorant questions, divert to Google. Google is your friend. I am not, especially if you’re asking me how doctors make a penis from my leg.

Remember that point about you saying you don’t get a gold star for being a good person and my response about thinking you’re just an asshole?  Let’s revisit that for a moment.

44. If trans folk do have to explain something to you that may be uncomfortable, triggering, or upsetting for us, buy us a bunch of flowers, take us for dinner, drop something into our PayPal. No labor should be free.

Oh fuck right off with this shit.  Yeah, let me pamper you for asking a fucking question.  Fucking Internet panhandling at its finest.  Let me guess, you have a Patreon.

45. Transphobia is a huge issue in the queer community. Do not let other people who identify as queer get away with things, because they can be by far the worst.

I’m not gonna tell anyone how to think, and I would expect the same courtesy in return.

46. Record transphobic incidents. (Caveat: This is only if your immediate assistance is not needed and you have checked you can use this footage by the person involved.) Share this with everyone you can. It may lead to prosecution or people in positions loosing their job. Nobody should still be allowed to be a CEO and use offensive slurs.

Fuck you.  I’m not gonna try and destroy someone’s livelihood because of what they do in their off hours.  If they are unprofessional on the job, that’s one thing.  But I’m not gonna go after a person that said something impolitic when they aren’t at work.  Fuck people who think like you too.  All that stuff about you being a good person, let’s log that in the trash.

47. Don’t question someone’s religious beliefs because they are trans and you think they go against what it says in a holy book. This isn’t your business, OK?

No.  It’s a valid question.  How can you possibly believe in a deity who outright says that how you are is an abomination unto them?  Really asking here.  This interests me.

48. Trans issues are not for profit. That’s it.

Are you fucking kidding me?!  You just told people if they ask you a question to pamper you or give you a Paypal donation!  There cannot be this level of cognitive dissonance!

49. “Queer” is not a theme. Do not have a “queer” house party and let boys who still use the word “faggot” wear your heels and dresses because it’s fun.

I don’t do house parties, so I think we’re good on this one.

50. Drag queens are not always trans, but they can be – so respect that!

Sure.

51. Do not make someone feel bad after dragging you for something you have done that is deemed transphobic. Your guilt is not my guilt to feel.

If someone I know made a big deal out of stupid bullshit, yeah, I got no issue making them feel bad for making this my problem.

52. Don’t ask what gender dysphoria feels like because it’s a stupid question and there’s no way you can try to understand it.

For someone who wants everyone to understand their “struggle,” you certainly do go out of your way to tell them not to ask about what it’s like.

53. Ask your friends or trans folk you know if they’d like company when going to hospital appointments. Hospitals are scary at the best of times and sometimes you don’t always get the treatment, doctors, or results you want. Be there to give a hug, at least.

I mean…I guess.  Having spent over a month in a hospital because of a head injury and a subsequent coma, I don’t fear them all that much.  But sure, if someone I know has to go to the hospital and they are nervous, I’ll be there for them.  No problem.

54. Do anything you can to stop trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) from leaving stickers, leaflets etc. Tear down everything you see associated with them.

I was wondering if TERFs would ever come into this conversation.  I don’t think I will.  It’s kinda nice to see the community fighting amongst itself.  Identity politics does this a lot, and it’s entertaining.

55. Do not engage in question-based conversations with TERFs. You have nothing to learn from them.

Hey, I got an idea – how about you don’t tell me who to talk to and I won’t tell you who to talk to.

56. Correct others when they misgender people.

No.

57. Gender and sexuality are not the same thing. Remember that at all times.

This is all part of a long, convoluted conversation that people like the person who made this list have helped perpetuate, so I’m just gonna walk this off as – sure.

58. Do not ask a trans person’s partner what being in a relationship with a trans person “makes” them. It makes them in love, now fuck off.

Again, I won’t tell you how to talk to your people, you don’t tell me how to talk to mine.

59. Trans Lives Matter should be more than a hashtag. Push it further than social media.

No.

60. Tell your trans friends and partners how great they look. Highlight the changes after hormones, surgery, or even just a good skin day.

This reminds me of that thing about the “TRANS-lator 3000” comic where, if you tell a trans person how well they are passing, it’s an insult.  You people can’t even make up your own minds on this shit.

61. You are not a true ally if you allow your partner to use transphobic language. Educate your friends and family.

Not an ally.  Just a casual observer.

62. Love your children regardless of what gender they identify as. Most self-hate for many trans folk comes from not being accepted at home.

Never having children.  As of this year, removing myself from the game, medically.  I mean to be part of the solution to overpopulation, not the problem.

63. Offer shelter, money, food etc. The basics of survival are hard for trans folk. If you have enough to spare, try to offer.

No!  They can work for it like anyone else.  I give to homeless shelters and organizations to help the homeless, so if that is their issue, I’m helping them and other people the best I can.  You make being trans sound like this huge Lawrence of Arabia kind of endeavor.

64. This is not a “phase.” Do not tell me it is one.

I ain’t telling you shit.  You seem really unpleasant to me.  As for Milo Stewart, I think that it is a phase.  Someday the little dork will grow up.  That’s a good thing.

65. If your trans friend is leaving a social situation and feels uneasy about travel, offer to walk them to a train station and wait with them, drive them home, or get them a taxi. Travelling home alone by yourself can be a scary scenario.

Why does the person writing this always want me to make huge impositions for people?  If it’s my friend, sure.  If it’s not, no.

66. Do not think you are saving us. We don’t need saving. You are helping us to have what everyone else has without having to ask for it.

The irony of this statement in respect to the rest of this list is just staggering.

67. Be active about your allyship. Just saying you are an ally but not doing enough to actually make a change isn’t enough.

Not an ally.

68. Avoid gendered slang terms like “dude,” “man,” or “missy.” For trans people, these too feel like misgendering.

I’ll speak however I like, thank you.  Dude is a non-gendered term in my mind.

69. Expand your knowledge of gender. For example, the Yoruba language is genderless. There is also a third gender in many spiritual philosophies.

No. I don’t care about Yoruba.  Fuck them.

70. Decolonise the way you think of gender. Remind yourself that these social constructs are postcolonial issues that the western world have pushed onto people.

*rolls eyes*

71. Be hyper aware of the systems that work against trans folk in issues like policing, housing, and health care.

Fuck off.

72. Offer to help go to health meetings and assessments. These spaces and the people within them can be very triggering and cause distress.

NO!  Unless someone I care about asks me to attend something and tells me why, the answer is fucking no!

73. Correct yourself if you accidentally misgender someone. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident – it still hurts.

Sure, if it’s a friend.

74. Make no excuses for others. No trans person wants to hear one of your friends say something offensive, only for you to say, “I’ve known them for ages, they don’t mean it like that.”

Uh, no.  I’m going to step in on account of a friend if I know that the friend wasn’t trying to be offensive.  Sometimes things come out wrong, and your precious opinion doesn’t override that.  Egotistical bitch/bastard.

75. Don’t forget that racism is rife in the queer community and trans people of colour are often the most vulnerable. Protect us.

I’m glad that somebody brought this up.  “People of color” tend to be the least accepting of the LGBT community.  But I’m sure you mean that just white people are evil.

76. Do not call yourself an ally if you do not believe in complete intersectionality. You be xenophobic and be an ally for trans folk. It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid!

Not an ally.

77. Sex work is a service. Again, this is not up for debate. Do not try to stop trans folk from advocating for and implementing their own safety measures. Do not hide your prejudice against sex workers with fake worry.

I got no beef with people who do sex work, so your point here is mute.

78. Do not ask to try on or feel a strap-on, breast plate, or packer. These belong to us.

I needed a good laugh.

79. Believe trans folk when they say they have been targeted. Recognise the hatred that is thrown at us from so many angles.

Depends on who’s telling me.

80. Read Charlie Craggs’ To My Trans Sisters, Juno Dawson’s The Gender Games, C Riley Snorton’s Black on Both Sides, and Travis Alabanza’s Before I Step Outside (You Love Me).

No!

81. Relearn there is no universal trans experience. Not all of us go through the same things – we are all shaped by our varying lives.

Wait, did you just admit that you know you’re out of ideas and are now retreading old ground?  Ugh…

82. Share our work. Often our talents are overlooked based on our gender identity.

If your work is any good, sure.

83. Step down. Take up less space. If you are asked to do or take about something that you think your trans friend, partner, or coworker is more qualified for. Give our names.

No.  I wanna get ahead in this world.  I’m tired of being poor and scraping along.  If I have a chance to do something that gets me farther along, I’m gonna take it.

84 Love us and see us as human beings. After all, that’s what we are!

I will love other people and see them as human beings.  Not you, person who wrote this.  I am convinced that you are an unrepentant dick.

85. Watch Pose, Paris is Burning, Tomboy, Tangerine.

No!

86. Learn the correct terminology. Instead of saying “when you were a girl/a boy” say “your assigned gender at birth.”

No.

87. “Transgenders” is not a thing. We do not fall under one group. Never say that.

Yet-another retread of something we’ve already talked about.

88. Fight for our rights. Block and report pages or people spreading hate, too.

Not gonna try and stifle other people’s freedom of expression because it makes you mad.  Sorry-not-sorry.

89. Help to introduce gender neutral bathrooms. They should be way more common. Ask for them at work, cafes, bars, and venues.

Got no problem with you doing that.  Not gonna help.  As I said, not an ally.

90. If somebody who is trans asks you to go to the bathroom with them, go. This can be a very unsafe space for us.

Yeah…I’m gonna have some follow-up questions if someone asks me to go into a bathroom with them.

91. Pride is not for you to get drunk and smear glitter on your face. Respect that this is not your space.

Fuck off.  If you don’t want people to have fun at a public event, then have a fucking funeral, you pedantic prick.

92. Trans-only groups are there for a reason. These are also not your spaces.

Fair enough.

93. Your curiosity does not come before our comfort. Don’t expect answers and labor.

If you don’t wanna answer people’s questions, then don’t get mad when people don’t have an understanding of your issues.  They came to you wanting to learn, you told them no.  That’s on you.

94. Saying “I do not see gender” is hella problematic. We don’t need another way to be erased.

Fuck off.

95. Don’t assume anything about gender dysphoria. Not everyone experiences it and not everyone experiences it in the same way. People navigate it with different coping mechanisms.

Remember that point I made about people asking questions and you not answering them?  Kinda comes back here.

96. Do not deny your privilege. If you tell me that being a cis heterosexual white man doesn’t mean you haven’t “had it rough,” I will tell you that you are wrong.

Fuck off with your Original Sin bullshit.

97. I also am not playing Top Trumps with you. Don’t try to top my experience.

Top Trumps?  Is this a British thing?

98. Not everything needs labels. As my grandmother would say: “Baby, some things just be as they be.”

You all are the kings/queens of labeling things.

99. Intimacy can be even more complicated for some trans folk. Respect boundaries and ways people feel comfortable with nudity, tactility, and sex. This may been being patient or unlearning what we deem as ‘sex’.

What?  Unlearning what “we deem as ‘sex'”?  What the fuck does that mean?  Oh, right, I shouldn’t expect answers from you because you’re an asshole.  Never mind.

100. Find your own ways to disrupt the cis world. There are so many ways to do this.

Fuck off!

I hate these things so much.  Why I torture myself by doing them, I’ll never know.

Until next time, a quote,

“I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” – Professor Farnsworth

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Avengers: Endgame

The end of an era.  The final film in a saga that spans twenty-two movies.  Everything led up to this.  And I gotta say – it ends on a high note.  It’s hard to push the envelope after the last film.  Infinity War set the bar so high that this film could never surpass it.  That being said, the film does live up to it.  The highest compliment one can give a movie like this is that it lives up to the expectations that we all had.  Bringing the end to a film saga the likes of which we have never seen before, and for my money will never see again.  I said a while back that when this film came out and I saw it, that was it for me and Marvel.  Meant it.  The only thing I want to see now is Guardians 3.  After that, I have no desire to see what’s next from Marvel.  It’s sink or swim for this franchise now that the Avengers saga is done.  And if the end of this movie is any indication, it can only go somewhere stupid.  Let’s talk about it.

You all know the plot.  After Thanos snapped his fingers, he destroyed half of all life in universe.  Now it’s up to what’s left of the Avengers to find a way to make things right.  What follows is a pretty fantastic bookend to all the build-up we had.

My favorite parts of this movie were early on.  It opened with a truly fantastic scene with Hawkeye’s family disappearing.  It sets the stage for his personal drama really well.  Seeing what happens to every character when they are at their lowest point is just exceptional.  The reunion between Stark and Rogers was everything I hoped it would be, and more.  Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the movie was pretty fantastic, but that stuff early on was gripping.  It’s great to see all these heroes who we’ve seen be powerful as fuck up until now pushed to their breaking point.

It’s hard to talk about this movie, honestly.  See, you already know that the acting is pretty phenomenal across the board.  Visuals are incredible.  Soundtrack is really great.  So I decided that I’m going to preface my next point that I really liked this movie.  It closes things out on this storyline in a way that no other film could.  And with that said, I’m going to talk about some stuff that bugged me.  Because there’s an angle where I have lots to talk about.

First, I’m genuinely glad they kept Captain Marvel out of this film for most of it.  Because the comparisons between her and Superman are apt.  She’s OP as fuck.  Like, to the point that it’s genuinely boring when she enters the fray because you know that she’s going to win.  Watching Thanos kick her ass was actually kinda fun.  I bring this up because there was one scene in this movie that made me visibly cringe – the chick squad charge.  That was awful!  I swear, they might as well have had “GIRL POWER!” on the screen the whole time.  It was just as subtle.  I don’t blame the directors for this.  I get it – Disney wants to promote diversity.  But that didn’t stop it from being one of the cringiest things I’ve see on screen in a VERY long time.

Also, Bree Larson can’t act.  Her face has zero emotion.  She’s almost as bad as Daisy Ridley or Hunger Games chick in being a stoic, bland, unemoting female character.  I’ve figured something out.  See, a lot of people in Hollywood think that the strong male hero was a bland, boring character who just kicks ass.  When that wasn’t the case.  Sure, we’ve had a lot of stoic male characters in 80’s action movies, but here’s the thing – they had personality.  Watch old Ah-nold movies.  He was a stoic badass, but he had personality to make up for that, and cheesy one-liners.  Bree Larson had…um…something?  I’m drawing a blank.  Describe Captain Marvel’s personality in this film in a way that doesn’t require you describe what she looks like, what she does, or her role in the film.  The Red Letter Media Test.  You can’t do it.  This character is the most boring thing ever.  And given how I’ve seen Bree Larson act about all this off-screen, it’s clear that this woman needs to get her head out of her ass.  She’s clearly enjoying the smell of her own farts way too much.

Lastly – why was Falcon made into the new Captain America?  Yeah, I know – diversity.  I get it.  This is not rocket science.  Disney is all about this shit now, so of course their next Captain America has to be a diversity thing.  Here’s the problem – Falcon isn’t a super-soldier.  He’s some guy.  Just some random guy with no superpowers of any kind.  I think back to that fantastic scene in Winter Soldier, where Bucky and Cap are fighting, and he takes his shield.  The scene was a FANTASTIC set-up for him becoming the next Captain America.  And that makes sense, because he went through the super soldier project with Hydra.  I guess we can chalk that up to another fantastic scene from Winter Soldier ruined by Disney down the road.  Like the line about Nick Fury and his eye with that fucking cat in Captain Marvel.

Those are just nit-picks though.  Overall, this was a great film.  A perfect way to bookend the franchise, and that’s it for me.  The next thing I do will be to make a Top 10 of my favorite MCU characters, and then check out.  Disney has taken this franchise as far as it can possibly go.  The only place now is somewhere stupid.  Jay on Half in the Bag made a great point about this franchise in their video about Comicon 2019.  Marvel should have taken a break for a while.  But Disney couldn’t do that. Then they’d miss out on that sweet Marvel movie cheddar.  And if Disney doesn’t get their money, the whole company will collapse.  Or the studio execs there might not be able to get another yacht.  The poor dears.  As for me, nope.  This franchise cannot go higher than this point.  We’ve reached the high-water mark for the MCU.  It’s all gonna be downhill from here.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Act II, Scene I)

The ride back to the house was so much more enjoyable than the ride there.  At least for Quinn.  With her winning tucked firmly into her jacket, and her companion’s arm around her waist, she felt powerful.  Her concerns from earlier had been confirmed.  The sky had already lightened significantly by the time they got out of The Parlor.
They reached the Safehouse, and parked the bike.  Quinn put the money in the lockbox.
“Holy cow.  How much are you at now?”
“$195,000.”
“Wow.  What do you need all that money for?”
Another crossroads of honesty.  But she had come this far by being open.  Why not go further?  So many people to lie to.  It genuinely felt good to have one less.
“Two reasons.  Firstly, to be able to get out of Oceanview once I graduate.  Second, to pay Father back for letting me stay here, free of charge.”
Kaye looked so touched, upon hearing that.  “That’s so sweet!  I bet your parents would be proud.”
“No such animal,” Quinn replied without thinking about it.  Then she turned white.  What had she done?!  That was a huge thing to divulge and she did so without thinking!
Her roommate looked shocked.  “What do you mean, ‘no such animal’?”
“I…it’s nothing.  Just ignore it.”  She turned to start heading out.
She grabbed her arm.  “Talk to me, Quinn!  Why can’t you trust me?!”
Visibly shaking, her mind was moving so fast that the thoughts just tumbled over themselves and got lost in translation.  Nothing coherent came through.
“Because I’m afraid to talk about it.”
“Why?!”
“Because if I talk about it, it’s real.  And then I have to talk about other stuff.  Once that gets started, I don’t know where it stops.  I’m scared, Kaye.”  No lie anywhere in that.  The concept of coming totally clean was absolutely terrifying.
Putting her arms around her waist, Kaye hugged her.  “You don’t have to tell me everything.  Just the stuff you’re comfortable with.  I promise, I won’t ask for more than that.”
Looking up at her.  “You mean it?”
“Yes.  Just tell me what you are okay with telling me.”
Quinn looked outside.  The sun would be rising soon.  At this point, it would be better to just wait out the dawn and then returning when the gate opened.  She’d done it before.
“Okay.”  Leaning against the wall, she slid down to the floor.
Kaye came over and sat down next to her, putting her hand on her arm.
“So far as I know, there are no parents.  I mean, I don’t think I was born in a test tube or something, but they looked far and wide for my parents after Father found me.  Never found any.  Now he’s my legal guardian.”
“You mean Father McCormick?”
“Yeah.  The closest thing I have to a parent.”
“How did you meet?”
The fear bit at her.  “I’ll tell you, some other time.  Not right now.”
Kaye nodded.  “Okay.  Whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks.  It’s hard to talk about this stuff.”
She leaned her head next to Quinn’s.  “I bet.  Can’t imagine what it’s like.  Being an orphan.”
“It’s so hard sometimes.  Never have anywhere to go on holiday break.  No one sending me letters asking how I am.  Then they all look down on me because they think I’m poor.  But you know what, I’d rather they look down on me than pity me.  The idea of being seen as some charity case by those girls pisses me right the fuck off.  All those fucking…”  She stopped as she saw Kaye wince at the language.  “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.  Just not used to having someone around who swears.  That’s all.  Growing up, my parents would have washed my mouth out with soap if I had talked like that.”
“They actually went the distance with that?  Not some vague threat?”
“Oh no!  My dad is Navy.  We grew up with VERY strict discipline.  You act out, you get punished.  No exceptions.”
“Sounds awful.”
“It’s not so bad,” Kaye replied, shrugging.  “I know he cares about me siblings and I.”
“How many siblings you got?”
“Two.  A brother and a sister.”
Finally it occurred to Quinn how you she was having a granola conversation with someone, getting to know them.  Who was she?  Despite herself, she couldn’t help but notice how warm her companion was.  After a night of poker, up against one of the most skilled opponents she had had in a long time, she was exhausted.  Very quickly, she felt consciousness leaving her.

“Pay attention, Quinn!” the woman shouted.  Towering above her, with her brown hair tied back in a perfect military bun, she struck and imposing figure.  The little girl in front of her cowered.
“This is important information!  Now, who can tell me how the Treaty of Versailles contributed to the beginning of the Second World War?”  She turned to face Quinn.  “Perhaps you can be so kind to answer, Quinndolyn, as you were so eager to pay attention!”
Getting some of her air of defiance, she stood up.  “It destroyed the German economy through the War Guilt Clause.  They lost all of their colonies, along with a manufacturing territory and Saarland to France.  Poland was given sea access that split Germany in two.  The Treaty also took away Germany’s ability to arm their soldiers.  This caused a far-right party to grow, along with armed militias that undermined the weak government.”
“What other event assisted the rise of the Nazi regime?”
“The Burning of the Reichstag.  It became a rallying cry against the Allies.”
Clearly she was annoyed at the fact that her student had actually had the right answer.
“I guess you do actually listen, instead of staring at the wall.”
There were no windows in this place.  It was deemed that distraction would be detrimental to the students.  No artwork of any kind was hung in the hallways.  Nothing that could take away from the classroom.  The art prodigies had their own section.  They had windows.  To take in the beauty that they would then capture in their artwork.  None of which she ever saw.
No, Quinn was part of the group who studied strategy, mathematics, history, and things of that nature.  For what reason?  She didn’t understand anything about this place.  Just that they were on an island and there was no escape.  Not for lack of trying.
Sitting back down, the teacher continued with her lesson.  There was a small noise as something hit her desk.  Looking down, she saw something folded up like a paper football.  Unfolding it, there was a message – nice answer!  It came from a boy with black hair.  He always looked like he was too cool for this place, even in their white shirt and pants that was the uniform.  What was his name?  She tried to remember, but nothing came to her.  There was something else that came to her.  He wasn’t just a friend.  He was also a comrade.  There was a plan.  What was it?  Why couldn’t she remember?  Just then, a whack on her head.
“Pay attention, Quinn!”  The world started slipping away.

Her eyes opened with a start.  Sunlight was pouring in through the tattered curtains.  The two girls was leaning against each other.  Kaye was so warm.  Another dream.  It scared her.  What was that place?  Who was the boy?  There had been a couple now.  They were so vivid, like a memory she didn’t want back, forcing its way into her subconscious.  Who was she?  Then it occurred to her about the time.  It was definitely time they got back to the Academy.
“Kaye, wake up.”
Making this little noise, her eyes opened.  “What time is it?”
Looking at her watch.  “It’s noon.”
“Oh crap!  Is that bad?!  How will we get back in now?!”
Quinn chuckled.  “It’s okay.  I’ve done it before.  Truth is, you being here makes this easier.”
Kaye cocked her head to the side.  “Why?”
“Because now I have a cover story – you’re trying to get me in shape.  It’s believable.”
Her friend smiled.  “You had this figured out before you went to sleep, didn’t you?”
“Yeah.  I always have a plan.”
“Always?”
Giving her a wicked look.  “Always.  Would be a bad gambler if I didn’t.”
She gave her a shove.  “You’re bad.”
“I’ll take bad.”
The two giggled, getting up.
“So, we just walk in through the front gate?”
Quinn nodded.  “Yup.  Walk right in, with me looking sufficiently miserable.  Given that we’re gonna have to walk uphill on the road, I doubt it will be acting.”  She motioned for them to get moving.
“Hey Quinn,” her friend called out behind her.
“’Sup?”
“Thanks again, for last night.  That was awesome.  It was great to watch you work.”
Another warm feeling inside.  “You’re welcome.  Let’s go.”

Detectives Williams and Xiong got to the Academy.  They parked Williams’ car at guest parking.  He figured that perhaps it was best to take an approach that wasn’t completely direct, but close enough.  Father McCormick had found the girl, and was her legal guardian.  Perhaps he could shed some light on who she is.  They knew that if they went at him with the angle of her being connected to the woman who was murdered, he would lock down.
“So, what’s the play?” Meng asked.
“We’re following up on some things, still trying to find parents for the girl.  Keep it light.”
“Got it.”
This campus was pretty fantastic.  Fall was in full, with the colors on the trees changing.  Reds, yellows, oranges, as far as the eye could see.  Buildings made of stone and red brick.  The fence had the look of an old Victorian manor.  This was quite the setup.  A church at the center of it all, with stained glass windows and a beautiful wooden door.
Heading into the administrative building, the two walked right up to a rather charming young woman who was sitting at the desk.
“Hello there!” she said, rather perky.  “Welcome to the Oceanview Academy of St. Galentine.  How can we help you?”
“Hello.  My name is Detective Michael Williams, this is my partner, Detective Meng Xiong.  We were wondering if we could speak with Father McCormick.”
The girl got a worried look.  “Oh dear.  Did something happen?”
“Oh no.  Nothing like that.  We’re looking into an old case involving a student, and we wanted to see if he could give us any additional information.”
She got much more relaxed, nodding.  “Okay.  I don’t see that he has anything scheduled, so let me see if he’s in his office.”
“Thank you.”
The two took a seat.

The young lady walked back to Father McCormick’s office.
“Father?” she asked, knocking.
“Yes?”
“I have a couple Detectives here.  They were wanting to talk with you about an old case?”
Immediately he felt nervous.  So little happened in this town, and even less of it involved his students.  Had the day finally come where they came back to ask about Quinn?
“Alright.  Show them in.”
“Yes, Father.”
In a locked drawer of his desk, he still had the dog-tags and gun that he found on her.  Nobody knew about it.  Not even Quinn.  He didn’t want her to have to know about this.  Every time he asked if she remembered anything, she said no.  It was an awkward conversation point, so he didn’t press it.  After two years, that girl was as close to family as he would likely ever have.  Given how she acted around him, he liked to think the feeling was mutual.  They’d never had a really in-depth conversation about it, but that’s what he liked to think.
Another knock.
“Come in!”
In walked his secretary, along with the Detectives.  One was an older man, with a look of having walked the hard path in life.  The second was a younger man, Asian, who looked similarly having been through a battleground.
He walked over.  “Hi there.  My name is Father McCormick.  And you are?”
The first man held out his hand.  “I’m Detective Williams.”
Second man held out his hand as well.  “I’m Detective Xiong.”
Motioned for them to take a seat by his desk.  “Please, have a seat.  Can my secretary bring you anything?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Nothing for me either, thank you.”
Taking a seat, he felt his pulse quicken.  “So, how can I help you today?”
Williams sat back, looking at ease.  Best to exude that this is casual.
“We’re doing a little following up on an old case of ours.  Nothing serious.  It’s to do with one of your students – Quinn Pierce.  Seeing how she’s doing.  We’ve looked everywhere we could think to find her parents, but nothing’s turned up.  We know your policy in terms of students interacting with law enforcement, and we definitely don’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers.  So we figured we’d talk to you, as you’re her guardian.”
Father McCormick nodded.  “Of course.  Anything I can do to help.”
“We appreciate that.”
Xiong pulled out a writing pad and pencil.
“So, when we spoke with Ms. Pierce back when she first was found on the shore, she claimed amnesia.  Any changes with that?”
He shook his head.  “No, none.  I ask her fairly regularly, but she claims nothing has come back.”
Williams nodded.  “I understand.  How is she doing?  Any problems?”
The Father let out a sigh.  “Well, it’s tough, being in high school.  Some of the girls are not especially nice.  Her scores are at the top of her class.  Every subject.  Save PE, of course.  She’s a little too frail for her own good.”
Interesting.  Frail, smart.  “Lots of friends?”
He shook his head.  “No.  For a while, it looked like she wouldn’t have any, but she’s gotten quite close with her new roommate and a classmate of hers.  Makes me happy.  Worried a bit.  It’s not good for a girl to be in school and be alone.”
Feeling confident that they had breached the topic with enough questions out of “concern,” Williams decided to poke a little harder.
“I totally understand.  There is something I had been wanting to ask about, Father – when you found Quinn outside the school, was she found with anything?”
“Like what?”
“Anything we could use to identify her.  A wallet, pictures, objects of any kind?  We’ve been coming up empty, mostly because we have nothing that could give us a clue where to look.  It’s like going line fishing in the open ocean at this point.  We’re looking for some way to narrow the field of view.”
Now Father McCormick was in an awkward spot.  He did his best not to show it, but if the police really were trying to help, would it be for the best?  The mark on her shoulder, the dog tags.  Was that something they needed to know?  What about the gun?  But then, if Quinn had done something horrible, would she be prosecuted?  And if whatever organization was associated with that brand came looking for her and tried to take her away, could he stop them?  No one who does that to a child is someone you can trust.  What could he tell them?
“Nothing that I can think of, officer.  Just her in the clothes we found her in.”
Williams looked hard at the man, then changed gears.  “Alright then.”  He reached into his jacket and pulled out a card.  “If you have any further information, please feel free to call.”
He nodded.  “Of course, Detective.”
“Thank you for your time.”
They shook hands, and the two Detectives left.  Father McCormick sat back down at the chair of his desk, looking at the card.  His mind was awash.  So many ugly questions in the back of his mind.  What was the right thing to do?  If he told them about the gun, she could get arrested.  He genuinely believed she didn’t remember who she was or where she came from.  Whatever horrible thing had gotten her to his school, it wasn’t something she wanted to remember.  Why should she go into a prison cell because of something she has no memory of?  A gray cloud was gathering over the Academy, and Father McCormick couldn’t shake the feeling that this was just the beginning.

Williams was walking with determination.
“So, what do you think?” Xiong asked.
“I think that man was lying through his teeth,” he replied.
“But we have no proof.  So we can’t get a warrant to search the place.”
“Exactly.”
“So what’s the next step?”
Getting to his car, he unlocked it and stepped inside.  “The next step has two parts.  First, we need to get that girl into our office and talk with her.  There’s more to this story, and she’s the key.  But we can’t do that without something to get her there.”
His partner frowned.  “Think we could scare her into talking to us?”
“Maybe, but the problem with that is that if it doesn’t work, she’s gonna go to the Father and we will hit a brick wall.  It may be worth our time to see if we can get her there willingly.  Exactly how we do that is something I have to think about.”
Meng nodded.  “What’s the second part?”
“The second part is finding out what the symbol pertains to.  The trident doesn’t look like your average trident symbol you see.  It has that ugly modern design.  Sharp angles and pointed.  Plus, the pointy end starts closer to the middle.  That’s unique.  If we can find out who that symbol is associated with, we may be able to get in touch with them.  From there, we can learn a great deal.”  Thinking back on the initial investigation, their attempts to figure out what the symbol was in reference to didn’t lead much of anywhere.  But it was a half-hearted effort.  Williams was sure that unless they found a weapon or someone tied to the killing, it wouldn’t matter.  Now he knew someone tied to it, so this symbol took on a whole new meaning.  A girl with no memory, who washed up on the shore, while the woman was found in a boat.  These things were connected.  The trick was to find out how.
It all lay in the fact that the person with that same mark was a kid.  That couldn’t be a coincidence.  So looking into schools or organizations that dealt with children would be a good start.  Meng could find out how to get the girl into a room to talk.  He would focus on this mysterious organization.

Getting back onto campus didn’t wind her as much as she expected.  Tired, but not super tired.  Maybe a little sleep goes a long way.  Perhaps that was her problem overall.  The two headed back toward their dorm.  Catch up on some more sleep, take a shower tonight when everyone else had gone to bed.  Victory was sweet.  Made sweeter because of the company she had.  Impressing her mentor had been fulfilling, but having a friend cheering her on was even moreso.
They were about to enter their Hall when Sister Sarah caught sight of them.
“Quinn!  Kaye!  What has you two all dressed up like that?”
Quinn gave her roommate a faux dark look.  “This evil harpy dragged me out to exercise.  Something about me dying if I don’t get in better shape.”
The two chuckled.
“Well, she is right.  Good on you, Kaye.”
“Thanks, Sister.”
“They’re still serving lunch in the cafeteria, if you’re hungry.”
“Thanks, but I’m hitting the sack,” Quinn replied.
Kaye wrapped an arm around her.  “We’ll get this one in shape yet.”
Sarah shook her head.  “Silly girls.  You have a good day now.”
They continued their journey to their room.  Once inside, Quinn immediately started stripping down.  Once she got her sweatshirt and tanktop off, she stopped, hearing the intake of breath.
Turning, she frowned.  “What?”
Her roommate looked so sad.  “That mark.  It never stops freaking me out.  It looks so painful.  Does it ever hurt?”
She shook her head.  “No.  It looks worse than it is.”
“How did you get it?  If you don’t mind me asking.”
The tense nervous feeling was back.  “I’ll tell you, someday.  Someday soon, I promise.”
Putting her hand on her shoulder, Kaye smiled at her.  “Okay.”
That contact, it felt so good.  A sense of elation came into Quinn.  Part of her never wanted it to end.  If only it never had to.  Being touched by this girl.  What was this feeling?  Then it ended, and she was back in her right mind again.  Sleep was necessary.  If only that part never had to end.  But then, there were the dreams.  They scared her.  They were happening more frequently.  What was going on?

The golden glow of the late afternoon was drifting into the window when there was a knock on the door.  Quinn sat up, rubbing her eyes.  Her roommate was out like a light.  Dragging herself to the door, she saw Father McCormick standing there.
“Father!” she whispered.
“Hey, kiddo.  Can we talk?”
Seeing the look on his face, she nodded.  “Sure.”
Quick as she could, she put her shoes and something wearable in a public space on.  The two headed to Father McCormick’s office.  Couldn’t help but notice Sister Margaret staring daggers at her as they passed.
Getting to his office, he closed the door behind them.
“Something happened today, Quinn, and I thought you should know.”  There was a long pause.  “I had a visit from the police today.  It was about you.”
Suddenly drained of energy, she fell into a chair and slumped.  “Did they say what they wanted?”
“The Detective said that they wanted more information to help find your parents.  But it didn’t feel like that to me.  It felt like he was fishing.”
Her mind was racing.  “Fishing for what?!”
“I don’t know.  They asked if you had anything on you when I found you.  It seemed like that was really important to them.”
Quinn looked right at him.  “Did you?”
The head of the school avoided her gaze for a minute.  What was the right thing to do?  He had gone to her.  So was it for the best to tell her?  It had to be.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the key to his locked drawer.  Opening it, he took out the dog tags and the gun, putting them on his desk.
Walking over, Quinn was shaking.  Her hand reached out and took the tags.
Quinn Pierce
ID No. 56714
Program: Kingmaker
What was this?  She had an ID number?  What were these programs?  Part of her couldn’t shake a familiar feeling, seeing this.  It was required that they wear it all times.  Failure to do so would result in reprimand.  Usually getting hit on the knuckles.  Some things were coming back to her.
Then there was the gun.
“This was on me when you found me?” she asked.
Father McCormick looked awkward.  “No.  You were holding it.”
Her heart stopped.  Why did she have a gun?  For what purpose?
“Father, you said that you found me because you heard a gunshot.  Was it me?  Did I shoot somebody?”  Despite herself, tears were welling up.  She didn’t want to believe that she could have done something like that.  But then there was that dark side of her.  The one that wanted to hurt people who had wronged her.  What could she have been capable of?
He walked over and put his arms around her.  “I don’t know, sweetie.  But I don’t believe you could do anything to hurt anyone.  Not unless you had no other choice.”
The words washed over her.  She wanted to believe it.  But that darkness, it was there.  It wanted her to hurt those who hurt her.  To make those who humiliated, embarrassed, or upset her pay for their actions.  How far would an urge like that take her?
“I wish I could remember,” she said.  “I’ve been having dreams.  I see a school, but not like this.  It’s a scary place.  They hurt us there.  If we acted out in any way, they hurt us.  It’s a bad place.  I don’t want to remember.”  Looking up at Father McCormick.  “I don’t know what to do.”
He hugged her tighter.  “You do whatever you think is right, kiddo.  God brought you to me, and I swore I would look after you.  So I will.  Whatever you decide to do, I have your back.”
“Thanks, Father.”  The name was more than a title to her.  In her mind, he was the closest she would ever have to a real parent.  Until she could find the people who hurt her, and get an answer out of them.
They separated, and she looked back down at the gun.
“I have to know.  If for no other reason, than to look after myself.  The police are sniffing around.  How long until someone else does?”
The Father nodded.  “I understand.  What do you need from me?”
Nothing, she thought.  In no way did she want him any more involved than he already was.
“Look after the dog tags and the gun.  Tell no one.”
“You got it.  They did ask how you’re doing, to break the ice.  Things okay with the roommate?”
The warm feeling came back.  “Yeah.  Great, actually.  She’s really nice.  I like her.”
He smiled.  “I’m glad.  I worried about you, for a while.
Quinn gave him a wry look.  “I get the feeling you were the reason she became my roommate.”
“Guilty as charged,” he replied with a smirk.
“Asshole.”
The two chuckled.
“Language, young lady.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Art thou afeard?
Be not afeard
The isle is full of noises,
sounds and sweet airs,
That give delight and hurt not.” – Caliban, The Tempest

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Retro Review: Mobile Suit Gundam: 8th MS Team

Time to talk about something that only oldtaku like myself are nostalgic for.  Since FUNimation got the rights to the Gundam franchise, they’ve been re-releasing all the classics on Blu-ray.  It’s great.  One of the ones I was most excited for was this one.  There was a number of OVA series made after the success of Mobile Suit Gundam.  They range in quality, but the one that truly sticks out to me in terms of how good it was made is 8th MS Team.  It tells a gritty story about a unit of troops under a rookie commander, Shiro Amada.  This OVA has everything.  Gorgeous animation, a neat little story, good character writing, and the dub is excellent.  Back when Bandai was in their heyday.  Let’s talk about it.

The story goes that the One Year War has been raging for many months, and the Federation has sent some of their mass-production Gundam mobile suits to the front in Africa.  An untested commander, Ens. Shiro Amada is sent to be the 8th MS Team leader.  A job that he is excited for, but quickly realizes how deep he’s in it.  Meanwhile, there is a young woman he met in his first battle, and takes a liking to.  But the two stand apart as she fights for Zeon.  Can love win out over duty?  The answer may surprise you.

What makes this series work is the characters.  Like another original series OVA that we will be covering down the road, this series is centered firmly on its characters and their relationships as the series progresses.  We have Ens. Shiro Amada, a naive man who just wants to help.  There’s MCPO Karen, who is bitchy, but grows to have genuine respect for Shiro.  PO3 Eledore is just the best.  The guy is such an asshole, and an admitted coward, but he steps up when it’s necessary, and nobody has ears like him.  Then you have CPO Terry, who is something of a grandpa of the group.  Everyone has their fun qualities.

That brings us to the voicework.  As some of you know, I don’t watch anime subbed.  I have no problem watching foreign films with subtitles, but anime is the exception.  I watch this dubbed only, and this series is pretty fantastic.  All-around, the voice cast is exceptional.  Every role has so much personality.  It’s funny that some of the OVAs from way back when ran the gamut of dub quality.  This series comes from a time when anime was taking so much more risks than it does today.  Yeah, I’m a hardcore oldtaku.  Modern anime is full of so much trash.  Glitsy, glossy trash.

Oh, that reminds me – the animation in this series is glorious!  Every frame is just perfect.  So much detail is put into this series.  I’ve seen full-length films that aren’t this rich in quality.  There are so many little attentions to detail that go a long way with me.  Like when the cockpit of a mobile suit opens in space, oxygen comes out.  What’s more, this series was made during a time when cells were still hand-painted.  As such, this gives them an excellent use of light and shadow that modern anime just doesn’t have.  Digital painting is such a step backwards in so many ways.  Yeah, I know that it’s easier.  Groj, I’m making myself look like such a hipster right now.  It’s not my fault that the glory days of anime are behind it.  I didn’t kill the medium.  Same way I didn’t kill Disney when they abandoned 2D animation.

Another thing this series has is a gorgeous soundtrack.  There genuinely isn’t a single flaw that I’ve been able to find with this OVA.  Man, between this and Macross Plus, there was a golden age of OVA anime being some of the best stuff that was ever made that we will never see again.  A point in time when publishers would throw money at whatever and hope to Groj that it actually came back to them.  Sure, some of the most insane and terrible anime of all time was also produced around this time as well, but no one could say that it wasn’t unique.

If there was one thing I could say is a negative about this series, it’s that it’s so short.  But you know what, I’d rather a series be short and made flawlessly than overstay its welcome or its animation budget.  Part of the problem with Neon Genesis: Evangelion was that it overused its budget and towards the end absolutely ran out.

Overall, this is a glorious 12-episode OVA.  If you have any love of this franchise, and haven’t seen it, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not checking it out.  It’s gorgeous, well-written, well-acted, and has a bittersweet ending that will stick with you.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Act I, Scene VII)

Days went by, each harder than the last.  All Quinn could think about was the game.  She was on edge.  Her blood screamed and her skin itched.  Everyone around her was just noise.  A cacophony of ignorant people who didn’t understand what this meant to her.  Save on – her roommate.
Indeed, Kaye had definitely been noticing more and more the nonchalant and unconcerned look that her friend normally had was gone.  It was replaced by excitement, anticipation.  Still recovering from her injury, the bruise slowly getting lighter.  There was something so odd about the look Quinn had.  Shorter than her by a decent amount, so thin and pale, lanky and nonthreatening to people.  Yet that look in her eye was unmistakable.  A predator, getting ready for the hunt.
Lisa was much more aloof to things.  Ever in her studies, she liked that the two roommates were being nicer to each other again, as their fighting had been upsetting her.  The kind of person who didn’t want people to be mad at each other, and everyone to treat each other right.  As one would expect from a Hispanic family, she was a very spiritual person.  She took the faith of the school very seriously, and was always very driven to do everything she could to be a good Catholic.
The big elephant in the room was the fact that Quinn was not spiritual person.  At all.  Given that she went to a Catholic school, she took to being careful about the subject matter with whoever she ended up talking to.  Like so many other things in her life, it was a topic that was off-limits.  Sometimes, it felt like she couldn’t be honest with people about anything.  Lied about her gambling habits.  Lied about her spiritual beliefs.  Everywhere she looked, it was more and more lies.  It was exhausting.

A couple nights before the game, she was sitting on the floor of her dorm room, playing cards against herself.  Texas Hold ‘Em.  That was the game that was happening, and she needed to get into the right mindset.  Kaye was watching, saying very little.  As her roommate had warned her, once she was in the game, that was it.  There was nothing else.
A thought came to her.  “Hey Quinn?”
Without looking up.  “Hm?”
“Do you believe in God?”
Coughing, she looked up.  “Where the hell did that come from?”
“Nowhere.  Just curious.  I mean, you’re here at this school, but you don’t wear a cross or do any of the activities in the Church.  I was wondering.”
Leaning back against her bed, she let out a breath.  She’d come this far letting her new companion know about her.  One person in all her world that she could be honest with.  Why not be honest about this?
“No, I don’t.  The whole thing feels really stupid to me.  I mean, the idea of a wizard in the sky who magicked everything into existence.  Who buys that shit?  We’re not five anymore.  I don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.  I don’t believe in the Sky Wizard, either.”
Kaye nodded, taking it in.
“What about you?  You believe all this?”
Her eyes went wide.  “Holy shit.”
“What?”
“I think this is the first time you’ve asked me anything.”
Quinn’s brow furrowed.  “What do you mean?  Like today?”
“Ever.”
She thought for a moment.  Was she right?  Did that signify something had changed?
“Yeah.  I guess.  So, do you believe in God?”
Now the ball was in Kaye’s court.  She looked out the window, at the rainy evening sky.
“I don’t know.  Like, sometimes I think I do.  It’s nice to believe in all that.  Whole idea that everything happens for a reason and we’re not all just floating around doing whatever.  But then I think about what you said.  It seems like something you believe as a kid, then don’t believe as you grow up.  I’m not sure what I believe.”
Her roommate smiled at her.  “Well, you’re pretty smart.  You’ll figure out what you believe eventually.”
Smiling back.  “Thanks, Quinn.”

Finally, the night arrived.  Once it was lights-out, she got out of bed and dressed silently.  Kaye did the same.  Opening the door a little, she listened for the Sister patrolling the halls to pass by.
“Stick to the carpet and move when I move!  Stop when I stop.  You’re crazy fit, so I know you won’t have trouble keeping up.”
“Maybe you’ll have to keep up with me,” she whispered back.
Quinn gave her an ugly look.  “Not all of us are sports nuts.  Come on.”
That got a wink.  They were off.  Moving quickly down the hall.  They got the stairs.  Quinn propped herself on the railing and slid down.  The landing wasn’t nearly as graceful as she was hoping, so as to impress her companion, but it showed her the way.  As if to make her jealous, Kaye stuck the landing no problem, giving her a smug look of satisfaction.
She just rolled her eyes.
“Show-off!”
“You know it!”
They headed toward the hallway that was her escape route.  Making good time, eventually something had to go wrong.  A noise!  Kaye looked back to see one of the Sisters coming their way!  Grabbing Quinn’s arm, she pulled her into the nearest open door.
“What are you…?!”
“Shhh!”
Inside were two girls, sleeping.  One was snoring, the other was just gone.  They stood against the door, hearing the approaching footsteps.  Both of them right next to each other, the only sound was their hearts pounding.  The steps were right there!  Just then, mercy.  They turned away, starting back the other direction.
Silently, both of them started cracking up.  As if all the tension in the world was just deflated.  Quinn leaned against her, glad to have someone taller than her right now.  Felt good.  A rock on which to stand, as one would say.  A very Catholic sentiment.
“We’ve gotta go!” she whispered.
“Okay.”
Poking her head out the door, they verified that the Sister had gone, silently closed the door, and then took off toward the window.  Now was the best time.  Using at trick she had learned to pull the latch without opening it, she slid out.  Kaye followed behind.  Once through, she closed the window, hearing the click.  Now they were outside, in her element.  The night air was cooler now.  Fall had taken hold.  Moving with a purpose, they got to the tree she used to escape.
“Alright, wait for me to go first before you make your way up.  See that big branch up there?  The one going right above the fence?  That’s your guy.  The branch can hold either of us, but not at the same time.  I’ll show you how, and then you come to me.  Cool?”
“Yeah.  Lead the way.”
Possessed with the desire to get to her destination quickly, she scaled the tree like a monkey and then made her way to the end of the branch.  She jumped across.  No matter how many time she did it, that little moment in the air always gave her chills.  Maybe it’s because of the metal fence beneath with the top like spikes.
Kaye came up quickly behind, while Quinn descended the other tree.  As she looked up, once she got to the bottom, it didn’t surprise her that Kaye had already made the jump.  Athletic girl.  She didn’t want to admit it, but she was jealous.
“That was fun!” her roommate whispered, grabbing on to her, breathing just a little heavy.  Guess that feeling got to her too.
“Yeah.  Come on!  I’ll take you to my safehouse, and our ride.”
“Ride?”
Quinn got a dark look.  “You’re gonna love this!”

She couldn’t quite believe her eyes when she saw the dilapidated house that Quinn took her to.  A wooden porch, with the finish worn off.  Ceiling tiles that were covered in mold.  More and more, it looked liked this place was going to become part of the woods.  The windows were cracked.  Inside was like something out of a horror movie.  Old chairs, furniture, faded curtains that were in tatters in the window.  It was ominous, to say the least.
“What’s the deal with this place?” she asked.
“A grisly murder happened here, a bunch of years back.  There was no one to claim the property of the couple that died in here, and the bank couldn’t get any buyers because of the reputation of the place.  Eventually they just gave up.  Now it’s the ultimate fixer-upper opportunity, assuming anyone actually knows that this place still exists.”
That last bit caught her attention.  “How did you find out about it?”
“Read the article in the paper on microfiche a year back.  It was scary.  Decided I’d do a little exploring and see if the place was still around.  It was.  Road was so faded, it was clear nobody came here anymore.  Figured it would be a good safehouse.”
Quinn pulled up the cut floorboards, pulling them out.  Inside was her lockbox.  The key hung around her neck, always.  With this amount of money, she didn’t trust ANYONE with this key but herself.  Inside, there were stacks of cash.
“Holy guacamole!  How much money is in there?!”
Without having to look.  “$110,000.”
Kaye gasped, “you can’t be serious!  How did you earn that much money?!”
She looked her right in the eye.  “Because I am that good a gambler.  As you’re gonna see tonight.  But we have to move.  The game has to be starting soon, and I want to be there before the first buy-in.”
“How will we get into town that fast?  Walking would take a while.”
“That’s the other thing I wanted to show you,” Quinn replied with a wink.
Coming into the garage, she pointed to her dirt bike.  Make sure she had enough fuel in it, she grabbed her helmet.  Now she had to factor in that she only had one.  Well, best to look after her guest.
“Here, put this on.”
“Where did you get a dirt bike?!”
“Have I mentioned I’m a good gambler?”  It was hard not to keep the smirk out of her voice.
“For real.”  She put on the helmet.  “Alright, let’s go!  Wait, you have a helmet too, right?”
She shook her head.  “Nope.  Guess we’re gonna have to be careful, now aren’t we?”
Kaye’s expression got concerned.  “Don’t take risks with your life, Quinn!  I’m serious!”
“Relax.  I know what I’m doing.  Trust me.”
Those words struck her, and she nodded.  “Okay.  Be careful.”
“Always.”

The garage door opened, and the two led the bike out.  Quinn got on first, with Kaye behind.  She wrapped her arms around her roommate’s stomach.  That got another jolt of butterflies.
Hitting the ignition, the two bolted.  Kaye was visibly shaken, but quickly got into the rhythm, as it was clear Quinn knew what she was doing.  Down the wooded road they went.  The ominous darkness seemed to be closing in.  Then it opened up and they could see the ocean in front of them.  Moonlight was shining down.
“Wow…” Kaye gasped.
“I know, right?  The drive there is pretty great.  At least when it isn’t raining.”
Heading into the city, they kept to her usual route to avoid beat cop patrol routes.  Finally, they arrived.  In more of a rush than ever, Quinn raced to chain up her bike and then at the door.  Nearly out of breath from all the exertion, she pounded on the door.
The front part opened, and a man looked out at her.
“Have you heard about the crabbing?”
She rolled her eyes.  “I heard it was pretty damn dry.  Now can you PLEASE let me in?!  I need to make it to the Bank before the first buy-in!”
He looked over at Kaye.  “Who’s this?”
“A friend!  Came to watch me play.  Now are you going to open the fucking door or not?!”
The man groaned, then opened it.
Quinn nearly ran inside.
Kaye walked in, looking sheepish at the giant of a man.  “Sorry.  She’s in a hurry.”
“She’s a strange girl.  Best keep up with her.  She’s gonna leave you behind.”
Seeing how far ahead she was, Kaye nodded and ran over.
Nearly charging past people, Quinn got to the Bank.
“Has the game started?!  Is there still time for the first buy-in?!”
Looking visibly shocked, the man at the Bank nodded.  “You’re right on time, Red.  The game is just about to get underway.”
“Fantastic!  I know the buy-in amount already.  $17,000 so the house can take their cut?”
“That will suffice,” he replied, taking her stacks of cash.
Kaye was still in awe of that much money.  “That’s so much money!”
She looked over at her roommate.  “Wait ’til you see how much I leave with!”
The Bank gave her a plaque for $15,000.  “Good luck tonight, Red.”
She smirked at him, finally catching her breath.  “No luck needed.”  Turning to Kaye.  “Time to get to work.”
Seeing her friend’s excitement, she couldn’t help but feel it too.  This was what she came for.

The room where the game was held looked especially auspicious tonight.  The people gathered for this game weren’t like the last.  No sunglasses players tonight.  Men and women who all looked to have their A-game.
She immediately caught sight of her mentor.
“Dutch!” she called out.
“You made it!  Was beginning to worry.”  He caught sight of Kaye.  “Hello there.  And who might you be?”
Realizing it was best to not say anything about where they knew each other from, Kaye replied, “just a friend of hers.”
“Yup.  She asked if she could see me play.  I said sure.”
Holding out his hand.  “Well, any friend of Red’s is a friend of mine.  I’m Duke.  Her unofficial advisor.”
“Nice to meet you.”
She handed the plaque to the dealer.
He nodded to her.  “Ah, good to see you, Red.  I had a feeling a game of this size wouldn’t be something you’d miss.”
“Absolutely!”
“Alright, here are you chips.  Good luck tonight.”
Taking a deep breath, Quinn prepared herself for what was coming.  Time to check in with her mentor.
He stood at the periphery, chatting Kaye up.  She’d be safe with him.
“So, who do we have tonight?” she asked.
He motioned for them to take some space.  “Like I said earlier, we have some sharks tonight.  See that lady over there?” Pointing to a rather gorgeous blonde woman.  “That’s Donna Simmons.  She was a professional player until she was kicked out for running the table at Atlantic City.  Everyone suspected her of cheating, but nobody could prove it.”  Motioning over to a black man with a well-maintained beard.  “He’s Stephen Sylvester.  Odd fellow, but Lady Luck loves him something fierce.  He wins hands out of nowhere.  Someone to watch out for.”  His gaze went to a Japanese man in a business suit.  “Hiroyoshi Ayato.  This dude’s been all over the place.  But he comes here once a year to clean house.  The fact that he’s at a game with this many sharks is just his bad luck.”  Then there was an older woman.  “Lastly, we have Eleanor Brixby.  That old broad makes everyone think she’s all cookies and puzzles because of her demeanor.  Don’t buy it for one moment!  That woman is cold as steel and isn’t fucking around.  You got your work cut out for ya, kid.”
Quinn’s smile was a mile wide.  “I couldn’t have asked for more.”
“Ladies, gentlemen, let us please begin tonight’s game,” the Dealer announced.
Leaning in to Kaye.  “Stay with Duke.  He’ll keep you safe.”
“I will.  Kick ass tonight!”
“No good luck?”
“You said you don’t need it,” she replied.
More and more, Quinn was liking this girl.

Everyone took their seats at the table.  The blonde and the black man with the trimmed beard gave her looks or incredulity.  However, the one who spoke first was Eleanor.
“Well ain’t this something!” Her accent was midwestern.  “It’s so nice to see kids these days who apply themselves.”
True to what Duke said, she could see in the old lady’s eyes that while her tone and demeanor was positive, behind that was a vicious hunter, eyeing up potential prey.
“Thanks.” she replied.
“Well good luck tonight, little lady.  I’ll keep my eye on you.”
That goes without saying, Quinn thought.
The Dealer stepped forward.  “Greetings everyone.  Tonight’s game is going to be Texas Hold ‘Em.  Joker’s wild.  There buy-in amount is $15,000, with a chance to buy your way back in at $10,000.  Good luck.”
First couple hands were about learning who she was up against.  It meant she would likely lose some money, but that’s fine.  Once she got the measure of her competition, it would come back, with friends.  First thing that was clear was Stephen was going to go down first.  He was alright, but took risks.  They were calculated risks, but not ones that he could come back from against the people he was up against.  His first big run was on a three of a kind, but Hideyoshi called his bluff and sunk him for almost $1,000.  Quinn knew to fold fast on that hand.  It wasn’t a smart play, and HIdeyoshi was good.  Donna was going to be the next to fall.  Also skilled, but it was clear she wasn’t taking this as serious as the other four.
Hideyoshi was a brick wall.  This dude was nigh-impossible to read.  His Japanese professional expression, hardened by years of talking to important people without showing any emotion, was an almost perfect poker face.  It was only after a couple hands that she noticed the slightest tell of all time.  It was a little twitch in a blood vessel on his temple.  Nobody else would be looking for it.
Which brought her to Eleanor.  This was her challenge.  If the rest of these people were blue sharks, she was tiger.  The entire crowd, aside from Hideyoshi, wasn’t taking her seriously.  It was to their own detriment.  Just like Quinn, she played cautiously at first.  Getting the lay of the land.  She also could tell who her biggest threats were.  The woman hardly took her eyes off Quinn through the course of the game.  Both were trying to find a tell on the other.  For the moment, it didn’t look like either could.
A play game along where Quinn decided to push this woman, to see what she was worth.  The Flop had a Joker, a Three of Clubs, and a Three of Diamonds.  Three of a kind was already on the board.  Now the question was – who could make the most of it?  Quinn made her move.  Opening strong, $500.  Donna called.  Stephen called.  Hideyoshi folded. Then it came to Eleanor.  She raised her $500.  Quinn called.
The turn put down an Ace of Hearts.  Quinn checked.  Eleanor looked right at her.  That syrup-y sweet and totally genuine (to the unobservant) look on her face never leaving.
“Oh dear.  That’s a tricky one.  I’ll put down for $250.”
The game was on.  The older woman and the teenage girl were looking right at each other.  Who would blink first?
“Call.”
That’s when she saw it!  The woman’s flipped a chip in her hand.  It wasn’t something big.  Players do that stuff all the time.  But the timing of it was suspicious.  Flipped it again, then stopped.  Finally, the river.  A Four of Diamonds.
Quinn’s expression didn’t change to even the slightest degree.  Looking at the cards, then down at her own, she mathematically had this one.  The chances of her opponent outdoing her were slim.  Time to see if that tell was something, or nothing.
“Everyone, show-down.”
Donna had Three of a Kind, Threes.  Stephen and Hideyoshi had folded.  Now it was the two.  Eleanor had a Full House, Three over f=Four.  Quinn put down her cards. Full house, Three over Aces.  Finally, she had drawn first blood.
At the periphery of the game, Kaye watched in awe with Duke.  It was true, Quinn was a master of this game.  Seemed the mentor was impressed too.
“Girl’s good.  But this is gonna get ugly when it’s just the two of them,” he whispered to her.
“You sure it’s gonna be those two at the end?”
“Not a doubt in my mind.  There might as well be nobody else there now.”

Two hours later, and the first of their number folded.  As expected, it was Stephen.  He got lucky a couple times, but Eleanor was able to bait him.  It was interesting.  Her strategy seemed to be to work to bait Stephen on the points when Quinn would have done so, snaking his winnings in the process.  Very clever.
Donna went down about half an hour later.  This time, Quinn was fighting back to get the bulk of her money.  Hideyoshi also seemed to be making a move, which she used against Eleanor by knowing his tell to be able to see when he had something good, and keeping the older woman focused on her.  Then, after baiting her in, she’d fold.  It meant losing some money, but he’d get some of hers.  She knew the strategy couldn’t work long-term, but in the short term she was keeping the winnings firmly divided up between the three of them.
Now that the two weakest of the bunch were taken out, it was time to eliminate Hideyoshi.  His strategy had been to play it slow and steady.  The idea being to whittle his opponents down.  For a game of five, that made sense.  Now that it was three, things got stickier.  Eleanor was looking to bring back the strategy she used on Stephen, but he wasn’t biting.  Quinn had her own thoughts.  As he was to her left, and the betting went clockwise from the Dealer, that meant that he was before her.  So every time he would call or put down an amount, she’d raise him just a little bit.  Enough to pique his interest.  Just $50 or $100.  Nothing more.  He kept looking over at her, trying to figure out her game.  Especially since sometimes she would lose, but kept doing it.
Eleanor was also trying to figure her out.  While her strategy wasn’t working, she had no idea what her chief competition was doing.  Finally, she got a hand that was absolutely delicious.  The turn put down an Ace, and Quinn bet big.  Raise of $1,000.  She could tell that Hideyoshi had something good.  He couldn’t resist.  Raised $1,500.  Show-down.  She got a Full House, Aces over Jacks.  He had three of a kind, Queens.  Now he had his targeting on her.  That’s what she wanted.  Eleanor could bait him all she liked, but it was her who was going to get the kill.

Another hour, and Hideyoshi played his last hand.  It was a pretty epic moment.  Eleanor decided she wanted to be the one to finish him.  Take that pleasure away from Quinn.  Thing was, she actually was okay with this.  In fact, she preferred that her nemesis in this game take the victory.  This was about studying her opponents, not to mention getting a breather.  The stress levels had been out of control.
Hideyoshi was sweating, as his chips were bleeding out.  Finally, he went all-in.  As expected, Eleanor destroyed him.  So now the game was down to its last two.  The Dealer called a break for half an hour.
Quinn got up, joining her companions.  “I need a drink.”
“I ordered you a root beer, soon as he called a break.”
“You’re the best, Dutch.”
Kaye leaned in.  “That is so tense!  How are you holding up?”
“This woman’s good.  Really, really good.”
“Met your match?” Dutch asked.
“Hell no!  I can take her.  I just have to play this really, really smart.”
Her roommate leaned in really close, whispering in her ear.  “Kick her ass.”
“Yes ma’am!”

Final stretch of the game.  Now just the two of them.  It was a clash of titans.  Each time one was going at the other, and just as it looked like they would have the upper hand, they would pull a fake.  Quinn expected this to be just one more hour.  Instead, almost an hour and a half rolled by with no clear upper hands.
It was time to take a risk.  A stupid, insane risk.  Hand dealt, the flop, and it was nothing.  A Two of Clubs, Jack of Diamonds, and Queen of Spades.  Quinn decided to take a risk.  She put down $1,000.  Eleanor gave her the keenest, most vicious stare her kindly old facade could do without giving herself away.  Everyone in the room was holding their breath.  She called.  The Turn, and it was a Four of Clubs.  Again, Quinn bet big.  $1,500.  Eleanor was clearly desperate to see if there was something that could tell her if she was bluffing or not.  Her facial expression betrayed nothing.  At all.  Mathematical odds were on this.  The River, and it was a King of Hearts.  This hand was absolutely nothing.  So now the question became – in a do-nothing hand, who had the better cards?  This time, Quinn checked.  Time to see if she took the bait.  Eleanor was staring kind old grandma daggers at her, for any kind of sign of what she was up against.
The old woman bet $2,500.  It worked!  Quinn called.  Show-down.  Eleanor had Two Pair, Jacks and Fours.  Quinn put her cards down – Three of a Kind, Kings.  The room was all letting out a breath.  More drawing blood.  Her opponent was reeling.  Had Quinn discovered something about her?  Was she losing her edge?  Doubt was seeping into her mind, and that was what her young opponent needed.  It’s a formidable weapon, doubt.  Just a little could sink any skilled player.
From there, things happened rapidly.  The doubt Quinn so skillfully sewed into her enemy was eating at her.  She’d look to make big plays, but then stop after staring the youthful enemy down.  Her utter lack of any tells was eating away.  Sometimes, with nothing at all, Quinn would step up and push the attack, only for her to either call or fold.  It was brilliant.
The final hand came.  It was clear that Eleanor was getting tired of this game.  Truth be told, so was Quinn.  It had gone on for over five hours, and dawn was coming.  The older woman made her move.  Putting down $1,000 as her opening bet.  Looking at her cards, the teen girl raised $1,000.  The Flop had a Three of Spades, Five of Diamonds, and Jack of Hearts.  Now the Turn, with a Two of Diamonds.  Quinn opened with a bet of $1,500.  Eleanor raised $2,000.  The entire room was silent.  You could hear a pin drop.  Quinn raised $5,000.  The River, a Three of Hearts.  Eleanor’s bet.  She put all-in.  As she had significantly more money than the older woman did, and she just wanted to be a bitch to her, Quinn put only as much as Eleanor had put in, still keeping some of her chips.
The charming old woman facade dropped long enough for this lady to look like she wanted to murder Quinn with a spoon.
“Alright, show-down.”
Eleanor put her cards on the table.  Three of a kind – Threes.  Quinn smiled at her, flipping over her cards.  Straight, Two to a Joker, which was wild for Six.
Everyone clapped.  This had been on HELL of a game.  Leaning back in her chair, Quinn let out a sigh.  What a night.  Just then, the old woman stood up, and smiled at her.
“Well done, young lady.  I haven’t had a challenge like this since I was about your age.”
For the first time, she could tell that this woman was being genuine.
“Thanks.  You were one hell of an opponent.”
They shook hands, and the lady made to leave.
Walking over to where her compatriots stood, Dutch clapped an arm around her shoulder.
“That was amazing, kiddo!  I haven’t seen a room full of people so quiet like that in ages!  You know, I hear people talk a lot about you when you aren’t here.  There will be smaller games going on, and you have everyone being thankful you didn’t shop up.  Pretty soon, you’re gonna scare away the competition.”  He chuckled.
While there was a joke there, part of Quinn did ponder on that.  If that did happen, what would she do?  Never mind.  Problems for another day.  Now she had winnings to collect.
Kaye also put an arm around her.  “You were awesome!  I’ve never seen anything like it!”
“Yeah.  But it’s time for us to get home.  The sun has to be coming up soon, if it isn’t already.”  Looking to Dutch.  “Keep up on when the next big game is, yeah?”
“You got it!  Let me know how to drop you line and I’ll keep you up to date on all the games and what looks good.”
“Cool.”  She put an arm around Kaye as well.  “Let’s go home.”
“Heck yeah!”  Kaye’s reluctance to swear was kind of adorable.

As they walked out, and Quinn gave her the total winnings, over $85,000 as Donna had bought her way back in.  Getting the cash deposits, they made their way toward the door.  At the back of the room, sitting at a Blackjack table, there was a young man.  He looked to be about 18, with jet-black hair that was quite short.  He work a black and blue jacket, with jeans.  Underneath was a tanktop.  He scratched an itch on his shoulder.  It was where a burn mark was, in the shape of a trident.
“Quinn.  I finally found you.”

End of Act I

Until next time, a quote,

“But honestly, the twenty-one minutes I spend here, all down-time.  Nothing more.  Time spent waiting to go back to the search.” – Heartman, Death Stranding

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Act I, Scene VI)

It was way too early for this kind of work.  Driving up to the scene, Det. Williams would not exist if it wasn’t for the coffee cup beside him.  The sun wasn’t up, and he barely got a wink of sleep with his grandkids at his house.  They were with their mom who wanted to see him and decided to stay over.  He loved his grandchildren with all his heart, but after this many years, he was enjoying the fact that they go home to their mother.
The call came in and since this town was large enough to actually have a legit police force here instead of a Sheriff, that meant that when there were crimes that required actual investigation, him and his partner were among the first to get called.  Oceanview sat in this unfortunate middle ground between town and city.  It rode that line so precisely that oftentimes nobody knew what to describe it as.
Part of that was due to the school up at the top of the hill.  A very prestigious place, which liked the idea of having some amount of privacy in a smaller city, which also gave them a partial guarantee of security.  Every now and again the beat cops would get a call about some girl sneaking out to see a boyfriend or what-have-you.  The place was secretive, and cops typically couldn’t get on campus unless they had a good reason or a warrant.  Not that they need it.
Today’s mishap was the first in quite some time, actually.  Seems a dead body had been found washed up on shore.  Hadn’t investigated a body from the sea since a couple years ago, when there was a dead woman found on a boat.  That case had been a doozy. Cause of death was a bullet wound to the head.  Thing was – there was no sign of a gun, of a bullet casing, or of who had shot her.  Signs of a struggle were present, but nothing indicating who it was or where they went.  After damn-near tearing the ship apart, they couldn’t find a sign of anyone else, and with no other evidence to go off of, they had to drop the investigation.  The file was still in his desk, in case he was ever inspired with some angle they hadn’t looked.
One thing that jumped out at him was that around that time, there was a girl who had washed up on shore, but she was a little kid and had no signs of being in a struggle.  Just nearly frozen to death from the water and the rain.  The school took the kid in.  Nice of them.  The headmaster was given legal guardianship of her until the parents could be found.  Just a strange coincidence.  Life is full of them.

Arriving on the scene, everyone there looked as tired as he was.  Walking over, coffee in hand, the cop on the scene nodded.
“Morning, Detective.”
“Hey Jack.  What do we got?”
Keeping pace with him.  “Floater.  Haven’t had one of these in a while.  Found this morning by a fishing crew who was getting their boat ready.  We hooked a line and pulled it into shore.  Your partner and the medical examiner are already here.”
Shaking his hand.  “Thanks.”
His partner was a very fit and very young Hmong man named Meng Xiong.
Seeing him walking over, his partner perked up.  “Morning, Mike.”
“Hey Meng.  What do we got here?”
“A bloated corpse.”
Looking down at the purple and bloated skin, his face got that look of finding it grotesque enough to notice, but not affect him.
“So I see.”
The medical examiner was a young woman.  A black gal who nobody quite knew her story.  Word was that she had been kind of different, and was banished to this place to get her out of the way.  Just a rumor, but it made sense.  She was a quirky gal.
“Morning, Britney.”
“Hi.”  Didn’t even look up.
Looking over at Meng, who just shrugged.
“So…what do we got?”
Looking up, she slid her huge glasses back up her nose.
“Dead body.”
He rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, I was hoping you could be a touch more specific.”
“Unsure.  Signs of blunt trauma on the skull.  Not consistent with bludgeoning.  Just one swift strike.  Signs that water was sucked into the lungs. Likely drowning.  Taking blood-work to do a tox screening.  Initial assessment is that this person was intoxicated, hit their head and fell into the ocean.  Inhalation of water did the rest.”
Made sense.  It’s something you see in port towns like this.  Wasn’t the first, wouldn’t be the last.  It wasn’t good to feel bummed that it wasn’t a suspicious death, but he kind of was.  Given the size of this town, being one of the few detectives here meant that he wore a bunch of hats.  So he’d have to go back to the ongoing investigation of stolen vehicles.  Oh boy.  So much fun.
“Have a copy of the report faxed over to our office.”
“Aye-yes.”  Her usual response.  And where the conversation would end.
Standing up, Williams started to walk away.  An early morning, just to process a floater.  This was not a glamorous job, but it paid the bills.  When he left Seattle to come here, it was a very different experience.  Like any major city, there is plenty of crime in the Northwest Capital.  His beat was murder there, and it was a job that never ended.  Once the divorce was finalized, he wanted to be far away from civilization.  Come to a nice small town where he’d have stupid crap to investigate.  That was the thought at the time.  One of those things where you end up eating your words.  Still, he was a veteran Detective and lots of other officers looked to him.
His partner, on the other hand, was a whole other deal.  He came from New York City, and the way he told it, that place was a battleground.  Some people like to describe LA as a warzone, but as he says, NYC beats it in every way.  More people, tightly packed, and so much murder that a day without a single call is a mythical thing that you can only dream about.  Leaving that place was for the best.  Now he could be paid a decent wage here, without all the morally gray baggage of having to work in a place where crime is just part of how life is.
Oceanview never really had any major problems.  You bust the occasional meth lab, or a ring of kids who is using exploding tennis balls to blow up stray cats.  It was stuff that had to be investigated, but nobody ever really believed that anything terrible was going to happen.  An effect of a renowned school looking over their town?  It was understood from on high that this place had to be safe for the girls at the school.  If parents saw this town as unsafe, they wouldn’t bring them here.  So not a lot of warning for infractions.  Harsh punishments, and quickly.
The biggest investigation going right now was of a rumored underground gambling ring.  This place was secretive in the fifth degree.  If there are people who know of its existence, they are sworn to such silence that they had never been able to bring in a live body who could testify to that effect.  This was the kind of mystery that Williams liked.  Something without a lot of moral baggage.  However, if there is a gambling ring, it’s gotta mean that somebody is collecting on their debts.  Town had a couple of loan sharks, but they hadn’t been able to secure a warrant to comb through their records.  If ever a break was going to happen in this case, it would be through somebody making a mistake.  That’s how it always goes.
Overall, this was just another ordinary day in a town where nothing exceptional ever happens.  He could live with that pretty well.  If somebody else couldn’t, that was their problem, not his.
“Hey Mike, wait up!” his partner called behind him.
Taking a drink of his coffee, he turned to him.  “Did they really have to call us this early for a floater?”
Meng shrugged.  “You know how the Chief is.  This city’s got a reputation.  If we have dead people floating in the harbor while tourists are getting ready to go out boating, it raises a fuss.”
“It’ll be in the papers.”
“Sure, but reading about some dead guy who was found and seeing it are two different things.”
The man made sense.
“Alright, fair enough.  See you at the office?”
“You know it.”

For days after getting pegged in the face with a soccer ball, the reactions she got from people seeing her horribly bruised face and bandaged nose ranged from feigning sympathy, to giggles behind her back.  Quinn was so utterly done with everything.  Felt like skipping again and going to her safehouse, taking it easy and forgetting about school for a while.  Her detention sentence was served.  Did she want to go back so soon?
In addition to not feeling even remotely sociable, there were other things on her mind.  She needed victory.  Utter, decisive victory.  It was long past time that she took a trip to The Parlor.  Her classmates wouldn’t know, but what the fuck did she care?  They were beneath her.  At the same time, there was a dark plan forming to get back at Eve Harper.
The plan needed to be perfect.  Flawless in its conception.  Something so ugly and brutal that it would make her assailant’s reputation finished.  Beyond redemption.  Things needed to happen.  For starters, she needed to get into her dorm room.  But how?  During the day, the chances of not getting seen were slim.  She lived in a different dorm hall.  If Quinn showed her face there, it was impossible not to be questioned as to what she’s doing there.  With the reputation of having only two friends, neither of which lived in there, what excuse could she come up with?  A class assignment?  Possible, but weak.  Too weak to avoid what would be the definite questioning.
What were her options?  A nighttime raid?  She’s slim, and can dress in black.  It would be risky, but if she was going to make Eve pay, then she had to do it.  Still, this was something that could be done in due course.  For now, the larger objective was to secure an indefensible victory and regain her vigor.
It didn’t help that her roommate had taken on this strange role in her life.  She was continually trying to help her see the good in her peers.  This positive attitude that she was surrounded with at all times, sunshine and rainbows, was driving her slightly bats.  On the one hand, seeing the best in people is a good thing and those kinds of people help make the world a better place for humanity.  On the other, let her have her negative attitude!  So frustrating.
It kind of came to a head a few nights after getting pegged in the face with the soccer ball.
Walking into her dorm, a voice greeted her.  “Hey!”
Turning, she saw Kaye sitting on the floor, her books and papers around her.  Homework, she assumed.
Not in the mood to talk, she just sashayed over to her bed and plopped down.  “Hi.”
Her roommate looked distressed.  “How are you?”
“Face hurts.  Sick of life.  Wanna leave.”  Part of her hoped that the short answers would dissuade further conversation.
“I’m sorry.  You know, Ashley in my English Lit class was asking about you.  Wondered if you were okay.”
That got a sarcastic expression.  “Yeah, I’m sure she cares.  Just like everyone else.”
Kaye crossed her arms.  “You know, not everyone is your enemy here, Quinn.  Maybe, if you actually gave some of the girls here a chance, you’d know that.”
“Thanks, Sister Sarah,” she shot back, rolling her eyes.
“Your attitude makes people not like you.”
Sitting up with a flash, she was about to open her mouth and say something, but then realize it was not worth the trouble, so she laid back down, turning her back to her companion.  At least until she ditched her like everyone else.

The big question was – how would she get info about when a big game was coming?  She wanted to play in something where the stakes were enormous.  Something with a buy-in that was in the tens of thousands.  Real stakes.
Answer was simple – head into the city and hit up a pay-phone.  Her mentor would know.  This guy firmly had his pulse on The Parlor and what happened there.  One Friday, Lisa asked if she and Kaye wanted to go out to eat.  A chance for good eating was worth it, and this was the perfect opportunity.  Grabbing a couple quarters, she joined the two.
Conversation was pretty light.  Let her two companions do most of it.  Chimed in when something half-way interested her.  The two seemed to notice her malaise.
“You okay?” Lisa asked.
She nodded.  “Yeah.  Just got some stuff on my mind.”
“I bet.  Saw what happened to you at the game.  You feeling alright?”  The concern there was genuine.
“I’ll be back to my usual stormy self, eventually,” Quinn replied.
“Miss Stormcloud, eh?” Lisa asked, jabbing at her.
“Keep poking me and you’ll find out.”
“Cranky.”
Kaye gave her a look.  “No, that’s just how she is.”
Without thinking about it, she stuck her tongue out at her, then stopped.  Since when had she been comfortable around people?  Over the past few weeks, there was conversation and it pretty chill, but this was the first time she actually noticed how cozy the three’s relationship was.  If only the rest of life was so simple.
That got her to thinking about the mission at hand.  “Be right back.  Gotta powder my nose.”
Both of them resumed their conversation.  It was time to get to work.

Williams and Meng were walking down the street.  The early evening was peaceful.  Rain was done for today, it seemed.  This little lull in precipitation created a mellow to the city.
“Man, this is so different from where I was in New York,” Xiong said.
“I bet.  Been there a couple times.  So fucking loud.”
“You’re telling me.  Everyone should live there at least once, but not forever.  Place has got a lot of attitude.”
Williams chuckled.  Old memories of his days in Seattle.  That place had its own attitude.  Hipsters, stoners, and people just looking for a calm life.  With tech booming, it was starting to grow.  Rich kids were becoming more common.  Life still made sense.
For whatever reason, the Detective’s mind drifted back to that case with the dead woman on the boat.  Signs of struggle.  Bullet holes in the hull.  Pools of blood on the floor, indicating that other people had died there.  It was a grisly scene.  Far and away one of the worst, but for a town like this, for a murder that ugly, it was strange.
The two were walking past a restaurant when he saw a young woman in a black coat on a pay-phone.  Looked to be in high school.  One of the girls from the Academy?  Maybe.  Didn’t really matter.  She looked to be deep in conversation, a face that was intense.  Odd, but not really his concern.  Just then, the back of her coat dropped a little in the direction she was leaning against the phone.  Underneath was a tanktop, and that’s when it caught his eye – a burn mark!  This was old, clearly.  It looked painful.  Something about the shape caught his eye – a trident.  What was the deal with that?
Meng saw it too, giving him a look.  He just shrugged.  Best not to ask.  If she was a girl from the Academy, they knew to keep their distance.  Whatever the story was behind that, it couldn’t be pretty.  Something about the shape of it stuck out in his mind, though.  Shaking his head, he just figured it wasn’t that important if he couldn’t remember it off-hand.

She got the information she was looking for.  A game was going down a week from tonight.  The buy-in was $15,000.  Perfect!  A game where she would actually have her skills put to the test.
“You think they’re gonna be minnows there, or will I actually be facing sharks?” she asked.
“Oh there will be sharks.  Trust and believe, kiddo.  This game is looking to be one of the biggest in a while.”
The smile on her face grew from ear to ear.  It hurt, but she didn’t care.  Pain was nothing in the face of victory.  A true test!  Going up against people who aren’t there for fun.  Thanking her mentor, she hung up.  Time to go back inside and talk with her friends.

After the two had eaten, Williams headed back to his office.  He started packing up, eager to get home for the weekend.  Lots of stuff to do.  That case from years ago was still eating at him, though.  He wished he knew why.  Finally, he couldn’t resist looking into this more.
His office was pretty standard.  It was cool that he actually got one of his own.  Being the senior detective in the building had its perks.  Trash only had the remains of lunch from that day.  On his desk sat a computer.  Nothing did Williams despise more than that computer.  Typing was annoying, and they had to file everything on there.  It was so annoying.  Meng seemed to be more comfortable with them, but for his take, there would never be a point where he would like these electronic boxes.  They’d never catch on, right?
Sitting down, he opened a locked drawer of his desk.  Inside was a series of files.  These were from the cold cases he had come across during his time here.  There weren’t many.  A series of bike thefts where the person responsible left a calling card.  It was an absurd case, but they never did figure out who was doing the thefts.  Then there were the arson cases.  Turns out, that tied to some cases in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.  They had detectives coming in from Olympia that they worked with.  It was some pretty crazy stuff.  Fires set off all over.  They never did catch the person responsible, and part of him still wanted to solve that.  They were getting close.  A security camera caught a Native guy at a gas station filling up a gas can not long before one of the attacks.  Alas, the case went cold and they were told to drop it.  Frustrating, but what can you do?
Then there was the file he was looking for.  Dubbed the “Grays Harbor Killing,” he started to flip through it.  The boat was a Sea Ray.  Decent size, too.  The kind you take your friends out for.  Pics from inside showed stuff everywhere.  A clear sign of a struggle.  Blood splatters on the deck and the interior.  A bloody hand-print.  Pics of the bullet they removed from the body.  It had come from a Walther CCP.  The gun itself wasn’t found, but something caught his attention about that.  The body they found was a woman.  What if it had been her gun?  Those things were made for weaker hands.  Had someone taken her gun and killed her with it?  Why would they do that?  The questions about what happened on that boat had no easy answers.  At least none he would ever get.  Not until they found the weapon, and the person who wielded it.
Which brought him to the body of the victim.  A woman, in her mid to late 30’s.  They had never been able to get a positive identification of the body.  Not that it was so damaged, it’s just that they had no record of a missing person that they could match it up to, and despite looking wherever they could, it was a shot in the dark.  If only they had an easier way to get information about people.  One of those little things you can dream about.
The bullet-hole went through her eye, no exit wound.  One question that had come up was the fact that there was blood all over.  That led him to believe that there were other victims.  But not a single body had turned up.  They combed as far as they could think, but either the current had got them, or sea life.  Getting rid of a body at sea is an easier thing to do than you’d think.  Lots of animals to do the busy work of disposing of it for you, along with currents to tow bodies away.
Something caught his eye just then – a picture of the body at the morgue, before the autopsy.  They hadn’t cut away her clothing just yet.  There was a jacket she was wearing.  It had this insignia on it that they hadn’t been able to identify.  It looked like…a trident!  In that moment, his heart stopped.  The mark on that girl!  It was almost identical to the mark of this organization!  Who was that girl?!
He tried to think about how she looked.  Red hair, cut short.  Something about her was very punk rock.  That red hair.  Like the color of fire.  In that moment, it hit him.  It’s the girl who washed up on shore!  He had just chalked it up to coincidence because she was a kid.  A bullet from a gun that was made for someone with weak hands.  Like a woman.
Two years later, and he finally had a break in this case.  But there was a problem – the girl goes to the Academy.  What could he do?!  He had to get her into his office, but the question of how to do that lingered over him.  A plan was brewing in his mind, to find a way to get to this girl.  Along with the people close to her.  Someone knew something, and he was going to get answers.  The medical report said she claimed amnesia.  Was that true?  So many new questions formulated in his mind, and the hunt was on.

Getting back to the Academy, Quinn’s mind was firmly fixed on the upcoming game.  She’d be there.  That meant no acting out.  No rocking the boat of any kind.  She couldn’t risk anything coming between her and this game.  A chance to show everyone what she was capable of.  Redemption from her humiliation.  To prove to herself that her mind was still sharp.
“What’s going on, Quinn?” her roommate asked.
Feigning her usual malaise, she looked over.  “Hm?  What do you mean?”
“All evening after you got back to the table, I’ve seen it.  You’ve been trying to hide it, but you have this look in your eye.  It’s…different.  Makes me think of a shark, going in for a kill.  You’re excited.  What’s going on?”
This roommate of hers was surprisingly perceptive.  That could become annoying.
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.”  Perhaps just nipping this in the bud was for the best.
“I’m not your enemy, Quinn!” Kaye said, looking right at her.  “You can trust me!  Just talk to me!”
Something about that look on her roommate’s face gave her pause.  The look in her eyes.  It felt real.  To the point that nothing else felt real.  She stared into them and felt this weird sensation.  Butterflies?  Why?  What could possibly make her feel so uncertain with this person?  This was all so strange to her.
“I…I know that.”
“So then trust me!”  Her roommate took her hands in hers.  “You can tell me anything.  I won’t tell anyone else.  I swear!”
Mind racing a thousand miles a minute.  It was a risk.  How could she be sure?  It wasn’t logical.  There was no way that she could guarantee that she wouldn’t give out the information once she had confirmed it.  But still, why not take that risk?  Trust someone else.  That’s what friends do, right?
“I called someone I know tonight.  There’s a poker game coming up at The Parlor.  I need to go to it.  I need to win.  To prove I’m still the smartest person I know.  That I’m better than people who try and hurt me.  I need this, Kaye.”  She couldn’t look into her eyes while talking about it.
What happened next shocked her.  Her companion pulled her into a hug.
“I understand.”
Tears started running down Quinn’s face.  Someone who understood.  Who didn’t judge her.  Who didn’t tell her she’s a bad person for wanting this.  It felt so surreal.
“Thank you.”
Pulling back, Kaye looked her right in the eye.  “Can I come with you?”
Her eyes went wide.  “What?”
“Can I come with you?  See you do your thing?”
The uncertainty was back.  “Why would you want to see that?
“I wanna know who you are.  We’ve been roommates for weeks, and I feel like I hardly know you.”
Going through dozens of potential problems with this, Quinn couldn’t shake this sense of fulfillment that came from being told someone wanted to know her.  But she had to be sure.
“I’m going into a place where the people there aren’t playing around, Kaye.  I gotta know you can handle this.  The people in that room are playing to win, and so will I.  Once things start, I will be in my zone.  You understand?”
A moment of serious thought.  “Yeah, I understand.  I’m with you.”
There was no lie in her roommate’s eyes.
“Alright.  It’s a week from tonight.  Be ready, wear something you can move fast in, quietly, and black.  Got it?”
“Got it.”
Quinn smiled a bit.  “Rad.”
Kaye smiled back.  “Best get your game face on.”
“No risk of that!”
Something had happened tonight, and she understood that there was no turning back from it.  It was time to get her game face on.  A battle she could take on.  An enemy she would destroy.  Tutelage from a mentor she could trust, and a friend to cheer her on.  This game got a LOT more interesting.

Until next time, a quote,

“Do you know what date is on this coin?  1958.  It’s been traveling 22 years to get here.  And now it’s here, and it’s heads or tails. And now you have to call it.” – Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men

Peace out,

Maverick