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 look after, she’d have used the hotel facilities at Chiune Station instead and just stayed within jogging distance of work. As it was… she treated the boys to a McDonald’s breakfast before school, and nursed a toffee latte most of the way out along the eighty minute drive to the MBG enclave out west of town.

Neither of them had ever had an Egg McMuffin before. What a goddamned travesty. Al had to promise them both she’d teach them how to make one for themselves…but in the meantime, they each had another.

She was barely ten minutes into the drive and listening to the drivetime show on SKID radio when she got a call from Clara Brown.


Clara wasn’t big on small talk. She just launched straight into the reason for her call in a sunny way that always put a wide smile on Allison’s face. “Hi Al! Misfit’s back!”

There was some good news! Al’s smile got even wider, and she celebrated with a sip of her coffee. “Early!”

“Yeah, apparently they found a good one. They’re dealing with the HEAT right now…”

“After what happened to My Other Spaceship, I’m not complaining…” MBG had been informed, and everyone in the Folctha security community—a group that included Allison—was aware of what had happened. Though some details were being kept close to the chest, what she’d heard made Al perfectly happy to have her colleagues endure the HEAT’s tender affections.

“How far out are you? We want to have the whole team ready for inspection by the time they land.”

“Seventy minutes,” Al predicted confidently. She’d memorized pretty much every inch of the winding, beautiful road through Lakebeds National Park and alongside the winding river Dagnabbit, and she’d just passed the first of the park’s car parks for hikers.

She quite liked the long commute: it was thinking time, private time. Work was busy, home was manic… the hour and a half she got in the car twice a day was welcome downtime for switching mental gears and relaxing.

“Awesome! You’ll be just in time to see her land. See you soon!”

“See you soon,” Al promised, and ended the call.

The news shifted her right out of calm and collected and right into something more… motherly. Her baby was home! The big metal one, not the one behind her bellybutton. The thought of laying eyes again on her favorite spaceship in all the wide worlds made her heart lift in her chest.

She indulged herself a little and put her foot down to get there a few minutes early.

Sure enough, the support vehicles were out around the landing pad as she parked the car. She’d have jogged over to join her team, but that was getting increasingly difficult and undignified thanks to the little girl, so she settled for a determined stride instead.

…God, she wasn’t really looking forward to getting any bigger. She didn’t feel heavy exactly, but she was definitely feeling less mobile.

Still, the sound of a sonic boom rippling through the air from high overhead put a little extra spring in her step as she joined her team.

Team Two’s leader, Chuck Gifford, gave her a grin and a wave. He was nearly done with his morning cigarette. “Mornin’, Al.”

“Mornin’ Chuck.”

“Lookin’ forward to seein’ the old girl again?”

Al looked up and shielded her eyes from the sunlight. “…Yup!”

That exchange pretty much dried up Chuck’s supply of small talk. “Anything we should watch out for?”

“Well, we just had about ten tons of angry space marines with guns go tearing through, so…”

“…Check the deck plating, got it.”

Misfit finally came into view, and Allison couldn’t resist jigging eagerly on her toes. The ship looked so handsome in the morning light as she dropped down in a gentle swooping turn to come to a perfect hover a hundred feet above the pad, then descended steadily to land with the heavy racket of metal on concrete.

Xiù never landed like that.

That was an automatic landing sequence: line up, set the rate of descent, let the instruments do the work. Safe and efficient, but Xiù had always prided herself on setting the ship down softly and with a deft touch. It was a good landing, but the current crew’s pilot had a more… workmanlike approach to piloting. Xiù had always viewed it as a kind of dance.

Allison hadn’t really had time to meet the new crew. Apparently their research specialist, the woman doing the same job Julian had once done, had been a Folctha colonist.

…What was her name again? Shit. Something Irish, wasn’t it?

Al called up the mission summary on her tablet as she waited for the ship to settle, to spare herself the embarrassment of not remembering her replacement’s names when they came down the ramp. Misfit was dirty, well-travelled, and leaking waterfalls of fog as her hull temperature equalized with the warm morning air.

But God she was gorgeous.

There they were. Field Researcher Sinéad Byrne, Flight Engineer Richard Adams, and the man responsible for that landing, Pilot Jamal Thompson.

Still, even if he didn’t throw in the little flourish that Xiù might have, he’d still observed the little details. He’d landed so the airlock was facing the waiting ground crew, for instance.

Byrne opened the airlock while the other two powered down the ship. The ground team waited until the ESFALS shut down and Thompson gave them a thumbs-up through the canopy before approaching to start offloading stuff as Byrne sent the dumbwaiter down with the first sample crate.

Al ducked under the fuselage and ran through the landing gear inspection. If the gear was going to fail it probably would have done it at first contact with the ground, but safety demanded she check it first.

Once she was happy there were no problems, she returned to the ladder, where Adams was the last down. He was a small, slim man barely larger than Allison himself which Al could appreciate. A bigger guy would have had a hellish time trying to fit through the narrow confines of the engineering station. They’d managed to find some more elbow room for BGEV-12’s engineer, but Misfit was always going to be cramped in the back.

“You taking good care of my baby?” Al asked him as he stepped off the ladder. He grinned and shook her hand.

“She’s my baby too,” he promised.


“Maybe a little roughed up by the HEAT though,” Byrne said. “They brought Adam along. I don’t know how he even fit!”

“You know Adam?” Al asked, shaking her hand.

Byrne had the filthiest grin. “Biblically.”

“…You’re braver than you look.”

“Wait, you and that hulk-lookin’ dude?” Thompson asked, disbelievingly.

“Like the Energizer bunny…” Byrne reminisced, distantly.

“I don’t think I want to know…” Adams muttered. “God I’ve never felt so completely helpless. They manhandled me like a child and ransacked everything I owned.”

“Yeah,” Allison said sympathetically. “That’s the HEAT for ‘ya.”

“It was a Gaoian that did it to me!” Thompson complained. “He threw me up against a wall, pinned my head and sniffed at my neck!”

“Still HEAT.“ Allison shrugged. “Trust me, they’re nice guys in real life. On the job… well, their job isn’t to play nice.”

Byrne nodded, but she looked a little unnerved. “I didn’t remember Adam being so terrifying…”

“He isn’t Adam on mission. He’s Warhorse, and the two are very different people.”

“Right. Well…”

Allison decided a change of subject was in order. “You found something good?”

“Hell yeah we did!” Thompson indicated the crates with a grin. “Class twelve, ninety-nine point oh-four Gs, seventy percent ocean coverage, everything. No sign of natives, either.”

“Nice! What’d you call her?”

“Nesoi,” Adams said firmly.

“…I get the impression there were other contenders.”

“Somebody,” Adams shot a dark look at Byrne, “wanted to call it ‘Steve.’”

Byrne’s unrepentant giggle was just infectious, and even Adams smiled and shook her head at it. Al certainly couldn’t keep a straight face.

“Steve? Kinda… I dunno. Irreverent, ain’t it?”

“Exactly!” Byrne chirped.

“In the end, that’s what we called its largest moon,” Thompson said.


“It has four. Makes for a hell of a night sky, I tell you that.”

“I’d like to see that someday,” Al decided. “…Anyway, we’d better get to work. I wanna see how well you’ve been treating my baby.”

“You mean our baby,” Thompson retorted with a grin. “I found a neat optimization for the ventral distributor. Check it out.”

“I will!” Al set her foot on the ladder and hauled herself up it, reflecting as she did so that she was glad they’d come back sooner rather than later. Climbing that ladder and squeezing around the ship’s insides would have been impossible in ten more weeks.

She paused at the top and touched the wall, whispered a fond ‘Hey, girl,’ to the ship and then followed her oh-so-familiar route from the airlock to the engineer’s station like she’d already done it ten times that morning.

Misfit didn’t quite feel the same, though. Maybe it was the scent of three strangers, or some subtle difference in Thompson’s idling power settings. Maybe it was the different heights and builds of the excursion suits in their lockers, or the lingering musk of the HEAT’s presence.

She fought off a sudden feeling of melancholy and pushed through into engineering.

There was work to do.

Date Point: 16y2m3d AV
”Stinkworld,” The Irujzen Reef

Garl, Grandfather of Clan Stoneback and Warleader of the Grand Army of the Gao


The Hierarchy’s relay was weird to look at. Like looking into a pit that yawned sideways in a direction that Garl couldn’t quite put his claw on.

He was glad he wasn’t anywhere near it. He had a great view through the Fang’s helmet-cams, but they were taking an enormous risk breaching the facility at the base of the enormous transmitting tower, and everyone knew it.

Plus, Garl knew he wasn’t quite as agile as he once was. The niggles and complaints his body had accumulated over decades had begun to make themselves heard, and the Crue-G wasn’t holding them off anymore. He’d resorted to ‘ibuprofen’ in eight hundred milligram doses.

Allegedly his liver should handle the medicine just fine…but he was eighty-eight. Garl was old.

…More than old. Garl was dying. He didn’t have even half a year left, prob’ly. He knew it in his bones, in his fading eyesight, and in a way he couldn’t put to words. After this mission…he needed to retire before he became a liability. The Great Father deserved fit and hale generals, after all. That went doubly so for the Warleader of the Grand Army, and extra double for the Grandfather of Stoneback.

Still: Garl was the most wisest and strongest ‘Back they had that weren’t Daar, so he’d see this job done as best as he could. In fact, right now he was the strongest he’d ever been, so his “plan” to chip in was to help with any digging, pushing, or any general labor that needed doing.

A ‘Back had to lead from the front. Or, failing that, at least be willing to do the hardest work.

For now, though, he watched the Fang dash over the cleared ground around the Hierarchy facility and sneer at the wall. A ‘Back on four-paw with some tricks borrowed from those tricksy Whitecrest suits could flow over a mere five-meter concrete wall like it was hardly there.

He tensed, expecting a flurry of armed drones or automated gun emplacements or whatever, but that weird digital Entity they had on their side had promised the place was safe. From the looks of things, it might have been right, too.

It didn’t take long for his ‘Backs to secure the inside perimeter, shape charges, and blow a hole wide open in the concrete wall. From there, the next teams joined in the assault, they pried the opening yet wider, more territory was secured…

In a few minutes, they’d completely secured the compound. Fortunately the mind-melting warp above wasn’t doing anything to the ground below. Which…prol’ly made sense, now that Garl thought about it.

The inside pretty obviously wasn’t designed for living beings to navigate, though. It was designed for drones and automated robotic systems, and optimized in all three dimensions without regard for people wanting to walk around.

Fortunately, they had some nicely small and clever Clanless to help ‘em out. “Hey, little guys!”

Garl couldn’t help but like his corps of his bravest, most littlest soldiers he could find in the Grand Army. They were proof that ain’t nobody is useless or inferior, they just gotta find their place in life.

Wriggling through a vertical maze of alien technology? Not a problem. Not gettin’ squished by the maintenance drones? Just as easy! Sorta. There were a couple of close calls, but the worst anyone suffered was a tuft of fur torn out the end of his tail as he narrowly squeezed into a side space as a robotic arm whipped past him.

“Gods-damn you little guys kick tail,” Garl praised over the radio. “I’mma owe ‘ya each a steak!”

That got them motivated. Ain’t nothin’ any red-blooded male liked more than a big ‘ol slab of barely-cooked meat.

The densely packed systems gave way to an honest mineshaft. From what Garl could see, it looked like there was an automated mine down there, drawing equipment and replacement parts from a small nanofactory at ground level. There was no immediate indication of what the mine was extracting, and the shaft itself was too deep to explore for the time being, so instead the explorers kept moving up, toward the top of the structure and the generator responsible for that weird pucker in spacetime.

As more of the facility was mapped and more of its systems discovered, however, things got a lot more complicated. Whatever else it was, they weren’t dealing with a mere comms relay.

One piece of the puzzle fell into place when the infiltrators dropped a drone down the mineshaft.

“…Coal?” Garl wasn’t sure he’d heard the report correctly.

“Bituminous coal, yeah. Must be a big ol’ vein too. There’s a jump array down there big enough to handle a thousand tonnes a day, easy.”

One of his assistants was confused by that. “Why would they need coal?”

“Iron,” Garl answered gruffly. “If ‘yer gonna make iron from ore, ain’t nothin’ better. There’s other ways t’do it but a redux reaction at high temp with a rich carbon source is the bestest, ‘cuz the pig iron you get can be made directly into steel.”

“…Didn’t they basically run the galaxy from behind the scenes? Why do they need to make their own iron?”

“Ain’t nobody don’t need steel. I mean, would you be happy if we imported all of it instead of makin’ it ourselves?”

“Right. That’d be a big strategic weakness…”

“…Somebody get a jump beacon in there, see if you can sneak it into the next coal shipment,” Garl ordered. “If we’re lucky, it’ll tell us where that coal’s goin’ to.”

“We don’t have anything that small…”

Garl sighed, and shook out his pelt. He was gettin’ the itch to do something physical. “Well, talk to the Clans, then! I can’t imagine Whitecrest or Longear or someone ain’t got a toy ‘fer this.”

By the time Clan Longear got back to him, the facility had been completely mapped. Their contact came in the form of a very welcome face: Champion Meereo. The tall, debonair midnight-black Champion came through the array stooped and with his large ears tucked flat against his head as a hedge against the Array’s tight confines, and visibly shook himself when the transit was complete.

…Had Garl ever tussled with him? He didn’t think so. Meereo looked nicely fit and tricky…maybe they could spar some later!


“Welcome ‘ta Stinkworld, Champion.”

Garl liked Meereo. The Longears originally came from working Clanless stock and were still a relatively “new” clan. Some of that legacy still clung to them, in their sense of humor and their relaxed attitude to formalities. Another Champion might have questioned the moniker, but Meereo just chittered merrily and pulled a face.

“Good name,” he agreed. “Yeugh.”

“Sad ‘ta say you get used to it,” Garl told him.

“I brought you a toy.” Meereo handed it over. It was pill-shaped and just the right size to fit in Garl’s paw. “We made these a long time ago, just in case Big Hotel turned out to have a jump network of their own.”

Garl handed it off to a runner, who duck-nodded sharply and set off the make sure it reached the infiltrators. Meereo watched him go, then gave Garl an expectant look. “…I gather there’s other stuff in there you don’t know what it is?”

“An’ I betcha ‘yer just itchin’ ‘ta get ‘yer Brothers down there and tear it apart, huh?”

“Wouldn’t you be?”

Garl chittered. “I don’t think any of my Brothers would fit!”

“Go on a diet, then! Anyway…on the subject of exploitation…”

”You and all the other technically-minded Clans are gonna need ‘ta put together a plan for that. In the meantime, what we’re dealin’ with ain’t safe ‘fer a buncha thinky-types. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“Right. So. What’re we hopin’ ‘ta learn outta this?”

Meereo found the facility schematic as the scouts had laid it out easily enough. He stooped over the table and inspected it, shifting the expanding map this way and that with the tip of his claw. “We’re hoping to gain more insight into dataspace and the Hegemony.”

“The hedgey-what?”

“It’s what the Igraens call their civilization. The ones we’ve interacted with are highly trained individuals who’ve spent decades or even centuries learning how to interact with…. Us. This.” He knocked on the desk. “Matterspace, they call it. Or Meatspace, if they’re being insulting.”

“And they need special training to do that?”

“Yup. Apparently life in dataspace is fundamentally very different from life out here. According to one of the interrogated agents, even a basic query like ‘how many Igraens live in the Hegemony?’ is the wrong kind of question.”

“…That don’t make no sense,” Garl objected.

Meereo just duck-shrugged helplessly and made a note on a tablet of his own. “How much stink is there on a Naxas?” he asked.

Garl decided to push the conversation forward rather than get bogged down in… whatever that was. “So we’re here to learn more about dataspace.”

Meereo duck-nodded as he explored the facility map some more. He jotted a small diagram down on his tablet.

“The Humans have done a lot of research on dataspace,” he said as he drew. “As much as they can, anyway. Between interrogated Igraens and the… Entity… they’ve had more access to it than anybody else, and they’ve worked closely with us on the problem, but we’re not helped by the fact that none of the sources really know how it works…”

“How come?”

“The same way you and I don’t really know how our brains work, I guess. Which seems to be a fair approximation. Dataspace isn’t… it seems to be a higher-order product of the interactions between lower-order devices, rather than something they do deliberately. A lot of very stupid machines producing something big and incomprehensible as an emergent property? That’s my best guess, anyway. But there’s always been a flaw in that theory.”

“Do tell,” Garl encouraged. He’d worked with enough geeks in his time to know when they were pretty much just thinkin’ aloud by talkin’ with him.

“Well…” Meereo scrolled the relay’s schematic and tapped a claw at something. “Devices go where people are, and people are clustered on inhabited worlds, space stations, ships… and those clusters are a long way apart. How does any kind of coherent pattern emerge from clusters of technology spread across thousands of light years?”

“…Slowly?” Garl guessed.

“Exactly!” Meereo scrolled again, tapped again then made a note on his own tablet. “Too slowly. Which means…”

Whatever it meant, he didn’t finish the thought out loud. Instead he scrolled, tapped, made another note and then flowed across the command center to the large crate he’d brought with him. When he entered a code on the top, the thing unfolded in an intricate way and turned out to be full of what Garl thought of as gizmos. He recognized wire, solder and a workbench. Pretty much everything else, though, was…

“…You brought a field lab with you?”

“How am I supposed to design devices to interface with an Igraen data relay when I don’t know anything about their technological architecture?” Meereo asked. “Can’t be done. Hell, we had a hard enough time getting our equipment to work properly with Human technology, and they’re several steps behind us.”

“…This is why I prefer civil engineerin’,” Garl groused. “A big pile’a concrete is a big pile’a concrete everywhere in the universe.”

“And that’s exactly why I prefer what I do,” Meereo retorted. “Same thing every day sounds boring.”

“Eh,” Garl shook his pelt again. He always felt a bit back on his haunches around really smart people. “Different habits, I guess. Y’ain’t gonna get strong if ‘ya don’t follow routine. I ‘spose bein’ a nimble thinker needs th’ opposite o’ that.”

“Think of it as progressing to a heavier weight…” Meereo set his tablet down on the lab’s worktop and Garl flicked an ear, mildly impressed, as it seemed to seamlessly pick up whatever he’d been working on and load it onto a larger display. Longear sure had some fancy tricks. “…I’m going to need your guys inside to bring me back some things.”

“Just send me the shoppin’ list, I’ll make sure you get it,” Garl promised, and left Meereo to his work.

This was, he decided, a young man’s war. He wasn’t out of his depth, not quite… but he weren’t in his element neither.

He shook off that melancholy thought and returned to his own desk. It didn’t matter if he was in his element. He had a job to do, and he’d do it ‘til he dropped. Just like a true ‘Back.

But part of him, somewhere deep in his soul, was looking forward to a well-deserved rest.

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“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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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

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

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Good Training – April Fool’s

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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

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Good Training – Pecking Order

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

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

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The Good Samaritan

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

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

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