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A case study of the win rate depression phenomenon across every role: using statistics to win more just by taking the right runes

A case study of the win rate depression phenomenon across every role: using statistics to win more just by taking the right runes

Written patch 10.16

Introduction

There are three generalized categories of decisions that a player can optimize: (1) macro, which includes rotations, vision control, and wave management, (2) micro, which includes reaction speed, matchup knowledge, and mechanics, and (3) meta, which includes more theory-related skills such as runes, skill order, and itemization. Meta decisions are generally the easiest to optimize and improve because they don't require the nuances learned from playing hundreds of games. In this post, we justify and discuss the optimization of both keystone and minor runes using recent data from patch 10.16, sourced from Lolalytics.
League of Legends' lead gameplay designer Riot Scruffy recently tweeted that initially, "[the balance team] thought Sona Lux were only OP as a combo." He then implies that Sona-Lux have just recently become individually overpowered when built optimally. However, someone who has been paying attention to win rate statistics would know that Guardian Lux support has been overpowered for the past year, even after she was nerfed back in patch 9.14. In fact, Guardian was Lux's best-performing keystone even at the peak of Aftershock Lux. With just a rudimentary understanding of numbers, you too can use win rate statistics to uncover "hidden OP" champions and get ahead of the curve to climb before Riot eventually nerfs them a year later.

Definitions

Suppose the champion Xasuo has a 50% win rate, and all Xasuo players take Conqueror. Now, consider the champion Yarner that initially appears balanced with a 50% win rate. Upon closer inspection, 50% of Yarner players take Predator and lose all their games, and the other 50% of players take Phase Rush and win all their games. Though both Xasuo and Yarner have the same overall win rate, Yarner is clearly the stronger champion. This is because Yarner suffers from win rate depression—many players are not taking the optimal runes, lowering their win rate. We measure this effect by computing a number called relative difference.
 
How is optimal defined in terms of runes?
A rune page is defined to be optimal relative to others if it wins the highest proportion of games assuming everything else is held constant. For Yarner, Phase Rush is called optimal since it wins the most, and Predator is suboptimal because it does not. Predator is also called detrimental because its win rate is less than Yarner's overall win rate, meaning players who take Predator are expected to lose more games than the average Yarner. An optimal rune page can also be thought of as the rune page a player would take to maximize their win rate if they had to use it forever.
 
What is win rate depression?
Win rate depression (WRD) is when a champion's win rate is lowered because of players making suboptimal meta decisions. For example, since there is a difference in power between the two keystones, Yarner's win rate is depressed by players taking the wrong keystone. WRD can also apply to other facets of meta like itemization and skill order, where building the wrong item or maxing the wrong ability will reduce a player's expected chance of winning.
 
What is relative difference?
Relative difference (RelDiff) is a measure of how effective optimization is for a given champion when compared to the average player. It represents the expected proportion of previously lost games that a player would now win after optimization. For example, the expected win rate of a random Yarner is 50%, but the expected win rate of a random Yarner given that they took Phase Rush is 100%, so RelDiff = (100-50)/(100-50) = 100%. If Yarner had a 48% win rate overall but the optimal keystone had a 54% win rate, RelDiff would be (54-48)/(100-48) = 11.54%. If RelDiff is less than 2%, we say that a champion is solved, since if any optimization exists, it would only marginally benefit their expected win rate. Note that RelDiff, holding the win rate difference constant, exhibits hyperbolic growth with respect to overall win rate (i.e., 99% to 100% win rate is a bigger increase than 50% to 51%), much like how cooldown reduction scales per additional point.

Examples

This section uses rune shorthand notation (like S2321 D203 X112) rather than typing out the full names of runes. See the first question under Q&A if you aren't familiar with this notation.
We will use data from Lolalytics, Platinum+, patch 10.16. As a general rule of thumb, sample sizes as low as a few thousand are high enough to analyze. When observing a potential effect, use previous patches or different rank subsets to check if the pattern appears consistently; if not, it might just be variance. If the difference in win rates or a sample size is concerningly small, use this z-test calculator to check for statistical significance (select 0.01 and one-tailed).
The optimal rune page for a champion typically won't significantly vary unless there is a large systemic change in a patch. This may occur if parts of the champion's kit or the runes themselves are fundamentally changed in a rework or mini-rework. In that case, use data from and after the most relevant patch as a basis.
 

Top: Darius - (Image)

A solo queue menace, Darius hasn't been changed directly for many patches. Despite the nerf to Nimbus Cloak in patch 10.16, his win rate barely flinched, settling at 51.45%. However, Darius is much deadlier than he appears if you take the correct secondary runes.
Nearly all Darius players take Conqueror and Triumph, but pick rates are split between Legend: Alacrity and Legend: Tenacity. Intuitively, these runes tend to be dependent upon matchup due to their nature, and we can test this by checking the rune win rate distributions of specific matchups. In this case, we find that they are. Next, about a fourth of Darius players take Coup de Grace when virtually all melee top laners should prefer Last Stand, Darius not being an exception.
Despite the consensus of the primary tree, not everyone takes the same secondary tree. Over half take S320 secondary, citing the importance of movement speed. This is actually detrimental (albeit barely)—it turns out that R0x3 are the best secondary runes. Conditioning has the highest win rate of the three in its row, but it appears to be situational following matchup dissection.
The complete optimized rune page is P42(12)3 R0x3 X213. Doing so increases Darius's expected win rate from 51.45% to at least 53.7%, a RelDiff of 4.63%.
 

Top: Fiora - (Image)

After the buff on Lunge (Q), Fiora's win rate increased from an acceptable 50.42% to a solid 52.29% win rate. Already the bane of many top laners, Fiora suffers from WRD in all three types of runes.
In a vacuum, Conqueror and Grasp of the Undying have comparable win rates, but a look at the minor runes in Precision quickly refutes this notion. Immediately, Presence of Mind's 55.1% win rate reveals that Fiora is much stronger than her win rate implies. Then, about half of players take Legend: Alacrity when Legend: Tenacity and Legend: Bloodline appear to be better choices. We again check if these runes are situational by looking at matchup distributions, but this time, Legend: Alacrity's win rate is always lower, suggesting the superiority of the other two runes. Lastly, there's an about even split between Coup de Grace and Last Stand, the latter of which is predictably stronger.
Looking at secondary runes, a full one-third of Fiora players take R130, which barely reaches a 51% win rate, meaning the runes are detrimental. However, Cosmic Insight has a massive 54% win rate. Despite its relatively low pick rate, it turns out that Cosmic Insight has been the highest win rate rune in Inspiration in every previous patch, so we conclude that I201 are the optimal secondary runes on Fiora.
The Sorcery tree is also of note, but pick rates are scattered across the tree, making it difficult to assess the best combination of runes. Noting the high win rate of Manaflow Band, we can hypothesize the optimality of S210 and return to analyze this tree in the future.
Finally, the majority of Fiora players take the Attack Speed shard when Adaptive Force is optimal. The complete optimized rune page is P43(23)3 I201 X113. Doing so increases Fiora's expected win rate from 52.29% to at least 55.1%, a RelDiff of 5.89%.
 

Jungle: Hecarim - (Image)

Recently buffed and then nerfed, Hecarim is a champion that's actually been overpowered for quite some time, assuming you took the correct keystone. In patch 10.16, his 51.35% win rate rocketed to a massive 53.91%. Already absurdly strong, Hecarim can be made even stronger after optimizing runes.
Riot remarks in patch notes 10.17 on "Hecarim players picking up on his synergy with Phase Rush;" the pick rate has since quadrupled since patch 10.15. Also notice that the buffs to Phase Rush in patches 10.4 and 10.7 correspond to increased interest in Phase Rush Hecarim. Looking at the numbers, there's no doubt that Phase Rush vastly outperforms Conqueror, still the most popular keystone by far.
Sorcery secondary is the most popular tree, but this is not unexpected since most Conqueror users still recognize the value of movement speed on Hecarim. I201 has a modest pick rate and a very high win rate, so we prefer that instead.
Recall the optimality of I201 on Fiora; this is a common theme of the optimal rune pages of many top laners like Riven, junglers like Kha'Zix, and even some mid laners like Zed. We note the high win rate of P2(12)0, but due to the low pick rates and the fact that this effect is not consistently observed in previous patches, we cannot rule out variance and shelve this tree for reinspection at a later patch.
There's nothing unexpected in the shards besides the viability of adaptive force instead of attack speed, so the complete optimized rune page is S3322 I201 X(12)12. Doing so increases Hecarim's expected win rate from 53.91% to at least 56.2%, a RelDiff of 4.97%.
 

Jungle: Skarner - (Image)

Next up is Skarner, another recently buffed champion known for his low pick rate. However, despite the fact that he is played mostly by mains of the champion, data on Skarner's runes tell a very disheartening tale: even mains don't know their champion's optimal runes. Needlessly buffed in patch 10.16, Skarner went from an even 50.05% win rate to a respectable 51.76%.
The three most popular keystones in order of pick rate are Predator, Phase Rush, and Conqueror. Though Skarner has nearly a 52% win rate, Predator's win rate is an abysmal 50.4%. Predator is clearly a detrimental keystone, compared to Conqueror and Phase Rush, which have 52.0% and 52.8% win rates, respectively. Like Hecarim, S3322 is a great rune page for Skarner, but it turns out that Transcendence is better than Celerity, with a 53.7% win rate.
Looking at the numbers, the secondary tree is obvious. Though Sorcery primary is optimal, Sorcery secondary is detrimental, but this is in part due to the fact that it is taken with Predator, which is a terrible keystone for Skarner. I201 (again) is the clear winner.
Lastly, the cooldown reduction shard performs much better than adaptive force or attack speed. The complete optimized rune page is S3312 I201 X31x. Doing so increases Skarner's expected win rate from 51.76% to at least 54.0%, a RelDiff of 4.64%.
 

Middle: Cassiopeia - (Image)

Cassiopeia was buff-adjusted out of the blue in patch 10.12 and then nerfed the subsequent patch. In patch 10.16, she held a slightly above average 50.70% win rate.
Cassiopeia mains advise Phase Rush in "dodgeball" matchups against control mages like Orianna, Syndra, and Zoe. This advice generally holds true; S31(12)3 is good against such champions, and notice that Nullifying Orb is superior to Manaflow Band. In other matchups, Cassiopeia usually takes Conqueror. Most players take P4321, which works well enough except for the last rune—Last Stand performs better than Coup de Grace.
Secondary runes lack debate; D201 is optimal.
We see that the cooldown reduction shard is optimal, showing how simply switching a rune shard can make a champion go from above average to strong. The complete optimized rune page is P4323/S31(12)3 D201 X313. Doing so increases Cassiopeia's expected win rate from 50.89% to at least 52.5% for the Conqueror page and 53.7% for the Phase Rush page, a RelDiff of 3.48% and 4.09%, respectively.
 

Middle: Karthus - (Image)

The champion that deals the most magic damage on average in all three of his roles, the Karthus nerfs in patch 10.16 dropped his win rate to a still-decent 51.52%. Despite the nerf, Karthus remains in overpowered territory with a switch of just two runes.
Dark Harvest is the keystone of choice. Cheap Shot and Taste of Blood seem equally viable and Eyeball Collection is uncontested, so the question boils down to Ravenous Hunter or Ultimate Hunter. We see that Ultimate Hunter is a detrimental rune; Ravenous Hunter wins with a 52.3% win rate.
Presence of Mind is the obvious move, but there is a decision to be made between Coup de Grace and Last Stand. Last Stand is absurdly good at a 53.9% win rate, likely because of how it works with Karthus's passive, giving a massive 11% damage bump for 7 seconds. However, Last Stand is in the minority, with 50% more players taking Coup de Grace. This also applies to Karthus's other roles like jungle, where only 13.3% of Karthus players are making the correct choice of Last Stand.
Nothing interesting appears in shards, so the complete optimized rune page is D3(12)31 P303 X113. Doing so increases Karthus's expected win rate from 51.52% to at least 53.9%, a RelDiff of 4.91%.
 

Bottom: Kog'Maw - (Image)

A champion that has not been seen consistently in professional play for a long time, Kog'Maw is generally considered a weaker ADC despite his 52.23% win rate in patch 10.16. However, this is not the case. Especially with the Lulu buffs that appeared in patch 10.2, Kog'Maw has been one of the better ADCs. A champion that suffers from WRD in runes as well as itemization, Kog'Maw is a pick that people are sleeping on.
A large proportion of players take Arcane Comet, presumably building AP and playing as an artillery mage. It suffices to say that this is not optimal. There isn't much to say about primary runes, and this is true for most ADCs in general. P221(12) are the optimal runes.
A glance at secondary runes reveals where most of Kog'Maw's WRD appears. A good half of Kog'Maw players take S303 when I230 is a much better choice, but that's not all: D201 is crazy good with Ravenous Hunter having a 55.4% win rate.
The first two shards are definitely standard: attack speed and adaptive force. Though the scaling health shard tests significant against armor, this effect does not appear in previous patches (nor in other carry champions), so we ignore it. The complete optimized rune page is P221(12) D201 X212. Doing so increases Kog'Maw's expected win rate from 52.23% to at least 55.4%, a RelDiff of 6.64%.
 

Bottom: Vayne - (Image)

One of the flashier, mechanically intensive bot lane carries, Vayne was not among the several ADCs buffed in patch 10.16. Her win rate only slightly decreased, sitting at an unassuming 50.82%.
Press the Attack is the go-to keystone, but everything else in the Precision tree is a situational choice between two runes. There's not much notable for Vayne's primary runes.
For secondary runes, about half of Vayne players take S303, but this is detrimental. A small but meaningful amount of players exchange either Nimbus Cloak or Gathering Storm for Celerity. Though it performs above average, like Kog'Maw, the best secondary runes are actually D201 with a 52% win rate.
Once again, there's nothing unusual in the stat shards. The complete optimized rune page is P1(12)(13)(12) D201 X212. Doing so increases Vayne's expected win rate from 50.82% to at least 51.8%, a RelDiff of 1.99%. This shows that Vayne is solved with respect to runes, meaning her win rate is more or less an accurate reflection of her true strength in the current meta.
 

Support: Bard - (Image)

Aside from some unusual hitbox interactions on Cosmic Binding (Q), Bard is seen as a high skill cap champion that isn't very unfair to play against. With just one damage ability but boatloads of utility, Bard crept into the professional meta and has been a top 5 support in terms of presence for quite a while. Even after his last nerf in patch 10.16 bringing him from a 53.29% win rate to 52.07%, Bard remains a very strong champion—assuming, of course, that you're taking the right runes.
Last season, Electrocute on Bard was nearly universal. Since then, Guardian Bard (AKA "Bardian") has shot up in popularity as more and more players realize that it is the optimal keystone. Nowadays, only a stubborn 20% of Bard players still take the inferior Electrocute. Indeed, flipping through data from previous patches reveals that despite Guardian's 55% win rate throughout the end of season 9, the pick rate did not reach 50% until Guardian was buffed in patch 10.12. Bard players take Demolish, but in general, Demolish is not statistically a good rune compared to Font of Life for supports. Then, every rune in the third row of Resolve is situationally good and Revitalize is the best rune in the last row.
Secondary runes are all over the place, but in a rare occurrence, the most popular D013 also turns out to be optimal.
Both adaptive force and attack speed are situationally viable for the offense shard, but the flex shard is weighted in favor of resists, perhaps because Bard has minimal scaling with AP. The last shard is the standard armor rune. The complete optimized rune page is R32x2 D013 X(12)22. Doing so increases Bard's expected win rate from 52.07% to at least 53.3%, a RelDiff of 2.57%. Compare this to pre-nerf Bard in patch 10.3, where Bard with a nutty win rate of 54.10% had an optimized win rate of 57.1%, a RelDiff of 6.54%.
 

Support: Lux - (Image)

Lux support has recently emerged as the best support (and arguably, champion) in the game. The Sona-Lux duo popularized in patch 10.15 approached Master Yi-Taric funnel levels of win rate and was not nerfed until patch 10.17. Even discounting this duo win rate inflation, Lux has been overpowered for a long time and remains strong despite the recent nerfs.
Even after the popularization of Guardian, nearly one-fourth of players still go Arcane Comet, which despite having a win rate above 50%, is detrimental due to how overpowered Guardian Lux is. Summon Aery is much better with a 52.7% win rate, but still fails to come close to Guardian's win rate at 57.1%. Assuming every Lux playing Sona-Lux takes Guardian, its win rate would still be 55.5%, which is close to what we see in patch 10.14 and earlier.
Next, both Font of Life and Shield Bash are good on Lux, but the latter is optimal. Then, like Bard, the next row seems to be situationally viable. Though Conditioning has the highest win rate by a long shot, we do not observe this effect in non-Lux-Sona patches, so we can't say for sure that it's the best of the three runes. Lastly, Revitalize is unsurprisingly optimal.
For secondary runes, though I201 and S310 have high win rates in patches 10.15 and 10.16, they are not historically good, whereas D013 has been consistently good before Sona-Lux. This means that the win rates of I201 and S310 are potentially inflated by Sona-Lux. It's hard to tell since Guardian Lux support was not very popular before the introduction of this duo, but previous patches tell us to go with D013.
Adaptive force is the best offense shard, but the data then tells us that resists are better than more adaptive force. The complete optimized rune page is R33x2 D013 X123. Doing so increases Lux's expected win rate from 54.68% to at least 57.1%, a RelDiff of 5.34%. Compare this to when Guardian was buffed in patch 10.12 and Lux support had an insane RelDiff of 11.94%.

Q&A

How do you read rune shorthand notation?
Most Yasuo players take P(34)21(12) D201 X213. This means Precision primary: Fleet Footwork or Conqueror (3 or 4), Triumph (2), Legend: Alacrity (1), and Coup de Grace or Cut Down (1 or 2). Then, Domination secondary: Taste of Blood (2), nothing (0), and Ravenous Hunter (1). Finally, X is for rune shards: attack speed, adaptive force, and magic resist.
The defense rune shard is typically based on matchup, but we put 3 to show that Yasuo has a significantly higher win rate in AP matchups. Junglers usually take armor for a healthier clear, but some junglers can take magic resist if their clear is good enough and they plan to fight enemies who deal primarily magic damage in the early game.
If every rune in a row is equally viable (or situational), we denote this with a lowercase X (e.g., P3x32).
 
Which League of Legends stats sites are useful?
Lolalytics is the most complete site; use this the most. It's crazy how good this site is. It contains many rank and time period subsets and conditional distributions, something no other site has. The site is also periodically updated with user-requested functionality.
The second most useful stats site has a paid option so it cannot be named (rule 9). It is homonymous with a brand of boots. It doesn't come close to Lolalytics in terms of completeness, but it has a few features Lolalytics doesn't yet have, like duo statistics (e.g., gold difference at 15 minutes).
League of Graphs is useful for trivia stats, like win rate of blue side vs. red side or surrender rates by tier. Other than that, it's not too useful.
 
What League of Legends stats sites should be avoided?
Avoid Champion.gg because it's missing a lot of important stats, and the stats it does provide lack context and thus may be misleading. Avoid using op.gg for stats because it only pulls data from the Korean server (but the site's other functions are great). Avoid Probuilds because pro players make suboptimal meta decisions all the time.
 
How can you know if a keystone is the best for a champion without actually playing many games on them?
Champion expertise isn't the most important thing when considering optimal meta decisions. Otherwise, all League of Legends analysts would be out of work—even pros don't always take the right runes, max the right abilities, or build the right items. Nevertheless, though win rates are the quintessential (and realistically, the sole reliable) indicators of strength, they alone do not provide a mechanism to justify why something is optimal; this is indeed something that may require champion expertise.
 
Can keystones be situational? For example, many Kassadin players take Fleet Footwork in certain matchups.
Yes, but whether or not something is situational is easily testable by checking data from conditional distributions, which for most champions will show that the overall optimal keystone is still optimal in the majority of specific matchups. Besides, most players on most champions take the same keystone regardless of matchup. On the other hand, minor runes are often situational. For example, for Darius, Second Wind is good against Teemo and Bone Plating is good against Renekton.
 
Can some runes be taken by smurfs, inflating their win rate? For example, smurfs might take Dark Harvest since they plan to get a lot of kills.
If the smurf effect existed in runes (as opposed to itemization), it would be negligible. Dark Harvest is not really the smurf's version of Electrocute. There are champions where both of the keystones have high pick rates, but Electrocute has a much higher win rate. If the smurf effect were prevalent, Dark Harvest would have the higher win rate all the time.

Conclusion

This about wraps up the post. The big takeaways are: even dedicated mains don't always know the best rune page for their champion, and that "hidden OP" champions are everywhere if you know where and how to look. I hope this information helps you climb in the last split of this season.
Disclaimer: before diving into ranked with a brand new rune page that isn't similar to the one you already use, do some research on champion-specific subs and statistics sites or play a normal game to see how you need to adjust your playstyle.
submitted by gkhsieh to summonerschool

7

First Contact - Third Wave - Chapter 365 (Terra)

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The day was sunny and warm, with just enough of a breeze to cool a person off if they were out in the sun. The fountains burbled and chuckled, the water sparkling and the mist throwing off rainbows. The leaves of the bushes and shrubs whispered as they rubbed together and the flowers nodded sagely in the breeze. The pathways were of white stone, fitted together neatly, quarried rather than poured.
On a bench a portly man of middle age sat in a full Space Force dress uniform, his dress top folded over the back of the bench beside his. His dress shirt beneath the top was neatly creased with medals and awards glittering in the sunlight. He held a bowl of strawberry ice cream in one hand and was eating it with a long bladed knife, obviously relishing every last bite. He had on eye-shades, his dress hat covering his balding scalp, and an expensive wrist watch gleamed in the sunlight.
Treana'ad that passed by noted that, oddly enough, the portly human held his knife at the correct angle, shaved rather than gouged at the ice cream, and ate it properly by turning it slowly to keep shaving away the softened and partially melted ice cream, the best part.
On the public announcement Tri-Vee hologram near the fountain the news reporters were talking about the success of one of the largest humanitarian projects in history.
The saving of the injured Lanaktallan prisoners.
Everyone knew the story, it had been reported repeatedly. Talk shows had discussed the ethics and morality of not only what had been done to the Lanaktallan prisoners by their own people but on the ethics of whether or not heroic measures to save their lives. Some believed it was cruel to allow them to languish, neural scorched and in pain. Others believed that standing aside and letting them die was depraved indifference, an anathema to the Confederacy. That left only euthanasia, another prospect that was wholly against Confederate morality.
The Terrans of the Terran Confederacy had a bad history with euthanasia, eugenics, and the like.
The solution had been so obvious, once it was revealed, that many of the Terrans who had been paying attention to the news and had not gotten bored of it all collectively facepalmed.
Now the news shows were all showing the same image.
A sleeping Lanaktallan soldier, his sash proclaiming his name, his rank, his world of origin, and other vital statistics still visible, encased in what looked like smokey glass.
Sleeping One Stasis Pods Used to Ensure Lanaktallan Survivors Remain Alive Until Treatment Can Be Devised scrolled across the bottom.
The man eating the ice cream paid no attention, instead watching a good two dozen Rigellian males paddling around the sparkling pond, gwarking at one another and happily pulling up weeds to munch on, surrounded by little tiny versions of themselves.
He smiled as two of the larger little ones, their brown feathers shining in the sun, paddled away from the big duck they had been clustered up to. They were making self-congratulatory peeping noises as they sped away, their little webbed feet paddling for all they were worth, thrilled with their escape.
They stopped to rest, breathing heavy, and peeping at one another to congratulate each other on their daring escape so that they could chase waterbugs and maybe even eat one. They had successfully paddled really far and really fast, and now they couldn't be told what to do at such a distance.
A little over five yards from the big one that watched them with one eye.
The man's watch beeped and he smiled, setting down the bowl and knife before setting a holo-emitter on the ground in front of him. He tapped it to bring up the holographic keyboard then tapped on it for a few moments.
A Tri-Vid show appeared in front of him as he picked back up his ice cream and knife.
It was a historical documentary, regarding early near-C slowship expansion of Terran Descent Humanity.
He watched it as he ate slowly.
At one point, the show was going over the precautions that the mid-generation slow ships had taken to ensure that they could travel at the massive speed of .25C in safety.
The man's jaw dropped open. He just stared as the show went into the crudity of the technology.
On the hologram a woman dressed in a military uniform was standing in front of a great lens held in a brass frame with glowing wiring leading to it, staring at what looked like empty space.
The man dropped his bowl and shifted his grip on the long handled knife as he stared. He slowly moved the blade over and began sliding it up and down his forearm, each stroke scraping a tiny edge of lint off the sleeve of his dress shirt.
But he paid no attention, staring at the holovid.
At one point he reached down and poked the holo-emitter with his knife, using the point to rewind the show, and watched the entire section on slowship navigation and piloting again. He picked up his bowl and returned to slowly eating. At the end of the section he summoned up the holographic keyboard and began typing, then leaned back and watched the technical educational show as he finished the last of his ice cream. He ate the crunch bowl, ignoring the dust on it from where he had dropped it, slowly eating around the edge around and around.
When he finished, he picked up his holo-emitter, sheathed the knife, and walked away briskly.
It was right there. Right there all along! How could I have missed that! Missed ALL of it! the man thought to himself, sweating from the profound realization he had just had.
-------------------------
Doctor Miles Mary McManfro'o nervously smoothed her dress as the door slid open to reveal the grass around her. The park was somber, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of hovering grayish glass looking blocks arranged in concentric circles.
She moved down the steps, several other doctors and scientists following her, following her lead. At the bottom of the steps were waiting military officers, all of whom looked particularly grave. Also present was a civilian woman, who was wearing mourning clothing and looked somber.
"Doctor," one of the gathered military officers stated, holding out his hand.
She shook it out of reflex. She had to admit, the man had a lot of medals, belying his portly and unmilitary look.
The General introduced everyone. High ranking military and civilian officials, medical personnel, scientists, historians.
And one of the descendants of the man encased in gray glass.
She listened to the reasoning of what was going to happen and stared, shocked.
It was impossible.
Nothing could help the man.
But...
It was so simple.
How had nobody ever considered it?
----------------------------
Third Master Gunnery Mate Kro'ovu'uwi stared at the Terran General, nodding slowly as the information was processed by his brain.
His brother, Kra'atu'uka, was horrible neural scorched, reduced to one of the lost ones. A jumpdrive technician of great promise, just wiped away by the Great Herd Templates.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?" the General asked.
Kro'ovu'uwi had been slightly intimidated at first by the Terran's habitual action, then realized what it was.
The Terran had two long bladed knives, one in each hand, slowly rubbing them against one another as if he was using one to sharpen the other.
"Yes, Terran," Kro'ovu'uwi said slowly. "You believe you can reverse the neural scorching."
The General nodded. "For us to try, we need your consent, your informed consent, to attempt the experiment with your brother. As his nearest available family member, you can make the decision."
Kro'ovu'uwi thought for a long moment then nodded. "Since I recovered from illness, since I have seen your 'mental health providers', I have come to understand my emotion I am feeling. A longing to have my brother returned to me, familial love for my brother, and fear that this will not work."
The human General nodded, the knives moving slowly in circles against one another.
"Please, if you can restore my brother, bring him from madness and loss into this life I am experiencing, I beg you, Terran, please, restore my older brother, who was my strength in the times we ate unflavored nutripaste," Kro'ovu'uwi said.
The blades stopped moving.
"I promise you I will do my best," The Terran General said.
Kro'ovu'uwi believed him.
After all, Terrans had beaten the Great Herd.
Didn't that mean they were capable of anything?
---------------------
The General lit a cigarette as he watched from the observation balcony. He was separated from what was going on below by steri-fields, macro-plas, and distance, but the smartglass brought it up close.
Doctor Miles Mary McManfro'o had switched from the male body he had met her in to a female body with long fingers and sharp vision. She was standing over a sedated Lanaktallan, a wide thick lens between her and the Lanaktallan. The lens was held in place by an ornate bronze frame accented by jewels and inlaid with precious metals, the surface carved into patterns.
There had been one of the device still in existence.
It had been on a little starship that, ironically enough, had carried word of the Lanaktallan attacks upon unaligned worlds. The starship had used archaic methods to reach jumpspace, had relied on millennium old technology to get to the speed required to transition to jumpspace. The lens had been a vital part of the little ship.
It had withstood the rigors of the trip with all the resiliency that its makers had instilled in their culture and in everything they made.
Rather than risk any flaws, the Confederate scientists had used matter transportation replication technology by building a set of Type-1 Mat-Trans and 'copying' the item. The original was back in storage, under heavy guard.
It still worked because it had been built by a martial people, who had instilled it with the perseverance of their martial culture.
The Doctor powered it up as the General leaned forward, drawing the knives from his belt and slowly scraping the long blades against each other.
The Doctor worked quickly.
In front of her was the massive lens. Beyond that was a combined scanner. PET, CAT, EEG, all the three letter medical devices that looked at the brain in a multitude of different ways. She brought up the scanners, then, following the instructions by a historical reenactment specialist, three historians, and two Digital Sentiences watching, began adjusting the image on the lens.
The image of the Lanaktallan's brain went from severely neural scorched, with dozens of micro-strokes, to just aberrant neural firing.
She made a 3D holographic image of the brain as if she was taking a SUDS recording.
At her direction the historians, the reenactment specialist, and the DS's adjusted the lens again.
The neural template was tangled with the Lanaktallan's brain, a confused welter of signals that competed against one another.
She made another SUDS snapshot.
They shifted the lens again.
Not far this time. Slowly, carefully, the DS watching the doctor.
The doctor made a chopping motion.
The technicians stepped back from the lens.
The Doctor stared.
The Lanaktallan's brainscan, as if he was about to recorded for SUDS, shown, sparkling, on the lens.
Sparks showered from where the two blades scraped one another as the Doctor made a SUDS 3D template scan of the Lanaktallan.
The General smiled, exhaling smoke.
---------------------------
Kra'atu'uka opened his side eyes, instinctively looking for predators. He could hear the beeping and muttering of medical diagnostic equipment, smell the typical smell of a hospital.
His brother, Kro'ovu'uwi, sat in a comfortable looking chair, wearing flank coverings and a sash/vest combination that looked easy to wear.
Kra'atu'uka blinked a few times, then licked his dry lips and swallowed.
"Hail to the Great Herd," Kro'ovu'uwi said softly, his voice trembling with fear.
"Water," Kra'atu'uka rasped. "Brother, water?"
Kro'ovu'uwi began to weep as his brother recognized him for the first time in over a year.
---------------------
"Doctor! Doctor McManfro'o! A question, please!" the reporter shouted to the Doctor who had pioneered restoring the Sleeping Ones and the Lost Ones.
The woman paused at the edge of her armored limo, one hand on the top, one hand on the door. She sighed. "One question."
The reported nodded, quickly selecting the most important question.
"What prompted the idea to use a temporal lens, historically used for space travel to avoid debris and dangers, to look at the past version of your patient's brains?" the reporter asked.
Doctor McManfro'o's stomach twisted slightly at the lie she was about to tell. That the person who had come up with the idea had refused any and all recognition for his idea.
"I had been examining Lanaktallan neural scorching and went to a lounge to relax and think. They were showing a historical documentary on the slow ships and how they navigated. I had just thought to myself 'if only there was some way to look into the past and see their neural templates' when the program began showing the section on temporal lenses. It dawned on me that if the temporal navigation lens could look forward in time, the same with Confederate Space Force C+ Cannon fire control systems, then it would have to be able to look backwards," she lied. "After that, it just all clicked together."
"But what about..." the reporter started.
"No more questions," Doctor McManfro'o said, turning away and climbing into the limo.
---------------------
The Five Star General in charge of Terra's Space Force and military shut off the news program and looked at the portly general relaxing in a comfortable chair in his office. The portly man was slowly scraping two long bladed knives together.
"I still don't understand your insistence that you not be credited with your epiphany," the Commander in Chief of Space Force said, turning to sit comfortably behind his desk.
"I would never get any respite," the portly general said. "My nerves are still frazzled."
The CiCSF nodded slowly. The knives were more than for show, they were literally mandated therapy. The General possessed a medical profile allowing him to not only carry them, but to do what he was doing.
"I imagine they still are," the CiCSF said.
"Being visited by an angel is a bit disconcerting," General 'Tik-Tak' said softly, his hands still scraping the blades together.
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submitted by Ralts_Bloodthorne to HFY