About Lucien

I am a writer. I am a dreamer. Humanity may be its own worst enemy, but I believe in something better. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I am delusional. Maybe Carlin was right, and we are just playing out the string. But I believe that something greater is still within our grasp. And it is for that that I am working to make this world a better place, even if all I will ever be able to do is spit in the wind.

Your Corporate Shill is Showing (A response to Bill Maher)

It’s so weird to me to see how my opinion of what was once one of my favorite comedians shift so sharply in recent years.  It’s genuinely awe-inspiring.  Time was, this guy was the voice of a movement.  The left had this big comedian who had big name draw and could speak truth to power.  It was great stuff.  He could go after religion so sharply.  He fought against the regressive left and their ideas that Islam should be a protected class of people.  Or how political correctness is fucking over comedy.  He went up against titans.  But those days seem to be long gone.

Now, Bill Maher is all about shitting on the youth.  Shitting on the future of the Democrat Party.  Why?  Because they don’t want to accept corporatists.  Because they have standards and refuse to just accept these corporate tools who want to shovel more of the same when we are TIRED of this game.  A lot of people give people like me shit because I REFUSE to vote for a candidate I don’t believe in.  I won’t participate in lesser-of-two-evils voting.  That’s how we got Trump.  The orange monkey in office is 30 years of lesser-of-two-evils voting coming home to roost.

In his most recent New Rules segment, Maher decided to go after Millennials again by saying that we need to stop saying no to corporatist candidates.  We need to just accept a candidate, no matter how much of a tool they are.  After all, Kamala Harris isn’t so bad.  She’s a complete corporate drone who is against legalizing marijuana (how is Bill Maher on her side with that in mind?  He’s been one of the biggest proponents of legalization, so why is he suddenly in her corner?  Oh right, he’s a corporate shill too.  Never mind), but so what?  She’s been recorded at events for banks talking about beating the poor with a stick.  Whatever.

Or with Beto O’Rourke, he takes oil money.  So what?  He’s a Texan, after all!  Yeah, except we want a candidate who actually cares about the environment and the Green New Deal.  Maybe a candidate taking oil money, when they have a vested interest in continuing to fuck up the planet is a bad thing?  Just a thought.

Oh, and the bit about Elizabeth Warren with the Native American thing.  Yeah, that was pretty stupid, of her and Trump.  The whole thing made both of them look like idiots.  But that isn’t why people like me refuse to support her.  It’s because she’s said that she isn’t in support of universal healthcare or that she kissed Shillary’s ring before to try and cozy up to the establishment.  Makes me question her motives.

Then he actually had something nice to say about Bernie, going after that point that there was abuse allegations during his campaign with some of his staff.  Well, he didn’t know about that, and I am all for Bill defending him on it.  In fact, Bernie is my go-to so far.  Though, he hasn’t announced.  That is leaving me wondering what’s going on.  His silence with 2020 around the corner and the time being now that people are already starting to campaign is weird, to me.

I notice that Bill had nothing to say about Tulsi Gabbard.  Oh right, he’s nothing but a tool of the mainstream media, and they DESPISE that woman.  Why?  Because she’s against the military industrial complex and wants to bring our troops home.  She doesn’t believe in interventionist wars in the Middle East.  She wants to bring universal healthcare to this country and is all for the Green New Deal, which Maher’s corporate owners are against.  That woman embodies everything that Maher’s benefactors and now Maher himself stands against.  So naturally, when talking about the Democrat candidates, he has nothing to say about her.  That might make him too much like a liberal.  Something we all know that Maher isn’t.  No, now he’s a centrist corporate drone.  To come so far, only to fall.  Well done, Bill.

Finally, Maher shits on millennials again, taking the time to call them weak and saying that they have no real problems.  I find the strategy of shitting on those who are supposed to stand with you really interesting.  We’re seeing, more and more, that liberals are not just accepting the same old shit.  We want something new, and will give those who refuse to give it to us and fight against us the one-finger salute all the way to the polls.  Or rather, staying at home while they wonder where their base went.  You’d think the strategy would be to try and reason with the millennials, saying that it is frustrating that there are so few genuinely liberal candidates running, but that we should at least hold the line.  But nope!  Fuck millennials, because fuck Trump.  A strategy that I can virtually guarantee they are going to take with them to the campaign if a corporate Democrat wins again, and it won’t work.  They know it won’t work, so the media is doing everything they can in this Trump-mania Blitzkrieg that is desperate to get the millennials on their side.

Maher, you haven’t had to worry about anything that millennials do for 40 years.  You’re an old partisan hack who shits on the people who are saddled with mountains of debt because everyone told us when we were young to get degrees, and who are about to inherit a planet that is fucking dying.  But please, shit on us a little more.  I’m sure that is going to get even more millennials to come to your banners.  I’m sure that the Democrats are going to win big by telling their base to fuck off.  I’m sure that they are going to rally the country with another corporate tool.  Let’s try that again and see what happens.

“Have I ever told you the definition of insanity?” – Vas Montenegro, Far Cry 3

Peace out,

Maverick

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The Truth About Killing

A few weeks had passed since that night with Ashley.  Everything that followed was about as bad as I could have expected.  After getting all the tears out, she got dressed and stormed out of my place.  Having gone back over to Emily’s, I got an absolute earful from the kiddo the next day about how much I had hurt her cousin and how she was so angry with me.  Though not just for hurting Ash.  She was also mad at me because I was about to kill myself.  That part I understood.  All the crying and yelling and asking me how I could do that.  Asking if I even thought about how she’d feel if she found out I had done that.  The words hurt.  They bit at my soul.  Between bouts of crying and yelling, she told me that if I was just gonna kill myself to not talk to her anymore.
And that’s how our PT and everything else ended.  My sources told me she had kept up with swimming.  In fact, she seemed to be doing it harder than ever.  That part made me happy.  At least some good came from our time together.  I’d take that.  As for me, I found slipping back into old routine had become pretty simple.  Shadow still joined me on my morning runs.  He loved it.  That made me happy.  I had him taken to a groomer here in town to have him trimmed.  A golden retriever mutt was a big responsibility.  The German Shepherd in him made the hair not grow as long as you’d think, but still longer than I wanted.
Before I had met Emily, and all this had happened, each day passed as uninteresting as the next.  I would do any research or procuring I needed for my next job.  There was one in my queue.  This one was admittedly a little interesting.  Killing a corporate executive, in a manner that absolutely had to look like an accident.  My sources were getting a dossier prepared on the target, and then we could have a meeting on possible methods of elimination.  A German man.  Such a shame, that one of the greatest warriors on Earth was being paid a king’s ransom to eliminate him.  Oh well.
I would go for my morning PT, spend some time playing with Natayo, do some work stuff, then have the rest of the day where I would watch movies or some other form of escapism.  Such standard days.  Nothing even remotely interesting happened.  Would have to think about how I could have my pets looked after when I went on a mission.  Maybe I could hit up Crow.  This was a nice place, and I could trust she wouldn’t trash it.  My pets loved all my sisters.
All of the good feelings in my life were slipping away.  Couldn’t talk to Jean’s family.  Didn’t even want to think about them.  They told me we were starting over, but what her father said was so fresh in my mind.  What if he blamed me too?  I didn’t like sleeping after the night of the dream.  Insomnia was all over me, but that was fine.  Meant that my pupper didn’t get to have a good night in bed like usual.  He was an unhappy camper, but he would get to chill with me on the couch, so he couldn’t be too unhappy.  Watching whatever stupid show was on Netflix.
For so long, I thought that I had it all figured out.  Then this young person came into my life, and everything I had was all fucked up.  My world was turned upside down, and I didn’t know who I was anymore.  And just when I feel like I had this shit figured out and could move forward, this happens.  What had I done?

Fate has a funny way of getting back at me at the strangest times.  She’s a mean bitch, and I had done her wrong before.  As it happened, I was getting materials ready for my next job.  I had a general idea of what I was going to do, but it hadn’t taken shape yet.  Poison was the word.  There are so many of them.  The one I was looking for had its roots in the Amazon (what little is left now), able to kill quietly and leave no trace of itself.  Would look like a typical infection.  By the time they knew what had happened, it would be too late.  The perfect tool for the criteria they gave me.
My phone rang.  Picked it up and saw kiddo’s name there.  What did she want?
“Hey,” I answered.
“You at home?” she asked.
“Aye.  What’s up?”
“I left my report at home.  It’s sitting on my bed.  Can you grab it for me?”  Her tone was so deadpan.  Only called me because she needed something.  Oh well.
“Sure.  Be there in 30.”
“Cool.  Thanks.”
A step in the right direction?  A woman can hope.  I jogged down to her place and knocked on the door.  Best to see if Betty’s there instead of just busting in, right?  Turns out, she wasn’t.  That’s when it hit me – she called me because Betty was gone.  The feeling of hope faded out, but part of me figured it’s best to try and make lemonade out of this situation.  She did call me, after all.  I missed my friend.

When I got to Olympia High School, I saw that this wasn’t much to look at.  The exterior was unassuming.  Because this is Washington, it was nice to look at from the outside.  There were kids chilling outside.  Guess they let kids go off campus at lunch.  Reminded me of where I grew up.  In fact, that’s the feeling I got here.  It really was like something I grew up with way back in the day.  Made me feel a little old as I stared at the entrance and the sign with the clock above it and thought back to when I was a kid.  Before everything went to shit, and I was a pariah.  Over half my life ago now.  At least from when I started.  How nuts is that?!

Being a freshman was the worst.  You go from being at the top of the stack in middle school to this.  It sucked.  Now I was stuck in another alien place that I had to learn all about, with people who probably were going to be dicks to me.  Only one of my friends was here.  The other two either were in a different school, or in the case of Cassie had moved.  It was hella hard, watching her leave.  Cried for ages.  Felt like I was losing more than a friend.  She was one of the few black girls in this town, and when you’re a minority in farming country, that can be a little sticky.  But she was such a great friend.  And the older I got, the more I thought something else about her.  It was strange, but with me all the same.  Maybe someday I’d figure it out.
At least big sis was here.  Though, would she want her little sister around?  I hoped so.  Lulu was glad he wouldn’t be going into this by himself, but having a big sister to watch my back sounded nice.  I pulled my backpack up and started toward the door.  Guess we’d find out what school was going to be for me soon enough.  Hopefully it didn’t suck.  In fact, I would do my best to make it exciting.  Cute boys, maybe having a car someday, and lots of fun girls to get to know.  That last thought stuck with me.  Daddy always said I was friendly.  Who knows who I’d meet.  Positive attitude time!  It was a new day.  Let’s see what happens next.

As fate would have it, things would go wrong for me in all kinds of ways.  But that was history now.  A long, depressing history of how Lady Luck had fucked me over five ways ’til Sunday.  I had the paperwork she needed, in a manila envelope.  Time to head inside.  Something caught my eye, as I headed in.  A kid, with a look on his face that I had seen before.  Maybe he’s emo?  I know I am out of touch, so maybe I’m just reading into it.  He wore this ratty brown coat, and had a duffel bag hanging down at his side.  All the alarms in my head were going off.  Something was off about this kid.  No, this was all just nerves.  Kids can be weird as fuck.  I knew plenty that people thought were serial killer types that just were misunderstood.  Had to get kiddo her paper.
I had texted her that I was arriving and she told me to RV with her at the entrance.  That worked.  Looking around at the various things hanging on the walls.  A trophy case with Lacrosse, rugby, track, swimming, and soccer trophies.  Not bad.  Back in my school, it was all about football and basketball.  Midwest to West Coast.  A larger gap then you’d think.  In more ways then one.  A TV monitor on the wall, with changing displays of things like the school lunch menu, hot items at the school store, various sporting and school events.  People looked at me like I was some kid’s mom.  I’m not that old!  Christ.
That’s when I saw kiddo heading down the hall toward me.  She had been talking to some girl.  Seeing me, her friend broke off and left.  Guess she figured we needed some privacy.  Courteous of her.
“Hey,” I greeted.
“Hey.”  There was a bit of awkwardness there.  “So, do you have my report?”
“Aye.”  Gave her the manila envelope.
“Thanks.  You’re a life-saver!  I was pretty fucked without it.  DIdn’t wanna call dad.  He’d give me an earful about forgetting it.”
I nodded.  “Well, your secret’s safe with me.”
She couldn’t help but smile.  “Thanks.”
We stood there for a bit.  Time to bow out?
“Well, I guess I should be going,” I said, finally.
Looking up.  “Wait!  So, are you doing okay?”
Thought for a moment.  “It’s another day, you know?”
Kiddo looked down.  “So, you’re not gonna, you know…?”
Felt pain inside.  “I’m still here, aren’t I?”
She nodded, then looked up.  “Yeah.  Maybe we could chill sometime?  I’ve been kind of cooped up at home.”
Felt so much better.  We were still friends, even now.  “Aye.  I got nothing going on for the next few days.”
“Cool.  Guess I’d better get to class.”
“Aye.  See you later.”
That’s when I saw it again.  The kid from before.  He was walking in, hand inside the duffel bag.  Alarms were going off in my head.  Something was wrong here!
“Kiddo!” I said, quietly, “Get behind me.  Do it now!”
Immediately she was on edge.  “Why?!  What’s wrong?!”
“Just do what I say!  Something’s about to happen.”
Emily ran to my backside, grabbing my shoulder.  She could see what I was looking at.  From the duffel bag, the kid from before produced a 12 gauge Remington shotgun.  The entire hallway was staring, with kids either running or too scared to run.  He took aim at a pretty young brunette.
Instantly my hand was inside my jacket.  From a concealed holster I pulled out my Glock26.
“Drop it!” I shouted.  “Drop the weapon!”
He looked right at me, this expression that’s hard to put into words on his face.  Like, when an animal is cornered, but not backing down.  Desperate, angry, dangerous.  A whole bunch of things.
“You shoot me and I’ll blow her brains out!” he shouted back.  Cracking voice.  What was this kid’s deal?
It was a bit of a standoff.  Washington didn’t have guards at their schools.  The shootings you see virtually everywhere else hadn’t really caught up to this state.  So for the moment it was just us.  This was bad.  His weapon was loaded for bear.  At this range, if he fired, that girl’s guts were gonna spray the floor.  Shaking hands, but his finger was on the trigger, and at this range he couldn’t possibly miss.  There was no doubt I could land a head-shot, but my range was further, and by the time I fire, so would he.  Yup, this was bad.  Really, really bad.  What were my options?  A thousand ways I could kill this kid.  Young skull.  Bullet would kill him, no doubt.  Maybe wound him?  No, then he would still kill the girl he’s aiming at.  There was no possible scenario of me firing that doesn’t result in him killing his target.  What do I do?  Kiddo was behind me, clutching me tight.  I could hear her crying.
For the hostage, she was bawling, losing her ability to stand and dropping to the floor.  Kid had pissed herself.  A sad day for that cute long skirt she was wearing.  Faculty were trying to get kids away, but I could see that plenty who had been too scared to run were glued where they stood.  There was a surreal quiet to this moment.  My training was telling me a thousand possible ways to make this kid dead, but none of them had it where that poor girl didn’t get her head or chest destroyed.
Another option presented itself – I had to keep this guy talking.  Maybe, if I could keep him busy long enough, the cops could assist in this endeavor.  Plus, there was something about him.  The look on his face, scared angry, like panicking.  If I could calm him down, maybe there was a chance.  Okay.  I could do this.
“Why do you wanna to kill that girl?” I asked.  For the first time in 15 years, my Midwest asserted itself.  This was a strange feeling.
“She’s one of them.  These fucking kids at this fucking school.”
“So you wanna kill more people?”
“Yes!”  Shaking, but talking.
“Why?  Why do you wanna kill the kids here?”
“They’re all the same!  Plastic people who you can’t tell apart!  I hate them all!”
I could feel there was more to it.
“Plastic?  What do you mean by that?”
“Fake!  They’re not real!  Everybody’s on their fucking phones all fucking day!  They all listen to the same music and do the same shit.  I can’t stand it.  None of them will give anyone who isn’t like them the time of day.  They’re fucking robots!”
Getting deeper.
“They won’t give you the time of day?  Is that it?”
He got defensive.  This look as he stood there, deliberating whether to tell more or not.  Something in his mind was clicking.  Thoughts telling him that he was on the right path.
“Yes!  I mean, no!  They just suck!”
Had to be insistent.  Some part of him was looking to talk.  “You said yes!  Are they not talking to you?”
“Of course not!  I’m that weird kid.  The smelly kid.  The kid who likes hunting and guns and has a poor family.  Nobody gives me the time of day.”
Okay, we were making progress.  “So why do this?  Why come in here and kill all these people?  You gonna kill the teachers too?”
“Damn right!  They treat me like shit too.”
Teenage angst.  All the drama.  But then, I knew at least a little of that.  “So, you kill people.  What then?”
“Then everybody’s talking about me!  Then I’m not just the weird kid that nobody cares about.  Everybody wants to know why I did it!  The news will cover it all day for fucking weeks and every person in the country will want to know all about me!”
So that’s it.  Suddenly I hated this kid a lot less.  Couldn’t let him do what he’s planning, but his motivations were starting to come into focus.
“Fuckin’ A, kid.  Being a kid nowadays must really suck.  Everywhere you go, everyone’s online or on the phone or whatever.  The Internet was supposed to connect eerybody, but instead it just pushed eeryone apart.  Can’t imagine how lonely it must be to grow up today.  Friends that exist on screens, but you have no connection to in real life.”
His hands were shaking a bit more, but his finger was off the trigger.  “So why shouldn’t I do it?!  Why shouldn’t I kill them and get them ALL talking about me!”
I shook my head.  “Kid, if you do this, yeah, they’ll all talk about you.  But you know what they’re gonna say?  What a piece of shit you are.  Asking why you are such a monster. At least for a little while.  Then the news will start yellin’ about guns and schools and they won’t be talking about you anymore.  You’ll just be part of the news cycle.”
Tears started flowing down his face.  “So then what should I do?!  What the fuck should I do?!  Kill news people?!  Kill politicians?!  Who do I have to kill to get people paying attention to me?!”
I shook my head.  “Listen, kiddo, killing people isn’t gonna help you.  It’s not gonna make your loneliness better.  It’s not gonna make the pain go away.  Take it from me, it’s gonna make it a whole hell of a lot worse.”
Now he wasn’t looking at his target.  He was looking right at me.  “How would you know?!”
Lowering my weapon, I looked past him.  “Because I’ve been killing people for a very long time.”
He was confused.  “What?  What you do you mean?”
“When I joined the military, I did it to get out of where I was and see if there was a better life out there.  Joined the Navy because I figured the best way to see the world was behind a cannon.  When my CPO asked me if I wanted to get into STARS, I figured it was a good way to do something fun.  It was a new program to show what women could do.  I didn’t realize what that meant.  They trained me to kill, then expected me to.  At first it was just when we had to, but then they realized that we had skill as assassins.  That I had skill.  It was a genuine gift I had, being able to know when and how to kill someone.
“At first it was hard.  I rationalized it, try to reason it away, but it never did.  Kept biting at me more and more and more.  But then I met someone.  Someone wonderful who changed my life.  I gave them my heart and swore that I would love until death do we part.  And that’s what happened.  Now all I had was the killing.  It’s all I know how to do.  All I’m good at.  Through a PMC company I run, I make a killing off it.  A king’s ransom.”  The pain was back inside.  “But I can’t keep doing this.  Each day I wake up, there is a little less of me inside than there was the day before.  I go through life, and I think about how I would and could kill people.  Even now, my brain is going through all the ways I can take you out, trying to find a way to save the hostage.
“I need this to stop.  Because if the day ever comes that I can’t stop myself from killing, then the last body I’ll take down is my own.  That’s better than becoming a monster, who will be hated by the people I care about.”
Emily grabbed my arm, holding tight.
The armed kid looked at me, then back down at his target.  The girl was a red, teary mess.  Then he looked at his weapon.
“So what am I supposed to do?  If everybody already doesn’t like me, what the fuck am I supposed to do?”
I let out a sigh.  “You start talking to people.  Maybe a whole bunch won’t like you.  But I bet there are plenty of kids who feel just as lonely and want someone to talk to them.  Though, for now you’re gonna go away.  You done fucked up.  Still, you’re young.  It ain’t too late for a new heading to your life.”
That’s when he looked back at me.  “Maybe for you too?”
Smiling a bit, I nodded.  “Yeah.  Maybe.”
Letting out a deep breath, the kid started lowering his gun.  Success!  Now I just had to get him to put it down, and then this could be all over.  I looked to Emily, motioning for her to stay put.
Walking over, I saw looks of approval from everybody who was viewing this from where they were either hiding or hadn’t been able to run from.  Had I just done something heroic?  There was a stellar thought.  Former killer, STARS assassin, saving lives.  Hell yeah!
Suddenly, the kid looked pale.  “Mike, don’t!”
I turned in a flash to see another kid standing there, in a camo jacket with messy blonde hair.  An accomplice!  He had a loaded .44 pistol.  Kid fired right into my gut.  In a flash, my weapon came to bear.  Blasted a hole right into his head.  He hit the deck, brain matter leaking out.  I fell to the ground, hearing Emily screaming and running over.  She put her hand on my gut.  Blood was pouring out.
“No!  Quinn!  Please God no.”  She just kept saying no over and over again and she tore up her shirt to ball up and put on my wound.
Felt the life draining out of me.  So this was it.  This was how the life of a STAR ends.  Not too shabby.  Saved a bunch of lives.  Not a bad way to go.  The voices of people who came running over and others was getting more and more distant.  This was it.  The end.  Everything was fading to black.

I woke up in the bedroom of my house.  It was a nice, clear, sunny day outside.  Not the cloudy and rainy mess it had been.  What’s going on?  Getting up, I saw that I was wearing this cute flannel number that Jean had got me for Christmas a few years back.  Thought that burned up with the house.
Walking into my kitchen to make coffee, I suddenly saw someone sitting in a chair in my living room, facing out at the ocean.  Jean!  She was in matching PJs, a mug in her lap.
“You’re up!” she greeted.

Until next time, a quote,

“End?  No, the journey doesn’t end here.  Death is just another path.  One that we all must take.” – Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

You know what feels good?  When you have something that lives up to the hype.  Something surpassing it is rad as fuck, but given how often things crash and burn and don’t live anywhere NEAR up to the hype, it’s pretty fantastic when something you are hyped for lives up to all your expectations.  And this game did just that.  It was amazing.  I haven’t played something this fun in years.  A lot of games I’ve played lately have been just okay or mediocre, but this was such a breath of fresh air in my life.  Ever wanted to RP as a pilot in Top Gun?  I just got done rewatching that, ironically enough, so I did!  This game gave me and a girly-mate of mine the closest that we’ll ever get to a dream we had, but can never have due to physical problems.  For me it was a head injury and the fact I’m a giant.  For her it’s being mute because of an illness.  But we got to feel that rush.  Lots to talk about, so let’s get down to it.

The plot of this game is set in the alternate universe Earth of Strangereal.  Here, years after the Lighthouse War, the space elevator has been completed.  But the completion of it brought strife between the kingdoms of Erusea and Osea.  When Erusea declares war, it’s up to you as the silent protagonist, callsign Trigger, to bring an end to the conflict.  The plot of this game is more window dressing than anything, so don’t take it too seriously.  They just needed something to keep you invested.  And it isn’t terribly done.  There are some neat twists with neat ideas.  Such as when the satellite networks of both nation crash and everyone is on their own.  Wonder what would happen in the real world with such a situation.

What’s great about this game?  Everything!  For starters, the flying.  This game, you can pick two methods of flying.  You can have it be more simulation, or it can be more arcade.  Both methods are fantastic.  If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, I suggest going arcade.  Trust me, it does nothing to hurt immersion.  I haven’t played a fighter jet sim in forever, so that’s how I play.  Flying in this game is intuitive and fun as fuck.

The environments are gorgeous!  Though, there’s a caveat to that.  See, the developers wisely chose to stress framerate instead of backdrops for more advanced consoles, so when you get up close stuff ain’t always pretty.  But that was not an issue for me.  Overall the environments are GLORIOUS!  I play on a PS4 Pro, and holy fuck!  This game looks amazing.  The lighting is always pitch-perfect.  No matter what time of day you’re flying, it looks stupendous.  There were only a couple missions where the visuals bored me, but given the number of missions and all the parts of them that play a little differently, that is not a black mark against it.

So, what do you do in this game?  Lots, actually.  There are a couple basic types of missions.  You have your straightforward affairs of going somewhere and accomplishing an objective, though you almost always have something coming into the mix to eff things up or making things more complicated.  Then there are the dog-fighting missions, where you are pitted against foes, either the annoying-at-first drones, or ace pilots who are not playing around.  Then there are my favorite types of missions – smashing shit up!  These missions are typically wide open, and you are given one directive – blow shit up.  Lots and lots of shit.  You have a score you have to get to in order to succeed in the mission.  These missions are awesome, and I would have liked just one or two more.  It was great to just let out steam and go nuts.

Now, as this franchise has a pedigree of being very faithful to the fighter jets they are using, since while the world is fictional the jets are not, the big question becomes – what about the planes?  I can say, they are amazing!  For those of you who didn’t know, I live just down the way from an Air Force base, and my favorite days walking are when I get to see the F-22A Raptors flying around.  Those things are awesome, so getting to actually earn and fly one was a dream come true.  No joke, I was in love.  I think I still am.  But there are a TON of fighters, from models in America, Russia, Europe, and even China.  Since the actual corporations who designed these things are represented, they clearly went above and beyond to get it right.  The detail in the jets if phenomenal, and I cannot tell you how much I loved it.  Which are my favorites?  Alright, you greedy people, here is a list of my favorites, in order of my much I love them – F-22A Raptor, F-15C Eagle, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet.  Have to show love to that last one, given that the Navy is my jam.  Hooyah!

What are the downsides?  The characters in this game are all stereotypes.  Plus, there are plot points that go nowhere.  Like one of your own having a person who was close to uncovering something killed, but they never tell you what and you never see that character again.  I don’t hate them, but there isn’t a single memorable character in this game.  The plot is also WAY melodramatic.  I mean to the ENTH degree.  That being said, it does keep you going.  It was neat to get to the conclusion.  Most of that coming from the well-animated cutscenes that mix in real world stuff with digital stuff.  Neat effect, and pretty to look at.

Overall, this game was everything I could have asked for and more.  It’s not the most complicated thing in the world, plot-wise, but that’s okay.  The goal is to keep you invested to see it through and want to hop into the pilot’s seat again to dog-fight once more.  Plus, since all levels have a score, you keep coming back to one-up your score and earn more currency to buy planes.  It was hard to earn my F-22, but when I finally did, so worth it.  Part of me wanted to be wearing a flight suit while I played.  I felt the need.  The need, for speed!  This year is off to an amazing start, and this game has set the bar INCREDIBLY high.  I love it so much.  If you have even a passing interest in a fighter jet sim game, you CANNOT go wrong by getting it.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

The Dream

I woke up in my rack.  All these years later, I recognized it in an instant.  Even recognized what ship I was on.  The USS Zumwalt.  Why was I here?  This made no sense?  Sitting up from my rack, I noticed that I was wearing a TOS.  What the hell was going on?!  Looking around the room, I saw Rodriguez’s stuff, but not the lady herself.  I stood up, looking down at my OPSAT.  Maybe it could tell me what was going on.
Osprey, what’s going on?
A brief wait.
Pierce, get on deck.  The enemy is on the ship!
I looked up, seeing right by the door, there was a QCW-05 hanging there on a hook.  There was also a holster for my Five Seven.  Why was there a Chinese rifle?  My SC-20K would be here on the ship.  No time to think about it.  If the enemy was on the ship, and I was told to get up top, I had to go.  Moving fast, always checking my corners.  The ship was silent!  Moreso than usual.  Where was the crew?  And why was it so dark?  Over 2/3 of the lights were out.  Not broken, but just out.  This made no fucking sense.  I know that Lt told me to get up on deck, but the command deck had to have people.  Why was I here if no one else was?
The walk there was so ominous.  Felt like the walls were pressing in around me.  Moved as fast as I dared.  Each clanking sound or groan of metal and I felt my nerves get even more on edge.  What the fuck was happening here?!  My training told me that it was a bad idea, but as I got closer, going up ladders and through doors, I started to run.  Had to get to the command deck, see what was happening here.  I could feel myself being watched.  What lights there were seemed to be getting more and more red.
I burst through the door, but there was no one in here!  Not a single person at their station.  Was I all alone on here?  Looking around, I saw my OPSAT had a new message.
Get to the landing pad, Pierce!  Your target is there!
Wanted to leave.  Wanted to understand.  Nothing was rational.
Osprey, what’s going on?!  Where is everyone?!  Why am I alone?  I don’t understand the mission.
Just follow your orders, Pierce.  Kill the target
.
I leaned up against the wall.  Even that didn’t help how exposed I felt.  No sound.  Just ominous silence.  The creaking of bulkheads.  Movement as the ocean tossed the ship a bit.  Not much, but enough to notice.  Some beeping at the consoles, but I didn’t know enough to know what any of it meant.  I wasn’t trained for this stuff.  Lifted my weapon.  If I killed my target, maybe I could get out of this nightmare.  As good a reasoning as I could find.  Back into the dark passageways.  The darkness got even more oppressive.  I was jumping at every sound.  Where were my sisters?  They would NEVER send one of us in solo.  Even at the most reserved, they send you with one other person.  But it was clear, nobody else was in here.  All the questions, without a single answer.
Passageway after passageway, it almost felt like every open door had a shadow looking at me.  They were filled with darkness.  Finally, I got out to the landing pad.  Bringing my weapon to bear, I sighted down on my target.  That’s when I saw them.  It was a silhouette, but they were there.  So Osprey wasn’t lying to me.  Alright, so I just kill this person, and then I get out of this mess?  Worked for me.  My weapon had a red dot sight, with an attachment of a zoomed scope to get in closer that I could flick on and off.  Nice!  Zoomed in.  Wanted to make absolutely sure that my target was dead.  As I looked through it, something threw me off.  This silhouette looked familiar.  It had a female form.  A woman as my target?
OPSAT buzzed.  Do it, Pierce!
Ugh!  Leave me alone!  Sighting back, again my aim was halted.  This person was familiar.  I knew this figure.  Wait, no!  It couldn’t be!  Stopped.  Lowered my weapon.  Stepped out onto the deck.
“Jean?!”  I called out.  “Is that you?!”  Ran as fast as I could, to reach her.  But when I arrived at where she stood, she wasn’t there anymore.  Like she had disappeared in the prevailing darkness.
Another buzz.  Dammit, Pierce!  Your target’s moved to the engine room!  Eliminate them!  That is an order!
Didn’t even care about that now.  I had to find her.  Why was she here?!  Why wouldn’t she talk to me.  Ran like a woman possessed inside.  The doors were all open, and I could feel the shadow eyes on me.  Through another passageway, until I reached my destination.  There was just enough light inside to see the same dark silhouette.
“Jean!  It’s you, right?!  Why are you here?!”  Again I ran at her, desperate to be where she was.  Right as I was about to reach her, the lights came on, blaring in my face.  Went blind for a couple.  Had adapted to the darkness.  Then they went down again, and she was gone.
“Jean!” I cried, desperately.  “Where are you?!  Why won’t you talk to me?!  PLEASE!”  Now I was screaming.
Yet-another buzz.  You have disobeyed orders, Pierce!  I will have you court-martialed if you do not follow my command!  Eliminate your target!  It’s gonna stick, this time.  No weaseling out of it with the Admiral.  Do the only thing you’re good at and kill your target!
Rage bubbled up inside me.  Fucking bastard!  I’m not a killer!  I’m an assassin!  And why does he want me to kill my wife?!  I would never do that!  Not in a million years.  I would protect her!  I’d do it now!  If they wanted her dead, I’d keep her safe.  Nobody could ever harm her while I am looking out for her.
You don’t believe that, Pierce.  You’re a killer.  We trained you, taught you, molded you.  This is all you know how to do.  You know I’m right.
That’s not true!  I was more than just a killing machine!  Jean showed me that I wasn’t just what they wanted me to be.  I was more.
How often do you think about killing, Pierce?  Be honest.
Tears started pouring down my face.  They’re wrong!  They had to be.  I’m not the monster they wanted me to be!  I got free!  I have a family again!
You’ll kill them, Pierce.  Just like you did your father.
I put that rotten piece of shit out of his misery!  After all he put me through, why shouldn’t I have been the one to finish things?!  It was quick and painless.  More than he would EVER have done for me!  He was dying anyway.  Why shouldn’t I have had the right to do that?!  Was more than those doctors were doing, keeping him alive as meat and tubes.
You didn’t do that to put him out of his misery.  You did it for revenge.
I didn’t have to listen to this!  Where was she?  I had been running down passageways, desperately looking wherever I could think.
Your target is on the landing pad, Pierce.  Eliminate them!
I wouldn’t!  We would get away from here and I would never have to think about any of this again!  We’d go home together.  I’d show her the ocean, wake up with the distant sound flowing in.  Hear her breathing next to me as we sat on the veranda together and ate breakfast.  Cuddled at night watching the moon.  I’d never let anyone hurt her.
Ran out onto the landing pad, seeing that same dark silhouette.
“Jean?  Is that you?  Please, talk to me!”  Was red, puffy, face streaked from tears.  The silhouette didn’t move.  “Are you mad?  Is that it?  Did I do something wrong?”  No response.  Just the breeze in the night air.  Tropical air.  “I’m sorry for what happened.  I would give anything for it to be me and not you!”  Dropped my weapon to the deck.  “You don’t know how hard it’s been without you.  I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.  I’m starting to think that I’m turning into a psychopath.  I need you so much.”
The silhouette just stood there in silence.
Felt anger bubbling up.  “So that’s it?!  You’re just gonna stand there and let me hurt?!  I fucking need you, and you’re just gonna stand there?!  I told you we’d be forever!  I made vows for better or for worse!  Does that mean nothing to you?!”
More silence.
“God-dammit, talk to me!”  I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Still nothing.
Drew my side-arm.  “Fucking talk to me, or I’ll open fire!  Tell me something!  Tell me anything!  Please!”
Just stood there.
“Don’t make me do this, Jean.  Please don’t make me do this.”  Sighting through the tears that streamed down my face without stop.  “Please…”
Only the wind.
“Fine.  Have it your way.”  Looking down, I fired.  The suppressed sound, ringing out in the endless night.
Just then, a light from the tower above came on.  It showed her, standing there, in her NWUs.  The old ones, blue and perfect.  I loved those things.  The green ones were so repulsive.  Blood poured out of her eye-socket, where the bullet had gone through.  The face was a mask of disbelief and pain.
“You killed me, Quinn.  You, and no one else.”  She fell and hit the deck.
I dropped to my knees.  A screaming, anguished cry escaped me, unrelenting, echoing out into the dark and endless sea.

I woke up in a pool of different hair.  Now it was dark brown, almost black.  Parts of it were streaked blonde.  She was beside me, naked, almost cuddling but not.  Sat up.  Didn’t put on a robe or anything as I stood up.  Walked over to the doors leading out onto the veranda from my room.  Walked right outside.  It was pouring down rain.  Quite cold, for Washington.  It didn’t even register.  Nothing did.  I didn’t feel anything.  Walked out onto the sopping grass, headed toward the cliff.  When I got there, I stood.  Looking out onto the drop.  I could do it.  Jump off the edge, fall, and that would be it.  Everything would be over.  I could be with my wife again.  There was this little voice in my head, telling me not to.  It sounded like someone I knew.  Who could that be?  With all this rain, it was hard to hear.
Then it got louder.  “Quinn?!  What are you doing?!  Come inside!”
Who was that?  Didn’t matter.  Nothing would matter pretty soon here.
The sound of feet stomping on the grass.  “Quinn, what the fuck are you doing?!  Get away from the edge!”
A hand grabbed my arm.  I shrugged it off.  This person was annoying.
“Quinn, what’s going on?!  What are you doing out here?!”  They sounded so worried.  Why?  Who was I to them?
Looked over, saw the hair, on this girl.  She had no clothes on, like me.  There was this look of fear on her face.
“Come on!  Let’s go back inside!  Please!”  Gentle coaxing.  She sounded so worried.  Was that genuine concern?
I looked back out at the dark ocean, how it called to me.
“Please, Quinn!  Let’s go inside!  I’m begging you!”
Confusion.  Then I saw an image in my head.  Emily!  Flashed back to reality.  The fog was gone.  I stepped back.  Saw Ashley standing there, soaking wet and looking scared to death.
“Let’s go inside!  Please!”
I nodded, starting back toward the house.  She put an arm around my shoulder, leading me in.  When we got inside, she shut the door and now I could see that she was crying.  She collapsed to the floor, sobbing.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” she demanded.  “Were you trying to kill yourself?  Is that it?!  Jesus fucking Christ!  Why would you do that to me?!  Fucking bitch!”
My legs suddenly gave out, and I hit the floor, leaning on the cold glass of the door.
“I’m sorry, Ashley.  I’m so sorry.”
We just sat there, with her crying and me not having any words to say, and wishing desperately that I did.

Until next time, a quote,

“What have I…what have I done?” – Heero Yuy, Gundam Wing

Peace out,

Maverick

Amazon Sucks

I will admit fully to just looking to vent with this post.  Amazon has been pissing me off lately, and I felt like coming to my online audience, who is coming up on 1,000 on WordPress alone and talking to you about it.  Seeing if you have had any similar problems.  In the age of online convenience, it never ceases to amaze how inconvenient it all can be.  The worst part is that there is no recourse for the average consumer.  It’s all being handled by computers and people hundreds or in my case thousands of miles away that I can’t do a damn thing about.  Because they don’t care about the average consumer.  They really don’t.  Plenty of online personalities I follow on YouTube talk about what a brick wall that is, but the other online platforms are no better.  Let me prove it.

So, I got robbed on Christmas Eve.  No joke.  Someone came to my sealed apartment building, to a package that Amazon left outside my door, and stole it.  How do I know?  Because I saw the evidence that they disposed of outside in the ashtray outside the building.  The loathesome human being just ripped the package open and left the contents in there.  Needless to say, I was livid.  Beyond livid.  I wanted to find this person and rip their guts out and put their head on the front of my car the way hunters do with deer.  I can think of a LOT of people that deserve that treatment, now that I think about it.

Immediately I filed a complaint with my apartment building.  My thought was – why couldn’t the USPS guy have just left a slip in my mailbox instead of leaving the package outside my door?  It was Christmas Eve, after all, and I had places to be.  Specifically places that weren’t there to be.  I got a response the next day of business that blew my mind.  See, I have Amazon Prime, for reasons that I’m starting to question.  At first it was great to not have to pay shipping on lots of stuff, but now I’m seeing the downside.  And Amazon has a policy about stuff that is sent from Amazon locations and not independent sellers in respect to USPS.  Their policy is that they can’t just put a slip in your box.  They HAVE to leave it outside of your place of residence.  There’s no room for negotiations.

Needless to say, I was pissed.  So, since Amazon has this stupid-ass policy of having to leave packages in unsecure locations, they assume the liability for if the package is stolen.  So, I went to their website to see how I could get in touch with them about a refund.  And let me tell you – their website’s Help section is the biggest pain in the ass ever.  They have no section for if something is stolen.  You can type it into their help menu, and it just tells you to wait a couple days.

So then I decide – this is pointless, how can I get in touch with a person?  I have a right to a refund, and I want to talk to somebody about that.  Finding the talk to someone link is also annoying, having to sift through their endless un-Help(ful) section to find an option to speak to someone on the phone or via chat.  I picked the chat option.  To the credit of the person I was talking to, they only fed my corporate jargon for a bit before actually approving my refund.  All’s well that ends well?  Not really.  I still have to face the reality that if I want to order something again from them, I get to pay the gamble of if it gets stolen or not.  Nice work, Amazon.

Then tonight, Amazon’s wonderful customer service decided to strike again!  See, I have a class for college that I am attending again to get certification for medical coding and billing.  First class for this new mission, and the cost of textbooks is obscene.  Figured I can rent it.  That was far cheaper.  Everything was going smoothly, until I got to check-out.  Been using the same payment method I’ve been using for ages.  Never been a problem.  Except this time, they won’t take it.  Why?  Because they demand I get a card that has an expiration of at least 07/2019.  What?  Are you fucking kidding me?!  I decide to go back and see if I can get Help on this  Their un-Help(ful) section tells me nothing.  So again, I decide to just cut out their website’s bullshit and talk to a person again.

Got a dude tonight, and he told me this is the official policy of the store.  For insurance purposes, they have to have a card that doesn’t expire until more than 45 days when the textbook has to be returned.  You have got to be fucking with me.  So, they are saying that I have to go to my bank and get a new card, then go back on there and do this whole process over again.  And by the time I do, I can guarantee that the textbook will be gone.  After all, business is closed on Sunday, and I have work from 8 to 4 tomorrow.  And my bank would have to send me the card via the mail anyway.  This is such bullshit.

What’s the moral of this?  All stories have to have a moral, right?  The moral is that Amazon fucking sucks, but because everything is a fucking online monopoly, they’re the only game in town.  I’d say fuck them, but the shit I want is cheapest with them, so I’m stuck with the pricks.  Brilliant.

Until next time, a quote,

“Some mother-fuckers are always trying to ice-skate uphill.” – Blade, Blade

Peace out,

Maverick

Blizzard Doesn’t Care About “Inclusion”, Neither Does Any Other Corporation

Recently Blizzard announced that Soldier 76 in Overwatch was gay, as part of their big push to be all progressive and whatnot.  However, a former employee who recently went public with the harassment they were getting at work decided to squash this idea that Blizzard cares about inclusivity pretty hard.  The post they wrote was pretty interesting, for those who think that Blizzard is adding themselves to the list of companies that they believe care about the LGBT community or any minority community.  As for me, I wasn’t surprised at all.  It seems that Blizzard says one thing, then does another.  For some, the revelation was shocking (assuming what the ex-employee said is true).  Not for me.  This all made perfect sense.

I have talked, at length, about the fact that companies like Disney are nothing but shilling to make money.  They put out info that they believe will get them social justice points because that’s mainstream, and Disney is all about pandering to the mainstream.  However, when you look at all their black and other minority characters, you can’t help but notice something – that the LGBT community is not represented at all.  Not even a little.  Strange, right?  I mean, Disney will preach on and on and on about how they want to promote diversity.  Wasn’t Finn supposed to be the first gay character in a Star Wars movie?  Well, that died and got replaced with him sucking face with a fat Asian chick.  Fat-ish, anyway.  Why did it get replaced?  For the same reason that Disney is full of shit – China.

China has one rule in American cinema that gets shown there – no ghosts, no gays.  The LGBT community does NOT make an appearance in the movies that go across the pond to an audience that is eclipsing the American one.  As streaming gets bigger and bigger here, that eclipse is only going to get larger.  And as Hollywood and the major corporations only care about making money, they won’t let that market slip away, regardless of how many people bitch and moan.  So all you #GiveElsaAGirlfriend and #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend people, you’re fucked.  Because Disney doesn’t care about you.  Hashtags be damned, you don’t mean shit to them.  They will swear up and down that you and yours are so important to them, but you are just a dollar sign to them.

So, when I hear that Blizzard is equally full of shit, saying one thing and then doing another, I am not surprised.  After all, this social justice stuff is just as much of a dollar sign to them, and since social justice stuff is the mainstream view right now, and Activision is their new overlord, they can’t afford to not do whatever they think the mainstream wants.  Ham-fisted pro-LGBT characters?  Sure, why not?  Even if it’s just another Dumbledore being gay or Lando being pan, talked about but never seen in the actual films (or books in the former example)  Never gonna be in the game, but it’s out there for the brownie points.

To all you social justice types who are so pleased about Blizzard making some rando character gay, or inclusion in Disney films, keep this in mind – the SECOND that the public at large is tired of all this social justice stuff (and make no bones about it, that day is coming), they are going to sell all this inclusion nonsense up the river just like Joel did to humanity in The Last of Us.  They care about your money, nothing else.

Until next time, a quote,

“But the chart says…!” – Rob Walker

Peace out,

Maverick

The Submarine Mission (Part 2)

John was smiling at me.
“Em was right, listening to you tell this stuff is pretty awesome!”
Ashley was right there with him.  “Oh yeah!  I can’t believe they had you do this kind of stuff.”
“And you volunteered for this, right?” he asked.
I nodded.  “Aye.  I wanted advanced combat training.  My CO in A School just happened to make me an offer to get into the STARS program.  Sheer chance got me everywhere I went.”
“Well, I guess I can’t fault serendipity on this.  After all, you saved my little girl.”
That made me feel good.
“Anyway, you were saying?”
“Things were about to get a lot more complicated…”

The Colonel looked back but couldn’t see me in the gloom.  I think his eyes went big.  A little hard to tell in night vision.
“Who are you?!”
“I’m with the STARS.  We’re here to get your package.  The SEALS are coming in to save your ass, but we need to secure that first.”  My voice was right in his ear, not more than a butterfly’s wings whisper.
He nodded.  “Damn right.  What’s in there is a matter of national security.”
“Then we don’t have much time.  Where is it?!”
A brief pause.  “It’s hidden in the ventilation in the bathroom of my cabin.  Room 2D.”
Typed into my OPSAT to Beacham.  Got that?
Didn’t have to wait long.  Got it.  Oscar Mike.  Head back to the rally point with Crow.  We’re almost done here.
I turned back to the Colonel.  “Alright, sit tight.  The cavalry is almost here.”
“Sounds good.  Thanks.”
I put his gag back in, then had to navigate the shadows again.  Suddenly, a voice came on the intercom.  It was shouting something in African.  I stopped dead.  Where I was had excellent darkness.  If the enemy was going to be moving, I had to see where they were gonna go.  Looking around with night-vision, the enemy looked nervous.  Really, really nervous.  Had we been discovered?!  This was bad.  If they knew someone was onboard, then they’d turn the lights on.  If the lights come on, I’m fucked!  We’re all fucked.  I have no doubt between Crow and I we could easily kill most of these guys, but the chances it wouldn’t involve hostages was nil.
Hands shaking.  Had to get moving.  To get away from being so damn exposed.  Just then, I felt something.  We were moving!  The ship was moving, and picking up speed.  Oh shit!  Now I really had to get moving.  The enemy all seemed to be looking outside, as if into the distance.  Were they trying to see if a ship was out there?  What was going on?
A buzz on my OPSAT.  Well, no one was looking.  Rally at the RV!  We’ve got trouble.  It was Beacham.  She didn’t have to tell me twice.  Slipped through the dark spots, getting back with Crow.  I slipped my camera out the same window we came in.  The enemy was toward the front of the ship.  What were they looking at?  The vessel was turning.  Trying to get away from something?  Hard to say.  My night-vision didn’t show me much.  Paranoia?  That would make some sense.  They’ve been sitting here for a bit, and clearly are wondering why the ransom negotiations are not happening.  I’d feel skittish too.  Oh well.  No time to ponder.  We had an RV to get to.  Slipping out the window, we had to move faster than we really should have in order to avoid detection, but then got back to the fan-tail and got behind the cargo container.
Bethke and Rodriguez were waiting.
<Where’s Beacham?> I signed.
<No idea.  We were told to wait here.>
So now we sit back and find out what the hell we’re gonna do next.

The wait went on for what felt like an eternity.  The vessel was moving as fast as it could toward the horizon.  Given the position of the north star, we were headed west.  Toward land?  If we got to shore, with their reinforcements, we were in a world of trouble.
Finally, Beacham appeared from the other side of the container, with Pennyfeather.  They had the case!  What did this mean for us?
<Alright, we have the package.  Now how do we get the hell out of here?!>  Rodriguez signed.
Beacham leaned back, thinking.  <This is a sticky spot.  The tanks are gone.  That’s a guarantee.>
I leaned over.  <What about the SDV?>
She cued up her OPSAT, looking down at it.  <It reads as still attached, but there’s NO way we could hold our breath that long.>
This was bad.  An attempt to turn us into poster children to avoid the rumors with the Navy was blowing up right in our faces.  Could only imagine what the Lt was thinking right now.  How much did he know?  Integrated suit tech only picks up audio.  Glad he wasn’t hearing anything right now.
<Why not finish the mission?> Bethke asked, finally.
We all gave her a luck.
<We just talked about this, kiddo.  We can’t get back to the sub without our air tanks.> I said.
Crow had been looking up, face to the wind.  Now she looked at us.  <She means finish the rest of the job.>
Beacham was confused.  <You mean…?>
It clicked.  <She means save the hostages and kill the enemy.>
Bethke nodded.  <Hell yeah!>
Everyone got serious.  We had been told no Fifth Freedom.  But we were also told if things went south, we had secondary orders allowing us to kill the enemy.  So what do we do?
<We have no way off the ship, and they’re heading west.  Land is that way.  If we get back to shore, we’re in real trouble.  Then it’s not a mission to jack a ship with the SEALs.  It’s an assault with the Air Force and Marines.  This hits all the points he told us about when Fifth Freedom was granted.>  I thought I made a good argument.
Beacham nodded.  <You’re not wrong.  Alright, here’s what we’re gonna do.  Audio in Blackfoot.  No OPSAT communication.  I know it breaks protocol, but I don’t want Lt knowing what we’re about to do before we do it, once we break from here.  Hooyah?>
<Hooyah!> we all signed.  Still cool that we had worked out a sign for that.
<We’ll split up in threes.  First, we have to take out the patrol teams.  Pierce, you’ll take Crow and Bethke and clear the starboard side.  The rest will come with me and we’ll clear port.  We meet at the front.  Challenge is ‘Lynx,’ countersign is ‘Eagle.’  Understood?>
I nodded.
<Okay.  We have to move fast!  The enemy cannot know what’s happening!  Lure the enemies guarding the outside of the ballroom away from the door, then take them out.  Only shoot when you know you can make a kill.  Otherwise use your knives.  Once we clear out the guards, we’ll go inside and take care of the ones looking after the hostages.  Once that’s done, we’ll leave two there, then head up top and take out the captain and bridge crew.>  She took a deep breath, looking right at me.  <You ready?>
<Hooyah.>
In night-vision, I could still tell she was smiling.
<Then let’s move out!>
Into the darkness, six women disappeared again, where even the Reaper couldn’t find us.
Coming to the ladder at the rear, I held up my hand for them to stop.
Turning to Crow.  <You the upper deck.  Remember, only go after what you can kill.  Feel free to use shockers against them, just make sure to take them out if you do.>
She nodded, going without a word.  I motioned for Bethke to stay on my six.  We moved silently, still being careful around light.  I made a point that I wasn’t going to use my guns.  This was gonna be silent.  Heard a pop up top, hard to distinguish in the waves.  Nice.  She was already bagging them.  We got to where the door was, seeing the same two guys we had left out their previously now back at their posts.  I pulled a circular small disc and slid it across the deck just out of sight of the door.  Was a little worried I would slide it too far, but was right on point!  Hit the trigger on my OPSAT.  It made this repeated low noise.  The two looked over.  I pulled out my knife, looking over to Bethke, who did the same.  This close to the entrance, we couldn’t have them wondering if there was gunfire.
First one enemy came over, leaving the other by the door.  Shit!  Was hoping to get them both.  Right as he was reaching out into the dark to see what it was, I grabbed that arm and pulled him in.  Before he could make any noise, I plunged my blade into his neck.  A gurgling sound, then nothing.  He went limp.  Was glad this dude was part of a malnourished part of the world.  Otherwise this would suck having to hold him up.  He was heavy enough as-is.  Exhausting.
Bethke did some fast thinking, tapping on the railing.  I looked over at her, furious.
She looked back, shaking her head.  The dude looked over, heading over quickly.  So, he wanted to make sure his friend was okay.  Guess that’s his own weakness.  Bethke grabbed him, plunging her blade in and slitting his throat.  Holding him over the edge, letting gravity do the work.  I decided to unload my cargo over there myself, as gently as I could.  With the boat going as fast as it could, noise wasn’t the biggest issue to do water dumps.  At least not on the first deck.
We knew there was no way to avoid the lights at the front, so we activated the magnetic gloves and hopped the side and shimmied across the side until we got past the exterior lights outside the ballroom.  There were three enemies up here.  Saw two shadows at the far port-side.
“Natayo” I heard in my ear.
“Ksikkihkini,” I replied.
{Weapons free.  On three}
Pulled my five-seven, slipping over the deck.  Flashes was a risk, but the enemy coming out to investigate worked to our advantage.  Land was in the distance, getting closer.  We were running out of time.
{One.  Two.}
Grip tightened, ready.  {Three!}
We opened fire.  A suppressed pop dropping one.  I was about to drop the other when a flash from above.  Looked up in a flash to see Crow with her SK-20C.  Show-off!  Pennyfeather dropped the last.
They came over.
Beacham smiled.  {Well done.  Alright, we’re gonna head up top.  Let us know as soon as you secure the hostages.  We will take out the Captain.  Rodriguez is waiting outside the window into the upper level of the ballroom.}
I nodded, cuing up her and Crow.  {Make your way inside.  When we are inside, we will signal.}
Noise of acknowledgement from Rodriguez, nothing from Crow.  With no one outside, we hopped back over the railing and made our way across to where it was safe from enemy view.  Had to leave the bodies there, but we would deal with them in time.
Finally, at the window we had used last time, Bethke and I got inside.  The enemy was looking around.  I could tell that some of them were confused.  They were looking outside, as if wondering where their comrades were.  We had to strike now!
{In position!} I said, voice barely a whisper.
{In position,} Crow replied.
{In position!} Rodriguez said.
{Smoke them.}
Flashes up top, pops.  Bethke and I marked and took out the four down here so fast that it was like it hadn’t happened.  The hostages saw their captors dead and all of them were fidgeting, eager to be free.
{Hostages secure!} I sent to Beacham.
{Copy.  Breaching the bridge.}  Over the line I could hear a door opening, confused voices, pops, then nothing.  {Bridge secured!  Let’s clean out the rest of the ship.}  I could hear the engines stop.
I told Crow to meet me at the RV point, while telling Bethke and Rodriguez to stay here and keep this location secure.  Do not free the hostages.
We got there together, then headed toward the door marked for authorized personnel only.  Opening it, we saw one man standing there, smoking a cigarette.  No time to be subtle.  I dropped him.  The noise made another man poke his head out of a doorway.  Crow smoked him.  The two of us cleared the rooms with dishes, food, supplies.  It was such a skeleton crew among this lot.  Even moreso after we dispatched man after man.  Finally, we got to where the engine room was.  All the noise in there, they hadn’t heard a damn thing from us.
We slipped inside, seeing three men mulling around.  Guess they were content to just chill here.  One person could do this job.  Two at most.  On a civilian ship, this was such a joke.  Oh well.  From an elevated position, it was child’s play.  The last three of the pirates died within a hair’s-breath of one-another.  Not one of them had time to really think about what or why.  Their lives just ended.
It was surreal how easy killing came to us.  Before this, we’d have a guard or two, maybe a high-value target that we had a perfect sight on, but now we could see that killing really did come easy to us.  It was genuinely freaky.  You just keep doing it, and eventually you realize that your ability to make people dead just gets better as time goes on.  Should I be afraid of this?  I unnerved me.  There was this moment, looking down at the dead men on the floor, and I felt some strange new emotion.  Shook my head.  Just nerves.  Nothing more.  I was overthinking it.  Not a habit I want to fall into.  Saw that break a TON of people in boot.  Time to get up top.

We got back to the deck and joined up with Beacham and the rest inside of the ballroom.  They had turned up the lights and were now undoing the zip-ties on people’s wrists and ankles.  Needless to say, we were so fucking boss right now.  The gentleman of the old couple was talking about how we reminded him of soldiers back when he served.  That made me all warm and fuzzy inside.
Mama walked over.  {Want to call it in?}
I gave her a look.  {You sure?}
She had a cruel grin.  {Well, if someone’s about to get yelled at by Osprey, it might as well be you.}
Bitch.  I cued up Lt on the comm.
“Sir, all hostages secured.  All hostiles terminated.”
There was a pause.  “What?  What the hell’s going on, Pierce?  The ship has been moving.  You’re damn-near at their port!  What happened out there?”
Leaning up against the wall, I sighed.  “The enemy started moving in to the shore.  Our air tanks were gone.  Our only option to finish the mission without the enemy getting back to shore was to take quick action on the secondary orders we were given.”
Could almost hear that smile of his where he’s annoyed, but proud at the same time.  I think the annoyed bit came from his part of the post-action report.
“Well shit.  Guess the SEALs are gonna be unhappy.”
“Hooyah, sir.”
Heard him chuckle.  “Fair point, Pierce.”
“Sir, you’d best get a ship over here.  We can get it back out to sea, but we got a whole mess of people, all of whom are looking to get home.”
A pause.  “Copy your last, Pierce.  I’ll get the Zumwalt.  She was coming in to pick us up once the job was done anyway.  I think the sub crew is eager to leave behind the FDU, anyway.”
That hit home.  “I take it that the mission was a failure, sir?”
“That’s a big negative.  Got a whole bunch of crew here impressed.  But one sub does not a Navy make.  Baby steps.”
“Aye-aye.  Provide the RV coordinates.  We’ll see if we can get this bucket moving.”
Ending the comm, the Colonel came over.
I snapped to.  “Sir!”
He shook his head, giving a halfhearted salute.  “As you were, sailor.  Technically I’m not on duty.”
“You still outrank me, sir.”
Man gave me a nod.  “What happened to the SEALs mopping up?”
“Change of plans.”
“Did you secure the briefcase?”
Beacham walked over.  “Aye, sir.  It’s on the fantail, by a cargo container.  I lashed it to the railing.”
“Can you go get it?  The contents of that case are a matter of national security?”
This confused me.  “Then what the hell was it and you doing on the (Redacted), sir?”
“I can’t tell you that, sailor.  I’m sure you know how this goes.”
“Aye-aye.  Need to know basis.”
“That’s right.  But I do owe you one.  You ladies are pretty damn cool.”
“Thanks, sir.”
To say that we were the most popular people on that ship was a gross understatement.  We were the shit!  The most badass women ever to sail the international waters.  It helped that we looked the part in our TOS’s, weapons in hand.  So we had one sub and one crew of a French cruise ship on our side.  I’d take that.

John nodded.  “I remember reading about that.  A crew of a ship taken hostage, rescued by the all-female unit of the Navy.  I’d say I can’t believe it was you, but given what you told me, I can now.”
“It was a PR coup for the STARS.  The first time when the Navy and the military at large looked at us as more than just a bunch of chicks in uniform.  Now we were a unit, with accomplishments that could be respected.  All the cable news coverage of us from the people we saved.  It was pretty great.  Bethke was wishing that we could go on TV.  Not me.  The idea of being in front of an audience is my personal nightmare.”
Ashley nodded.  “Oh yeah!  Right there with you!”
“Well, you made a believer out of me, Quinn.  Em was right.  You are one hell of a soldier too.”
Another thing that made me warm and fuzzy.
Emily pouted a bit.  “Kinda makes me wish she had come with us to Uncle Richard’s for Christmas.  Bet they wouldn’t have been trash-talking a gay girl when they found out you’re a super awesome ninja soldier!”
I smiled.  “Well, in a perfect world, kiddo.  But I got my fur-babies home.  That’s what matters.  They probably are missing their mama.”  There was that feeling again.  The thought that I was close to figure out what I was missing.  Christmas?  Yeah, that was part of it.  I wanted to spend Christmas with her.  What else was it?
John got up.  “Yeah, we’d best be getting to bed ourselves.  Work and school tomorrow.”
Kiddo pouted more.  “Ugh.  Fine.”  Came over and gave me a hug.  “See you later?”
“Maybe tomorrow.  I have some work stuff myself.”
“Okay.”

Ashley walked me to the door.  I could tell she was eager to talk to me, privately.  We stepped outside into the chilly night air.
“Listen, Quinn,” she started.  “I’m feeling like I don’t want the night to be over.  How about you?”
Backed off just a bit.  “What do you mean?”
She sighed, hanging her shoulders.  “Do you need landing lights or something?”  A little pause.  Choosing her words.  “Look, you’re super awesome.  You’re fucking hot.  I’ve never met anyone like you.  And I know you’ve been looking.  So, are you interested or not?”
Ball was in my court.  “I…I don’t know.  I think so.  But, I don’t know if I can do something serious.  Not now.  Maybe not ever.”
Stepping closer, a devilish grin on her face.  “Then let’s not be serious.  I got out of a pretty shitty relationship myself.  Wouldn’t mind having some fun, since I’m here.  How about you?”
That look in her eyes.  It was a needy look.  A lusty look.  The itch was out of fucking control.  It was right on my back, screaming at me.  Take this late-20’s girl home and stick nine meters of tongue in her to drill for uranium!  Fuck.  If I didn’t do something about this itch, it was gonna drive me insane.
“Nothing serious.  Just fun?”
Now right in front of me.  “Just fun.”
Looked right into her eyes.  “Alright.”
“Then let’s get going.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Decades of denial, is simply why I’ll
Be king undisputed
Respected, saluted,
And seen for the wonder I am!” – Scar, The Lion King

Peace out,

Maverick