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The Shoulders of Orion- Ch. 1: First Contact

Space-time rippled as the Horns of Glory snapped into real space. The normally smooth transition from FTL subspace travel back to the laws of relativity was instead dangerously jarring, as the inertial dampeners struggled to hold the innards of the massive warship in their proper places. After straining mightily for the briefest of moments, they failed, throwing Admiral Halon Va and the rest of his bridge crew violently into their restraining harnesses. The ship shuddered under the immense stress, then settled, drifting silently through space on minimal power.
“Tactical, get me a status report for the fleet on screen now. I want updates the instant ships jump in.” The Admiral’s voice was still firm and authoritative; it was taking every last shred of resolve he had to keep it that way. “Lieutenant Roshin, put a detail together and work with medical. I’m sure that re-entry caused more than a few extra injuries. Get as many of the crew patched up and ready for emergency action as fast as you can. I want a full casualty report as soon as possible. And if you find Science Officer Lentith and he’s still alive, send him to the bridge immediately.”
Admiral Va settled back into his command chair, drawing creaking sounds from the over-stressed frame as it absorbed the weight of his massive form. The bridge was completely silent now, the command crew entirely focused on the tasks at hand. Or they were too afraid to say anything; Va couldn’t be sure. He was thankful for their silence, though. He didn’t have any answers for them about his failure.
Keying in a few commands on the command panel at his station, the damage report for his ship popped up, the bridge lights flickering from the extra power draw. The Horns of Glory floated before him in hologram form. Long and slender, the ship was over two kilometers from bow to stern. At least, it had been a few hours ago. The forward 20 percent of the holographic ship was flashing red, indicating heavy damage. This was inaccurate, however, as the forward 20 percent of the ship simply wasn’t there anymore. The graceful lines and carefully crafted angles of the ship's armor were an unrecognizable slagged mess, and deep gouges had been cut into the inner decks all over the ship. Whole sections were missing amidships, two of the main reactors were offline, all the primary weapon batteries had been completely destroyed, and most of the critical systems were barely functioning. It was a miracle that she had survived the jump. That morning, Horns of Glory had been the greatest feat of Arien’Ra engineering, and it was now a barely functioning hulk.
And it had all happened under my command, thought Va.
He had no time to wallow in his failures, however, as at that moment tactical finally reconnected to the fleet command systems. The hologram of Horns of Glory quickly scaled down, appearing as a small, flashing, red point of light floating in loose formation with several other points of light. Most of them were flashing red as well. A constant stream of data and various reports scrolled down the right side of the hologram, listing in no uncertain terms the doom that Va had subjected his command to.
If Va had thought that the bridge was quiet before, it was nothing compared to the complete stillness that now settled over them. No one so much as moved a muscle, as they all sat in stunned silence, reading the reports. Occasionally, the hologram would flash, and a new point of light would join the formation, adding more data to the pile spelling out their damnation. After 30 ticks, new points of light had stopped appearing. Admiral Halon Va had lost over 60 percent of his fleet, and not a single other dreadnaught had survived the slaughter. His defeat was total, and the Federation navy was crippled.




Science Officer Beredarin Lentith had been the first member of his family not to enroll in command school in eight generations. They had been some of the finest members of the fleet the Vorqual race had ever contributed to the Federation. His brothers and sisters had all enrolled, which meant that as far as he was concerned, his family had more than fulfilled their duty to the Federation. Military life wasn’t for him, anyway; he wanted to explore. The Federation had been around for over 3000 years, and there were still vast swathes of the galaxy that they knew nothing about. They were still encountering new species every few hundred or so years, and there was nothing he wouldn’t give to find the next one. That had been the dream that directed him away from the military and into academia. The odds of actually finding a new race were so small, though. There were still at least 200,000,000 unexplored systems in the galaxy. There just wasn’t time to visit them all...
He snapped out of his reverie as he stepped over the body, or rather, what was left of the body, of a Zelnassi marine. Most of it was just a green stain on the corridor wall at this point, though there had been enough of the chitinous armored torso to partially obstruct his path. The young lieutenant quickly continued on towards the bridge.
If he was being honest with himself, becoming an expert on the area of unexplored space directly between the Federation and it’s largest military rival wasn’t the smartest of ideas. Between his family reputation and his unique knowledge base, he was just asking to get pressed into service.
Which was exactly what had happened immediately upon the recent outbreak of hostilities.
And now here he was stepping over corpses, marveling at the fact that he had somehow survived this long. He still couldn’t believe the insanity of the Dominion forces. Boarding an enemy ship MID-COMBAT. It was like something out of a youngling’s tale from before space travel. It was pure madness, but there were the bodies to prove that it had happened. He gingerly stepped around the remains of yet another Zelnassi.
The signs of battle continued all the way to the bridge, where he found security forces still holding quickly fortified positions around the bridge entrance. There were more Zelnassi bodies at their feet. Berendarin shuddered. He had been closer to death than he thought.
He quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He could only imagine why he was needed on the bridge so urgently.
The door slid open, and Lentith walked into a completely silent room. Admiral Va was slouched at his command station, his enormous arm propped up on the chair arm and supporting his massive, horned head. Lentith didn’t even know that Arien’Ra COULD slouch. Nevermind that the fastidious Admiral could or would ever do such a thing. Maybe things were somehow worse than he thought. No one seemed to notice him enter, so he announced himself to the Admiral.
Though he didn’t shout, his voice echoed in the deathly silent room, startling most of the bridge command. Two of the other Vorqual officers swore, and the tiny Jezren manning the com station let out a high pitched sound somewhere between a squeak and chirp. Berendarin would have found it quite funny if the situation wasn’t so dire.
Admiral Va immediately snapped back to being the hulk of muscle and horn that imposed his will on a room just by being in it. His booming voice only added to his authority.
“Science Officer Lentith. I’m glad to see you’re still alive. Are you seriously injured?”
Berendarin had almost forgotten that he had walked the entire way to the bridge holding a bandage to his head just above his left eye. The drop out of subspace hadn’t been kind to him. He pulled the bandage away, revealing a dark orange stain on the bandage and a crack in the bone plate above his eye.
“I’m fine, sir, just one of the outer plates, and the bleeding has already stopped.”
“Good. Commander Vortith is currently overseeing the emergency repairs. Take his seat. You are going to help me find a way back home.”
“Sir? I’m sorry I don’t understand. Why don’t we just go back the way we came?”
“That’s not possible. Most of our supply ships and tenders were destroyed when that third wave of Dominion ships hit our flank. Almost all of our pre-prepared fuel reserves are gone. On top of that, some of our ships are so damaged that they don’t have another long jump in them. And if we run into any enemy ships, the whole rest of the fleet is done for. We barely qualify as a fighting force in the state we’re in.”
“Is it really that bad?”
“It’s worse, but we don’t have time to get into the details. You’re the expert on this section of the galaxy. I need you to find the fleet a hiding hole. Somewhere away from the known jump routes through the Spur. Any system where we can use the few miners we have left to scavenge up some fuel, and get some critical repairs done while we’re at it. And from there either wait for reinforcements or get ourselves patched up enough to limp home. Wherever it is, it needs to be close. I’m not leaving any ships behind because they can’t make the jump.”
“Oh. Just that?” The lieutenant knew that Arien’Ra were strict herbivores, but with the look that the Admiral shot him, he couldn’t help but think about the fact that his head would easily fit into that giant, molar filled mouth.
“And away from any known pirate hideaways. Like I said, our fleet can’t take any more fighting. And find it quickly. It won’t be long before the Dominion fleet locates us.”
“I. Uh. Sure. I’ll see what I can find.”
Berendarin shrank into the commander’s chair next to the enormous Arien’Ra, desperately wishing he had been more professional. If he had acted like a proper soldier, it might soften the blow of telling the Admiral that what he wanted was next to impossible. If he had a few weeks, he might be able to find something. So much of the Spur was still un-surveyed. The odds of there being anything useful to the Admiral in the databases was absurdly low, and there was even less of a chance he’d be able to find it in time for the information to matter. He began pouring through his notes anyway. It was better than waiting around to die, which, if the situation was as dire as the Admiral made it sound, was the only other option.
He spent the next hour lost in his notes, finding nothing, while the bridge crew went about piecing the ship and the fleet back together. The young scientist had all but given up on the Admiral’s impossible request when a raucous cheer went up from everyone on the command deck.
“Sir,” The coms officer called out, “The Consul’s Pride just dropped out of subspace and is hailing us, sir.
The main communication screen lit up, and Berendarin Lentith looked to see the face of his oldest sister on screen, strapped into the captain’s chair of her dreadnaught. He let out a sigh of relief; Baraquen was his favorite sibling. Her uniform was drenched in a deep orange blood stain at the shoulder, and she was covered in what looked like flecks of green gore from a Xelnassi. The artificial gravity was clearly malfunctioning, as the captain’s restraining harness was the only thing keeping her from floating around her bridge. But the bone plates of her jaw were turned as always into her calm, self assured smile
“My apologies for the delay in joining you, Admiral Va. We had some… guests shut down our drive mid jump. We had to deal with them before we rejoined the fleet. I assume there is a plan to get us back to federation space?”
“It’s good to see you in one piece, Captain Lentith,” the Admiral responded. He was barely able to keep the relief from his voice. “And there is indeed a plan.”
Berendarin returned to his research as the two ranking officers in the fleet went over the details of their current predicament. He was glad his sister had survived, and not just because they were close. It would have been a terrible blow to the whole family to have lost not only their future matriarch, but the ship she commanded as well. A member of his family had been commanding that dreadnaught uninterrupted for the last 5 generations. Military service had never appealed to Berendarin, but his family history was certainly still important.
And then the solution to the current problem hit him like a driver round. He let out a gasp and tore into his notes with a fervor. Both Admiral Va and his sister’s projection turned to look at him, but he didn’t notice. After a few seconds of curious silence from the rest of the onlookers, Berendarin practically jumped out of his seat.
“Admiral, I think I’ve got something that will work.” The young Lieutenant punched a few commands into his datapad, and a set of stellar coordinates popped up on the navigation terminal. “It’s a main sequence star, about 500 light years from us, fairly close to the edge of the Spur. It’s not anywhere near any established jump routes. The Consul’s Pride made me think of it.” He nodded towards his sister’s face on the ship's screen. “Our great, great grandsire took the Consul’s Pride through the system on her shakedown run a little over 300 cycles ago. Chased a band of Qorthi slavers out of the system. The outer four planets are all gas giants. If we can’t find Helium 3 there, I don’t know where else we should look.”
On screen, Captain Lentith looked impressed, but Admiral Va clearly didn’t seem too sure. “We’re supposed to be going away from Dominion forces, not into them. What were the Qorthi doing there?”
“There are also four rocky inner worlds in the system, Sir, according to reports from the encounter. Apparently, the third planet is a Class 7 Deathworld, and the Qorthi were running some experiments on the primitive lifeforms there. They were caught completely by surprise by the Consul’s Pride, and it was the first time that she fired her weapons in anger. I can’t find any reports of Dominion ships in that section of the Spur since.” There was a long pause before Va responded.
“Good work, Lieutenant. I knew my trust in you wasn’t misplaced.” Admiral Va replied, before turning to the rest of the bridge and booming “Coms! Tactical! Get those coordinates to every ship in the fleet. I want every ship we have left formed up and ready to jump as soon as possible. Any captain who feels that his drives can’t make the jump is to focus all repair efforts on getting their drives functioning immediately. I will transfer repair crews from less damaged ships to more damaged ships if that means we jump even a tick earlier. Get to it everyone. I’m not losing any more of my fleet today.”




The four revolution long jump to Science Officer Lentith’s newfound sanctuary had done wonders for Halon Va’s mental state. The initial shock of his fleet's terrible defeat had worn off, and he had been able to focus on what came next. Repair crews were able to stabilize most of his ship's core systems, and he was no longer worried about the life support systems cutting out and killing the rest of his crew. There had also been time for him to visit with the wounded. To thank them for their sacrifices. He had expected it to be an act of contrition, maybe even a chance to start begging for forgiveness. But there had been no anger in his crew, and no blame hung on his horns. Most had just been relieved that he had survived, and had expressed as much. He would be forever grateful to them for that.
Most importantly, the four revolutions in hyperspace had given the admiral time to really think about what had gone wrong in the nebula. He had barely rested in the preceding four revolutions, spending every scrap of spare time in his office, pouring over records from the battle. That’s where he found himself now, tucked behind his massive ceramic and titanium alloy desk of Tellarim design. It had been custom made for him upon his promotion to this command, a gift from the high admirals and the council. It was the only luxury that Va allowed in his office. The rest of Va’s space he kept strictly utilitarian. There were no trophies adorning his walls, as was customary for other members of his species. The plain bulkheads of his office were instead lined entirely with screens, and each of them were now filled with footage and reports from the battle, running on loop.
Va soaked it all in. The more he watched, the more a singular conclusion crystallized in his mind. He had done everything right; he was sure of that now. 1000 years of doctrine and theory for fighting the Dominion had gone into his preparation for that battle, and he had followed it to the letter. And he had been winning. Then that attack on his flank by the Zelnassi had blown all of that out of the airlock. Something significant had changed in the way the Dominion fought...
Commander Vortith’s voice rang out over the com system. ”Admiral Va, we’ll be transitioning back to real space in moments.”
“Thank you. I’ll be there shortly. And get Science Officer Lentith to the bridge. I want him nearby just in case. He’s the only one who has any idea of where we are.” The Admiral pulled himself from his desk. He would have to leave the rest of his analysis for later. There was just enough time for him to reach the bridge and settle into his command chair before the Horns of Glory snapped back to real space. This time, the inertial dampeners held.
“Tactical, status report.”
“All ships accounted for, Admiral. Though the Consul’s Pride, several cruisers, and three of our escorts are all reporting massive failures in their Drive Cores. They won’t be jumping anywhere anytime soon.”
“Wonderful.” Va wasn’t sure if he meant that sarcastically or not. “Get scans up and running and deploy the pickets that aren’t crippled in a standard scouting formation. How close are we to the nearest gas giant?”
“We’re approximately half a light tick from the system’s innermost gas giant, sir.”
“Excellent. Deploy the rest of the fleet. Put us in a high orbit around the planet in a defensive formation, and get our miners working immediately. Once our orbit is stable, I want every hand, paw and hoof in the fleet working on repairs.”
“Yes sir.”
Admiral Va settled into his command chair for a long shift.
It would be a drawn out, boring process to refuel the ships. With his fleet limping along, and only two functioning miners, it would take far longer than it should. After all the chaos of the last few revolutions, boring would be a welcome change of pace. Va started to relax, sinking into his chair’s acceleration padding. His fleet and his crews were finally safe. The first priority would be to get one of the subspace beacons repaired and to get word back to the Federation that the fleet still existed. And hopefully call for aid. He was sure to be stripped of his rank as soon as contact was made, but hopefully he would avoid a Tribunal. That was an unpleasant prospect…
“Sir, we have unidentified ship signatures appearing from around the planet we’re approaching.”
Va had never heard panic in the voice of his young sensors officer before, but it was certainly there now. Va understood the sentiment, though. He found it difficult to keep the panic from his own voice as he started issuing orders
“Bring the fleet up to combat status immediately. How many ships are there?”
“I’m showing 35 individual signatures. All approaching us at combat speed and still accelerating. At current speeds, they will intercept us in just over 30 ticks, sir.”
“I want details as soon as you have them, Lieutenant. Size, make, estimated firepower. Who they are. And keep scanning the system. Find out where they came from.” The panic had partially subsided for Va. 35 unknowns was not too terrible a threat. He still had almost 240 warships under his command. Still, if there was a way to avoid combat, he had to try. His fleet couldn’t suffer any more losses. “Coms, any attempt by these unknown ships to contact us?”
“I”m not sure, sir,” the diminutive Jezren at the coms replied. “There’s nothing on standard communications channels. The ships are transmitting something, but I can’t figure out what it is.”
“Admiral,” the Lieutenant at the sensors station called out. “I think I might have an idea of where these ships came from. Preliminary scans show there is extensive urbanization on the third and fourth planets, as well as what appear to be habitation sized artificial satellites around the second and sixth planets. One of the moons of the gas giant we’re approaching shows signs of habitation as well. All of them are emitting significant signal pollution. This system clearly already belongs to someone, and they’re broadcasting everywhere.”
Halon Va, High Admiral of the Combined Federation Fleets, turned, slowly and with as much composure as he could muster, to face the young science officer seated to his left. Berendarin sat, mouth agape, staring transfixed at the sensor readouts in front of him. Va had never seen a Vorqual more confused in his life. “I want answers, Officer Lentith.”
“I… I don’t.. This doesn’t make any sense,” the young science officer stammered. “There shouldn’t be anything here.”
“Admiral,” The comms officer cut in, “The signal that we’re picking up from the unknown ships is definitely some kind of communication. I managed to put together audio from it.”
“Play it,” commanded Va. A series of short, guttural, and completely unintelligible sounds came over the speakers in reply. There was a short pause before the sounds repeated themselves again. “Coms, what was that?”
“No idea, sir, but it’s being transmitted on loop. If it is intended as a communication, our translators have no idea what to do with it.”
“Admiral.” The voice came from Va’s left, and was barely audible. Va turned yet again to look at the young science officer. His gaze was locked on the tactical readout, and there something in his eyes that Va couldn’t recognize. A mixture of pure terror and something else. Was it wonder? The young Vorqual’s voice was still barely above a whisper when he continued to address the admiral: “I think we should run the transmission through First Contact Protocols.”




Captain Benjamin Alvarez-León slammed against his restraining harness as the USCS Aurora started it’s decel burn. He had pushed the engines on the outdated cruiser to their limits, and the ship groaned in protest as it started counteracting his rather zealous acceleration orders. He hoped that his mad scramble with his small squadron of outdated ships had been an overreaction. The alternative was something he’d rather not think about.
All Ben had was the reserves; the rest of the fleet was on maneuvers at Sirius. The Admiralty had wanted to test the new, fully modernized fleet’s maneuvering abilities in the gravwell of a binary system. And, in their infinite wisdom, they decided they needed ALL of the new fleet assets, leaving nothing in Sol except for the handful of cruisers and escorts that couldn’t match the capabilities of the modern ships.
A handful of cruisers and escorts that were now hurtling towards more than 200 unknown contacts.
It was the unknown part of all of this that was unnerving Ben. There were no familiar energy signatures. No familiar scan data. No IFF. No signals coming off the contacts of any kind for that matter. Two of the contacts were too big to even be ships. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were moving towards Jupiter in formation, Ben wouldn’t even think they WERE ships.
“So what do you think, Alexi?” Ben asked, turning towards his second in command. “You and the rest of the bridge crew are always making inane bets. Have you whipped up an over-under for what we’re throwing ourselves at yet?”
“Haven’t had time,” came the quick reply from Ben’s right. The short, stocky man from Vladivostok was missing his trademark joviality. “Though, my money is on them being Ithacan, sir.”
Ben bristled at Alexi calling him sir. They’d been friends for twenty years, damnit, and had been practically joined at the hip since going through the Academy together. Outranking him still felt a little off. Now was hardly the time to worry about formalities, though.
“What makes you think they're from Ithaca?”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense. The locals have been getting increasingly radical, and Ithaca is the only sector where reports of piracy have been increasing.”
“Yeah, I could see a rebellion coming from Ithaca,” Ben added slowly, turning over that scenario in his head. “But there’s no way they could swing something of this magnitude. There aren’t even any shipyards in the sector. And even if there were, there’s no way they could keep the construction of over two hundred ships a secret.”
Alexi could only offer him a shrug in response.
It was at that moment that the coms station informed him there was a transmission incoming from the unidentified ships. Ben instructed the ensign to play it, and the bridge was suddenly filled with a stream of grotesque bleating noises and strange grunts, with the occasional recognizable syllable interspersed throughout the transmission. Ben thought he picked out ‘dentify’ from the mess, but he wasn’t sure. There was a long moment of silence on the bridge.
“What the hell was that?”
When no one had any answers for him, Ben tapped his command console and recorded a new message to broadcast.
“This is Captain Alvarez of the USCS Aurora. Unidentified ships, please clarify. Your transmission is badly garbled. We did not receive your identification. You are still trespassing in Commonwealth space and are on an unauthorized course towards Jupiter. Begin decelerating immediately and re-identify yourselves.”
He wouldn’t admit it to the crew, but Ben was profoundly unsettled. Something was deeply, deeply wrong about this whole situation. Not only was he vastly outnumbered by these things, but they were unwilling to communicate properly. He was almost believing this whole thing was some kind of bizarre prank.
“How much longer before we can get a decent visual on these things?
“Any moment now, sir.”
A new transmission arrived just then, and Ben had it played back immediately. This time, instead of almost bovine bleats and grunts, the sounds coming over the speakers were mostly intelligible. Or, they would have been, if any of the syllables were in the right order. It was almost like a toddler was rattling off all of his new favorite sounds, spitting them out in a random order and not knowing how they went together. There were still a few heavy grunts sprinkled in, just for good measure.
Before Ben could process this new joke of a transmission, the contacts finally started slowing. In a matter of moments, the strange wall of contacts was hanging lazily in Jupiter’s orbit, barely moving fast enough to keep their orbit from decaying. They were still in perfect formation.
“Huh. Well, I guess that’s something.”
With nothing to do but sit back and wait as his ship closed the distance, Ben tried to relax and began running over all of the possibilities in his mind of what the new contacts could be. He came up with nothing. Well, nothing feasible, anyway. He took a series of long, calming breaths, trying to clear his mind and focus. This was no time for his imagination to be running wild. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that logic was failing him. Something was off. Something…
“Captain, bringing visual of the unknown contacts up on screen now.”
Ben actually felt his jaw drop. Every contact on his display was clearly a ship. Most were long and spindly, wrapped in layers of some kind of highly reflective armor; a fleet of crystalline arrows hanging in the darkness. The two largest contacts, which Ben had just moments ago thought were too big to be ships, were large enough on the screen for him to clearly see details. In addition to their immense size and strange armor, both ships were dotted with what were clearly weapons platforms, though what kind, Ben couldn’t tell.
Noticeably, almost all of the ships on his screen were heavily damaged. Chunks were missing from some ships, and most had deep lines gouged into their hulls. Any form of decorative paint or markings had been burned away. Something had put these ships through absolute hell. But still, the damage could not take away entirely from the elegance of the ship’s designs. They were graceful and sleek, completely different from anything Ben had ever seen before.
It was all so different. So strange. So very, very… Alien.
Despite every effort he had made to avoid the word, it finally forced itself to form inside Ben’s mind, and forced him to acknowledge the reality that legitimate, extra-Solar life was hanging in the darkness in front of him. It forced him to acknowledge the screams he had been suppressing in the back of his mind. The screams of his imagination crying out in glorious triumph over reality. And with those screams came a deluge of accompanying thoughts and emotions.
He was a child again, staring up at the stars above Armstrong and wondering what else, and who else, was out there. He was a teen again, signing his name to the Academy enrollment paperwork, determined to get out there between the stars and see the galaxy himself. He was a young officer again, screaming and pleading with the Admiralty to at least consider a modern First Contact scenario. He was sitting in his command chair now, hurtling towards honest-to-god aliens, all of his dreams made manifest in an instant. He was overwhelmed. He was terrified.
And he had never imagined that he could feel such elation.
It was the young warrant officer at the coms that snapped Ben out of his reverie. “Sir, the contacts are hailing us on all standard channels, requesting a video feed.” She sounded very, very nervous.
Ben immediately stood up, straightening his uniform as best he could. “If they’re anything less than genocidal monsters, I’m going to offer them aid and repairs. As long as they’re peaceful, there’s no reason not to extend them the full hospitality of humanity.”
“Ben,” Alexi asked, clearly choosing his words carefully, “Are you sure that’s the… Wisest course of action? How will the Admiralty respond to Goddamned alien ships docking at Hephaestus?”
“Alexi, in the 250 years the Commonwealth has existed, the First Contact protocols haven’t been updated since the charter was signed. No one has cared. This has been nothing but a fantasy for most people. I am NOT letting this opportunity get away. Every child that has ever looked up at the stars and wondered finally got an answer, and I will not waste this moment. We’re making friends, the Admiralty and the government be damned.”
“You do realize you’re potentially deciding the fate of our entire species on a whim, right?”
“Is there someone else you’d prefer to have making this call?”
Alexi, apparently deciding that there was not, stood up and straightened his uniform, standing next to his friend as he ordered the connection of the video feed. The channel connected, and the human bridge crew found themselves looking at the bridge of a ship crewed by not one, but three alien races.
The largest alien in the center of the screen opened its mouth to speak. This time, instead of bleats and grunts, a choppy, mechanical voice that didn’t sync up to the alien at all proclaimed from the bridge speakers in broken, stuttering English: “I. Am Admiral. Halon. Va. Of the Federation of. Sentient Races. Greetings and. Welcome. To the. Galaxy.”
Ben couldn’t suppress his smile.
“On behalf of the United Solar Commonwealth, and all of Humanity, greetings, and welcome to Sol. Your ships look like they’ve had a bad time on your way here. If there’s any way we could aid with your repairs, we’d be happy to help.”




Slave 782 slammed his right appendage onto the control console hard enough to rupture his outer membrane and smear ichor over the panel. It had been four days since the battle in the nebula, and with the latest round of reports, he finally had to admit that the rest of the Federation fleet had escaped him.
It was a minor frustration, all things considered, but the escape prevented this from being a total victory. Still, he had proven his worth to his owners in this battle, and his experiments with the Zelnassi had paid dividends beyond his wildest imagination. He had earned a command today, and with every success in that command, his ability to bargain for his people's freedom only increased. For what he would be asking, it might take the total defeat of the Federation to earn that kind of leverage. Also frustrating, but not a task that he couldn’t handle. It would be a long war, he was sure, but like his owners, he was patient.
He would earn his freedom, even if it meant reducing the entire Federation to glass.


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submitted by STATICinMOTION to HFY [link] [comments]

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

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

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

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

The SGT Sunscreen Saga - Part Five

Off Base
Once in awhile, when the stars align, you are allowed off base in AIT. Since I was a barracks rat, this prohibition on fun didn’t really affect me all too much. Fort Gordon, for those of you blessed enough not to know the area, really offers only three venues for soldiers – the mall, the tattoo shop, and the bar. There are eateries on base - a Waffle House, Popeye’s and a Taco Bell, but they usually involves people who outrank you. I am an E1, everyone outranks me, no thanks.
The mall is where you go to see Privates in the wild. If you’re ever around an AIT base, you’ll know it in a heartbeat. Go to a mall on a Friday around 6.30 and sit down in the food court. About five minutes in, you’ll see what you swear is a community college brochure come to life. You’ll get a black guy in a Bulls jersey joking with a white guy in cowboy boots, with an Asian guy in a button-up right behind. There are no “work-friends” anymore. Training is temporary, and time out is oh-so limited, so friends are your fellow soldiers, period.
One thing the commercials get right is the diversity in the Army. One way diversity shows up is how everyone dresses. Everyone’s got their own style, and when you’re “back on the block” you usually hang out with people with the same clothing style. Thing about the Army is, you have no idea what people wear other than the uniform. I honestly forgot jeans were a thing until after Basic.
As such, you make friends without knowledge of their style - almost like we’re human beings. Normally, if you approach me in a Tap Out shirt, cargo shorts, a backwards hat, flip flops and some sort of ill-fitting costume jewelry, I might avoid you. I’m sorry. Likewise, if you are just vehemently anti-flannel, we might have to be in different social circles – it is what it is. No love lost. So, the Augusta Mall, about ten minutes by taxi out of the gate, was where these packs of wild enlisted would roam - always in threes. Now, this mall had the typical amenities - a Gamestop, clothes and sporting goods stores, a food court and around seven Lids stores. Seven. One style I inexplicably picked up in the South was wearing those flat-billed hats - truly one of my biggest regrets in life. To be fair, I shaved my head every two weeks, so stupid hats made me look a bit less like a skinhead.
The real problem arose when I maintained this haircut after getting home, because I’m a cheap bastard. It wasn’t until a woman pulled her child out of an aisle I was shopping in I that I connected the dots - shaved head, blue eyes, leather jacket, motorcycle hel- … ohhhhhhh shit. Nobody ever told me either, they had me looking like the Nazi Youth for a solid year. Anyway, that’s the mall. However, the Augusta Mall, like all shopping centers around military bases - cater to stupid eighteen year olds with lots of cash. Now, everyone loves payday. For most of the world, it’s the time you can pay off enough of the bills to keep the lights on and buy yourself a celebratory Happy Meal. For soldiers, all Hell breaks loose. Now, we’ve established my conservative tendencies, but most of the armed forces does not agree with my frugality. We live on the “edge,” and most motherfuckers spend their paychecks on weekends and lady friends – I can’t blame them, honestly - nothing beats some good ol’ fashioned,booze-fueled, consensual sex. I understand it now, I didn’t then.
Now, as an E1, you're looking at maybe $600 a paycheck on the first and fifteenth. This is big money for a guy whose only previous job experience involved directing parking every summer at county fairs. One thing about my upbringing, is that I’ve never been “rich.” Of course, I always had food to eat, and a roof over my head, but that’s because my parents worked multiple jobs, and undeniably busted ass for us kids to get where we got. Being raised in this environment though, meant that you’d grow up to be frugal motherfucker – which I am to this day. I spent about 15 dollars a week during training, and came home with 10 g’s.
Some guys were broke by day three. Why? Because we’re fucking kids, that’s why. I had a roomie buy a 600 dollar knife, multiple times. Privates were buying cars, and jewelry, and whatever the fuck else teenagers buy. Meanwhile, I was shaving my head every two weeks to save the seven dollars from the barber. My biggest purchase? Skyrim, the day it came out, and I was entirely too stressed over the purchase … with thousands in the bank.
There’s a reason you find a lot of homeless vets - there’s not a ton of fiscal training, and the only repercussion for spending all your cash in Active Duty is not being able to go out anymore - rent and food is paid for. Anyways, at least partly responsible for this financial shitbaggery are the predatory merchants everywhere around bases.
The worst are car dealerships - offering you automatic loans solely for being in the military. The problem that many of my fellow soldiers discovered is that while twenty bucks a month for an iPad may seem like a good idea, the final price was somewhere around 2500 bucks - the Mustang everyone somehow buys winds up being in the 60’s. Plus, attractive chicks aggressively try to sell you jewelry “for your girl back home.” Even outside of the PX, there’s a couple guys trying to sell you a fucking claymore sword with your “family crest” on it for about a thousand dollars. A claymore, for those of you who haven’t seen Braveheart, is a 5-6’ two-handed sword. Where they thought we’d be stashing these massive melee weapons I don’t know. One kid actually bought one, and when he tried to bring it up into the barracks, he was sent directly to the post office to send it home. If they don’t let us keep Swiss Army knives in our rooms, I don’t know how he thought they’d let this William Wallace monstrosity through the doors. Whatever, this was shopping, one of the three venues.
The next hotspot was the tattoo parlor - there are more tattoo shops around an Army base than Starbucks in Orange County. Trust me on this.
There’s a few ways to tell someone’s in the military when they’re outside of uniform. If they are really playing up the “Army” aspect at a bar, you’ll probably catch some dog tags around their neck – you’ve found yourself a Private. Just as obvious, for males, is the haircut. Again, if they seem to be surrounded by people with similar haircuts, but in vastly different clothing styles, you might have a winner. If you’re in California and hear a country drawl, there you go. When that fails, check for that tattoo. Tattooing is almost synonymous with enlisted soldiers. It’s a rite of passage. Having one bad tattoo, bringing home a “4,” waking up hungover and missing pants – everyone’s got a story. I, of course, wanted to be no different.
As soon as you graduate Basic, you have a honeymoon period with the Army. You’re a “real soldier” now, part of the team – completely unjaded. 18 year olds also find themselves with some real dough for the first time in a while. What does unbridled patriotism, a heightened sense of toughness and a couple thousand dollars equal? A tattoo. A terrible, terrible tattoo. For a lot of reasons, the Army is like high school. The jocks (infantry) look down on the junior varsity (other combat arms) who finally look at everyone else like they’re the founding members of the Scrabble Club. As the founding member of my high school’s Scrabble club, it was offensive, but entirely deserved.
Another high school attitude in the military is that being too “in to” something is lame. Unlike that kid who only watched anime and ran through the halls with his wheelie backpack, you gotta blend in. The problem is, is that tattoos are supposedly a permanent art form. The thing is, when you were drunk on “hooah,” all these privates went out and got the American flags, the Iwo Jima picture, maybe an eagle. Now, there are tons of excellently done patriotic tattoos. However, some are essentially the “tribal tattoos” of the Army. “One shot, one kill” for example. You’ve got “Death before Dishonor.” One poor kid got the whole soldier’s creed on his ribs. But none hold a battery-operated church candle to one proud private. Down his arm, from shoulder to elbow was “Hooah!” in Army script. I’m sure he regrets that now. Be smart about your ink everybody.
So, about four or five times over the months of AIT I’d go with a buddy while they got tattoos. Of course, I was pretty uncomfortable in the tattoo parlor we frequented - the dude at the front literally had flames tatt’d from his eyebrows to the back of his head, with spacers in his nose. You weren’t finding the social upper crust in downtown Augusta, that’s for sure. Anyways, some guys get tattoos as often as people go to the movies - with the same amount of forethought.
“Wanna see a movie?” “Yeah!”
“Wanna get tatted?” “Sure!”
So I had my sleeve-length tattoos all drawn out - yeah, sleeves. Plus I had all the upper arm and chest tatts I drew on myself once in Sharpie - It took a week to wash off, and I had to be careful no one saw me in the shower, because that’s how you get nicknames. At the end of the day, I ended up bitching out, which I’m glad I did, or else I’d be explaining a few lewd tattoos to a grandkid a few years down the line.
The third venue that we trainees frequented was the bars. I never went - I hadn’t so much as sipped a beer until my first time home on leave. However, it was always evident who went out during the recall formation. Every weekend night, there would be an accountability formation held at 11 PM, and you had to have your ass back there.
Warning - here comes a rant. We weren’t allowed weekend passes like other companies, couldn’t buy a vehicle like other companies, and couldn’t live off post like other companies - despite these privileges being authorized by the Post Commander. Now, I have yet to be disparaging about any officers, because that’s not how I do things. Thing is though, in training companies, officers are attached there temporarily - so they don’t really give a shit about their soldiers since they are already on their way out the door. The problem with this is that officers will arbitrarily restrict soldiers’ activities in order to make themselves look good. It was constantly brought up that our company had no drug, alcohol or violence issues in something like 500 days - a battalion record for which the CO, not the soldiers, got the recognition. While the CO got another bullet point on the performance review, all 300 soldiers slowly went stir-crazy at our confinement. My battle buddies from other companies were having hotel parties,or driving home for the weekend. while we stood in the cold for role to be called. Rant over, but it was some real horseshit. To all future leaders, look out for your soldiers, and your soldiers will look out for you. We’re not stupid, we know when you’re playing games.
Anyways, because soldiers drink like … soldiers, half the company was blitzed out of their minds at recall. I normally had no issue with this - do what you do. The issue came about when drunk people, as drunk people do, decided to run their mouths at inopportune times.
Before you were allowed to head inside the barracks, an alphabetical roster had to be read through and then your ID had to be checked at the door. The poor bastards at the end of the roster knew their time wasn’t coming for a while, and so would chatter and yell through the whole thing. Some duty sergeants - pissed that they didn’t get to be buzzed on a fine Friday evening, would stop role entirely until the commotion died down - it didn’t. They’d yell “Abner” or “Alvarez” and the peanut gallery would scream “AWOL!” or “He’s dead!”and laugh and laugh. By the third or fourth name, the especially ornery NCO’s would put everyone in the front-leaning rest until it was over. All in all, weekend bed check normally took an hour at the earliest, up to two at the worst. So, I’m “M,” middle of the pack regardless. I’d go inside, brush my teeth, and watch a little TV in my room, then rack out. The inebriated folks would run through the hallway screaming, or kicking in doors, or lighting shit on fire until the duty NCO came upstairs, yelled, and sent everyone to bed. This was life for nine months.
My weekends usually went a bit differently than the drinkers. Now, I’ve since had my “drink, get into shenanigans and generally live an entirely unsustainable lifestyle” phase. Hell, I lived in a frat house. I’m 23, and if I make it to 30, it is a gift from God. Anyways, my AIT Fridays, in contrast, were some depressing shit. There’s no food allowed in the barracks – none. Seriously, Sergeants would open ceiling tiles and flip lockers to find some Poptarts (Hint - hide them under layers of civilian clothes or in ziploc bags in the latrine ceiling.)
Fortunately, about a hundred yards away from our barracks was the “IET” Initial Entry … something, essentially a rec room with a pool table, a couple tv’s, a coffee shop and a mini Domino’s Pizza inside. I was a regular, because NCO’s weren’t allowed in - not that they’d want to be in there anyway.
I had a very rigid weekend schedule. Fridays, we got off at five, so I went to chow with buddies, returned to watch How I Met Your Mother until 8, then off to the IET to buy cheesy bread and a Sprite. Return by nine, watch a movie until recall, then sleep. Everyone else got their drink on while I patiently waited for Ted and Robin to hook up. I finished that show four times - this was before the horseshit final season. It was one of the only shows on my hard drive.
Saturday and Sunday I’d form up at nine, and get that beautiful breakfast chow, Now, it’s a proven fact that breakfast food is the best food. If Ron Swanson says it, you live it. Breakfast is the best part of the Army - by far. Maybe it’s just so we don’t have even more reason to kill ourselves, but, again, Army food isn’t bad. Seriously.
So, every day we’re not in the field you get some powdered eggs, some bacon or sausage, and biscuits or something - they even had some fancy parfaits if you were feeling especially dainty. Bomb-dig spread there, Army. Plus, I’d fill a couple cups with ice, then throw the coffee on, mix in some chocolate milk - boom. You’d think I was Bobby Flay for thinking of making iced coffee. There was no rational reason for missing breakfast chow. Plus, you knew that PT is over for the day, and that makes the occasional pancake so much better. After lunch, it was either the mall or the px, be back by dinner, watch a movie, then get to recall. I was a real party fucking animal.
This would go on for months. Nine sad, long, unchanging months. I stopped going on Facebook because people back home having fun made me sad. Not quite sad enough to kill myself though, that would be another guy.
The Classroom
When we weren’t busy raking lines in dirt, eating breakfast, or killing ourselves, we went to class. This was the entire point of being at Gordon - learning our specific job. Really it’s where we spent months in a windowless room with computers, only to venture outside to step inside bigger computers with satellite dishes. Before you ask, there was no internet on the computers, and we could not have our phones on us from 7 AM until 5 PM. For the thousands of hours I spent in Sierra training, I have almost nothing funny to contribute - it was by far the most brain-numbingly boring activity I think one can complete. They spent a week teaching us binary, for really no fucking reason.
It took me about a month of class before I asked when we’d learn about the drones my recruiter had promised me, and the instructors laughed their asses off. It was then that reality sank in - I was in for a rough year.
My job, as a 25Sierra, is essentially being the Army’s wifi - I turn on my equipment, hit a few buttons, and blam, I’m done. Really, the training could have been thoroughly completed in two weeks. The shit we were trained on - for months - isn’t even in use anymore. I got to my unit after training and they said they hadn’t used the equipment I’d been trained on for over a decade. Half our training was on “satellite theory” - as if we fucking needed to know about geosynchronous orbits and signal polarity to make the antenna autotrack. I got so bored I created a lavish beach scene out of router connections and modems on the training module - I spent three whole days on it - until I was discovered and smoked accordingly. They were even less impressed when I made the giant robot attacking it the next day. I’m hoping it’s still lurking in some database somewhere in the schoolhouse - I put a lot of work into it.
I think the most important lesson learned in the schoolhouse was the danger of wearing civilian clothes, as an instructor, to the schoolhouse.
We had one instructor, who thought he was the House, MD of satellite communications. He was always yelling, and tried his damndest to ensure that we, the peasants, feared him. He was moderately successful with his ruse until he showed up on his day off, and we lost all respect for this dude. There he stood, with some Beatles glasses, a billowing Red Wings jersey, baggy cargo pants, and TOE SHOES. Yeah, those goofy fucking toe shoes! Man, it was tough to listen to the guy after that. Note to all you future leaders out there - stay in uniform.
I'm not sure how it worked in other training schools, but in AIT, when we got to class, we had to form up and sing the "Army Song," “The Signal Corps March,” and recite the "Soldier's Creed." Every day.
This daily routine is performed by a soldier pulled - at random - from the formation. Now, this was before my vocal smart-ass phase, so I was not on the leadership’s radar. (Instructors at the schoolhouse are different from those who are responsible for you at the barracks. Think of your grumpy landlord versus an equally alcoholic professor.)
So, since I was Non-Descript White Private #6, I blended in. I hadn't said a word to any of the instructors outside my classroom, so they didn't know how my voice sounded.
This went on until the last fucking day, seriously the last fucking day of class. Out of the blue, I get called up to sing it out. However, the end was in sight - I could see the light. So, I thought, fuck it.
Now, due to my complete lack of athletic ability, general intelligence, or prowess with the ladies, I've had to develop a special set of skills. While rescuing chicks on boats and karate-chopping Albanians would be my number one choice, I had to settle for the fact that I can make a lot of different "voices" - my favorite being a pretty good imitation of the old-school Batman narrator. So I take my place at the head of the formation, and I belt out the "Soldier's Creed" in the voice, straight-faced. The soldiers in formation started laughing, but the leadership didn't really respond - maybe this kid is just fucking retarded.
I get through all the songs n' such, and it comes time to march us in for another riveting day of bullshit. When you march in a formation ("File from the left, column left!") the first soldier in each line yells something to their line (either "stand fast" or "forward") What these cheeky bastards did was copy my voice as best they could. Not cool guys. And at that moment of realization, the head instructor sprinted over, nose to my cheek, and screamed
"What the FUCK do you think you're doing, Private?!"
Well, for one, he was the guy walking and talking on his phone in front of everyone’s formation during the Creed. One, walking and talking on a phone isn’t allowed - and this is the fucker that would yell about regulations and stray boot laces. Two, it’s definitely disrespectful to mosey around in front of any formation, anywhere, and it was just the tip of of this guy’s sheer patronizing asshaterry iceberg.
I was having none of it.
So, with a rogue wave of self-righteous indignation, I screamed back -
"I’m using my COMMAND VOICE, Sergeant!"
So, he lost his fucking mind, sending everyone scurrying into the building, while screaming at me. He attempted to give me an “Article 15” (an Army punishment that can strip pay and rank - a big deal.)
Luckily, my First Sergeant was having none of it and it didn't go through (since apparently Schoolhouse Sergeant didn’t have the authority give me one.) He asked me to demonstrate the voice, which I did, and he thought it was hilarious. Top, if you’re out there reading, thanks for looking out. I’m actually scared to mention you by name, but I hope you’ll find out somehow. Anyway I was now authorized to use my narrator voice when the new Privates were getting in trouble.
"Loook ouuuut Privates! Platoon Sergeant's coming!
“Meeeaaanwhile, in the hallway!"
Plus, the next time we saw Instructor Asshat on a company run, our 1SG made him do push-ups while we jogged in place. A little extreme, but hey, Army is Army.
Sometimes I get in trouble even when I don’t open my mouth. Like I said, the Army is super uptight with all the PC stuff. The problem is, is that most current leadership is from the “old Army,” where every non-alcoholic is a “faggot,” and a woman’s worth is based solely on the shapeliness of her ass. So, to compensate, some of the old timers have swung hard to the opposite side of the spectrum. Only some though, the rest go even harder to compensate.
Another fun Army rule, is that you can never have your hands in your pockets. Need to grab your keys? Your hand better hurry the fuck up. No dilly-dallying in there either. Is that a limp wrist? Police yourself, Soldier.
Anyways, so without pockets, you really do have a limited option for idle hand placement. Usually, you default to “at-ease,” but once in awhile you switch it up. My personal favorite is the “John Wayne.” The JW involves you hooking your thumbs through the belt above your pelvis – it’s comfy and natural, whatever.
This pose was completely unacceptable to one random sergeant, as I was once “verbally counseled” for sexual misconduct. The reason? “I was bringing attention to my genitals.” I think the real problem was that a certain staff sergeant’s genitals weren’t getting any attention.
Another constant in the Army is good ol’ AR 670-1. This Army regulation dictates all appearances you as a soldier are authorized to have. On and off duty. This includes haircuts, length of fingernails, and the acceptable state of repair of one’s blue jeans (seriously.) Some make sense - dudes can never have earings, you dirty hippies. Some make less sense - no super cool mohawks allowed. Some make no sense - you can not have any object on your dog tag chain unless it is religious. This is a problem, because we need to have our locker keys on us at all times, including in our decidedly haphazardly pocketed PT shorts. Now, the drill sergeants in Basic, being the pragmatic DGAF individuals that they are, instructed us to attach our keys to our dog tags.
But oh no, in AIT we had to abide by garrison rules - which means no keys allowed. However, leading a successful insurrection, I drew a cross on my key, thus making it the sigil o’ Christianity. The instructors were less than impressed with my manipulation of the system. This is about the extent of my raging against the machine, but it was a sweet campaign that the bards will sing of for centuries.
Slumber Parties with Spiderman
Very, very few times in life, being inept can work out in your favor. I cannot make a bed to military standards. I can’t fucking do it. Really, I’m sorry. In Basic, I slept underneath my bed as much as possible. It got to the point in AIT, that I had my room flipped so often for having incorrect hospital corners, they got tired of trashing it, and authorized my ass to get civilian sheets.
Now, choosing your own sheets in the real world might not seem like a big thing, but when you’ve been forced to sleep on top of an itchy, wool blanket from World War 2 for 25 weeks, your own comforter is a great thing. Being the immature assholes we are, soldiers never get your typical, adult sheets. Oh, no, we were men in twin sized beds that would never be seen by a woman. So, we got ridiculous. We had guys with Dora the Explorer, Transformers, and Thomas the Tank Engine – I decided on Spider Man. Yes, I would return from a full day and collapse on my crisp, blue, Spiderman sheets. It was truly a great time to be alive.
We did have a particular NCO who had one strict rule when it came to our rooms - only one.
Because of the longevity of our training, soldiers were able to get to know their NCO’s real well – almost developing a clearly hierarchical, but still sometimes amiable, verbally abusive step-parent relationship. Now, I sure as shit did not, which is for damn sure. They didn’t learn my name in 9 months, and I’m totally cool with that. Sure, a couple knew my face, but also thought my name was “Private.” It worked just fine for me.
One of the things about working alongside these fine non-commissioned officers, is you realize that they too, are almost humans. One’s from Texas, one enjoys LARPing, one is a female – real deep shit. One such quirk we realized is that a certain SSG Bueller HATED Pokémon. Absolutely hated anything pocket monster related. Any such contraband would be tossed out of a window. Why?
Well, dear reader, poor SSG Bueller had spent 18 months in Iraq in the most hipster way possible – he got there before it was cool. This meant that there were no significant bases, no infrastructure, no massive tents to go watch Shania Twain on her golden guitar. No, this meant, the only thing you could entertain yourself with when not getting shot at was whatever you carried with you. For some soldiers, they carried sketchpads, journals, or letters from back home – real Band of Brothers-type shit. But SSG B was having none of that. Oh no, SSG B had a motherfucking Game Boy, with motherfucking Pokémon Gold. The problem was … that was all he had. I don’t know how to tell you guys this, but a handheld game meant for twelve year olds can be completed pretty succinctly in twenty or so hours – more if you were that one asshole who actually tried to catch them all. Thing is, poor B had this game – and only this game – for a year and a half. Yeah, 500’ish days of a game meant for Japanese schoolchildren.
Needless to say, when he got back home, SSG hated anything and everything Pokémon. This was in fact, his only rule implemented, and I quote, “No Pokémon shit.” That’s it.
Of course, as the giggling manchildren we were, we thought this request was hilarious. We didn’t take into account that maybe a grizzled veteran wouldn’t like to be reminded of one of his many tours every fucking day while sloughing through another equally-as-shitty Georgia day. No, we wanted to be cute. And so we did - Pokemon sheets, Pokemon dolls, people would even mail him Pokemon dolls after they’d left and we’d laugh and laugh while he died a little bit inside every time. Sorry, SSG B. Hope you catch ‘em all someday.
Newbies
I have a particularly long MOS, so I was in AIT for around eight, nine months. The thing with training companies, is that there's an influx of new soldiers as soon as an old class graduates. Of course, as soon as I get to the party, it's decided to funnel all the newbies to other companies. This means that there becomes slowly less and less soldiers in my company. This sucks.
Why?
Well, reader, there's a thing in the Army called "fire guard." This is usually a two, four, or six hour shift of you wrestling errant flames. (Not really, you sit at a desk, and try not to sleep.)
The problem is, is that this duty is bequeathed by alphabetical roster. Month by month it got smaller and smaller - by the end, we went from 300 soldiers to 50, split between the day, night, and swing shift. This meant guard duty every night, and cleaning the barracks was a bitch and a half.
Luckily, two days before my class shipped home, we got fresh meat. You forget how lost in the sauce you are getting to AIT fresh out of Basic. Where you had every second of every day planned, there was now a bit of leeway. So, like the good soldiers we were, we fucked with them.
Another bullshit fact in training is the "bed check." This entails grown-ass men waiting outside their doors at 9PM in order to ask permission to go to sleep. If the duty sergeant starts at the other end of the building, you're fucked.
However, the new bloods don't know this - they just see "Bed check 2100 (9pm) for all new soldiers."
At 8.55, all of us older cats start freaking out around the privates.
"Guys! What the fuck are you doing?! It's almost bed check! You better get down there ASAP!"
They freak out and start hauling for the duty desk until we stop them.
"C'mon guys, it's bed check! You have to get your mattress cleared your first night in the barracks. Hurry!"
So these poor kids all grab their mattresses and one of them even managed to get it out a door by the time sergeant got upstairs.
"What the fu- what is this happy horse shit!? Who the fuck are you?!
He pops his head in the room to see the new guys confusedly grasping at their twin-sizes
“Wait, there's more?! Goddammit!"
Anyway, these guys spilled in right before we left on our final AIT FTX. This FTX was to be a five day long FOB (Forward Operating Base) scenario - like” little Iraq.” For the first time, we were mixed with soldiers who weren’t satellite peeps. I thought we were idiots, but apparently, we’re the fucking cream of the crop in the commo community. Some of the people assigned with us were Limas - the guys who essentially just plug shit in. They were at Gordon all of six weeks, and were bitching about how long they were there. These guys were the GED fuckers I thought I’d left behind in Basic.
Now, I mean no offense to the Limas of the world, as it isn’t a fair representation of all y’all, but the kids we were stuck with were some real goobers.
Anyway, the cadre at the FOB took their job entirely too seriously - trying to be drill sergeants when they weren’t. I guess it made sense for the guys who have only been out of Basic for a month, but for those of us who’d been at Gordon a while, we were thoroughly unimpressed. They screamed and yelled and dumped our shit on the ground, and divided us all into different musty tents.
The week comprised of marching around, playing Army, and getting “bombed” every couple hours. Being bombed meant that a siren would play in the middle of the camp, flashbangs would get thrown, and we’d all hustle out to squeeze into some bunkers - simple enough.
At night, because some people decided to change clothes for some reason, the only required equipment was your helmet, body armor, and weapon - too easy. Because I am a dirty nasty, I didn’t change for the entirety of the op, because it usually paid off. There were no ladies to impress, so who cared that I smelled like a JV locker room.
One night, a buddy and I were coming off guard duty at 2 in the morning, after an exciting “attack” (us two gate guards shooting blanks at bored instructors being “OpFor.”) We hadn’t been fake bombed all night, so I knew for a fact that we were going to be hit soon. I walked into the tent, stripped off my armor, helmet, and blouse (for a pillow) and laid there. My buddy laughed at me for never taking off my boots. Five minutes later, we get “hit.” This was towards the end of the exercise, so they threw tons of shit at us. Explosions and sirens everywhere.
I laughed the whole way to the shoddy pallet stack that was our “bunker.” Within two minutes, the rest of the twelve man tent has slid in, in various forms of dress, but with the three required pieces. At least, we thought we had everyone. Private fucking Snarf, a Lima who would lose Trivial Pursuit against a bag of potatoes, was nowhere to be found. An instructor stuck his head in - “You guys up?” (meaning “is everyone accounted for, and uninjured.”)
We just stared at him until somebody nodded. He left to check on everyone else.
At this point, everyone around the FOB is done hustling and bustling, the siren has stopped, and Snarf still didn’t show up. Then, in the distance, we hear … slapping? But it was getting closer to us.
Closer.
...Closer.
The dude closest to the bunker entrance stuck his head out, and just whispered “Oh, Goddamnit.”
In slides Snarf, wearing just PT shorts, a helmet, and ... flip flops. Nothing else.
“Did I miss it?”
Ten minutes after the “raid,” the entirety of our bunker stood at attention while Snarf did some push-ups. Whatever, it didn’t matter, because graduation was a couple days away.
There was, however, a bullshit scavenger hunt type check list before you were allowed to leave Gordon - including another CIF turn in and even making sure you didn’t have any outstanding fines at the library. Ha - library. I had been in maybe twice, and only then because it was the only spot with wifi. You’d think the Army’s communications headquarters would have some wifi, but you’d be wrong. Our company had three computers with internet in the day room, for three hundred of us. Yeah, welcome to the Army, asshole.
Graduation
AIT graduation is a lot less pomp and circumstance, and more just an annoyance to everyone. No one really gives a shit, but this is the Army, damnit, so we’re gonna play some brass instruments and put on fancy clothes.
The fancy clothes, or dress blue’s, had to have our new ranks sewn on, be pressed and perfect to the centimeter - there were inspections. About two months before, a large group of us E-1s were promoted to E2. Does this change anything? Not really - you are still called “private” and are treated no differently than you were before. However, in AIT, it was a big fucking deal. The rank structure in initial training is so fucked. PFC’s actually commanded respect, and junior privates had to listen. Specialists were just untouchable. In reality, being E1-E4 doesn’t change jack shit - everyone’s mopping the same bathrooms together.
This being the case, getting promoted was just the tits. Now, we, as E2’s, got to look down on the peasants that were the E1’s - I think it’s literally the least amount of power that can go to one’s head. We’d call them “fuzzies.” Because E1 has no official rank designator, the velcro patch on their chest would be left blank, or fuzzy. It’s jarring to see one now, It’s been a solid year since I saw a buck private. Anyways, we got the stupid “mosquito wings” sewed on our blue’s for graduation.
The ceremony itself was pretty straight forward - you walk across the stage into a spotlight, say your name, MOS, and where you’re headed (I was tempted to say “Fort Couch,” but I didn’t want to push my luck.) Of course, for the slower soldiers, this became a herculean task. Three things guys, three. Plus people got confused on exactly where to stand, so bewildered NCO’s literally ran masking tape arrows across the stage. We had to practice five times.
Anyway, so the day before shipping out of Gordon, we had the graduation. There was really only twenty family members who showed up - half of us were flying home the next day anyways. I’m not going to lie, I was excited to march over to the graduation venue that morning. We passed by the chow hall, in our blues, which told all the other companies waiting for grits that we were done. Fuck y’all, we’re out (except for the one poor bastard who got stationed right back in Fort Gordon.) So, we have the ceremony - and yes, people still fucked it up. Afterwards we headed back to the barracks and some people went out to go party for the last time. I did not, because tomorrow was the flight home.
So, of course, I spent the night packing, right? Wrong. We had an exit locker inspection to keep us from maybe having a smooth exit the next day.
Ship day was nuts. Breakfast, and then we lucky reservists had a brief with the National Guard liaison on what to expect back home, and who to report to as soon as we got there. Blurbity blah blah. The Active Duty members of our class had an additional two weeks of instruction ahead of them. We were not subtle with our smugness.
Our Gordon departure times were kept a secret until we got back to the barracks - where we discovered that nine of us had to be on the road in twenty minutes. We had 1200 seconds to pack everything we owned, throw away the rest, and say goodbye to the people we’ve spent 80 hours a week with for almost a year. The bitch of the bunch is you are only authorized two army green duffels for travel - one of which is completely filled with your uniforms, boots, and the like, the second which is also about half full of armyness.
Most my clothes, a couple boots, my beloved Spiderman blankets, and a sweet lcd monitor I found in the hallway all got the boot. I gave the monitor to some new Privates, which now that I think about it, is the opposite of hazing.
Anyway, the good part is that there wasn’t any time to say a long, awkward goodbye to anyone. Just a quick handshake and a nod with about ten people, then we piled into the van. On the final check-out, my platoon sergeant didn’t even know who I was, despite me seeing him every morning for forever. Whatever, I really didn’t give a shit about him, just my buddies - it was a bittersweet morning.
I’ve only seen three guys since - one in Kansas, and two in California, out of the 300 I started with.
CONTINUED IN PART SIX
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