Causal Results – Chapter 2

First Landing

Earth, Florida, Launch pad 39A

April 12, 2033

“Ignition Sequence start, five, four, three, two, one, lift off!”

The crowds several miles away from the historic launch pad watched as the craft slowly began to move up into the atmosphere. Almost an homage to the craft that had taken Humans to the moon the Chariot was stunningly similar to the Apollo rockets in form. A rocket of truly epic proportions that was widest at the bottom with a massive enough engine cluster that the sound it produced was powerful enough to melt concrete. Unlike the Apollo missions though the craft launching now was only the last piece of the mission.

The Armstrong had been painstakingly constructed in Low Earth Orbit with much the same booster that was now carrying her crew and a significant portion of the ship’s fuel to orbit. Funded by an international coalition of several governments, China and the United States of America being the largest contributors the ship’s actual construction had been contracted out to private enterprise.

The endeavor had been so cost efficient, and expedient that there were now informal proposals for the integration and combination of the larger space programs on Earth. The objective of the program for the combination of Earth’s space programs would be to push the Martian colonization into high gear.

The improvements being made to the EMDrive systems was one of the largest contributor to the drive for colonization. The Armstrong had a prototype engine assembly, but was still reliant on chemical propulsion for the majority of its thrust. The efficiency of the EMDrive systems were improving but without the mathematic theory to explain where the thrust was coming from, more efficient engine designs were mostly trial and error.

Little contention had been brought up over the ship’s name, Armstrong. It was a commemoration to the man who had for those famous few seconds had held the attention of Humanity.

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

For that brief moment, and with those few words Humanity was for the first time able to seriously imagine a future amongst the stars. It was an idea that many quickly dismissed, that hundreds more were discouraged from, a thousand more were never able to help bring the dream forth. Those words inspired many, and the question slowly became not if we would conquer the stars, but when.

Duke had thought before the launch that his thoughts would be that noble, and organized. As the Chariot moved up into the sky his only thought was that he was insane for accepting the command of the mission.

“You have cleared the tower Chariot.” said Capcom his voice calm even over the intense rattling and the sound of the engines below.

“Roger that Capcom!” grunted Duke from his acceleration seat.

The g-forces continued to grow.

“All systems nominal,” growled Matt from his seat.

“Flight path good,” reported Anna, the calmest sounding one in the cabin. Which made sense considering she enjoyed flying things at supersonic speeds as his day job.

Duke was silent for a moment, waiting.


“I’m going to be sick. All systems nominal,” said the man through gritted teeth, trying to stop them from rattling in his skull as the Chariot shook and the acceleration increased.

Duke turned his eyes back to the mission clock, already they were nearing the separation time for the first stage. In the simulations it had always felt like it took a long time to go through the orbital insertion maneuver, with the g-forces pressing down on him and the adrenaline in his system it was the longest and shortest time of his life.

“First stage, separation!” Shouted Anna through the comm.

The ship went quite, and the explosive bolts fired. For a moment the crew of the Chariot felt weightless. They drifted away from the spent stage in the thin air, they were still well within the influence of Earth’s gravity but compared to the g’s they had just pulled the one gravity was almost nothing.

The second stage ignited and the crew was once again shoved backwards into their seats.

The first stage of the rocket slowly turned in the air, and began to guide itself down towards the ocean far below. It would hover for only a moment above the surface of the ocean before crashing down into it. The sea landing platform would not be complete until the next Martian transit window. It would then more than likely take another four years to refurbish the massive ship for another launch.

The Chariot carrying its cargo of Humans and fuel continued to gain speed, accelerating in the near vacuum to the speed where it was falling as the planet curved away from it.

Duke looked at the readouts, watching everything about the small ship as the data continued to stream in. The Chariot was the safest ever constructed, but even so it was a rocket. They would never be safe, and yet for the predicted future more and more people would be signing up to ride on them.

The Commander smiled slightly at that thought as the second stage engines continued to burn. He was in space, on his way to Mars. A voyage so fraught with danger that even with the insane safety measures in place he was likely to die. He might never set foot on Earth again.

“Getting pings from the Armstrong, computer will calculate intercept after the burn. Estimates for now are rendezvous within two hours. Low end of the projections.” Reported Anna.

“Hank, how’s your,”

The sound of liquid hitting a microphone filled the communication channel as the engines died and the weightlessness of freefall took hold.

“Ugh.” Hank groaned into his helmet and made several more pathetic groans.

Duke grinned, “Well you know that’s going to be immortalized in history now.” Looking at the camera in the center of the console Duke gave it a wave as he began to unstrap himself.


“Yes Hank?”

The man unscrewing his helmet and glaring through the mess covering his head sat up to make a retort. His eyes widened and Duke, only partially unstrapped quickly pushed a bag into his hands, not quite making it in time as his stomach once again rebelled.

On the surface of the planet below the crowd that had gathered to watch the launch slowly began to disperse. The harsh sun of the launch site, and the uncomfortable abundance of mosquitoes driving most away as soon as the exhaust cleared from the air and the spectacle that was visible ended.

A man and a woman, normal in every way, another face in the crowd of thousands continued to watch the sky longer than most. They looked up at the sky with a different type of gaze. A mix of hope, and fear. As the sun dipped low and glinted off of the scarred metallic armbands they wore the men and woman slowly retreated from the field and returned to their lives confident in the future of Humanity no matter what that future held.

Mars Orbit

December 28, 2033

“Mission control, we’ve entered orbit and all systems show green. Engines are in shutdown procedure, moving to secure.” Reported Duke as the maneuver finished and the ship engines began to cool.

Duke pulled the headset off and sticking it to the side of the small control center turned around and looked at the rest of his crew as they began to unbuckle themselves from the restrains. The actual acceleration to put them in their stable Martian orbit had been minimal, but mission control had insisted they all strap in as a matter of procedure.

“Anna, start the checklists on the Eagle.”

The woman blinked as she moved the straps away from her chest, “Will do, assuming Hank didn’t screw up anything in the accelerations calculations it should all be fine like it was on the last hundred checks.”

Hank frowned, “Me? Blame Matt, he’s the one who’s supposed to keep the engines up here running.”

Matt glared at Hank for a moment and carefully tossed his helmet in the other man’s direction. Anna grabbed the helmet from the air before it hit and turned to the Commander.

“I’ll blame the both of you,” she growled.

Matt rolled his eyes, “All right, alright, I’ll double check it. Keep mission control happy,”

“Keep mission control happy!” chorused the rest of the crew.

Duke let a smile spread across his face. They were all a little giddy, for the first time in history Humans were in orbit of Mars and in a few short days, at the very beginning of the new year on Earth they would be traveling to the surface of the red planet.

Continuing with the naming conventions of the Apollo missions, the Eagle II was a much improved version of the craft that had landed on the moon. Almost nothing looked the same, but it did carry a small piece of the original Eagle craft. It would be the one piece of construction that had landed on both the Moon and Mars.

“Everyone, full systems check. Every system. Begin stowing everything, no rushing the checklists. We’re here, now let’s make sure we have a ship to come back to.”

Anna, Hank, and Matt all nodded.

“Meanwhile, I get to make my speech.”

Anna raised her eyebrows, “This is draft, what ten thousand?”

“Something like that. You want to write something that’ll be remembered for generations? I’m more afraid I’m just going to flub it and say a few lines of gibberish. The immortal words of Commander Duke, we come to mark in pieces for all of people.”

“Not the worst speech I’ve ever heard.”

“Go do your checks.”

The woman spun around in the bridge of the Armstrong and pushing off from the bar drifted down the small neck that led to the larger inflated section of the ship. The Eagle II was docked to the second inflated section, opposite from one of the cargo pod of that section.

The Armstrong was hardly a pretty ship, the closest and best description Duke had heard that fit was a very squashed and stretched ant.

The main command deck was a metallic module on the front of the first inflated section, connected by a short neck. That inflated section was then connected to another inflatable, which had the main engine module.

The fuel and other essentials for the ship were contained on the cargo modules, two of which were on each inflatable section of the ship. The ship was simplistic, and although there had been proposals for interplanetary vessels with artificial gravity the actual execution and construction had proven difficult.

Looking out at the red planet through the forwards windows of the craft Duke tried to think of the right thing to say. As much as he joked, and as much help as his crew and those on Earth had offered to help he had rejected it all.

In reality there was no expectation for a grand speech, but the namesake of the ship had started a tradition to turn a phrase when taking the first steps. It was maddening knowing that the comparison, no matter what was said would be drawn almost immediately.

Duke continued to glare at the red planet.

“Sir, we’ve received congratulations for reaching Mars orbit. We’re going to be getting the president’s speech in our downlink,” reported Hank as he popped his head back into the forward module.

Duke nodded, “Alright, I’m guessing I need to give a PR status report?”

“The president would appreciate it I think.”

The commander of the first manned mission to Mars sighed and made several comments under his breath about politicians and media appearances. Everything was being recorded, everything streamed back. The crew had unanimously removed several of the internal ship camera’s a month into mars transit, not liking the fact that the entirety of Earth could watch them as they tried to deal with the fact thath they might never make it back to the planet.

“Then I guess I will oblige Mrs. President.”

“You’re also expected to give a preview in regards to your first steps speech.”


The engineer smiled, “Sir?”

“Do your checks or you get to clean every surface with a toothbrush.”

“Yes sir!”

Mars Orbit

January 1, 2034

Duke glanced around the dark interior of the ship. The atmosphere would be filled with a higher concentration of nitrogen in their absence, but otherwise the ship would remain much as it was now. For the months they were on the planet. Parked in its orbit and as large as it was they would be able to see it on the surface of Mars.

“Little strange, isn’t it?” asked Anna as she drifted past in her full suit, only the helmet missing.

“A little, you’re not going to miss it are you?”

Anna snorted, “It’s a brick to fly, slow as hell, and ugly to boot. I get to fly a pod to the surface of Mars, hell no I’m not going to miss it. Until we’re on Mars and I get to play assistant.”

Duke grinned slightly at that. Anna had cross training and interdisciplinary science knowledge, but no specialty. On the surface of the red planet once the rest of the crew settled into the routine of scientific research and analysis she would be the glorified taxi driver of the rover, and had the largest daily checklist to free up everyone else.

“The Armstrong is one of the fastest things ever built, how are you complaining about that?” asked Duke as he continued to flip the lights off in the interior of the ship. Anna drifted along behind him grabbing at the hatches to the first neck of the vehicle as they passed.

Duke waited as she sealed the hatch.

“I have no frame of reference. Fast she might be, but in comparison to the planets and everything? Still a snail’s pace. I signed up for space missions thinking I might get to test a space fighter or something. Not ferry a bunch of people to Mars.”

Anna gave a theatrical yawn, “It’s been boring.”

Matt who was finishing the last checks on the rear module of the ship looked p form his console, “You do realize we’ve nearly died something like three times now.”

The Armstrong was spacious, tough, and resistant to almost anything that the solar system could throw at her. Still, she had only so much radiation shielding and the Sun apparently disgruntled with the fact that the small things on its third world were spreading had gone into one of the largest solar flare cycles in history a few days into the mission.

The crew of the Armstrong had spent a total of ten days in the coffin sized radiation shielded shield in the center of the ship. Originally designed to house them for only a few hours, spending days inside of it with only small radiation monitors and minimal telemetry to read by the crew had nearly torn itself apart inside of the protective shields.

Anna waved her hand a wolfish smile on her face, “What you didn’t like being all cozy with me Matt?”

The engineer shifted and put on a face of supreme disinterest, “I prefer women with more assets to offer.”

Anna slowly tapped her thumb against her lower lip, “Well that’s fine. I like a man with a little muscle on him.”

Matt winced at that and held his hands up in surrender. The crew had been following the regimen for exercise to decrease bone and muscle loss, it had only forestalled the effects. The hope was that the one third g on Mars would be enough to at least halt the degradation, otherwise the entire crew was in for a few months of physical therapy on the return to Earth.

Hank drifted back from the engineering console, “We’re all set. The batteries are in power saving mode, the engines are locked, and fuel is stable.”

Duke nodded and looked around at his crew. The joking atmosphere between the pilot and engineer was gone and all of the crew were looking expectantly at him.

Duke frowned, “I have a speech for landing.”

“You do?” asked Anna.

“Maybe. I defiantly don’t have one now, get your asses into the ship!”

The three all smiled and hooking their legs around the different bars inside the Armstrong slid into the Eagle II. Flipping off the last light Duke looked around the dark module. The only light for the ship was filtering in through the small windows around it, the red light of the planet reflecting into it. The heaters had been shut down several hours ago and already a chill was creeping into the vessel.

Turning Duke slid down into the small airlock and twisting the hatch into place, closed the Armstrong. The other crew members already drifting into their seats barely looked up from their controls as they began the last checks on the Eagle II.

“All systems go,” said Hank.

“Roger that. Anna, at your leisure detach us. I’ll inform mission control we’re moving ahead on schedule.”

The Armstrong and the Eagle II were so far away from the Earth that the delay for their transmissions would be just over ten minutes. Almost the total time of the decent by the time they hit the atmosphere. Meaning that by the time the people on Earth, like the ones in North America would be recovering and waking up from the new year festivities, would only begin to see their landing when they were either on the surface or dead.

The solid clunk as the Eagle II detached reverberated through the ship and Duke glanced up through the small portholes at the ship as it drifted away. The OMS systems engaging could be heard and felt as the momentary acceleration from each small gas jet caused the seat belts to dig into the passengers of the ship.

Anna had her hands on the controls, but was for the moment only watching the trajectory of the ship as it began to angle downwards the computer making the delicate adjustments to land them at the correct site.

If they were off by anything more than a kilometer or two they were dead. The Eagle II had no ground transport on it, and no fuel for an ascent back into the air. The Eagle III was sitting at the base site, fueled and ready to launch at a moment’s notice. It was the only craft currently able make it back into orbit.

The Eagle IV which had arrived and landed on Mars only two weeks in advance of the Armstrong was only just beginning to refuel itself and would serve as a backup if needed.

“All systems nominal, trajectory nominal,” reported Anna.

The Eagle II moved closer to the atmosphere.

The voice of the Capcom filtered through the headsets, “Roger that Eagle II, you are moving to decent phase. Good luck!”

“Thank you Capcom, we’re two minutes from entry. We’ll talk to you from the surface.”

The interior of the craft was silent as they moved closer to the atmosphere.

“Here we go,” muttered Anna.

A slow rumble began to build up, the g-forces pressing them into their seats slowly began to climb.

“I’m getting heat warnings on the lower section, still within mission parameters. I’m keeping an eye on it.” Reported Hank.

Duke looked at the readings himself as the craft continued to dive into the atmosphere. The heat warnings were within mission specs, but outside of the expected values.

“Theories Hank?”

“A misaligned sensor? Shaken loose by acceleration and pressed against the radiator.”

Duke nodded, for the moment accepting the answer, the only other explanation at this point besides instrumentation was a crack in the heat shield. Not something he even wanted to consider.

“We’re drifting from our course Anna,” said Matt.

“I’m aware, it’s being corrected.” Her hands were flying over the console double checking the autopilot as it adjusted to the drift in their trajectory.

Duke suppressed the growing feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. Far worse disruptions had been thrown at them during training and simulations. The only time his crew failed was when it was impossible to survive, and even then sometimes they managed to pull through.

“The heat has passed tolerance levels and is continuing to rise, I’m picking it up on other instruments as well.”

Duke closed his eyes took in a breath, “Anna is this related to your drift?”

She was silent for moment, “If it’s a crack in the heat shield, yes. It’s throwing off our aerodynamics.”

The g-forces continued to grow.

“Options?” asked Duke knowing there were none.

“Ride it out,” said Hank.

His words were accompanied by a loud groan, the ship began to list to the side.

“Matt! Override safeties on the OMS!” shouted Anna as she took manual control of the ship’s decent vector.

The engineer fighting against the acceleration forces punched the commands into his console ignoring the dozen warning that popped up as he did so.

The craft continued to wobble, and Duke winced. Over the roar of the atmosphere he could hear the OMS cold gas jets wildly firing to try and keep the craft pointed in the correct direction. If they started to spin end over end they were dead. The g-forces would knock everyone out, and the craft would be torn apart by its own mass, designed only to take g-forces in one direction. That was assuming the intense heat of the atmospheric entry didn’t trash the ship because of the crack in the heat shield.

There were no abort procedures for this part of the mission. The decent engines were still inside of the heat shield, and in any case, they were designed to slow the fall of the capsule and allow for the propulsive landing at the correct site where the ship that could get them back into orbit was sitting, and had been sitting for the past four years.

“Options?” grunted Duke.

“Spin,” Breathed Anna.

Before Duke could ask what, she meant, Anna began to fire the engines along the side of the craft. Slowly at first, but with increasing speed the craft began to spin. Gyroscopic stability, realized Duke as the acceleration forced which had been crushing him into the seat began to grow on his right side as well.

Within moments the stars and the surface of Mars were flashing back and forth across the portholes of the decent craft, alternating red and white.

“Need to ditch the heat shield!” gasped Anna.

“No yet!” grunted Matt.

“We’re lost temperature sensors for the decent engines, they’re damaged!” said Hank.

“No choice but to continue under the assumption they’ll operate. Anna, stay to course. Point us towards the Beta landing site.”

“Roger, Beta.”

The decent vehicle now spinning like a mad top continued to dive through the atmosphere.

“I’m instructing the computer to execute the burns anyway and to automatically compensate for lost engines with the remaining thrusters, I’m going to be giving you as much power as I can out of them.” Said Hank.

“Understood,” growled Anna as she continued to fight with the controls.

Everyone in the Eagle II knew it was pointless, they could survive two of the four engine’s failing but if none of them were reporting to the computer they were more than likely damaged beyond the ability to operate.

Duke knew it, his crew knew it. Mars was infamous for claiming more than half of the ships sent to her, they were now more than likely going to contribute to that statistic. They were going to hit the ground, hard. Assuming the entire engine compartment didn’t detonate when they tried to light it.

“Thirty seconds to firing, fifty to impact,” deadpanned Anna.

“Thank you, Anna.”

Duke was silent for two seconds, a considerable amount of what little time he had left. The mood inside the little pod was disappointment more than anything else. The prospect of being dead in less than two minutes or so was oddly not weighing on any of the astronaut’s minds.

They had all been dreaming of this chance since childhood, some more abstractly than others, Duke had on his 8th birthday proclaimed that his wish had been to go to the red planet as he blew out the candles on his cake. When the other children had asked for video games and toys of every sort the young Duke had carefully constructed small models of the robotic inhabitants of Mars.

Hank when he had been a teenager had read every book he could find on colonizing the red world, fictional and technical. The mathematics and physics involved though had been the largest draw, it was a beautiful way to look at the universe at large. Everything about reality summed up in small simplistic equations. If he had the ability to sit down and actually write long papers, there would have been a good chance Hank would have become a prominent theoretical mathematician.

Anna would have been at home in the old Apollo program despite what would have been at the time the largest roadblock of her gender. A test pilot for the military she had transferred into the Martian program for the thrill. She had only just passed the psychological examinations, her ability to endure the long journeys between the planets the largest question in her psyche.

Matt was an engineer at heart, and always had been. Tinkering and experimenting he had even during the mission to Mars adjusted and optimized the EMDrive that the Armstrong was experimenting with. Had he not been on the mission, he would have been continuing to work with the engines in low Earth orbit.

“Releasing heat shield,” reported Matt.

The metallic screech that followed was nothing like what was in the simulations.

“That was more than the heat shield,” muttered Anna.

The ship was silent as they continued to fall.

Mars was unforgiving, it had enough of an atmosphere to be a danger, but not enough for parachutes to ever be effective for something as large as a manned craft.

“Engine ignition in twenty seconds.”

The atmosphere was audible sweeping past the outside of the craft. Turned to look at the horizon of the alien world. It was to close, and the redness was more prevailing than anything pictures had been bale to communicate. The entire sky was awash like a constant sunset.

“Ten seconds.” Counted Anna.

“Diagnostics are reporting we lost two engine assemblages, they were sheared off with the heat shield,” said Matt.

“Try and get Comms back with the Armstrong transmit the logs,” ordered Duke as he watched the countdown on the screen in front of him.

Matt said nothing but the communication attempt and connection window popped at the bottom of the main display. The bitrate to the Armstrong was high enough it would probably get the entirety of the catastrophe after which it would forward all of the data to Earth. Not that it would do much, a crack in the heat shield was a manufacturing error.

“Engines firing.”

There was no sharp jerk of deceleration and nothing exploded. The Eagle II simply continued to fall.

“No joy.”

Duke took in a breath, “Anna get us as far away from the base site. No reason for us to wreck anything there.”


The OMS systems began to fire and the spin which has been slowing as they fell through the atmosphere was completely nulled.

The ground was coming up quick, twenty seconds away if the calculations were correct.

“We’re still first,” said Hank.

Duke chuckled, “The first for a lot of things.”

“There will be more,” muttered Matt as he dropped his hands from the console in front of him.

Anna, doing the same letting the computer continue to move them away from the base glanced out the window.

“It’s worth it.”

Duke considered her words, “It is I suppose, It was an honor having you as my crew. It was the best time of my life.”

The crew members looked at one another, “You too Commander,” said Hank.

“I never thought of my first words,” mused Duke, “This is one more step for mankind, we can’t st-“

The Eagle II impacted the surface of Mars on January 1st 2034, at 0123 UTC. She is recognized as the first manned mission to make it to the red planet with a loss of all hands on impact with the surface of Mars at supersonic speeds.

The crew of the Armstrong and Eagle II were the first to die on Mars, and were not the last.

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Species C543 System 4 Years 2 months 23 days Before C1764 FTL Jump “Ma’am.” [Sil] tried to turn away from the noise and tried to remain in the blissful realm of unconsciousness. “Ma’am!” [Sil] forced her eyes open and let out a low groan of pain. [Fred] was next to her on the ground, her

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Good Training – Survival Part 8

Date point: 14y 9m 1d AV Total Combat Fitness, southwest Folctha, Cimbrean Mid-morning Dr. Marc Tisdale Marc was, at heart, a gentle man. He had love for most everyone he met and refused to hold anger for anyone or anything unless they had truly, irrevocably earned it. That said, he was still a man and

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Causal Results – Chapter 3

Species C543 System 4 Years 2 months 27 days Before C1764 FTL Jump [Sil] looked at the controls for the pod and slowly shook her head, “This is not good.” [Fred] only able to operate because of the minimal effort needed to move around in zero-g drifted forwards, “I would agree, but what is the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 5

Date Point: 16y3m1w Memorial Concourse, Old Commune of the Clan of Females, City of Wi Kao, Planet Gao Mother Shoua There were days when Shoua missed the old commune, at the other end of the city. The new commune was larger, more modern and much more secure of course but… …But the old one had

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 4

Date Point: 16y3m1w Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Ramsey Buehler Ramsey didn’t think he’d ever get used to being one of the cool kids at school. Actually, just going to school was kinda weird after all the home schooling he and Tristan had had back on Earth, but whenever he and his brother had got

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Henosis – Chapter 4

“Hey, that’s my suit!” A naked Gaoian fell on the Hunter from the tree above, landing on the sextupedal predator’s back. The impact was enough to stagger the creature, and Keegi was nearly thrown off. The claws of one paw extended, sinking into the Hunter’s glossy flesh as he held on as hard as he

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 3

Date Point: 16y3m6d HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Technical Sergeant Adam “Warhorse” Arés “Firth, I gotta ask ‘ya something.” Per Colonel Powell’s standing orders, they had the rest of the day off for individual training time after a mission. Adam always took maximum advantage, but some of the other operators might use

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Good Training – Survival Part 7

Date point: 14y 8m 2w 2d AV The Dog House, Folctha, Cimbrean Late afternoon Julian Etsicitty Agony. If Adam had a singular talent that stood out, it would have to be his supernatural ability to give his training victims some very dramatic results by inflicting insane amounts of pain. Julian both dreaded and eagerly anticipated

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Henosis – Chapter 3

Virtrew had been relaxing in the starboard docking array. He’d been feeling inspired and creative for the past ten-day… it was too late to alter the structure of the current station, but he had ideas for the next. He was off-shift, so he’d picked up his data tablet, a bowl full of Vzk’tk salad, and

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 2

Date Point: 16y3m6d η Ithacae, 94.9° 12-GERBER-UNARY G2V III, “Heafield” Technical Sergeant Adam “Warhorse” Arés Every now and then, Adam had a day where every little thing went so well and he found himself firing on all cylinders so perfectly, he could feel right in his big ol’ slab of a chest that exact same

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 1

Date Point: 16y3m5d AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1772 ++0010++: Proximal’s continued absence is a source of concern, and investigating has been forced to take a low priority by other operations. His last known activity was in an Irujzen-1-adjacent sub-lucid volume. ++0004++: Irujzen? Why was he all the way out there? That’s a backwater! ++0022++:

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Henosis – Chapter 2

The mess hall on the station was a cavernous space on one of the mid-decks in the core, overlooking the long central shaft. It was a temporary arrangement… once the station was near-complete, a merchant or restaurateur would be enticed into setting up a proper dining area, whereupon the space would be converted in whatever

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 5

Date Point: 16y3m5d AV Planet Rauwryhr, The Rauwryhr Republic, Perseus Arm Ambassador Sir Patrick Knight Rauwran Great Trees were… They were quite a thing to behold. Each one was as thick around at the base as a cricket ground, and soared up and up and up until their canopy was an invisible dark haze high

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Henosis – Chapter 1

[2yr 1m AV] Trrkitzzkt L’tr’brtrk’tr quietly filed away the video files of the interviews he’d completed, queuing a copy to be sent via the station’s normal data exchange to his personal archive, in addition to the backup copy he kept on his personal data tablet. Both were encrypted with the strongest algorithms the investigator had

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Causal Results – Chapter 1

Dorvakian Home World 4 Years 3 months 8 days Before C1764 FTL Jump Looking across the grounds for several moment’s Silnersalkara tapped the table in front of her. The data controls embedded in the device quickly shut off and the hologram above its surface died. “Kermarcus, I’m aware of the situation. The opposition’s been attempting

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 4

Date Point: 16y3m AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Yan Given-Man “I like these Core-tie.” “You do? Why the change of heart?” When the ‘del-a-gay-shun’ had returned, there was of course much eagerness to learn the news. Yan was very happy to tell everyone they would be getting vack-seens from the Core-tie as

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Good Training – Survival Part 6

Date point: 14y 8m AV Residence of the Great Father of the Gao, Folctha, Cimbrean Sister Naydra The months on Cimbrean had been…therapeutic. She found herse lf greatly appreciating the Female presence on the Human’s first colony world, and everything it stood for: stability, acceptance. Survival. The Humans had done so much to support the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 3

Date Point: 16y3m AV USS Robert A. Heinlein, Akyawentuo Orbit, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Third Director Tran Some of the other Directors had expressed reservations when Tran had informed them he was taking Nofl along to the meeting with the Ten’Gewek. He’d invested some of their trust and patience by reassuring them that

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m3w AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1722 ++0008++: In summary, the infiltration of Sol means the operation was a success, though not an unqualified one. We have four Injunctors on Earth, and a further two in the outer system, but the new Arutech biodrones appear to be an abject failure. The Cimbrean infiltration

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Rising Titans – Chapter 51 (End)

9 Years, 7 Months, 2 Days After Eridani Landing Chront Leaning down and putting her head to the table Stagg yawned. “Try the tea,” repeated Derrick sounding just as exhausted as she felt. The Captain turned to look at the engineer and then at the small pot on the table. “I did. Taste’s like mold.”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m3w AV Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao “Hey, this ain’t a bad little house at all!!” Daar followed in behind Gorku, who was carrying a completely exhausted Leemu on his back and had to mind his steps. “Humans know how to build houses arright,” he agreed. “Maybe

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m2w1d AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Vemik Sky-Thinker One of the Human archaeologists was a metallurgist. Tilly was a strange and delicate name that didn’t suit her at all, Vemik thought. She had a sharp face full of metal piercings, skin full of bright pictures, and a half-shaven crest of

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Good Training – Survival Part 5

Date point: 14y 2m 3w 4d AV SOR barracks, HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Meanwhile… Brother Faarek (Southpaw) of Clan Whitecrest–SOR “Are you sure you want to do this, Brother?” “Yes,” Thurrsto said with absolute conviction. “She’s the most beautiful Female I’ve ever seen and she’s hurting. I can’t bear doing nothing.” Faarek

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 5

ESNN Magazine article: “Prisons In Their Head- an interview at Camp Tebbutt” Author and photographer: Ava Magdalena Ríos [Cover image: two men seated on a bench in front of a chain-link fence, with a stunning Alaskan vista behind them. On the left is a scruffy bearded white man with shaggy salt-and-pepper hair, and next to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 50

+15 Minutes The Canada “Can this thing fly?” Shouted Pankin as a rattling howl began to echo through the ship, the crew members on what was now the ceiling tightening their straps as objects that had been floating began to rattle on the floor as the ship dove deeper into the atmosphere of the planet.

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 4

Date Point: 16y2m2w AV Weaver dropship, Rich Plains contact volume, Kwmbwrw Great Houses TSgt Timothy “Tiny” Walsh All throughout the ordeal of becoming HEAT and finally earning the Mass, the one thing running through Walsh’s head was that one day, he too would serve at their level. Do the mission like none other. Walk through

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 3

Date Point: 16y2m1w5d AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon-Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Ava Ríos “You ever rode a helicopter before, Ava?” Ava jumped, and looked away from the window. She’d been enjoying the view. It was her first trip to Alaska, and the thing that struck her as she’d watched the landscape rolling by

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m1w2d AV Gaoian embassy, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao There was shit to catch up with. Stuff to read, stuff to make decisions on, stuff to be briefed on in case he had to make a decision later… At first Daar did his best to

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Good Training – Survival Part 4

Date point: 14y 2m 1w AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Singer “So, if we salt the roots in boiling water with some herbs, and use a very tight…what was the word?” [“Jar,”] Julian said encouragingly. “—And then we boil the whole jar with the lid on loose, so the bad spirits

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Rising Titans – Chapter 49

+10 Minutes The Singer [Vann] stood in the center of the bridge the three-dimensional hologram showing the entirety of his fleet as well as the surrounding space. The cubic formation was going to be tested now, up to this point the only gauge of effectiveness was how [Charles] had reacted to it in simulations. He

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m5d AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Xiù Chang Yan was having to explain himself. It wasn’t that the men who’d come out to hunt the Brown One were disappointed, exactly. None of them had been looking forward to the battle at all. They all knew the stories of how many

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m4d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Julian Etsicitty Daar caught up with them about an hour after Xiù called ahead to let them know he was coming. A lot had happened in that hour. Yan had laid out his bibtaws in a kind of scent lure, some distance out

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m3d AV Gaoian embassy, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao People who didn’t know Daar all that well thought he had a pathological aversion to Civilized pursuits. Not true at all! Daar had always enjoyed history, writing, and the more subtle arts of courtship, and he

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 4

Date point: 16y2m3d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Daniel “Chimp” Hoeff Julian had a habit of singing in the woods. Not loud, exactly, and Hoeff wasn’t even sure he was totally conscious he was doing it, but loud enough to hear. Apparently it kept critters from blundering into them that might

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Rising Titans – Chapter 48

+ 7 Minutes 38 Seconds The Canada “Captain, your message?” asked Arik as her Avatar superimposed itself over the main monitor. “Surrender now, call off the fighters and we’ll let you live. Then we can begin to negotiate for an end to this pointless violence.” “That’s it?” asked Arik after a moment. “Unless anyone else

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Good Training – Survival Part 3

Date point: 14y 1m 2w AV “Clan Young Glory,” western unincorporated territories, Gao Sister Naydra Naydra and her fellow Sisters were slowly dying. The “Clan” that had “liberated” them from the clutches of what they now knew were biodrones had decided their honored guests needed “protection.” Their so-called protection consisted of imprisonment. Their “protection fees”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 3

Date point: 16y2m3d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Professor Daniel Hurt “What exactly did he say he’s fetching, anyway?” “An M107.” Daniel frowned. Although he’d learned more about firearms in general over the past few years than he’d ever imagined he would, there were times that the people who really “got”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV Chiune Station, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Allison Buehler Allison hadn’t slept well in a couple of nights. It wasn’t that she begrudged Julian and Xiù going offworld, not at all, but it did disrupt the sense of familiarity that made home, well… Home. If she didn’t have her brothers to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

+ 30 Seconds The Canada “The Empire ships are now in range of the ACE field!” reported Arik. Stagg grimaced as the ship shook “Activate,” “New contact!” shouted Arik interrupting. “What?” “IFF is identifying the vessel as the HSB Russia, they just exited a spatial rupture directly between us and the Empire fleet!” “Open communications!”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV personal sanctum, Dataspace. Cynosure/Six Data sophonts did not sleep, and thus did not dream. Nevertheless, Cynosure had a recurring nightmare of sorts. When his attention wandered, he found that it almost inevitably alighted on a handful of disturbing subjects. The details varied, as he worried at different aspects of the problems

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

Date point: 14y 7d AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Later that day Julian Etsicitty It was approaching mid-day and the day’s morning work had been taken care of. The scouts had come back and reported that the nearby werne had just calved and would need to be left alone for a

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m AV Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao “Poor bugger hardly knew which way is up…” Powell grunted, once Wagner was gone. “Who can blame him? His whole crew going violently psychotic on him with no warning, only to be stasis-hopped right into a Corti’s lab being sniffed

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

9 Years, 6 Months, 14 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Diana blinked in surprise as the jungle was suddenly lit up by a fantastic reddish glow, glancing behind her towards the city Diana watched as another blast of energy, identical in color to the flash fell from the sky. Unable to see from her vantage

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m AV Folctha, Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Julian Etsicitty The house was a mess when Julian got back, which was rare. Nobody in their household was naturally untidy—living on Misfit had driven Allison, Xiù and himself into an ingrained habit of orderliness, and the boys had lived in fear of their father’s belt

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

Date Point: 16y2m AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1536 ++Asymptote++: I have bad news. It would seem our new drones are detectable. ++0004++: <Dismay> you’re certain? ++Asymptote++: The force I sent to Cimbrean was captured immediately upon arrival. ++0007++: How? ++Asymptote++: Unclear. The Arutech drones don’t report as concisely as conventional biodrones. The connection is…

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

Date Point: 16y2m AV The Thinghall, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Gabriel Arés Every civilization needed its icon of executive power. The UK had the black door of Number Ten Downing Street and, somewhere behind it, the Cabinet Room; the USA had the White House, and the Oval Office; Folctha had the Alien Palace. The

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

You may also want to read Pyrophytes in The Deathworlders series. Same story, different angles. Date point: 14y 7d AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Professor Daniel Hurt “You want me to read it by next week?” Julian mopped the sweat from his face and bounced loosely in place. “What was it

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

-7 Hours CHRONT THE CANADA “More contacts!” said Arik as she flashed every monitor on the bridge a bright red. Stagg glanced up at the monitor, “How many more?” “I’m counting!” “You’re counting!?” A grainy image of the approaching Empire patrol vessel was quickly displayed, a small box around it. Additional boxes quickly filled the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m AV Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Nofl Leemu had become unresponsive. Nofl’s quarantine facility had alerted him after the patient had been anomalously still for twenty minutes, and the reason why became obvious upon a quick inspection of the cell: Leemu was sprawled on his back, staring blissfully up at

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Good Training – April Fool’s

13y 3m 29d AV One-Fang workhouse, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Sergeant Regaari (Dexter) of Clan SOR One of the best things about the humans was that they had a springtime holiday dedicated to mischief. Before them, only the Gao could claim to celebrate such a thing and it was one of the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m AV Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Nofl Nofl’s lab was spacious, but inevitably finite. When it contained an alarming number of alarmed Humans, not to mention one particularly sculpted canine and a Gaoian brownie who was doing his best not to loom at everyone… well, there were times when Nofl

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m AV Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Allison Buehler After a lifetime of helicopter parenting, Tristan and Ramsey seemed addicted to every opportunity they could find to do something their mother would have scooted them away from. And who could blame them? Amanda had never managed to get her head around the idea

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

9 Years, 6 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing Deep Space The Russia shuddered again as the engines slowly powered down and the ship slid out of the red blue haze that was the tachyon FTL corridor. James blinked several times trying to clear the haze from his eyes as the regular black background of

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

Date Point: 16y1m AV Dataspace adjacent to Mrwrki Station Entity The Entity understood the concept of boredom in an academic, abstract way. It could even vaguely summon up Ava’s memories of being bored. But understanding the idea and actually feeling the emotion were two different things. The closest it could get was the sensation of

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

Date Point: 16y2w AV Air Force One, somewhere over Asia, Earth President Arthur Sartori “…You want to give us a Farthrow generator.” Daar’s image was janky and low-resolution thanks to the vagaries of current wormhole comms, but the audio was a lot clearer now. Technology marched onwards. “It’s loaded up on a train and ready

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Good Training – Pecking Order

13y, 8m AV Operator’s Barracks, HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean Officer Regaari (Dexter) of Clan Whitecrest “I got an idea, Regaari.” Regaari flicked his ears forward in annoyance. “This again?” “Well, yeah. I gotta win that bet, Cousin!” Regaari duck-nodded wearily. Not long after Daar had received the SACRED STRANGER briefing, he’d sulked off to think

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

Messier 24 Mission day: 3 Sergeant Daar (Tigger) The third day was always when things settled into routine. Daar didn’t really know why, ‘cuz that was prol’ly some complicated psychology stuff (maybe he should read up?) but he did know how it worked, practically speaking. Daar always pondered morning thoughts like that when he was

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

Date Point: 16y2w AV Weaver dropship, Gaoian space Sergeant Ian “Hillfoot” Wilde “So in all the excitement, we clean forgot about these things. That’s what you’re telling me.” Champion Meereo made a sound that was half a sigh and half a chitter. “…That’s more-or-less exactly right, yes. We had… well, bigger priorities.” Wilde had to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

9 Years, 6 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing Bellona “Ready?” asked Alpha from where he sat on top of the Captain’s chair. “I’m good!” said Red from where he sat at the controls for the ship. It hadn’t taken much to convince him to pilot the vessel. James glanced down at his own console

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

Date Point: 16y AV Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Zane Reid The cold didn’t hurt anymore. At first, it had been like forcing his way through a wall made of knives that cut through his clothes. Zane’s every breath had blinded him as it billowed and steamed in the air, and when he’d experimentally licked his

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

Date Point: 16y AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Hugh Johnson Snow. Of course, snow in January in Alaska was hardly surprising, and this one threatened to be heavy. At first, Hugh had thought it was probably just an seasonable dusting that’d add a couple of inches to the foot or

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I had made my way through the tournament, but most of my matches had been won by the skin of my teeth, and I had only the advantage of being evolved from a pursuit predator to thank for it. Our great endurance had been the one boon that had kept me going, and I was

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

Date Point: 15y 10m 1w AV HMS Violent, Rvzrk System, Domain Space The ground battle churned on for days. That was the problem with Hunters. There was no surrender involved, it was a kill-or-be-killed fight where smashing their will to engage in war simply didn’t achieve enough. Any Hunter left alive would just keep murdering

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

He awoke to a pleasant smell. “…Eggs?” Hoeff detangled himself from Natalie and the sheets and stumbled towards the kitchen. Daar was busy in front of the comparatively little stove and fridge, humming some terrible Gaoian tune to himself. Seriously, their music was like Chinese opera with extra pain. Some Humans liked it, though…but “atonal”

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

9 Years, 6 Months, 15 Days After Eridani Landing The [Singer] The explosion hit and [Vann] watched at the lights on the main hologram and different panels flashed a blinding white light, before dying and plunging the entire bridge of the [Singer] into darkness. “What were we supposed to do?” asked someone near the weapons

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Day 1. I’ve made it on board the human trading vessel! They didn’t detect my presence, and I’ve managed to smuggle myself into their engineering bay, and disguised myself within a cluster of cables! My small, serpentine body makes me indistinguishable from a thin, grayish cable, and the Humans won’t notice my existence until it

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

Date Point: 15y 10m AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Hugh Johnson Camp Tebbutt wasn’t actually a bad place to live, if you didn’t count the fact that it was essentially a prison for innocent victims. Hugh understood why he was there, and why he couldn’t leave… but after eleven years,

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

Firth Regaari chittered, “It is difficult to imagine you ‘humbled,’ Righteous.” “Heh,” Firth chuckled. “You do know most of my attitude is straight fuckin’ bullshit, right? Adam and John know why.” Regaari looked over at John, who shrugged massively. “He’s a scary dude. Being ridiculous kinda takes the edge off, y’know?” Regaari duck-nodded. He was

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

9 Years, 6 Months, 13 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Moving down the hallway Diana paused at the double doors, carefully she moved forwards into it’s threshold and they slid open. A woman in an orange smock looked up from her Comm for a moment, and then going back to look at it did a

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The Good Samaritan

I felt a white-hot pain in my back as I was stabbed. Once, twice and then three times. I fell to the ground clutching my new openings, and for a moment I couldn’t grasp what had just happened. I had walked through an alley as a shortcut back home, and then suddenly someone had grabbed

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

Date Point: 15y9m3w AV Mrwrki Station, Erebor System, Unexplored Space Darcy “Does it seem… different to you lately?” “What?” “The Entity. It’s actin’ different, dude, I swear it is.” Darcy sighed and set aside her work as Lewis sat down. She was sitting drinking a Moroccan Mint tea in the station’s rec lounge, with its

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

9 Years, 6 Months, 13 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Popping the restraints off of her legs Diana swung herself off of the table, the two class A’s still in their isolation suits were pounding at the door of the room the three of them were in. “It’s out! Open the door!” shouted the man

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

Master Sergeant Christian (Righteous) Firth The end of the movie came and the ladies were fast asleep and prolly too tired to head home with any comfort. The other bros were asleep, too, and Firth was tangled up with them pretty good. Oh well, both ‘Base and ‘Horse were heavy-ass sleepers and only danger or

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Hell. It’s a completely Human concept. The concept of a realm of eternal torture, to which you are sent depending on the whims of one deity or another, is something only found in Human fiction. And it’s not an isolated occurrence. Almost every human culture since the dawn of humanity itself has had it in

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

Date Point: 15y9m2w AV HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Senior Master Sergeant Christian (“Righteous”) Firth “Hey, fuckers! Guess what hit the newsstand today!” Adam looked up from his needlework for a second and raised an eyebrow. “Imma guess Coombes’ centerfold spread with Ava?” Firth deflated, somewhat flummoxed that ‘Horse had stolen his

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