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How to Stock Your Library: Book Archive

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Given the lack of a book database in-game, I decided to make a thread to archive all the various books you can use in the library. If you want to submit a book for the archive, please see this thread. Do not reply to this thread; it is solely for the purpose of archiving the books.

Table of Contents

  • Nonfiction
  • Reference
  • Religion
  • Fiction

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  • Title: A Concise Guide to the Sol Alliance: 1st Edition

    Author: Jian Liau

    [center]A Concise Guide to the Sol Alliance[/b][/center]
    [small]The Alliance of Sovereign Solarian Nations (ASSN), commonly referred to as the Sol Alliance, the Second Sol Alliance, the Second Alliance, and sometimes the Alliance, is a federal union of 23 member states, 15 Associated States, and 112 dependencies. All 23 member states and 79 of the Alliance's dependencies are located within the Inner Colonies. The remaining 33 dependencies and all 15 associated states are located within the Mid Colonies. With control over 188 systems of significant population and a population of about 20.8 billion, the Sol Alliance is by far the largest polity within all of known space. It is arguably the most culturally and linguistically diverse entity within known space, owing primarily to the age of its colonies and its control over the Sol system and Earth. The capital of the Sol Alliance is SAAS Nova Concordia, in orbit over Mars in the Sol system.[br]
    Large-scale extraterrestrial colonization began in the 2070's, followed by the first extrasolar colonies in the 2140's. In the year 2140, the United Nations formed the Alliance of Solarian Colonies (ASC), the first incarnation of the Sol Alliance, to oversee the colonization of other star systems. Following the First Interstellar War of 2278-2286, tensions between the Earth and the Inner Colonies grew, eventually culminating in the Great War and the Holocaust of 2316. The Great War and the devastation of Earth dealt a crippling blow to the Alliance. In 2320, with the signing of the Treaty of Deimos, the Alliance of Solarian Colonies was officially disbanded and the Alliance of Sovereign Solarian Nations was formed. The Sol Alliance took its modern form following the Secession Crisis of 2376 and the resultant Secession Wars. Following the war, several of the more independence-minded inner colonies were granted greater autonomy within the Alliance, to avoid further conflict.[hr]
    [b]General Information[/b][br][list]
    [*][b]Official Title(s):[/b] "The Alliance of Sovereign Solarian Nations" (SC)
    [*][b]Motto:[/b] "A United Future for all of Humanity" (SC)
    [*][b]Capital:[/b] Sol Alliance Administrative Station "Nova Concordia"
    [*][b]Demonym:[/b] Solarian, Alliance Citizen
    [*][b]Official Languages:[/b] Sol Common, Tau Ceti Common (dialect of Sol Common), Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, 21 additional Recognized Minority Languages
    [*][b]Population:[/b][br]2445 Census: 20,835,259,000[br]2565 Est.: 19,240,727,000
    [*][b]Systems:[/b] Sol, Sirius, Altair, Procyon, Alpha Centauri, Sigma Draconis, Eta Cassiopeiae, Delta Pavonis, Epsilon Indi, Ophiuchi, Van Maanen, Barnard, Wolf, Lalande, Luyten, Groombridge, Cancri, Gliese, 170 others.
    [*][b]Drives on the:[/b] Varies per System[/list]
    [b]Administrative Divisions[/b][br]
    The Sol Alliance is divided into Member States, Dependencies, and Associated States.[br]Member States are represented in the Alliance Senate and possess varying degrees of autonomy. They can comprise anything from one to five star systems. The Alliance Charter grants certain rights to member states, which can only be revoked by amending the Alliance Charter. The degree of autonomy varies by member, with certain members such as the Eridani Federation retaining near-complete control over internal affairs, while others such as Sol maintain only negligible autonomy.[br]
    Dependencies contain the vast majority of Alliance systems; they are sparsely populated systems with little to no control over their internal affairs, which are subject to all Alliance laws, although day-to-day operations are left to locally elected legislatures or corporate sponsors.[br]
    Associated States are independent states which have agreed to turn over control of their external affairs to the Alliance in return for military protection and economic aid. Associated states reserve the right of secession and have de jure control over their internal affairs, though the prerequisites attached to Alliance aid gives the Alliance considerable influence.[br]
    As of 2456, there are 23 member states, 112 Dependencies, and 15 Associated States.[hr]
    [b]Institutions of the Sol Alliance[/b][br][list]
    [*][i][b]Alliance Senate[/b][/i][br]
    The Senate is the 'upper house' of the Alliance Assembly. Senators are appointed for five year terms by the government of their constituency rather than by direct election. There are currently 300 seats in the Senate, with each member state sending a delegation of ten senators. Each senator has a 'voting weight' directly proportional to the population of their constituent. As only member states can appoint senators, dependencies and associated states are not represented within this chamber. Associated States are limited to sending one non-voting observer each.[br]
    Special powers accorded to only the Alliance Senate include:
    [list][*]Approval of changes in borders between the member states and dependencies of the Sol Alliance;
    [*]Approval of a decree of the Executive Council on the introduction of martial law;
    [*]Approval of a decree of the Executive Council on the introduction of a state of emergency;
    [*]Approval of international treaties.
    [*]Approval of nominations for the Chairman of the Executive Council
    [*]Approval of nominations for ministers of the Executive Council[/list][br]
    Senators tend to be senior politicians with decades of experience. There is no term limit.[br]
    [*][b][i]Popular Assembly[/b][/i][br]
    The Popular Assembly is the 'lower house' of the Alliance Assembly. Assembly-persons (often called 'legislators') are directly elected for five year terms by Sol Alliance citizens with member state citizenship residing within a member state or qualifying dependency. There are 5000 seats within the Alliance Assembly, which are divided among the member seats by population. The few dependencies which surpass the minimum population threshold (currently 4.16 million) are also granted representation within the Alliance Assembly. All other dependencies go unrepresented.[br]
    The Popular Assembly is the only body able to submit spending bills. It also has the power to nominate a Chairman of the Executive Council, who must then be approved by the senate.[br]
    [*][b][i]Executive Council[/b][/i][br]
    The Executive Council is the executive branch of the Sol Alliance and is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the government. It is headed by the Chairman of the Executive Council, informally known as the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is selected by the Popular Assembly and is normally the leader of the dominant political coalition. They are in charge of appointing administrators to head the various government agencies, determining the priorities of the government, and overseeing the operation of the various government agencies.[br]
    [*][b][i]Alliance Central Judiciary[/b][/i][br]
    The Alliance Central Judiciary consists of two separate institutions; the Alliance Court of Justice and the Alliance Central Court. The Alliance Court of Justice is responsible for resolving disputes between member states and on matters regarding the charter of the Sol Alliance. The Alliance Central Court handles criminal cases.[/list][/small]

  • Title: A Modest Proposal

    Author: Jonathan Swift

    [center][b]A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public[/b][/center]
    [hr][small]It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants: who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.[br][br]I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.[br][br]But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.[br][br]As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. It is true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment; at most not above the value of 2s., which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.[br][br]There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor innocent babes I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.[br][br]The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couples whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.[br][br]I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.[br][br]I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.[br][br]I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.[br][br]I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.[br][br]I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.[br][br]I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.[br][br]Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of popish infants is at least three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us.[br]I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants; the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child.[br][br]Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.[br][br]As to our city of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.[br][br]A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly esteem, was lately pleased in discoursing on this matter to offer a refinement upon my scheme. He said that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve; so great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and service; and these to be disposed of by their parents, if alive, or otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments; for as to the males, my American acquaintance assured me, from frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our schoolboys by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable; and to fatten them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission be a loss to the public, because they soon would become breeders themselves; and besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice (although indeed very unjustly), as a little bordering upon cruelty; which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any project, however so well intended.[br][br]But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was put into his head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa, who came from thence to London above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his country when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality as a prime dainty; and that in his time the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was sold to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court, in joints from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who without one single groat to their fortunes cannot stir abroad without a chair, and appear at playhouse and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for, the kingdom would not be the worse.[br]Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a condition; they cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come.[br][br]I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.[br][br]For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of papists, with whom we are yearly overrun, being the principal breeders of the nation as well as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home on purpose with a design to deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good protestants, who have chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate.[br][br]Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law may be made liable to distress and help to pay their landlord's rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.[br]Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two years old and upward, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a-piece per annum, the nation's stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.[br][br]Fourthly, The constant breeders, beside the gain of eight shillings sterling per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the first year.[br][br]Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating: and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please.[br][br]Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We should see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.[br][br]Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef, the propagation of swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables; which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well-grown, fat, yearling child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a lord mayor's feast or any other public entertainment. But this and many others I omit, being studious of brevity.[br][br]Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for infants flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand.[br][br]I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients:[i] Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.[/i][br][br]Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.[br]But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.[br][br]After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for an hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round million of creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, cottagers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in effect: I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.[br][br]I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.[/small]

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  • Title:Chef Recipes #131

    Author:Anna Keiding

    [large][b]Chef Recipes Monthly[/b][/large][br]
    [i]Issue #131[/i][br][br]
    This month, we have four new recipes any chef - or even those just cooking at home - should know![br]
    [b]Space Fries[/b][br]
    [i]Ingredients: [/i][br]
    One raw potato per serving.[br][br]
    These fries make a great side dish, or are great all by themselves! Just don't forget the ketchup![br][br]
    1) Place the potato into your food processor, and have it chop the potatoes into a size ideal for making fries - too thick and it won't cook fully, too thin and you risk burning it.[br]
    2) Put the raw potato sticks into the microwave, and turn it on for a few seconds.[br]
    3) Serve the fries however you wish. Enjoy![br][br]
    [b]Tomato Pasta[/b][br]
    5 units of water, 1 wheat, and 2 tomatoes per serving.[br][br]
    Many people buy premade pasta to make their dishes with, but fresh pasta is truly more delicious, and it is not difficult to make! We will show you how.[br][br]
    1) Place the wheat into your food processor, let it grind the wheat into flour.[br]
    2) Take that flour, and place it back into the processor - this time, turn the flour into spaghetti.[br]
    3) Put the fresh pasta, 5 units of water, and two tomatoes into the microwave. Microwave for a few seconds.[br]
    4) Serve and enjoy.[br][br]
    You can also make it without the tomatoes, but the resulting dish is bland and unappealing.[br][br]
    [b]Tomato Soup[/b][br]
    10 units of water and two tomatoes per serving.[br][br]
    Tomato soup is an excellent dish for staying warm on cold days, and tastes delicious with or without seasoning.[br][br]
    1) Place all of the ingredients together in the microwave, and cook it for several seconds.[br]
    2) Season however you wish (We recommend a dash of pepper), serve, and eat it while it's still hot![br][br]
    1 ear of corn per serving.[br][br]
    This is a recipe even those who have never cooked before should be able to make. Popcorn is a great snack to have while watching movies![br][br]
    1) Microwave the ear of corn for a few seconds.[br]
    2) Enjoy![br]

  • Title:Cloning and Mental Health

    Author: Daniela Baranova

    One of the most basic principles determining human behavior is that of self-preservation, 
    survival, if you will. Even though self-awareness makes it possible, even desirable to bypass this "primordial principle" in various degrees, it should be noted that it never truly negates it, and that the wish to live is inherent and present in every human being (suicidal tendencies being pathological do not prove different).
    Moreover, many of the other aspects of human nature, such as vital analytic and reflexive functions of the human mind and body, are directly linked to and originating from this need for self-preservation, and while it can be rationally overcome, as long as it is present -although ignored- these continue "functioning" healthily.
    Where our problem lies would seem to be that when one becomes aware of the full implications of the possibility of cloning, this basic-building block of our mental structure loses it's importance. 
    The consequences of that on man's mental health can be /fatal/, as I am going to illustrate.
    The specific way they will show themselves varies and could be mistaken for numerous independent problems, but upon further inspection it is hard not to be convinced that all are linked to this single issue.
    An alarming number of crewmembers onboard of NSS Aurora, who had already been through the process of cloning, suffer from identity crisis, depression, disregard for own life and safety and in many cases even downright deathwish - while all the previous issues alone have huge impact on these crewmen's ability to perform their tasks, the deathwish, combined with the fact that they can /not/ permanently escape their unbearable existence can result in outward directed destructiveness, hoping to achieve peace through putting end to the station.
    Even greater number of crewmen then appears to suffer from disturbing deteoriation of their mental capabilities, the results ranging from emotial instability (or, on the other end of the spectrum, inability) to absurd carelessness and utter failure of judgement.
    Providing reference materials:
    -Chef trying to put an end to his existence via the disposal units over a burned pizza (from 02SEP2456)
    -Chemist frying collegaue's brain with experimental drugs "for science" (from 13AUG2455)
    -Couple of scientists develop a virus capable of eliminating all life on the station within seconds (from 20DEC2455)
    [i]These are but few of the /many/ examples, I'm sure you can name some right away yourself.[/i]
    Long-term work onboard of NSS Aurora, under the current circumstances, is extremely dangerous to its crew's sanity and touch with reality, which, in turn, could be grave for the station as a whole, and should be dealt with as soon as possible.
    The best solution I can think of would be to significantly reduce both the number of shifts men can serve on the station in a row, as well as overall; preferably an addition with more frequent psychological evaluations, seeing as some people are -naturally- more prone to 'breaking' than others.
    Another possible solution could be artificial memory loss, but that could prove quite problematic, not to mention the moral questionability.
    18SEP2456 on NSS Aurora
    Baranova Daniela, PhD, PsyD

  • Title: The Illusion of Complexity

    Author: Daniela Baranova

    [center][large]THE ILLUSION OF COMPLEXITY[/large]
    Daniela Baranova[/center]
    Before we begin, allow me to make it clear that this book is to serve as a guide to recognizing the minor, trivial, if you will, issues of the patients, and thus giving the psychologist space to deal with the truly complex ones.
    Generally speaking, the premise of psychoanalysis is that all mental issues are "but" a conflict between the patient's consciousness and subconscious; in other words, that reality itself is never 'good' or 'bad' and doesn't make us feel in any way. Reality simply [i]is[/i]. What actually stimules an emotional reaction within the man is his [i]expectations[/i] of reality, and hence his cure lies within himself; the psychologist's job is not really to cure the patient. It is to bring forward those arguments that he had subconsciously hid from himself, help him recognize the precise point of clash between reality and his perception of it, so that he no longer wastes his energy on the symptoms of his problem, but on dealing with the problem itself.
    That being said, whether the patient will or will not heal is not [i]entirely[/i] up to the psychologist, although if he does his job properly, he can have huge impact on the process.
    If I were to try to put it more simply, the theory of psychology is that unhappiness, depression and negative feelings in general are pathological at worst, neurotic at best;
    man has everything he needs for his happiness*; being unhappy, in most of the cases, could be interpreted as if the patient was saying "I refuse to be happy /unless/ I posses something", be it a social status, material possesions, another person's affection, etc.
    The psychologist's work is to ensure mental stability of his patients; in our case, with regard to their ability to perform the job they have been assigned with NanoTransen.
    The easiest approach to that would be very similar to De Mello's; if the patient's unhappiness originates from an unfulfilled desire, the psychologist's job is not to help him find a way to achieve what he desires, but rather help him drop the desire altogether.**
    [i]* It is worth mentioning that psychologically speaking, we need to differentiate between 'happiness' as in peace of mind, and 'happiness' as in joy.
    Joy itself is a peak experience, meaning that it inevitably has to be followed by a negative feeling once the a person passes this peak.
    ** The psychology behind this approach to happiness is further discussed in my book The Theory of Cure, with regard to our purpouses, or in Anthony De Mello's Awareness, with regard to man's happiness as a priority.
    [center]Recognizing the Issue[/center]
    Psychoanalysis, in theory, works around a single principle ever since it's classification as a science; the doctor listens to his patient carefully, not in order to give him relief and ease his burden, but in order to recognize among the patient's interpretation of his problem the [i]actual[/i] issue. Above all else, the psychologist has to be listening to that which the patient leaves [i]unsaid[/i], and be constantly looking for stimuli, connections between the issue and the patient's actual consciousness, which can bring the problem forth in the patient's eyes if he is faced with them.
    (the so called [i]Freudian slips[/i] are of great help in this phase)
    [center]The Illusion of Complexity[/center]
    Generally speaking, people are not complex beings. Vast majority of them is driven solely by the need to satisfy their contemporary desires, be those physical, spiritual ("spiritual"), or even artificial; the actual processes behind their actions can usually be fairly easily tracked back to them, if one is paying attention above else to their [i]actions, decisions[/i] and the [i]stimuli that appeal to their emotion.[/i]
    What [i]is[/i] complex about them, and what usually requires astonishing amounts of effort and energy on their part, are their own interpretations -justifications, if you will- of their behavior; 'the stories about ourselves we tell ourselves', you might say.
    People will only appear complex if you fail to focus your attention on the facts in their stories and take their subjective attitude towards them and their events into account while trying to make sense of them; you will fail, because the stories they will give you -which they themselves believe- won't add up with their actions and behavior.
    You cannot ever nail these 'stories' down by rational analysis, because in their core, they are [i]not[/i] rational.
    Let's imagine the entire process as sort of an equation; 
    if the equation makes perfects sense, meaning, their actions plus the emotion relevant to it amount to this and that state of mind, then you already have your answer, regardless of how they feel about the answer and your interpretation of the story, for most of the part.
    If including their view of the story in the equation gives a conflicting answer, or, rather, no answer at all - well, then you are dealing with their illusions about themselves, from which the analysis nor the cure can never come.

  • Title: The Space Survival Guide: Depressurization

    Author: Lachina Green, M.D.

    [center][b][large]The Space Survival Guide[/large][/b][/center]
    [center][b]How to Survive a Mass Depressurization Event[/b][/center]
    [list][*][b]Don your internals.[/b] This is the first thing you should do in a mass depressurization event. Take out the breath mask and emergency air tank from the emergency box in your backpack. Put on the mask and clip the airtank securely to your belt; this way, you will not lose it if you fall over or pass out. Set the distribution pressure on your airtank to 16 kPA to conserve air. This represents the minimum threshhold for you to maintain consciousness. [br]
    [*][b]Find more oxygen.[/b] You may find that your airtank will soon run out. Do not worry. There are numerous emergency oxygen closets placed throughout the station, blue in color with 'O2' written on the front in white. You can also retrieve an oxygen tank from a firecloset. When possible, fill up your airtank in one of the large, blue O2 canisters by inserting your airtank, setting the distribution pressure to max, and turning on the release valve. Just make sure to turn the release valve off before removing your oxygen tank.[br]
    [*][b]Stay aware of your surroundings.[/b] Keep track of the local atmosphere. What is the pressure? Is it rising or falling? A pressure of 101 kPA is optimal for human survival, but you can survive conditions as low as 80 kPA for extended periods. You can check the pressure on the air alarms placed throughout the station or with your PDA's atmospheric scanner function. Make sure to check the pressure several times in quick succession, so you can know whether it is rising or falling.[br]
    [*][b]Avoid opening firelocks.[/b] In the event of depressurization, the station's firelocks automatically drop in an attempt to contain the breach. However, this can also impede movement. If possible, find an alternate route to your destination or find a safe place to wait until the station's engineering team repairs the station. Do not open a firelock without an engineer's express permission unless you are in immediate mortal danger. After you have opened a firelock, make sure to close it immediately so as to prevent the breach from spreading.[br]
    [*][b]Listen to emergency personnel.[/b] Follow the instructions of engineering, medical, and security personnel, as well as the orders of the heads of staff. Engineering personnel are trained to fix these situations, and medical personnel will likely be conducitng search and rescue operations. Do not impede them and follow their instructions; you are more likely to survive, and less likely to endanger your fellow crewmembers.

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  • Title: The Hound

    Author: H. P. Lovecraft

    [center][b]The Hound[/b][/center]
    In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint distant baying as of some gigantic hound. It is not dream—it is not, I fear, even madness—for too much has already happened to give me these merciful doubts.
    St John is a mangled corpse; I alone know why, and such is my knowledge that I am about to blow out my brains for fear I shall be mangled in the same way. Down unlit and illimitable corridors of eldritch phantasy sweeps the black, shapeless Nemesis that drives me to self-annihilation.
    May heaven forgive the folly and morbidity which led us both to so monstrous a fate! Wearied with the commonplaces of a prosaic world; where even the joys of romance and adventure soon grow stale, St John and I had followed enthusiastically every aesthetic and intellectual movement which promised respite from our devastating ennui. The enigmas of the symbolists and the ecstasies of the pre-Raphaelites all were ours in their time, but each new mood was drained too soon, of its diverting novelty and appeal.
    Only the somber philosophy of the decadents could help us, and this we found potent only by increasing gradually the depth and diablism of our penetrations. Baudelaire and Huysmans were soon exhausted of thrills, till finally there remained for us only the more direct stimuli of unnatural personal experiences and adventures. It was this frightful emotional need which led us eventually to that detestable course which even in my present fear I mention with shame and timidity—that hideous extremity of human outrage, the abhorred practice of grave-robbing.
    I cannot reveal the details of our shocking expedition, or catalogue even partly the worst of the trophies adorning the nameless museum we jointly dwelt, alone and servantless. Our museum was a blasphemous, unthinkable place, where with the satanic taste of neurotic virtuosi we had assembled an universe of terror and a secret room, far, far, underground; where huge winged daemons carven of basalt and onyx vomited from wide grinning mouths weird green and orange light, and hidden pneumatic pipes ruffled into kaleidoscopic dances of death the line of red charnel things hand in hand woven in voluminous black hangings. Through these pipes came at will the odors our moods most craved; sometimes the scent of pale funeral lilies; sometimes the narcotic incense of imagined Eastern shrines of the kingly dead, and sometimes—how I shudder to recall it!—the frightful, soul-upheaving stenches of the uncovered-grave.
    Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternating with comely, lifelike bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist's art, and with headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one might find the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the flesh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children.
    Statues and painting there were, all of fiendish subjects and some executed by St John and myself. A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumored Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge. There were nauseous musical instruments, stringed, brass, wood-wind, on which St John and I sometimes produced dissonances of exquisite morbidity and cacodaemoniacal ghastliness; whilst in a multitude of inlaid ebony cabinets reposed the most incredible and unimaginable variety of tomb-loot ever assembled by human madness and perversity. It is of this loot in particular that I must not speak. Thank God I had the courage to destroy it long before I thought of destroying myself!
    The predatory excursions on which we collected our unmentionable treasures were always artistically memorable events. We were no vulgar ghouls, but worked only under certain conditions of mood, landscape, environment, weather, season, and moonlight. These pastimes were to us the most exquisite form of aesthetic expression, and we gave their details a fastidious technical care. An inappropriate hour, a jarring lighting effect, or a clumsy manipulation of the damp sod, would almost totally destroy for us that ecstatic titillation which followed the exhumation of some ominous, grinning secret of the earth. Our quest for novel scenes and piquant conditions was feverish and insatiate—St John was always the leader, and he it was who led the way at last to that mocking, accursed spot which brought us our hideous and inevitable doom.
    By what malign fatality were we lured to that terrible Holland churchyard? I think it was the dark rumor and legendry, the tales of one buried for five centuries, who had himself been a ghoul in his time and had stolen a potent thing from a mighty sepulchre. I can recall the scene in these final moments—the pale autumnal moon over the graves, casting long horrible shadows; the grotesque trees, drooping sullenly to meet the neglected grass and the crumbling slabs; the vast legions of strangely colossal bats that flew against the moon; the antique ivied church pointing a huge spectral finger at the livid sky; the phosphorescent insects that danced like death-fires under the yews in a distant corner; the odors of mould, vegetation, and less explicable things that mingled feebly with the night-wind from over far swamps and seas; and, worst of all, the faint deep-toned baying of some gigantic hound which we could neither see nor definitely place. As we heard this suggestion of baying we shuddered, remembering the tales of the peasantry; for he whom we sought had centuries before been found in this self same spot, torn and mangled by the claws and teeth of some unspeakable beast.
    I remember how we delved in the ghoul's grave with our spades, and how we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horrible shadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires, the sickening odors, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard directionless baying of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure.
    Then we struck a substance harder than the damp mould, and beheld a rotting oblong box crusted with mineral deposits from the long undisturbed ground. It was incredibly tough and thick, but so old that we finally pried it open and feasted our eyes on what it held.
    Much—amazingly much—was left of the object despite the lapse of five hundred years. The skeleton, though crushed in places by the jaws of the thing that had killed it, held together with surprising firmness, and we gloated over the clean white skull and its long, firm teeth and its eyeless sockets that once had glowed with a charnel fever like our own. In the coffin lay an amulet of curious and exotic design, which had apparently been worn around the sleeper's neck. It was the oddly conventionalised figure of a crouching winged hound, or sphinx with a semi-canine face, and was exquisitely carved in antique Oriental fashion from a small piece of green jade. The expression of its features was repellent in the extreme, savoring at once of death, bestiality and malevolence. Around the base was an inscription in characters which neither St John nor I could identify; and on the bottom, like a maker's seal, was graven a grotesque and formidable skull.
    Immediately upon beholding this amulet we knew that we must possess it; that this treasure alone was our logical pelf from the centuried grave. Even had its outlines been unfamiliar we would have desired it, but as we looked more closely we saw that it was not wholly unfamiliar. Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know, but we recognized it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia. All too well did we trace the sinister lineaments described by the old Arab daemonologist; lineaments, he wrote, drawn from some obscure supernatural manifestation of the souls of those who vexed and gnawed at the dead.
    Seizing the green jade object, we gave a last glance at the bleached and cavern-eyed face of its owner and closed up the grave as we found it. As we hastened from the abhorrent spot, the stolen amulet in St John's pocket, we thought we saw the bats descend in a body to the earth we had so lately rifled, as if seeking for some cursed and unholy nourishment. But the autumn moon shone weak and pale, and we could not be sure.
    So, too, as we sailed the next day away from Holland to our home, we thought we heard the faint distant baying of some gigantic hound in the background. But the autumn wind moaned sad and wan, and we could not be sure.
    Less than a week after our return to England, strange things began to happen. We lived as recluses; devoid of friends, alone, and without servants in a few rooms of an ancient manor-house on a bleak and unfrequented moor; so that our doors were seldom disturbed by the knock of the visitor.
    Now, however, we were troubled by what seemed to be a frequent fumbling in the night, not only around the doors but around the windows also, upper as well as lower. Once we fancied that a large, opaque body darkened the library window when the moon was shining against it, and another time we thought we heard a whirring or flapping sound not far off. On each occasion investigation revealed nothing, and we began to ascribe the occurrences to imagination which still prolonged in our ears the faint far baying we thought we had heard in the Holland churchyard. The jade amulet now reposed in a niche in our museum, and sometimes we burned a strangely scented candle before it. We read much in Alhazred's Necronomicon about its properties, and about the relation of ghosts' souls to the objects it symbolized; and were disturbed by what we read.
    Then terror came.
    On the night of September 24, 19--, I heard a knock at my chamber door. Fancying it St John's, I bade the knocker enter, but was answered only by a shrill laugh. There was no one in the corridor. When I aroused St John from his sleep, he professed entire ignorance of the event, and became as worried as I. It was the night that the faint, distant baying over the moor became to us a certain and dreaded reality.
    Four days later, whilst we were both in the hidden museum, there came a low, cautious scratching at the single door which led to the secret library staircase. Our alarm was now divided, for, besides our fear of the unknown, we had always entertained a dread that our grisly collection might be discovered. Extinguishing all lights, we proceeded to the door and threw it suddenly open; whereupon we felt an unaccountable rush of air, and heard, as if receding far away, a queer combination of rustling, tittering, and articulate chatter. Whether we were mad, dreaming, or in our senses, we did not try to determine. We only realized, with the blackest of apprehensions, that the apparently disembodied chatter was beyond a doubt in the Dutch language.
    After that we lived in growing horror and fascination. Mostly we held to the theory that we were jointly going mad from our life of unnatural excitements, but sometimes it pleased us more to dramatize ourselves as the victims of some creeping and appalling doom. Bizarre manifestations were now too frequent to count. Our lonely house was seemingly alive with the presence of some malign being whose nature we could not guess, and every night that daemoniac baying rolled over the wind-swept moor, always louder and louder. On October 29 we found in the soft earth underneath the library window a series of footprints utterly impossible to describe. They were as baffling as the hordes of great bats which haunted the old manor-house in unprecedented and increasing numbers.
    The horror reached a culmination on November 18, when St John, walking home after dark from the dismal railway station, was seized by some frightful carnivorous thing and torn to ribbons. His screams had reached the house, and I had hastened to the terrible scene in time to hear a whir of wings and see a vague black cloudy thing silhouetted against the rising moon.
    My friend was dying when I spoke to him, and he could not answer coherently. All he could do was to whisper, "The amulet—that damned thing—"
    Then he collapsed, an inert mass of mangled flesh.
    I buried him the next midnight in one of our neglected gardens, and mumbled over his body one of the devilish rituals he had loved in life. And as I pronounced the last daemoniac sentence I heard afar on the moor the faint baying of some gigantic hound. The moon was up, but I dared not look at it. And when I saw on the dim-lighted moor a wide-nebulous shadow sweeping from mound to mound, I shut my eyes and threw myself face down upon the ground. When I arose, trembling, I know not how much later, I staggered into the house and made shocking obeisances before the enshrined amulet of green jade.
    Being now afraid to live alone in the ancient house on the moor, I departed on the following day for London, taking with me the amulet after destroying by fire and burial the rest of the impious collection in the museum. But after three nights I heard the baying again, and before a week was over felt strange eyes upon me whenever it was dark. One evening as I strolled on Victoria Embankment for some needed air, I saw a black shape obscure one of the reflections of the lamps in the water. A wind, stronger than the night-wind, rushed by, and I knew that what had befallen St John must soon befall me.
    The next day I carefully wrapped the green jade amulet and sailed for Holland. What mercy I might gain by returning the thing to its silent, sleeping owner I knew not; but I felt that I must try any step conceivably logical. What the hound was, and why it had pursued me, were questions still vague; but I had first heard the baying in that ancient churchyard, and every subsequent event including St John's dying whisper had served to connect the curse with the stealing of the amulet. Accordingly I sank into the nethermost abysses of despair when, at an inn in Rotterdam, I discovered that thieves had despoiled me of this sole means of salvation.
    The baying was loud that evening, and in the morning I read of a nameless deed in the vilest quarter of the city. The rabble were in terror, for upon an evil tenement had fallen a red death beyond the foulest previous crime of the neighborhood. In a squalid thieves' den an entire family had been torn to shreds by an unknown thing which left no trace, and those around had heard all night a faint, deep, insistent note as of a gigantic hound.
    So at last I stood again in the unwholesome churchyard where a pale winter moon cast hideous shadows and leafless trees drooped sullenly to meet the withered, frosty grass and cracking slabs, and the ivied church pointed a jeering finger at the unfriendly sky, and the night-wind howled maniacally from over frozen swamps and frigid seas. The baying was very faint now, and it ceased altogether as I approached the ancient grave I had once violated, and frightened away an abnormally large horde of bats which had been hovering curiously around it.
    I know not why I went thither unless to pray, or gibber out insane pleas and apologies to the calm white thing that lay within; but, whatever my reason, I attacked the half frozen sod with a desperation partly mine and partly that of a dominating will outside myself. Excavation was much easier than I expected, though at one point I encountered a queer interruption; when a lean vulture darted down out of the cold sky and pecked frantically at the grave-earth until I killed him with a blow of my spade. Finally I reached the rotting oblong box and removed the damp nitrous cover. This is the last rational act I ever performed.
    For crouched within that centuried coffin, embraced by a closepacked nightmare retinue of huge, sinewy, sleeping bats, was the bony thing my friend and I had robbed; not clean and placid as we had seen it then, but covered with caked blood and shreds of alien flesh and hair, and leering sentiently at me with phosphorescent sockets and sharp ensanguined fangs yawning twistedly in mockery of my inevitable doom. And when it gave from those grinning jaws a deep, sardonic bay as of some gigantic hound, and I saw that it held in its gory filthy claw the lost and fateful amulet of green jade, I merely screamed and ran away idiotically, my screams soon dissolving into peals of hysterical laughter.
    Madness rides the star-wind . . . claws and teeth sharpened on centuries of corpses . . . dripping death astride a bacchanale of bats from nigh-black ruins of buried temples of Belial. . . . Now, as the baying of that dead fleshless monstrosity grows louder and louder, and the stealthy whirring and flapping of those accursed web-wings circles closer and closer, I shall seek with my revolver the oblivion which is my only refuge from the unnamed and unnameable.[/small]

  • Title:Lolita

    Author:Vladimir Nabokov

    [i][large]Lolita,[/i][/large][small] light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
    She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
    Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.
     I was born in 1910, in Paris. My father was a gentle, easy-going person, a salad of racial genes: a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass around in a minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and two grandfathers had sold wine, jewels and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl, daughter of Jerome Dunn, the alpinist, and granddaughter of two Dorset parsons, experts in obscure subjects--paleopedology and Aeolian harps, respectively. My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent remnants of day suspended, with the midges, about some hedge in bloom or suddenly entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.
    My mother's elder sister, Sybil, whom a cousin of my father's had married and then neglected, served in my immediate family as a kind of unpaid governess and housekeeper. Somebody told me later that she had been in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it one rainy day and forgotten it by the time the weather cleared. I was extremely fond of her, despite the rigidity--the fatal rigidity--of some of her rules. Perhaps she wanted to make of me, in the fullness of time, a better widower than my father. Aunt Sybil had pink-rimmed azure eyes and a waxen complexion. She wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and did. Her husband, a great traveler in perfumes, spent most of his time in America, where eventually he founded a firm and acquired a bit of real estate.
    I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright world of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces. Around me the splendid Hotel Mirana revolved as a kind of private universe, a whitewashed cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside. From the aproned pot-scrubber to the flanneled potentate, everybody liked me, everybody petted me. Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa. Ruined Russian princesses who could not pay my father, bought me expensive bonbons. He, mon cher petit papa, took me out boating and biking, taught me to swim and dive and water-ski, read to me Don Quixote and Les Misérables, and I adored and respected him and felt glad for him whenever I overheard the servants discuss his various lady-friends, beautiful and kind beings who made much of me and cooed and shed precious tears over my cheerful motherlessness.
    I attended an English day school a few miles from home, and there I played rackets and fives, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms with schoolmates and teachers alike. The only definite sexual events that I can remember as having occurred before my thirteenth birthday (that is, before I first saw my little Annabel) were: a solemn, decorous and purely theoretical talk about pubertal surprises in the rose garden of the school with an American kid, the son of a then celebrated motion-picture actress whom he seldom saw in the three-dimensional world; and some interesting reactions on the part of my organism to certain photographs, pearl and umbra, with infinitely soft partings, in Pichon's sumptuous La Beauté Humaine that I had filched from under a mountain of marble-bound Graphics in the hotel library. Later, in his delightful debonair manner, my father gave me all the information he thought I needed about sex; this was just before sending me, in the autumn of 1923, to a lycée in Lyon (where we were to spend three winters); but alas, in the summer of that year, he was touring Italy with Mme. de R. and her daughter, and I had nobody to complain to, nobody to consult. 
    Annabel was, like the writer, of mixed parentage: half-English, half-Dutch, in her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today than I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: "honey-colored skin," "thin arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long lashes," "big bright mouth"); and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and this is how I see Lolita).
    Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to saying she was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends of my aunt's, and as stuffy as she. They had rented a villa not far from Hotel Mirana. Bald brown Mr. Leigh and fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh (born Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel and I talked of peripheral affairs. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers. Our brains were turned the way those of intelligent European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in the plurality of inhabited worlds, competitive tennis, infinity, solipsism and so on. The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain. She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy.
    All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do. After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part of the plage. There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other, could bring relief.
    Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly, lame gentleman, a Dr. Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk café. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolate glacé and her thin bare shoulders and the parting in her hair were about all that could be identified (as I remember that picture) amid the sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but I, sitting somewhat apart from the rest, came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness: a moody, beetle-browed boy in a dark sport shirt and well-tailored white shorts, his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of pretexts (this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered) we escaped from the cafe to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand, and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, had a brief session of avid caresses, with somebody's lost pair of sun-glasses for only witness. I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu. 
    I leaf again and again through these miserable memories, and keep asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer, that the rift in my life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am convinced, however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.
    I also know that the shock of Annabel's death consolidated the frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!
    I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards--presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own. Her legs, her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure, half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me, her head would bend with a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.
    I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder--I believe she stole it from her mother's Spanish maid --a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing--and as we drew away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother's voice calling her, with a rising frantic note--and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But that mimosa grove--the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honey-dew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since--until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another. [/small]

  • Title: Lost Realm

    Author: Inis Truesight

    [b][u] Lost Realm [/u][/b][small]
    Taman smiled as he handed over the wrapped cut of meat, accepting a handful of copper coins in return. He was having a quick turnabout for his wares; half his stock had already vanished, and it was barely midday. He crouched down, flipping open a large backpack. The insides were stuffed with snow and ice, reaching in, he extracted several more cuts of meat, before tipping the bag of ice on to the ground; with the icy weather, there was no need to salt the meat to keep it fresh. A voice called over his stall, “Is this all you have?” The voice was obviously female, with an odd tone to it, Taman stood up quickly, turning back to his stall.
    His eyes widened slightly as he saw that his newest customer was quite obviously not human. Standing at least a head shorter than him, the woman wore hardened leather armour, with a pair of shortswords sheathed at her waist. Long auburn hair was partially concealed underneath a cap of fur, and long pointed ears were visible around the sides of the cap. As he set the new cuts on the wooden stand, she peered at them closely, “This is high quality meat… For a human.” She pointed out three cuts, two shoulders and a side. “I will take these.” Taman brought out his sheets of wrapping cloth, before asking, “How do you plan to pay for these?” The elf reached into a pouch on her hip, pulling out a silver coin, setting it on the table. “Will this suffice?” She scooped up the wrapped cuts, placing them carefully into a knapsack held at her side. “Aye, that it will, here’s your change.” He handed the elf some copper coins, “We don’t see many elves in Parthsfast, your people tend to keep to themselves.” The elf shrugged, touching the blades at her waist, “Some of us like to travel.” With that, she turned and left, disappearing into the crowded market place. Taman inspected the coin, it was the same size as a silver crown, and it was marked with elven around the edges. He absentmindedly flipped it before placing it in his own coin pouch; returning his attention to his customers.
    With the darkening of the sky, the marketplace began to clear, townsfolk escaping the cold and the snow, either into their homes, or into the large tavern, just across from Taman’s stall. Taman took the last of his produce from the top of his stall, the innkeeper would probably trade for it. Scooping his bag off of the ground, he strode across the frigid plaza and pushed open the tavern door.
    A blast of warmth and sound assailed Taman as he slipped into the tavern; the taproom was crowded; farmers, tradesmen and labourers all relaxing after a long day of work. The sound level was subdued, it was too early for anyone to be truly inebriated yet, though it was unlikely to be long, he had already spotted several ne’er-do-wells loitering by the hearth, tankards in hand.
    Taman moved through the crowd to the bar counter, nodding to the aging innkeeper as he arrived. “Pretty busy tonight, have any rooms left? I don’t fancy leaving town for home at this time of night.” The innkeeper nodded in return, passing a tankard of ale across to one of the patrons. “Aye, I do; how will ya be payin’?” He turned to the side, passing several mugs to one of his servers, pointing past her to the group at the fire; she rolled her eyes and walked off towards them. “I have quite a bit of produce left, the finest meats, a trade perhaps?” Taman suggested, lifting up his backpack and putting it on the counter. The innkeeper flipped open the top and peered inside, “Finest meats? Bah! Some of this is hardly fit for pigs.” He turned and snatched up a key from a table behind him, “I’ll take it, these drunks never could tell the difference; second room, up the stairs, the dart-ear has the first.” The innkeeper made a quick, sharp gesture towards the intended target of his slur. Taman glanced around, spotting the elf from the market; she was sat down at a table in the corner of the room, a mug set in front of her. Most of the room gave her a wide berth, Taman could hear muttered words from the people nearby about her.
    “I don’t suppose that meat got me an ale as well?” Taman enquired to the innkeeper, smiling widely. The innkeeper glared at him for a moment, before his face split into a long grin, “Cheeky bastard, ‘ere ya go.” He passed across a tankard of ale, “I would steer clear of the elf, if I were you, they’re bad luck, everyone knows it.” Taman raised the tankard in a half-salute, before slipping back into the crowd.
    It wasn’t long before the ale began to flow more freely, the level of noise rising steadily throughout the night. One of the men by the fire had already received a stinging slap from one of the servers for his comments, and though it hadn’t caused a brawl, tensions were definately running higher over that side of the room. Taman dropped down into a chair at an empty table, taking a draft from his tankard, he grimaced, “Poor drink for poor meat I suppose…” The heat of the fire was all-pervading in the taproom, filling it with a hazy warmth; combined with the alcohol and the long hunting trip of the day, it wasn’t long before Taman’s head drooped onto his chest, quickly falling into sleep.
    He jerked awake as someone touched his shoulder, it was the old innkeeper. “Those damned fools are starting on the dart-ear, this’ll be good ta watch.” The old man pointed towards the corner of the room, several of the wastrels from the hearth had wandered over there, surrounding the elf’s table, from their stances, it was obvious they were spoiling for a fight.
    Taman couldn’t make out their words over the chatter of the tavern, but drunken voices couldn’t disguise the clatter of the elf’s tankard being knocked off the table, spilling water across the floor. The elf rose to her feet immediately, trying to sidestep around the men, only to be shoved back into the corner. Immediately, the elf lashed out, catching one of the men across the face with a heavy blow; combined with the drink he had consumed, it was enough to lay him out on the ground.
    Both of the other men recoiled in shock from the rapid strike, staggering back a few steps; the elf took advantage of the movement by darting past them. She shoved through the crowd, amidst angry cries; without a backward glance, she vanished through the door.
    Taman looked at the innkeeper, “Aren’t you going to do something about those hoodlums? This is your tavern.” The innkeeper snorted in disdain as he accepted the spilled tankard from one of his servers, “Why should I care if some of the men give a dart-ear a hard time? Their kind isn’t wanted here.” Taman placed his tankard back on the table, then stood up, “I prefer judging people as I meet them, rather than on what they are. If you would excuse me.” He manouvered through the crowd, and stepping out into the night.
    The air had quickly turned frigid as night had fallen, a thin veneer of frost clinging to the ground made the footing treacherous as Taman hurried after the rapidly receding figure. The elf had raised her hood against the cold weather, and was striding swiftly towards the town gates.
    “Hey-!” He reached out a hand towards her shoulder, then jerked it back as a blur of glittering metal swiped towards it; he staggered back, and the elf turned to face him, her icy blue eyes bright like a cat’s in the dark. She twirled a long, ornate knife in her right hand once more, before sheathing it against her leg. “What?” She asked coldly, staying motionless as he regained his footing. “I came to see if you were alright; you left in a hurry after you dropped Derlin, did they get you?”
    The elf’s stance softened slightly, “No, I’m fine; though I expected to be able to have a drink in peace. I doubt I would be welcome back in that place at this point, however. You are the man from the market, are you not?” She queried, a quick glance taking in his hardy clothes and unstringed bow.
    “Aye, do you have any where to rest for the night then? If you aren’t going back to the tavern?” His voice was tinged with concern, with the sky getting darker by the minute, he wouldn’t have liked his own chances of lasting the night, cold as it was, and he fancied the elf’s chances even less, as slight as she was, without a cloak. The elf shrugged, “I will find somewhere, I always do.” She raised an eyebrow quizzically, “You speak with concern, why?”
    Taman was taken aback, “I don’t know how long you have been in the vale, but it is only going to get colder, I was going to stay at the tavern for the night, but that brawl put me off of that idea; my home is a ways off, but it would be a more pleasant journey with company, and I could promise warm lodgings and a meal at the end, the least I can do, given how abrasive the rest of the town has been.”
    It was silent for a few moments, as the elf considered his words, “I hear honesty in your tone, I will accept.” She gave him a look of silent warning, before stepping to the side, “Lead on.”
    Though they were stopped momentarily at the gate, it wasn’t long before the pair were making their way along the worn tradesroad to the east, passing small farms and copses as they made their way further from the town. Neither of them spoke for several minutes as the darkness grew thicker, eventually, the elf broke the silence, “We haven’t been properly introduced, I am Sariel Galanodel, wood elf of the clan Varynn, from the Kryptgarden forest.” Taman nodded and extended his hand, “Taman Chernin. Kryptgarden is a long way north, what brings you to Parthsfast? The only things here are farmers, hunters and drunks. The capital is far closer.”
    The elf shook his hand carefully, “I was sent by the elder to contact the elves of Ardeep forest, there are rumors of dark happenings in Ardeep’s southern reaches.”
    Taman looked surprised, “There are elves in Ardeep? I have hunted there for years, I have never seen any sign of them.” He suddenly looked nervous, “You… Don’t have any problems with humans hunting in your forests, do you?”
    Sariel laughed loudly, “It is natural for humans to hunt, provided they do not harm the trees, or the sacred beasts, they may do as they wish. It is strange that you have never encountered the elves, I would have thought they would frequent the town; though the way those humans acted may explain that.”
    The two of them fell silent again as they approached a low-set building, Taman stepped forwards and gave an elaborate flourish, “Welcome to my humble abode.” He turned and pushed open the door, before holding it open for Sariel.
    Inside, it was cluttered and smelt strongly of smoke; rows of fish and small animals hung on racks around an extinguished hearth, around which several stools were positioned. Taman grimaced as he swept several clods of dirt into the ashes with his foot, “It isn’t much, but I have a guest room, mainly for relatives, it is just down there,” He gestured down a short corridor, “Why don’t you go take a look and put away your things while I see if I can get this fire going?” He gestured to a stack of deadwood stacked against the far wall, “I didn’t cut any trees down.” Sariel strode off down the corridor, opening the door at the end with a long creak.
    Taman grabbed some cut logs from the pile, laying them out in the ashes of the cold hearth, igniting them with some kindling and a flint; the dim light illuminating the room as he sat back on his haunches, watching the fire carefully. Once it had grown to a suitable size, he stood, unhooking his backpack from his shoulders and slinging it into the corner.
    Sariel returned as he was filling a metal pot from a covered bucket, “Are you hungry? I am planning on making a stew.” He asked as she sat down close to the fire.
    “That would be wonderful,” She twisted one of her boots off and began rubbing the soreness out of her feet as he placed the pot over the fire, dropping a handful of chopped vegetables and chunks of meat into it. These were swiftly followed by varying amounts of spices, and soon a gorgeous aroma began to emanate from the covered pot.
    “Awake!” The shout woke Taman immediately, he sat bolt upright in his bunk, to see Sariel standing a short distance away, clad in her armour. She spoke urgently as he looked over at her, “I can hear screaming.”
    He rubbed his eyes, “I can’t hear anything, was it a dream?” Even while straining his ears, all he could hear was his own breathing, and the crackling of the dying embers of the fire. “I am certain, it is coming from outside. Ready yourself.” Sariel turned away as he clambered out of his bunk and quickly donned his clothes. “There is a spare cloak on the back of the front door, it might be a bit long, but it will keep you warmer; you didn’t exactly come dressed for the weather.” Taman motioned towards the corridor through which they had entered the house, and Sariel strode down it, snatching a black fur cloak from a hook. Meanwhile, Taman strung his longbow, before attaching his quiver to his hip. “Ready?” Sariel nodded tersely, drawing a shortsword with her left hand.
    The pair of them stepped out into the glacial air, it was snowing lightly as Sariel turned around carefully, trying to track the source of the elusive calls. After a moment, she headed off back along the tradesroad towards the town, blade held out to her side as her eyes swept back and forth over the landscape.
    Taman followed behind her, an arrow half-nocked as they made their way along the road. It was shortly afterwards when he too, began to hear the faint yells and screams, caught in snatches of the wind.“There!” Sariel pointed towards the horizon, a faint orange glow was visible in the direction of the town. A cold pit formed in Taman’s stomach as his eyes found what she had indicated, “Oh no… We need to get over there.” Sariel nodded her assent, and the two of them broke out into a run.
    The glow grew brighter as they approached the town, and soon the wind brought them a strong smell of smoke. Sariel redoubled her pace as the road began to rise to the town; then threw herself to the side as Taman yelled in warning. An ancient, rusted blade swept through the air behind Sariel as a monstrosity emerged from the shadows.
    A rancid smell of putrefying flesh rose from the creature as it darted forward for a second strike, moving at unnatural speeds, as it raised it’s arm for another wild swing, scraps of flesh and long, greyish bones were clearly visible against the lightening sky. It clattered it’s teeth in irritation as Sariel dodged it’s second strike, and drove both of her blades through it’s torso. It staggered backwards, then wrapped it’s bony hands around the hilts of the blades, slowly drawing them back out.
    It clattered again as an arrow sank into it’s decayed abdomen, swiftly followed by another. Taking advantage of it’s distraction, Sariel drew a long knife from her hip, driving it into the creature’s neck; it hissed one last time, then collapsed, a faint flicker of magic disappearing from it’s bones.
    Taman gagged as he approached the fallen beast; it was humanoid in shape, but it’s flesh was foul with rot and decay, without the binding magic that had driven it in it’s attack, the rotten tendons and ligaments holding it’s bones together had snapped, splitting it into several pieces; held together only by thin strands of flesh. It’s armour and weapons were of an ancient design, riddled with rust and corrosion, it’s armour had shattered under the first of Sariel’ blows.
    Sariel was crouched next to the body, her face deathly pale, she looked ready to vomit, “Undead… Gods preserve us...” She wiped her mouth with her sleeve and stood up; glancing beside her, Taman saw that she had indeed been sick; his fixated focus on the creature had caused him to miss it. He stepped closer to the creature and wrenched his arrows, and Sariel’ knife from the corpse, before retreating to a safe distance. Holding the knife up to the light, the silvered sheen on the blade became evident.
    “What are we going to do? Could there be more?” He asked Sariel quietly, passing her the knife.
    “I… There might be survivors at the town, at least at the temple… We need to move quickly, there will be more around; and they will be hunting for us now.” She slipped her knapsack over her shoulder and rummaged around inside, pulling out a short scabbard. She pressed it into Taman’s hand, “My spare blade, silvered, keep it close.”
    Moving more carefully this time, the two of them approached the town by the western side. Taman nocked his bow as the two of them crept forwards; the smell of smoke was thick in the air by this point, and the screams and cries had been replaced by the clash of swords and the dull thrum of magic.
    The gates were the site of a massacre, bodies of guards and undead alike were piled up around the small entrance, as far as they could tell, the guards had managed to kill at least a hundred of the unholy fiends before being overcome, but still more bodies littered the path into the town.
    Once within the walls, the pair clung to the shadows, the temple was just past the marketplace; as was the sounds of combat. Several of the undead beasts started to rise up as they passed, but, lying down, they were easy prey for a silvered blade to put them to rest.
    The temple came into view as they rounded the decimated market place, an icy mist had settled around it, while at least a dozen rotting creatures were attempting to force entry, as the pair watched, one of the beasts was blown half-a-hundred feet from the doorway in a burst of fire; someone still lived within. Another skeleton stepped into their view, this one was wearing long, tattered robes, and moved with a fluid grace that the others lacked; with a careless flick if it’s wrist, the fallen skeleton twisted and creaked, dark ribbons of energy coursing over it’s bones. Once more, it rose from the earth and charged the door, it’s jerky, stammered movement supported by the foul magic.
    Sariel made a short gesture towards the lich, then slipped back into the shadows, try as he might, Taman could not track her movements as she disappeared. He sat, frozen on the spot, watching the lich as it’s underlings attacked the temple. A splintering of wood from within, followed by a clipped cry spurred him into action.
    Taman rose to his feet, and sent an arrow buzzing towards the lich; his aim was true, and it staggered as the arrow collided with it’s skull, shattering it apart. His feeling of euphoria was short-lived, however, as the shards of bone swiftly reformed, and the ancient creature turned to face him. It raised it’s arm, and a long spear of ice formed in front of it; Taman dived to the side as the creature hurled the bolt, which buried itself two foot deep into the cobbled path behind him.
    The lich turned it’s full attention to him, hurling bolt after bolt of ice and dark magic after the evasive human, each shot creeping closer and closer to it’s target; with a final blast, the lich caught him with a glancing blow from a blade of ice, sending him spinning to the ground. It clattered it’s teeth in satisfaction as it readied a final blow.
    So fixated was the lich on killing the human, it was taken completely unawares by Sariel. Yelling a warcry, she hurled herself into the back of the lich, sinking her dagger deep into it’s spine. The result was immediate; the skeletons attacking the temple collapsed, robbed of their sustaining essence; the lich spun about, dust crumbling from the expanding wound in it’s back. It seized the elf by the throat and lifted her high above the ground, it’s icy aura sapping her strength to fight back.
    With a final cry of fury, the lich hurled the limp elf away, before collapsing to it’s knees, the long wound caused by the silver blade continued to expand, within moments, the lich had been reduced to a pile of ash.
    Taman rose slowly to his feet, clapping his left hand to a long cut in his right arm; turning towards what remained of the lich, Taman was relieved to see that the remaining undead had returned to death, leaving the town eerily silent. His heart froze in his chest as he saw Sariel, crumpled in a heap on the ground.
    Holding the edges of the wound together tightly, Taman rushed towards the fallen elf; at the same time, several armed villagers, along with the local priest emerged from the temple, looking around warily for more undead. Taman called out to them as he reached Sariel, “Help! Over here!” The call drew exclamations of surprise, as several of the villagers turned their weapons towards the sound, the blades shaking slightly in their inexperienced hands.
    The priest swept over to the two of them, his normal ceremonial robes swapped out for a set of functional, if old, iron armour. He directed one of the villagers to bind Taman’s arm with cloth, while he inspected the unconscious elf.
    Sariel was breathing lightly, her hair had changed from it’s former deep auburn to a bone white;and her skin was a deep, grey pallor.; the priest quickly gathered her up, and hurried back into the temple.[/small]

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  • Title: Mystery of the Starglider

    Author: Inis Truesight

    [u][b] Mystery of the Starglider [/b][/u]
    [b]…Target Located
    Target: Independent Trader, Starglider
    Location: Galactic Coordinates: 8685, 4765, 8523, Linear Plane 7
    Cargo: Primitive Antimatter Weaponry
    Threat Assessment: Minimal
    Crew Assessment: Suitable
    Destination: Galactic Coordinates: 8682, 4750, 8522, Linear Plane 7
    Time to arrival: seventy two cycles
    Time until experiment completion: thirty cycles
    Experiment Primed.
    The Starglider floated soundlessly in the vacuum of space, its smooth, matt-black hull near invisible against the backdrop of stars. Its chameleon plating matching the stars perfectly, the only inconsistency being the round protrusions indicating weapons and sensors scattered across its hull. The ship itself was inactive; repairs were in effect from a small meteor strike that had damaged a section of chameleon plating, an unacceptable risk, given their current cargo.
    The engineers worked efficiently, quickly stripping off the damaged panel and reattaching a pristine one. The damaged panel was ferried inside so repairs could begin. Not one of the engineers testing the new panel noticed the small spike of debris floating near the ship,; not even their sensors, advanced though they were, could detect it as it drifted through the vacuum towards the ship. When it approached within one hundred metres of the hull, it began to rotate; turning to face a specific place in the hull, then, with a small blast of pressurised air, a minute projectile was launched at the ship. The dart cut through the hull effortlessly, its advanced propulsion system sealing the breach behind it, completely undetectable. It had breached the crew quarters, where a number of people were resting, and its infiltration programs soon selected a suitable subject. The dart gave a burst of speed and collided with a sleeping man’s neck.
    Adam Lovell jerked awake, “Ow!” He quickly unravelled his arms from his sleeping harness and felt his neck, he couldn’t find anything. He rubbed his neck for several minutes, trying in vain to find the source of the short flash of pain, but he could find nothing. He gave up, letting his arms float in the zero gravity, with the engines offline during the repairs the crew had been under the effects of freefall for two hours. Adam yawned, and checked his watch; it was still another hour until his shift, though the ship was meant to be back online in the next few minutes. He might as well get up now; have something to eat before he was stuck on the bridge for the next twelve hours with the captain. Unlike the Navigations officer, Amber, he was lucky enough to have other people on the ship that could do his job, so he could have a rest. Amber Teague had been awake for the four days, living off stimulants and stress; it was amazing that she could still think clearly enough to fly.
    Adam floated around the cabin, struggling into his jumpsuit before drifting out into the corridor and down towards the canteen. About halfway down the corridor, he heard a rumbling, and dropped to the ground, Adam smiled, the ship was under way again, the sooner they delivered their cargo the better.
    Their cargo consisted of five, mark nine antimatter torpedoes, with a maximum acceleration of fifty gee, they were the fastest and most deadly weapon the human race had ever created. The Starglider had been commissioned to ferry the missiles to Proxima Centauri. Given the illegality of the torpedoes, the Starglider was running on stealth mode. Antimatter weapons were the pinnacle of human technology, the ultimate Doomsday weapon, and their vessel was carrying five. No wonder everyone was nervous, but Proxima had offered two billion credits per missile, easily enough to make them all rich for life, especially with the added bonus of delivering an antimatter expert, Proxima was paying another five billion for the services of a Mr Isaac Stuart.
    In the canteen, Adam quickly assembled a cheese sandwich with an apple, the advantages of cryogenic food storage, and sat down with the engineers, just in from fixing the ship. They were discussing the repairs.
    “I have never seen that sort of strike, I mean, it hit in just the way to shut down the panel, practically nothing else was damaged, just that panel, you don’t think someone is following us?” John Cade said, worriedly, his English breakfast sitting untouched in front of him. “Bah! You worry too much! If someone was following us, we would sure as hell know about it, and even if they were, they don’t stand a shadow’s chance in hell against us, the captain ordered the torpedoes to be loaded, in case we are attacked; by pirates or otherwise.” Kaylee snorted, biting into her black pudding. David and Ben nodded along with Kaylee, “It was just a fluke, John, and crap happens, that is why we get paid to fix it,”
    Adam sat at the edge of the group; he didn’t have much of an appetite all of a sudden, he had felt fine a moment ago, but now he felt…odd, he forced down his sandwich, and leant into the conversation, “The captain loaded the torpedoes? About damn time, I have been telling him to do it for days,” Kaylee nodded, and then indicated his apple, lying untouched on his plate, “You not eating that?” She drawled, then leant over and snatched it from his plate, taking a large bite out of it. Adam grinned and stood up, “Nah, not as hungry as I thought I was, you can have it,” He picked up his empty plate and left.
    Adam made his way towards the bridge, moving swiftly now that the artificial gravity had been restored, he was still feeling quite sick, but he didn’t want to go to the medical staff, in case it was serious, if the captain thought he might endanger the operation… He might kill him, the cargo was worth that much, and Adam was not irreplaceable, unlike Amber.
    When he reached the bridge he relieved Dudley, who had been taking the opposing shift to him, “You look exhausted, go get some rest, it is my turn on shift.” Adam said, slapping Dudley on the shoulder, Dudley grunted, stretched, stood up and left, his massive, muscled form nearly filling the bridge bulkhead as he left. Adam slipped into the seat and began running diagnostics on the weapon systems. While it was running, he glanced across at Amber.
    Amber, normally a bright, happy woman, was hunched in her chair, her face sunken with fatigue as she constantly ran checks on their course; her wide, dilated pupils indicated heavy stimulant use. She had been getting progressively worse throughout the trip, the Captain, Caleb Donavon forcing her to stay on the bridge at all times, relying on stimulants to stay conscious. Her body, normally lithe and athletic, was now emaciated, the stimulants depriving her of an appetite.
    Adam looked at her mournfully; the captain had refused her request for a second Navigations officer, stating that it would be too expensive and risky for this mission; instead, he had ordered the medical staff to inject her with a large dose of Calotine every hour, forcing her to stay awake, when on normal trips she would be allowed to sleep. To the captain, this mission was of too much importance to allow her any rest.
    Adam’s console beeped at him resentfully, waking him from his contemplation, the console was now detecting the torpedoes in their tubes, Adam gave a satisfied smile, if anyone tried to rob them now, they would cease to exist. Adam sat back in his chair, content to sit and doze for another twelve hours, confident that his console would wake him if he was needed.
    [b][i]Three hours after infection[/i][/b]
    Kaylee threw up violently into the toilet basin, vomit splattering the floor as she convulsed. For the last hour or so she had been feeling very sick, her skin had gone pale, she had a cold sweat, her stomach felt like it was being torn apart. Kaylee retched again, and this time, there was blood.
    Daniel Calvert rushed into the dormitories, carrying his medical kit, before being directed to the bathroom by a very pale engineer. He gasped in disgust when he entered, then gave a shout of shock when he saw Kaylee, lying unconscious in a pool of vomit and blood,
    Daniel knelt down next to her, and checked her pulse, it was there, but weak. He searched through his medical kit, pulling out several injectors; He applied the injectors one after the other to Kaylee’s neck, while another medic, Callum, pulled up a stretcher. Daniel and Callum, with practiced ease, loaded Kaylee onto the stretcher, attaching an oxygen mask to her face, and wheeled her out of the dormitories, one of the engineers, Ben Elder, had already got a mop and bucket and went into the bathroom after they left.
    The two medics barrelled down the corridor, dragging the stretcher, as they reached the medical bay, Kaylee began to convulse again, throwing up into her mask, splattering her face with her own blood. Daniel quickly pulled her mask off, and cleared her throat of blood, so she could breathe.
    Adam was still dozing when the intercom activated, Captain, something is wrong with Kaylee, she has some sort of disease, or a poison or something, she is dying, Crackled the intercom into the quiet of the bridge. The bridge remained silent for a long moment before Caleb stood, and said to his two officers, “Watch the bridge,” before rushing out. Adam glanced at Amber, who did not seem to have heard or noticed the events, she was still staring at her console, adjusting the course. “Amber? What do you think is wrong with her?” Adam asked, hoping to stir her from her stupor. Amber was silent for a moment, then, she said quietly, “Don’t know, sounds bad” before returning to her console. Adam looked at her again, and then began running diagnostics again, he had given Kaylee that apple, maybe he was infected? Or maybe he infected her…
    Caleb tore through the medbay bulkheads, “Alright, what the hell is going on? Who the hell did it?” The medics flinched, the captain was known for treating failure harshly, Daniel spoke up, “W-We don’t know sir, we can’t detect any known poisons, and she was perfectly healthy yesterday…” The captain stood, fuming for a moment, before walking over the Kaylee’s treatment pod, the lifesign readings on the side were dangerously low, and were still dropping. “Is it a disease?” He asked of Laura, who was also stood next to the pod. Laura nodded slowly, “We don’t know, it might be,” Caleb stood silent for a moment, and then spoke again, “Is there anyway for her to survive?” Daniel shook his head, “No, even the best medical packages we have are failing, she has minutes left at the most.” Caleb nodded slowly, reaching out to depolarise the pods lid, so he could see the damage for himself. Upon seeing what remained of Kaylee, he gave a shout of horror and backed away from the pod.
    Kaylee; this morning she had been a lively, if rude, and healthy woman, now she was little more than a corpse, her flesh had erupted in sores and buboes, her eyes sunken and bloodshot, glancing around, as blood oozed from her mouth.
    Caleb gulped, and then said, weakly, “Switch it off… Switch off the life support, I will not allow her to live with this any longer, she is dead now.” The medics hesitated, and then deactivated the pod. The four of them heard Kaylee let out one more ragged breath, and then stop, her lifesigns flat lined, she was gone.
    [b]…First Casualty inflicted
    Infiltration has reached 41.176%
    Subjects show little resistance
    Insufficient Data continue experiment.
    Confirm, Continue Experiment…[/b]
    David Johansson was in the canteen storeroom, helping Mark Jackson look through some crates. “Come on… there has to be some alcohol in here somewhere,” Mark muttered, scrolling through the cargo manifest. “There had better be, we are going to need it before this trip ends,” Called David from behind a pile of crates, “With all the crap that is- Found it!” David exclaimed. Mark dropped the manifest and rushed over, helping David pull cans of beer and bottles of whiskey from a small crate.
    David grabbed a can and opened it, pouring it down his throat, “Good stuff,” He grunted, collecting another dozen cans, “I’ll take these, John and Ben will want some, and after Kaylee is out of the medbay there might, maybe, be some left for her,” David grinned, putting the cans in a bag. He gave a wave to Mark, and then left through the canteen.
    On his way through, an intercom near him activated. “Crew, this is your Captain speaking. Kaylee… is dead, some sort of disease, or poison, we don’t know. But what we do know is that it is deadly, very deadly, I want all departments quarantined until we reach Proxima, they have the medical facilities to deal with this. Donavon out.” David stood, staring at the intercom in disbelief, Kaylee was dead? That couldn’t be possible. She was fine this morning…David began to sweat slightly, and his stomach felt unsettled, like he was going to puke from fear. He had to get back to their cabin, he should be safe there.
    Adam stared down at his left hand, a small blister had formed between his ring and index fingers, oozing pus, it hadn’t been there a minute ago, he had just felt a sharp pain, and then it was there… He glanced across at Amber; she was still staring, unblinkingly at her console, lethargically checking the systems. At least she hadn’t noticed his reaction to the intercom, in fact, he wasn’t sure if she had even heard it at all, she was so heavily stimmed. He thanked god for small blessings, they should arrive at Proxima in just under a week, and then he could get treatment. He had to wait until then, if the Captain thought he was sick… he would kill him. Throw him out of an airlock; shoot him in the head, anything to stop the disease from spreading. A burst of pain drew his attention back to his hand; another blister had opened up, closer to his palm than the first, but still weeping pus. Adam swallowed hard, a feeling of cold dread spreading through him.
    [b][i]5 hours after infection[/i][/b]
    After the Captain had left, Daniel and the other medics, Callum and Laura had done what they could to prepare for a disease outbreak, but there was little they could do, their medical supplies were scarce as it was, and the Captain had ignored their requests to improve their stocks, citing the price as a valid reason. David glanced around, and noticed that Callum was moving sluggishly, sweat appearing on his brow as he moved medical supplies from one table to another, David also noticed that Laura was also moving more slowly, and her skin had gone exceptionally pale.
    David felt like his heart had burst as he realised what had happened, they were all infected. “No….No no…This can’t be happening… Callum… Laura… We are infected…. We are showing the same symptoms” The other two stopped for a moment, and then turned to face him, Callum’s mouth was ringed with vomit. “I know,” He wheezed, “Nothing we can do, have to stick it out,” Laura stared at both of them, then a look of horror spread across her face, “We need help…I don’t want to die…God My birthday was last week…We have to warn everyone, try and keep at least someone clean, stop at a planet. Something!.” She activated the intercom on the wall beside her.
    The intercom crackled again, “Sir, this is Laura” The captain, who had been sitting in his chair, gave a start, then activated his intercom, “Acknowledged, what is it?”
    “Sir…Daniel, Callum and I…. We… We are infected, we have sealed ourselves in, we have to get medical help sir, we need to stop at a planet, they may be able to help us.” Adam looked at the captain, who was staring at his intercom. “Denied, we cannot stop, it is too risky” Caleb’s hand reached slowly for his console. “Sir! If you don’t stop, we will die! We need-“Caleb pushed a button on his console.
    Immediately alarms began flashing on Adam’s console, and an alert siren sounded.
    #! Alert! Decompression detected in the Medical bay! Alert!!#
    Caleb slowly drew his hand away from the console, and deactivated his intercom, Adam was staring at him, appalled, Amber had not noticed, she was still staring down at her console; her eyes seemed to be closed.
    Caleb stared back at Adam, his cold eyes glinting, “It had to be done, they would have died anyway, and this way, we each get paid more,” Adam looked down, he wasn’t going to risk that happening to him, he turned back to his console, making sure to keep his left hand, which now a dozen blisters, hidden, he didn’t want the Captain seeing it.
    Isaac Stuart sat on his bunk, trying to understand the magnitude of the calamity that had befallen the ship, within four hours of the repair of the chameleon panel; four of the seventeen crewmembers were dead, killed by some sort of disease. Isaac felt confident that he would not be infected, as soon as the journey had begun, he had sealed himself away in his cabin, with enough freeze dried food to last the trip, it never hurt to be safe, especially in times like these.
    Dudley felt sick, very sick, his head was pounding, his throat was sore, he knew it couldn’t have been what got Kaylee, he had been nowhere near her for the whole trip. It must just be some sort of cold, or flu, it would be better not to tell the Captain, he may get the wrong idea. Dudley heaved himself to his feet; he had been sitting on a chair in the cabin he shared with Simon and Kate, listening to an audiovid, trying to take his mind off his sickness. He trudged towards the shared bathroom, and stepped inside, looking at the mirror. He was quite shocked to see a sore had opened on his temple, trickling blood down the side of his face, he had not even felt it. He put his hand up, to touch the sore, and saw similar wounds all along his arm. Dudley’s head was spinning; things were going too fast, how hadn’t he noticed? Why didn’t he feel anything? As he watched, the flesh on his hand began to sag, peeling off the bone as it rotted.
    Dudley gave a shriek of fear and ran back into the cabin, colliding with Simon as he ran over to see what the shout had been about. They fell to the ground, Simon splattered with the infected gore of Dudley’s rotting flesh. Simon tried to rise to his feet, but Dudley was too heavy, crushing him into the ground.
    Dudley still couldn’t feel any pain, just a faint warmth… It was almost like he had been….Blessed, that was it… Blessed, some god had decided that he was worthy, and had granted him divine boons. Dudley began to laugh, an insane, maniacal laugh. His eyes cried tears of blood as he used his good hand, grabbing Simon by the throat, pinning him to the ground, then as Simon began to shout, he drove his rotted hand through Simon’s stomach, the flesh splitting apart like a rotten melon.
    Simon tried to shout, but Dudley’s grip on his throat reduced it to a strangled gasp, the pain was incredible, Dudley had grabbed hold of Simon’s spine, through his stomach, and was pulling on it, slowly bringing it to breaking point.
    With a loud snap, Simon’s spine snapped, and he went limp, Dudley rose to his feet, covered in Simon’s blood. At that moment, Kate entered the cabin, and on seeing the abattoir that Dudley had made, unloaded her pistol through his skull, which gave way with a sickening, rotten crunch, and Dudley slowly toppled to the ground, dead.
    The intercom crackled again, “Sir! Dudley killed Simon! Dudley… He… He was rotting sir, from the inside out, I had to put him down” Caleb rose to his feet, “Damn it!” He roared down the intercom, “Did you get touched, are you infected?”
    There was silence on the intercom for a moment, “I was hit by splatter, sir…Please… I don’t want to die…” Caleb looked grave as he spoke in return, “Kate, it is too late for you, do you want to die like Dudley? Or do you want to die on your own terms? Do you want to rot away into a pool of pus and blood, or will you end it clean?”
    A loud crack echoed over the intercom, followed by a loud thud. Kate had shot herself. Caleb sank back into his chair, brooding. Adam looked down at his left arm, he had lost all feeling in it thirty minutes ago, the blisters had been replaced with large, open sores, he was thankful that his console was to the left of the Captain’s, it made hiding it easier. Caleb stirred in his chair, and then leant to his intercom, “I want a roll call, who is alive?”
    The intercom crackled, “Engineer David here sir, John, Ben and I are fine” “Stanley Jenkins here sir, all cargo loaders are accounted for.” “Isaac Stuart, Captain, I’m alive,”
    Caleb held his face in his hands, “seven dead, in five hours, god preserve us…”
    David, John and Ben were sat in their cabin, drinking beer in silence; the atmosphere was icy since the intercom had first activated, they each knew that any of the others could have been infected by Kaylee. Upon hearing about the Security and Medical teams, the fear turned to outright terror.
    “We have to get out, screw the mission, I didn’t sign on to die like Kaylee, or to be vented by that bastard Captain” John hurled an empty can across the room, “We can’t get paid if we are dead, and if Daniel, Laura and Callum couldn’t handle it, like hell we can.” Ben nodded, taking another swig from his can, “This crap all started when we took that Stuart aboard, smarmy bastard doesn’t even eat with us... he has his own food.”
    David sat for a moment, thinking, “Do ya think he poisoned our food? If he has his own…” David fist clenched, crushing the empty can in his hand. “I bet he did… you can’t trust those science types… no morals, I bet he is using us for some sort of twisted social experiment!” The other engineers gave angry yells of agreement, none of them noticing the sweat beading on their faces, or the distended veins on their arms, “We can go and kill that bastard! Get our own back!” With roars of rage, the engineers picked up tools and makeshift weapons, and stormed out of the room.
    [i]…Infiltration at 76.470%
    Subject countermeasures are ineffective
    Casualties have increased to 41.176%
    Different strains proceeding in line with projections…[/i]
    Isaac was sat on his bunk, reading, when something scraped against his door. He stood with a start, seeing the end of a crowbar sliding through his door, levering it open. Isaac leant down and snatched his pistol from his bedside table, levelling it at the door, “Stop, whoever you are! I’m armed!” The door continued to open, load, angered voices echoed through the gap in the door; it was nearly wide enough to admit a person. He fired a shot, but it missed and flattened against the door.
    The door fully opened, and the three enraged engineers poured in, Isaac managed to get two shots off, striking Ben in the chest, before he was struck down, a crowbar splitting his skull, he collapsed to the ground as David and John continued to beat his body into an unrecognisable mass. Ben lay on the ground, oozing thick, dark red ichor from his wounds, his veins were completely clogged with it, with the viscous slime blocking his arteries, he died in seconds; within a few moments, David and John also began to collapse, their body’s unable to sustain themselves as their hearts burst from the over pressure of trying to pump their thick, infected blood.
    [i][b]Seven hours after infection[/b][/i]
    Adam could barely keep his eyes open, the sores had spread over his torso now, he could feel them swelling, bursting and oozing under his suit, trickling blood down his chest, the Captain still hadn’t noticed, he was too caught up in looking through the ships cameras, the remaining three engineers had killed the passenger, driven insane by whatever this disease was, they had beaten him to a pulp, before collapsing themselves from some unknown symptom of the disease. He blearily glanced across at Amber, she was still in the same position, staring at her console, surely she would be able to help him? He could barely feel anything now; most of his body was numb, covered in the sores, which were spreading up his neck, I can’t tell the Captain… he would kill me….
    Mark’s eyesight was blurring, he had taken shelter with the other cargo loaders in their cabin, playing cards to pass the time, but now he couldn’t see properly, he glanced up at Stanley, and gave a shout of terror, in his place was a colossal lizard thing, fangs dripping blood, unlike everything else he could see, it was perfectly clear, Mark threw himself from the table, distantly hearing cries of alarm, but all he could see were two monsters rushing towards him, talons outstretched, teeth glistening with blood and gore. Mark scrambled to his feet, but one of the lizard things grabbed his arm, Mark rammed his elbow back into the creatures face, hearing a satisfying snap as it’s face caved in around the blow, he turned to the other creature, and leapt at it, invigorated by his new found strength, after he killed this one, he would be safe, so he could play cards with Liam and Stanley.
    Mark collided with the other creature, knocking it to the ground, as they fell, he felt a curious, burning sensation in his abdomen, he glanced down and was shocked to see an energy knife driven into his torso, just below his heart. Mark looked back at the lizard creature, and grasped it’s neck, determined to take it with him, it struggled, but to no avail, it could not withstand his strength, he crushed it’s throat, then rolled to the side, smiling to himself, he had done well, he had saved Stanley and Liam, he may have die, but at least they would live.
    “Oh no….no no no…” Caleb muttered, and then looked around the bridge, “Mark just killed Stanley and Liam… we are the only ones left.” He glanced around at Amber and Adam, and then froze, staring at Adam.
    Adam felt a cold rush of fear spread through him as the Captain slowly reached for his pistol. Adam jumped to his feet and dived towards Amber as the Captain fired at him. Several shots hit his legs, but he couldn’t feel them, more however, struck Amber in the back, and she fell to the side without a sound, her eyes blankly staring. Adam scrambled to his feet again, and ran towards the Captain, who unloaded his pistol into Adam’s chest, but he couldn’t feel it, he leapt at the Captain, knocking him to the ground before grabbing his throat and squeezing. Caleb struggled for a moment, trying to buck Adam off, but after a minute, his movements slowed, and he stopped breathing entirely.
    Adam fell to his side, the blood loss of the bullets holes finally reaching him, his last thought as he passed out to die was, What have I done…
    [b]…Experiment Concluded
    100% casualty rate achieved
    Time for experiment reduced from thirty cycles to four, a vast improvement…
    …Confirm, Experiment Successful…[/b][/small]

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