The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
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Cryptp soft is a absolutely auto bot and is so accessible to everyone. https://preview.redd.it/giu6kclgfnn51.jpg?width=1280&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=f605d84ba2174f831ca825dbaffddf061b3a55b5 You do not want to perceive trading lingo to use Immediate Edge. The following steps can get you started with this robot. STEP ONE: Fill the Signup type Visit the Cryptp soft home page and register your name, phone number, and email in the provided kind. You will be asked to verify your phone variety via a text code and email through a link. CryptoVibes will ascertain that the Cryptp soft registration process is secure. Their web site is SSL secured to confirm that hackers cannot steal personal information submitted through it. Cryptp soft cyber safety policy states that they're GDPR adherent. This suggests that they handle your knowledge with strict privacy. STEP TWO: Get matched with a broker The Cryptp soft Software then matches you with one in every of their partner brokers. 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CryptoVibes recommends that you are doing demo trading before going to live to trade. Please note that the demo is for demonstrative purposes solely. The results you receive on the platform are primarily based on historical information and could therefore not mirror what you'll get in live trading. The Cryptp soft live trader comes with features to help you outline the amount of risk you are willing to require per trade. You wish to go through the demo account to familiarize with these features. As mentioned severally in this review, you do not want specialized skills to use this robot. Live trading with Cryptp soft involves determining the quantity of capital you plan to risk per trade and clicking the live button. Scan our review of Bitcoin Trader for one more straightforward to use the robot. *Remember all trading risks and you shouldn’t risk more then you'll be able to afford to lose. How to get the most out of Cryptp soft App We have identified the following tips as paramount in guaranteeing that you make the most of Immediate Edge. Begin with a deposit of $250 – Given the level of risk involved in trading with Immediate Edge, you should start with a tiny investment. Follow crypto market news – You need to determine the type of reports that drives volatility high and capitalize on them. Cryptp soft claims to form the foremost profits throughout high market volatility. Trade for eight hours per day – In keeping with Immediate Edge, trading for at least eight hours per day can help maximize profits. Cryptp soft is entirely auto, and hence you'll be able to leave the robot running as you continue together with your daily errands. You are doing not want more than twenty minutes per day to observe your account. Close trading sessions at the tip of the day – Leaving open positions overnight is doubtless to translate to losses since the markets can change considerably overnight. It is better to shut sessions even if in the negative and start trading again the subsequent day. With a correct risk management strategy, there is no would like to fret concerning periodic losses. Following our review we tend to realize Cryptp soft to be legit. But, traders ought to take additional caution, provided that this bot comes at a degree of risk. Whereas the app claims it's potential to form profits of up to 50percent per day, you'll be able to additionally lose the complete deposit inside seconds. This is often not sudden for a high-frequency trading robot. We recommend that you just apply the required risk management measures. As a rule of thumb don't risk more than 10percent of your trading capital per trade. Also, never trade with an amount you cannot afford to lose. It is prudent to start small and add cash as you get conversant with the various features on the platform. Recently, a brand new trading software was added to the bitcoin investment trade. This software is termed Cryptp soft and it is allegedly created by a corporation or organization called the International Council for Bitcoin. There is additionally a letter out there on their web site that has been signed by someone named David. This person claims to own earned over 1,000,000 as a results of investing in bitcoins. What’s very shocking concerning this letter is that David claims to have earned that huge quantity in just one trade. If we have a tendency to place it in simple words, David became a millionaire overnight. We tend to highly doubt that a trading system that has been launched recently will have such potential. To verify the main points of this software and to determine its legitimacy, we have a tendency to conducted our own research and investigation. Cryptp soft is a bitcoin trading software that’s meant to assist newbie traders get involved in Cryptocurrency trading with less risk than ancient investment opportunities. Cryptp soft software was created by The International Council For Bitcoin who is PRO Bitcoin trader Group behind the Cryptp soft software. Notice out all concerning Cryptp soft software by The International Council For Bitcoin. Cryptp soft Software may be a nice development by a famous, well established and experienced bitcoin trader Investors with a viewpoint to enable traders to perform different tasks with ease and convenience. https://preview.redd.it/uuh85yghfnn51.png?width=1238&format=png&auto=webp&s=d0558e6e123114b6624d5a724b3b9b5983e717e1 Cryptp soft Software is essentially a Binary choices trading software that is designed to assist traders win and predict the Binary options trend of their respective choices. 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However, it's pertinent for cryptocurrency traders to verify if a particular trading software may be a scam or legit, which is also ? After subjecting the features of the Cryptp soft bot software to a series of tests, the software isn't a scam however legit. The Cryptp soft bot is believed to have successful rate of 85%, that is a lot of than the 80percent benchmark for average software. The Cryptp soft bot has helped cryptocurrency traders to make sensible profits, which has been documented as testimonies on the software’s website. Trading on the platform is straightforward and might not require experience. We had to verify the simplicity of the software, and we tend to discovered that the software is easy to navigate. The demo trading feature of the software makes it potential for brand new users to hold out trading activities in an exceedingly simulated atmosphere while not having to risk their investment. This any gives credence to the legitimacy of the software because it ensures that new users get accustomed to the features of the software before continuing to measure to trade As earlier stated, the Cryptp soft bot could be a high-tech program software that comes with exceptional options that makes it among the simplest cryptocurrency trading software in the blockchain market. The outstanding features of the Cryptp soft bot embody the subsequent: https://www.cryptoerapro.com/cryptosoft/ http://www.cryptoerapro.com/ https://twitter.com/cryptoerapro https://www.instagram.com/cryptoerapro/ https://www.pinterest.co.uk/cryptoerapro/
Hi everyone, this is my first ever post here. I run a little website called The Thought Experiment where I talk about various issues, some of them Singapore related. And one of my main interests is Singaporean politics. With the GE2020 election results, I thought I should pen down my take on what us as the electorate were trying to say. If you like what I wrote, I also wrote another article on the state of play for GE2020 during the campaigning period, as well as 2 other articles related to GE2015 back when it was taking place. If you don't like what I wrote, that's ok! I think the beauty of freedom of expression is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm always happy to get feedback, because I do think that more public discourse about our local politics helps us to be more politically aware as a whole. Just thought I'll share my article here to see what you guys make of it :D Article Starts Here: During the campaigning period, both sides sought to portray an extreme scenario of what would happen if voters did not vote for them. The Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) warned that Singaporeans that their political opponents “might eventually replace the government after July 10”. Meanwhile, the Worker’s Party (WP) stated that “there was a real risk of a wipeout of elected opposition MPs at the July 10 polls”. Today is July 11th. As we all know, neither of these scenarios came to pass. The PAP comfortably retained its super-majority in Parliament, winning 83 out of 93 elected MP seats. But just as in GE2011, another Group Representation Constituency (GRC) has fallen to the WP. In addition, the PAP saw its vote share drop drastically, down almost 9% to 61.2% from 69.9% in GE2015. Singapore’s electorate is unique in that a significant proportion is comprised of swing voters: Voters who don’t hold any blind allegiance to any political party, but vote based on a variety of factors both micro and macro. The above extreme scenarios were clearly targeted at these swing voters. Well, the swing voters have made their choice, their roar sending 4 more elected opposition MPs into Parliament. This article aims to unpack that roar and what it means for the state of Singaporean politics going forward. 1. The PAP is still the preferred party to form Singapore’s Government Yes, this may come across as blindingly obvious, but it still needs to be said. The swing voter is by its very definition, liable to changes of opinion. And a large factor that determines how a swing voter votes is their perception of how their fellow swing voters are voting. If swing voters perceive that most swing voters are leaning towards voting for the opposition, they might feel compelled to vote for the incumbent. And if the reverse is true, swing voters might feel the need to shore up opposition support. Why is this so? This is because the swing voter is trying to push the vote result into a sweet spot – one that lies between the two extreme scenarios espoused by either side. They don’t want the PAP to sweep all 93 seats in a ‘white tsunami’. Neither do they want the opposition to claim so much territory that the PAP is too weak to form the Government on its own. But because each swing voter only has a binary choice: either they vote for one side or the other (I’m ignoring the third option where they simply spoil their vote), they can’t very well say “I want to vote 0.6 for the PAP and 0.4 for the Opposition with my vote”. And so we can expect the swing voter bloc to continue being a source of uncertainty for both sides in future elections, as long as swing voters are still convinced that the PAP should be the Government. 2. Voters no longer believe that the PAP needs a ‘strong mandate’ to govern. They also don’t buy into the NCMP scheme. Throughout the campaign period, the PAP repeatedly exhorted voters to vote for them alone. Granted, they couldn’t very well give any ground to the opposition without a fight. And therefore there was an attempt to equate voting for the PAP as voting for Singapore’s best interests. However, the main message that voters got was this: PAP will only be able to steer Singapore out of the Covid-19 pandemic if it has a strong mandate from the people. What is a strong mandate, you may ask? While no PAP candidate publicly confirmed it, their incessant harping on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme as the PAP’s win-win solution for having the PAP in power and a largely de-fanged opposition presence in parliament shows that the PAP truly wanted a parliament where it held every single seat. Clearly, the electorate has different ideas, handing Sengkang GRC to the WP and slashing the PAP’s margins in previous strongholds such as West Coast, Choa Chu Kang and Tanjong Pagar by double digit percentages. There is no doubt from the results that swing voters are convinced that a PAP supermajority is not good for Singapore. They are no longer convinced that to vote for the opposition is a vote against Singapore. They have realized, as members of a maturing democracy surely must, that one can vote for the opposition, yet still be pro-Singapore. 3. Social Media and the Internet are rewriting the electorate’s perception. In the past, there was no way to have an easily accessible record of historical events. With the only information source available being biased mainstream media, Singaporeans could only rely on that to fill in the gaps in their memories. Therefore, Operation Coldstore became a myth of the past, and Chee Soon Juan became a crackpot in the eyes of the people, someone who should never be allowed into Parliament. Fast forward to today. Chee won 45.2% of the votes in Bukit Batok’s Single Member Constituency (SMC). His party-mate, Dr. Paul Tambyah did even better, winning 46.26% of the votes in Bukit Panjang SMC. For someone previously seen as unfit for public office, this is an extremely good result. Chee has been running for elections in Singapore for a long time, and only now is there a significant change in the way he is perceived (and supported) by the electorate. Why? Because of social media and the internet, two things which the PAP does not have absolute control over. With the ability to conduct interviews with social media personalities as well as upload party videos on Youtube, he has been able to display a side of himself to people that the PAP did not want them to see: someone who is merely human just like them, but who is standing up for what he believes in. 4. Reserved Election Shenanigans and Tan Cheng Block: The electorate has not forgotten. Tan Cheng Bock almost became our President in 2011. There are many who say that if Tan Kin Lian and Tan Jee Say had not run, Tony Tan would not have been elected. In March 2016, Tan Cheng Bock publicly declared his interest to run for the next Presidential Election that would be held in 2017. The close result of 2011 and Tan Cheng Bock’s imminent candidacy made the upcoming Presidential Election one that was eagerly anticipated. That is, until the PAP shut down his bid for the presidency just a few months later in September 2016, using its supermajority in Parliament to pass a “reserved election” in which only members of a particular race could take part. Under the new rules that they had drawn up for themselves, it was decreed that only Malays could take part. And not just any Malay. The candidate had to either be a senior executive managing a firm that had S$500 million in shareholders’ equity, or be the Speaker of Parliament or a similarly high post in the public sector (the exact criteria are a bit more in-depth than this, but this is the gist of it. You can find the full criteria here). And who was the Speaker of Parliament at the time? Mdm Halimah, who was conveniently of the right race (Although there was some hooha about her actually being Indian). With the extremely strict private sector criteria and the PAP being able to effectively control who the public sector candidate was, it came as no surprise that Mdm Halimah was declared the only eligible candidate on Nomination Day. A day later, she was Singapore’s President. And all without a single vote cast by any Singaporean. Of course, the PAP denied that this was a move specifically aimed at blocking Tan Cheng Bock’s bid for the presidency. Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s current Minister of Trade and Industry, stated in 2017 that the Government was prepared to pay the political price over making these changes to the Constitution. We can clearly see from the GE2020 results that a price was indeed paid. A loss of almost 9% of vote share is very significant, although a combination of the first-past-the-post rule and the GRC system ensured that the PAP still won 89.2% of the seats in Parliament despite only garnering 61.2% of the votes. On the whole, it’s naught but a scratch to the PAP’s overwhelming dominance in Parliament. The PAP still retains its supermajority and can make changes to the Constitution anytime that it likes. But the swing voters have sent a clear signal that they have not been persuaded by the PAP’s rationale. 5. Swing Voters do not want Racial Politics. In 2019, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and the man who is next in line to be Prime Minister (PM) commented that Singapore was not ready to have a non-Chinese PM. He further added that race is an issue that always arises at election-time in Singapore. Let us now consider the GE2015 results. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Senior Minister and someone whom many have expressed keenness to be Singapore’s next PM, obtained 79.28% of the vote share in Jurong GRC. This was above even the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who scored 78.63% in Ang Mo Kio GRC. Tharman’s score was the highest in the entire election. And now let us consider the GE2020 results. Tharman scored 74.62% in Jurong, again the highest scorer of the entire election, while Hsien Loong scored 71.91%. So Tharman beat the current PM again, and by an even bigger margin than the last time. Furthermore, Swee Keat, who made the infamous comments above, scored just 53.41% in East Coast. Yes, I know I’m ignoring a lot of other factors that influenced these results. But don’t these results show conclusively that Heng’s comments were wrong? We have an Indian leading both the current and future PM in both elections, but yet PAP still feels the need to say that Singapore “hasn’t arrived” at a stage where we can vote without race in mind. In fact, this was the same rationale that supposedly led to the reserved presidency as mentioned in my earlier point. The swing voters have spoken, and it is exceedingly clear to me that the electorate does not care what our highest office-holders are in terms of race, whether it be the PM or the President. Our Singapore pledge firmly states “regardless of race”, and I think the results have shown that we as a people have taken it to heart. But has the PAP? 6. Voters will not be so easily manipulated. On one hand, Singaporeans were exhorted to stay home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Contact tracing became mandatory, and groups of more than 5 are prohibited. But on the other hand, we are also told that it’s absolutely necessary to hold an election during this same period, for Singaporeans to wait in long lines and in close proximity to each other as we congregate to cast our vote, all because the PAP needs a strong mandate. On one hand, Heng Swee Keat lambasted the Worker’s Party, claiming that it was “playing games with voters” over their refusal to confirm if they would accept NCMP seats. But on the other hand, Heng Swee Keat was moved to the East Coast GRC at the eleventh hour in a surprise move to secure the constituency. (As mentioned above, he was aptly rewarded for this with a razor-thin margin of just 53.41% of the votes.) On one hand, Masagos Zulkifli, PAP Vice-Chairman stated that “candidates should not be defined by a single moment in time or in their career, but judged instead by their growth throughout their life”. He said this in defense of Ivan Lim, who appears to be the very first candidate in Singaporean politics to have been pushed into retracting his candidacy by the power of non-mainstream media. But on the other hand, the PAP called on the WP to make clear its stand on Raeesah Khan, a WP candidate who ran (and won) in Sengkang GRC for this election, stating that the Police investigation into Raeesah’s comments made on social media was “a serious matter which goes to the fundamental principles on which our country has been built”. On one hand, Chan Chun Sing stated in 2015, referring to SingFirst’s policies about giving allowances to the young and the elderly, “Some of them promised you $300 per month. I say, please don’t insult my residents. You think…. they are here to be bribed?” On the other hand, the PAP Government has just given out several handouts under its many budgets to help Singaporeans cope with the Covid-19 situation. [To be clear, I totally approve of these handouts. What I don’t approve is that the PAP felt the need to lambast similar policies as bribery in the past. Comparing a policy with a crime is a political low blow in my book.] I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. And so did the electorate in this election, putting their vote where it counted to show their disdain for the heavy-handedness and double standards that the PAP has displayed for this election. Conclusion I don’t say the above to put down the PAP. The PAP would have you believe that to not support them is equivalent to not wanting what’s best for Singapore. This is a false dichotomy that must be stamped out, and I am glad to see our swing voters taking a real stand with this election. No, I say the above as a harsh but ultimately supportive letter to the PAP. As everyone can see from the results, we all still firmly believe that the PAP should be the Government. We still have faith that PAP has the leadership to take us forward and out of the Covid-19 crisis. But we also want to send the PAP a strong signal with this vote, to bring them down from their ivory towers and down to the ground. Enough with the double standards. Enough with the heavy-handedness. Singaporeans have clearly stated their desire for a more mature democracy, and that means more alternative voices in Parliament. The PAP needs to stop acting as the father who knows it all, and to start acting as the bigger brother who can work hand in hand with his alternative younger brother towards what’s best for the entire family: Singapore. There is a real chance that the PAP will not listen, though. As Lee Hsien Loong admitted in a rally in 2006, “if there are 10, 20… opposition members in Parliament… I have to spent my time thinking what is the right way to fix them”. Now, the PAP has POFMA at its disposal. It still has the supermajority in Parliament, making them able to change any law in Singapore, even the Constitution at will. We have already seen them put these tools to use for its own benefit. Let us see if the PAP will continue as it has always done, or will it take this opportunity to change itself for the better. Whatever the case, we will be watching, and we will be waiting to make our roar heard once again five years down the road. Majulah Singapura! Article Ends Here. Here's the link to the actual article: https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2020/07/11/ge2020-the-roar-of-the-swing-vote And here's the link to the other political articles I've written about Singapore: https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2020/07/07/ge2020-the-state-of-play/ https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2015/09/10/ge2015-voting-wisely/ https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2015/09/05/expectations-of-the-opposition/
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This FAQ represents Q&A's over the last few days here. Fellow redditor u/iterateandgit was so kind to help me putting this document together. Big shout out to him please! The FAQ will be further extended over the coming days and weeks. Please keep the questions coming!
Sales, Shipping, Warranty
Q: Are you going to sell this on Amazon in the EU? A: We are working on getting the product up and running on Amazon. But our own BTO shop at www.bestware.com will always be our primary sales channel and will be the only one where you can customize and configure memory, storage, OS, extend your warranty and pick other options. Q: Do you offer student discounts or other sales compaigns like black friday? A: In general, we don't offer student discounts. Sales campaigns are planned just in time, depending on stock level and cannot be announced early. If you want to keep up to date about sales campaigns, please subscribe to our newsletter. Q: Do you ship to the UK? Can I pay in GBP? A: We ship to the UK - the pricing will be in EUR, so your bank will do the conversion. Warranty services will be available from UK, shipping to Germany. Currently, in the single markets, these resturn shipments are free for the end-user. In the worst case there might be additional customs fees for shipping. Q: What warranty options do you offer? A: All our laptops come with 2 year warranty. Warranty repairs in the first 6 months are promised to be done within 48 hours (+shipping). Both the "instant repair" service and the warranty itself can be extended to up to 3 years. Q: Do you sell outside of Europe? A: We are able to ship anywhere, but warranty for customers outside the region would always involve additional customs cost and paperwork for sending the laptop back to Germany in the rare event of an RMA. There is currently no agreement to let other Local OEMs (like Eluktronics in the US) carry the warranty for XMG customers and vice-versa. Some parts are customized (in our case the LCD lid and the keyboard) and it won't be easy to agree on how to share handling fees etc. - so I wouldn't expect a global warranty anytime soon.
Hardware, Specs, Thermals
Q: What is the difference between XMG FUSION 15 and other laptops based on Intel's reference design? A: The hardware of the barebone will be identical. Other Local OEMs might use different parts for RAM and SSDs. Our branding and service/warranty options might be different. We apply our own set of performance profiles in the Control Center. This will rebalance the differentiation between Silent, Balanced and Enthusiast modes. Q: What is the TGP of the NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q? A: Officially, it is 80W in Balanced profile and 90W in Enthusiast profile. You can toggle between these modes in real-time with a dedicated mode switch button. Inofficially, the TGP can go up to 115W in Enthusiast profile thanks to the Overboost mechanic, working in the background. However, those 115W may only be sustained until the system has reached thermal saturation, i.e. when the GPU is approaching the GPU Temperature Target of 75°C. Q: Can I upgrade the storage and memory after I buy? A: On storage: The laptop has two m.2 PCI-Express SSD slots. This will give you currently up to 4 TB of SSD storage. There is no 2.5" HDD slot available. Instead, the battery is enlarged to 93.48Wh. You can see pictures of the interior layouts here, here and here. On memory: the laptop has two SO-DIMM DDR4 memory sockets. You can chose during BTO configuration, if you want to occupy both of them when you order the product. We recommend running the laptop in Dual Channel for high-performance usage. Q: How easy is to upgrade and repair this laptop? A: Here are the key facts:
Only 10 chassis screws on the bottom plate.
All chassis screws are identical size and length. (no risk of mixing them up during re-assembly)
All chassis screws are directly exposed, not behind any rubber feet.
No "warranty void if seal is broken" stickers.
Bottom case can be removed very easily without any prying opening tools.
Keyboard does not need to be removed to access internals.
m.2 screws are already in their socket.
Battery is attached with screws, not glued.
Fans can be cleaned and (if needed) replaced without removing the heatpipes.
We would give this a solid 8 out of 10 which is pretty high for such a thin&light design. The 2 remaining points are substracted for BGA CPU and GPU, which is unfortunately unavoidable in such a thin design. Q: Does it support Windows Hello? A: A Fingerprint-Reader is not available, but the HD webcam comes with Infrared and supports Windows Hello. Q: Can I get a smaller, lighter charger for this laptop? A: XMG FUSION 15 requires a 230W power adaptor to provide full performance. If you max out CPU and GPU with furmark and prime, the 230W adapter will be fully utilized. There are currently two compatible 230W adapters. They have different dimensions but similar weight. Please refer to this comparison table: XMG FUSION 15 Power Supply Comparsion Table (Google Drive) Includes shop links. Will be updated with precise weight numbers in the next few days. I also included 120W, 150W and 180W in this table. They all share the same plug (5.5/2.5,, diameter, 12.5mm length). But 120W and 150W are only rated for 19V but the laptop expect 19.5V. Usually this will be compensated by tolerance but we haven't tested how a system would behave under long-term usage with such an adaptor. In theory, 120W to 180W are enough for charing the laptop and for browsing/web/media. Even a full CPU stress test could easily be handled. But as soon as you use CPU and GPU together, you'll run into the bottleneck and your performance will be reduced. Comparison pictures:
These 5 pictures show only the relevant 230W chargers.
Top: 230W Chicony A17-230P1A for XMG NEO.
Bottom: 230W FSP230-AJAN3 from XMG FUSION 15 (Intel Original)
Again, the weight is about the same. Q: Is it possible to boot and run the laptop while the lid is kept closed? A: Closing the lid under load is not recommended because it will limit the airflow and have a bad effect on keyboard and screen. The laptop likes to take air in from the keycaps. With lid closed, the performance might be limited due to reaching temp targets earlier. Q: Can I get the laptop without the XMG logo? I will be using it in public presentations and I would not like any brand names visible. A: We cannot ship without XMG logo, but you can use a dbrand skins to cover our logo. We have not yet decided if we want to invest into integrating XMG FUSION 15 into the dbrand shop. But you can already buy 100% compatible skins by using the page of the Eluktronics MAG-15 at dbrand. The chassis dimensions are exactly the same. Please be aware: you have to manually select the option "No Logo Cutout" if you want to buy these skins for your XMG FUSION 15. According to dbrand, there will be most likely no import fees when ordering from the EU as long as the order is below 100€. Check this thread for details. Q: Will you offer thermal paste upgrades like Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut or Liquid Metal? A: Our ODMs are using silicon-based, high-performance thermal compund from international manufacturers like Shin-Etsu (Japan) and M.G. (USA). Intel is using MG-860 in this reference design. These products are used in the industrial sector, so they have no publicly known brand name. Nevertheless, their high thermal conductivity and guaranteed durability provide optimal and long-lasting cooling of your high-performance laptop. The thermal compounds are applied and sealed automatically by the vendor of the thermal components. They are applied in a highly controlled, standardized manner and provide the best balance of thermal performance, production tolerance and product lifetime. We are considering offering an upgrade to Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut due to popular demand. Will keep you posted on that. Q: Could you please provide an estimate for how much regular usage (~10 browser tabs + some IDE) battery backup would this have? Will there be any way to trade-off battery backup with performance? A: Battery life vs. peak performance can be traded off by using the "Silent" performance profile. You can switch between profiles using a dedicated button on the machine. Your scenario (10 tabs + some IDE) sounds like mostly reading and writing. I would estimate to get at least 7 hours of solid battery life in such a scenario, maybe more. We have achieved 8 hours in 1080p Youtube streaming on WiFi with 50% screen brightness. Adblock and NoScript helps to keep your idle browser tabs in check.
I/O Ports, Peripherals
Q: Why are there not more USB-A 3.1 Gen2 or even USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports? A: USB-A 3.1 Gen1 is basically the same as USB 3.0. There aren't a lot of USB-A devices that support more than USB 3.0 speed. Faster devices typically use USB-C connectors and can be used on Thunderbolt 3, which is down-compatible to USB-C 3.1 Gen2. One of the USB-A ports actually supports Gen2 speed. For the following remarks, please keep in mind that I am not an Intel rep, so everything is based on our own experience. The mainboard design and the I/O port decisions have been made by Intel. Feedback and requests from LOEM customers have been taken into consideration. We would assume that USB 3.2. Gen2x2 (20 Gbit/s) was not considered to be important enough to safe space for 3rd party IC (integrated circuits) on the motherboard. Right now, all the USB ports and Thunderbolts are supplied by Intel's own IC, so they have full control over the hardware, firmware and driver stack and over power saving and performance control. The more IC you add, the higher your Idle power consumption will be, plus adding potential compatibility or speed issues as it often happens with 1st generation 3rd party USB implementations. I very well remember from my own experience the support stories during the first years of USB 3.0, before it was supported in the Intel chipset. On the one hand, Intel is aiming high in terms of performance and convenience, on the other hand: support and reliability still seem to be Intel's goal #1. Thus they seem to play it safe where they deem it to be reasonable. Intel is gearing up for USB 4.0 and next-gen Thunderbolt. USB 3.2 2x2 is probably treated as little more than a roadmap accident. Peripheral vendors might see it the same way. Q: Do you support charging over USB-C/Thunderbolt? Does it support docking stations? A: The Thunderbolt 3 port in Intel's reference design does not support charging. As you probably know, the 100W limit would not be enough to power the whole system and it would make the mainboard more complex to combine two different ways of charging. Intel consciously opted against it and will probably do so again on future high-end gaming/studio models. The USB-C/Thunderbolt port supports Dual-Link DisplayPort signals, directly connected to the NVIDIA Graphics. This makes proper docking station usage very convenient. The user still needs to connect the external power adaptor. Both ports (Thunderbolt and DC-in) are in the back of the laptop, making the whole setup appear very neat on the desk. Q: How many PCIe lanes does the Thunderbolt 3 provide? Are they connected to CPU or Chipset? A: XMG FUSION 15 supports Thunderbolt 3 with 4 lanes of PCIe 3.0. The lanes come from the chipset because all of the CPU lanes (x16) are fully occupied by the dedicated NVIDIA graphics. We are not aware of any side-effects of running Thunderbolt from the chipset. It is common practice for high-end laptops with high-end graphics. The Thunderbolt solution is of course fully validated and certified by Intel's Thunderbolt labs. Q: Does it have a standby USB to power USB devices without turning on the laptop? A: Yes, the USB-A port on the left side supports this feature.
Q: Which LCD panel is being used? Are there plans for 1440p or 4K panels in the laptop? How about PWM flickering? A: The panel is BOE NV156FHM-N4G. It is currently not known if the panel will change in later batches. This depends on logistics and stock. At any rate, the panel key specs will remain the same. There are currently no plans to offer resolutions above FHD in the current generation of this laptop. There are very wide ranges on reports of Backlight Brightness PWM control on this panel in different laptops. Ranging from 200Hz to 1000Hz to no PWM at all - all on the same panel model number. Intel informs us that there are many factors (e.g. freq., display driver, BIOS settings implementation, type of dimmers & compatibility with the driver etc.) that impacts the quality of panel dimming performance. To Intel's knowledge, no kind of flickering has been reported during the validation process. Furthermore, first hands-on data from Notebookcheck indicates that no PWM occurs on this panel. With a DSLR test (multiple burst shots at 1/4000s exposure time) I can confirm that there is not a single frame of brightness dipping or black screen, not even at minimum LCD brightness. Hence, we can confirm: BOE NV156FHM-N4G in XMG FUSION 15 (with Intel) does not use PWM for backlight control. Q: Some BTO shops, for an additional fee, manually pick out display panels with the least back-light bleed. Do you offer that? Even better, do you do that without the extra fee? A: Intel has validated this design to avoid backlight bleed as much as possible. Currently no plans to do further binning. All dozens of MP samples we have seen so far have been exceptionally good. Q: I'm coming from a 13" MacBook with Retina display. How am I going to fare with this 15.6" FHD screen in content creation? A: If you got used to editing high-res visual content (photography, artwork) on your 13inch retina, things will change. On the one hand, your canvas will be larger and more convenient and ergonomic to work with. On the other hand, you will find yourself zooming in more often in order to make out fine-detail. Assuming that you have sharp 20:20 vision. As it is, the screen resolution and specs are not planned to change within the lifetime of this product. The first realistic time-window for a refresh would be whenever Intel is releasing the next "H" series CPU generation. But even then, an upgrade on resolution will not be guaranteed. Comparison:
Pixel per inch
13.3" MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013)
15.6" XMG FUSION 15 (late 2019)
To compare: 141.21 is ~62% from 226.98. This represents the the metric difference in pixel density and peak sharpness between these two models. If you know the diagonal size and resolution of your screen, you can make this comparison yourself with the DPI/PPI calculator.
Keyboard, Backlight, Switches, Layout
Q: What can you tell us about the mechanical keyboard of XMG FUSION 15? A: The keyboard has already been reviewed in our XMG NEO series as being more crisp than typical membrane keyboards. Most reviewers attested it a very good score, both for gaming and for writing long texts. The keyboard backlight can be configured per-key. Default mode is all white. Keyboard Switch Specs:
2mm travel distance
60g actuation force
1000Hz polling frequency
Rated for up to 20 million keystrokes
Having no frame around the keycaps actually helps the thermals. The fans can pull in additional air from the top. This improves airflow and helps to keep the keyboard temperature at low levels during gaming. It also prevents long-term RMA issues on the keyboard. This specific keyboard switch is already in its 3rd generation and very mature by now. Q: Is it possible to dampen the mechanical keyboard with o-rings? A: The switch design does not lend itself to further dampening. The switch mechanic is too complex and has more moving parts than cherry. The 2mm travel distance also plays a role in not allowing more dampening. For reference, please use this video (Youtube). We compared XMG NEO with another membrane-type keyboard. XMG NEO and FUSION share the same keyboard mechanics with the silent tactile switch and the same sound profile. Q: Do you have LED keyboard backlight on the secondary key function, like Fn key icons? A: Please have a look at this picture.
Taken with full keyboard backlight brightness
In totally dark room
Edited in Lightroom (reduced highlights) to reflect the way it really looks to the human eye
F10 seems to have a slightly different color temperature than F8/F9 in this picture. This is due to the angle, open aperature and chromatic abberation of my camera. In real-life, all per-key LEDs behave identically to one another.
Btw, my working sample has blank keycaps. I took the 3 printed keycaps (F8, F9, F10) from a different sample just to demonstrate the Fn lighting for this picture. Facts:
Fn modifier key is on the left between Ctrl and WinKey
the Fn function don't have seperate backlight, but they benefit from the main per-key backlight
the position of the LED is centered above the mechanical switch. That's why the upper portion of the key is brighter than the lower portion. That's why in our layout, the primary function of each key is always located at the center top.
In my assesment, the Fn function symbols are clearly visible from the backlight in a dark room. A user should have no difficulty to recognize the icon and reach its function. Q: Which keyboard layouts do you offer in the EU? A: The following layouts are available, in alphabetic order: Belgium, Czech, Danish, Dvorak German, Dvorak US, Estonia, French, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Polish for Typists, Portuguese, Russia Latin, Slovakish, Spanish, Swedish / Finnish, Swiss, Turkish, UK, US International (ISO)All these layouts are based on the ISO matrix. See differences between ANSI vs. ISO here.
Q: Do you support Linux and dual-boot on XMG FUSION 15? A: We are in discussion to sell XMG FUSION 15 over Tuxedo with official Linux support. It might take 1 or 2 months to get this running. Q: Which LAN, Audio and WiFi card vendors will be used? Asking for a friend. A: From our HWiNFO64 report. (Google Drive link) LAN: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 [PCI\VEN_10EC&DEV_8168&SUBSYS_20868086&REV_15]Audio: Intel(R) Smart Sound Technology (Intel(R) SST) Audio Controller [PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_A348&SUBSYS_20868086&REV_10]WiFi: Intel(R) Wi-Fi 6 AX200 [PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_2723&SUBSYS_00848086&REV_1A], can be replaced. For more information, please check the linked report file.
Q: What would you say are the advantages and differences with other laptops due to the fact the laptop was designed in collaboration with Intel? A: Disclaimer: I am \not* an Intel rep. The following remarks are based on my personal experience and opinion.* Advantages:
Very strict quality control on all levels. I can't quote numbers due to NDA, but Intel NUC has extremely low RMA rates, compared to average PC mainboards and systems. Intel is driven by strict internal regulation that strifes for perfection - this applies to the whole chassis, assembly and firmware, not only the mainboard. There are also certain regulations in place, for example in terms of electro-magnetic regulation and skin temperatures. The rating label is littered with regulatory seals from every region of the world, making this laptop especially safe to use.
Access to high-quality material: we have not seen any Gaming Laptops based on Magnesium alloy yet, especially not in the ODM/LOEM ecosystem. The battery cells are also much more dense than what we usually see. Intel has the buying power and the vision to not settle for mediocre parts.
Down-to-earth design: Intel has made this reference design for the ODM/LOEM eco-system. The design does not try to follow any specific corporate identity, thus it does not have any unneccessary "bling bling" like all the others have. Even the Razer Blade with it's sleek shape is quite obnoxious (iny my oppinion) with it's big backlit green snake logo. With XMG FUSION however, we can continue our typical style of "Undercover Gaming".
Security: you can expect stellar support in terms of BIOS and Firmware (TPM, Management Engine) updates whenever any security issues are found. This might also apply to global brands, but ODM/LOEM systems have not always been so quick to react. This is due to the huge fragmentation/customizations in ODM/LOEM systems. Intel however does now allow any fragmentation: every LOEM partner is getting the same firmware. There are many hooks for configurations in this firmware, but the source code / binaries are always the same. This makes support much easier down the line.
I can't name many, of course. But I would say the strict validation also makes the partnership less flexible from a product management perspective. There is no plan currently to phase-in any 4K or 300Hz screen (FHD/144Hz ought to be enough for everyone this year) or any Core i9 in this system. Other ODMs might be more open for costly modifications based on low quantities. Intel however has streamlined their production and logistics in a way that gives us (the LOEM) very short lead times and competitive pricing, but will not allow any short-notice upgrades or customizations.
Q: Will there be a 17 inch version? A: We can neither confirm nor deny plans for a 17 inch version at this point. [to be continued]
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Part 2: Tools & Info for Sysadmins - Mega List of Tips, Tools, Books, Blogs & More
Win + Shift + S: Captures a user-selectable area of the screen to the clipboard (on Windows 10 Ver 1703+)
WIN + CTRL + F4: Close a virtual desktop
Here's a shortcut for a 4-pane explorer in Windows without installing 3rd-party software:
Win + E, win + left, up
Win + E, win + right, up
Win + E, win + left, down
Win + E, win + right, down
(Keep the win key down for the arrows, and no pauses.) Appreciation goes to ZAFJB for this one. Our recent tip for a shortcut to get a 4-pane explorer in Windows, triggered this suggestion from SevaraB: "You can do that for an even larger grid of Windows by right-clicking the clock in the taskbar, and clicking 'Show windows side by side' to arrange them neatly. Did this for 4 rows of 6 windows when I had to have a quick 'n' dirty "video wall" of windows monitoring servers at our branches." ZAFJB adds that it actually works when you right-click "anywhere on the taskbar, except application icons or start button." This tip comes courtesy of shipsass: "When I need to use Windows Explorer but I don't want to take my hands off the keyboard, I press Windows-E to launch Explorer and then Ctrl-L to jump to the address line and type my path. The Ctrl-L trick also works with any web browser, and it's an efficient way of talking less-technical people through instructions when 'browse to [location]' stumps them." Clear browser history/cookies by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-DELETE on most major browsers. Thanks go to synapticpanda, who adds that this "saves me so much time when troubleshooting web apps where I am playing with the cache and such." To rename a file with F2, while still editing the name of that file: Hit TAB to tab into the renaming of the next file. Thanks to abeeftaco for this one! Alt-D is a reliable alternative to Ctrl-L for jumping to the address line in a browser. Thanks for this one go to fencepost_ajm, who explains: "Ctrl-L comes from the browser side as a shortcut for Location, Alt-D from the Windows Explorer side for Directory." Browser shortcut: When typing a URL that ends with dot com, Ctrl + Enter will place the ".com" and take you to the page. Thanks to wpierre for this one! This tip comes from anynonus, as something that daily that saves a few clicks: "Running a program with ctrl + shift + enter from start menu will start it as administrator(alt + y will select YES to run as admin) ... my user account is local admin [so] I don't feel like that is unsafe" Building on our PowerShell resources, we received the following suggestion from halbaradkenafin: aka.ms/pskoans is "a way to learn PowerShell using PowerShell (and Pester). It's really cool and a bunch of folks have high praise for it (including a few teams within MSFT)." Keyboard shortcut: If you already have an application open, hold ctrl + shift and middle click on the application in your task bar to open another instance as admin. Thanks go to Polymira for this one. Remote Server Tip: "Critical advice. When testing out network configuration changes, prior to restarting the networking service or rebooting, always create a cron job that will restore your original network configuration and then reboot/restart networking on the machine after 5 minutes. If your config worked, you have enough time to remove it. If it didn't, it will fix itself. This is a beautifully simple solution that I learned from my old mentor at my very first job. I've held on to it for a long time." Thanks go to FrigidNox for the tip! Websites Deployment Research is the website of Johan Arwidmark, MS MVP in System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management. It is dedicated to sharing information and guidance around System Center, OS deployment, migration and more. The author shares tips and tricks to help improve the quality of IT Pros’ daily work. Next of Windows is a website on (mostly) Microsoft-related technology. It's the place where Kent Chen—a computer veteran with many years of field experience—and Jonathan Hu—a web/mobile app developer and self-described "cool geek"—share what they know, what they learn and what they find in the hope of helping others learn and benefit. High Scalability brings together all the relevant information about building scalable websites in one place. Because building a website with confidence requires a body of knowledge that can be slow to develop, the site focuses on moving visitors along the learning curve at a faster pace. Information Technology Research Library is a great resource for IT-related research, white papers, reports, case studies, magazines, and eBooks. This library is provided at no charge by TradePub.com. GullibleDetective tells us it offers "free PDF files from a WIIIIIIDE variety of topics, not even just IT. Only caveat: as its a vendor-supported publishing company, you will have to give them a bit of information such as name, email address and possibly a company name. You undoubtedly have the ability to create fake information on this, mind you. The articles range from Excel templates, learning python, powershell, nosql etc. to converged architecture." SS64 is a web-based reference guide for syntax and examples of the most-common database and OS computing commands. Recommended by Petti-The-Yeti, who adds, "I use this site all the time to look up commands and find examples while I'm building CMD and PS1 scripts." Phishing and Malware Reporting. This website helps you put a stop to scams by getting fraudulent pages blocked. Easily report phishing webpages so they can be added to blacklists in as little as 15 minutes of your report. "Player024 tells us, "I highly recommend anyone in the industry to bookmark this page...With an average of about 10 minutes of work, I'm usually able to take down the phishing pages we receive thanks to the links posted on that website." A Slack Channel Windows Admin Slack is a great drive-by resource for the Windows sysadmin. This team has 33 public channels in total that cover different areas of helpful content on Windows administration. Blogs KC's Blog is the place where Microsoft MVP and web developer Kent Chen shares his IT insights and discoveries. The rather large library of posts offer helpful hints, how-tos, resources and news of interest to those in the Windows world. The Windows Server Daily is the ever-current blog of technologist Katherine Moss, VP of open source & community engagement for StormlightTech. Offers brief daily posts on topics related to Windows server, Windows 10 and Administration. An Infosec Slideshow This security training slideshow was created for use during a quarterly infosec class. The content is offered generously by shalafi71, who adds, "Take this as a skeleton and flesh it out on your own. Take an hour or two and research the things I talk about. Tailor this to your own environment and users. Make it relevant to your people. Include corporate stories, include your audience, exclude yourself. This ain't about how smart you are at infosec, and I can't stress this enough, talk about how people can defend themselves. Give them things to look for and action they can take. No one gives a shit about your firewall rules." Tech Tutorials Tutorialspoint Library. This large collection of tech tutorials is a great resource for online learning. You'll find nearly 150 high-quality tutorials covering a wide array of languages and topics—from fundamentals to cutting-edge technologies. For example, this Powershell tutorial is designed for those with practical experience handling Windows-based Servers who want to learn how to install and use Windows Server 2012. The Python Tutorial is a nice introduction to many of Python’s best features, enabling you to read and write Python modules and programs. It offers an understanding of the language's style and prepares you to learn more about the various Python library modules described in 'The Python Standard Library.' Kindly suggested by sharjeelsayed. SysAdmin Humor Day in the Life of a SysAdmin Episode 5: Lunch Break is an amusing look at a SysAdmin's attempt to take a brief lunch break. We imagine many of you can relate! Have a fantastic week and as usual, let me know any comments or suggestions. u/crispyducks
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So to update you all on things, my hernia surgery went well and my intestines are back where they belong. Sadly I didn't have as much time to write as I would have liked, (pain meds will do that), but I managed to finally get chapter twelve done in time to give you all an extra dose of JVerse once you have finished our lord and savior's most recent chapter. (Story is continued in the comments) -------------------------------------------------------- <First><Previous><Next> -------------------------------------------------------- Date Point: 3 months, 2 weeks, 5 days A.V. Unnamed system Planet 4 ring system Requiem Michael Kepler "God damn I missed this," Michael said, flipping the Requiem around another asteroid, testing the limits of the inertial compensators. They had gotten lucky and found the perfect system to test out the newly retrofitted Requiem. The system in question turned out to be a binary system with some rocky bodies and a truly gorgeous blue gas giant that sported a system of ice rings that were just perfect for running the old girl through her paces. Michael gave the main thrusters all they could take, slipping through two asteroids seconds before they collided. There was a muffled cheer through the comms from the rest of the crew back onboard the Dawn. He had set up cameras all over the Requiem so his crew could watch. Right now only himself and Hephaestus were crazy enough to fly a ship built from scrap through one of the densest ring systems on record. Even Ralthin wasn't that crazy, having said that he'd rather shoot the rocks instead. They dodged, dived, and weaved their way through the belt for another half an hour before Michael got a comms ping. He angled the ship "up" and rocketed out of the belt so he could answer without having to dodge rocks. "What's up," Michael asked, angling the ship so he was cruising parallel to the rings. Goralin's face showed up on the screen, "We just synced with Haven's network, and you've got a message from Gabby." Before they had left Haven Michael had signed them up as Gabby's new security force. To keep in touch in case of an emergency Michael had purchased an FTL comms array and had set it up to sync with the local network on Haven every week. Of course, if there was an actual emergency he had spent a small fortune on a pair of quantum entangled arrays for instantaneous recall. The fact that Goralin's ears had a mischievous tilt meant that this wasn't an emergency. Meaning that it was probably the favor he had asked before they left. "Alright, prep the hangar bay. I'm gonna test the emergency recall drive," Michael said, cutting the thrusters and letting the ship coast. "Copy that Michael. Wait to jump until we give you the signal," Goralin said, closing the channel. Michael switched over to the intercom, "Sorry Hephaestus, looks like we're gonna have to cut this short." "It isss fine," Hephaestus said with the barest hint of a chuckle, "If the messsage isss from Gabby I can only think of one reassson. We are going hunting!" "Cool your jets, we still haven't heard it yet," Michael said, running the ship through the pre-jump sequence, "All set to jump?" One other little upgrade they did was to configure a jump drive onboard the Requiem so they could get back to the Dawn in a hurry. The only downside was that the hangar bay had to be depressurized so the sudden appearance of the Requiem didn't create a hull rupturing pressure wave. "All sssyssstemsss are green," Hephaestus said back through the comms, "Ready for jump." It was only a few more seconds until Michael got the comms ping signaling that the hangar bay was ready. Michael's finger hovered over the button, "Jumping in three...two...one." He pushed the button and the ship was inside the Dawn, perfectly centered in the hangar bay. The docking clamps engaged and the bay was pressurized in minutes. Michael ran through the shutdown sequence, unstrapped himself from the pilot seat and met Hephaestus in the airlock. They double-checked the atmospheric readout on the panel before opening the outer door. Even though Michael was wearing his armor and had no fear of stepping into hard vacuum, Hephaestus was basically naked, so it paid to be careful. They made their way up to the bridge, stopping by the mess to apologize for cutting the show short and so Michael could grab a quick snack. One downside of his new armor was that he burned a lot more calories than he ever did wearing his old suit. He walked the rest of the way up to the bridge with Hephaestus in tow. When he opened the door to the bridge Goralin turned around in the copilot's seat, "You enjoy yourselves," he asked with a slightly mischievous tilt to his ears. "Yeah!" Michael said enthusiastically, "and I gotta say, yinz missed a hell of a ride." "I'll have to take your word on that one," Goralin said with a chitter, "Anyway, while we were waiting, I went through the files that were attached to the message and it looks like she sent us a good one." "Oh," Michael asked, interested, "she send anything else?" "Just a few video files," Goralin trailed off. Michael looked around to see the rest of the bridge crew barely able to hold back their chittering. So they were those kinds of videos… Michael sighed, "Put the important one up on the main screen. I'll take a look at the rest later." Goralin flicked his ears in amusement and brought up the message file. Gabby appeared on the main screen, thankfully wearing her work outfit, with a cqcq cigarette in her hand, "Long time no see," she said, taking a hit and blowing the smoke off-screen, "I had my contacts do some digging and they found a good one. There's no bounty, sadly, but I don't think you'll have a problem with that. Everything you'll need should be in the files I sent along with some...other things I know you'll like," she winked at the camera, "Hoping to hear back from you soon." "Did she send a location," Michael asked, turning toward Goralin. "Already punched in," Goralin said with a pant-grin. "Good man," Michael said with a gentle clap on Goralin's shoulder, "Prep the ship for warp, I'm gonna head to my quarters to uhh…review the other files she sent and get a reply together to send over during the next sync." Michael left the bridge to sound of barely contained chittering from the crew and made his way back to his quarters. When he reached the mess heard raised voices coming from inside. So he stopped to eavesdrop just outside the door. "For the last time Jilink," Guln said, "I have absolutely no interest in your insane delusions. No matter how...impressive you may find the humans in their mating practices!" "Oh come now," Jilink said dismissively, "You seriously cannot believe that the way our species handles reproduction is good for our long term survival can you?" "What other choice do we have," Guln asked, "we have long since passed the point of being biologically able to reproduce, but that is beside the point," he lowered his voice, "it was simply proposing the idea of reverting back to biological reproduction that made you one of the few Corti that had their banner status stripped all the way down to yellow." "That was just because those in the Directorate are too narrow-minded to see past their own hubris," Jilink said angrily, "it was only when I started unlocking and splicing genes that had been previously bred out that I started to question their rhetoric. If you would just let me-" "No! I will not hear of it. Mess with your own genetic code all you want, but I will not have you turning myself and Kilnq into genetic freaks," Guln said, moments before storming out of the mess. He ignored Michael and headed off toward the med bay. Michael poked his head into the mess and saw Jilink sitting alone, forlornly picking at a plate of steamed mushrooms and cqcq. She looked up as he walked over, "If you are going to play at eavesdropping you might want to consider that we can feel your every step through the deck plating," she said with a shrewd look. "So what was your banner status," Michael asked bringing over a chair that could support the weight of himself and his armor. He sat down and took off his helmet, placing it on the table in front of him. "No remorse and straight to the point I see," she let out a deep sigh, "Before I began...experimenting...on myself, I was a silver banner." From what Michael knew about Corti social structure, Jilink had been next to royalty. To give all that up... "Fuck," Michael said, recovering from his jaw practically denting the table, "Why the hell did you give that up?" "To advance my species of course," she said, her eyes boring into Michael's, "we may be the most technologically advanced in the galaxy, but as a species we Corti have fallen behind tremendously. I may be too brazen in saying this, but we are on the brink." "On the brink," Michael asked, "the brink of what?" Jilink's expression hardened, "The brink of terminal decline, and unless something is done my species will fade into obscurity." "And that something was playing with your own genetics," Michael asked, confused. "Not playing," Jilink said, waving one finger back and forth, "Improving. As we are, the Corti are far from ideal. Intelligent and quick-witted yes, but we lack the physicality to endure as a species for much longer." "And that has to do with what Guln said about the way yinz reproduce," Michael asked, even more confused, "you mean yinz don't have kids naturally?" "As a matter of fact, we do not. Every Corti is grown in a birthing tank," Jilink said matter of factly, "there hasn't been a natural birth for millennia." "Well that's all kinds of fucked up," Michael said, shaking his head, "and they kicked you out for wanting to go back to the way things are supposed to be?" "Precisely. You see, reverting back to biological reproduction would necessitate drastic changes to our biology. It is also the reason why I am so fascinated with how other species reproduce. I have been able to get a wealth of medical data on the subject, but the one thing that most species lack is information on how to make the act more enjoyable. Your species, however," she pointed at Michael's chest, "seems to excel in that regard." "I can see your point," Michael said with a chuckle. "Needless to say there are some practices that simply watching recordings cannot fully explain. You do not mind answering some questions do you," Jilink asked excitedly. Michael shrugged, "I got time. Ask away." Jilink pulled a small tablet from her set of pouches and tapped in a few commands, "I'll start with something that has perplexed me for some time now. Tell me, what is the exact purpose of a bukkake?" ---------- Ten thousand kilometers astern of the Radiant Dawn Whispering Breeze Agent One Six Two Something was wrong. He had been trying to link to the infrared module that was hidden next to the engine cluster on that accursed human's ship for over [an hour] only to receive no response. He double and triple checked that his ship was aligned correctly and found not the barest hint of any discrepancy. This left two possibilities, either the module had malfunctioned, or it had been taken offline. Given the extremely stable nature of current solid-state electronics, the latter of the two options seemed the most probable. He was now forced to consider alternative plans to get the information he needed. One option was to take over one of the human's crew, but the chances of finding one of them alone long enough for him to adjust to the new sensory input were astronomical at best. There was always the option of simply biodroning all the implanted crew, but with the proven combat capabilities of the human and his pet abomination, there was no guarantee of successfully taking over the ship. That left only one option that had any probability of success. Once the human's ship was out of the system and had no hope of detecting him, One Six Two punched in the codes for the only jump beacon that the human had deployed. ---------- Date point: 4 months, 2 weeks, 5 days AV Sol system Earth Allegheny National Park Daniel Mackovich After the Vancouver incident life had gone on pretty much the same as always. As much as he hated to admit it, Daniel wished the aliens had caused more damage. As it was now, people had already moved on. Of course, every news outlet on the planet had milked the story dry within a week, but since nobody other than the aliens had died the story that humanity was no longer alone in the universe had been replaced by the same old shit. Shootings, trouble in the Middle East, China violating human rights, the usual stuff. Both he and David were sick of it. So they had planned a little something to get away. That little something happened to be a camping trip out in Allegheny National Park. Not the biggest excursion by a long shot, but it seemed a couple of days out in the woods was just what the doctor ordered. The first night was just perfect. No rain or swarms of mosquitos, just hours of watching caveman TV with a good meal cooked over the fire to finish out the night. They had been watching the weather and had made sure that there wasn't the barest hint of rain, but it looked like the curse of his old Boy Scout troop had followed him. It had started raining shortly after lunch on the second day. Thanks to a few tricks he'd learned in said cursed Boy Scout troop, Daniel was able to get the fire going, even though all their wood was soaked, so they were at least able to cook their dinner under the tarp David had rigged up over the fire pit. "Well, it wasn't what we were expecting," David said, looking out of the tent, "but I can think of worse ways to spend the evening." "My old scout troop was called the Rain Makers after all," Daniel said with a chuckle, snuggling a little closer to David, "At least the company's better this time around." They sat and watched for a while, listening to the gentle sound of the rain on their tent. David turned around and rummaged around in his bag for a few moments before turning back and locking eyes with Daniel. "Well...I was hoping for a better opportunity but," David trailed off. Daniel looked down at what David was holding in his hand and his breath caught in his throat. "Daniel, will you marry me?" ---------- Date point: 9 months, 1 week, 2 days AV Far Reaches Cimbrean Radiant Dawn Michael Kepler They had made the trip out in astonishingly good time thanks to the black box drive on the Radiant Dawn. Fast as their ship was it had still taken them around six months to reach this little speck of nowhere. However, the extra time gave Michael the chance to work out some armor for his Gaoian crewmates. They had to stop and resupply before they could manufacture any of it though. It seemed that they had burned through most of their supplies for the nanofac with the Requiem's retrofit. The armor they had worked out was much like Hephaestus' in the way that it relied heavily on lightweight composite plates instead of heavy alloys like Michael's. The plus side was that Hephaestus had worked out a composite that could take multiple hits from a heavy pulse cannon before failing. Not that the Gaoians would be taking much fire though, each one had a portable cloaking generator to make the best use of their natural talent for sneaking. There was one problem with the suits though, they had to be kept loose to accommodate the Gaoians' fur. Which meant that they would have to rely on shield harnesses for protection against the vacuum of space. Not the best prospect in Michael's mind, but they didn't seem to have the aversion to relying on forcefield tch like he did. And since Michael wanted some semblance of a uniform for his new band of mercs, the chest plate and helmet had kept as much of the standard Mandalorian looks as possible. The helmet was kinda tricky, considering that the Gaoians had much longer noses than humans, as well as ears that came out of the top of their heads. In the end, Gaoians had to deal with the minor discomfort of having their ears squished down, but it was worth it if they wanted to have their heads protected. As for the stereotypical "T" shaped visor, Michael settled on a shortened version, ending just above the Gaoians' snouts with a protrusion to cover their nose and mouth. It also had the benefit of allowing the Gaoians to personalize the lower portion, and once one of them had painted fangs on his, the rest had followed suit. Michael had to admit, it looked totally badass. The extra time also gave them the chance to develop their arsenal. The standard pulse guns were ditched in favor of coilguns. Most of the Gaoians went with something like an AR-15. They were lightweight, with a variable power setting so they didn't over-penetrate their targets if they were inside a ship or station. The real treat was what the brownies came up with though. The crazy fuckers had amped up their coilguns to a heavy machine gun type thing that could send a withering hailstorm of slugs at whatever unfortunate thing that happened to be on the receiving end. However, it seemed that all of the Gaoians took a liking to Hephaestus' fusion claws and had added their own to finish out their already terrifying array of weapons. They had spent three of the local days cloaked in a high polar orbit mapping the planet and trying to find the location of the palace that was supposed to be here. The only reason it took that long was that they were using passive scans to prevent the discovery of their ship. Since they were stuck in orbit Michael had left it up to the bridge crew to notify him when they found anything. To pass the time and get a better feel on things he had been going through the files on their target. After cross-referencing them with the data from the Twisted Suns it seemed that this particular fucknut had an affinity for ordering Rickytics and Vizkiticks among a smattering of a dozen other species. It couldn't be...could it? Michael dug deeper into the records until he found the right entry. Shit. "Ship," Michael said as he got up from his desk and stretched, still marveling at just how flexible his new armor was. He got a response ping. "Where is Irk?" "Irk is in hydroponics," the ship said through his room's intercom in a perfect replica of Cortana’s voice. Michael didn't know why, but using Cortana's voice for the ship just felt right. Michael grabbed his helmet and locked it in place. "Send him a message that I'm on my way. There's something I need to talk to him about." Michael went to hydroponics and found Irk in his personal corner behind their crop of cqcq minding his bonsai garden. He had originally got the idea from watching Karate Kid of all things. When they had stopped at Haven Irk had purchased a bunch of seedlings from all over the galaxy. As it turned out most of them had the same reaction as Earth trees when they were root-bound inside a small pot. With a little help from some space magic in the form of time acceleration fields, he had more than a dozen perfectly healthy miniature trees. With careful management, Irk had produced some truly fantastical shapes. Hell, he even had one "pot" that was levitating with trees growing out of both the top and bottom. When Michael walked over Irk turned around, "Ah, Michael. You have something you wanted to speak to me about?" "Yeah," Michael said, taking off his helmet and setting it down on the table next to the levitating bonsai trees, "It's about our target." Irk gave him a quizzical look, tilting his head slightly to the side. Michael took a deep breath, "There was a bit of a mix up on the part of the Twisted Suns. Your lifemate and child were actually supposed to be shipped here." "But...the Hunters," Irk trailed off. "That's not all," Michael said, shaking his head, "I really don't have a good way to say this...but it looks like the scumbag we're after wanted you and your family specifically." Irk slumped to the deck, lost for words. "I did some digging into the data we got from the Twisted Suns," Michael said, bringing up the file and sending it to Irk's tablet. It pinged and Irk pulled it out of its pouch with shaking hands. He hesitated for a moment before opening it. Delicately, he tapped the icon and read the file. Irk put the tablet back into its pouch and was silent for a few moments before he gathered his legs under himself and stood up to his full height. He looked directly at Michael, "I have only one request." "Name it," Michael said, locking eyes with Irk. "Bring the bastard to me alive," Irk said with enough bile dripping off the borrowed human curse word to make Michael flinch. No sooner had Irk walked out of hydroponics did Michael receive a notification from the bridge crew. He put his helmet back on and answered the comms. "Yinz found something," he asked, exiting hydroponics and making his way up to the bridge. "Yeah," Goralin said through the comms, "and you're gonna want to see this." "On my way," Michael said, breaking into a run for the hundred-ish meters to the bridge. He exploded into the bridge and skidded to a halt right next to Goralin. Michael was a little out of breath, but it wasn't too bad considering the weight of his armor. Practically living in the suit had its benefits sometimes. Goralin eyed Michael with a hint of amusement "Excited?" "Damn right," Michael said with a chuckle, "we've only been orbiting this dirtball for three days. What'd you find?" "See for yourself," Goralin said with a pant-grin, bringing up what looked like a palace on the main screen. Michael let out a long whistle, "Damn that had to cost a pretty penny." What was on screen was possibly the most egregious display of wealth that Michael had ever seen, aside from his own ship of course. Camera tech was really something else out here, they had to be at least a hundred and fifty kilometers up, but the pictures were clear enough that Michael could see the contents of the gardens surrounding the enormous palace complex. He'd read the specs when he had the sensor suite overhauled, but the fact that their ground facing camera was in the hundred gigapixel range never quite hit home until he had actually used it. "Cost a what," Goralin asked, tilting his head slightly. "Oh, sorry," Michael said, a little embarrassed, "it's an expression for a fuckton of money." Goralin chittered, "Well the palace isn't the only thing that cost a pretty penny. We found something else too." The next thing that came up on the screen left Michael totally speechless. Not too far off the coast was a yacht so big it was practically a floating island. Hell, it even had football-field sized space in the middle that was containing a miniature forest. "Well if they're anywhere, our target's probably on that yacht," Michael said, gesturing to the screen. Goralin zoomed in on it, "It looks like there's a landing pad big enough to land the Requiem near the back." "Well, it's our lucky day then," Michael said, turning back toward the door, "get an assault team ready. We're dropping in an hour." "An assault team," Goralin asked, his ears going slightly back. Michael stopped and turned back around, "Rich fucker like that's gotta be able to afford some really good security, and not the average Chennash mercs either." "Right," Goralin said, "I know Ralthin's gonna be damn happy to finally get a good fight for once," he finished with a slight chitter. The next hour flew by in a flurry of activity as the assault team got the message and scrambled to get into their armor. Thankfully they didn't need to load any cargo into the Requiem, and they already had all their extra weapons stored onboard. Michael made a stop by his quarters to grab his coilgun and its barrel attachments. On a whim, he dug out his antique revolver and strapped it to his hip. He had to stop and laugh at the absurdity of carrying a black powder revolver that was made in eighteen seventy-six, but something just felt right about bringing the old girl along. He made it to the hangar bay just as everyone was getting situated. Hephaestus was already onboard the Requiem running through the preflight checks from his station near the quantum stacks so all Michael had to do was wait for the rest of the assault team to show up. When everyone was strapped in and had their gear stowed for the drop he stepped out to the open space in the middle of the Requiem's cargo area. "Alright," Michael said, running his eyes over the seated Gaoians, "it's our first mission and from the looks of things, it's not gonna be an easy one. We're going in blind and this fucker's probably paranoid enough to have hired some decent security. They won't be like the pirate scum yinz are probably used to. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a company of Allebenellin mercs waiting for us." Michael paused and let that sink in for a moment, "The main problem is that the yacht we're gonna be landing on is fucking huge. So the plan's pretty simple myself, Hephaestus, Ralthin, and the brownies are gonna raise hell so all the rest of yinz can use your cloaking fields to the best advantage. Sweeping the ship for any other hostiles while looking for our target." That got some chittering out of them. "As for our target," Michael said, starting to pace back and forth in front of the seated Gaoians, "he's a Robalin with some… strong opinions on other sentient life. Apparently, this guy acquired his fortune thanks to some kind of breakthrough in medical tech and bought the palace at an auction when the previous owner's trading company went under thanks to some very poor business deals and Hunter raids on their ships. Ever since, he's lived a comfortable life on Cimbrean buying slaves from the Twisted Suns for God knows what reason," Michael let out a long sigh, "And as much as I'd like to end this guy the second we find him, Irk wants him alive. It seems that this fucker is the one that got Irk's family captured by the Twisted Suns." "An that's why we're not just gonna blast the boat," Yeg asked. "Exactly," Michael said, pausing to congratulate him, "there also might be slaves still on board, so any we find get to come back with us. Any questions?" "Yeah," one of the other brownies spoke up, "when are ya gonna quit talkin' so we can have some fun?" Michael laughed, "Alright alright, I get it," he said, vaulting up the ramp to the cockpit, "hold on to your tails, it's gonna be a bumpy ride." Michael entered the cockpit and closed the door behind him, and once he was in the pilot seat he opened the intercom, "We ready to go?" "The ssship isss ready to depart Michael," Hephaestus said back eagerly. Michael gave the signal to the hangar crew and waited while they depressurized the hangar bay and opened the outer door. Michael opened a channel to the bridge, "Yinz keep an eye out while we're planetside, we might need to come back in a hurry." "Just make sure you don't die down there," Goralin said with a slight chitter, "We'll be waiting for you." "We'll make sure to come back in one piece," Michael said with a chuckle, quickly running through the preflight checks. Hephaestus had already done them so all he had to do was to glance at the display and be sure that all systems were green, "but if yinz are that worried, I'll broadcast the view from my helmet cam." "You know," Goralin said, "I was gonna suggest the same thing. It'll make for good entertainment." "You got that right," Michael said entering the command to release the docking clamps, "Undocking now," Michael said closing the channel and backing the ship out of the hangar bay. Once he was clear of the ship Michael angled the Requiem toward the planet and threw the throttle all the way forward. "Uunngfhhh...Fyu's balls," Ralthin growled through the comms, "I forgot about that." "Yinz okay back there," Michael asked, pulling the throttle slightly back. "Other than bein' crushed inta our seats we're fine," Ralthin said back with a forced chitter. "Hey, I said it was gonna bumpy ride," Michael said with a smirk. They made the rest of the trip down in silence and before long they were punching a hole through the atmosphere leaving a flaming trail of plasma behind them. The yacht appeared on the radar when they were still twenty kilometers up, not that Michael needed sensors to find the thing, he could already see it. Floating island was right, the damned thing had to be nearly as big as the Dawn. When they were about ten kilometers out the comms panel lit up. Out of curiosity, Michael opened the channel. "Unidentified vessel you are appro-" Michael closed the channel, his curiosity stated for the moment. No use talking with them anyway. He closed the rest of the distance gradually slowing down so they wouldn't overshoot. When they got within a kilometer Michael had to admit that the yacht was a truly beautiful ship. It had three hulls connected together by an expansive main deck that swept into a sharp point at the bow where the main hull was cutting through the waves. The most prominent feature being the forest in the middle of the ship protected from the elements by the telltale shimmer of a forcefield. The landing pad near the stern was suspiciously empty, but when Michael brought the Requiem closer he noticed that it had some kind of door in the middle. No doubt it was used for bringing whatever landed down into some kind of hangar. There was no way the Requiem would fit into said hangar, but it looked like the pad was just large enough to set the ship down. Strangely, the yacht seemed to be holding course, almost inviting him to land. He activated the inter-ship comms, "Looks like they're actually gonna let us land. The second we touch down I want the brownies out first. Shoot first, ask questions later." Michael flipped the ship around so she was hovering just above the deck and matched speed with the yacht. He lined it up using the docking camera and set her down with a gentle thump. The very next thing he did was take control of the nose turrets, aiming them at the only door in the aft section of the yacht. He set the ship in low power mode instead of completely shutting down just in case they needed to make a quick getaway, and watched through the turret camera feed as the brownies stormed out of the ship and took their positions. Sloppy by any kind of military standards, but it didn't seem like there was anyone to greet them. Michael unstrapped himself and grabbed his coilgun from the rack next to the door. Walking down the ramp was always tricky thanks to the gravity weirdness, but thankfully he didn't stumble when he stepped off into the planet's own gravity. "No one to meet us," he said, stepping out into the sunlight. Ralthin glanced back at Michael over his shoulder, "I don't like this at all. Even through this helmet, it smells all kindsa wrong." Hephaestus came up behind Michael, "Thisss feelsss like a trap." "Couldn't agree with you more buddy," Michael said, walking forward to the door. "What'd ya wanna do," Ralthin said following close behind. Michael glanced at Ralthinand smirked, "Spring the trap."
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