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.

Can We PLEASE Stop Blaming Video Games for America’s Rampant Mass Shootings? #VideoGamesAreNotToBlame

This is getting old, man.  Really, really old.  I can count on one hand the amount of times that mass shootings in this country haven’t been blamed on video games since Columbine.  It’s been the conservative go-to line ever since then.  And it is getting really, really fucking old.  For those of you who have been living under a rock, there were two mass shootings in America over a 24-hour period.  The first was in El Paso, Texas, where a man walked into a Walmart and started opening fire.  22 people were confirmed killed, as of the writing of this post.  The second was in Dayton, Ohio, where a man in body armor decided to get a 100-round drum magazine and put it to work in a suburban neighborhood.  Lots of people killed there too.

As is ALWAYS the case, the dog and pony show that is the government’s response to this begins.  Where both sides decide to do lot of hand-wringing and blaming of whatever, and in the end, fuck-all gets done.  It’s so consistent that you can set your mother-fucking watch to it.  Naturally, Fox News has their spin on things all nice and prepped.  With their retarded-ass panel of old white guys, they talk about how political meanness is responsible.  Oh yeah, and violent video games.  Because hey, we’ve drummed this point into the ground for now over 20 years.  Why stop here?  All you have to do is put some blood and gore on the screen and the talking point writes itself with the octogenarian and equally-retarded audience of Fox News.

Never mind study after study that has shown that playing video games has no correlation with violence.  Never mind that the rest of the developed world has all the same access to violent video games and violent entertainment that America does, but you don’t see anywhere near this level of mass shootings.  Makes you wonder if there’s something else behind all this.  Like, America’s unfettered access to firearms?  Without even the slightest amount of stricter regulation after every mass shootings?  Maybe the 24-hour news cycle that uses tragedy to get views and turns the mass shooters into anti-heroes?  A political climate where everyone is tribal and it’s starting to look like another civil war is inevitable?

Can’t talk about those things.  Because then, those in power would have to actually look critically at the country we live in, which could then precipitate real change to actually make things better.  And then the NRA would get super mad because their precious freedom to arm every Tom, Dick, and dumb-fuck Harry would be mildly inconvenienced  That’s against the Constitution!  It’s unconstitutional to have to do something simple like get a license to own a firearm and have to register your firearm!  Freedom!  The Constitution is very clear that there can be no bureaucracy surrounding the sale of firearms of any kind!  Wait, no, it doesn’t say shit about that, but don’t tell conservatives.  They might actually do some critical thinking, and who knows what could happen after that.

Along with the Fox News cacophony, you have President Trump getting in on the blame video games bandwagon.  Because of course he would.  With roughly ten brain cells to pass around, Trump can’t critically analyze anything.  Doesn’t help that one of the shooters was doing what he did because he didn’t like Hispanics and wanted them gone.  Sounds a lot like the rhetoric of a certain guy who has done nothing but demonize immigrants to this country.  Which is all just code for Mexicans.  That’s what it always is to the bigoted Republicans who say that they love Mexicans who come to America legally, but who you could ask what Latino person they actually like and they won’t have shit to say.

I’m just so done with this argument about how video games cause violence.  There’s no proof.  None!  In fact, all the proof is to the contrary.  But you don’t need compelling evidence when you have this thing you can put on screen which shows blood and guts.  Or some modern FPS which depicts warfare.  Combine that with footage of a killer who plays video games (because they are ubiquitous to modern society) and you don’t even have to do anything like actual work to sell the narrative.  Fear of scary imagery and old people who don’t understand this medium will do the work for you.  It’s lazy, easy fear-mongering at its absolute best.

This country has a real problem.  These mass shootings are now so common that you can honestly set your clock to them.  Who’s gonna get killed next?  What day where someone is having a good time is gonna get interrupted by a fuck-nut who shouldn’t have been sold a gun in the first place?  What ordinary activity are you going to do where you have to worry if people are gonna be there looking to kill you?

Can’t help but notice in all of the coverage of the event doesn’t talk about anyone else with a gun.  It’s a Walmart.  Surely some of these open-carry mother-fuckers must have been there.  How many true patriots stood up and went to battle against the attacker?  Oh, right, none.  They did what everyone else who wasn’t gunned down did – fled for their lives.  Because in the real world, being on the business-end of a gun is actually terrifying and you do whatever you have to in order to not be in that situation.  I speak as someone who has had a gun pointed at me by someone who I genuinely believed wished to do me harm.  I don’t joke around with this shit.  All these Dirty Harry fuckers don’t know shit.

Video games have been the whipping boy of conservatives who don’t want to talk about the real problem for almost my whole life.  America has reached a point where mass shootings are so common that it’s not even a big deal anymore.  This is part of life.  This is the day-to-day in America.  How scary/depressing is that?  What does it say about us?  To me, it says that America has a problem, and the biggest contributor is obvious but we won’t do shit about it.  We’re like an addict who smokes crack and says they can stop crack at anytime, but never does.  I wish just one, just one of these fucking politicians would actually do something.  Even if it was just get in a big circle and do the Guns Are Awesome Bill.  Let’s actually give conservatives their due.  Let’s make it so easy to get guns that everyone can get them everywhere.  They just give them out at the bank.  And then, when that does NOTHING to stop the violence, maybe we can try something else.

Because this shit we’re doing now, it ain’t working.

Until next time, a quote,

“Protection?  What are you talking about?  You have a gun in your house, you’re 80% more likely to use that gun on yourself than to shoot someone else.  And people think – yeah, well that would never happen to me.  You don’t know that.” – Jim Jefferies

Peace out,

Maverick

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A Mental Enigma (Act I, Scene V)

Every day was always a little different for Sister Sarah.  That was by her own design.  In her mind, if ever there was a point that things were always the same, then she’d get into a rut.  The goal was to expand her mind and see things in a new way each morning.  That wasn’t always easy, but she did the best she could.  Even if it was something very small, like walking on a different side of the path than the one she usually did, it was something that made that day special.
This attitude was the same that she carried to her work at the Academy.  Like most of the Sisters in this place, she came into her job looking after the students with a mindset of wanting to set a good example and help these girls on their journey into womanhood.  It was a long journey, and one that was fraught with distractions/perils.  Growing up in the suburbs of Albuquerque, she’d seen so many girls give in to drugs, sex, and rock & roll.  Coming from the 70’s, when drug culture was out of control, she had her own stories that she wasn’t proud of.  Ones that nobody would ever know, save for those who were there.
She joined the Catholic Church when she was 25.  It took her hitting absolute rock bottom to come to God and want to seek forgiveness for her sins.  After months of prayer, she became a Sister, taking the habit.  It was the only way she could live with what she had done.  You’d think, coming from such a background, she would be as judgmental as her supervisor – Sister Margaret.  But she looked on the girls of this Academy with an eye of sympathy and understanding.  Everyone is different, and you have to embrace those differences, rather than shirk them.  People have to come to the Lord and go through life in their own way.
When she first met Quinn, she was a scared girl who was nervous around everyone.  Such a frail little body.  And a burn mark on her shoulder, like a cattle brand, seared into her skin.  From the days in the hospital, with police badgering her with questions, none of which she had the answers to.  Father McCormick was there through most of it, and when he wasn’t able to be, Sister Sarah volunteered to take his post.
The girl claimed to have absolutely no memory of any kind of her life before they found her.  The doctor thought it was a result of nearly drowning/freezing to death.  Her body was so close to death when they got her to the hospital that it was a genuine miracle from Mother Mary that she came back from the abyss.  Some people, namely Sister Margaret, were skeptical of this.
“How could she not remember being branded?!” they would ask.
Part of Sarah wanted to think that the girl didn’t want to remember.  Who would?  The story behind that mark couldn’t be good.  A cult?  Seemed likely.  Some poor little girl who escaped from a place where God-knows what was done to her.  It didn’t matter.  Now she was here, and it was their duty as caretakers of these girls to make sure she fit in.
Which was what made it ever-the-more frustrating how Quinn and Sister Margaret consistently butted heads.  For the life of her, Sarah couldn’t figure out where her deal is.  Was it because she was so close to Father McCormick?  Was it really something as simple as jealousy?  That’s a sin, after all.  A petty one, too.  No matter what she did, the Sister was attacking her.  Her uniform wasn’t pressed – demerits.  She wasn’t wearing the white shirt under her uniform jacket – demerits.  She listened to music too loud – demerits.  Her music wasn’t appropriate – demerits.  Her attitude was improper – demerits.  There were days when the Sister would lay into her and as she passed, it was all over her face that if she could, Quinn would punch her square in the face.
Father McCormick tried to keep the peace.  The constant back and forth, with Sister Margaret running to him to lay down punishment on her was tedious, and he clearly was almost through with it.  It didn’t help that Quinn was almost-openly instigating her now.  Knowing how much it made the Sister mad, she seemed to take some twisted pleasure.  This side of her did worry Sarah a little.  It was shameful, and surely something the Good Lord would not smile upon.  But what could anyone do?  It seemed this wouldn’t end until either Sister Margaret was fired, or Quinn was expelled.  There seemed to be nothing else that would resolve the conflict.  Two people meant to hate each other.

One might imagine how much pleasure Sister Margaret took in laying into Quinn when she got back from skipping to look after her friend.  The lecture went on damn-near all night.  Hours upon hours of being told how this was unbecoming of a student of the Academy, how it was sinful to be truant, how looking after a friend was not good enough of an excuse, it became a sermon after a while.  She was sentenced to two weeks in detention.
What surprised Sarah as she saw Quinn leaving the room wasn’t the fact that she looked unphased.  It was that she looked pleased.  This kind of winsome look.
Catching up to her, Sarah gave her a smile.  “What are you grinning about?”
Looking over at her, the expression went back to its usual cold, neutral one.  “Nothing.”
“I saw you, Quinndolyn.  You were smiling.”
“Clearly you were seeing things.  Might want to look into that.”
It was obvious she wasn’t going to get a straight answer.  But maybe there was another way around this.
“So, out looking after a classmate, eh?”
She just shrugged.  “It was no big thing.  We met the other day and she was pretty okay.  Asked me if I could help her since she wasn’t feeling good.  Beat being in class.”
A frown came to the Sister’s face.  “Don’t let Sister Margaret hear you say that.  She’d be livid.”
Quinn rolled her eyes.  “When isn’t she?”
“Not often.  At least not where you are concerned,” Sarah sighed.
“It’s cool.  Two weeks of detention is nothing new.  I got this.”
It was then that Sarah noticed something.  “You’re wearing the white shirt!  Lord be praised!  I didn’t think the day would ever come where I’d actually see you in proper school uniform.”
Rolled her eyes again.  “It’s no big deal.”
Just a smile back.  “If you’re wearing it tomorrow, I don’t know.”
Eyes like steel, Quinn looked at her.  “Don’t get your hopes up.”

Walking into her dorm room, Quinn immediately wanted to remove the white shirt.  Now one person had made a big deal about it.  It annoyed her.  It’s a fucking shirt, she thought.  Throwing it to the floor, she pulled out her tanktop.  Then lost the skirt and put on a pair of sweats.  Kaye looked up from her textbook.
“So?  What’s the verdict?”
“Two weeks in detention.”
Her roommate frowned.  “Oh geez.  That sucks.”
Just a shrug.  “It’s cool.  Just means I get to spend more ‘quality’ time with Sister Margaret.  I’m sure she’ll get Eve and her little cronies to join in the fun.”
Of all the students at the Oceanview Academy of St. Galentine, Eve Harper and her posse was the only ones who actually bothered Quinn.  For whatever reason: a girl who is as rich as her, and imbued with flunkies who make sure her academics are always in the top five percent of her class, saw fit to make Quinn her personal target of ridicule.  Since she kept her hair perpetually short, the most common was to call her a dyke.  Or at least allude to her being a lesbian.  You wouldn’t think that would mean much.  It is the 90’s, after all.  Times were changing.  But in a Catholic School, being accused of gayness was basically social suicide.  It was never something she placed any credence in.  Truth be told, she hadn’t felt much of anything regarding romantic or sexual attraction to anyone.  Between her studies, gambling habits, and lack of a social life, it never came up.  Maybe now that she had some actual friends, she could review this for further study.  Is that how love works?  Like something clinical?  Questions that just made her uncomfortable.
Kaye sat up, frowning deeper.  “I don’t know why people are so mean to you.  You should hear some of the stuff they say about you out there.  ‘She’s a bitch.’  ‘She think she’s so smart.’  ‘She’s…’”  It was clear she was really uncomfortable with the next bit.
“She’s a dyke.  Trust me, I know what they say.  I may look like I’m in my own little world, but the truth is that there isn’t much of anything I miss.”  Quinn’s expression got dark.
Her roomie got up, sitting on the floor beside the bed, next to her.  “It’s so mean.  These girls are wealthy.  They could have whatever they want.  I don’t get why they have to put you down.”
Pulling a coin out of her pocket, she flipped it between her fingers.  “It’s not that complicated.  I’m a threat to them.  I never pay attention in class, don’t raise my hand, don’t participate in the school stuff in any way, yet I’m at the top of all academics I’m involved with.  I have teachers begging me to join this club or that so they could have a winning player on their team, and I blow them off without a second thought.  While they are busy kissing the ass of everyone they can and watching me push past them.  And I’m a poor girl who was given a spot here while their rich families had to pay for it or they had to work for it.  The reason why they hate me is no mystery.”
Looking over at her, Kaye smiled.  “I don’t think you’re as tough as you front, you know.”
Dropping the coin, she looked up in shock.  “What?”
“I saw you with Lisa.  Saw how happy you looked.  Some part of you wants people to like you.”
Was she right?  The words reached her, but processing them was a different story.  There was some truth to it.  Her time out with Lisa had been the most fun she had had in ages.  Not like winning at gambling.  A different kind of fun.  That was intellectual.  This was…personal?  Yeah, personal.  It made a warm feeling spread through her.
The warm feeling didn’t stop the cold look on her face.  “Very specific people.  People I deem worthy.  Couldn’t give less of a fuck if Eve and her groupies like me.”
“Okay.  I get that.”  A little smirk.  “Am I worthy?”
Quinn got a sly look.  “Maybe.  Still figuring you out.”
Her roomie got a grumpy expression.  “What does that mean?”
“Well, if you wanna be friends with me, there’s gotta be something wrong with you.”
The two of them laughed.

Days went by, such as they do.  Life at the Academy was settling into a rhythm.  Having won big, Quinn’s appetite for victory was sated.  Though she knew that it wouldn’t be long before she would have to go back for more.  The itch grew with each day.  However, this new life with her companions definitely dulled it.  When she wasn’t sitting in detention with Sister Margaret or whatever teacher/Sister she got to look after her, she would be spending time with them.  Both of her two new friends were very different people.
Kaye was a physical sort of person.  She was a fast runner, and her athletics were definitely part of her life.  Already she had signed up for the Academy’s soccer team.  The school game was coming up, which Quinn dreaded.  Nowhere was her lack of physical ability more on display than at these games.  It seemed her new roommate also had something of the shutterbug, with a really nice camera.  She joined the photography club almost the first day she was there.  There were laughs as she would be taking pictures and Quinn chided her.
“So artsy,” she would say.  Having someone that she could banter and give shit to definitely felt good.  Their back-and-forth made sharing a room that much easier.
Lisa, on the other hand, was so different.  An eye for technology, and able to talk people’s ears off about it, she definitely had a career ahead of her.  The fact that she was stuck in a chair meant that she would spend a lot of time reading.  She could quote the latest tech magazine, along with the latest health journal.  It was genuinely inspiring that a girl at the tender age of 14 was already so well-read and an academic, without all the pretentiousness.
The two would be in the library, doing homework or just talking about their academic pursuits.  Quinn had even started playing chess with her.  Unsurprisingly, she mopped the floor with both her companions, but Lisa was improving.  With enough practice, there was hope that she would be a challenge.  Or at least keep her on her toes.  One could dream, right?

As fate would have it, the first school soccer game of the year came faster than anyone expected.  The weather was gorgeous, and in Washington you have to act fast if things are looking good.  You never know when it could change.  Rain is a fickle mistress on the West Coast.
The whole school was pumped.  One of the things that the three of Quinn’s crew would do is be out on the lawn, with Kaye practicing and the other two watching.
“Aren’t you going to have to play?” Lisa asked, looking at Quinn.
“Yeah…” Her expression couldn’t have been more dim.
“Shouldn’t you be practicing?”
Giving her a cold expression.  “I participate only to the extent that I have to.  The team captains always know to just keep me out of the way.  That’s how it always goes, and I’m fine with that.”
Seeing that this line of inquiry was just going to get ugly, Lisa turned to Kaye.  “Well, I’ll be rooting for you!  You look like you go this.”
“Word!” she shouted back, dribbling the ball.
Looking over at her, Quinn just groaned.  This was going to suck.  Beyond any doubt, it was completely going to suck.

That afternoon, everyone was in the PE clothes.  They were blue and white.  Just wonderful for being outside and playing on the grass – clothes that every grass stain would show through.  The girls were split up into four teams.  Enough so that this could go on the whole rest of the afternoon.  Fate dealt another hand where Kaye was on the same team as her.  This excited her immensely, but for Quinn, this was all just another day at the races.
Intellectually, she had tried to see a way around this.  After all, it is a game, right?  If you are intelligent enough, you could conceivably destroy your opponents like any other.  Were it that she was made team captain, or given some kind of ability to give tactical advice, she very well could actually excel in this sport.  Watching the girls play, she could easily tell who had what advantage and who had what disadvantage.  This game was mostly about having your players go up against those they would excel again.  Like chess, one could reasonably make a battle plan and execute it to the point that they could defeat the opposition easily, and quickly.
The fact that her reputation was grim around the school and that she was treated like the bitch stepchild by her compatriots made it so that she would never enjoy such a position.  A shame, too, because the concept did make her smile in thinking about what strategies she would use.  Plenty of these girls had skill.  Proper coordination and crucial planning, with some amount of luck factored in, would make for exciting plays to watch.
First up was two of the teams that were not theirs.  They were next, against the other team sitting this one out.  While she couldn’t be a tactician, she took in everything.  One of the girls was slow on her left.  An old injury?  Another had slower reaction time.  They could dribble around her without difficulty.  Kaye seemed to show some skill in that regard.  The goalie was skilled.  A problem.  Would need someone who could throw them off-guard.  Maybe this sports thing wasn’t so awful after all.  Then she remembered – she had to play at some point.
Looking across the field, she saw the bane of her existence – Eve Harper.  She was sitting with her crew, staring right at her.  So she was on the team they were facing next.  Uh-oh.  This really, really couldn’t be good.  A beautiful girl with shiny black hair, tied up in a ponytail behind her head.  Makeup done just so.  No wonder boys always fawned all over her, if the stories were to be believed.  It was a bitter, tragic irony that she was not only done like a princess, but just happened to be good at athletics.  Whatever was coming next, it was going to be bad.
The first game ended, now they were up.
Kaye looked over at Quinn.  “Just stick with me.  We can do this!”
So genuinely sweet.  Not an ounce of sarcasm.  Doing the math in her mind, Quinn knew that what she said was 100% bullshit, but it felt nice all the same.
“I’ll hold you to that,” was all she got out.

Both sides squared off.  Since her lack of athletic skill was known, team captain didn’t put her in at first.  Fine by her.  The battle was on!  Their team was the blue jerseys.  Their enemy was the whites.  At first, they seemed evenly matched.  Kaye was every bit the player she aspired to be.  It seemed she was also bit on taking the offensive.  It really did look like two armies doing battle over a white and black ball.
Paying careful attention, Quinn saw something – a brunette girl who was fast but could be easily dribbled around as she had a habit of getting her feet mixed up.  It was something she tried to hide, but the tells were there.  This was like poker!  How could she impart this to the team captain in a way that they would listen?
“Hey Jen?  You see the way that girl is always slow about turning?  It’s like she’s trying to be careful about moving.  That’s weird, right?”
Looking over, the wheels in the captain’s head were turning.  Then she nodded.  “Hey yeah!  Time out!”
Everyone ran over.
“See how Brittney takes a couple seconds to turn around when people get past her?  Let’s use that!” the captain said.  “We can totally dribble past her and then it’s just past the defender on the right!  It’s a clear shot!”
Everyone was nodding, looking at the captain like she had just had the most brilliant idea.  Kaye, on the other hand, was looking right at Quinn, who gave a little wink.  Maybe her mind wasn’t totally wasted on this game.
They broke, and the game was back on.  Very fast, it was clear that their strategy had changed, and the enemy wasn’t blind.  Kaye was exploiting this opening for all it was worth.  Within a few minutes, they had put two more points on the board.  It wasn’t huge, but so long as the enemy couldn’t find an opening of their own, it was still scoring.  The game was 4 to 1.
Seeing that their player’s opening was exploited, the enemy called Brittney in.  Guess that opening was out.  There had to be another.  With the game back to a very cold and strategic thing, Quinn looked across the field.  Something was there, she just wasn’t looking hard enough.  A black girl was passed the ball from Kaye, on her way to the goal.  Nice!  As she kicked it, the goalie blocked the shot.  However, just as they caught the ball, she noticed something.  The girl had this momentary loss of balance.  It was a small thing.  Too small?  Maybe.
The other team called a Time Out.  As they came in, Quinn motioned for Kaye to come over.
“See the goalie?  They are slower when the ball’s coming in from the right.  I’m thinking it’s something to do with her vision.  Like she can’t see as well from her left eye as her right.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this can be exploited!”
Looking over at the enemy goal, Kaye nodded.  “I got this!”
“Kick ass!”
“Yes ma’am!”
Back into the game, and it was on.  The enemy had the ball.  Black girl had skill.  She stole it from them, making her way down.  Past one of the defenders.  Just then, Kaye whistled at her.  The girl understood, passing the ball.  The roomie made like she was going to go for the left, then stopped and hit the ball toward the right.  Score!  5 to 1 now!  A dark smile came to Quinn’s face.  Her tactical mind wasn’t wasted now.
From across the field, Eve saw the look on Quinn’s face.  That bitch!  So, she was the one giving them all good information.  She’d have to be on the field at some point.  When she was, she’d get her.

Halftime, and now the teams had to change up.  This meant that Quinn had to go out there.  All the joyful exuberance of the last few minutes was gone.  There was no way she could get an accurate read on the situation from out on the field.  Her only rational course of action was to just do the best she could and accept that she was completely outmatched.  The team captain had wisely placed her as a defender.  That was smart.  It was a do-nothing job, most of the time.
Battle was joined, and at first it seemed like any other game.  Sometimes it would go one way, sometimes another.  Her and the other defender kept their position, as rules dictated how far they could go.  However, Quinn couldn’t shake this feeling that something bad was in the air.  What was it?  Eve was one of the attackers.  That didn’t bode well.  Some of the looks she caught made her get the feeling of being hunted.  But how?  What could that unpleasant female possibly do to her in the middle of a soccer game?  It wasn’t like she could be blatantly physical.  That would get her in trouble.  This girl wasn’t stupid enough to do something that blunt in front of the whole school.  It became a battle of wits to try and figure out what her nemesis was going to do.
Turns out, the answer to this problem wasn’t nearly as complicated as she thought.  Eve had the ball and was making a run at the goal.  At first, she made like she was heading right at it, all but ignoring Quinn.  Would be the smart thing to do.  She was so frail and pathetic, why even bother pretending to be trying to get past her?  The bitch came at her as she was supposed to do, but Eve looked to her right and saw one of her teammates motioning for her to pass the ball.  This was it!  Dribbling back, she made like she was going to pass.  Just then, she notched her foot under the ball, kicked it up, and with maximum force hit it as hard as she possibly could.
The ball tagged Quinn right in the face.  She went down like a sack of potatoes.  Blood was pouring out of her nose.  The girl didn’t move when she hit the ground.  Everyone was on their feet.  Kaye was running over, sliding down next to her fallen roommate.  She screamed her name, picking her head up.  Clearly disoriented, and in a lot of pain, Quinn looked up.
Sister Sarah was already on the field, heading right at Eve.  “Explain yourself, young lady!”
“I didn’t mean for that to happen, Sister!  I swear, I was trying to pass to Alicia!  My foot slipped as I was dribbling!  Oh Lord, is she okay?”
It was clear that Sarah didn’t buy a word out of her mouth, but there was no proof it was intentional.  So many awful people here.  Kaye picked up her fallen friend, helping her to her feet.  Taking an arm and wrapping it around her shoulder, they started walking off the field.
“Get her to the nurse’s office!” Sarah commanded.  Turning to face Eve.  “I’m going to take this to Father McCormick.  We’ll see if he believes your story.”
She played innocent so well, looking so wronged.
As Quinn was hobbling off the stage, blood and tears streaming down her face, she took a look back at the girl who kicked the ball in her face.  For a split-second, she could see a look of sweet victory on her face.  In that moment, she knew what she had to do.  It was time to make this woman pay.  She was the most intelligent person she had ever met.  If anyone could figure out a way to truly destroy this woman, it was her.  It created this warm, fuzzy feeling inside.  Something about the idea of crushing someone who was her enemy felt strangely, familiar.  But why?

It seemed that the injuries were mostly superficial.  Thankfully, she was spared a broken nose, but it had bled something fierce.  The blood loss caused some anemia, and she was released to go back to her room and rest.  As it was the end of the week, she didn’t have to worry about class the next day.
Kaye took her back and lay her down.  Taking her shoes off, Quinn just curled into a ball and turned her back to her roommate.  She didn’t want to be seen like this.  Broken and pathetic.  In that moment, she understood what sunglasses had been feeling back at the gambling parlor.  Her pride was wrapped up in all this.
“You did really well out there today, Quinn,” Kaye said.  “I just thought you should know that.”
“Kaye…leave me alone for a while, alright?  Please.”
Now it was her turn to be on the verge of tears.  “I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong…”

As her eyes closed, she saw something.  A room filled with children.  They were her age.  So young.  Who were they?  Inside there was a woman in a white coat.  Her hair was golden, with brown eyes and soft creamy skin.  Who was she?  Something told her that this was a bad person, and she needed to go away.  Looking down, there were logic puzzles in front of her.  Ones that no child this age would be expected to do.  What was this?  All the kids looked scared.   Where was she?
“Quinn?” the woman said, coming over.  “Why did you stop working on your test.  Is something wrong?”
Wishing she could disappear.  “No, Ms. Katya.  Nothing’s wrong.”
Looking sternly at her.  “Then finish your test.”
“Yes ma’am…”

Sitting up with a start, the fear inside gripped her more than the pain in her face.  A thousand emotions went through her mind, but one thing in-particular.  She knew that she had remembered something.  For the first time in two years, she had remembered something.

Until next time, a quote,

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” – Klingon Proverb

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Act I, Scene IV)

The trip back was far easier.  With the bars having let out, cops were busy stalking for drunk drivers.  With the route Quinn had, she knew how to avoid them without difficulty.  All nights should be this simple.  It was pretty great.  Riding high on Cloud Nine, the trip to the abandoned home had her putting in $23,000.  A good haul for one night.  Opening the lockbox where she kept all the winnings underneath the floorboards, a smile came to her face.  Inside was sitting now $110,000.  It was a fund designed to help secure her future.  All she needed was one major score and she could pay back Father McCormick for her time at Oceanview Academy of St Galentine.
It had been a point of guilt for her – the fact that Father had been basically paying her way to be at one of the top Catholic boarding schools in the country.  Or at the very least that her being there was eating out of their funds because they weren’t being compensated for her.  The guilt had been eating at her since she heard Sister Sarah talking about the cost of tuition there.  It wasn’t fair that she was effectively able to cheat the system to get one of the best educations a girl can get.  It was one guilt point of a dozen that she had inside.
She genuinely was trying not to pick fights with Sister Margaret.  It was so fucking difficult.  The two were constantly butting heads, about absolutely everything.  Of course, when they would fight, the Sister would take it to Father.  Then they would fight.  A non-stop cycle of the two of them going back and forth and him having to play the peace-maker.  But no matter what she did, it didn’t stop.  Maybe she’d wear the white shirt.  It was worth it if it made his life easier, right?
Once she turned 18 and graduated, she’d have the money come to the school by way of an anonymous donation.  She had already learned the process a year ago, when she began her poker habit.  Then there was no guilt for her, and Father would think that the Good Lord had provided his school with a kindly donation.
Going to a Catholic school, one of the big requisites is that you believe in God.  And…she didn’t.  Not at all.  It all just seemed so silly to her.  A celestial patriarchal entity created this planet in six days, but then created everything else as a huge afterthought?  Who told his prophet to kill the men of their enemies and take the virgin girls as sex trophies?  She read the book from cover to cover in order to acclimate herself to the new environment and what they studied, and the whole thing just rubbed her as a primitive book written by primitive people with way more allegory than actual stories.
Bringing that up to Father, however, was totally off the table.  He believed this stuff so fervently.  It was incredibly important to him.  Who was she to question it?  It would just be something he believed in and she would just play along with until she got out.  Then she’d tell him the truth.  He seemed like a man who was caring and wouldn’t throw it all away because of something like that.  At least, that’s what she hoped.  It was hard to say.

Climbing up the hill to the tree, she was out of breath before even getting to it.  Leaning against it, she panted.  While her mind is a sharpened instrument that can do battle with the best of them, her body was so weak.  She was average height for a girl, but was skinny and almost underweight.  The various PE courses they had her do were always the worst.  Her running times were abysmal, on par with the most out of shape girls in the school.  You’d think that she would have some camaraderie among them, but her reputation of being from a poor family colored so many people’s perception of her.  A poor girl at an elite school trumped some level of empathy for being physically weak among those who shared in her plight.  Irony.
Perhaps she could cozy up to Lisa?  Given her situation, there may be a way to use this newfound friendship as a way to get out from under her own problems.  Felt bad, using a new friend like that.  But she wasn’t just going to be using her.  Their conversation yesterday had informed her that this girl was quite smart herself.  She even had a PDA!  It seemed this young lady wanted to put her mind to work with technology.  Admirable.  Getting past a physical handicap and also putting an exceptional mind to work.  This girl was worthy of respect.
Climbing up the tree and making her way back in, more thoughts came to her.  What about the roommate?  She seemed nice enough.  Had even heard her music and jammed with her.  That was something friends do, right?  Or at least they could be friends.  A warm thought.
Back inside school grounds, it was a race to beat the rising light levels.  More Sisters would be around the grounds soon.  She could NOT get caught now!  After an evening this good, failure to get back to her dorm quick enough was unacceptable.  At the very least, if she could get close enough, she could say she was using the bathroom if caught.  No!  No compromising the vision of a perfect escape.  She must get back inside flawlessly.
She peeked from the darkness inside the area around the window she used to escape.  Still clear.  Going back into ninja mode, she slipped through and closed it behind her.  Now it was moving as fast as her poor physical stamina would allow.  Sliding down the stairs was easy.  Getting back up was less so.  Her ears perked for the sound of footsteps.  With luck, the Sister on duty was catching some shut-eye herself.
Each tiny squeak made her heart pound.  It was always the most stressful part, no matter how many times she did it.  Getting to the top, there was one more hallway turn, and she was on the home stretch.  Again moving as fast as she could without making noise and without her stamina causing her breathing to be audible.  So much stress.  As she was about to turn the corner to the last stretch, noise!  Footsteps!  Looking behind her, she saw it.  Bathroom!
With a flash, she ducked inside.  The footsteps got closer, then passed by.  Waiting until she couldn’t hear anything, she came out and hurried to her dorm.  Closing the door behind, she slid down it and sat on the floor.  Success!  Victory against the forces of academic oppression!  Crush the system!  Well, maybe not that, but still, victory.
Might as well get a couple hours of sleep before class.  She was already going to be a zombie.  So worth it.  Stripping off her hoodie, she pulled down her pants and grabbed her PJ pants.
“Where did you go?” a voice called out.
Spinning in terror, she saw the outline of her roommate lying in bed.  Couldn’t get a clear look at her face.  Oh shit!  This was about as terrible as it could be.  All that work, only to be busted by her roommate?
“I had to pee.”
“You were gone all night.  I remember waking up, and you were gone.  Woke up a little later, and you were gone then too.  You’re taking off your shoes.  So you left.”
Basic reasoning, but on point.
Sitting on her bed, she let out a sigh.  “I…I can’t tell you, Kaye.”
Her roommate sat up, her face clearer in the growing light.  It was a mask of concern.
“Why?  Is everything okay?”
This nagging feeling tore at her.  Don’t lie to her!  She’s legitimately concerned about you.  Is there no one we can be honest with?
“Because, what I go out and do every now and again…it’s illegal.”
Kaye’s hand went to her mouth.  “Oh goodness.  Is it drugs?”
She shook her head.  “No, nothing like that.”
Awkward expression.  “…Prostitution?”
A chuckle.  “Don’t think I have a body good enough for that.”
If she could see the color on Kaye’s face, she was reasonably sure it was beet red.  Something just told her it was.
“So what?  What is it?  I won’t tell anyone, Quinn.  I promise!”
Now the feeling was ripping her to pieces.  Just fucking tell her!  Don’t make her worry like this!
“I gamble.  I go to a private place and play poker for money.  I’m ridiculously good at it.  To the point that I have yet to go to a game and not run the table.  Tonight was a challenge.  First time in ages.  Might have found an opponent who could be worthy, with some experience.  It was incredible.”
Her roommate cocked her head to the side.  “Why do you do it?”
Leaning back against the wall on the other side of her bed.  “I don’t know.  There’s this itch that I get.  Something deep inside.  It wants me to prove that I’m better than people.  I’ve destroyed every girl here at chess, mahjongg, whatever game you can think of that uses your mind.  But those games didn’t scratch the itch.  I needed something where I was genuinely risking something.  Where I would be putting something on the line and have the fear of failure.  Then I heard about the place and went there to play.”
Quinn’s eyes lit up.  “It was amazing!  The anticipation.  Since we were playing Texas Hold ‘Em, there was the math I’d do about who had what hand.  What the odds were there that someone had a better hand than me.  It was great!  This was not a game with professionals.  I destroyed them.  From there, the itch got scratched.  It was months before I needed to do so again.  Went back, this time to a real game with real players.  It was even better!  This time I was able to carefully play each individual and be tactical about my approach.  Won a big pot.
“Now I am building on it.  Growing my reputation.  I can walk in there now and nobody questions it.  Not the bouncers, not the Bank, not the Dealer.  Every night I do it, I prove that I’m better than my opponents.  My mind is sharper than theirs.  It’s such a rush!”
Hearing herself say that out loud, it sounded way more like an addiction.
Apparently she wasn’t alone in that thought.  “My mom sounds the same way when she talks about booze.”
That hurt.  What was she addicted to?  It wasn’t gambling, because that was just a symptom, not a cause.  Adrenaline?  Made some sense.  An adrenaline junkie.  There are worse things, right?  This didn’t make her feel better.  It would have been easier to lie.  Whoever said that the truth sets you free was full of shit.
Turning her back to her, Quinn lay on her bed and closed her eyes.  She was in control of this.  No one else.  Guess friendship only did go so far.

Her alarm went off and she didn’t feel any less tired.  Worth it, for sure, but today was going to be a long day.  Sitting up, she turned to see her roommate getting dressed.  No sense talking with her.  Part of her wanted to see if Father could get rid of this problem, but she had just thought last night about how she didn’t want to make life more difficult for him.
Looking over at the white shirt, she let out a sigh.  Speaking of not making things difficult for him.  Taking off her shirt, she went to grab the white shirt.
“Oh my god!” she heard from behind her.
Looking back, she saw Kaye looking absolutely mortified.
“What?”
“That mark on your shoulder.  It’s a brand!”
Putting on the white shirt, she started buttoning it up.  “It’s just a birthmark.”
Kaye gave her an ugly look.  “That’s a lie, Quinn!”
Turning to face her.  “Yeah, it is.  Because it’s none of your fucking business!  So tell you what, you keep your fucking judgmental comments to yourself and I’ll keep out of your hair!”
In a second she realized that she had just fucked up.  This girl knew not only what she’s doing, but why.  Making an enemy of her would do nothing but make her life immeasurably more difficult.  If she snitched on her to Sister Margaret, not only would she make life for Father difficult, she would almost-certainly be expelled.  Then given over to the cops and go to juvenile justice.  This is why she didn’t make friends here!  Emotional connections lead to making decisions based on emotions.  Guess the white shirt didn’t matter now, did it?
“Fuck this!”
In a flash Quinn grabbed her shoes and was out the door.  No way she was gonna get caught here.  No way was this going to be where her story ended.  Get to the safe-house with her money, and from there figure out what her next move was going to be.  As she left, she thought she heard a voice behind her.  What did it say?  Didn’t matter.

The gate was open now, so she was able to walk right out of the school.  Good thing too.  Walking quickly, but trying not to draw attention.  She got to the gate and was about to head out, when a voice called out to her.
“Quinn!”  This was a different voice.
Part of her wanted to just keep going and ignore it, but another part told her to look.
Lisa was in a car, backing up to her.  “Hey!  Where are you going?  Class is gonna start soon.”
She awkwardly stood there, trying to think of a clever way to get out of this without giving a direct answer.  Maybe she could be half-honest?
“I…don’t wanna go to class today.  I’m not feeling it.”
Giving her a worried look.  “Everything okay?”
“No.  Something happened and I just want to get away from here for a while.”
A thoughtful look came to Lisa’s face.  Then she smiled at her.  “Well, if you’re looking to play hooky, want some company?”
That made her incredulous.  “You’re joining forces with a miscreant now?”
She nodded.  “Sure!  Perk of having medical problems.  I can get away with all sorts of stuff.  Hop in!  We’ll go to the pier and wander around like a couple of tourists!”
Not being able to help herself, Quinn smiled.  “Alright.  Sounds good.  Let’s do it.”
Getting in on the other side, the driver waved to her.  He looked to be a kindly gentleman.  Dressed in a rather nice suit himself.
“Where to, ladies?”
“Drop us off at the pier!  Quinn will be my caretaker today.”
“Very well.  Shall I notify the school of your absence?”
She thought for a moment.  “Yes.  And make sure to tell them that Quinn is helping me with feeling not well and keeping up on my classwork.”
Quinn gave her companion a smile.  “Awfully nice of you.”
“I’m sure you’ll still get an earful, but at least it won’t be as bad, right?”
Not particularly caring, as she assumed trying to go back would result in her getting expelled, she just shrugged.  One more good day before being on the run.

The car came to a stop at a parking lot by the pier.  A place where tourists gathered.  As it was still August, there were still tourist trap stores open.  It was all so tacky.  Brought back memories for Quinn of spending time here with Father McCormick.  What would he say when he found out?  It pained her to think about how disappointed he would be with her.  How it would break his heart to sign an order expelling her, and losing his guardianship as she went into juvenile detention.  Assuming she got out before she turned 18, she’d be in some group home.  The horror stories about those places are numerous.
“You okay?” Lisa asked.
Looking over at her, she feigned a smile and nodded.  “Yeah.  I’m alright.  How are you?”
“The morning was no rougher than usual.”
She frowned.  “I suppose that’s a good thing.
“Yeah.  Well, as you are my caretaker today, let’s go look at the ocean!  Take me to the far side of the pier.  Let’s take in the scenery.”
A caretaker, eh?  Sounded fine.  “Yes ma’am.”
Since it was still early, cool air blew in their faces.
“You cold?” Quinn asked.
“A little, but I’ll be alright.”  A little chuckle.  “You’re a lot different than I expected.  Way everyone talks about you, I kinda figured you’d be the queen bitch of the universe.  But you’re super nice.”
While hearing how her peers thought about her hurt, she did appreciate the compliment.
“Something about not believing everything you hear and judging books by covers.”
Looking up at her, Lisa smiled.  “Word!”

The two finally arrived at the end of the pier, looking out at the sea.  Since this was the west coast, the sun rose behind them.  Made everything in front of them glow.
“Beautiful,” Quinn remarked.
“Yeah.”
Standing there until the glow subsided.
“Let’s get something to eat.  Cinnabon is close.”
That sounded absolutely perfect.
“You’re gonna get fat in that chair,” She chided.
“Please, I have to push myself around in this damn thing all day.  Burns crazy calories.”
“I bet.”
“Surprised you don’t get fat.  I’ve seen you put it away, but you’re so lanky.  I’m guessing you don’t do a lot of running.”
Her expression dimmed.  “You’re not wrong.  I’ve never understood people who do all that running.  Seems like a horrific waste of energy.  My assertion is that my metabolism is like a freakin’ squirrel.  So that’s why I don’t gain weight.  Yay me.”
Lisa chuckled again.  “Trying to imagine you fat.  It’s funny.”
Bopping her on the head.  “Bad girl!”
“Whatever!  Come on, pick up the pace.  Could have wheeled myself there by now.”
“Careful, or I’ll let you test that theory.”
That got an obstinate look.  “Mean.”
“Gotta live down to my reputation.”
When they got to the door, it opened as a client was leaving and the absolutely intoxicating smell drifted out to meet them.
“My tummy is growing just thinking about that!”
“Mine too,” Quinn agreed.

After ordering, they sat outside by a bench.  So much sugary goodness, and it was worth the calories.  It was such a shame that this was going to likely be the last time she got to enjoy such a thing, at least for the foreseeable future.  It was pretty simple – get her car and get out of here.  She knew how to drive, just hadn’t had much experience.  As in hardly at all.  Something new to learn, right?  A challenge to undertake?  Seeing life as a series of challenges had gotten her through a lot so far.  Could it get her through juvenile detention?  A grim thought.
“Hey Quinn?”
Pulled out of her morose line of thinking, she looked up.  “Hm?”
“What were you doing last night?”
Once-again, her insides went cold.  “What do you mean?”
“I saw you out on a dirt-bike super early.  Like, crazy early.  What were you doing?”  The way she asked, it wasn’t judgmental.  It was curious.
But she had learned her lesson from before.  “Just out for a little joyride.”
Lisa frowned.  “Where did you get the dirt-bike?”
A little honesty couldn’t hurt here.  “I knew some people and they owed me.  So I got it for cheap.”
She perked up.  “Well that’s cool!  So jealous.  Think you could ever give me a ride sometime?”
Could she?  They were both small enough that she could get on.  Problem was the bum leg.  Lisa’s leg would be a liability.  Especially if it was injured.  She wouldn’t know.
“I don’t know if you could, with your leg.”  There was genuine sympathy in her voice.
“Yeah…I suppose.”
“I’m sorry.  I would if it were some other way.”  In reality, this was an excellent out for her.
“Thanks.  I believe you would.”
Smiling at her, Quinn took a napkin and wiped her cheek.  “You’re a messy eater.”
Her companion just stuck out her tongue.
“And mature.”
“Damn right!”
They sat there and ate.  Lisa talked about how she was wanting to learn tech stuff, maybe get into that.  Because of her disability, snagging a good husband wasn’t the first option.  So she figured that she would snag a good career instead.  Made her parents proud.  Making the most of a bad situation.
From her bag she pulled out a PDA.
Quinn marveled.  “That’s so cool!  Being a rich kid really does have the perks.”
That got a wink.  “You know it!  Since I always have amazing grades, daddy spoils me with whatever I need.  Helps that I’m stuck in a medical facility each night.”  Her face darkened.  “I know they feel guilty.  It’s not their fault.  I was born with this.  But still.”
Probably felt bad that their daughter was constantly looking at kids run and play, while she couldn’t.  For a second, Quinn thought about if there was a way that she could work out to secure her leg to the bike.  Actually take her on that joy-ride.  But then she remembered – about to be going up shit creek soon.  It was a nice thought, though.

Hours passed by as the two went down the boardwalk, going from tacky tourist shop to another equally tacky shop.  Trying on shades, looking at cutesy fishing lures, laughing at the terrible Oceanview tourist merch.  It was great.  For a little while, the precariousness of her situation faded away.  Just a fun day, with someone who understood what it was to be an outcast.
The afternoon was starting to show up when a familiar face came into the shop that the two were at.
Quinn looked up.  “Kaye?”
Lisa gave her a look.  “Who’s that?”
“My new roommate.”
Walking over, her roommate looked awkward.  “I heard you skipped class today.”
Also looking awkward.  “Yeah.  Just looking after a friend.”
Kaye did the best smile she could.  “Hi.  I’m Kaye Evers.”
“Lisa.  So, what’s it like to live with Quinn?  She as much of a problem at home as she is at school.”
That got a mean look from Quinn.  “If you weren’t in that chair I’d smack you.”
A wink back.  “Gotta love me.”
Kaye looked over.  “She’s got crazy music,” she said.
The girl pouted a bit.  “Well I’m sure anyone could have told me that.”
Chuckling, Quinn shook her head.  “I do what I can.”  She was gonna miss the CDs since they would be confiscated.  Would Sister Margaret burn them?  Do it in holy fire to purge the evil Devil music.
Looking over at her, Kaye looked somewhat apologetic.  “Can I talk to you for a bit?”
Part of her wanted to hope.  It was a fool’s hope, but still.
“Sure.”  Turning to Lisa.  “Don’t you go anywhere.”
Another wink.  “No promises.”
“Brat.”
The two walked outside.
“Look,” Kaye began, “I’m sorry about what I said last night.  That was mean.  I can see from your mark that a lot of stuff has happened to you.  It wasn’t my place to say that.”
A real apology.  Not one of those fake ones you see little kids give.
“I’m sorry too, for yelling at you this morning.”
“Friends?”
Strategically, Quinn had to do this.  If she was offering an apology, that meant she hadn’t told the Sister about her.  It meant that she wasn’t in the doghouse or worse.  But it felt good too.
Nodding.  “Friends.”
Kaye went in and hugged her.  That took her by surprise.  Definitely never had the hugging treatment.  Still a new day?  At least she knew she had an earful coming from Sister Margaret.  Time to see what would happen next.

Until next time, a quote,

“Hey, this ain’t like me, but I managed to change ‘cause you were here helping me.  I got you all wrapped up in this shit, but you stayed with me ‘til the bitter end.  You didn’t abandon me.” – Ryuchi Sakamoto, Persona 5

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Act I, Scene III)

Walking into The Parlor was like walking into another world.  The best kept secret in Oceanview.  An underground gambling hub where you could bet on sporting events, play various games of chance, and periodically, there were poker games.  That’s what drew Quinn there tonight.  Word reached her of a game that was happening.  Also why she needed the stack of cash.
Because this wasn’t her first time in here, the staff didn’t seem to pay her much mind.  For those playing, watching, or drinking, the sight of a 15 year old girl in a place like this was more than a little alarming.  There was whispering abound, but she ignored it.  The vast majority of people in this room were no one to her, nor would they ever be.
The Parlor was a very posh sort of place.  Everything was comfortable red velvet colors.  Very soothing.  Not a window to be found, but that was for a good reason.  Everything that happened here was entirely illegal.  Those who came here were dressed with some measure of regard.  As if they knew that you wanted to look as passable as possible in this place.  There was no specific dress code, but people felt that if you were here, you should look the part.  Another reason they were staring at Quinn.
Towards the far wall, there was the place where you cashed in chips, and where you looked to get in on any big games happening.  Standing there was a man in a very smooth red vest, white shirt, and black pants.  Indeed, everyone who worked here wore a similar attire, with even women wearing black pants.  Uniformity was the word.
“Greetings, Red,” the man said jovially.  “What can we do for you tonight?”
“I understand there’s a game happening.  There still time to join?”
He nodded curtly.  “Yes indeed.  It’s set to get underway shortly, so your timing is impeccable.”
Good.  I haven’t missed it.  “What’s the buy-in?”
“The buy-in is $3,000, with no further buy-in if your chips are depleted.”
So this was a small-time game.  Still, it would scratch her itch, for tonight.  “Will the Dealer let me buy in for $5,000?”  She put the stack of cash that was banded on the table.
The man nodded.  “Yes.  I take it the House is to take their cut from this?”
“Only if I win.”
With the same professional expression, the man nodded again.  “Understood.”
Reaching under the counter, he gave her a plaque with the amount she had given the Bank.  This would get her chips when she got inside.

The door to the Poker room was guarded by a very large and very burly black fellow.  Rumor had it he was in the Marines, once upon a time.  Whatever his history, it was understood that those who fucked with him did so at their own peril.
“You got the invite, kid?”
She held up the plaque.
“Alright.  Good luck in there, Red.”
“Thanks.”
Stepping inside, this room was much more posh than the one she had just left.  There was the table at the center, and mirrors in panels between red wooden panels.  There was the logo of The Parlor at the far end.  Inside were six people at the table, and some people there to watch the game.  Probably friends/significant others of the players.
When she handed her plaque to The Dealer, multiple players gave her a confused look.  Already she had the upper hand.  This was good.  Time to survey the competition.  Six other players.  First there was a man who definitely looked like he didn’t belong here.  In a tacky suit jacket, with a wrinkled nice shirt.  This was a game that he bought his way into probably out of desperation.  Maybe he had some skill, but not enough to be a threat.
Next there was a woman who looked very, very bored.  Not someone here to complete legit.  This was something to pass the time.  Fair enough.  Someone to keep an eye on, but not enough to worry about.  Beside her was a very different person.  A young man, early 20’s.  Hair that was messy and dyed blonde at the ends.  On his face were expensive sunglasses.  His outfit reeked of surfer dude, but not the cheap kind.  This was all posh and name brand.  So he was a surfer in look only.  Under the sunglasses, she could feel his eyes on her.  Made her skin crawl.  This dude was trouble.
Then there was another fellow, looking to be a businessman who was here to try and win himself some extra cash.  Another person in it for the fun of it.  Not someone she was going to take seriously.  Lastly, there was a much older man.  This person was a different breed.  Everything about him screamed that he wasn’t fucking around.  This was a professional gambler, and he was here to play to win.  Maybe a worthy opponent?  A girl could dream.
Getting settled in, Quinn went through a small meditation.  Looking at her opponents, analyzing them.  Getting her mind into a place where she could do battle with them.  It was time.
“Who let the baby in here?” Sunglasses asked.
She didn’t answer.  Not gonna let this guy psyche her out now.  The Dealer provided her with the chips.  The value ran from $20 to $250.  This could be an interesting night.  People started to take their seats.  Seems that Sunglasses was not the only one wondering what she was doing there.  Nobody here who knew her, outside of The Dealer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.  Tonight’s game is going to be Five Card Draw, Jokers wild.”
Finally!  A game where she had to actually match wits with people.  Where there was no math involved, because it could be anything with anyone.  This game was shaping up to actually be fun.
“There will be no further buy-ins past this point.  Good luck.”
Not even remotely a battle of titans, but she’d take this any day.

The game started much as she expected.  Scruffy guy was bleeding chips pretty fast, and his poker face was a joke.  Bored woman didn’t show any investment and didn’t care that she was bleeding chips.  Clearly it wasn’t her money she was spending here.  Business man was doing alright, but not enough for her to take him seriously.
Meanwhile, the old timer was every bit the gambler she believed.  This dude had the perfect poker face.  And just like everyone else, he had ruled her out as any kind of threat at first, but quickly changed his tune as the game progressed.  She deliberately lost a couple hands, just to find weaknesses, and he could see the formula she was working with.  But the one she was having to watch the most was Sunglasses.  This guy was pretty good.  Had the true challenge to her skill come along in the form of this loser?  Ironic, but you take the battles where you can find them.  His poker face was perfect.  Helped that he had sunglasses, but they weren’t mirrored, so she couldn’t see his cards.
The game had stretched into three hours, and things were running hot.  Scruffy guy was gone.  His reaction to losing was one of anguish.  Business man decided to try and get lucky with a run on the rest.  Played it coy at first, but once the old timers put in, he raised the stakes.  They got raised more and more by Sunglasses, who was looking to see if Quinn would take the bait.  Her hand wasn’t great, and she could see that business man was looking to capitalize on luck, so she folded.  Turns out, Sunglasses had the good hand, and took business man down.  It was a skilled play.  It was a straight, King high.  Not too shabby.

Now it was just the three.  Quinn could see the old timer was getting antsy.  His position wasn’t getting better and his chips were getting smaller.  If he didn’t win a good hand soon, he was going to be out.  This made his poker face crack more and more.  Neat thing – as the game had gone on, a couple of those who had been playing stuck around, eager to see who would win.  She heard a few saying they thought she had it.  That made her feel better.
Sunglasses was looking to make the kill.  His coy attitude betrayed him.  So cavalier, like he was just chilling and letting a hand play out.  Drew two cards.  The old timer decided his play had come.  A good hand?  Maybe.  Quinn put down $250.  He raised by $1000.  Sunglasses called.  Now it was up to her.  What would she do?  Looking at Sunglasses lip, there was this slight quiver.  Just for a split-second.  Long enough for her to know that he had a good hand.  A really good hand.  She folded.  Smart move.  They threw down, and he had a full house, Aces over fives.  Old timer had a straight.  Ten high.  That was it.  He was done.
Only two of them now.  This game had officially gotten interesting.  Hand after hand, with Quinn being smart.  She’d win on the small hands, fold on the bigger ones.  He was trying to push her to bet big with coy moves and small raises.  Just like he’d done to the old timer.  She wasn’t taking the bait.  It was clear this was his go-to strategy, and since it wasn’t working, he was gonna have to change up.
Finally, they got to a hand and something changed.  He put down $250 at the start.  No cards drawn.  She tensed up.  What did he have?  Something that good, right from the outset?  Couldn’t be.  No way.  She called it, drawing one.  Now she saw him tense up.  One card?  What did she have?  it was a game where neither one betrayed what they had, and now both of them were in a position where they had to make the play.  It was big.  He decided to push his strategy, raising by $500.  He had something good, but instead of bowing out, she decided to step up.  $1,200.  Everyone in the room stopped.  They could feel this hand was different.
The Dealer looked to Sunglasses.  “Sir?  Call or raise?”
They stared right at each other.  Someone had to see what the other was hiding.  That little twitch again, but it wasn’t like last time.  He was confident, but that confidence was tempered.  He knew his opponent was good.
He put down $1,200.  Time to throw down.  Now he smiled a bit.  It was a flush.  Not too shabby.  She smiled back at him, laying her cards down flat and then using one to flip the others.  Four of a kind, Jacks.  She had officially staked her claim.  Now play-time was over.

From that point, Sunglasses realized he was up against someone who may just be better than him, and clearly he wasn’t having it.  Play after play, she could read his tells and was using his own play style against him.  Making bets just big enough to egg him on into playing more.  Then she would go bigger, and sometimes he would call, but sometimes he would fold.  One hand in-particular had him sitting to think for a couple seconds, with $5,000 on the table, only to fold.  He was bleeding.
It came to one last hand.  He was at $8,000.  She was at $15,000.  The entire room was watching this with baited breath.  Sunglasses drew two.  Suddenly, he stopped cold.  His hand was good.  She could feel it.  Looking down at her own cards, she also felt herself smile.  She put in $7,000.  He looked at her, desperate to get a sign, anything that could tell if she was bluffing.  Was her had this good?  Looking down, it was clear he liked his hand, but that uncertainty was eating at him.  His pride was involved with this now.  He wasn’t going to lose to a little girl.
“You know what, fuck it.”  All-in.  “Hey, how about let’s make things interesting?”  From his pocket came what looked to be a really nice set of keys to a nice car.  The logo on it!  It was a fucking Porsche!
“I saw that piece of shit bike you came in on.  Care to bet the against my car?”
Oh, this dude needed to be taken down a peg.
Looking at The Dealer.  “If the Dealer will allow it, I’m game.”
Thinking for a moment, he nodded.  “Parties may make independent bets.  So long as the gentleman understands that all bets are final.  If he loses, that’s it.”
Again, his pride was wrapped up in it.  So he just smiled.  “Oh yeah.  I’m in.  What do you say, kid?”
Taking the keys to her bike, she thought for a moment.  If she lost, it was going to be a LONG walk home.  And her ability to do this again was gone without transportation.  But with the car, his bet was larger than her.  She was going to have to go all-in on this anyway, even if she didn’t want to take his bet.  Looking back at her cards, she smiled.
“Call.”  Her keys clicked as they hit the stack.
The entire room was on baited breath.  This was it.
“I’m gonna enjoy fucking up your bike, girl.” Sunglasses said, turning over his cards.  It was four of a kind, Aces.  Everyone gasped.
She looked right at him.  “No, I think I’m gonna enjoy driving your car.”
Her hand flipped over.  Straight flush, the Joker made it King of Hearts high.
There was clapping around the room.  Sunglasses sunk down in his chair, his face a mask of disbelief.  Wiping the sweat off her forehead, Quinn stood up and scooped up the chips, along with the keys to her bike and the car.  Time to get home.  Though, the car was a bit of a problem.

Walking out of the room, a voice called after her.  “Not too bad, kiddo.”
Turning around, she saw the old timer standing there.
“You were doing pretty well yourself.  Had a couple good hands.”
“I haven’t gone up against two skilled youngsters like yourselves since I was coming up.  But my skills are getting rusty.  Thanks for the compliment all the same.”
Walking over to the bar, the woman there gave her a look.
“What do you want?  Water?”
“Root beer, if you have it.”  She knew they did.  It was something she ordered her first day there, and had been
The bottle was opened and put in front of her.  Quinn put down a five dollar bill.  Old timer asked for a whiskey, straight.
“So, what’s your deal, kid?  I wouldn’t expect to see a girl my granddaughter’s age in here playing cards.”
Leaning against the bar, she took a deep swig.  It felt so good.  She had sweat more than she thought.
“I have an itch that I can’t scratch.  To pit myself against skilled opponents.  To see if I can find anyone who is better than me.  I don’t know where it comes from.  At school I beat everyone in chess.  Beat all the adults I know in chess.  Every game of skill that I’ve come across, I keep winning.  But there were no stakes!  Nothing to lose!  I wanted to feel the tension wondering if I was going to lose everything.  Tonight was fantastic.  That douche in the sunglasses was a skilled opponent.”
The man looked down at her, with a face of both pity and confusion.  “He was.  A little more time and he could be someone pretty great.  But he wasn’t you.  I saw that look in your eye.  At first it was excitement, but after a while it was like a predator.  You were hunting him.  Like in your mind you knew you were going to win before this started.”
Was he right?  The thought hurt.  She didn’t want to see herself that way.
“I don’t know.  But the feeling, right now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
He nodded.  “Yeah, I know how you feel.  Been there myself.  So, what are you gonna do with that car?  Are you even old enough to have your permit?”
Her face flushed red.  “Yeah.  But…didn’t get it too long ago.  Can’t legally drive a car, or my bike.”
“So what are you gonna do with the car?”
“I don’t really know.  There are options, but I don’t know if any of them are good.  It’s a puzzle my brain wasn’t quite ready for.  I just expected this to be a money issue.  Always gotta love a good puzzle, right?”
Taking one last drink, the old timer smiled at her.  “Tell you what – why don’t you let me look after it for a while?  I can park it at my place.”
She cocked an eyebrow.  “Why would you do that for me?  You barely know me?  And how do I know you won’t steal it?”
He chuckled.  “Eh, going fast in sports cars is cool and all, but I don’t have a taste for that thrill.  Too old for it.  As for why I would help you, I got a feeling about you.  Like you’re special.  There are gonna be more games coming.  You’re gonna be back, right?”
Part of her wanted to say no, but she could feel it inside her, the answer was yes.
“Oh yeah.  I’ll be back.”
“Well then, let’s see if an old man’s experience can measure up with a young woman’s skill and see if we can’t make something special happen here.  You in?”  He held out his hand.
Tentative excitement.  A mentor?  Did she need that?  But he was good.  She had seen him.  If it  weren’t for how her and Sunglasses were playing, she might have been in more danger from him.
She shook his hand.  “I’m in.”
“Alright then.  I’ll hold on to that car for you.  Time comes, and you’re old enough, I’ll be happy to give it back to you.  By then I figure you’ll be worth more than I am.”
So that’s his deal.  A wealthy gambler, spending his twilight years in a place like this.  Tragic, but it gave her perspective.  He wanted to help her, and vicariously experience this through her.  That was just fine.  It could be the start of something fantastic.

As she left, she could hear Sunglasses yelling with his entourage about losing to a girl and going to get drunk.  Best to clear out of here fast.  He could be dangerous with alcohol.  A risk of seeing him again?  Probably.  Kicking her bike ignition, she started off toward home.  The sun was going to rise soon.
From a window, Lisa looked out at the noise.  Her eyes went wide.
“Quinn?!”

Until next time, a quote,

“I’ll know I’m in trouble if I start to weep blood.” – James Bond, Casino Royale

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Act I, Scene II)

Quinn was not in a good mood.  A roommate?  This was going to complicate things immeasurably.  There was a certain lifestyle that she was accustomed to, and now it was going to have be done so much more carefully than before.  Though when she thought about it like that, the mental challenge it posed was not without appeal.  Hadn’t she been looking for a challenge?  Being able to escape the roommate, the dorms, and the school unseen did present a stimulating obstacle.  For the moment, she’d have to see what the roomie’s sleeping habits were like, and then go from there.
This girl liked to talk.  Absolutely incessantly.  Talked about how much she liked the school and how it is was so pretty here.  About her family.  Seems they are military and expect great things from her.  Both her mom and dad had served.  That was impressive, but not especially interesting.  At least not to Quinn.  The necklace she kept hidden inside a hollowed-out book that was in the bottom drawer of her desk soured the very concept.  She already had tags.
“So, what about you?  What brings you here?”
Time to rehash the same old lies.  It gave her a bitter taste in her mouth, but what other options were there?  In her heart, she knew it was for the best.  What else could she say?  A lot of late nights talking with Father about it.
Kaye saw the look on her face.  “What’s wrong?”
Shaking her head, she smiled at her.  “Nothing.  Not really much to tell.  Just a poor girl who got here because my folks new the guy in charge.  They were hella proud to hear that their little girl was going to one of the most elite schools in the country.”
The way the girl smiled at her, it gave Quinn a warm feeling.  It wasn’t like so many other girls.  Like her smile was really there, not just plastered on.
“That’s awesome!  Hopefully I’ll get to meet them.”
A twinge of sadness.  She wanted to meet them too.  After months of searching, the police gave up on finding them.  From there, Father McCormick put in the papers to have her sent to his school and be her legal guardian.  Part of her wondered if they were even still alive.  Given what they found her with, and the brand on her shoulder, she figured not.
“Yeah, me too,” Quinn replied.
From there, conversation got easier.  Kaye noticed the CDs sitting on her desk and was immediately enamored.  All her life, listening to stuff like this was so risque.  Her mother was unbelievably prudish and had never allowed that kind of music in the house.
“What?!”
“It’s true,” Kaye groaned.  “I couldn’t watch any cool movies growing up, or listen to music like that.”
This gave Quinn an idea.  “Well, you’re in my room now.  So let’s start here!”
A sheepish look came to Kaye’s face.  “Wouldn’t we get in trouble for listening to punk music?”
With a wink, “You afraid of getting in a little trouble?”
Her roommate looked down for a minute, then right into her eyes, shaking her head.  “No.  I wanna hear it!”
“Hell yeah!”
Noticing the timid reaction when she swore made Quinn giggle.  This girl was kinda cute, if only in her white-picket fence way.  That would change.  Getting up, she put in Nevermind.  As “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came on, she got on her feet and started to jam.
“Come on, Kaye!  Get that white ass up and dance!”
The girl looked so awkward, but she did as bidden.  At first it was uncomfortable, but as it played there was a noticeable change in how she moved.  Clearly she didn’t know how to jam out, but she was actually moving to the music.  Pretty soon she was doing the air-guitar with the best of them.
Just then, a banging on her door.  “Quinndolyn!  Turn off that music right now!”
Kaye stopped and looked mortified.  “Oh no!”
Quinn hit the Stop button and sighed.  “Look, don’t sweat it.  I’ll take the rap for this.  Sister Margaret and I go way back.”  Opening the door, she gave her the sweetest expression she could muster.  “What’s wrong, Sister Margaret?”
“You know perfectly well that we don’t like that music here!  I’ve talked with you a dozen times!”
“I was trying to be engaging with my new dormmate, Sister.  I wanted to expose her to my culture.”
That got the most snide look in history.  “Oh?  And what culture is that, exactly?”
“The punk culture, Sister.”
To best describe the look she got next would be one that could freeze someone solid where they stand.  Vicious and ice-cold.
“I’ve talked with you about this before, Quinn.  One more infraction and I will be taking those CDs away from you!”
She really thought about stepping up to her, but not only was this woman loads bigger than her, and she had already gotten her knuckles rapped before, but she didn’t want to start off the school year with this battle already.  Father had asked her to try and get along.
“Understood, ma’am.”
Clearly she enjoyed the feeling of power.  “Very good.  It’s lights-out here soon, so best get ready for bed, Quinn.”
“Yes, Sister.”
As the door closed, Quinn let both middle fingers blaze.  “Bitch.”
Kaye stood there awkwardly.  “I’m sorry.”
Shaking her head.  “I told you not to sweat it.  Sister Margaret and I go way back.  She’s hated me ever since I got here.”
“That awful…”
In truth, it was.  The rational part of her brain told her that the reason wasn’t that complicated.  For starters, she clearly had Father McCormick’s ear.  While he didn’t cover for her, it was clear that she was important to her.  The closest she would likely ever have to a real father.  There was a rumor going around that Sister Margaret had always had a thing for Father McCormick, but would never say a word because of the fact that not only was he her superior, but Catholic rules be rules. Anything between them could only go so far.  She didn’t figure that the Church would look past him breaking his oath of celibacy, even with as much as the Church looks past now.
Next up was because Quinn was seen as the local attitude problem.  Sister Margaret liked the girls upstanding, prim and proper.  So a girl who could listen to punk rock, but still be at the top of her class must have chapped her 48-year-old ass pretty hard.  She knew it drew the ire of every single other girl in this place.  The idea had occurred on more than one occasion to leave this place.  But where would she go?  With a mind as smart as hers, she could probably find her way.  None of the options looked good.  Maybe as soon as…

Father McCormick rubbed his temple.
“We’ve had this conversation before, Sister,” he remarked.
“Yes Father, but last time it was when she was new here.  It’s been three years, and she still has the same attitude problem.  Now she has a roommate, and instead of the roommate being a good influence on her, it seems the opposite is happening.  This could be the start of a worrying trend, sir!  This school preps some of the smartest and most talented young women in the country to find good husbands and build futures.  One rotten apple could sour an entire class.”
This conversation was tedious.  “What would you like me to do, Sister?  Kick her out?  May I remind you that her scores are exemplary!  She’s at the top of her class, academically.  There is NO good reason that you can find to have me send her away from this school.”
The Sister got closer.  “I want you to stop covering for her, Father!  Every time we have this conversation, you consistently defend her and obstruct me.  It’s time we crack down on her behavior!  Make her an example to the rest that insolence is not tolerated here and we are not afraid to make an example of trouble-makers.”
Now he was annoyed.  “She listened to rock music, Sister Margaret!  That’s not quite the revolution you’re alluding to.  And I don’t appreciate the implication that I cover for her.  When she has broken actual rules of this school, I was ALWAYS behind you to discipline her!  Listening to music you personally disapprove of is not an infraction.  Tell you what, when she starts breaking actual rules, then you can come talk to me about further disciplinary actions.  Until then, good evening, Sister.”
Seeing his fierce look, she backed down.  “Good evening, Father.”
As the door closed, he let out a sigh.  Then a smile came to his face.  So his gambit worked.  Instead of trying to force her to make friends here, he introduced a new element into her life, and if she’s listening to music with her, that means they have connected on some level.  While Sister Margaret sees doom and gloom, he sees the chance for her to finally come out of her shell.  There was also the girl in the wheelchair he saw her walking with.  Perhaps it was a new day here at the school, for his young charge.  On his desk sat a picture.  It was of the two of them driving down the coast.  Back when she was out of the hospital.  So timid and nervous.  No memories of the life that came before.  He wanted to show her that she could feel safe, so they went down the coast.  It was the first time he saw her smile.
Three years already?  How time flew by.  Each step to try and get her to come out of the iron-thick shell she made for herself was an effort.  But every year he saw more progress.  As the head of a school, that was one thing.  As a surrogate father, it was something else.

Night had fallen, and her roommate was fast asleep.  Quinn did a couple of basic tests to see how hard it was she slept, and it seemed the sleeping pattern was reasonably strong.  This was good, as the itch was back and she needed to go out into the night.  To scratch it in the way of which she was accustomed to.
Getting up from bed, she quietly dressed in a hoodie and jeans.  Put on her sneakers and opened the door just a little.  Coast was clear so far.  Moving silently through the halls, she listened for any noise.  The sound of shoes!  The Sister who was on watch for the night making her rounds.  Listening for any noises or sounds of infractions.  Perhaps genius ninjas sneaking out again?  Not something you could listen for.  The sound made it easy for her to track where the movement was.  She could keep one step ahead.
The game got easier as she got to the stairwell.  Even with her sneaking skills, these stairs squeaked something fierce.  Thankfully, she learned a trick to get around this.  Sliding down the railing never stopped being fun.  Sure, there was always the risk that someone would see her when she got to the bottom, but now she knew where the person on patrol was.  This meant she had to act quickly.
Moving much faster, she got to the window at the far end of a hall that didn’t have any outside lights shining on it.  Sliding it open just enough to get her through, she closed it behind.  The chill of the night air felt so good.  No matter how many time she did this, her heart was pounding.  Into the darkness she started toward her way out.  A way she discovered when she was 13, but had been too afraid to use.  Time got her toughened up for this.
As she moved, something above her caught her eye.  An open window!  Someone was standing there!  Oh shit!  The grass was soft and muffled sound, but she couldn’t be too careful.  Moving much slower, she sneaked around it.  Who was that up there?  Her answer came from the most unlikely of sources – a lighter ignition.  It was Sister Margaret!  She smoked?!  Now that was a shock.  Clearly that was buried underneath five levels of secrecy.  In a way, it made her seem more human to Quinn.  Not enough to like her, but enough to make her think that she wasn’t a totally awful human being.
Once she was sure she’d passed her range of vision, the goal came back into focus.  She ran down the lawn, finally arriving at her way out.  It was a tree that grew right along the edge of the fence.  Its arms hung over the other side.  Nobody ever did anything about it because no one figured anyone would be crazy enough to actually use this method of escape. It was risky.  If the limb she used should snap, it would surely give her some ugly injuries.  Not to mention potentially impaling herself on the top of the fence, if she was over it.  Ick.  As she got older and bigger, she knew that this route would be less secure.  The thinking part of her brain knew other options would have to be found that were more reliable.  Until then, this would do.
Climbing up was easy.  Despite being weak, physically, at the very least she had this much strength.  Onto the branch that extended out, it always made her feel the most ninja.  On the outside of the fence, there was another equally-strong branch that this one met up with.  She crossed seamlessly, though there was that little moment as the tree shook slightly and her heart fluttered.  Such a good feeling.
After she climbed down, she started quickly toward where her transportation was waiting.  This was something she was proud of herself for setting up.  Using an old abandoned property that nobody would buy because the last owner and their family had been horribly murdered.  Paranoia of lesser-minded people worked for her just fine.  Grabbing a stack of cash from under the floorboards, she went into the garage.  Inside was her dirt bike.  Something she won from a kid who thought they were such hot shit.  Guess they weren’t so hot now.  She could only wonder what the conversation with the kid’s parents were like.  Opening the door, she kicked on the ignition and started off.

The night air passing over her, with her on a bike with her lid helmet.  It looked dorky, but you use what you have to.  Her brain was the best asset she had.  No way she was gonna risk it.  Driving down the long and winding road that led up to the school.  The woods seemed ominous, but there was still something beautiful about them.  An owl was drifting along above her.  That was cool!  Big one, too.
Getting to the town, now she had to be careful again.  It wasn’t the Sisters she had to worry about here.  It was the cops.  The wrong person sighted her, and it was all over.  She’d be in the most major trouble she ever had been.  Still, she knew the routes they had.  Something she had cultivated over months of feverish study.  In her mind she could see it like a map.  The bars weren’t going to be letting out for a number of hours, so the beat cop who ran this part of the town would be chilling by a coffee shop.  Their patrols were pretty infrequent until the bars let out.  Then it was time to catch some drunk drivers.  This town was quiet, and that worked to her advantage.
The back-alley route was smart, and it made sense, given where she was looking to go.  The Parlor.  A place that few knew about, and had no sign.  Getting this info took all her wits, and it was worth it.  Every night she came here, she made a killing.  Made her wonder if she would ever be kicked out.  But the house got its cut.
Finally, she saw the black door, with all the graffiti around it.  Parking the bike and chaining it up to a pole, she walked toward it.  Knocking, a section of the front slid open.
“What’s the word?” A grim voice asked.
“I hear the crabbing is good right now.”
The door unlocked.  Time to see what tonight had in store for her.

Until next time, a quote,

“Anyway, that’s how I lost my medical license.” – The Medic, Team Fortress 2

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Unpopular Opinion: Picard Looks Stupid

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Trekkie.  I have loved so much from this universe.  My favorite of the original series movies is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  The way they bring the narrative of the original crew to a wrap is just perfect.  Kirk has his hatred of the Klingons introduced in III brought to a resolution.  Spock has his conflict with the dueling parts of his nature (the human and vulcan) finally brought to a resolution as he realizes that even his species is capable of horrible treachery.  And Sulu has command of his ship and is starting his own adventure.  It’s great stuff.

My favorite series is, without a doubt, The Next Generation.  The first two seasons were definitely rough.  Same with my second-favorite series, Voyager.  And just like Voyager, by the third season it really picks up its stride.  That’s when the series becomes one of the greatest pieces of science fiction of all time.  The series has great characters, great character growth over the course of it, and it ends on a perfect note.  The last episode of The Next Generation is pretty great.  Picard finds out that he is inevitably going to have an incurable illness and the crew will grow apart.  However, after he is able to go back in time, he decides that because he can see what’s coming, he is going to make the most out of every day he can.  He shares a kiss with Crusher, and the look on his face is just fantastic.  Like he just had a dream come true.  Then, it all ends with him going to the weekly poker game the crew has and him being told that he was always allowed to come to the game.  Now he doesn’t have to be professionally distant with his crew.  He’s reached the point that they can be more than his underlings, but also his friends.

So when I heard that there is a new series coming out with Patrick Stewart back as the titular character, I was thinking – why?  What more could they do with the character?  It doesn’t help that Star Trek: Discovery sucked.  It sucked so bad.  It was spitting on the very concept of being a Star Trek series.  As underwhelming as Enterprise was, at the very least it felt like a series that belonged in this mythos.  Discovery was basically an action series, with some science stuff sprinkled about so they can pretend that they are doing this series justice.  Remember in the old series, when they would have complicated problems that involved people sitting in rooms and talking?  And then people talking to other people about the things they talked about?  Yeah, that was good stuff, because we liked these characters and they didn’t have the budget for huge set-pieces.  The limitations of being a show made it better.

The trailer for it finally dropped, and I gotta say – this looks like shit.  For starters, Patrick Stewart doesn’t look or sound ANYTHING like his old character.  He sounds like a confused old man.  What happened to his relationship with Beverly?  If he’s getting back in the action, you don’t think that Riker or any of his old crew would rally to him?  And the trailer makes this series look like another action flick with science stuff sprinkled in there so they can pretend that this belongs there.  We have some new chick character who is super duper tough for no reason.  Who is she?  I don’t know, and given how often I see this archetype these days, I don’t really care.  She made me think of the main chick character in Rogue One.  And we all remember how amazing and great that movie was, don’t we?

This trailer made me think of the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies.  The iconic sets we grew to know and love are gone, replaced with CG abortion.  Everything is so glossy and digitally enhanced that it doesn’t look like anything real is happening with real people.  Why does Picard look so confused?  Is this the illness from the original series?  Okay, that’s cool and all, but could you explain that?  He’s supposed to be getting back in the saddle, but if he is infected and suffering the effects of the illness we closed out the original series with, then don’t you think that he wouldn’t be in the shape he would need to be to command again?

Oh, and don’t get me started on the TERRIBLE fan service we are given.  Seven of Nine is back!  Except, her quirky mannerisms from being a Borg drone are gone.  I like that they don’t have her in that terrible catsuit anymore.  I always contended that she was sexier in uniform.  Now it just looks like Jeri Ryan playing herself.  We have a Borg cube being repaired.  Neat, I guess.  Then we close out the video with a cameo of Data.  Wow.  That looked so terrible.  The amount of CG needed to make Brent Spiner look like he fits that character made the whole thing just look terrible.  That was even worse than the Admiral from Rogue One.  I can’t believe how bad that looked.  Why did they do this?

Right – because they want to make the fanboys/girls cum in their pants.  I am so fucking done with all this nostalgia crap.  Never have I hated nostalgia more than when I watch Hollywood and the entire industry connected to it milk it for all its worth.  Meanwhile, they take one of my favorite characters and stick him in something he was never meant to be in from the beginning.  A CG-tastic action series with nostalgia fuel to make the sad lonely Trekkies cum in their pants.  If you can like this, good for you, but I think what I saw looked terrible.

Until next time, a quote,

“When I want my Star Trek fix, I watch The Orville.” – Mike Stoklasa

Peace out,

Maverick

A Mental Enigma (Prologue + Act I, Scene I)

Prologue

Anyone who knows coastal towns in Washington knows that winter means rain.  The stereotype is that rain is pretty much 360 days out of the year, and some years are like that, but not all or even many.  Rain is an ever-present companion, but in summer it does tend to get warm and sunny.  But winter means rain, and lots of it.  Snow happens too, but when it does, everything stops.  Life in general ceases to exist, unless you’re unfortunate enough to be stuck working fast food or at a grocery store.  Then you’re SOL.
So when rain had been hitting Oceanview for almost two weeks without cease, nobody really thought a lot of it.  That’s just life.  Just be careful driving and don’t hydroplane.  It’s easy enough, if you’re careful.  Huge puddles everywhere, and people with umbrellas or rain jackets.  Fisherman heading out to sea with the miserable looks as they realize they’re gonna be getting drenched the whole day.  Maybe if they went far enough out, they wouldn’t.  A working man could dream.
When Father McCormick looked up form his weekly writings, he didn’t think much of the downpour either.  The trees had lost their leaves, and everything was rejuvenating in the endless rains.  Maybe it was how God cleansed everything.  He remembered a Bishop joking with him that that was why so many sinners were in southern California – because they never got the rain and it couldn’t wash the filth and decadence away.  He just shrugged off that kind of thinking.  There was no way that the God he worshiped was small like that.  The man he called his Lord and Savior was a much less petty man.
Such was what he preached in the chapel on Sunday.  His sermon was one of the things he was working.  In his eyes, the Divinity of God was not something that was just reserved for those who came to church, confessed their sins, and partook in Communion.  It was given to those who asked for it, freely.  Because that was the God he believed in, and always would.
Naturally, this way of thinking was not welcomed within much of his contemporaries world.  Indeed, in his own school, the Sisters and some of the teachers frowned upon his open and accepting nature.  It wasn’t what the Pope preached.  John Paul II was a very conservative man, and his views were much the same.  However, while his views were against traditional orthodox, he still was a priest and had done nothing to disrespect the collar.  They placed him in charge of the school and he kept to himself, imparting the Gospel as he saw it to those who would listen.
The sound of rain outside was soothing to him.  Letting him wash his mind of the dark thoughts about how he got dirty looks from his contemporaries, or even the Sister in charge of the dormitory here at the school.  While they didn’t see eye-to-eye, Sister Margaret did her job exceptionally well.  And he wasn’t about to let differences in faith politics get in the way of him having good help.  It just meant he had to argue with her every so often.  Such was life.  The rain washed it all away.
That’s when he heard a noise.  It was coming from outside.  It sounded like a bang!  Soft enough so that he didn’t think anyone not paying attention would hear.  Especially not in this torrent.  Was someone shooting?  Training from many days gone by kicked in, and he knew he had to see.  The safety of his students was paramount.
He threw on his rain jacket.  Looking at the locked drawer on his desk, he thought for a couple seconds.  No, he wasn’t going to do that.  It was probably just some local children being stupid, and he would give them a stern lecture and call the police for shooting a firearm on private property.  While he did believe in second chances, a gun on a school was no laughing matter.  One could only imagine what could happen if a gun got into the wrong hands on a school.  Thankfully, nothing like that had happened yet.  At least as far as he knew.  By the Grace of God, amen.
Opening his office door, there was a Sister outside.  One of the young ones, Sarah.
“Father, did you hear that?!” she called out.
“I did, Sister!  Stay inside!  I’ll go see what’s going on.  If I’m not back in thirty minutes, call the police!”
“Yes Father!”  A good girl.  So eager to be helpful.  Another person that Sister Margaret didn’t always agree with.  She was so outgoing and eager to accept people.  It meant that sometimes she let things slide during nights when she was on duty at the dormitories, but her heart genuinely was in the right place.
Now, to see what was going on.  Father McCormick got a nervous feeling inside.

The sound had come from the woods, not far from the edge of the cliff.  The fence went around it to protect the girls, but sometimes things would happen.  Father McCormick’s pace quickened.  His flashlight barely cut through the darkness and rain.  It was like a wall.  He finally reached the fence and could hear the pounding of the waves against the rocks far below.  It was impossible to see anything.  If he shouted, he gave away his position, which might be risky, given that there may be someone with a gun outside.  Coming to the barred fence, he looked out.
His eyes then caught sight of a light coming down from below!  It was laying on the rocky shore.  A shadow could be seen, what looked to be a body, not moving!  In a flash he was climbing the bars and went over the top, carefully.  One wrong move would give one a second or two to think before slamming into the rocks and being either horribly injured or dead.
“Hello!” he called out.  “Is anyone down there!”
The light didn’t move.  Looking closer, he saw that there was someone laying on the ground.
Father McCormick knew there was a way down to the shore from here.  It was a boardwalk stairwell that was used by the science teacher to bring the girls down to the beach for classes.  Moving as fast as he could over to it, he walked down as carefully as he could.  The boards was slick.  Nearly fell a couple times.  Then he got down to the shore and took off down the beach. This was also slick with algae on the rocks.  The tide had gone out not long ago and it was still covered in green.  This was dangerous, but inside he knew that he had to hurry.
Getting closer to the light, he saw a more clear outline of the body that he was chasing.  It was a person.  A small person.  Perhaps a child?  Oh God.  Had some poor child been shot down here and left to die?  A thousand horrible things went through his mind as he got closer to the light, and it ached him inside.  Memories of Grenada in his mind.  Shaking his head, he brought himself back to the moment.
Finally reaching the light it was indeed a child.  Couldn’t be more than 12 years old.  As he got closer, he saw skin that was as pale as moonlight.  As if they had never seen sunlight a day in their lives.  They wore what appeared to be a hooded sweatshirt with a design on the back.  Like a bear, holding a trident?  That was strange.  Their pants looked to be sweatpants as well, both things were soaked to the bone.
Sliding in right next to the tiny body, he pulled the hood back.  It was a girl!  Skin devoid of all color, and hair that was as orange as fire.
When the hood came down, the eyes of the little girl opened.  She looked up at the man, feebly attempting to reach up.
“Help me!” she choked.  Her arm fell, and it looked like she had passed out.  Oh no!  Was she dead?!
“Stay with me, child!  I’m going to get you help!”
Father McCormick picked her up and began to run.  This little life was not going to fade while he drew breath!  Clearly it was God’s will that she be here, and he would find her.  So he wasn’t going to let her story end here.
As he picked her up there was a noise.  Looking down, he saw a gun!  It was a Walther CCP.  An easy gun for someone with weak hands to use.  His eyes went wide.  What had happened here?!  His haste was even more present, as he knew that he had to get her help, and quickly.  If she had a gun, did that mean she had been shot?  Was she shooting at someone?!  What had happened?!  So many questions, but first he had to get her to somewhere warm, and call an ambulance.  With speed he had never had before, he carried this tiny body toward the stairs, to get her inside.

Storming into his office, he cleared everything off his desk in one sweep.  Very gently, he laid the tiny body down.
“Oh goodness!” Sarah cried.  She had been waiting there, as there was a phone in his office.
“Get a pillow, Sister!  And some blankets!”
The young woman stood there in shock.
“Now, Sister!  We have to warm her up!  I’ll call for an ambulance, but we have to get her warmed up first!”
Nodding fearfully, she started off.  She’d never seen Father McCormick look like that before.  Strong, powerful, as a man in command.  Made her think of old war movies.
She ran into the linen closet and pulled out a pillow and a thick blanket. Running back as fast as her legs would carry her, some of the girls had gathered to find out what the commotion was about.
“Back to your rooms, ladies!  Don’t make me tell you again!” she said in a tone much the same as Father McCormick had.  He had given her strength.
Coming inside, she saw the Father had lit his woodstove and was working fast to get it going.
“Good, Sister!  Now, I’m going to head to the dormitory office and make the call.  If you would, please get her out of those clothes as much as you can and under the blankets.  Those clothes are soaking wet and freezing cold.  We have to warm her up.  Can you do it?”
It was awkward, but seeing how pale the girl laying there was, Sister Sarah nodded.
“Yes, Father.  I can.”
“Alright.  I’ll leave you to it and make the call.”
“Okay.”
The man exited his office and closed the door.  Sarah looked down at the young person laying there.  Was she even breathing?  Was she dead?  Such a frail looking tiny body.  Who was she?  No time to ponder.  Questions the police would ask.  For now, she had been given a task, and she was going to see it through.  Much like the Father, she had a sense of needing to protect this little life.
Tying her hair back, she pulled off the girl’s arms up and then pulled the sweatshirt off.  Underneath she only wore a tanktop.  Puberty hadn’t set in yet for her.  Sister Sarah decided to leave it at that.  There was a necklace!  Pulling up on it, it was a simple metal necklace like you see in the military.  Also like that, there were dog-tags!  Who was this girl?!  Looking at the tags, there was this feeling inside Sister Sarah.  Something that told her that it would be better for everyone if these things weren’t on her when the authorities arrived.  They could be given back to the girl when she was better.
She took off the necklace and put it in her pocket.  Would talk to Father McCormick about it when they had gotten her to the hospital.  With the bottom layer, she only took off the pants.  Plain white underwear.  Now she put the pillow under her head and wrapped her up in the blanket.
Taking out her beads, she ran her fingers over them.  Please God, Mother Mary, look after this little girl.  Please don’t let her perish.  She sat there, now hearing in the quiet that had descended ragged tiny breaths coming from her.  The Sister kept repeating the prayer, over and over again.  Never had she prayed like this before.  Running her hand through the girl’s soaking wet hair.  It was so short, you’d think she was a boy at first glance.  Just long enough to be ambiguous.
A knock on the door.  “Sister, can I come in?”
“Yes Father!  She’s covered up and getting warm.”
He opened the door and came over.  “How is she?”
“Her breathing is so ragged and small, I can barely tell she is.  You told the ambulance to hurry, right?”
“Yes!  I told them to run all the lights it takes, because I made an oath to God that she isn’t going to die tonight.”
The Sister smiled up at him.  “Thank you, Father.  I was just praying.”
He smiled back at her.  “I think I will too.”
He took out his Bible, along with a vial of oil.  He put a dab on his thumb, making the cross on her forehead.
“Holy Father, please, don’t let this little girl’s light fade away tonight!  Saint Nicholas, please watch over her.  Give her the strength to see the light tomorrow.  And if she must pass on, Saint Peter, please hold her hand and guide her into the Father’s embrace.”
Sister Sarah took his other hand.  They stood there for a few moments.
Finally, the moment passed.
“I’m going to be praying for her all night, Father.  She’s so pale.  Her little breaths.  It sounds awful.”
“I will too, Sister.  And into tomorrow.”
“Father, there’s something you should know.  She had a necklace on her.  I thought that the authorities might ask questions about it that we don’t want to get into, so I took it off.  I have it right here, and will get it back to her.  But Father, it’s…”
He was confused.  “What, Sister?  What is it?”
“See for yourself.”  She handed the dog-tags to him.
“Oh Lord.  What is this?”  There was a number on it.  Like a service number.  This he recognized.  And a name – Quinn.  Looking down at her, one thought went through the man’s mind – who was this girl?  Whatever the answer, he was going to look after her.  The Holy Father had seen fit to bring her to him tonight, and if she should live, he would make sure she was safe.  Hopefully there was a family looking for her, and she could be with them soon.

Act I, Scene I

The light of dawn floated in through her window.  Quinn rubbed her eyes and groaned.  Monday.  Of course it was Monday.  If the weekend could go on longer, she’d take it  But that’s how it is.  All good things in life have to end.  Now it was back to the classroom, with the same asshole kids and the same boring lectures.  Best just to keep her head down and get through it.  That’s how she always did.
Getting up from the bed at her dorm, she shuffled to the door.  Nobody was up this early, which was nice for her.  Meant she could do the basics in peace.  Her shower bag was with her, and towel draped over her shoulder.  Walking into the shower room, she stripped off her tanktop and flannel PJ pants.  Hot water sluiced over her and was pretty good about waking her up.  These little moments, before everything went to shit.  Last night had been nothing but girls getting back from summer vacation.  Noisy girls who had to tell all their friends about how awesome summer was.  It was the most annoying thing ever.  Even Sister Margaret couldn’t get them to quiet down.
One of those nights when she would put her headphones on with her CD player and just let the music carry her off to sleep.  Listening to Nirvana.  Rumor was their next album was coming out soon.  She couldn’t wait.  It made Father roll his eyes, but she didn’t care.  Good music was its own reward, and this stuff was the best.  Between that, Nine Inch Nails, and Pantera, the music scene had never been better.  At least as far as she knew.  Just one of those things, given how many memories she didn’t have, from before she was 12.
Getting out of the shower, she caught a glimpse of herself on the mirror, putting her tanktop back on.  There was another reason she liked to take showers early.  It meant that fewer people had a chance to see her “birthmark.”  That’s what Father called it.  It was a mark on her that nobody knew how it got there.  It was shaped like a trident, and was burned onto her skin.  Like what you do to cattle.  It was a bit down on her shoulder blade.  The tanktop hid it well enough.  Rule of thumb was to call it a birthmark and not go into it with people.  Less to explain.  Quickly, she headed out of the shower and into her dorm room.
Word was that it was gonna be sunny this week.  That worked for her.  Start the school year off on the right foot.  Her new uniform had come in last week.  She she didn’t leave the dorm for the summer, they just delivered it to her at her room.  A black jacket, plaid skirt, and white shirt underneath.  She already knew that the shirt was NEVER going to be something she wore.  It was the constant battle with Sister Margaret.  All those buttons and whatnot drove her up the wall, so she just wore a black t-shirt underneath.  If she could get away with it, she’d wear some of her band merch shirts, but that would get her thrown out of class.  She rode the line as it was with the plain t-shirt.
The skirt was also a thing she took umbrage with.  It was long enough, sure.  Not gonna see any girls in short skirts in a Catholic school.  But she still felt exposed.  To make up for this, she typically work black leggings.  Getting all dressed up, she looked at her hair in the mirror.  It was getting longer.  Typically she didn’t want to bother with hair, but given the setting she lived at, her options were limited.  In a perfect world, she’d cut it short and spike it up.  But having tried that once, it was immediately shot down by Sister Margaret and the prudish way she lived.  So she had to keep to her punk rock style in a way that it could be made presentable during the week.  Ugh.  Life is no fun here.  Something she’d been thinking for years.
Finally getting everything just so, she nodded approval of her look and grabbed her bag.  Time to head to class.  That’s when she noticed that her nails were still black.  Whatever.  Nail polish wasn’t something you’d get demerits for.  Just dirty looks since it was black.  Screw them.  This was almost-certainly gonna be a long day.

Walking down the hallways, now she could see her contemporaries out and about, rushing to get their uniforms and get dressed properly.  People looking at her and giving her the same glowering expression they always did.  Whatever.  Rich bitches who acted like their shit didn’t stink.  That’s why they looked down at her.  This was a private boarding school, but she wasn’t from money.  Nobody knew the full extent of the truth, but enough knew that she wasn’t from a rich family.  Officially the story was that she got in because of connections to Father McCormick.  In a way, that was the truth.  Or at least half of it.
Coming out of the dormitories, she felt the air was getting ever-so-slightly chilly in the mornings.  Enough so you could see your breath.  It gave her this nice shiver that made her feel alive.  As she made her way across the grounds, she decided to head to the cafeteria and get some breakfast.  She could eat the grill-man Jim’s breakfast burritos all day.  An old Spokane man, he was a kind fellow who constantly had a nice word for even the bitchiest of girls around this place.  Word was that he had a history with the law, but Father gave him a chance.  Not everyone liked it, but seems he had turned himself around and was one of the kindest people you would ever meet.
Entering into the cafeteria, there were already a few girls inside.  Walking over to the grill first thing, Jim looked up with his old features.
“Oh hi there, Quinn!  First day of class today!  Gotta eat a big breakfast!”
“That’s what I was thinking!”
“I’d ask what you want today, but I already know.  You go grab yourself a seat.  I’ll hollar when it’s done.”
“You’re the best, Jim.”
Such a nice guy, you’d never know that he had done anything wrong ever in his life.  But Father had always found people who he knew were more than they appeared and offered them a place here.  Given that she spent pretty much all the life she knew here, the staff was the closest thing she had to family.
Grabbing a table, she looked out the window.  Mist rising.  The sun was out now and the warming process was beginning.  This little twilight hour of cool morning air becoming warmer as it rose higher into the sky.  It was peaceful.  Lost in thought, Jim called for her to grab her food.  She thanked him again, and he gave her that little grateful smile of his, before turning back to his work for other students.  More were coming into the cafeteria.
As she sat down, she grabbed some ketchup and loaded up the plate.
Clapping her hands together.  “Thanks for the food, G-man.”
A laugh came from beside her.  “G-man, is it?  Not sure what the Father would think about being called that.”
Looking up, she saw Father McCormick standing there, in a more casual sweater-vest and cargo pants.
“Father!” she said.  A title, and to her, something more.  Something that nobody could know, outside an express few, for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to her sometimes.  She remembered waking up, and seeing his face next to her.  He had beads in his hands and his eyes were closed.  Said he had been praying all night.  There was Sister Sarah there too.
“Morning, kiddo.”  He sat across from her.
“You’re up early.”
“Same to you.”
She had picked up his schedule.  Something she adapted to, living at his residence for the first few months.  Back when they were trying to find her family, before the paperwork went through.
“So, you ready for class today.”
A shrug.  “Word!  I got this.”
He chuckled.  “I’m sure you do.”  Looked at her uniform.  “I see it’s another t-shirt.  I swear, are you TRYING to pick fights with Sister Margaret?”
Her face got less pleasant.  “It ain’t my fault that she wants everyone in those white shirts that suffocate you.  I got everything else just the way she wants it.  I’m not doing anything wrong.”
Now a more stern look.  “At least try and wear the shirt sometimes.  I’m always the one who has to hear about it when the two of you are fighting.”
She let out a defeated sigh.  “I’ll try!”
“That’s a good girl.  Well, enjoy your breakfast.  I have to meet with the groundskeeper.”
Looking disappointed.  “Okay.  Wish you could stay.”
He put his hand on hers.  “I know.  But I don’t want it to look like I’m playing favorites.  Blame the fact of how we got here.  Know that I’m rooting for you.  One of these nights we’ll have to play chess.  See if I can get you this time.”
A chuckle.  “Never gonna happen, Father.”
“Probably not.  Have a good day, sweetie.”
“You too, Father.”
The worst part about having to keep the details about her secret, the man who had taken her in had to be met with secretly.  Quinn genuinely knew that he cared for her.  Anytime she needed some spending money, he always had her back, unless she had really stepped over the line.  But she did sometimes want to spend more time with him.  A priest is always busy, after all.
Finishing up her breakfast, she took her tray to the drop-off and thanked Jim again.  Such a sweet old man.  Time to get to class.

The first day was about as dull as she expected.  Teachers going over rules, what they were going to be teaching, doing introductory material.  A little homework, but not much.  Sixth period got out and she was headed on the way out.  At the door, she saw something that was unexpected – a girl who looked to be about her age trying to get out.  Problem was, she was in a wheelchair.  And clearly it wasn’t easy for her.
The girl was a young Latina woman.  On her face was an expression of frustration.  The fact that nobody was trying to help her was just bizarre.  Did no one here have a heart?
Walking over, Quinn called out,  “I’ll get the door for you!”
A look back.  “I got this, thanks.”  Her tone was so indignant.  Like she had just been told something in a really condescending way.  The reason no one was helping her was coming into focus.
“Clearly you don’t, or else you’d be outside.”  Quinn wasn’t the type to take people’s shit.  Just because she’s crippled doesn’t mean she has to be unpleasant.  Especially when she just wanted to help.
Opening the door, the girl wheeled herself out.  “I could have gotten that.”
“Sure, whatever.  You’re welcome.”  Bitch.
“I’ve seen you around,” the girl said.  “You’re the girl who has no friends.”
She rolled her eyes.  “Is that what they call me.”
“Yeah.  They say you’re from a poor family too.”
“All true.  Best to keep away from me.”  Why these girls had to be so awful was a complete mystery to her.
“So what’s your name?”
Now that was shocking.  Was this girl really asking her name after trash-talking her?
“I’m Quinn.  You?”
“I’m Lisa.  Lisa Hernandez.”
Holding out her hand.  “Nice to meet you.”
Just then, a smile.  “You too.  Oh, and thanks for getting the door.”
Smiled back.  “No sweat.”  Finally, a human being that she could connect with.  This was nice.  A friend who wasn’t a staff member.  Or at least the potential of one.

Turns out, Lisa didn’t live at the dormitories.  She lived at a special medical facility in Oceanview.  One of her legs was completely paralyzed.  The reason wasn’t entirely clear to her doctors.  She could walk around with crutches, but she didn’t want to have to live like that, so she opted for a wheelchair instead.  Said it worked to keep her arms strong.  Clearly being in a chair hadn’t been easy for her.  Like most things when you’re crippled, people treat you different.  It made her feel bad about herself when people did.
When asked about her life, Quinn told her that she came from a family in New York, who were tight with Father McCormick, so were able to get her into the school.  Being good at lying was always something she had.  Made playing poker a breeze for her, though that was connected to a part of her she didn’t like to talk about.
She was picked up by a van from the facility.  As they pulled away, she waved goodbye.  That was a nice feeling.  A new friend.  A real one.  It was already a better day than most.  Now to go back to her room and start her homework.

As she opened the door to her dorm room, she stopped cold.  On the other side of the room, in the second bed, there was someone there!  It was a girl who had creamy skin, dirty blonde hair, and a long neck.  Who the hell…?
“Oh hey!  I’m Kaye!  I’m gonna be your roomie!”
This had to be some kind of awful joke.  Things had nearly gotten off to a good start, and now it was all fucked.

Until next time, a quote,

“There’s an old Earth saying – 1,000 travel books aren’t worth one real trip.” – Isamu Dyson, Macross Plus

Peace out,

Maverick