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 growing Commune. And along with the Great Father and Mother-Supreme both backing its existence as an independent polity, her sudden involvement with the new Commune’s construction and all of that…somehow, the opportunity to be productive and useful did wonders for the soul.

A strange concept really, one she’d learned from now-Champion Gyotin. It was even stranger then she first imagined once she realized that Gaori already had a word for the idea, even if it had fallen into disuse as archaic language. Why did they have the concept? Why didn’t they now? Gyotin constantly posed such questions to any who would listen, and it was having an impact. The implications of such ideas were a struggle for another day, however.

Right then, her struggle was eating enough for the growing cub in her belly.

That had been therapeutic too, and not just for her. If anything, the terrible wrong that had been inflicted on her had seemed to distress the Great Father more than herself. He made regular visits to check in on her and the other females who had been so grievously assaulted, listened to their stories and their pleas. He didn’t quite know what to do, didn’t know what to say or how to make it better, but he seemed determined to Help however he could, no matter what it might cost. And it was costing him, deep down where he tried and failed to hide it. They could all see it.

She fell in love with him.

He was, contrary to everything she had ever heard about him, an absolute gentleman about everything. He had at first insisted she find some young, innocently cute male, that he’d “sired his share”—a nigh heretical thought for a male, also a word she’d learned from Gyotin—that he didn’t want to take advantage of anything and all that…he tried to Protect her to the very end, perhaps afraid on some level that her infatuation was borne of trauma and little else.

But that wasn’t what she needed. She needed to be loved like only a male could love a female. She needed to be cherished. And under all the defensive and selfless layers the Great Father wore like a mantle to protect his own sanity…he needed that, too.

She was insistent. He desperately wanted to say yes. And repeatedly refused, until Gyotin publically slapped the Great Father across the face and told him to “stop being a silly idiot, and love like you’re meant to!” It was shocking, a true affront, something that could well have spelled a war between Clans right at the worst possible time…and Daar picked Gyotin up like a tiny cub, wrapped him up in a great smashing hug, and keened.

That incident had now become legendary and before anyone knew what had happened, it had spread across the news shows on Gao and on Earth. There were some small concessions to decorum, of course; Gyotin had done something unbelievable to repay his transgression. He bent knee and exposed his throat to the Great Father, on live news coverage. That was apparently something the Champions had done previously in private, an act of submission between themselves and the Great Father…not anymore. Soon all the Champions had followed suit, also publically. And at the end, Mother-Supreme Yulna had done the same.

That was a powerful and historic moment. A dangerous one, really, but much to the Great Father’s credit he used the occasion to re-forge his relationship with the Clans. Gone was their unquestioning subservience. In its place was a concept he’d learned called “loyal opposition,” an idea borrowed from Human governments. Really it was an attitude, more than anything; he felt it was okay, even expected, to publicly oppose and even vigorously argue against a plan of action as long as it was understood by the people to be in the public interest, and as long as there was no dissent once the order was given. It was a truly alien concept amongst the Clans of Gao, one that would have long-lasting consequences.

And one that would earn Daar, Second Great Father of the Gao, the greatest accolades of history long before he’d grown old or lost any of his vitality.

The weight of it all was killing him. Would end him, were it not for Regaari…and her.

In private, between him and Naydra, when nobody else could ever hear…Daar confessed much to her. He had warned her from the outset that the affections of a Great Father had a terrible price. He had to have her perfect discretion and her secrecy until the very last, no matter the cost. She would live a cloistered life under perpetual guard. If they were to mate, he had said, there could never be another male for her and he could not be exclusive to her in return. It would need approval of the Champions and of the Mother-Supreme. There were ancient customs involved, not to mention her safety and the safety of any of their cubs.

She didn’t care about the difficulties. He wasn’t exaggerating, either. Stonebacks never lied of course, a Great Father even less. But somehow his candid truthfulness hadn’t prepared her for the finality of the thing. Words were said. Witnesses—even a few Humans—were present. At the end of it all, Naydra was bound to the Great Father. Daar. Her Daar.

And the rumors were true. All of them…especially the gossipy ones the Sisters loved to share. He was every bit the male Koruum had never been: incredibly strong and utterly dominant, truly beastial where it mattered and enduring beyond words, caring and affectionate like she had never experienced before. She could not have asked for a better mate. They were together as much as could be had, though he was of course bound to the war on Gao and could only visit occasionally. But that didn’t matter. They sent messages back and forth constantly, sharing their little secrets and big struggles. It was…difficult, hearing his daily confessions, but she understood her duty. In that regard, she and Regaari got along very well; heavy was the burden of a Great Father. Heavier still was the responsibility of his confidants.

It was almost a shame, really. Regaari would have been an excellent mate. But Naydra loved Daar, her Daar, and that was a promise she would never break.

His cub was growing fast inside her and was already a demanding male, just like his sire. He would be a big one if she was to make an entirely easy guess, and Daar in a private setting was every bit as solicitous as the Human comedies made expectant fathers out to be. He had never spent much time with an actual pregnant Female, being typically much more invested in the preliminaries, as it were. It was a learning experience for both of them. His nose detected every little thing that might have bothered Naydra about anything and he was almost overbearing in his doting devotion to her. When he was there to dote, anyway. And not himself stinking of blood: after the first incident and the terrible memories it had recalled, Naydra had put her foot down and he never again visited without being freshly shorn and very well-bathed. He had also had the good sense to offer a Human treat as by way of apology—vanilla ice cream—which went a long way in her good books.

Her Human friends found all of it endlessly amusing.

Plus, if she was being honest…he was very easy on the eye with his fur trimmed right back. She wondered if he could be convinced to keep his coat short all the time…

Naydra sighed fondly and caressed the young life growing inside her. He would be able to visit again after the next review of troops and she was very much looking forward to it, to his kind thoughts, his gross sense of humor, his very male scent and the warmth of his powerful body curled around her. Soon. Everything was moving and growing so fast. Cubs in Mothers, armies on Gao. Power and responsibility for Grandfathers, Champions, and the Great Father.

No matter. That was how the Gao had handled every crisis in their history. They adapted, they grew, they moved on with cheery optimism and unlimited energy. The other species seemed mystified by it all; how could any species withstand the loss of their homeworld, let alone attempt to take it back? For the plant-eaters of the Dominion that seemed an alien concept.

Not for the Humans. They knew. For them, never again had a deep and real meaning that the Gao were beginning to understand, too. It was a concept born of the will to survive. It was grim, and determined.

It was a Deathworlder’s sentiment. And the Gao understood.

Date point: 14y 8m AV
BGEV-11 Misfit, Uncharted System
Initial survey operations

Allison Buehler

“Exactly one-point-two G. Huh.”

Julian nodded and swiped through some more of the metrics for their newly found planet. “Yyyup. It’s a pretty much perfect match for Akyawentuo. Similar size, similar gravity. Warmer and drier though.”

Misfit felt more cramped now. Part of that was Julian’s growing muscles, which made their already-intimate space even more intimate in the best ways…but after living in the woods and visiting Cimbrean for months, being back in the ship for more than just sleeping felt weirdly confining.

But that was the job. MBG wanted two more planets surveyed, so two more planets were getting surveyed. So, they were hundreds of lightyears from Akyawentuo, pinging a planet that could have been its cousin.

Except for the giant crater.

It was a natural impact, Julian said. Some comet or asteroid or something had slapped the new world hard enough to leave a permanent pock-mark, and introduce a little wobble in its revolution.

Xiù looked over her shoulder from the window. “We could call it… Akyawen-two?” she suggested.

Allison rolled her eyes, but she was amused. “Babe, you are such a dork sometimes…”

Xiù just beamed prettily and returned to the table. “Can we land?”

Julian looked up from his station and practically wiggled in his seat at the idea of Outside. The poor guy had the worst kind of cabin fever and it was all he could do to keep from bouncing off the walls most days. It was the one downside Allison could detect in his new fitness regime—before, he’d had no trouble just relaxing and letting the days roll by while they were in warp. He’d cuddle, watch a documentary, run through some of his training games and let the slow rhythm of interstellar travel wash over him.

She liked this slightly more active, much stronger Julian, but she did wish for his sake that he hadn’t forgotten how to switch off.

“It’s the calories,” he’d said apologetically one day. “I gotta do something with ‘em. And I can’t eat any less or it’ll all have been pointless.”

“Can’t you, like, I dunno, just relax and write more of Daniel’s essays?”

He’d just gave her a Look.

When it came to looking at a planet from above and finding interesting stuff on it though, all that restless energy got turned into focus. He’d go over the GeoSat data for hours, quite happily. Sometimes he’d even need to be reminded to go Slab or whatever the fuck he was doing these days, which was different: most days he almost had to be pulled away from the gym or his bros…

It was a nice change of pace. Geeky Julian was really the sexiest Julian, because it was a mode of his that only showed up when something properly grabbed his interest.

“So what does this one have going for it?” Xiù asked, craning to see between them. They stepped aside to let her in.

“Soil nitrates. My God it’s fertile down there. It’s like the American plains, except the biggest heat signature’s only about the size of a dog!”

“So…” Allison wasn’t entirely up on her ecology. ”No big animals? There were in the old survey reports.”

“None that we can detect. The asteroid impact? We’d need to go look around to be sure…”

And then his Happy Leg Twitch. God he was so easy to read, and about as subtle as a bear eating a moose. He wanted to go down there bad.

“No big plants, either,” Xiù observed. “Look at the radar map.”

That one Allison could read just fine, and it was telling stuff. Flat, open terrain produced a strong radar return, water doubly so. Both showed up brightly on the map. But forests were spongy, soft, rough textures which came back dark on the map and there were hardly any to be seen. Side-by-side with the hyperspectral survey, it was hard to spot plants down there that amounted to more than scrubby badland.

“God, I bet there’s some good hiking down there, too…look at the rolling hills!”

“Crazy wind speeds and weather features, too. Look at the storms!”

“So Space North Dakota then. Or Space Minnesota!”

Xiù and Allison made eye contact and shared a moment of mutual unspoken “Our Boy is being a Boy.” Xiù just grinned and headed for her cockpit. “I’ll start the landing sequence. You tell me where you want us to set down,” she said.

Julian gave her a grateful look. “I love you.” He sprang up, headed to his locker and started pulling his gear out.

“I know!” Xiù grinned and vanished.

Allison lingered to watch him prepare. She had to admit, one of the little benefits of life on Misfit was watching her man strip down and cram himself into his excursion suit’s tight-fitting underlayer, which with his growing muscles had lately been a hell of a lot more flattering. Once he had wedged himself into the leggings he practically bounced over to Xiù’s cockpit to watch the radar as she began her approach.

“What about this spot?” he reached into her cockpit and pointed at the display; he had never exactly fit comfortably in it anyway, but lately he was getting too broad to easily squeeze through the hatchway. “There’s a bluff with good views and there’s a river, too.”

“Maybe the dog-sized things are space beavers, Julian!” Xiù was feeling extra playful today. Allison watched while Julian wedged his shoulders into the cockpit space and carefully nuzzled Xiù in the back of the head with all the looming affection of, well, a very big man and his tiny, sturdy lover.

Which made Allison wonder: how did she look to Xiù, when Julian was looming over her?

There was an easy way to find out. “Julian, we need to get you into your suit, and then I need to get ready too.”

“Mhmm.” He pried himself away from the radar, wiggled out of the cockpit and gathered Allison up in his embrace. “I’m not going anywhere without my explorer space babe.” His hands wrapped around her, slid lower and–!

“Julian!” She giggled. “Down! We can do that tonight. And if you’re an extra good boy…”

“Oh?” He squeezed her tighter and his big hands kept pawing at her in all the right ways. God he was strong. And warm, and he smelled like a real man and…

He had an entirely unfair ability to fluster her whenever he wanted. But she could fight back, too. She slipped her hands into his undersuit and filled her hands with his rock-hard rear. He closed his eyes with a blissed-out expression and may as well have panted like a happy dog.

“There’s more where that came from, Etsicitty. Let’s suit up.”

He gave her a happy chuckle and another hug, that one more chaste. “Yes ma’am. Now help me get my top on…”

Suit-up had by then become a well-practiced evolution for them. He was done in fifteen minutes, she in another fifteen. He pulled her into another quick hug, they giggled to each other while they slathered their hair down with Vaseline and tucked it under the helmet cap…

They had landed by the time they were ready. Xiù would stay behind as always, because they had an obligation to protect the ship. Bummer really, but still…

Suit-up continued. They donned their booties and gloves, made the necessary connections for the cooling system. No sanitary plumbing in these suits, they were for short-term use. That left only the outersuit and their tools, which Xiù helped them don; putting on the suit alone was just too much work for anyone to do.

And then…they were ready. Julian hefted his exploration gear into the airlock. Allison armed herself. Between all of that and his, well, growing bulk, it was a bit of a tight squeeze.

They made it work. “It’s your turn to be first, Julian.”

“It is?”


He smiled at her through through the gold tint of his helmet, and nodded.

“Well. I better not keep anyone waiting, then.”

He pressed cycled the airlock, threw his gear out, slid down the ladder, and took mankind’s first steps on a new planet.

Date point: 14y 8m 1w AV
High Mountain Fortress, the Northern Plains, Gao

Champion Gyotin of Clan Starmind

The War Council began as every council did under the Great Father’s aegis: with an invocation. Gyotin was hesitant to describe it as prayer: it was more of a call to arms, or a reminder. The point was not to summon external blessings but to focus the minds of those present. From what he had learned studying what few scraps remained of their ancient proto-religious philosophy, their intellectual development had never progressed toward anything that would look much like human religion in the first place; the closest they might have come would have been an animist polytheistic faith, with a philosophically jaundiced eye toward an uncaring universe.

Which was much like the Greeks, really; praying to capricious, uncaring gods seemed to have little point, so instead it made more sense to focus within and summon the will and inspiration to be the change that one wished to see.

The thought for today was on the light at the end of darkness. Champion Genshi seemed drawn to his words, which was secretly the point: the Champion had seemed preoccupied with terrible burdens he was unwilling to share with anyone. If Gyotin could do anything, and there wasn’t much he really could do…

He would at least remind Genshi that there was always hope.

“Thank you, Champion Gyotin.” The Great Father duck-nodded respectfully. “I called this meeting today because we’ve recently crossed an important milestone. Our one millionth troop in the great Army of the Gao recently swore his oath and completed his basic training.” There were murmurs amongst the Champions, which stopped when the Great Father raised his mighty paw. “With this number, the tactical reality of our campaign changes. We now have the ability to take, hold, and expand our secured territory simultaneously and across all dimensions of the battlespace. Clan Firefang, do you have an update for us?”

Champion Goruu had grown into his role since it was thrust upon him. Over the months of his first year in office, he’d transformed into a confident, steely-nerved young Champion of his Clan, and had withstood several challenges to his authority from several older males. He’d defeated them all, and earned himself scars that would give any future challenger pause. The Championship had been thrust on him practically at random but through either natural talent or perhaps the inspiring example of his predecessor’s fate, he’d reforged the shattered tatters of his Clan into an aerospace force with only one serious rival in all the galaxy.

Firefang pilots in their signature Voidripper fighters were the charismatic front of the Clan of course, and Goruu was a proud member of that elite Brotherhood…but the backbone of the Clan was their transport planes and logistics. Daar had insisted and Highmountain had taught everyone a crash-course in modern combat theory, and Firefang themselves had learned some applied lessons in moving stuff from their fellow Deathworlders. Everybody ducked when a Voidripper wing tore past on its way to annihilate something, but everybody cheered when a “Breadbox” came wallowing majestically over the horizon. Everybody knew it meant food or supplies and plenty of it, because there was never just one of them in a formation.

“Yes, My Father. Our assembly lines have recently hit full capacity. Clan Ironclaw is now producing a new Voidripper every week, and One-Fang is matching that with the, er, ‘Breadbox’ logistical aircraft.” Goruu hesitated. “My Father, I must again ask…why are we calling these ‘breadboxes’?”

Daar was in one of his mercurial moods. “No. ‘Breadboxen’ is the plural.”

“…My Father?”

Daar did something that had become all-too rare in recent months and chittered low and softly. “Humor me, Champion. It is an homage to a friend, even if the Gao don’t eat bread.”

“…Breadboxen it is,” Goruu cleared his throat. “We produce two every three weeks and the fleet is now approaching full operating size. By the new year, we’ll have built enough to devote most of those production lines to other vehicles.”

“Good. We need to focus more clearly on rebuilding the civilian infrastructure. Champion Fiin, how goes the training?”

“My Father, we estimate we can, at current scale, basically train a quarter-million new troops every month. In two months, that number will double. In another two it will double again.”

Gyotin boggled. “A million troops a month by the end of the year?”

“And ten million by the middle of next. And once we get to that scale, we switch over to a community-based training protocol. Centralization ensures quality but it won’t get us the numbers we want or need, so we have to consider this a civil defense exercise. Once we do, however, nearly every single male will have received some basic form of military indoctrination in almost a single evolution. That training will hardly be good enough to compare to a Fang,” Fiin sniffed, “But it’s good enough for them to understand expectations.”

“Great Father…if I may interrupt the Stoneback Champion?” Gyotin asked. Daar waved a paw, and Fiin gestured for Gyotin to go ahead. “Thank you. I feel duty-bound to point out that we can’t match that rate of training for our chaplain corps. At that rate of training, the troops will outnumber the chaplains by hundreds of thousands to one. We’re already stretched thin.”

Daar nodded to himself. “That is a fair point. I will remind everyone gathered, however, that the point of inducting every spare male into the Army goes beyond simple retribution. It’s about building a unified force with which we can control and direct the rage that’s out there. It’s potent, Champion Gyotin. I can smell it on the wind. We all can.”

“All the more reason to ensure that their spiritual, moral and morale needs are properly tended-to, My Father,” Gyotin said. “We can recruit more aggressively of course, but the proper education, apprenticeships, study and training all require time.”

“I agree.” Daar leaped over the table and prowled over to the window. It had a sweeping view of the land below High Mountain Fortress, where the once-tranquil fields of sweet-herb had lost their amorous, gentle atmosphere. Now they were filled with an endless sea of tents, training grounds, improvised urban environments and other such tools of war.

“When I look down there, I don’t see an Army ready to invade and conquer.” He gestured his paw across the tableau. “What I see is the beginning of their training. Building a proper military takes many years, Champion Gyotin. It will be a great long while before they’re ready to face what’s coming. So I must ask, what would it take to help? You have time. But not an infinite amount of it. This is an Army with a sell-by date.”

That was a fair point as well. The Great Father never did anything without calculation, Gyotin had found. Which meant he had a challenge: how would he respond?

Maybe a simple statement of need was all that was required. “A media campaign would be of much help, My Father. One to promote the Clan as a viable choice for aspiring cubs of a philosophical persuasion. A central academy—preferably on Gao, though we could always expand our holdings on Cimbrean—”

“No. Make it on Gao. I will build our future here, Champion.”

Gyotin duck-nodded “…and the financial support to hire Human scholars. Their religious or philosophical background doesn’t much matter. They don’t need to have a good handle on the Starmind orthodoxy such as it is, they just need to be competent theological and spiritual thinkers who can inspire their students to consider and reflect.”

“And who are not extremists,” admonished the Great Father. “Humans can get passionate about what they believe.”

“Yes, My Father. Directed properly and within constraints, that passion is valuable.”

Champion Yeeshu from Goldpaw spoke up. “The media campaign would be easy. Almost every broadcast on the planet is propaganda nowadays. A simple schedule adjustment and more prominence for Clan Starmind adverts would be easily arranged.”

“How do we get the message to the cubs on Cimbrean? As we evacuate more of them and the Mothers, the messaging becomes more complex.”

“Hmm.” Daar began pacing the room. He had an unnerving habit of setting everyone on-edge when he did that. “I’m hopin’ we can get away from Army-controlled media, actually. I don’t like where that’s gonna take us long-term. We ain’t ever done this in our history before, ever.”

“What would you have us run in its place?”

Daar gave him an amused look. “‘Yer the Champion of Goldpaw. I’d thought you’d never turn down the chance t’make money.”

Yeeshu chittered hesitantly. “For once, I wasn’t actually thinking of getting paid, My Father.”

“You need to. We all need to. Gyotin’s right. This ain’t just about his Clan. It’s about, uh, what do we need to be the Gao again? I don’t wanna end up being the Klingons in a bad sci-fi.”


“Imagine a workhouse drama except way worse, set in space, made before most humans knew what a gigabyte was, and was about a post-scarcity society cruising the galaxy. Where everyone looked like them and was at peace except when they weren’t, their ship was an exploration vessel except when it was at war, and for some stupid reason they brought their females and cubs with them everywhere they went.”


“Now add a warrior race. There are actually a few, but the Klingons are the mostest.”

Somehow…that didn’t compute. “How–?”

“Exactly. And the awful bit of naxas shit about it all, is that’s exactly what the Hierarchy damn near made us. An’ look at us now! We’re so busy worrying about how we’re gonna hurt them, we’re not thinking ‘bout how we teach our cubs to play.”

“I…have a thought,” Champion Genshi spoke up suddenly, for the first time in the meeting. He had the full attention of the room. “We don’t message it. We let the Mothers message it.” There was a general sitting-back in chairs all the way around the table, and a silence that spoke volumes.

“How do you propose we do that?” Champion Loomi from High Mountain was the first to speak up.

“We simply make the Mothers aware of this as a viable path for cubs, and emphasize the need for it. Once we explain the personality types we’re looking for…”

“They’re just as invested in our species’ future as we are,” Fiin agreed.

“Precisely.” Genshi said.

“Good,” the Great Father rumbled. “See it done. Our strategy is two-fold. First we must secure the Gao. That is essentially a certainty at this point. But the second part, an’ it’s the bit I ain’t gonna be too good at without ‘yer help, is we gotta remember how to be the Gao. That means y’all need to go back to being Champions. We need you t’compete for cubs. Y’all need to bicker more. As long as it don’t interfere with the war effort…”

Even his polite growl was so suffused with intent it was impossible not to be intimidated.

“Good. Questions? Any concerns? Bitches, gripes, moans? Bad case o’ fleas?”

A round of quiet chittering followed.

“Good. Lemme know how it goes, Gyotin. Everyone else, git outta here and git ta’ werk.”

The Great Father ended the meeting on a happy chitter and left with a genuine spring in his step. That was a rare thing these days and the energy was infectious. They left and began the long descent down the tower of High Mountain Fortress, excitedly discussing the problem as they went. By the first five flights they had their paws around the problem. And by the time they reached the bottom…

Gyotin had a future for his Clan.

Date point: 14y 8m 2w 2d AV
The Dog House, Folctha, Cimbrean
That morning

Julian Etsicitty

“This is the tenth essay he’s had me do in just the last eight months! I swear half my free time is writing these damn things,” Julian grumbled, mostly to himself. His complaints had been falling on deaf ears.

“And?” Adam didn’t try to hide his annoyance. “Shouldn’t you be pressing?”

“…Right.” Julian shook his head and resumed his shoulder presses, slightly cowed by the gruff reaction. Of all the people in the world that Julian had hoped would harbor some sympathy for his essay-laden plight, Adam “Warhorse” Arés was apparently not one of them. Julian found out why about fifteen reps in.

“Bro, I once got handed a ten-thousand word essay on airway management and trauma ‘cuz I was five seconds too slow across the pool. The fucker made me write it out by hand on that shitty waterproof notepaper between laps.”

Julian slammed the bar back onto the rack and paused, gulping for air. “…Really?”

“Yup.” The big motherfucker hoisted the damn bar off the rack with one hand and set it down on the floor about as easily as Julian might pick up a small sack of potatoes. “Every ten laps, he’d make me write another five hundred words. While I was in the pool. And while I was kicking water, too.” He wandered off towards the plate stand while speaking over his shoulder. “Took me almost twenty fuckin’ hours, and then when it was finally done, and edited, and all that…he allowed me two whole hours of sleep before the next day’s training.”

“…Jesus, dude.” Julian caught his breath and mopped his hair back. Definitely getting time for a trim. “I gotta say, that sounds like an abusive fella.”

Adam returned with a hefty stack of plates and proceeded to load two pairs onto the bar. “Eh, yeah. He was. But I’m glad he was, bro. The only dude in the entire damn Air Force who knows trauma better’n me is prol’ly ‘Base, and that’s ‘cuz we both suffered through that kinda thing. Also he’s a genius.” Adam picked the bar up off the floor—again, one-handed and with no apparent strain whatsoever—and gently settled it back on the rack over Julian’s head.

A suspicion crossed Julian’s mind. “…Wait a second. Why didn’t you just load the plates while the bar was on the rack?”

“Because I can!” Few people could do a shit-eating grin as happily as Adam.

Julian shook his head and laughed, “You fuckin’ show-off!”

“Why not?” Adam shrugged happily, “Besides, I gotta maintain my dominance. Especially since you’re about to shoulder press five plates, bro!”

Julian eyed the bending, possibly overladen bar warily. Five plates on each side… While he was admittedly used to very heavy weights these days and they’d already done a fairly extensive warmup, that was still a lot of mass to muscle overhead, especially in simulated Akyawentian gravity. “Are you…sure?”

“Fuck yeah, you can do it dude! And I won’t let you get hurt, you know that.” Adam’s smiling face sobered up as it snapped into the stern, unyielding expression of a sergeant training a private. “Now we do a drop set. You’re gonna move that fuckin’ weight, Playboy. Sit up and press.”

Well, then. Adam shuffled around behind Julian, ready to spot. There wasn’t much else to do but get under the bar, straighten up and get his chest level, rotate his arms under and—


He got the bar up. Barely. It took every ounce of his strength just to get the damn thing moving, and somewhere deep inside he found something extra and inched that bar up, and up, and up—


It felt much heavier that time. He strained so hard his breathing sounded more like a growl. A little wobble in his left shoulder, one last epic push. Up.

“Down. Again.”

He got the bar up maybe halfway before he stopped. Nothing. He felt it fall—Adam’s fingers pushed with the lightest little nudge, just enough that Julian could barely manage a rep.


Adam forced another three reps out of him, each with more and more assistance until at the very end, it felt like Adam was doing all the lifting.

Then he dropped a plate off each side and made Julian press past failure again. Then another plate, then another…by the end he could barely move the bar and still needed a spot. When that grew too heavy to move, Adam had him repeatedly raise his arms overhead…six reps in, even that was impossible.

And it hurt. God did it hurt! He’d barely started his routine for the day and his entire upper body was already throbbing in agony. But that was how Adam trained his friends; hardcore, balls-to-the-wall, and no mercy.

Well, maybe a little. He patted Julian affectionately on the back and produced a shaker bottle from Hammerspace, apparently. “Here bro, slug this down.”

Julian eyed the purple-looking drink warily. “What is it?”

“Just BCAAs and stuff like that, no spacemagic. I ain’t forgot your rules, bruh.”

“Fair enough.” Julian downed the whole thing in one long slug. “This’ll help?”

“It should, you’re used to heavy shit by now.” Adam sat heavily on the bench next to Julian and began mercilessly mauling his shoulders with his paws. That hurt like a motherfucker but Julian simply grunted and bore it.

“A little early…_hnnngh_…for this kinda pain, ain’t it?…Urf.”

“Nah,” Adam said, oblivious to Julian’s suffering. “Never too early for good training. Besides, look at you! You’re fuckin good at this, you did a beastly-ass lift like that an’ you still got way more in the tank! Also?” Adam leaned in with a conspiratorial air, “I’ll let you in on a lil’ secret ‘bout all that when we’re done, too.”

“…Secret.” Julian raised his eyebrow and smirked. Adam with a “secret” he wanted to share was like a puppy waiting to be played with—he was all but wagging his tail. Xiù had coined the word ‘brodorable’ for exactly these moments, and seeing such a perfect demonstration of what it meant was enough to make Julian forget how much he ached for a second. “Really?”

“Yeah!” Adam dug his fingers into Julian’s shoulders like he was smashing play-doh, who suddenly remembered his pain and cried out before he could control himself.

“Fuck! Take it easy, man!”

“Don’t be such a baby, Playboy.” Adam chuckled darkly, “I’ve only just started with you. But I’ll give you a hint: ‘member when I said you could make a linebacker feel like a little bitch?”

“…Yeah?” Julian’s competitive instincts were up and interested. “I mean, you said I could ‘if I wanted to,’ so…”

“You already can, bro. And today I’mma prove it to you.”

Date point: 14y 8m 2w 2d AV
Etsictty-Buehler-Chang Residence, Folctha, Cimbrean
Early afternoon

Xiù Chang

“Do you remember some months ago when you were complaining about Julian being indecisive about buying the home? And today we wandered around for how long looking at appliances?”

“Appliances are expensive! And so are tools, and beds, and—”


“…Okay, fair point. He wasn’t wrong. You done makin’ me my sammich yet?”

Xiù giggled to herself and blew a kiss. “Coming right up, ma’am!”

“Good girl. Then I need you to help me put the bedframe together before Julian gets back…”

…blushing cheeks, then, and a sudden flutter in her chest. Allison always knew exactly what buttons to press. But Xiù could play the game, too. She cut her little creation into two neat triangles, filled up a glass with fresh lemonade, and brought it over to Allison who was finishing up one of the flat-pack bookshelves they’d bought earlier.

“I can only presume you have plans for us tonight.”

“Mhmm,” she said and wiped the sweat from her brow, then threw an absolutely sinful grin. “You know how he is when he’s fresh from the gym…pumped up, pretty…horny as hell…”

“And sometimes in so much pain he can barely walk,” Xiù pointed out drily.

“So he gets a massage from us then! And, y’know. Whatever else may happen.”

Xiù indulged in a giggle and imagined for a moment just what little extra activity they might partake in. “I Admit, I see nothing wrong with your plan. But—”

“Yes yes, we’ve got all these deliveries scheduled and stuff. But fuck that, do you wanna actually spend the night here or waste another pile of money in that ridiculous hotel?”

“I doubt he’d even notice where he’s falling asleep if we do it right.” Xiù smirked.

Allison usually didn’t do coy smiles. So when she did they were so much more flustering than anything else, particularly paired with an arched eyebrow. “No…but, well…he’s been busy, and you’re here, and I’m here, and he stiffed us with all the work, so…”

She smiled, slinked over towards the staircase and cast a look back at Xiù. “Maybe you and I should take a break.”

Xiù swallowed, “Yes ma’am.”

“Good girl. C’mon.”

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 14 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Frostal Secondary, New Baltimore Sitting down in the chair across from the Principal’s desk I nervously swallowed and tried to calm my heart. The Principal could probably hear it, and smell my perspiration. Which was only making me more nervous. “Thoomaas,” squeaked the principal from

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 14 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Frostal Secondary, New Baltimore Sitting down in the chair across from the Principal’s desk I nervously swallowed and tried to calm my heart. The Principal could probably hear it, and smell my perspiration. Which was only making me more nervous. “Thoomaas,” squeaked the principal from

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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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