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 get ornery if surprised. It must be working, ‘cuz Hoeff hadn’t seen, heard or smelled a damn thing since leaving the village.

At least the big bastard had a decent singing voice, even if his song selection was… ehhh…

♫“-when it gets warm…And I can’t wait to see, what my buddies all think of me. Just imagine how much cooler I’ll be in summeeerrrr…”♪

“Aargh, would you shut up?!” Hoeff finally groaned. He’d been carrying the M107 for miles and the damn thing weighed plenty enough on Earth. Akyawentuo’s gravity added like six pounds, which didn’t sound like a lot but it all added up.

♪“A-buh-bah-ba-♫ huh?” Julian snapped out of whatever bizarre headspace he’d been in. “…Dude. Problem?”

“How fucking old are you, seven?”

“It’s my favorite movie!”

“…You’re fucking weird, man.”

Yan stopped so abruptly that Hoeff nearly walked into him. His tail lashed a few times, then he turned around and considered the two humans.

“…Sit. Rest.”

“Gettin’ tired, bro?”

Yan dismissed the good-natured joke with a grunt. “Hungry.”

Well, fair enough. Ten’Gewek chewed through calories like a dragster, and Hoeff wasn’t gonna say “no” to gettin’ some weight off his back and some food in his belly either.

They found a fallen Ketta branch and parked their asses on it. Yan had his trail food, a mix of Werne jerky, nuts, berries and pemmican. Julian and Hoeff had MREs, and Hoeff tore his open eagerly. His expression fell when he saw what was inside.

“…Fuck. Skittles.”

Julian held up his pack’s candy offering. “I got a Hershey bar. Trade?”

“You’re outta your goddamn mind! …Deal.”

Julian handed it over. “What? I like Skittles!”

“Bro, you are made of cotton candy and rainbows today. The fuck softened you up?”

“Same thing that pissed in your cornflakes, I guess.”

They chuckled and set their food to cooking. Yan’s tongue lashed the air at the familiar chemical sting of a flameless heater, and he moved upwind.

“…Seriously though?” Hoeff said, picking up the music conversation again as he spread cheese on a cracker, “I ain’t never heard you sing or listen ‘ta anything that ain’t antique.

Julian shrugged. “I like what I like.”

“Don’tcha wanna get up-to-date?”

Julian shrugged again. “I caught up with the bands I used to like but… I dunno. Not much that’s come out since First Contact really grabs me, you know?”

“You could at least go with something that ain’t a fucking Disney movie. I mean what about… Sciatica?”

Julian shook his head. “Too much screaming, not enough singing.”

“Army of Angels?”

“Too goth.”

“Made To Fail?”


Hoeff shook his head and gave up. He reclined on the branch and listened to his dinner sizzle for a bit until a thought struck him.

“…You know what’s weird? People mention First Contact and in my head I think that was only, like… five or six years ago. Not sixteen. I’ve had a whole fuckin’ career since then.”

“Try spending five years in stasis. Completely throws off your sense of when stuff happened.”

“Shit, I guess it would… ‘course, you weren’t even on Earth when it happened, were ya?”

“Nope. I was freezing my ass off on Nightmare.” Julian nudged his meal pack, then glanced Hoeff’s way. “…Where were you when it happened?”

“Visitin’ my parents. We were watching baseball, not hockey, but I tell you man, the game coverage got dropped. An actual alien invasion? Shit, I don’t think anybody knows how that baseball game finished… ‘Course, my leave got cancelled, which sucked. Mom wasn’t happy about it, but Dad, y’know, he knew how it was. He’d been there. He just drove me to the airport.”

“Your dad served?”

“Shit yeah, he did!” Hoeff said proudly. “You’re talkin’ to Chief Special Warfare Operator (retired) Daniel Hoeff the Second.”

“He was a SEAL too?”

“Yup.” Hoeff looked up at the canopy and smiled. “…He gets me, you know? One time, he just rocked up after school on a Tuesday and took me camping down in Big Bend for the rest of the week. He just… He knew how bad I was gettin’ it from some’a the kids. Like that time Beau Thompson shoved me ass-first into the trash can ‘round back of the science block and I missed the bus home.”

He saw the look on Julian’s face. “What?”

“Nothing, I just… have a hard time picturing you getting bullied at school,” Julian admitted.

“Shit yeah, all the time! I was the little weird kid who beat their asses at fuckin’ everything in class… I had a bad time of it, and Dad, God bless him, saw how I was just bottling it up and sooner or later I was gonna explode. He knew he could either step in or watch me go fuckin’ Columbine on those motherfuckers. So he took me away from it all for a week and helped me get it outta my system then taught me how to ride it, y’know? Taught me how to see past them to all the good people behind them… showed me how to remember there was such a thing as good people.”

Julian looked a little unnerved. “Jeez, dude.”

“Yeah, it was a dark place. Dad pulled me out.” Hoeff decided his food was ready and fished it out of the box. “…Helped that he taught me how ‘ta make an example of Thompson, too. And he came in and had words with the Principal when I got detention. Scared the shit out of him!”

Julian smiled. “He sounds like a good man. The kinda dad I wanna be.”

“Yeah. I love him to death,” Hoeff didn’t feel the least bit awkward about saying that. “…You reckon your kids’ll serve?”

Julian frowned. “…Oh, jeez. I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he said.

“Wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Fuck, with the kinda pedigree he’s gettin’ from you an’ Xiù, your boy might just grow up to be the next Warhorse.”

“I hope not!” Julian grimaced. “I mean, I love Adam, but man he’s been through some shit.”

“Yup. That’s what drives him.”

“Exactly. Not something I wanna wish on my son and heir.”

Hoeff chuckled. “Fair, I guess. Nobody wants their kid to grow up to be Batman.”

“Mm-hm!” Julian nodded with a wry smile. “No thanks, I choose life.”

“Got a name for ‘em yet?”

“Not yet. Only thing we know for sure is Jacob and Amanda aren’t on the list.”

“Make it easy for the rest of us, yeah? I like Xiù, but fuck her name is hard to pronounce.”

Julian laughed and opened his own meal pouch. It smelled to Hoeff like he’d got the barbeque beef and beans, lucky asshole.

“…So what about you and Claire?” Julian asked, spooning up a mouthful.

“What about us?”

“C’mon, everyone who knows you two ships it.”

“‘Ships it?’ The fuck are you, some weeaboo schoolgirl?”

Julian just raised an eyebrow on his smugly trollish face and smirked. “Dude.”

Hoeff sighed. The truth was, Claire was a painful subject for him. She wasn’t some frilly little civilian, she was a xenoarchaeologist who’d now spent more than a year living on a supergravity alien planet, usually getting her hands dirty as she pieced together what she could of Ten’Gewek history. He’d never seen her without dirt under her fingernails, or a little smear of mud somewhere on her face which was about as close as she ever got to wearing makeup.

That little smear of mud never failed to look amazingly cute, too… And she was a hell of a lot more intelligent than him. Hoeff didn’t count himself as stupid, but…

“Look, we’ve been over this,” he said. “C’mon man, after the shit I was just talkin’ about? She deserves somebody more… on her level.”

“That’s her decision, not yours,” Julian retorted. “She has a right to choose who she’s into.”

“And I have a right to say I’m not the right guy for her!”

Julian growled. “Okay. Y’know what? I’m just gonna say it. Get the fuck over yourself, Hoeff.”

…Hold the fuck up. Hoeff weren’t about to take that kinda shit from nobody. He stood up slowly and gave Julian a look loaded with intent.

“You wanna say that again, Playboy?”

Julian raised an eyebrow, stared him directly in the eye, slowly stood up to his full height and…

Well, fuck.

It didn’t take much for Hoeff to see just how much of a fight he was picking. He tried not to show his nerves, but any sane man would be nervous when a few hundred kilos of real life Tarzan-gorilla got angry. Julian knew it, too. He tensed his body, firmly planted those sturdy feet of his in a wide, immovable stance, and crossed his massive arms across his chest.

His growled reply was absolutely dripping with menace, too. “You heard me, Chimp. Get the fuck over yourself and stop being such a little bitch, dude. You’re better than that.”

Hoeff wasn’t one to back down, ever. That was how he’d made it through training and become a SEAL, despite being the littlest sailor in his class. No washbacks, no failures, no excuses.

He stood his ground. They squared off, and Hoeff saw Yan shift subtly where he was sitting a few yards away, listening and watching carefully, but not interfering, at least…not yet.

Hoeff sized up his opponent.

Julian was a monster. He had a real HEAT-grade physique, all the abilities that went with it, and all the justified self-confidence that kind of innate superiority gave a man. Though Hoeff had also experienced ridiculous improvement under the SOR’s care—to the point where people were getting out of his way when he walked down the street these days—even then he’d not managed anything like Julian’s progress. He was so much bigger, tougher, faster, and stronger than Hoeff it was fuckin’ silly. He was a damn good fighter, too. Sparring with him hurt.

But despite all that, Julian wasn’t a combat armsman. Hoeff…was.

Even better for his chances, Julian especially wasn’t a fighter in the up-close-and-personal way Hoeff was. The giant fucker didn’t have the same experience, hadn’t learned the little tricks that made all the difference. Hoeff gave Julian a ruthless eye-over and decided he could probably take him in a real fight. If it ended up just being some macho posturing bullshit then yeah, Julian’d break him like a fuckin’ child, but if things got dirty…

…What the fuck was he thinking? He’d just pondered how to fuck up a friend.

And worse, Julian could tell, too. He didn’t back down any, but he didn’t seem like he was itchin’ to rumble, either. “Hey man, you wanna go for it, I’m down,” he said in a level foice, “but I’m not looking for any of that. I’m just sick and tired of you hatin’ on yourself.”

Well…fair enough.

Hoeff willed himself to unwind and looked down at his feet, a little ashamed. “…It ain’t hate,” he said once he felt more composed. “It’s… Shit, man, I dunno. I’ve spent my whole life bein’…”

He trailed off, then shrugged helplessly. He knew what he meant, but couldn’t think how to say it in a way that didn’t sound like he fucking loathed himself.

“Hoeff, buddy.” Julian moved to his side and put a heavy-ass, brotherly arm around his shoulder, then pulled him in for a crushing hug. “Can I be honest? I’m not as sociable as people think I am. I’m…uh, well, Nightmare burned my tolerance for bullshit right out of me. I don’t waste my time with people who don’t deserve it, man. But here I am. Just say whatever’s on your mind.”

He was doing that thing that really big guys tended to do, where even his gentle shows of affection were a kind of an inevitable reminder of just how little and weak Hoeff was next to that, no matter how strong he’d grown these days. And like always, it was irresistible.

“…I got a body count, man. Like… JETS was way the most bloodless part of my career.”

Julian nodded honestly and without judgement. “Yeah. I know. We all know.”

“Claire doesn’t.”

“Yeah she does, man.”

“I mean she doesn’t have one. Like…”

“She’s not innocent, either. She knows pretty much exactly what you are, Hoeff. Doesn’t change a damn thing.”

“Dude, shut up and let me get this off my chest,” Hoeff snarled. “This shit ain’t easy for me.”

“Nuh-uh, you’re gonna hear me out first. I spent six Goddamned years inside my own head, man. I know all about self-doubt and all that shit. Y’know what? It’s horseshit. All of it. And that fucking monster inside? Tough. We’ve all got it. Believe me, I know. How the hell you think I’ve managed any of this?” Julian gestured across himself, and to the jungle they found themselves in. “ So seriously. Stop it. You’ve got friends who love you. Hell, I’ve fought death robots with you! And I think sometimes being a friend means slapping the silly shit outta people when they need it.”

Hoeff fought back a wave of irritation. “Doesn’t fucking feel silly,” he said.

Julian pushed back on Hoeff’s shoulders and held them like brothers having a heart-to-heart. “Hoeff. Buddy. It ain’t silly, man. I respect the heck outta you for everything you’ve done. You’re one of the men I hope my son and daughter might look up to. It’s just…we’re all full of ourselves. I was sorta the same way when I started dating Al, so I guess…I dunno.”

Julian tilted his head slightly, then pulled Hoeff back into a fierce hug. He felt himself returning it. “I just don’t like seeing people I care about making the same dumb mistakes I did.”

…Hoeff had no idea how to react to any of that. He’d not had anyone besides his dad ever show him that kind of concern. It was…disorientating, actually. He didn’t know what to do—

There was a grumbling sound from across the clearing, and Yan stood up. He stretched, yawned expansively, and then without any warning or broadcasting, he pounced forward, swept the two humans off the ground with an enormous arm around each of their waists, transferred Hoeff to one of his feet, and swung up a Ketta.

Some few bewildering seconds later, Hoeff found himself and Julian dangling upside-down next to each other, an alarmingly long way above the forest floor.

Yan swung next to them as well, and grinned tuskily. He was gripping a branch with one foot and one hand: his other foot held Julian up by the ankle, and Hoeff found he was suspended by Yan’s tail.

“Humans talk too much,” he announced.

“Yan, this shit’s important—” Hoeff began, then shut up when Yan pretended to let go and dropped him a few inches. The big bastard was grinning hugely.

“Only yes or no,” the Given-Man said. “You like her. Yes?”

“Well… yeah, but–”

“She likes you. End of problem. [Anything else is just stupid Sky-Thoughts Taking your happiness and Giving back hurt.”] He reached out and prodded Hoeff in the forehead. “All your pain is just in here. Good women know good men. And like slightly bad man! And she chose you, so if you like her don’t insult her choice.”

“Or were you lying about liking her?” Julian asked. He didn’t seem even a little bit fazed by being swept up into the trees and dangled upside-down like a toy. In fact, he looked like he was trying not to laugh.

“No, man–!” Hoeff protested.

“Well then. Trust her! That’s what a relationship’s built on!”

Hoeff sighed. It felt…good, really. Having dudes who cared, even if it also hurt. “…Alright. I get it.”

Satisfied, Yan flipped them both over like toys, hung them over the branch and then, to Hoeff’s horror, jumped down.

Julian, the fucking maniac, jumped down right behind Yan and actually whooped as he fell. Each of the two ultra-heavyweights hit the ground with a thud that Hoeff felt even all the way up in the tree. Where Yan had just landed almost straight-legged as if he’d just hopped in place a bit, Julian apparently wanted to show off. He slammed down, rolled through the landing and sprang to his feet like a goddamn high-jumping ninja. That fall had to be from at least six meters up, too. Jesus.

Hoeff wasn’t so ridiculous. Yan had taken him for a ride, but he wasn’t about to pretend he could handle a fall like that in any kind of gravity. He climbed down like a sane person.

“…You big fuckers are gonna be the death of me.”

Julian grinned ruefully. “Nah, you’re a tough fella. I’ll teach you how to make that jump later too, if you want! Also…” He faced Hoeff square on and spread his arms. “Y’know what? This feels really really stupidly macho, but…one free hit, if you want it. I deserve it.”

Hoeff couldn’t help but laugh a little. “What? Why?”

Julian shrugged. “For pushing you outta your comfort zone.”

“Christ, I thought I’d outgrown that shit fuckin’ years ago…I’ll take a rain check.”

“No man! Payback is one thing, but no way am I gonna trust a sneaky murderbunny like you with an open-ended invitation!”

“Dude, I’m not gonna break my knuckles tryin’ to punch you. Fuckin’ weirdo.”

“You sure?” Julian grinned, then trollishly flexed his fuckin’ ridiculous abs. “I won’t offer again!”

“No, goddamnit! How the hell am I, the Navy SEAL, being the normal one here?!”

“Not even one little hit?”


“Your loss.” Julian lowered his arms with a chuckle and returned to his meal pack.

Despite himself, Hoeff felt better. Hs friends might be fucking crazy, but at least they cared. Tough love might not be fun but it proved their affection a fuck of a lot more than just validating his bullshit would have.

He stalked back to his own meal and dug in, glad for friends, a full belly, and big guns.

And he started thinking about what he was gonna say to Claire.

Date Point: 16y2m3d AV
HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

SFC Wilson “Titan” Akiyama

For the first time ever, the Couch had needed reinforcing and widening. They had a lot of new Operators, the Old Crew had all grown to enormous size, Gaoian and Human alike, and none of them felt that should in any way interfere with loading as many people onto, atop, and across the Couch as was humanly (or Gaoianly) possible. This meant one Wilson Akiyama was given the unenviable task of improving upon what was effectively a sacred object in the lore of HEAT.

He had help, of course. Sikes was a wizard with a MIG welder, just as good as Rebar had been. ‘Horse set about the task of building a new cushion that was up to the task, with a firmer padding and a new wonder fabric that was a soft as fleece, and as tough as Kevlar.

The FNGs were the Gophers, and when it was done, Righteous and ‘Horse had the solemn honor of hauling it back into its sacred spot.

The result was very definitely a couch. It had all the things couches had. Nobody could argue it was lacking any degree of couch-ness. It just… had a few extras that weren’t usually associated with couch-kind.

Like buttresses. And shock absorbers.

It had running beams to distribute the weight more evenly across the floor too, given the weight their increasing population of Beefs had attained. And Starfall had cleverly hidden some surround speakers in its rear, along with some literal ass-kicking subwoofers.

Regaari had added a permanent deodorizing spray.

All in all, it had been a good side-project to see them through a day or two of suit recovery. And now, the moment had come to test it.

“Alright, moment of truth! This a bad movie night, or a good movie night?”

His reply was the sound of Faarek flicking his favorite lucky Ta’Shen tile into the air with a claw. It ping-ed high toward the ceiling, then landed on the table with a steely rattle.


There was a small cheer from some quarters, and a resigned shrug from everyone else. After all, it wasn’t like they were really losing anything. Either was fine! And so the HEAT finished their evening exercise, quickly ran themselves through a nice, cold rinse-down, toweled off, changed into their favorite lazy-boy silkies, and piled into the dayroom.

The Couch didn’t complain at all when ‘Horse, Righteous, ‘Base, Irish, and Starfall formed the base substrate of Operator. How exactly they knit themselves together to fit on it in the first place was a bit of a mystery, even though it had been widened and lengthened as much as could be slotted through the dayroom’s doors.

Tonight’s travesty was a crime against all sapient life. Naturally, it was French.

“Is this supposed to fill me with existential dread?” Ergaan wasn’t particularly impressed, and had loaded so much jeering disdain in his voice it was practically dripping from his fangs.

“Dude, I’m not even sure it’s supposed to make sense.”

“Only a Human director would deliberately set out to make a movie with no plot whatsoever.”

“Are the French actually human?” Firth had grumbled it so deadpan, it almost sounded sincere.


“The subtitles don’t match what my translator is saying at all.”

“Good, ‘cuz I really hope he didn’t literally mean he’s gonna rape himself with a flower…”

Murray grumbled and applied more crush-snuggle to his very first pet operator, one of the new guys by the name of Forrest. He was a Marine, and had a bit of a slow, almost indecipherable drawl despite being intelligent as all hell, so naturally his provisional callsign was Gump.

He’d taken it with grace. Apparently he’d had that same joke chasing him for most of his career so far. He wasn’t as happy about giant Scottish beatdown-ninjas smashing the lifeforce out of him, but there wasn’t really much he could do. If Titan were a French existentialist, he’d maybe have crapped out a shitty movie about it, and made the rounds of the art film circuit.

“Be careful there Highland.” Firth had decided it was time for a bit of troll. “Having a pet Marine is a big responsibility! You gotta train them…”

“Aye. All this week.”

“…Clean up after them…”

“He’s house trained. Mostly.”

Blaczyski chimed in, picking up Firth’s pass. “…Buy their special crayon supplements!”

“Only the best for my wee marine, you watch. He’ll be drinkin’ crayon macchiatos!”

Forrest snorted at that. “If they don’t use Purple Mountains Majesty in their blend, I swear I’ll–hnnngh!”

“Hush, wee bairn. Only dreams now.”

Adam’s sense of injustice eventually came to Gump’s rescue. “Save your energy Highland. You and I got deadlifts in two hours…”

That earned a rueful chuckle from Murray, a reduction of his full body crushing fondness to a lesser grade of struggle snuggle, and a desperate, panting grumble of relief from Forrest.

Faarek chittered to himself as he dug a morsel out of his snack box with a claw. “Humans are still weird…”

“Says the dude eating peanut-butter-and-anchovy peshorkies.”

“Well, what’s weird about that? Peanut butter is proof there are gods and that they love us!”

Regaari duck-nodded. “Especially Gaoians.”

“In what alternate reality do you figger that’s the case?” Firth seemed genuinely amused and released Parata to prop himself up and banter.

“Well, there are whole food combinations we can enjoy that you can’t, and we have a whole sense that you’re effectively completely numb in.”

“That’s arguably true in reverse, too. Except twice, since we’ve got better color vision and a sense of touch that’ll eat yours for lunch.”

“Sure.” Regaari stole one of the vile peshorkies for himself. “And the day you can touch the breeze in a national park, I’ll concede the point.”

“Hey Titan, couldn’t Rebar tell you the type of metal something was made of even while blindfolded? Just by feeling it?”

Akiyama noded. He’d always been in awe of that trick. “If it was unfinished, yeah. He could feel the grain structure and tell you the steel alloy, if it was hot-rolled or cold-rolled…”

“Well… maybe the gods loved Rebar too.”

Faarek duck-nodded. “Of course they did. He was an honorary Gaoian!”

Firth belly-laughed, “How do you figger that?!”

“He was the only one here better at shenanigans than us.”

There was a susurrus as Titan’s fellow humans all nodded in agreement.

Baseball chimed in. “Sounds to me like our furry friends wanna run down to the coast with us tomorrow, ‘Horse…”

At this point, their extensive training meant they could in fact do just that, but that didn’t mean they liked the idea at all. All of the Whitecrests flicked their ears backward in unison, and the humans grinned at each other. A hit!

Sikes shook his head. “I never understood that about you, ‘Horse. You’re literally the heaviest human being to ever live and you like running more than any of us. You and Julian…”

“Speaking of Julian…” Walsh interjected, ”Ain’t he comin today? You sent him a message, right?”

“He’s offworld. Hoeff said somethin’ about a hunt.” If there was a hint of jealousy in Firth’s voice, Titan chose not to notice.

“Dammit. I haven’t hung out with him in ages.”

“Coulda hung out with us and Daar a couple days ago! But no, you had some lame excuse!”

“That ‘lame excuse’ is called June, and she’s a nurse.”

Gaoian psychology was interesting in these moments. They always wanted to know every single fact of the encounter in detail, and always seemed surprised when there wasn’t a mating contract at the end. Walsh fielded a few questions good-naturedly then deflected them back onto the movie.

The main character (if that was the right word, seeing as the piece had no discernible plot, characterization or dialog) was in the middle of depressively reciting something pretentious about the violent nature of cooking. Titan hadn’t paid any attention, and was just waiting for the lonely shots of inamimate objects being buffeted by the wind, or the rain, or…

French movies were the worst. At least this one wasn’t in black and white…

Right about the moment when everyone got bored jeering at the screen, and the group was collectively about ready to either go Gym or possibly just Nap right where they were—both tasks of Serious Importance in the HEAT—there was a bit of commotion downstairs, followed by some tired-sounding footfalls.

JETS Team Two had come back from the field and decided to drop in for a visit. And they had a Gaoian with them that Akiyama didn’t recognize, except he was about the smallest male he’d ever laid eyes on.

He wrinkled his nose and flicked an ear as they entered the room, prompting sympathetic chitters from the Whitecrests.

“You get used to the smell, I promise,” Regaari said, standing to greet him as several of the couch’s human occupants scrambled off it to welcome the trio of brits. “Father Regaari, Clan Whitecrest.”

“Brother Tooko, Clan Firefang.”

“The Tooko?” Shim immediately sounded interested.

“You know this guy, Shim?” Titan asked him.

“Yeah. I heard he’s sired a dozen daughters, and that he personally splashed three broodships at the battle of Capitol Station.”

“Two broodships,” Tooko corrected him modestly. “…And thirteen daughters.”

“Don’t let Daar know, he’ll be bragging Tooko up to every female he meets!”

“Oh, he knows,” Tooko didn’t preen, exactly, but he wasn’t exactly burdened with false modesty either. Titan immediately decided he liked the guy.

“Duw, boys, this looks fuckin’ awful.” Rees was staring at the TV with disbelief. He perched on the back of the couch with a grin.

“It’s the worst,” Sikes assured him.

“Fuck it, I’m in. Any beers? I’m fuckin’ gasping.”

Tooko sighed disappointedly. “…Bad movies. You too?”

“We flipped a tile for it,” Titan explained. “Personally, I’m on team Good Movie, but….”

The arrival of new friends and the mention of beer got the team out of the dayroom and into the kitchen, where they wolfed down their scheduled meals and plied their guests with as much food as they could stand. Then, it was beer time. All delicious frosty beverages were relocated to the dayroom, and the process of squeezing onto the couch began anew.

Most everyone got themselves new teddy-victims. Regaari and Faarek took Tooko (for his protection) and the rest of Team Two disappeared somewhere into the depths of the Couch.

Firth re-settled with a new squeeze-bear in the form of his perennial favorite, Blaczynski, and made himself comfortable. “Anyway, what brings ‘ya here?”

“We’ve got some leave,” Wilde revealed. “But the next jump to London isn’t until tomorrow morning. What about you? Don’t you have a baby to look after?”

“I get one night off a week to hang with y’all, ‘cuz Freya’s a goddamned angel.” Firth grinned. “I kinda miss Joseph when I ain’t there though. ‘S’funny, he keeps wakin’ up and hollerin’ and you never know if he’s after a tit or a diaper change and I never get a full night’s sleep, but…”

“Yeah,” Adam agreed. “You shift to the two-by-four plan like I did?”

“The what?” Burgess asked.

“Sleep for four hours, get up and take care of business, then back to sleep for another four. As it happens that’s supposedly our natural ancestral sleep rhythm anyway.”

“Works great once ‘yer used to it, and it’s been a fuckin’ godsend. In fact…” Firth shrugged, and caused an avalanche of Operators as he exhumed himself from the Couch. “I think I owe Freya some cheat snacks. That’s part o’ the deal. Maybe I’ll try that taco joint Daar likes…”

“Wanna take her some peshorkies?” Faarek offered the box. Tooko’s nose twitched, his ears pricked up, and he speared one out of the pile with a claw as it went past. Gross as they sounded, clearly they really were pleasing to the Gaoian palate.

“Naw, y’all keep ‘em. Freya’s kinda…picky.”

That was perhaps the most tactful display of manners Titan had ever seen from him. The wonders never ceased, lately.

“But she’ll like tacos?”

“Ain’t nobody don’t like tacos. They’ve got the authentic kind with the soft corn tortilla, too…”

“Go,” Adam encouraged. “Stop scandalizing the Gaoians with the non-crunchy tacos.”

“What about you? Diego an’ Marty both okay?”

“Diego’s staying with his abuelos tonight, an’ Marty said she was gonna spend the evening sleeping.” Adam shrugged, causing a minor landslide. “So, I’m giving her some alone time.”

“Right.” Firth shook his head and grinned. He’d always had a bit of trouble understanding introverts, even mild cases like Martina. “Well, see y’all tomorrow.”

His departure marked the point where the evening slowed down. The movie went largely ignored, the beers and snacks slowly vanished, the banter carried on over the heads of the ones who decided to fall asleep. It was peaceful. Not boring or anything, just… comfortable and quiet, and a welcome change of pace from the solid few days of urgent action they’d been chasing.

It was nice now and then to have a relaxed night off.

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 14 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Frostal Secondary, New Baltimore Sitting down in the chair across from the Principal’s desk I nervously swallowed and tried to calm my heart. The Principal could probably hear it, and smell my perspiration. Which was only making me more nervous. “Thoomaas,” squeaked the principal from

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 14 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Frostal Secondary, New Baltimore Sitting down in the chair across from the Principal’s desk I nervously swallowed and tried to calm my heart. The Principal could probably hear it, and smell my perspiration. Which was only making me more nervous. “Thoomaas,” squeaked the principal from

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More by HamboneHFY

Sweetness – Implications

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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

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Shades of White and Orange

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

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Mother Earth

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

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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

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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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 5

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+ 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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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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

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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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