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Stokes's Bristol Nightclub incident in detail (From: The Comeback Summer by Geoff Lemon)

IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a place where misadventure could begin, you can’t go past Mbargo. The nightclub’s streetfront is painted a purple so bright you’ll see it in your dreams. Strings of giant sequins shimmer in the breeze. Its phonically inventive name is spelt in silver letters that climb its three-storey terrace facade. Inside are strips of burning neon, a few booths, floorboards so marinated in drink that they have an ingredients list. Bristol is a student city on England’s south coast crowded with music and nightlife and street art. This is Banksy’s home town, and the tourism board suggests in rather strong terms that ‘you would be a fool not to see his amazing work firsthand’. The same organisation describes Mbargo as ‘intimate’, which is fair for a place where you can catch an STI standing up. Students cram into its modest dimensions while people with names like DJ Klaud battle for billing with £1.50 drink deals over seven sloppy nights a week. To get a sense of the story about to come, consider that it’s the kind of place open until two o’clock on a Monday morning, and that at two o’clock on a Monday morning, Ben Stokes still thought it had closed too early.
The Ashes of 2017–18 had disciplinary bookends. It was after that series that Australia’s two leaders went off the rails in South Africa. It was a few weeks before that Ashes tour that England’s biggest star windmilled his way into his own disaster.
In the early hours of 25 September 2017, Stokes and teammate Alex Hales were barred from re-entering Mbargo after a night out on the piss. A Sunday thrashing of an abject West Indies in an ignored series at the fag-end of the season apparently required ample celebration. After arguing with the bouncer and hanging about at the door for a while, they wandered off to find a casino in the hope of more drinking. They’d barely made it around the corner before getting in the middle of a conflict between four locals. As is said on the internet, it escalated quickly.
The 26 September reporting was bloodless. Withholding names, police stated that a man ‘was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm’ while another went to hospital with facial injuries. England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss separately confirmed that Stokes was the arrestee, adding that he had been released without charge and that Hales had gamely offered to ‘help police with their enquiries’. Administrators had a good chance of hiding behind that investigation, and the next day Stokes was named in the upcoming Ashes squad as expected. But that night the video emerged.
Bristol student Max Wilson had shot it on his phone, then offered it to The Sun. What he thought was playing hardball was actually lowball: his opening price of £3000 was snapped up by a tabloid that would have paid ten times that. The Sun went on to make a mint by syndicating the rights worldwide. From a window above the fray, the vision showed six men on the street below performing the muddled choreography of a melee. One was right at the centre of it. One was waving a bottle, one dipped in and out, one tried to calm it. Two others floated around the edges. The central figure was unmistakable: red hair burning even in the streetlight as he launched into a series of blows against two of the men, falling to grapple with them on the ground, then following both across the street, swinging punches the whole way. Hales trailed behind, repeatedly and impotently shouting ‘Stokes! Stop! Stokes! Enough!’ The ECB could fudge issues that existed only in thickets of legalese, but not those captured in moving colour. Stokes was stood down from the next West Indies match, then suspended indefinitely. It emerged that he had broken his hand during the fight, something he’d done twice before while punching objects in dressing rooms.
The response in Australia was fierce: Stokes was a thug, a lowlife, a selection that would disgrace England. It was not entirely coincidental that a ban for England’s best player would be handy for the Aussie team, but there was also a cultural split. In England, plenty of people still minimise pub fights as lads letting off steam. In Australia, heavy media coverage as a succession of young men were killed had inverted that tolerance. The discourse now saw any punch as potentially deadly and accordingly reckless. This was more poignant in a cricket context given that David Hookes, the dashing Test batsman and state coach, was killed in 2004 by a pub bouncer’s fist.
The PR situation was bad for Stokes as details emerged of the injuries to the men he’d hit, and that one was a young war veteran and father. Stokes wasn’t officially removed from the Ashes squad through October but stayed behind when his teammates left, hoping for police to dismiss the matter in time for a late dash to Australia. His annual contract was renewed on the due date in case that came to pass. Then 29 October brought a twist in the tale.
‘Ben Stokes praised by gay couple after defending them from homophobic thugs,’ ran the headline. Kai Barry and Billy O’Connell had emerged. Not entirely out of nowhere: while Stokes had made no public comment, this story in his defence had initially been leaked to TV host Piers Morgan after the fight, as soon as the video appeared. Police body-camera footage played in court would later show that Stokes had given the same story to the arresting officer on the night. But no-one knew the identities of the fifth and sixth men in the video, and police appeals had turned up nothing.
It was The Sun again with the breakthrough. Kai and Billy were perfect for a readership not keen on nuance. ‘We couldn’t believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers. I just thought Ben and Alex were quite hot, fit guys,’ said Kai, who was memorably described as a ‘former House of Fraser sales assistant’. The paper had the pair do a full photo shoot: layering the fake tan, showing off chest waxes, mixing Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton into a range of outfits. Their best shot had them standing back to back, heads turned to the camera, in a mirror-image Zoolander moment.
Suddenly The Sun was the England team’s best friend. ‘Their claims could lead to the all-rounder being cleared over the punch-up and freed to play in the First Test in Australia next month,’ it gushed, then gave a tasting platter of quotes: ‘We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.’ ‘If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.’ ‘We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.’ Would it be known forever as Kai and Billy’s Ashes? No. While the Bristol boys provided spin for Stokes’ reputation they didn’t influence the police. With charges still pending there was little choice – not given Strauss had previously sacked Kevin Pietersen for being annoying. Stokes remained suspended through the Ashes and a one-day series in Australia, and lost the vice-captaincy. It was January 2018 before the Crown Prosecution Service laid a charge.
That charge surprisingly came in as affray, a crime that can carry prison time but is classified as ‘a breach of the peace as a result of disorderly conduct’. The men he had punched, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, faced the same count, charged as equal participants in a fight rather than Stokes being charged with assaulting them. Alex Hales was not charged, despite being seen in the video to aim several kicks when Ryan Ali was lying on the ground. Given the underwhelming standing of the offence, Stokes was cleared by the ECB to tour New Zealand, and kept playing until his trial in August 2018, which he missed a Test to attend. None of the three defendants would be convicted.
The reasoning behind the charges was never released and was attributed vaguely to ‘CPS lawyers’. The service gave the case to Alison Morgan, a prosecutor of a class known as Treasury Counsel who usually handle serious criminal matters. Morgan had a scheduling clash and never ended up court for the case, but in 2018 and 2019 she would go on to win damages and admissions of libel from The Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Telegraph variously for incorrectly reporting that she had been responsible for the inadequate and inconsistent charging decisions.
Morgan’s successor on the case was Nicholas Corsellis QC, who on the first day of trial was permitted by the CPS to request two assault charges be added against Stokes. ‘Upon further review,’ claimed a CPS statement, ‘we considered that additional assault charges would also be appropriate.’ This was patent nonsense from the service that eight months earlier had chosen the lesser charge. Any lawyer knows that no judge will allow new charges once a trial has begun, because the defence hasn’t had time to prepare. But such a request could deflect criticism of the prosecution service by technically making the judge the one who disallows the charge.
Working through the story from the trial and the tape is complicated. You had a Ryan and a Ryan, a Hale and a Hales, a Billy and a Barry and a Ben. You had several versions of events as to who knew whom, who was drinking with whom, who had insulted whom and who had merely engaged in ‘banter’, a word that in modern Britain has to do an unconscionable amount of lifting. The reporting had constantly mixed up the Ryans as to who had which injury, who was in hospital, who had played which part in the fight, and whose mum had which stern words to say about it.
Let’s agree that from now Ryan Ali is Ryan One, the firefighter who ended up with a fractured eye socket and a cracked tooth. Ryan Two can be Ryan Hale, the soldier who scored concussion and facial lacerations. Mr Barry and Mr O’Connell are best known per The Sun as Kai and Billy. In scorecard parlance we’ll leave the cricketers as Stokes and Hales.
Amid the confusion, Stokes and his lawyers built his case in a straightforward way. The UK legal definition of affray is ‘if a person threatens or uses unlawful violence or force towards another person, which causes another person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for their safety’. That means it doesn’t account for violence that harms a target, but violence that might frighten a theoretical bystander. The wiggle room for Stokes was with ‘unlawful’, because the charge excuses violence in defending oneself or others.
This interpretation hinged on the beginning of the video, where Ryan One waves a beer bottle about and takes a swing at Kai. The version from Stokes was that he was minding his own business walking down the street when he heard homophobic abuse. He intervened verbally and was threatened verbally by Ryan One – something that Ryan One denied but that couldn’t be proved or disproved. In fear for his safety Stokes had to nullify that threat by bashing Ryan One before it went the other way. He registered Ryan Two in his peripheral vision as another possible threat, and again had only one recourse.
Stokes also had to convince the jury to disregard testimony from Mbargo’s bouncer that he had been looking for a fight. A solid lump of a man, Andrew Cunningham had not enjoyed his patron’s attempts to get back into the club after the bouncer declined an offer of a bribe. ‘He got a bit verbally abusive towards myself. He mentioned my gold teeth and he said I looked like a cunt and I replied, “Thank you very much.” He just looked at me and told me my tattoos were shit and to look at my job.’ Cunningham described these words as coming in ‘a spiteful tone, quite an angry tone’, and said that Stokes still seemed angry as he walked away.
These were details the doorman had nothing to gain by inventing, but each of them Stokes denied. By his own accounting he had drunk a beer at the game and three pints at his hotel, then ‘potentially had some Jägerbombs’ along with half a dozen vodkas at the club. He insisted that after all of this he was not drunk.
If I may take a moment here to call upon the wisdom of experience – a person who cannot definitively say whether they have had any Jägerbombs has definitely had some Jägerbombs. A Jägerbomb is an experience that does not pass one by. Further to that, a person who says they have ‘potentially’ done something has definitely done that thing and doesn’t want to admit it. A person who has had between 15 and 24 standard drinks in one evening is shitfaced. A person who tries to bribe a bouncer £300 – three hundred quid! – to get into Mbargo – Mbargo! – is beyond shitfaced.
If Stokes admitted that he was drunk then the prosecution could say he was out of control. He claimed clear recall of assessing a threat, feeling fear and deciding to protect himself with force. He confidently denied details from the bouncer’s testimony, like using the word ‘cunt’ or mentioning gold teeth. Yet on other details he claimed a ‘significant memory blackout’. He didn’t remember the punch that saw Ryan One taken away by ambulance. He didn’t remember what the Ryans had said to Kai and Billy, only that those words were homophobic. With no head injury, as one of the few people who hadn’t been hit, he had supposedly suffered this memory loss despite being sober.
The version from Kai and Billy was compatible but vague: they had been walking along, they ‘heard … shouts’ of abuse from an unspecified source, then Stokes ‘stepped in’ and thus they avoided possible harm. They claimed to have been bought a drink by Stokes at Mbargo, although CCTV showed them meeting outside. The overall implication from both accounts was that the cricketers had been pals with Kai and Billy, while the Ryans as per The Sun’s headline were a roving band of thugs.
The reality though is that the Ryans were the ones hanging out with Kai and Billy at Mbargo. Police discussed CCTV from inside the club in questioning and at trial. On that footage the four Bristolians bought drinks for one another, danced together, and Kai was noted to have variously touched Ryan Two’s crotch and Ryan One’s buttock. Ryan One told police that all of this was taken lightheartedly and wasn’t a problem. Indeed, when the Ryans called it a night the other two left with them.
This much is clear from footage out the front of Mbargo, which shows Kai and Billy exit the club and start talking with a subdued Hales and a demonstrative Stokes, who are stuck outside. The vision was played in court to determine whether Stokes was antagonistic towards Kai and Billy, as he appears to impersonate them and to throw a lit cigarette their way. More interesting is that after a few minutes the Ryans emerge, and all six actors in the fight video briefly form a prequel in the one frame.
Ryan Two pats Billy on the chest in friendly fashion with his right hand before clapping him on the back with his left. He moves past and does the same to Kai before leaving the shot. Ryan One stops to speak to Kai. They lean in for a moment, talking, then Kai turns and they walk out of frame together. Billy hangs around for a few seconds at the door and then looks after them and races to catch up. Stokes and Hales remain outside the club to remonstrate further with the bouncers. Whatever discord develops around the corner is between four men who left amicably together minutes earlier.
There’s no way to know what caused that friction. If Ryan One did use homophobic slurs, he might have been drunkenly obnoxious for no reason. He might have had an insecure macho response to some extra flirtation. He might have thought unkindness was funny – ‘banter’ once again. Or he might have said something that was misunderstood, as both Ryans insisted in court that they had not used nor had the impulse to use any abusive language.
What clearly didn’t happen was an attack by bigots on random passers-by. This kind of crime is regular enough that an audience understands the horror of it, and this is what was evoked by the public accounts of Stokes, Billy and Kai. All we know is that there was some verbal dispute among the Bristol locals, and that Stokes came along behind them and put himself in the middle of it. Ryan One responded to the interference aggressively and away they went. There are plenty of reasons to look sideways at the idea that Stokes was a saviour. Foremost, neither Kai nor Billy was called upon as witnesses in court. You’d think it would be ideal to have Stokes’ story backed up by those who benefited from his selflessness. But his defence team had developed the impression that the pair had shown a changeable recall of events amid a hard-partying lifestyle, and would be dismantled by the prosecution on the stand.
That raises the question of whether The Sun coached their quotes for the 2017 interview. Despite missing court, Kai and Billy clearly enjoyed the attention. In 2018 after the trial they did a follow-up spread in the same paper about how poor Ben had been mistreated. They got a television spot on Good Morning Britain and glowed about his heroism. In 2019 The Sun wheeled them out once more to say that Stokes should get a knighthood. In 2017 they had ‘never watched cricket’ but by 2019 were supposedly volunteering sentences like, ‘He saved us, now he’s saved the Ashes.’ Whether they were paid for these appearances is not known, but the chance to be famous for a day can be lure enough.
If you find this cynical, consider that on the night in question, the Bristol boys were so deeply moved and thankful for Ben’s intervention that they left him to be arrested and never attempted to find out who he was. Seconds after the video ended, an off-duty policeman reached the scene. You might think that someone grateful to a saviour would speak on his behalf. Instead, said Kai, ‘it all got a bit scary so we walked off. It was too much for me and we went to Quigley’s takeaway for chicken burgers and cheesy chips.’ They didn’t give their hero a thought for over a month while police issued multiple appeals for witnesses.
As for Stokes, he told his arresting officer that ‘his friends’ had been attacked. After three minutes of chat outside a nightclub, these friends were so dear to him that he has never contacted them again: not after the newspaper piece, not after the verdict. He didn’t want to see how they were or thank them for their support. He didn’t mention them by name in his solicitor’s statement after the trial.
The Stokes defence rested on Ryan One’s bottle, which he had carried out of Mbargo to finish a beer, not to use in a Sharks versus Jets amateur production. But once he turned it over to hold it by the neck it became a weapon. Intent and interpretation can change the material nature of things. Part of Stokes’ justification in court was that the bottle implied that the two Ryans might have ‘other weapons’ hidden away. You can understand how a jury could decide that created doubt.
Not being convicted, though, doesn’t give the contents of the video a big green tick. It does not, as his lawyer claimed, vindicate Stokes. Looking in detail, Ryan One is belligerent but his movements telegraph a bluff. Hales is the person he’s gesturing at, but they’re several metres apart when Ryan One cocks his arm ostentatiously, showing off the bottle rather than bracing to swing. He skips forward but Hales skips back and Ryan One doesn’t follow. Kai stretches out an arm to impede Ryan One, who has a drunken stumble, nearly eats pavement, then staggers towards Kai and hits him in the back. That hand is still holding the bottle, but his strike is a side-arm cuff on a soft part of the body. It’s all pretty tame.
This is where Stokes gets involved. Having moved across to protect Hales, he now takes three large steps to run around Kai and booms his first punch at Ryan One. They fall to the ground and the bottle clinks away. Stokes gets to his feet to punch down at the fallen man, while Hales arrives to kick him ineffectively then runs off across the street for some unknown reason. Ice-cream van? Stokes is soon back in the grapple having his shirt pulled up to show off his Durham tan. Ryan Two steps in for the first time to pull Stokes away, prompting a couple more random punches at this new target, then Stokes trips backwards over Ryan One and sprawls in the street. Hales chooses this moment to return and aim some solid kicks at the head of the man on the ground. Nothing so far is a triumph of moral philosophy or the pugilistic arts. But if it all stopped here, perhaps you could say it was somewhere approaching fair. Ryan One has behaved like a turnip and it’s not an entirely unjust world that would give him a whack across the chops. The antagonists have disentangled, Stokes has some distance, it’s time to dust off and go home. Ryan Two steps forward for this purpose with his palm raised in conciliatory style and says, ‘Settle down, stop.’
So Stokes punches him.
It’s roughly his fifth punch overall, and he really winds up into this one. He misses so hard that he stumbles away into the shadows of the shop awnings along the road.
Hales starts shouting for him to stop. Ryan Two backs into the street, still holding his palm up. Stokes closes on him from about five metres away, six large steps, to where Ryan Two is standing on his own. Stokes pushes him a couple of times, as Ryan Two keeps trying to placate him and saying ‘Stop.’ Stokes throws his sixth punch, largely missing as his target ducks.
Ryan Two keeps pulling away and reversing, into the middle of the street now. Stokes follows him, grabbing his sleeve to drag him back. By this point Ryan One has found his feet and walked around behind his friend. Both of them are in the same line of sight for Stokes, and both are backing away. Stokes aims his seventh and his eighth punches, which Ryan Two tries to deflect, as Hales walks up behind Stokes to grab him.
Stokes yanks away from his friend and switches to Ryan One instead, taking seven paces to grab him before throwing his ninth punch of the night. He grabs again; Ryan One blocks that arm and pushes himself back away from Stokes. Ryan Two again intercedes, putting himself between the two with his palms up and his arm extended.
Stokes throws his tenth punch, a right-hander at the face of Ryan Two, then shoves him backwards. Ryan Two backs away once more, four paces. Stokes follows, steadies, lines up, then launches his strongest punch yet, his eleventh, a proper right hook from a solid base, one that cracks across the man’s head and gives him concussion. Ryan Two ends up flat on his back in the middle of the street, his hands still outstretched for a moment in useless protest until they twitch and drop to the blacktop.
Stokes isn’t done. He once more shoves away the restraining Hales and follows Ryan One, who keeps backing away saying, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ Five more paces from Stokes before another blow at the man’s head. Kai and Billy are now standing over the poleaxed Ryan Two. The video ends, but seconds later Stokes will punch Ryan One hard enough to knock him out too, before off-duty cop Andrew Spure arrives on the scene to bring down the curtain. When the body-camera footage kicks in some minutes later, Stokes is in handcuffs but Ryan One is still laid out in the street. Ryan Two has regained consciousness, folded his shirt under his friend’s head and is asking police for an ambulance.
‘At this point, I felt vulnerable and frightened. I was concerned for myself and others.’ This was how Stokes described that sequence to the court. An elite athlete with years of gym work and training to snap a bat through the line of a ball with astounding power and precision, swinging fists as hard as he can at men with none of those advantages. Punching so hard that he breaks his hand, and repeatedly shoving away a friend so he can punch some more. Frightened and threatened by two targets shouting ‘Get back!’ and ‘Stop!’
The off-duty officer testified that Stokes ‘seemed to be the main aggressor or was progressing forward trying to get to’ Ryan One, who was ‘trying to back away or get away from the situation’. The student who filmed the video can be heard on the tape at one stage exclaiming ‘Fuck!’ and testified that it was because ‘I felt a little bit sorry about the lad that had been punched and it looked like he had his hands up’. That tallied with the prosecutor’s depiction of ‘a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked at what was taking place’.
The defendant stuck to his strategy. ‘No, my sole focus was to protect myself.’ All up, in the 33 seconds of footage after he falls over, Stokes takes 35 steps forward to keep hitting two men who keep trying to get away. Not once is he hit back.
After the verdict, Stokes’ solicitor positioned him as the victim. It had been ‘an eleven-month ordeal for Ben … The jury’s decision fairly reflects the truth of what happened that night … He was minding his own business … It was only when others came under threat that Ben became physically engaged. The steps that he took were solely aimed at ensuring the safety of himself and the others present …’ The statement was impossibly self-righteous and self-absorbed.
If there was anyone to feel sorry for it was Ryan Hale, the second of our two Ryans. He’s the one who emerged from the club with a friendly arm around the shoulder for Kai and Billy. He’s the one who interposed himself to end the fight, then kept putting himself back in the firing line, trying to calm an intimidating stranger while dodging blows. For his show of restraint he got laid out regardless, concussed in the street, then was issued a criminal charge equal to that of the man who hit him, and described in national media as a violent bigot in an untested story to support that man’s defence.
Lawyers for Ryan Two made a more convincing post-trial statement, noting that Kai and Billy, ‘neither of whom were relied upon by the prosecution or the defence team for Mr Stokes, have taken the opportunity to speak with various media outlets about the alleged homophobic abuse that they received in the early hours of September 25. Mr Hale has passionately denied this allegation throughout the course of this case,’ it continued.
‘It is upsetting to Mr Hale that although he was acquitted, the accusation that he was the author of such abuse remains. Both Mr Hale and Mr Ali were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes, and although Mr Stokes has been acquitted of an affray, Mr Hale struggles with the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service did not treat him as a victim of an unlawful assault.’Good question. Avon and Somerset police were the investigating force, and they were frustrated by the decision. Ryan Two was filmed clearly not hurting anyone, but police were instructed by the CPS to proceed with a charge. Hales (the cricketer) was filmed fighting but ‘a decision was made at a senior level of the CPS’ not to proceed. Police expected Stokes to be charged with assault but the CPS declined. It doesn’t take a wild cynic to think that placing the same lukewarm charge on three men for vastly divergent behaviour might ensure that none would be convicted, even as the trial would maintain the pretence that a defendant of influential standing had not been given a free pass.
A couple of years down the line, the original interview with Kai and Billy has disappeared. All traces have been scrubbed from The Sun website, its social media history, and even from the Wayback Machine internet archive. Given its headline of ‘homophobic thugs’ and text that names Ryan Two but not Ryan One, the libel liability isn’t hard to spot. Later interviews with Kai and Billy take the passive voice – they ‘suffered homophobic slurs outside a Bristol nightclub’.
The article that was once claimed to exonerate brave Ben Stokes now links only to a missing content page, with a picture of a dropped ice-cream cone and the phrase ‘legal removal’ inserted into the web URL. In terms of consequences, Stokes missed one tour. When he resumed his career in January 2018, the Australians hadn’t yet ruined theirs. Their year-long bans looked much more stringent. But the Stokes case dragged on in other ways. With no criminal liability, the Australians confessed promptly enough for the sporting world to give them the full length of the lash. Their situation was ugly but there was closure. Stokes got stuck in legal stasis, unable to be fully backed or condemned. Instead his issue was always present, a browser full of open tabs that the ECB swore they would read any day now.
Through 2018 Stokes was back but he wasn’t back, in the sunglasses and finger-guns sense. In his return one-day series he nearly cost England a match with 39 from 73 balls in Wellington. His first Test hit was a duck as England got rolled in Auckland for 58. At Trent Bridge while Stokes was injured, England posted a world record 481 against Australia. With Stokes three weeks later at the same ground they made 268. He crawled to 50 from 103, the second-slowest any Englishman had reached that milestone in 20 years. That span covered Alastair Cook’s whole career. It was apologetic batting, acting out responsibility via the scorecard. Stokes was creeping back into the team like he’d been kicked out in a blazing row and was hoping to tip-toe to the sofa.
It was December 2018 before the ECB disciplinary committee ruled on him and Hales. In a ‘remarkable coincidence’, wrote Simon Heffer in The Telegraph, ‘the punishment both players faced in terms of bans from playing at international level was covered by the amount of games they had already missed when dropped by England’s selectors, in the furore that followed the incident’. The verdict compounded the omissions around the case by not addressing the violence at its heart. Nor did Stokes, apologising only ‘to my team-mates, coaches and support staff’, and then ‘to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute’.
The implicit next step was to rebuild that reputation. It might have been easier had his court defence not meant that he wasn’t game to admit any fault at all. It might have been easier if he or his advisers had been willing to change tack once the trial was done. Imagine a world where Stokes had stood outside court and apologised for overreacting, for the injuries he’d caused, and for the time and energy he had sucked out of other people’s lives. That would have been a show of responsibility beyond a scorecard. When the time came around to assess forgiveness, it might have meant forgiveness was deserved.
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*Major Spoilers* I'd like to make a complete MHI timeline but in Need your help

Are you guys best as I could tell this is the order of events. I'm quite hazy and fuzzy on dates so any help you guys can give on those would be much appreciated. Once we have all the dates hammered out and all the finer details figure it out I'll do my best to attach this to a coherent timeline. Without further Ado let's get this show on the road.
Beginning of time - The Fallen fall from Heaven
1500's - Machado touches the old ones power.
1700's? - Conrad Dipple "creates" Franks.
1776 - Frank's signed a treaty with Benjamin Franklin alling him with the United States.
1895 - Raymond "Bubba" Shackleford I creates the first professional Monster hunting outfit.
1907? - President Theodore Roosevelt creates PUFF.
1900 - Raymond Shackleford II is born.
1920's - Raymond Shackleford II is bitten by a werewolf and succumbs to the curse and must live his life as a monster.
Early 1970's - Raymond Shackleford II is recruited by Agent Stricken for Special Task Force Unicorn to fight in Vietnam so he can earn a PUFF exemption. Raymond is given the code name Mr. Wolf.
Early 1970's - Mr. Wolf clashes with the KGB agent named Nikolai Petrov, who is also a werewolf, over the course of many months.
Mid 1970's - Mr. Wolf unknowingly bites Sharon Magnum, another member of Special Task Force Unicorn, in the last conflict of the Vietnam War. He leave his alias of Mister Wolf behind.
Mid 1970's - Raymond Shackleford II adopts the new identity of Earle Harbinger and returns home to his family.
Early 1980's - Oliver Chadwick "Chad" Gardenier survives a Barracks bombing in Beirut is granted a vision of his destiny, returns home, kills a horde of zombies at a church Revival, and joins MHI.
Early 1980's - Chad is sent to Seattle where he kills a Lich and and installs a Fae princess as guardian of the city.
Early 1980's - A Special Operations Soldier by the name of "Destroyer" is shot in the head on a small island off the coast of Russia. He is brought back to life by a powerful elder being and given a vision of his destiny and his childrens destiny.
Early 1980's - "Destroyer" meets and marries a poor woman from the soviet union. "Destroyer" then has her immigrate from her home to the United States where she is then impregnated. She give birth to 2 sons named Owen and Mosh.
Mid 1980's - Chad is caught fornicating with an underage elf in Seattle and is forced to flee to New Orleans.
Mid 1980's - Martin Hood, a member of MHI's team smiley face, fakes his own death has it blamed on Earl Harbinger. As a consequence Dwayne Myers , another member of mhi's Team smiley face, quits MHI and joins the Monster Control Bureau.
Mid 1980's - Chad becomes the only surviving member of The Fat Tuesday Massacre a level 4 event.
Mid 1980's - Chad goes on sabbatical with "points", his on-again-off-again girlfriend. Subsequently Chad fornicates her brains out andimpregnates her, unbeknownst to Chad.
Mid 1980's - Milo Anderson a Mormon from Utah (?) is saved from a monster attack and joins MHI.
Mid 1980's - Chad and the entirety of Monster Hunter International kill a larval old one before it is allowed to awaken.
Early 1990's - Susan goes "missing" in Europe hunting vampires. Suasan is presumed dead and this throws her husband Raymond Sackleford IV into despair and desperation.
1995 - The Christmas Party. Raymond Sackleford IV opens a portal in an attempt to return Susan back to the land of the living. A dimensional portal is opened and demon kill a great number of hunter including Chad and Raymond Sackleford V.
International - Owen Zastava Pitt son of "Destroyer" kills a werewolf in a his accounting firms corporate offices.
International - Owen meets Julie Shackelford and Earl Harbinger for the first time, and is recruited by MHI.
International - Owen meets the rookies of the MHI squad Holly Newcastle and "Tripp" Jones. Owen also meet Skippy and Edward the Orcs.
International - Owen encounters vampires and wights on the ship the Antoine Henri. And discovers a major plot in involving Master level vampires and more powerful being called Machado.
International - Owen dies in Natchy Bottom from demons the same as the ones at the Christmas party. The MCB Nukes the portal. Owen reverses time and doesn't die in Natchy Bottom. The MCB still nukes the portal.
International - Susan Shackelford is revealed to be a master vampire. Raymond Shackelford IV is "killed" by Susan.
International - The the final battle between mhi and the master vampires take place at DeSoya Caverns.
International - Julie Shackelford is saved from a fatal woundby a mysterious figure called "the guardian".
International - Owen defeats Lord Machado.
Vendetta - Martin Hood and his daughter Lucinda attack Owen in Mexico with a horde of zombies.
Vendetta - The ogres Bia and cratos attack Owen's brother Mosh at a live concert.
Vendetta - the MHI compound in Cazador Alabama is assaulted by a giant horde of zombies lead by Martin Hood.
Vendetta - Julie is mortally wounded however it appears that she has been given the powers of the Guardian and is subsequently able to regenerate.
Vendetta - mosh is kidnapped during the assault and has his fingers removed as part of torture.
Vendetta - Owen marries Julie.
Vendetta - Owen travels through a portal to save his brother.
Vendetta - Lucinda loses an arm.
Vendetta - Owen kills Martin hood and slays an old one.
Alpha - Earl tracks Nikolai Petrov to Copper Lake Michigan, Just as a massive werewolf outbreak is about to begin. Lucinda hood is also present aiding a mysterious figure known as the Alpha.
Alpha - a Shawty team are Monster Hunters known as Briarwood eradication services is dispatched to copper lake one of them is a man by the name of Jason lococo.
Alpha - An officer known as Heather Kercanine is bitten and turned into a werewolf.
Alpha - The Alpha kills Nikolai
Alpha - Earle and Heather Kill Alpha
Alpha - Jason is recruited to join MHI
Alpha - Heather is forced by Stricken to join Special Task Force Unicorn in order to earn her PUFF exemption.
Between Alpha & Legion - Owen impregnates Julie
Between Alpha & Legion - Edward the orc meets Tanya the elf and convinces her to join MHI
Legion - The International Conference for Monster Hunting Professionals is being held at the last dragon casino and hotel in Las Vegas. All major monster hunting teams are in attendance including MHI. The conference is being coordinated by an individual simply known as management.
Legion - A mystrious being known as the Nachtmar is causing the worst nightmares of the casinos patrons to come to life.
Legion - The entire casino is sucked into another dimension.
Legion - Owen is forced to abandon a group of hunters including Jason in above mentioned dimension to defeat the Nachtmar.
Legion - Owen defeats the Nachtmar.
Nemesis - United States government breaks treaty with Franks and issues a bounty on him.
Nemesis - the Nemesis program is given the green light
Nemesis - Fallen Angel Kurst hunts for Frank's in one of the Nemesis body
Nemesis - Meyers is killed by Paranormal Tactical? Or Nemisis I can't remember?
Nemesis - Frank's least Alabama where he reenacts The Wolfman vs Frankenstein's monster fight
Nemesis - Nemesis is defeated
Seige - Owen and Julie meet Poly, a cylops who can see into other dimensions
Seige - Owen collects a dead drop from management who appears to have survived the last dragon event.
Seige - Owen hatch has a plan to save the missing hunters trapped in the other dimension
Seige - Owen retrieve a ring from Gerecht, a legendary roman heroe, in order to find the hunters trapped in the other dimension
Seige - Owen discovers that the only place he can get to the dimension is on a small island off the coast of Russia.
Seige - Owen goes to Russia to broker a deal with officials to allow them to put the island Under Siege
Seige - mhi trains in Alaska
Seige - MHI puts the island Under Siege
Seige - I want enters the other dimension looking for the hunters
Seige - Owen meets "Jason" again as he is hiding from the wild Hunt
Seige - Owen saves hunters from the wild Hunt and allows them to return home while he sacrifices himself and holds off the wild Hunt.
Seige - Owen is captured and finds out that Jason lococo died in this dimension and Owen had been interacting with previously wasn't fact some form of dark God.
Seige - Destroyer Dies Earthside so his spirit could save his son Owen.
Guardian - Raymond "little bubba" Shackelford VI is born
Guardian - Raymond Shackelford III dies while being attacked by a mysterious creature.
Guardian - little bubba is "TAKEN"
Guardian - Julie murders her way across Europe in search of her son.
Guardian - Julie rescues her son.
Seige - Owen escapes the capture of the dark God with the assistance of his father's spirit.
Seige - Owen returns earthside months after the seige has ended.
Guardian - Julie kills the mysterious creature ALUOCH who stole her son.
ALRIGHT GUYS OTHER GRAMMATICAL ERRORS WHAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED? DATES? ORDER OF EVENTS? DETAILS? LET ME KNOW BELOW!
submitted by beattywill80 to TheMHI [link] [comments]

Coastguard #9 - Those Whose Sins Mark Their Bodies

DCNext Proudly Presents…!

COASTGUARD

Issue #9: Those Whose Sins Mark Their Bodies

Written by Fortanono
Edited by dwright5252, AdamantAce
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Meet-and-greets were always Marc Silvera’s favorite part of the day. Back in his youth, he loved the thrill of heroism, the adrenaline that came with fighting against dangerous people and bringing them to justice. Now, it was much less about adrenaline as it was before; he got his enjoyment from knowing that he made others’ lives just a little bit safer, helping them sleep more easily. Luckily, Josiah Power’s booths in the Polynesia Resort’s cafeteria boiled that right down to a science.
Dan and Courtney would always get the most fans, considering that they ran their own media platforms at one point; Helga and Curtis would occasionally hang around his booth for the fans. Ray and Thunder each had their own devoted lines, with their fans from Tulsa and Metropolis often making pilgrimages to New Coast to visit them. The ceremonially empty booth to the left of Marc was there for Vibe, who had attracted a lot of people placing down flowers and mementos, paying their respects. It was still hard for Marc to believe that he was really gone.
Marc’s was always the shortest line. He knew why; for a long time, the second Commander Steel was a small-town urban legend whose existence was unconfirmed. The name was also associated with a military group that many disapproved of or outright loathed, Marc himself chief among them after all these years, who was a willing participant in it. Finally, there was the third reason: Commander Steel was not a welcoming figure to most. His helmet kept out any sign that he was even a human, which was no longer a valid assumption for superheroes. In a lot of ways, he understood why children would even be scared of him. He liked to pretend that this didn’t bother him, but he knew deep down that it did, just a little.
Even still, he did have several people who came over to meet him. A tall woman with red hair and excessive amounts of makeup walked up to him, her young son in tow. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old, Marc thought. He sat down on a wooden chair nearby and smiled behind his mask.
“Hello there,” Marc chuckled. “What’s your name, young man?”
“Collin,” he smiled, hiding his face in his hands, his dirty mop of red hair covering his eyes.
Marc laughed heartily, almost as if he were a mall Santa. He felt like the kids needed to know that he wasn’t as scary as he seemed behind the mask, and laughing was the best way of doing that. Collin couldn’t see how wide he was smiling behind the visage, the tear of joy running down one of his eyes. “Now Collin, why don’t you sit on my lap and we can take a picture together?”
“Yeah!” Collin said. “I love you, Commander Steel. I want to be a superhero like you when I grow up.”
“Oh, is that so?” Marc said joyfully, smiling as Collin climbed up into his lap. He hid a grimace; as much as he enjoyed the job, seeing someone so young determined to be someone who put their life on the line was very off-putting to him. The camera flashed, taking a picture of Collin with his hero, and Marc just let the moment rush over him.
“Remember to enjoy your stay at New Coast Polynesia Resort!” he called out behind them as they left the line. He always felt weird saying that, but Josiah told them to, and it wasn’t like he didn’t want them to have a fun vacation.
The next person moved forward in the line, a teenage boy wearing a camo button-down shirt. “Hey, Commander Steel,” he said gleefully. “You’re so awesome. It’s so cool that I get to meet you.”
Marc went through the rounds, but he wasn’t focused on the boy anymore. Instead, Marc stared transfixed as the next woman in line, a middle-aged Black woman with a short bob of shoulder-length grey hair, wearing a black dress with grey and blue accents. His stomach dropped as he finished up with the kid in camo, turning to the woman in front of him.
“Jenna,” he said, coming out as little more than a breath. He stood up from his chair. “Why are you here?”
“Trust me,” she said with her lips pursed. “I didn’t want to come just as much as you probably don’t want to see me. Something came up.”
Marc stared at her, not saying anything.
“Richards’ sentence is up,” Jenna muttered coldly. “I was hoping he’d changed, but he’s on a bus straight to New Coast. I just wanted to warn you and your team, knowing what he’s capable of.”
“Yes, of course,” Marc said as his former wife left the line. He turned to her and called out as she walked away. “Hey, hey, you have a fantastic rest of your life, whatever you’re doing.” She didn’t respond.
Marc turned to the next guest, his mind not fully there. As his experience with Jenna faded from his mind, he realized that something much worse was about to happen, and he had to warn the team about it.
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“Okay,” Curtis said, his back against the wall of Room 103. The members of Coastguard were gathered in their costumes, having come back from the meet-and-greet minutes earlier. “A quick recap on the Phosphorus situation for Courtney: We’ve been able to take out some street-level guys who were peddling narcotics, but none of them claimed they had ever seen the man’s face. He apparently keeps very little company; only those he trusts ever see who he truly is.”
“By the way,” Anissa said, “Congrats to Courtney for the awesome work she’s done in Opal City! We’re starting to see headlines roll in, and it’s very impressive.” Immediately, everyone in the room around them began to clap and cheer, turning to Courtney who was sitting in her new red-and-green costume.
Courtney looked between her teammates and smiled. “Thanks guys,” she said. “It means a lot.” She turned to Curtis, her expression turning more serious. “Anything on ThirteenthFloor? That seemed like a really big deal when I left, but no mention of it so far.”
Curtis nodded. “Yeah, yeah, that’s a thing. Helga and I are working on reverse-engineering the tech in the buildings, but no results yet. Anyone else have pressing concerns?”
Helga raised her hand. “As you may recall,” she began, “Acrata managed to escape from New Coast after arrest. I recently received word that she may be returning to the city, planning something big. If you spot her, do not be light when apprehending her, and bring her to me as soon as you can.”
“Dammit,” Dan said. “I was hoping I’d never have to see her again. That fight kept me sore for days. We’ll be on the lookout if she returns.”
“Anything else?” Curtis asked.
Marc removed his mask and raised his hand slowly. “Yes,” he said meekly. “Unfortunately, there’s… someone else has shown up here. An old enemy. Curtis, bring up records for Mark Richards, also known as the Tattooed Man.”
Curtis turned to a nearby monitor and began searching the web. He pulled out a mugshot of a tall, bald man with a tattoo of a dragon coiled around the top of his head. On the side of one of his cheeks was another tattoo, a small piece that resembled a rose with a thorny stem. “This your guy?”
“Yes,” Marc said. He stood up and took a deep breath, addressing his teammates. “A long time ago, I lived in a small town in Maryland called Liberty Hill. Standard small-town fare; most of the criminals were just normal people who had a bad run. This man was different. He showed up, and within months he had killed any gang members who didn’t work for him. With every man he murdered, he got a new tattoo, and these weren’t ordinary tattoos. They gave him powers, and every time I fought him he had a new trick up his sleeve.”
He sighed and paused before continuing. “I became obsessed with him. It was unhealthy, and it cost me my marriage. Finally, 15 years ago, I caught him. He served his time, and now it seems like he’s come back for revenge. I'd like to humbly request your help in finding him and making sure he doesn't cause further harm. Mark Richards is incredibly dangerous, and we need to treat any encounter we have with him with utmost caution. He will kill us if we don’t.”
The room fell silent for a few seconds before Curtis broke the silence. “Okay,” he said. “The Tattooed Man, Public Enemy Number One. Don’t worry, Marc; we will make sure that we stop him before he can hurt us.”
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
Mark Richards knocked on the door of a townhouse in what looked like any other upscale neighborhood. This development was designed by one of Josiah Power’s friends, he had remembered, but it had never seen use as the designer’s company went down for fraud several months ago. Even though it looked like an ordinary housing development, a far cry from the tourist trap in New Coast’s city center, it was also the home of many of New Coast’s more sinister elements. With the development never having been in use, it was the perfect place for shadowy figures to hide in such a bright city.
The skull on Mark’s forearm sensed some sort of danger. Mark willed it to be quiet as a young woman, tall and lanky with blonde hair and blue accents, opened the door. She seemed to have a lot of tattoos herself. “Wow,” she said, staring at him up and down. “I’m going to need the name of your inker. That is some good art.”
“I’ve had a lot of inkers,” Mark chuckled. “My first tattoo was from a slave-driver in Moldora. The second one was from a serial killer. I tend to get them from the worst of the worst, and it pays off.”
“Ooh, nice,” she said. “I take it you’re here to see the big man? I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you. You should hope so, at least.”
Mark nodded. “I believe we already had an appointment scheduled.”
“You are correct,” she laughed. “He's been talking about you all day.”
Mark walked into the house and down the corridor to a room at the end. If an ordinary homeowner lived here, the room he entered would probably be furnished as a dining room, possibly as a playroom for their children. However, the New Coast crime lord that lived here had turned the room into a sort of makeshift casino; slot machines padded the sides of the walls while a poker table served as the room’s centerpiece.
In the far corner were two couches, on one of which sat the man Mark presumed to be Phosphorus. He looked young and arrogant at first glance, reminding Mark of a cocky kid who thought he could run a business back in Liberty Hill, but who would always fall to Mark in the end. The heart tattoo on the left side of Mark’s chest came from him; his sins were driven by his heart rather than his brain, and that’s why Mark had defeated him. It was a fitting tattoo to remember him by. The major difference between Phosphorus and that kid was abundantly clear, though. Phosphorus wore an unbuttoned white jacket with no shirt; across his chest and extending down his left arm, his skin glowed a brilliant red-orange. Underneath the glow, Mark could see his ribcage, lit up by the man’s special ability.
“Heh, on time I see,” Phosphorus chuckled. “I knew I could count on you.”
Mark took a seat on the couch across from the crime lord. “Of course,” he said. “This business is always about impressions, and I’ve come to know that that means dependability as well as fear. Meet your opponents first, before you destroy them. And I believe that in a couple of months, I may have to destroy you.
“So it’s true then,” Phosphorus said. “You’re gonna hang around a while? That’s unfortunate. Oh well.”
“Nice to meet you. I’d shake your hand, but I’ve been told that’s not really a good idea.” Mark stretched out on the couch, throwing his arms behind his back. “So you’re the Phosphorus, huh? I expected someone a little older to have been behind the work you’ve done. It’s impressive.”
“Call me Alec,” Phosphorus said. He paused for a second. “I’m old enough. Besides, I’ve got a damn good reason why I’m doing this. Pardon the wordplay, but it’s a fire in my heart, so to speak, y’know? A drive.”
Before Mark could respond, Alec’s breathing started tensing up. He turned his head to the doorway of the room. “Melanie! Food!” he shouted. The blonde woman from before quickly came over with a man in a suit, tied up and restrained. She dropped him at Alec’s feet before leaving, not saying a single word.
The man’s expression turned frantic. “No, wait, please. Do anything. Ta--take my kids, instead. My wife. I can help you!” He was quickly shut up by Alec’s searing-hot left hand on his mouth, as the man quickly vaporized into thin air. Only a skeleton remained of where he was once standing.
“Wow,” Mark said, shaking his head. “That is impressive, I have to say. Not exactly a good dude there, either. Guess you know how to pick ‘em.”
“Yeah,” Alec laughed. “I only eat the rich types, people who have no spine or soul. That, and people who disappoint me, of course.” Alec paused for a second. “You know, I never wanted to be a criminal. I started this because I had to; if I don’t feed, I’ll die, and feeding ain’t exactly something you want to do in the open. But now? I’d say it feels pretty good. Not perfect, y’know? But it’s getting there.”
Mark nodded. “I get it, I really do. You know, you and I have the same power, so to speak.”
Alec gave him a confused look.
Mark cleared his throat. “I was on deployment in Moldora several years ago. I was a young soldier, about your age, and I had just killed a few men for the first time. Every day, their voices screamed in my head. So we were taking down this horrible waste of a human being; he had enslaved thousands of men, women and children to work for the worst kind of people. And the night before the raid, I asked him how he did it. That man showed me the art of sin-grafting; for every sin he committed, he added just a bit more ink to his body. He kept the memories of those he killed in the tattoos. Well, I thought it was bullshit, but then he tattooed this dragon onto me.” He pointed at his first and favorite tattoo, the dragon that coiled around his bald head.
“From that day on, whenever I kill someone, I tattoo myself with something to remind me of them. And I always use this special ink, which gives the tattoo life. Power. Doesn’t make it right, but it makes it damn near worth it. Now you, you have to kill people to live. I dunno how you got into that predicament, but you realized the same thing I did. If you get power from your sins, then it’s more than worth committing them, don’tcha think?”
Alec’s expression soured. “I think you’re fucking wrong about me,” he said. He stood up, towering over Mark. The skull on his shoulder sensed that he was in an incredible amount of danger. Mark said nothing; he wanted to see where this would go.
“I’m not a monster,” Alec huffed. “I was a good kid who wanted to do the right thing, and this bitch made me into who I am now. And my father just lets her stay by his side. He doesn’t notice shit. He doesn’t realize who that woman is. And so I’m here to fucking destroy the city he’s created, to burn it down to the bedrock on which it stands.”
Mark raised an eyebrow. “Your father is Josiah Power? I see it. I think you’ll realize you’re a lot more like him than you imagine.”
Alec lunged at Mark, nearly putting a hand on him. Acting quickly, Mark summoned the dragon from the tattoo on his head. Immediately, the ink turned into a violet energy construct of a serpent, lunging forward at Alec and releasing a sonic blast. Alec flew across the room, landing among the slot machines on the other wall.
“See, you’ve got this terrifying power,” Mark chided. “But I got so many years on you it’s hard to imagine. That, Alec, is why I will take this city.”
Alec writhed in pain as Mark stood over him and left. This was not the pain he felt when he hadn’t fed in a while, nor was it the pain he felt from Mark knocking him into the wall. No, this was omnipresent, coating every nerve of his body like it did when he was hungry, but ten times stronger. He cried out, bringing himself to his feet and stumbling out the door of the room. He had someone he needed to see.
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
“Help,” Alec gulped, grabbing Helga’s wrist in the hallway of the New Coast Polynesia Resort. He was wearing gloves, of course; he couldn’t let anyone else know about his abilities. Nearly collapsing, Alec straightened himself using Helga’s body as a support.
“Alec,” Helga said, faking a smile. “You know, you are the last person I expected to see today. I have to say, I am very impressed with what you’ve managed to accomplish with your abilities. Seems like they’re treating you better than I had expected.” She paused for a second, looking around for bystanders. There were none. “Come into Room 104 with me, and we can talk. I don’t want to have to do to any others what I did to you.”
The two of them walked further down the hall, entering Helga’s personal lab as Helga closed the door behind him. It was just as pristine, Alec thought, as the one Helga had imprisoned him in, although it was considerably smaller. Alec had only seen the inside of this lab from the small glimpse he had gotten when he had asked Helga to help save the day. The worst mistake of his life, Alec thought. He cared about his father for one moment, wanted to help save his life, and it cost him gravely.
“I take it you have questions about your newfound powers?” Helga turned to the door and latched it shut. “Don’t worry; I’ve soundproofed the room much better since our last encounter. I could yell at the top of my lungs that you were Phosphorus, and Curtis in the next room wouldn’t do so much as to look up from his computer.”
Alec nodded. “You said that this power would kill me. Everything’s starting to hurt like a bitch; I fed on my way here and it didn’t help. I need answers.”
“Well,” Helga said, “I wish I could give you all the answers you need. Primer is a very imprecise science, and it reacts differently for every person that it works on. That being said, none of the powers triggered by your specific primer have killed anyone in less than 6 months. Trust me when I say I’ve done extensive research on this one.”
Alec winced. He imagined Helga Jace, the kind hearted TV personality dedicated to treating people with metahuman conditions, giving hundreds of people the same treatment he had. It made so little sense, but with what he had seen of Helga in the past few months, it still fit perfectly.
Helga continued as Alec sat himself down on a nearby hospital bed draped in thin paper. “That being said, any sort of pain you might experience is par for the course, and none of it is a sign of your impending death. Most of it will make you want to die, but you’ll be fine for several more months at least. Now, unfortunately, I still have work to do that my team can’t know about, so curing you would not benefit me. But so far, you’ve been exemplary in your discretion about these matters. Not to mention the immense distraction you’re providing for them; they barely have time to think about anything I’m doing.”
Alec nodded. He resisted attacking Helga outright, as he knew she was his only chance at salvation. That did not mean that he wasn’t ready to do so. Instead, he looked her in the eyes and weakly spoke. “Will this new pain go away?”
“Hard to tell. I could help run some tests, but as hard as it may seem to imagine, I don’t know everything about every power that comes my way. Most likely, though, there will be high points and low points, as there are with every disease. I can tell from your demeanor, for example, that you’re feeling significantly less pain than when you literally grabbed me, even if it doesn’t feel that way. By the way, don’t scare an old lady like that, especially with your specific ability.” Helga chuckled wildly. Alec felt sick to his stomach, even though these past few months had hardened him. This, he thought, was what true monsters looked like.
“Fine,” Alec said, standing up. “You know what? I don’t need any more help. I got money, I got power, I got ladies, and it’s all because of your experiment. When the power does start to kill me, I’ll be here. But until then, I’m not coming through this door again.”
Alec left Room 104 and began to leave the hotel. Helga was right; as he got up, the pain had begun to fade. After a few seconds, it had all but disappeared for the time being. He got to the lobby, where he immediately noticed a new complication. Josiah Power, his father, was standing over the desk, talking to the receptionist. Before he could turn the other way, he saw Alec standing there. He fell silent, his gaze softening.
“Alec,” he muttered, coming closer. “I thought… I thought you left the city.”
The rage that Alec felt that first night in the hotel began to bubble up again, but he kept it down. “Hey, Dad. Yeah, I was gone for a while, but I’m… I couldn’t leave.” He paused, considering his next words carefully. “I think I’m ready to talk to you again.”
“That’s fantastic,” Josiah smiled. “Take your time; you don’t owe me anything. But if you want, maybe we could get dinner sometime?”
Alec nodded. “I think I’d like that.” It was a lie, he told himself; he had to come up with something on the spot. But it worked in his favor; if he had a relationship with his father again, the betrayal would be much sweeter when he got to that point. He couldn’t wait to see Josiah’s face as he realized who he truly was. But that had to wait.
As he left the lobby, he smiled. The pain may come back, but those who deserved it would also feel his pain in due time.
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”Alright,” Curtis said through his microphone. ”We’ve spotted the Tattooed Man in Kim’s area. Anyone currently in the field, converge on 44th Street and H. We need to take him down sooner than later.”
“Got it,” Ray said, hovering high above Josiah’s central shopping district in New Coast before taking off due west. Below him, Thunder, Blue Devil and Commander Steel patrolled the streets; each of them began to make their way to the location in question through a series of Dan’s portals. As he arrived on location, Ray began to take in the sites around him.
The area of the city that one of Josiah’s associates, Terrence Kim, developed felt much more like a normal city than a theme park. That said, it still felt like a theme park, if only because of how sleek and untouched the buildings were. Towering white-and-blue skyscrapers surrounded the wide streets of this area, with tropical foliage in planter boxes along the sidewalks. Palm trees dotted the curbsides, which featured parking spaces where the cars would face the curb. What took Ray by surprise the most, however, was how empty this part was. Not all of Kim’s territory was available to the public yet; only the bare minimum was completed.
Ray landed on the street as Dan, Anissa and Marc portalled in behind him. Several blocks ahead of them, the Tattooed Man was smoking a cigar. He quickly noticed them and put it out before turning to them.
The Tattooed Man let out a hearty chuckle as he took a few steps forward. “Well, well, well. You finally found me. Hey Marc, how’s the missus doing? You know, I could tell that she was stalking me when I got out. I served my time, why do I need to get harassed for what I’ve already done?”
“Seems like it was well worth it,” Commander Steel said. “Considering where you ended up, Mark, you can’t take the high ground here..”
“This small talk was never my favorite part. Let’s get this over with.” Two violet wings of energy sprouted from the Tattooed Man’s back, allowing him to tower over the other heroes. Ray immediately met him in the sky. From a sword tattoo on his left arm, he summoned a blade of energy that he immediately gripped with both hands before charging at Ray.
Ray dodged the Tattooed Man’s first attack, responding with a barrage of light blasts. From the ground, Commander Steel fired his own bolts of energy from the wrist-cannons Helga had designed for him. The sword dissolved and was replaced by a shield that grew from a small tattoo on the back of the criminal’s left hand. For several seconds, the Tattooed Man sustained the heroes’ continuous fire, but it was interrupted when the Blue Devil portalled onto the shield and began punching at it over and over again. The Tattooed Man dissolved the shield and dived out of the way, flying higher to avoid further attacks. Ray chased after him and Dan portalled himself back onto the ground.
“Now this, this is fun,” the villain chuckled to himself. “Marc, why couldn’t you learn to fly, or build some glider or something? Sky battles are awesome!” The dragon on the top of the Tattooed Man’s head came loose, chasing after Ray. He fired out a concentrated beam of light while flying away, but the dragon kept going. Before he could stop it, the dragon screamed, letting loose a powerful high-pitched sound, and Ray fell to the floor.
The Tattooed Man landed on the ground, his wings dissolving as he stood over the fallen hero. “Now this will be a fun one to ink. I wonder, how should I remember you by? I’d do a lightbulb, but I don’t think you’re that bright to begin with.”
A bolt of energy from Marc’s cannon stopped the villain from finishing Ray off, hitting his right shoulder and making him turn to the other heroes. Thunder leapt up onto the side of a nearby high-rise, tackling the criminal from behind as he was distracted. She began to force a pair of handcuffs onto him, but the Tattooed Man quickly summoned his wings again, knocking Thunder down as he turned to the skies.
The lightning tattoo on the villain’s right arm began to let out a violet glow. From the skies, he fired powerful beams of lightning. The first hit Anissa, knocking her down; the second and third were fired at Commander Steel. A metal shield expanded from the hero’s own right arm, protecting him. As the Tattooed Man flew down, a portal from the Blue Devil intercepted him and brought him face-to-face with the two heroes left standing.
The Tattooed Man readied another bolt, knocking Dan clean out. “Now,” he chided, “it’s just the two of us. Like old times, isn’t it?” He resummoned the sword and began exchanging blows with the soldier. Commander Steel quickly discharged another energy blast, which knocked the Tattooed Man a few steps backwards as he began to charge up another lightning bolt.
He stopped. The skull tattoo on his shoulder began to sense another presence nearby.
From above, another hero flew down, clad in a pristine silver costume with glowing accents. In the center was the letter “T” in a circle, clearly the symbol of the hero Mister Terrific. He glided on what looked like two green glowing disks that appeared to be made of pure energy. He looked down at some sort of holographic console emanating from his wrist. The Tattooed Man quickly recognized that this must be the Blue Devil’s associate, the one who once worked for Mister Terrific. The villain was used to recognizing Commander Steel’s body language, even behind that mask of his, and he knew that his enemy was just as surprised as he was.
The new hero’s drones quickly surrounded the Tattooed Man, opening fire with green laser-blasts all around him. The Tattooed Man couldn’t take it, and quickly fell unconscious himself.
”Hey,” Curtis said as he flew down. ”I noticed you needed help.”
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
“So, wait,” Ray began to say as the heroes converged in Room 103. Helga had just finished performing medical care on the three members of Coastguard who were knocked out during the battle, and they were now calling a meeting to discuss what had happened. “You’re--you’re a hero now? When?”
Curtis nodded. “Not always; I’ll be on comms for a lot of the time. But when you guys need it, Helga and I developed this suit. I’ll be calling myself the Technocrat.”
“Cool,” Ray said. He poked at the Technocrat suit, which was standing up in the corner of the room, connected to a charger.
“I’d have to disagree,” Anissa said. “Curtis, you’re incredibly important to us. We can’t risk something happening to you.”
Curtis nodded. “Well, unfortunately, it’s not really your choice. I’ll make extra sure to choose my battles; don’t worry. But it’s important to me that you are all safe. The Tattooed Man would’ve killed all of you if I hadn’t come out there. And with Courtney in Opal half the time and Cisco… you know… we need more hands on deck.”
“He would’ve killed you, too, if he had known you were coming,” Anissa remarked. “And now, everyone who comes to New Coast will know about you. Nothing’s changed; you just had the element of surprise this time.”
Dan, who was sitting in the corner, finally spoke up. “Look,” he said. “I get why you’re worried, Anissa, I really do. I’m worried, too; like, really terrified outta my mind that my friend’s gonna get hurt doing this. But if there’s someone who can pull off this stuff, it’s Curtis. I wouldn’t try and stop him, either; he’s a very stubborn man.”
“Alright,” Anissa huffed. “But I’m not gonna like it.”
“The only question,” Marc laughed, “is what flavor of ice cream he’s gonna be. I can’t think of any grey ice-creams.”
“That’s for Josiah to figure out,” Curtis smiled. “If I had to pick? Probably mint chocolate-chip. All of your weird fruit flavors are upsetting to the palate.”
Everyone laughed around them, except for Anissa. It still didn’t feel right for Curtis to be going out there, and she knew that feeling wouldn’t change. But they were right; she had to deal with it.
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
Mark Richards woke up. His surroundings didn’t feel familiar, but they clearly weren’t any sort of prison. The building he found himself in was some sort of makeshift cabin made of wood. He was tied to a wooden chair on a grass floor. He looked at the ceiling; above him, the panels of wood were ornately painted in patterns of green and silver.
“Where am I?” he asked, dazed.
A man walked over to him in a red-and-brown robe. Draped over him was a green cape decorated with one glowing red gemstone on it. The first thing Mark noticed about his face was his two piercing green eyes, which seemed to see into his soul.
“Greetings, Mark,” the man said. “I know you have many questions, but trust me when I say I am not an enemy.”
Mark chuckled dryly. “When I’m tied to a chair like this, that’s usually hard to imagine.”
“We both know that those bindings would not hold you if you did not want them to,” the man said in a monotone voice. “We simply had to restrain you, as you tended to flail around when unconscious.” He walked over to Mark and untied the knots that kept him tied to the chair. “My name is Samuel, and we have the same goals: to destroy Coastguard and to rule New Coast City. I am gathering people close to the Coastguard, people with vendettas against their members. You fit these criteria easily; another one of these people has already been clamoring to meet you.”
A tall, thin man with pale skin and dark hair walked over to him. He wore a suit and tie that had clearly been hastily put on. Mark stood up and shook his hand.
“Hi,” he smiled, speaking in a nasal voice. “Michael Clarion, occultist extraordinaire. Pleased to meet you. I also just got out of prison. Now, I have a lot of questions about your tattoos. They are mystical in origin, correct? I’m very interested to discuss the finer points of this with you.”
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Julian O'Neill. This is your unknown life.

A stormy afternoon gave way to a dark and brooding night. The night progressed and while the wind settled, the clouds lingered low. For Annabelle O’Neill, the pain became unbearable as the night churned towards an uncertain dawn. With one last push, the child finally arrived.
It was October 14, 1972. Julian O’Neill was born.
Brian Julian ‘Julian’ O’Neill had a troubled childhood that scientists have often cited to settle the old ‘nature vs nurture’ debates that raged during boozy academic piss-ups at esteemed establishments such as ANU’S Bar and Half and Harvard.
His mother died when he was 5 and his dad died when he was 6, with Brian being raised by his grandparents. While his grandparents are probably dead now, they weren’t dead when Brian was in their care.
Brian didn’t care much for traditional schooling, preferring to pursue sporting endeavours. He represented Australian Schoolboys in both Rugby League and Cricket at the same time. Unfortunately, the sport of Crugby failed to capitalise on its potential and a devastated Brian had no option but to chase a dream of playing the inferior game of Rugby League.
At age 14, Brian got extremely sunburnt and was given the nickname Fryin Brian. This caused extreme angst to poor Fryin Brian, so to avoid further occurrences, instead of just applying sunscreen or putting on a hat, Brian decided on a more drastic approach and formally changed his name to Julian.
After making another Australian Schoolboys team and impressing scouts with his refined Crugby skills, a year later Julian signed with the Brisbane Broncos. He was groomed to take over Walter Lewis’ five-eight role. Instead, he showed potential at fullback and played there during 1992, winning a premiership at age 18. He then won another one the following year in 1993. Although no official records are available, it is believed Julian was at that point 19 years old.
1993 was a big year for Julian, he also made his State of Origin debut in game II off the bench and started game III at five-eight.
1994 comes around and Julian is on top of the world. At 21 he was a dual premiership winner and state of origin representative. Who else can say that? I mean there are probably some others, don’t @ me but there wouldn’t be many. Late at night neighbours would often hear him yelling out ‘Look at Fryin Brian now!’
This feeling of invincibility started to slowly permeate Julian’s off-field actions and behaviours. Some quick maths: (Invincibility + money + lack of accountability + XXXX) / number of living parents = debauchery and general miscreance + XXXXX.
Note 1: XXXX = XXXX Gold, not an unknown integer.
Note 2: XXXXX is a typo.
Julian began to drink heavily and frequented the many casinos on the Gold Coast. There is actually only one casino however to an intoxicated Julian there appeared at least 4. His favourite game was blackjack, and he spent a large amount of time and money at the tables. During one especially profitable session Julian urinated under the table, seemingly forgetting casinos have more cameras than Princess Diana’s crash scene. Julian was charged with indecent exposure, offensive behaviour, soiling a carpeted venue with bodily fluids, and for some unexplained reason, fraud. The Broncos did what the Broncos do and all charges were dropped, with Julian being awarded costs.
At the end of 1995 Julian went to England and was caught drink driving. His defence of ‘I didn’t know it was illegal over here’ didn’t sit well and he was charged. The Broncos had enough and he was sacked.
Julian decided to stay in England and signed with the London Broncos. At the end of the season Julian was caught drink driving. His defence of ‘I completely forgot it was illegal over here’ didn’t sit well and he was charged. The Broncos had enough and he was sacked.
Julian returned to Australia and signed with the Western Reds for the 1996 season.
Julian was briefly engaged to swimmer Sam Riley, however she called it off after becoming frustrated with his alcohol consumption and wild behaviours. Riley failed a drug test prior to the ’96 Olympics after supposedly taking one of Julian’s ‘Smiley Pain Pills’, however the exact source of the failed test was never determined.
1997 started well with Julian playing for Qld in the Super League Tri-Series and representing Australia in the inaugural ANZAC test. Midway through the ’97 season Julian was again caught drink driving. His defence of ‘I didn’t know it was illegal over this side’ didn’t sit well and he was charged. The Reds had enough and he was sacked.
Despite the writing on the wall, Julian was signed by the Rabbitohs midway through 1997 in the coward infested ARL competition, also playing for Qld in game II of Origin.
Speaking of writing on the wall, during the 1999 pre-season the Rabbitohs travelled to Dubbo. The squad really bonded during the tour and it cumulated in Julian scrawling ‘SSTID’ in his own faeces on the wall of his hotel room, continuing the tradition of all great South Sydney pre-season camps. Not convinced the bonding was yet strong enough, Julian then shat in his teammate Jeremy Schloss’ shoe, uttering the immortal words: “I just shat in Schlossy’s shoe”.
Julian was not fired by Souths.
Julian signed with the North Qld Cowboys for the 2000 season and made his last Origin appearance in Game II, until he played again in Game III.
In 2002 Julian returned to England, narrowly avoiding Interpol’s Red Notice and signed with Wigan. Julian’s dyslexia came to the fore in mid 2003 when he accidentally turned up at Widnes training. Instead of further confusing Julian, Wigan agreed to release him and he stayed with Widnes.
In 2004, Julian again showed his team how to pre-season party, somehow convincing the Widnes squad to tour Australia. On a trip to Port Macquarie, the team went on a booze cruise up the mighty Hastings river. Julian took exception to a talking dolphin, which was actually a 13 year old boy wearing a foam costume. He took his cigarette lighter to the dorsal fin and set alight the $5,000 nylon and foam rubber suit with the child inside that was, according to the father ‘very difficult to get into and is impossible to get out of without any assistance’.
Julian then stripped down to his jocks and dived overboard, contravening the waterways authorities laws of NSW and jeopardising the tour company’s ability to operate in the future. Julian swam to shore with the cheers of the greater Widnes squad echoing all the way to Settlement City. Julian flagged down a passing car and somehow convinced the driver to take him back to Port Macquarie in his wet undies.
Note 3: the boy was unhurt and the melted dolphin costume now resides in the Port Macquarie Visitors Centre, next to James Magnussen’s Olympic silver medal flower bouquet (wilted).
Julian was not fired by Widnes.
In 2004 a now dry Julian travelled to France to play rugby, establishing the path for all reformed footy bad boys. Julian struggled with the language, culture, laws, fashion, government, cuisine and rules in France. He returned to the Super League in England in 2005, before retiring after a Challenge Cup game for Leigh in 2006.
Julian has lived a fairly quiet life since retiring. His son is pursuing a career in rugby league, and Julian gets to watch him play every third Saturday. He is an avid Facebook user, frequently trolling and beefing with other ex-players such as Jack Elsegood. He has also proudly participated in every viral ‘challenge’ ever created, from the ice bath to the raw egg eating challenge, raising over $70 for Dolphin Rescue. Julian also runs a YouTube channel on how to win at the pokies.
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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 14 Raymond Vs Cy

The results are in for Match 12.
“Well, now, that was a treat, wasn’t it? Alright, everyone, get ready for the main event! Bursting into the lane, ready for her adoring fans, give it up loud and clear for… TD/MD!”
The crowd went wild, then, as the star emerged, wearing a brightly-shining silver top dotted in acciaccatura symbols, blue shorts and long silver and black socks on her right and left legs accentuating the graceful form of TD/MD. Her eyes, already discolored so drastically from one another, were accentuated with asymmetric eyeshadow, gray and blue, blue dots of makeup underneath the latter left eye, and as she emerged, her left hand, clad in a blue glove with a black line through its center, stretched towards the crowd, her right in a silvery glistening glove moving towards the black headphones around her neck, blue acciaccatura symbols on either outside as other musical symbols, smaller, less prominent, dotted the rest of the thing. There was an obvious extravagance in the outfit made more impressive by its components being relatively simple: a t-shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, and gloves, really.
“Whoa, talk about a tough act to follow… And that’s coming from me!” Metra Doria laughed lightly, having emerged to an immensely lively, astonished, applauding audience, applauding the avant-garde show which had led up to her. “Sound’s Garden, am I right? The people this place attracts are some of the most interesting performers I have ever known, and what we all just witnessed, I think, is a perfect preamble, a summation of everything we should aspire to be, of the power to move hearts and souls that music can have! I seriously feel like I need to give the best damn concert of my life now just to be worthy of headlining here… And of course, I can’t play everything alone. Before we start, let’s hear it for my backing band!”
“My bassist, Stella Starlight, my drummer, Scott Sundquist, annnnd…” Melodically, that ‘and’ trailed until one of the stagehands from before, clad now in a totally new outfit, emerged. “Luna, on the synth!” With the band introduced to cheers, TD/MD, then, sat before a piano which the rest of the stagehands had moved onstage while the crowd’s eyes were on the star, and a cloud of smoke in their path. “So, Los Fortuna, are! You! Ready?!”
The first of many songs that night began.
In the chaos of these two disparate teams, both quite surprised by the realization of who they would be sharing their stages with, their independent plans, nonetheless, blended together seamlessly to tell classical comedies of ancient kings and heroes, of fighting and rejecting a tragic end, a bizarre prog rock gymnastic live weapons show tale of the human spirit at its finest.
It was often that, thanks to the mishaps of the manager Thutmose, the acts before TD/MD went down in memetic legend, the stuff people spoke about often both on social media and in shady, smoky backrooms. Usually, however, they were spoken of as disasters saved by her star performance, to the point where some wondered if it was on purpose to hype her up more at some poor bastard’s extent.
That night, however, a certain performance pierced the hearts of the crowd and brought about complete adoration, even matching the attention of the headliner. As her own show, grand, perfect, putting a tear in the eye of the man who sat beside Tigran Sins in a special box, drew to a close, and the crowd called for an encore, TD/MD spoke into the microphone. “Alright, Los Fortuna, I think I definitely have time for one more song, but… I haven’t forgotten who you were all cheering for earlier. In the time it’s taken, we’ve already seen to it… I’m going to welcome some people back on the stage to join me for this!” Directing her hand stage left, she declared, “‘Nureyev,’ Admiral Pineapples ‘Orpheus,’ ‘Hades,’ and all the best stagehands in the world, get back up here, the whole of you! Let’s close the night off in the best way possible!”
The winner is Everyone, with a score of 79!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity Masters of Funky Action 16-14 There were a record number of tie votes this match, but in the end, just barely, MFA pulled ahead in popularity by a singular vote.
Quality Judecca Highrollers 27-29 Reasoning
JoJolity Tie 27-27 Reasoning
Conduct Tie 10-10
After the show, Metra asked the quartet to wait for her outside her green room so they might speak in private as she dressed back down into more casual getup, the four of them and manager Thutmose conversing outside all throughout.
“That was legendary,” Rudolf said first, “feel like we really moved hearts out here tonight!”
“Even if only for a little while…” Admiral Pineapples agreed, looking over the Highrollers. “It was very nice to work with you, even under such strange circumstances.”
“Tens of thousands… It’s still surreal,” Alexis added, “they were cheering for us almost as hard as they were for TD/MD… And I heard they usually end up laughing off the act right before the big headliner?”
Cybil simply allowed a smug smile. “I was advocating for you, Alexis, so of course I knew you would defeat such superstitions…” And then, she offered the manager a frown. “Mr. Thutmose. I hope now you’ve learned a lesson about fooling around with people. It is only because we were so amazing that you still have your job right now.”
“How humble…” Thutmose answered, chuckling nervously and running his hands through his hair. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll go straight now… I didn’t realize how much this was upsetting Metra, either-”
“Thutmose, my boy,” a self-important voice said, announcing his presence an instant before his garish demeanor could assault the eyes of the hangers-around. Tigran Sins, in his gold-yellow checkered suit, approached, that muscular brunette right hand of his, Fox, close by, a sort of warmth on his still quite intimidating face, “you really do know how to pick ‘em. Miss Antoine, Mr. Pavlova, Admiral, and Alexis, you were… I must say, almost sort of in the league of our star.”
“Not even close, really,” Fox answered, stepping forward then, a massive bouquet in his hands, a vinyl tucked neatly under his arm, “anyway, Thutmose, let us through. We need to speak with her now… That show was her greatest yet, and she needs to hear it personally from-”
“TD/MD isn’t seeing anyone else tonight,” Thutmose answered, the young man standing firmer now, though all four of his companions noticed that he seemed to be shaking. “She’s exhausted after her show, and already needs to make time for others…” He moved to yoink the flowers out of his hands. “I’ll give these to her on your behalf, though, and tell her who it’s from… But she won’t be seeing you.”
Like that, the warm demeanor on the intimidating-looking man’s face grew tenser again, and even Tigran seemed to grow frustrated as well, answering next, “are you certain she can’t make time? Fox really needs to speak with her in person.”
“Hey, hey, you heard the twink,” Rudolf interjected, stepping in now (“Twink..?” “Yep!”), raising a bathrobe-covered arm, “let’s keep things excellent here and not freak the poor lady out. I hear she’s got a perfect pitch, ya know, so she’s gonna hear it if we’re ruinin’ her night!”
Fox folded his arms, Tigran himself looking contemplative, almost stressed, before his accompaniment turned away, seemingly aware of the numbers on the meek man’s side. “Next time, then.”
The pair left, and like that, Thutmose nearly collapsed into the wall, exhaling. “I just defied Tigran to his face… Hhehhhh…” He shook his head. “She should be ready by now. I’m gonna go burn these flowers… Maybe start online shopping for walking sticks, ‘cuz I feel like my kneecaps are gonna notice this…”
A voice called from the inside, seemingly concurring with the manager’s point. “Coast clear? Alright, come in!”
The four entered, seeing Metra sitting there casually in a black hoodie, more fit for the cool evening, with blue sweatpants covered in silver spirals, relaxing into her chair and nursing a bottle of some sports drink with the label peeled away idly. “You four have all shown me pretty definitely what you stand for tonight… You’re cool. I think I can trust you. Have a seat, alright? Let’s hang out, chat a bit. I don’t think I need to tell you there’s a lot in Sound’s Garden that needs talking-about.”
For interested parties, as of this going up, there is still a day left to vote in a match between masters of lawful bastard and chaotic bastard energies, both vying to get the other thrown out of a resort.
Scenario:
A former speakeasy in Hotel Delmano - North Island, Downtown Los Fortuna. Late morning
The Baker Street Rat Pack had a good few ideas to advance forward juggling in their heads, now that the city’s issues were rapidly beginning to juggle themselves more and more.
North Island PD was still more aggressive under the galvanizing rhetoric of Council Chairman March, none of which seemed to be stopping the serial killer who ran rampant in the region, the districts west of the Wormwood seemed a hotbed of wars between gangs, unions, and the bulk of ODIN’s security forces, and that wasn’t even getting into issues which the BSRP had no relation to, but were indeed aware of.
The matter most currently relevant to Cy Syntheta, however, was listening to the concerns and fleeting research of Peter “Treagon” Bequasimodo.
“I just don’t get it,” Peter said to them, looking fleetingly at his laptop. “I can’t use my Stand to get out of the city, and now I try to use it to look into this ‘Institute’ here, and can't get into there either. It’s like… They have some sort of Stand User Firewall, in simple, un-hacker terms.”
Cy had been sitting and chatting with the self-styled treasonous vegan, having been of the mind of late to actually do something useful, and remembering the hacktivist had been hot on somebody, something or another’s trail. “So you have a clue as to what that ‘from the Institute, Oh No,’ thing meant?”
“Better than a clue,” Peter answered, “turns out it literally wasn’t even a riddle. Just a straightforward signoff.” Like that, he stylishly spun his laptop around on a nearby surface, stopping it as the screen faced Cy. “Look for yourself.”
“This is…” Cy was catching on quickly. “The ‘University Board’ of Midnight Sun? Hell, I knew they were kind of a big deal, but looking over these names back and forth…”
“Yep,” Peter answered, “and these are the basics I could dig up on most of them… This No guy, though, other than existing? Practically a ghost. Apparently sometimes doesn’t even show for meetings in person.”
“And we have definite signs this guy knows about people’s Stand abilities, and hangs out with that ‘Golden Sins’ guy you punched out? ‘Parapsychological Research,’ too… Sounds like Stands without outright saying Stands.”
“Think I might have to go physical again,” Peter answered, “if an agent of Neoliberal Academia is on us, we gotta know their intention. With those types you never know if they’re with you or gonna sell you out. Think I was gonna start by checking out some Institute libraries.”
“Wait,” Cy answered in turn, “you say they know about you and you’ve been trying to break in already… Then it might be too much heat on you to storm the castle. Let me take care of it.”
“Oh, man, really? That’s super cool of you, Cy. If you find anything, I owe you one.”
“Don’t think of it like I’m being nice to you for its own sake,” the assassin answered, “this is something that affects me, too, especially if we screw it up, and a physical infiltration is the kind of thing I’m more suited for than you… Though I will remember what you just offered.”
Midnight Sun University Town - A Street Decked out for Pride
Raymond “Ray” Delwyn Shimizu, meanwhile, had discovered similar information to Cy under what can be called vastly different circumstances: rather than suspicious, experience and perspective had taught him to have a cautiously optimistic approach to the clear power over the Metropolitan area the University Board held.
To the Speedwagon Foundation, this Parapsychological Research Facility has always been an enigma, since it’s always been a risk to send many operatives to Los Fortuna, but I have a ‘feeling…’ A ‘feeling’ that tells me they are not going to be so dissimilar to us. I can’t help but wonder, then, like how my team is dealing with Cairo now, if SKADE can’t have its ‘talents’ assisted by some University grants and allianceship as well… Our ‘contact’ within ODIN didn’t have a bad word to say about them, so it likely won’t cause trouble with them, either.
But first, Raymond knew, he could not simply walk blindly into such an alliance, much like his team had needed first to figure this Cairo out a bit more before adding their resources to their mission. A place worth starting to do such homework, then, would be in the records of their little research institute.
As he walked along, Raymond soon passed by a frankly adorable-looking building, a sign out front of the place reading in bubbly letters: ‘CaraMel’s Confection & Bakery’
To that end, then, he thought, oh, tempting… Maybe I’ll stop by on the way back from the library, bring donuts or weird candies or something back to the gang. I have to imagine they’re delicious… Peering through the window, he saw the place absolutely bustling, loaded with the kind of crowd that speaks to waiting nearly an hour in line, and more going in. Urgh, and maybe there’ll be less of a line by then.
After thinking that to himself, then, Raymond continued onwards, still making sure to eye every little oddity and incongruity of the area he could. Peaceful as the college town largely seemed, strange phenomena that could only amount to Stand usage also felt especially concentrated, even compared to the rest of this city.
I’ve heard rumors of all number of notorious members of the Stand underworld in the region, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out here seeking this library out… or the one with the worst of intentions for it.
Midnight Sun Parapsychological Institute Research Library - 1F Lobby
Much to Raymond’s surprise, the place seemed… A pretty ordinary research library, all things considered. He hadn’t gotten terribly far in yet, of course, but then again, he didn’t really know what he was expecting.
A receptionist with braided dark-red hair, round, spiraling glasses, and a blue vest over a short-sleeved black button-up sat at the front desk, guarding his way from a pair of doors behind him. Off to one side, gated from entry, sat a stairwell, visibly enticing, yet with a sign before it very overtly communicating: NO PUBLIC ENTRANCE.
Ah, well, he could at least get an idea by looking around what sort of face they were willing to show anyone who entered.
“Erm… S-sir?” The young woman at the entrance asked, seeming intimidated by his tall form. “Did you need to find something in particular? I’m, uh, I mean we… We’re not, uh.” She blinked. “What did you want again?”
The sight practically made Ray roll his eyes, but he was able to let through a straightforward, “I didn’t say, actually…” Crap, he hadn’t thought this far, either. Of course a place like this would want to know why people were looking into it. Still, though, Ray was nothing if not smooth and even-faced, and in the span of the time between that ‘actually’ and opening his mouth again, he had thought convincingly of what wasn’t a lie, but didn’t actually say much of anything either. “I want to look into some cases this Institute has worked for this city. This is a pretty big place, and I know it’s a storied institution, so I thought I should get acquainted with some of them.”
“R-right! Of course! So nothing in particular? Okay, cool..! I’m, uh… P-please, don’t hesitate at all if you need me…” The young woman pressed a button by her desk, and the doors clicked, unlocking from this side. As Ray began towards it, though, he was interrupted. “Oh, and one more thing!”
He could practically see the ‘menacings’ emanating off of her, those adorable glasses practically shining as she spoke more clearly now. “There are two types of research library… Ones which only allow ‘reference,’ and ones which allow ‘lending’ to guests. We’re not a lending library, so don’t let us catch you taking anything out of here… Do you understand me, sir?”
“…crystal clear.” This girl is a Stand User… For a moment, I almost let it slip my mind where I am.
“Great!” She said, back to her somewhat nervous, bubbly demeanor. “Oh, and, uh… Don’t make too much noise either, ‘kay? I won’t be able to tell, because these walls are soundproofed, but we can’t be held accountable for what happens if you get other library patrons angry..!”
There, she sounded more honest, even a touch exasperated to Raymond, as if exactly that had happened too many times to count, and she was resigned to it happening again. “I understand.”
Curious as he stepped in, Raymond tested the door… Seemed it did, at least, open from the inside, so no fire hazard or Stand trap there even if it was locked externally. The library interior was hardly bustling, per se, but there were, regardless, a few faces about, all of whom struck Raymond as people it might or might not be a worthwhile idea to fuck with, including but not limited to a tall, balding, androgynous figure with an eyepatch over their forehead, a very average-looking young woman in a purple beret, a red-clad teenager in an aviator hat with a feather plume, round glasses, and long facial features, a tall twentysomething in too many coats with hair like a palm tree, a balding, dark-haired, bespectacled, bearded figure in a stupid black cap and loosely-worn red tie with simultaneously an utterly unhinged and utterly vacant look in his eye, and a blond, stubbly-haired twenty-something six-foot-something in sunglasses and a vest with shoulder sections that wriggled down his arms.
Raymond thought little of the colorful characters around as he went to start picking out some reference material to sit at a desk with, but as he did, he happened to glance across the aisle, seeing there someone who he definitely knew was probably trouble: a short-haired, taller-than-him, androgynous blond with chin-length, face-covering bangs, which had an almost plastic sheen to them. They wore a form-fitting crop-top, shoulder-length cloak, jorts, leggings, and an armful of plastic bands.
No way… I’ve heard of this person before! The foundation says that Cy Syntheta is a ruthless sellsword who’ll work any job. What could a person like that want in a place like this? Who are you doing research for? I smell trouble here… I’m going to need to apprehend them, dead or alive, before someone gets seriously hurt. I must say, as a swordsman myself, though, I’m almost excited… Almost.
Cy Syntheta, minutes ago, had received a similar spiel for a similar non-explanation of their intentions, though theirs even vaguer, given the fact that the assassin was entering fully prepared to find information which led them to view the Institute as some sort of enemy. Their hunt for information about the hotel they occupied had led to a fascinatingly thorough history of its paranormal and criminal oddities, but nothing which referenced any of them.
Nothing written about Heartache Casino where you’d expect, except a very brief mention of an assault from an ancient king when they tried to display some kind of ancient slab in the early 2010s… Nothing about us, either, when we know they definitely have something on us. Ugh. Is that on the more confidential floors..? Maybe I do need to start figuring out how to break in… And then, a moment later, their head perked up with a realization. There’s eyes on me… Someone is watching me right now, and close.
Their head, then, darted across the aisles, and directly across from them stood a tall, broad-looking figure glancing their way with a clear, sneering suspicion. Everything about this guy screamed ‘fed,’ or at least something adjacent.
Looks like my reputation has caught up to me again… Well, that’s just great. I’m gonna need to take this guy out then… How annoying. Hopefully, all these other guys stay out of it so I can get back to what I was doing.
OPEN THE-
Shhh!
Open the game…
Location: A public floor of the Midnight Sun Parapsychological Research Institute Library. The area here is 32 by 32 meters with each tile being 2 by 2 meters. Players are represented by their tokens with Raymond on the center left and Cy on the center right.
The purple rectangles are bookshelves that are each around 2 meters tall. The brown rectangles are desks complete with chairs and lighting. The green circle is the help and resources desk. The plus signs are computer desks and the cone shapes on the bottom sides of the map are printers.
Goal: RETIRE your opponent!
Additional Information: They’re minding their own business, but the Institute Library is sparsely populated with a number of Stand Users among the general civilians. If you make too much noise or actively try to involve them in your fight, they’ll kick your ass, and you will be RETIRED. If you try to trick them into thinking your opponent is antagonizing them by using your own abilities to somehow try to make them look bad, they’ll kick your ass, and you will be RETIRED.
On the other hand, though, as long as you’re not actively aiming for them, even the non-stand users in this area are pretty savvy people to be actively researching here in the middle of a fight; chumps, cowards, and charlatans will have already fled before they’re in any danger, leaving only people who know the score. They can generally reliably avoid being hurt, and as long as you aren’t too loud, will not under any circumstances besides aforementioned loss conditions use their various Stands to kick your ass.
Team Combatant JoJolity
Baker Street Rat Pack Cy Syntheta “My name is ‘Kira Yoshikage.’ I can’t remember when or how I died… but one thing I can say is I feel certain I will not go to Heaven.” This parapsychological research library has some truly morbid, fascinating stories from which to draw inspiration. Take creative inspiration from paranormal knowledge in the basis and techniques of your strategy!
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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…6

Continuing.
After the third pony keg of beer was delivered, it was decided that the next few days would be spent in the conference room discussing what we thought was the best way forward.
We wanted dry-erase boards so we could start taking detailed notes, even though I was well ahead of the curve in that regard. We instead ended up with some mobile elementary-school blackboards and a pile of grainy, sooty chalk.
Leave it to Dr. Cliff to go into a discourse on the genesis of chalk and its economic importance.
Bloody carbonate geologists.
Bloody White Cliffs.
We geologists need to punctuate their conversations with pictures, so these would suffice quite well.
At 1700 hours, the official end to the workday was called; we’d meet here again tomorrow. I’m not certain by whom, but it was readily agreed upon. We were more or less on our own until 1000 the next day. I needed to spend some time in my room with my notes and update a number of dossiers, field notebooks, and other items I was using as a running chronicle.
Several folks decided to invade one of the hotel’s restaurants for dinner. Some wanted to head to the casino, a couple wanted to get a massage, and others wanted to do what tourists are normally wont to do on the second day of being a foreigner in a foreign land.
I declined invitations to dinner and other activities, as I had a long writing session in front of me. I wanted to get this all in its proper place while the memories and notes were still fresh.
30 minutes later, in my room after a 25-minute wait for the elevator; I’m updating dossiers, creating several new ones, and updating my field notebooks. Suddenly, after an hour’s work, I notice something is amiss.
“I don’t have a drink or a cigar,” I said to the four walls. “This. Will. Not. Do.”
I was used to Happy Hour in Russia. Happy hour is slightly different; there are no ice cubes or orange-peel twists in the vodka. Also, it lasts all day.
I remedy that situation by finding and clipping a nice, oily oscuro cigar and digging the bourbon out from under my boxer-briefs in my dresser drawer. I heft the bottle and feel that it’s significantly lighter than when I left it last night. I happen to look in the trash can and spy the wrapper for a box of my festively colored Sobranie cigarettes I obtained back in Dubai.
“Hmmm”, I think, “It would appear that we have some light-fingered Cho Louies or No Louises around here. I’d best guard my supplies a little more securely.”
I move all my smokeables into one of my now emptied aluminum travel cases. They lock with the stoutest of combinations and it will be readily apparent if anyone is fucking with them.
I move some of my best booze into the pretty much worthless in-room safe. With a deft application of duct tape, I seal the safe. It may not be the most secure spot on the planet, but if anyone tries anything troublesome, they’ll leave an immediately recognizable record of what they were up to. It’s just too obvious; they’d have to be crazy to go in after anything inside there.
My money, keys, and passports are in the safe deposit box down in the lobby that the hotel supplies for visiting dignitaries. Even so, they let me keep my shit in one of them anyway.
That handled, I spend another hour writing like a madman. I suddenly realize I’m tired of all this and need a diversion as well as some food and, of course, drink.
30 minutes later, I’m down in the byzantine basement tunnels of the hotel. It’s crowded with hordes of Chinse tourists, and the casino is ground zero for the incredibly loud chatter.
I look in on the bowling alleys all three of them, and they’re full. The massage parlor is hopping, although I leave my name and they promise they will call over the PA when a suitable masseuse is available. Evidently, I ‘intimidate’ some of the more demure ones.
I wander over to the bar, now there’s a surprise, and see it’s packed to the rafters as well. I decide to wait for a seat to open up on Mahogany Ridge when there’s some gargling over the PA and a pair of Chinese nationals leave the bar in great haste.
I grab one of the two newly open seats, much to the chagrin of a couple of Oriental Unidentifiables (OU) who had their eye on them as well.
“Sorry, mate”, I said, “First come, first served. It’s the capitalist way.”
One of the pair grabs a seat and the other just stands there, looking annoyed unspent bullets in my direction. Forget that I’ve literally twice their size and could be an aberration as an angry American. They just order a couple of drinks, and content themselves in giving me dirty looks and probably say nasty things in their own indecipherable language about my national origin and familial heritage.
As if I gave the tiniest of rodental shits.
I fire up a cigar, as literally everyone else in the joint was smoking something more or less tobacco. However, there was a definite barnyard aroma, a regular Dairy Air, in the room. I think some of what was being smoked there was more bovine or equine in origin than botanical in nature.
With numerous hilarious attempts at Korean, pointing at a garishly photographed drinks menu, I was finally served a cold draft house steam porter and 100 milliliters of probably ersatz ‘Russian’ vodka, vintage late last Thursday. This bartender that could at least form some of the phonemes found in American English. A few. A definite few.
Since it all cost the equivalent of US$0.50, I really didn’t care.
Apparently vodka helps flowers last longer when they're dying. But you can put vodka in anything and it'll make it better.
Being a trained observer, I rather enjoy just sitting in any old bar, smoking my cigar, drinking my Yorshch, and watching people. I try and not be intrusive and I never eavesdrop, but I like to try and think of what strange set of circumstances brought us all here together in this place at this time. It gives me writing ideas, some of which I jot down in a notebook I always carry. It also gives me a good shot of nostalgia when I look back at something I wrote some 40 or so years ago.
Yeah, old habits do die hard.
I take a drag off my cigar and set it in the ashtray in front of me on the bar as I go to correct another egregious misspelling in my notebook. I have to immediately proofread what I wrote, or I’d never recall later what the fuck I was trying to convey; especially if it’s in a noisy, smoky, or murky milieu.
Quicker than a bunny fucks, Unidentifiable Oriental #1 (UO #1) deftly reaches over, snags my cigar, and helps himself to a few mouthy puffs.
I look at him, the empty ashtray directly in front of me, him again, and then UO #2.
Since I speak no real Oriental, much less Korean, language, and my Mandarin at this point is worse than laughable; I just point to the cigar, turn out my hands and shrug my shoulders in the international “What the actual fuck, dude?” gesture.
He just smiles a gappy, toothy, and snaggle-toothed at that, grin at me and makes a point of ensuring that I see him enjoying a few more drags on my own damned cigar.
Not able to contain myself any further, I venture a “What the fuck, chuckles? That’s not your fucking cigar.”
Like gasoline being tossed on a fire-ring full of embers, they both go unconditionally incoherently insane.
Yammering, chattering, jumping up and down, and getting right into my face. They wanted me to unquestionably understand that my few words of English insulted them far more than their filching of my $20 cigar.
OK, I’m pretty well trained in Hapkido; an oddly, given the present situation, hybrid Korean martial art. I’m at least 6 or 7 inches taller and who knows how many stone/kilos/pounds/Solar masses heavier than these two clowns. I could easily go all Gojira on their hapless asses and mop significant expanses of the floorboards with them.
Instead, I look around for the bartender. I figured since I was keeping him well supplied with Korean won via tips, and he spoke some English as well as perhaps whatever the fuck these characters were chattering; maybe he could get to the bottom of what was happening.
The bartender walks over and I ask him to ask the two unidentifiable twins why they stole my cigar.
He nods in agreement and goes on in whatever the fuck dialect was being used today by the pair.
“They say they wanted it. So they took it.” They ask, “What are you going to do about it?” the bartender relates.
I deftly reach inside my field vest, as everyone concerned ducks and covers.
I extract two fresh cigars; not a .454 Casull Magnum.
I give one cigar to the bartender and one to OU#2.
“With my compliments.” I pleasantly say.
I was well apprised of the fact that in certain places like this, the local authorities often approach foreigners with, for the lack of a better term, ‘Agents Provocateur’.
Like the Westboro Baptist “Church”, they try to get a rise out of you so you’ll lose your cool and either create a scene or take a poke at the miscreant. Then they have all the pretext they require to drag you to the local hoosegow, shake you down for every penny on your person, as well as any phones, notebooks, wallets, passports, cigars, cigarettes, etc.
Basically, they goad you into a fight, then drop the thousand-pound shit-hammer when you retaliate.
It’s all so parochial. So obviously clear as vodka; this elementary charade only raised a single eyebrow.
I’m not going to even raise my voice over a couple of cheap cigars that neither of them noticed I slipped them instead of the premium ones I was smoking.
Thus defeated, I asked the bartender to ask them if they liked the cigar.
“What do you think?” I asked in cordial English, “Too tightly rolled? Not caged enough? Too green?”
UO #2 slipped and said “It smells very good…” where he realizes he’s blown his cover.
“Yeah, I like it too.”, I replied, “So much so, I buy my own. What are your badge numbers, boys? I will be reporting this incident to Inspector P'aeng Yeong-Hwan, the head of security for the IUPGS conference to which I was invited as special scientific consultant.”
Of course, they immediately dummy up and feign illiteracy.
I say loudly and very clearly, “You bastards aren’t gonna get away with this. I mean, what is going on in this country when scumsuckers like you can get away with trying to sandbag a Doctor of Geological Sciences?”
I ask the bartender to translate, but alas, it was too late. They vamoosed when I turned to talk with the bartender.
They left so fast, they didn’t notice me snapping their pictures with my ancient but trusty Nokia 3310, revised edition, during our little chat. Even with a mere 2-megapixel picture, I have enough to show the North Korean leaders of the project to get an identification and make known my displeasure of being treated like some commoner or buffoon.
They left both my cigar and the one I gave them. The bartender tucked the cigar I gave him into his pocket and stared lustily at the two remaining on the bar.
“Take’em”, I said. I sure as fuck don’t want them. “Just a clean ashtray and a refill, if you would be so kind,” I say, as pleasantly as possible, considering the situation.
Both the unsmoked and my smoldering, as well as well-traveled, cigar disappear as quickly as minks rut. A clean, new ashtray, double beer and ‘vodka’ suddenly appear.
“No charge, Dr. Rock”, the bartender grins, as he shoves my erstwhile high-mileage cigar between his teeth.
“OK, fair enough.”, I say, “Spaseebah.”, and deposit a raft of won on the bar. The pile won’t be touched until after I leave in a few hours’ time.
“Stranger in a strange land.” I muse over a couple of further beers.
The call from the massage parlor never came, or it did and I couldn’t hear it over the clamor of the casino. I went up to the hotel’s Korean restaurant; had some salty soup, a sad, sad salad, and some form of funky fish, I think, for dinner. I retired that night in a slightly foul mood.
I called Es then the next morning and caught her before she retired. With a 14 hour difference between us, I was getting up at 0700 and she was getting ready to hit the hay at 2100.
I told her of the events of the day previous, and she was glad she wasn’t tagging along. She would have never accused the Korean geologists of being behind the times and would have probably bent the guy’s nose that swiped my cigar.
Agreed, that she’d probably be unimpressed with this place. I promised her that we’d go on a holiday when I returned from all this. It would be up to her to find out ‘where,’ and I’d supply the ‘when’ when I could.
Everything else was going along smoothly, more or less, on the home front, and I didn’t want to give the local listening-in federales too much to say grace over, so we said our parting admirations and rang off.
Shower, shower sunriser of real vodka and citrus, a quick brush and comb, and spiff of cargo shorts and new ghastly Hawaiian shirt; 30 minutes later, back down in the restaurant for the inevitable breakfast buffet.
After what some would consider breakfast and others would consider a vague attempt at nourishment, we reconvened in the conference room precisely at 1012.
Nothing like precision with this group.
We spend the next two days going over, in various groups, what we think would be required to set forth proper the quest for oil and gas in North Korea on track. Everyone got in on the act, and we advocated for that. We needed everyone’s input to make this happen. Or to even map a way forward to present to country officials. Those from the West on what was needed and those from the East to tell us what was available, and the combined wetware to make what needed to be done happen with what existed.
It took no small amount of doing, but we secured a set of maps that covered the entire country. We were watched very closely by the shiny suit squad that we did not copy, photograph or otherwise take any extraneous information from these sheets of infamy. All other maps in the country were intentionally skewed, with errors deliberately added in to confuse “interlopers, spies, or other personas non grata”.
I made a massive stink and told them that if we didn’t receive the unfuckered maps, aerial photographs and satellite imagery pronto, we’re packing up and leaving that afternoon.
“We don’t have time for monks resisting the carnival. We didn’t come here to try and guess if the maps are correct or if our remedies will actually work on maps that say one thing and reality says something else entirely.”
They hemmed and hawed, but as I made the announcement to all before lunch that if the real maps didn’t appear by the time we returned from tiffin, we’re gone.
And we take tiffin purty durn early round these parts, buckaroo.
No one was surprised as I when we returned and there were folio after folio of government-uncensored maps, photos, and imagery for our program. I guess they finally reasoned it would be a relatively good idea to begin to take us seriously.
We spent one whole day just going over our field geological apparatus. They had a good idea of how to use a direction-finder compass and Jacob’s staff to measure sections. However, they were totally flummoxed by our Brunton Compasses, GPS systems, curiously referred to as ‘position finders’, notebook mapping applications, and electronic data storage and retrieval systems.
Gad. It was like being back in the 1970s before PCs were a glimmer in IBM's corporate orbs.
We spent the next week working to bring our less fortunate colleagues up to, well, not date, but at least up to the brink of the 21st century. We explained that plate tectonics, continental drift, and the precession of the continents was accepted geoscientific principles, not some arcane Capitalist or Socialist plot to undermine the quality of science in the east.
Yep. It was that mindset we had to first conquer. I think we’ve made great headway in that direction today.
The next Chautauqua session had us split up into two separate groups. We decided in a fit of Cesarean inquiry to ‘divide and conquer’. There are two distinct milieus which are able to contain economic deposits of hydrocarbons: onshore and offshore.
Instead of attacking both head-on, we’d focus initially on the offshore domain. Once we had a good handle on what was going on under the East Korean Sea, the Huangai (Yellow) Sea and surreptitiously, the South Sea; we’d collaborate our findings and work to tie them in and extend them onshore.
The singular Phyongnam Basin is the one large depositional, sedimentological, and structural basin in North Korea. It is filled by the Joeson and Pyeongan Supergroups of sediments, which are Cambro-Ordovician and Permocarboniferous, respectively. These are good hunting grounds for oil and gas. Could be elephant–hunting country.
But before we could undertake that, we had to get ‘back to basics’. That is, we had to understand and delineate the ‘frame’ of the Korean Peninsula. In other words, we needed to figure out how and when the peninsula came into existence.
South Korea’s geology is much more complex, fortunately than that found in the North. There were nasty side comments that were due to the relative development not of the geology, but of the geologists who studied each country’s geology.
It was, perhaps, a mean way of characterizing the situation. But, unfortunately, it was also probably fairly accurate.
The Korean Peninsula is characterized by huge massifs, which are sections of a crust that are demarcated by faults or flexures. In the movement of the crust, a massif tends to retain its internal structure while being displaced as a whole. The term also refers to a group of mountains formed by such a structure. It’s basically one huge, semi-resilient rock.
The basement rocks of the Korean Peninsula consist of high-grade gneiss and schist, Paleoproterozoic Precambrian massifs, which formed in the early stage of Earth’s history. These rocks are unconformably overlain by metasedimentary rocks; schist, quartzite, marble, calcsilicate, and amphibolite, of the Middle to Late Proterozoic. The Korean Peninsula is floored by a collation of about five of these huge Precambrian massifs that acted like ‘microplates’ during the aggregation of the peninsula. These massifs consist of thick dolostone, metavolcanics, and schist, which were intruded by Paleoproterozoic granites.
These Paleoproterozoic metasedimentary and granitic rocks underwent repeated intracrustal differentiation, followed by the events of cratonization, i.e., regional metamorphism and igneous activity, at 1.9-1.8 Ga. Sediments deposited in the peripheral basins during the Mesoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic lead to stabilization as the basement of the peninsula.
These early depositional basins formed the locus of deposition that continued on from the Proterozoic through the Phanerozoic. There are at least three, perhaps four, depositional basins in the south which are delimited by structural zones, such as the South Korean Tectonic Line (SKTL), a huge zone of continental transform faults and forms the basis of boundary demarcation between the Okcheon and Taebaeksan basins.
The boundary between the Seochangri Formation of the Okcheon Basin and the Joseon Supergroup of the Taebaeksan Basin in the Bonghwajae area is a thrust (or reverse‐slip shear zone). This thrust is presumably a relay structure (i.e. a restraining bend) between two segments of a continental transform fault (the South Korean Tectonic Line or SKTL), along which the Okcheon Basin of the South China Craton was juxtaposed against the Taebaeksan Basin of the North China Craton during the Permian–Triassic suturing of the two cratons.
In the late Proterozoic, sedimentation was initiated in basins of the Korean Peninsula, accompanied by deposition of siliciclastic and volcaniclastic sediments as well as carbonates. The massifs were submerged in the Early Paleozoic during a greenhouse period, forming a shallow marine platform and associated environments.
The Cambrian-Ordovician succession unconformably overlies Precambrian granite gneiss. It consists of mixed carbonate-siliciclastic rocks of sandstone, shale, and shallow-marine carbonates. Sedimentation was initiated in the Early Cambrian with a global rise in sea level on the stable craton of the Sino-Korean Block.
There was a major break in sedimentation during the Silurian and Devonian periods in the entire platform. During the Carboniferous to early Triassic, sedimentation was resumed in coastal plain and swamp environments with progradation of deltas.
Major tectonic events were initiated in the Triassic when the South China Block collided with the Sino-Korean Block. The eastern part of the Sino-Korean Block rotated clockwise and moved southward relative to the South China Block along the SKTL.
In the Middle-Late Jurassic, orthogonal subduction of the paleo-Pacific plate under the Asian continent caused compression and thrust deformation. A number of piggyback basins formed along the thrust faults in the east of the SKTL. At the same time, the entire peninsula was prevailed by granite batholiths, especially along the northeast-southwest-trending tectonic belt.
In the Cretaceous Period, the paleo-Pacific Plate subducted northward under the Asian continent, forming numerous extensional (left-lateral strike-slip) basins in the southern part of the peninsula and the Yellow Sea. A large back-arc basin was initiated in the southeastern part.
In the Paleogene, both the volcanic arc and the back-arc basin ceased to develop, as volcanic activities shifted eastward, accompanied by a rollback of the subduction of the Pacific plate. In the Miocene, pull-apart (right-lateral) basins formed in the eastern continental margin.
The Korea Plateau experienced continental rifting accompanied by extensive volcanism during the extensional opening of the southern offshore basin. It subsided more than 1000 m below sea level.
So, as South Korea was mix- mastered by a half-a-billion years’ worth of structural tectonism, which created several depositional basins quite capable of generating and storing economic quantities of oil and gas, the scene to the north was much more quiescent.
The North was composed, from south to north, of the relict Imjingang Belt, which was an old back-arc basin between the Gyeonggi Massif to the south and the Nagrim Massif to the north. It is a paleo-subduction zone, full of volcanics, volcaniclastics and other non-hydrocarbon bearing rocks. It was mashed and metamorphosed, and basically forms a convenient boundary between the complex geology of the South and the more relaxed geology of the North.
Heading north, we come across the Pyeongnam Basin, the only North Korean basin thus far defined that could contain hydrocarbons. Further north is the huge Nangrim Massif. It’s a huge block of igneous and metamorphic rocks that weather very nicely and form some spectacular scenery, but from an oil and gas economic outlook are worthless.
Offshore North Korea, there are two possible petroliferous basins. The offshore West Korea Bay Basin and East Sea Basin, along with five onshore basins could be offering exploration potential. At least ten exploration wells have been drilled in the West Sea, with some showing “good oil shows” along with the identification of a number of potential reservoirs.
The West Sea potentially has oil and has reportedly flowed oil at reasonable rates from at least two exploration wells when they were drilled and tested in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the East Sea has seen Russian exploration efforts previously including the drilling of two wells, both of which reportedly encountered encouraging shows of oil and gas.
Onshore, there has been little exploration to date, apart from efforts by the Korean Oil Exploration Corporation and also recently by Mongolia’s HBOil JSC (HBO). Among five main onshore sedimentary sub-basins, the largest is south of the capital; while unconfirmed reports point to a 1-trillion-cubic-foot (tcf) discovery in 2002.
Historically DPRK was thought to consist of five under-explored geological basins, the
• Pyongyang,
• Zaeryong,
• Anju-Onchon,
• Gilju-Myongchon and
• Sinuiju, Basins.
These basins are all located more or less along the coast, rather than inland. This also points to a certain degree of geological aptitude; as it’s much easier to explore along the more populated coast than it is to venture inland. There may be more hiding in the interior of the country, it’s just that no one’s looked as of yet. That’s difficult. Exploring along the coast is much easier.
With 3 basins supposedly proven to have working petroleum systems; 22 wells have been drilled and the majority are said to have encountered hydrocarbons with some wells testing production at 75 barrels of oil per day of light sweet crude oil. This has yet to be documented or confirmed by the Korea Oil Exploration Corp (KOEC), North Korea’s state-run oil company.
Yeah, our work was definitely cut out for us.
It was decided that a series of excursions offshore in one of the few remaining seaworthy, which was a real judgment call, KOEC seismic boats would be appropriate. The one we received use of was an old, decommissioned Chamsuri-class patrol boat, one Chamsuri-215(참수리-215), PKMR-215 in particular.
It had been basically stripped to the gunwales and completely retrofitted as a seismic acquisition and recording vessel. It had been renamed: “조선 민주주의 인민 공화국 영광” or “Glory of Democratic People's Republic of Korea Science”.
In reality, it was an aging rust-bucket piece of shit that might have possibly seen better days but wasn’t letting on. All the military nonsense, except the powder magazine, had been removed and a new superstructure consisting of slap-dash hunks of poorly-welded low-carbon, cold-rolled steel were erected to form a pilothouse in the area where the bridge once existed. They also built, extra haphazardly, a shooter’s room, galley, cold and wet storage areas, recording room, and storage of tapes and the extra bits and pieces needed for a none-too-extended stay on the sea. It was, being charitable, almost utilitarian.
They could not make their own water, so trip times were limited to about three days in length. Besides, they didn’t really have a hot galley, so it was cold, canned Chinese chow for the next 72 hours. They had a couple of fairly sturdy yardarms with heavy winches to handle the towed seismic arrays of geophones, which were of ancient heritage and showed it. These were probably appropriated back in the 80s or perhaps earlier when they first thought about opening their waters for seismic exploration.
They ‘borrowed’ most of the sensing and recording equipment back then from oilfield service companies and simply forgot to return it once finished. Since they burned that bridge so glowingly, they couldn’t get parts nor service when things failed. Being delicate seismic sensing and recording equipment, fail they did.
So, we had to use what was leftover, or what DPRK industries could cobble together, or what could be salvaged from salt-water drenched recording equipment that hadn’t been too heavily cared for over the span of the last 50 years.
We weren’t terribly optimistic.
So, we load the good ship ‘Rorrypop’, as Viv christened the thing, and head out to the wilds of the Yellow Sea. It was an abbreviated foreign crew, as there was really nothing other than upchuck and curse me soundly for insisting the non-geophysical scientists came along.
Aboard were the two geophysicists, naturally; Volna and Activ. I was there stick-handling the logistics and hoping to help out with the geophysical signal source explosives.
Morse and Cliff, the two other geologists accompanied us on the trip, and Dax decided to go with me as he figured I’d have access to the best booze no matter where we went.
The remainder of the team, the geochemists, Erlan and Ivan, the geomechanic, Iskren, the PT, Joon, and the two REs, Viv and Grako, remained behind onshore at the hotel. They set forth cataloging what data was available; from what sources, it’s vintage, veracity, and usefulness.
Augean tasks, both. Not as fecaliferous as Hercules’ jobs, but still, they held their own rations of shit for each sub-team.
Heading seaward, the Yellow Sea extends by about 960 km (600 mi) from north to south and about 700 km (430 mi) from east to west; it has an area of approximately 380,000 km2 (150,000 mi2) and a volume of about 17,000 km3 (4,100 mi3).[4] Its depth is only 44 m (144 ft) on average, with a maximum of 152 m (499 ft). The sea is a flooded section of the continental shelf that formed during the Late Pleistocene (some 10,000 years ago) as sea levels rose 120 m (390 ft) to their current levels. The depth gradually increases from north to south. The sea bottom and shores are dominated by sand and silt brought by the rivers through the Bohai Sea and the Yalu River. These deposits, together with sand storms are responsible for the yellowish color of the water referenced in the sea's name.
Being shallow, the Yellow Sea is more perturbed by the frequent seasonal storms of the region. The area has cold, dry winters with strong northerly monsoons blowing from late November to April. I was told that the summers are wet and warm with frequent typhoons between June and October; but now all we had to contend with were swelling seas, spraying saltwater, waggling waves, and a shivering, shimmying ship.
All the navigation, communications and other shiply duties were being handled by both members of the DPRK Coast Guard Auxiliary, mostly older guys who were of great and high humorous jest; and an actual pleasure to be around. They were like their scientific cadre on this cruise, basically a political ‘give a shit’ attitude, and a desire to get the job done, smoke the American’s cigars and drink as much as we could get away with.
The scientific portion of the cruise was being undertaken by students of the various universities and members of the North Korean national oil company. The demeanors of these characters ranged from extremely earnest and stringently North Korean politically correct in the students and academicians, to a more relaxed ‘yeah, let’s just get the fucking job done so we can have a lot of drinks’ sort of view of the older members of the DPRK scientific team.
It was a fun admixture of cultures, ages, professions, and behaviors.
Oh, forgive me for forgetting to mention our ‘guides’, or handlers. They were also chosen, nay, ordered to come along. Landlubbers all, they were less than thrilled with the assignment and inevitable seasickness; which seemed endemic to those of Oriental extraction on the cruise. However, our guides did enjoy drinking. As we learned that alcohol is a central part of Korean culture, and they encouraged us to socialize with them when the time was appropriate.
Or, not appropriate, as I was being denounced by one of the geophysical students after only a few hours into our very first day. Hell, we weren’t even in the Yellow Sea proper. We started here at Pyongyang, down the Taedong River, over the Giva Dam, through Pushover, across Shmoeland, to the stronghold of Shmoe; into the very belly of the frothing Yellow Sea.
Most everyone, other than the foreign elements on board, were either making the trip in the bowels of the ship; nursing and cursing seasickness; or by rail, doing exactly the same thing.
“Chum it over the side, ya’ blinkered mucker!”, I admonished one bottle-greenish national. “This ain’t the Captain‘s mess, Chuckles. You have to clean up your own spew!”
I was reveling in getting back out on the water and regaining my sea legs. I never get seasick.
Never.
Ever.
Be it a seismic vessel in the heaving Arctic Ocean, a pirogue in the swamps of Louisiana, my cousin’s fishin’ johnboat back in northern Baja Canada, a US nuclear submarine under the permanent pack ice of the North Pole, or VLCC in the Straits of Somaliland; I just don’t get seasick.
Airsick? Nah. Carsick? Nope. Ready to puke in a Hind-20 over the Caspian Sea during a strong local thunderstorm? Close, but no cigar.
So, I’m doing a Titanic scene recreation. Up in the very bow of the craft, standing in stark defiance of the gusting winds and blowing salt spray, smoking a huge cigar, and totting out of one of my emergency flasks while trying to hang on to my Stetson. I am also endeavoring to remain upright, field vest and really, really ghastly Hawaiian shirt billowing in the breeze.
I’m not certain if it was the cigar smoke, the wind-whipped beard, and hair, the give a fuck attitude, or the flapping of the Hawaiian shirt to which the little local geophysicist objected. But he was pissed. Olive-green with seasickness, rubber-kneed but still standing a good social-distance away, reading me the riot act in high-pitched Korean.
As I usually do in such delicate situations, I just smile and wave. Show them I’m mostly harmless and they either cool down or get pissed off even more and stomp off in disgust.
Either one was a winning situation for me in my book.
So, I return to doing my ship’s figurehead imitation and revel in the wind, spray, and feeling of really being booming. Sure, some might complain of the cold, but not me, the sting of the salt-spray or the windburn; but I eschew what most people enjoy as ‘normal weather’. I live for pushing the boundaries. I love rough weather and situations that thrust the edge of the envelope further past normalcy.
Besides, we were still in sight of land. Hell, if everything went south at this very minute, one could practically walk back to shore. I can hardly wait to see what these wigglers will do if a night storm comes up when were 100 or more kilometers from land.
The boat’s thrumming heavily from both the thrust of the Soviet-era diesel engines and the craft’s bludgeoning its way through the waves. Most hull designs are so the ship will ‘cut’ through the surface waters. This craft’s flattened trihedral hull design didn’t so much ‘cut’, as ‘slam’ it’s way through. The boat would then crash up one side and smash down the other of each large wave we encountered. The boat would shudder whole, adding a new note of resonance along with the monotonous one-note song of the aged Russian diesels.
The spray would fly, the boat would convulse, time would seem to freeze until we bashed into the next wave. The captain of the vessel took his orders very seriously. “Get to coordinates XXX and YYY by the most expedient means possible.” If that meant charging, full-throttle into the teeth of the oncoming monsoon-force wind while we were traversing the worst kelp jungle I’ve seen this side of the Sargasso Sea; well, piss on it, full steam ahead.
“Fuck it”, I thought, “Not my pony, not my show. Let’s see how this plays out.” While I light a new cigar and search for Emergency Flask #2.
After I’d been upbraided by the geophysical student for transgressions still unknown, Cliff and Dax wander out to ask me what the hell I was up to.
“Have you gone completely barmy?”, Cliff asked. “It’s a full gale out here and you’re standing in the teeth of it like it was a warm, sunny Sunday in Piccadilly.”
“Nope, not at all”, I replied, “Just reveling in the delights of an angry atmosphere.”
“He’s nuts, I told you”, Dax smirked, “He’d go anywhere and do anything to have a cigar.”
“Not just a cigar, me old mucker”, I smiled and waved my second emergency flack under his nose.
“Figures”, they both respond in unison.
Dax departs and returns mere seconds later with paper Dixie-style cups he liberated from the ship’s one head. We are going to do our very best to extend the lifetime of the onboard water supply for our scientific and military friends. I pour them each a cup full.
“Whoa, Doc”, that’s gotta be 100 milliliters!” Cliff objects.
“As the Siberian saying goes: One hundred versts, roughly a hundred miles, is no distance. A hundred rubles isn't worthwhile money. And a hundred grams of vodka just makes you thirsty. Prosit!” I say in reply.
We retire to the overhang on the fantail of the boat. It’s a sunshade and keeps the worst of the weather out for the lightweights on the cruise. I decided we’d withdraw there to keep these Dominionites out of the worst of the wind and sea spray.
“Rock”, Cliff notes, “You are a complete throwback. You do not belong here in the 21st century. You need to find a way back to the Calabrian and ride herd on the continental Neanderthals. Give them the gift of distilling and tobacco agriculture, and you’d reframe the world.”
Dax agrees, but notes if I do find a way back, he and Cliff would be selected against.
“Good point”, Cliff agrees. “Rock, stay here. We need your expertise now more than ever. Plus your ready supply of strong drink and cigars.”
“Glad to know that I’m truly appreciated around these parts.” I chuckled slightly acridly.
“Ah, Rock. Buck up. You know we’re only takin’ a piss.” Cliff says.
“Aim it starboard. Don’t want it blowin’ all over the seismic gear”, I reply, laughingly.
The trip continued, and I found a not-bolted-to-the-deck chair and moved it outside under the shade back by the boat’s fantail. I refreshed my emergency flasks and replenished my cigar supply. I’m not about to sit inside and listen to the wails and gnashing of teeth of the landlubber crowd, the patter and timor of the geophysical throng as they titter and argue about array design, nor the military hut-hutting all over the fucking boat.
A couple of times, one or more of our ‘handlers’ would venture out as I had the only supply of readily available smokeables and drinkables. Oh, we had food, lots of beer, soju, some knock-off vodka, and some of that faux homebrew bourbon for later once the workday was declared over; but for now, I was the one and only dispensary.
We’d have some random chats while they screwed up their courage to ask me for a smoke or a tot of drink. I brought several bundles of really cheap-ass cigars for just such occasions; besides, I figured one of my Camacho triple-maduros would have them chumming for the remainder of the trip. I had also many, many cartons of Sobranie pastel-colored cigarettes, and many more cartons of knock-off Marlboros I bought at the duty-free when we hit town.
It was chucklingly funny to see these harsh, military, no-nonsense characters walking their duty beats smoking pastel green, lavender, and mauve cigarettes.
We got bogged down a couple of times when one or more of the ship’s twin screws fouled with kelp as we tried to put some distance between us and the shore. Each time, one really dejected low-ranking young Coast Guard character would go over the side with a rope around his waist and a knife in his hand to free the props. I was going to object as this was moronically dangerous; but, again, not my pony, not my show. This called for full proper tethering and SCUBA gear.
They had neither aboard.
Welcome to the wonders of a centrally planned economy.
To be continued.
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