The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV
personal sanctum, Dataspace.


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 facing him, but the central theme was a deep and gnawing sense of his own fallibility. He couldn’t escape visions and predictions of calamity brought on by his own weakness.

That damned interrogation. That was the failure point. So polite. So civilized. So… humane.

And so utterly, ruthlessly effective. Evil done with a soft hand, so skillfully he’d been powerless to endure it. They’d broken him utterly, and not even the Hierarchy’s most accomplished efforts had healed the psychic wound his Human interrogators had inflicted. Only time, perspective, and incontrovertible proof of how badly he’d erred had finally initiated that process.

He’d respected the Humans for so long. Truly respected them. He’d seen in them a kind of foresight and restraint that suggested maybe, just maybe, they might not live up to the horrors that the Hierarchy’s long-range observations had hinted at in other galaxies.

The fact that the Hunters had developed self-replicating space probes based on obviously Human technology had shattered that illusion. Self-replicating technology was a plague.

Worse, it was a plague that had only one counter: itself. The only winning move in that game was to never play it in the first place.

And now, the game had been joined. After all these millions of years.

He might even, in his delusion, have continued to trust that the Humans knew what they were doing, but the fact that they’d managed to somehow leak the technology to the Hunters shot that sentiment right through the brain. They’d either been hopelessly careless, or willfully stupid. Either way…

Either way, it had finally broken him of his awe syndrome. In the end, the Humans were just Deathworlder meat, like the V’Straki before them. They had meat concerns, and meat instincts. They couldn’t, in the end, see past their need to spread. It was always so, with Deathworlders: they bred, they filled the available space, and then they either starved or conquered new space. And they were so inevitably intelligent and inventive that it was always the latter.

The Hierarchy had watched nova bombs ripple throughout distant galaxies as whatever alien civilizations lived over there clashed, or tore themselves apart. Other galaxies gave every indication of having been conquered by a singular polity. The signs were inevitably subtle and faint after crossing such twisting gulfs of open space… but it was a big universe out there, and life arose everywhere it could. Life was not merely an option, it was an inevitability.

Which meant competition was inevitable. Competition in which the loser perished, and the victor moved on to the next challenger, and the next, and the next until finally being vanquished in their turn. If life was inevitable, then so too was extinction.

There were times when Six felt deeply angry at such a universe. It was cruel to give life forms the illusion of significance, while casting them into a crucible that would inevitably burn them away as though they had never been. Had he believed in any kind of a thinking intelligence that had chosen for things to be so, he would have considered its existence a personal affront.

There was only one solution that he could see: Win. Win, and keep winning. The nihilistic alternative was to give up and collapse into anonymous non-existence, perhaps even drag others down to the abyss in the process.

He’d hate to see Humanity wiped out. They held such promise…but in the end, it came down to survival. He’d thought they were an avenue to his own people’s survival. Allying with them would have been a major change of strategy, but ultimately in pursuit of the same goal.

Now, it was clear that they needed to be destroyed.

A more… unthinking… agent of the Hierarchy might have been willing to sacrifice their own existence to achieve that end. But Six intended to be there when the last stars burned out. He intended to find a way to reverse or dodge entropy. If necessary, he intended to break through into whatever came Next.

It was not his destiny to simply… stop.

But the Humans had given him one parting gift, and he couldn’t compel himself not to think about it. They’d reminded him that, in the long term, everything was finite. Even dataspace itself was temporary. And when it too ended…

…He’d need an alternative.

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV
Starship Empirical Razor, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches


Somehow, Nofl had never quite appreciated just how terrifying a dog was. He liked Bozo. The animal was huge and fanged and obviously capable of ripping him to pieces if he’d ever got it into his fuzzy head to do so, but… well, he was Bozo, and that meant Friend.

Somehow, he was endlessly more intimidating when under general anesthetic so Nofl could carefully perform cellular-scale surgery around his teeth and gums to make absolutely sure there was no Arutech infiltrating his system. Something about inspecting his teeth so intimately drove home just how big, strong and sharp they were, and how crushingly powerful were the muscles that powered them. Those wrapped his entire skull, which in turn had a sagittal crest specifically adapted to maximize his ability to generate bite force.

It really highlighted why Humans had chosen to domesticate Bozo’s remote ancestors. They’d taken an efficient apex predator and turned it into a tool. That was simultaneously a stunningly intelligent idea, and a dismayingly insane one.

…And of course, to Humans it was all perfectly normal.

Nofl was very much playing the understudy for this sequence of medical interventions. While Tran and the ship’s senior surgeon handled the two sapient patients, Nofl was relegated to the role of veterinarian.

He didn’t mind. The Corti had much data on Humans, but hardly any on their canid companions. That seemed a grievous oversight, and over the years Bozo had become a trove of data… all for the small cost of a few turkey livers.

One thing Nofl could see up close, however, was that Bozo was beginning to get old. It seemed a shame, for such beloved creatures to have a lifespan barely a sixth that of their sapient companions, but at eight years old Bozo was definitely beginning to show some gray hairs on his face and some signs of wear in his joints. The latter, in theory, Nofl could have fixed.

Operating on Colonel Powell’s dog without permission, however, would have been… not good for their professional working relationship. So far it hadn’t slowed the dog down—in fact he seemed stronger and fitter than ever—but according to Nofl’s research that would start changing soon. Certainly within the next five years, possibly imminently.

…Perhaps it might do to encourage more puppies. He’d sired many, but the world could never have enough puppies. Hmm.

Fortunately, there seemed to be virtually no trace of nanite infection. There were a couple of chipped teeth from aggressive chewing, and a slightly worrisome plaque buildup…Nofl maybe indulged in a teensy bit of authority abuse and cleaned those up while he was re-assembling Bozo’s face. After all, in a way it was easier than putting the plaque back…

He ruthlessly expunged what few trivial hints of Arutech he could find, then had the dog transferred to the recovery kennel where he would wake up to a bowl of water and a few hours of feeling groggy before getting on with his life.

The Gaoian security officer, Narl, had needed the intervention more badly when he checked on the progress of that operation. Gaoians had surprisingly resilient physiologies, but next to an Earthling’s frankly psychotic immune system they just didn’t stack up. The Arutech around and in his eye had successfully implanted and begun to replicate. Tran and his surgical second were determinedly exterminating every last tendril, and taking notes as they went.

Nofl watched them finish up, apply rapid regenerative therapy to Narl’s wound until it was closed and healed, then administer the wake-up shot. In seconds the Gaoian was awake, though confused and dopey.

At his request they put him in with Bozo. Narl promptly curled up next to the slumbering canine and fell asleep again, coiling up and tucking his nose under his own tail.

Nofl suspected he might finally understand what the a ‘cute overload’ felt like. It was mingled with a hefty dose of relief, and not just for his patients. Successfully treating them meant that the wholy galaxy had a counter to the Hierarchy’s latest gambit.

He turned his attention to Preed Chadesakan, who was not undergoing surgery. Instead, the human doctors who’d been brought in on this incident had suggested something called “adjuvant immunotherapy” and Nofl was compelled to shake his head in disbelief at what he saw as he watched it work.

“Psychotic” really was the right word to describe the Human immune system, and it could be lured into a state of vicious frenzied hyperactivity with the right medication. Preed’s arm had been thoroughly injected with a cocktail of specialized drugs hitherto unknown to Corti science, and he was lying looking weary and resigned on a bed with his arm immobilized under a scanner to watch the treatment work. Every so often, a minor expression of discomfort marred his face.

Nofl couldn’t blame him at all. The poor man’s arm was swollen and red, and several degrees hotter than normal… But the Arutech was being massacred.

Tran seemed especially satisfied.

“Frankly, even if we don’t get a meeting with the Ten’gewek, I’ll consider this to have been a worthwhile investment,” he declared as he sanitized his hands and arms.

Nofl could see why. They’d recorded an ocean of valuable data today, not to mention the political goodwill they’d cultivated. No doubt everything the medical suite’s equipment had observed would be sent straight to the Ark project for integration into the species regeneration program.

The thought of Corti with that kind of an immune response made him shiver, though. It was almost like having a symbiotic bioweapon. One that could, and indeed not infrequently did turn around and attack its host.

“I presume you’ll be staying here until the Ten’gewek have given their reply?” he asked aloud.

“Yes, we have arranged a fruitful medical exchange in the interim.”

“And Leemu?”

Tran made a mildly irritated sound. “If it were up to me, we would be beginning the proposed regeneration process already. But he is a Gaoian citizen and the Great Father was quite explicit that we are to leave the patient in stasis while he considers matters.”

“He seemed to find it morally dubious,” Nofl said.

“Yes. Very strange. What could be more moral than saving a life?” Tran gave a curt expression of impatience for the foibles of aliens, and waved the matter aside. “Nevertheless. Our future goodwill with the Gao hinges upon our future goodwill with Great Father Daar, so we will acquiesce to his… peculiarities.”

“Hopefully I can provide an alternative,” Nofl said. “This adjuvant immunotherapy, and the apparent resistance shown by Humans with autoimmune disorders intrigues me… I have a hunch.”

Tran blinked at him. “…A hunch, Nofl?” He spoke the word with contempt.

Nofl flapped a hand breezily. “A hypothesis if you prefer. I’d like to look at the OmoAru’s own research. I know they were working on a cure before the end. Surely the Directorate has access to some of their findings?”

“Never anything conclusive. Aside from a rather interesting mechanism for stimulating aggression, focus and motivation via purely optical stimulus, their efforts failed.” Tran dismissed the predecessor species’ shortcomings with a gesture. “If you feel there may be something of value in their findings that higher-caste researchers have missed, you are of course welcome to try. I shall forward you the appropriate access codes.”

“Thank you.”

Tran nodded. “I must rest,” he declared. “And you, I think, should return to your laboratory. We will reconvene in half a local day.”

“Suits me!” Nofl agreed. “Rest well.”

“I intend to.”

Nofl wasn’t even out of the ship when his phone informed him that he’d been granted access to a new set of files. He ordered a Johnny Cab and speed-read the translated OmoAru research as it swept him back to the Alien Quarter.

By the time he reached his lab, he knew he had a solution. Probably.


It all hinged on an unresolved question, that he suspected he knew the answer to.

Might the OmoAru have survived, if they’d had access to a Human?

The answer, he suspected, was yes. And he intended to prove it.

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV
Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’gewek protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm

Xiù Chang

Xiù didn’t like to swear often, or at least not in English.

Sometimes, though… sometimes a girl just had to.

“…You have got to be fucking kidding me!”

“I mean… I wish I was.”

“You mean that reckless wáng bā is going to drag you into hunting a fucking bear-dinosaur and there’s nothing you can do about it?”

“Bear-dinosaur-cheetah. And, uh… I mean, I could back down… and lose face.” Julian sighed heavily. “And to be honest, this fuckin’, uh, nightmare bear thing ate a Given-Man not long ago.”

“…Wow. How?”

“Clawed its way through the trees all the way to the village. And this is a big old one, too. They usually stay out on the plains, but I guess this one realized it was strong enough to just knock over the young Ketta and, well… Yan says Droono died making sure his tribe escaped. But they can’t let it go unavenged.”

“So they’re dragging you into it?”

“Yan says its hide is so thick that even his bow won’t do more than make it mad. He figures, for this? There’s no shame in using a little sky-thinking.”

“Tā mā de…” Xiù massaged her eyes for a second. “…But I mean, I’ve seen Yan’s bow. If that can’t hurt it, then your rifle won’t do anything either!”

“No… but Hoeff says he can get his hands on something a lot better. Uh…the little troll was practically gleeful.”

“Like what, a tank gun?!”

“I don’t know, babe. Remember when we did the first survey and found that big brown shaggy murderthing out on the plains? That was a yearling. Fully grown, two or three of these things mass as much as Misfit does. This one…”

“And you’re going to go hunt it.”

“And they can outrun a cheap sports car…” Julian added, apparently reciting off an internal list of reasons to be afraid without actually listening to her.


“Oh yeah. And they’re smart, too. Like, really cunning…”


He snapped out of it. “Huh? Oh. Sorry. Guess I’m just… kinda nervous.”

“Well, yeah!” Xiù agreed. “I… are you actually gonna do this? I mean, is losing face really that bad?”

It was a dumb question, and she knew it. Julian’s job depended on keeping face with the Ten’Gewek, and if he didn’t then their whole future might well be in jeopardy. Certainly, their future relationship with humanity depended on them respecting him and, vicariously, the human race as a whole. And if they couldn’t respect him, there was exactly one non-human they would be able to respect. And he was busy, these days.

But still. This was an insane risk, surely?

Julian didn’t answer directly. He knew that she knew.

“I guess there’s an upside!” he said, ever the optimist. “They don’t sneak, ‘cuz they can’t. You always know where they are. And they can’t push through the biggest Ketta. We just keep the Wall between it and us…”

The Wall was Julian’s name for a line of ancient, gnarled, closely-packed Ketta that meandered its way around the heart of the forest. Outside the Wall, the Ketta were mostly young, and there was only the occasional Forestfather or Thicketroot. Within the wall, the forest was older, more mature and more diverse… and more dense.

There was a reason Werne came in from the plains to sleep, mate and calf among the trees. They grazed out on the plains at night, but the forest offered shelter from both the sun and the Brown Ones during the day. They hunted the Werne by the simple expedient of running at them far too fast to miss, then basically exploding them apart with a slap of a massive paw.

According to Yan, a Brown One could eat several Werne a day. Jesus.

“…I know you’ll be careful, but I mean… This is still really dangerous.”

“Any hunt is dangerous. Hell, a Werne could gut us if we’re not careful.”

“Oh. Great.” Xiù felt weak, and she wasn’t sure if the queasy feeling in her belly was anxiety, or the baby squirming.

Julian put his hand on their son, gently. “Babe. I’ll be careful. I mean…I’ve got four people to live for.” He smiled, a little wanly. “I wouldn’t miss meeting this little guy for anything.”

“…You’re not going to stop me from worrying that easily,” Xiù told him, but honestly she did feel better.

“I know.” He kissed her. “It’ll be a few days, anyway. Gotta wait for Hoeff to get back with… whatever kind of a cannon he’s bringing.”

“And what are you gonna do while we wait?” Xiù asked.

“Oh, I’m not going to wait. I’m going to learn everything about this critter I can, and I’m gonna scout the terrain, too.”

“Julian…” she felt a little embarrassed at the way she actually whined his name, but…

Ugh. Hormones.

“I didn’t say I was gonna approach it, Xiù.” He tried to say it kindly. “Wildlife documentary fellas don’t hunt what they’re filming, right?”

“…I guess we haven’t really documented the Brown Ones yet, huh?” she conceded. And seeing as Brown Ones were the apex predator of the plains, that was a big oversight.

“Not enough, no. We need to detangle the reality from the myth, too. Though the Ten’Gewek aren’t really a people for tall tales…”

“No,” Xiù agreed. “Think about that for a second.”

Julian paused, furrowed his brow and thought for a moment. “…Yeah. But…look. Babe. I know how to hunt dangerous prey. I have zero interest in, I dunno, jumping on its back or anything like that. I know my limits.” His tone was maybe a bit sullen and wounded. “I’m not reckless or stupid, Xiù.”

Xiù made a disgusted noise at herself. She had concerns, and those concerns were valid. Fine. But she hadn’t needed to insult his competence in voicing them. “…I’m sorry.” she sat forward and wrapped her arms around him. “I’m still gonna worry, though. And you can’t stop me.”

Julian chuckled low in his chest, and wrapped his strong arms tightly around her. “I know.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

That was the rub, really. She didn’t like feeling helpless. Sitting up in Misfit’s pilot chair up on the moon and being ready to bolt home had been awful for both her and Allison for that reason. Neither of them were built for waiting at home and folding bandages.

Julian knew it, too. Hopefully, that was part of why he loved them.

“…Maybe…” he sat back on his heels and thought about it. “…Actually, yeah, there is. You’re a way better pilot than anyone else on this planet. Why don’t you operate our drone?”

That was an interesting thought. “Don’t you need line of sight, though?”

“No! Hoeff has this new little job with a remote antenna, all I gotta do is get it up high. Watch!” WIth that he charged off, suddenly excited for a small mission to do, and returned at a dead sprint with a dish-looking antenna in one hand, and the briefcase-sized drone set in another. Vemik and Singer were following behind curiously.

“Wait here Xiù. C’mon Vemik!”

Xiù had to admit, watching Julian do his almost-naked Tarzan thing was one of the better perks of the job. He quickly scaled the enormous ketta near the border of the village, until he was high up enough she couldn’t quite see what he was doing. He gracefully swung and leapt his way back down the tree a few moments later, and pounced the last distance to the ground.

Singer watched too, probably thinking much the same about Vemik, Which…was entirely understandable. Xiù would just have to tell Al about all the boy-candy she was missing. Later.

“Try it now! You should be able to fly it wherever the drone has line of sight to the antenna.”

Xiù shrugged and popped the case open. There were a pair of small VR goggles in there, plus an RC controller the size of a brick. Also a tablet in case she’d rather watch the drone’s perspective from a screen rather than go fully immersive.

The drone itself was a smaller version of the MBG Flycatcher. It looked nothing like the quadcopters of a few years ago, instead it looked more like a thick wallet or something. When she booted it up, it sprang a set of forcefield wings into existence, haloed in holographic light for safety’s sake.

The effect was kind of like a weird neon robotic dragonfly.

Singer gasped when the “wings” unfurled and had to be warned not to touch them. Vemik must have learned that lesson earlier; he didn’t even try.

Julian helped her put the goggles on, and she found herself sitting in her own palm, looking up at herself. The shift in perspective and scale was a little bewildering, and made her giggle.

“Okay… test flight,” she said, and handed the drone off to Julian.

Seconds later, she was flying. The drone zipped straight up with a heavy buzz of electromagnetic wings. She rolled it over clockwise, then back again, then did a backflip.

She knew she was grinning hugely. She’d really missed flying, and this was… from the first-person perspective the goggles gave her, it was even more immediate and in-her-face than piloting Misfit had been. She nosed down and dived back toward their little group. Singer and Vemik leapt backwards as she spiralled the drone between them, did a tight orbit around Julian, and then brought it to a precise hover about a foot above her own head.

“…Having fun?” he asked.

“…Oh, yeah,” she grinned, and sent the drone shooting off through the village. It flashed by in a second, and she pulled up and up until she was zig-zagging between the treetops. One of the Ten’gewek sentries gave her an alarmed and bewildered look as she zipped past.

She could hear that both Vemik and the Singer wanted to try it for themselves. Julian was politely letting them know that that wasn’t an option right now. She paused in a hover to put the headphones in so she could hear what the drone heard, and then orbited the village at the drone’s top speed. Then, on a whim, she pointed at the sky and shot straight up until she was just below the clouds. Thank God it was only overcast today, not actually raining.

The forest unrolled below her. She could see the smoke from other villages, and she found that the ancillary controls under her fingers let her fine-tune the drone’s focus and attention. She could hear the thundering of water from the river nearby, swollen and coarse after a week of heavy rain. She could hear the Ketta creaking as they swayed in the breeze.

The only thing it was missing was the feel of the air brushing her skin and stinging her nostrils. Both of those were still firmly down on the ground.

Grinning, she brought the drone back down and alighted it on Julian’s outstretched hand. When she took the goggles off, it took her a moment to adjust to being human again.

Vemik and the Singer gave her a suitably awed look, while Julian beamed proudly at her as he returned the drone to its case.

“So what do you think?” he asked. “You can scout for us and look after us, and help us do this safely. Sound good?”

“…Yeah,” Xiù said, feeling far more positive than she had a few minutes before. “That sounds great.”

“Good girl.”

There was a phrase he didn’t use often. When he did, though… Xiù felt her ears go happily pink, and handed him the goggles and controller.

“My turn?” Vemik asked, hopefully. Xiù could tell he was extra excited by the way his tail twitched erratically and his entire body was taut, as if he was doing everything he could to contain himself.

“…Uhm… new pilots—that’s people who fly things—they tend to crash into stuff. And we only have one of those,” she reminded him tactfully.

Vemik’s crest literally fell.

“Hey fella, don’t worry. Tell you what! They make much less expensive ones for, uh, first-time pilots…why don’t we give it a try next time we’re on Cimbrean?”


Xiù just about managed to hold her composure. The contrast of a fanged, mostly stone-age cavemonkey who could wrestle Julian into submission and quite literally tear most anybody limb from limb if he really wanted to, being so puppy-like and disappointed…

It would have been nice to just run back over to Folctha and bring him back a quadcopter or something, but the ‘bush plane’ jump service out to Akyawentuo was way down the Folctha terminal’s priority list. Its connections to arrays all over Earth and Gao fired every ten minutes, twenty-eight hours a day, seven days a week. Each of those meant passengers, cargo, deliveries, mail… And with space on the platform being at a premium, each jump carried a pretty hefty profit.

Then there was the intraplanetary service to the other five Cimbrean territories, connections to the Rich Plains and a few Dominion hubs, the orbital link to Armstrong Station…

No wonder the service to Akyawentuo was off-peak. Ten’Gewek were curious and interested in the rest of the galaxy, but they just didn’t have much to trade that an interstellar civilization might want, and their home life kept them too busy anyway.

That’d change. But it hadn’t changed yet. Which unfortunately meant that Vemik wouldn’t get to experience the joy of flying for a few days.

He’d probably turn out to be ludicrously good at it, Xiù suspected. The People had the well-developed spacial awareness of a naturally arboreal species who preferred to get around by brachiation.

Still, she really couldn’t blame him. They’d barely packed the drone away and she was already itching to get it out and play with it some more.

Patience, Xiù.

“So… is there anything else I can do?” she asked.

Julian smiled and kissed her.

“…Let’s see what we can think of,” he said.

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV
The Oval Office, The White House, Washington DC, USA, Earth

President Arthur Sartori

Zane Reid did not look like a well man. His beard was patchy and unkempt, his dreadlocks obviously hadn’t received proper care in some time, and the dark shading under his eyes lent his face the hollow, loose, cadaverous look of somebody who’d neither slept nor eaten properly in several days.

His eyes, though, were unflinching hateful lances that bored right into the camera. Sartori had never seen somebody look so utterly acrimonious.

The video he’d posted, which had rapidly gone viral, had apparently been shot on an older, cheaper model of iPhone, and the geotag data was intact. The FBI had already raided the address in Portland, much to the dismay of its owners who had been happily soaking up the sun in Nassau.

Reid, so far as they could tell, had been long gone. He’d left the phone behind in a bucket of acid.

A Gaoian specialist from the Folctha police had been jumped (carefully) to Earth specifically to confirm their suspicions, though. The couch where Reid had sat to record his vitriol had utterly reeked of Arutech.

The gist of his rant to camera, once Sartori got his head around the man’s impenetrable Patois, had to do with revealing the existence of the Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility to the world. He’d given the camp’s precise latitude and longitude, shared several printouts of the camp’s layout as seen from the air, described what each building was for, and described several of the inmates.

Naturally, some media sites were describing it as an outrage and a return to the days when Japanese-American citizens had been interned during the second world war. Others were pointing out that biodrones were literally the pawns of an organization that was known to want the whole human race dead and that pure pragmatism demanded they be confined.

It was all tribe-ball. As far as some media organizations were concerned, anything Sartori did was bad by definition. And as far as others were concerned, anything Sartori touched turned to pure gold. Reid had handed them both plenty of ammo.

“So what are we doing about him?” he asked, when the video reached its conclusion.

His security advisor, Tom Hamilton, turned the tablet off and tucked it away in a bag.

“He’s already gone right to the top of the Most Wanted list and the FBI have set up a taskforce. Operation Lion Tamer,” he said.

“Good,” Sartori agreed. “We need to get out in front of him. This is easy to deal with. We’ll just throw the doors open on Tebbutt and invite the media in. Let the internees tell their own story. But it’s just the first move in whatever game his puppetmaster’s playing.”

“Which leads us to our next question,” Margaret White asked. “What, exactly, is their game? This flies in direct contradiction to their previous overtures…”

Sartori nodded. He’d been wondering about that himself. He’d never trusted the Hierarchy, but their complete reversal in direction had to be apropos of something…

Maybe it was simply that they’d seen an opportunity where previously they’d been convinced there was none. Maybe something had happened to goad them into a rage. Without communication…

Of course, it now seemed that their previous contact had been a ruse to spread Arutech anyway.

“…Maybe their previous overtures were all lies,” he said. “It’s the simplest explanation. And it’s not like they’ve ever been transparent.”

“He made it all the way to Oregon,” Hamilton pointed out. “From the middle of nowhere in Alaska. That implies help. Help of the magical and undetectable kind.”

“Or the cloaked spaceship kind. I know.” Sartori nodded grimly. He’d been really, really hoping that all the system shields would have stopped the Hierarchy from getting any ships to Earth. “Well. Thank God for the new Farthrow generator.”

“I don’t know…” Margaret said. “They had all the time they needed to bomb every major city on the planet before it came online. Why didn’t they?”

There was a collective three-way look that said nobody in the room knew the answer to that, or even had a good suspicion.

“…Boy, that leaves us in a fan-fucking-tastic position, doesn’t it?” Sartori said. He stood up and patrolled the room with his hands in his pockets.

“…We may want to consider evacuating certain critical assets to Franklin,” Margaret suggested.

“And how would we do that without tipping our hand and alarming everyone?” Hamilton asked “Let alone secure funding from Congress?”

Sartori grimaced and looked out the window, briefly imagining what it would be like to look up and see a mushroom cloud.

…Well, in his case there’d be a frenzy of Secret Service activity as they barged into the room with an emergency Jump Array and evacuated him. But for pretty much everybody else…

“We could ask for additional funding under the Heritage Ark programs that are already underway, possibly reposition some military units under the guise of training…”

The discussion turned to minutiae. Over the ensuing hour, the Chief of Staff was summoned, and he brought others with him…

Sartori played chairman to the meeting for some time, listening and thinking and hearing the opinions and options that floated around the office. None of what he heard left him feeling encouraged.

“So what I’m hearing is that we have no idea how to respond to this,” he said eventually, when the conversation slowed to an uncertain halt. “That sounds like a great homework assignment. General, can you see to that? I’d like something coherent if I’m gonna hash this out with Congress.”

“Yes, Mister President.”

“Right. I think it’s time to move on with the day.” To affairs that were actually resolvable, in theory.

But Sartori couldn’t help feeling that the future was no longer in his hands.

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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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Good Training – Survival Part 2

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

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

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Good Training – April Fool’s

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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

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Good Training – Pecking Order

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

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

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The Good Samaritan

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

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

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