June 2016


REID: What is this, a shotgun kill?

CUSTOMER: It’s a melee. I swatted ’em and shot ’em.

REID: If you swatted them and then shot them, it’s a shotgun kill. There’s not much market for those, no one’s buying them. Especially not in Call of Honor 4: Future Warfare 2. I can do 20.

CUSTOMER: The shotgun plast just finished them off! I did 90% of the damage with melee. I’ll go 40.

REID: If you walk 90% of the way to a party and then take your car the last 10%, how are people going to say you got there?

CUSTOMER:…in a car.

REID: Shotgun kill. I’ll do 20.

CUSTOMER: How about 30? Even if it’s a shotgun kill it’s a stylish one. I pwned that n00b but good.

REID: Look, I gotta make some money here. I’m running a business. Style is the only reason I’m offering 20, and I’ll be lucky to make anything on it even at that.

CUSTOMER: 25? I saw someone getting that for shotgun kills on Spike eSports.

REID: You saw someone asking for that on Spike. Doesn’t mean they got it. And even if they did, which I doubt, they would have had to pay fees and taxes. I’m offering you cash, right now. Two Roosevelts, tax free.

CUSTOMER: …fine, I’ll take it.

REID: Great. Talk to n00bslasherz33, he’ll get you written up. And look for this on our YouTube channel, Twitch.TV, and streaming live on PwnStarz.co.ntz.

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“I make technical drawings based on precision measurements,” said Mr. Jin. “I am presented with an item, measure it, prepare technical drawings, and then hand them over for fabrication.”

Colonel Li nodded. “Precision measurements of items of foreign manufacture, is that right?”

Mr. Jin bristled slightly. “Yes, but not whole products. My company makes cheap replacement parts. Battery doors, hinges, plastic cases. Things Americans can use to repair their items but that they cannot purchase due to their system’s inefficiency. We fill a need.”

“Of course, of course,” said Colonel Li. “I did not mean to suggest you were behaving inappropriately. Your factory found a need and filled it very skillfully, and your performance reviews have been…stellar.”

“I take pride in my work, Colonel Li.”

“Which is why I am here,” said Li. “But first, please understand that what I am about to tell you is a state secret. Discussing it with others, even your family, can only result in the strictest penalties.”

“I am a loyal citizen,” Mr. Jin said. “Though I wonder what use the state could have for one such as me, beyond my taxes.”

“You come highly recommended,” the colonel said. “And most importantly, your brother is a Party member. The local party secretary, in fact. You have the precise combination of skill, anonymity, and political reliability that we are looking for.”

“To do what, exactly?”

Li leaned forward. “To repair an American stealth bomber, of course.

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She’s an expert in the ancient Celtic art of Hugh Moor. A grandmaster the venerable Chinese style of Jo Qing. Of course, she has years of experience in the Welsh Kyd Dyngg technique. And we can’t forget the Latin form of Ex Aggre Ation.

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“I attempt to teach you, John, through the use of a mathematical equation,” said Ms. Deidre. A d20 rattled in her hand.

“Saving throw!” said John. “Saving throw! I save verses knowledge.”

“That’ll be a wisdom check,” said the classmaster. “Add or subtract your wisdom bonus from the roll.”

John rolled, confident that his low wisdom score would be his salvation. His d20 clattered down. “Natural 1. Damn!”

Ms. Deidre grinned. “Natural 20,” she said, grinning over her dice. “Critical success.”

“No!” cried John. “What about my knowledge resistance?”

“You rolled a 1, John, and she has a nat 20. I’m sorry, but you’re learning something.”

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“Look, Luciano, I’ve done all I can,” said Gotti, shrugging helplessly. “If you want to stay here in town, and you want a government job with a nice pension and good hours, this is all I have for you right now.”

“Come on, Giovanni,” cried Luciano. His powerful voice, the pride of the local opera, virtually blasted his old friend back in his seat. “You know I have too much tied up in my house here to move! Especially after Roberta got everything else in the divorce.”

“Well, this is as good as I can be to you as your patron,” said Gotti. “I’m sorry, I really am. I’ll look for better, I promise you, since this doesn’t even begin to pay you back for all those free tickets for me and Esmerelda.”

Luciano looked at the paperwork. “I like the money and I like the hours, but…”

“If you want something right now, it’s this or selling hot dogs to fat American tourists,” said Gotti. “Or you could keep singing.”

“No,” said Luciano. “Not after what happened. I can’t, I just can’t. You know this.”

“Well then, you start Monday,” said Gotti. “One week’s training with the current guy before he retires off to a villa in Tuscany with his grandkids.”

“Still, I don’t know,” said Luciano. “I’m just not sure what an opera singer does the only available job is in the quietest library in town.”

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“Lord Eyon said that there was another way, that we gobs did not have to be as we have always been,” said Lodii. “And he was right. But there was something that Lord Eyon left unsaid, something very important.”

“Yeah, he’s like that sometimes,” said Myn.

“Indeed. And what he left unsaid was this: the gobs must become what he wants us to be. The gobs must become like him. In that way, he’s no different than the thousand other conqerors that have tried to remake us in their own image.”

“All I’ve seen are you betraying everyone that’s ever put an ounce of trust in you,” replied Myn. “What’s that say about you?”

“We believe in gobs for gobs. The old ways are failing us, and have failed us for many years. Everyone has an idea of what’s best for us. The humans want us to be humans, the orcs want us to be orcs. But we have to find out own way.”

“Yeah? And where does that way leave a mule like me?” said Myn.

“It’s simple,” replied Lodii. “Like all mules, you must choose. So far you have chosen to favor your human half, to be the exploiter rather than the exploited. But all that will be over soon, and those who have thrown in their lot against the oppressed gobs will find that the tables have turned. That’s the choice, Myn. Join us as a gob in pursuit of a bright future for all our people, or accept as a human your just reward for the lowly state of our kin.”

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“Cccooommmeee, mmmyyy llliiittttttllleee fffrrriiieeennndddsss.”

A pika nibbled softly at the most base moss before scampering away.

A caribou approached, but only after a lengthy period of stillness, to nibble at a carefully tended patch of reindeer moss.

Birds, too, occasionally alighted to nibble, though they were interested as much in the tiny stowaways in the moss than the moss itself.

“Cccooommmeee aaannnddd eeeaaattt.”

The golem, long since forsaken by the dead hands of the society that built him, wandered about the Arctic Circle. He grew a garden of moss on his skin, maintained and tended with the air of a bonsai master, to attract his friends to come and share in his solitude.

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