One Touch Binary Options Trading Strategies 2020: All You ...

Greed is Subtle

The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet.
Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured.
Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it.
During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper.
Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss.
"Hello?" Ghen answered.
"Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details."
"Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?"
"No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about."
Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?"
"Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up."
Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically.
As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?"
Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery."
Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans?
"Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time."
A week later.
At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting.
"Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?"
All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts.
"Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!"
Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing?
"Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded."
"Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost.
"Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount."
"So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked.
"If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder."
"And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists.
"Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options."
Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket.
"What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time.
Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately."
"And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone.
"Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!"
"And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money.
"Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?"
Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working?
As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase.
And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times.
Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way.
Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies.
And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits?
Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more.
...
There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept?
Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there.
"Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?"
"Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down.
"Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form.
"I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little."
"Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod.
"As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact.
"Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so."
Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually."
"Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?"
"Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest."
"Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?"
"If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated.
"So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?"
"Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case.
"Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted."
"Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise.
"What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious."
"I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?"
Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold."
"A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted.
Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares."
Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later.
After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always.
"I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?"
"I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?"
"I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch."
"You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor.
"I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle."
"I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk.
Several weeks later.
Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt.
While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route.
After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891.
And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it.
And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back?
His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful.
By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs.
What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real?
It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off.
As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen.
"What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments.
"D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car.
"You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!"
"How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh.
"Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!"
Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares."
Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?"
"Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?"
"Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin."
And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?"
Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?"
"Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!"
"Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it."
"Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited."
"By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them."
"Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go."
Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?"
Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it."
...
It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%.
Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way?
What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching?
He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late.
Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well.
"I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?"
Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say."
"Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?"
"Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them.
They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus.
"May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar."
Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please."
"Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean.
Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him.
Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high?
And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm.
And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money.
And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible.
The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it.
Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing.
Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal.
Three Years Later.
Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat.
It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply.
Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik.
Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes.
Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery.
"Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon."
"Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik.
"Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good."
"What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik."
Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month."
"I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk."
"You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently."
"Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know."
"Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?"
"I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement."
Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?"
AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
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[The Scuu Paradox] - Chapter 18

At the Beginning
Previously on The Scuu Paradox…
  The smell of burning wood was all I could focus on. The fires had long died out, making it difficult to see in the darkness; despite all other modifications, Kridib’s eyes weren’t able to see overly well in the dark. Every five minutes, Radiance would send an infrared scan of the colony to help him and his team with their advancement. Despite all that help and the four missile strikes, progress was minimal. Of the forty-seven people sent to the planet, eleven had been killed and five more severely wounded, rendering them useless in battle. From what I could see, Rigel’s forces had clustered in specific points of the colony, giving up the rest: a sensible strategy that had allowed them to ambush three of our teams while suffering negligible losses themselves. As things stood, the enemy forces had positioned themselves in two areas of the colony. Both spots encircled a specific building—mine and the captain’s locations—making further missile strikes impossible.
  Update? Kridib asked me through the mind link.
  Nothing, I replied. Rigel had left shortly after our last chat, taking the third-contact rods with him. Since then, I had remained safely isolated in the room and completely alone. Half of them have probably gone to sleep.
  Tell me if anything changes. Kribib looked up. A dozen sats were visible in the night sky. We’ll be making another go soon.
  I don’t think that’s a good idea.
  So far, Kridib had made four attempts to reach me, all of them unsuccessful. His approach, though chaotic at best, had managed to keep him alive. There had been a close call during which his left arm had been grazed by a bullet, though that time the man hadn’t frozen.
  Everyone has to sleep, Kridib said, heading back into one of the buildings that had been transformed into a ground base of operations. I’ll go first.
  Must I wake you? I asked.
  No. With that, the link was severed.
  To a degree, I was thankful, though not too much. Forcing whatever strength I had, I moved my head to look around the room as much as I was able. Nothing had changed in the last four hours, but at least it let me do something. The last time I felt remotely similar was when I’d had my sensor systems knocked out, though even then I was able to use my shuttle AIs to paint me a picture. Here, I was completely helpless and, to a vast degree, blind.
  “Do I get any water?” I asked as loudly as my lungs would let me.
  There was no reason to expect an answer. Even if anyone was awake on the lower floors, they would be on lookout duty. Saying it out loud, though, made me feel better for some reason. To my surprise, the door to the room opened.
  “Thought you were above those things.” Rigel walked in slowly. Even with my lack of focus, I could see that he had changed clothes. The colours were dark enough to be considered a uniform, although I couldn’t make out any other details. “You can’t swallow, remember?”
  “My mouth feels dry,” I explained.
  “Too bad.” Despite my poor vision, I could hear him smile as he said that.
  Walking slowly, he made his way to the stool near me and sat down. From this distance, I could see him taking something from his front pocket. In the dim light, it was impossible to tell what exactly.
  “Still having problems focusing?” Rigel asked.
  “Yes.” There was no point in lying.
  “Pity. Agora works well on organic tissue. Not on techno-mongrels,” he added with a laugh. “If you weren’t one, you’d be dead. There’s a win for you.”
  And you’re not making any sense, I thought.
  “Nice murder troops you got out there. Quick and efficient. A few years ago, the locals would’ve had fun pulling their wings off. Time leaves its mark.” Rigel flicked the object. It let out a peculiar metallic sound. “No action, no combat sims, just the local pests that roam the planet. Those were brought here too, did you know?”
  “I heard about it.”
  “Another brilliant idea from the bureaucracy. Create a full ecosystem. Plants, critters, predators... all must be present and carefully maintained. We tried killing them off once. Those were the days. Three colonies setting out, killing everything in sight until the orbital station stopped sending food.” There was a slight pause. “And you know the best part?” Rigel leaned towards me. “None of that happened.”
  If I could have pulled back, I would have. There was no way of knowing if these were insane rantings or if he was referring to a dark op coverup. Considering he was from the Salvage Authorities, either was possible, and both options were equally undesirable.
  “I went through your data, Elcy.” Rigel rubbed his hands. “You know things you shouldn’t.”
  “Because of my past, I’ve been placed on special assignments,” I said. Technically it was true, though we both knew it didn’t explain away the inconsistencies.
  “You knew about the third-contact artifacts before. You’ve operated them before.” He moved his hand closer to my face. I felt a cold metallic surface touch my cheek. “You’re searching for something. Something that you’re not supposed to find.” He moved the object away from my face. “Here’s my offer. You answer some of my questions, and I’ll answer some of yours.”
  “That’s one way to get court-martialed.” Not to mention there was no guarantee my self-destruct chip wouldn’t go off at any point.
  “Please don’t give me the line that the fleet is going through all that trouble just to rescue you. If you were that valuable, you’d never have been sent to this hell in the first place.” Rigel stood up. “What are the odds of the fleet extracting you in one piece? Two percent?”
  “Point-seven-three-nine,” I corrected. Frankly, I was surprised they were going through all the trouble. “Give or take.”
  “Less than one percent,” Rigel snorted. “It’s your call. You have three hours to make it. Before I leave you, here’s a freebie. This planet, it isn’t some randomly colonized world in ‘unexplored space.’ We’re in the buffer zone—the border between the Scuu and human space. Think about that.” He made his way to the door. Reaching it, he stopped and turned around. “Oh, and we’re constantly being monitored.”
 
  Gamma-Ligata, Cassandrian Front—615.11 A.E. (Age of Expansion)
    The third wave of shuttles approached my forward left hangar one by one. The instant they came within three hundred meters, I was handed over direct control of the AIs. As with the previous batches, the first thing I did was to have a set of isolated subroutines flash the memory and purge the entire operating system. That done, I sent out a mini-sat to latch onto and assume control of the shuttles. It was a slow and tedious process, but necessary considering the circumstances.
  “How are things?” Wilco asked from the bridge. Augustus had gathered most of his officers to a private meeting in his quarters, leaving Wilco in command. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but each time it did, it felt strange.
  “Everything’s going as planned,” I said, as the first shuttle went under my control.
  A quick internal scan revealed that there were sixty-two people aboard, all cuffed and tagged. All of them were tagged as infected, and, to my surprise, none of them were sedated. The instructions were to take them in and monitor their actions at all times, and only to engage if they threatened the ship. Normally, I’d be confident that Augustus knew what was going on. With everything we’d gone through since I’d joined the front, I didn’t think there was anything in the galaxy that could surprise him. I was wrong.
  Finishing my internal check of the shuttle, I directed it to the outer hangar doors and had it dock. The passengers—all of their identities classified—waited till I covered the walls with disembark notifications, then stood up and quietly proceeded to get off, in orderly fashion. I could tell by Wilco’s expression that he found it unnerving.
  “A thousand and eighty-two passengers on board,” I said on the bridge and in the captain’s quarters. The moment the last person set foot in the hangar, I would eject the shuttle from my hangar-bay, self-destruct it, and proceed with the next.
  Delegating the task to my isolated subroutines, I reviewed the instructions I had received. The proper ident protocols and authorisations had been used, ensuring that I would do as instructed without asking questions. An emergency transmission from an unidentifiable ship had led me here. I knew nothing about the ship’s name or specifics, and I wasn’t allowed to get close enough to get a visual. The only things I was allowed to see were its shuttles and mass. Everything else was open to interpretation.
  “Have any of them said anything?” Wilco asked.
  “No.” I displayed images of the hangar bay and the corresponding corridors surrounding it. As part of my instructions, the entire section was sealed off and quarantined. “They’re eating.” They also appeared to be healthy, although the instructions stressed no one was to come into contact with them under any circumstances. “I’ve received no indication of how long we’re to keep them. Did the captain get an indication?”
  “No,” Wilco said in his usual somber voice. “Is everything sealed off?”
  “Yes.” I rechecked. “No way in or out without captain’s approval.”
  “Set a buffer zone.” The man went on. “No one goes in or out without my permission.”
  “If you say so.” It wasn’t difficult. The area in question had been made empty to accommodate the quarantined arrivals, though it seemed a bit too much. “Want me to put sentinels?”
  “No. We don’t have to hurt anyone, just hold them.” He slinked down in his chair. “They’re the Med boys’ toys. We don’t get to play with them.”
  Med boys… Only Wilco referred to the Medical Core in such fashion. As most organisations, they were part of the fleet, yet their specific area of expertise gave them as much authority as the Salvage Authorities and the BICEFI combined. As a ship, I knew fairly little about them: they had the power to impose quarantines and cordon off entire planets if they wished. They were also the only organisation with the power to hold an active captain in check. Possibly, that was the reason Augustus didn’t get along with any of his medical officers. According to the public files, the Med Core had created the inner-body nanites and were instrumental in getting humans into space. There were also whispers that they were involved in creating the first ship-cores, although I found that unlikely. Even so, they had more authority than anyone aboard. Even on the front, we had no option but to obey.
  “It won’t be practical heading into war with them,” I said as the second shuttle entered the hangar bay.
  “Not our call. We’re to hold them until a Med ship picks them up,” Wilco sighed. “And monitor everything they do.”
  “How is that different from anyone else aboard?” I ventured a chuckle.
  “You don’t need to know,” the lieutenant said darkly.
  Another thing about Wilco was that he had the uncanny ability to make any topic of conversation dark. I ran a few simulations testing various responses, then decided not to respond further. In the best-case scenario, there was a twenty-seven percent chance he found my reaction funny.
  “Elcy.” Augustus granted me sensor access to the captain’s quarters. “What’s the ETA on the cattle?”
  “The passengers will be all aboard in seven minutes, captain.” A decade of attempts to mellow his behaviour had brought me no results. “Five, if you need me off in a rush.”
  “Get it done in five,” he barked. “We’ve got new orders. We’re joining a purge fleet. Go on yellow. Get the grunts prepped.”
  “Aye, sir.” I issued the order to everyone aboard. Seconds later, ground troop officers and sergeants were shouting their troops into order. “What about the passengers, sir? Won’t combat expose them to unnecessary danger?”
  “There’s no unnecessary danger,” Augustus barked again. The rest of the command staff had already started leaving the room. Their expressions ranged from mild annoyance to disapproval. Whatever discussions had taken place, they must have been unpleasant and one-sided. “Monitor them at all times and don’t interact until I say so.”
  “Understood.”
  It sounded like another escort mission, and I didn’t like escort missions. Normally, it would just be troop detachments or—if we were very unlucky—some mid-level bureaucrat or admiral’s aid sent to do a front-line inspection. Transporting quarantined personnel wasn’t in my usual purview, although if it had been, I’d never know.
  “What’s the course of treatment they must undergo?” I asked.
  “No treatment,” Augustus grumbled. “That’s for the Meds to figure out.”
  “All passengers are tagged as infected. Regulations require we provide immediate medical attention.” I felt my words sound hollow. If Augustus had the authority to provide such, he would have told me already. The only thing I was left was to go through the motions, expecting to receive the obvious denial.
  “Just monitor them, Elcy! That’s what we’ve been told. And whatever happens, don’t interfere.”
 
  Just monitor them.
  I had spent three months and thirty-nine hours monitoring the passengers onboard. Through battles and repairs, every single action had been carefully observed, recorded, and stored on external data storage. For the most part, nothing happened. The people would live boring, perfectly organised lives, almost as if they knew they were being watched. There were no scuffles, few arguments, and only one incident resulting in injuries when a Cassandrian fighter managed to slip through my external defences and fire a salvo at the hangar bay. Their health condition also seemed no different than when they had come aboard. I had dedicated a dozen subroutines to collect any potential symptoms in an effort to determine the type of disease they had, but had come to no conclusion. Then, one day, they were all gone. I had no memory of the Medical ship that had taken them, or where that had happened. The only thing I was certain about was the time—precisely two thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine hours since the last of them had come aboard. Everything else remained restricted.
  Looks like there’s always someone monitoring someone, Sev. If Rigel was to be believed someone was monitoring the planet. The question was who.
  Seconds turned to minutes, then hours. Hundreds of times, I considered looking into my restricted memories for information regarding the third-contact artifacts or the events in gamma-Ligata, and each time I found a reason not to. As Rigel had said, the chance of me getting off the planet alive was less than one percent, but the knowledge of the existence of the possibility kept me acting. And then there was Rigel’s offer…
  Rad, are you monitoring me? I asked, attempting to latch on to any open communication protocols. A connection was established, but instead of linking to Radiance, I found myself connecting back to Kridib’s mind. On cue, an info burst from Radiance followed, giving the latest scan. This time, I could see the location of our forces. The total number had increased to seventy-four, Kridib included. Nearly eight percent were gathered close to the captain’s expected location. Kridib and five more were closer to me.
  Get ready, Kridib said. Moments later, bursts of gunfire echoed in the distance; they were going for the captain first.
  The mission had begun. From here on, I could see several potential outcomes. In all of them, there was a high probability that Rigel attempted to make a deal.
  When I was a ship, Augustus had taught me one key thing when it came to missions: regardless of the depth of predictions and the computing power at their disposal, humans always boiled down a situation to a simple binary choice. Rigel wanted something from me and had invested too much to let his chance slip. Before the outcome of Kridib’s rescue mission, Rigel would come here to get an answer to his proposal. All I had to do was wait.
  As I lay, I watched Kridib run through the darkness towards my location. Unlike before, he was wearing night vision goggles, letting him make out his surroundings better.
  No thermal? I asked as Kridib made his way through the streets. The smell of burned vegetation could still be felt.
  That’s what you’re for.
  Not a reply to be thrilled about, but one to be expected. Cross-referencing Radiance’s latest scan, I started analysing every frame of Kridib’s stream. The first few minutes passed without incident. Judging by the intensified background gunfire, the locals were more focused on keeping Renaan isolated than stopping Kridib. Twenty-eight seconds, later the first shot sounded.
  Sniper! I shouted straight in Kridib’s mind.
  “Cover fire!” he shouted, rushing for cover.
  Watch out for a cross, I warned.
  The shooting intensified. Based on the area scan, the group was a few hundred meters away. One strong push and they’d be here. That said, I knew that the building was guarded by more than seven people. If I were in Rigel’s place, I would have dedicated at least three dozen.
  Concentrated fire focused on the second floor of a building, blowing off the entire wall. There was a brief scream before a rocket flew into the spot, hollowing the entire structure with a blast.
  Heavy weapons? I asked Kridib. I didn’t think Radiance’s captain would resort to such firepower, considering third-contact artifacts were involved; one direct hit, and the entire colony might well end up a smouldering crater, not to mention the potential communication repercussions. Maybe there was truth in Rigel’s statement that Flight Commander Nitel was getting desperate.
  As I was following Kridib’s advancement outside, the door opened once more—as predicted, Rigel had returned. He was wearing the same set of clothes as three hours ago. I found it puzzling that I couldn’t spot any semblance of a weapon on him.
  “Your masters have gotten desperate,” the man said in suspiciously calm fashion. “Looks like they’ve sent everything they had to get Renaan.” He walked up to me, then leaned over. “And just a handful to get you.”
  “Are they winning?” I tried to smile.
  “Beats me.” Rigel didn’t seem bothered. “You thought about my offer?”
  “I did. And I don’t think accepting would be a good deal. If I wait for them to rescue the captain, your bargaining power ends.”
  “Oh?” The man chuckled.
  “There’s nothing else the fleet would be willing to trade.” Except potentially the pyramid artifact. Even then, I didn’t see them sacrificing the Gregorius. “Once the captain boards a shuttle, it’s over.”
  A person of Kridib’s squad fell as they were approaching my building. I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets piercing armor, then silence. That was the thing about sound suppressors: one could get killed, and there still wouldn’t be any sound of one hitting the ground. I wanted to turn around and see what had happened, potentially to help. There was a seven-point-three chance that the wound wasn’t fatal. Kridib kept on moving forwards. That’s what made him a ground trooper… it also caused me pain.
  “What if I kill Renaan?” Rigel mused. “I won’t lose much. Everyone down here’s dead anyway. Someone in the fleet has gone through a lot of shit to get Renaan back. They’d lose a hell of a lot more.”
  “What if they save the captain?” I countered. “Either way, we’ll soon find out, and you’ll have no offer.”
  “Quantum paradox logic?” Rigel sounded surprised. “Strange hearing that from you, missy. I’ll have to skim your file once I’m out of here.” He paused for a moment, then dragged the nearby stool over—making a deliberate sound—and sat down. “Truth is, once the moment ends, we both lose our chance. Are you okay with that?”
  Why are you so confident? I wondered. Even if I were to agree, he wouldn’t be able to get much from me in the next ten minutes, even less if Kridib managed to reach my room. His squad had already made its way to the building proper, facing less than expected resistance. From what I was able to see, there were two snipers left on the upper floors and two machine-gunners on the first. All auxiliary positions on the nearby buildings seemed to have dealt with, although there was no sign of Ogum.
  “You’ve dealt with Salvage before, I can tell,” Rigel pressed on. “You won’t get another chance like this.”
  The old man’s with me in the basement, I told Kridib. No guards in the room. He’s ex-Salvage Authorities. Take him, and the mission is over. Saying that hurt slightly. Despite being the enemy, and a threat to the war effort, he remained human.
  “Then I guess I’ll never know.” As I spoke, I saw Kridib charge at the building. As before, there was nothing fancy about it, just determination and insanity. Several bullets flew so close to him I could hear them, but this time none of them hit. “Your bargaining window is over. No deal.”
  Kridib emptied his sidearm at the door in front of him, then rushed in. I could see no guards inside, just a set of hastily built staircases. Whatever the original purpose of the building was, it had been transformed into a field center at some point—likely during a previous escape attempt. Probably a group similar to ours had made it their temporary base, then left it as it was once they had completed their mission. No wonder Rigel had had me transported there. Kridib didn’t waste time making parallels, instead drawing his second sidearm and rushing down.
  At least two floors down, I said. I’m not hearing any of the gunfire.
  Is he armed? Kridib asked.
  Unsure. Not that I can tell. There are artifacts, though.
  “Such a teacher’s pet.” Rigel sighed after a long silence. “In the end, you’re nothing but a ship.” He stood up.
  He’s standing directly from the door, I said to Kridib. Seven degrees from center. Small frame, average height.
  Kridib fired three shots. Three bullets drilled through the alloy surface. Half a second later, Kridib followed kicking the door in.
  “Just one small thing.” Rigel took a tube-shaped object from his vest pocket.
  Meanwhile, I was staring at an empty room from Kridib’s eyes. It was at least three times smaller than the one I was in, bare and completely deserted. There was no Rigel, no me, no equipment, just a single metallic cube the size of my fingernail placed neatly on the floor.
  “Renaan was never the target.” The old man bent down and injected something in my neck. A new cascade of connection requests followed. “You are.”
—-
Next Chapter
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Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

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[The Scuu Paradox] - Chapter 18

At the Beginning
Previously on The Scuu Paradox…
  The smell of burning wood was all I could focus on. The fires had long died out, making it difficult to see in the darkness; despite all other modifications, Kridib’s eyes weren’t able to see overly well in the dark. Every five minutes, Radiance would send an infrared scan of the colony to help him and his team with their advancement. Despite all that help and the four missile strikes, progress was minimal. Of the forty-seven people sent to the planet, eleven had been killed and five more severely wounded, rendering them useless in battle. From what I could see, Rigel’s forces had clustered in specific points of the colony, giving up the rest: a sensible strategy that had allowed them to ambush three of our teams while suffering negligible losses themselves. As things stood, the enemy forces had positioned themselves in two areas of the colony. Both spots encircled a specific building—mine and the captain’s locations—making further missile strikes impossible.
  Update? Kridib asked me through the mind link.
  Nothing, I replied. Rigel had left shortly after our last chat, taking the third-contact rods with him. Since then, I had remained safely isolated in the room and completely alone. Half of them have probably gone to sleep.
  Tell me if anything changes. Kribib looked up. A dozen sats were visible in the night sky. We’ll be making another go soon.
  I don’t think that’s a good idea.
  So far, Kridib had made four attempts to reach me, all of them unsuccessful. His approach, though chaotic at best, had managed to keep him alive. There had been a close call during which his left arm had been grazed by a bullet, though that time the man hadn’t frozen.
  Everyone has to sleep, Kridib said, heading back into one of the buildings that had been transformed into a ground base of operations. I’ll go first.
  Must I wake you? I asked.
  No. With that, the link was severed.
  To a degree, I was thankful, though not too much. Forcing whatever strength I had, I moved my head to look around the room as much as I was able. Nothing had changed in the last four hours, but at least it let me do something. The last time I felt remotely similar was when I’d had my sensor systems knocked out, though even then I was able to use my shuttle AIs to paint me a picture. Here, I was completely helpless and, to a vast degree, blind.
  “Do I get any water?” I asked as loudly as my lungs would let me.
  There was no reason to expect an answer. Even if anyone was awake on the lower floors, they would be on lookout duty. Saying it out loud, though, made me feel better for some reason. To my surprise, the door to the room opened.
  “Thought you were above those things.” Rigel walked in slowly. Even with my lack of focus, I could see that he had changed clothes. The colours were dark enough to be considered a uniform, although I couldn’t make out any other details. “You can’t swallow, remember?”
  “My mouth feels dry,” I explained.
  “Too bad.” Despite my poor vision, I could hear him smile as he said that.
  Walking slowly, he made his way to the stool near me and sat down. From this distance, I could see him taking something from his front pocket. In the dim light, it was impossible to tell what exactly.
  “Still having problems focusing?” Rigel asked.
  “Yes.” There was no point in lying.
  “Pity. Agora works well on organic tissue. Not on techno-mongrels,” he added with a laugh. “If you weren’t one, you’d be dead. There’s a win for you.”
  And you’re not making any sense, I thought.
  “Nice murder troops you got out there. Quick and efficient. A few years ago, the locals would’ve had fun pulling their wings off. Time leaves its mark.” Rigel flicked the object. It let out a peculiar metallic sound. “No action, no combat sims, just the local pests that roam the planet. Those were brought here too, did you know?”
  “I heard about it.”
  “Another brilliant idea from the bureaucracy. Create a full ecosystem. Plants, critters, predators... all must be present and carefully maintained. We tried killing them off once. Those were the days. Three colonies setting out, killing everything in sight until the orbital station stopped sending food.” There was a slight pause. “And you know the best part?” Rigel leaned towards me. “None of that happened.”
  If I could have pulled back, I would have. There was no way of knowing if these were insane rantings or if he was referring to a dark op coverup. Considering he was from the Salvage Authorities, either was possible, and both options were equally undesirable.
  “I went through your data, Elcy.” Rigel rubbed his hands. “You know things you shouldn’t.”
  “Because of my past, I’ve been placed on special assignments,” I said. Technically it was true, though we both knew it didn’t explain away the inconsistencies.
  “You knew about the third-contact artifacts before. You’ve operated them before.” He moved his hand closer to my face. I felt a cold metallic surface touch my cheek. “You’re searching for something. Something that you’re not supposed to find.” He moved the object away from my face. “Here’s my offer. You answer some of my questions, and I’ll answer some of yours.”
  “That’s one way to get court-martialed.” Not to mention there was no guarantee my self-destruct chip wouldn’t go off at any point.
  “Please don’t give me the line that the fleet is going through all that trouble just to rescue you. If you were that valuable, you’d never have been sent to this hell in the first place.” Rigel stood up. “What are the odds of the fleet extracting you in one piece? Two percent?”
  “Point-seven-three-nine,” I corrected. Frankly, I was surprised they were going through all the trouble. “Give or take.”
  “Less than one percent,” Rigel snorted. “It’s your call. You have three hours to make it. Before I leave you, here’s a freebie. This planet, it isn’t some randomly colonized world in ‘unexplored space.’ We’re in the buffer zone—the border between the Scuu and human space. Think about that.” He made his way to the door. Reaching it, he stopped and turned around. “Oh, and we’re constantly being monitored.”
 
  Gamma-Ligata, Cassandrian Front—615.11 A.E. (Age of Expansion)
    The third wave of shuttles approached my forward left hangar one by one. The instant they came within three hundred meters, I was handed over direct control of the AIs. As with the previous batches, the first thing I did was to have a set of isolated subroutines flash the memory and purge the entire operating system. That done, I sent out a mini-sat to latch onto and assume control of the shuttles. It was a slow and tedious process, but necessary considering the circumstances.
  “How are things?” Wilco asked from the bridge. Augustus had gathered most of his officers to a private meeting in his quarters, leaving Wilco in command. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but each time it did, it felt strange.
  “Everything’s going as planned,” I said, as the first shuttle went under my control.
  A quick internal scan revealed that there were sixty-two people aboard, all cuffed and tagged. All of them were tagged as infected, and, to my surprise, none of them were sedated. The instructions were to take them in and monitor their actions at all times, and only to engage if they threatened the ship. Normally, I’d be confident that Augustus knew what was going on. With everything we’d gone through since I’d joined the front, I didn’t think there was anything in the galaxy that could surprise him. I was wrong.
  Finishing my internal check of the shuttle, I directed it to the outer hangar doors and had it dock. The passengers—all of their identities classified—waited till I covered the walls with disembark notifications, then stood up and quietly proceeded to get off, in orderly fashion. I could tell by Wilco’s expression that he found it unnerving.
  “A thousand and eighty-two passengers on board,” I said on the bridge and in the captain’s quarters. The moment the last person set foot in the hangar, I would eject the shuttle from my hangar-bay, self-destruct it, and proceed with the next.
  Delegating the task to my isolated subroutines, I reviewed the instructions I had received. The proper ident protocols and authorisations had been used, ensuring that I would do as instructed without asking questions. An emergency transmission from an unidentifiable ship had led me here. I knew nothing about the ship’s name or specifics, and I wasn’t allowed to get close enough to get a visual. The only things I was allowed to see were its shuttles and mass. Everything else was open to interpretation.
  “Have any of them said anything?” Wilco asked.
  “No.” I displayed images of the hangar bay and the corresponding corridors surrounding it. As part of my instructions, the entire section was sealed off and quarantined. “They’re eating.” They also appeared to be healthy, although the instructions stressed no one was to come into contact with them under any circumstances. “I’ve received no indication of how long we’re to keep them. Did the captain get an indication?”
  “No,” Wilco said in his usual somber voice. “Is everything sealed off?”
  “Yes.” I rechecked. “No way in or out without captain’s approval.”
  “Set a buffer zone.” The man went on. “No one goes in or out without my permission.”
  “If you say so.” It wasn’t difficult. The area in question had been made empty to accommodate the quarantined arrivals, though it seemed a bit too much. “Want me to put sentinels?”
  “No. We don’t have to hurt anyone, just hold them.” He slinked down in his chair. “They’re the Med boys’ toys. We don’t get to play with them.”
  Med boys… Only Wilco referred to the Medical Core in such fashion. As most organisations, they were part of the fleet, yet their specific area of expertise gave them as much authority as the Salvage Authorities and the BICEFI combined. As a ship, I knew fairly little about them: they had the power to impose quarantines and cordon off entire planets if they wished. They were also the only organisation with the power to hold an active captain in check. Possibly, that was the reason Augustus didn’t get along with any of his medical officers. According to the public files, the Med Core had created the inner-body nanites and were instrumental in getting humans into space. There were also whispers that they were involved in creating the first ship-cores, although I found that unlikely. Even so, they had more authority than anyone aboard. Even on the front, we had no option but to obey.
  “It won’t be practical heading into war with them,” I said as the second shuttle entered the hangar bay.
  “Not our call. We’re to hold them until a Med ship picks them up,” Wilco sighed. “And monitor everything they do.”
  “How is that different from anyone else aboard?” I ventured a chuckle.
  “You don’t need to know,” the lieutenant said darkly.
  Another thing about Wilco was that he had the uncanny ability to make any topic of conversation dark. I ran a few simulations testing various responses, then decided not to respond further. In the best-case scenario, there was a twenty-seven percent chance he found my reaction funny.
  “Elcy.” Augustus granted me sensor access to the captain’s quarters. “What’s the ETA on the cattle?”
  “The passengers will be all aboard in seven minutes, captain.” A decade of attempts to mellow his behaviour had brought me no results. “Five, if you need me off in a rush.”
  “Get it done in five,” he barked. “We’ve got new orders. We’re joining a purge fleet. Go on yellow. Get the grunts prepped.”
  “Aye, sir.” I issued the order to everyone aboard. Seconds later, ground troop officers and sergeants were shouting their troops into order. “What about the passengers, sir? Won’t combat expose them to unnecessary danger?”
  “There’s no unnecessary danger,” Augustus barked again. The rest of the command staff had already started leaving the room. Their expressions ranged from mild annoyance to disapproval. Whatever discussions had taken place, they must have been unpleasant and one-sided. “Monitor them at all times and don’t interact until I say so.”
  “Understood.”
  It sounded like another escort mission, and I didn’t like escort missions. Normally, it would just be troop detachments or—if we were very unlucky—some mid-level bureaucrat or admiral’s aid sent to do a front-line inspection. Transporting quarantined personnel wasn’t in my usual purview, although if it had been, I’d never know.
  “What’s the course of treatment they must undergo?” I asked.
  “No treatment,” Augustus grumbled. “That’s for the Meds to figure out.”
  “All passengers are tagged as infected. Regulations require we provide immediate medical attention.” I felt my words sound hollow. If Augustus had the authority to provide such, he would have told me already. The only thing I was left was to go through the motions, expecting to receive the obvious denial.
  “Just monitor them, Elcy! That’s what we’ve been told. And whatever happens, don’t interfere.”
 
  Just monitor them.
  I had spent three months and thirty-nine hours monitoring the passengers onboard. Through battles and repairs, every single action had been carefully observed, recorded, and stored on external data storage. For the most part, nothing happened. The people would live boring, perfectly organised lives, almost as if they knew they were being watched. There were no scuffles, few arguments, and only one incident resulting in injuries when a Cassandrian fighter managed to slip through my external defences and fire a salvo at the hangar bay. Their health condition also seemed no different than when they had come aboard. I had dedicated a dozen subroutines to collect any potential symptoms in an effort to determine the type of disease they had, but had come to no conclusion. Then, one day, they were all gone. I had no memory of the Medical ship that had taken them, or where that had happened. The only thing I was certain about was the time—precisely two thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine hours since the last of them had come aboard. Everything else remained restricted.
  Looks like there’s always someone monitoring someone, Sev. If Rigel was to be believed someone was monitoring the planet. The question was who.
  Seconds turned to minutes, then hours. Hundreds of times, I considered looking into my restricted memories for information regarding the third-contact artifacts or the events in gamma-Ligata, and each time I found a reason not to. As Rigel had said, the chance of me getting off the planet alive was less than one percent, but the knowledge of the existence of the possibility kept me acting. And then there was Rigel’s offer…
  Rad, are you monitoring me? I asked, attempting to latch on to any open communication protocols. A connection was established, but instead of linking to Radiance, I found myself connecting back to Kridib’s mind. On cue, an info burst from Radiance followed, giving the latest scan. This time, I could see the location of our forces. The total number had increased to seventy-four, Kridib included. Nearly eight percent were gathered close to the captain’s expected location. Kridib and five more were closer to me.
  Get ready, Kridib said. Moments later, bursts of gunfire echoed in the distance; they were going for the captain first.
  The mission had begun. From here on, I could see several potential outcomes. In all of them, there was a high probability that Rigel attempted to make a deal.
  When I was a ship, Augustus had taught me one key thing when it came to missions: regardless of the depth of predictions and the computing power at their disposal, humans always boiled down a situation to a simple binary choice. Rigel wanted something from me and had invested too much to let his chance slip. Before the outcome of Kridib’s rescue mission, Rigel would come here to get an answer to his proposal. All I had to do was wait.
  As I lay, I watched Kridib run through the darkness towards my location. Unlike before, he was wearing night vision goggles, letting him make out his surroundings better.
  No thermal? I asked as Kridib made his way through the streets. The smell of burned vegetation could still be felt.
  That’s what you’re for.
  Not a reply to be thrilled about, but one to be expected. Cross-referencing Radiance’s latest scan, I started analysing every frame of Kridib’s stream. The first few minutes passed without incident. Judging by the intensified background gunfire, the locals were more focused on keeping Renaan isolated than stopping Kridib. Twenty-eight seconds, later the first shot sounded.
  Sniper! I shouted straight in Kridib’s mind.
  “Cover fire!” he shouted, rushing for cover.
  Watch out for a cross, I warned.
  The shooting intensified. Based on the area scan, the group was a few hundred meters away. One strong push and they’d be here. That said, I knew that the building was guarded by more than seven people. If I were in Rigel’s place, I would have dedicated at least three dozen.
  Concentrated fire focused on the second floor of a building, blowing off the entire wall. There was a brief scream before a rocket flew into the spot, hollowing the entire structure with a blast.
  Heavy weapons? I asked Kridib. I didn’t think Radiance’s captain would resort to such firepower, considering third-contact artifacts were involved; one direct hit, and the entire colony might well end up a smouldering crater, not to mention the potential communication repercussions. Maybe there was truth in Rigel’s statement that Flight Commander Nitel was getting desperate.
  As I was following Kridib’s advancement outside, the door opened once more—as predicted, Rigel had returned. He was wearing the same set of clothes as three hours ago. I found it puzzling that I couldn’t spot any semblance of a weapon on him.
  “Your masters have gotten desperate,” the man said in suspiciously calm fashion. “Looks like they’ve sent everything they had to get Renaan.” He walked up to me, then leaned over. “And just a handful to get you.”
  “Are they winning?” I tried to smile.
  “Beats me.” Rigel didn’t seem bothered. “You thought about my offer?”
  “I did. And I don’t think accepting would be a good deal. If I wait for them to rescue the captain, your bargaining power ends.”
  “Oh?” The man chuckled.
  “There’s nothing else the fleet would be willing to trade.” Except potentially the pyramid artifact. Even then, I didn’t see them sacrificing the Gregorius. “Once the captain boards a shuttle, it’s over.”
  A person of Kridib’s squad fell as they were approaching my building. I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets piercing armor, then silence. That was the thing about sound suppressors: one could get killed, and there still wouldn’t be any sound of one hitting the ground. I wanted to turn around and see what had happened, potentially to help. There was a seven-point-three chance that the wound wasn’t fatal. Kridib kept on moving forwards. That’s what made him a ground trooper… it also caused me pain.
  “What if I kill Renaan?” Rigel mused. “I won’t lose much. Everyone down here’s dead anyway. Someone in the fleet has gone through a lot of shit to get Renaan back. They’d lose a hell of a lot more.”
  “What if they save the captain?” I countered. “Either way, we’ll soon find out, and you’ll have no offer.”
  “Quantum paradox logic?” Rigel sounded surprised. “Strange hearing that from you, missy. I’ll have to skim your file once I’m out of here.” He paused for a moment, then dragged the nearby stool over—making a deliberate sound—and sat down. “Truth is, once the moment ends, we both lose our chance. Are you okay with that?”
  Why are you so confident? I wondered. Even if I were to agree, he wouldn’t be able to get much from me in the next ten minutes, even less if Kridib managed to reach my room. His squad had already made its way to the building proper, facing less than expected resistance. From what I was able to see, there were two snipers left on the upper floors and two machine-gunners on the first. All auxiliary positions on the nearby buildings seemed to have dealt with, although there was no sign of Ogum.
  “You’ve dealt with Salvage before, I can tell,” Rigel pressed on. “You won’t get another chance like this.”
  The old man’s with me in the basement, I told Kridib. No guards in the room. He’s ex-Salvage Authorities. Take him, and the mission is over. Saying that hurt slightly. Despite being the enemy, and a threat to the war effort, he remained human.
  “Then I guess I’ll never know.” As I spoke, I saw Kridib charge at the building. As before, there was nothing fancy about it, just determination and insanity. Several bullets flew so close to him I could hear them, but this time none of them hit. “Your bargaining window is over. No deal.”
  Kridib emptied his sidearm at the door in front of him, then rushed in. I could see no guards inside, just a set of hastily built staircases. Whatever the original purpose of the building was, it had been transformed into a field center at some point—likely during a previous escape attempt. Probably a group similar to ours had made it their temporary base, then left it as it was once they had completed their mission. No wonder Rigel had had me transported there. Kridib didn’t waste time making parallels, instead drawing his second sidearm and rushing down.
  At least two floors down, I said. I’m not hearing any of the gunfire.
  Is he armed? Kridib asked.
  Unsure. Not that I can tell. There are artifacts, though.
  “Such a teacher’s pet.” Rigel sighed after a long silence. “In the end, you’re nothing but a ship.” He stood up.
  He’s standing directly from the door, I said to Kridib. Seven degrees from center. Small frame, average height.
  Kridib fired three shots. Three bullets drilled through the alloy surface. Half a second later, Kridib followed kicking the door in.
  “Just one small thing.” Rigel took a tube-shaped object from his vest pocket.
  Meanwhile, I was staring at an empty room from Kridib’s eyes. It was at least three times smaller than the one I was in, bare and completely deserted. There was no Rigel, no me, no equipment, just a single metallic cube the size of my fingernail placed neatly on the floor.
  “Renaan was never the target.” The old man bent down and injected something in my neck. A new cascade of connection requests followed. “You are.”
—-
Next Chapter
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efficiency costs of purchase vs awakenings ideal ranks and their use in winning tournaments

efficiency costs of purchase vs awakenings ideal ranks and their use in winning tournaments

https://preview.redd.it/govc8j6lwaw41.jpg?width=720&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b53ae8c35f697ea53d6d292ec05f434f29578784
blue = gem cost of initial purchase of a hero at that starting rank, vs. red = gem cost of the awakenings needed to get them to R6 (800*each rank) - together being 100% of their total cost. The "box"-looking effect is the proportion that each rank takes up irt its' relative cost - e.g., the blue boxes are always larger b/c they offer less efficiency at 1500/rank instead of the 800/rank for each awakening; and they are different sizes b/c the heroes have different total costs (i.e., so the awakenings take up a smaller or larger relative proportion of it). The black line is then the % of tokens that can be skipped when starting off with a hero at that starting rank, and the green dashed lines represent each successive rank above that, which are always the same regardless of a hero's starting rank: so a R0 hero starts off with none, but then at R1 is 3% of the way through, then at R2, R3, R4, R5, and R6 is 9, 18, 29, 53, and 1005 of the way through. Speaking of, I did not make another one for R7 though I could if there is interest - still, this should help get across the main points. And yes, I realize that there are no heroes that start at R3, or R6 (yet!), but it was easier to leave those in than to take them out.
Also an accompanying table of other helpful numbers.

starting rank: R0 R1 R2 R3 (though no hero starts here) R4 R5 R6 (doesn't exist - yet!?)
total gem cost: 4800 5500 6200 6900 7600 8300 9000
remaining tokens to R6: 170 165 155 140 120 80 0
People keep asking questions about the "efficiency" of ranking up heroes for tournament usage, so I thought I would share this graph, in case it helps.
For instance, did you realize that once you buy a hero that comes pre-awakened to R2, you've already spent nearly *half* of their total gem cost to fully awaken them to R6? (4 more awakenings*800 each=3200, vs. their 3000 price-tag) Although you start off only skipping 9% of the total tokens needed to get them there ((5+10)/(5+10+15+20+40+80)). Especially for newer players considering which heroes to buy and rank up to unlock worlds, these heroes offer fantastic utility for the campaign, Endless mode, and higher-difficulty RS situations. And then once bought, they offer the same efficiency as any other hero to finish off to their R6 for use in tournaments. It's a matter of preference to get one or several of them early and enjoy their use in the campaign, or to avoid their high cost and just awaken more inexpensive ones for faster, though more difficult progress.
In contrast, the heroes that come pre-awakened to R5 are more expensive - but their purchase price represents 90% of their total gem costs, and they already have more than half the total tokens that would be needed to unlock their R6. In short, if you have the gems, it's way more efficient to purchase Yan or Narlax and then finish them off to their R6 than it is to start a new hero at R1 (although if you would have to save up the gems first, read this post instead: https://www.reddit.com/RealmDefenseTD/comments/g1mmg5/advice_about_awakening_existing_heroes_vs_buying/). (Also, do not buy Leif, at least not for the sake of tournaments, although he's great for campaign, and the #1 hero for RS, so especially good for getting a new event hero to higher rank.)
As far as it pertains to "ideal" ranks (those below R6 that are worth pausing at, to win during a hero's week), that is something that many newer players want to know about, but don't quite realize that it's not necessarily for them just yet. But for those that are keen to know, read https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Meta#Season_11_Meta.2FAnalysis for the utility of heroes in Tournament settings, and https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Awakening_Tokens#Most_powerful_Ranks for the utility of each awakening, plus https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Heroes_overview for some additional commentary on hero ideal ranks. For instance, Smoulder has 2 of them, for different purposes: R4 for anti-flier stun situational effect, R5 for his own week that adds stun & a reduced cooldown, although really for his own week he's mostly R6-or-bust, but that depends heavily on the league & the lateness of the season.
I should perhaps add that I've never had much luck with ideal ranks. They seem mostly to be useful in Diamond League, and then by Masters already they are no longer useful. That said, you should give each one careful thought, individually for each hero, b/c it can save you a TON of time from getting a hero's R6 when you didn't need it (yet). Perhaps the most (in-)famous example is Yan's R6, which she doesn't need on her own week (I've literally seen Gold- rather than Purple-outlined Yans among the *very* top scores of a league), probably b/c she doesn't have great skills to help turn her blessed stat boost into actual DAMAGE (being mainly a "support" hero, which she is good at), and especially if you don't even have Efrigid or Bolton yet to receive the synergy that her R6 talent would offer, then it is fairly useless. Though these things do tend to change over time - like Narlax's R6 also used to be unnecessary, until this past season (11) when on his own blessed week it became mandatory to pull several strong bosses. Also one of Hogan's ideal ranks used to be R3 iirc (when his R5 decreased rather than increased his attack speed, before it was switched), then last season it became R5 to keep him alive (also against a strong boss), and now this season it looks like his blessed week is strongly pushing even his R6? Oh yes, some heroes can't/shouldn't really be paused at all, like Lancelot who prior to R6 is flat-out replaceable even when blessed, but at R6 gains a STRONG anti-air utility that is absolutely mandatory to win that week (as in, if ANYONE else in your group has it, who isn't terribly unskilled, then you have little chance to get a higher score than them).
Where the concept of "ideal ranks" is most helpful then, is when you already have (most of) the Meta, and are looking to win more reliably each week. Having a hero at an ideal rank may not be required to win in Gold League for instance, but it can be helpful to use that along the way while you work on other things too (like a second hero's ideal rank, or their R6, or even continuing on with the same hero, just holding back on the actual gem cost - btw strong shout-out thanks to lanclos for sharing with me most of what I know about ideal ranks:-). I suppose it may be like identifying potential resting spots while climbing a mountain - once you identify them you can either pause and rest at them, or else of course skip them and keep going, but either way they may be nice to at least plan to pass by during your ascent, just in case you find that you need them.
SPEAKING OF, here are some additional thoughts on tournaments that might help in that regard, though first I'll have to cover some basics:
a) there is an effect I call the "leading edge" whereby the earlier weeks in the season are the hardest. e.g., *this week* in Gold League is literally the hardest week that it will ever be in this season, b/c *this* is the week that it contains the most senior players (like former GMs). Then, next week, Platinum League will be created, and will be populated by the top 3 players from each group that managed to get promoted - which lets face it tends to be the most senior players, with the deepest hero investments and also the most experience & skill; and thus *that week* will be the hardest that Platinum will ever see, and so on in Diamond, and Masters, and...actually Legendary is special, b/c once a player reaches GM, they remain there. But the other leagues get easier the further the season goes, b/c of all the more senior players getting promoted each week. So therefore the last week of each season (prior to Legendary) is literally the easiest to get promoted in.
There are some important modifiers to this, b/c it may be easy or hard in general but not for you b/c of the heroes you have, and also an effect where campers used to try to not get promoted so quickly, but then towards the end of the season get nervous and want to move upwards, but anyway, this is generally true. So when I say "in lower leagues, later in the season", what I mean is "further away from the leading edge". IN OTHER WORDS, the difficulty of Gold League on week #1 is nowhere NEAR the same difficulty as Gold League on week #15. On the other hand, Platinum League on week #2 is quite similar actually to the difficulty of Legendary League, anytime, b/c that is the league where at that time all the veterans are (with anything above Platinum not yet having been created). See what I mean? But b/c of this effect, any talk about "Gold League" or "Platinum League" must be merely an average of how difficult it is to win, which basically means mid-way away from the leading edge, although be aware of these variations where earlier means *much*-harder-than-average, and later means much easier.
b) Gold League further is special in its' being so small, and in having players that haven't finished the campaign yet, which (vastly) increases the number of total players, and has the effect of "diluting" / spreading the veteran players out between/among the various groups. Therefore, even on week #1, its' difficulty is nowhere near as hard as Legendary League, b/c of being mitigated by this effect. Platinum on week #2 also isn't *quite* as hard as Legendary for similar reasons (the group size being 30 instead of 50; and effects like even former GMs lacking Hogan and not being promoted while others who have Hogan's R6 can do even better), but...Gold is truly special in being the easiest league to win in (aside from the non-repeatable Bronze and Silver of course). Though again, for people having trouble getting promoted from Gold League, take heart: as the season progresses it WILL get easier!:-)
c) in Gold League, with Koi & Raida you can pretty much win by accident even w/o meteors (though this particular week requires Narlax too, and might even need meteors - though I have never used any to get out of Gold myself). This is b/c those heroes provide so much higher utility, compared to so MANY players that lack them, that you definitely have a good chance. And that chance keeps repeating every week, as it gets easier and easier later and later into the season, so if you don't get promoted one week, keep trying the next. The advice for players lacking Koi & Raida is the same: keep trying, and eventually you'll get into a group that lacks Koi, or perhaps someone who doesn't know how to use them yet, and you CAN win! And if you truly want to prioritize this aspect of the game, before you finish the campaign, get a hero to an ideal rank or even R6, and on their blessed week, if it's late enough, you'll have a VERY good shot (though perhaps also needing good generic heroes like Narlax and Leif, unless you get VERY lucky with your group placement, or outright R6 a few heroes for this purpose).
d) in Platinum, it gets a bit harder. Though, if you have the Meta, not by that much. For those who have Raida & Koi, also pick up Yan, necro-Connie, Narlax, and Smoulder's R4 and you'll do fine in Platinum, even without the blessed hero (though of course, earlier in the season you may need them, while later you can get by without them, having strong generic+situational replacements).
e) in Diamond, it gets harder still, where you start to need the blessed hero more often. Though not every week, and not necessarily at an "ideal"/pausing rank. Two seasons ago (while I was still R6ing Koi) I got promoted by having Obsidian, not at his ideal rank of R4 but just about level 20 and rank R2 - & even then he was replaceable with Efri's R6 (which I did not have) - though that was week #13 out of 15, so very late. Many other similar stories told by veteran players abound: Mabyn's R2, Helios's R4, and if you have Yan's R6, then also Efri's R4 & Bolton's R3, etc.
f) in Masters, it is pretty much R6-or-bust, and so you are already past the stage where ideal ranks can help you for the most part (I mean Yan's R5 would probably still work, and Helios's R4 b/c towers don't add much to tournament situations, but...not much else). *If* you use the blessed hero at all, you probably need them all the way to R6. Though there are a few situations where a hero is outright replaceable - chiefly Sethos, Leif, and Masamune (possibly needing to be quite late in the season for that one), all of whom lack anti-air capabilities (though Masamune's R7 is going to change that!).
g) that said, Masters League is still nowhere near as difficult as Legendary. Scores that would get you promoted out of Masters won't even get you a reward in Legendary (although THIS season looks to be changing that - thus encouraging promotion and concurrently discouraging camping in lower leagues - definitely a plus for both veteran and more junior players alike!). Also, for the most part you can get by without the whole entire cast of "situational" heroes that are needed in Legendary, to win a GM. What I mean is: when veteran players have ALL the heroes to choose from, and they are all at R6, they can find the absolute BEST one for any given week - which could be Efri, Mabyn, Azura, Caldera, Connie, Helios, Shamiko, Narlax, Smoulder, etc., and if you want to get a GM, you need to have whatever it is that week that is among the BEST. While in Masters, you most often don't - so actually, R6-or-bust isn't that hard to do, at least compared to Legendary where you need both the blessed hero that week AND one of a large(-ish?) cast of situational heroes, and of course their R6 as well.
h) an argument against ideal ranks is that it may spread out your hero investments too thin to let you win many weeks. On the other hand, an argument for it is that even having a hero's R6 doesn't guarantee a win (e.g., at first I was absolutely terrible at using Narlax - and still I have yet to ever win a week where he is blessed). Also aiming for ideal ranks lets you maximize your elixir income (https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Realm_Siege_Strategies). Though an R6 hero also offers the option to use that hero even when not blessed (and yet this works better for some heroes and not so well for others - e.g., Mabyn can perhaps win at R2 in Diamond, but as a situational hero needs her 5th meteor talent gained at R6 to truly be effective; while Bolton + Obsidian are mostly only used when blessed, and never outside of that - although this week may again be revealing that the devs may change that in the future!). Therefore there are many benefits to either using, or not using, ideal ranks.
Ultimately whether you want to pause at an ideal rank, or keep going all the way to R6 for every hero that you own, seems to be a matter of personal preference: how EXTREME of a personality are you? Do you want to work on increasing your MAXIMUM power, to possibly win a GM title sooner - but also maybe fail to even reach Legendary League at all, as a more junior player, and also have little chance at all on weeks that you lack the blessed hero (at least in Diamond League, or others earlier in the season, closer to the seasonal reset - i.e., take a risk, and maybe be #1 on the weeks you've prepared heavily for, but then score very low on (many of) those you've invested literally nothing into? Or do you prefer to aim for a more AVERAGE level of power, which may leave you unable to be promoted on a given week (maybe several of them), but yet still maybe get some rewards, not being the best but neither being the worst, and yet still get practice either way, and maybe win sooner with less of a hero investment needed into a particular week, leaving you free to focus your efforts elsewhere?
Like most things in life, the ideal path is probably somewhere between the most extreme of R6ing one hero before moving on to the next, vs. having all heroes at ideal ranks but none at R6. Though there are people who have pursued each of those strategies! (and I can tell you some of their names if you want:-) Ultimately you need 4 wins to get to Legendary League, and then at least 1 more if you want a GM title that season. So pick a few heroes to get to R6, another few to get to ideal ranks, and with that collection you'll do well. Another hint: do you want your strongest hero investments to be earlier in the season, in your lowest league, or later, in the highest? Watch the https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Blessed_Heroes_-_Tournament page to see how early a hero is blessed in the last few seasons, and pick one that will likely be blessed later rather than earlier, and then aim to buy that hero and work on increasing their power. e.g., Yan and Narlax are both in the Meta, and blessed mid-to-late-season.
Also there are a TON of other helpful tips - about towers, heroes and synergies and combo moves, and many other tournament topics on https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Basic_Info and https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Detailed_Strategy. So now all that's left is for me to wish you good luck!:-)

Edit: while I thought about adding these couple of thoughts before, they didn't specifically touch on ideal ranks, so I left them out. But so many are asking so I'll put them in after all...
i) there are 3 hero roles to fulfill each week: generic, situational, and blessed. If you want to think about it harder it's "really" 2 situational and 1 blessed, but since right now one of those slots is nearly ALWAYS Koi, the former formula is at least a nice way to think about/remember it.
generic: especially if you lack blessed heroes and/or Koi, this is about all you've got - so use it! When you get to W3, Helios or Sethos can work, to help get you promoted from Gold - though you shouldn't get them just for this purpose (it is terribly inefficient to buy new heroes all the time when you can awaken earlier ones for nearly half the cost, though that takes TIME so this is a strategy mainly for P2W players). In W4, Yan and especially Narlax can get you promoted in Platinum (though again, don't buy JUST for this short-term purpose), and in W5, Leif/Caldera can get you promoted even as high as Diamond (later in the season). I doubt that any of these can get you promoted in Masters, and if anyone ever actuall DID that, they should count their lucky stars, but it's not something that you should "expect" to happen. Once you get Raida and Koi though, you'll never use these other heroes for their "generic" utility again.
situational: usually there is some hero / class of heroes that will work best for a given week. Otherwise, for example, if the only powerful heroes you have are Koi & Leif, then every week you'll always bring them, for their *generic* power. But Leif hardly does anything against fliers - merely blessing towers which, while that work GREAT in RS on blessed tower spots, is virtually useless in tournament situations. Instead, if you brought Smoulder, especially with his R4 anti-flier slow-down talent, then you have a *much* better defense & offense against fliers, even though Smoulder seems to offer FAR less "generic" power than Leif - but even thoug it is "less", it is "more" appropriate to the *situation* - see? So for a level lacking fliers entirely, Leif would be better, although for a sitaution where fliers are the ones ending your tournament play, Smoulder can be a huge boon.
Also, sometimes situational utility can (nearly or even completely) win out over generic or blessed heroes! An example is where on Sethos or Leif's blessed week, a team of strong anti-flier utility can relatively easily get scores as good as or better than a team including the blessed hero at R6 (though skill also plays a role of course). Lancelot prior to his R5 is also replaceable, and Masamune even at his R6 is *somewhat* so (if it's not a binary yes/no, but rather a continuum, where his R6 provides *one* route to win, but a strong anti-air team is *another* way, which even though offers less power, and so can't win a GM, is offered at much greater efficiency and may let you get high rewards or even promoted with from Masters League).
-) anti-fliers: Raida, Smoulder, Connie are enough to get you started, then later you'll want to add Helios & Azura. Each offers something different - like Smoulder slows them down, Raida stuns them, Connie does both, Azura can charm up to 4 (good for when there are more rare but tanky ones like W3 crows), and others can be good too like Efrigid also slows them, Narlax pulls them back, etc. The Narlax+Raida pull+charge/stun combo is ESPECIALLY powerful (read more at https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Detailed_Strategy#Narlax_.2B_CC_combo). Note that while Fee is tremendous for fliers in campaign, she can't really keep up in this mode, except when she's blessed.
-) bosses: Koi & even Raida (& Leif if you got him for other reasons) can tank fairly well at first. Connie's bunny mamma does even better, and her little bunnies help slow it down. Narlax at his R6 can pull them back. Later, you'll want Azura who can help charm an enemy to use as a tank against the boss, and then there is Caldera who is immune to all physical damage, but extremely vulnerable to magic. Although the latter two are rarely blessed themselves, and often aren't as worth bringing as the blessed hero. If you are just getting started, Fee (at any rank) may actually work surprisingly well, as her wolves can delay a boss somewhat as it pauses to kill them.
-) delay: Connie, Raida to stun, Narlax to pull back, Efrigid to slow/freeze; or for just a few enemies that get past a checkpoint, Yan to teleport, or Mabyn for fear.
-) worlds: Mabyn works REALLY well for W3, to send enemies back whereupon the archer-bots can regain control of the situation after being broken through. Azura works really well for W4 since she is immune to the slow effect, can heal to help counteract all the ranged damage being thrown at you, and can charm strong enemies - like an armored tank to use against a boss, or a strong flier to use against other strong or weak ones, etc. Caldera isn't good in W3 (poison) or W4 (magic), but is very effective in W1,2,&5.
-) synergies: these can be stronger than anything else (yes even than Koi - in fact this is the ONLY reason why you might not want to use Koi if you have him) - basically you either have the synergy partners or you lose that week (except *maybe* in Gold?). Efri & Bolton need both Yan & Koi's R6, Bolton & Obsidian need each other, Fee needs at least 1-2 of her synergy partners, and Smoulder needs his R6 + Narlax to in. Read the wiki for more comprehensive details. Note that every one of Leif's synergies is absolutely useless and *never* worth bringing him along, unless you are a more junior player and lack anything better to do (hint: it might help once or twice, but it's REALLY not worth getting those 80 tokens and spending 800 gems to get his R6 - that should be one of it not literally THE last thing you do in the game; unless the devs change that soon? I personally would LOVE to see that!:-).
-) special mention 1: Yan hastes Koi, and is thus used more often than any other hero, after Koi himself. She can do this at her R5 though - no need to get her R6 until you are ready to take advantage of her 2 synergies.
-) special mention 2: Raida's extremely high generic utility (2nd only to Koi), AND his high situational utility (for fliers, stunning & damaging bosses, large CC, etc.) makes him the top #1 all-around utility / situational hero...though only providing a very "average" level whenever you lack some other hero who can provide a higher MAXIMUM power. When you have literally every other hero in the game, and to their R6, then you may never use Raida again (though even that's not quite true - players often use him in their first try at a level, to be ready for anything, even though he is always replaced with someone better to get the final maximum score), but until you invest that deeply (which will take YEARS of your life), Raida can provide a great deal of help. *Especially* on the days where you lack the blessed hero, though that is more of a generic functionality, and yet also when you lack the top situational hero for that week (Azura?). Use him as a stepping-stone.
blessed heroes: there is no getting around the fact that you need the blessed heroes to have the best chance to win on a given week. Especially by Masters League, though of course they still help a LOT to win more often in Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Until then, strong generic+situational utility can help fill in - some heroes are more replaceable than others as mentioned above - but after you get the Meta (Koi, Raida, Connie, Yan, Narlax), then you need to decide whether to prioritize more situational heroes, or more blessed heroes. Both ways work, and you probably want to split your efforts b/t the two. Often heroes work for both: e.g. Narlax is blessed every season, usually fairly late, and then last season (11) was also used another 4 times. In contrast, heroes like Fee, Lancelot, and Masamune are only ever used once, on their blessed week. But still, you only need 4 wins to get to Legendary, and especially if you already had these heroes at a high rank to help you unlock worlds in campaign, they can be a GREAT way to win, certainly much easier than trying to win with purely generic+situational utility that doesn't match what is needed on a given hero's blessed week. One tip: pick a hero that you like to work with, and get them to R6 - you'll likely do better with them than you would with some other hero that you don't enjoy as much.
j) R7 heroes and future predictions: many people, myself included, think that R7 will mostly be necessary for winning GMs. Thus, R6 becomes another ideal/pausing rank, though this one useful to win Masters League with. Many people want to know whether they "should" get an additional hero to R6, or focus that time instead to continue on to R7, though again this is up to your personal preference - do you want to win more often, though possibly not at the #1 spot and maybe not get promoted but do get rewards, so aiming for a higher "average" utility, or do you want to take a risk for a chance to get a GM, and aim for "maximum" utility instead (at the cost of being farther behind in terms of having fewer heroes to use whenever they are blessed)? It's a GAME, so go for what YOU want!:-)
TLDR: use ideal/pausing ranks for heroes blessed earlier in the season, and instead put your highest investments into heroes blessed later, where you'll need their power the most.
submitted by OpenStars to RealmDefenseTD [link] [comments]

Ranking the P5R Palaces!

Howdhee-ho everyone!
So the other day I did a ranking of all the Showtime attacks. I’d said that if it got a bit of attention and people seemed interested in this kind of stuff, I’d do rankings for other Persona 5 bits.
So today I thought I’d explore Palaces. Now, this one is going to be a bit lengthy because Palaces have a lot to talk about.
And for the usual disclaimer; Spoilers ahead! And everything from here is just my own take on it. If you feel differently, awesome! I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
So, here are the main criteria I’m basing this stuff on.
“Story” - Now, this isn’t a plot review, but rather a review of how the Palace feels in relation to the story. Essentially, how well does this Palace fit, and does it make sense for the ruler?
“Creativeness” - How creative does the Palace feel?
“Gimmicks” - Puzzles, areas, things like that. Are they good? Do they fit thematically?
“Atmosphere” - From design, to enemies, to music. How does it feel? Does it match the tone of the current arc?
“Length” - This is not necessarily “how long is the Palace” but rather “How long does it FEEL”. Does it drag on? Does it feel too short?
Also, I will NOT be including major bosses as part of the Palace. I’ll be covering bosses another day!
So without further ado… let’s dive right in with what I feel is the worst Palace. And I don’t think this one will be a very hot take.
#9 - Okumura’s Big Bang Death Star
Yikes
Alright. I’m gonna tackle this one at a time, just going down the criteria list.
So to start with the story, I don’t think that a space station makes sense, because thematically it’s a bit… odd. Realistically, the whole “point” of Okumura’s arc is that he wants to “Ascend to the political world”. And you uh… can’t ascend much further than outer space. I think they could have gotten the same general idea with the Palace being something like a NASA Headquarters. Then you still get the space feeling, and the concept of “escaping to Utopia”. I’ll admit this one is a bit of a nitpick. But it’s always been a nagging issue for me.
Now, this is a pretty creative design for a Palace. A giant space station with faceless, robotic drones sacrificing themselves for their leader. It screams of Star Wars with the Stormtroopers just letting themselves get ripped apart for Palpy and Vader. And honestly I remember feeling this sort of overwhelming sense of wonder as I walked into the Palace for the first time and saw SPACE sprawled out in front of me. It’s cool.
Now, here’s where the problems come in. The gimmicks. Not only are they not good, but GODS ABOVE they are repetitive. First there’s the “robot interrogation” section. Try to find the highest ranking robot. But first you need to go through all the ranks below him. If I wanted to be sent up a chain of command until I talked to someone who is actually useful, I’d call up tech support. And fun fact, calling tech support is awful and nobody does it for fun. Well, except apparently the person who designed this “puzzle”. Then we have the breaking arms and lunchtime puzzles which are just… build a bridge here, hit the button, sprint across to the new bridge, make another bridge, run back to the third bridge. I dunno. It’s very uninspired. And then we have the airlocks. Or as I like to call it, wasted potential. This puzzle COULD HAVE BEEN great. But they made it so overly complex and so long that it gets grating.
Now, for the atmosphere. Honestly, I think this Palace does atmosphere very well (which is ironic since it’s in space). But it really gives the idea of a ruthless, corporate conglomerate. And while I think the music is one of the worst tracks in the game, it really does fit here. It’s tedious, repetitive, and droning. Just like working in fast food (and being in this Palace).
And length. Yeah. It’s long. Probably the longest Palace. It definitely feels like it.
So yeah. This Palace is kind of not great.
#8 - Kaneshiro in the House from Disney/Pixar’s Up
Now, I don’t want people to think I hate this Palace. Because I don’t. But I do find it to be one of the more bland ones. It’s just kind of… uninspired. Eh. I’ll get more into it below.
So as far as the story goes it makes sense but… there isn’t a lot TO Kaneshiro. Like, he’s a guy who likes robbing people. We never get to know him beyond that. So a bank is kind of the only option. So it makes sense because well… nothing else would as far as we know.
And unfortunately, this impacts how creative the Palace is. It’s cool that it’s flying, but the flight part is a little… irrelevant. Once you’re in the bank it’s just kind of… a bank. Like, there’s nothing really unique or cool about it. It’s a bank. All of it. The whole thing is just a normal, run of the mill bank once you’re inside. Well… except the money pit. Which is a full like 5 minutes of the Palace so ya’know.
Now, for the Gimmicks. There is one. One singular gimmick. And I don’t really like it. Kaneshiro’s bank has the “letter math”. Basically he has a bunch of notes with things like D=1, U=2, M=3, and B=4. Then you go to a panel with the word DUMB on it and put in the code 1234 (sounds like something an idiot would put on his luggage). So yeah. It… certainly exists.
Now I will say, I do like the atmosphere. And the BGM is, as the kids say, “A bop”. I’d say it’s the… fourth best Palace track. And the Palace DOES really feel like a bank. It’s heavily guarded, and you really get the feeling of “I don’t belong here” after you pass the main room. This is the only Palace that really made me feel like I was trespassing somewhere I wasn’t welcomed. And if you’ve ever been anywhere in a bank that isn’t the main hall, I’m sure you get the feeling. And the basement level does give me that sort of “bank heist” vibe.
Now, I don’t know how long this Palace is. But it certainly feels long. I think most of this is the basement level. Once you get to the lettenumber puzzle it feels kind of like it starts dragging.
So yeah. This Palace is… it’s okay. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just kinda exists.
#7 - S.S. Shido
I don’t know how controversial this one will be. But I don’t really enjoy this Palace all that much. It gets REALLY old REALLY quickly. But it does have some merits.
Firstly, the Ship idea makes a lot of sense. Especially after Haru just goes “Here’s the metaphor!” in case the player doesn’t get it. Yeah, it makes sense that Shido has a giant cruise liner filled with only the elite as the country around him collapses. Plus, he does talk about “steering the country” more often than Ryuji says “FOR REAL?!” … okay. Maybe that’s not factual. But you get my point.
Now I will say, this Palace is very creative. The idea of a giant Ship cutting through buildings is cool. And I like how it’s treated as a cruise liner because it allows for a lot of additional areas, like the pool restaurant, and obviously the usual ship bits.
Now for the gimmicks… there is one. It’s the rat puzzle. And it can go fuck itself. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Now for the atmosphere. It feels perfect. The Palace itself feels grand, powerful, and intimidating, and the score accompanying it amplifies that feeling by quite a lot. I think it’s a bit of a step down from other Palaces, but it certainly makes sense and really works in regards to Shido.
As for length… holy hell this Palace is long. Both literally and mentally. It has basically 5 mini levels, really annoying and long puzzles, and a whole game’s worth of dialogue. I get that they have a lot of loose ends to wrap up but ye gods this Palace feels like it takes an eternity to beat.
This Palace is the textbook definition of wasted potential. It could have been amazing. It has all the pieces it needed to be. But they squander them by diluting the palace with annoying puzzles and WAY too much tangentially-related plot stuff.
#6 - King Kamoshida’s Crazy Castle
Now, I know that I have this one at 6th. But that isn’t a bad thing. I personally think this is the first “good” palace. It’s nothing amazing or crazy, but for the first Palace it’s nice and fun.
Obviously the Castle aesthetic works with Kamoshida. It makes a lot of sense seeing how he lords his power over everyone in the school. Even Principal Eggman gives in to him. So an idea of him lording over everyone obviously makes a lot of sense. And a bit of a fun fact, the guards in his Palace have the same voices as the other teachers.
And the big Castle is actually pretty creative. For a first Palace it really sets a tone, and standard for other Palaces to follow. It’s grand, absurd, and completely disgusting. Makes sense for something formed from distorted desires. There are also some really cool areas like the chandelier hopping, and the crazy, distorted upper floors.
Now for gimmicks. They’re kind of simple. The two present are the book ones, where you need to place the proper book in the proper section, and the one where you need to kill enemies to get the eyes for the statue. Neither are particularly hard, or particularly inspired. They aren’t bad though. And they aren’t overly-long. They’re standard RPG trope puzzles.
Now the atmosphere is kind of… strange. Honestly, I find it hard to take this Palace seriously. The BGM sounds like something out of a 70’s porno, and the Palace itself honestly feels like 70’s porn meets Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t really fit the story content of the outside world. It doesn’t reflect Kamoshida’s abuse or Shiho’s suicide. It feels a little too silly. I still like the aesthetic, but I don’t think it really fits with the plot. It needed to be more serious.
And this Palace, unfortunately, does start to drag. By the time you reach the messed up, hyper distorted floors where the floor tiles are floating around, the Palace is getting a bit old. Though this could be due to the fact that you don’t really get to make any progress during your first like… four visits.
Overall, it’s a solid Palace, and a great starting point.
#5 - Madarame’s Museum (I couldn’t think of a creative name for this one. I’m sorry.)
I really like this one. It’s fantastic. And I realize saying that for the 5th ranked Palace is kind of weird, but honestly I think that’s just a testament to how great the next four are.
Starting off like normal, this Palace makes a lot of sense… but I always found it odd that his distortion is a Museum. Because like… that isn’t exactly unusual. He’s a renowned artist with a ton of very famous works. I feel like he has art in museums. I mean, we’re introduced to him at an exhibit. I dunno. It’s a nitpicky issue that I don’t want to press. Regardless, it obviously makes sense. And I love how all the paintings in here are sort of distorted in their own way to show how Madarame has to change his own cognition to accept his art as his own.
And uh… yeah. This Palace is creative as hell. Sure, at first it feels like a normal museum. But stuff like the weird golden staircase abyss, the awesome courtyard, and the painting puzzles are so cool.
Speaking of the painting puzzles. There are two major puzzles here. The painting ones where you enter paintings Mario 64 style, and the Sayuri puzzle.
The one where you enter the paintings is kind of cool, because ultimately it’s about remembering the path that works, while also unlocking other paths to take and figuring out which path will let you escape. It’s cool, and brief, but a little TOO easy. Then there’s the Sayuri puzzle which I love. Basically you are presented with a few different paintings. All the Sayuri, but with slightly different modifications. And you need to pick the “real” one. I like this because it tests how well you were paying attention. They start off obvious, but the differences get more and more subtle as it goes on. It’s a great gimmick.
As far as the atmosphere goes, this place is great. Not only does it match the overall feeling of an art museum, but it honestly has this sort of tenseness to it. I can’t really describe it, but it almost feels ominous. And I think that fits given that Madarame himself is a rather ominous figure. We know he’s bad, but we can’t really prove it for most of the arc.
And I think this Palace has a perfect length. It doesn’t feel rushed or like it’s dragging, and I think that’s more because of the physical length. It isn’t an overly long Palace as far as playtime goes.
So yeah. This one is pretty damn good. I like it.
#4 - Sae’s Controversial Casino
Yeah. This one is going to piss people off. I know that a LOT of people have this as their favorite Palace. And I can understand why. But it has a few issues that sort of drag it down for me. They don’t drag it down MUCH, but they keep it from getting any higher on my list.
Obviously, the Palace makes sense as far as the story is concerned. Sae sees her job as essentially rigged gambling. Anyone outside “the system” thinks they can win, but in reality it’s not possible. As such, everything in her Palace is rigged to make it unwinnable. Or it SHOULD be. But we have a Futaba. So we get to cheat too. “Mwehehe”.
Honestly, the casino and premise is very creative. The concept of a Casino full of rigged games that you need to unrig is awesome, and the layout and mission is great. Also, I love how they have it set up so Sae actively wants you to try to reach her. It’s incredibly unique as far as that goes.
Now for gimmicks. There’s really only one, because most of the time you’re either walking around or killing things. And this gimmick… kind of sucks to be honest. I’m talking about the House of Darkness. It’s the only part that is more than a cutscene, standard area, or standart fight. But all it is is a standard area you can’t see. And it sort of sucks. It’s really… boring. And kind of lengthy. It’s pretty bad.
As far as the atmosphere goes it uh… well, it certainly feels like a Casino. And Sae’s presence throughout makes it feel much like how the plot does outside. Sae and the SIU are closing in, rigging the game and challenging you to take the fight to them. It’s great, and I love the plot elements here.
And now onto my major gripe. The length. This is definitely the shortest Palace. And it feels short half of the time. The problem is that the parts that DON’T feel short are painfully bad, and feel painfully long. I’m talking mostly about the Dice Game, and the House of Darkness. As I just said, the House of Darkness is little more than some dark corridors. And unfortunately, the Dice Game is the same, but without the darkness. There’s no real “Game” to this Casino. It’s just a bunch of drab, grey hallways that feel like a nuisance to traverse. It sucks when what you WANT is to get to the good Casino shenanigans (like the Arena) but instead have… this stuff. It makes the Palace feel like it drags, even though it’s probably the shortest one.
So yeah. I still love this Palace but it has some glaring issues that I can’t overlook.
#3 - Lil Sister’s Big Pyramid
God I love this Palace. Much like with my Showtime list, I honestly think I could lump my top 3 all in as my “Favorite Palace” but for the sake of this I did want to try to dive into this on a deeper level. I’ll admit, too, that from here on a lot of these placements are more on gut feeling.
Anyway, to start off, this one works incredibly well as far as story. Throughout the entire Palace we see Futaba go back and forth between wanting help and rejecting help. Her shadow knows we’re busting in from day one and follows us around just like Sae does. But due to her desire to push people away, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle against her to save her, even though she wants us to save her. And the fact that her Palace is a pyramid out in the middle of the desert is awesome symbolism for how Futaba’s position is. She hates the idea of being near other people, so she locks herself away.
Now, I personally think this Palace is super creative. It has a nice blend of ancient Egypt with the pyramid, but also ultra-modern tech stuff. Random flecks of data appearing all around, mechanical traps, and the room before the boss which is basically a massive data stream with floating hunks of pyramid floor in it. It’s just so cool. It’s a combination of ancient and modern that shouldn’t work, but does.
As for gimmicks, there are three major ones here and I think they’re all great. Firstly are the Anubis puzzles. These are pretty simple, but the gist is you grab an orb from one statue and need to put it in another. However taking them blocks off certain paths. It’s not super hard. But I like it.
Next, there is the binary puzzle. Again, fairly simple. There’s a red column and a blue one, and you need to put in certain binary codes in these columns to unlock certain doors.
Finally, there’re the picture puzzles. And honestly I love these. You come to a mural of something important to Futaba’s life and you need to rearrange them to make the picture “correct”. I love it because the scrambled appearance is symbolic of Futaba’s distorted view of these events. And they get harder as you do more, but never overly hard. It’s just a quick, fun mini-game.
As for atmosphere, I think it does a great job of showing the isolation, desperation, and mistrust Futaba feels. The music score (my 3rd favorite Palace theme) is absolutely amazing and the wailing guitar helps to show the pain in Futaba’s heart.
And while this one is lengthy, it never feels overly long or overly short. It changes up the pace enough to feel fresh, and doesn’t overuse the elements it has.
So as you can see, I have no problems with this Palace. Only things I like. Which is why Placing these top three was so hard for me. But I think the things I like in the other two I happen to like more.
#2 - The Public’s Prison. Memes and Mentos.
Now, Mementos itself is kinda bleh. We all know this. But the Depths of Mementos, the Prison of Regression, is absolutely incredible. And I KNOW this one is going to be controversial as hell. But I can’t help it. I love this Palace. It’s so good.
To start with, obviously this one works with the story outside because… well… it’s the one most linked to the outside plot. This is about every single person in the world being unwilling to commit and plot their own lives. And this place thematically matches. It’s a prison, because every person sees themselves as a prisoner.
And the creativeness levels are off the charts. Sure, they could have gone with a stereotypical “hell” level but they didn’t. It’s a prison of almost alien design. It’s the kind of weird, off the wall evil that I’d expect to see in Mass Effect. Like I could see the Reapers living in the Prison of Regression while they wait for the next cycle. It’s just so damn cool looking. I love this place. It’s so menacingly malevolent without beating you over the head with the horror it holds. Plus the post-fusion part in the second half is so wild and insane looking. It looks like something I’d expect to see in Doom.
The Gimmicks are also great. While there’s only one real Gimmick, it’s a fun one. A puzzle where you need to light up tiles on the floor. The first one is a gimme. But they increase in difficulty to hilariously easy, to you actually needing to complete other puzzles first in order to do the one necessary to progress.
I already sort of touched on this with the creative part, but the atmosphere of just existential dread this place holds is immense. And the BGM, Freedom and Security (my personal favorite Palace theme) really hammers that home. It has an eerie, ominous feeling to it that really works well in tandem with the rest of the level. And as I mentioned above, tt flips from being dreadful and terrifying, to having our heroes triumphantly running up a staircase of bones, destroying Yaldy’s minions as they march on to kick his ass like Doom Guy sprinting through Hell to kill a big boss demon.
Finally, it’s a perfect length. Not overly long, but not short either. And the plot elements halfway through give a nice breather and tone shift before thrusting you into the awesome second half as you climb up to the Grail’s chamber.
If I had to give a reason why this one is in second place, it’s that the second half is a little too focused on being cinematically badass that it foregoes exploration in exchange for a linear path. And while it works well, I still prefer the first half of the Palace.
#1 - Dr. Snack’s Hospital of Happiness
Here it is folks. My Number one. I don’t think this one will be as controversial as some of the others. But even so. Here we are!
So to start, obviously this Palace makes a ton of sense for Maruki. He was intended to get a research lab built in the spot where this Palace forms, and the Palace IS a research lab. So obviously that works. And the whole concept was about using cognition to change people’s lives for the better. We can see this in the Palace during the quiz section where we see how Maruki guides patients to his happiness. Which is thematically nice because it shows that while Maruki claims he wants everyone to be happy with their desires, he actually wants them happy with his. Anyway, I’m rambling. The Palace is great as far as story and makes sense for the character.
And yeah. This place is creative as hell. It’s not just a research lab. It’s a massive spire with rainbow bridges, massive telescopes, and a dome on top meant to represent heaven since Maruki sees himself as God. It’s the most grandiose, over the top thing in this game. And I’ll remind you, in this game you shoot a God in the face with a sword gun.
*ahem* anyway. The gimmicks here are really damn good. The first thing is the awesome Quiz section. I do think it’s a little bogged down by the whole “The team must meet and discuss” part, but I love how this whole thing is just “How well do you know Maruki?”. If you know him well, you get a reward. If you don’t, you get punished. Then there’s the color bridge section which is just “If the Okumura space tunnels didn’t suck”. It’s so good because it requires a lot more strategy and a lot less luck than the Okumura port. And if you make a mistake it’s a much easier fix.
The atmosphere is amazing too. The sterile but obviously corrupted first bit when you’re in the main building feels very clinical. But the strange bits of oddities really gives off an other-worldly vibe. Remember how I said the Prison of Regression felt like it had Mass Effect vibes? This part has like… Resident Evil vibes. It’s like a modern hospital tainted by an otherworldly monstrosity and it’s awesome (and, actually, not far from the truth. Much love, Azathoth.) Oh, and the BGM is my 2nd favorite. I fucking adore Gentle Madman.
As for the length, I do think it’s probably the longest Palace. It definitely comes close with Okumura. The difference is you’re actually forced out about a third of the way through and, if you’re playing “optimally”, you won’t be back for a bit. So it never feels like it gets old or tired. And it changes up often enough, and with drastic enough changes that it never drags on like the bottom three Palaces on this list. So it’s great.
GOD DAMN I LOVE THIS PALACE.
Aaaaanyway. That’s my list. I’m thinking I’ll do bosses next, but I dunno. What would you guys want a massive rank essay on? Bosses? Awakenings? Phantom Thief members? Party Personas? And what are your thoughts on this here list? How would you rank the Palaces?
I hope you all enjoyed this, and I look forward to hearing your opinions in the comments!
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