Log:King Charlie Q2-2

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King Charlie Q2-2

Annapurna as ST. vervanE, Marc, Reggie, Etsy, Uschi, Cordy

29 January, 2018

The group sets out to find the market! They make it there, and learn the local rules thanks to some clever maneuvering.



The Hedge.

Where did they say they'd arrange to meet? Well...

Possibly the edge of Fields of Gold - the strange foliage glittering in Wyrd winds, as the Trod stretches off and off and off and off into the warped horizon of the Deeper Hedge.

Uschi - one armed Ogress of Moon - has been here a while. She's been skirting the edges of those prickly thorn'd grasses, on a hunt for... Something. Some kind of fruits. Her oversized rucksack undoubtedly holds some already, if the smell is anything to go by -- maybe a tiny Goblin Hoard worth of materials as well -- but the Ogress is not satisfied with her search. There's always something else one needs to survive...

Speaking of: wasn't that bunnyfae around here? Uschi looks up, turning, trying to spot a Cordy shaped individual -- and anyone else, fae or hob or Other, who might be lingering along the Trod.

Bunnyfae? What bunnyfae? There's no bunnyfae here. There's a little stone mound that wasn't here yesterday, about chest high and rounded with more than enough space inside for a bun to sit safely, and a slit near the top where a bun could look out safely if she wanted, but no bunfae to be seen. Inside? Sure! Inside there's a bunfae, waiting in safety, protected by rock on all sides so that nothing and nobody will hurt her before she has a chance to Get Out. It's plenty warm inside the little hut, with a little depressed and covered fireplace that hides its little spark, but doesn't light up the interior.

But a bunnyfae? No bunnyfae to be seen.

The sound of some small creature screaming shrilly in the undergrowth some distance off the trod is suddenly cut off.

Shortly afterward, slick, wet tearing sounds originate from the same area.

Ahhh, the Hedge. What a lovely day to travel elsewhere.

They enter the same way they came in last time: a metallic dragonfly the size of a biplane, with the ribbons in Etsy's hair fluttering out after them. She's standing -- see-through mermaid -- with her arms outstretched, her fingers twitching. For those who have seen her in the last short while, she's been twitchy with want to get the FUCK on with it. Buuuut. Now, wearing a glimmering white token sash across her illusory, half-there body? She seems together, at least as together as Etsy gets.

"A hellos!" she trills.

Uschi grunts. No obvious signs of bunnyfae -- just a very well formed stone mound with a curious slit near the top.


While the shrill cries of some small critter come to and end, Uschi leaves her fruit-focused search of the golden grasses -- tassels of her grimy battle jacket fluttering, as she lumbers on over for Further Investigation of the stone. Interesting, interesting, interesting...

Further distraction. Uschi looks up, a the trill coming from further down the trod. Huh. The Dragonfly-Thing... With no conscious decision on her part, the Ogress steps into the shadow of the stone hut -- it won't hide her, not completely, but... Well, some things are instinctual. Uschi? Is almost entirely instinct. Means her social skills? Lacking. No hello is given - the feral Moon just... Watches the arrival of the others.

Strange things in the Hedge.

Reggie moves his goggles up to his flight cap so that he can watch the world with unobstructed, quite literally adorable big brown eyes. D'awww. He offers the gathering a chipper wave with a free hand, then slouches back into his seat with his arms spread wide across the curve of his fuselage. Like a king. Or a douchebag in a night club who thinks too highly of himself. "Are we ready for excitement and adventure and other terribly dangerous things?"

Oh, for FUCKS sake. Cordy is so painfully silent inside her little hutch that her silence is almost audible in and of itself. She can hear every last fucking crack and squish and rip even at this distance, and every last noise makes her quiver and shake in place. THIS is why she spends her time in the Market or her Smithy. THIS is why travelling as MEAT is such a bad idea. They won't mind if she just tags along as a bun-shaped star, would they? Right?

From inside the hutch comes a -miserable- little whine. "Hello, Miss Etsy. Hello, Miss Ogre. Hello, Mister Danger. I am ready for exactly none of those things but I am here anyway because you might need me and I could never live with myself if I could have saved someone."

"Yes, it is Adventure Time! for Adventure Times! Remembers, it is okays to not be a readyness," assures Etsy cheefully, flopping down into the back of the plane, and not through the plane through some vagary of Lost physics. Weird see-through merms. "Adventures are the terriblest times that you tell amazingest stories about later, sometimes, and that is an okayness." She hums to herself, absently, and then points. "We go that ways. It is a warmness that ways."

Uschi's shadowed eyes light up - or rather, widen as iridescent disks, like that of some nocturnal animal. HAH! She was /so right/ to investigate this stone hutch. The Ogress sniffs in twice, leaning closer to the slit in the stone. Cordy. Smells like a Cordy. Dead arm swings by her side, but Uschi reaches out with her right -- tapping twice on the surface of the stone, while croaking out: "Buschi."


"Uschi Buschi." That simply cannot be her legitimate name - although, she doesn't seem like the type to be 'legitimate', does she? Chances of the half-feral Ogress having a legal drivers license is 'slim to none'. Look at her - Uschi can clarify her name to Cordy, but she can't seem to follow whatever Reggie and Etsy are talking about. The glimmering sheen of her eyes dims, as they're narrowed in their direction.


But Uschi moves, when the Courier starts to point. First things first? Observe. The Ogress begins to lope on - sticking to the edges of the trod, taking up the rear most likely. What's her role here? Uschi is a heavy scout, man. Sense, sneak, shred, survive.

"Right! Off we go, then." Reggie lifts his arms up and slides back down into his cockpit to begin directing his craft about. It first turns on its six legs in the direction Etsy has indicated, and then begins to creep along the ground after Uschi. It's surprisingly quite for a machine dragonfly, but not precisely stealthy. Accordingly, he lets Uschi keep well ahead of himself. As much for their sakes as for Uschi's. He sings out in a jolly baritone, "Royal oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men! We always are ready! Steady, boys, steady!"

There's movement, and then ears seen through the slit, and then the ears moosh against the ceiling as eyes line up with the slit and peer out. There's a very lupine little noise from inside the hutch, and then hands wrapped in white gloves lift and press down on the stone and ease it down and back into the earth, making a door for herself. Once out, she covers her traces and melts the rock back under the earth, leaving a patch of dirt and little else. "Please do not leave me here alone! I do not want to tell stories later, I want to be able to choose to not tell stories later"! She scampers after the clattery bug, doing her best to be anything but "alone."

Marc may be ghosting again, intangible but visible, and mostly silent -- and Scully's stayed home this time because they had a fight and it was bad news, so the mostly silent can probably be attributed to that -- but he follows along after the others, trying not to attract attention. Moody Marc.

Who's up for an adventure?!

While Uschi -might- not understand the cadence of her companions, she does understand which way these Wyrd winds blow. No Cordy is left behind. No Trod is deviated from. No Dragonfly-mechanism-thing draws /too/ much untoward attention -- although surely any attention is too much for the Moon, who looks like she'd want nothing more than to simply melt into shadow unseen.

Not going to happen. Uschi is very substantial.

Sharp-toothed blood-drinking tree-babies? They might squeal and shake and threaten to draw bigger, badder, bolder creatures towards the rag-tag group of Wyrdos, but no! Some mild intimidation and clever antics from the crew? Short work is made of that avoided fiasco. Same goes for that sticky webbing they had to dart around, and then that oh-so-tempting stream of super crystal water... Avoided! All avoided!

Which is great. Means they can get to their destination in like... Three easy hours.

Three easy hours of hiking non-stop through the terrifying nightmare land of the deep Hedge, drawing them closer into the warm, swampy breath of the Wyrd ever-changing landscape. The Trod squishes under foot. Uschi doesn't care. Who needs shoes? Not her. Squish, squish, squish...

Uschi turns, and looks back at her companions -- Cordy, Reggie, Etsy, and Moody Marc. They all get a look. Her roll is slowed. She looks... Hungry? Angry? Stonefaced? Oh! Oh... Thoughtful. Uschi is thoughtful. It's just really, really, really, -really- hard to tell. "...What'd Feck say, 'gain? Marshet?..."

"Marshkets," confirms Etsy, restless in the back seat of the Dragonfly, and bossing Reggie around constantly, if sweetly, as an outlet for their restlessness. "I am having a names of a persons or animals or somethings at a Marshkets to give a messages to, so we are going to do a goings there. Is that ways," she points out insistently from her seat, where mrbl is curled up by her feet/fins. For some reason, the mrbl is not sassing Reggie today.

The marshes are a reeking morass of too-warm water and rotting plant- and animal-life. Or combinations of the two. It isn't too picky about what rots in it, to be frank, and neither are the various creatures wandering about within the muck.

There are a number of spindly-legged, mostly-bareskinned purple things the size of elephants with knobby knees and bulbous bellies, heads most often buried beneath the muck as they so-slowly sift it back and forth, occasional gulps of no-one-wants-to-know-what slurped up long and loose-skinned throats.

There is also, the sound echoing through the dripping, reeksome vines and mosses which hang from the creeping branches of the trees, a fair number of voices ahead, raised in what seems to be friendly argument.

The trod itself is an often-submerged path between small knolls and rises, though the farther into the marsh one goes, the lighter one feels. Quite literally lighter, as it so happens. Gravity doesn't seem to follow the same rules, here, as it does farther from Arcadia, and why are those butterflies belching blue-green flames..? Oh, wait, those aren't butterflies. At least, if they are, they're butterflies with needle-like mosquito mouths the size of kittens. They are also hungry. Very, very hungry.

There's no point in getting your craft all mucky when you can hover. And so once the marshland appears in earnest, Reggie kicks in the wings to begin beating. The craft becomes effectively weightless, and the legs curl up into the fuselage. He, Etsy, and the Dangerbug quite contentedly bob along, hovering a foot or so above the mire. It's at this point, when things are fairly well miserable that Reggie reaches under his seat and pulls out his lunch box. It's a lunch box that happens to feature Reggie himself in place of a super hero, but that's vanity for you. He opens it, pulls out a tupperware, and pops it open to offer it back towards Etsy, "Canape? There's littel fishy ones, there." As though remembering himself, he swings around to gesture the tupperware out towards the others, "Canape? Anyone?"

Oh oh oh oh oh that's so GROSS... but it isn't. Not for Cordy. When she walks through the mucky marsh, the soil and liquid slough off her companionably. She's warm and dry in the middle of all this muck, with little but some strange dusting and speckling of various rotting organic materials she is patently not thinking about left behind with each step and washed into the muck in exchange for fresh dust on the next. She is quiet. SO quiet. Not stealthy quiet, just not-talking quiet. Things that don't talk get less attention than things that talk, and she's happy to let the others take that attention for themselves as she trots meekly along roughly in the center of the group.

She pauses when they see the fireflies. "... ah... ah, Miss Etsy? Mister Danger, Miss Buschi..? Do not crush those. Their insides burn. The..." She swallows. "... juices... are good to soak things in. For making torches. But wooden things and flesh will burn, so... maybe... best to try to stay clear."

vanE has been very quiet as well. Did anyone even know he's here? He trods somewhat towards the back, perhaps nearish Uschi, but not exactly /with/ Uschi. An unseen dark wind rustles his hair and his coat, and his eyes occasionally burn with different colors depending on where they are and what they see.

Held down by his side and at the ready, his antique-looking, patina'd pistol remains clenched in his fingers. Though it isn't apparent at all if he's nervous or uncertain being here. He is rather hard to read. Aloof, one might even say.

"So more like napalmflies," mumbles Marc, shoving his hands in his pockets and walking insubstantially on the surface of the muck. He's still thinking about Mexico. He'll be thinking about Mexico for the rest of his life. Generally speaking, if there's stuff you want to buy in a hard-to-get-to place on the other side of jungle and man-eating creatures, it's not in Mexico, he figures, or if it is, then the creatures are at least the kind you can look up in books.

Uschi sniffs in a few times - her pace slowing to a contemplative lumber as they draw closer into the marshes. Huh. Different air. When she looks back, the commentary about canapés has the Ogress looking all sorts of unconvinced -- a glance to the skies above. What's the tree canopy look like? Alert, hyper-vigilant, all sorts of scout-like.

When that muffled sound up ahead filters through the marsh, Uschi stops - ear flicking, how odd for a humanoid ear! As Cordy speaks to Reggie and Etsy about the firefly-esque horrorbugs, Uschi turns and looks towards the two other companions: Marc and vanE. It's the Darkling with a side-arm she grunts to, then dips her head in the direction of the voices -- murmuring, although the Wyrd bunch can probably hear: "Fuck the napalmflies - let's go hear them folk, they're squawkin' types."

Huh? Oh Uschi! Hopefully the sound is in the same direction Etsy's being told to go, because the Ogress is lumbering off - stealthily? - in that-a-way...

"Is a right directions," offers Etsy, who looks at the fishy canapes with a longing expression, but since she is literally neither here nor there at the moment, she cannot take one. "Save me a ones," she sighs at her fiance, leaning forward to peer after Uschi, her sea-change eyes shimmering brilliant opalescent, like the front edge of a wave's foam burbling in the sunlight. She tugs her lower lip in under her sharp teeth, worriedly. Climbs up to the front edge of the Dragonfly. Someone is not in her seat wearing her seatbelt but sitting in front of Reggie, just behind the Dragonfly's eyes. But hey, at least he can otterly adore her butt, or w/e.

Marc, so quiet. Marc, too intangible for canapes. Marc, so sulky. He steps up a little faster to catch up with Cordy in the middle of the group, while Uschi's sneaking off thataway, and whispers, "Sorry about offending you at the meeting. I didn't mean to; it wasn't personal. Some days I jump at every shadow."

When Uschi arrives, she sees a group of half a dozen hobgoblins and two Changelings. Both of the Changelings are bare-assed naked other than a loincloth, feral-looking sorts, one of them an Ogre fairly far along the Wyrdness scale and the other a wiry little guy who seems as much metal as human, golden filigree and delicate punch-out lacework adorning his body. A heap of clothing is on the ground nearby, the Ogre's pile a mess of armour and smelly furs, while the Golden Boy's pile is nice and tidy.

The two Changelings appear to be in the middle of a duel of some sort, and a freestanding archway formed of oddly volcanic-seeming rocks glows with a summer-honey light off to the right of the trod where they are fighting.

The hobs are evenly split between the two combatants, three cheering when the Ogre makes a fist and has the earth sucker punch his opponent, and the other three booing. The Golden Boy sends a stinging rain of stony needles toward the Ogre's face in reply.

Cordy whips around as Marc addresses her, cheeks puffed out and hand to her mouth. Reggie had offered canapes, and apparently- lacking Etsy's convenient excuse to avoid stuffing her face- Cordy has partaken. Heartily. While she hasn't QUITE made a pig of herself, it's been three hours, she's got what looks like a forge behind her face, and fuel is a necessity she didn't think to bring.

Her cheeks deflate as she swallows awkwardly and shakes her head, ears flopping above her corded braids. "No, please. Do not apologize. I understand. I am... used to being viewed so. I am Strange. And my reputation is... less than pristine. Do not say sorry to me, Mister Marc. It is well with me." She bows a touch, at the waist, perhaps twenty degrees- perhaps a bit more.

As Uschi wanders off, the rabbit's ears start twitching and quivering, turning towards the sounds. "... cheers? ... crumbly sounds. Cracks. Thuds... fleshy thuds. Two groups at odds. One cheers when one boos. Several voices to each." She murmurs. She's quiet, she's always quiet- even with important information, she can't really make herself heard if she's not being paid attention to.

And yet, Marc is right there. He strains to listen to Cordy, after giving her a nevertheless-apologetic half-smile, and then squints in that direction. "Cheering and booing and fleshy thuds? Sounds like Fight Club."

"I've been in enough soldier's bars to know a betting fight when I hear one," Reggie pipes up, having finished his little mid-adventure meal some time ago. Now he's climbing back out of his aircraft again, swinging his leg over the side and sliding down the wing all graceful and dapper. Once he's on the ground, he checks his sidearm to ensure it's loose in the holster. He then takes his sweet time putting his scarf and general attire into proper order. Can't make a dashing entrance if you're not looking dashing, after all.

Fight! Fight? Fight! Uschi's stealthy perch in some boggy shadow gives her a pretty stellar view of the situation down below -- she is free to see the Ogre and Wiry Fellow (Elemental? Wizened? So hard to tell sometimes!) duking it out in the muck. Excellent. If anyone were to see her - which is unlikely - they'd see some interest pique in those nocternal eyes -- and hesitation in her usually sure movements. The Ogress wants to go back and tell the others... But maybe some more reconnaissance is needed.

Yes. Yes. Uschi needs to gather intel. That's why she's staying put and observing the duel. Nothing to do with the fact she's already begun an internal assessment over who shall become The Victor. Hmm, if only she had a bunch of fruit and a minor Goblin Hoard in her rucksack, then she could place a bet with one of those shifty looking hobs.

Oh wait. Uschi does. Only... Gotta observe first. Carefully. The situation must be examined.

Wizened? Probably Wizened. Maybe? More than likely, a combination of the two, but the fact that he moves as though he were infinitely familiar with physical combat doesn't necessarily mean he's a Soldier. Neither of them is 'armed' in a traditional fashion -- they are fighting purely with the Hedge itself.

The Ogre sidesteps the worst of the needles, but a few do seem to penetrate his hide, thick blue blood slowly oozing from scattered cuts. Growling something inarticulate, his lips curl back from protruding tusks in a muck-stained grimace, swampy mud liberally coating him in a splatter-splash from face to hip on the right side. He doesn't seem particularly imaginative, but he sure is brutal. Another punch of earth attempts to jerk up from beneath the Golden Boy's feet, but Goldy seems to have anticipated it; he springs off just in time, and manages to get off a salvo of wind and, incidentally, a few of the torchflies, fire scorching the now bellowing Ogre.

My, what a lovely welcome to the vicinity of the Market.

Floof floof floof. Etsy holds her hand out to Reggie, even though he can't actually take her hand, because she's not substantial at the moment. She remembers that a moment later, and she drops down to the earth, landing oddly and lightly on her tatty silk slippers. The see-through mermaid floofs alongside her dashing beau, and the mrbl trails along after them, cautiously. Etsy is between them, illusory floof as she might be right now. But still. Reggie did threaten the mrbl with a 'lawn mower accident,' so...

When the Ogre is rather hurt? The mermaid's Mantle flares, all runner-vines and white flowers, and she hums merrily, perhaps a little brittle. "Doot doot doot. Doot. Doot."

As Etsy and Reggie prepare to head off, Cordy nods to Marc. "It would seem as though you have found the truth of it, if Mister Danger says so. I will follow, if we are going that way... and I have a feeling we are," she murmurs, as Etsy seems intent on wandering that way. As they go, she follows, one hand worrying the charms on her bracelet as they get near to the Hedge Duel. She pays attention, but it's clear she's unhappy. She's watching to be sure SHE doesn't get caught UP in their madness- not because she wants to watch in the slightest.

The ever-quiet, rather unobtrusive vanE appears to be following after Uschi without outright following her, somehow. He's no one's sidekick, and he remains aware of his surroundings, but he does move after her, almost like he's become the Ogress' shadow. In this case, the more sets of eyes and ears, probably the better.

Nothing to worry about! Reggie is a world famous, wildly renowed c-list actor, stunt pilot, and unlikely millionaire. With a stirling reputation sorely in need of some tarnish remover, granted, but even so. He's a world traveler! A voyager of forgotten roads! And armed! He's armed, too, lest anyone forget! "I don't mind admitting to you that I am suddenly keenly aware Britain is no longer an empire," he asides to Etsy as they start off. "If any of them make a move for my wallet, renounce Anglicanism and offer the the head of Piers Morgan." He's all smiles, however. Bright, toothy, gleaming, hedgespun-crown revealing smiles. Hullo! Yes. We belong here.

"I was never havings an Anglerfishicanisms," burbles the merms aside to Reggie.

"Then it should make you an easy renunciate," Reggie offers, providing the punchline.

Uschi... Observes the fracas down below. It takes a bit. The she snorts, chuckles low, and grunts in vervanE's direction; "Sometimes - ya break open a stone, what do ya find? Gold." Ruddy right hand reaches out, and then she gestures towards the hobs. See that one? No, not that one - /that/ one! Uschi starts to move -- stealthily, perhaps?

She won't nudge the Darkling -- that'd suggest he wasn't his own free man, and damnit, Uschi believes strongly in personal autonomy. Surely, that's why she does exactly what she wants in quietly padding up to one of them little hobs who seems real interested in the Fightin' Ogre, looming up behind him for a little while, then grunting.

"Bet'cha Goldy takes out Stoney." Is Uschi worried about how the rest of the Wyrd Gang is going to interact with the hobs and duelling fae? No. She's gesturing to vanE as if to say 'no no, let me make this amazing bet, I don't agree with you trying to tell me it's a bad idea', then speaking to the hob again. "You let us know them rules to the Market 'round here, if I'm right? If I ain't, and Stoney takes Goldy out, it'll win ya a bottle of coke and some scared-ta-death spiders, no doubt."

No worries about getting caught up in the madness; the six hobs of the audience seem to have spread out into a very specifically sized circle. There is plenty of space in it for the combat .. and, ah, consequently, no easy way to get PAST them on the trod. They block pretty much the entire thing.

When the group of Fate's Harvesters (and friends) show up around a bend in the labryinthine swamp, the audience glances at them just long enough to see that they aren't going to interfere, then goes back to watching the duel.

Uschi's prospective deal gets her an incredulous look from the three-horned toad of a hob. He comes up to perhaps her waist, and only has four fingers on each hand, with a very broad mouth, large eyes, and moist skin. Also, he smells like a cross between mildewed laundry and rotting grass clippings with a side order of stale mothball. "You kiddin' me?" he retorts, waving a stubby arm at the Ogre. "Rod's the best!" He laughs, short neck tipping back, and holds out a hand to slap at Uschi's for a shake. "I'll take THAT bet! Prepare to lose, halfling."

Another Ogre fan nearby gives Uschi a malicious grin and chortles, "Witnessed!" before going back to watching the fight.


Unfortunately for the hob, the Ogre, for all his brute power, seems to be having a VERY unlucky day.

It is only a few attacks later that Goldy lays the big guy flat with an enormous wall of swiftly-moving swampwater and tree roots.

The Hedge, hungry, is now sated, a certain violent air beginning to fade.

Goldy's fans give raucous cheers, while Ogre's fans booooo and awwwww and, in the case of Uschi's new 'friend', mutter very impolite things. "Alright, alright, I'll give you the Fae-cursed rules..."

"Halfling?" mouths Marc with incredulous amusement, then slouches comfortably in the back to watch-- and wince sometimes, and squint, and generally make faces-- then look startled when Uschi's bet pays off. Startled and impressed. He'll have to tell her later how clever that was. If she looks like she's not about to bite his head off, maybe.

vanE watches this whole interaction between Uschi and the hobs with the aura of someone here to monitor: for grievous moral affronts, perhaps. He smiles a touch as the bet is made, but still doesn't say a word. Perhaps he actually approves of this 'plan,' such as it is. Wild woman or no, maybe Uschi is well-suited to this kind of...er...diplomacy. Though the actually more traditionally diplomatic sorts in the group can no doubt work a few wonders as well.

The mermaid is content -- for the moment, anyway -- to let someone else take the lead. While Uschi is extracting the Rules (tm), Etsy is watching everyone else in the crowd, though drifting close enough to hear, as if they're a bit of cork bobbing on the waves. Floof floof floof. hello i am an inconsequential floof pay no attention to the floof behind the separation

Little hob, slapped Uschi's hand? All that and the cry of Witnessed! get from the Ogress is a dull grunt. Then she turns, and looks at vanE -- no rakish smile, no wink, no nothing except a long, unblinking, possibly complicated stare. Does that mean she's upset? Uncertain? Unatisfied? Not exactly. She turns to look at the fight.

"..." Silence from Uschi. Is she dumb? Was it crafty? Shouldn't she be reacting to that halfling comment? Surely an affront to her very dead arm... And yet no. She jut waits, and waits, and seems entirely - entirely - unsurprised when Goldy wins.

No victory howl. No look to her Wyrd companions. Uschi merely turns, looks down at the little impolite hob, and waits for her winnings.

Uschi can wait. She's super patient. Until she is not.

The toady hob isn't happy, but a deal's a deal. He spits on the ground, then starts muttering a fast litany of laws.

"1. You steal, the person you steal from gets part of you as payment. You want it back, you've gotta pay 'em for it separate-like. 2. No welching on deals. 3. Any fighting's gotta be out here."

He points at the ground and stomps on it, resulting in a flatulent squelch of mud and muck when a bit of grassy earth proves to have had some form of gas beneath it.

"4. Don't sass the sniffers. They're real good at sniffing out fights. 5. Keep your mouths shut near the Founders. They don't like your kind, and they don't care if you want 'em to like you. They won't. You should all be slaves, THEY say. All you're good for. Crooked contracts."