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I've watched a few games, the dealers always keep their hands in view, but the thing they scan the cards on, i see them scan it twice and shit. Doubt that matters but it seems weird to bet donation money on something that's rigged. submitted by
Link to Previous Tales From 2+2: Poker player steals $1m+ chips and tries to sell it on 2+2 poker forums More Tales From 2+2: A Very Controversial $70k prop bet Tales from 2+2: Homelessness, Grinding and the Biggest Shot of a Grinder’s Life: The Jared Huggins Story submitted by
The Blossoming of TV Poker
The Year is 2006. Online poker is thriving. Partypoker has the highest traffic of any poker site but Pokerstars are gaining new players quickly with aggressive marketing strategies. Lots of poker sites are investing heavily into marketing and one key place to channel their advertising budget is TV. New innovations, improved graphics and increasing funding meant that poker TV is at an all-time peak of popularity.
40% of the the 2006 WSOP Main Event’s attendance is from online sites and poker sites are offering large amounts of cash for players on TV to wear an advertising patch. According to Dan Goldman
’s blog, Pokerstars spent over $730,000 on WSOP players’ gift bags. The WSOP is seeing more TV time and this year the $50k HORSE event is added to the TV schedule alongside the WSOP main event. This year’s $50k WSOP HORSE final table saw some huge names including Chip Reese
, Phil Ivey
, Patrik Antonius
and Doyle Brunson
The Path of a New Player
In Finland, Mikael Paisting
is watching the 2006 WSOP on TV. He enjoys watching poker broadcasts and is fascinated by the game. It’s a very common story for players to catch an interest by watching poker TV and sign up with to one of the many poker sites available. He chooses to deposit on Partypoker. Mikael
is a committed learner and player. He reads several poker books from well-known authors such as Dan Harrington
and David Sklansky
. He also watches many training videos. Like many players starting in online poker he begins at the microstakes cash tables.
Microstakes are a rite of passage for many online poker players. The limits range from 2nl to 10nl, so the standard buy in is $2-10. Some will play microstakes for weeks, months or even years improving their game and increasing their bankroll so they can move up to small stakes, 25nl and above. Some players see the microstakes as a job and play as many tables as they can to eke out a living wage. Some players have never played microstakes and skip it entirely for higher stakes. Mikael
starts to play and doesn’t do well, this is normal for many beginners, even those who study. However, over the next few weeks Mikael
continues to lose. Months go by and Mikael
still hasn’t turned a profit. He discovers problems with tilt and often takes his frustration out in the chat box. An example of his rage:
Paisting:THAT IS NOT NORMAL OMG!! JUST UNBELIEVABLE Mikael
doesn’t play 10nl very often and spends the majority of him time playing 2nl and 5nl. He continues to multitable cash games on Partypoker but he just can’t win. He starts to lose big, thousands of dollars, mostly at 2nl which is known as the softest cash game on the internet.
Getting Noticed Mikael
continues to play long sessions over the next five years, he claims to play 5-7 days a week for 4-8 hours a day. By 2011 he had played 2 and a half million hands while playing 6 to 9 cash tables at one time. Mikael
is still mostly playing 2nl and is down a colossal amount: $7000. Mikael
has been suffering from major tilt problems and has a very wild and noticeable style of playing microstakes. He starts to get noticed on 2+2, a very popular poker forum. A player posts a link to his PTR graph, a site which tracks online cash games. They are shocked at his losses over so many hands:
yegor: wow such a massive fail
he played 2.5m hands at 2nl and 5nl and he's losing
Donkey111: I remember him from my 2NL days.
often goes on some massive tilt sessions and spews like 20 BI in 500 hands by shoving any 2 cards preflop.
He even gets hate from his PTR account where he is ridiculed on his profile comments, he also replies:
VELAir26: Spend your time with family, friends or other hobbies instead Mikael
Paisting: im fine with this you stupid idiot
continues to play his reckless and tilting style over the years. By 2014, he has been playing for 8 years and is down five figures at microstakes; he starts to look for excuses for how much he has lost. He posts a thread on 2+2 detailing how he feels that he wins at the start of the month and then inevitably starts to lose. He asks how he can take legal action against Partypoker. His fellow posters tease him:
5thStreethog: Did the thought ever cross your mind that it might be possible that the reason you cant beat NL2 in over a million hands might be because you arent very good at poker?
An Attempt at Redemption
2019 comes and Mikael Paisting
has been playing microstakes for 13 years, and steadily losing a lot of money. He got a new computer in late 2018 and has been grinding away on it. Mikael
is getting mentioned more on 2+2 and he is well known on the tables of Partypoker as he drops stack after stack. Many players on Partypoker furiously try to get on his tables to call his tilt shoves; when Mikael
is present other player’s stacks can get as high as $100 at 2nl as he shoves buy in after buy in to button steals. Some were said to be using seating scripts to instantly be placed on a table with Paisting
. At this point he is feeling very low. But despite years of losing money and insane tilting he is determined to improve. Mikael
is aware of his losses and has a fierce desire to make back the money he has lost since he’s started tracking on his new PC.
He decides get help and he looks to 2+2, the very same forum that had mocked him over the last decade. He logs in as Paisting
, his last name. He starts a new thread, types out a post and chooses a title: 'Biggest loser in online poker history wants to grind $16k'. He posts this thread in the sub-forum Poker Goals & Challenges, a place where players post their goals and try to update their thread with their progress. He posts graphs of his losses from his database on his PC. He starts the thread by posting some shocking graphs of $8700 lost at 2nl
, $6000 lost at 5nl
and $800 lost at 10nl
. At 2nl he had an incredible rate of -170BB each 100 hands. The final graph of his microstakes losses posted show $15,000 lost over 365,000 hands. An average loss of $75 a day.
The 2+2 poker community are stunned by the graphs:
HorseofHell: I'm actually shocked it's possible to lose this much at 2nl Mikael
Mahsjdj: This can't be real can it?
posts about the hard work he’s put into poker and mentions that has watched videos, read many instructional books and is honest with his astounding losses:
Paisting: I've lost literally all my money including all my life savings to online poker. I want to try one last time to win those money back and little bit of extra. That's why $16k. What I need is support and guiding.
The community react to his plan to grind all the money back at microstakes:
Fodersneso: This is really disturbing.
Why on earth would you try to grind this all back? Losing at this rate is traumatizing. You're going to grind out 3000 BIs @nl5 now or what's the plan? Really curious how you think you can turn this pile of insanity around...
The community show disbelief and doubt that his story is real but several posters claim that what he says is true. He has been active in Finnish forums for more than 10 years and players starts to share hand histories and stories about his playstyle. He posts about his regret of picking the game up:
Paisting: Never had a winning week in 13 years.
If it were possible to go back ten years I would say to myself "Do not never play single one hand!"
He then goes on to tell 2+2 posters a disturbing source of his funds for his staggering 2nl losses:
Paisting: I've taken huge amount of fast loans.
He sheds a little light into his personal life:
Paisting: My age and relationships has nothing to do with this. But not working, no kids or wife and middle aged. What I have is time to play.
I get a little unemployment benefit that goes straight to the rent. My eating costs are very little because I'm only eating one meal per day. There are times when I must take more fast loans if need of clothes, unexpected bills, sickness etc. That's why getting back those $16k is so important to me.
No disability, never played anything else than poker or lottery when pots are bigger, maybe 5 times in year. Playing poker does not give me any excitement or I'm not cheering won pots.
Posters try to give him strategy advice, they try to persuade him time and time again that shoving 100+ blinds to a minsteal isn’t a good idea. Some others question his sanity and tell him to quit:
FazendeiroBH: Not trolling, I´m actually serious here. You lost an absurd amount of money playing the easiest stake in the world (nl2). You keep losing doing the same faulty strategy. No book ever said you should jam 100 bb preflop rfi. It´s quite obvious there is something wrong with you and your brain, and the more you delay seeking professional care for your mental problems, the worst it´s gonna be for you. Paitsing
updates his thread with highlight hands from his cash sessions. He seems to cherry pick hands to post and will only post hands where he loses all ins as a 70-95% favourite. He delusion leads him to blame the site, his luck and the other micro grinders. He often writes about specific players and gives his opinion on how badly they play. He often quotes their HUD stats and wide calling ranges while ignoring that they are probably adjusting heavily to his own playstyle. Some time passes and he discloses that he has lost almost $500 at 2nl since starting the thread three weeks ago.
He updates his followers with the first monthly graph
of the thread from his 2nl play in April 2019. He plays for 90 hours in April and his average daily loss is $50, 25 buy ins each day. 2+2 players start to analyse the graph. They notice that there are several breakeven spots where he may be playing reasonable poker but also huge 150 buy in downswings, some drops in the graph are so steep that he is losing about a buy in every 5 hands for periods of hundreds of hands. He says:
Paitsing: Only trying to get my money back from guys who are playing nl2 forever and never moving up. When I started poker long time ago I tought it's exciting to read watch videos if it gives me more money. After 2 years figured out it's just sitting on computer like in work and if I'm someday +-0 never ever playing this stupid game. This is like war.
The thread goes on like this for almost a year. The thread repeats itself over and over. He will post a few selective bad beats, ignore good advice and berate his microstakes tablemates. A fellow microstakes grinder makes his first appearance in the thread: 6betpot
would play at Paisting
's tables and often win many buy ins, 6Betpot
would go on to post highly contrasting hand histories to the bad beats that Paisting
posts, he would also reveal Paisting
’s preflop 3 bet is around 30%. Some players would criticize 6Betpot
for predatory behavior but 6Betpot
would maintain that he would try to persuade Paisting
to stop playing in a spewy manner. Someone asks to see the hands and 6Betpot
posts some, here is one:
888 Poker - $0.02 NL (6 max) - Holdem - 6 players
BTN: 250.5 BB
SB (Paisting): 425.5 BB
BB: 101.5 BB
UTG: 100 BB
MP: 106.5 BB
CO: 84.5 BB
Pre Flop: (pot: 1.5 BB) BTN has AdQs
fold, fold, fold, BTN raises to 2 BB, Paisting raises to 425.5 BB and is all-in, fold, BTN calls 248.5 BB and is all-in
Flop: (502 BB, 2 players) Kh4s4c
Turn: (502 BB, 2 players) 3h
River: (502 BB, 2 players) Jc
BTN shows AdQs (One Pair, Fours)
Paisting shows 5s Js (Two Pair, Jacks and Fours) Paisting
wins 471 BB<
Later in the thread Paisting
would reveal his line of thinking during hands like these; a poster asked why he though 3 betting hands like J5 was a good idea. Paisting
Paisting: If you don't want them to run over you, you must do something. Blind play is very important and you can't let them run over you. When 80+ habit stealer gets shoves straight to his face he must learn at some point that I'm not giving blinds.
Many tried to reason with him and show him clearly why this was wrong, he not only refuted their strategy but would argue against them, often citing his opponent’s HUD stats.
Later on in the thread Mikael
posts horrifying news. He explains that he didn’t transfer hands from his old computer to his new computer. The graphs he posted at the start of the thread only showed the tip of the iceberg. He reveals that $16k loss from the graphs was from just 7 months of play!:
Paisting: That 16k is in 209 days and in about 1 year as you can see from the first post. Big part of my losings has left to hard drive of my old crashed computer. That's past and I don't wanna think about it anymore. Main goal is this database I have here in my computer. But yes what I have been repeating many times, moving to 888 poker has sky rocketed my losses although I can play only 6 tables compared to party's 9 tables.
Posters speculate that his lifetime microstakes losses probably amount to six figures:
SpinMeRightRound: I mean if he's lost $20k in the last year, and he's been doing this for more than 10 years, he may have lost $200k or more.
In late 2019, Paisting
claims that there was a ring of players were colluding against him. He goes on to say that the new site he plays on, 888, were asking for hand histories from certain players. He showed emails of his communications and posted that 8 players had had their account frozen. He also shows screenshots that his account is temporarily frozen during the investigation. Posters speculated:
CrunchyBlack: Pretty sure they think you're chip dumping lmao
.isolated: They think you're chip dumping to him. Funniest. Thing. Ever. The irony here is nearly palpable.
2020: The Struggle Continues
At the end of the year Paisting
posts his 2019 graphs. He says that he hasn’t had a winning week yet and he’s still committed to making back 2019’s losses. His graphs show down 12k from 320k hands of 2nl in 2019.
In January 2020 he continues to post regularly and makes comments about him hunting down players worse than him:
Paisting: When you hunt really bad player (yes enzet there are plenty of worst player than me on 888 look those hand histories really carefully) hours and hours and wait good hand just to site let them to suck out it is affecting your game really badly.
He posts about his continuing struggle to win back the $16k:
Paisting: I have years dedicated for this project and anything back from that amount is winning to me. At this point it’s impossible to make any profit because of horrible suckouts.
He also posts about the high interest loans he’s taken out:
Paisting: I have huge amounts of loans that are basically all taken for poker. I don't eat much and all my other costs are very low.
And because of those loans I must get back so much money that is possible and these suck outs must stop.
February 2020 arrives and he posts his January chart
, the worst posted yet. He takes a gigantic loss of $1,550 at an eye-watering rate of 210bb/100 hands. Often when he posts monthly graphs he would highlight that he ran a few buy ins below EV when he would be down hundreds of buy ins for the month.
The months pass and the cycle continues. Paisting
posts the usual bad beats, posters berate him and try to give him advice and Paisting
resists their efforts. Here is one of many similar hands posted in February:
888Poker, Hold'em No Limit - $0.01/$0.02 - 6 players
UTG: $1.46 (73 bb) Paisting (MP): $7.45 (373 bb) CO: $15.44 (772 bb) BU: $2.00 (100 bb) SB: $3.47 (174 bb) BB: $2.00 (100 bb)
Pre-Flop: ($0.03) 1 fold, Paisting(MP) raises to $7.45 (all-in), CO calls $7.45, 3 players fold
Flop: ($14.93) 6c7c4d (2 players, 1 all-in)
Turn: ($14.93) Ts (2 players, 1 all-in)
River: ($14.93) 8h (2 players, 1 all-in)
Total pot: $14.93 (Rake: $0.93)
Showdown: Paisting (MP) shows 7dTc (two pair, Tens and Sevens) (CO) shows JsJc (a pair of Jacks) Paisting (MP) wins $14
March comes and the regular monthly graph
is posted. The uploaded graph shows is he down $1900 or 950 buy ins for last month. Mikael
refutes that he is a gambling addict:
Paisting: 888 has given many 10 dollar bonuses to me play slots. I have never played them and in fact my account has 20 dollars freeplay bonus to play their slots. I will not use those money now or in future. So that's gambling addict to you.
April and May roll by and the monthly graphs are posted. He played fewer hands than normal, 43,000. But is down $1,250, all at 2nl.
In June he posts the usual monthly graph
with -$1900 and it’s the lowest win rate he’s posted before, a colossal -335b/100hands, the graph has some alarmingly steep downswings with one section where he loses $500 in 1000 hands. That’s a loss of one buy in every 4 hands. Getting these monthly updates shows how quickly he loses money at 2nl and collaborates with earlier estimations that he is likely down more than $100k at microstakes over the past 14 years. Approximations indicate that Mikael
has paid over $20k in rake to poker sites over the years.
The End, for Now Mikael
is still playing microstakes to this day. His poker story isn’t over yet but so far it is a sad one. My previous two Tales from 2+2 stories had mostly happy endings but not this one. This story is like a car falling down a cliff and it hasn’t hit the bottom yet.
Let this story be a lesson that poker isn’t for everyone. Players with addiction or mental issues should reconsider if the game is best for their lives. Serious poker players should consider bankroll management and how tilt affects their winrate if they do choose to play. Seek help
if you think you or others need it. Original thread
So after using Fanduel Sportsbook for a few weeks and being quite successful (primarily but not solely with live betting), I've had a 15 second delay placed on my account that affects my ability to live bet. That is, after clicking on the "Place Bet" button, it now shows a countdown that goes from 15 all the way down to 0 before the bet is actually placed. It is now nearly impossible for me to bet on sports where the odds change rapidly, such as tennis or table tennis. submitted by
I contacted their customer support about this and after much back and forth was told that they reserve the right to institute these delays and that it is a "traders' decision". I don't doubt that it is likely in their terms somewhere, but it sure does suck to know that you'll be penalized if you are successful. Just figured I'd pass this knowledge along to you all as I think it is important information when deciding which site to bet with.
Welcome, one and all. I’ve been a lurker on this sub for a while, and I’ve decided it was time I contribute. This is my first shot with a story post on the snoo snoo site, so go easy on me. A warning for Undertale
spoilers. Also, this write-up will make mention of pedophilia, incest, needles, tongue injuries, and food that has been tampered with. Yeah, the fandom gets kind of fucked up at points, but if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be writing this, now would I?
Unless you make your residence under a rock, you’re aware of the 2015 indie game Undertale,
developed by Toby Fox and Temmie Chang. You also probably know about its 2018 sort-of-sequel, Deltarune.
But we’re not talking about Deltarune
here. In a shellnut, the plot of Undertale
is about a human child who falls into an underground world full of monsters. The monsters have been trapped there for centuries by magic, and the child’s soul is the key to their escape. The gimmick of Undertale
is that the player can do a full “pacifist” run of the game in which they don’t kill a single NPC or random encounter creature. Doing this unlocks the Golden Ending. The player can also go out of their way to slaughter every NPC and creature in the Underground, in what’s called the “Genocide” or “No Mercy” run. The game will be sure to punish you for your pointless virtual cruelty if you do that (more on that later.) Undertale
exploded in popularity because it is indeed a very well-made game. It’s been greatly praised for its themes, storytelling, music, humor, and atmosphere. Special mention goes to the characters; all the main characters and even some minor encounters are extremely well-developed and complex. Of these, fans are most obsessed with Sans the Skeleton. He’s a lazy but good-natured skeleton monster who loves cracking puns, drinking ketchup, and his brother Papyrus. In a pacifist run, he’s a fun jokester type and promises to look after you, but there are hints that he knows more about you and the game’s mechanics than he lets on. In a genocide run, all bets are off, since you killed his brother and everyone else. He subjects you to a ridiculously hard boss battle (you don’t fight him in a pacifist run at all) at the end of the run. Said boss battle is set to “Megalovania,” which Toby Fox composed for earlier games of his and then adapted for Undertale.
Sans is a cool character. His boss battle is kickass. “Megalovania” is a banger. You can see where this is going.
I don’t know why people are thirsty for Sans, though. Being obsessed with him for being cool, I understand. But the thirst, I don’t. He’s not hot and he wasn’t supposed to be, either. He’s short, implied to be chubby, always sports a shit-eating grin, and walks around in a hoodie, shorts, and silly bedroom slippers*. If you ask me, he’s more huggable than hot. But fans will be fans, I guess. It wasn’t long before there were scores of thirsty fans (mostly female, for usual reasons) all over this goofy skeleton. I don’t think I need to link fanart to prove it. Use your imagination. Insert pun about wanting to bone
him. Sans would approve. What he wouldn’t
approve, though, were some of their choices of who to ship him with. There are three Sans ships that are most popular in the fandom, and only one of them isn’t flagrantly creepy. Enter the stinkies, Frans and Fontcest, and the maybe-not-creepy Soriel.
*There was a debate whether he wore slippers or sneakers. Undertale has simple pixel graphics and all battle sprites are in black and white, so it’s hard to tell going off the game alone. But the official merch shows him wearing slippers, so that’s what I’m going with.
Frans refers to Frisk x Sans. If you didn’t know, Frisk is the canon name for the playable character in Undertale.
Normally shipping the player character with an NPC would be fine, if not a bit wish fulfilly, since the PC is usually a stand in for you, the geek at the controls. Problem is, Frisk is a child, unambiguously so. They’re repeatedly called “kid,” “my child,” “kiddo,” etc. Based on the in-game sprite and official artwork, Frisk doesn’t look any older than 10. Sans, on the other hand, is clearly an adult. Cue the accusations of it being pedoriffic, and I can’t say as if I disagree.
You most likely know the issue with Fontcest just by looking at the name. Yeah, it’s shipping Sans with Papyrus. His brother. Yuck. What is with fans and shipping incest? Anyway, Fontcest was also virulently hated in the fandom. Maybe even more so than Frans, since you can age up Frisk to make it less creepy, whereas explaining away Sans and Papyrus’s relationship is more difficult. Some people ship Fontcest shamelessly, while others try to find a workaround. Usually, they’ll bring in a Sans or Papyrus from one of the copious alternate universes in the fandom. (Most of which are just Sans and Papy in various hats.) Is it incest if they’re from different universes? I dunno, you make that judgment call. I’m just the reporter guy.
That leaves us with Soriel – Sans shipped with Toriel, a character who is, thankfully, neither underage nor related to him. Toriel is an early-game NPC who rescues you from a flower trying to murder you (it makes sense in context) and escorts you through the tutorial level. (Toriel? Tu-torial? Get it? Yeah, I thought it was a little cheesy, too.) She’s a goat woman who loves humankind, despite what they’ve done to her race, and adores being a mom. She’s obsessively protective of you, to the point where she literally fights you when you try to leave her home. Her connection to Sans is that she befriended him through corny jokes and asked him to look after you. According to Sans, she’s the reason you aren’t “D E A D W H E R E Y O U S T A N D.” Okay, so Toriel isn’t underage, isn’t related to Sans, and has a meaningful connection to him, to boot.
So where’s the problem? Why do fans get pissy over Soriel shipping? Well, to be honest...I have no idea. Sure, Toby Fox confirmed that Sans is too lazy for a relationship, but if you’re going to take that as gospel, then you shouldn’t ship him with anyone. And since when has the fandom listened to creators’ requests to not do the hippy dippy super shippy? Some people pulled out the “pedo” argument since Toriel is noticeably older than Sans (he even calls her “old lady” at one point), but an older woman and a younger man is different than an adult and a literal child if you ask me. Consenting adults and all that. Maybe the goat woman is a cougar, but I’d rather have that than skeletons being pedos and/or incest partakers.
Of course, there’s always the tried-and-true “I’ll ship them with my OC.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. You do you. But you know how fandoms are, and naturally a lot of the Sans fangirls got slapped with “Sans is MINE!!1!” jokes. And who’s likely to root for Sans hooking up with some random chick instead of a well-known character, especially if said random chick stinks of Mary Sueishness and self-insert. I won’t cheer for Mary Sue x Sans, but it is
better than those god-awful stories of him banging his sibling or creeping on a kid.
So this probably just seems like normal fandom dumbfuckery, right? Well, I’m sorry to say that it goes beyond that. Our investigation into drama over who Sans should date leads us to the big incident that forms the real drama. Someone almost got killed because of Undertale
shipping drama. Here’s the sordid story. This is where the part about the needles and tampered food comes in, so if that’s a trigger for you, this is your last chance to turn back.
missed the core theme of the game – all that hoopla about mercy and love. A popular Undertale
fan artist, Avimedes, attended a convention in Taiwan in 2017. While at the convention, a person, who has not yet been identified, approached Avimedes and offered her a box of homemade cookies. The artist, thinking it was a gesture of goodwill, accepted the treat and tried a cookie. Except this wasn’t a random act of kindness from a fan of her artwork; it was an attempt to get her hospitalized or worse. The cookies had needles in them – large sewing needles, to be exact. As Avimedes wasn’t aware of the adulteration before trying one, she ended up piercing her tongue on the needle and needed medical attention. Shortly thereafter, she posted a picture of the blood and needle on her Plurk (a Taiwanese social media site) with a morose comment about how she now has an extra piercing and can’t track down the person who did this to her.
Despite the inability to catch the miscreant, fans suspect a particular motivation for the crime. Avimedes is a Frans shipper and often does artwork of it. Frisk is aged up in her artwork to avoid the whole deal seeming creepy. Despite the aging up, her behavior supposedly pissed off an “anti,” -- that is, a person who is opposed to shipping incest, pedo-ish stuff, and so on. The anti then concocted the tainted cookies and gave them to Avimedes with the hopes of injuring or even killing her. Fans have since been holding up the incident as an example of toxic anti culture (see the last two links in the references section), where moral ideology gets so fevered that it turns murderous. If that was indeed the cookie criminal’s intent, then those people have a point. As you’re probably well aware if you’ve spent five minutes in a fandom on Tumblr dot hell, shit really hits the fan when the antis and proshippers clash. But we don’t know the con criminal’s motives, and we never really will.
Just don’t accept food from strangers at a con. And maybe don’t ship adults with children. References WARNING: Some links contain images of needles, blood, and chewed up food. DO NOT click on a link if those are a trigger for you.
Book 1 of The HEL Jumper Book 2 of The HEL Jumper submitted by
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With little else on his plate, Russell Winters took his time walking through the corridors and facilities of the Event Horizon. More than a few curious civilians who weren’t aware of his identity nodded or waved his way, surprised to see a new face after so long aboard. He returned the greetings briefly but carried on towards the rear of the ship, his confident stride impressing upon those he met that he had somewhere to go and something to do. The reality wasn’t quite that demanding, but it allowed him to avoid any sort of prolonged discussion, or any discussion beyond a simple nod of his head or a single word to acknowledge a passerby. Deep down he couldn’t help but feel adrift or alone. For the first time since he’d lost the Lancer not even Io was around to chat. That wasn’t exactly true, of course, but she was with Veera and Asha, and he did not want to be seen conversing with the ceiling.
So instead he continued through mostly empty corridors, lightly used thanks to the marvel that was the tube system and the fact that most everyone was at their job or station given the hour of the day. The midpoint of the ship was actually quite easy to spot, with the gently sloping, white hallways of the civilian half giving way to defined edges and metallic gray of the military. When those long stretches of metal and polymer began to blend together, the novelty of the ship itself having long worn off, the Jumper fell into reflection as so many humans do in times of solitude. Given his conversation with Natori earlier in the day, it was perhaps natural that his thoughts eventually turned to Jess and the others. Emotions once raw and crippling felt muted and distant, the passive mask on his face only giving way when he cursed and chastised himself, upset that he couldn’t remember Jess’ face as clearly as he wanted to. With his personal effects also blown to smithereens, it would be many more months until he could see her again the way he wanted to, smiling and clothed like a civilian in photographs saved on his personal devices back home. He resolved not to get upset at Kaczynski if the Admiral chose to do something involving the stock photographs taken of every member of the HEL for just such an occasion, the ones with forced smiles, uniforms, and flags in the background. Finding himself in yet another empty corridor, save a passing maintenance bot, he felt comfortable muttering a quiet thank you to Veera, recalling the first time she’d told him about her parents and the ‘dull ache’ that their passing had left behind. He thought he understood better what she meant by calling it a scar that never truly faded.
After half an hour or so, which consisted of a couple stops to check his location within the orbiting behemoth that was the Event Horizon, Russell finally arrived at a familiar junction, the area just outside the armory proper where he’d ‘introduced himself’ to Lipper’s squad. Finding the place to be blessedly quiet and devoid of cocky, bombastic Jumpers, Russell walked through the automatic doors, nodding his head as weapons and munitions of all types greeted him. All were locked and stowed according to HEL protocol, of course, so he didn’t exactly have free reign to try out what looked to be the newest version of humanity’s shoulder-fired rocket launcher. Instead, he nodded approvingly at what appeared to be remote detonated airburst shells before moving along the line towards a shooting range style storefront and workshop built into the back of the armory. Russell did bother trying to hide his surprise when he recognized the graying Persian man behind the counter.
The well built master at arms glanced up from a book he was reading, real paper and ink, to furrow his brow at the young man. “Two weeks. I was wondering if you were going to stop in and say hello. Didn’t think Marshall Winters’ son was that ungrateful. I assume those two weapons I received this morning are yours then?” he asked, placing his bookmark and slowly unlocking the door to his range. Despite Winters’ slight height advantage, Darius had some choice words for him as the two men stood face to face. “Next time you decide to pick fights in my neck of the woods, the sparring room is right over there,” he growled, pointing over his shoulder to another, nondescript door in the gray wall of the armory.
“I finished that one, Darius. Didn’t start it,” Winters insisted, standing his ground.
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t take that one at face value, Rusty. My memory isn’t gone yet and I seem to recall more than a handful of brawls that ended up in the ring after you started em.”
“Yeah well, you can ask my wife about this one. Don’t worry, sounds like they’re back in action already.”
Darius cocked his dark eyebrows at Winters, sizing him up. “Now you wouldn’t joke around with a well armed old man, would you?”
“Oh shut it, Darius. You don’t look a day over fifty.”
“That’s cause I am fifty you little punk, now what’s all this about you getting hitched?” the stocky man demanded, crossing his arms over his chest and threatening the seams of his shirt sleeves. Russell couldn’t help but smile. Darius always seemed to run a size too small, but he had the musculature to pull it off.
“Married planetside, one of the local women. They’re very intelligent, just a bit behind on the tech curve.”
“Hah! Not intelligent enough to avoid you, kid. Ah, it’s funny,” Darius sighed regretfully. “I always assumed that when everything was said and done you and that plucky little captain would shack up together after seeing a bit of the galaxy. Guess fate had other ideas.” When the grizzled armorer looked close and saw not just sorrow, but guilt on Russell’s face, he pressed the issue. “Ah damn, don’t tell me?”
“Yeah, best I don’t tell you,” the Jumper agreed. Darius extended his hand and the two of them shook.
“I’m glad you got off that ship alive, kid. Like I said, fate had other ideas. Shame about Jessica and the others. To think I’d hear about your damn wedding before your pops and mother? C’mon, there’s only one thing to do at a time like this.”
With a shrug, Winters followed the man who’d armed and equipped him during basic training and beyond through the door to his inner sanctum of sorts. “Looks just like back on Earth, Darius. How’d you end up here?”
“Not complicated, Rusty. The Admiral offered me a promotion and a pay raise,” Darius offered, heaving a standard small arms container onto the shelf and unlocking the clasps. “And before you accuse me of betraying Delta or Omega or whatever other nonsense you might be thinking, Beta holds all the patents and Natori knows what to do with them.”
“Hey, he came all this way to get me. I’m not complaining… except for the fact that he almost got my sister and everyone else aboard killed,” Russell groused, his words stopping Darius mid-motion as the master at arms unveiled the Jumper’s rifle and pistol.
“I’m still alive, which means I don’t want to know, kid. Now, where the hell is your sword and shield?” he wondered, taking a critical look at the rifle first.
“The locals have whetstones and the like. No problems there,” Russell reported.
“I don’t care if the locals have self-churning ice cream, soldier. You have access to an armory now. I expect you to properly care for your weapons,” Darius ordered in no uncertain tones, reminding Russell very much of his own father. He didn’t think it a coincidence. Most senior individuals in the HEL’s military branches knew one another.
“Then by all means, master
. Proceed,” Russell chuckled at Darius’ new title. The weaponsmith did just that.
“Says the First Lieutenant? Congratulations, by the way. Pistol looks fine, I’ll admit. We use a newer model but it’s chambered in the same caliber. Hang onto this one,” Darius advised. Russell showed him a picture on his B-MASS. He knew he looked a bit silly walking around with just one gauntlet, but he hated the idea of downgrading to other portable technology when he was so familiar with his own.
“Given what that thing’s killed, you bet your ass I will.”
Darius carefully placed the handgun on the countertop, meaning to give it a full cleaning anyway. “Kid, what the hell is that?”
“One hell of a story.”
“Oh fine, keep your damn secrets,” the Persian scoffed, bending over to examine Russell’s rifle closely. A golden chain with the Persian lion, sword and all, hung from his neck. “What was the last time you fired this thing, Rusty? Sight is misaligned.”
“My wife was the last one to use that weapon. Had to adjust it for her.”
“The hell happened down there?” Darius wondered quietly, shaking his head and moving on to the chamber. After a brief visual inspection he left it with its partner and reached for a small wooden case on the lowest shelf next to boxes of ammunition, earplugs, and eye protection. He opened it and withdrew two glasses, each of which featured the Persian Sun and Lion, as well as the Goddess Anahita around the sides. Nestled between an additional two glasses were multiple bottles of whiskey from Japan, India, Scotland, and the United States.
“Drinking on the range?” Russell wondered sarcastically.
“Did you leave ammunition in the chambers?” Darius asked flippantly, already knowing the answer as he poured a small taste from Japan first, flicking a couple drops of water into his own from a nearby water bottle. “No, didn’t think so; cause you aren’t an idiot like Rex was his first day. Now that we’ve established the guns won’t self-animate and kill us, we’re drinking.”
“I’m not complaining but isn’t that, you know, haram or something?” Russell asked, accepting the glass with thanks. Darius took a smell of the amber liquid in his glass before furrowing his brows at the young Jumper.
“How long have you known me, Rusty?”
“Geez… I guess I’m twenty five now so call it seven years on and off?”
“And in those seven years, how many times a day have you seen me kneeling on a rug facing East?”
Russell bobbed his head back and forth to acknowledge the point, taking a smell of his own. The scent was utterly divine, smooth, powerful, and pure. “Guess none?”
“That’s because I’m Zoroastrian. One day, god or gods willing, whichever you prefer, the fatherland will return to its true roots. Until then, we must drink to something else. To Jessica and the other honored dead, may they be at peace.” Darius and Russell clinked glasses before partaking. The former downed his like it was nothing, while the Jumper savored the taste of alcohol for the first time in almost a year. He kept it on his palate a bit too long and began coughing as he swallowed. Darius’ laughed loudly, his voice carrying down the silent firing range and back.
“What’s wrong, kid? Out of practice?”
“You could say that,” Russell agreed, handing back his glass. “No alcohol on Mara. No dairy or fruit either.”
“What an awful place,” the master at arms declared immediately, rinsing their glasses quickly before chucking the wastewater over his shoulder and onto the nearest firing line. “We must remedy that immediately. Do they have grain?”
“Darius, we don’t even know if they can process alcohol yet,” Russell explained as the older man prepared a second toast, this one from the US.
“Bah, I’m sure the scientists aboard all think they’re doing more important things. Been hearing talk of aliens aboard the ship more and more, suppose that wife of yours is one of them. On that subject,” he handed Russell his glass back, this time containing a hearty helping of booze. “To your wife, her health, and your marriage.”
“To Veera then,” Russell agreed, taking his time with that one. Darius nodded and sat in his chair, leaning back while his guest leaned against the countertop of his ‘sanctuary’.
“That her name? Not bad. To Veera then. How’d you two meet?”
“Almost flattened her farm with my pod,” Witners related with a small smile, remembering the scrawny young Cauthan who’d introduced him to Mara.
“You got anywhere to be?” Darius wondered.
“Me? Nah. Veera’s up with a couple of her people in the civilian hospital, good friends of ours. One is due in a couple months so she’s getting an ultrasound. As you might imagine, the husband is the only man allowed.”
“Well damn, is that right? I’ll be. In that case, in accordance with great Persian traditions, you owe me a bit of a story, Rusty.”
“Is that really a tradition?” he asked critically.
“I shared my booze with you, damnit. Tell me how you got hitched.” Both men laughed loudly, feeling the pleasant burn of whiskey in their throats and its warmth in their stomachs. Winters took a moment to consider the past, glancing upward as he thought.
“Well, I guess it starts right about when they almost flogged her on my account.”
“Judging by the clowns on this ship, all Jumpers are idiots, Darius.”
“We’ll talk about them later, now spill.”
“Stevie! Did you miss me?” Rex shouted the moment their shuttle touched down, jumping out of the open hull door and striding confidently over to the now quite established base camp. The facility consisted of a prefabricated living space for about half a dozen scientists at any given time, which sat next to various tents that covered gear and assorted supplies. The tiny compound was protected by two auto-turrets with a connection to the bridge of the Event Horizon, but nothing had disturbed the camp since the arrival of Beta division personnel. Rex parted the handful of scientists going about their work easily, making his way to the covered cage that contained Steve the aquila. The little bat-like alien had its wing properly bandaged, and it looked up as the daylight penetrated its sanctuary. It did not seem pleased. “Okay okay, didn’t mean to startle you. Just wanted to say hi. I’ll feed you tonight when you’re awake. Gotta see if any of these smart people have some bugs for you.”
While Rex went about his business and Orlova dealt with the shuttle, Corporal Mendes spoke with the lead researcher. Natori had called on ahead, conveying to both teams the suggestion from Io and Winters, specifically that the anomaly in the first hallway be examined. After a short conversation, Mendes shook hands with the researcher and notified his team that the scientists would be ‘spectating’ the expedition. After collecting Rex, he rejoined Orlova and Lipper, who had remained with the shuttle near the entrance to the Forge.
“We all set then… sir?” Lipper wondered as they pulled their helmets on and made their final comms checks. Orlova looked purposefully at Mendes, but he seemed content to chalk the pause up to lack of familiarity with the new command structure.
“Yes. Per the Admiral’s order’s we’re heading inside and looking for something akin to a large metallic skeleton. He said we’d recognize it due to radiation leaks from what is assumed to be a core of some sort.”
“Yo that’s sick let’s fucking go!” Rex shouted, grabbing his hammer off his back and practically bouncing off towards the Forge’s entrance.
“Private Rex!” Mendes bade him halt, the burly Jumper turning his skull-adorned helmet back towards them.
“Wait for your squad, Private,” the Brazilian replied coolly as they all caught up with him. “And take point.”
“Heh, yes sir!” Rex agreed, charging forward and promptly going down on account of the rather sizable piles of aquila droppings at the mouth of the Forge. While Mendes could hardly fault his exuberance, he was forced to scold him as he rushed forward and took a knee to cover the surprised soldier.
“Maybe watch your step, Rex. Last thing we need is your big ass triggering any traps left in here,” Mendes advised.
“Well said, sir. Nice paint job, Rex,” Lipper added.
“Oh shut up, Lipp. By the way, your axe looks stupid as hell,” Rex declared as Mendes and Lipper helped him up and he did his best to wipe some of the fresher aquila crap off his backside.
“Uh, what? You hit your head too?”
“Last time you were here you said my hammer looked ridiculous. Well your axe is just as ridiculous,” Rex insisted.
“I am surrounded by boys,” Natalya insisted, walking proudly past them and into the facility. “You know the science teams are watching everything, right?”
“That’s where the hammer comes in!” Rex assured her with a laugh, having more than shaken off his momentary stumble. And so with the first ‘pitfall’ of the Forge conquered, the four soldiers proceeded slowly into the cavernous vault that formed the Forge’s entryway, the path sloping down ever so gently before them. “Mother of God. How big is this thing?”
“Big,” Mendes replied simply, pulling up the seismic imaging model of the installation on his armor’s B-MASS so they could all have a look. A small red dot marked their position at the entrance.”
“We have an estimate for the location of this anomaly?” Lipper asked. Mendes shook his head.
“Nothing definite, but according to information provided by the Lieutenant it should be the first thing we come across.”
“I hope that bastard took a shit dip too,” Rex muttered as they carried on.
“Stow it, Rex,” Mendes ordered. “You can bitch about getting your ass kicked when we aren’t in the middle of an alien installation.”
The Lance Corporal’s words seemed to finally get the point across that they were truly within the belly of the beast, the unknown. No longer was it an unremarkable grassy knoll where some aquila nested. Now it was an expansive chamber of darkness that was deep enough to swallow the light from their armor. Mendes radioed the base station. “Surface team, I’m going to request you keep this channel clear until further notice. We will radio in the event we need an expert opinion. Lance Corporal Mendes out.”
“Mmm, good,” Natalya agreed on the private channel shared between their suits. “Now let us move.”
The four Jumpers moved slowly and deliberately through the structure, promptly sheathing their melee weapons in favor of their rifles. The extra lights were welcome as the glow of Seil grew fainter and fainter behind them as they walked. Per the descriptions left by Winters they did notice a faint red glow far in the distance along their direction of travel, but that was the only anomaly. “Damn, this place is something else,” Lipper muttered, his senses torn between the boredom of black and gray metal on the one hand and the gnawing threat of the unknown on the other.
“Corporal, I think we have contact,” Rex suddenly called after about ten minutes of travel. All four Jumpers pointed their weapons forward, the light illuminating a tangled mess of metal that stood in their way.
“Detecting higher than expected levels of background alpha radiation,” Natalya added, consulting her B-MASS as they drew closer to the construct. “This must be what the First Lieutenant mentioned. Looks like a poor attempt at impersonating M. C. Escher.”
“Corporal Mendes to surface team, you getting this?” Mendes demanded, sighing as only dead air greeted him. “Damnit. We’re on our own. Start recording, everyone.”
“Yes sir,” Lipper replied, taking a step forward and kneeling next to the object. “I suppose we should have expected that much. We’re going to have our work cut out for us getting cables in here.”
“That’s what they pay us for. I seem to recall you and Rex getting into a bit of trouble on account of your cabin fever,” Mendes replied, prompting Lipper to glance over his shoulder.
“If we could not speak about that again, Lance Corporal, I’d appreciate it.”
“Noted, Private. That the core?”
“Sure as hell looks like it,” Lipper said, reaching deep into the mess of pointed metal and running his hand along the cylindrical object. “Now I’m no Alice Winters, but I’ll bet my useless sergeant’s bars that this is alien script.” True to Lipper’s word, when they all gathered around they could see scratched and faded symbols. “Feeling it yet, Rex?”
“Fuck you, Tom. Don’t tell me you aren’t freaking out too,” Rex shot back, his voice tense.
“Seems the natural reaction,” Lipper agreed as they fanned out and did their best to record the object from every angle using what light was available to them and their helmets’ video recording capabilities. “So the Lieutenant described this thing as a skeleton, and I guess I can see that but where the hell is the head. This looks like a twisted ribcage. A big fucking ribcage, mind you, but still just a ribcage.”
“Perhaps those have something to do with it?” Natalya suggested, having located the various discolorations and markings on the walls and floor that seemed to indicate some sort of conflict or struggle.
“Hard to say,” Mendes opined, staring further into the facility. Part of him wanted desperately to proceed further, to see what Lieutenant Winters had seen months before, to see if anything could be gleaned from further within the strange installation. Orders were orders, however, and he had no intention of improvising on his first mission as commanding officer. “But no matter what else is in here, I think this is where we should start. Let’s get this thing scanned and get as many visuals as we can for the teams back up top. Then we’ll figure out how or if we should move it.”
“Can I ask a question?” Rex wondered, not waiting for permission. “What sort of idiot stuffs a nuclear reactor into their ribcage?” In spite of the situation, the team found themselves chuckling quietly. Lipper answered.
“Assuming we aren’t all incredibly wrong, which we damn well could be, something a hell of a lot larger than you, Rex.”
When Mendes’ team returned to the surface after about two hours below ground, they found the majority of the science team waiting nervously for them at the mouth of the Forge. The lead of the expedition was on the line with Admiral Kaczynsky when Mendes’ suit regained connection to the Event Horizon’s network.
“Ah, it seems we worry too much!” he declared. “Lance Corporal Mendes, your report?”
“Yes sir. No casualties or difficulties minus Rex slipping in a pile of alien bat shit, sir.” Unseen by Mendes, Natori found himself attempting to keep a straight face on his bridge and not chuckle like a teenager.
“Given how quickly we lost contact with your team after you entered the facility, it is no small relief to hear that, Rodrigo. Did you find the anomaly mentioned in the mission report?”
“Yes sir, it was exactly as the Lieutenant described, including the cracked, radioactive core. We took video and conducted scans using the B-MASS which we will provide to the ground teams shortly.”
“Thank you. I look forward to your full report. But let us speak frankly for a moment, Lance Corporal. What are your thoughts on the installation?” Natori wondered, pressing a couple fingers against his temple as he tried to place himself on the surface. The lack of real time footage had not only been worrying, it had been incredibly disappointing.
“Sorry Admiral, but I’m not sure how much I can give you that you don’t already know,” Mendes apologized. “Whoever built it is certainly no longer around. That or they’re extremely well hidden. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s beyond the technological capability of the locals. We didn’t analyze the alloys of the walls or the skeletal object so I can’t say much on those accounts. It’s almost certainly alien in its construction, and there is something towards the end of the entry corridor that glows red, again as Lieutenant Winters described, sir. I don’t have anything else at this time.”
“Next steps, Lance Corporal?”
Mendes waved the rest of his squad on, indicating that they should proceed back to the camp and begin the relevant data transfers while he continued to speak with Natori. “Well, that depends on how nice you want to be to the current residents, sir,” the Jumper supplied, looking up so that Natori could see the various aquila nests above the entrance.
“We will make all reasonable accommodations.”
“Yes sir. In that case I think the first thing we need to do is get cable inside here, make sure we can communicate with the surface teams and possibly move in some light sources deeper in, far past the little bat-like organisms. I’ll leave what to do with the skeletal formation to the science teams, sir. I can see arguments both for leaving it in place and moving it out of the installation for analysis aboard the ship. I guess if we do that we should check for EMP shielding and other electronics, fry them all if we find them.” Natori hummed approvingly in his earpiece.
“Yes, I suppose a remote attack is a possibility even if the age of the installation is confirmed. Very well, Corporal Mendes. You and your team will have the lead on this operation as far as protection of the science teams is concerned.”
Mendes made to salute before he remembered that Natori would be unable to see the gesture, his chest swelling with pride. “Yes sir, we’d be honored. But what about Lieutenant Winters?”
“Believe it or not, Rodrigo, I believe he’s more than happy to let you and your team have this one. From the sound of it, village life is more suited to him. And believe me when I tell you that I am very sensitive to what occurred between you all and how to proceed moving forward. In spite of the obvious and noble human tendency to divide itself into groups and prove one superior to the other, we are all on the same side when it comes to discovering the truth of this planet and our way home.”
“That sounds a lot more noble than the first bit, sir,” Mendes replied, earning a chuckle from Natori.
“Quite so, Corporal, but that doesn’t not mean I don’t wish to see you and your team succeed both for yourselves and for Beta Division as a whole. For now, please go ahead and rendezvous with the science teams and assist them however you can. I’m sure they will have questions for you. In the meantime, I will make the necessary arrangements for the equipment we will surely need to examine this installation in detail.”
“Yes sir, signing off,” Mendes affirmed before cutting the link and proceeding the short distance to rejoin his squad. Civilian researchers were already poring over the data and recordings that the team had brought back. Natalya was engaged in conversation with an older gentleman regarding the radioactivity signatures from the casing, her helmet off and her long, blonde hair tied up in a neat bun. Lipper and Rex were uploading their scans of the skeleton to the available computers and terminals in the compound, relating what they’d seen and suggesting various conclusions. “Everything good?”
“Took us seven months and change and a bit of a fuck up,” Lipper began.
“A bit?” Rex cut in, looking at his friend accusingly.
“Your nose looks even better than it used to and I can eat again. Sergeant will return with time,” Lipper insisted, looking Mendes dead in the eye. “But yeah, Corporal, it feels like we’re finally getting to do something here.”
“I’m not going to remember all this, but it’s very impressive,” Xan admitted as he, Alice and Anita strolled through one of the industrial growing bays on the Event Horizon. Unlike bay number seven, which was essentially full of pet projects, bay number one was designed to produce as much nutritious biomass per cubic foot of space as possible. Many plants needed no soil at all, growing in clear troughs of water stacked to the ceiling and tended to by mechanical arms and extensions.
“Thank you, I helped design the cultivators,” Anita said quietly, guiding the crippled Cauthan around. “And I wouldn’t worry too much about remembering it. At this point I don’t have to think much about growing either except for maintenance. What we would need from you is instructions on how to care for your various crops. How often you water them, if they need support to grow, direct or indirect sunlight, things of that nature.”
“Yeah, that much I can do,” Xan agreed. “I can ask my parents and some of the other farmers I know. You want to come, Alice?”
“Assuming I’m not tied up with Alyra, I’d be happy to come along and record things.”
“Yeah, I guess Thantis and I have been keeping you busy for a while now. She’s been itching to talk with you about whatever it is she cares about. You see her staring at her reflection in the water trough the other day, experimenting with those glasses? Crazy.”
“Xan, just because you don’t give a darn about how you look doesn’t mean us girls don’t. What’s wrong with wanting to look presentable?”
Xan huffed, not able to come up with a decent reply. A light breeze drifted through the room, strengthening over a few seconds before dissipating. “Alright you have to explain that though. How did you harness the winds all the way out here. Felen isn’t supposed to have any power in Kel’s domain. And where is your water coming from? I’ve never seen it rain in here.”
“Smart cookie, isn’t he?” Alice asked Anita, who seemed a mite confused.
“What are Felen and Kel?” the engineer wondered. Alice did her best to explain the two Cauthan gods in five minutes or less. It was enough for Anita to understand Xan’s question.
“Well, we have mechanical fans that blow air through the ship and these growing areas. Plants that grow without any wind develop weakly in many cases. They need to be stressed in a positive way,” Anita explained.
“Is that right? What’s a ‘mechanical fan’?” Xan replied, butchering the pronunciation of the word mechanical. Anita looked around, but none of her green, floral companions were forthcoming with a decent simplification of electricity or motors.
“I think that would be a bit hard to explain,” she admitted. “Same with the water situation. We have a set amount on board which we reuse and recycle.”
“What she means to say is that we use our waste, convert it to clean water, and use that for the plants,” Alice summarized.
“What? That’s silly. Just take the poop and throw it down, works great. Maybe even mix some in with your water,” Xan suggested, managing to elicit a flush even through Anita’s dark brown skin.
“Xan, you dork,” Alice chastised him as she tried not to giggle too hard. “That’s a great way to get the whole ship infected.”
“Don’t know what that means, but I defer to your crazy human magics,” Xan replied flippantly. “I stopped trying to understand the specifics a while ago, made my head hurt. But we can grow dato and kina up here, right?”
“I believe so,” Anita affirmed. “Alice, didn’t you say you got some soil samples?”
“Yeah, days ago. You didn’t get them?”
“No, I think they’re still with the microbiologists. Growing alien vegetables wasn’t really high priority until forty eight hours ago or so.”
“Well if you need some just come down to the village,” Alice suggested. “They’re real friendly and the food is to die for!”
“Yeah, you should totally come down with us today,” Xan agreed, enthused at the idea of being the one doing the explaining and guiding. “I can take you around and you can ask your questions and grab as much dirt as you want. Not like we’re hoarding it or anything.”
“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Natori’s voice agreed, causing them all to jump. Anita threw her hand over her chest in fright while Alice shook her fist at the ceiling.
“Darn it, Admiral! Don’t you have, you know, a ship to run or something?!”
“My dear Alice, thanks to the efforts of Io, my esteemed bridge crew, and dedicated engineers like Ms. Prakash, I find myself quite bored on a regular basis. I believe this is a preferable state of affairs to your brother or our Jumpers shooting at something, however. Ms. Prakash, I will be happy to arrange for you to head to the surface for a period of time. In return, I believe we could take our intrepid Cauthan here on a little voyage.”
“Look, I don’t want to be rude but I think I know enough about your leader to know he’s not like Antoth. Little voyage sounds bad,” Xan stated. Alice nodded and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m with Xan, Admiral. Details,” Alice demanded.
“Of course! It’s been just about seven months since we left Earth. While I am immensely pleased with the performance of our various waste and water treatment facilities, the fact of the matter is that my morning coffee is beginning to taste like an industrial filter. Given that we have found your brother, made friends with the locals, and established that we will be in the system for a period of time, I believe it would be prudent to top off our reserves of materials and replenish our water stores,” Natori explained, using the display on his captain’s chair to pan through several groups of asteroids flagged by his bridge crew.
“Natori!” Alice had a hand on her hip. “Are you seriously suggesting taking Xan on an asteroid mining mission?”
“Veera and any other Cauthan are welcome to come along as well! They have invited us to partake in their harvest festival, I think it’s only fair we return the favor so long as they keep their claws off the controls.”
“Harvesting asteroids is not a holiday!” Alice insisted.
“No, it involves far too many high powered lasers for that!” Natori agreed, eliciting a light giggle from Anita.
“Why do I bother with him?” Alice demanded of herself. “Fine, Natori. When we head back down today we’ll ask about the mission. I honestly can’t see Antoth agreeing to it even for Xan, but we’ll give it a shot and see if there’s interest. Thanks for giving me an incredibly difficult concept to explain, by the way. What about the teams at the other ground site?”
“Oh, I’ll be sure they have plenty of supplies. We’ll only be gone a day or two and I want to be sure we are back in orbit to commemorate the anniversary of the loss of the Lancer. Do let me know what Antoth says, would you?”
Alice pinched the bridge of her nose, tilting her head back as though she had a nosebleed. While the idea of taking Xan along on a space mining mission was undoubtedly an exciting prospect, especially given the fact that she would not typically be allowed on one either, explaining the concept to Antoth and Ratha was decidedly not. She made a mental note to include Thantis in any such discussion; he was the one Cauthan most likely to end up in her corner. “Yes sir, Natori. Anything else?”
“No no, carry on!” the Admiral encouraged as though he hadn’t been eavesdropping on them. “Miss Prakash, your plants will survive a few hours without you, I’m sure.”
“O-Oh. I mean… thank you, Admiral.”
“Be nice to her,” Alice whispered extremely quietly, relying on Xan’s perky ears to do the rest of the work, even if one of them was rough around the edges. To her relief, he was not a complete blockhead and nodded that he understood.
“Sorry, Alice. If I’m going to head down I should probably change and get a few things,” Anita explained, excusing herself. “It was nice to meet you, Xan. Selah.”
“Selah,” Xan replied as Anita departed. Alice was more than fine finding her way back on her own.
“So, want to keep exploring here?” she asked Xan.
“Nah. I’m sure I’ll be back up when our own crops are growing here,” the Cauthan guessed, stiffening his back and exhaling with something of a grunt.
“How’s the leg? You’ve been walking around a while,” Alice asked sympathetically.
“You don’t need to hide it around someone like Anita, you know?”
“I was just practicing,” Xan told her, looking intently at a nearby head of lettuce.
“Ok,” Alice smiled kindly. “Do you want to head back to your room or one of the hangars? I think Asha and the rest will probably be a little while.”
“Floating?” Xan suggested.
“The hangars it is! Let’s see where the nearest one is,” Alice replied pleasantly, calling up a map of the ship and locating an inactive shuttle bay nearby. “This way, my fluffy, crippled friend! Tally ho!”
Xan pulled his scarred face into a grin as he plodded after her with his cane. “You and your brother have to be the worst humans ever to learn your culture from.”
Xan’s newfound ability to take his disability somewhat in stride was encouraging to Alice, recalling to her mind her brother’s desire that she help instead of study. She already had a new idea or three for her doctoral thesis. “Excuse me, we’re obviously the best.”
“Heh, of course. My mistake.”
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edit disclaimer: No one died in any of the incidents I'm talking about. submitted by
So there I was, in the 'Stan in the mid/late 2000s. I was on what would become a back to back deployment that was something like 1.4 years. The chain at the time was nuts. I was on an IA with one task force who would in turn TAD me out to anyone and everyone who had use of my teams particular set of skills. I mostly worked with a USASOC task force with the same dudes on back to back sets of 90 day TAD orders (literally sent an email asking for the short bald Navy guy). But... when those 90 day TAD orders would run out I'd go back to the original task force and usually end up doing a few ops with conventional forces until the new set of TAD orders were finished.
Technically I reported to the Navy Captain (o-6 btw) who ran all Navy shit on BAF and he made damn sure I knew he always had my back and gave me his personal sat phone #. He had EOD, SWCC, SWO, ect and was a mustang. He was like 50 and ran 6 minute miles for the entire BAF tour route. He plays a key role in this story.
So my TAD orders to task force coolguy shit ran out and I get put on some orders with a conventional infantry people. They had shot so many civilians in Iraq they had been thrown out of country and sent to Afghanistan (due to putting others at additional risk due to retaliation attacks). Due to this we were already expecting bad times. The guy in charge of this rucklefest was an O-4 who was the shiney example of toxic leadership.
While screaming at his dudes he would say motivational things like, "I don't have to be right you just have to do what the fuck I say!". He would also threaten to stop loss his dudes when they were getting close to going home. If you weren't aware back then when your EAOS would come up the Army could go, "haha just kidding!" and extend your deployment. This dude openly threatened his people with it if they did things he didn't like. So all of that was a thing. Oh oh! He also was SUPER pissed I was allowed to PT in whatever because back then the Navy didn't have a PT uniform. The mere fact I was allowed to wear civilian clothes and, "whateva! I do wut I want!" infuriated him. I wasn't disrespectful but I also wasn't going to let him push me or my team around.
So this whole thing takes places in a period of less than 2 weeks. I don't remember exactly how long it was. So day one dude asks for SCI material and tells us he has a TS/SCI so it's okay. I call up my chain and ask them to look him up because someone in TF coolguys had just gotten their ass burned for this exact lie. Sure as fuck the dude only had a secret. So that was reported but seemingly nothing came from it. He tried to bully us into giving him information a few times.
Some of his dudes had some fancy counter mortar radar that they clearly had not been trained on. We were sitting on 2 mountains pretending to be rocks gathering intel and he flies over and lands on the mountain to yell at me because, "MY site didn't have the CMR operational!". I said something to the effect of, "Major I have no knowledge of that system at all, don't do anything with radars, and YOUR men should have trained with it before they brought it out in the field". Ohhh I bet you can guess how well that went over. He starts shit talking me to my chain at this point. Which is hilarious because my Lt didn't give a fuck because TF coolguys loved me and my whole team. My Lt in turn starts sending me choice snippets of his emails for lulz.
At another point we had indications and warning and visuals on a group about to shoot down one of our helicopters. We'd had them for about an hour. We were out of LOS comms with anyone and we needed to get on the satcom. The problem was this Major was chewing out someone OVER A UNIFORM issue, on a mission, in Afghanistan. For like 90 minutes straight he tied up the sat com just to scream at someone. Everyone back at HQ could hear him doing this. No one did shit. I finally had to "break break break" and so we could get the TOC to warn the pilot. He then claimed it was 'his satcom channel' and he could do anything he wanted on it.
I reported all of this. No one cared.
Finally he did something fucking crazy. So his dudes had a habit of firing a 'warning shot' only magically hitting people in the legs when they tried to run away. It's what had gotten them thrown out of Iraq. Fairly sure he had ordered them to do that but no one could prove shit. This is why warning shots are dumb in the first place though.
edit (note it is also possible his dudes were shooting civilians because that was a great way to ruin an officers career)
So my ATL comes over and is like dude. DUDE you need to hear this shit. So I put on my headset. it's the Major screaming at one of his dudes about shooting some kid who was like 8. They had tried to fire a warning shot and "somehow warned him in the leg" <- exact phrasing. The major flat out refused to call in a medivac. He claimed it was due to weather. (it was totally clear). On our LOS radios he's screaming at this dude how he's going to have to watch that kid die and live with it for the rest of his life. That he'd ruined his (the majors) career and they were going to get kicked out of country because he (the dude who shot kid) was a fucking idiot. This went on long enough I started recording it.
While that's going on I call the Captain Awesome back at BAF. He is also WTF. So we ignore the major and called in the 9line urgent surgical. Shit hits the fan about here. Everyone is pulled out the next day. We turned over the recording but there were so many 'witnesses' who heard it on the radio that no one talked to us. Everyone hated that guy. I know he was court martialed but I don't remember his name or the details. The kid was fine though and his parents got like $30,000. He's probably off planting EFPs right now.
While this may seem extreme this was the same time period where they were stop lossing people, letting 6 sex offenders a year join, and other such nonsense.
edit disclaimer: No one died in any of the incidents I'm talking about.
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