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The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Space-time rippled as the Horns of Glory snapped into real space. The normally smooth transition from FTL subspace travel back to the laws of relativity was instead dangerously jarring, as the inertial dampeners struggled to hold the innards of the massive warship in their proper places. After straining mightily for the briefest of moments, they failed, throwing Admiral Halon Va and the rest of his bridge crew violently into their restraining harnesses. The ship shuddered under the immense stress, then settled, drifting silently through space on minimal power. “Tactical, get me a status report for the fleet on screen now. I want updates the instant ships jump in.” The Admiral’s voice was still firm and authoritative; it was taking every last shred of resolve he had to keep it that way. “Lieutenant Roshin, put a detail together and work with medical. I’m sure that re-entry caused more than a few extra injuries. Get as many of the crew patched up and ready for emergency action as fast as you can. I want a full casualty report as soon as possible. And if you find Science Officer Lentith and he’s still alive, send him to the bridge immediately.” Admiral Va settled back into his command chair, drawing creaking sounds from the over-stressed frame as it absorbed the weight of his massive form. The bridge was completely silent now, the command crew entirely focused on the tasks at hand. Or they were too afraid to say anything; Va couldn’t be sure. He was thankful for their silence, though. He didn’t have any answers for them about his failure. Keying in a few commands on the command panel at his station, the damage report for his ship popped up, the bridge lights flickering from the extra power draw. The Horns of Glory floated before him in hologram form. Long and slender, the ship was over two kilometers from bow to stern. At least, it had been a few hours ago. The forward 20 percent of the holographic ship was flashing red, indicating heavy damage. This was inaccurate, however, as the forward 20 percent of the ship simply wasn’t there anymore. The graceful lines and carefully crafted angles of the ship's armor were an unrecognizable slagged mess, and deep gouges had been cut into the inner decks all over the ship. Whole sections were missing amidships, two of the main reactors were offline, all the primary weapon batteries had been completely destroyed, and most of the critical systems were barely functioning. It was a miracle that she had survived the jump. That morning, Horns of Glory had been the greatest feat of Arien’Ra engineering, and it was now a barely functioning hulk. And it had all happened under my command, thought Va. He had no time to wallow in his failures, however, as at that moment tactical finally reconnected to the fleet command systems. The hologram of Horns of Glory quickly scaled down, appearing as a small, flashing, red point of light floating in loose formation with several other points of light. Most of them were flashing red as well. A constant stream of data and various reports scrolled down the right side of the hologram, listing in no uncertain terms the doom that Va had subjected his command to. If Va had thought that the bridge was quiet before, it was nothing compared to the complete stillness that now settled over them. No one so much as moved a muscle, as they all sat in stunned silence, reading the reports. Occasionally, the hologram would flash, and a new point of light would join the formation, adding more data to the pile spelling out their damnation. After 30 ticks, new points of light had stopped appearing. Admiral Halon Va had lost over 60 percent of his fleet, and not a single other dreadnaught had survived the slaughter. His defeat was total, and the Federation navy was crippled. Science Officer Beredarin Lentith had been the first member of his family not to enroll in command school in eight generations. They had been some of the finest members of the fleet the Vorqual race had ever contributed to the Federation. His brothers and sisters had all enrolled, which meant that as far as he was concerned, his family had more than fulfilled their duty to the Federation. Military life wasn’t for him, anyway; he wanted to explore. The Federation had been around for over 3000 years, and there were still vast swathes of the galaxy that they knew nothing about. They were still encountering new species every few hundred or so years, and there was nothing he wouldn’t give to find the next one. That had been the dream that directed him away from the military and into academia. The odds of actually finding a new race were so small, though. There were still at least 200,000,000 unexplored systems in the galaxy. There just wasn’t time to visit them all... He snapped out of his reverie as he stepped over the body, or rather, what was left of the body, of a Zelnassi marine. Most of it was just a green stain on the corridor wall at this point, though there had been enough of the chitinous armored torso to partially obstruct his path. The young lieutenant quickly continued on towards the bridge. If he was being honest with himself, becoming an expert on the area of unexplored space directly between the Federation and it’s largest military rival wasn’t the smartest of ideas. Between his family reputation and his unique knowledge base, he was just asking to get pressed into service. Which was exactly what had happened immediately upon the recent outbreak of hostilities. And now here he was stepping over corpses, marveling at the fact that he had somehow survived this long. He still couldn’t believe the insanity of the Dominion forces. Boarding an enemy ship MID-COMBAT. It was like something out of a youngling’s tale from before space travel. It was pure madness, but there were the bodies to prove that it had happened. He gingerly stepped around the remains of yet another Zelnassi. The signs of battle continued all the way to the bridge, where he found security forces still holding quickly fortified positions around the bridge entrance. There were more Zelnassi bodies at their feet. Berendarin shuddered. He had been closer to death than he thought. He quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He could only imagine why he was needed on the bridge so urgently. The door slid open, and Lentith walked into a completely silent room. Admiral Va was slouched at his command station, his enormous arm propped up on the chair arm and supporting his massive, horned head. Lentith didn’t even know that Arien’Ra COULD slouch. Nevermind that the fastidious Admiral could or would ever do such a thing. Maybe things were somehow worse than he thought. No one seemed to notice him enter, so he announced himself to the Admiral. Though he didn’t shout, his voice echoed in the deathly silent room, startling most of the bridge command. Two of the other Vorqual officers swore, and the tiny Jezren manning the com station let out a high pitched sound somewhere between a squeak and chirp. Berendarin would have found it quite funny if the situation wasn’t so dire. Admiral Va immediately snapped back to being the hulk of muscle and horn that imposed his will on a room just by being in it. His booming voice only added to his authority. “Science Officer Lentith. I’m glad to see you’re still alive. Are you seriously injured?” Berendarin had almost forgotten that he had walked the entire way to the bridge holding a bandage to his head just above his left eye. The drop out of subspace hadn’t been kind to him. He pulled the bandage away, revealing a dark orange stain on the bandage and a crack in the bone plate above his eye. “I’m fine, sir, just one of the outer plates, and the bleeding has already stopped.” “Good. Commander Vortith is currently overseeing the emergency repairs. Take his seat. You are going to help me find a way back home.” “Sir? I’m sorry I don’t understand. Why don’t we just go back the way we came?” “That’s not possible. Most of our supply ships and tenders were destroyed when that third wave of Dominion ships hit our flank. Almost all of our pre-prepared fuel reserves are gone. On top of that, some of our ships are so damaged that they don’t have another long jump in them. And if we run into any enemy ships, the whole rest of the fleet is done for. We barely qualify as a fighting force in the state we’re in.” “Is it really that bad?” “It’s worse, but we don’t have time to get into the details. You’re the expert on this section of the galaxy. I need you to find the fleet a hiding hole. Somewhere away from the known jump routes through the Spur. Any system where we can use the few miners we have left to scavenge up some fuel, and get some critical repairs done while we’re at it. And from there either wait for reinforcements or get ourselves patched up enough to limp home. Wherever it is, it needs to be close. I’m not leaving any ships behind because they can’t make the jump.” “Oh. Just that?” The lieutenant knew that Arien’Ra were strict herbivores, but with the look that the Admiral shot him, he couldn’t help but think about the fact that his head would easily fit into that giant, molar filled mouth. “And away from any known pirate hideaways. Like I said, our fleet can’t take any more fighting. And find it quickly. It won’t be long before the Dominion fleet locates us.” “I. Uh. Sure. I’ll see what I can find.” Berendarin shrank into the commander’s chair next to the enormous Arien’Ra, desperately wishing he had been more professional. If he had acted like a proper soldier, it might soften the blow of telling the Admiral that what he wanted was next to impossible. If he had a few weeks, he might be able to find something. So much of the Spur was still un-surveyed. The odds of there being anything useful to the Admiral in the databases was absurdly low, and there was even less of a chance he’d be able to find it in time for the information to matter. He began pouring through his notes anyway. It was better than waiting around to die, which, if the situation was as dire as the Admiral made it sound, was the only other option. He spent the next hour lost in his notes, finding nothing, while the bridge crew went about piecing the ship and the fleet back together. The young scientist had all but given up on the Admiral’s impossible request when a raucous cheer went up from everyone on the command deck. “Sir,” The coms officer called out, “The Consul’s Pride just dropped out of subspace and is hailing us, sir. The main communication screen lit up, and Berendarin Lentith looked to see the face of his oldest sister on screen, strapped into the captain’s chair of her dreadnaught. He let out a sigh of relief; Baraquen was his favorite sibling. Her uniform was drenched in a deep orange blood stain at the shoulder, and she was covered in what looked like flecks of green gore from a Xelnassi. The artificial gravity was clearly malfunctioning, as the captain’s restraining harness was the only thing keeping her from floating around her bridge. But the bone plates of her jaw were turned as always into her calm, self assured smile “My apologies for the delay in joining you, Admiral Va. We had some… guests shut down our drive mid jump. We had to deal with them before we rejoined the fleet. I assume there is a plan to get us back to federation space?” “It’s good to see you in one piece, Captain Lentith,” the Admiral responded. He was barely able to keep the relief from his voice. “And there is indeed a plan.” Berendarin returned to his research as the two ranking officers in the fleet went over the details of their current predicament. He was glad his sister had survived, and not just because they were close. It would have been a terrible blow to the whole family to have lost not only their future matriarch, but the ship she commanded as well. A member of his family had been commanding that dreadnaught uninterrupted for the last 5 generations. Military service had never appealed to Berendarin, but his family history was certainly still important. And then the solution to the current problem hit him like a driver round. He let out a gasp and tore into his notes with a fervor. Both Admiral Va and his sister’s projection turned to look at him, but he didn’t notice. After a few seconds of curious silence from the rest of the onlookers, Berendarin practically jumped out of his seat. “Admiral, I think I’ve got something that will work.” The young Lieutenant punched a few commands into his datapad, and a set of stellar coordinates popped up on the navigation terminal. “It’s a main sequence star, about 500 light years from us, fairly close to the edge of the Spur. It’s not anywhere near any established jump routes. The Consul’s Pride made me think of it.” He nodded towards his sister’s face on the ship's screen. “Our great, great grandsire took the Consul’s Pride through the system on her shakedown run a little over 300 cycles ago. Chased a band of Qorthi slavers out of the system. The outer four planets are all gas giants. If we can’t find Helium 3 there, I don’t know where else we should look.” On screen, Captain Lentith looked impressed, but Admiral Va clearly didn’t seem too sure. “We’re supposed to be going away from Dominion forces, not into them. What were the Qorthi doing there?” “There are also four rocky inner worlds in the system, Sir, according to reports from the encounter. Apparently, the third planet is a Class 7 Deathworld, and the Qorthi were running some experiments on the primitive lifeforms there. They were caught completely by surprise by the Consul’s Pride, and it was the first time that she fired her weapons in anger. I can’t find any reports of Dominion ships in that section of the Spur since.” There was a long pause before Va responded. “Good work, Lieutenant. I knew my trust in you wasn’t misplaced.” Admiral Va replied, before turning to the rest of the bridge and booming “Coms! Tactical! Get those coordinates to every ship in the fleet. I want every ship we have left formed up and ready to jump as soon as possible. Any captain who feels that his drives can’t make the jump is to focus all repair efforts on getting their drives functioning immediately. I will transfer repair crews from less damaged ships to more damaged ships if that means we jump even a tick earlier. Get to it everyone. I’m not losing any more of my fleet today.” The four revolution long jump to Science Officer Lentith’s newfound sanctuary had done wonders for Halon Va’s mental state. The initial shock of his fleet's terrible defeat had worn off, and he had been able to focus on what came next. Repair crews were able to stabilize most of his ship's core systems, and he was no longer worried about the life support systems cutting out and killing the rest of his crew. There had also been time for him to visit with the wounded. To thank them for their sacrifices. He had expected it to be an act of contrition, maybe even a chance to start begging for forgiveness. But there had been no anger in his crew, and no blame hung on his horns. Most had just been relieved that he had survived, and had expressed as much. He would be forever grateful to them for that. Most importantly, the four revolutions in hyperspace had given the admiral time to really think about what had gone wrong in the nebula. He had barely rested in the preceding four revolutions, spending every scrap of spare time in his office, pouring over records from the battle. That’s where he found himself now, tucked behind his massive ceramic and titanium alloy desk of Tellarim design. It had been custom made for him upon his promotion to this command, a gift from the high admirals and the council. It was the only luxury that Va allowed in his office. The rest of Va’s space he kept strictly utilitarian. There were no trophies adorning his walls, as was customary for other members of his species. The plain bulkheads of his office were instead lined entirely with screens, and each of them were now filled with footage and reports from the battle, running on loop. Va soaked it all in. The more he watched, the more a singular conclusion crystallized in his mind. He had done everything right; he was sure of that now. 1000 years of doctrine and theory for fighting the Dominion had gone into his preparation for that battle, and he had followed it to the letter. And he had been winning. Then that attack on his flank by the Zelnassi had blown all of that out of the airlock. Something significant had changed in the way the Dominion fought... Commander Vortith’s voice rang out over the com system. ”Admiral Va, we’ll be transitioning back to real space in moments.” “Thank you. I’ll be there shortly. And get Science Officer Lentith to the bridge. I want him nearby just in case. He’s the only one who has any idea of where we are.” The Admiral pulled himself from his desk. He would have to leave the rest of his analysis for later. There was just enough time for him to reach the bridge and settle into his command chair before the Horns of Glory snapped back to real space. This time, the inertial dampeners held. “Tactical, status report.” “All ships accounted for, Admiral. Though the Consul’s Pride, several cruisers, and three of our escorts are all reporting massive failures in their Drive Cores. They won’t be jumping anywhere anytime soon.” “Wonderful.” Va wasn’t sure if he meant that sarcastically or not. “Get scans up and running and deploy the pickets that aren’t crippled in a standard scouting formation. How close are we to the nearest gas giant?” “We’re approximately half a light tick from the system’s innermost gas giant, sir.” “Excellent. Deploy the rest of the fleet. Put us in a high orbit around the planet in a defensive formation, and get our miners working immediately. Once our orbit is stable, I want every hand, paw and hoof in the fleet working on repairs.” “Yes sir.” Admiral Va settled into his command chair for a long shift. It would be a drawn out, boring process to refuel the ships. With his fleet limping along, and only two functioning miners, it would take far longer than it should. After all the chaos of the last few revolutions, boring would be a welcome change of pace. Va started to relax, sinking into his chair’s acceleration padding. His fleet and his crews were finally safe. The first priority would be to get one of the subspace beacons repaired and to get word back to the Federation that the fleet still existed. And hopefully call for aid. He was sure to be stripped of his rank as soon as contact was made, but hopefully he would avoid a Tribunal. That was an unpleasant prospect… “Sir, we have unidentified ship signatures appearing from around the planet we’re approaching.” Va had never heard panic in the voice of his young sensors officer before, but it was certainly there now. Va understood the sentiment, though. He found it difficult to keep the panic from his own voice as he started issuing orders “Bring the fleet up to combat status immediately. How many ships are there?” “I’m showing 35 individual signatures. All approaching us at combat speed and still accelerating. At current speeds, they will intercept us in just over 30 ticks, sir.” “I want details as soon as you have them, Lieutenant. Size, make, estimated firepower. Who they are. And keep scanning the system. Find out where they came from.” The panic had partially subsided for Va. 35 unknowns was not too terrible a threat. He still had almost 240 warships under his command. Still, if there was a way to avoid combat, he had to try. His fleet couldn’t suffer any more losses. “Coms, any attempt by these unknown ships to contact us?” “I”m not sure, sir,” the diminutive Jezren at the coms replied. “There’s nothing on standard communications channels. The ships are transmitting something, but I can’t figure out what it is.” “Admiral,” the Lieutenant at the sensors station called out. “I think I might have an idea of where these ships came from. Preliminary scans show there is extensive urbanization on the third and fourth planets, as well as what appear to be habitation sized artificial satellites around the second and sixth planets. One of the moons of the gas giant we’re approaching shows signs of habitation as well. All of them are emitting significant signal pollution. This system clearly already belongs to someone, and they’re broadcasting everywhere.” Halon Va, High Admiral of the Combined Federation Fleets, turned, slowly and with as much composure as he could muster, to face the young science officer seated to his left. Berendarin sat, mouth agape, staring transfixed at the sensor readouts in front of him. Va had never seen a Vorqual more confused in his life. “I want answers, Officer Lentith.” “I… I don’t.. This doesn’t make any sense,” the young science officer stammered. “There shouldn’t be anything here.” “Admiral,” The comms officer cut in, “The signal that we’re picking up from the unknown ships is definitely some kind of communication. I managed to put together audio from it.” “Play it,” commanded Va. A series of short, guttural, and completely unintelligible sounds came over the speakers in reply. There was a short pause before the sounds repeated themselves again. “Coms, what was that?” “No idea, sir, but it’s being transmitted on loop. If it is intended as a communication, our translators have no idea what to do with it.” “Admiral.” The voice came from Va’s left, and was barely audible. Va turned yet again to look at the young science officer. His gaze was locked on the tactical readout, and there something in his eyes that Va couldn’t recognize. A mixture of pure terror and something else. Was it wonder? The young Vorqual’s voice was still barely above a whisper when he continued to address the admiral: “I think we should run the transmission through First Contact Protocols.” Captain Benjamin Alvarez-León slammed against his restraining harness as the USCS Aurora started it’s decel burn. He had pushed the engines on the outdated cruiser to their limits, and the ship groaned in protest as it started counteracting his rather zealous acceleration orders. He hoped that his mad scramble with his small squadron of outdated ships had been an overreaction. The alternative was something he’d rather not think about. All Ben had was the reserves; the rest of the fleet was on maneuvers at Sirius. The Admiralty had wanted to test the new, fully modernized fleet’s maneuvering abilities in the gravwell of a binary system. And, in their infinite wisdom, they decided they needed ALL of the new fleet assets, leaving nothing in Sol except for the handful of cruisers and escorts that couldn’t match the capabilities of the modern ships. A handful of cruisers and escorts that were now hurtling towards more than 200 unknown contacts. It was the unknown part of all of this that was unnerving Ben. There were no familiar energy signatures. No familiar scan data. No IFF. No signals coming off the contacts of any kind for that matter. Two of the contacts were too big to even be ships. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were moving towards Jupiter in formation, Ben wouldn’t even think they WERE ships. “So what do you think, Alexi?” Ben asked, turning towards his second in command. “You and the rest of the bridge crew are always making inane bets. Have you whipped up an over-under for what we’re throwing ourselves at yet?” “Haven’t had time,” came the quick reply from Ben’s right. The short, stocky man from Vladivostok was missing his trademark joviality. “Though, my money is on them being Ithacan, sir.” Ben bristled at Alexi calling him sir. They’d been friends for twenty years, damnit, and had been practically joined at the hip since going through the Academy together. Outranking him still felt a little off. Now was hardly the time to worry about formalities, though. “What makes you think they're from Ithaca?” “It’s the only thing that makes sense. The locals have been getting increasingly radical, and Ithaca is the only sector where reports of piracy have been increasing.” “Yeah, I could see a rebellion coming from Ithaca,” Ben added slowly, turning over that scenario in his head. “But there’s no way they could swing something of this magnitude. There aren’t even any shipyards in the sector. And even if there were, there’s no way they could keep the construction of over two hundred ships a secret.” Alexi could only offer him a shrug in response. It was at that moment that the coms station informed him there was a transmission incoming from the unidentified ships. Ben instructed the ensign to play it, and the bridge was suddenly filled with a stream of grotesque bleating noises and strange grunts, with the occasional recognizable syllable interspersed throughout the transmission. Ben thought he picked out ‘dentify’ from the mess, but he wasn’t sure. There was a long moment of silence on the bridge. “What the hell was that?” When no one had any answers for him, Ben tapped his command console and recorded a new message to broadcast. “This is Captain Alvarez of the USCS Aurora. Unidentified ships, please clarify. Your transmission is badly garbled. We did not receive your identification. You are still trespassing in Commonwealth space and are on an unauthorized course towards Jupiter. Begin decelerating immediately and re-identify yourselves.” He wouldn’t admit it to the crew, but Ben was profoundly unsettled. Something was deeply, deeply wrong about this whole situation. Not only was he vastly outnumbered by these things, but they were unwilling to communicate properly. He was almost believing this whole thing was some kind of bizarre prank. “How much longer before we can get a decent visual on these things? “Any moment now, sir.” A new transmission arrived just then, and Ben had it played back immediately. This time, instead of almost bovine bleats and grunts, the sounds coming over the speakers were mostly intelligible. Or, they would have been, if any of the syllables were in the right order. It was almost like a toddler was rattling off all of his new favorite sounds, spitting them out in a random order and not knowing how they went together. There were still a few heavy grunts sprinkled in, just for good measure. Before Ben could process this new joke of a transmission, the contacts finally started slowing. In a matter of moments, the strange wall of contacts was hanging lazily in Jupiter’s orbit, barely moving fast enough to keep their orbit from decaying. They were still in perfect formation. “Huh. Well, I guess that’s something.” With nothing to do but sit back and wait as his ship closed the distance, Ben tried to relax and began running over all of the possibilities in his mind of what the new contacts could be. He came up with nothing. Well, nothing feasible, anyway. He took a series of long, calming breaths, trying to clear his mind and focus. This was no time for his imagination to be running wild. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that logic was failing him. Something was off. Something… “Captain, bringing visual of the unknown contacts up on screen now.” Ben actually felt his jaw drop. Every contact on his display was clearly a ship. Most were long and spindly, wrapped in layers of some kind of highly reflective armor; a fleet of crystalline arrows hanging in the darkness. The two largest contacts, which Ben had just moments ago thought were too big to be ships, were large enough on the screen for him to clearly see details. In addition to their immense size and strange armor, both ships were dotted with what were clearly weapons platforms, though what kind, Ben couldn’t tell. Noticeably, almost all of the ships on his screen were heavily damaged. Chunks were missing from some ships, and most had deep lines gouged into their hulls. Any form of decorative paint or markings had been burned away. Something had put these ships through absolute hell. But still, the damage could not take away entirely from the elegance of the ship’s designs. They were graceful and sleek, completely different from anything Ben had ever seen before. It was all so different. So strange. So very, very… Alien. Despite every effort he had made to avoid the word, it finally forced itself to form inside Ben’s mind, and forced him to acknowledge the reality that legitimate, extra-Solar life was hanging in the darkness in front of him. It forced him to acknowledge the screams he had been suppressing in the back of his mind. The screams of his imagination crying out in glorious triumph over reality. And with those screams came a deluge of accompanying thoughts and emotions. He was a child again, staring up at the stars above Armstrong and wondering what else, and who else, was out there. He was a teen again, signing his name to the Academy enrollment paperwork, determined to get out there between the stars and see the galaxy himself. He was a young officer again, screaming and pleading with the Admiralty to at least consider a modern First Contact scenario. He was sitting in his command chair now, hurtling towards honest-to-god aliens, all of his dreams made manifest in an instant. He was overwhelmed. He was terrified. And he had never imagined that he could feel such elation. It was the young warrant officer at the coms that snapped Ben out of his reverie. “Sir, the contacts are hailing us on all standard channels, requesting a video feed.” She sounded very, very nervous. Ben immediately stood up, straightening his uniform as best he could. “If they’re anything less than genocidal monsters, I’m going to offer them aid and repairs. As long as they’re peaceful, there’s no reason not to extend them the full hospitality of humanity.” “Ben,” Alexi asked, clearly choosing his words carefully, “Are you sure that’s the… Wisest course of action? How will the Admiralty respond to Goddamned alien ships docking at Hephaestus?” “Alexi, in the 250 years the Commonwealth has existed, the First Contact protocols haven’t been updated since the charter was signed. No one has cared. This has been nothing but a fantasy for most people. I am NOT letting this opportunity get away. Every child that has ever looked up at the stars and wondered finally got an answer, and I will not waste this moment. We’re making friends, the Admiralty and the government be damned.” “You do realize you’re potentially deciding the fate of our entire species on a whim, right?” “Is there someone else you’d prefer to have making this call?” Alexi, apparently deciding that there was not, stood up and straightened his uniform, standing next to his friend as he ordered the connection of the video feed. The channel connected, and the human bridge crew found themselves looking at the bridge of a ship crewed by not one, but three alien races. The largest alien in the center of the screen opened its mouth to speak. This time, instead of bleats and grunts, a choppy, mechanical voice that didn’t sync up to the alien at all proclaimed from the bridge speakers in broken, stuttering English: “I. Am Admiral. Halon. Va. Of the Federation of. Sentient Races. Greetings and. Welcome. To the. Galaxy.” Ben couldn’t suppress his smile. “On behalf of the United Solar Commonwealth, and all of Humanity, greetings, and welcome to Sol. Your ships look like they’ve had a bad time on your way here. If there’s any way we could aid with your repairs, we’d be happy to help.” Slave 782 slammed his right appendage onto the control console hard enough to rupture his outer membrane and smear ichor over the panel. It had been four days since the battle in the nebula, and with the latest round of reports, he finally had to admit that the rest of the Federation fleet had escaped him. It was a minor frustration, all things considered, but the escape prevented this from being a total victory. Still, he had proven his worth to his owners in this battle, and his experiments with the Zelnassi had paid dividends beyond his wildest imagination. He had earned a command today, and with every success in that command, his ability to bargain for his people's freedom only increased. For what he would be asking, it might take the total defeat of the Federation to earn that kind of leverage. Also frustrating, but not a task that he couldn’t handle. It would be a long war, he was sure, but like his owners, he was patient. He would earn his freedom, even if it meant reducing the entire Federation to glass. NEXT
Hi everyone, my last post about wanting to see more star trek games got a lot of comments (if not a lot of Karma) and so I thought you might be interested in what Star Trek games are around right now. Edit: Please feel free to add your own, or add links to games with mods (though please include the link to the mod as well if you can) that convert them into Star Trek games! I only limited this to official star trek games in the hopes that maybe people might buy them, and thus produce sales data that might make CBS see that there's a good monetary incentive to make more games available. First off, the original Starfleet Command is a great game that still holds up, even if it's graphics look like they're rendered in cardboard. You can install it, go to skirmish, and make yourself a 9 on 9 fleet battle between any of the TOS factions they included. I just went three rounds in a half hour and it's honestly probably, pound for pound, the best currently downloadable Star Trek game available. Go watch the Battle of the Binary Stars and set yourself up a round, it's real fun I promise! https://www.gog.com/game/star_trek_starfleet_command_gold_edition Next up, Star Trek Bridge Crew. Looks really cool and fun, but I lack a VR headset and playing without one was, for me at least, basically impossible. I imagine it's better with friends and with the appropriate equipment, but unless you've already got those it's kind of hard to justify buying it. https://store.steampowered.com/bundle/7939/Star_Trek_Bridge_Crew__Bundle_Game_and_The_Next_Generation/ Star Trek Online has been around for a while, and you likely already know it. It's an MMO on the decline and I haven't personally played the expansions, but there is plenty of trek themed content around a serviceable MMO that once upon a time admirably carried the burden of being our only way to play past the end of Voyager in the prime timeline. And hey, some of the stories are cool! (It's great for people who love buying lootboxes!) https://store.steampowered.com/app/9900/Star_Trek_Online/ Star Trek Starfleet Academy is a flight sim that has footage of the original trek actors, and is well reviewed, though I couldn't tell you how it is personally. Might pick it up on sale, but if I'm being honest, probably not. https://store.steampowered.com/app/364810/Star_Trek_Starfleet_Academy/ I don't really count Star Trek Timelines, because it's basically a fancy UI over a random number generator phone game, but it exists, technically, so here.https://store.steampowered.com/app/600750/Star_Trek_Timelines/ Also, for the sake of completeness, there are some adventure games (that seem neat but I'm not buying for $10 a pop) https://store.steampowered.com/app/364800/Star_Trek_Judgment_Rites/ https://store.steampowered.com/app/359650/Star_Trek__25th_Anniversary/ And, unless you wanna go trolling around for an old physical copy of Elite Force or The Fallen somewhere, that's it! ... ... Unless of course you consider piracy as an option to get games no longer being sold, in which ca-*transmission lost*
First of all, thank you very much to everyone who took part in the second ever Reddit Romance Club community survey! We mods were absolutely amazed by the high number of responses, so thank you for making this such a vibrant and engaged community! You all rock. After grinding the (many) numbers, here are the results, which we hope you will find as interesting as we did. Just a note: this survey was opened at the end of May and closed shortly after the June release, hence its questions only barely included Legend of the Willow and did not include Dracula: a Love Story. For this reason, we have not counted the (very few) replies that have been given in the "other" boxes mentioning characters that were not yet available as Lis/known as LIs in the May release (think Leo, Vlad, Kazu etc) as this would have not been fair to those who had answered the survey before the June update. Having said that... buckle up for the ride! Lots of interesting info ahead. ----
💎Question 1: Which RC story is your favourite?
https://preview.redd.it/rlq02ktm0y951.png?width=1890&format=png&auto=webp&s=7ac99dcf156eba4a1e7a25e118cedb51ed21847c No one will be surprised to find out that Heaven's Secret is the top story in this community right now, chosen by over 45% of the respondents. Our nostalgic heart is very happy, however, to see some old favs still make the podium - albeit trailing significantly behind. Moonborn and Shadows of Saintfour score second and third place, only separated by a handful of votes at around 11%, but newer release Chasing You is already breathing on their neck at 10.7%. A healthy mix of new and old stories follows: Sails in the fog is in fifth place with 7.8% of the preferences, while Legend of the willow, after only a few episodes, already scores a very good sixth place, in a tie with Seduced by the rhythm at 4.3% of the votes. Queen in 30 days is seventh with 3.5% and My Hollywood Story is eighth with 1.2%. Last place goes to Wave Patrol at 0.4%, which sadly doesn't come as a shock given the general feeling that the romantic/reputation points system was too complicated. ----
💎Question 2: Who are your favourite LIs?
https://preview.redd.it/x17lqdnw3y951.png?width=1020&format=png&auto=webp&s=6d560448445a77f5f076fcce43358b1dbb94c094 HS being the most popular story unsurprisingly propels some of its main LIs onto the podium with supersonic speed. Bad boys rule, with Lucifer taking the crown with a whopping 65.7% of the votes and Alexander (CY) taking silver at 49.3%. The nice guys are not too far behind, though, with Dino in third place at 47.4% and Max (MB) only just about missing the podium in fourth place at 45.3%. We go back to bad boys with Brandon (SBR) in fifth, but soft spoken Sam (CY) is ready to balance things out again with his sixth place. The most surprising result on top of the rankings is Jake (WP) who makes the top ten with a very healthy seventh place. He is really hard work, but obviously we all think he's totally worth it! Old favourites Michael (SOS) and Victor (MB) still hold onto the hearts of their fans by scoring eight and ninth place respectively. First among the women - and the only female LI to make the top 10 - is the delightfully devilish Mimi (HS). Waves' mate Sebastian misses the top ten only by a hair, placing himself in 11th place with a healthy 20.7%. Bodyguard Adam is the most favourite LI in Q30 in 12th place, followed by a row of SOS boys, with John, Derek and Aaron scoring very similar percentages in 13th, 14th and 15th place respectively. Sweetheart Ray is no longer the most favourite LI to come out of MHS, as in this round he ends up in a tie for 16th place with none other than his almost polar opposite, rough and ready Captain Jeff. Leonard from Q30 (17th place) ties with Cherry from SOS but at least he beats his brother Richard (20th place) in the heart of the readers - and we all know that he'd be pretty pleased with that. Claire (SBR) is the second most favourite female LI in 18th place, while mysterious Luke (SOS) completes the top 20 in 19th place. Here are the rest of the Lis who placed lower than the top 20: (21) Carlos (SBR) 9.2% (22) Justin (SBR) 8.6% (23) Benny Bart (MB) 8.4% (24) Tarino (MHS) 8.1% (25) Gino (MHS) tied with Stephanie (SOS) at 7.8% (26) Dante (MB) 6.9% (27) Andy (HS) 6.3% (28) Mike (MHS) 6.1 % (29) Alek (WP) tied with Dante (CY) at 5.9% (30) Kayla (WP) 5.3 % (31) Alex (MHS) 3.9% (32) Chris (SIF) 3.4% (33) Frances (MB) 3.2% (34) William (SIF) 3.1% (35) Trisha (MB) 2.6% (36) Charles (SBR) 2.1% (37) Orlando (SBR) 1.8% (38) Chris the bodyguard (MHS) tied with Adi (HS) at 1.6% (39) Ellen (MHS) tied with Manta (SIF) at 1.2% (40) Masked Man (SOS) 1.1% (41) Ellia (CY) 0.8% (42) Mermaid (SIF) 0.6% (43) Simon (MB) 0.4% (44) Charles (WP) tied with Emma (Q30) and Jackie (SIF) at 0.2%. These lower rankings include some LIs that, based on the discussions we see on the subreddit, we were not expecting to get as many votes as they did - and vice versa. Dante from CY has more votes than Orlando from SBR? And Chris the bodyguard (MHS) beat the Masked Man (SOS)? Say what... Also: Jackie (SIF) definitely deserved a lot more votes! We might have to start a hashtag or something. ----
💎Question 3: Which non-LI character you’d romance in a heartbeat?
https://preview.redd.it/vd1u59tk10a51.png?width=863&format=png&auto=webp&s=df9e41d03e7af6b60396f96dbfed685b8e425b8e Here are the top 15 most desired LIs in this community: To absolutely no one's surprise, Geralt (HS) takes the top spot with 39.1% of the readers eager to unbuckle his sexy neck belts at the first occasion. Dreamy Xander from MB takes a very respectable second place with 23.2%: we will forever long for his full lips and crisp linen suit. Another MB favourite, Prince Ethan Wood completes the podium with his Matrix-style coat and intense eyes, but sassy and sexy demon Austie (HS) is not very far behind in fourth place. Vampires Dustin Chase in fifth place and - although at quite a distance - Sophia in sixth join the ranks of the many LIs who sadly never were in MB. Cute lifeguard Zoey from WP ranks seventh, and no worries if you don't remember who she is: her screen time was about 5 minutes total - but enough to end up in a tie with angelic mentor Misselina from HS. Frenemy Candy from SOS makes eighth place, while evil stunner Monica from MB clutches ninth. To complete the top 10 is no one else but grumpy Angel Fencio (HS) - we obviously all want him to show us his collection of talismans - tied with Bean from MHS, who sadly had the audacity to get married to someone else. In 11th place is SOS great friend Bobby, whose bravery in the face of untold horrors gave him a special place in all our hearts, in a tie with another WP lifeguard, Ryan (yeah, we have little recollection of him as well). Party-loving and OSHA nemesis Anthony Wood (MHS) is in 12th place, while scheming yet gorgeous Julia (Q30) takes 13th. In 14th place is no one else but our dear Sailor Bobby - an option that was added as humorous but instead raked up a fairly respectable 14% of votes. As they say, if you are not handsome you should be handy, and no one is a better dress maker than Bobby! Plus, how can we forget when he disguised himself as a tribesman to save Adelaide from becoming soup? He ends up in a tie with a fan favourite, sweet angel Sammy (HS). Completing the top-15 is another HS angel, the ethereal Leeloo. This question also had an "other" box, where people could add names that were not included in the list. For all those (quite a few!) people who wrote Dino (HS), Sam (CY) and Orlando (SBR)... we choose to believe you misread the question, but if you didn't... oh boy, have we got good news for you! A few people also wished for Rachel (CY) and Hiro (SBR) to be LIs, so that's another happy ending there as per the latest release. Some also wished for Diego, Baron Samedi and Jackie from SIF, and Joseph, Christian and Gustavo from SBR to be LIs, and we are happy to say that, although their routes might be a bit hidden and not all of them can be endgame LIs, you can most definitely already hookup with/romance all of them. Check the wiki for details! A few people asked for the coffee shop owner in CY... we have the feeling that we know who at least one of them is, and truth be told, that beard is dreamy so we can see their point! More bearded LIs please! Those who asked for Fyr... far from us to kink shame here, but let's just hope he turns out to be human at some point! We also have some Seraph Crowley (HS) and Angel Mora (MB) fans amongst us, as clear proof that no one is ever too old for love, plus WP Agent Phillips' manbun has also scored him some eager fans. But that one person who asked for Sean from MB... we hope for your sake you are also about 12 years old because otherwise you need an old priest, a young priest and also a police officer. ----
💎Question 4: Which LI do you think is overrated, and why?
https://preview.redd.it/nea26zpyj2a51.png?width=855&format=png&auto=webp&s=dfeefda0ad627357d4a76c4e2fef0f3b4a42deca Here are the top 10 most overrated LIs in the game according to our community. You know how they say never rest on your laurels? In a surprising (or maybe not?) twist of fate, some of the most liked LIs also topped the most overrated rankings, which goes to show that the beauty of our community is that we all have different (and sometimes opposite) opinions! So please let's not fight in the comments, haha. The most overrated LI crown goes to Lucifer with the 21.9% of the votes, (which is almost as him winning an Oscar and a Razzie on the same evening) mostly due to his behaviour, which many identify as "toxic", "abusive" and "triggering". Many readers are "not comfortable with his choking/manhandling of MC", and his "lack of respect for personal space". "Being treated poorly in the hope to finally reach a hidden soft side does not seem worth it". Some think "he needs therapy", and wonder "why he's still behaving like a teen while he's possibly thousands of years old". A reason why many dislike him however, is also "the daily flood of fanart that features him": we might all be a little Lucifered-out here on the subreddit! Tied in second place (pun fully intended!) are Alexander (CY) and Victor (MB) at 11.5%: the reasons given for both of them are surprisingly similar. Both boys are into BDSM but neither seem to "truly know the rules of consent" and people think that they "overstep boundaries a little too often". Both have been described as "creepy", "controlling" and "plain weird". Victor is also guilty of being "boring" ("I asked for a tea not for your life story in India!" - someone wrote). Both have been invited to "drop the Christian Grey act" and some people think "they would be arrested in real life if they acted this way". Oh boy. Justin (SBR) completes this unflattering podium at 9.1% because of his "obnoxious outbursts" and the way he treats MC. He is "rude" and "mean" and people seem to be willing to "pay diamonds to put him in his place". Hopefully that won't be necessary! Jake from WP is fourth at 7.8%, the main reason being that he is "too difficult to romance", "too expensive and still rude", and that "we have to solve the Da Vinci code to get him" - as someone hilariously wrote. Bad boy Brandon (SBR) scores 6.1% of the votes landing fifth place, with the word "jerk" being the most recurrently used to describe him. He is "arrogant", a "vanishing act", and "he is never nice to MC for long". Come on, Brandon! You can do better! Unclaimed Andy (HS) takes sixth place with 4.5% for being "jealous" and "annoying" - although we would maybe argue that he's not really that overrated, as far as we can see from the sub... In seventh place is Max (MB) at 4.1% but we are confused by the person who mentioned "his abs being too perfect" as a reason for disliking him. Of course, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so... fair enough? Other words used are "too boring", otherwise many people voted for him but did not really give a reason why. Max needs to work on his PR clearly! Another tie in eight place sees Adam (Q30) and Dino (HS) score 3.7% of the votes. The Royal bodyguard is described as "a barbarian" and his behaviour as "possessive" and "controlling", while the main complaints against Dino seem for the vast majority to be directed to his looks: comments range from "his eyes look disproportionally big compared to his head" to "his hair seems separated from his face" to some people calling him a "Fabio lookalike". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder indeed! Gruff Captain Jeff (MHS) makes ninth with 3.3%, mostly because of "the dodgy power dynamic between him and MC" and his "bullying": "I like puppies is not a free get out of jail card!" someone wrote. The fact that SOS Luke "drugged MC" bags him unanimously the tenth spot with 2.8% of the votes. Not in the top ten but voted often enough to deserve a special mention are John (SOS) because of his "murderous tendencies", Derek (SOS) because "people only likes him for his glow-up", and Leonard (Q30) as "he took Emma's spot as the third main LI in the story" and "that was a cop out!" Plus "he seems so good only because the other two are the worst", someone quipped. ----
💎Question 5: Which LI do you think is underrated, and why?
https://preview.redd.it/t29ndbj8n2a51.png?width=1007&format=png&auto=webp&s=c817ac45f70f9210476feda212af736ad18b8f17 Let's all cheer ourselves up with the opposite end of the spectrum! Here are the top 10 Lis that the community think deserve more love! The answers in this question were a lot more fragmented, with a lot of random characters getting very few votes, so the ranking percentages are significantly lower than in other questions. A few people chose to write "every female LI" as this question's answer, and this is reflected in the rankings below, where way more female characters are mentioned compared to other questions. So RC, we need more screen time for badass, gorgeous, interesting female LIs! HS still carries its weight as the most popular story, with three of its main LIs topping the rankings, all lamenting the fact that they are "unfairly overshadowed by bad boy Lucifer". Andy tops the list with 8.5% of the votes: players think he is "a really good guy", "sweet", "cute", "caring", "thoughtful". They admit "he has flaws" but he "will help if you need him" and "will stand up for those he cares about". It's nice to see him getting some love! Devil cutie Mimi ends up as a close second with only a few votes of difference, at 8.1%. She is "cute", "badass", and "so cool". Many people wrote they don't usually romance female Lis but they chose her nonetheless because she is "a great LI in every way". Someone wishes RC would "flesh her out a little more" and "give her more screen time". Third spot is for Dino: a "sweetheart" and "the cutest man in the game". Jake from WP nabs fourth place with the 4.9% of votes. Players thinks the focus is too much on how hard he is to pursue, while "he is totally worth it", because after the initial coldness he becomes "sweet", "kind" and "caring". His "love for his family is another big plus", and he is always "supportive", "mature", "loyal" and "intense". Someone also wrote that "his sex scenes are amazing". Gorgeous dancer Carlos from SBR is in fifth place: he is described as "cute", "great personality", "respectful" and "the sweetest". One to watch for sure! Prince Leonard (Q30) ties with Claire (SBR) in sixth place. Leonard is "complicated", "interesting" and "clever", while Claire is "sweet", "mature" and "loyal". Seventh position is for Michael (SOS) - "cute", "affectionate", "funny" - and Kayla (WP) who's "really nice" and "one of the first female LIs that didn't seem like a complete afterthought". Eight place goes to Sam (CY) - "wholesome", "the right amount of naughty and nice", "a sweet and likeable guy" - in a tie with Chris (SIF) - "funny", "strong", "loyal", "always has your back". Ninth place is another tie between Sebastian (SIF) - "sweet" and "supportive" - and Alex (MHS) - "amazing personality", "really helpful". Last but not least the tenth place is a foursome: William (SIF) gets some love for being "good", "solid", "loyal" and "fun", in a tie with Charles (SBR) - described as "perfect", "romantic" and "caring", as well as "hot", "sexy" and "gentle" - Jackie (SIF) - "an under-appreciated king", "handsome" and "fun", and Frances (MB) - a "real badass" and "one of the best LIs in MB". So, time to replay your favourite book and try out one of these Lis instead than your usual one! ----
💎Question 6: If you could eat or drink one thing from the RC universe, what would you choose?
https://preview.redd.it/q1oepb874y951.png?width=1108&format=png&auto=webp&s=fbd376a81dffac4123ffdfd8963ef87164466f35 Max (MB) might no longer hold the crown of most loved LI in the game, but his cooking skills still hold strong. A whopping 37.2% of the people in this community would eat anything he prepares. Getting drunk on Glyft at the HS Academy takes second spot with 23.1% of the preferences, while a sugar rush after a light BDSM session in CY is all what the 13.2% of us want, completing this delicious podium. In fourth place is pizza with a bunch of MHS friends, fifth is potential death - as long as ice cream and Jake from WP are involved - and sixth is Anthony Wood's juice at one of his epic MHS parties. Dinner at the SOS circus is seventh, chosen by a fearless 3% of the community, while canapés at a jewellery fashion show in Q30 score the eighth and last place. ----
💎Question 7: If you could spend a weekend in any RC story, would you:
https://preview.redd.it/0nxu9upf4y951.png?width=680&format=png&auto=webp&s=2cbcbded6cb23da8f9f16e96e7cd65be46dee8fd An entire weekend in the RC universe! What mischief is our community planning to get up to? It looks like HS is once again top of the list, with over 38% of players willing to test their wings and get some strange and possibly corrosive blue liquid down their unclaimed throats. But LOW's gorgeous backgrounds and atmospheric setting have convinced the 16% of us to go explore a Japanese village, and possibly meet some mysterious cutie. Adelaide and her SIF crew navigate steadily in third place: 10.7% of us would follow them over the edge of the world and beyond. In fourth place is a spot of murder mystery fun in CY, as 10.3% of us would happily explore a British family mansion - bloodshed possible but not guaranteed. A diplomatic trip with the Q30 Sagar Royal Court appeals to the 6.1% of us, especially if a romantic sunset is on the bill. The quaint and frankly unsettling SOS woods do not scare the 5.7% of us, but as long as no one picks up a nice bouquet of flowers, we should all be ok. In seventh place is our favourite vampire popstar Benny Bart (MB) performing at the Taste of the Night, while eighth is a dance marathon in SBR, inclusive of a trip to romantic Paris. Tarino's somewhat unusual directorial skills in MHS score ninth place, while hot surfers in WP's Miami end up last. ----
💎Question 8: If you could get more episodes of a series that has now ended, which one would you choose?
https://preview.redd.it/qts8kk8i9y951.png?width=766&format=png&auto=webp&s=2b7135c2692b604dd9c9ad4b14bafa93cd4ecad0 It's time to go down memory lane! We loved all the stories that RC has now completed, but which one we miss the most? Side note: SIF and WP were still ongoing when this survey was first opened hence they are not featured in this list. Horror story SOS takes a clear lead, with over 47% of our community wishing we could get more adventures with MC and her friends. MB is second, with a healthy 34% of readers wishing to spend more time in the company of vampires and werewolves. Q30 is third, with 13.3% of readers missing its Royal Palace and all the intrigue coming with it, and last but not least is comedy MHS, which is missed by 5.4% of this community. ---- And now, some questions about this community's gaming habits: ----
💎Question 9: How do you usually approach LI relationships?
💎Question 12: What genre of story do you enjoy the most?
https://preview.redd.it/9ht7sl4u5y951.png?width=908&format=png&auto=webp&s=834f8b8a3f6a0c9465a3b9e74d5a3f70dfe77b9c With new stories always coming up, we were curious to know which genres this community enjoys the most. Despite the game being called Romance Club, the top of the genre ranking goes to Fantasy, with a striking 74.1% of preferences. But no worries: Romance is a steady second with a great 70.8% of the votes. Third place goes to Mystery with 65.7%. Adventure comes fourth with 55.2%, followed by Horror (42.5%), Historical (35.1%), Science Fiction (29.1%) and finally Comedy (26.4%). A very small number of people (too little to make percentage) also asked for drama, thriller, detective/crime, heist/spy, high school/teens, superheroes, zombies and time travel. All great ideas! The community has spoken though: RC, give us elves and gnomes and medieval tales of debauchery and magic! ----
💎Question 13: How long have you been playing Romance Club for?
https://preview.redd.it/irpho4w06y951.png?width=832&format=png&auto=webp&s=2f4cfd29dd89db03bfc910a5355ad8d47844668e We were curious to know for how long we all have been playing this game we love. The survey showed a good mix of old and new readers, with a clear tendency towards long-term reading, which makes us so very happy to know we are all just equally addicted. 36% stated that they have been playing for over a year, 23.6% for more than six months, 17.8% for more than three months, 16.1% for more than one month and 6.4% for less than a month. Welcome one and all, we hope you are all going to be here for the long haul! ----
💎Question 14: How did you find out about the game Romance Club?
https://preview.redd.it/3rcvli496y951.png?width=745&format=png&auto=webp&s=c48166ce7feee6ee5dab1c00fac3ea6dd3ab43ff The main way in which our community has found out about RC is through the app store/google play store (70.9%). Another subreddit is a source for 13.5% of us (we probably have to say thank you to our friends at Lovestruck and Choices!) while a friend recommended the game to 8.7% of us. Instagram (3%) and Facebook (1.5%) are also popular sources, but 2.4% of us arrived to the game through adverts, which is to us the most interesting data since in the mod team we haven't personally seen any adverts for this game - ever - so if anyone has screenshots, please post them in the comments, we are super curious! Some users (too few to make percentage) also mentioned videos and memes on TikTok or Youtube, Google Search, Tumblr, Twitter, Vkontakte or even their own sister(s) as a source. ----
💎Question 15: Which operating system do you play the game on?
💎Question 16: Which other story games do you play?
https://preview.redd.it/pcyngwew6y951.png?width=807&format=png&auto=webp&s=1e3f1f4956dfb8bc4e247d6a179a4153b62fc7da Here are the top-10 story app games we play in this community, aside from RC. Unsurprisingly, market leader Choices comes first with 53.3% of the votes. Another giant in the field, Episodes, comes second - although with quite a substantially smaller percentage of votes, clocking at 28.1%. The top-three is completed by UK TV show-inspired Love Island with the 24.6%. Chapters is the fourth most played game at 24.2%, followed by Lovestruck and Love Sick - tied at 16.1%. Moments is sixth at 13.1%, new entry on the market Stories: Love and choices follows in seventh with 5.3%, Journeys is eighth with 4.7% and The Arcana is ninth with 2.6%. The top-ten is completed by Tabou Stories: Love Episodes in a tie with Originals - both at 1.2%. Some also reminisced about Storyscapes (gone too soon but not forgotten!) and many other game apps were mentioned but by too few people to make up for an accountable percentage. We surely discovered some games we had never heard of before, though, including: Fictif, Heart's Choice, Everlasting Summer, Fancy Love, Romance: Stories and choices, Secrets: Game of choices, Fictions: Choose your emotions, Mystic Messenger, City of Love and many, many more... so thanks everyone for all these new suggestions! And to that one person who selected half a dozen games and then commented with "it is a problem!" ... trust us, you are in very, very good company here!! ---- And lastly, some demographics: ----
https://preview.redd.it/hgiuu3dq7y951.png?width=785&format=png&auto=webp&s=106185756ec1cfd67c4c1bb94a8bda1ce6f5a6d3 How old are we? The survey has spoken: 44.7% is between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.1% is between 25 and 35; 21.1% is 17 or younger; 6.1 % is 36 or older. We must admit that we did not expect so many people to be on the younger end of the spectrum! Butwe hope everyone - of all ages - will always find this subreddit to be a safe, welcoming and friendly place where to discuss this game we all love. We mods work hard every day to keep this the most relaxed and fun RC space on the net and we feel so lucky that you are all as awesome as you are! ----
💎Question 19: What is your gender identity?
https://preview.redd.it/kkr5bm1x7y951.png?width=810&format=png&auto=webp&s=90068fd1b9c2762f5b181b56af647848529c14e2 The overwhelming majority of this community (93.5%) identifies as female, while 4.6% identifies as male, 1.3% is non-binary, 0,4% identifies as genderqueer and 0.2% marked themselves as confused. The fact that MC is gender-locked female and that LGBTQ routes are limited in the game is certainly one of the reasons why our community is not more diverse. Hopefully RC will expand their stories to include more diverse gender choices in terms of MCs and LIs, so to allow more people to enjoy their great storytelling skills. ----
💎Question 20: What is your sexual orientation?
https://preview.redd.it/iskgfuk38y951.png?width=749&format=png&auto=webp&s=0d0cd01d9bedfb1f577206939bc22b959bc6921e Here's the sexual orientation of our community: 70.1% identifies as Straight/Heterosexual 22.5% identifies as Bisexual 1.9% identifies as Lesbian/WLW 1.7% identifies as Pansexual 1.5% identifies as Gay/MLM 0.4% identifies as Aromantic 0.3% identifies as Aromantic/Bisexual 0.3% identifies as Asexual 0.3% identifies as Demisexual 0.2% identifies as Asexual/Biromantic 0.2% identifies as Asexual/Heterosexual Once again, we hope that future plots featuring more diverse MC/LIs will attract more diverse players to our community. ---- That's all folks! We hope you found these results interesting and we look forward to a new survey once we hit 5000 users! Until then... happy gaming and thanks for making this awesome community as great as it is! :) 💎 RomanceClub mods 💎 💎u/LauraVi 💎u/swankytutu 💎u/directormmn 💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎
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This article provides insights into the ethnicity of people employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s publicly-funded scientific workforce, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika scientists. We show that between 2008 and 2018, Māori and Pasifika scientists were severely under-represented in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and crown-research institutes. Despite espousals by these institutions of valuing diversity, te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori research, there have been very little changes in the overall percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists employed for a period of at least 11 years. Notably, one university reported having not employed a single Māori or Pasifika academic in their science department from 2008 to 2018. We highlight the urgent need for institutions to improve how they collect and disseminate data that speaks to the diversity of their employees. We present data that illustrate that universities and crown-research institutes are failing to build a sustainable Māori and Pasifika scientific workforce and that these institutions need to begin to recruit, retain and promote Māori and Pasifika scientists.
In 2018, Dr Megan Woods (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation) launched the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) diversity in science statement, which states that ‘Diversity is vital for our science system to realise its full potential’ (MBIE 2018). Whilst this statement is a step towards raising awareness of the importance of diversity in science it needs to be followed by institutional changes, targeted programmes and directed responses from institutions. A vital component of achieving the aspirations espoused in this statement includes open reporting on diversity of ‘applicants, award holders, and advisory, assessment and decision making bodies’ (MBIE 2018). In two recent papers, McAllister et al. (2019) and Naepi (2019) spoke to the lack of diversity in Aotearoa New Zealand 1 ’s eight universities and provided evidence of the severe under-representation of Māori and Pasifika scholars, who comprise 16.5% and 7.5% respectively of the total population of Aotearoa. The authors showed that Māori and Pasifika comprise 4.8% and 1.7% respectively of academics, despite the espousals by universities of valuing diversity and their obligations to equity as outlined in te Tiriti o Waitangi (McAllister et al. 2019; Naepi 2019). The data used in these two studies, obtained from the Ministry of Education (MoE), provided information on the ethnicity of academic staff university wide and was not disaggregated by faculty. Consequently, data on the number of Māori and Pasifika academics in each faculty or department is currently not openly available. Previous research has shown that very few Māori academics exist outside of Māori departments and it remains difficult to access quantitative data on their lived experience as universities continue to silence reports (Kidman et al. 2015; UoO date unknown). To ensure that the aspirations championed within MBIE’s diversity statement can be met, we first need open and accurate reporting on the diversity of people employed within Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce and there is currently a significant gap of openly available data that investigate this. Some annual reports and equity profiles of crown-research institutes (CRIs) and universities do contain selected ethnicity data (i.e. MWLR 2018; UoA 2018). However, these reports do not always present data in a meaningful and consistent way and are not always publically available. For example, the University of Otago’s annual report does not contain any information on the ethnicity of staff and instead focuses only on gender of staff and the ethnicity of students (UoO 2018). Instead, the ethnicity data for staff is presented in the equity report, which is only available to staff and access must be requested from the Head of Organisational Development (UoO date unknown). A survey of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientists and technologists in 2008 provides the most recent quantitative indication of the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce, despite being conducted 12 years ago (Sommer 2010). The author indicated that there was very little change in ethnicity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce between the 1996 and 2008 surveys, with ‘European’ scientists making up 82.3% and 80.9% respectively (Sommer 2010). According to the author, there was a ‘modest increase’ in Māori scientists from 0.7% (1996) to 1.7% (2008) and this increase ‘represents a glimmer of success for those who have sought to develop policies to bring more Māori into the science and technology workforce’ (Sommer 2010, p. 10). However, an increase of 1% over a period of 15 years (i.e. an average increase of 0.07% per year) should be viewed as a significant failure. The percentage of Pasifika scientists also increased very slightly from 0.5% in 1996 to 0.6% in 2010 (Sommer 2010). McKinley (2002, p. 109) provided an insight into the extremely low numbers of Māori women employed by CRIs in 1998: ‘Of the 3,839 people employed by seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) in New Zealand, 57 women or approximately 1.5% of the total identified as Māori women. At the time these data were collected in 1998 there were no Māori women in management positions, two were categorised as scientists, 15 as science technicians, and 40 as ‘support’ staff that includes cafeteria staff, administration staff and cleaners’ The data presented by both McKinley (2002) and Sommer (2010) highlight the urgent need for institutions and government to move away from ‘business as usual’ and make a serious commitment to firstly collecting data on diversity, openly and transparently presenting it and secondly increasing the hiring, promoting and retention of Māori and Pasifika scientists. The present paper aims to begin to address the gap in knowledge by collating data and investigating how diverse Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce is. An intersectional lens must be applied when thinking critically about diversity and equity, however policies, actions and research often privilege gender (i.e. Bhopal and Henderson 2019; Brower and James 2020) over ethnicity whilst ignoring other intersectional identities that go beyond white, cis women. Here, we focus on the intersectional identities of Māori and Pasifika scientists, while acknowledging that people who have other intersectional identities including those with disabilities, LGBTQIA, non-binary and women of colour are likely to be disproportionately affected and disadvantaged within Aotearoa New Zealand’s science system, which like universities, was arguably created by and made for white, cis men (Ahmed 2012; Osei-Kofi 2012; Naepi et al. 2017; Akenahew and Naepi 2015). This paper examines the current diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika. We will address the following questions:
How many Māori and Pasifika scientists are employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and CRIs?
How has the percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists in these institutions changed between 2008 and 2018?
Data was requested from universities and CRIs by emailing key individuals within each organisation in 2019. Data from 2008 to 2018 on the percentage of scientists, relative to both the total headcount and the total number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) for each recorded ethnicity employed was requested from CRIs and universities. Both the nature of responses to this request and the time it took to receive a response varied among institutions. Responses from institutions ranged from an openness and willingness to contribute data to this project to hostility and racist remarks. Several institutions did not respond to multiple email requests. A subsequent email sent by a Principal Advisor from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor elicited a prompt response from all remaining institutions. After initial conversations with staff from HR departments and university management, it was agreed that all institutions would remain anonymous and we believe that this contributed significantly to increasing the willingness of institutions to contribute data. Overall, data was obtained from 14 out of 15 of Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and CRIs. At most of these institutions staff self-declare their ethnicities and are given multiple choices, where data was provided for multiple ethnicities we used the first reported ethnicity,
Data from universities
Seven out of eight universities contributed data directly to this project, whereas data for university B was extracted from annual reports. Ethnicity data in the form of FTEs and headcount data was provided by most universities. Māori and Pasifika academics are more likely to be employed on contracts of less than one FTE compared to Pākehā academics (unpublished data). We therefore present the percentage of FTEs of staff for each recorded ethnicity, rather than headcount data as it is likely to be a more accurate measure of diversity. Recorded ethnicity groups differed among some universities, mainly in the fact that some distinguished between ‘European’ and ‘NZ European/Pākehā’, whereas at others these two ethnicities were combined. It is important to note that the data from universities presented in this paper includes academic staff and excludes research staff, including post-doctoral fellows and laboratory technicians. Data on the number of scientists employed at universities also only includes scientists employed in science departments (i.e. excludes Māori scientists in health departments). However, a recent paper published by Naepi et al. (2020) showed that in 2017, there were only 55 Māori and 20 Pasifika postdoctoral fellows across all faculties in all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities. The number of Māori and Pasifika postdoctoral fellows employed in science faculties is, therefore, likely to be very small. Academic staff includes other academic staff, senior tutors, tutors, tutorial assistants, lecturers, senior lecturers, associate professors and professors. Previous research has shown that a large proportion of Māori and Pasifika academics are employed as tutors and other academic staff rather than in permanent senior academic positions (see Naepi 2019), so this is also likely to be the case within science faculties. Concerningly, two universities (university E and H) were unable to provide data for the requested 11-year period (i.e. from 2008 to 2018). Upon querying this with human resource (HR) departments, their reasons included but were not limited to the following:
Issues with data quality as ethnicity and nationality were incorrectly used interchangeably
Changes in HR systems
Some data (including ethnicity) are overwritten each year (i.e. so there was no historic record)
Staff ‘change their ethnicity’
Changes in the way FTEs were calculated
Data from crown-research institutes
Data, in some shape or form, was obtained from six out of seven of Aotearoa New Zealand’s CRIs. Obtaining accurate and consistent temporal data from CRIs was, despite their willingness, much more difficult than from universities. The MoE requires certain ethnicity data from universities in a particular format (see MoE date unknown), however the diversity of staff employed at Aotearoa New Zealand’s seven CRIs is currently not required by an external organisation. Most CRIs were unable to provide FTE data but were able to provide headcount data, consequently we present the headcount data in this report. Because the data from CRIs was highly variable, we were not prescriptive about how they defined a scientist, however at most institutions this included post-doctoral fellows and scientists. Data on the percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists employed from 2008 to 2018 could only be obtained from four out of seven of the CRIs. CRI F could only provide ethnicity for staff that were recent hires from 2016 to 2018, meaning we are unable to differentiate between science and non-science staff and data on staff employed prior to 2016 was unavailable. CRI E could only provide data for 2019, the year that we had asked for it, due to their HR system overwriting data and therefore having no historical record of staff ethnicity. The ethnicity data from CRIs, with the exception of CRI B, can only be viewed as indicative due to inconsistencies in how CRIs collect data. Data from most institutions was therefore not conducive to any temporal or statistical analyses. For example, at CRI A over the 11-year period, the ethnicity categories offered to staff changed four times. Māori and Pasifika were consistently given as options, which provides some level of confidence in CRI A’s ethnicity data.
Māori scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities
Before even considering the data presented below, we must acknowledge and highlight that science faculties within universities are generally not safe and inclusive environments for Māori and Pasifika academic staff. Reasons for this include that being the only Indigenous person in a faculty puts that one under extreme pressure to help colleagues, indigenise curriculum, support Indigenous students while also advancing their own career (Mercier et al. 2011; Kidman et al. 2015). It is well established that the job satisfaction of Māori academics is influenced by their proximity to other Māori academics (Mercier et al. 2011; Kidman et al. 2015). The interdisciplinary work of Māori scientists also often does not align with what the academy and their Pākehā counterparts define as ‘science’ and many scholars have explored this (see for example, McKinley 2005; Mercier 2014; Hikuroa 2017). Consequently, of the few Māori scientists that exist and survive within academia, several are employed outside of science faculties (see for example, Mercier 2014). This data therefore is likely to very slightly underestimate the numbers of Māori scientists within the academy. Furthermore, in the present paper we focus on Māori and Pasifika scientists in science faculties but there will also be Māori and Pasifika scientists in social science and humanities and health faculties, which will not be captured by the data reported below. Māori are under-represented in science faculties at all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s eight universities (Table 1). University A had the highest level of representation, which may be attributed to the science faculty being combined with another discipline at this particular university (Table 1). From 2008 to 2018, University D has never employed a Māori academic in their science faculty (Table 1). Māori comprised less than 5% of the total FTEs in science faculties at all other universities between 2008 and 2018, the averages were 4.3, 1.4, 1.6, 3.7 and 0.6% respectively at University B, C, E, F and H (Table 1). Importantly, there were no significant differences between the percentage of Māori FTEs in 2008 and 2018 (paired t-test: t10 = −0.24, p = 0.82). Thus, meaning that over 11 years there has been no improvement in Māori representation in science faculties (Table 1).
Table 1. The percentage of Māori and Pasifika full-time equivalents (FTEs) of academic staff in science faculties at each of Aotearoa New Zealand’s eight universities. University A and G both have a combined faculty (i.e. science and another discipline) whereas all other universities have separate faculties and data is solely for science faculties. University E was unable to provide FTE data prior to 2011 and university H was only able to provide data from 2015.
Māori scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s crown-research institutes
Promisingly, and in contrast with patterns of Māori scientists at universities the percentage of Māori scientists (i.e. of the total headcount) employed by CRIs has increased from 2008 to 2018 at half (2/4) of the CRIs that were able to provide temporal data (Table 2). At CRI A, Māori comprised 1.8% of the scientists employed in 2008 and this steadily increased to 3.8% in 2018 (Table 2). Similarly at CRI B, the percentage of Māori scientists have increased from 3.4% to 7.8% respectively (Table 2). At CRI C, Māori have comprised between 0.01% and 0.03% of scientists employed over a period of 11 years and at CRI D it has varied between 0% and 0.6% (Table 2).
Table 2. The percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists of the total headcount employed by each of Aotearoa New Zealand’s crown-research institutes. CRI E could only provide data for 2019 and CRI F only had data for new recruits from 2016–2018. CRI G did not contribute data to this research.
CSVDisplay Table Certain CRIs are doing better than others, it is however important to note, particularly given CRIs outward espousals of commitments to and valuing ‘Māori research’ and mātauranga (i.e. GNS 2018), that Māori remain under-represented in all CRIs in Aotearoa New Zealand, including CRI A and B (Table 2). Additionally, the fact that three out of seven of the CRIs could not provide sufficient data suggests that these institutions have a lot of work to do in collecting data on the diversity of the staff that they employ.
Pasifika scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and crown-research institutes
There is currently an absence of research into the experiences of Pasifika scientists in Aotearoa-New Zealand’s science system. However like Māori scientists, Pasifika scientists are likely to be marginalised and under-valued within the current science system. Pasifika scientists in both universities and CRIs are extremely under-represented (Tables 1 and 2). Notably of the 11 institutions (inclusive of universities and CRIs) that provided data only three reported having Pasifika representation exceeding 1% of either the total headcount or total number of FTEs in more than one year (Tables 1 and 2). Four institutions (one university and three CRIs) reported having employed zero Pasifika scientists for 11 consecutive years (Tables 1 and 2). Importantly, there were no significant differences between the percentage of Pasifika FTEs in universities in 2008 and 2018 (paired t-test: t8 = 0.36, p = 0.73). Thus, meaning that over 11 years there has been no improvement in Pasifika representation in science faculties (Table 2). The patterns in the percentage of both Māori and Pasifika scientists employed at university G were very different from all other institutions (Table 1). Firstly, university G was the only university that in some years employed more Pasifika than Māori scientists (Table 1). In 2008, 7.4% of FTEs in the science faculty of university G belonged to Pasifika scientists, which was the highest recorded in all eight institutions over 11 years (Table 1). However, Pasifika scientists in this faculty had only 4.4 FTEs in 2008, meaning that 7.4% equated to five Pasifika staff (data not shown).
The diversity of scientists employed in science faculties in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities
Between 2008 and 2018, the majority of academics in the Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Engineering and Science departments at university D were European comprising between 58.7% and 85.2% of the total FTEs (Figure 1(A)). University D distinguishes between ‘European’ and ‘New Zealand European/Pākehā’ and the data presented in Figure 1(A) suggests that not many academics in these departments associate with the latter group. Thus, suggesting that most academics employed within these departments are from overseas. In these departments (i.e. Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Engineering and Science) between 2008 and 2018 there was a consistent increase in the percentage of FTEs of Asian ethnicities (12.3% increase in Computing and Mathematical Sciences, 6.8% in Engineering, 2.4% in Science; Figure 1(A)). Figure 1. (A) The percentage of full-time equivalents (FTEs) for each recorded ethnicity in three science faculties at university D in2008 and 2018 and (B) the percentage of Māori and Pasifika FTEs in those three faculties for academic staff from 2008–2018. Note: In both the Engineering and Science departments there were no Māori or Pasifika employed between 2008 and 2018. 📷Display full size The data provided by university D clearly illustrates a severe lack of Māori and Pasifika academic staff representation in sciences faculties (Figure 1(B)). It shows that in two of the three departments, there have never been any Māori academics employed (Figure 1(B)). Furthermore, in those three departments no Pasifika academic staff have been employed in 11 years (2008–2018). Māori academics have comprised 4.1%–7.5% of the total FTEs in the Computing and Mathematical Science department (Figure 1). NZ European/Pākehā formed the majority (52.8%–63.6%) of academic staff employed in the science faculty of university B and this percentage has decreased by 11.8% between 2008 and 2018 (Figure 2). People who did not declare their ethnicity (unknown) comprised a small percentage (average = 3.2% of the total FTEs; Figure 2). European academics made up on average 20% of the total FTEs employed in this faculty between 2008 and 2018 (Figure 2). Māori and Pasifika scientists were under-represented, comprising on average 6.0% and 2.6% respectively (Figure 2). The percentage of Māori FTEs has decreased from 7.3% (2008) to 6.4% (2018), whereas the percentage Pasifika FTEs has increased from 2.0% to 4.8% over the 11-year period (2008–2018; Figure 2). However, there was no statistically significant difference between both Māori and Pasifika FTEs over time (p > 0.05). Figure 2. The percentage offull-time equivalents (FTEs) for each recorded ethnicity at university B from 2008 to 2018. Note: University B has a combined science faculty (i.e. science and another discipline). 📷Display full size The importance of department by department analysis of universities ethnicity data is highlighted when comparing the percentage of Māori FTEs university-wide and the science faculty (Figure 3). The average percentage of Māori FTEs university wide at university F was 4.7% from 2008 to 2018, whereas it was consistently lower within the science faculty (Figure 3). Similarly, representation of Pasifika academics in the science faculty at university F was much lower compared to the entire university (Figure 4). The average between 2008 and 2018 was 1.5% of Pasifika FTEs across the university whereas it was only 0.4% in the science faculty (Figure 4). Figure 3. The percentage of Māori full-time equivalents (FTEs) of academics in both the science facultyand across the entire university at university F. Note: y axis is limited to 15%. 📷Display full size Figure 4. The percentage of Pasifika full-time equivalents (FTEs) for academic staff in both the science faculty across the entire university at university F. Note: The y axis is limited to 15%. 📷Display full size
The diversity of scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s crown-research institutes
CRI B was the only CRI that was able to provide relatively good quality, temporal data. Data from this institution indicated that African scientists made up approximately 1% of scientists employed from 2016 to 2018 and both Asian and Australian scientists have made up on average 5.4% and 5.0% respectively of the total headcount from 2008 to 2018 (Figure 5). The percentage of European scientists has increased steadily from 16.1% in 2008 to 23.5% in 2018 (Figure 5). The percentage of Māori scientists employed has also increased from 3.4% in 2008 to 7.8% in 2018 (Figure 5). Although this increase is promising, Māori remain under-represented within this institution. Interestingly, the percentage of NZ European/Pākehā employed at CRI B has decreased from 64.9% (2008) to 45.3% (2018; Figure 5). This may speak to the increasing value the science system places on international expertise, whereby scientists from overseas or with international experience are valued more than those from Aotearoa, which is driven in a large part by global ranking systems that value international staff recruitment (Stack 2016). This is driven largely by the increasing importance placed on international university ranking systems. Importantly, scientists coming from overseas will likely have very little understanding of things that are highly important within the context of Aotearoa (e.g. te Tiriti o Waitangi). Considering the data presented, urgent action is required to address this apparent selection of international scientists over Māori and Pasifika scientists. Rather than copying and pasting a blanket statement in job advertisements of empty words like the following: ‘The University of Canterbury actively seeks to meet its obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi | Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ (UoC date unknown), CRIs and universities need to be actively recruiting Māori and Pasifika scientists and hence need to consider the following questions when hiring new staff:
How is this person likely to contribute to the uplifting of Māori communities in a meaningful way?
Do they have any experience working with Indigenous communities?
What is their understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi?
How do you see your role as supporting our institution's commitments to Pasifika communities?
Figure 5. Percentage of the total headcount for each recorded ethnicity at crown-research institute (CRI) B from 2008 to 2018. Note: Ethnicity groups in this graph differ from previous graphs. 📷Display full size CRI E were only able to supply data in the year that it was requested (i.e. 2019) due to their HR systems. In 2019, this particular CRI employed zero Pasifika scientists and 1.6% of scientists were Māori (Figure 6). The majority of scientists employed at CRI E in 2019 were NZ European/Pākehā (55.0% NZ European) and 21.5% were ‘European’ (Figure 6). Figure 6. The percentage of the total headcount of each recorded ethnicity at crown-research institute (CRI) E in 2019. Note: Ethnicity groupings differ from previous graphs. 📷Display full size CRI F only began collecting ethnicity data, despite previously collecting gender data, in 2016. Their data was also only collected for new recruits. We were, therefore, unable to disaggregate science staff from general and non-science staff. From 2016 to 2018 the majority (59%–66%) of new recruits were ‘NZ Europeans’. In 2017, 14% of new recruits were Pasifika whereas in 2016 and 2018 there were no Pasifika recruits. Māori comprised between 2% of new recruits in 2017 and 2018 but 8% in 2016 (data not shown)...."
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