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Stokes's Bristol Nightclub incident in detail (From: The Comeback Summer by Geoff Lemon)
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a place where misadventure could begin, you can’t go past Mbargo. The nightclub’s streetfront is painted a purple so bright you’ll see it in your dreams. Strings of giant sequins shimmer in the breeze. Its phonically inventive name is spelt in silver letters that climb its three-storey terrace facade. Inside are strips of burning neon, a few booths, floorboards so marinated in drink that they have an ingredients list. Bristol is a student city on England’s south coast crowded with music and nightlife and street art. This is Banksy’s home town, and the tourism board suggests in rather strong terms that ‘you would be a fool not to see his amazing work firsthand’. The same organisation describes Mbargo as ‘intimate’, which is fair for a place where you can catch an STI standing up. Students cram into its modest dimensions while people with names like DJ Klaud battle for billing with £1.50 drink deals over seven sloppy nights a week. To get a sense of the story about to come, consider that it’s the kind of place open until two o’clock on a Monday morning, and that at two o’clock on a Monday morning, Ben Stokes still thought it had closed too early. The Ashes of 2017–18 had disciplinary bookends. It was after that series that Australia’s two leaders went off the rails in South Africa. It was a few weeks before that Ashes tour that England’s biggest star windmilled his way into his own disaster. In the early hours of 25 September 2017, Stokes and teammate Alex Hales were barred from re-entering Mbargo after a night out on the piss. A Sunday thrashing of an abject West Indies in an ignored series at the fag-end of the season apparently required ample celebration. After arguing with the bouncer and hanging about at the door for a while, they wandered off to find a casino in the hope of more drinking. They’d barely made it around the corner before getting in the middle of a conflict between four locals. As is said on the internet, it escalated quickly. The 26 September reporting was bloodless. Withholding names, police stated that a man ‘was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm’ while another went to hospital with facial injuries. England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss separately confirmed that Stokes was the arrestee, adding that he had been released without charge and that Hales had gamely offered to ‘help police with their enquiries’. Administrators had a good chance of hiding behind that investigation, and the next day Stokes was named in the upcoming Ashes squad as expected. But that night the video emerged. Bristol student Max Wilson had shot it on his phone, then offered it to The Sun. What he thought was playing hardball was actually lowball: his opening price of £3000 was snapped up by a tabloid that would have paid ten times that. The Sun went on to make a mint by syndicating the rights worldwide. From a window above the fray, the vision showed six men on the street below performing the muddled choreography of a melee. One was right at the centre of it. One was waving a bottle, one dipped in and out, one tried to calm it. Two others floated around the edges. The central figure was unmistakable: red hair burning even in the streetlight as he launched into a series of blows against two of the men, falling to grapple with them on the ground, then following both across the street, swinging punches the whole way. Hales trailed behind, repeatedly and impotently shouting ‘Stokes! Stop! Stokes! Enough!’ The ECB could fudge issues that existed only in thickets of legalese, but not those captured in moving colour. Stokes was stood down from the next West Indies match, then suspended indefinitely. It emerged that he had broken his hand during the fight, something he’d done twice before while punching objects in dressing rooms. The response in Australia was fierce: Stokes was a thug, a lowlife, a selection that would disgrace England. It was not entirely coincidental that a ban for England’s best player would be handy for the Aussie team, but there was also a cultural split. In England, plenty of people still minimise pub fights as lads letting off steam. In Australia, heavy media coverage as a succession of young men were killed had inverted that tolerance. The discourse now saw any punch as potentially deadly and accordingly reckless. This was more poignant in a cricket context given that David Hookes, the dashing Test batsman and state coach, was killed in 2004 by a pub bouncer’s fist. The PR situation was bad for Stokes as details emerged of the injuries to the men he’d hit, and that one was a young war veteran and father. Stokes wasn’t officially removed from the Ashes squad through October but stayed behind when his teammates left, hoping for police to dismiss the matter in time for a late dash to Australia. His annual contract was renewed on the due date in case that came to pass. Then 29 October brought a twist in the tale. ‘Ben Stokes praised by gay couple after defending them from homophobic thugs,’ ran the headline. Kai Barry and Billy O’Connell had emerged. Not entirely out of nowhere: while Stokes had made no public comment, this story in his defence had initially been leaked to TV host Piers Morgan after the fight, as soon as the video appeared. Police body-camera footage played in court would later show that Stokes had given the same story to the arresting officer on the night. But no-one knew the identities of the fifth and sixth men in the video, and police appeals had turned up nothing. It was The Sun again with the breakthrough. Kai and Billy were perfect for a readership not keen on nuance. ‘We couldn’t believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers. I just thought Ben and Alex were quite hot, fit guys,’ said Kai, who was memorably described as a ‘former House of Fraser sales assistant’. The paper had the pair do a full photo shoot: layering the fake tan, showing off chest waxes, mixing Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton into a range of outfits. Their best shot had them standing back to back, heads turned to the camera, in a mirror-image Zoolander moment. Suddenly The Sun was the England team’s best friend. ‘Their claims could lead to the all-rounder being cleared over the punch-up and freed to play in the First Test in Australia next month,’ it gushed, then gave a tasting platter of quotes: ‘We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.’ ‘If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.’ ‘We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.’ Would it be known forever as Kai and Billy’s Ashes? No. While the Bristol boys provided spin for Stokes’ reputation they didn’t influence the police. With charges still pending there was little choice – not given Strauss had previously sacked Kevin Pietersen for being annoying. Stokes remained suspended through the Ashes and a one-day series in Australia, and lost the vice-captaincy. It was January 2018 before the Crown Prosecution Service laid a charge. That charge surprisingly came in as affray, a crime that can carry prison time but is classified as ‘a breach of the peace as a result of disorderly conduct’. The men he had punched, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, faced the same count, charged as equal participants in a fight rather than Stokes being charged with assaulting them. Alex Hales was not charged, despite being seen in the video to aim several kicks when Ryan Ali was lying on the ground. Given the underwhelming standing of the offence, Stokes was cleared by the ECB to tour New Zealand, and kept playing until his trial in August 2018, which he missed a Test to attend. None of the three defendants would be convicted. The reasoning behind the charges was never released and was attributed vaguely to ‘CPS lawyers’. The service gave the case to Alison Morgan, a prosecutor of a class known as Treasury Counsel who usually handle serious criminal matters. Morgan had a scheduling clash and never ended up court for the case, but in 2018 and 2019 she would go on to win damages and admissions of libel from The Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Telegraph variously for incorrectly reporting that she had been responsible for the inadequate and inconsistent charging decisions. Morgan’s successor on the case was Nicholas Corsellis QC, who on the first day of trial was permitted by the CPS to request two assault charges be added against Stokes. ‘Upon further review,’ claimed a CPS statement, ‘we considered that additional assault charges would also be appropriate.’ This was patent nonsense from the service that eight months earlier had chosen the lesser charge. Any lawyer knows that no judge will allow new charges once a trial has begun, because the defence hasn’t had time to prepare. But such a request could deflect criticism of the prosecution service by technically making the judge the one who disallows the charge. Working through the story from the trial and the tape is complicated. You had a Ryan and a Ryan, a Hale and a Hales, a Billy and a Barry and a Ben. You had several versions of events as to who knew whom, who was drinking with whom, who had insulted whom and who had merely engaged in ‘banter’, a word that in modern Britain has to do an unconscionable amount of lifting. The reporting had constantly mixed up the Ryans as to who had which injury, who was in hospital, who had played which part in the fight, and whose mum had which stern words to say about it. Let’s agree that from now Ryan Ali is Ryan One, the firefighter who ended up with a fractured eye socket and a cracked tooth. Ryan Two can be Ryan Hale, the soldier who scored concussion and facial lacerations. Mr Barry and Mr O’Connell are best known per The Sun as Kai and Billy. In scorecard parlance we’ll leave the cricketers as Stokes and Hales. Amid the confusion, Stokes and his lawyers built his case in a straightforward way. The UK legal definition of affray is ‘if a person threatens or uses unlawful violence or force towards another person, which causes another person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for their safety’. That means it doesn’t account for violence that harms a target, but violence that might frighten a theoretical bystander. The wiggle room for Stokes was with ‘unlawful’, because the charge excuses violence in defending oneself or others. This interpretation hinged on the beginning of the video, where Ryan One waves a beer bottle about and takes a swing at Kai. The version from Stokes was that he was minding his own business walking down the street when he heard homophobic abuse. He intervened verbally and was threatened verbally by Ryan One – something that Ryan One denied but that couldn’t be proved or disproved. In fear for his safety Stokes had to nullify that threat by bashing Ryan One before it went the other way. He registered Ryan Two in his peripheral vision as another possible threat, and again had only one recourse. Stokes also had to convince the jury to disregard testimony from Mbargo’s bouncer that he had been looking for a fight. A solid lump of a man, Andrew Cunningham had not enjoyed his patron’s attempts to get back into the club after the bouncer declined an offer of a bribe. ‘He got a bit verbally abusive towards myself. He mentioned my gold teeth and he said I looked like a cunt and I replied, “Thank you very much.” He just looked at me and told me my tattoos were shit and to look at my job.’ Cunningham described these words as coming in ‘a spiteful tone, quite an angry tone’, and said that Stokes still seemed angry as he walked away. These were details the doorman had nothing to gain by inventing, but each of them Stokes denied. By his own accounting he had drunk a beer at the game and three pints at his hotel, then ‘potentially had some Jägerbombs’ along with half a dozen vodkas at the club. He insisted that after all of this he was not drunk. If I may take a moment here to call upon the wisdom of experience – a person who cannot definitively say whether they have had any Jägerbombs has definitely had some Jägerbombs. A Jägerbomb is an experience that does not pass one by. Further to that, a person who says they have ‘potentially’ done something has definitely done that thing and doesn’t want to admit it. A person who has had between 15 and 24 standard drinks in one evening is shitfaced. A person who tries to bribe a bouncer £300 – three hundred quid! – to get into Mbargo – Mbargo! – is beyond shitfaced. If Stokes admitted that he was drunk then the prosecution could say he was out of control. He claimed clear recall of assessing a threat, feeling fear and deciding to protect himself with force. He confidently denied details from the bouncer’s testimony, like using the word ‘cunt’ or mentioning gold teeth. Yet on other details he claimed a ‘significant memory blackout’. He didn’t remember the punch that saw Ryan One taken away by ambulance. He didn’t remember what the Ryans had said to Kai and Billy, only that those words were homophobic. With no head injury, as one of the few people who hadn’t been hit, he had supposedly suffered this memory loss despite being sober. The version from Kai and Billy was compatible but vague: they had been walking along, they ‘heard … shouts’ of abuse from an unspecified source, then Stokes ‘stepped in’ and thus they avoided possible harm. They claimed to have been bought a drink by Stokes at Mbargo, although CCTV showed them meeting outside. The overall implication from both accounts was that the cricketers had been pals with Kai and Billy, while the Ryans as per The Sun’s headline were a roving band of thugs. The reality though is that the Ryans were the ones hanging out with Kai and Billy at Mbargo. Police discussed CCTV from inside the club in questioning and at trial. On that footage the four Bristolians bought drinks for one another, danced together, and Kai was noted to have variously touched Ryan Two’s crotch and Ryan One’s buttock. Ryan One told police that all of this was taken lightheartedly and wasn’t a problem. Indeed, when the Ryans called it a night the other two left with them. This much is clear from footage out the front of Mbargo, which shows Kai and Billy exit the club and start talking with a subdued Hales and a demonstrative Stokes, who are stuck outside. The vision was played in court to determine whether Stokes was antagonistic towards Kai and Billy, as he appears to impersonate them and to throw a lit cigarette their way. More interesting is that after a few minutes the Ryans emerge, and all six actors in the fight video briefly form a prequel in the one frame. Ryan Two pats Billy on the chest in friendly fashion with his right hand before clapping him on the back with his left. He moves past and does the same to Kai before leaving the shot. Ryan One stops to speak to Kai. They lean in for a moment, talking, then Kai turns and they walk out of frame together. Billy hangs around for a few seconds at the door and then looks after them and races to catch up. Stokes and Hales remain outside the club to remonstrate further with the bouncers. Whatever discord develops around the corner is between four men who left amicably together minutes earlier. There’s no way to know what caused that friction. If Ryan One did use homophobic slurs, he might have been drunkenly obnoxious for no reason. He might have had an insecure macho response to some extra flirtation. He might have thought unkindness was funny – ‘banter’ once again. Or he might have said something that was misunderstood, as both Ryans insisted in court that they had not used nor had the impulse to use any abusive language. What clearly didn’t happen was an attack by bigots on random passers-by. This kind of crime is regular enough that an audience understands the horror of it, and this is what was evoked by the public accounts of Stokes, Billy and Kai. All we know is that there was some verbal dispute among the Bristol locals, and that Stokes came along behind them and put himself in the middle of it. Ryan One responded to the interference aggressively and away they went. There are plenty of reasons to look sideways at the idea that Stokes was a saviour. Foremost, neither Kai nor Billy was called upon as witnesses in court. You’d think it would be ideal to have Stokes’ story backed up by those who benefited from his selflessness. But his defence team had developed the impression that the pair had shown a changeable recall of events amid a hard-partying lifestyle, and would be dismantled by the prosecution on the stand. That raises the question of whether The Sun coached their quotes for the 2017 interview. Despite missing court, Kai and Billy clearly enjoyed the attention. In 2018 after the trial they did a follow-up spread in the same paper about how poor Ben had been mistreated. They got a television spot on Good Morning Britain and glowed about his heroism. In 2019 The Sun wheeled them out once more to say that Stokes should get a knighthood. In 2017 they had ‘never watched cricket’ but by 2019 were supposedly volunteering sentences like, ‘He saved us, now he’s saved the Ashes.’ Whether they were paid for these appearances is not known, but the chance to be famous for a day can be lure enough. If you find this cynical, consider that on the night in question, the Bristol boys were so deeply moved and thankful for Ben’s intervention that they left him to be arrested and never attempted to find out who he was. Seconds after the video ended, an off-duty policeman reached the scene. You might think that someone grateful to a saviour would speak on his behalf. Instead, said Kai, ‘it all got a bit scary so we walked off. It was too much for me and we went to Quigley’s takeaway for chicken burgers and cheesy chips.’ They didn’t give their hero a thought for over a month while police issued multiple appeals for witnesses. As for Stokes, he told his arresting officer that ‘his friends’ had been attacked. After three minutes of chat outside a nightclub, these friends were so dear to him that he has never contacted them again: not after the newspaper piece, not after the verdict. He didn’t want to see how they were or thank them for their support. He didn’t mention them by name in his solicitor’s statement after the trial. The Stokes defence rested on Ryan One’s bottle, which he had carried out of Mbargo to finish a beer, not to use in a Sharks versus Jets amateur production. But once he turned it over to hold it by the neck it became a weapon. Intent and interpretation can change the material nature of things. Part of Stokes’ justification in court was that the bottle implied that the two Ryans might have ‘other weapons’ hidden away. You can understand how a jury could decide that created doubt. Not being convicted, though, doesn’t give the contents of the video a big green tick. It does not, as his lawyer claimed, vindicate Stokes. Looking in detail, Ryan One is belligerent but his movements telegraph a bluff. Hales is the person he’s gesturing at, but they’re several metres apart when Ryan One cocks his arm ostentatiously, showing off the bottle rather than bracing to swing. He skips forward but Hales skips back and Ryan One doesn’t follow. Kai stretches out an arm to impede Ryan One, who has a drunken stumble, nearly eats pavement, then staggers towards Kai and hits him in the back. That hand is still holding the bottle, but his strike is a side-arm cuff on a soft part of the body. It’s all pretty tame. This is where Stokes gets involved. Having moved across to protect Hales, he now takes three large steps to run around Kai and booms his first punch at Ryan One. They fall to the ground and the bottle clinks away. Stokes gets to his feet to punch down at the fallen man, while Hales arrives to kick him ineffectively then runs off across the street for some unknown reason. Ice-cream van? Stokes is soon back in the grapple having his shirt pulled up to show off his Durham tan. Ryan Two steps in for the first time to pull Stokes away, prompting a couple more random punches at this new target, then Stokes trips backwards over Ryan One and sprawls in the street. Hales chooses this moment to return and aim some solid kicks at the head of the man on the ground. Nothing so far is a triumph of moral philosophy or the pugilistic arts. But if it all stopped here, perhaps you could say it was somewhere approaching fair. Ryan One has behaved like a turnip and it’s not an entirely unjust world that would give him a whack across the chops. The antagonists have disentangled, Stokes has some distance, it’s time to dust off and go home. Ryan Two steps forward for this purpose with his palm raised in conciliatory style and says, ‘Settle down, stop.’ So Stokes punches him. It’s roughly his fifth punch overall, and he really winds up into this one. He misses so hard that he stumbles away into the shadows of the shop awnings along the road. Hales starts shouting for him to stop. Ryan Two backs into the street, still holding his palm up. Stokes closes on him from about five metres away, six large steps, to where Ryan Two is standing on his own. Stokes pushes him a couple of times, as Ryan Two keeps trying to placate him and saying ‘Stop.’ Stokes throws his sixth punch, largely missing as his target ducks. Ryan Two keeps pulling away and reversing, into the middle of the street now. Stokes follows him, grabbing his sleeve to drag him back. By this point Ryan One has found his feet and walked around behind his friend. Both of them are in the same line of sight for Stokes, and both are backing away. Stokes aims his seventh and his eighth punches, which Ryan Two tries to deflect, as Hales walks up behind Stokes to grab him. Stokes yanks away from his friend and switches to Ryan One instead, taking seven paces to grab him before throwing his ninth punch of the night. He grabs again; Ryan One blocks that arm and pushes himself back away from Stokes. Ryan Two again intercedes, putting himself between the two with his palms up and his arm extended. Stokes throws his tenth punch, a right-hander at the face of Ryan Two, then shoves him backwards. Ryan Two backs away once more, four paces. Stokes follows, steadies, lines up, then launches his strongest punch yet, his eleventh, a proper right hook from a solid base, one that cracks across the man’s head and gives him concussion. Ryan Two ends up flat on his back in the middle of the street, his hands still outstretched for a moment in useless protest until they twitch and drop to the blacktop. Stokes isn’t done. He once more shoves away the restraining Hales and follows Ryan One, who keeps backing away saying, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ Five more paces from Stokes before another blow at the man’s head. Kai and Billy are now standing over the poleaxed Ryan Two. The video ends, but seconds later Stokes will punch Ryan One hard enough to knock him out too, before off-duty cop Andrew Spure arrives on the scene to bring down the curtain. When the body-camera footage kicks in some minutes later, Stokes is in handcuffs but Ryan One is still laid out in the street. Ryan Two has regained consciousness, folded his shirt under his friend’s head and is asking police for an ambulance. ‘At this point, I felt vulnerable and frightened. I was concerned for myself and others.’ This was how Stokes described that sequence to the court. An elite athlete with years of gym work and training to snap a bat through the line of a ball with astounding power and precision, swinging fists as hard as he can at men with none of those advantages. Punching so hard that he breaks his hand, and repeatedly shoving away a friend so he can punch some more. Frightened and threatened by two targets shouting ‘Get back!’ and ‘Stop!’ The off-duty officer testified that Stokes ‘seemed to be the main aggressor or was progressing forward trying to get to’ Ryan One, who was ‘trying to back away or get away from the situation’. The student who filmed the video can be heard on the tape at one stage exclaiming ‘Fuck!’ and testified that it was because ‘I felt a little bit sorry about the lad that had been punched and it looked like he had his hands up’. That tallied with the prosecutor’s depiction of ‘a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked at what was taking place’. The defendant stuck to his strategy. ‘No, my sole focus was to protect myself.’ All up, in the 33 seconds of footage after he falls over, Stokes takes 35 steps forward to keep hitting two men who keep trying to get away. Not once is he hit back. After the verdict, Stokes’ solicitor positioned him as the victim. It had been ‘an eleven-month ordeal for Ben … The jury’s decision fairly reflects the truth of what happened that night … He was minding his own business … It was only when others came under threat that Ben became physically engaged. The steps that he took were solely aimed at ensuring the safety of himself and the others present …’ The statement was impossibly self-righteous and self-absorbed. If there was anyone to feel sorry for it was Ryan Hale, the second of our two Ryans. He’s the one who emerged from the club with a friendly arm around the shoulder for Kai and Billy. He’s the one who interposed himself to end the fight, then kept putting himself back in the firing line, trying to calm an intimidating stranger while dodging blows. For his show of restraint he got laid out regardless, concussed in the street, then was issued a criminal charge equal to that of the man who hit him, and described in national media as a violent bigot in an untested story to support that man’s defence. Lawyers for Ryan Two made a more convincing post-trial statement, noting that Kai and Billy, ‘neither of whom were relied upon by the prosecution or the defence team for Mr Stokes, have taken the opportunity to speak with various media outlets about the alleged homophobic abuse that they received in the early hours of September 25. Mr Hale has passionately denied this allegation throughout the course of this case,’ it continued. ‘It is upsetting to Mr Hale that although he was acquitted, the accusation that he was the author of such abuse remains. Both Mr Hale and Mr Ali were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes, and although Mr Stokes has been acquitted of an affray, Mr Hale struggles with the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service did not treat him as a victim of an unlawful assault.’Good question. Avon and Somerset police were the investigating force, and they were frustrated by the decision. Ryan Two was filmed clearly not hurting anyone, but police were instructed by the CPS to proceed with a charge. Hales (the cricketer) was filmed fighting but ‘a decision was made at a senior level of the CPS’ not to proceed. Police expected Stokes to be charged with assault but the CPS declined. It doesn’t take a wild cynic to think that placing the same lukewarm charge on three men for vastly divergent behaviour might ensure that none would be convicted, even as the trial would maintain the pretence that a defendant of influential standing had not been given a free pass. A couple of years down the line, the original interview with Kai and Billy has disappeared. All traces have been scrubbed from The Sun website, its social media history, and even from the Wayback Machine internet archive. Given its headline of ‘homophobic thugs’ and text that names Ryan Two but not Ryan One, the libel liability isn’t hard to spot. Later interviews with Kai and Billy take the passive voice – they ‘suffered homophobic slurs outside a Bristol nightclub’. The article that was once claimed to exonerate brave Ben Stokes now links only to a missing content page, with a picture of a dropped ice-cream cone and the phrase ‘legal removal’ inserted into the web URL. In terms of consequences, Stokes missed one tour. When he resumed his career in January 2018, the Australians hadn’t yet ruined theirs. Their year-long bans looked much more stringent. But the Stokes case dragged on in other ways. With no criminal liability, the Australians confessed promptly enough for the sporting world to give them the full length of the lash. Their situation was ugly but there was closure. Stokes got stuck in legal stasis, unable to be fully backed or condemned. Instead his issue was always present, a browser full of open tabs that the ECB swore they would read any day now. Through 2018 Stokes was back but he wasn’t back, in the sunglasses and finger-guns sense. In his return one-day series he nearly cost England a match with 39 from 73 balls in Wellington. His first Test hit was a duck as England got rolled in Auckland for 58. At Trent Bridge while Stokes was injured, England posted a world record 481 against Australia. With Stokes three weeks later at the same ground they made 268. He crawled to 50 from 103, the second-slowest any Englishman had reached that milestone in 20 years. That span covered Alastair Cook’s whole career. It was apologetic batting, acting out responsibility via the scorecard. Stokes was creeping back into the team like he’d been kicked out in a blazing row and was hoping to tip-toe to the sofa. It was December 2018 before the ECB disciplinary committee ruled on him and Hales. In a ‘remarkable coincidence’, wrote Simon Heffer in The Telegraph, ‘the punishment both players faced in terms of bans from playing at international level was covered by the amount of games they had already missed when dropped by England’s selectors, in the furore that followed the incident’. The verdict compounded the omissions around the case by not addressing the violence at its heart. Nor did Stokes, apologising only ‘to my team-mates, coaches and support staff’, and then ‘to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute’. The implicit next step was to rebuild that reputation. It might have been easier had his court defence not meant that he wasn’t game to admit any fault at all. It might have been easier if he or his advisers had been willing to change tack once the trial was done. Imagine a world where Stokes had stood outside court and apologised for overreacting, for the injuries he’d caused, and for the time and energy he had sucked out of other people’s lives. That would have been a show of responsibility beyond a scorecard. When the time came around to assess forgiveness, it might have meant forgiveness was deserved.
Before you spend money on this game, consider this.
I've been seeing a lot of posts where people are upset or complaining that they didn't get anything after spending "x" amount of money. I just want to put my two cents in there since this is how I look at the game. Before spending any money on primogems, consider these things:
"If I get this character with $x, is it even worth $x?"
You're essentially paying to play with a character. Except in this case, paying for a chance to play with that character. What about the people who have spent thousands on this game? After getting Diluc or Mona for $3,000, was it worth it? Think of all the things you could buy with that money. A Nintendo Switch costs $300. A game costs up to $60, and you know what you're getting. Rent money is $1,000-$3,000. The list goes on.
You're never guaranteed anything.
The ONLY exception to this is pity rolls. The maximum you'd need to spend is 28,800 primogems (around $400+) to guarantee getting the featured character on the banner. This is assuming that you didn't get any 5-stars before hitting the pity the first time, your first pity wasn't the featured character, and you hit the pity a second time to guarantee them. Is any single character worth $400? Other than the featured character, it can be REALLY difficult to pull any other character. You want Diluc? If you roll on the featured banner, its 50% chance you'll get the featured character. That means 50% chance you'll get a different 5-star. Since there are five 5-stars at this moment (not counting the featured), you have a 1/10 chance of pulling Diluc when you get a 5-star from this banner. On top of that, it's a 0.6% chance that you'll even pull a 5-star to begin with. As for the standard banner? The chance is even smaller with all the weapons thrown in. To those complaining that they spent $100, $500, $1000 and didn't get what they wanted, you were never guaranteed it to begin with. It's all RNG, you aren't owed anything because you spent money on the game.
There will always be a new character that you'll want.
So you spent $400 on getting Venti. You needed him, he's your favorite character right? Of course you had to spend for him, he's the best character you've ever seen and you couldn't enjoy this game without him. A few months later, a new character is released and you're in awe. Their skills...their looks....their element...you NEED them. Well, that's another $400 you'd have to shill out to guarantee them. What's that? You only want to use them if you have their first constellation? Well better get that credit card out again, looks like you'll need to pull some dupes. This is a never-ending cycle. I've run into this feeling countless times in video games. The new shiny thing will always be tempting you. Not to mention power creep. New characters are often made to be better than older ones. As the game progresses, people who don't have newer characters are often at a disadvantage (mainly with DPS). In a gacha game like Genshin, it would be very expensive to keep up with this if power creep occurs within this game in the future. It's best to make the most of what you have.
Gacha = Gambling
When you go to a casino, do you walk in expecting to win millions? The odds are never in your favor when gambling. Rates are low for a reason. If everyone could spend $50 and get the exact characters they wanted every time, Miyoho wouldn't be making as much money as they are. Gacha games have always been about gambling for characters. As stated previously, you're neverarely guaranteed anything, and by the time you've gotten what you wanted (unless extremely lucky), the company has already gotten what they wanted.
Don't be blinded by sunk-cost.
Sunk-cost is the idea that you've already put so much into something, and it'll go to waste unless you continue putting resources into it to get it. Do not be blinded by this when doing gachas. Say you spent $100 and didn't get Qiqi. You've already put so much into the game, and not getting her would mean your money went to waste right? What if it would take another $1,000 to get her. Would that be worth it? It's best to cut your losses and walk away. Thinking about the sunk cost of something is what gives many people difficulty walking away, and causes them to over-spend.
Your party has limited space.
Yes, I know abyss is the exception. But overall the majority of the game only allows 4 characters at a time. You can't play with them all. It feels real bad to put a character you spent a lot of money on aside because they don't fit your current comp anymore. ------- This comes from someone who is largely free-to-play in games like this. The only gacha game I've ever spent money on was Love Live a few years ago. I spent $125 and never got a single ultra-rare with my pulls. From that I realized what I was doing. Even if I could afford putting $30 per 10-pull, was the card I was going to get really worth that? No. I learned from that experience and see gacha games for what they are.
PS: If you are aware of all this and still want to spend $$/disposable income on primogems, by all means go ahead. But for many people it's easy to lose sight of what they're really paying for. I hope this is helpful in some way. Feel free to disagree with any of this, but this is my perspective on the game and I get really sad seeing so many posts on the subreddit about how depressed people are after spending and not getting anything, and feeling entitled to it. TL;DR: It's easy to sink lots of money into this game if you don't recognize you're gambling and never guaranteed anything. This is a warning post, not a criticism of anyone. EDIT: As reddit user u/zapzya summarized: "...not everyone actually has the financial stability to invest in such a product, yet will do so anyway because they are not particularly knowledgeable in gambling mechanics or because shady tactics like the currency change ($$ genesis crystals primogems fates) actually work."
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This chapter was a labour of love, heists are hard. Big thanks to u/eruwenn for helping tidy up this bag of snakes. First / Prev / Next
“Ranjaz K’Lua, you thieving scumbag!” the Kah’Ree in the purple suit exclaimed loudly as he spotted them across the busy room. “As I live and skral, I never thought you would have the Jolos show your face here again!” Two J’Rami in suits detached themselves from the lobby wall, walking towards the Kittran and his friends. “Alfor, my old friend!” Ranjaz smiled broadly. “No need for the welcoming party, I’ve got your credits” —he gestured to Cygna— “and a sweetener, for all the trouble I caused last time.” Alfor paused, lecherous eyes assessing the Fae’Dan. “You know I have a thing for purple.” He chuckled at his own joke and waved the guards back to their posts. “How about we have a drink, and discuss your forgiveness.” He pointed to Thor and Eruwenn. “Brought your own security, or are these Gal. Fed. goons? Everyone knows about your probation.” The Kittran gave a broad grin. “I got a Tulseria-damned pardon, a new ship and a very lucrative opportunity.” The Kah’Ree smiled. “How’d a thieving cat like you get a pardon?” He gave Ranjaz an appraising look up and down. “Oh? Now, let me guess, you need something from me and my brother?” Ranjaz fired his finger guns. “You were always the smart one Alfor, that’s why you run the casino floor.” The Kittran stepped in close. “The item, do you still have it?” Alfor tilted his head back and away from Ranjaz. “Your little guarantee?” He looked back down at Ranjaz. “We have it somewhere safe. Had some unusual people come by after you got caught. Asked a lot of questions. Made a lot of threats.” His face contorted in anger. “We got audited thanks to you.” The Kittran smiled. “If only they knew you better, they could have simply paid you for the information.” “We give nothing for free.” The Kah’Ree gave a sinister smile. “House rule.” Ranjaz walked forward to put his his arm on Alfor’s back. “Let’s go see your brother. Have a few drinks, maybe gamble a little, and discuss our future riches.”
Ripley stood in the shadows of the staff shuttle bay, watching as the numerous employees of assorted races came and went. Loud laughter caught her attention, and a very strangely dressed Niham broke away from a small group and walked towards her. Ripley tried to maintain her low profile as the scantily clad female strutted towards her in long black boots with pointed heels that clacked loudly with every step. Deliberately avoiding eye contact the Awakened tried to will herself into the wall but it was too late and a voice called out to her. “Hey Darling! You must be the one I’m looking for.” Ripley shook her head. The Kittran had said the contact was an Ashi pirate captain, a master gambler and expert in procuring the unusual. “I don’t-” “Listen cutie,” she interrupted, “you’re the one lurking in dark corners drawing attention to yourself. I’ve got your security card. You tell that fluffy little stud he owes me. And more than a bottle of Fae’Dan wine and a good time, if you know what I mean.” She held up the card between her fingers, just a little out of Ripley’s reach. The Awakened considered the phrase ‘fluffy little stud’ and decided that, despite her hopes, this was probably her contact. “You’re Captain Whiplash?” The Ashi laughed genuinely, the jiggling of tightly squeezed breasts bursting at shiny black restraints making Ripley nervous. “Oh, Darling! Only my little pets call me that! You may call me Sho’Na.” Ripley was momentarily confused. “So, you aren’t a pirate captain?” “I’m anything they pay me to be.” She smiled at the silver-haired woman's naivety. “You really are new to this.” Ripley, caught off guard, simply nodded, then replied, “I’m a quick learner.” “Good for you, Darling.” Sho’Na handed over the card. “Just make sure you get paid up front, and don’t use your real name with clients. Ruins the mystique.” Ripley was unsure of what was being said. Turning the card over in her hands she saw that the holo-image on the front was of a male Arkellian. “This isn’t me?” “Honey, I was given half a cycle to get you a level three security card. Just be glad it’s a biped.” Sho’Na looked Ripley up and down. “Our mutual acquaintance told me you were some sort of master of disguise who could even trick Selva Blaster.” Ripley paused, then smiled. Her appearance had become such an integral part of her identity she had forgotten that it was entirely optional. “It won’t be a problem.” She looked at the card again. “Unless the owner comes looking for it.” Sho’Na gave another bosom-trembling laugh that threatened to spill out at any moment. “Oh, don’t worry, he’s tied up at the moment.” The Awakened considered the risk. “Hmmm, but for how long?” The few strips of shiny black material that comprised Sho’Na’s revealing outfit strained under her amusement. “Don’t you worry, Darling. He paid for the whole night.”
Eruwenn had reassessed her opinion of Ranjaz many times since meeting him. The criminal. The loyal friend. The lazy trouble-maker. All were true, but now she was seeing something new. He sat opposite Toran, the brother of Alfor, in a game of dalcho she wished she could have taken part in, but was equally glad she did not. At first she had thought the Kittran was outmatched, a few reckless mistakes costing him dearly as the Kah’Ree deftly selected his tiles. Toran was clearly a seasoned gambler, using a blend of the Remee Le’Bow Gambit and the Kowals’Kee Analysis she hadn’t seen before. It seemed to be dismantling Ranjaz’s tiles before he could even prepare his cards. A few fortunate dice rolls and he had taken a strong lead from the outset. The Kittran appeared desperate, playing any tile available to try and slow the defeat. It had all been a ruse, she saw it; Ranjaz had saved his best tiles and carefully thrown hands to manipulate the cards. In just a few rounds he would be able to dominate the board and raise the stakes, recouping his losses and changing the course of the game entirely. She had encountered few players who could manipulate the game so deftly, using memory and layers of strategy to corner their opponent. It was magnificent. Eruwenn couldn’t tear her eyes from the board as she stood beside Thor. The Awakened had shown no interest in the game, studiously watching the opposite door as Toran’s staff came in and out. When a waiter entered and began preparing drinks at the small private bar in the executive gambling room, Thor coughed. It was a strange thing for an Awakened to do, and Eruwenn finally looked up from the table. “Are you ok?” Thor nodded. By the time he had looked towards her, she had returned her attention completely to the game. “You don’t seem concerned about your friend?” he asked. The Anatidae watched as Ranjaz used a blind double feint, and the sheer audacity of such a move made her swallow hard. She didn’t look back to Thor, but mumbled a response. “I’m very confident in her abilities.” The waiter was methodically placing drinks by each of the players, but when they stood behind Ranjaz the Kittran surged to his feet, shouting, “Hey! No cheating Toran! Getting your waiter to look over my shoulder? That’s a dirty move I’d expect from your brother!” Thor had reacted faster than Eruwenn, pinning the arms of the Arkellian waiter in a vice-like bear hug. Toran slowly stood. He was big, heavily muscled, and the veins on his neck bulged as his anger rose. “Don’t accuse me in my own place.” He cracked his knuckles and glowered down at Ranjaz. “I run a straight game.” Fearlessly the Kittran walked right up to the Kah’Ree and stared up into his face from waist height. “Don’t try and intimidate me, you son of a Vogel.” Ranjaz puffed out his chest and began pushing the burly casino owner. “Nobody cheats me!” The blow caught Ranjaz across the cheek and sent him sprawling across the room. Eruwenn winced at the impact, but maintained her composure. Toran laughed. “Watch your tongue or I’ll add it to my collection.” He walked round the table and kicked Ranjaz in the stomach, glaring at Thor and Eruwenn, daring them to act. “Know your place trash. You’re at this table because you put credits up front. You are a dishonest thief, begging for scraps, and cosying up to me any my brother to get your little trinket back.” He returned to his seat. “Why would I need to cheat against the likes of you?” Ranjaz stood, brushing himself off. “Fine, fine.” He waved a hand and Thor dropped the Arkellian. Ranjaz tapped him on the chest. “My mistake.” He sat down and picked up his cards once more. “You’re right Toran, you run a clean game. I’m just a sore loser.” He shuffled the order of the tiles that were still face down on the table. “To show my sincerity, how about we double the buy for the rest of the game?” Toran snorted. “Double?” He looked at the Kittran, scrutinising his opponent. The game was already over; he had control of the board and his tiles occupied the three prime positions. Was the thief trying to buy his favour, he wondered? How much was the trinket he wanted truly worth? He decided it was worth testing. “Triple, and I’ll forget you dared touch me.” The Kittran swallowed hard, his ears flat to his head. Toran momentarily worried he’d pushed for too much but a decision seemed to be reached. “Fine. Triple.” The look of defeat was delicious to the Kah’Ree.
Cygna had done her part and lured Alfor to a private room away from his security. She had danced, skipped and side-stepped his groping hands so far, maintaining a playfulness that ensured he complied. This sort of thing was not new to her; she had spent time undercover in the past. Fortunately, there had been little call for it since she had joined forces with Eruwenn. Alfor’s eyes scanned her body once more. “The Kittran has very good taste.” He licked his lips, a small amount of drool escaping and running down his chin. He wiped it on his sleeve. “Now, I brought you somewhere quiet. How about you show me how sweet you can be?” The Fae’Dan smiled coyly and continued her dancing just out of reach, glancing to the doorway where Alfor’s two guards stood watching her. “With an audience?” She raised her eyebrows expectantly. With a sly grin he waved the guards out of the room. “Now come here and let me satisfy you like only a Kah’Ree can.” His eyes wandered over her body once more. Cygna smiled, her own eyes moving from the Kah’Ree’s hands to his shoulders, then up towards his neck. An interesting fact about the Kah’Ree was the thick blood vessels on the side of their neck. They often bulged when a Kah’Ree was angry or excited, like Alfor’s were as he leered at her. She danced closer. Another interesting fact was that their brains were not as efficient as those of other species, hence the requirement for additional blood flow; more oxygen per limited thought. He leaned forward, his eyes locked to her swaying hips. Cygna turned slowly, and his head tilted to appreciate her assets. The third, lesser known, fact about the Kah’Ree was that an interruption to the blood flow while they were in this excited state caused them to lose consciousness rapidly as their brain burned through the available oxygen. “My eyes are up here.” She smiled as he looked up at her with his head still tilted. He sneered. “Who ca-” The Fae’Dan struck the side of his neck with the edge of her hand, targeting the throbbing blood vessel with a powerful blow. The interruption to his brain's oxygen supply worked perfectly and he fell face forward onto the ground at her feet. She let out a sigh of relief and looked down at his unconscious body. “Thank you, that was particularly satisfying.” She walked over to the door and peeked out, finding the guards standing either side. “He said to order us some drinks.” One of the guards nodded and immediately put his hand to his lapel communicator. Back inside the room, Cygna used her foot to roll Alfor to his back and began searching his pockets. She came up empty. Her eyes caught a glimmer from his collar and she found a heavy gold chain, at the end of which was his security key. She removed it just as a knock came at the door. A deep voice from the other side called out. “Your drinks, boss.” The Fae’Dan quickly messed up her hair. Using the back of her hand she smeared her lipstick sideways, and then pulled the strap of her dress down off her shoulder. She opened the door and, to her surprise, was faced with an Arkellian waiter. The bodyguards noted her dishevelled appearance and shared a smirk, and she said, “Oh, I wasn’t expec-” The waiter pushed the trolley into the room. “Don’t keep the boss waiting, lady.” Before Cygna could reply they were inside and the door closed. “Relax, it’s me.” Ripley’s voice sounded bizarre coming from the male Arkellian form, and Cygna’s eyes went wide in shock. Her sharp mind quickly adjusted to this new information. Of course the Awakened could change their physical appearance; she had just never seen it. They all seemed quite attached to their chosen human forms. “Neat trick.” She held out Alfor’s key. “Did you get the other one?” Ripley nodded. “The Kittran played his part well. I didn’t see him take it, and didn’t feel it when he placed it in my pocket. Now that was a neat trick.” The Fae’Dan smiled. “I think I’ll pass on that dalcho game.” The Arkellian Ripley smiled. “Probably wise.” Turning, she slipped the key into her pocket and headed back out of the door.
Ripley entered the elevator to the owner's private offices on the top floor. Thanks to the distractions downstairs, the two large desks in the centre of the room were empty. She walked straight past them to the large leokas painting on the wall and swung it forward. Behind it was a Fae’Dan safe; she took out the two keys and a small homemade device the Kittran had given her. Attaching the device to the bio-lock and standing before the safe, she elongated her arms to reach both key positions at once. There was more than one reason she was the one chosen for this task. The device beeped twice and small lights above each lock lit up. She simultaneously turned both keys, and there was a satisfying clunk. She raised an eyebrow. The device had worked. The heavy safe door swung open and she began her search. Ranjaz had been very specific: while there was one item she had to get, she was to grab as much as possible to obscure their true target. Quickly grabbing as much as she could she retrieved the keys and ran back across the room towards the elevator.
Cygna hauled Alfor back onto the seat, putting him in a more natural position and messing up his hair. She looked away as she began unbuttoning his clothes, pulling his trousers around his ankles and opening his shirt up to bare his chest. From a secret pocket inside her dress she pulled out a lace thong, setting it on his head like a bandana. She also had a small box which she opened, inside of which was a replica mouth with lipstick that matched her own. Cygna carefully applied kiss marks all over his exposed skin before popping the fake lips back into the secret pocket. She took the Fae’Dan wine and partially filled two glasses, making sure to take a long drink from one and leave more lipstick marks. The rest of the wine was poured into the ice bucket. She heard the sound of voices outside the door. The guards were arguing with someone, refusing them entry, but when the name Toran was mentioned it was Ripley who entered, still in uniform but now looking much like her usual self. She smirked at the Kah’Ree in his derobed state. “I can see you had fun.” The Fae’Dan chuckled. “That’s the idea.” She looked at the Awakened in her true form. “You look… better.” Ripley cocked her head. “It would be strange if the waiter came back to deliver a message.” She tossed the necklace key to Cygna, who replaced it on Alfor’s neck. Reclining on the sofa and picking up her glass, Cygna took another long drink. “Get the other one back to Ranjaz quickly. This one won’t be napping much longer.” The Awakened gave an almost Ranjaz-like grin. “You could always hit him again.” Before the Fae’Dan could reply she had ducked back out of the door. She caught the eye of one of the bodyguards and gave a head tilt back towards the room. “The boss is really enjoying himself!” As the suited pair chuckled, the larger of the two got a message in his ear piece. “Hey, silver hair.” He grunted. “Boss has an important guest. Meet them in the foyer and bring them to the dalcho room.” Ripley was relieved – she needed a reason to get into that room. “On my way.”
Toran was seething as he watched as the Kittran flipped his final tile. Why would he have waited so long to play the Wings of Tulseria tile? His stomach sank, and he couldn’t hold back his anger any longer. “Damn you!” Ranjaz gave a full-fanged grin. “Looks like my luck turned at just the right moment.” “Luck!” Toran’s tile snapped between his fingers. Why had he let the damned cat goad him into constantly increasing their bet? The cycle had started with him owing the brothers a million credits plus interest, and now the infuritating Kittran had won nearly forty times that. “Nobody is that lucky.” “Woah!” Ranjaz held up his hands. “I would never cheat, well... certainly not a second time. After you caught me, I’d be a fool to try.” “Hmm.” Toran looked at the two behind the Kittran. The big one would be a problem, but the Anatidae looked to be nothing special. “How about I give you back your little trinket and we call it even?” “My trinket?” Ranjaz shook his head. “I had to convince you it was worth the million I owed. Why would you think I’d trade it for thirty eight million credits? I’ll pay what I owe, take my trinket and my winnings and leave.” Toran folded his arms and looked across the dalcho board at Ranjaz. “And why would I let you do that?” The atmosphere in the room changed as the two security guards changed their stance. “Transfer the credits back to the house.” Ranjaz dropped the grin, replacing it with a defiant glare. “What happened to you running a straight game?” “The game was straight. You won, didn’t you?” He leaned forward, his eyes cold and hard. “You’re just in no position to collect.” The Kittran was about to argue when the door behind Toran opened. He looked up as Ripley entered, and his eyes widened in shock. She wasn’t alone. “Toran, you bastard! You sold me out!” “For ten million credits.” Toran stared hard at Ranjaz. “Care to make a better offer?” Eruwenn’s eyes blazed with anger as the grey-suited Niham pulled up a seat and sat down beside Toran. “Now, now, you lied to me about having the item before. Don’t double cross me.” Sentinel Krast placed his hands together on the table, interlacing his fingers. “I’m not somebody who forgives easily.” He looked directly at Eruwenn. “Isn’t that right, former Councillor? A little far from your new Ambassador position, aren’t you?” Ripley stood back against the wall. She had no idea who the newcomer was, but this most definitely was not the plan. The golden green Anatidae walked forward to stand behind Ranjaz. “Oh, I had a little vacation time saved up, and decided to spend it with my good friend here.” She placed a hand on the Kittrans shoulder. “And what brings a Sentinel here?” Krast’s lips curled in what might approximate a smile. “I’m also acquainted with Mr K’Lua. In fact, we go back a very long way.” He turned to look directly at Ranjaz. “Now, return what is mine.” Toran looked from Ranjaz to Krast. “Yours? You don’t look like the tiara wearing type.” The Sentinel didn’t turn his head. “Ah, so you hid the data chip inside some shiny bauble. As inventive as ever, Mr K’Lua.” The Niham finally acknowledged Toran by looking at him. “Bring. It. Here.” The Kah’Ree sucked air through his teeth. “Well, seems like we have something mighty important, and two very interested parties.” He stood and walked to his two security officers, who drew their weapons in unison. “Now then, I believe you” —he nodded to Krast— “offered ten million. How about it Ranjaz, old friend? What’s your counter offer?” The Kittran had been sitting, silently seething at his double cross being double crossed. He looked at Krast. “Were you the one?” Toran was surprised at being ignored, but before he could reply Krast answered, “The one?” Ranjaz’s eyes narrowed, his ears alert, his tail swishing aggressively. “The one who took my friend!” he snarled as he felt Eruwenn’s hand holding him back gently. Krast’s eyes glittered as he saw the impotent rage in his opponent’s eyes. “Ah, the poor deceased human?” He smiled his mannequin-esque smile. “And if I was?” Toran snatched a pistol from one of his men and fired a blast at the ceiling. “Your quarrel can wait. Let’s settle our business first and you can kill each other after I’m paid.” He paused, then added, “but, not in my casino. Body disposal costs extra.” Eruwenn’s hand gripped Ranjaz’s shoulder harder, and he braced himself. In one smooth move she both threw him backwards and to the right, and kicked the dalcho table up and forward into Krast's face. The Sentinel fell backwards as a blast from Toran struck the table, but Eruwenn was already on the move, sidestepping left and ducking forward into a cartwheel. Toran's gun had been following Ranjaz, but as her leg swept down it knocked the weapon from his grip. Once she stabilized, her fist, already primed with momentum from the cartwheel, struck Toran below the ribs and knocked the wind from him. The guard, whose gun the Kah'Ree had been holding, lunged forward to grab Eruwenn but she simply deflected his hand, pairing his forward momentum with her rising elbow to swiftly render him unconscious. The second guard had just begun to raise his weapon when a huge fist struck him in his chest, sending him careening backwards into the wall. Thor loomed over him, shaking his head as he retrieved the energy pistol. “Too slow.” Ripley helped Ranjaz to his feet as Krast pushed the table off his chest. Toran was coughing and struggling to breathe as Ranjaz pressed the retrieved energy pistol to his forehead. “Double cross me?” He dragged the Kah’Ree forward. “I want to see the item, then I’ll pay what I owe.” The two of them awkwardly made their way back towards Krast, so Ranjaz could point the gun in his face. “Then we can talk about your body disposal fee.” Krast stood, and his phony smile was gone. “You can’t kill me. The Sentinels will tear this place apart, hunt you down and kill you. You think I came alone? My ship is in orbit and waiting for my orders!” Ranjaz grabbed him by the jacket, pulling him down to his level, and struck him in the face with the butt of the pistol. Thor cooly kept his stolen pistol pointed at Toran and the one conscious guard. By the third blow Krast’s face was bloody, his nose broken and he began to struggle against Ranjaz’s assault. A muted boom caused everyone present to stop in their tracks. Alarms began to sound and Toran swore loudly. He pulled out his communicator, ignoring Thor’s pistol. “What the hell was that!” He held the device close as he listened. “My office?” He patted his pocket. Finding his key in place, he looked to Ranjaz and then Krast. “Seal the casino! And where is my brother?” Ripley suddenly understood why the Kittran had told her to leave his device on the safe door. After a brief further moment of shock, which she kept from showing on her face, she realized that she had been carrying an explosive without being told. If they survived, Ranjaz was going to need to explain himself. Thoroughly. Eruwenn, Thor and Ranjaz had backed away to the opposite side of the room, standing by the door. Krast stood alone, holding his profusely bleeding nose. The opposite door soon opened to reveal scrambling casino security, with Toran and his guard standing nearby. The unconscious guard was carried out without comment, and the Kah’Ree turned to Ripley. “Why are you still here?” She nodded and slipped out of the door, leaving one less concern for the remaining three. “Alright, which one of your skrolg-licking bastards broke into my private safe?” Krast spat blood onto the floor, pointing at Ranjaz. “He’s the thief. You and I had a deal.” The Kittran smirked. “I’m a better thief than blowing up a Tulseria-damned safe. If I wanted to steal it, I would have done just that. I would not have announced my arrival and sat down to a game of dalcho.” Toran looked between the two of them. “He’s got a point.” One of his men handed him a pistol, and he continued to talk a little distractedly into his communicator. “Well, check everywhere!” Ranjaz stirred the pot. “He’s the bastard who double crossed me, why would he honour your deal?” Eruwenn nodded. “A government agent can’t be seen working with criminals.” Krast's face contorted in rage. “Don’t be a damned fool, Toran!” He pointed at Ranjaz. “This is clearly some convoluted distraction.” Toran shook his head. “They had the upper hand. You were the one getting your face ruined.”
Cygna watched nervously as Alfor began to stir. Things were taking a lot longer than expected. Finally, her signal came; it was not as subtle as she had been led to believe. As soon as the explosion went off the two bodyguards quickly came into the room, glancing from Alfor’s sleeping body to her. She staggered forward, wine bottle in hand. “We need more drinkshh!” The guard ignored her as he saw the condition of his boss. “Not again,” he groaned. “Toran will kill us for letting him get like this.” The second guard stepped out into the corridor. “I’m not dressing him! Last time he tried to kiss me!” Cygna paused, not having expected it to go this way. The first bodyguard walked out as well. “He pissed on my new shoes the time before that. I’m not moving him.” Their communicators went off and their faces became more serious. Bodyguard two spoke first. “Damn it. Toran wants him.” The first turned to look at the increasingly bewildered Cygna. “You!” He smiled. “You got him undressed. You can dress him.” Cygna spotted Ripley running down the corridor towards them, causing her confusion to grow further. The Awakened shouted one word. “Sentinels!” The Fae’Dan’s mind raced. The plan was clearly blown, and they had to get out. Fast. As the guards were now facing Ripley, she took the opportunity to kick one in the back of the knee. He fell forward, and as the second turned he was met with the upward swing of a wine bottle. The first guard discovered first-hand the shocking truth of how hard the knee of an Awakened could be, and both were unconscious by the time they hit the ground. Cygna smiled at Ripley. "Thanks." The Awakened gave a swift nod of acknowledgement. “A Sentinel turned up, so Ranjaz set off the diversion he promised. The other brother is busy trying to figure out whether it’s us or the Sentinels robbing him.” Cygna took on board the new information quickly, knowing she needed to help the others. “I have an idea. Lie over there and look dead.” She ran back into the room, where Alfor was groaning and starting to move. She slipped the chain from his neck and dropped it into the ice bucket, where it sank out of sight below the dark Fae’Dan wine. She began to slowly shake him. “Huh,” he grumbled, and slowly opened his eyes. “Wha.. what happened?” Cygna clung to him tightly. “Oh thank goodness! I thought they killed you!” “Killed?” Alfor’s head was pounding, his memory blurry. “Who-” He caught sight of his downed guards in the open doorway. “What the hell happened?” He began pulling at his clothes, and swiftly checked that his trousers were dry. “While we were.. You know…” He nodded; he was buttoning up his clothes. He didn’t remember, but he knew. “Some scary men burst into the room and shot you! I was so scared.” She hugged him tight, pressing herself against him. He put his arm around her. “What men? Be brave, and tell me what happened.” She looked up at him, trying to make her eyes as big as possible, adding a lip tremble to really sell it. “I don’t know! They wore grey suits. And one of them took your necklace!” “My necklace.” He clutched at his chest where it should have been. “Damn Sentinels! I told Toran we couldn't trust them!” He stepped into the corridor, where Ripley lay on the ground with a terrible energy weapon burn on the side of her face. He pulled out his communicator. “Toran.” He instantly got hold of his brother. “I didn’t answer because I was knocked out. Damn Sentinels took my key, killed some of our guys.” He looked around. “Nobody important, just some waiter.” He finally pulled the underwear from his head. “I’ll go to the security room and look at the video.” He ended the call and turned back to Cygna. “You stay here.” She smiled. “Sorry, we can’t let you check the security footage.” “Wha-” Ripley struck him from behind and he crumpled to the ground, her fake burn melting from her face. The Awakened looked around, rechecking that all was clear. “I think that’s all we can do; we should get out of here. Come with me, my shuttle is in the staff bay.”
Toran closed his communicator and motioned to a guard. “Search him.” Eruwenn wished she had some way to capture the look on Krast’s face when the remote detonator was pulled from his pocket. She'd have to hug the light-fingered Kittran later. The Sentinel grit his teeth. “That’s not mine.” “Sure, sure,” Toran agreed, while simultaneously shaking his head at the Sentinel. “Looks like you really didn’t come alone.” Krast was furious, yelling, “I’m telling you-” He broke off when Ranjaz shot him in the leg, falling to the floor. The Kah’Ree pointed his pistol at the Kittran. “Can’t let you kill a Sentinel in my casino, even if they did just rob me.” Ranjaz was surprised the Kah’Ree had believed them so easily. “What about us?” Toran sighed, lowering his weapon. “Take your winnings and get out. If you stole the thing once, I’m sure you can steal it again.” Eruwenn and Thor both made to leave. Ranjaz paused, knowing he might not get another chance. “And him?” The Kah’Ree looked at the Sentinel holding his wounded leg. “We’ll send him back to his ship. As much as I hate it, the Sentinels are untouchable.” Ranjaz raised his pistol. “He took my friend.” “And we’ll get him back,” Eruwenn said softly. “Then we’ll all deal with him, and the rest of the Sentinels.” Krast sneered and spat blood once more. “Your human is dead.” Ranjaz fired. Krast screamed and grabbed his other leg. “You bastard!” Toran and his men raised their weapons as the Kah’Ree yelled, “Get the hell out of here!” Ranjaz turned and followed the others out of the door, but just as it was about to close he poked his head back in. “Oh, one last thing.” Toran could be seen looking up just as the Kittran fired again, but he ducked out of sight before the true outcome of his shot could be seen. The shrieks of agony, however, followed the trio down the corridor as they broke into a run. Eruwenn spared a glance down at Ranjaz during their retreat. “What did you do?” The full-fanged grin had never been larger. “Made sure we’ll see him again.” On the floor of the dalcho room Krast was screaming in agony. He turned over to stare at the closed door. “I’ll kill you! I will hunt you down and kill every last one of you!” Toran spoke into his communicator. “Tell the Sentinel ship to come get their man. And, bring a doctor. A really good doctor.” He nudged one of his guards and finally let out a chuckle. After all, the Sentinels had just robbed him. “You double-crossing scum always get what you deserve.” The J’Rami guard raised an eyebrow. “Not sure anyone deserves getting shot in the balls.”
I am 36 years old, make $66,900, live in Portland OR and work as a Data Coordinator.
Section Zero: Background Hello all, happy hoildays! I stumbled upon this subreddit not long ago and have enjoyed the commentary and experiences everyone's shared. Wanted to add another perspective from a mid-30s first-gen American. I've had some missteps regarding careers and finances, but I feel like I'm in a slightly better place now. I tried YNAB in the past but I wasn't consistent enough with it. These days I use Mint to monitor my finances and have a "Finance Friday" each month to review all my accounts and spending. I currently live with my partner TJ and his dog RR. We do not combine finances, but he has been unemployed since March. I have helped him with some bills and basic necessities here and there until he finds his next job or career. My current financial goals are to just maintain a status quo and not get any debt until pandemic times are over. Then I will focus on a house remodeling fund and savings for taking care of my parents. Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances? My parents taught us about money from a frugal perspective. They are immigrants who worked in food service/factories. There was always this “save save save” mentality. Even when they started their own small business, we saved like there was no tomorrow. In high school, my calculus teacher bought us all “The Millionaire Next Door” book and had us read it as an assignment - that was my first structured introduction to finances. Did you worry about money growing up? No, there was always food on the table and a roof over our heads. I knew that our extended family would support us if needed. Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? Yes. My dad didn’t finish the high school-equivalent in their country, while my mom did finish high school, but no college. My older and younger siblings took a different path in life after high school. I am the first and only in my family to graduate from college. My parents covered all tuition for my two bachelor degrees with the agreement that I support them fully during their retirement and send them gifts/extra money whenever I can. I feel very lucky and privileged that they were able to provide that education for me. At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net? 24 when I went on a work holiday abroad. My family was always available to help when needed, but the experience abroad helped me stand on my own feet. As an adult, I also inherited that “save” mentality and put a lot of my earnings towards savings. I didn’t date until my 30s, lived frugally, didn’t go out to eat/hangout with people, shopped thrift stores, and had very few hobbies. I am starting to “live a little” now though. Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? Aside from the tuition, my parents have helped with a down payment for my first house and living costs during periods of unemployment. Section One: Assets and Debt Retirement Balance If the place I was working at offered a 401k, I would always contribute up to the company match. I started my IRA in my mid-20s and would try to contribute the yearly max. I've stopped that the past 2-3 years though. My Other Brokerage is some play money, but I got tired of staring it and switched to index funds. I haven't contributed anything to it in a few years.
401k: $34,127 (5% company match on contributions)
Brokerage: $22,421 ESPP
Roth IRA: $40,615 VTIVX
Rollover IRA: $15,760 VTTHX
Other Brokerage: $7,235 VTI
Coinbase: $1,286 ETH (mostly just playing around with it)
Equity if you're a homeowner Purchased my first home for $382,000 with 20% down, right before lockdown earlier this year. Perfect timing, right?? I plan to live here until my retirement. My parents contributed $15k while I used most of my savings for the rest.
Current Equity: $80,371
Savings account balance: $3,073 Checking account balance: $7,800 Credit card debt: I charge everything on my credit card for the points, then pay it off each month using my checking account balance. Student loan debt: Traditionally no student loan debt as mentioned in Section Zero. Section Two: Income Income Progression (listed as gross income with cost of living area): High School
$11/hourMCOL - Helped with small family business.
College and first “career” job
$12-19/hour MCOL - I did events/banquet serving after classes and had an internship doing software administration.
$22/hour MCOL - Junior web developer. I realized after a year that programming was not my calling.
Mental health break
$12/hour LCOL - Work holiday abroad. I got a steady banquet server job for that whole time. It was enough to live minimally in a hostel, do weekend trips, WOOF and figure my life out.
College (again) and second “career” job
$12-15/hour LCOL - Decided to go back to school for a different bachelor's degree. While pursuing that degree, I worked at hotels and events as a banquet server again. I also did “search engine evaluation” whenever there were tasks available.
$36,000/year salary LCOL - Software administrator at a casino after graduation.
$39,000/year salary LCOL - Systemsanalyst at same casino. I left after 2 years, feeling disillusioned with the casino industry. I moved back home with my parents until I could get back on my feet again.
Third “career” jobs
$20/hour HCOL - Entry level advertising role. I was applying to all types of office jobs and that was my only bite.
$45/hour MCOL - Cold-called from a global company who needed someone with my software administrator experience from the casino job. It was an 8 month contract. Although I was starting to love my advertising job, the increase in pay was no question.
$65,000/year salary MCOL - After the contract ended and a few months of unemployment, I landed my current job at the same company. It is an “early career” role according to their job levels.
$66,900/year salary MCOL - Cost of living and merit increases after 2 years on the job. Pre-COVID we got a $5000 bonus each year. They have now stopped bonuses as well as all COL and merit increases.
Main Job Monthly Take Home: Monthly Net (paid bi-weekly): $2,758 Deductions:
Side Gig Monthly Take Home: No side gigs at the moment, but I am thinking of signing up on Upwork.com and doing Excel/data entry projects to help pay the mortgage. Other Income: TJ’s friend will be staying with us for a month in January, who will pay rent of $800 including utilities. Depending on how that goes, we may take on a roommate in the spare bedroom long-term. Section Three: Expenses Mortgage - when I bought the house, the plan was that I would charge TJ a portion of the mortgage costs as “rent”, but since his unemployment I am now covering it all myself. Regular Monthly Payment: $1677.57
Taxes & Home Insurance: $326.52
HOA: $30/year Retirement contribution: Nothing additional than what's been mentioned. Savings contribution: I used to do $50-100/month, but since COVID I’ve stopped contributing to my savings account. Investment contribution: None at this time. Debt payments: $100/month towards TJ's credit card balance of $2,307. Donations: $10-20/month, usually towards Omaze or Planned Parenthood. Utilities:
Natural Gas: $30-80/month
Xfinity internet: $60/month
Cellphone: On my parents plan. Subscriptions:
LinkedIn: $29.99/month for TJ’s job search - he’s found it very useful.
Amazon/Netflix/Hulu: We piggyback off family and friends’ accounts.
Nintendo Switch Online: 19.99/year
Gym membership: Pre-COVID I did Orangetheory for a year. I started to pick up free exercise equipment from Craigslist this year, so we have a small garage gym now and utilize YouTube exercise videos instead. Pet expenses: $10/month. TJ has stockpiled some Costco canned dog food before unemployment, but once that runs out I will likely cover the costs. We also started to make homemade dog food to help supplement. Car insurance: $460 every 6 months. Car is paid off. Regular therapy: I will start in the new year. Not sure what the costs are yet, but I will use my HSA to pay. Vitamins/Medications: $20/month Groceries & household items: $75/month Miscellaneous (eating out, house purchases, gifts, etc): $100/month Section Four: Money Diary Monday 6:30am Neighbor starts up their truck. We joke that it's our natural alarm clock. They idle for about 15 minutes before heading off. I go back to bed. 9am My real alarm goes off. I put the electric kettle on for some morning tea. While it's boiling, I do my morning routine: drink glass of water, take synthroid, use bathroom, brush teeth, quick shower. I then make tea - Jasmine Pearl English Breakfast with dark forest mix. I started ordering loose leaf tea in large amounts back in March instead of small bags or single serving packets. Seems more economical since I drink it daily. I let the dog out into the backyard so he can do his morning routine. 9:30am I go through my daily tasks for work. They entail checking processes and reports to make sure they ran successfully overnight. I then answer some emails and catch-up on Slack channels. 12pm Lunch is leftover roast chicken and quinoa from Saturday. I heat it up in the instant pot. Love that thing! Almost every meal of ours involves the instant pot. We hardly use the stovetop. We then walk the dog to the business park across from our neighborhood. There's a very short trail that runs along a drainage creek by the business park. It's quite muddy, but has a nice woodsy feeling. Over the summer, we saw sumac trees there as well. Free sumac spice! 1:30pm Department meeting on Zoom. Our director announces his resignation on the call. Everyone is shocked! Layoffs were announced for next year but this was not a part of it. I think it's a good move for him and he doesn't have to have this worry of layoffs over his head. 3pm I meet with an engineer from another team and talk about a data source they are in charge of. He helps me out in understanding it and we identify most of the fields that I need for a project I’m starting. 5:30pm I check in with my partner. He's been watching LinkedIn tutorials on internal recruiting, job coaching and general computeoffice skills. It's a career change that he wants to make - something where he can talk to and help people. He doesn't have a bachelor's, only an associates, and hopes these tutorials will get him a leg up in the job search. I sent him some entry level HR admin roles the other day and remind him to apply. I then heat up leftovers: homemade chana masala and rice. I add some butter and coconut milk to thin it out, so there's enough for both of us. 10:30pm I take some magnesium, vitamin D and Airborne. I say goodnight to the dog who sleeps in the office. Then I say goodnight to TJ. He sleeps in the spare bedroom on weeknights due to his snoring keeping me up. I'm a light sleeper while he is a pretty deep sleeper. Daily total: $0 Tuesday 9am I check Reddit Secret Santa. My match seems like a really good person. Not sure what to get, but most likely will purchase something off their wishlist. I wish I was more creative with my gift giving. 11am Meeting with business stakeholder. She submitted a few changes to an existing data process about a month ago. I make the change while on the call and have her test. Success! Marking it off the todo list. I love when we can finish things directly on a call. 12:30pm I come out of my office to make lunch. I notice my partner is not home. I check my messages and see that he's stepped out to pick up a few things. I ask for celery, carrots, and kombucha. $17. I make a quick charcuterie board for lunch: Costco salami, cheese, homemade hummus and Triscuits. It's a simple, fast meal that’s always in our rotation. 2pm My partner is back and we take the dog out for a walk and quick round of disc golf at a nearby park. We mask up and play only a few holes. Disc golf is a pretty frugal activity, you only need 2-3 discs to get started. TJ remarks that my throws are getting better, but then again they weren't great to start with. We talk about Christmas/Birthday gifts on the way back home since he was born on New Years Day. He mentioned snowshoeing but asked to not spend that much. I'll do some research! 5pm I think about personal career projects. Should I put up a portfolio of projects somewhere? I decide to try and pull some Yelp data. There’s not a lot of data points that I was interested in. Regardless, I tinker with it for an hour. TJ asks if I'm hungry. I said not so much, but felt thirsty. Maybe some ginger soup tonight? 7:30pm Dinner is served - ginger carrot soup made in the instant pot. We eat some rice crackers with it. Lately I feel like we've been eating more vegetarian dinners. It definitely helps stretch our food budget. We end the evening by finishing Fargo season 3 on Hulu. Daily total: $17 Wednesday 1:30am I'm woken up by the dog. He's been sneezing a lot and wheezes at random intervals. TJ doesn't have the money for a vet visit but I've offered to pay as long as he calls to make the appointment. I give the dog some coconut oil, rub his belly until he seems better and go back to bed. 7am Garbage day. We usually put it out the night before but I forgot. I get up to go, but TJ handles it. I think, at least. I'm too sleepy to pay attention and go back to bed. 9am I wake up and rinse some dishes that have piled up and put them into the dishwasher. We both grew up in households that had a home dishwasher, but forbade from using it. It was drilled into us that hand washing saves more water, unless you had a restaurant/industrial dishwasher. I think with modern home dishwashers, that's changed, so I wanted to try it out with our dishwasher and monitor the water bill. Don't have any dishwashing pods or powder, so I put some OxiClean in it. 12:30pm I overhear TJ on a call with a recruiting agency. It seems to be going well, lots of laughing. I heat up some taco lasagna that I freezer meal-prepped last month. 2pm Collaborate on a project at work with an engineer. My manager put me on this project since I was asking for an assignment on a more technical team. I'm learning tidbits here and there, but I don't feel like it's structured enough. 5pm I do an Orangetheory-At-Home workout and try to break a sweat. It's not the same as going to their studio. 6pm Charcuterie for dinner. Our fridge is full of store-bought and homemade pickles that go super well on a charcuterie board. Daily total: $0 Thursday 7am I wake up tired. The house has been feeling more cold, which woke me up a few times. We keep the temp at 72F during the day, at night around 68F since we thought the bedrooms keep the heat in pretty well. My mistake! 9am I do my usual morning routine and login to work. My team mostly spends the morning sending each other emojis. 11:30am Lunch today is mini quiche, frozen chicken and veggie entree, and hot dogs. Not the most cohesive meal, but it fills the belly. 12:30pm TJ heads out to his mailbox that's 30 minutes away. He is still waiting on his tax return and a 401k withdrawal. His taxes had to be filed by mail for some reason, then the IRS office shut down due to COVID. So he wanted to see if it arrived yet at the mailbox. He also takes the dog to the vet's urgent care on his way. They didn't have any regular openings available until the end of the year, and the dog seemed to be getting worse. I give TJ $40 to mail a gift package to a friend in France and also reiterate that I'll cover the vet bill when he gets it. 4:30pm I pay some bills, my favorite activity (not)! Sewer bill: $59.44 (billed every 2 months). Geico bill: $459.60 billed every 6 months. Then I follow up with my mortgage officer over email. I had sent her some documents for a refinance quote last week, but haven't heard back. Rates keep dropping, so I'm told, but what does that really mean? I do some research on realestate. 5pm TJ messages me and says he'll be back for dinner. I ask him to pick up some Popeyes via drive thru since we both don't feel like cooking today. Popeyes is currently our fancy “going out to eat” food. $24.17 for a 4pc dinner meal and a 2pc dinner meal. Daily total: $583.21 Friday 8:30am Busy morning at work. My phone is buzzing with emails and Slack messages. I try to answer them while I make tea. 10am Zoom Department happy hour. We reminisce about our director and then play those Jackbox party games. Some of them are hard! 11am TJ asks if he can make me anything for lunch. He suggests savory oatmeal, quick and easy. I tell him that I really appreciate him making meals/doing chores/etc without me prompting. We've been having conversations about "house project management" and mental load because I did most of the chores or I had to continually remind/tell him to do it. I'm really happy to see us progress on this front. I decide to work through my lunch break so I can end the day early. I don't often do that, but I'm ready to get the weekend started. 2pm I check on TJ in the spare bedroom and ask if the dog has been fed yet, since he was nipping at my feet. I notice something off about TJ and ask how he is doing. TJ is depressed about his personal life, career, finances. He doesn't know what to do, spends half the day meditating and reflecting on past trauma. I've been prodding him to get a therapist but he is confused about his insurance. He makes an appointment with a primary care doctor first. I feed the dog some homemade dog-friendly beef stew. 4pm My mom swings by the house (but doesn't enter). She currently works at a school who distributes free USDA food boxes since March. There's often many boxes leftover that would go to waste, so she will grab a box for us. Onions, potatoes, beets, turnips, eggs, cheese, butter, frozen veggies and frozen chicken. She also brought her vintage pasta maker. I asked last week if she ever used it these days and her reply was “no, feel free to have it”. I love pasta and noodles and figure it would be great to make it ourselves as a frugal hobby. 8pm We catch up on Mandalorian and watch silly Youtube videos before heading off to bed. Daily total: $0 Saturday 9am I open up my web browser and look at Craigslist and NextDoor for free stuff. I've been scouring for free landscape rocks, pegboards, and wood for house projects. I had this grand ambition to redesign our backyard. It faces our neighbor and currently the fence is pretty low. They can see into our kitchen and bedroom and we can see them. But y'know, COVID and going from dual income house to single income means it all has to be put on hold. So I've been looking for free items in the meantime. Over the past months, I've gotten planter pots, plant cuttings, a raised bed, stepping stones, all from free listings. I don't see anything worthwhile so I go and make some tea. 11am I look at Amazon and make some purchases for Reddit Secret Santa. A foodie kit, DVD of their favorite movie, and some cute pens for their writing hobby. $54. I hope they like it! 12pm TJ heats up leftover stir-fry for lunch for us. I put on some Binging with Babish and we watch how to make pasta. We have a plan - TJ makes the pasta, I make the sauce. Perfect date night activity at home. We watch some more videos on pasta and noodles to educate ourselves. 4pm I start prepping veggies. Big batch of onions, canned tomatoes, ground beef and butter in the instant pot. Meanwhile, TJ works on the pasta by following Babish's instructions. 7pm We gorge on fresh made pasta and bolognese sauce. It's so good! We end up watching Fargo. 11pm Usually I'll be in bed by now, but it's a Saturday and not tired yet (probably because of all that pasta). We play some Kirby's Dream Course on the Switch. Daily total: $54 Sunday 10am Quick walk around the neighborhood with the dog. He's on a new routine now with the medicine he's taking. It seems to be helping his breathing issues. 11am The pasta maker and flour is still out since we didn't clean up yesterday. There's some old pie crust in the fridge so I roll it out with the pasta machine for mini quiches. (Sally's Baking Addiction blog is my go-to place for her all-butter crust and quiche recipes btw). TJ helps by mixing up the eggs. 3pm I play some Genshin Impact (GI) on my phone while TJ plays Starcraft in the office. I don't usually play gacha games, but the Zelda BotW-style of GI appealed to me. A gacha game is a game with randomized characteitem boxes that you use real-money to purchase a “pull” or to spin the wheel. I know the gacha parts of the game can be a real money sink if you get addicted to them, it’s almost like gambling. My main team is Fischl, Bennett, Barbara and Noelle. I level up to AR 22 and look up free-to-play tutorials for the game. 6pm There's some leftover pasta from yesterday, enough for both of us. I throw in some roasted beets to round out the meal. We watch more Fargo while eating. Almost done with Season 3! 10pm I find a tour operator who offers a small, socially-distant snowshoeing tour up on the mountain. I reserve for two people - this will be TJ's Christmas/birthday gift. $75. Off to bed for another workday. Daily total: $75 Weekly Total: $689.79
Food + Drink: $41.17
Fun / Entertainment: $75
Home + Health: $59.44
Clothes + Beauty: $0
Section Five: Reflections Aside from the car insurance bill, this was a typical week for me, COVID or not. We make the majority of our meals at home and usually splurge on drive-thru/delivery once every other week. I may have overspent on the Secret Santa gift, but I don't often give gifts out to friends. It's not something our family does either. For TJ’s Christmas/birthday gift, we usually talk upfront about costs. I’ve gifted him fancy restaurant experiences the past 2 years, since we can share that experience, but obviously can’t do that now. Snowshoeing is a nice change of pace. The conversations with TJ this week have given me thought on how to approach him differently about finances and working together in a relationship. I’m still unsure about the future financially, particularly as my parents near retirement age and that TJ has pulled out his 401k to pay his debts. I don't know if I can support both my parents and TJ together, so I am finding ways to upskill and/or side hustles without becoming a workaholic or bogged down by stress. Writing this money diary was also the first time where I really paid attention to my past income and current income. I might be contributing too much into ESPP that could go towards the 401k or mortgage instead? I also seem to have been underpaid for what I did in past jobs, even in a LCOL area.
Hello Reddit community. Fair warning, this is a very long one. I (33m) met my ex (34f) 16 years ago when I was in high school. Over the internet back in the day when people enjoyed Yahoo Games. We met over the chat in there lol. I am from around Brantford, Ontario, Canada. She was from around Pembroke, Ontario, Canada. I will not bother with going into the long details of our relationship but will say that it is obviously a very long history but it has always been pretty roller coaster like. I will also say that I have a whole host of my own mental issues, like Anger, control, jealousy etc probably stemming from a pretty rough childhood i have had (i am currently in counseling after many years of not doing it). We have 2 children. A 9 year old daughter and a 2 year old daughter. At the time of the beginning of this incident, we were not together and she was living with our daughters and her sister in an apartment about 5 minutes away from me. Around August of 2019, one of the two of them received a phonecall from their father and he revealed that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The two of them and our daughters immediately drove up to Pembroke to spend a week with him. His wife (their stepmom) is a real estate agent in the area. When they returned, the two of them had decided that they wanted to move to Pembroke to help their father. When she told me this, as you would expect, I was not pleased. We got into some huge arguments. While I could understand wanting to help with their father, I was extremely upset about our children being taken away. I calmed down a bit eventually. During this time, they had been talking to their step mother and their step mother found out that renting apartments and renting houses is just as expensive, if not moreso than actually paying the mortgage on your own house. So now they get ideas about owning a house there. Found a house for like 108k. They decide to go to a bank to see about going together on a mortgage. Turns out the sister is so bad with her finances and debt she owes that they decline them. I feel like at this point I should add in that although we may not have been together at that point (and throughout various other points of our history), the love I have for her (and obviously our daughters) has always been very strong. The 3 of them mean the world to me. My ex eventually comes to me. Asks me to go in with her on this mortgage because she knows I have a stable career and good income (im a dealer at the casino here in Brantford for the last 11 years). So her sister is irrelevant in the matter as it would be just hers and my house. Obviously I was not pleased. I talked this over with a few friends and my mom (who is my rock). They thought it was an insane thing to allow. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place with this decision.
I do this and co sign a mortgage with her. I would be doing this to help her and her sister out and I mean....frankly it would make me feel good to help them be with their family in a sense. But this also means our children and her move 5.5 hours away from me.
I dont allow this and my ex resents me for the rest of my life and it makes any interactions we have in the future horrible and she also would probably financially make it much hard on me (going after more for child support, which at the time I believe I was paying 400 Canadian for our two girls).
I feel like I should also note that we have never been to court for anything. We have no custody agreement, they kind of just....live with her. When they were here in Brantford they were living with her and her sister and I would just come by and visit the three of them whenever I wanted or bring the girls to sleep at my place if I wanted. We've never had child support agreements either, beyond verbal. Anyways...I eventually went through the bank checking on me process and decided to sign for this. From MINUTE ONE when she first told me about all of this, she said to me over and over again that this is just temporary. This is what made it easier on me. Because I knew that we could just grin and bare the distance for about a year to a year and a third. Her father was given 1 year to live btw. So eventually they move on October 18th, 2019. From then until a few months ago I had been going up every other weekend from work to stay with the 3 of them. I went up with them at the beginning as I had a lot of paperwork to sign. I should note that we are BOTH co-owners of this property. 50% each. Same with the mortgage. BUT.....I have never invested a dime in this house. She borrowed a loan from her mother (my ex has never had much money at all) for the down payment of the house. She pays the mortgage and bills on the house. When they were living in Brantford, she worked as a sale associate at a Winners store. When they moved to Pembroke, it was actually a good transition for her as she basically just transferred to the Winners in Pembroke. She eventually got a promotion to a supervisor there making a bit more money. To which she eventually, in October 2020, quit her job. I told her multiple times before she did this that it was a very very bad idea. But she didn't care. Said she just wanted to spend more time with our girls and she didn't get to while working, which is a ridiculous thing to say, because what parent wouldn't want to spend more time with their children. We work to provide a life for them. Around January of 2020, her sister, who has always made rash decisions in her life....decided that she was going to move to Oshawa with some guys shes known for a few years (oshawa is like 4 hours away from Pembroke, 2 hours away from me in Brantford). By doing this....she kinda of double screwed my ex. One way, obviously, was that she was no longer going to be chipping in on bills. The other was that during this entire time that they lived in Pembroke, she didn't have a job (still doesn't, but irrelevant), so she was a free babysitter for my ex to watch over our children. This put my ex in a very uncomfortable position. The two of them really fought over this. When her sister moved out, various friends and family members would chip in a few hours here and there watching our girls, but nobody was consistent. Shes never had a reliable support system. This continued until about the beginning of July 2020. Her sister arrived back at the house in Pembroke one day and discovered that my ex had left our 9 year old to watch our 2 year old for 8 hours a day while she was at work. This had shockingly been going on for 2 weeks. My ex had told me that her father and stepmother would be watching our daughters while she worked, obviously lied to me. So her sister lost her mind when she got there, called Childrens Aid Society and reported it. Waited until my ex got back from work and they got into a huge blow up. The sister left back for Oshawa. My ex called me that same night and told me all of this. I immediately told her that I would come there tonight and take our girls back to my place to help out for an indefinite amount of time. I left at 1030 that night and drove through the night except for a power nap and got there at like 8am. My daughters and I left later that night to come back to Brantford. They stayed with me for a month and a half from the beginning of July to lateish August. We had an absolute blast together. During this time, my ex was in a very dark place. She was very depressed about me "taking our girls away", as insulting as that is. She was also dealing with health issues at the time which eventually required emergency gall bladder removal. She was sidelined from work for about 2 weeks, sleeping like 18 hours a day. During this time, she apparently decided that she wants a lot more tattoos. So she was talking to a girlfriend from work about this and her friend told her that she should get in contact with her cousin or something. A guy who would give her tattoos for free or at least very cheap. Obviously everyone knows that the words free and tattoos never go well together. So they started hanging out and she started paying this person in Tom Hortons and pizza slices for tattoos. For real. Obviously I havent huge divulged in my own mental issues, but if you knew me.....you would know this does not sit well with me. I started being very accusatory and jealous. Saying to her over and over "oh, this is your new bf then eh?" Constantly she would say over and over again, "OP, stop being such an idiot. Hes just a friend. We've met each other at very dark times in each other's lives and we enjoy our time together." Eventually I brought the girls back to Pembroke. School was going to be starting back for my 9 year old. She had found a day care for our 2 year old. Everything seemed like it was set in place. Now we are at about October 2020. This person is coming over to our house in Pembroke all the time or my ex and our girls are going there. I should mention that my 9 year old has said repeatedly that she does not feel comfortable around this person and finds him very weird. Says he's nice to her and her baby sister but he just doesn't seem to care much and he just makes her feel odd and he's weird and she doesn't care to be around him. So as this is going on....my jealousy back in Brantford is getting worse and worse. It got to the point that there was a night when this person made a supper for the 4 of them and I was talking to my daughter on the phone and she told me about this meal that they had and it was very very good. This didn't sit well with me. We finished our chat and I was texting my ex and told her something along the lines of "this is absolute bullshit. This is some husband and wife shit. I feel very uncomfortable with this person around our children." She basically said, again, that I was being ridiculous and that they are extremely good friends and this is what best friends do. I lost my temper and basically told her over text, "fuck this shit. Im done. I just....I dont want anything to do with any of this now. Enjoy your family of four." I should say obviously I dont actually want to revoke any sort of rights I was just jealous and angry and hurt. Let's fast forward a bit more. November of 2020. Now, they seem to be sleeping over there at this persons house pretty much every night. Which is super fucking weird as like I told you guys.....my daughter does not like this. She finds it very uncomfortable. At this point, due to covid among other factors....I really haven't seen them in about 2 months beyond video chat. I had started a new job but had a string of 5 days off in a row. Decided to make a bit of a rash judgement and drive up there to surprise my girls. But I wont lie, it was also because I was getting increasingly nervous. I arrive there on a Friday night at like 630 pm. I figured they were over there as there was no one at the house we owned (tbh probably a good thing as it avoids the confrontation). I asked my ex over text if she could come back to the house so I could hang out with the 3 of them. It didn't go well. She says "OP, are you insane??! We have not been on good terms lately, why would you think this would go well? I will bring the girls back but im not staying there." Than I just lost it. "This is absolutely ridiculous. I wanted to spend time with all of you." "I will not be staying there." "OK....well....I guess you had better just not come back then cuz I can tell you if you do....I will follow you to that house." "Omg are you insane? I'm calling the cops this is insane"blah blah. It never happened. We calmed down and I eventually stayed in the house for the night. She brought our girls over in the afternoon while she did grocery shopping but they already had plans to go out with her cousin to look at Christmas lights that night. I was invited to come but it would've been way too awkward. I just drove the 5.5 hours home. It just got worse from here when I got home. This is like beginning of December. The very next day her father passes. Soon afterwards, she announces to me that they are no longer going to be moving back. Im absolutely floored and beyond hurt. Huge fighting ensues. It gets very nasty with her saying terrible stuff like she will go for full custody, etc etc. I remind her that we had a deal to move back after her father passed and that she can't do this with our kids. She says she is not stopping me from seeing them. Willing to meet every weekend for me to have them. This is no life. This is no life to formulate a good relationship with our daughters. This is beyond cruel. She claims im the bad one as im trying to force our daughters out of the house they love and the school our 9 year old loves and the quiet neighborhood. So.....now its about mid December. I am getting them to stay with me from December 27th- January 9th (they are here now). Its probably about the 21st at this point and she decides to announce to me that they are a couple and have been for a month now. Obviously im crushed. Shes said so many times all she ever wanted was for us to work out. Wanted me and her forever. Wouldn't have ever happened if it wasn't for my poor behavior and all that. But shes happy now she says. Many many days of crying ensue. Rage and anger. Jealousy. Insane insane jealousy. Here comes the creeper parts. So. Over the last 2 or so months I've learned some details. Dude apparently has a child on the way with a woman but she moved 5 hours away from him when she first found out she's pregnant (probably should've been a red flag for my ex). Guy works in the military in Petawawa, a town nearby Pembroke. Big, big military town. Hes a chef or some such shit there. Now....im not condoning my next actions. My eldest daughter had made me wary of this person as well as obviously my jealousy. I started doing some social media digging. Found out who his ex is. Started a very awkward dialogue with her one day (around the 23rd or something). It blossomed into actual conversation for days on end. Turns out, according to her and some serious shit she showed me during our many, many conversations.....this guy is seriously trouble. Massive control issues (I know...pot meet kettle), manipulation and grooming. On multiple occasions this guy would hold knives to her and threaten if she ever left him that he'd fucking end her or himself. Many many times of beating her up both verbally and physically (I saw a bunch of pretty bad pictures). Use to choke her out against a wall until she passed out and then would proceed to have his way with her.....really messed up stuff. Heres the real kicker. Curious how these two met? Not sure exactly how they met....but how they ended up actually getting together and having a 4 year relationship is because.......they both came into the relationship positive for genital herpes. Genital friggin herpes. He cheated on her many, many times during their relationship (apparently grounds for firing from the military). During these times that he's cheated on her....he apparently infected multiple people with this STI. He was scared moreso when a few women tried to confront him over text or other social media claiming that they wanted to get in contact with him and would sue (apparently thats a thing, I didnt know), than when his girlfriend found out as he knew he could smooth over the fact he cheated on her because he had her groomed and scared. So obviously he has not told my ex this, even though his ex that I've been speaking with literally described where exactly they are in his house as shes been living there for 4 years (up until about may/June 2020). I confronted my ex about all of this stuff. She wasn't hearing any of it. Doesn't believe anything. Laughed me off. Says he's treated her nothing but good since theyfe been together. Said she won't put up with anything bad, not even once, but nothing has happened. Only thing that gave her any kind of pause was when I told her that literally less than a month ago he was texting his ex, asking her to "please come back, please come back to me. You are my everything. I want to spend the rest of my life with yiu" etc etc. So clearly this guy doesn't give a damn about my ex and she is just the current thing for him to pass his time with. So. I think we are just about at the end of the story. Not much else has happened since that as, like I mentioned much earlier, I've had our daughters with me since dec 27th, until Jan 8th (for now). Oh. Actually.....one thing. She continues to show incredibly poor parenting skills. During this time that they've been with me.....sometimes around the 29th....she has actually gotten him to move in with them at OUR house. This is so beyond messed up. One month dating and this happens. Our kids don't even like him. Like I said earlier, my 9 year old has said he's very weird and strange and makes her uncomfortable. But she claims she's doing this all in the best interest of them. She justifies this because this guy is now apparently renting out rooms to two people at his house while chipping in some bills at our house. So the dude is using her as a cheap place to crash (the mortgage on our house in Pembroke is literally like 330$ a month), while he profits off his house. I have thought of doing multiple (probably bad) things, but I feel like someone needs to stop this terrible person before he hurts people beyond just my ex. I have definitely thought of contacting the Petawawa Military Police and telling them about all the horrible things I know about this person and telling them to check his medical files (the military doctor issues this guy his herpes medication, Valtrex). Ive also thought about sending him a pretty serious message, though that will probably amount to nothing. I can provide what I've typed up already about it if someone wants those details. I will finish this off with the legal questions.
She is scared as she thinks I can force the sale of the house as a co owner. Can I? Would I have a chance?
Am I able to get them to move back? I realize thats a multi layered question. Having a verbal deal I also realize probably looks bad on me....but even if she denies that this deal ever happened....why on earth would I ever just randomly allow our children to be moved 6 hours away forever? No sane person would.
I want this monster away from our children. Is it unwise to try and work up the balls to talk to military police?
Its to the point that I dont even feel comfortable bringing our children back to meet up with her halfway on Jan 9th. Like I stated previously, we've never had any sort of custody arrangements. So, in my eyes, neither of us are more allowed to have the children than the other. What are my options here?
If yiu made it all the way here.....thank you for your time. I cant express enough gratitude. This has absolutely been the year from hell for me, even without covid. TL;DR- ex and I had an agreement to move back with our children. Shes backing out of this. What are the options. Do I have a case? New guy in the picture very much scares me and our children are seriously uncomfortable. Can I do anything? Co own a house together. 50/50 split. What can be done about this to force the sale and potentially get things going in my favour?
Note: The particularly important details and music artist names are in bold text. Licensed music track names are in italics. The year is 1973, five years after the events of the Mafia III, and 22 years since Vito Scaletta’s seen or heard from his old friend Joe Barbaro. The canon ending of Mafia III with this Mafia IV story is Vito taking over the city after Lincoln skipped town, however Cassandra and Burke are left alive and loyal to both Vito and Lincoln still. Burke was able to survive his liver cancer by getting a black market liver transplant in Mexico, like he did in his ending, except with Vito running the city. On Vito and Lincoln’s behalf, Burke and Cassandra agree to stay behind in New Bordeaux and keep the city locked down, incase Leo Galante and the Commission try anything. The beginning cutscene is Vito answering his telephone after getting up in the morning in his new penthouse, on the top floor of the New Bordeaux casino he finished that was once Sal Marcano's, and grabbing a cup of coffee. It's Alma with some urgent news. Lincoln Clay came down to the cigar warehouse to visit her after 5 years of silence, and he has big news. Joe is alive in Empire Bay and has been this entire time. However, as punishment for his actions, he's become Leo Galante's personal driver against his will and is forbidden from contacting Vito ever again, or else him and Vito will be killed. Alma then tells Vito to meet Lincoln at the airport to learn more, as he's already there awaiting Vito's arrival. When they're away from anyone who could listen in on their conversation, Lincoln tells Vito he has a friend named John Donovan he's going to introduce him to, hiding in the outskirts of Empire Bay, ready to help Vito and Lincoln with their new mission Vito gets dressed in one of his signature trench coats with a suit and tie, ready to rain down hell on the Vinci crime family and their allies, and finally be reunited with his lifelong friend he previously thought was dead, Joe Barbaro. Here is my idea for the kill list, all related to the Commission in Empire Bay and their allies.
Leo Galante - Top target on the list, Vinci family consigliere who's in with the Commission and the man you thought put Joe in the ground for the past 22 years. Bury this wrinkly old cocksucker.
Johnny Galante - Vinci family capo and younger relative of Leo's mentioned in Cassandra's ending, possibly Leo's cousin even. John Donovan knows that the two are close, and that Johnny's a valuable asset to Leo's organization. Kill him both to hurt Leo's earn and influence, and to hit him straight in the heart by taking away his family and everyone he loves
Michele Galante Jr. - Another Vinci family capo, and Leo Galante’s youngest brother. Killing Leo’s little brother will both take away one of his most reliable allies, and leave him stricken with grief and enraged, and more prone to making mistakes.
Nunzio Galante - Leo’s seasoned older brother by 3 years, and yet another Vinci family capo. He knows enough about smuggling that he worked out an ingenious plan for smuggling military grade weapons into the city. He pays off corrupt officials at Empire Bay International Airport, to allow guns to be loaded inside the walls and floors of planes, unknown to everyone onboard save for the palms the Galantes and Frank Vinci have greased to cooperate and keep quiet. The time has come to put this crafty old bastard in the ground.
Don Frank Vinci - Frank Vinci is the boss of the Vinci crime family, the family Leo's been a consigliere of for decades, and a lifelong friend of his. Kill Frank, and Leo loses more ground than he could ever imagine, and will be forced to deal with both the loss of his boss, and the loss of his lifelong childhood friend.
Don Ennio Salieri - Longtime close friend of both Frank Vinci and Leo Galante, Don of the Salieri crime family, and a third party Frank and Leo call in to crush Vito's uprising, when it becomes too big of an issue for Vinci alone to handle. Salieri was eventually able to grease enough palms while behind bars to have his life sentence overturned, and he got released from prison on good behavior in 1953, after he served 15 years of his sentence. He’s since relocated to his main operations to Empire Bay, having already had connections and men present there while he was in prison, backed by the Commission and the Vinci crime family. He's seasoned, but he’s nothing Mr. Scaletta can't handle. Give this tired old fuck the gangland ending he's had coming.
Isaac - Isaac is the personal assistant to an influential loan shark named Bruno Levine, who handles the money of the Commission, including the Vinci crime family and the Salieri crime family. He does anything from serve his boss coffee, to count incoming and outgoing money for Bruno. Because of his duties, he's aware of Bruno's location at all times. You’ll need to get to Isaac to get information on his boss out of him, and dispose of him afterwards if you want to get to Bruno.
Bruno Levine - Bruno is a Jewish-American loan shark who kicks up all of his earn to both Frank Vinci and Ennio Salieri, and the Commission in Empire Bay. Killing him kills a lot of earn for the Commission, and they loses a valuable asset. In addition to getting rid of him being practical, to add insult to injury, he gave your father that loan. It's about time to put this asshole out of business.
Mr. Chu & Mr. Chu Jr. - This old man has been leading the Empire Bay Triads with an iron fist since before you were even born. The bastard has a son too, who eventually went on to become his underboss. The Empire Bay Triads became a close ally of the Vinci crime family, the Salieri crime family, and the Commission shortly after Vito killed Don Carlo Falcone in 1951, forming a lucrative partnership with the Commission. Mr. Chu and his eldest son are valuable assets for Leo Galante who give him extra reach. Melt their iron fists and show these two pricks just who they fucked with.
Eddie Scarpa - This cocksucker used to be Carlo Falcone's underboss for as long as you could remember. After you whacked Falcone in the fall of 1951, he decided to throw in with Vinci to save his own skin. He took over the smuggling and dock union extortion that fat fuck Derek Pappalardo used to run. You know all too well how to deal with this sorry fuckin' rat.
I'm thinking Vito and Joe work with Lincoln Clay and John Donovan to split up Empire Bay and distribute territory to three other factions not unlike what Lincoln did with New Bordeaux. This time though, this is a much larger city in a much, much different part of the United States. The empire building mechanics would be a lot smoother, more robust, and streamlined compared to Mafia III. They would work similarly a more modernized version of how the game Scarface: The WorldIs Yours handled it's empire building and management mechanics, minus the whole switching to other characters lower on the ladder to do your bidding. This would be ideal for a story rich organized crime game in my opinion. Here are my ideas for those factions, all close allies of the up and coming Scaletta crime family. The Cuban mob led by Alma Diaz. Vito goes way back with Alma, and she does not hesitate to answer him and Lincoln's calls to save Joe's life and royally fuck both Leo Galante and the Vinci family. Conti crime family, led by Enzo Conti. This Conti crime family formed sometime in late 1968, months after Lincoln helped Enzo flee New Bordeaux and drop off of Sal Marcano's radar. It turns out he fled north to Empire Bay and finally formed his own family, having more than enough years of experience in the underworld to handle the job. Lincoln's tight with him and manages to recruit him to Vito and Joe's cause. The Yakuza, based out of Empire Bay's Japantown. Longtime sworn enemies of the Empire Bay Triads, with bad blood going back decades. They would greatly enjoy seeing Mr. Chu and his son's heads mounted on pikes, along with whacking everyone who's ever supported their organization. You don't know them well, and they're known to be very unpredictable and ruthless. Use these traits to your advantage when taking on the Commission of Empire Bay and their friends. I should mention as expected, this entire 1973 section where you play as Vito is much shorter than Mafia III. Vito's takeover is shown much more quickly over time than Lincoln's, and there's time skips during it, to keep it short and sweet, and to show onscreen only what's important. There is also no option for your underbosses to betray you, as to reduce confusion and keep the story consistently the same each playthrough, like the first two Mafia games. However, unlike Mafia III, after all of these tasks are completed and every single assassination target on Vito’s kill list is dealt with, the game does not end. In fact, it's not even anywhere near close to being over yet. Vito's 1973 section was merely the beginning act. It was really a lead up to an entirely new Mafia story, centering around a newcomer to the American mob. Fast forward two years following Vito’s rampage that led to him taking over Empire Bay and the Commission, in the year 1975 him and Joe now rule Empire Bay, with Vito as the Don of the Scaletta Crime Family, and Joe working as his loyal underboss. You play the rest of the game as a young up and coming soldato named Louis in his 20’s, who’s a rising star in Vito’s organization. Do right by Mr. Scaletta and Mr. Barbaro, understand kid? My basic idea for the character and his backstory is that he's a young Italian-Canadian mobster from Toronto, Ontario, or whatever Mafia's equivalent of it could be called. Let's call him Louis DeAngelo. (No relation to Tommy Angelo) His family hails from Tuscany in Italy and moved to Toronto, Ontario in 1939, shortly after World War II broke out in Europe. Louis DeAngelo was born in July 1952 in Toronto, and was raised in Toronto's Little Italy. Louis fled south to Empire Bay when the feds started cracking down on his old family and put his boss in prison, and he ended up finding a new home with the Scaletta crime family. The first few missions playing as Louis DeAngelo involve shooting your away out of an arrest by a Toronto Police Service SWAT team in Toronto in December 1974, seeing the rest of the members of your old crime family either get arrested or shot in front of you as you make your escape. You spend the next two missions fleeing Ontario through Quebec and upstate New York, before finally arriving in Empire Bay in early 1975, late January to be exact. Winter is in full force with snow everywhere, Louis' arrival to Empire Bay for the first time in his life mirroring Vito's return to Empire Bay in 1945 30 years earlier, except under far different much more dire circumstances. Louis' older brother and his father, both capos in his old crime family in Toronto, are shown to be arrested by the TPS SWAT team in his first mission, the same one that attempted to gun him down when he resisted arrested. Louis knows someone had to have ratted out his old crime family, and he wants to find out who someday. The thing is though, he doesn't just want to kill them. He wants to get out of them why they did it before he kills them. More than anything else, he just wants to find out why his crime family was betrayed and served up to the feds on a silver platter, having most of his biological family sent to prison in the process. He’s out to uncover the mystery of why his family fell apart, and he’s more than willing to help people like Don Vito Scaletta and his underboss Joe Barbaro to eventually get the answers he seeks. I came up with the idea for this character because I figured that playing as a fugitive from the law made sense for the mob life, and I'm surprised we haven't had a fugitive protagonist in the Mafia series yet. In the 1975 chapters while playing as Louis, the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon’s resignation, and the official end to the Vietnam War are both discussed on the in-game radio during news segments. In the last 1979 chapter, the beginning of the Soviet-Afghan War is also the subject of a news segment on the radio. The story eventually transitions into the 1980's as years pass, with the scenery, cars, and music changing accordingly, and historical events of the time discussed in the game. By the time the game ends, it's 1992, and significant historical events from the past few years at the time that are covered on the radio in-game include anything from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the 1992 L.A. riots. The rise of the internet and home computers are briefly touched upon during news segments on the in-game radio during the early 1990's section of the story, but not greatly delved into given their relative infancy in that time period. During this entire 1975-1992 stretch of the story, Vito is no longer playable, and Don Scaletta takes a backseat in the story as a main supporting character, similar to Don Salieri throughout Mafia: Definitive Edition. You now play as the Italian-Canadian Scaletta family soldato Louis DeAngelo, who is later promoted to being a capo in 1985. However, unlike Don Salieri, Don Scaletta has much more integrity, and has more genuine loyalty for his men and his associates. If you've beaten Mafia 1 or Mafia: Definitive Edition, you'll know this is something Salieri lacked in the end. The game will include a number of hit music from the 70’s that played on the radio back then, such as Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street and Tony Christie’s (Is This the Way to) Amarillo, The Grateful Dead's Casey Jones and at least a few songs by the then new American rock band Cheap Trick, as well as popular songs from the 1960’s people still listened to at the time, such as Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Wooly Bully, King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man,Zager and Evans' In the Year 2525, The Zombies' Time of the Season, and Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin'. When you progress through the game, especially after you switch to playing as Louis DeAngelo for the rest of the story, years change, and the music changes. Different songs start playing on the radio, such as Sylvester's You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),Randy Crawford's Street Life, and The Village People's Y.M.C.A., Cheryl Lynn's Got to Be Real, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, and the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive start playing in the 1979 portion of the game. After you've completed the 1975 section of the game, Foghat's Slow Ride starts playing on the radio. Starting in the 1977 section of the game, Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me and Heart's Barracuda start playing on the radio. In the 1980's portion of the game, Thomas Dolby's songs Hyperactive! and She Blinded Me with Science, in addition to Night Ranger's Sister Christian also start playing on the radio. If Hangar 13 can afford the licenses, I also think a few Michael Jackson and Madonna songs should definitely be on the radio during the 1980's portion of the story, given the immense popularity and regular radio airtime those two had in that decade. If this ended up being possible, I imagine that Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal, Beat It, Bad, and Billie Jean being on the radio in the 80's sections would be a must, Smooth Criminal especially because of how well it suits the series. Madonna's Lucky Star, Burning Up, Like a Virgin, and Borderline would also be perfect for the 80's portion of the game to me. Also mentioned by NPCs and civilians in the game are topical events of the time period, such as the release of the groundbreaking 1973 horror film The Exorcist at the end of Vito's playable portion of the game. Other music of the 1980's segment when playing as Louis DeAngelo for the remainder of the game includes hits of the era such as Joe Jackson's Steppin' Out, The Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star, Corey Hart's Sunglasses at Night,Laura Branigan's Self Control and Gloria, The Weather Girls' It's Raining Men, A-ha’s Take On Me, Men at Work's Down Under, Kim Wilde's Kids in America, The Gap Band's You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon, Twisted Sister's I Wanna Rock and We're Not Gonna Take It, Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive and Bad Medicine, Loverboy's Working for the Weekend, Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) and That's the Way (I Like It), Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now, Daryl Hall & John Oates' Maneater, Aneka's Japanese Boy, Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood, Girls, Girls, Girls and Kickstart My Heart, Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire, Huey Lewis And The News' Hip To Be Square, Bill Medley's (I've Had) The Time of My Life, The Police's Every Breath You Take, Whodini's Magic's Wand, Tears For Fears' Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Rockwell's Somebody's Watching Me, Regina's Baby Love, Nena's 99 Red Balloons, Earth, Wind, and Fire's Let's Groove and September, Billy Idol's Eyes Without a Face and White Wedding, Rick James’ Give It To Me Baby, Wham!'s Everything She Wants, George Michael's Careless Whisper, Toto's Hold the Line and Africa, Blondie's Heart of Glass and Atomic, and Mai Tai's History. Note that not every single year and moment of the 17 year 1975-1992 section playing as Louis DeAngelo is playable or chronicled. My idea is it would be handled similarly to how the time skips in Mafia 1/Mafia: Definitive Edition were handled. Time skips of two or more years, or in this case, even longer such as 4 years sometimes, the game skipping from 1979 to 1983. This is to keep the game and story length ideal, and not risk it getting boring or repetitive, or going on for too long. Repetition was a big problem in Mafia III even if I still thought it was a superb game, so I think it'd be best to learn from that for the next big entry. The games story will skip ahead and show onscreen only what's significant, similar to the first Mafia game and it's remake, as well as certain aspects of Mafia II. Louis starts his section as a 22 year old fugitive soldato who got picked up by another crew south of the Canadian border, and in the epilogue of the game in 1992, is promoted to the consigliere of the Scaletta crime family at the age of 40, being set to take over the family once Vito and Joe become too old to run the day to day on a regular basis. The years chronicled in the main gameplay segments are as follows: 1973 1975 1977 1979 1983 1985 1986 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992 Much more of the rural areas and countryside outside of Empire Bay are included than what was available in Mafia II. The way rural environments are handled for this hypothetical Mafia IV is akin to how Mafia: Definitive Edition and Mafia III handled their rural environments outside the main cities, except much larger in scale, given the increased power of the current new consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. This region is based off of upstate New York and the surrounding areas across multiple states in the Northeastern US, and includes forests, fields, mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches, and small towns. Also included are other cities and towns, based off of other large cities in New York like Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester, where other story missions, business activities, and side missions take place, along with smaller notable places like Ithaca, Binghamton, and Utica. The entire states of New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio are also included, including places based off of all of their major cities and most of their notable towns in between. Large portions of Pennsylvania are included as well, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. Large portions of the eastern half of the Canadian province of Ontario are included as well, including cities based off of Toronto, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls. There's even a small portion of Quebec included, including Montreal and the surrounding countryside of the province outside that city, including a few small towns in southern Quebec. The player must pass a quick border patrol check when crossing the US-Canada border in a car or other ground vehicle. Wildlife is present in the game, mostly to add to the background, scenery, and immersion in rural environments on the map. These are all animals native to the Northeastern US, ranging from white tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, Canada lynxes, rabbits, hares, groundhogs, gophers, beavers, raccoons, opossums, bats, chipmunks, red and gray squirrels, mice, and rats to more formidable and potentially dangerous animals that may sometimes attack the player, such as grey wolves, black bears, mountain lions, and moose. These last four animals are known to spawn in the mountainous regions, especially in New York, Ohio, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Ontario, including the rural regions based off of the Catskills and the Adirondack mountains. Dogs are present in the cities, towns, and settlements where humans live and keep them as pets, being walked and sometimes found in people's yards. Some are used as guard dogs by enemies and are aggressive towards the player on sight. Domestic cats are also present in the background of residential areas, and both Louis and Vito own them as pets throughout the game in their safe houses, as well as other onscreen characters we see the homes of throughout the game. Aircraft make their first usable appearance in the Mafia series too, from airplanes to helicopters. Vito cannot use planes or helicopters in his playable 1973 portion of the game, as he does not know how to pilot, being a paratrooper in World War II who never actually flew any of the planes himself. Aircraft are unlocked to use when Louis DeAngelo gets his pilot’s certificate offscreen in 1977, and at the end of a chapter set that year, Louis has to fly Vito in a helicopter to a penthouse in Downtown Empire Bay acting as a family safe house, equipped with a helipad. Louis frequently serves as a personal driver and pilot for both Vito and Joe afterwards, having done a lot in his time serving the family to earn their trust and respect. Melee weapons also make a return from Mafia: Definitive Edition, with even more variety this time. In their respective sections of the game, Vito and Louis may use anything from baseball bats, pipes, shovels, brass knuckles, golf clubs, police batons, switchblades, kitchen knives, bowie knives, ice picks, 2x4s, claw hammers, crowbars, tire irons, chain links, machetes, meat cleavers, pickaxes, hatchets, sledgehammers, to fire axes. This amount of melee weapons is so no matter what environment the player finds themselves in during a mission or any other game activity, there is usually a weapon of some sort nearby. If the player has obtained piano wire, you may also strangle an enemy to death with it from behind as a stealth kill, this being a classic assassination method infamous for being used by the Italian Mafia. Rope can also be found and used for similar strangulation stealth kills, appearing in the gameplay environments where piano wire can’t be found. There is a wide variety of new guns and explosives to use in this concept for Mafia IV, going with the new weapons of the time the game takes place that criminals quickly got their hands on. This includes the SPAS-12 combat shotgun, the Beretta 92 pistol, the AK-74 assault rifle, the mini uzi, the MAC-10 submachine gun, both suppressed and unsuppressed variants, the Beretta 92 pistol, the Taurus raging bull revolver, Glock handguns, the TEC-9 machine pistol, illegally modified to be full auto, the Ruger Mini-14 full auto variant, and even Vietnam war era flamethrowers, which I think is only natural given that as of Mafia III, we already have RPGs and grenade launchers. Late in the game from the 1989 section and onwards, the Benelli M3 combat shotgun becomes available. The Milkor MGL grenade launcher becomes available beginning in the 1983 portion of the game. Attached grenade launchers are also available for the AK-47, AK-74, and M16 assault rifles. Free ride makes a return in Mafia IV, with the player having the options to change the weather, time period, and an option to play as Louis, Vito, Joe, or Lincoln. Naturally, a multitude of new free ride missions are available as well. I previously posted a much earlier and less detailed draft of this on the old Mafia3 subreddit 3 years ago back in 2017 as an idea for a hypothetical Mafia 3 expansion where you play as Vito, but have since updated and revamped it to a possible Mafia IV plot, and fixed any plot holes I noticed and made it much more fleshed out and in depth, and focus on more than just Vito in the end. You may view my original here if you so desire, to compare. https://www.reddit.com/Mafia3/comments/6sldhp/spoiler_mafia_iii_vito_dlc_basic_plot_idea/ Feel free to give me constructive criticism on this, as I encourage this discourse and believe it is integral to growing and improving, to build upon or improve these ideas I've come up with, or say whether or not you think something like this should happen in the future. Thank you for reading!
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