Good Training – Survival Part 8

Date point: 14y 9m 1d AV
Total Combat Fitness, southwest Folctha, Cimbrean

Dr. Marc Tisdale

Marc was, at heart, a gentle man. He had love for most everyone he met and refused to hold anger for anyone or anything unless they had truly, irrevocably earned it. That said, he was still a man and had all the competitive instincts any man should. He was a successful scholar with serious post-doc research under his belt. He was a competitive powerlifter flirting with a super-heavyweight classification, and had co-founded Folctha’s first dojo. He’d even seriously considered joining Cimbrean’s olympic teams in all those events, if he only had time left to commit to it. But no matter. He had Hope, he had Hayley, he had important work, and he had the kids and adults in the gym scene all looking to improve themselves. All of them were special. Some of them were brightly-shining stars, destined for great things if they truly desired it. And a couple were genuine heroes in a very real sense of the term.

Like little Adam Arés, who didn’t remain little for long. At the ripe old age of fifteen he discovered the gym, became an iron rat pretty much on the first day, found Marc by the squat rack repping out ten plates on the bar and more or less idolized him right off the bat. Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, he grew. In less than a year the boy had turned sixteen and was matching Marc lift for lift despite being a head shorter and a solid twenty five kilos lighter. Within a month he was edging past, in another he was firmly ahead, and by the time he had any interest in the military, the boy was so far ahead of Marc both under the bar and on the scale it was legitimately intimidating. Then he went off to join the Air Force, which Marc tried not to judge…and came back a hero. Too much of one to really get.

And it wasn’t like Marc had stopped or anything. Marc never stopped, never stopped thinking, never stopped lifting, never stopped helping out with the school plays and the volunteer litter-pickers and patrolling downtown on weekends with cheap raincoats and plastic slippers in a bag to help drunk people get home safe, and the Gaoian refugees…

He was always working on himself and others, and he loved seeing them thrive…though it could still sometimes be a little hard to stomach when someone like Adam showed up and effortlessly passed him by. Some people were just born special and that grated at Marc’s instincts: It smacked of privilege. He detested the idea that some people were just dealt a better hand in life and there was nothing anybody could do to draw level with them.

Detest it as he might, though, facts couldn’t be denied. Adam was a man destined for greatness. It seemed, annoyingly, that Julian was too. Marc tried not to hold any of that against his friends, but that didn’t mean he had to like the facts of what it meant to be truly gifted. Marc had been playing the iron game his whole life and in the process built had himself up from a skinny nerd in public school into a man you’d never want to meet in a dark alley. Julian…he’d only really been at it for a little over two years and underwent the kind of transformation one only hears about in tall tales, or maybe sees hyped half to death on the internet when some supplement company or another wanted to push their poison. In that sense Julian was like Adam. The explorer for-hire worked his ass off sure enough, but some petty undercurrent in Marc’s psyche couldn’t help but be a little jealous of a gifted man whose physique put virtually everyone Marc had ever met to utter shame.

Which made it a slightly guilty pleasure that he was able to take on a man like Julian, who was quite a bit heavier than Marc and a fuck of a lot stronger, and tie the big dude into a pretzel.


Life always had its little rewards.

Though Marc had to give Julian credit: he was was good-humored about it. Most dudes got butt-hurt, frustrated and angry when they couldn’t fight back but Julian would just chuckle ruefully and tap out whenever he decided he couldn’t escape the predicament of the moment. But Julian was a fast learner, and since Adam was involved in his training he was absurdly well-conditioned and ridiculously strong too, so Marc was under no illusion about that happy state of affairs lasting for very long. Against Julian, Marc only got one shot with any tactic or trick, so he had to make every move count.

Still, one took their victories where they could, which he did right then after a few minutes of a remarkably exhausting struggle to keep Julian pinned to the floor. He tapped out, Marc grinned and let go, and then flopped off to the side, dead tired.

“Adam was right. You’re full of tricks.” The shaggy-haired man had a lot more juice left in him and effortlessly kipped himself up, then prowled lazily toward the sink in the corner of the room.

“Had to be,” Marc revealed after catching his breath, feeling absurdly pleased by the compliment. “Dealing with him as a teenager was…trying.”

“Teenage ‘Horse. That’s a mental image…” Julian turned on the tap to fill the nearby bucket. The gym they trained in was one of the two “hardcore” iron dungeons in Folctha and had no air conditioning, being essentially a large prefab storage shed. Nobody had ever bothered to install one and nobody ever would; opening the rolling doors or getting good and soaked were luxury enough for those ‘rats.

“Adam was a good kid. A really good kid, considering. But bloody intense. Very aggressive about everything, didn’t matter if it was just tryin’ to be friends, he went after it relentlessly. I’m honestly amazed he got into as few fights as he did.”

“Still like that today.” Julian rolled his thick neck and got a loud ‘pop’ for his efforts.

“In some ways he never changed. Still a friendly pup of a man.”

“Mhmm.” The shaggy-haired dude lifted the bucket over his head and dumped water all over himself, then mopped his hair out and paused for a bit, obviously thinking about something. “…Yeah. I wasn’t anything like that. Grandpa said I was laid back and quiet.”

“You are now, though. More intense and aggressive, I mean.”

Julian shrugged matter-of-factly. “That’s ‘cuz I have to be.”

“Sure.” Marc groaned and rolled to his feet, and briefly envied Julian’s much younger body. “Being honest, a completely laid back personality doesn’t manage the achievements you have.”

Julian had a great big towel with a large, friendly Hitchhiker’s reference on it—wholly commendable, in Marc’s view—which he was using to scrub himself and the padded floor as dry as he could. He also tried to dry his workout shorts, promptly gave up with a shrug and a growl, then thumped back toward Marc and flopped down on the mat alongside.

And sighed. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“That bothers you.” Sometimes it was better not to ask a question, but to state an observation.

“I guess.” He sighed again, “I just, I dunno. Never thought of myself like this, y’know?”

“Just a kid in the woods, tryin’ to get by.”

“…Yeah. Somethin’ like that.” Julian was bothered by something, that much was obvious. It seemed like right then was a good time to play the Wise Old Man.

“And now here you are, field researcher with the Ten’Gewek. Your samples have been much appreciated in the life sciences, by the way. You’re getting pretty famous amongst researchers.”

“Wait, reall y?”

“Yup. Byron Group have been writing papers left and right on Akyawentian life, and you’ve been credited as the ‘chief field researcher’ in each one of them.”

That seemed to amuse him and elicited a soft chuckle. “Funny, they never told me that.”

“I get the impression that’s deliberate, Julian.” Marc sat back down alongside and patted him paternally on the shoulder. “You’ve got a lot on your plate as is.”

“Yeah. S’why I’m here with you, I need to learn how to tussle better. Strength-wise I’m finally about level with Vemik, which is good ‘cuz he’s pretty damn strong these days for a Ten’Gewek man. But they get stronger and tougher with age and the older men can be beastly.”

“I’ve seen the pictures, and the videos. Just about everyone has by now.” Marc scratched at his ear for a moment. “Is it really true they put gorillas to shame?”

“Eh, sorta.” Julian flopped down on his back and grabbed his ankles to stretch. “But that’s maybe overhyped. Vemik isn’t quite that big yet. Most Ten’Gewek are built more like football or rugby players, but with no real body fat and they’re smushed down to like five, maybe five-and-a-half feet tall. The women are like runningbacks or something, and the men are more like really big linebackers.”

“…Dang. You’re serious?”

“Oh yeah!” Julian chuckled as he pulled his stretch tighter. “When we first showed up? Vemik had easily over twenty pounds on me and he was literally a lanky kid who’d just become a man. When we came back, what, over a year later? I’d done all this training and shit, Adam helped me get big and just stupid strong, right? I won’t lie, I was pretty hyped up about it. But then we meet again,” Julian laughed, “and the cave monkey bastard was over fifty pounds bigger than me!”

“And he’s still only about five feet tall.” Good Lord.

“Eh, five-two or five-three now I guess. His crest comes up to my nose now.” Julian chuckled, let go of his stretch, and sat up. “But yeah. These days Vemik could put basically anyone in the league to shame and he’s still not anything like the older men. Those dudes really are in tear-a-silverback-apart territory, and Given-Men can rip apart bears. Hell, I’ve watched Yan pull a small werne bull apart without a grunt of effort, like it was made of tissue. The damn thing had to be, I dunno, over a thousand pounds? More? Something ridiculous like that.”

“…Dang.” There really wasn’t much else to say.

“Yup. Now Walsh is strong enough now to match with the older men, but that’s ‘cuz he wants to join HEAT and he’s training with Crude and other stuff. I don’t know if I can go that far so I need to be crafty if I’m gonna keep their respect.”

Marc nodded. The demands of living with the Ten’Gewek were by all accounts harsh. “That’s probably wise. And being honest I imagine whatever the HEAT are doing can’t be perfectly safe.” That had been something that had bothered Marc for some time. After all, Adam was a walking, talking example of how far a human could go if they really wanted to, but at what cost?

“Yeah. I’m not doing anything like that ‘cuz I wanna stay healthy and I don’t know how much more I’ve got left in me anyway.” He paused and reconsidered. “Well, okay. I suppose I could keep growing like a weed if I wanted to, but…”

“You’ve got lines you won’t cross.” That seemed pretty obvious.

Julian nodded. “Yeah. I got really lucky and met Adam, and I’ve, uh, I guess I’ve got the genetics to do this myself, so…may as well do it honestly, y’know?”

Marc raised an eyebrow. Julian wasn’t a hulk the same way Adam or any of his teammates were, true enough. But he was easily the largest and most capably fit athlete Marc had ever seen outside of that group, professional or otherwise. He’d built himself up from an impressive everyday fit kind of guy into a truly elite hardbody, and he’d managed all that very quickly.

Which meant that Marc had two one-of-a-kind prodigies in his personal orbit. That annoyed him enough that he couldn’t quite keep the snark out of his voice.

“Well shit, guess there’s no hope for me, then.”

And he immediately regretted it. Julian sort of…shrunk into himself. “…Sorry.”


“No, Julian. I’m sorry. Never apologize because you’re better. Anyway,” Marc barreled through before the situation got any more awkward, “So you’re still playing catch-up, then. You think you’ll ever draw level with them?” The kind of natural strength the Ten’Gewek possessed was honestly difficult to imagine. “And it was a hell of a slog for you to get where you are, too.”

“Yeah.” Julian shook his hair out then nodded. “And yeah, I’m still not where I want to be, but I think I can get there eventually. I’m finally strong enough to hunt alone on their world so it’s been totally worth it. That’s important to them.”

“Alone? Well, didn’t you manage to survive Nightmare for six years?”

“Yeah, I did, but…” Julian shrugged expansively and scratched the back of his head. “I kinda think Nightmare’s almost easy compared to Akyawentuo. Survival on the People’s world is hard work.”

“I thought Nightmare was a class thirteen or so.”

“It is, but that’s from a Corti’s perspective. The thing is they’re a small, weak people, and they’re dependent on agriculture. Assuming they survive in the first place, it’s probably easier for them to gather food on Akyawentuo.”

It was Marc’s turn to be impressed. “Really?”

“They’re primary mycovores. Mushrooms are everywhere on Akyawentuo and they’re nearly all safe to eat. For us, though? We need a lot more calories and on the People’s world you can’t get really them from anything growing on the ground, don’t matter if it’s jungle or steppe. Well, okay, there’s Bibtaw and Tanew and a few other things but that’s…none of that is food you can live on, long-term.”

“Fascinating!” Marc loved it when he got to learn something new. “So it’s all, what? Woody plants? Lots of cellulose and the like?”

“And mast, but yeah. Anything that fruits the way we think the word means, pretty much only grows in the forests and then it’s way high up. The grasses and ferns are rich, though. They’ve got really big herbivores and they breed like rabbits.”

“Like these werne I’ve seen on the news.”

“Yeah! They’re dangerous, too. Fast, strong, mean and they’ve got razor blades on their jaw and their hooves can cut you in half. They grow to something sized between a goat and a cow before their first season is up. After that they get way bigger if they live long enough. The biggest werne bulls? More massive than rhinos. Takes ‘em less than five years to get that big, too!”

“Good Lord,” Marc pondered, “And the Ten’Gewek are their main predators?”

“Nope! Not even close. There’s a bunch of competitors they gotta fend off. Like, there’s yshek in the rivers, which are like if an orca and a crocodile had babies. They can get just as big as an orca, too. On land they’ve got something that’s like a cross between a cave bear and a saber-toothed cat and it’s way bigger. Just once I saw one in open field chase down a werne and I swear the damn thing’s gotta be able to outrun a fuckin’ car on a freeway. It can lope along for hours, too. And it’s also got ten inch claws and can climb Ketta trees…I’m pretty sure that predator all by itself is the reason Given-Men evolved.”

“…Dang. That sounds like genuine nightmare fuel, right there. What’s it called?”

“I don’t know!” Julian laughed and shook his shaggy head, “They won’t even speak its name! Yan won’t tell me until my Rite of Manhood and I already promised never to speak of it to anyone. Not even the women know! Only the Singers and Dancers do, it’s unreal.”

That was…a remarkable thing to learn. “…Jesus.”

Julian gave a wry smile. “I’m not sure even He would fuck with one of these things, bro.”

“Well, can it walk on water?” Marc snarked.

“Heh, I doubt it. The one we saw from the ship we think musta weighed at least six thousand pounds. The People really hate wide open ground, by the way…”

“…I don’t blame them.” Marc shook his head in disbelief. “Anyway. So lots of prey.”

“—Right! Yeah. Lots of prey animals and they grow big, grow fast, and they breed like rabbits. Everything low to the ground is perfect for them to eat, but it isn’t very good for us. Now there are tubers and stuff but not as much as you’d need, so the other thing you need to eat lots of besides meat is fruit. They’re mostly like avocados too, and they grow way the fuck up in the trees.”

“Ah. Okay, this makes sense now. The Ten’Gewek seem like they evolved to take advantage of both food sources.”

“Yeah, I think so. On Akyawentuo you gotta do a fuck of a lotta climbing and gathering, or you gotta hunt big game, and doing either of those things on that planet means you need to be quick, clever, and strong as all hell. That’s the Ten’Gewek in a nutshell. That’s why I did all of this,“ Julian gestured across his body, “They want me to do their Rite of Manhood and I gotta do it their way, too. They don’t like the idea of me using human tools.”

“Just a bow and spear?”

“No, just the spear. The Given-Men got together and they think the bow is powerful Taking-Magic, and shouldn’t be used until a boy is already a man. Vemik gets a pass ‘cuz he invented it, ‘cuz ‘he was already a man’ when he did his Rite.”

“…great. Gorilla lawyers.”

That got a burst of laughter from Julian, loud and mirthful. He was normally in the habit of a quiet chuckle so a good belly laugh was more rewarding to provoke.

“Man! Anyway, yeah. It’ll be nice to finally, uh, prove myself.”

“Ah. So that’s why you’ve been at it like a madman. Peer pressure!”

“Heh.” Julian unselfconsciously scratched at the back of his head, and in so doing he absentmindedly flexed that massive, perfect bicep of his like he had done many times before. Which…All through their morning training, Marc had barely noticed anything like that, except in the way that anyone would notice their workout partners or friends. But not that time. Julian was unconsciously far too fucking hot, especially when he noticed Marc’s gawping stare. He chuckled happily, drew his entire upper body into a powerful flex and grinned a massive, shit-eating grin, then shook his head sheepishly and dropped his arms. “…Sorry.”

“N–No. I’m sorry,” Marc almost stammered. But after a moment of thought he found himself annoyed with Julian’s misplaced modesty. “Actually…No. Fuck it. I just wish you’d stop pretending to be less than you are, it’s getting bloody annoying. You’re better than me. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. And humoring your repressed self-image is beginning to get a bit fucking tedious!”

“I…what?” Julian sat there rooted in place, momentarily stunned by the sudden outburst.

Feeling his dander up, Marc stabbed his index finger right in the center of Julian’s thick slab of a chest and growled, consequences be damned. “Actually, to be perfectly honest it’s getting a mite fuckin’ insulting. I’m not telling you to be some strutting bell-end, but seriously: stop acting like you aren’t among the best of the bloody best, ‘cuz you are.”

Julian swallowed and nodded vigorously. “…Yessir.”

Christ. But Marc had said his piece, and deflated with a sigh. “Shit. Sorry.”

Julian relaxed slowly and shook his shaggy head. “No. Don’t be. I think…maybe you’re right. Am…am I being an ass about it?”

“Not deliberately, no.” Christ, how to explain it. “It’s just, honestly? A man like you shouldn’t be walking around like he’s all meek and inoffensive. You’re not. You’re too big for my balance scale and once you learn how to properly spar you’ll be able to break me without trying. It’s…” Marc suddenly realized what his gripe was, and went in for the kill. “Your constant tip-toeing around what you can really do doesn’t feel polite or considerate. It feels…patronizing.”

“…Oh. Um…Sorry.” It was an odd thing watching a man like Julian shrink into himself, but if that got the lesson through his head, so be it.

“Right. Earlier today we lifted. You used the exact same weights I did. Yeah, I know,” he raised his hand to forestall the inevitable objection, “You weren’t here to lift, you were just being a good training partner. But now I gotta wonder…what can you really do? Tell me. Be honest, mate.”

Julian blushed and again scratched the back of his head, then eventually admitted the truth. “Well, some lifts I’m stronger than others, but…fuck. Here,” Julian stalked back to his bag and fished around, then fetched a battered black book. “Just read.”

Marc perused the numbers. Then paused unbelievingly, started again from the beginning, and read them more carefully. “Wait, so…you’re that much better? On every lift? Christ, that makes you stronger than I was at my absolute peak! And you’re doing that with how much volume?”

“…Yeah. I’ve, uh…” He grew more embarrassed by the second, “I’ve been focusing on work capacity.”

“So. You’ve got me beat for weight and for reps. And both at the same time. Which means that little session we did earlier today wasn’t remotely any kind of a challenge for you, was it.” He didn’t ask it as a question.

Julian’s cheeks went crimson. “…No…not really.”


“Julian…” Marc could only chuckle in disbelief and mild shock. “Those are massive numbers. You do know that, right?”

“…I do. And hell, I don’t mind the way it makes Al and Xiù look at me…” he cleared his throat. “…or other women. Or, uh, some guys. Or…you. That’s all good for the ego, I guess, but…”

“…Well, shit.” Marc grumbled, “Now I feel like a right arse.”

“No no! No. It’s okay. Really. I’m flattered. Also, uh, no,” he added hastily. “Just, y’know. For the record.”

Marc snorted in amused relief. “Please, do you feel the need to say that to every woman who checks you out? Besides I’m married.”

“Feh,” Julian’s troll-grin was on full display. “That’s never stopped you two before!”

“…Fair point, but Hayley would need to agree.” Marc, however, could troll right back. “Think your women are the type to share?”

“No, definitely not. And I still said no, Marc.” An even trollier grin, “You’re a dirty hippy!”

“Clean hippy, thank you—Hayley and I got into soap a few years back, you know. And you wouldn’t believe how much it costs to import Lush to this planet.”

And there it was. The patented combined sigh-chuckle-headshake that was uniquely and adorably Julian.

“Anyway. We clear on this? No more of this false modesty, Julian.”

“Yessir.” He seemed relieved there were no hard feelings.

“Good. And I’ll try and be less of a knob. Fair?”

“Heh. Fair.”

“Right. Anyway,” Marc looked at the clock. It was late morning, and Julian was due for a meal. “I think we need a run. So let’s get you and your pretty self up for a quick jog, then you can eat, rest, then we go at it again. Sound like a plan?”

Julian nodded happily and sprang to his feet with all the energy of a man barely out of high school. Marc in turn climbed a bit wearily to his own feet and shook his head. He had been a serious hardbod himself in his youth—hell, not even five years ago he was still lean and mean—but deep down he knew that he’d never again have a body even remotely like Julian’s, and that he’d never been close in his absolute prime.

But Marc found…he didn’t mind. Not anymore. Momentary confusion aside, Julian needed help. Not just with the wrestling—he needed help there too, no lie. But somehow Marc knew there was something deeper eating at Julian, and that he was a man not used to talking it out.

No. Julian was a lot like Adam. They both seemed to think best while they were exerting themselves, and today’s coaching was building to something bigger. Marc understood.

He’d just need to see it to its end.

“C’mon mate. Let’s see if those pretty legs of yours can jog.” Marc decided on a jaunt around town, just for some fresh air that didn’t taste like stale armpits and pain. He walked to the door and beckoned while he slipped on some falling-apart sneakers. Julian didn’t bother and followed behind barefoot.

One last thing. “Put this on.” Marc picked up a heavy weighted vest that had sat undisturbed by the door for many years now. “This was Adam’s when he was training to join the Air Force.” Julian nodded and picked it up…or attempted to, then raised his eyebrow and lifted it with a quiet grunt.

“Dang, this is heavy.”

“Yup. I need to level the playing field a bit. You might need to loosen it to fit, but…”

Julian nodded and did so. “Okay. Where we going?”

“Somewhere. Where we end up depends on when you tire out!”

That got the fire going again. “Okay old man, lead the way!”

Good. Marc was many things. Old. Well, oldish, anyway. He had some chronic pain. He’d definitely let the fat go too far. But he was still competitive, and he still enjoyed the game. If he could work out those urges while helping Julian get to wherever he needed to go, well…

What were friends for? They stepped out into the sun, and ran towards the river.

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Good Training – Survival Part 9

Date point: 14y 9m 1d AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Meeting of Given-Men Yan Given-Man “When will Jooyun return and take the Rite of Manhood?” Yan mopped some of the sweat from his crest and loosened up his crushing grip on his challengers. “Soon,” he said confidently. “Soon.” Fall was almost

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Causal Results – Chapter 4

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

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Causal Results – Chapter 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 4

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

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Henosis – Chapter 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 3

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

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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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Good Training – Survival Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 49

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 6

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 48

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

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

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Good Training – April Fool’s

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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

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Good Training – Pecking Order

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

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

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The Good Samaritan

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

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

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