wealth industry

Thicker than Water - Part 2

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)

Masterlist


Bucky x Reader series

Summary: Inspired by this post (x)
Being born and raised in a HYDRA family means you must be a devoted member to the organisation, carrying out orders with blind obedience. But after being assigned the suicide mission of being the Winter Soldier’s handler, you slowly start to question where your loyalties truly lie.

Warnings: Violence

Word Count: 1581

A.N: Chapter two here we go! Honestly, this story seems to have a life of itself but I hope you like it so far… I promise Bucky will make an appearance soon (just not yet)
ENJOY!

Originally posted by moan-s


April 1996
0835 hours

You were woken up by the sound of footsteps running towards your room. The house, usually silent at this time in the morning, was apparently bustling with activity, with the distinct clang of pans in the kitchen and the sound of chattering voices in what you assumed was the living room.

There wasn’t even time for you to rub the sleep out of your eyes when your door burst open, allowing your older sister to walk in, the barely-there smell of chocolate wafting from behind her and following her as she jumped on your bed with an exited smile. She’d been expecting this day for a while now, so it was not surprising at all to see her wearing a new dress, her hair already tied at the nape of her neck with a big ribbon.

“Happy birthday, Steph” you mumbled, untangling your legs from the bed sheets and wrapping your arms around her. You were shaking.

“It’s okay,” she murmured against your shoulder as you hugged her tighter, feeling the ends of her hair against your bare arms and clinging to her for dear life, sniffling. “You know I have to do this, in a couple of years it’ll be your turn” Stephanie said.

It was her twelfth birthday today, and you knew it was a special occasion. Your father had told you so countless times, always stressing the importance of turning twelve and emphasizing how much his life had changed after he’d turned twelve.

“With my help, you will open your eyes to the world” he’d say “our world.”

But it always sounded so ominous to you. You didn’t want your life to change, you didn’t need to, and you couldn’t wrap your head around the fact that there was much more to know about the world; things you weren’t allowed to know until it was your turn. It was unfair.

“Y/N?” Your sister whispers, pulling away from you and sitting at your side on the bed, her legs swung over the covers without paying much attention to the now wrinkled dress “I’ll always be here for you, no matter what.”

You sniffle at that, looking her dead in the eye and wiping a stray tear from your cheek as you asked, “Do you promise?”

“I promise.”

And, for the most part, Stephanie had kept her word. She’d try to spend as much time with you as she could, but soon, the secrets became too much.

Your sister’s behavior started to change before your very eyes, your interactions becoming shorter and her demeanor turning colder, even hostile sometimes.

She’d cast you aside, choosing to spend most of her time with your dad instead and locking herself up in his study every time you had visits. After a while you barely even spoke, with her being too wrapped up in whatever business your father had initiated her in, and the worst part was that you knew you’d be next.

The only one who knew about your fears was Julian, your little brother. Sweet, gentle Julian who sometimes sneaked into your room to keep you company during the secret meetings held by your dad. Both of you knew your family was part of a big organization, something greater than your family’s industries and wealth; something older, darker maybe, and so you’d stick together most of the time, whispering secrets and sneaking into the halls past bedtime to listen through muffled conversations through closed doors.

It was mischief to him, one he’d gladly partake in as long as you didn’t get caught, but to you, it all meant something more. What kept you going to your father’s study wasn’t just a childish game; it was you, the very same insatiable curiosity that had pushed you towards the cupboard that December night a few years ago. You’d learned something back then, about a mystery man with a secret mission, and now you wanted to keep digging.

Fortunately for you, you now had Julian, your partner in crime, and no one could’ve foreseen how inseparable you would eventually become.

“Together ‘till the end” he’d say every single time you both wandered off on an adventure.

And every time, you knew he meant it.


October 1999
2258 hours 

Wham!

The girl’s fist connected solidly against your cheek, making you stumble a few feet back, clutching the side of your face with one hand.

It had been almost a month since you’d turned twelve and your father had insisted on you going to boarding school. It was all a lie of course, a façade of what you now recognized as a HYDRA facility; the same place your sister Stephanie had been sent to a year prior. As intriguing as it might’ve seemed at first, the perfect opportunity to learn more about the man they called “the Asset” you were stuck in a training room, getting the life punched out of you by another girl at least four years older than you.

“Focus Miss. Lapointe!” the trainer yelled at you, right before the girl swung at you again, her punch barely missing your head as you managed to crouch in time to avoid the blow.

But ducking wasn’t enough however, as she caught you from the waist, wrapping an arm around it to prevent you from straightening up again, her knee colliding with your stomach one, twice, three times. No matter how much you squirmed, she wouldn’t let go of you.

You fell to the ground after that, your back colliding against the floor while you gasped for air, eyes already brimming with tears. The pain in your stomach was too much and you struggled to breathe in clutching your stomach with one hand while raising the other une up as a clear sign of surrender.

A few strands of hair were sticking to your forehead, sweat dripping from the ends and sliding down the tip of your nose as you tried to sit up but failed, turning your head towards your opponent instead.

The fluorescent light was harsh against your eyes as you turned your head around, your blurry vision scanning the room, looking for your trainer. “Thank you, Miss Waters, you can stand down now” he told the other girl, climbing up the small steps to the ring, his boot clad feet heavy against the mat. “Miss. Lapointe-” -the disappointment was evident in his tone as he approached you, not even bothering to crouch at your level and turning you around with a nudge from his boot instead. You groaned in pain. “Looks like you’ll need further training. I’ll expect you to be here tomorrow at first hour.” Was all he said before he pivoted in his heel and left the training room.

Releasing a pained hiss, you finally sat up, buying your head in your hands.

Failure, you’re a failure.

The small voice inside your head had become louder and louder with time, especially now that you were in the same facility your sister has been, though, unlike you, she’d been transferred a long time ago. It was hard for you, being constantly compared to her and her outstanding abilities. She’d been born a fighter, they said, her reflexes sharp and her body agile, but you weren’t her, and it frustrated you to no end when people wanted you to be.

“You should try shooting, Y/N” said a voice somewhere behind your head, making you jump.

It was a boy, you noticed as he walked from behind a bunch of crates, his hair cropped short and a glint in his eyes; judging by his build and heights, he was perhaps a few years older than you. “You should try shooting,” he said again pointing with his chin at you “obviously you’re not good at hand to hand combat so technically, guns are the next best option if you ever want to live up to your sister’s legacy”

That comment made you frown “Wait how do you know my name? And you know my sister?” You asked him, keeping a careful eye on the key card hanging from a string on his fingers.

“Yeah,” he replied, “ you’re Y/N, the infamous Stephanie Lapointe, HYDRA prodigy and full time mean girl. No wonder you don’t want to be like her.”

You snorted, a laugh escaping your lips followed by a wince. He seemed to notice, because he immediately crouched beside you, wrapping a careful arm around your torso and keeping another one near your hip as he helped you stand up, allowing you to put your weight on him but groaning a bit at the effort.

“There you go, slowly,” he muttered as you let out yet another pained groan “I’ll take you to the infirmary to get patched up, and then we’re going to go shooting.”

This boy was unbelievable “Shooting?” you asked, incredulous, “It’s almost midnight.”

“So?” there was a twinkle in his eyes that reminded you of yourself when you were younger, running around the house with Julian. “It’s the perfect time to practice without other people seeing how terrible your aim is, now come on!” he said, smiling.

“You’re crazy.”

He laughed openly at that, his chest rumbling a little “Actually…” he drew out, stretching a hand to his side so it was placed in front of you “I’m Daniel Blake.”

You shook his hand as a small smile crept up on your face, momentarily making you forget the pain on your abdomen.

“Nice to meet you Daniel.” 


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America on the Eve of World War One 

The 42nd Parallel.

The almost universal reaction of Americans to World War One was a determination to stay out of it. Let the old, corrupt European monarchies (and France) kill themselves; meanwhile America was skyrocketing toward boundless wealth and prosperity. America’s industrial growth in the late 19th century was more astounding than anywhere else, even Germany. By 1913 America had quadruple as many railways, double as much coal production, and more pig iron than any other great power, and its population, near 100 million, only lagged behind Russia’s colossal 170 million. However, most American production was for its vast home market.

Nevertheless, Americans were content to grow richer still from the war. East coast banks extended liberal lines of credit to Britain and France, and by 1917 they had collected most of their gold reserves. New York, not London, was becoming the global center of finance. Investment and employment thrived. Without German competition, steel production, shipbuilding, and chemical making soared, and farmers savored a vast increase in in demand for wheat, which rose from .70 cents a bushel before the war to $2.20 in 1917.

Banking and free trade on the sea enormously favored the Entente over the Central Powers, however, and this began serious problems between the U.S. and Germany. American foreign policy jealously guarded its neutrality but also free trade. Yet strong peace lobby protested to any move to a war footing, while German and Irish-Americans held a natural proclivity for the Central Powers. Woodrow Wilson campaigned, and won, his reelection in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of the war.”

But even the most ardent pacifists, and Wilson’s cabinet held few of those, could halt Germany’s incredible string of provocations. The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 resulted in the deaths of several American passengers. Then, in 1917, the renewed German unrestricted submarine campaign deliberately targeted American vessels. Eight US ships were sunk in February and March 1917. Germany’s feeble promises of goodwill were not helped by such zany schemes as Arthur Zimmerman’s proposal to invite Mexico into a war against the United States.

The German generals, however, had decided to gamble against the Americans. The U.S. had phenomenal industrial capacity, certainly, but it was also astoundingly unprepared for war. The tiny American military only had 145,000 men, no more than Britain in 1914. Moreover, it had just embarrassed itself on a year-long wild goose chase in Mexico, eluded at every turn by the revolutionary warlord Pancho Villa.

If the submarine sinking did not stop immediately, America would certainly enter the war against Germany.  But by the time the Yanks had recruited, equipped, and shipped an army over to France, it would be mid-1918 at least. Russia was failing, the British and French were taking as good as they were giving on the Western Front, over 147 British merchant ships had been sunk over the last few weeks alone - if Germany played its cards right, it could starve Britain to submission, win the war in the East, and knock out France with its unified army, all before America’s endless manpower entered the war and made Allied victory certain. It was to be a race against time.

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Buffalo Tour Of Homes by Ian MacDonald
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Campaign in a Bottle: Themes & Brainstorming

Okay, so we’ve chosen our books.  In addition to the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and the Bestiary, we’re going to work with the Advanced Player’s Guide, Bestiary 4, the Alchemy Manual, and the Harrow Handbook.

So what’s our campaign going to be about?  What’s going to make it special?

(A quick note before we go any farther.  I normally keep my blog setting-neutral and avoid any Pathfinder intellectual property, both to spur my creativity and keep any legal types from getting cranky with me.  With these Campaign in a Bottle entries, I’m still going to try to stick to that policy for the most part—I won’t be using the names of any Golarion deities, for instance. But some of the classes and concepts I talk about, especially the harrow deck, will be drawn from Pathfinder’s IP quiver.  My use of them in this and subsequent posts should be considered a good-faith work of fan art and not construed as a challenge to their status.)

Right off the bat, our two Player Companion titles suggest one option.  A campaign with harrowing can’t help but be about the harrow deck, superstition, and the influence of fate.  Meanwhile alchemy is as close as Pathfinder gets to science.  So a campaign that plays up science vs. superstition and alchemy vs. harrowing could be really fun.  In game terms, that means alchemists vs. witches (and/or summoners). As X vs. Y setups go, that’s not a bad one—I would watch that movie.

Obviously alchemists and harrowers aren’t going to be fighting each other like armies of elves and orcs.  But I can easily imagine a border town or city right on the edge of “civilization” where the local culture of druidism, card reading, and nomadism or farming is being challenged and transformed by the wealth, industry, military, and alchemy of a colonizing nation.  Add some threats, both internal—sneaky alchemists conducting unlicensed experiments, witches slinging curses, maybe some gremlins or derros under the city—and external—a distant but always threatening nation of orcs, a forest full of nasty fey and hags, the usual dragons and such, and we’ve got some fertile ground.  A really big landmark such as a giant wall doesn’t hurt either.  (It doesn’t hurt that lately in the car I’ve been listening to Medicus and Terra Incognita, two novels by Ruth Downie about a doctor stationed with the Roman army in Britain during Hadrian’s reign.)  

So that’s one option. We’ll call it the Wall of Cards campaign.

The other option, instead of putting the Alchemy Manual and Harrow Handbook in opposition to each other, is to have them coöperate—or at least coexist.  So if science (even pseudoscience) and superstition are united, what’s on the other side of the equation?  

Well, looking at the Advanced Player’s Guide, we’ve got cavaliers, inquisitors, and oracles, not to mention the Core Rulebook’s clerics and paladins…so why not the church?

Imagine, then, a city founded around a holy site, an oracle, or some other heavenly visitation.  Over time, what was a shrine becomes settled and fortified until it is a decent-sized temple district or even an entire holy city—a place where faith and the law intersect, hence the presence of so many knights, paladins, and inquisitors.  Given that Bestiary 4 has a fair number of aquatic creatures, making this a coastal or canal city wouldn’t be a bad move either.  But with that growth comes challenges.  Temples tend to lead to universities…but when those universities start churning out wizards and alchemists, they become a power center on their own.  Wealthy nobles and merchants need guards and bear idle sons and daughters, leading to swashbucklers dueling in the streets.  Meanwhile, despite the church’s best efforts, the indigenous locals or travelers are going to have their own beliefs—including a healthy respect for the harrow deck—that they’re not going to surrender just because someone threw up a temple in their path.  So you’ve got a church hierarchy trying to keep the peace—or keep the citizens under its thumb, depending on the slant of your campaign—as upstart harrow-reading commoners and iconoclastic alchemists challenge their authority.  Now drop in some dark folk, a skum invasion or two, some giants, and whatever else lurks below the waves or comes crawling up from the cemeteries—not to mention a heresy or two—and you’ve got plenty to keep PCs busy.

We’ll call our second option the Oracle at Jenev.

While we’re at it, it’s also interesting to see how little tweaks to our starting books could make for a totally different campaign.  The Harrow Handbook would also work really well for a campaign with an Eastern feel as well—particularly if we chose Bestiary 3 instead of 4, opening us up to the world of kami and oni, and swapped out the Alchemy Manual for Ultimate Combat, which unlocks the ninja and samurai as class options.  (The thought of a ninja and a spellcaster hurling shuriken and harrow cards back and forth at each other is highly appealing.)

Also, you need a reasonably high level of civilization to be mass-producing cards, which automatically lends itself to certain eras and historical precedents.  But if you drop the Harrow Handbook…?  Bestiary 4 has all the ingredients for a truly off-the-wall jungle or coastal tropics campaign.  Add in the Animal Archive or Familiar Folio books and you could have dinosaur-riding druids fighting off wyrwood pygmies and wyvaran raiders while trying to uncover a lost city of psychopomps and drive off invaders from beyond the stars.

As tempting as those other tangents are though, we have an assignment to fulfill based on the books we were given.  I’m good with either, and that means the decision is up to you.  Which campaign do you all want to see?  Shall we explore the edge of civilization along the Wall of Cards or keep/defy the faith with the Oracle of Jenev?

2

[Marx] suffered … from having decided on his conclusions in 1848 [on the eve of the “spring of nations”], before embarking on the research needed to justify them.

—Thomas Piketty

The Communist Revolution did indeed take place, but in the most backward country in Europe [[This is in contrast to the prediction that capital accumulation contained the seeds of its own destruction.]]

nytimes.com
White Debt
Reckoning with what is owed — and what can never be repaid — for racial privilege.
By Eula Biss


Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture. White people are no more closely related to one another, genetically, than we are to black people. American definitions of race allow for a white woman to give birth to black children, which should serve as a reminder that white people are not a family. What binds us is that we share a system of social advantages that can be traced back to the advent of slavery in the colonies that became the United States. ‘‘There is, in fact, no white community,’’ as Baldwin writes. Whiteness is not who you are. Which is why it is entirely possible to despise whiteness without disliking yourself.

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When he was 4, my son brought home a library book about the slaves who built the White House. I didn’t tell him that slaves once accounted for more wealth than all the industry in this country combined, or that slaves were, as Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, ‘‘the down payment’’ on this country’s independence, or that freed slaves became, after the Civil War, ‘‘this country’s second mortgage.’’ Nonetheless, my overview of slavery and Jim Crow left my son worried about what it meant to be white, what legacy he had inherited. ‘‘I don’t want to be on this team,’’ he said, with his head in his hands. ‘‘You might be stuck on this team,’’ I told him, ‘‘but you don’t have to play by its rules.’’

Even as I said this, I knew that he would be encouraged, at every juncture in his life, to believe wholeheartedly in the power of his own hard work and deservedness, to ignore inequity, to accept that his sense of security mattered more than other people’s freedom and to agree, against all evidence, that a system that afforded him better housing, better education, better work and better pay than other people was inherently fair.

………..

The moral concept of Schuld (‘‘guilt’’), Nietzsche wrote, ‘‘descends from the very material concept of Schulden (‘debts’).’’ Material debt predates moral debt. The point he is making is that guilt has its source not in some innate sense of justice, not in God, but in something as base as commerce. Nietzsche has the kind of disdain for guilt that many people now reserve for ‘‘white guilt’’ in particular. We seem to believe that the crime is not investing in whiteness but feeling badly about it.

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Even before I started reading Nietzsche, I had the uncomfortable suspicion that my good life, my house and my garden and the ‘‘good’’ public school my son attends, might not be entirely good. Even as I painted my walls and planted my tomatoes and attended parent-teacher conferences last year, I was pestered by the possibility that all this was built on a bedrock of evil and that evil was running through our groundwater. But I didn’t think in exactly those terms because the word ‘‘evil’’ is not usually part of my vocabulary — I picked it up from Nietzsche.

‘‘Evil’’ is how slaves describe their masters. In Nietzsche’s telling, Roman nobles called their way of life ‘‘good,’’ while their Jewish slaves called the same way of life ‘‘evil.’’ The invention of the concept of evil was, according to Nietzsche, a kind of power grab. It was an attempt by the powerless to undermine the powerful. More power to them, I think. But Nietzsche and I disagree on this, among other things. Like many white people, he regards guilt as a means of manipulation, a killjoy. Those who resent the powerful, he writes, use guilt to undermine their power and rob them of their pleasure in life. And this, I believe, is what makes guilt potentially redemptive.

Guilt is what makes a good life built on evil no longer good. I have a memory of the writer Sherman Alexie cautioning me against this way of thinking. I remember him saying, ‘‘White people do crazy [expletive] when they feel guilty.’’ That I can’t dispute. Guilty white people try to save other people who don’t want or need to be saved, they make grandiose, empty gestures, they sling blame, they police the speech of other white people and they dedicate themselves to the fruitless project of their own exoneration. But I’m not sure any of that is worse than what white people do in denial. Especially when that denial depends on a constant erasure of both the past and the present.

Once you’ve been living in a house for a while, you tend to begin to believe that it’s yours, even though you don’t own it yet. When those of us who are convinced of our own whiteness deny our debt, this may be an inevitable result of having lived for so long in a house bought on credit but never paid off. We ourselves have never owned slaves, we insist, and we never say the n-word. ‘‘It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill,’’ Coates writes of Americans, ‘‘and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear.’’