This Week I Played Backbone

Backbone can in the loosest terms be described as a furry detective game, which is why in April of 2018 I wasted no time in backing it on Kickstarter. Since then I mostly tried to forget about that game. I know personally that if I follow a game’s development closely I am doomed for disappointment. For whatever good my chosen strategy did me, I still found myself disappointed. The Backbone I got was not the Backbone I bought. I’m still not sure if that is a bad thing though.

The Kickstarter campaign described Backbone as:

[A] pixel art cinematic adventure with stealth and action elements. As private investigator Howard Lotor, you are set to solve detective cases, interrogate witnesses, explore the intriguing and dangerous world around you, and sneak your way to safety using smell-based stealth mechanics. 

Backbone combines the visual and social contrasts of film noir with anthropomorphic animals, retrofuturistic technologies, and dystopian fiction. Crawl through the dark alleys of pixelated Vancouver, and experience the impactful storyline focused on themes of power and prejudice.

In the final product, nearly all of this is false. The pixel art cinematic adventure is true, and we’ll get to how wonderfully true it is later. The stealth elements part is true-ish. There are no action elements that the payer has any control over. Howard Lotor is a private detective, you don’t really solve cases so much as experience them happening. I don’t even know what they mean by smell-based stealth mechanics, because that is not even in there. Mind you all of these broken promises are in the first paragraph. So why am I not sure if I feel cheated?

I wanted this so bad I would have paid twice the price.

As it turns out Backbone is beautiful. The art style and the environments are stunning. Howard Lotor is a downtrodden raccoon who I can relate to in a way that I just can’t with most protagonists. Coupled with a brilliant soundtrack all of the ingredients needed to immerse the player in a neo-noir detective story are there. Unfortunately, once you remove the atmosphere there is nothing left.

Backbone takes about 4 hours to finish. I’ve heard a lot of people say it takes about three which is probably true if you don’t have trouble reading as I do. In that regard, it is much shorter than I was prepared for. And there is no actual gameplay. Once you’re through the first act, I’m not even sure you can fail at anything, and failure in the first act is just due to a touch of crouch-based stealth. This is a big problem given all of the promises made by the development team.

There is no detective work to be done. There are no real choices to be had. The end is coming and it is homing hard and fast and without warning. Maybe that is the biggest disappointment. Backbone tries to tell the story of society crushing a man, but it is neither long enough to do it nor is society Howard’s antagonist at any point.

I think this is the video game equivalent of a child trying to make a spy movie with their parent’s video camera. The end product itself lacks the tension in the child’s mind as they were making it. It is obvious there was a lot of world-building done in the writing room, but almost none of it has any bearing on the plot. The knowledge of the world-building went in the marketing pitches and the Kickstarter campaign, but none of it mattered. In the end, Howard didn’t fight any systems. He fought something else.

So moody

From here on I am going to get spoiler-heavy. Because the game is short I will pretty much be ruining the whole thing. Go ahead and skip to the next break if you don’t want spoilers. If you’re still reading let’s get started.

Backbone begins with a woman who asks you, Howard, to find evidence of her husband’s unfaithfulness. What you find is that while her husband has been unfaithful he’s also been murdered by a cabal of people who eat other people. I won’t call them cannibals since all the characters are anthropomorphic people. In either case, people eating people is bad.

Howard then teams up with an investigative journalist to figure out just how deep this pile of bodies is. This is probably the most interesting phase of the game as you can really get into who Howard is, which is important. Along the way, you learn some girls are also missing, but maybe they left on their own. Either way, the evidence leads all the way to the highest echelons of government. So it’s off to a secret science building for Howard.

The game does a better job of tying a straight line between the previous two plot points than I did, but in hindsight, the connection is tenuous at best. This is where the investigation ends because Howard gets some black body-horror goop on him and faster than you can say genre change now things are all about survival.

The black goop is basically as if Venom from Marvel Comics was made of extra-dimensional horror. This was somewhat hinted at in one of the early release gifs, but it doesn’t work out that way. Instead, you try to hide out with the city’s homeless and forgotten until you’re scooped up by some mafia scientists and live out the last portion of the game in an experiment chamber. Then you escape and die walking through the desert. The end.

And that is how suddenly it happens. The thing is other games have done this exact ending, better. Spoilers ahead of a different game, that I obviously can’t name here since I’ve over-committed at this point. You can just skip the rest of this paragraph if you want. The game that did this exact ending better was The Final Station. Literally, the same ending, black goo, the player character dies. The thing is that you see it coming. The player starts coughing as they make the final journey home, throwing up more and more black goo. In Backbone they tell you you’re going to die, but then give you hope that you’ll be fine when you escape the experiment chamber only to have Howard die a moment later and it just sucks.

None of this happens, and the game is worse for it.

What do I think of Backbone? I think the atmosphere is good. I think the design is spot on and I think the mood fits what they were going for. It is not a detective game though. It’s not even a detective story. It’s a light eldrich horror game. Which is fine, but it’s not what I signed up for. Now because I’ll buy any game that has an anthropomorphic main character, I would have gotten it sooner or later. In that circumstance, I may have actually known what I was getting into.

All and all I feel cheated. I didn’t get the neo-noir detective story I wanted. I got a short horror visual novel, that while not bad is not what I wanted. At the very least I wanted a game where choices made changed anything, anything at all. For those reasons, I hold a bit of a grudge. I suppose that is the risk when prefunding a game on Kickstarter. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a game that took two years longer to come out than promised to actually contain the features advertised.

In short, I’m upset I didn’t get what I wanted and I’m happy to have experienced something with moody furries. Nothing new really.

The lie I could have lived with, had it not been for the rest of them.

Backbone is available on Steam for $24.99. Don’t bother buying it unless you really really like the aesthetic or something. Maybe watch a Let’s Play. Also, be wary of any games put out by EggNut in the future. 

How Red Dead Online Got Me Through a Depression

Near the end of the terrible year that was 2020, my company asked everyone to use their paid time off since in 2021 we’re switching to a different way of holding them. Because of this, I have had almost two weeks of vacation at the end of a year where I can’t go and visit anyone. It is also winter and I have been mostly trapped indoors for the past several months. I wasn’t the most outdoorsy person in the Before Times, but now I’m lucky to get the mail every three days. I also, like many people, suffer from depression.

Almost three years ago I was diagnosed with moderate recurring depression. What this means is that I have depressive episodes that affect my day-to-day function, but are not completely disabling. When I’m in the midst of a depression I very rarely find myself unable to get out of bed. I can mostly care for myself, if eating too much counts as caring for yourself. The dishes and laundry will pile up though.

What I lack more than anything while depressed is energy. I’m restless enough to mope around, but have no energy to actually do anything. This provided ample opportunity for all of those mean, anxious, and intrusive depression thoughts to worm their way into my brain. If you suffer from depression, I’m sure you’ll know what I am talking about.

While I find the energy to do anything traditionally productive (which is a toxic idea anyway), I can entertain myself. Most days this means watching movies that I like. In the past, I’ve tried games with mixed results. Some games that I love become far too difficult as my ability to be patient or form cohesive plans is greatly diminished. This means games like Hitman and Frost Punk aren’t ideal as they both require careful planning. Story-driven games tend to be too heavy or moody. I’m not one to even listen to sad music while I am depressed, so games like The Last of Us or Dishonored aren’t a good choice.

I need a game that provides distraction and activity. There are a few I have tried over the years. Completely average games like Warhammer 40k: Space Marine did really well, for all few of its relatively short campaign. I thought I found a good candidate in Sea of Thieves. Nothing of consequence happens in that game. All achievement is in the service of acquiring cosmetic items. There is always something to do. I really thought I had found a game that worked for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t really click in the way I needed.

The game loop in Sea of Thieves is big. You your ship around, completing deliveries, digging up treasures, and collecting bounty skulls. You might get in a shoot-out with other players, you may not. At the end of the loop, you return to port and sell your goods. This is a great loop for those little drops of dopamine that games can provide.

The problem for me was simply that I had to choose what to do. Sea of Thieves is so relaxed it doesn’t pressure the player into doing anything. There rarely are clear directions. That freedom, and the long minutes of open waters between tasks, left me with entirely too much time with my thoughts. Consequently, I had to leave the Sea of Thieves for calmer waters. My ship crashed on the shores of Red Dead Online.

Friends, Red Dead Online is amazing for someone struggling with depression. There is always something happening. When you first start in Red Dead Online there is a lovely set of story missions that introduce you to the world and provide you with gear. There are side missions to help you earn more money and once you’re ready, roles that provided endless tasks and opportunities for wild west action.

When first launched, Red Dead Online was a devoid wasteland. Players were more or less on their own for finding enjoyment. The game is presently blooming. With a $5 PC stand-alone at the time of writing and the newly released Moonshiner role. There could not be a better time to get into this game. My current play loop involves hunting for pelts to sell via my trader role, capturing bounties for quick cash, and then dashing across the map in a frantic race to sell the pelts once they have completed tanning. I am constantly engaged, I’m wearing cool outfits firing cool guns. Red Dead Online works for me and I feel absolutely blessed having found it.

At the start of this post, I mentioned that I had some time off of work. Due to the lockdown in my area caused by the COVID-19 crisis I’ve been at home. I think I’ve spent as much time playing Red Dead Online as I would have worked. Some people may choose to shame me because of this. Don’t. I spent earnestly enjoying myself rather than barely being able to do anything other than watch TV.

My enjoyment of Red Dead Online is tempered by the fact I have two amazing friends to play the game with. If you’re not in that position, I am on PC and maybe we can hang out in the world of Red Dead Online. For the emotional safety of myself and you, I will say this offer is not a guarantee. Playing games with other people involves a lot of important personality matches. I am willing to give anything a shot though, time allowing.

If you’re like me and struggle with depression, and you find that games help with this, I would recommend trying Red Dead Redemption Online. I can absolutely respect it if it doesn’t work for you. It did for me. If playing a cowboy shooter can help someone else, who am I not to share this knowledge?

Coffee Run


Michael nervously wiped the sweat from his paws. The raccoon bent the delicate wires as quickly as he could, trying his best not to damage them. He still had too much work left to do. He’d eaten through the amount of time he estimated for this part of the job already. Every moment he lingered was a moment in which he could get caught by port security. He knew the bull on the team, Richard, no Ryan, something with an R (didn’t even know the guy’s name and already hated him) wouldn’t like him any better if he got them all arrested. The captain, if you’re willing to call any dog that owns a ship captain, seemed more neutral. She kept the crew and ship running smoothly. Michael was pretty sure this heist was her idea.

He winced as a jolt of electricity shot through his paw. The jolt told him he’d just interrupted a ping. If the container missed another one someone would come out into the yard to inspect it. There was no turning back now. He studied the nest of wires he’d buried his paws in. Separating the wires that were part of the passive transponder system from the ones part of active alarm system was tedious. He powered through.

On a normal panel he would have been done by now. How was he supposed to know the container they were hijacking had been damaged? Usually transponder access was behind a metal sheet with four bolts. This container was a mess. Thanks to what appeared to be a collision with a crane, the metal sheet was bolted in place by eight bolts of differing sizes. Inside, rather than replacing the existing system, someone had cobbled together a working panel with parts of at least three different ones. Whoever made it was either lazy or resourceful. Either way it made Michael’s job difficult.

After separating a ribbon cable from the rest of the wires, he plugged his personal terminal into the control panel. All he had to do now was reflash the memory causing the transponder to broadcast the serial number for the container his crew was supposed to pick up. As long as the container didn’t lose power, it would continue to broadcast the new number. If it rebooted, he was out of luck. The real number was burned into the mainboard itself. The operation completed.

He couldn’t risk testing his hack. Telling the container to ping back its number would certainly be noticed by the harbormaster. He didn’t want there to be any suspicion about their pickup. It would work, probably. He secured the panel back in place then slinked back through the container yard to the docking pad where the rest of the crew and their ship sat.

His three crew mates stood idly in the ship’s cargo bay. The most noticeable of the group, at least to Michael, was the bull. He stood a head taller than everyone else, before counting his horns. The other two were Dobermans, the married couple. It was their ship. Michael and the bull were just along for the ride. The raccoon scurried across the docking pad and up the cargo ramp into the ship’s shaded bay. He raised both thumbs.

“What took you so long?” The bull said in a deep, hostile voice.

“I had a little trouble with the panel.” He waved to the side with his paw. “Nothing to worry about we’ll be fine.”

“Unless it reboots.” The bull needlessly reminded the group.

“It won’t reboot. The batteries on those things last for years without needing to be changed. We’ll be fine.”

The bull took a step forward. “We’d better be.”

“Calm down, Jonathan.” The female Doberman, Karin, ordered. “Ringtail,” Michael winced at the slur, “are you sure this is going to work?”

“Like I said,” he said trying to sound confident, but only succeeding in sounding reckless, “everything is fine. Nobody pays any attention to raccoons any ways.”

Jonathan huffed. “That may be true back on Procyon where there are so many of you no one stands out.”

“Excuse me?”

“What he’s trying to say,” answered Walther, the final member of the crew, “is do you have an idea where we are?”

“The Shepherd system capital of the Empire and home of The Admiral himself.” He gave a mock salute.

“Don’t do that.” Walther scolded.

“Sorry.” Michael held his ears flat. “Why does where we are matter?”

Jonathan huffed again. Michael could tell he purposely exaggerated the flaring of his nostrils. If he remembered correctly this was a minor insult when coming from bovines or equines. “It matters because you may be one of a few raccoons on the planet. In the empire only first or second-class citizens can live in this system. Which means all you ever see here are dogs, bovines, and goats. As you well know, Procyon isn’t even in the empire. Seeing a raccoon slinking around is going to raise some hackles.”

“I’m sorry. I’m not up to date on the empire.”

“Well now you know.” Karin said. She looked back into the ship. “In fact when they’re loading our containers, just go pretend to work on something. I don’t want anyone asking you any questions.”

“Do you really think that is—“

“I do.”

“Yes ma’am, captain.”

“Skipper.” Walther and Karin said in unison.

“Right, sorry. I’ll be tuning up the air scrubbers if you need me.”

The raccoon retreated into the ship. The confined spaces and metal grates reminded him of home. The world of Procyon was covered in dense cities and jungles of pipelines and rails. In many places the sun did not make it to the ground though the mess. His cabin on this freighter was more spacious than his space growing up. At least here he didn’t have to share it with his sister. He frowned.

The last conversation he’d had with his sister was an argument. Since he could never bear to say goodbye, he’d settled for yelling. Worse yet, yelling was all they did since their father died. After a lifetime of body-breaking work, all he’d managed to leave them, besides considerable debt, was each other. She begged him not to go. He promised that the job would be more than enough to pay off the debt. He promised it would be enough to get them both off of that dying rock and to somewhere they could both build a life without being strangled by the corporations. He’d been unable to fulfill that promise. If this job paid out, though. He shook his head. He needed to focus. They needed to get off the planet first. Then he could plan his future.

He remained in place as the cargo was loaded. The freighter had a capacity of sixteen standard containers. While he was certain that Karin and Walther cared about all of them, he knew only one really mattered. On his terminal he watched as each container registered with the ship. As each was loaded it automatically transmitted its serial number and manifest to the ship.

After twenty minutes, it was all there. Sixteen containers of hardwood luxury furniture. All of it was destined for the planet of Bos, home to the largest shipyards ever made. It would be installed on luxury yachts or for the more prestigious parts of warships. With the containers loaded, the cargo ramp screeched as it closed.

Michael bolted back down the hallway to the hold. The rest of the crew was still securing the containers for take-off. “Did we get it?”

Walther raised a brow. “Isn’t that your job?”

“Oh, yes.” Michael walked the set of double-stacked containers. It took him a moment to recognize the correct container. “It’s this one.” He pointed.

“Are you sure? We need to be damn sure before we jump.” The bull said, as he always did, dismissively.

Michael peered down the narrow space between the containers. “Let me prove it to you.” He squeezed his way between the rows. The hacked panel was a pawful of feet in. It was the damaged one he’d opened earlier. “Yep this is it.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Demanded Karin as he squeezed his way back out.

“What?”

“Don’t go between the containers. Do you know how massively stupid that is?” She shouted. “We just put them in here. What if a barge flew overhead and rocked the ship? Do you know what could happen to you?”

“He’d pop like a balloon. No more garbage fox.” Jonathan answered for him. Michael tried his best to ignore the remark, although his tail fluffed in spite of his attempt. “Do you have something to say?”

“Sorry, I was just checking to make sure we got it.” Michael told Karin.

Karin shook her head. “We can open the container to figure that out.”

The raccoon’s expression fell. Foolish and incompetent, he thought. For being the last working day he’d need for years, it sure didn’t feel good.

“Well?” Karin asked.

“What?”

“Can you unlock it?”

“No,” he shook his head. “I only flashed the transponder. We’ll have to cut through it.”

“Cut?” The bull snorted. “Won’t the heat burn it up? Your job was to get us the cargo. Now you’re saying we have to damage it?”

Michael took a step back. More than anything he wanted to tell Jonathan to go screw himself. For all he cared his job was to get the dockworkers to deliver the container to the ship. Job done.

“We’re not going to cut it open.” Karin answered.

“Then how do we get around the garbage fox’s screw-up?”

“Hey, I—“

“With this.” Walther announced from behind holding a salvage spreader.

“That is some serious equipment.”

“Yes. Do you think you can handle it?” Walther shoved the spreader to the bull. “Unless you’re too busy insulting the person who just made you rich.”

Jonathan took the spreader without saying another word. Michael glanced at Walther who was already walking away with Karin. He followed. “Where are you going, don’t you want to see him open it?”

They looked back. “It’s going to take him a while. We need to run through the preflight list. We’ll verify the contents before punching in the coordinates.” Karin answered. “You stay down here. I’m sure Jonathan’s got it. But if he needs, help its probably best if he doesn’t have to find you.”

“Fine.”

The couple disappeared deeper into the ship. The raccoon sat against the wall and watched the bull work. The spreader made rapid-fire popping and banging sounds as it buckled and twisted the metal. More than anything, the challenge appeared to be making the initial hole. After Jonathan got a hole big enough for the jaws of the spreader, he ripped a hole big enough to march through quickly. Michael stood. Jonathan powered down the spreader and dropped it.

The fragrance from the cargo was not what Michael expected. It was bitter, sour. His face contorted, trying to defend against the assault. It certainly didn’t entice him the way people said it would. Jonathan noticed.

“What’s that matter; have you never smelled coffee before?” The bull slapped him on the back, causing him to stumble forward. He caught himself on the now twisted metal container. His nose came to rest against stacks of grey bags with the words WHOLE COFFEE CHERRY stenciled in blocky, black letters. “That is what four imperial tons of unroasted coffee beans looks like.”

“Unroasted?”

Jonathan snorted. “Yeah, they don’t need to be roasted to be—“

“Jonathan, you and Michael get to the bridge. The port master wants us to clear the pad.” Walther yelled from elsewhere in the ship.

Jonathan grunted and clopped toward the bridge. Michael took another look at the container. Why would anyone be willing to pay for this garbage? He resisted the urge to slice open one of the bags and examine the beans. He could ask questions once they were off world.

Breaking gravity in a cargo freighter is a stressful experience. Unlike civilian travel ships, which are designed for comfort, or warships whose reinforced frames keep them from shaking, freighters are little more than sheets of metal welded over a frame. The bridge and staterooms are double hulled. The cargo areas generally aren’t intended to require atmosphere in jump. A lot of smaller freighters mount the containers directly on their hulls, cutting down construction costs considerably. This makes for vessels that, while vacuum worthy, protest greatly when flying in atmosphere.

As they began lifting away from the pad, the ship groaned. The thrusters engaged fully once they’d cleared the no wake zone. The ship wailed as air rushed over the hull. The turbines screamed as the lifters engaged, adding to the noise. Michael dug his claws into the plastic armrests of his seat. This was his second time breaking gravity. The first being merely weeks ago when he left his home world of Procyon. From there he’d only been transiting between orbital space ports or belting ships. His lunch churned in his stomach. Puking was the last thing he needed to do in front of this crew.

After what felt like an hour, the ship’s artificial gravity started. With it the feeling of being forced into his seat passed. Michael never learned how gravitational systems worked. All he knew was that they can output and moderate low levels of gravity. Not enough to simulate a planet, but enough to move about comfortably. He undid his harness and stood.

From the pilot’s seat, Karin keyed in sub-light coordinates. They would have to break free of the planet’s gravity well before jumping or risk a huge host of problems. In the meantime, all they had to do was hope they weren’t randomly boarded. The transponders on the cargo containers would inform any nearby naval vessels what they’re carrying. Karin leaned back in her chair.

“I have a question.” The other three crew members looked at the raccoon. “Why coffee? We could be stealing guns or missiles or something that has a use. Who is buying those dank bags back there?”

Karin and Walther shift to look at Jonathan. The bull crosses his arms. “Horses mostly, some dogs, I’ve heard foxes like the stuff. It’s not easy to get the beans to them first hand though so normally they mix it in things. I’m surprised you don’t know. I hear Procyon is a den of illicit activity.”

Michael swallowed the urge to defend his home world. “You’re saying it’s a drug? I thought it was medicine.”

Karin snorts. “It’s a drug. More specifically the caffeine in it is a drug. Which you can get other ways, but coffee has a taste people will pay premium for.”

“If people will pay so much for it, why not just sell it openly? Why all the security and control?”

Again, the couple looked to the bull. He threw his arms up. “Fine, I’ll just explain it all.” He undid his harness and scratched his stomach. “Bovines, like myself, and the horses and the goats together represent the largest population in the empire. We’re all herbivores. Our entire food chain revolves around crops. Because of this we are very careful about what we put in the soil of our worlds. We’re also mindful of what can endanger our crops.

“The coffee bean is somewhat of an ideal choice when dealing with bugs. Caffeine is a great pesticide. But too much can also be fatal to plants. What we do is we take the whole beans and scatter them in the fields. Our home worlds are too cold for coffee to grow so we have to import it.

“The empire is run by the dogs,” he gestures to Walther and Karin. “They treat caffeine as a restricted drug because of how it affects them.”

“And how is that?”

“An awesome blast of energy followed by several hours of panicked panting.” Walther answers.

“Only if you take too much.” Karin responded.

“You use?”

“Once or twice.” Walther answered. “Karin is a little more recreational. There aren’t really any health detriments, if you don’t overdo it. They can test for it, but they don’t unless you’re working with industrial equipment.”

“Like flying a freighter?”

“I don’t fly high.” Karin rolls her eyes. “Now the week in jump? Sometimes you need a way to keep things exciting.”

“Is that why people buy it? To keep things exciting.”

“No,” Jonathan answers. “We’re going to sell this to horses. To them it is everything you want in a drug, gives them lots of energy and focus at the same time. Their metabolisms are more predictable about it. If you’re a horse and you find a good barista in an underground coffeehouse, tell them your weight and how long you want to buzzed for and they can hit the target within fifteen minutes. It is amazing to watch. Although being in the empire makes it difficult for them to get it since it’s illegal for personal use.”

“What about bovines?”

“We react like horses. We do need to ingest an insane amount though. Which is way you’ll see bovines seeking non-organic solutions.”

“How do you know so much?”

“I have a six-year degree in organic chemistry. I worked for one of the agricultural corporations.”

“And?”

Jonathan snorted. “And nothing. I’m not telling you my life’s story. You wanted to know about coffee, you know about coffee now.”

“How are we going to sell it all?”

“Through a reseller.” Walther answers. “We’ll get somewhere between thirty and fifty percent of street value. Based mostly on Karin’s ability to negotiate the final price.”

Michael’s tail twitched as he did the math. His pre-arranged cut was twenty percent of the sale price. But if the sale price was only a fraction of street value, not that he knew what that was, this job was looking to pay a lot less than he was hoping. He looked around the cabin, trying to appear confident. “How much is street value?”

Jonathan snorted. “Suddenly worried about your share, garbage fox?”

Michael’s faux confidence vanished. He avoided eye contact with the bull. “I’m just worried I won’t be able to get back home. Although I’m not sure I even know where that is any more.”

Karin stood and walked to the raccoon’s seat. She set a paw on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. Your share is going to be more than ten million, at the low end.”

His mouth fell agape. Ten million was more money than he thought he would see in his life time. It was enough to buy a spaceship or a solid down payment on his own starship. Not that he had ever dreamed that big before. If he could get ten million, he could return to Procyon and live like one of the company executives. He didn’t even need to go back to Procyon with that kind of money, he could live wherever he wanted. Although that would only be if they were talking about Federation Credits. This was the Empire. They used something else. Something with an old name. Ducats, that’s right.

“What is that in credits?”

Walther raised a brow. “About twelve million after you take the hit going through a currency broker.”

Michael’s eyes shot wide. “I can’t even picture that amount of money.”

“It doesn’t go as far as you think it will.” Karin walked to the hatch leading to the corridor. “We got a few more hours of standard flight before jump. Walther, make sure we don’t stray too close to any patrols. I know we already covered them not tracking outgoing ships as much as incoming, but I don’t want surprises.”

“Yes, honey.” He smiled.

She ignored him. “Jonathan, go down to the hold and throw the net over the containers. If they shift when we jump, I don’t want them slamming into the bulkheads.”

“Right away, boss.”

“New guy, get some rack time. When we’re in jump you can start going over how we’re going to permanently rig that container’s transponder.”

He hesitated. He didn’t really want to go to his quarters. His heart was all a flutter thinking of the fortune he’d soon have. Not that there was much else useful for him to do. He didn’t know anything about starship operations. He realized they were all going to stare at him until he said something. “Yeah, sure.”

“Good.” Karin nodded and disappeared through the hatch.

Walther took the helm. Jonathan left without making eye contact. Michael skulked out of the bridge. His bunk wasn’t special. The ship had one stateroom, which was shared by the couple. He was pretty sure they lived there too. When they interviewed him it was in there. From what he remembered, the room was nice. The rest of the accommodations were more utilitarian. There were four other living compartments. Each had a shower/head combination with plasti-glass walls and two bunks. Jonathan had been with the couple long enough to remove the top bunk from his compartment. Michael saw it stuffed into one of the two unused compartments when he first boarded.

When Michael entered his compartment, it was exactly as he’d left it. Bed made, two books on the shelf above his pillow, and a half-drunk six-pack of energy drinks set on the upper bunk. The other two changes of clothes he owned were stowed in the drawers under the bottom bunk. He’d learned as a young pup that the best way to know if someone had gone through your things was to give them all a place and make you always put everything in its place. His sister had said that was how the corporations wanted them to think. That way they could treat the raccoons like things, and they would know their place. Maybe she was right.

He laid on the lower bed. Absent mindedly, he lifted a book from the shelf above him. On many worlds, books had gone out of fashion, replaced by network terminals or smart cards or half a dozen other technologies. On Procyon though, they were the only reliable way to pass knowledge without monthly fees. While quaint, if you held a book you could always access its pages. As a child his father managed to get him into one of the public cooperative schools that wasn’t run by the corporations. It was the best school he attended, until the day the library’s data stopped. The digital library they bought ran on old technology. When the company that sold it decided everyone needed to upgrade that was it. The cooperative school tried to make do afterwards. But like every beacon of hope erected by the citizens of Procyon, it fell into the maw of the corporations.

As he flipped through the book, the memories of home started to fade. His eyelids began getting heavier and heavier as the successive hours of excitement enacted their toll. Maybe he should shut his eyes for a bit. It couldn’t hurt. Karin would surely wake him up before going into jump. He set the book back down and rolled on his side. A week from now he’d be richer than he’d ever dreamed. Now he needed to dream what to do with it.

Michael’s eyes snapped open. The room was dark. He had a feeling in his gut. The feeling he’d gotten since he was young when something was wrong. A moment later a fist pounded on his door. Then there was shouting. He knew it was Jonathan, but he couldn’t understand what he was saying. Living spaces were designed to stay pressurized individually in the event the main ship lost atmosphere. The doors and walls were thick.

Michael rolled out of the bed then flipped the latch on the door. From the other side Jonathan threw the door open. Given the ferocity he’d expected the bull to be angry. Instead he looked terrified. “The battery on your hack job died. An Imperial Corvette is within scanning range of us and closing.”

The raccoon sat upright, his tail fluffed as panic overtook him. He stared at the bull.

“Fix it.” He yelled.

Michael stood, pushed past the bull, and ran for the hold. Jonathan loudly followed. Walther was already waiting for them. He’d snaked a charging cable through the net Jonathan had cast over the containers.

“What are you doing?” Michael asked as he entered.

“Charging the container so it can continue broadcasting.”

“No,” the raccoon darted toward the cable. As he took it from the Doberman the control panel on the container chimed. “This is very bad.”

“What?” Both Jonathan and Walther asked.

“Crew,” Karin’s voice came over the loud speaker, she was practically yelling. “Why are we broadcasting that we have a container of organic coffee pesticide onboard?”

Jonathan picked up a receiver on the wall. Michael didn’t catch what he said. Instead he turned to Walther. “We need to move this net so I can get to the container. If we change it back, maybe they won’t notice.”

Walther nodded and ran to the far wall where he began undoing the cargo net’s anchors. Michael grabbed the tool belt he’d used earlier. Jonathan set the receiver down and helped Walther. As soon as they’d pulled the net back, Michael squeezed between the containers to get to the panel.

“They’ve noticed us.” Karin reported from the bridge. “They’re demanding our manifest. I’m sending the forged one. I’m also pre-igniting the jump drive. If this goes bad, we’re getting out of here fast.”

Michael, now sandwiched between two containers, reached the panel. He pulled a wrench from his belt and put it on the first bolt. In the contained space it was difficult for him to get leverage. He struggled. Slowly the bolt turned and eventually fell out, clanking against the steel floor. He started on the second.

“What is taking so long?” Jonathan asked, peering between the containers.

“I’m having trouble getting enough leverage to get the cover off.”

“They’re not buying it. They want me to cut the engines and yield to inspection.” Karin’s voice boomed.

“Move, let me at it.” Walther ordered.

Michael scrambled from between the containers. Walther slid in with the wrench. As he reached the panel, suddenly the ship lurched. The Doberman yelped as the gap between the containers tightened.

“They’ve fired at us. That was a sand round, the next one is going to be ballistic.”

“Get out of there,” Jonathan yelled.

“I’m stuck.” Walther replied.

The large bull shoved the raccoon out of his way. Jonathan tried to push his way between the containers. “I can’t reach you.”

“Move,” Michael shouted. The bull obliged. Michael’s heart raced as he squeezed into the gap, extending his arm. His paw met Walther’s. Jonathan grabbed him by the shoulders. Together the two pulled on the trapped Doberman.

“They’ve fired again.” Karin reported. “I’m jumping!”

“Pull!” Walther screamed.

The two pulled, the Doberman growled as his body ground against the containers.

“Three.”

“Is she counting down time to jump or impact?”

“Doesn’t matter, if you don’t get me out of here. Pull dammit!”

Jonathan dug his fingers into Michael’s shoulders and yanked on him. Walther slid further, yelling in pain.

“Two.”

Jonathan yanked again. Michael grunted as he pulled with all his might. The ship rumbled. The high-pitched ring of the jump drive filled Michael’s ears. His vision darkened.

“One.” Karin, voice distorted by the bending of space and time, said.

People react almost universally to entering jump space. As an extra dimensional envelop is stretched over the vessel, the brain is unable to process events correctly. Because of this, people very rarely remember the few seconds during the transition into jump space. Michael was no exception.

Dazed, Michael found himself on the cold steel floor of the hold. A crimson puddle spread from where the gap between the two containers had been. He recoiled back. As he put his right paw down to push himself away from the pool forming at his feet, an agonizing wet, painful feeling jolted up his arm. He lifted his arm. Where midway up his forearm was only air, and pain.

The pain raged so intensely the raccoon fell on his back. All he could do was scream.  It didn’t help. He tried to use his other paw to stop the bleeding, but that only led to more pain. He tried to push himself away, toward the corridor. The floor, now covered in blood, was too slippery for him to get any traction. All he managed was to make a bloody mess of himself.

A firm hand grabbed his shoulder and dragged him from the blood. Jonathan had retrieved a trauma kit and already had it open. He withdrew an injection vial from the kit and loaded it into what looked like a gun made of needles. He calmly turned the dial on the device and then pressed it into Michael’s thigh.

Euphoria mixed with pain. Not enough to drive it away, but enough make it tolerable. Michael’s eyes shot wide. Jonathan looked down at him with a surprised look. He adjusted the dial on the device once more. He pressed it into the raccoon’s thigh again. This time, darkness.

When Michael awoke, the first thing he did was look at his right paw. Still missing. The reality of its loss started to set in, even if the pain was masked in the haze of drugs he was on. Someone, probably Jonathan, had applied a dismemberment cap to the limb. All ships carried sets of extreme trauma tools designed to keep the patient alive long enough to get them to the next port. Normally this was done by pumping them so full of medications they had to go through a rigorous, painful detox on the other side. Still, it was better than dying.

The last thing Michael remembered was screaming in a pool of blood. The events before that were a blur. He remembered shouting, but not what it was about. His throat burned as though he’d slept with his mouth open for days. He tried to push the clouds from his mind, but wasn’t able too.

He looked around. He was lying on the couch in Karin and Walther’s stateroom. He noted that Walther was absent. Jonathan was sitting in a chair nearby reading something on his tablet. Karin was seated on her bed. It looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Her commanding aura, gone. Her unshakable spirit, shattered. Michael remembered why Walther was missing.

Pushing himself upright with his remaining paw, he looked over his surroundings once more. The room was trashed, not like someone had torn it apart, more like nobody had bothered to clean it while they were living in it. Wrappers for both foods and medical supplies lay tossed around. Clothing had been piled in a few places. He reached out to grab the couch and pull himself up further. When he touched the couch with the stump of a paw he’d already forgotten was missing, a bolt of searing pain shot up his arm. The raccoon lost balance and fell back onto the couch, striking his head on the armrest.

Jonathan looked up. “Looks like he’s awake.”

Karin looked away from what he guessed were photographs. “How are you feeling?”

“Like a cargo container chopped my arm off. Could have been worse.” He quickly realized that was probably the worst possible answer. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yes, you did.” She said. “It’s okay though. Because you’re right, we could have lost both of you.” She looked at Jonathan when she said, “we almost did.”

“What does that mean?” Michael asked.

“It means,” Jonathan stood. The bull clomped over to the couch and sat on the sofa table. “You almost bled out. Given the amount of synthetic blood in you right now, I’m surprised you’re as coherent as you are. Although, you have been sleeping for five days. Maybe you’ve had enough time to process the fluids we’ve been giving you and some of the effects have worn off.”

“I’ve been sleeping for five days? That means we should be coming out of jump soon, right?”

Karin shared a look Jonathan. He shrugged. She looked back at the raccoon. “We have a little more than thirty hours of travel time.” She and Jonathan shared a look. “Our air is going to run out before that.”

Michael shook his head. “What do you mean our air is going to run out?”

“We had a leak Jonathan and I couldn’t find and the computer didn’t register correctly. The recycler housing is cracked and every time the exchange kicked on, we lost air. We turned off the exchange, but it was too late.”

The clouds in Michael’s mind cleared enough for to realize what it all meant. They would slowly suffocate. Without a pilot to bring the ship out of jump at the right time, the ship would travel until the envelope decayed naturally. The ship would exit in interstellar space. The likelihood of it ever being found was slim. A grim question formed in his mind.

“Why didn’t you let me die then?”

The bull huffed. “We talked about it. Ultimately, we came to realize we’re not murderers. Even though survival was on the line letting you die would have been murder at that point since by the time we figured out the air situation you were already stabilized. Besides, the last thing we need to face at judgement time is the murder of a garbage fox.”

Michael didn’t know whether it was the drugs or his impending death, but he was done being insulted. He shot to his feet, meeting the sitting bull’s eye line. “I am a raccoon. Do not call me a garbage fox again. I get that I come from a trash word that neither the empire nor the federation actually want to occupy. I get that my people are some of, if not the lowest educated and poorest people, in the galaxy. I get that everyone views us as completely expendable. That does not give you the right to call us garbage though. Let’s not forget,” he stared first at bull and then at the Doberman, “we all know what you people did to the foxes. You should speak their name with far more respect.”

The other two avoided his gaze. He stood, chest heaving, shaking with rage. Jonathan looked away. He then slowly stood and returned to the chair. Karin turned back to her photographs. Michael remained standing for another long moment before returning to the couch. Silence permeated the stateroom.

After a long while, Karin stood and wandered to the small galley.  She pulled a sack from one of the lower cabinets. Michael recognized it as one of the coffee bags from the container. Jonathan noticed too.

“Tried to set aside your own little stash?” He asked.

“Of course. I always wanted to try roasting some of these. Since,” she paused. “This is as good as a time as any.”

“Won’t that make us use our remaining air faster?” Michael asked.

“Marginally, but we’re so short it won’t matter much.” Jonathan answered.

“Is that really the best for someone in my condition?”

“Probably not, but I just spent the last several days accepting that I’m about to die no matter what. I know you haven’t had as much time as us to process that, so you don’t have to try it if you don’t want to.” Karin responded.

Michael contemplated his options. As much as he would like to hope they would survive, he hadn’t lived a life where hope amounted to much of anything. “I’ve never had coffee. And like you said, this is as good a time as any.”

Karin sliced the bag open. She withdrew a pawful of green cherries. A bitter smell filled the area as she separated the flesh from the beans. After watching for a moment, Jonathan began prepping the beans as well. Without two arms, Michael just watched.

Once a sizable amount of beans had been gathered, Karin spread them across a metal tray. She took the tray into the shower and turned on the blowers and heat lamps. The beans needed to dry before roasting, she explained. The whole process was less sordid than he’d imagined. She let the beans dry for about an hour before she seemed satisfied.

The Doberman took the beans from the shower once she was satisfied they’d dried enough. She poured them into a pan set on one of the small induction plates in the galley. As the beans roasted a new aroma filled the stateroom. It was rich and earthy. Minutes later, the beans began crackling. They grew darker. When they’d reached a deep brown color, Karin removed them from the heat. The trio sat silently, savoring the smell as the beans cooled.

Karin started heating a kettle of water. From a cabinet she grabbed a glass carafe that looked like an hourglass with the top cut off. Into the top part she put a porous cloth. Then she crushed the roasted beans, releasing more of their exotic aroma. She poured the coarse bean powder into the cloth. She then retrieved the now boiling kettle of water.

“This would probably be stronger if I had something better than a spoon to grind these up with.” She said as she poured the water slowly over the beans. A brown liquid filled the bottom chamber of the carafe. “With an entire bag of cherries, we can always make more.”

With the coffee made, Karin removed the cloth with the grounds and set it aside. She poured the brown liquid into three tin cups and handed them to her crew. Michael struggled to take his at first, unable to reach out with two paws. He sniffed the cups contents. It smelled bitter.

“How much of this stuff until my organs shut down?” The raccoon asked.

Jonathan snorted into the cup he’d already brought to his mouth. “Your organs are probably already shutting down due to all the synth-blood we pumped into you.”

“I guess I’ve been trying to ignore that.” He looked into the cup again. “Should I even drink this?”

Karin shrugged. “I’m not a doctor, but it can’t be worse than suffocating.”

Michael shrugged. He took a drink of the hot coffee. He couldn’t put a description to the initial flavor, as it overwhelmed him. Then a measure of bitterness followed. He wrinkled his snout.

Karin and Jonathan chuckled as they watched him. “Don’t worry,” Karin said. “Try sipping it so you don’t overwhelm yourself.”

He sipped. The coffee had a rich earthy taste, one that he would have never found on Procyon. There was also a subtle sweetness that complimented the bitter aftertaste. Michael leaned back into the couch. The three drank their coffee in silence. Jonathan finished his cup first and poured another. Karin did the same. When Michael finished, he set his empty tin cup on the couch’s armrest.

“How long until I feel something?” He asked.

“Give it a few more minutes.” Karin answered.

The raccoon closed his eyes and waited. First, he noticed his heart rate and temperature rise. He felt blood pulsing through the tips of his ears. Moment later, his felt a burst of energy. His eyes shot open. “What is happening?”

“Feels pretty good, right?”

“I feel like I can do anything.” He stood. “Let’s go fix the ship.”

“Can’t be done. We tried everything we could think of,” Jonathan said.

“What about electrolysis on the water reserve?”

“Won’t give us enough oxygen fast enough and we’d have to deal with the super explosive hydrogen safely somehow.”

“What about–”

“No.”

“You didn’t even hear me out.”

“We already had five days to come up with something.” Karin said. “Just enjoy the high while it lasts.”

Michael flopped back down on the couch in protest. Dust flew from the cushions. He sniffed. It reminded him of the smell the containers coming from the mining worlds had. Back when he worked on the docks, he inspected containers that were damaged. Containers from each world smelled differently. Occasionally, he would get to open a container from a world with clean air and it would wash over him. Briefly, he would forget about where he was as the smells took him to places he’d never see. He jolted upright.

“We’re not going to die.” Michael announced.

“What do you mean?” Jonathan asked after a long silence.

“The containers are air tight. Which means they still have pressurized air. Most of what we’re carrying is preassembled, luxury furniture right? That means there is a lot of extra air in those containers.”

Karin’s ears perked up as she thought about it. “If we can pump the air out of the containers into the reserve tanks that might buy us at least the few more hours we need.”

“They have standard air hose connectors near the transponder panel.”

“How do you know this?” Jonathan asked.

“Because I’m the person you hired to rewire them. Trust me, I know them. In the hold are second generation SturdiCraft containers. Ignoring the one with the coffee in it, they look to be in good order.”

“Okay, Jonathan, get your suit on,” Karin ordered. “Go see if you can hook the containers up to the reserve tanks.”

Jonathan hesitated. Michael could tell the bull had already resigned himself to his fate and didn’t want to get his hopes up. “Yes skipper.” He said with a solemn nod.

The bull took a few minutes to put on a vacuum suit. He left the stateroom and entered the corridor which could serve as an airlock to any of the other compartments in the ship. Karin sealed the room behind him.

Waiting for the bull to pump the air from the containers was agonizing, both in the literal and figurative sense. Now that Michael was high, the drugs he’d been on were wearing off. Now that they might live, he needed to figure out what to do with his arm. Regrowing it would be costly. Prosthetics were almost as expensive and could be problematic.

“I’m pumping the air out of the last one now.” Jonathan said over the radio. “How are we looking?”

Karin had spent the whole time monitoring the life support systems. She rapidly swiped through a few screens on her terminal. She checked them over several times. Michael couldn’t tell what they said from the couch. She nodded once she was satisfied with the data. “At current usage,” she spoke carefully, “we have enough air for the next forty-one hours.”

Jonathan cheered so hard static burst over the intercom. “I’ll be back in there soon. Garbage—Michael, you did well.”

When the ship exited jump space hours later, they sent a distress call and were assisted by a mining trawler stripping a nearby asteroid belt. It tugged the battered freighter and its crew to a mining colony established on an otherwise uninhabited moon. They rushed Michael into surgery and dialysis to address his missing arm and imminent organ failure. He didn’t hear from either Karin or Jonathan for several days.

Without his cut of the sale, which Karin assured him before he was admitted would be completed quickly, he wasn’t able to afford a replacement limb. The hospital sealed his wound and outfitted him with a static prosthetic. Several days passed. Michael became worried they’d abandoned him. When he was released from the hospital, he was terrified.

The hospital complex was in its own structure on the moon. He took a train to the port where they’d left the freighter. When he arrived, the ship was still in its berth. The crew hatch was open. He climbed a aboard. Jonathan was seated at the helm adjusting the chair.

“What the hell?” Michael yelled. “You just left me in a hospital for almost a week? You didn’t stop by or anything. I was worried you’d taken off!”

Jonathan turned his head without standing up. “You could have called us you know.”

“I don’t have your ID.”

“Should have asked.”

Michael shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Did you sell the coffee?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Where is my cut?” Michael screamed.

Jonathan turned back to facing forward, let out a great sigh, and stood. He walked over to the raccoon. Even with his typical uninterested demeanor, Michael knew he wouldn’t like what was coming next. “You’re standing in it.”

“What?” Jonathan put a hand on Michaels shoulder. He shrugged it off. “How?”

“When you were in the hospital Karin and I talked. She had to take care of Walther’s body and she realized she wanted out. She didn’t want to set foot on the ship again. We appraised the ship. It was worth a little less than yours and my shares combined. Your medical bills also took a small chunk. I decided to call it even. She left the station a few days ago. All she said was she wanted to live on a planet with thick forests and tall mountains.”

Michael stood frozen in disbelief. “You had no right to negotiate away my share.”

“True, but it felt like it was the right thing to do.”

The raccoon balled his remaining paw into a fist. “Now what?”

“Well, we own a ship, split evenly. If you really want out, we can jump out of the empire and sell it to the foxes. God knows they always need more ships.” The bull walked back to the pilot’s seat and plopped back down into it. “Karin did leave her contact list. Said she had another job lined up we could take. From there more jobs won’t be hard to find. What do you say, partner?”

Michael stepped toward the co-pilot’s chair. He ran his paw along the seatback. He had only one good arm, his hopes of riches dashed because of the over-sized racist sitting in the captain’s chair. Common sense said to catch the next rock hopper off this moon and go anywhere else. On the other paw, partner had a nice ring to it. Michael took a breath.

“One job, then we clone my arm back. After that, we’ll see how it goes.” Michael sat in the chair.

Missing Antler

I wrote this story about a year ago because where I live it was around the time deer start shedding their antlers. I wanted to write a short little story about how that might look for a college buck.


The pain radiating from the young buck’s ankle forced him to sit rigidly on the examination table. He’d been waiting for twenty minutes, with nothing to distract from the pain besides staring at the cover-your-cough poster on the cream wall in front of him. It would nice to be seen by a practitioner soon, but when he and his boyfriend staggered in, he wasn’t the one with the head injury. A light knock on the examination room door preceded a civet in scrubs entering.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. We needed to make sure the hyena you came in with was okay.” She looked at the deer. “He’ll be fine, with some rest.”

“Thank you for letting me know, I was worried.” The deer responded.

“Let’s take a look at you know. You said your ankle hurts and you can’t walk on it?”

“It hurts pretty bad. If I’m honest, my worry about Tobias is pretty much the only thing keeping me from crying.”

“Tobias is in good hands. Let’s worry about you for the moment.” The civet sat on the stool in front of the table. The deer shifted, causing the paper under him to crinkle. The practitioner inspected the ankle. As she reached out her paw to touch it the deer squeaked in pain.

“Yeah, this is broken. You’ll need imaging to figure out what our next steps are.” She pointed to his forehead. “Did one of your antlers fall off during the accident?”

The buck shook his head. “No, I shed that last night in my sleep.”

“Why don’t you tell me what happened.”

“Where should I start?”

“It helps us to know some context in case there are any mitigating factors.”

The deer nodded. “Okay.” He took a breath, as the story was somewhat embarrassing.

“This morning when I woke up I found blood on my pillow and one of my antlers on the floor. Which is to be expected this time of year. Although I was disappointed both of them didn’t fall out. The other one seemed pretty solid still too; I took my pillowcase off and threw it in the trash and went to the dorm shower. My shower took longer than usual because I had to clean the dried blood off my face.

“When I got out of the shower, my RA was brushing his fangs. When he saw me with only one antler, he laughed. I looked away from him and hurried back to my dorm room. I’m not accustomed to people making a big deal of seeing a deer with one antler. Most of the people where I grew up were deer. Most people are used to seeing people with one antler for a couple of days. When I got back to my dorm Tobias had texted me asking if I wanted to get breakfast with him at the commons.

“Remembering my RA’s reaction, I decided to decline. I planned to avoid him for a few days if possible. I’m a math major, he’s doing business so it won’t be the hardest thing in the world. Coming up with excuses would be a little harder.

“I went to my morning classes. I tried my hardest to ignore the stares the whole time. After class, I decided to go for a run at the gym. I figured it would distract me and it’s usually pretty dead before lunch. I also know Tobias does his workouts after his classes. If I went before lunch there would be no chance of running into him.

“I get to the gym and change. I received fewer stares in the locker room since most people are pretending not to see each other anyway. There were only four other people on the second floor. All of them were streaming video on their phones, pretending to do cardio. I clipped on my earphones and started running.

“The athletic center has a layout that allows you to look down from the indoor running track into the weight room. Just after I’d completed my first mile, I noticed Toby in the weight room. I could tell it was him and not some other stacked hyena because he only works out in those tank tops that show off his nipples so everyone can see he has them pierced.

“I couldn’t tell whether he had seen me or not. I finished the lap I was on and then exited using the stairwell in the back to get to the locker room. I didn’t want Toby to see me with one antler. There were Once in the locker room, I threw my clothing into my gym bag and hid in the shower.

“After soaping myself up, I heard the locker room door open. I just stared at the tiles of the shower stall, hoping it wasn’t Toby. Then I head heard ‘Marc are you alright?’ through the plastic shower curtain. He sounded concerned, maybe a little confused too.

“Not answering wasn’t an option. My gym back was right outside the shower. I answered. I told him I was alight. I must not have sounded believable as he pulled open the curtain. He froze for a moment, clearly noticing the missing antler. ‘Does it hurt,’ he asked softly.

“No, I answered. If anything the remaining one itches. Then he surprised me by stepping into the shower, still in his clothes. He put a paw on the side of my face and kissed the top of my head. Then he kissed along my muzzle. Before I knew it, his tongue was in my mouth. He pulled away for a moment and said, ‘Now my clothes are all wet’. I grabbed his gym shorts by the waistband and pull them down.

“He lifted off his tank top as I pulled him forward by the elastic waistband of his jockstrap and stuck my nose in his armpit. I huffed his musky scent which led to my full length prodding him in the thigh. ‘I’m pretty ripe right now,’ he said. I responded with a playful lick which was muskier than I was prepared for. He kissed the top of my head as I inhaled his scent again. He flexed.

“I worked my hands into the pouch of his jockstrap. To my joy, he was already erect. I pulled the pouch down so it only covered his balls and stroked his length. Then I pushed my nose into his pit again sniffed and licked as I stroked him. His aroma flooded my senses. I pulled back intoxicated by his scent.

“‘As much as I love this,’ I said, ‘we need to get you cleaned up. I’m not sure your roommates are going to like you reeking up your dorm.’

“‘You would like it,’ he replied.

“‘You’re welcome to stink up my dorm any time you want.’ I gave my body wash bottle a few pumps. I pressed the wash into his chest. I lathered his chest, starting with his pierced nipples. I moved down his abs to his pierced navel.

“He put one of his massive paws on my chest. ‘How about we finish getting dirty first?’ Then he leaned down and kissed me. I turned around and braced myself against the wall, warm water running down my back. I lifted my small tail.

“With is strong thumbs his spread my cheeks and slowly teased my tail hole with his cock. I leaned harder against the wall. After a few more moments of prodding, I felt one of his fingers slid into me. Soon after he slid in a second one. He thrust his fingers into me and slowly wriggled them around. He slowly pulled them out. I gasped very loudly in ecstasy.

“He pressed his chest into my back. I felt his weight on me as he braced one leg on the wall and lined himself with my hole. Slowly he pressed his cock into me. My tail hole stretched as Toby got his entire length into me. I moaned.

“We stood still under the warm water. With him inside me, I relaxed as I got used to his girth. Then he pulled back slightly before gradually pushing back in. By his third thrust, he’d started to form a rhythm. I moaned and huffed as his thrusts became more forceful. He paused for a moment to pull his jockstrap down further. When he resumed his balls slapped against me with each thrust.

“With his right paw, he braced against the wall as he put more of his weight on me. I planted my hooves as firmly as I could on the tile. With his left paw, he reached around me. As he wrapped his digits around my erection I cried out in pleasure. He began stroking me as he pounded my ass.

“As he thrust harder and harder, a storm of tension stirred within me. His breath came in heavy, wet breaths against the back of my neck. The smell of wet, musky hyena filled my nostrils. He began thrusting as deep as he could, each thrust accompanied by a guttural growl.

“He braced himself against the floor and wrapped his right arm around me, lifting my hooves from the floor as he heaved into me. He howled. Inside, I felt his dick twitch and pulse as he came. As he continued stroking my shaft, the storm building within me reached its climax as my balls tightened and I shot my load into his paw. I let out a loud, satisfied moan as my cock continued to pulse and covering his paw with cum.

“We stood still for a moment, him still inside me, as we caught our breath. Slowly, Toby pulled out. My body shuddered as his tip left my stretched tail hole. From the corner of my eye, I caught him taking a lick of his paw before washing it off in the warm water. I turned away with a smile, hoping he didn’t notice.

“After a moment of actual washing, I shut off the water. I pulled open the shower curtain. In the locker room, a group of six people had assembled outside the shower stall. A few were naked and fully erect. A rottweiler was spilling out of his jockstrap. A lion had a paw in his shorts and an impressive stain on the front. And a bear was cleaning himself with a gym towel. Someone whistled and the rest started clapping.

“Feeling confident, despite having only one antler, I did a small curtsy. That’s when I realized Toby hadn’t rinsed very well and the water pooling at his feet was soapy. Slipping on the soapy tiles, I lost my balance and fell to the floor. As I fell I grabbed the shower curtain. To my surprise, it didn’t rip, and I thought I was going to be fine until the rod detached from the wall. I hit the ground, hard. The rod came down on Toby’s head and then he fell on top of me.

The deer sighed. “When everything got sorted out, Toby was bleeding from the head, and I couldn’t stand on my ankle.

The civet looked blankly at the deer before turning her attention back to her form. “I’m going to just write they you fell in the shower at the athletic center.”

The deer blinked and then looked away. “Yeah, that works. You probably could have done with less context. I’m sorry for being gross.”

She shrugged. “It’s a fun story, and it’s not gross. It sounds like you have a nice boyfriend.”

The deer smiled. “He’s pretty awesome.”

Sex Scene: A Night In

This story features the demon and werewolf characters again. I wrote this one about six months after the other one. The scene is a direct sequel to This Scene and was written around the same time.


John Dee Whalen leaned over the couch eagerly. His husband, a lean and powerful werewolf, stood behind him. The werewolf ran a paw up the lithe demon’s bare backside, teasing him with a single nail. He chewed loudly on a large, greasy slice of bacon and sausage pizza.

The demon’s snake-tail nervously flicked its tongue as it slithered around the werewolf’s left leg. The snake pulled the wolf closer. Its actions were nothing more than an extension of its owner’s desires. John lusted for his husband’s attention. The wolf ran his free paw down the demon’s right ass cheek. With a playful growl, he gave it a firm squeeze.

“Are you done playing around, Alistar?”

“You’re the one who said I could eat dinner while plowing you over the back of the couch. Or did you forget that, John?”

“I was hoping you would be more eager for the plowing.”

The werewolf leaned forward and growled into his husband’s ear. “I’m plenty eager.”

John quivered, his tail tightened its grip on its prey. Alistar devoured the rest of his pizza. With his now free paw, he tightly grabbed the bare, red hips before him. John moaned. The wolf pressed forward, pinning the demon between his hard cock and the couch. His rocket pulsed as he grinded it against his mate.

“I hope you’re ready.”

The demon leaned forward against the couch, pushing his backside into the wolf. “I’m going to need you to get me ready first.”

“What were you doing while I was eating that pizza?”

“Jerking it mostly.”

“Seems like you should have been doing something else.” The werewolf teased as he slipped two of his fingers into his muzzle. “I don’t recall you spending any of that time helping me out. Why should I help you out now?”

“Because you know my ass is—” the demon gasped as is husband pressed a finger into his tailhole – “amazing.”

Alistar teased his husband, pushing his finger further in before smoothly pulling back to his first knuckle. “Someone is a little tight.”

“You’ve been out lately. I haven’t had anyone around to keep me loose.” John replied.

“The moon ain’t going to howl at itself.” The wolf pushed a second finger. The demon moaned has his tail tightened its grip. “How about you stop talking and start focusing on other things?”

The demon managed only a nod between thrusts of his husband’s fingers. A wave of pleasure ran up from where the wolf’s paw had entered him, to the back of his neck. He moaned loudly and unashamedly as he ground his member into the back of the couch. The wolf withdrew his fingers.

“What are you—”

“I thought you were done talking.” Alister interrupted as he dropped to his knees. John shivered as Alistar’s cool nose touched the base of his spine. The demon tensed as the werewolf wrapped him in his muscular arms. Alistar grinned. Using his long, flat tongue the werewolf began licking the demons sensitive backside. Each lick brought his tongue closer to his husband’s tailhole.

John squirmed involuntarily when the wolf’s tongue finally glided over his hole. He’d panted uncontrollably waiting for it. His member throbbed with each subsequent lick. He looked down to see a small bead of pre forming at his narrow tip. The wolf grew braver. The wet tongue pressing against him with more pressure. The werewolf began probing. The demon resisted the urge to grab his now leaking cock. The wolf didn’t like it when his husband started before the main event was underway.

Gently, Alistar pushed his tongue into his husband. John shuddered, writhing as the werewolf inserted the entire length of his tongue into him. Alistar increased speed, pulling and pushing his way in and out of the eager demon before him. He lapped at his husband’s tight hole until it became slick with his saliva. He wrapped a paw around the warm demon dick, collecting the pre dripping from it. As he withdrew his tongue from his husband, the demon released one hand from the back of the couch to squeeze his own nipple. The werewolf licked his husband’s musk from the paw he’d collected it on.

The demon relaxed. The werewolf behind him stood and lined the tapered tip of his meaty, red bit up with his now slick hole. He exhaled heavily as Alistar pushed the first couple inches of his length in. The werewolf let out a primal growl that almost caused John to let loose his load.

The werewolf proceeded slowly, knowing that despite the thorough tongue fuck, his rocket still need to be eased in. When his bulbous knot reached his husband, the wolf stopped. The demon clenched around the wolf’s member causing the pair to howl and moan. Alistar pulled back, then trusted forward.

John let his chest rest against the back of the couch as his Alistar grabbed his hips. The powerful werewolf pulled the lithe demon onto him with each thrust into him. Now with both of his hands free, John stroked his warm, full cock and played with his nipples at the same time. He tried to time his strokes with his husband’s thrusts. It was a difficult task as the pair bucked with each of the werewolf’s thrusts.

The demon panted and moaned as the wolf behind him pushed himself further and further in. Alistar’s knot knocked at John’s hole harder and harder with each passing thrust. John increased intensity as he stroked himself. The wolf behind him started panting and growling louder and louder. His throbbing knot started to stretch the demon more and more.

Alistar moved his paws from his husband’s hips and wrapped them around his chest. He used his new position to better push into the demon. He playfully nibbled at red-skinned shoulder before him. The demon groaned. Anticipation welled within him. With each thrust Alistar opened his husband more. His tongue flopped out of his mouth as a howl rose within him.

“Alistar,” John screamed, as he spilt trails of seed onto the back of the couch in front of him.

The wolf, now entirely on top of the demon, howled with one final thrust as his knot was forced into, and eagerly accepted by, the demon. Alistar’s bit pulsed as he emptied himself into his husband. Each twinge of his cock forced more of his seed into the demon he held tightly against his chest. He grasped his husband’s member, over the hand that was still milking it. He gave a tight squeeze which caused the demon to tense around him causing each of them shoot a final rope of seed.

The two panted. Each entirely spent. Alistar relished in the scent of his husband’s neck as John alternated between tightening loosening himself around the hard cock locked within him. Without warning, the werewolf roared.

“What happened?” John asked.

“Your tail just went up my ass.”

Four minutes later, Alistar lay on his back in a lounge chair. His husband, still stuck on his knot, lay atop him, sinking into the sea of brown fur. While he would never admit it, this moment was almost better than the actual sex for him. Having a warm demon stuck on top of him as they decided what movie to watch. He licked behind his husband’s ear causing him to playfully squirm.

The air smelled of musk, cum, and sulfur. It took him a while to get used to it, but the scent of his husband was something he found himself addicted to. But there was something else, mixed between the scents something familiar. Alistar sniffed again. Once he dug past the wet fur and sex, the familiar smell of greasy pizza filled his nose. Remembering the preparations he’d made earlier, Alistar reached under the chair.

John rolled his head back to catch a glimpse of his husband taking a bite of pizza. The wolf offered it forward. “Do you want it?”

“I love you,” he said, taking the slice from Alistar’s paw.

The pair looked forward as the opening scene of Die Hard began. The wolf leaded forward, surprised at his husband’s movie choice. “I love you.”

Sex Scene: Light Bondage

I wrote this story two years ago. I guess it’s not so much a story as a couple of short scenes. The characters are from a table top game I was in around the time. The demon character was mine and the werewolf character is his NPC husband. Since the game fleshed out their relationship I used them to practice writing sex scenes since I don’t have to build up the characters in my mind.

Think of this as an artists sketch sheet. you might see actions like those depicted here in my other stories in the future.


The red-skinned demon silently slipped through the bedroom door. His bare feet only made the slightest patter as he crossed the hardwood floor to the bed where his husband was sleeping. The naked werewolf was sprawled across the bed. He was a heavy sleeper, especially so when he chose to sleep in. Dr. John Dee Whalen smiled mischievously as he ducked into the closet.

Once inside, he set down the small bag he was carrying and stripped off his clothes. After carefully returning them to their wooden hangers, he peaked back in the bedroom. The brown furry mass on the bed remained unchanged. John stood naked in the doorway of his closet for a moment. He watched the chest of his husband rise and fall. After a few more moments, he stepping back into the closet.

Back in the closet, he turned his attention to the columns of drawers. Specifically, he turned his attention to the third drawer from the top, on the left side. This drawer was only ever opened on special occasions. The drawer screeched as he slowly pulled it open. The demon froze.

He listened for a long moment. The sleeping werewolf didn’t shift, or make any sounds indicating he had stirred from his slumber. John returned his attention to the drawer. He finished opening it without making any more noise. A sly smiled stretched across his face as he surveyed the drawer’s contents.

Inside were a few intimate garments. These were accompanied by a slightly immodest amount of marital aids and other such devices. The collection ranged from the mundane to the more exotic. The demon blushed. Seeing them all in one place like this always made him blush.

He gingerly withdrew one of the garments, a mesh pair of trunks. He liked how he looked in them, and he knew for certain his husband liked how he looked in them. The trunks tickled his legs as he pulled them on. When skimpy waistband reached his snake-tail he guided its head through the bigger hole crafted in the back for it. It slithered through happily.

The snake was basically an extension of his subconscious. It was equally as excited for what John was about to do to his husband. He hiked the mesh trunks up the last inch. Then he reached back into the drawer and removed a leather chest harness.

The harness was nothing special. Just four leather bands and black metal rings. He pulled it over his head and adjusted it so one of the rings sat in the middle of his chest. He knew his husband like having something to grab on to. Given his plans for the werewolf, wearing the harness would be a good way to tease him.

John looked down and admired himself for a moment. He smiled, noticing he was starting to become aroused.

“Down boy,” he whispered, giving his own ass a slap in the process.

John Whalen never felt ashamed for feeling sexy. He playfully scooped up the small bag he had set down earlier. Then he strode silently back into the bedroom. There he set the bag on the foot of the bed and carefully removed its contents. When he was done, there were four padded leather restrains laid out neatly next to his husband.

He worked quickly, starting with the werewolf’s legs. Knowing that his husbands paw pads were… sensitive, he figured it would be safer to get them out of the way first. He secured each to a post on the footboard. After that, he moved on to his arms. The first one was easy. The second one was more difficult. Alistar usually slept with one hand behind his head. Today it was his left.

The demon had a devious plan to get him move it though. He carefully crept to the midpoint of the bed. With a nimble hand, he reached down and tickled his husband’s balls. John spent a few seconds running his fingers through the short fur he found there. The werewolf began to rouse. He moved the giant brown paw from behind his head. John quickly withdrew his hand. The werewolf slid the free paw down his body and briefly scratched the furry orbs. John smiled.

Once the werewolf was done itching himself, he attempted to roll to one side. The restraints held him. John held his breath. The werewolf did not try a second time. John waited a minute until Alistar’s breathing let him know he was once again fully asleep. He then bound his husband’s remaining arm.

John walked to the foot of the bed. He took in the sight before him. His sleeping, naked husband, bound to the bed. His heart rate increased, as he visually inspected the werewolf’s toned body. The demon smiled, licking his lips when he saw the pink tip poking from his husband’s sheath.  He couldn’t wait to straddle and wake the furry beast.

He bent back down to the bag on the floor. He found it to be empty, which came as a surprise. Puzzled, he searched the area around the bed. He was certain in his early morning shopping trip he remembered to buy lube. After searching for a few more moments he was certain it wasn’t there. It wasn’t like a bottle of knot grease was easy to miss.

“Shit,” John muttered, realizing the bottle must have rolled out of bag in the car.

He stood back up, adjusted the leather harness, and silently escaped the bedroom. Once in the hallway he softly pulled the door closed. He winced when the latch made a quiet click. He hadn’t intended to close it completely.

The scantily clad demon hurried through the house to the front door. he pushed through the door, into the bright morning sun. There was little chance anyone would see him, not that it mattered to him. If someone saw him hopefully they liked the show. It wasn’t like his trunks covered much, or anything for that matter.

***

The sound of the door latching closed stirred Alistar from his slumber. His first instinct was to roll over and fall back asleep. When he tried to move though, he found his body resisted him. Frantically, the werewolf looked side to side. He quickly discovered he was bound to his bed.

“John,” he called out to no answer.

Panic began to set in. With his husband nowhere to be heard, he came to the conclusion someone had broken into his home, tied him to his bed, and done who knows what with his husband. For obvious reasons, each of them had their various enemies.

The wolf tugged on his restraints. He didn’t know what was going on but he sure as hell was going to find out. The first several tugs did nothing. The restraints weren’t coming loose. The werewolf’s ears twitched when he heard the front door open.

Alistar laid silent for a moment. He was trying to figure out if people were coming or going. The sound of a car door opening in the driveway solidified his decision. With a loud growl the werewolf heaved on his restraints. The wood splintered as the bed broke apart.

***

His SUV was parked in front of the garage. He savored the warm feeling of the flagstone driveway against his bare feet. He opened the car door and began looking around. It took less than a minute locate the jar of knot grease. The sly smile returned to his face.

He gave the bottle a playful toss before closing the car door and heading back into the house. As he neared the house, he became more and more excited. His heartrate increased. As he climbed the few steps to the door, he noticed his trunks were tight. He looked down and smiled. This was going to be fun.

Without any more regard for stealth he pushed open the door to his home. He crossed the threshold with a spring in his step. His pace increased as he rounded the corner into the great room. The demon froze.

***

The werewolf didn’t bother undoing the restraints. He charged from the bedroom, dislodging the top hinge on the door in the process. He grabbed the bed posts hanging from his wrists in order to keep them from smacking against his body. He figured in a pinch he could hit someone with them. He let the posts tied to his legs drag behind.

When Alistar reached the staircase, he leaped down it in two jumps. His ears picked up the sound of someone opening the front door. He tensed his grip on the wooden posts in his paws. The sound of footsteps in the entryway betrayed the intruder in his home. He lifted a post. He quickly crossed the hall and entered the great room.

“What are you doing?” John asked frantically.

Alistar stood bewildered in front of him. The werewolf’s jaw went slack. He stood motionless holding the bed posts firmly in both paws. John could tell Alistar was panicked.

“What’s wrong?” John asked with concern.

“I I I…” the werewolf stammered, “I thought someone had come for you.”

“Why would you think that?” The demon asked, suppressing a chuckle.

“I don’t know, I woke up tied to a bed, you were—“ He stared at the demon, then a small smile broke across his muzzle. “Why are you wearing your rough sex outfit?”

“Probably for the same reason you woke up tied to our bed.” John paused. “I’m going to guess that it isn’t in usable condition anymore.”

Alistar shrugged. “I was worried someone hurt you. So maybe I panicked a bit.”

“A bit?” The demon openly laughed.

“Okay, I panicked a lot.” Alistar replied with a chuckle.

The demon walked across the room to his husband. He placed a warm hand on the werewolf’s belly as he began undoing the restraints. “I’m sorry for worrying you.”

“What gave you the idea to tie me up like that any way?”

“You joked about waking up tied down and straddled last week, it sounded fun. I figured it would be a great way to start your Saturday.”

“It probably would have been, if you hadn’t managed to scare the shit out of me instead.”

The demon grabbed his naked husband’s balls. “I have a way to make it up to you.”

“How?” The werewolf asked.

“How about you do me over the back of the couch while we eat last night’s cold pizza.” The demon gave his husband a tickle.

“I love you,” Alistar moaned.

Sex Scene: The Satyr King and the Gnoll Warrior

I wanted to write out a story that I came up with playing D&D in order to figure out how two characters might act if they had some intimate time together. All you need to know about this semi-probably-non-canon scene is that our party has a gnoll companion and in our old party I played a satyr who fought and fucked his way into his own kingdom. Since in the current game the old and new parties were at the same event, I figure of course my old character would roll in the hay with a beefy gnoll. So I wrote how it could have but maybe-probably-didn’t-might-have-to-ask-the-dm happened.

King Sidney Dragon drummed is fingers on his chair’s armrest. He was hoping this would be like one of the celebrations he had become accustomed to back in his kingdom. I mean coronations and knighting of heroes was great and all, but no one was serving wine and everyone still had their clothes on. The satyr had hoped this would be like one of the knightings he’d presided over, where the official ceremony lasted a few moments, and the party a few days. He yawned.

Twenty years ago, when Sidney himself was an adventurer, he would have been proud to be one of the enterprising few give the opportunity to stand before royalty. Now that he was king the majesty of such an occasion had worn off. He was a guest here. This was not his palace, this was not his kingdom. If the new king wanted to honor the heroes that saved his city from certain doom with a drawn out ceremony, it was his prerogative. The satyr would stand smile and applaud when appropriate. The group below had indeed performed heroic acts. That itself was worth a handsome reward, even if it wasn’t the kind of reward he would have given them. The satyr king looked to his advisors.

To the visiting king’s surprise, the ceremony enthralled his advisors. Unlike him, most of them hadn’t lived the hero’s life. To them stories of dragon slaying were larger than life. Sidney turned his attention once again to the group kneeling before the king. It was an interesting group to say the least. Three of the members were elves that looked so similar they probably came from the same family, another was a brown dragonborn, then there was a human, then what appeared to be a very tall human, another dragonborn this one silver and finally a gnoll. It was the gnoll that caught the satyr king’s attention.

Gnolls were normally psychotic animals that maimed, murdered, and ate everything they could get their filthy paws on. This one was clearly different. This gnoll was different. He was clean. He stood straight. He seemed calm and respectable. He even bowed as the king placed a medal around his thick neck. The gnoll’s behavior is what caught the satyr’s attention. What captured his interest was that the gnoll was a giant wall of muscles.

The gnoll easily stood over seven feet tall. His short, spotted fur did little to cover his toned body. He wore a metal cuirass, which was about two sizes too small, no tunic, and a belted leather skirt. Below, the human king moved to the next hero in line. Sidney motioned to one of his attendants. A minotaur brought his pointed ear to the king’s lips.

“I want to know which tavern the gnoll celebrates at after this,” the satyr king whispered. The minotaur nodded and returned to his seat. Sidney relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the ceremony. When the time came, he stood and applauded from his balcony seat as the rest of the city celebrated their heroes. The middle-aged satyr smiled.

Several of the heroes, including the gnoll, went to a tavern called the Sword and Shield after the ceremony. The satyr rolled his eyes as he pushed his way into the crowded bar. The king had told his entourage to enjoy the night. The request wasn’t unusual for him. He rarely travelled with guards or kings unless tradition demanded it. Years of adventuring had given the king an astute sense of danger, but more importantly he never liked the attention guards in shining armor drew. If he was going to turn heads he’d rather it be on account of his dashing looks and cute tail.

The satyr picked his way through the crowd. Locating the gnoll was easy enough. He was the only seven foot tall shirtless hyena-man in the crowd. He stood alone, drinking from a tarnished metal flagon. While everyone in the bar was happy to party with their new heroes, everyone seemed to avoid the intimidating gnoll in their midst. No one else even stood at his table. The satyr bought two bottles of wine from the bartender. He picked his way through the crowd to the gnoll.

“How do you do?” Sidney said in his most charming voice. “Care to drink with me?”

The gnoll stared down at the satyr. After a moment he shrugged.

“Can you not understand me?”

The gnoll shrugged again and gestured with his paws.

Sidney scratched his chin. Of course the gnoll didn’t speak the common tongue, gnolls had their own language. Sidney switched tongues to something he hoped would work. “Do you understand Orcish?”

 “Small.” The gnoll’s response sent a shiver down the satyr’s spine, and ticked his tail. His voice was deep, powerful, yet betraying of his discomfort in the situation.

“This is yours,” Sidney offered the bottle. Wordlessly, he bemoaned the fact orcish lent itself terribly to flirting. “You will think it well.”

The gnoll took the bottle. After staring at it for a moment, he shrugged and drank from it. The king took a swig from his own bottle.

“How did you earn knighthood?” Sidney already knew the answer.

“Battled dragon with friends.”

“I see.” The king honestly didn’t care that this gnoll was a knight. “I want to touch you.”

The gnoll took another drink from his bottle of wine. Then he carefully examined the satyr. A sly smile gradually spread over his muzzle. “Then do.”

The satyr took another sip from his bottle of wine as he closed the gap between himself and the gnoll. He put a hand on the gnoll’s bare chest and rubbed his fur. He wondered where the cuirass he saw him wearing earlier went. The gnoll wrapped a muscular arm around the king’s shoulder and pulled him close. Sidney’s nose pressed into the gnoll’s muscular chest. The king took in the gnoll’s scent.

He flushed as his heart raced in anticipation. The gnoll was warm. Sidney quickly noticed that his paw was making its way to the base of his tail. The king forced his hand through the waist of the gnoll’s belted skirt. He looked up at the gnoll before proceeding. Their eyes locked. The gnoll smiled and nodded.

Sidney snaked his paw further down the gnoll’s skirt. He quickly found his plump sheath, and to his minor disappointment, the gnoll was barely tipping. He skipped the bit, and moved straight for the furry balls beneath.

The two moved closer to the table to mask their lewd actions. The king wasn’t worried about anyone watching. In fact, he hoped that they were. He was a satyr after all. The gnoll on the other hand, was clearly not accustomed to the more civilized races tolerating his presence. He certainly hadn’t expected what Sidney was planning.

The satyr found what he was looking for, two large round balls filled the gnoll’s furry sack. They were too large for both to fit in his hand at once. Instead he chose to fondle each of the warm orbs in turn. He gave the gnoll a light tickle as he switched back and forth. The gnoll gave a pleased growl.

“How should I call you?” Sidney kissed the gnoll’s peck after he whispered the question.

“Otal,” replied the gnoll.

Sidney continued playing with Otal’s balls. He had a natural talent for discovering what pleased people. What seemed to please this gnoll was someone being kind to him and taking risks. The satyr king had every intention of doing both.

Sidney removed his hand from the gnoll’s fuzzy pouch, and found his bit. Otal was no longer just tipping, now he stood fully erect. The satyr wrapped his finger around the gnoll, who gasped quietly in response. The satyr started stroking the gnoll’s shaft slowly. Sidney could tell Otal was nervous. He didn’t want to embarrass him. The king wanted his new friend to enjoy the experience.

Sidney pressed his nose into Otal’s peck. Otal squeezed the satyr in return. The king continued working the gnoll’s shaft. Occasionally, he would sneak his hand back down toward his balls just too keep him on the edge.

To his knowledge, the crowd surrounding them hadn’t picked up on their indecent activities. Not that it mattered. Taverns that catered to adventures had a reputation of being tolerant of all varieties of behavior.

Otal begin panting. Sidney took that to mean the gnoll was ready for release. The satyr jerked the gnoll faster under the leather skirt. With his other hand he played with one of Otal’s nipples. The giant hyena tensed and slumped forward. He placed his paws firmly on the table, bracing himself.

As the satyr king continued stroking Otal, he removed his other hand from the gnoll’s chest and slithered it up his belted skirt. He found Otal’s balls had fully retracted. He gave them a playful squeeze. Otal began to arch his back. Sidney fondled his tip with one hand as he stroked faster with the other. A small twitch of one of the gnoll’s legs announced his impending climax.

The satyr caught the first shot of the gnoll’s seed. Otal let out a muted growl which the sound of the crowd quickly suffocated. Sidney took care catch each of the musky strands shot by the gnoll’s twitching member in his hand. Otal continued to squirm, huff, and growl for another moment before being entirely spent.

Still leaning against the table for support, Otal breathed heavily as Sidney removed his hands from the leather skirt. The satyr took care to keep the sticky mess low as he played with it in his fingers. Otal exhaled. The gnoll looked thoroughly satisfied as he straightened himself. Sidney gave him a devious smile.

“I need to clean up,” he whispered. “When you’re prepared for another round grab some and find my room upstairs.”

Otal responded with an inquisitive smile and small nod as the satyr disappeared into the crowd.

It took Otal longer to find what he’d hoped was the satyr’s room than he would have liked. Shortly after their encounter, his friends caught up with him and kept him at the bar for a few rounds of drinks. By the time he was able to sneak away he feared little satyr would have left. He decided it best to steal two wine bottles before he vaulted up the stairs and started his search.

The satyr had neglected to tell him which room to come to. His friends had noticed the satyr cozying up to him at the table. They warned him that satyrs were trouble and pretty much only interested in their own pleasure. Otal was tempted to tell them that so far their fear was at least somewhat unfounded. He decided against it.

His friends also told him the satyr was supposedly a king. Armed with that knowledge, Otal decided the satyr’s room must be the one with two doors. In his experience, the rulers of the civilized races tended to take up a much space as possible. It wasn’t entirely unlike the leaders of his war band back home. Although the difference between a king’s castle and a peasant’s hovel was worlds apart from the difference between a pack lord’s tent and a hunters bed.

Otal squeezed the necks of the bottles he carried. He’d become anxious, which wasn’t like him. Especially in times like this where he clearly had nothing to fear. Otal was almost two feet taller than the satyr and easily had more than one hundred pounds on him. But this was a game. A game with rules he didn’t know. Otal considered knocking at the door. But if this was a game then now was the time for him to win. He was either a meek gnoll alone and afraid among the civilized races. Or he was a proud warrior here to catch his quarry. He threw the doors open.

The room was large, with two warm fires lit in hearths on either of the side walls. The far wall was made mostly of windows, with two doors open to a balcony, letting the cool night air in. The room was as lavish as it was huge. It had a full dining set, couches and cushions around the hearths, a bathing tub, and a huge plush bed. Atop the bed, wearing nothing but a smile, was the satyr propping himself up by his elbows. The gnoll kicked the doors closed behind him. Otal strode into the room. Sidney turned over on the bed, exposing his complete nakedness and arousal to the gnoll.

As much as Sidney felt the need to say something cheeky, the time for words was over. The gnoll had accepted his invitation. That was all that mattered now. Otal reached the bed.

The gnoll used a nail to pull the cork from one of the bottles and offered it to the satyr who instantly took it with a greed smile. Sidney took a long drink from the bottle as Otal began to extract the cork from the other bottle. Sidney pulled the bottle from his lips. He grimaced at the gnoll and shook his head. Then he leaned back and poured the wine down his front. Otal grinned.

He tossed the unopened bottle onto the bed next to the nude satyr. He leaned in and began lapping at the wine collected on the nape of the satyr’s neck. He gradually worked his way down over his pecks, paying special attention to the king’s nipples. Otal continued until he reached the satyr’s abs. He could feel the satyr giggle as he used his long, flat tongue to mop up the wine that had collected in the small valleys formed by his muscles. He took special care to clean out Sidney’s belly button. The king rewarded Otal by taking up a handful of the fur covering his head and gently tugging. The gnoll’s lips met the tip of the king’s erect member.

Sidney fell back onto the bed. To his surprise Otal didn’t take him into his muzzle. Instead he licked his way down the king’s shaft and began lapping at his balls. The satyr squirmed on the bed. The gnoll licked sloppily, thoroughly cleaning every drop of wine from the king. When Otal lifted his head, a thin strand of saliva connected the end of his muzzle to Sidney. The king smiled and beckoned the gnoll warrior forward.

Otal crawled onto the bed; his eyes betrayed his hunger for what came next. The gnoll pinned the satyr to the bed. He brought his head low and licked the king’s lips. The king craned his neck to meet the gnoll. Their lips met. The pair kissed. Each could feel the others heart pounding as they pressed into each other.

The gnoll kissed with the same sloppiness he’d treated the satyr’s balls to earlier. Sidney enjoyed it. He rarely found himself with some who was as unconcerned with tidiness as he. The king preferred to focus solely on exchanging raw pleasure with his partners. This gnoll clearly felt the same.

Sidney worked his hands down the gnoll’s bare back. Every furry inch was strong and firm. As the two continued kissing, Sidney found fun in working the gnoll’s muscles. The moans that slipped from Otal’s muzzle told the king his efforts weren’t in vain. His hands reached the belt of the gnoll’s skirt. Sidney signed in frustration.

In a single, swift motion, the satyr flipped the gnoll onto the bed beside him. Sidney sprang from the bed. Otal watched as the satyr flicked his tiny tail each time one of his hooves clopped against the wooden floor as he crossed the room. When Sidney reached the table, he hopped up on it and faced Otal. Otal sat up on the bed. The king rolled his eyes and motioned for him to come.

He sauntered over, gaze fixed on the naked and erect satyr seated on the edge table. Why the satyr decided the sudden change in position, was beyond him. Sidney spread his legs as Otal approached. He stood between them. The gnoll and the satyr locked eyes. Deftly, Sidney undid Otal’s belt. His leather skirt fell to the ground with a muted thud.

Otal stepped forward. Now bare, his tail swung freely. He pushed himself against the satyr. The gnoll’s full member pressed against the white underside of the king’s tail. The satyr laid back, stretching himself over the table. He reached into the bowl of fruit in the center. Otal expected him to retrieve the cluster of grapes or one of the other exotic fruits. Instead, the satyr withdrew a small bottle, not unlike the bottles the witchdoctors stored their brews in. Sidney sat up.

Sidney wrapped one hand around the erect gnoll and began slowly pumping him. He bit the cork on the small bottle in his other hand, and spit it across the room. He poured the slippery contents onto the gnoll. Sidney didn’t know where the substance came from, or why it was called griffon grease, but he was eternally grateful to the wizard who showed up at his castle one day selling it.

After the gnoll was greased up, Sidney slipped one of his fingers into himself. The satyr had loosened himself up while waiting for his guest to arrive. He just wanted to be absolutely clear to the gnoll what was going to happen next. He pushed in another finger. Otal grinned as he watched the king play with himself. Sidney slowly pulled his fingers out and wrapped them around his own shaft. Sidney greedily smiled.

Otal reached his paw down and traced the outline of Sidney’s hole as he lined himself up. He’d never bedded a male before, not that it mattered much. Thus far the horny king seemed pleased with his performance. He pressed his narrow tip into the king. The satyr’s head rolled back and he groaned loudly.

Sidney’s eyes begged the gnoll to go faster. It was for that reason he decided to do the opposite. He worked slowly, inching himself into the hungry king. Sidney had his fun teasing the gnoll in the tavern earlier. It was Otal’s turn.

He continued pushing himself in until his body, and balls, rested against Sidney. The gnoll loomed over the small satyr beneath him. The feeling was amazing, in a way unlike anything he’d experienced before. Sidney’s warmth surrounded him. For a moment their breath steadied and they each drew air in sync as they met each other’s gaze.

The gnoll bent down and kissed the satyr once more. With their lips locked, the gnoll began humping. He started slowly. As he increased speed, he separated from the satyr’s lips. With each thrust, Sidney’s little tailed ticked the underside of his plump sack. Otal’s tongue flopped from his mouth as he panted, over whelmed by the mixture of sensations crashing over him.

Otal continued increasing speed until his rhythm match the pace Sidney was pleasuring himself with. Dissatisfied with his hold on the king’s hips, Otal moved his paws to the set of curly horns protruding from his head, stopping only briefly to gently caress his face. He began slamming into the satyr. With each thrust, Otal pushed harder. Sidney squirmed and moaned as the gnoll pumped his way in and out.

Sidney continued to work himself in time to the sound of their bodies clapping together. He felt the giant gnoll’s balls slap against him with each thrust. His heart rate spiked as his breath shortened. He knew he was close, but he didn’t want to finish here. He sat up, best he could with a gnoll deep inside him, and placed a hand on Otal’s chest. The mountain of muscles stopped pounding the satyr king. Slowly, he pulled out. Sidney almost came as Otal removed his slender tip.

Sidney ran a lone finger down the gnoll’s body. Then he jumped from the table. He led Otal by his twitching erection through the balcony door into the cool night. He leaned against the railing, presenting himself to the gnoll warrior once more.

Initially confused, Otal had now figured it out. The satyr liked the idea that someone could be watching. Otal was happy to oblige. He didn’t care much either way. With difference in their height Sidney had to balance entirely on the railing. Otal firmly grasped Sidney’s hips and pushed himself back into the satyr. After a few thrusts, he’d returned to where they’d left off.

Sidney went back to working himself as the gnoll pounded his backside. His tail twitched against Otal’s stomach. The sounds of their lewd activity echoed in the empty street before them. Otal began building speed. His balls once more slapped loudly against the satyr as he neared completion. Sidney tightened his grip on his member and stroked harder.

Otal hunched over Sidney and pushed in one final time. He roared loudly into the night as he dumped his seed into the king. Inside the satyr, his bit twitched with each shot. Otal pulled himself from the king. The sudden removal caused Sidney to come through the railing, onto the bare ground below. Otal dragged his tip along the white underside of the king’s tail. Expelling the last of his cum, and leaving a sticky, musky trail in his wake.

The two caught their breath in the cool night air before returning to the king’s room. They found their way to the bed where they spent the early hours of the morning lapping wine from one another’s bodies, kissing, licking, and fucking as they pleased.

The next morning, when Sidney finally awoke, Otal had already gone. In his place was a full bottle of wine and a paw print made from ash on his stomach. The king smiled. It was a gnollish sign acceptance and community. He stretched in the bed, popped the cork on the bottle of wine, and wondered just how long until one of his advisors came looking for him.

This Week I Played Colony Survival (and Learned about Motion Sickness)

Have you ever played Minecraft? I certainly have. I always wanted more out of the village mechanic. It seemed like if you found a village in Minecraft best thing to do was build far away from it so the villagers didn’t get killed by the hordes of zombies your mere presence causes. Colony Survival takes this approach to a whole new level. What if instead of hiding from the villagers you had to build their village, and defend it from the hordes of undead that result from your mere presence? This is the question Colony Survival asks of you.

Like Minecraft, Colony Survival is a game about one-meter cubes and carefully organizing them. Unlike Minecraft, the goal of your organization is to create a thriving colony rather than amassing a huge number of resources for a limited number of people. The cubes in Colony Survival go for a more realistic texture approach than Minecraft, as much as everything being cubes allows for that is. Although this falls a little flat. At first, the cubes are cute, in a novel way. Sadly this novelty does not last long. The cubes have seemingly computer-generated texturing that up close looks like a weird distorted mess. This mess quickly becomes off-putting.

The lighting is a little harsh.

At the time of writing, I would like to note that Colony Survival is in Early Access. My experience is certainly not meant to be taken as what the final game will be. When learning about Colony Survival it sounded like an ambitious game. In practice, it needs a lot of work, even for an early access game.

The biggest issue with Colony Survival is that your biggest threat is Zombies. The solution is of course building walls that funnel them into kill boxes, which is fine but don’t expect your builds to make any sense since you’ll need to use those same routes to leave your colony. Fundamentally this is a bit of a game-breaker. Your colony is expected to be more or less self-sufficient within its walls. The zombies aren’t a huge threat. The two ideas seem disjointed. Colony Survival is neither a colony management game, nor is it a zombie survival game.

In colony management games (I’m thinking of the Anno series or Banished) most of the game is balancing the gathering of resources with their consumption. Some resources require careful planning as they are somewhat limited or contested by other players. Colony Survival has no other players, and all resources are seemingly infinite.

Zombie survival games work because the player can’t be safe. You need to go out into the dangerous world (I’m thinking of games like Dying Light). In Colony Survival, nobody leaves the Colony. The idea of a city builder that is also a zombie survival game only works if the city needs something they have to fight the zombies for. In the time I played the game that never happened.

Attention colonists: strict neck rationing is now in effect.

I must confess, I did not play the game long. I try to play the games in review here multiple times throughout the week before writing about them. Colony Survival is the first game to give me motion sickness. I had to stop playing after merely a few hours, and can’t stomach looking at the game since.

Video game induced motion sickness was something I had never experienced before playing Colony Survival. Unable to play more of it, I decided to research video game induced motion sickness. I learned a few neat things. First, it has to do with your eyes viewing motion that would indicate your body should be moving, but without your sense of equilibrium engaged this can be confusing to the game. Games with multiple types of motion exacerbate this.

In video games when the perspective of the player moves this is one type of movement. When the second type of movement, such as head or weapon bobbing is added this can create a disorienting effect. This is why many games with head bob allow it to be enabled or disabled. Field of view can also be expanded to allow for smoother transitions at the edge of the player’s vision. Personally, I wonder if screen size has something to do with it as well. While movement and vision are the cause of motion sickness, why does it exist? As always the answer is in the brain.

There are a few theories as to why the brain causes a person to become nauseous when perceived motion does not match experienced motion. As I am not a medical expert I don’t know which theories hold up to scrutiny or not. I will say that my favorite theory is that the brain interprets the movement as a hallucination and tries to induce vomiting to expel and consumed hallucinogens. Which is kind of awesome if you think about it. If you want to learn more about video game motion sickness I found this article on Lifewire to be very informative.

My eyes do not like this. This image is not a crop that mess is me climbing a hill while walking past a tree.

For Colony Survival, my motion sickness may be due to the choppy nature of the world and weird light reflection of all the surfaces. This is even more jarring to the brain than Minecraft because of how unnatural and fuzzy all the textures are.

Motion sickness aside though, Colony Survival was not fun for me. I could not get into it. I found its mechanics too disjointed and the early game too slow. In building games, I need to be able to make visible progress in modest amounts of time. I was not able to do this in Colony Survival. That being said, the friend who I played with managed to pump 20 hours into the game over a few days. So maybe it is just me. In any case, I will not be going back to my little colony. They will only have the pile of sick I left on the road to remember me by.

I received Colony Survival as part of the Jingle Jam charity pack. I would highly recommend this pack as a way to pick up a lot of games for a reasonable price while supporting several deserving charities.

This Week I Played Teardown

Do you ever just want to take a hammer to a wall? Is the only thing stopping you knowing that you’re either going to have to fix it yourself, you’ll lose your security deposit, or that you’ll go to jail? Well, Teardown solves those problems and fills that need (Although you might still go to jail).

Teardown is a voxel-based destruct-em-up that is currently in Early Access on Steam. In essence, Teardown is a heist game with a level of sheer destruction that eclipses the Red Faction series. The player has to fulfill a set of objects for your clients. At first, these objectives are easy enough, knock over a building, drop a safe into the sea. Later the missions get harder and harder. You’ll have to steal paintings wired to alarms, drive cars around race tracks, and throw a different set of safes into the sea.

Timber!

There are two primary mechanics in Teardown, breaking things and running. In most levels, once you’ve done one of your objectives you have a minute to finish the rest of them before the police show up and lock you up. This makes the game more about careful planning and less about random destruction.

The strategy I tend to apply to levels is to draw a loop that touches all of the required objectives, and as many secondary objectives as I can manage. Then it’s a matter of drawing as straight of lines as possible between those objectives as I can. And that is a total blast, literally.

Making your efficient path through the level involves bombs, guns, rockets, and your trusty sledgehammer. It is so satisfying to carefully make a bridge by dropping a third-floor balcony between two buildings or ramping a car off some stairs to lodge it into a building. Perhaps most satisfying of all is just running a payloader straight through a building just because. Doing these things alone in the sandbox mode is worth the price of admission. The timed insanity of the campaign is beyond perfect as well.

Omm nom nom

As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock new locations and weapons. You start with a hammer, a blowtorch, and a fire extinguisher. Then you’ll unlock a shotgun, pipe bombs, regular bombs. There will probably be even more items added down the road. On top of that, all the locations you unlock can be visited any time in sandbox mode. In sandbox mode, you don’t have to worry about things like ammunition or alarms. Have at it.

It’s hard to write about Teardown. You honestly have to experience it. The game has near limitless replayability. You have total freedom to do whatever you want however you want to. There really is no limit. There is also the ability to add your own levels. The game is still new at this point, but there are already a lot of creators out there creating awesome levels.

Amazingly, such a creative game is fundamentally about destruction. Even more amazing is that Teardown started as creator Dennis Gustafsson playing with voxel rendering and physics. He outlines on his blog part of the creative process that went into the game and it is a great read. In short though if you’re a tech nerd, Teardown has your back. Microsoft has been touting ray tracing coming in Minecraft. Friends, Teardown already has it.

Truck go brrrr

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some things that are frustrating with the game. There are times where even a decently appointed computer is going to get bogged down but the physics simulation. This is because as I mentioned the game started life as a technology test. I have no doubt this will get smoothed out as the game progresses through early access. But it is worth noting. This doesn’t affect gameplay too much. You’re rarely knocking things down while alarms are going off. Which is a small mercy.

Presently Teardown is available for twenty dollars on Steam. I have a rule about not giving hard recommendations to games in Early Access. With that said, Teardown is a fun and entertaining game. You can pick up and set down Teardown easily.

If you want to know more, I suggest you follow the creator on Twitter or check out the blog linked above. If you are the kind of person who has no qualms about buying early access games, then give this one a go. Those buildings won’t Teardown themselves.


This Week I Played Freedom Fighters

In 2003 I was a baby child who had just got the platinum GameCube for Christmas. One of the first games I got for it was Freedom Fighters. It is now 2020. I have once purchased Freedom Fighters. Earlier this week, on September 21st, nearly seventeen years after its initial release IO Interactive has re-released Freedom Fighters. This game, since I first played it, has been in my top ten list. I am glad to finally own it on PC.

Freedom Fighters imagines an alternate history. In 1945 the Soviet Union brought a bloody end to the Second World War by dropping a nuclear bomb on Berlin. From that moment forward communism becomes the driving political/economic system on the globe. First spreading in Europe, followed by Southeast Asia, then South America, and finally North America. In 2003 the Soviets invade the United States and that is when the game begins.

Its hard to believe New York City had so few polys in 2003. Trust me, this is what it looked like.

The player controls Christopher Stone, a 32-year-old Brooklyn plumber who has a younger brother he works with. They end getting called to an apartment rented by a “Red Watch” journalist just as the invasion starts. The soviets bust in and arrest your younger brother believing him to be the boyfriend of said journalist. You escape capture by having the mad skills required to hide behind a door. The Soviets, having arrested a suspect, decide to call it lunch and don’t bother searching the rest of the apartment.

You quickly leave the apartment and find a man that goes by the name “Mr. Jones” in the hallway. He teaches you important skills like shooting, running, jumping. All the normal game things. And you begin your adventures as the rebellion hero known by the Soviets as “The Freedom Phantom”.

Maybe if you didn’t make my actions seem so badass people wouldn’t be lining up to fight beside me.

Freedom Fighters is ostensibly a third-person shooter. It has the familiar “over the shoulder” camera angle of many modern games. However, it was made in a time when shooters were more about resource management rather than tactical thinking. Because of this, you’ll find your ammunition is somewhat limited, and your health requires items to restore rather than just taking a moment to not get shot. These game-play decisions, while also extremely popular at the time, served to force the player to rely on the game’s unique core mechanic, charisma.

Charisma is what the game calls experience points. There is one use for them and that is to recruit more fighters to follow you into battle. As you complete objectives or help the civilians of New York you’ll gain charisma and be able to recruit more followers. This continues until you have a maximum of 12 fighters following your orders.

You all go ahead. I’ll cover you from here with the machine gun.

Since Freedom Fighters is primarily an action shooter, the tactical commands are limited but powerful. There are three orders you can give: attack, defend, and follow. These three orders are all you need because your fighters are pretty smart.

The simplest and most used command is the “follow” command. With this command, one or more of your team will follow close behind you. From there they will shoot at any enemy that gets close enough to you but they won’t pursue them if your enemies retreat. This command is best used if you’re wanting to take the lead in the charge. Having all your fighters following you can become cumbersome when your squad of fighters is big. This is what the defend command is for.

Defending in Freedom Fighters is a bit of a misnomer. In a game about being a resistance fighter in an occupied city, you rarely are defending. Most of your actions are quick hits or sieges. The game doesn’t really throw waves of Soviet soldiers at you. Because of this, the defend command is more of a “stay” command. When told to stay, your fighters will take cover and spread out a little bit. In general, though, they’ll just hang out and maybe shoot anyone. They don’t get too rowdy. If you want rowdy order your squad to attack.

The attack command is somewhat insane. Issuing the command can be done against a particular enemy or an area. When issued the fighter, or fighters will charge forward firing at anything that gets between them and their target. What is most interesting about this command is they won’t charge stupidly. If they detect an enemy they won’t charge past. Instead, your fighters will deal with the initial threat before moving on. This can lead to unpredictable behavior. Once you get used to that behavior you can deploy groups of fighters to efficiently clear buildings while you deal while enemies elsewhere.

The enemies in Freedom Fighters are perhaps its greatest weirdness. The developers must have been working on the follower AI and kinda forgot to tune the enemy AI. Soviet soldiers will run around semi-randomly once a fight starts. In ways that make no sense in real life, but constantly puts enemies behind you. Maybe that is intentional as it sure makes for a challenge. Enemies will also take cover and engage your fighters. More often than not, while some of your enemies are shooting at you, the rest are jumping out a window. They won’t die from this. You’ll just run into a massive pile of enemies elsewhere in mission. This continues until you’ve gone through the whole level. Which means a climactic fight at the end. Which is usually pretty frantic.

The dreaded radial menu on PC.

As stated earlier, Freedom Fighters was first released in 2003. This newly released version is just that came recompiled for modern PCs. There have been no updates to the game-play. Because of that, some things in the game are rough by today’s standards. Go ahead and push that out of your mind. I am. I’m not going to judge Freedom Fighters by any standard beyond whether or not it is fun. Freedom Fighters is fun.

Any time or money you put into Freedom Fighters is worth it. Accept its limitations and have fun. There have been a lot of remasters and remakes lately, but a true re-release seems rare. While remasters tend to be hit or miss. A re-release of the original material presents the game just as it was. If you accept the game as it is, you’ll enjoy it. If it looks fun, have fun.


Freedom Fighters is available on GOG, Steam, and the Epic Games Store. For its first week, Freedom Fighters is on sale for $10. For that price, it’s definitely worth it.