I have some perspective about Lorin from the early days I’d like to share. I don’t know if this will be helpful to anyone, but I’d like to share what I saw and felt during the arc of Lorin’s career from my vantage. These are insights I’ve had over the years from being somewhat around him, and watching his rise, and now fall. I won’t be writing directly about his actions and the women he hurt, that’s not my place, but I have total empathy for them and support for them in their quest for healing. I’m more writing this for those who were fans, and who might be trying to figure out what the fuck just happened, reconcile this whole traumatizing experience, and get a better understanding of who this man that had such a strong effect on them actually was. None of us really know, but we can try together to learn and get a clearer picture. submitted by
I first got into the west coast electronic music scene through Burning Man in the late 90’s/early 00’s. The first time I heard of Lorin was from friends who had been out on the playa in 98 and caught some of his sets, particularly at El Circo’s camp, and came back raving about him. A lot of the aesthetic and attitude and energy of the west coast electronic music/burner scene was really shaped and defined by the El Circo camp, and Lorin was their shamanic musical spiritual leader, and eventually the entire playa’s. El Circo was from Ashland and Lorin from South Bay, but they seemed somehow destined to meet. I don’t know when that happened exactly, but it was a powerful fusion. In 99/00/01, if Lorin was spinning at the El Circo tent, everyone was going. And by everyone, I mean like 4-500 people. Which at that point, even though Burning Man was pretty big, it felt like “everyone” on the playa, because it was the 4-500 people who deeply cared about being at the greatest electronic music party there could ever be (at that time), and knew they were in for something special. Whatever magic he channeled was there from the very beginning. And after two decades of watching it and seeing it and thinking about it I still have no idea what it was. I just know that everyone felt it viscerally and immediately.
My first experience with Lorin personally was talking with him after a gig in LA around the same time. There were maybe 20 people in the room, but I remember this powerful primal energy radiating from him as he spun. There was this sense of abandon in the people dancing. It was a vibe, an energy, that was unlike what emanated from any other DJ at the time, or since really. I talked with him outside afterwards just him and I for about 10 minutes as he was waiting for a ride. He made a strong impression on me that has stayed with me. He was extremely principled and motivated. He had just chosen the name Bassnectar instead of Lorin and was laughing about how it was ironic cause he felt his first track he had just put out had shitty bass cause he was still learning Reason. He was grounded and self effacing. He also clearly had an obsessive work ethic. He said he tried to spin an hour of new music every time he dj’d. I was like, what the fuck? This was during the era of vinyl. NOBODY spun an hour of new music every gig. I had no idea where he was even getting a new hour of music he was spinning each gig, which was super early dubstep/bass music and sounded incredible and totally exotic and foreign. I assumed later he was on very early message boards getting mp3’s directly from producers or something. There was no Beatport back then that’s for sure. He also spun on CDJ’s and was the first DJ I ever saw who was magically getting tracks from the net and burning cds to spin them. This was super alien at the time. Nearly everyone else was vinyl. Before Lorin, at least in California, anyone on CDJ’s was looked at like a wedding DJ.
He was extremely driven. When he talked he would look me in the eyes, but then look away when talking about how he wanted to be so much bigger than he was, and he stated that underlying that desire to be that big was to affect the kind of change he wanted to affect. No DJ I had met talked like this, and no DJ I knew of at this time was politically aware and motivated like this. Being a DJ was about rocking a party and that was it. There was very little if any social or status gain at this time to be talking like he was, if anything I’d say it was the opposite.
There have been several distinct generations of die hard fans of Lorin as far as I can tell. The first generation was I believe the earliest crews from the Santa Cruz beach parties and such. The second generation, which I witnessed, were semi-affectionately nicknamed the “beautiful people from the future”. These were the best dressed hottest wildest most creative rebellious entrancing people you’d ever seen, and they all seemed to show up at Lorin’s sets and they were by equal measure amazing and kind of pretentiously annoying, but undoubtedly were at the best parties, which Lorin was invariably DJing. Most of them have since retired to Nevada City. The third generation was I believe the “rave kids” as I heard them referred to as, who started showing up in droves at festivals, and no one knew where they came from. The beautiful people from the future started to drift off, there was a sort of handoff, and It was at that point that I remember thinking that his charisma and power is not scene specific, it jumps across generation lines, which blew my mind. Its been ongoing since then, until the end.
Lorin’s arc was obviously tragic, on many levels. He was set up as the chosen one from very early on. And its not like anyone was “looking” for a chosen one when he showed up. He really was just that dude no one could have known was coming, but everyone responded to instantly and accordingly. People who came back from Burning Man 98 who had caught his sets talked like they’d seen Jesus Christ himself, and these were dancefloors of maybe 200 people. My feeling, from occasional conversations with him over the years, what I heard from others, and observed in how he carried himself, was that he was aware of and did not want to fall into the egoic traps that come with a position like that, and fought very hard to resist them. I think the passion he had for social activism was his way of trying to redirect that adoration, and in fact in his mind really was the primary underlying reason behind managing and navigating the level of adoration that he anticipated he would need to deal with in the first place.
But the thing is, and here is where I believe he fell, you cannot consciously redirect or sublimate or override the ego traps that come with receiving that degree of adoration and reverence. You MUST have checks. But you can’t hire checks, or control them. You have to develop internal checks alongside inviting ruthless and brutal outside perspective, and that is going to look different for everyone, and it is going to be an extremely labor intensive task to develop and maintain - if you even can at that level. Lorin apparently could not. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believe that Lorin’s social activism originated from a very genuine place. I heard it in his voice when he had no reason to virtue signal, that was just not part of the landscape then. But I think it became compartmentalized, and became a smokescreen internally, as well as inevitably externally. From the outside we can’t reconcile this seeming hypocrisy, so we see it as deceptive and intentional and masterminded. But I will bet you a million fucking dollars Lorin didn’t see this hypocrisy himself until everything fell apart three weeks ago, if he even even saw it then, or will see it in 5 years, or ever. How much do normal people delude themselves and rationalize and compartmentalize? A LOT. Well imagine that you, a normal person, are also extremely driven, a borderline control freak with an overpowering vision, massively worshipped for two decades, and have literally no checks or balances on your power, and watch where your natural tendencies to compartmentalize and rationalize turbo-boosted by the force of fame lead: madness, cognitive dissonance, and the inevitable exploitation of others. You won’t mean harm. You won’t even be able to conceive of how your actions might cause harm. You will be so entitled and protected by money, fame, and adoration that you will be literally unable to see it. Until that is you are made to see it. And then its too late for everyone involved.
Lorin is 100% responsible for his actions. The warping effects of power and the path to unhealthy levels of narcissism are not an excuse. They create anti-social behavior, and a functioning society must regulate anti-social behavior. Many people have justifiably lost faith in the patriarchal justice system to regulate the anti-social and harmful actions of men in power. Cancel culture introduces forced accountability and immediate consequences for those who the hive mind deem in violation of standards of decency. There is value in this, for sure. But I can tell you, fwiw, as it appears to my generation, cancel culture offers something that aspires to look like a complete solution, but functions much more like punitive justice.
Punitive justice is the right of those who have the power to exercise it. But true healing comes from a far more nuanced and complex process. And it takes time, time that extends beyond the initial catharsis of justice. And you need to work to find the empathy that you were not shown. Not necessarily compassion, but empathy. If you see the person who hurt you as a one dimensional object, you are trapped in the same mindset that led them to hurt you. This cycle will not end. It is not “resolved” with the cancellation.
If there is no complexity to understand in the offender, no nuance to grasp, no motivation to understand, and nothing that is worthy of anyone’s time to examine because the nature of the offender’s offenses deem them irredeemable, they are no longer human. They become an archetype, an object, a cog in a machine. A faceless soulless monster that must be be destroyed, and upon being destroyed, the problem will have been solved. There is no growth, there is no insight, there is no actual learning. There is only “justice”, punitive and correctional. It is our modern prison system. This power is addictive. It is an endorphin rush. And it is its own ego trap. It sustains itself on an indefinite cycle of suffering.
I certainly have no horse in the race of what happens to Lorin. He made his bed and now has to lie in it. He is a human, who was exceptional, basically by definition, and failed to carry that weight in a moral way. Who knows what happens to him from here, if anything besides banishment.
Just know that, at least from my perspective, as someone who spoke with him and witnessed his idealism in its rawest form one to one and watched the magical effect he had on dance floors from pretty close to the beginning, he was in fact at one point the idealistic empathetic music channeling leader he later appeared to be. I have known and still know sociopaths, I have known and been deeply affected by people with hardcore narcissistic personality disorder. He may have eventually become what we tend to associate with these diagnoses, I don’t actually know, but I do NOT believe that he started out that way. It is my belief and it was my impression that he started out as a very real and very principled person, very genuine, and very empathetic. And I don't believe this because he charmed me, but because he didn’t charm me. He seemed to believe in something greater than pleasing others. I think he believed in trying his best to lead others to somewhere they couldn’t see themselves.
What I think is that a deep need to control, which was either born of a defensive mechanism from trauma, or the raw desire to lead, or both, became malignant over time, as his environment and position enabled these desires to become neuroses. At a certain point keeping a world view coherent with the needs and wishes of others became secondary to the needs of his ego. And at that point, rationalizations and compartmentalization raged uncontested. And that set the stage for abusive dynamics to follow.
As soon as he started saying that Bassnectar was a project not a person, in my opinion he began to disassociate, and to leave personal accountability behind. His need for control and to define what he was and what he meant to others became all powerful. His acknowledging the nature of collaboration, while simultaneously exhibiting unfair and exploitative business practices behind the scenes, was a symptom of a duality that had grown unchecked in his mind. The need and love for people (be with me), and what was probably a growing paranoia (get away from me), could not be reconciled. I think he was motivated by power and control and realizing a vision at all costs, initially to provide experiences for others, but eventually as a protective mechanism and a place to hide fears from himself. I would bet that the shitty terms he offered his collaborators were born of a misplaced desire for love. Love is a practice of releasing attachment, but in him it became twisted into the desire to exclusively possess.
I knew someone who toured with a major pop star, like one of the biggest stars ever. She said this person wanted everyone to do everything for free, because it was her way of trying to get love. She had become so paranoid and isolated, and everything was so transactional, she longed to just collaborate with people creatively and remove money from the process. And since she had absolute power, she could enforce this wish on those around her, and those who balked could then be identified as disloyal. It sounds batshit crazy to a normal person. But life as a normal person is a very different life from that of someone with absolute power. Absolute power, which is a product of absolute success, which is the thing this society programs us to desire at all costs, as the path to love and acceptance and greatness, will fuck your head up so quick you will have no idea what happened, what your name is, where you came from, what you stood for, or why you ever wanted any of those things in the first place. It will destroy you. And if you don’t have it you should thank your lucky stars. Because before you know it you will refuse to pay those who deserve it in order to convince yourself they love you, and pay those you think you love in order to control them.
Everything I am saying is addressed to those who are struggling with the pain of seeing someone who they believed in, who inspired them, and who led them, hurt those who also trusted him, and thereby betray everyone’s trust - but despite this betrayal, you can’t actually “cancel” him within yourself. For better of for worse, someone who means that much to you and has affected you as much as he has affected so many can’t just be eliminated internally. If you do that, you are punishing yourself and furthering the cycle of pain, and the attempt to do this will create a microcosm of the same unresolvable duality within you that destroyed Lorin.
You can do whatever you want with the music he made and the memory of the experiences he created. This is because you were a co-creator. How you feel about the music is unique, and how you feel about the experience is unique. Whatever “it” is isn’t real until its perceived, and you perceived it to make it uniquely real within yourself. So its yours to do what you want. The world is filled with enough projection and pain. Don’t absorb more than necessary.
Some people can never hear his music ever again, and need to purge him from their life. And some proudly listen to it still, and will always. These are both completely valid. Interestingly, how come there is not more discussion about coming to consensus on whether to cancel his music? How come there is not righteous indignation at the reposting of his sets here on this subreddit? I think it is because we know that music itself is mystical, and beyond any human moral projection or value system, and is as immensely personal as it is immensely social. Its the universe vibrating sympathetically with the way we feel, and vice versa, in a feedback loop of emotion.
You can choose to cancel Bassnectar and purge your library of his music and embrace the absolute and banish him from your life. Or you can choose to celebrate the importance he and his music had on your life, while making an effort to understand where the darkness within him that led to him creating such a betrayal actually came from. Both are valid ways of coping with loss.
But another thing you can do is to be grateful you were not born him. Because if you were in his shoes, maybe your corruption would not have manifested in the way his did, but I have yet to meet anyone in my life who I can honestly say could have walked the path Lorin did and not fallen prey to corruption manifesting in some way. Because it wasn’t a path he walked. It was a path he made. That kind of drive is a fire. And taken to the extreme level his fire took him, eventually it explodes. Sometimes we are sheltered from these explosions and hear about them after the person dies. In this case, it was in our face, and everyone got burned.
I can pretty much guarantee you Lorin is not taking his millions and happily going his own way wishing everyone “the brightest future”. He is very likely in an existential hell of his own making as the construct of fame and power comes crashing down around him and he is left facing the person he was 20 years ago before this all started, and realizing the horrific impact his actions have had on the ones he thought he loved. He is branded an outcast, but recognizable by all. Nowhere to hide, but alone in a room in a mansion his millions bought him, obsessively reading every word written about him on the net, realizing the absolute scale of the impact he had on so many people, for so good and then for so bad. Nowhere to go, nowhere to run, no redemption to be had.
And since he created pain in others that has led them to feel the same way, trapped in a cycle of shame and disempowerment and confusion that they cannot any more easily wave off and exit than he can, one could say justice has been served.
But maybe, in time, there can also be healing. And even understanding.
Breaking the cycle is not enough. You must also restore and strengthen the circle. This takes all parties.
Cancel culture has no roadmap for this. But maybe it can develop one.
With great power comes great responsibility. This goes both ways.
Beware the temptation of power. Its like the ring. We would all use it to do good.
Let us all find the grace to work together to find justice, healing, and growth.
Hello friends, today I'd like to talk about an aspect of our glorious systems that get overlooked a lot: our audio experience on our battlestations. Thanks to paoper
for formatting. Again disclaimer that I am an idiot, so take this post with a grain of salt. Better info and more accurate info from people way more knowledgeable than I am is readily available from /audiophile /budgetaudiophile
, this is just a start-up guide for the beginner.
NOTE: The monster I gave birth to has become too long. I felt that instead of a short list of things to order, I needed to give context as high fidelity is really all about what sound is like in your
experience. Also a fun read if you are interested. Feel free to skip to the actual list (ctrl+f active speakers, passive speakers, headphones, subwoofer, amplifier)!
I have limited the price range of the products, because this is after all just food for thought and not even a proper guide; real audio purchases will require elbow-grease and research from your end to see if the product's sound signature will match your preferences in music and sound. If your product is not here, do not worry. I have put in products that I have had experience with and those that were recommended by multiple reviewers I hold in high regard (with the exception of a 2.1 system you will see later), and I had to consider the endless number of headphones/speakers vs the ones that are worth your hard-earned cash (and products vs how they compare to my current setup which includes both "high-end" and budget options).
I've been building systems for myself and others since I randomly took a buildapc course in middle school (currently 28) and enjoy music very much (I grew up on linkin park, dre, biggie smalls, 3 6 mafia, tupac, ac/dc, red hot chilli peppers am fond of electro and dubstep and various genres of music). I have 2 decades of experience playing saxophone, clarinet, and the electric guitar, and have performed in jazz bands, rock bands, and an orchestra. My ear is highly trained from raw musical performance and not just listening to speakers from home, as well as having the nuance to differentiate between good speakers. I have owned many many forms of audio gear (instruments, speakers, headphones, studio monitors).
So wtf is this?
So occasionally while answering questions on this subreddit (mainly on why new builder's systems aren't posting, or what components they should get, or just mourning with fellow builders for systems that have passed on as well as celebrating the birth of new systems and fellow pc builders who take their rite of passage of building their own system with their own two hands) I would come across the occasional "what speakers/headphones are best under $xx" and with the state of pc products being "gaming rgb ultimate series XLR" or w/e, it's hard to discern what audio products are actually worth your money. Note that if you are using just "good enough" cheap speakers, any of the speakers/headphones on this list will blow your mind away. Get ready to enter a new world of audio.
Why should I bother getting better speakers/headphones?
I have owned $20 logitech speakers, I currently own $1500 speakers. I have owned varying levels of headphones. The first half-decent (to my standards) speakers I had was a hand me down stereo set from an uncle. This thing was massive, but this thing was good. It's difficult to explain to you the sensation of music enveloping you with great speakers. Speakers are meant to reproduce sound, as in the sound of the instruments in the song. So great speakers and headphones can literally make you FEEL the music like at a rave or a concert or performance in the comfort of your home. This is why Home Theaters were so popular in the 80s/90s.
Upgrading will GREATLY enhance your music, netflix and gaming experience. In fact with passive bookshelf speakers, you can not only use them for your desktop setup, but also chuck them together with a tv and you've got a fine starter home theater system in your hands. You can even upgrade down the line incrementally, one speaker at a time, to a 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, 5.2, 7.2 Dolby Atmos Home Theater Setup where your movies make you feel like your in SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
I currently live in a small apartment with my TV right next to my battlestation, and when i want to sit down on my couch and watch TV, I simply move 1 speaker from my desk to next to my TV, turn my AVR on and I have an easy 5.1 home theater in my tiny apartment. Move the speaker, revert back to 2.1 (or 5.1 if i choose to but i dont because of badspeaker placement when I'm sitting at my desk) amazingness at my battlestation. Consider this an investment into massively improving your experience
of playing video games, watching netflix, or listening to music. You think those 4k graphics and ULTRAWIDE monitor is giving you more immersion in your game? Shit...having great speakers or headphones can make you feel like you're IN NORMANDY BEACH DURING THE FUCKING LANDINGS
General considerations (or feel free to just skip ahead to the list)
Now, I totally understand using simple logitech speakers due to budget/space/easy-access from best buy or not knowing about the wider audio world. So I am here today to give you a perspective on what audio components are TRULY worth your hard-earned cash. I have owned $20 logitech speakers in college, I have owned guitar amps as well as studio monitors/other speakers ranging from $100-$1500. Do know that all of this information is readily available in /BudgetAudiophile /audiophile
. I am merely condensing all of it into a single list, and attempt to sort of explain it to the pc builders, or just an idiot rambling.
If you would like more information on specific speakers, I would check out reviewers on youtube like zerofidelity, steve guttenberg, nextbigthing (nbt) studios, and thomas and stereo. For headphones, metal751, innerfidelity, Ishca's written reviews, DMS.
Z reviews is okay and he reviews everything from amps and dacs to speakers and headphones, but he gives 90% of his products good reviews, and has affiliate links to every single product he reviews....so you see where my dislike of him as a reviewer comes from. He is still an expert audiophile
, he just chooses to not use his knowledge and ramble on in his videos, plus the shilling. Great place to start for audiophiles, as he is still a professional. I just think many move on to other reviewers.
Also with speakers, speaker placement is extremely important. Get those speakers off your desk and the woofers/tweeters to your ear level NO MATTER THE COST. Stack boxes/books, buy speaker stands/isolation pads from amazon, at worst buy yoga blocks from amazon. Put your speakers on them, get ready for even better audio.
General rule of thumb: dont buy HiFi at msrp. There are ALWAYS deals on speakers/headphones to take advantage of at any given time (massdrop for headphones, parts-express, accessories4less, crutchfield, adorama, Sweetwater, guitar center, etc). Speakers will get cheaper over time as manufacturers have to make room for new products/refreshes of the same models just as with headphones. If theres a particular headphone model you want, check to see if massdrop has it (website where users of the website decide what niche products the website will mass order, and both the website and you the users get reduced pricing).
Now this list is just simple guide. Obviously for $150 budget, theres probably like 10 different speakers to choose from. You will catch me repeat this many many times but sound is subjective, I don't know what genres of music you enjoy and what sound signatures in headphones/speakers you would prefer (warm sounds? bright? aggressively forward? laid back sound signature? importance of clarity vs bass?) So consider this list with a grain of salt, as this is after all, the ramblings of an idiot on reddit.
So I will be splitting this list into 4 categories:
- active speakers,
- passive speakers,
And before I start, bass depth and low end does not fucking equal bad boomy bass. I absolutely detest low quality boomy bass like in Beats headphones and general "gaming speakers" or w/e. Also the budetaudiophile starter package is the dayton audio b652 + mini amp combo from parts-express. All the speakers that were considered were basically compared to the b652 before making it on here (and whether they justified the price bump over the b652)
Active vs. Passive (crude explanation)
So when a speaker plays music from your pc, the audio is processed by the audio card on your motherboard, which is then sent to the amplifier where the signal is amplified, and then finally is sent to be played on your speakers. Active speakers like logitech speakers that have a power cable running from the speakers directly to the wall socket have built-in amplifiers to power the speakers, whereas passive speakers require a separate amplifier to amplify the audio signal and feed the speakers power. Active vs passive, no real difference as both types of speakers will have good audio quality depending on how they are made and which ones you buy, but in the ultra budget section of speakers (under $300) actives tend to be cheaper than their passive counter parts. This is due to the manufacturer cutting corners elsewhere.
Take for instance the Micca MB42X passive speakers($90) which also have a brother, the Micca PB42X ($120) powered speakers. Same exact speaker, but built in amp vs the amp you buy. Obviously the mb42x will sound marginally better purely from the virtue that the amplifier is not inside the goddamn box. But the mb42x + amp + speaker wire will probably cost you anywhere from basic $130 to $200 with difference in amplifier and whether you use bare speaker wire or banana plugs/cables. Cabling aesthetics and management will be greatly affected, with sound quality affected to a lesser degree, or more (but at what cost?). Amp choice to be explained later.
Now generally speakers should be recommended based on your music/audio preferences and tastes as speakers and in a larger part, speaker brands will have their own unique sound signatures that some will love and others will hate as sound is such a subjective experience. But since this is meant to cater to a wide audience, note that my list is not the ALL inclusive, and again is only the ramblings of an idiot.
If you want to add bluetooth capabilities to your wires active or passive speakers, simply buy the esinkin W29 wireless bluetooth module, plug your speakers in, connect to your bluetooth on pc/phone/w/e, enjoy.
Simply connect to your PC or TV via 3.5mm (or the occasional usb).
Note: you may experience a hissing with active speakers that may annoy you to no end even up to the $400 mark. This is a result of the amplifier being built in to the speaker in close proximity, as well as sometimes the manufacturer cutting corners elsewhere. Passive speakers do not have this unless you buy a really shitty amp. Note that while bigger woofer size does not necessarily indicate better quality/bass, this does more often than not seem to be the case as manufacturers put bigger woofers on the higher stepup model.
Note that while I have included 2.1 systems here, I would always recommend you get good bookshelves first, save up money and buy a subwoofer separate.
- Cyber Acoustics CA-3602FFP 2.1 $40. This is the I'm broke af but I need speakers route. 2.1 setup for 40 bucks. We do not have the luxury of options here. Enough said. Amazon
- Okay, for under $100 for good quality active speakers, there really is no other choice here besides Edifier speakers on amazon. In fact, their entire lineup is pretty solid all around ranging from the 980T for $70 to the S350DB which is a 2.1 system with 2 bookshelves and a sub for $300. Differences in the models are basically bigger woofers/tweeters as you go up in price, resulting in better bass performance and clarity (again crude explanation). If you don't want to research much and want simplicity, any of the edifiers are the way to go, with the 1700BT being the goto 2.0, or the 1850db which as a sub-out so you can add in a subwoofer into your setup later.
- Micca PB42X: $120- The active version of the popular MB42X passive speakers. Very good performance for price.
- Mackie CR3/4 $90/$140- Now normally I don't recommend these, but they are okay/meh speakers and have that razer aesthetic going on, and aesthetics are big part of speaker choice, so if you like the black/green color scheme, I guess these are passable.
- Klipsch Pro Media 2.1: $150- the only 2.1 system I'd recommend under $200. The thing about adding in a subwoofer to a 2.1 system under $200 means they have to cut corners elsewhere. This is the main difference of 2.1 systems vs bookshelves. While the subwoofer will allow your music to hit the lower notes in frequency resulting in deeper and more bass, this will usually come at a cost of audio quality in the mid and upper ranges in the music. If you are a BASSHEAD then yeah you probably want a subwoofer, though bookshelves under $200 also have decent bass. Note, ALWAYS BETTER TO BUY BOOKSHELVES AND SUBWOOFER SEPARATELY, but this will be pricier. Klipsch Website Direct or amazon.
- Fluance ai40/ai60: $200/$300- nice looking speakers that come in white and walnut and black that also have good clarity and quality. Their bass is surprisingly okay as they are rated to go a little bit below in the lower frequencies than speakers in similar price. I have listened to these before shortly for 2 hours, and would recommend. IIRC the ai60 has a subwoofer out. Mind the size of the 60s, quite big. Fluance direct or amazon.
- Kanto YU4: $270 Direct competitor to fluance ai series. Comes in white as well.
- Audioengine A2+/A5+ :$270/$400. I have no experience with this lineup, but lots of love/hate dynamic with this brand over on budgetaudiophile. Good and bad thing.
- JBL 305P: $300 - maybe the endgame speakers of this list. These are very famous and respected studio monitors that music artists and producers use often. They are sold $150 per speaker, and you will need to get 2. Hooking them up requires separate cables, as these are standalone speakers with it's own volume control on each speaker. Simplest way is to buy a 3.5mm to dual TS Cable. Set both speakers to same physical volume level via knob, and adjust volume using windows settings (having a volume knob on your keyboard helps immensely here). Or buy a separate in line volume control from amazon ($20 bucks or under) and connect via 3.5mm to rca. Being studio monitors, these are meant to reproduce sound neutrally (they will have no external flavoring like how Beats adds muddy boomy bass to its headphones to use as a bad example) and may not sound alive or bright or to your tastes. They can be demo-ed/tested out at guitar center if you have access to one in this pandemic.
- Logitech G560 RGB Gaming Speakers: $200 (yes, you read that right): Okay, now normally I'd be crucified for recommending a logitech speaker in the other audio forums. But I have used these speakers briefly for about 3 months when I got them cheap from a friend. The sound quality of these satellite speakers are....surprisingly not bad? Might I dare to say that these are even....decent for it's price? Now these are $200 speakers for a 2.1 system. This means that it's either this or Klipsch 2.1. Honestly my vote here goes to the logitechs. I owned the Klipsch promedia 2.1 for about half a year. I can definitely say I prefer the clarity of the logitechs vs the boomy bass of the Klipsch. The subwoofer on the 560 does NOT have its own control knob, so you would need to adjust bass settings through logitech eq. Note, these speakers will not sound good out of the box. You will need to go into the eq settings via logitech software, and change the settings to match your tastes. Honestly the fact that you have to tweak the eq through shitty logitech software to make these sound good is pretty bullshit. Note that I am not recommending the z623/625. Don't get those. I used these in college in my apt in brooklyn, and while boomy bass, I'd definitely go with the B652 + mini amp, klipsch 2.1, or the g560 over the z623/625 FOR SURE.
- Second-hand market: okay, let's say you are determined to get quality speakers but you do not have the budget. Look around on the second hand market for stuff from KRK, Emotiva, Ascend, HSU. Make sure to demo them out for as long as you can until the seller gets pissed (please don't), so that you can test to see if you like the sound.
These speakers will require you to buy a separate amplifier, as well as separate cables. But the passive route allows you to have a modular audio system that allows you to upgrade parts as you go along in your life (yes I said life for once you dip your toes into high fidelity, you will get hooked onto a great lifelong journey searching for the perfect setup), or even just add parts in altogether (like having a miniamp on your desk for your passive speakers, having a separate dac or bluetooth module for your speakers so you can connect the passive speakers via USB or bluetooth wirelessly, stacked on top of a headphone dac/amp combo, stacked on top of a preamp, etc). Amplifier list to follow later.
Passive speaker specs to pay attention to will be their impedance (measured in ohms) and their sensitivity (measured in xx db/1w/1m). Speaker ratings in wattage are measurements of how much power can be driven to them (higher watts, higher volume...once again crude explanation). A 20 watt x 2 channel amp (measured in 4 ohms) is enough to power 4 and 6 ohm speakers rated at 100 watts to moderate/decently loud listening levels on your desktop. Now the sensitivity thing. A speaker with a rating of 85db/1m/1w means it will produce 85 decibels of noise at 1 meter with 1 watt of power. Now this not linear....to make the same speaker go up to 90 decibels may require 10 or 15 watts of power depending on other variables. Depending on how loudly you play your music and what impedance/sensitivity your speakers have will result in your choice of amplifiers. More on this later.
The thing about passive bookshelf speakers are that you can use them in your desktop setup, AND with your TV as a legitimate starter 2.1 home theater setup (which you can upgrade to 3.1, and then 5.1/5.2, just buy a used receiver from craigslist for 50 bucks, ez)
What you will need for passive setup:
Note that passive speakers and amp require you to purchase speaker wire
separately (fairly cheap) and strip them (youtube video will guide you, very easy). Or if you like clean cable management and easy setups, banana plug cables
from amazon will set you straight, and while these banana plugs and cable are nice and PURELY OPTIONAL, they will add up in cost as your buy more of them for frankenstein 2.1 cabling. Also a 3.5mm to rca cable
will be required. The connection will be your pc -> 3.5mm->rca->amp->speaker wire-> speaker wire->speaker. (replace speaker wire with banana plug if going that route). Subwoofer connection will be explained in subwoofer section.
- Dayton audio b652+ mini amp combo on parts-express for $60/70. Two combos, two separate mini amps, one from lepai (china) and one from dayton. Same shit. It LITERALLY does not get better than this for under $100, maybe even $150. CHIEF THIS IS IT, i cannot stress this enough. This is the budgetaudiophile 101 starter pack. I'd recommend these over the active Mackies, Edifiers (up to the 1700), and any and all logitech/creative pebble/cyber w/e EVERYTHING systems (except for the g560). These are very BIG speakers and hence will deliver good sound and good bass due to its big woofers. If you have less than $100 to spend on the ENTIRE audio setup, go get these and speaker wire/banana plugs no questions asked. gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
- Dayton Audio B652 AIR $70- The difference between the AIR and the normal 652 is in the tweeter. The AIR tweeter on this speaker costs as much as the entire b652 speaker. This tweeter upgrade gives even more clarity and quality in the treble range (middle upper sound frequency). The next best thing for under $100, though doesn't come with the mini amp combo.
- Sony SSCS5 Bookshelf Speakers. $150 msrp, $120 on amazon/bestbuy until recently, and sometimes goes on sale for $75. These are 3 way speakers with woofer, tweeter and supertweeter. The strength of these speakers lie in its unmatched clarity in the highs and upper mids. I still have these in my collection, and VERY WORTH though my opinion of these is skewed as I got them for $75/pair. If you appreciate bass, you will need to add a subwoofer with these (or generally any speaker below $500....some people would say you cant listen to music on bookshelves without subwoofer) as they sound a bit thin compare to the b652s (a bit less bass because smaller woofer) but better sound quality (though this is just my SUBJECTIVE thought after listening to the cs5s and b652s). These have 5 in woofers and have okayish small form factor.
- Micca MB42X $90- the passive version of the powered PB42X in the active list. The difference is between the amplifier built into the PB42X vs the one you're going to buy separately to power the MB42X. Obv the MB42X route is going to be better because the amplifier in the PB42X will be shit compared to the one you're going to buy ($30/50/75/150 options to follow later)
- Micca RB42X $150 - Amazing small size speakers. For under $200, either this or the cs5s. The rb42s have a bit more bass.
- Elac Debut 5.2/6.2 ON SALE NOW FOR $230/250. GET EM WHILE IT LASTS. Normally $280/350. These are speakers highly acclaimed by many of the speaker reviewers I consider the best (imo zerofidelity, steve guttenberg, nextbigthing (nbt) studio, thomas and stereo). Great bass, warm sound signature. Just go, what are you waiting for. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
- Q Acoustics 3020/3030i $230/400. Highly acclaimed by reviewers, look VERY NICE in white, and have a warm sound signature with lots of bass clarity and bass depth. These speakers are big, which is why they have great bass. Check the dimensions. Their size is the only downside to these fantastic speakers.
- PSB Alpha P5 $400: Great speakers for nearfield listening, aka at your desk, excels in this department more so than the other speakers (better at low volume, etc). Just all around amazing. Get these if the Q Acoustics ones are too big.
- Triangle BR02/03 $450/550. Coming from across the atlantic, these french speakers made a splash last year destroying its competition in the below $1000 range. Highly acclaimed to the point where some see them as overrated (too much hype out of nowhere in such little time). If you have the space in your setup as well as in your wallet for these, they are the way to go. Comes in black, walnut, white.
- Obligatory Klipsch R15/R51/RP600 post: you've heard of klipsch. They're widely available audiophile speakers, and so sometimes get the "overrated" hyped up treatment. They are good speakers but their have their own unique aggressively forward sound signature with the horn style tweeter. These were designed to make you feel like you're at the rock concert direct, may not be for everyone (much so not for me).
Okay here is where we need to get into specific numbers. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers so they are exempt. But passive speakers will require separate amps and so you will need to pay attention to certain specs. In speakers you will need to pay attention to their impedance (measured in ohms) and their sensitivity (measured in xx db/1m/1w). The typical mini amplifier will be class D (small form factor amps for desktop use) and their wattage per channel will be usually expressed in 4ohms. Take for instance the popular SMSL SA50. This is an amp that delivers 50 watts to its 2 channels, rated at 4 ohms. Speakers will have impedance of 4, 6, or 8 ohms usually. 50 watts at 4 ohms can be 25 watts at 8 ohms, but is probably more like 20 watts at 8 ohms, refer to product specs for specific wattage ratings at specific ohms. Speakers with high sensitivity (85-95 db/1w/1m) that have 6 ohm impedance are easier to drive with lower wattage.
But here's the thing, an the smsl sa50 will not deliver 50 CLEAN watts. Somewhere in the 30-40w range distortion will start to appear. But for reference, 30 clean watts is enough to drive sony cs5s to uncomfortably loud levels in an apartment (the whole apt, not just your room) so listening on your desktop, you only really need 10-15 clean watts (only after turning up your preamp input to maximum volume, which in this case is your youtube/windows10 volume level). Do note that if you have the space, a used $60 AV Receiver that will just shit out watts and have 5.1 surround will be the best, but these things are massive.
- Lepai 2020ti (LEPAI and not Lepy be wary) $25. 20 watts in 2 channels. Budget
- SMSL SA36 $62: SMSL's 2x20w.
- SMSL SA50 $72: The most bang for buck amp that's also decent. 2x50watts.
- Topping MX3 $130: Speaker amp, headphone amp, dac rolled into one. Allows for your speakers and headphones to be connected via USB and Bluetooth.
- SMSL AD18 $150: SMSL's answer to the MX3. This one is probably the goto. It's got 2x80w at 4ohms, has USB connection, has subwoofer out, has bluetooth connection, headphone amp, coaxial and optical connection.
If you need more watts than the AD18, you're gonna need to get a class a/b amp that just shits out watts for cheap, or get a used av receiver. If you want a new one, the best budget option is the DENON AVR-S540BT 5.2 channel AVR from accessories4less.
Good subwoofers are expensive, and cheap subwoofers will hurt your listening experience rather than improve it (muddy boomy shitty bass). Your best bet may be to simply find a used subwoofer from craigslist or offerup, just dont get the polk audio PSW10
, this is a very common sub you see on the 2nd hand market, because it is a shitty sub and so people get rid of it. Now as to whether you need a subwoofer. If you are in a dorm, don't get a subwoofer. Because.... if you live in a dorm, do not get a fucking subwoofer
. Now if you live in a small apartment, fear not, proper subwoofer management will save you noise complaints. A good subwoofer will produce good quality low end you can hear and feel without having to turn up the volume. You want to look at the subwoofer's lowest frequency it can go to. That will show you how "tight" the bass will be. Now, low volume levels on a good sub will produce that bass for you without vibrating your walls (though subwoofer and speaker isolation as well as PLACEMENT (refer to the sub-crawl) will do more for getting the most sound out of your speakers without having to turn up the volume....and just turn off the sub after a reasonable time)
Now as to how to add a subwoofer to your system will depend on what setup you have and the available connections. If your speakers or amplifier has a subwoofer output, simply connect that to your subwoofer, set the crossover freuency (the frequency at which the subwoofer will start making sound) to 80hz, or lower depending on how low of a frequency our bookshelves can go down to.
If your speakers/amp do not have a subwoofer out, you will need to find a subwoofer that has high level speaker inputs
. You will need to connect your bookshelves to the speaker outputs on the subwoofer via speaker wire/banana plugs, and then run speaker wire/banana plugs from the subwoofer input to your amplifier, ending with rca to 3.5mm connection to your pc.
- Dayton Audio SUB-800 $100: The cheapest one, don't go any cheaper. Enough said. Get from parts-express. If you need cheaper, 2nd hand market.
- Dayton Sub-1000 $120: The bigger brother. This thing is 10 inches, be prepared for a BIG box sitting in your room.
- Bic Acoustech PL-200 $300: Has good bass, goes down to 22hz. Very good bang for buck "good" subwoofer. A BIG step up from the daytons.
- SVS SB-1000 $500: Bassssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.
Okay, I keep saying headphones and not headsets right. But you ask, Kilroy, you're an idiot. You're posting on buildapc for PC gamers and builders but you're talking headphones and not headsets. How idiotic are you? Pretty big, but friends hear me out. Now I used to live in South Korea, where PC Bangs (internet cafes) set the nation's standards for computers. All the places had to get the best bang for the buck pc gear to stay in business and remain competitive (all 100 computers at these places had like i5-6600k and gtx 1080 in 2015 or something I don't remember, along with mechanical BLUE SWITCH FUCCCCCCKKKKKKKK (imagine 100 blue switch keyboards being smashed on in a small underground area in Seoul) keyboards and decent headsets.
So I have tried MANY MANY different headsets, here is my conclusion. Just get proper headphones and get either get an antlion modmic, or V-MODA Boompro mic both available on amazon. (short list of mics later) or get proper headphones and usb mic. Okay, I have seen the headphone recommendation list, and the only one I would give any (if at all) weight to in the usual pc websites that our subreddit goes to, is the list from rtings. These guys mainly measure monitors and tvs (very well might i add) but the writer for their audio section is lacking it seems.
Please dont get Astro AXX headphones or corsair rgb xxxxxx w/e. Please for the love of god, take your good hard earned cash and get yourself a NICE pair of cans my fellow PC users. The mic part is secondary as GOOD headphones will forever change your PC using and music listening experience FOREVER
The TWO EXCEPTIONS that I have observed to this rule are the Hyperx Clouds and Cooler Master mh751/752.
- Hyperx Cloud CORE/1/2/ALPHA (please find prices on amazon). So these headphones are a rare instance of when a gaming branded pair of headphones was actually a good no bullshit product. These are hyperx reskins of OEM Takstar Pro 80, a pretty damn good pair of cans from china for under $50 (no longer available on aliexpress but Seoul had a SHIT load of these) with a mic attached to it. Chief, this is it. Reasonably good audio quality from headphone drivers for their price, and you get a mic for discord needs.
- Coolermaster MH751/752 $90/110. Now beware, on amazon there are the mh630/650/670 series headphones that are in the same...product "selection" styling part of the product page. Do NOT GET THESE, these are the typical bullshit gaming branding and are pretty bad. Now, the mh751 and 752s are coolermaster's copycat of the hyperx clouds. They are coolermaster reskins of the Takstar pro 82, another good pair of headphones. I cannot comment on this one, as I have not used either the takstar variant nor the cm variant. But the pro 82s are just as good as the 80s. If i had to guess, different styling (headband) and maybe slightly different sound signature. Difference between the 2 is the dac (the block thing in between your headphones and the wires to your pc). The dac the mh752 is most likely inferior to the dac on your mobo's build-in soundcard. Get the 751, unless you have a laptop, then the 752's dac may be better.
- Audio-Technica ath-m40x $80: You may have heard of the ath-m50/x. Now these headphones are looked down on, on the headphone forums or reddit. The m40/x is the bass reduced, aka the neutral version of the m50x for cheaper too. Great headphones for under $100. Now, I have owned the m50 waay back, and I think if you enjoy bass, then go for it. After all, they are YOUR fuckin pair of headphones and ears, who are others to say shit?
- Sony MDR7506 $100: I remember these were $75, but I guess everything changed when the coronavirus attacked. Anyway, these are the venerated mdr7506, the industry standard for headphones in the professional audio/music industry. Great quality, cheap price. They just, dont have anything going on in the looks department. These are it for pure price/performance.
- BeyerDynamic DT770 (32, 90, 250 ohms) $150: Amazing pair of cans, very comfortable. 32 ohm version if simply plugging into your motherboard. The higher ohm versions may require separate headphone amp. Generally more amps=better audio quality, but differences are NEGLIGIBLE to nonexistent with low output amps (this is like the difference in sound of the same 100w speaker powered by a $30 smsl amp vs a $5000 Mcintosh amp at the same volume levels, very subtle and small but it's there)
- HiFiMAN HE4XX $160: Simply amazing. Open back planar headphones.
- Sennheiser 650/6xx from massdrop/660 $220-$400. The legendary series of headphones from sennheiser. Highly venerated.
- HifiMAN DEVA with Bluemini Receiver $300: Interesting set of open-back planar headphones that came out recently that also allow for usb connection, as well as 3.5mm, but the bluetooth function is a separate module (with a built-in mic) that you connect to the side of the headphones. So it's actually a wired set of planar headphones, but the separate bluetooth module also allows for wireless connection. The module only has enough battery for 5ish hours, so while that is charging you will have to use the wired connection. This is a usb dac/amp/bluetooth module rolled into one. Very stylish and interesting design.
- Audeze Mobius $400: "Gaming" wireless headphones from Audeze, a high end audiophile grade planar magnetic headphone manufacturer. If those words don't mean anything to you, these are wireless headphones with a detachable mic made by an extremely respected audiophile headphone manufacturer. If you want wireless headphones, I would also suggest these or the hifiman deva. These are closed-back headphones vs Hifiman's open back. These headphones also have an onboard dac for usb/3.5mm/bluetooth connection.
Now obviously, there's other choices. A metric fuck load of them. But I had to account for how much you should be paying (price range) for upgrades in sound quality and performance.
Example options (Wireless headsets)
Okay. Wireless headsets, now let's think why do you need a wireless headset? Do you want to walk around your house while on discord? Maybe you want to keep the headset on while having to afk real quick for a smoke break or whatnot.
- TaoTronics 5.0 Bluetooth transmitter+receiver unit $30. It's a small device that can either A: give your non-bt PC bluetooth capabilities by acting as a receiver, or give your wired headphones wireless connectivity to your pc by acting as a transmitter. This thing is battery powered (like a wireless gaming headset) up to 10 hours. You just plug your wired headphones in, put the thing in your pocket and leave your pc.
- See Hifiman Deva above.
- Still here? Fine then. Steelseries artis 7. I put this....thing on this list mainly for true wireless headset inclusion. Still would recommend other headphones.
- Other wireless recommendations: Sennheiser pxc 550 and Sony wh1000xm2 and Bose QC35.
HEADPHONE AMP/DAC (digital to analogue converter)
My knowledge/experience with headphone amps and dacs are...extremely lacking, I'm more of a speaker guy. But, here is a list for you guys.
- Fiio E5/6 $15/25- portable, tiny, budget headphone amp.
- Fiio E10 $55- bang for buck
- SMSL M3 $85 - has usb and spdif connections and line out rca. good starter dac/amp combo.
- Schiit Magni $99- probably the most popular one here. This will drive anything but the most power hungry of headphones. The Schiit stack with the Magni and the Modi is the goto stack for small form factor amp+dac.
- Micca Origen G2 $110 - DAC/amp combo that has usb and fibre, and has a switchable pre-out for powered speakers. Accepts 3.5mm and 1/4''
- V-MODA BoomPRO $30: this is a mic with a 3.5mm that plugs in to your headphones that have a removable cable, simple.
- Antlion modmic $50: yes the modmic. You've probably heard of this.
- Fifine K669B condensor mic $46: simple mic on a stand that plugs in via usb. Imo has better recording quality than Blue snowball.
- Blue Snowball $57: Yes, you've most definitely heard of this.
Other mics? Yes, but are they worth the extra $$ for marginally better audio recording? You decide.
Cool. Stay safe in these dark times brothers. Have a glorious day.
Many years ago I was serving in the Royal Navy as a junior officer. submitted by
My ship was alongside HMNB (Her Majesty's Naval Base) Devonport (Plymouth, England) and I was, through a bit of luck and quick thinking, in possession of a coveted mobile car pass. These were rarely issued and were highly sought after as it allowed me to park in almost any parking space on the base and was so useful in getting all the "gopher" jobs that I got as a very junior Sub Lieutenant. The pass is displayed in the windscreen and shows the rank and name of the vehicle's driver, as well as the number plate of the vehicle. Devonport is the largest naval base in Europe, around 2 miles as the crow flies from one end to another. My ship was at the southernmost jetty.
One morning, after returning having completed yet another errand for my boss, I tried to park my car on the jetty near the ship. Unfortunately there was no space, but I found one outside of a workshop close by. Noting that there was no signage indicating ownership of the space and that it was a clear parking space I pulled my car in and went back to the ship.
A couple of hours later I was jobbed off, with another junior officer, on another errand somewhere else in the dockyard. We were both in our uniforms and we walked off the ship and headed to the car. A white van was parked across the back of my car, blocking my exit.
Must be someone making a delivery, I thought. So I went into the workshop adjacent to my car and walked up to the first person I saw, a civilian contractor wearing grubby overalls.
"Excuse me, do you know whose van that is outside?"
"Yeah mate, that's Dan's."
"Where can I find Dan, his van is blocking my car in?"
"DAN! THAT "NAVY C*NT" IS HERE TO MOVE HIS CAR!"
A huge mountain of a man emerges from an office door-way, again wearing similar dirty overalls.
"You parked in my f*cking space, you f*cking c*nt!"
It definitely wasn't his space, but I thought it wise not to escalate the situation. I just wanted my car back.
"Sorry, I didn't realise. Can you move your van so I can get my car out, please?"
"Nope. I'm on my lunch break and I don't do any work for you Navy cunts when I'm on my lunch break" It was around 1030 in the morning.
"So when can you move your van?"
"When I go home. Now f*ck off!"
Taken aback, I had a flash of inspiration.
"Look, we've clearly got off on the wrong foot here. How about I help you. You're busy having your lunch and I was clearly in the wrong for parking in your space. How about you give me the keys and I'll move your van. I'll then move my car and park your van for you?"
Dan gave me a long hard look. The cogs were turning quicker than he was used to.
"OK, here's the keys. If you do any damage to the van I'll know!"
"No problem, I'll move it, move my car, then park it."
He threw the keys at me, not realising the deliberate vagueness in my choice of words.
I left the workshop and went to the van. I tossed the keys to my car to my colleague.
I pull the van forward and my oppo pulls my car out. I then lead him to the opposite end of the dockyard. Around 2 miles away in straight line, 3 to 4 to drive it. I park the van amongst some other similar white vans and jump back in my car. We then drive back to the workshop. I get out and find Dan again.
"Oh look, you took your fucking time! Never driven a van before?!"
"I've only done a couple of miles in a van, it's all a bit new to me. Sorry. Here's your keys."
"Cheers, now f*ck off and don't park in my f*cking space again."
The ship sailed that afternoon, so I never found out what happened after that, but I'm guessing that Dan had, at the very least, a long walk, but probably had to search the entire base, all 650 acres of it, to find his van. I bet that was fun...
Book 1 of The HEL Jumper Book 2 of The HEL Jumper submitted by
Thanks to Big_Papa_Dakky, Darth_Android, bloblob, AMERICUH, The_Real_Jumper, Mr_Polygon, Krystalin, Damned_Thrice, Mamish, Vikairious, Sam_Berry, RedHawkdude, KillTech, LilLaussa, Daddy_Talon, Gruecifer, Gaelan_Darkwater, Konrahd_Verdammt, red-shirt, Benjamin Durbin, and 42 others supporting me on patreon.
With little else on his plate, Russell Winters took his time walking through the corridors and facilities of the Event Horizon. More than a few curious civilians who weren’t aware of his identity nodded or waved his way, surprised to see a new face after so long aboard. He returned the greetings briefly but carried on towards the rear of the ship, his confident stride impressing upon those he met that he had somewhere to go and something to do. The reality wasn’t quite that demanding, but it allowed him to avoid any sort of prolonged discussion, or any discussion beyond a simple nod of his head or a single word to acknowledge a passerby. Deep down he couldn’t help but feel adrift or alone. For the first time since he’d lost the Lancer not even Io was around to chat. That wasn’t exactly true, of course, but she was with Veera and Asha, and he did not want to be seen conversing with the ceiling.
So instead he continued through mostly empty corridors, lightly used thanks to the marvel that was the tube system and the fact that most everyone was at their job or station given the hour of the day. The midpoint of the ship was actually quite easy to spot, with the gently sloping, white hallways of the civilian half giving way to defined edges and metallic gray of the military. When those long stretches of metal and polymer began to blend together, the novelty of the ship itself having long worn off, the Jumper fell into reflection as so many humans do in times of solitude. Given his conversation with Natori earlier in the day, it was perhaps natural that his thoughts eventually turned to Jess and the others. Emotions once raw and crippling felt muted and distant, the passive mask on his face only giving way when he cursed and chastised himself, upset that he couldn’t remember Jess’ face as clearly as he wanted to. With his personal effects also blown to smithereens, it would be many more months until he could see her again the way he wanted to, smiling and clothed like a civilian in photographs saved on his personal devices back home. He resolved not to get upset at Kaczynski if the Admiral chose to do something involving the stock photographs taken of every member of the HEL for just such an occasion, the ones with forced smiles, uniforms, and flags in the background. Finding himself in yet another empty corridor, save a passing maintenance bot, he felt comfortable muttering a quiet thank you to Veera, recalling the first time she’d told him about her parents and the ‘dull ache’ that their passing had left behind. He thought he understood better what she meant by calling it a scar that never truly faded.
After half an hour or so, which consisted of a couple stops to check his location within the orbiting behemoth that was the Event Horizon, Russell finally arrived at a familiar junction, the area just outside the armory proper where he’d ‘introduced himself’ to Lipper’s squad. Finding the place to be blessedly quiet and devoid of cocky, bombastic Jumpers, Russell walked through the automatic doors, nodding his head as weapons and munitions of all types greeted him. All were locked and stowed according to HEL protocol, of course, so he didn’t exactly have free reign to try out what looked to be the newest version of humanity’s shoulder-fired rocket launcher. Instead, he nodded approvingly at what appeared to be remote detonated airburst shells before moving along the line towards a shooting range style storefront and workshop built into the back of the armory. Russell did bother trying to hide his surprise when he recognized the graying Persian man behind the counter.
The well built master at arms glanced up from a book he was reading, real paper and ink, to furrow his brow at the young man. “Two weeks. I was wondering if you were going to stop in and say hello. Didn’t think Marshall Winters’ son was that ungrateful. I assume those two weapons I received this morning are yours then?” he asked, placing his bookmark and slowly unlocking the door to his range. Despite Winters’ slight height advantage, Darius had some choice words for him as the two men stood face to face. “Next time you decide to pick fights in my neck of the woods, the sparring room is right over there,” he growled, pointing over his shoulder to another, nondescript door in the gray wall of the armory.
“I finished that one, Darius. Didn’t start it,” Winters insisted, standing his ground.
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t take that one at face value, Rusty. My memory isn’t gone yet and I seem to recall more than a handful of brawls that ended up in the ring after you started em.”
“Yeah well, you can ask my wife about this one. Don’t worry, sounds like they’re back in action already.”
Darius cocked his dark eyebrows at Winters, sizing him up. “Now you wouldn’t joke around with a well armed old man, would you?”
“Oh shut it, Darius. You don’t look a day over fifty.”
“That’s cause I am fifty you little punk, now what’s all this about you getting hitched?” the stocky man demanded, crossing his arms over his chest and threatening the seams of his shirt sleeves. Russell couldn’t help but smile. Darius always seemed to run a size too small, but he had the musculature to pull it off.
“Married planetside, one of the local women. They’re very intelligent, just a bit behind on the tech curve.”
“Hah! Not intelligent enough to avoid you, kid. Ah, it’s funny,” Darius sighed regretfully. “I always assumed that when everything was said and done you and that plucky little captain would shack up together after seeing a bit of the galaxy. Guess fate had other ideas.” When the grizzled armorer looked close and saw not just sorrow, but guilt on Russell’s face, he pressed the issue. “Ah damn, don’t tell me?”
“Yeah, best I don’t tell you,” the Jumper agreed. Darius extended his hand and the two of them shook.
“I’m glad you got off that ship alive, kid. Like I said, fate had other ideas. Shame about Jessica and the others. To think I’d hear about your damn wedding before your pops and mother? C’mon, there’s only one thing to do at a time like this.”
With a shrug, Winters followed the man who’d armed and equipped him during basic training and beyond through the door to his inner sanctum of sorts. “Looks just like back on Earth, Darius. How’d you end up here?”
“Not complicated, Rusty. The Admiral offered me a promotion and a pay raise,” Darius offered, heaving a standard small arms container onto the shelf and unlocking the clasps. “And before you accuse me of betraying Delta or Omega or whatever other nonsense you might be thinking, Beta holds all the patents and Natori knows what to do with them.”
“Hey, he came all this way to get me. I’m not complaining… except for the fact that he almost got my sister and everyone else aboard killed,” Russell groused, his words stopping Darius mid-motion as the master at arms unveiled the Jumper’s rifle and pistol.
“I’m still alive, which means I don’t want to know, kid. Now, where the hell is your sword and shield?” he wondered, taking a critical look at the rifle first.
“The locals have whetstones and the like. No problems there,” Russell reported.
“I don’t care if the locals have self-churning ice cream, soldier. You have access to an armory now. I expect you to properly care for your weapons,” Darius ordered in no uncertain tones, reminding Russell very much of his own father. He didn’t think it a coincidence. Most senior individuals in the HEL’s military branches knew one another.
“Then by all means, master
. Proceed,” Russell chuckled at Darius’ new title. The weaponsmith did just that.
“Says the First Lieutenant? Congratulations, by the way. Pistol looks fine, I’ll admit. We use a newer model but it’s chambered in the same caliber. Hang onto this one,” Darius advised. Russell showed him a picture on his B-MASS. He knew he looked a bit silly walking around with just one gauntlet, but he hated the idea of downgrading to other portable technology when he was so familiar with his own.
“Given what that thing’s killed, you bet your ass I will.”
Darius carefully placed the handgun on the countertop, meaning to give it a full cleaning anyway. “Kid, what the hell is that?”
“One hell of a story.”
“Oh fine, keep your damn secrets,” the Persian scoffed, bending over to examine Russell’s rifle closely. A golden chain with the Persian lion, sword and all, hung from his neck. “What was the last time you fired this thing, Rusty? Sight is misaligned.”
“My wife was the last one to use that weapon. Had to adjust it for her.”
“The hell happened down there?” Darius wondered quietly, shaking his head and moving on to the chamber. After a brief visual inspection he left it with its partner and reached for a small wooden case on the lowest shelf next to boxes of ammunition, earplugs, and eye protection. He opened it and withdrew two glasses, each of which featured the Persian Sun and Lion, as well as the Goddess Anahita around the sides. Nestled between an additional two glasses were multiple bottles of whiskey from Japan, India, Scotland, and the United States.
“Drinking on the range?” Russell wondered sarcastically.
“Did you leave ammunition in the chambers?” Darius asked flippantly, already knowing the answer as he poured a small taste from Japan first, flicking a couple drops of water into his own from a nearby water bottle. “No, didn’t think so; cause you aren’t an idiot like Rex was his first day. Now that we’ve established the guns won’t self-animate and kill us, we’re drinking.”
“I’m not complaining but isn’t that, you know, haram or something?” Russell asked, accepting the glass with thanks. Darius took a smell of the amber liquid in his glass before furrowing his brows at the young Jumper.
“How long have you known me, Rusty?”
“Geez… I guess I’m twenty five now so call it seven years on and off?”
“And in those seven years, how many times a day have you seen me kneeling on a rug facing East?”
Russell bobbed his head back and forth to acknowledge the point, taking a smell of his own. The scent was utterly divine, smooth, powerful, and pure. “Guess none?”
“That’s because I’m Zoroastrian. One day, god or gods willing, whichever you prefer, the fatherland will return to its true roots. Until then, we must drink to something else. To Jessica and the other honored dead, may they be at peace.” Darius and Russell clinked glasses before partaking. The former downed his like it was nothing, while the Jumper savored the taste of alcohol for the first time in almost a year. He kept it on his palate a bit too long and began coughing as he swallowed. Darius’ laughed loudly, his voice carrying down the silent firing range and back.
“What’s wrong, kid? Out of practice?”
“You could say that,” Russell agreed, handing back his glass. “No alcohol on Mara. No dairy or fruit either.”
“What an awful place,” the master at arms declared immediately, rinsing their glasses quickly before chucking the wastewater over his shoulder and onto the nearest firing line. “We must remedy that immediately. Do they have grain?”
“Darius, we don’t even know if they can process alcohol yet,” Russell explained as the older man prepared a second toast, this one from the US.
“Bah, I’m sure the scientists aboard all think they’re doing more important things. Been hearing talk of aliens aboard the ship more and more, suppose that wife of yours is one of them. On that subject,” he handed Russell his glass back, this time containing a hearty helping of booze. “To your wife, her health, and your marriage.”
“To Veera then,” Russell agreed, taking his time with that one. Darius nodded and sat in his chair, leaning back while his guest leaned against the countertop of his ‘sanctuary’.
“That her name? Not bad. To Veera then. How’d you two meet?”
“Almost flattened her farm with my pod,” Witners related with a small smile, remembering the scrawny young Cauthan who’d introduced him to Mara.
“You got anywhere to be?” Darius wondered.
“Me? Nah. Veera’s up with a couple of her people in the civilian hospital, good friends of ours. One is due in a couple months so she’s getting an ultrasound. As you might imagine, the husband is the only man allowed.”
“Well damn, is that right? I’ll be. In that case, in accordance with great Persian traditions, you owe me a bit of a story, Rusty.”
“Is that really a tradition?” he asked critically.
“I shared my booze with you, damnit. Tell me how you got hitched.” Both men laughed loudly, feeling the pleasant burn of whiskey in their throats and its warmth in their stomachs. Winters took a moment to consider the past, glancing upward as he thought.
“Well, I guess it starts right about when they almost flogged her on my account.”
“Judging by the clowns on this ship, all Jumpers are idiots, Darius.”
“We’ll talk about them later, now spill.”
“Stevie! Did you miss me?” Rex shouted the moment their shuttle touched down, jumping out of the open hull door and striding confidently over to the now quite established base camp. The facility consisted of a prefabricated living space for about half a dozen scientists at any given time, which sat next to various tents that covered gear and assorted supplies. The tiny compound was protected by two auto-turrets with a connection to the bridge of the Event Horizon, but nothing had disturbed the camp since the arrival of Beta division personnel. Rex parted the handful of scientists going about their work easily, making his way to the covered cage that contained Steve the aquila. The little bat-like alien had its wing properly bandaged, and it looked up as the daylight penetrated its sanctuary. It did not seem pleased. “Okay okay, didn’t mean to startle you. Just wanted to say hi. I’ll feed you tonight when you’re awake. Gotta see if any of these smart people have some bugs for you.”
While Rex went about his business and Orlova dealt with the shuttle, Corporal Mendes spoke with the lead researcher. Natori had called on ahead, conveying to both teams the suggestion from Io and Winters, specifically that the anomaly in the first hallway be examined. After a short conversation, Mendes shook hands with the researcher and notified his team that the scientists would be ‘spectating’ the expedition. After collecting Rex, he rejoined Orlova and Lipper, who had remained with the shuttle near the entrance to the Forge.
“We all set then… sir?” Lipper wondered as they pulled their helmets on and made their final comms checks. Orlova looked purposefully at Mendes, but he seemed content to chalk the pause up to lack of familiarity with the new command structure.
“Yes. Per the Admiral’s order’s we’re heading inside and looking for something akin to a large metallic skeleton. He said we’d recognize it due to radiation leaks from what is assumed to be a core of some sort.”
“Yo that’s sick let’s fucking go!” Rex shouted, grabbing his hammer off his back and practically bouncing off towards the Forge’s entrance.
“Private Rex!” Mendes bade him halt, the burly Jumper turning his skull-adorned helmet back towards them.
“Wait for your squad, Private,” the Brazilian replied coolly as they all caught up with him. “And take point.”
“Heh, yes sir!” Rex agreed, charging forward and promptly going down on account of the rather sizable piles of aquila droppings at the mouth of the Forge. While Mendes could hardly fault his exuberance, he was forced to scold him as he rushed forward and took a knee to cover the surprised soldier.
“Maybe watch your step, Rex. Last thing we need is your big ass triggering any traps left in here,” Mendes advised.
“Well said, sir. Nice paint job, Rex,” Lipper added.
“Oh shut up, Lipp. By the way, your axe looks stupid as hell,” Rex declared as Mendes and Lipper helped him up and he did his best to wipe some of the fresher aquila crap off his backside.
“Uh, what? You hit your head too?”
“Last time you were here you said my hammer looked ridiculous. Well your axe is just as ridiculous,” Rex insisted.
“I am surrounded by boys,” Natalya insisted, walking proudly past them and into the facility. “You know the science teams are watching everything, right?”
“That’s where the hammer comes in!” Rex assured her with a laugh, having more than shaken off his momentary stumble. And so with the first ‘pitfall’ of the Forge conquered, the four soldiers proceeded slowly into the cavernous vault that formed the Forge’s entryway, the path sloping down ever so gently before them. “Mother of God. How big is this thing?”
“Big,” Mendes replied simply, pulling up the seismic imaging model of the installation on his armor’s B-MASS so they could all have a look. A small red dot marked their position at the entrance.”
“We have an estimate for the location of this anomaly?” Lipper asked. Mendes shook his head.
“Nothing definite, but according to information provided by the Lieutenant it should be the first thing we come across.”
“I hope that bastard took a shit dip too,” Rex muttered as they carried on.
“Stow it, Rex,” Mendes ordered. “You can bitch about getting your ass kicked when we aren’t in the middle of an alien installation.”
The Lance Corporal’s words seemed to finally get the point across that they were truly within the belly of the beast, the unknown. No longer was it an unremarkable grassy knoll where some aquila nested. Now it was an expansive chamber of darkness that was deep enough to swallow the light from their armor. Mendes radioed the base station. “Surface team, I’m going to request you keep this channel clear until further notice. We will radio in the event we need an expert opinion. Lance Corporal Mendes out.”
“Mmm, good,” Natalya agreed on the private channel shared between their suits. “Now let us move.”
The four Jumpers moved slowly and deliberately through the structure, promptly sheathing their melee weapons in favor of their rifles. The extra lights were welcome as the glow of Seil grew fainter and fainter behind them as they walked. Per the descriptions left by Winters they did notice a faint red glow far in the distance along their direction of travel, but that was the only anomaly. “Damn, this place is something else,” Lipper muttered, his senses torn between the boredom of black and gray metal on the one hand and the gnawing threat of the unknown on the other.
“Corporal, I think we have contact,” Rex suddenly called after about ten minutes of travel. All four Jumpers pointed their weapons forward, the light illuminating a tangled mess of metal that stood in their way.
“Detecting higher than expected levels of background alpha radiation,” Natalya added, consulting her B-MASS as they drew closer to the construct. “This must be what the First Lieutenant mentioned. Looks like a poor attempt at impersonating M. C. Escher.”
“Corporal Mendes to surface team, you getting this?” Mendes demanded, sighing as only dead air greeted him. “Damnit. We’re on our own. Start recording, everyone.”
“Yes sir,” Lipper replied, taking a step forward and kneeling next to the object. “I suppose we should have expected that much. We’re going to have our work cut out for us getting cables in here.”
“That’s what they pay us for. I seem to recall you and Rex getting into a bit of trouble on account of your cabin fever,” Mendes replied, prompting Lipper to glance over his shoulder.
“If we could not speak about that again, Lance Corporal, I’d appreciate it.”
“Noted, Private. That the core?”
“Sure as hell looks like it,” Lipper said, reaching deep into the mess of pointed metal and running his hand along the cylindrical object. “Now I’m no Alice Winters, but I’ll bet my useless sergeant’s bars that this is alien script.” True to Lipper’s word, when they all gathered around they could see scratched and faded symbols. “Feeling it yet, Rex?”
“Fuck you, Tom. Don’t tell me you aren’t freaking out too,” Rex shot back, his voice tense.
“Seems the natural reaction,” Lipper agreed as they fanned out and did their best to record the object from every angle using what light was available to them and their helmets’ video recording capabilities. “So the Lieutenant described this thing as a skeleton, and I guess I can see that but where the hell is the head. This looks like a twisted ribcage. A big fucking ribcage, mind you, but still just a ribcage.”
“Perhaps those have something to do with it?” Natalya suggested, having located the various discolorations and markings on the walls and floor that seemed to indicate some sort of conflict or struggle.
“Hard to say,” Mendes opined, staring further into the facility. Part of him wanted desperately to proceed further, to see what Lieutenant Winters had seen months before, to see if anything could be gleaned from further within the strange installation. Orders were orders, however, and he had no intention of improvising on his first mission as commanding officer. “But no matter what else is in here, I think this is where we should start. Let’s get this thing scanned and get as many visuals as we can for the teams back up top. Then we’ll figure out how or if we should move it.”
“Can I ask a question?” Rex wondered, not waiting for permission. “What sort of idiot stuffs a nuclear reactor into their ribcage?” In spite of the situation, the team found themselves chuckling quietly. Lipper answered.
“Assuming we aren’t all incredibly wrong, which we damn well could be, something a hell of a lot larger than you, Rex.”
When Mendes’ team returned to the surface after about two hours below ground, they found the majority of the science team waiting nervously for them at the mouth of the Forge. The lead of the expedition was on the line with Admiral Kaczynsky when Mendes’ suit regained connection to the Event Horizon’s network.
“Ah, it seems we worry too much!” he declared. “Lance Corporal Mendes, your report?”
“Yes sir. No casualties or difficulties minus Rex slipping in a pile of alien bat shit, sir.” Unseen by Mendes, Natori found himself attempting to keep a straight face on his bridge and not chuckle like a teenager.
“Given how quickly we lost contact with your team after you entered the facility, it is no small relief to hear that, Rodrigo. Did you find the anomaly mentioned in the mission report?”
“Yes sir, it was exactly as the Lieutenant described, including the cracked, radioactive core. We took video and conducted scans using the B-MASS which we will provide to the ground teams shortly.”
“Thank you. I look forward to your full report. But let us speak frankly for a moment, Lance Corporal. What are your thoughts on the installation?” Natori wondered, pressing a couple fingers against his temple as he tried to place himself on the surface. The lack of real time footage had not only been worrying, it had been incredibly disappointing.
“Sorry Admiral, but I’m not sure how much I can give you that you don’t already know,” Mendes apologized. “Whoever built it is certainly no longer around. That or they’re extremely well hidden. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s beyond the technological capability of the locals. We didn’t analyze the alloys of the walls or the skeletal object so I can’t say much on those accounts. It’s almost certainly alien in its construction, and there is something towards the end of the entry corridor that glows red, again as Lieutenant Winters described, sir. I don’t have anything else at this time.”
“Next steps, Lance Corporal?”
Mendes waved the rest of his squad on, indicating that they should proceed back to the camp and begin the relevant data transfers while he continued to speak with Natori. “Well, that depends on how nice you want to be to the current residents, sir,” the Jumper supplied, looking up so that Natori could see the various aquila nests above the entrance.
“We will make all reasonable accommodations.”
“Yes sir. In that case I think the first thing we need to do is get cable inside here, make sure we can communicate with the surface teams and possibly move in some light sources deeper in, far past the little bat-like organisms. I’ll leave what to do with the skeletal formation to the science teams, sir. I can see arguments both for leaving it in place and moving it out of the installation for analysis aboard the ship. I guess if we do that we should check for EMP shielding and other electronics, fry them all if we find them.” Natori hummed approvingly in his earpiece.
“Yes, I suppose a remote attack is a possibility even if the age of the installation is confirmed. Very well, Corporal Mendes. You and your team will have the lead on this operation as far as protection of the science teams is concerned.”
Mendes made to salute before he remembered that Natori would be unable to see the gesture, his chest swelling with pride. “Yes sir, we’d be honored. But what about Lieutenant Winters?”
“Believe it or not, Rodrigo, I believe he’s more than happy to let you and your team have this one. From the sound of it, village life is more suited to him. And believe me when I tell you that I am very sensitive to what occurred between you all and how to proceed moving forward. In spite of the obvious and noble human tendency to divide itself into groups and prove one superior to the other, we are all on the same side when it comes to discovering the truth of this planet and our way home.”
“That sounds a lot more noble than the first bit, sir,” Mendes replied, earning a chuckle from Natori.
“Quite so, Corporal, but that doesn’t not mean I don’t wish to see you and your team succeed both for yourselves and for Beta Division as a whole. For now, please go ahead and rendezvous with the science teams and assist them however you can. I’m sure they will have questions for you. In the meantime, I will make the necessary arrangements for the equipment we will surely need to examine this installation in detail.”
“Yes sir, signing off,” Mendes affirmed before cutting the link and proceeding the short distance to rejoin his squad. Civilian researchers were already poring over the data and recordings that the team had brought back. Natalya was engaged in conversation with an older gentleman regarding the radioactivity signatures from the casing, her helmet off and her long, blonde hair tied up in a neat bun. Lipper and Rex were uploading their scans of the skeleton to the available computers and terminals in the compound, relating what they’d seen and suggesting various conclusions. “Everything good?”
“Took us seven months and change and a bit of a fuck up,” Lipper began.
“A bit?” Rex cut in, looking at his friend accusingly.
“Your nose looks even better than it used to and I can eat again. Sergeant will return with time,” Lipper insisted, looking Mendes dead in the eye. “But yeah, Corporal, it feels like we’re finally getting to do something here.”
“I’m not going to remember all this, but it’s very impressive,” Xan admitted as he, Alice and Anita strolled through one of the industrial growing bays on the Event Horizon. Unlike bay number seven, which was essentially full of pet projects, bay number one was designed to produce as much nutritious biomass per cubic foot of space as possible. Many plants needed no soil at all, growing in clear troughs of water stacked to the ceiling and tended to by mechanical arms and extensions.
“Thank you, I helped design the cultivators,” Anita said quietly, guiding the crippled Cauthan around. “And I wouldn’t worry too much about remembering it. At this point I don’t have to think much about growing either except for maintenance. What we would need from you is instructions on how to care for your various crops. How often you water them, if they need support to grow, direct or indirect sunlight, things of that nature.”
“Yeah, that much I can do,” Xan agreed. “I can ask my parents and some of the other farmers I know. You want to come, Alice?”
“Assuming I’m not tied up with Alyra, I’d be happy to come along and record things.”
“Yeah, I guess Thantis and I have been keeping you busy for a while now. She’s been itching to talk with you about whatever it is she cares about. You see her staring at her reflection in the water trough the other day, experimenting with those glasses? Crazy.”
“Xan, just because you don’t give a darn about how you look doesn’t mean us girls don’t. What’s wrong with wanting to look presentable?”
Xan huffed, not able to come up with a decent reply. A light breeze drifted through the room, strengthening over a few seconds before dissipating. “Alright you have to explain that though. How did you harness the winds all the way out here. Felen isn’t supposed to have any power in Kel’s domain. And where is your water coming from? I’ve never seen it rain in here.”
“Smart cookie, isn’t he?” Alice asked Anita, who seemed a mite confused.
“What are Felen and Kel?” the engineer wondered. Alice did her best to explain the two Cauthan gods in five minutes or less. It was enough for Anita to understand Xan’s question.
“Well, we have mechanical fans that blow air through the ship and these growing areas. Plants that grow without any wind develop weakly in many cases. They need to be stressed in a positive way,” Anita explained.
“Is that right? What’s a ‘mechanical fan’?” Xan replied, butchering the pronunciation of the word mechanical. Anita looked around, but none of her green, floral companions were forthcoming with a decent simplification of electricity or motors.
“I think that would be a bit hard to explain,” she admitted. “Same with the water situation. We have a set amount on board which we reuse and recycle.”
“What she means to say is that we use our waste, convert it to clean water, and use that for the plants,” Alice summarized.
“What? That’s silly. Just take the poop and throw it down, works great. Maybe even mix some in with your water,” Xan suggested, managing to elicit a flush even through Anita’s dark brown skin.
“Xan, you dork,” Alice chastised him as she tried not to giggle too hard. “That’s a great way to get the whole ship infected.”
“Don’t know what that means, but I defer to your crazy human magics,” Xan replied flippantly. “I stopped trying to understand the specifics a while ago, made my head hurt. But we can grow dato and kina up here, right?”
“I believe so,” Anita affirmed. “Alice, didn’t you say you got some soil samples?”
“Yeah, days ago. You didn’t get them?”
“No, I think they’re still with the microbiologists. Growing alien vegetables wasn’t really high priority until forty eight hours ago or so.”
“Well if you need some just come down to the village,” Alice suggested. “They’re real friendly and the food is to die for!”
“Yeah, you should totally come down with us today,” Xan agreed, enthused at the idea of being the one doing the explaining and guiding. “I can take you around and you can ask your questions and grab as much dirt as you want. Not like we’re hoarding it or anything.”
“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Natori’s voice agreed, causing them all to jump. Anita threw her hand over her chest in fright while Alice shook her fist at the ceiling.
“Darn it, Admiral! Don’t you have, you know, a ship to run or something?!”
“My dear Alice, thanks to the efforts of Io, my esteemed bridge crew, and dedicated engineers like Ms. Prakash, I find myself quite bored on a regular basis. I believe this is a preferable state of affairs to your brother or our Jumpers shooting at something, however. Ms. Prakash, I will be happy to arrange for you to head to the surface for a period of time. In return, I believe we could take our intrepid Cauthan here on a little voyage.”
“Look, I don’t want to be rude but I think I know enough about your leader to know he’s not like Antoth. Little voyage sounds bad,” Xan stated. Alice nodded and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m with Xan, Admiral. Details,” Alice demanded.
“Of course! It’s been just about seven months since we left Earth. While I am immensely pleased with the performance of our various waste and water treatment facilities, the fact of the matter is that my morning coffee is beginning to taste like an industrial filter. Given that we have found your brother, made friends with the locals, and established that we will be in the system for a period of time, I believe it would be prudent to top off our reserves of materials and replenish our water stores,” Natori explained, using the display on his captain’s chair to pan through several groups of asteroids flagged by his bridge crew.
“Natori!” Alice had a hand on her hip. “Are you seriously suggesting taking Xan on an asteroid mining mission?”
“Veera and any other Cauthan are welcome to come along as well! They have invited us to partake in their harvest festival, I think it’s only fair we return the favor so long as they keep their claws off the controls.”
“Harvesting asteroids is not a holiday!” Alice insisted.
“No, it involves far too many high powered lasers for that!” Natori agreed, eliciting a light giggle from Anita.
“Why do I bother with him?” Alice demanded of herself. “Fine, Natori. When we head back down today we’ll ask about the mission. I honestly can’t see Antoth agreeing to it even for Xan, but we’ll give it a shot and see if there’s interest. Thanks for giving me an incredibly difficult concept to explain, by the way. What about the teams at the other ground site?”
“Oh, I’ll be sure they have plenty of supplies. We’ll only be gone a day or two and I want to be sure we are back in orbit to commemorate the anniversary of the loss of the Lancer. Do let me know what Antoth says, would you?”
Alice pinched the bridge of her nose, tilting her head back as though she had a nosebleed. While the idea of taking Xan along on a space mining mission was undoubtedly an exciting prospect, especially given the fact that she would not typically be allowed on one either, explaining the concept to Antoth and Ratha was decidedly not. She made a mental note to include Thantis in any such discussion; he was the one Cauthan most likely to end up in her corner. “Yes sir, Natori. Anything else?”
“No no, carry on!” the Admiral encouraged as though he hadn’t been eavesdropping on them. “Miss Prakash, your plants will survive a few hours without you, I’m sure.”
“O-Oh. I mean… thank you, Admiral.”
“Be nice to her,” Alice whispered extremely quietly, relying on Xan’s perky ears to do the rest of the work, even if one of them was rough around the edges. To her relief, he was not a complete blockhead and nodded that he understood.
“Sorry, Alice. If I’m going to head down I should probably change and get a few things,” Anita explained, excusing herself. “It was nice to meet you, Xan. Selah.”
“Selah,” Xan replied as Anita departed. Alice was more than fine finding her way back on her own.
“So, want to keep exploring here?” she asked Xan.
“Nah. I’m sure I’ll be back up when our own crops are growing here,” the Cauthan guessed, stiffening his back and exhaling with something of a grunt.
“How’s the leg? You’ve been walking around a while,” Alice asked sympathetically.
“You don’t need to hide it around someone like Anita, you know?”
“I was just practicing,” Xan told her, looking intently at a nearby head of lettuce.
“Ok,” Alice smiled kindly. “Do you want to head back to your room or one of the hangars? I think Asha and the rest will probably be a little while.”
“Floating?” Xan suggested.
“The hangars it is! Let’s see where the nearest one is,” Alice replied pleasantly, calling up a map of the ship and locating an inactive shuttle bay nearby. “This way, my fluffy, crippled friend! Tally ho!”
Xan pulled his scarred face into a grin as he plodded after her with his cane. “You and your brother have to be the worst humans ever to learn your culture from.”
Xan’s newfound ability to take his disability somewhat in stride was encouraging to Alice, recalling to her mind her brother’s desire that she help instead of study. She already had a new idea or three for her doctoral thesis. “Excuse me, we’re obviously the best.”
“Heh, of course. My mistake.”
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