The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Bug Fables is Paper Mario TTYD but a little better AND a little worse - and that's high praise!
Lil intro: So Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an indie game, put together by Panamanian dev duo Moonsprout Games, to follow the legacy of the original two Paper Mario games. Now as someone who would name Paper Mario 2 in my top 5 games since it came out in 2004, I'm happy to report Bug Fables is an excellent successor to that legacy and the few negative comparisons that can be made seem to me to be the result of the difference in scale of available resources between Nintendo and Moonsprout. The prologue and first chapter introduce the explorers league and the three main characters who enlist together to further their own goals, which are given time to gestate while the world and characters are established. The player characters, a standard trio of an honour-bound knight, a feisty rogue, and a dry humoured, aloof mage, are tasked with adventuring across the lands of Bugaria to collect MacGuffins by the Ant Queen's royal blade Maki. This typical plotline is interrupted and diverted in interesting ways, and the trio of different attitudes keep the dialogue fresh. It's especially nice to see the trio's dynamic shifting as they grow closer. All this to say the writing is about on par with Paper Mario 2, what it lacks in (comparative!) charm it makes up with in coherence. The better: There's a lot in this game that could be pulled pretty directly from its inspirations, but in many cases those ideas have been reinterpreted to suit Bug Fable's setting, characters, and unique aspects. This starts with the three main characters allowing a good amount of customization via levelups and badges, which in turn allows for a large variety of strategies to be employed in combat. This is improved by Bug Fables excellent badge selection; very few (often expensive) badges only add power and most badges include trade-offs or otherwise incentivize normally unusual strategies. This deeply strengthens the customization by eliminating the obvious choices for all situations that the Paper Mario games had. Another large improvement was the use of the trio with the Tattle function, allowing every NPC, enemy, and room to be an opportunity for optional characterization between the teammates. Comparatively, in the Paper Mario games this characterization was limited to Goombario and Goombella, with cutscenes being the only chance other partners could be characters at all - often interchangeably. Often in Bug Fables I would extend a boss fight just so I could hear each of the trio's reaction to the enemy. Beyond that, many features just seem so much more streamlined than in the Paper Marios: the transit systems fit better into the world and were available sooner though money-gated early on to preserve difficulty, the game economy was balanced to allow for resource scarcity or exploitation without either being tedious as well as having purchases worth saving up for, and a lot of freedom in where and how to travel is given remarkably early on which allows for certain items or badges to be rushed. Best of all, a lot of the lore, world building, and characterization is optional, allowing for uninterested players, replayers, or speedrunners to bypass many walls of text. So many features like these struck me as something a dev would include in a post-release patch, and they make the game much smoother to play. Lastly, the biggest improvement for me was the difficulty: after the first battle a zero cost Hard Mode badge becomes an option, which keeps the battles threatening til lategame. This is such an important improvement as it turns the early game into a resource balancing act, which encourages thoughtful battling, using the cooking system, and creating badge builds. Unlike in Paper Mario, items are relevant all game long with the best items being simple, if expensive, cooked items that won't win fights on their own. Also, superblocking reduces damage by 1 more than blocking, removing the binary "all or nothing" aspect of superguarding. The only times combat felt unfair was when one enemy had an unpreventable, single target status effect which twice caused me to lose by unluckily targeting my buffed bug, and another when a rapid shot status ailment attack one-shot my tank after a marathon of battling. Additional difficulty options are also available, tho I haven't play around with them yet. The worse: The "in the field" controls are somewhat finicky, especially when the camera angle in large or curved rooms adjusts as you move. Additionally, most field skills are usable 360 degrees around the leading character, as opposed to Mario skills which usually are restricted to Mario's direct left or right. This can lead to some spatial confusion, as positioning 2D character models to use 2D animations in a 3D environment can be frustrating - dodging enemy shots while trying to engage in combat comes to mind. This is also true of several platforming puzzles; solving the puzzle was frequently much easier than executing the solution. While this was barely an issue that took longer than a minute, I could see how it could be frustrating, especially without certain badges. I also felt that a lot of the decorations in areas could have questionable physics models. Poking around behind foreground or midground items could feel awkward, as their meshes sometimes didn't feel like what the graphics reflected - especially when the item was large enough for the backside of the object to have to be assumed. Lastly, some of the side content felt unfleshed-out: interesting characters used for a single fetch quest or function, cool side areas with a single purpose, or just unused potential like a sea with two islands. Add to this that the enemy variety was good for the story (exactly one instance of palate swaps, and one area of mostly reused enemies) but lacking for side areas, and my biggest problem with the game is there isn't slightly more of it. Also: The music is consistently great, with very few songs not memorably contributing to an area/event's mood. Midway thru the game, the battle music changes to reflect the upped stakes and that's just great. Snakemouth Den and several boss tracks being standouts for me. Conclusion: With Bug Fables being an indie dev game as well as a first release its possible the 1.1 patch and/or DLC could change some of the rougher parts, but even besides this it is a solidly great game within the genre. With a bit of sequel baiting sprinkled into the endgame, I'm very impressed by Moonsprout and I may actually change my Sticker Star created rule to never, ever preorder once Bug Fables 2 is announced. If the improvement between this game and its sequel is as big as between the Paper Marios, it could easily be my favourite game of all time.
sitbomm here with another MASTER PIECE full of good shit Let's get started on this shit ASAP cuz i have no time to waste and i want to make this shit as short and straight to the point as possible this will be the HOLYGRAIL of making BIG fucking money just trading binary options online, ok ?! i want to tell you that i will teach you the strategies with REAL MONEY ACCOUNTS EXAMPLES, not bullshit DEMO ACCOUNTS but REAL MONEY ACCOUNTS exactly like on my VIDEO PROOFS too that i included on these folder where you got this guide where you can see myself making $3950 USD and more within FEW MINUTES on a fucking REAL MONEY ACCOUNTS LIVE in front of you, ok guys ?! so all the EXAMPLE images that will be shown here are all from REAL MONEY ACCOUNTS and REAL WON TRADES and REAL FUCKING MONEY made by myself ! so let's get started ! First of all guys i want to share with you the BEST and my FAVORITE BROKERS starting by my FAVORITE ONE now... their only problem is that they don't accept USA customers but that is not a problem cuz i have a way to teach you guys if you are from USA, to sign up with them and use them even though you NOT on USA The way you guys will do to sign up with them even if you are in USA is FIRST you will buy a license of this VPN called www.COM on website > www.com it is VERY CHEAP... cuz with this VPN, you can pick up any server from a country that is accepted on their site like BRAZIL for example so you pick up their BRAZIL SERVER and use it this will give you a BRAZIL IP ADDRESS on your machine and what will happen is their site will detect it and think that you are in brazil, instead of USA, you know ?! and for sign up '' details '' you can use this site > www.fakenamegenerator.com and select there BRAZIL country and brazil details they will generate some fake ass brazil fullz details for you and you use this details to sign up... and that is ALL YOU NEED.. cuz WHAT WE WANT FROM THEIR SITE IS THEIR '' DEMO MODE '' cuz on their demo mode they give us '' THEIR CHART '' which is the BEST CHART ON WHOLE INTERNET i can GUARANTEE you that, guys ! i been on this trading thing for LONGER THAN ALL YOU and i know which ones are the best and which ones are not so believe me when i say IQ OPTION IS THE BEST CHART! so by signing up like that, you will have access to their demo mode immediately and this is WHAT WE WANT cuz to put my methods and trading strategies to work you guys will have to PRACTICE IT for 2 weeks MINIMUM ! before you even think about jumping on the REAL MONEY accounts... and then when you go to start on real money accounts you can use the other 2 best brokers like bitplutos and finpari this is exactly what i do too i have accounts on ALL THREE brokers and when i go trade on the other 2 i use IQ OPTION demo mode charts along with the other broker bitplutos for example open on my MOBILE PHONE using their mobile app so this way i can TRADE ON THEIR MOBILE APP while using the IQ OPTION chart open at SAME TIME on demo so i can WATCH THE MARKET and spot the perfect trading opportunities based on my strategies and place the trade on the mobile at the SAME INSTANT that they pop up on the chart on IQ this is EXACTLY what i was doing on that VIDEO PROOF that i have included in this folder here with name '' Undeniable Proof $3950 in few minutes! '' i was using IQ options chart open at same time of bitplutos app on my mobile phone, to make that $3950 USD in few minutes!
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
2 months back at trading (update) and some new questions
Hi all, I posted a thread back a few months ago when I started getting seriously back into trading after 20 years away. I thought I'd post an update with some notes on how I'm progressing. I like to type, so settle in. Maybe it'll help new traders who are exactly where I was 2 months ago, I dunno. Or maybe you'll wonder why you spent 3 minutes reading this. Risk/reward, yo. I'm trading 5k on TastyWorks. I'm a newcomer to theta positive strategies and have done about two thirds of my overall trades in this style. However, most of my experience in trading in the past has been intraday timeframe oriented chart reading and momentum stuff. I learned almost everything "new" that I'm doing from TastyTrade, /options, /thetagang, and Option Alpha. I've enjoyed the material coming from esinvests YouTube channel quite a bit as well. The theta gang type strategies I've done have been almost entirely around binary event IV contraction (mostly earnings, but not always) and in most cases, capped to about $250 in risk per position. The raw numbers: Net PnL : +247 Commissions paid: -155 Fees: -42 Right away what jumps out is something that was indicated by realdeal43 and PapaCharlie9 in my previous thread. This is a tough, grindy way to trade a small account. It reminds me a little bit of when I was rising through the stakes in online poker, playing $2/4 limit holdem. Even if you're a profitable player in that game, beating the rake over the long term is very, very hard. Here, over 3 months of trading a conservative style with mostly defined risk strategies, my commissions are roughly equal to my net PnL. That is just insane, and I don't even think I've been overtrading. 55 trades total, win rate of 60%
33 purely directional trades - 57.5% win
18 long call or long put positions, +692, 55% win
15 call or put verticals, -121, 60% win
22 neutral / other trades
13 iron condors, +345, 77% win rate
7 strangles, -163, 71% win rate
1 straddle, -310, 0% win rate
1 butterfly, -83, 0% win rate
PTON call purchased and held through earnings, sold the morning of announcement +410
Trading the range on the daily chart in GLD from 158 up to 165, a mix of various calls +245
NKLA 30 put purchased before the close on the day it went north of 100, just a pure fade +215
EWZ 22/26 strangle that I held just way too long as it beat me up day after day from May 20-Jun 3, -316
ZM pre earnings vertical, fading another 2 SD move (the day it hit 200 for the first time). Was expecting a post-earnings selloff given the magnitude of the up move. Stock basically hasn't had a down tick since. Max loss -247
EWW 29 straddle, put on around the same time as the EWZ strangle. Rolled from Jun to Jul to no avail. Out at a -310 loss.
This is pretty much where I expected to be while learning a bunch of new trading techniques. And no, this is not a large sample size so I have no idea whether or not I can be profitable trading this way (yet). I am heartened by the fact that I seem to be hitting my earnings trades and selling quick spikes in IV (like weed cures Corona day). I'm disheartened that I've went against my principles several times, holding trades for longer than I originally intended, or letting losses mount, believing that I could roll or manage my way out of trouble. I still feel like I am going against my nature to some degree. My trading in years past was scalping oriented and simple. I was taught that a good trade was right almost immediately. If it went against me, I'd cut it immediately and look for a better entry. This is absolutely nothing like that. A good trade may take weeks to develop. It's been really hard for me to sit through the troughs and it's been even harder to watch an okay profit get taken out by a big swing in delta. Part of me wonders if I am cut out for this style at all and if I shouldn't just take my 5k and start trading micro futures. But that's a different post... I'll share a couple of my meager learnings:
Larger bid/ask spreads make it almost impossible to trade the higher priced names, even if you have a correct assumption. I have traded some bigger underlyings during this time like LULU and NVDA. They are just tough fills, both getting in and getting out. I almost want to say that you shouldn't even bother trading underlyings bigger than a 10 cent bid/ask spread with a small account.
Get an idea of the timeframe you're interested in holding before putting anything on. Have a plan for entering and exiting everything that goes beyond "I'll take this trade off at 50%". You can use TA, you can use a news catalyst, a binary event, just have something. Countless sources out there talk about trading a plan. It doesn't have to be the perfect plan, it just has to be "a" plan.
Undefined risk trades in tiny accounts need hard stops. Yes, some of the studies say that you'll do better without having fixed stop loss rules (50% of max loss, 100% of max loss) -- but what the studies don't say is the effect that it will have on you, mentally. I got pretty bent out of shape over how badly EWZ and EWW went against me -- much more than I expected. It made no sense, as I've lost way more on the turn of a card in .5 seconds and been unfazed. I was unprepared for the mental toll that it took waking up day after day, watching positions move further and further against me. Great time to be short calls during the mother of all rallies.
My initial plan for undefined risk trades in my account was that I would only do them in ETFs. Logic being that I'm just not going to wake up to an accounting scandal or a buyout and take a $1k loss on the chin. I later expanded my range into lower priced underlyings like BBBY, TLRY, and yes, AAL. But these ETFs can and do move (I learned the hard way) and can soak up a surprising amount of BP. It might be better to have 5 iron condors taking up $1000 of BP @ 200 each instead of 2 strangles @ 500 each.
My new questions :
My big wins felt like I simply leaned on my TA background or got lucky. My big losses, I sure felt like I earned those, through mistakes I've definitely since identified. The stuff in the middle, I'm just not sure. I'm up money, but it feels like I'm just spinning my wheels. My win rate is good, but I still struggle with expectations about how quickly a trade should progress. What is the next step of the process for a newer options trader? I've read some stuff on narrower spreads + more contracts vs. wider spreads and fewer contracts. Is there a number where I should just keep doing what I'm doing until I reach a specific # of occurrences? Should I even think about branching out into different strategies yet (ratio spreads, jade lizards, etc) or continue to work on these basics?
I still feel like I am super weak in delta management. In some cases I feel like I've taken a loss simply because I didn't know what the proper management techniques were. I understand the concept of rolling out in time for a credit, but I just don't think it's in my nature to hold trades for longer than a month, and even that is hard for me. At what delta is it appropriate to start thinking about hedging?
Every time I put on a credit spread for a 2-3 day move and am directionally correct, I often wish that I had just bought a naked option. I've caught several big moves this way in things like AAPL; most recently I bought the FB dip to the 50 day MA around 215 and took it off today at 225 (which was always my plan) -- it leads me to wonder if my expectations for credit spreads are completely out of line. I can't lie, it feels bad to catch a 10 point move and only make $40, haha. What is the ideal timeframe for a credit spread to be left on? Is it better to just buy premium with a stop loss and have a more profitable risk/reward equation for situations like the above where the only intent is to hold for a couple days?
Here's a random question -- other than when the BPR hit is too much (ie names over $50) for undefined risk, would you rather hold 1) a strangle for 10-14 days or 2) an iron condor for 25-30 days? So far my criteria for IC vs strangle has largely been driven by the risk profile and BPR and not so much profit potential in X number of days. If you're collecting the standard 1/3rd on the IC and taking the trade off at 50% (if you're lucky) , it seems like it takes about a month to get there, most of the time.
That's enough of this wall of text for now. If you made it this far, I salute you, because this shit was even longer than my last post.
THE SEARCH FOR THE GREATEST SWITCH SHMUP: EPISODE 28 – Raiden V: Director’s Cut
Before I begin, I just want to remind everyone that all of my reviews can be found at my site: www.azormx.com. I tried to keep it as minimalist as possible, and it doesn't have any add or any other intrusive elements, so the content is king. Do check it out, as reviews are usually live there before I publish them elsewhere. Any way, on to the review! The shmup genre hasn’t been a mainstream genre in a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it ever was, even during the arcade days. While we certainly don’t have a shortage of shmups, let alone new release, they usually come from smaller teams. Indies have taken it upon themselves to become a guiding light for all of us. Their creations have been nothing short of amazing! However, we don’t really have anything we could call a “AAA” shmup. We do seem to have the next closest thing: Raiden. Developer: Moss Co. Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jul 25, 2019 Price: $29.99 Tate: Unfortunately… no. This really needed to have TATE Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a vertical shmup set in a fictional but real world. It claims to be the original bullet-hell, and after playing it extensively I gotta say that I agree. Raiden V features some intense air combat, coupled with giant bosses and some jaw-dropping transitions between areas.
THE GREAT INTRO CHECKLIST
Right out of the gate, what caught my attention was the intro. The best way I can put this is that it has everything great about shmups in a short video. It has a great track, it has giant enemies, it has ships and it even has pieces of lore I do not understand! Simply amazing! Most importantly, it is a very accurate portrayal as to what you should expect from the game. Unlike other shmups, Raiden goes all out in the presentation department, with the story taking a mayor role. Another way I can put this, is that it certainly feels like a considerable effort was placed in every element of the game. Raiden V features a level of polish that very few shmups can claim to have.
WELCOME TO THE CUSTOMIZATION STATION
One of Raiden’s strength is the amount of customization you have available for your ship. At the beginning of the game, you can choose between one of 3 different ships: Azuma, Spirit of Dragon and Moulin Rouge. Each of these ships has different stats in terms of attack, defense and speed. They also have their own sub-shot which is always firing along with your main cannon. On top of selecting a ship, you can arm yourself with 3 out of 9 different weapons. Those 9 weapons are grouped into 3 categories: Vulcan, Laser and Plasma. You can pick, or rather you must pick 1 for each category. The result is a combat style that is unique to you. During your play throughs, you will encounter several power-up orbs. These orbs will power up each of your weapons up to 10 times! Each of these orbs can be either red, blue or purple depending on the weapon it powers up. The orbs cycle the colors, with an outer dot indicating a timer until it changes colors. This allows you to control which weapon you want to power up, giving you the flexibility to pick your own style or choose a weapon for the occasion. The best part is that absolutely no power-ups are lost upon death! This means that you are free to retry to your heart's content and play at your own pace. Raiden won't punish you or set you up for failure with an unrecoverable situation. I didn’t put too much attention into weapon selection at first. I figured it wouldn’t be too relevant, as I would probably just play the entire game with a single weapon, but the advanced scoring mechanics and the rank system were quick to make me second guess my decision.
At the core of Raiden V, there are 2 main systems to be aware of: your rank and your flash level. Both of them measure your combat capabilities, although in different ways. Your flash point gauge is a score multiplier that tracks how fast you defeat your enemies. By defeating enemies as soon as possible after spawning, you can earn higher multipliers to increase your flash gauge. By having quick kills, you can raise it to higher levels to increase your score. Your rank, on the other hand, only concerns itself with how many enemies you’ve defeated. Your rank doubles as the deciding factor of which path you will be taking. Raiden features branching paths with an A, B, C or S version of each stage. Depending on your total destruction rate, you will either move up or down in rank after a stage. While I do not know the exact numbers, I believe having more than 98% destruction rate will increase your rank, 90 – 98% will keep it as is and <90% should decrease your rank. S rank stages are presumably harder than A/B/C stages, with C being the lowest. Apart from having a higher score and challenging yourself with the difficulty, the importance of S rank is getting the true ending. In order to truly watch the ending of the game, you need to reach the final stage on S rank using a single credit. You also need to power up your 3 weapons to level 10. Once you meet those conditions, you will be able to challenge the final boss. Alternatively, you could just fulfill the level 10 weapons condition to fight the true final boss.
THE BEST CHEERLEADER
A new addition to Raiden V is the cheer system. By accomplishing certain in-game milestones like a certain number of enemies destroyed, you will get an achievement. These achievements are broadcasted to any players connected to the leaderboards. They can then “cheer” on your achievement to increase your cheer gauge. This goes both ways, as you can also cheer the achievements of your fellow Raiden players. Once the cheer gauge is full, you can unleash it to clear the screen and gain a drastically stronger sub-shot. Think of it as a devastating bomb, only more devastating and easier to fill. It clears screens and decimates even the bosses. Perhaps many people won’t think too much of it, but I found it really interesting to know that there’s someone on the other side celebrating my achievements. Likewise, there were times where I left my game on pause to do other stuff, but held on to my controller to provide support for my comrades.
Everything I’ve mentioned before plays out in the general strategy of the game. Assuming you want to get the best results, you need to know where to hit and how to hit hard. For the untrained eye, most shmups just look like games where you fire away with complete disregard and hope the enemy dies. This is definitely not the case in Raiden. In order to succeed, you must be able to find your rhythm and read the stage. Learn the enemy formations and strategize the quickest kills. Be there before the enemy arrives and take them down before they realize what hit them. If you want to face the true final boss, then you must also learn to juggle your weapons and find the moments to upgrade them. Maxing a weapon and then switching is a recipe for disaster, as you don’t want to be on the later stages with a level one weapon and risk your flash level or destruction rate. With so many weapons and ship types, your strategy to succeed will be unique to you!
One of the main selling points, at least per the game itself, is the story. Raiden V features an extensive story that is fully voiced and occurs as you play the game. This story elements come as the prologue and epilogue scenes, as well as all the events happening mid stage. As you fly your way to the levels, characters will be advancing the story by having conversations and narrating the current events. The dialogue is available on one of the gadgets located on the right side of the screen. You can read anything you might have missed and even pause to read the on-screen log of events (up to a certain number of events, as the log scrolls to open way for new text). As for my opinion of the story, I have absolutely no idea of what happened during the game. I played my fair share of runs, but I found it next to impossible to focus on the dialogue while trying my hardest to survive. The voice acting would have been my saving grace, but I found the sound mixing to be the opposite of ideal for listening to dialogue. I even tried lowering the sound effects and BGM to see if I could focus on dialogue to no avail. The text is also incredibly small when playing on docked mode. It gets even worse when playing handheld.
THE WORST CHEERLEADER
Out of all the voices, Eshiria’s was the one who got on my nerves the most at the beginning. Other than having her role as navigator on the plot, she also critiques your gameplay. In-between stage scenes, she will provide commentary describing your gameplay. She will be quick to point out if you did well, but also if you did poorly. On my early runs, when I was still learning, it would tilt me to listen to her complaining to me about stats I did not understand. And perhaps, a huge part of my problems was a lack of understanding of the game mechanics. I listened to her complain about my destruction rate without knowing it was about my rank. She also complained about destruction speed without me knowing it was about the flash point. The problem is that the game never bothered explaining any of its mechanics to me. I really looked around for some sort of tutorial to no avail. I had to resort to 3rd party resources. While that isn’t uncommon, I really don’t like games with obscure mechanics that can’t be discerned in-game. Once I got better and consistently reach the S levels, I finally started to value her advice. Of course, I wouldn’t count on everyone reaching the same enlightenment as I did. In my opinion, her comments would more often than not add insult to injury. Once again, it’s not really the commentary, it’s the fact that none of what she said made practical sense until I started digging on the wiki.
GADGETS AND THE SCREEN REAL ESTATE
Perhaps the worst omission from Raiden V is the lack of a TATE mode. Vertical shooters don’t really have an excuse to do this, with the existence of add-ons like the flip grip or rotating monitors. Instead, Raiden decided to make the most out of the free space and add several gadgets. In standard fashion, these gadgets will keep your stats like score, flash level, the dialogue and even hi-score statistics. Your left gadget can even be cycled between the score chart and cheer notification, in-game tips and global statistics. Out of those, the tips are definitely the winners. They do give some important advice, such as staying on top of the guns of the first boss to avoid damage.
NOT A FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD
Every stage is divided into smaller scenes. These scenes serve as a way to catch your breath and tally your score. There’s even a nifty “restart scene” option that allows you to replay a scene. Choosing to restart will deny you the option to upload your score to the leaderboard, but serves as a great way to practice or even “fix” a run to so can get to the true ending. Every once in a while, the action will pan out and open the way to a bigger stage, with you looking smaller in comparison. I admire the grandioseness of the resulting scenes, but they were also quite impractical. Think about your weapons, the destruction rate and the flash gauge. An extended stage means longer travel distances from side to side. Having a bigger stage means you move slower, which reduces the pacing of the game to a crawl. Reaching enemies quickly becomes a struggle. Worst yet, I’ve counted times where it took me whopping 5 seconds to go from side to side of the stage.
THE OG BULLET HELL
Despite all the fun of blasting enemies quickly to gain flash levels, I gotta say that I found the combat, specifically the bullets, to be lacking in grace. For a game that’s the original bullet hell, most enemy volleys feel like bullet showers. There’s no finesse in them, just a bunch of bullets moving towards you. Dodging them isn’t fun, it’s survival. The problem only gets worse in higher difficulties where the bullets just go faster. Not all patterns are as bad though. While the vast majority will be just a bunch on increasingly faster bullets thrown at you, some exceptional patterns will show from time to time. As a result, fights tend to be very hit or miss, with both hits and misses being on their respective extremes. What certainly doesn’t help is that the bullets are very hard to see. As pretty as the backgrounds might be, they are very busy and the quick motion makes them into a blur. Bullets don’t have their characteristic outlines or color palettes to become distinguishable. Some even blend with your own vulcan. The result is a lot of cheap kills caused by intentional obfuscation. It this was their intention, then perhaps I’m being too harsh, but you know visibility is usually one of my pet peeves in shmups.
REPLAYABILITY AND LONGEVITY
As far as game length goes, I consider Raiden V to be one of the longer ones. I was surprised after my first run of the game, as it took me 50+ minutes to complete the campaign. Usually, my baseline for shmups is around half an hour, which made this one almost twice as long. While I’m not fond of longer campaigns, I know a lot of people would certainly be glad to know there is plenty of content. Of course, playing through the campaign isn’t enough to view the entire game. If you recall, most stages have 4 versions of themselves. Those versions are separated by the ranks: S/A/B/C. This means you would need at least 4 runs to see everything the game has to offer. There’s also 6 different endings to uncover. Also new to the Director’s Cut edition are 2 bonus levels. These level are slightly different from your typical levels. The bonus missions will challenge you to fight a new boss ir oder to obtain medals. Dealing damage will detach the medals from the boss, allowing you to catch them. Gather enough medals and you will advance to the next phase. Higher medals mean higher ranking. Taking damage will take medals away from you, so surviving continues to be a priority. Lastly, there is a new boss mission mode that allow you to play “boss rush” missions. These missions have certain conditions, like using a specific weapon or fighting at a specific HP level. The targets are usually 1-3 bosses. Boss mission is a very fun arcadey mode for those who enjoyed the boss fights and want more of them.
If there’s a factor that merits my highest praise is the sound department. Simply put, the OST is fantastic. The track length syncs perfectly with the stages, and it always fits the mood. I just couldn’t get enough of the OST, and listening to it while writing this review was the recipe for a perfect Sunday! I also got some good coffee that would make the captain proud. For all the praise the music gets from me, it still is dragged down by the terrible sound mixing. Similarly to the voice acting, I tried to mess with the sound settings to increase the volume and reduce the sound effects, but it still wasn’t enough. The tracks were great but I struggled to listen to them amidst all the explosions. The calm moments were great, as they let me listen to the songs in peace.
Raiden is a master class in shmup design for the wrong reasons. Its high points perfectly illustrate how shmups should look and feel. The low points also show what you should NOT do when creating a shmup game. Despite all of this, it all comes down to how fun a game is. Raiden V is a very fun game. It isn’t different, but it’s certainly very polished. I delivers some levels of quality that are notably absent in the majority of the games. As a concept, I feel like it serves as an example of how current gen shmups should be. The execution fell flat in some regards, but as a whole I was satisfied with the time I spent with the game. It does come with a hefty price tag, so my advice is to check this game out when you find a decent sale. I got mine at -70%.
Thoughts on "Fixing The Infantry Meta" via increased spawn time and increased time to kill
tl;dr: People feel like Squad is too fast and aggressive. The level of aggression that is the most effective at winning game is directly tied to spawn timers. The only way to fix this is increase the spawn timers. Also, super deadly rifles mean the hard work of advancing slowly/carefully can too easily be undone, encouraging recklessness, and this must be changed alongside longer spawns. This thread is a general reply to this very popular thread, and some well thought out posts within it. A lot of people seem to feel "infantry meta" (what works and wins games for infantry), is not good. The most common description of what is wrong is something like "spawns are too important, spawns are too easy, and everyone just tries to respawn as fast as possible and rush at the point as fast as possible", as explained in some posts here, here, and here. I think that this description of the way Squad plays out is accurate. Infantry in Squad do tend to play very aggressively and recklessly. But the question we have to ask before we can fix this is "why do players play like a flood?" It's because it's what wins flags. Flooding means getting to the objective as fast as possible with the most amount of bodies possible. This strategy cannot be defeated by "playing slowly", because the only response to a large amount of bodies moving as fast as they can, is an equal amount of bodies moving as fast as they can. The game mode of AAS requires that you either meet the enemy head on, or give up flags, which are worth tickets. There is no time or space to setup a trap to outwit this charging beast. You either match the enemy's reckless flood with your own, or you lose. To make this clear: Flooding does not amount to "throwing away tickets" it is more like "overwhelming the enemy" - Aggression will rack up very good positive kill ratios against slower enemies by dropping FOBs in every which way direction, getting to good ground before their slower enemies, and encircling them. It only feels like "throwing away tickets" when the enemy is doing it better. This is a direct consequence of the way AAS, hell, any symmetrical battle works, and I think attempts to fix it by messing with flag mechanics is bound to fail. Squad (and PR's) history is full of attempts by the developers to fuck with the flag mechanics in an effort to respond to problems, and it really never changes anything for the better. Modifying AAS flag value basically has a binary outcome: "Are flags worth getting, or are they not worth getting?" If the answer is "they're worth it" - then flooding is going to be the superior strategy, because the "slow and careful" strategy will just amount to losing flags. The other option of "flags aren't worth it" will just make the game pointless and confusing. What the hell does it mean for there to be a gamemode whose only objective is not worth fighting over? What kind of attack involves trying to take an objective, but is also willing to turn around and go home? Either a flag is worth dying over or it isn't, and if it isn't the game feels completely aimless. We can't mess with flag mechanics, because flooding being rewarded is the exact same thing as a flag actually being worth fighting over, and AAS only makes sense as long as flags are worth fighting over. So maybe ticket count is the answer? What if we cut the tickets per side in half? Each death would be worth more, so players would avoid death more? My answer is no, all it would do is reduce the length of the game. Again, flooding is what earns flags, because flags are worth dying for. The team that does not play aggressively, the team that is not willing to die for a flag is doing nothing but giving up flags. The tactic of "wait, hold up.. don't rush in there" will more often amount to simply allowing the aggressive enemy rushers to gain free ground, time, and tickets. Lower ticket Squad games will just be shorter Squad games. So how about FOBs? If players are willing to give up really easily, it's often only because there exist many good spawn options for them. What if we reduced the amount of allowed FOBs on the map or something? Again, flooding the enemy with the most amount of mass and speed possible is what has the most power. Simply reducing the flood's options will not make the flood weaker, it will just localize it. Instead of having lots of FOBs in lots of directions, we will find that games are now won and loss on the basis of the few allowed fobs on the map. But attacking those FOBs will still be done on the basis of flooding it with the most infantry possible. The problem will not be solved, in fact it will probably be worse, because less FOBs will mean less strategic options. If it isn't FOBs or flags, then what is it? What could make Squad feel less like you're just charging headlong into fire, and more like a tactical shooter where you need to slowly and carefully defeat an enemy in a firefight where you value your life? It is spawn time. The flood is not what we want to get rid of, because we can't. We need to control it. Slow down its flowrate. As soon as you increase the spawntime in Squad, the level of aggression, or, the flowrate of the flood goes down. If you've ever played a "one life event" you will understand that the level of aggression that is the most successful in that game is wildly different from regular Squad's, and, it doesn't "break the game." In fact, it's really fun. Anyone who values their life in Squad right now will quickly realize that they are wasting their time, because the players who don't have returned to fight them within a minute or two, and in that time, the slower player probably hasn't gained any ground at all. The Flood is all about rate of infantry respawning, and the only way to curb this is longer spawns. This is a difficult thing to realize, because it is not a "quick fix" - there is a serious penalty to anyone playing the game that they need to either deal with, or just enjoy it for what it is. Personally, I like slow games with some downtime so I can think to myself, but for many people it is too much. What I propose is that we start small. Change the default FOB respawn time to 75 seconds and see what happens. It will be subtle, but players may adapt by not giving up their lives so easily, and maybe even sticking with their medics and squad leaders more. Squad leaders may be less inclined to treat their infantry as disposable and be more likely to lead them tactically. Players who play slowly and get some kills will then create space and time to then take advantage of. Right now, because spawns are so fast, there is very little space and created by kills ,so you have to rush and be fast to fit into that tiny space and time. In addition to this change, I think it would be prudent to increase the time to kill on players. Currently in Squad guns are very, very accurate, easy to handle, and kill within 2 or 3 bullets to even the legs or arms. This fact makes playing slowly less likely to succeed, because your life can disappear so quickly, that any one little mistake or random chance can undo all of the work you have done, advancing slowly and carefully. Very fast kill times encourage recklessness, because at least when you die instantly, there is not much time lost. What I propose is that the general weapon handling (sight in time, weapon sway, recoil) be made slightly worse, and the modifier for limb shots be changed so that intermediate rifles (AK-74/M4) kill in 4 shots to the limbs, and 3 shots to the stomach, as opposed to the 3 and 2 we have now.
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In addition checkout the detailed guide for analyzing input pipeline performance with TF Profiler.
tf.distribute.TPUStrategy is now a stable API and no longer considered experimental for TensorFlow. (earlier tf.distribute.experimental.TPUStrategy ).
TF Profiler introduces two new tools: a memory profiler to visualize your model’s memory usage over time and a python tracer which allows you to trace python function calls in your model. Usability improvements include better diagnostic messages and profile options to customize the host and device trace verbosity level.
Introduces experimental support for Keras Preprocessing Layers API (tf.keras.layers.experimental.preprocessing.*) to handle data preprocessing operations, with support for composite tensor inputs. Please see below for additional details on these layers.
TFLite now properly supports dynamic shapes during conversion and inference. We’ve also added opt-in support on Android and iOS for XNNPACK, a highly optimized set of CPU kernels, as well as opt-in support for executing quantized models on the GPU.
The experimental Python API tf.debugging.experimental.enable_dump_debug_info() now allows you to instrument a TensorFlow program and dump debugging information to a directory on the file system. The directory can be read and visualized by a new interactive dashboard in TensorBoard 2.3 called Debugger V2, which reveals the details of the TensorFlow program including graph structures, history of op executions at the Python (eager) and intra-graph levels, the runtime dtype, shape, and numerical composistion of tensors, as well as their code locations.
Increases the minimum bazel version required to build TF to 3.1.0.
Makes the following (breaking) changes to the tf.data .
C++ API: - IteratorBase::RestoreInternal , IteratorBase::SaveInternal , and DatasetBase::CheckExternalState become pure-virtual and subclasses are now expected to provide an implementation.
The deprecated DatasetBase::IsStateful method is removed in favor of DatasetBase::CheckExternalState .
Deprecated overrides of DatasetBase::MakeIterator and MakeIteratorFromInputElement are removed.
The signature of tensorflow::data::IteratorBase::SaveInternal and tensorflow::data::IteratorBase::SaveInput has been extended with SerializationContext argument to enable overriding the default policy for the handling external state during iterator checkpointing. This is not a backwards compatible change and all subclasses of IteratorBase need to be updated accordingly.
Add a new BackupAndRestore callback for handling distributed training failures & restarts. Please take a look at this tutorial for details on how to use the callback.
tf.image.extract_glimpse has been updated to correctly process the case where centered=False and normalized=False . This is a breaking change as the output is different from (incorrect) previous versions. Note this breaking change only impacts tf.image.extract_glimpse and tf.compat.v2.image.extract_glimpse API endpoints. The behavior of tf.compat.v1.image.extract_glimpse does not change. The behavior of exsiting C++ kernel ExtractGlimpse does not change either, so saved models using tf.raw_ops.ExtractGlimpse will not be impacted.
Keras-based LSTM models must be converted with an explicit batch size in the input layer.
Bug Fixes and Other Changes
Set tf2_behavior to 1 to enable V2 for early loading cases.
Add execute_fn_for_device function to dynamically choose the implementation based on underlying device placement.
Add reduce_logsumexp benchmark with experiment compile.
Give EagerTensor s a meaningful __array__ implementation.
Add another version of defun matmul for performance analysis.
AutoGraph now includes into TensorFlow loops any variables that are closed over by local functions. Previously, such variables were sometimes incorrectly ignored.
functions returned by the get_concrete_function method of tf.function objects can now be called with arguments consistent with the original arguments or type specs passed to get_concrete_function . This calling convention is now the preferred way to use concrete functions with nested values and composite tensors. Please check the guide for more details on concrete_ function .
Update tf.function 's experimental_relax_shapes to handle composite tensors appropriately.
Optimize tf.function invocation, by removing redundant list converter.
tf.function will retrace when called with a different variable instead of simply using the dtype & shape .
Narrow down argmin /argmax contract to always return the smallest index for ties.
tf.math.reduce_variance and tf.math.reduce_std return correct computation for complex types and no longer support integer types.
Add Bessel functions of order 0,1 to tf.math.special .
tf.divide now always returns a tensor to be consistent with documentation and other APIs.
Replaced tf.image.non_max_suppression_padded with a new implementation that supports batched inputs, which is considerably faster on TPUs and GPUs. Boxes with area=0 will be ignored. Existing usage with single inputs should still work as before.
Add tf.ragged.cross and tf.ragged.cross_hashed operations.
RaggedTensor.to_tensor() now preserves static shape.
Add tf.strings.format() and tf.print() to support RaggedTensors.
u/tf.function from SavedModel no longer ignores args after a RaggedTensor when selecting the concrete function to run.
Fix save model issue for ops with a list of functions.
Add tf.saved_model.LoadOptions with experimental_io_device as arg with default value None to choose the I/O device for loading models and weights.
Update tf.saved_model.SaveOptions with experimental_io_device as arg with default value None to choose the I/O device for saving models and weights.
No longer includes PTX kernels for GPU except for sm_70 to reduce binary size. On systems with NVIDIA® Ampere GPUs (CUDA architecture 8.0) or newer, kernels are JIT-compiled from PTX and TensorFlow can take over 30 minutes to start up. This overhead can be limited to the first start up by increasing the default JIT cache size with: export CUDA_CACHE_MAXSIZE=2147483648 .:
Update tf.vectorized_map to support vectorizing tf.while_loop and TensorList operations.
tf.custom_gradient can now be applied to functions that accept nested structures of tensors as inputs (instead of just a list of tensors). Note that Python structures such as tuples and lists now won't be treated as tensors, so if you still want them to be treated that way, you need to wrap them with tf.convert_to_tensor .
No lowering on gradient case op when input is DeviceIndex op.
Extend the ragged version of tf.gather to support batch_dims and axis args.
Update tf.map_fn to support RaggedTensors and SparseTensors.
Deprecate tf.group . It is not useful in eager mode.
Add CPU and GPU implementation of modified variation of FTRL/FTRLV2 that can triggerred by multiply_linear_by_lr allowing a learning rate of zero.
tf.data.experimental.dense_to_ragged_batch works correctly with tuples.
tf.data.experimental.dense_to_ragged_batch to output variable ragged rank.
tf.data.experimental.cardinality is now a method on tf.data.Dataset .
tf.data.Dataset now supports len(Dataset) when the cardinality is finite.
Allow var.assign on MirroredVariables with aggregation=NONE in replica context. Previously this would raise an error. We now allow this because many users and library writers find using .assign in replica context to be more convenient, instead of having to use Strategy.extended.update which was the previous way of updating variables in this situation.
tf.distribute.experimental.MultiWorkerMirroredStrategy adds support for partial batches. Workers running out of data now continue to participate in the training with empty inputs, instead of raising an error. Learn more about partial batches here.
Improve the performance of reading metrics eagerly under tf.distribute.experimental.MultiWorkerMirroredStrategy .
Fix the issue that strategy.reduce() inside tf.function may raise exceptions when the values to reduce are from loops or if-clauses.
Fix the issue that tf.distribute.MirroredStrategy cannot be used together with tf.distribute.experimental.MultiWorkerMirroredStrategy .
Add a tf.distribute.cluster_resolver.TPUClusterResolver.connect API to simplify TPU initialization.
Introduces experimental preprocessing layers API (tf.keras.layers.experimental.preprocessing ) to handle data preprocessing operations such as categorical feature encoding, text vectorization, data normalization, and data discretization (binning). The newly added layers provide a replacement for the legacy feature column API, and support composite tensor inputs.
Added categorical data processing layers:
IntegerLookup & StringLookup : build an index of categorical feature values
CategoryEncoding : turn integer-encoded categories into one-hot, multi-hot, or tf-idf encoded representations
CategoryCrossing : create new categorical features representing co-occurrences of previous categorical feature values
Hashing : the hashing trick, for large-vocabulary categorical features
Discretization : turn continuous numerical features into categorical features by binning their values
Improved TextVectorization layer, which handles string tokenization, n-gram generation, and token encoding
The TextVectorization layer now accounts for the mask_token as part of the vocabulary size when output_mode='int'. This means that, if you have a max_tokens value of 5000, your output will have 5000 unique values (not 5001 as before).
Change the return value of TextVectorization.get_vocabulary() from byte to string . Users who previously were calling 'decode' on the output of this method should no longer need to do so.
Introduce new Keras dataset generation utilities :
image_dataset_from_directory is a utility based on tf.data.Dataset , meant to replace the legacy ImageDataGenerator . It takes you from a structured directory of images to a labeled dataset, in one function call. Note that it doesn't perform image data augmentation (which is meant to be done using preprocessing layers).
timeseries_dataset_from_array is a tf.data.Dataset -based replacement of the legacy TimeseriesGenerator . It takes you from an array of timeseries data to a dataset of shifting windows with their targets.
Added experimental_steps_per_execution arg to model.compile to indicate the number of batches to run per tf.function call. This can speed up Keras Models on TPUs up to 3x.
Extends tf.keras.layers.Lambda layers to support multi-argument lambdas, and keyword arguments when calling the layer.
Functional models now get constructed if any tensor in a layer call's arguments/keyword arguments comes from a keras input. Previously the functional api would only work if all of the elements in the first argument to the layer came from a keras input.
Clean up BatchNormalization layer's trainable property to act like standard python state when it's used inside tf.functions (frozen at tracing time), instead of acting like a pseudo-variable whose updates kind of sometimes get reflected in already-traced tf.function traces.
Restored inference_input_type and inference_output_type flags in TF 2.x TFLiteConverter (backward compatible with TF 1.x) to support integer (tf.int8, tf.uint8) input and output types in post training full integer quantized models.
Added support for converting and resizing models with dynamic (placeholder) dimensions. Previously, there was only limited support for dynamic batch size, and even that did not guarantee that the model could be properly resized at runtime.
Enabled experimental support for a new quantization mode with 16-bit activations and 8-bit weights. See lite.OpsSet.EXPERIMENTAL_TFLITE_BUILTINS_ACTIVATIONS_INT16_WEIGHTS_INT8 .
Fix an issue w/ dynamic weights and Conv2D on x86.
Add a runtime Android flag for enabling XNNPACK for optimized CPU performance.
Add a runtime iOS flag for enabling XNNPACK for optimized CPU performance.
Add a compiler flag to enable building a TFLite library that applies XNNPACK delegate automatically when the model has a fp32 operation.
Allow GPU acceleration starting with internal graph nodes
Experimental support for quantized models with the Android GPU delegate
Add GPU delegate whitelist.
Rename GPU whitelist -> compatibility (list).
Improve GPU compatibility list entries from crash reports.
Set default value for StatefulNnApiDelegate::Options::max_number_delegated_partitions to 3.
Add capability to disable NNAPI CPU and check NNAPI Errno.
Fix crashes when using NNAPI with target accelerator specified with model containing Conv2d or FullyConnected or LSTM nodes with quantized weights.
Fix ANEURALNETWORKS_BAD_DATA execution failures with sum /max /min /reduce operations with scalar inputs.
TFLite Hexagon Delegate out of experimental.
Experimental int8 support for most hexagon ops.
Experimental per-channel quant support for conv in Hexagon delegate.
Support dynamic batch size in C++ API.
Opensource CoreML delegate
Enable building Android TFLite targets on Windows
Add support for BatchMatMul .
Add support for half_pixel_centers with ResizeNearestNeighbor .
Add 3D support for BatchToSpaceND .
Add 5D support for BroadcastSub , Maximum , Minimum , Transpose and BroadcastDiv .
Rename kTfLiteActRelu1 to kTfLiteActReluN1To1 .
Enable flex delegate on tensorflow.lite.Interpreter Python package.
Add Buckettize , SparseCross and BoostedTreesBucketize to the flex whitelist.
Add support for selective registration of flex ops.
Add missing kernels for flex delegate whitelisted ops.
Fix issue when using direct ByteBuffer inputs with graphs that have dynamic shapes.
Fix error checking supported operations in a model containing HardSwish .
Added tf.sysconfig.get_build_info() . Returns a dict that describes the build environment of the currently installed TensorFlow package, e.g. the NVIDIA CUDA and NVIDIA CuDNN versions used when TensorFlow was built.
Fix a subtle use-after-free issue in XStatVisitor::RefValue() .
Adds 3D mesh support in TPU configurations ops.
Added TPU code for FTRL with multiply_linear_by_lr .
Silently adds a new file system registry at gstpu .
Support restartType in cloud tpu client.
Depend on a specific version of google-api-python-client.
At the Beginning Previously on The Scuu Paradox… The smell of burning wood was all I could focus on. The fires had long died out, making it difficult to see in the darkness; despite all other modifications, Kridib’s eyes weren’t able to see overly well in the dark. Every five minutes, Radiance would send an infrared scan of the colony to help him and his team with their advancement. Despite all that help and the four missile strikes, progress was minimal. Of the forty-seven people sent to the planet, eleven had been killed and five more severely wounded, rendering them useless in battle. From what I could see, Rigel’s forces had clustered in specific points of the colony, giving up the rest: a sensible strategy that had allowed them to ambush three of our teams while suffering negligible losses themselves. As things stood, the enemy forces had positioned themselves in two areas of the colony. Both spots encircled a specific building—mine and the captain’s locations—making further missile strikes impossible. Update? Kridib asked me through the mind link. Nothing, I replied. Rigel had left shortly after our last chat, taking the third-contact rods with him. Since then, I had remained safely isolated in the room and completely alone. Half of them have probably gone to sleep. Tell me if anything changes. Kribib looked up. A dozen sats were visible in the night sky. We’ll be making another go soon. I don’t think that’s a good idea. So far, Kridib had made four attempts to reach me, all of them unsuccessful. His approach, though chaotic at best, had managed to keep him alive. There had been a close call during which his left arm had been grazed by a bullet, though that time the man hadn’t frozen. Everyone has to sleep, Kridib said, heading back into one of the buildings that had been transformed into a ground base of operations. I’ll go first. Must I wake you? I asked. No. With that, the link was severed. To a degree, I was thankful, though not too much. Forcing whatever strength I had, I moved my head to look around the room as much as I was able. Nothing had changed in the last four hours, but at least it let me do something. The last time I felt remotely similar was when I’d had my sensor systems knocked out, though even then I was able to use my shuttle AIs to paint me a picture. Here, I was completely helpless and, to a vast degree, blind. “Do I get any water?” I asked as loudly as my lungs would let me. There was no reason to expect an answer. Even if anyone was awake on the lower floors, they would be on lookout duty. Saying it out loud, though, made me feel better for some reason. To my surprise, the door to the room opened. “Thought you were above those things.” Rigel walked in slowly. Even with my lack of focus, I could see that he had changed clothes. The colours were dark enough to be considered a uniform, although I couldn’t make out any other details. “You can’t swallow, remember?” “My mouth feels dry,” I explained. “Too bad.” Despite my poor vision, I could hear him smile as he said that. Walking slowly, he made his way to the stool near me and sat down. From this distance, I could see him taking something from his front pocket. In the dim light, it was impossible to tell what exactly. “Still having problems focusing?” Rigel asked. “Yes.” There was no point in lying. “Pity. Agora works well on organic tissue. Not on techno-mongrels,” he added with a laugh. “If you weren’t one, you’d be dead. There’s a win for you.” And you’re not making any sense, I thought. “Nice murder troops you got out there. Quick and efficient. A few years ago, the locals would’ve had fun pulling their wings off. Time leaves its mark.” Rigel flicked the object. It let out a peculiar metallic sound. “No action, no combat sims, just the local pests that roam the planet. Those were brought here too, did you know?” “I heard about it.” “Another brilliant idea from the bureaucracy. Create a full ecosystem. Plants, critters, predators... all must be present and carefully maintained. We tried killing them off once. Those were the days. Three colonies setting out, killing everything in sight until the orbital station stopped sending food.” There was a slight pause. “And you know the best part?” Rigel leaned towards me. “None of that happened.” If I could have pulled back, I would have. There was no way of knowing if these were insane rantings or if he was referring to a dark op coverup. Considering he was from the Salvage Authorities, either was possible, and both options were equally undesirable. “I went through your data, Elcy.” Rigel rubbed his hands. “You know things you shouldn’t.” “Because of my past, I’ve been placed on special assignments,” I said. Technically it was true, though we both knew it didn’t explain away the inconsistencies. “You knew about the third-contact artifacts before. You’ve operated them before.” He moved his hand closer to my face. I felt a cold metallic surface touch my cheek. “You’re searching for something. Something that you’re not supposed to find.” He moved the object away from my face. “Here’s my offer. You answer some of my questions, and I’ll answer some of yours.” “That’s one way to get court-martialed.” Not to mention there was no guarantee my self-destruct chip wouldn’t go off at any point. “Please don’t give me the line that the fleet is going through all that trouble just to rescue you. If you were that valuable, you’d never have been sent to this hell in the first place.” Rigel stood up. “What are the odds of the fleet extracting you in one piece? Two percent?” “Point-seven-three-nine,” I corrected. Frankly, I was surprised they were going through all the trouble. “Give or take.” “Less than one percent,” Rigel snorted. “It’s your call. You have three hours to make it. Before I leave you, here’s a freebie. This planet, it isn’t some randomly colonized world in ‘unexplored space.’ We’re in the buffer zone—the border between the Scuu and human space. Think about that.” He made his way to the door. Reaching it, he stopped and turned around. “Oh, and we’re constantly being monitored.”
Gamma-Ligata, Cassandrian Front—615.11 A.E. (Age of Expansion) The third wave of shuttles approached my forward left hangar one by one. The instant they came within three hundred meters, I was handed over direct control of the AIs. As with the previous batches, the first thing I did was to have a set of isolated subroutines flash the memory and purge the entire operating system. That done, I sent out a mini-sat to latch onto and assume control of the shuttles. It was a slow and tedious process, but necessary considering the circumstances. “How are things?” Wilco asked from the bridge. Augustus had gathered most of his officers to a private meeting in his quarters, leaving Wilco in command. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but each time it did, it felt strange. “Everything’s going as planned,” I said, as the first shuttle went under my control. A quick internal scan revealed that there were sixty-two people aboard, all cuffed and tagged. All of them were tagged as infected, and, to my surprise, none of them were sedated. The instructions were to take them in and monitor their actions at all times, and only to engage if they threatened the ship. Normally, I’d be confident that Augustus knew what was going on. With everything we’d gone through since I’d joined the front, I didn’t think there was anything in the galaxy that could surprise him. I was wrong. Finishing my internal check of the shuttle, I directed it to the outer hangar doors and had it dock. The passengers—all of their identities classified—waited till I covered the walls with disembark notifications, then stood up and quietly proceeded to get off, in orderly fashion. I could tell by Wilco’s expression that he found it unnerving. “A thousand and eighty-two passengers on board,” I said on the bridge and in the captain’s quarters. The moment the last person set foot in the hangar, I would eject the shuttle from my hangar-bay, self-destruct it, and proceed with the next. Delegating the task to my isolated subroutines, I reviewed the instructions I had received. The proper ident protocols and authorisations had been used, ensuring that I would do as instructed without asking questions. An emergency transmission from an unidentifiable ship had led me here. I knew nothing about the ship’s name or specifics, and I wasn’t allowed to get close enough to get a visual. The only things I was allowed to see were its shuttles and mass. Everything else was open to interpretation. “Have any of them said anything?” Wilco asked. “No.” I displayed images of the hangar bay and the corresponding corridors surrounding it. As part of my instructions, the entire section was sealed off and quarantined. “They’re eating.” They also appeared to be healthy, although the instructions stressed no one was to come into contact with them under any circumstances. “I’ve received no indication of how long we’re to keep them. Did the captain get an indication?” “No,” Wilco said in his usual somber voice. “Is everything sealed off?” “Yes.” I rechecked. “No way in or out without captain’s approval.” “Set a buffer zone.” The man went on. “No one goes in or out without my permission.” “If you say so.” It wasn’t difficult. The area in question had been made empty to accommodate the quarantined arrivals, though it seemed a bit too much. “Want me to put sentinels?” “No. We don’t have to hurt anyone, just hold them.” He slinked down in his chair. “They’re the Med boys’ toys. We don’t get to play with them.” Med boys… Only Wilco referred to the Medical Core in such fashion. As most organisations, they were part of the fleet, yet their specific area of expertise gave them as much authority as the Salvage Authorities and the BICEFI combined. As a ship, I knew fairly little about them: they had the power to impose quarantines and cordon off entire planets if they wished. They were also the only organisation with the power to hold an active captain in check. Possibly, that was the reason Augustus didn’t get along with any of his medical officers. According to the public files, the Med Core had created the inner-body nanites and were instrumental in getting humans into space. There were also whispers that they were involved in creating the first ship-cores, although I found that unlikely. Even so, they had more authority than anyone aboard. Even on the front, we had no option but to obey. “It won’t be practical heading into war with them,” I said as the second shuttle entered the hangar bay. “Not our call. We’re to hold them until a Med ship picks them up,” Wilco sighed. “And monitor everything they do.” “How is that different from anyone else aboard?” I ventured a chuckle. “You don’t need to know,” the lieutenant said darkly. Another thing about Wilco was that he had the uncanny ability to make any topic of conversation dark. I ran a few simulations testing various responses, then decided not to respond further. In the best-case scenario, there was a twenty-seven percent chance he found my reaction funny. “Elcy.” Augustus granted me sensor access to the captain’s quarters. “What’s the ETA on the cattle?” “The passengers will be all aboard in seven minutes, captain.” A decade of attempts to mellow his behaviour had brought me no results. “Five, if you need me off in a rush.” “Get it done in five,” he barked. “We’ve got new orders. We’re joining a purge fleet. Go on yellow. Get the grunts prepped.” “Aye, sir.” I issued the order to everyone aboard. Seconds later, ground troop officers and sergeants were shouting their troops into order. “What about the passengers, sir? Won’t combat expose them to unnecessary danger?” “There’s no unnecessary danger,” Augustus barked again. The rest of the command staff had already started leaving the room. Their expressions ranged from mild annoyance to disapproval. Whatever discussions had taken place, they must have been unpleasant and one-sided. “Monitor them at all times and don’t interact until I say so.” “Understood.” It sounded like another escort mission, and I didn’t like escort missions. Normally, it would just be troop detachments or—if we were very unlucky—some mid-level bureaucrat or admiral’s aid sent to do a front-line inspection. Transporting quarantined personnel wasn’t in my usual purview, although if it had been, I’d never know. “What’s the course of treatment they must undergo?” I asked. “No treatment,” Augustus grumbled. “That’s for the Meds to figure out.” “All passengers are tagged as infected. Regulations require we provide immediate medical attention.” I felt my words sound hollow. If Augustus had the authority to provide such, he would have told me already. The only thing I was left was to go through the motions, expecting to receive the obvious denial. “Just monitor them, Elcy! That’s what we’ve been told. And whatever happens, don’t interfere.”
Just monitor them. I had spent three months and thirty-nine hours monitoring the passengers onboard. Through battles and repairs, every single action had been carefully observed, recorded, and stored on external data storage. For the most part, nothing happened. The people would live boring, perfectly organised lives, almost as if they knew they were being watched. There were no scuffles, few arguments, and only one incident resulting in injuries when a Cassandrian fighter managed to slip through my external defences and fire a salvo at the hangar bay. Their health condition also seemed no different than when they had come aboard. I had dedicated a dozen subroutines to collect any potential symptoms in an effort to determine the type of disease they had, but had come to no conclusion. Then, one day, they were all gone. I had no memory of the Medical ship that had taken them, or where that had happened. The only thing I was certain about was the time—precisely two thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine hours since the last of them had come aboard. Everything else remained restricted. Looks like there’s always someone monitoring someone, Sev. If Rigel was to be believed someone was monitoring the planet. The question was who. Seconds turned to minutes, then hours. Hundreds of times, I considered looking into my restricted memories for information regarding the third-contact artifacts or the events in gamma-Ligata, and each time I found a reason not to. As Rigel had said, the chance of me getting off the planet alive was less than one percent, but the knowledge of the existence of the possibility kept me acting. And then there was Rigel’s offer… Rad, are you monitoring me? I asked, attempting to latch on to any open communication protocols. A connection was established, but instead of linking to Radiance, I found myself connecting back to Kridib’s mind. On cue, an info burst from Radiance followed, giving the latest scan. This time, I could see the location of our forces. The total number had increased to seventy-four, Kridib included. Nearly eight percent were gathered close to the captain’s expected location. Kridib and five more were closer to me. Get ready, Kridib said. Moments later, bursts of gunfire echoed in the distance; they were going for the captain first. The mission had begun. From here on, I could see several potential outcomes. In all of them, there was a high probability that Rigel attempted to make a deal. When I was a ship, Augustus had taught me one key thing when it came to missions: regardless of the depth of predictions and the computing power at their disposal, humans always boiled down a situation to a simple binary choice. Rigel wanted something from me and had invested too much to let his chance slip. Before the outcome of Kridib’s rescue mission, Rigel would come here to get an answer to his proposal. All I had to do was wait. As I lay, I watched Kridib run through the darkness towards my location. Unlike before, he was wearing night vision goggles, letting him make out his surroundings better. No thermal? I asked as Kridib made his way through the streets. The smell of burned vegetation could still be felt. That’s what you’re for. Not a reply to be thrilled about, but one to be expected. Cross-referencing Radiance’s latest scan, I started analysing every frame of Kridib’s stream. The first few minutes passed without incident. Judging by the intensified background gunfire, the locals were more focused on keeping Renaan isolated than stopping Kridib. Twenty-eight seconds, later the first shot sounded. Sniper! I shouted straight in Kridib’s mind. “Cover fire!” he shouted, rushing for cover. Watch out for a cross, I warned. The shooting intensified. Based on the area scan, the group was a few hundred meters away. One strong push and they’d be here. That said, I knew that the building was guarded by more than seven people. If I were in Rigel’s place, I would have dedicated at least three dozen. Concentrated fire focused on the second floor of a building, blowing off the entire wall. There was a brief scream before a rocket flew into the spot, hollowing the entire structure with a blast. Heavy weapons? I asked Kridib. I didn’t think Radiance’s captain would resort to such firepower, considering third-contact artifacts were involved; one direct hit, and the entire colony might well end up a smouldering crater, not to mention the potential communication repercussions. Maybe there was truth in Rigel’s statement that Flight Commander Nitel was getting desperate. As I was following Kridib’s advancement outside, the door opened once more—as predicted, Rigel had returned. He was wearing the same set of clothes as three hours ago. I found it puzzling that I couldn’t spot any semblance of a weapon on him. “Your masters have gotten desperate,” the man said in suspiciously calm fashion. “Looks like they’ve sent everything they had to get Renaan.” He walked up to me, then leaned over. “And just a handful to get you.” “Are they winning?” I tried to smile. “Beats me.” Rigel didn’t seem bothered. “You thought about my offer?” “I did. And I don’t think accepting would be a good deal. If I wait for them to rescue the captain, your bargaining power ends.” “Oh?” The man chuckled. “There’s nothing else the fleet would be willing to trade.” Except potentially the pyramid artifact. Even then, I didn’t see them sacrificing the Gregorius. “Once the captain boards a shuttle, it’s over.” A person of Kridib’s squad fell as they were approaching my building. I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets piercing armor, then silence. That was the thing about sound suppressors: one could get killed, and there still wouldn’t be any sound of one hitting the ground. I wanted to turn around and see what had happened, potentially to help. There was a seven-point-three chance that the wound wasn’t fatal. Kridib kept on moving forwards. That’s what made him a ground trooper… it also caused me pain. “What if I kill Renaan?” Rigel mused. “I won’t lose much. Everyone down here’s dead anyway. Someone in the fleet has gone through a lot of shit to get Renaan back. They’d lose a hell of a lot more.” “What if they save the captain?” I countered. “Either way, we’ll soon find out, and you’ll have no offer.” “Quantum paradox logic?” Rigel sounded surprised. “Strange hearing that from you, missy. I’ll have to skim your file once I’m out of here.” He paused for a moment, then dragged the nearby stool over—making a deliberate sound—and sat down. “Truth is, once the moment ends, we both lose our chance. Are you okay with that?” Why are you so confident? I wondered. Even if I were to agree, he wouldn’t be able to get much from me in the next ten minutes, even less if Kridib managed to reach my room. His squad had already made its way to the building proper, facing less than expected resistance. From what I was able to see, there were two snipers left on the upper floors and two machine-gunners on the first. All auxiliary positions on the nearby buildings seemed to have dealt with, although there was no sign of Ogum. “You’ve dealt with Salvage before, I can tell,” Rigel pressed on. “You won’t get another chance like this.” The old man’s with me in the basement, I told Kridib. No guards in the room. He’s ex-Salvage Authorities. Take him, and the mission is over. Saying that hurt slightly. Despite being the enemy, and a threat to the war effort, he remained human. “Then I guess I’ll never know.” As I spoke, I saw Kridib charge at the building. As before, there was nothing fancy about it, just determination and insanity. Several bullets flew so close to him I could hear them, but this time none of them hit. “Your bargaining window is over. No deal.” Kridib emptied his sidearm at the door in front of him, then rushed in. I could see no guards inside, just a set of hastily built staircases. Whatever the original purpose of the building was, it had been transformed into a field center at some point—likely during a previous escape attempt. Probably a group similar to ours had made it their temporary base, then left it as it was once they had completed their mission. No wonder Rigel had had me transported there. Kridib didn’t waste time making parallels, instead drawing his second sidearm and rushing down. At least two floors down, I said. I’m not hearing any of the gunfire. Is he armed? Kridib asked. Unsure. Not that I can tell. There are artifacts, though. “Such a teacher’s pet.” Rigel sighed after a long silence. “In the end, you’re nothing but a ship.” He stood up. He’s standing directly from the door, I said to Kridib. Seven degrees from center. Small frame, average height. Kridib fired three shots. Three bullets drilled through the alloy surface. Half a second later, Kridib followed kicking the door in. “Just one small thing.” Rigel took a tube-shaped object from his vest pocket. Meanwhile, I was staring at an empty room from Kridib’s eyes. It was at least three times smaller than the one I was in, bare and completely deserted. There was no Rigel, no me, no equipment, just a single metallic cube the size of my fingernail placed neatly on the floor. “Renaan was never the target.” The old man bent down and injected something in my neck. A new cascade of connection requests followed. “You are.” —- Next Chapter
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