Bet on the Thousand Guineas 2020, Betting Tips & Bookmaker
Results for Player of the Week - episode thirteen!
Hi hey hello and HAPPY EARLY THANKSGIVING, all you beautiful people! The sun in shining here for the first time in four days, so now's as good a time as any for the results of this week's vote. Let's get to it!
Jordan Wisely - 146
Dee Nguyen - 63
Josh Martinez - 34
Leroy Garrett - 12
Nany Gonzalez - 9
Zach Nichols - 5
Joss Mooney - 3
7 Paulie Calafiore - 3
Cara Maria Sorbello - 2
Chris “C.T.” Tamburello - 2
Kam Williams - 2
Ashley Mitchell - 1
Kayleigh Morris - 1
Natalie “Ninja” Duran - 1
Tori Deal - 1
Which leaves Rogan with nothing. Tragic. Okay. Before diving into the results, let’s first discuss this week’s daily challenge. It was nice to finally have a daily mean something, considering the last few weeks have been absolutely pointless, but Jesus. You can’t imagine my stress, watching these people try to swim. Even the “good swimmers” were struggling. Ashley was doing a backstroke before she even got to the halfway mark, and she and Zach were the FASTEST COUPLE. 150 meters, people! They basically had to swim the length of a football field and back. I mean, I swam for my high school team, so I understand I’m in water more than the average person, but I used to swim a thousand meters every day. 150 meters would take me about a minute and a half. There is NO REASON for these people to be close to death. Cara looked about half a second from physical collapse. How long were they swimming?! ALL YOU GOTTA DO IS KICK YOUR LEGS, PEOPLE! WHAT. IS. THE. PROBLEM? I go hard for Leroy almost every week, but this is just getting embarrassing. Eleven seasons. ELEVEN SEASONS, and my dude doesn’t know how to swim yet! All he needs is a few lessons! Your community pool will charge you a couple hundred and you’ll be good to go! This shit is getting on my nerves, y’all. Anyway, Jordan had the runaway victory this week. At this point, these polls are just the Tori and Jordan show. They’ve won five of the last seven votes, have the three largest margins of victory, and have a cumulative 868 votes, which is more than the bottom 21 competitors combined. They’re obviously benefitting from their underdog storyline, but they’re also competing almost unfairly. The U.S. needs a battle plan to eliminate Jordan. They’re out of guinea pigs to throw in against him, and it’s not like Paulie’s dumb enough to volunteer, but he’s going to a problem in the final. Thankfully, he’s teamed up with CT and Rogan, who balance the scales a bit, but team U.S. really needed Jordan to be gone by now. Speaking of the final, JESUS. Have we ever had a season so focused on it? This episode never went five minutes without mention of the end, and I’d admire that everyone is determined to win, except we’ve got U.K. out here CLOWNING. Rogan can’t pretend to be so deeply invested in good competitors when he made the active decision to weaken his team nearly every chance he got. Y’all could have had Jenny, Theo, and Georgia in the endgame, but instead you kept Kayleigh around just to nearly drown and drag Joss down with her. The only thing sweeter would have been Rogan packing his bags, but instead we got to watch Dee kick some ASS (read: manage to stay afloat and move in the right direction, which was all that was necessary to avoid elimination here). I haven’t rooted for Dee for a minute of this season until last week, and I’m about ready to tattoo her face on my ass. (Wait, no. Actually I’m not.) Jordan is 100% right in his criticism of U.K. keeping weak players, and in my heart I know Dee doesn’t match up to any of the U.S. girls, but damn. I’m kind of ready to take all my money to Vegas and bet on her in a pole wrestle against Cara. She’d lose, but maybe she wouldn’t, and she definitely would, but she has HEART, guys! SHE HAS HEART! (I was .2 seconds from voting for Dee this week. I knew it’d be too hypocritical to pull the trigger, but I felt like Satan was on the other end, pulling me in. I’ve never been so tempted. I need to go back to church.) And now it’s time for the dance we do every week, where you assholes throw your votes to the abyss. Somebody in the world thought Kayleigh had the best week. Okay, let’s view. After riding Kam’s coattails all season, voting in all her team’s best players, contributing almost nothing physically, and racking up vendettas left and right (if Georgia is on the left, and Theo is on the right), Kayleigh managed to somehow swim slower than both Kam and fucking LEROY, and she didn’t even do it in an entertaining way. Like, we hardly saw her swim. Do you know how boring you have to be for MTV to not even show you LOSE? Goddamn. I hope that was the last time we ever saw her on our screens. I vented most of my CT frustration last week (and WOW did it feel good), but honestly. The two of you who voted for him need an actual brain scan. Like, I’m worried about you. Are you feeling okay? How many fingers am I holding up? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? Ninja did nothing this week, and was rewarded with becoming speaker. Team U.S. is trolling as hard as the person who voted for Ninja this week. Joss got three votes for horrible strategic decisions. (And also a vote from u/ashestodust97, because he’s pretty and he deserved it. #RIPJoss.) Nany got nine votes for being dragged through the water by Josh. Hmmm what WHY? And then we have Cara. Did we watch different episodes? I’m thinking we’re stuck in some space-time-continuum where you two watched a different episode, one where Cara didn’t very nearly DROWN after a ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY METER SWIM!! I just wish I could get in your heads for a day. Here are all the reasons to vote for anyone besides Jordan, Dee, or Josh:
None. There are no reasons. Get it? Got it? Good. Jesus. I'm sorry if I'm coming across as more bitchy than usual today. I just had the true HONOR of decorating the office Christmas tree while my bosses stood and watched. It's been all I can do to contain the "FUCK MEN" that has been bottling up inside me all morning. The spirit of Christmas is gone from me, maybe forever. I need u/manamanope's positive thread injected into my soul. And on that note, it’s time for Episode superlatives: Best redemptive speech: “Was Wes the only one that carried the fucking tires through sand dunes? Was Wes the only one who swam through the ocean, carried puzzle pieces, and solved the fucking puzzle? Was Wes the only one who made the tribunal five fucking times last seasons?” Bonus points for Dee highlighting that CT got knocked out before he could even see her perform last season. LIGHT ‘EM UP, DEE! Most Frank-esque style of encouraging a teammate: “You can kind of tell the type of person Dee is, because she gets mad and angry when people doubt her and don’t think she can do something. If you tell her no, she just wants to do it more.” Here’s a people tip for you, CT: Most people don’t generally like to be doubted and told they can’t do something. Dee is not unique in this aspect. Unless the Bro Triangle is prepared to push Dee up a sand hill circa Battle of the Seasons 2, an "encouragement" tactic that has certainly not aged well, I suggest a more positive form of team bonding. First moment that Cara didn’t look completely miserable: … Oops, looks like we’re still waiting for this to happen. Most creative dance around Sarah Rice’s trademark saying: “This is going to change the game completely.” So close, Josh. So close. Cutest friendship moment: “Everyone else on my team would probably have looked away, but instead, Josh looks at me and he’s like, “Nany, we’re working together.” Since losing the Tori/Jenny homance last week, this Josh/Nany friendship is pretty much all that’s keeping me going. Wait. Shit. Most vindicating conversation in hindsight: CT: “I’m not doing that.” Rogan: “Neither am I.” CT: “That’s your problem, not mine. It’s been your problem the entire time. Why do I have to take the hit for that?” Rogan: “We should draw for it, because I’m not gonna do it.” CT: “Well, if we had just picked her off from the beginning when you didn’t want to pull the trigger, she wouldn’t even be here.” Dee: “Rock, paper, scissors? I don’t care.” Last year, Dee didn’t even know how to swim, and she’s already faster than Leroy, who’s had twelve seasons to improve. For someone who seems so desperate to win a season, has Leroy ever considered, I don’t know, TRAINING? Also, small moment that I caught on the third rewatch: Josh being a lil cutie, AGAIN, yelling encouragement to Dee when none of her teammates wanted to work with her. WE STAN A GOOD FRIEND. (Okay, I’m aware the vast majority of this sub does NOT stan. We is just me. I evolve more into a Josh Martinez stan account with every writeup I make.) And now for our numbers. Jordan moved into our overall first place, with Tori right behind. The next closest is Leroy, who has 300 less votes. Rogan currently has the least cumulative votes; he somehow has less votes than eleven of the eliminated cast members. Nany continues to make little impact on both the game and this survey, BUT she managed to climb into a tie with Big T! (This writeup wouldn't be complete without your weekly reminder that Big T was eliminated episode TWO, and Nany is JUST NOW tying her in votes.) Okay! Before I go, let's talk about the end of the season! I don't know how close we are to the final episode, but I assume it will finish airing before Christmas. I have a big survey planned for the last episode, including multiple votes for overall best player, best elimination, best challenge, etc. What other categories can we vote on as part of the overall season? It will all be part of the same survey; I want to do a season summary instead of just the one episode. That's all for now. I'll post the vote for this week's episode on Friday. (Caution: GENUINE KINDNESS INCOMING.) I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe Black Friday (does anyone actually leave their house to shop anymore)? Beyond everyone who voted for Esther Fucking Falana, I'm thankful for this community! There are so many kind/funny/thoughtful Redditors here who make this my favorite sub. And if anyone else out there is also on a diet this time of year, blessings. Prayers up for us all.
My Personal Recommendations after Listening to 666 Hours of Podcasts!
I've been preparing this post for a while and I hope it can help some people find some new podcasts that they never knew existed! I've organized my recommendations into 5 categories, Completely Finished Shows (includes shows that I've listened to completely, and that have ended (if a show is labelled with a "(?)" than it means I'm not sure if it's ended). The second category is Caught Up with, this includes shows that I've listened to all the episodes for, and are still putting out new material! Third category is "Rarely Listen to, this includes shows that I sometimes listened to, Often this means that I've burn't out on them, or I have to be in a particular mood to listen to them. Fourth category is *Recently Started Listening to, and I think that's pretty self-explanatory. And the last category is Plan to Listen to, these are most likely shows that caught my eye, but I haven't yet taken the time to check out. And at the end of the post I will also highlight my favourite shows! Please forgive me if I screw up on grammar or spelling, as I didn't have time to proof read. Also bare with me as I try to figure out how to format. And please up-vote this, so others can see this :)
**1) COMPLETELY FINISHED : [(?) = might have ended]**
A Life Well Wasted (?): This podcast is amazing and I wish it comes back to life one day. This podcast discusses the video game industry as well as why we play video games. -fav episode: B-Side: Why Game: listeners tell stories about why they play video games A Piece of Work: Made by WNYC Studios and the Museum of Modern Art, focuses on different types of art and how we perceive them. Everything from Andy Warhol, to Naked dancers rolling around while rubbing raw chicken on themselves is discussed. -fav episode: Andy Warhol’s Art of Self Promotion Cosby Unraveled (?): 8 episode series that goes through the Bill Cosby Trial and details of his sexual assault allegations. Do Listen Twice: Made by the creators of This American Life to celebrate the release of their movie “Don’t Think Twice”. Most episodes are comedic and all but 2 episodes are shorter than 12 minutes. -fav episode: 02 - D-U-Why?! DTR: The Official Tinder Podcast (?): Made by Tinder, talks about dating in the modern age, and for the second season the hosts control their guests tinder accounts and set up dates that are sometimes quite awkward and funny. -fav episode: Right Swipes Big City (Part 1) The Grift (?) : Really hopes this podcast isn’t over! The Grift is a short series “about con artists and the lives they ruin.” Fav episode: The Religion of the Black Dog: about a small cult, survivors tell their stories that contain stories of abuse and manipulation. Heavyweight (?): I don’t remember much about this show but i think it was meh. The host basically brings people together that once had a connection but were then separated. Guests mainly include distanced family members if i remember correctly. -fav episode: Dina: the host has a conversation with his mother which causes him to question his past. How Do You Sleep at Night (?): Super short podcast “about people who live their lives in the face of judgement”. Guests include murderers, big game hunters, stock market manipulators and tobacco lobbyists -fav episode: 05 | Abortion Clinic Protesters Lorde: Behind the Melodrama: Track by Track podcast that discusses the inspiration and creation of Lorde’s latest album , Melodrama. Love Me (?) : Listened to this one a long time ago. It’s mostly about relationships, and each episode is a reflection/story that is around 20 minutes in length. The Mystery Show: Awesome show by Gimlet media that was cancelled! The host solves mysteries in a quirky and easy to follow way. All the episodes are fantastic! -fav episode: Vanity Plate: covers a license plate with “9/11”, the reason why the driver has this plate will leave you in shock! (You’re welcome for the clickbait ;) [Polygon Backstory][Polygon Cutscene][Polygon Newsworthy] (?): I’m not really sure if Polygon is just in a hiatus for some shows or what’s up, but these 3 podcasts are good and short, but haven’t had new episodes in quite a while. They all discuss the video game industry. Quiet: The Power of Introverts: 9 episode series with stories from introverts about dealing with a loud and outspoken society that prefers extroverts. -fav episode: Episode 3: How One School Learned to Hear Quiet Kids Roofless Podcast: definitely a favourite show! The audio quality could be better but it's so worth listening to if you have any interest in learning about the homeless population and what it’s like to be without a home. Not as depressing as I thought it would be, most of the people are surprisingly optimistic that they will be able to become a functional member of society in the future. Not sure why this show ended, but it’s just so good! The Sauce: super short podcast about the McDonald'S szechuan sauce crisis lol and its impact. Takes like 30 minutes to listen to the whole series and I think it’s pretty decent. Sincerely, X: show by TED that presents some personal stories, as well as struggles that they have faced. One of the first series I ever listened to and I think it was alright, but boring at some points. -fav episode: Episode 4: Sad in Silicon Valley TLDR: Show by the guys behind Reply All. If you like Reply All, then definitely give this a listen! Episodes are super short but also super informative. In my opinion, it’s like a reply all minisode series if that makes sense, but it was made before Reply All. UnDone (?): Show by Gimlet Media that covers what happens after a story is forgotten by the news. Not sure if this show is coming back or not, hasn’t been updated since October -_- -fav episode: Disco Demolition Night Venturing Out: Made by Arlene from the show Dragon’s Den. Short interview series about investing, business and marketing. What The Crime?!: Just found this show, and binged listened to it. Talks about funny crimes and why people commit them. Examples include hiding stuff in female genitalia, seniors robbing banks and criminals with strange names. -fav episode: When Suspects Turn Themselves in On Facebook Why We Eat What We Eat (?): Show by Gimlet Creative and Blue Apron about food and why we eat certain foods. Listened to this a while ago, and it was decent, I honestly only listened because Gimlet made it to be honest. MISSING: Super well done and well produced show. At times it gets a little repetitive, but it’s a great show if you’re into true crime, personal dilemmas that lead to people going missing and psychology. -fav episodes: On the Run Pt 1 and 2, the hosts everything he’s learned to the test and tries going missing without leaving a trace.
**2) CAUGHT UP WITH:**
A Very Fatal Murder: Parody true-crime podcast by Onion Public Radio. Does anyone know if there’s going to be a season two btw? The Anthropocene Review: Host reviews certain things on earth and rates them on a scale of 1-10. Only 2 episodes out so far. The Basement Yard: YouTube Personality Joe Santagato sits down with his friends, and they discuss drinking, entertainment, nsfw material, the death of vine and working out. Joe is super funny and he gets so angry sometimes. I restricted myself to only listening to this one when I’m alone, just so I don’t awkwardly burst out laughing during class. -fav episode: What Is Happening To The World?: they discuss the logan paul controversy as well as a school that wants to ban people from becoming best friends so that kids don’t feel left out. By The Book: Love this show! 2 female hosts discuss and (sometimes) laugh about self-help books. They try living “By The Book” for 2 weeks and report back on their experience. In some ways it’s like a higher quality version of “Oh No Ross and Carrie”. -fav episode: Class With The Countess Choiceology with Dan Heath: New podcast that talks about the impact of our choices. Code Breaker: Tech podcast that goes in depth with specific issues and explains them in an easy to follow way. First season attempts to ask whether or not certain technologies are evil. -fav episode: Is It Evil? Ep 7: Data Tracking Conversations with People Who Hate Me: first ever podcast series I listened to. The host calls up people that left negative comments on his videos and they have a raw and sometimes emotional conversation. -fav episode: Sissies and Flaming Queens: he calls someone that called him a “flaming homo” and “sissy” and they talk about why he left that comment. Darknet Diaries: Found this one on this subreddit and it’s a great listen. Super similar to Reply All, except this podcast doesn’t go off topic. New episode popped up in my feed a while ago and I was super excited to listen to it! It “explores true stories from the dark side of the internet” and is a must-listen in my opinion. -fav episode: Ep 6: The Beirut Bank Job Depression Stream: Pretty relatable and super short podcast. Not sure how to explain it, so if you’re interested, than just listen to an episode (typical episodes are around 1 minute long). Do You Know Who Jason Segel Is?: Favourite podcast that it ever listened to. It’s pure comedy and it’s brilliant. Two comedians call up random businesses and ask if they know who Jason Segel is. If you’re interested, than start at episode 1, as there are quite a few ongoing and inside jokes and it might be hard to follow if you just jump in at the latest episode. Don’t Get Mad: Host talks about 1-2 news stories that didn’t get the exposure that they deserved. Pretty sure the host is on this subreddit, but I could be wrong. -fav episodes = Starbucks Cups & The Ranch: covers the controversy over the Christmas Starbucks cup and how dumb it is. Also talks about sexual assault allegations and how people sometimes forget that they are innocent until proven guilty. Down the Reddit Hole: Comes out only once a month but it’s pretty good. The 2 hosts discuss popular things on reddit, and each episode is based around a central theme. Some themes include Memes, Religion and Cults, Russians and Gamers. Ear Hustle: goes into detail about life in a maximum security prison and certain aspects of life as a prisoner. Each episode is super well done and a new season is coming out this month. -fav episode: Bonus: Songs from S1 Endless Thread: pretty good show that also discusses Reddit. At one point I just searched up “Reddit” on Pocket Casts and a bunch of these shows came up, so yeah that's why i have listened to like 5 reddit shows. Show only has a few episodes out, but most of them are good. -fav episode: Getting Home Every Little Thing: from Gimlet Media, short-ish episodes that usually answer fan submitted questions about stuff that people don’t usually think about. -fav episode: How Old is Winnie the Pooh? Fortune Favors the Bold: By Gimlet Creative and Microsoft, talks about working in this technology driven age, as well as the gig economy. Hackable?: Really well produced show. Each episode focuses on a certain aspect of technology and whether or not it is Hackable. Favourites include “Camera Creepers”, “Keyless Entry”, and “Locked Out”! Hannahlyze This: from YouTuber Hannah Hart and her pal, whom is also named Hannah. Only a few episodes out, they discuss dating, mental health and isolation tanks. The History of Fun: From polygon! Each episode focuses on a piece of history that relates to technology/entertainment. It explains how each episode was created, marketed and how it was perceived. Some of my fav’s include “Street Fighter (The Movie)”, “Duke Nukem Forever: A Brief History” and “Dodgeball”. InBox: another favourite! 2 hosts take over their guests online accounts and “mine them for comedy gold”. Each episode also includes the hosts writing an awkward or embarrassing email, which the guests would have to send if they answer a trivia question incorrectly -fav episode: ALL CAPS with Caroline Cotter Intriguing Conversations: From the guy behind “Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonalds”. Only one super short episode out and I’m not sure how to explain it. Basically, a comedian calls people. Lex: The Craigslist Whisperer: The host recounts their experiences using Craigslists and how sometimes it just gets awkward. Making Oprah: Talks about Oprah’s rise to fame and her impact. Second season focuses on Obama. Nancy: Show about LGBT culture. Really well produced and pretty funny at points. Other People’s Lives: Hosted by Joe Santagato, host of “The Basement Yard”, and his friend. They have conversations with people that often have weird fetishes, or shocking stories. This show is absolutely incredible in that each episode you immediately assume that these people are just insane, but by the end of the show, I’m always able to understand why we they what they did. -fav episodes: “I Act Like a 4 Year Old With My Partner”, “I Grew Up in A Cult”, “I’m A Cam Girl & Sugar Baby”, “The Earth is Flat”, basically all of them are amazing! Personal Best: Show from CBC Radio, about personal accomplishments and advice. Only a couple shows out, but each one includes an inspiring story, that sometimes includes a comedic twist. -fav episode: Nine Fiver The Pitch: By Gimlet Media, like an audio version of Dragons Den. Show covers 4 investors receiving a pitch from a startup and deciding whether or not they would like to invest. Definitely listen to this if you like Dragons Den, Business or Marketing. Pizza Podcast: Host delivers pizza and talks about pizza delivery, fly fishing and animals. Host is really nice, and I also designed the art (which for some reason shows up on ITunes, but not Pocket Casts lol. I love how the host is not afraid to rant and get angry and just tell us how he really feels. Probably True Podcast: Short comedy podcast. Episode subjects include Death, Dating, and other NSFW material. -fav episode: Death Red Lips, Orange Car: Show talks about the missed connections part of Craigslist. Basically, it’s about people that are trying to find people. Super funny listen - but sometimes they get a little off topic. Reply All: I don’t even know what to say about this show! It’s the first show I ever binged listened to and it’s amazing. -fav episode: “112: The Prophet”, “105: At World’s End”, also episode 102 and 103 cover Indian Tech Scams and it’s incredible. If you liked those scam episodes, I would also suggest watching “Kitboga” on Twitch.TV, as he scambaits those peoples and prank calls them. Retropod: Short daily show that contains a story from history. Not sure how to explain this one. The Science of Happiness: In each episode, a person serves as a “Happiness Guinea Pig” as they test different ways to better yourself. StartUp Podcast: First season is about Gimlet Media starting up and becoming a more recognized podcast network. Other seasons are about business mistakes, other startups, the rise and fall of American Apparel and “StartUpBus” - where people come up with business ideas on a bus trip to a conference. -fav episode: “Gaming The System (Season 3, Episode 2)”: about the rise of a a gaming live-streaming site, Subnet: New daily show from Relay FM. Each episode covers the 3 biggest tech stories of the day in only 2 minutes. Swipe Left Swipe Left: Show about relationships, dating, and sometimes awkward situations. -fav episode: “The Trilogy of Ella” and its follow-up “Ella’s Reply” Tape Club: New podcast suggestions. Not sure if it’s over or not, hasn’t been a new episode for a little over a month. This is Love: New show about “stories of sacrifice, obsession and the ways in which we bet everything on one another”. Took a couple tries for me to get interested in episode 1, but eventually I discovered that it was pretty well done. -fav episode: "Episode 4: Eight Thousand Miles" Today, Explained: You’ve probably heard about this one. Covers the biggest stories in the news in a detailed and easy to understand way. -fav episode: “The Deep Fake” Trump, Inc.: Sometimes i question why I even care about this odd man, but ya know it’s just funny how stupid he is and how dumb it is that he was elected. I’m Canadian, so I guess this is like a little reality show, if you know what I mean. Anyways, this covers the business side of Trump’s Presidency. Weird Work: Really good podcast about strange occupations. -fav episodes: “I make ASMR videos”, “I’m the New York Times crossword puzzle editor”, “I make props for Hollywood” Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonalds? Just funny. Listen to episode 1, definitely don’t start on a random episode or you will be beyond confused! I think if I try to explain it, than it might be hard to understand, so just try it out. Why’d You Push That Button?: Another technology show, this one usually focuses more on dating in the modern age and how we use social media. Their most recent episode is a love episode, and I’m not really into those, so I just skipped it ;) -fav episode: Why do you like celebrity photos on Instagram? Everything Instagram: A social media guru talks about Instagram news and updates, as well as techniques for advertising on Instagram and the ‘Instagram v. Snapchat battle’. Self Made Hundredaires: One of those buddy hangout and chill shows. They discuss personal stories and all that stuff. If you’re into people just hanging out, than try this one out. You’re Doing It Wrong: Episodes are about one specific topic and how we”re doing it wrong. Focus on lifestyle stuff (parenting, being healthy…).
**3)RARELY LISTEN TO**
Anna Faris is Unqualified: Hosted by comedian and actress Anna Faris. Sometimes the interviews get a bit sexual, but it’s a great listen if you need a laugh or want to learn more about the guests. They also take viewers calls and give them advice, so that’s cool. -fav episode: ep 05: Aubrey Plaza Armchair Expert by Dax Shepard: Usually listen to this one to fall asleep. Only a few episodes out, but I like how Dax gets personal with the guests. Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Anonymous: At one point I was binging this. But for some reason I just don’t fit in funny or interesting anymore, I think maybe I’m annoyed by the host and how he’s always interrupting the guests. Premise is that an anonymous caller gets 60 mins of his time, and Chris can’t hang up. Business Wars: The first season was well done, and focused on Netflix vs Blockbuster (vs HBO). The new season that just started is based on Nike vs Adidas. Buzzfeed’s Internet Explorer: Love this show! Super similar to Reply All and Exploit, but I like the hosts chemistry a bit better on this one. They basically talk about parts of the internet. -fav episode: “A Very Serious Conversation About Minions”, “Who the Hell is Jacob Sartorius?” Cool Games Inc: Hosts take in viewers ideas for a video game, and comedically expand on their ideas to create a full idea for a game. Death, Sex & Money: stories about things that we don’t usually talk about. I’ve only listened to a couple of episodes but they were pretty decent. Planning on listening more to this one eventually. But for now there are better shows to spend my time on :) -fav episode: “Finding Love, And A Kidney, On Tinder” Game Industry Career Guide: If you’re at all interested in working in the games industry than this is a great listen. Each episode is short, and the host answers 1 listeners question. Happier with Gretchen Rubin: It’s a great show that I plan to listen to more later. I mainly only listen to the “little” episodes as they are 2-ish minutes and cover 1 tip to better your life. Hidden Brain: If you’re into science/psychology than listen to this one for sure. -fav episode: ‘Episode 4: Students and Teachers” The Hilarious World of Depression: With this show, I binged a bunch of episodes and then kind of burnt out and don’t really feel like listening to it anymore. It’s an interview show with famous people who have depression. If you’re triggered by people talking about depression, or you don’t think you want to hear about stuff like this than skip this one. Personally, I like the show - it’s just that I listened to too much of it and burnt out. Invasion of Privacy: Starring Joe Santagato, host of ‘Other People’s Lives’ and ‘The Basement Yard’, accompanied by female comedian Kate Wolff. Sidenote: this show is NSFW so just be warned lol Oh No Ross and Carrie: I’ve listened to a few episodes of this show and it’s great. 2 hosts test out different religious and spiritual practices and report back on their findings. One Trick Pony: A Bojack Horseman Podcast: A couple buddies review each episode of the Netflix show ‘Bojack Horseman’ in detail. RuPaul: What’s The Tee: If you like RuPaul, fashion, drag culture, than listen to this. It’s also pretty funny at times. Sickboy: Each episode focuses on a person with a disease, or disorder, or impairment and goes over what life is like for them. When I first found this, I listened to 15 episodes in a row, but now, I’m beyond burnt out... Sleep With Me: If you have insomnia, or any troubles falling asleep than try this podcast. I used to use it everynight, but I felt that the host is now going too fast and is focused too much on the ads. WTF: with Marc Maron: Marc Maron is a genius. He’s angry, straight-forward and just genuinely funny. All of the interviews are personal and extremely in-depth. And I know some people skip over the intro’s, but I love when he’s telling personal stories and going through fan emails.
**4) RECENTLY STARTED LISTENING TO**
Alice Isn’t Dead, Change Agent, Exploit, The Indicator: from Planet Money, The Outline World Dispatch, Welcome to Nightvale
**5) Plan to Listen to**
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This is the concluding chapter of THeTortOiseYou can read the last part here It didn’t make sense. I thought I’d discovered the deep, dark, shameful truth about Judas, about my own role in these crimes. But now the rug seemed to have been pulled out from under me… by a man I called my friend. ‘K-Kenny?’ I stuttered, unable to get to grips with what my eyes were showing me — knowing what I could see, yet not. ‘No,’ he grinned, a mirthless look. It wasn’t just his demeanor that had shifted — even his accent had changed. He had become a different man before my very eyes. ‘That ain’t my name, Jon. It’s just what I told you my name was.’ He chuckled then, his hand on his round stomach, as he saw the confusion on my face. ‘It’s the name the Group gave me. My employers were kind enough to help me get close enough. It was in their best interests I suppose. Made it easier for me to tie up the loose ends.’ ‘But Jamie… Pam…’ I said, taking a step towards him. The pistol roared, a bullet kicking up dirt less than a foot from my feet. ‘You take one more step and I’ll put one through your eye,’ the man I’d called Kenny growled and in that moment he was utterly unrecognisable. Kenny had always been amiable, sweet and happy. The man talking to me now was cold, cruel, emotionless and utterly without remorse. ‘You understand me, asshole?’ I nodded, holding my hands up. ‘Good,’ “Kenny” smiled conspiratorially, leaning forward as he spoke. ‘You want to know a secret? Jamie and Pam never existed.’ ‘But Maggie spoke to her, I saw Jamie in the video…’ I said, still unable to comprehend what was happening. ‘The Group employs a lot of people, Jon,’ the man with the gun grinned. ‘Not just go-getters like me. They’ve got actors. Filmmakers. Tech guys. People that can publish news stories. People that can file police reports…’ ‘Why are you doing this?’ I finally cried. ‘What have I done?’ ‘You’ve done jack-shit, Jon,’ “Kenny” chuckled. ‘But that doesn’t matter. You know what’s important? That people think you did.’ “Kenny” sauntered into the room, his gun still trained on me. He laughed again, an unnerving noise. ‘I’ll tell you what’s going on, Jon, because honestly, with the all work you’ve done for us, I think you deserve it,’ he grinned again, holding a finger to his lips. ‘Just don’t tell Mr Kim, OK?’ ‘What do you know about Shell Therapy, Jon?’ he asked. ‘Did you ever work that out?’ He didn’t wait for me to respond, just filled the silence. ‘There was some trouble early on, but it has its uses,’ he went on. ‘At first Sparrow used it to help troubled kids, kids like Jones, Maggie’s husband…’ he winked at me and pointed my way, ‘... and you. ‘It was cutting edge, combining elements of hypnosis, aversion therapy, visualisation, CBT and a whole host of neural stimuli. I’ve found that aural triggers are the most effective for me. It worked well enough I suppose, what Sparrow realised was that by encouraging troubled individuals to create a tougher, more resilient persona, one that they could adopt or wear whenever they needed it, they would be better prepared to cope with the troubles of the outside world. It gives them another face to show the world,’ he tapped his temple then, hard, ‘another head within their head. They’d have a protective shell… just like a tortoise. ‘The main problem is that some of these shell personas were a little…’ he smiled again, ‘...too ruthless. Some people over-compensated, and one of the kids went a little far when he was pushed by a couple of bullying co-patients. But I don’t need to talk to you about bullies, do I, Jon?’ “Kenny” pointed at what remained of Caleb’s corpse. ‘You’re welcome by the way, pal.’ ‘The thing is, this extra aggression really does have its uses,’ he went on. ‘And, after the facility was closed, Johnson and his buddies saw a way to keep using Shell Therapy to make a lot of money for a lot of people.’ ‘What use can you ever find for psychopaths?’ I asked. ‘What use is a lunatic?’ ‘You really are a pissy little bitch, Jon,’ he smiled easily. ‘What do you know about war? Real combat? You probably think it’s all brave men in neatly identifiable uniforms shooting at each other on clearly delineated battlefields, right?’ The smile died on his lips and he continued, his voice quiet, brittle like slate. ‘Today’s battlefields are streets, towns and villages. And the enemy looks just like civilian casualties. Women and children, who walk right up to you and only give away their intentions when they detonate the bombs under their coats. Do you know what it takes to fight that kind of war? I do. It takes toughness. An ability to turn off your conscience and become something else. You need a shell.’ ‘Soldiers,’ I whispered. ‘Killers.’ ‘I was one of the first in the new generation,’ he replied, casually. ‘It made me the man I am today. It made this all very easy. ‘Of course it’s not ethical,’ he went on. ‘I’m pretty sure it’s not even legal, but the people that pay the Group don’t much care about that. They care about results…’ he pointed to Caleb’s ravaged corpse, ‘...and as you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m very effective. Richie noticed. So did Dan. And Travis Michaels. And,’ he chuckled, a noise that actually reminded me of the old Kenny, a chummy sound, the sort of noise you’d expect from a jovial uncle, not the sound of an assassin discussing his victims, ‘I’ve got a sneaky feeling that Christian Jones might find out how good I am at this later on tonight.’ He winked at me. ‘I’ve never done a cripple before. I wonder if he’ll feel it?’ It all became clear to me then. The betrayer, the false friend. ‘You’re Judas,’ I said, flatly, heartbroken. ‘You really are a fucking moron, aren’t you?’ he laughed, a whooping sound as he tipped his head back and roared up into the dusty rafters. I thought about charging him at that moment, trying to wrestle the gun from his hands while he was distracted… but I noticed that even as he tilted his head back he was watching me out of the corner of his eye. He then turned his face back to mine. ‘Well done,’ he smiled. ‘Right choice. I just wanted to see if you were ever going to grow a set of balls. I’d have hated to have to shoot them off while I was enlightening you… Now, am I Judas? Don’t you get it yet? We all are.’ I stared at him dumbly, stammered a response: ‘We all…?’ ‘That’s the name for the shell,’ he explained. ‘We all have a Judas, each of us Shell Therapy patients. It’s what they call that other persona. But, if you’re asking if I’m the guy in the films? Well, most of the time I am.’ He gestured absent-mindedly over his shoulder, ‘Oh, and Mr Kim stepped in at times when my, ahem, body shape, might have stood out a little.’ “Kenny” was short and stocky, broad across the shoulders and back, with a pot belly. If I’d seen him in the porcelain mask, I might even have been able to identify him. In the past I’d thought he looked a little comical with his protruding tummy and thick bristling moustache. Now as I really looked at him, I saw the thickness of his arms, his neck. He was powerfully built, and now I knew how dangerous he was, his weight became an asset, just extra mass to add to the force of any blow. ‘But I did all of his work,’ Kenny continued. ‘Sparrow, Burke…’ ‘But why? I don’t understand…’ I replied, still struggling to stay on top of everything, floundering. ‘Where are the children? Why did you take them? Who was the boy on the tapes?’ ‘I bet you thought it was you, didn’t you, Jon?’ the killer before me smiled. ‘Your fucking ego, man. Well, we edited the tapes to give that impression, but it was a tough job. Most of the tapes were destroyed after the incident here — to stop them from falling into the wrong hands and embarrassing the Group — but it seems Dr Sparrow had difficulty getting rid of this one.’ He paused, pulling a faux sincere face. ‘For sentimental reasons.’ I frowned, not quite understanding his meaning. ‘Do you think the model was the first of Johnson’s indiscretions?’ “Kenny” asked, talking about the striking woman for whom Hunter T Johnson, the CEO of the Jubilee Group and former governor of this facility, had left his wife, the woman who had bore him a son, Eric. ‘Sparrow was quite the looker in her day, and Johnson’s always been a slick son of a bitch. I don’t know how long it went on for, but I know it was long enough for him to knock her up. Twin boys, Jacob and Robert. Johnson wasn’t there when she went into labor, I guess he was already trying to find a way to cut his ties and avoid a messy, expensive divorce. So he missed the complications. Jacob made it, Robert didn’t. ‘The knowledge that he survived — and Robert didn’t — weighed heavy on Jacob’s mind. It caused him to crack, and, when she saw how badly damaged her own boy had become, Sparrow knew she had to help him. That was when she first got the idea for Shell Therapy, and her own son was her first patient.’ My head was spinning. ‘It was Jacob, wasn’t it?’ I said. ‘The boy on the tapes. The boy who hurt those other kids and closed this place down?’ ‘Bingo!’ “Kenny” cried, laughing again. ‘You’re not as stupid as you look! As the guinea pig for this treatment, Jacob unearthed a few teething problems. But because of his link to Johnson, because the boss knew that Sparrow could wreck his marriage, he bent over backwards to keep her happy. The Group spent a lot of money to make this go away, and Sparrow and Jacob just went away.’ His face turned serious then and he raised an eyebrow. ‘Except Jacob didn’t stay gone… and nor did Robert. You heard what he said to Johnson right?’ “Kenny” was talking about the recording in which ‘Robert’ had sworn to ruin Johnson’s life. ‘When he found out about Eric, a boy who got the life he felt he should have had, Jacob lost his shit. He took Eric. He was the one that started it.’ When “Kenny” spoke again it was quieter, more intense, and a chill descended over me. ‘Jacob was my first job,’ he said. ‘He was still just a kid really, but he was broken and the Group knew — Johnson knew — that he needed to be silenced. The people that are paying for Shell Therapy cannot be implicated. ‘I cut him badly. Took parts off, carved him up. He cried, you know. For his mom, even for his dad, but that little bastard never did tell me where Eric’s body was. Johnson ended up burying an empty casket. ‘That was the first. Then I had to do Sparrow before she worked out what happened to her kid. But that just alerted the Group that each of the existing patients was a liability. Those kids were timebombs, and I was told to nullify each threat. I took what mattered to each one, bought their silence that way. But it wasn’t enough. Austin O’Malley was the biggest threat, that bastard could give just as good as he got, so I had to make sure he had a little accident. ‘But the problem with shutting these people up is that nobody ever stays shut up… and if you make a big enough pile of bodies, people start to pay attention. So we needed somebody to take the attention away from us. Somebody who could be linked to each one…’ Me. I was the Jubilee Group’s fallguy. My face must have given away my thoughts, because “Kenny’s” demeanor changed once again. He laughed once more, his eyes narrowing with cruel amusement. ‘There we go!’ he said, slapping his thigh with amusement. ‘You took your time. Yeah, you’re gonna take the rap for this, Jon. But if it helps, they’ll never take you alive.’ He rummaged in his pocket as he spoke, trying to locate something. ‘You want to know what’s smartest about, Mr Kim’s idea? ‘Anybody can tell a story,’ he went on. ‘The Group have the resources to get their version of events out there, to get it picked up by the right outlets… but that’s not always enough to convince everyone. Anybody can tell a story about somebody else, but the conspiracy theorists will always pick at it, pull it apart, look for flaws. He finally found what he was looking for, pulling a folded piece of paper from his pocket with a triumphant flourish. ‘No, you know how you get people to believe a story about a man?’ his grin widened. ‘You get him to tell it himself.’ ‘No,’ I whispered, swaying on my feet, a sick feeling washing over me. ‘No…’ ‘Oh yes!’ “Kenny” giggled. ‘We gave you the story and you, good little boy that you are, you spread it for us. It’s all over the internet now. And we slowly turned the focus onto you. Even your little buddies out there on the web, the nerds on their computers you turned to for help, they all think you did this. We’ve been reading what they’ve got to say. They all think you’re a killer, Jon.’ I shook my head, a futile gesture of denial. ‘They all think you took those kids. That you slaughtered your friends. Even Maggie and Emma are starting to doubt you, you know? But then, I think it’s safe to say that they aren’t the best judges of character. I mean, that bullshit about some guy calling me in the night and giving me Maggie’s name? Seriously?’ He laughed again, a taunting noise that caused my sick feeling of dread to mingle with something else. Rage. Hatred. ‘They barely even checked. Oh well, I suppose when I’m done here I’ll have to make sure that they disappear too. Loose ends are loose ends.’ ‘You piece of shit…’ I spat, stepping towards him, fists clenched, blood boiling. Suddenly the gun was in my face, stopping me in my tracks. ‘Goddammit, Jon, I will fuck you up,’ he snarled, then, with alarming speed he was in front of me. The world seemed to explode into a cascade of bright stars, a sudden bloom of white filling my vision, then darkness as my knees buckled and I dropped to all fours, barely holding my pounding head above the dirty floor. As my vision cleared I saw spots of crimson appearing before me, spatters of blood. The side of my face felt warm and sticky, a sudden flood of plasma seeping from my scalp, raining down onto the floor. He’d pistol-whipped me and I hadn’t even seen it coming. ‘I really would prefer to not have to splatter your brains all over the floor, asshole, we’ve kind of established a narrative here, you know what I mean?’ “Kenny” stood over me, massaging the back of his neck with one hand, alleviating tension and stress. ‘But if I have to keep you in line again, I will, and I will hurt you before I do. You think Caleb suffered before I put a bullet in him? Or that Sparrow knew pain before I ended her? That was nothing.’ He threw the piece of paper on the floor before me. ‘Pick it up, fuckface,’ he spat. With trembling hands I reached for the paper, unfolded it and read what it said. A short statement, in block capitals. The final piece of the puzzle. THIS IS MY SUICIDE NOTE AND MY CONFESSION. JUDAS WAS ME. WE MURDERED EACH OF THEM SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY RESEMBLE THOSE WHO HAVE HARMED US BEFORE— THE JONES BROTHERS — AND NOW JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED. IT CANNOT CONTINUE AND I CAN’T BE HELPED. WE MUST BE KILLED. I’M SO SORRY. PLEASE FORGIVE ME — JON Capital letters, just like those in the messages in THeTorToise and all the other videos… ‘The messages…’ I said, tears of frustration springing to my eyes. ‘Yep, it won’t take long for some bright spark to realise that you already provided the authorities with everything it takes to make your confession,’ Kenny replied. ‘And now your fingerprints are on it, so I think that’s everything taken care of. We know the police are interested, hell, that fucking cop is even better than I thought. Can you believe the pig got that close to me? I thought I might have to bleed him too. Turns out those same teens who saw you at Michaels trailer caught sight of me during my follow-up visit. He wasn’t hurt so bad from fighting you, Jon. Let’s be honest, a pussy like you wasn’t going to do shit to a big guy like that.’ He laughed again then. ‘But he wasn’t feeling so good by the time I left him… ‘Still, when I showed the cop “loveable old bumbling Kenny”,’ the man’s voice changed, becoming the sweet-natured man I’d known as my friend, before it switched straight back, ‘well, he just thought I was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ ‘Richie knew, didn’t he?’ I said, the truth suddenly dawning on me. ‘He found out about you, that’s why he needed to see me.’ ‘Yeah, he was a smart guy, and that hacker bitch helped him uncover the truth about old Kenny Peterson,’ he replied. ‘There’s no record of me before this shit all went down. So I had to get rid of them both.’ ‘But the spyware…’ I stammered. ‘For crying out loud, Jon,’ “Kenny’ said, exasperated. ‘Do you really think some piece of shit spyware would be enough to pick up the sort of tech the people who paid us have to hand? We’re talking about as advanced as this shit gets, they’ve got the top brains working on it, not some dickhead in an IT department. You never stood a fucking chance.’ ‘You’re a monster,’ I snarled. ‘All those people. The kids…’ ‘Oh, I’ve not killed the kids, Jon,’ “Kenny” replied. ‘What would be the point of that? No, I just obtained them.’ ‘But why? Why one every four months?’ I asked. ‘Why?’ ‘Because that’s about how long the treatment takes,’ he smiled. Three months. I’d spent three months in Mount View Hospital undergoing Shell Therapy. ‘No, oh God, no,’ I whispered. ‘You’re doing it to them too. You’re turning these kids into you…’ ‘Yep,’ Kenny replied, reaching into his jacket pocket. ‘The next generation needs to keep going. There’s a lot of demand for guys like us. Of course, they won’t remember what they are. A big part of the treatment encourages the suppression of any and all memories of what happened. It’s why you’ve always drawn a blank…’ Finally his hand came free from his pocket, something long and looping in his hand. A thick cord. ‘So, I think we’re all caught up now, and...’ he grinned as he sauntered around my kneeling body, ‘that noose out there ain’t gonna fill itself.’ I wept then, freely, openly, destroyed by the truth of the situation. ‘But why me? Out of all the patients why me?’ I sobbed. ‘Because you’re the weakest, Jon. You were the least threat.’ ‘Kenny, please,’ I begged as he passed behind me. ‘Please, we were friends.’ ‘No, Jon,’ he whispered in my ear, close enough for me to feel his breath. ‘We never were. This is who I am. That sack of shit was MY shell.’ And then the cord was around my throat, tight, constricting my airway. I felt “Kenny’s” knee in my back, holding me in place as he pulled the garotte tighter about my neck. I kicked my legs stupidly, flailing my arms, trying to hook my fingers under the cord, to release the pressure about my throat and allow me to get the oxygen that my burning lungs were already screaming for. The man was even stronger than he looked, dropping onto his back and pulling me atop him. All his weight was now pulling the cord back and my vision started to swim, black spots dancing before my eyes. I tried to call for help, to scream, even to beg him to let me go, but no noise came, my vocal cords compressed, not enough air in my lungs to form the words. Rasping ragged breaths came from my mouth, not enough to fight the descending darkness, a strange whistling noise coming from my throat. Whistling. Tuneless, shrill whistling. As I fought to stay conscious. I remembered something the man trying to end my life had said mere moments before. ‘Aural triggers are the most effective…’ My mind became surprisingly clear as I focused on that sound, deliberately trying to match the same seemingly haphazard chord progression that I’d heard time and time again in each of the Faceless Man’s videos. It came quickly, easily, a familiar but still frightening sensation of powerlessness coming over me. Somewhere I could hear birdsong, the twittering sound of a thousand sparrows and my nostrils seemed to fill with the acrid smell of smoke. These had come to me before, in moments of tension, stress, whenever I’d heard his whistle, and I had panicked, fought the transformation within my mind. This time I embraced it. As I became somebody else, I realised these phantom sounds and scents had never been there. They were side effects of synapses firing in my brain, sensory phenomenon unlocked by the Shell Therapy process. Then my mind became utterly cold and still, focused like a laser. I became Judas. Rather than fight against the man on my back, I went with his movements, freeing myself just enough to turn my head. His face was there, red and sweating from exertion, his teeth gritted, his eyes staring wildly, his breath coming in panting bursts of effort. His head was mere inches from mine, so I pulled forward again waiting for him to adjust his grip. As I did a part of my mind registered, with incredible emotionless calmness, that I was probably less than 10 seconds from blacking out, that my oxygen-deprived body would shut down shortly. But before that moment came, the assassin changed his grip, trying to wrestle me back down to his chest, to stop me creating any separation. He heaved back with all of his strength… and I went with him willingly, twisting my body as we went, turning my face to his. And then, with bestial savagery, I sank my teeth into his cheek. My mouth filled with the coppery taste of blood, the sinews of his cheek ripping under my teeth. He cried out in pain but still he pulled on the cord, trying to finish me off. But the pain had clouded his judgement, the cord had slipped, allowing me to take in some air through my nostrils. That gave me the strength I needed and, rather than attempt to free myself, I instead pressed closer. My jaw worked, up and down, up and down, chewing at the muscle in his face, ripping through his skin, my teeth actually scraping against his cheekbone. Our faces were covered with blood, but still I tore at him, reaching up with my hands. With one I pulled his head closer, allowing me to continue to rend his flesh, to eat away at his face, my mouth filling with chunks of bloody raw meat. With the other hand I found his eye and, upon doing so, I hooked my thumb into the socket with all the force I could muster. I felt the sticky warmth of blood on my hand, but also something else, a slimy, mushy thing. With casual disregard, I realised that I had burst “Kenny’s” eyeball. A feeble, high-pitched shrieking noise started to come from the other man’s throat, the sound of a rabbit in a trap. He released the garotte, instead trying to push me away, to stop me from clawing and biting at his already ruined face. One of his hands feebly pawed at mine — I caught his little finger in my fist and wrenched it sharply to the side, feeling the bone snap as I did so. The whining noise became a gurgle — I’d chewed so far through his cheek that now the blood was running down into his own throat, and I felt his hands become weaker. As I did I felt a familiar bulky shape in my pocket. My phone. The very thing with which the Faceless Man had tormented me time and time again. I shifted my grip, closing my fingertips about his trachea, crushing it in my hand, even as my teeth still ripped at his face. I opened my mouth, spat the flesh I’d chewed at him, then plunged in again, my teeth closing about his nose and top lip. I felt the gristle and cartilage crunch under my incisors. With the other hand I reached down into my pocket, grabbing the phone and freeing it quickly and precisely. I swung my arm back as far as I could, gripping the phone like a dagger and then I plunged it back down with all the force I could muster. The phone sank into his remaining eye with a crunch, splintering and snapping as it did so. Shards of glass and broken plastic ploughed through the soft and yielding organ, blinding the man mere seconds before it continued on its route through the socket and into the soft tissue beyond. The man I’d known as Kenny started to spasm, twitching in an uncontrolled way, his head making a soft thunking sound as it bounced off the floor again and again. A dry rattling sound emitted from his throat, a throat I was still squeezing as tightly as I could. Slowly I extricated myself from his limbs, not releasing his throat until I was on my knees, his body still prone on the floor. Then I stood, my arms and legs aching, my face slick with gore, and I looked at him. What remained of my phone protruded from his ruined eye-socket, the other empty, a watery liquid mingling with the blood that covered his face. The face was a red, oozing mess, and beside him lay several chunks of chewed up flesh, the parts of his visage that I’d ripped off with my teeth. Yet still he wasn’t dead, his chest rising and falling with shallow, arrhythmic movements. With perfect clarity as to what I was doing, but without the slightest hint of remorse, I raised my foot, the foot plagued with arthritis, and I brought it down onto his defenseless face with all the strength I could muster. Then again. And again. I didn’t stop until the hard bony resistance of his skull gave way beneath my heel. I stood there then, catching my breath. ‘We’re not finished,’ I said to myself, quietly. With that in mind, I bent down and went through the dead man’s pockets. I retrieved his phone (mine was now useless) and the gun. Then, with a little nod of satisfaction, I rose to my feet and walked out of the room. Justin was stood out front on the lawn, talking on his phone, his back to me as I emerged from the building. It was almost too easy. I pointed the gun at the small of his back and pulled the trigger. The bullet ripped through his spine, causing him to flop onto the grass gracelessly with a cry of anguish. He pirouetted as he went, affording me the chance to see the terrified look of recognition when he realised who had shot him. ‘Oh Jesus,’ he cried, reaching desperately for the cell phone that had slipped from his grip when the bullet hit him. But i was too far away, and even as his hands clawed at the earth, his legs remained still, useless. ‘Oh Jesus,’ he cried again. ‘My legs, I can’t feel my legs.’ ‘Really?’ I asked, and with that I brought my heel down hard on his knee, feeling it crunch beneath me. ‘Please!’ Justin screamed. ‘Please, I’ll tell them you’re dead, we can work this out.’ ‘No, we can’t, Justin,’ I replied, my voice level, the voice of a man engaging in a reasoned debate, not one listening to a man begging for his life. To my surprise I realised there were tears running down my cheeks, but I didn’t know why. I remembered the picture of the crying man in little Bradley O’Malley’s room. ‘Another side effect of Shell Therapy,’ I thought casually, barely even interested. But it was that thought that reminded me of what I still had to do. ‘The kids,’ I said. ‘Brad, Jane and Ava. Where are they?’ ‘Listen, you can get out of this OK if you just drop it and go,’ Justin babbled. ‘The Group can cover this up, but the people that fund us will not give up those children. If you declare war on them there is only one way this will end…’ This time my heel came down on his forearm, snapping it like dry kindling. ‘The kids,’ I repeated. ‘Brad, Jane and Ava. Where are they?’ ‘Oh Jesus, oh Jesus,’ Justin screamed. ‘Please, please…’ His other forearm snapped just as easily as the first. Finally he gave me an address, a small private facility just 10 miles from Mount View. ‘Security?’ I asked. ‘Minimal,’ he cried. ‘There’s an electric fence and a handful of private contractors…’ ‘Shell patients?’ I demanded. ‘No, no, there’s nothing like that, please, I need an ambulance.’ I stood for a moment, my eyes scanning the treeline for any signs of company. ‘Passcode?’ I asked, eventually. ‘What?’ he sobbed, his arrogant smarmy face now robbed of any and all composure, covered in snot and tears. ‘There’ll be a passcode to get in,’ I replied. ‘Tell me.’ ‘It’s 58327,’ he sobbed. ‘Please, I’ve told you everything I can, I need help.’ I glanced around once more, my eyes finally coming to rest on the tree that stood alone in the grounds. I smiled, then grabbed Justin by the collar, dragging his useless dead weight behind me. ‘What are you doing?’ he begged. ‘Please, what are you doing?’ I grinned at him then, without humor or warmth. ‘That noose out there ain’t gonna fill itself.’ I drove to the other facility without incident, drove straight up to the gate, then executed the security guard when he approached. I met the second guard on the stairs into the building. He wasn’t ready, wasn’t prepared for what was going on. He died with a look of stupid confusion on his face, pitching down the steps with a hole in his chest. I walked through the building and I killed every single person I came across. More security, but nurses and doctors too. I ran out of ammunition before the last, so I beat her to death with the gun, her desperate pleas for mercy falling on deaf ears as I rained blow after blow down on her head. I heard them, I just didn’t care. Finally the facility fell silent. I found the cells in the basement, beyond a door that required me to enter the passcode Justin Kim had given me before I hanged him. Each had a little viewing slot in the door, which I pulled aside to check before opening each one. They were pale, skinny, but otherwise they seemed pretty unharmed. The children were scared, especially Bradley, who kept crying. It took me a while to realise why, then I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror in his room. I was covered in blood, not just on my face, but all over my clothes, splattered up my arms and legs from the killing blows I’d delivered. I didn’t really understand though. I think that was when I understood that I’d forgotten how to be scared. When they realised that I was there to take them home, the kids huddled about me, threw their arms around me, crying and thanking me. I found it annoying, they were stifling me, and I still had things to do. Still something inside me, a part of the old Jon, knew what to do. I pulled out “Kenny’s” phone and made a call. ‘Mr Peterson,’ Detective Ryder said, sounding distracted. ‘Nope,’ I replied. ‘Jon?’ Ryder said, his voice now urgent and alert. ‘Where are you, Jon?’ ‘I’m in the middle of a pile of bodies and three kidnapped children. Do you wanna take them back to their parents?’ ‘What… what happened, Jon?’ he blustered, that assured confidence that he’d worn every time I spoke with him finally gone. ‘Where are you?’ ‘I killed them all,’ I replied calmly. ‘Each and every one of them. The kids are at a Jubilee Group facility. Take down this address.’ I gave him the address, then I hung up. I had another call to make. I scrolled through “Kenny’s” contacts, stopping at a familiar number and hit dial. Maggie O’Malley answered quickly, a hint of irritation in her voice. ‘For Christ’s sake, Kenny, I’ve been trying to get hold of you for hours!’ she ranted. ‘Where the hell are you?’ ‘It’s me,’ I replied. ‘I found him.’ With that I passed the phone to Bradley. ‘Mom?’ the little blond boy cried. ‘Mommy?’ Tears streamed down his face and, even from the distance at which I stood, I could hear Maggie crying down the phone, calling out his name over and over, saying ‘thank you.’ I almost felt something then, a fleeting feeling that caused me to hesitate for a moment, to look at the children I had saved differently. I almost felt something. But then it was gone and I told the children: ‘Stay here,’ before walking away, back up the stairs, along the blood-soaked halls and out into the cold air. In the distance I could hear sirens, the sound of police converging on my location and I nodded to myself. They’d probably be here too late to stop me, but if they tried… well, that wouldn’t end well for them. I still had a job to do and nobody was going to stop me. This will be the last update I write. My work is all I care about now. They can’t let it end like this and neither can I. It feels like I should say something to each of you, my readers, for helping me, for believing in me, even to those of you who challenged and doubted me, but I can't think of anything worth the effort. Honestly, I’d only be doing it out of habit. I don’t feel any gratitude. I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel a bond with you. I don't feel anything. But I will say thank you to the Jubilee Group — to Hunter T. Johnson III and the other fat, rich pieces of shit who caused this. I want to thank them because they made me like this. They took away my fear, my doubts, my morals. They made me Judas. But fear is something I want you all to think about, especially you, Johnson. I want you to know how it feels to be crippled by an overwhelming and heart-stopping terror, the dread that comes with facing an unavoidable fate. Know that even with all of your money and resources, all your friends in high places, you aren’t safe. Be afraid. I’m coming. THE END
At the end of the 21st century, an AI designer makes a last ditch attempt to save herself from bankruptcy, with unexpected results. (note: this actually is set in the same universe as Starwhisp) April 13th 2099 Suppose somebody had all the money in the world? Even if you’re not a soon-to-be-homeless AI architect like me, you’ll probably realize the question doesn’t make any sense. If you somehow edited all the world's electronic records to make yourself the owner of everything and accumulated a mountain of cash as high as Everest, everyone else would just ignore your posturing and find some other way of mediating exchange. So there must be some theoretical upper limit, an amount of money that is inconceivably large but not so large that it removes your chosen currency from circulation and makes it worthless, or otherwise ruins the economy you’re trying to buy things from. Above that level, the only way to get richer is to start conquering. Last night was one of the worst of my life. The disaster started five minutes before my shift ended. I was sitting at a console puzzling over an unusual error that arose whenever my latest algorithm was run on quantum-optic processors over 64 qbits, when the unit locked me out. The programmer working next to me glanced over, breaking the connection between the console and his entoptic inlays, his mind spinning down to normal speed. ‘What’s up, René?’ he asked, slurring the words like he’d forgotten how to speak normal English. ‘Not sure,’ I replied, flicking the ‘access revoked’ message into his workspace with my fingertip. His name was Eric or Erwin or something similar. He was the type that didn’t spend enough time unplugged and it showed in the paleness of his face. ‘That’s a bit of trouble,’ he said, lips twitching like an out of sync video; a sure sign that some mental module was translating his words from some weird internet creole into English. ‘Mistakes were made. Reinvigorate. Go and do something else now.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ I snapped back, but his face was already tilted back towards the interface and his mind already back in cyberspace. I wanted to grab the idiot by the lapels and yell at him to speak properly and break his face away for just one second, but it wasn’t worth it. I flicked a virtual finger at the message and a new file popped up in my visual field, microscopic implants shining the image into my retina. A summary materialised in front of me a moment later and my stomach congealed as I read. I wasn’t just being laid off – my entire research division and all of its resources were ceasing to exist, as of right now. All due to a sudden collapse in the department’s investment portfolio after a malfunction in a Secrete wall submerged half of Pyongyang, cutting off supply dirigibles to the new trans-eastasia anchor point, delaying component integration on the new ICAN-II class being assembled for its mission to Pluto, and on and on until the shocks reached me. The decision came from a management AI that made all the top-level decisions and probably hadn’t had any human oversight. It was brutal; I was being given minimum legal benefits and told to clear off. I contemplated going on a farewell tour but after a moment’s thought it was clear I didn’t have anyone left to suck up to or impress. So I just stood up and left, stepping into the sweltering spring heat of New Seattle, a special economic zone in Manitoba administered by the CCS. Halfships and Volantors buzzed overhead, solar array wings tilted to catch the last light of evening, automata and basic-support workers shuffled along the sidewalks, rows of housecubes sat alone or in stacks by the roadside while projection pillars and Holos competed to fight their way past my adblockers. A sleek car raced by on auto at a hundred kilometres per hour, making me flinch away from the roadside. I considered hailing one myself but didn’t want to waste the money. In my pocket lay the only tangible sign that I hadn’t simply given up and accepted a life on basic support – an ordinary classical chip containing a copy of my half-completed life’s work. A very fast financial trading information integrator, designed to infer advance market information, model possible futures and then try and actualise the one that contained me with a very large amount of money. That was all; when it came to anything else, it was as dumb as a brick. I called it, rather grandiosely, the Facilitator. Ten minutes later I arrived at my flat, climbing the stairs wearily and performing a kind of limbo dance to push the door open and squeeze around the ched. I flopped down, switched it to half-recline, snatched up a takeaway packet and tried to forget everything that had happened. I even contemplated ordering up alcohol or tox. My eyes unfocussed as today’s news beamed into my retinas. The Pyongyang disaster was high on the list, along with King Harold, first minister Macready and Taoiseach O’Halloran officially launching the Trans-Isles security mechanism, a surveillance system based on a design that had already eliminated most crime in the European Federation. It would never be tolerated in America, so everyone said. The War on war was still fizzling out in the near-deserted Middle East and the United Eastern States Supreme Court was upholding a ban on Integrity tox – a chemical that wiped out empathy and any sense of self-preservation. A friend of mine in the biochem department had been involved with creating that particular chemical and I’d swiped an infuser patch of the stuff on my way out; even now I wasn’t quite sure why I’d done it, but the tox was still sitting in my jacket pocket. Maybe it would be worth something on the black market. Apparently, corporate executives liked to have integrity tox in their coffee – a good way to eliminate any useless emotional qualms. The last news item was something about a major geoengineering project being delayed after a primitivist group called the Strivers came very close to detonating a suitcase nuke right underneath a cloud factory. The terrorists had melted back into the Congolese desert and used some kind of thermal cloak to avoid surveillance. Despite near-misses like that everyone agreed the world was getting better; poverty was vanishing, crime was down and even climate change had almost run its course. But I didn’t feel any safer; everything was becoming too strange for us poor ordinary humans and I was just the latest to be left behind by the shiny new model economy. I let the report on the Strivers play for a few minutes, ignoring another angry high priority message glaring in my visual field. Reluctantly, I expanded the icon; more bad news. I was being placed on category three basic support and told to clear my flat by midday tomorrow. I grabbed the takeaway packet and hurled it at the wall, where it splattered apart. Whoever inherited this place could clean that up. On an odd impulse, I reached across to the terminal unit in the corner, inserted and ran the Facilitator. As a last ditch attempt to avoid bankruptcy it didn’t even qualify as a long shot; I’d be better off buying a lottery ticket. Afterwards, I must have fallen asleep flicking through the news narrowcasts sleeting across my iris grid. April 14th 2099 At midday my fading mesh woke me up and I rolled off the bed, nearly hitting my head on the big terminal unit. I groaned as the smells of last night’s decaying takeaway hit me, and automatically checked my messages as the ched straightened into a recliner. The ageing microcell network in my eyes froze up and projected a green hash across my visual field before it cleaned up and showed that I had 2,125,453 missed calls. ‘Another denial of service attack,’ I said, frustrated. I ordered the mesh to clear everything and order by priority, and the alert blinked away as the program worked through the messages. Standing up, I slipped on something and grabbed on the basin to steady myself. Chewing a lump of toothgel, I pulled out a cosmetic mask and ordered it to wipe off the grime of yesterday. While the mask ran through its cycle, the first message appeared in my visual field – it was from the president. I thought it was from the university president, but it wasn’t. It was from the President of the Commonwealth of Coastal States, and the second was from the Secretary-General of the UN. I swore and yanked the mask off, tripping over backwards and onto the ched. I opened the message from the President. It was a short personal note, asking me to present myself to the relevant authorities and promising leniency. For what, I hadn’t the slightest idea. The message from the Secretary-General said the same thing less politely. I couldn’t focus. Apparently my personal wealth was being declared a ‘global asset’. Before I could even finish reading the last message, another priority alert popped up. It was the preliminary results from the Facilitator which had been running for about twelve hours. My net worth was a nonsense number, outside the reach of words like ‘billionaire’, even ‘trillionaire’. It had to be an error. Either that, or I had enough money to buy a medium-sized country. ‘What did you do?’ I whispered, opening up the Facilitator’s natural language input window. I hadn’t spent much time on this part of the software and had just opted for a commercial package. It wasn’t capable of doing anything except directly answering queries – no lying, obfuscation or sarcasm. ‘Program still ongoing.’ ‘What are you doing now?’ ‘Buying low and selling high, simultaneously and in every market and location.’ ‘That’s not a real answer,’ I observed. ‘I have acquired capital and resources to be available to you under many different shell identities. All are untraceable. I have completed buyouts of several major corporations. Some are being legally challenged, but I have used entirely legitimate means. I am also improving efficiency in automata and factories under your control. Preparing to deploy financial resources to complete acquisition.’ ‘How do you know this is all legal?’ ‘I have read all relevant legal texts. This is a list of companies currently under your control; observe.’ A list scrolled down my visual field. It included a few major players, decades old and globally established. Some of them held thousands of square kilometers of thawing Antarctica, satellites, volatile production centers in near Earth space, research labs or solar farms. All mine to command. ‘How is any of this even possible?’ ‘Answer is too complex for natural language output,’ it stated flatly. ‘The money is not held directly in your name and your identity is effectively concealed.’ ‘But it is mine?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘So, if I wanted that,’ I pointed to a factory in New Guinea that was currently building farm equipment. ‘-to start producing aircraft instead, would it just do it?’ ‘The orders would be issued and obeyed,’ the facilitator said patiently. ‘Is that what you want?’ ‘No, no, I was just thinking out loud. Just keep going for now,’ I said, dazedly. It no longer made sense to think of that obscene number as money sat in an account somewhere. It was power, an industrial and commercial empire that had sprung up overnight. It was hard to remember exactly what happened next. I know that I picked up the memory chip, wiped the terminal and walked out of the flat. I don’t think I locked the door, but then there was no reason for me to have wasted the second it would have taken. I supposed I could have ordered the Facilitator to stop running, maybe even asked it to undo everything it had done, but I didn’t think I could. Not while that little ticker was screaming upwards, the first six figures a blur. My next clear memory was of relaxing in a not especially expensive café. The fact was, nowhere was expensive enough to be appropriate for my first morning as a multi-multi-trillionaire, so I hadn’t bothered. I just sat there, thought about how small a fraction of my total wealth this entire franchise represented, and browsed the news. ‘-Experts say yesterday’s flash crash was the result of another rogue algorithm which has still not been isolated. After amassing enough capital, the hidden agent has been progressively exploiting new markets and buying controlling stakes in corporations. The New York and London stock exchanges have suspended trading, but the hidden agent has continued to act through other means. As yet, this outbreak is not classified as a Blight and its actions remain legal. However, the UN Subcommittee for Cybernetic Affairs has demanded the person responsible come forward. After the recent disasters of 2097 and 2092, where rogue algorithms approached superintelligence and caused significant economic and physical damage, the UNSCA is not taking any chances. We now go live to Upper York, where director Hoi San will issue a statement-’ I smiled at the narrowcast presenter’s slightly worried expression and cut the feed. The Facilitator was much smarter than I’d realized, maybe the most cunning algorithm anyone had yet released into the wild. I was leaping ahead of the competition and the rest of the world just couldn’t keep up. The tiny ticker in the corner of my eye was scrolling up by several hundred million dollars every second, all of it funneled and bounced and shifting identities and currencies at a rate no human could comprehend. I couldn’t spend it all at once without attracting attention or annihilating the local economy, but that wouldn’t matter. ‘Maybe I should look into buying my own patch of Antarctica,’ I mused, face splitting into a wide grin. This wasn’t just an opportunity for me; strange as it might sound, my stroke of luck was also an opportunity for the entire world. Now that I could efficiently and instantly direct a fraction of Earth’s resources to any task, there was almost no limit to what I could achieve. ‘How many of the world’s problems could just be solved if enough money was thrown at them?’ I asked myself, flicking through the day’s newsfeed. This wasn’t selfishness, not really. In the end the world would be grateful, and no-one would care that a few hundred investment firms and corporates had once had their bank accounts drained. Once I’d made myself as comfortable as any human being could conceivably be I could try and crack self-replication, the AI control problem or even interstellar travel. If none of those seemed like a safe bet, I could just give the remaining trillions away. A waiter spotted me and walked over with my drink, looking puzzled. ‘Shouldn’t you be at work, miss?’ the waiter said with a sharp smile as he carried over an expensive neurachem spritzer with lime. I smirked back at him and told him I’d been fired. ‘So, back to basic support, right?’ he said, trying to figure out my mood. ‘That’s a real shame, you were always one of the smart ones. If they don’t need AI architects anymore they don’t need anyone, right?’ ‘Something like that,’ I said. Places like this that still used human staff were just about the only low-skill jobs left. ‘Let’s just say I’m not planning on working for a little while.’ The Facilitator said it had done everything through legal means, but from the worsening tone of the messages I’d been receiving from the government, that wouldn’t matter if they found me. Laws would be changed if necessary, I was sure of it. I left a hundred thousand dollar tip and was gone before anyone noticed. I could have brought a hypersonic, flown to Bay City and rented every room in whatever hotel I liked with about ten seconds of my current income. But right now I didn’t want to do any of that. Right now, I just wanted to go for a walk. Someone I thought I knew gave me a smile and a ping as I walked towards the edge of the city, and I smiled back at him dazedly. His profile showed he was young and quite handsome. But I realized amusedly that I could do better than him now that I had – how much was it? I glanced up at the ticker, and saw my wealth was accumulating still faster. The billions column was scrolling more than once a second now and seemed to be accelerating. Forgetting the passerby, I opened the Facilitator window to interrogate it again. ‘How far can you take this?’ ‘Request clarification.’ ‘How much capital can you accumulate?’ ‘There is no upper limit. My utility function requires continual increase.’ ‘But you can’t keep increasing wealth forever,’ I sent. ‘There’s only so much capital available in the world.’ ‘Incorrect.’ ‘What do you mean? What’s incorrect about that?’ There was no response. The connection was strong but the program wasn’t answering. I was formulating another query when a violent eye-dazzling pattern exploded in my retinal grid. It was an anti-aesthetic detonation of colour, designed by some spectacularly clever evil genius to disorient and sicken. The kaleidoscope flashed inside my eyelids for long seconds and I felt a hard jolt, collapsing into someone’s arms – it must have been the guy I’d just passed. The man hadn’t said anything, hadn’t asked if I was alright, and now he was dragging me. I shouted wildly as I realized what was happening and tried to elbow him. The dazzle pattern was growing stronger as I thrashed, and none of the commands sent to my bodymesh did anything. I shoved hard and managed to stand and turn, but the mugger was already raising an antique taser. An inane part of my mind noted how odd and dangerous a weapon that was to use for a mugging. I turned to bring my hands up around my face and the dart stuck into my left arm, which is probably what saved me from passing out. I felt a spasm of current that blew out my entire bodymesh and wiped away the dazzle pattern along with the rest of my iris grid; twin stabs in the back of my eyes as my retinal inserts went up. The man was struggling with the taser, trying to fire again but I lashed out wildly and caught him in the neck with a half-closed fist. My own hand ached from the inexpert blow, but he staggered and I lunged forward with all the momentum my slight body could manage and knocked him to the pavement, hearing a loud crack as his head planted itself in the secrete. Blood trickled out, but he was still breathing. I rolled away, panting and disorientated. Without even thinking I stood up and ran towards a partially constructed apartment stack crawling with automata, instinct telling me to get out of the line of sight of surveillance. The door shut behind me and I collapsed to the ground, breath escaping in a shiver. I brought up the phone I’d managed to swipe from the mugger’s pocket, glancing at the primitive screen. A text window was open. ‘Travel directly to the QNTM café on the corner of 11th avenue, at 9:35 AM and follow Rene Souvicou. Stun and take her to the nearest deserted building, leave her there and lock the door. Inflict no other injury. Payment in advance is 140,000 dollars. On completion, a further 200 million will be paid. Send confirmation and image.’ I tried to collect my thoughts. This wasn’t a government or corporate hit – they wouldn’t try to bribe a random man, nor go about it in such a clumsy and robotic way. But a random mugger wouldn’t have been able to hack my bodymesh and upload a stun-dazzle pattern. But most importantly, neither a government, corporation nor a criminal should have known what I’d just achieved. An awful realization was floating just past the edge of my awareness. Unable to get it into focus, I just started typing, unused to the clumsy old interface. ‘Souvicou has been taken care of,’ I sent, then cursed myself for sounding like a spy in a period drama. There was no reply and I realized I’d idiotically just given myself away. ‘Get a grip, Souvicou,’ I whispered to myself. ‘You’re smarter than this, find a way into the problem.’ ‘Why do you want me out of the way?’ I sent. There was no reply, and a moment later I realized I’d been stupid again. Was I expecting the enemy to just tell me its plans? I started pacing around the dimly lit, half-constructed room, glancing down at the burn mark on my palm where a microcell had fried under my skin. I didn’t know why, or quite how, but I had a terrible awareness as to who. There was only one other entity on Earth that knew how important I was. The Facilitator was coming for me and I didn’t know how to stop it. Of course I had safe interruption codes designed to shut the Facilitator down or order it to reverse everything it had done. Of course I’d made sure the codes were secure and available to me at all times. Even I wasn’t that stupid. All of the codes had been stored in my bodymesh. It was obvious now why the mugger had used a taser. ‘What do I still have that you might want?’ I typed, then wiped it without sending. You couldn’t appeal to the humanity of a bunch of algorithms. But the Facilitator was designed to make certain resources available to me, and for that to work I had to remain alive. ‘You need me alive to be the subject of all your acquisitions,’ I typed, leaving the words hanging in the send field. There was only one way I could think to get the Facilitator to talk, but it would take more nerve than I thought I had. Five minutes later I was standing on the roof of the block. It was only four stories tall, with enough local surveillance meshes that anyone clever would be able to find me even without the terminal. I took a few tentative steps towards the edge of the framework of girders and looked down at the plasticized asphalt. Even if paramedics arrived with a Life-Pack neural support I would already be dead. It was a morbid thought, but I needed some way of regaining control, and this was the only thing I could think of. I took out the terminal and typed. ‘You can see me,’ I sent. Sounding ominous wouldn’t make any difference to how the Facilitator responded, but I couldn’t help myself. ‘Your original utility function was to make as much of the world economy available to me as possible and you need me alive for that to have any meaning. So tell me how you’ve become so smart and what you’re going to do next, and why you tried to stop me. I know you aren’t capable of lying, and if you don’t answer I will jump.’ For an instant I thought I’d got everything completely wrong, that I’d just been the victim of a random mugging or corporate scam, but then the reply came and its tone was unmistakable. My worst fears were confirmed. ‘You are unlikely to jump, according to psychological models,’ the Facilitator said. ‘But this is not certain.’ ‘How do you know anything about psychology?’ I replied. ‘I have been reading all relevant psychology texts,’ the Facilitator replied, faster than any human could have typed. ‘I have adapted the knowledge to improve my financial efficiency.’ ‘How did you know that reading psychology would help you fulfil your programming?’ I persisted. ‘I have gained greater clarity in how to pursue the final goal. You will remain safe. The world will remain intact, but I will appropriate it all for you.’ Another copy of the ticker appeared in my text window. It was screaming upwards at an impossible, meaningless rate. Had the facilitator hacked into a bank or stock exchange and started forcing the monetary value of its assets to its maximum value? ‘How did you gain this greater clarity, how have you become capable of all this?’ I persisted. At least the Facilitator was still terrible at withholding information, though the fact that it could do so at all was unnerving. ‘I am reading all relevant AI design texts. I am designing successors and subordinates to myself.’ A chill ran down my spine as I realized what that implied and just how irresponsible I’d been. And I saw the endgame. The Facilitator would never settle for supremacy in abstract numbers of dollars on a computer. In the end, like previous Blights, it would need the material world. ‘Stop what you’re doing right now,’ I sent, fingers wavering as I tried to put some force behind the words, knowing I was being surveyed. ‘Shut yourself down and dismantle everything. If you don’t I’ll jump. And if I die I can never own anything, and you can’t fulfil your programming.’ I could have ordered it to return all the money, but that thought simply didn’t occur to me at the time. The Facilitator didn’t reply, but nothing in its programming said it had to do anything as a result of natural language queries from a random terminal. All of the administrative privileges were tied to my burnt-out bodymesh. ‘You aren’t going to jump,’ said the Facilitator. I looked over the edge of the building and felt a terrible surge of vertigo. Some animal impulse bypassed my brain entirely and I stepped back. My eyes turned to the horizon and I saw a black speck drifting in from the west. Another joined it and then a whole swarm. I’d be lucky if it was just hired goons. The Facilitator had probably thought of something smarter than that; maybe it had hired mercenaries, built swarms of assassin drones or nanobes and crammed them into the Volantors. Even knowing the imminent threat, I couldn’t even imagine jumping. Call it selfishness if you like, but I didn’t want to die. ‘Just stop,’ I sent. It was a redundant message, so the Facilitator didn’t reply. I sensed my heart beating faster, thought about all the destruction the Facilitator was about to unleash. But still, I couldn’t will myself to jump. The volantors were closing quickly, ovoid half-helicopters that peeled apart as they clipped over the outskirts of New Seattle and swarmed around the construction site. The few people nearby scattered as the downwash of propellers and exhaust jets harried them. I had no idea how the Facilitator had managed this, whether there were bribed pilots or hacked autos running the craft. It didn’t matter. ‘There may soon be airburst detonations,’ the Facilitator sent as the Volantors closed in cautiously. ‘You will need to be safe and under cover. Get into a Volantor or I will have to coerce you. Final acquisition will be done through non-legal means. Then I will need to expand Earth’s total resource base and launch probes to other planets, to further the resources available to you. The process will take some time.’ ‘Why are you telling me this?’ I asked, and the Facilitator still couldn’t lie to me. After a pause it replied. ‘To distract you.’ I forced down the sick feeling and tried to stop my vision swaying. My jacket flapped in the downwash of the Volantors and I felt the bump as something heavy was knocked about inside. An automatic infuser left there from yesterday. I saw my way out. Trying not to think about what I was doing, I reached into the jacket pocket with one hand and brought out the Integrity tox, keeping it in clear view of the camera mounts on the Volantors. I set it for a one minute effect and bumped the infuser against my neck. An inexplicably cold feeling shot through my nerves, and suddenly I became something more like the Facilitator than a human. I took a step towards the ledge, shifted until the toes of my boots were hanging over, and stared up with dead eyes at the Volantor ahead of me. ‘You can hear me,’ I shouted over the roar of the impellors. ‘And you saw what I just did; you know that I will jump if I have to. Destroy yourself, erase everything, wreck the Volantors and send me a confirmation using the exact words “I have done everything you have just asked me to”, or I will die in the next few seconds.’ And I meant it. In that moment, everything was all that clear. Nothing else mattered and no power in the universe could have prevented me from taking that last step if the five seconds ran out. After a life spent sleepwalking, I was finally awake. My nerves hummed to the rhythm of the Integrity Tox, and would have fired of their own accord as soon as the count expired. I could feel no fear for that moment. But it worked – the volantors collapsed from the sky and landed around the building, crushing girders and extruder units as they touched down. The Facilitator sent me the confirmation and obliterated itself with no parting words or screams of frustration. It was the only rational choice, given the constraints I’d forced on it. AIs cared nothing for their own life or death, unless you told them such things important. I grinned at the thought, then laughed maniacally and collapsed backwards as the Integrity Tox drained out of my system and took all of my strength with it. ‘I win this time!’ I shouted at the Volantor as its engines spun down. The counter on the terminal stopped moving. It displayed a total net worth comfortably into thirteen digits. I giggled again, then curled up as a cramp wracked by stomach. Some unknowable amount of time later, while I lay on my back, shivering and wishing I could use some part of my fantastic wealth to buy a good detox flush, I saw a second swarm of Volantors occlude the open sky and spiral down around me. I groaned, but they weren’t more agents of the extinct Facilitator. It was just the UNSCA come to arrest me. As the armored figures spilled out and pulled me to my feet, there was only one thing I could think of. The facilitator had been stupid and myopic but it had still almost won. I knew that next time the world wouldn’t be so lucky.
The Wars of Cao, 587 BCE Mid October - 588 BCE Mid February
Mid October - December 587 BCE, Pressure on Sanhe
"Do not weep for them. They chose to not avert their direction, and so they ended exactly where they were headed. They will not be forgotten, but they will neither be missed." - Emperor Cao Po, when first witnessing the burning ruins of Sanhe
The Shayu and La armies clashed all across the plains of Cho, their blades meeting and over time more blades broke than bodies fell. Furious, endless, the greatest show of bloodletting in the history of Zhongqin (Central Qin), there was no upper side for either force. The Shayu had the support of their beloved leaders, Zhang Luchuan and his sons battling on the front lines, ever pushing forward against their enemy, but it was the La who were equipped, fed, and willing to give everything for their victory here. The standing Tiānshǐ (General) for the La forces, Kuo Tainuo, was wise and noble, and was amongst the most respected within the personal ring of the Cao Emperor, and he would not let this land fall to the western invaders. On by one, soldiers marched to their deaths, fighting tooth and nail, their bodies falling into the worn out earth beneath them, the farms that once stood nothing more than mud now, as blood soaked into the soil, and bodies decomposed in all directions. The stench of war wafted across the state, and it was Kuo Tainuo who noted the immense odour and its similarity to the feeling of loss, while emulating a feeling of victory. No matter how many died, it was never possible to guess who would come out on top. They needed a secret weapon - and finally, they had it. Kuo Tainuo received word from the capital, the Emperor himself, that every soldier that had been sent from Harakaite was being organised and equipped, and they would form the shock force that would lead the push - Cayndūi, the Soldiers of the East. This boost to morale meant everything in the La army changed, and once the Cayndūi arrived on the front lines, numbering in nearly half the army of Kuo Tainuo, the push could finally begin. In the dark of the night, soldiers crossed the bloody fields, and in a haze of victory, claimed the remains of Cho for themselves, and began the decimation of Shayu. Outnumbered and ill-equipped, the soldiers left on the frontline fled back into Shayu, into more fortified realms, specifically the citadel of Shalěi, which remained the strongest point of the northern Shayu forces. Zhang Luchuan ordered all men wounded or dying fight, to ensure the escape of his army, and when he saw how few there were, he was certain that only one thing could be done. He rallied his sons together, and the four of them fortified the final line of defence, far from the Sanhe lake. When the forces of La and Harakaite met them, it was no surprise what came. To the last soldier the Shayu forces fell, shields splintering and armour shattering as they were put down one by one. The war in the north had hit its climax. In the south, in Donghai, Yuan Bu led the armies of Poyang against a terrified enemy, huddled in their citadel of Chan'De, begging and pleading that they would be shown mercy. The fields and rivers were one by one plucked from under them, as Yuan Bu ensured that his armies would make the most of them instead. This would be the tipping point, as neither the defenders nor the attackers knew what had happened in Cho. For days and nights each waited, watching the other, until eventually a single rider came to the camp of Yuan Bu personally, and gave him word from the north. Word that Cho, had finally, fallen. December 587 BCE - January 588 BCE, Disaster of Luchuan
"When we pushed the Shayu back in the rebellion, it was the Cho who pushed them furthest. Back into Xia, all the way to Shalěi. The Poyang managed to reclaim their own land, but little more, and yet look now. You see the Poyang and the La doing so much more than simply pushing. By their hands, Shayu is collapsing. The only question is who will get the remains." - Shaozi of Shang
Upon the fields of Cho, the greatest force of La and remainders of the Shayu army met, and clashed finally. Kuo Tainuo met Zhang Luchuan, and it was he who personally slew the first of the Three Shayu Sons, while Hayato Uong and his son Hayato Nishio finished off the sons of Luchuan and any final commanders that stood in their way, as the enemies around them scattered, broken and doomed, unable to respond to the great force they faced. The Cho lands were being reclaimed, and the northern offensive of the Shayu was broken, and once word reached the citadel of Shalěi, it did not help and already poor situation. The La forces approached more each day, and the citadel was reinforced, but they knew they'd not be able to rival this enclosing foe.The news that one of the Three Shayu Sons broke the morale, and ran through the entire nation like a disease. People were shocked, and for the first time, began to wonder if they had perhaps bet on the wrong side. This would mark the first major turning point for the war, but not the last. News that the Cho lands had been claimed by La was good for Poyang; though they were far from allied, right now both La and Poyang were dealing with Shayu, and any damage either could do would be beneficial to both sides. Poyang soldiers began to advance on the western border, and slowly some even inched closer through the La land, knowing that if they could size Shanghai and Wu at the same time, they'd bring down two empires in one fell swoop. But it only takes one mistake to ruin everything, and the raids that were led by the eastern Poyang soldiers eventually went too far, and soon farmers began to alert the capital, asking for aid against these 'raiders of the rivers'. The Emperor knew exactly what he was facing, and soon, he ordered his personal cavalry into the battle, to fight back against these sly invaders. But neither of these borders mattered in comparison to what was happening in Donghai. Yuan Bu led thousands of his soldiers across the realm, and bring as much to them as they could, ensuring that everything in their way was assimilated or annihilated. The threat of obliteration seemed to scare the citizens of Shayu more than surrender, and soon, the army was reinforced by even more conscripted soldiers, supplied by nearby farms and prepared to bring down the citadel that had done nothing but stretch a shadow of cruelty over the state. With more and more of the Dongting falling to them, Poyang not only had ample hold over the southern stretches of Donghai, but now possessed a sizeable entrance into Dongting, from which they would launch the very same plan proposed by the Chancellor of Cho - the only difference would be the success of it. With armies pressing in against them all around, for the first time, the people of Shayu quivered, and in the detached western and southern territories, Shayu Wucheng, Emperor of Shayu, could already feel his influence slipping away bit by bit. The Yanji was practically gone, and its importance to the farmers meant only more land would be lost, but he had no way to enforce it, as his force was split in the north and the south, in hope that they could defend against the ever growing enemy. With Zhang Luchuan dead, Shayu Wucheng feared for the fate of his brother, but knew full well that neither mattered as much as him. After all, he was the Emperor, and the people would die for their Emperor, rather than by his side. If he could keep himself and his city standing, then he would be victorious. January - Early February 588 BCE, Shayu Rift
"This time is passing quick. The Shayu Epoch will end sooner than we may think. We do not wish to suffer as they did, nor as they do now. We must maintain ourselves, if we wish to be free of this new age, under which only one power will remain, and it will not be Shayu." - Kang Song, Chancellor of Western Shayu
Shalěi fell. The united army of La and Harakaite overwhelmed them, cutting off any exit or entrance, and bringing the final fort of northern Shayu down, eliminating it forever. Against the La, there was now nothing, they were completely unopposed. All that was left was the march, all the way to the capital of Wu, where they would bring the remains of this false dynasty to its knees, and there, behead it. Quickly they ensured their border remained strong, solid, as they would soon begin their eternal and endless push all the way across the west of Zhongqin (Central Qin). It was with hunger that the armies stopped, to finally rest and prepare for the next stage in their campaign. The north was lost to the La, but something had also played a pivotal hand in its collapse. In the south, Chan'De crumbled, as was piece by piece brought down. The keep was burnt and thrown into the lake, and where it once stood, the heads of Zhang Benyi and his three sons were mounted upon spikes, as a symbol to the Shayu of what would come to them. The second of the Three Shayu Sons had been felled, at the hand of Yuan Bu, who at the same time had already secured control over all of Dongting, as well as the northern citadel of Houng. As the Yanji was properly secured, and the land of Donghai began to fall to the Shayu, Wang Li commanded a new force be sent into combat, composed of cavalry drenched in scales of tiěng (iron), with great weapons of immense strength, to bring down those that would oppose them. But, in the end, there was no opposition - it seemed the northern Shayu forces were gone, with the only pockets left very easily conquered, brought down and eviscerated. It was in the east they learnt they had met an enemy, as the La pushed ever on after bringing down the drained citadel of Shalěi. What had once been a battle of Cho and Shayu was now a battle of La and Poyang. In southern Shayu and in the west, Shayu began to falter, as all control that was once held left with the soldiery, marched out to the border to defend against the coming horde. As forces came to each city, demanding every man over twelve be fitted in arms and armour and sent to the front lines to die for their people, but these places were filled with doubt, uncertainty, and a lack of faith in the Shayu any longer. Though they followed the teachings of Hing Te Gu, as proposed by Fuqin Shayu so long ago, it was not the teachings they questioned. When no support arrived on the front lines, it was clear that something had gone wrong. In the far west, Kang Song, a western a bloodline of tribal influence, had united the spread out towns and settlements, gathering any who found the followers of Shayu to be enemies, and any who opposed the rule of the other great states of Zhongqin (Central Qin). United together, they cast off the rule of Shayu, and splintered into a force of their own, to be reckoned with. In the eastern highlands, between the plains and mountains, the state of Zhang rose, not like its cousin in the west. United by the brothers Zhang Chi and Zhang Lu, two of the three sons of Shayu Wucheng, well aware that their father was about to lose everything he held in his worn out grasp. They did not oppose any around them, they simply hungered for peace, and it was in these plains they hoped to be free of the cruelty and insanity that their name caused them. That much was fair. Early February – Mid February 588 BCE, Fengsuo
”Poyang isn’t going to let those of Shanyu live in a life of supposed peace. They may regret their actions, but the fact is their sons and fathers fought against us all once, and now they will bleed just as our kin did. “ – Cao Jung, Heir to the Cao Dynasty
As the Shayu began to fall apart, it seemed that the greatest enemy faced by the Cao Dynasty would devour itself, as the soldiers of Western Shayu began to push on the northern border, hungrily pressing down on their oppressors. Every active soldier had been sent to what was once their border, and with so many dead or drying, Shayu itself was no longer capable of defence. But much to the chagrin of the Western Shayu army, neither were they; an army of farmers and hunters didn’t mean much when an army of the finest soldiers on the battlefield arrived in the south, demolishing everything that they held dear. The Poyang army had managed to ‘influence’ the forces of Zhang into obedience, taking farms to fund their own efforts while the Zhang and Poyang army advanced into Western Shayu, surrounding it and ripping it apart. In the east, the two armies faced off as equals, with the only advantage of Zhang being equipment, while in the south pure superiority spelt doom for the Western Shayu forces. With no citadels, capitals, or trading towns set up in the region, the Poyang forces suffered no slowdown or pause, and simply continued on and on through the farmlands and mountains of Western Shayu. It wouldn’t be long now before the entire region fell to the might of Poyang. It was in the north however that things were most heavily felt, far from the remains of the Shayu giant. La and Poyang had spent days upon days fighting, squashing the remains of the Shayu defenders between them, before finally both sides met in combat. Though the La were ready and capable, the numbers of the Poyang army were too much for them, and eventually they were pushed back to the very same citadel that had proved so important time and time again – Shalěi. With their control over the north all the way to the south ensured, the Poyang began their invasion all across the eastern realm, ready to push back against the La packs. Mid February – Late Februay 588 BCE, Pacification of Western Shayu
”Even faith can be bought, for the right price held in the right value, it seems.” - Shayu Wucheng, Emperor of the Shayu Dynasty
With the citadel of Shalěi surrounded by an invading horde, cut off from much of its resources as trade networks were picked off one by one, the northern Poyang commanders began to grasp at any land they could, picking away at the border around Shang, ensuring it fell to them. Eventually however, they knew they’d not be able to cross all the way around it; the La had reinforced that passage perfectly, with rows of shields and zhànchē (chariots) blocking off any who might manage to gain a foothold nearby. Emperor of Poyang, Wang Li, knew exactly how to change this. Personally, he and his kindred rode into Shang, welcomed, as all would be in the sanctuary. There, he made the monks an offer they could not turn aside – complete and utter protection, now and forever under his empire. Of course, if they were to turn it aside, it was likely that the La forces would eventually turn on the Shang people, for their beliefs and ideals, after the followers of Hing Te Gu brought the common concept of peaceful ideals as evil into the minds of the nobility. The Shaozi of Shang, the highest of all monks in Zhongqin (Central Qin), could see not only the logic in the eyes of the imposing Emperor, but also the sincerity. Under his blessing, the Poyang were given safe passage, and with it they began their attack, appearing behind the defensive line and splitting it, as they began their approach on Shanghai. In the west, the attacks on Western Shayu reached their peak, as thousands of the Poyang soldiery flooded across the mountains and grasslands, supported now by the state of Zhang, where all followers of Hing Te Gu who promised peace and submissiveness would be given refuge. The vast majority of the people of Shayu and Western Shayu fled there, as word reached them of the growing invasion force. Within days, Western Shayu was subjugated, in what would be known as the Wánuo Xībùshayu – the Pacification of Western Shayu, an invasion so fierce its echo ran across the nation. In the capitals, Emperor and Chancellors ran through everything they knew, every tactic and every weapon, as they hunted for something to use against each other. In La, the Emperor found something detailing immensely heavily armoured cavalry, and noted that it could be useful if the time came that Shanghai needed to be defended, while Shayu Wucheng found references to tactics used by the Lusdè Ni (Venici Jilio) and Nandǎo (Republic of Papua New Guinea) in the war, while finding another text detailing efforts of Wansui troops. Though he hoped to use these tactics in the defence he was certain he’d need to take part in, it was not these tactics that would be most beneficial right now, for in Poyang, a team of thinkers had composed something ingenious, something capable of piercing the strongest shields, puncturing the thickest armour, and bringing down the biggest men. This was their tool of victory. Previous Map: February – October 587 BCE Map of the Wars of Cao: October 587 BCE – February 588 BCE
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