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./play.it 2.12: API, GUI and video games
./play.it 2.12: API, GUI and video games
./play.it is a free/libre software that builds native packages for several Linux distributions from DRM-free installers for a collection of commercial games. These packages can then be installed using the standard distribution-provided tools (APT, pacman, emerge, etc.). A more complete description of ./play.it has already been posted in linux_gaming a couple months ago: ./play.it, an easy way to install commercial games on GNU/Linux It's already been one year since version 2.11 was released, in January 2019. We will only briefly review the changelog of version 2.12 and focus on the different points of ./play.it that kept us busy during all this time, and of which coding was only a small part.
What’s new with 2.12?
Though not the focus of this article, it would be a pity not to present all the added features of this brand new version. ;) Compared to the usual updates, 2.12 is a major one, especially since for two years, we slowed down the addition of new features. Some patches took dust since the end of 2018 before finally be integrated in this update! The list of changes for this 2.12 release can be found on our forge. Here is a full copy for convenience:
--output-dir: Set the output directory for generated packages
--overwrite: Replace packages if they already exist
--icons: Allow including icons only if dependencies are present
Drop $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR from the candidates for temporary directories
Prevent scan of unneeded directories
Drop script identification by MD5 hash
Only extract needed files when using unzip
Allow to use renamed installers
Add support for LHA archives extraction
New engine: ResidualVM
New engine: System-provided Mono runtime
DOSBox: Use $PLAYIT_DOSBOX_BINARY in launchers if defined
Add ability to set variables for package-specific postinst and prerm scripts
Arch Linux: Improve consistence of 32-bit packages naming
New helper functions:
version_target_is_older_than: Check if the game script target version is older than a given one
toupper: Convert files name to upper case
New generic dependency keywords:
libglib-2.0.so.0 / libgobject-2.0.so.0
libopenal.so.1 (alias for openal)
libSDL2-2.0.so.0 (alias for sdl2)
libvorbisfile.so.3 (alias for vorbis)
Codebase clean-up and improvements:
Massive rework of all message-related functions
Drop hardcoded paths for icons and .desktop launchers
Use system-specific default installation prefix for generated packages
Forcefully set errexit setting on library initialization
Use dirname/basename instead of built-in shell patterns
As many free/libre projects, ./play.it development started on some random sector of a creaking hard drive, and unsurprisingly, a whole part of its history (everything predating version 1.13.15 released on Mars 30th, 2016) disappeared into the limbs because some unwise operation destroyed the only copy of the repository… Lesson learned, what's not shared don't stay long, and so was born the first public Git repository of the project. The easing of collaborative work was only accidentally achieved by this quest for eternity, but wasn't the original motivation for making the repository publicly available. Following this decision, ./play.it source code has been hosted successively by many shared forge platforms:
GitHub, that we all know of, choosing it was more a short-term fallback than a long-term decision ;
some Gogs instance, which was hosted by debian-fr.xyz, a community the main ./play.it author is close to ;
Framagit, a famous instance of the infamous GitLab forge, hosted by Framasoft.
As development progressed, ./play.it began to increase its need for resources, dividing its code into several repositories to improve the workflow of the different aspects of the projects, adding continuous integration tests and their constraints, etc. A furious desire to understand the nooks and crannies behind a forge platform was the last deciding factor towards hosting a dedicated forge. So it happened, we deployed a forge platform on a dedicated server, hugely benefiting from the tremendous work achieved by the GitLab's package Debian Maintainers team. In return, we tried to contribute our findings in improving this software packaging. That was not expected, but this migration happened just a little time before the announcement “Déframasoftisons Internet !” (French article) about the planned end of Framagit. This dedicated instance used to be hosted on a VPS rented from Digital Ocean until the second half of July 2020, and since then has been moved to another VPS, rented from Hetzner. The specifications are similar, as well as the service, but thanks to this migration our hosting costs have been cut in half. Keeping in mind that this is paid by a single person, so any little donation helps a lot on this front. ;) To the surprise of our system administrator, this last migration took only a couple hours with no service interruption reported by our users.
This new forge can be found at forge.dotslashplay.it. Registrations are open to the public, but we ask you to not abuse this, the main restriction being that we do not wish to host projects unrelated to ./play.it. Of course exceptions are made for our active contributors, who are allowed to host some personal projects there. So, if you wish to use this forge to host your own work, you first need to make some significant contributions to ./play.it.
The collection of supported games growing endlessly, we have started the development of a public API allowing access to lots of information related to ./play.it. This API, which is not yet stabilized, is simply an interface to a versioned database containing all the ./play.it scripts, handled archives, games installable through the project. Relations are, of course, handled between those items, enabling its use for requests like : « What packages are required on my system to install Cæsar Ⅲ ? » or « What are the free (as in beer) games handled via DOSBox ? ». Originally developed as support for the new, in-development, Web site (we'll talk about it later on), this API should facilitate the development of tools around ./play.it. For example, it'll be useful for whomever would like to build a complete video game handling software (downloading, installation, starting, etc.) using ./play.it as one of its building bricks. For those curious about the technical side, it's an API based on Lumeneffectuant that makes requests on a MariaDB database, all self-hosted on a Debian Sid. Not only is the code of the API versioned on our forge, but also the structure and content of the databases, which will allow those who desired it to install a local version easily.
Based on the aforementioned API, a new website is under development and will replace our current website based on DokuWiki. Indeed, if the lack of database and the plain text files structure of DokuWiki seemed at first attractive, as ./play.it supported only a handful of games (link in French), this feature became more inconvenient as the library of ./play.it supported games grew. We shall make an in-depth presentation of this website for the 2.13 release of ./play.it, but a public demo of the development version from our forge is already available. If you feel like providing an helping hand on this task, some priority tasks have been identified to allow opening a new Web site able to replace the current one. And for those interested in technical details, this web Site was developed in PHP using the framework Laravel. The current in-development version is hosted for now on the same Debian Sid than the API.
A regular comment that is done about the project is that, if the purpose is to make installing games accessible to everyone without technical skills, having to run scripts in the terminal remains somewhat intimidating. Our answer until now has been that while the project itself doesn't aim to providing a graphical interface (KISS principle "Keep it simple, stupid"), still and always), but that it would be relatively easy to, later on, develop a graphical front-end to it. Well, it happens that is now reality. Around the time of our latest publication, one of our contributors, using the API we just talked about, developed a small prototype that is usable enough to warrant a little shout out. :-) In practice, it is some small Python 3 code (an HCI completely in POSIX shell is for a later date :-°), using GTK 3 (and still a VTE terminal to display the commands issued, but the user shouldn't have to input anything in it, except perhaps the root password to install some packages). This allowed to verify that, as we used to say, it would be relatively easy, since a script of less than 500 lines of code (written quickly over a week-end) was enough to do the job ! Of course, this graphical interface project stays independent from the main project, and is maintained in a specific repository. It seems interesting to us to promote it in order to ease the use of ./play.it, but this doesn't prevent any other similar projects to be born, for example using a different language or graphical toolkit (we, globally, don't have any particular affinity towards Python or GTK). The use of this HCI needs three steps : first, a list of available games is displayed, coming directly from our API. You just need to select in the list (optionally using the search bar) the game you want to install. Then it switches to a second display, which list the required files. If several alternatives are available, the user can select the one he wants to use. All those files must be in the same directory, the address bar on the top enabling to select which one to use (click on the open button on the top opens a filesystem navigation window). Once all those files available (if they can be downloaded, the software will do it automatically), you can move ahead to the third step, which is just watching ./play.it do its job :-) Once done, a simple click on the button on the bottom will run the game (even if, from this step, the game is fully integrated on your system as usual, you no longer need this tool to run it). To download potentially missing files, the HCI will use, depending on what's available on the system, either wget, curl or aria2c (this last one also handling torrents), of which the output will be displayed in the terminal of the third phase, just before running the scripts. For privilege escalation to install packages, sudo will be used preferentially if available (with the option to use a third-party application for password input, if the corresponding environment variable is set, which is more user-friendly), else su will be used. Of course, any suggestion for an improvement will be received with pleasure.
Of course, such an announcement would not be complete without a list of the games that got added to our collection since the 2.11 release… So here you go:
7 Billion Humans
Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders
Age of Mythology Demo
Among the Sleep
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
Another Lost Phone: Lauraʼs Story
Assault Android Cactus
Baba Is You
Blocks that matter (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Commandos 3: Destination Berlin
Divine Divinity (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Duet (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout — Anniversary Edition
Factorio — Demo
Full Throttle Remastered
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Gibbous — A Cthulhu Adventure
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Into the Breach
Kerbal Space Program
LEGO Batman: The Videogame
Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4
Metal Slug 3 (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
MIND: Path to thalamus
Monkey Island 4: Escape from Monkey Island
Multiwinia (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Myst: Masterpiece Edition (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition
Populous: Promised Lands (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Populous 2 (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Quern — Undying Thoughts
Retro City Rampage (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Satellite Reign (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Ancient Relics Story Pack
Arachnoid Portrait Pack
Distant Stars Story Pack
Humanoids Species Pack
Leviathans Story Pack
Lithoids Species Pack
Plantoids Species Pack
Synthetic Dawn Story Pack
Strike Suit Zero
Cyclopean Owl DLC
Tetrobot and Co.
The Adventures of Shuggy
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human
The Count Lucanor
The First Tree
The Pillars of the Earth
The Witcher (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Tonight We Riot
Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism — Demo
Touhou Hifuu Nightmare Diary ~ Violet Detector
Triple Triad Gold
Vambrace: Cold Soul
VVVVVV (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
War for the Overworld (the base game was already supported, new expansions have been added):
Heart of Gold
Seasonal Worker Skins
The Under Games
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War — Winter Assault Demo
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius — Relics of War
Warlords Battlecry II (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Wing Commander (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Wing Commander II (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
If your favourite game is not supported by ./play.it yet, you should ask for it in the dedicated tracker on our forge. The only requirement to be a valid request is that there exists a version of the game that is not burdened by DRM.
Our team being inexhaustible, work on the future 2.13 version has already begun… A few major objectives of this next version are :
the complete and definitive relegation to the archive bin of ./play.it 1.14, which is still required for about twenty games ;
Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine a field of human activity, in which, in one way or another, digital video has not entered. We watch it on TV, mobile devices, and stationary computers; we record it with digital cameras ourselves, or we encounter it on the roads (unpleasant, but true), in stores, hospitals, schools and universities, and in industrial enterprises of various profiles. As a consequence, words and terms that are directly related to the digital representation of video information are becoming more firmly and widely embedded in our lives. From time to time, questions arise in this area. What are the differences between various devices or programs that we use to encode/ decode digital video data, and what do they do? Which of these devices/ programs are better or worse, and in which aspects? What do all these endless MPEG-2, H.264 / AVC, VP9, H.265 / HEVC, etc. mean? Let’s try to understand.
A very brief historical reference
The first generally accepted video compression standard MPEG-2 was finally adopted in 1996, after which a rapid development of digital satellite television began. The next standard was MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264 / AVC), which provides twice the degree of video data compression. It was adopted in 2003, which led to the development of DVB-T/ C systems, Internet TV and the emergence of a variety of video sharing and video communication services. From 2010 to 2013, the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) was intensively working to create the next video compression standard, which was called High Efficient Video Coding (HEVC) by the developers; it ensured the following twofold increase in the compression ratio of digital video data. This standard was approved in 2013. That same year, the VP9 standard, developed by Google, was adopted, which was supposed to not yield to HEVC in its degree of video data compression.
Basic stages of video encoding
There are a few simple ideas at the core of algorithms for video data compression. If we take some part of an image (in the MPEG-2 and AVC standards this part is called a macroblock), then there is a big possibility that, near this segment in this frame or in neighboring frames, there will be a segment containing a similar image, which differs little in pixel intensity values. Thus, to transmit information about the image in the current segment, it is enough to only transfer its difference from the previously encoded similar segment. The process of finding similar segments among previously encoded images is called Prediction. A set of difference values that determine the difference between the current segment and the found prediction is called the Residual. Here we can distinguish two main types of prediction. In the first one, the Prediction values represent a set of linear combinations of pixels adjacent to the current image segment on the left and on the top. This type of prediction is called Intra Prediction. In the second one, linear combinations of pixels of similar image segments from previously encoded frames are used as prediction (these frames are called Reference). This type of prediction is called Inter Prediction. To restore the image of the current segment, encoded with Inter prediction, when decoding, it is necessary to have information about not only the Residual, but also the frame number, where a similar segment is located, and the coordinates of this segment. Residual values obtained during prediction obviously contain, on average, less information than the original image and, therefore, require a fewer quantity of bits for image transmission. To further increase the degree of compression of video data in video coding systems, some spectral transformation is used. Typically, this is Fourier cosine transform. Such transformation allows us to select the fundamental harmonics in two-dimensional Residual signal. Such a selection is made at the next stage of coding — quantization. The sequence of quantized spectral coefficients contains a small number of main, large values. The remaining values are very likely to be zero. As a result, the amount of information contained in quantized spectral coefficients is significantly (dozens of times) lower than in the original image. In the next stage of coding, the obtained set of quantized spectral coefficients, accompanied by the information necessary for performing prediction when decoding, is subjected to entropy coding. The bottom line here is to align the most common values of the encoded stream with the shortest codeword (containing the smallest number of bits). The best compression ratio (close to theoretically achievable) at this stage is provided by arithmetic coding algorithms, which are mainly used in modern video compression systems. From the above, the main factors affecting the effectiveness of a particular video compression system become apparent. First of all, these are, of course, the factors that determine the effectiveness of the Intra and Inter Predictions. The second set of factors is related to the orthogonal transformation and quantization, which selects the fundamental harmonics in the Residual signal. The third one is determined by the volume and compactness of the representation of additional information accompanying Residual and necessary for making predictions, that is, calculating Prediction, in the decoder. Finally, the fourth set has the factors that determine the effectiveness of the final stage- entropy coding. Let’s illustrate some possible options (far from all) of the implementation of the coding stages listed above, on the example of H.264 / AVC and HEVC.
In the AVC standard, the basic structural unit of the image is a macroblock — a square area of 16x16 pixels (Figure 1). When searching for the best possible prediction, the encoder can select one of several options of partitioning each macroblock. With Intra-prediction, there are three options: perform a prediction for the entire block as a whole, break the macroblock into four square blocks of 8x8 size, or into 16 blocks with a size of 4x4 pixels, and perform a prediction for each such block independently. The number of possible options of macroblock partitioning under Inter-prediction is much richer (Figure 1), which provides adaptation of the size and position of the predicted blocks to the position and shape of the object boundaries moving in the video frame. Fig 1. Macroblocks in AVC and possible partitioning when using Inter-Prediction. In AVC, pixel values from the column to the left of the predicted block and the row of pixels immediately above it are used for Intra prediction (Figure 2). For blocks of sizes 4x4 and 8x8, 9 methods of prediction are used. In a prediction called DC, all calculated pixels have a single value equal to the arithmetic average of the “neighbor pixels” highlighted in Fig. 2 with a bold line. In other modes, “angular” prediction is performed. In this case, the values of the “neighbor pixels” are placed inside the predicted block in the directions indicated in Fig. 2. In the event that the predicted pixel gets between “neighbor pixels”, when moving in a given direction, an interpolated value is used for the prediction. For blocks with a size of 16x16 pixels, 4 methods of prediction are used. One of them is the DC-prediction, which was already reviewed. The other two correspond to the “angular” methods, with the directions of prediction 0 and 1. Finally, the fourth — Plane-prediction: the values of the predicted pixels are determined by the equation of the plane. The angular coefficients of the equation are determined by the values of the “neighboring pixels”. Fig 2. “Neighboring pixels” and angular modes of Intra-Prediction in AVC Inter- Prediction in AVC can be implemented in one of two ways. Each of these options determines the type of macroblock (P or B). As a prediction of pixel values in P-blocks (Predictive-blocks), the values of pixels from the area located on the previously coded (reference) image, are used. Reference images are not deleted from the RAM buffer, containing decoded frames (decoded picture buffer, or DPB), as long as they are needed for Inter-prediction. A reference list is created in the DPB from the indexes of these images. The encoder signals to the decoder about the number of the reference image in the list and about the offset of the area used for prediction, with respect to the position of predicted block (this displacement is called motion vector). The offset can be determined with an accuracy of ¼ pixel. In case of prediction with non-integer offset, interpolation is performed. Different blocks in one image can be predicted by areas located on different reference images. In the second option of Inter Prediction, prediction of the B-block pixel values (bi-predictive block), two reference images are used; their indexes are placed in two lists (list0 and list1) in the DPB. The two indexes of reference images in the lists and two offsets, that determine positions of reference areas, are transmitted to the decoder. The B-block pixel values are calculated as a linear combination of pixel values from the reference areas. For non-integer offsets, interpolation of reference image is used. As already mentioned, after predicting the values of the encoded block and calculating the Residual signal, the next coding step is spectral transformation. In AVC, there are several options for orthogonal transformations of the Residual signal. When Intra-prediction of a whole macroblock with a size of 16x16 is implemented, the residual signal is divided into 4x4 pixel blocks; each of them is subjected to an integer analog of discrete two-dimensional 4x4 cosine Fourier transform. The resulting spectral components, corresponding to zero frequency (DC) in each block, are then subjected to additional orthogonal Walsh-Hadamard transform. With Inter-prediction, the Residual signal is divided into blocks of 4x4 pixels or 8x8 pixels. Each block is then subjected to a 4x4 or 8x8 (respectively) two-dimensional discrete cosine Fourier Transform (DCT, from Discrete Cosine Transform). In the next step, spectral coefficients are subjected to the quantization procedure. This leads to a decrease in bit capacity of digits representing the spectral sample values, and to a significant increase in the number of samples having zero values. These effects provide compression, i.e. reduce the number and bit capacity of digits representing the encoded image. The reverse side of quantization is the distortion of the encoded image. It is clear that the larger the quantization step, the greater is the compression ratio, but also the distortion is greater. The final stage of encoding in AVC is entropy coding, implemented by the algorithms of Context Adaptive Binary Arithmetic Coding. This stage provides additional compression of video data without distortion in the encoded image.
Ten years later. HEVC standard: what’s new?
The new H.265/HEVC standard is the development of methods and algorithms for compressing video data embedded in H.264/AVC. Let’s briefly review the main differences. An analog of a macroblock in HEVC is the Coding Unit (CU). Within each block, areas for calculation of Prediction are selected — Prediction Unit (PU). Each CU also specifies the limits within which the areas for calculating the discrete orthogonal transformation from the residual signal are selected. These areas are called the Transform Unit (TU). The main distinguishing feature of HEVC here is that the split of a video frame into CU is conducted adaptively, so that it is possible to adjust the CU boundaries to the boundaries of objects on the image (Figure 3). Such adaptability allows to achieve an exceptionally high quality of prediction and, as a consequence, a low level of the residual signal. An undoubted advantage of such an adaptive approach to frame division into blocks is also an extremely compact description of the partition structure. For the entire video sequence, the maximum and minimum possible CU sizes are set (for example, 64x64 is the maximum possible CU, 8x8 is the minimum). The entire frame is covered with the maximum possible CUs, left to right, top-to-bottom. It is obvious that, for such coverage, transmission of any information is not required. If partition is required within any CU, then this is indicated by a single flag (Split Flag). If this flag is set to 1, then this CU is divided into 4 CUs (with a maximum CU size of 64x64, after partitioning we get 4 CUs of size 32x32 each). For each of the CUs received, a Split Flag value of 0 or 1 can, in turn, be transmitted. In the latter case, this CU is again divided into 4 CUs of smaller size. The process continues recursively until the Split Flag of all received CUs is equal to 0 or until the minimum possible CU size is reached. Inserted CUs thus form a quad tree (Coding Tree Units, CTU). As already mentioned, within each CU, areas for calculating prediction- Prediction Units (PU) are selected. With Intra Prediction, the CU area can coincide with the PU (2Nx2N mode) or it can be divided into 4 square PUs of twice smaller size (NxN mode, available only for CU of minimum size). With Inter Prediction, there are eight possible options for partitioning each CU into PUs (Figure 3). Fig.3 Video frame partitioning into CUs is conducted adaptively The idea of spatial prediction in HEVC remained the same as in AVC. Linear combinations of neighboring pixel values, adjacent to the block on the left and above, are used as predicted sample values in the PU block. However, the set of methods for spatial prediction in HEVC has become significantly richer. In addition to Planar (analogue to Plane in AVC) and DC methods, each PU can be predicted by one of the 33 ways of “angular” prediction. That is, the number of ways, in which the values are calculated by “neighbor”-pixels, is increased by 4 times. Fig. 4. Possible partitioning of the Coding Unit into Prediction Units with the spatial (Intra) and temporary (Inter) CU prediction modes We can point out two main differences of Inter- prediction between HEVC and AVC. Firstly, HEVC uses better interpolation filters (with a longer impulse response) when calculating reference images with non-integer offset. The second difference concerns the way the information about the reference area, required by the decoder for performing the prediction, is presented. In HEVC, a “merge mode” is introduced, where different PUs, with the same offsets of reference areas, are combined. For the entire combined area, information about motion (motion vector) is transmitted in the stream once, which allows a significant reduction in the amount of information transmitted. In HEVC, the size of the discrete two-dimensional transformation, to which the Residual signal is subjected, is determined by the size of the square area called the Transform Unit (TU). Each CU is the root of the TU quad tree. Thus, the TU of the upper level coincides with the CU. The root TU can be divided into 4 parts of half the size, each of which, in turn, is a TU and can be further divided. The size of discrete transformation is determined by the TU size of the lower level. In HEVC, transforms for blocks of 4 sizes are defined: 4x4, 8x8, 16x16, and 32x32. These transformations are integer analogs of the discrete two-dimensional Fourier cosine transform of corresponding size. For size 4x4 TU with Intra-prediction, there is also a separate discrete transformation, which is an integer analogue of the discrete sine Fourier transform. The ideas of the procedure of quantizing spectral coefficients of Residual signal, and also entropy coding in AVC and in HEVC, are practically identical. Let’s note one more point which was not mentioned before. The quality of decoded images and the degree of video data compression are influenced significantly by post-filtering, which decoded images with Inter-prediction undergo before they are placed in the DPB. In AVC, there is one kind of such filtering — deblocking filter. Application of this filter reduces the block effect resulting from quantization of spectral coefficients after orthogonal transformation of Residual signal. In HEVC, a similar deblocking filter is used. Besides, an additional non-linear filtering procedure called the Sample Adaptive Offset (SAO) exists. Based on the analysis of pixel value distribution during encoding, a table of corrective offsets, added to the values of a part of CU pixels during decoding, is determined. In HEVC, the size of the discrete two-dimensional transformation, to which the Residual signal is subjected, is determined by the size of the square area called the Transform Unit (TU). Each CU is the quad-tree of TU’s. Thus, the TU of the upper level coincides with the CU. The root TU can be divided into 4 parts of half the size, each of which, in turn, is a TU and can be further divided. The size of discrete transformation is determined by the TU size of the lower level. There are four transform block sizes in HEVC: 4x4, 8x8, 16x16, and 32x32. These transforms are discrete two-dimensional Fourier cosine transform of corresponding size. For 4x4 Intra-predicted blocks, could be used another discrete transform — sine Fourier transform. The quantization of spectral coefficients of residual signal, and entropy coding in AVC and in HEVC, are almost identical. Let’s note one more point which was not mentioned before. The quality of decoded images, hence the degree of video data compression, is influenced significantly by post-filtering, which applied on decoded Inter-predicted images before they are placed in the DPB. In AVC, there is one kind of such filtering — deblocking filter. It masking blocking artifacts effect originating from spectral coefficients quantization after orthogonal transformation of residual signal. In HEVC, a similar deblocking filter is used. Besides, an additional non-linear filtering procedure called the Sample Adaptive Offset (SAO) exists. Sample level correction is based either on local neighborhood or on the intensity level of sample itself. Table of sample level corrections, added to the values of a part of CU pixels during decoding, is determined.
And what is the result?
Figures 4–7 show the results of encoding of several high-resolution (HD) video sequences by two encoders. One of the encoders compresses the video data in the H.265/HEVC standard (marked as HM on all the graphs), and the second one is in the H.264/AVC standard. Fig. 5. Encoding results of the video sequence Aspen (1920x1080 30 frames per second) Fig. 6. Encoding results of the video sequence BlueSky (1920x1080 25 frames per second) Fig. 7. Encoding results of the video sequence PeopleOnStreet (1920x1080 30 frames per second) Fig. 8. Encoding results of the video sequence Traffic (1920x1080 30 frames per second) Coding was performed at different quantization values of spectral coefficients, hence with different levels of video image distortion. The results are presented in Bitrate (mbps) — PSNR(dB) coordinates. PSNR values characterize the degree of distortion. On average, it can be stated that the PSNR range below 36 dB corresponds to a high level of distortion, i.e. low quality video images. The range of 36 to 40 dB corresponds to the average quality. With PSNR values above 40 dB, we can call it a high video quality. We can roughly estimate the compression ratio provided by the encoding systems. In the medium quality area, the bit rate provided by the HEVC encoder is about 1.5 times less than the bit rate of the AVC encoder. Bitrate of an uncompressed video stream is easily determined as the product of the number of pixels in each video frame (1920 x 1080) by the number of bits required to represent each pixel (8 + 2 + 2 = 12), and the number of frames per second (30). As a result, we get about 750 Mbps. It can be seen from the graphs that, in the area of average quality, the AVC encoder provides a bit rate of about 10–12 Mbit/s. Thus, the degree of video information compression is about 60–75 times. As already mentioned, the HEVC encoder provides compression ratio 1.5 times higher.
About the author
Oleg Ponomarev, 16 years in video encoding and signal digital processing, expert in Statistical Radiophysics, Radio waves propagation. Assistant Professor, PhD at Tomsk State University, Radiophysics department. Head of Elecard Research Lab.
Most f the reviews we tend to have come back across reveal that the Cryptp soft platform is easy to Their client service is very efficient. We did a live check and confirmed that they respond at intervals a moment. Moreover, they are available 24/7. The Cryptp soft app is secure. They need all the mandatory measures in place to make sure data privacy. The Cryptp soft System is considered by several among the most effective robots within the market nowadays. We have a tendency to realize this robot to perform virtually the same with Bitcoin Rush, another top bitcoin robot. Read the review of Bitcoin Rush for more data? Cryptp soft registration method is straightforward, easy, and secure. You only want but 10 minutes to form an account and begin trading. Cryptp soft is a absolutely auto bot and is so accessible to everyone. https://preview.redd.it/giu6kclgfnn51.jpg?width=1280&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=f605d84ba2174f831ca825dbaffddf061b3a55b5 You do not want to perceive trading lingo to use Immediate Edge. The following steps can get you started with this robot. STEP ONE: Fill the Signup type Visit the Cryptp soft home page and register your name, phone number, and email in the provided kind. You will be asked to verify your phone variety via a text code and email through a link. CryptoVibes will ascertain that the Cryptp soft registration process is secure. Their web site is SSL secured to confirm that hackers cannot steal personal information submitted through it. Cryptp soft cyber safety policy states that they're GDPR adherent. This suggests that they handle your knowledge with strict privacy. STEP TWO: Get matched with a broker The Cryptp soft Software then matches you with one in every of their partner brokers. The role of the broker is to receive deposits and facilitate transactions. We have a tendency to have determined that Cryptp soft only partners with regulated brokers. With a regulated broker, they guarantee that your cash is safe. Reputable regulators such as the FCA, FSB, ASIC, and CySEC need brokers to segregate deposits and submit periodic reports on deposit usage. You wold like a deposit of a minimum of $250 to trade with Immediate Edge. Do not confuse this quantity with the value of the robot. Cryptp soft does not need any license fee. The house owners of this robot build money by charging a small commission on the profits generated through the app Deposits with Cryptp soft should be created through Wire Transfer, Visa, and MasterCard. It takes a few seconds for a deposit to reflect in an exceedingly trader’s account. Cryptp soft does not charge any deposit fees. The Cryptp soft does provide a demo account to help traders familiarize themselves with its web-trader. CryptoVibes recommends that you are doing demo trading before going to live to trade. Please note that the demo is for demonstrative purposes solely. The results you receive on the platform are primarily based on historical information and could therefore not mirror what you'll get in live trading. The Cryptp soft live trader comes with features to help you outline the amount of risk you are willing to require per trade. You wish to go through the demo account to familiarize with these features. As mentioned severally in this review, you do not want specialized skills to use this robot. Live trading with Cryptp soft involves determining the quantity of capital you plan to risk per trade and clicking the live button. Scan our review of Bitcoin Trader for one more straightforward to use the robot. *Remember all trading risks and you shouldn’t risk more then you'll be able to afford to lose. How to get the most out of Cryptp soft App We have identified the following tips as paramount in guaranteeing that you make the most of Immediate Edge. Begin with a deposit of $250 – Given the level of risk involved in trading with Immediate Edge, you should start with a tiny investment. Follow crypto market news – You need to determine the type of reports that drives volatility high and capitalize on them. Cryptp soft claims to form the foremost profits throughout high market volatility. Trade for eight hours per day – In keeping with Immediate Edge, trading for at least eight hours per day can help maximize profits. Cryptp soft is entirely auto, and hence you'll be able to leave the robot running as you continue together with your daily errands. You are doing not want more than twenty minutes per day to observe your account. Close trading sessions at the tip of the day – Leaving open positions overnight is doubtless to translate to losses since the markets can change considerably overnight. It is better to shut sessions even if in the negative and start trading again the subsequent day. With a correct risk management strategy, there is no would like to fret concerning periodic losses. Following our review we tend to realize Cryptp soft to be legit. But, traders ought to take additional caution, provided that this bot comes at a degree of risk. Whereas the app claims it's potential to form profits of up to 50percent per day, you'll be able to additionally lose the complete deposit inside seconds. This is often not sudden for a high-frequency trading robot. We recommend that you just apply the required risk management measures. As a rule of thumb don't risk more than 10percent of your trading capital per trade. Also, never trade with an amount you cannot afford to lose. It is prudent to start small and add cash as you get conversant with the various features on the platform. Recently, a brand new trading software was added to the bitcoin investment trade. This software is termed Cryptp soft and it is allegedly created by a corporation or organization called the International Council for Bitcoin. There is additionally a letter out there on their web site that has been signed by someone named David. This person claims to own earned over 1,000,000 as a results of investing in bitcoins. What’s very shocking concerning this letter is that David claims to have earned that huge quantity in just one trade. If we have a tendency to place it in simple words, David became a millionaire overnight. We tend to highly doubt that a trading system that has been launched recently will have such potential. To verify the main points of this software and to determine its legitimacy, we have a tendency to conducted our own research and investigation. Cryptp soft is a bitcoin trading software that’s meant to assist newbie traders get involved in Cryptocurrency trading with less risk than ancient investment opportunities. Cryptp soft software was created by The International Council For Bitcoin who is PRO Bitcoin trader Group behind the Cryptp soft software. Notice out all concerning Cryptp soft software by The International Council For Bitcoin. Cryptp soft Software may be a nice development by a famous, well established and experienced bitcoin trader Investors with a viewpoint to enable traders to perform different tasks with ease and convenience. https://preview.redd.it/uuh85yghfnn51.png?width=1238&format=png&auto=webp&s=d0558e6e123114b6624d5a724b3b9b5983e717e1 Cryptp soft Software is essentially a Binary choices trading software that is designed to assist traders win and predict the Binary options trend of their respective choices. Cryptp soft APP works as a code to urge financial success, shows traders how they'll make money on-line, helps them to find different ways in which to induce huge returns on their investment. The Cryptp soft Trading Software additionally provides analyses of Market conditions so that traders will recognize what ought to be their next step. Cryptp soft System gives secret cryptocurrency ways that ultimately help binary traders to create thousands of greenbacks solely for some bucks. Several individuals can say that Cryptocurrency Trading may be a risky business and tend to remain faraway from it. But from my expertise, high volatility means HIGH RETURN OF INVESTMENT in Crypto Market. But this can be where the Cryptp soft comes into play, the mathematical algorithm used by Cryptp soft Software takes the guesswork out choosing a winning profitable trade. You don’t must be an expert. Like I said earlier, I actually have personally tested the Cryptp soft and found the success rate is about ninety sevenpercent. I don’t apprehend concerning you, but a ninety seven% probability of earning a profitable trade is TERRIBLY GOOD! I’ve never come across something like this trading software before. Keep reading, below are my Cryptp soft results for the past week or so… Watch over the Shoulder of a Professional Each Day and you'll be able to learn as you trade. Averaging 97% Winning Weeks With Cryptp soft— which suggests that more potential profits for you Cryptp soft Software Are Fully Transparent No previous experience with binary choices trading required Web-based mostly, no need for downloads, additionally works on phones, tablets You'll be able to Even Watch Cryptp soft Signals From Your Phone (iPhone Users — Photon Browser) If you are ready to begin making cash online with an on the spot edge, there has never been a better chance than currently. If you enjoy surfing the web for countless hours trying for the next Trading Method Secrets, never being able to urge centered, being overloaded with conflicting information, and not creating cash on-line, you ought to probably leave this page right now and get back to that Cryptp soft System strategy Cryptp soft bot could be a new cryptocurrency trading invention that comes with options that create this software stand out among others. It is conjointly an automatic trading platform that uses a smart program algorithm to detect favorable trading opportunities. It acts on its own or waits for a prompt command from the user depending on the software’s settings. But what makes this software unique and a favorite to individuals is what we have a tendency to shall unveil in this review. There have been lots of unverified claims of how totally different cryptocurrency software have helped several people to make massive profits leading to Scam individuals. However, it's pertinent for cryptocurrency traders to verify if a particular trading software may be a scam or legit, which is also ? After subjecting the features of the Cryptp soft bot software to a series of tests, the software isn't a scam however legit. The Cryptp soft bot is believed to have successful rate of 85%, that is a lot of than the 80percent benchmark for average software. The Cryptp soft bot has helped cryptocurrency traders to make sensible profits, which has been documented as testimonies on the software’s website. Trading on the platform is straightforward and might not require experience. We had to verify the simplicity of the software, and we tend to discovered that the software is easy to navigate. The demo trading feature of the software makes it potential for brand new users to hold out trading activities in an exceedingly simulated atmosphere while not having to risk their investment. This any gives credence to the legitimacy of the software because it ensures that new users get accustomed to the features of the software before continuing to measure to trade As earlier stated, the Cryptp soft bot could be a high-tech program software that comes with exceptional options that makes it among the simplest cryptocurrency trading software in the blockchain market. The outstanding features of the Cryptp soft bot embody the subsequent: https://www.cryptoerapro.com/cryptosoft/ http://www.cryptoerapro.com/ https://twitter.com/cryptoerapro https://www.instagram.com/cryptoerapro/ https://www.pinterest.co.uk/cryptoerapro/
Immediate Edge Review, Is Immediate Edge SCAM Or Legit Trading App?
Immediate Edge Review: Is This Crypto Robot Legit or Scam Immediate Edge Review and investigation 20twenty. The Immediate Edge app is a crypto, forex and choices trading robot utilized by folks to automatically obtain and sell Bitcoin and create profits. Wanting at the website, many people claim it helped them move from rags-to-riches trading Bitcoin. Further, some claims linked it to Ronaldo and Sir Alex Ferguson https://preview.redd.it/rttn3i4hohm51.jpg?width=1280&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=8f0dc345c3ace4032d571d44fabe356f13ff1a33 Is Immediate Edge app legit or scam? Whereas the claims of its linkage to the higher than celebrities are unverifiable, we tend to can verify that the app is not a scam and permits individuals to trade Bitcoin using the Fibonacci strategy with ten minutes time frames The app, that allows people to deposit at least $250 through mastercard and Sofort, scores 88% rate and a 5 stars as a real software Since there are several scam cryptos, forex and options brokers who trick individuals to depositing money, and then they run away with the funds, we have taken time to review this software to determine if it is real or a scam. Is Immediate Edge scam or legit High success rate is reported by users with this software. The Immediate Edge web site provides truthful claims about the service though it will not mean the crypto trading risks are eliminated with its use. Customers should start with the minimum investment and increase it when satisfied with the utilization of the app. Click the link to access Immediate Edge official web site or keep reading to understand more This software will not seem to be a scam and users report that it helped them make real money trading on it.b site What is Immediate Edge App? Immediate Edgecould be a robot or auto-trading software that allows folks to trade forex, crypto and binary choices. A user deploys the algorithm-primarily based bot, which relies on a trading strategy that's automatically executed on a broker trading platform once deployed. The strategy is coded or set like to permit the user to automatically get and sell crypto, stock or choices on the broker platform at favorable prices, to form profits. It can do automatic market analysis by analyzing a vast amount of knowledge from completely different sources, at intervals seconds and with high accuracy, then use the data to predict the costs. It can then come up with a transparent buy or sell tradable signal and then execute it automatically by shopping for and/or selling on the broker platform. The software can, therefore, save a trader thousands of manual hours and labor they might have spent analyzing information to form trading choices and to follow the markets and to position and close trades. You conjointly do not want to understand anything concerning crypto, stock or option trading to use this auto trading app, although it is suggested to possess this information to keep improving on trading. Trading bots will achieve high success rates of more than 90p.c and have been tested to work. You may be searching for Immediate Edge scam but the website can tell you that you can expect to earn between $950 and $a pair of,two hundred per day using the software but that depends on your expertise. As a newbie, you'll not start making that a lot of immediately and conjointly it depends on how a lot of you invest. With an investment of $250, you'll be able to expect to form a lot of lesser although some people claim to own made $12a pair of in a very few hours using this software. That will not mean Immediate Edge is error-free. There still is a heap of unpredictable high volatility in crypto and bots will make mistakes and errors to create losses. Auto trading robots are better employed in combination with manual trading strategies. https://preview.redd.it/1zkt9v3johm51.jpg?width=1280&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=85f7e7f5d0e9d6b60b4a8a6e37bb344dbbb8305c Immediate Edge Review How will Immediate Edge work? All a user has to try and do is join up at the Immediate Edge web site, then deposit funds to have access to the robot, when which they can begin trading by switching on the bot. It will would like no control or intervention from humans, beyond beginning and stopping it. You additionally need to stay checking, daily, to observe the performance of the software in doing its job and ensure that it is earning any returns needless to say. From there, you can confirm whether or not to extend or decrease your investment towards crypto, options or stock trading using this robot. You'll be able to also monitor performance to be ready to regulate the trading settings from your dashboard and optimize totally different features of the trading bot for instance set amount of trades or amount to invest in every trade. Founder of Immediate Edge In line with the Immediate Edge website, this trading bot was founded by Edwin James. Reportedly, he created billions with forex, crypto, and binary options trading and still shares his strategies on the way to trade the assets on the app. He founded the app to create it potential for brand spanking new traders to create cash in less than 3 minutes of signing up. How to sign up on Immediate Edge: Registration: Registering or signing up on the website is free but to start trading, you want to deposit no less than $250. You discover a registration type on the top right of the page, on that you type in your email, full names and phone numbers and country code. Create a password to be used for logging in later. Deposit funds: Depositing funds allows you to connect to a robot broker and then you'll begin the bot to start out trading. You'll deposit with Visa, Wire Transfers, Klarna or Skrill. The currencies supported are Swiss Franc, British Pound, US Greenback, and Euro and using a credit or debit card limits deposits to less than $/£/€/?10,00zero in one day and $/£/€/?40,000 in an exceedingly month. Immediate Edgeisn’t licensed to handle your funds, it works with brokers to handle the cash once it's deposited. Demo trading: Relying on the broker you're connected to, you can begin to practice trading with the Immediate Edge software. Some brokers do not have this feature on their platforms. Still, with the latter, you can test their options before you deposit cash to try and do live trading. With the demo options, you'll be able to familiarize yourself with the trading house before beginning to use real money to trade. Trading: Before and when you've got switched on auto-trading, you would like to check the trading settings daily. You'll regulate some things including stop-loss orders and when to try to to them, amount to speculate per trade and how several trades to try to to per day. You'll be able to also choose that cryptocurrencies to trade, and you'll be able to select all the most in style ones together with Bitcoin and Ethereum. You also get to observe the profits/losses and decide if to continue and/or when to prevent. https://preview.redd.it/c9scw5fkohm51.jpg?width=1280&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=3d127be2887c4c8960023a8cf1b1f55297dbf250 Withdrawals, user verification, cost of using the app and alternative options The payouts or withdrawals are made by filling letter of invitation type on the funds’ management page and it can take two operating days to replicate in your checking account. No fee is charged on withdrawals. You'll withdraw your cash including the capital while not a lot of problem on this app, that is better than several that don't enable withdrawals at any time While some bots need verifications by asking for your ID and statements, this one will not. You are done once uploading your payment details. The bot charges a commission on profit. Besides, you get twenty fouseven client support on Immediate Edge Immediate Edge may be a legit, secure, user-friendly trading application for crypto, stocks, and choices. It has a zealous customer service and reports a high success rate. Another smart robot we have recently reviewed is Bitcoin Professional We tend to hope that this review helped you to make a decision concerning this trading app. Additionally, subscribe to our web site to be invariably notified concerning new software from this industry. For live reviews subscribe to our Youtube Channel or FB Page. https://www.immediateedge.org/ https://www.facebook.com/immediateedge/ https://www.pinterest.co.uk/immediateedge/ https://twitter.com/EdgeImmediate https://www.instagram.com/immediateedge/
Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers
Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers We have compared the best regulated binary options brokers and platforms in May 2020 and created this top list. Every binary options company here has been personally reviewed by us to help you find the best binary options platform for both beginners and experts. The broker comparison list below shows which binary trading sites came out on top based on different criteria. You can put different trading signals into consideration such as using payout (maximum returns), minimum deposit, bonus offers, or if the operator is regulated or not. You can also read full reviews of each broker, helping you make the best choice. This review is to ensure traders don't lose money in their trading account. How to Compare Brokers and Platforms In order to trade binary options, you need to engage the services of a binary options broker that accepts clients from your country e.g. check US trade requirements if you are in the United States. Here at bitcoinbinaryoptionsreview.com, we have provided all the best comparison factors that will help you select which trading broker to open an account with. We have also looked at our most popular or frequently asked questions, and have noted that these are important factors when traders are comparing different brokers:
What is the Minimum Deposit? (These range from $5 or $10 up to $250)
Are they regulated or licensed, and with which regulator?
Can I open a Demo Account?
Is there a signals service, and is it free?
Can I trade on my mobile phone and is there a mobile app?
Is there a Bonus available for new trader accounts? What are the Terms and
Who has the best binary trading platform? Do you need high detail charts with technical analysis indicators?
Which broker has the best asset lists? Do they offer forex, cryptocurrency, commodities, indices, and stocks – and how many of each?
Which broker has the largest range of expiry times (30 seconds, 60 seconds, end of the day, long term, etc?)
How much is the minimum trade size or amount?
What types of options are available? (Touch, Ladder, Boundary, Pairs, etc)
Additional Tools – Like Early closure or Metatrader 4 (Mt4) plugin or integration
Do they operate a Robot or offer automated trading software?
What is Customer Service like? Do they offer telephone, email and live chat customer support – and in which countries? Do they list direct contact details?
Who has the best payouts or maximum returns? Check the markets you will trade.
The Regulated Binary Brokers Regulation and licensing is a key factor when judging the best broker. Unregulated brokers are not always scams, or untrustworthy, but it does mean a trader must do more ‘due diligence’ before trading with them. A regulated broker is the safest option. Regulators - Leading regulatory bodies include:
CySec – The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (Cyprus and the EU)
FCA – Financial Conduct Authority (UK)
CFTC – Commodity Futures Trading Commission (US)
FSB – Financial Services Board (South Africa)
ASIC – Australia Securities and Investment Commission
There are other regulators in addition to the above, and in some cases, brokers will be regulated by more than one organization. This is becoming more common in Europe where binary options are coming under increased scrutiny. Reputable, premier brands will have regulation of some sort. Regulation is there to protect traders, to ensure their money is correctly held and to give them a path to take in the event of a dispute. It should therefore be an important consideration when choosing a trading partner. Bonuses - Both sign up bonuses and demo accounts are used to attract new clients. Bonuses are often a deposit match, a one-off payment, or risk-free trade. Whatever the form of a bonus, there are terms and conditions that need to be read. It is worth taking the time to understand those terms before signing up or clicking accept on a bonus offer. If the terms are not to your liking then the bonus loses any attraction and that broker may not be the best choice. Some bonus terms tie in your initial deposit too. It is worth reading T&Cs before agreeing to any bonus, and worth noting that many brokers will give you the option to ‘opt-out’ of taking a bonus. Using a bonus effectively is harder than it sounds. If considering taking up one of these offers, think about whether, and how, it might affect your trading. One common issue is that turnover requirements within the terms, often cause traders to ‘over-trade’. If the bonus does not suit you, turn it down. How to Find the Right Broker But how do you find a good broker? Well, that’s where BitcoinBinaryOptionsReview.com comes in. We assess and evaluate binary options brokers so that traders know exactly what to expect when signing up with them. Our financial experts have more than 20 years of experience in the financial business and have reviewed dozens of brokers. Being former traders ourselves, we know precisely what you need. That’s why we’ll do our best to provide our readers with the most accurate information. We are one of the leading websites in this area of expertise, with very detailed and thorough analyses of every broker we encounter. You will notice that each aspect of any broker’s offer has a separate article about it, which just goes to show you how seriously we approach each company. This website is your best source of information about binary options brokers and one of your best tools in determining which one of them you want as your link to the binary options market. Why Use a Binary Options Trading Review? So, why is all this relevant? As you may already know, it is difficult to fully control things that take place online. There are people who only pose as binary options brokers in order to scam you and disappear with your money. True, most of the brokers we encounter turn out to be legit, but why take unnecessary risks? Just let us do our job and then check out the results before making any major decisions. All our investigations regarding brokers’ reliability can be seen if you click on our Scam Tab, so give it a go and see how we operate. More detailed scam reports than these are simply impossible to find. However, the most important part of this website can be found if you go to our Brokers Tab. There you can find extensive analyses of numerous binary options brokers irrespective of your trading strategy. Each company is represented with an all-encompassing review and several other articles dealing with various aspects of their offer. A list containing the very best choices will appear on your screen as you enter our website whose intuitive design will allow you to access all the most important information in real-time. We will explain minimum deposits, money withdrawals, bonuses, trading platforms, and many more topics down to the smallest detail. Rest assured, this amount of high-quality content dedicated exclusively to trading cannot be found anywhere else. Therefore, visiting us before making any important decisions regarding this type of trading is the best thing to do. CONCLUSION: Stay ahead of the market, and recover from all kinds of binary options trading loss, including market losses in bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and forex markets too. Send your request via email to - [email protected]
First Chapter Previous Chapter The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain. “I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?” “We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.” “But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.” “Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?” “Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled. “But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.” “Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.” “That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look. “Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in. When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in. And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War. “Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.” “It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?” “We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?” “Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.” “At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?” “As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.” “But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up. “We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.” Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information. “Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils. “I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.” “I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?” “The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.” “Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.” “But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?” “That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.” “Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?” “As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh. “So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated. “I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.” “Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.” “But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly. “With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.” “Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.” “I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!” “We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.” “What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger. The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.” “Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!” “We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.” An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned. “Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!” “And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.” “I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.” “But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?” “Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?” “That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!” “I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.” Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately. Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills. He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?” “Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion. “Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.” “About what?” “The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.” “Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.” “I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?” Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.” “Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!” “Just...trust me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.” “Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!” Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him. “You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!” “I...wh-what happened?” “We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.” “Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder. “I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.” “As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still. “No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.” Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?” “I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.” Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?” “A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow. Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights. The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance. Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel. “Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly. “Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him. The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him. “My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.” “I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.” “I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.” “No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion. “Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.” “Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?” “Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.” “And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.” “Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?” “It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.” “I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement. “There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.” “So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed. “Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.” “With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in. “So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.” “At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.” “And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged. “Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.” “So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.” “Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.” “And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said. “The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.” “So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.” “At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed. Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary. And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging. “Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!” “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder. “Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?” After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.” Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.” “With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.” “Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.” “Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.” “Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.” “Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened. “It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly. “Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office. When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters. “Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh. “I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.” “Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.” “What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?” “There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?” “The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered. “No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.” “We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated. “Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?” “That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.” “And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.” “We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded. “Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office. With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them. “Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath. An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?” “Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.” “The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!” An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside. “We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering. “We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps. “Yes, may I help you?” She began. “Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.” “For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat. “We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.” Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?” “I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.” Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.” “Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?” “I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.” “Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back. “On what grounds?” “Lack of decisive evidence, to start.” “Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.” “But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare. “And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.” Next Chapter AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
This FAQ represents Q&A's over the last few days here. Fellow redditor u/iterateandgit was so kind to help me putting this document together. Big shout out to him please! The FAQ will be further extended over the coming days and weeks. Please keep the questions coming!
Sales, Shipping, Warranty
Q: Are you going to sell this on Amazon in the EU? A: We are working on getting the product up and running on Amazon. But our own BTO shop at www.bestware.com will always be our primary sales channel and will be the only one where you can customize and configure memory, storage, OS, extend your warranty and pick other options. Q: Do you offer student discounts or other sales compaigns like black friday? A: In general, we don't offer student discounts. Sales campaigns are planned just in time, depending on stock level and cannot be announced early. If you want to keep up to date about sales campaigns, please subscribe to our newsletter. Q: Do you ship to the UK? Can I pay in GBP? A: We ship to the UK - the pricing will be in EUR, so your bank will do the conversion. Warranty services will be available from UK, shipping to Germany. Currently, in the single markets, these resturn shipments are free for the end-user. In the worst case there might be additional customs fees for shipping. Q: What warranty options do you offer? A: All our laptops come with 2 year warranty. Warranty repairs in the first 6 months are promised to be done within 48 hours (+shipping). Both the "instant repair" service and the warranty itself can be extended to up to 3 years. Q: Do you sell outside of Europe? A: We are able to ship anywhere, but warranty for customers outside the region would always involve additional customs cost and paperwork for sending the laptop back to Germany in the rare event of an RMA. There is currently no agreement to let other Local OEMs (like Eluktronics in the US) carry the warranty for XMG customers and vice-versa. Some parts are customized (in our case the LCD lid and the keyboard) and it won't be easy to agree on how to share handling fees etc. - so I wouldn't expect a global warranty anytime soon.
Hardware, Specs, Thermals
Q: What is the difference between XMG FUSION 15 and other laptops based on Intel's reference design? A: The hardware of the barebone will be identical. Other Local OEMs might use different parts for RAM and SSDs. Our branding and service/warranty options might be different. We apply our own set of performance profiles in the Control Center. This will rebalance the differentiation between Silent, Balanced and Enthusiast modes. Q: What is the TGP of the NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q? A: Officially, it is 80W in Balanced profile and 90W in Enthusiast profile. You can toggle between these modes in real-time with a dedicated mode switch button. Inofficially, the TGP can go up to 115W in Enthusiast profile thanks to the Overboost mechanic, working in the background. However, those 115W may only be sustained until the system has reached thermal saturation, i.e. when the GPU is approaching the GPU Temperature Target of 75°C. Q: Can I upgrade the storage and memory after I buy? A: On storage: The laptop has two m.2 PCI-Express SSD slots. This will give you currently up to 4 TB of SSD storage. There is no 2.5" HDD slot available. Instead, the battery is enlarged to 93.48Wh. You can see pictures of the interior layouts here, here and here. On memory: the laptop has two SO-DIMM DDR4 memory sockets. You can chose during BTO configuration, if you want to occupy both of them when you order the product. We recommend running the laptop in Dual Channel for high-performance usage. Q: How easy is to upgrade and repair this laptop? A: Here are the key facts:
Only 10 chassis screws on the bottom plate.
All chassis screws are identical size and length. (no risk of mixing them up during re-assembly)
All chassis screws are directly exposed, not behind any rubber feet.
No "warranty void if seal is broken" stickers.
Bottom case can be removed very easily without any prying opening tools.
Keyboard does not need to be removed to access internals.
m.2 screws are already in their socket.
Battery is attached with screws, not glued.
Fans can be cleaned and (if needed) replaced without removing the heatpipes.
We would give this a solid 8 out of 10 which is pretty high for such a thin&light design. The 2 remaining points are substracted for BGA CPU and GPU, which is unfortunately unavoidable in such a thin design. Q: Does it support Windows Hello? A: A Fingerprint-Reader is not available, but the HD webcam comes with Infrared and supports Windows Hello. Q: Can I get a smaller, lighter charger for this laptop? A: XMG FUSION 15 requires a 230W power adaptor to provide full performance. If you max out CPU and GPU with furmark and prime, the 230W adapter will be fully utilized. There are currently two compatible 230W adapters. They have different dimensions but similar weight. Please refer to this comparison table: XMG FUSION 15 Power Supply Comparsion Table (Google Drive) Includes shop links. Will be updated with precise weight numbers in the next few days. I also included 120W, 150W and 180W in this table. They all share the same plug (5.5/2.5,, diameter, 12.5mm length). But 120W and 150W are only rated for 19V but the laptop expect 19.5V. Usually this will be compensated by tolerance but we haven't tested how a system would behave under long-term usage with such an adaptor. In theory, 120W to 180W are enough for charing the laptop and for browsing/web/media. Even a full CPU stress test could easily be handled. But as soon as you use CPU and GPU together, you'll run into the bottleneck and your performance will be reduced. Comparison pictures:
These 5 pictures show only the relevant 230W chargers.
Top: 230W Chicony A17-230P1A for XMG NEO.
Bottom: 230W FSP230-AJAN3 from XMG FUSION 15 (Intel Original)
Again, the weight is about the same. Q: Is it possible to boot and run the laptop while the lid is kept closed? A: Closing the lid under load is not recommended because it will limit the airflow and have a bad effect on keyboard and screen. The laptop likes to take air in from the keycaps. With lid closed, the performance might be limited due to reaching temp targets earlier. Q: Can I get the laptop without the XMG logo? I will be using it in public presentations and I would not like any brand names visible. A: We cannot ship without XMG logo, but you can use a dbrand skins to cover our logo. We have not yet decided if we want to invest into integrating XMG FUSION 15 into the dbrand shop. But you can already buy 100% compatible skins by using the page of the Eluktronics MAG-15 at dbrand. The chassis dimensions are exactly the same. Please be aware: you have to manually select the option "No Logo Cutout" if you want to buy these skins for your XMG FUSION 15. According to dbrand, there will be most likely no import fees when ordering from the EU as long as the order is below 100€. Check this thread for details. Q: Will you offer thermal paste upgrades like Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut or Liquid Metal? A: Our ODMs are using silicon-based, high-performance thermal compund from international manufacturers like Shin-Etsu (Japan) and M.G. (USA). Intel is using MG-860 in this reference design. These products are used in the industrial sector, so they have no publicly known brand name. Nevertheless, their high thermal conductivity and guaranteed durability provide optimal and long-lasting cooling of your high-performance laptop. The thermal compounds are applied and sealed automatically by the vendor of the thermal components. They are applied in a highly controlled, standardized manner and provide the best balance of thermal performance, production tolerance and product lifetime. We are considering offering an upgrade to Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut due to popular demand. Will keep you posted on that. Q: Could you please provide an estimate for how much regular usage (~10 browser tabs + some IDE) battery backup would this have? Will there be any way to trade-off battery backup with performance? A: Battery life vs. peak performance can be traded off by using the "Silent" performance profile. You can switch between profiles using a dedicated button on the machine. Your scenario (10 tabs + some IDE) sounds like mostly reading and writing. I would estimate to get at least 7 hours of solid battery life in such a scenario, maybe more. We have achieved 8 hours in 1080p Youtube streaming on WiFi with 50% screen brightness. Adblock and NoScript helps to keep your idle browser tabs in check.
I/O Ports, Peripherals
Q: Why are there not more USB-A 3.1 Gen2 or even USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports? A: USB-A 3.1 Gen1 is basically the same as USB 3.0. There aren't a lot of USB-A devices that support more than USB 3.0 speed. Faster devices typically use USB-C connectors and can be used on Thunderbolt 3, which is down-compatible to USB-C 3.1 Gen2. One of the USB-A ports actually supports Gen2 speed. For the following remarks, please keep in mind that I am not an Intel rep, so everything is based on our own experience. The mainboard design and the I/O port decisions have been made by Intel. Feedback and requests from LOEM customers have been taken into consideration. We would assume that USB 3.2. Gen2x2 (20 Gbit/s) was not considered to be important enough to safe space for 3rd party IC (integrated circuits) on the motherboard. Right now, all the USB ports and Thunderbolts are supplied by Intel's own IC, so they have full control over the hardware, firmware and driver stack and over power saving and performance control. The more IC you add, the higher your Idle power consumption will be, plus adding potential compatibility or speed issues as it often happens with 1st generation 3rd party USB implementations. I very well remember from my own experience the support stories during the first years of USB 3.0, before it was supported in the Intel chipset. On the one hand, Intel is aiming high in terms of performance and convenience, on the other hand: support and reliability still seem to be Intel's goal #1. Thus they seem to play it safe where they deem it to be reasonable. Intel is gearing up for USB 4.0 and next-gen Thunderbolt. USB 3.2 2x2 is probably treated as little more than a roadmap accident. Peripheral vendors might see it the same way. Q: Do you support charging over USB-C/Thunderbolt? Does it support docking stations? A: The Thunderbolt 3 port in Intel's reference design does not support charging. As you probably know, the 100W limit would not be enough to power the whole system and it would make the mainboard more complex to combine two different ways of charging. Intel consciously opted against it and will probably do so again on future high-end gaming/studio models. The USB-C/Thunderbolt port supports Dual-Link DisplayPort signals, directly connected to the NVIDIA Graphics. This makes proper docking station usage very convenient. The user still needs to connect the external power adaptor. Both ports (Thunderbolt and DC-in) are in the back of the laptop, making the whole setup appear very neat on the desk. Q: How many PCIe lanes does the Thunderbolt 3 provide? Are they connected to CPU or Chipset? A: XMG FUSION 15 supports Thunderbolt 3 with 4 lanes of PCIe 3.0. The lanes come from the chipset because all of the CPU lanes (x16) are fully occupied by the dedicated NVIDIA graphics. We are not aware of any side-effects of running Thunderbolt from the chipset. It is common practice for high-end laptops with high-end graphics. The Thunderbolt solution is of course fully validated and certified by Intel's Thunderbolt labs. Q: Does it have a standby USB to power USB devices without turning on the laptop? A: Yes, the USB-A port on the left side supports this feature.
Q: Which LCD panel is being used? Are there plans for 1440p or 4K panels in the laptop? How about PWM flickering? A: The panel is BOE NV156FHM-N4G. It is currently not known if the panel will change in later batches. This depends on logistics and stock. At any rate, the panel key specs will remain the same. There are currently no plans to offer resolutions above FHD in the current generation of this laptop. There are very wide ranges on reports of Backlight Brightness PWM control on this panel in different laptops. Ranging from 200Hz to 1000Hz to no PWM at all - all on the same panel model number. Intel informs us that there are many factors (e.g. freq., display driver, BIOS settings implementation, type of dimmers & compatibility with the driver etc.) that impacts the quality of panel dimming performance. To Intel's knowledge, no kind of flickering has been reported during the validation process. Furthermore, first hands-on data from Notebookcheck indicates that no PWM occurs on this panel. With a DSLR test (multiple burst shots at 1/4000s exposure time) I can confirm that there is not a single frame of brightness dipping or black screen, not even at minimum LCD brightness. Hence, we can confirm: BOE NV156FHM-N4G in XMG FUSION 15 (with Intel) does not use PWM for backlight control. Q: Some BTO shops, for an additional fee, manually pick out display panels with the least back-light bleed. Do you offer that? Even better, do you do that without the extra fee? A: Intel has validated this design to avoid backlight bleed as much as possible. Currently no plans to do further binning. All dozens of MP samples we have seen so far have been exceptionally good. Q: I'm coming from a 13" MacBook with Retina display. How am I going to fare with this 15.6" FHD screen in content creation? A: If you got used to editing high-res visual content (photography, artwork) on your 13inch retina, things will change. On the one hand, your canvas will be larger and more convenient and ergonomic to work with. On the other hand, you will find yourself zooming in more often in order to make out fine-detail. Assuming that you have sharp 20:20 vision. As it is, the screen resolution and specs are not planned to change within the lifetime of this product. The first realistic time-window for a refresh would be whenever Intel is releasing the next "H" series CPU generation. But even then, an upgrade on resolution will not be guaranteed. Comparison:
Pixel per inch
13.3" MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013)
15.6" XMG FUSION 15 (late 2019)
To compare: 141.21 is ~62% from 226.98. This represents the the metric difference in pixel density and peak sharpness between these two models. If you know the diagonal size and resolution of your screen, you can make this comparison yourself with the DPI/PPI calculator.
Keyboard, Backlight, Switches, Layout
Q: What can you tell us about the mechanical keyboard of XMG FUSION 15? A: The keyboard has already been reviewed in our XMG NEO series as being more crisp than typical membrane keyboards. Most reviewers attested it a very good score, both for gaming and for writing long texts. The keyboard backlight can be configured per-key. Default mode is all white. Keyboard Switch Specs:
2mm travel distance
60g actuation force
1000Hz polling frequency
Rated for up to 20 million keystrokes
Having no frame around the keycaps actually helps the thermals. The fans can pull in additional air from the top. This improves airflow and helps to keep the keyboard temperature at low levels during gaming. It also prevents long-term RMA issues on the keyboard. This specific keyboard switch is already in its 3rd generation and very mature by now. Q: Is it possible to dampen the mechanical keyboard with o-rings? A: The switch design does not lend itself to further dampening. The switch mechanic is too complex and has more moving parts than cherry. The 2mm travel distance also plays a role in not allowing more dampening. For reference, please use this video (Youtube). We compared XMG NEO with another membrane-type keyboard. XMG NEO and FUSION share the same keyboard mechanics with the silent tactile switch and the same sound profile. Q: Do you have LED keyboard backlight on the secondary key function, like Fn key icons? A: Please have a look at this picture.
Taken with full keyboard backlight brightness
In totally dark room
Edited in Lightroom (reduced highlights) to reflect the way it really looks to the human eye
F10 seems to have a slightly different color temperature than F8/F9 in this picture. This is due to the angle, open aperature and chromatic abberation of my camera. In real-life, all per-key LEDs behave identically to one another.
Btw, my working sample has blank keycaps. I took the 3 printed keycaps (F8, F9, F10) from a different sample just to demonstrate the Fn lighting for this picture. Facts:
Fn modifier key is on the left between Ctrl and WinKey
the Fn function don't have seperate backlight, but they benefit from the main per-key backlight
the position of the LED is centered above the mechanical switch. That's why the upper portion of the key is brighter than the lower portion. That's why in our layout, the primary function of each key is always located at the center top.
In my assesment, the Fn function symbols are clearly visible from the backlight in a dark room. A user should have no difficulty to recognize the icon and reach its function. Q: Which keyboard layouts do you offer in the EU? A: The following layouts are available, in alphabetic order: Belgium, Czech, Danish, Dvorak German, Dvorak US, Estonia, French, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Polish for Typists, Portuguese, Russia Latin, Slovakish, Spanish, Swedish / Finnish, Swiss, Turkish, UK, US International (ISO)All these layouts are based on the ISO matrix. See differences between ANSI vs. ISO here.
Q: Do you support Linux and dual-boot on XMG FUSION 15? A: We are in discussion to sell XMG FUSION 15 over Tuxedo with official Linux support. It might take 1 or 2 months to get this running. Q: Which LAN, Audio and WiFi card vendors will be used? Asking for a friend. A: From our HWiNFO64 report. (Google Drive link) LAN: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 [PCI\VEN_10EC&DEV_8168&SUBSYS_20868086&REV_15]Audio: Intel(R) Smart Sound Technology (Intel(R) SST) Audio Controller [PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_A348&SUBSYS_20868086&REV_10]WiFi: Intel(R) Wi-Fi 6 AX200 [PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_2723&SUBSYS_00848086&REV_1A], can be replaced. For more information, please check the linked report file.
Q: What would you say are the advantages and differences with other laptops due to the fact the laptop was designed in collaboration with Intel? A: Disclaimer: I am \not* an Intel rep. The following remarks are based on my personal experience and opinion.* Advantages:
Very strict quality control on all levels. I can't quote numbers due to NDA, but Intel NUC has extremely low RMA rates, compared to average PC mainboards and systems. Intel is driven by strict internal regulation that strifes for perfection - this applies to the whole chassis, assembly and firmware, not only the mainboard. There are also certain regulations in place, for example in terms of electro-magnetic regulation and skin temperatures. The rating label is littered with regulatory seals from every region of the world, making this laptop especially safe to use.
Access to high-quality material: we have not seen any Gaming Laptops based on Magnesium alloy yet, especially not in the ODM/LOEM ecosystem. The battery cells are also much more dense than what we usually see. Intel has the buying power and the vision to not settle for mediocre parts.
Down-to-earth design: Intel has made this reference design for the ODM/LOEM eco-system. The design does not try to follow any specific corporate identity, thus it does not have any unneccessary "bling bling" like all the others have. Even the Razer Blade with it's sleek shape is quite obnoxious (iny my oppinion) with it's big backlit green snake logo. With XMG FUSION however, we can continue our typical style of "Undercover Gaming".
Security: you can expect stellar support in terms of BIOS and Firmware (TPM, Management Engine) updates whenever any security issues are found. This might also apply to global brands, but ODM/LOEM systems have not always been so quick to react. This is due to the huge fragmentation/customizations in ODM/LOEM systems. Intel however does now allow any fragmentation: every LOEM partner is getting the same firmware. There are many hooks for configurations in this firmware, but the source code / binaries are always the same. This makes support much easier down the line.
I can't name many, of course. But I would say the strict validation also makes the partnership less flexible from a product management perspective. There is no plan currently to phase-in any 4K or 300Hz screen (FHD/144Hz ought to be enough for everyone this year) or any Core i9 in this system. Other ODMs might be more open for costly modifications based on low quantities. Intel however has streamlined their production and logistics in a way that gives us (the LOEM) very short lead times and competitive pricing, but will not allow any short-notice upgrades or customizations.
Q: Will there be a 17 inch version? A: We can neither confirm nor deny plans for a 17 inch version at this point. [to be continued]
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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. –––––––––– 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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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). –––––––––– 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. –––––––––– 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. –––––––––– 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.”
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