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 overhead. The Rauwryhr had evolved in the perpetual twilight of the forest, and rather than cutting their forest down they’d cultivated it. It was the foundation for their cities.

Those cities, or at least the city of Wrhyfrur, were not as… round… as Knight would have expected. If he’d been asked to picture a city where treehouses and gantries between the mighty forest giants took the place of skyscrapers and pavement, he would have described something elegant and rounded, perhaps exotically lit by pale blue bioluminescent plants and suchlike. Something with a natural aesthetic.

The Rauwryhr weren’t quite so sentimental. The lighting was LEDs, and the buildings were designed to reinforce the trees they were built around, onto and into. They were sealed and had air conditioning, and were made of glass and steel rather than wood with the result that the fact that they were built around, out onto and among the branches gave them an odd topography that reminded Knight of bismuth crystals.

And of course, everywhere were the signs of thriving capitalism. Advertising hoardings, animated billboards, lit signs in every colour of the rainbow. There was a lot of orange, which glowed warmly in the low light levels, but plenty of green, red and blue too, seasoned with swatches of pink, purple and blue.

And then there were the open spaces between the trees where “pedestrian” traffic went gliding.

The planet Rauwryhr would have been a higher class if not for its utterly pathetic gravity. That, combined with a relatively dense atmosphere, meant that the Rauwryhr themselves lived a three-dimensional life. They didn’t quite have wings, but what they had was more pronounced and developed than the loose skin of a sugar glider and it let them glide easily on their homeworld, though they were sadly grounded and ungainly in most other environments.

In Wrhyfrur, there were holographic motes of light suspended in the air to guide people and prevent mid-air collisions as the locals flew across the open spaces between the trees. Guided by them, Rauwryhr commuters and civilians swooped and looped gracefully in the artificial updraft generated from the ground level, and circled down around the edges.

All told, it was an incredible sight. One day, the Ten’Gewek would come here and be suitably awed. It certainly gave Knight a shiver down his spine, and he’d seen fireworks over the Thames, the Las Vegas strip and the famous Shibuya intersection. Wrhyfrur was a spectacle on that kind of level.

He was immensely grateful to see it.

The Rauwryhr equivalent of laughter was a kind of hiccuping chirrup sound, and it occurred to him that he was hearing it from beside him. The Rauwryhr ambassador to the Dominion Security Council, Scrythcra, was waiting patiently for him.

“You approve, Ambassador?” he asked, when Knight glanced at him.

“It’s… stunning,” Knight admitted.

“I’m sure your cities are just as striking,” Scrythcra replied, pleasantly. “Too bad I’ll never have the privilege of seeing them.”

“And I’ll never have the privilege of gliding this one. But I’m glad to have seen it.”

“We have transportation suitable for our alien guests,” Scrythcra assured him. “You’ll see this city as it was meant to be seen, I promise. After all, the conference center is in the canopy.”

Knight glanced behind him at the jump terminus they were leaving, and reflected that if they’d come via shuttle he’d have been able to see the canopy from above on final approach. As convenient as jump tech was, there was an argument that it took some of the thrill and scenery out of travelling.

“Yes, I’d like to see that,” he agreed.

“This way, then.”

As promised, the ride up into the canopy was spectacular. Spencer, Knight’s personal protection officer, clearly wasn’t entirely happy about the transport’s huge sweeping windows but he accepted his Rauwryhr counterpart’s assurance that the transport was designed with the safety of visiting VIPs in mind.

Knight wasn’t concerned. He could see the faint shimmer of forcefields shielding, and he noted with interest the several discreet panels with small warning labels on them that he guessed meant airbags. A fall at terminal velocity on this planet? With something soft to land on?

Best not to be too cocky, though. Life could always surprise a man.

They came up into the conference center from below, following another trail of holographic runway lights onto the landing platform alongside a dozen similar aircars.

“Many of our alien guests are intimidated by heights,” Scrythcra said as they disembarked. “We have safety netting under and around the platform for your benefit. So long as you don’t do a running long jump off the edge, you’re in no danger.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” Knight said glancing over the shoulder-high railing beside him and having a sudden perverse vision of himself doing exactly that. He quashed the sudden attack of l’appel du vide and stepped away.

“Patrick!” The deck was sturdy enough to handle several shuttles, but Martin Tremblay’s footfalls still rang through it as he jogged up to say hello. The two old friends shared an enthusiastic hug. “How are you?”

“Enjoying the view!” Knight said.

“I’ll say. Hopefully one day there’ll be a documentary team with a drone who can come out here and do it justice. But there’s a bit of a snag, I’m afraid.”

“What snag?”

“The Great Father isn’t coming after all. I just got word from his officer here, apparently something important came up.”

“Why does that fill me with a mild sense of dread?”

“Because he’s arguably the most powerful man in the galaxy?” Martin gave him a wry look.

“There’s no arguably about it.”

“Well, whatever came up I’m sure he’ll handle it and we’ll know when we need to know. He doesn’t, uh, do coordination. Luckily for us we’ve either been super lucky or he’s considering our interests as he goes…”

“Some things move too fast for extensive liaison. Besides, I had rather a long conversation with the 5-EYES leaders about Daar not so long ago. There’s an… understanding.”

“He knows that messing up the alliance would be a bad idea, and we know he has the freedom to act that our own leaders sometimes wish they had, so we don’t comment overmuch on Gaoian aggression as long as it remains ethical?” Martin summarized, shrewdly.

“That’s about it, yes.”

“If I know Sartori, he used almost those exact words.”

Knight shrugged and glanced at Scrythcra, who was listening with interest. “Daar was created the Great Father specifically to crack skulls, after all. Doing what he must only increases his power.”

“That is the very root of the Kwmbwrw grievance with him,” Scrythcra said. “They don’t like unaccountable leadership, as a rule.”

“Neither do we… as a rule,” Knight assured him.

“He is not as unaccountable as people suppose,” Martin said. “Not even a Great Father could long stand against the Clans if they turned against him.”

Scrythcra cocked his head and perked an ear curiously. “How so?”

“Daar’s power is built on trust, and that trust comes from a long history of consistently doing the right thing. I think far too many misread why the Champions so respect him.”

“Is it respect? Or is it actually fear?”

“I’m sure personal fear is no small consideration. I mean…he is Daar. But long before he was the Great Father, he was Champion of Stoneback. He was well-respected even then.”

Knight nodded. “From what I’ve heard, he never wanted to be Great Father anyway.”

Scrythcra spread his hands and ducked his head, a gesture Knight remembered from his Rauryhr body language primer was meant to signify agreeableness. A human would have nodded. “You aren’t alone in thinking that Henenwgwyr and her supporters at the Council are too hard in their judgement.”

“She’s guilty of some mirror fallacy, I believe. She’s treating Daar like he’s a breeding-stud from her own people. There is a reason they are a matriarchy, after all.”

The Kwmbwrw had the opposite gender ratio to the Gao, and their males were… not stupid, but gripped by their hormones and emotions to a degree that was genuinely alarming. Worse, that ratio wasn’t genetic, but came about as a result of male competition…and the resulting attrition. The Kwmbwrw matriarchs only preserved an orderly society through an iron grip that sometimes bordered on totalitarianism.

After all, their young maidens could be just as gripped by their hormones as the studs could be. They were a passionate people, deeply and devastatingly passionate. For Knight, getting his head around that fact had been the key to understanding Henenwgwyr’s intransigence… and her fear. She saw in the Gao a society that embraced their wild side in ways that would be genuinely catastrophic for her own people.

No doubt they’d feel much the same about the Ten’Gewek in future decades.

Humans on the other hand, or at least the tiny minority of humanity that existed as an interstellar power, seemed to receive a lot of positive press among the Kwmbwrw. According to intelligence, the general consensus in the Great Houses state-controlled media was that humans were the product of a fearsome, violent planet and posed an enormous threat to everything around them simply by existing… and then praised spaceborne humanity for their restraint, discipline, and for keeping the more ‘feral’ proportion of the species contained on Earth.

A frankly offensive misreading of the situation, but not one that Knight was about to correct them on. It was too useful.

“Well,” he decided. “If the Great Father isn’t coming, maybe the Kwmbwrw will re-think their willingness to attend.”

“We shall have to discuss it,” Scrythcra said. “Inviting a species like them on short notice is not easy.”

“There’s a lot to discuss,” Martin said. “And not many days to discuss it all in. Let’s have this tour of the conference center, and then we can get down to the details.”


Knight nodded in agreement, and followed behind as Scrythcra started to point out the features and facilities that made this particular venue such a prime choice for the Interspecies Defense Symposium. But he couldn’t resist one last glance at the view of the city.

That alone made this whole venture worthwhile. Everything after that point? Every step they were about to take in rebuilding the Dominion’s military structure and pushing back against the Hunters? That was the objective of course…

But what was life if it was all work, without a healthy dose of beauty now and again?

Hardly worth defending at all.

Date Point: 16y3m5d AV
The White House, Washington DC, USA, Earth

President Arthur Sartori

The morning defence briefing was always a ‘highlight’ of Sartori’s schedule. It was mercifully efficient, so it had that going for it, but it was a constant grinding reminder that there was a whole world of life and death out there and that he was compelled to make a move in that huge, grand-stakes game literally every time he spoke.

“…They’ve traced the kidnappers to a small village in the mountains, but the local authorities are concerned it’ll be a massacre if they send in their own people. The deadline until they start executing hostages is now, uh… sixty-one hours away.”

Sartori nodded, resisting the urge to doodle on his notepad as he thought. His hands liked to be busy as his brain worked, but it wouldn’t have been seemly. “Do we have assets in a position to do anything?”

“Yes, Mister President. There is a numbered task force within range, and a special activity even closer. I would recommend the task force but that will still require a Finding.”

Findings were not a thing Sartori particularly enjoyed. They had many uses, but one of the biggest was to authorize a covert activity. That also caused select personal enemies of his in Congress to be notified, which meant that every time something dark had to be done, his foes gained yet another point in the even more covert game of DC influence peddling.

Fuck it. “Right. Authorized. Who are we using?”

“Delta, for this situation. There are radiological hazards.”

“Of course there are… How long?”

“Quickly. The real delay will be getting airborne and over target, frankly. We anticipate mission completion by this evening’s summary.”

“Okay. I look forward to it. Anything else?”

“Just a political matter. The Great Father’s Office reached out to us, Mister President. They want to plan a large state visit coincident with a strategy session amongst the 5-EYES. The Great Father apparently feels that the battlespace regarding the Hierarchy has changed significantly and that warrants high-level discussion.”

“He’s not wrong. Have they reached out to our allies?”

“Yessir. His office has extended formal invitations to His Majesty and family to visit at their pleasure, and we gather that a formal invitation in reciprocation is forthcoming. There is also talk about visiting other nations abroad. It was made clear to us they would appreciate advice. Particularly about Thailand.”


“Yes, Mister President. It’s to do with that ‘laughing man’ incident on Cimbrean just a short while ago.”

“…Oh! Right. There’s a Thai citizen involved, isn’t there. What was his name again?”

“Preed Chadesekan, sir.”

“…Right. Well, Thailand isn’t exactly a bastion of political stability, even if they are largely pleasant in international affairs these days…”

“They’re also frequently governed by a military junta. They’ve just held free elections for the first time in many years.”

“Might not be the image Daar wants to project to the rest of the human race, then.”

“We will advise them on the complications, Mister President.”

“Please do, and draft a personal invitation from me to Daar.”

“Yes sir. That should be…” General Moss checked his list one last time and gave a satisfied nod. “…yes, that’s everything.”

“Great. Thank you, general.”

“Mister president.” Moss and his entourage left, and Sartori watched the usual West Wing bustle and hubbub unfold as the next issue on his schedule for the day was deftly summoned…

It was a busy day. Not a lot of time to think. At some point during the morning, his invitation to Daar arrived. He read it, decided he was happy with it, and signed it. Daar might have the run of Cimbrean thanks to his understanding with Annette Winton, but a visit to Earth was a different matter entirely. Best to make sure absolutely everything was done properly.

The evening summary arrived before he even had the chance to come up for air. Time, it seemed, flew just as much when a man was swept off his feet with work as when he was having fun. But he was pleased to learn that the rescue mission had gone flawlessly: Hostages rescued, radiological items secured, and a high-value target currently undergoing surgery but expected to survive to be subsequently delivered safely into custody.

He took a moment to briefly imagine the flurry of tense activity, the precision lethality and the sheer scale of what had been set in motion long before it arrived in his office, and which he’d given his blessing to with a simple nod and one word. It was easy sometimes to condense the world down to just his office, and paperwork, and quick decisions.

He relished the moments when he was reminded what those decisions meant. They meant, for a dozen people in a far-flung corner of the world today, that life went on and their nation was a slightly safer place to live. Thoughts like that were what kept him doing what he did.

He retired for the night in a good mood, and slept easily.

Date Point: 16y3m5d AV
”Stinkworld,” The Irujzen Reef

Daar, Great Father of the Gao

Garl had the smell of terminal decline all over him, and his eyesight was vanishing terrifyingly fast.

Daar had known some silverfurs to hold on for a decade or more when they started to go, enduring years of aching bones, blindness and stiff joints… but the Stonebacks had always had the opposite problem. Their lives were healthy and robust and comparatively long, but when nature did finally catch up with them it hit like a rockslide.

Garl would be dead within a month, at most. That was… not an easy thing to contemplate, really. He’d been a senior father on the day Daar became Champion, and had gone on to become one of the longest-lived Grandfathers the Clan had ever known. Top three, certainly.

And of course, he was Daar’s own sire. That relationship was not traditionally acknowledged, but it still mattered somewhere deep under Daar’s fur.

And Daar was nothing if not sentimental. He did his best to suppress it when being the Great Father required him to, but… at moments like this, it was hard to convince himself that Garl shouldn’t have the right to go out with a very literal bang.

Garl sniffed the air and grumbled to himself, “Din’t ‘yer den-mamma teach ‘ya how ‘ta wash ‘yer balls?! I could smell ‘ya from the jump gate!”

Well, decline and impending death certainly hadn’t dulled Garl’s claws. A few nearby Longears looked at him utterly aghast, not believing anyone would speak to the Great Father himself that way, but it wasn’t like Garl had much left to lose… and he knew damn well that Daar would always let it slide.

“Musta been one’a those things the old shits running my Clan beat outta me when I was young,” Daar replied. The two collided in a hug, and sniffed noses. “Balls, ‘ya smell positively ancient, Garl!”

“You mean just-shy-of-dead, right?”

“You mean y’ain’t already rotting?”

Garl chittered, then coughed, shook his fur irritably and felt his way back to his seat. “…Pretty sure I might be,” he admitted.

Daar couldn’t suppress the keen in his voice.

“Ah, shaddup ‘ya huge fuckin’ sentimental cub. We all gotta go sometime.” Garl sat down heavily. “An’ I’ve done a lotta important shit in my time. Kinda wanted to do one more, if you’ll let me.”

“I had a quick brief on the way over. Meereo wants to blow it up too, but he told me he can’t really say whether smashin’ it or leavin’ it up will help the war effort more.”

“He told you ‘bout how it covers Earth an’ that Guvnurag planet?” Garl checked.

“An’ he also told me you learn more from monitoring a live system than by picking over artifacts.” Daar huffed a sigh, and saw Garl’s ears droop just a little. “…But we’ve been monitoring this place ‘fer fucking years. I say it’s time we claw the Hierarchy in their nuts an’ see how high they squeal.”

Garl sagged in relief even as his ears perked up again. “So we’re gonna blow it up?”

“We’re gonna blow it up. You deserve at least that much.”

Garl sighed in relief. “Thank you.”

Daar chittered. “Also! It’ll be a fuckin’ awesome ‘lil gift ‘ta give when I do Earth Tour Two: ‘Lectric Boogaloo here pretty soon!”

“…Electric what?”

“‘Ya know those really awful clan epics from when we just figgered out motion photography? It’s a Human reference to their same era. Which wasn’t all that long ago. Balls, it’s almost in livin’ memory…anyway. Bad black-an’-white movies. With shiny rockets. And stuff.”

Garl groaned good-humoredly. “…Figgers I’d learn ‘bout something awesome like that right as I’m goin’ blind!”

“Can’t see everything, I guess.”

“Nope. Seen a lot that’s worth seein’, though. Seen our people shake off slavery we never even knew we were under, that’s been somethin.’ Seen a lotta real pretty Females, seen my cubs grow up to be great in their own right… I been at peace with this happenin’ ‘fer a while, really.”

“You talk to Gyotin at all?” Daar asked.

“The fuck do I need him for?”

“…Fair ‘nuff!” Garl was, apparently, the opposite of spiritual.

“I figgered this shit out a while ago,” Garl explained. “Maybe Gyotin did it sooner an’ he helps others figger it out sooner too, but I got there my way. I know he’s important ‘ta you, but… I don’t need him.”

“Fair ‘nuff,” Daar repeated, more comfortably.

“So, uh… are we gonna blow that thing while my eyes still work enough to see the flash?”

“The Destroying Fury is in orbit right now, with a double pawful of RFGs just ready to go. An’ I maybe abused my authority just a teeny bit and had ‘em hook it up to a Big Shiny Button, which I just so happened to bring down here with me. Wanna do the honors?”

“…You do love me, My Father!!”

“I do. I’m gonna miss you like crazy, Garl.”

Garl had never been great with sentiment. He went still for a few heartbeats, then duck-nodded. “Well… if there is someplace that comes next, meet me by the biggest Naxas roast when ‘ya get there and we’ll catch up. And if there ain’t… I’m real proud’a you. The most proudest.”

Daar helped him stand. He’d called ahead and ordered Meereo to pull all of their people and equipment out of the Relay, cut the power to its overhead shielding, and form them all up on the hill above the camp with the best view of the Hierarchy edifice. His arrival had been the signal for everyone left in the camp to drop what they were doing and head up there.

Fyu’s furry sack, but he’d forgotten just how much the Relay hurt to look at it. It was somethin’ wrong, a weird-ass wibbly ball of directions that didn’t exist, hanging in the air above a fuckin’ monolith of dull metal. A ‘Back could go loopy tryin’ to make sense of that thing.

It didn’t take long for everyone to assemble with a general air of feral excitement. In particular, a buncha just tiny little silverfur soldiers gathered around Garl while he contemplated the Button.

Nobody needed telling what the Button was for. Big Shiny Buttons were always for the most bestest things. And right now, Garl was gonna make the most bestestest farewell speech ever.

He didn’t disappoint. He held the button lightly in his claws, sniffed the wind, and peered at the Relay until, Daar guessed, he was absolutely certain he could see it. Then he duck-nodded, and spoke.

“…This one’s ‘fer Gao, you motherless fucks.”

He pressed the button.

The Destroying Fury started the party with its main guns. RFGs took a while to arrive after all, so they needed something to look at and enjoy before the main event arrived. Orbit-to-ground direct fire punched down in a series of fat blue columns of radiation that cracked the Relay monolith’s facade and cracked the foundation. Hierarchy engineering was tough stuff, though, and though the Relay shifted and subsided, the impossible ball of wrong above it stayed active.

Local bird-equivalents spiralled frantically to get into the air as the first overlapping ripple of thunderclaps from the bombardment reached their ears. One round hit the relay phenomenon directly and refracted around its event horizon to smash into the forest at a crazy angle.

The bombardment promptly let up. Smoke and fireballs billowed into the air, but it was just a pause before the real moment of glory.

Eight RFGs landed in a tightly coordinated spread across the span of two or three heartbeats. Most of the watching Gao, including Daar, shielded their eyes: Garl just grinned ferociously at the brilliant flash and bared his teeth into the wash of roasting heat that slapped them even on their hilltop miles from ground zero.

The monolith cracked down the middle and fell. The air above it turned inside-out, spun sideways at angles that no living eye was equipped to track, became briefly and impossibly flat….

And then blessed reality finally reasserted itself. For Daar, it was like the sudden cessation of a high-pitched note that he hadn’t even noticed was being played on his nerves; The relief was full-body and profound. Overpressure flattened the trees for hundreds of meters in every direction, and when the sound hit them it threw dust and small stones into the air and slapped Daar in the chest so hard that he felt his ribs bounce.

They stood and listened in awe as the thunder of what they’d done bounced off the hills and through the ravines. They listened until it was gone, replaced by the shrieks, hoots and calls of traumatized alien wildlife fleeing from forces they couldn’t understand.

Finally, the silence was broken by a simple, clear voice from the button’s carrying case.

“Great Father, Destroying Fury. Bombardment complete.”

There was a general relaxing, some nervous, awed chitters. Somebody joked quietly to his Brothers. Daar stepped forward and put a hand on Garl’s shoulder.

“How was it?”

Garl chittered darkly, flicked an ear, took one last sniff of the wind and turned to look at him. His gaze missed Daar’s face by several degrees, focused on nothing. “…Think that flash mighta finished my eyes off,” he said. “Can’t see a damn thing, now.”

“…Was it worth it?”

Garl shut his eyes and nodded, an expression of the deepest contentment on his face.


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Date point: 14y 9m 1d AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Meeting of Given-Men Yan Given-Man “When will Jooyun return and take the Rite of Manhood?” Yan mopped some of the sweat from his crest and loosened up his crushing grip on his challengers. “Soon,” he said confidently. “Soon.” Fall was almost

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Causal Results – Chapter 4

Species C543 System 4 Years 2 months 23 days Before C1764 FTL Jump “Ma’am.” [Sil] tried to turn away from the noise and tried to remain in the blissful realm of unconsciousness. “Ma’am!” [Sil] forced her eyes open and let out a low groan of pain. [Fred] was next to her on the ground, her

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Good Training – Survival Part 8

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

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Causal Results – Chapter 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 4

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

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Henosis – Chapter 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 3

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

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Causal Results – Chapter 2

First Landing Earth, Florida, Launch pad 39A April 12, 2033 “Ignition Sequence start, five, four, three, two, one, lift off!” The crowds several miles away from the historic launch pad watched as the craft slowly began to move up into the atmosphere. Almost an homage to the craft that had taken Humans to the moon

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Good Training – Survival Part 7

Date point: 14y 8m 2w 2d AV The Dog House, Folctha, Cimbrean Late afternoon Julian Etsicitty Agony. If Adam had a singular talent that stood out, it would have to be his supernatural ability to give his training victims some very dramatic results by inflicting insane amounts of pain. Julian both dreaded and eagerly anticipated

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Henosis – Chapter 3

Virtrew had been relaxing in the starboard docking array. He’d been feeling inspired and creative for the past ten-day… it was too late to alter the structure of the current station, but he had ideas for the next. He was off-shift, so he’d picked up his data tablet, a bowl full of Vzk’tk salad, and

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 2

Date Point: 16y3m6d η Ithacae, 94.9° 12-GERBER-UNARY G2V III, “Heafield” Technical Sergeant Adam “Warhorse” Arés Every now and then, Adam had a day where every little thing went so well and he found himself firing on all cylinders so perfectly, he could feel right in his big ol’ slab of a chest that exact same

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 1

Date Point: 16y3m5d AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1772 ++0010++: Proximal’s continued absence is a source of concern, and investigating has been forced to take a low priority by other operations. His last known activity was in an Irujzen-1-adjacent sub-lucid volume. ++0004++: Irujzen? Why was he all the way out there? That’s a backwater! ++0022++:

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Henosis – Chapter 2

The mess hall on the station was a cavernous space on one of the mid-decks in the core, overlooking the long central shaft. It was a temporary arrangement… once the station was near-complete, a merchant or restaurateur would be enticed into setting up a proper dining area, whereupon the space would be converted in whatever

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Henosis – Chapter 1

[2yr 1m AV] Trrkitzzkt L’tr’brtrk’tr quietly filed away the video files of the interviews he’d completed, queuing a copy to be sent via the station’s normal data exchange to his personal archive, in addition to the backup copy he kept on his personal data tablet. Both were encrypted with the strongest algorithms the investigator had

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Causal Results – Chapter 1

Dorvakian Home World 4 Years 3 months 8 days Before C1764 FTL Jump Looking across the grounds for several moment’s Silnersalkara tapped the table in front of her. The data controls embedded in the device quickly shut off and the hologram above its surface died. “Kermarcus, I’m aware of the situation. The opposition’s been attempting

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 4

Date Point: 16y3m AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Yan Given-Man “I like these Core-tie.” “You do? Why the change of heart?” When the ‘del-a-gay-shun’ had returned, there was of course much eagerness to learn the news. Yan was very happy to tell everyone they would be getting vack-seens from the Core-tie as

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Good Training – Survival Part 6

Date point: 14y 8m AV Residence of the Great Father of the Gao, Folctha, Cimbrean Sister Naydra The months on Cimbrean had been…therapeutic. She found herse lf greatly appreciating the Female presence on the Human’s first colony world, and everything it stood for: stability, acceptance. Survival. The Humans had done so much to support the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 3

Date Point: 16y3m AV USS Robert A. Heinlein, Akyawentuo Orbit, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Third Director Tran Some of the other Directors had expressed reservations when Tran had informed them he was taking Nofl along to the meeting with the Ten’Gewek. He’d invested some of their trust and patience by reassuring them that

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m3w AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1722 ++0008++: In summary, the infiltration of Sol means the operation was a success, though not an unqualified one. We have four Injunctors on Earth, and a further two in the outer system, but the new Arutech biodrones appear to be an abject failure. The Cimbrean infiltration

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Rising Titans – Chapter 51 (End)

9 Years, 7 Months, 2 Days After Eridani Landing Chront Leaning down and putting her head to the table Stagg yawned. “Try the tea,” repeated Derrick sounding just as exhausted as she felt. The Captain turned to look at the engineer and then at the small pot on the table. “I did. Taste’s like mold.”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m3w AV Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao “Hey, this ain’t a bad little house at all!!” Daar followed in behind Gorku, who was carrying a completely exhausted Leemu on his back and had to mind his steps. “Humans know how to build houses arright,” he agreed. “Maybe

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m2w1d AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Vemik Sky-Thinker One of the Human archaeologists was a metallurgist. Tilly was a strange and delicate name that didn’t suit her at all, Vemik thought. She had a sharp face full of metal piercings, skin full of bright pictures, and a half-shaven crest of

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Good Training – Survival Part 5

Date point: 14y 2m 3w 4d AV SOR barracks, HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Meanwhile… Brother Faarek (Southpaw) of Clan Whitecrest–SOR “Are you sure you want to do this, Brother?” “Yes,” Thurrsto said with absolute conviction. “She’s the most beautiful Female I’ve ever seen and she’s hurting. I can’t bear doing nothing.” Faarek

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 5

ESNN Magazine article: “Prisons In Their Head- an interview at Camp Tebbutt” Author and photographer: Ava Magdalena Ríos [Cover image: two men seated on a bench in front of a chain-link fence, with a stunning Alaskan vista behind them. On the left is a scruffy bearded white man with shaggy salt-and-pepper hair, and next to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 50

+15 Minutes The Canada “Can this thing fly?” Shouted Pankin as a rattling howl began to echo through the ship, the crew members on what was now the ceiling tightening their straps as objects that had been floating began to rattle on the floor as the ship dove deeper into the atmosphere of the planet.

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 4

Date Point: 16y2m2w AV Weaver dropship, Rich Plains contact volume, Kwmbwrw Great Houses TSgt Timothy “Tiny” Walsh All throughout the ordeal of becoming HEAT and finally earning the Mass, the one thing running through Walsh’s head was that one day, he too would serve at their level. Do the mission like none other. Walk through

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 3

Date Point: 16y2m1w5d AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon-Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Ava Ríos “You ever rode a helicopter before, Ava?” Ava jumped, and looked away from the window. She’d been enjoying the view. It was her first trip to Alaska, and the thing that struck her as she’d watched the landscape rolling by

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m1w2d AV Gaoian embassy, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao There was shit to catch up with. Stuff to read, stuff to make decisions on, stuff to be briefed on in case he had to make a decision later… At first Daar did his best to

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Good Training – Survival Part 4

Date point: 14y 2m 1w AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Singer “So, if we salt the roots in boiling water with some herbs, and use a very tight…what was the word?” [“Jar,”] Julian said encouragingly. “—And then we boil the whole jar with the lid on loose, so the bad spirits

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Rising Titans – Chapter 49

+10 Minutes The Singer [Vann] stood in the center of the bridge the three-dimensional hologram showing the entirety of his fleet as well as the surrounding space. The cubic formation was going to be tested now, up to this point the only gauge of effectiveness was how [Charles] had reacted to it in simulations. He

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m5d AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Xiù Chang Yan was having to explain himself. It wasn’t that the men who’d come out to hunt the Brown One were disappointed, exactly. None of them had been looking forward to the battle at all. They all knew the stories of how many

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m4d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Julian Etsicitty Daar caught up with them about an hour after Xiù called ahead to let them know he was coming. A lot had happened in that hour. Yan had laid out his bibtaws in a kind of scent lure, some distance out

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m3d AV Gaoian embassy, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao People who didn’t know Daar all that well thought he had a pathological aversion to Civilized pursuits. Not true at all! Daar had always enjoyed history, writing, and the more subtle arts of courtship, and he

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 4

Date point: 16y2m3d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Daniel “Chimp” Hoeff Julian had a habit of singing in the woods. Not loud, exactly, and Hoeff wasn’t even sure he was totally conscious he was doing it, but loud enough to hear. Apparently it kept critters from blundering into them that might

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Rising Titans – Chapter 48

+ 7 Minutes 38 Seconds The Canada “Captain, your message?” asked Arik as her Avatar superimposed itself over the main monitor. “Surrender now, call off the fighters and we’ll let you live. Then we can begin to negotiate for an end to this pointless violence.” “That’s it?” asked Arik after a moment. “Unless anyone else

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Good Training – Survival Part 3

Date point: 14y 1m 2w AV “Clan Young Glory,” western unincorporated territories, Gao Sister Naydra Naydra and her fellow Sisters were slowly dying. The “Clan” that had “liberated” them from the clutches of what they now knew were biodrones had decided their honored guests needed “protection.” Their so-called protection consisted of imprisonment. Their “protection fees”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 3

Date point: 16y2m3d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Professor Daniel Hurt “What exactly did he say he’s fetching, anyway?” “An M107.” Daniel frowned. Although he’d learned more about firearms in general over the past few years than he’d ever imagined he would, there were times that the people who really “got”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV Chiune Station, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Allison Buehler Allison hadn’t slept well in a couple of nights. It wasn’t that she begrudged Julian and Xiù going offworld, not at all, but it did disrupt the sense of familiarity that made home, well… Home. If she didn’t have her brothers to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

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

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Good Training – April Fool’s

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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

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Good Training – Pecking Order

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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

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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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