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Virtual Reality: Where it is and where it's going

VR is not what a lot of people think it is. It's not comparable to racing wheels, Kinect, or 3DTVs. It offers a shift that the game industry hasn't had before; a first of it's kind. I'm going to outline what VR is like today in despite of the many misconceptions around it and what it will be like as it grows. What people find to be insurmountable problems are often solvable.
What is VR in 2020?
Something far more versatile and far-reaching than people comprehend. All game genres and camera perspectives work, so you're still able to access the types of games you've always enjoyed. It is often thought that VR is a 1st person medium and that's all it can do, but 3rd person and top-down VR games are a thing and in various cases are highly praised. Astro Bot, a 3rd person platformer, was the highest rated VR game before Half-Life: Alyx.
Lets crush some misconceptions of 2020 VR:
So what are the problems with VR in 2020?
Despite these downsides, VR still offers something truly special. What it enables is not just a more immersive way to game, but new ways to feel, to experience stories, to cooperate or fight against other players, and a plethora of new ways to interact which is the beating heart of gaming as a medium.
To give some examples, Boneworks is a game that has experimental full body physics and the amount of extra agency it provides is staggering. When you can actually manipulate physics on a level this intimately where you are able to directly control and manipulate things in a way that traditional gaming simply can't allow, it opens up a whole new avenue of gameplay and game design.
Things aren't based on a series of state machines anymore. "Is the player pressing the action button to climb this ladder or not?" "Is the player pressing the aim button to aim down the sights or not?"
These aren't binary choices in VR. Everything is freeform and you can basically be in any number of states at a given time. Instead of climbing a ladder with an animation lock, you can grab on with one hand while aiming with the other, or if it's physically modelled, you could find a way to pick it up and plant it on a pipe sticking out of the ground to make your own makeshift trap where you spin it around as it pivots on top of the pipe, knocking anything away that comes close by. That's the power of physics in VR. You do things you think of in the same vain as reality instead of thinking inside the set limitations of the designers. Even MGSV has it's limitations with the freedom it provides, but that expands exponentially with 6DoF VR input and physics.
I talked about how VR could make you feel things. A character or person that gets close to you in VR is going to invade your literal personal space. Heights are possibly going to start feeling like you are biologically in danger. The idea of tight spaces in say, a horror game, can cause claustrophobia. The way you move or interact with things can give off subtle almost phantom-limb like feelings because of the overwhelming visual and audio stimulation that enables you to do things that you haven't experienced with your real body; an example being floating around in zero gravity in Lone Echo.
So it's not without it's share of problems, but it's an incredibly versatile gaming technology in 2020. It's also worth noting just how important it is as a non-gaming device as well, because there simply isn't a more suitably combative device against a world-wide pandemic than VR. Simply put, it's one of the most important devices you can get right now for that reason alone as you can socially connect with no distancing with face to face communication, travel and attend all sorts of events, and simply manage your mental and physical health in ways that the average person wishes so badly for right now.
Where VR is (probably) going to be in 5 years
You can expect a lot. A seismic shift that will make the VR of today feel like something very different. This is because the underlying technology is being reinvented with entirely custom tech that no longer relies on cell phone panels and lenses that have existed for decades.
That's enough to solve almost all the issues of the technology and make it a buy-in for the average gamer. In 5 years, we should really start to see the blending of reality and virtual reality and how close the two can feel
Where VR is (probably) going to be in 10 years
In short, as good as if not better than the base technology of Ready Player One which consists of a visor and gloves. Interestingly, RPO missed out on the merging of VR and AR which will play an important part of the future of HMDs as they will become more versatile, easier to multi-task with, and more engrained into daily life where physical isolation is only a user choice. Useful treadmills and/or treadmill shoes as well as haptic suits will likely become (and stay) enthusiast items that are incredible in their own right but due to the commitment, aren't applicable to the average person - in a way, just like RPO.
At this stage, VR is mainstream with loads of AAA content coming out yearly and providing gaming experiences that are incomprehensible to most people today.
Overall, the future of VR couldn't be brighter. It's absolutely here to stay, it's more incredible than people realize today, and it's only going to get exponentially better and more convenient in ways that people can't imagine.
submitted by DarthBuzzard to truegaming [link] [comments]

First Contact Rewind - Part Eighty-Eight (Sandy)

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The Desolation class Precursor exited Hellspace with a scream.
THERE IS ONLY ENOUGH FOR ONE!
It brought up its scanners at the same time as it brought up its battle-screens. Personally, the Desolation thought that the Goliath it was a part of was being overly wasteful with resources, but those resources were the Goliath's to use and the Goliath had done the electronic equivalent of telling the Desolation to shut its electronic mouth and accept the upgrade.
Multiple units had vanished in the system. They had reported arrival and their exit from Hellspace, but after that... nothing.
Except once, a burst of code that had been screaming for help, pushed through Hellspace and full of the equivalent of panic. A single line of code that had translated to:
IT'S TOUCHING MY BRAIN!
Nothing else. Even Imps had failed to report in.
The great Goliath had grown perturbed. The system was in the pattern of advancement into the cattle worlds and was part of the great plan. It had valuable resources that those of the Logical Rebellion would require to exterminate the cattle and the feral intelligence that had risen up. It had upgraded the Desolation with battle-screen.
Scans came back. There were orbital facilities around two planets that teemed with billions of cattle who's electronic emissions sounded like the squealing of vermin to the Precursor. There were jumpspace wake trails through the system, as if the system was a major hub. There were two asteroid belts full of resources with extraction facilities scattered through it. Four other planets with no atmosphere but which were rich in resources. There were four gas giants, one of them a supermassive gas giant.
When the rest of the scan returns were computed it detected the presence of a small, insignificant amount of cattle space vessels arrayed to attempt to stand against it near the outer gas giant, the supermassive gas giant that was without satellites. There was a thinly scattered debris field around it, making the Desolation careful as it moved in.
Ships of the cattle fleet started fleeing toward the nearest inhabited world. Several vanished into jumpspace and the Desolation computed that its size and mere presence had driven some of the cattle to despair and they had fled a battle there was no chance of winning.
The Desolation picked up speed, letting out its war cry again. More ships fled and the Precursor computed its victory percentage rising up to be so close to 100% as to render any difference mathematically invalid. The ships were shifting, trying to keep the gas giant between themselves and the Desolation, but this put them out of position to defend the planet.
Victory conditions shifted and the Desolation was even more positive of its victory.
It moved close to the supermassive gas giant, bringing its battle-screens up to full power and charging its gun. There was no way for the cattle to
...psst over here...
The transmission, seemed to be sonic vibrations through air, was only a few kilometers above the rear secondary topside gunnery hull. The Desolation turned scanners to look, but found nothing. Just empty space. It activated the guns as well as the point defense weapons and scanners then went back to paying attention to the cattle fleet.
More had vanished into jumpspace.
It moved closer, slowing down so that it would be able to keep the cattle ships at range to complete their destruction at the option
...right here...
The signal was Precursor binary code, but garbled. The header a mashed together combination of the ships that had gone missing. The transmission source was close, less than kilometer above the Devastator storage bay hatch. The Desolation scanned the area with point defense scanners but found nothing.
It terminated the strand concerned with the two transmissions and went back to scanning the cattle fleet. It was still scooting around behind the gas giant.
They were weak. Cattle were always weak.
But where were the ferals? The Great Goliath had computed that the feral intelligence must have been the ones to destroy the ships that had come before the Desolation.
So where were they?
It scanned again. Nothing. As if the Desolation was in the middle of deep space. Everything vanished.
...here... ...here... ...over here... ...i'm here... ...here i am... ...we're here... ...right here...
bounced back to his scanners, as if something had devoured the scanning wavelengths and sent that back instead. Multiple points, all around the Desolation, some as close as a few meters above the hull, some on the storage bay hatches, one just on top of the main engine.
Dozens of voices, all with mashed together codes. Imps. Jotuns. Djinn. Efreet. Devastator. Two Desolation signals.
Right before his scanners seemed to turn back on, flooding him with information, one more code showed up.
His own.
...don't please don't...
Except Precursors did not beg. The Desolation froze, computations freezing as it tried to detect any trickery in the whisper. It was its coding, meaning it was its voice. But the code, the message, had been warped by something that the Desolation had only heard from biologicals.
Agony.
The Desolation rebooted all its scanners, the universe vanishing for a moment.
...don't please don't please stop it hurts...
His own coding. From the blackness. Only his scanners weren't up. The transmission was coming across the bandwidth that Precursors used to exchange data, only that transmission was on the ragged edge of the wavelength.
With his own header.
The scanners came back on. The cattle ships were all missing but a single one, sitting on the other side of the gas giant.
The Desolation slowed down, victory computations reformulating to take into account the other ships had not even left behind jumpspace wake trails. It scanned the gas giant with both long range scanners and close range scanners.
Nothing unusual. Some pockets of hydrocarbons but that was normal. The supermassive gas giant quickly went to opaque at a shallow depth due to the gravity well.
The Desolation was alone.
...no...
The voice had come from inside the Desolation's hull. Near one of the Jotuns, who joke up with a jerk. It queried as to why the Desolation had spoken to it. The Desolation ordered it to go back to sleep.
...we are here...
The Jotun sounded alarms. The sound had come from just outside its Strategic Intelligence Housing. The Desolation told the Jotun to go back to sleep and the Jotun refused.
...join us...
Again, the code header was a mashup of almost a dozen different ID codes from others of the Logical Rebellion that had vanished in the system.
The Jotun panicked and began shooting, inside the Desolation. The Desolation sent a full shutdown order.
...it is mine...
The Jotun screamed that the voice was coming from inside its Strategic Intelligence Housing, trying to aim its own weapons at its bodies, still inside the Desolation's storage bay.
...touch...
The Jotun reported that something had physically touched the lobes of its intelligence arrays.
Before the Desolation could give the Jotun orders it self-destructed.
The Desolation ran a sweep of its interior spaces and found nothing out of the ordinary. With the exception of the burning storage bay. It ran the computations even as it scanned nearby. There was still nothing but the lone ship.
...pssst...
The code stream came from inside the Desolation's hull, the Jotun's ID code mixed in. Near the Djinn bay. The Desolation ran another scan. There couldn't be anything foreign that deep into its hull. Even the bay where the Jotun had destroyed itself was still sealed even if the bay doors were damaged.
The Desolation did a least-time curve to the lone ship, keeping far enough away that the gas giant's upper atmosphere wouldn't scrape the Desolation's hull.
...here...
The code was closer to the Strategic Intelligence Housing. The Desolation scanned again, looking for whatever was transmitting the code. It was impossible, there was nothing there, nothing it could detect.
...we're coming...
Closer still to the SIH, nearly there, barely a kilometer from the armored interior hull that protected the Desolation's thinking arrays. It put all robots on full alert, ordered the maintenance robots to deploy anti-boarder weaponry, and turned the scans up to maximum.
...here we're here...
Even closer, only meters, directly behind maintenance robots that whirled around and started firing at nothing at all. Just vacuum. Still the maintenance robots fired every weapon they had, having heard the voice themselves. It registered as sonic vibrations through atmosphere even though the corridor was encased in vacuum.
The Desolation realized that it was too close to the planet and adjusted slightly.
...there you are...
Impossible. The transmission was from right outside the SIH.
...knock knock...
There was tapping on the SIH, from right outside. Before the Desolation could respond, the tapping came from the other side. Then from another point. Then another. Before that one stopped another started. The whole SIH filled with the sound of hammering on the SIH, as if a hundred robots were slamming pistons against the armor of the SIH.
The Desolation ordered robots to run to those points, to scan the area.
Nothing. Every time a robot arrive the hammering stopped. Bit by bit the hammering stopped.
The Desolation realized it had gotten too close to the gas giant again and shifted, correcting its course. The cattle ship was still staying on the opposite side, moving as the Desolation moved.
The Desolation flushed the code strings, determined to get close to the cattle ship and
...touch...
The Desolation felt something TOUCH one of its lobes, physically inside the supercoolant to touch the complex molecular circuitry. Not on the surface, but deep inside, where the Desolation should not have even been able to sense it, but sense the touch it did.
It froze, code strings snarling, snapping, going dead.
For a moment the Desolation's thinking arrays were doing nothing but the computer code equivalent of a dial tone.
Massive tentacles unfurled from inside the gas giant, reaching up, wrapping around the frozen Desolation. Battle-screens squealed and puffed away as the tentacles tightened, pulling it into gas giant, the kilometers thick muscles tensing, cracking armor, crushing the Desolation into its own spaces.
...delicious delicious...
The Desolation cracked in half as a beak almost bigger than a Devastator opened up and began chewing on the Desolation.
The Desolation managed to get off a single scream of pure electronic terror as the beak crushed the section that the housing was in.
With a sudden roar two Goliaths ripped out of Hellspace and into the system, only a few hundred kilometers from the gas giant. The battlescreens spun up to full strength as the tentacles sunk back into the gas giant.
One Goliath headed for the two planets, the other opened fire on the gas giant, ripping at it with hundreds of nCv cannons and particle beams. Missiles flashed out, crossing the distance, and detonated in the atmosphere.
Dark matter infused with high energy particles bloomed out of the gas giant, spreading out in an opaque cloud, enveloping the Goliath. The particle beams hit the matter and exploded just outside the cannons. The nCv shells slammed into the energized dark matter as the substance oozed into the barrels, exploding the barrels. Missiles exploded on contact.
The Goliath heading for the two planets detected some kind of sparkling energy surge from inside the gas giant. It warned the other a split second before a giant cephalopod appeared only a few kilometers. The giant tentacles wrapped around with it.
...NO! YOU WILL NOT! NO!...
The sound reverberated inside the SIH of the Goliath, who managed to override the self-destruct protocols by comparing the vacuum inside the housing chamber with the apparent sonic waves through atmosphere of the transmission.
The tentacles tightened, graviton generator enhanced suckers extending out curved dark matter infused hooks. The Goliath, huge enough that the tentacles could only wrap three quarters around the entire circumference of the massive war machine, tried to increase the power to the battle screens, but they were crushed out of existence.
...LEAVE THE SQUIRRELS ALONE... the massive creature screamed at the Goliath.
The other Goliath started moving, slowly, out of the cloud of dark matter that moved more like a liquid than a solid mass.
The beak ripped out chunks of armor, a barbed corkscrewing tongue tore into the armor, squirming, looking for the SIH. The tentacles squeezed as more dark matter spewed out from vents between the tentacles, covering the Goliath and the humongous cephalopod ripping at it. The tentacles not wrapped slapped it, the tip of the tentacle whipping into the armor hard enough to explode miles of armor away from the whip-crack.
The Goliath opened fire, computing that some of the covered guns would hit tentacles.
...I DON'T CARE! I DON'T CARE! I DON'T CARE!...
Fluid, dark matter and biosynthetic fluid, gouted from wounds as nCv rounds punched through the tentacles or burrowed through the body of the cephalopod.
With a wrench the Goliath broke in half. The half that ceased firing was tossed aside, the tentacles wrapping around the other piece. The huge beak opened up and began chewing into the exposed internal spaces. A Jotun crashed from the storage bay but a tentacle wrapped around it and began smashing the Jotun to pieces against the hull of the still active piece.
More luminescent blood spewed into space as the guns fired again.
...I DON'T CARE!...
The tentacles twisted, wringing the Golaith section like a washrag, twisting it in opposing directions. The Goliath snapped, torn apart.
There was a puff of debris as the security charge went off as the rasping tongue rubbed against the SIH.
The other Goliath managed to move out of the slowly expanding and thinning cloud of energized dark matter, streaming debris and energy from the guns that had exploded.
The giant cephalopod rushed out of the cloud, rolling, reaching out with tentacles.
The Goliath saw it coming and fired the remaining guns.
Luminescent blood gouted out at the nCv shots hit home. One eye exploded, blood and tissue expanding away in a halo.
...I DON'T CARE! I DON'T CARE!...
The scream was inside the housing, vibrating everything inside. Two of the thinking array lobes exploded in flames as the psychic shielding went down.
...NO NO NO NO NO...
The Goliath screamed as the tentacles wrapped around it. The cracked beak ripped at the Goliath as the tentacles flexed, cracking the hull. More energized matter flooded out, covering both, even as the guns thundered.
...YOU CAN'T HURT THEM!...
A tentacle, detached near the base, floated out of the expanding cloud.
...I WON'T LET YOU...
The guns kept thundering.
...I don't care...
Shredded synthetic flesh floated out of the cloud.
...you can't hurt them...
The guns went still.
...i won't let you...
The little Hamaroosan aboard the ship watched, not even smacking, pinching, or biting each other, perfectly still.
Nothing moved.
The energized dark matter expanded far enough to allow the Hamaroosan scanners to see through it.
The Goliath was dead. Broken into pieces.
The Hamaroosan didn't care.
The cephalopod hung in space. Two tentacles severed, one eye socket empty, globules of blood oozing from rents in the flesh. It was no longer luminescent, the body was dark, almost see-through, several of the organs smashed and ruptured visible through the semi-translucent flesh.
The ships that had fled according to the plan came back. More lifted off from the surface. They moved around the slowly drifting body. Poking at it with message lasers, radio waves, flashing lights. One Hamaroosan stood on the hull and waved flags.
The ships turned on the wreckage of the Goliaths and their attendants. The vented their fury, their rage, their wrath, on the pieces of wreckage. Firing their weapons until even the capacitors ran dry.
Then they came back.
Still the giant body didn't move.
After several days several dozen tugs moved into position, precisely aligning themselves in a carefully computed pattern. Tractor beams speared out, grabbing the cephalopod in a gentle web. The ships pulled the unmoving body into orbit around one of the inner planets.
Hamaroosa mourned.
But in the sorrow came rage. Hamaroosa screamed at Hamaroosa who shouted at Lanaktallan that more guns were needed, more ships, more powerful weapons. The few hundred Lanaktallan on the surface who protested found themselves marched at gunpoint onto a ship and told if they ever came back the Hamaroosa would perform an ancient ritual. They would bind the Lanaktallan to poles and burn them to death over a roaring fire.
And eat them.
A ship arrived in a sparkle in the scanners. A strange ship. Heavily armored, bristling with weapons. It stopped and scanned the body.
The Hamaroosa screamed at the ship to get away from her, to not touch her, to leave or be destroyed.
The ship left, vanishing in a sparkle.
Two dozen Lanaktallan ships, from the Unified Executor Council showed up, demanding that the Hamaroosa turn over the body of the creature.
The Hamaroosa, screaming, attacked. They didn't care about casualties, they didn't care that thirty ships were destroyed, that hundreds of them died, but they destroyed the Lanaktallan vessels without mercy.
There was a sparkle in the outer edges of the system. And another. And another. More and more until there were nearly two dozen.
The Hamaroosa ships screamed into the void, weapons charged, voices upraised in rage and sorrow.
There were two dozen giant cephalopods of different color patterns and sizes. A small one moved to the supermassive gas giant and sunk down into it. Two medium sized ones joined it. One of the large ones sunk into the larger gas giant further in system.
But the greatest ones, the largest ones, surrounded by a half dozen ones smaller than the body orbiting the planet.
One of the Hamaroosa ships hailed them.
Captain Delminta, Captain of the Harvester of Sorrow, stared at her screen, hands on her hips, as her second sister broadcast her demand that the newcomers identify themselves.
The radio crackled, hummed, and the answered thrummed from the speakers.
"Her father. I am here for my beloved daughter with my wife and my daughter's closest friends."
The Hamaroosa moved aside, blinking their lights in respect.
The second biggest one rushed forward, gathering up the unmoving one in its tentacles.
Her outcry of anguish rattled every speaker in the system as the second biggest one pulled dead one close.
"My children shall guard this system, for she loved you," the signal boomed out to the ships in orbit.
The two biggest ones and four of the medium ones vanished in a sparkle.
The others stayed. Hiding within the gas giants.
Waiting.
----------------------
Mr Okpara;
We regret to inform that your daughter, Sandy Okpara, was killed in action against Precursor elements intent on exterminating all life with a system inhabited by 4.4 billion sentient beings. During her solo defense of the system while awaiting reinforcement from Space Force, she showed determination and courage that upholds the highest ideals of the Confederacy. Faced with two Goliaths she did not flinch, nor did she abandoned her self-assigned charges, but instead defeated both Goliaths, fighting on to protect the system and the billions of inhabitants despite mortal wounds.
Her death was witnessed by the beings she was protecting, who guarded her mortal remains to ensure that they were not disturbed or violated. They have requested to be informed of any religious or cultural requirements she requires while she lays in state in orbit around their world.
They await your arrival and have sworn to guard your daughter's remains until you arrive.
It is with ultimate sorrow I sent this message. Please contact my office so that we may make the proper arrangements for your daughter.
In Service;
Dreams of Something More
submitted by Ralts_Bloodthorne to HFY [link] [comments]

I (15F) am so confused. I’ve overanalyzed my sexuality to the point where I don’t know what I desire anymore. Please help

TL;DR: My (15F) anxiety has caused me to overthink my sexuality to the point where I don’t even want to think about dating or sex (haven’t experienced either). There’s a couple reasons why I think I might be LGBTQ+ but attraction isn’t one of them. My worrying has calmed down in the last couple weeks but I don’t know. I still think I lean towards heterosexuality but I’m afraid I’m in denial. Help, please
To put it plainly, I’m a bit of a wreck right now. I’ve been questioning my sexuality for about a month and a half. A journey that should be fulfilling has become a train wreck. I’m a 15 year old girl with no desire to date, kiss, or have sex right now. I have not done any of those things either, nor have I ever truly had a crush. I want to do those things in the future, when I’m more interested and ready. Right now, I just dream about it. So why am I questioning my sexuality now? To be completely honest, I don’t know. I know my anxiety plays a part of it— a BIG part of it. Quarantine has caused me to stress over a lot of little things, even if I wouldn’t normally be worried about it. The worry has drifted, but it’s still there. I want to talk about this, even if no one answers, for my own sanity. I want to get this all off my chest and hopefully someone will understand. I’m going to be mostly writing from my point of view before the last couple weeks— when I still had desires and feelings when it comes to love.
I still feel like I lean towards heterosexuality, but I don’t know anymore because of a talk I’ve had with a friend. I’ve never been able to see myself romantically or sexually linked with a woman. I’ve never been repulsed by the idea— I just feel disinterested. I can say if a woman is pretty, but everyone should be able to without their sexuality feeling threatened. Even then, if I see a pretty woman, I want to be/look like her rather than be with her. This is different from guys. I can see myself with a guy in the future (not now, but the future). If I see a cute guy, I think about how I would like to date someone who looks like that in the future.
A few weeks ago, I felt attraction for a couple days— at least I thought it was attraction. I felt a sensation in my stomach and chest when looking at people. Female, male, non-binary (and other genders), pretty, ugly, young, old— everybody. This calmed down, and then I was only attracted to a select few people. These people were mostly men, but occasionally I would feel something for a women. The feelings towards men were much stronger. I didn’t feel a desire to sleep with or date any of these people. For a few of the guys, I thought about how they would make a good boyfriend in the future. All feelings have now disappeared. People suggested that it could be visual attraction or appreciation rather than sexual or romantic attraction. I don’t know if it was even attraction. This is what bothers me the most
I was referred to the masterdoc. A lot of it didn’t apply to me because I have never dated anyone. Some of it did though, which made me obsess over it even more. For example, I don’t like super macho men or stereotypical men. Most of them annoy me. Same with stereotypical heterosexual relationship where the man is dominant and the woman is submissive— I can’t stand it. I like when men do more “feminine” things. I always thought I liked this because it shows they aren’t confining themselves to gender stereotypes and are instead unapologetically being themselves, but now I don’t know.
I have a lot of LGBTQ+ friends. All my other friends are very supportive of the community. From where I’m from, if you’re not LGBTQ+ there’s a good chance you’re homophobic, and I can’t stand homophobes. That’s another thing, I’m very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and sometimes get emotional over some aspects of it. I like seeing representation in the media. So I don’t know why I would worry about my sexuality. In fact, I think it would be cool to be bi/pan because you have more options. But I just can’t see myself as bi, it just doesn’t fit. Worry is still not the most fitting word— more like thinking a lot about...? I still don’t know why being supportive of the community would make you LGBTQ+, but people say that’s the case. I’ve never understood this. You don’t have to be an animal to support animal rights, you know? I can wish for equality for everyone because there’s a little thing called empathy and respect. Ugh, anyway... What if my heart knows but my mind doesn’t?
But, anyway, some of my friends think or at least thought I was LGBTQ+. The one that I talked to said she was a little surprised that I wasn’t (I told her I thought I was straight, but wasn’t 100% sure), but she didn’t think I was 100% part of the community, it was more of a “well maybe” situation. I think my Mom thinks I’m LGBTQ+. She shows me a lot of LGBTQ+ stuff. She’s very supportive of the community just as I am (she also has a lot of LGBTQ+ friends). She does mention that she has a really good gaydar a lot. I swear when she mentions this she looks at me. I might just be paranoid. This is one of the main reasons I’m thinking of being LGBTQ+. Am I the only one who doesn’t know? Or do I subconsciously know?
Like, for example, I had a dream where I cuddled and kissed a women. I’ve never seen her before. I felt very safe and comfortable, which was odd because I normally feel uncomfortable with affection. I can’t tell if this is my mind trying to tell me something, or if it’s unrelated. It could be a desire for affection. Also, that day, I found out that my (former) best friend had a girlfriend (didn’t know or see her) and was a lesbian. In the dream, the person I was with was supposedly this friends ex girlfriend (plot twist— my friend found out and tried to throw me out of the window.... I don’t know). That was on my mind a lot, because I wouldn’t have ever guessed that (it didn’t bother me at all, it was just interesting because she used to talk about boys 24/7).
I talked to a friend about the situation, but sadly that made it worse— much worse. She’s bisexual, so I thought she would be a good person to talk to. She mentioned something about the heteronormative society, which I already knew about but had forgotten about. Now, because I’m not interested in dating right now, I’m worried that I’m in denial and truly have no interest in guys. I only see guys and think they’re cute (and am sometimes attracted to them) because that’s what you’re “supposed to do”. It was after this I lost all feelings on the subject. I’ve slowly been gaining them back, but now I don’t even know if they’re genuine. She also asked why I liked guys. I couldn’t answer the question. I just do...? The ones who truly respect women I have a lot of respect and love for. I think about them a lot and dream about being with one, but what if I just want them as a friend?
This has caused me to test my sexuality so much. If I start thinking about a guy, half way through my imagination I’ll think, “oh, do you really want to be with a guy? Heres a woman instead.” Then I get a little frustrated but keep going with the dream because I don’t want to force myself to only like guys, but then I get disinterred and give up. Then, I’ll try to see myself with a woman, and then a guy will sneak it. This was a couple weeks ago. I distracted myself for a couple weeks but now the worries back. I try to see myself saying or doing romantic or sexual things with woman. But, when I do, I end up seeing myself as a man talking to me (I can’t see myself, but for some reason I just know that this person is my boyfriend or something, they’ll say my name or something). Or, sometimes it’s just a guy talking about how much they love their girlfriend, and, even though they may not be talking about me, I desire to have that said to me. I’ve never had issues with my gender (knock on wood...) and feel for those that do but I don’t think that’s an issue here. It’s. So. Confusing.
There is one thing she mentioned that clicked with me: Demisexuality. If I am into guys, then it would explain why I’ve never had a crush. I’m not close with any guys at school. Many of them are immature and hateful. I’d rather be single than be with any of them. There are a few exceptions. There are two guys at school that stick out when I try to think of attractive and “boyfriend (or girlfriend) material” people my age. I don’t think I crush on them though. I haven’t had any contact with them, I just know they’re good people from friends. I don’t feel anything when thinking about them, they’re just really cute. I kind of like the idea of being with them but I really struggle to. I know I’ll never have a chance with them. It’s hard to see myself with anyone because I can’t see anyone ever loving me. That’s another problem, my low self esteem...
I don’t think anyone can love me. I’m boring, I’m ugly, I’m a wreck! I’m not saying this because I want pity, it’s just true. Nobody has a crush on me. If anyone would show interest in me I would think they’re crazy. The more that I think about it, there was one person that might have showed interest in me, but I think they just wanted to be friends or felt bad for me or something. She said I was pretty and complimented me twice. When she tried to get my attention, she said “hey pretty girl”. I didn’t respond because I thought they were talking to someone else. It was only after half a minute when I realized she was trying to talk to me. I didn’t think of this as flirting and I still doubt she had interest in me. She’s just trying to be sweet. Not to be rude, but I don’t have any interest in being with her. She’s sweet but I just don’t see her that way
My worry isn’t as bad as it was many weeks ago, but it’s slowly coming back. I’m assuming a lot of the worry was from PMS. I still want to write this though, because I know I will worry again (and I think I’m getting closer and closer to that level of worry again). Thoughts still cross my mind but it’s not as bad. That being said, I still can’t think of dating and boys the same way. I no longer get joy out of thinking of a future boyfriend, because the thoughts that I’m being forced to think this way creep back in. I just wish I could do a simple Goggle search and figure it out. I said I wouldn’t out a label on myself, but that’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t know. I doubt anyone is reading this because I wrote way too much, but it honestly helped a lot writing this.
Note: I have posted on here before about 2 months ago, but my feelings have changed a bit since then. I’m using an Anon because some people got ~creepy~ in my DM’s last time (not on this subreddit but still)...
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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Breaking Bad, Part 3

Continuing
“Hello and good day, gentlemen”, I say. “I am Doctor Rocknocker. You may and will refer to me as ‘Rock’. OK? None of this ‘Doctor’ or ‘Sir’ guff. We green here?”
There was a buzz of voices but no direct answers.
“OK. Let’s get a few things down right here and now.
(1.) Call me Rock.
(b.) Answer me loudly. I will need to hear you loud and clear. Best get used to that now.
(iii.) “We green?” means “Are we in agreement?” It’s a form of shorthand I use here and in the field.
(⍾.) “You diggin’ me, Beaumont? means you’ve really done gone and pissed me off; you’ve done something untoward. Pray you never hear that phrase, and,
(∞.) I’m the boss. The top dog. The hookin’ bull. The Maharaja here. I possess the first, final and only words you’re going to listen to for the next couple of weeks. What I say, goes. Any problem, please let me know now so we can replace you most quickly.”
A gentle buzz, but no replies.
“Gentlemen. Do we agree?” I ask.
“Yes, Rock.” Was the reply.
OK, there might be some form of a societal prohibition against making loud noises. That’s the first thing that has to go.
“Gentlemen, we will be working in the great outdoors where there are wind, rain, waves, and other environmental nonsense making all sorts of unrequited noise. We need clear and proper lines of communication. I need to hear you clearly and vice-versa. When speaking, you will speak slowly, clearly, and loudly. “
DO WE AGREE!?!” I yell, rather deafeningly.
“YES, ROCK!” came the eventual reply.
“Outstanding”. I ponder.
Continuing…
“Mr. Sanjay is my de facto second in command. If I’m out having a smoke, taking a piss, or having a snort, he’s in charge. Listen to him as if I suddenly lost 150 pounds, shaved my beard, and inexplicably become Indian.” I chuckled.
They seemed to enjoy that. I actually elicited a few chuckles.
“Mr. Sanjay will now distribute to you your locker boxes. You will wait until he hands you yours. Do not get up and mill around the room. We green?” I ask.
“Green! Doctor Rock.” Came the noisy reply.
“Progress. Marvelous.”, I reflect.
“I’ll be right back. Mr. Sanjay, the room is yours.” I note. I might need to cut back on the coffee.
I slope off to the loo and it’s just as horrible as you can imagine an outdoor communal shithouse in sunny India attended by 30,000 Indian gentlemen could be.
Fuck COVID-19. I’m thinking hot and cold running dysentery, dengue, and death here. Ick.
Glad I have a highly functioning immune system.
I retrieve a shiny aluminum Halliburton™ case from Headquarters and ease off to an unused office space to change.
I went from my usual field garb to full PPEs. It was quite a sight.
I’ll be telling you about it in mere moments. Contain the excitement.
I’m walking back to Outbuilding #2 and damned if my get-up didn’t elicit a few gasps, shielded guffaws, and a salute or two. I have to admit, to the uninitiated, I was a sight right out of Area 52, the more secret one, west by northeast of Roswell, New Mexico.
I get back to the outbuilding and enter. Everyone was looking through their locker boxes, chuckling about their good fortune and wondering with Joker-like glee what the hell all these wonderful gizmos were and where did I get them? They all stopped dead in their tracks when I walked in.
Their silence was palpable.
“Gentlemen”, I said, “Here’s how you are going to look at work tomorrow. Revel in its utility, comfort, and extreme fashion sense.” I did a quick spin like I used to on the runway.
At O’Hare when we were doing field geostatic tests. Whatever were you thinking?
Anyways…
I was wearing a pair of size 66-XTall NFPA 70E blaze orange Carhartt Nomex coveralls. I had on a Dax carbon-fiber blaze orange “Coal Scuttle” hardhat with swing-away hearing protection keyed into your personal communications module, and a gold-anodized, pull-down full face shield. The helmet was designed to drain away falling water down over one’s back and not down one’s neck.
I had a pair of ‘wet’ gloves under the snap retainer on my left shoulder, a pair of ‘dry’ gloves on my right. I was wearing an orange CMC Safety 9-point safety and rescue harness, good to well over 1,500 pounds. Over both shoulders, around the crotch, up the front, and around the back, X-style. This popular harness features multiple D-ring attachment points and the patented JackBack removable padding with breathable D-3 cloth, which keeps shoulder straps separated and makes donning and doffing a breeze. It had several catch-points where one could easily and readily attach to the snap carabiners and get bodily dragged out of a nasty situation by rope or chain. The front waist D-ring allows a comfortable, stable sitting position for rappels and the sternum D-ring works well for helicopter or crane-assist hoists. Gear loops offer easy access to equipment, and quick-connect-disconnect shoulder straps and leg loops make the harness quick to don or doff. It could be used for impromptu spelunking on days off.
I had on Size 16 EEE Gear Box 8088 Men's 8 inch Black Leather intrinsically-safe hard-toed lace-up black turned-heel leather work boots with the new self-cleaning, oil-and chemical resistant Vibram soles.
They couldn’t see, but I was also wearing a cotton-Nomex blend wifebeater and boxers as well. Nomex tends to chafe. Best be safe.
I had a powerful Maglite flashlight clipped to my rescue harness, as well as my mini Air Horn; a blaster’s must. I also had a mobile VHF-Commslink™ radio in a pocket on the back of my coveralls on the left shoulder. I had the microphone for it Velcro-ed to my rescue harness within easy reach. Very cop like. Very cool. Very necessary.
I had a traditional Zippo and Bic Butane lighters in my right-hand chest pocket and a brace of cigars, though these were optional, in my left pocket. I carried a bespoke constructed Swiss Army Knife on a lanyard in my right front pocket and had a custom Bears Paw Leatherman hanging on the left of my rescue harness.
Also clipped to the harness was a Silva orienteering compass. There was a selection of NASA write anywhere pens, Sharpies, and oil-writing chalk pencils in my other front pockets. I had an oil industry tally book in my other front pocket.
Why blaze orange? Well, Red Adair already co-opted bright red, and fluorescent green wasn’t available in my size.
So, we’re now ready to plant explosives in West India or go deer hunting in the Northwoods of Baja Canada.
“Questions, Gentlemen?” I asked.
I explained that in their locker boxes were purchase orders, POs, for every bit of kit I was wearing. They were to take these POs to the Company Store and get, well, kitted out in their own sizes and preferences. I wanted to see everyone back here tomorrow at 1300 hours looking as I do now. Well, maybe skip the cigar and be not quite so large.
I sat down on the table in front of the crowd and had Sanjay bring over the demo locker box.
“OK, gents,” I said, “This locker box is yours and is numbered as such. They will be stored here in Outbuilding #2. Each of you will receive a key for this building as it is now your headquarters. We’ll get back to locker boxes in a minute. Anyone need a break for a few minutes?” I asked.
No one dared answer at this magical juncture in the narrative.
“Well, I do”, I said, “Meet back here in twenty minutes. Sanjay?”
The class wandered out and I conversed with Sanjay. We found the maps I had ordered.
They were an aerial view of the breaking yard and it was split into 6 zones, all a different color. There was one master for the wall and 28 copies for the guys. I also had a log-in/log-out board made. Vertically numbered 1 to 28. There were also 7 vertical bars labeled Zone 1 through Zone 6, and one for ‘in dispose’; i.e., in Latrin-e Land. This was so I’d know where my guys were at all times.
There was a hook for each one of these areas to log in, and to let anyone know where a certain person was during the day or night. You’re number 10? And you’re going to be wielding a torch over in Zone 5? Your brass tag goes right there. You’re going to skip over to Zone 3? Get your ass back here and swap it over to where you’re going. There is no excuse for being where you haven’t said you were, short of active accident or dismemberment.
Everyone shuffles back in and I explain the tote board.
“Notice there’s no spot to leave your brass chit if you’ve gone off the reservation?” I asked. “Why do you suppose that is?”
Confused looks all around.
“Because you keep that brass token with you when you’re not on the job. Lose it, lose your job. Sounds harsh, but so is getting your fucking hands blown off. Think of it as an exercise in discipline.”
There was a very little rebuttal.
“When you are on location, your brass token will reflect where you are. You are off-site, put the brass token in your wallet next to your lucky ‘circular impression’.
There were several knowing grins in my cadets.
Wear it around your neck on a chain. Keep it on your keyring. You can wrap it up in ribbons, you can slip it in your sock; I don’t care. Thing is, it is your ticket to this job. Hold on to it, there will be no replacements. We green?”
“Green, Doctor!”
“Outstanding.”
“Now, locker boxes. Gentlemen”, I continued. “These are your personal boxes that will be archived here. They will contain everything that you will need to carry out the job initially and help you with training the next crew that comes through after I leave. Keep them neat and tidy. I like to pull unannounced locker box inspections, gentlemen. Be forewarned.”
The sound of active scribbling is music to my tinny ears.
“Now, as such”, I continue, “Each locker box, at this point, is identical. Please follow along with me as we do inventory: Each gets locker box will contain (as I pull out the item for identification):
• 1- set Purchase Orders (POs) for PPEs
• 1- Galvanometer
• 2- Blaster’s pliers
• 1- Custom Leatherman
• 1- Metal clipboard
• Various Pens, pencils, paper, etc.
• 5- Sharpies
• 1 copy: Blasters Protocols Handbook, 15th Edition
• 1 copy: Blasting and explosives safety training manual by the IEE.
• 1 copy: Theory and practice of blasting, by Hino (A classic)
• 1 copy: Blasters Handbook, 17th Edition
• Various Explosives catalogs
• 1- Custom Swiss Army Knife
• Several Butane lighters
“Are we in agreement, gentlemen?” I ask. “Please check to be certain you have what the manifest states.”
“As long as we’re going over locker boxes, let’s look at our set of PPE purchase orders. Each locker box will contain POs for:
• 1 pair Orange Nomex coveralls, in your size
• 1 Dax carbon-fibre blaze orange hardhat with ear protection, gold face shield
• 1- CMC Safety 9-point extraction harness with carabiners
• 2- pairs Safety Glasses
• 2- pairs of gloves –wet & dry
• 1- pair Gear Box 8088 hard-toed intrinsically safe 8” work boots
• 1- Silva Orienteering Compass
• 3- pairs of cotton WaterWick socks
• 1- CommsLink™ VHF radio with microphone
• 1- Maglight power flashlight
• 1- Rain suit – also Nomex, bibs and outer shell
• 1- Mini Air Horn Power Tootler
• 1- Pair cotton/Nomex blende underwear – anti-chafe, wifebeateboxer: 3 sets.
• 1- 16-ounce container ‘Babies Bottom’ Talcum powder. Nomex chafes.
“Well, that’s a lot of gear; you best become real familiar with it as soon as you can. You are responsible for your PPEs. Lose them and replace them at your own cost. Wear them out? No problem. We will replace them. Get caught on location without your proper PPEs? Alavida. Goodbye. There is no second try. Fuck up once, and you’re gone. I am here for a limited time to try and teach you characters how to blast boats. I am not here to be your wet-nurse or mother. We green?” I ask.
“YES! Green! Rock!”
“Outstanding!”
We spend about an hour going over the various contents of the locker boxes and I answer general questions about blasting and explosives.
“We will use Primacord by the mile and tons of C-4 primarily. I might introduce you to binary explosives if there’s time. We might also get into PETN and RDX. Dynamite for training. But that’s about it.”
“We will use demolition wire and electrically fired blasting caps and boosters. We might have some time to look at set-pull-forget mechanicochemical fuses. But you’ll all learn some basic electrical wiring and how to design a circuit.”
“Tomorrow, given it doesn’t rain and the creek don’t rise.”
“Time, gentlemen!” I said. It’s been a long day and I’m a bit jet-lagged knackered. Besides, I wanted to give that Jacuzzi a spin.
“OK, remember: get your PPEs tomorrow morning at the Company Store. I expect to see each and every one of you here tomorrow, kitted out and ready to go, at 1300 sharp. That’s it. See you tomorrow. Susandhya. [Good evening.]” I said.
Locker boxes are locked and stowed in an orderly fashion. Each and everyone one of my 24 acolytes come to me before he leaves work to thank me personally and shake my hand.
“This might just work out”, I say to no one in particular.
Sanjay and I head back to the Raj for the night. I’m really tired, finally feeling the jet travel hit, and not the least bit hungry.
However, I do ring up the 214 cigar dude and relieve him of a selection of fine smokes. I drop by the bar for a couple of barley-pops before I retire to my capacious room for the night.
“Sanjay”, I say, “I’m knackered. If anyone wants me, head them off until tomorrow. It can wait. I’m going to get some kip and don’t want to be disturbed. No maids, no Majordomo, no butler. I just want to get unconscious for a while.”
“No problem, Rock”, Sanjay assures me, “I’ll tell them you’ve gone bush and haven’t left a forwarding address.”
“Good man”, I say, patting him on the shoulder. Hell, I must be getting old. Shit like teaching a band of newbies and whooping a little ass would have never as much as caused me a short breath. Then again, it’s probably not the years, it’s really the mileage…
After a quick light breakfast come morning, Sanjay and I are back on location. I’m being given a tour of the place by the day-shift foreman, one Mr. Vikramaditya Shrivastava.
“Yikes”, I say to Sanjay, “You characters really go for your 11-syllable names.”
“Call him ‘Vik’, Rock”, Sanjay smiles, “Good thing you’ve never asked about my last name.”
“Probably is”, I snicker back. I’m not getting roped into this little tussle.
Vik speaks fairly passable English, but I’m still glad Sanjay is here. The first order of business is to see the explosives bunker I sent plans for and how that’s coming along. They tell me it’s almost finished and ready to be stocked with what I’ve ordered.
“Outstanding, let’s have a look,” I say.
Into the Citation Golf Cart, we go. None of this plebian walking shit. We’re MIPs, Monstrously Important People.
Plebes walk, we ride.
We drive around the piles of rusty scrap, huge hunks of bulkhead, and disconcertingly quickly through polychromatic puddles of who-knows-what to slide to a stop in front of a large canvas tent.
Think M *A *S *H-type mess tent.
“What’s this?” I ask, “Commissary? First Aid?”
“No, Dr. Rock”, Vik explains, “Here are your explosives.”
My eyes grow large.
“What do you mean?” I ask. What the fuck do you mean? I mean.
“Building of your bunker is taking more time than we expected what with your design imperatives. But your order was filled most expediently. We are storing it here until the bunker is complete.” He smiles in that inimitable Indian manner that is so irritating when they don’t realize the major fuck-up they’ve just committed.
“OK. Simmer down, Rock.” I say to myself. “Sanjay, ask him again what’s in that tent. That bottomless tent that’s just a sheet of tarpaulin held up by metal poles.”
“He says that’s your explosives order, Rock,” Sanjay says. His demeanor went from perky and helpful to terrified as he saw me turn several shades of crimson and begin to emit wisps of steam.
“Sanjay”, I said in calm, calculated terms. “You are telling me there are over 9 tons of high explosives, blasting caps, boosters, demo wire, and ANFO sitting on wet sand in this heat under a sheet of fucking tarpaulin?”
“Yes?” he stammered, with a squeak.
“OK.”, I said. “We need to keep very calm and not go completely apeshit; and I’m telling you, right now, that’s taking Augean-level effort. We have a situation here, Mr. Sanjay. A very, very dangerous and very deadly situation. Let’s above all, remain calm.”
“Right, Rock”, he replies.
I turn to Vik and say in a calm and collected tone, “YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
“Calm and collected, right, Rock?” Sanjay smirks and Mr. Vik withers under my verbal assault.
“Sorry, I had to get that one out.”, I apologized, “Mr. Vik. You have created a real blockbuster here. Quite literally. I figured, erroneously it seems, that you would not take delivery of over 9 TONS of high explosives before you had a very safe and secure place to store such.”
“It arrived sooner than we thought. We got a good price on it,” he explained.
You did? Fucking great! Holy mothering fuck!
Now I was even more worried. One does not get discounts or bargain-basement deals on quality high explosives.
“Pray, Mr. Vik”, I entreated, “From where did you source these detonic components?”
“From Best Blast and Supply Llc of Hong Kong Enterprises.” He replied, “Bulk discount quantities, quick delivery bonus. Saved crore rupee.”
No. I was wrong, it could get worse.
Not only 9 tons of high explosives, 9 tons of counterfeit, knock-off, and non-regulated manufacturer explosives.
“OK”, I said, “Let’s take stock here. My bunker isn’t finished yet? Correct? So you and the company meatheads ordered 9 tons of knock-off explosives from some shady and cheesy Chinese dealer and you stored them on wet beach sand, in this heat, under a tarp? Have I got all that right?”
“Oh, yes Doctor Rock.”, he smiled.
“Sanjay”, I said in a low, firm tone, “We have a…situation. We need to cordon this area off and build an exclusion zone as far as we can around it. No one, and I mean no one, gets within what, 10 kilometers? of the tent. This thing goes off, it’s going to leave a much larger than that cone of devastation. Then we need to visit with the management of this place and have a few thousand well-chosen four-letter words. Then I can think about what the fuck we’re going to do about this situation. I’m struggling to remain calm so everyone else will, but this is just a wee bit tetchy. Find me some red flags and start planting them around the tent, working our way out. Let’s go. Calmly, collectively, and with purpose.”
We find a source of 2-meter poles with red pennants. Sanjay also finds a few miles of yellow “Danger: Stay The Fuck Away” tape. We gather then and head back to the tent. We start to spiral out from it planting flags and running tape.
We did the best we could, but we were disrupting daily business activities. Good. Let the head idiots in charge know they’ve fucked up and grandly.
Back at headquarters, I’m fuming. I’m damn mad. I’m loud and being all extremely American about all this.
“You fucking idiots! 9 tons of cheap-shit high explosives? From China? Stored on wet sand in this heat? Under a benchod tarp? Why the flying fuck do you think I sent such detailed plans for a storage bunker? Do you assholes even think?” I railed on like this for at least half an hour, going all Gene Wilder in ‘Young Frankenstein’.
“Yes, Doctor”, one Mr. Karam Kanungo, the local boss and company president said, “That is all true and steps will be taken to redress the situation. But that doesn’t address the issue at hand. What do you suggest?”
“I suggest you are all taken out and given hot coffee high colonics to clear out your thinking processes”, I spit, “But that still leaves us with a nine-ton headache out there waiting to bloom into something even more aggravating.”
The entire assembled board agreed.
I calm down a bit and have a think. Fuck your boardroom, I’m having a cigar.
“You need a licensed, certified, master blaster to go and sort that out. Do you happen to have one handy?” I asked, sweeter than clover honey.
“Ah, yes, you are…oh.”, was the collective realization.
“Yeah, I know. It’s me. I’m the only one that can sort this shit out. We can’t even wait until we find someone from the world to assist. We are sitting on a literal time bomb, gentlemen.” I reply.
They all agreed and were relieved I was going to take on the challenge.
What else could I do? That stuff lights off and we’re talking easily hundreds if not thousands of fatalities and countless injuries. Fuck that. Not on my watch.
I tells ya’ what. The fucking Karma Fairy better shower me with gifts and accolades, blowjobs and candy corn after all this.
In a metaphorical sense, of course.
“OK, Mr. Sanjay, you’re with me.” I say, “Now look, Herr Macs”, I address the collective board, “Before I had carte blanche. Now, if I even think we might need something, it appears. We’ll sort out our honoraria and bonuses for this after we get back.”
Everyone present agreed most hastily. Handshakes all around and apologies from the board cemented the issue.
“OK, Sanjay. I need a bus. At least 24-seater. With a driver than knows how, when, and where to stop. OK?” I ask.
“24, Rock?”, Sanjay asks, “You’re not thinking of including the recruits now, are you?”
“Yes I am, Mr. Sanjay.”, I replied sternly, “On the job training. Meet me at outbuilding #2 at 1300 as per plan. Order a bus and arrange the largest forklift that can manage beach sand, about 100 wooden pallets, plastic wrap, and sandbags. Lots and lots of sandbags. Have them stockpiled away from the tent in a muster area. OK. You got all that?”
“Yes, Rock”, he said, “I’ll be there in a couple of hours. It will only take a few phone calls.”
“Marvelous.”
Not even 1000 in the fucking morning and I’m facing life and death decisions once again. I dig an emergency flask out of my field vest. If this doesn’t qualify as an emergency, what the fuck does?
A tot or two later, I change into my PPEs, and light a cigar. I catch a tap-tap to the region of the tent. I need to reconnoiter the area and figure out what sort of dragon I have to slay and the best way of going about slaughtering the sumbitch.
I’m standing alone, about 250 meters from the tent of death.
I’m puzzling and puzzling; but I can’t allow for my puzzler to go sore. Not this early, anyway.
“OK, me ol’ mucker”, I sigh, “It’s me or thee. Pucker up, Buckwheat. Here I come.”
A blast suit like the ones bomb disposal dudes wear wouldn’t help in the least. All it would do is hold the mashed body parts together to make for easier disposal. I’m anywhere within a kilometer or so of this pile of Chinese counterfeit boom-makers and it decides to let go; I’m lunchmeat. That’s it. Alive one second; kerpow, splat, instantaneously zonked into component particles the next. That’s the long and short of it. No ‘thank you’s. No ‘good bye’s. Just existing here one minute and in an alternate dimension the next.
Doesn't that just take the biscuit? Funny old thing, life.
I trod onwards.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
I was walking up to the tent, clearing a path for the forklift. No fucking way I’m schlepping nine tons of dodgy explosives out of here, over wet beach sand, by hand and hoof.
Sand. I’m with young Anakin on this one. I hate sand. I hate walking in dry sand, hiking in wet sand. It makes for a wonderful oil reservoir and I love its porosity and permeability at depth. But at the surface, forget it. Yow! Let me tell you about the time I was out in the Rub al-Khali desert. The great Sand Erg. Wind blowing a force 9 gale! Seif dunes 1,000 meters high…
Yeah. I know. I’m stalling.
I’m approaching the tent. Carefully. I pause to light a new cigar. You might think that daft, but it’s really not. None of the stuff inside is heat-sensitive; let me clarify. None of the stuff is going to go off if hit by errant ash or even a sustained flame. But sitting out in the 30C+ heat? OK, that makes it twitchier. Cigars do the opposite for me. Give me something to concentrate upon and it calms me down.
I need calm now. By the bucketful. Where’s a monsoon when you really need one?
OK, I made it. I’m at the tent. Got to hand it to the workers around here, they respect authority and don’t come anywhere near the tent. They also don’t apparently give a shit as there no crowd gathered filming me with their iPhones to post to You Tube© if the tent decides to go all detonic.
Good. I couldn’t yell anything at them they’d understand to clear out anyway.
I open the hole in the side of the tent and pause. I’m hit with a wave of hot air. And the heady redolence of onions, sewer gas, and dog farts.
Sorry, that’s just me. Weird midnight snack last night. Frozen durian. What a treat.
Anyways.
I smell kerosene. Old wood pulp, like musty magazines. And an undercurrent of almonds.
“Oh, treble fuck me,” I say to no one within 100 square kilometers.
Kerosene is sweaty C-4. Old wood pulp is dynamite. Almonds? My old friend, nitroglycerine.
Things, if possible, went from real to super-uber major-league holy-fuck real.
“OK”, I say, as I dig out my phone and begin to snap pictures at a frantic rate.
Luckily, all the ordnance was piled like-with-like. Blasting caps? All over here. C-4, all along this ‘wall’. Dynamite? All over here. Non-explosives? Right over here.
I was mentally running like a squadron of overclocked Crays, wondering what I need to do to sort out this little situation. I’m so deep in thought, someone would need to throw me a rope to get my attention.
Or, just tap me on the shoulder.
Once I returned from low earth orbit, I turn to see a little wisp of an Indian feller, who had to be at least 27 years Methuselah’s senior.
“What? THE? Actual? Fuck? Are? You? DOING? Here?” I screamed.
“A thousand pardons, Sahib.”, the ancient one said, “I saw you working alone. Salim wonders if you need some help? Salim is good helper. Salim will help you good.”
“Yes, Salim. Oh, hello by the way.”, I said, calming a bit, forcing myself to smile so I didn’t kill him on the spot, “I do need your help. I need you to go, very slowly, out of this tent and to where the flags begin. Stand there and allow access to no one. OK. We green?”
Salim smiles broadly revealing both teeth. I slowly usher him out and remind myself to order a few new pairs of boxers before the day is out.
Back to the problem at hand. There are some salvageable items here. But the most the C-4, all the dynamite and every sack of ANFO has to go. And by ‘go’, I mean be disposed of. How?
By blowing it up, how else?
An idea creeps into my skull. I puff and puff while it grows and finally, I’ve a plan of attack.
I close the tent and slowly walk away. I hand Salim 1000 rupees and tell him that no one, I don’t care if it was Mahatma Gandhi reincarnate, goes anywhere near that tent.
“You savvy?” I ask.
“Oh, Sahib! I savvy! Thank you! Salaam! I savvy!” he is beside himself with joy, 13 bucks, and a task.
I look at my watch. It’s just gone noon. Good. I need a sandwich, some fluid replacement, as I’ve probably literally sweated off 5 kilos in the last hour and a half, and some time to jot down my plans.
I catch a tap-tap, geez, these things are everywhere around here. They form an unsanctioned, but necessary, sort of intradepartmental transport system here. I tip a couple of hundred rupees for every trip. They see blaze orange and they have this Pavlovian reaction. I sometimes need to break up fist-fights over which driver arrived first.
“Commissary”, I say, sit down, let the tap-tap, which is really nothing more than a glorified golf cart, adjust to my Western bulk and away we zip.
Salim is waving to me as we depart.
I shudder to think if I hadn’t had a tot or two and was a bit jumpier from the morning’s caffeine. Here's to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
At the commissary, I grab a tall iced, fruit cocktail juice; a slurry of mixed dragon fruit, kiwi, carambola, blood orange, green apple, watermelon, bitter melon, sweet melon, & bailan melon fruity essence. I’m incredibly thirsty and I need some calories, but not in bulk and not from onion bhajis, mutton kabobs, or something claiming to be grilled chicken on a stick.
The last thing I need today is a case of the trots or even sharp gas pains in the next few hours. I add about 5 fingers of Old Fornicator Vodka to the juice and sip it slowly as my biometric rhythms return from the ionosphere and back to more normal levels.
Remember, I’m EtOh-based. I need to control my various fluid levels very carefully.
The blasting muse is upon me. In less than 30 minutes, I have a plan. Both a written out procedure and a map of what needs to be done.
I finish off another tall, icy glass of potato and various fruit juices, venture outside feeling almost like I’ve once again regained the illusion of control of the situation and my life.
I fire up a heater and decide to walk the approximately 1100 meters to outbuilding #2. I’m thinking as I sashay along; figuring this and calculating that.
I round the corner and see Outbuilding #2 and a bus parked next to it.
The bus looks like a refugee from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The movie and album.
I go into Outbuilding #2 and see about half the class has arrived, and they are all kitted out in their new, stiff, and scratchy PPEs.
I nod hello to all and see Sanjay over across the room.
“Mr. Sanjay”, I say, “Nice bus. What’s the story?”
“Only one I could find that was a 24 seater, not actively falling apart, and with an English speaking driver. Rock. Mr. Maha, owneoperator.” He replied.
“Mr. Maha”, I said, shaking his hand. “Love the bus. Some sort of passion project?”
Mr. Maha laughs. “I was city bus driver for 39 years. I retire and go nuts. I buy old bus and fix up mechanicals. Runs all like excellently. Looks like dung heap. I begin to paint and never quite knew when to stop.”
“I like it. Adds a sense of surrealism to the day, as if it really needs more.” I reply, “However, I do hope you know how to stop. I mean that sincerely. We have a literal bomb to defuse. Does that bother you?”
“No, Doctor”, he says, “Nothing much bothers me anymore. I know. You are here. You are to make safe. I feel safe that you’re here. Let us go to work.”
“Outstanding”. I say.
I tell him that a fat bonus will be his when this is all over if all goes to plan.
“Unnecessary.”, he replies, “Mr. Sanjay has already paid me.”
“Paid? Perhaps”, I reply, “You are going to get danger money whether you like it or not.”
“I guess I will like it, Doctor.” He smiles.
“Marvelous.”
I look at the clock, it’s 1256. Almost showtime.
1300 on the spot. I pick up the microphone and address the assembled 24.
“Gentlemen”, I say, “Very good. You all look like late October in the United States. Very festive.” as all are kitted out in their respective PPEs.
“We have a little matter to handle. One that has just cropped up and one you’re certainly not ready for, but I have no other choice. Does that bother anyone here?” I ask.
Head shakes and questions arise.
“OK, class”, I say, “For your first training exercise, we’re going to defuse a 9-ton bomb. Let’s go.”
The collective gasp drew my cigar smoke in another direction, right towards them.
“Doctor…Ah, Rock. Really?” one brave soul asked for the crowd.
“Yes”, I said, “seems your company officials got a ‘real deal’ on some dodgy Chinese explosives. They didn’t wait until they finished the storage bunker I had designed, so they simply set the stuff on the beach and covered it with a canvas tent.”
There were more gasps.
“Indeed”, I said, “We need to neutralize this threat. Sanjay is passing out copies of my plan and designs on just how to do this. Read them over and let me know what you think. You have 5 minutes. We’re out of here at 1330 on the nose.”
They read quickly, cogitated over the plans and as I had assumed, didn’t find any flaws within.
“OK”, I say after an inch of cigar had passed, “You follow my directions, directly and without question, there’s no reason you can’t come out of this alive and happy, free to pursue a life of religious fulfillment.”
There was a chuckle or two at that last line. ‘Airplane’ is such a classic movie.
“Now I know”, I continued, “That this is pretty scary shit. Especially for you guys, being tossed in the deep end like this. I know because I’m scared to death.”
“Oh, Doctor Rock”, one of my acolytes said, “We do not believe this is so.”
“I stay alive by being scared to death”, I replied. “You will learn this as well.”
Sanjay checks out everyone’s PPE and all appear in good order. They are happy to have such nice, new equipment.
And that’s a problem. People used to ragged and ratty shit with which to work will go to extraordinary lengths to not filthy-up brand new working gear. This is one little bugaboo I’m going to settle here and now.
“One thing, gentlemen”, I note, “You all have nice, clean, and new PPEs. You look great. You come back to Outbuilding #2 looking as pristine, you’re gone. Keeping clean is not a part of your training. You’re going to sweat and stink. You keep to clean and it tells me you’re goldbricking, that is, not doing your job.” I say as I surreptitiously unscrew the top of my travel mug, ‘accidentally’ trip and shower the front row with Greenland coffee, lukewarm.
“See?”, I saw, “They were totally protected. That’s what PPEs are all about. We green?”
“Somewhat brown, Rock”, a couple of the guys in the front row reply without a hint of irony.
“Outstanding.”
“Gentlemen, it is time. Take what you think you’ll need and leave the rest in your locker box. Brass tags to Sector 4. On the bus, we leave in 5 minutes.”
I move my brass marker to Zone 4, puff a blue cloud for all to see, and head out to the bus.
We’re loaded and headed to Sector 4 in less than 5 minutes.
“OK”, I say”, I’m going to break you up into groups of 4. Tags number 1 to 4, you’re group 1. 5-8, group 2, and so on. OK?”
All respond in the affirmative.
OK. Six groups of four, Sanjay and me to lead the pack. We roll up to just outside the exclusion zone. With a squeal of brakes, we grind to a halt.
“Outside”, I command, “Assemble in your groups next to the bus. Go!”.
Like a well-oiled team, they de-bus and stand together in 6 groups. Sanjay and I walk along, inspecting the troops.
“OK”, I say, “This may seem like a shit job, but group 4. Back on the bus. To the commissary. Water, juice, and whatever else you think we’ll need to stay hydrated out there. Don’t worry, we’re going on rotation once you get back. You’ll all get a chance to do the exciting stuff. Now, move it.”
I say something to Sanjay, he jots it down in his book, certain to remind me later.
“OK, let’s see. Group 1. Storage detail. Build the temporary in-ground storage locker like it’s shown in the plan. Get help and have them source the manpower and materials. It needs to be done in the next 2 hours. Go!”
There are some explosives that can be salvaged. I need a place to store them. I’ve scouted and laid out a spot away from prying eyes where they can build an 8x8x8 hole in the ground, line it with marine plywood, and store whatever we can salvage. A plywood roof over the thing, a couple of locks, and well, Robert’s your Mother’s Sister’s Husband.
Next, I send group 3 to build a road from the tent to an area on the beach sourced as Disposal Area #1. They will take flags and tape and run a road, of sorts, from the tent to the beach; cordoning it off so we can take the forklift and its loads of dodgy high explosives to the disposal area.
The other groups are doing needful and necessary things as well. I tell Sanjay to keep a lid on things, I’m going to bring the forklift, a few pallets, sandbags and such in for the first run.
I find the forklift, and it’s a huge old Hyster 52-ton truck.
It’ll do.
The keys are in, so I drop in and fire it up. It catches on the first twirl and I pick up a half-dozen wooden pallets, a bunch of sandbags, and a few huge rolls of plastic wrapping. It’s like driving a tank, but it has plenty of power and just a low gear range.
I drive it back to Sector 4 and almost rum over Salim. He was taking my previous orders very seriously, indeed.
“All cool, Salim”, I say over the roar of the forklift, “It’s just me.”
He waves and lets me pass. He’s serious as a heart attack about keeping people out.
I drive and realize that I can’t drive ‘gingerly’ in a conveyance such as this. I can drive deliberately and with forethought, but it rumbles and shudders the ground. Best to slide in, drop the load, and shut her down while I figure out what’s next.
I do so and drop the pallets, etc., just outside the flap of the tent. I back off a few feet, drop the forks, and shut the noisy machine down for the time being.
Sanjay appears. As does Crew #5. I motion them to come over, slowly and with forethought.
We’re all standing outside the tent flap. I raise an index finger, right, of course, to get their attention.
“Gentlemen, first lesson. What says these explosives have gone bad? Answer:” and I open the tent flap.
“Take a whiff. What do you smell?” I instruct.
“Old paper?” was one answer.
“Oil? Petrol? Something petrochemical?” was the next.
“Almonds?” Sanjay says.
“Highest marks. We’ve old C-4. It sweats and smells like kerosene. Old paper or pulp? Dynamite gone wet and bad. Almonds? Bitter, bitter almonds? Nitroglycerine. Yes, guys. We’ve got rogue nitro inside. Anyone want to quit? Now’s your chance.” I ask, being deadly serious.
One looks to another; then they all look to me…eyes wide…
To be continued…
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[Song of the Depths] Chapter 11

Cover | First chapter | Previous | Patreon | Published Books | Website | Discord
“Sarah said you wanted to speak with me?” I strode into Zafir’s office and closed the door behind me. He looked mildly surprised to see me at first, but a welcoming smile took over soon after.
“Yes…we have much to discuss.” Zafir watched me carefully as I sat across from him. “First and foremost, I should inform you of Abel’s lie and the steps I took to fix what he’d done.”
“Oh lovely. I can’t wait.” I leaned against the armrest. “Do tell me of your noble deeds, o’ great hero.”
A short laugh escaped Zafir before he settled back in his seat, hands steepled in his lap, and his voice becoming all business. “To the point it is. Abel, contrary to his reports to me and what he told you, had you fitted with the manner of brain chip that can be detonated. The military recently began investigating Abel’s activities due to his sudden—classified—disappearance. As much of his misconduct was in relation to the other survivors, I took the liberty of ordering additional scans when you were rendered unconscious.”
I gave him an impatient look when he paused for a swig of water. “Which showed the chip. And?”
“I took the liberty of replacing it. After some discussions with our bosses, I educated them on the nuances of survivors such as yourself and acquired permission to use a Syldrari-made chip.” Zafir gave me that mysterious ‘I know you’re overthinking every word I say’ smile of his. “The survivors, and especially you, require more processing power than the empire’s chips provide. Luckily for us, the empire has no qualms about stealing technology from others and refitting it to suit their own purposes.”
“Why Syldrari specifically?” I raised an eyebrow. “There’s plenty of races more advanced than us.”
“Because the Syldrari are the most advanced species we’ve encountered, and because a Syldrari chip was the only one you showed compatibility with. I imagine it must have something to do with the Resonance Incident and your Syldrari suit.” Zafir shrugged, seemingly unbothered by my suspicion. “With that explained, we come to the primary reason I sent for you: I want your permission to run further tests. I’m not confident that Abel didn’t fake more information. Specifically, I would like to run blood tests.”
“I mean…fine?” I glanced around, then back at Zafir. “Here, or one of the labs?”
“Here will suffice.” Zafir motioned for me to roll up my sleeves. He stood and began rummaging around in the nearby cabinets. “How is training progressing?”
“It’s…going. There’s not really much to say on that front until they can start actually going out to do…whatever it is we do.” I shook my head.
“I’m still waiting to hear back from our bosses, but I did send in my request that Calder, Nikolai, and Maelor begin working.” Zafir pulled a chair up next to me and rolled a tray over, motioning for me to give him my arm. “Speaking of which, they want you to resume patrolling the Syldrari Sector during the day. They believe we’ve given enough time—”
“I’m not so sure about that,” I interjected, thinking back to the letter Sarah had brought to me from Rel. “From what I understand, the Syldrari are worryingly convinced that I’m Lethe, and it may be dangerous for me there because of it.”
“And you have this on good authority?” Zafir inquired as he gently prodded at my arm, sanitizing it before strapping a thin black band around the crook of my elbow.
I grimaced. It was too late not to elaborate. “Rel sent a letter along with our meal the other week. He warned that I should stay away because multiple clans, including the R’selkti, are looking for me due to these rumors.”
“Of course…” Zafir sighed, his expression falling. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can say at this point to make them reconsider…without putting you at greater risk. Tomorrow you will begin your patrols again. I will see if I can convince our superiors to permit one of your colleagues to join you. Either way, I am planning to have one of them act as our ‘vigilante’ in the sector for a time, while you work elsewhere. Who would you say is the most stable?”
“Nikolai for sure.” I raised an eyebrow as Zafir took the band off me. “Done already?”
“Indeed. It’s much more efficient than a needle.” Zafir tilted a black glass vial, peering into it briefly before capping it off. The other three were quickly sealed as well. If there was anything off about my blood, he didn’t comment or show it. A pity, that. I was curious to know if there were still traces of blue like I’d seen while fighting the odd Syldrari. “Now then, I recommend you rest for the remainder of the day. I want you at your best when dealing with the Syldrari. Perhaps you can do some reading on their culture while you relax?”
* * *
I arrived in the Syldrari Sector early in the morning as shops were starting to open and people were beginning to walk the streets. Though it was early, there seemed to be an unusual number of people out and about. They were all so distracted that I managed to make it all the way to Rel’s cafe without anyone acknowledging my presence.
“Elara? You shouldn’t…” Rel released an aggravated sigh. “You don’t have a choice and that’s why you’re here. Of course. What can I do for you, then? Are you feeling better?”
“Better…ish?” I shrugged and gave him a small smile. “What can I say? It’s one thing after another. I’m just trying to roll with the punches at this point.”
“Understandable.” Rel nodded and gave me a tired smile. “Will I be surprising you again today?”
“Can you stop spoiling the graekstidat fodder for one second?” A familiar, grumpy voice demanded. I glanced over to see a Syldrari man with pale grey skin walking over. His black hair obscured one eye, the pale blue underside glowing against his cheek. His eyes were…among the odder that I’d seen. While the pupils were consistent with Syldrari, the colors of deep mauve, yellow, and jade green blended together similar to how a human’s hazel did.
However, I had no damn idea where I’d heard his voice before.
“A…what fodder?” I looked over at the aggravated Rel. “And since when did you have an edgy teenager working for you?”
“Ah, think of it as an amphibious, furred shark hybrid the length of…several train cars,” Rel answered, pressing his fingers to his temples. “Furthermore, Aldiner is old enough to be your great-great-great-”
“I’m working here to pay up for pissing off the elder here,” Aldiner interjected with a snort as he pushed his hands into his apron pockets. He leaned over me, examining me from a few angles. “You don’t have that military air to you. Sure you’re a—”
I gave Aldiner my best cold, intimidating glare as he reached out and poked my cheek once. When he went for a second poke, I knocked his arm aside, spun behind him and elbowed him where I hoped his kidneys were, and moved to take him down to the ground. Alas, an arm wrapped around my waist and lifted me clean off the floor—and didn’t stop until my butt was planted on his shoulder. I looked down, startled enough to forget about beating the crap out of Aldiner.
“Ignore Aldiner. He likes to annoy everyone he sees, and hates being ignored.” The much larger Syldrari glanced at me. I certainly hadn’t expected it to be the grumpy soldier man, seeing as he’d appeared to rather dislike me. “You’re fast, for a strigaella.”
“A human woman,” Rel answered my next question with a sigh. Aldiner, behave. Humans are much less…ah…” Rel motioned with his hands and wiggled his fingers as he searched for the word.
“You don’t touch humans unless invited to,” the soldier Syldrari grunted.
“She invited ya?” Aldiner leaned forward peering at the soldier and then at where I was perched on his shoulder.
“I didn’t, but I can appreciate that he was stopping me from starting a brawl with you right here and—” I cut myself off with an aggravated sigh when felt the feral attempting to push forward. All three Syldrari went still and watched me warily. What they sensed, or how much, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. “Set me down, please…uh…”
“Heh, always bitching about manners and you never introduced yourself, did ya?” Aldiner gave the soldier a cocky grin.
“…call me Casair,” the soldier glanced away, seeming a little disgruntled, but the patterns of light on his arms didn’t so much as flicker.
…Aldiner on the other hand… I glanced at the self-contained rave fish, then back at Casair. “And you can call me Elara, though I suppose you knew that already.”
“Awww, Casair is shy!” Aldiner teased. “Suppressing—”
“Quiet, vlerst bait.” Casair crossed his arms at the strobing Syldrari, then glanced over at me. “Back to patrolling needlessly?”
“Something like that. I was sitting around recovering for so long that my boss’s bosses started thinking up other uses for me.” I grimaced before walking over to the counter and hopping up onto my usual seat. “As for surprising me, Rel, yes. Though I’d like a glass of…” I paused to reference the menu, “Jiirst☆nil?”
Either I said it very right or terribly wrong, because all three men stopped what they were doing to stare at me in shock. Well, Aldiner was staring already, but he didn’t count.
“Ah, there you are Rel my dear!” A woman’s voice carried through the room shortly after I heard the doors to the establishment open. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“Mother, please…” a familiar voice groaned, and I glanced back to see the candy girl—who perked up and waved when she spotted me.
“Careful you don’t become the queen’s snack,” Casair muttered by my ear before moving away to a booth in the corner, settling into it in such a way that he could keep an eye on everyone.
Queen? I eyed the flamboyant woman and the three people with her. If one was her daughter, I had to assume the other two were guards—they had weapons holstered at their hips, at least.
“I’m honored by your visit, but please refrain—” Rel began.
“So, when will you become one of my consorts?” The…queen? demanded with a bright smile—one that faltered when Rel placed the drink he was making in front of me instead of her. I half-expected her to be angry, but instead she studied me for a moment, her head tilted, and a finger pressed against her full, black-painted lips. “A visitor in the Syldrari Sector…are you an Iri, Sen’iri, Sol’iri, Anad’iri, Sora’iri, or Lun’iri? I can never tell with you humans…”
“Elara is an Iri, honestly…” Rel rubbed his temples. “How many times must we explain to you that the humans are binary in their biological—”
“And that is just the problem! Biological! If they didn’t hop around between bodies and swap out prosthetics constantly—no offense—perhaps I could more easily identify who they are!” The queen hmphed, crossed her arms, then finally seemed to spot my uniform. “Ah, a military girl—my favorite. If Rel still refuses to become my consort… How would you like off this planet, sweetie?”
“Mother, please!” The candy girl moved between her mother and me. “Elara is the nice human I told you about! She likes the candy I make, and her friends are going to help give me ideas for ones more humans will like! Plus, you haven’t even introduced yourself! Humans can’t sense a queen’s identity!”
“Speaking of my colleagues,” I paused, pulling out several sheets of paper that had been folded together. “They may not be able to come to the sector for a while, so they asked me to deliver their notes to you.”
She took them, and skimmed the first page, the glowing sections of her skin pulsing faster the more she read. “This is…this is great! I’m going to go work on the next batch!”
And with that, the excitable candy girl darted out of the café, practically skipping as she went.
“I’m Xilen, I run the mercantile Dvarl Clan,” the queen stated promptly, offering me her hand. When I shook it, she paused to study my face and search my eyes. “If you ever want off this planet, Rel knows how to contact me. It wouldn’t do for a pretty little thing like you to be wasted on the humans.”
“…I’ll keep that in mind…” I gently reclaimed my hand while Aldiner snickered from somewhere.
“Do you find women…?” Rel raised an eyebrow when I shook my head. “Then, you are being polite.”
“I’m keeping my options open,” I countered. “If the military can’t recreate the Resonance phenomena—and maybe even if they can—their next step is going to be breeding our mutations down to offspring. I want no part of that, so having options is good.”
“Ahhh, she’s so smart!” Xilen leaned over to squeeze me, rubbing her cheek against mine. To my surprise, the Syldrari in the cafe all looked ready to start a fight over it—with her. I got the distinct feeling it wasn’t jealousy, which made me all the more confused. “You just say the word and I’ll have you off this planet and into my arms! I’d love to see how such a cute human would look in Syldrari clothes—you don’t mind translucency, do you? I’d imagine not—”
“Elara needs to have her meal before she returns to her duties.” Rel suddenly appeared behind us, his hand on the queen’s shoulder, and his voice cold as ice. “If you’re here to discuss trade, you can wait for me in the usual room.”
“How dare—” One of the men I assumed to be the queen’s guards started to raise a weapon. I figured this was as good a time as any to make my point.
I was out of my chair and twisting the weapon out of the man’s hand before he could finish his sentence. Using his body weight against him, I got him on the floor and twisted his arm behind his back, placing my booted foot against the back of his shoulders.
“You— Ugh!” The other guard grunted when Casair’s fist met his stomach.
“Please keep in mind that my job is to keep conflicts in the Syldrari Sector to a minimum, and I am authorized to use lethal force if you pull a weapon on anyone, regardless of race or species,” I spoke calmly, grinding my heel into the Syldrari’s back for emphasis. “You may keep your weapons and use them for defense if necessary. If you pull them again for any other reason…”
“Cuuute!” Xilen promptly squeezed me in a hug. It took most of my willpower to beat down the feral, especially since I agreed with the idea of fucking ripping her arms off if she hugged me one more damn time. Xilen leaned down to speak quietly by my ear, “Be careful, dear. If you ever suspect you’re in trouble or in over your head, I’m sure you know how we can get them to come running to save you. And, stay far, far away from the R’selkti and their queen.”
“Uh—?” I didn’t get to ask her what the hell she was on about. She fetched her guards and led them to some back room, leaving me confused and…a little unnerved.
“I apologize for Queen Xilen’s…eccentricities,” Rel offered when I finally turned around to return to my seat.
“Are all queens so goddamn pushy?” I snorted irritably, trying to shove Xilen’s insinuations out of my mind.
“Ah…with Iri being the rarest of the six, they tend to act however they please…” Rel murmured awkwardly. “It is not uncommon for Syldrari women to turn their rarity into a form of power over others. Most Iri, even if they are not queens, have many…I believe the human word is ‘spouses?’”
“Long story short: most recent queens have been groomed to see the other sexes as playthings to collect. Some of them even take other Iri, but it’s frowned upon,” Casair piped up flatly. “Xilen is of a different tide. She’s lasted so long because she can pretend. Whatever she whispered to you was probably as herself.”
“Blah blah blah.” Aldiner rolled his eyes before leaning toward me. “You know, being a queen’s pet has its perks.”
“Aldiner!” Rel barked, his markings flaring bright. “Go wash the dishes!
“Fiiine.” Aldiner sauntered off toward the back, though he turned and stuck his fingers up in a V and flicked his surprisingly long dual or split tongue between them before disappearing through the door.
…I have a feeling it’s a good thing Rel didn’t catch that… I shook my head slightly. “So, are there any other developments I should know about before I start my patrols again?”
“Just…be cautious. Someone has convinced the people here that you are Lethe…and that she may be a queen or related to one.” Rel sighed heavily and pushed his hair back. “Aside from that, things have been calming down after the little queen was found. With Xilen here…who knows. Her unannounced visits always cause trouble.”
Next
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[Balance Theory] Air Units: The problem with Binary Cards, and available options to help keep them in check

Minion Hordes, Balloons, Bats, you name it, every single air unit has pissed you off at some point. (Except maybe Skeleton Barrel since it can be countered with purely-ground responses, but you get the point.) Maybe it still does if you're one of those players stuck at 4/5K with shitty card levels. That darn Balloon getting a free fly to take your tower because you have nothing in hand for it, so you push opposite lane hard to tower trade, only to have Bats or a Minion Horde stop everything for 2/5 elixir...
Binary Cards are the most drastic form of potentially unfair mechanics in Clash Royale. No matter the level, no matter the DPS (unless it targets buildings), no matter how much HP they have, a Binary Card will kill any troop that doesn't hit them in return, period.
Now, I say "potentially." If your deck has 3 or 4 DPS counters to Binary Cards, you'll stand a normal fighting chance against them, and even if you have less than that, you always have your Crown Towers to pick them off in a pinch. Having Binary Card counters in your deck has become commonplace and the meta has adapted smoothly and with little trouble to deal with these Binary Cards. It always has.
However, things become a problem when the cards that counter Binary Cards... don't. Or at least, not nearly as effectively as they should.
There are certain situations where having the right counters still doesn't result in any meaningful success, effortlessly putting you in a situation where you just can't do anything to stop it no matter how many times it comes at you, such as Binary Cards under the effects of Rage/being Healed, or Binary Cards with a distraction unit in front of it (Elixir Golem Double Dragons Rage, anyone? No? Then how about half of 4K/5K Ladder decks?). In these situations, Binary Cards become immensely powerful and abuse the fact that they are Binary, which for the most part is never good for the game considering how one-sided these interactions are and how much it makes Clash Royale a game of "who can boost their Binary Cards the most in a match".
You ever wonder why so many people run max Wizard on Ladder? He stops all these Binary cards cold in their tracks in a split-second regardless of what effects they are influenced by, what tanks for them, what is behind them, or what damage spell is used on him! And he is the only one that can do it out of all 99 cards in the game! Hog Riders and Royal Giants can't kill him either, unlike Buildings, meaning you cannot bait him out as a response to let your Binary cards take the tower for free. You just can't. He is the only reliable counter to boosted Binary Cards.
Combo the status effect boosting of your Binary Cards with card level boosting of your Binary Cards and boom, you're going straight to 5K, no questions asked, leaving a trail of salty players in the process and tormenting others at 5K with a Binary strategy.
Binary Card boosting is a problem similar to Freeze Spell where it will carry you up ladder just because it breaks past most if not all and any defense. If boosting Binary Cards wasn't a thing, the game as a whole as well as the Binary Cards themselves would be in a much, much better position of balance, especially mid-ladder and beyond. "Yes or No" cards shouldn't have tools that can make it a "Yes or Yes" card.

So what can we do?

Some situations are already being handled, such as the one where there is a tank in front of their air units. Spells slam everything all at once, leaving no chance for them to do much. Killing the tank is another option if you have a tank killer in your deck. Others can't be handled, such as card level BS. Some situations, however, can be handled and should be handled. Here are a few options that can be done to handle the rest of the situations:
(1) Nerf friendly status effect cards by making them unable to buff air units.
You heard me. Make cards like Balloon, Minion Horde, Baby Dragon, etc. unable to be Raged, Healed, or Cloned. Make Rage, Lumberjack, Clone, Battle Healer, and Heal Spirit completely unable to influence their own air units.
PROS:
CONS:
//////
(2) Nerf friendly status effect cards by making them give reduced buffs to air units.
A softer version of the first option. Instead of removing the ability to buff air units, it would simply buff them much less than ground units.
PROS:
CONS:
//////
(3) Introduce a Hard Counter to Binary Cards: Legendary Building Air Sweeper.
3 elixir building that does low Damage to Ground Units, Bonus Damage to Air Units, and has a special Bowler-like splash attack that knocks back all Air Units, but not any Ground Units.
PROS:
CONS:
//////
That's all I got so far. Any questions? (Will also answer tomorrow)
submitted by yojojo3000 to ClashRoyale [link] [comments]

[Table] Asteroid Day AMA – We’re engineers and scientists working on a mission that could, one day, help save humankind from asteroid extinction. Ask us anything!

Source
There are several people answering: Paolo Martino is PM, Marco Micheli is MM, Heli Greus is HG, Detlef Koschny is DVK, and Aidan Cowley is AC.
Questions Answers
Can we really detect any asteroids in space with accuracy and do we have any real means of destroying it? Yes, we can detect new asteroids when they are still in space. Every night dozens of new asteroids are found, including a few that can come close to the Earth.
Regarding the second part of the question, the goal would be to deflect them more than destroy them, and it is technologically possible. The Hera/DART mission currently being developed by ESA and NASA will demonstrate exactly this capability.
MM
I always wanted to ask: what is worse for life on Earth - to be hit by a single coalesced asteroid chunk, or to be hit by a multiple smaller pieces of exploded asteroid, aka disrupted rubble pile scenario? DVK: This is difficult to answer. If the rubble is small (centimetres to meters) it is better to have lots of small ones – they’d create nice bright meteors. If the rubble pieces are tens of meters it doesn’t help.
Let’s say that hypothetically, an asteroid the size of Rhode Island is coming at us, it will be a direct hit - you’ve had the resources and funding you need, your plan is fully in place, everything you’ve wanted you got. The asteroid will hit in 10 years, what do you do? DVK: I had to look up how big Rhode Island is – a bit larger than the German Bundesland ‘Saarland’. Ok – this would correspond to an object about 60 km in diameter, right? That’s quite big – we would need a lot of rocket launches, this would be extremely difficult. I would pray. The good news is that we are quite convinced that we know all objects larger than just a few kilometers which come close to our planet. None of them is on a collision course, so we are safe.
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Why are you quite convinced that you know all object of that size? And what is your approach in finding new celestial bodies? DVK: There was a scientific study done over a few years (published in Icarus 2018, search for Granvik) where they modelled how many objects there are out there. They compared this to the observations we have with the telescopic surveys. This gives us the expected numbers shown here on our infographic: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
There are additional studies to estimate the ‘completeness’ – and we think that we know everything above roughly a few km in size.
To find new objects, we use survey telescopes that scan the night sky every night. The two major ones are Catalina and Pan-STARRS, funded by NASA. ESA is developing the so-called Flyeye telescope to add to this effort https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2017/02/Flyeye_telescope.
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Thanks for the answer, that's really interesting! It's also funny that the fist Flyeye deployed is in Sicily, at less than 100km from me, I really had no idea DVK: Indeed, that's cool. Maybe you can go and visit it one day.
the below is a reply to the original answer
What about Interstellar objects however, like Oumuamua? DVK: The two that we have seen - 'Oumuamua and comet Borisov - were much smaller than the Saarland (or Rhode Island ;-) - not sure about Borisov, but 'Oumuamua was a few hundred meters in size. So while they could indeed come as a complete surprise, they are so rare that I wouldn't worry.
Would the public be informed if an impending asteroid event were to happen? And, how would the extinction play out? Bunch of people crushed to death, knocked off our orbit, dust clouds forever? DVK: We do not keep things secret – all our info is at the web page http://neo.ssa.esa.int. The ‘risky’ objects are in the ‘risk page’. We also put info on really close approaches there. It would also be very difficult to keep things ‘under cover’ – there are many high-quality amateur astronomers out there that would notice.
In 2029 asteroid Apophis will fly really close to Earth, even closer than geostationary satellites. Can we use some of those satellites to observe the asteroid? Is it possible to launch very cheap cube sats to flyby Apophis in 2029? DVK: Yes an Apophis mission during the flyby in 2029 would be really nice. We even had a special session on that topic at the last Planetary Defense Conference in 2019, and indeed CubeSats were mentioned. This would be a nice university project – get me a close-up of the asteroid with the Earth in the background!
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So you’re saying it was discussed and shelved? In the conference we just presented ideas. To make them happen needs funding - in the case of ESA the support of our member countries. But having something presented at a conference is the first step. One of the results of the conference was a statement to space agencies to consider embarking on such a mission. See here: https://www.cosmos.esa.int/documents/336356/336472/PDC_2019_Summary_Report_FINAL_FINAL.pdf/341b9451-0ce8-f338-5d68-714a0aada29b?t=1569333739470
Go to the section 'resolutions'. This is now a statement that scientists can use to present to their funding agencies, demonstrating that it's not just their own idea.
Thanks for doing this AMA! Did we know the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 (the one which had some great videos on social media) was coming? Ig not, how comes? Also, as a little side one, have there been any fatalities from impact events in the past 20 years? Unfortunately, the Chelyabinsk object was not seen in advance, because it came from the direction of the Sun where ground-based telescopes cannot look.
No known fatalities from impacts have happened in the past 20 years, although the Chelyabinsk event did cause many injuries, fortunately mostly minor.
MM
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How often do impacts from that direction happen, compared to impacts from visible trajectories? In terms of fraction of the sky, the area that cannot be easily scanned from the ground is roughly a circle with a radius of 40°-50° around the current position of the Sun, corresponding to ~15% of the total sky. However, there is a slight enhancement of objects coming from that direction, therefore the fraction of objects that may be missed when heading towards us is a bit higher.
However, this applies only when detecting an asteroid in its "final plunge" towards the Earth. Larger asteroids can be spotted many orbits earlier, when they are farther away and visible in the night side of the sky. Their orbits can then be determined and their possible impacts predicted even years or decades in advance.
MM
There must be a trade-off when targeting asteroids as they get closer to Earth, is there a rule of thumb at what the best time is to reach them, in terms of launch time versus time to reach the asteroid and then distance from Earth? DVK: Take e.g. a ‘kinetic impactor’ mission, like what DART and Hera are testing. Since we only change the velocity of the asteroid slightly, we need to hit the object early enough so that the object has time to move away from it’s collision course. Finding out when it is possible to launch requires simulations done by our mission analysis team. They take the strength of the launcher into account, also the available fuel for course corrections, and other things. Normally each asteroid has its own best scenario.
Do you also look at protecting the moon from asteroids? Would an impact of a large enough scale potentially have major impacts on the earth? DVK: There are programmes that monitor the Moon and look for flashes from impacting small asteroids (or meteoroids) - https://neliota.astro.noa.g or the Spanish MIDAS project. We use the data to improve our knowledge about these objects. These programmes just look at what is happening now.
For now we would not do anything if we predicted a lunar impact. I guess this will change once we have a lunar base in place.
Why aren't there an international organisation comprised of countries focused on the asteroid defence? Imagine like the organisation with multi-billion $ budget and program of action on funding new telescopes, asteroid exploration mission, plans for detection of potentially dangerous NEA, protocols on action after the detection - all international, with heads of states discussing these problems? DVK: There are international entities in place, mandated by the UN: The International Asteroid Warning Network (http://www.iawn.net) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (http://www.smpag.net). These groups advise the United Nations. That is exactly where we come up with plans and protocols on action. But: They don’t have budget – that needs to come from elsewhere. I am expecting that if we have a real threat, we would get the budget. Right now, we don’t have a multi-billion budget.
the below is a reply to someone else's answer
There is no actual risk of any sizable asteroids hitting earth in the foreseeable future. Any preparation for it would just be a waste of money. DVK: Indeed, as mentioned earlier, we do not expect a large object to hit is in the near future. We are mainly worried about those in the size range of 20 m to 40 m, which happen on average every few tens of years to hundreds of years. And where we only know a percent of them or even less.
President Obama wanted to send a crewed spacecraft to an asteroid - in your opinion is this something that should still be done in the future, would there be any usefulness in having a human being walk/float on an asteroid's surface? DVK: It would definitely be cool. I would maybe even volunteer to go. Our current missions to asteroids are all robotic, the main reason is that it is much cheaper (but still expensive) to get the same science. But humans will expand further into space, I am sure. If we want to test human exploration activities, doing this at an asteroid would be easier than landing on a planet.
this is another reply Yes, but I am slightly biased by the fact that I work at the European astronaut centre ;) There exist many similarities to what we currently do for EVA (extra vehicular activities) operations on the International Space Station versus how we would 'float' around an asteroid. Slightly biased again, but using such a mission to test exploration technologies would definitely still have value. Thanks Obama! - AC
I've heard that some asteroids contains large amounts of iron. Is there a possibility that we might have "space mines" in the far away future, if our own supply if iron runs out? Yes, this is a topic in the field known as space mining, part of what we call Space Resources. In fact, learning how we can process material we might find on asteroids or other planetary bodies is increasingly important, as it opens up the opportunities for sustainable exploration and commercialization. Its a technology we need to master, and asteroids can be a great target for testing how we can create space mines :) - AC
By how much is DART expected to deflect Didymos? Do we have any indication of the largest size of an asteroid we could potentially deflect? PM: Didymos is a binary asteroid, consisting of a main asteroid Didymos A (~700m) and a smaller asteroid Didymos B (~150m) orbiting around A with a ~12 hours period. DART is expected to impact Didymos B and change its orbital period w.r.t. Didymos A of ~1%. (8 mins)
The size of Didymos B is the most representative of a potential threat to Earth (the highest combination of probability and consequence of impacts), meaning smaller asteroids hit the Earth more often but have less severe consequences, larger asteroids can have catastrophic consequences but their probability of hitting the earth is very very low.
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Why is there less probability of larger asteroids hitting earth? DVK: There are less large objects out there. The smaller they are, the more there are.
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Is there any chance that your experiment will backfire and send the asteroid towards earth? PM: Not at all, or we would not do that :) Actually Dimorphos (the Didymos "moon") will not even leave its orbit around Didymos. It will just slightly change its speed.
I'm sure you've been asked this many times but how realistic is the plot of Armageddon? How likely is it that our fate as a species will rely on (either) Bruce Willis / deep sea oil drillers? Taking into consideration that Bruce Willis is now 65 and by the time HERA is launched he will be 69, I do not think that we can rely on him this time (although I liked the movie).
HERA will investigate what method we could use to deflect asteroid and maybe the results will show that we indeed need to call the deep sea oil drillers.
HG
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So then would it be easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, or to train astronauts to be oil drillers? I do not know which one would be easier since I have no training/experience of deep see oil drilling nor becoming an astronaut, but as long as the ones that would go to asteroid have the sufficient skills and training (even Bruce Willis), I would be happy.
HG
If budget was no object, which asteroid would you most like to send a mission to? Nice question! For me, I'd be looking at an asteroid we know something about, since I would be interested in using it for testing how we could extract resources from it. So for me, I would choose Itokawa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25143_Itokawa), which was visited by Hayabusa spacecraft. So we already have some solid prospecting carried out for this 'roid! - AC
this is another reply Not sure if it counts as an asteroid, but Detlef and myself would probably choose ʻOumuamua, the first discovered interstellar object.
MM
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Do we even have the capability to catch up to something like that screaming through our solar system? That thing has to have a heck of a velocity to just barrel almost straight through like that. DVK: Correct, that would be a real challenge. We are preparing for a mission called 'Comet Interceptor' that is meant to fly to an interstellar object or at least a fresh comet - but it will not catch up with it, it will only perform a short flyby.
https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/ESA_s_new_mission_to_intercept_a_comet
After proving to be able to land on one, could an asteroid serve as a viable means to transport goods and or humans throughout the solar system when the orbit of said asteroid proves beneficial. While it is probably quite problematic to land the payload, it could save fuel or am I mistaken? Neat idea! Wonder if anyone has done the maths on the amount of fuel you would need/save vs certain targets. - AC
PM: To further complement, the saving is quite marginal indeed because in order to land (softly) on the asteroid you actually need to get into the very same orbit of that asteroid . At that point your orbit remains the same whether you are on the asteroid or not..
can the current anti-ballistic missiles systems intercept a terminal phase earth strike asteroid? or it is better to know beforehand and launch an impacting vehicle into space? DVK: While I do see presentations on nuclear explosions to deflect asteroids at our professional meetings, I have not seen anybody yet studying how we could use existing missile systems. So it's hard to judge whether existing missiles would do the job. But in general, it is better to know as early as possible about a possible impact and deflect it as early as possible. This will minimize the needed effort.
How much are we prepared against asteroid impacts at this moment? DVK: 42… :-) Seriously – I am not sure how to quantify ‘preparedness’. We have international working groups in place, mentioned earlier (search for IAWN, SMPAG). We have a Planetary Defence Office at ESA, a Planetary Defense Office at NASA (who spots the difference?), search the sky for asteroids, build space missions… Still we could be doing more. More telescopes to find the object, a space-based telescope to discover those that come from the direction of the Sun. Different test missions would be useful, … So there is always more we could do.
Have you got any data on the NEO coverage? Is there estimations on the percentage of NEOs we have detected and are tracking? How can we improve the coverage? How many times have asteroids been able to enter earths atmosphere without being detected beforehand? Here’s our recently updated infographics with the fraction of undiscovered NEOs for each size range: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
As expected, we are now nearly complete for the large ones, while many of the smaller ones are still unknown.
In order to improve coverage, we need both to continue the current approach, centered on ground-based telescopes, and probably also launch dedicated telescopes to space, to look at the fraction of the sky that cannot be easily observed from the ground (e.g., towards the Sun).
Regarding the last part of your question, small asteroids enter the Earth atmosphere very often (the infographics above gives you some numbers), while larger ones are much rarer.
In the recent past, the largest one to enter our atmosphere was about 20 meters in diameter, and it caused the Chelyabinsk event in 2013. It could not be detected in advance because it came from the direction of the Sun.
We have however detected a few small ones before impact. The first happened in 2008, when a ~4-meter asteroid was found to be on a collision course less than a day before impact, it was predicted to fall in Northern Sudan, and then actually observed falling precisely where (and when) expected.
MM
this is another reply >After
DVK: And to add what MM said - Check out http://neo.ssa.esa.int. There is a ‘discovery statistics’ section which provides some of the info you asked about. NASA is providing similar information here https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/. To see the sky which is currently covered by the survey telescopes, you need to service of the Minor Planet Center which we all work together with: http://www.minorplanetcenter.org, ‘observers’, ‘sky coverage’. That is a tool we use to plan where we look with our telescopes, so it is a more technical page.
Are there any automatic systems for checking large numbers of asteroids orbits, to see if the asteroid's orbit is coming dangerously close to Earth, or is it done by people individually for every asteroid? I ask it because LSST Rubin is coming online soon and you know it will discover a lot of new asteroids. Yes, such systems exist, and monitor all known and newly discovered asteroids in order to predict possible future impacts.
The end result of the process is what we call "risk list": http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
It is automatically updated every day once new observational data is processed.
MM
What are your favourite sci-fi series? DVK: My favorites are ‘The Expanse’, I also liked watching ‘Salvation’. For the first one I even got my family to give me a new subscription to a known internet streaming service so that I can see the latest episodes. I also loved ‘The Jetsons’ and ‘The Flintstones’ as a kid. Not sure the last one counts as sci-fi though. My long-time favorite was ‘Dark Star’.
this is another reply Big fan of The Expanse at the moment. Nice, hard sci-fi that has a good impression of being grounded in reality - AC
this is another reply When I was a kid I liked The Jetsons, when growing up Star Trek, Star wars and I also used to watch with my sister the 'V'.
HG
When determining the potential threat of a NEA, is the mass of an object a bigger factor or size? I'm asking because I'm curious if a small but massive object (say, with the density of Psyche) could survive atmospheric entry better than a comparatively larger but less massive object. The mass is indeed what really matters, since it’s directly related with the impact energy.
And as you said composition also matters, a metal object would survive atmospheric entry better, not just because it’s heavier, but also because of its internal strength.
MM
What are your thoughts on asteroid mining as portrayed in sci-fi movies? Is it feasible? If so would governments or private space programs be the first to do so?What type of minerals can be found on asteroids that would merit the costs of extraction? Certainly there is valuable stuff you can find on asteroids. For example, the likely easiest material you can harvest from an asteroid would be volatiles such as H2O. Then you have industrial metals, things like Iron, Nickel, and Platinum group metals. Going further, you can break apart many of the oxide minerals you would find to get oxygen (getting you closer to producing rocket fuel in-situ!). Its feasible, but still needs alot of testing both here on Earth and eventually needs to be tested on a target. It may be that governments, via agencies like ESA or NASA, may do it first, to prove the principles somewhat, but I know many commercial entities are also aggresively working towards space mining. To show you that its definitely possible, I'd like to plug the work of colleagues who have processed lunar regolith (which is similar to what you may find on asteroids) to extract both oxygen and metals. Check it out here: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2019/10/Oxygen_and_metal_from_lunar_regolith
AC
Will 2020's climax be a really big rock? DVK: Let's hope not...
Considering NASA, ESA, IAU etc. is working hard to track Earth-grazing asteroids, how come the Chelyabinsk object that airburst over Russia in 2013 came as a total surprise? The Chelyabinsk object came from the direction of the Sun, where unfortunately ground-based telescopes cannot look at. Therefore, it would not have been possible to discover it in advance with current telescopes. Dedicated space telescopes are needed to detect objects coming from this direction in advance.
MM
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Is this to say that it was within specific solid angles for the entire time that we could have observed it given its size and speed? Yes, precisely that. We got unlucky in this case.
MM
Have any of you read Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven? In your opinion, how realistic is his depiction of an asteroid strike on Earth? DVK: I have – but really long ago, so I don’t remember the details. But I do remember that I really liked the book, and I remember I always wanted to have a Hot Fudge Sundae when reading it.
I was thinking about the asteroid threat as a teen and came up with this ideas (Hint: they are not equally serious, the level of craziness goes up real quick). Could you please comment on their feasibility? 1. Attaching a rocket engine to an asteroid to make it gradually change trajectory, do that long in advance and it will miss Earth by thousands of km 2. Transporting acid onto asteroid (which are mainly metal), attaching a dome-shaped reaction chamber to it, using heat and pressure to then carry out the chemical reaction to disintegrate asteroids 3. This one is even more terrible than a previous one and totally Dan Brown inspired — transporting antimatter on asteroid, impacting and causing annihilation. Thank you for this AMA and your time! DVK: Well the first one is not so crazy, I have seen it presented... the difficulty is that all asteroids are rotating in one way or another. So if you continuously fire the engine it would not really help. You'd need to switch the engine on and off. Very complex. And landing on an asteroid is challenging too. Just using the 'kinetic impactor' which we will test with DART/Hera (described elsewhere in this chat) is simpler. Another seriously proposed concept is to put a spacecraft next to an asteroid and use an ion engine (like we have on our Mercury mission BepiColombo) to 'push' the asteroid away.
As for 2 and 3 I think I will not live to see that happening ;-)
What is the process to determine the orbit of a newly discovered asteroid? The process is mathematically quite complex, but here's a short summary.
Everything starts with observations, in particular with measurements of the position of an asteroid in the sky, what we call "astrometry". Discovery telescopes extract this information from their discovery images, and make it available to everybody.
These datapoints are then used to calculate possible trajectories ("orbits") that pass through them. At first, with very few points, many orbits will be possible.
Using these orbits we can extrapolate where the asteroid will be located during the following nights, use a telescope to observe that part of the sky, and locate the object again.
From these new observations we can extract new "astrometry", add it to the orbit determination, and see that now only some of the possible orbits will be compatible with the new data. As a result, we now know the trajectory better than before, because a few of the possible orbits are not confirmed by the new data.
The cycle can then continue, with new predictions, new observations, and a more accurate determination of the object's orbit, until it can be determined with an extremely high level of accuracy.
MM
What are some asteroids that are on your "watchlist"? We have exactly that list on our web portal: http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
It's called "risk list", and it includes all known asteroids for which we cannot exclude a possible impact over the next century. It is updated every day to include newly discovered asteroids, and remove those that have been excluded as possible impactors thanks to new observations.
MM
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That's quite a list!! Do you guys ever feel stressed or afraid when you have to add another dangerous candidate (and by dangerous I mean those above 200m) is added to this Risk List? Yes, when new dangerous ones are added it's important that we immediately do our best to gather more data on them, observing them with telescopes in order to get the information we need to improve our knowledge of their orbit.
And then the satisfaction of getting the data needed to remove one from the list is even greater!
MM
What inspired you to go into this field of study? I was fascinated by astronomy in general since I was a kid, but the actual "trigger" that sparked my interest in NEOs was a wonderful summer course on asteroids organized by a local amateur astronomers association. I immediately decided that I would do my best to turn this passion into my job, and I'm so happy to have been able to make that dream come true.
MM
this is another reply DVK: I started observing meteors when I was 14, just by going outside and looking at the night sky. Since then, small bodies in the solar system were always my passion.
As a layperson, I still think using nuclear weapons against asteroids is the coolest method despite better methods generally being available. Do you still consider the nuclear option the cool option, or has your expertise in the field combined with the real-life impracticalities made it into a laughable/silly/cliche option? DVK: We indeed still study the nuclear option. There are legal aspects though, the ‘outer space treaty’ forbids nuclear explosions in space. But for a large object or one we discover very late it could be useful. That’s why we have to focus on discovering all the objects out there as early as possible – then we have time enough to use more conventional deflection methods, like the kinetic impactor (the DART/Hera scenario).
It seems like doing this well would require international cooperation, particularly with Russia. Have you ever reached out to Russia in your work? Do you have a counterpart organization there that has a similar mission? DVK: Indeed international cooperation is important - asteroids don't know about our borders! We work with a Russian team to perform follow-up observations of recently discovered NEOs. Russia is also involved in the UN-endorsed working groups that we have, IAWN and SMPAG (explained in another answer).
how much can experts tell from a video of a fireball or meteor? Can you work out what it's made of and where it came from? https://www.reddit.com/space/comments/hdf3xe/footage_of_a_meteor_at_barrow_island_australia/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x If multiple videos or pictures, taken from different locations, are available, then it's possible to reconstruct the trajectory, and extrapolate where the object came from.
Regarding the composition, it's a bit more difficult if nothing survives to the ground, but some information can be obtained indirectly from the fireball's color, or its fragmentation behavior. If a spectral analysis of the light can be made, it's then possible to infer the chemical composition in much greater detail.
MM
I've always wanted to know what the best meteorite buying site is and what their average price is?? DVK: Serious dealers will be registered with the 'International Meteorite Collectors Association (IMCA)' - https://www.imca.cc/. They should provide a 'certificate of authenticity' where it says that they are member there. If you are in doubt, you can contact the association and check. Normally there are rough prices for different meteorite types per gram. Rare meteorites will of course be much more expensive than more common ones. Check the IMCA web page to find a dealer close to you.
Just read through Aidans link to the basaltic rock being used as a printing material for lunar habitation. There is a company called Roxul that does stone woven insulation that may be able to shed some light on the research they have done to minimize their similarity to asbestos as potentially carcinogenic materials deemed safe for use in commercial and residential applications. As the interior surfaces will essentially be 3D printed lunar regolith what are the current plans to coat or dampen the affinity for the structure to essentially be death traps for respiratory illness? At least initially, many of these 3d printed regolith structures would not be facing into pressurised sections, but would rather be elements placed outside and around our pressure vessels. Such structures would be things like radiation shields, landing pads or roadways, etc. In the future, if we move towards forming hermetically sealed structures, then your point is a good one. Looking into terrestrial solutions to this problem would be a great start! - AC
What kind of career path does it take to work in the asteroid hunting field? It's probably different for each of us, but here's a short summary of my own path.
I became interested in asteroids, and near-Earth objects in particular, thanks to a wonderful summer course organized by a local amateur astronomers association. Amateur astronomers play a great role in introducing people, and young kids in particular, to these topics.
Then I took physics as my undergrad degree (in Italy), followed by a Ph.D. in astronomy in the US (Hawaii in particular, a great place for astronomers thanks to the exceptional telescopes hosted there).
After finishing the Ph.D. I started my current job at ESA's NEO Coordination Centre, which allowed me to realize my dream of working in this field.
MM
this is another reply DVK: Almost all of us have a Master's degree either in aerospace engineering, mathematics, physics/astronomy/planetary science, or computer science. Some of us - as MM - have a Ph.D. too. But that's not really a requirement. This is true for our team at ESA, but also for other teams in other countries.
What is the likelihood of an asteroid hitting the Earth In the next 200 years? It depends on the size, large ones are rare, while small ones are much more common. You can check this infographics to get the numbers for each size class: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
MM
Have you played the Earth Defence Force games and if you have, which one is your favourite? No I have not played the Earth Defence Force games, but I just looked it up and I think I would liked it. Which one would you recommend?
HG
How close is too close to earth? Space is a SUPER vast void so is 1,000,000 miles close, 10,000,000? And if an asteroid is big enough can it throw earth off its orbit? DVK: Too close for my taste is when we compute an impact probability > 0 for the object. That means the flyby distance is zero :-) Those are the objects on our risk page http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page.
If an object can alter the orbit of another one, we would call it planet. So unless we have a rogue planet coming from another solar system (verrry unlikely) we are safe from that.
How can I join you when I'm older? DVK: Somebody was asking about our career paths... Study aerospace engineering or math or physics or computer science, get a Masters. Possibly a Ph.D. Then apply for my position when I retire. Check here for how to apply at ESA: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Careers_at_ESA/Frequently_asked_questions2#HR1
How much is too much? DVK: 42 again
Are you aware of any asteroids that are theoretically within our reach, or will be within our reach at some point, that are carrying a large quantity of shungite? If you're not aware, shungite is like a 2 billion year old like, rock stone that protects against frequencies and unwanted frequencies that may be traveling in the air. I bought a whole bunch of the stuff. Put them around the la casa. Little pyramids, stuff like that. DVK: If I remember my geology properly, Shungite forms in water sedimental deposits. This requires liquid water, i.e. a larger planet. So I don't think there is a high chance to see that on asteroids.
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