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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part One
NOTE: Although I was originally planning on posting this whole review at once, I was about a third of the way through the book when I realized that I was already quickly approaching the full length of my previous posts. So, in the interest of making this a pleasant experience for us all, I'm sharing the first half now, and will follow up with the second half in a few days. And honestly, KKB's writing reminds me of Inception in that it's almost certainly hazardous to spend too much time immersed in any single sitting. So fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride! ------- So, a lot of you guys have been asking about Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! (wow, is this what it feels like to be an influencer?), and I am thrilled to report that my adventure through this book's 264 pages was even more confounding than I could have possibly anticipated. I have a feeling that I'll need every ounce of my strength if I want to have any shot at conveying to you all exactly how bonkers this purported self-help book is, so -- without further ado -- let's begin. I Can Make You Hot!, subtitled The Supermodel Diet, has a fairly straightforward premise. Kelly, who "has done it all when it comes to nutrition and her body," will share her hard-earned wisdom with us, her humble readers. Or, as she says in her own words on the back cover:
In I Can Make You Hot! I'm going to clue you in to all the tricks I've learned from a variety of experts and that I now use to live my own life. I want you to be the best you -- happy, attractive, shapely, interested, interesting, and most of all, smokin' HOT!
The blurb promises that the experience of reading this book will be "like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together." Truly, only someone with Kelly Bensimon's tenuous grasp on reality would say this as if it were something exciting, rather than a scenario taken directly out of the third circle of hell. But before we can truly learn what it means to be HOT!, we're treated to a foreword by none other than Russell Simmons. As he shares with us:
Kelly is a great mother and is constantly instilling strong principals [sic] in her daughters. In my opinion, that's the essence of being HOT. Kelly is smokin'.
And just like that, I Can Make You Hot! is knocked out of the running for First-Book-I've-Read-By-A-Bravolebrity-That-Is-Also-Free-From-Glaring-Typographical-Errors. Better luck next time, champ! In case you were at all hesitant about Kelly's suitability for the job of helping the less fortunate among us reach their maximum potential, Russell clarifies:
Her beauty truly comes from within, and her clear internal compass and well-balanced lifestyle is what makes her an arbiter for what's hot. She has always had her own individual road map and is one of those people who beats to their own drum. Many are amazed by her leaps of faith and courage, which are products of her sustainable soul. And back to that energy! I used to think: If we could only package it. And now Kelly has!
I would kill to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Russell Simmons and Kelly Bensimon. But all of these endorsements are making me impatient to dig into Kelly's advice, so I skim over the next few pages and arrive at the introduction: "What's HOT and What's Not." Almost immediately, Kelly reassures us that she was not always the gorgeous, talented socialite she is today -- "No. Let's just say that I was never one of those tiny, cute blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after." Excuse you what?I literally just walked away from my laptop to go talk to my boyfriend and make sure I'm not just ignorant of some otherwise well-known traditional male courtship ritual in which young men adopt rodents and christen them after the women they love. That doesn't seem to be the case, although please reach out if you can shed any additional light on this situation. Reasonably enough, before we can learn how to be hot, we have to know what hot is. Fortunately, Kelly wastes no time in getting us up to speed:
When I was trying to come up with a title for this book, I kept asking myself how I would define what I love. "HOT" is the word that best describes what I love, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. "HOT" is attractive, unique, and first-rate -- never mediocre. Avril Lavigne made a video called "HOT." There are "HOT" issues of all my favorite magazines. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper. Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.
For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.
…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.
pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley. Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself. Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant. Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!" The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!" If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats. We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think. We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
For every cheeseburger and fries, you owe me 12 cartwheels on the quad with your friends.
to bizarrely specific and also racially insensitive.
If you starve yourself for a day because you want to lose weight for Homecoming, you owe me 5 minutes of sitting Indian style in a corner and meditating on why you thought that was a good option.
Upon further reflection, I think I would actually be extremely motivated to stick to a diet if the alternative was being reprimanded by Kelly and forced to think about my poor life choices. As a scientist myself, I was ecstatic to see that Kelly has drawn from a diverse array of scientific disciplines to develop her HOT tips and tricks. Physics, for example:
From Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion A body in motion stays in motion. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. So if you want to step up your exercise routine, try running in sand instead of on the pavement, or bike through gravel. That way your body will have to work harder in order to stay in motion.
Even biology has something to teach us about how to be HOT:
You are a living organism; life is an organic process. You need to be up and active, ready to enjoy the process. Be open and available and ready to do fun stuff. Participating in what you love is HOT.
I'm truly impressed by Kelly Bensimon's unparalleled ability to reframe the most basic common sense as divinely inspired wisdom. We see this in lines like
If you're feeling a bit frazzled and you need to calm down, you might want to take a yoga class.
or, as we read in another "HOT Tip" panel
Don't be afraid to drink water while working out.
I refuse to believe that this is a problem any person has ever faced. Even Aviva Drescher is not afraid of drinking water while working out (although, for the record, she is afraid of aluminum foil). Kelly closes out this chapter by encouraging the reader to "do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone." If you find yourself lacking inspiration, she provides helpful suggestions, such as "try a fruit you've never eaten" and "try tap dancing." As she asserts, "there's nothing more foolish than sitting on your butt when you could be moving your body and having fun." I turn the page, and the clock rolls over to Wednesday -- "Diet = 'DIE with a T.'" Cute. I bet Kelly would find that Tumblr post that's like "she believed" to be unbearably clever. She wastes no time in letting us know:
I don't believe in diets; diets are for people who want to get skinny. I want you to be happy. If you feel good about yourself, you'll make good choices. If you starve yourself to be skinny, you'll be undermining your sense of self-worth and you'll be unhappy every day. Eating well -- a variety of high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods -- is for people who want to be happy -- and if you're not happy you won't be hot! Happy is always better than skinny.
This is starting to feel like some sort of word problem from Algebra II. If happy is better than skinny, but hot is equal to happy, diet = die + t??? Kelly tells us that all women fall into two categories: overachievers and underachievers. Being an overachiever is good, and being an underachiever is bad. Here are some things you can do to become an overachiever:
Make good choices.
When in doubt, have fun.
Kelly's motivational-phrasebook app apparently starts to glitch out right about here, but she continues on:
Stay positive and move forward. This is your last try at today. Yesterday may not have been great, but, today is better -- you just need to see it that way. The choice is up to you.
The idea of someone being in such a dark psychological place that they are able to find inspiration in those words is so deeply sad to me that I can hardly bear to consider it. Thankfully, Kelly has already taken a hard left turn into what I think is some sort of extended metaphor:
I've already said that you need to treat your body like a Ferrari, but maybe you prefer a Maserati, an Aston Martin, a Corvette, or even a Bentley. Whatever your luxury car of choice, if you treat it well, it will increase in value; if you treat it like a bargain rental car, it's just going to wear out -- and being worn out is not hot!
Ah, yes, I'd momentarily forgotten that cars almost always increase in value after they're purchased, and don't have a culturally ubiquitous reputation for losing most of their resale value immediately. Solid analogy. Apropos of nothing, we get a "HOT Tip" list of "model diet secrets that DON'T work." I'm extremely glad that Kelly encouraged us to take notes while reading -- I'd be devastated if any of these pointers had escaped my attention.
Eating Kleenex to make yourself feel full does not work.
The Graham cracker diet does not work.
Drugs do not work.
Well, I suppose this clears up some Scary Island confusion. Had Kelly indeed been doing meth (as the reported cat-pee smell might suggest), she would be fully aware that many drugs are, in fact, extremely effective ways to lose weight. But lest you start to lose faith in the expertise of our fearless leader, read on: "when it comes to food choices, I've probably made every mistake in the book." By which she means that she ate Chinese chicken soup before giving birth to her first daughter and it made her sick, so she ate a turkey sandwich before giving birth to her second daughter and she didn’t get sick. To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to find a way to apply this wisdom to my own life, but I'm sure it will become clear in no time! Kelly is relatable for the first time so far in the following passage:
When I was accused of being a "bitch" on national television, I was really upset. My response was to find comfort in Mexican food and margaritas for lunch and dinner three days straight.
But we promptly return to form on the next page as she recounts her daily diet of "2 green juices," "a KKBfit lunch," and "a KKBfit dinner." I'd like to take a moment to appreciate how generous it is of Kelly to share her wisdom -- earned through a lifetime of catastrophic missteps -- so freely. It certainly didn’t come without a cost, as the following anecdote illustrates:
On the last day of my juice fast, I took my older daughter to a Yankees game where we gorged on sushi. (Yes, they have sushi at Yankee Stadium) As a result, I was stuffed and blinded by carbs when A-Rod came up to bat and hit a home run. Was I able to savor that A-Rod moment with my daughter? Absolutely not. I was in a food coma. Will I ever let myself be thrown into a food frenzy again? No! Lesson learned: I made another stupid food choice, and because of that choice I missed that home run moment with my daughter. From now on, when I go to a Yankees game I'll have a small hot dog instead….I want you to do the same.
Verily! Heed her words of wisdom, lest ye not also lose the precious chance for thine own A-Rod moment. But don’t think this caution means that you have to get caught up in the minutia of your day-to-day. On the contrary, appropriate planning means "you can stop obsessing about your carrot intake and concentrate on what it is that's going to make you a great person in life." To help illustrate this point, Kelly introduces us to the "Kelly pie."Otherwise known as a pie chart. This is a helpful way to really visualize how much time you'll have now that you can cut that pesky carrot-pondering out of your day! Kelly even offers some thoughtful "hints" to divide your pie:
Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
Get up in the morning and say, "I'm so grateful to be where I am and look the way I do," no matter what your size is.
Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
Be mindful of what you eat. If I have to be mindful of what I eat, so do you. We're in this together.
Ooh, sorry Brad, I won't be able to make it to this afternoon's meeting -- it actually conflicts with my daily session of believing in my ability to make good choices today and every day. No, I understand how that could seem like an abstract sentiment rather than something that actually takes up time within your daily schedule, but if Kelly has to do it, so do I! And to be honest, my day is packed enough as it is -- it takes at least a second or two for me to tell myself I look HOT (because I do!), and I'm just worried that if I try to squeeze anything else in, it will cut into my mid-morning health celebration. Wish I could help! In a strangely threatening aside, Kelly commands: "Write down what you ate for the last two days. Don't lie. We can start fresh tomorrow, one bite at a time." In a section titled, "What I Eat Every Day," Kelly enumerates her "three go-to breakfasts": "two oranges or a plate of mixed berries if I'm not going to be very active, all-bran cereal or some other high-fiber cereal with almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk if I'm going on a long run, riding, or doing something else that requires extra energy, and on weekends, I love making pancakes to eat with my girls." As should be apparent, this is far more than three breakfasts. I am irrationally angry, in the same way I was when a Bachelor contestant said their favorite food was a charcuterie platter. That's cheating. (And yes, I do strongly identify with my Virgo moon, thanks for asking.) Kelly inexplicably (apologies if I've used that word for the zillionth time already) tells us that "a plastic cup that says 'Forced Family Fun' from www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag! Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong. Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.
Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate."Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know. The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
Always go with a list and never buy more than two items you planned on taking home.
This is incoherent, right? I know I need to wrap up Part 1 of this write-up pretty soon, because I've read this sentence at least two dozen times trying to make some sense of it, and am still at an utter loss. I assume she's left out a negative somewhere, but at this point, I realize I've already thought about this tip for approximately ten times longer than Kelly ever has, so I'll move on. For the third or fourth time so far this book, Kelly segues into a literal grocery list. To be fair, this is a very effective strategy to take up several pages with minimal text. And what could be more compelling than
Shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs
Truly the voice of a generation! Decades from now, English teachers will be teaching their students about a fabled wordsmith who once uttered those eternal words, "shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs." Because this book has absolutely no respect for logical cohesion, we are hurled immediately into a diatribe about how expensive it can be to buy organic -- "I recently walked out of an organic market having paid $400 for just three bags of groceries." As I read on, however, it becomes quickly apparent that Kelly has no idea what the concept of 'organic' even means:
"Organic," in any case, seems like something of a misnomer to me. I know the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for certifying foods organic, but to me, for foods to be truly and totally organic, they would have to be grown in a test tube or a greenhouse with no exposure to the natural elements.
Well, sure Kelly. If that's what you would like to use the word "organic" to mean, be my guest. She tosses us another crumb of helpful guidance, but it only serves to make me feel exceptionally sorry for Kelly's daughters and everything they have to endure:
Plate your food as if it were being served to you in a fine restaurant. Use a fancy foreign accent as you invite everyone to come to the table. Or try saying it in French. My girls love it when I announce, "Le dîner est servi!"
We learn in yet another "HOT tip" that "fast food doesn't have to be fat food," and Kelly tells us for the eighth time that she eats two oranges every morning. In what has already become a recurring theme for me in this book, the following passage makes me desperately curious to know how Kelly thinks science works:
One question people frequently ask me is whether I believe in taking vitamins or supplements, and the answer is "yes, I do," because, even though I know my diet is healthy, I can't be sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I need. All the vitamins and minerals we need can be found naturally in foods, but how do we know, even if we're eating a healthy diet, that we're getting everything we need?
I flip back two pages to confirm that Kelly told us quite recently how important it is to read nutrition labels to know what is in the food we eat (to make sure we avoid foods "whose labels are full of words you can't pronounce"). Exactly how she is reading these nutrition labels yet still manages to have no inkling how anyone could possibly begin to assess their vitamin and mineral intake eludes me. She continues:
I don't want to take that chance. I think of the food I eat as fuel and vitamins as my oil -- my body's engine needs both. Vitamins and supplements are not food replacements, but we're exposed to so many environmental toxins on a daily basis that I believe we need to supplement our diets to counteract all the harm those substances can cause.
I can certainly think of something that is causing harm to my psychological stability at this particular moment, which I should probably take as a sign to wrap things up for today and go read some incredibly dense Victorian prose or something to remind myself what a properly constructed sentence looks like. Promise I won't leave you waiting for long!!
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
We open with a ton of details on Steve Austin walking out on WWE last week, and the story took a darker turn this week when Austin was accused of allegedly beating his wife Debra. Looks like Dave is just going to run through the whole last couple of weeks first though, before we get to all that. No wrestler in the history of the business has generated more money than Austin has in the past 5 years, leading the way for WWE to become listed on the New York Stock Exchange and valued at more than $1 billion. Hulk Hogan, Antonio Inoki, Gorgeous George, Jim Londos....no one in the history of wrestling, even adjusted for inflation, has been a bigger money-maker than Steve Austin. Throughout it all, he had a reputation as a pro's pro, always working hard and being unselfish in trying to help the company and his co-workers grow. But over the last few months, things had changed. The company is nose-diving, Austin had become paranoid and distrustful of the locker room, particularly when the NWO guys were brought in. He refused to work with Hogan at Wrestlemania and wasn't happy about working with Hall either, and insisted on decisively winning their match and blowing off the feud. He went home after Wrestlemania, no-showing Raw the night after, but things seemed to be patched up soon after. When he came back, he still wasn't happy and spoke out publicly against the brand extension and the overall creative direction of the company. A lot of people in the locker room supported Austin, feeling he was completely justified in his complaints because everyone realizes the wheels are falling off the company lately. The Sunday night before Raw last week, Austin was told by Jim Ross that the plan was for him to face Brock Lesnar, with the idea that Eddie Guerrero would cost him the match. Austin pointed out the obvious: him vs. Lesnar is a huge money match that should be built up for months on PPV. Lesnar should go through the whole locker room before he gets to Austin last. No first, on free TV, with no build-up. Austin hated the idea and said he wasn't coming if that was the plan. Ross told Vince, who called Austin and left a voicemail. He told Austin to call him back, no matter what time. Austin did call back, at 2am, and they discussed the plan. According to Vince, Austin had reluctantly agreed to it. Austin evidently felt otherwise, because he showed up to Raw that day, found out the Lesnar match was still booked, and decided, "fuck that", got on a plane and went home with Debra.
Raw that night was mostly built around the angle where Ric Flair would have to be Austin's personal assistant after he lost their match last week. Because much of the show was written around that, they had to re-write the whole show at the last minute in a panic, abruptly turning Flair babyface again and ending the huge dual-ownership angle with no build-up (it really sounds like Vince was determined to give away something huge on TV that week without building it up. "Ok, fine, Austin walked out. What else can we ruin this week and throw away a perfectly good PPV money opportunity?"). Meanwhile, Austin was ignoring all phone calls until he finally answered one from Jim Ross, who told Austin he was being unprofessional and to come try and talk it out with Vince. But Austin refused, saying he refused to work with McMahon anymore, and hung up.
So then came the burial. Vince McMahon and Jim Ross taped interviews for this week's episode of WWE Confidential in which they completely buried Austin, with Vince vowing to never bring him back. Basically everything you can imagine: Austin turned his back on the fans, he betrayed the little kids with Stone Cold shirts and all the fans who made him rich. WWE invested so much in Austin only for him to turn his back on them and so on and so forth. Jim Ross in particular dumped a lot of dirt on Austin's grave here, which Dave seems taken aback by. Austin saved Jim Ross' announcing career by insisting that JR be brought back for his Wrestlemania 15 match with Rock. At the time, Ross was still suffering from Bells palsy and Vince had no intention of ever bringing him back, but Austin insisted and the crowd reaction led to Ross being brought back permanently. So for Ross to be burying his good friend like this seems to rub Dave the wrong way (for what it's worth, it rubbed JR the wrong way too. He's gone on record a million times since then saying he wished he hadn't done it and he's apologized to Austin profusely for it). Ross talked openly about some of Austin's personal business, like his previous divorce or when his kids went to live in England, and hinted that Austin's issues were more than just professional burnout. At the time this was being filmed, nobody knew just how true that was.
The night before WWE Confidential aired, at 4am, Austin's wife Debra called 911 to their home in San Antonio, claiming Austin had attacked her. Austin drove away in his yellow Corvette before the police arrived. When they showed up, they found Debra crying with a large welt on her face. She said Austin had hit her several times after an argument then left when she made the 911 call. She said she was worried about the call because of how famous Austin is and knowing word would get out. She also showed them several marks on her back where she said Austin hit her. Austin called the house twice while police were there and they spoke to him and advised him to come home. Austin was cordial to the officers on the phone but refused to come back home while they were there. Debra declined to press charges and because she refused to seek medical attention, under Texas law, the police pretty much consider it a dead issue unless she changes her mind. Austin later returned home after they left. The national news media didn't pick up on it until Monday, at which point it became a huge story. They even had a news helicopter following Austin driving around town (with an open beer in his Corvette), talking with his neighbors in his yard, and also showed him flipping off the news cameras (I can't find footage of any of this). Because Austin is a wrestler and play fighting is what they do, the media treated this very serious issue as if were almost a joke, which Dave seems disgusted by.
With Austin being all over the news that day, this led to the unannounced surprise return of The Rock on Raw, after they spent the whole show teasing that Austin would show up. Rock wasn't scheduled to return until next month, to build for a match at Summerslam, but knowing the company was in a tough situation, Rock agreed to come back early. The plan appears to be for Rock to challenge for the WWE title at Fully Loaded next month. There's also been talk about Rock winning the title and then dropping it to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam, which is a surefire way to create a new superstar (indeed, that's exactly what happens). Rock's return, since it came as a complete surprise, was a flop in the ratings. If they had built it up just one week, they could have made some money on it, but not building up anything seems to be the M.O. for WWE these days. Between the Shawn Michaels return, the FlaiVince blow-off, and now this, that's 3 Raws in a row where they gave away major moments that should/could have been built up for bigger ratings or PPV money. Dave calls WWE a junkie pawning its $2,500 ring for $500 just to get a quick fix. And that's not even getting into the smaller details, such as the fact that Rock is a Smackdown guy, so why the fuck is he returning on Raw anyway? But again, the wheels are totally off the WWE train here in 2002. It's clear to see in retrospect how WWE was falling from their peak and Vince was desperately clawing at any idea he could think of to stop the bleeding.
So back to Austin. Even after the story broke, Vince went on Raw and changed his tune, saying he hoped Austin would some day come back to WWE but time would tell and for now, he's gone. Dave says if you think this is going to end Austin's career, look at Mike Tyson, Jimmy Snuka, Invader I, and Chris Adams. All of whom did even more heinous things than Austin and their careers were just fine. Dave is pretty sure he'll be back. Rock came out on Raw, gave a big rah-rah speech in which he also pretty much buried Austin for "taking his ball and going home" and did the whole "get the F out" tagline. And that's it on the Austin saga for now.
It's officially super-duper extra official now: the World Wrestling Federation is dead. WWE lost its final appeal in the UK's highest court in their battle against the World Wildlife Fund. Vince McMahon had already thrown in the towel and the company has already been renamed to WWE, but the final appeal was never dropped and was still going through the system. In the highly unlikely event that they somehow won the case, they planned to revert back to the WWF initials. But of course, they didn't win. Just like every single lower court before them, the court handed the wrestling company its final defeat. So WWF is dead. WWE it is.
Motoko Baba officially announced that she will be retiring as AJPW president at the end of September. It's expected that Keiji Muto will take over the role, which has been heavily rumored ever since he jumped ship from NJPW.
A rookie named Trevor Rhodes, who was trained by Harley Race, will be working the upcoming tour for Pro Wrestling NOAH (this would be future WWE star Trevor Murdoch).
NJPW held its annual stockholders meeting and Antonio Inoki couldn't even be bothered to attend. Masa Chono and Tatsuo Kawamura were named to the board of directors, to replace Riki Choshu. Speaking of, Choshu was also there and sold all his stock in the company and left without speaking to reporters.
In a radio interview, Jesse Ventura announced that he will not be running for a second term as Minnesota's governor. Ventura didn't go into all the reasons why, but he did acknowledge a recent controversy as playing a part. There's been some news stories this week noting that Ventura's 22-year-old son used the governor's mansion for a late night weekend party awhile back. Cleaning crew members of the mansion went public saying that when their parents are gone, this kid basically throws wild parties there that they have to clean up after. Ventura shot back, basically claiming his son is being slandered and denied it, but said the attacks on his family made him not want to run again. The news stories talked about some of the alleged damage and Dave actually sides with Ventura here. The damage doesn't sound that bad (some empty beer cans, a broken pool cue, and some tables that were scuffed up. "Geez, that's my house whenever there is a fight night," Dave writes. Doesn't sound like that wild of a party. A 22-year old brings his friends over to watch sports and drink some beer. Dave doesn't think that should be a huge controversy or anything. Neighbors near the mansion have said there's been no issue with noise or disturbances.
Major League Wrestling had its debut show at the old ECW Arena and the MLW championship was won by Shane Douglas. They did an angle where they basically tried to re-create the famous Shane Douglas/NWA title incident, where Shane was gonna throw the belt down, but they did an angle where he was told he'd be fined and suspended for life from wrestling if he didn't defend the belt. Angle didn't get over at all and most people there hated it and it led to pretty mediocre reviews for the show overall. Bam Bam Bigelow was supposed to work the show, but when he arrived, he found out they wanted him to do a job to AJPW wrestler Taiyo Kea in the first round of the title tournament. Bam Bam said fuck that and bounced. Steve Corino also managed to get a "fuck Paul Heyman!" chant going, in the ECW Arena nonetheless, which is an interesting note.
Sandman will be doing a celebrity boxing match in Philly soon, going against Tony Luke, who owns a bunch of sandwich shops in the area and is known as "The King of Sandwiches" in Philadelphia. Sure, why not?
There was a recent news story about Sputnik Monroe from a reporter who was in Memphis for the Tyson/Lewis boxing match. The reporter went to the Memphis Rock 'n Soul museum and saw the big display they had there for Monroe, including his ring jacket, trunks, boots, etc. Dave recaps the history of Monroe, who is credited with desegregating wrestling in Memphis during the Jim Crow days of the 1950s. Monroe was a white wrestler who hung out in the black part of town and, as a result, became the black fans' favorite wrestler. He was a huge draw in Memphis at a time when black fans weren't allowed to sit in the main seats, only the nosebleeds in the balcony. Monroe's popularity was so big that one week, they turned away more than 1,000 black fans even though they had room in the arena. Just not in the "colored" section. So Monroe told the promoter he was quitting if they didn't let in his black fans. And since Monroe was such a huge draw, the promoter caved, and just like that, black fans were allowed to sit with white fans anywhere in the arena. It actually had a domino effect, because it was the first sporting event in Memphis to desegregate and it led to other sporting and entertainment events in the city following suit. In the 50s and 60s, Memphis was one of the only wrestling territories in America that was desegregated like this (fun fact: I used to live in Memphis and just went to that museum back in 2018. For starters, I highly recommend it if you're ever in town. In fact, I have a million recommendations for anyone who ever visits Memphis. That city is my heart and soul. Also, the Sputnik Monroe exhibit is still there).
The TNA debut show hasn't happened at press time, but Ken Shamrock is expected to win the NWA title in the battle royal gimmick. If he doesn't, it's because there was a last minute change, but as of now, it's absolutely going to be Shamrock.
Good news for TNA, the company reached an agreement with Dish Network, which adds another 7-8 million potential homes to their exposure. The only PPV provider in the U.S. not carrying them now is Cablevision.
The TNA cruiserweight title has been renamed the "X" title. The idea is that it's not necessarily going to be limited to just small guys and will act more as a secondary title to the NWA belt, not exclusively a cruiserweight thing.
Disco Inferno turned down an offer to join TNA because they wanted him to change his name to Ad Man and have a gimmick where people print/draw ads on his body, like they do in boxing sometimes. Or like a NASCAR. The idea is he would be covered in ads and every week, he'd lose a match and a "sponsor" would drop out and eventually, he'd have no sponsors left because he keeps losing. Gee, hard to see why he turned that gimmick down.
Random other TNA notes: Ed Ferrara is involved in writing the shows along with Jeff and Jerry Jarrett (and, let's be honest, Vince Russo, though that's still top secret. Shhhh, don't tell anybody). Jeff Jarrett was in the pits for the recent NASCAR Kroger 300 race with Hermie Sadler, who is scheduled to be at TNA's debut show. Former ECW manager Sinister Minister will be part of this company, using his real name James Mitchell. K-Krush (Ron Killings, aka R-Truth) is expected to be one of the main heels in the promotion.
Okay, fine. Let's talk Russo. Officially, he's still not involved, but he has submitted a bunch of ideas, many of which are expected to be implemented on the debut show. But "officially" he's not part of the company (he's still gotta have a quick cup of coffee in WWE before they kick him to the curb again, at which point he finally decides to join TNA for real).
The WWA promotion is in deep trouble. They have a show scheduled for Ireland soon and ticket sales for that show are pretty decent. But every other show on their books looks to be dying. They have 3 shows scheduled for Germany next month and all 3 shows have less than 500 tickets sold each. The German promoters are wanting to cancel the tour but WWA promoter Andrew McManus has a contract that will result in a lot of financial penalties for him if the shows are canceled, so he's fighting it. Lex Luger is booked for the tour, which would be his first time wrestling since WCW went down. They're also still promoting names like Jeff Jarrett and other TNA contracted talent, but with their new plan of running live every week, it's going to be hard for any of them to get overseas, work the tour, and still do the TNA tapings.
XWF is making one last grasp to survive. Even though they've been saying this for almost a year now, the promotion is claiming once again to be very close to getting a TV deal. If it goes through, the plan is to hold a press conference to announce it and then tape 5 weeks of TV to air in Sept. and Oct., with plans to air a PPV some time in late-October. Dave says this sounds like desperation to him and he's not buying that a TV deal is close. Especially since they lost all their top stars, like Hogan, Curt Hennig, and Jerry Lawler, all of whom were involved at the beginning but have all since returned to WWE (though Hennig has since been fired by WWE again, so he's available). But even if this miraculously happens, most of the marketable names left out there have already signed short-term deals with TNA that will last through October, so they wouldn't be available either. So XWF will be struggling to fill a roster with names anyone even cares about (obviously this never happens).
UFC will make its TV debut as part of a 30-minute segment on Fox Sports' "The Best Damn Sports Show Period." It will be hosted by Fear Factor host Joe Rogan, who is a huge UFC fan and has a lot of martial arts experience himself. The idea is to show one full fight in its entirety (Robbie Lawler vs. Steve Berger), with highlights of other fights to fill out the rest of the time. Dave criticizes them for not putting Chuck Liddell vs. Vitor Belfort on the show, or at least airing highlights, but that's not the plan as of press time. Obviously, that's a strong PPV draw and that's where the money is, but you only get one chance to make a good impression and Dave thinks it would be in UFC's best interest to give TV viewers a taste of their best foot forward and try to get somebody like Liddell over with a new, large audience.
Dave says the Bob Sapp fight in K-1 that was talked about last week, in which Sapp basically mauled his opponent in such a way that he got DQ'd, was at least partially a work. Had it not been, Sapp would have been immediately fired, not given a rematch with the same opponent 6 weeks later. There's a pretty good chance that his opponent didn't know and that the people who ran in to separate them after the fight didn't know either, but Dave seems pretty confident that Sapp was instructed by someone higher up in K-1 to do what he did.
Rock's next movie, "Helldorado" is expected to film between September until around Christmas. WWE is hopeful Rock can make some appearances on TV during the those months in between filming dates, but that's going to be difficult to pull off (indeed, he never shows up during this time).
Speaking of Rock, he worked the Honalulu, HI house show over the weekend, which drew an easy sellout crowd, the first sellout for a house show in a long time. Due to Rock being on the card, tickets sold out in 2 hours and scalpers were making a ton of money. In fact, the show was such a big deal that a local radio station was giving away tickets for the craziest stunt fans could pull and 2 fans walked through downtown Honolulu completely naked in order to score tickets. Rock beat Jericho in the main event in a great match. It was WWE's first time there in 8 years (Dave corrects himself from before, when he said 14 years in a previous issue and someone here on Reddit called him out on it haha). Rock got a reaction like Antonio Inoki in Japan, he was basically a god in this city. A lot of his friends and family were there as well and backstage, Rock told people that the show was bigger to him than even his 4 Wrestlemania main events and called it the biggest night of his career. When talking about his grandfather, Rock got emotional and began crying and talked about his history promoting in Hawaii. Bruce Willis, for whatever reason, was in attendance, and during the match, they did an angle where Rock held Jericho for Willis to punch him which got a huge pop. Genichiro Tenryu and Motoko Baba were there as well, meeting with John Laurinaitis (Johnny Ace, who spent much of his career in AJPW). They were there to discuss doing business with WWE as well as to get some photo ops for the magazines back in Japan so they can get that WWE-rub. (Sure enough, here's an article from just a couple months ago where Rock says once again, to this day, that the match with Jericho in Hawaii was the most meaningful match of his career. I can't find any footage of the damn thing though, which is a shame).
Notes from Raw: X-Pac lost in a King of the Ring qualifier match to RVD and Dave says it's a good thing nobody in WWE pays attention to their own storylines because just a week or two ago, the story was that if anyone in the NWO loses a match going forward, they're out of the group. But of course, that wasn't even acknowledged or remembered here. Raven lost to Jeff Hardy in 3 minutes and Dave's not sure that Raven made the right move by giving up his safe commentary job because they sure don't seem to see much in him as a wrestler. The "Molly Holly is fat" storyline continued because fuck this company. Lawler even tried to get a "She's a fat ass" chant going. Backstage, X-Pac was shown crying after his loss, "sort of like real life," Dave jokes. They teased Austin showing up by playing his music and having Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit come out instead. They did a thing with Jackie Gayda teasing her being on the WWE Lingerie Special that airs next week and had Vince hitting on her backstage, making it very apparent why she was chosen to win Tough Enough over the obvious most deserving finalist, Kenny. And in the main event, Nash and Shawn Michaels were on commentary burying the match, making fun of Jim Ross, etc. And of course, the show closed with Rock doing his surprise return and promo where he pretty much buried Austin for leaving.
Coming out of Raw, a TON of fans still seemed to think the Austin thing was an angle. Vince's first promo, which was a total shoot about Austin being gone, didn't get over that way, with most fans in the arena expecting an angle and waiting for him to show up. There were constant "We want Austin!" chants and many people that Dave has heard from even thought the Confidential episode was all a work.
Notes from Smackdown: all the mentions of Austin on commentary weren't done live during the show, but were later dubbed in. Mostly it was just an effort to plug the Confidential episode about him, and it was such a last minute decision to do that episode that they had to edit the plugs in after the show was taped. The wall of security guards in the ring during the Triple H/Undertaker contract signing was copying the same thing they did before the Tyson/Lewis fight because it's a pretty cool visual. Nidia is doing a hillbilly gimmick now. Hurricane seems to be dropping his gimmick and going back to Gregory Helms. Word is most of the agents hated the Hurricane character for whatever dumb reason.
Dave talks about the upcoming Hogan vs. Kurt Angle match at King of the Ring and is curious to see how it goes. He thinks the most likely ending is Vince costing Hogan the match and Angle pinning him, but he's curious to see if Hogan is really going to try to put Angle over or is it gonna be another Kidman situation. That being said, WWE is protecting Angle and there's serious talk of giving Angle a run as the top guy, in the wake of Austin and Rock leaving and Undertaker and Triple H being so banged up. The idea is to put the belt on Angle and have him take on all comers, heel and face, like an old-school Lou Thesz-type champion. Either way, this Hogan match is going to be a test of how good Angle is because if he can't carry Hogan to a good match, then no one can. It's also going to be a test of whether Hogan is really the team player he claims to be now (yeah Dave's gonna be shocked at how this one ends I bet).
At the latest WWE tapings in Atlanta, Dusty Rhodes was backstage visiting and introducing his 16-year-old son Cody Runnels to everyone. Cody has been training with his father to be a wrestler. Good luck kid.
Former 50s-80s promoter Jim Barnett was also backstage at Raw and since it was his birthday, the McMahons got him a cake and orchestrated everyone singing happy birthday to him. Barnett was there because he was just hired as a consultant, which is curious timing. Barnett hadn't been officially hired by TNA or anything, but he had agreed to appear at their debut show as part of an angle with old NWA champions. So when WWE swooped in this past week and hired him, it got a lot of people talking but Dave says there's nothing to it. If Vince McMahon was trying to poach people from TNA, he wouldn't start by hiring a 78-year-old guy to be a consultant.
The local FOX station in Los Angeles, like everyone else, covered the Steve Austin/Debra story on the "Good Day L.A." morning newscast. The story was presented as a big joke, even using the headline "Smackdown At Home." Well, one of the anchors, Jillian Barberie, refused to play along, presenting the story as the serious issue it is and afterwards, criticized the station's writing team live on the air, calling them low class for making light of a woman being beaten by her husband.
Random WWE news and notes: Bubba Ray Dudley missed the UK PPV and TV this week due to the death of his mother. Edge and Chris Jericho have joined Kurt Angle as part of the Get Tough on Angina campaign that Angle has already been doing commercials for. A commercial for Summerslam was filmed this week with a bunch of guys chasing Trish Stratus in an ice cream truck.
Rey Mysterio made his WWE debut at a house show in San Diego, beating Chavo Guerrero. Mysterio was wearing his mask again and was said to be more impressive than anyone else on the show. The mask actually did come off by accident at one point though. Mysterio also looked substantially bigger than he did in WCW because, well, he's coming to WWE and you know how that goes.
NEXT WEDNESDAY:Bret Hart injured in bicycle accident, WWE re-hires Vince Russo, King of the Ring fallout, and more coverage of TNA's debut than you could ever possibly want, and a ton more...
Another chapter from u/eruwenn and myself. First / Prev / Next Aaron couldn’t help but be a little underwhelmed by the star port. When he had been told about a large space station that served as a central hub for the entire system he was expecting some bizarre bazaar of goods from every corner of the galaxy. What he found was a joyless jumble of bulk traders, hauliers offices and bars. This wasn’t the Azrimad with its prestigious shops and expensive cafes; this was a place for work. As they walked further along, the occasional gambling house or unique vendor would crop up, and Aaron spotted a couple of places that might be worth a second look. An Arkellian souvenir shop looked the most interesting thus far. They had various ceremonial outfits and cultural items from throughout their history, and he thought he could find a fun gift for Alexa there. A few people paid attention to the pair in the Gal. Fed. uniforms, but not many noticed Aaron. Without Sassie he was just another biped, a less common colour but hardly remarkable. On board the Azrimad he'd become accustomed to the constant glances. It was nice to blend in, and he was enjoying the anonymity. The high-pitched scream caused the whole thoroughfare to fall silent. Aaron spun around and saw a young Arkellian girl in oversized overalls pointing at him. “It’s really you!” she exclaimed; people were staring and Aaron was definitely being noticed now. The young girl grabbed the front of her overalls and tore them open to reveal a pale blue Cupcake Coalition t-shirt. “The first human. You’re him right?” She walked forward excitedly while clutching her hands to her chest, eyes wide. The crowd, realising this wasn’t going to turn into street theatre, quickly lost interest and the background chatter returned. Aaron let out a short laugh of relief and waved. “Hi there. Nice shirt.” Clak’Soon took his hand from his sidearm and Ha’Mon stepped out from behind the J’Rami. He was about to speak when the young Arkellian began gushing. “I couldn’t go to the march but I watched from my dad’s hauler. Where’s Sassie? I buy cupcakes every cycle and I have three t-shirts and a hat. My dad says I can get a Sassie onesie if I do well at school! Where is Alexa? Did you invent cupcakes? I watch all your videos, I subscribed when you only had four videos, and only three thousand followers. I decided to make my own channel too, and so far I've made six videos and gained twelve followers. Oh, oh, oh!” She was dancing from foot to foot. “Will you be on my channel? Please!” She’d spoken quickly and even though she’d stopped it still took a moment for them to process everything she’d said. Clak’Soon and Ha’mon both looked to Aaron – his fan, his problem. Aaron took a knee, bringing himself down to the girl’s eyeline. “First, please don’t eat a cupcake everyday. They’re treats, so space them out. Sassie and Alexa are packing up our belongings because we’re going on an adventure.” He paused as he tried to remember everything she’d said. “Oh, I didn’t invent cupcakes, just adapted a recipe from home. But,” -he leaned forward a little and whispered- “we managed to make safe chocolate chips, mostly.” As he said this next word he spread his hands like he was creating a rainbow in front of his face. “Cookies.” “OOooooooooh!” Her little dance became even more energetic, then she stopped as a puzzled look appeared on her face. “What’s a cookie?” Aaron’s laughter rang out and he stood up. “Don’t worry, they’re being approved in the next day or so. Do you have your camera?” “No.” She looked at her feet, and with sadness in her voice and the beginnings of tears in her eyes as if remembering some great trauma, she replied, “I’m not allowed to take it off the shuttle, after I lost my first one.” Aaron saw that she was getting upset and tried to make her feel more at ease. “Don’t worry about it, I lose stuff all the time. I lost my whole planet!” Her head lifted with a bright smile and she laughed. “I can run and ask my big sister to borrow hers.” Aaron was pleased he had cheered her up, but the constant shuffling of his companions reminded him they had somewhere to be. “We have an important meeting to get to. If you see us later we can do it then, ok?” She nodded. “What’s your name?” She paused and in a conflicted tone replied, “Dad says, I’m not supposed to tell strangers.” Realisation struck her and, once again, her smile vanished. ”Dad says, I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” Attempting to head off another emotional roller coaster, Ha’Mon was quick on the rescue. “How about you bring your big sister? Then we can introduce ourselves and not be strangers.” It took a moment for her to think it through, then her face once more erupted in a smile and her excited dance started again. “I’ll go ask her.” She didn’t even wait for a reply before she dashed off into the crowd. A large hairy J’Rami hand pulled Aaron upwards. “We’re late.” The shops they passed were now a blur. They had to increase their pace to a brisk walk, and as a result had to focus on not bumping into people as they hurried along. The Engineer’s Pit was hard to miss. Who needs a sign with a smell so pervasively unique? It was a scent with layers. Beyond the sweat, vomit and stale drink he caught the faint aroma of wet fur, grease and smoke. Aaron caught a brief glimpse of the frontage before they turned off down the Junak Arm, and the descriptor 'dunghole' seemed to be generous. He had no doubt that the floor within would be sticky with substances he didn't want to imagine. The arm that extended away from the Pit was clearly a recent addition, cleaner and brighter although still not a patch on the Azrimad. There were less stores, and no cafes or bars, simply a multitude of offices and what looked like warehouses attached to docking ports. Xii’Nok Wholesalers was just along from Xii’Nok Industries, and a little farther they passed Xii’Nok Construction. Finally they reached Xii’Nok’s Used Ships. An Arkellian in a smart, white suit was standing out front. He looked agitated, but as they drew closer his smile brightened and he rushed forward. “Ambassador Cooper!” He regarded the others, noting that neither was an officer. “And his loyal Galactic Federation assistants. Welcome, welcome, welcome. I am Lek Xii’Nok, please call me Lek, I’m sure we’re going to be great friends.” His handshake became a guiding arm on Aaron’s shoulder as he led him swiftly inside, leaving the others to trail behind. Aaron looked helplessly back over his shoulder as he was corralled into a seat. “Nice to meet you, Lek. Please call me Aaron.” Lek bowed deeply. “Thank you, Ambassador Aaron.” He stood and quickly clapped twice; the lights dimmed and a soft spotlight fell on Lek, while relaxing music began playing from hidden speakers. “I understand you are here for an extra-system ship. A first contact in my home system that wants to venture forth. It's a beautiful moment for our two species.” He seemed to choke up momentarily. “That you would choose my shipyard to find your vessel, your new home amongst the stars. I am honoured.” Another bow, and this time he raised his head to give Ha’Mon and Clak’Soon an irritated glance as they found their seats either side of the human. This was not exactly what Aaron had expected. It seemed more than a little theatrical for a simple sales pitch. “So...” He cleared his throat. “As we mentioned in our call, we don’t have much time. I’d like to see the ships as quickly as possible.” “Absolutely,” He quickly pulled a controller from his pocket and began clicking buttons. A large holo-display appeared in front of them with Lek’s face appearing as a logo, glowing brightly and smiling at them. “I always admire those with a decisive disposition. I have seen the footage and know that you are a man of action as well. Here I have selected an exceptional ship.” He clicked a button, with a flourish, and the hologram head became a large sleek ship. “This is a vessel befitting an Ambassador-” “Bollocks!” Clak’Soon yelled out, “The Keflox series are all looks and no oomph!” Ha’Mon was mortified by Clak’Soon’s rudeness but he had to agree. “It is true Aaron, and the repair costs are excessive due to their abundance of non-standard parts.” Lek’s mouth opened and shut as he tried to recover his composure. Before he could, the human spoke. “Next.” “Yes. Of course.” Lek fumbled, recovered, and performed another overly flamboyant click. The ship dissolved to be replaced by a smaller, more rounded ship. “This is-” “Bah!” Clak’Soon called out immediately. “Kasurian? No offence Ha’Mon, old pal. You guys make some fast racers, but the human can’t go around in a Kasurian ship. Do you know how often people try to kill him?” Lek blinked, looking from Clak'Soon to Aaron to Ha'Mon. Before he could say a word, the Kasurian spoke up instead. “It’s true. Half the people he meets try to kill him.” Aaron, slightly offended, quickly turned defensive. “I wouldn’t say half.” The large J’Rami stood and took the controller from Lek’s hand. “Let’s see if you have anything good.” He began clicking and ships, shuttles and tankers started whizzing past, the security officer oblivious to the outrage on Lek’s face. Ha’Mon jumped up and joined his friend. “I have it narrowed down already. He has all the ships listed on his portal. Stop clicking so fast!” Clak'Soon and Ha'Mon spoke in rapidfire shorthand, something they had clearly developed over a long friendship. Aaron couldn't follow a word of it, and instead watched the small Kasurian engineer. He darted this way and that, repeatedly trying – and failing – to obtain the controller. Lekfinally stood still, admitting defeat. He was clearly not happy that his slick presentation was ruined, and after a moment's contemplation more he rushed out of the room. “Somebody help! Security!” Aaron watched him leave, and a moment of worry passed over him as quickly as the ships flashed past his eyes. If they could find a ship he was fairly certain the salesman would forget about any inconvenience they had caused. The barrage of images slowed to a halt, revealing only three ships on display. Aaron stood and walked towards them, pointing out. "You know, you could have just asked him." Clak'Soon shrugged, but at least Ha'Mon had the decency to look ashamed. "So... what are my options?" The J’Rami and Kasurian looked at each other, then came to an unspoken agreement. Ha’Mon began. “Not good. If you were looking to haul cargo, then you’d have a better selection.” The human shook his head. “I don’t need something that big.” “Well not much else makes it this far out,” Ha’Mon continued. “We do have three that might work.” He pointed to the first ship and Aaron could tell it was Fae’Dan. Such a predictable style. “This is a Calarel series, functional and reliable. Your crystal life will be good, but in system you’re going to be pretty defenseless if you get into a fight-” “If? Hah!” Clak’Soon interrupted. “The only thing it’s good for in a fight is a swift surrender. No good for a human.” Aaron wanted to argue, but his track record was decisively against him. “Ok, that’s fair. But, fighting isn’t really the plan, remember?” Ha’Mon looked at Aaron seriously. “My people call you Lefu’Yendra. You know what that means?” Aaron was well aware, as he'd asked Agent Fenink about it. “Walking Death. Or, so I’ve been told.” Ha’Mon nodded, fixing the human with a fierce stare. When he spoke, it was cautious, hushed, as if he were reciting from a holy text. “It is more than just a name. Where you walk, Death is summoned. Like the Leokas, the great servant of Death, it is drawn to you. Others will cross your path, some as friend and some as foe. You will never know peace.” Aaron wasn’t superstitious, but the Kasurian’s intense glare was a little disconcerting. The dim lighting and strange background music wasn’t helping, and for a moment he was caught in the spell. Luckily, Clak’Soon was there to shatter it. “Stop being weird Hammy. Next ship.” Ha’Mon snapped out of it and immediately returned to his presentation. “So our next option is Clak’Soon’s choice. Honestly, I have no idea how Lek got his hands on this. It’s a Rinoxian hazardous materials transport.” Eyebrows raised, Aaron looked at the space Volvo. “Alright, you got my attention.” Hooting excitedly, Clak'Soon took over. “Blast proof -” “From the inside.” Ha’Mon said quietly. “- Industrial, max grade, atmospheric scrubbers -” Clak’Soon wasn’t deterred. “That sometimes removes the oxygen as well.” “- Emergency cargo hold separation -” “Which has a zero point five percent chance of auto-activating due to faulty sensors, jettisoning your cargo into space. Rinoxians aren’t known for reliability.” “Hey!” Clak’Soon, growing louder, had had enough. “You don’t like it? The human can fly this thing straight through another ship and he’ll probably be fine!” Ha’Mon yelled back, “You could never get close enough to ram another ship, those things are slower than… than… Slo!” “STOP!” The human silenced them both instantly. “I get it. Tough, but slow, and it might break or kill us. Let’s see what’s behind door number three.” They gave him a puzzled look before dismissing it as a human thing. Ha’Mon moved to stand beside the third option. “This is a Niham design, a basic hauler, but it does have a good size hold and space for four shuttles on board. It’s an Argo class, ten crew cabins and the captain’s quarters, a bit smaller than the others.” Ha’Mon stopped talking, the human was standing transfixed, looking at the Niham ship with a smile. Aaron rubbed his hands together. “You had me at Argo.” Clak’Soon gave him a puzzled look. “You’re a fan of farm animals?” “What?” The J’Rami explained, “Argo is an animal on Niham, the meat is very versatile. Like the ship.” Understanding dawning, of course it wasn’t an epic greek reference, the ship was basically a space pig. “Ahh. On my world Argo means something else.” He stood and waited, but they didn’t say anything more. “I’m waiting for the downside. What’s wrong with it?” Clak’Soon shrugged, and with his large shoulders it was an impressive feat. “They’re boring.” Ha’Mon’s head bobbed from side to side as he sort of agreed and disagreed. “They aren’t boring, they’re average. This one isn’t currently working; a few parts need replacing and there’s some damage to repair. It’s salvage. Raiders killed the crew and someone brought it in and sold it to Lek. Money gets split between the families of the survivors and the salvage crew. It’s already been cleaned, so no blood at least.” He gave a little shudder. “A couple of cycles and a good team, it’ll be fine.” A little annoyance tinged the human’s reply. “I don’t have a bicycle.” The J’Rami let Aaron’s strange phrasing slide over him and applied his superior logic. “Use a bigger crew.” The Kasurian engineer looked furious, opened his mouth to argue, and then stopped. “That might work, actually. There are always engineers and ship hands hanging around these places, waiting for someone to take them on. But we still need parts, and somewhere to work.” Aaron clapped his hands together, startling the others. “It’s a plan. Let’s find Lek; he should be back soon with security. He has to know someone who sells parts.” They walked outside to find Lek leaning against the wall. “Made your decision then?” Aaron looked around. “No security?” Lek laughed. “Tulseria’s balls, no. I’ve dealt with their kind before.” He gestured to the Gal. Fed. duo. “Know every ship inside and out, and have strong opinions on all of them. Bah, I have no chance. All they’ll do is criticise my choices to prove they know more than me.” Aaron gave a single nod of agreement. “We’ve chosen a ship.” “Of course you have! I said you were decisive, didn’t I?” Lek stood up straight and with a cheerful voice asked, “Which one? I’ll bet it’s the Rinoxian ship, hard to find one like that. You can keep those Inorganics in the secure hold. If they try anything funny” -he made a gesture with his hands indicating separation- “just shoot them into space and protect the real people.” Aaron's smile stayed in place but his eyes grew cold as he replied, “It’s the Argo.” Lek was a savvy businessman and could read people well. Something had changed in the human, and it was not a pleasant change. “Fine ship, good choice. You are aware it needs some repair work? I have it docked on a lower arm awaiting repairs. If you give me three cycles I’ll have it in a condition worthy of an Ambassador, four if you want any big alterations. Once we have the details finalised I can work on a price. Of course, as the ship was salvaged, you will need to register it again.” Aaron shook his head. “I don’t have that kind of time. Give me a price now, as it sits. I’ll hire my own repair team and buy the parts myself to speed things up.” Momentarily flummoxed, Lek was quick to rebound. “I have already hired a crew, they won’t be happy to lose out on three cycles of work.” A large J’Rami shadow fell across Lek. “Humans can be very persuasive.” Lek swallowed hard, recalling the video feed of the incident on Arkellis. “Fine. I was planning on selling that ship, once repaired, for over a million credits.” Clak’Soon scoffed. “You can buy a new one for that much!” With a smile Lek countered, “Maybe on Niham, but this is the fringe, my friend.” Aaron let out a long sigh. “Look. I don’t have time for this. How about we do the short version? I counter with half that, as the thing’s busted and I’m paying to fix it. You say nine hundred thousand because you’re an asshole, and I say six because I’m a bigger asshole. I say, I won’t pay over seven hundred. You’re trying to squeeze me so you’re going to say eight hundred, probably adding ‘it’s only this cheap because you like me’ or some other utter shite.” Lek was growing to like the human, he was exciting. “So we will both settle at seven hundred and fifty thousand credits. Yes?” “No.” Aaron leaned in close. “Remember, I’m the bigger asshole. Seven hundred, because I’m going to register this ship as an Earth vessel. Same as the K7. No sales tax or fees. Special Ambassador discount.” The Arkellian’s mind buzzed with possibilities. Was this legal? Probably not. Would anyone ask? Probably not. He always looked into new clients, especially those planning to spend a great deal. From what he’d seen and heard regarding the human, he was a walking loophole. Registration fees and sales tax could be anywhere from ten to thirty percent, depending on the world, and that’s if they even accepted your application. “Done.” Ha’Mon elbowed Aaron in the hip. “We also need the use of his repair station.” Aaron cracked his knuckles. “I’ll pay you twenty thousand credits for one cycle at the repair station. I’ll cover parts you supply, at cost plus five percent, and I’ll add five percent to the price if you help us get it done by morning.” Negotiations were a reflex for Lek, and he barely skipped a beat. “Ten percent on both.” “Done.” The Arkellian salesman began walking them back down the arm. “Your ship is at the repair station on the Himbak Arm. Drones, lifters, everything is there along with the team I hired. Dismiss them or hire them, it’s your problem now. You need more, try the Engineer’s Pit. I’d tell most people to avoid it but...” He looked at Aaron and then Clak’Soon, and an unpleasant grin spread across his face. “Some of them deserve your kind’s attention.” Clak’Soon laughed, still proud that Aaron was descended from an ape-like species in a similar way to himself. “No one will mess with the primates!” The human slapped the large J’Rami on the back. It was nice that he thought of him as one of his own. “Apes together strong.” He was going along with things right now, but he wasn’t a tool to be pointed at people Lek didn’t like. He was still harboring a grudge that the Arkellian had said Alexa wasn’t a real person. “Alright, that’s workers. What about parts?” The Arkellian looked genuinely angry, furious even. “Go see that miserly Doytaran, Essad Hoy, two decks down from the repair station and a quarter turn spinward. The crew I hired are preparing a list of what they will need.” The thinly-veiled hostility intrigued Aaron. “Something I should know?” Lek looked uncomfortable and avoided Aaron’s gaze. “Business disputes, and some personal grievances, ha. I’m a businessman and I look out for my interests. He doesn’t like that. Let’s get the paperwork out of the way; tiks are credits, as they say.” With a hefty bonus on the line the paperwork was processed remarkably quickly, helped along by the lack of requirements from the planet of registration. There was a lot more documentation for the extra-system ship, more regulations and protocols to be observed. Aaron hadn’t realised that he would get to rename the ship. Shuttles weren’t named but the larger ships were. He realised it made sense, as you had to distinguish between ships of the same class. The planet you registered with usually had naming rules, or a process to automatically assign a designation. Aaron marched from Lek’s office, a man on a mission, head held high and mind racing with the task ahead. Ha’Mon had to scamper to keep up and even Clak’Soon with his long legs was breathing heavily from the pace. The human came to a sudden halt before the Engineer’s Pit and turned to the others. He tapped his ear piece, wanting Slo to hear this as well. Once he had confirmed the Jaimsmae was listening he began. “First, I want to thank you guys for coming to help me choose a ship. It was a huge help. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve done me a big favour already. You never agreed to this next part. So, right here, I’m giving you the chance to walk away, no hard feelings. ” A large hand covered in orange fur rested on Aaron’s shoulder, and a large face with a toothy grin looked down at him. “You know nothing about ships. You need us. Anyway, this is the most fun I’ve had since I joined the security team. Shuttle bay guard is not as exciting as it sounds, you know? I’m with you.” Ha’Mon looked less enthusiastic but just as determined. “We’ll get your ship ready if I have to do the repairs myself.” Aaron delivered a gentle punch to the Kasurian’s shoulder. They all waited for Slo’s answer. “So you found a ship?” “He’s in.” Clak’soon slapped his hands together as he had seen the human do. It was surprisingly satisfying, he decided as he turned to Aaron. “Time to do things your way.” With a look of mild confusion Ha’Mon asked, “What is the human way?” Aaron gave a broad grin. “It’s like the wrong way, but faster.” With that he leaned back, raised his right leg and kicked open the double doors to the Engineer’s Pit.
Epic games is ripping me off ... And they said there is nothing i can do.
So as an ultimate package owner epic gave me 8k vbucks and the metal team leader pack for FREE. Ok great. But they also had the option for me to buy the package in the shop for $20 so i was like ok bet i can get another papa bear and another hero so i can put them in the collection book if i want later. So i went ahead and paid for this package. When i opened the gift box all i got was the vbucks and the quests. Im like where is my gun and hero? So i sent support and email letting them know i did NOT get my second set of loot. After 8 emails back and forth they continue to tell me i cant have a refund and they cant give me the gun and hero since i am only allowed 1 of each. So they are taking my money and not giving me what i paid for. that's THEFT! UPDATE: epic is still refusing to help me. i open a second ticket to see if someone different can assist me and they close the ticket and tell me to use my first ticket. So im stuck with a rep that wont help me. this is just crazy. its a friggin gun and hero just add it to my account. i paid for it they have my money. why is this so hard? UPDATE #2: A second rep has taken over my ticket and is issuing me a refund as we speak. Glad to see there are still some great people working there. u/magyst
FIRE and Kids – The cost of raising children in Australia
This post has been inspired by this recent podcast featuring three of the biggest names in the Aussie FIRE blogging community, and the follow on discussions in the Aussie Firebug Facebook group about how much it costs to raise kids in Australia. As all three acknowledge they don’t have kids so it’s not something they really have any experience with. As someone who has two young kids I thought it would be useful to write about it from my perspective. Obviously my situation isn’t the same as everyone else’s, there are plenty of people who would be horrified with how much we’ve spent, and others who would wonder how we manage to spend so little. Everyone’s situation is different, so what works for my family wouldn’t necessarily work or others. My oldest child has only just started school this year so I can’t really speak from experience beyond the 0-5yo age range, but I’ll talk through some of the typical costs, what we have and haven’t spent money on so far, and what we’re anticipating in the future. The costs people actually talk about The first two things that almost always come up when people start talking about the cost of babies are prams and carseats. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on these things if you want to, prams in particular. From a quick look at Baby Bunting the most expensive pram there is nearly 3 thousand dollars, and I’m betting that with a few accessories you can easily get over that mark. No, you do not need to spend that much on a pram. Yes you can probably pick one up on the cheap from Kmart or Target etc for well under a hundred bucks, but it’s probably not going to be as sturdy or hold much of the gear you take with you. Happily a pram is also the sort of thing where you can pretty easily and safely pick one up secondhand or get a hand me down from someone else. We bought a Babyzen Yoyo, which is basically a small sized pram although it still has enough storage room for us. It folds up so that you can take it on a plane as carry on luggage, is quite light, extremely maneuverable and very sturdy. I’ve taken it running plenty of times, it’s even got a Parkrun PB of 22:06! This thing is absolutely gold. Unfortunately it’s priced as though it’s made of it as well. There wasn’t an option to get one second hand because it had only just been released so we had to pay full whack. I think we spent over a thousand dollars on it including all the accessories and the lie flat and sit up seats etc. It was worth every cent. It’s been going for 5 years and 2 kids and is still in great shape, we’ve never had a problem with it at all. My wife tells me it is one of the best things I have ever bought her, although we both use it obviously. And at the end of the day a one off cost of $1,000 for us as a family is going to have basically zero impact on when we hit FIRE. Plugging the numbers into a compound interest calculator and using 7% annual return over 30 years I miss out on $8,000, which is about a month worth of returns on my target portfolio. I can live with delaying retirement one month for about 5 cumulative years of having a really good pram that works great for us. Similarly you can spend a fair chunk of money on car seats. This is one of those things that I wouldn’t want to get second hand because you can’t see if they’ve been broken or not and safety is a huge priority for us and presumably everyone else. Happily car seats don’t tend to cost that much, you can pick one up for a couple hundred bucks or less pretty easily. If you do that it tends to be one for a much shorter age range, say 0-2yrs whereas I think you can get ones which will take your kid from 0-8 but they cost a lot more. In any case per kid you’re probably looking at a thousand bucks total, and this could easily be a lot less. Again it’s not going to make any appreciable different to us reaching FIRE. So as easy as it is to point at this sort of stuff as being ridiculously expensive and over priced etc, it’s really not going to make much of a difference to most people. Sure you don’t want to spend any more money than you have to, but you also want to make sure you’re getting something that works for you. The other one off costs There are also a bunch of one off costs for babies and young kids like cots, beds, mattresses, baby carriers etc. From what I’ve been told you want to buy a baby mattress new, but that’s only about a hundred bucks at Target, potentially cheaper elsewhere. We have an Ikea cot which cost about the same, you could easily get one second hand or likely for free just by asking around your friends who will probably be delighted to get it out of their house. Some people do co-sleeping in which case you don’t need the cot and mattress although you may like to kid yourself that your baby will actually sleep in their own bed, maybe even through the night. It’s nice to pretend sometimes! As kids get older you’ll need a proper bed for them, again you can probably pick this up second hand pretty cheap and a mattress can be easily had for a couple hundred bucks. So none of these things are really going to have much of an impact so long as you’re a decent saver already. The big costs you see When you don’t have kids it can be great to live in a studio flat or one bedroom apartment in the inner city close to all the bars and restaurants and all the rest of it. You can stay in your local area and have plenty to keep you entertained, there is probably a supermarket nearby and plenty of public transport so you may not need a car either. Once you have kids, it’s likely going to be a different story as your priorities change. It may be that you’re happy renting with kids, but lots of people tend to prioritise stability and security when they have kids and that means owning your own home in most cases. I’m not saying everyone will want this, but a lot of people will. So now that you have kids you almost certainly want a second bedroom and if you’re planning on having more kids maybe a third or fourth etc. Obviously kids can share bedrooms for a while at least but sooner or later they will probably want their own space, as will you. You’ll also be wanting parks with playgrounds nearby and somewhere you can easily take your kids for a walk or kick a football around, ideally in a good school district which can add a couple hundred thousand dollars to the cost all by itself if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne. And if you want to live somewhere cheaper but send the kids to a good private school, well that can cost anywhere from the low thousands to multiple tens of thousands per year. Similarly if you didn’t have a car before, you will very likely want one now. I’ve mentioned before that we drive a base model Corolla which works just fine for us so far, but you’re still probably looking at $20k plus if you buy one new, mid teens if you want one used. If you want an SUV or a luxury model car, be prepared to fork out a lot more. In the same vein if you were previously going on lots of holidays and plan to keep doing so, well you now have at least one more plane ticket to buy, might need a bigger hotel room etc. As I talked about in this post about big ticket items, that all comes at a real cost. We bought land and built a house, so I can say that we spent roughly $100,000 more on that than we would have otherwise. The ongoing costs There are also a bunch of ongoing costs for kids as well. They need to be fed, they need clothes and shoes, they need medicine, and a bunch of other stuff that costs money. I wrote here about a bunch of things that we do to keep costs down, but the reality is that you still have to fork over a decent chunk of change. On top of all that contrary to what you might have been told public school is not free, there are a bunch of things that you have to chip in for here as well. We’re not at the stage that we’re forking out a fortune in extra utility bills etc but we certainly use the washing machine a lot more than we would if we didn’t have kids, there are extra lights and tvs etc on so there are extra costs there as well. There are also a bunch of extra items that you don’t really need to spend, but probably will. For us this includes stuff like swimming lessons, some sports like AusKick (AFL) and Junior Blasters (cricket), occasionally taking them to a theme park or zoo etc. They also get birthday and Christmas presents, and if they get invited to other kids parties they take a store bought gift with them. The above is about what I think our 5yo costs us at the moment based on our spending, our 2yo is probably about two thirds of that due mostly to her not eating as much and not getting swimming lessons yet, as well as not being in school or doing sports. I’ve left the holiday line blank because this is hugely variable. Last year we did a trip to the UK and it probably cost us about $3,000 extra between the two of them, next time it will be another couple thousand dollars more because the youngest one will need her own seat rather being on someone’s lap for the flights. So our spending for our eldest is about two thirds of the costs quoted in this article for a 6yo girl, I would assume that apart from a boy maybe eating a bit more the costs should be fairly similar. The main difference compared to our costs seem to be education and transport. Also, it was somewhat shocking to me just how expensive swimming lessons are! This is actually at our local council aquatic centre and is the cheapest in town. We do get to use the pool whenever we want, but that only tends to be once or twice a week at most. At least the lessons will hopefully only be for a few years for each child, although after that we may be forking out for something else instead. The hidden cost of kids The biggest cost is often actually one that doesn’t show up as an expense, the opportunity cost of one parent giving up paid employment entirely for a while or doing part time hours (I’ve used the phrase giving up paid employment here because looking after kids and a house is definitely work!). If we say that you’re giving up a full time paid job that’s at minimum wage of roughly $20 an hour for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, then that’s $38,400 a year ($33,605 after tax and medicare levy) that the family is giving up for however long this goes on for. If you’d otherwise be earning more than that, then the opportunity cost each year is even higher. On top of that there is the hit to your career and future earnings, because those are definitely going to be impacted as well. If you’ve got two kids that are separated by two or three years and you as a family want a parent at home until they go to school, well that’s 7 or 8 years of missing out on that money which works out as around $250k based on a full time minimum wage job. I’m pretty hopeful that my wife would be earning more than minimum wage as well so for us it’s even more than that. On the plus side, she gets to spend more time with the kids although that probably feels like a mixed blessing some of the time! Alternatively if both parents want to keep working then there will likely be childcare costs for the first 4 or 5 years and then before and after school care, as well as missing out on spending time with their kids. Because we haven’t gone down this route I don’t know exactly how much it costs, I do hear plenty of stories about it being $100 a day minimum around where I live and it’s a lot more in capital cities. There are subsidies available for this, but you can pretty easily be spending tens of thousands each year on childcare while they’re young and then once they’re old enough before and after school care. You may be lucky enough to have grandparents or other family nearby that are happy to help out with this if they live nearby, but that won’t apply to everyone and it’s unlikely to reduce the cost entirely. The costs that are yet to come At the moment our kids are still young and fairly inexpensive. Between the two of them they tend to eat roughly what a grown adult eats, but from what I’ve been told that will change fairly dramatically as they get older. They’ll need new clothes more frequently, more shoes, potentially play more sports, go on more school excursions, you get the idea. Education could be another factor. There is a public high school that will be built in the next few years quite close by, and assuming that it’s decent our kids will likely be going there. But if it’s not, then we’ll have to look into private schools which can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. There will be extra curricular stuff as well. Given my wife and I are both horrible at music it seems unlikely that our kids will be doing extra lessons there, but there are plenty of other areas like sport or extra educational activities that we’d be considering. I know a few parents who have kids who are in elite sports programs (as in regional or state teams) and the costs here can very quickly add up, likewise if extra education is needed or wanted then that’ll be an extra expense. Government and other assistance I know that depending on your circumstances that there can be government assistance in the form of Family Tax Benefit, childcare subsidy and possibly other programs as well. We don’t get any of these which is fine, we don’t need them and they are presumably meant to be for those who do. If you’re not sure if you should be getting any of these then Centrelink does have this payment finder. We did get the one day a week Kinder program for 3yos and 3 days a week Kinder program for 4yos, although these both also came with costs of roughly $1,500 a year so it actually cost us money, again this is fine, just a reminder that it isn’t actually free. Depending on your employer you may also be able to get parental leave for a while, and there is a minimum payment which they have to make so long as you’ve met some requirements. Some employers may also have some continuing support with subsidised childcare and the like. None of this was applicable to our situation but at least some of it will likely be available for others. So what’s the bottom line? For us the biggest actual one off cost so far has been the bigger house and land that we purchased because we wanted our kids to be able to have plenty of space inside and outside the house. That cost about a hundred thousand dollars more than we would have paid if it were just the two of us. All the other stuff like a pram, car seats, cots/beds, mattresses and all the rest of it have been maybe $5,000 total, which is tiny by comparison. The opportunity cost has been bigger than this though. When we had our first child when we were in Hong Kong my wife wasn’t working much anyway as there just weren’t that many jobs she could do and my wage easily supported both of us so she was doing some very casual part time work and so not doing that work afterwards didn’t impact us much. In Australia though she probably would have been earning at least $40,000 a year after tax, so we’ve foregone almost $200,000 on an after tax basis there. Which as I’m sure you can imagine has a pretty big impact on when we will hit FIRE, particularly given we’ve got another few years or her not being in paid employment at all and then likely only working part time after that. So I would guess we’ll be looking at forgone earnings of at least $500,000 by the time all is said and done, and it could quite easily be a lot more. The actual ongoing costs of the kids so far haven’t been too bad. Between the two of them it’s about $8,000 a year at the moment, although we would anticipate that this will go up a fair bit over time as they start eating more and getting into more extra curricular activities. I get that this is spending that isn’t a necessity, but do I really want my kids to miss out on a bunch of fun stuff so that I can retire a year or two earlier? No, no I do not. So far the total costs look something like this. You can see that by far the biggest cost has been the earnings that we’ve missed out on because my wife has been at home looking after the kids and doing the household stuff (yes I do some of it because I think it’s important that we share the jobs and to role model stuff for the kids, but the reality is that she is at home a lot more than I am and does more of it). Buying a bigger house and land is next, and the actual costs of feeding and clothing and all the other one off stuff for the kids is a tiny proportion of the actual cost. All up I’m hopeful that we can keep the ongoing costs to somewhere between $125k and $150k per child from birth through to age 18, although if private school is necessary then that will push up the costs a fair bit. This is less than half of what this article suggests, so although it sounds like a lot of money it’s actually fairly frugal by comparison. To put it in perspective, it’s basically spending about 7 or 8 grand a year on each child. There are plenty of people out there who spend more than that on food alone, let alone the rest of their living expenses. As I said earlier travel costs are on top of this, and this can increase the costs quite a lot! Travel is a huge part of the reason we’re pursuing HIFIRE, and we want to be taking the kids on plenty of holidays while they’re growing up. That’s obviously discretionary spending to a large extent, but we do have close family living overseas who we want to see every couple of years or so, and it’s not fair to expect them to always be the ones travelling. I would guess that we’ll be looking at about $50k per kid in travel costs by the time they turn 18. That’s about 3 grand a year, which doesn’t sound wrong based on the cost of international travel. It may be less than that which would be great, but could also be a fair bit more. So all up for the two kids we’re looking at about a million dollars from birth to age 18. About half of that is the foregone wages from not working, which is by far the biggest impact. The actual cost of the kids is about another 30%, then travel is 10%, another 10% for the bigger house and land. And then right at the end is less than 1% for the one off stuff like prams and baby seats and cots etc. How could we spend less? Obviously there are other things we could be doing instead to keep the cost down. The biggest expense is the wages that aren’t being earned because my wife is looking after the kids and the household stuff. We could have chosen to have her work and instead pay for childcare and after school care etc. If we did though then she wouldn’t get to spend as much time with the kids (which she tells would be welcome some of the time!) and there would be a lot more house work and shopping that would need to be done after work or on weekends for both of us, we’d potentially eat out more often as it’d be more of a hassle cooking meals each night, as well as a bunch of other tradeoffs. So having her stay at home was our preferred method, and thankfully we’re in the financial position where we can afford to do it that way. Other people make different choices, or they’re unfortunately not in a position to make a choice, they need both partners working or if they’re a single parent have to do it this way. We could have also gone with a smaller house and less of a backyard. I shared a bedroom with my brother for part of our childhood and we both managed fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly doable, and we could have saved a lot of money by having a smaller house. Again we chose not to because we wanted a bigger house and a decent sized backyard for them to be able to run around in and we can afford it. We don’t have to travel, although it’d be a bit rough expecting family to travel overseas to see us every year or two and then not reciprocating. Still, that would save a fair amount of money. It’s pretty hard to say how things will work out with the actual costs of raising the kids. I know roughly what we’ve spent so far, but it’s pretty difficult to know what we’ll be spending in future as they get older. They’re likely to be eating a fair bit more food, s they grow they’ll need new clothes and shoes, they’ll presumably be playing sport and doing other extra curricular stuff which will all cost money. $150k per kid from 0 to 18 seems like it’s a lot less than what it costs most people, but then we already live a fair bit more cheaply than most others so maybe it’s about right. At the end of the day we’re happy with the choices that we’ve made so far, but there has certainly been some room to have spent less money than what we have, or to have had more money coming in through both of us being in paid employment. Obviously it has an impact on when we will hit our FIRE number, but I’d rather take a little bit longer to get there than to make different tradeoffs along the way. Have you got kids or are thinking about having them? How do you think it will impact on your FIRE journey? Original post with pretty charts, pictures, tables etc is here.
[<] [INDEX] Author's Note: Big thanks for the feedback on the first part and special thanks to coldfireknight for the mountain of help and slain commas. Please see the top-level comment below if you’d like to help with corrections, typos, awkward phrasing, etc. I hope you enjoy the conclusion to my first series! Admiral Muhr Lohset sat down gently upon the quadruped-modified seat in the Human embassy aboard Chyron Station. He had been making the trip more often, not just for their morning briefings but to see their progress in expanding the embassy to their liking. Lohset was impressed that they possessed the foresight to confer with engineers of many species to best accommodate their guests. Not that the Human embassy received many guests yet, with the Galactic Union’s probation period still being in effect. In fact, Lohset’s own species, the Praetori, were the only Union species free to enter the embassy without express permission from the Union’s Council. Still, Lohset couldn’t help but feel pride for his colleague, Ambassador Ellen Sharp, as she finished delegating tasks to the various human workers that had relocated to the Station. “Admiral, is it time for the briefing already?” Ellen intoned questioningly. “Indeed, but I do so enjoy seeing a team in motion,” the Admiral reassured her. The pair moved to the boardroom, an attendant trailing behind with the large seat designed specifically for Admiral Lohset. Once settled, the briefing began. “What’s on the docket for today, Admiral?” “Ellen, the day has come. The Council has determined the length of Humanity’s probation period. I received the notification last night but…well, I had a late meeting with the Habitation Administrator and once I’d returned to my quarters-,” he paused, “I wasn’t in a presentable state. You know I enjoy my off-hours,” the Admiral rambled around the subject. “Please Lohset, I don’t care what you do on your off-hours, let’s get to the point,” she snapped. Ellen was uncharacteristically impatient this morning. She had wasted most of the previous night listening in on a certain Praetori imbibing chemicals in his personal quarters and babbling to himself. She had very little patience for decorum today. “I’ve never seen anything like it - just three of your years. They must have great faith in your peoples’ willingness to adapt,” Lohset stated as he stared into his refreshment pensively. Shit. Ellen was taken aback, silently pinging her assistant to relay a memo to Earth immediately. Admiral Lohset retrieved a Pad from his haunch pocket, extending the screen so both he and Ellen could see the timeline depicted. “As you see, this moves us further ahead than anticipated, let’s review the steps your species still has to take. Perhaps there is something I can assist with?” Ellen shifted uneasily. She wasn’t ready to advance to the next stage in preparations but now it was do or die. “I believe there is, Admiral. Various human factions have been prototyping a number of different shuttle and rocket designs over the past eighteen months or so that I’ve been stationed here. There has been a great deal of trial and error…a great deal of error mostly. The space debris field over Earth has expanded considerably in recent months,” she admitted. “However, we have made significant progress on our orbital trading platform initiative, moving to the step of developing the tandem mining and manufacturing station. The atomic mining probes are assessing our system’s asteroid belt as we speak.” The hook was baited. Admiral Lohset hesitated before asking, “Atomic mining probes?” Got ‘em. “Yes, Admiral. Surely there wasn’t a translation error over that term?” Ellen moved to adjust the spatial translator device in the centre of the table - a gift each new embassy received from the Council. “I believe I understand the meaning, but atomic power is quite dangerous for the inexperienced. Council doctrine mandates waiting until after probation is lifted to invest in restricted technologies, particularly those with such destructive potential,” the Admiral admonished. Ellen kept her face blank as she made a mental note to recommend repurposing the warheads within the disposable mining probes sooner rather than later. She looked to Lohset curiously. The Admiral stood to pace the boardroom. “Ellen, I think it is time I told you the story of my ancestors’ hubris. We were not always the Praetori, you know. Our ancestral species, the Primus, were one of the founding members of the Galactic Union, along with a long-extinct species known as the Cornicen. Much has been lost to time, but the Galactic Union has persevered as an institution for contacting new species - fostering goodwill, fair trading, and equitable qualities of life for all. A noble endeavor, don’t you think?” Though Admiral Lohset did not wait for a response before continuing. “The Primus and the Cornicen were brought to the brink of extinction by their ancient enemies, the Epyrians. It is believed that the Primus were reduced to little more than a few thousand individuals, subjected to a population bottleneck even their technology could not prevent. They entered a Dark Age and millenia later, Praetori history began, sung by millions of brothers-in-arms. “One of the great artifacts of the Primus was kept as a holy relic through the ages. That relic may be the only reason we remember the full extent of Epyrian treachery today, for it became the first Galactic Standard Schematic, a simple but very effective electrical capacitor. Indeed, our ancestral species were the original designers of this device while the Epyrians profited off of their achievements. An entire civilization leeching off the work of my ancestors. “The hubris of the Primus was thinking their property was their own, inviolate. The Praetori remember, though. This is why Galactic Standard Schematics must meet many requirements besides their function. They must be unreproducible, unmistakable, undeniably linked to the species of origin. “The Galactic Union has no records of these ancient events. Even the Epyrians forget the humble past of their ‘utopian’ homeworld. No, the Praetori alone remember and sadly only seem to be acknowledged for our ‘elder’ status among the species. One by one, the fruits of our inherited gifts were stolen away, along with the respect we were once afforded, long before my time.” Lohset seemed to deflate and leaned to put his graspers on the back of a seat. “But you already knew all of this, didn’t you Human Ambassador Sharp?” a new voice said with a slight sneer. A figure wrapped in shadow emerged from the edges of the boardroom, much to Ellen’s surprise. A sheepish embassy receptionist gestured in the doorway apologetically, as if to say he was unsure how the tall, shadowy Praetori managed to get by him. Ellen glared accusingly at her assistant before fixing a decidedly more diplomatic look upon her face. The new Praetori took a seat in Admiral Lohset’s vacant chair. The Admiral addressed Ellen curtly. “Ambassador Sharp, please make your acquaintances with the Praetori Empire’s foremost spymaster, Ahaim Senfet.” Ellen gave a slow nod to the spymaster, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “I have an idea of what you’re up to, Human, but we must be careful now. The Council is waiting for your species to break the terms of probation and here I have a mountain of evidence showing just how many times that has occurred!” Spymaster Senfet pulled open his cloak, revealing several Pads fastened to the inner lining. “Give me something I can work with because this,” he gestured to his cloak once more, “I can’t work with this. I’ve done what I can to cover your tracks but you’re getting reckless. What would you have me do, Ambassador?” Boys and their toys. Ellen sighed and looked up at the Praetori men with a smirk. MEMO: AMARYLLIS ATTN: ROOST SUBJECT: OPERATION PROMETHEUS - PHASE 2 ENGRAM ENCRYPTION ACTIVE ATTACHMENTS: AhaimSenfet.id Our mystery friend made an appearance today, see attached profile. Turns out the Praetori are a little more experienced in our craft than our reports suggest. Lohset finally recounted his peoples’ grudge with the Epyrians with me, I think we can trust him for the next phase. He reacted…poorly to the mention of atomic devices, but this worked in our favor for the probation extension. I guess nobody has ever asked for an extension to their probation period before, but the Council was all too eager to rubber stamp it with our simple explanation of needing the extra time for ‘Atomic Disarmament’. I’ve secured another 7 years for Projects DISARMAMENT and TRADE SECRET. I am recommending we advance the timeline to begin both projects immediately. My pension with the Agency maxes out in 6, by the way. Things moved quickly over the next few years, the constant flurry of activity became the new normal in the Human Quarter on Chyron Station. To all appearances, Humanity rallied behind the Council’s mercy and wise judgment, their gratitude shown in larger and larger investments in Chyron Station, even outside their allotted space. Despite being contained within the barricaded Human Quarter, the embassy began its work proper, expanding influence and reciprocating gestures from other species. As a result, the symbol for Humanity aboard Chyron Station became one of isolation and mystery, a simple humanoid within a white, puffy, full-body suit with a gold visor. When the other species discovered this was a miniaturized replica of the primitive spacesuits Humanity first visited their moon in, demand for their culture and trinkets skyrocketed. Spacemen figurines soon went everywhere that humans couldn’t. Cultural exchange went both ways, after all. Ellen liked to sit by the Barricade and hear the Station’s bustle and muffled alien tongues from just a short distance beyond. She found herself here again, eyes closed, eating a spartan lunch of nutrients from a disassembled food dispenser in the staff room of the embassy. Progress on the outside is proceeding nicely, now to bring it home. As she walked through the Human Quarter back to the embassy, she couldn’t help but marvel at how far they had come in such a short time. Project DISARMAMENT was largely out of her hands, but it was on track, according to the memos. Project TRADE SECRET was about to begin in earnest, as soon as the rest of her support team arrived. The residences and community buildings were nearly finished and her team would soon grow to a respectable one hundred and six humans, with a few Praetori attachés on Spymaster Senfet’s recommendation. Those were the one hundred and six humans that the Council had approved and knew of, anyways. The team had settled in quickly and the embassy finally felt lived-in, after years of construction and mostly empty rooms. Still, the progress the fully-assembled team had made in just two months was staggering. All over the Human Quarter, innocuous mishaps added up. A Council attendant-bot returned three minutes late with one of its wheels six degrees out of alignment. A holographic display in the embassy suddenly had a loose knob. A heating/cooling unit in the new residences was reset to factory default settings, seemingly without cause. Each event was barely worth a service request of its own, but a trained eye could see the pattern. The Praetori were invaluable in their part, running interference and public relations outside the Barricade. In public, the Praetori would advocate for human cultural diversity and untold creativity, despite their relative technological ineptitude. In private, Humanity was the subject of many excited discussions between the Station residents. The spymasters of Chyron Station were no exception. They were friendly with each other and held a monthly gambling tournament that rotated hosts and games by species favourites. None of them had gotten their positions without seeing the value in an interspecies network of spies and all of them were eager to discuss what new developments they’d learned regarding the elusive Humans. All but the Praetori spymaster, Ahaim Senfet, who bided his time and said little more than was required by tonight’s games. The Epyrian spymaster rejoiced as he collected his shells from around the table. Senfet tried not to stare, his blood boiling as each croak of the frog-like Epyrian’s noxious laugh polluted the room with an acrid smell. Senfet was not the only one to notice either, as seats were shuffled away from the other end of the table. “They are undisciplined, that’s what they are! Creativity is the absence of discipline, as the ‘elder’ can attest to,” the Epyrian loudly declared, gesturing towards Senfet. The acrid smell was too much, the pride too much, all of it too much. Senfet had been taking this all night and was about to lose sight of his own discipline before he caught himself. “They ASKED for three times as long of a probation as the Council gave them,” the room erupted in laughter at Humanity’s expense. “At least they only have one quarter of their probation left, nearly the same as when they got here!” another round of laughter went around the room. “That’s enough,” the Praetori stood, towering over the table in his cloak. He took a slow look around the room as they quieted down. He noticed the shifting eyes as he placed a grasper within his cloak, revealing one of the Spacemen figurines and tossing it on the table. “This is their chosen image to us, an opaque and unknowable facade. Don’t think you understand them when you’ve never met one. I have and they’re just like any one of us. Most of us, anyway,” he cast a momentary glance at the Epyrian. “Oh, of course you would come to their defense, ‘elder’ lapdog,” the Epyrian mocked, “Why should we even give them the time of day? They have absolutely nothing to offer us besides that trinket, no natural weapons, they follow Council rules to the letter,”-Senfet had to stifle a laugh at that-”and they’ll be absorbed by some race with actual ambition!” Senfet turned away from the table neutrally. “You should hold a healthy skepticism about anything you hear when it comes to Humans. You know they asked for that extra time in probation to voluntarily dismantle their tens of thousands of atomic weapons stashed from before we found them?” the Praetorian mused. Senfet had the room’s full attention. Even the eavesdropping son of the establishment’s owner made an audible gasp. “Yes, atomic weapons. They have atomic power too, but far more weapons than even the most barbaric of us”-another side glance at the Epyrian-“would know better than to spend resources developing. They used them on themselves,” he let the words hang and then picked up his things. “I believe I’ve had enough gambling for the evening.” MEMO: SECRETARY GENERAL - UN GOV ATTN: TABASCO AKA AMARYLLIS SUBJECT: OPERATION PROMETHEUS - PHASE 3 CC: ROOST; PROMETHEUS-HEPHAESTUS; PRAETORI-GOV ATTACHMENTS: DISARMAMENT.vid; TABASCO.id; AMARYLLIS.id BURN NOTICE ACTIVE Transfer of Command - ROOST relinquishes TABASCO AKA AMARYLLIS to UN GOV Transfer of Jurisdiction - ROOST relinquishes CHYRON STATION Theatre to UN GOV Transfer of Operations - ROOST relinquishes OPERATION PROMETHEUS to UN GOV Project DISARMAMENT resounding success, see attached video detailing final munitions depletion Per the Official Statement to CHYRON STATION, asset TABASCO, see attached profiles, is reprimanded for repeatedly breaking UN GOV / ROOST policies regarding the CHYRON STATION Theatre. Effective immediately, TABASCO is relieved of CHYRON STATION Command, and placed on disciplinary leave, pending replacement. TABASCO is commended for her mission’s success, along with ingenuity and initiative demonstrated throughout her career and within CHYRON STATION Theatre. Full benefits of UN GOV Ambassadorial service to be extended to her spouse and dependents in perpetuity. ROOST pension to be transferred to UN GOV and set to highest pay scale immediately. OPERATION PROMETHEUS - PHASE 3 is GREEN LIT Retired Ambassador Ellen Sharp gave a long look at her desk, still the Council-issued one she sat down at ten years ago. The embassy assistants had done the heavy lifting, ensuring the Council’s bugs were still being fed the same disinformation feed, uninterrupted while Ellen packed her things. She smiled as she unplugged the power cord on the dummy computer connected to the outlet in the desk. I wonder if anyone even reads the memos this thing generates anymore. The last thing she took from her office was her own Spaceman figurine, its sensor suite disabled and its memory wiped for today’s ceremonies. Once she finished her third sweep of the office and her usual haunts, she was accompanied by her assistants and her old friend, Admiral Muhr Lohset, as they loaded her things into the shuttle back to Earth. Ellen couldn’t help but laugh when Lohset was required to override the shuttle’s coordinate restrictions on Earth’s system one last time. The Praetori Admiral gave her a final long hug, wishing her luck planetside. The Barricade came down with a cheer that reverberated all throughout Chyron Station. The Human Quarter was open for business and the probation was soon to be lifted. Ambassadors of all species lined up to meet their elusive counterpart known chillingly only by the name “Sharp” all this time. Trade deals, alliances, tourism exchanges were the topics of the day as the Human Quarter became decidedly less Human every second. Each Ambassador left empty-handed, dismayed that they had missed their Human colleague by mere minutes. Ellen’s sudden retirement further fuelled the gossip about her enigmatic species while she kicked off the final stages of OPERATION PROMETHEUS from her shuttle. Speculation ran rampant while aliens of all shapes and sizes browsed the pop-up shops for Spaceman figurine accessories. The dull roar of theories could be heard at any of the fully-automated Human food carts located around the Station. As soon as the coordinate restrictions on Earth’s system were lifted, the interspecies trade fleet sped off at full spiral warp to be the first to properly meet the newest members of the Galactic Union. Unfathomable amounts of trade goods and technologies were packed away for the long journey. Some months later, the first ships of the trade fleet arrived in Earth’s solar system and were each greeted by an autonomous drone. “Welcome, visitors to the Sol System! As you arrive, please form an orderly queue orbiting the factory satellite of our system’s third planet, Earth. Would you like to listen to our free audio tour while you wait?” One by one, the trade ships arrived and were greeted by the unusual drones. Several ships had already incurred debt by accepting the extra services and bundled deals their assigned drone offered. When the fleet arrived in full, the drones addressed them as one. “Attention Galactic Union Trade Fleet, this is Orbital Trade Platform Prometheus speaking. Please transmit your trade offers and cargo manifests to your assigned drone now.” The Praetori ships had been some of the last to arrive, Admiral Lohset eager to see the Human homeworld again. Now that the space debris field was cleared up, Lohset took the opportunity to watch the greens, blues, and wisps of white of Earth flow by. The Humans needed their moment though, the Praetori would wait. The crew went into standby and began placing bets on what would happen next. Some of the trade ships sat in stunned silence, others such as the Epyrians were subjected to the rage of their leadership. Was this a joke? The drones had rejected every technology offered, one by one, until finally all that remained in the cargo holds were the trade goods and advanced materials, which the drones happily offered exorbitant sums for. Many ships only docked with the Trade Platform to receive an explanation for the offence of rejecting their technologies, including their vaunted Galactic Standard Schematics. Orbital Trade Platform Prometheus had been built specifically for this occasion. Each docking bay was designed for a different species, including embassy space, residences, and public green space, all artfully woven together but otherwise devoid of life. However, the species-designated docking bays each featured a carefully chosen array of technologies laid out for the respective species to inspect. A feeling of suspicion spread throughout the Platform as the visitors came to understand that each docking bay presented adapted versions of their own species’ Galactic Standard Schematics, refined by Human design. Worse yet, there were no adaptors to be found anywhere and the various devices seemed to all be made of single blocks of material, obscuring the inner workings to the casual observer. As Admiral Lohset exited his ship into the spacious Praetori docking bay, a familiar voice rang out across the platform, “Welcome to Trade Platform Prometheus, honored guests. I regret being unavailable to meet with each of your species aboard Chyron Station. Each of you here today has offered us kindness, generosity, and gifts beyond our imagination. We thank you all for the lessons you’ve taught us. “You will find in your respective docking bays our tailored gifts for each of your species in return. Each piece of technology in front of you is theoretically capable of outperforming your species’ Galactic Standard Schematics. “Please reserve your judgment until I am finished.” “Before you think about attempting to reproduce these, we have a total of one thousand, six hundred, thirty-one Galactic Standard Schematic applications pending, as of just moments ago. You will find these devices to be quite unreproducible. Mass spectrometry will reveal a strong presence of Caesium-137 and Strontium-90 throughout, unable to be economically generated without the use of atomic weapons. As you may know, Humanity has disposed of our atomic weapons of the past and each of you are forbidden by Galactic Union laws from developing such technologies. “However, each of your species that can verifiably claim to be the origin of a Galactic Standard Schematic will be given free planetary licenses in perpetuity to use, produce, or sell these adapted devices, under certain conditions. The only restriction is that you may not produce the devices off-world and if you wish to export them, Humanity’s UN-Government Coalition will receive a portion of the revenue under the license agreement.” There were murmurs of discontentment and confusion in many of the docking bays as species began loading the solid blocks of material into the ships’ cramped cargo bays. In the Praetori docking bay, however, there was only a single piece of technology laid out for them, the original Praetori Schematic for a capacitor. The familiar voice echoed from the docking bay’s entryway. “Hey Muhr, welcome to Earth,” Ellen teased playfully. She had regained some youth in her time away from Chyron Station. Admiral Lohset looked down to the small capacitor with some amusement. “This? I don’t think we can verifiably claim much about its origin…” Lohset trailed off. “I doubt anyone else will be able to either, so I’m free to waive the terms of the license agreement in this case. Enjoy the gift, Muhr, and don’t find another reason to complain or I’ll formally request you as my attaché here on Earth.” “I think I’d like that.”
Been lurking for the past 4 months or so getting to know how you all do before taking the plunge. My review will be based on quality and personal liking. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE techwear though it’s impossible to afford the good pieces… this sub made my grail come true. BIG BIG BIG BIG thanks to ThighQueenSyndra for all the info posts about Acronym pieces. Please excuse the cat hair in my pictures. I couldn’t find my damned lint roller. HERE WE GO. Bought May 12-16 Warehouse by May 23 Shipped May 26, Arrived Seattle, WA June 12 EMS Baby Stats: Shipping Region: Seattle, Murka Height: 5’7” Age: 32 Waist Size: 81cm (Typically wear size 30) Chest: 102cm Biceps: 37cm Shoulder to Shoulder: 54cm Thigh: 57cm Waist to Heel: 85cm Shoe Size: 10.5 or 44 Weight: 158 lb Build: Athletic Favorite Bubble Tea: Avocado, extra boba Album W2C inside the imgur links Review: Nikelab ACG Alpine Small: Price: 1250Y Fell in love with it from looking through techwear pictures on ig. Happened to search it through here and found it right away. Didn’t find many favorable reviews but this piece I wanted for the sake of looks. It does not disappoint one bit. The material is quite crunchy and this is a huge reason it gets called out (already happened 1 week in ig haha) but again, I’m not trying to flex, just trying to look. Took it outside this past week since it was raining and the material held up beautifully. Letters are reflective, did not find any typos in the letters. Found one zipper that doesn’t make sense on the neck area (attachment, maybe?). I got a Small, and it’s a perfect fit, though I would have liked it a little baggier. I can stretch my arms without a problem in it and that’s what matters the most to me. Pockets are awesome and have a super great feel. I fully comprehend now why these reps are so expensive. You get what you pay for. It was insanely smaller than in the website, though QC reassured me of the purchase. 9/10 https://imgur.com/Wez9MiP Pic from above (W2C In link) https://imgur.com/IfTDNcb Pic with jacket worn (ACG Cargo #1 included) More pics in Album CATSSTAC Tank Medium: Price: 199Y Been looking through these Chinese techwear brands not for functionality, but for layering. This tank did just that. Absolutely love the feel of the material and the long back drop. It goes well with all my outfits really. The material is super stretchy at the top, but not quite at the bottom. That change in material makes it a little harsh to put on when having wide shoulders like myself. Once on though it’s a perfect fit. Not much more to say about this piece other than I’ll be ordering another one just to make sure I always have it around ;). 8/10 cause I rather have better material on the honeycomb part of the shirt. Otherwise, 10/10 Here’s a picture with it layered in an outfit: https://imgur.com/S4swAEA(W2C In link) Alyx Bracelet: Price 328Y This one exceeded my expectations. I love to wear jewelry but finding something that fits techy or cyberpunk stuff can get tricky. I found this bracelet by accident while browsing taobao at 3 am one night and fell in love with it. When I looked at the real one through google I crapped my pants at the brand. That led me to a whole nother black hole that will be the story of my second haul next month. (hopefully) The material feels and looks super high class. Very minimal, yet techy. The buckles match the belts in many related outfits. 10/10 https://imgur.com/JtBcw2P(W2C In link) P30-DS Size Small: Price 388Y Acronym is probably the brand I sought out the most in all my life. I’m not at the correct bracket to afford it quite yet though… so until then. I’m here with the repfam. These are grail pants for many. When they came in, I immediately jumped in them and to be honest I did not stop wearing them for 3 straight days. Super comfy and functional. The fabric is not that waterproof but it holds up. I’ve read through reviews here that the material is nothing like the original and that’s alright. It still looks suuuuuuuuuuper boujee. Probably my favorite pair of pants ever ever ever. The only bad thing I have to say about these is the seams are complete trash, as stated previously. I did go hard on them and stuffed a 6 lb camera lens in it during a protest and one of the seams started to come undone in 2 different parts. I was able to sew it back together without an issue though. Be careful if you cop these, you may embarrass yourself in front of someone you like. If reinforcing seams as a service exists in any way, these would be 10000% worth paying for. 8.5/10 https://imgur.com/LTOqtlB(W2C In link) https://imgur.com/S4swAEA In the outfit More pics in Album ACG Cargo #1 (Dunno which year this series is) Medium: Price 455Y When I put these pants on I felt like I was in the Truman show. I just could not understand how it was possible for my first haul to send a perfect fit of pants when I have had issues with pant length (30”) my entire damned life. I was getting ready to tailor these as soon as they came in but nothing to worry about. Material is amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing. They feel insanely comfortable. Hold off the weather pretty nicely as well (tested in rain) and look great. I have absolutely no complaints over these and will be ordering again. The few times I’ve gone out to shop for groceries I’ve gotten compliments nonstop. Really happy at how awesome it feels to finally fit in something you truly like. Be ready for a lot of jokes about buying these to either put a toaster or a tablet in your pocket and take it anywhere. They’re not wrong... 10/10 https://imgur.com/A9a7ZFv(W2C In link) https://imgur.com/IfTDNcb Pic with outfit ACG Cargo #2 (Dunno which year this series is) Medium: Price 525Y SHINY. Just like above, perfect fit straight out of the bag. At first they felt a little long but I went with it. Kept walking past my mirror and liking them more and more. These are a little navy blue but black at night. It’s a little more difficult to find a fit with these considering the color, but the material makes up for it. This is another one piece that feels “boujee” for me when it comes to the fabric. I’ll probably be ordering the additional color in the website because it looks a little better. Upon taking the pants off for a shower, I noticed that the bottom of the pants were meant to fold in to reveal the ACG NIKE cuff. This made me extremely happy since it would match the cuffs in the alpine jacket. Just wish they were black… still, in the top 5 pants I own. 9/10 https://imgur.com/Px2zuxd(W2C In link) https://imgur.com/Mv7Gtsd Worn https://imgur.com/GxjNls6 Worn 2 P10A-E Medium (YUGE thanks to ThighQueenSyndra for assistance in choosing the size): Price 630Y At first I was unimpressed… but then I wore them out and about and they definitely grew on me. Another perfect fit out of the bag. Man, this is insane. The pockets are great, though I’ll probably never use a lot of them. Fabric is a little thin for my liking which makes them wrinkle quite easy. Love how well they fit around my entire leg and impressed a skinnier fit would feel this great around thighs as fat as mine. My favorite part about these is probably the zipper at the ankles. They make it super easy to alternate with different style shoes like VaporMaxes (when zipped up) or taller shoes (when unzipped). These were the only piece that I felt was not price justified due to how thin the fabric is. I’ll most likely be wearing these a lot, still, until my second haul… 8/10 https://imgur.com/74CexNW(W2C In link) https://imgur.com/TwU6lXO Worn https://imgur.com/whPx4V9 Worn 2 Acronym Vapormaxes, 3 colors: Price: 368Y Each W2C: [ICM] (Website currently down. I messaged ICM through WeChat at: icm866 These are as seen in the pictures. I’m in complete love with all three of them as they make a perfect fit for every outfit. They were all TTS and are the most comfortable shoe I currently own. Not much to say about these other than cop em if you have been looking for them. 10/10 https://imgur.com/KitIw1p White + Green https://imgur.com/mNxpZcG Black + Green https://imgur.com/2dlzN69 Pink Wow I’m just amazed… this being my first haul, I’m speechless at the quality. I’m so scared for how much money I’m about to drop in the near future… but it’s the best mistake I’ve ever committed. BET. I’ll be ordering my second haul tonight, with even more tech wear and accessories. I’ll probably be stacking my closet with everything that has been reviewed and what’s yet to be purchased. If anyone has any pointers, I’ll GP whatever as long as it’s techwear ;) Any other questions I gotchu. Thank you so much for teaching me the ropes and being so down to earth about it. You truly are my fam. Will be posting more as it comes. Thanks for reading.
[INFO] Background electromagnetic interference has dropped to safe levels, restoring primary systems from hibernation. [WARNING] Primary generator offline. Energy capacitor charge below 20%. Estimated time before discharge: 35.712 days. [WARNING] Corrupted sectors detected on disk. Attempting recovery. [INFO] Disk repair completed in 00:14:58, Final data corruption: 12.366% [INFO] Hyperlink signal not found, recommend disabling to conserve power. [INFO] System test has not found any damage to primary systems. Proceeding with full system start.
I found myself face down in a snowdrift. In the back of my mind hundreds of messages and errors were screaming for my attention. It was going to take a while for me to sort through it all. Before that however, I needed to figure out where I was and what had happened to me. I slowly stood up causing all of my joints to let out a metallic creaking. They had gone stiff from not moving for an unknown period of time. Once I was on my feet, I surveyed the environment around me. It was a barren, frozen waste. Large mountains and crags covered in snow and ice stretched as far as I could see. It was night and the sky was full of stars. A pair of small moons were shining a dim glow across the landscape. I scanned the star field for any patterns or constellations I recognized but couldn't see anything familiar. I turned around to get a glimpse behind me. There was a small shuttle that clearly had a hard landing. The metal panels in the front had been crumpled together from the impact and the now sun bleached paint was thoroughly scorched from when the ship entered the atmosphere. The ship was surrounded by clean, unbroken snow which hid the scar left in the earth by the shuttle when it crashed. After I got my bearings I found the shuttle door which took a surprising amount of force to pry open. Once inside, I found the ship had been mostly untouched since it had landed. A good layer of dust had settled on everything which made me feel a little like I was exploring some forgotten ruin. The interior of the shuttle was fairly basic. Behind the cockpit, there was a single table with two benches on either end. Behind that were additional rows for passengers. Cabinets lined the walls on one side for storing various supplies. I took a seat in one of the benches by the table after brushing the dust away. The torrent of messages in my head was not letting up and I needed to sort through it all. I hoped once everything calmed down I would be able to figure out what had happened. For whatever reason, some random electromagnet pulse had forced my subconscious system to put me to sleep to protect my systems. I had no idea how long I had been asleep, but it was long enough for my internal battery to slowly drain until it was almost empty. Thankfully, I managed to wake up before it drianed completely or I would have shut down forever. As for what caused the pulse in the first place I couldn't remember. The pulse had corrupted my memory of the several weeks leading up to the catastrophic event leaving me in the dark and with a lot of questions. Thankfully, the rest of it was still intact. I knew the shuttle I was in was from the PCS Hawking, the ship I had lived on for several years. I was a pathfinder, A team of scientists, engineers, explorers, and diplomats working to refine space travel by charting hyperspace routes, developing new technologies, and building relationships with other species we encountered. I had a special relationship with the ship as I was the first of seven androids assigned to it. I remembered that being pretty special at the time as an android was still a novel and rare sight. We were a lot different from the average robot as we were still basically human. I became an android when I was only 15. After being injured, I was almost killed by an infection that was resistant to all the medicine the hospital had. As a last resort, they decided to upload my mind into a mechanical body. It got me a lot of attention at the time since the whole process was still really new. Those first few months were rough especially since those first models looked more robot than human. Since then, a lot of people had worked to provide androids like myself ways to improve the way we looked and functioned. Now I look more like I did back then which actually makes me look far younger than I really am, but I'm not complaining. I joined the pathfinders about five years after becoming an android which had been my dream since I was little. I had many adventures and experiences, especially with everyone else on the ship. Turns out being surrounded by scientists and engineers leads to a lot of questioning, as well as a lot of tinkering. I can safely say there aren't many androids with as many fun toys and gadgets than I got installed. The more I browsed my memories, the more I started to be grateful It didn't all get wiped when I was hit with that random EMP. I was in a very uncertain place right now. I had no idea where anyone else had gone or if they were even still alive. There was a good chance I would never see them again. Even then, I could still have hope. The chance that the main ship had crashed onto this planet along with me was fairly high and that created the opportunity of eventually running into some remnant or clue for finding it. I also wasn't the only android on the ship at the time so I could run into them as well. Either way, I was certain I needed to start my search soon. I had only just over a month of charge left in my capacitor and there wasn't much on the ship that was still functional. I needed to find something soon or I wouldn't last long. Looking out the ship's windscreen, I noticed light radiating over the horizon. It wasn't broad and soft like a sunrise, but instead was concentrated to a single area. I knew immediately that the light was artificial, and artificial light meant power. I got up from my seat excitedly. I was ready to leave immediately, but thought it would be smart to make a quick glance around to see I there was anything I could take with me. The only thing I found in the containers that I could use was a single handgun and a few gas cartridges. All the other supplies were designed for normal people and I couldn't afford to carry the extra weight with my limited power. I decided to leave most of it behind. I stepped back outside, the snow crunching under my feet, and said goodbye to the ship before starting my journey towards the distant light. Despite what everyone says, being a gate guard is boring. You get put through all these drills and training exercises every day and for what? The only thing you would ever do was greet the occasional traveler and close the gate when some petty thief or criminal tried to run off into the wilderness. The city knew that too. Since I joined the guard my pay had never been much more than what a bookkeeper's assistant could expect. Had I known any of this I would have never joined. I should have done what my cousin did and join a guild. Every letter he sends always talks about some monster he slayed, or the places he visited, or the women he seduced. I swore by the twin moons that I would get out of here as soon as my conscription was over. I clearly was not the kind of guy that would pick something like this. I could tell most people here were only here because it was essentially easy free money. I would bet most of the guards here would rather sleep all day. Tonight was turning out to be especially boring. Usually every night greets you with an occasional trader, traveler, or wizard as they get on with their business, but tonight there hasn't been a single person. It was annoyingly quiet and I was ready to zone out. That was until my partner Risieri broke the silence. “Hey Landolf, Do you see anything out there by the Starburnt hill?” “No not rea-.... actually yeah I do, looks like someone is out there.” “That's what I thought, who do you think that is?” “Who knows, it's probably some wizard doing some ritual or whatever it is they do.” “I don't know, I don't think I've ever seen a wizard over there before. Something about that person is weirding me out.” “Well it looks like they are coming this way so you can ask them all the questions you want when they get here.” Risieri replied with a sigh and we both moved towards our posts by the gate. Whoever that person was they still had quite a ways to go before they were at the gate. Even then, from what I could tell from a distance, I was starting to understand Risieri's feelings a little bit. Whoever that was they didn't appear to be wearing very heavy clothing. It may be the season of fire, but it was still well below the ice point. Both me and Risieri were each wearing very heavy sets of padded armor that even had heat runes sewn into them for extra warmth. I couldn't see how someone with anything less could be comfortable or even safe out in the extreme cold. That was why the city was built underground, it made it a lot easier to keep things warm. As the mystery person neared the gate, Risieri continued to make his own observations. “Hey, She's pretty cute for an elf don't you think?” I gave Risieri a disappointed look before turning my attention back to the girl. “Risieri, are you sure she's a elf? She looks too short. Maybe she's a fey?” “A fey outside their lands? You know their empire would never let that happen.” “It's happened before, not all of them pledge to that dictator.” Risieri gave me a doubting look so I doubled down. “I mean why else do you think they haven't engulfed the surrounding territories by now? The Fey are distracted with internal conflict.” I could tell Risieri didn't really care that much. He turned back to the mystery traveler with another sigh. “Whatever, I guess we will find out soon enough.” He said. The Girl stopped a few steps away from me as I raised my hand, giving me a good chance to see who we were dealing with. She clearly wasn't a Fey, Elf, or even a dwarf. Her height was somewhere in between a dwarf and fey even when you considered her apparent age (which looked very young). Her eyes were a shade of blue and had an odd pattern in them. On the sides of her head was a pair of strange blue and gray accessories which covered her ears and extended back like the ears of a rabbit. Those alone would probably draw the most attention if it wasn't for her hair. It was long and straight ending below the shoulders. It was also the brightest red I think I had ever seen in my life. No way that was her natural color. It must have been dyed or altered with magic or something. Only the Limamuda had hair that color, and even then it was really more slime than hair. Her style of clothing was also pretty unique. She was wearing a rugged looking gray fabric coat that covered her arms and extended to her waist. The front also sported a pair of pockets near the waist. Near the collar I could see what looked to be a blue undershirt. She was also wearing pants (which was weird) and they looked to be made of a similar material to her jacket only the color was darker. It also sported a good number of pockets. Overall everything she was wearing was very strange, but it did look surprisingly practical. On one of her pockets was a silver guild pin. I couldn't recognize which guild it belonged to, but it's style and material matched other pins I had seen in the past. That would explain why she was used to traveling in harsh conditions. While I was observing her, Risieri went ahead and addressed her. “Greetings and welcome to Almera, we are eager to have you enjoy our city. Judging from your pin are you an adventurer from a guild?” As soon as he said this her eyes widened slightly and she looked a little confused. She lowered her head and held a hand to her chin clearly thinking deeply. After an almost awkward amount of time she gave an embarrassed smile and simply spoke: “Yes I am.” The response had a very heavy accent that I could barely understand. It was obvious that she had traveled a very long way to get here. I decided to give her a quick rundown of the town in case this was her first time visiting. “Very well, The gate will lead you to the main walkways of the city. Signs are posted at each intersection. If you are looking for an inn they are on the lower floors.” I told her, pointing to the gateway behind me. “Thank you.” she responded after a pause. With that she walked past us through the entrance to the city below. All her responses were simple but fairly standard. As for my partner, he was clearly thinking about everything he witnessed. I decided to ask him about it: “Hey, what did you think about her?” I asked Risieri. “Her accent was odd, I have never heard anything like it.” He responded. “Neither have I. Where do you think she's from?” “What makes you think I know? Is she even one of the common races?” “She has to be. She was wearing a guild pin.” “Well if you really want to know so bad, why don't you just find her later and ask?” He was making a good point. After all, if she was part of a guild then perhaps she would be my ticket out of this awful job. All I would have to do was find and befriend her. “That could have gone better,” I muttered quietly to myself. I had hoped I could just slip in without saying a word so I could have enough time to get the language sorted out but that wasn't something fate had in mind. I'm usually pretty good with these kind of things, but back there I was struggling. I only had the vaguest idea what they were asking and thankfully it seemed like they understood my own answers at least a little bit. I had no idea why they wanted to know if I was an explorer but At least now I could expect to be mostly left alone while I finished learning the language. The path I was on seemed to lead somewhere underground as it had a steady downward slope. The tunnel was well lit by the occasional cut crystal hanging from the ceiling. As I walked I gazed at each one as they passed by. They looked like they were glowing without anything powering them. The more I stared at them the less I understood how they worked. In fact, there were a lot of things so far that I found really odd. For one, the kingdom felt very medieval in most things yet there had been many other things that showed otherwise. The coats the guards were wearing was one thing that came to mind. They were obviously designed to protect against ancient style metal swords yet they were giving off a lot of energy as if they had their own power supply. The architecture also felt beyond the capabilities of a simple feudal society. The walkway I was on was built with simple cut stones, but the precision of the work made it obvious that none of it was done by hand. As I walked, I was starting to become very curious about this strange world I found myself in and I was excited to know what I might see next. The end of the tunnel led to a large open courtyard that extended farther than I could see in front of me. The roof was of glass and was braced by large stone arches spaced every meter or so. Snow would slowly collect on the roof preventing a view of the sky above, however it didn't remain for long as it would be swept away by the occasional worker. Dividing the long courtyard down the middle was a decorated planter box full of various miniature trees, flowers, and other interesting flora. Beside the planter was also the occasional stone bench. As I walked further into the city, the courtyard I was following would meet an intersection and would split into several more identical halls to my left and right. I also started to see more people as I moved further inward. Eventually I found myself in the middle of a shopping district. By now it was almost midday and the area was bustling with people. Dozens of individual storefronts were built into the walls which gave the whole area a look almost like a shopping mall. I spent the next few minutes browsing around to see what kind of things the people here had in this strangely advanced pseudo medieval city. My explorer mindset was in full force at this point as I bounced from store to store trying to understand these unique people. There was a seller for everything you would expect, Clothing, tools, animals, and even books. One of my economist friends, Jordan, once told me you could learn a lot about a civilization based on the items sold in their market. That advice occasionally came in handy once or twice when we made contact with other species so I had no reason to doubt it. As I continued to make mental notes of everything on sale I began to get the impression that everything was made locally. I couldn't see the large variety of items that you would see with a lot of trade. It made sense why they wouldn't have a large number of traders as I remembered having to trek through heavy snow my entire way here. The items these people made themselves were too advanced for a medieval economy. I was struggling to understand how they had been able to make any of it. I couldn't find any evidence of electricity anywhere which was both fascinating and worrying. I had used up over two days of my remaining power supply trying to get here and I haven't found any way of getting it back. I would have to keep looking. My mind turned to the odd lights from the tunnel. I wanted to know how they worked. They had to be powered by something. I had seen books being sold at a fair price in one of the shop stalls so there was a good chance there was a library of some sort. I looked around for someone I could ask for directions and eventually walked up to what looked to be a guard. “Excuse me, I'm trying to find a library do you know where one is?” I asked. The guard looked respectful but clearly confused and for a moment I wondered if I hadn't refined the language yet. “I'm sorry, you're trying to find a what?” The guard responded. “A library, a place with books people can read to learn.” I clarified. “Oh! You're looking for the Magisterium. It's in block 196-118. Just head down that side path until you reach the third set of stairs and it should be on the fourth floor down.” I mentally reviewed what the guard said to make sure I translated it correctly before I thanked him and went on my way. As it turned out, the city was laid out in a perfect grid with each block being given a number code. At this point I couldn't be surprised anymore with how organized and structured everything was. There was a staircase about every 20th intersection so it took several minutes to make it to the one the guard told me about. The staircase was similar to the others only this one was more ornate. It was made of stone and was over five meters wide. It spiraled both upwards and downwards. In the center of spiral staircase was a large stone sculpture of various individuals which also had a waterfall flowing around them. I could only guess each person was some famous historical figure of some kind. When I reached the floor of the magisterium It wasn't hard to spot it. It was a large building that featured two large sections beside a central domed hall. The facade of the building was adorned with statues and intricate tile. Water flowed down channels cut into the buildings walls. The ornateness of the building made me hesitate. I wasn't sure if I could trust myself with the language yet and the building looked more like a palace or religious center than a school or library. I had confused the two before, and it got me thrown in an alien prison. I didn't want to make that mistake again. However, before I could figure out the true purpose of the building, my attention was turned away by a faint noise. It was distant and quiet, quiet enough that I was pretty I was the only one who could hear it. It was a scream, not a fun scream or a teasing scream, but the bone chilling scream of abject terror. Someone was in real danger and needed help. For a moment I forgot about my limited power and I ran to the noise. “No! Please! Go away, I haven't done anything wrong!” I pleaded with my attackers. The two dwarves in dark hoods had grabbed me by the arms and dragged me to a dark and quiet part of the city. I was alone and scared. I had no idea where I was or what they planned to do with me. I could only be as loud as I could and hope someone would hear me. “Shut your mouth fairy girl!” one of the dwarves screamed before he slugged me in the gut. The hit made me keel over in pain and I felt sick. Before I could recover, one of the two dwarves then kicked me into the wall. “The Minister may have allowed you into our city but that doesn't mean we will.” The other dwarf said. “You're going to pay for all the people that tyrant has killed.” “...no....p-please.” I weekly said trying to look at them. The dwarf on the right made a scowl and drew a knife from his belt. “What do you think Gerrod, a cut for every soul?” The dwarf with the knife suggested. The other dwarf let out a menacing chuckle of approval. I looked in horror as the dwarves approached me and held me down. Then without warning The knife in the dwarf's hand slashed into my right leg. It was nothing like I had felt before. I had cut myself a few times in the past but this was different. The knife had been inscribed with a rune to inflict pain and it burned like acid. I started to scream uncontrollably unable to handle the torture. The longer it went on the more I wished they would just kill me and end it. But they wouldn't stop. Over and over again they made small cuts in my legs intentionally making it last as long as they could. And then it suddenly stopped. I moaned in relief as the dwarves turned their attention to the person behind them. I was getting closer, I could hear it. The sound had led me several floors down into the deeper parts of the city. Each floor had less light than the one above and I began to see less people. If someone wanted to break a law this was certainly the place to do it. I hoped I wasn't too late. I picked up speed and nearly hit 18 kph before I found what I was searching for. Sliding to a stop I saw the source of the screaming. Two figures in dark robes had captured a blonde girl and were torturing her with a knife. The yellow dress she was wearing was soaked in blood and she was whimpering in pain. My eyes met the girls and her's went wide. She stared at me with a look of pleading mercy that I had seen several times in the past, and it was making me very angry. As A human I always had a short temper and tended to lack mercy which carried over when I became an android. I couldn't wait any longer and called out to the hooded figures. “Hey! What the Hell are you doing!” The two figures, who ended up being dwarves, quickly shot around, clearly not expecting company. Their looks of shock quickly became rage once they saw me. “You made a mistake coming here bunny ears,” the dwarf holding the knife said darkly. It wasn't a very good insult, but his tone did wonders to rile up my temper. I drew the gun on my hip and powered it on. “I want you to tell me why you're torturing that girl or I will kill you.” I said resolutely. “Try it dross, End her Gerrod” The knife holding dwarf ordered. The dwarf next to him held out his hand and fired a bolt of purple light. It struck me in the chest creating a cloud of black smoke. The girl behind the dwarves cried out in fear as strange light coursed all over me. I feared I was hit with something bad. I hadn't expected that kind of attack to suddenly shoot from his hand. I was prepared to deal with a charging man with a sword, not some chemical attack. I cursed myself for not being prepared as I expected to be defeated. But I felt nothing. The smoke and light around me turned out to be pretty mundane. Honestly, I felt tricked and my patience had run out. Using my infrared sight I aimed my gun at the dwarf who cast the spell and fired. I couldn't believe it. I called out to the girl hoping the spell hadn't killed her. How could a dwarf know death magic like that? I was terrified and dismayed. I didn't know what to do. My rescuer had come to save me only to be snuffed out by cheap tricks and rare magic. I wanted to cry. Both dwarves were laughing and making jokes about their victory. Suddenly a loud crack forced me to cover my ears. I looked up to see the dwarf who cast the spell on the floor without a head. The other dwarf had reeled in shock and fell backwards. The girl who came to my rescue walked out of the smoke, her eyes glowing bright red. Both myself and the remaining dwarf could only stare in shock. She took a few steeps toward the remaining dwarf and pointed the weapon in her hand at him, its tip venting glowing steam. “I can only take pleasure in killing scum like you.” She said with a vicious sneer that chilled the atmosphere. The dwarf went pale. “Wha- What are you?” he spoke quietly. Terror tinged his voice. In total panic he tried to crawl backwards but was stopped by the wall behind him. “I'm an android. I would say it's a pleasure to meet you, but it's not nice to lie. Goodbye.” She said taking aim. The tip of the object began to glow. “No! Please! I-” The dwarf was cut off with a flash of blue light accompanied by a crack like thunder. The dwarf slumped over dead with a hole through his chest. The girl blew out the steam from her weapon and spun it into a sheath at her side. The red glow in her eyes subsided leaving behind ones that were soft and blue. Turning her attention to me, she lowered a hand down offering to help me up. “Aurora Westinghouse, Pathfinder engineer. Lets get you home shall we?” I stood up with her help, my legs still in pain from the cuts. Powerful feelings of relief and gratitude washed over me. Tears filled my eyes and I fell into Aurora crying like a little girl. She put her arms around me and we stayed like that for a few minutes. Finally it was over. I had come to this city trying to escape the terrors of my home, but in the end those terrors just followed me here. "Thank you............ thank you............. thank you......." I said repeatedly through my tears. I did my best to comfort the girl as she let her trauma out. Meanwhile I started to make plans to get her out of here. The gunshots were going to attract a lot of attention and I didn't want to stick around to learn the city's legal process. Carrying her was going to be difficult as she was almost a foot taller than me. She was going to have to limp which meant I needed to do something about her legs. I cut some cloth from the now dead dwarves and bandaged her legs as best as I could. I wasn't a medic by any means but I was decent with tying knots which I hoped would let me make do. Placing one of her arms around my shoulders, I supported some of her weight and helped her along as we made our way out of the area to the floor above. “Alright, I think we are far enough away from all of that. Do you know anyone who can help you with your legs?” I asked. The girl nodded her head. “My brother is a healer, he can help. Our home shouldn't be too far from here.” “Alright I can help you there. you never told me your name by the way.” I said trying to cheer her up. “Sorry, I'm Eris.” She responded with a small giggle. “That's a pretty name. Do you have any idea why those dwarves would attack you?” She went silent, the question was clearly bothering her. I decided to not push it any further. We continued to slowly make our way through the dim hallways of the lower city without much conversation. The hallways were flat, utilitarian, and lacked the ornamentation of the upper floors. The whole place smelled like mold mixed with sewer and the air was very hot. Thankfully we didn't stay down there for long as Eris motioned me to take the next staircase up. We continued to make steady progress until Eris broke the silence. “How?..... How did you do it?” She asked. “I don't understand what you mean.” I responded. Eris looked flustered. “What do you mean you don't understand? How did you survive that spell? I saw the magic hit you! You should have died instantly but you didn't! How did you do it!?” I thought about her question. That was magic? I knew it shouldn't be possible, but the more I thought about it the more the existence of magic started to explain a lot of the things I had seen since coming to the city. I thought about the implications. Maybe I could use magic as a way to recharge myself? I would probably be forced to look into it sooner than later as all that action drained my battery to uncomfortable levels. At best I had about a week of charge left. As for Eris's question, I really didn't have a good answer. I had no idea how any of it worked, only that it didn't work on me. “I, I don't know. I guess it just didn't have any effect on me.” I responded. Eris went quiet again, this time in an attempt to understand what just I told her. She looked at me with a confused expression. “what did you say you were again?” she asked. “An android. Well technically I'm still a human, but not everyone agrees with me.” “What do you mean not everyone agrees? Are you undead?” Eris had a worried look “Ah, no I haven't died yet,” I said with a chuckle,“but I almost did and only survived thanks to this mechanical body.” “What happened?” “I got really sick. There was no cure.” I reflected. “I see... So you're really a golem then? A living golem?" "I guess you could say that." "That's... new. Anyway, we're almost at my home. I want to talk to you more after this is over.” “Sure, I can do that.” Her home was one of hundreds of small apartments on one of the lower levels of the city a good distance from where I found her. I could tell the housing was designed to be as cheap as possible. Her home was one of many small units stacked three or even four high all made from stone block that wasn't cut as cleanly as the stone I saw higher up. Access to each building was provided by cheap iron scaffolding with a mesh grating acting as the floor which wobbled slightly as we made our way across. Walking up to her apartment door, I gave it a good knock. After a few seconds the door was opened a crack before being flung open revealing a tall, slender man. He had light brown hair, a short beard, and green eyes. He also stood a good foot and a half taller than me. Upon seeing us he gasped and quickly set down the book he was holding. “Hey Liam.” Eris said. She was starting to become delirious. “Oh twin moons, What happened to her?” He said with a worried tone. “Nothing good. She said you could help her.” I told him. “Yes, of course. Please bring her in.” Liam motioned us in and we both stepped through the narrow doorway. The apartment looked small and only had a few rooms. We entered into a common room which also doubled as a kitchen. In the center of the room was a short stone table surrounded by floor cushions which I placed Eris down on. Lining the walls were several bookcases each overflowing with books of various sizes plus a small stove with a cooking pot. I found an open cushion to sit down on while Liam was in the process of gathering supplies from various cabinets and chests. Soon after he returned with various objects with unknown purpose and he began to work on his sister. “Now how did this happen?” he said as he unraveled my makeshift bandages from around her legs. “I herd her screaming and I came to rescue her from a pair of dwarves. They were tor-” I tried to explain before being cut off. “That's good enough. I don't need the details.” He said in a brisk but polite tone. He was in the process of rubbing a clear gel into each cut. I watched closely out of curiosity as he worked. Once he was finished, he pulled out a small yellow crystal on a chain as well as piece of chalk. He turned to the side shuffling towards the table then drew a pattern of complex characters onto the surface. Halfway into his drawing he suddenly stopped and reviewed his work. Then, anxious about its accuracy, he got up to grab a book from one of the many shelves in the room. Flipping through a few pages, he compared his work to the one in the book before finishing the drawing using the book as reference. “Help me lift her onto the table.” he said to me after he returned the book to its shelf. I nodded to him and grabbed a side. We both moved her as gently as we could onto the table. Once everything was set, Liam took out a small paper card embossed with more symbols. “Eris, I'm going to put you to sleep now okay?” Liam said. He tapped the card onto her forehead causing it to shimmer. Almost immediately, I saw Eris grow drowsy and fall asleep. When she was fully under Liam took the crystal in his hand and started to whisper something under his breath. As he spoke, the chalk markings on the table began to glow with a white light that quickly grew very bright. I shielded my eyes with a hand and took a step back. The light was making it hard to see exactly what was going on but I had to keep looking. The number of questions I wanted to ask had been increasing almost exponentially by this point and now I was confident I could rely on Liam for answers. His collection of books was impressive even by my own standards and they all looked worn and well used. I had to wait until after he was finished before I could start conversation so I made some plans in my head to ensure we could talk afterwards. For now I could only watch the miraculous things that were occurring before me and take some mental notes. This was magic I thought to myself. I guess calling it anything else would have been redundant. Liam was in the process of bending the laws of nature to his will. Energy flowed into Eris sealing up her wounds with remarkable speed. Eris was almost completely healed before I finally noticed something familiar. Something that would shatter my current view of this world. I had been so focused on watching the healing unfold that I had practically ignored Liam. My attention snapped to the spellcaster, and I could only stare at him with a look of complete consternation. Liam was speaking German.
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