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[PI]"Your master told you that you have the intelligence of a legendary wizard, but none of the needed power. During the free period of the annual wizard council, you met another apprentice that was told they have the power of a legendary wizard, but none of the needed intelligence."

This an unfinished continuation of this prompt!
"Twilight Siege"
Magic is a strange thing to master, but the rewards are beyond anything I could ever imagine. Ever since I learned about magic and the endless possibilities that came with being a wizard, I started to study every magic book I could get my hands on. I was chosen to leave normal school early to train at the advanced wizarding academy for humans. I was always at the top of my class, and of course I got into the apprenticeship program with no trouble at all. I know all the spells, the proper diction, the right posture and arm placement. But I can never get the hang of manipulating magic itself, which is the most infuriating part of all of my wizarding studies.
Magic doesn't come as easily to humans as it does to other creatures, which have innate magic that flows freely throughout their bodies. We have our magical capabilities condensed in the form of souls, which are locked away deep in our consciousness. It makes us difficult to harm permanently with magic, but it also makes it difficult to access magic. Wizards must tap into the soul and manipulate it into magic spells that you would see in the textbooks. Except tapping into the soul feels like tearing a phonebook in half, or cracking open a jawbreaker with nothing but your fingers. No matter how hard I try, I just can't tap into my soul properly. Maybe I could let loose a sad sputter of sparks on a good day or make a weak illusion smoke potion once in a while, but it feels impossible otherwise. Master Eli's meditation sessions are boring as hell to sit through, and I feel like I just stopped moving forward the second I graduated from the wizarding academy. Master Eli often tells me that I'm a prodigy, but I need to "unlock my inner peace," whatever that means. I'm certain that if I study harder and learn more about the properties of the soul, I can finally get a move on and become a real wizard myself.
I take the annual Wizard Council meetings very seriously. I see it as a great opportunity to network with other wizards, both fully realized and apprenticed. Maybe a part of me thinks that if I have powerful friends in powerful places, no one would question why I couldn't even summon a simple flame spell despite being top of the class at the academy. Maybe I could get away with essentially being a fraud instead of letting my years of work go to waste. Despite it all, and despite forcing myself to be positive, seeing all the other apprentices around me discuss all the new spells they've been working on, or how amazing their latest potion turned out, pisses me off. Especially this new apprentice, who's been shooting little sparks and making annoyingly perfect little bunny illusions all day.
"Just who the hell do you think you are, showing off so casually at the Council meetings? We're supposed to be showcasing our progress, not one-upping everyone," I sneer.
"Oh, I'm not trying to show off at all! I just love making little illusions, it's my favorite type of spell! I'm so sorry if it came off that way!" she replies, forcing all her illusions to disappear with a wave of her hand. She tucks her dark brown hair back into its braid. "This is my first Wizard Council meeting! I'm a bit nervous, but also excited! Sorry again, I'm not the best with etiquette!"
I roll my eyes. "Yeah, I see that. This is a serious event where wizards from all over gather and exchange the cutting edge of magical news and discoveries! Get your head out of the clouds."
"Oh, OK! I'll keep that in mind," she says. "I'm Kiera, by the way! I graduated from the human wizarding academy just last year!"
"Hadrian. I'm two years out from the academy myself. Top of the class."
"Whoa, that's awesome! I was pretty good too, although I was never too good at memorizing spells and stuff! I just do it, so I never thought about that kind of stuff."
"Well, you've got a long way to go then," I say dismissively. "I know just about every spell in the book. It's just a matter of executing them right."
Kiera's eyes grow wide. "Wow, I wish I could memorize that much stuff! My master, Master Delia, says I've got a natural gift for magic, but I need more discipline. I dunno though, the books and diagrams are the most boooring part!"
"Well, lucky you!" I snap. "Some of us aren't magic savants like you. Some of us work all day and night, only to barely scrape by and turn out awful, weak spells!"
Kiera went quiet. "Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't want to come off as bragging again. So sorry."
I scoff. "Whatever. I bet Master Eli needs me. He's a third-rank wizard, so he's got lots to do." I turn around and storm out of the break room, seething.
Who does she think she is, going around being a perfect little wizard apprentice who has perfectly natural magical skills and breezed through the academy without even studying or learning her positions? Gods, I didn't even want to think about her anymore. Everything about her just annoys me to no end. I walk through the halls, passing through the crowds like a specter. Common gnomes, which are typical around this area, busily clean the floors and dust off the decor around the castle. I finally found the third-rank wizard's quarters. The closed meetings among the highest caliber of wizards should be over by now.
"Hadrian, good timing," says Master Eli's gentle voice as I enter the room. "There's been some discussions of great importance that have been taking place."
I sit myself in the velvet chair next to him. "What is it? Any new spell discoveries? Or maybe a new clan of dark magic users?"
"Not quite. The High Committee has heard rumors that the castle will be attacked this year. They mentioned spies hiding among the crowds, listening in and biding their time."
"What? Spies? Why can't we just kick them out?"
"It's not that easy, fellow," says another wizard. Her long grey hair cascades down her shoulders. "The attack is already under way. It's going to be a siege, and we must defend to keep our secrets and our people safe."
"Xandra is right. Hadrian, I don't think it's safe for us to return to the tower. Besides, my responsibility as a member of the Secondary Committee means I must stay here and help keep the rest of the community safe."
"Oh, well if it must be done, then I guess that's that." I slump in my chair. This means my training will have to come to halt for now. And I have to stay stuck among a bunch of know-it-all apprentices who think their magic is the best.
"Hadrian, I'd like for you to wait until the official briefing tonight before mentioning the possible attack. We don't want a panic to rouse the castle and make us too stricken with fear to organize."
"Yes, of course, Master Eli. I'll be in my room." I've had enough of today. I just want to forget about the day and read more spell books in my temporary room. I wasn't going to waste a second of study time, especially now that we might be stuck here for longer than I expected.
I watch Hadrian leave the room in a huff. I didn’t mean to offend him! But now I feel awfully guilty. Maybe I was showing off a little bit. I make a mental note to have some better control of my magic while I’m here. I want to make friends, not enemies!
Looking around the break room, I spot another group of apprentices. I don’t know anyone here, but that’s why I’m here! I approach them, hoping to make a good impression.
“Hi everyone! What are you guys up to?”
A red-haired girl with emerald green eyes turns to me. “Oh, we’re just discussing potion making! Charlie was just talking about his newest satiating potion.”
A boy with a plain grey cloak and chestnut colored hair laughs. “Yep! It keeps you feeling full and quenched for five whole hours! It’s useful for studying without any snack breaks.”
“I haven’t seen you around before,” says the red-haired girl.
“Yeah! I’m Kiera. This is my very first Wizard Council meeting! I only started my apprenticeship this year!” I explain excitedly. “I’m really excited to meet all the other wizards and apprentices!”
The girl smiles. “Welcome! I’m Lillian, but you can just call me Lill. I study under Master Anidoria! She’s a fourth-rank wizard who specializes in potions, but she says she might move up to third-rank soon! That’ll be cool to see!”
“I’m Charlie. My master also specializes in potions, but he does some summoning magic too,” says the chestnut-haired boy.
“Zane!” says a peppy blonde apprentice, shaking my hand. “Nice to meet ya! This is my boyfriend, Troy!” He gestures to an apprentice with long auburn hair and pale skin. He sweetly smiles at me.
“Wow, it’s great to meet all of you!” I squeal. “I don’t know too much about potions though, the few times I’ve tried all ended up turning into smoke or became too bitter to drink!”
“Hey, that’s alright! It happens to all potion beginners,” says Lill. “At least you made some sort of magic happen, though! It took me a solid month to get even a little magic going in potions at the start.”
“Oh, um, thanks,” I say, blushing. “It’s still a mess though. I’m no good at all, really.”
Charlie shrugs. “I agree with Lill. In the academy, it’s all technical stuff and the concepts behind magic. It’s a lot harder to actually make it happen. You’re a real magic genius to make even a smoking potion on your first go at it.”
I look down. “Maybe. I dunno. It just feels disappointing that I can't make a working potion, or even a useful spell that won’t totally blow up. I’m not exactly the best with positions and stuff like that.”
“Heh, that's OK,” says Troy. “Not everyone is cut out for potions. I’m more of a summoner myself. Why don’t you show off one of your spells instead?”
I brush him off nervously. “Oof, I dunno about that either.”
“C’mon! We saw you making some awesome illusions earlier!” says Zane. “Don’t be shy, we won’t bite ya!
“W-well, if you insist. I’ll try.” The others cheer. I always hate trying to use spells in front of others. It makes me so nervous! I feel like I have to be perfect. But unfortunately, the jitters never make my spells any better. In fact, they usually turn out all crummy and out of control. But I want new friends. That’s why I came here. I can’t disappoint them.
I take a deep breath to try and calm myself down. I feel my soul humming with anticipation inside of my head. I draw upon the power wound up inside; that’s the easy part. The magic comes loose like thread in water as I try to redirect it to the very tips of my fingers. I need to react quickly before it reaches the formations point. My mind zips to the very first thing it can — a bunny like last time — and I let the magic loose into the world. It swirls with a soft white light before forming into its rabbit shape, bounding ethereally through the air. It’s really cute and simple, and it didn’t go wrong at all. Well, except for the trail of magic shedding off of its back end. I must’ve accidentally made it less stable than usual. The group gasps with delight.
“Aww, how sweet!” exclaims Lill.
“Very neat,” notes Troy.
I twiddle my thumbs around. “Thanks! It’s pretty cool, I guess. It’s one of things I do when I’m bored and not thinking too hard, and only with a little bit of magic. A lot more would be tricky to handle for me.”
“Well, this is the place to try it out, right?” says Zane.
“I thought this was a professional thing? Another apprentice said -- “
“Meh, it’s only really super serious for the high-level wizards,” states Zane. “We apprentices still have a little time to have some fun!”
“Oh, alright then,” I say. I’m glad it’s not as stuffy as that Hadrian made it out to be. I’ll admit, I’m not that into all the technical stuff, even when I probably should be as an up-and -coming wizard. Master Delia scolds me about it to no end!
“How are you with combat spells?” asks Troy. With a careful flick, an ethereal blue flame rises up into the air out of his fingertips. “My master helps me refine my elemental spells, especially. Took me ages to get a flame going this hot and controlled.”
I stare at that fire, mesmerized. “Woah. That’s really good!” I feel entranced by the way the flame wavers and flickers like ribbon in a gentle wind. “My flame spells never turn out this good.”
“Troy’s a real pro! He’s been training for a year longer than us three too,” squeals Zane. “I’m real proud of him! I just know that he’s gonna be enlisted in a great defense force one day.”
The blue flame disappears without a trace of smoke. “I can teach you, if you want,” says Troy, smiling gently. “That’s what us fellow apprentices do. We gotta help each other out to get us all sworn into the Wizard Council officially.”
“Wow, I’d love that! I don’t know how much it’ll help, but it might be worth a shot!” I blush again. Maybe this could be the first real spell I can learn!
“Here. To start, you flick upwards, like with a basic flame spell.” Troy effortlessly waves his hand, summoning a vibrant orange fire.
I take a deep breath and try my very hardest to concentrate. I try to remember what Troy had just done. Upwards, right? Do the fingers splay out, or upwards? Argh, I forget! I hesitate as I flick, sending an explosive smattering of sparks flying out of my fingers. The others quickly shield against the wayward sparks.
“Well, almost,” says Troy.
“Phew, you almost lit my tunic on fire!” exclaims Charlie, brushing off a stray ash.
“Oh no, sorry! I have a hard time concentrating…” I murmur with shame.
“That’s alright. Don’t worry about it too much, OK? I always find it easier to relax and take some time to really hone in my focus.” Troy smiles sweetly. “It just takes a little patience. Flick upwards, with fingers pointed up.”
“Hmm, alright. Sorry! I’ll try again!” I close my eyes and concentrate as hard as I can, trying my best to rein in the power churning inside my soul. I take a deep breath and flick my hand upwards, trying to imitate Troy’s form. I focus on the magic surging out through my fingertips, which is becoming hotter and hotter as it swells closer to its exit point. I feel a dim heat radiating from my hand. A peek open one eye to see a tiny flame hovering in the air above my fingertips! I can’t believe it’s working!
“Great! Now you just have to make it bigger and hotter. Try to direct most of the magical energy to the base of the fire.”
I breathe in and confidently pump magic through my body towards the little fire. The ember grows tall and angry, flaring with a hot blue glow. The tip of the flame spews licks of hot fire in all directions, and I can feel the intense heat searing my face.
“Whoah, reel it just a notch!” says Troy, looking over at me with concern. “You have to keep it controlled. Don’t let it explode!”
“A-ah! I can’t!” The moment turns sour and horrible in an instant. The blue glow turns into a molten white, desperately reaching out beyond its confines and sucking out all the air it could grab. I shriek as I panic and cut off the magic from my soul abruptly, bottling it up deep inside of me. But it’s too late. The massive fireball begins to roar and grow. I yank my hand away from the hungry flames, the heat sweltering hot and suffocatingly dry. I look up at the horrible fireball in terror. I had gone and screwed it up again. And this time, the apprentices at the Wizard Council meeting will have to pay for it.
Suddenly, blasts of water douses the agitated fire. Lill and Troy are in wide stances, summoning water in powerful streams. The white-hot ball shrinks pitifully, spewing up clouds of steam with a ferocious hiss. Soon, there is nothing but swirling steam drifting around the room, soaking the five of us in sweat. Tears prick my eyes as I stand there, watching the moisture dissipate out of the room. No one says anything. My heart drops.
Lill finally speaks up. “Whew. That was interesting.”
Troy wipes some steam and sweat off his forehead. “You just need a little more discipline and practice first. Luckily, no one got hurt, and that’s what’s most important.”
“Gods, I’m so sorry.” I’m fighting back tears the best that I can. “I always screw up my spells. I didn’t mean to put all of you through this mess!”
“That’s alright. If anything, you’ve definitely got the chops to be a great wizard one day,” says Charlie, his hair soaked through and dripping.
“Yeah! Just, you know, gotta work on those techniques!” says Zane.
I sniffle. “I hope so.”
A foreign voice interrupts us. “Hey! I don’t know what you apprentices are doing in there, but the Grand Masters have called for a gathering!” It was a cranky old wizard in navy blue robes. “Go join your masters in the auditorium!” He gruffly stomps away. We all look at each other.
“A gathering? What for?” muses Lill.
Zane shrugs. “Can’t know for sure until we go!”
We shuffle out the break room and into the cool castle air, saying our goodbyes to go find our masters. I decide that Master Delia doesn’t need to know about this incident until we got back to the workshop.
I look up at the podium where Grand Master Wisteria stands. Her face is serious and grave. Behind her sits the rest of the Grand Masters in the High Committee, all dressed in their signature purple and gold robes. Next to me sits Master Eli, who is jotting down notes furiously. Apparently, the Secondary Committee was responsible for organizing possible attack groups and defense lines if it came to it. Behind us, the entire rest of the wizarding community sits clueless, waiting for the reason for the surprise gathering.
"Hello, dear Wizard Council. I hope that the first two days of the annual Wizard Council meeting. However, after some discussion with the High and Secondary Committee and thanks to some intel from our wonderful gryphon guards, we have a serious matter to share with you all. I will get right to it; we suspect there may be a conspiracy to lay siege to the Grand Castle of Wizards."
A ripple of murmurs rises from the giant auditorium. I spot some nervous glances across the room.
"I know this may be alarming, but we should have no fear. We are a strong group, and we have more than enough power and intelligence to protect ourselves and the integrity of our great organization. We ask all wizards, apprentices, and staff to please stay on the lookout of suspicious characters. We ask that if there is a suspicious character found roaming the castle grounds, that they are to be reported to the High or Secondary Committee for investigation. We will overcome this threat."
Cheers roar throughout the auditorium. If anything, the wizards of the Wizard Council were very proud of their membership, and rightly so. This is a collection of some of the most powerful humans in the entire world. I wasn't worried about some dinky attack by a few salty dark wizards, or whoever was orchestrating the whole thing.
"Still, my fellow wizards, we must prepare for the worst. Along with the Secondary Committee, we have come up with a plan of defense in the scenario that we are successfully infiltrated. Please welcome Grand Master Aleksander to the podium..."
I start to zone out, the claps and whoops become a muddled fuzz of background noise. I didn't see the point in having a whole plan like this. I figure that blasting them with magic in sheer numbers is probably enough. What a stupid plan. Instead, I review positions again in my head. I’m determined to get a summoning spell down pat by the end of the year.
A fire-summoning spell. One of the easiest in the textbook. You position your arm about level to your stomach. Flick upwards, palm facing up. While doing so, bring the heat of your soul out and upwards towards your hand. Whatever that means. I hate how vague soul tapping is in some books. I'll skip that part for now.
After that came small explosions. This was a thrust outwards away from the body rather than straight up. Then some water-summoning, which came from the moisture in the air. That was a circular motion, flowing with the coolness of the soul. Again, very vague. Then came ice harnessing, and then air flow control, and —
"Hadrian! Rise!" hisses Master Eli, nudging my arm.
I look around. The whole crowd was standing up in applause. I guess whatever speech the Grand Masters gave was pretty rousing. I get up and clap along. At least the meeting was finally over. I couldn't wait to leave this place. And I was hungry. I'll pick up a small meal from the dining hall before I head back to my room for the night.
I say goodbye to Master Eli. He nods and disappears into the crowd, notes still in hand. I follow the flow of the crowd out of the auditorium and into the winding castle halls. I turn right and down the corridors, trying my best to avoid the mass of wizards with the same idea as me. I’m really hoping that they have something good out for tonight.
When I get to the dining hall, the room is full to bursting with people gossiping over the attack plans. That speech must've been incredibly spirited or whatever, because they all look more excited than anything. I roll my eyes and try to find anything good left at the serving tables. I grumble as I pick past the hordes of people, only to find unexciting leftovers. I spot gnomes moving around the tables and benches, cleaning up and preparing for more plates to be put out. Maybe I'll just settle for a sandwich today. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder.
"Hey, Hadrian," says a voice. I turn around and find Kiera staring at my face.
"What do you want?"
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry again for earlier today. I had no idea I was being rude! But I still wanted to be friends, since I think apprentices should stick together! So I saved this for you!"
I look down at the plate she is offering me. It’s a rich bowl of squid ink pasta with chunks of savory potato. I can't lie, it looks delicious. It's certainly better than whatever was left on the dining tables right now.
I take the pasta. "Thanks, I guess. But don't think we're all buddy-buddy now. Besides, I have more studying to do."
"Studying? But it's dinner time! You should be socializing and relaxing with the rest of us!"
"Not for me. I need to keep working on my spellcasting."
"Aw, come on Hadrian! Don't work yourself too hard! Come on over and sit with us, just this once! It'll be fun!"
It has been a while since I've sat at a proper table to eat. And I had all the time in the world to study now. I figure that if things get dull, I'll just review positions again. "Fine. I'll come."
Kiera's eyes lit up. "Great! You'll like the new friends I've made!"
She leads me through the maze of bodies, weaving effortlessly through the commotion. I just try my best to not spill my pasta while following her. We finally come to a table packed with other apprentices. They wave us over excitedly. Well, more accurately, they wave Kiera over excitedly.
"Hey guys! I brought over Hadrian!" she says, sitting down. I reluctantly sit down across from her.
"Oh yeah, I've seen you around before. I'm glad you came around, dude! I never see you sharing your spell progress. You talk to some of the upper-level apprentices sometimes though, right?" says an apprentice with short, chestnut hair. He stuffs a whole cheese roll in his mouth.
"Yeah. Sometimes," I reply bitterly.
"Ooh! You should show off some of your spells!" pipes up Kiera. "To make for my behavior today, and so we can see what you've got!"
"NO! Er, I mean, I can't."
"Oh, why not?"
"It's a top-secret spell. I've been working on it with Master Eli," I lie.
"Wow!" says the chestnut-haired apprentice. "Can you say anything about it at all? Like, what's the hardest part of the spell? The coolest?"
I glance around the table nervously. "No, I can't say anything about it. Master Eli is on the Secondary Committee. You guys know how it is."
The rest of the apprentices nod knowingly. I pray that it's the end of the conversation as the others drift off into other topics. Kiera, however, doesn't give it up.
"Hadrian, can we really not know a thing about it? You're killing me with suspense!" she whispers.
"No. End of story." I scoop a forkful of pasta into my mouth. The longer I stay here, the more I think that this was a mistake.
"Aww! No hints?"
"No. It involves very advanced soul tapping, OK? Even I have trouble with it, that's how powerful and off-limits it is."
"Hey, soul tapping! I love soul tapping! It feels so warm and satisfying, like unwinding a whole ball of yarn next to a fireplace!"
My throat fills with more annoyance. "Oh wow, great. Like I said, some of us don't get magic so easily. It's hard work, and advanced soul tapping is a huge part of it."
"It's not too bad for me! Oh, sorry. That was probably rude again. But, I mean, I can help you become better at it! I don't mind at all. I've been doing for ages my way and it works pretty well, even if it's not exactly 'advanced'. Well, OK, I guess you've been doing it a while too, but maybe it'll end up being easier for you too?"
I look away, the annoyance burning and choking me now. "It's fine. I don't need your help." I get up and pick up my bowl of pasta. "Thanks for the invite, but I need to get back to studying now. It's really important."
"Oh, that's fine, Hadrian. I'm glad you could stick around for a little bit, at least!" says Kiera. "Come back when you're not so busy!"
"Sure. It's whatever."
I stomp back to the third-rank quarters filled with rage, leaving the hustle and bustle of the dining hall behind me. When I get to my room, I slam down the bowl on my desk and lock the door behind me. I yank out my books and papers on the soul and the art of soul tapping.
"It's so easy, Hadrian," I sneer, mocking Kiera's voice. "Gods, I just have to deal with all of it, don't I? I'll figure out the damn thing myself. I'll get there without anyone's help!" I take a seat in the mahogany chair and settle in for a long night of studying.
I’m partway through a paper on the theoretical contents of the human soul when I hear an urgent knock on the door. I sigh as I get up to see who it is. The heavy oak door creaks open to reveal a serious-faced Master Eli.
“Hadiran, you should come see this.”
I follow him down the stairs and to the windows of the third-rank quarters. I spot a few blasts of dark magic down below in the gardens. “Dark spells. Are those dark wizards then?”
“Indeed, Hadrian. It seems as if they have regrouped yet again. They’re stronger than expected, but I’m sure we will put an end to this nonsense soon enough.”
“So the attack was real. I’m still not too worried. Can I go back to studying now, Master Eli? I was working on soul tapping.”
“Hadrian, now is not the time for books. Besides, unlocking the soul is something that must be mastered through your own willingness to let it be unlocked, not through more reading,” scolds Master Eli. “I want you to see these threats first-hand in a controlled and relatively safe environment such as this one. One day, when you master magic yourself and become sworn into the Wizard Council, you must understand the enemy as much as you understand the spells that combat them.”
I throw my hands up. “Well, what can I even do? I can’t even summon a basic fire spell! I’ll contribute nothing. I’m useless here.”
“Hadrian.” Master Eli’s eyes pierce my own.
“Fine. I’ll go, Master Eli,” I concede. “I guess I’ll take notes, or whatever I will be doing.”
“Thank you, Hadrian. You will not be taking notes. You will be assisting the defense line with potion ingredients and supplies.”
I don’t dare talk back any further. Master Eli is usually lenient, but I know better than to push a third-rank wizard. I follow him out of the quarters and out into the castle. We pass several groups of wizards and apprentices, excited to aid the counterattack. I, on the other hand, am less than thrilled to be a glorified servant hand for the potion makers. Master Eli finally drops me off at the kitchen hall.
“Be good and courteous, Hadrian. I expect diligent work while I’m gone.”
“Yes, Master Eli.”
He quickly leaves the hall, no doubt being needed elsewhere. So now, I was alone here at the kitchen hall. I begrudgingly enter through the wide arched doors. Inside, a cacophony of wizards, apprentices, and impromptu bubbling potions in soup pots fills the room. One of the wizards, a frazzled-looking woman with short blonde hair and round, silver glasses approaches me.
“Thank goodness, another apprentice! We need another hand at the belladonna station!” She points to a corner of the kitchen where two apprentices are scrambling to pluck a massive basket of dried cuttings. “Turns out the magic they’re using is energy-sapping, and they’re not letting up just yet! Potions of energizing are at high demand! Go and help them separate the leaves and berries from the stems.” She then quickly returns to the line of brewing potions, fervently checking each pot.
I take my time getting to the station. When I finally get there, one of the apprentices look up at me.
“Oh thank the gods, more help!” He dumps a pile of dried belladonna in front of me. “Keep plucking those. We can barely keep up with the brewers!”
I settle in, tearing the shriveled leaves and the dark purple berries from the stems. As soon as I set the leaves and berries on the counter, one of the other apprentices whisks them away to the prep station. I toss the leftover stem onto the growing discard pile and start on the next stalk. I can’t believe I’m stuck here plucking belladonna in a makeshift brewing room in a lame dark wizard attack. I sigh defeatedly, wishing I was back up in my room in the comfort of my books.
Suddenly, the kitchen-turned-brewing room shakes with a deep rumble. Everyone stops and stares at each other in silence. A few seconds later, another rumble rattles the room. Berries and herbs topple out of their neat piles and giant copper pots clang against the stovetops. Then, it stops. The wizard with the round glasses looks around the worried group of potion brewers.
“Stay put everyone, I'm going to investigate.” She rushes out the door, letting the doors close with a deafening slam.
The room stays dead silent. All that could be heard was the bubbling of the potions. The other two apprentices at my station look at each other nervously. Even for me, there’s a gnawing feeling in my chest. That didn’t sound like a run-of-the-mill explosion spell. It sounded huge, like the type that only the most advanced wizards would use. Something like that shouldn’t be happening in a basic counterattack to ward off some pesky dark wizards. Most of them weren’t even trained properly. And none of the wizards here, except for maybe the Grand Masters and the second-rank wizards, could pull off a big spell like that. We all wait for the silver glasses wizard to come back.
After what seems like an eternity, the kitchen doors burst open. The wizard stumbles into the room, sweat soaking her brow and her hair even more frazzled than before. “Healing potions! Now! Scrap the potions of energizing! We need as many as we can put out!”
The room bursts into panic and fervor. The two apprentices drop their belladonna stalks and scramble for the witch hazel stacked in the corner. I abandon the station, dodging past the pairs of brewers lugging half-finished energizing potions out the back door to be neutralized and dumped. I approach the wizard, who is now barking orders around the stations.
“What the hell happened?” I ask, shouting over the commotion.
The wizard readjusts her glasses and skirts around me without even meeting my eyes. “It’s a dark matter explosion! I’ve never seen anything like it before in all my years of wizarding!” She whisks a heart radish into a copper pot. “Wizards are hurt, and badly! Head back to your station, now!”
“Wait, Master Eli! What about him?” I realize that he’s still out there, organizing front lines. If he’s gone, then who will teach me? Who will guide me through my quest of becoming a great wizard myself?
I run out of the kitchen against the potion wizard’s protests. Leaving the kitchen behind, I dash down the stony corridors and past the dining hall. I spot some wizards hauling others into the hall. Some of them are slumped over with sickly black wounds snaking up arms and legs like infected veins. A few gnomes bolt past me, protecting their magically fragile bodies from the enslaughts. It makes me panic even more.
I navigate my way towards the garden. I remember there being some combat happening there. “Master Eli!” I call out. No one responds. More and more injured wizards limp towards the dining hall far behind me. “Master Eli!”
“Hadrian!” That voice isn’t Master Eli, but it is familiar.
I whirl around to see Kiera. She looks like she’s about to cry. “Kiera?”
“Hadrian! Don’t go over there!” she yelps. “That’s where the dark matter explosions went off! It’s horrible!”
“I need to find Master Eli. Do you know where the third-rank wizards went?”
“No, but they’re probably trying to handle all of this,” she replies. “Master Delia and I went out to put up some traps and other defensive spells in the garden. Then it happened! It was awful, and it was almost deafening how loud it was! It felt like the whole world shook to its core!” She shivers. “It was so cold.”
“Wait, you were there! How did it happen?”
“I don’t know, but Master Delia-” she sobs. “All I know is that she told me to stay put and ran off to the front lines. Then the second one went off and, well, I saw her on the ground with this terrible wound. It looked so dark and sickly.”
“Gods, this is bad,” I say, feeling a bit bad for Kiera. I couldn’t imagine being there at the scene of the explosion, nevermind almost getting killed. “Is your master OK? How did the dark wizards do this?”
“I don’t know.” Kiera sniffles. “She’s getting a healing potion made for her, and the gnome nurses are trying their best. Who knows how those rotten dark wizards pulled it off. I just want it to stop.”
I notice the ground freezing around her. I’m taken aback with shock. I had to admit, she was magically gifted. Almost no human could summon magic like that on whim, especially while unfocused and emotional.
Kiera notices me staring. “Oh gods, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?” The ice around her feet melts instantly. “Sometimes, magic just flows right out of my soul and through my body without me realizing that I’m even doing it. I guess it’s just hard for me to get used to controlling my power directly instead of just letting myself channel it wherever and whenever. I’m sorry.”
“No, I mean… that’s incredible. I’ve never seen a human soul tap that easily.”
“But it had no rhyme or reason. No discipline. At least, that’s what Master Delia always says.” Her face falls as she mentions Master Delia. “You might have to try harder to soul tap, but you have such good control of it! You know every spell in the book! You’re even working on a top-secret advanced spell because you have the control to do it! You must be close to finishing your apprenticeship already. Unlike me.”
“No! That’s not it at all!” I sigh with defeat. “I wish I was as good as you. All my life I’ve had to struggle and work harder than anyone else. But still, I never get anywhere. No matter how hard I study, and no matter how many papers I read, I’m still stuck!” I kick a chunk of stone across the hall, letting it clatter loudly against the floor.
“Oh Hadrian, I’m sure you’re just being hard on yourself-”
“NO! I’m literally useless!” I scream. “It’s all a damn lie. I don’t work on secret spells. I don’t even have spells. I can’t even do the simplest ones because I can’t tap into my soul, no matter how hard I’ve tried for years at this point! I NEED Master Eli! I NEED to become better, if not the best! I just need to, because I need to prove I can do it better than people like you! I hate it! I hate it all!”
I slump down to the cold floor, the anger leaking out of me. I just put out my secret for the world to hear, and now my wizard dreams were crushed. I’m certain that Kiera would go out and tell the whole community about just how miserable of a wizard I am, and how I’ve been faking my progress for the last two years of apprenticeship. And to top it all off, the only person who might’ve believed in me is missing in action. Hot, bitter bile rises up in my throat. I’m trying to fight back my tears. I should be ashamed.
“I understand.” Kiera squats down next to me. “I think I get where you’re coming from. It feels so disheartening to not be what everyone thinks you should be.”
I look up at her. “What makes you say that?”
“I’m supposed to be the next prodigy in magic, even as a human. I was whisked away to so many magic training camps and given so many magic tutors, because I’m supposed to be the next incredibly powerful wizard, maybe even a Grand Master one day. Sure, magic comes easy to me, but I can’t ever seem to control it right. They even had Master Delia, a second-rank wizard, take me in to see if she could rope in my powers.”
“Your master is second-rank?” I gasp. “I didn’t know that!”
Kiera sniffles. “Yeah, she’s a really good illusion-caster. I really value her dedication to get me into shape. But I feel like such a disappointment. All these positions, commands, orders, all that stuff — it confuses me so much, and I feel so stupid for not getting any of it! Half the time, when I try a bigger spell, I just end up blowing up yet another part of Master Delia’s workshop. Or freeze over all her potion ingredients. Or accidentally summon a thousand flying monkeys that one time. I’m awful at this wizard stuff.”
“You can sort of control it, right? You must be able to learn it eventually, with enough drilling and flashcards.”
“I don’t know. I think I might just be stupid. I’m not super smart like you. I used to love the idea of wizarding. Like, it was my childhood dream to help the world with my magic. But nowadays, I’m starting to think that maybe wizarding isn’t for me. Maybe I should just quit while I still can.”
My eyes widen. “What?! But you are a prodigy! Magic comes as easily to you as a faerie, or an elf! You can’t quit the program now!”
“But how can I do it? I’m just a dumb, useless lady who happens to be good at soul tapping and nothing else.”
“Look, I’ll try to teach you some of the technical stuff myself. Like I said, I know every spell in the book. And if I don’t know it, I probably have a book about it. I may not be able to do any of it, but you sure as hell can!” I leap to my feet, my anger now totally gone. “There are wizards out there who need help. With your power, we can figure out what’s going on and stop this mess.”
Kiera wipes away a tear and smiles. “Thank you, Hadrian. Maybe there’s still a little hope left. I want to help Master Delia and all the others who were hurt from the explosions.”
I pull her up off the floor. “We should go see your master and all the others who got hurt. Maybe Master Eli will be there too. I think the best course of action is to find out whatever we can about the dark matter explosions.”
“Sounds good. Lead the way, Hadrian!”
submitted by Starberriez to WritingPrompts [link] [comments]

Material Differences Ch 47

The end draws near! Stay safe wherever you are and enjoy the latest chapter!
My Stories
Material Differences Wiki
Chapter 1
Chapter 46
“Hold up.” Jaeger raised a hand to get Tami to stop in place behind him in the hallway. Just ahead of him one of the slaved trooper bots stepped forward and was cut down immediately by gunfire. “Max I have hostiles at junction-”
“I’m already on it. Bertha is en route. ETA momentarily.” Max quickly let him know, and shortly after he said it Jaeger heard an explosion followed by screaming as the tunnels were filled with the sound of the classic Void Forever march.
“Unit designation Jaeger. This junction is clear. Hostile presence is diminishing quickly. Forward to victory.” Jaeger took a quick look out into the hall to ensure that Bertha was correct. He saw the massive assault bot stomping forward while the smaller trooper bots swarmed around her, all the while the inspiring patriotic military band music blared.
“This way.” Jaeger waved Tami forward then as she clamped her hands over her ears even more firmly.
“WHY IS THERE MUSIC!?” Without smartplugs for her ears he could only imagine how loud the music must be for her. Never mind all the gunfire and explosions echoing through the tight tunnels.
“The bots have initiated a communist uprising. Can’t you tell?” He replied as she squinted at him.
“WHAT?!” He just shook his head and waved her forward crossing the hall while still flanked by trooper bots. He was doing his best to get her to the central structure so he could get her back up to the command center and safety, but it was slow going. To make matters worse the combat drugs still pulsing through his veins left him feeling a bit sweaty inside his armor. Sweaty and hot. Sweaty, hot, and aggressive. The faint echoes of possible hostiles being chased down by Bertha and her swarm of troopers made him want to join the hunt, but he knew better than to give in.
He still wanted to know what had happened up top involving some kind of crab bot. Could it really be the one from the city? Why was it here? What did it have to do with the fight? Keeping to the less populated tunnels as they moved through the underground he had to step over broken bots, and dead Draugr in equal measure. Though he paused as he saw some of their equipment. Reaching down he picked up what looked to be a standard M539 LMG one of them had been using. “What is it?” Tami asked, now able to talk clearly away from the sounds of battle.
“I’m curious.” Jaeger announced and slowly turned the weapon over in his hands before pointing to a stamp in the casing. “It’s got a stamp from the Binary weapon foundries. But it’s newer than the war because it’s also got the Ragnarok insignia. I’m just trying to figure out where Marque’s gear is coming from.” He tossed the weapon aside then and began to look some of the bodies over more closely.
“Can this wait… until I’m not standing in a pool of blood and guts and shit?” Tami asked, looking around nervously.
“Oh right.” Jaeger started to rise, but then paused a moment to grab a flower that had been tucked into the collar of one of the Draugr’s uniforms. It looked familiar… but he couldn’t place it. Tucking it into a pouch he started moving forward again. “I don’t suppose you have any insight into where they were coming from before this attack began?”
“Me? No. I’ve been trying to untangle your comms once Ham gave me access. Did you know you had… hundreds of frequency channels opened for some reason? I can’t tell if some process was making more or why they weren’t closed out. The fact your system could handle it is impressive but… also just… disgusting in a systems admin perspective. I couldn’t even determine that the vast majority of them were being used.” Jaeger glanced back as Tami rambled on a bit while they walked.
“What are you talking about? Our voice comms? There shouldn’t be that many open channels…” Had something been going on with the system before the reset? Was there a leak? What did that even mean? Some rogue bot? But Marque hadn’t known he was alive until recently. Paranoia began to creep through his thoughts as he wondered about the possible reasons for the tangled comms.
“Well how often did you wipe the frequency channels? Or purge the channel history?” She asked next which made him blink.
“What do you mean? If I’m ever opening a channel it’s just… whatever the tab is in the UI. Should just be a command channel, and an all channel. Though the command channel hasn’t mattered since the war obviously.” Now Jaeger was trying to look harder at his UI, which of course was hard as his eyes wanted to twitch thanks to the drugs.
“You never clear them? That doesn't purge the old frequencies! Are you telling me for a decade you’ve just been opening new channels every time you put on your armor?” Tami gasped out. “How did you not know how to do that?! You’re a Revenant!”
“Yeah, I’m a Revenant! Not a tech! We had people for that! Ask Ham! He’s our nerd!” Jaeger’s paranoia quickly began to drift over to defensive anger.
“If by nerd you mean the only tech savvy individual on your team then you should be thankful he kept this place running as long as he did! Did you just turn on all your maintenance bots and assume that’ll take care of everything?!” She asked then as he very distinctly didn’t look back. “Oh my god! You did! Didn’t you?!”
“Listen I was busy raising my kids! So I opened new comms tabs! The fuck is it to you?! I was busy killing scavs and trying to hold onto what little civilization still existed! I don’t have to explain myself to you!” Jaeger huffed.
“What happened to the other people here at the facility? This place obviously wasn’t meant to be run by bots and two adults for a decade!” Jaeger was getting more antsy about finding some hostile contacts the longer this conversation lasted. But the closer they got to the center the safer it became.
“The compound was evacuated in the very early parts of the war. We returned near the end, and just made due with what we had. It’s not like we were exactly swimming in techs and engineers or whatever. We lost most of who we still had in the assault on the central hub! So you’re fucking welcome for defeating the Hive alright!” Jaeger hissed back at her.
“A problem Absolute Dynamics is totally responsible for!” Tami countered immediately. Jaeger just huffed at that and forced himself to remain silent. He knew the irritation edging up through him was part of the drugs. Why was he mad about being told he needed to clean up his comms? It was a small issue, more to laugh at. But as he kept stomping along he had to deal with that voice in the back of his mind raging about charging into battle and killing every Draugr he could find.
Finally though he saw the door he’d been looking for. The crumpled security door that the assassin bot had first broken through, and then Bertha had kicked back out. Peering inside the bot bay for a moment he didn’t see anything threatening and waved Tami forward. “Well, thanks for fixing… whatever you could fix before all this.” He felt a bit like a child being forced to utter an insincere apology, but the problem was he was the one forcing himself to say it.
“You’re welcome.” Tami replied as they moved forward through the empty bays. The trooper bots still keeping a perimeter around them. “Is… that the assassin bot you mentioned?” Tami asked as they stepped past the hulk that Bertha personally deactivated earlier.
“Another one yeah. Dumbass bot design if you ask me. It’s too small. I don’t care how advanced the material is, assault bots like Bertha outclass her in too many regards. She’s not strong enough to win hand to hand and she’s not faster than an autocannon.” Jaeger mentioned as he shook his head a moment.
“Well, it’s supposed to be an assassin right? I imagine they figure guards are more likely to ignore a teen girl right? Less threatening?” Tami pointed out.
“Maybe thirty years ago. During the shadow wars, and the actual war girls were far more often used for suicide bombings. Pretty much any time we dealt with Hive or Davari it was nearly regulation to shoot girls of that age on sight. I mean not like… on sight, on sight but like… just…” Jaeger waved a hand vaguely. “If they were wearing lumpy clothes and near a battle they should be running away from.”
“Holy shit…” Tami muttered softly. “Doesn’t that bother you?” She asked next.
“What? I mean it sucked. But it’s war. It’s comprised entirely of suck.” Jaeger snorted.
“But you have a girl that age. You don’t think about how you killed girls like Raven?” Tami gave him a worried look as they began to ascend the stairs towards the main lobby.
“I don’t enjoy killing kids. But sometimes it has to be done. I also have a son, you’re not asking if I disliked killing boys that age. I’m also a father! Shouldn’t you ask if I hate killing other dads? Or mothers? Shouldn’t… shouldn’t you just ask how I feel about killing in general? Fuck! If someone is strapped with explosives and determined to kill you and your buddies does it matter what age they are? Or gender? Or even fucking species?! Sometimes it’s kill or be killed. And I’d rather kill.” Jaeger clutched his gun tighter for a moment as they made it to the top of the stairs.
Yes, he would rather kill. The lobby was safe. He could just send her on her way and go out and join the fray. These assholes were here to kill his family and friends. They needed to die. Marque needed to die. Everyone involved… He forced himself to relax his fingers slowly and untense his shoulders, rolling them back a moment as he looked over at Tami behind him. He could see how anxious she was, one hand out just a little as if she was debating reaching to touch his arm. Was she worried for his soul? Or was she worried she’d be next? “We’re almost safe. Just got to cross the lobby.”
The trooper bots fanned out before them as they crossed over and she looked at the dead hostile Revenant in the middle. “Is that one of-”
“No. One of Marque’s. No idea who he was. Don’t slip in the shit.” They’d been walking through plenty of blood and guts in the tunnels but Tami made an effort to step around the bodies this time. Jaeger took a moment to look out the main windows at the tracers flashing in the distance. It looked like they were being pushed back. There were the charred remains of the man he had watched earlier. A human reduced to bristly burnt charcoal.
He could still go… Still join the fray. His blood still felt like it was boiling inside his veins as the drugs did everything they were supposed to do. Suppress pain, suppress empathy, hell suppress self. All that should remain is a husk ready to kill. No… not just ready to kill. Aroused by it. Thrilled by it. Driven by it… That’s why they didn’t use just bots. Bots didn’t get giddy and excited to murder dissidents. Here he was years after Odinson was dead, and that voice deep within him would just never shut up… “Jaeger?”
Turning he saw Tami at the door to the security checkpoint and moved to follow. “Coming.” Even as his body screamed at him to run out that door and find someone to kill he moved up the stairs with Tami, the trooper bots hanging back now to set up a defensive position inside the checkpoint just in case. Once they had stepped into the command center he saw Max was still hooked up. Figs was in the corner, his armor partially stripped off as Tanya tended to him. Looked like he’d been hit pretty hard, his arm was off just like he’d said.
“Hey sarge.” He waved his dismembered arm when he saw Jaeger enter the room, which made Jaeger sigh and shake his head.
“Max what were you saying earlier about a crab bot?” He ignored Figs for now, not wanting to hear the dozens of hand puns he was positive Figs had prepared.
“Oh c’mon sarge you’re not going to give me a hand?!” Figs accused, already trying to force those puns upon him anyway.
“Tanya could you up his morphine levels so he shuts up?” Jaeger asked.
“He’s a synth, he’s not on any morphine.” Tanya reminded him.
“But I will take some! Now’s a great time for drugs!” He then extended the dismembered arm he was holding to point it at Raven who was nervously watching him. “Hey Raven! Pull my finger.”
“The crab bot.” Jaeger reiterated then as he looked at Max hooked up to the command chair.
“I didn’t understand what was going on at first. I thought it was just one of the loose bots requesting network access at first. I didn’t realize what it was until one of their last intact landers was trying to offload its cargo on the road and the crab bot grabbed the door and stopped it from opening.” Max explained.
“Seriously? It just… walked up and broke the door?” Jaeger asked.
“Yeah. I don’t think the landing ramp was ever intended to be opened while a crab bot was pinning it shut. It was too close in for the lander to use any guns. They sent a few troops after it but it just stabbed some of them with the weathervane until I got more bots in position to cover it.” Even as Max explained that Spike was chirping away on Jaeger’s shoulder.
“What does he mean about a friend? Bots don’t have friends.” Tami was asking as she listened to the little bot.
“That’s just how he refers to bots he’s hacked. Don’t think about it.” Jaeger immediately insisted. “But yes Spike I can’t imagine there are two crab bots with weathervanes.”
“Ham told me about this! Do you seriously never wipe your bots?! This can’t be good! The Shanghai accords exist for a good reason you know!” Tami waved her hands as she stressed the point Jaeger had heard a million times now.
“Yes they exist for a reason and I don’t care! I’m not wiping Spike! Bots are better than most organics anyway! They can have friends and dreams if they want to! Back off lady!” Jaeger snapped at her as she backed up and gulped in worry.
“Damn sarge who pissed in your cornflakes?” Figs asked, thankfully not making another hand joke.
“Sorry… sorry… I’m just… it’s the combat drugs. Making me… feel like my blood is hot and sweaty… and just… Well you fucking know how I get!” He waved a hand at them for a moment.
“Is that all? You’re back up in safety now you don’t need them.” Tanya reminded him and before he could reply he saw her bring up the medical menu in his UI before she selected the detox routine.
“Wa-” Was as far as Jaeger got before he felt the needle sink into his neck and all his energy seemed to just drain out of his body. All the pain came flooding back, and he suddenly felt like he hadn’t slept in years. He couldn’t even try and go for a chair. Everything was spinning… but in slow motion. Who was messing with the remote? His legs just buckled a little as he hadn’t locked up the suit servos and he slowly and pitifully collapsed forward onto his face.
“Shit Tanya! Did you just kill sarge?” Figs asked in surprise.
“Dad!” Raven was already rushing to his side to clutch at his arm, trying to roll him over, but between his own bulk and the armor it wasn’t happening.
“What? No, I didn’t kill him! I know you can see his vitals! He’s just… All I did was detox him! He was complaining about the combat drugs!” She waved a hand at Jaeger and moved over to slowly roll him onto his side, tucking one arm under his head and angling a leg to shift him into the recovery position.
“The man is baseline, he’s in his 40s, has been engaged in combat over the last few days, is suffering a number of injuries, and probably hasn’t had good sleep in a week and you just do him dirty like that? Tanya, that’s cold.” Figs shook his head and wagged his dismembered arm at her scoldingly.
“Ow.” Jaeger finally spoke as his brain seemed to move beyond being stuck in slowmo. “I’m… just… gonna lie here… for a while…”
“You do that sarge. Raven your dad is fine. He’s just… a lot more tired than I expected.” Tanya was gently stroking Raven’s hair to try and soothe her as they crouched over Jaeger.
“Should we get him out of his armor?” Raven asked, casting a worried glance at her dad lying on the ground.
“Leaving him in it is best. It’ll make sure he’s just fine.” Tanya informed her and then tugged Raven’s hand to get her to move back.
“Jus… minute…” Jaeger quietly muttered. He’d drift off to sleep any moment now. He’d see Leona in his dreams. When he woke up he’d be feeling much better. Yes. Sleep. Any… moment… Why wasn’t he asleep yet? He began to feel as if he wasn’t properly within his body anymore. It was like he was sitting just behind himself. His eyes providing a distant tiny view of the world around him. Feet were moving. Not often. But he could hear shuffling. Distant talking sometimes. They were no doubt trying to be quiet for him.
Right. It was time to sleep now. He was very tired. Someone shifted the vision ports around as he tried to peer through them to see what was going on, but it all seemed so distant… This wasn’t ideal… he’d give it another minute. Then he’d get up because this was getting boring. How had he not fallen asleep? He was infamous for being able to take battle naps pretty much whenever he wanted! Why was his hand moving?
Oh he was probably doing that. His armored fingers slowly dragging against the floor of the command center before he finally got his hand closed into a fist. His other arm… where was it? On his side. Right. He carefully began to move that hand out as well, also curling his fingers into a fist. Then he shifted his legs, flopping over more directly onto his face from his side where Tanya had rolled him over. His muscles felt like they were quivering with exhaustion after a prolonged workout but he slowly pushed down and very shakily rose up to his feet.
“I’m up.” He announced as his mind seemed to reorient itself. He was no longer sitting just behind himself. His body hurt… but slowly opened and closed his hands, curled and uncurled his toes, and established that this was his body.
“Good to see you up sarge.” Brandy-Lynn gave his shoulder a pat as she stepped up next to him.
“When did you get here?” Jaeger asked and looked around seeing the command chair was empty. Figs wasn’t in the corner. What was going on?
“An hour ago? You know you’ve been lying on the floor for like… three hours right?” Jaeger blinked as he looked at Brandy-Lynn and then around the room slowly.
“It was like… five minutes.” Looking down at his hands he opened and closed them again. Where was his gun?
“You were deep in some hole. Your brain needed it obviously. Want to counter that with more drugs?” A grin spread easily across her face as she asked him that.
“No.” While there were a great many things he would love right now, using more drugs was about as far from desirable as it could get. “Battle?” He asked even as he slowly and carefully moved over to take a seat on the chair Figs had used earlier that was actually designed for someone in power armor.
“It’s been over for a while. Just a lot of mopping up. By the time you came back up in here it was pretty much done. Neither side knew it of course. I’ll hand it to Marque. He's made some fanatical scavs that’s for sure.” Brandy-Lynn shook her head a bit as she took a seat across from Jaeger.
“Prisoners? Wounded?” Jaeger asked next as his brain seemed to start processing things properly once more. Even if it was a bit delayed.
“I did just mention fanatics right? None of them surrendered. The ones who didn’t just outright fight to the death took pills. Tabori did the usual Tabori bullshit where he found one of the guys who had killed himself with a pill, had like… foam around his mouth. Anyway Tabori scooped up a bit of the foam on his pinky and then licked it and squinted like this.” She made a face trying to imitate the sniper. “Almonds.” She hisses out in his usual exaggerated accent before laughing. “Oohhh Tabori… Fucking goofball.”
“In the lobby…” Jaeger’s body was slowly pulling itself together from a million different places as he began to feel alive all over again.
“No one we knew.” She shook her head, figuring he was talking about the hostile Revenant he’d helped Max kill earlier. “Tanya was trying to organize some impromptu autopsies but Max wasn’t feeling like playing commander at that point so I dunno if she organized the bots for it yet or not. Seemed like they were mostly human. Though that Revenant guy and the commanders were certainly pumping a variety of steroids and enhancers. Also their protein bars are annoyingly good.”
That last bit made Jaeger frown as he gave Brandy-Lynn a look. Even with his helmet on she could no doubt sense this as she shrugged. “Look I was fucking hungry. You know how hungry you can get in combat.”
As if that was the magic words to reawaken his digestion system Jaeger’s stomach let out a low deep grumble. “Fuck I’m hungry…”
“Figured.” She reached into a pocket pulling out a rather familiar olive drab pouch to toss to him. Carefully catching it he set it in his lap and then removed his helmet, tugging the smart cloak back as he did. “Fuck bud you look like shit.” Was the first thing she said as she saw his face.
“How bad is it?” He asked, not wanting to look even as he opened the food pouch she’d given him.
“Bad. Like uh… Shit. You look like complete shit.” She shrugged then as he sighed and looked at the bar inside the pouch. It had some kind of yellowish gold coating. He carefully and gingerly pulled it up to his mouth to take a bite and then gave her a surprised look as he crunched on it.
“Salted caramel?” He frowned as he tried to read the package. Sure enough ProBar Ration 5 Salted Caramel.
“Right?” Brandy-Lynn nodded. “They’re like candy but they’ve got a ton of protein and good shit in them. I found red velvet, peanut butter chocolate, lemon bar, and a few others. I’d say they’re even better than those cashew based ones we used to get. These have like… a light wafer crunch or something to them.”
Jaeger looked at the protein bar in his hand before he took another careful bite. He noticed then that his mouth was an arid wasteland and coughed a moment. Brandy-Lynn seemed ready though and handed him a canteen. He took a careful sniff, couldn’t tell what it was, and took a swig anyway. Gulping down the sweet juice he shuddered a moment and then took another gulp before handing it back. “Fruit juice?”
“Better than water.” Brandy-Lynn grinned as she took it back and took a swig herself. “PURG. Passion, Ushi fruit, rock orange, and guava. Good shit.”
“There might be concerns over it spoiling.” Jaeger weakly muttered but was already feeling much better as the sugar and protein were no doubt much welcomed by his abused body. Feeling more coordinated by now he stood up, waiting a moment to see if the room was spinning. Once he didn’t fall over he grabbed his helmet. “Where is everyone?”
“Downstairs.” Brandy-Lynn got up and led the way. Jaeger was mostly walking thanks to the servos in the armor doing the work for him but he managed to make it downstairs no problem. Trooper bots were standing around in the lobby, with two heavy bots outside. The bodies had been dragged outside, blood smeared around as two of the googly-eyed cleaner began to tend to the mess.
Such happy looking little bots… Cleaning up all that blood without a care… Good for them. As they moved on into the cafeteria he was glad to see only a few windows had been shattered by bullets, and some maintenance bots were already patching them up. He’d put a lot of effort into making the compound look abandoned, now they were going about making it look clean and fresh once more. The others were sitting around one of the cafeteria tables, a variety of frozen food having been cooked and set out.
“Hey it’s Sarge!” Figs waved… why the fuck was his arm white? Jaeger stared at the now mismatched Figs even as Raven got up from where she had been sitting to run over and hug Jaeger as best she could through his armor. He carefully gave her head a pat, and then picked her up a bit to walk over and sit down with the others. “Wwooooow. You look like shit.” Figs immediately said.
“That’s what I said!” Brandy-Lynn sat down nearby and grabbed a hamburger from a pile of them, then opened it up to add some chicken nuggets, ranch, and potato chips before smooshing it all back down to start eating like the degenerate she was.
“Wow. Dad you do look… bad.” Max mentioned from across the table, looking rather tired himself.
“This is why we always appreciated having your dad around to remind us of our former humanity.” Figs nodded slowly and crossed his arms as he leaned on the table. Jaeger stared at his new, smaller, white arm once more. “Yeah this is all you had spare.” He finally explained.
“Didn’t we just get a bunch of synthflesh?” Jaeger asked looking around for Tanya while Raven still clutched his side, not letting go.
“I’m not wasting it on him.” Tanya was walking back in from the kitchen with a large pot of recaff as the others began to hold up mugs for her to pour into.
“I kinda need it.” Figs protested even as she filled his cup with the dirty brown liquid of life. “Thanks. But yeah I mean people are going to ask questions if I go out looking like this.”
“We can get you a new arm some other way. I got that synthflesh so Raven and Max could use it. Not you.” Tanya explained with a huff as she took a seat before a bowl of some kind of instant noodles. Then as she looked at Jaeger she arched a brow. “Wow, you do look like hell.”
“Thank you. Anyone else want to tell me I look like ass?” Jaeger grumbled as he looked around.
“Ass would be improvement. Your face more resemblent of roadkill scraped off street to add meat to borsch.” Tabori helpfully added as he tended to his own little espresso pot at the end of the table.
“You look like you were in a car accident or something. Is he okay?” Tami looked to be the only one who showed any concern as she sat by Ham, who had been eyeing Jaeger carefully so far. Was he going to say something about the bots? The pilot had now seen Jaeger’s un-memory wiped army of robots in action, which might not be a good thing.
“Sigil seven. When you were really sick.” Ham finally spoke up before taking a sip of his mug of recaff. “That’s what it looks like.”
“Ooohhh yeeeaaah.” Figs nodded and wagged a finger at him. “That’s it. When you made us all very aware of how fragile you are and also so very glad we aren’t human anymore. Uh er… baseline.” He corrected after a moment and shiftily looked around the table as if it was a conspiracy.
“How bad was it?” Max asked as he glanced around.
“Rul bad.” Brandy-Lynn muttered around a mouthful of chicken nugget, ranch, potato chip, hamburger.
“I was very sick…” Jaeger nodded thinking back on the time in question. “Worse yet we were mid mission so it’s not like I could get out of there. We were in this… cheap… awful little apartment… I was already on the can, being miserable, when I realized I had to vomit. But there was such volume that I ended up blowing chunks out my nose in the process.”
“Uugghhh!” “Aaawwwh...” “Eeewww!” “Grooosssss!” All around him was a cacophony of disgusted reactions, while even Raven let go his side and leaned back, rubbing at her own nose reflexively.
“Noooo! I can smell it!” She wailed and shook her head to try and dislodge the thought.
“Yeah that’s synth programming. When people say they can smell a memory? You guys get the same actual sensation. Have fun.” Jaeger couldn’t help but let out a slow chuckle as he had disgusted everyone at the table. Except Brandy-Lynn who was also giggling, as bits of her Franken-Burger spat out. “Chew with your mouth closed Brandy-Lynn. Jesus you’re such a pig.”
“Oink oink oink!” She snorted at him and made a show of a big mouthful of partially chewed food.
“Yeah, your dad really helps remind us to appreciate regular people. I mean this baseline human followed around a bunch of super humans through combat for a decade and a half. Plus he would actually get sick sometimes!” Ham shook his head a moment.
“We get sick.” Max replied with a frown, but Jaeger stiffened up a little as he mentioned it and his eyes locked with Tanya who also froze.
“Hol’ up. What do you mean you get sick?” Ham looked down and Max now gave his dad a confused look.
“I mean not often but…” Max processed things for a moment and pointed at Jaeger. “You made us sick didn’t you!”
“Getting flus and colds is part of the human experience! Feeling weak and recovering is important for personal growth!” Jaeger insisted immediately as even Raven gave him a slightly hurt look.
“You mean that awful summer cold I had two years ago where I was miserable for like a week and went through a million kleenex was because you! I just thought it was like… I don’t know!” She waved a hand.
“Yes. I made you two get sick. Just… minor programming things so you’d know what it was like. Your mother thought it was important! As did I. You’re human, no matter what these louts talk about being synths. So… human experiences are important! If you were a Jipasi synth I’m sure you’d experience similar… Jipasi things!” He looked around a moment at that. “Where’s Kuv?”
“I had him start organizing salvage and checking their lander wrecks for traps and the like. Useless little coward spent the battle running through the tunnels setting booby traps so I told him he has to put in work now.” Tanya snorted and shook her head slowly.
“He’s pretty adamant about not being in the actual fighting.” Jaeger nodded.
“Can we not change the subject about you forcing disease upon us?” Max tried to keep the conversation focused.
“It’s not disease! It was a few colds and a flu or two! If you don’t know what it’s like to be sick how will you know when people you interact with mention things like that? It’s about blending it. Vulnerability is essential to the human experience.” Jaeger insisted.
“He’s got a point. Seeming him at his lowest really helped keep us in line… And then also shame us when he was humping fifty kilos through the worst terrain possible, ahead of us, all without bitching.” Figs nodded slowly. “That and he could still gross us out in ways only a baseline could. What was the other thing you’d do? Something about food.”
Mentioning that made Jaeger’s stomach growl again as he looked around at the food set out. “I’m so hungry I could eat the asshole out of a dead water buffalo.”
“Uuggghhh!” This got a round of disgusted groans from Tanya, Figs, Tabori, and Ham while Brandy-Lynn cackled once more.
“What? That’s kind of crass… but… why are you all acting like it’s so bad?” Max asked with a confused look.
“Because he did it!” Ham waved at Jaeger even as he reached out to grab some of the chicken nuggets that Brandy-Lynn had left behind to delicately eat as he tried to determine what his stomach would allow for now.
“He what?” Max looked back at Jaeger who shrugged.
“We were on day four of a six hour mission.” He started and then grabbed a plate to snag a few other items.
“You mean-” Max started but Figs cut him off.
“He does not. Intel had a very bad habit of underestimating local resistance, and overestimating orbital support. What was supposed to be a quick drop turned into a slog across New Vientiane thanks to Brandy-Lynn’s distant retarded cousins blowing up an entire starport to try and kill us.” Figs explained.
“I’ve told you asshole New Vientiane was mostly Laotians and Cambodian settlers! Not Vietnamese!” Ham growled out while Brandy-Lynn just shrugged.
“Gooks’ a gook. Only difference is how much you lead em. All the cool kids moved to Louisiana. Or Newest Orleans. Plus you all know I give zero shits about my supposed heritage. Gimme nascar any day of the week and I’ll happily sit on my swamp porch drinking cheap beer and shooting gators with my shotgun.” She accented her point by taking another big bite of her Franken-burger and chased it down with some of her sugary fruit juice.
“God you’re such white trash.” Ham muttered as he looked at Brandy-Lynn who just blew him a kiss.
“Anyway-” Jaeger cut back in before the conversation devolved any further. “Having been used to this kind of thing before I always brought more food than usual but even I hadn’t planned for it to get this bad. There we are marching through the jungle and come out in a village that had been hit in an attack by either the LRFC, or the AAVLA, or possibly the LLCF recently. God they had so many insurgent groups… Anyway there was a dead water buffalo sitting in a rice paddy. Now… I’d used this expression before. I’d heard it from some old vet on Earth, who had heard it from some old vet, and so on and so forth probably all the way back to… I dunno… The origin of soldiers and water buffalo.”
“Tabori bet is Romans. They marched all over, and ates a lots of animals’ assholes.” Tabori at the end sagely nodded.
“Anyway…” Jaeger shrugged. “I realized that I had to eat. Not only was I starving but if I had been using that phrase and suddenly found an actual dead water buffalo and didn’t eat it… Well there’s a reason I’m the sarge.”
“So you ate a water buffalo? That’s not… so bad?” Max glanced around but the other Revenant at the table were shaking their heads. “No…”
“Yep.” Jaeger nodded. “Cut up the flanks and cooked em and I ate that asshole. It wasn’t great. But I cleaned and cooked it all properly. I mean they’re herbivores. It’s not that bad. Your mother tried very hard to get me not to do it. But even she knew I had to do it. Just one of those things… The flanks were good though honestly. I still love flank steak.”
“I don’t think I want to hear this.” Raven quietly muttered besides him as Jaeger lifted his arm to look down at her, having forgotten.
“Oh! Honey! Gaaaah I keep forgetting you’re here. I am so sorry…” Jaeger pulled her in close to his side. “Great… look what you guys have made me do!” He glared around the table.
“Yeah, she’s your kid you knew she didn’t have a chance.” Brandy-Lynn snorted.
“Then… then once I pick them up these… degenerates.” Ham waved around the table. “Showed me pictures! Leona even broke protocol to preserve a memory essence of that impromptu barbecue just so I could smell it! So gross. It looked so rubbery.” Ham stuck his tongue out and shuddered at the memory still stuck inside his head.
“Man’s gotta eat.” Jaeger shrugged once more.
“When that call came in that you guys were ready for pickup and had some barbecue for me to eat…” Ham shook his head. “Never gone from happy to grossed out so quick.”
That jogged something in Jaeger’s head. “Call… Do we have comms with Whispertail? There was going to be an attack on his cruiser. Do we know what happened?”
The others sat up a little as he reminded them there was work to be done. “No.” Tanya shook her head. “Resetting the base unsynced our tight beam dishes. Few of our satellites too.”
“You need to get those back up. Without the tight beams aligned if you die we can’t bounce back the signal before your soul gets sent to Edenshard.” Jaeger reminded her.
“What? We solved that at the end of the war.” Figs frowned.
“We did. But then we just reset. I forgot about that. I had… a lot on my mind…” He sighed heavily as he remembered having to kill Leona to save his kids. This had not been a good day… And yet he’d just been laughing. He knew he’d get past it but… He pulled Raven close to his side once more needing another hug as she wrapped her arms around his side.
“Oh my god.” Figs muttered. “Oh my God! Hooooooooooolllyyyy shiiiiit! I could have died!” The big man gasped.
“Yeah?” Jaeger frowned, wondering what was up with his friend.
“I could have DIED!” Figs gasped again.
“Yes. Just like all the other battles we’ve been in.” Jaeger shrugged a moment.
“No! But! Like! Died! Dead! Not coming back! Finito! Kaput! Gone forever!” Figs was slowly leaning back as if this was all hitting him for the first time.
“That’s… that’s always been a risk you know that.” Even as Jaeger said that Figs clasped his own face, with his mismatched hands.
“I mean for you maybe! And Brandy-Lynn! But I’m a synth! I was always going to be a synth! I was never really going to die! But today I could have like… I even! After I got hit I was like… shit this sucks! And they were trying to still kill me! I was thinking about doing something funny… but just stopped myself at the end because I figured you’d get pissy about it. But I would have like... for real seriously actually died! I’m too pretty to die!”
“Have you seriously never considered you’d actually die on one of our missions?” Tanya asked.
“No! Why would I?! I’m immortal and fantastic! That’s my thing!” Figs was patting his chest as he blinked and then shook his head rapidly. “Brandy-Lynn. Lets go get high. Right now.” He said as he stood up.
“Don’t need an excuse but sure.” She started to rise up.
“Sit back down, both of you.” Jaeger growled. “We need to talk about Marque and where his forces are coming from. The landers can’t have come from offworld. He has to have a base here on planet.” Jaeger patted at his pouches a moment and pulled out the flower he had found earlier. “I found this on one of them. Anyone have ideas?”
Even as he asked that Tabori was standing up and walking down to take the flower. “Tabori knows this flower. It is Leontopodium Solaris Nivale. Solavis Mountain Flower. It is most common in the mountains on the eastern side of this continent.” Jaeger pulled his helmet back on then and he brought up his map in the UI.
“Anywhere specific?” He asked.
“It only grows high in mountains. It is similar to legendary edelweiss from Europes of lore. Soldiers would climb mountains to grab rare flowers to demonstrate courage. And also mountain climbing skill presumably. Tabori of course has done this here. From Scissor mountain.” As he said that Jaeger focused the map on the area in question. It was a pretty empty area but then he saw a town nearby.
“Rochambeau… Why is that name familiar?” It clicked in his head then. “You sent Kuv that package from there didn’t you?”
“Tabori did indeed send package to comrade Kuv from this town. Very delightful little place. This was after Tabori had chased down possibly Draugr across paper plains.”
Jaeger looked at the map and noticed the Paper Plains… besides Rocky River… Underneath Scissor mountain. “Oh… you know what? I am… just… astounded by the names the colonists picked sometimes. Rock, paper, scissors, Rochambeau… got it… the game… wow…” But his eyes scanned over the map a bit further. “But… it’s not far from the Redwood Facility.”
“No way Marque is there. That facility was burned. Literally and figuratively. Everyone knows its there and that whole city is nothing but ashes and charred corpses even now. The recovery program would notice a bunch of Draugr.” Tanya reminded him.
“They were making another facility in the region before the war. They wanted increased hangar space.” Jaeger reminded them. “Scissor mountain…” The large split mountain was a clear icon on the map as if it had just been waiting for him to realize what sat beneath it. “How much we wanna bet that’s it? I’ll call Whispertail and let him know.”
“Just like that? You’re going to tell a member of the Obsidian Guard about a Revenant facility? One that contains the codes we need?” Ham asked.
“What codes?” The rest of the table looked down at Tami and after a moment she shrank back a bit as if wishing she could go invisible.
“There’s old Revenant codes we need to try and unlock some lost memories of my dead wife and other synths from the war.” Jaeger lied. “He has some, we have some. Obviously I want them.”
“Oh. They aren’t like… nuclear missile launch codes?” She checked.
[Continued in comments]
submitted by RegalLegalEagle to HFY [link] [comments]

[Game Preview] Playoff Edition Wildcard Round - Seattle Seahawks (11-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles(9-7)

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs Seattle Seahawks(11-5)
For the third season in a row the Eagles are limping into the playoffs with a multitude of injuries at key positions. But for the first time in those 3 seasons, starting QB Carson Wentz is at the helm and playing at his best. Wentz has won 4 straight must win games against division rivals and leading the Eagles offense complied mostly of backups and practice squad players to over 400 yards of total offense in each game. He will need to extend that winning streak to 5 games this week week against the Seattle Seahawks, the same Seahawks Wentz had his worst game of the season against where he turned the ball over 4 times. Wentz will need to stay hot and play much better than he did in the week 12 loss to the Seahawks. Like that game Wentz will be without his top targets at WR, and starting RG Brandon Brooks and RT Lane Johnson. Unlike last time, Wentz seems to have found a way to win without those key players. Key players have stepped up including Greg Ward and Boston Scott in those wins and they will need to again in their first playoff action of their careers. On the other side of the ball the Eagles will need to do something they have struggled with for years, stop Russel Wilson who is currently undefeated against the Eagles. Wilson has had an outstanding season and should be in conversation for MVP if not for Lamar Jackson’s amazing season. The Eagles defense will need to hold him in check if they hope to win, especially since the Seahawks will be without their top running backs. If the Eagles defense can hold, and Wentz can keep up his hotsteak, we may just see another week of postseason football in the Doug Pederson era with a hot team which can always be dangerous. Go Eagles!
General Information
Posting Rules and Guidelines
Remember to Join us on Discord during the game!
New to the Eagles? Take a look at our New Fan Page!
Sunday, January 5th, 2020
Game Time Game Location
4:40 PM - Eastern Lincoln Financial Field
3:40 PM - Central 1020 Pattison Ave
2:40 PM - Mountain Philadelphia, PA 19148
1:40 PM - Pacific Wikipedia - Map
Weather Forecast
Stadium Type: Open Air
Surface: Grass
Temperature: 43°F
Feels Like: 37°F
Forecast: Clear. Clear throughout the day.
Chance of Precipitation: 0 %
Cloud Coverage: 11%
Wind: WNW 11 MPH
Betting Odds
Oddsshark Information
Favorite/Opening Line: Seattle -1.5
OveUnder: 45.5
Record VS. Spread: Eagles 7-9, Seahawks7-8-1
Where to Watch on TV
NBC will broadcast Sunday’s game to a national audience. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties and Chris Collinsworth will provide analysis. Michele Tafoya will report from the sidelines.
Play off TV Coverage
Internet Streams
NFL Streams - Look here 30 minutes before the game for Streams
Radio Streams
Disclaimer: Subscription Based Official NFL Radio Streams available via TuneIn
List of Eagles Radio network member stations with internet broadcast availability
Radio.com 94.1 Desktop Streaming
Listen to Merrill Reese and Mike Quick
Calling the game on 94WIP and the Eagles Radio Network will be Merrill Reese, the NFL’s longest-tenured play-by-play announcer (42nd season). Joining Reese in the radio booth will be former Eagles All-Pro wide receiver Mike Quick, while Howard Eskin will report from the sidelines.
Location Station Frequency
Philadelphia, PA WIP-FM 94.1 FM and 610 AM
Allentown, PA WCTO-FM 96.1 FM
Atlantic City/South Jersey WENJ-FM 97.3 FM
Levittown, PA WBCB-AM 1490 AM
Northumberland, PA WEGH-FM 107.3 FM
Pottsville, PA WPPA-AM 1360 AM
Reading, PA WEEU-AM 830 AM
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA WEJL-FM 96.1 FM
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD WAFL-FM 97.7 FM
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD WEJL-AM 630 AM
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD WBAX-AM 1240 AM
Williamsport, PA WBZD-FM 93.3 FM
Wilmington, DE WDEL-FM/AM 101.7 FM
York/LancasteHarrisburg, PA WSOX-FM 96.1 FM
Philadelphia Spanish Radio
Rickie Ricardo, Macu Berral and Gus Salazar will handle the broadcast in Spanish on Mega 105.7 FM in Philadelphia and the Eagles Spanish Radio Network.
Location Station Frequency
Philadelphia, PA LA MEGA 105.7 FM
Allentown, PA WSAN 1470 AM
Atlantic City, NJ WIBG 1020 AM; 101.3 FM
Seahawks Radio
Seahawks Radio Network Steve Raible returns for his 37th season in the radio booth, his 15th as the play-by-play announcer and “Voice of the Seahawks” after 22 seasons as the Seahawks analyst. Hall of Fame quarterback, Warren Moon, returns to the Seahawks radio team for his 15th season as an analyst.
National Radio
Westwood One will broadcast the game to a national audience with Kevin Harlan on play-by-play and Brian Griese providing analysis and Ross Tucker reporting from the sidelines.
Satellite Radio
Station Eagles Channel Seahawks Channel
Sirius Radio SIRI 83 (Internet 825) SIRI 82 (Internet 828)
XM Radio XM 225 (Internet 825) XM 226(Internet 828)
Sirius XM Radio SXM 225 (Internet 825) SXM 226 (Internet 828)
Eagles Social Media Seahawks Social Media
Website Website
Facebook Facebook
Twitter Twitter
Instagram Instagram
Snapchat: Eagles Snapchat: Seahawks
NFC East Standings
NFC EAST Record PCT Home Road Div Conf PF PA Net Pts Streak
Eagles 9-7 .563 5-3 4-4 5-1 7-5 385 354 +31 4W
Cowboys 8-8 .500 5-3 3-5 5-1 7-5 434 321 +113 1W
Giants 4-12 .250 2-6 2-6 2-4 3-9 341 451 -110 1L
Redskins 3-13 .188 1-7 2-6 0-6 2-10 266 435 -169 4L
NFC Playoff Picture
Seed Team Division Record
1 49ers West 13-3
2 Packers West 13-3
3 Saints South 13-3
4 Eagles East 9-7
5 Seahawks West 11-5
6 Vikings North 10-6
This Weekends NFC Games
Game Time Location
Vikings @ Saints 1/5/2020 1:05PM EST Mercedes-Benz Stadium, New Orleans, LA
Seahawks @ Eagles 1/5/2020 4:40PM EST Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
AFC Playoff Picture
Seed Team Division Record
1 Ravens North 14-2
2 Chiefs West 12-4
3 Patriots East 12-4
4 Texans South 10-6
5 Bills East 10-6
6 Titans South 9-7
This Weekends AFC Games
Game Time Location
Bills @ Texans 1/4/2020 4:35PM EST NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Titans @ Patriots 1/4/2020 8:15PM EST Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Series Information
The Seattle Seahawks lead the Philadelphia Eagles (10-7)
Series History
Head to Head Box Scores
First Game Played
December 12th, 1976 at Veteran's Stadium Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia Eagles 27 - Seattle Seahawks 10
Points Leader
Seattle Seahawks lead the Philadelphia Eagles (350-319)
Coaches Record
Doug Pederson: 0- against the Seahawks
Pete Carroll: 5-1 against Eagles
Coaches Head to Head
Doug Pederson vs Pete Carroll: Carroll leads 3-0
Quarterback Record
Carson Wentz: Against Seahawks: 0-3
Russell Wilson: Against Eagles: 4-0
Quarterbacks Head to Head
Carson Wentz vs Russell Wilson: Wilson leads 3-0
Records per Stadium
Record @ Lincoln Financial Field: Seahawks lead the Eagles: 4-0
Record @ CenturyLink Field: Seahawks lead 3-2
Rankings and Last Meeting Information
AP Pro 32 Ranking
Eagles No. 11 - Seahawks No. 7
Eagles: 9-7
Seahawks: 11-5
Last Meeting
Sunday, Nov 24th, 2019
Seahawks 17 – Eagles 9
In a sloppy rainy game with high winds both QBs struggled, but the Wilson made plays when it counted and got help from running back Rashaad Penny who had a career day running for 129 yards including a 58 yard TD run. The Eagles defense was again fooled by a trick play on a flea flicker which saw Wilson hit Malik Turner for a 33 yard TD. The Eagles offense was terrible struggling to get anything going all day and missing key players including Jeffrey, Jackson, Agholor, Howard, Johnson and Brooks didn’t help. It was the worst game of the season for Wentz who turned the ball over 4 times in the Eagles loss. Russel Wilson continued his dominance over the Eagles and remained undefeated against them in his 8 year career.
Click here to view the Video Recap
Click here to view the Stats Recap
Last 10 Meetings
Date Winner Loser Score
11/24/19 Seahawks Eagles 17-9
12/3/17 Seahawks Eagles 24-10
11/20/16 Seahawks Eagles 26-15
12/07/14 Seahawks Eagles 24-14
12/01/11 Seahawks Eagles 31-14
11/02/08 Eagles Seahawks 26-7
12/02/07 Seahawks Eagles 28-24
12/05/05 Seahawks Eagles 42-0
12/08/02 Eagles Seahawks 27-20
09/23/01 Eagles Seahawks 27-3
Injury Reports Depth Charts
Eagles Eagles
Seahawks Seahawks
2019 “Expert” Picks
Week 12 - "Expert" Picks
2019 Team Stats
Eagles Season Stats
Seahawks Season Stats
2019 Stats (Starters/Leaders)
Wentz 388 607 63.9% 4037 27 7 93.1
Wilson 341 516 66.1% 4110 31 5 106.3
Sanders 179 818 51.1 4.6 3
Carson(IR) 278 1230 82.0 4.4 7
Lynch 12 34 34.0 2.8 1
Ertz 88 916 61.1 10.4 6
Lockett 82 1057 66.1 12.9 8
Name Sacks Team Total
Graham 8.5 43
Green 4.0 28
Name Total Solo Assist Sacks
Jenkins 80 62 18 2.5
Wagner 159 86 73 3.0
Name Ints Team Total
Gerry/Jones/Darby/McLeod 2 11
Wright/Flowers/Diggs 3 16
Johnston 71 3292 61 46.4 42.3 28 4 0
Dickson 74 3341 63 44.1 40.9 34 5 0
Elliot 26 22 84.6% 53 35/37
Myers 28 23 82.1% 54 40/44
Kick Returns
Sanders 14 314 22.4 67 0
Lockett 14 279 33 0
Punt Returns
Scott 6 43 7.2 13 0 4
Lockett 13 66 5.1 20 0 10
League Rankings 2019
Offense Rankings
Category Eagles Stat Eagles Rank Seahawks Stat Seahawks Rank
Total Offense 360.8 14th 374.4 8th
Rush Offense 121.2 11th 137.5 4th
Pass Offense 239.6 11th 236.9 14th
Points Per Game 24.1 12th 25.3 9th
3rd-Down Offense 45.4% 4th 39.5% 16th
4th-Down Offense 33.3% 28th(t) 50.0% 13th(t)
Red Zone Offense (TD%) 66.7% 3rd 63.3% 9th
Defense Rankings
Category Eagles Stat Eagles Rank Seahawks Stat Seahawks Rank
Total Defense 331.7 10th 381.6 26th
Rush Defense 90.1 3rd 117.7 22nd
Pass Defense 241.6 19th 263.9 27th
Points Per Game 22.1 15th 24.9 22nd
3rd-Down Defense 34.2% 4th 38.3% 16th
4th-Down Defense 61.1% 27th 58.5% 24th
Red Zone Defense (TD%) 55.8% 14th(t) 61.5% 26th
Category Eagles Stat Eagles Rank Seahawks Stat Seahawks Rank
Turnover Diff. -3 22nd +12 3rd(t)
Penalty Per Game 6.8 9th(t) 7.1 16th(t)
Penalty Yards Per Game 52.3 9th 55.1 13th
Eagles HC Doug Pederson was born in Bellingham, WA, and grew up in Ferndale, WA. Pederson recently admitted that he "Grew up a Seahawks Fan" and used to attend Seahawks games at The Kingdome.
Eagles LBs coach Ken Flajole is from Seattle and previously coached the Seahawks’ DBs (1999, 2001-02) and LBs (2000).
Eagles Safeties coach Tim Hauck played for the Seahawks in 1997.
Eagles Defensive Line coach Phillip Daniels was selected by Seattle in the 4th round of the 1996 NFL Draft.
Seahawks Northeast Area Scout Todd Brunner worked for the Eagles for four seasons (1994-97) as an area scout covering the Northeast. He joined the Eagles as a scouting intern in 1992 and worked as a scouting assistant in 1993.
Eagles CB Sidney Jones attended University of Washington.
Seahawks LB Mychal Kendricks played 6 seasons for the Eagles from 2012-2017 including winning a Super Bowl with him in Super Bowl LII.
2020 Pro Bowlers
Eagles Seahawks
DT Fletcher Cox (Starter) QB Russel Wilson (Starter)
OG Brandon Brooks (Starter) MLB Bobby Wagner (Starter)
TE Zach Ertz
C Jason Kelce (Starter)
LS Rick Lavato (Starter)
Recap from Last Week 17’s Games.
With the division on the line, the Eagles controlled their own destiny as they took on the division rival New York Giants on the road. The Eagles were already short and then they lost running back Miles Sanders and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks in the first half. But Scott, Josh Perkins, Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis combined for 16 catches on 25 targets, 225 yards receiving, 54 yards rushing and four TDs. The five players were cut a combined eight times by four teams since Aug. 31. But Carson Wentz got the most out of them as he lead the Eagles to their 4th must win game in a row beating the Giants 34-17.
The Seahawks were playing for the division title against the 49ers in week 17 with a playoff spot already locked in for both teams. In the first half, the 49ers dominated, taking a 13–0 halftime lead aided by a Deebo Samuel 30-yard touchdown run on a pitch and catch. The 49ers also held Seattle to just 79 yards of total offense, including stuffing running back Marshawn Lynch on 4th and inches from the 49ers 31-yard line, causing a turnover on downs. In the second half, the Seahawks proved resilient, scoring multiple times. The Seahawks would never lead in this game however, as the 49ers countered every Seahawks score with one of their own, including a Raheem Mostert 13-yard touchdown run to make it 26–14 with 5:51 left. After Seattle cut the lead to five, a questionable personal foul call against Ben Garland forced a punt, giving them the ball back with 2:27 left. They marched all the way down to the 49ers 1-yard line, but a delay of game penalty pushed them back to the 6-yard line. After three incomplete passes, the Seahawks faced 4th and goal. Russell Wilson hit receiver Jacob Hollister with a pass to the 49ers 1-yard line, but Hollister was stopped inches short of the goal line by linebacker Dre Greenlaw, causing a turnover on downs with nine seconds left that sealed the victory.
Referee: Shawn Smith
Including playoffs, Philadelphia has the 2nd-best home winning percentage (.735, 25-9) in the NFL since 2016, trailing only New England (.838, 31-6).
In Week 17, the Eagles totaled 400+ yards for the 4th consecutive game, which is Eagles the longest stretch of 400+ yards since 2013 (6 games).
The Eagles captured their 2nd division title in the last three seasons and 3rd consecutive postseason berth (2017-19).
Philadelphia owns the No. 4 seed in the NFC Playoffs heading into Wild Card Weekend (Jan. 4-5, 2020).
Doug Pederson is the first Eagles head coach to lead his team to three straight postseason appearances since Andy Reid from 2008-10.
Philadelphia has made the playoffs in three-or-more consecutive seasons for the 6th time in team history.
The Eagles have earned a postseason berth for the 27th time in franchise history (since 1933).
Since 2000, Philadelphia is tied for the 4th-most playoff appearances (13) in the NFL, behind New England (17), Green Bay (14) and Indianapolis (14).
The Eagles are NFC East Champions for the 11th time in franchise history.
Philadelphia’s nine NFC East championships since 2001 are the most in the division, ahead of Dallas (5), N.Y. Giants (3) and Washington (2)
Draft Picks
Eagles Seahawks
OT Andre Dillard DE L.J. Collier
RB Miles Sanders S Marquise Blair
WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside WR DK Metcalf
WR Shareff Miller LB Cody Barton
QB Clayton Thorson WR Gary Jennings Jr.
G Phil Hayes
CB Ugo Amadi
LB Ben Burr-Kirven
RB Travis Homer
DT Demarcus Christmas
WR John Ursua
Notable Off-season Additions
Eagles Seahawks
WR Desean Jackson DE Jadeveon Clowney
DT Malik Jackson DE Ziggy Ansah
DE Vinny Curry DT Al Woods
DT Hassan Ridgeway WR Josh Gordon
QB Josh McCown QB Geno Smith
G Mike Iupati
K Jason Myers
FB Nick Bellore
Notable Off-season Departures
Eagles Seahawks
QB “Big Dick” Nick Foles FS Earl Thomas
DE Michael Bennett SS Kam Chancellor
DE Chris Long WR Doug Baldwin
S Chris Maragos WR Paul Richardson
RB Jay Ajayi DE Frank Clark
RB Josh Adams K Sebastian Janikowski
RB Wendell Smallwood G J.R. Sweezy
DT Haloti Ngata CB Justin Coleman
DT Shamar Stephen
SS Maurice Alexander
QB Brett Hundley
Pro Football Focus Matchup Charts courtesy of PFF Edge (join.profootballfocus.com/edge/)
WDB Matchups (CAPS = expected shadow coverage)
Stats to Know
Russell Wilson’s Deep Ball
The Eagles have not been great at defending the deep ball. Russell Wilson is good at the deep ball. I should just leave it at that, but that’s not what you’re here for. In 2019, Wilson’s averaging the 2nd-highest percentage of total throws targeting 20+ yards downfield (16.5%). Over the previous 3 seasons, Wilson has been 3rd, 2nd, and 8th. His Adjusted Completion % (accounting for drops) is 48.2%, good for 8th. His Passer Rating on Deep Balls is 119.2, good for 4th.
Matchups to Watch
Seahawks Pass Defense vs. the Eagles Pass Offense
Well, now the Eagles are in the playoffs after this tumultuous season. Anything can happen with this team, whether it's one and done or a Super Bowl run. Before we can all think about the future of this postseason, the Eagles need to get by a tough opponent in the Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll's Seattle teams, with or without Wilson, has owned the Eagles. That extended into this season with the Seahawks winning an ugly game against the then hapless Eagles. A lot has changed for Philly since then, mainly their success through the air. The Nobodies have stepped up to help Carson eLeVaTe the passing offense as he nearly averaged 300 yard passing per game in the final 4 weeks of the season. Carson has played really well and the coaches stepped up big to help get the passing game going. Their game plan can't, and won't, be a repeat of their early "death by one thousand slant/flats" if they want to win. And the offense can't turn the ball over at the rate they did if they expect to win. This is an athletic pass defense with two great LBs that excel in coverage. The Eagles will need to continue to move the pocket for Wentz to extend the time to throw which will allow deeper shots to open up. Due to personnel, this isn't an offense that can rely on its skill position players to consistently win 1v1. They'll need to continue to be creative in their usage of screens to prevent the defense form keying on them again. If Zach Ertz is able to play, that would be a huge win for the Eagles as he is their best natural separator. Seattle is an easy defense to scheme for as there is very little they change on a week to week basis. It's just being able to hit on the plays they scheme up. One injury for the Seahawks that important to watch is the status of safety Quandre Diggs; he was acquired from the Lions on the cheap (for some reason) and is a key player in their coverage schemes. As of now, the Seahawks should be expecting him to go as he was a full participant in their latest practice report. Either way, this is the 15th ranked passing defense by DVOA. They can be beat through the air. It would be wise for them to build off the game plan the Niners used last week to win in Seattle.
Seahawks Run Defense vs Eagles Running Backs
Philly wasn't able to have a lot of success on the ground the last time they played for a number of reasons. One big reason for that was the injuries on the offensive line - which remains the same for the rematch. Lane Johnson's status for Sunday is still unknown and stud Guard Brandon Brooks landed on IR after the week 17 win against the Giants. The backups have played decently well in reliefof the two key linemen but their absence will always loom large. The variety of concepts the Eagles use in the run game is a big factor in its success as it keeps opposing defenses off-balance. Being down Brooks and Lane could hinder what the Eagles like to do if their replacements can't adequately step up. Moreover, Sanders sustained an injury last week (ankle) and should play, but his effectiveness really won't be known until game time. Since the bye, Sanders has stepped up in a big way when Jordan Howard's shoulder died. Sanders proved he is a capable receiver and pass blocker early on but really improved his ability as a runner very quickly when the team needed him the most. If he is able to be effective on Sunday, that would be a huge boost to the undermanned Philly offense. Additionally, Boston Scott has continued to step up for the Eagles when they need him the most. Scott doesn't profile as an every down back but was able to take that role last week when Sanders left the game. His ability to consistently find the open rush lanes has been paramount to his success. Like Sanders, when Scott is able to get the ball in space he is able to create chunk plays to move the sticks. Jordan Howard returned to the line up last week; while he only played one snap, his ability to now play should help the Eagles rushing attack. This Seattle defensive line is a weak unit that is missing key players. Jadeveon Clowney has been banged up for most of the season and his status for Sunday is questionable. His absence would be a huge boost for the Eagles. This Seattle rushing defense is 26th in DVOA; if the Eagles offensive line was 100% heading into Sunday, this would be the single biggest mismatch in this contest. As it stands now, the Eagles should have enough in their reserves to be effective against this front, but that is a risky bet. They weren't effective in their first meeting - they need to change that to win.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks Receivers vs the Eagles Secondary
Russell Wilson has owned the Eagles in his career but will be entering Sunday's contest off his worst performance against this team in his career. He was sacked 6 times and was generally inaccurate for most of the game. He struggled to pick up some of the coverage changes the Eagles implemented in their secondary and lead to below average play. He's still Russell Wilson and this is still the Eagles pass defense: you simply cannot bet on the Eagles secondary anymore. Wilson has been a top 2 QB this year in an MVP caliber year carrying the Seahawks to this point in the season. There are very few instances in his time with the Seahawks where the Seahawks are down by double-digits late in a game. This is an Eagles secondary that struggles to stop the big play and cover outside receivers - the Seahawks have two dangerous weapons outside. The Eagles should have everyones favorite terrible CB back for this contest... Jalen Mills. The starter opposite him will be a mystery. Since his early season benching, Sidney Jones has been absolutely clutch for the Eagles on their current run. While his play hasn't been perfect, he's been less of a disaster than he previously was. Avonte Maddox and Cre'von Leblanc are fresh off really good performances against the Giants. If I had to guess, Maddox will start outside and Leblanc will see the slot; Jones would work into the rotation in more CB heavy looks. As previously mentioned, not only was Russ generally inaccurate in the first meeting, his receivers had a lot of key drops as well. Here is a big gain dropped by DK Metcalf. How about this dropped TD by DK Metcalf? Or this bricked layup TD pass from Wilson? My point is this: I generally think the Eagles pass defense, namely the secondary, has been more lucky than good in the second half of the season en route to an NFCE title. They are still here, which is awesome, but until they actually clean up their games it's hard to bet on them succeeding. Russ is one of the best passers in the league; it doesn't matter if he is scrambling or in the pocket, he'll generally eat you alive. This is a WR group, especially with Lockett and Metcalf, that will make defenses pay. They didn't last time, I don't think the Eagles will be so lucky this time. If I'm the Seahawks, I throw early and often. The Eagles defensive ranks against outside WRs: Yards allowed: 32nd, Explosive receptions: 29th, TDs: 29th, Yards per target: 27th. If Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer maintain status quo, like they do for some inexplicable reason, the Eagles have a real chance.
**Seahawks Decimated Offensive Line vs Eagles Pass Rush
The biggest aid to a struggling secondary is a strong pass rush. This is the foundation of the Eagles defense. While it isn't the stupid good group from the Super Bowl, it is still one of the best units in the league in getting pressure. Seattle has had bad offensive lines for years now and the group that'll start on Sunday fits that mold. Stud LT Duane Brown should miss this contest with a knee issue; this is a bad injury for the Seahawks as he is their best offensive lineman. The rest of their group is a well-below average unit that struggles in pass protection. The Eagles were able to get after Russell Wilson with 6 sacks in the first meeting and will need that kind of pressure again. Wilson can still make plays with his arm and legs while under pressure but it's still a difficult task for him. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham will need to continue to create havoc in the trenches. Derek Barnett must continue to build off his strong outing against the Giants. And if Timmy Jernigan can continue to play well, instead of up and down, then the Eagles should be able to get after Russ like they did Daniel Jones one week ago. The Eagles need to put this Seattle offense in bad situations to help out the secondary and help force some turnovers.
Special thanks to MikeTysonChicken and abenyishay for their help in creating this Game Preview.
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My Dinner with Cooper

I hadn’t seen him in years. Felt like a lifetime ago, really. Back before I spent my time in the neighborhoods of DC doing what I did. So, imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, he shot me a text offering to host me for one night on my way from Sea-Tac to Reagan, even said he’d swing by DIA and pick me up. Apparently, he’d heard from a mutual friend that I had a long layover and was looking for a place to stay since my mom was high risk and the hotel I had booked suddenly canceled the reservation.
I declined at first. I wanted to obey the social distancing advice, but he insisted that short notice emergencies still happened in times of crisis. So, finally, somewhat reluctantly, I agreed.
I thought about him—and our fizzled friendship—the whole plane ride out. I couldn’t remember exactly how we met, only that we’d become friends not long after. He’d dropped off the face of the earth a year or so after he’d gotten a position as a special agent in the FBI. I’d heard rumors, though, that, due to his background with the Special Forces, he was helping the government hide secrets, each one more ridiculous than the next. And once, about five years ago, while I was walking down E St NW in DC, I’d run into him walking the other way. He was nonchalantly carrying a gas mask like it was a completely normal thing to do.
I texted him as soon as I landed—feeling an anxious sort of excitement boiling up in my gut—then made my way through the eerily deserted concourse and up to the West side departures, tickled by the conspiratorial construction signs I saw along the way. I waited for maybe five, ten minutes before a sleek black sedan came to a smooth stop in front of me. I leaned down but couldn’t make anything out through the tinted window.
I heard the car shift into park, then Cooper, in all his glory, popped out and said a casual, “Hey.” He was wearing leather boots, dark wash jeans with a leather belt, and dress shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, first button undone. He looked the same—maybe even better—since the last time I saw him. I wondered how many hearts he’d broken with that easy grin and devil may care attitude.
“Man,” I replied. “You really let yourself go.”
He chuckled. “Look who’s talking.”
I patted my stomach and said, “Stress. Comes with working in DC. You know how it is.”
“Boy do I.” He rounded the car, picked up my bags with ease, and tossed them into the trunk before looking me up and down. “No fever, right?” A sly smile slid into place across his lips.
“Don’t think so. Why? You wanna check?” I pulled my fringe back, exposing my forehead.
“Would you be offended if I did?”
I narrowed my eyes. “You sure you wanna do this? I don’t mind sleeping on the floor here.” I gestured with my head back towards the airport.
Cooper nodded. “I haven’t seen you in years. I don’t mind. I know it seems like the end of the world right now and the government is advising people to distance themselves, but, like I said, emergencies happen. And you’re trying to do your part in flying back home so you can shelter in place. You just got stuck with a shitty set of circumstances.” He gestured around. “We all did.” He gave me a wry look. “Besides, do you really think I’m going to let you sleep on the fucking floor of an international airport?”
I laughed. “Alrighty then. I really appreciate it. Go on. Do it. Sanitize your hands after though.”
Cooper leaned forward a little and placed a cool, dry hand against my forehead. “Hmmm.”
“What? Am I hot?”
“Nah. You also don’t have a fever.”
“Remind me again why you offered to let me crash at your place?”
“I’d forgotten how good it felt to give you shit. C’mere.”
“Wait,” I said holding up my hands. “I may be asymptomatic or something. Don’t wanna get you sick.”
“You’re spending the night at my place. If you’re sick, I’m already sick.”
“Social distancing, man. I just came from ground zero basically.”
Cooper sighed. “Fine. Air hug?”
As he lifted his arms, I caught a waft of his cologne or shampoo or deodorant. “You smell good,” I said.
“You don’t,” he replied.
“God,” I said. “I’m gonna have to reacclimate to your smartassery.”
Cooper laughed. “Sorry.”
He slipped into the driver’s seat and I followed suit into the passenger side.
“Nice car,” I said looking around.
“Thanks,” he replied. “It’s a rental.”
“Why departures?” I asked as he pulled out.
Cooper shrugged. “Force of habit. Always pick people up and get picked up at West side departures.”
“Isn’t that like…illegal or something?”
Cooper looked over at me, amusement clear across his face. “Now there’s the friend I remember. You’re such a Hermione.”
“What? No! You’re Hermione. I’m Ron. Book Ron, not movie Ron.”
It took us about thirty minutes to get from DIA down to his condo. During which he sat silently navigating the nearly empty highway while I told him about life since the last time I saw him. About my string of failed flings. About my recent trip abroad. About how hard it was to move up in the bureaucratic world of government work. About how cutthroat it was. About how I didn’t really know what I was doing with my life anymore, how…empty I felt doing the same thing day in and day out. About how what I really wanted to do was move to the middle of nowhere and write.
He slowed to a stop outside a nice little number in possibly one of the fanciest parts of Denver, then, effortlessly, parallel parked the sedan between a Subaru and an Audi.
“Damn,” I said, looking up at the building.
“It ain’t bad,” he replied then hopped out of the car to grab my bags from the trunk.
“I see you’re still riding.” I nodded at a tarp covered motorcycle parked out front.
“Me? Never.”
“Explains the rental,” I said. “You get it just for me?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Cooper replied. Then, “Yes.”
I smiled. “Aw. A smartass with a secret heart of gold. What is it?”
“Ducati Scrambler. The other one’s stored away.”
“Wow,” I said. “Two motorcycles. You’re living the dream, man.”
Cooper smiled and shrugged my bag higher onto his shoulder. “One was a gift from Glenn. I couldn’t refuse.”
“How is Glenn?”
“He’s,” Cooper took a deep breath. “Fine.”
“You guys on speaking terms now?”
“You mind if we talk about something else?”
I paused, only for a second. Cooper enforcing boundaries was one of the things I respected most about him. “Sure. How’s work?”
This got a guffaw. A loud one. Cooper was notoriously reticent, especially about his job. “Fuck you.”
“What? You don’t wanna talk about that either?”
“Now I remembered why we drifted apart. Always asking questions.”
“You say that likes it’s a bad thing. C’mon. You missed me.”
Cooper sighed, still smiling. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I did.”
As we walked through the courtyard, Cooper gave a two-finger salute to a girl who was standing on the wraparound porch across the way. The smell of skunk wafted towards us.
“Havin’ a nice night?” he asked.
“Bored as shit,” she replied. “Who’s your friend?”
“No one important.” Cooper smirked at me.
“I work for the government doing—”
“Nothing important,” Cooper said, cutting me off, throwing me a shit eating grin this time.
I sighed, rolled my eyes, shook my head in semi-mock annoyance.
“He’s a treat, huh?” the girl asked me, laughing.
“Sure is,” I replied. “Bet it sucks having him as a neighbor.” I threw a thumb back towards his bike. “Riding that monster around at all hours of the night.”
“Oh,” she said. “It’s not so bad. If it’s really late at night, he’ll kill the engine down the street and coast up.”
Beside me, Cooper fidgeted a little.
“Yeah,” the girl said. “Betcha didn’t think anyone noticed, you smooth jerk. Well, I did. And,” she continued, turning back to me, “a couple months ago, he helped me out with some, uh,” she paused, glancing between us, “stuff.”
Oh?” I raised an eyebrow
“Wait, what? No. Gross,” the girl said. “Nothing like that. Like around the house. He’s a regular, um, ghostbuster, if you know what I mean.” She smirked a knowing smirk.
“Is he now?” I threw a glance a Cooper. He gave me a sheepish little smile. “You dog. She can’t be more than twenty-five.”
“Twenty-two,” the girl said. “But no. No. God, no. Still not like that. You know what? I’m high. I’m saying stupid shit. This is awkward. Me announcing that this is awkward is awkward. Um…I’m gonna go now. Night.” Without another word, the girl turned on her heel and left.
“Well,” I said. “Well, well, well, well, well.”
Cooper chuckled. “Do you honestly think I’d woo someone that young? I’m hurt. And here I was, thinkin’ you remembered how good of a guy I am.”
“Wow,” I said. “Can you not use the word woo.”
“Fine. Rail.”
“Worse. Way, way, way worse.”
“C’mon,” Cooper said, smiling. He led me over to the North side of the building. “Oh, and heads up, the lady who lives below me…she, uh, doesn’t like me for some reason. She might come up to…politely tell me to fuck off. Which would be bad because she’s high risk.”
“Who wouldn’t like you?”
“Right?” Cooper unlocked a door to a staircase. I followed him inside then up to the second floor. His place was, for lack of better words, cozy in its minimalism. Down the darkened hallway where I assumed his bedroom was, the sweet sound of Dio’s voice echoed softly.
“You left your radio on,” I said.
“That wasn’t me.”
“Oh,” I said. “Didn’t know we’d have company.”
Cooper set my bags down and threw me an unreadable glance. “That’s my, uh…” He trailed off.
“Your…what? Your roommate?”
“Oh, shit,” I said. “Your…significant other? You finally did it didn’t you, you bastard? Settled down. At least they’ve got good taste in music.”
A flutter of mild amusement swept across his face. “Nope. Still the highly coveted bachelor. I mean,” he gestured around at his place, “can’t you tell.”
I looked around. Large flat screen, RBG battle station, a single, squashy looking leather couch, polished oak furniture, a huge rug, a few potted plants, walls dotted with nothing—all a neutral color palate—and, in the corner, proudly displayed, an acoustic guitar. A regular male living space. “Then who? Oh god, don’t tell me. You have a dog named Ronnie James, RJ for short, and you play him Stargazer every time you leave so he doesn’t feel alone.” I tutted. “Cooper, how could you? With your line of work, that dog is probably alone all the damn time. He probably resents you.”
Cooper chuckled. “Close. It’s my sister.”
“Oh,” I said, then, incredulous, blurted out, “wait what? You have a sister? Since when?”
“I also have a cat. His name is Scrambles. After my Ducati. He’s probably hiding somewhere though.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
Cooper sighed. “It’s a long story.”
“One you don’t want to tell right now.”
“Hey,” Cooper said. “You’re not as dumb as you look.”
“I resent that.”
“’Course you do, Hermione. You want a beer and some food?”
I nodded and followed Cooper to his kitchen sink where he was washing his hands to wash my own. “I’m Ron, Coop. Not Hermione. You’re Hermione.”
Cooper laughed as he walked to his fridge and pulled out two beers. He popped the tops and handed one to me. I raised my eyebrows as I took it.
“They’re dirt cheap right now with the…well, you know,” he explained. “Cheers.” We clinked the beers together and drank. Cooper gestured to his dining table. “Now, sit.”
“Woof,” I said, then sat and watched, silent, as Cooper set the table.
“So, we got dinner rolls, arugula salad with dried cranberries and homemade dressing, and, lastly, minestrone soup. Oh, and,” he grabbed another bowl from the fridge and set it down. “Freshly grated parmesan.”
“It’s all vegetarian.”
“Do I detect a hint of pride?”
He smiled a small smile as he sat down. “Trying to eat less meat.”
“How very noble of you.”
He tried and failed to hide a smile. “Eh.”
We started to eat.
“So,” I said.
“So,” he replied.
“Food’s delicious.”
“Did you make it all yourself?”
“That I did. Even the rolls. All from scratch.”
“Look at you.”
“Learning how to cook is possibly one of the best things a person can do. Healthier. Cheaper. Relaxing.”
“To you, maybe. Stresses me the fuck out. You know what’s actually relaxing? Getting home from work at nine at night and popping a frozen meal into the microwave. Ready in five minutes.”
“That’s the problem with the world nowadays.”
“What? Microwave dinners?”
“No. Lack of time. We spend our days like robots, mechanically following the unspoken rules of society. We never have enough time for ourselves anymore.”
“That’s capitalism for you.”
Cooper shoveled a heaping mound of salad into his mouth, chewed, swallowed. “Money in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s just a tool. It becomes bad when we covet it as if it’s the end all be all, likes it’s the sole purpose of life. Folks hoard it away as if it can buy the things you can’t put a price on, things like time and love. As if it objectively makes their life, their experiences, more valuable than that of the poor kid who lives across the tracks.”
“Whoa there, Karl Marx.” I took a swig of beer. “So, if you think we lack time, do you think the world shutting down is…good?”
“’Course I don’t. At least, not under these circumstances. It’s fucked. Especially for those who’re living paycheck to paycheck or being forced to work despite all the warnings. Can’t imagine the long-term damage this shit is going to cause. What I do hope, though, is that humanity will start to see how unsustainable what we call normal everyday life really is.”
“So, what you’re saying is, fuck capitalism.”
“Never said that. I just think that people’s lives are worth more than money.”
“You’re absolutely right, Coop. Fuck capitalism.”
Cooper shook his head, but he was smiling.
“So,” I said after a minute or two of us eating in silence, “you don’t think this is some kinda government conspiracy to depopulate the planet or something?”
This almost elicited a laugh. Almost. Instead, Cooper shook his head once and took a long swig of beer before replying. “Nah. There’s enough disinformation floating around without me adding to it.” He paused for a beat. “It might be fun to speculate and theorize and create these fictionalized accounts that this shit is something more than it is, but that’s just not my style. People are panicking enough already.”
“What,” I said, “you really don’t believe that a secretive cabal of rich and powerful people purposefully released a bioweapon engineered deep within the labs of Wuhan to aid them on their quest to create a New World Order? Population control. Martial law. Forced vaccinations. You know, all that.”
“So, you believe the CDC, that this is just some global pandemic? That we all gotta do our part to flatten the curve?”
“You do?”
“Absolutely, I do. Because it’s true. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Been happening since the dawn of time. Shit, for all I know, it’ll probably happen again in the future. Hopefully we’ll learn from this and be better prepared for next time.” Cooper raised an eyebrow and gave me a look that made me blush with shame. “Why? Do you believe this is some grand conspiracy?”
I shook my head, took another bite of food. “No, it’s just that, well…”
“It’s weird, man. I probably shouldn’t say it.”
“Spit it out.”
“Well, see, there’s been all these rumors about you ever since you, you know, fell off the face of the planet.”
“Oh, yeah? Like what?” Cooper looked genuinely curious.
“Look, man, it’s weird. People are saying that you’re some super secret agent for some kind of shadow government or something. That the FBI has some kind of X-Files-like task force that does…spooky shit.”
“Huh,” Cooper said. He looked ridiculously amused. “Well, that’s, uh, that’s something.”
“Crazy, right?”
“Batshit. So that’s why you’re asking me if I think this is some grand conspiracy? You think I work for the men in black?”
“I mean, no…yeah, I dunno…sort of?”
Cooper laughed. “Let me tell you something, I’ve worked for the government for a long, long time and, even back when I was a Green Beret, the amount of bureaucratic hoops I had and still have to jump through to take a piss was, is, unimaginable. You can probably relate. And I mean, sure, government officials can go down dark paths of injustice and greed and corruption. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. Hell, we’ve all seen it. But do you really think they’re capable of hiding a depopulation plan from the entire population of Earth? And do you really think people like me, people with a conscience, who work for the government or have high ranking security clearance would just sit around and let them?” I didn’t say anything. “The answer is no. There’s no way in hell. Get the fuck outta here with that.” He took a gulp of beer. “Now, aliens…aliens is another story. There’d be a point in hiding that from people. There’d be a point to leaking that kind of information out slowly.”
I quickly looked up at him. He was smirking. I couldn’t tell if he was fucking with me or not. “Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Mass panic. Panic makes everything exponentially worse. Do it slowly, though, and people start to get acclimated.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. He grinned, then laughed. I still couldn’t tell if he was fucking with me. “So, you’re saying that you’re not some sort of super secret special agent?”
Cooper chuckled. “Even if I was, do you really think I’d tell you?”
“Fair enough. Hey, you still got that gas mask?” I asked suddenly. “Could probably use it right now whenever you go out.”
Cooper smiled reluctantly. “Not funny.”
“So, what do you think about all those people buying up everything?”
Cooper shrugged. “People are coping the best way they know how to a new threat. And that usually results in panic. And panic, like I said—”
“Makes everything exponentially worse.”
“You don’t think those people are malicious assholes?”
“Assholes, sure. Ignorant, yeah. Lacking emotional intelligence, definitely. That’s something that people lack even in the best of times. Malicious? Nah. They’re scared. Fear fucks people up. Makes their world shrink to just the survival of them and theirs.”
“It’s honorable of you to give people the benefit of the doubt like that, Coop, but I dunno, man.” I sprinkled some more parmesan onto my soup. “I really think people are inherently evil. Greedy, selfish, bad.”
“Mmmm,” Cooper replied.
“C’mon, Coop. Humor me. I mean, look at what you do for a living. Catching the scum of the earth, swinging the hard hammer of capital jay Justice onto them, making them pay. You’d think that doing shit like that would make you quite the misanthrope.”
Cooper didn’t respond immediately. He swirled his spoon around his bowl a bit, then set it down and glanced up at me. “Look,” he said finally. “People are…well, people are people.”
“Wow,” I said, feigning awe. “That’s fucking profound.”
Cooper threw me a mock disdainful look, then leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his wood colored hair, ruffling it up. “People are…complicated. Yeah, I hunt scum. Yeah, I’ve witnessed shit that does and will give me insomnia for years to come. Yeah, it pisses me off. Scares me sometimes even. But,” he said, then trailed off.
But?” I prompted.
“You really wanna know what I think?”
I nodded, lifted another spoonful of soup into my mouth.
Cooper looked at me thoughtfully. “Look, anger doesn’t accomplish much. Sure, it keeps me going when all I wanna do is quit. But, when it comes down to it, anger, much like fear, is destructive. Both hold you hostage, mentally and physically. In short bursts, sure, they’re fine. But long term? That shit can crush you.”
“So, you’re saying people shouldn’t feel afraid at all right now?”
“No. It’s futile not to feel what you’re gonna feel. I’m just saying that we all have a moral duty to self-regulate, cope, take care of ourselves.”
“Okay, Mr. Spock, but what does that have to do with people being inherently good or bad?”
“Because people aren’t all or nothing of anything. Not all good or all bad. At least, not really. They’re an amalgamation of everything they’ve experienced, all the crap they keep inside, all their emotions, controlled by a three-pound mass of tissue and fat that, on the best of days, can still get killswitched back into thinking primally. Fear, feed, fight, fuck. Everyone has the capacity to help or harm. Even you.” He paused for a beat. “Even me.”
“Psychos can do good?”
“Depends on the psycho.”
“Dennis Rader.”
Fuck that guy. But, that said, he was, apparently, a good dad.” Cooper took another sip of beer. “Doesn’t make what he did any better. He’s still a fucking monster. Just makes it that much more complicated for people like his daughter.”
“So, you think everyone has the capability to rob? To murder?”
“I do.”
Cooper nodded. “Especially when shit hits the fan. You ever seen a cornered animal? We’re, when you really get down to it, just smart animals. Our reptilian mind is barely kept in check by our frontal lobe.”
“And yet you’re not a misanthrope?”
Cooper smirked. “Like I said, people aren’t all or nothing of anything. People have just as much capacity to do good as they do to do bad. People—a lot of them—are helping their neighbors, the disenfranchised, the poor, those who can’t help themselves right now. People can, and often do, care. I’ve seen the worst of the worst, true, but I’ve also seen and worked with some damn fine, compassionate folks.”
“Folks that would, according to you, kill indiscriminately if shit hit the fan?”
Cooper shrugged.
“How bad would shit have to hit the fan for you to murder someone?”
“So then what do you do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean with this…this belief that people are grey and all it takes is for one bad thing too many to push them over the edge? Including you. Doesn’t that shit scare you? How do you keep from falling off the edge?”
“I dunno. I take care of myself.” He paused for a beat. “I cook, read, play video games, work out, meditate, help when I can, where I can, practice patience, try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t cost anything to be compassionate. But your cup’s gotta be full first before it can start to flow over and fill the cups of others.”
Wow,” I said.
“How are you single? Why are you single? You could probably have any chick or dude you wanted.”
Cooper laughed, finished off his beer, and said, “Because I’m a fucking unapologetic misanthrope.” He grinned winsomely.
We finished dinner and Cooper asked if I wanted a coffee or any of the apple pie he’d baked earlier. But what I really wanted was another beer. He obliged, popping the cap and handing it to me. I took a swig as he picked up his acoustic, sat down on the couch, and plucked out a little tune for a two minutes or three.
I couldn’t help but laugh after the first few chords. Cooper smiled to himself, kept playing.
Bravo, but was our conversation really that philosophical?” I asked when he finished.
Cooper shrugged, stood up, and placed the guitar back in its stand.
“You’re pretty good.”
“Practice,” he replied. From somewhere near the dining room table a tinny noise rang out.
Galaga?” I asked.
“Knew there was a reason I befriended you all those years ago.” Cooper walked over and picked up a slick black phone from the kitchen counter. “Duty calls.”
“You’re still working during this?”
“Have to. At least, for the foreseeable future. Crime doesn’t give a shit about pandemics.”
“Your sister won’t mind me being here? Did you tell her I was spending the night?”
“Doubt she’ll even come out.”
“And if she does? Like to use the bathroom or get food.”
“She’s got her own bathroom in there, and she took all my beef jerky. I’m willing to bet a hundred bucks she won’t.”
“Ah, so that’s why you’re going vegetarian.”
Cooper chuckled. “What time’s your flight again?”
“What time do you want to leave?”
“I have Pre-Check and I doubt the departures will be crowded, so maybe seven?”
“Seven it is.”
I sat in the kitchen, sipping my beer and watching as Cooper got ready. He pulled out a dark brown leather holster from his closet and shrugged it over his shoulders and clipped it to his belt. He knelt and reached deeper into the closet. There was a clicking sound, like he was turning a dial. When he stood up a pistol and two clips were tucked neatly away in the holster.
“I’ll be back. Don’t wait up. And make yourself at home.”
“Will do.”
Cooper grabbed a jacket off a hook next to the door, turned, and left.
A few minutes later, I heard the roar of the rental’s engine rise up then dissipate as it drove away.
I plopped down on the couch next to the stack of clean folded linens and pillows Cooper had laid out for me. In the other room, the music switched from Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell to Lamb of God’s Walk with Me in Hell. For a fleeting moment, I had the urge to knock on the door and introduce myself. But it faded almost as fast as it came. Instead, I reached for the remote, then hesitated just as I was about to flick on the TV, see if I could catch the latest news about the spread.
Fear fucks people up.
Maybe I’d be better off skipping the news for now and doing something else.
Suddenly, there was an oh so soft meow from behind me. I jumped a little bit, then looked back. Standing at the edge of the shadowy hallway was a tiny black cat. It meowed again. It almost sounded like a question.
“Hey, void kitty. C’mere.” I made some kissy noises and rubbed my fingers together.
The cat looked at me with bright eyes, mewled, then trotted away, back down the darkened hallway, tail raised up and swishing.
“Like father like son, shrouded in mystery,” I muttered and turned back towards the TV.
Four books were stacked on Cooper’s coffee table. On the Basis of Morality, The Stranger, Justice as Fairness, and The Three Body Problem.
I chuckled to myself—Cooper would have these around for “light” reading, he was such a Hermione. I picked one up, flicked through a few pages, and started to read.
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Super Bowl Odds Report  Super Bowl 2020 Spread and Total - February 2, 2020 49ers vs. Chiefs  Super Bowl LIV Game Highlights Moving the Line: Super Bowl 51 Betting Recap  In-Game Wagering San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs  SUPER BOWL 2020 In-Game Bets, Predictions & Reactions Super Bowl 54 Predictions, Picks and Odds from Vegas  Sunday, February 2, 2020

While the spread might move over the next week-plus leading up to the game, here’s the latest Super Bowl LIV odds, via OddsShark: 49ers at Chiefs -1.5 The Chiefs also are a -110 bet on the After almost two weeks of Super Bowl LIV sports betting odds being available around the huge Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers 2020 Super Bowl matchup in Miami Sunday, the sports betting lines have not changed much from when they opened following the AFC and NFC Championship games.. Sports bettors continue to watch the lines like hawks, waiting for an advantage to surface between what The Chiefs remain the oddsmakers’ favorite to win Super Bowl 54, but the game is expected to be very, very close. The 1.5-spread is almost a toss-up. Latest 2020 Super Bowl odds. Betting odds via BetMGM Sportsbook; last updated Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET. Super Bowl LIV Moneyline. Kansas City Chiefs -121; San Francisco 49ers +105; New to sports Latest Super Bowl Odds: Tuesday Morning. 11:30 a.m. ET: The Super Bowl spread is holding steady at Chiefs -1.5 while the over/under continues to rise. After opening the total at 51.5, the line is all the way up to 54 at FanDuel.. Here’s a quick snapshot of lines at various legal books: 2020 Super Bowl point spread, betting line, total, odds: 49ers vs. Chiefs expected to go down to the wire Visit SportsLine to see their latest cheat sheet, all from the model that is up over

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Super Bowl Odds Report Super Bowl 2020 Spread and Total - February 2, 2020

NFL Betting experts Donnie Rightside and Teddy Covers talk about the released Super Bowl 2020 Future Odds and which are looking like strong candidates to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Prop Bets for Super Bowl 2020 Super Bowl Start Time: 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 2, 2020 - Duration: 36:19. WagerTalk TV: Sports Picks and Betting Tips 5,461 views 36:19 San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs face off for Super Bowl 2020. Check out our complete list of all Super Bowl LIV Prop Bets: http://www.sbrvideo.com/... Andy Reid joins Colin Cowherd to talk winning Super Bowl LIV and his Kansas City Chiefs. Hear Andy discuss Super Bowl LIV, what the Chiefs need to do to repeat, how high he thinks Patrick Mahomes ... First look at Super Bowl Odds 2019 game between the New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams. Super Bowl 53 goes down on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, GA and we've got the latest NFL betting lines ...