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[Sports] - Football betting trends, tips and the bad beat of the week | Washington Post

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[Sports] - Football betting trends, tips and the bad beat of the week

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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)

Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle.
After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children.
One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so.
My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt.
Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down.
The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues.
Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all.
The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome.
The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess?
Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is.
I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure.
As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate.
Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing.
I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event.
The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
  1. Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close.
In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?).
Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled.
Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
  1. We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
  1. While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think?
Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it.
This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
  1. Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here.
Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out.
After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
  1. Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled.
Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic.
The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex."
In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison.
That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends.
This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know.
In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking.
Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person.
We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth.
The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining."
-A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons
Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
Zing!
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February
I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
Got 'em!
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise.
You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.'
But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards.
We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
  1. Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
  2. Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
  1. Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines.
This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton.
A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
  1. Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®.
The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention.
The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive.
In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries.
After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American."
We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible.
In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city."
Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.'
I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous.
Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously.
But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.'
Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
  1. Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times.
This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
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How to Survive Camping: Senior Camp Rule #8 - don't make us throw you down the hill

I run a private campground. While I’m not safe, life has at least been better now that Jessie is dead. Again. The horse-eater has been quiet so I’m not too worried about its presence on my land yet. I mean, it’s a problem, but it’s not an urgent problem. I’ve been able to relax a little and enjoy the holiday weekend. The old sheriff even invited me out to his place to shoot off some confiscated fireworks and if you're like wow, dick move there, yes, that's the sort of company I keep.
Anyway, if you’re new here, you should really start at the beginning, and if you’re totally lost, this might help.
We have people that have been camping here for a long time, especially for our big events. I’m not sure where the senior camp stands in relation to the entire campsite during these events, but I believe they are one of the oldest in their area. Their seniority isn’t just age, however. Some of our problematic camps have been here for a while, after all, and that’s resulted in an unfortunate tendency to think they’re above the rules.
Not the rules. The other rules, like digging a proper fire pit or what time we close check-in for the evening. You know, the ones that just annoy me instead of anything supernatural.
The senior camp may argue with me every year about the incline at the front of their camp, but for a long time that was about it. Not causing trouble and following the rules is not enough to warrant being placed next to the thing in the dark, however. That sort of proximity to something so dangerous requires an understanding of the unnatural, a sense of the larger patterns, more than what I lay out in my rules.
I moved them to their current location shortly after I took over as the manager. Their area was growing crowded as camp sizes grew and I needed to either move someone out (which would make people unhappy) or move a camp into the area next to the thing in the dark’s lair. It’s a nice spot. There’s shade from the trees for most of the day, but it’s still open enough for a breeze and close enough to the road for easy unloading. We’ve had people try to move into that space without permission in the past, with predictable results. Most of the nearby camps were content to stay in their assigned land as a result, but I knew it would be an issue if I started moving people around without utilizing that land at all. We get enough new campers in a season that someone would cause trouble.
I contacted the senior camp’s land representative and asked if they’d be interested in moving to a better location. Still in the same area, I said, just a bit over. Next to where rule #10 lived.
Their representative was quiet for a bit and then said they’d talk it over. A few days later they got back to me and said they’d agreed. It’d keep other people out of that space and besides, it was a really nice spot.
And it wasn’t like they had no experience with unnatural things.
For a long time, they were unremarkable from any other returning camp. Then, during my freshman year of college, something happened to change that.
We have transient things pass through our land. The ancient creatures come and go as they please, of course. There are lesser creatures that are able to leave, however. I think there is something about their nature that allows this. Perhaps they roam as a rule and thus cannot be bound to one location. Or perhaps their hunting grounds are larger than my campsite and they can pass through boundaries easier. The one in particular that came to the campground that year was the sort that attached itself to one person in particular, until they were dead, and then moved on to another.
I think that is why it could come and go. It didn’t hunt in a particular area. It hunted people with no regard to where they were located.
To merely call it an incubus would be inaccurate, but that is a good starting place. It is called a lidérc. It is drawn to those who have recently lost their spouse or lover, a devil taking on the form of the lost beloved. It sneaks into the victim’s room while they sleep, removes the one boot that it wears on its human foot and sets it by the door, and then sits on the person’s chest and drinks their life away.
They do this until their victim is wasted away to death and then find another.
Similar to an incubus then, in that it causes nightmares and the feeling of suffocation at night. Different in its powers, in the victims it seeks, and its appearance. Keen readers may notice that I specified singular when I said it removed its boot from its human foot. What, then, is the other?
Lidérc are shapeshifters. They have association with one animal in particular.
The chicken.
Their other foot is a chicken foot.
The inhuman world has always been a little weird.
This is only one form of the lidérc. The other can be created. Don’t try this. It is a useful thing but… it will destroy you unless you are clever enough to escape doom, and in my experience, none of us are nearly as clever as we believe we are.
The summer of my freshman year was when the lidérc came to our land. Someone in the senior camp broke up with her boyfriend within the first two days of their two-week trip. Bad timing, I know, but I guess when you’re done, you’re done. Now, at the time the senior camp was up against the hill. They’re still close to the hill, but it wasn’t as handy as it was at their old spot. My campground isn’t in a mountainous location, but we’ve got some variable terrain and there’s a few areas where the hills are especially steep.
The children with ice wagons will rope themselves to the wagon like oxen with two pulling in front, two pushing from the back, and two stabilizing on either side to get up this hill. Seriously, tip them, they work hard.
One of my parent’s staff at the time responded to reports of a commotion in the area one night. They took a golf cart (we only had a handful of four-wheelers at the time and the family used them) down that way to see what the problem was. They arrived just in time to find the boyfriend being forcibly ejected from the campsite. Her campmates were carrying his stuff out of the camp and dumping it on the road.
When he tried to re-enter their area despite this subtle clue that he wasn’t welcome, they threw his belongings down the hill.
The camp employee decided not to intervene in what was clearly a properly handled domestic dispute and left.
Near the end of their trip, the camp representative stopped in to drop off their “yes we cleaned up after ourselves and filled the fire pit back in” paperwork. (I only require it for the big events where we have a lot of people) They told us about what had happened after that break-up, thinking it was best if my parents knew about it in case the thing came back. They didn’t know what it was, but my father was able to identify it later once he had his books and notes.
The senior camp has perfected this particular story. I do not think they’ve embellished it as much as my uncle did to his stories. I think they just have a flair for telling it that they’ve honed through repetition. It’s a useful story, after all. It teaches camp newcomers one of their own, internal, rules.
I don’t remember the full text of the rule. Some stuff about trying to get along and resolving arguments, getting an intermediary if you have to, and not being a “flaming asshole”. I know how it ends, however.
Senior camp rule #8: Don’t make us throw you down the hill.
I’ll tell the story as I heard it when I was a freshman.
The boyfriend didn’t try to come back after spending most of the night picking his socks and underwear off of tree branches. Some other camp was dumb enough to take him in and the senior camp lost track of him after that, because who really cared? But a few days later, the lidérc showed up. No one realized anything was amiss, as it came late at night after everyone was asleep. The young lady was exhausted during the day and attributed it to not sleeping well at night. She had nightmares, she said, and it felt like she was suffocating. She hadn’t suffered from sleep paralysis in the past, so while this was worrisome, she wrote it off as being a result of a nasty break-up.
As the days passed, she grew steadily weaker. Her campmates noticed and began to theorize what the problem could be. Stress, perhaps, and suggested she take more naps. Maybe she was having a bout of anemia and someone drove into town to buy red meat and vitamins. Finally, near the end of the trip, she was so lethargic she could barely rouse herself during the day and fell asleep in the middle of dinner.
Her campmates decided she should go home early and contact her doctor. They’d break down her tent and pack up for her in the morning. She’d go to bed early that night and get enough sleep to make the long drive home. Then, once she was out of earshot, the camp agreed to take turns periodically checking in on her through the night.
They didn’t know what was happening. They just felt that something was amiss. Some of the people in the nearby tents were having nightmares too, after all, of a dark presence that settled over them and made it feel like they were being crushed under the weight of their own blankets. They didn’t have the sort of knowledge my family does, but we have all heard stories, and the sense of being prey for something dark and terrible is etched into the human subconscious. None of them wanted to admit it out-loud, but they felt the unease of being hunted.
The lidérc didn’t come until the 2 AM shift. The person that took that shift usually got back to camp around that time, so it was no issue for her to check in on their campmate before going to bed herself. She arrived back to their camp just in time to see a large black chicken approaching the tent. She paused where she was, bemused by the absurdity of the situation. A chicken. There was farmland nearby, so perhaps it’d wandered off and made its way here. Should she catch it? Try to get it home in the morning?
Then the chicken stopped at the front of her campmates tent and its body began to grow. Its torso swelled, its head inflated like a balloon, and the feathers rippled and melted together and became clothing. Its skin grew pale and smooth and its comb deepened to crimson-black and became hair. It was a man, dressed in plain clothing and wearing a single cowboy boot on one foot.
Its other foot was still that of a chicken. The claws gleamed in the moonlight.
The camper crouched down between the tents. She was well hidden from view, but still she trembled in fear, for even where she stood she could feel the malice coming off this creature. An aura that gripped at her throat and made her blood run cold, nearly paralyzing her in fear. She felt her heart would simply stop if it turned its gaze on her, so she could only watch helplessly as it quietly unzipped the tent and crawled inside, pausing only to remove its one human boot and set it just outside the tent.
The camper had read the rules. This was not on them. She didn’t know what it was, other than it was something unnatural, and surely to blame for her friend’s growing weakness.
This was before smartphones. There was no way for her to quickly google “chicken footed monster” and hope the search results provided a solution for her predicament. She didn’t dare wait until morning to go searching for answers, either, as her campmate’s growing weakness suddenly had an explanation and she wasn’t sure if the young woman would survive until the dawn.
She decided to create a distraction and then hopefully wake her friend up and get her out of there before the lidérc came back. Carefully, she stole over to the tent. The tent flap had been only half-zipped back up, leaving a slit barely wide enough for her to see the lidérc kneeling on the young woman’s chest. His hands were around her neck and her skin was pale and sweat beaded on her forehead as she tossed and turned weakly, struggling to breathe.
The sight of her friend’s suffering strengthened her resolve. She crept close, trembling with fear. It felt like she was pushing through a cold fog, one that repulsed her and crawled along her skin, making her nerves scream that she should run, she should flee, she should abandon her friend to her fate and save herself.
Then, she stretched out one hand, and carefully grabbed hold of the cowboy boot and dragged it towards her.
If an unnatural thing leaves behind anything, assume it’s important to them. That’s just how these things work.
She retreated as quickly as she dared and hurried over to the edge of the hill. The road was close by and to either side were trees, the underbrush rife with thickets and poison ivy.
“Hey asshole!” she yelled at the top of her lungs, waking up most of her nearby campmates. “I got your fucking boot!”
Then she yeeted the boot down the hill.
God I love that word.
The lidérc burst out of the tent and his eyes blazed like fire in the darkness. His hands were curled like claws and he dug his chicken foot into the earth, scoring it deep. Then his gaze fixed first on the hill where his boot had been thrown and then snapped to the camper.
She realized she’d miscalculated. As her fellow campers stirred, sleepy and confused, she realized that the creature wasn’t going to go after his boot first.
It was going to go after her.
She turned and ran. Down the road, veering off at the bottom and into the woods, aiming for some thick trees that grew in a cluster. She dove behind them as the lidérc came stalking down the hill, walking with a limp as it dragged its human foot behind it. The gravel cracked under its claws as it clutched at the dirt and stones.
“Where are you?” it hissed. “Come out and help me find my boot. And then once it is found, I’ll tear your heart out and eat it.”
Its words were spoken in a low voice, beguiling. The camper’s legs stirred before her mind could realize what was happening, stretching to rise, to bring her out of her hiding spot. Entranced by the lidérc’s request. She clasped her hands onto the tree she hid behind, digging her fingers into the rough bark, the muscles in her arms straining to hold the rest of her body still.
The lidérc paused. Only a few feet away now, his back half-turned towards her. There was a soft sound, the inhalation of air. He was trying to catch her scent. Hunting her out. She remained where she was, heart pounding so loudly she felt he’d be able to hear it soon enough.
Then the sound of a vehicle’s engine hummed from the top of the hill. Headlights flooded the road, painfully bright in the darkness, and one of the camp staff golf carts turned down the nearby road.
The lidérc let out a soft cry of surprise - and anger - and his body collapsed in on itself in an instant. Gone was the human frame, gone was the clothing, and gone was the bare human foot. In its place stood a small black chicken that quickly trotted away through the underbrush, flapping its wings and squawking with dismay.
The golf cart drew to a stop.
“Did I hear… a chicken?” the driver said to himself in confusion.
Only then did the camper rise from her camping spot. She waved to get his attention.
“Sure was,” she said. “It went that way. I was trying to catch it as I thought it belonged to a local farm.”
“Well damn. Probably does. I’ll see if I can round it up.”
The camper didn’t know what became of the lidérc after the camp employee left, but they like to tell the story that it spent the entire night being chased by people on golf carts, intent on corralling and dragging it back to some random farm, until they finally cornered it near dawn and carry it off by its legs to dump in a random chicken coop. The truth is that the employee radioed in to keep an eye out for a chicken and no one saw it and assumed it eventually found its way home on its own. Or was eaten by something unnatural.
It’s awfully hard to see a black chicken in the dark.
The camp stayed up the rest of the night, after their campmate told them what had happened. A handful took flashlights and went searching along the hill until they found the boot. The lidérc thankfully wasn’t willing to confront a group of people. The young lady was able to get a full night’s rest and went home the next morning. When she came back the next year, they set watch for the first few nights until they were convinced that the lidérc wasn’t coming back. My father stopped by as well, to tell them what he’d found out from his research and assure them that the theft of its boot was enough to keep it from ever returning.
Then, after my parents died and I took over, I realized that they had the instincts, the cooperation, and the willingness to deal with these unnatural things. I offered them the campsite closest to the thing in the dark and they accepted.
I wouldn’t say I’m friends with them. I check in periodically to make sure everything is okay and then I have to hear about how the incline at the front of their camp isn’t actually campable (it is) or complaints about their neighbors, but honestly, that’s a small price to pay for having someone competent taking up that plot of land and keeping people out of it.
As for the lidérc… I think it’s still out there. It’s never been seen again on our land. There were a few sightings from the locals after it vanished, but it didn’t seem to be hunting anyone. It was searching.
Trying to find its boot, limping through the fields, leaving behind a trail of footprints with one bare foot and one foot being the imprint of a chicken.
I know where the boot is hidden. One of the senior campers took the boot home with them and buried it in the backyard. My campground is an eight hour drive for him. I don’t think the lidérc is going to be finding his boot anytime soon.
I’m a campground manager. I feel it’s important to elaborate on the senior campers this time because I’ve asked for their help. You see, if I’m going to rescue and/or stop the lady in chains, I need to know how. Cutting off the chains is a risky endeavor and I’d like to know it’ll even work before I try. For a while I’ve been at a loss, but then I thought back on my previous rescue attempts and realized there was a source of help I haven’t consulted yet.
The dancers.
The senior camp is going to help secure their aid. It’s not without a price, however. They demanded that I mark that damn incline at the front of their camp as ‘uncampable land’ and I grudgingly had to agree. I’m sure it’ll cause problems when I tell their neighboring camp that they’re getting shifted a handful of yards, but the senior camp really is my best bet for this. They’ve got a great cook who also brews and she’s “got 10 kegs and can run 4 taps” and they’ve got enough manpower to man the bar and then some.
That’s right. I’ve asked the senior camp to throw the dancers a party. [x]
Read the full list of rules.
Visit the campground’s website.
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A Basic Introduction to Vertical Spreads - Stop Losing Money When You Predict the Correct Direction

Vertical Spread Basics
Spreads often get a bad rap for sounding more complex than they end up being. I’d wager quite a few people here don’t even know what the “Select” button is for at the top right of the options screen on Robinhood. I see over and over people losing their money with puts or calls when a vertical spread would have accomplished the same thing but better. To keep this basic I will stick to vertical spreads (both credit and debit) and a bit about Iron Condors, and once that’s done I’ll go into a bit of detail about when and where I use them.
A vertical option spread is purchasing two options; one you’re buying and one you’re selling. You’re literally trading based on the difference between the two option prices. For example, if I bought a SPY 300c 6/3 and sold a SPY 305c 6/3, I would have a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread. What do we accomplish by both buying and selling the right to 100 shares of SPY though? The short answer: This defines our risk. This can seem kind of difficult to comprehend, but it’s fairly simple: The value of the spread can never be more than the difference between the two strike prices.
For the above mentioned trade, we can currently purchase a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread for $0.65 per share ($0.65*100=$65), meaning that the difference in price between the 305c and the 300c is $0.65. If SPY finishes above $305 on 6/3, our 300c we bought finishes in the money as does the 305c we sold, which means the spread between the two option prices has reached its maximum of $5.00. We can now purchase 100 shares of SPY at $300 then sell them to the holder of the option we sold for $305, netting $5 per share for a neat $500. This means that we can make up to $500-$65 = $435 on the trade, a tidy 769% profit.
If you take anything away from this write up, please take this:
An easy way to view a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread is then that you’re betting $65 to win $500 as long as SPY ends above $305 on 6/3.
If you’re not starting to see why vertical spreads are more intuitive than single calls or puts then I encourage you to look back over the paragraph above. The Greeks still matter a lot, but the trade can easily be distilled to the above sentence which is not the case with a single option. I continually see people buying calls and puts, correctly predicting the direction of the market, and still losing money due to IV deterioration or the price not moving enough in the right direction. Vertical spreads simplify the trade by making it only as complicated as you want it to be. If you simply want to bet that a stock will go up over the next month, just set the strikes up to straddle the current price, for example, a SPY 290/280 Call Debit spread. Similarly if you wanted to be against the market, you would do the same thing but by buying a 290 put and selling a 280 put making a SPY 290/280 Put Spread.
A credit spread is very similar to a debit spread but inverted. To create a SPY 6/3 300/305 Call Credit spread, we would sell a 300c and buy a 305c, and because we’re selling the more valuable contract (the lower the strike price the more valuable the call), we get a net credit instead of a net debit, meaning we receive money in our account rather than pay it. That means just like when we short a stock, to close the position we need to pay money rather than receive it. With a call credit spread, we’re now betting against the market: If SPY stays below $300 on 6/3, the credit we received when we sold spread stays ours forever since both the 300c we sold and the 305c we bought expired worthless. You’re still betting on the spread between the two option prices, but now you’re betting on the differences between the two going to 0 rather than the maximum. Now, if the position moves against us and SPY finishes above $305 on 6/3, our SPY 300c we sold will exercise and we will pay for those 100 shares with our 100 shares we receive from our 305c, meaning that we pay at maximum $500. NOTE: Robinhood will hold the maximum you can lose as collateral just in case your trade goes poorly, so if you receive a credit of $65 on the trade, you’ll effectively have another $435 locked up until you close the trade.
Until now I have assumed that the underlying stock price will always finish outside of the range of your spread which has made things a little cleaner. In reality, if you should choose to hold until expiration and the underlying price is between the two strikes, one of your options will exercise and the other will expire worthless. For example, if on 6/3 SPY ended at $303, for our SPY 6/3 305/300 Debit Spread our 300c would exercise and we would have 100 shares of SPY purchased at $300, netting us $3 per share. Considering that most people in this sub could not handle a purchase of 100 shares of SPY at $300, Robinhood will exercise your spread an hour before close at market prices (which is why I will always sell before this point since you can do a lot better than market prices most of the time).
Basics Summary
Thus ends the basic portion of the write up. The benefits of vertical spreads are:
Options Profit Calculator is a very useful resource for learning not only vertical spreads but any options and I highly recommend playing around with it if you’re new to options: https://www.optionsprofitcalculator.com/
Details and Tips
Alright this got a bit long, and there's more to talk about, but I’ll stop here. DISCLAIMER: Now that you’ve read this post, I'll admit I’ve only been actively trading for about three months. I just finished a Finance undergrad and I've been investing unsuccessfully for five years until this point where I’m finally up about 100% from when I started over something silly like 100 trades. I’m not gonna post all of my past positions, but my current positions can be found here. Suffice to say that I made a ton off bearish spreads and it was a rude reeducation that made me learn it was necessary to play both sides of the market.
TL;DR: Spreads are easier to conceptualize, don’t worry as much about IV and theta, have defined risk, and require less capital than puts/calls. An easy way to view a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread is then that you’re betting $65 to win $500 as long as SPY ends above $305 on 6/3.
submitted by DropItShock to wallstreetbets [link] [comments]

WSB Tips & Tricks From a Fellow Autist

I'll keep this short and sweet. I'm not one of those that made 100k from 2k or anything. BUT I've survived the market starting from Feb. till now. Off my initial investment of 5k, I was at 53k of unrealized gain, but lost most of it but now climbing back up with 16k gain.
Anyway, I barely see tips that aren't straight retarded bets or gay boring ass investing tips. So I've decided to compile a list that's somewhere in the middle but mostly safer retarded betting:
  1. Buy options 2 or more weeks out unless you are super confident in a move. Then, sell same day or 1 or 2 days after. Diamond hands is a meme created by theta gang to help you lose money.
  2. FFS learn the basics. All you really need to know is theta, IV, and bid-ask (plus obviously how options work). Get familiar at what a high theta and high IV looks like relative to each ticker. The rest of it is for nerds
  3. Sell half-to-all contracts at open if you're profitable. You're up 50% at open but u want to be up 150%? Boo-fucking-hoo you dumb fuck, sell while you're still up and reroll your profits if you're confident in a move.
  4. Don't follow the fucking memes in here. Kang gang? Tf? Stonks only go up? 80% of the time yes. C'mon you dumb fucks, you really gonna meme your money away? Have fun laughing at some memes but don't fucking use it as actual financial advice you idiot
  5. Pick 1-5 tickers that you REALLY pay attention to day-to-day and stop chasing 10 baggers on some random fucking stock of a company you've never heard of. 90% of the time you're already too fucking late and IV IS TOO FUCKING HIGH TO DO PUTS ON IT AS WELL YOU FUCKING IDIOT
  6. Don't subscribe to one side. Bull/bear is literally just MMs taking advantage of how retarded you are. Go with the fucking trend of the market you dumb bitch. GENERALLY stocks go up like 80% of the time BUT drops are quicker. Gotta be on your toes.
  7. Don't fucking hold if you wouldn't buy in at the current price.
  8. DON'T BUY 0DTEs UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO LOSE ALL OF IT. LIKE REALLY FUCKING WILLING.
I'm sure I forgot some shit, but there it is. A way to gamble somewhat safely. So it's fun + you make gains.
Edit: Some more
  1. Set stop losses. Personally I go anywhere from 20-40% BUT when u see a trend forming quickly against you, sell immediately. For example, I had calls out the ass on Monday into Tuesday, I sold and bought puts to follow the market. Another example, I sold my Friday puts at open today and bought more today. Saw it break 300 and IMMEDIATELY sold that shit and bought calls.
  2. From u/BuckyShots: don't be over-levereged. Save some cash for other plays that may come up
submitted by duhpolan to wallstreetbets [link] [comments]

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.
to nonsensical
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.

Keep smiling.
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:
  1. Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
  2. 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.
  3. Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
  4. Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
  5. 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:
  1. 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

Dog treats

Lavender pepper
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!!
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What do you mean it goes boom?

Captain Thraxos perused the ship manifest one more time. There was a late entry to join the convoy to Cycria. Cycria was a remote world and had been having a pirate problem with merchant traffic attacked several times over the past two years. As the pirates had got more bold the situation had become untenable and the Galactic Federation had to finally do something about it.
Thraxos was the captain of the light cruiser GFN Duhrel and he had been tasked to escort a merchant convoy from Dilolla to Cycria as deterrence to the pirates. He did not relish the assignment to babysit a motley fleet of civilians, but as GalFed captain he went where he was ordered to.
The final ship to join the convoy was the IMS Antelope. A Human merchanter that had been berthing here at Dilolla even before Thraxos had arrived. Apparently they had had some difficulty in securing new cargo to take on board and looking at the ship’s specs Thraxos could not blame anyone for not wanting to put their valuables on board this old rustbucket. But Cycria was not exactly a prime destination and apparently someone had been desperate enough to contract the Antelope to ferry their cargo to Cycria at the last minute.
IMS Antelope was an Independent Merchant Ship, owned and operated by her captain Robert Nele. Even her designation was thoroughly Human. The Humans had some of the most stringent licensing requirements to own and operate starship class drives which basically put them out of reach of civilian individuals. So, in turn, the independent merchanters had banded together and founded the Independent Merchant Ship company which held the licenses for the starship drives operated by their members with minimal interference from the company itself.
Thraxos scoffed, but the Humans were an upstart species. Perhaps it was for the best that not just anyone could get their hands on potentially volatile technology. That showed more responsibility of them than Thraxos had heard based on their reputation.
The Antelope herself was almost 60 years old and looking through her log she had mostly been operating within or near Human space. This was as far as she had ever been from home. Still, for all the tarnish on her hull, she had passed her latest spaceworthiness inspection only six months prior.
She was one of the weirdest looking ships Thraxos had ever seen. She was basically a lattice spine on which standard cargo containers were mounted like grapes on a vine. Front end had habitation and docking, the back end had its large engine, ending on a flat plate mounted on what looked like pillars. Curious.
Thraxos studied her engine specifications. Her main engine was of type Thraxos had never even heard of before, something the Humans called ‘orion’ type nuclear pulse thruster and with her mass, impulse and thrust she would be by far the slowest ship in the convoy, only barely scraping over the acceptable lower limit. Her jump engine likewise was an antiquated Type-I, only barely able to do the jumps required for this route. But she was over the bar so Thraxos had to grudgingly accept her to the convoy.
Slightly annoyed, Thraxos sent the engine specifications to his astrogator to have their course and time estimates recomputed to match the Antelope’s slow speed. Then he fired off a message to all ten ships in his convoy to prepare to unberth and meet at the system’s jump point in twelve hours.
At the start of next morning’s shift Thraxos entered the bridge to relieve the nightshift watch officer. It would be two hours until their scheduled jump off time, plenty of time to undock and make their way the 50 000 kilometers over to the jump point.
Captain Thraxos turned to the operations officer of the previous watch. “Anything interesting going on?”
Lieutenant Commander Tarkran shrugged. “Just the Humans, sir. The Antelope cast off six hours ago and has been slowly making their way to the jump point using manoeuvring thrusters only.”
Thraxos was taken aback. “What? Why?”
Tarkran shrugged again. “No idea, sir, but they’ll be arriving at the jump just before the scheduled time.”
Captain Thraxos just shook his head. “Alright, thanks. I have the bridge.”
Tarkran nodded and announced, “Captain has the bridge.” Tarkran turned and left as Thraxos sat down on the command chair.
Captain Thraxos waited for the other stations to complete their watch handover and then turned to communications. “Lieutenant Coccols, request undocking.”
“Aye, sir.” the comm officer responded.
Thraxos then turned to the astrogation officer. “Lieutenant Ulan, please prepare a course plan to take us to the jump point after we’ve moved past the station’s safety perimeter and execute once we have undocking permission.”
Next Thraxos glanced over his executive officer sitting at the operations station. “While we’re en-route, prepare a convoy placement assignment for each ship according to the exclusion zones of their engines. I want us to be in the middle. Hopefully the pirates will think we’re just another fat merchantman until it’s too late.”
Commander Nivek nodded. “Aye sir. I think I can nestle us between GMS Aelat and IXS Naholl. I’ll have to see what we can do with the human ship.”
“Very good.”
Lieutenant Coccols turned around. “Sir. Undocking clearance granted, we have 1 minute window.”
Captain Thraxos nodded. “Lieutenant Ulan, undock and execute.”
“Aye, sir.”
There was an almost imperceptible shift as the GFN Duhrel unlatched from the station and then pushed itself away from station’s bulk using its manoeuvring thrusters. After thirty seconds they had cleared the station perimeter and they were able to engage their fusion drive. Even at the minimal power that was allowed to be used near stations, it would only take them about 30 minutes to reach their designated staging point.
“Ummm… Captain?” Commander Nivek interrupted after a few minutes. “Have you looked at the exclusion chart for the Human ship?”
Thraxos furrowed his brow. “No, why?”
Commander Nivek hesitated for a moment. “I think you should.”
Captain Thraxos called up the schematic of the Human ship on his terminal. It was still one of the ugliest ships he had ever seen, but he wasn’t here to judge a beauty contest. He switched the overlay layers to the engine exclusion zone.
“What the fuck?” he exclaimed.
For most ships the exclusion zone was a cone behind them a few degrees wide. For IMS Antelope it was a whole half sphere and then some, covering just under 200 degrees of arc and extending all the way to 5000 kilometers, with an advisory zone all the way to 20 000 kilometers.
“I think I know why they’re limping out there with their manoeuvring thrusters only.” Commander Nivek posited. “There’s no way they could have fired up that drive anywhere near the station.” After a moment he continued. “I think the only place we can put them is as the last ship in the convoy with nobody behind them.”
Captain Thraxos shook his head in disbelief. “Do they have a completely unshielded reactor back there or something?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this, but it must be by design and approved, since they’ve passed their inspections.”
Thraxos sighed. “Well, transmit the assigned relative positions to all ships and manoeuvre us into position to wait for them.”
The convoy of all ten merchant ships had taken up their positions around the cruiser GFN Duhrel with the IXS Ikol at the front and IMS Antelope at the rear. All the ships slaved their jump engines to the control of GFN Duhrel and in concert they tore a hole in reality that whisked them to another starsystem a dozen light years away.
The system the convoy appeared in was uninhabited, a puny red dwarf with only a catalogue number as its name. They would then have to traverse the system to the next jump point that would allow them to jump to the next star in the chain to Cycria.
Most of the time in traversing the galaxy was spent moving from jump point to jump point within each starsystem. Some systems were lucky and their jump points were close-by, others had them far apart and it took a long time and a lot of Δv to traverse. The locations of the jump points and where you could jump from them depended on the background arrangement of the dark matter permeating the galaxy which warped the extra dimensions of spacetime.
The convoy would have almost a week ahead of them to traverse to the next jump point in this system, and just over two months to reach Cycria.
Captain Thraxos looked over the monitors and concluded that everything was in order. “Lieutenant Ulan, plot a course to the next jump point.”
The astrogator glanced over. “Already laid in, Captain. Ready to execute on your command.”
“Very good Lieutenant.” Thraxos acknowledged with pleasure. “Signal the convoy to get underway and execute.”
Ten of the ships in the convoy each fired up their fusion torches of various sorts and the convoy started moving, but then behind the eleventh ship, the IMS Antelope, something exploded with nuclear fury.
“CAPTAIN!” Sensor officer Birrai shouted. “The engine of the Antelope just exploded!”
“What?” The captain looked up. Just his luck that the Human rustbucket would have a catastrophic engine failure immediately upon firing up that lethal engine of theirs. “Signal all stop!”
Just as soon as the fleet had started moving the torches died down as each ship ceased accelerating.
Thraxos hit transmit button on his terminal. “This is captain Thraxos of GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope, do you require assistance?”
Thraxos looked at the sensor scan on his screen as he waited for their reply. At least there didn’t seem to be much debris. Hopefully the Humans didn’t have many casualties.
A calm, if slightly confused, voice came on the speakers. “This is IMS Antelope. Uh, negative on assistance. Why, what is the problem?”
Captain Thraxos looked at his sensor officer, who just spread his arms. Then back to the sensor display, until he finally hit transmit again. “Duhrel to Antelope, did you not just have a catastrophic engine failure?”
“Um. Oh!” There was a sudden realization in the voice on the radio. “Negative Duhrel. That was the detonation of our 50 kiloton nuclear propulsion charge.”
“50 kiloton propulsion?! YOUR SHIP SHITS OUT NUCLEAR BOMBS!?” Captain Thraxos immediately regretted his lapse in decorum, but the sheer insanity of the idea had caught him completely off guard.
“Affirmative Duhrel. Apologies for the confusion. The shaped nuclear charges are used to push against the driveplate at the back of the ship which transfers the momentum imparted to the ship through a staged shock absorber assembly.”
After the convoy had gotten over the shock of the Humans’ propulsion system the rest of the voyage to the jump point had passed quietly. Or as quietly as a fleet trailing a stream of nuclear explosions can go. As had the second and third jumps.
When the convoy appeared in the fourth system on the route, another nondescript nameless star, things rapidly went south. Before the convoy had a chance to start moving a warhead detonated half a million kilometers away from the jump point.
Three pirate cruisers brought up their EM suites and aimed their targeting radars at the merchant convoy. The pirates were well poised about to catch any merchants that chose to try to flee, with each pirate able to cover a large part of the possible trajectories.
An ultimatum was transmitted on all the universal emergency channels. “This is captain Qauk’ats of The Blood Raiders. Stand down your ships and prepare to be boarded. Any resistance will be met with lethal force.”
Captain Thraxos considered his options. The Federation Fleet Command had not anticipated this heavy pirate presence. The previous raids had been performed by single ships each. His light cruiser might be able to take on two of the pirates, depending on how well they were equipped and trained, but all three would be too much. Especially when they were spread out like this, so he would not be able to concentrate his point defences in any single particular direction.
On the other hand he had not yet betrayed that GFN Duhrel was a warship. His ship had been chosen for this because it was roughly the correct size to pass as a medium merchantman. Could he use this to his advantage somehow…
“Lieutenant Coccols, signal the convoy to stand by. Comm laser only, let’s not tip our hands yet.”
Captain Thraxos prayed that none of the merchanters would panic and start running, he was only one ship, he couldn’t be in two places at once to protect everyone.
“Lieutenant Commander Birrai, use passive scanners only. Limit actives to equipment a merchantman could realistically have. Go loud on sensors only if our cover is blown.”
Thraxos was stalling for time and he knew it. He needed something to give him an extra edge somehow. Something, anything. Just one way to neutralize one of the pirate cruisers to even the odds.
On the screen vectors appeared showing the pirate ships starting to accelerate carefully towards the convoy since the convoy seemed to be capitulating. Whatever he comes up with he would have to come up with quickly.
Then the comm officer piped up. “Captain, we have a laser message from IMS Antelope. Captain Nele wants to talk with you.”
Thraxos sighed. Great, he didn’t have time to babysit a panicking merchanter right now. “Signal them to just stand by.”
Few moments later lieutenant Coccols replied. “He’s being very insistent, sir.”
“Fine.” Thraxos grumbled. “Put him on my monitor.”
Captain Thraxos waited until on his screen appeared the image of a middle aged human wearing a black collared suit with a white shirt underneath and a tie around his neck. On his head he had a white hat with a black visor. On the hat was a golden patch with a stylized antelope rimmed with golden stylized ropes.
“Captain Nele, what do you want?” Thraxos tried to hide the annoyance in his voice, but it still leaked through. “We’re kind of busy right now.”
Captain Nele ignored his tone. “Captain Thraxos, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a suggestion. Am I correct to assume that three pirate ships are too many for you to handle?”
Thraxos hesitated.
Nele sighed. “Captain, this is no time for ego. Is it so?” He looked at Thraxos with stern eyes. “Because if it is, then the Antelope can take on one of them.”
Thraxos’ eyes widened. “What? No, out of the question!”
“Captain, the Antelope’s driveplate is designed to withstand repeated nuclear explosions with minimal ablation. It is tougher than battleship hull. And I bet the pirates don’t know that our ship ‘shits out nuclear bombs’ either as you so eloquently put it.” Nele glared at Thraxos. “I’m not planning to die today after a failed last stand, so one more time: do you need help or not?”
Thraxos glanced to the side. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he did need help. After an agonizingly long moment he turned back to face the other captain. “Yes. You’re right. We can probably take on two, but not all three of them.”
Nele nodded. “Alright. So here’s what I have in mind...”
The control room of the merchantman was spartan compared to the bridge of a warship. Captain Robert Nele was standing next to the sensocomm station looking at the radar plot. His heart raced and he hoped he wasn’t about to do something completely stupid. He glanced around and he knew that the rest of his crew felt the same. But they had to at least try.
He breathed deep once and then exhaled. “Alright Terri, jettison the cargo containers. Arkady, use the azipod thrusters and lets make like bat out of hell.”
The engineer, Terri Grove, hit buttons on her console and a series of thumps echoed throughout the ship. “All containers released.”
Helm officer Arkady Stachowiak used the translation joystick to pull the ship backwards out from between the containers that were now lazily floating in space. “We’re free.” Then he turned the ship to a new heading and fired the azipod manoeuvring thrusters at full. “Batting out of hell.”
The azipod thrusters could be turned to allow the ship to accelerate in almost any direction. They were meant for use near ports for both manoeuvring and mobility where the Antelope couldn’t use her main nuclear pulse engine. Because of this the azipods were unusually powerful for a ship of her size and with the Antelope shed of all her cargo they could give her pretty decent acceleration.
Niels Becker glanced up to the captain standing next to him. “Radio from Duhrel.” He pressed a button to put it on the loudspeakers.
Captain Thraxos’ voice sounded frantic as he yelled at the Antelope. “Get back here Antelope! Didn’t you hear what they said!”
Robert shook himself to get into character. Then he pressed a button on Niels’ station and shouted back in panic. “Fuck that shit! I’m getting the hell out of here! It’s every man for themselves!”
He took a second to steady himself again. “Alright Niels, let’s see which pirate takes the bait. Arkady, once we know who is chasing us, turn us so our driveplate is pointed at them. Make a good show of trying to get away, we need to lure them out far enough.”
“Will do, Bob.” Arkady acknowledged. “I’ll give them a merry chase.”
“Now we just hope they want us disabled and don’t use missiles.” Robert voiced everyone’s concern. “Terri, how are your modifications coming along?”
Without even looking up from her console, Terri replied, “I’ve got the launcher patched. I’ve voided pretty much every warranty we have, but I managed to coax it to load four charges at once. With our biggest bombs that’ll give them a two megaton surprise.”
Robert nodded. “Very good.”
Terri continued, “The bombs turned out to be trickier. I should be able to get their attitude control software overridden, but they also have hardware safeties. I had to send Jonesy to physically bypass them. But that also means he can slap a radio module on them while he’s at it, so we’ll be able to detonate these on command.”
Robert grinned. “Excellent. Great work. Let me know when Jonesy is done with the mods.”
“Aye. Just one last thing. Once we load up any bombs into the launcher, we won’t be able to unload them any more.”
“Alright. Keep the launcher on full manual then and load only on my command for now.”
Niels interjected. “Contact-3 is altering course to intercept. I’ve coloured her pink on the radar plot.”
Robert glanced over at the helm. “Arkady?”
“On it. On our new course they’ll reach weapons range in 52 minutes. By that time we’ll have spent 84% of our manoeuvring propellant.”
Terri winced.
Robert noticed it. “What’s wrong, Terri?”
“Oh, I’m just thinking of our next overhaul. The azipods weren’t meant to be used this hard for this long.”
“Good to see you’re still an optimist.” Arkady commented. As Terri glowered at him, he added, “You think we’re gonna live long enough to service them.”
Terri laughed and the rest of the command crew chuckled.
Their moment of mirth was, however, cut short when Niels announced a message from contact-3.
Antelope, this is captain Mas’ieh of raider Bathed in Blood. Stand down immediately or you will be fired upon. This is your only warning.”
After a moment of silence captain Nele said, “let them eat static.”
It had been a tense half hour as the Antelope had led the pirate raider away from the rest of the group. Once they were too far away for Bathed in Blood to turn back and help his pirate brethren the GFN Duhrel had broken off the convoy and raced to meet the other two pirates.
With all the pieces in motion it was now captain Mas’ieh’s turn to make a choice. He had three choices: continue pressing the Antelope, turn back and attack GFN Duhrel, or turn away and run.
If he turned to attack GFN Duhrel, he would arrive to the battle too late to help Red Mayhem and Dread Rising. If the two ships could not beat Duhrel, then he would face Duhrel on his own and it might go any way depending on how much damage Mayhem and Dread had inflicted on her. If on the other hand Mayhem and Dread managed to destroy Duhrel, then he had just let the Antelope escape for no reason.
If he decided to run, then his chances depended on whether Mayhem and Dread could destroy or disable Duhrel. Duhrel was faster so she would be able to catch up with Bathed in Blood before he could slip out of the system at the next jump point. But if Mayhem and Dread did manage to destroy Duhrel, his attempt to flee would not be looked upon kindly by the leader of the Raiders.
So, no matter what happens his only real option was to press on Antelope. If Mayhem and Dread won against GFN Duhrel, then capturing the Antelope was the most useful thing he could do. If Mayhem and Dread lost to GFN Duhrel, then he was in no better or worse position than if he had turned away from Antelope. He would still have to face Duhrel just the same.
He sent a message to captain Qauk’ats aboard the Red Mayhem with his plan of action to continue chasing the Antelope to make sure she couldn’t escape, and the rationale for taking this action.
What he didn’t mention was that if Mayhem and Dread lost to Duhrel, but damaged her enough for him to destroy her… well, then he would have just become the new leader of The Blood Raiders.
The atmosphere was tense in the control room of the IMS Antelope. Minutes ticked by as the raider Bathed in Blood chased them. Several hundred thousand kilometers away the GFN Duhrel and raiders Red Mayhem and Dread Rising were fast approaching each other.
“Nuclear explosion.” Niels announced suddenly. “The raiders have started firing on GFN Duhrel. I think Duhrel’s point defence got that warhead. It was too far to cause any damage.”
Robert nodded in silence. They could do nothing more to help, that battle was now up to captain Thraxos.
“Two more. This time against contact-2. Their point defence stopped them.”
Thraxos and Duhrel had an advantage. They could fire their magazines empty if they had to without consequence. For the pirates, every missile they shot was invaluable, for they couldn’t just pull in to a naval yard to resupply. But there were still two pirate ships and if their magazines were full, then Duhrel would be in serious trouble.
“No fire for a few moments. I think they were just probing each other at extreme missile range.”
Robert turned to Niels. “How long until Bathed in Blood is in missile range, assuming their range is similar?”
Niels looked at the range plot. “Two minutes.”
Suddenly there was a radiation alarm. Robert looked at Niels with the look of ‘are you sure’ all over his face.
Niels looked at his instruments. “That was ten thousand kilometers away and off to the side. I think it was a warning shot. Negligible radiation dose.”
Robert thought for a moment and weighed his options. “We’ll keep going. Hopefully they won’t waste more missiles on us.”
The uneasy silence returned as more minutes ticked by. Only occasionally broken as Niels reported events of the battle happening far away.
The exchange of fire increased as the combatants got closer. GFN Duhrel was pressing on contact-2, the Dread Rising, and closing the distance as fast as she could. Her point defences were working at near saturation as the two pirates poured missile after missile upon her. But likewise, her missiles pushed the pirate crew aboard the Dread Rising to their limit as well.
“HIT!” Niels exclaimed! “Contact-2 has left behind debris.”
Everyone cheered. A hit was nice, but it wasn’t the end of the battle. Nowhere near. Warships were compartmentalized to the maximum and even a direct warhead hit only crippled them locally.
Soon the flashes of missile warheads were joined by the invisible beams of anti-ship lasers as GFN Duhrel and Dread Rising reached energy weapon range. Both ships took hits to their hull.
Warship armour had diamond threads woven into it, which were as close as you could get to thermal superconductivity. Each time a laser flashed across a panel, the weave would try to spread out the thermal load to try to keep the plating from vaporizing locally where it was hit and hopefully the plate would be able to radiate the heat load away before another hit. But if any plate was saturated by heat, the entire plate would melt all at once.
Niels was able to see thermal spikes on his IR scopes, but his instruments weren’t powerful enough to resolve what effects those hits had. Neither were the instruments of the other merchanters who were relaying their scanner data to the Antelope as well, which let Niels see the Bathed in Blood even though it was in the shadow of their driveplate. Otherwise the plate would have been a blind spot for them, for no sensor could be mounted on it that would be able to withstand the constant bombardment of nuclear fire it was under in normal operation.
They could only guess how the battle was going. Both ships were streaming air and metal behind them. Both ships were hurt, but how badly was anyone’s guess. Then their own trouble started.
Terri frowned. “I think we’ve just been shot at by Bathed in Blood with their lasers. I’m reading an increased thermal load on the driveplate. Activating cooling system.”
Robert swallowed. This was it for them. “Here goes nothing then. Arkady, start jinking with the azipods but make sure the driveplate remains between us. Let’s make it look good and not give them too easy a target.”
“I think we just had a near miss. The driveplate heat load spiked again, but much less. I think only the halo of the laser caught us this time.”
Robert nodded. “Keep going.”
With their overpowered azipods being able to move them laterally in almost any direction the cargoless Antelope was an exceedingly difficult target for the Bathed in Blood to hit compared to a warship. But every jink burned even more of their manoeuvring propellant. They wouldn’t be able to keep this up for too much longer.
“Direct hit on our plate.” Terri announced once more.
“Vent all our airlocks, let’s make them think they hurt us.”
The Antelope shuddered a little as the airlocks blew out a cloud of air around the ship.
“Too bad we didn’t think of loading some junk in them before hand.” Niels commented.
Robert grinned. “Yeah, but this’ll have to do. Terri, load up a 10 kiloton starter charge into the launcher. Next time they score a direct hit, fire it. Arkady, when it goes boom, put us into a spin. Hopefully they’ll think they’ve hit our engines and disabled us.”
“Got it.” Arkady acknowledged.
Terri hit some buttons on her console. “Charge loaded. Arkady, when I say ‘stop’ stop thrusting. I don’t want us to drift out of the driveplate’s shadow before the charge goes off.”
Arkady nodded.
The Bathed in Blood scored a few more near misses and but then the heat on the plate spiked again. A direct hit.
“Stop!” Terri shouted, then hit the button to manually fire the drive once. A few moments later there was a brilliant flash visible to the Bathed in Blood and the Antelope felt the surge of acceleration as the shock absorbers pushed their ship with the momentum of the nuclear explosion in front of them. Arkady immediately used the azipods to give their ship a good bit of spin, making it turn end over end.
This was the moment when Robert bet them all-in. If the pirate cruiser would fire their laser even one more time, they could hull them straight through. For a merchantman had no armour plating cladding it everywhere like a warship did.
The bridge was deathly silent as everyone were holding their breaths. Seconds passed. Then seconds more passed. The recharge time of the pirate’s spinal laser came and went and there was no Earth shattering kaboom. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and the seconds turned into minutes. The pirates wanted a prize and they thought they had it.
Even as the battle lulled here, in the distance, the battle between Duhrel and the pirates raged on.
Captain Thraxos had managed to break the Dread Rising in the laser exchange. The pirate cruiser was a wreck, hulled straight through in multiple places with a large hole where her main powerplant used to be. But Duhrel had suffered greatly as well. On one side her hull had been scoured clean of her point defences. A number of missile launchers were disabled or destroyed and several compartments were open to space as well. She was streaming air as she turned towards the remaining pirate. All the while they continued exchanging as much missile fire as they could.
But the crew of the Antelope had no time to spectate for long. With them ‘disabled’ and dead in space the raider Bathed in Blood had been able to close the remaining distance much faster and they were getting ready to pull up alongside them.
Captain Nele stood at the sensocomm station and watched the plot with officer Becker. He and Niels kept glancing at each other nervously as the distance closed. Getting the final part of their plan correct was critical, for they would only get one chance. Once their element of surprise was lost, they would be sitting ducks to the missiles of the pirate raider.
“Terri, load up the launcher with four of the biggest charges we have. Arkady, once Bathed in Blood is within 10 kilometers, stabilize us and aim the driveplate at him. Terri, once we’re stabilized go to rapid fire on the launcher with as many of the 500 kiloton charges as you can.”
Robert breathed deep to calm himself. “Detonate the charges when you think is optimal, or if it seems they’ve spotted our ruse. Let’s hope this works.”
Terri nodded and worked frantically on her console to execute the instructions. She would have to program the bombs to rotate to face Bathed in Blood instead of their own driveplate. She’d replaced the normal inertial stabilizing software with her own and uploaded it to the bombs, but she still had to compute the difference based on her best guess where the Bathed in Blood would be in relation to them when the bombs would be triggered. The bombs couldn’t do it themselves, since they had no external sensors, only gyros so they knew their own orientation and nothing else.
“20 kilometers.” Niels announced.
Time seemed to crawl as every person ran on adrenaline.
“15 kilometers.”
Arkady held the stick, ready to execute. He had already turned the azipods ready to cancel their rotation, but then he would have to turn to face the pirate cruiser.
“12 kilometers. 11 kilometers. 10 kilometers.”
Arkady waited for a moment more before he pulled on the stick to make sure they would stop as close to the target attitude as possible. The ship heaved as the azipods worked to halt its turn. With the spin nulled, Arkady then rolled the ship so the azipods wouldn’t have to slew to a new direction before he could point the ship towards the pirate. He wanted to shave every second he could.
“On target!” Arkady announced.
Terri hit the button to execute the program. “Launching.”
The whole operation had took only seconds and the pirates were caught completely off guard. The pirate ship took no action as the four little elongated spheres flew toward it from the little hole in the middle of the Antelope’s massive driveplate. A few seconds later another group of spheres flew out and another.
The pirate ship finally stopped their approach with their manoeuvring thrusters and started to turn their spinal laser to point at the not-as-disabled-as-they-thought merchantman to finish them off.
Terri waited until the last moment possible before the first group of nukes would drift past the pirate and put the ship out of the cone of their shaped charges. Then she pressed the fire button. “Firing!”
A dozen 500 kt nukes exploded in unison at point blank range to the pirate cruiser. Six megatons total of nuclear fury. But these weren’t just nukes, they were shaped charges with most of the blast directed forward through a heavy layer of tungsten that was turned into vapour and shot as plasma towards the hapless pirate whose hull did not have the heavy reinforcement the Antilope’s own driveplate did.
At point blank range this barrage could have hulled a battleship.
Then a few seconds later another 2 megaton barrage exploded. Then another.
Bathed in Blood finally finished turning to bring their spinal laser on the merchantman, but it did not stop. It continued to turn, its laser remaining dark. A cloud of air and debris surrounded the hulk of the pirate ship.
Then the fourth barrage of bombs hit their main powerplant and Bathed in Blood split in two as the reactor amidships exploded.
Sound of debris rang all around the Antelope as the explosion pushed against its driveplate, pushing the ship harmlessly away from the destroyed hulk of the pirate cruiser.
“Holy. Fucking. Shit.” Niels mouthed as he looked at his sensor screen.
Captain Robert Nele walked over to his chair and collapsed into it as the tension of the adrenaline in his system disappeared. Everyone on the bridge deflated as if they had been balloons from which the air had been let out.
“Reload the drive with propulsive charges, get us the fuck out of here.” Robert breathed heavy with relief.
Terri fired the last modified charges to clear the launcher. Her hand shook as she hovered over the fire button. She couldn’t bring herself to press it, not any more. The pirate ship was already more than destroyed. She let the nukes drift away past the wreck as she adjusted the loading priority for the launcher and reset it to standard automatic operation.
In few seconds the first 10 kt charge aimed at their own plate fired and pushed them away. Terri let the computer take over and soon the Antelope picked up speed at great rate, galloping away from the broken and hulled wreck of the pirate ship like her namesake. Empty of cargo even the lightest charges accelerated her like she was an olympic sprinter. The direction didn’t matter, as long as it was away.
They’d already forgotten the battle that had been going on elsewhere.
Ten minutes later the numb silence in the control room was broken by a radio call.
GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope. Captain Nele, what is your status?”
As IMS Antelope joined back with the convoy, GFN Duhrel pulled up to alongside her. Or what was left of GFN Duhrel. The battle with the pirates had taken a tremendous toll on the light cruiser. There was nary a square meter on her hull that wasn’t scarred by battle damage. There was a large gash along one side and even a hole clear through her. The other side was scoured clean of her hull mounted weapons and sensors and several compartments were open to space. Over third of her crew were dead. It was a small miracle she was still flying at all.
But the pirate fleet had paid even more dearly. All three cruisers floated dead in space as wasted, hulled wrecks. Bathed in Blood lay in twain with her spine broken. Dread Rising was missing an entire quarter of the ship where the powerplant had used to be. And Red Mayhem lay shattered in pieces after multiple missile hits when Duhrel had finally managed to overwhelm her point defences.
There were very few survivors from the pirate fleet, and even fewer who had wanted to be a survivor. Only fifteen lifepods had been launched from the hulks, out of their total crew of a hundred and twenty. The rest had perished in the battle, or chosen to perish in the hulks. The survivors’ pods would be picked up in due time to face justice for their actions.
Captain Thraxos watched the Human ship on his screen and saluted. The Antelope may have been old and tarnished, she may have looked odd and ugly, but right now captain Thraxos was proud to have her and her crew in his fleet. She was no longer part of the convoy, she was one of its protectors. And it was thanks to her that they had triumphed today against insurmountable odds.
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Just who exactly are the UFC Ranking Panelists?

What News Sources Do These Panelist Represent?

Notes: The above went basically unchanged from 2016 - 2019. Oddly enough the MMA Weekly guys are the worst of the bunch...

New Ranking Panelists (added within the past year)

Notes: These new panelists were just added this year. Whenever UFC launched the update that made it difficult as fruck for fans to actually find the panelists individual ranking lists.

Conclusions:
After researching all of the journalists to make this post I'd say the most suspect is Romain Cadot (Vladusport) - which doesn't appear to be a real person. Christoffer Esping is also suspect, as he owns a shoe company - that is it.
Brian Hemminger of MMA Oddsbreaker is also suspect, as he works for an actual Oddsmaker - that is such a clear conflict of interest that there might actually be some legal implications that the UFC could get caught up in if the rankings can ever be proven to directly impact betting lines. This is such a giant oversight I can't believe that the UFC legal team hasn't already nixed this. I'm not even saying that Brian's rankings are corrupt or unreasonable - just that him working for an actual legitimate MMA oddsmaker is a big "How The Fuck Did The UFC Let This Happen" moment.
Both of the MMA Weekly guys seem to be trolling their rankings - or they are just that inept. Jeff Cain didn't even bothering updating his rankings for this week...and he rarely ever does, maybe he'll update once every other month or so, and sometimes he'll rank fighter who have been cut, retired, or inactive, meanwhile Ken Pishna is a fucking UFC shill who did exactly what the UFC told him to do in their little sparknotes memo!
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