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mike_oxlong

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  1. Pompeii; my biggest regret when in Europe for 3 months was that I had no clue what I was doing. I was 18 and backpacking alone and pretty much never thought about many of the sites I'd always dreamed of visiting. Sure, I saw Venice, Pisa, Paris, etc but completely forgot about Pompeii. Also Normandy, Vimy Ridge, Avignon, and many other historical sites. This is an amazing homage to many important heritage sites and I hope to see more obscure monuments in the future. Learning about humanity's past has always been of interest to me and I thank you again for your dedication to such faithful recreations.
  2. This is some ridiculously next-level skill you're displaying. Also, I demand that you share the contents of your plugins folder forthwith!
  3. Yep. Macchu Picchu is at the top of my bucket list of sites to visit. Utterly fantastic work and i really appreciate your venturing into the obscure with Zimbabwe and Tiahuanaco! There's so much in human history that we're completely unaware of.
  4. Wow, another place I want to visit! Can't wait to see what you've got up your sleeve.
  5. Phenomenal as has become the norm. I particularly liked the shot from the Maldives as it's one of the places on my bucket list to visit. Definitely going to stay on one of the villas on the water, one day.
  6. Can't wait for more! The preview alone is stunning!
  7. No Rest for the Weary Carol smiled as she motored down the highway. Since Hammerhead’s arrest, the demand on her time had plummeted, with a corresponding drop in crime. The Maggia’s back was broken and the organization appeared to be in a death spiral. A few small-scale busts had followed the take-down; the failing efforts of desperate individuals wallowing in a power vacuum feeding upon each other. The hands-free began to chime and Carol sighed, shaken from her reflections. She glanced at the screen, seeing it was Bobbi Morse and happily took the call. “Hey Bobbi, how are you?” “Well, that depends on your point of view. Are you busy?” “I’m just on the highway heading to the Palladium resort. I have a week booked there all by myself. I kind of earned it, I figure. So yeah, a little bit busy.” Silence met her response and Carol could just feel it coming. “What’s wrong?” she asked before Bobbi could continue. “I’m so sorry,” Bobbi’s voice faltered, “I think you’re the only one that can help. There’s been a kidnapping…” “Oh,” Carol shook her head in confusion, “but what about your team? Felicia alone could probably get that handled, considering her specialty.” “Carol, it’s in Afghanistan…” What the..? Carol furrowed her brow, trying to make sense of the situation. Why is S.W.O.R.D. even involved with a kidnapping? Truthfully Bobbi had been Carol’s rock during her recovery, after being ambushed at the warehouse. Carol may well owe Bobbi her very life, if she was being honest with herself. Ultimately there was no debate as to whether she would help Bobbi without hesitation. Carol looked wistfully at the highway exit sign coming up. Either she headed south at the exit, or follow the highway and end up at S.W.O.R.D. With a sigh she watched her turn off pass by. “Tony’s been taken. Can you come? To S.W.O.R.D.?” Bobbi’s voice was wavering. $#!%. Carol weighed the benefits of slamming on the brakes and reversing back to her exit. Bobbi? You’re cutting out. I can’t hear you. *click* "Don’t worry, I’m on my way. I’ll be there in a couple of hours.” Bobbi’s relief was audible and Carol was headed north towards S.W.O.R.D.’s facility. Carol and Bobbi were joined by Abigail Brand, director of S.W.O.R.D. Carol sat quietly as Bobbi played back the ransom video. “In a follow-up message, they demanded the funds be transferred electronically. If we do that, we can be sure that we’ll never see Tony again. I have a plan, but again you’re the only one that can pull it off. We need an asset on the ground for a physical transfer of the ransom, insisting that an exchange takes place - we give them the cash and they hand over Tony. So here’s the plan…” Director Brand outlined her expectations for the exchange and what possible scenarios could take place. Carol countered with some observations and pointed out glaring weaknesses in the plan. “But that’s just it, don’t you see? The flaws are so obvious that they can’t likely help but take advantage,” Bobbi enthused and Carol nodded slowly in understanding. “Once we get them to agree to the hand-off, we’ll arrange for you to fly to Kabul. We’ll do our best to negotiate for the meet to take place there but may need to accept a secondary location. Since Kabul is ostensibly under allied control, they may insist on a meet in less friendly territory.” Director Brand pointed Carol toward a tactical map on another screen, “Allied forces had been advancing on an area around Gulmira when Tony was taken. He’d been there for a weapons demo and the convoy ambush happened on the way back toward more friendly territory. Given the proximity of the ambush to Gulmira, we can reasonably expect him to be somewhere within a 50x50 mile area. More than likely somewhere in the mountains and caves to the north.” “That’s 2500 square miles!” Carol exclaimed, then leaned back in her chair, coming to a sudden realization. She looked slowly back and forth at the two seated opposite her and crossed her arms, “None of you can fly, can you? That’s why you think I can make this work.” Bobbi nodded glumly, “You’re right. I have a guy that can infuse objects with energy; a blind guy with borderline ESP; a woman that can jinx people; an introvert that can manipulate electricity and a schizophrenic ex-mercenary who gets ridiculously strong at night. Who would you send?” “Me,” Carol sighed. “What about having the team as backup?” Bobbi pulled up her team on the screen, “Have a look. Any backup would stick out like a sore thumb over there and the op fails.” “Okay, I’ll do it. But you know I’m not bullet-proof, right? If I have to blow my cover, Stark is as good as dead.” “That’s why you’ll need this,” Director Brand reached beneath the table and handed her a case. Carol inspected the contents and rubbed the red and blue material between her fingers, “Is it… um, graphete?” Bobbi nodded, “Yes, it’s roughly your size and will stretch like Lycra for fit. It’s as light and comfortable as cotton and you can wear it under your civilian clothes over there.” She made a gesture as if to say, “Voila, now you’re bullet-proof.” Carol frowned at the rank insignia, designating her a Captain, “I retired at the rank of Major. This is kind of a demotion.” “Well, we’re not really a regular armed force here,” Brand explained, “and Major Marvel doesn’t really roll off of the tongue does it? We could promote you, but does Colonel Marvel or Brigadier General Marvel work for you?” Carol made a face, “Touché. Captain Marvel it is!” She stared intently at the screen that had displayed the ransom video, paused now on a grim image of Tony surrounded by his abductors. Negotiations took over a week but eventually an agreement for Tony’s release was secured for $27.2 million USD. Carol would pose as a Stark Industries executive and deliver the ransom personally. She had reviewed her itinerary with mild disgust; first leg to Hong Kong and a nine hour layover. From there to Delhi with an 18 hour layover and finally on to Kabul, Afghanistan and a meet with the Ten Rings organization. “Gah, I could fly there faster on my own,” she remarked. Unfortunately, to maintain her cover, doing so was out of the question. She settled into the business-class seat in 12K and resigned herself to the lengthy voyage. “Stark had better appreciate this.” To be continued... @dabadon5 @BLANKBLANK Thanks for the positive feedback! I really appreciate it.
  8. Fantastic zoo. I've been meaning to get around to doing one too but it had never been a priority in my cities, always getting forgotten. Yours is nicely arranged and well thought-out. Really excellent work!
  9. Fantastic! You always manage to perfectly capture the essence of whichever region you showcase. As always, I remain in awe.
  10. Yeah, yeah. We know you do aerial photography for a living but this is supposed to be for in-game images. We all know that sc4 isn't capable of these kinds of images. Lol Seriously though, fantastic, incredible, amazing, incomparably beautiful work!
  11. Takedown Prospects were starting to look positive. Felicia and Dr. Morse’s introduction had gone smoothly and the two had begun training the very next day. Bobbi had agreed with Carol that martial arts training would teach Felicia the clarity of mind and focus needed to gain fine control over her powers. The hope was that Felicia would eventually become a hero in her own right. Curves ahead brought Carol back from her musing and she pushed her powerful sports car hard into the turns. The hands-free system rang and Carol quickly glanced at the caller ID on the console. It read, “The Snitch.” Bear Cattoni was his actual name. He’d once been a stunt man and had fallen in with some shady characters as his opportunities had dried up. He’d broken down in tears when Carol busted the operation he’d been a part of, begging her to help him get out. In spite of the previous ambush at Hunters Warehouse, she agreed to give him a chance. To his credit, he’d proven himself to be a valuable source of inside information. She thumbed the button to answer the call, “Hello Bear, how’s my favourite narc?” “Oh, you’re hilarious,” came Bear’s gravel-voiced reply, “I got what ya wanted.” “Hang on Bear. I need to pull over.” The call couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. There was a rest stop exit coming up immediately and Carol swung the Lamborghini off the highway to park. Had the call come a minute later, she would have been deep inside a tunnel. She retrieved her tablet, telling Bear to continue. “He’s at the Eureka Tower on the 90th floor, Suite 9008. Dial 5155 on the access panel.” “Seriously? The one with the gold-plated windows? Figures…” Carol rolled her eyes as she typed, “How credible is this intel?” “I was there last night. It’s his place all right. Had a bunch of girls come by to entertain us too, if you know what I mean. Look, if you get in there, you can’t pin it on me, ok? I helped you out like I promised. I want out of that life. I want to be around for my daughter.” “Don’t worry Bear. I won’t say any more than I have to.” Carol ended the call and pulled the car back out onto the highway. She mashed the accelerator hard, smoking her tires and heading back towards the city. “Looks like I’ve got a date tonight after all,” she grinned. Hours later, a lone figure sashayed up to the Eureka Tower and entered the secured foyer. She punched in a code on the security panel and a moment later Hammerhead’s gruesome face appeared on the display. “What?” he spat, clearly annoyed by the interruption. “Hi, it’s Stacey from last night. Remember me? I was kinda hoping that maybe you might want to see me again.” “Stacey… yeah, sure. I remember you. Leave ya coat and bag wit da door guy. I can’t remember his &%@$# name. You know da apartment, right?” “Yes, 9008. I can’t wait!” The display went blank as Hammerhead buzzed her in. Carol almost laughed, it was so easy. “Appeal to his ego and he’ll do whatever I want,” she thought to herself as she headed straight to the elevator and up to the 90th floor. A knock at the door to 9008 was answered quickly by Hammerhead himself. “Come on in, toots.” With a coy smile, she cocked her head to one side, “Is it just you and me tonight?” He nodded smugly, opened the door and stood aside to let her in. As she passed, Carol wound up and punched him hard in the side before he could react. She felt the bone crunch with the impact and Hammerhead dropped to the ground, groaning. She’d almost yelled out, “Right to the Getsuei,” and had to stifle a laugh. “My ribs,” he gasped, clutching his side, “What the #&@%, you broke my #&@%ing ribs!” Carol made a mental note to thank Mockingbird and closed the door behind her. “Who else is here?” A string of curses was the only response. Apparently he intended to impregnate Carol’s mother..? She caught him reaching feebly into the blazer he wore and mercilessly put her knee into his chest. He gasped in pain as she grabbed the pistol he was trying to retrieve. “Nice Sig,” she remarked, a comment on his Sig Sauer P227. She took a moment to admire the heft of it in her palm. It was nicely weighted, and fit her grasp comfortably. She cleared the chamber and popped out the magazine to reveal .45 calibre hollow points. Satisfied, she clapped the magazine back into place and reloaded the chamber. She looked down at the incapacitated gangster with a scowl. “What… are ya… gonna do? Shoot me?” he wheezed. Ignoring him, she checked the safety and shoved the Sig in the back of her waistband. Carol then roughly flipped him over, eliciting another agonized gasp. With a knee in the small of his back, she drew out a pair of handcuffs and wrenched his arms behind his back. He cried out in pain and Carol looked to ensure there was no one coming to his aid. “Unreal. A pretty girl comes on to you and you let her up here. You, all alone with no backup. I have no idea how you got this far in life, you’re so #&@%ing dumb. But you’re through. Hammerhead, you’re under arrest.” Carol dragged him to his feet and marched him out the door and off to meet his fate before the courts. Not so far away from the action, another scenario was coming to a conclusion. In a well-appointed office, a large wall-mounted TV displayed Hammerhead’s downfall live. A single click on the red ‘X’ terminated the video feed from a well-positioned drone. A very large man stood up and waved at two well-dressed men across from him, who had their guns trained on a third. “You’ve done well, Bear. You’re free to go,” he nodded to the guards and they holstered their weapons. Bear fairly leapt to his feet, “And that’s it? You aren’t going to come after me, right?” “You have my word. You’ve done me a great service today. While I wouldn’t quite say that I’m in your debt, I’ll allow that you’ve earned your discharge. This woman has removed my only real opposition. Perhaps I should send her some flowers! Are you certain you don’t want to share her name?” Bear’s panicked expression was answer enough. “A shame,” the big man sighed, “My erstwhile rival will find to his chagrin, that our justice system will offer no leniency to a man of his ‘numerous transgressions’. Quite unfortunate that any request for bail will be similarly rejected,” He shook his head in mock sympathy, continuing, “and once Don Rigoletto ‘retires,’ Wilson Fisk will be the head of the Maggia. The Kingpin, if you will.” Fisk paused a moment, “Yes, I like that.” “The Kingpin.” Bear turned and fled the office, wondering helplessly if playing both sides had been such a clever ploy after all. The only response was laughter behind him. To be continued... @korver Thanks! I really appreciate your support! @Ln X I've been talking up this mosaic for ages. The highway image is the one you've inspired and I thank you so much for the examples you've provided.
  12. Glorious! Love the Aston Martins. Nice work!
  13. Incredible work as usual! Love it!
  14. N.B. - Apologies for the low quality and scarcity of in-game images as I'm dealing with some befuddling and unresolved CTD issues. I'm using Data Node to try and uncover conflicts but coming up empty. Also trying the old "remove all plugins and slowly put them back in", without success. It's hideously frustrating but I'll make due for now... Revelations “Irrashaimase!” the staff called out as Felicia entered the restaurant. She smiled and nodded in response before turning to the hostess. “Hello, I’m here to meet someone…” she began. The hostess, a pretty, young woman named Mariko, bowed to her and smiled, “Yes, please follow me,” and led Felicia upstairs, away from the main dining area. Shogun Sushi was beautifully appointed with Japanese décor and access to the upper VIP area was gained through a Torii-style gate. Though the gate was typically found only at the entrance to a shrine or other sacred place, its presence here was clearly symbolic. A shallow Koi pond fed by an artificial waterfall on the far end made up much of the busy upper level. A single, large bonsai tree and Japanese lantern adorned an island in the middle of the pond and two bronze herons stood like sentries off to one side. A small arched bridge provided access to the island, though the bridge itself was roped off. The VIP area was filled to capacity and several private rooms ringed the area. The private rooms had a modern version of the Shoji, a wooden lattice door with translucent paper panels. Instead of paper, these were lined with frosted white glass for privacy. Mariko led her to one of the rooms and slid the door silently open. Bowing gracefully, she ushered Felicia in and closed the door behind her. Two women were in the room who stood as she entered. One wore dark sunglasses and wisps of blonde hair peeked out from beneath her hood. A bulky silk scarf seemingly concealed her features but Felicia couldn’t escape the feeling that she was somehow familiar. The other was dressed somewhat more formally in a burgundy silk dress, her straight blond hair spilling elegantly around her shoulders. “Hello Miss Hardy, I understand you’ve been looking for me. I’m Ms. Marvel,” she welcomed Felicia with a firm handshake. “I’m sorry for all the mystery but discretion is extremely important where my identity is concerned. I hope you’ll understand.” She turned to the woman at her side, “May I introduce you to Dr. Bobbi Morse?” She rubbed at her scarf briefly, the voice synthesizer concealed beneath that Bobbi had lent her was a bit uncomfortable. Not nearly as uncomfortable, she reflected, as the layers of makeup and contouring she had applied in an effort to somewhat disguise herself. Felicia shook Bobbi's hand with a confused smile. Ms. Marvel continued, “Mariko knew to expect you, please have a seat,” she motioned to the cushion in front of the low table opposite her own seat. Felicia’s eyes began to well with tears in overwhelming relief as she seated herself. She had no idea where to begin and was grateful when Ms. Marvel spoke again, “May I tell you about myself and how I came about my abilities?” Felicia nodded assent as she held nothing back, save her true identity. Felicia was quiet throughout and remained so after Ms. Marvel had finished speaking. Finally, with a furrowed brow she shook her head and said, “I’m sorry but, aliens? That makes about as much sense as…” “Superpowers?” “Yeah. Good point,” Felicia allowed. “Felicia, like it or not, you have powers too. You seem to be able to influence peoples’ fortune. Problem is, you don’t have control.” To demonstrate her point, Ms. Marvel held up a single finger that began to glow with contained energy. She touched the wick of the unlit candle on the table and it flickered to life. “I couldn’t do that without a hell of a lot of practice.” Silent up until this point, Bobbi asked “Felicia, do you ever feel a strange sensation when something is about to happen?” She pondered a moment and nodded, “Yeah, kind of a creepy feeling sometimes. Like goosebumps, now that you mention. Almost like I know something’s about to go down but I can’t shake it.” As if on cue, the door slid open and Felicia began to rub her arm in discomfort. It was Mariko with a pot of tea. Ms. Marvel held out her cup and saucer for Mariko when they suddenly slipped from her grasp as the tea began to pour. Felicia’s hand shot out and with a deft twirl, flipped them right-side up catching the cup perfectly in the stream of hot tea. Not a drop was spilled. The others were speechless as Felicia placed the saucer in front of Ms. Marvel, then looked up. “What?” she asked in confused reply to their amazed expressions. Mariko quickly looked down and bowed low, offering apologies and carefully filled Felicia’s and Bobbi’s tea cups before quietly departing. “How did you do that?” Bobbi whispered incredulously. Felicia shrugged, “I just caught the cup. What’s the big deal?” “You didn’t even look and you’d caught it. You moved like lightning! Could you always do that?” Felicia shook her head, no, as Ms. Marvel leaned back and appraised her again. “This may be even better than I expected. Dr. Morse is the reason I asked you to meet me here tonight.” Bobbi explained to Felicia about S.W.O.R.D.’s mandate and her own role within the organization, training those with "special abilities." She also touched upon the failed effort at recruiting Ms. Marvel. Felicia was leery, “So if that's what your boss is like, what makes you think I’d be willing to put myself in that position?” She shook her head, a little miffed at the suggestion. Ms. Marvel sat quietly with a smug grin as Bobbi sighed. “Over the past several days, Ms. Marvel has been negotiating a service contract with me. The long and the short of it is that it deals with some particulars regarding the development of your powers. Your demonstration tonight with the tea cup shows that there are some aspects of your abilities that are only just beginning to manifest and I can help you with that as well. Most importantly,” she grimaced and sighed again, “S.W.O.R.D. is bound by the terms of the contract to allow no interaction between you and Mr. Stark that you, yourself, do not initiate. The contract has been approved and signed by Director Brand and is absolutely, irrevocably binding.” Ms. Marvel snickered softly, knowing that a woman as naturally beautiful as Felicia would have been a prime target for Tony #$%@ing Stark. No chance of that happening now. She leaned forward, “So what do you say Felicia?” Felicia looked up, her gaze full of hope, “Yes! God, yes. If she can help me, I’ll do whatever it takes.” Ms. Marvel took Felicia’s hands in her own and squeezed reassuringly, “Good, now let’s eat,” she turned her attention to the tablet device mounted on the table and began to enter their order. “Have you ever tried Unagi? It’s my favorite.” To be continued...
  15. Thanks very much!