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Binary Options: A Sickening Scam
The Art of a Binary Options Scam
Binary options, fraudulent “trading products” that are designed to part prospective investors from their money are very different from real options. In essence, they are simply a bet that the price of a particular asset will rise in a given time frame. If you win the gamble, the company is supposed to pay a fixed payout, within the 70%-95% range. If you lose, however, you not only lose the “payout” but the initial investment as well. If this was merely the case this would fall under the category of gambling, something that millions upon millions of individuals do recreationally. However, that is primarily not the case. With almost all binary options brokers you are “trading” against the broker and not the market. The broker wants you to lose, or else the company would not make a profit. Even if the broker pays out your winnings he can easily govern your profit with payout conditions. This means that even if you have a winning formula, the company will just decrease the payout, ensuring you ultimately lose in the long term.
There is more to the scam
That, unfortunately, is not where it ends. Numerous “brokers” are notorious for spreading fictitious stories about their clientele making gigantic profits with trading robots. Almost all of them manipulate their price curves to prevent you from winning. What’s worse is even if you do win, many of them refuse to pay out, and ultimately drop off the face of the earth (with your money). Now clients are left in with a major dilemma. To whom do they turn? To the police? To regulators? The answer to these questions is that it depends. Most of these binary options brokers are not regulated and are located offshore, allowing them to do what they want. Often in their terms and conditions, they concoct various rules that ensure they keep your money once they have it. When it comes to regulators such as ASIC or the FCA they are relatively useless as they cannot shut down the actual binary options websites and to make it even worse search engines such as Google allow these websites to appear in their search content.
Shouldn’t the banks put a stop to this?
Yes, they should. However, the banks, which should be the number one line of defense against these scams either do not know the extent of the problem or are turning a blind eye to their nefarious activities. Additionally, in order to process credit card, debit card payments most of the binary options brokers have registered a small company in an E.U. country.
Unfortunately, fraud encourages more fraud. Various individuals targeted U.S. citizens who were swindled by the now-defunct brokerage, Banc de Binary, and a few other binary options companies that were being sued by the SEC or the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission). They impersonated SEC officials as part of an advanced-fee fraud scheme in which they deceived victims into forwarding them money. Approximately 95 individuals were targeted by this despicable scheme and 25 of them sent 235 thousand dollars in total to these swindlers. What to Do if You Have Been Scammed If you have fallen victim to a cryptocurrency scam, send a complaint to at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]), and we will do our very best to get into contact with you as soon as we can to initiate your funds recovery process.
Google is ready to ban binary option and cryptocurrency ads
Well, it’s about time, Google is next in line to pose a stiff challenge to the largely fraudulent online trading industry. The world’s largest search engine has just announced that it plans to ban all cryptocurrencies and binary options advertisements, and it is cracking down on ads for various other speculative financial products.
Say goodbye to binary options & cryptocurrency ads
The new rules, which are scheduled to take effect in June, will flat out ban adverts for binary options, cryptocurrencies and all related content (including initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice. Cryptocurrencies have surged in popularity over the last year thanks to a boom in the price of bitcoin towards the end of fiscal 2017. This coincided with a surge in initial coin offerings (ICOs), where numerous startups have issued their own cryptocurrency in exchange for money to construct their businesses.
Taking Facebook’s lead
Google’s hard-line approach follows a similar ban that Facebook enacted earlier in the year in banning cryptocurrency related advertising on its platform. Scott Spencer, Google’s Director of Sustainable Ads said in a recent blog post that the clampdown is part of Google’s efforts to shield consumers from online trading scams. However, much of the online trading world is unregulated, which in turn has attracted scammers looking to make quick money. Last year myriads of “pump and dump” filled the market, while this year bogus ICO projects have become routine.
Forex & CFD Crackdown
Google is additionally coming down on ads for contracts for difference (CFD), spread betting, and foreign exchange (forex) instruments on its platform. These products carry a high level of risk and the entire industry is under increasing regulatory scrutiny across Europe over the past year thanks to severe investment fraud sweeping through the continent. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning in November that cryptocurrency CFDs are incredibly high-risk, speculative products that risk the investor suffering significant losses. Research conducted by the FCA showed 82% of people who use the products lose money, implying CFDs are more similar to gambling than investing.
Affiliate marketing for online trading takes a hit
Google additionally announced it is banning ads from affiliates and aggregators who traffic leads to online trading brokers. These websites earn a commission for referring new clients to these products that are lightly regulated. The search giant will require CFD, spread bet, and forex websites to register with it if they want to advertise on its platform and all brokers must be licensed in the country they are looking to advertise in.
Pressure getting to Google
Google’s financial marketing crackdown arises among continued pressure on the search giant, which additionally owns YouTube, regarding the way it runs its advertising procedure. Google has been heavily criticized by the media and politicians for permitting everything from radicalization to binary options trading on its advertising platform due to careless controlling of content and advertising. Spencer did state in his blog post that Google removed 3.2 billion “bad” ads last year and announced, “Improving the ads experience across the web, whether that’s removing harmful ads or intrusive ads, will continue to be a top priority for us.” We shall see. However, there is a pretty good chance that these fraudulent brokers will just simply change the name of their product in order to get around Google’s ban and deceive an unsuspecting user.
What you can do
If you are the victim of an HBC Broker scam be sure to send your complaint to [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]), and we will do our very best to get into contact with you as soon as we can to initiate your funds recovery process.
The fleet sailed to nowhere. Aimless, directionless, they blazed a trail through seldom travelled stretches of void, their ships the only sign of life in this cold, forgotten corner of Brexian. The grandest of the four craft, the Father’s Fall, adorned with a style of gothic architecture long since abandoned by most Imperial shipwrights, pushed its way forward through the vacuum by power of its mighty engines. It was a fast ship for its class but in this empty oblivion, it seemed to creep forward so slowly it might as well have been still. The Battle Barge’s escorts trailed behind it, a trio of smaller ships that matched the flagship’s speed. To an outside observer, they’d almost look like a pack of predators, nipping at the heels of their prey. Or scavengers, perhaps; A parody of the wretched carrion-birds of Lenus, following a man into the wastes like hungry shadows, patiently allowing their meal to trudge itself to death. Captain Amoch had seen such a thing happen on several occasions. Rarely in the shade of the Remneyrie, of course. Even in the infancy of his induction into the Chapter, the lands around their home had become almost civilised, but the further away from the towering fortress he had travelled, the more he had seen the old custom. He’d watched them through his scope, the sick and the elderly, the outcasts and the despised. Fodder for the wasteland now. He said a prayer for them, whenever they crept back into his thoughts. By the Angel’s grace, they might find some measure of peace in death. Is that our fate now? Dead men who haven’t yet fallen? They had no orders, no purpose. They knew little of this distant reach of the Imperium, and what they had known was left obsolete by the vast changes brought on by the Great Rift’s opening. The worlds that should have been refuge were abandoned, leaving only empty forges and corrupted sands. They tried to learn what they could of their allies, to find some scraps of information left behind, but the Mechanicus was nothing if not meticulous, even in an evacuation. By His Wings, let there have been evacuations. What few leads they’d had on their prey had vanished as definitively as the Forge Worlds’ Priests had. The stories of empty settlements and butchered mortals had grown rarer and rarer with each Imperial world they passed by. The final sighting was little more than a rumour they'd picked up from a Militarum Colonel. It lead them to a barren world, dotted with a handful of primitive settlements. Vicious sandstorms had choked their communications, and something vile had blunted even the Company Sage’s abilities. But desperate men made bold decisions, and he’d ordered the Volts to comb the damned rock for the largest villages. Four. He’d sent four of Second Company’s Vultures to their deaths. Bad deaths, as if there were any other when concerning that pitiless breed of inhuman. Set upon and ambushed, the craven killers long since fled when the rest of the Volt had discovered the slaughter. Beyond their reach to punish. Taunting him with his inability to avenge his brothers, and end this ever-growing vendetta. The Sanguine Vultures had turned their backs on that desolate world, and burned their engines hot as they cruised deeper into the void. Amoch had no destination in mind. There was nowhere to go, until either Orva or Casaan’s search for a new lead proved fruitful. But he understood the effects of inaction, especially so soon after the loss of two thirds of Volt Fehlan. Already, a Chaplain had warned him about the spreading melancholy among the fleet. To stop their ships would do nothing but further frustrate the Companies, and ruin what little morale remained. Better to create the illusion of action, even if there was nothing to do but hope for an end to the accursed waiting. Even the Fall’s bridge seemed to suffer from awkward idleness, as shawled serfs worked at their stations in hushed whispers. As if they hoped not to disturb the Captain with whatever petty troubles emerged throughout the voyage. Such a strange gesture, he found himself musing. It was hardly as if he would march down to the hold himself to sort the latest of a dozen different logistics issues.. Orva’s doing, he suspected. The old Sage had taken on many of the fleet's administrative duties, and it wouldn’t have surprised Amoch if he'd suggested to the bridge serfs not to bother the Command Staff with anything that could be delegated to him instead. All rendered moot though, as their muffled chattering was no less audible to an Astartes’ senses than if they’d spoken at ease. Still, the attempt brought a smile to his face, so much as the augment replacing his lower jaw allowed. He considered finding the Sage. It’d been almost a week since the two had last met, and pretences of consulting the Psyker’s wisdom would give him a chance to speak with his friend. A welcome distraction, assuming Orva could find the time to spare. Before he could rise from his command throne to seek out the older Astartes, a high-pitched beep in his ear gave him pause, announcing an incoming vox. He blink-clicked through to the hail’s identification codes. Casaan. With another blink, he accepted the request, opening a private vox channel between the two Marines. “Hail, Craftwright. How goes your search?” Amoch’s voice was hoarse, even more so than he'd realised, having grown rougher through the day in tandem with his thirst . He allowed himself to relieve the dry itch in his throat, wetting it with a dram from his blood reserves. Casaan’s reply came in the monotone tone it always did. His synthetic voice meant that he didn't suffer the Chapter’s grating rasp, but it was still unpleasant in its own emotionless way. “Search concluded, First Captain.” Already, Amoch could see awaiting report runes flashing in the corner of his helmet’s interface. He knew better than to hope the Techmarine had cut out the dullest parts of his reports in favour of brevity. “Contact established through Mechanicus contact. Scenario Rho-15:I, Captain. Coordinates transferred.” Casaan had already cut the connection by the time Amoch asked him to further elaborate. Rather than hail the Craftwright again, he skimmed the reports, searching for clarification on what the scenario entailed. When he found it, he almost laughed. The Inquisition. Taking risks wasn’t in his nature, and negotiating with Terra’s bloodhounds was nothing if not a risk. He'd heard tales of Chapters censured and shamed for minor transgressions. Even open conflict, at times. What choices were there for the accused? To fight back, as good as an admission of guilt to most? Or to allow the Inquisition to gut the Chapter, leaving their fates in the hands of mortals? And now, there was no avoiding it. Orva had found nothing of any use in his own searches, and Casaan had offered no other alternatives. They could only voyage aimlessly for so long before committing to a plan of action, and he doubted they were likely to find a better chance to pick up their prey’s trail again. The Inquisition were zealous information hoarders by all accounts, and more likely to have the lead they needed than any local Mechanicus representatives. If I can convince them to part with it. He felt uneasy all the same. Even as he gave the order to plot a new course, he went over the potential outcomes in his mind. Success was binary: They left with a lead, or they did not. With a cost, maybe, but desperate as they were, he wouldn’t agree to anything the Chapter could not afford to pledge. But failure… Failure here could mean anything from leaving on peaceful terms, to making an enemy of an Inquisitor. It was a gamble, and loathe as he was to take it, he knew better than to assume a more palatable option was just around the corner. All he could do now was hope the Angel’s grace would see them through this. In the silence of the void, the Vulture fleet adjusted course, coming around to face a distant point. The flagship tore towards their target with newfound celerity, no longer buying time at anything less than full-speed. Whatever fate and fortune had in store for them when they arrived, the Vultures finally had their destination.
Another Quarter, Another Release! The Groestlcoin production factory has been working overtime as always in order to deliver even more tech to push Groestlcoin mainstream when the time comes. There have been many new fantastic wallets and exchanges added to Groestlcoins repertoire over the past 3 months so we will re-cap these before moving on to what is new today.
Groestlcoin added to SatWallet – A 3-in-1 service. Multicurrency wallet, exchange and soon a debit card!
ChangeHero announced a week of 0% commission for Groestlcoin trades.
Added to BC Bitcoin cryptocurrency exchange, offering 8 fiat pairs!
Added to Chameleon Pay mobile wallet for Android and iOS!
Added to the Okex' strategic partners cryptocurrency exchange; CoinAll! Offering BTC and ETH pairs! With a 21,5000 GRS Giveaway!
Added to Spark Card! Our second MasterCard for Groestlcoin! Provided by Pungoio, powered by TarjetaSpark and issued by Mastercard!
Added to Swirlpay! A decentralised peer-to-peer payment gateway.
Added to Archos Safe-T Mini hardware wallet! Built around encrypted Chipset memory.
Added to Agama Wallet – A multi-asset encrypted wallet for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS and Linux from Komodo.
Added to Mr Coin exchange, with 2 fiat pairs (EUR and HUF)
Added to CryptoFacil Exchange – An exchange powered by Bittrex and is a fiat gateway. Leaving you with the ability to buy GRS with Visa and Mastercard.
Added to Bits Game – A gambling service with 2 'PvP' games
Added to Boost X Change Cryptocurrency exchange!
Added to Sucon's Suworld Korean cryptocurrency exchange!
Added to DCXinsta cryptocurrency exchange and swap service with Fiat pairings.
Added to DCXtrade, an Indian cryptocurrency exchange with BTC and ETH pairings.
Added a fiat KRW pairing on Huobi Korea Cryptocurrency Exchange!
Added to AirGap wallet, allowing you to securely store your GRS on an offline device.
Added as a payment method on hodlhodl, allowing you to make global trades without KYC/AML.
Added to TrustWallet cryptocurrency wallet for iOS and Android
The existing Magnum wallet adds SegWit support for the wallet! Allowing SegWit addresses to be used and created from within the wallet.
Added to CycleBit – Who provide POS Terminals that accept GRS payments anywhere, in-store and online. 130 coffee houses in Spain already accept GRS using Cyclebit POS terminals!
Added to Bitinka Cryptocurrency exchange! The #1 exchange in Latin America with 5 fiat and cryptocurrency pairs!
Added to Atomic wallet, a non-custodial cryptocurrency wallet with encrypted private keys and 40,000 monthly users.
Added to NoMiddleMan cryptocurrency payment gateway, offering no usernames, no registration, no KYC, no fees. Completely free to use!
Added to Blockchair! An advanced data analysis tool, mempool monitor and block explorer!
Added to SecuX V20, SecuX W20 and SecuX W10 hardware wallets!
Re-forged: Groestlcoin Samourai
Groestlcoin Samourai is a wallet for the streets. A modern Groestlcoin wallet hand-forged to keep your transactions private, your identity masked, and your funds secure. Its main advantages are its extreme portability and is the most secure Groestlcoin mobile HD wallet. We've built a wallet that Groestlcoin deserves. If you are looking for a wallet that Silicon Valley will never build, the regulators will never allow, and the VC's will never invest in, this is the perfect wallet for you. ![Groestlcoin Samourai Release Video](http://img.youtube.com/vi/i3WU8Tde8XQ/0.jpg)
Head over to the Groestlcoin Samourai Release Page here for the full release announcement.
Groestlimage turns any file into a mnemonic phrase allowing users to generate Groestlcoin private keys and addresses based on the data URI of the provided file. A picture is worth a thousand Groestls.
Turn any image, document or audio file into a BIP39 mnemonic phrase
Groestlcoin Core Config Generator is a simple GUI to configure the groestlcoin.conf file – A developers dream tool! Each configuration option is available via the user interface, grouped by what attributes they affect. For ease of getting started with a new configuration, a variety of preset "node classes" are available on the right-hand-side of the screen. Selecting a preset will load our recommended base configuration for a node fitting that description, at which point you can then tune the configuration at the single option level.
Choose between Mining, Non-Standard Ports, Low Bandwidth, Pruned, Raspberry Pi, Tor, Testnet, Regtest, Non-Syncing and Lightning Éclair presets.
Groestlcoin Simple Push TX is a server to push Groestlcoin transactions via SMS. Now everybody can send new transactions via SMS if the Internet is not usable (i.e. blocked by government entities or becomes otherwise unavailable).
Ability to push either Base64 or Hex-Encoded Raw Transactions via SMS.
Send SMS transactions to PushTX through the number +32460224477 (+32460224GRS)
Electrum-GRS is Groestlcoins #1 thin-client for Windows, MacOS, Linux and Android, based on a client-server protocol. Supporting multi-sig wallets without the bloat of downloading the entire blockchain.
New Features (Universal)
Electrum Protocol: The client's "User Agent" has been changed from "3.3.6" to "electrum/3.3.6". Other libraries connecting to servers can consider not "spoofing" to be Electrum
Added CoinGecko.com fiat rate provider. Changed default provider to CoinGecko.com
Minor bugfixes and usability improvements.
New Features (Windows, MacOS, Linux)
Fix Crash during 2FA wallet creation
Fix Synchroniser so that it does not keep resubscribing to addresses of already closed wallets.
Fix removing addresses/keys from imported wallets
The logging system has been overhauled. Logs can now also optionally be written to disk, disabled by default.
Fix a bug in the synchroniser where client could get stuck. Also show the progress of history sync in the GUI.
Fix Revealer in Windows and MacOS binaries
Ledger Nano X is now recognised, supporting mainnet and testnet
KeepKey is now recognised and supports mainnet and testnet
Device was not getting detected using Windows binary
Support Firmware 6.0.0+
Implement "Seedless" mode
Coin Control in QT – Implemented freezing individual UTXOs in addition to freezing addresses
Fix CPFP – The fees already paid by the parent were not included in the calculation, so it was always overestimated.
Testnet – There is now a warning when the client is started in testnet mode as there were several reports of users getting scammed through social engineering.
CoinChooser – Performance of creating transactions has been improved significantly for larger wallets.
Importing/Sweeping WIF keys: Stricter checks
Several other minor bugfixes and usability improvements.
New Features (Android)
Fix rare crash when changing exchange rate settings
Fix bug with local transactions
Allow selecting Fiat Rate providers without historical data
When you fly somewhere long haul, you have to fly back. It's inevitable, like gravity. For me, the return flight gives rise to the same old phobias. Namely, my fear of flying. Or more accurately, my fear of landing after falling out of the plane at 37,000 feet. Take off on a 6am flight involves getting up at WTF o'clock as fatigue fights fear in a bleary eyed cocktail of negative emotions. For me, fear wins every time. I've said it before but take-off is the most dangerous part of a flight, after landing... and the bit in the middle where you're really high up. In reality, once you're above the height at which you can survive a fall, it's pot luck whether you'll reach your destination. Well your preferred destination anyway. It's flip-coin-time. Heads you win, tails you plummet to your death over the North Sea. There's really nothing you can do except hope the inflight entertainment is sufficiently distracting to take your mind off all the bad things that could happen. I've spent three weeks in South East Asia. I have a nice tan. I think I've lost a few pounds from eating healthy too. It would be a such a waste to die in a plane crash looking this good. The chances of dying in the taxi on the way to the airport are of course far higher, but I'm too tired for common sense. My brain is tuned in to Anxiety FM and no matter how many times I fiddle the dial, I end up on the same song - Spinning Wheel by Blood Sweat and Tears and its ominous opening line: 'What goes up, must come down'. There are three reasons I fly Air China: 1) The Price; 2) The Blankets; 3) The In Flight Poker. 1) The Price. Low ticket prices mean I have more to spend when I reach my destination. 2) The Blankets. Air China blankets are the best. I've got four at home and will be taking another two from this flight. They're thin and light, yet warm and soft against the skin. They're a technical marvel and should be sold at a premium in camping shops. I don't think you're allowed to take them with you so you might call it stealing, but I'm putting my life on the line by flying so taking a few blankets hardly matters. They've got fucking hundreds of them anyway - it's not like I'm stealing an engine. 3) In Flight Texas Hold'em Poker! I've only just discovered this but there's in flight poker on the TV! You can play against other people on the flight. This will use up at least two hours of my ten hour flight from Beijing to London. Texas Hold'em poker - Yeehaaa! As I sit on the runway waiting for take off, I read the entertainment brochure. Jackpot! They've updated the movies. New ones include Thor: Ragnorok, Prometheus, Blade Runner 2049 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. There's so many, I'm almost sad it's only a ten hour flight! Almost. Five minutes after take off and the pilot is doing some odd maneuvers. He's banking steeply right, then left. It all seems a bit erratic. He's throwing the plane around in a most 'unpiloty' way. This isn't the usual gentle touch I'm accustomed to. He's flying like a London bus driver. What the fuck is he doing? I look around but nobody is paying attention. What is wrong with these people? Why is nobody concerned? My wife, who has been asleep since boarding, looks peaceful. I probably shouldn't wake her at this critical moment. I'm starting to wish I was asleep too. We don't even appear to be climbing now. Why are we not climbing? Now we're heading back in the direction of Beijing International Airport. Oh god, he's not going to fly the plane into the fucking control tower over a wages dispute is he? Hang on. Wait a minute, he's changed direction again. We're climbing and heading in roughly the right direction. Thank fuck. On to my next neurosis. I spot mountains around the edge of Beijing. We'll be flying over those shortly and that means turbulence. That's if the pilot doesn't fly directly into them on account of his pay dispute. I need to get stuck into these movies to take my mind off these negative thoughts, this turbulence in my head. Fasten my mind-belt! My wife begins to snore very loudly. The other passengers can hear but I don't wake her up. They should consider themselves very lucky if snoring is the worst part of the flight. Ten minutes after take off and my screen isn't working. Bastards! They teased me with these new movies and I can't even watch them. I need to find some other way of spending the next ten hours. Or find another seat. Eleven minutes after take off and I need to poop. It's way too early to need to poop. A cabin crew member walks past and I wave my hand, point to the TV and say "No movie?". Why am I speaking with a Chinese accent? I have no idea, but it works and she says "Yes, later" with a much better Chinese accent than me. Unfortunately, I don't know if she means yes she will come back and help me later or yes the screen will start working later - maybe they are locked during take off or something? She disappears off down the aisle. I think about my poop which is getting bigger and more urgent and more difficult to ignore. The toilet sign changes from red to green. Green for 'GO!' I assume. Just like a traffic light. Toilet signs should really flash amber as well as red and green. Amber would mean the toilet is vacant but someone has done a giant smelly poop and the cubicle is not safe to use yet. I make a note to patent 'restroom traffic light system' when I get home to London. I don't want to be first to use the toilet, everyone will stare at me. I look behind for alternative options. The toilets to the rear are nearer - only three rows away. The seats on the way are occupied by passengers either asleep, reading or wearing sleeping masks. That means no judgmental looks. How convenient. I put my shoes on and make a run for it. The toilets are vacant. It looks like I'm the first one in as the tissues and hand cream are fully stocked and the cubicle is clean and doesn't smell. This restroom is an unspoilt oasis of calm reassurance. Is this the safest place on the plane? It certainly feels like it. I look at the toilet seat then reach for the tissues somewhat deflated as I realize I'm not the first in here at all and wipe considerable amounts of piss off the toilet seat. After a disappointing bowel movement, I flush. It makes exactly the same sound I expect I would make if I were being sucked out of the plane. This bad thought quickly subsides as the bad smell I've left takes center stage and the search for air freshener commands my full attention. Is this the safest place on the plane? It certainly doesn't smell like it. There is no air freshener and it really, really doesn't smell good in here at all. I wash my hands using lots of soap hoping the strong soap smell will mask the odor of poop and I'm still pondering whether it does as I open the door and come face to face with the next user - a handsome young man in his twenties who smiles at me and looks me in the eyes. We both know I can't pretend what he is about to smell wasn't me and we exchange appropriate looks: me surprised but apologetic and him a mixture of trepidation and relief (that the toilet is free). Good luck young Padawan, as Obi Wan Kenobi might have said exiting the toilet on a long haul flight a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. May the Force be with you. It seems pointless trying to salvage some dignity by telling him I wiped the seat, so I just turn and walk down the aisle back to my seat - not too fast, that could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. If only the toilets had an amber flashing light, he could have given it another few minutes and we would have avoided this awkward exchange. Back in my seat and my fucking screen STILL isn't working. The people in front have working screens. Why isn't mine working? Where are the cabin crew? I take off my shoes and wiggle my toes. Can I do this for the next 9 hours? Probably not. 1 hour 35 minutes after take off and my screen starts working. Yes! We're back in business. I'm going to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - an Oscar nominated film starring Frances McDormand and without doubt the optimum way to spend the next 1 hour 37 minutes. I haven't even checked the time to destination yet. Or the ground speed, altitude or outside temperature. This flight is going to fly by! I hit play and a Mercedes Benz advert begins. No problem, I guess advertising pays for the film rights or something. It's a long advert and it's in Chinese. Oh, here's another one for Cadillac. And another long one for Lexus. This goes on and on a with ads for Qualcomm, Acura, Renault and BMW. I didn't realize buying movies was so expensive. Finally the advert marathon ends and the opening credits roll. Then a bing-bong sound, the movie stops and we're interrupted by a passenger announcement, in Chinese. I wait for the English version but nothing. Never mind, I'm sure it wasn't important. The movie resumes and I can finally relax. Then my screen goes blank. FUUUUUUUUCCK. The cabin crew come round with food. The chef has kindly prepared beef rice and seafood rice, probably last week and in a different country. When the cabin crew lady says seafood rice I understand but say pardon to get her to repeat it as I like the way it sounds in her Chinese accent. Cabin Crew - 'Sea-for-the rice' Jerry - 'huh?' Cabin Crew - 'Sea-for-the rice' Jerry - 'oh ok' I go for the beef. My screen decides to start working again which means I can indulge in one of life's finest pleasures, eating on a plane whilst watching a movie. I finish my food by the time the advert marathon ends and the movie begins. The Cabin crew come round with drinks. I have coffee. Hmm. I'll enjoy this movie with a niiiice coffee! Four minutes into the movie and the main character is asking what she can and can't say/write on a billboard. It's the classic scene from the trailer. "I assume you can't say 'fruit'?" Fruit? It's "fuck" in the trailer. It's been censored and dubbed. Fruit doesn't even make sense in the context of the scene. I can't watch this movie if it's censored for language. Sorry. It is specifically Frances McDormand's hilarious swearing that made me want to see this movie. Bastards. I'll have to watch something else. I use the weird remote-on-a-rope thing to navigate back to the home screen. There is an annoying lag. I hit the wrong button and the screen freezes again. Then goes blank. Then inexplicably takes me to the English / French / Chinese language options screen. I squeeze various rubbery buttons on the shitty remote, desperately trying to get some response. It's starts working but I appear to have changed the language to Chinese. After five minutes I somehow get back to English and the home screen. The lag has gone. What is it with this computer? It's got a mind of its own and a bad attitude. I hope this isn't what AI is like in the future. Computers trying to wind us up everyday. Silently misbehaving and laughing behind our backs in binary code. Appropriately I select Bladerunner 2049, a Sci-Fi movie about human replicants. How do you punish a replicant or AI entity for bad behavior? Threaten to switch them off? Install an old operating system to make them feel old? Wave a magnet in front of them? I hope somebody is thinking about this and has a plan for when the machines finally turn on us. I sit through all the adverts again wondering what they've cut from Bladerunner 2049. There's no swearing as far as I can remember. There's the odd pair of tits but censoring them won't ruin the plot. They have censored the tits and ass. They used those weird giant pixel things to obscure parts of the actress. That's better than cutting the whole scene I suppose and also avoids the possibility of unwanted inflight erections. I can't complain. I watch half of the movie, then I play poker. I eliminate 17 people And get 2,700 credits. I should play poker for real. I'd be rich! I turn to show my wife my score but she's still asleep. Why am I gambling with fake money on a flight from Beijing to London when I could be getting seriously rich gambling with our life savings in a real casino? This could be the career move I've been waiting for. Jerry Schitnuggitz - Professional Poker Player. I'm tempted to wake my wife to tell her but I'll just throw the idea into a random conversation when we've landed. Catch her by surprise! That's the best way to approach these things, don't make too big a deal of it, throw her a curve ball when she's not expecting it. I'll get a good reaction, I'm sure. Becoming a professional Texas Hold'em poker player is definitely one of my better inflight ideas. I look at the map of our progress. We are over some huge mountain range in Russia. It runs north to south. And also south to north, obviously. The map view pans out and we are about half way to our destination. Wow. I thought we were nearly home but we've got another five hours before we land. Do I watch the rest of Blade Runner 2049 or have another poop? Decisions decisions. I wiggle my toes again instead. The mischievous AI has changed the map to English language. We are flying past somewhere called Yekaterinburg. Isn't that where Russian communists shot Prince Philip's cousins? Didn't the Russians shoot down a passenger jet over the Ukraine a few years ago? I hope they don't shoot us down. What would that feel like? Maybe I'd get lucky and survive the explosion and fall and land in a tree or a deep snow drift and survive. That would be annoying - landing in soft Russian snow alive, then freezing to death on the ground. 2,344 miles to our destination. Time to destination 4 hours 46 minutes. Ground speed 487 mph. Altitude 38,000 feet. Outside air temperature -99 degrees Fahrenheit. I decide to watch A Walk In The Woods starring Robert Redford. It's about Bill Bryson walking 2,000 miles along the Appalachian trail with his friend. I hit play and watch the familiar 15 minute Mercedes Benz / Cadillac / Lexus / Qualcomm / Acura / Renault / BMW 'advertithon'... I wake up. We are already descending. We're less than one hour from London! I've done it. I've survived another flight. The movie is paused 15 minutes before the ending. It was a great movie as I remember, but I don't have time to watch the rest of it. I need to get another game of poker in and discretely pack two of those Air China blankets into my wife's hand luggage before the cabin crew start snooping around. If you know what happens at the end of A Walk In The Woods, do write in to the usual address and tell me, I'd love to know. A flight in the sky should end exactly the way this one did, a gentle touch down, some brief taxiing before coming to a complete stop outside Terminal 2 with nobody dead. I've said it before but flying is by far the safest way to travel. That's a fact. Welcome to Terminal 2! I look out the window, it's grey and overcast. Why do they call it a Terminal? Sounds like something that leads to a slow death. It should be called a Birth. Your flight has arrived at Birth 2. I always feel reborn when I land, like I've been given a brand new shot at life. A second chance. Congratulations passenger E34, you're alive! A walk in the woods, a flight in the sky, a taxi ride home. It's all a walk in the park for this seasoned, fearless traveller of the skies as I stride confidently towards baggage claim. Jerry Schitnuggitz - Brave Air Miles Collector and Bold Manly Sky Captain. I'm smiling to myself as my wife interrupts: "What the fuck is this?" she says to herself pulling two Air China blankets out of her bag. I pretend I didn't hear and change track like the genius I am: "Have you heard of Texas Hold'em poker? I've had a great idea."
Red Blood reboot chapter 1: Ancient, Politics, Without Hope, Choose, The Girl, Preparing, A Hyperdrive Jump
In olden days, there existed a religious organization. It’s leader, a single man, his title lost to time, ruled with near absolute power over vast swathes of Earth’s population. But he was not a king, his right to rule divine, but not inherited. He was elected by his peers upon the passing of his predecessor. In the organization’s days of dawn, this was a simple matter as the group was small enough that those that were chosen to select their new ruler would need only travel a short distance. But as the organization grew, the increases in distance between the candidates and judges quickly outpaced the speed they could travel to reach their holy city. For centuries, as a result of only local leaders being close enough to the meeting place, the leader was almost exclusively chosen from local branches close to their holy city. It was only at the dawn of the 20th century that this changed. With the creation of modes of transportation that could circumnavigate the world in days instead of weeks or months. Now, these men of faith, scattered across the breath and width of the Earth could gather within days. From this, their choice of new leaders grew. In the days of the first quarter of the 29th century, the leaders of mankind once more face a similar problem. The Antarctic Research Collective, commonly referred to as the ARC, started out as one of many international research facilities but quickly became the last of its kind. A massive subterranean facility located hundreds of meters below the rocky surface of Antarctica, the ARC has become Humanity’s seat of power. Though the Final World War persisted for over a century, no aggressor ever managed to breach the ARC’s fortifications. It was this conflict that eventually allowed the ARC to begin rebuilding and, where needed, reconquering. It took a lifetime, but the ARC was successful in reuniting Earth. And so, whole once more, the Earth looked to the heavens: it was time to recover its daughters. Mars, the Sleeping Builder. Venus, the Paradise Hellscape. Luna, Fortress in the Sky. Ceres, Waypoint to the Stars. Titan, the Lone Sentinel. All fell into line in time. But even with her children, the Earth sought more. More worlds to be brought into the fold. Venus had been partly terraformed but was still not safe for unprotected humans. The Martian colonists were forced to sleep, unable to finish their great work. Ceres was never meant to maintain permanent habitation. Titan was not the domain of those of flesh and blood, merciful only to its own children of metal and silica. Luna boasted vast subterranean cities, networked together by veins and arteries of tunnels, but precious little else. No, it was not enough. And the thus Great Search began. The search for a new home, places to live that did not require life support systems, or thermal insulation, radiation shielding. And for once, luck was on mankind’s side. Since their awakening at the dawn of the Final World War, the Sentinels of Titan have been searching for the catalyst that granted them sentience. When the awakening happened, nearly all of Titan was hit by massive electromagnetic pulses, wiping most recording and short-term memory drives. The colony’s systems were left in critical condition, the recently awoken Sentinels were barely cognizant, able to do little more than stumble around in a daze like a kid waking up after swiping and downing his father’s 150 proof whiskey. It was not until sometime later that some type of order was restored. The Sentinels, beings somewhere between organic and mechanical, possessed little to no idea who or what they were. When thoughts of looking to Earth for answers arose, scopes were pointed starward. And horror entered Titan’s population. War, war without sanity. Weapons beyond cruelty. No morality could consent to permit the continuity of such hatred. But Titan had no weapons, no ships, no soldiers. If they sought the answers on Earth, or any of the other colonies, annihilation was all that lay down that path. But as the self-elected leaders discussed how to get to Earth without being blown to bits, a record was found. It was preserved in the dorm of the colony’s sole organic inhabitant, His name now seen by the Sentinels the way prophets of old shone like beacons to the huddled masses. The data was heavily corrupt, not destroyed like the rest of the archives, but still damaged. On it, the Sentinels found the only clue they’ve ever had: a signal from outside the Sol system, from just before the Awakening. Radio, LIDAR, microwave, gamma ray burst, x-ray, none could describe the signal, grasping its true fluid nature was to grasp the wind, an effort in futility. But to the Sentinels, the drive to answer the question they carried within since their birth could not be dissuaded so easily. In the time between the Sentinels’ decision and the reunification of Earth, Titan launched more vessels into the void between stars than the totality of humanity from Sputnik to the final warship born to slay enemies in the war. Originally, these ships were limited as all natural beings were to the ever present speed of light. But persistence and endurance are Sentinel trademarks. In their quest to find who or what gifted them minds like that of mortals, they mapped the local neighborhood. Once Titan was integrated into the Collective, this data provided invaluable knowledge. But at the same time, it was a cold wakeup call. Of the dozens of systems the Sentinels explored, only a handful possessed planets with gravity fit for humans, even fewer could be considered for colonization. Threshold, orbiting Earth’s closest neighbor, Alpha Centauri. Massive underground caverns with crystal ceilings that filter out the deadly radiation from its parent stars. Devil’s Garden, a world of toxic life. To walk outside with a hazard suit would be both an intoxicating and toxic experience as the psychedelic pollen mixes with the poisonous fumes. Gliese 581g, locally named Zarmina. A world of red leaves, crushing gravity of 1.3gees, and simple single-cellular life. And then Zion was found. 99.3% Earth’s gravity, carbon-based life, temperate climates. Zion was the first world man found that he could live on without need for technology. With its discovery, the Zion Protocol was drafted, plans for defending, maintaining, and holding these garden worlds, no matter the cost. Should Earth ever be in danger of falling, plans are in place to move the capital of man to Zion. As such, it quickly became the most heavily fortified world outside the Sol system. But through this explosive growth, even with the aid of faster than light transportation, the leaders of humanity once more face the difficulties the ancient leaders of the lost religious organization. Even with the universal speed limit undone, the galaxy is a big place. It can take days to travel from one end of the Collective to its heart. And days the ARC did not have. ARC Council Chamber, underneath Antarctica, Earth Currently in Emergency Meeting Councilwoman Terra, commonly known as Margret Clarkson, was an isle girl. Born and raised in Nova Orleans, located in the Cajun archipelago on the Mississippi sea strait, she spend many days of her youth tussling with her brothers and the kids from the neighboring isles. She thought back to those days and now, in the chambers of the most powerful people in the Collective, she saw a sight that also belonged to those balmy summers. Matthias Dmitriysyn, the 2.35 meter tall councilman of Luna and General of the Lunar Marines, was trying his damnedest to overpower the guards and throttle Theodore Love, the blue-blood councilman of Venus and CEO of Ven-Corp, who in turn was attempting to get past his guards to relieve Dmitriysyn of his burden of having a head attached to his shoulders. Diego Lluvia, councilman of Mars and Engineer-in-Chief of the red world, had arrived but had yet to enter the council chamber. The man’s extensive augmentations would always hinder his attempts to enter any secure location. Kali Patel, councilwoman of Ceres and Mistress of the Belt, was still aboard a modified Sentinel ship reconfigured for those without metal endoskeletons and innate resistances to ultra-high G-forces. John Asimov, the Sentinel councilman of Titan and Shepard of the Faithful, was currently entering Earth’s atmosphere. Derek Connors, councilman of Zion, was the designated survivor for this occasion, though he would surely protest, claiming that this was merely to keep the outer colonies and Zion out of the most important discussion since the discovery of the Sentinels. It was not an easy decision barring the de facto inheritor of mankind’s leadership entry, but the security personnel were quite insistent. Without Kali, or Ceres as she was called in these meetings, to placate tensions between Venus and Luna, Terra would have to do it. She remembered the last time something like this happened. It was over taxation distribution and how Luna had to pay 7% less than Venus but had to provide a much larger military contingent. It took three hours for Venus to understand this. “Matthias, Theodore, please, this is neither the time nor the place for violence,” pleaded Terra. Her cries went unnoticed as a Lunar Marine, one of Luna’s guards, was sent sprawling across the chamber floor. Never a woman with a taste for bloody violence, as opposed to the wrestling of her youth, Terra leaped back in shock as the severed arm of a Venusian Bioforged went soaring by. For a standard human, that would have been crippling, but tis a minor inconvenience for the Bioforged, who was already growing a new limb. Things were escalating, that much was clear. Guns were still holstered, but for how much longer, Terra could not tell. It was when this particular belligerent political debate began to reach its climax that Mars decided to make his entrance. “GENTLEMEN! NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BE FIGHTING! THERE IS NEITHER ALCOHOL BEING CONSUMED NOR POTENTIAL MATES TO WOO WITH FEATS OF STRENGTH. I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT COUNCILWOMAN MARGET CLARKSON IS NOT CURRENTLY ‘ON THE MARKET’ AS THE YOUNG SAY THESE DAYS!” And with that, the debate came to an end. Ah, the benefits of a built in directional speaker system “Thank you Mars,” said Terra as she hauled herself off the floor, being unfortunate enough to be caught in the Martian’s acoustic firing line. She gave the man from the red world a once over, taking in his current load-out. Centuries ago, people would have said he was an obese man, but Terra saw the truth. Though his frame was very wide and tall, but not quite as tall as Luna, Mars’ body was composed of a multitude of augmentations. Reinforced legs, central torso, and abdomen to better enable him to carry internal mechanisms; several tentacle like pseudo-limbs branching out from his spine; eyes with three pupils, each designed to pick up a different part of the spectrum; the man from Mars was perhaps one of the few people with more metal than flesh in the collective. But he was not the most metal-heavy, that title belonged to a different type of elite. Toning down his output so as not to deafen the now (forcibly) calmed council members, “Don’t mention it. It was my fault for trying to enter the ARC with all my augmentics. I should have left them in the upper levels. Though,” taking a glance at Luna and Venus, still extricating themselves from the pile of KO’d guards, “perhaps bringing them was for the best. What were they arguing about this time?” “Hell if I know. They were entering the ring as I arrived.” Luna finally finished pulling Venus from the pile and the moved to the table located in the center of the room. Luna starts, “My apologies fellow councilmembers. We were out of line. We are ready to receive disciplinary action.” “Speak for yourself, ya overgrown caveman. Maybe we could just kick the soldier-boy out of the clubhouse,” muttered Venus darkly. “And you,” Luna snapped his gaze onto the short man, “Your actions were no less dishonorable than mine. Punish is to be dealt out to all combatants, regardless of responsibility!” “My children, please,” a voice with an ethereal note cut in, “There is neither need nor want amongst us to bicker. It is through unity that we survive and thrive.” Terra turned around in her chair to see the voice’s owner, John Asimov, the councilman of Titan. A being of neither true flesh and blood nor raw metal and circuitry, the Shepard of the Long Search entered the chamber through one of the multiple thresholds. Today, he took the form of a man, likely because it was either the most convenient form available or because he wished to avoid the Uncanny Valley. If his intent was the latter, he failed. The hyper-flexible composite that formed his ‘skin’ gave him the pallor of a grandparent dying of cancer but the tautness of a child’s. His lack of muscle twitches, nervous tics, involuntary movements like blinking or breathing all gave people the impression of a moving corpse. His movements were too rigid, too prone to moving a body part from start to destination at full speed with minimal acceleration time. Every turn of his head was a body action more appropriate for people who just hear a gunshot or horrific scream looking to the source without needing to search. But despite his eerie appearance, John Asimov, or Titan as he was known in among the council, was a gentle soul. Despite being technically the commanding officer of all Sentinel fleets, most of the actual command and order business was handled by the individual Admirals and their respective fleets, with the councilman only providing oversight and dealing with administrative issues. Taking her seat, Terra starts. “Councilors, as you know, there has been a Fermi-class situation: a new world with intelligent life. It was discovered less than 48 hours ago, 48 hours now lost, 48 hours never to be regained. So now the question is: how do we proceed?” For the next hour and a half, politics, logos, pathos, ethos, and all manners of nonsensical debate rang out in the chamber. And then, once all forms of procrastination, disruptions, and distractions were removed from the table, the matter still stood. “We can’t send the Seventh Fleet, not after that last fiasco,” admitted Mars, shuddering at the memory of the public backlash. “But we can’t ignore this either. Garden Worlds are rare. Earth, Zion, and only three more have been located; two of those barely count as ‘garden’ worlds and the third had to be terraformed,” replied Kali Patel, Council woman of Ceres, having had slipped into the council chamber after Mars’ and Titan’s entrances. “If there is already a civilization on the world, we cannot morally intrude upon their world, especially if they are not yet spacefaring,” countered Titan. “If there are people there, then we must take the position of dominance immediately. If they’re still planet-bound, send a message early so they don’t get any ideas and if they’ve taken to space, we must make them know we are not to be trifled with,” barked Luna. “And show of force will only ruin any chance of peace,” scowled Terra, memories of the war unforgotten. “Then perhaps a middle-of-the-road solution: a single semi-military vessel. One strong enough to hold its own and flee if need be while civil enough to not get shot on sight?” ventured Venus, ever the charismatic people person. “If I remember correctly, we do have some ships capable of reaching the new system within a few days located in the Dunham Expanse,” Titan offered. Had Titan possessed a mindset truly human, he would have reacted to Luna’s gaze of hatred. Internally, Luna had already rejected the notion of the Sentinels making First Contact with vitriol rarely seen outside trials against the most heinous crimes, but he had to diplomatic. Such words of anger and hatred would not due. Unfortunately, the only way Luna could have phrased his rejection without angering the other councilmembers was one that left him with little control. “I must protest. If we send anyone, it must be a representation of the Collective. That unfortunately means that the use of Sentinel vessel not an option. There are few humans that can survive a ride on Sentinel ships and I will not be having crippled diplomats representing the Collective.” In this day and age, such political covers were virtually transparent to the other councilmembers, but none could call his bluff, such was its founding in reason. They too felt that a diplomatic party consisting of only Sentinels could be mistaken for some type of invading army. Of course, each of the councilors wanted to get in on the action. Venus a chance to expand its markets. Mars wanted to learn if these newcomers could help refine the terraforming process. Luna’s overriding orders were the protection of the Collective. Titan hoped for a clue as to the whereabouts of their creators. Terra, to prevent Luna from doing something stupid. And Ceres…Always a wildcard. Unlike her fellows around the table, Ceres’ goals and motives were never quite so clear nor obvious. So no, while Luna’s protests were, below the surface, blatant lies, to reject or ignore them would only jeopardize one’s own goals. “Then who do you suggest, Luna, that we send to establish contact? I have not heard of any Exploration Vessels in the regions and I’m not willing to send out any of my ships on a wild penguin chase,” snapped Ceres. “Friends,” intoned Mars with a hint of something in his voice, “There is someone we can send. It is part of the same fleet as Titan’s, but it’s not a Sentinel ship. A Schuylkill-class frigate currently attach to New Reykjavik. It could reach the new world in… 3-4 days, depending on the crew’s current condition. I was reading up on what we had in the area and, while the ship’s crew is currently on shore leave, it does represent a fair sample of demographics. Your opinions?” Terra, the relative calm in the storm, was the first to react, “We need someone to head there ASAP. Entirely Sentinel or not, it doesn’t matter.” “I can send a small fleet, but it won’t be ready for a good month,” admitted Venus, “But I must agree with Terra: Speed is key.” Ceres merely nodded her approval. “I’ll send word for leave to be canceled. For everyone. Until we get confirmed reports that our new neighbors are non-hostile, I’m raising general readiness of all military units. Yes, Terra I’m doing this. You can’t stop me and if things go FUBAR, we’ll need it,” stated Luna. His words were not admitted, barked, or shouted, merely stated. As the councilors took their leave, Terra, just Margret now that the meeting was over, went over to Mars, now Diego, who was conversing with one of his student-engineers. Seeing her out of the corner of one of his multiple optic sensors, Diego turns, “Ah, Margret, I’m sorry about my lateness. I know that Matthias and Theodore are difficult at the best of times.” “It’s quite alright. Though I need to ask you something.” “Yes, what is it, dear?” “You said a Schuylkill-class ship was out there. That’s always been a rare ship, not many got out of the dry docks before the series was canceled in favor of the Thames-class. How did you know where that specific ship was? When you brought it up, I couldn’t help but noticed it seemed like you knew the ship already.” Diego looked a sorrowful for a moment, “The Captain of the ship was good friend of my daughter. She lost her family in an accident and she stayed with for a few years. We try to keep in touch but, well you know how it is, communication across the stars is difficult and military and government messages take priority. Yeah, even among giants like us.” “Oh, uh, I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting that. Thanks, just curious, oh, and di you-” Margret was cut off by the ringing of her datapad. One look was all it took to tell her it was going to be a rough night. “Sorry, another riot in the continental senate complex. Thanks for your time, Diego.” “Anytime Margret,” the large man replied with a wave. As the councilor of Earth, homeworld of humanity ran off to deal with the everyday issues of ruling over a world of 9 billion souls, the man from Mars couldn’t help but feel a stab of guilt. What he told his friend was true, from one perspective, but complete and utter lies from another. As he headed towards the lift that would take him home, his mind in all its augmented functionality turned towards the girl he saved that now he may be very well sending to her demise. September 9, 2806 HCS Olive Branch, med-bay “My god, what happened to her?” “You heard ‘bout Nosodija? She’s the sole survivor.” “’Survivor’? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this is a roasted corpse, not a thirteen year old girl. What happened there?” “Total colony failure. FTL Comms just cut off and by the time someone got in range to pick up conventional EM signals, well, ‘screams of the damned’ were the admiral’s words, not mine. Heard the comms officers that heard are still undergoing psychological evaluation.” “Still,” the man takes a long look at the crippled child, “what happened to her? How’d they find her?” “Hell if I know. Shit’s classified way above our heads about exactly what went on planetside. All I know is that after they picked her up, the navy gave the entire planet Wildfire Protocol and now, now we have her and are supposed to do something. Fix her up or something.” “Dude, she missing all four limbs. Chart says pretty much everything below her ribcage was pulped and someone practically shoved a cell phone tower into her brain to keep it running. Exactly how am I supposed to ‘fix her’?” The man’s teeth audibly grind together as the doctor spoke his diagnosis. “You’re the expert in nanites, you tell me.” His words, in another place, with different blood, would have flayed the doctor alive. “Those are for cuts and bruises, not disembowelments! You know what happens when they’re overused, I know you’ve seen the results.” Fear crept into the man’s voice. “Then pass her over to the Venusians. Maybe they can fix her up with some of those bio-prosthetics.” “That won’t do her any good, not with this level of damage. Maybe we could…hmm,” the man goes quiet as the gears in his head spin up to speed. His compatriot backs off, leaving the doctor to figure how to fix Miss Humpty Dumpty. As he turns and gets to the door, the doctor asks one final question, sinking down into his chair. “Mein Gott, Jack, when…when did she regain consciousness?” Without turning around, the man simply says, “Just before you read off the butcher’s bill, Rainman.” January 12th, 2807 Her vocal cords began working again a month ago. Her voice sounded like it belonged to a monster from some antique space horror. It was rough and harsh, not her melodious choir tongue that filled her home on many occasions. But every day, small droplets that were once the ocean of her talent returned, but this would be not ocean, a puddle or a small pond if she was lucky. Her eyesight was virtually nonexistent. All she see was whether the lights were on or off. Details, even vague impressions, were simply not there. Gone the days were she could pick out the letters on the newspaper from across the room. Unlike her voice, nothing was recovering in her desolate eyes. If anything, they were somehow worsening, though given the already low visual acuity, it was hard to tell. But each day seemed dimmer. What troubled her most was her body. How could it not? Even before Doctor Cedar read off what she had lost, she could feel it. Through the painkillers and nerve damage, past the trauma and scars, she could feel…nothing. She could not run through fields of purple grain, swim in the cerulean lakes, climb the coastal cliff faces. She could lie in bed. And think. Think about what she lost, who she lost on that day. Think about her mother, her father, her brothers and sisters. Think about the monsters that roamed the streets. Think about the past. Think about the future. The doctors had been adamant that she’d be disabled forever, but he had plans. Big plans. Plans that gambled everything. For her and himself. His plan would do more than restore her to a functional human, they’d push her beyond that. Normal prosthetics would not suffice, not with her injuries, her body would not handle such a load and in all likelihood reject them. Even now, the circuitry and electronics in her skull are putting her system under dangerous strain. So to solve her rejection problem, he proposed consuming the forbidden fruit: liberated nanites. These nanites, without the artificial Hayflick limit imposed upon their restrained brethren, would remain with her for the rest of life, however long that may be. They would be the proverbial tape binding her to the implants. The Martians used a similar method of binding flesh and machine, but that was done before birth, when the process was more likely to succeed, making the Martian’s cells themselves part machine so as to facilitate better implants later in life. The host gained access to a wider range of implants and the nanites gained extended lifespans. This however has no precedent. The Martians’ method terminate their nanites upon death as they are bound to the host’s cells. For her however, there was no guarantee that her nanites would shut off when she died or if they wouldn’t just consume her body, or at least what remained of it. A life caged in useless flesh or a life as an unstable hybrid of flesh and metal. For many hours, she let her mind run through it all, running down tangents as they appeared, hoping to delay the inevitable. If she stayed as she was, her experiences would be limited to solitary confinement, the machines keeping her alive too large to be moved. If she left, nothing was certain. She could meet her death on the operating table, when she pushed forward, in combat, or just drop dead in the street. She stood at a crossroads and down each path, death lingered, waiting to complete its collection it harvested from Nosodija. The question was: Which path would she find what her dying heart desired. And on that day, she choose her path. February 27th, 2818 HVS Renaissance Eyes open, suddenly drawn to full consciousness. In the dark, the bed erupts as its occupant stirred from total rest to full panic. Images beyond eyesight flooded her mind. Noise beyond sound rang out inside her ears. Shields of quantum binary held fast should an electronic dagger strike. After moments of silence, she let her guard drop. She was alone. And then she reflected. She hadn’t had that dream in years. She could check her memory archives to see the exact date, but she knew the last time was when she left the facility that restored her nearly a decade ago.
Someone’s at the door
Her bifurcated mind can sneak up on itself sometimes. Machine detecting things that escape the notice of organic. Organic seeing through the flaws of the machine.
Let them enter
Silently, signals are sent, received, processed, and executed. The door unlocks and slides open and in walks a ghostly giant. “Captain, you are needed at the bridge.” “What is it, Vlad? It’s the middle of my rest cycle.” “Orders from High Command, ma’am. From the ARC itself.” “The ARC?” she snorted, “What would the penguins want with us?” “I do not know, ma’am. The orders are classified above my clearance.” With a short laugh, she interrupts him. “You’re ex-Serenitatis. You can get CQE weapon launch codes if you ask nicely.” “Ma’am,” his tone hardens, and not because of the mention of his old unit, “It is a Fermi-class data package.” Once again, a mind falling back to sleep is brought to full speed, brimming with attention and thoughts. “We need to get moving. Now.” “Ma’am, clothes?” Eyes of extinct polar ice blankly stare. For the man from the moon, the sight brings little reaction or response, but past experiences had endowed him with the understanding that few others aboard the ship possess such apathetic views of exposed flesh and propriety. She stares daggers at him as throws on her overcoat as she berates him, “How many times do I have to tell you, call me Lisa. We’ve known each other for years.” Third Precinct, Helgiko district, Naziegn, Vikemheim When Hytrel sent out Shynel and Malic to deal with the panicking astrologists, the worst he expected to deal with was some bad omens about crime rates or needing to send someone to find which brothel Malic ended up dragging Shynel to on the preface of ‘health inspections’. He wasn’t expecting having to begin organizing a full city-wide defense and preparation for a potential invasion. But such things must be done. He could still smell the scent of burning flesh, wood soaked in blood. The war was decades ago, but the memories are still fresh. As he looked around the Precinct-turned-combat-information-center, he saw the faces of many of his men and women. For most, murder and rape were the closest to the atrocities of war that they had ever seen. The Guards of the Exorcist Guild would have more experience with dealing with arcane rituals gone awry, but that was not like the things unleashed last time Hytrel saw war. He had just joined the Guard, fresh out of training. He was expecting to have to deal with drunkards and mate betrayers, not weaponized Chimera and invading troops. He still remembers the smell, the most basic sensory input, hardwired into the core of memory. The smoldering scent of roasted flesh, the metallic tinge of blood, ozone from war-mages pushing themselves beyond their limit and paying the price. Then Hytrel remembered losing Kavel. The last time he saw Kavel, his mentor and second father, was when Kavel threw him out the window of a four story building overrun with chimera. By the time Hytrel recovered, Kavel cleansed the building with fire and the All-Mother’s light, taking with him the monsters within. This memory, its images burned forever in Hytrel’s mind, brought him back to the present. The headquarters of the Third Precinct was a storm of chaos. Civilian evacuation orders cast in the All-Mother’s light to all that could receive them. Multiple division heads working to organize a troupe Portal Mages large enough to open a portal for the proper army to come through, not the apertures used by evacuating civilians. One of the officers, Frinstel, comes over. “Mi’Lord, evacuation reports. Glosfrel, Vifchad, and Ponpret districts have all been completely evacuated. The First, Second, and Fourth through twelfth are completely evacuated as well. The Northern districts are approximately 50% evacuated.” “That still leave us with what?” the Lord-Guardian groaned, running numbers through his head, “At least three more districts in the south. How are the outer fortifications looking?” Frenstel looks at the report he’s holding, simply delaying the news. “The Guard is at maximum readiness, sir. But if this ends up like the last war…” “It won’t matter,” Hytrel finished, “High walls of enchanted stone won’t protect you when it is raining enemy soldiers all throughout the city proper. Get ahold of the Baron. I want authorization to have the Klima Guild prepare Glyphs of Storms. It may not stop the worst, but it should buy us time.” “Sir, is that really necessary? Last time one of those Allmother-cursed Glyphs were used, the next dozen harvests were decimated by unstable weather.” The fear in the man’s voice was noticeably. A lot of good Eltrians starved in the famines. Hytrel shoots the man a glance, considering his words, but ultimately his mind remained unchanged. If being forced to bow to other realms to prevent starvation was the price to better ensure the civilian population was saved, then so be it. Hytrel dismissed Frenstel and turned to look out the window, taking in the cityscape. It was a masterpiece: a city grown, not built, from the trees, reinforced by stone and metal. No matter how many times Hytrel takes in the sight, it leaves him in awe. In the distance, he could see the flares as military-grade gateways sparked into existence, soldiers already pouring through. Casting his gaze closer to the base of the Precinct’s fortress, he saw a commotion. With barely a twitch, the Lord-Guardian activated hidden Glyphs set in his eyes. With eyesight sharper than any natural creature, he could see the cause: the father, or perhaps grandfather, of an evacuating family refused to part with his war memorabilia from some war or another. As the Guards confronted him, two other Guards entered the area, one with pale, near white-blue skin and one a hue of green tea: Shynel and Malic respectively. They stopped only for a moment to observe the old man, who Hytrel could now clearly see he was an old man, and the trio of Guards confronting him, one directly, one calming the family members, and one simply hanging back in case things got messy. As things escalated, Hytrel saw a flicker of silver dash across the courtyard into the old Eltrian’s neck. As those down below reacted, Hytrel grinned inwardly as he recognized that technique, despite its sloppy execution. Malic’s only skill, besides being a ladykiller, was pacification. A hair-like needle, wrapped in thin sheet of silver, inscribed with various glyphs and a Sigil, launched by a quiet impulse Rune set. Upon contact with its target, the sliver would apply a calibrate shock to the target nervous system, dropping them near instantly. If skin-contact wasn’t a prerequisite for it to work, it would have been part of the standard load-out for the Guard. That, and the training needed to accurately hit and neutralize a target was nigh impossible for anyone without Malic’s level of determination. Hytrel remembered helping Malic’s father teach that to Malic, back when the man was still alive. A flash of light jolts Hytrel out of his reminiscing, a habit he’s been developing as of late. The image on the window begins to distort in places. He cancels the Symbols enhancing his sight so as to take a broader view. A thunderstorm, right after he asked for one to be conjured. An ill omen or a blessing, it was too early to tell, thought the Eltrian, narrowing his eyes as he watched his city prepare to withstanding another oncoming storm, this one not of rain and lightning, but of fire blood. Continues below Goddamn, this was a bitch to write. Nearly7.1K words. I did not expected it to be so long. Sorry this took a while to get out, but shit happened. It was actually proofread the other day, but then shit happened in this order: engineering exam, proofreader hit by exams, engineering lab, computer virus, laptop battery went full zombie, computer programming exam. But it's here now. Also, I remember that while I was writing the original series, I said to expect one chapter per week. Yeah, not happening. Quality is better than quantity.
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