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 the dark places that nobody else could…

…And now, he was one of them, which was an odd thought to have in the last moments before their warp pulse flung them into the red. But if he ever wanted to fulfill that ambition of his and be the best that had ever been…well. He had a hell of a lot of catching up to do.

And it wasn’t like the Lads had been sitting on their laurels, either.

He’d seen some of them in action before he’d joined the HEAT. Still clearly remembered what ‘Horse looked like after he’d landed on some hapless biodrone, or the way Murray had become an invisible battlefield blur always popping up exactly where the enemy least wanted him to be.

…Or the way Firth had been a blitzing, herculean engine of murder clad in shorts, sandals, a horrendous Hawaiian-print shirt and the blood of his enemies.

Today, though, things were different. Everyone on the HEAT had only improved, so much they’d all had their armor upgraded yet again. The new Mark VII EV-MASS wasn’t any lighter, nor did it squeeze down any gentler—in fact they were a bit worse—but it was slimmer, tougher, less cumbersome, and had a couple of new tricks borrowed from the Gaoian’s rather larger box of technological wizardry.

First Fang had borrowed some of that tech too as part of their expanding combined operations, and they were on-board alongside the HEAT, amped up and ready to do the impossible—capture a Hunter ship intact. What made these ships so special, Tiny didn’t know. He didn’t need or want to know either, right now.

Red light. The moment came. Final gear checks, skull-shattering slaps on each other’s helmets. His wingman from First Fang was practically vibrating in anticipation. Hell, they all were.

The assault was blink-and-you-missed-it fast. They were on target, there was a colossal crash, the auto-breach went about its business. It didn’t take more than a few seconds, which was critical; they had to get on-board and start fucking shit up before the Hunters understood what was happening.

Warhorse and Righteous were at the front, with two gigantic bear-guys from First Fang right on their tail. Months of joint training meant everyone knew exactly what to do, and it all started with the pair of massive ballistic shields the Beef Brothers were hefting.

They breached. One hapless Hunter in the wrong place at the wrong time became a nasty smear of fractured bone and shattered cybernetics as ‘Base pasted it against the bulkhead with a simple body check. The damn thing didn’t even have the good dignity to die in a satisfying way, it just splattered and left a greasy stain all over ‘Base’s shield. The wall was left with a deep-ass dent in it though.

From there, their breaching formation split and proceeded down the hallway in either direction. Now it was all about clearing territory and sweeping the ship clean.

There were a lot of Hunters on-board. Almost too many to make sense. It wasn’t long before Tiny had his turn on point, and just seconds after that, he was gory to the armpits and beyond. This wasn’t the kind of fight where range counted for shit, this was a close quarters, in-your-face meat grinder.

Like most such things though, there wasn’t much thinking to it. His muscles knew what to do, he more or less just nudged his body in the right direction and let it do its thing. Map filling out on HUD. Lots of red dots ahead, ultrasonic SONAR filling in the details. Breach, assault. Bigger room, light ‘em up, service the targets.

Red hunter. Tougher, but they knew how to deal with it. His Stoneback battle-buddy Badger sprang forward, Walsh leapt to the side. Flank, attack, pounce, withdrawal. Shields broken, triple-tap with frangible ammunition.

Lots more red now, all over everything. Look at Badger. Rictus grin.

Walsh wasn’t sure how long it took to clear their way to the Hunter’s command station. They were moving very, very fast, faster than the Hunters could make sense of. It wasn’t until they’d hit the central hallway along the ship’s spine that any gravity fun showed its ugly face, but the HEAT had some new tricks up their sleeves for that, too.

For example: special suit functions that could be activated via non-vocal commands. Walsh double-clicked his tongue against his teeth, and the small fusion spikes in his feet and hands deployed. They’d tried the Whitecrest’s gecko-glove trick at first, but it was no good; every human on the team except for Costello and Forrest was way too heavy to stick. The spikes worked a treat, if you didn’t much care about stealth, or the walls being ripped to shreds in the process.

Tiny didn’t. When the gravity suddenly threw them up to the ceiling with about three Gs worth of force, he’d tucked under and planted his feet without even thinking of it. His in-suit computer had activated the spikes at just the right moment…

Now he was clawing his way up the ceiling and he didn’t give a fuck what the greasy fucks had to say about it. Badger was right along with him, growling to himself as he hauled his heavy load of breaching toys up toward where they might be needed.

Up ahead was where they were supposed to reunite with the other half of the team. They hadn’t known that at the outset of course, but on-the-fly map building combined with the Watsons in the fleet had allowed them to figure out the mission literally as they were executing it, to a degree of effectiveness that was frankly scary. No other operation Walsh had ever been on had been so utterly on-point. It was easy to feel like he was part of a perfect machine.

No machine was perfect, of course. There was a ship-shakingly loud explosion, followed by some truly beautiful Kentucky cursing over the comms channel.


“Watch out ‘fer the big cyborg-lookin’ ones, they got bombs in their chests!”

FIC responded immediately, and changed the appropriate icon in everyone’s HUD to indicate the new threat.

“Mine went down easy enough.” That was Kodiak, First Fang’s ursine equivalent to Firth.

“What did you do?”

“Slammed forward an’ slapped it real hard innahead.”

Well. The team didn’t need telling twice. They pressed their advantage forward toward the objective, tackling and bludgeoning their way forward with more than a little satisfied glee. The regular Hunters were almost disappointingly easy targets to service. Regaari in particular seemed almost darkly gleeful as they advanced through the final group of hapless pawns. He clawed one, spun around and back-handed another so hard it had instantly died, then flowed through to fourpaw and hit the wall right as the gravity changed yet again.

He seemed to be predicting when it happened, too. Or maybe that was Walsh’s overactive imagination. In any case, they reached the command center, the funhouse was over…

Walsh caught his breath and considered things. They were here as much to capture the Alpha as to take the ship and the Whitecrests had already done it, pouncing over their comparatively larger cousins, springing off the ceiling and walls and disabling the hulking monster’s cybernetic limbs with sticky micro-charges and precision fusion claw slices. What little flesh it had left was twitching and snarling its futile rage at them from the prison they’d made of its own wargear.

There were times the Whitecrests scared the crap outta him.

Costello gave the hissing Hunter a kick. “Okay. Now how the fuck do we get this piece of shit into captivity…?” he mused.

Warhorse answered for him, by the simple expedient of grabbing one of its limbs and summarily dragging it back towards the Weaver. Its only working claws, unable to reach ‘Horse, instead scrabbled pathetically at the deck which left deep gouges in the metal but achieved nothing in the way of actual resistance.

“If it gets too uppity,” Firth ordered, “Punch it in the ‘ed.”

“I swear to God you’re actually an ork.”

“Naw, I’m prol’ly smarter than a fungus…. Somethin’ the matter, Titan?”

Akiyama was scanning the walls and Tiny could tell he was frowning even behind his helmet and mask.

“…Think I know why AEC wanted this one intact,” he said.

“You gonna share?”

“…Well, look. Everything’s modular, and it’s all small enough to come out of the nanofactory we found back there. Then they just built it like a giant Lego set. I haven’t seen anything on this ship that it couldn’t have built itself.”

“Meaning…?” Tiny asked.

Titan turned to look at him. Behind his visor, his eyes were deeply worried. “Meaning this is a fucking Von Neumann probe.”



Date Point: 16y2m2w1d AV
Diplomatic Starship Rich Plains, Kwmbwrw Great Houses

Grandmatriarch Henenwgwyr, Kwmbwrw delegate to the Dominion Security Council

It was difficult to ascertain exactly what part of the entire debacle was more humiliating. Was it their defence fleet’s cowardly and ineffective response? Was it the apparently effortless way the Humans’ re-forged ship had protected the Rich Plains? Was it how the Meat-Eater Gaoians appeared as if out of nowhere and pinned everything in place before the Hunters escaped?

Was it a heretofore unknown Human superweapon being deployed? The way the Destroying Fury had crashed into the midst of everything and systematically crushed all but one Hunter ship, which the Humans and Gaoians then apparently boarded?

That they took several Alphas as prisoners?!

No. Henenwgwyr decided the single most humiliating part of it all was when the Great Father himself showed up the next day in front of the Council and proceeded to methodically, thoroughly, and inescapably critique every aspect of their operation. His staff had produced training graphics, too. The effect wasn’t one of scorn, or of any kind of malice…

…He’d come across as a disappointed teacher.

He had, however, singled out one non-Deathworlder ship for praise. The Rauwryhr heavy escort Fearless had lived up to its name and held the line alongside the Caledonia, even supporting the Human ship with an injection of surplus power via some kind of shield-based transfer.

The Fearless’s shipmaster visibly swelled with pride as the galaxy’s most fearsome military leader commended his leadership and the courage of his crew. In the end, however, Henenwgwyr couldn’t help but suspect that flattering the Rauwryhr was part of the plan. Daar had a reputation for impeccable honesty, of course…

…Which made the following attempt at interrogating his motives the capstone of an already ignominious day.

“Why capture them, though?”

The Great Father prowled about on all fours like a predatory beast, and shook out what little of his pelt remained unclipped around his neck. “First rule o’ warfare, is ‘ya gotta know ‘yer enemy. An’ being perfectly honest, we’ve had it up to our nuts with the Dominion’s lack o’ strategy.”

“We have been managing, containing and surviving the Hunter threat ever since it first emerged,” Henenwgwyr pointed out. “Very successfully, I might add.”

“Which is wrong. ‘Ya don’t endure a threat to ‘yer people. You obliterate it! I won’t allow those [greasy-sacked, nutless, motherless demons] any more o’ my people as food!”

“Do not lecture me about whose people are being eaten, Great Father,” Henenwgwyr replied coolly. “More Kwmbwrw than any other species have been predated on by those monsters. Gaoian space is a long way from Hunter space, with the Great Houses in the middle. We’ve been fighting them since before we even invented steam power!”

“An’ yet here we are, riskin’ our own ‘ta put an end to it. You’re welcome, by the way. I’ve lit a lot of fuckin’ pyres on that point already, an’ I’m gonna light a fuck of a lot more before the job’s done.”

“We did not ask you to.”

The Great Father reared up on two paws and glared across the chamber floor at Henenwgwyr.

“You think I’m doin’ this for you? Given how the Dominion jus’ left us to our fate, I don’t particularly care what y’all think or ask for. It’d be a whole bunch easier to get this done, though, if y’all wouldn’t stop gettin’ in the way in the worstest possible ways. I’d imagine you’d be okay with that, seein’ as we’ve had actual success, an’ you ain’t hadta pay ‘fer it.”

“Success.” Henenwgwyr consulted her briefing documents. “…In the aftermath of your destruction of the Hunter orbital, Hunter raids into our territory increased by two hundred and twenty percent, with a commensurate increase in lives lost, captives taken, property destroyed and outposts abandoned.”

“When you strike hard at ‘yer enemy, they lash out,” Daar retorted. “Then, when they run outta food an’ resources, they stop lashing out ‘cuz they ain’t got nothin’ left ‘ta lash out with. You wanna tell the chamber where those levels are at now? Or should I tell ‘em?”

“You’ve destabilized the situation.”

“Yeah. I did. ‘Cuz the stable situation wuz’ bein’ complicit in an ongoin’ orgy o’ cannibalism. No civilized being is okay with eatin’ sapient meat.”

He chose those words specifically to needle her, Henenwgwyr could tell. Before she could come up with a retort, however, the council’s Rrrtk chairman sounded his chime for attention.

“I think the Grandmatriarch’s questions have been answered,” he declared.

“With respect to the chair, I don’t think they have,” Henenwgwyr replied. “I asked the Great Father why they saw fit to capture live Hunters, and the answer I received was something vague about ‘knowing your enemy.’”

Daar chose to answer. “Ah! The first intelligent observation of the day!”

“Great Father, I cannot have you insulting the members of this council,” the chairman warned him.

“I been here bein’ insulted on behalf o’ my own species ‘fer the last ten Ri’. I don’t blame ‘em, though. Sometimes ‘ya gotta get a lil’ feisty if ‘ya wanna get to the truth. Still don’t change the insult…but I note, yet again, the Council has not tabled any motion ‘ta discuss reparations under the governing Charter of this body. ‘Ya wanna talk about insults? How ‘bout that?”

“Masterfully dodged,” Henenwgwyr said, drily. “For one who professes to dislike this body and how it operates, you play our game very well indeed.”

“Ha!” The huge throwback carnivore had the unashamed audacity to chitter. Worse, he bared his knife-sized canines at her in a gesture that the translation panel in front of her said was only mostly amused and friendly. “I think I might end up likin’ you! But y’know what? ‘Yer right. I did just give y’all a vague platitude ‘bout gathering intel. An’ until such time as, y’know, everything we’ve talked about… That’s all ‘yer gonna get.”

“And what do your Human allies have to say on that point?”

“Dunno! Chairman, I yield my remaining time to my esteemed colleagues with the Allied Extrasolar Command.” With that he prowled back to his table, but not before a brief and frankly undignified show of affection for the elderly Human.

Well. Let there be no illusions as to who the Gao’s friends were. Nevertheless, Ambassador Knight managed to retain his dignity and stepped forward to stand composedly in the middle of the floor with his hands held lightly behind his back. It was an open posture, but not a submissive one.

“…Every conflict with the Hunters over the last sixteen years has taught us more and more about how they operate,” he said after a moment. “And they are adapting. Rapidly. We saw tactics in this skirmish that were wholly absent from the Battle of Gao, and our best intelligence says that there was a change of leadership among the Hunters after their orbital was destroyed. If so, their new leader is an order of magnitude more cunning… and commensurately more dangerous. With respect to the Kwmbwrw Great Houses’ proud history of holding the line against the Hunters, times are changing. The threat can no longer be ‘managed, contained and survived,’ the only option remaining to us is active warfare with the intent of neutralizing them. We can lay blame for who precipitated that change all we like, but doing so will neither stop nor reverse it.”

He turned to look at Daar. “And with respect to the Gao’s legitimate grievance over the matters of their homeworld and of reparations… We all saw how ineffective the Dominion fleet was when the attack came. That cannot be allowed to stand. Even if we were to simply manage, contain and survive the Hunters, it should now be obvious to everyone here just how capable Dominion forces are of achieving even that objective… and we all saw how necessary the Clans of Gao are to this fight.”

He turned back and looked Henenwgwyr firmly in the eye. “The Dominion requires a total overhaul of its military,” he said. “Every facet, from the ground up, must undergo the most ruthless introspection and improvement or else you will find yourselves crushed. And if that happens, it won’t matter whose fault it is.”

Elegant words, spoken like a true statesman. Meanwhile, the Great Father prowled back and forth in the background, using the rolling topology of his body to maximum intimidating effect.

The other Council members were clearly cowed by him, but not Henenwgwyr. She had his number. For all his menace and bluster, the Great Father was, it pained her to admit, not a danger. At least, not a direct one. She feared no military or economic reprisal from the Gao, they were too… unlikely to waste themselves in the effort. There were moments when the Meat-Eaters showed a flash of nobility, a whiff of civilization…they would bring no threat.

The same could not be said for the fruits of their barbaric recklessness, however. This Great Father was a dismayingly primal personality and about as subtle as a boulder tumbling down a cliff. His leadership relied on his personal charisma, which in turn stemmed largely from his preposterous brawn. Worse, his obvious intelligence rarely mattered. Daar got through life by thinking with his muscles and his gonads, vices that no great leader of any Great House could afford.

None of that boded well for safety or stability in the coming decades.

Ideally, in time, she would like to find a wedge to put between him and the Humans. For now, though… his reputation, indeed the reputation of his whole species, was of undying loyalty toward his friends. There was nobility in that, she was forced to admit. And the Humans had, it was true, been the only species to come to their aid when the Hunters attacked the planet Gao.

…No. Not the only one. Her eyes were drawn across the room to her counterpart from the Corti Directorate.

Perhaps there was a wedge there after all.

“…You make your case well, Ambassador,” she said to Knight. “Do you have a plan for where such reform should begin?”

“As it happens, I do.”

“Then that is a matter for the Security Council to discuss. A point of order for the chair, I believe the Clans of Gao have chosen not to attend the Security Council in protest. If we are to deliberate matters of military planning, which I believe Protocol requires can only be done in a closed session…?”

The Chairman nodded his head, slowly and deeply. “Indeed. Unless the Gao intend to re-take their seat in this Council, the Great Father can only give his testimony, not take part in debate or votes.”

Daar flicked an ear. “You know damn well we’ll only take our seat once we’ve got the reparations we’re due.”

Henenwgwyr accepted that statement and turned back to the chair. “I move that this session should now hear Ambassador Knight’s plan for military reform,” she said.

She stretched her back out as the motion was seconded and accepted. The ayes won it clearly, and the Great Father stalked out of the chamber without a further word before the chairman could close the chamber. Knight’s expression as he watched the Gaoian leader depart was unreadable.

The viewing gallery was cleared, and the chamber’s privacy systems were activated, sealing the chamber off from all outside observation. Only the sitting members and the officers of the chamber remained now.

“Very well, Ambassador,” the chairman said. “Please, let’s hear your plan…”

Date Point: 16y2m2w1d AV
Nofl’s lab, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Meeyuk, Champion of Clan Openpaw

Meeyuk would, ideally, have wished for his first visit to Cimbrean to be for pleasure rather than business, but, well… When the Great Father called…

He’d found his meeting with the two Corti working on this case very interesting. Third Director Tran was a model Corti in every way, and about as approachable and warm as a spiky iceberg. But Nofl…

Nofl was…unique. That seemed the best way to describe it. He’d picked up a number of deliberate affectations that toyed with Human prejudices about males with high-pitched voices, and played the role to the hilt. Underneath the deliberately scandalous veneer, however, lurked a biologist of unmatched talent. It was he who had first developed the Cruezzir, along with the Gaoian- and Human-specific derivatives. It was he who had first made the connection between the Gao’s genetic oddities and their revealed ancient history.

Now, he was bringing those oddities to the surface in an audacious way.

“Think of the possibilities, darling! Your suppressed genetics code for all sorts of wonderful things! Better color vision, stronger bones—”

“—A more potent immune system…” Meeyuk felt the need to drag the conversation back onto less…ethically dubious grounds. Which, given the proposal, was a Keeda tale worth telling.

“That too!”

“How potent? Relative to, say, a Human?”

“I’m not sure anything but the Ten’Gewek properly match them, but let’s just say the potential is enough that the question may be academic, more than practical. After all, they had many millennia of evolving in urban squalor. That was denied your kind.”

Meeyuk duck-nodded to acknowledge the point and scratched at his whiskers while he considered their patient.

Leemu was heavily sedated, almost to the point of a dangerous overdose. Even then, the Arutech was fighting back by synthesizing stimulants in his cells. Its objective apparently was to keep him wide awake and blissed out of his mind by direct stimulation of every pleasure receptor in his brain. The chemical battle going on in his bloodstream was alarming.

“We’re risking acute toxicity on…multiple fronts. Balls.”

“Indeed. We’ve been continually filtering his blood since we’ve taken him out of stasis. That’s kept things stable, but…”

“We don’t have long.”


“What is your proposed treatment plan?”

“We must first preserve his mind. I propose a strong antagonist be introduced to flush his reward chemistry as aggressively as possible. We will filter his blood of course, but we can’t do that for long before his liver is compromised. Simultaneous to this, we deploy a retrovirus to properly activate his immune system. We’ve discovered through our genetic modeling systems that this will require modifications to a gland located here, in the lower thorax…”

“Morko’s organ? Interesting. It’s involved in developmental signaling of course…”

“Yes yes. It’s the locus of your species’ rather alarming ability to adapt to cubhood stressors. As it turns out, it’s also critical to your proper immune system. There’s another complication. We, uh…oh dear. This is unpleasant, and we only just discovered it…”

“I am used to bad news at this point. Say it, I think I can guess it anyway.”

“The entire developmental pathway that unlocks all of this, not just what we’re targeting…is triggered by a single protein, coded on a single inactivated gene.”

“…A fucking lock and key.”

“Yes. We will need to unlock it. Which means Leemu here will be much more of an experiment than we had anticipated. Not even our computational resources can fully predict what will happen, I’m afraid.”

“For reference, we devoted the seven Prime Analytic Engines at the genetics college on Radius to this task,” Tran interjected, speaking for the first time in the conversation. “It is… rare for us to devote such resources to a single individual.”

“I’m… sure Leemu would be very honored,” Meeyuk said.

“He should be,” Nofl said, and told him just how much computational power Tran was describing.

Meeyuk could only boggle. He’d known that the Corti were the only species to have yet developed fully scalable quantum computing, but the numbers Nofl had just given him were so big they became abstract. He had nothing to compare it to.

“…Why would you do this for us?” he asked.

“Two reasons. The first is direct self-interest. You are our customers and we want you satisfied with our service. The second…” Tran shifted subtly, a sure and intense sign of slight discomfort which was a rare thing for any Corti to display. “…Problems like this do not come along often. Mysteries this subtle and this consequential are the things we aspire to unlock. Leemu is the test case for something profound, and it is a thing that will benefit both our species immensely. How could we not invest in this possibility?”

“The upside,” Nofl added, “is that we’re reasonably sure your species was engineered to tolerate introduction of this protein even as adults. The downside is we don’t know the second-order effects…but we are reasonably certain the first-order consequences will be manageable.”

Tran nodded. “There is one more thing you should consider. Most of your major racial strains remain fully under the lock and key that was engineered into your species…but not all of them. In particular, nearly all of the most meritorious members of your species are showing mutations along the protected regions. Some of that code has been expressing itself for almost a millennium now, and with each generation that lock degrades just a bit more.”

“So we’re going to face the consequences of this anyway,” Meeyuk deduced. “Be it today or a hundred generations from now.”

“Less, probably!” Nofl chirped happily. “Especially if Leemu goes on to breed…”

“If he recovers, I have no doubt he will. He’s…not an uninspiring example, to be frank.”

“That’s the Arutech at work. According to his friend Gorku he gained an inordinate amount of muscle and strength in a very short space of time with little relative effort.”

“Fair enough, but he had to have the frame to accommodate it in the first place. And I was referring to his face, to be honest. He’s handsome.”

Tran glanced at the patient with a blank expression. “…As you say.”

“Right.” Meeyuk shook his pelt out. “In summary, you would introduce a potent antagonist to flush his reward centers while simultaneously holding him unconscious, filtering his blood, introducing a powerful retrovirus, and activating this ‘key’ protein. The consequences of that will be manifold and profound, but will certainly cause a powerful autoimmune response.”

“Which we will then convince to react aggressively to the Arutech.”

“Which will require intensive care.”

“Yes. Intravenous feeding, the whole lot.”

“As for prognosis, you’re confident?”

“He stands a better than even chance of surviving, and a reasonable shot at full recovery. We do not make any claims about what the full activation of his genome will mean for him,” Nofl said, carefully.

“We can and do, however, pledge to provide our full support to him,” Tran said.

“And to his friends,” Meeyuk added.

“…I’m sorry?”

“Gorku and Mister Chadesekan. His recovery is going to be…painful. If he is to succeed, he will need companionship, and I suspect they will have their hands full with him for some time.”

“Very well,” Tran said distractedly. “We will provide material assistance to them as well.”

Meeyuk considered for a moment. This had been a far more complex debriefing than he had anticipated, and he would prefer to give it its full due analysis…

…But they were running out of time. The question of Leemu was eating away at the Great Father’s soul, all the Champions could see it.

“…Very well. You have my qualified recommendation,” he said. “I must go brief the others.”

“We’ll be here!” Nofl promised. Tran simply nodded curtly and returned to whatever it was he had been working on before Meeyuk’s arrival.

Meeyuk slipped out of the lab, paused and raised his nose in the air to sigh, and almost jumped out of his fur when somebody tapped him on the shoulder.

Champion Gyotin gave him his most infuriatingly calm pant-grin. “Something on your mind?”

Meeyuk shook his head to clear his thoughts. “The future, Gyotin.”

“Funny how that seems to be hinging on individuals recently, isn’t it?” Gyotin chittered, then gestured toward the embassy, just a short stroll away. “Shall we? The Great Father should be back soon. I’m sure you’d like to have cleared your mind a little before he arrives.”

Meeyuk duck-nodded, and they strolled away from the lab, taking their time. “My mind may never be clear again,” he confessed.

“That’s no way to live.”


“Would you care to talk about it?”

Meeyuk composed his thoughts as they walked for a few hundred paces before replying. “…No, thanks,” he decided. He turned and gave his Starmind counterpart a wry expression and a flick of his ear. “I bet you don’t hear that very often.”

“Not often,” Gyotin agreed. “It’s a refreshing change!”

“What about you? Does it worry you?”

“I presume you mean the ‘lock and key’? Nofl briefed me just before you.”


Gyotin sniffed the breeze and tilted his head introspectively. “…No, on balance, it doesn’t.”

“We’re talking about unlocking genetic potential that was within all of us but sealed away!” Meeyuk said, stopping in his tracks. “Doesn’t that… I don’t know. Upset you? Change what the Gao are in some way?”

Gyotin scratched at this whiskers, then spoke as though he’d put a lot of thought into his words.

“…You are still Meeyuk, I am still Gyotin, and the Great Father is still Daar,” he said. “Every one of us figures out what that means for ourselves as we live, and the Gyotin of tomorrow might trip over something that changes his life beyond recognition. Life is a journey, my friend, and our nature is that we are travellers. If you change the road, does the traveller change too? Does damming a river change the nature of the water?”

“…You got me talking about it after all.”

Gyotin chittered. “You did that yourself! But… there you go. That is my opinion. The Gao will not change, only our course will. And that is how it has always been, throughout history and long before. I think to let this revelation change our nature would be to let the Hierarchy control us… and they lost control a long time ago.”

“That doesn’t mean this won’t be a terrible road to navigate.”

“No, but I suspect it won’t be as bad as you think. Look at us Champions, at our Clan leadership. Look at the leading lights in the Clanless. I am no geneticist, but you cannot tell me this ‘lock and key’ hasn’t already leaked quite a lot. Look at Daar and any of his cubs. You cannot tell me he isn’t already mostly there. What will we be like when everyone has access to their natural potentials? I think that will only be good in the end.”

“Honestly? Life extension aside, the rest of it doesn’t much worry me. The part that intrigues me is the notion of improved color vision. I think that more than anything would have the biggest impact on our culture.”

“Hmm. Yes. I’d almost be tempted to go through what Leemu’s about to just to see Red for myself.” Gyotin flicked an ear mischievously again. “Almost.”

They paused by the Alien Quarter’s central fountain. Humans loved fountains apparently, and had placed one at the heart of the Quarter to form the focus of a shared space. For some reason, they always flicked petty small change into it when they visited.

“Adding a whole new color to my life?” Meeyuk mused. “…That would be strange. But you’re right: Knowing it’s possible, I don’t know if I’ll be happy to be less than I could be.”

“Exactly!” Gyotin duck-nodded fiercely. “We are a competitive people. I don’t think many of us will be happy knowing we retain our true Deathworlder heritage and leave it at that. I will make a prediction: the Great Father will be among the first to undergo therapy once he’s convinced of its safety, and he will personally encourage the whole of the Gao to do so as well. He is… vexed by what was done to us. To a degree that isn’t generally appreciated.”

Meeyuk tilted his head. “Really? I would have thought he’d view it as cheating, somehow.”

“How so? It isn’t a lie. By that rubric, advanced medicine is a form of cheating as well. Is it fair to our ancestors that a grievous injury can be healed in seconds? That we understand how to eat correctly? That our primary education has vastly improved over the centuries? Could a literate, well-fed cub who stands virtually no risk of a crippling injury be considered to have an unfair advantage?”

“So this is just another unlocking of our innate potential to him.”

“I believe he will eventually see if that way, yes. As for me…I am what I am, and I will still be me if I ever decide to take the plunge. For the moment, I am content.”

Meeyuk found himself duck-nodding along in total agreement. Which meant, he reflected, that his mind was made up.

“…Well then. I guess it’s time for the next pounce in Gaoian evolution.”

“Or a throwback,” Gyotin said. “Any doubts?”

“Always. But not enough to stop me.”

“Very well. Shall we get to that briefing? I don’t like to keep the Great Father waiting…”

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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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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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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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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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