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Seneca Lake, NY; Finger Lakes; Wine; Winery; vineyard; Fishing; boating; water sports; sailing; trout; bass; Seneca Lake Wine Trail; We Are Seneca Lake; Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association; Gas Free Seneca; Walleye, smallmouth bass, lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon; Seneca Army Depot; White Deer; HAB's; blue-green algae; cyano-bacteria; Gas Storage; Incinerator; Waste-to-energy;
We bought our house in 2015 and have a fixed mortgage that started out at 1200.00 (includes our hoa, taxes, home insurance etc). It has gone from 1200/mo to 3307.48/mo In just the last 3 years alone. I can’t even begin to describe how stressed out and upset I am. Thankfully I’ve already contacted my lender and county tax appraisal to challenge them but good god, why can’t people understand what the hell is happening in our country but especially in Texas. Our house was 200,000 when we bought and it’s now being valued at almost a million. It’s not even worth anything even remotely near that. When I tell you that home after home after home is going up for sale in my huge neighborhood I mean that I have never seen anything like it. Maybe a few sold when prices sky rocketed but not many.
As of two months ago I have counted over 30 houses that have been put on the market for no more than 350k. Why would they now and not when the houses were selling for 5-600k in our hood? Well that’s because they didn’t want to sell, but due to the property taxes skyrocketing they now are forced to.
Hmm..I wonder why schools here can’t find teachers? Oh, yeah I remember now!! ITS BECAUSE THEY MAKE NOTHING AND CANT AFFORD HOUSING IN THE CITIES ANYMORE AND CANT AFFORD TO TRAVEL TO WORK DUE TO GAS PRICES.
sigh end rant.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
I've won a few games and after winning it asks me if I want to upgrade a card. Should I do this every time or should I be selective?
I've been looking in the shop and there are three cards for sale quite cheap. Again, is it worth just grabbing them every day or waiting and being more selective with my choices.
At the moment I'm just slapping cards down and trying to get them to work and giving priority to cards that have an ability (but will usually have lower base stats?)
Even almost a week later, Yegel was still soaring on the hope from that day. A weight on his eyes that he'd never even noticed had been lifted, leaving him more alert and awake, the whole world more vibrant and colorful.
Of course, the morning after had brought clarity- and an additional helping of stress. Having had the time to calm down and examine it, he was realizing that the fact he now saw humans as people was dangerous- especially with such an important and dangerous screening coming up. If he accidentally sympathized too much in one place, or had a reaction that he would never have had before...
...He still couldn't bring himself to regret it though. Even the fading of his emotional high hadn't erased what felt like an important revelation- that he no longer thought of humans as predators with interesting quirks, but as real, actual people, with true empathy and sapience. They were still predators, still alien in ways he couldn't understand- but now, that didn't feel like the same kind of impenetrable barrier that it used to be.
Still, now he had to be even more careful going forward- regardless of it being the truth, nobody else would believe him about a predator species being fully sapient and civilized. If anything, trying to convince anyone would get him institutionalized- and he was already fighting far too hard to keep himself out of those nightmare-makers for as long as he could manage. At least with humanity being extinct, the topic was unlikely to come up, but he hadn't made it this far in life without preparing for even the unlikely.
Caution was still warranted though, and so he'd been spending his time preparing and watching the manifests for incoming ships- so when he saw a group of scowling figures approaching him from behind at lunchtime, it was less of a shock and more the realization of inevitability. Exterminators. Just what he needed to deal with today.
Sighing quietly, he fought down the rising panic and instinctive urge to run, and instead pretended not to notice the approaching officers- running never did any good, and trying to fight back or protest would lead to... retaliation.
Their timing was just the worst though- he'd been looking forward to having lunch with his friends, and taking a chance to decompress and relax. He'd been meticulous so far this week at maintaining his stress- other than his newfound indulgence in forbidden predator media- so it wasn't like he was scrambling to calm down. However, he really could use every bit of patience and composure he could get.
The grasping hands roughly pulling him out of the lunch-line, however, clearly didn't care about that, immediately starting to goosestep him through the cafeteria, regardless of the whispers and stares now coming their way.
"Lieutenant Yegel," a vaguely-familiar voice barked harshly as he was shoved forward, "your presence is required immediately. You are coming with us."
A bit late to give him a warning, wasn't it? Especially since he wasn't resisting in the first place. It was just theater to them- reciting something because they were supposed to, despite the outcome having already been determined. It was better to just not antagonize them-
"You know," he couldn't stop himself from saying, "If you wanted a date, you could have just a-"
A massive fist slammed into him, burying itself beneath his ribcage. The words died in his throat as all his air was forcefully expelled, his talons leaving the ground as he bent double over the grey three-toed paw.
"Quiet, predator," the Takkan ground out, slowly removing his forelimb from where it had been buried in Yegel's gut. "you'll only talk if our boss deigns to let filth like you waste our air, got it?"
Wheezing in reply, Yegel fought to try and recover the air that had been forcefully driven out of him, the exterminators yanking him by his wings and dragging him onwards. Perhaps it was good that he hadn't eaten yet- nothing there to have upchucked other than the vile spittle now burning at his tongue.
Guess he must be a new transfer, Yegel thought offhandedly, glancing up to see them approaching a familiar eating area. That would be a useful distraction from the main threat. Fighting down the pain through bitter familiarity, Yegel did his best to relax his feathers and his mind- he'd need all of it for this next mental sparring match.
Ornate doors covered in intricate patterns were thoughtlessly slammed open as the Exterminators dragged him into the private eating area, the shift between industrial flooring and soft, luxurious padding making his dragging talons catch on the delicate textiles. Vibrantly detailed paintings hung amidst sprawling vines imported from Nishtal, cast in cool, fluorescent light that made their rich colorings shimmer as he was dragged by. Even the tables and chairs were carved in the old Krakotl fashions, padding clearly intended for nesting rather than the utilitarian perching of the seats in the mess-hall.
It wasn't perfect though- spots of dull gray industrial walls poked through gaps between the wood, and the carpet was peeling in places, revealing the dirty standard flooring beneath. Despite the valiant attempts, any further inspection made it clear that this was all inserted after this area had already been built- a veneer of elegance plastered over a crude, utilitarian base.
Unfortunately, he did not get the chance to indulge in the comfortable seating, instead receiving a sharp blow between his wings that pushed him to the ground, heavy feet planting themselves on his back and neck to pin him to the ground. Iron grips continued holding his wings, pulling them painfully above his back, where they felt moments away from getting dislocated. Dragging in a rasping breath, his eyes roved to the two exterminators now aiming their flamethrowers at him, a young krakotl female whose adult patterns hadn't even fully come in yet, and a grim-eyed Gojid with distinct scarring, who at least looked somewhat professional as opposed to his partner's obvious anger and twitching trigger.
"Oh, fer Intala's sake," a familiar wheezing voice groaned in exasperation. "Can't trust you Grucknut-heads with anything, can I?"
The Krakotl tottering into the room was puffing what rough, stringy feathers he had left in irritation, a walking cane thunking on the floor as he hobbled over to a table decorated in a carving of two krakotl in flight- though from this angle, it looked more like they were plummeting to the ground. The skin around the geezer's eyes was wrinkled and gathered into such heavy bags that he seemed to be squinting at all the world around him- though Yegel certainly didn't miss the cold, calculating glint buried deep within his eyes.
"Off!" He barked, clacking his way over to where Yegel was pinned, angrily thumping his cane against the very confused Exterminators pinning him down. "Off him, you nut-skulled lunks! Bad enough you can't remember simple instructions, now you make me correct your messes meself? Off I say!"
In the face of the irate elder, the befuddled Exterminator's grips on Yegel loosened, finally letting his wings fall slack enough to make his chest stop feeling like it was stuck in an industrial compressor. Gratefully sucking in air as his rapidly-bruising side twinged, he looked up to find the his crotchety savior kneeling next to him, one wing resting on his cane as he creakily settled into a crouch.
"Sorry about the fuss," he wheezed, flicking his tail angrily at the young krakotl who had been moving forward indignantly. "Ask them to invite somebody to mealtime, and they go and pull this." A shaking wing reached out, offering it's grip to Yegel. "Up you come, boy. I'll not have you eating off the floor like some animal."
Yegel eyed the shaking hand, before planting his wings on the ground, fighting through the pain until he'd pushed himself onto his talons through his own strength. A glimmer of something oily flashed behind the old man's squinting eyes as he watched the display, snorting in amusement when Yegel reached out and pulled the Elder to his feet instead.
"Wasn't much of a request," he commented, carefully ignoring the angry shuffling of the people he knew had flamethrowers trained on him. "I don't suppose you're just wanting to make another sales pitch, are you Geezil?"
"Hah!" the old man barked, toddling over to a cushioned seat, "Always so blunt, Yegel. Straight to business, every time!" The younger krakotl female stepped forward, gently helping the grumbling man into his seat, where he sighed and immediately settled back into the cushions. "Ah, don't worry, got more to say than the usual this time- but first, got a special something for our meal."
With a flick of his wing, he signaled several servers to quietly enter the room, carrying a wide array of dishes and platters that were quickly and efficiently distributed to the relevant tables- both for the old man and Yegel, and even for the other exterminators, who glanced warily between the food, Yegel, and the officer watching everything with a hawkish stare. None of them seemed brave enough to decide what to do- or to stop Yegel as he began moving forward.
Yegel carefully pulled out his own perch, keeping his own movements slow as he settled into the admittedly-luxurious seating. Commander Geezil, the one in charge of the base's Exterminators- and probably one of the oldest individuals still serving within that institution's ranks. He'd heard the rumors about this being an unofficial forced retirement- storing him someplace out of the way when they couldn't make him quit- but he'd come to know the old man too well to believe it. He'd chosen this post himself- and Yegel still couldn't figure out why.
"Sir," the young krakotl started, giving Yegel the stink-eye from across the table, "I must ask what you are doing- you are well aware that he's-"
"Accused, girl," the codger interrupted, frilling his feathers derisively, "by a bitter fleet commander with a record of incidents from his troops longer than his crew-lists- and a penchant for lashing out at those he thinks insulted him." Seeing her shrink back at his harsh tone, his tattered feathers smoothed back down, a shaking wing reaching out and gently patting her shoulder. "Ah, it's politics, grand-daughter- a vile game of inflated egos and pointless posturing. It's like a courtship dance with a Duerten- unpleasant, filled with angry words, with a result that's unpleasant regardless of success or failure- but if you try to skip out, you're liable to lose an eye or worse, hehe."
"Still," she insisted, though much more hesitantly now, her eyes not quite as harsh as they flicked over at him, "with a list of incidents this long, however justified, you must admit it is a clear sign of a violent, unstable nature. If he were to suddenly lash out..."
"I've personally reviewed each incident," the commander snorted, swirling an eating utensil through the bowl in front of him. "Didn't find a single one where he were in the wrong. Besides, were we really concerned about his mind, we got a perfectly good doctor right on-base." His gimlet eyes turned to Yegel, the corners of his beak turned up in a smirk. "You're familiar with her, of course?"
"Indeed," Yegel admitted, keeping his wings at his side despite the tightening of his stomach as the smells of the meal assaulted him. Everything the old man was saying was already known between them- and while it might be simply for the benefit of his new underling, Yegel knew better than to assume there wasn't a different, less obvious purpose. "I've been screened by her multiple times- just like the doctors back on Nishtal, got clear marks across the board."
Her expression was twisted, clearly unwilling to accept that but unable to think of an adequate rebuke for it. "All the same," she started, shifting her wings to roll the fuel tank for her flamethrower from side to side, "I'm uncomfortable with this- it's dangerous to be eating with a predator, especially alone. Just because we're in the room doesn't mean we'll be able to react in time."
The old man's features wrinkled as he scowled, beak half-open, when Yegel jumped on the opportunity. "Actually, I agree," he stated, taking a bit of mischievous glee in the way their expressions popped in shock. "I would feel much safer if someone was sitting with us, to keep me safe."
Beak dropping open, her gaping expression twisted between shock and indignation as she choked at such blatant disrespect- but whatever retribution she thought to unleash was cut short as the old krakotl burst into loud, wheezing laughter, his bony wings thumping against the table as he howled in glee, making the dishes rattle dangerously. His laughter echoed through the room, to the visible discomfort of every other exterminator, half of them sinking back down from where they'd half-risen from their seats.
"Cheeky to the last, you are!" he barked, clutching his chest as he giggled dry, crackling chortles. "Ah, you have a point- best you sit with us, my dear- get introduced with- with this handsome young fella. Yegel, this is Lialu, daughter of my firstborn, and as you can see, the unfortunate inheritor of the branch up his bum." Kalina squawked indignantly, raising a wing as if to smack his shoulder in retribution, but her eyes flicked to Yegel as she paused, slowly settling back into a tense at-ease stance. "You might be working together someday- and if things go well, maybe a little more than that, hehe!" The sour twisting of her cheeks showed exactly what she thought of that idea.
"I'm flattered," Yegel droned dryly, "but I think if she hasn't even gotten her adult patterns, then that's far too dangerous for me."
"As if I'd be interested in such a disgraceful troublemaker in the first place!" she snapped right back, wings half-raised in a gesture of disgust. "tarnishing my career so early would be pointless- and I have no interest in such distractions anyways!"
"Bah, you're fourteen already, better that you start looking for a partner now," the geezer griped, ignoring the way she rolled her eyes uncomfortably. "This work's dangerous, girl- you can't plan for the future as if it's guaranteed, or else you'll find you've missed out." His eyes went a bit glassy and unfocused, staring off into the walls in an melancholic reminiscence. "Regret's a heavy thing to bear, and the years are never kind..."
The two younger krakotl shifted uncomfortably as silence fell, glancing between each other uncomfortably as he lapsed into old memories only he could see. Yegel was silently thankful for the break- these gaps in the old man's train of thought were the only thing that made these conversations manageable.
Unfortunately, Yegel's stomach decided to interject by gurgling it's frustration at being empty, snapping the greying elder out of his thoughts as his gaze snapped across the table. Yegel fought back the urge to flinch, if only barely- and even that was enough for the old man's eye to sparkle with something that made Yegel's skin crawl beneath his feathers.
"Ah, I've been distracting you with my yammering, haven't I?" the Head Exterminator apologized, gesturing grandly towards the array of filled dishes. "Go on, eat up boy- you've got a busy day ahead of you after all!" His wrinkled wing-hand receded from gesturing, and patted the young female on the shoulder. "You too, grand-daughter- gotta keep your calorie intake up to maintain those muscles- gear's heavy, and always getting heavier!"
Whatever his tone and attitude might have suggested, Yegel already knew that it wasn't a request. Gritting his beak, he delicately scooped up a bowl of thick, viscous algae, and methodically poured some into his beak.
Silty and clinging to his tongue, Yegel knew intellectually that this was a high-quality blend- that the consistency and density of the meal spoke of great care taken in the growing, filtering, and preparation of this dish- completely unlike the usual clumpy, soil-tainted slop served in the cafeteria. It was the sort of dish that must be incredibly expensive, even ignoring how far they were from anywhere of any importance- a culinary treat most on the base would have fought fiercely for a chance to try.
Yet as he consciously swallowed it down and discreetly clinked the bowl down on the table, all his tongue could taste was ash and flamethrower-fuel.
"Good, isn't it?" Geezil prompted as his grand-daughter also set her own bowl back down. "Straight from Nishtal, that is, grown properly in the pools, instead of them techno-vats they got on this here base. Reminds me of when I met Laila, you know- or rather, when I first worked up the gumption to ask for her time..." The old man chuckled to himself, his eyes staring off into the distance once again. "Stars, she was beautiful- and me a strapping young lad, straight from academy- big-headed from training, yet a fumbling mess with the other sex. Took me far too long to even make a pass, and longer still to make it official- kept finding excuses, when I really was just scared she'd say no!"
Yegel suppressed the urge to sigh, and found himself sharing a commiserating look with the exterminator who clearly had been through this rambling story almost as often as he had. Maybe he'd entertain the idea of bonding with her over it, if only he wasn't painfully aware of how strongly she and her friends wanted to reduce him to a pile of charred carbon. At least he wasn't suffering alone.
"You know, we got some side-eyes because of our difference in age- I was a fresh recruit, and she had been in the service for twelve years," Geezil confided absentmindedly, a dreamy expression on his face even as his granddaughter blanched and leaned away. "Ah, but we made it fine, found our happiness- and you should too!" he shifted, refocusing on his two unwilling guests. "Ten years made no difference, and you've a difference of what, five years? Not even that!"
Yegel inhaled deeply, letting his chest fully expand as he held back the surge of emotion that would certainly have worn through the elder's patience if let loose. Releasing the air in a deep sigh, he wrangled himself back into a restrained, controlled frame of mind. "Is trying to play matchmaker with your grand-daughter the only reason you arranged this meeting, sir? Because I stand by my utter lack of interest in her."
"Ah, you know it's not, you stiffneck," the old man grumbled, shifting around in his seat as he picked through his own spread of food. "You're a perfect fit for the corps, and we both know it. You got enough fire in you to want to fix the rot in society when you see it, and a good head on your neck as well- just gotta give you the training to aim it right, if you know what I'm saying." His cane reached out and tapped Yegel on the side jovially- and Yegel winced as his bruised ribs ignited in fiery pain, unable to stop a strained hiss from escaping his beak as he bent in place from the automatic tightening of his muscles.
Immediately, the entire room fell deathly still. Where once the silence had been uncomfortable but tolerable and interspersed with the inane sounds of clinking dishes, now it was an oppressive, choking claw squeezing around everyone's neck, unbroken by even a single breath of air.
"Barum." Geezil's flat, quiet statement whipped out through the stillness, a single cracking note that made the Takkan flinch in his seat. There was no waver in the old bird's voice now, only a cold, hard surety that made Yegel's feathers itch. "I was very explicit in my instructions. Was I not?"
"The- the predator resisted!" Barum tried to protest- though the waver in his voice clearly made it more of a plea. "With how dangerous he's proved to be, I had to-"
"Dangerous?" the drawled interruption made the hulking, thick-skinned exterminator flinch back from the dull-feathered bird barely half his size. "I see no injuries on any of you. There has never been an injury from officers bringing him in to me. I... was quite clear about wanting him brought here unharrassed." A single beady eye bored into the towering gray alien, making him shrink into himself under it's heat. "Do I lie?"
"S-sir please!" Sweat glistened on the Takkan's thick grey hide as he cowered back, his seat clattering to the floor as he stumbled. "It- I apologize, I swear I thought it was necessary! It won't happen again, sir! Please!"
Yegel knew what was coming next- the tightening of Geezil's beak and raising of the feathers on his back were a sure sign of how furious the old man was. All he had to do was sit back quietly and let it play out, and it would be both a distraction that bought him time, and retribution for the unnecessary blow he had taken- and was probably going to need to see the doctor for after this- if he was in a position to visit her, of course. Geezil's eyes were hard and cold, focused on his subordinate- getting between him and the subject of his ire would only earn him trouble... and yet, as Geezil's beak opened, he simply couldn't stop himself.
"While this is all quite engaging," Yegel interjected, refusing to flinch back as every eye in the room snapped towards him, Kalina's expression one of open shock while Geezil's screwed up in barely-contained fury, "but you said there was more to this meeting than making another recruitment pitch to me, yet all you've actually given besides that was an attempt to get me to go out with your grand-daughter." His confidence faltered as wrinkled eyes tightened, glaring holes into him, but he rallied himself and carefully considered his next words. "While your... repeated offers are actually quite flattering, I am quite happy with what I have managed to make for myself, without accepting favors or handouts- from anyone."
Geezil hummed to himself, maintaining his glare as the silent room held it's breath, before his jaw twitched upwards into a satisfied smirk, his eyes glinting as the granite in them faded into a smug satisfaction of having found what he was looking for. The entire room relaxed as he leaned backwards in his perch, Barum falling to the floor and trying to muffle the sounds of his heaving for breath. The gentle clinking of dishes and silverware once more filled the room in a very deliberate attempt at making noise, covering up the previous tension with artificial ease. Kalina was giving Yegel a look- not the pure disgust from earlier, but something confused, as if he were a particularly perplexing puzzle-game, or a problem that had suddenly reached an unexpected solution.
"You really can't help yourself, can you," Geezil noted approvingly, glancing over at his grand-daughter's reaction before nodding at Yegel- and making a jerking motion at Barum, who gulped and pulled himself off the floor, quietly hurrying his way out of the room. "So, I uh..." the light in his eyes faded, his beak clacking shut as he rapped his talons against his perch. "I, uh, huh... hmmm. There was, actually something else... Bother me, where were we? I can't remember..."
"I believe," Yegel commented dryly, fighting to keep his own breathing even, "That I was once again saying how content I am with my current position, and that even this doctor being imported just for me isn't enough for me to leave everything behind and run into the Exterminator Corps."
"Ah, right, right," he nodded, snagging on to the lead Yegel had thrown him, before pausing and looking out over the room. "I do respect what you've managed on your own," he finally admitted, setting his bowl to the side, "But this time... this doctor, he's not exactly playing fair. This is politics, the nasty sort- where he's going to do everything he can to make you disappear. Unless, of course..." reaching into his own pouch, he shakily produces a holopad that he slides over to Yegel, displaying a series of documents- and a prominent line for signatures. "You take an alternative. Sign up, and it'll be our own docs who do your eval- and you'll clear their tests just fine, I think. Might not be your ideal career path- but I'm loathe to let such a promising young man get screwed by Old-Molts with thin egos and sharp talons."
Yegel's first instinct was to push the pad away, to reject it like he usually did- but now, he paused, expression screwed up in conflict. A part of him was tempted- severely tempted- to accept- the part of him that was still terrified of the looming threat, that wanted to run somewhere-anywhere- and hide until this whole twisted situation just went away.
Was he being selfish, rejecting an offer like this? Wouldn't the right thing to do be to accept and guarantee he stayed alive, like Jelliba and Kallik so desperately wanted? Why take the risk, when safety was right here, just a signature away- something that would guarantee him the chance to see what Jelliba's final design would look like, to see Kallik climb through the ranks like Yegel knew he someday would? Was it pride that stayed his talons, or was he simply afraid of change?
"Seriously?!" his granddaughter hissed, clearly taken aback, unaware of Yegel's silent internal debate as she rounded on her grandfather angrily. "That's why he's here? So we can just ignore his entire history of warning signs, just because you like him? With a record like his-"
"-He'd fit right in," he finished for her, eyes narrowed in a disappointed glare that had her beak snapping closed as she shrunk back into her perch. "I know you ain't seen most of it, Lialu, but most of our recruits aren't exactly got glistening feathers. Heck, lots of our older recruits got worse on their record! It's half the point of the training regimen, to file down the burrs in their talons, make something useful from them."
File down the burrs... Was he really willing to accept what that entailed? What parts of himself would he need to sacrifice, if he went down this road? What would he become, on the other side of whatever training they had in store for him?
Would he still be Yegel?
Inhaling deeply through his beak, Yegel grasped the pad, which felt far heavier than it should... and gently slid it back over to Geezil.
"If I accepted now, that would practically be an admission of being sick," Yegel breathed, his heart pounding heavily within his chest. "I... am going to see this through- I will pass this evaluation, no matter what he throws at me- and then!" Finally, he looked Geezil in the eye, firming his own resolve as he squared his shoulders. "Then, and only then, will I consider your offer."
Geezil watched on, the burning tongues of some dark flame flickering behind his ancient eyes. When Yegel stood strong, his feathers crinkled into an amused display, even as he shook his head in mock disappointment. "Ah, you really are a fine young lad," he sighed mournfully, rapping his cane against the table. "Are you sure? The doctor arrived only an hour ago in port- this is your last chance, before we have to take you to your evaluation. And without anyone having requested the extra security of one of my officers, why, this might be the last time we see each other!"
Ah. So that was the old geezer's game. Yegel pushed down the rising surge of fear, quivering in his perch as he forced himself to meet the elder's gaze. "Then I'll go ahead and invite you myself- I'm more than happy to have an audience to me proving my innocence."
The old bird's beak twisted into an ugly grin. "I am sure you do. Lialu, go ahead- consider this a learning experience for the future, hmn? Now, I won't waste any more of your time- so off you go!"
The scraping of seats being pushed out was all the warning Yegel got before he was grabbed and pulled from his seat. "Hey, hey, gentle with him, you hard-headed brutes!" Scoffing, Geezil pushed himself back in his seat, glaring at his Exterminators as Yegel was unceremoniously dropped.
"So, you planned this all out in advance, didn't you?" Yegel guessed, pushing himself to his feet- and wincing as his side twinged in pain, reminding him of the rapidly-swelling bruise.
"Dunno what you mean," Geezil denied in faux apology, as his granddaughter gaped between the two of them, clearly lost on what was happening. "Figured you needed a chance to make the right choice- or failing that, a decent last meal." Waving his wing in disappointment, he gestured towards the door- which Yegel found himself getting rapidly pushed towards. "Good luck, lad- I hope to see you again someday!"
"Don't worry, sir," Yegel snapped back, shouldering away from his escorts and refusing to look back. "I'll be back sooner than you think."
The doors slammed shut behind his escorts, reflecting the young female's confused, conflicted gaze as she strode alongside him- Yegel felt a moment of pity for the young girl, who the geezer had clearly thrown into the deep end on purpose. Hopefully she caught onto the game soon, otherwise she'd end up as somebody's tool- though maybe it was already too late for that.
Stomach roiling at the thought of what lay ahead, Yegel couldn't help the feeling of regret for not taking the escape offered to him- sure it wouldn't be ideal, but he owed it to the people most important to him to make sure he stuck around a little longer. Why he'd rejected it... he couldn't quite put it into words, only a feeling that it would have been... wrong, somehow.
The cafeteria murmured again as he was led through the mealtime crowd, catching the panicked gazes of his friends across the room. Kallik was halfway out of his seat before Yegel carefully gestured back, tapping his wing against his throat- and watching his friend slowly settle back down, Kallik's eyes growing focused as he turned and strode towards a different exit, vanishing into the distance as Yegel was dragged through a set of doors out into a cold, grey hallway.
Clenching his gullet, he carefully felt out around Kallik's gift- safely stored within his throat. The creeping tendrils of terror within his mind were growing stronger, but he chose to have faith in his friend- and resolved to make sure his efforts were not wasted.
He'd find a way through- he just had to keep moving forward.
/// one week earlier...
Once he'd had the chance to compose himself, Yegel returned to his viewing- he wanted to see what happened next, after such a massive shift in the struggle now that Eren had actually earned them a victory.
Despite that, Armin's narration pointed out that too many lives had been lost for any celebrations to be in order- a sentiment that Yegel understood, but... well, he wasn't as surprised to to see it from the humans anymore. Imagine, it wasn't long ago that he'd have been expecting them to revel in the carnage like other predators, uncaring of the toll in lives- yet here they were, deeply affected by the loss of so many friends and comrades, and instead of being baffled by it, Yegel completely understood their response.
Oh, and they'd taken advantage of their unique situation to even capture two of the smaller titans, presumably for study- which, given Eren's sudden new powers, was probably something that needed more study than initially presumed. Thankfully the restraints seems pretty extensive, so hopefully they could keep the monsters contained- but still, imagine being the poor soul tasked with keeping them locked down! Hopefully it wouldn't take long for them to get what they needed and dispose of the creatures.
Of course, with victory came the morbid task of cleaning up the aftermath- and not in the way anyone else in the Federation would believe if he told them. Gathering up bodies as respectfully as they could, instead of devouring them on the spot? He'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone he was telling the truth!
When did Marco die?! Yegel thought he'd gotten away after saving Jean! Maybe it was in the push to get Eren to the gate? Geez, and Jean was the one to find him- Marco had been so supportive of him, despite Jean's fear and self-doubts, always willing to give a word of encouragement and affirm Jean's place as leader... and now he was gone, with Jean being forced to help the cleanup crew's by giving Marco's details...
The female doctor brought up something Yegel hadn't considered- that the reason for the urgency of their cleanup was because of the risk of an epidemic breaking out. The dead had been left too long, and now there was a risk of a secondary disaster if the humans didn't hurry. Yegel had never really considered something like that- meat was meat to predators, wasn't it? The Arxur never seemed to mind eating bodies they stumbled across, so he'd somehow assumed that diseases like that weren't a concern for predators.
Just another area where the humans proved their difference from the greys, he supposed.
Thankfully, the camera hadn't focused on Marco's corpse for too long, so Yegel was able to contain his urge to gag, focusing in on Jean and his emotional response- and how expressive human faces were, even when covered by face-masks to protect themselves from germs and contamination. Of course that was when the scene shifted to Sasha and Connie, helping to clean up a massive ball of... flesh... that apparently titans upchuck when they're too full, since they don't actually have a digestive track... and a closeup showed a human mouth inside, still opened in a silent scream...
Yes, hello wastebin, been a moment since we last met, how have you been? Don't mind me, just emptying my stomach again!
...Yegel didn't like Sasha- she was clearly the most "predatory" of the humans- but at least here, the disgust and horror on her face showed that there were lines even she wouldn't cross.
Even Annie, the stoic female who never seemed to show emotion, was shaken- standing over a body, apologizing over and over again, before Reiner pointed out that contrition did the dead no good, and that they needed a proper burial. So the humans buried their dead? That was kind of similar to Gojid traditions for honoring the dead, burying them in vast family crypts.
But, why did the scene shift to a fire burning? What were they-
So that's what those grey flakes that had been falling everywhere were. Yegel had kind of been wondering about that.
So, they didn't even have time to give proper burials to everyone.
Yegel forced himself to take a deep breath, rubbing the sides of his head as he exhaled. He'd say it was similar to Krakotl death rites, purifying the body to drift through the divine winds of Nishtal, to be carried away to Intala's realm, but... in this context, it clearly must have been desperation and urgency rather than a matter of respect. ...Intala, please watch over them.
...Thankfully, the perspective then shifted back to Eren- who was now locked up in a cell deep underground, and chained to a bed. Understandable precautions- his powers were clearly still volatile, and the last thing the humans needed to deal with was a rogue titan wandering around.
Commander Erwin and Captain Levi were outside his cell, watching him. Erwin asked if he had any questions- which, well, Yegel obviously had several, but Eren was still disoriented from waking up. Which made sense, given how much using his power seemed to take out of him- he must have been exhausted after carrying that boulder for so long.
Erwin proceeded to ask about the key that had held such importance- and the secret that was apparently hidden beneath Eren's house. Eren confirmed, and Levi scoffed about how it must suck to have your dad and your memories MIA at the same time- unless it was just a cover story. Which- was a reasonable concern, but... was that what Yegel sounded like to other people?
At least Erwin confirmed that they knew Eren had no reason to lie- and proceeded to ask Eren what he wanted- what his intentions were. After all, to reach the cellar, they'd need to seal the breach in the other wall like they'd done in Trost- which required Eren's special power. Apparently they'd even conjectured that the Colossal and Armored titan must be like Eren- titans piloted by people?! Which did make sense- the Bad Humans probably had an easier time developing and using titan powers, since they weren't trying to fight or resist their predator instincts. That also would explain their motive- killing all the good humans would mean the bad humans would win, and be able to rule as dominant predators like the Arxur did.
...Was there a group of good Arxur once, that lost their own fight with the Arxur Yegel knew?
NO. No, that was impossible- there was no way the greys had ever had anything good within them- they were monsters through and through! Good Arxur? Ridiculous- just because humans were an insane enigma that broke every rule as if they were intentionally trying to didn't mean the same applied to other predators!
Unless of course, the good Arxur had all been killed-
No. NO. Yegel was not going down that path of madness! He was not!
...Erwin expanded on his statement, saying that was why he asked Eren's intentions- because Eren could save "us," presumably meaning the good humans. Eren initially said he didn't know- but then his past, his memories, all flooded through his head- his inner voice angrily declaring that he would stop this with his bare hands! When Levi pressed for an answer, Eren looked up with a downright deranged grin- and declared that he wanted to kill all the titans- every last one.
So that's how Eren turned out different- he'd aimed his instincts towards the monsters, and become obsessed with wiping out the titans, instead of wanting to consume humans like every other titan did. That said something about Eren's mental fortitude- and why he still had difficulties with his power. Actively twisting your instincts like that must cross a few wires, leaving him needing to actively learn things instead of simply doing what came naturally.
Levi seemed to like that answer, a gleam entering his eyes as he approached Eren's cell and announced that he'd take responsibility for him. Not that he implicitly trusted him, but that he trusted his abilities to kill Eren if necessary. He offered Eren congratulations, officially welcoming him as a new member of the Scouting Corps- and told Erwin to let the higher-ups know.
And then announced that, despite this meeting, Eren wasn't out of the woods yet- as he was going to stand trial, where they'd need to argue against him simply being killed.
Because of course it couldn't be that simple.
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