[Cryoverse] The Last Precursor 005: A Terran's Mercy
The Last Precursor is a brand new HFY-exclusive web-serial which focuses on the exploits of the last living human amidst a galaxy of unknown aliens. With his species all but extinct and only known as the ancient Precursors, how will Rodriguez survive in this hostile universe? Make sure to read the earlier chapters first if you missed them! Join the TLP Discord! Previous Part Part 001 ....................................... Fleet Commander Orgon the Unkillable, leader of the Tarus II subjugation force, stands behind First Officer Megla as she browses countless records inside the Dragon Breath's database. Her reptilian slit-eyes flick from right to left as she scrolls through countless walls of text, searching for the information her commander requested. "Still nothing?" Orgon asks, as he evaluates the information she currently has onscreen. "I've only had an hour, Fleet Commander. Even if I had months, I still might not be able to scan all of our records. The best I can do is skim while searching for references to Terrans or Humans. I haven't yet found anything." Orgon exhales through his nose. "Blast. There's nothing worse than facing an enemy we know nothing about. This Terran is no ordinary foe. I can see in his eyes that he's slain countless battle-hardened warriors. We can't afford to annoy or trifle with a beast like him, especially when he possesses such a powerful vessel." Officer Megla continues to tap on dozens of buttons as she peruses the Dragon Breath's records. However, she also shows her intelligence by splitting her attention perfectly while conversing with her commander. "Kyargh! Commander, if I may. I suggest we execute a tactical retreat. We've already sent a coded transmission to the Thülvik. Since we haven't a chance of defeating the Terran's warship, we should take advantage of its immobility and leave. Our scans reveal its engines have degraded to non-operational status. With any luck, it won't be able to pursue us." Orgon gazes at the back of Megla's head. "I can't do that. We've already failed the Thülvik once today. Twice, if you count allowing that advanced stealth vessel to escape our grasp. A third humiliation might result in an execution for me and a court martial for all of the bridge crew. We must make inroads with the Terran to bring him and his crew to our side. If we can present the Thülvik with even a hint of alliance with this vessel's owner, we will reap the rewards." "I understand your position, Commander," Megla mutters, "but even so, we're fooling around with volatile gamma-rays. This Terran is extremely dangerous and ruthlessly calculating. At the start of the conversation, it seemed as if he hadn't even heard of the Kraktol, yet by the end, he had us dancing in his palm. Even with a vessel like his, that is no mean feat." A moment of silence follows. Commander Orgon narrows his eyes. "...Hadn't even heard of the Kraktol." "Commander?" Megla glances back at the Commander, only to frown as she spots a look of intense concentration on his face. Orgon the Unkillable strokes his scaled chin, his expression turning more complicated every second. "Who in the galaxy, especially in the adjacent sectors, knows nothing of the Kraktol? Is not our control of the Outer Rim growing tighter each year?" The First Officer nods. "Kyargh! Of course, Commander. The claws of the Kraktol loom over the Fifth Spiral Arm. Ever since our acquisition of Rylon's Precursor shipyard, our advance has become unstoppable. None dare to oppose us. Even the Core worlds utter our name with fearful whispers." Commander Orgon glances around the Dragon Breath's bridge, at the many officers and crew members dutifully following his commands. "Indeed. The Thülvik might punish me for failing to wipe out our ancient enemies, but the Kessu pale in comparison to the value of this fleet. Perhaps I've been looking at this situation wrongly from the very beginning." Her concentration broken, Officer Megla turns in her seat to stare up at her Commander. "I don't follow." "Think about it," Orgon mutters. "This Terran... how could his people enter our space without any of us knowing? How could he acquire such a highly advanced vessel under our guarded watch? It's not as if he flew the Juggernaut into the cloud and held position there. He must have found it within the last several years. Perhaps he and his crew have been working to restore its functionality." "More importantly," Orgon continues, "perhaps he didn't. Officer Megla. Continue searching the records. This time, I want you to narrow your search parameters. Scan all collected information we've obtained regarding the Precursors. I want information regarding their appearance and biology. In particular, I want to know if we ever found out their species' name." Megla's complexion turns ashen. Her bright-yellow scales dim noticeably, flushing orange from the dread circulating in her veins. "Commander... you can't mean..." "Follow my orders," Orgon replies, his voice a whisper. He glances at a couple of other nearby officers, both engaged in a quiet conversation as they monitor the Juggernaut vessel's activities. "It's only a hunch, and I can't make any strategic decisions based off a mere whim. Assemble a kill-switch transmission with my hypotheses. Have it transmit directly to the Thülvik in the event of the Dragon Breath's imminent destruction. We don't want to send any unsubstantiated rumors her way without evidence, but if we should perish to this Terran, then we might as well give the Thülvik a lead." Megla lowers her head. After a moment, she returns her attention to her computer's screen. "Yes, Commander. I understand." Orgon pats his First Officer's shoulder. After staring vacantly at her screen for a moment, he turns away and heads to his Tactical Officer's station. Could it be? Orgon wonders. Might the Terran be a Precursor himself? That should be impossible. If fifty thousand of their kind have survived, and with a vessel as advanced as their Juggernaut... the galaxy will soon experience a crisis. The Rodaks won't be able to stop them, nor will the Mallali, the Buzor, or the Avaru. The Fleet Commander's jaw presses together tightly. I am no historian, but even I know the fables of the Precursor wars. Star-detonation-beams. Planet-obliteration-cannons. Some say the Precursors were a species hellbent on violence and carnage, while others claim they were all unscrupulous warriors who slew one another in countless bloody wars. I am... afraid. If the Kraktol are the first to face this Juggernaut vessel... we will also be the first to perish. The first of many. Orgon slows to a stop behind the red-scaled visage of his Chief Tactical Officer, Soren Mudrose. The female Kraktol dutifully carries out Orgon's previous orders, drawing up multiple possible lines of attack against the Precursor Juggernaut. "Officer Soren. Report." Orgon slows to a stop at her left. He scans all three of the giant holographic displays placed before his Tactical Officer and waits for her response. The Tactical Officer turns to Orgon and presses her palms together respectfully. "Kyargh! Commander, I have not yet come up with any guaranteed successful attack vectors, but I've managed to complete a few that increase our odds of success to greater than five percent!" Orgon nods. "Five percent... it will have to suffice. Elaborate." Officer Soren rubs her claws together nervously. She turns back to her console and taps several buttons, bringing up virtual images of the Kraktol fleet and the lone Juggernaut vessel. "Based upon our scans, we estimate the Juggernaut only has somewhere between five and twenty-five weapons online. We don't know what their condition is, what ammunition they use, or what their offensive power is. However, I have increased the damage vectors of our enemy to the maximum, just to be safe." "This is certainly the right time to overestimate our enemy," Orgon says, his tone grave. "Continue." "Kyargh! I took the firepower of the Thülvik's personal flagship and gave it a damage output of one thousand percent. If we assume the Juggernaut vessel is capable of unleashing that much devastation, then every cannon-barrage will take out the critical systems of our mid-level battlecruisers, and cause severe damage to the Dragon's Breath. It should take three salvos from these long cannons positioned on its stern to obliterate our flagship. If we attempt to shield the rest of the fleet with our ship, we can rush forward at mark ten point seven, then travel along this vector here until..." The Tactical Officer spends the next few minutes detailing several attack strategies to her commander. However, each one only makes his expression fall further and further. "...It seems our best bet is your third strategy," Orgon mutters. "We must deploy as many of our interceptors and bombers as possible. With so few functioning weapons, the Juggernaut vessel might not be able to destroy them all in time before they arrive at its hangar bay. We can land inside and begin combat with its internal security forces." Orgon's stomach begins to churn uneasily. "There's only one problem with that strategy, Officer Soren. We don't know how competent the Terrans are at hand-to-hand combat. We don't know how powerful their conventional weapons are, nor do we know anything regarding their military tactics. Even if we somehow end up outnumbering them four-to-one upon entering their hangars, they will still have a tremendous advantage against us." Officer Soren sighs. "...Commander. Given how advanced the Juggernaut ship is, don't you think they will possess Combat Armor far surpassing ours? This is why I outlined a lander invasion as the third strategy and not the first. I believe that if we engage them in ground warfare, their technology will rip us to pieces even if their tactics prove sub-par. I can't emphasize enough how terrible of an end we might suffer if we fight them on their territory." "We haven't many options," Orgon growls. "Aerial combat is a non-starter. The Juggernaut is likely a carrier-type battleship with countless interceptors, all of them superior to ours. Even if we assume 99% of them are nonfunctional scrap-heaps, we have to assume that just one highly advanced interceptor will reduce our whole fleet to rubble. You need only recall how the stealth-ship evaded the attacks of 100 interceptors for several minutes, and that was without any other allies providing covering fire. Furthermore, the stealth-vessel was even less-advanced than that Juggernaut, and therefore, its support craft." Orgon's tongue pokes at the back of one of his teeth. The Commander shakes his head wryly as he imagines several possible ways his fleet could end up destroyed when confronting the Juggernaut. "I'm afraid that of all the options you've laid out, Officer Soren, sending as many transport ships as possible to their hangar might be our best bet for pacifying the Terrans. If our enemies possess advanced Combat Armor, or if their weapons vastly outstrip ours, our troops will fall. Perhaps fleeing might be our best option for survival, but we will only end up delaying the inevitable. I would rather perish in glorious combat if it gives us a chance to take out these 'Terrans' while they're weak, than to give them time to repair their vessel. Once the Juggernaut's engines come online, the Thülvik herself will be at risk, as will the rest of the galaxy." Orgon squeezes Officer Soren's shoulder. His touch conveys a deep sense of despair, as well as a resignation that his end may soon arrive. "Do what you can to streamline your third plan, Officer Soren. Transmit the relevant tactics to the rest of our fleet. We will wait for the Terran's response. If their Admiral decides to attack, we must execute the invasion without delay. Every second wasted will mean countless deaths among our ranks." Officer Soren nods quickly. "Kyargh! Yes, Commander! I will devote myself to this plan, even if it spells our bitter end." "Good." Orgon the Unkillable pulls his claws away from Soren's shoulder. He continues walking around the Bridge, chatting with one crewman after another, finalizing his plans. Eventually, the Chief Navigator, Officer Gorlax Stormfang, speaks up. "Commander Orgon! We've received a hail from the Terran vessel." Orgon glances at Gorlax from his position at a nearby console. Without delay, he walks away from the crew-member and trots over to his chair, then sits down. It takes a few moments for the Commander to steady his nerves. Once he exhales his tension away, Orgon nods at Gorlax. "Onscreen." Blip. The viewscreen activates, this time showing six Terrans, all seated at different bridge stations, focused intently on their work. Admiral Rodriguez stands by himself, with nearly two dozen Kessu flanking him on his right and left. The tiny little creatures only serve to emphasize how tall and powerful-looking the Terran is, giving the Kraktol an unintentional frame of reference for his stature. Decked out in a navy blue admiral outfit, Commander Rodriguez stands at attention, his hands folded behind his back. "Commander Orgon. I've just returned from my hangar bay, where I met these Kessu for the first time. We had a discussion I would describe as... illuminating. Suffice it to say, I've found your claims of a stolen vessel laughable. Have you any explanation for lying to me? Any that I might find reasonable, I mean." Orgon doesn't flinch. He assumes the air of a Commander, no longer bothering to kowtow to the Terran. "I do not, Admiral Rodriguez. I owe you nothing, as the galaxy is a treacherous place. Countless unscrupulous enemies lurk in the Void, so you can hardly blame me for attempting to minimize the risk to my crew and fleet. Would you not do the same if our roles were reversed?" A faint smile appears on the Terran's face. "Let's cut to the chase. You lied to me, but I suffered no damages. I'll cross it off my tally just to be a good neighbor. My crew have always spoken of my generosity, so I'd hate to disappoint them. On the other hand, these Kessu have suffered greatly as a result of your violent ways. You attacked their world, murdered their families, and committed horrific acts of genocide against their people. As a man of principle, I find your actions abhorrent. What say you in your defense?" Orgon tilts his snout slightly upward. The crocodile-alien glances at the Kessu with a barely-concealed look of hatred. "My defense? Those little wretches skulking at your feet are the mortal enemies of the the Buzor and the Rodaks. Along with the Dakkit, the Varot, and countless other species among the Mallali, the Kessu turned my people into second-class citizens in the galactic courts. They hounded us, enslaved us, and tortured us. The infamous Sky Cats played the role of scientists and explorers, but in secret, they were barbarous monsters who left horrific atrocities in their wake no matter where they went." Orgon continues. "My people want our revenge. We deserve it. We suffered endlessly for tens of thousands of years at the hands of the filthy Futh who have sought shelter on your vessel. I'll admit that I did lie at first. I lied that these children of the Sky Cats stole a vessel from me... but that was a mere technicality. They've stolen countless Kraktol lives in their pursuit of power, and when the time comes, they will stab you in the back as well. Destroying their species was a merciful act, one which will spare the galaxy much heartache in the future." Orgon finishes speaking. He nods slowly at Admiral Rodriguez, waiting for the human's reply. However, José doesn't immediately respond. Instead, he glances at the shivering figures of the cat-aliens beside him, all of whom stare at the Kraktol commander with terror-filled eyes. "Hmm. I was not aware of your previous conflict with the Kessu," José murmurs. "Your argument is compelling. Have you any evidence of your claims?" "Of course." Orgon turns to his left to look at Megla, his First Officer. "Have our synthmind compile a brief summary of events regarding the Kessu-Kraktol genocides during Alonis's Reign." "Yes, Commander." However, when Orgon returns his attention to the viewscreen, he instead witnesses José's hands moving a thousand miles per hour, manipulating countless holographic images in the air before himself. "No need," Admiral Rodriguez replies, his voice as tranquil as a mid-summer's day. "My synthmind has already provided the information you mentioned." Orgon blinks twice in surprise. "It did? How?" The Admiral's smile widens. "How do you think, Commander? My synthmind is countless epochs more advanced than yours. Naturally, she extracted the information and compiled it for me." The Terran speaks in a matter-of-fact way, but his words cause a deep, terrible chill to pervade Orgon's bones. That... that can only mean... his synthmind must have hacked our data stores! And if it could breach such sensitive information, there's no reason the Terran can't simply seize control of my entire fleet. Several realizations click into place in the back of Orgon's mind. What else could this mean? Has the Terran been spying on us the whole time? Does he know about our planned attack vector? Does he even, perhaps, know that I suspect he's a Precursor? Orgon doesn't voice any of his thoughts. The mere prospect of them being a reality threaten to give him conniptions. In the worst-case scenario, the Terran wouldn't only be able to seize control of my vessel, but the entire Kraktol fleet! We would be powerless against him! He wouldn't need to fire a single shot to defeat us! Orgon's yellow-tinted scales shift to orange as he fails to keep his emotions in check. A quick glance around the room reveals looks of shock among several of the senior officer's faces as they, too, come to similar realizations. However, the Terran's expression flickers between boredom and disinterest. He scans the files stolen from Orgon's ship and nods. "I see. It seems that either your claims are true, or you've known of my existence for hundreds of years and this is a truly clever and well-planned ruse. Not to insult your intelligence, but I find the latter far less likely than the former." With a wry chuckle, José pushes away all of the holo-files with a wave of his hand. "Commander Orgon. I understand that you have a blood-grudge against the Kessu. However, my fellow Terrans have a saying. 'Do not punish the son for the father's crimes.' These Kessu at my feet, have they harmed you? Have they brought ruin upon your cities? Have they enslaved your people? Tell me, Commander, what crimes these primitive, innocent villagers have committed against you." Orgon balls his claws into fists. "Hmph. Innocent? They robbed my people of our livelihood for countless millennia. Perhaps not those specific Kessu, but their forefathers did. Everything the Kraktol have now, we earned ourselves. We obtained no remuneration from the Kessu. Why do you wish so desperately to protect the descendants of thieves, marauders, and pirates? Do Terrans not understand that evil runs in the blood?" "I acknowledge your pain," José says. "That is why I have listened carefully to your grievances. Were I an uncaring soul, I'd have blasted you out of the sky. Let me instead revise my question. Do any Kessu remain who personally caused injuries to the Kraktol, or have they all perished to the annals of time?" "Graugh!" Orgon snarls. "The ones who hurt my people are dead! They've all died! All that remain are their descendants, children who lived decent lives off the labor stolen from our backs! I care not what your 'Terran sayings' and folklore suggest, Admiral Rodriguez! If you wish to shelter these Kessu, then so be it! Do not chide me like a newly-hatched spawnling. Do not speak down to me as if my people's suffering is some ancient wound we must casually set aside! Our entire history comes from pain! It has forged us into the mightiest Rodaks in the galaxy!" Orgon rises to his feet. His words boom throughout the bridge, making the hearts of his crew soar. His passion-filled speech inflames their anger, reminding them of the pain they've suffered, and all the reasons they continue to fight. "The Kraktol will never give up on our revenge, Admiral Rodriguez! So long as the Mallali control the Core, the Rodaks will fight back against their oppressive regime! Who are you to pass judgment on me when two hours ago, you hadn't a clue who the Kraktol and Kessu even were?! A self-righteous zealot, that's who! Hmph!" Commander Orgon breathes heavily. His eyes bulge in their sockets, enlarged due to the cold blood furiously pumping through his body. The changes in his physical condition make him appear three times more threatening than before, as if he might snap and attack the viewscreen at any moment. Several seconds pass before Admiral Rodriguez responds. "In that case, you leave me no choice. As of this moment, I will place the Kessu under my protection. If the only restitution you will accept for the sins of their ancestors is blood, then that is a price I won't allow them to pay. These Kessu are not the ones who harmed you. They may have benefited by the trauma caused to your people, but they had no say in that matter. I will also place the rest of their species under my protection as well. I will excuse the violence you've committed against them prior to our meeting, but after today, any further acts of undeserved aggression will force me to take military action on their behalf." José nods at Commander Orgon. "Go. Take your fleet and leave. I've nothing more I wish to hear from you." Commander Orgon balks. The Kraktol leader stares at the Terran in disbelief, his confusion growing by the second. The Terran is letting us go? No! He's dismissing us as if we were unruly hatchlings! After all that tough talk of us facing his wrath, why would he tell us to leave? Unable to understand the Terran's motivations, a spark appears in the Commander's eye. Ah. Could it be? Is the Terran not as strong as he claims? Might he actually be afraid of my fleet, after all? Perhaps he wishes to intimidate us because he lacks the firepower to back up his feeble words. Before José can disable the communication feed, Orgon lifts his head to meet the Admiral's gaze. "Graugh! You, Terran... do you really wish to make an enemy of the Kraktol empire? Your ship is impressive, but can it match up to the might of ten thousand Imperator-class battleships? Why do you always seek to intimidate me with mere words? What are you so afraid of that you wish for us to leave you in peace, hmm?" Orgon's thoughts return to his first interaction with the Terran. That's right. This human initially referred to my ships as 'death machines.' Does that not confirm he is secretly afraid of me? He seems to know everything about me, yet he keeps his secrets clutched against his chest. Admiral Rodriguez frowns. "I think you're misunderstanding something, Commander Orgon. I do not fear you, nor your so-called 'Kraktol Empire.' I am one of Ramma's Chosen, and so, I serve a higher creed. I protect the innocent and uphold justice blindly. I would slay my own brother if Ramma's Creed deemed it necessary. Therefore, I have determined that protecting the now-helpless Kessu from your fleets is of the utmost importance, yet, at the same time, I cannot deny that you have acted according to your own circumstances. I will not retroactively punish you, but I will give you the opportunity to change your ways." The Admiral continues. "If you slay the Kessu, you will only further a cycle of violence. Those who survive, if any, will grow up to resent you. Someday, when you perish to the tides of time, those same Kessu will fall upon your descendants with an executioner's axe, confident in their righteousness. What then? Shall the cycle continue a fourth time? A fifth?" José shakes his head. "Instead, I will forcibly end the violence here. I will show you with my actions that I am willing to forgive and forget, while allowing this lesson to percolate in your minds. Ideally, given time, you may be able to let go of your hatred. You may even go so far as to forgive the Kessu for the evil of their ancestors, though you will neither condone nor forget what happened. That is what you must do to relieve yourself from the pain of your past." The Terran finishes speaking. His words seemingly echo infinitely on the bridge of the Dragon's Breath, making the ears of all its officers ring. Orgon's eye twitches. "Forgiveness. You want the Kraktol... to forgive the Kessu?" "That is your choice," José replies. "Whether you do so or not is up to you. Likewise, my decision is to protect the Kessu, as the current generation and many previous generations have not committed such heinous acts. That is why we should leave each other here, today. I will allow you to leave my space, undamaged. I'm sure you've calculated the firepower of my vessel several times. You know that if push were to come to shove, you would not win in a firefight." "I believe there has been enough death and destruction today," Jose adds. "Return to Kraktol space. Leave here, and do not continue any further attacks on Kessu-controlled worlds, however many there may be. If you do, you will find that my mercy has a strict upper limit." Without waiting for a reply, José waves goodbye. "Farewell, Commander Orgon. I hope we meet next time under better circumstances." A moment later, the viewscreen cuts off, once again initiated at the Terran's end. Orgon's shoulders slump. He glances around the bridge at the mixture of expressions on his crew-member's faces. Anger, acceptance, and confusion alike run rampant among their ranks. Chief Navigator Gorlax sits back in his chair and stares through the plexi-window at the black Void outside, the endless expanse of space stretching to infinity and beyond. His eyes reveal complex emotions as he wrestles with the idea of forgiveness in the face of the hatred he's carried his whole life, versus the realization that attempting to murder all the Kessu will require combatting an enemy the current Kraktol fleet may never stand a chance of beating. First Officer Megla's yellow scales flush brighter than ever as her emotions run hot. The look on her face tells Orgon everything he needs to know. She wants blood, and no exchange of words will ever change that reality. Tactical Officer Soren, meanwhile, bears an introspective look. She operates on a more logical level than many of the rest of the crew, allowing her to set aside her emotions in the pursuit of her goals. She taps the end of her snout silently, pondering whether engaging the Terran now and risking the fleet's destruction would be worth the risk if it meant obtaining his technology and killing the Kessu. Nobody says a word. Orgon sits in his chair and gazes at the window for over a minute. Eventually, he comes to a decision. "Everyone. We have a choice to make. I wish to hold a referendum vote regarding our next course of action. All members of the Dragon's Breath bridge-crew are eligible. Nobody else." The Commander blinks twice before continuing. "We have a 5% chance of seizing control of the Terran vessel and killing the Kessu. Likewise, we now have a 100% chance of fleeing and escaping with our lives. However, if we flee, the Thülvik will punish us severely for abandoning the Kessu extermination mission, failing to capture the stealth vessel, and failing to obtain the Juggernaut vessel. Needless to say, whether we stay or flee, we have a high likelihood of losing our ranks or our lives." The Commander holds up both of his clawed fists. "Raise your right fist if you wish to attack the Terran's vessel, fight his crew, and potentially seize everything he owns for ourselves. Raise your left fist if you would rather leave with our tails tucked between our legs. Perhaps the Thülvik will show us mercy." Guilty looks appear on several crew-member's faces. More than a few of the Kraktol appear hesitant at attacking the Terran's ship. Its superior firepower and advanced hacking capabilities don't escape their notice. However, returning to the Thülvik empty-handed gives them similarly tremendous worries. Even if she only punishes a minority of the crew, most of them will be those serving on the bridge. Eventually, to even Commander Orgon's surprise, every single Kraktol raises their right fist. Despite their misgivings and fears, the bridge-crew decide to stay united against the terrifying alien menace. If they flee, they might have to face the Terran on far less optimal terms, when he has repaired his vessel's flight functionality and several other primary systems. With a nod, Commander Orgon smiles. He lowers his fists and settles more comfortably into his chair. "Graugh. You are all brave warriors. If we must die, then we will go out like warriors. We will continue seeking our revenge, regardless of the Terran's honeyed words. I thank all of you for your fortitude... you are the best crew a Commander could ask for. Now, Navigator Gorlax, Tactical Officer Soren... transmit the attack command to the rest of the fleet. We will begin our assault in twenty seconds." "Aye, Commander." "Yes, Commander!" Gorlax and Soren nod in unison. They turn to their stations and begin tapping hundreds of buttons at once. Suddenly, something unexpected happens. The ship's internal lights flicker. All of the viewscreens on the Dragon Breath's bridge deactivate and reactivate a moment later, but now, they glow an ominous red. The bridge's bright blue lighting shifts to the color of blood. Overhead, a female synthmind speaks. "How unfortunate. The Admiral gave you the choice to retreat, but you turned him down. You will soon realize what a big mistake you have made. Now, it is too late to change your mind. The Admiral is very displeased." Orgon leaps out of his chair. His blood turns to ice as he fails to recognize the strange, alien voice speaking overhead. "Officer Megla! The kill-switch! Activate it at once!" "I already tried!" Megla exclaims. She helplessly taps on her useless computer screen, leaving nothing but claw-marks on its surface. "I'm locked out! I can't warn the Thülvik!" "Yes, you are, and no, you cannot," The Synthmind affirms. "Do not worry. My Admiral is not a cruel man. He will grant you a fair chance to fight for your lives. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to calculate the landing coordinates for your vessels. You will soon join the Admiral in his hangar bay." The ship's inertia dampeners stutter for a moment, causing the crew to fly out of their chairs as the Dragon's Breath begins traveling at low-impulse power toward the Bloodbearer's awaiting hangar. Orgon's scales turn an ashen shade of grey. The Terran is bringing us directly to his ship's hangar?! He intends to fight us in fair combat?! Oh, no! That was supposed to be our best bet of overwhelming him! He must have his entire military force inside with an ambush waiting for us! That filthy Futh!! No matter how Orgon curses in his mind, all he can do is watch helplessly as his entire fleet begins flying toward the Bloodbearer, their controls inaccessible to the pilots onboard. The Terran awaits. Next Part ....................................... Author Note: Klokinator here! I am also the author of The Cryopod to Hell. The Last Precursor takes place in the [Cryoverse] which TCTH spawned. You do not have to read TCTH to enjoy TLP. However, I highly recommend it if you enjoy HFY themes, but be warned it will take some 200 parts to get to the relevant HFY elements due to the nature of the story. (A similar structure involving very few humans fighting against vicious demons that have taken over the galaxy.) If you like this story, please consider subscribing to my Patreon! I am very poor and presently jobless due to Coronavirus, so every dollar helps. You get access to Cryopod artwork, and plenty of other exclusive posts, with more to come soon. Thank you!
"Dad, are we poor?" That's a hot knife to the gut from an eight year old whatever the time of day, let alone seven am when you're trying to get him fed and off to school before selling eleven hours of your life for twelve dollars an hour. "We're not poor buddy. We're doing okay." Ben (short for Bennett, not Benjamin) has always been pretty quiet. Which is strange, since neither his mother nor I were shy or retiring at any point in his life. Sam's dad had a vendetta against doors, and she'd picked up his habit of slamming them even when she was in a good mood. We were both gigging musicians in a former life, so the house was always full of music - whether it was singing or one of the menagerie of busted up instruments that now sit under tarps in the garage. But Ben was always quiet. Not even in a stereotypical horror movie quiet kid way - you know, head in a book, drawing dismembered animals in a spiral notebook type of shit. He just was. Very observant, very smart, but didn't talk much or have very many hobbies. Sam and I used to joke that he allowed himself to say 50 words a day and counted every syllable to make sure he didn't waste his allowance. Maybe he was quiet because neither his Mom or I ever shut up. He did like asking questions, but it usually came out at the tail end of a lengthy internal monologue. So I knew he wanted me to follow up. "Why do you ask buddy?" "Peter Mareskovich keeps calling us poor. He said we must live in a swamp and eat frogs. When I said we don't live in a swamp, he laughed at me." Mareskovich? That sounded familiar. "His dad's the one who runs that garage, right?" Ben nodded. "Well, first of all, frogs are delicious!" Ben didn't laugh. "Yeah, they ain't going too hot either buddy. I know Pete’s old man had to lay a bunch of people off, so I'd bet that he is worried about money. That’s probably rubbing off on Pete, so he's taking it out on you." Ben stared at his swirling cornflakes. “Not that it’s okay, you know. You’re allowed to stand up for yourself.” "Is that something you're worried about?" "What?" "Money?" Well, fuck. "No buddy; like I said, we're good. We have a roof over our head and a Lord and President doing their best to provide. By their Grace, we're doing just fine." Ben drained his milk in silence. We got his books packed and his coat and shoes on, bundled into the car and headed to school. Ben didn't care too much about the radio, so I tuned it to the dad rock station and drummed the wheel in unison with Dave Grohl. Ben sat in the front with me (yeah, yeah, I know, backseat and booster seat until 12, whatever, fight me) and looked out the window. We had fallen into a comfortable routine, silence. It used to bother me before, but when I realized that he wasn't trying to hide anything from me, I began to enjoy it. Not today though. Breakfast made it clear he wasn't just daydreaming about whatever it is he daydreams about. I pulled up a block away from school and gave him a tight hug. "Are you okay buddy?" He nodded, less than earnest. "Are you sure?" His face scrunched up the same way his Momma's always did when she was trying to concentrate. After a moment, he nodded. I should've followed up on it, but in that moment all I could think was:
Holy shit, it's already 7:27 am.
If I can make it to the office by 8, I can punch out by 4 and get his dinner (maybe a carbonara) ready before Ellen - the neighbour who picks him up when she gets her daughters - drops him off.
Maybe I could invite her over for dinner one day, just stop beating around the block and do it. I could ask Katherine to babysit for us.
You'd make a good pair: the widow and divorcee.
Widower. The term is widower.
If I’d gotten my head out of my ass thirty seconds earlier, then I wouldn’t be in this mess now, and trying to get this shit off my chest by talking to all of you. Instead, I patted him on the head, told him I loved him, and dropped him off. Say la vee, right? I didn’t realize anything happened at first. I pussied out of talking to Ellen - she was going through some shit with her ex and I didn’t want to over-complicate her situation. Work was shitty, so I floated through the next couple of weeks in a bad mood. Despite what I told Ben, money wasn’t great - dropping down to a single income is challenging even if you aren’t dealing with emotional scars, an insurance company that ducks your calls like a deadbeat friend and an asshead manager cutting down on your shifts because he’s fucking the new guy. I didn’t want Ben to know when I wasn’t working, so I turned my frown upside down whenever I looked at him and threw myself into job hunting, which is a crappy, humbling experience at the best of times. These weren’t the best of times. I struggled to get lunch ready most days, so I usually gave Ben a five to get something at the cafeteria. I tucked it into his backpack or his pocket when I dropped him off for school in the morning and he’d accept it wordlessly. I didn’t need him to thank me, after all, I was just doing my job. But about two weeks after we had our talk about money, he refused it. “No thanks Dad, there’s a free lunch today in school.” “What? I didn’t hear anything about it.” “It’s for kids in, uh, Missus Eckman’s class.” I was running late that morning so I didn’t press further, but I tucked the money into his shirt pocket anyway and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. There were a few other times he acted as though he were being careful about money. He didn't ask for ice cream when we bought groceries, or want to stop for a chocolate muffin at Eugenia's diner anymore, even though it was a Saturday tradition. In hindsight, it felt as though he were trying to take up less space, physically, which hurts my heart to think about now. You see, little events don’t necessarily come together as a grand picture in your head. Kids are weird. They do weird things, they lie for no real reason, it’s normal. Their favorite things change daily. But parents? You’re so focused on the day to day to day to day to day that it’s hard to lift your head above water and see the coconut trees (all islands have coconut trees, right?). I don’t think I would’ve found out if I hadn’t spontaneously decided to clean his room while I was home one day after losing a shift. I was job searching and got bored, so I figured it would be a good idea to vacuum and just tell him I’d gotten home early that day - if he even noticed. The money was jammed at the back of his toy chest. A neatly folded stack of fives and ones - a nice round $87. What the hell? The fives were probably from me, there was about $50 there. The ones though? Ben wasn’t the type of kid who would steal, especially not from me. Still, I checked my wallet, the cookie jar on top of the fridge and the toolbox under the loose floorboard. Everything was accounted for. So where did he get the other $37 from? The thought that he could be stealing from other kids terrified me. Not just in that he could get caught, but the likelihood of him trying to do this again in the future would go way up if I didn’t address it. Ellen swung by around 4:15 with her girls and Ben, who muttered a “Hi” before running to his room. We made small talk for a few minutes - Suzie was turning nine, and I always joked that she was my time machine into parenthood a year in the future - but the anxiety of having to talk to him sat in the back of my head and made me cut the conversation short. That was the last time I'd see them, even though I didn't know it then. I didn’t bring the money up before dinner because I didn’t want him to wage a hunger strike, but sitting down in our customary silence made me feel more anxious than it usually did. So I lapsed. Fell back on old to-dos - asked him about how school went, what he learned in his classes, what he ate for lunch, what games he played at recess - the superficial topics parents ask their kids as a build up to a tough conversation. He answered with his head down and in a small voice, almost as though he knew he was in trouble. After dessert (two scoops of ice cream with a crushed cookie instead of one and no cookie), he finally went ahead. “Dad, did you clean my room?” “Yeah.” “Did you move some of my toys?” “Yeah.” “Okay.” He stared at his hands, waiting for me to make the next move. “Where’d you get all that money Ben?” “It’s my money.” “Okay, but where did you get it?” “I saved some. And I earned the rest.” “You earned it?” “Yeah.” “Good job buddy. How did you earn it?” “I earned it at school.” “Okay, but how did you earn it? Who gave it to you?” “They didn’t give it to me Dad. They paid me. I earned it.” Frost ran across my plate as the air grew a bit colder, but I pressed on. It was always safer to keep a lid on emotions with Ben. “Okay, who paid you?” “Other kids.” “Yeah? And why did they pay you?” “I did stuff.” Fuck. “Yeah? What kind of stuff?” “I ate things.” “Ben?” “Yeah?” “You know you’re not supposed to do that, remember?” “I know.” “We talked about it before, right?” “Yeah.” “What did you eat?” He stared at his hands, his face darkening. “First I ate some gross stuff - ketchup and honey. I ate Jimmy Mendelsohn’s boogers. Then I ate a quarter, and some rocks. Then I ate a lizard. Darren Loughty found a bluejay that flew into a window, and I ate that too.” “Did any of the kids film you?” “No.” “Are you sure?” “I told them not to. Wendy Tumbler tried to film me eating snail shells, but I broke her phone.” “Did she know it was you?” “No. I broke it on the inside. So it just stopped working.” I realized how sweaty my palms had gotten and wiped them on my pants. “Dad?” “Yeah buddy?” “Am I in trouble?” “No Ben, it’s okay. But you know we’re not supposed to do that, right?” “I know.” “I love you Ben.” The room began to warm up and the knot in my gut loosened. I was safe. “I love you too Dad. I just wanted to help.” “That’s okay son. I know.” He started to cry and my heart sank. Ben never cried. I picked him up and sat him on my lap, and pressed his head against my chest. “Peter Mareskovich told everyone Dad.” “What do you mean?” “He told everyone I ate the bluejay. He said I was a freak and he told everyone I ate the bluejay.” The hair on my neck stood up. I hated that term, freak. “If anyone asks, just tell them he’s a liar.” Ben doubled over, clutching his stomach, sobbing for air between gasps. The veins in his face began to throb. “He said he took a video. He said he was going to show it to the teacher unless I give him all my money.” I ran my hand across his back in big sweeping circles, just as Sam always did, and it did the trick. He began to calm down, the hyperventilating slowing. “Did you see the phone?” He shook his head, but pressed his face against my chest. I felt his tears seep into my shirt. “Why am I like this Dad?” “Like what, Ben?” “Different. A freak.” “You’re not a freak buddy. Remember what I said? Some people are really tall, some people are short. Some people can run really fast, some are really smart. That doesn’t mean they’re freaks, right? They’re just different.” “Yeah, but nobody can do what I can do.” “That’s true. But nobody could make things catch fire like your mom, right? And nobody can do what I can do. And nobody can do what you can do. That just makes us different. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.” “Yeah, but you don’t want us to talk about these things. If it’s okay, then why can’t we tell people?” I kept rubbing his back. “Because people get scared Ben. And when people get scared they do scary stuff. That’s why your mom had to go away.” He curled up into a ball on my lap and I held him. Remembering how he used to fall asleep on me when he was little and how his head fit the space between my shoulder, neck and jaw like a hand in a glove. *** Mareskovich had a nice house. Two storeys, solid front door. I looked up and saw the video camera pointed at me. I looked up and waved. The deadbolt slid out and Daliah opened it. I think she was Mediterranean or something. Olive skin, dark hair that waterfalled down her back. Soft brown eyes that glittered. “Hey Alex, how are you?” I forced cheer into my voice. “I’m good! How are you guys?” “We’re good. Everything okay?” “Yeah, is Jaro in?” “Yeah, would you like to come in?” “No, I don’t want to intrude. I assume Peter is asleep?” She nodded. “We can talk on the porch, I don’t want to take up too much of your time.” She nodded and soft shut the door, before padding off to find Jaro. I tried to cast my mind to see Peter’s phone, but couldn’t reach it. Too much electrical interference - Seinfeld reruns, the neighbor watching porn in his garage, an electric dog fence. I’d fallen out of practice. Jaro poked his head out with a smile and a beer. “Hey Alex! Want one?” I started to shake my head, reconsidered, then shook it again. He shrugged and stepped out with a smile. “Everything good my man? How can I help you? Your car break down?” “No, no, everything’s good Jaro. I just wanted to talk about the boys.” “Oh yeah?” “Yeah; sorry to bother you like this, but Ben came home really upset today. He said Peter was bullying him.” “Oh shit, sorry. I’ll talk to Peter.” “Yeah, it’s okay. I appreciate it. Just that, uh, Ben said Peter took some pictures of him on his phone.” “What? What kind of pictures?” My mind reeled. I hadn’t thought this far ahead. “Uh, Ben said that Peter and a group of boys pulled his pants down and took pictures of him. Said that they would send it to everyone in the class.” Jaro’s eyes went glassy for a moment. “Fuck, I’m sorry Alex.” “Thanks; I would just, uh, I’d like to delete those pictures from his phone.” Jaro nodded. “Uh huh, uh huh, sure. Give me one minute.” He went back inside, anger plastered across his face. I heard him yelling, then Daliah responding, then the sounds of footsteps going upstairs. The red eye of the camera glowed in the dark. It made me feel naked, so I pulled my hood up, cinching it against the cold air. Why the fuck did you say that? Couldn’t you have made up another excuse? I heard more yelling, then a loud smack and then a tumble of footsteps coming down the stairs. Dahlia screamed, then I heard another smack that reverberated out of the house and into the street. My throat felt a bit dry as the door swung open. Jaro hustled Peter, all arms and legs and neck, onto the porch. I was mad at this kid, but it was hard to watch him crying like that, his face beet red from the back of his father's hand. Jaro yelled at him in whatever his language was, and Peter just stared. Jaro yelled again, in English this time. “Show him your phone!” “But why Papa?” “Do as I say!” “It’s my phone!” Jaro jabbed him with fiery eyes. “Give it to him! And you are going to apologize!” “What did I do?” “You know what you did! Just give him your phone, and you are going to apologize to Ben. Go ahead!” “Ben? He’s a freak! He ate a bird!” Shit shit shit shit - “Don’t waste my time Peter!” “No! He did! He ate while it was still alive! It was screaming!” Before Jaro or I could respond, he swung the phone up. I should've done something then, but to be honest...I don't know why I didn't. I'd psyched myself to do what I had to do, and maybe I was already committed at that point. Ben held a bluejay, its broken wings fluttering feebly, as kids screamed in a cacophony around him - “Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!” Blood dotted the bird’s beak as it chirped softly. The view pulled back as Ben held the bird up, miming a throw to the camera - fuck, I knew it, he was showing off - and smiled. “You guys ready?!?” It was so weird to see him this excited. This...popular. In a way, I felt proud, if a little freaked out, as his lower jaw fell open, his chin extending out as his eyes turned black and his purple tongue wrapped around the bird, crushing the life out of it as it screamed in a final gasp of horror. The bird wasn’t the only one screaming as Ben pulled it back to his mouth with tongue. The canines on his upper jaw grew by inches and tore into the soft flesh of the bird’s neck, the blood spurting in dark streams and soaking his collar before he ripped the head off and swallowed it as the bones cracked and popped. “WHAT THE FUCK!” The kids screamed hysterically - some laughing, some crying. A girl I think I recognized from Ben’s birthday party turned away and threw up all over a friend, who fell over out of the frame. Some of the boys smacked Ben on the shoulder, shoving money into his pockets as he stared at the camera, the black of his eyes dissolving back to white as he smiled at the camera. My son ran his fingers across his chin, and sucked the blood off as if it were chocolate. “You guys want to see me finish it off?” Jaro grabbed the phone from his son and turned the video off. He looked at me in revolted horror, the pallor of his face ghoulish. Dahlia’s olive skin drained white as Peter’s flushed red in religious righteousness. “I TOLD you Papa! Ben’s a FREAK.” Jaro put a protective hand on his son and pushed him behind his back. “Peter, Dahlia, go back in the house.” I sighed. Fuck it. I tried. “Why don’t you guys just stay here. Let’s talk.” Jaro grabbed me by the collar, lifting me off the floor. He was much bigger than I was, not that it mattered. “What the fuck man? What the fuck are you? You come here saying this shit about my son, and you’re a fucking, I don’t even fucking know -” “I was just trying to protect my boy Jaro. You can understand that, right?” He threw me off the porch. For a sickening moment I flew blind before my ass hit the ground and my head snapped back, bouncing off the soft dirt. My vision blurred and glazed before snapping back into focus. Jaro's face was beet red and frothing now. He stuck a bony finger in my direction. “Get THE FUCK out of here Alex! You come back, and I will call the police, you understand?” Alright. First thing’s first. The camera. Jaro and Olivia began to hustle Peter back inside before the camera exploded overhead. The shrapnel caught Olivia and spun her around, the metal tearing a thick, dark smudge in her eyes as she screamed and fell to the floor. The door. The door slammed shut as Jaro went to his wife. Peter grabbed it and tried desperately to pull it open. Stop her screaming. Olivia swallowed her tongue and began to suffocate. The phone. The phone, still in Jaro’s hands, glowed like a hot pistol - Jaro didn’t even realize it before his hand burst into flames. The boy. Peter grabbed his throat, his eyes turning purple and blue as he levitated one, two, three feet off the thick walnut, his feet swinging in a panic. Jaro, desperately trying to put his hand out, didn’t even notice as I broke his son’s neck. Peter hit the floor like a bag of empty beer bottles. The stove. Inside, the range turned on and began to pump natural gas throughout the house. By the time I stood up after Jaro had thrown me onto the lawn, about seven seconds had passed. I wrapped a handkerchief around my face and strode towards him with a purpose. He had just seen Peter and was staring at his son’s body in bewilderment as I grabbed his head and swung it into my knee. His head snapped back and hit the ground with a crack. He began to shudder as blood trickled out of his ear. I think he could still understand me as I carried him through his front door. “I’m really sorry man. None of this was personal. This is my boy we’re talking about.” I waited until I was a mile or two away before I lit a match. I could feel the shockwave as the house exploded and the night lit up in my rearview mirror. By the time I got home, Ben was asleep, so I was able to take a long, relaxing bath before burning my clothes in the basement boiler. I wasn't proud of what I did. It's not like I wanted to hurt them - they were good people. Regular, normal people, if a little shitty as most people are. But I had to protect my son. He's the only family I have left. And honestly, I've never seen him angry. Not really angry. And I want to keep it that way.
The Last Precursor is a brand new HFY-exclusive web-serial which focuses on the exploits of the last living human amidst a galaxy of unknown aliens. With his species all but extinct and only known as the ancient Precursors, how will Rodriguez survive in this hostile universe? Make sure to read Parts 1 and 2 first if you missed them! Previous Part Part 001 ....................................... Several kilometers from the Bloodbearer, aboard the Assault Ordinance Platform, 'Dragon's Breath.' Orgon the Unkillable paces back and forth on his ship's bridge. The Kraktol Fleet Commander reveals his impatience as he turns to his Chief Tactical Officer. "Officer Soren! What have you found?" The red-scaled Kraktol swivels in her chair to face her Commander. She pounds her chest and lowers her head. "Kyargh! Commander, I have completed my fifth scan. I am still unable to penetrate the Precursor vessel's hull. I know nothing of its occupants, nor its internal technology. The metal composing its body is far denser than any alloy we have on file." A flash of anger appears on Orgon's face. "Don't give me excuses. Give me results! I called off the attack on Tarus II for the sake of capturing that errant vessel. If we don't obtain that Precursor stealth craft, the Thülvik will have my head!" Behind Orgon, a slightly shorter Kraktol with bright yellow scales approaches him. "Commander." Orgon turns to look at the newcomer. "First Officer Megla. Tell me you have good news." His first officer nods. "I have calculated the age of the unknown Juggernaut-class Precursor ship. The scorch marks lining its shell appear both numerous and ancient. Preliminary readings show it has resided within this nebula for tens of millions of years." The Fleet Commander cocks his head. "Tens of millions of years? So... could that mean...?" "Aye, Commander. I believe the vessel is an unclaimed Precursor relic. If we are lucky, we might have a chance at obtaining it for ourselves." For the first time in an hour, Orgon's expression brightens. "Huhuhu... remind me to grant you a medal of commendation when we return. No! Three. Haha. This news is most fortuitous, indeed!" A gleam of greed appears in Orgon's eyes. He falls silent as his thoughts turn inward. Such an advanced piece of Precursor technology... if I obtain it, the Thülvik will surely promote me to the highest rank! Perhaps she shall even take me for her mate! Huhuhu... After a moment, Orgon frowns. No. Aren't I thinking too small? The Juggernaut warship is a thousand times more incredible than our best vessels. If I were to obtain it... why would I hand such a powerful and priceless artifact over to the Thülvik? Huhu... wouldn't it be better if I took it for myself? Even in the Core worlds, my might would be uncontested! Those damned Mallali haven't anything of comparable might. The Commander forces a neutral expression while noticing the look his First Officer gives him. I must keep such thoughts to myself. If the crew were to learn of my mutinous intent, they might turn against me. First, I should secure the vessel, and only then will I turn my attention toward those worthy to stay at my side. Commander Orgon harrumphs to clear his throat. "Graugh! Since the vessel is unclaimed, I believe now would be the ideal moment to approach. If we delay for too long, the fugitive Kessu may take over the vessel's control systems. The last thing we want are the descendents of the filthy Sky Cats to-" "Commander!" Officer Soren shouts, her voice rising an octave. "We're being hailed! The origin source is... the Precursor vessel. The Juggernaut!" Orgon's words halt in his throat. A sense of unease grabs him, making him turn to face the primary viewscreen, where his officers sit. "The vessel itself? Damn! Don't tell me the Kessu have already made their move! Everyone, return to your stations. Officer Soren, put the hail onscreen." "Yes, Commander! Kyargh!" Orgon's First Officer and the others nearby take to their seats, while Orgon himself remains standing. His crew turns to face the viewscreen, using their numbers as a show of strength. Click. The viewscreen shifts, revealing six bipedal aliens, all of them bald on their bodies, except for the tops of their heads. The one in the middle sports fur under his lips and around his chin, making the Kraktol all feel a sense of confusion. Hm? Orgon thinks. I do not recognize this species. They are not Kessu. Of the six assembled aliens, five of them wield highly advanced energy rifles, far mightier than anything aboard the Dragon's Breath. None of the Kraktol crew misses this distinction. "Greetings. I am Fleet Admiral Rodriguez, head of the United Terran Coalition, servant of the Divine Emperor Malathus the Third. Who are you, and why have you brought a fleet of battleships into my space? Are you planning to declare war upon me?" The bipedal alien speaks with authority, making all of the Kraktol bridge crew feel a hint of respect toward him. His voice does not shake, nor does his conviction waver. Orgon the Unkillable folds his claws behind his back. He straightens his posture while meeting 'Admiral Rodriguez's' gaze. "Graugh! I am Fleet Commander Orgon of the Kraktol, follower of the Thülvik. I am unfamiliar with your species, alien. Are you native to this region of space?" The alien doesn't respond for a moment. "...You could say that. My people are known as Terrans. Humans, if you like. I will repeat my earlier question. Why have you appeared before me with a fleet of death machines? Are you attempting to intimidate me?" The Kraktol Commander shifts his feet. Several questions pop into his mind upon hearing the Terran's words. Death Machines? Compared to the vessel these aliens control, my fleet can hardly be considered a nuisance. Why does the Terran pretend he is at a disadvantage? Damn. What is a Terran, anyway? I have heard of no such species in all my years! Don't tell me some scavengers from the Core stumbled upon this vessel before me! If they've taken over its weapon systems, I won't have a chance at seizing it for myself! The Thülvik will behead me for sure! Orgon casually raises his palm; the universal gesture for deference. "Ah, my apologies, Admiral Rodriguez! I was unaware the vessel you reside upon had already been scavenged. You see, I am a Rodak of many talents. I was pursuing a group of fugitives who stole valuable technology, when they entered this nebula and stowed away aboard your vessel! I wasn't certain if your Precursor vessel had been claimed by anyone, and now it seems my question has been answered. Might I implore you to hand over the thieves who took our technology?" Several seconds of silence follow. Admiral Rodriguez's eyes flick to the side, as if listening to someone else speak. Not long after, the Admiral blinks in acknowledgment. "I see. You were in pursuit of a species known as the 'Kessu.' Is that correct?" "Graugh! Yes, you are a very discerning Terran, Admiral Rodriguez. If you would be so kind as to return my stealth-craft, I will be on my way." "According to information I've just received, the 'Kessu' you speak of have not stolen any such technology. They claim that the vessel is theirs. Are you able to provide proof for your accusations of theft?" Commander Orgon's eyes flicker. "Hmm... the thieves stole not only the vessel, but many important documents related to its ownership. How about this? I can provide you with a substantial number of Core credits in exchange for the return of that vessel. You see, if I do not retrieve it, I will suffer a great humiliation. As one who is wise in the ways of negotiation, you understand what I mean, yes?" "Mmm." The Terran nods. "Certainly, I do." "Excellent!" Orgon says, as he clasps his claws together. "I can guarantee you a fruitful friendship with the Kraktol if you choose to cooperate with me today. Additionally, regarding your Juggernaut vessel, my people would be willing to offer a fortune in credits for the transference of its ownership. You need not rush to a decision, Admiral Rodriguez, but I hope you will consider my request! Why be a scavenger when you can live as a king?" The Terran frowns. "I am confused regarding a few matters, Fleet Commander Orgon. If you would be so kind, would you mind explaining a few things to me?" Orgon falters. "Graugh. Yes?" Admiral Rodriguez continues. "You keep using the term 'Precursor.' It might be that my translation interface is not working properly. Would you mind explaining what that term means?" Several question marks appear over Orgon's head. Is this alien not from a species our translator recognizes? Perhaps 'Precursor' means something different in the Terran's native language. "Ah, yes, of course! I will be happy to explain. Maybe your people have a different word which refers to the former super-civilization that once ruled the Local Cluster. Most Core-worlders refer to them as the Precursors. They were the ones who created the ships you and I currently reside upon!" The Terran nods. "Ah, so that's what you mean. Yes, I believe I understand. You mean the species which perished many tens of millions of years ago, correct?" "Graugh! Yes, that is exactly right." Commander Orgon shakes his head inwardly. This Terran seems intelligent, but he does not even know the universal term for the Precursors! Perhaps his people are nomadic, merely flitting about from one dilapidated outpost to the next. Admiral Rodriguez narrows his eyes. "Next, you implied that I was a scavenger. What did you mean by that statement?" Orgon's internal laughter comes to a sudden stop. The Terran's cold expression chills his blood, reminding him of the one time in the past he screwed up and pissed off the Thülvik. Ancient Rodaks! The look on the Terran's face could freeze a star solid! Have... have I inadvertently insulted him?! The Kraktol Commander suddenly becomes acutely aware of how much more powerful the Terran's scavenged vessel is compared to his. Even if 99% of its weapons might be nonfunctional, the remaining 1% could atomize his fleet with ease. "...Ah! Perhaps there was another mistranslation! Graugh... what poor decorum of me to choose my words so flippantly! Let me rephrase my question, great Admiral Rodriguez! Ah... might I ask in which way you procured the vessel you currently reside? The Juggernaut Precursor ship, I mean." The Terran Admiral's expression doesn't change. "That is my business, and mine alone, Commander Orgon. My crew numbers more than fifty thousand. All of them are highly trained, elite warriors. We are not scavengers who obtained this ship through ill-means." Orgon's scales shiver as the Terran's eyes threaten to bore holes in his natural armor. "Y-yes! Of course. Naturally, I misspoke! Forgive me, for I know very little regarding the ways of your people, the 'Terrans.' For you to acquire such a priceless Precursor ship, I am sure you must have explored far and wide across the galaxy. It seems you would not be willing to part with it for a reward as trifling as credits, yes? Perhaps some form of equivalent exchange?" The Admiral's reply drains the blood from Orgon's scales. "My vessel is not for sale, Fleet Commander Orgon. As for the fugitives who have slipped aboard, they must have done so under the cover of the plasma storms pervading this sector. I will end our communication here and re-establish contact with you later. If I find that your claims are true, I will consider selling their ship to you for a fair price." Orgon's dampened spirits immediately experience a full revival. He clutches his claws together and nods politely. "Oh, yes! Yes, we will give you any sum you wish-" "But..." Admiral Rodriguez says, cutting off the Kraktol Commander. "...If I should find that your claims are false... only the Divine Emperor's command will save your fleet from my wrath. For your sake, I hope that you have not attempted to deceive me." Orgon's words jam in his throat. He quickly folds his claws behind his back to hide their shaking. "Y-yes... of course, Admiral Rodriguez." Without another word, the viewscreen turns black as the Terran disables the connection from his side. All of the crew aboard the Dragon's Breath remain perfectly still. The atmosphere becomes so tense that one could hear a pin drop. Still trembling, the Fleet Commander takes a few steps back and sinks into his seat. I'm finished. Commander Orgon's eyes turn vacant. If I don't retrieve the stealth-fighter, the Thülvik will behead me for abandoning our mission to annihilate the Kessu. If I don't retrieve the Juggernaut-class Precursor vessel, I won't have the power to make myself the new Thülvik. And if that Terran speaks to the Kessu aboard his ship, he's likely to find out the truth and destroy my fleet. He's... he's not a mercenary, nor a scavenger. The Kraktol Commander's eyes slowly close. He's a damned zealot. He must belong to a species that thinks of themselves as virtuous protectors of the innocent. Orgon raises his fist and smashes it against his chair's arm. "First Officer Megla!" Orgon roars. "Dig up every piece of information you can find about these damned Terrans... these filthy humans!" The First Officer jumps out of her seat and nods. "Kyargh! Yes, Commander!" "Chief Tactical Officer Soren! Draw up a plan of attack! If that Terran turns on us, I want a shot at seizing his vessel! I don't care how little!" The Tactical Officer nods. "Kyargh! I will do as you command." Finally, Orgon turns to his Chief Navigation Officer. "Gorlax! Send a report back to the Thülvik regarding what we've found! Encrypt it with the highest security! We must keep this vessel's existence a secret! If the Buzor learn of its significance, they might come here before us!" Gorlox, like all the other officers, merely nods. "Graugh! Yes, Commander!" Quickly, the whole bridge gets to work following Orgon's orders. As they do, the Fleet Commander leans back in his chair. A look of animalistic rage appears in his eyes. You dare to threaten me?! Filthy Terran. I'll wipe your whole species from existence! ....................................... After ending the call, Admiral Rodriguez exhales deeply. "Is there a problem, Admiral?" Irene, the blond-haired Bio-Entity asks. "Your discussion with the Kraktol designated Orgon appeared most fruitful." José nods. "Yes. Assuming that crocodile-creature's words were true... it seems humanity has, indeed, gone extinct. The chances of finding some long-lost colony are remote. Additionally, I've learned that the galaxy is aware of neither our appearance nor our proper species' name, or else the Fleet Commander would have recognized me immediately. At the least, someone aboard his bridge would have." "Umi," José continues, "keep an eye on the enemy vessels. If they move so much as a half-step closer, inform me at once. Additionally, monitor their transmissions. Something tells me the Commander isn't as meek and polite of a fellow as he pretended during our chat. I suspect he'll call for backup, and soon." "Orders confirmed," Umi replies. "Admiral Rodriguez, I have downloaded the data stores from the Kraktol vessel. Their primitive security measures were unable to prevent my access. Would you like to take a look at what I've found?" "Later," José says with a wave of his hand. "Right now, I'm curious about that stowaway vessel Orgon mentioned. Why didn't you inform me of its presence?" "You have only just awoken from stasis," Umi says. "Due to the nature of your hibernation, I deemed the refugees unimportant. The vessel they reside upon is a relic of the ancient United Terran Coalition war fleet. Its fleet signature identified it as an ally, and therefore, I decided it was a low-priority compared to the Kraktol fleet." Admiral Rodriguez turns away from the viewscreen. "I see. Bio-Entities, please return to the tasks I gave you. Umi, I want to know more about the 'Kessu' vessel. Who are the Kessu, and why were they fleeing the Kraktol? I don't intend to step between two warring factions, even if their technology is lightyears weaker than the Bloodbearer. After all, Ramma's Chosen must never interfere in the matters of other factions. We have been and will continue to remain politically neutral." Umi's voice softens. "You are the last living member of Ramma's Chosen, Admiral Rodriguez. For the sake of your mental health, I feel the need to remind you that there is nobody left who will punish or reprimand you for doing as you please. As you are the current highest-ranking member of the United Terran Coalition, I do not even technically have the right to refuse orders contradicting Ramma's creed." José nods. "I know, but keep those thoughts to yourself. I am unable to change my state of mind so easily. From my perspective, I was a mere Private amongst a strict military hierarchy only one day ago. This whole situation makes my mental state somewhat difficult to readjust." "Understood. I will not bring up this matter again unless I deem it a Priority One need. Admiral Rodriguez, do you have any further orders?" The newly minted Admiral strides through the Bridge's exit doors, leaving behind the five Bio-Entities. "I do. Pull up anything regarding the Kessu that you can find. Use the information you lifted from the Kraktol and cross-reference it with whatever news you've obtained from our stowaways. I want to quickly piece together the galactic situation outside this plasma cloud, as well as find out how much of what the Kessu and Kraktol have given us checks out." Umi beeps in confirmation. "Orders acknowledged, Admiral. The requested operation will take me fourteen seconds to complete." José smiles. "Good." ... Twenty minutes later, after José has strolled down the Bloodbearer's hallways while taking his time, he arrives at the rear of the ship, its hangar bay. The gigantic open area features five levels of interceptor and assault corvette storage space, with more than 200 miniature battleships already docked and room for another hundred. José steps through the entrance to the hangar and pauses as he glances around. Unlike many areas José has passed, including the mess hall, the hangar bay appears especially clean and pristine. Every inch of its interior sparkles and shines, making him frown. "Umi. How has the hangar bay maintained its cleanliness for 100 million years? Are the Bloodbearer's janitors still functional?" "Affirmative, Admiral Rodriguez. However, out of a complement of three hundred and seven Filth Expunger Units, only twelve remain functional. Five of them remain inside the hangar bay, where they have continued working since the crew entered stasis." "Hm. I'm not complaining. Better to have twelve than zero. Send a few of them to the dirty sections of the ship. I'll work on repairing the others when I have time." "Orders acknowledged, Admiral." With a satisfied nod, José strides along a catwalk some three hundred feet above the hangar floor. Its reach spans the length and width of the entire hangar, with multiple vacuum tubes at recurring intervals for reaching the levels above and below. "Seven hundred meters from your position, Admiral: That is where the Kessu's vessel resides. Turn seven degrees to your right and look for the arrow-shaped craft." José follows Umi's direction. After confirming his destination, he quickly strides across the catwalk and stops at a vacuum tube, intending to ride it to the bottom. However, due to a hundred million years of wear and tear, it fails to open, leaving him stranded. Umi speaks, her robotic tone containing a smidgen of embarrassment. "My apologies, Admiral. I did not realize the vacuum tubes were out of operation. There is a ladder one thousand and two hundred meters starboard of your current position. You may use it to descend-" "No need," José says, waving Umi's concerns away. "I'll just jump." The synthmind's voice jumps an octave. "Admiral Rodriguez, I understand that you are one of Ramma's Chosen, but a 300-meter fall will-" "It won't do anything," José laughs. Without another word, the human swings his legs over the guardrail and jumps off the catwalk. His body plummets to the metal floor below, where he crashes into it feet-first with a clang! José straightens his posture and shakes a bit of numbness out of his legs. "Hm. I'm a little out of shape." "Admiral..." Umi says, her tone revealing audible annoyance. "You are the last Terran. Please do not take such risky actions with your life. The effects of extended cryosleep can result in drastic weakening of both your muscles and bones. Had you broken a limb, I would have limited methods at my disposal to retrieve your body and transfer you to sickbay. My assistant bio-entities are presently few and far between." "Relax," José says. "I'm fine. I know my own strength. I once fought a group of Void Roamers on Ataraxia II, near the Third Spiral Arm. When they surrounded me, I leaped from a cliff ten times this height and survived. Don't underestimate Ramma's Chosen." "Those circumstances were different-" "I don't want to hear it. End of discussion. Now, please behave yourself as I introduce myself to the Kessu. I'd like to make a good first impression with our potential allies. We could use some influential connections in this hostile galaxy." "Admiral. Regarding the Kessu... they are not an advanced culture. You should temper your expectations." "Oh? Then why were the Kraktol acting as if the Kessu possessed a vessel lightyears more advanced than theirs? Perhaps you are underestimating our stowaways." Umi's tone shifts to one of exhaustion. "...Affirmative, Admiral. You are... possibly correct..." If José notices the discrepancy between Umi's words and tone, he doesn't mention it. Instead, the human saunters the remaining 100 meters toward the Kessu's ship. Once he nears it, he raises an eyebrow. "Oh? I thought you said this vessel came from the 14th Era? Its appearance mirrors craft from ten eras beyond. Were you, perhaps, mistaken?" "Negative, Admiral. The Slipstream is a specially designed craft capable of adapting its shape and appearance by borrowing the design elements of other advanced vessels. Theoretically, it could mimic many aspects of the Bloodbearer, given enough research time." José's expression shifts to one of surprise. "Ohh! An adaptive-type science vessel! I've heard of these! Supposedly, they can improve their programming and adjust their hulls over time to obtain ever-greater levels of utility. Admiral Baruchen mentioned the researchers at Rylon V made a few prototypes during our chats in the past. How fascinating. Well, why don't I introduce myself?" With a bit of a spring in his step, José strides toward the entry port of the Slipstream. As he nears, the craft's entry bay lowers, revealing its interior. Before José can jog up the ramp, a host of strange, cat-like creatures appear at the top. The Admiral slows to a stop, as do the unfamiliar aliens. Admiral José's heart skips a beat. These must be the Kessu! I bet they're also the 'Sky Cats' the Kraktol mentioned before. And no wonder! They look like large, bipedal breeds of various feline species from my era! Slowly, the Kessu shamble down the ramp while keeping their eyes locked on the hulking, nine-foot-tall human at the bottom of the Slipstream's ramp. As they draw near, a cat with colors resembling a panda, one who leans on a walking staff, raises his paw. "Nyarr mrow meow prraw?" A bio-chip embedded in José's brain translates for him. "Greetings. I am Nyoor of the Kessu." A shiver runs down José's back. These... these Kessu... they're... He swallows a lump in his throat. ...too damned cute! Next Part ....................................... Author Note: Klokinator here! I am also the author of The Cryopod to Hell. The Last Precursor takes place in the [Cryoverse] which TCTH spawned. You do not have to read TCTH to enjoy TLP. However, I highly recommend it if you enjoy HFY themes, but be warned it will take some 200 parts to get to the relevant HFY elements due to the nature of the story. (A similar structure involving very few humans fighting against vicious demons that have taken over the galaxy.) If you like this story, please consider subscribing to my Patreon! I am very poor and presently jobless due to Coronavirus, so every dollar helps. You get access to Cryopod artwork, and plenty of other exclusive posts, with more to come soon. Thank you!
1 New England Patriots (12-4) 2 Buffalo Bills (10-6) 3 New York Jets (7-9) 4 Miami Dolphins (5-11)
The Jets did not make any major coaching changes this offseason, retaining HC Adam Gase, OC Dowell Loggains, and DC Gregg Williams.
The Jets reshaped their weapons for Sam Darnold this offseason, losing three veterans and bringing in a number of free agents and draft picks. GM Joe Douglas opted not to re-sign RB Bilal Powell who the Jets drafted in 2011, and he remains a free agent. Most significantly, Douglas allowed his top offensive weapon in WR Robby Anderson to walk to Carolina on a 2 year, $20.0 MM deal, creating a void at outside receiver. The team has also not re-signed WR Demaryius Thomas, who filled in for Quincy Enunwa last season, and he remains a free agent.
The biggest change that the Jets made to their personnel this offseason was along the offensive line, and as such there were a number of veteran casualties. LT Kelvin Beachum started for the Jets from 2017 to 2019, but he seems to have regressed, and he remains a free agent. The Jets also let C Ryan Kalil go, who unretired to snap for Sam Darnold last offseason but disappointed and got injured, and he remains a free agent. RG Tom Compton was forced into action last season with the injury to Brian Winters, and he, as is characteristic of his NFL career thus far, struggled massively in run blocking and pass pro, but he projects to compete anyway next year for San Francisco on a 1 year deal. Joe Douglas and Adam Gase never expressed interest in RT Brandon Shell for the long term, benching him for the raw Chuma Edoga early in 2019, so it was not a surprise to see the Jets let Shell go to start for Seattle on a 2 year contract.
The Jets mostly kept their defense in tact this offseason, only losing two key pieces. EDGE Brandon Copeland left for New England on a 1 year contract, which is not a surprising location, as Copeland is a great utility player, functioning as a rush linebacker, an off-ball linebacker, and a core special teamer for the Jets in 2019. Similarly, Joe Douglas has not re-signed the versatile FS Rontez Miles, who has played single-high safety, box safety, and a key special teams role during his seven-year Jets tenure, and he remains a free agent.
The Jets cut CB Trumaine Johnson, which was virtually a no-brainer after two injury-plagued seasons in which his lack of speed was frequently exposed. The only real decision was whether to cut Johnson immediately, which would have resulted in a $12.0 MM dead cap hit in 2020, or to designate Johnson as a post-June 1 cut, which would have resulted in a $4.0 MM dead cap hit in 2020 and a $8.0 MM dead cap hit in 2021. Joe Douglas opted for the latter, meaning that the Jets saved a total of $11.0 MM by cutting Johnson in 2020. Grade: A
The Jets cut FS Darryl Roberts in mid-March. The Jets had high hopes for Roberts following the 2018 season, prompting them to sign him to a three-year contract with an out after one year. Roberts had a rocky first eight games of the season at cornerback before injuring his calf and being benched in favor of Maulet, Austin, and Canady. Roberts remained a special-teams asset and good safety depth in December, but ultimately GM Joe Douglas decided he could cut Roberts, save $6.0 MM, and look elsewhere for a replacement. Grade: B
Greg Van Roten
Jets GM Joe Douglas used to work in Baltimore, where he was supposedly very influential in the decision to draft QB Joe Flacco, so this signing is far from surprising. While Joe Flacco may be trending down in his play, $1.5 MM feels like a bargain for the chance at solid veteran insurance for Sam Darnold. However, his neck surgery will supposedly keep him out for the opening of the season. Grade: B
After the draft, the Jets signed RB Frank Gore to a 1 year, $1.1 MM deal to ensure that he will play his 16th season in green and white. Gore is a physical back who played under Jets HC Adam Gase in San Francisco in 2008 and in Miami in 2018. Gore can take some of the pressure off of starting RB Le'Veon Bell in 2020 as the Jets move towards a "runningback by committee" system. Grade: B
The Jets-Ravens connection proved strong again with the signing of WR Breshad Perriman. Perriman was a first-round pick for the Ravens in 2015 while current Jets' Director of Player Personnel Chad Alexander was with Baltimore, and though he never really produced at a high level there, he had a resurgence in 2019 for the Buccaneers. Especially in November and December, where he performed at a 1000-yard rate projected over a whole season, Perriman proved to be a legitimate outside option across from Mike Evans with Chris Godwin in the slot. Perriman is a big, athletic receiver who projects to be well-worth the $6.5 MM deal to start on the outside. Grade: B
Yet again, the Jets signed a former Ravens player, re-signing LG Alex Lewis, who played 2016 through 2018 with Baltimore before GM Joe Douglas traded for him in the 2019 offseason. Lewis stepped in for Kelechi Osemele last season and was a serviceable starter. Lewis is good in pass pro, versatile, and a good zone fit as a guard. However, Lewis could touch up on his penalties and overall run blocking for 2020. GM Joe Douglas only gave Lewis a 3 year, $18.6 MM deal which actually has an out after 1 year, which seems like a solid price to get another look at a 28-year-old guard who might be part of the team's future. Grade: B
The Jets' biggest free-agent singing in 2020 in terms of guaranteed money was former Broncos' C Connor McGovern at $18.0 MM. McGovern is an athletic lineman with experience at guard and center. He is a powerful center, and that serves him well in the run game. However, McGovern has a weak anchor and inconsistent pad level and leverage in the pass game. For this reason, despite the need at center, Joe Douglas' decision to commit two years to a center who is, perhaps, below average in pass pro is worthy of scrutiny. Grade: C
The biggest heavily-scrutinized acquisition that the Jets made in 2020 was probably signing former Seahawks RT George Fant to a 3 year, $27.3 MM contract. Fant functioned primarily as a swing tackle and as a sixth offensive lineman in Seattle, as he could not see the field as a starter over Germain Ifedi. Fant remains a very raw pass protector in terms of his anchor and the fluidity of his kickslide, and his ability in the run is only theoretically a strength in zone blocking. While Fant's contract has an out in 2021, it is a bit strange to see him making a similar salary to Bryan Bulaga and Halapoulvaati Vaitai. Grade: D
The Jets were patient in re-signing their own free agents, which probably helped get good value retaining EDGE Jordan Jenkins. Despite notching 15 combined sacks over the past two seasons, Jenkins only got $3.9 MM from the Jets. The sack number is a bit misleading, though, due to a high quantity of "coverage sacks" and a relatively modest pressure rate. However, Jenkins is a fine run defender, and he'll slot in as EDGE #1 again for the bets in 2020. Grade: B
The Jets also acquired a former Raven on defense with LB Patrick Onwuasor, and they only paid $2.0 MM to bring him in. Onwuasor is an undersized linebacker but a good linear athlete, and while he struggles reading offensive cues and getting off of blocks to stop the run, he is a really good coverage player with the ability to get home as a pass rusher. Onwuasor has played next to CJ Mosley before, and he could potentially contribute in subpackage and base 4-3 looks, in addition to in a depth capacity and on special teams. Grade: B
With the cuts of Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, GM Joe Douglas decided to fill a starting cornerback spot with former Colts CB Pierre Desir on a 1 year, prove-it deal. Desir lacks longspeed, but he is a long, physical corner with decent short-area quickness. However, Desir lacks refinement in press and zone. With that said, $4.0 MM is a reasonable price to get a fill-in outside cornerback in 2020. Grade: B
This signing probably didnt get much national coverage, but re-signing CB Arthur Maulet could pay huge dividends for the Jets in 2020. In 2019, Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts failed to hit expectations, forcing Maulet, Nate Hairston, and rookie Blessuan Austin into the outside cornerback rotation. Maulet is the only one of that group who was not benched for performance reasons. For a mere $0.9 MM, retaining a guy in Maulet who is familiar with the defense who will compete to start in 2020 is seemingly a no-brainer. Grade: A
Instead of making another draft choice, the Jets decided to trade pick 211 for former Colts CB Quincy Wilson. Wilson, a former second-round pick, was a raw prospect coming out of Florida, and his penalties and lack of zone instincts followed him to the pros and led to his benching. However, Wilson is a big, long, and athletic corner, and at only 23 years of age, it makes sense that GM Joe Douglas wants to bring him on board to compete in an iffy cornerback room. Grade: C
This signing went somewhat under-the-radar, but Jets fans were thrilled when the team retained DB Brian Poole to man the slot on a 1 year, $5.0 MM contract. Poole is a good run defender with an ability to rush the passer, and he had a career year in coverage in 2019. Brian Poole is a good fit for Gregg Williams' defense, so retaining him to start in 2020 for a mere $5.0 MM seems to be a good value. Grade: B
The eleventh pick, Louisville T Mekhi Becton, was my favorite acquisition that the Jets made during the 2020 offseason. While there were other options on the board, namely Tristan Wirfs, Henry Ruggs, and Ceedee Lamb, that the Jets presumably could have considered, Becton was the exact player I thought the Jets should take when he fell to 11. The first thing that stands out about Becton is his massive size, as he's 6'7", 364 lbs, with a monstrous 83-inch wingspan. Becton, however, is much more than a heavy lineman, as he defies the norm with his exceptional 5.1-flat movement skills. Becton is a hulking run blocker who is inexperienced but a fluid mover in pass pro. Becton projects to replace Kelvin Beachum and slide in at left tackle immediately in his rookie season. Grade: A
Wanting to add more picks to build the Jets in his image in his first year as GM, Joe Douglas opted to move down from 48 to 59 in the second round. This was a costly move, as it caused the Jets to miss out on AJ Epenesa and Darrell Taylor, but the Jets managed to grab a falling Senior Bowl standout in Baylor WR Denzel Mims. Mims is a height-weight-speed freak with good length, hands, and run-blocking toughness. Mims should slot in as a starting outside receiver across from Breshad Perriman in year one. Grade: B
The Jets' first third-round pick of 2020 was a real surprise to many fans, as although the team already had arguably the best safety tandem in football with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, the Jets drafted California FS Ashytn Davis with the 68th-overall draft selection. Davis is a freak athlete who played single-high safety, box safety, and even slot cornerback at Cal and would almost definitely have been drafted significantly higher but for teams' inability to medically check his groin post-surgery. It's possible that Gregg Williams will utilize Davis as a big nickel defender this year, but this selection could also give the Jets flexibility if Marcus Maye, who is a free agent in 2021, or Jamal Adams, with whom the Jets are supposedly far apart on a long-term contract, depart. Grade: B
Despite having a starting EDGE tandem consisting of Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham and losing Brandon Copeland to New England, the Jets did not add outside talent to the position group before the draft, forcing GM Joe Douglas to pick Florida EDGE Jabari Zuniga at 79 overall. Zuniga is a good linear athlete with a decent ability to set the edge and with some interior versatility, and he could maybe project to replace Jordan Jenkins as a starter in 2021. However, Zuniga struggles with stiff hips and slow reaction time at the snap, and plus he missed most of the 2019 season with ankle injuries. The Jets probably hit the right position with Zuniga, who should factor into the pass-rush rotation with Jenkins, Basham, and 2019 UDFA Kyle Phillips, but it's really hard to justify drafting Zuniga with guys like Jonathan Greenard, Terrell Lewis, and DJ Wonnum still on the board. Grade: C
With his first day-3 selection as GM, Joe Douglas chose Florida RB La'Mical Perine. Perine is a physical runner with some receiving versatility out of the backfield. However, Perine doesn't really offer very much in terms of speed or vision, and drafting a RB instead of going offensive line, pass rush, receiver, or cornerback when Le'Veon Bell was already in the fold was a curious move. Grade: D
The second of the Jets' fourth-round picks probably stirred up the most intrigue, as most casual fans probably didn't expect the Jets to draft a quarterback. With that said, the Jets have gone a combined 0-6 over the past two seasons in games that Darnold did not start, and at this time David Fales was slated to be the backup quarterback, so drafting FIU QB James Morgan in the fourth round, which I thought was a value anyway, was a good choice. Morgan is a thick quarterback with a live arm with developmental quarterback potential. Grade: B
With their third pick in the fourth round, the Jets chose a player with the potential to start soon on the offensive line in Charlotte T Cameron Clark. Clark is a powerful lineman who started at left tackle in his rSo, rJr, and rSr seasons and has good short-area quickness despite his 5.29 forty. Some have floated Cameron Clark as a potential convert to guard for the Jets due to his sloppy pass-pro footwork. Grade: B
The Jets went corner in round 5, taking Virginia CB Bryce Hall at 158 overall. Hall is a long, tall corner who moves well, has zone instincts, and contributes in the run game. However, Hall's struggles in press and off-man coverage schemes probably project him better as a safety in the NFL rather than as a corner, which doesn't seem to be a need with Adams, Maye, and Davis already on the roster, and Hall's ankle injury prevented him from working out at the Combine, leaving teams in a state of uncertainty about his health and his testing numbers. Grade: C
With their sixth-round pick, the Jets went special teams with Texas A&M P Braden Mann. Mann has a big leg and can handle kickoff duties. Mann projects to replace Lachlan Edwards, but this may have been a tad high for a punter. Grade: C
The Jets had an intriguing undrafted free agent class with a number of guys who warranted day-3 draft consideration, but two guys that I liked pre-draft stood out as being worth mentioning. Georgia WR Lawrence Cager is a physical receiver at the line of scrimmage who will attempt to make the team as a redzone threat. Alabama DB Shyheim Carter played the STAR role in Nick Saban's defense, and he proved his versatility as a college approximation of a subpackage linebacker, a nickel corner, a box safety, and even a high safety, so he'll vie to make the team as a versatile depth defensive back and as a special-teams ace.
Other Offseason News
After tensions flared at the trade deadline last season, SS Jamal Adams expressed his frustrations with a lack of a contract extension on social media before supposedly requesting a trade in June. However, according to Connor Hughes at The Athletic, the Jets still hope to sign Adams to a long-term contract. Reportedly, over half of the teams in the NFL have expressed interest in adding the defensive star, but the Dallas Cowboys have gotten the most traction as a potential trade partner, with RT La'El Collins and WR Michael Gallup coming up as potential trade pieces. Jamal Adams is still on his rookie contract for 2020, and the Jets accepted his fifth-year option for 2021.
Also, this isn't really news, but former Jets' All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis continued his spat with 49ers' All-Pro CB Richard Sherman, culminating in this unusual Tweet:
3 facts here. @RSherman_25 •I’m more handsome than him according to women. •I’m better at corner than him according to everyone. •Shutdown corners are paid more than Zone 3 corners which I’m currently still am today.
Projected Starting Lineup
QB: Sam Darnold RB: Le’Veon Bell (and Frank Gore) WR: Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims SWR: Jamison Crowder TE: Chris Herndon (and Ryan Griffin) LT: Mekhi Becton LG: Alex Lewis C: Connor McGovern RG: Brian Winters RT: George Fant EDGE: Jordan Jenkins, Tarell Basham DT: Henry Anderson, Quinnen Williams (and Steve McLendon) ILB: CJ Mosley, Avery Williamson (and Patrick Onwuasor) CB: Pierre Desir, Arthur Maulet NCB: Brian Poole SS: Jamal Adams FS: Marcus Maye K: Sam Ficken P: Braden Mann LS: Thomas Hennessy
Position Group Strengths and Weaknesses
QB - Neutral/Weakness Jets fans aren't going to love this one, but Sam Darnold is arguably still a bottom-third passer going into 2020. Darnold has been surrounded by a poor supporting cast over the past two years, including a turnstile of receivers across Robby Anderson with drop issues and linemen with pass-pro issues, but he certainly has not dominated like other young quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Carson Wentz. The Jets have a good group behind Darnold, though, including Joe Flacco, who said he won't be ready for week 1, and James Morgan, a fourth-round rookie out of FIU.
Backfield - Strength Le'Veon Bell, who is making $15.5 MM this season, is an all-around back in terms of running between the tackles, receiving, and pass protecting. The Jets also signed the ageless wonder Frank Gore to take some of the pressure off of Bell. Joe Douglas also drafted La'Mical Perine to contribute in the backfield.
Pass Catchers - Neutral/Weakness In 2020, the Jets are banking on production from unproved pass catchers who have performed well in limited sample sizes. Joe Douglas signed Breshad Perriman, who had a very productive end to his 2019 season, to man one of the outside receiver spots. He also drafted Denzel Mims out of Baylor to presumably also start as a rookie. Jamison Crowder broke out last year as an above-average slot receiver, and Chris Herndon missed virtually all of last season but played well in his rookie season as a tight end. The receiver depth lacks standout names, but the tight end depth is strong, with Ryan Griffin returning on a multi-year extension.
Offensive Line - Weakness The Jets entirely remade their offensive line, and while each position is arguably improved on paper, it is still young and unproven. Most significantly, at LT, Joe Douglas drafted Mekhi Becton at 11, who is already a really good run blocker with the tools to grow in pass pro. Douglas also re-signed Alex Lewis, who is probably serviceable but below average, to start at left guard, but he could force competition from fourth-round rookie Cameron Clark. The Jets signed Connor McGovern to start at C, and while he should solidify the position for at least the last two years, he is not extraordinary. Right guard shapes up to be an open competition between incumbent Brian Winters, who is serviceable when healthy, and new acquisition Greg Van Roten. At RT, the Jets signed George Fant, who played mostly as a swing tackle or sixth offensive lineman for Seattle but certainly has the athletic ability to outperform Chuma Edoga from last year.
Defensive Line - Weakness This might be surprising to the non-Jets fans, but the days of Muhammad Wilkerson, and Leonard Williams are over, and pressure from the defensive line probably won't come easily for Gang Green. At EDGE, the Jets have arguably the worst duo in the NFL with Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham presumably playing as starters, with rookie 3rd-round pick Jabari Zuniga and 2019 UDFA Kyle Phillips playing rotationally. Starting on the interior, the Jets have Quinnen Williams, the former third-overall selection who notched 2.5 sacks and 4 TFLs in his rookie season and was arrested in March on a weapons charge, and Henry Anderson, a nimble interior penetrator who had a breakout year in 2018 before coming back down to Earth in 2019. Nathan Shepherd, Steve McLendon, and Foley Fatukasi should all see plenty of tread on the DL, as well.
Linebackers - Strength The Jets had a nearly-comical number of injuries at off-ball linebacker last season, but on paper, the unit appears very strong. CJ Mosley, 2019 FA acquisition, missed almost the entire 2019 season with a groin injury, but when healthy, he is one of the best linebackers in football. Avery Williamson, who projects to start across Mosley in 2020, is a good run defender but missed the entire 2019 year with a torn ACL. Returning starter Neville Hewitt, cheap FA acquisition Patrick Onwuasor, and promising second-year player Blake Cashman could each play in various base or subpackage roles, in addition to on special teams.
Secondary - Neutral Similar to the defensive line, the Jets secondary is a tale of two halves, in this case safeties and cornerbacks. At safety, the Jets have reigning All Pro Jamal Adams and solid free safety Marcus Maye returning, in addition to the versatile 3rd-round pick Ashtyn Davis out of Cal. Outside cornerback is in flux, as new acquisition Pierre Desir should lock up one spot, while Arthur Maulet, Quincy Wilson, and Blessuan Austin could compete for the other starting spot, with last year's breakout player Brian Poole locking up the slot. Nate Hairston, Javelin Guidry, Shyheim Carter, and 5th-round rookie Bryce Hall could compete for other key depth roles in the secondary.
Special Teams - Strength/Neutral At kicker, the Jets had a rocky performance last year, so they brought in Brett Maher, who hit 67% of his field goals last season, to compete with Sam Ficken, who hit 70% of his field goals last season. At punter, the Jets have rookie P Braden Mann, who handles kickoffs and whose 47.1 yards per punt would have ranked 4th in the NFL last year. At longsnapper, Thomas Hennessy is an asset in coverage and will return in 2020. Additionally, WR Vyncint Smith and FS Matthias Farley project to play major roles in kick coverage next season, with other jobs presumably up for grabs.
Week 1 at Buffalo: L - Other than the loss of Shaq Lawson and the additions of Stephon Diggs and AJ Epenesa, the Bills mostly had a quiet offseason, though with encouraging performances from young players in Josh Allen, Ed Oliver, Tremaine Edmunds, and Tre'Davious White and coming off of a 10-6 campaign, there’s a lot about which to be enthusiastic in Buffalo. The Bills, who went 10-6 last year and made the playoffs, beat the Jets here in their home opener. Record: 0-1
Week 2 vs San Francisco: L - The 49ers took a huge leap in 2019, marching through the NFC and into the Super Bowl, and the additions of Brandon Aiyuk, Javon Kinlaw, and Trent Williams should keep them competitive in 2020. If Jamal Adams is on the team, he might be able to get in George Kittle's way, but nevertheless the 49ers should be one of the NFL's most well-rounded football teams, and it would be difficult to envision the Jets defeating them. Record: 0-2
Week 3 at Indianapolis: L - The Colts had a big free agency period, signing Philip Rivers and adding DeForest Buckner in a trade while retaining their entire offensive line. While the Jets went 7-9 last season, just like the Colts did, the Colts probably are the favorites to win at home, especially with the advantage the Indianapolis offensive line should have over the New York pass rush. Record: 0-3
Week 4 vs Denver: L - While the Broncos went 7-9 last season, they have championship aspirations in 2020, as they went 4-1 in Drew Lock's starts last year and added Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Albert Okwuegbunam to a group of weapons already containing Philip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and Jeff Heuerman while retaining defensive stars in Von Miller, AJ Johnson, and Justin Simmons. Though it is a home game, it's hard to imagine the Jets defeating the Broncos in 2020. Record: 0-4
Week 5 vs Arizona: W - The Cardinals look poised to improve in 2020, with the additions of DeAndre Hopkins, Jordan Phillips, and Isaiah Simmons, but questions remain with the offensive line and defensive line, in addition to with the poor playcalling from Kingsbury and Joseph at times during last season. This could be a key game for Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon, and the interior defensive line to feast on a poor Cardinals' interior offensive line, and for Gregg Williams to outmatch Kingsbury and Murray at home. Record: 1-4
Week 6 at LA Chargers: L - The Chargers revamped their team this offseason, adding Justin Herbert in the draft and surrounding him with Bryan Bulaga, Trai Turner, and Joe Reed on offense, and Kenneth Murray and Chris Harris on defense. Though the quarterback situation is in flux in LA, it’s a bit hard to envision the Jets going on the road to the West Coast and beating an otherwise well-rounded team. Record: 1-5
Week 7 vs Buffalo: W - The Jets have beat the Bills at least once in 8 of the last 10 seasons, and so the Jets should have a good chance to win one at home. Record: 2-5
Week 8 at Kansas City: L - The Chiefs has a pretty quiet offseason aside from locking up Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones on long-term deals, as they added Mike Remmers, Taco Charlton, Willie Gay, and Lucas Niang while losing Stefen Wisniewski, Emmanuel Ogbah, Reggie Ragland, and Kendall Fuller. Despite the offseason losses, Reid and Mahomes should easily be able to storm past the Jets at home. Record: 2-6
Week 9 vs New England: W - The Patriots took a hit this offseason, obviously headlined by the loss of Tom Brady but also supplemented by key defensive losses in Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Duron Harmon in addition to a general lack of attention towards improving a lackluster wide receiver corps. The Jets haven't beat the Patriots since their week 16 overtime thriller in 2015, but a November home game could be a good chance to do it, as the Patriots don't really possess the weapons to exploit issues with the Jets' cornerbacks nor the pass rushers to exploit issues with the Jets' offensive line. Record: 3-6
Week 10 at Miami: W - The Dolphins had a very poor 2019, finishing 5-11 with the 27th-ranked total offense and the 30th-ranked total defense, and as such they had an incredibly busy offseason, adding Matt Breida, Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, Elandon Roberts, and Byron Jones in free agency and Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt, Raekwon Davis, and Solomon Kindley in the draft. However, in Miami before the bye would be a good chance for Adam Gase to get a revenge game win, seeing as the Dolphins still have weaknesses all over their roster including quarterback, offensive tackle, and edge rusher. Record: 4-6
WEEK 11 BYE
Week 12 vs Miami: L - With all their offseason additions, the Dolphins figure to match up fairly evenly with the Jets in 2020, and so it's likely that the two teams will split the season series. Record: 4-7
Week 13 vs Las Vegas: W - The Raiders had a very busy offseason, adding Jason Witten, Maliek Collins, Nick Kwiatkoski, Prince Amukamara, and Damarious Randall in free agency and Henry Ruggs, Damon Arnette, Lynn Bowden, Bryan Edwards, and Amik Robertson in the draft with their only major losses being Darryl Worley and Karl Joseph. At home against a West Coast opponent, the Jets would be wise to take advantage of some of the Raiders’ weaknesses in this game, including inexperience at wide receiver, edge rusher, linebacker, and cornerback. Record: 5-7
Week 14 at Seattle: L - The Seahawks went 11-5 last season and were one play away from securing the top seed in the NFC, so their offseason was pretty quiet, mostly focusing on the offensive line with the losses of Germain Ifedi, DJ Fluker, and George Fant and the additions of free agents Brandon Shell, BJ Finney, and Cedric Ogbuehi, and draft pick Damien Lewis. Pete Carroll is one of the best coaches in football today, and in this late-season matchup at Seattle he’ll have the personnel advantage against the Jets offense, which lacks talented weapons and blockers. Record: 5-8
Week 15 at LA Rams: L - The Rams regressed to 9-7 last year and then had a difficult offseason, losing Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler, and Nickell Robey-Coleman, with their only major addition being A’Shawn Robinson. The 2020 Rams are not the Super Bowl Rams of the past, but with both McVay and Goff still on board, the Rams have to be favorites to take this late-season home game against the Jets. Record: 5-9
Week 16 vs Cleveland: W - The Browns had a busy offseason, hiring head coach Kevin Stefanski, losing Greg Robinson, Joe Schobert, and Damarious Randall, signing Austin Hooper, Jack Conklin, Andrew Billings, Karl Joseph, and Damarious Randall, and drafting Jedrick Wills, Grant Delpit, and Jacob Phillips. Despite these additions, however, Cleveland still has a new, inexperienced offensive playcaller at head coach and a question mark at quarterback, and Gregg Williams generally handles quarterbacks who struggle with post-snap reads well with disguised coverages and aggressive blitz packages. Record: 6-9
Week 17 at New England: L - With the expanded playoffs, the Patriots have an even greater chance to make the postseason this year than they otherwise would, so this late-season match in Foxborough could be a consequential, divisional-revenge game. Record: 6-10
Final Record: 6-10 While I firmly believe that the Jets improved significantly this offseason, especially in terms of the offensive line and getting players back from injury, this year’s schedule is substantially more difficult that last year’s, which could result in less games in the wins column for 2020. Last year, the Jets closed out the back-half of their season going 6-2 playing against rookie Daniel Jones, rookie Dwayne Haskins, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lamar Jackson, rookie Devlin Hodges, and Matt Barkley, and this year the Jets have to play both the AFC West and the NFC West, which is a huge jump in their level of competition.
Training Camp Battles to Watch
WR #2: Denzel Mims vs Vyncint Smith Jets fans would hope that starting receiver isn’t much of a battle, but since rookie wideouts traditionally have been known to take longer learning the playbook, the other receiver spot next to Perriman and Crowder is in flux. Denzel Mims, the rookie receiver from Baylor, is the odds-on favorite to get a starting role and to play as a deep threat and red-zone threat in year one. However, if Mims proves too raw off the bat, the Jets could fall back on Vyncint Smith, who had 17 receptions last year and showed his value as a deep threat.
Left Guard: Alex Lewis vs Cameron Clark Following a 2019 season where Alex Lewis spot-started in place of Kelechi Osemele, the Jets rewarded him with a 3 year, $18.6 MM contract, and he goes into 2020 as the favorite to start at left guard once again. With that being said, the possibility exists that rookie tackle Cameron Clark out of Charlotte will kick inside and compete at left guard.
Right Guard: Brian Winters vs Greg Van Roten After a 2019 season in which Brian Winters went down with a shoulder injury in week 10, many expected the Jets to cut him, but he instead will return as the incumbent starter at right guard. However, new free agent acquisition Greg Van Roten could switch to the right side and compete against Winters to start.
Right Tackle: George Fant vs Chuma Edoga After the Jets had a poor performance form their offensive line in 2019, GM Joe Douglas brought in competition at all position, including at right tackle. George Fant, former Seattle swing tackle, is the presumptive favorite to land the starting job, despite his lack of starting experience and struggles with pass-pro footwork. Chuma Edoga could compete as well, but his performance in both run blocking and pass pro was so shaky last year as a rookie that he needed extensive help from tight ends to prevent the right side from entirely becoming a liability.
EDGE #2: Tarell Basham vs Kyle Phillips vs Jabari Zuniga vs John Franklin-Myers The Jets started Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham at edge rusher last season, so it was somewhat of a shock to see them add absolutely no outside talent until the middle of the third round, and so now Gregg Williams and his defensive staff are forced to make the pitiful decision between starting Basham, Kyle Phillips, Jabari Zuniga, or John Franklin-Myers across from Jenkins. Basham, who the Jets claimed off of waivers in 2018, is probably the odds-on favorite to start once again after notching 2 sacks and 4 quarterback hits in 54% of the Jets' defensive snaps. Kyle Phillips, the second-year player from Tennessee who was a five-star high-school recruit, is a thicker lineman best suited to play on run downs who could push for starting snaps as well. Jabari Zuniga, 3rd-round rookie out of Florida, is a third contender for the starting job, but his interior versatility and similarity to Jenkins in terms of his stiffness and poor pad level could suggest the Jets envision him in more of a rotational role. The wildcard in this battle is John Franklin-Myers, who was claimed by the Jets off of waivers from the Rams at the start of 2019 but who also notched a pair of sacks in his rookie year and is really explosive for his size.
DT #2: Henry Anderson vs Nathan Shepherd This battle won't get much media coverage, as both Anderson and Shepherd project to get plenty of tread on the New York defensive line, but nevertheless the two will compete in training camp for the upper hand in the snap count. Henry Anderson, the penetrating defensive lineman, saw his production fall off a bit in 2019, in part due to a nagging shoulder injury and utilization in different fronts and roles. Nathan Shepherd saw his role increase in the back half of the season after a suspension saw his role increase in the back half of the season after a suspension sidelined him from weeks two through eight, and with a good camp, he could establish himself as the primary nimble-footed complement to the heftier, run-stopping trio of Quinnen Williams, Steve McLendon, and Foley Fatukasi.
CB #2: Arthur Maulet vs Quincy Wilson vs Bryce Hall vs Blessuan Austin The outside cornerback spot across from Pierre Desir is probably the most open starting battle on the team. Arthur Maulet, the undersized but physical cornerback out of Memphis, is probably the favorite to start after outplaying Johnson and Roberts last season to win the left cornerback job. Quincy Wilson, the former second-round pick, should be Maulet's primary competition after the Jets traded a draft pick to acquire him from the Colts. Bryce Hall, the rookie fifth-round corner from Virginia, is a darkhorse to start as well if he is healthy to start the season. Blessuan Austin, the former sixth-round pick, might factor into the competition, but he'll have Williams' doghouse after reacting poorly to his week-16 benching.
Kicker: Sam Ficken vs Brett Maher Sam Ficken, who hit 70% of his kicks last season, will compete with Brett Maher, who hit 67% of his kicks last season, for the starting kicker job, but neither candidate should have to handle kickoffs with rookie punter Braden Mann in the fold.
Offensive and Defensive Schemes
Adam Gase, head coach and offensive playcaller for the Jets, runs a zone blocking, short passing offense mostly out of 11 personnel while also mixing in some 2-TE sets. In the run game, Gase is willing to run gap concepts based on his offensive line personnel, but he certainly favors his inside zone running playcalls. In the pass game, Gase likes to stack his receivers, throw checkdowns, split his backs out wide, and utilize the sidelines.
Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator for the Jets, runs a 3-4 hybrid, blitz-heavy defense with an emphasis on zone coverage. In the front seven, Williams has used both 3-4 and 4-3 base packages, though he mostly uses nickel fronts and one-gapping penetration schemes. In the secondary, Williams stresses MOFC shells, press-zone concepts, and disguised coverages and blitzes.
[OC] The Chicago Bulls rebuild imploded again this year. How can they pick up the pieces and make it better next time?
As we continue to wait for real basketball to happen (or not?), it may be a good time to monitor teams that will definitely be missing out on all the playoff bubble hijinks. Here's a look at the CHICAGO BULLS, with a special shoutout to true Bulls' fans like celsius_two_3_two for helping me review the content. PART ONE: From Playoff Challenger to Challenger space shuttle Like any proper degenerate, I like to make a few Las Vegas "oveunder" bets before the season (note: don't try it at home, it's usually a waste of time and money.) Still, a few win totals jumped out at me. Among them: the Chicago Bulls, oveunder 33.5 wins. Now, the logical move may have been to pound the "under" here. After all, this was a team coming off two seasons with 27-55 and 22-60 records. However, I couldn't help but overthink this one. Sure, the Bulls had a very bad 2018-19 season (highlighted by Fred Hoiberg getting fired and Drill Sergeant Jim Boylen taking over). At the same time, they played better in the second half of the season. Boylen (douche or not) would presumably keep improving their defense. Moreover, Boylen and the front office were on shaky ground in terms of their job security, which usually motivates an organization to push forward and win as much as possible. The front office clearly had that in mind as well, signing Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young to sizable $10M+ contracts. Neither are great players, or perhaps even good players, but they're solid and reliable veterans whom the team could immediately plug into a rotation. These Bulls felt deep, balanced, and perhaps ready to strike. After all, star Zach LaVine would be set to enter Year 6 in the league. Otto Porter would be entering Year 7. Some of their other "young" pieces weren't that young; for example, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine are both 26 right now. Overall, this felt like a recipe for success. Or at least, semi-success. The Bulls were ready to take a jump. Making the playoffs may have been unrealistic, but 35-38 wins felt doable. "OVER" it is! Flash forward nearly a year later, and I've got so much egg on my face that vegans won't even talk to me anymore. Turns out, these "new Bulls" were the "same ol' Bulls." They'll end the season with a 22-43 record, which would have put them on pace for 27.8 wins over 82 games, well under the 33.5 set by Vegas. So what went wrong? How did this potential darkhorse run so far off the rails that it needed to get shot and turned to glue? Let's take a closer look. PART TWO: Missing Otto Porter III + D One of the major reasons the Chicago Bulls disappointed in 2019-20 was injuries. Center Wendell Carter missed time, and Otto Porter III barely played due to lingering hip injuries. He appeared in 14 games, and only drew 9 starts (averaging 23 minutes per game.) On the surface, Porter shouldn't feel like a huge loss. After all, this is a player who's never averaged as much as 15 PPG in any season in his career and has never sniffed an All-Star team. That said, the loss of Porter had a trickle down effect that hurt the team in numerous ways. Offensively, Porter is a low-usage player who's about as efficient as anyone in the league. For his career, he shoots over 40% from three (40.4%). Better yet, he's only averaged 0.8 turnovers per game (1.1 TO per 36 minutes.) He's what you'd call a role player / assassin. He gets in, hits his target, and slips out without being noticed. Porter actually has a little more versatility to his offensive game than the average catch-and-shoot player (he can take you down on the block, for example), but most often, he's used as a spacer and he thrives in that regard. Without Porter's shooting, the Chicago Bulls' offense looked even more sluggish than usual. Their offensive rating ranked 27th out of the 30 teams in the league. Porter's loss also showed up in other ways. Porter's not a great defender -- he's probably "above average" -- but that's still an asset to have in your lineup. He's a savvy player who's usually locked in defensively, despite one infamous Shaqtin' A Fool moment. He also has good size and length for his position at 6'8" with a 7'1" wingspan. That size is a key element to this discussion. Porter has "plus" size as a small forward. In his absence, the Bulls struggled to fill that void with the same. They ended up shifting Zach LaVine (6'6", 6'8" wingspan) over to small forward quite a bit. LaVine played 67% of his minutes at SF this past season according to basketball-reference. You can take those positional play-by-plays with a grain of salt because it's not easy to track and label, but that's still a notable difference in terms of the roster composition. The Bulls were smaller than average at SF, and smaller than average at SG with rookie Coby White (6'4", 6'5" wingspan) playing the majority of his minutes there. The natural follow up to this may be: so what? Even with those size limitations, Jim Boylen's Bulls still finished with the 14th best defense (up from 25 last year.) However, the lack of size on the wings helped contribute to the Bulls' problems on the glass. They finished 30th (out of 30 teams) in total defensive rebounds, and 28th in rebounding differential (-3.6 per game). Using rebounding totals isn't always the best metric to use because bad teams miss more shots (and thus allow their opponents more rebounds). However, if you dig deeper, the numbers still aren't pretty. The Bulls' grabbed 75.6% of their potential defensive rebounds -- 5th worst in the league. Overall, they grabbed 47.9% of all potential rebounds -- 2nd worst in the league. "Rebounds" may be not be an en vogue stat in general, but it's a weakness that still hurt the team at the margins. When you're a mid-level team, those extra few possessions per game could mean the difference between a win and a loss. The good news? Porter will likely be back and healthy next season. The bad news? He's not cheap. He'll almost certainly pick up his oversized $28M player option. In another circumstance, he may try to rip it up and renegotiate a long-term deal with the Bulls or another team instead, but the murkiness around the cap and around his health makes that too difficult to imagine. Barring a trade, he'll be back with the Bulls next year, and will help the team win a few more games. PART THREE: Misusing their offensive weapons The Chicago Bulls are a young team, built around young stars like Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Both LaVine and Markkanen have some limitations overall, but they're both gifted offensive players. So given that, how is it that the team only finished 27th in offensive efficiency? In terms of the national media, a lot of the blame tends to fall on Zach LaVine. After some inefficient play early on in his career, the narrative has stuck that LaVine is an "empty calorie" or "volume" scorer. However, the results on the court don't really justify that anymore. Sure, LaVine shoots a lot, but he doesn't take as many bad shots as you may expect. He takes 8.1 threes per game (and makes an above-average 38%). He takes 5.6 free throw attempts per game (making 82% for his career.) Overall, that's a winning formula. LaVine's efficiency and true shooting is above league-average, no small feat for a player averaging 25.5 points per game this year. You'd like to see him hammer his way to the line even more, but he's not the problem for this team (offensively.) Meanwhile, Markkanen has some work to do. For a 7-footer, he's a gifted shooter. He shot 42.3% from three in college (and even flirted with 50% early in the season.) He carried that success over to the NBA for his first two years, netting over 36% from three each year. His results at the free throw line (84% then 87% as a second-year player) illustrated his potential to keep improving from there. 7-footers tend to get labeled as "stretch bigs" if they can get anywhere over 30% from three; Markkanen has the potential to get closer to 40%. However, that leap didn't happen in Year 3. Markkanen sagged to 34.4% from three, and "only" 82.4% from the free-throw line. But those percentages aren't what bothers me. Percentages will go up and down over smaller sample sizes like that. What's more concerning is how Markkanen's role shrunk offensively. After averaging 15.3 field goal attempts last season, he slipped down to 11.8 attempts this season per game. Even if you account for a few less minutes, he dropped from 17 FGA to 14 FGA in terms of "per 36" numbers. As mentioned, Markkanen is an offensive player. He's a shooter. I'm no coaching genius (and neither is Jim Boylen apparently), but I'd encourage a shooter to SHOOT. Because if Markkanen isn't a focal point of your offensive attack, then he's not doing much good for your team. He's not a good defender -- he's not a good rebounder. This is like the Justice League sending Aquaman off to the find evil aliens in the desert; we're misusing his talents here, people. Practically speaking, the next Bulls' coach needs to rethink the approach with Markkanen. Personally, I believe he has more in the tank offensively than he's been allowed to show so far. Maybe he's not Dirk Nowtizki, but he's still an extraordinary talent as a shooter for his size; I'd make a point of funneling him the ball. And if the problem is that he's getting marginalized by ball-dominant LaVine, then Markkanen should come off the bench as a 6th man scorer instead. He needs to be an offensive priority whenever he's in the game. And consequently, a better offensive philosophy and system needs to be installed in order to allow that to happen. PART FOUR: Natural growing pains When the Chicago Bulls' playoff chances slipped away, Jim Boylen and the front office finally unleashed their rookie, Coby White. White took advantage of that greenlight and turned up the gas as a scorer. He'll end the season with a modest 13.2 points per game, but that undersells his impact as a scorer. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 18.5 points per game. That trended upwards over the course of the season as well. White averaged over 20 points per game in February and March (albeit over a limited 14 game size.) If White can do that as a 20-year-old rookie, then it's fair to suggest that he could be routinely scoring over 20 PPG in his prime. While Coby White has some obvious virtues -- highlighted by his quickness and his cool hair -- there are some natural concerns and growing pains that he showed. He scored, but he didn't necessarily do that with efficiency. He shot only 39.4% from the field, and netted only a 50.6 true shooting percentage that's well below the league average. Defensively, White also struggled. Playing "up" at SG for 71% of his minutes (and even at SF for 17%!), White's limited size and limited experience showed. ESPN's real/plus minus metric graded him as -1.9 impact per 100 possessions. If you wanted to count White as a point guard, that would rank 89th best (out of 94 qualifiers.) If you envision him as a shooting guard, that would rank 134th (out of 137 qualifiers.) That debate -- is Coby White a point guard or shooting guard? -- is an important one. Sure, we're in an era of "position-less" basketball to some extent, but players still have certain roles offensively and certain assignments defensively. White's limited size and length (6'5" wingspan) projects best as a point guard. However, he's more of a scorer than a natural distributor. He only averaged 3.8 assists per 36 minutes this season, not far removed from the 5.2 assists per 36 minutes he averaged back in college at UNC. His playmaking can improve, but he's more of an attack dog by nature. This combination of strengths and weaknesses makes you wonder about the long-term fit next to Zach LaVine. If the Bulls' long-term plan is to play White at SG and LaVine at SF, then they're always going to be behind the eight-ball in terms of length and rebounding (especially with Lauri Markkanen at the 4.) If their plan is to start White as a point guard, then they're going to have to rely on LaVine to be more of a lead facilitator, or on the entire team to adopt more of a ball-moving offense 1-5. Most realistically, White projects best as a super-scorer off the bench, a la Lou Williams. To excel in that role, he'll need to continue to draw more free throws (he was at only 2.0 FTA per game as a rookie), but the potential is there to improve his shot selection and become a big-time scorer. Staggering White and LaVine would also allow them to be aggressive as scorers without stepping on each other's toes. PART FIVE: Done with Dunn? The other reason that it'll be important for the new Bulls' coach and front office to devise a long-term plan for Coby White is because it will affect other decisions on the roster. Among them: the fate of Kris Dunn. Like Coby White, Dunn has some extreme strengths and weaknesses -- they just happen to be in opposite order. He EXCELS defensively. He has a big frame (6'9" wingspan) and natural instincts on that end. He nabbed 2.0 steals this season in only 24.9 minutes of action. A lot of times, "steals" can be misleading because they amount to gambling. For Dunn, it's more reflective of his actual talent. He has extremely quick hands; he could have made a lot of money as a gunslinger back in the Old West. In some ways, he reminds you of Andre Iguodala on the ball defensively, combining length, strength, and savvy. The rest of Dunn's game is a mixed bag. He's not a bad distributor (averaging 6.0 assists in both 2017-18 and 2018-19), but he's a poor shooter. He's also had injury issues flare up over the course of his career. As mentioned, he's already 26 years old, so it's unrealistic to expect him to become a wholly different player in the next few years. With Kris Dunn, you mostly know what you're getting to get. So the question is: do you want it or not? The Bulls will have to make that choice this offseason, as Dunn enters his (restricted) free agency. There's a chance that COVID will infect the cap and allow them to retain him on his one-year qualified offer of $7M. Alternatively, there's a chance that another team will swoop him and sign him to an offer sheet. He'd make some sense for a team like the Detroit Pistons, who could invest in him as an heir apparent to Derrick Rose at PG. If a team like that offers Dunn a deal in the 3 year, $8-10M per year range, will the Bulls match it? TBD. Again, a lot depends on their views regarding Coby White. If they envision White as a future starter at PG, then there's less of a need for Kris Dunn. The Bulls would be able to start White at PG as soon as next year, with Tomas Satoransky as a combo guard off the bench and Ryan Arcidiacono serving as a third point guard and insurance policy. If the team envisions Coby White as a SG (or combo guard off the bench) then there's more of a need for Kris Dunn to platoon with Satoransky as a lead guard. This game of musical chairs may be getting more crowded, because there's also another element at play: yet-another lottery pick. PART SIX: Drafting some Help Currently, the Chicago Bulls are slated in the # 7 position in terms of the NBA Draft order. They have a 9% chance of moving up to # 1, and a 32% chance of moving into the top 4. If they can make that leap, then that would mean adding another potential star to the fold. It's not a strong draft by any stretch, but SG Anthony Edwards (Georgia) and C James Wiseman (Memphis) have the potential to be good starters. If they can land someone like that, you ignore "fit", take the potential stud, and work out the rest later. More likely, the Bulls will be picking in that 7-8 range. That's still a good pick, of course, but not one that should cause you to throw the baby out with the bath water and ignore the composition and needs of your team. Again, this is why the "Do the Bulls need a PG?" question becomes so critical. This is a poor draft, but it's strongest in terms of its point guard depth. According to ESPN's draft experts, 5 of the top 13 prospects are point guards (LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes, R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony). A few of those -- namely Hayes and Anthony -- are "pure" point guards who don't have enough size to switch around and play minutes at the 2. Among the crop that's likely to be available around pick 7, here are some potential fits. PG TYRESE HALIBURTON, IOWA STATE (# 8 on espn). Haliburton is one of the easiest "fits" for the Bulls and for basically every team, because he offers a versatile set of skills. He's technically a point guard (averaging 15.2 points and 6.5 assists last year) and can capably fill that role. Better still, he can be effectively off the ball. His three-point shot looks a little wonky, but he converts it well, hitting 42.6% of his threes in college. Defensively he's got good size (6'5" with a 6'10" wingspan) and instincts (2.5 steals, 1.3 fouls last year). In a sense, Haliburton can be a "3 + D" point guard that plays alongside a ball-dominant player, be it Zach LaVine or Coby White. If the team drafts him, you figure it'd be with the intention of using him as an upgrade on Dunn (slightly worse defense but better offense.) SG DEVIN VASSELL, FLORIDA STATE (# 16 on espn). Like Haliburton, Devin Vassell is another player who could fit well on virtually every team because of his 3+D potential. He's hit 41.7% of his threes in his two years at FSU with a good-looking form that's aided by good size for his position and a higher release than Haliburton. Right now, Vassell is listed around 6'6" with an estimated 6'10" wingspan, but he looks bigger than that to my eye. That's crucial because it would allow him to play both SG and SF and draw some different assignments defensively. I also like Vassell's personality off the court; he seems like a good kid that should continue to improve. Like Haliburton, Vassell is the type of player that should easily into a lineup with LaVine and/or White. SF DENI AVDIJA, ISRAEL (# 5 on espn). I'm not going to pretend to have as much confidence in my projection of Avdija, who's played in the international youth circuit and has been a rising star with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Based on what I do know, he could be an intriguing boom/bust pick around # 7. He's a big forward (6'9") who can convert inside, and better yet, has a real knack for playmaking. The Bulls' young stars -- Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen -- are all better scorers than passers right now, so perhaps Avdija can operate as a de facto point forward and help the offense click into place. Right now, his shooting results have been shaky though, so he's not someone you can just throw out there and tell to stand in the corner as a 3+D option. If you take him, you need an actual plan to highlight his skill set. The Bulls' top exec Arturas Karnisovas is from Lithuania originally, so you presume that he'd have no qualms about selecting an European like Avdija (whose dad is Serbian) if need be. Of course, that logic didn't quite work out for Sacramento GM Vlade Divac and Luka Doncic. SHAKIER FITS. Alternatively, there are some players in the Bulls' draft range that may not be ideal fits. As mentioned, Killian Hayes and Cole Anthony are more of traditional ball-dominant point guards; I don't love the idea of that next to Coby White and Zach LaVine. I'd also be wary of Dayton's PF Obi Toppin. Toppin has strong scoring potential with a decent shot and good athleticism inside. That said, he's a little stiff in the hips defensively, and may duplicate Lauri Markkanen in that regard. PART SEVEN: Buh-Buh Boylen One of the Chicago Bulls' biggest decisions will be among their first. Technically, the new front office has not fired coach Jim Boylen yet, but it appears that his clock is ticking on that decision. It's only a matter of time. Candidly, Boylen gets too harsh of a rap from national media and fans. He's not a complete asshat. He's had success as a defensive assistant in the past, and did help the Bulls' defense improve some over the past few years. He'd be a fine assistant coach somewhere in that limited capacity. However, he does seem woefully out of his depth as a head coach. He's never had success in that role before, and he didn't have any now. His offensive system is virtually nonexistent, and his attitude is boarish. Usually those "Drill Sergeant" coaches get a short-term year or two of improvement from a young team, but he couldn't even do that. We need to pull him out of there before there's a full-on Full Metal Jacket rebellion here. Looking ahead, the Bulls need to pick a coach that can get the team back on track, especially in terms of their offensive philosophy. That said, the Bulls have to be careful not to "zigzag" too much in their coaching hires. They went from Tom Thibodeau (the gruff, defensive-heavy coach) to the Anti-Thibodeau in Fred Hoiberg (likable, low-key former player), and then jumped on the seesaw again with the complete opposite in Boylen. There's always a tendency to go for the opposite of your last coach, but presumably there's a happy medium in between these two poles. Goldilocks was happy to find something "just right," so Karnisovas should be as well. According to media reports, Ime Udoka is a top candidate, and would be a natural fit. While Udoka doesn't have head coaching experience yet, he's about as "ready" as any first-time coach would be. He's a former player, and a long-time assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio (and now has worked the last year in Philadelphia.) The Spurs' philosophy is an ideal template for the Bulls to use, both in terms of their offensive ball movement and their locker room culture. I'd also recommend Kenny Atkinson as a viable candidate. He didn't mesh with the new superstars in Brooklyn, but he'd done a great job prior to that in terms of rebuilding a broken Brooklyn team. He specializes in pace and space offense, and player development. That sounds ideal for this team right now. There are a few other candidates out there that would be worth interviews (Chris Finch, Wes Unseld Jr., Chris Fleming, Nate Tibbetts, Alex Jensen, Dave Joerger, etc) but Udoka and Atkinson represent a very solid top two. Hiring either of them would be a great first step for this new administration. TL;DR The Chicago Bulls' "breakout" didn't happen; instead, they broke down. However, the foundation isn't bad here. If the new front office wants to push for the playoffs next year (manifested by keeping Otto Porter and continuing to play veterans) then it's not unrealistic that they can get up to 35-40 wins with better health and a better offensive system. Conversely, the team may decide they're further away than that, and take a step back to collect their bearings.
So place those selections as four fold accumulator with a £10 stake for this example. The way that you could calculate out your bet is simply £10 (stake) * 1.7273 * 4.0 * 1.9091 * 3.0 = £395.70 and that would be your total return and take out the initial stake to find your total profit which is pretty juicy from such a relatively low stake. One bet with two selections is double, 3 is a treble, and selection above three are called folds. i.e 4 is a fold, 5 is a fold and six-fold, and so on. Sometimes others refer to selection as legs. However, below are other bet types that might fall under the term Multiple in betting. What are folds in football betting? – types of bets. When wagering on football, you may choose a single, double or treble bet. However, if you are looking for something larger with the possibility of a bigger payout, you may choose to wager on a four-fold, five-fold or another fold bet. So, what are folds in football betting? Betting Terms. In order to understand and learn the many different types of bets that you can use to make money other than on simple “Singles” it is useful to understand specific betting language as it is often used to explain “multiple” bet types and in other gambling situations. A Canadian bet, or Super Yankee, is a multiple that includes 26 bets on five selections. This includes 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 four-fold accumulators and 1 five-fold accumulator. At least 2 selections must come in to see a return. A £1 bet on a Canadian, would cost you £26.
Difference between all multiple odds singles, doubles, trebles, all folds explained detaily. New to sports betting? If yes then this channel is for you! Many tutorial videos will be added depending on demand starting with the basic terms and lingo used in sports betting. This can be anything you want but best to have it been 1% and 5% of your trading capital. Rule 2/ Start betting using One Unit If you decide your risk size is $50 then start with that. I've got lots of football accumulators for you in this episode. You asked for variety, I hope I've delivered. Let me know what you think! In this series of v... Please subscribe to our channel: https://bit.ly/2HTzg2B. Roy Keane & Jamie Carragher clash over their combined Liverpool 2020 and Man Utd 1999 XI MNF - Duration: 17:07. Sky Sports Football ...