Sunday, November 3, 2019

Task 3 Individual integrative report Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 2500 words

Task 3 Individual integrative report - Essay Example s main e-marketing tools are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social networking which are regarded as one of the best marketing strategies with high ROI indexes. They also participate on common platforms where several airlines club together to make their offers. However, many airlines are using such marketing tools and QA is not unique in its approach. The report describes QA’s B2B relation from both sell side and buy side. They provide online duty-free shopping which means they have partnered with the suppliers of these goods. They also partner with hotel chains as a means to enhance their customer service. QA is affiliating with other websites to promote its website in order to attract value adding suppliers to partner, which will then draw more customer visits. In analysis, QA’s website has a fresh and contemporary look and an easy to navigate web design. It was found that the website has a high degree of accessibility meeting all audiences’ needs and requirements. The links and information are neatly displayed on the home page and are neatly categorized. The colour theme matches its corporate identity. They also have a separate corporate section. The report found that QA not only allows booking, paying and printing e-tickets, but passengers can even check-online as much as 36 hours in advance. They can even decide on the class of travel depending on the seat comfort they are looking, again based on short or long flights. Online check-in demo is also available on the website for the first time users. Thus they seem to be exploiting the internet technology to its advantage. Based on the Analysis of QA’s application of internet technology, it is recommended that they have a currency converter on the website as they have people from all over globe booking through the website. As of now they have tied up only with 5 star chain hotels but they do have economy class passengers also who may book hotels of lower category if it is offered through QA’s

Friday, November 1, 2019

Strategic Management in Action. HSBC Group Essay

Strategic Management in Action. HSBC Group - Essay Example After the organization of Hong Kong as a British colony in the consequences of the Opium War, a bank was required to finance the mounting trade between China and Europe. Its major and foundation-laying supplementary The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation were recognized in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865. HSBC Holdings plc is a public limited company integrated in England and Wales, headquartered in London Strategic management refers to the art of planning your business at the maximum possible level. It is the responsibility of the company’s leader (or leaders). Strategic management centers on building a solid underlying structure to your business that will then be fleshed out through the joint efforts of every individual you employ. It is the procedure of specifying the organizations mission, vision and objectives, rising policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are planned to attain these objectives and then allocating resources to employ the policies, and plans, projects and programs. Strategic management seeks to organize and incorporate the activities of the different functional areas of a business in order to attain long-term organizational objectives. The business is being redesign to focus chiefly on high growth economies, by hopeful to trend to 60% of revenues coming from these economies. When looking at the urbanized markets business, center is to build particularly on those parts of the customer base which have international connectivity for which their "right to win" is mainly important. Global Banking and Markets: 4,000 international customers, where rising markets, stability sheet and worldwide platforms (HSBC net, Payments & Cash Management, Global Sub-Custody, Trade Services) are HSBCs calling card. Commercial Banking: 2.7 million customers locally, where top end customers and 40% of HSBCs SME customers have international requirements, HSBCs calling card. The

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Principals of Managerial Finance in Sports Products Inc Coursework

Principals of Managerial Finance in Sports Products Inc - Coursework Example Looking at the evidence provided, an agency problem indeed exists in Sports Products Inc. Managers seem unbothered about the falling share price and only interested in increasing the profits of the firm because all managers are partially compensated on the basis of the firm’s profits. The managers of the company have also never sanctioned payment of dividends because it shrinks the profits of the company. Thus, any rise in company profits only benefits the managers of the company.  The approach of Sports Products Inc. towards pollution control is very unethical because1. The actions of the firm do not conform to accepted moral standards.2. Alternative courses of action that are less likely to cause actual or potential harm do exist and the company is not implementing them in order to save money.Incurring the expense to control pollution might be in the best interests of Sports Products Inc’s owners despite its negative effect on profits.On the basis of the evidence pr ovided in the case, the corporate governance structure seems to be totally ineffective because a corporate governance structure ensures against dishonest acts of management and provides financial incentives to the managers to maximize share price (Gitman). But at Sports Products Inc. managers are not fulfilling their duties towards shareholders. The share price has fallen by nearly $2 per share over the past 9 months and the managers are still not doing anything to concern themselves with the price of the company’s stock.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Escape and Evade Training Essay Example for Free

Escape and Evade Training Essay The applications of military simulations can be categorized into three types: 1) those for research, development, and acquisition, 2) those for the study of advanced concepts and requirements and; 3) those for training, education and military operations. In the first group, simulation models provide insight into the cost and performance of military equipment, processes, or missions that are planned for the future. The second category allows the military to develop a doctrine of operations, create an internal organization, and select materials for acquisition. The third group of applications includes a simulation system involving specific military scenarios where soldiers and military personnel test doctrines, experiment with new ideas, and assess the usefulness of military concepts in a real warfare situation. The Vehicle Driving course familiarizes Soldiers with driving skills needed to traverse rough terrain. (from American Army) A simulated environment in military training most often consists of a virtual model of a three-dimensional representation of a system that is operating in a digital three-dimensional environment that includes military vehicles and humans that would appear on a battlefield. In this virtual model, individual soldiers are immersed in a system that generates visual, aural, and tactile stimuli that aims to train, test, or measure the ability of the human to respond in a desirable manner to the stimuli (Smith, 2007, p. 2). The US military also use constructive models where the user is not immersed in the virtual environment but is the one controlling the elements of the model. The constructive model is different from the virtual model lies in the method of human interaction, the lack of a three-dimensional representation of the object or system, and the number of objects being controlled by the user. In the constructive model, the user could control several objects or groups of objects. Computer technology has however developed constructive simulations known as Semi-Automated Forces (SAF) systems where the human user and intelligent models of human behavior embedded in the software both control the objects in the simulated system. The user maps out and directs the mission while the SAF supports the user by providing detailed control of activities like movement and engagement. The advantage of constructive models are that they allow a user to comprehend the operations of a much broader battlefield and to capture the behavior of a higher-level aggregate of objects, Also, constructive models could represent the organization, representation, and information that are used in the real military organizational hierarchy. (Smith, 2007, p. 4) Military simulations also consist of engineering models that represent properties of materials, liquids, aerodynamics, servomechanisms, and computer control of specific systems in an attempt to understand the physical capabilities of the system at a level that is accurate enough to be used to design the system. Through the use of advanced computer technologies and modeling techniques, the military could develop digital models of systems that are nearly as predictive as are live physical tests because sensor, communication, and recording equipment can be placed at the precise place and time of interest. Military engineering models also include interactions between two physical objects or between an object and its environment. The primary benefit of using simulated models is that learners are not limited to using just a few physical prototypes and could conduct experiments in infinite variations to collect data from all points in space and time around the event of interest. (Smith, 2007, p. 3). The American Army website features virtual games that provide players with the most authentic military experience available, from exploring the development of soldiers in individual and collective training to their deployment in simulated missions. The required training missions give the player an idea of what its like for real U. S. Army Soldiers to train for duty. The training games include Basic Combat Training (BCT), Advanced Individual Training (AIT), Advanced Marksmanship (Adv. Mkshp), Airborne School (Airborne), Medic Training (Medic), Special Forces Training (SFAS). Virtual simulation in healthcare and medical training Virtual simulation is now widely for medical instruction and study as it effectively links classroom learning with real-life clinical practice. Guided by their current medical knowledge, medical students are able to learn important clinical skills in simulated true-to-life medical settings before they work with real patients. Simulation-based techniques immerse medical students in real-life learning situations for various types of learning in terms of knowledge, tasks and skills, decision-making, and teamwork. It offers focused learning experiences that cannot be readily obtained using traditional techniques or in real patient care situations. Knowledge of facts, concepts, and the relationships between them such as the fundamental description of human biology and physiology, the applied description of the human body in health and disease, the conceptual and practical basis of therapy, evidence-based protocols that guide optimum therapy are more mastered through virtual simulation classroom techniques (Stanford School of Medicine). Unlike some other disciplines that utilize words, drawings, numbers, and spreadsheets, health care requires psychomotor skills of the clinician who lay hands on a patient and perform important procedures. Tasks and skills that encompass the practical and physical parts of medicine and health care could well be developed and honed through virtual simulation because these psychomotor skills can only be mastered hands-on training. Such skills include physical examination, blood drawing, invasive procedures (such as spinal tap or chest drainage) and complex surgical procedures (such as laparoscopic surgery or cardiac surgery) and catheter-based interventions (such as â€Å"cath-lab† procedures treating aortic aneurysm or carotid artery blockage). (Stanford School of Medicine)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

An Analysis of Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue :: Philosophy Essays

An Analysis of Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue Inwardly examining his own nature, man would prefer to see himself as a virtuously courageous being designed in the image of a divine supernatural force. Not to say that the true nature of man is a complete beast, he does posses, like many other creatures admirable traits. As author Matt Ridley examines the nature of man in his work The Origins of Virtue, both the selfish and altruistic sides of man are explored. Upon making an honest and accurate assessment of his character, it seems evident that man is not such a creature divinely set apart from the trappings of selfishness and immorality. Rather than put man at either extreme it seems more accurate to describe man as a creature whose tendency is to look out for himself first, as a means of survival. It is true that on many levels humans act in a cooperative way to benefit all-- but does that warrant a claim that man is genetically altruistic? Perhaps the reasoning behind his actions would lead to another view. As Ridley examines man's dependency upon others in his species, it becomes apparent that man is not necessarily a savage beast out to do everyone in, but rather a lone creature trying to ensure his survival. In comparing man as the lone hunter to the cooperative being he is today it is evident that his species has thrived and survived with much greater ease in a cooperative society as opposed to a lone hunter. Though it can be easily argued that this cooperation between man, is at some level a sort of mutual altruism, it may better be understood as a selfish means of survival. The saying goes that "there is safety in numbers, " this could not be more true for man's plight. Because alone man stands little chance of perpetuating his genes, he flocks to the community wher e he has the better chance of survival, as do his genes. So to better understand the reasoning behind man's need to be in the community it is imperative to look at nature. In the wild and brutal game of life the only measure of true success is whether genes are passed on. Like any other animal this measure of success measures man's success too. For all creatures, to survive is the chance at continuing a gene line, and it is this necessity to continue the line that is innately imbedded in man and all other creatures. An Analysis of Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue :: Philosophy Essays An Analysis of Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue Inwardly examining his own nature, man would prefer to see himself as a virtuously courageous being designed in the image of a divine supernatural force. Not to say that the true nature of man is a complete beast, he does posses, like many other creatures admirable traits. As author Matt Ridley examines the nature of man in his work The Origins of Virtue, both the selfish and altruistic sides of man are explored. Upon making an honest and accurate assessment of his character, it seems evident that man is not such a creature divinely set apart from the trappings of selfishness and immorality. Rather than put man at either extreme it seems more accurate to describe man as a creature whose tendency is to look out for himself first, as a means of survival. It is true that on many levels humans act in a cooperative way to benefit all-- but does that warrant a claim that man is genetically altruistic? Perhaps the reasoning behind his actions would lead to another view. As Ridley examines man's dependency upon others in his species, it becomes apparent that man is not necessarily a savage beast out to do everyone in, but rather a lone creature trying to ensure his survival. In comparing man as the lone hunter to the cooperative being he is today it is evident that his species has thrived and survived with much greater ease in a cooperative society as opposed to a lone hunter. Though it can be easily argued that this cooperation between man, is at some level a sort of mutual altruism, it may better be understood as a selfish means of survival. The saying goes that "there is safety in numbers, " this could not be more true for man's plight. Because alone man stands little chance of perpetuating his genes, he flocks to the community wher e he has the better chance of survival, as do his genes. So to better understand the reasoning behind man's need to be in the community it is imperative to look at nature. In the wild and brutal game of life the only measure of true success is whether genes are passed on. Like any other animal this measure of success measures man's success too. For all creatures, to survive is the chance at continuing a gene line, and it is this necessity to continue the line that is innately imbedded in man and all other creatures.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Pre 1914 Prose Study Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” Essay

   He nearly succeeds in catching it at the North Pole where Captain Walton rescues him. Exhausted he die and Frankenstein’s monster vows to kill himself before disappearing into the â€Å"distance and darkness†. Chapter five begins with Victor Frankenstein revulsion of the monster he has created and Shelley describes the creature’s vile features that shriek terror into the reader alone. In revolt Victor leaves the room at the very disgust of what he was brought into this world and attempts to gain his precious â€Å"sanctuary of sleep†. While he sleeps he dreams of seeing Elizabeth his one love, however as he plants his first kiss on her lips her features change and he appears to eventually hold the dead corpse of his dead mother. He wakes up to find the monster by his bedside peering at him and in anguish runs out of his rented apartment and through the town with paranoid strides fearing he will see the monster at every turn. He finds refuge in the courtyard while lost in his daydreams of the monstrosity he has created, he notices his good friend Clerval and brings him to his accommodation before he has time to think properly. When he reaches his apartment he Is overjoyed that the monster is no longer in the vicinity and welcomes Clerval into his rented home. Dr Frankenstein’s content emotions are quickly destroyed as he imagines seeing the monster lurching for him and breaks down to a fit. Clerval worries for his friends health and nurses him back to health after witnessing Victors fluctuating emotions. Shelley was part of the romantic novelist of the earlier 19th century, who like Shelley used Gothic elements to add provoke terror in a reader. Descriptions such as â€Å"Corpse of my dead mother in my arms† and † Shrivelled complexions all are examples of gothic elements, though the more mysterious and alluding comments such as â€Å"I saw the dull eye of the creature† give the impression this creature isn’t alive and that it is an inanimate object been brought to life through personification elaborated descriptions full of eccentric adverbs. Shelley was a naturally beautiful writer who could conjure sentences as if they flowed from a river of her knowledge. She uses great amounts of writing styles inspired probably from the intellectuals she grew up around. There is a great contrast in sentence length with short lines such as â€Å"How ill you are† and sentences that contain over fifty words for instance; â€Å"I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the which I inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach the demonical corpse to which I had so miserably given life†. Repetition is also a trait of Shelley’s writing style; â€Å"Save me, save me† and â€Å"Dear, dear friends† are both examples of repetition. The use of her adjectives stipulate her close use of gothic rudiments with dark and mystifying words such as â€Å"Dreary†, â€Å"Miserably† and â€Å"Hideous†, yet also her choice of colour reflect on her gothic style such as â€Å"dull yellow†. Another topic to indulge in is Shelley’s use of contrast in a variety of elements. Colour is again is used in contrast for gothic descriptions such as â€Å"Lustrous Black† and â€Å"Pearly White† a common metaphor. The actual pace of the narrative is not an unexpected contrast to build tension and fear, and is commonly used in all sorts of genres and mediums, like songs and television. This practice can be used to build many emotions from love to action yet works just as well if not the best with fear. She uses a contrast of dream and reality this could be because her original idea for the plot came to her in a dream. Yet, however it seems in either the sub consciousness or actual consciousness it is always a horrific period. Finally a contrast in emotions is very blatant such as joy, revulsion and terror all blend together with Frankenstein’s original image of a beautiful creation to its consequential repulsiveness. This brings me to my final point of Mary Shelley’s use of fluctuating emotions to provoke the sense of fear in the reader. Frankenstein expects a beautiful creature to be born of his labour, yet is shocked when he unveils his creation for the first time † How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe†. Horror soon sets in at the monstrosity and almost failure of his dream sets in â€Å"But now that I have I have finished the beauty of the dream of the dream has vanished and breathless horror and disgust fill my heart†. This quickly turns to frightened † I did not dare return to the apartment† , again his emotions fluctuate to a paranoid loneliness â€Å"Like one when on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear† and finally a huge contrast for the previous emotions to happiness † I felt suddenly†¦ calm and serene joy†. Shelley fluctuates Frankenstein’s emotions so rapidly is almost becomes difficult to follow them, yet perhaps this is the desired effect as the confusion only adds the horror you are reading. To conclude, Mary Shelley one of the greatest female novelist of her time if not history efficiently and captivatingly uses techniques, which are still used today in writing. They are not restricted to but she certainly chooses over others mainly are predominately gothic elements; common of early 19th century â€Å"romance† authors. She also makes use of the fluctuating emotions, contrast and language as I have described in earlier paragraphs. Benjamin Semens Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Mary Shelley section.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Vampire Academy Chapter 11

ELEVEN â€Å"YOU NEED SOMETHING TO WEAR?† Lissa asked. â€Å"Hmm?† I glanced over at her. We were waiting for Mr. Nagy's Slavic art class to start, and I was preoccupied with listening to Mia adamantly deny the claims about her parents to one of her friends. â€Å"It's not like they're servants or anything,† she exclaimed, clearly flustered. Straightening her face, she tried for haughtiness. â€Å"They're practically advisors. The Drozdovs don't decide anything without them.† I choked on a laugh, and Lissa shook her head. â€Å"You're enjoying this way too much.† â€Å"Because it's awesome. What'd you just ask me?† I dug through my bag, messily looking for my lip gloss. I made a face when I found it. It was almost empty; I didn't know where I was going to score some more. â€Å"I asked if you need something to wear tonight,† she said. â€Å"Well, yeah, of course I do. But none of your stuff fits me.† â€Å"What are you going to do?† I shrugged my shoulders. â€Å"Improvise, like always. I don't really care anyway. I'm just glad Kirova's letting me go.† We had an assembly tonight. It was November 1, All Saints' Day – which also meant we'd been back almost a month now. A royal group was visiting the school, including Queen Tatiana herself. Honestly, that wasn't what excited me. She'd visited the Academy before. It was pretty common and a lot less cool than it sounded. Besides, after living among humans and elected leaders, I didn't think much of stiff royals. Still, I'd gotten permission to go because everyone else would be there. It was a chance to hang out with actual people for a change and not stay locked in my dorm room. A little freedom was definitely worth the pain of sitting through a few boring speeches. I didn't stay to chat with Lissa after school like I usually did. Dimitri had stuck to his promise about extra trainings, and I was trying to stick to mine. I now had two additional hours of practice with him, one before and one after school. The more I watched him in action, the more I understood the badass-god reputation. He clearly knew a lot – his six molnija marks proved as much – and I burned to have him teach me what he knew. When I arrived at the gym, I noticed he was wearing a T-shirt and loose running pants, as opposed to his usual jeans. It was a good look for him. Really good. Stop looking, I immediately told myself. He positioned me so that we stood facing each other on the mat and crossed his arms. â€Å"What's the first problem you'll run into when facing a Strigoi?† â€Å"They're immortal?† â€Å"Think of something more basic.† More basic than that? I considered. â€Å"They could be bigger than me. And stronger.† Most Strigoi – unless they'd been human first – had the same height as their Moroi cousins. Strigoi also had better strength, reflexes, and senses than dhampirs. That's why guardians trained so hard; we had a â€Å"learning curve† to compensate for. Dimitri nodded. â€Å"That makes it difficult but not impossible. You can usually use a person's extra height and weight against them.† He turned and demonstrated several maneuvers, pointing out where to move and how to strike someone. Going through the motions with him, I gained some insight into why I took such a regular beating in group practice. I absorbed his techniques quickly and couldn't wait to actually use them. Near the end of our time together, he let me try. â€Å"Go ahead,† he said. â€Å"Try to hit me.† I didn't need to be told twice. Lunging forward, I tried to land a blow and was promptly blocked and knocked down onto the mat. Pain surged through my body, but I refused to give in to it. I jumped up again, hoping to catch him off guard. I didn't. After several more failed attempts, I stood up and held out my hands in a gesture of truce. â€Å"Okay, what am I doing wrong?† â€Å"Nothing.† I wasn't as convinced. â€Å"If I wasn't doing anything wrong, I'd have rendered you unconscious by now.† â€Å"Unlikely. Your moves are all correct, but this is the first time you've really tried. I've done it for years.† I shook my head and rolled my eyes at his older-and-wiser manner. He'd once told me he was twenty-four. â€Å"Whatever you say, Grandpa. Can we try it again?† â€Å"We're out of time. Don't you want to get ready?† I looked at the dusty clock on the wall and perked up. Almost time for the banquet. The thought made me giddy I felt like Cinderella, but without the clothes. â€Å"Hell, yeah, I do.† He walked off ahead of me. Studying him carefully, I realized I couldn't let the opportunity go by. I leapt at his back, positioning myself exactly the way he'd taught me. I had the element of surprise. Everything was perfect, and he wouldn't even see me coming. Before I could make contact, he spun around at a ridiculously high speed. In one deft motion, he grabbed me like I weighed nothing and threw me to the ground, pinning me there. I groaned. â€Å"I didn't do anything wrong!† His eyes looked levelly into mine as he held my wrists, but he didn't look as serious as he had during the lesson. He seemed to find this funny. â€Å"The battle cry sort of gave you away. Try not to yell next time.† â€Å"Would it have really made a difference if I'd been quiet?† He thought about it. â€Å"No. Probably not.† I sighed loudly, still in too much of a good mood to really let this disappointment get me down. There were some advantages to having such a kick-ass mentor – one who also happened to have a foot of height on me and outweighed me considerably. And that wasn't even considering his strength. He wasn't bulky but his body had a lot of hard, lean muscle. If I could ever beat him, I could beat anyone. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that he was still holding me down. The skin on his fingers was warm as he clutched my wrists. His face hovered inches from my own, and his legs and torso were actually pressing against mine. Some of his long brown hair hung around his face, and he appeared to be noticing me too, almost like he had that night in the lounge. And oh God, did he smell good. Breathing became difficult for me, and it had nothing to do with the workout or my lungs being crushed. I would have given anything to be able to read his mind right then. Ever since that night in the lounge, I'd noticed him watching me with this same, studious expression. He never actually did it during the trainings themselves – those were business. But before and after, he would sometimes lighten up just a little, and I'd see him look at me in a way that was almost admiring. And sometimes, if I was really, really lucky, he'd smile at me. A real smile, too – not the dry one that accompanied the sarcasm we tossed around so often. I didn't want to admit it to anyone – not to Lissa, not even to myself – but some days, I lived for those smiles. They lit up his face. â€Å"Gorgeous† no longer adequately described him. Hoping to appear calm, I tried to think of something professional and guardian-related to say. Instead, I said, â€Å"So um†¦you got any other moves to show me?† His lips twitched, and for a moment, I thought I was going to get one of those smiles. My heart leapt. Then, with visible effort, he pushed the smile back and once more became my tough-love mentor. He shifted off me, leaned back on his heels, and rose. â€Å"Come on. We should go.† I scrambled to my own feet and followed him out of the gym. He didn't look back as he walked, and I mentally kicked myself on the way back to my room. I was crushing on my mentor. Crushing on my older mentor. I had to be out of my mind. He was seven years older than me. Old enough to be my†¦well, okay, nothing. But still older than me. Seven years was a lot. He'd been learning to write when I was born. When I'd been learning to write and throw books at my teachers, he'd probably been kissing girls. Probably lots of girls, considering how he looked. I so did not need this complication in my life right now. I found a passable sweater back in my room and after a quick shower, I headed off across campus to the reception. Despite the looming stone walls, fancy statues, and turrets on the outsides of the buildings, the Academy's insides were quite modern. We had Wi-Fi, fluorescent lights, and just about anything else technological you could imagine. The commons in particular looked pretty much like the cafeterias I'd eaten in while in Portland and Chicago, with simple rectangular tables, soothing taupe walls, and a little room off to the side where our dubiously prepared meals were served. Someone had at least hung framed black-and-white photos along the walls in an effort to decorate it, but I didn't really consider pictures of vases and leafless trees â€Å"art.† Tonight, however, someone had managed to transform the normally boring commons into a bona fide dining room. Vases spilling over with crimson roses and delicate white lilies. Glowing candles. Tablecloths made of – wait for it – bloodred linen. The effect was gorgeous. It was hard to believe this was the same place I usually ate chicken patty sandwiches in. It looked fit for, well, a queen. The tables had been arranged in straight lines, creating an aisle down the middle of the room. We had assigned seating, and naturally, I couldn't sit anywhere near Lissa. She sat in the front with the other Moroi; I was in the back with the novices. But she did catch my eye when I entered and flashed me a smile. She'd borrowed a dress from Natalie – blue, silky, and strapless – that looked amazing with her pale features. Who'd known Natalie owned anything so good? It made my sweater lose a few cool points. They always conducted these formal banquets in the same way. A head table sat on a dais at the front of the room, where we could all ooh and ahh and watch Queen Tatiana and other royals eat dinner. Guardians lined the walls, as stiff and formal as statues. Dimitri stood among them, and a weird feeling twisted my stomach as I recalled what had happened in the gym. His eyes stared straight ahead, as if focusing on nothing and everything in the room at once. When the time came for the royals' entrance, we all stood up respectfully and watched as they walked down the aisle. I recognized a few, mostly those who had children attending the Academy. Victor Dashkov was among them, walking slowly and with a cane. While I was happy to see him, I cringed to watch each agonizing step he took toward the front of the room. Once that group had passed, four solemn guardians with red-and-black-pin-striped jackets entered the commons. Everyone but the guardians along the walls sank to our knees in a silly show of loyalty. What a lot of ceremony and posturing, I thought wearily. Moroi monarchs were chosen by the previous monarch from within the royal families. The king or queen couldn't choose one of his or her own direct descendents, and a council from the noble and royal families could dispute the choice with enough cause. That almost never happened, though. Queen Tatiana followed her guards, wearing a red silk dress and matching jacket. She was in her early sixties and had dark gray hair bobbed to her chin and crowned with a Miss America-type tiara. She moved into the room slowly, like she was taking a stroll, four more guardians at her back. She moved through the novices' section fairly quickly, though she did nod and smile here and there. Dhampirs might just be the half-human, illegitimate children of the Moroi, but we trained and dedicated our lives to serving and protecting them. The likelihood was strong that many of us gathered here would die young, and the queen had to show her respect for that. When she got to the Moroi section, she paused longer and actually spoke to a few students. It was a big deal to be acknowledged, mostly a sign that someone's parents had gotten in good with her. Naturally, the royals got the most attention. She didn't really say much to them that was all that interesting, mostly just a lot of fancy words. â€Å"Vasilisa Dragomir.† My head shot up. Alarm coursed through the bond at the sound of her name. Breaking protocol, I pushed out of my position and wiggled over to get a better view, knowing no one would notice me when the queen herself had personally singled out the last of the Dragomirs. Everyone was eager to see what the monarch had to say to Lissa the runaway princess. â€Å"We heard you had returned. We are glad to have the Dragomirs back, even though only one remains. We deeply regret the loss of your parents and your brother; they were among the finest of the Moroi, their deaths a true tragedy.† I'd never really understood the royal â€Å"we† thing, but otherwise, everything sounded okay. â€Å"You have an interesting name,† she continued. â€Å"Many heroines in Russian fairy tales are named Vasilisa. Vasilisa the Brave, Vasilisa the Beautiful. They are different young women, all having the same name and the same excellent qualities: strength, intelligence, discipline, and virtue. All accomplish great things, triumphing over their adversaries. â€Å"Likewise, the Dragomir name commands its own respect. Dragomir kings and queens have ruled wisely and justly in our history. They have used their powers for miraculous ends. They have slain Strigoi, fighting right alongside their guardians. They are royal for a reason.† She waited a moment, letting the weight of her words sink in. I could feel the mood changing in the room, as well as the surprise and shy pleasure creeping out from Lissa. This would shake the social balance. We could probably expect a few wannabes trying to get in good with Lissa tomorrow. â€Å"Yes,† Tatiana continued, â€Å"you are doubly named with power. Your names represent the finest qualities people have to offer and hearken back in time to deeds of greatness and valor.† She paused a moment. â€Å"But, as you have demonstrated, names do not make a person. Nor do they have any bearing on how that person turns out.† And with that verbal slap in the face, she turned away and continued her procession. A collective shock filled the room. I briefly contemplated and then dismissed any attempts at jumping into the aisle and tackling the queen. Half a dozen guardians would have me down on the floor before I'd even taken five steps. So I sat impatiently through dinner, all the while feeling Lissa's absolute mortification. When the post-dinner reception followed, Lissa made a beeline for the doors leading out to the courtyard. I followed, but got delayed having to weave around and avoid the mingling, socializing people. She'd wandered outside to an adjacent courtyard, one that matched the Academy's grand external style. A roof of carved, twisting wood covered the garden, with little holes here and there to let in some light, but not enough to cause damage to Moroi. Trees, leaves now gone for the winter, lined the area and guarded paths leading out to other gardens, courtyards, and the main quadrangle. A pond, also emptied for the winter, lay in a corner, and standing over it was an imposing statue of St. Vladimir himself. Carved of gray rock, he wore long robes and had a beard and mustache. Rounding a corner, I stopped when I saw Natalie had beaten me to Lissa. I considered interrupting but stepped back before they could see me. Spying might be bad, but I was suddenly very curious to hear what Natalie had to say to Lissa. â€Å"She shouldn't have said that,† Natalie said. She wore a yellow dress similar in cut to Lissa's, but somehow lacked the grace and poise to make it look as good. Yellow was also a terrible color on her. It clashed with her black hair, which she'd put up into an off-center bun. â€Å"It wasn't right,† she went on. â€Å"Don't let it bother you.† â€Å"Kind of late for that.† Lissa's eyes were locked firmly on the stone walkway below. â€Å"She was wrong.† â€Å"She's right,† Lissa exclaimed. â€Å"My parents†¦and Andre†¦they would have hated me for what I did.† â€Å"No, they wouldn't have.† Natalie spoke in a gentle voice. â€Å"It was stupid to run away. Irresponsible.† â€Å"So what? You made a mistake. I make mistakes all the time. The other day, I was doing this assignment in science, and it was for chapter ten, and I'd actually read chapter elev – † Natalie stopped herself and, in a remarkable show of restraint, got herself back on track. â€Å"People change. We're always changing, right? You aren't the same as you were then. I'm not the same as I was then.† Actually, Natalie seemed exactly the same to me, but that didn't bother me so much anymore. She'd grown on me. â€Å"Besides,† she added, â€Å"was running away really a mistake? You must have done it for a reason. You must have gotten something out of it, right? There was a lot of bad stuff going on with you, wasn't there? With your parents and your brother. I mean, maybe it was the right thing to do.† Lissa hid a smile. Both of us were pretty sure Natalie was trying to find out why we had left – just like everyone else in the school. She sort of sucked at being sneaky. â€Å"I don't know if it was, no,† Lissa answered. â€Å"I was weak. Andre wouldn't have run away. He was so good. Good at everything. Good at getting along with people and all that royal crap.† â€Å"You're good at that too.† â€Å"I guess. But I don't like it. I mean, I like people†¦but most of what they do is so fake. That's what I don't like.† â€Å"Then don't feel bad about not getting involved,† Natalie said. â€Å"I don't hang out with all those people either, and look at me. I'm just fine. Daddy says he doesn't care if I hang out with the royals or not. He just wants me to be happy.† â€Å"And that,† I said, finally making my appearance, â€Å"is why he should be ruling instead of that bitch of a queen. He got robbed.† Natalie nearly jumped ten feet. I felt pretty confident her vocabulary of swear words mostly consisted of â€Å"golly† and â€Å"darn.† â€Å"I wondered where you were,† said Lissa. Natalie looked back and forth between us, suddenly seeming a little embarrassed to be right between the best-friends dream team. She shifted uncomfortably and tucked some messy hair behind her ear. â€Å"Well†¦I should go find Daddy. I'll see you back in the room.† â€Å"See you,† said Lissa. â€Å"And thanks.† Natalie hurried off. â€Å"Does she really call him ? ®Daddy'?† Lissa cut me a look. â€Å"Leave her alone. She's nice.† â€Å"She is, actually. I heard what she said, and as much as I hate to admit it, there was nothing there I could really make fun of. It was all true.† I paused. â€Å"I'll kill her, you know. The queen, not Natalie. Screw the guardians. I'll do it. She can't get away with that.† â€Å"God, Rose! Don't say that. They'll arrest you for treason. Just let it go.† â€Å"Let it go? After what she said to you? In front of everyone?† She didn't answer or even look at me. Instead, she toyed absentmindedly with the branches of a scraggly bush that had gone dormant for the winter. There was a vulnerable look about her that I recognized – and feared. â€Å"Hey.† I lowered my voice. â€Å"Don't look like that. She doesn't know what she's talking about, okay? Don't let this get you down. Don't do anything you shouldn't.† She glanced back up at me. â€Å"It's going to happen again, isn't it?† she whispered. Her hand, still clutching the tree, began to tremble. â€Å"Not if you don't let it.† I tried to look at her wrists without being too obvious. â€Å"You haven't?†¦Ã¢â‚¬  â€Å"No.† She shook her head and blinked back tears. â€Å"I haven't wanted to. I was upset after the fox, but it's been okay. I like the coasting thing. I miss seeing you, but everything's been all right. I like†¦Ã¢â‚¬  She paused. I could hear the word forming in her mind. â€Å"Christian.† â€Å"I wish you couldn't do that. Or wouldn't.† â€Å"Sorry. Do I need to give you the Christian's-a-psychopathic-loser talk again?† â€Å"I think I've got it memorized after the last ten times,† she muttered. I started to launch into number eleven when I heard the sound of laughter and the clatter of high heels on stone. Mia walked toward us with a few friends in tow but no Aaron. Immediately my defenses snapped on. Internally, Lissa was still shaken over the queen's comments. Sorrow and humiliation were swirling inside of her. She felt embarrassed over what others must think of her now and kept thinking about how her family would have hated her for running away. I didn't believe that, but it felt real to her, and her dark emotions churned and churned. She was not okay, no matter how casual she'd just tried to act, and I was worried she might do something reckless. Mia was the last person she needed to see right now. â€Å"What do you want?† I demanded. Mia smiled haughtily at Lissa and ignored me, taking a few steps forward. â€Å"Just wanted to know what it's like to be so important and so royal. You must be so excited that the queen talked to you.† Giggles surfaced from the gathering group. â€Å"You're standing too close.† I stepped between them, and Mia flinched a little, possibly still worried I might break her arm. â€Å"And hey at least the queen knew her name, which is more than I can say for you and your wannabe-royal act. Or your parents.† I could see the pain that caused her. Man, she wanted to be royal so badly. â€Å"At least I see my parents,† she retorted. â€Å"At least I know who they both are. God only knows who your father is. And your mom's one of the most famous guardians around, but she couldn't care less about you either. Everyone knows she never visits. Probably was glad when you were gone. If she even noticed.† That hurt. I clenched my teeth. â€Å"Yeah, well, at least she's famous. She really does advise royals and nobles. She doesn't clean up after them.† I heard one of her friends snicker behind her. Mia opened her mouth, no doubt to unleash one of the many retorts she'd had to accumulate since the story started going around, when the lightbulb suddenly went off in her head. â€Å"It was you,† she said, eyes wide. â€Å"Someone told me Jesse'd started it, but he couldn't have known anything about me. He got it from you. When you slept with him.† Now she was really starting to piss me off. â€Å"I didn't sleep with him.† Mia pointed at Lissa and glared back at me. â€Å"So that's it, huh? You do her dirty work because she's too pathetic to do it herself. You aren't always going to be able to protect her,† she warned. â€Å"You aren't safe either.† Empty threats. I leaned forward, making my voice as menacing as possible. In my current mood, it wasn't difficult. â€Å"Yeah? Try and touch me now and find out.† I hoped she would. I wanted her to. We didn't need her messed-up vendetta in our lives just now. She was a distraction – one I very much wanted to punch right now. Looking past her, I saw Dimitri move out into the garden, eyes searching for something – or someone. I had a pretty good idea who it was. When he saw me, he strode forward, shifting his attention when he noticed the crowd gathered around us. Guardians can smell a fight a mile away. Of course, a six-year-old could have smelled this fight. Dimitri stood beside me and crossed his arms. â€Å"Everything all right?† â€Å"Sure thing, Guardian Belikov.† I smiled as I said it, but I was furious. Raging, even. This whole Mia confrontation had only made Lissa feel worse. â€Å"We were just swapping family stories. Ever heard Mia's? It's fascinating.† â€Å"Come on,† said Mia to her followers. She led them off, but not before she'd given me one last, chilling look. I didn't need to read her mind to know what it said. This wasn't over. She was going to try to get one or both of us back. Fine. Bring it on, Mia. â€Å"I'm supposed to take you back to your dorm,† Dimitri told me drily. â€Å"You weren't about to just start a fight, were you?† â€Å"Of course not,† I said, my eyes still staring at the empty doorway Mia had disappeared through. â€Å"I don't start fights where people can see them.† â€Å"Rose,† groaned Lissa. â€Å"Let's go. Good night, Princess.† He turned, but I didn't move. â€Å"You going to be okay, Liss?† She nodded. â€Å"I'm fine.† It was such a lie, I couldn't believe she had the nerve to try to put it past me. I didn't need the bond to see tears shining in her eyes. We should never have come back to this place, I realized bleakly. â€Å"Liss†¦Ã¢â‚¬  She gave me a small, sad smile and nodded in Dimitri's direction. â€Å"I told you, I'm fine. You've got to go.† Reluctantly, I followed him. He led me out toward the other side of the garden. â€Å"We may need to add an extra training on self-control,† he noted. â€Å"I have plenty of self contr – hey!† I stopped talking as I saw Christian slip past us, moving down the path we'd just come from. I hadn't seen him at the reception, but if Kirova had released me to come tonight, I suppose she would have done the same for him. â€Å"You going to see Lissa?† I demanded, shifting my Mia rage to him. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and gave me that look of bad-boy indifference. â€Å"What if I am?† â€Å"Rose, this isn't the time,† said Dimitri. But it was so the time. Lissa had ignored my warnings about Christian for weeks. It was time to go to the source and stop their ridiculous flirtation once and for all. â€Å"Why don't you just leave her alone? Are you so messed up and desperate for attention that you can't tell when someone doesn't like you?† He scowled. â€Å"You're some crazy stalker, and she knows it. She's told me all about your weird obsession – how you're always hanging out in the attic together, how you set Ralf on fire to impress her. She thinks you're a freak, but she's too nice to say anything.† His face had paled, and something dark churned in his eyes. â€Å"But you aren't too nice?† â€Å"No. Not when I feel sorry for someone.† â€Å"Enough,† said Dimitri, steering me away. â€Å"Thanks for ? ®helping,' then,† snapped Christian, his voice dripping with animosity. â€Å"No problem,† I called back over my shoulder. When we'd gone a little ways, I stole a glance behind me and saw Christian standing just outside the garden. He'd stopped walking and now stood staring down the path that led to Lissa in the courtyard. Shadows covered his face as he thought, and then, after a few moments, he turned around and headed back toward the Moroi dorms.