Good Training – Survival Part 4

Date point: 14y 2m 1w AV
Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm


“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 can get out but not back in…”

“That is a good way to think about it, yes. If the seal is very tight, then the, uh, ‘bad spirits’ will run away from the salt and the heat, and then they can’t come back in and spoil the food.”

Singer stood in front of Julian and Xiù, who had some of his marvelous little warm-ice-pots he called jars. Some of the other Singers from nearby tribes were watching as well.

“It’s important that you never break the seal once it’s on, Singer.” Xiù chimed in. “Not until you want to eat it. Because very bad spirits can creep in and make you sick if you ate the food.”

“How long will this ‘jarred’ food last?”

[“…Canned.”] Julian chipped in again, with a slightly embarrassed look.

“But those are jars.”

“Yeah. A Sky-Thinker found a way to do the same thing with metal cans instead. So now it’s called canning even though you can use any kind of pot that’s tight and can be boiled.”

Sometimes, English words had a strange story behind them. It was always a bit amazing that they could have so many words, each with a story behind them. But that was probably because the Sky-Tribes had been telling stories to each other for a very, very long time.

“Can we use our pots?”

Xiù looked to Julian, who considered the problem. “You can but it’s important the pots be made very well. You’ll need to seal them with, uh, hardened ketta sap or stinger-wax maybe? Or you need melted fat to pour on top of the food as it cools. And the pots will need to be [glazed] too. That’s not very hard to do. You just need a ‘kiln’ which is a kind of furnace. Which…if you have that, you can also make glass, really.”

‘Glass’ was one of those English words that they’d adopted as their own. The tricky sound at the beginning wasn’t as hard to make as it could be in other words, and it was nice and short, with a strong sound at the end. Very male.

“And can we make glass? Like those ‘beer bottles’ Vemik saved?”

The other Singers trilled in knowing mirth. Vemik had indeed hoarded all of the bottles, cleaned them very carefully, then gave them as gifts to pretty women when the village or the tribes had a celebration. Singer didn’t mind, not really; sometimes the Dance was for everyone to enjoy each other. Other times, the Song was for a man and woman, alone.

Vemik seemed to like Song over Dance, and he liked Singer’s Song the most, which…that warmed her breath. He’d Danced for other young, pretty things and Taken his pleasure as any man should. They were lucky girls: Vemik had one of the strongest Dances of any man. But for Singer…when Vemik truly Danced, it was for her, and her alone. She loved him.

Singer must have drifted off for just a second because the Eldest Singer flicked her ear with a knowing look. Julian noticed too and favored her with one of his sideways smiles, the one she knew meant happiness, humor, and patient understanding.

“You can make glass. It’s…something like making steel. Not as hot,” he quickly added, “But it’s a little tricky. And you need some different things to make it. But you can do it.”

The other Singers gave cautious flicks of their tails. The thinking around ‘steel’ was that making it was powerful taking-magic. Vemik’s forge was clearly a male space; it smelled of hard-working men, and smoke, and heat. But there was a subtle, just-on-the-wind thought amongst the Singers that all the Taking of steel was balanced by the giving-magic needed to do the thing in the first place.

As to what could be done with steel…that could Give or Take. Singer had at least won that argument with her rings. And if this ‘glass’ was the same, maybe they had a chance.

Xiù spoke up at exactly the right moment. “I want to try some of your stews in the jars, Singer. You make one with Tanew-root and Bibtaw that I think would work.” She seemed to have a wisdom deeper than Singer could understand.

That got the Singers’ attention. Tanew-root and Bibtaw were easy to gather and anyone could do it, even the children. The resulting stew was delicious with the right herbs, but it went bad pretty quickly; a day or two and the stew would taste foul, a day later it would have fuzzy black tree-crawler all over it.

The eldest Singer looked at the jars and the big metal ‘pot’ Julian had over the fire, slowly bringing water to a boil. “If we…‘can’ my good stew—” Singer rolled her eyes in her mind. Eldest had too much pride in her cooking. “—you say it won’t go bad?”

“It shouldn’t, no.”

“How long will it be good?”

Julian nodded at Xiù. “We have to make some to test, but…if the jar is completely [airtight] and you store it where it’s dry and dark…very many seasons, maybe.”

The other Singers nodded. Food that could be saved forever! That was strong giving-magic and they would be fools to turn that down.

“We can make other things, too!” Xiù exclaimed, then looked at Singer, “You made us a soup the other day? With fruit in it?”

Eldest Singer’s gaze turned on her sharply, and Singer felt her tail wanting to be between her hands again. “Yes. It uses berries from the Ketta-choker vines. They grow at the top of the trees so only our youngest can get them. It’s…a special treat. For friends.”

“I bet that would can pretty well,” Julian chuckled. “Sweet things usually do. We have a food called ‘jam’ that has to be canned, and it can be very, very sweet.”

That would certainly get the women excited. The best way to a man’s heart was through his mouth, after all, and there wasn’t much of anything a man liked more than sweet sticky food. Particularly if it was being fed to him…

“We need to figure out the exact ‘recipes’ too. Food you want to can has to be made a little differently. And I don’t think we should encourage [sugar] habits, Julian.” Xiù gave him the sharp, affectionate look any woman did when their man was slightly out of line, then turned back to the Singers. “Too much [sugar] can make you fat.”

“Like Professor Hurt?”

The Singers giggled to themselves. The consensus had been that there was a handsome man under the layers of old age and weakness, and that he would be much cuter after all that baby-fat had been worked off of him.

Julian again chuckled, this time with a bit more…smugness. Yes, that was definitely there. “He’s not fat, he’s just fluffy. And he’s getting better, too! Also he’s smarter than any of us so he has an excuse. And to be fair,” he looked at Xiù with a twinkle in his eye, “We don’t know if ‘sugar’ makes the People fat in the first place.”

Xiù nodded in a different way—mouth flattened out, and her eyebrows raised. Singer wasn’t entirely sure what that meant but she seemed to be agreeing with what he said. “Fair, Still…”

Julian chuckled quietly and shook his head. “Right. Anyway. Let’s start with the stew—” Eldest had a smug grin, now, “—and see if it cans well. If it does, maybe I teach the men how to make glass? I’ll need to learn myself…”

[“Glazed pottery might be easier.”]

[“Still need a kiln, though.”]

“True.” They looked back at the Singers. “Why don’t we try with what we have here first? If you like it, we can get started on making little ‘crocks.’ We’d need to build things…”

“Vemik will be excited.” That from one of the distant Singers, who still felt jilted because Sky-Thinker wasn’t interested in bedding her. Singer herself couldn’t feel much sympathy for her yet she couldn’t speak up; the Singers trusted her as one of theirs but she was too close to Vemik’s powerful steel-magic to be completely believed on such things.

In the end, everyone looked toward Eldest. She considered at length while she chewed on the end of a root, then at last conceded. “I will make my stew with you, Shyow. I will see if this ‘can’ idea is any good.”

That settled it. Once Eldest had agreed things moved quickly. A big pot of her (…very tasty) stew was made. Shyow added a little salt—they had so much of it!—and a little more bitter-herb over Eldest’s objections. “Canning can make things taste a little dull. Strong flavors also give more strength to the good spirits in the food. It should be fine…”

Julian’s pot had come to an angry boil. They ladled the stew into each of the nine glass jars, he put the strange metal discs on top and then twisted a metal ring of some sort on, waited a while, then hauled the pot off the fire and put it on the dirt.

“We wait for them to cool, now. If we touch them right now they could break.” The Singers went their ways to attend to things. Later, after the mid-day song and when the jars were cold, he twisted the rings tighter and handed one each to different Singers—Eldest got two. “Don’t open them! And don’t eat them. Bring them back in a hand of days and we’ll see if they’re still safe to eat. Okay?”

The Singers nodded and promised not to open the jars. The rest of the day was spent doing other things, mostly sharing news about new children, deaths in the tribes, the mysterious goings-on between the Given-Men and what people thought the coming winter might be like.

None of that mattered. Everyone’s thoughts were on the jars, and already the Singers had begun to plan for a world with food that could be kept as long as they wanted. What a powerful Giving! No hungry bellies in the winter. The Given-Men wouldn’t need to starve half to death and shrink down to normal-sized men, and children wouldn’t want for anything.

It was a new world they could make for themselves. If the magic was anything like learning steel, learning canning and glass it would be a challenge. Given-Men would be wary. But this time, the Singers knew what was coming. They wouldn’t be surprised, and they knew what to expect. With some gentle words, some sweet promises whispered in ears…

The People would have glass, along with steel.

Date point: 14y 2m 3w AV
Office of the Mother of the Guard, the Clan of Females, Folctha, Cimbrean

Mother Myun of the Clan of Females

Bored. Bored bored bored.

And lonely.

Both were feelings that Myun was not accustomed to experiencing, especially with…well, everything that had happened. The first couple of months since the War had begun were what she was born to do: defend the Clan of Females. With Yulna and Daar personally leading the liberation of the major Communes, her life for those first weeks had been one of non-stop travel. Her primary role was protecting the Mother-Supreme during a raid—she was the last to enter a scene for obvious security reasons—and sometimes being more proactive at the front to help the newly-liberated understand what was happening.

Sometimes, the best way to do that was by destroying their tormentors so that they could see what was happening. The Humans, as they seemed to do with everyone, had tagged her with a callsign: Valkyrie. She’d had to look it up for the meaning, but decided she liked it. It was perfect for her.

Then she wasn’t a Valkyrie anymore. Bored, she’d found herself watching Human movies, and realized she suddenly felt like Wonder Woman stuck in a romantic comedy. She wasn’t adjusting well.

It wasn’t that she hated the arrangement. Not at all! Protecting the Females on Cimbrean was important, so important the Mother-Supreme had appointed Myun personally. It was just that, normally there were interesting things to do and places to explore in her off time. But with the War for Gao underway, the commune was on lockdown permanently and the refugee camps required constant patrols. She ran strict shifts and in her “off-time” was also responsible for the Commune Guard’s training and fitness. Then there was the weekly security liaison with Gabe, the monthly supply shipments…daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly.

Predictable. Like clockwork. Forever. Myun was busier than she had ever been in her life, and she was bored. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except for the other thing she wasn’t: pregnant.

It wasn’t for lack of interest on her part. Something about…well, everything going on had stirred her Mother’s instincts quite strongly. She found herself drawn to the cubs in her spare moments and had become a bit of a menace, in fact. It wasn’t until Momma Seema told her off and pointed out that maybe a cub of her own was just what she needed that things clicked in Myun’s head. She knew Momma was right the instant she said it, and immediately took one of her alleged free days off to go explore a bit, and…

They were avoiding her. All of them. Every male she met was unfailingly polite, but none of them seemed interested. In fact, all of them seemed more interested in getting away from her, and her Stoneback nose meant she could smell why: they were afraid of her.

A year ago she would’ve thought that was badass but now…not so much. It took several more days and eventually the offer of buying lunch—a Female, buying a male lunch!—to understand why. Was it her looks? No. Some digging around confirmed the males thought she was still beautiful, maybe even more so now that her jaw had been repaired. She was still heavily scarred but that apparently was to her benefit. So if it wasn’t her looks, what was it?

Was it her attitude? The little Clanless she cornered didn’t think so. Why were the males so intimidated by her? She didn’t get the answer she really wanted. She did eventually get the little male to warm up to her…but being honest, she wasn’t interested in him. It felt, somehow, too opportunistic of an encounter even in the context of gaoian mating relations.

No. She’d just have to keep at it and figure out what was wrong. She sighed sadly, paid for the meal, and stalked back to the compound.

Date point: 14y 2m 3w 2d AV
Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm

Professor Daniel Hurt

If Daniel were to think back on his early years, on his ambitions and goals, and consider where those things would eventually take him, he was sure of one thing: that he would never have imagined he’d spend his days being crushed on all sides by sweaty, half-ton talking gorillas pressing in tighter and tighter…so they could better read his copy of Green Eggs and Ham.

Lord only knows what would have happened if I’d brought ‘Fox in Socks.’ He suppressed a shudder at the thought of trying to get through that notorious tongue-twister of a book, teaching it to caveman-gorillas equipped with half-meter-long forked prehensile tongues, and instead focused on Yan’s impressive progress with his reading. Not that Daniel had a choice. They were sitting cross-legged on the ground, a young boy and girl in his lap and Yan’s legs and tail wrapped around his waist and pressed in as close as they could get so that the other Ten’Gewek who were gathered around could see.

He’d picked up the basics pretty quickly too, though he did the thing Daniel’s own kids did, and slid his stone-shatteringly thick fingers across the words as he read them. “I…would not eat them, on a…‘boat?’”

“Yes!” All of the Ten’Gewek were fast learners, as fast as humans could be, but Yan in particular was proving bright. Not as bright as Vemik of course—Daniel was beginning to suspect the young man had a genius-level intelligence—but formidable, nonetheless.

“Hum. ‘Boat.’ Means…what does it mean?” That was Vemik, who along with his newest apprentice was hanging off Yan’s back. He had lately been a lot more conscientious of his sentence structure and often corrected himself mid-stream. And now that his face was quite firmly adult-shaped, his pronunciations were getting better almost daily, too.

“It’s something that we can use to cross ponds, lakes, seas, oceans…it sits on top of water like [floater-leaves] do in the pond nearby.”

Daniel could feel Yan shudder behind him and huff disgustedly above. “That feels dumb.” There was a round of trills and a smirk from Hoeff, who was sitting in a tree above and watching with his usual happy smug-mug.

Though Yan and Daniel were about the same height standing up, Ten’Gewek had proportionally longer torsos than humans, which meant that Yan was a good head taller when they were both sitting down and at least twice as broad. He rested his heavy head on top of Daniel’s and trilled quietly, and scratched affectionately at his chest with a giant blunt-clawed mitt.

“All the more reason not to eat green eggs and ham on a boat, then!”

“Why are they green?” Vemik reached down and pointed at the eggs. “That does not look tasty.”

“Because it’s a story, Vemik.” Daniel reached up and scritched him on the side of his jaw; like hugs and chest-scratches, that was a friendly gesture with the Ten’Gewek. “It’s meant to help children learn to read. Easy words, nice sounds…”

Yan grunted and hugged tighter. “I want to eat this ‘ham.’” Of course he did.

“Maybe when you finish the book, big guy.” Yan crushed him painfully tight but only for a moment, using just enough force to briefly and loudly wind the professor to the trilling amusement of everyone. He relented, hugged more affectionately, made the People’s equivalent of a quiet chuckle and agreed. “Okay.”

Yan was a friendly and playful man by nature, but at no time ever could his leadership go unchallenged. By anyone. The Ten’Gewek were very big on that, and the measure of a leader—Given-Men in particular—seemed to be how they handled a perceived slight or unintentional slip of words.

By that measure Yan was a good leader indeed; having reinforced the point that he was the biggest and baddest and that he was in charge, Yan felt free to acquiesce to Daniel’s delusions of grandeur and indulge the silly ideas of the puny little professor he held in his grasp.

That was how he handled most such moments. A noogie here, a firm hug there, maybe a teasing word or two of ribald banter. He never deeply embarrassed anyone, never did anything truly painful—physical or otherwise—and he was definitely never malicious. All in all he showed remarkable restraint, which in Daniel’s estimation was probably the reason he was respected by everyone.

His social interactions were, however, unmistakably dominant. Perhaps even a shade short of bullying, but never actually so. For a neolithic tribal society that seemed a good compromise; people could say their mind as long as they were willing to endure a little rough-housing, and Daniel in particular could lead the Academy without usurping Yan.

Maybe he got a little bruised out of it, sure. But he still got his way. And Yan tended to give him bigger “apology” werne shanks, too. Really, what was there to complain about?

In any event, Yan finished the book then passed it around so everyone could flip through. Ten’Gewek had good memories for stories and learned the words and sounds right off the bat. Sure enough a group of young girls eventually got a hold of it and played a game where one would recall the story while the others followed along, and every time she made a mistake they would jump on it, debate if the words matched up, maybe ask Daniel to referee…

It was a good way to spread the idea of writing. Not ideal, of course. It was anything but that. The original grandiose plan had been to prompt Vemik or whoever to develop a writing system on their own, but that ran into a pretty serious problem right away: nobody had ever managed that in the history of first contact among human tribes, and the linguistic world wasn’t sure such a thing could be done in the first place.

Every experience that humankind had with such events was always predicated on teaching a culture how to read and write first. There was even some debate as to how often writing had come about on earth, and no matter how the point got argued, that number was small.

No. The People needed their own writing, but they needed to understand writing first, and there was no academic’s fantasy of showing them multiple systems and letting them learn from a broad selection. Daniel had to pick one and stick with it, and go from there. Since they had learned to speak English that meant the English writing system, despite its foibles and especially its atrocious orthography. It wasn’t ideal, and already the academic community back home was screaming bloody murder, but as much as Daniel might have wished otherwise this wasn’t some nicely controlled anthropological experiment.

The Ten’Gewek’s survival was on the line, as a species and as a culture. Daniel could see it in his daily interactions with them. Sure, everything was going fine, for now. Yan in particular seemed to understand the issue intuitively and made a point of using their words, and expanding their language with new ones whenever he could. He’d insisted on Julian taking the Rite of Manhood as well, a goal which the big woodsman had been working towards at a fevered pitch; every day he practiced with his spear, every day he sat and listened to the Singer or Yan while they instructed the young boys on the ways of Taking-Magic.

And twice a day almost every day, he pushed his body past limits that Daniel hadn’t dreamed a man could break. If that was how Walsh and the rest of SOR got the way they were…

They all sacrificed so much, really. Walsh and Hoeff stayed behind while Coombes went back to Cimbrean to get the JETS training pipeline properly jump-started. At the same time, Julian had managed to build himself into an athlete so impressive, Walsh was these days figuratively looking over his shoulders at his up and coming competition. He’d done all that, all that pain and work, just so that he could be as ready as possible whenever it was time to take the Rite. He was making heroic sacrifices to get prepared for it. Everyone knew it, Yan in particular.

And if the People did not develop a way to record their ideas and traditions, by themselves, all of that would be for nothing.

And that, in turn, likely rested on Vemik, Yan, and Singer. Daniel had to keep their attention. He had to win the affections of the other Given-Men, which was slowly but surely happening as he too pushed his old body towards fitness. He had to, yes, guide their development a little more forcefully than he’d originally hoped.

And he was running out of time…but there was much room for hope. Daniel watched the People hand the book around. They’d treated it like it was priceless; in a way, it was. Some of the younger children had begun tracing the word shapes in the dirt with a surprising eye for detail.

Daniel smiled to himself. He had a lot of work to do.

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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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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

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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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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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