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 nod to that. “Yeah, no shit.”

Just the invasion of the Gaoian homeworld, the raid on the Ring Orbital, Rvzrk… ‘Bigger priorities’ was putting it more than a little bit mildly. And now, JETS Team Two was coming in to finish a job that JETS Team One—who didn’t even exist any more—had started literal years ago.

He looked out the porthole window at the planet below them again. From what Coombes had told him, they were in for a few weeks of being constantly damp, and saturating in the smell of rotting meat. Apparently folks had lived down there once. A flourishing civilization had made it all the way to their version of the 1970s before finally the Hierarchy managed to trick or provoke them into a global nuclear war and then mopped up the remains.

And then they’d gone and built a comms relay of some kind right in the middle of the least pleasant swampy spot on the planet. There were deserts down there, rolling grasslands, sweeping coastlines, wind-swept steppes, soaring mountains and all the rest of it… but Big Hotel had decided that the primest real estate going was a bog that smelled like a bin full of week-old raw chicken.

Fucking lovely. Thank Christ this planet here wasn’t the mission planet.

“So what are we doing here?” he asked.

His team had already been briefed, of course. There were listening devices on the mission world, left by a previous JETS mission. They’d been down there much longer than originally planned and now needed retrieving so that Meereo, Clan Longear, and whatever human specialists AEC could find could trawl through what they’d gathered and see if anything useful turned up.

This waystop seemed a bit odd.

“Final mission briefing and send-off. We’re also here to pick up your ship.”

“…Our ship?”

“Yes, your team is being assigned a unique asset for this. It’s been a top secret special access program until now, so we’ll brief on arrival.”

“Where is here, exactly?”

“It’s a Class Ten, inside Gaoian borders. Point Nine-two gravity, nice and cool…it’s really the ideal planet for my kind. Let’s just say there have been…interesting…political dynamics because of that. We’ll not go into it further, but as a result it’s been more or less blockaded by all the Clans.”

“Which Daar clawed through, I’m guessing.”

“No. The planet remains broadly unknown because he ordered it. We Champions respect his will. In any case…” Meereo grabbed a tablet and tapped his claws against it. “Let’s get back to our review. Let’s see…yes, fauna. The previous mission noted a great many poisonous thorny plants.”

Wilde nodded. “I checked. The worst of them’s about as bad as a nettle, from our perspective.”

“You will want to be careful anyway. Team One were hardly equipped for botanical research, after all. Also beware of the local fauna, the Snake-Bears in particular.”

“Coombes called them Doom-Noodles.”

“Do not let the Great Father hear you say that,” Meereo cautioned, wearily. “He is more than likely going to check in on this mission from time to time, given the stakes.”

“…Right. He helped deploy the packages in the first place,” Wilde recalled.

“And I designed them. We both have a personal stake in this.”

“So what, exactly, is our mission? I mean besides fetching boxes and avoiding Snake-Bears?”

“I believe the rule is ‘pillage, then burn.’”” Meereo’s huge, expressive ears flicked back in a classic Gaoian smug smirk.

“Riiight. Easy to get that the wrong way ‘round.”

“And yes, do avoid the Snake-Bears. Bear-Snakes, as the Great Father prefers. He found them challenging foes…though that was some time ago. Now, they seem to grow more impressive each time Master Sergeant Coombes retells the tale.”

“…Daar says these things are mean?”

“He wasn’t as impressive as he is now, but yes. They’re mean, and strong. And they’re big and quiet, too. Deathworlders are like that. The Great Father had to rely on his nose, so you’ll need to keep exceptionally vigilant.”

“This planet’s beginning to sound absolutely fucking lovely…” Frasier interjected.

“Just for you, Frazey, I’ll make sure our next op’s in Benidorm, shall I?” Wilde retorted.

“Would you? That’d be nice.”

“Nah, boys. Tenerife, innit?” Rees said. He grinned at Meereo’s bewildered ear-flick. “Anyway, buckle in. Atmo in two minutes.”


Meereo leaned over once Rees had returned to the front of the Weaver. “…Was that English?”

“He’s Welsh.”

“That explains nothing.”

“Mate, it explains everything.”

Weavers handled re-entry with surprising grace considering they were about the same general shape as a bus. Wilde felt that if the halo of plasma that soon obscured the porthole windows was anything to go by, their ride should have been shaking and bouncing. It’d certainly have justified the need to belt up.

“…Why are we even strapped in?” he asked Frasier after a few minutes of silky-smooth calm.

“So if we blow up, they’ll be able to ID what’s left of us from the seat number, I think,” Frasier suggested.

“Oh. Fair enough, then.”

Meereo chittered. “Very pragmatic.”

“Anyway. You were saying. Pillage then burn.”

“Yes. The Great Father has determined the benefit gained by stealth is outweighed by the prospect of direct strategic gain. He will therefore march the Grand Army through these worlds and claim their secrets, as much as practicality permits.”

“That explains the jump array.”

“Correct. Fourth Fang will follow us to establish a base camp, once the sensor net has been retrieved. That part must be done in stealth. We do not want the enemy to understand how we are building this intelligence, after all.”

“Won’t they realize what we’re doing by the presence of, you know, a billion Gaoians?”

“They will realize we’re gathering intelligence, yes. They will not necessarily deduce how. That is ultimately your mission: protect our sources and methods.”

“Got it.”

“Speed is of the essence,” Meereo added. “We think the relay network is enormous, which is why this node is so lightly defended. We’re working off the assumption that there are response units.”


“Yes. It’s all we have for now. There’s no other way to probe an adversary’s defenses than to, uh, probe them, after all. That’s why we have your team. We had considered augmenting from a Stoneback Fang, but their mission decks are pretty loaded these days.”

Wilde smiled, tickled by that mental image. He’d seen Stonebacks in action, and been impressed, but… “I’d bet we’re subtler anyway.”

“You might be surprised…but they do tend to flatten whatever they hit. For now, we need you to retrieve those sensor nets in their entirety, discreetly place a beacon, and then egress, all without being seen. That’s why you’re being given the… ah…” Meereo paused, then sighed. “The Drunker on Turkeyer for this purpose.”

Wilde blinked at him. “…The what?”

“Your ship for the mission. The Great Father, uhm… insisted. It’s an improvement on an earlier design, and this time a specially-trained pilot from Firefang has been assigned to the mission. He will not be disembarking with you but he will remain on-ship, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. The after-action on the first Drunk on Turkey’s loss rather stung the Great Father’s pride, from what I have heard. Well, Champion Daar at the time, anyway.”

“Drunker. On Turkeyer.”

“…The Great Father has his, uhm… quirks.”

“That’s not a quirk, mate, that’s a fucking war crime against English.”

Meereo sighed. “I admit, his sense of humor is…an acquired taste. But please be considerate. He’s poured a great personal sum into this vessel to improve its capability across every dimension. This is the fastest and most survivable manned surveillance craft ever fielded by Gaoian or Human.”

“With a name like that?” Frasier asked. “When I think ‘fast and stealthy,’ turkeys and bein’ drunk aren’t exactly the first things that spring to mind.”

“Anyway,” Meereo insisted, sparing him a mildly irritated look, “we will be briefing on the ship, its capabilities, and all the rest when we land. Please try and maintain some decorum. This is a significant mission and the, ah, ‘brass’ may be visiting.”

“…When you say ‘brass,’ who do you mean?” Wilde asked.

“Well… I’m the Champion of my Clan and yet here I sit, briefing you on this mission personally,” Meereo observed. “We all intend to hand off to subordinates but…not until we’re certain the gravity of what we’re doing has been properly conveyed. Does that paint an appropriate picture?”

“…Decorum, right. Shiny hats on, lads.”

“Forgot my hat polish, Wildey,” Frasier replied earnestly.

“Well, just try not to piss yourself.” They grinned at each other, and Wilde sensed Meereo relax as he accepted the humour.

The rest of the landing, and Meereo’s fretting over the details, was pretty smooth, right up until they actually touched the ground with a heavy jolt and the Weaver’s on-board gravity was turned off. There was a brief moment of subtle vertigo as the planet’s native gravity took over, a little lighter than Earth’s, but only enough that you’d notice if you were paying attention.

The “brass” turned out to be two Champions—Hiyel of One-Fang, and Goruu of Firefang. Wilde had a pretty comprehensive briefing on Gaoian clan politics, and he knew that the two Clans had traditionally been rivals with overlapping fields of competence. One was the equivalent of a navy, the other the equivalent of an air force.

Daar had ended that centuries-long feud with two deaths, at the height of the war for Gao. Now, it was like the two had always been close allies and friends. Certainly Hiyel and Goruu were reputed to be as thick as brothers.

And behind them, glinting dully in the sunlight, was what could only be the Drunker on Turkeyer. It had nose art of a staggering, giddy Gaoian waving a pair of panicking birds around in one paw while tearing at a drumstick in the other.

Set that aside, though, and she looked fucking lethal. She was a knife… hell, she was a bloody scalpel. Cold, clean, sharp and precise. Everything about her said that here was a ship with exactly one job: to go unseen where she wasn’t wanted.

Wilde fell in love almost instantly, stupid name or not. The sentiment expressed itself as a long whistle.

“I thought you’d like it,” Meereo said, sounding smug. He stepped forward and met his counterparts with that weird blend of playfulness and solemnity that was uniquely Gaoian. Introductions were made, and then Goruu gave them a tour of the ship while Meereo and Hiyel hung back and contributed little details here and there.

It wasn’t exactly spacious inside. In fact, it reminded Wilde of his Nanna and Grandpa’s caravan that he’d stayed in when visiting them for Christmas. It was built around Gaoian sensibilities about sleeping, so rather than bunks there was just a kind of nest, on top of most of their storage space. There was a small flameless kitchen with a table just big enough for five blokes who liked each other to squeeze in around. And then there was an armory and prep room at the top of the ramp that was bigger than the living space by a wide margin. Room enough to suit up, clean their weapons, all that stuff.

And then there was their pilot, Tooko. He was a Firefang himself, and maybe the smallest Gaoian adult that Wilde had ever met, counterbalanced by a particularly impressive fluffy tail and interesting curls of black fur at the tips of his ears. If most Gaoians looked rather like raccoons, then Tooko looked more like a grey fox.

He certainly looked nothing like his Champion, who wasn’t a big chap himself but still dwarfed the diminutive pilot. “Don’t let the looks fool you. He has fifty-seven confirmed combat kills to his name.”

Tooko simply bared his fangs happily.

“Nice!” Rees commented. “What’s your secret?”

Tooko shrugged. “I shoot them.”

Alright. A Gao of few words. Frasier picked up on it too, and grinned. “Are you sure you didn’t just talk ‘em to death?”

That got a chitter, and a shrug. “Pretty sure. That your approach?”

Just like that Tooko was part of the team. He could take a joke, he gave back as good as he got… as far as Wilde was concerned, the endorsement of three Champions and his own sense of humour was good enough.

“Right, then,” he declared. “So when’s our final briefing?”

“Right now,” Hiyel said. “This way, gentlemen.”

It was little more than a short recap of everything Coombes had given them back on Cimbrean and Meereo had gone over on the Weaver. Still, it settled the details in their minds and provided them with the last few puzzle pieces. There were no questions left to ask, nothing more to add… they packed up, settled in aboard their ship, and less than two hours after they’d first arrived, they buckled down for takeoff.

“Hey, Tooko. You sure you know how to drive this thing?” Rees asked as their pilot ticked off the last flight checks.

Tooko glanced at him, flicked an ear… and pinned them to their seats with enough acceleration to drive the wind out of their lungs.

Somewhere in the middle of the punishing G-forces, Frasier managed to groan out an admonishment.

“You ‘ad to open ‘yer big gob, didn’tcha?”

Wilde’s comment on that was a chuckle. Perversely, he was enjoying it.

Clearly it got Tooko’s blood pumping too, because he strung together the most words Wilde had yet heard from him over the intercom. “I can go much harder, boys…wanna test yourselves?”

Despite the gentle groan from Frasier beside him, Wilde raised his voice over the howling engines. “Aye, sure. Bring it on!”

Tooko was only too happy to oblige.

Wilde had regrets.

Date Point: 16y2w AV
Air Force One, somewhere over the Arctic Circle, Earth

President Arthur Sartori

The People’s Republic of China weren’t happy, and sometimes a President just had to take his lumps and go be Presidential. Modifying his schedule to tack on a flying visit to Beijing while he was out that way for a trade summit with Japan and the Republic of Korea had been straightforward enough.

Still. They’d shared their reasons for locking the system down, and the evidence behind their reasons too. At this point, the PRC was just being awkward for the sake of throwing their weight around.

Sartori had to admit, though: In the same position, he’d have done the same. No self-respecting nation should allow a foreign power to push it around unopposed, however justified the pushing-around.

Mollifying the Chinese was just the freezing tip of a deep, cold monster of an iceberg, though. There were bigger concerns.

“How quickly can we ramp up off-world colonization?”

He was flying alongside one of his special advisors. Chris Morgan had played a huge role in handling the relocation crisis in California after the San Diego bombing and the following earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of people had displaced northwards and eastwards, and a lot of them unknowingly owed him for how (relatively) smoothly it had all gone. There had been a real danger that people would starve.

Who better to handle the question of how to get their eggs into as many baskets as they could, as quickly as they could?

“The problem is supply, not demand,” he opined. “People are itching to get off Earth and homestead on other planets, but a colony can only develop so quickly. Modern civil planning and the lessons learned from the Cimbrean colonies mean we can expand them very rapidly indeed, but there’s still a practical limit.”

“Meaning we need more planets,” Sartori surmised.

“Mrwrki said the Coltainers haven’t been reporting back in the numbers they expected. They think something’s destroying them, probably the Hunters.”

“That’s not good.” Sartori pulled a face.

“It’s a control software problem, they say. Even the very best AI just doesn’t hold a candle to real intelligence, which is why they’ve programmed the Coltainers to self-destruct on a hair trigger. Better that than let the technology fall into the wrong hands.”

Sartori sighed. “Which means we need more survey ships. More Misfits.”

“That’s my take, Mister President,” Morgan agreed.

“That’s going to be expensive. The whole point of the Coltainers was that they were meant to be cheap…” Sartori pulled a face at his own words. “…Which means we got what we paid for. Can we even afford more colonies?”

“A colony is an investment, sir,” Morgan said. “We pay a lot up front, and get a lot more several years down the line.”

Sartori nodded and looked out the window. “Well, you know what they say about old men and date trees…”

“…Not sure I do actually,” Morgan replied.

“Ah, it’s some old thing. Date trees take a generation to bear fruit, so when a young man saw an old man planting dates, he asked ‘Grandfather, why are you planting trees whose fruit you will never eat?’”

“Oh, I see.”

“To which the old man replied ‘Buzz off kid, it’s my garden and I’ll plant whatever the hell I like,’” Sartori added with a grin. Morgan issued a gratifying chuckle, and he sat back to think. “Still… Sooner or later, the repo man cometh. We can’t keep paying up front forever.”

“All due respect, but I’m not here to advise you about the national debt or the deficit or whatever.”

“Hmm.” Sartori nodded.

Morgan gave him a second to think, then decided to venture an opinion. “From what I can see though, sir, it seems like a United States with a big debt to pay off is better than no United States at all.”

Sartori had to agree there. “You’re not wrong. The biggest part of my job is to carry the torch and not let it go out, after all.”

“Is promoting off-world settlement going to help you in that?” Morgan pointed out. “History is full of colonies seceding from their founders, after all…”

Sartori sighed. He had a point of course: even without the USA’s own history to consider, Folctha was providing a much more recent example. Its politics had drifted considerably from the British mainstream and, hell, it even had a written constitution. The Franklin territory was, for now, happy to consider themselves the Union’s next state but would that last? Or would they identify more with the people they actually shared a planet with?

Time would tell.

“I like to think we’ve learned a few things since the 1770s,” he said. “But there’s a more important torch to worry about, and that’s the torch of human life. The Hierarchy’s stated goal is to kill us all, and against something like that… If humanity doesn’t survive, the USA definitely won’t. So if I want to preserve our Republic, first I have to preserve the species. That means getting our eggs into some more baskets.”

Morgan’s head dipped as he accepted that point. He spent a few minutes tapping on his tablet and occasionally muttering something to himself sotto voce as he thought.

“MBG are working on their second Misfit-class ship,” he said at length. “And they have a crew lined up for it. I daresay the more they build, they better they’ll get at building them and the less they’ll cost.”

“Byron’s safety record isn’t exactly great.”

“On the other hand, they didn’t manage to lose a nuke.”

Sartori snorted. “True. And they have the expertise and experience now… Fine. I’ll look into funding a more aggressive exploration program. If the Coltainers aren’t working, we need to fall back on good old-fashioned intrepid human spirit.”

He sighed to himself. “…And I’m sure we’ll find the money from somewhere,” he added.

“…How bad is the war debt, Mister President?”

“It could be worse,” Sartori admitted. “But if things escalate, the whole interstellar situation threatens to cost an order of magnitude more than both world wars combined. There’s no way to afford that without… I don’t know. A war economy on that scale would be unprecedented.”

He stood up and stretched. The problem he found with travelling on Air Force One was that flying always made him drowsy. And there was a bed on board, after all. He’d learned early on that if he had both the opportunity and the desire to sleep, he needed to seize the chance.

“I’m taking a nap. You know the drill, if I’m needed…”

“Don’t be afraid to wake you up. Yeah.”

“Hopefully I’ll see you in Beijing.”

Morgan nodded with a smile, and returned to his work. Sartori sighed, and ducked back through the plane toward the back, where the small on-board suite and some quiet awaited him. Getting there required navigating a minor gauntlet of assorted staff and Secret Service, but he made it and plopped gratefully onto the mattress with a groan before massaging his temples. He had pajamas on board and could have changed into them, but instead he just kicked off his shoes and undid his belt. Then he lay back and closed his eyes.

…In the dark behind his eyelids, he clearly sees the Earth from an angel’s perspective. In the dark, he sees a point of light, then another and another, sweeping faster and faster across the world and dispelling the night. Speckles of light reflect in his tearful eyes as thousands of San Diego-sized detonations blossom across Earth’s surface…

He jumped at a knock on the door. He wasn’t sure if he’d fallen asleep atop the blankets, or if there’d even been time. Either way, he didn’t feel at all refreshed.


“You have a call from Great Father Daar, Mister President.”


So much for sleeping.

Date Point: 16y2w AV
Deep Space Layover 793-451-11 ‘Halfway To Infinity,’ Spinwise space

Leemu, Clanless

Leemu was, technically, an exile. Or at least, going home wasn’t an option any longer. The translator implant in his head made sure of that, and somehow he never quite managed to save up enough money to have the keeda-burned thing removed.

…That last part was probably Preed’s fault.

Preed Chadesakan. An old man by Human standards, which made him ancient indeed by those of a Gaoian. As he told it, he’d been abducted in the prime of his life at the age of forty, and been dumped on 793-451-11 after the Dominion’s customs and cargo inspection patrols had, in a rare moment of both competence and integrity, caught his abductors and refused to accept their bribes. Fortunately, the station had been open-minded and sensible about the whole ‘non-sapient indigenous fauna’ thing and worked around it, so he’d remained.

Even though returning to Earth had been an option for a long time now, Preed had elected to remain where he was, braving Hunters and the occasionally jittery station authorities out of loyalty to his customers, his station and, Leemu suspected, out of a kind of pleasant inertia. Preed was the kind of deeply happy person who could extract disproportionate satisfaction from life’s smallest pleasures. Give him a kitchen and empty bellies to fill, and he seemed truly content.

So he’d become a permanent fixture of ‘Halfway To Infinity.’ He was balding, round and soft without actually being fat, hummed or sang jolly tunes to himself as he worked, and could make food and flame do utterly mesmerising things. His noodles were legendary among regular travelers along Spacelane 793-451, and his eatery was always bustling even when Preed was the only being inside. There were always tables to wipe, bowls to clean, or a simmering hissing pan to give an expert push-flick to and send food fountaining into the air only to land neatly back in the pan without spilling so much as a grain.

So, yes. Leemu’s inability to ever quite save up enough to rid himself of his implant was probably Preed’s fault. Those noodles were just too good to resist, and a warm bowl full of them could keep a hungry ship repairer working all day.

And Fyu’s nuts did Leemu need some today. He woke with an aching head and a gnawing, empty belly as though he hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing yesterday. When he uncurled from his nest-bed and stretched, his limbs felt leaden and heavy like he’d been beating on metal and hauling on cargo containers all day. But yesterday had been fairly uneventful.

…Hadn’t it?

He shook his head to clear it, stood up, and dragged a brush through his fur to achieve the bare minimum of self-care. It caught and dragged painfully, and when he inspected himself he found several tangles and one matted patch like he’d managed to spill some oily substance on himself.

Was this what a ‘hangover’ felt like?

Cursing, he decided to take the brush with him and sort his fur out while he ate. Maybe things would become clearer with a full belly and some water.

As it happened, Preed was not happy to see him.

“Oh, there you are! I wondered if you would come to apologize today.”

Leemu blinked at him stupidly. “…Apologize?”

The normally-jolly Human held up his arm. He was sporting the unmistakable triple-scratch mark of Gaoian claws. Not deep, but an angry red.

Leemu immediately keened and rushed over to look at the wound. “I did that?! I’m sorry!! When did I do that?!”

“You really don’t remember?” Preed peered at him for a second—apparently his vision was going bad in his old age—then shook his head. “You weren’t drunk yesterday were you?”

“I… no?” Leemu scratched behind his own ear in mounting confusion and frustration. “…I don’t think so. Anyway, Gaoians don’t get drunk the same way your people do! I had a quiet day yesterday!”

“You call that quiet?” Preed seemed disbelieving, and more than a little irritated. “You turned over half my kitchen!”

Leemu didn’t remember doing that at all. “I’m… sorry?” he said, grappling with his memory and wondering if this was some strange kind of prank. It didn’t feel like a prank. And there was something… unsettling… in his memory. As though he could almost remember what Preed was talking about but it was slipping away whenever he thought about it.

“I’ve never seen you eat so much! You wanted to help, and then you started acting strange…at least you were in a good mood.”

Leemu finally gave up and decided to settle for honesty. “…Preed, I don’t remember any of what you’re telling me.”

Preed gave him a long, cool look then deflated, turned, and ladled a healthy serving of soup into one of the big bowls for him. He made his own bowls, and this one was human-sized. He had an eating challenge on the wall: any nonhuman who could empty one of those bowls inside five minutes earned their meal for free and got their picture on the ‘wall of fame.’ In all the years, only a couple of dozen beings had ever managed it, most of them Locayl.

Leemu suddenly felt famished. But something was off about the soup. He twitched his nose then frowned into the bowl as it was pressed into his hands. This was the wrong recipe. Preed rotated his menu on a seven-day cycle, and today was supposed to be ‘Tom Jabchai’ but instead the bowl’s contents smelled like the ‘Kua Chap.’

“…What day is it today?” Leemu asked.

“The eleventh. Why?”

“…I don’t remember yesterday at all.”

Preed put a friendly, warm hand on Leemu’s shoulder and pushed him toward a table. “Friend, I think something has happened. Maybe a blow to the head? I am no doctor. But I do know that good food cures almost anything, so…” He pushed Leemu gently but irresistibly down onto the bench seat and set the bowl down in front of him. “Eat.”

Leemu did as he was told. In fact, he finished the entire bowl with a satisfied slurp that completely restored Preed’s good humor.

“One for the wall, I think!” he announced. He swept the bowl away, refilled it, then posed Leemu with his second soup for the sake of a good picture. He raised his eyebrows when Leemu promptly attacked the second bowl, then chuckled and returned to the kitchen. Pretty soon the sound of him singing to himself reached Leemu’s ears. It was a familiar tune to practically everyone on the station, and allegedly it was a jolly children’s song… about an enormous terrifying monster with a thick hide and huge sharp teeth.

Humans were very strange.

♪“Chang chang chang, nong koi hen chang reu plow, chang man dtua dtoh mai bao…”♫

Leemu took the second bowl slower and brushed himself thoroughly as he ate. He couldn’t quite finish the second serving, but Preed never seemed to mind. On the contrary, a full bowl was always quickly refilled, so Leemu pushed it aside and stood up to leave. He tried to swipe his communicator to pay, but Preed rushed across the kitchen and snatched the payment device away before he could.

“You beat the challenge!” he said. “So it’s free today.”

“Are you sure?”

“It seems you needed it!”

“Well… thank you. I do feel a lot better.”

“I told you! Good food cures almost anything… but you should go see a doctor anyway, yes?”

“I suppose…”

Instead, Leemu wandered out onto the station promenade and checked his communicator for work. He sighed to himself when here saw there was only a handful of ships docked and none of them needed any repairs. No work today.

He ended up wandering the station, somewhat at a loose end and feeling unaccountably restless, like some urge had gripped him and he didn’t know what the urge was. He was on his third orbit around the station’s main ring when he passed by something vaguely familiar…

It was, in fact, a gym. They had been popping up in stations across the Dominion wherever gaoians or Humans trafficked in trade, and most of them were compact little affairs carefully folded into a small little stall hidden away in the cheap-rent corner of the promenade. This one was a bit bigger than most. Unsure of himself, he wandered in to satisfy his curiosity.

He was immediately greeted by an enormous brown wall of extremely friendly brownie. “Well hi! What brings you here?”

“…Honestly? I don’t know.”

That seemed to amuse the brownie, who chittered. “Sounds like ‘yer thinking too hard!”

“Maybe I am… It’s been a weird day.”

“Well, bein’ strictly honest, you strike me as someone who ain’t never set foot in a gym…ever. Y’have any idea what ‘yer doin’?”

It took Leemu a second to puzzle his way through the double-negatives, but that seemed to be the way of rural brownies. He’d worked with a few in the past, and always had the same trouble. “No, not really. Where are you from?”

“Gan Sho!” For a second the brownie’s sunny mood flickered. “…Heard it don’t exist no more, but… well, I’m still from there.”

“…Yeah. I grew up in Ken Tun.” Leemu hadn’t thought of home in years. Actually, he hadn’t really thought of Ken Tun as ‘home’ before, but a sudden mental image of the fountains near the commune where he’d grown up bubbled through his mind and left him feeling… sad, yes. But also a little angry. It had been a peaceful place full of peaceful people, and now it was gone.

He thought about the biodrones and the Hierarchy. He hated them with an unending fire. He still did…but suddenly he didn’t want to dwell on it. He was here now, and he’d maybe met a new friend. Best to see where it took him.

“So… I know the idea of a gym…” he prompted.

The next hour was a pleasantly tiring tour of what exactly it meant to exercise. His giant new friend—Gorku—was (of course) a Stoneback Associate who was, in his own words, “Pretty much good ‘fer only two things.” If one of those things was coaching, then he was damn good indeed. Every time Leemu pushed himself it just felt good, and Gorku’s cheering encouragement only made it better. Leemu left the gym some time later feeling oddly satisfied and hankering for a nice, long nap.

He awoke the next day, sore, hungry, and feeling oddly pleased with himself. He checked his work schedule and saw that, yet again, there was no scheduled shipping.

Well… maybe a change of routine would be good for him.

Yes. He felt good about that.

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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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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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More by HamboneHFY

Sweetness – Implications

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 25 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Monty Publishing House, New Baltimore Slowly gathering myself I stepped into the hologram chamber, the projection flickered and the simulation automatically paused as I stepped in. I quickly looked around to get my bearings, I appeared to be on a starship bridge enduring greatly exaggerated

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 78 Of Race 3 Year 4958 Suburbs, New Baltimore I looked back up at the shopkeeper, the small Human was trying to appear unconcerned. Not that I could really blame ‘him’- glancing over at the human I checked the chest. It was a male, the chest did not protrude and there

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

CopRit Empire Sol 77 Of Race 7 Year 4957 PackRat IV, 5 Months out from Halfil I slammed into to deck plating. Coughing, I rolled over onto my side and vomited on the floor, trying to get over the fact that everything was spinning around me. “You know, Humans have perhaps one of the most

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 78 of Race 3 Year 4958 Athletic Complex, New Baltimore I jumped to the side, dodging the attack. I felt the breeze as the weapon passed my abdomen; it missed me by only a few millimeters. Twirling to the side, I brought my foot up. Reacting with amazing speed, my opponent

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 78 Of Race 3 Year 4958 Divsion 3 Police Station, New Baltimore “What?” The officer frowned and pushed the circular data tablet across the table to me. On it was an image of the woman I had met at the bar last night. She had green skin, of a shade that

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Shades of White and Orange

Sneaking forwards Kalif slowly tilted his ears to either side and waited in the darkness. Not sensing anything he slowly crept forwards towards the statue, and the artifacts in its base. Slithering as silently as possible Kalif focused his eyes on the objects, as if afraid they might disappear at any time. Reaching the statue

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Mother Earth

Mother Earth. She’s a bitch. A hard ass bitch who tortured every form of life that she brought forth onto her surface. Every life form on her surface had to fight, feed and fuck. After that she didn’t care about what happened, only that they had improved on themselves perhaps a little bit. Life on

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Nyx fired off another shot from her rifle and the Prod nearly 800 meters down the street jerked and ducked into an ally. She frowned and sharpened her gaze on the point where the purple mass had disappeared, looking for the telltale red fragments on the pavement. “More of ’em?” asked Iyo, he was whispering

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

The data streams slammed into me. With practiced ease, I pushed them aside and forced myself to view the data from afar. To not see it as billions of lines of code, but rather as the small white room that any other human would see. Floating in the center of that white room was Artemis,

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

0 days Adam “You’re insane.” “Your point is what?” She rolled her eyes and tightened the straps holding me to the chair. “The point is that someone who can’t move shouldn’t really be this snippy.” She gestured at the plethora of medical equipment around us. “I’m sure I can do some interesting things with all

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Waters of Babylon – Tikkun Olam Part 1

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and of the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. —Psalm 93: 3-4 Date Point: 14Y 3M AV Office of Rabbi Uwriy Walden New

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Causal Results – Chapter 6: Squeaking By

Bellona 9 Years, 7 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing “We can do it!” Bemusement. Tinner cocked his head from his potion on the foot of her bunk. “We failed during the simulation, and that was with the entire class. How will the two of us complete the simulation alone?” Mary rolled her two eyes

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Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 4

Date Point: 14Y 2M 1W 5D AV The Thing, Folctha, Cimbrean Sister Naydra It was with some trepidation that Naydra attended a Meeting of Mothers. By all accounts, this was a continuation of a previous Meeting, which wasn’t so unusual—such Meetings were rare and never called for simple reasons that could be easily resolved. What

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Good Training – Survival Part 10

Date point: 14y 9m 2w 1d AV Trail hiking, Lakebeds National Park, west of Foltcha, Cimbrean Hayley Tisdale Julian had been quite firm that he wouldn’t do a sweat lodge or anything like that. She understood, there was some controversy about cultural appropriation and all that nonsense, and Julian seemed like he’d rather not be

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Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 3

Date Point: 14Y 1M 3W AV HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean Toran and Tybal “Shhh…” “You shhh…. I’m already ssssh’ing.” The two cubs, having crept past the outer fence surrounding the base, slinked in behind a short hedge and remained motionless. It was late enough that the nightly rain had, overall, stopped, but early enough that

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Causal Results – Chapter 5

Ruck, Willinkree Year 3042 Day 35 “No! Let go of me!” shouted [Sil] as she struggled to break the brute’s hold. The class C stared dumbly back at her, glaring at him [Sil] pulled at her bonds and sat down on the ground unable to make them even budge in the large alien’s hands. On

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Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 2

Date Point: 14Y 1M AV The Thing, Folctha, Cimbrean A Meeting of Mothers was much like a Conclave of Champions, and it was only coincidence that both terms alliterated nicely in English. Neither was terribly common, and both were typically invoked by their various constituencies to deal with an issue bigger than any one constituent

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Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 1

For He will instruct His angels in your behalf, to guard you in all your ways. They will carry you in their hands, lest you hurt your foot on a rock. You will tread upon the lion and the viper; you will trample upon the young lion and the serpent —Psalm 91 Date Point: 14Y

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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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Good Training – Survival Part 8

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

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Causal Results – Chapter 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 4

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

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Henosis – Chapter 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 3

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

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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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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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