Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3


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 a smart one, the little shit. Firth loved ‘em.

“Heh. Anyway, you gotta understand that ‘fer pretty much all my life, I was generally the biggest, baddest, and smartest dude anywhere I went. I mean, I wasn’t perfect at everything but I guess you’d say I was pretty fuckin’ alpha. Same thing on the teams. Caused me some, uh, interpersonal problems too, always butting heads. Looking back I understand it a lot better now. But I’d never really known what it was like to be anything less than the fuckin’ best.”

He chuckled darkly to himself, shook his head, and finished his water.

“Remember when I said that’d come back t’haunt me? Well. All that made me complacent.” He snapped at Baseball who raised his eyebrow behind Firth’s head, “Yeah, it’s a big word. Shaddup ‘ya goddamned brainiac!” Both men chuckled. “And that right there’s what I mean. When I first met the team? My overriding impression was honestly something like ‘they’re really good, it’ll just take longer t’beat ‘em.’ I always liked hangin’ out with winners so that part felt natural. And when I met these two? I was bigger and stronger than ‘Base, and ‘Horse was about level with me, or maybe a tiny bit bigger. No big deal.”

Firth stood up and carefully stalked over to the kitchen to refill. “And that’s what ultimately fucked me up,” he called over his shoulder. “Adam and John showed up, we sized each other up, made friends…and I just kept doing my thing like my sheer awesomeness would carry the day. It always had before, right? And then, when I wasn’t paying attention? They just blew right the fuck past me. Like, not even by a little. By the end of the first year, both these ridiculous mofos were so far past me that when that I finally realized it, I was mad.”

He sat on the floor and grabbed at his feet like always, leaning forward earnestly. “I was mad at myself, let me point out. A man never blames anyone but himself for a fuckup, yeah? And anyway that weren’t all. I sulked for a bit and when I finally noticed the rest of the guys? I mean, really noticed them? They were all better than me, at least at something or another. So I pushed myself. I pushed really hard in every single way I could. I don’t like to lose, not even a little bit. You get me there, right?” He looked at Dexter earnestly.

Dexter duck-nodded. “Nobody likes to fall behind.” He tilted his head, “Is this the point of your story? Because if it is—”

“I know you’re good at jumpin’ ahead, Dex, but don’t, not this time.”

Dex sat and waited with his ears set forward. Gaoians were funny that way. It were real fuckin’ easy to see when they were listenin’ good an’ hard.

“Right. Anyway. Let’s step back a bit ‘cuz this next part means I gotta talk about Adam a little.” Right away the big brown hulk shrunk into himself a little. Firth chuckled, “Don’t worry bro, nothin’ but good stuff!”

“That’s what I’m afraid of…”

“Heh. See that, Regaari? That right there’s prol’ly the biggest difference between me an’ him. He is the fuckin’ best and it makes ‘em uneasy. And he’s the best by so goddamned much it’s straight terrifying. But see, it was different for him. I grew up knowing I was fuckin’ awesome. But Adam?”

Firth smiled fondly, “Well, he grew up on Cimbrean, right? He showed up right around his fifteenth birthday, didn’t play sports or anything in San Diego but he stayed in really good shape, did lot of skateboarding and general fooling around…but here? There were no kids his age, really. So what does he do? Physical training is mandatory here for all humans so he goes and lives in the gym and makes friends with all the dedicated ‘rats. That’s who he grew up with, yeah? All his friends were serious trainers an’ meatheads and he’s been living an’ breathing this shit since then. Holy fuck did that set him up for success.”

Adam squirmed more into the couch while John noogied him affectionately.

“I won’t get into the details, you’ve prol’ly heard it all before. But he spent every single day either in the gym or doing sports like wrestling, boxing, or swimming, and he did that right until his seventeenth birthday when he enlisted. Two fuckin’ years of balls to the wall training in a dream gym and situation. And!” Firth laughed, “He did it with a fuckin’ competitive powerlifter-slash-research scientist, too! Also! Don’t forget his ridiculously perfect genetics! Or the unlimited free food! Or the supergravity! And all he had to do was school! Fuck!”

“So I got lucky!” complained Adam, “I mean, that’s hardly—“

“Bro, you got the luckiest in every fucking possible way, and you had the discipline and sense to actually use it. That shit right there is rare as fuck. Anyway, here’s the sneaky bit, Regaari. Pay attention, ‘cuz Adam here? He wasn’t the only one on Cimbrean doin’ the exact same thing. I mean, you’ve been to Earth. I’m sure you noticed the difference…” Firth raised his eyebrow.

“It was a bit shocking at first,” mused Regaari. “I mean, I suppose I had presumed Cimbrean was typical of humanity.”

“And it turns out we’re a lot more slovenly and slack-thewed back home.” Firth decided he was gonna troll ‘Base with really good words that night. Brainiac couldn’t know all of ‘em, could he?

“I think it would be more accurate to say there is a much wider distribution of fitness on Earth. I certainly saw many healthy specimens in addition to the…”

“Land whales?” suggested Adam. Laziness was one of those things ‘Horse just could not abide in any sense, and it showed.

“As you say.” Regaari knew enough not to step in it.

“Right. Anyway, you see the point I’m about to make?”

Tellin’ a story was always best if you could get the listener to guess a little ahead. Makes ‘em learn the point better, and in any case Regaari were a lot smarter than dumb ‘ol meathead Firth.

“His relative success wasn’t immediately noticed because he was on a world where everyone focused on fitness, and the resultant population’s health significantly distorted the distribution. Huh,” Regaari thought, “That would mess with perception quite a bit, I imagine. And not only that, the selection process and available work distorted the intelligence curve as well. Hmm.”

“Right, exactly! And it sorta…snuck up on everyone, too. Legsy, bless his soul,” Firth paused and crossed himself, “He had the easiest prep job ever. When Adam came to him to ‘get ready,’ well, Legsy didn’t really need to do much ‘cept kick things up a bit. Adam showed up at the perfect fuckin’ moment to just explode with a little nudge. And he did. Fuckin’ hell, did he ever.” He turned to Adam, “Remember when you went to Seattle? What was that like?”

Adam squirmed briefly, than sighed. “It was a shock. The worst was in the coffee shop when I took my coat off. Everyone noticed, like, right away. It took me a second to figure out what they were freaking out about.”

“How did that feel?” Firth looked at him earnestly.

“…Not too good.”


“Dude! I was suddenly this, uh, this big freak in the crowd!”

“Sure, but you were a freak because you were hands down the best in that room and everyone knew it instantly. Everybody except you.”

“Wh—dude! How can you say that? I don’t know what any of those people did! I mean, it’s Seattle, right? They could be engineers, or, like, CEOs—”

“So? That don’t matter bro, ‘cuz people don’t think like that. Your intelligence matters more than your smarts and bein’ strong an’ athletic matters more than any trade or skill. And being pretty? Matters more than a good personality.” Firth raised his hand to forestall the obvious objection, “No seriously bro, it absolutely does. All those things matter more ’cuz people can assess them instantly. The other stuff? I mean, it does matter, and it matters a lot, but you gotta get to know someone before it even factors in. That’s the trick, right there. First impressions matter. I can tell if someone is sharp and strong pretty much by jus’ glancin’ at ‘em. I can identify many genetic and developmental problems just by looking at their face. True story, bro, and research backs it up. And the thing is? When you walk into a room, you’re usually the prettiest, sharpest tack there and you’ve always been the strongest by a fuckin’ longshot since before that day at Starbucks.” He paused, “You gonna tell me I’m wrong?”

Adam grumped unhappily but didn’t reply.

“Okay. How ‘bout when you got to Basic?”

“Oh, that was different. There were competitions and you could get honor grad and an extra day of liberty!”

“Mhmm,” muttered Firth. “Never mind that you also had to get weight waivers to join just like I did. Also, didn’t you break the pull-up bar at MEPS?”

“…Yeah, but only later, when the recruiter wanted to brag me to the Marines.” He grinned sheepishly, “I could do sets with him hanging on. He was a big dude! But then I, uh, broke the bar when another little dude hopped on wearing the vest.” More puppy-grin, “Okay, that did made me feel good.”

“No shit,” laughed Firth, “Really? Hell even I didn’t manage something like that! How heavy were you when you signed up?”

“Um…not all that far behind where you were when you joined.”

Adam blushed again. Adorable.

“Dude,” enthused ‘Base, “This motherfucker was so fuckin’ impressive, when we all showered that first night? He took off his shirt and the whole bay went dead silent. He wasn’t, like, bulky-huge like he is now but he had this fuckin’ density that scared the piss outta us. I’d grown up buying Flex an’ shit and I’d never seen anyone like it. None of us had. Even the TI whistled!”

“They told me to get my steroid-eating ass in the shower,” grumped ‘Horse.

“And then you took the top bunk. Damn thing squealed so loud every night, I thought your fat ass would fall through and kill me!”

“Haha!” Firth could only laugh. “I did manage somethin’ like that but that’s a story for another day. Kid under me wasn’t happy at all, heh.”

All three men shook their heads and chuckled. Righteous, on the top bunk?

Firth turned to Regaari. “Anyway, that there is a big clue for you. ‘Horse here? He’s a fuckin’ specimen but he’s, like, weirdly proud and embarrassed at the same time about it. Me, I’m embarrassed I fell behind. Comments?”

Regaari considered. “The psychology here is fascinating.”

Burgess laughed, “I know, right? I’ve been stuck between these two idiots the whole time, too. Let me sum it up, you mind?” He looked at Firth, who nodded.

John cleared his throat. “Right, the point here that Firth’s making is that we’ve got, between these two, the extremes on either end of the headspace. Firth is the fuckin’ Gaston-like character—” Righteous snorted at the comparison, “—It’s true and you know it, bro. Anyway, he’s pretty much you. Gaoians, I mean. And Adam is, well he’s us. Does that seem fair?”

“I object,” said Regaari, “On the grounds that you’re not working from an irredeemably inferior position. You are amongst peers of similar capability and you three represent, arguably, the pinnacle of your race. The difference in situation isn’t remotely comparable.”

Firth grinned evilly. “Yo ‘Horse, you hear that? You’re the best of the best! How do you feel about that?”

“Bullshit! Kovač is so much fuckin’ smarter than me it hurts. Baseball, too! Highland is the sneakiest bastard ever, Titan is a goddamned monkey, Rebar is the best practical problem-solver ever and his grip strength is almost as good as mine or yours, Sikes can bring down buildings and shape terrain like a goddamned artist, Faarek is easily the most mobile of us, Regaari is better than our own goddamned intel analysts, Blaczynski has a battlefield map in his fuckin’ head, and you are so fuckin’ quick with your hands and feet that I can’t even see when—GAH! LIKE THAT!”

Firth couldn’t resist, and like an exploding lightning bolt, kicked from his cross-legged position and slammed the side of his foot against Adam’s jaw…except without any impact force. He did it so fast neither Adam, nor John, nor Regaari could see or react to Firth’s motion until his stomper was hovering a millimeter to the left of Adam’s face. After all, a super fast kick was scary. But sometimes Firth felt it was scarier to show what he could do instead.

He loved stoking fear. But with friends he only did it a little. “Yup.” He grinned smug and happy at the slightly scared expression he got from all three, than decided he’d had his fun. He got up and sat on the couch between ‘Horse and ‘Base and snuggled all happy-like. “An’ I love havin’ buds like y’all.”

It was very important to stay friends. He loved his brothers and he didn’t want anything to hurt that. So he looked at Regaari earnestly and asked, “So, does that make Adam’s perspective clear?”

“I suppose…” Regaari conceded, “But that doesn’t answer my original, well, feeling, I guess. I didn’t claim it was rational.”

Firth nodded, “Fair ‘nuff. So lemme end it by finishing my story. I decide to stop feelin’ sorry for myself—”

“I honestly don’t remember any of this,” muttered Baseball.

“I’m good at keepin’ stuff to myself.”


“Anyway. So I decided to get serious. I ask these two for help, things start getting’ better! Then I plateau for a while, and right before y’all showed up, I asked ‘Horse to help me be like him, right here on this couch.”

‘Horse nodded solemnly.

“And like six months later, that’s when I had my epiphany.” Another big word and right on cue, ‘Base made the tiniest grunt of annoyance. Victory. “I start piling on the mass and the strength, right? Just blowing everyone outta the water ‘cept for ‘Horse, ‘cuz we’re both gaining and growing pretty much fast as we could, and I was slowly startin’ to put on the muscle like he does. Awesome! I don’t think much of it at first. Too busy learning all the skills from everyone else, yeah? If you’re gonna beat the best you gotta be the best, and learnin’ from ‘em is how you do it.”

“But you’ll never master all their skills.” Regaari had the look like he did when he’d just made a massive leap of logic. “At best you’ll merely be proficient. And it doesn’t matter if you really are better or not, because nobody can be all things. As for Warhorse, you ‘got serious’ when you were already in a training deficit so you’ll never pass him by, because he’s not slowed down.”

“Yup, and he’s only kept getting better. I’m still not puttin’ it on as fast, either.” Firth grinned. “I see enlightenment decided to visit and tickle your nose, eh?”

Regaari raised an eyebrow. “That’s a Gaoian expression.”

“Yup, and it’s a good one, too. Saw it on the Tonight Show the other day.” Which was maybe a teensy little lie. Firth didn’t remember exactly where he heard it from first, but he knew just by its flavor that it was Gaoian.

Regaari nodded very slightly, which was Gaoian body language for “you win.”

“Anyway. Just to wrap things up, on this team I know I will never be the smartest guy. In fact, of everyone on the team? I’m unambiguously the dumbest. Which don’t make me any kind o’ stupid, but…”

‘Base grumbled again, slightly louder. Trollin’ him was just fun.

“The least of the greatest, as it were.”

“Eh, something like that. We’re not super-geniuses but we’ve all got plenty of raw fuckin’ horsepower up here.” Firth tapped the side of his head. “But the one that really hurts is ‘Horse, ‘cuz I know without any fuckin’ doubt I’m better. Well, that I could be better. Woulda been better if I hadn’t been so stupid. That’s important to me, ‘cuz I feel like we owe it ‘ta God to be the very best we can be, and ‘Horse showed me I was slacking off, taking God’s gifts for granted. I know you don’t cotton ‘ta religion, but…does that make sense?”

“It does. I might relate it to Clan but the idea is much the same.”

“Damn straight. ‘Horse and me? An’ all of us? And you, too? We’re truly fuckin’ blessed and I thank God for that every day. I sorta feel…He tests us, but only as much as He knows we can handle. He’s helpin’ us be better by keepin’ life interesting, yeah?”

“Think of ‘God’ as a metaphor,” interjected ‘Base. Firth grumbled a bit but held his peace. “When a guy like Righteous here talks about God he usually means a whole bunch of things at once. It’s easier to wrap our brains around the idea if He is a person, but that ain’t necessarily what we actually mean. Depending.” He looked at Firth, “Is that fair?”

Firth nodded. Close enough for government work.

“Anyway, without more sidetracking…the point is, me and ‘Horse? We think we’ve found the absolute fuckin’ limit on how fast a man can pile on muscle and performance, and we’re both advancin’ at almost the same damn rate.”

Regaari gave that look again. Firth loved it when his friends were smart! “Which means for you to ‘win,’ Warhorse has to ‘lose’ and the only way that’s likely to happen is injury or death, or some other medical issue. Hmm.”

“Which would make me feel like shit! That’s not how you beat a friend. If I hadn’t slacked off at the start and had taken him seriously? I’d be at the top, or it’d at least be close y’know? But I didn’t, so now I’ll prol’ly be in a distant second place forever and it’s my own damn fault.”

Regaari sat silent, contemplating.

One last little point to make.

“‘Horse,” asked Firth, “What’s your eval score right now?”

‘Horse blushed red again. “…Seventeen.”

“How high does the scale go?”

“…Fifteen without bonus. C’mon, bro, you know that don’t mean anything!”

“Yes it fuckin’ does, it’s worth money and it measures who’s best! And it’s makin’ the point for Regaari.” Firth turned back. “You know the scale, right?”

“Not really. We are evaluated differently.”

“Right,” Firth nodded, “Different system for different abilities. We have our own because the normal military PT scores don’t work. We’re too good, we break the scale, so for us there’s three categories: strength, practical movement, and endurance. Each go from one to five with one being basically a really good athlete, three being something you need coaching staff and medical help to get, and five being fuckin’ Superman on Crude. Adam, what are your scores?”

“…Six, five, and six.”

“Mine are five, six, and five, so I add up to sixteen. Six is the special score. You get a six if you would normally earn a five but you performed best on the team, and that’s important ‘cuz it effects our pay and promotion. A lot of motivation to score as big as you can, right?”

“And you’ll never get a higher score.”

“Nope. In fact, there’s a good chance freak-pony over here’ll beat me on all three next eval and score straight sixes. ‘Horse! You’re gunnin’ for it, right?”

He nodded, grinning his embarrassed grin. “I’m not sure I’ll get it, though.”

“Don’t matter. You’re tryin’, and I’m tryin’, and that’s what does matter. Forces us all to get better! Meanwhile I’m teachin’ y’all proper hand-to-hand combat, Sikes is teachin’ me how t’program, Rebar is gonna teach me welding…”

“So that’s your consolation prize, as it were.”


“No, you dumb fuck, listen! I already mentioned that intelligence and fitness matter the most. Everything past yer’ raw brainpower is earned, you just need discipline. And being on this team, where I’m the dumbest motherfucker here, and I’m not even the strongest ‘cuz I fucked up? What am I?

“Well, that’s the thing, I use my fuckup to my advantage. What I train like a motherfucker is my speed and my agility. There ain’t no human alive who can move like I can, not even ‘Horse with his perfect fuckin’ body—”

“Bigger dick an’ nuts, too.” ‘Horse grinned a shit-eating grin while ‘Base laughed along. Righteous grumbled ruefully.

“—Yeah yeah, fine. Goddamn, you’re super fuckin’ proud of that, ain’t ‘ya?”

“Bro, you’re the one who made it competition back in the fuckin’ beginning.” ‘Horse crossed his arms over his titanic chest in a smug display of victory. The tattoo adapted and now the little characters peered over his arms, as if playing hide-and-seek. “Well, we just remeasured the other day and now my groin plate’s a full size bigger. Deal with it.”

“Fuck,” chuckled Firth, “Guess I reap what I sow.” He grinned wolfishly, “ But I bet walkin’ sucks now!”

“A stiff breeze could set ‘em off!” ‘Base piled on. It was always funny when the Humans bantered over something so banal. “I hate to think what his Ranger panties do…”

“Not a goddamned thing you fuckin’ pervs. Ain’t bothered me none and my lady ain’t complaining.” More smugness. It seemed like ‘Horse was grinding the point home. “Don’t be jelly, breh.”

“Oh, fuck off!” Righteous launched a pillow and the banter ended in chuckles…but ‘Horse had managed to get under Firth’s skin. It was obvious to everyone, especially ‘Horse.

“Um…lemme go get some drinks.” He thumped to the kitchen to work.

“…Anyway, ‘fore ‘Horse decided to grind his cock all over everything—”


Firth shrugged, “He’s got the best body there is in basically every way. The fucker. But I’m still the best goddamned all-around athlete there ever was, ‘prolly always will be. I’m not the fastest or strongest but I move the best and nobody compares, not even Blac anymore, ‘cuz I took my God-given natural talents and I found my skill, my interest, and I push it as hard as I fuckin’ can. ‘Horse helps make my muscles the biggest and strongest so I can move the fastest, dodge the quickest, last the longest, and kill the hardest. He beats me on raw power and speed but we both know that’s part due to circumstance. And besides…I don’t mind losing to him.” He beamed happily at Adam, who blushed even harder while returning from the kitchen, arms full of refreshments.

Firth stood up to his full, towering height. “You can’t win it all and it took me way too long to learn that. But now I’m on a team and we’re teaching each other how to be the deadliest swinging-dicks there ever was. Up close I am the scariest thing you’ll ever meet. And all this?” He gestured broadly, “Having people I can compete with? I can love? I can respect? People who can humble me? Dude,” Firth grinned his manic-happy grin, “I fuckin’ LOVE it.”

He walked over to Dexter and scooped him up in a big, smashing hug. “If you guys weren’t here our team wouldn’t be nearly as good, you know that. Don’t get bummed out ‘cuz of circumstance, man. It ain’t even reasonable to compare Humans and Gaoians straight across anyhow. You’ll never be as big and strong as us, and we’ll never perceive the world like you do. That matters.”

He put Dexter down. The little warrior at least seemed like he understood. Firth knew the hurt of failing; it never goes away. But one could channel it. “So c’mon, let’s go back to sleep. I’m annoying ‘Base over there with big words—”

“HA! I knew it!”

Firth giggled, “You’re so easy, bro.” He plopped across the two and forcefully snuggled. “Anyway. Really? You can’t win it all, ever. Nobody can, not even the best. So don’t fix up on it, bro! Use that to get Motivated and kick ass!”

Firth gestured at Regaari to join them. They were already stretching out for sleep, and ‘Horse (the silly shit) was already snoring softly. Regaari chittered ruefully, climbed atop the pile, and soon thereafter, all four were fast asleep.

Meanwhile Enroute to party, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Champion and Sergeant Daar (Tigger) of Clan Stoneback

“Chimp, stop bouncing around up there!”

“I can’t help it, you’re not like a horse, man.”

“Well, just squeeze with your legs then—ow, not like that!”

“Sorry. Better?”

Daar sped up. “Yeah. It’s easier when you tuck forward like that.”

He chittered, then loped forward at a comfortable pace. The human on his back was dense and absurdly strong (like they all were) but he wasn’t too heavy. Daar knew he could handle the human’s weight; Hoeff was less than half Daar’s mission load, well within the big Gaoian’s strength to manage. The problem was just the two figuring out how to make it work. Daar’s motion was something like a bear, a wolverine, and a wolf combined; his spine was long and mobile and flexed wildly in and out while in fourpaw motion. It was awkward, at first, but once Hoeff got the hang of it…

“That’s way better! Just don’t squeeze your legs around my waist, keep them tucked up. You can hug tighter…still good…you got a good grip?”

“I think so?”

“Good. Let’s see how fast I can go!”

Shortly thereafter
Penthouse apartment, Delaney Row, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Chief Petty Officer Daniel (Chimp) Hoeff

“I think she likes you, Tiggs!”

Daar turned his ear towards Hoeff. “Oh? Who?”

“Look over in the corner, bro! She’s been eyeballing you the whole time.” Hoeff took the opportunity to slide off Daar’s broad back and stretch. He didn’t make a very good mount (way too bouncy and wide) but together they made one hell of an entrance, to the raucous cheers and jeers of everyone.

Daar looked back at Hoeff, pant-grinned his thanks, flowed up to his rear legs, and ambled over towards the Gaoian female in the friendly and blatant way that Daar did everything. She was impressive; an enclave guard if memory served, and if anything she was definitely a feminine match for Daar. Before long they were moving and talking in that adorable way all Gaoians did when they were happy and unawares; quick speech filled with yips and clicks, with much full-body motion and plenty of indecipherable ear-flicking.

Mission accomplished for Daar! But what about Hoeff? He got lots of smiles when they arrived and he aimed to turn that into a pleasant bedroom romp or at least some entertaining conversation. He got looks from some of the guys, too, but Hoeff didn’t really swing that way. Still good for the ego!

He too ambled into the crowd, heading towards the bar. The atmosphere promised a fun night for all.

Sister Myun of the Clan of Females

“Halloween” was probably Myun’s most favoritest Human holiday. It was hard to choose between it and the American Fourth of July—*Fireworks!*—but anything with candy, costumes, and loosened inhibitions was okay by her. Humans were so strange sometimes; why did they need a holiday just to loosen up? Why couldn’t they be like that every day?

There was a commotion by the front door. She peered over out of long habit brought on by her security training, which for her was easy. She was big, and being slightly over [six feet] tall meant she could look over the heads of most everyone and see things before they became unmanageable threats.

But she wasn’t prepared for what she saw. A human male dressed in practically nothing—*He-man? Yes!*—arrived riding on a fellow Gaoian. The Human was extremely fit and moved with an assured, predatory grace that told Myun he was probably a military man of some kind, which raised her protective instincts. She knew much about what they did on “Sharman” and had met some of the operators stationed there, and that meant the man was likely a very skilled combatant. She watched, then relaxed as his behavior seemed friendly.

The military-Humans were a very occasional but worrying source of grief for Enclave security. They were usually well-meaning but when “drunk” they could be a problem, especially near cubs. Boisterous play was all well and good but when the Humans were not in perfect control of themselves? Nuh-uh. She’d sent more than a few on their way with bruised egos and minor scars. Nothing more; Gabriel wouldn’t be happy. And anyway, they may not have meant anything bad but they could go lick their wounded pride somewhere else.

The Human wasn’t very big, though. While size wasn’t everything in a fight it did matter, and that along with his relaxed body language let her label him as “probably harmless.”

She couldn’t say the same for the Gaoian. He was BIG. Bigger than she had ever seen, way bigger than her! She studied him intently. His fur was colored green with yellow stripes to match Battlecat, and he’d grown it out into a full luxuriant pelt that did absolutely nothing to hide his sheer ridiculous maleness.

Then she saw his face. Great Mother, that’s Daar! Between his frequent off-world trips to Earth and other places the Females had gossiped about, and her trips back to Gao for her own ongoing training with Whitecrest? The two had somehow never had a chance to properly meet. She looked him over; the intervening years had been very good to him. He was always the most biggest but now? Whatever he and the Humans had figured out, it sure was working!

She was captivated by him and Daar noticed her attention. He flicked his ears in a smarmy sort of way, stood up on his hind legs and approached, radiating happiness and playful aggression. He was even taller than her, and so broad!

He arrived and rumbled a very deep and bassy happy tone. “Hi! I’m Daar.”

“Hello!” She chittered happily and nodded. The Humans’ scent was—as always—overwhelming in the crowded room, so Myun couldn’t get a good whiff of any of the subtler notes and data points a Gaoian’s scent conveyed. All she got was his sheer overwhelming maleness and it was having a pleasant effect on her.

“I hear you taught Regaari how to fight…” Daar said it with a general set of mischief to his ears.

“I did! He never beat me!” She splayed hers in a ridiculously self-pleased moment of indulgence.

“I believe it! I bet he wore you out, though.”

“He did,” she admitted, “You males just have energy to spare. We poor, defenseless females just go light-headed and weak!” Daar looked down and noticed she was flexing her claws.

He chittered in response. “Heh. Whoever says that ain’t paying attention! And they prol’ly ain’t ever gonna get a mating contract, either.”

“Oh? And what about you?”

“I respect females! It’s paid off so far…” Daar radiated a friendly smugness that was so blatant and over-the-top it crossed over into humor.

“Haha! I bet you say that to all your prospects!”

A genuine leer, “Only the good ones. Besides,” He switched to a teasing humor, “Right now I’m really curious ‘bout somethin’ and only you can answer it.”

She was suddenly a bit flustered. “…Oh?”

“Yeah! See, I’m a pretty good fighter too. I wonder…think you can beat me?” He pant-grin-snarled in a way that got Myun’s competitive instincts up.

“Absolutely. Wanna step outside?”

Daar flicked his ears happily. “Yeah!”


Daar and the big female hit it off so well, they left only a few moments after meeting! Too bad he wasn’t having similar luck. The ladies seemed to enjoy his costume and attitude, but only in a fun way, and not in a “get laid” kinda way.

Oh well. He was mingling, and he had beer, and he was happy, and there were people to talk to. It was a good consolation.

At least until a tall brunette walked over, eyed him up, then said, quite simply: “You’ll do.” She smirked like she’d just given him a winning lottery ticket.

Hoeff grinned in response. “Oh? And who would have me?”

She extended her hand. “Natalie. I heard you telling a story about a bad barbecue down in Texas…?”

“Haha! Right! So my friend and I…”

The two found their way out of the party shortly thereafter.


It was good t’get outta that crowded apartment. It was too hot and the Human smell was gettin’ just awful and besides, Daar had more interesting things to do! Like get pounced by Myun. She tackled him but he saw it comin’ and hip-tossed her to the grass, then sank to all fours and charged away!

Pounce was a fun game, but Daar had always preferred Chase. Myun liked it too ‘cuz she followed right behind him! They ran to a big grass field, than Daar spun around and braced himself—

The impact knocked him over and he found himself wrasslin’ with a blur of fur and excitement. She was really, really good. The best he’d ever tussle’d with, maybe! She couldn’t match ‘em on raw ability—nobody could ‘cept for a few Humans—but her skill was prob’ly the best he’d ever seen on anyone, ‘cept maybe Genshi and Murray and Firth, and maybe—

She managed to trip and pin him! She growled smugly but Daar showed her what it meant to be strong and simply muscled her off and flipped them over, pinning her. She escaped, he sprang up to his paws, and from there it was a brutal play-brawl. They sparred and wrestled long and hard, his incredible speed, power, and freakish endurance against her perfectly fluid motion and precise control. It went back and forth until she was too tired to go on. He pinned her again and again, snarling happily at her ear with a deep, friendly, and super dominant growl.

“I win.” He nipped happy-like and she nodded in agreement.

The best part was he didn’t win on skill; she really was a little better than him and that weren’t no small thing! He won with his sheer overwhelming physicality and that thrilled him in a way he’d never felt before. She’d agreed to a contract right then and there and they’d not even used words. Daar didn’t need them. Game over! He panted for a bit, and she struggled in his grip mightily—Great Fathers, she was impressive!—but he gave her a friendly little snuffle in her head-fur and both quickly collapsed into chittering play-tussling.

But something dawned on him just then.

“Wait.” He snuffled in her head-fur again to her chittering humor, but then she noticed it, too.

“…Really!? Oh Great Mother, of all the stupid luck!” She reached for her communicator and Daar grabbed his, they tapped them together…

Their communicators beeped the warning sound of zero-degree separation.

“Yup.” Daar untangled himself from Myun and chittered ruefully. “And here I thought I was doing so well!”

“You were! Only one other male has ever beaten me.”

“Oh, really? Who?”

“Champion Genshi,” she said with a pleased expression.

“Ha! That’s high praise, thank you!” Daar chirred to himself happily.

“Your technique is impressive, too. I thought I noticed some Whitecrest in that hip toss…” She flicked her ears with a sly little insinuation.

“Maybe a little,” confessed Daar. “But only the last bit, where they use their inner leg to drive forward. The rest is all Stoneback, including the flip I did t’ya.”

She duck-nodded in agreement. “I’ve not seen much of the Stoneback martial arts, just the training videos. In fact you’re the first Stoneback I’ve ever met!”

“Really? We’ve got Associates everywhere!”

“No no, I mean, a full Brother.”

“Ah,” Daar understood. “Yeah. There aren’t many of us. I think by last count there were only ‘bout two thousand, give or take. And full Studs? Less’n a hundred, even today.”

She gaped in astonishment. “So few! Why?”

“Quality takes time,” he preened. “But look at you, I’m so proud! You’re only the second female I’ve ever sired, too. You’re both really, really impressive!”

“…only two?”

“Yup! She never went on to become a Mother, though, and devoted her life to research with the Highmountains. A shame,” he said ruefully, “But she’s happy.”

“There’s always a few who aren’t called to the Motherhood,” Myun mused. “For a while I wondered if I would ever bear cubs. But now…I love it. I love them.”

“Good, the world needs more Myuns! Who was the first sire?”

“Regaari. The cub was…a handful.” She chittered in a fond exasperation.

“Really!? That’s AMAZING! I can’t wait to tell him! I’m gonna pounce nice and hard, too. Got a message for him?”

“Nah, just make sure you tackle him really hard.”

“Oh I will, don’t you worry.” They both giggled in amusement. But Daar wasn’t one to sit still for long. He got up, stretched out impressively, and practiced his katas by himself for a while. His style was thoroughly Stoneback: strikes from a low center of gravity, lots of lightning-quick power movements, and the moves were heavy on tackling, teeth, and claws.

It was a style Myun hadn’t much practice against. She got up from the grass and began her movements, and before long they they glanced at each other, grinned aggressively, and pounced.

They practiced their forms on each other like very old friends.


“Nice apartment.”

And it was: clean, comfortable, yet modest. HMS Sharman had no room to spare so the team needed to acquire off-base accommodations. Which turned out to be a bit of an ethical dilemma; the Lads owned most of the apartments on Delaney Row and housing was a bit scarce at that moment.

They lucked out, though; one of Adam’s “competitors” sold their building and the MoD snatched it up for overflow housing, and after some quick modifications it was good to go. Daar, Coombes, Walsh and himself shared the top floor suite. Each floor had been reconfigured into four very small bedroom-only apartments with a shared kitchen and common area, and that meant the four could maintain some privacy without the need to own much furniture.

Not that any of that mattered. Hoeff and Natalie had their fill of conversation on the short walk over and weren’t keen to discuss the finer points of dorm-like living. Actions and glances did the talking for them. They went up to his room and communed like man and woman had always done.

Morning was a bit of a surprise.

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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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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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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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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