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Debris [Part 38]
Mark stepped out from below X'rtani House. He never realized just how much he had missed regular exercise of the caliber he was used to. Every part of him was sore in the warm, fulfilling way the gym usually left him in. One part he still missed was the communal aspect; feeling that sense of pride in another when a New Year's newbie kept up their training, spotting for friends both below and above your weight bracket, seeing the dedication on the face of someone determined to reach their ideal physique.That sense of belonging to a community that he connected with, he missed it dearly. While it was easy for him to get back in the habit of regular exercise, it was far more daunting for him to return to a proper diet. Although the all meat menu he was relegated to provided him with more protein than he knew what to do with, T'aro's message to him earlier that day shone a light on the nutritional deficiencies he was bound to run into should he stick to the average X'erren diet. Although an air of distrust hung between the two, the points T'aro raised were too valid to rightly ignore. It took a bit of Flow browsing to find an operator's manual for the omni-cooker in the kitchen, but once he knew exactly what features the appliance had and how to use them, it was fairly simple to whip up a surprisingly filling meal out of three different varieties of meat and a nutritional supplement sauce that was to be portioned with meals; it tasted bitter in a way he hadn't encountered before, but it wasn't entirely unpleasant.
Passing the cafeteria, he waved to Arnd, who was in the middle of her morning breakfast and browse routine. The person to receive the greeting, however, was not the distracted Arnd, but a Rilk'r who had just deposited his used tray. <"Hey, Mark! How's it going? You got that bank card yet?">
"Not yet, but I reckon I'll have it soon. I just need to find a break in my schedule long enough to get out to the bank and get it done; that shouldn't be too hard." That express permission to walk the city streets he received from T'aro went a long way to improving Mark's overall mood. Yet in knowing the very real threat posed by less open minded figures in the political sphere, Mark's eagerness to utilize his newfound freedom was tempered, at least for the moment.
<"Shame. But still, you got a moment? It's about your ship.">
"... Alright." Mark replied, taking a seat at a nearby table.
Rilk'r joined him. <"So, it took some serious trial and error, what with alien circuits and language and all, but we managed to get your cockpit up and running. Given how compact the whole thing really is, I imagine your ship's main computer would've been kept somewhere else on the ship?">
"Yeah, just below the main deck." Insofar as it could have been called a main deck: a cramped space accessed from a short corridor leading from the cockpit's main hatch with a single swiveling chair, the main store of rations, and a computer terminal.
<"I thought as much, we couldn't access anything but a few basic flight aides and diagnostics. It's a wonder you managed to get that thing off the ground, let alone out here with backup programs that bare.">
"It wasn't my job to program the interface, I just worked with it."
<"First thing, the first thing you make sure of is that there are sufficient redundancies!"> he preached, slapping the table. <"A proper craft wouldn't make it through its first iteration without them these days. How long were they developing that thing for?">
"It was in the pipeline for a while, but proper development went on for about twelve years. Apparently we went over budget by quite a ways before I stepped into the pilot's seat."
<"Well that explains a lot. It took us a few decades to nail our first Slipspace capable craft. Over two hundred unsuccessful tests if I remember right."> It had been a few years since he last read up on the history of Slipspace travel.
"Well, looking at it all objectively, I think we did pretty good for our first field test."
Rilk'r paused. <"Come again?">
"... Looking at it all objectively, I think we did pretty good for our first field test."
Rilk'r's eyes narrowed. <"... This was your first test?">
"Field test." Mark assured him. "We ran... I think it was close to a million simulations? This was just the first practical test flight. The suits wanted to prove to the public that it was safe for actual people to pilot it and, given the fact that I'm here at all, I think they're on to something." Whether Mark wanted them to be on to something or not, he was still deciding.
Arnd walked past, her breakfast having been just as unsubstantial as usual. She tried to pay no attention to the conversation or the pair engaged in it.
Rilk'r 's face lit up in disbelief. <"Are they mad on top of having no damn clue what they're doing?! You were drifting in the void! If we weren't on our way to Men-te, you'd be dead!">
Mark sombered a little. "Yeah... probably."
Arnd paused, grit her teeth and chastised herself for not realizing it sooner. <"You owe me."> she grumbled over her shoulder, and walked off into the bar.
Rilk'r blinked. <"Are you two okay?">
Mark blinked. "I... don't know. Which is kind of a bummer because she's teaching the lesson on the spirits of the land and their history I have in... right now." He jumped out of the seat and made after Arnd. "Nice chatting with you, Rilk'r!"
Rilk'r stared stupidly at the door for a long moment. He still had a million questions on his mind: What was the rest of Mark's ship like? What could it do? How did they go about achieving Slipspace tech? He resigned himself to waiting yet again fro answers, and strode off toward the elevators.
Uns'la, waiting while leant on the banister, linked up with her friend as he passed. <"So, what'd you find out from Tiny?">
<"That humans are insane.">
<"... From there, the robunil is yanked from the mountainside, where it falls to its death. While scientists have since confirmed that the animal's death was usually instant upon impact, committees expressed concern that this method was unduly cruel to the animals, sparking innovations in lasso design and technique that ensured the initial tightening of the rope around the robunil's neck instantly snaps the spinal cord, leading to an instant and painless death without upsetting the animal."> read Arnd deadpan, verbatim from the article on her device. She and Mark hadn't uttered a single non-lesson related word to each other since Mark arrived, which was fine by her.
Mark, however, grew increasingly concerned at his teacher's disposition. Bound as he was to his word in regards to Arnd dealing with herself, he couldn't help but feel that if nothing was done, their dynamic would soon become openly hostile. This concern wasn't aided by the fact that Arnd neglected to wait for him to board the shuttle before leaving. "Uh-"
<"Yes?"> she snapped. Any motherly hint her voice usually carried during lessons had vanished entirely, with apathy taking it's place.
"I... was just wondering... why am I being taught this? I don't picture myself scaling mountainsides hunting these lumpy things any time soon." Mark knew his improvisation was going to fail him one day.
Today was not that day. <"The cultural significance of robunil hunting has persisted until today. Many architects hide small robunil statues and carvings in the high places of their works to both honor where we came from as a nation and to bestow upon their works the watchful protection of the robunil's spirit."> She stared at him as though her eyes could carve her words into his brain. <"Now keep pace with those notes of yours, I won't be repeating myself.">
The lesson stretched on. From the robunil delicately climbing steep mountainsides to the kaoul stalking their way along tide-filtered beaches and all the myriad creatures in between, Mark came to learn of their behaviour, natural and adapted habitats, the sweeping variety of hunting methods each beast required, and the spiritual significance they carried.
"... and sprinkling powdered palute carapace into the mortar as it's laid is said to bestow the brickwork with unnatural strength as befitting of the beast from which the material came." recited Mark after three long hours of notation and recital.
Arnd looked on him a moment. <"Good. We're done here."> She changed the channel to a paused film she was watching before breakfast and took a seat on her sofa. The movie continued, with Arnd saying nothing and throwing not so much as a brief glance in Mark's direction. The human took the hint, and made for the door.
He paused as he reached for the button. "Arnd."
"Arnd." he repeated.
"I owe a debt to you. I have a good idea of what it is, but it doesn't matter. What can I do to repay it?"
Arnd paused the film and breathed. <"Just leave me alone."> She wanted to say: 'Just leave me alone and stop making it so damn complicated.'
Mark understood. "See you tomorrow." he said weakly before leaving.
A silent minute after the door closed behind the human, Arnd scrunched her eyes shut and pinched the bridge of her nose. <"Four days, Arnd. Just four more days. You can do this."> she muttered to herself reassuringly. She wasn't entirely convinced. She continued the film, trying to return to the captivation she felt before Mark arrived as she watched a pair of lovers, battered and bruised, crawl agonizingly toward each other.
Arnd groaned aloud and shut the film off. Soon, she had quickly hashed out her daily report, but by that time, any desire she had to continue the film had drained from her. Frustrated, she randomly flipped through channels until something caught her eye. When she realized what she was looking at, she felt the overpowering urge to scream in blinding rage.
The prison yard was abuzz with activity. Beyond the typical swathes of women exercising, engaging in a number of sports, and the occasional fight between more disruptive prisoners, chat abounded of the new developments happening below on Kerc-en. A new tabloid segment comprised of clips submitted by the general public paired with sensationalist commentary. Everyone watching knew that it was little more than a trashy cash grab capitalizing on current events, but the content presented struck just the right nerve to keep their attention: MarkWatch.
Everything from Mark's poorly-hidden curiosity, to the lavish suits he and Arnd wore, to even the route they took, nothing showcased in the programme was left unmentioned in the yard. Behn paid it no mind, and focused on making laps of the yard. Of course she'd seen the programme, it aired during lunchtime, and the guards seemed bent on keeping everyone up to speed. Of course she'd watched as her mother guided Mark through the city. Of course she saw her wearing something classier than anything she ever wore on special occasions, like graduations, or birthdays, if she even attended in the first place. Behn slowed after realizing that her stable jog had turned into a rage-fueled sprint that drew unwanted attention from across both yards, and decided then and there that she had run enough. She slathered her neck and back as she made for the benches outside the joffur court, eager to get all of this out of her mind.
<"So,"> spoke Wora curiously, sidling up beside Behn after spectating a scuffle happening across the yard that necessitated the intervention of several guards to break up. <"did you see your mum on TV earlier?">
<"Yes."> Her glare had knives in it.
<"Okay..."> Wora sat down next to Behn. <"Do you wanna talk about it?">
The pair sat in silence a long while, staring out at the twinkling stars beyond everything she had ever known and plundered. <"She..."> Behn began, her tone somber. <"She's a hard worker. Too hard a worker. I don't remember my first few years, I was too young. But I remember, when I was... I want to say six, when a sitter came over. Mum ruffled the fur on my cheeks, said goodbye, and was gone for three weeks. I cried when she returned, I'd missed her.">
There was a pause, and Wora took in the words. She didn't expect this, and wasn't used to it either.
<"Then things were fine for a month or so. She helped with homework when I got home from school; she couldn't cook to save her life, but she always got good food on the table; she'd take me out to the fair or to the markets up in the Wings. It was fun. Then she left again, and I was being taken care of by the sitter again. She- Gon'on was her name, Gon'on wasn't nasty at all, she was actually really nice. She could cook, for one, and damn well, too. She'd do everything that Mum did, Mum didn't want her to feel like a stranger. And after a while, she didn't. It was like she was always there, like she was family. And for a few years, that's how it went: Mum would be my parent for about a month, then she'd leave for work, and Gon'on would take her place for a few weeks. It was unorthodox, but it worked. Then Mum left for five weeks, then six, then a month, with shorter home visits in between.">
<"I take it your dad wasn't in the picture?"> Wora slammed her mouth shut too late to stop herself from blurting out her words.
<"No, he wasn't."> Wora breathed a sigh of relief. <"He and Mum broke up before I was born, Mum found out he was cheating and kicked him out. After some pestering, I managed to get in contact with him and, while he's absolutely a shitheel, he wasn't quite as bad as Mum made him out to be. Turned out he was the grandson of some CEO, so I can see where he got his assholery from. I'm getting off track.
<"So, Mum'd be gone longer and longer, and Gon'on was always there in her place. Eventually, I got too old to have a sitter over, and I'd be left alone to wait for her to get back. I invited Gon'on over anyway. She taught me how to cook, how to take care of the house, everything. After a while, she became more of a mother to me than Mum was. Then she died. Turns out she was using her paychecks to pay off a gang debt, and when the money stopped coming in, the gang did."> Wora kept her mouth shut, that sounded vaguely like something she heard her boyfriend say to his gang buddies in another room. <"I resented Mum for that for a while, but I eventually got over it all, she didn't know about any of that gang stuff. Didn't stop her from leaving for a month and a half at a time; that, I continued to resent her for. But I always thought that one day, things might change. Until one day, after two months on the job, she walked in, threw off her uniform, and went to bed. No 'Hi Behn' or 'Sorry I was gone so long', nothing, like I wasn't even there. She left for work the next day and didn't come back for a month, didn't notice me as she left, either. It got to the point that I had to see her at the hangar if I was gonna see her at all, and sometimes I didn't even get that.">
Wora sat, stunned at what she was hearing. <"I... wow. What the fuck is wrong with her?">
Behn opened her mouth to speak, her fangs subtly bared, but slowly shut it. <"The- the thing is that, I know she genuinely loves me. She made sure I never ran out of funds to take care of myself, and every time she was there for me, she'd make it count. She told me that everything she did, she did for me, and I believe it. Wasn't enough, though. I appreciate what she did for me, I don't doubt that it was tough, but it doesn't make up for what amounts to willingly removing herself from my life, nothing she can do is going to make up for it."> She stared at the ground, an anguished grimace on her face.
Wora hesitated a moment before laying a hand on Behn's shoulder. An alarm sounded, signaling the prisoners to return to the building. No more words were said between the women, and they walked back to the complex together.
Wrath: Chapter 8. Verse 10. Wey'sai spoke unto the chiefs' armies: <"Know that I am returned. Lay your weapons down and know the peace I offer."> The chiefs replied: <"I would sooner welcome death than permit the heathens to live!"> and drew their blades. Armies clashed and blood was spilt. Naught a man unbroken existed upon the field ere day's end. Wey'sai looked upon the ruins, and wept.Ledrn collected his meal and began making his way to his seat when a man slid into his periphery.
Ledrn remained silent, staring ahead. He had finally grown confident enough in his ability to use his non-dominant hand to begin exercising again, not that there was much to do besides during yard times. The extra physical activity didn't stop him from thinking, however, as he had thoroughly planned out his ongoing narrative for the psychiatrist, his righteous outburst two days ago be damned. All he had left to do on that front is execute. Yet the issue of the administration not taking the demon's growing favour remained as yet unsolved, and it was proving difficult to formulate a solution.
He reached a lonely table and sat. The man sat down opposite him, remaining silent. He didn't touch his food, or appear to have food. Ledrn looked up from his tray and saw a face he last remembered seeing behind a humming laser grid.
<"Hello."> said Ser'ke.
<"Pirate."> replied Ledrn with disdain. An ember floated in his mind, dim and unnoticed.
<"Former, I want to atone.">
Ledrn raised an eyebrow, it had been quite some time since he was looked up to as an authority in any capacity that wasn't related to security. <"Then you will stay out of trouble and remain true to the Holy Wisdom.">
<"Y-yes."> Ser'ke stammered. He began to eat, a look of subdued regret on his face. <"I should have listened to you back on that ship. I should have believed you when you told me it was a demon.">
Ledrn fought to keep his eyes from widening. Part of him wanted to ask the man to confirm his statement, but he thought better. <"Indeed. Pale as in death and with might unnatural, a twisted and vicious mockery of the souls we lost. It should be obvious to anyone.">
<"Of course."> He paused, considering his words. <"Should- should I inform the others?">
Ledrn laid his utensils down, his meal finished. <"Do what you believe to be just. I'm glad we were able to reconcile, no matter how little. Good day."> The pair nodded to each other, and Ledrn took his tray to the disposal chute. His thoughts turned again to the future of the cause; the ember had struck home, and a fire alighted.
Being locked out of X'rtan Freight's database hadn't stopped Du'fra from spending every spare moment he had in combing public records, searching for any sign of money that shouldn't be there. That, however, didn't stop Du'fra's search from being ultimately fruitless. High-ranking figures in the company spent frivolously, but that was already in line with their previous purchasing habits, and with no significant change in expense. He could glean little else, as the details of his opposition's bank accounts were private, and their net worth, so far as the public was permitted to know, was fairly standard in terms of growth for people in their wealth bracket. This didn't deter Du'fra, who turned to every remaining company contact he ad, the list of which, as he soon found out, was far slimmer than he either wanted or expected. These too proved of little use, with each either deflecting, speaking around the question, or openly calling him out on what could debatably be called ill-advised managerial decisions. None of them, it was clear, cared as much about the company as he. Regardless of these numerous setbacks, Du'fra's determination to see the company he loved survive remained, and he sped off in the cold night to save it. Lu'su had to believe him.
He arrived at Lu'su's abode, dressed and groomed more immaculately than he ever had before. He strode determinedly past the doorman and into the building, where already the company's elite feigned raucous laughter at Lu'su's increasingly stale jokes and stories. Du'fra rounded the corner into the open lounge and found, to his shock, that Lu'su was not present. Rather, a large hologram projected in the center of the room depicted the man laid in a bed. Lu'su rotated, looking down at the men assembled in a circle around the image, once again relaying his tale of wartime bravado, when he locked eyes on Du'fra. Immediately, his look of nostalgic joy turned to an upset scowl. <"What are you doing here, son?"> he said, his voice raspier than usual.
Du'fra shook off his initial shock. <"Chief, I've come to tell you that the men assembled here have been embezzling company funds and have been doing so for years now! Careful inspection of the company's financial records show a slow decline in profits that's in stark contrast to the growing rate of incoming contracts! Maintenance, refurbishing, and the costs of new hires and equipment don't make up so much as a tenth of the money that's being lost here! And it all travels through the hands of these men before anything else! Chief, you have to believe me!">
<"On what proof, Neem? I've recently performed an inspection of the financial records and have found nothing of what you claim."> The elder snapped back, coughing as he did. At these words, Du'fra's heart sank. <"And besides, how am I to trust the word of a clear bigot? Mister Vuk'li here shared with me a quite telling snippet of security footage corroborated by numerous people both working under him and not. Far more substantial than your claims.">
Du'fra didn't hear the man's words past the first sentence, his mind was reeling. <'It was in the heat of the moment, I didn't mean it! I couldn't let them ruin this company! It- it's X'rtan Freight, not X'oland Freight!'> The little hope he had left after it was dashed by the CEO's words was burned away, leaving nothing in it's place.
Lu'su's scowl deepened. <"I do not permit bigots to work in my company, especially bigots who make mistakes as disastrous as letting go of what could very well be the single most important woman of our age!"> The coughing returned, escalating into violent hacking.
<"Get some rest, Chief, I'll make sure the guards escort him out."> spoke Vuk'li, standing from his seat
Lu'su composed himself. <"See that you do. Goodbye, Mister Neem."> The hologram vanished.
<"What. Is. Going. On?"> growled Du'fra, hate dripping from every syllable.
<"The Chief caught a minor illness some days ago. If it were any of us, I wouldn't doubt that we'd shake it off no problem, but at his age, well, he's not doing so well. He can't effectively run a company from his bed while coughing his guts up, so somebody had to take up the responsibility, and he was all too happy to hand it to me."> His smugness was echoed by his cohorts, chuckling among themselves.
Du'fra's fangs were on full display, and his eyes were wild with fury, bathing everything he saw in a blood-yellow hue. <"How fucking dare you?! You're bleeding the company dry, the same company that probably helped pay for the houses your employees grew up in, the same company that has sent aid to countless worlds in crisis! How dare you pervert it, you parasitic monster?!">
<"I'm a businessman, Neem, I do business, and I do it well."> He raised his hands and clapped loud enough to send the sound echoing off the walls. <"Guards! We have an unwanted guest causing trouble for us and Mister Lu'su, please remove him from the premises!">
And once again, before he knew it, his wrists were clapped in restraints behind his back and he was being dragged off, with no amount of writing and struggling slowing the sentry any.
<"Expect a defamation suit in the mail, Neem. See you in court."> sneered Vuk'li as he watched Du'fra being lugged away, flashing the tips of his fangs in a thin and cruel smile.
<'You want to make it legal, Vuk'li? Fine.'> though Du'fra, recognizing his lone remaining chance at staying in this ruthless game. He found his feet, and slowly righted himself as much as he could in the guard's unshakable grip. <"I declare Kre'gadol!"> he bellowed. A moment of shocked silence followed, then a chorus of laughter the likes of which Lu'su never genuinely received rang out in the hall, all the crueler for its authenticity. Drink was spilled and glasses were carelessly dropped to the floor as the elite fell into the throes of laughter, with some threatening even to fall out of their chairs. Demoralization of that caliber was not something Du'fra had ever encountered, but it hit all the same, and he shut his eyes, doing all he could to keep from weeping.
Then a voice rose over the top of the mad cackling that threw a silence over all in earshot. <"I accept!"> Vuk'li stepped forward, a look of fiendish curiosity on his face. <"You're that desperate to cling to this company? Alright, I'll bite. I'm more than confident that my lawyers can shoot down a premeditated attack charge and if they can't, it's not like I'm hurting for bail money."> he chuckled. Du'fra found a new hope to cling on to, and he stood up straight, staring his opponent down.
Vuk'li's expression hardened. <"But if we're going to do this, we're doing it legit: No interference">—Vuk'li shot a glance to his co-conspirators, his gaze genuine—<"no lethal strikes, with proper mediation and documentation. I'm giving you one chance to reconsider. Is this the path you want to take?">
<"Yes it is!"> Du'fra snapped, puffing out his chest. The shackles binding him were released at a nod by Vuk'li. The pair stared each other down, and knew that there was no going back from this.
The room was made suitable, every obstacle being removed from the center of the room, leaving a circular ring with only a short hologram projector in the center remaining, a feature accepted by both combatants. The guard was tasked with being the impartial judge, and the abode's security system was tuned to document the match. Vuk'li's coworkers sat on the sidelines, quietly making bets among themselves, as was their opportunistic nature.
In the center of the room, to one side of the projector, Du'fra and Vuk'li stared each other down. They had each removed each other's shirts and jackets, laying them over their opponent's shoulders as representative of the final, thin thread keeping them tied to the peace that came with civilization. The pair each gripped one end of their tops, eager and twitching to throw them off at any moment.
Du'fra eyed up his opponent. <'There's no getting around it, he's in far better shape than myself. That, and his ethnically consistent height brings with it a big range advantage. Thing is, I'm not only much, much heavier than he is, I have far more to lose. I'm not giving up until this company is safe, or I'm dead.'> He tensed in anticipation.
The guard stomped, demanding attention. <"The fighters will step forward!">
Du'fra and Vuk'li complied, neither daring to break the stare.
<"The fighters will now vow to honor the sanctity of this duel!">
Du'fra and Vuk'li each extended their right hands, and touched each other's chests with tightly balled fists. <"This duel is sacred, and it shall be respected as such. I vow to fight with honor and purpose."> spoke both fighters in unison.
<"Return to the starting distance!"> bellowed the guard.
The two combatants obeyed, and a long, slow silence followed. Each fighter stood still as a statue, not risking even the slightest show of weakness. Their eyes remained locked as though in a duel of their own: Vuk'li's calm superiority versus Du'fra's impassioned vigor. The quiet dragged on.
<"Kre'gadol!"> The two combatants threw their garments away, and the duel began.
Du'fra charged, keeping his arms high to guard his head as he quickly closed the distance. Vuk'li anticipated this, sidestepping and kicking upward into Du'fra's exposed belly; the blow knocking the wind out of him made Du'fra realize that his opponent's arrogance was somewhat justified. Du'fra capitalized, however, by catching Vuk'li's leg in an arm lock and pulling him in closer; he threw a haymaker that connected with Vuk'li's jaw, much to his satisfaction.
With his advantageous position inside his opponent's range, Du'fra kept the pressure on, lashing out with blow after blow, repeatedly hammering and slashing Vuk'li with his fists and talons wherever he could find an opening. This streak was ended with a single well placed knee to the chin by Vuk'li, followed up with a swift, toe-led kick to the stomach, driving his talons into Du'fra's blubbery abdomen. Du'fra cried in pain, and once again grabbed Vuk'li's leg. This time, he forcibly wrenched backward, forcing Vuk'li to topple to the floor, whereupon Du'fra dived upon him.
And the two wrestled on the floor, with Du'fra holding much of an advantage thanks to his considerable bulk, but said bulk and related health issues were starting to catch up with him, and his momentum waned. Before long, Du'fra found himself powerless to resist Vuk'li's legs mightily kicking him off the businessman, sending him sprawling backward onto the projector. Winded and with stamina rapidly draining, Du'fra laid on the projector a moment to catch his breath.
A moment was all Vuk'li needed. Quickly righting himself, Vuk'li bolted around the projector and with one quick, violent, viscerally satisfying stamp downward, broke Du'fra's left arm over the projector's edge with a sickening snap. The audience and guard winced while Du'fra wailed in excruciating agony.
The guard stepped forward to end the duel, but Du'fra forced his body up and into a standing position opposite the projector to Vuk'li, and shot a death glare and the man. The guard backed off just in time for Vuk'li to once again speed around the center obstacle and land a vicious strike on an off-guard Du'fra; a claw swipe across his right cheek.
Du'fra, fresh adrenaline surging through his body, reacted before Vuk'li could step outside his range, and pinned Vuk'li's foot to the floor with his own. Vuk'li lashed out with a left straight, leaving his side wide open to a heavy kick from Du'fra, driving his talons into Vuk'li's exposed obliques. But, in the moment following, where his face was on the receiving end of Vuk'li raining blows down upon it, Du'fra realized that his spike of adrenaline had just expired. The sound in his ears grew muffled as one last punch hit home, the face of its furious deliverer remained etched into his sight for a moment before all he could see was black.
Du'fra's eyelids fluttered. He was wrapped in a cocoon of throbbing pain, but felt that he was cushioned by soft bedding. His eyes shot open to a stark white light. He looked down and saw a hospital bed. He took a moment to recall what had just happened. He began to sob, curling into a ball beneath the sheets. Everything he had done, he had done for the company, the company that rescued him and his family from poverty, the company that was now in the hands of the men who would see it burn if the ashes helped to line their pockets. His sorrow turned slowly into hot, simmering rage, his conviction to fight and die for the company was all too real. But he knew that his anger would have nowhere to go; as of now, and with the defamation suit that would inevitably tarnish his reputation, Vuk'li was untouchable. Du'fra's eyes narrowed, his pupils constricting as his anger boiled over into a focused and dangerous mania. <'If I can't yet punch upward,'> he thought in his manic rage. <'I'll just have to begin by punching downward.'>
At this thought, his injuries flared again, shocking him into unconsciousness. As his consciousness faded, a name came to his mind, a name that by now every x'erren alive knew. It was all too perfect, the woman that was the crux of Vuk'li's masterstroke had to be working with him. The salvation of X'rtan Freight would begin with her.
All you need to know about Yield Farming - The rocket fuel for Defi
Sourcesubmitted by pascalbernoulli to Yield_Farming
It’s effectively July 2017 in the world of decentralized finance (DeFi), and as in the heady days of the initial coin offering (ICO) boom, the numbers are only trending up.
According to DeFi Pulse, there is $1.9 billion in crypto assets locked in DeFi right now. According to the CoinDesk ICO Tracker, the ICO market started chugging past $1 billion in July 2017, just a few months before token sales started getting talked about on TV.
Debate juxtaposing these numbers if you like, but what no one can question is this: Crypto users are putting more and more value to work in DeFi applications, driven largely by the introduction of a whole new yield-generating pasture, Compound’s COMP governance token.
Governance tokens enable users to vote on the future of decentralized protocols, sure, but they also present fresh ways for DeFi founders to entice assets onto their platforms.
That said, it’s the crypto liquidity providers who are the stars of the present moment. They even have a meme-worthy name: yield farmers.
Where it startedEthereum-based credit market Compound started distributing its governance token, COMP, to the protocol’s users this past June 15. Demand for the token (heightened by the way its automatic distribution was structured) kicked off the present craze and moved Compound into the leading position in DeFi.
The hot new term in crypto is “yield farming,” a shorthand for clever strategies where putting crypto temporarily at the disposal of some startup’s application earns its owner more cryptocurrency.
Another term floating about is “liquidity mining.”
The buzz around these concepts has evolved into a low rumble as more and more people get interested.
The casual crypto observer who only pops into the market when activity heats up might be starting to get faint vibes that something is happening right now. Take our word for it: Yield farming is the source of those vibes.
But if all these terms (“DeFi,” “liquidity mining,” “yield farming”) are so much Greek to you, fear not. We’re here to catch you up. We’ll get into all of them.
We’re going to go from very basic to more advanced, so feel free to skip ahead.
What are tokens?Most CoinDesk readers probably know this, but just in case: Tokens are like the money video-game players earn while fighting monsters, money they can use to buy gear or weapons in the universe of their favorite game.
But with blockchains, tokens aren’t limited to only one massively multiplayer online money game. They can be earned in one and used in lots of others. They usually represent either ownership in something (like a piece of a Uniswap liquidity pool, which we will get into later) or access to some service. For example, in the Brave browser, ads can only be bought using basic attention token (BAT).
If tokens are worth money, then you can bank with them or at least do things that look very much like banking. Thus: decentralized finance.
Tokens proved to be the big use case for Ethereum, the second-biggest blockchain in the world. The term of art here is “ERC-20 tokens,” which refers to a software standard that allows token creators to write rules for them. Tokens can be used a few ways. Often, they are used as a form of money within a set of applications. So the idea for Kin was to create a token that web users could spend with each other at such tiny amounts that it would almost feel like they weren’t spending anything; that is, money for the internet.
Governance tokens are different. They are not like a token at a video-game arcade, as so many tokens were described in the past. They work more like certificates to serve in an ever-changing legislature in that they give holders the right to vote on changes to a protocol.
So on the platform that proved DeFi could fly, MakerDAO, holders of its governance token, MKR, vote almost every week on small changes to parameters that govern how much it costs to borrow and how much savers earn, and so on.
Read more: Why DeFi’s Billion-Dollar Milestone Matters
One thing all crypto tokens have in common, though, is they are tradable and they have a price. So, if tokens are worth money, then you can bank with them or at least do things that look very much like banking. Thus: decentralized finance.
What is DeFi?Fair question. For folks who tuned out for a bit in 2018, we used to call this “open finance.” That construction seems to have faded, though, and “DeFi” is the new lingo.
In case that doesn’t jog your memory, DeFi is all the things that let you play with money, and the only identification you need is a crypto wallet.
On the normal web, you can’t buy a blender without giving the site owner enough data to learn your whole life history. In DeFi, you can borrow money without anyone even asking for your name.
I can explain this but nothing really brings it home like trying one of these applications. If you have an Ethereum wallet that has even $20 worth of crypto in it, go do something on one of these products. Pop over to Uniswap and buy yourself some FUN (a token for gambling apps) or WBTC (wrapped bitcoin). Go to MakerDAO and create $5 worth of DAI (a stablecoin that tends to be worth $1) out of the digital ether. Go to Compound and borrow $10 in USDC.
(Notice the very small amounts I’m suggesting. The old crypto saying “don’t put in more than you can afford to lose” goes double for DeFi. This stuff is uber-complex and a lot can go wrong. These may be “savings” products but they’re not for your retirement savings.)
Immature and experimental though it may be, the technology’s implications are staggering. On the normal web, you can’t buy a blender without giving the site owner enough data to learn your whole life history. In DeFi, you can borrow money without anyone even asking for your name.
DeFi applications don’t worry about trusting you because they have the collateral you put up to back your debt (on Compound, for instance, a $10 debt will require around $20 in collateral).
Read more: There Are More DAI on Compound Now Than There Are DAI in the World
If you do take this advice and try something, note that you can swap all these things back as soon as you’ve taken them out. Open the loan and close it 10 minutes later. It’s fine. Fair warning: It might cost you a tiny bit in fees, and the cost of using Ethereum itself right now is much higher than usual, in part due to this fresh new activity. But it’s nothing that should ruin a crypto user.
So what’s the point of borrowing for people who already have the money? Most people do it for some kind of trade. The most obvious example, to short a token (the act of profiting if its price falls). It’s also good for someone who wants to hold onto a token but still play the market.
Doesn’t running a bank take a lot of money up front?It does, and in DeFi that money is largely provided by strangers on the internet. That’s why the startups behind these decentralized banking applications come up with clever ways to attract HODLers with idle assets.
Liquidity is the chief concern of all these different products. That is: How much money do they have locked in their smart contracts?
“In some types of products, the product experience gets much better if you have liquidity. Instead of borrowing from VCs or debt investors, you borrow from your users,” said Electric Capital managing partner Avichal Garg.
Let’s take Uniswap as an example. Uniswap is an “automated market maker,” or AMM (another DeFi term of art). This means Uniswap is a robot on the internet that is always willing to buy and it’s also always willing to sell any cryptocurrency for which it has a market.
On Uniswap, there is at least one market pair for almost any token on Ethereum. Behind the scenes, this means Uniswap can make it look like it is making a direct trade for any two tokens, which makes it easy for users, but it’s all built around pools of two tokens. And all these market pairs work better with bigger pools.
Why do I keep hearing about ‘pools’?To illustrate why more money helps, let’s break down how Uniswap works.
Let’s say there was a market for USDC and DAI. These are two tokens (both stablecoins but with different mechanisms for retaining their value) that are meant to be worth $1 each all the time, and that generally tends to be true for both.
The price Uniswap shows for each token in any pooled market pair is based on the balance of each in the pool. So, simplifying this a lot for illustration’s sake, if someone were to set up a USDC/DAI pool, they should deposit equal amounts of both. In a pool with only 2 USDC and 2 DAI it would offer a price of 1 USDC for 1 DAI. But then imagine that someone put in 1 DAI and took out 1 USDC. Then the pool would have 1 USDC and 3 DAI. The pool would be very out of whack. A savvy investor could make an easy $0.50 profit by putting in 1 USDC and receiving 1.5 DAI. That’s a 50% arbitrage profit, and that’s the problem with limited liquidity.
(Incidentally, this is why Uniswap’s prices tend to be accurate, because traders watch it for small discrepancies from the wider market and trade them away for arbitrage profits very quickly.)
Read more: Uniswap V2 Launches With More Token-Swap Pairs, Oracle Service, Flash Loans
However, if there were 500,000 USDC and 500,000 DAI in the pool, a trade of 1 DAI for 1 USDC would have a negligible impact on the relative price. That’s why liquidity is helpful.
You can stick your assets on Compound and earn a little yield. But that’s not very creative. Users who look for angles to maximize that yield: those are the yield farmers.
Similar effects hold across DeFi, so markets want more liquidity. Uniswap solves this by charging a tiny fee on every trade. It does this by shaving off a little bit from each trade and leaving that in the pool (so one DAI would actually trade for 0.997 USDC, after the fee, growing the overall pool by 0.003 USDC). This benefits liquidity providers because when someone puts liquidity in the pool they own a share of the pool. If there has been lots of trading in that pool, it has earned a lot of fees, and the value of each share will grow.
And this brings us back to tokens.
Liquidity added to Uniswap is represented by a token, not an account. So there’s no ledger saying, “Bob owns 0.000000678% of the DAI/USDC pool.” Bob just has a token in his wallet. And Bob doesn’t have to keep that token. He could sell it. Or use it in another product. We’ll circle back to this, but it helps to explain why people like to talk about DeFi products as “money Legos.”
So how much money do people make by putting money into these products?It can be a lot more lucrative than putting money in a traditional bank, and that’s before startups started handing out governance tokens.
Compound is the current darling of this space, so let’s use it as an illustration. As of this writing, a person can put USDC into Compound and earn 2.72% on it. They can put tether (USDT) into it and earn 2.11%. Most U.S. bank accounts earn less than 0.1% these days, which is close enough to nothing.
However, there are some caveats. First, there’s a reason the interest rates are so much juicier: DeFi is a far riskier place to park your money. There’s no Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protecting these funds. If there were a run on Compound, users could find themselves unable to withdraw their funds when they wanted.
Plus, the interest is quite variable. You don’t know what you’ll earn over the course of a year. USDC’s rate is high right now. It was low last week. Usually, it hovers somewhere in the 1% range.
Similarly, a user might get tempted by assets with more lucrative yields like USDT, which typically has a much higher interest rate than USDC. (Monday morning, the reverse was true, for unclear reasons; this is crypto, remember.) The trade-off here is USDT’s transparency about the real-world dollars it’s supposed to hold in a real-world bank is not nearly up to par with USDC’s. A difference in interest rates is often the market’s way of telling you the one instrument is viewed as dicier than another.
Users making big bets on these products turn to companies Opyn and Nexus Mutual to insure their positions because there’s no government protections in this nascent space – more on the ample risks later on.
So users can stick their assets in Compound or Uniswap and earn a little yield. But that’s not very creative. Users who look for angles to maximize that yield: those are the yield farmers.
OK, I already knew all of that. What is yield farming?Broadly, yield farming is any effort to put crypto assets to work and generate the most returns possible on those assets.
At the simplest level, a yield farmer might move assets around within Compound, constantly chasing whichever pool is offering the best APY from week to week. This might mean moving into riskier pools from time to time, but a yield farmer can handle risk.
“Farming opens up new price arbs [arbitrage] that can spill over to other protocols whose tokens are in the pool,” said Maya Zehavi, a blockchain consultant.
Because these positions are tokenized, though, they can go further.
This was a brand-new kind of yield on a deposit. In fact, it was a way to earn a yield on a loan. Who has ever heard of a borrower earning a return on a debt from their lender?
In a simple example, a yield farmer might put 100,000 USDT into Compound. They will get a token back for that stake, called cUSDT. Let’s say they get 100,000 cUSDT back (the formula on Compound is crazy so it’s not 1:1 like that but it doesn’t matter for our purposes here).
They can then take that cUSDT and put it into a liquidity pool that takes cUSDT on Balancer, an AMM that allows users to set up self-rebalancing crypto index funds. In normal times, this could earn a small amount more in transaction fees. This is the basic idea of yield farming. The user looks for edge cases in the system to eke out as much yield as they can across as many products as it will work on.
Right now, however, things are not normal, and they probably won’t be for a while.
Why is yield farming so hot right now?Because of liquidity mining. Liquidity mining supercharges yield farming.
Liquidity mining is when a yield farmer gets a new token as well as the usual return (that’s the “mining” part) in exchange for the farmer’s liquidity.
“The idea is that stimulating usage of the platform increases the value of the token, thereby creating a positive usage loop to attract users,” said Richard Ma of smart-contract auditor Quantstamp.
The yield farming examples above are only farming yield off the normal operations of different platforms. Supply liquidity to Compound or Uniswap and get a little cut of the business that runs over the protocols – very vanilla.
But Compound announced earlier this year it wanted to truly decentralize the product and it wanted to give a good amount of ownership to the people who made it popular by using it. That ownership would take the form of the COMP token.
Lest this sound too altruistic, keep in mind that the people who created it (the team and the investors) owned more than half of the equity. By giving away a healthy proportion to users, that was very likely to make it a much more popular place for lending. In turn, that would make everyone’s stake worth much more.
So, Compound announced this four-year period where the protocol would give out COMP tokens to users, a fixed amount every day until it was gone. These COMP tokens control the protocol, just as shareholders ultimately control publicly traded companies.
Every day, the Compound protocol looks at everyone who had lent money to the application and who had borrowed from it and gives them COMP proportional to their share of the day’s total business.
The results were very surprising, even to Compound’s biggest promoters.
COMP’s value will likely go down, and that’s why some investors are rushing to earn as much of it as they can right now.
This was a brand-new kind of yield on a deposit into Compound. In fact, it was a way to earn a yield on a loan, as well, which is very weird: Who has ever heard of a borrower earning a return on a debt from their lender?
COMP’s value has consistently been well over $200 since it started distributing on June 15. We did the math elsewhere but long story short: investors with fairly deep pockets can make a strong gain maximizing their daily returns in COMP. It is, in a way, free money.
It’s possible to lend to Compound, borrow from it, deposit what you borrowed and so on. This can be done multiple times and DeFi startup Instadapp even built a tool to make it as capital-efficient as possible.
“Yield farmers are extremely creative. They find ways to ‘stack’ yields and even earn multiple governance tokens at once,” said Spencer Noon of DTC Capital.
COMP’s value spike is a temporary situation. The COMP distribution will only last four years and then there won’t be any more. Further, most people agree that the high price now is driven by the low float (that is, how much COMP is actually free to trade on the market – it will never be this low again). So the value will probably gradually go down, and that’s why savvy investors are trying to earn as much as they can now.
Appealing to the speculative instincts of diehard crypto traders has proven to be a great way to increase liquidity on Compound. This fattens some pockets but also improves the user experience for all kinds of Compound users, including those who would use it whether they were going to earn COMP or not.
As usual in crypto, when entrepreneurs see something successful, they imitate it. Balancer was the next protocol to start distributing a governance token, BAL, to liquidity providers. Flash loan provider bZx has announced a plan. Ren, Curve and Synthetix also teamed up to promote a liquidity pool on Curve.
It is a fair bet many of the more well-known DeFi projects will announce some kind of coin that can be mined by providing liquidity.
The case to watch here is Uniswap versus Balancer. Balancer can do the same thing Uniswap does, but most users who want to do a quick token trade through their wallet use Uniswap. It will be interesting to see if Balancer’s BAL token convinces Uniswap’s liquidity providers to defect.
So far, though, more liquidity has gone into Uniswap since the BAL announcement, according to its data site. That said, even more has gone into Balancer.
Did liquidity mining start with COMP?No, but it was the most-used protocol with the most carefully designed liquidity mining scheme.
This point is debated but the origins of liquidity mining probably date back to Fcoin, a Chinese exchange that created a token in 2018 that rewarded people for making trades. You won’t believe what happened next! Just kidding, you will: People just started running bots to do pointless trades with themselves to earn the token.
Similarly, EOS is a blockchain where transactions are basically free, but since nothing is really free the absence of friction was an invitation for spam. Some malicious hacker who didn’t like EOS created a token called EIDOS on the network in late 2019. It rewarded people for tons of pointless transactions and somehow got an exchange listing.
These initiatives illustrated how quickly crypto users respond to incentives.
Read more: Compound Changes COMP Distribution Rules Following ‘Yield Farming’ Frenzy
Fcoin aside, liquidity mining as we now know it first showed up on Ethereum when the marketplace for synthetic tokens, Synthetix, announced in July 2019 an award in its SNX token for users who helped add liquidity to the sETH/ETH pool on Uniswap. By October, that was one of Uniswap’s biggest pools.
When Compound Labs, the company that launched the Compound protocol, decided to create COMP, the governance token, the firm took months designing just what kind of behavior it wanted and how to incentivize it. Even still, Compound Labs was surprised by the response. It led to unintended consequences such as crowding into a previously unpopular market (lending and borrowing BAT) in order to mine as much COMP as possible.
Just last week, 115 different COMP wallet addresses – senators in Compound’s ever-changing legislature – voted to change the distribution mechanism in hopes of spreading liquidity out across the markets again.
Is there DeFi for bitcoin?Yes, on Ethereum.
Nothing has beaten bitcoin over time for returns, but there’s one thing bitcoin can’t do on its own: create more bitcoin.
A smart trader can get in and out of bitcoin and dollars in a way that will earn them more bitcoin, but this is tedious and risky. It takes a certain kind of person.
DeFi, however, offers ways to grow one’s bitcoin holdings – though somewhat indirectly.
A long HODLer is happy to gain fresh BTC off their counterparty’s short-term win. That’s the game.
For example, a user can create a simulated bitcoin on Ethereum using BitGo’s WBTC system. They put BTC in and get the same amount back out in freshly minted WBTC. WBTC can be traded back for BTC at any time, so it tends to be worth the same as BTC.
Then the user can take that WBTC, stake it on Compound and earn a few percent each year in yield on their BTC. Odds are, the people who borrow that WBTC are probably doing it to short BTC (that is, they will sell it immediately, buy it back when the price goes down, close the loan and keep the difference).
A long HODLer is happy to gain fresh BTC off their counterparty’s short-term win. That’s the game.
How risky is it?Enough.
“DeFi, with the combination of an assortment of digital funds, automation of key processes, and more complex incentive structures that work across protocols – each with their own rapidly changing tech and governance practices – make for new types of security risks,” said Liz Steininger of Least Authority, a crypto security auditor. “Yet, despite these risks, the high yields are undeniably attractive to draw more users.”
We’ve seen big failures in DeFi products. MakerDAO had one so bad this year it’s called “Black Thursday.” There was also the exploit against flash loan provider bZx. These things do break and when they do money gets taken.
As this sector gets more robust, we could see token holders greenlighting more ways for investors to profit from DeFi niches.
Right now, the deal is too good for certain funds to resist, so they are moving a lot of money into these protocols to liquidity mine all the new governance tokens they can. But the funds – entities that pool the resources of typically well-to-do crypto investors – are also hedging. Nexus Mutual, a DeFi insurance provider of sorts, told CoinDesk it has maxed out its available coverage on these liquidity applications. Opyn, the trustless derivatives maker, created a way to short COMP, just in case this game comes to naught.
And weird things have arisen. For example, there’s currently more DAI on Compound than have been minted in the world. This makes sense once unpacked but it still feels dicey to everyone.
That said, distributing governance tokens might make things a lot less risky for startups, at least with regard to the money cops.
“Protocols distributing their tokens to the public, meaning that there’s a new secondary listing for SAFT tokens, [gives] plausible deniability from any security accusation,” Zehavi wrote. (The Simple Agreement for Future Tokens was a legal structure favored by many token issuers during the ICO craze.)
Whether a cryptocurrency is adequately decentralized has been a key feature of ICO settlements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
What’s next for yield farming? (A prediction)COMP turned out to be a bit of a surprise to the DeFi world, in technical ways and others. It has inspired a wave of new thinking.
“Other projects are working on similar things,” said Nexus Mutual founder Hugh Karp. In fact, informed sources tell CoinDesk brand-new projects will launch with these models.
We might soon see more prosaic yield farming applications. For example, forms of profit-sharing that reward certain kinds of behavior.
Imagine if COMP holders decided, for example, that the protocol needed more people to put money in and leave it there longer. The community could create a proposal that shaved off a little of each token’s yield and paid that portion out only to the tokens that were older than six months. It probably wouldn’t be much, but an investor with the right time horizon and risk profile might take it into consideration before making a withdrawal.
(There are precedents for this in traditional finance: A 10-year Treasury bond normally yields more than a one-month T-bill even though they’re both backed by the full faith and credit of Uncle Sam, a 12-month certificate of deposit pays higher interest than a checking account at the same bank, and so on.)
As this sector gets more robust, its architects will come up with ever more robust ways to optimize liquidity incentives in increasingly refined ways. We could see token holders greenlighting more ways for investors to profit from DeFi niches.
Questions abound for this nascent industry: What will MakerDAO do to restore its spot as the king of DeFi? Will Uniswap join the liquidity mining trend? Will anyone stick all these governance tokens into a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)? Or would that be a yield farmers co-op?
Whatever happens, crypto’s yield farmers will keep moving fast. Some fresh fields may open and some may soon bear much less luscious fruit.
But that’s the nice thing about farming in DeFi: It is very easy to switch fields.