GESTURES OF APPRECIATION
Because we're all fans at heart
Still don't own Teen Titans.
Now, if I were more clever I'd have posted this last
year, when I wrote it
Anyway...I wanted to try writing a holiday fic that didn't suck. I'd recently finished Shadow Play
, but that had a holiday (Halloween) as more of a background detail than anything else, so I didn't feel that counted. It turns out my
family's Christmas get togethers had stopped after my
aunt had died, so I was like "hey, put that on a character and make a fanfic out of it!"
So I did.
I may have taken liberties with Argent's background...but with as little as she actually appeared in the series, I think that's kind of unavoidable.
The twin doors slid open, allowing Argent to walk into the ops room of Titans Tower.
She had expected at least one of the Titans to be there, since it was the middle of the day, but the room appeared to be unoccupied, like the rest of the Tower. And what she did see, she would never have expected.
Not that she was unfamiliar with Christmas trees, or the arrays of lights and shiny ornaments that identified them as such. Nor that she was surprised to see such a tree at Christmas time. But this tree was a branch-less trunk, with a cluster of large fan-like leaves coming out of the top.
"Is that a Christmas palm tree?" she skeptically asked no one in particular. Jump City was well in range of conical needled trees that were standard Christmas trees, she'd seen them the last time she was here.
A pink shape leaned out from behind the trunk, eventually revealing it to be someone sitting on the couch on the opposite end of the room. Meaning technically, there was one of the Titans there, after all.
"Oh hey," Jinx said. "Need some help?"
Argent tilted her head slightly, and tried to maintain a relaxed posture. "Why would you say that?"
Jinx lowered an eyebrow. "If it was an emergency or typical social call," she said with some annoyance, "you'd have called ahead. As it is, I'm guessing you want to make an imposition, one important enough that you need to present it person. Would also explain you trying to dodge a simple question."
Argent froze for a second. She certainly hadn't intended to ignore the question...."No, I don't need any help; I happened to be passing through and thought I should stop by. You're right though, I should have called ahead."
Jinx's expression relaxed. "Not like I'm Miss Manners," she replied with a shrug. "Anyway, Robin and the rest should be back in...less than an hour, I'd guess. So come, have a seat, I'm getting tired of talking over the width of this room."
A knot started to form in Argent's stomach as the thought of spending an hour alone with Jinx came to mind. She thought of how to get out of the uncomfortable prospect. "Thank you, but I should probably be on my way if they aren't here."
"If you came in the front door, they'll know you were here. And if you're gone when they get back, I bet Starfire'll track you down. Probably better if you wait for them to show up."
Maybe coming here wasn't a good idea, Argent thought. "Maybe I should call them now, instead?" she asked with a slightly sheepish tone.
Jinx's face took on a full-fledged frown. "If you have a problem with me," she snarled, "spit it out."
Argent's eyes widened in surprise. Was it really that obvious? "Of course not!" she proclaimed indignantly. "I just...." She paused to take a deep breath. No sense not talking about it now...."I thought you'd be cross about the misunderstanding with Kid Flash," she added with a hint of dejection.
Jinx took a deep breath of her own. "I'm not upset about it anymore. And I was never mad at you, in the first place. Now, sit."
Argent sighed. Great, now that she's being gracious about it, I'm just an arse if I refuse. She flew across the room, giving the unnatural-looking Christmas tree a wide berth, and alighted near the right end of the sofa before sitting.
"FYI," Jinx said nonchalantly, "I don't bite." She then turned back to the book in her hands, which hadn't been visible from the opposite side of the room.
The front cover of the book was easily visible from where Argent was sitting. "Jekyll and Hyde? A fine story, but don't you think it's a bit peculiar for Christmas reading?"
Jinx glanced up at her. "I guess, but I need to fit in my reading whenever I can. Kid Flash is lousy at 'quiet'."
"I'll bet he is," Argent agreed. "Is he with Robin and the others? What are they even doing, anyway?"
"Kid Flash is doing...some sort of 'family time' thing back in Keystone City. Robin said the rest of them were getting some last-minute decorations."
Argent had been trying to ignore the arboreal monstrosity in her peripheral vision. "Please tell me they're getting a better tree."
Jinx snorted. "I wish, that thing looks miserable. But Cyborg said this was their compromise with Starfire, who wanted some sort of alien shrub instead. I wouldn't put any bets on a replacement this year. I'm...just going to enjoy the utter lack of snow around here."
"I know what you mean, it was getting muggy on the other side of the equator."
Jinx sighed, then set the book down beside her. "Not so good with quiet yourself, are you?"
What the...."Excuse me?!" Argent yelled, pushing herself onto her feet for good measure. "You tell me to sit with you just to be quiet?! Who do you think you are, telling me to sit down and shut up like a dog?!"
The frown had planted itself on Jinx's face while Argent was still talking. Jinx hissed in annoyance, just before covering her eyes with her hand. "You're right," she admitted with a sigh, "I'm sorry."
A voice in the back of Argent's mind reminded her that she'd usually accept a sincere-seeming apology like that one. But this was hardly a normal scenario: There wasn't any good faith established between the two of them, and she had already tried to be nice, just for Jinx to want her to be quiet. Four words of apology weren't any more respectful than what Jinx was apologizing for. "Why don't you tell me what's got you in such a mood, then?" Argent countered, not quite managing to keep the growl out of her voice.
At that, Jinx practically jumped off the couch into standing position herself. "You have no idea what you're talking about," she sneered, "and it wouldn't be any of your business if you did!"
Which was true, but also kind of the point of asking in the first place. "So you're apologizing for the way you normally act?"
Jinx growled, before she started blustering sentence fragments. "I'm trying to—I can't believe—you have no right—"
It took most of Argent's willpower, but she managed to fight the instinct to shout back over the top of her, silently frowning at her instead.
"FINE!" Jinx suddenly yelled. "I came here specifically to avoid being around Kid Flash's family, okay?" she explained as she plopped back down on the couch, looking sullen.
Argent was stunned for a moment. She hadn't really expected it to be something she could relate to. "Why is that?" she asked calmly as she sat back down on the couch, an inch closer to Jinx.
Jinx frowned at her, then rolled her eyes. "Sick of feeling like I'm just an extension of him. Is that so wrong?"
"Honestly...I'm avoiding my own family for similar reasons," Argent answered, looking down at her knees.
Through the corner of her eyes, she saw Jinx blink a couple times. "Really?" she asked, puzzled instead of annoyed. "You...don't seem the type."
Argent looked back at her, ignoring the urge to challenge her on the basis of her correct assumption. "I know, I'm a little embarrassed about it myself. But it isn't as if I....I guess need to explain now, don't I?"
Jinx waited as Argent took a deep breath and mentally arranged her thoughts. Argent was a little surprised that she'd managed to talk herself into edging out of her comfort zone, again. But she had gotten Jinx to talk, however briefly, and it was only fair to do the same herself.
"It's been rough. A few years back my aunt and uncle died, and since then their families have been drifting away from each other. Used to be that we'd all have a big all-day get-together on Christmas. It became Christmas morning with Mum's family and Christmas evening with Dad's. Both wanted me to swing by, which I thought was nice...until this year. Now Mum's family is living on a different continent, so it wasn't even possible for me to go to both places at the same time."
"That's gotta suck," Jinx offered sympathetically.
"Yeah. For the past month they've each been trying to convince me to join them on Christmas, they know I can travel on short notice. But I realized a few days ago that they're really sniping at each other. Being fought over as a prop instead of a person doesn't make me feel good about myself, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah," Jinx said softly, "I do."
"I'd just go to my parents'," Argent continued, "but they said they'll be celebrating with Dad's family so I'd still be picking a side. And I'm not asking them to change their plans for me. So I decided to put a lot of distance between myself and all of them."
The next few seconds were filled with an awkward silence, as the two of them stared out the large window of the ops room. Argent hoped Jinx would say something, since she didn't feel she had anything else to add, but it seemed both of them were at a loss. Although it was a vast improvement over the yelling match they'd had just a minute ago.
Argent took a deep breath through her nose. "But enough about my problems," she said as she turned to face Jinx. "Tell me about you and Kid Flash's family."
Jinx turned to Argent...or more accurately, turned her head towards Argent's general direction while avoiding direct eye contact. "After hearing about your family trying to tear you in half, mine feels really petty."
Argent shrugged her shoulders. "Doesn't bother me. Please, go on." Even if she had been feeling less charitable, she wouldn't have let Jinx get out of it so easily.
Jinx gave her a skeptical glance for only a second. "Well, they try to hide it, but they're clearly uncomfortable around me. Which I can understand, they look like an ordinary 80s sitcom family and I don't exactly fit in with my skin and hair color. I feel out of place around them, and I'm not even sure how much of my past they know about."
"What would your past have to do with it?"
Jinx frowned at her slightly for a few seconds. "You don't know, do you?" she asked skeptically as she relaxed her eyebrows.
Argent cocked her head to side. "Know what?" she responded, perplexed.
"Let's...just say I kicked the Titans out of the Tower we're sitting in a few years back. I'm new on the 'hero' side of things."
"Really? Does that mean you're one of those antiheroes?" Argent asked, hoping her enthusiasm wasn't apparent in her voice.
Jinx put a hand to her chin. "Can't say I really thought about it before. I'm gonna say...maybe."
"Cool!" Some of Argent's pre-adolescent fascination with 'dark and edgy' had clearly been retained.
Jinx rolled her eyes.
"Er, sorry to interpret," Argent said sheepishly.
"At least she took it in stride," Jinx muttered under her breath. "Anyway, " she continued, "they walk a little faster and less casually when I'm around. Their familial cheeriness grows quiet when I enter the room. And they talk to Kid Flash or...well, Flash....about me when I leave the room, instead of talking to me while I was there."
"Flash? They're relatives, then?"
"Yeah, he's Kid Flash's uncle, I think. He's not bad, though I'm sure he's gotten used to...unusual characters over the years. Has a way better sense of when not to joke than his nephew, that's for sure."
"That doesn't sound like a difficult accomplishment, to be honest."
Jinx snorted. "No, it isn't. But yeah, the rest of them are treating me like an extension of Kid Flash, instead of a person in my own right. I don't think you need me to explain what that's like."
"No," Argent agreed, "I don't." She sighed. "Bloody holidays, why do they have to cause problems like this?"
Jinx shook her head. "I...don't think it's the holiday that's causing the problem."
Argent lowered an eyebrow at Jinx. She was pretty sure the Christmas gatherings had a lot to do with Christmas. "How do you figure?"
"Well...The stuff with Kid Flash's family has kinda been there the whole time. We've just all been able to avoid each other until the holiday season came along. The holiday didn't cause any of it."
"I suppose so. But it still seems a little silly to have a holiday to emphasize it in the first place. The togetherness thing is supposed to be happening all year, not once a year."
"I think the two of us have our own examples of the 'togetherness' failing. The way I figure it, without a recurring event to remind people of the idea it'd be far too easy to forget about it entirely. This way, maybe a few of us will realize when something's missing before it turns into a disaster. Or at least I hope you aren't estranged from your family."
It was a thought Argent didn't really want to contemplate. "I...hope not, too," she said dejectedly. "This is literally the first year I can remember where I haven't seen all of them on Christmas. I have no idea how they'll take it." She took a deep breath. "Do you think I made the right decision?" She wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know the answer, but the guilt had been gnawing at the back of her mind for hours, she needed a second opinion.
Jinx looked at her for a second. "Are you sure you want to be asking me? I'm not exactly known for my congeniality."
"You seem fine enough to me," Argent replied with a slight shrug.
"Huh. Well, from what you've told me, there really isn't a right option. Both sides of your family have arranged it so at least one of them is going to be disappointed, and I think that in itself makes you unhappy."
Argent had expected to hear something of the sort. But Jinx continued.
"But if you're asking what I'd do, I'd ditch both of them just like you did. It's not like anyone can make you choose not to be who you are. You're a part of your mother's family, and a part of your father's family, and your own person. If neither side of your family will accept that, well, to hell with them; stick with who isn't trying to coerce you."
Argent breathed a sigh of relief. "That makes sense. Thank you." She still felt it was a selfish decision, but hearing that Jinx would've come to the same conclusion eased her worry that it was an irrational decision, particularly since she could accept Jinx's reasoning. At the same time, she didn't want to make another selfish decision and let her own problems dominate the conversation. "So what are you going to do?" she asked.
Jinx sighed. "While today was a nice break from it all, I think I have to suck it up and head back there for tomorrow. There's no way they're going to get used to me as a person if I'm not even there. And as much as I'd love to avoid the issue, that'll only make him have to explain why his girlfriend won't spend time with his family. And that's not fair to him. Just because I'm myself doesn't mean I'm not his girlfriend, after all. Kinda like how that tree behind us is a symbol of the Titans' willingness to compromise, but that doesn't mean it isn't hideous. And I'm not going to let the arboreal abomination be more accommodating than I am."
Argent was slightly amused at the tree alliteration, but she suddenly got the feeling she was missing something significant. "So what are they doing tomorrow?" she asked.
Jinx suddenly stared at her, eyes slightly widened.
"What?" Argent asked after a couple seconds, hoping she didn't sound as annoyed as she felt.
"You came over here from...Australia or somewhere around there?"
"New Zealand, yes," she answered, confused at the apparent change in topic.
"So you crossed the International Date Line getting here?"
A light went on in Argent's brain. "...It's Christmas Eve here, isn't it?"
"Sod it," Argent muttered as she shook her head. How did she manage to overlook something as obvious as the date? She'd felt a little relieved once she thought it was too late to get to England in time for Christmas morning, but that wasn't the case now that she found an extra 24 hours. Plus, she'd need to arrange for some type of overnight accommodations now.
"I won't tell you forgot if you don't," Jinx offered, as she picked up her book and continued reading.
On the other side of the room, the doors slid open.
"Argent!" Starfire exclaimed as she flew across the room. "How joyous to see you here!"
"How unexpected, too," Raven droned.
"Er, sorry about the lack of notice," Argent said as she stood up and turned around, "but it's been a...complicated last few days. Speaking of which, I just found out this turned into an overnight trip and...I need somewhere to sleep."
"Oh?" Robin said. "Well, we do have spare quarters here in the Tower."
Argent wasn't thrilled with the quality implications of the word 'quarters'. "Well I don't want to impose on all of you," she tried to backtrack.
Jinx exhaled sharply, still looking at her book. "Sound a little more gracious, will ya?" she said in a hushed tone.
"Well if you'd prefer," Cyborg offered, "I bet we can find you a spot in one of the hotels around here."
"You don't think they'll be fully booked this close to Christmas?" Raven asked.
"At least one of them's got to have a suite free, right?" he replied.
Argent lowered an eyebrow in disbelief. Was that supposed to be less imposing? "I...think I'm OK staying here. But I do appreciate the offer."
She saw Jinx nod slightly in her peripheral vision.
Robin looked like he was about to say something, but Beast Boy stepped in front of him. "So what do you think of our tree?" he asked.
Argent had actually been trying not to look at it. "I think it looks...distinct."
"Huh, that's what Jinx said." he replied.
"Exactly what Jinx said," Cyborg added as he gave a skeptical look in Jinx's general direction.
Jinx didn't bother looking up from her book. "I promise I did not use the word 'distinct' when I was talking to her."
Cyborg rolled his eye, as Argent failed to suppress her smirk.
"Well anyway," Cyborg continued, "let me show you to your room. Ma'am," he added sarcastically.
Argent shook her head. "Please don't tell me I come off like that."
"We won't tell you," Raven said flatly.
Before Argent could decide whether that was a joke or not, Cyborg exaggerated the sound of clearing his throat, before slowly walking towards the door. "If you'll follow me please," he said in what Argent assumed was his best concierge impression.
Argent walked around the couch to follow Cyborg. "Merry Christmas, Jinx," she said sincerely before directly following Cyborg.
Jinx looked over her shoulder, an almost imperceptible smile on her face. "To you too, Argent."
As she followed Cyborg at his mock-formal pace, she heard Beast Boy's voice.
"Hey Jinx," he was saying, "what do you think about the Carol of the Bells...sung by gorillas?"
"Meh," she said.
From time immemorial humanity has created great heroes and diabolical villains through mythology, legend, and fanfiction... which are all really the same thing.
And for just as long, people have always pondered the same thought: how gruesomely can we kill them off against other heroes and villains?
And how much can we enrage the fanbase of the loser?
Screw Attack has been doing these Death Battles for years, and for this latest fight, they've really shown how far they've come in terms of animation. They're also set on finding out once and for all who would win in a fight to the death: Deadpool or Deathstroke? You'll love it Corey... or might you hate it? object
I don't own Star Wars.
There are many fanfics where Ahsoka meets Darth Vader....But this one's mine
The end result of channeling a brief bout of depression into something constructive, it's ultimately more emotional than physical...but that will become apparent in a couple weeks.
Speaking of, this may be noteworthy as my first fic with intentionally planned chapters, as opposed to simply grouping scenes together; and as a result I'm
maintaining a regular chapter schedule by posting a new chapter on Fridays...until the final chapter (that I haven't actually finished yet) on December 26.
* * *
Hearing Darth Vader's voice, even only by eavesdropping through a covert comlink connection, was enough to unsettle her. She reminded herself to be calm, lest she give her location away.
"We've located the spies, sir," the security officer responded. "We're cut off their escape and jammed all long-range transmissions, but we've encountered...the men report a Jedi, sir."
She hadn't expected to go unnoticed, but if all long-range transmissions were jammed, then...Vader would have to be there, at the landing pad. Even more imperative she maintain a sense of tranquility.
"And why was this not in your earlier report, commander?" Vader demanded.
"She wasn't involved then, sir! We've been tracking the five human spies across the city. This sixth one just showed up here. Orange-skinned, with three striped tentacles instead of hair."
"....Togruta," Vader mused.
She did not like his eager undertone.
"I...think that's correct, sir; don't see many of them these days."
"Order your men to eliminate the resistance, commander. I will handle the Jedi, personally."
"I will begin," Vader continued, "by tracing this comlink she has carelessly left in the open."
Growling, she tossed the listening device to the floor and ran out the storage room door, lightsaber in hand, into the corridor.
Right into a squad of stormtroopers.
She ignited her lightsaber and cut the one to her left down with the green beam before the others had a chance to react. One of them shot his blaster rifle at her; she quickly swung the beam to deflect the shot into another of the troopers, used the momentum of the swing to eliminate the trooper to her right, and took a step towards the last trooper standing. He tried shooting her again, and she simply hit the shot and his neck with the same swift motion of her blade.
Sighing now that her chance of going undetected was gone, she ran down the corridor, in the direction she hoped led away from the landing pad...and Darth Vader.
Rounding a corner, she suspected she'd picked the wrong direction; the blast doors several feet in front of her were closed, and bore the text "Docking Bay 4". She looked around for some kind of vent or maintenance access, but she didn't detect any way out besides the corridor she came from. Checking to the side of the blast doors revealed there was no panel to open it, leaving her with the question of whether cutting through the door with her lightsaber would be a better option than turning back the way she came.
A sense of motion from behind answered the question for her. Before she'd even finished turning around, she felt the presence of Darth Vader. It was a subtly familiar sensation, but revolting because she recognized what it once was; as if it had rotted into a nauseating heap, but retained small traces of what it used to be. Which she realized might not be far from the truth.
She quickly interposed her lightsaber between the two of them, as the Sith Lord activated his lightsaber in a similar position. She kept her eye on him as she stepped closer, away from the corner.
"It was a mistake to come here," he declared, with his artificial voice.
"Fair enough," she responded. "Leave now, and I won't tell anyone about your mistake." She realized her trepidation had suddenly vanished, though she had no idea why.
"Such bravado," he answered humorlessly. "You cannot hope to defeat me."
It certainly didn't feel like bravado. She wasn't sure she was feeling much of anything, in fact. "Would it matter? The Empire persecutes Force-users as much as it does non-humans; as both I would be a fool to trust your benevolence."
"So be it."
He reached towards her with his free hand, and she could feel his attempt to pull her closer using the Force. She immediately countered, pushing back through the Force. The walls rattled violently, as the two fonts of willpower clashed. The air felt heavy, and she was almost expecting some kind of tornado to form in the hall.
Despite her effort, the friction under her feet grew intense enough to feel; she was losing this particular battle. Clenching her fist and quickly reversing the direction she was willing, the feeling subsided...as the Sith Lord was lurched in her direction, approaching quickly but retaining his balance. She quickly stepped to the side and lashed at him with her lightsaber, but he simply swung his lightsaber into hers, pushing it back slightly. He'd barely regained his footing before thrusting at her with his weapon, clearly intending to strike while she was off balance.
He had underestimated her agility; she'd already adopted a two-handed grip and pushed against his lightsaber at horizontal angle. The two energy blades only moved an inch towards Darth Vader before he adjusted to a horizontal angle himself; electrical sparks echoed as the two lightsabers were locked in place, each pushing towards the other.
"Impressive," he declared over the noise, "you've become stronger since you left the Jedi Order."
She took a deep breath, fighting the memories threatening to distract her. "It's been quite a decade," she replied flatly, before swiftly kicking him in the chest. He was too heavy to be pushed more than two steps, but it broke the saber lock; she quickly took a step back.
Vader swung his lightsaber at her again; sparks flew off the wall where the red beam intersected it. She swung her own saber against his, blocking his attack and countering with a halfhearted attack of her own, while slowly circling around him; putting him between the wall and herself. He responded to her intentionally weak attack with a fierce strike against her blade, strong enough to knock her lightsaber out of its guard position.
Of course, that had only worked because she'd allowed it; she channeled the momentum applied to her lightsaber into a circling motion, and sparks flew off the floor as the blade aimed squarely for the center of the Sith Lord. He was forced to abort his assault to block hers as the green beam cleared the ground, pushing its arc off to his side.
In response, she thrust her weapon forward during its redirected assent. Vader groaned briefly as she scored a glancing blow on his arm, near his shoulder. Before he could attempt a similar move of his own, she had twisted her lightsaber into a blocking position against Vader's own blade, as she had barely a moment ago.
"Most impressive," he commented. "I would have use for one with your talents."
She gently shook her head. "Not interested."
Rather than answer, he shoved her away with the Force, down the hallway. She didn't resist; instead, she deactivated her lightsaber, turned her landing into a somersault, and used the Force to speed her way. If he was going to help her try the other end of the corridor, intentionally or not, who was she to argue?
So. Ahsoka Tano was alive. And had grown strong in the Force, powerful enough to pose a challenge even to him.
Pride was a feeling he had become unused to over the years, but he still recognized the feeling originating in the recesses of his mind. His erstwhile apprentice excelled where his former contemporaries had failed, and where his supposed superiors had faltered. Surely that was in no small part due to his training.
As he walked down the corridor, slowly retracing the path she had taken, he had time to consider the opportunity she represented. The lesson of the Dark Side was the difference between a powerful threat and a powerful ally was a thin line, and she'd already spent formative years on his side of that line. The Empire's stance against non-human species was obviously at the forefront of her mind, surely it would be easy to convince her to take on the Emperor directly. All he needed was the proper proposal.
"Lord Vader—" started a voice over his comlink. It wasn't any of the local troopers, though, it was one of the captains of the 501st legion. But he hadn't ordered any of his own stormtrooper legion to accompany him here.
"Report, captain," Vader commanded with annoyance, cutting the man off.
"Three squads have disembarked at the spaceport."
Then the long-range jamming was still active. "On whose authority?"
"The...uh...the Emperor's, my lord."
He was silent for a second. It was hardly customary for his master to question his decisions indirectly like this. Unless...."Station your men around—"
"Excuse me," came a female voice over the comlink, "but our orders are to eliminate the Jedi reported here."
Ah. One of the Emperor's Hands. His master had two objectives to accomplish here: stopping the spies and killing Ahsoka...even if calling her a Jedi was technically incorrect. He hadn't been told there was a "Jedi" until he landed, though. But if the jamming was already on...the Emperor must've known, and not told him. Clearly this was a test, but who was his master testing?
Regardless, this was a complication that needed to be dealt with, carefully. "The Emperor sent stormtroopers to deal with Jedi?"
He was pretty sure she was trying to suppress a snort. "With all due respect, Lord Vader, I report directly to the Emperor, just as you do," she declared derisively. "I am in no position to question them, any more than you are in a position to countermand them."
So the stormtroopers' orders came from her, using her privilege as Hand to call on the authority of the Emperor. With which she was interfering with his out of...petty spite, he supposed. She was a jealous and arrogant one. And clearly, he owed Ahsoka an apology for thinking her remark was "bravado".
Which gave him an idea. "The Jedi is aiding the intruders. Find them all, and keep them from escaping, and you shall complete your assignment. Unless of course, you are incapable of dealing with a Jedi on your own."
"Excuse me?" she blustered.
"The Jedi will vanish if the intruders depart. Why would you risk it, unless you need—"
"Follow Lord Vader's orders," she commanded the stormtroopers, "I have a job to take care of."
"Station your men around all hangar doors," he said, repeating his earlier, interrupted, order. "Allow no one to pass. Inform me once the intruders are located."
"Yes, Lord Vader," his captain responded.
The Hand was strong, but was she strong enough to duel his old apprentice? If not, she would pay the price for her lack of vision. Denigrating a Dark Lord of the Sith was foolish, and foolishness was only tolerable when it had talent backing it up.
December 4, 2014
The title probably gave it away, but a new Jurassic Park movie is set to be released on June 12th - coincidentally, that would also be my birthday.
But seeing as this is US time, for me it really means it would be released on June 13th because America is nearly a full day behind NZ.
I'm not sure if this is a continuation from the horrible sequels of the original smash hit from my childhood or if this is a reboot. I'm afraid that, with all the CGI being given attention over good storytelling and acting these days, that we're just going to end up burned again, like the last two movies. The dinos are all CGI, but the original had a healthy mix of CG with animatronics so that the dinos actually looked real and were physically there.
But there is hope for this movie. Spielberg is back on board (though as executive producer), and it seems that the plot will be moving into the original intention of the Crichton novels by making... dinosaur hybrids.
Though technically, all the dinosaurs in the movies have been hybrids by combining incomplete dino DNA with frog DNA... maaakes sense to meeeee. object Oh, and there are Velociraptor hunting dogs
This is probably flat out the best game I've ever played, and an outstanding culmination of the events that I've followed through the previous two games (and one expansion) in the series. The sheer scope -- and that it all fits together -- is insane. I'm over 40 hours in, and it feels like I've barely scratched the surface.
Gotta give the Euros their due, here; this is truly an historic achievement and an amazing technical accomplishment.
The AP wrote:
European spacecraft Philae lander creates history, touches down on a speeding comet
Nov 13, 2014 at 06:25am IST
Darmstadt: Landing with a bounce after travelling 4 billion miles, a European spacecraft made history Wednesday by successfully reaching the icy, dusty surface of a speeding comet - a cosmic first designed to answer big questions about the universe.
The landing by the washing machine-sized craft after a decade-long journey required immense precision, as even the slightest error could have resulted in stellar calamity.
Indications were that the spacecraft touched down almost perfectly, save for an unplanned bounce, said Stephan Ulamec, head of the lander operation.
"Today we didn't just land once. We maybe even landed twice," he said with a chuckle.
Ulamec said thrusters that were meant to push the lander, called Philae, onto the surface, and harpoons that would have anchored it to the comet failed to deploy properly. Initial data from the spacecraft indicated that it lifted off again, turned and then came to rest.
Scientists were still trying to fully understand what happened and whether those failures would affect the lander's ability to remain on the comet, called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But so far, most of the instruments were working fine and sending back data as hoped, Ulamec said.
"Tomorrow morning we should know a lot more," he said.
The landing team at mission control in Darmstadt had to sweat through a tense seven-hour wait that began when Philae dropped from the agency's Rosetta space probe as both it and the comet hurtled through space at 41,000 mph (66,000 kph).
During the lander's descent, scientists were powerless to do anything but watch, because its vast distance from Earth - more than 300 million miles - made it impossible to send instructions in real time.
Finally, at 16:03 GMT (21:33 IST), the agency received a signal that the lander had touched down.
While it may take a while to determine the exact state of the 100-kilogram lander, the fact that it was resting on the surface of the comet was already a huge success - the highlight of Rosetta's decade-long mission to study comets and learn more about the origins of these celestial bodies.
The head of the European Space Agency underlined Europe's pride in having achieved a unique first ahead of its US counterpart, NASA.
"We are the first to have done that, and that will stay forever," said the European agency's director-general, Jean-Jacques Dordain.
NASA contributed three instruments to the mission and its Deep Space Network of giant radio antennas has been key to communicating with Rosetta.
Eight-time spacewalking astronaut John Grunsfeld, now associate administrator for science at NASA, called the landing "a breakthrough moment in the exploration of our solar system and a milestone for international cooperation."
"The data collected by Rosetta will provide the scientific community, and the world, with a treasure-trove of data," he said in a statement.
Scientists have likened the trillion or so comets in our solar system to time capsules that are virtually unchanged since the earliest moments of the universe.
"By studying one in enormous detail, we can hope to unlock the puzzle of all of the others," said Mark McCaughrean, a senior scientific adviser to the mission.
The insight gleaned will give researchers the opportunity to test the theory that comets brought organic matter and water to Earth billions of years ago, giving them a key role in the evolution of life on our planet, said Klim Churyumov, one of the two astronomers who discovered the comet in 1969.
Rosetta and Philae will accompany the 2 ½-mile wide comet as it races past the sun and becomes increasingly active in the rising temperatures. Between them, they will use 21 different instruments to take 3D images, analyze the comet's chemical composition and electrical properties, and even probe its internal structure with low-frequency radio signals.
Mission manager Paolo Ferri said there was no time to celebrate, because the lander had only enough battery power to operate for up to 64 hours. After that it will have to recharge, using solar panels to eke out an extra hour of operations each day.
Ferri said communications with the lander also needed to be stabilized, as there were intermittent connection problems after the touchdown. In the meantime, all the data that Philae collects is safely being stored for later transmission, he said.
Rosetta, which was launched in 2004, had to slingshot three times around Earth and once around Mars before it could work up enough speed to chase down the comet, which it reached in August. Rosetta and the comet have been travelling in tandem ever since.
Internet giant, Google has also posted a doodle on its home pages around the world to commemorate this historic feat of the Philae robotic lander landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
"It may be one small step for the Philae robotic lander, but it's one giant leap for the rest of us! The European Space Agency just made history by landing one of its robots on a comet-and our homepage-after more than 10 years of travel. Philae is expected to provide the first images ever seen from a comet's surface," Google said in its description of the Philae lander doodle.
You probably didn't hear about this, but the All Blacks had a match with the Eagles last weekend at Soldiers Field in Chicago. The stadium was totally sold out, at full 61,500 person capacity. For a rugby game inside an NFL stadium
. That's pretty impressive considering the previous record for a rugby match inside the US was somewhere around 20,000 for a match.
It's also the first time the All Blacks and Eagles have met since the early 1990s, and it's been around 30 years since the All Blacks last paid America a visit. But that's not important. Just know that your Eagles fought valiantly, with honour and dignity andtheygottotallyslaughtered.
The All Blacks won 74 - 6. object And the commentary? Priceless.
Though the Eagles getting their asses kicked wasn't really the point of it all. The match was already a foregone conclusion considering the sheer gulf in experience and tactics that exists between the All Blacks and Eagles. The whole thing was intended to encourage the growth of rugby in the States, and to give the Eagles an idea of what level they need to play at in order to become truly competitive. Though for the first goal, maybe the All Blacks did more harm than good.
With any luck, maybe the Eagles can climb up one day. The All Blacks need fresh competition to keep them on their toes, and it gets boring going up against our traditional competitors all the time.
This past week, for those who haven't been paying attention, the New York Times accidentally revealed that
, from 2004-2011, Coalition troops did in fact discover vast quantities of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq: Saddam Hussein's fabled stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. The ones that the anti-American Left have spent the past decade screeching had never existed in the first place, and that the entire U.S.-led invasion was predicated on a diabolical lie concocted by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Halliburton -- the entire company, apparently -- for some reason or other.
This fantasy, which was the true lie, somehow became the accepted narrative in the minds of large swaths of the public. I personally watched certain individuals who had argued just as strenuously and persuasively as I did in favor of the invasion, circa 2002-2003, later turn on a dime and completely buy into the whole "Bush lied, people died" bumper-sticker as if it were some sort of religious mantra. No, none of them are currently active members here, but one or two of you will know of whom I speak.
Personal history and frustrations aside, this was not even the most remarkable revelation of the story. The most baffling detail was the fact that those discoveries were apparently kept a closely guarded secret by the Bush administration.
From here, I will turn the record over to NRO's Deroy Murdock
National Review Online wrote:
October 16, 2014 4:30 PMBush Didn’t LieSo why did his administration sit on the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs?
By Deroy Murdock
New media accounts — including coverage by NRO’s Patrick Brennan — confirm what I repeatedly have written since the depths of Operation Iraqi Freedom: The late dictator Saddam Hussein did
have weapons of mass death, and the United States of America was correct to invade Iraq, find these toxins, and destroy them. Also vital: padlocking this Baathist general store for militant-Islamic terrorism.
As I explained on July 17, 2006:
While the liberal press gently sleeps, evidence continues to mount that Hussein had WMDs, though perhaps not in quantities that would bulge warehouses.
“Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent,” states a June 21 declassified summary of a report from the National Ground Intelligence Center. “Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”
It turns out that — based on open sources — I vastly underestimated the size of Hussein’s stockpiles of deadly devices.
In this story’s first outrage, it now transpires that Hussein had some 5,000 tank shells filled with sarin nerve gas, mustard gas, and other lethal agents. This is roughly ten times the arsenal that I reported that he possessed. Had I access to more accurate information back then, my pieces would have reflected the depth of Hussein’s supplies of these munitions.
These recent news stories overlook another discovery from 2004: The U.S. Department of Energy and the Pentagon removed 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium from Iraq “that could potentially be used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program,” according to a DOE press release. This development was almost totally overlooked by the entire press corps, absent The Weekly Standard
’s Stephen Hayes, author Richard Miniter, and yours truly.
Team Bush’s near-silence about Saddam Hussein’s 3,894 pounds of uranium points to this story’s second outrage: the Bush administration’s phenomenally flaccid response to its most vociferous detractors on the WMD question.
Then-president George W. Bush’s critics used the most bitter and vicious tones to accuse him of deceiving America and the world about weapons of mass death. “Bush lied, people died” was the Left’s relentlessly repeated anti-Bush indictment. The liberal fever swamps were rife with theories that Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their pals at Halliburton concocted the WMD charges from whole cloth. Why? To justify a U.S. invasion in order to seize Iraq’s oil fields. Lifting sanctions and simply letting Iraq’s oil flow must have been too much trouble.
The notion that Operation Iraqi Freedom rested upon a giant foundation of even bigger lies severely damaged the reputations of the United States of America, Bush, the conservative movement, and the GOP — the latter two of which tended to support the Iraq invasion. (So did then-senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John Kerry, and 108 other congressional Democrats at the time, although most later turned tail and pretended never to have voted to attack Iraq.)
Amid this wholesale meltdown of domestic and international public opinion, the Bush administration inexplicably and unforgivably yielded to the architects in Bush’s political operation and sat on this treasure trove of exculpatory evidence. In fact, Bush did not
lie about WMDs. They really existed — and in enormous amounts. Moreover, they were sitting in the Iraqi desert, making U.S. GIs physically ill. (In yet another outrage, 17 soldiers reportedly were denied the medical attention or subsequent commendations that they deserved for handling these poisons. They also allegedly were told to clam up about what they saw.)
It is outrageous that the Pentagon and, apparently, Bush’s political team concealed proof that America’s chief casus belli actually existed. Instead, the howling hyenas of the Left were allowed to gnaw away at Bush’s political corpse.
Why did anyone involved in this disaster think that this would be good for America domestically or globally? How thick were the skulls of Bush’s political advisers not to see the importance of presenting this information amid deafening shouts that the president and those of us who supported Operation Iraqi Freedom were a pack of filthy liars?
Anyone who aided and abetted this extremely destructive cover-up should be removed immediately and barred permanently from government agencies, political campaigns, and party organizations.
The third and most frightful outrage here is that some 2,500 of these canisters of nerve gas and mustard gas remained in Iraq. Rather than implement a policy of “No WMD Left Behind,” roughly half of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs were cast adrift in Iraq.
And now they are in the humane and prudent hands of the Islamic State.
“Experts” now say that these deadly weapons have degraded and pose no threat to anyone.
Would you bet your life on this?
At any time, the Islamic State can use these weapons against American and allied targets in the Middle East or anywhere else. If they detonate them and they work, hundreds or thousands could be killed.
Then again, they or their comrades in the Jihadist International could strap these artillery shells to sticks of dynamite and threaten to explode them. While the sarin and mustard gas might be inert, which mayor, governor, prime minister, or president could bank on that? Such uncertainty would give the Islamic State tremendous leverage: “Obey our demands, or those sticks of dynamite will become a cloud of nerve gas.”
Bush did not lie, we now learn.
However, in some twisted act of self-mutilation, his government severely wounded itself and America by hiding the abundant evidence that would have silenced Bush’s and the USA’s loudest and harshest opponents and enemies. Even worse, these “imaginary” weapons — that proved to be all too real — were abandoned in the sands for the Islamic State to adopt as their own.
And, before he prematurely withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq, Obama did nothing to fix any of this.
From the Euphrates to the Potomac, this is nothing short of governmental malpractice.
Loath as I am to link to the Daily Beast, there is an article there
which makes a very credible argument that this brilliant decision was the brainchild of W.'s chief political adviser, so-called "boy genius" and "Architect" of the nearly-disastrous 2000 campaign, not to mention perpetual Fox News commentator, Karl Rove. Who I've become thoroughly convinced, over the past several years, is one of the most astonishingly stupid men in American politics.
Anyway, I wanted to make a note of all this for the record.
I'll probably regret it, but now I find myself morbidly curious.(I was only going to list two choices, but I decided not to be that obvious.)
Well, I caught the first episode of the new Star Wars CGI series this morning, and I have to admit that I'm impressed. It certainly seems to be a step up from The Clone Wars, with an entirely new and already interesting cast, and the fact that they're actually using the genuine Star Wars music again is also a plus.
NZ Election 2014
September 20, 2014
Yeah, yeah, I know the NZ election wasn't all that significant in world affairs compared to the impact the Scottish vote had just a couple days ago. But I gave some coverage of the election in 2011
, so I thought I'd do this year to. And perhaps give you some perspective on how other democratic societies do their thing.
Quick reminder: The National party is roughly
equivalent to Republicans (though to me they're actually closer to Democrats), and won the last election. The Labour Party are kind of like the Democrats, except, you know, ACTUALLY left wing. They are NZ's main parties in an MMP style parliamentary system.
And it pains me to see that NZ has shifted further to the right. National has won yet another term. Another three years of their crap while our country suffers from rising levels of child poverty and worsening pollution, not to mention the TPP talks which John Key is determined to get done. And what's worse is the fact that National doesn't have to make deals with the other parties. For the first time in our history, a single party has won enough votes to go it alone.
That is a HUGE deal for us here. That's never
happened before under MMP. Previously we've had dominant parties, but they've always needed other minor parties to make alliances with them to get enough seats to win a majority. Not so this term.
And to my continued bafflement, ACT and United Future are still a thing with some people. Apparently.
All I can say is 2017 can't come soon enough.
That, and this election's infographics are worse than the ones we had in 2011.NZ Herald coverageElectorate map of New Zealand 2014
Turns out most people prefer the Empire over the Rebels
, according to world wide statistics collected from the game Star Wars Commander
. Three guesses which country likes playing Emperor more than anyone else.
Gamers prefer to choose the Dark Side
If you needed further proof that Russia has gone to the Dark Side of the Force, you're about to get it.
Star Wars Commander, an iOS title that launched August 21, is Disney's first major Star Wars game (and the first game to fall under the new Star Wars canon, having passed muster with the new Lucasfilm Story Group).
In its simple base-building strategy action, Star Wars Commander may remind gamers a little of Supercell's mega-hit Clash of Clans, although its producers told me they had something more like Starcraft in mind.
Certainly, it's got a long way to go before it reaches the popularity of either of those titles. Disney announced Thursday that Star Wars Commander had been downloaded 5 million times in the last 3 weeks - most impressive, as Darth Vader might say, until you consider Clash of Clans has 30 million players every day.
But the more intriguing part of the Disney announcement? The company revealed what percentage of gamers choose to play as the evil Empire versus the Rebel Alliance - and how that varies country to country.
Most of the world, as you can see in the map below, leans slightly to the Dark Side. There are a surprising amount of Rebel sympathizers in South America, southern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. The Force is strongest with the Rebels in Peru, where more than 62% of players chose the Light Side. (Geopolitical essay writers, start your engines.)
The Dark Side dominates the northern hemisphere - some countries more than others. By far the strongest area of Imperial power is in Russia and the other former Soviet republics (yes, even Ukraine).
Russian gamers chose to play as the Empire nearly 58 per cent of the time. Contrast that with American gamers, who are more mildly evil: less than 53 per cent of them went to the Dark Side.
Source: http://www.stuff.co.nzLEGEND Light Blue = Leans toward Imperial
Dark Blue = Imperial
Light Orange = Leans toward Rebellion
Dark Orange = Rebel
Gray = No data availableNote that China is gray. Imperial Gray.
Well...I think we can rest assured that MGS5 will maintain the attention to detail, authenticity and gritty realism the series has always been known for.
Konami has released a teaser trailer for what looks to be a very exciting new chapter in their long-running survival-horror series, Silent Hill
. The original game debuted on the first PlayStation in 1999 and was instantly recognized as the single most frightening video game ever made, but more recent sequels and spin-offs have begun to lose a bit of their edge. But this game looks quite intriguing both for the promise of what sort of scares can be achieved with the new generation of gaming hardware, and also for some very big names attached to it: legendary producer Hideo Kojima, of Metal Gear
fame; director Guillermo del Toro, best known for the Hellboy
films, Pan's Labyrinth
, Pacific Rim
, and the new TV series The Strain
; and The Walking Dead
's Norman Reedus, AKA Daryl Dixon. object
Konami certainly does know how to tease, don't they?
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