How to Start Trading in Binary Options? - Llibre Web

Reddit K-Pop Census Results 2020

Intro

It almost took us the same amount of time this year as it did last year. We think it's worth the wait. The results are in and we can't wait to share them with you!
This year we've received a tremendous amount of help from u/gates0fdawn. She designed the whole infographic you'll see linked below, we're super grateful she took the time to create this, we think it looks super good.
I would also like to shout out valuable community members who helped us out with both proofreading and giving valuable opinions. One of our Discord Mods: OldWhiskeyGuy from the subreddit discord server helped with proofreading a lot. u/SirBuckeye for valuable input and thoughts as well as industry officials who doesn't want to be named. Super thankful for all the help!
Yet again we kept the age gate, so every account created after August 1st were not allowed to participate in the census.

Click me to view the Census Results!

Breakdown and Comparison

Personal Questions

Where Do You Currently Live?

  • World Region - 56.8% of the participants are based in North America, majority in the US. 22% are in Europe, majority in the UK. 10.3% in Asia, with most users in Philippines, Singapore and India.
  • Time Zones - Check the infographic for a better overview for this one. Majority of users are in UTC-05 and UTC-06.

K-Pop Engagement Questions

  • How were you first exposed to K-pop? - This first segment got divided into two questions this year. Most of our users had their first exposure to K-Pop through a friend, co-worker or classmate. A lot also had their first exposure to K-Pop through Youtube videos and recommendations. 10.6% were exposed to K-Pop through Gangnam Style.
  • What got you into K-pop? - 29.2% said that there were specific artists / groups that made you stay in the genre. 25.7% got into K-Pop from specific songs and MVs. 15.4 were interested in the songs and albums.
  • When did you start listening to K-Pop? - The users who started listening to K-pop 5-3 years ago was the largest % here at 19.5%. Last year, 7.8% of our users started listening to K-Pop less than a year ago, that's now gone down to 5.2%.
  • How do you listen to K-Pop? - Paid streaming rose from 62.2% last year to 63.8% this year. Piracy declined from 18.3% to 14.5%.
  • What other genres do you listen to? - New question this year. The largest three genres were Pop (80.5%), Hip-Hop / Rap (47.1%) and Rock (42.4%)
  • Do you know Korean? - 75.9% know very little to no Korean. This is roughly the same as last years census at 75.9%. 3.3% can speak conversational Korean.
  • Are you learning Korean? - 38.1% wants to learn but haven't taken it seriously yet. 13.5% are actively engaged in learning Korean.
  • Where do you get your K-Pop news? - 98.8% use kpop to get their news. Twitter, group subreddits, Youtube and Instagram also score high.
  • How often do you visit kpop? - 35.5% visit kpop multiple times a day. while 31.2% visit about once a day. 21.4% visit a few times per week.
  • What is your primary way to view kpop? - 44.5% use the official mobile app. This has decreased from last years 60%. 18.1% use Desktop Redesign (me included). This has now overtaken Desktop Old Design at 16.9%.
  • Is this your first kpop census? Not included as a question in the infographic. 50.8% said that this is their first census. 22.5% had their first census last year. 26.7% said that their first census was two or more years ago.

Favourite Artists

Favourite Soloists:

  1. IU (2175 votes)
  2. Chungha (2004 votes)
  3. Sunmi (1782 votes)
  4. Taeyeon (1442 votes)
  5. Taemin (1080 votes)
  6. Agust D / Suga (1046 votes)
  7. Hwasa (1046 votes)
  8. Baekhyun (900 votes)
  9. Hyuna (879 votes)
  10. Zico (700 votes)
IU (1st, 2175) reclaims the 1st place over Chungha (2nd, 2004).
Sunmi (3rd, 1782), Taeyeon (4th, 1442) and Taemin (5th, 1080) keep their same position as last years census.
Agust D (6th, 1046) has moved from last year's 8th place and moved up to a combined 6th place with newcomer Hwasa (6th, 1046) Hwasa was previously voted 17th place at last years census.
Baekhyun (8th, 900) was placed at 16th place at last years census but now climbed up to 8th.
Hyuna (9th, 879) was 7th place at last years census but is now at 9th place. Zico (10th, 700) was voted to 23rd place last year, he's now up to 10th place.
Artists who dropped out of the top 10: RM (12th, 658), Heize (13th, 637), Dean (14th, 620).

Favourite Groups:

  1. Red Velvet (2857 votes)
  2. TWICE (2410 votes)
  3. BTS (1876 votes)
  4. ITZY (1555 votes)
  5. BLACKPINK (1550 votes)
  6. MAMAMOO (1464 votes)
  7. NCT (All Units) (1382 votes)
  8. LOONA (All Units) (1345 votes)
  9. (G)I-DLE (1334 votes)
  10. EXO (1320 votes)
Red Velvet (1st, 2857) retakes their throne over TWICE (2nd, 2410) this year.
BTS (3rd, 1876) is still topping the boy group vote.
ITZY (4th, 1555) was placed 12th place last year. They have now moved up and taken the 4th place, they have pushed Girls' Generation (12th, 1155) out of the top 10.
LOONA (8th, 1345) was 4th last year but has now been overtaken by NCT (7th, 1382), MAMAMOO (6th, 1464) and Blackpink (5th, 1550).
EXO (10th, 1320) went from 8th last year to 10th this year.
Artists who dropped out of the top 10: Girls' Generation (12th, 1155).
I recommend checking the infographic for this one to see the differences in male and female voting in both favourite groups and favourite soloists.

Final Note

Thank you all for participating in this years census! Sorry it took a little while for us to upload it, but we tried to do it as fast as possible. If there are any questions you'd like to see altered or improved for next years census then we're all ears. We think more data is better.
Cheers, and stay safe during this crazy pandemic.
Nish
submitted by NishinosanTV to kpop [link] [comments]

2.9.3 Stable update!

2.9.3 Stable update!
What is up Depthians!
We are back with another monstrous update as this one incorporates five beta test builds, so we have a lot to cover.
If you want to dive straight into the massive changelog/dissertation Click
We should probably start with the biggest change to From The Depths in this update and that is the change of fuel and ammo storage.
Quoting Nick, our lead developer
The change is quite simple: "remove ammo and fuel as separate resources. Weapons will consume materials directly, fuel engines and CJEs will burn materials directly".
Before I dig into why I think this is the right thing for FtD, I'd like to explain a few details.
Energy, fuel and ammo are still needed for your constructs.
We have changed the "ammo barrels (etc)" and "fuel tanks" so they are just alternative material storage containers, but with the following properties:
--"ammo barrels" now increase the maximum possible rate of usage of materials as "ammo" for reloading guns. They still explode.
--"fuel tanks" increase the maximum possible rate of use of materials as "fuel" for fuel engines and CJEs, with the future stretch goal of fuel tanks being flammable.
--So ammo racking is going to remain a feature of the game- vehicles that need to reload a large amount of materials may need additional ammo barrels
Ammo and oil processors are replaced ship-wide with existing material storage containers of the same size. They'll be made decorative blocks so you can still use them decoratively in future if you want to.
The oil refinery will be repurposed (described later in the patch notes)
There are two main reasons why I think this is the right move. Why it's right for the business and why it's right for the player.
Let's start with why I think it's right for the player:
Ammo and fuel containers are currently purchasable as either "empty or full". This is confusing when considered in the context of the campaign, story missions, custom battles, multiplayer matches...how do empty and full tanks behave in these modes? I'd need an hour to study the code and a small essay to explain it. That's not good game design.
Localised resources, when considering just the moving of material (and energy, if you want), becomes infinitely more manageable. The supply group system and the transit fleet system are not intuitive and for a lot of situations, their usage becomes fiddly and too complicated. We've replaced these systems with a new supply system that is much more intuitive for moving materials and energy around.
The UI is less cluttered now that ammo and fuel bars are not shown. This is not a minor point...it'll reduce the amount of data on screen by about 40% in a lot of the different views. It'll be so much easier to know at a glance if a particular fleet is running low on "materials" or doing fine. Is a transport ready to leave, or does it need to pick up more materials? Will a set of vehicles have enough materials for the next fight...this is so much easier with just one main resource type per vehicle.
When you or an enemy run out of ammo or fuel in a battle it's just frustrating. By combining fuel, ammo and materials for repairing you can guarantee that if someone runs out, the fight is going to be over quickly.
I imagine that deep down the majority of players would rather not have to create, stock and resupply fuel and ammo. I know that personally, the requirement to do this puts me off playing the campaign. By using a single material it still focuses the game on making efficient war machines, maintaining supply lines and growing your economy, but without the extra confusion of mat->ammo and mat-> fuel conversion.
Being able to assess weapons, engines and vehicles in terms of material cost and running cost is elegant.
Most grand strategy games and RTS games don't have localised resources, and many don't have more than 2 resource types to handle. Very few combine localised materials with multiple types.
Why it's right for the business:
The ammo and oil processors were created about 8 years ago. Boring single blocks that don't add much to the game. It's been our intention to add something similar to the oil refinery but for ammo creation. That's a lot of work and adds to the complexity of the logistical part of the game, which we feel is already a burden.
Making the localised resource supply system more user friendly to make it easy/natural/pleasant to move ammo, fuel and material around the map would require a lot of effort and, quite frankly, I'm not sure we'd ever manage it.
The complexity of the UI scares off a lot of our customers. The barriers to getting a gun firing or a boat moving will be lowered if a single material container can theoretically get everything working.
Running out of ammo/fuel in combat is a problem for our players. We want to find a solution to that, but it would take a lot of effort to do so. We also want the strategic AI to always enter a battle with enough ammo and fuel for the fight- that's another massive bunch of work.
The campaign's strategic AI has to work hard to get materials where it wants them. It's a bundle of work and added complexity to get NPC fleets to restock ammo and fuel as well.
We had proposed work to make resource dumps (from dead ships) contain ammo and fuel...again, that's more work, more bugs, more testing.
Certain game modes such as story missions, tournament mode, and multiplayer maps should theoretically allow the player to choose the amount of ammo or fuel stocked into their vehicles before the match begins. That's another bundle of work and added complexity we'd like to avoid.
Currently out of play units on the map can run out of fuel and will still continue to move "for free". It's exploitable and we don't have a solution to that...but if all the different out of play movement calculations are burning material, there will be no avoiding the cost.
The development effort can be much better spent polishing up other features that I actually believe in, rather than flogging the dead horse of logistical complexity in an attempt to make it interesting, approachable and fun for everyone (which I fundamentally don't think it would ever be).
Fundamentally I think that by winding back this feature we tie up a large number of loose ends and it results in a far more finished and enjoyable product.
And what's-more everyone on the development team agrees that we enjoy the game for fighting, looting and creating...not staring blankly at dozens of resource bars trying to figure out who needs to head back for more fuel and how long we need to wait for ammunition to process.
We've also simplified the resource transfer system. "Supply groups" and "Transit Fleets" have been replaced with a simple but comprehensive three-tier system. You can mark a vehicle as a "Creator", a "Cargo" or a "User". Creators fill up Cargos (and Users), Cargos give to Users (up to procurement levels). Users equalise their material with their neighbours, so do Creators, and there are a few handy transfers from Users back to Cargo and Creator to make sure they maintain their procurement levels as well. This system covers 95% of the way people were using the resource system and does it all semi-automatically. This simplification is much more possible now that materials are the only resource, as they invariably just need to flow from the resource zones to the front line, with everyone (Creators and Cargo) keeping what they need and passing the rest on. This new resource system also facilitates the long-range transport of materials from refinery to refinery, which is neat. The system also has an option, for Creator and Cargo types, to set their "supply chain index", so if you want to relay materials from output to output in order to accumulate them at a central location you can set the supply chain index to determine which way along the chain the materials will flow. It's all explained in the game.
After spending a lot of time with this new system from adventure to campaign and designer mode, the gameplay feels a little faster to get going and a little simpler for fleet management. As if you didn’t already know, you can shift+right click (with your supply construct selected) on the target construct / flagship of a fleet to keep supplied, keep holding down shift and right-click where you want to pick the resources up from and once again while not letting go of shift, shift+right click on the target construct/flag ship to finish the loop.
This would be done of course after setting up the settings Creator, Cargo and User.
Creator as an example is the harvesting construct, Cargo which would be the supply ship, User which would be a single target construct that uses the mats.
This will keep the supply ship target waypoint updated and therefore your supply ship will always head to the target construct no matter where it has moved to after setting up the loop.
You still need ammo and fuel boxes on your constructs, as these are governing the transfer rate / the speed that stock your turrets and fuel engine with the materials needed for them to run. You can run a construct without fuel or ammo boxes, however, once your APS clips are empty you will see a drop in your rate of fire as the material is not being transferred fast enough, this is the same for fuel engines and CJE.
Another change that goes hand in hand with resource management is the changes to fuel refineries.
In short:
Refineries on a force with greater than 1 million materials on it will begin refining the material into 'commodities' that are stored centrally. Commodities (AKA centralised materials) can be added by the player to any vehicle in allied territory, at any time.
Resource zones have a new feature too, and that is the ability to deactivate a resource zone on your owned tiles and if you own enough territory as you can see from the UI when double-clicking on the resource zone “Zone Deactivation”.
https://preview.redd.it/284w9khtt9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=9dd61b06b2b6d0431bbb35c44a4d54563b81fbf0
Custom Jet Engines, have had some additional parts and new features.
We have the new ducted air intakes which as you can see have different attachment points
https://preview.redd.it/qaqeplmwt9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=2ac2019d4b0c908019bf0ef0d53ad3a718fc4f4d
These ducted intakes allow you to have your CJE enclosed inside your construct enabling you to pass ducting through to access airflow outside.
https://preview.redd.it/pge1x43yt9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=f2ee0cf35276f45feeb7320b29d844fa54776cdf
https://preview.redd.it/scych37zt9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=1bf7559bc2379b692b7a318ba8f43708f5bba81e
And as you can see in the pic below they are enclosed and making use of the air duct intakes.
https://preview.redd.it/ucidv351u9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=7d93e0c08d381fcaea2bcfc315c7b676f4006b51
You can also funnel the exhaust of your CJE's that would be under the waterline by using the two new connector blocks, a 90-degree corner and an extension piece which allows them to work as long as you funnel the exhaust out above the waterline.
https://preview.redd.it/aiofdee2u9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=72c1dd2023195ef2337704d0547904031ad97e6c
PACs have also had a rework and new additions.
We now have the long-range lens which has a circular 10° field of fire, the close-range lens which has a circular 35° field of fire, the scatter lens which has a circular 30° field of fire, and the vertical lens which has a 10° horizontal / 60° vertical field of fire (good for AA). The other differences between them is the percentage of damage drop off at certain ranges, which is marked in their UI.
https://preview.redd.it/zvg2u0c5u9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=567a2c4e092ea5fef62e67b051a74151e48b58d4
https://preview.redd.it/mboi63c5u9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=78690d46df1466844cc38ff6b6623a30d910b726
One other awesome change to the PAC system is that melee lenses do not need to be hooked up to the now called long-range lens. Simply setup your melee head and snakey noodle PAC tubes with a terminator on the end, then link up to your other melee lens via Q in the drop-down menu. The scatter lens also deserves some attention here, as it can double up the number of beams if we increase the charge time max x4 at 30 seconds. The PAC system has had many tweaks which you should check up on in the changelogs.
Shields have also had some love. Projector shields reflect and laser scatter modes are now merged and have also had a slight buff to ricochet chance. Ring shields armour bonus has also increased by 50%.
We also have some new additions to APS in terms of coolers.
From left to right we now have an L shape, 4 way and a 5 way cooler.
https://preview.redd.it/lfi937e7u9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=4ff99ceae914777137262754baa017300c2f4c1f
We now have some new wide wheel additions too for all you land vehicle lovers.
https://preview.redd.it/1ysi7u68u9t51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=0760606aa3aebbde24a44fcb7319477453ee3b99
The next biggest change would be steam engines even though other changes will be implemented in this update. We are once again rehashing the whole system, which will be released in the following updates.
I had asked Weng a number of questions as to why the change was needed, why are the parts expensive, when and why would you use steam over fuel, and this is what he had to say:
Reason why steam changes are needed:
  • Steam was previously totally unbalanced and arbitrary. For example, 9 small boilers with 1 small piston was the optimal steam setup, which was more efficient and denser than almost all other engines; and turbine power generation only depended on its pressure, so compact turbines were always optimal.
  • It lacked many critical info in its UI.
  • It was hard to control the usage of steam

What's good with new steam:
  • A bit more of realism and complexity
  • Larger steam now generally have better efficiency and density than equivalent smaller steam
  • More useful info such as total power production, performance over time
  • Possibility to regulate steam usage with valves

Pros of steam compared to injector fuel:
  • Denser and more efficient
  • Even denser with turbines
  • Easier to fit into irregular space
  • Provides a buffer with flywheels or steam tanks
  • More efficient when used for propellers
  • Doesn't require fuel containers, uses material directly from any type of storage
  • Computationally less intensive
Cons of steam compared to fuel:

  • Still hard to regulate, so it's only useful when the power usage is constant or there's a buffer energy storage
  • Turbines waste energy when batteries are full
  • Crankshafts waste energy when reaching speed limit
  • More susceptible to damage (injector engines can often still run fine even when half of it is gone, steam can stop working when a single pipe is destroyed)
Why cost of parts is hilariously high: Steam engines have better efficiency and density (many players seem to forget that one) than injector engines. So a higher initial costs makes it less overpowered.
(In my opinion, the potential waste of energy is a major drawback of steam and justifies for its high potential power. But iirc Draba said that injector engines would be useless on designs that require a lot of power if steam doesn't have higher initial cost, which also makes sense.)
Problem with new steam that can't be fixed:
  • Many old designs are broken due to low power output
  • More complexity
Problems that can probably be fixed but I don't have a solution:
  • Inefficient steam engines are ridiculously bad (a bad steam engine is like 30 PPM and 50 PPV, while a good one is around 600 PPM and 110 PPV) (I tried to fix this and spent like 40 hours on that, but I only managed to make it easier to build a mediocre engine)
  • Cannot be simulated to calculate a stable power output, like fuel engines do (actually it's easy but would take a lot of time to do and I don't think it's necessary)

Another massive change is the detection rework which I also left a few questions for Ian AKA Blothorn to explain the system and how it works.
Why a change was warranted:
  • Different types of detection weren't well balanced--for instance, visual components had better accuracy than IR and vastly better range.
  • Detection autoadjust used an incorrect formula, so optimizing adjustment was both mechanical and tedious.
  • Trackers having much better detection ranges than search sensors meant that detection was very binary--if you could see something at all you could usually get a precise lock (barring ECM, which was only counterable by large numbers of components).
  • Needing both sensors and munitions warners made reactive missile defence difficult on small vehicles.
  • There were a number of other inconsistencies/imbalances, e.g. some visual/IR sensors working through water, steam engines producing no heat, etc.
Overview of the new system:
On the offensive side, each sensor type now has a role in which it is optimal, and large vehicles are best using a variety to cover their weaknesses. Visual probably remains the default for above-water detection--it remains impossible to reduce visual signature other than reducing size. IR is better against fast vehicles, as they have trouble avoiding high IR signatures from thrust and drag. Both visual and IR are weak in rangefinding (although coincidence rangefinders are adequate for most purposes); radar is correspondingly strong in range and weak in bearing, although it often offers better detection chances against vehicles that don't pay attention to radar stealth.
On the defensive side, there are two approaches. Most obvious is signature reduction--while it is deliberately difficult to avoid detection entirely, reducing signature reduces detection chances and thus degrades opposing accuracy. At short ranges, however, this doesn't work well--detection chances are likely high regardless, and low errors at short range mean even sparse detections can give a good fix. Smoke and chaff can be useful here: they increase detection chance while adding a distance-independent error to opponent's visual and radar sensors, respectively.
ECM, buoys, and radar guidance have also been reworked. Buoys are more powerful, becoming more accurate as they get closer to the target. While their base error is high, at long ranges a buoy at close range can beat the accuracy of any onboard sensor. If you worry about opponents’ buoys, ECM can now intermittently jam them--except if they are connected to their parent vehicle by a harpoon cable, in which case they don't need the vulnerable wireless connection.
Most blueprints should need no modifications under the new system, although a few may want a few more or less GPP cards. The one exception is water interactions--IR cameras, laser rangefinders, and retroreflection sensors can no longer work through water, so submarines that used them underwater or vehicles that used them to detect submarines will need to replace them (likely with buoys). Vehicles that predominantly used visual detection should also consider adding a greater variety of sensors--in particular, visual camera trackers tied to AA mainframes should likely be replaced with IR cameras. Also, radars and cameras can take over missile and projectile detection (radar is required for projectile detection), so munitions warners can be removed/replaced with additional sensors.
Last but not least a sweet little addition to our build menu prefabs.
https://preview.redd.it/iqw1ymabu9t51.png?width=1920&format=png&auto=webp&s=aa1e3cdba6e1d62e07aef83caf0acad2a39249ed
Please do make sure you go through the changelog as a hell of a lot has changed!
submitted by BaconsTV to FromTheDepths [link] [comments]

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!
submitted by SynthoStellar to HFY [link] [comments]

Since 1983, I have lived, worked and raised a family in a progressive, egalitarian, income-sharing intentional community (or commune) of 100 people in rural Virginia. AMA.

Hello Reddit!
My name is Keenan Dakota, I have lived at Twin Oaks, an income-sharing, intentional community in rural Virginia for 36 years, since 1983. I grew up in northern Virginia, my parents worked in government. I went to George Mason University where I studied business management. I joined Twin Oaks when I was 23 because I lost faith in the underpinnings of capitalism and looking for a better model. I have stayed because over time capitalism hasn't looked any better, and its a great place to raise children. While at Twin Oaks, I raised two boys to adulthood, constructed several buildings, managed the building maintenance program, have managed some of the business lines at different times.
Proof this is me. A younger photo of me at Twin Oaks. Here is a video interview of me about living at Twin Oaks. Photo of Twin Oaks members at the 50th anniversary.
Some things that make life here different from the mainstream:
More about Twin Oaks:
Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, made up of around 90 adult members and 15 children. Since the community's beginning in 1967, our way of life has reflected our values of cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology.
We do not have a group religion; our beliefs are diverse. We do not have a central leader; we govern ourselves by a form of democracy with responsibility shared among various managers, planners, and committees. We are self-supporting economically, and partly self-sufficient. We are income-sharing. Each member works 42 hours a week in the community's business and domestic areas. Each member receives housing, food, healthcare, and personal spending money from the community.
We have open-slots and are accepting applications for new members. All prospective new members must participate in a three-week visitor program. Applicants to join must leave for 30 days after their visit while the community decides on their application.
We offer a $5 tour on Saturdays of the property, starting in March. More info here.
Ask me anything!
TL;DR: Opted out of the rat-race and retired at 23 to live in the woods with a bunch of hippies.
EDIT: Thanks for all the questions! If you want some photos of the farm, you can check out our instagram.
EDIT2: I'm answering new, original questions again today. Sort by new and scroll through the trolls to see more of my responses.
EDIT3: We DO have food with onion & garlic! At meals, there is the regular food, PLUS alternative options for vegan/vegetarian/no gluten/no onions & garlic.
EDIT4: Some of you have been asking if we are a cult. No, we are not. We don't have a central leader or common religion. Here are characteristics of cults, FYI.
Edit: Yikes! Did I mention that I am 60? Reddit is not my native land. I don't understand the hostile, angry and seemingly deliberately obtuse comments on here. And Soooo many people!
Anyway, to the angry crowd: Twin Oaks poses no threat to anyone, we are 100 people out of a country of 330 million? Twin Oaks reached its current maximum population about 25 years ago, so not growing fast, or at all. Members come and go from Twin Oaks. There are, my guess is, 800 ex-members of Twin Oaks, so we aren't holding on to everyone who joins—certainly, no one is held against their will.
Twin Oaks is in rural Virginia, but we really aren't insular, isolated, gated or scared of the mainstream culture. We have scheduled tours of the whole property. Local government officials, like building inspectors, come to Twin Oaks with some frequency. People at Twin Oaks like to travel and manage to do so. I personally, know lots of people in the area, I am also a runner, so I leave the property probably every day. There are lots of news stories about Twin Oaks over the years. If you are worried about Twin Oaks, maybe you could go read what the mainstream (and alternative) media have to say.
Except about equality Twin Oaks is not particularly dogmatic about anything. (I know some people at Twin Oaks will disagree with that statement.) Twin Oaks isn't really hypocritical about Capitalism, Socialism, or Communism, we just don't identify those concepts as something that we are trying to do. Twin Oaks is not trying to DO Communism, we are trying to live a good life with equally empowered citizens—which has led us to try to maintain economic parity among members. Communists also do that. In making decisions in the community I don't remember anyone trying to support or oppose an idea due to excess or insufficient Communism, Socialism, or Capitalism. In most practical senses those words aren't useful and don't mean anything. So, no need to hammer Twin Oaks for being insufficiently pure, or hypocritical.
Twin Oaks is very similar to the Kibbutz in Israel. If anyone has concerns or questions about what would happen if places like Twin Oaks suddenly became much larger and more common, read about the history of the Kibbutz, which may have grown to possibly 1% of the population at their largest? There was and is no fight with Capitalism from the kibbutz—or with the State. My point is—not a threat.
To the other people who think that the ideas of Twin Oaks are interesting, I want you to know it is possible to live at Twin Oaks (or places like Twin Oaks) and happily live ones entire life. There is no central, critical failing that makes the idea not work. And plenty of upside. But do lots of research first. Twin Oaks maintains a massive web site. (Anyway, it takes a long time to read.)
But what I would like to see is more people starting more egalitarian, income-sharing communities. I think that there is a need for a community that is designed and built by families, and who also share income, and provide mutual support with labor and money. If you love this concept, maybe consider gathering together other people and starting your own.
Ideologically speaking:
-Ecology: the best response to ecological problems is for humans to use fewer resources. The easiest way to use fewer resources is to share resources. Living communally vastly cuts down on resource use without reducing quality of life.
-Equality: ideologically speaking, most people accept the idea that all humans have equal rights, but most social structures operate in ways that are fundamentally unequal. If we truly believe in equality then we ought to be willing to put our bodies where our ideology is. In a truly equal world, the issues of sexism and racism and all other forms of discrimination would, essentially, not exist.
-Democracy: Twin Oaks uses all manner of decision-making models and tools to try to include everyone and to keep people equally empowered. There is no useful word for this. We do use a majority vote sometimes, as a fallback. But sometimes we use consensus. We sometimes use sociocracy (dynamic governance). The word "Isocracy" (decision-making among equals), would be useful to describe Twin Oaks' decision-making model, but Lev in Australia has written an incomprehensible "definition" on Wikipedia, that he keeps changing back when someone corrects it.
-Happiness: The overarching goal of all ideologies is to make people happy, right? I mean, isn't it? Capitalism is based upon the belief that motivation is crucial to human aspiration and success (and therefore more happiness). Under Capitalism, equality is a detriment because it hinders motivation (less fear of failure, or striving for success). Twin Oaks believes that humans are happier when they are equal, and equally empowered. So the place to start up the ladder of happiness is to first make everyone equal. Well, Twin Oaks is mainly still working on that first step.
EDIT5: Some have asked about videos - here are links to documentaries about Twin Oaks by BBC, VICE and RT.
submitted by keenan_twinoaks to IAmA [link] [comments]

Subreddit Demographic Survey 2020 : The Results

2020 Childfree Subreddit Survey

1. Introduction

Once a year, this subreddit hosts a survey in order to get to know the community a little bit and in order to answer questions that are frequently asked here. Earlier this summer, several thousand of you participated in the 2020 Subreddit Demographic Survey. Only those participants who meet our wiki definition of being childfree's results were recorded and analysed.
Of these people, multiple areas of your life were reviewed. They are separated as follows:

2. Methodology

Our sample is redditors who saw that we had a survey currently active and were willing to complete the survey. A stickied post was used to advertise the survey to members.

3. Results

The raw data may be found via this link.
7305 people participated in the survey from July 2020 to October 2020. People who did not meet our wiki definition of being childfree were excluded from the survey. The results of 5134 responders, or 70.29% of those surveyed, were collated and analysed below. Percentages are derived from the respondents per question.

General Demographics

Age group

Age group Participants Percentage
18 or younger 309 6.02%
19 to 24 1388 27.05%
25 to 29 1435 27.96%
30 to 34 1089 21.22%
35 to 39 502 9.78%
40 to 44 223 4.35%
45 to 49 81 1.58%
50 to 54 58 1.13%
55 to 59 25 0.49%
60 to 64 13 0.25%
65 to 69 7 0.14%
70 to 74 2 0.04%
82.25% of the sub is under the age of 35.

Gender and Gender Identity

Age group Participants # Percentage
Agender 62 1.21%
Female 3747 73.04%
Male 1148 22.38%
Non-binary 173 3.37%

Sexual Orientation

Sexual Orientation Participants # Percentage
Asexual 379 7.39%
Bisexual 1177 22.93%
Heterosexual 2833 55.20%
Homosexual 264 5.14%
It's fluid 152 2.96%
Other 85 1.66%
Pansexual 242 4.72%

Birth Location

Because the list contains over 120 countries, we'll show the top 20 countries:
Country of birth Participants # Percentage
United States 2775 57.47%
United Kingdom 367 7.60%
Canada 346 7.17%
Australia 173 3.58%
Germany 105 2.17%
Netherlands 67 1.39%
India 63 1.30%
Poland 57 1.18%
France 47 0.97%
New Zealand 42 0.87%
Mexico 40 0.83%
Brazil 40 0.83%
Sweden 38 0.79%
Finland 31 0.64%
South Africa 30 0.62%
Denmark 28 0.58%
China 27 0.56%
Ireland 27 0.56%
Phillipines 24 0.50%
Russia 23 0.48%
90.08% of the participants were born in these countries.
These participants would describe their current city, town or neighborhood as:
Region Participants # Percentage
Rural 705 13.76
Suburban 2661 51.95
Urban 1756 34.28

Ethnicity

Ethnicity Participants # Percentage
African Descent/Black 157 3.07%
American Indian or Alaskan Native 18 0.35%
Arabic/Middle Eastern/Near Eastern 34 0.66%
Bi/Multiracial 300 5.86%
Caucasian/White 3946 77.09%
East Asian 105 2.05%
Hispanic/Latinx 271 5.29%
Indian/South Asian 116 2.27%
Indigenous Australian/Torres Straight IslandeMaori 8 0.16%
Jewish (the ethnicity, not religion) 50 0.98%
Other 32 0.63%
Pacific IslandeMelanesian 4 0.08%
South-East Asian 78 1.52%

Education

Highest Current Level of Education

Highest Current Level of Education Participants # Percentage
Associate's degree 233 4.55%
Bachelor's degree 1846 36.05%
Did not complete elementary school 2 0.04%
Did not complete high school 135 2.64%
Doctorate degree 121 2.36%
Graduated high school / GED 559 10.92%
Master's degree 714 13.95%
Post Doctorate 19 0.37%
Professional degree 107 2.09%
Some college / university 1170 22.85%
Trade / Technical / Vocational training 214 4.18%
Degree (Major) Participants # Percentage
Architecture 23 0.45%
Arts and Humanities 794 15.54%
Business and Economics 422 8.26%
Computer Science 498 9.75%
Education 166 3.25%
Engineering Technology 329 6.44%
I don't have a degree or a major 1028 20.12%
Law 124 2.43%
Life Sciences 295 5.77%
Medicine and Allied Health 352 6.89%
Other 450 8.81%
Physical Sciences 199 3.89%
Social Sciences 430 8.41%

Career and Finances

The top 10 industries our participants are working in are:
Industry Participants # Percentage
Information Technology 317 6.68%
Health Care 311 6.56%
Education - Teaching 209 4.41%
Engineering 203 4.28%
Retail 182 3.84%
Government 172 3.63%
Admin & Clerical 154 3.25%
Restaurant - Food Service 148 3.12%
Customer Service 129 2.72%
Design 127 2.68%
Note that "other", "I'm a student", "currently unemployed" and "I'm out of the work force for health or other reasons" have been disregarded for this part of the evaluation.
Out of the 3729 participants active in the workforce, the majority (1824 or 48.91%) work between 40-50 hours per week with 997 or 26.74% working 30-40 hours weekly. 6.62% work 50 hours or more per week, and 17.73% less than 30 hours.
513 or 10.13% are engaged in managerial responsibilities (ranging from Jr. to Sr. Management).
On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), the overwhelming majority (3340 or 70%) indicated that career plays a very important role in their lives, attributing a score of 7 and higher.
1065 participants decided not to disclose their income brackets. The remaining 4,849 are distributed as follows:
Income Participants # Percentage
$0 to $14,999 851 21.37%
$15,000 to $29,999 644 16.17%
$30,000 to $59,999 1331 33.42%
$60,000 to $89,999 673 16.90%
$90,000 to $119,999 253 6.35%
$120,000 to $149,999 114 2.86%
$150,000 to $179,999 51 1.28%
$180,000 to $209,999 25 0.63%
$210,000 to $239,999 9 0.23%
$240,000 to $269,999 10 0.25%
$270,000 to $299,999 7 0.18%
$300,000 or more 15 0.38%
87.85% earn under $90,000 USD a year.
65.82% of our childfree participants do not have a concrete retirement plan (savings, living will).

Religion and Spirituality

Faith Originally Raised In

There were more than 50 options of faith, so we aimed to show the top 10 most chosen beliefs.
Faith Participants # Percentage
Catholicism 1573 30.76%
None (≠ Atheism. Literally, no notion of spirituality or religion in the upbringing) 958 18.73%
Protestantism 920 17.99%
Other 431 8.43%
Atheism 318 6.22%
Agnosticism 254 4.97%
Anglicanism 186 3.64%
Judaism 77 1.51%
Hinduism 75 1.47%
Islam 71 1.39%
This top 10 amounts to 95.01% of the total participants.

Current Faith

There were more than 50 options of faith, so we aimed to show the top 10 most chosen beliefs:
Faith Participants # Percentage
Atheism 1849 36.23%
None (≠ Atheism. Literally, no notion of spirituality or religion currently) 1344 26.33%
Agnosticism 789 15.46%
Other 204 4.00%
Protestantism 159 3.12%
Paganism 131 2.57%
Spiritualism 101 1.98%
Catholicism 96 1.88%
Satanism 92 1.80%
Wicca 66 1.29%
This top 10 amounts to 94.65% of the participants.

Level of Current Religious Practice

Level Participants # Percentage
Wholly seculanon religious 3733 73.73%
Identify with religion, but don't practice strictly 557 11.00%
Lapsed/not serious/in name only 393 7.76%
Observant at home only 199 3.93%
Observant at home. Church/Temple/Mosque/etc. attendance 125 2.47%
Strictly observant, Church/Temple/Mosque/etc. attendance, religious practice/prayeworship impacting daily life 56 1.11%

Effect of Faith over Childfreedom

Figure 1

Effect of Childfreedom over Faith

Figure 2

Romantic and Sexual Life

Current Dating Situation

Status Participants # Percentage
Divorced 46 0.90%
Engaged 207 4.04%
Long term relationship, living together 1031 20.10%
Long term relationship, not living with together 512 9.98%
Married 1230 23.98%
Other 71 1.38%
Separated 18 0.35%
Short term relationship 107 2.09%
Single and dating around, but not looking for anything serious 213 4.15%
Single and dating around, looking for something serious 365 7.12%
Single and not looking 1324 25.81%
Widowed 5 0.10%

Childfree Partner

Is your partner childfree? If your partner wants children and/or has children of their own and/or are unsure about their position, please consider them "not childfree" for this question.
Partner Participants # Percentage
I don't have a partner 1922 37.56%
I have more than one partner and none are childfree 3 0.06%
I have more than one partner and some are childfree 35 0.68%
I have more than one partner and they are all childfree 50 0.98
No 474 9.26%
Yes 2633 51.46%

Dating a Single Parent

Would the childfree participants be willing to date a single parent?
Answer Participants # Percentage
No, I'm not interested in single parents and their ties to parenting life 4610 90.13%
Yes, but only if it's a short term arrangement of some sort 162 3.17%
Yes, whether for long term or short term, but with some conditions (must not have child custody, no kid talk, etc.), as long as I like them and long as we're compatible 199 3.89%
Yes, whether for long term or short term, with no conditions, as long as I like them and as long as we are compatible 144 2.82%

Childhood and Family Life

On a scale from 1 (very unhappy) to 10 (very happy), how would you rate your childhood?
Figure 3
Of the 5125 childfree people who responded to the question, 67.06% have a pet or are heavily involved in the care of someone else's pet.

Sterilisation

Sterilisation Status

Sterilisation Status Participants # Percentage
No, I am not sterilised and, for medical, practical or other reasons, I do not need to be 869 16.96%
No. However, I've been approved for the procedure and I'm waiting for the date to arrive 86 1.68%
No. I am not sterilised and don't want to be 634 12.37%
No. I want to be sterilised but I have started looking for a doctorequested the procedure 594 11.59%
No. I want to be sterilised but I haven't started looking for a doctorequested the procedure yet 2317 45.21%
Yes. I am sterilised 625 12.20%

Age when starting doctor shopping or addressing issue with doctor. Percentages exclude those who do not want to be sterilised and who have not discussed sterilisation with their doctor.

Age group Participants # Percentage
18 or younger 207 12.62%
19 to 24 588 35.85%
25 to 29 510 31.10%
30 to 34 242 14.76%
35 to 39 77 4.70%
40 to 44 9 0.55%
45 to 49 5 0.30%
50 to 54 1 0.06%
55 or older 1 0.06%

Age at the time of sterilisation. Percentages exclude those who have not and do not want to be sterilised.

Age group Participants # Percentage
18 or younger 5 0.79%
19 to 24 123 19.34%
25 to 29 241 37.89%
30 to 34 168 26.42%
35 to 39 74 11.64%
40 to 44 19 2.99%
45 to 49 1 0.16%
50 to 54 2 0.31%
55 or older 3 0.47%

Elapsed time between requesting procedure and undergoing procedure. Percentages exclude those who have not and do not want to be sterilised.

Time Participants # Percentage
Less than 3 months 330 50.46%
Between 3 and 6 months 111 16.97%
Between 6 and 9 months 33 5.05%
Between 9 and 12 months 20 3.06%
Between 12 and 18 months 22 3.36%
Between 18 and 24 months 15 2.29%
Between 24 and 30 months 6 0.92%
Between 30 and 36 months 2 0.31%
Between 3 and 5 years 40 6.12%
Between 5 and 7 years 25 3.82%
More than 7 years 50 7.65%

How many doctors refused at first, before finding one who would accept?

Doctor # Participants # Percentage
None. The first doctor I asked said yes 604 71.73%
One. The second doctor I asked said yes 93 11.05%
Two. The third doctor I asked said yes 54 6.41%
Three. The fourth doctor I asked said yes 29 3.44%
Four. The fifth doctor I asked said yes 12 1.43%
Five. The sixth doctor I asked said yes 8 0.95%
Six. The seventh doctor I asked said yes 10 1.19%
Seven. The eighth doctor I asked said yes 4 0.48%
Eight. The ninth doctor I asked said yes 2 0.24%
I asked more than 10 doctors before finding one who said yes 26 3.09%

Childfreedom

Primary Reason to Not Have Children

Reason Participants # Percentage
Aversion towards children ("I don't like children") 1455 28.36%
Childhood trauma 135 2.63%
Current state of the world 110 2.14%
Environmental (including overpopulation) 158 3.08%
Eugenics ("I have 'bad genes'") 57 1.11%
Financial 175 3.41%
I already raised somebody else who isn't my child 83 1.62%
Lack of interest towards parenthood ("I don't want to raise children") 2293 44.69%
Maybe interested for parenthood, but not suited for parenthood 48 0.94%
Medical ("I have a condition that makes conceiving/bearing/birthing children difficult, dangerous or lethal") 65 1.27%
Other 68 1.33%
Philosophical / Moral (e.g. antinatalism) 193 3.76%
Tokophobia (aversion/fear of pregnancy and/or chidlbirth) 291 5.67%
95.50% of childfree people are pro-choice, however only 55.93% of childfree people support financial abortion.

Dislike Towards Children

Figure 4

Working With Children

Work Participants # Percentage
I'm a student and my future job/career will heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis 67 1.30%
I'm retired, but I used to have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis 6 0.12%
I'm unemployed, but I used to have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis 112 2.19%
No, I do not have a job that makes me heavily interact with children on a daily basis 4493 87.81%
Other 148 2.89%
Yes, I do have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis 291 5.69%

4. Discussion

Child Status

This section solely existed to sift the childfree from the fencesitters and the non childfree in order to get answers only from the childfree. Childfree, as it is defined in the subreddit, is "I do not have children nor want to have them in any capacity (biological, adopted, fostered, step- or other) at any point in the future." 70.29% of participants actually identify as childfree, slightly up from the 2019 survey, where 68.5% of participants identified as childfree. This is suprising in reflection of the overall reputation of the subreddit across reddit, where the subreddit is often described as an "echo chamber".

General Demographics

The demographics remain largely consistent with the 2019 survey. However, the 2019 survey collected demographic responses from all participants in the survey, removing those who did not identify as childfree when querying subreddit specific questions, while the 2020 survey only collected responses from people who identified as childfree. This must be considered when comparing results.
82.25% of the participants are under 35, compared with 85% of the subreddit in the 2019 survey. A slight downward trend is noted compared over the last two years suggesting the userbase may be getting older on average. 73.04% of the subreddit identify as female, compared with 71.54% in the 2019 survey. Again, when compared with the 2019 survey, this suggests a slight increase in the number of members who identify as female. This is in contrast to the overall membership of Reddit, estimated at 74% male according to Reddit's Wikipedia page [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit#Users_and_moderators]. The ratio of members who identify as heterosexual remained consistent, from 54.89% in the 2019 survey to 55.20% in the 2020 survey.
Ethnicity wise, 77% of members identified as primarily Caucasian, consistent with the 2019 results. While the ethnicities noted to be missing in the 2019 survey have been included in the 2020 survey, some users noted the difficulty of responding when fitting multiple ethnicities, and this will be addressed in the 2021 survey.

Education level

As it did in the 2019 survey, this section highlights the stereotype of childfree people as being well educated. 2.64% of participants did not complete high school, which is a slight decrease from the 2019 survey, where 4% of participants did not graduate high school. However, 6.02% of participants are under 18, compared with 8.22% in the 2019 survey. 55% of participants have a bachelors degree or higher, while an additional 23% have completed "some college or university".
At the 2020 survey, the highest percentage of responses under the: What is your degree/major? question fell under "I don't have a degree or a major" (20.12%). Arts and Humanities, and Computer Science have overtaken Health Sciences and Engineering as the two most popular majors. However, the list of majors was pared down to general fields of study rather than highly specific degree majors to account for the significant diversity in majors studied by the childfree community, which may account for the different results.

Career and Finances

The highest percentage of participants at 21.61% listed themselves as trained professionals.
One of the stereotypes of the childfree is of wealth. However this is not demonstrated in the survey results. 70.95% of participants earn under $60,000 USD per annum, while 87.85% earn under $90,000 per annum. 21.37% are earning under $15,000 per annum. 1065 participants, or 21.10% chose not to disclose this information. It is possible that this may have skewed the results if a significant proportion of these people were our high income earners, but impossible to explore.
A majority of our participants work between 30 and 50 hours per week (75.65%) which is slightly increased from the 2019 survey, where 71.2% of participants worked between 30 and 50 hours per week.

Location

The location responses are largely similar to the 2019 survey with a majority of participants living in a suburban and urban area. 86.24% of participants in the 2020 survey live in urban and suburban regions, with 86.7% of participants living in urban and suburban regions in the 2019 survey. There is likely a multifactorial reason for this, encompassing the younger, educated skew of participants and the easier access to universities and employment, and the fact that a majority of the population worldwide localises to urban centres. There may be an element of increased progressive social viewpoints and identities in urban regions, however this would need to be explored further from a sociological perspective to draw any definitive conclusions.
A majority of our participants (57.47%) were born in the USA. The United Kingdom (7.6%), Canada (7.17%), Australia (3.58%) and Germany (2.17%) encompass the next 4 most popular responses. This is largely consistent with the responses in the 2019 survey.

Religion and Spirituality

For the 2020 survey Christianity (the most popular result in 2019) was split into it's major denominations, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, among others. This appears to be a linguistic/location difference that caused a lot of confusion among some participants. However, Catholicism at 30.76% remained the most popular choice for the religion participants were raised in. However, of our participant's current faith, Aetheism at 36.23% was the most popular choice. A majority of 78.02% listed their current religion as Aetheist, no religious or spiritual beliefs, or Agnostic.
A majority of participants (61%) rated religion as "not at all influential" to the childfree choice. This is consistent with the 2019 survey where 62.8% rated religion as "not at all influential". Despite the high percentage of participants who identify as aetheist or agnostic, this does not appear to be related to or have an impact on the childfree choice.

Romantic and Sexual Life

60.19% of our participants are in a relationship at the time of the survey. This is consistent with the 2019 survey, where 60.7% of our participants were in a relationship. A notable proportion of our participants are listed as single and not looking (25.81%) which is consistent with the 2019 survey. Considering the frequent posts seeking dating advice as a childfree person, it is surprising that such a high proportion of the participants are not actively seeking out a relationship. Unsurprisingly 90.13% of our participants would not consider dating someone with children. 84% of participants with partners of some kind have at least one childfree partner. This is consistent with the often irreconcilable element of one party desiring children and the other wishing to abstain from having children.

Childhood and Family Life

Overall, the participants skew towards a happier childhood.

Sterilisation

While just under half of our participants wish to be sterilised, 45.21%, only 12.2% have been successful in achieving sterilisation. This is likely due to overarching resistance from the medical profession however other factors such as the logistical elements of surgery and the cost may also contribute. There is a slight increase from the percentage of participants sterilised in the 2019 survey (11.7%). 29.33% of participants do not wish to be or need to be sterilised suggesting a partial element of satisfaction from temporary birth control methods or non-necessity of contraception due to their current lifestyle practices. Participants who indicated that they do not wish to be sterilised or haven't achieved sterilisation were excluded from the percentages where necessary in this section.
Of the participants who did achieve sterilisation, a majority began the search between 19 and 29, with the highest proportion being in the 19-24 age group (35.85%) This is a marked increase from the 2019 survey where 27.3% of people who started the search were between 19-24. This may be due to increased education about permanent contraception or possibly due to an increase in instability around world events.
The majority of participants who sought out and were successful at achieving sterilisation, were however in the 25-29 age group (37.9%). This is consistent with the 2019 survey results.
The time taken between seeking out sterilisation and achieving it continues to increase, with only 50.46% of participants achieving sterilisation in under 3 months. This is a decline from the number of participants who achieved sterilisation in 3 months in the 2019 survey (58.5%). A potential cause of this decrease is to Covid-19 shutdowns in the medical industry leading to an increase in procedure wait times. The proportion of participants who have had one or more doctors refuse to perform the procedure has stayed consistent between the two surveys.

Childfreedom

The main reasons for people choosing the childfree lifestyle are a lack of interest towards parenthood and an aversion towards children which is consistent with the 2019 survey. Of the people surveyed 67.06% are pet owners or involved in a pet's care, suggesting that this lack of interest towards parenthood does not necessarily mean a lack of interest in all forms of caretaking. The community skews towards a dislike of children overall which correlates well with the 87.81% of users choosing "no, I do not have, did not use to have and will not have a job that makes me heavily interact with children on a daily basis" in answer to, "do you have a job that heavily makes you interact with children on a daily basis?". This is an increase from the 2019 survey.
A vast majority of the subreddit identifes as pro-choice (95.5%), a slight increase from the 2019 results. This is likely due to a high level of concern about bodily autonomy and forced birth/parenthood. However only 55.93% support financial abortion, aka for the non-pregnant person in a relationship to sever all financial and parental ties with a child. This is a marked decrease from the 2019 results, where 70% of participants supported financial abortion.
Most of our users realised that did not want children young. 58.72% of participants knew they did not want children by the age of 18, with 95.37% of users realising this by age 30. This correlates well with the age distribution of participants. Despite this early realisation of our childfree stance, 80.59% of participants have been "bingoed" at some stage in their lives.

The Subreddit

Participants who identify as childfree were asked about their interaction with and preferences with regards to the subreddit at large. Participants who do not meet our definition of being childfree were excluded from these questions.
By and large our participants were lurkers (72.32%). Our participants were divided on their favourite flairs with 38.92% selecting "I have no favourite". The next most favourite flair was "Rant", at 16.35%. Our participants were similarly divided on their least favourite flair, with 63.40% selecting "I have no least favourite". In light of these results the flairs on offer will remain as they have been through 2019.
With regards to "lecturing" posts, this is defined as a post which seeks to re-educate the childfree on the practices, attitudes and values of the community, particularly with regards to attitudes towards parenting and children, whether at home or in the community. A commonly used descriptor is "tone policing". A small minority of the survey participants (3.36%) selected "yes" to allowing all lectures, however 33.54% responded "yes" to allowing polite, respectful lectures only. In addition, 45.10% of participants indicated that they were not sure if lectures should be allowed. Due to the ambiguity of responses, lectures will continue to be not allowed and removed.
Many of our participants (36.87%) support the use of terms such as breeder, mombie/moo, daddict/duh on the subreddit, with a further 32.63% supporting use of these terms in context of bad parents only. This is a slight drop from the 2019 survey. In response to this use of the above and similar terms to describe parents remains permitted on this subreddit. However, we encourage users to keep the use of these terms to bad parents only.
44.33% of users support the use of terms to describe children such as crotchfruit on the subreddit, a drop from 55.3% last year. A further 25.80% of users supporting the use of this and similar terms in context of bad children only, an increase from 17.42% last year. In response to this use of the above and similar terms to describe children remains permitted on this subreddit.
69.17% of participants answered yes to allowing parents to post, provided they stay respectful. In response to this, parent posts will continue to be allowed on the subreddit. As for regret posts, which were to be revisited in this year's survey, only 9.5% of participants regarded them as their least favourite post. As such they will continue to stay allowed.
64% of participants support under 18's who are childfree participating in the subreddit with a further 19.59% allowing under 18's to post dependent on context. Therefore we will continue to allow under 18's that stay within the overall Reddit age requirement.
There was divide among participants as to whether "newbie" questions should be removed. An even spread was noted among participants who selected remove and those who selected to leave them as is. We have therefore decided to leave them as is. 73.80% of users selected "yes, in their own post, with their own "Leisure" flair" to the question, "Should posts about pets, travel, jetskis, etc be allowed on the sub?" Therefore we will continue to allow these posts provided they are appropriately flaired.

5. Conclusion

Thank you to our participants who contributed to the survey. This has been an unusual and difficult year for many people. Stay safe, and stay childfree.

submitted by Mellenoire to childfree [link] [comments]

A proposal to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland

This is a long one. There is no TL;DR, but Google tells me it should take about 10 minutes to read. Or, you can skip to The Plan - Summary if you want the bullet points.
But why should you give this any time at all?
My background is in data analysis. Making sense of numbers is what I do for a living. I have been studying COVID-19 since I was locked down in March and the experience has been frustrating in equal measure. The difference between what was happening on the ground, and the story that the media told was genuinely alarming. The government / NPHET never even tried to stop the virus getting into the country, and no one held them to account for their (non)decisions. The disastrous consequences are all around us, and much of it was preventable.
Six months later, and the country has barely moved on. The ‘experts’ have no goals and little control over the virus. The media frame every issue as a crass binary choice between more or less restrictions and are otherwise happy just to have people to point their fingers at. The government / NPHET has nothing to offer the people, other than admonishments to do better and repeated cycle of restrictions.
Meanwhile students, artists, the over 70s, small business owners, the entire events and hospitality industries, and regular people who cannot WFH have been left swinging in the wind. Some have been evicted, others are relying on drugs to get by. This situation is not just a problem for one or two parts of our society: this is a widespread degradation of our quality of life. If I can do anything to help, I feel obliged to try.

Context
As I see it, we have three choices:
I won’t argue over technocratic definitions like ‘elimination’, ‘eradication’ or ‘suppression’. These distinctions are semantic in an environment of oppressive civic restrictions, mass unemployment, waves of business closures, and general misery. Whatever gets us to a place where we can live our lives as normal (or close enough), and the public health infrastructure can take care of the virus, that’s what I’m aiming for.
This proposal cannot work without public support. No proposal can work without public support. Public adherence is the single most important variable in the equation, yet it is the one that the politicians and the media and the ‘experts’ have ignored. FG burned through a lot of goodwill in the first lockdown (and money, and resources, and lives…). Instead of vilifying people who aren’t adhering to the rules, policymakers need to recognise the sacrifices that the people made (which were subsequently squandered) and they need to earn that trust back.
This proposal cannot work without support from the North. That doesn’t mean that we need to convince them to adopt our plan. It means we need to convince them that the goal is worthwhile and achievable. From there we can work together to coordinate our policies. Managing our own affairs with competence, would be a good start. Picking up the phone to talk to them, instead of trying to browbeat them through the media, would also help.
Irrespective of your goals or beliefs, some facts are certain: there will be lockdowns, there will be government spending to support the economy, and the virus will demand public health resources. All of that will happen in the coming months and years, whether we have a plan or not. The question is whether those resources are used to solve the problem, or whether they are wasted on a plan that keeps us going around in circles.
So yes, there will be lockdowns in this proposal, but they will not be FG lockdowns i.e. lock them down and throw away the key. Through intelligent policies and a greater mobilisation of resources, we can do so much more with our lockdowns to reduce the burden on the people and make their experience more tolerable. Indeed, that trade-off always exists in public policy: better policymaking = happier people. Which is why the politicians usually get the blame, and rightly so.
We need to move to a more ‘war time’ mindset. Not because we need a shared enemy to unite us, but because we need to mobilise every possible resource at our disposal and focus it on the single most important issue affecting us all. We need more tests, we need vehicles for mobile testing units, we need facilities for quarantines. Wherever there is spare capacity, we need to find a way to put it to good use. We need to take most of the power away from the narrow-minded medics, and get the rest of our society and our civic infrastructure involved in planning e.g. community representatives, legal experts, business leaders, An Garda, the army etc.
People want to invest in their communities, they want to help their friends and neighbours. There are people all over the country who would rather be volunteering as part of a national plan to get rid of COVID-19, than to be sitting at home on the PUP, going crazy listening to the ‘experts’ – who failed to prevent this – talk about more lockdowns. We need to harness that latent energy and build it into the plan.
One of the most important factors that is within our control, is the degree to which policymakers communicate with the people. And I mean real communication, not press releases or attention-seeking speeches from the other side of the world. We need to talk to the people, listen to them, answer their questions, take their feedback on board. The people aren’t stupid. They know a good plan when they see it – which is why few are paying attention to the ‘Living With The Virus’ stuff – and they have valuable information that can help make that plan work.
Underlying these points is a need to create intelligent rules, and to enforce them strictly. Strict does not mean harsh. Strict enforcement is not authoritarianism, and it is not an invitation to a fight; it is simply administrative competence. In the context of a contagious outbreak, administrative competence is the difference between life and death.
I’ll finish this section with the caveat that all parameters are suggestions or placeholders. The exact numbers will depend on resources, on more data and further analysis, and on input from communities and other stakeholders – all of which is within our control.

The Plan – Summary
Like any problem in life, if you can’t solve it directly, you break it down into smaller, less complex parts.
Instead of putting the whole country into lockdown and trying to eradicate the virus from the whole island at the same time – a miserable experience for all – we should go county by county until the job is done. We seal off a county, flood it with resources, clear it of COVID-19, and then let it reopen as normal. We repeat the process for neighbouring counties and then combine them when they are cleared, to create a larger ‘Cleared Zone’. The process continues and the Cleared Zone keeps growing until it covers the whole island.
This approach allows us to focus our resources on one area at a time (nurses, doctors, tests, volunteers etc) instead of spreading them over the whole country. We can be more comprehensive in our testing and quarantining measures, and more confident in our plans. Short, sharp, strict lockdowns work best.
By maximising the ratio of resources to population, we also lower the burden on the people. In particular, we minimise the amount of time that people spend in lockdown, and the less time they spend in lockdown, the more likely the plan is to work.
This structured approach also makes it easier for us to measure our progress and make reliable forecasts. We can allocate our resources more efficiently and plan our responses more effectively. Observers can watch our progress and judge for themselves whether it is a good idea (i.e. politicians in the North and / or protestors in Dublin).
Perhaps most important of all, the structure makes it easier to explain the idea to the people and get buy-in before anything happens. We can outline the plan, explain how it works, explain how it compares to the alternatives, and then give them realistic estimates of what would be required and how long it would take. Then we can hear their feedback and take the conversation and planning from there.
I have heard any people talking about elimination and ZeroCovid, but do any of them have a plan for getting to zero? Or a plan to get the people on board?
Step 1: More structure and responsibility from leaders
Step 2: Less uncertainty, easier decisions, better outcomes, less stress for everyone
Step 3: Profit. Elimination.

The Plan – Implementation
We isolate a county and lock it down for an initial 3 weeks. An Garda man the county borders. They are supported by the army, who provide boots on the ground so that An Garda aren’t stretched. Most routes are closed off so that all essential travel goes through a few well-manned checkpoints. If we do a good job with planning and communication, there won’t be much work to do.
We test systemically high-risk households and high-risk individuals early and often i.e. large households and essential workers. With help from local volunteers, medics screen as many people as possible every day. We use multiple measures and repeated applications to improve the quality of our results. We want to identify and remove cases at the earliest possible point, both to reduce the chance of further infection, and to protect the individual’s health.
Low risk confirmed cases (young / healthy) go to a safe and comfortable quarantine. Local hotels and guest houses could be used, ideally before we invest in building quarantine facilities. Local taxis, kitted out with extra protective equipment, could take them there. High risk confirmed cases (older / comorbidities) go by ambulance to local medical facilities as required.
During this period, we work with local politicians, community leaders, residence associations etc to ensure that everyone is looked after (in reality, these conversations will have started weeks before). We get our neighbourhoods communicating, looking out for each other, making sure they’ve got enough food or heating or whatever else they need. Local volunteers and taxi drivers can do odd jobs like sending packages, collecting prescriptions, lifting heavy stuff, or just checking in on people. If it is feasible, we can even invite local artists to play gigs for people in their streets or apartments.
Towards the end of the second week, we begin a mass testing program with the ultimate goal of testing every person in the county (scale depends on resources). Once we have completed the tests and cleared the confirmed cases into quarantine, we can begin a slow, staggered opening process. We must be especially conservative at this point to ensure no slippage.
When one county is clear, we move to the next one, and repeat the process. When we have cleared two bordering counties, we can join them together in a bigger Cleared Zone and the process continues from there. Eventually the Cleared Zone covers the whole country, except Dublin (or more realistically, the Pale).
What would the other counties do while they wait for their turn? I’m assuming that, they would be doing whatever the ‘Living With The Virus’ plan dictates. This proposal succeeds in line with what happens in the sealed off zones, so I am more concerned with them. However, it would speed up the process if the bordering counties could be encouraged to get a head start. If the plan is going successfully, I’m confident they would.
With its population density and its complexity, Dublin / the Pale will be the last county to be cleared. However, given that every other county would be cleared by that point, and with so much effort having been put in, it might make more sense just to burn Dublin down. We could go with a concrete mausoleum as per Chernobyl, but it might be easier and quicker if we just raised the city and started from scratch. The country needs to rebalance, so it’d be two birds with one stone.
Or maybe we call that plan B. Dublin’s plan A would follow the same principles as for the rest of the country. Break it into smaller parts, focus resources on one area at a time, use layers of risk measures where precision isn’t an option, and get cases as early as possible, using whatever resources available. By that stage the rest of the country would be clear and the demand for medical resources low. We would have learned a lot along the way, and we would have plenty of ammo to throw at the problem.
In general, the more resources we have, the faster we can move. The county by county approach that I have outlined above is too slow. With greater resources, we can increase the number of counties that are being cleared at any one time. One option is to work by province. Another would be to define the zones with respect to observed travel routes, in order to reduce the risk of leakage and reduce the inconvenience on local communities.
At the end of the day, lines have to be drawn somewhere, and some people will inevitably lose out. The better we communicate with people in advance, the lower the burden on the people and the more of these problems we can avoid.
Following on from that, one of the skills we need to take from this crisis is the ability to isolate and quarantine regions. Whether it is a city, a town, a county, a specific building, or even the entire country, we need to be able to seal it off and control movement in and out. This is an essential tool for outbreak management – whatever the outbreak and whatever the disease.
The same goes for individuals. We need to be able to create and operate safe, comfortable, and effective quarantines, and to do so at short notice. It should be a matter of national embarrassment that FG and NPHET couldn’t even organise a quarantine in a pandemic.
The whole process might take 3 to 4 months. That means we would have cut off all non-essential air travel for that time, but it doesn’t mean the whole country is in lockdown for 3 or 4 months. The lockdown is staggered, and the individual’s experience will depend on their location and their place in the ‘queue’.
The first group of counties to go into lockdown will also be the first to come out. Once they have eliminated the spread of the virus, they will return to a normal, although somewhat isolated, society. The experience steadily improves as more and more counties join them in the Cleared Zone (or steadily deteriorates, depending on your county pride).
While the first group is in lockdown, the rest of the country continues as normal i.e. living with the virus. Everyone watches as the first group goes through its lockdown (just think of the #banter). Several weeks later, as the first group is opening up, the second group is preparing to go in to lockdown. As the second group comes out, the third group goes in etc etc and the staggered lockdowns roll like a wave across the country.
Every county goes from Living With The Virus -> intelligent lockdown (needs a better name) -> Cleared Zone. The earlier you are in the queue, the less time you spend Living With The Virus and the more time you spend in the Cleared Zone. The individual would only be in a strict lockdown for a matter of weeks, maybe 3-6 depending on the complexity of the region and the resources available. For counties with smaller populations that have shown that they can do a good lockdown, it will be quicker. For Dublin, it will be slower.

Strengths
I think this proposal has a lot of strengths. It’s a plan, for a start. We haven’t had a plan since this thing began (the FG lockdown wasn’t a plan – it was the inevitable consequence of not having a plan). The leaders take more responsibility to lower the burden on the people, it mobilises idle resources, and it fosters communication and community across the country.
These are three strengths that I want to emphasise.
1 It provides clarity
This might be the most important point.
Uncertainty is painful. Uncertainty is a cost. Even if the bad thing is unlikely to happen, just the fact that it is a risk, or that it could happen means that you live with a cloud over your head. Suffering is bad enough on its own, but suffering for an unknown length of time is torture. And if that period is determined at the whim of a politician or an ‘expert’, that is a recipe for society-wide anger and even civil disorder.
With this proposal, we can forecast the length of the period of lockdown with greater accuracy. The people will be able to understand what is being asked of them. We can make plans around resources required versus those available. The economists can make forecasts. Businesses can plan their finances. The people can plan their weddings, book their holidays, get back to training, sign up for courses, and have things to look forward to.
At the end of the day, any successful proposal must remove the uncertainty and provide meaningful clarity to households and businesses.
2 Never let a crisis go to waste
This plan will require tools and capabilities like rapid local testing, safe quarantines, rapid isolation of towns and regions, emergency decision-making frameworks etc. If we don’t have a capability, then we need to build it. When people say ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ this is what they mean: you build the tools in the crisis that will help you protect yourself from the next one.
Nature works the same way. You lift weights until the muscle fibres tear, then they grow back stronger. We build aerobic endurance by pushing ourselves to a limit, then our body naturally reacts to increase the limit. A vaccine works similarly by stimulating antibodies for the disease. Well, we need a civic emergency vaccine for Ireland. These tools are the antibodies that will protect us next time. The sooner we build them, the better. Now is the time, not later.
3 It's the only way we can protect the economy
The risk to the economy isn’t the next few months of revenue. We can borrow to cover lost income in the short run. The real risk is a wave of defaults that precipitates a financial crisis.
As more individuals and businesses are put under financial pressure, more borrowers will default on their debts. But one man’s debt is another man’s asset, so as the borrowers default, the lender’s financial situation also deteriorates. Defaults are contagious, and if a wave of defaults threatens a major lender, the entire financial system will be at risk.
Only an elimination plan can protect the economy. Along with the virus and the uncertainty it creates, we need to eliminate the risk of financial contagion.

Weaknesses
Could ya be arsed

The End Goal
Think about what’s on the other side of this…
This is a massive challenge – the kind that defines a nation. However you think of your community, this would give you something to be proud of for generations. It would be like Italia ’90, except 10 times bigger, because we would be the players, we would be the ones making it happen.
We’d become the first country in Europe to eliminate the virus. And of all the countries in the world, we’d be doing it from the largest deficit too. Those Taiwanese and Kiwis made it easy for themselves with their preparation and their travel restrictions and their competent leaders. Our challenge is much greater than theirs, but they show us what is possible.
Have you ever wanted to scoff at the Germans for being disorganised? Wouldn’t you love to have a reason to mock the Danes? Aren’t you sick of hearing about New Zealand? Let’s make the Kiwis sick of hearing about the Irish!
If we take this challenge on, the world’s media will be on us. The FT, the Economist, the NYT, the Guardian, Monacle, Wired, the New Scientist, China Daily, RT, Good Housekeeping, Horse and Hound, PornHub… all of these international media empires would be tracking our progress, interviewing key people, reporting daily, willing us on. The world is desperate for good news, and we can be the ones to give it to them.
We would become a model for other nations to follow. They would take the Irish model and adapt it to their own situation. Instead of us copying other nations, they would be copying us. Instead of a pat on the head for the diddy little Irish fellas, we would be literally LEADING THE WORLD.
Back at home, we get our lives back, and society can breathe again, free of restrictions. The over 70s come out of hibernation. The students go back to university. The protests stop because people go back to work and we announce an inquiry into what exactly happened in February and March. The pubs go back to being pubs. Our hospitality industry is taken off life support. The tidal wave of bankruptcies is avoided. We can play sport and celebrate the wins. We stop talking about things we can or can't do. Just imagine that first session... And imagine how good it would feel knowing that you had worked for it, and knowing that you had set the nation on a better path for generations to come...
I think it’s worth a lash! Don’t you?
submitted by 4SMD1MCW to ireland [link] [comments]

𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐂𝐑𝐘𝐏𝐓𝐈𝐂 𝐙𝐎𝐌𝐁𝐎𝐍𝐈𝐔𝐌 S01E02 - “Blood, not Fluid”

Previously on the Cryptic Zombonium
***
A priest, a wolf, and a german walks into a bar. One of them is an atheist, the other an agnostic, and the priest says he has the cure for the Zombie Virus, but only if you believe in God Almighty.
“What do you mean, you have the cure?” I spat blasphemously.
“And what do you mean we have to have faith?” the German joined in.
“Is he the leader now?” Travis asked Hannah. “He said he was the leader now.”
The Vatican Archivist, Father Connor, the priest, the holy trinity of cool nicknames, put a finger to his mouth, like he was hushing a bunch of toddlers.
“That’s not what I meant,” he said softly. “I simply stated that the Virus comes from the heavenly archives of the Vatican, and that it is in fact not a Virus.”
“What in the god-forsaken shit fucking hell is it then?” I asked politely.
“Language?” Hannah suggested. “He is a priest and all.”
I nodded thoughtfully. “Sorry, Father. Didn’t mean to say ‘hell’.”
“Sit, children,” the Archivist sang weirdly. “And all shall be explained.”
We didn’t have anywhere to sit, so most of us just shuffled around awkwardly as he told us in great detail about his incredibly complex backstory, for some reason starting at his birth. The real juicy parts came right near the end though, so I’ll be skipping to that part.
Apparently the Zombie Virus wasn’t a Zombie Virus at all. It was Demon Virus. Yes, you heard me. According to the Father, the Vatican collects samples of demon blood (or fluids as he would have it, but let’s just go with blood), and stuffs them in boxes all the way down there in the catacombs.
“So how did it end up here?” Kat asked.
“We shipped a vial of the foul blasphemous fluid overseas by mistake,” Father Connor replied.
“Blood,” I coughed. “Let’s call it blood. And what in god’s name in vain did you mean to send?”
“Holy Water, of course,” he said. “The quality stuff has to be blessed by the Pope himself. We keep it on the shelf next to the demon fluid.”
“Blood,” I coughed again.
“As we all know, some people are more blessed than others,” Father Connor continued. “That’s because they were blessed by the Pope himself. Costs a pretty penny though, mind you.”
“So some rich asshole paid for super-blessed holy water, only to receive demon blood instead?”
“Yes,” the Father nodded solemnly. “But as it turns out, it wasn’t just any old demon fluid.”
“Don’t fucking tell me,” I said.
“It was the bodily fluid of the Antichrist himself,” the Father murmured, crossing himself feverishly.
“Or herself,” Eileen Dover chimed in. “Who’s to say the Antichrist isn’t a she?”
“Or themselves,” Hannah said. “Could be non-binary too.”
“All realistic options,” I agreed. “But what’s the big deal? Is it contagious or something?”
“That’s exactly it,” Father Connor said. “The Vessel of the Antichrist now spreads unlife wherever it journeys, and the Afflicted then spreads it even further. The only way to stop it, is by destroying it.”
“And this Vessel would be?” Travis inquired.
“A five year old girl,” Father Connor replied. “By the name of Kreszentia.”
“And by destroying it you mean...” the German said.
“Killing her, yes,” Father Connor nodded. “Humanely, of course. We have to crucify her.”
There was quite a bit of uproar at this statement, and deservedly so. Killing a five year old girl? Antichrist or no Antichrist, you just don’t go around murdering children willy-nillily.
The group split up into smaller cliques, all of us trying to make sense of the situation. Could we trust the Father? Was he really an Archivist? Did he have some credentials to that effect possibly? Like a badge or something? And how much did the Vatican charge for super-blessed holy water?
“CHEESE,” Max suddenly yelled. “WE SHOULD GO GET THE CHEESE.”
“I’m sorry,” Kat said. “I thought we’d given up on that plan?”
Grant stepped forward. “We did,” he said. “On account of all them zombies.”
“I KNOW A SECRET STASH,” Max shuffled around excitedly. “NO ZOMBIES THERE PROBABLY.”
“Probably?” I said. “How probably are we talking?”
“LIKE MAYBE THREE,” he replied weirdly. “THREE PROBABLY’S.”
“I like those odds,” Travis said.
“We desperately need the food,” Hanna sighed. “If we’re gonna keep adding more wackjobs to our group, we’re gonna have to find a way to feed them.”
“Alright,” I stepped forward. “As the leader of this group, I say we give it another go. Eileen, Hannah, Travis, the German; you’re with me. Max, get busy drawing us a map or something.”
“SHOULDN’T I COME WITH?” Max asked.
“Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed. “The Z-boiz (trademark filed) will be on us the moment you open your mouth.”
“FAIR POINT,” he nodded loudly.
“Who made him leader of the group?” Eileen Dover asked.
“He did it himself,” Travis said. “Last episode.”
***
We sped down the bumpy roads moments later with Hannah behind the wheel. Max had drawn us a fairly crude map with some bizarre notes, but having staked out the factory for weeks, I had the place memorized like someone had carved it right into my brain with tiny sharp needles.
“Are you guys buying the priest’s bullshit?” I asked. “Demon blood? The Antichrist?.”
“Demon fluid,” Travis corrected.
“I don’t know,” Hannah said. “And I don’t care. I’m here for the cheese.”
Eileen Dover nodded. “Demons, Zombies, Antichrists, they’re all baddies in my book.”
I shrugged. “And you, the German?”
“Please, just call me German, no need to be so formal about it.”
We pulled off the main road, and slowed down as we approached the harrowing brutalist structure of the cheese factory. The sun was in descent, and we had to be quick about it if we were to pull off the heist before nightfall.
“Strange,” the German said.
“What is?” I asked.
“I don’t see any walkers around,” he said. “Uh, I mean zombies.”
He was right. “He is right,” I said.
The place looked deserted. Not only human deserted, but the other kind too. Dead deserted. With all the deafening noise we served up last time we were here, there should at least be a horde or two shambling about.
Eileen Dover pointed ahead. “The gates,” she said. “They’re open. Were they open before?”
I shook my head. “They were not.”
Hannah parked the car, and we all slipped out stealthily, slowly making our way to the main gates. The place was eerily silent, and you could hear a squirrel’s neck snapping from a mile away.
We entered the factory, and we all stumbled back in shock at the sight that unfolded. Well except me, of course. I don’t do shock.
“What the fuck?” I said, stumbling back in shock.
“There is no cheese,” Travis mumbled. “There should be cheese, right?”
“I’m more concerned about the insurmountable mountain of zombie corpses,” the German noted.
It was huge. Three-four hordes worth of re-deaded dead, stacked so high that they almost reached the factory ceiling some twenty feet up.
Travis nodded. “That too,” he said.
“Look,” Eileen Dover said, pointing at one of the mangled zombies on the floor. “Look at the forehead.”
Hannah bent down, inspecting the thing with some interest. Carved deep into the rotting flesh was the letter “M”.
“They all have it,” I said, dragging limp bodies down from the massive pile. “They’re all marked.”
“What does it mean?” the German mumbled. “Who the hell did this?”
“No time for wacky theories,” I said. “Although it was obviously done by a crazed gang of nutjobs as an insanely laborious way to send us a deeply unsettling message. They’re probably watching us right now.”
“What?” Travis exclaimed. “I don’t like being watched.”
“No matter,” Hannah said. “We’re obviously too late. There’s not a single cheese crumb left in this place.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Eileen Dover said, reaching into her sweater. “These guys beg to differ.”
She produced from the depths of her baggy clothing two lively rats, and held them out for us all to see.
“This is Microwave,” she shoved a rat in my face, “and this is Tea.”
“We sometimes call her Rat Girl,” Travis whispered to me. “You know, because she’s got rats, and she’s a girl.”
“What?” I said sourly. “If she’s Rat Girl, why can’t I be the Wolf then?”
“Do you own a Wolf?” Hannah asked.
“No, but-” I started.
“There’s your answer then,” she said. “OK, bring us the map, and we’ll let the rats sniff around.”
We started moving from room to room, trying to decipher the rather cryptic messages Max had scribbled down. After about thirty minutes of not getting anywhere, Travis came running out from one of the offices, waving the map around.
“I found it!” he yelled excitedly. “I think I found the stash.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “How can you be sure?”
“Look, look,” he pointed to the map. “See, right next to the big X, he wrote ‘nursery rhyme profanity’.”
“And?”
“There’s a bookshelf in that office,” he said. “And one of the books are ‘FUCK LICKETYSPLIT’.”
I shrugged. “I don’t see the connection.”
“In my hometown we had this old nursery rhyme called LICKETYSPLIT, and I always had a feeling the verses were hiding something.”
“Well, it’s all we got,” Hannah said. “Rat Girl, we need Microwave and Tea.”
Rat Girl scurried into the office, and gently placed the rats next to the bookshelf. We watched in weird silence as Microwave and Tea sniffed around the big old thing, until they both eventually disappeared behind it.
“Cheese,” Rat Girl grinned. “There’s cheese behind that shelf, I guarantee it.”
We all stared at each other for half a second, before snapping into action, tearing the bookshelf apart piece by piece. It took us a minute or two, but at the end we heard Rat Girl giggling gleefully as Microwave and Tea scurried back into her sweater.
“Cheese,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead. “We’ve got cheese.”
The room wasn’t large, but it was stuffed to the brim with wonderful cheese. Brie. Camembert. Mozzarella. Other foreign names.
“Won’t last us years,” Hannah said. “But it’ll do for a month or two.”
We quickly cleaned out the room, backpacks soon filled with the dairy gold. Without pausing, we made our retreat, the sun now all but disappeared behind the horizon. I convinced the German to carry my backpack, since I was lactose intolerant.
“You can’t eat cheese?” he asked. “Why so eager to loot this place then?”
“Oh no, I can eat it,” I said. “I just can’t have it anywhere near my skin,” I lied.
We approached our car a few minutes later, but Hannah, who was leading the way, suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, and signalled for us to shut the fuck up.
“What is it?” I whispered.
Hannah took a few cautious steps toward the car. “Not sure,” she said. “I think I hear something.”
We all stopped moving, and stood there perfectly still. And sure enough, I heard it too. A soft wheezing, a pained gargling. The sound of the dead.
Hannah waved us closer, and we all tippy-toed the rest of the way, soon spotting the parked car right where we left it. But there was something else too. Something strapped to the hood.
“Fuck me,” I said. “These guys are all about the games, aren’t they?”
The bloody zombie, once a middle-aged man by the looks of it, was missing it’s hands and feet; nothing now but an undead head on an undead torso. A chain held the thing in place, and carved deep into its forehead was that ever-ominous “M”.
“That’s horrible,” Travis mumbled.
“But not horror,” the German noted.
“A short scary story if I ever saw one,” I said.
Hannah and Rat Girl had already started unchaining it, while we were busy pointing out the different gruesome aspects of the deed. Without saying anything, they both simultaneously took a step back, eyes wide with what I can only imagine was fear.
“What?” I inquired. “What’s wrong.”
The zombie squirmed disgustingly, crimson blood smearing the hood of the car like some kind of messed up art piece. Then it opened its hideous mouth and wheezed discordantly.
“Please,” it gargled. “Please kill me.”
[TO BE CONTINUED]
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