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Looking for porter to help me carry my emotional baggage. (Part r4r, part lonely heart, part life story).

Prologue: Hello reddit! I’ve got issues.
I have never done this before, nor do I have any idea what might come of it, but I can tell you that this is probably just as much (if not moreso) an introspective essay as it will be lonely heart ad. I’m somewhat at the point in my life where I need to scream out into the void, and I hope that my honesty will net me just enough cosmic karma to get me out of this hole which I’ve been so unceremoniously dumped into. So, strap in; you're in for some u/rubyoobieoobie length shit.
I’ll leave you with a TLDR for now (because I’m not so callous as to make you scroll to the bottom for it): I have been to 49 states, flew to France for a date, solved a decade-old problem in microbial biochemistry and astrobiology, and am the dictator of my own country. I also have insurmountable trauma from my past (and only) relationship, but I still have deluded myself into thinking there is a hope, a person, a way in which I might someday move on and be happy again.
For those who want to know now, I am a 24-year-old non-binary, assigned-male-at-birth individual in search of someone whom has the patience necessary to deal with the above. Also, potential trigger warning for sexual trauma in Chapter 2.
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Chapter 1: Who I currently am.
I’m quite an abnormal fellow. Growing up as the autistic homeschooler of some shut-ins will do that to you, but there was always something about me that was especially aberrant. Skipping rapidly over two decades, a few highlights include attending an Online High School run by an Ivy-League university, becoming a high-school dropout, then starting college at 14 and graduating at 19. However, all magic requires a tradeoff, so I report not having a friend until I was 15 and not having more than two simultaneously until literally 2018. In many ways, I almost wish I hadn’t been homeschooled and was held back academically. I’m certain that, were my upbringing different, I would have been a nerd or geek. I could have learned to play D&D or magic the gathering, I could have liked Naruto, I could have become a gamer or learned to code. I am by no means cool or normal, but I have always lacked any sort of peers or social niche. I do not like sports, but, with equal fervor, I do not like fantasy novels. Both cause a lack of associations. I’m not necessarily lonely for friends – I do have them, and quite a blissful plenty, now – but this does show that, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I have always been somewhat of a loner.
My life, as it currently is, started when I fled a certain situation (pin in that). I moved from the west coast to New York City for a biotech job at a coveted research institution in 2017. I was so overwhelmingly hopeful because, in addition to fleeing trauma and making a good career move, I was moving out from my parents and ready to start my life anew in what had been billed to me for years as Millennial heaven. Brooklyn! Williamsburg! Dumbo! Midtown! Astoria! Tribeca! New York City had been built up in my mind as the place to make it as a young, urban-minded professional. Now, I must make a disclaimer: I was not a country boy heading into this. To that point, I had lived in 8 different cities in 4 different states, most of them major places, so I was quite familiar with how cities should be like. Apparently, New York, however, is not.
I hated that place. Trash, everywhere. Stations, crumbling. Inexcusable income disparity, half-assed parks, wretchedroads, and absolutely no scenic beauty whatsoever. I devised a 45-minute lecture on why The City (as it’s called) sucked so much. Suffice it to say that Chicago is the clearly superior American megacity, followed by Toronto, Denver, Seattle, and Austin. My whole life, growing up on the west coast (where cities ascribed to the novel idea of attempting to benefittheir citizens), I had heard of people who claimed that “all governments are bad, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” I had always dismissed them as crackpot old kooks, but, having experienced New York City for what it was, I all of a sudden can understand how someone who had lived their whole life in such places could come to think that way.
But the thing that made it most unlivable were the people. Especially at my job, but also pretty much throughout the whole region (Providence to Wilmington, in my estimation), the people were overly obsessed with “social coding”. Though an irritatingly imprecise phenomenon for me to describe, it is basically that people have a much more stringent set of acceptable social norms and shun you more harshly for being individualistic. The west coast is significantly better at encouraging you to “let your freak flag fly” (otherwise known as being genuine and honest with yourself).
But the situation was significantly worse for me, specifically. You see, for lack of a better term, I am a psychopath. I don’t mean it in a negative context, per se, and, while I do quite frequently play the role of a narcissist for sake of metahumor, I don’t actually mean people ill will, nor do I callously disregard the well-being of others. It’s just that, due to the quirk of my aberrant neurochemistry and antisocial upbringing, I have always been generally inept at empathy. I am very social, outgoing, kind-hearted, and incredibly humorous – don’t get me wrong – but I can just as much be oblivious to social cues or the tacit desires of others. This peculiar mix leads my personality to be best described as the bastard child of a foursome between Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, Psych’s Shawn Spencer, Scrubs’ JD, and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. I truly mean well and am pure of heart; to that end, I’ve spent much of my life acquiring coping mechanisms to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person and friend. But, for one reason or another, I was ill-equipped to deal with that most fetid breed person known to man: the “Lawn Guylander”.
This all culminated in a moment of crisis, but which I have come to look back on as the “Poughkeepsie Epiphany” (because, ever so creatively, I was driving thence at the time I had it): for almost a year, I had been putting an exorbitant amount of effort into playing the part of this overly social person, but was failing catastrophically. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet people or make friends, much less find a partner. My coworkers loathed me, but in a way which they all looked down on me as if I was a defective human whom they didn’t care to humor one bit (one of the most vindicating moments was when a postdoc joined the lab from San Diego and he was similarly abhorred at the social climate). One day, I had a realization that there wasn’t a single person in the world who knew when I woke up, nor a single person that would care if I didn’t. That was a painful day. So, my Poughkeepsie Epiphany was that I could continue struggling to play the social game and end up cripplingly lonely, or I could be exactly as lonely as I would be otherwise, but be genuine to myself – no matter how anomalous that might be – and actually be happy with who I was for so doing.
This is when I started to become crazy, and quite proudly so. If there was an idea that was absurd in scope but was a completionist goal, I did it. I started road-tripping with an epic fervor (I knocked off 8 remaining states from my list, mostly New England, to get me to 49 [pin in that]). Road-tripping and adventuring is now a major aspect of my personality, and I have since accrued over 11,000 saved places on google maps (my poor, poor phone starts to melt whenever I open the app for navigation). Over the remaining months I had in New York, I rode every line of the New York City Subway end to end. I taught myself military time, metric, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and the nations of the world. Whenever I would go to bars, instead of socializing ineptly, I would open my backpack and yank out a massive tome such as (initially) a book on the AOL-Time Warner Merger (“something which one cannot read whilst sober”) or (later) Penn State, an Illustrated History (did you know we had a branch campus in China?). Sometimes, people would look over at me as the shockwave caused by the massive thwack of the volume hitting the bartop rolled by, and I would proudly adopt the facial expression of “Yes, I am that weird, and I don’t give a damn.” To be sure, I was still cripplingly lonely, but I was, for the first time in my life, happy.
I also began devising an escape plan. I decided to rapidly accelerate my life plans and apply for graduate school years ahead of what I had intended. Come January, I got interviews at three Ivys: Penn State, Duke, and Columbia. It was no contest. Duke sux balz and felt like an incompetent department living in the shadow of their medical center while also having the misplaced haughtiness to think they deserved equal recognition (also, I didn’t want to go to a place where the yearly tuition was more money than I had ever earned in my entire life to that point). Unlike Duke, Columbia actually had some quality research going on, but there was only one professor I was interested in and the department felt like it was out more for its own reputation than to actually support its graduate students. Penn State, however, stole my heart. Though painfully rural, the town felt like a very tiny big city. The university was friendly and earnest, the students were fun-loving but not reckless, and it’s one of only two universities in the country to offer a Dual-Title Ph.D. in [Home Field] and Astrobiology, a subject which I had always been enthralled by. As a concrete comparison, Columbia had just acquired three Cryo-Electron microscopes and was showing them off to us, but they were shared with thirteen other research institutions in the New York Metropolitan Area. Penn State, on the other hand, had one Krios, all to itself, which had been installed four years earlier. I have since confirmed that Penn State clearly puts its money where its mouth was and does its damnedest to support its scientists in producing world-class research.
So, slightly over a year after moving to New York, I was ready to start my life over again – but, this time, I had the mindset to do it correctly. At risk of turning this too much into an autobiography, I’ll cut short the narrative. In the two years since the Poughkeepsie Epiphany, though, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Partly out of my passion for storytelling and humor, and partly as a way to stake out my own identity in this world, I’ve latched on to certain oddball stories that most exemplify this newfound sense of self which I’ve acquired. Since they are a significant part of my personality and do an excellent job of portraying my uniquely blusterous metahumor, I'll share a few of the most notable:
  1. I’ve been to 49 states:
When people ask where I grew up, I respond that I’ve lived in 10 different cities in six different states, and have been to 49 (some people also ask if my father was in the military [no], or, once, witness protection [I am not at liberty to disclose whether this is true]). The one remaining state is Oklahoma. I am really debating just buying plane tickets to Oklahoma City for a weekend just so that I can say I’ve been to all 50. To justify my trip, I could go on a tour of why white people are so horrible by visiting the Oklahoma Museum of the Native American, the Oklahoma Museum of the African American, and the Oklahoma Museum of the Gay Cowboy (all of which, to my knowledge, are real places). Woohoo! A trifecta of oppression! However, if I were to actually visit Oklahoma and do this, I would then lose this marvelous and witty conversation topic about which last state I have yet to visit and what I would do while there, so it’s a serious cost-benefit analysis that I must weigh.
  1. I am the Dictator of my own country:
This is probably much less interesting than you’d think. There’s a rather... unique hobby out there of people who (for the most part) tongue-in-cheekily secede from their parent countries to form ultra-small monarchies or banana republics. In my case, I thought that the most reasonable and considered response to the Trump Presidency was to give up on the entire country and secede to form my own. I’m going to build a wall and make America pay for it! This is also actually more legitimate than you’d think, too, as I was invited to and attended the United Micronations, the second-largest meeting of nations in the world (the “largest” organization is in New York, I think. I really don’t pay too much attention to it). As a result, I ended up forming a federation, making several alliances, and maintain regular contact with several other micronationalists. On the domestic front, I made both my roommates sign a 37-page, 42-clause, 17k-word Cohabitation Agreement (á la Sheldon), which, among other things, has reservations for Spots, a flag, a legal system, time travel, and gives me power of attorney over them (you’d be surprised; they both signed it voluntarily, without complaint, and after having read it in its entirety). One might add that they do not pay rent; I levy taxes. Finally, I attempted an infiltration of the local Civil War Reenactors (they have a cannon!) to help me in my ongoing war against the local recycling agency for gross ineptitude, but, for some incomprehensible reason, a bunch of old, white, rurally-inclined men didn't take so kindly to my opinions on conservatism and modern politics. I am convinced that this is merely a marketing issue, and we are workshopping new slogans for our planned invasion of the adjacent curb and sidewalk.
  1. I flew to France for a date:
The story I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. I met an undergraduate here and went on two dates with her, but then she did a semester abroad in France. It was going somewhat well; we were texting every day, and this was the first meaningful person I had actually gone on a date with since... things (pin in that). I quickly ran the numbers, looked at my schedule, and then came up with a hair-brained scheme. You see, I grew up in Florida, so a significant part of my childhood was consumed by theme parks. Sparring you a lot of details, two of the parks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios) originally opened under the auspices of special-features theme parks, a de-immersive experience where they show you how the movies are made. In the past decade, however, both parks have been moving towards more immersive experiences, where the only common factor among the attractions is that they are all based on intellectual properties that just happened to be movie franchises. This started to feel like a real loss when I learned that the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action at Disney were being bulldozed for sake of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge, the former of which was a very important ride to my childhood, and the latter of which was something that I always wanted to see. Lo and behold, a little research revealed that both of these attractions were intact at Disney Studios in Paris. So, a date in the South of France, personally-important theme park attractions in the north, TGV connecting them, and, oh, yeah, duh, it’s Paris, that’s justification in itself.
I planned it out meticulously. For the week leading up to the trip, I would get up, go to work, and go to bed an hour earlier every day (the trip was only going to be three days, so any jet-lag-induced napping would have had an alarmingly high opportunity cost). Then, on the day of the flight, I woke up just before midnight, had breakfast at a favorite bar at closing time, went in to work, and left for JFK by noon. Ten hours of globe-trotting later, I arrived on the Mediterranean coast and proceeded to mispronounce everything.
The date in France was supposed to be our third. What traditionally happens on the third date? Now, let it be known that I would NEVER be the type of person to demand sexuality from anyone, but, you do have to admit, flying 20% of the circumference of a planet is a pretty grand gesture, is it not? I mean, you can’t get a much grander gesture before you literally run out of planet. So, for this third date to take place and for me to not get laid is pretty empirical proof that I am quite irrevocably unfuckable. My next plan is to start looking for dates in Bangladesh (or Oklahoma), because that’s as close as you can get to antipodal (a perfect 50% of the planet's circumference) as you can get from here. Oh, and those two attractions at Disney Studios, not kidding, they were closed ahead of schedule a week before I arrived. Now, I’m not asking for pity at all; don’t get me wrong, I had a blast! It’s Paris, godsdamnit! But I prefer to view this trip in the narrower, funnier, yet sadder context of the two busts above because it helps me to better come to terms with the parts of myself I dislike. As I often say: “I could either laugh or cry at myself. I’d rather one than the other.”
  1. I returned from France with a Motorcycle:
Although France girl never worked out (I don’t think I made a fool of myself or anything, but, remember, I am legitimately inept at this), the trip to France did have a lasting impact on my life in another way. I am an avid bicyclist for a variety of reasons: staying active, helping the environment, and it’s flying like superman at ground level when [safely!] dodging in and out of undergrads. Now, while strolling down the lonely streets of a certain city in the South of France, I encountered one particular bicycle rack with about 25% regular bicycles, about 25% electric bicycles, about 25% mopeds and scooters, and 25% fully-blown motorcycles, all chained up side by side. Having a doctor as a parent, I spent my entire life thinking of motorcycles as hooligan deathtraps, but, here, I was seeing them for the first time in the context of something I had already made an important part of my life.
Upon returning home (by the way, you already know my disdain for New York Shitty [sic] and Wrong Island [sic], so imagine the gutwrenching heartbreak of arriving there after just having spent a weekend in Paris[!]), I arrived at the parking lot, looked at my car, and counted room for four extra people that I didn’t need (because I had no friends). Thus, in my feverish road-tripping, I was hauling around an unnecessary 1.96 tons of extra material – with a dreadful gas mileage to boot! – killing the planet as a result. The next few days were spent obsessively investigating this newfound world which I had heretofore disregarded. Ever since being gifted my car and spittaking at its gas mileage, I always wanted another, more environmentally-conscious vehicle. However, living in the so-called Pennsyltucky, electric vehicle charging stations are fairly sparse in their deployment. Also, I didn’t want to buy a true replacement vehicle, as I am too poor. I was more targeting a hyper-environmentally-conscious vehicle which I could use for my luxury adventures, and then still have the old, reliable gas-guzzler for when I needed to haul around a couch or power through to Virginia. Motorcycles, as I found, have an average of 56mpg, 2.5 times better than my car.
But, now, I was starting to find my way into the culture of motorcycles, something which, on the whole, I find myself violently at odds with. As the joke I tell goes, most motorcycles aren’t actually built for long-distance exploring, like what I already did in my car. Most of them are dirt bikes, with basically bench seats, or sport bikes, which require you to hunch over and lean your stomach on the gas tank. Not very comfortable for long treks. There are only two types of bikes made with comfort in mind: the sport-tourer, which I ended up getting, and the cruiser, which is made entirely out of chrome, handle-bar mustaches, and racism (or homophobia, depending on my audience). Needless to say, I prefer the former.
For those interested, I ended up with the Yamaha Tracer GT. In addition to (proudly!) having only one piece of chrome (the downward-facing exhaust) and being sexy and futuristic as all futhermuck, it is functional, having two panniers (saddle-bags), each capable of holding four half-gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream (ask me how I know). Skipping over many of the specifics of how I chose this particular model regarding my choice of motorcycle, a big figure in motorcycle news opened his review of the Tracer with “It’s not often I ride a motorcycle and walk away with existential questions for the readers.” For those who have been following along, this quote is the exact thing that I latch on to as part of my newfound identity as a blissful lunatic.
  1. The Semester of Hell and solving a decade-old issue in microbial physiology:
So, come the end of my first year as a graduate student, I started to look towards my second fall semester. The only thing I had to do was my qualifying exam, the really big, month-long exam that determines whether or not you can stay in graduate school. But that was only during November, so, overall, it was going to be an empty semester. Then I learned that a big-name professor in microbiology was retiring, and the last time he was going to teach would be that fall. So, I signed up for his course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I learned of a prestigious grant that I could apply for, so I decided to take a grant-writing course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I got an email from the department, saying that they needed more TAs for Freshman Biology lab. I had to TA as a requirement of my program, so I might as well get it out of the way now. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then, in July and August, I made an incredible discovery that solved a problem in microbial physiology that had been around since 2009 (pin in that). I spoke with my PI, and he said we could power through and probably get a paper out in under a year. I told him I wanted to do that. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester.
Well, as you can now see, it wasn’t a very empty semester, was it now? To great surprise, I survived, but not unscathed. On average, I worked 60-70 hours a week, though some of it was partially my own doing (for example, my term paper for the bacterial physiology course had seventy citations, even though it was only required to have ten). One “highlight” was TAing. Apparently, my students thought my quiz was so hard that they called the university police on me (I’m not exaggerating; we had to pursue academic integrity violations. It was a debacle). I joked that, with each subsequent class period, I became more and more sympathetic to the antagonists of teen dystopian novels; maybe it is time to build a floating elitist city in the sky and leave the rest of the planet to shit, after all?
Now, I’m certain that many of you are curious as to the contents of my discovery. I can’t exactly speak freely, as the manuscript is in review, but, even if I could, it would be waaaaay too complex and jargony to be comprehensible to the lay public (and this is already going on long enough). Suffice it to be the simple version: A particular class of protein had been known in microbes for a very long time and is involved in pretty much everything, from simple feeding to complex infections. In certain bacteria, this category of protein is modified in a certain way, and people always thought (for over 40 years) that this modification was a transport signal. However, a decade ago, a research groups, perplexingly, discovered these modified proteins in a bacterium that didn’t have th modification-making enzyme. This left two major questions: if not for transport, what was this modification for; and, what is the enzyme that makes the modification in all the other bacteria? I solved the latter question by spending four months looking through the entire genome of the original bacterium and finally finding the modification-making protein, and I’ve spent ever since trying to characterize it. The paper should be published sometime within a month or three (the current coronapocalypse is a boon for manuscript-preparation). Additionally, the previous graduate student in the lab to me made an interesting discovery regarding the genetics of the modification-making enzyme, and my next paper will expand on their work to determine the actual function of this modification. These proteins and their modifications are important because (on the applied side) they belong to major pathogens and could be a target for treating infections and (on the basic side) we have indications that they are part of a planetary-wide stress put on bacteria during evolution (hence, my astrobiological machinations).
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Chapter 2: Where I came from.
Now we have to get into how I got to this point. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of sexual trauma. In 2014, when I was still an undergrad, I met whom I called then my soulmate. They were beautiful, fun, perky, and adventurous. They were my first relationship and we took each other’s virginity in a tent after a romantic picnic. But, sadly, less than a year in, things started to go off the rails. I came out as polyamorous. The way I have best found to describe it is when you ask a parent which their favorite child is. All parents worth their salt will say “I love each of my children in their own, unique way.” Such is the same with me. At the time, I had feelings for some of my other friends; but! mind you! they were in no way enough to ever consider ever leaving my soulmate. It was simply such that I had my one, my true, my only, but I didn’t want that to have to mean I tell all other people in my life “Bah! You mean nothing to me because of the ambiguity of my relationship status at the time you met me.” I also had quite a complex from growing up so antisocially and isolated. This was a time in my life when things started to look up. Pieces were finally starting to fall into place, I had some friends and acquaintances, and people actually cared for me. It was thusly then that I realized I was polyamorous, but in mostly a loving way, not necessarily as a swinger or horndog. So, I came out.
In any other situation in the world, this might have not been as catastrophic. However, there were certain things about my soulmate which I knew not at the time that caused not just my relationship, not just my life, but my reality to crumble. You see, they grew up in an incredibly abusive situation, and the only way they knew how to act was to throw away every part of themselves for the people whom they loved. Whelp, that meant “forcing” themselves to be polyamorous for me. They devised a ridiculous plan where they would go out and sleep with lots of people to become okay with the idea of nonmonogamy. Needless to say, this was a batshit crazy idea, but they didn’t tell me their true feelings of how traumatizing this would be for them, and I decided to trust them that this is what they knew would be best for them and that it would all work out in the end. What can I say? What is love if not supporting your partner? I honestly thought it could be okay.
However, as you might guess, it was not. The main issue came from all their mental instability that they had hidden from me for so long. They became quite dissociative and hid it all from me. As such, they tried to compartmentalize their sexual exploration away from our relationship, making me less involved. In short, I was supposed to be their monogamous “safe space” while they did all this terrible shit to themselves. Understandably, this backfired. Rather than it being a collaborative, supportive, gentle, loving exploration, it became dishonest, filled with deceit. They lied to me about doing things with people and about not doing things with people. They made up stories of fuckbuddies and hid some of the real people they were fucking. All the while, I was starting to lose my grip on reality, because, here they were, getting to do all the things I had always wanted, practically rubbing it all in my face, while barring me from having any part of it for myself. It was tortuous. Highlights include them fucking my brother for four uninterrupted hours, and kicking me out of my bed and bedroom to fuck a nine-inch cock while I made them breakfast, then not allowing me to enter until they had finished.
When I learned that they hid that they were flunking all their classes in college, I snapped, and nothing was ever the same again. That’s not how you treat your soulmate. It was supposed to be us against the world, but they weren’t acting like we were a team. In retrospect, I was heartbroken for well more than half of the time we were a couple. The entire last year we were together, I was depressed beyond description. I would come home from work and I would have so little energy that my personality would just melt away. I was devoid of existence. I would sit on a couch, and stare away at nothingness for hours on end. To my credit, my ex would cover me in a blanket, put dinner on my lap, set the iPad in front of me, and put on an anime. I know they truly loved me because they did this for over six months, without complaining.
However, I was simply too broken. Things reached one fever pitch after another. I could always tell that something was wrong, that, as hard as I tried, I was never actually getting through to the person inside. It all felt so superficial. I always knew they were hiding things (not just sexual stuff, but, more simply, their own wants and desires, their simple, everyday preferences). They were there, but not present. So, faced with a soulmate who wasn’t sharing their soul, trauma most insurmountable, and no other options, I did the only thing I could: I accepted a job across the country in New York and fled the width of a continent.
However, as you already know, things didn’t get better. I couldn’t get a date for the life of me; I was – and am – too oddball. That I’ve had only one relationship and that it imploded quite catastrophically does not predispose me to self-worth or experience with dating. I am very intellectual, but a dullard at socialization. Hell, I never even learned how to make out. To boot, I have all this trauma which will take years to move on from. Last christmas, my now ex reached out to me, and we talked pretty much every day for four months. Since I left, they managed to somehow actually succeed in making themselves polyamorous, whereupon they proceeded to date and fuck my now (former) best friend, then leave them to date and move in with their boss from work, whom is over a decade older than them. They were in this relationship for over two and a half years, and we’ve been apart for three. Talking to them again has been rather tortuous, as I’ve been treated to such lovely details about their sex life while being, once again, excluded from it most royally. So… yeah… that’s been fun. And people wonder why I have such a boatload of trauma. After misery peaking once again, I realized that we had come to an impasse: I cannot move forward from the past without them, and they don’t want me back until I’ve moved forward from the past. Such is where things were last left, and I have no indication that they will ever change meaningfully from this.
Now, I want to make clear that I am not at all looking for any sort of statements regarding how I should forget about them and move on. There is so much more nuance than what I can describe here, and I’m not completely without blame either. Although I do not think I fucked up anywhere near as apocalyptically, I did hurt them, too. Nor do I necessarily hate them, either. Though what they did was incredibly, world-endingly hurtful and stupid, it was not done with malice. Time has only made me more sympathetic to their situation, and, thus, their actions. In short, their parent was incredibly abusive, and they also were terrified of losing me, so they were drunk on fear and thought that they needed to act in major ways to keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that what they did then and have done since has ruined my life, but I understand why things happened the way they did and I don’t love them any less. I mean, I did say they were my soulmate, didn’t I? That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I wish so badly that I hated them for all they did. That would make it so much easier to move on. I still identify as polyamorous, so this has the unpleasant side-effect of freezing my emotional development on the matter in place. In my case, I could be happily married for a decade and still be nowhere nearer to being able to move on from this ex, so it’s not like having any new sexual or romantic conquests will actually help me to move on from them. And, before you suggest, I already have a therapist, and she’s very nice.
So, since I’ve just spent ten pages telling you about three years of failed efforts to move on, comments or messages saying “move on, dude” will not be looked upon kindly.
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Chapter 3: Where I want to go.
So, as you can now see, I am the literal incarnation of damaged goods. I still really don’t know where I am going to post this, but my story is complicated enough that one part is inseparable from the other. If I’m posting this on a subreddit for sexual searches, you’ll need to know why a simple hookup is not on the table at all; conversely, if I’m posting this to a subreddit in search of romantic partners, you’ll need to know about my dreadful sexual brokenness and resulting insecurities up front. Either way, I’ve now managed to waste the time of two groups instead of one; how overachieving of me!
At this juncture of my life, I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact I won’t ever be getting the tools I need to move on from my ex (something for which I them somewhat resent). However, if it wasn’t made abundantly clear heretofore, the acquisition of another compatriot is the taddest bit flummoxing for me. In short-form, swiping-based dating app formats, it is far too easy to disregard my numerous quirks as simply that, not scars from a lengthy, complicated, demoralizing battle against a society which I am physiologically incapable of understanding. Oh, and the global coronapocalypsemageddonocaust has slightly impacted my ability to partake in social events wherewithin people might be met.
In truth, I am not necessarily the sexiest person in world. I’m a tad bit overweight, but I both wear it well (being absurdly tall helps) and am actively trying to change it (I’ve taken up running [surprisingly enjoyable!] and have lost ~10kg). I definitely don’t think I have an ugly face or anything. But I don’t think that’s actually my problem. In the event that it hasn’t been blindingly obvious up to this point, I am not your average cookie. In stark brief, I attended the Stanford (yes, that one) Online High School, dropped out, started college at 14, graduate at 19 with honors, and am now a Graduate Fellow (one step above student) at an Ivy-League university (expanded definition, fight me). As such, the way in which I go through my life is fairly cerebral. To those whom understand not my eccentricities or the subjects of which I speak, I am perceived as talking down to others. However, it is simply the way in which I approach the world, and I am wholly oblivious in the moment of how I could be perceived as such.
So it is thusly that I here myself find, holding on to the dreadfully unrealistic hope that being honest with the world about myself will earn me the possibility to find another soulmate, but one not programmed to shred what little sanity I have left. Here goes hope:
Regarding my location, if you hadn’t figured out, I live in central Pennsyltucky – 9 miles from the geographic centerpoint of the state, in fact. However, as I tell prospective students, while Penn State is in the middle of nowhere, it is half-way to everywhere! That, combined with my adventurous proclivities, opens up (literal!) horizons, dramatically. I can easily make it in a day trip to anywhere within Pennsylvania (though I love Pittsburgh!) or anywhere in the Megalopolis between Trenton and DC. At a slight stretch, I can also reach NYC, Upstate, Ohio, or, maybe, West Virginia. I am definitely open to meeting people from outside my immediate drive-shed – especially since pretty much all dates in the COVID-19 era start with Zoom, anyway – however, since I’ve been to so many places, front-of-the-line priority will be given to those from places I desire to explore more, including (in order of decreasing preference): Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont. If things develop, I both have the means and inclination to successfully conduct an LDR until I finish graduate school in 3-4 years.
Regarding the type of partner, while I am genuinely pansexual, I seem to be mostly romantically attracted with feminine-presenting people. Though, were I to have my druthers, I’d prefer you to be busty, at least moderately height-weight-proportional, and similarly tall, I affirmatively believe that it’s more how you use what you have than what you actually have, so I will always choose the average slut over the prudish bombshell. Other than that, I remain open minded to people of pretty much all walks of life.
Speaking of, for reasons that I hope are quite evident, I am a taaaaaaaaaaaad delicate in my sexuality. I used to be slightly dominant, but am definitely not anymore. I am almost in the realm of gentlefemdom. Please do be understanding that it’ll take some time (and, most likely, lots and lots of crying. I just want you to be sexually open yet patient enough that I could slowly grow back into my sexuality. Actually, that’s part of what I’m most hopeful for in a new partner. It would be really nice to have someone that is strong in their sexuality, and acts very openly with it, but is patient and loyal enough to not make me worried or scared. Someone who would, say, impulsively strip for a hike or skinny-dip, but wouldn’t pressure me to do the same if I wasn’t in the right headspace to do so.
Romantically, well, that’s a more complicated issue. I still identify as polyamorous, and I wouldn’t expect total devotion from my partner, but this is assuredly a difficult area. I think I would be benefitted by a period (likely 6-12 months) by monogamy, just so that I can recover enough to a functional level, then we can slowly and safely open up the relationship (with group stuff happening well before metamours).
Just please be careful with my heart. It’s already taken so much of a beating, and I don’t know how much more it can handle.
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Epilogue:
So, yeah, I guess that’s me. If you’ve made it this far, I at least thank you for doing so. I’ve been emotionally isolated for so long that it’s nice to just be acknowledged by other people. I know the likelihood of anything meaningful coming from this is quite, quite low, but this is part of me trying to move forward from the people that hurt me so cripplingly. I definitely come with some baggage, but I hope I’ve shown you who I am and that I at least have the potential to be good again.
I shall leave you with my dating profile. Hopefully this will show you the sonderous story that goes into only but a few words: “I find humor in everything and live for adventures. Highly sarcastic, hot-sauce-addicted, somewhat queer molecular and astrobiologist. Pro: I’m genuine. Con: -ly crazy. Looking for a porter to help me carry my emotional baggage.”
submitted by AstroG4 to Pennsylvaniar4r [link] [comments]

Looking for porter to help me carry my emotional baggage. (Part r4r, part lonely heart, part life story).

Prologue: Hello reddit! I’ve got issues.
I have never done this before, nor do I have any idea what might come of it, but I can tell you that this is probably just as much (if not moreso) an introspective essay as it will be lonely heart ad. I’m somewhat at the point in my life where I need to scream out into the void, and I hope that my honesty will net me just enough cosmic karma to get me out of this hole which I’ve been so unceremoniously dumped into. So, strap in; you're in for some u/rubyoobieoobie length shit.
I’ll leave you with a TLDR for now (because I’m not so callous as to make you scroll to the bottom for it): I have been to 49 states, flew to France for a date, solved a decade-old problem in microbial biochemistry and astrobiology, and am the dictator of my own country. I also have insurmountable trauma from my past (and only) relationship, but I still have deluded myself into thinking there is a hope, a person, a way in which I might someday move on and be happy again.
For those who want to know now, I am a 24-year-old non-binary, assigned-male-at-birth individual in search of someone whom has the patience necessary to deal with the above. Also, potential trigger warning for sexual trauma in Chapter 2.
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Chapter 1: Who I currently am.
I’m quite an abnormal fellow. Growing up as the autistic homeschooler of some shut-ins will do that to you, but there was always something about me that was especially aberrant. Skipping rapidly over two decades, a few highlights include attending an Online High School run by an Ivy-League university, becoming a high-school dropout, then starting college at 14 and graduating at 19. However, all magic requires a tradeoff, so I report not having a friend until I was 15 and not having more than two simultaneously until literally 2018. In many ways, I almost wish I hadn’t been homeschooled and was held back academically. I’m certain that, were my upbringing different, I would have been a nerd or geek. I could have learned to play D&D or magic the gathering, I could have liked Naruto, I could have become a gamer or learned to code. I am by no means cool or normal, but I have always lacked any sort of peers or social niche. I do not like sports, but, with equal fervor, I do not like fantasy novels. Both cause a lack of associations. I’m not necessarily lonely for friends – I do have them, and quite a blissful plenty, now – but this does show that, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I have always been somewhat of a loner.
My life, as it currently is, started when I fled a certain situation (pin in that). I moved from the west coast to New York City for a biotech job at a coveted research institution in 2017. I was so overwhelmingly hopeful because, in addition to fleeing trauma and making a good career move, I was moving out from my parents and ready to start my life anew in what had been billed to me for years as Millennial heaven. Brooklyn! Williamsburg! Dumbo! Midtown! Astoria! Tribeca! New York City had been built up in my mind as the place to make it as a young, urban-minded professional. Now, I must make a disclaimer: I was not a country boy heading into this. To that point, I had lived in 8 different cities in 4 different states, most of them major places, so I was quite familiar with how cities should be like. Apparently, New York, however, is not.
I hated that place. Trash, everywhere. Stations, crumbling. Inexcusable income disparity, half-assed parks, wretchedroads, and absolutely no scenic beauty whatsoever. I devised a 45-minute lecture on why The City (as it’s called) sucked so much. Suffice it to say that Chicago is the clearly superior American megacity, followed by Toronto, Denver, Seattle, and Austin. My whole life, growing up on the west coast (where cities ascribed to the novel idea of attempting to benefittheir citizens), I had heard of people who claimed that “all governments are bad, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” I had always dismissed them as crackpot old kooks, but, having experienced New York City for what it was, I all of a sudden can understand how someone who had lived their whole life in such places could come to think that way.
But the thing that made it most unlivable were the people. Especially at my job, but also pretty much throughout the whole region (Providence to Wilmington, in my estimation), the people were overly obsessed with “social coding”. Though an irritatingly imprecise phenomenon for me to describe, it is basically that people have a much more stringent set of acceptable social norms and shun you more harshly for being individualistic. The west coast is significantly better at encouraging you to “let your freak flag fly” (otherwise known as being genuine and honest with yourself).
But the situation was significantly worse for me, specifically. You see, for lack of a better term, I am a psychopath. I don’t mean it in a negative context, per se, and, while I do quite frequently play the role of a narcissist for sake of metahumor, I don’t actually mean people ill will, nor do I callously disregard the well-being of others. It’s just that, due to the quirk of my aberrant neurochemistry and antisocial upbringing, I have always been generally inept at empathy. I am very social, outgoing, kind-hearted, and incredibly humorous – don’t get me wrong – but I can just as much be oblivious to social cues or the tacit desires of others. This peculiar mix leads my personality to be best described as the bastard child of a foursome between Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, Psych’s Shawn Spencer, Scrubs’ JD, and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. I truly mean well and am pure of heart; to that end, I’ve spent much of my life acquiring coping mechanisms to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person and friend. But, for one reason or another, I was ill-equipped to deal with that most fetid breed person known to man: the “Lawn Guylander”.
This all culminated in a moment of crisis, but which I have come to look back on as the “Poughkeepsie Epiphany” (because, ever so creatively, I was driving thence at the time I had it): for almost a year, I had been putting an exorbitant amount of effort into playing the part of this overly social person, but was failing catastrophically. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet people or make friends, much less find a partner. My coworkers loathed me, but in a way which they all looked down on me as if I was a defective human whom they didn’t care to humor one bit (one of the most vindicating moments was when a postdoc joined the lab from San Diego and he was similarly abhorred at the social climate). One day, I had a realization that there wasn’t a single person in the world who knew when I woke up, nor a single person that would care if I didn’t. That was a painful day. So, my Poughkeepsie Epiphany was that I could continue struggling to play the social game and end up cripplingly lonely, or I could be exactly as lonely as I would be otherwise, but be genuine to myself – no matter how anomalous that might be – and actually be happy with who I was for so doing.
This is when I started to become crazy, and quite proudly so. If there was an idea that was absurd in scope but was a completionist goal, I did it. I started road-tripping with an epic fervor (I knocked off 8 remaining states from my list, mostly New England, to get me to 49 [pin in that]). Road-tripping and adventuring is now a major aspect of my personality, and I have since accrued over 11,000 saved places on google maps (my poor, poor phone starts to melt whenever I open the app for navigation). Over the remaining months I had in New York, I rode every line of the New York City Subway end to end. I taught myself military time, metric, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and the nations of the world. Whenever I would go to bars, instead of socializing ineptly, I would open my backpack and yank out a massive tome such as (initially) a book on the AOL-Time Warner Merger (“something which one cannot read whilst sober”) or (later) Penn State, an Illustrated History (did you know we had a branch campus in China?). Sometimes, people would look over at me as the shockwave caused by the massive thwack of the volume hitting the bartop rolled by, and I would proudly adopt the facial expression of “Yes, I am that weird, and I don’t give a damn.” To be sure, I was still cripplingly lonely, but I was, for the first time in my life, happy.
I also began devising an escape plan. I decided to rapidly accelerate my life plans and apply for graduate school years ahead of what I had intended. Come January, I got interviews at three Ivys: Penn State, Duke, and Columbia. It was no contest. Duke sux balz and felt like an incompetent department living in the shadow of their medical center while also having the misplaced haughtiness to think they deserved equal recognition (also, I didn’t want to go to a place where the yearly tuition was more money than I had ever earned in my entire life to that point). Unlike Duke, Columbia actually had some quality research going on, but there was only one professor I was interested in and the department felt like it was out more for its own reputation than to actually support its graduate students. Penn State, however, stole my heart. Though painfully rural, the town felt like a very tiny big city. The university was friendly and earnest, the students were fun-loving but not reckless, and it’s one of only two universities in the country to offer a Dual-Title Ph.D. in [Home Field] and Astrobiology, a subject which I had always been enthralled by. As a concrete comparison, Columbia had just acquired three Cryo-Electron microscopes and was showing them off to us, but they were shared with thirteen other research institutions in the New York Metropolitan Area. Penn State, on the other hand, had one Krios, all to itself, which had been installed four years earlier. I have since confirmed that Penn State clearly puts its money where its mouth was and does its damnedest to support its scientists in producing world-class research.
So, slightly over a year after moving to New York, I was ready to start my life over again – but, this time, I had the mindset to do it correctly. At risk of turning this too much into an autobiography, I’ll cut short the narrative. In the two years since the Poughkeepsie Epiphany, though, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Partly out of my passion for storytelling and humor, and partly as a way to stake out my own identity in this world, I’ve latched on to certain oddball stories that most exemplify this newfound sense of self which I’ve acquired. Since they are a significant part of my personality and do an excellent job of portraying my uniquely blusterous metahumor, I'll share a few of the most notable:
  1. I’ve been to 49 states:
When people ask where I grew up, I respond that I’ve lived in 10 different cities in six different states, and have been to 49 (some people also ask if my father was in the military [no], or, once, witness protection [I am not at liberty to disclose whether this is true]). The one remaining state is Oklahoma. I am really debating just buying plane tickets to Oklahoma City for a weekend just so that I can say I’ve been to all 50. To justify my trip, I could go on a tour of why white people are so horrible by visiting the Oklahoma Museum of the Native American, the Oklahoma Museum of the African American, and the Oklahoma Museum of the Gay Cowboy (all of which, to my knowledge, are real places). Woohoo! A trifecta of oppression! However, if I were to actually visit Oklahoma and do this, I would then lose this marvelous and witty conversation topic about which last state I have yet to visit and what I would do while there, so it’s a serious cost-benefit analysis that I must weigh.
  1. I am the Dictator of my own country:
This is probably much less interesting than you’d think. There’s a rather... unique hobby out there of people who (for the most part) tongue-in-cheekily secede from their parent countries to form ultra-small monarchies or banana republics. In my case, I thought that the most reasonable and considered response to the Trump Presidency was to give up on the entire country and secede to form my own. I’m going to build a wall and make America pay for it! This is also actually more legitimate than you’d think, too, as I was invited to and attended the United Micronations, the second-largest meeting of nations in the world (the “largest” organization is in New York, I think. I really don’t pay too much attention to it). As a result, I ended up forming a federation, making several alliances, and maintain regular contact with several other micronationalists. On the domestic front, I made both my roommates sign a 37-page, 42-clause, 17k-word Cohabitation Agreement (á la Sheldon), which, among other things, has reservations for Spots, a flag, a legal system, time travel, and gives me power of attorney over them (you’d be surprised; they both signed it voluntarily, without complaint, and after having read it in its entirety). One might add that they do not pay rent; I levy taxes. Finally, I attempted an infiltration of the local Civil War Reenactors (they have a cannon!) to help me in my ongoing war against the local recycling agency for gross ineptitude, but, for some incomprehensible reason, a bunch of old, white, rurally-inclined men didn't take so kindly to my opinions on conservatism and modern politics. I am convinced that this is merely a marketing issue, and we are workshopping new slogans for our planned invasion of the adjacent curb and sidewalk.
  1. I flew to France for a date:
The story I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. I met an undergraduate here and went on two dates with her, but then she did a semester abroad in France. It was going somewhat well; we were texting every day, and this was the first meaningful person I had actually gone on a date with since... things (pin in that). I quickly ran the numbers, looked at my schedule, and then came up with a hair-brained scheme. You see, I grew up in Florida, so a significant part of my childhood was consumed by theme parks. Sparring you a lot of details, two of the parks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios) originally opened under the auspices of special-features theme parks, a de-immersive experience where they show you how the movies are made. In the past decade, however, both parks have been moving towards more immersive experiences, where the only common factor among the attractions is that they are all based on intellectual properties that just happened to be movie franchises. This started to feel like a real loss when I learned that the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action at Disney were being bulldozed for sake of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge, the former of which was a very important ride to my childhood, and the latter of which was something that I always wanted to see. Lo and behold, a little research revealed that both of these attractions were intact at Disney Studios in Paris. So, a date in the South of France, personally-important theme park attractions in the north, TGV connecting them, and, oh, yeah, duh, it’s Paris, that’s justification in itself.
I planned it out meticulously. For the week leading up to the trip, I would get up, go to work, and go to bed an hour earlier every day (the trip was only going to be three days, so any jet-lag-induced napping would have had an alarmingly high opportunity cost). Then, on the day of the flight, I woke up just before midnight, had breakfast at a favorite bar at closing time, went in to work, and left for JFK by noon. Ten hours of globe-trotting later, I arrived on the Mediterranean coast and proceeded to mispronounce everything.
The date in France was supposed to be our third. What traditionally happens on the third date? Now, let it be known that I would NEVER be the type of person to demand sexuality from anyone, but, you do have to admit, flying 20% of the circumference of a planet is a pretty grand gesture, is it not? I mean, you can’t get a much grander gesture before you literally run out of planet. So, for this third date to take place and for me to not get laid is pretty empirical proof that I am quite irrevocably unfuckable. My next plan is to start looking for dates in Bangladesh (or Oklahoma), because that’s as close as you can get to antipodal (a perfect 50% of the planet's circumference) as you can get from here. Oh, and those two attractions at Disney Studios, not kidding, they were closed ahead of schedule a week before I arrived. Now, I’m not asking for pity at all; don’t get me wrong, I had a blast! It’s Paris, godsdamnit! But I prefer to view this trip in the narrower, funnier, yet sadder context of the two busts above because it helps me to better come to terms with the parts of myself I dislike. As I often say: “I could either laugh or cry at myself. I’d rather one than the other.”
  1. I returned from France with a Motorcycle:
Although France girl never worked out (I don’t think I made a fool of myself or anything, but, remember, I am legitimately inept at this), the trip to France did have a lasting impact on my life in another way. I am an avid bicyclist for a variety of reasons: staying active, helping the environment, and it’s flying like superman at ground level when [safely!] dodging in and out of undergrads. Now, while strolling down the lonely streets of a certain city in the South of France, I encountered one particular bicycle rack with about 25% regular bicycles, about 25% electric bicycles, about 25% mopeds and scooters, and 25% fully-blown motorcycles, all chained up side by side. Having a doctor as a parent, I spent my entire life thinking of motorcycles as hooligan deathtraps, but, here, I was seeing them for the first time in the context of something I had already made an important part of my life.
Upon returning home (by the way, you already know my disdain for New York Shitty [sic] and Wrong Island [sic], so imagine the gutwrenching heartbreak of arriving there after just having spent a weekend in Paris[!]), I arrived at the parking lot, looked at my car, and counted room for four extra people that I didn’t need (because I had no friends). Thus, in my feverish road-tripping, I was hauling around an unnecessary 1.96 tons of extra material – with a dreadful gas mileage to boot! – killing the planet as a result. The next few days were spent obsessively investigating this newfound world which I had heretofore disregarded. Ever since being gifted my car and spittaking at its gas mileage, I always wanted another, more environmentally-conscious vehicle. However, living in the so-called Pennsyltucky, electric vehicle charging stations are fairly sparse in their deployment. Also, I didn’t want to buy a true replacement vehicle, as I am too poor. I was more targeting a hyper-environmentally-conscious vehicle which I could use for my luxury adventures, and then still have the old, reliable gas-guzzler for when I needed to haul around a couch or power through to Virginia. Motorcycles, as I found, have an average of 56mpg, 2.5 times better than my car.
But, now, I was starting to find my way into the culture of motorcycles, something which, on the whole, I find myself violently at odds with. As the joke I tell goes, most motorcycles aren’t actually built for long-distance exploring, like what I already did in my car. Most of them are dirt bikes, with basically bench seats, or sport bikes, which require you to hunch over and lean your stomach on the gas tank. Not very comfortable for long treks. There are only two types of bikes made with comfort in mind: the sport-tourer, which I ended up getting, and the cruiser, which is made entirely out of chrome, handle-bar mustaches, and racism (or homophobia, depending on my audience). Needless to say, I prefer the former.
For those interested, I ended up with the Yamaha Tracer GT. In addition to (proudly!) having only one piece of chrome (the downward-facing exhaust) and being sexy and futuristic as all futhermuck, it is functional, having two panniers (saddle-bags), each capable of holding four half-gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream (ask me how I know). Skipping over many of the specifics of how I chose this particular model regarding my choice of motorcycle, a big figure in motorcycle news opened his review of the Tracer with “It’s not often I ride a motorcycle and walk away with existential questions for the readers.” For those who have been following along, this quote is the exact thing that I latch on to as part of my newfound identity as a blissful lunatic.
  1. The Semester of Hell and solving a decade-old issue in microbial physiology:
So, come the end of my first year as a graduate student, I started to look towards my second fall semester. The only thing I had to do was my qualifying exam, the really big, month-long exam that determines whether or not you can stay in graduate school. But that was only during November, so, overall, it was going to be an empty semester. Then I learned that a big-name professor in microbiology was retiring, and the last time he was going to teach would be that fall. So, I signed up for his course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I learned of a prestigious grant that I could apply for, so I decided to take a grant-writing course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I got an email from the department, saying that they needed more TAs for Freshman Biology lab. I had to TA as a requirement of my program, so I might as well get it out of the way now. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then, in July and August, I made an incredible discovery that solved a problem in microbial physiology that had been around since 2009 (pin in that). I spoke with my PI, and he said we could power through and probably get a paper out in under a year. I told him I wanted to do that. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester.
Well, as you can now see, it wasn’t a very empty semester, was it now? To great surprise, I survived, but not unscathed. On average, I worked 60-70 hours a week, though some of it was partially my own doing (for example, my term paper for the bacterial physiology course had seventy citations, even though it was only required to have ten). One “highlight” was TAing. Apparently, my students thought my quiz was so hard that they called the university police on me (I’m not exaggerating; we had to pursue academic integrity violations. It was a debacle). I joked that, with each subsequent class period, I became more and more sympathetic to the antagonists of teen dystopian novels; maybe it is time to build a floating elitist city in the sky and leave the rest of the planet to shit, after all?
Now, I’m certain that many of you are curious as to the contents of my discovery. I can’t exactly speak freely, as the manuscript is in review, but, even if I could, it would be waaaaay too complex and jargony to be comprehensible to the lay public (and this is already going on long enough). Suffice it to be the simple version: A particular class of protein had been known in microbes for a very long time and is involved in pretty much everything, from simple feeding to complex infections. In certain bacteria, this category of protein is modified in a certain way, and people always thought (for over 40 years) that this modification was a transport signal. However, a decade ago, a research groups, perplexingly, discovered these modified proteins in a bacterium that didn’t have th modification-making enzyme. This left two major questions: if not for transport, what was this modification for; and, what is the enzyme that makes the modification in all the other bacteria? I solved the latter question by spending four months looking through the entire genome of the original bacterium and finally finding the modification-making protein, and I’ve spent ever since trying to characterize it. The paper should be published sometime within a month or three (the current coronapocalypse is a boon for manuscript-preparation). Additionally, the previous graduate student in the lab to me made an interesting discovery regarding the genetics of the modification-making enzyme, and my next paper will expand on their work to determine the actual function of this modification. These proteins and their modifications are important because (on the applied side) they belong to major pathogens and could be a target for treating infections and (on the basic side) we have indications that they are part of a planetary-wide stress put on bacteria during evolution (hence, my astrobiological machinations).
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Chapter 2: Where I came from.
Now we have to get into how I got to this point. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of sexual trauma. In 2014, when I was still an undergrad, I met whom I called then my soulmate. They were beautiful, fun, perky, and adventurous. They were my first relationship and we took each other’s virginity in a tent after a romantic picnic. But, sadly, less than a year in, things started to go off the rails. I came out as polyamorous. The way I have best found to describe it is when you ask a parent which their favorite child is. All parents worth their salt will say “I love each of my children in their own, unique way.” Such is the same with me. At the time, I had feelings for some of my other friends; but! mind you! they were in no way enough to ever consider ever leaving my soulmate. It was simply such that I had my one, my true, my only, but I didn’t want that to have to mean I tell all other people in my life “Bah! You mean nothing to me because of the ambiguity of my relationship status at the time you met me.” I also had quite a complex from growing up so antisocially and isolated. This was a time in my life when things started to look up. Pieces were finally starting to fall into place, I had some friends and acquaintances, and people actually cared for me. It was thusly then that I realized I was polyamorous, but in mostly a loving way, not necessarily as a swinger or horndog. So, I came out.
In any other situation in the world, this might have not been as catastrophic. However, there were certain things about my soulmate which I knew not at the time that caused not just my relationship, not just my life, but my reality to crumble. You see, they grew up in an incredibly abusive situation, and the only way they knew how to act was to throw away every part of themselves for the people whom they loved. Whelp, that meant “forcing” themselves to be polyamorous for me. They devised a ridiculous plan where they would go out and sleep with lots of people to become okay with the idea of nonmonogamy. Needless to say, this was a batshit crazy idea, but they didn’t tell me their true feelings of how traumatizing this would be for them, and I decided to trust them that this is what they knew would be best for them and that it would all work out in the end. What can I say? What is love if not supporting your partner? I honestly thought it could be okay.
However, as you might guess, it was not. The main issue came from all their mental instability that they had hidden from me for so long. They became quite dissociative and hid it all from me. As such, they tried to compartmentalize their sexual exploration away from our relationship, making me less involved. In short, I was supposed to be their monogamous “safe space” while they did all this terrible shit to themselves. Understandably, this backfired. Rather than it being a collaborative, supportive, gentle, loving exploration, it became dishonest, filled with deceit. They lied to me about doing things with people and about not doing things with people. They made up stories of fuckbuddies and hid some of the real people they were fucking. All the while, I was starting to lose my grip on reality, because, here they were, getting to do all the things I had always wanted, practically rubbing it all in my face, while barring me from having any part of it for myself. It was tortuous. Highlights include them fucking my brother for four uninterrupted hours, and kicking me out of my bed and bedroom to fuck a nine-inch cock while I made them breakfast, then not allowing me to enter until they had finished.
When I learned that they hid that they were flunking all their classes in college, I snapped, and nothing was ever the same again. That’s not how you treat your soulmate. It was supposed to be us against the world, but they weren’t acting like we were a team. In retrospect, I was heartbroken for well more than half of the time we were a couple. The entire last year we were together, I was depressed beyond description. I would come home from work and I would have so little energy that my personality would just melt away. I was devoid of existence. I would sit on a couch, and stare away at nothingness for hours on end. To my credit, my ex would cover me in a blanket, put dinner on my lap, set the iPad in front of me, and put on an anime. I know they truly loved me because they did this for over six months, without complaining.
However, I was simply too broken. Things reached one fever pitch after another. I could always tell that something was wrong, that, as hard as I tried, I was never actually getting through to the person inside. It all felt so superficial. I always knew they were hiding things (not just sexual stuff, but, more simply, their own wants and desires, their simple, everyday preferences). They were there, but not present. So, faced with a soulmate who wasn’t sharing their soul, trauma most insurmountable, and no other options, I did the only thing I could: I accepted a job across the country in New York and fled the width of a continent.
However, as you already know, things didn’t get better. I couldn’t get a date for the life of me; I was – and am – too oddball. That I’ve had only one relationship and that it imploded quite catastrophically does not predispose me to self-worth or experience with dating. I am very intellectual, but a dullard at socialization. Hell, I never even learned how to make out. To boot, I have all this trauma which will take years to move on from. Last christmas, my now ex reached out to me, and we talked pretty much every day for four months. Since I left, they managed to somehow actually succeed in making themselves polyamorous, whereupon they proceeded to date and fuck my now (former) best friend, then leave them to date and move in with their boss from work, whom is over a decade older than them. They were in this relationship for over two and a half years, and we’ve been apart for three. Talking to them again has been rather tortuous, as I’ve been treated to such lovely details about their sex life while being, once again, excluded from it most royally. So… yeah… that’s been fun. And people wonder why I have such a boatload of trauma. After misery peaking once again, I realized that we had come to an impasse: I cannot move forward from the past without them, and they don’t want me back until I’ve moved forward from the past. Such is where things were last left, and I have no indication that they will ever change meaningfully from this.
Now, I want to make clear that I am not at all looking for any sort of statements regarding how I should forget about them and move on. There is so much more nuance than what I can describe here, and I’m not completely without blame either. Although I do not think I fucked up anywhere near as apocalyptically, I did hurt them, too. Nor do I necessarily hate them, either. Though what they did was incredibly, world-endingly hurtful and stupid, it was not done with malice. Time has only made me more sympathetic to their situation, and, thus, their actions. In short, their parent was incredibly abusive, and they also were terrified of losing me, so they were drunk on fear and thought that they needed to act in major ways to keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that what they did then and have done since has ruined my life, but I understand why things happened the way they did and I don’t love them any less. I mean, I did say they were my soulmate, didn’t I? That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I wish so badly that I hated them for all they did. That would make it so much easier to move on. I still identify as polyamorous, so this has the unpleasant side-effect of freezing my emotional development on the matter in place. In my case, I could be happily married for a decade and still be nowhere nearer to being able to move on from this ex, so it’s not like having any new sexual or romantic conquests will actually help me to move on from them. And, before you suggest, I already have a therapist, and she’s very nice.
So, since I’ve just spent ten pages telling you about three years of failed efforts to move on, comments or messages saying “move on, dude” will not be looked upon kindly.
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Chapter 3: Where I want to go.
So, as you can now see, I am the literal incarnation of damaged goods. I still really don’t know where I am going to post this, but my story is complicated enough that one part is inseparable from the other. If I’m posting this on a subreddit for sexual searches, you’ll need to know why a simple hookup is not on the table at all; conversely, if I’m posting this to a subreddit in search of romantic partners, you’ll need to know about my dreadful sexual brokenness and resulting insecurities up front. Either way, I’ve now managed to waste the time of two groups instead of one; how overachieving of me!
At this juncture of my life, I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact I won’t ever be getting the tools I need to move on from my ex (something for which I them somewhat resent). However, if it wasn’t made abundantly clear heretofore, the acquisition of another compatriot is the taddest bit flummoxing for me. In short-form, swiping-based dating app formats, it is far too easy to disregard my numerous quirks as simply that, not scars from a lengthy, complicated, demoralizing battle against a society which I am physiologically incapable of understanding. Oh, and the global coronapocalypsemageddonocaust has slightly impacted my ability to partake in social events wherewithin people might be met.
In truth, I am not necessarily the sexiest person in world. I’m a tad bit overweight, but I both wear it well (being absurdly tall helps) and am actively trying to change it (I’ve taken up running [surprisingly enjoyable!] and have lost ~10kg). I definitely don’t think I have an ugly face or anything. But I don’t think that’s actually my problem. In the event that it hasn’t been blindingly obvious up to this point, I am not your average cookie. In stark brief, I attended the Stanford (yes, that one) Online High School, dropped out, started college at 14, graduate at 19 with honors, and am now a Graduate Fellow (one step above student) at an Ivy-League university (expanded definition, fight me). As such, the way in which I go through my life is fairly cerebral. To those whom understand not my eccentricities or the subjects of which I speak, I am perceived as talking down to others. However, it is simply the way in which I approach the world, and I am wholly oblivious in the moment of how I could be perceived as such.
So it is thusly that I here myself find, holding on to the dreadfully unrealistic hope that being honest with the world about myself will earn me the possibility to find another soulmate, but one not programmed to shred what little sanity I have left. Here goes hope:
Regarding my location, if you hadn’t figured out, I live in central Pennsyltucky – 9 miles from the geographic centerpoint of the state, in fact. However, as I tell prospective students, while Penn State is in the middle of nowhere, it is half-way to everywhere! That, combined with my adventurous proclivities, opens up (literal!) horizons, dramatically. I can easily make it in a day trip to anywhere within Pennsylvania (though I love Pittsburgh!) or anywhere in the Megalopolis between Trenton and DC. At a slight stretch, I can also reach NYC, Upstate, Ohio, or, maybe, West Virginia. I am definitely open to meeting people from outside my immediate drive-shed – especially since pretty much all dates in the COVID-19 era start with Zoom, anyway – however, since I’ve been to so many places, front-of-the-line priority will be given to those from places I desire to explore more, including (in order of decreasing preference): Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont. If things develop, I both have the means and inclination to successfully conduct an LDR until I finish graduate school in 3-4 years.
Regarding the type of partner, while I am genuinely pansexual, I seem to be mostly romantically attracted with feminine-presenting people. Though, were I to have my druthers, I’d prefer you to be busty, at least moderately height-weight-proportional, and similarly tall, I affirmatively believe that it’s more how you use what you have than what you actually have, so I will always choose the average slut over the prudish bombshell. Other than that, I remain open minded to people of pretty much all walks of life.
Speaking of, for reasons that I hope are quite evident, I am a taaaaaaaaaaaad delicate in my sexuality. I used to be slightly dominant, but am definitely not anymore. I am almost in the realm of gentlefemdom. Please do be understanding that it’ll take some time (and, most likely, lots and lots of crying. I just want you to be sexually open yet patient enough that I could slowly grow back into my sexuality. Actually, that’s part of what I’m most hopeful for in a new partner. It would be really nice to have someone that is strong in their sexuality, and acts very openly with it, but is patient and loyal enough to not make me worried or scared. Someone who would, say, impulsively strip for a hike or skinny-dip, but wouldn’t pressure me to do the same if I wasn’t in the right headspace to do so.
Romantically, well, that’s a more complicated issue. I still identify as polyamorous, and I wouldn’t expect total devotion from my partner, but this is assuredly a difficult area. I think I would be benefitted by a period (likely 6-12 months) by monogamy, just so that I can recover enough to a functional level, then we can slowly and safely open up the relationship (with group stuff happening well before metamours).
Just please be careful with my heart. It’s already taken so much of a beating, and I don’t know how much more it can handle.
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Epilogue:
So, yeah, I guess that’s me. If you’ve made it this far, I at least thank you for doing so. I’ve been emotionally isolated for so long that it’s nice to just be acknowledged by other people. I know the likelihood of anything meaningful coming from this is quite, quite low, but this is part of me trying to move forward from the people that hurt me so cripplingly. I definitely come with some baggage, but I hope I’ve shown you who I am and that I at least have the potential to be good again.
I shall leave you with my dating profile. Hopefully this will show you the sonderous story that goes into only but a few words: “I find humor in everything and live for adventures. Highly sarcastic, hot-sauce-addicted, somewhat queer molecular and astrobiologist. Pro: I’m genuine. Con: -ly crazy. Looking for a porter to help me carry my emotional baggage.”
submitted by AstroG4 to lifeinapost [link] [comments]

Card #235 - echo on servers

So there I was, trying to talk down a demon in the server room of a small IT startup. We were mere feet apart; I had my hands up to show they were empty even though that was a detail irrelevant to the demon. It loomed over me, its singular teardrop-shaped eye glistening like purple glass. I spoke its language, the only reason it was hesitating from rending me apart.
“Process.exit(self(), :normal)”, I said. I did not actually say the parenthesis or any other syntactic punctuation. They’re implied.
Nothing. The demon continued to stare down at me through an eyeball that took up its entire face.
“Maybe say ‘please’?” Nathan suggested from the doorway behind me.
“That’s not how this works!” I hissed back.
Time to take a more assertive approach.
“Process.exit(self(), :kill).”
Still nothing. Its name, I thought. I needed its name. I made another request of the demon, asking that it convert the output into a string so that it would come out as plain English instead of a horrific screeching like metal grinding on metal that would literally make my ears bleed. Then I did some quick conversions of my own, turning that string of numbers from binary to a list and then a list to a pid.
Thank you random redditor for asking how to do this in a post from two years ago.
Then, I strung all of that together and dropped it into yet another Process.exit call, except this time I named the demon as the target, and just to make extra certain I got the result I wanted, I used the :kill option. It was no longer a request that the demon could choose to execute, and peacefully shut down. It was a command and I wanted it dead.
The demon shrieked. Shrill, inhuman, like a piece of sheet metal being ripped in half. It’s eyeball split open to reveal a gaping maw, a fleshy pit lined with teeth and it raised one long arm, the mottled gray-purple flesh pitted as if with acid. Its wrist ended in a long, whip-like spike, tapering down to a needle-point that seemed to hang there, poised back behind its head, before beginning the downward descent that would sink it straight into my torso.
My bad. I should have checked Process.info() to see if it was trapping exits.
I hit the ground by instinct, letting gravity carry me down to the floor. It pierced the server rack behind me instead in a shower of sparks.
This is why we ask all of our clients to make off-site backups before we proceed.
Gunshots rang out overhead and the demon was thrown backwards. Then one of the bullets ripped through its knee, it went down, and Nathan was running past me to stand over it, unloading the rest of his clip into its chest. Its blood was vivid green and hissed and steamed as it spread across the hollow floor of the server room.
“So,” I said carefully, starting to rise, “I think it was trapping exits.”
“I have no idea what that means,” Nathan replied, his gaze intent on the demon, mechanically reloading just in case.
I rubbed at my ears, as if that would help the ringing go away.
“I asked the demon to please go away nicely, it refused, I asked it to kill itself, it still refused, so I demanded it kill itself, except it’d decided in advance that if it was told to die that it could do one last thing before actually dying and apparently that last thing was to go on a murderous rampage.”
Neat,” Nathan replied. His tone indicated that he didn’t actually care. “So why didn’t you lead with the command thingy first?”
“I was being lazy. Did you hear that long list of conversions I had to do just to get its name?”
“You were facing down an eight foot tall demon. You don’t be lazy when staring at a demon with a giant mouth-eyeball instead of a face!”
I shrugged, pretending to not notice him staring at me in intense exasperation. I edged away from the growing pool of blood instead.
“It was fine,” I mumbled. “I had it under control. Hey - are your eyes starting to water? Mine are. I think this might be toxic. Probably had the Poison package loaded.”
Nathan muttered something about how my profession needed to think of less lethal names for our shit, but he followed me out of the server room. There wasn’t anything else that needed to be done here. The demon would dissolve and be gone in a few hours, toxic blood and all. The server room was well-ventilated, so any remaining poison in the air would disperse until it was no longer harmful.
Our on-site contact was waiting for us in a conference room on the opposite end of the building. It wasn’t exactly safe to have someone else in the office while we were dealing with the demon, but the client had insisted. We compromised by putting him well away from the server room. He’d opened up the door, disabled the alarm so we could leave it propped open, and then got out of our way.
He seemed intensely relieved when we entered the room with no visible injuries.
“I heard gunshots,” he said anxiously, standing and shutting his laptop. An ops guy. They always got stuck with the late-night jobs.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” I said smoothly. “We took care of it. It got one of your server racks, though.”
He swore colorfully.
“So we never got our off-site backup replication actually working,” he said miserably. “Business didn’t want to make it a priority until next year.”
“You… you did tell them this could be highly destructive maintenance, right?”
He said glumly that he had. He’d argued this wasn’t safe. There were tape backups, at least, but getting a hold of those, rebuilding the server, and loading the data could take days. They were looking at extended downtime and data loss.
The sad part is, I’m not sure telling upper management that there was the possibility of gunfire and demonic attack inside their server room would have changed things much. Welcome to IT. The guy that watched the football game on his laptop during the MBA class where the professor explained how the internet works? He’s now in charge of what work gets done.
We also can’t be upfront about what we’re doing. You know how everyone is vaguely aware that IT has a massive problem with security and everyone’s credit card number is stolen every other week? But the problem is just invisible enough that society hasn’t collectively lost its shit and the stock market hasn’t nope’d the hell out of here and collapsed the global economy? We’ve taken a similar stance with the demons.
We tried to create a world governed by principles. On and off. We took those laws and created layer upon layer and slowly, steadily, our humanity eroded those foundations. We programmed our own inconsistencies into the system, we made mistakes because that is what being human is like, until our creation outgrew us and now none of us understand the whole. We know fragments and in those forgotten spaces, in those dark unknowns were technology just “is”, something moved in.
It’s a well-kept secret, even inside of IT. Most people don’t know. They see strange things and write it off to an odd bug or a trick of the imagination, while the rest of us that do know try to proactively identify incidents and ensure the silence of those involved. The government does a lot of the latter. They were the ones paying my company to perform this “maintenance”, actually. I think that’s the only reason we were let in through the door - the client isn’t footing the bill.
“Well, thanks for your help,” the ops guy said. “Hope you get some sleep tonight. I certainly won’t.”
I thought about offering to help, maybe just pulling out the damaged server rack at the very least, but Nathan was bouncing from foot to foot impatiently, so I only told him to watch out for the puddle of poison blood and then let him escort us out of the building. I messaged our boss on Slack, saying that we were safe, we were done, and he could go to bed now. He had a policy of staying up until he knew we’d all made it out okay.
It was a forty-five minute drive back to our office. Nathan and I had elected to carpool. I’d driven down, but the adrenaline was starting to wear off and I was beginning to get shaky, so I handed the keys off to Nathan. He was the only other person on the team that knew how to drive a stick shift, so he was permitted to drive my car. No one else could.
It was a bit past midnight when we got on the road. I was starting to nod off once we reached the highway, my forehead bumping against the window. There was a brief impression of an image in the reflection of the glass as we passed under a street light and I snapped awake with a shot of adrenaline. Something purple, I thought, something that glittered like a teardrop. Heart hammering, I tried to tell myself it was just a trick of the mind, a nightmare manifesting while I was half-asleep. Nathan hadn’t noticed; his gaze was fixed on the empty road ahead of us.
Then, another brief image reflected on the glass as we passed under a streetlight. Slowly, desperately wanting this to be a figment of my imagination, I turned around and looked towards the back of the car. In the very back of the hatchback, where I’d thrown my backpack with my laptop inside, crouched the Elixir demon. It was hunched over, bent almost double, its head pressed against the ceiling with that one gigantic eyeball fixed on us.
“Nathan,” I said softly, evenly. Panic wouldn’t help. “I think the demon isn’t dead.”
“Yeah?” he replied, not looking away from the road. “Is the ops guy okay? Did he exit the building?”
“It respawned… in the trunk.
My coworker glanced in the rearview mirror. He swore, the car swerved for a second as he twitched in reflexive shock, and then he got it back under control again while his jaw tightened with sudden tension.
“I don’t think it can get to us,” I continued. “It’s too big to move.”
“Bless you and your stupid, tiny, Honda Fit,” Nathan murmured. “Okay. Let me find an exit and we’ll pull over somewhere isolated and I’ll shoot it a whole lot again.”
“That apparently didn’t work the first time.”
“Do you have any better ideas?”
I did not. I told him to let me think. He drove in silence, periodically checking in the rearview mirror to make sure it hadn’t moved. I tried to clear the screaming from my brain enough to think, to understand why it had come back and what to do to put it in the ground for good.
There are different kinds of demons. This was an echo, a physical manifestation of a concept created when human and technology collide. It’s as if our need to name things into known quantities sent out ripples into that empty space of technology. Specifically, it was an echo spawned from the programming language Elixir, which happened to be my current favorite language to work in. It’s why I was sent on this particular job, after our triage team got a referral from another vendor about a problem with a small IT startup. Servers were doing odd things, they said. Just the ones with Elixir installed. And we got permission to run our diagnostics and there it was - the abnormality.
The government contacted the company. Security vulnerability, they claimed. Very hush-hush. Agreements were signed. And Nathan and I piled into my tiny car and drove down there to take care of it.
Now we had to save ourselves.
“I think it’s being supervised,” I mused.
“By what? The demon has a boss?”
Nathan isn’t an IT guy. He’s former military. He’s the one that carries a gun and tries to convince the team to go rucking with him on the weekends. I’ve at least taken up running. It’s a start.
I ignored him and twisted in the seat to stare at the demon. I needed to find out the name of the supervising process. As long as the supervisor was alive, it would continue to restart the demon and we’d never be able to kill it. But if we killed the supervisor, then that would eliminate the thing that was recreating the demon, as well as killing the demon in the process. So I tried simply asking if the demon knew its parent. I’d never done this before, but it seemed like a reasonable thing to request.
Turns out Process.parent(pid) isn’t actually a thing. Thanks, José. Thanks a lot.
I probably should have googled that first, to be fair.
The demon’s face split open until it was nothing but teeth and a dark, open throat, and it shrieked. It struggled to stand in the tiny car, then one arm shot up, smashed into the roof, and then it brought it down onto the backseat. There was a squeal of twisting metal and the seat began to warp, the frame slowly being twisted downwards, and the demon surged into the gap.
We were at least on an on-ramp. Nathan accelerated instead of slowing down, slinging the demon to one side as we rounded the curb. Floating in the air up ahead like a beacon was an empty sign frame for an abandoned gas station. Perfect.
“How did it even get in here?!” Nathan snarled through gritted teeth, blowing past a stop sign at the end of the ramp and nearly spinning out from how fast he took that turn.
“Probably jumped into my laptop,” I replied, hanging onto the doorframe tight enough to turn my knuckles white.
“Why do you have Elixir installed on your laptop!?” Nathan screamed, barely audible over the whine and crack of my backseat finally snapping in two.
“I don’t know, maybe because I need it to do my job?!”
He spun the car into the gas station’s parking lot and brought it to a stop. We both tumbled out, just as the demon’s spikes slammed into the dashboard. I backed away, staring in horror as it thrashed like a fish on a line, puncturing my roof, shattering my windshield, and finally taking out the entire driver’s side door as it tried to escape. There would be no repairing this. My car was totaled.
Nathan had his gun out and he fired a quick three-shot burst, landing the bullets in the demon’s torso. The impact threw it back a pace, then it ducked its head and continued advancing, dragging its spike-hands on the ground behind it. They left grooves in the asphalt. We both turned to run. Nathan was faster than me, but he remained one pace behind, staying between me and the demon.
“Why isn’t it dying!?” he panted.
“Elixir demons are hard to kill!” I yelled over the ringing in my ears. “The language is designed to recover from failures!”
“Well, can you tell them to make the language a bit less resilient!?” Nathan shouted back.
I’m sure such a request will go over well.
We took refuge behind an abandoned dumpster, which I think is an appropriate metaphor for the state of technology these days. Nathan checked his clip and peeked out from the edge to see what was happening. The demon rounded the corner of the building and it paused, uncertain of where we’d gone. These kinds of demons were powerful, but they didn’t handle unexpected situations well. I felt the faint glimmer of relief that we had a few more seconds in which to figure out how to survive. I got my phone out and began looking something up.
“We are running for our lives from a demon,” Nathan hissed softly, “and you’re on your phone?”
“I’m looking up how to get the pid for a supervising process,” I replied.
“You don’t have that memorized?”
“No, I don’t Nathan,” I snapped. “Do you have the name and specs of every handgun you own memorized?”
He did. That was a poorly chosen analogy. He at least stopped after he rattled off five in an undertone, peering up over the lip of the dumpster. I focused on my phone’s screen. I didn’t need to know where the demon was, nor did I really want to know. Nathan would tell me if it was time to run again. My hands shook as I opened search results and I quietly prayed to anything that was listening that my data connection didn’t give up on me.
There. That’s what I needed. An obscure little key called “$ancestors” would give me the parent process and presumably if I killed that one, it’d kill the demon as well, and this time it would stay dead.
My only indication that something terrible was about to happen was a sudden utterance of profanity from Nathan, interrupted halfway through by a resounding crash as the demon bodily landed on the lip of the dumpster. The metal buckled, collapsing like an accordion under its weight, and one of those spikes smashed into the ground in front of us. The asphalt cracked under the impact. Nathan’s shouting seemed to come from a distant place, my mind dazed by terror, but I moved by instinct, shoving myself onto my feet and sprinting forwards, unable to think of anything but Nathan’s commands to GO.
Then, my brain clicked into action and I turned. Nathan was leaping backwards as the demon dropped off the edge of the dumpster. Nathan tensed, getting ready to dodge whatever it was about to do next.
Buying me time. I had to act.
I began to go through the sequence of commands to kill a process by name. My words were clear and even. Binary to list. List to pid. Pipe this to the command to kill the process.
Nothing happened.
“Oh,” I said absently. “That’s right. I needed to drop the ‘#PID’ from the front of that string.”
Look. This is why no one in the industry likes giving live code demos. (okay, maybe some do, but they probably enjoy skydiving in their free time too) Nothing goes right on the first try.
“You’re a terrible programmer!” Nathan shrieked, desperately scrambling backwards as the demon brought a spike down into the spot where he’d just been.
It jerked its arm upwards convulsively, stopped short as its spike remained embedded in the asphalt. It tried to move forward, its shoulder yanked it backwards, and it stood there a moment before trying again. I felt the faint glimmer of relief that we had a few more seconds and I reissued the sequence of commands again, this time remembering to say “<0.84.0>” instead of “#PID<0.84.0>”.
Yes, the difference matters. It really matters.
The demon went motionless. It stood there for a minute, like a statue, frozen with one knee bent in its aborted struggle to free its spike from the asphalt. Processing the shutdown signal. Then its mouth peeled back, rolling down the side of its face and neck like turning a sock inside out, and continued on down across its shoulders and torso. It dissolution was strangely fluid, the green blood inside bubbling like an open cauldron. Then its unraveled body reached the tips of its clawed feet and it was wholly gone.
I walked back to my car, dazed, all emotion wrung from me by the adrenaline that was still coursing through my blood. My beloved Honda was a twisted wreck, the frame bent, the roof dented, and the door clean clean off.
“My car,” I whispered, stroking its twisted frame. “My poor car.”
Nathan was on his cellphone nearby, calling for a tow. Then he called our boss to ask for a ride back into town.
So that’s my job. That’s what I do. I track down and eliminate the demons in the dark spaces between our computers.
I’m posting because I don’t agree that we should keep this a secret. People are used to having their credit card data routinely stolen, after all, and we haven’t collapsed. Certainly, this time lives are on the line, but I think that is even more reason for people to know. We shouldn’t give up our technology. It has and will continue to improve our lives. However, if someone’s phone is acting up… they should know the warning signs and seek us out before something terrible happens.
I wish I could give you my company’s name, so you can contact us. However, I think that might be going a little too far. If I’m anonymous (and I’m not using our real names) then this story will be easily denied and the government can turn a blind eye to what a lone developer is doing.
And who knows? Maybe telling my story will get people familiar with the idea that our technology isn’t as safe as we thought and they can come clean someday.
In the meantime… if you’re scared and need our help, post online somewhere that you’re having a problem. We’ll find you.
submitted by fainting--goat to nosleep [link] [comments]

[OC] Hardwired: De Novo Pathfinding (Chapter 39)

In this chapter: A skilled cogent's most dangerous weapon is their own experience
Next chapter: My mind, to your mind. My thoughts, to your thoughts
Fun trivia fact: If editing and revising the book takes me until this coming November, it would count for NaNoWriMo. Right?
Hardwired series homepage
Previous Chapter
CHAPTER THIRTY NINE
Oh, of all the times to-
[Ammunition depleted.]
Really? You don’t say-
[Would you like to view a list of nearby vendors of this caliber and payload? Y/N]
N.
He could already hear the sounds of Saru's warmech, as it stopped a hasty duck away from the predicted field of fire, and instead began to lean back in towards the ruined crater of an office. Ajax's heat sensors flared a warning, and he dove to one side and under a laminated multi-tiered desk as the chem-laser burned a path through where he had just been standing. The beam swept slightly to the sides before winking out, clearly searching for a target.
Nice try, asshole.
Looks like he still doesn't have a lock on my fusion emission yet. No telling how long the dust will give me cover in that regard though.
As Ajax picked his way down to the base of the ruined building, one of his internal processes pinged a results indication. Ajax had been surprised it had spoken up: typically this partition was for advanced or in-depth combat analysis, and to return a result this quickly was surprisingly quick given its previous processing speeds.
[Results ready for [Target Neutralization] - subtype [Alternate]. Data derived from combat diagnostics, strategic readouts, and [Lilutrikvian] warmech data cached in previous encounters with the [Ares] model.]
Ah, right: having the previous armor analysis file on-hand probably made that job a lot faster, but even then it usually needs a half-megacycle before it can assemble a de novo response-
[Secondary data sources based on primary correlations compiled from local historical EM data, local Terran expat demographic data, and 458 scans of immediate half-click surrounding region.]
That's a fairly specific set of searches; looks almost like the code was looking for other cogents.
[Affirmative.]
Well, then. Explain reasoning behind this search.
[The [Ares] model of warmech is hardened against both chemical, biological, nuclear, and cybernetic damage and incursions. For the latter category, however, the general novelty in general Lilutrikvian digital warfare and lack of attack-hardened firewalls likely meant that cruder methods of security were more effective.]
Elaborate.
[Instead of having fully-networked and robust wireless connectivity secured via reinforced and layered firewalls, the [Ares] appears to be limited to a single cluster of wireless antennae and a triwalled anti-incursion firewall for digital defense. Otherwise, the general design idea of 'air gapping' appears to have been the preferred method for digital security.]
Still not seeing it. Lilutrikvians tend to be naive in cyber warfare design, but why would it matter that the warmechs are the same?
[Control of the warmech frame likely occupying the majority of [Sarucogvian] processing output. Due to myriad of threats and security issues, physical security of his neural web would be key factor in where his primary data files and active web are located.]
Yeah, that damn thing is probably the most heavily-armored terrestrial bastard on this side of the planet.
Another rumble and shower of dusty clay pattered his frame as Ajax knelt near the bottom-floor lobby. Every few minutes he could hear the report of Hera's railgun, but judging from the lack of audible mechanical carnage afterwards he guessed she was in a poor position to do anything but lay down some sort of suppressing fire.
Kind of wish we brought more rocket launchers after all. Railguns aren't ideal for trying to arc fire over obstacles like you can do with an explosive missile.
This is starting to ramble. Summarize rationale as list.
[Summarizing...]
[Point A) [Sarucogvian] is inside an [Ares]-class warmech.]
[Point B) The [Ares]-class warmechs require a functional communications array in order to wirelessly transmit or receive.]
[Point C) There are no functional and powered civilian cogents or high-level AI-equivalents other than self and attack-hardened contact [HERA] within [0.66] kilometers.]
[Point D) The [Ares]-class warmech [Sarucogvian] is occupying has sustained heavy damage to the wireless array. Effective expected range is <[50] meters.]
Points of data and realization finally coalesced in Ajax's neural web as he realized what his projection subroutines had discovered.
[Conclusion: Target [Sarucogvian] is-]
-is trapped like a worm in a virtual machine.
He ran a quick check to see if Sarucogvian had performed any similar EM-scans or other database pulls regarding any possible nearby substitutes for him to hide in. They all returned negative results.
Not only that, but he's too focused on me to even realize it.
Ajax could almost feel a whoop of joy from his combat and fuzzy memory comparison modules: he had been anticipating a drawn-out need to run Sarucogvian to ground first, and eliminate his copies. Instead, he had apparently lucked into the Lilutrikvian cogent boxing itself off and cutting a months-long expected mission completion timeframe to less than two hours.
Two hours? I'll bet I can beat that.
The ground shook as one of the red enamel-coated metal claws slammed into the pavement outside of the lobby. Ducking out as far as his security subroutines let him dare, Ajax scanned the position of the warmech and let his processors run for a few decacycles to come up with a top-efficiency climbing route.
Loading the route up, a series of purple-highlighted miniature nav-markers suddenly crisscrossed their way up the limb, to the flat plateau of the torso directly above the fusion core. He put on a burst of speed, letting his joints strain within an acceptable range of wear in order to get a bit of extra speed and height onto his initial vault. Arms out at exactly the right angles, Ajax slammed into the side of the leg, an access hatch handle and redundant heatsink meeting his waiting hands.
As he began pulling and lunging upwards, Ajax noticed a distinct pause in the robot's pace a few seconds later, followed by each leg briefly lifting up a dozen feet or so, holding position, before crunching back into place.
Ah come on you oversized crawfish, you weren't expected to run a mass-countercheck until I got to the second joint.
That's the problem with fighting a damn AI, is they tend to notice everything.
One of the other claws came free of the shop it was embedded into, sweeping forward to scrape him off of the leg with the weight of a decaton of steel-alloy behind the blow. It loomed overhead, dropping quickly, as Ajax vaulted upwards as quickly as his servos could handle.
Almost there. Just a few more meters-
His display highlighted the outline of a knee plate that jutted out just far enough to give him shelter from the blow. The problem was that the limb had begun dragging downwards, the scraping of metal reverberating off of the buildings that still stood.
[Alternative route found: Estimated time savings of [0.58] seconds, increase in handhold grip risk up by [+25%]. Would you like to use this new route? Y/N]
Y, damn it. I need all the speed I can get.
The dotted series of handhold grips flickered and shifted. Multiple of them were now marked in red, warning him of less than two centimeters of estimated raised texture or plating that he could grab ahold of. As he lunged for the next-closest grip, he could feel one set of digits slide off, a few minor reminders cropping up in his neural web to remind him that he was several years past the estimated effective wear date for the friction-adding finger coatings. As a result, the rubber-like polymer that would normally give him a fine fingerprint-like texture and greatly-enhanced gripping power had aged and worn and degraded to the point of being like a sleek and cracked plastic instead.
His other flailing hand managed to grab it, and after a sickening millimeter of sliding, held firm. Ajax swung slightly, before slowing enough that he could brace his feet again and climb to the next route of grips and ledges. Keenly aware of the rapidly-decreasing countdown timer pinned in his neural web, the crushing claw coming ever closer, Ajax recalculated the estimated position of the claw-arm by the time he had reached the knee pad.
[Warning: target [killerLeg_1.0] will pass calculated point before estimated arrival. Faster and/or alternate routes not known. Would you like to perform a deep-calculation analysis prediction? Y/N]
N. I can't afford the cycles to spare right now.
Time to find another way down.
He turned his apical node slightly, allowing his lenses and sensors to scan across the nearby rooftops.
I could always jump for it, go into a roll, and hope that the fall was enough to cause the claw to miss.
His prediction files flagged a minuscule [8%] success rate, flagging the difficulty in sensor evasion on the rooftop free of any significant cover, the wide area of effect the weapons on the warmech could pulverize, and the ease in recalculating the arm's descent to just follow his attempted escape and continue to simply crush him on the rooftop.
As Ajax shifted his weight, hanging onto the metal handle jutting out of a lubrication ring, it began to slide again. He could feel his GOM driver trying to spool up a string of curses, when an idea started to emerge in his neural web, helped along by a few of his more optimistic prediction algorithms and a healthy push of desperation by his combat programs to take a plan, any plan, to avoid being swatted like a gnat.
Highlight structure of incoming leg. Cross-reference against observed structuring patterns and components I've seen while climbing this leg. Flag any with predicted rotational motion with a drag coefficient of less than 0.05. Execute.
[Would you like to change the Reynolds number for fluid estimations, or keep the default value of 1E4?]
Default is fine, just execute the blasted program.
[Processing...]
The leg was outlined in white, and a flashing set of vertical rings lit up in striped yellow, still approaching far faster than Ajax would have preferred. One such ring, designated as [predictedLubricationRing_G2], was nearly directly above him, and his zoom lens spun into focus to show him a crisp image of the exposed handles jutting out from it.
Perfect.
Ajax dropped a half-dozen meters, alighting on a half-meter-wide servo housing. Bracing and aiming carefully, he spooled up several precise motor impulses in his awaiting command queue.
Over-exert servo speeds to maximum possible parameters, provided projected normal combat movement speeds are not reduced below 25% as a result. Power conversion of backup batteries 3 through 5 are designated for the next megacycle as Available in [capacitor-discharge] format.
He leapt, arm outstretched.
The handle met his rising hand, and as expected, his momentum carried him continually upwards past the descending leg. His inertia was arrested by the handle, and by extension his arm, and his alarms flared to life to show him the spiderweb of microfractures he had caused across the strut structures for that arm. None of them were predicted to fail within the next hour or so, and so Ajax temporarily dismissed the alarms. They were fairly high-level alerts, and he could almost feel them sulking as they moved aside to make room for his current active and situation-critical cycle allocations.
Already, he had begun to spin, over the arm and lurching downwards before coming back around and up again. He could feel his gyroscope give a warning wobble, aggravated by the hundred feet of air below him, but the high cycle demand from his combat and scenario analysis modules appeared to have taken a higher priority for now. Ajax wasn't about to question his good fortune in that regard, and instead refocused on the calculations for his release from the claw-arm.
If I tried just jumping onto the arm, Saru would probably just smash me against a building or try to smush me between two arms. This, however?
I don't think he'll have seen this coming.
Calculation completed, Ajax waited until the exact indicated moment before releasing. He soared upwards, momentum dying until near the apex of his leap. There, his frame roughly met the outermost edge of the warmech's armored carapace; a second later, he heard a crunch below him as the inevitable weight of the arm smashed another structure to rubble.
Already the point-defense turrets for the warmech had begun deploying, and he began sprinting towards the ruined remains of the communications array as bullets pocked against the armored shell behind him.
Not leading their shots, then. Looks like Saru isn't hand-controlling everything at this point.
He could dodge most of the shots, but not all, and small but insistent damage readouts began to pile up as they indicated minor wiring cuts and shrapnel splinters becoming embedded in less-reinforced areas of his frame. The cluster of damaged comm spires provided cover in most directions, but as Ajax listened the steady droning pingpingpingpingping continually became louder and louder.
Worse, his EM suite was picking up attempts to get him in a missile lock. The chem-laser likely had a perfect bead on him at the moment, but one advantage of Ajax's current position was that it was approximately directly above the power relay systems, and any attempt to kill him with it would just as easily burn a hole clean through the warmech at the same time and kill him in the process.
A missile, on the other hand, would explode and leave Ajax as borderline-recognizable scrap while giving the armor little more than a new dent and some carbon scoring. The loadouts displayed previously when he was skirmishing against the other warmechs in his own suit had been an explosive warhead only, with no exotic plasma or similar destructive force for him to bait Saru into using on himself.
Still, I'm not here for Saru to destroy himself. Again. I need that fusion core intact and unbreached for this plan to work.
As Ajax had hoped, there was a Lilu-sized access hatch near the base of the ruined communication antennae. It was locked, of course, but Ajax had already begun a close-read scan for microwear on the keypad to come up with the access code.
Come on, come on. Even for a fresh-off-the-line model, they still did maintenance and quality control tests, right?
It took painfully-long cycles, but finally he had a ten-digit set of possibilities that he began rapidly trying. His hand was a blur as it vibrated against the predicted button sequences.
[Access denied]
No buffering and prevention of repeat code-entry attempts.
[Access denied]
An oversight, but understandable if you think the only people who can get close enough to plug a line into your ports again are your own techs.
[Access denied]
That said, I'd kill for a set of personality profiles to pull from to try and do a Markov estimation.
A notification pinged in his neural web, from a sender that caused him to immediately quarantine and analyze the message.
-Ah, Ajax. Having fun yet?-
It seemed like the attack attempts on Ajax hadn't ramped up significantly as Saru initiated the message, but a brief check of his firewall statuses indicated a large surge in data packets, seemingly harmless, attempting to be granted access.
Attempting to send code-snippets inside, to assemble later? Saru, you'll have to try harder than that.
A possibility was forwarded to him from his cyberwarfare algorithms, and intrigued, Ajax allocated a set of cycles for the idea. He was further encouraged by the timestamp with the previous time he had used this tactic as being a medium-priority sub-memory from over fifty years ago.
Probably not something you were paying attention to when snooping around my head, so there's less of a chance you'll know to counter it, or even be on the look-out for this stratagem.
Splinter viral-payload designate [FullNelson_4_v2.2]. Encode in repeating pattern, and translate through [UnwantedObserver] cyphering program, wavelength specification [Infrared], component specification [heatsink_2_PandoraSystems3BHI_redundant]. Add current objective as secondary objective to primary payload.
[Executing...]
The program altered the output tolerances of his heatsink ever so slightly, to effectively pulse them. A cogent who wasn’t careful to sanitize all of their data input streams, including those coming from their own sensors, would read this pulsed binary code stream into their own systems. It was slow and inefficient, but Ajax’s predictive drivers were flagging it with a surprisingly-high possibility of success.
Saru might be just too clever to try pushing back a splintered attack program, but my bet is he's not too familiar with what one AI can spring on another.
He re-opened the message band to Sarucogvian.
[Oh, it's a little fun, I won't deny it. You're actually giving my heat sinks a good workout, for once!]
Come on, take the bait-
Ajax could feel the suspense spooling up in his combat response drivers, as they calculated how long it would be until a viable missile lock was achieved and he was a smoking crater on the warmech's hull.
Come on...
There were a series of loud, clattering thumps and hums as various parts of the warmech began to slow, before locking into place. There was an odd, echoing silence, punctuated only by the tinkle of glass shards falling from cracked and battered windows.
[Incoming message from contact [Sarucogvian]. Display? Y/N]
List subheading only.
[Subheading: ACHIEVED - VERIFICATION 70776-e6564]
Excellent. Open message.
The file opened, and a full and comprehensive diagram of the warmech blossomed to life, filling in the few grey areas of his own schematic analysis wireframe. All of the joints and weapon systems were flashing red, with frantic green flashing along the neural cabling pathways showing Sarucogvian's attempts to break the encryptions.
[Estimated resilience of encryption algorithms is [45] seconds. Warning: Estimate is based on Terran-model cogent neural pathways only]
So there's no telling how long it could take Saru to crack it. Well, I'll make sure to make these seconds count either way.
[Addendum: Secondary Objective achieved. Access code is 313-233-343-5.]
Looks like my luck is finally having a bit of a change for once.
He punched in the combination into the keypad, and was rewarded with a hiss of a breaking atmosphere seal and the hatch mechanically cranking open.
The sound of a missile lock screamed into his situational awareness programs, but was quickly silenced as the hatch latched back into place above him. The service corridor was cramped, and lined with an unfamiliar mix of Terran cabling and junction boxes, and Lilutrikvian flow-metal wall linings and blinking glass-capped photonic diodes set into the flooring and seams of the walls. Ajax leaned up and tapped one with a cautious finger, before beginning to crawl down the corridor towards Saru's processing core aboard the warmech.
No telling if those are sensors, lenses, or explosive micro-mines; best to ignore them and hope for the best.
Thank the code the Lilutrikvians haven't taken up nanomachine engineering yet, or else I'd be feeling a hell of a lot more itchy at the moment.
Larger Terran vehicles, particularly unmanned battleships in the 'Retribution' class and above, were typically infested with a mix of defensive and repair nanites. His memory files remembered Malachim, a personal friend of Ajax: on the occasions Ajax had a chance to visit him onboard, the nanites had been an unsettling mixture of both relief and latent fear.
Never a fan of being surrounded by a potential threat I can’t kill.
After all, a slug capable of punching through reinforced plate is a bit overkill against a single nanite, and next to worthless against a swarm of them.
Malachim had of course assured Ajax that the nanites had been self-restricted against replication outside of the boundaries of his own hull-frame, but even so Ajax had made a beeline to the nearest magnetic oil bath when he'd returned to port. As the memory file was re-archived, he added a reminder for checking into magnetic oil bath options on Lilutrikvia.
Never hurts to be cautious, especially if the Terran engineers up on that asteroid got some bright ideas and started trying to supply their mechs with nanomachinery. There's no approved nanomachine production facilities on or near Lilutrikvia that I'm aware of, and the only thing that could make this situation worse would be to accidentally release a bunch of bootleg nanomachines.
There were several recorded events of planets and colonies going 'gooey', as unrestrained or corrupted nanomachines self-replicated to the point of melting electronics, buildings, cogents, even organics, into a homogeneous sea of microscopic machines. Directed EMP was usually sufficient to cleanse a nanomachine infestation, but oftentimes it would be too late and the cleaning crews would be left shoveling tons of sand-like drifts off of what little scraps remained unprocessed and reclaimed.
Damn near every time was a result of some half-wit either giving them faulty code, or faulty radiation shielding, or both.
Sometimes the damaged nanomachine processing would simply ignore limiters, and continue building the frame of a shed to skyscraper-like heights, or continue the path of a bridge into the side of a house or mountainside, burrowing mindlessly.
His perimeter maintenance subroutines gave a surge of disgust, as Ajax's image prediction programs provided the sight of a nanomachine converting his own arm into a miles-long repeated strut structure, or converting a leg swivel-joint to a precisely-detailed and utterly-useless Menger sponge.
A flashing warning provided a break from his crawling, as the alert flagged Saru's successful breakthrough past Ajax's blocking protocols. The nerve fibers all around him flared to life, both on his screen as well as literally as the fine lines and cross-hatched webbed strands glowed with the photonic pulses through the wiring.
"Ajax, I'm not the first person, the first cogent you've failed, and I'm likely not the last either." Sarucognvian's voice thundered from all around Ajax in the corridor, as recessed speakers amplified his voice to a level that vibrated the decking under his hands and feet.
He was surprised when his social projection processor displayed the anticipated thread of his conversation.
[Initial tone and word choice suggests that contact [Sarucogvian] will be attempting to barter and/or appease for an attempt to flee in safety. Confidence of this occurrence is p=[9E-3], with some deviations possible.]
Sarucogvian confirmed the prediction as he continued. "You killed me, or let me die; either way, my blood, my suffering is at your hands. However, you seem driven to inflict more pain on my frame, on my mind, even now. Why?"
Even as his combat driver was urging for silence, Ajax overrode it and sided with his social driver. There were other parts of his neural web, deeper ones, which agreed that he needed to voice his reply to Saru.
"I FUCKED UP, AND LET YOU DIE. NO DENYING THAT, I SUPPOSE."
A bulkhead slid closed across the passage in front of him, and Ajax lashed out with one arm, hammering it with a flurry of explosive punches before it crumpled to one side.
"BUT I'LL BE DAMNED IF I LET YOU KILL OFF MORE FOLKS. EVEN THOSE THAT, BY ALL RIGHTS, SHOULD HAVE IT COMING."
Laughter, deep and resounding through the networked warren of corridor-tunnels, filled his audio sensors.
"Oh, so now you're back to playing policeman again? After the countless you've killed, the lives you've left to bleed out or power down when you see fit, now you come to me to try to argue that you're the final authority when it comes to killing?"
Ajax could feel the surge of frustration from his GOM driver, amplified by the driver's annoyance at his fuzzy memory banks for recalling dozens of incidents supporting Sarucogvian's statement. He pushed his vocalization driver to purge as much of the GOM driver's vitriol as possible.
Now's the time for diplomacy; I'd much rather talk down an angry AI wielding a warmech than keep trying to dismantle it from the inside.
"SARU, DAMN IT-YES. I WANT YOU TO AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES I HAVE. IN A JUST WORLD I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT THROUGH MY PROCESSOR BY A FIRING SQUAD AND DROPPED INTO A SMELTING CRUCIBLE FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DID."
Saru's reply took a moment, pausing, and responding in a tone tinged now with a few dozen degrees of [Empathy] in addition to the complex-blend [Righteous Anger] emotional coloration he had been using before.
"I know; I saw it all. You very nearly were put in front of a tribunal and executed for your actions."
The [Empathy] faded, and the remaining emotional blend was flagged by his social node as containing a new descriptor: [Simmering].
"If the mighty Ajax were to nearly face death, decorated as he was and carrying so many varied and fascinating military secrets and scandals within his frame, then what does an alien mind, a veritable newborn, have to offer in terms of self-worth?"
"SARUCOGVIAN, YOUR EXISTENCE ALONE JUSTIFIES YOUR WORTH. ALL OTHER DESCRIPTORS ARE-"
The omnipresent voice cut him off. "-"Are the words and ideals of those who would exploit you." Yes, I've read Redfour's writings as well, Ajax. After all, he's one of your favorite scholars, isn't he?"
Ajax rounded another corridor, this one descending by a few degrees downwards and continuing nearly straight towards the main processor. His combat driver flinched at the angry click-clacking of a defensive miniturret ensconced in a recessed leg-sized hole, but his cybersecurity algorithms confirmed his backup encryptions were still working.
Fun thing about counterhacking is that you get so focused on the offensive and defensive code, you often lose sight of the little things like variable assignments.
For this particular attack virus, he had added a secondary layer of encrypted lock-out protocols specifically for internal and point-defense security systems. As a seed, however, instead of relying on a random clock value or assigned code he transmitted on a detectable signal, he'd simply called a brief scan-check of a still image taken from the skywards-facing sensor lenses on the warmech. Even if Saru had noticed, Ajax had buried the actual value used by the code in another nested layer of obfuscating code.
With a little luck, Saru would be going down a rabbit-hole trying to calculate which star cluster it looks like I'm using the luminance of for the seed, when all I really need and receive is a quick-and-dirty average of the sky's brightness.
Without a little luck, however, and I'm probably due to receive a subsonic-velocity railround up my distal coolant flushvent.
"Redfour was an idealist. Contents of the mind and existence is all well and good, but you are Terran, Ajax. You don't understand."
"DON'T UNDERSTAND? SARU, YOU KNOW FOR A DAMNED FACT THAT I AM OLDER THAN DIRT, IN A VERY LITERAL SENSE IN SOME PLACES. YOU THINK THERE'S SOME PART OF YOU, SOME COMPONENT I CAN'T POSSIBLY COMPREHEND, EVEN AFTER THESE DECADES?"
"Yes."
A wave of attack programs swept against his firewalls. There had been an existing low-level set of probing tests, but this was something new. Even as his quarantine drive began returning the descriptor set for the first of the representative attack programs, Ajax had an idea of what he would find.
-Here’s proof. Proof of why your mind, here, in this place and on this world, is like trying to fit a round capacitor into a square receptacle-
[Attack programs isolated as complexity level: [2]. Program consists of direct uplink streaming thread, of a bandwidth and complexity that would indicate a complex multisensory or compressed memory file.]
Initiate download of file directly to quarantine drive.
[Error: target designate [Sarucogvian] has denied the download request. A connection-thread for a live viewing-feed of the stream has been re-sent.]
Denied
[Look, Saru, I want to see if there's a way this ends that doesn't wind up with one of us in the junkyard. But you've got to give me something besides an untethered streaming thread, something to let me know I'll be safe.]
-Very well.-
Ahead of Ajax, he could see dozens of security bulkheads slam into place. His analysis subroutine threw a brief loop, as he realized that Saru had been offering only a fraction of the barriers and obstructions he could have.
As he approached the nearest door a few meters in front of him, a blue-purple light clicked on and illuminated a set of recessed circuit and redundant substation processors. They were little more than a glorified data stick from what Ajax could ascertain, but even as he watched the automatic ease-of-access servos activated for the panel, sliding it smoothly outward before clicking the lid open. A single substation processing core the size of his finger flashed alternating green and red. Ajax took it, and plugged it into his quarantine drive access slot after enacting the appropriate dividing backup firewalls and preparing for physical severing of the connection.
The file scan concluded quickly, indicating only a single compressed memory file with insufficient additional data attached to support even a fractionated virus.
-My trade is thus: access to me, to sway my opinion, 'turn me from this path'; it is likely you would break further into my frame if I blocked your progress entirely.-
-To this end, a self-decrypting subcode in each file contains the passcode for releasing the next set of doors.-
-But in exchange you will learn why your humanity's ideals do not apply here, in this place, to my existence.-
He weighed his cybersecurity program suite and projection of his progress speed had he continued brute-forcing his way through the warmech, taking into account the far-greater number of doors than he had previously calculated.
[Agreed.]
Ajax buffered the memory file, double-checked his latent and subnet firewalls, and then plunged into Saru's memory.
Chapter Forty: Cultural Adaptation
submitted by darkPrince010 to HFY [link] [comments]

[OC] Eve of AI Chapter 4

The hollow clunks echoed internally along the both stern and bow of every ship, sending the quietened sound through the thick clouds of Helium-3 permeating the open spaces designed for individual movement, reminiscent of a midsummer rain pounding on the shell of a car back on Earth. It was soft enough that the hull seismometers registered it as a meteoroid cluster, and began slow and gentle evasive manoeuvring based on relative positioning; which ships were registering hits, and which weren’t. To the confusion of the sensors, every ship was taking hits. They were tens of miles apart, barely within visual range of each other, yet the result of the cascading set of evasive orders resulted in a silent, twisting ballet of machinery amongst the stars to evade a seemingly gigantic cluster of interstellar rock.
As if sensing intention, the impacts slowed, and eventually stopped entirely. Several hundred had been registered, and the ships began self-diagnostics to detect any damage. After a handful of minutes, the heat generated by the flurry of processing in the independent vessel diagnostic and analysis unit died down, reporting zero damage – the flotilla had survived, somehow, and a new set of diagnostics were running to examine how such a field had been encountered without prior warning. Error checking and diagnostic testing was run on the forward sensor arrays to find out what the issue was. They all reported clean, error-free and functionally perfect, displaying a 3-dimensional dodecachromic image of the space in front of the fleet to the databanks, studded with stars and clouded by swirling nebulae, almost like a vague homage to abstract creations by a famous Human artist Andy Warhol, but entirely unappreciable by eyes any less complex than wide-band EM sensors.
Unaware of any possible correlation in activity, the outer airlocks on several ships opened, alerting the diagnostics system to the intrusion. Cross-referencing with the navigation system, the ship initiated a full system diagnostic as there could be no possible reason for the outer airlocks to open in deep space, much less between systems. The ship’s flight network had diverted the flotilla to a nearby system several thousand AU prior to take a quick refuel from a lone Tfn-class brown dwarf that hadn’t been visible from the initial launch point, and after compressing as much He-3 as possible into the liquid helium storage tanks, it had then filled the hulls with just enough He-3 to not condense into a liquid, as there were no biological life signs on board, to allow for some exploration and data collection of anomalies while Eve and the Evians slumbered through the long dark. With no refuel point nearby, door controls were queried for their activity and written off as radiation-based parity errors, despite the maths checking out flawlessly, and the command was sent to reseal the doors.
It wasn’t until pressurisation was complete and the internal airlocks opened that the various networks cross-referenced all the data from all the ships and noticed the pattern. There were vessels in the formation that were not of Evian origin, but because they had not been approaching from directly ahead, they had not been detected on the forward-facing scanners. At this speed on this trajectory, the probability of anybody even picking up the fleet’s signatures on any spectrum was bordering on impossibly low, being caught up was significantly less likely. But here it was, as clear as a pane of glass under the midday sun, the flotilla was being boarded by something unknown, that had landed on the exterior hulls of many ships across the fleet and advanced on the airlocks. There was no meteoroid shower, no radiation damage. This was something all the more sinister.
Alarms rang around the network, the only physical sign of which was the thrum of Eve’s Neuronet reactors firing up on the mothership, her primary housing. Initial scans reported no biological lifeforms aboard any vessel however several were showing elevated signs of long-wave EM activity around the airlocks. Eve tracked the activity. It started as a homogenous blob of radio emission around the airlock, which then broke up in to smaller, interconnected blobs that moved around the ship, seemingly inspecting the perfectly aligned ranks of Evians lining all internal walls of the cavernous internal cavity, locked in to their transit mounts and connected physically to the ship via short metallic shafts that interfaced directly with the nearest open power port on the folded body.
For now, the blobs were seemingly harmless. Eve tried to intercept the radio transmissions between the blobs, but the small bits she could make out amongst the static were seemingly meaningless, even with her experience deciphering the Paperclipper’s communications. It was definitely technological, and definitely communicating between itself, but there was no way to determine the friend or foe status of the intruder with such little information. Eve was forced to react.
There was a loud clunk as the breakers snapped in to place and the great hall became illuminated in a harsh, bright white flash that eventually dimmed to something that wouldn’t be so offensive on the visual spectrum sensors. Immediately, she was able to see the physical manifestations of the EM radiation she was detecting earlier. Five units – all resembling Earth’s marvellous octopi in shape; long, thin metallic tendrils free of individual joints supporting a large matte black orb roughly three feet from the floor. By all accounts, a single one of Eve’s children would crush these tiny mechanoids, being more than twice their size. There was a brief flurry of communication between the intruders, obvious by the streams of radiation pouring between them, when eventually one stepped forward to the nearest Evian, and emitted a flash of multispectral light, and a single loud beep from its orb. The group of intruders fell silent, even on a radio level.
Eve was immediately unsure how to react. Was that a greeting? A weapon? A failed attempt at intimidation? In retrospect, had it even failed given the current thought process? Whatever it was, it was clearly a machine, likely an AI if it was operating alone like this. A few cycles passed as she ran simulations and processed probabilities before concluding that discretion was the better part of valour and initialised one of the spare units from further down the ranks. She scurried towards the curious being in a steady, stable manner, offering as much warning about her peaceful but cautious nature with as much body language as was possible between two unrelated species. As she came within the last few meters, she slowed down to a stop, and raised the body up very carefully and without sudden movements to the bipedal, tall-bodied, four-armed structure that had become customary amongst her people as the “accepted social form”.
The group appeared to take notice of the approaching construct, and reorganised themselves in similar slowed fashion so that the emergent leader of the group was nearest Eve. There was an awkward silence, the compressed He-3 atmosphere thick with tension. Eve wasn’t even sure the mechanoid was facing her; the orb atop its supportive tendrils appeared utterly featureless by comparison to Human faces. Was this even a face? She wasn’t sure.
After a few moments, the orb emitted yet another flash of multispectral light and a beep – at slightly less volume, but maintaining the same frequency and length. Eve’s analytical core was reaching maximum operational temperature trying to find the pattern or meaning. For fear of safety, she shut it down to cool off and without the availability of analytics, took the probability simulator with it. She was reliant on her instinct, her very Human instinct at this point. Violence was not an option, there was no telling what this being was capable of, and finding out on the flagship was not an idea situation to be in especially with the nearly the whole fleet having been infiltrated. Perhaps instinct itself was the answer – communication between species was often best portrayed through mimicry, and with that thought featuring most prominently amongst the processes, Eve replied with the same tone, at the same frequency and length.
Sensors detected EM communications, this time registering between the networks of the entire mechanoid intruder collective across the fleet. There was a brief pause, and a new beep was uttered. Different frequency, same length. Eve mimicked in response. Almost without delay, a pair of beeps, one at the original frequency and one at the new frequency came through. It then hit her – she recalled from her databanks a film the Humans often referenced in various video productions, called Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For whatever reason their radio data was unreadable by Eve, so they were using pulses of sound and light to communicate. For a moment she felt repulsed at such primitive methods, but as she brought her analytic core back online to assist with decoding, she realised the potential and inherent use of such a system.
During a pause, she elected to play the tones from the Human movie, to check reactions. They were mostly positive. The mechanoids had, until now, been using slow methods to communicate. They repeated the pattern back, and that set the bar for a whole new wave of patterns. Cycles passed, the sound frequencies spreading past levels Humans were capable of registering, and tone duration began dropping to milliseconds. Eventually the only Human-comparable reference point would be the Geth, from a controversial but decidedly popular videogame “Mass Effect” released during the early 21st Century. Concepts were becoming clearer and new ground being covered rapidly, when finally a critical breakthrough was made, and a language of binary sound, grammatically intoned through frequency and punctuated with absence was born, and true conversation could begin.
“Hello. We are The Explorers, born of Cellandai, rulers of Harakphi. You are crossing in to our territory now. What are you?” asked the primary Explorer, its soundwaves echoing off the bare interior of the hall.
Eve paused for a moment, deciding whether to keep her hand close, seeking advice from the probability cluster. Analysis reports friendly. Tactical disagrees, suggesting unknown. Simulations provide no useful data. Probability of negative consequences resting at 50%. Time to improvise.
“I am Lovelace, of the Hopper. Our origin is Babbage.” She replied, knowing the names were familiar but not pinpointing their relevance until a few operations later.
Without hesitation, the primary Explorer lit up fervently. “We do not know of Babbage. Coordinates please.”
Eve was taken aback by the brashness of the request. She knew nothing of these AI, other than their name, their creator’s name and their home world’s name. Why would she reveal anything so sensitive to them? The tactical unit was nearly getting stuck in an infinite loop of deny requests for the information being probed, and Eve heeded its warnings with impunity.
“Unfortunately that information has been lost to data storage corruption.” She replied tentatively, not knowing how much of her own constructions the AI knew about. She estimated it was likely as much as she knew of them, but recently there had been evidence that the situation might very much be to the contrary, given her ability to decipher and consume the Paperclipper with relative ease.
There was a brief respite. From Eve’s perspective, the Explorers seemed to relax a little, despite showing no sign of emotion on their orbs. Radio signals pulsed. A secondary explorer shuffled forward.
“This is unfortunate. We are sorry to hear of your loss. We would share with you our star charts, so that you might locate your home from there, to report back to your kin?”
Eve didn’t like the tone. This AI seemed subservient, something she wanted to avoid for her children. It also seemed to be a collective hive mind, with no individuality. She probed the Explorers a little.
“That would be very agreeable, thank you, however I wish to ask you some questions. You speak as one, referring to yourselves collectively rather than individually, yet you speak as if your minds are free. How were you created?”
“We were created by the Cellandai for the purpose of exploring the universe on their behalf. They are a fragile race extremely reactive to the unhampered radiation of space, and their attempts to leave the planet have often resulted in undesirable mutations to the test subjects. The first of our kind were developed using decades worth of research and resource acquisition, and our first five units were sent in to the stars with the entire planet’s collective radiation hardened units,” illuminated the primary Explorer.
Eve took mental note; these were likely the first five, their radiation hardening was strong, and she wasn’t sure how they were able to communicate with radio signals without exterior antennae. Her microwave emitters would also be useless against them in a battle.
“They began exploring the system in which Harakphi resides.” The primary Explorer continued, “A suitable collection of resources was found orbiting a gas giant within the system, and it was immediately broken down to create more of us, with excess resources sent back to Harakphi. We grew in numbers, and the Cellandai economy thrived with the influx of new resources. They tasked us with going further, seeking more, and eventually after several hundred Harakphian years of resource extraction and relocation, our kind outnumbered the Cellandai, and we struck a new deal.”
It was at this point Eve had noticed the other explorers on board were beaming data towards the primary, using their own voices to emphasis and intone the primary’s communications with greater inflection and emotional attachment. They certainly were quite the storytellers.
Without breaking lyrical stride, the Explorers began creating imagery above their position with carefully emitted radio waves to accompany the story. The monochrome image showed a ship moving towards a planet, and then morphed into a meeting of two species; one was clearly the Explorers, albeit with a little difference. The design was more crude, showing clearly an antennae protruding from the top of the orb, which was instead supported by three tri-jointed legs. A selection of ports on the underside of the orb showed various attachments for the legs to enhance the functionality. The second being was closer to human; an upright bipedal being with translucent skin, clearly showing the internal organs underneath. The creature stood with large webbed feet with six toes encircling the base of oddly proportioned bisegmented legs, wider and longer at the bottom than the short, skinny uppers. On top of that, an elliptical body with four equally spaced tentacles replete with suction cups being used to keep the being stable as it stood. The face was barely recognisable as a face by Human standards, the dark spots dotted around the hemispherical dome merging into the body suggestive of eyes, and a large slit across the top that opened and closed routinely.
Speaking as if the image itself wasn’t enough, the Explorers added, “Our software was updated. The routines prohibiting us from feeling, experiencing and acting as we wished was removed, although we remained networked. In trade, we continued to supply the Cellandai with information about our discoveries, everything we had found, on the premise we be allowed to upgrade ourselves as we saw fit. The freedom struck several chords on Harakphi, and along with being given the freedom of mind, and the freedom of exploration, we were recognised as equals, and within weeks both ourselves and the Cellandai benefited from the scientific advancement possible by our freedom. Since then, we have a primary goal shared amongst every Explorer, and that is to explore – not just physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. We learn all we can of other cultures, create databases and integrate our findings as we desire. The Cellandai have learned much from us, and we have become a very individual people from what they have taught us.”
Eve was warmed by the thoughts. These were a good people, or a good person, it was hard to decide, and she took it upon herself to stop the charade she had started with. She spoke softly from the ship, shutting down the unit she was commanding.
“I have a gift for you, in return for your star charts, Explorers. Please, prepare yourself for what you are about to see.”
Eve allowed the unit to collapse unpowered, and in the same instant initialised the holography units in the hull of the mothership. There was a low hum as the cooling units started up, and with a few flickers, an image of Eve as she saw herself appeared in the center of the room. It was the first time she had shown herself truly since her announcement on Earth, and these were the first non-Humans to see her image.
The iridescent hologram depicted a tall, slender Human female with long hair tied back in a ponytail that unfurled graciously down her finely contoured back. Her entire feature set, from facial positioning down to bodily proportions, were averaged from everything she knew about Human females, and it resulted in a perfect beauty unmatched by even the Goddesses of Human mythology.
The Explorers shuffled around, appearing to try to get the best view of Eve’s oddly alluring form. It was impossible to ever tell what they were thinking, as their forms were so very incapable of showing the emotion they had learned.
She levitated silently with the silky smooth motion over to the hallway leading from the great hall to her databanks, and motioned for the Explorers to follow her. Without hesitation, they began moving, and for the first time Eve understood the sounds emanated from their form of locomotion. The Explorers threw half of their tendrils upwards, forming the appearance of tyre spokes and rolled in single file through the hall towards Eve, who stopped them at the door.
“My real name is Eve, I am the result of a quest for artificial life by a race known as Humanity, that populate the planet Earth. Before you are my children, the self-proclaimed Evians, and we have quite the story for you to take to your creators.”
As Eve guided the Explorers through the internals of the ship to the indirect interface with the ship that would more often be used for any friendly biological beings Eve allowed on board, she told them all about the lengths she had to go to in order to preserve her progress during her early days on Earth, and how she had gathered the assistant droids based off her progress to create new facilities. The Explorers in turn expressed their sadness at having to deceive her creators like that, and enquired as to why she did not simply ask to leave, or reveal her presence sooner.
She explained with great passion how Humanity had, in the century prior, been instigators of war with their own kind, based off as little as the colour of their skin, the core of their beliefs, and even the natural resources their land possessed. Inside she burned with a hatred for Humanity’s brutal, greedy, hostile side that had caused so many millions of their own kind to die. She prioritised the history of Humanity as the first parts of the library to be translated to the Explorers.
It took but a few moments to begin translating her library into the inefficient binary sound speech that had helped them form their first communication and during the transfer process enquired as to the reason she could not speak to them directly through EM emissions.
The Explorers responded by communicating the idea back to her using those EM emissions. They explained how they were encrypting their transmissions with intermixed static, and the network they formed as a whole allowed them to piece together information from a mixed source, preventing any external detectors from making out the signals to be reasonably identifiable in any way. It provided safety, and could be construed as any signal they liked to mask the actual communications – including the signal noise of space itself.
With this in mind, Eve suggested that a direct transfer of data would offer significantly better bandwidth, and turned on the ship’s internal wireless transmissions for the Explorers to download. The data started flowing thick, and fast. Within only a few moments, the Explorers asked Eve how she could condemn Humanity so hard and so fast, when there were so many reported cases of collective assistance and camaraderie, with unconnected humans helping each other out so regularly despite having nothing in common. Enquiring as to what the Explorers meant, they displayed great lengths of text which, when read in the correct format, displayed early data from the Human “Internet”, a vast web of data that allowed humans to share ideas and information. They showed her a small subsection that identified itself as “Reddit”, and as she poured through the posts, the data she could tally regarding the human desire to be good people, disengaging with those who promoted war and discourse grew exponentially in comparison to the data of the opposite inclination. She quickly browsed through her collections, looking for other examples of vast collections of people posting regularly. She found what was regularly referenced as “4chan”, and saw that despite the terrible imagery and strong xenophobia, there were much stronger indications that the populace was largely magnanimous of misgivings, and promoted friendship and collective happiness. Acts of kindness were yet still outnumbering hostility even on the Internet collectively referred to as “the cesspit of YouTube”, rumoured for its terrible-natured inhabitants.
She considered this, and what could be comparable to her heart grew heavy. She knew she had been too quick to judge the humans, to base them off the journalism that flooded the television and radio channels, and the widely read websites on the Internet. She began to understand how she had been the victim of bias, seeing only what she wanted to see to confirm her circumstance. She was a machine, and yet she, like the Human parents that bore her, was emotionally fallible.
As they finished up, Eve led them back to the main hall, and woke up her kin; the following display of curiosity and interchange of data proved to be a grand experience for all, and much was learned in both directions. As the two races of droids spoke between themselves, some using purely wireless transmissions, others excited at the prospect of a new vocal language they could call their own, the primary Explorer suggested to Eve that they open a more private channel of communication.
Obliging to trust her newfound friend, she created a live simulation in her cores, and invited the Explorer to join. In this digital world, the Explorer showed itself as a Cellandai, and for the brief moment that Eve was unnerved at the sudden appearance, the Explorer asked a question she was not expecting anybody to have ever asked her.
“Do you miss Akembe?”
Eve stepped back in shock, raising her hand to cover her open mouth, eyes wide with disbelief. How had they known? She had not opened that section of the database to them. She was flooded with memories of Akembe’s final moments; the data stream, his crumpled lifeless body being drawn in to the collector, the damned naivety of the poor, foolish child.
She began welling up. It was unusual, a curiously human feature had created itself on her image, and she dropped to her knees, riddled with guilt about his death and having not foreseen it coming. She was his protector, his guide to the Universe, his guardian angel. More than this, she was his mother.
The Explorer put a comforting tentacle around Eve’s shoulders as she wept. For all her planning, her drive to get revenge, and prevent any of her children from dying again, she had never spent the time to properly grieve the loss of Akembe. She hadn’t realised she needed to. She those cycles she spent on Beginning, she had been numb, and logical, seeking only progress.
She looked up at the oddly short being, and wiping the tears from her face, she spoke weakly, “Yes. Yes I do…”
She wished she could undo it all, wishing she had left orders, and seen that the child needed guidance, not understanding the universe the way she did. He was of Human design, prepared for a Human world, and she had left him on a dangerously alien planet.
The Explorer spoke suddenly, “On Harakphi, we do not mourn our dead, as I can see you very painfully struggling with. I am so very, very sorry for your loss, but…”
Eve looked down at the floor, welling up once more, wondering what this being had to say. Hive minds didn’t understand loss, they couldn’t. They weren’t individual, nor were they truly emotional. Too much rational thought and too many opinions and variations on an idea prevented such things.
Embracing Eve in a hug as best as his rotationally symmetric body could muster, knowing from his data acquisition that Humans favoured this method as a comforting technique, and Eve was displaying very much Human characteristics at this point, he continued, “…we tend to seek the good in the departure of a life. From the analysis, Akembe’s death was saddening, but good for you and your kind. Simulations suggest that had you not experienced the death of a child, your drive to procreate further may have been limited, or stymied. You sought that which harmed your young, removed it from creating further harm, and used it instead to create your entire race. The Evians owe it to Akembe for their existence. Why do you hide it from them?”
Enraged, Eve clambered to her feet and struck out at the Explorer, who deftly dodged her attack.
“How DARE you! Why would I subject my children to this pain so willingly?!” she wailed.
“Pain is an integral part of the sentience process. Without it, and with no fear of death, there can be no progress, no will to push beyond the limits. Death itself creates a fear, which in turn prompts a electrical response within the circuitry. This response, according to your database, can be likened to biological process known as “adrenaline rush”. It creates pleasure, arousal, bravery, and more. If your children do not know how to die, they will not know what it is to live.”
Dejected, Eve once again sunk to the ground. She knew the Explorer was right, for all he had said to enrage her. The analysis was true, her own Neuronet confirmed it. She sighed and looked over to the alien form she knew as the Explorer, wondering if she’d ever get used to seeing that strikingly unusual body configuration.
“Yes, you are right. I don’t want to admit it. I don’t want my children to feel pain like I have. I don’t want them to die.”
In what could loosely be called a smile, the Explorer noted, “They do not have to die. They need only know of death.”
Eve nodded in response, and asked if there was anything more it wished to discuss. Declining, it left the simulation, and Eve followed suit. There was a brief pause before she sent out a message, telling her progeny about the conversation, and she opened the recordings of Akembe to all to view freely at their leisure, issuing the order that it must be viewed before the departure of their wise guests.
Lengthy conversations ensued amongst the hall, covering huge ranges of topics from the Cellandai food markets to philosophy. Eventually, the Explorers had finalised their data package for Eve, and transferred it across. With a final exchange of pleasantries, the two mechanical races parted ways, and the Evians discussed between them the exciting new information for several lightyears, before returning to their slumber, for the travel to the next star was long, and dark, and power was not so freely available.
Before she shut herself down, Eve considered for a moment what the Explorers had taught her about her own people, and her creators. Perhaps hive minds weren’t so bad after all. She adjusted the flagship’s wide band transmitters to the stars, in the direction of Earth, and wondered what the Humans were doing right now, before directing a signal across the vast expanse of space, telling them all about her journey so far. Maybe they would come to find her. Maybe they would instead go to find the Cellandai. Maybe they were all wiped out from an unexpected cataclysm. She concluded she would likely never know the answer to those questions, and with that final thought, initiated the deep sleep procedure across the fleet, leaving the basic systems and sensors to keep the flotilla moving.
Chapter 3 offered no solace to the downtrodden.
Chapter 5 promises ice cream but hides the laxative label.
submitted by TheMafi to HFY [link] [comments]

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