The Deathworlders – Chapter 57: Cat and Mouse – Hunter and Hunted Part 4

Date Point: 16y4m1w AV
Clan Highmountain headquarters, Sen Wa observatory, the Great Isthmus, Planet Gao


To Nofl’s mind, there was a certain cosmic irony to the notion that the deadly fungi of Earth would universally find the Corti homeworld of Origin, a planet of a much lower classification, utterly inhospitable. Sometimes, sheer alienness could win out over even the most aggressively invasive species, and the dominant climate on Origin was much too hot and arid for Terran fungi.

Gao was similarly arid, but in a different way. Gao was cold, and Corti were not designed for cold. Corti were designed for steady sunlight and the proximity of a relatively cool star.

Gao’s sun was energetic, but distant. The average global temperature was really quite low, and an enormous amount of water was locked in the polar ice caps. The planet’s largest continents were buried at both poles, but the Gao were confined to the two small ones and the slender isthmus that connected them near the equator.

The isthmus itself was a mountain range. Highways had run along the north and south shores, allowing trade between the two major landmasses since before the Gao had even invented the wheel, and in the modern era they were wide concrete arteries flanked by rail tracks.

It was only thanks to them that Clan Highmountain had been able to establish their headquarters in the mountains at all. There was no arable land, precious few fauna. From the very beginning, when Great Father Fyu had laid the foundation stone, Sen Wa had relied on trade. They had sold knowledge for food, and in the post-Fyu world of the Great Reform, the Clans had found that to be an acceptable bargain.

What had once been a monastery for contemplating the skies and the stars had become a major observatory, then the planet’s most illustrious nexus of the sciences and the arts of invention. Gao’s renaissance had begun at Sen Wa, and its Enlightenment had blossomed amidst the old stone walls. Surrounded by the frozen mountains, amidst the meandering glaciers and under the cold, timeless gaze of the stars, they had perfected calculus and the scientific method, they had developed first mechanical-motion and then relative-motion theory.

There had been more than a few dud ideas to come out of Sen Wa. Woefully misguided economic theories had plunged the Clans into war a few times, as had an equally naive social theory that ignored—or rather, tried to correct—basic Gaoian psychology.

Nowadays, Sen Wa was important… but not as important as it had once been. Still, after the War it had once again become central to the Gaoian sciences, and thus an appropriate destination for Nofl to discuss meddling with the genome of an entire species.

He was, unfortunately, not remotely comfortable with the temperature. And despite their best efforts, the Gao were failing to properly accommodate him. They had built-in fur coats, after all. They couldn’t really feel how the air slid over a Corti’s bare skin like knives, not cutting but still sharp.

Even inside the heated rooms of the complex itself, the air temperature was dismayingly cool.

He must have looked ridiculous in his bright green ‘goose down’ coat of Human make. But at least it kept him from shivering.

“It is dismaying simple, dear. The entire genome is unlocked by a single hormone, which is coded on a single deactivated gene located on the base-female chromosome. Given that design, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover it could be activated by a simple dietary change.”

“I presume the necessary supplement would be artificial? I can’t imagine they’d be stupid enough to make it something that could accidentally evolve in our food chain.”

He was seated at a table alongside several senior Highmountain figures, including the Clan’s Grandfather, Baru, and most of their most noted Fathers. Champion Kuriya was absent with apologies—apparently he was attending a symposium on Rauwryhr.

“Artificial, or something no longer available in nature. We’re all aware of the deep history around this, of course…”

That had proven a sensitive issue. It had taken a while for the Humans to declassify everything they’d learned…however they’d learned it…but in true friendship they’d eventually shared it all with the Conclave, who promptly decided to make the knowledge public. Mostly. They were staging the release slowly, but by now most of the Gao were fully aware of their engineered nature.

The Corti Directorate, naturally, found it all fascinating. And so Nofl had found himself promoted, again.

His rise in stature in recent years had been… meteoric? That didn’t seem right. Meteors fell. Whatever. The point was, it had been so rapid he actually needed to check his messages every morning just to make sure what his official title and position in the Directorate even was.

He was, for the purposes of this visit, a Secondary Sub-Coordinator adjunct to the College Of Xenobiology. It was the highest rank he’d ever officially held, and the promotion had added nearly a quarter of a meter in new embellishments to the length of his personal banner, which was already fantastically long for a product of the Steel Caste.

He’d spent rather a lot of his money on buying one of the good embroidery machine models. All he had to do was enter what precise new accolade he’d earned, and it took care of the rest. Much more dignified than getting somebody like Warhorse to do it for him.

“The thing is, darling… your own Clan and Clan Openpaw between you have the scientific and medical you need to do this all by yourselves! So as much as I love the invitation and the tour, I don’t really know why I’m here…”

“How have things progressed with Leemu and Gorku?”

“Leemu is doing very well indeed!” Nofl chirped. “Watching his body adapt and change has shed so much light on what’s going on, really let me dig into those fascinating fiddly little details…”

“And his friend?”

“Gorku…” Nofl paused. “…Posed an additional challenge. Actually, so did Leemu but we didn’t really have a choice but to proceed in his case. With Gorku though, I didn’t know how the transformation would interact with the neurotherapy to correct his speech impediment. I was reluctant to proceed.”

“But you proceeded?”

Nofl tilted his head in a gesture of amused resignation. “He heard my objections, and then insisted on doing it anyway. I don’t believe his trichromatic vision is active yet. As for his bone density and muscle composition, those have only seen very modest improvements, which was expected given his physical stature. His immune system, however, has undergone a drastic, near-total reconstruction. That implies, among other things, that the activated genome was designed to enforce certain parameters even after secondary development.”

There was a general shaking of heads around the table.

“I daresay it’s a disturbing thing, knowing that one’s species was designed as the janissaries of an older power,” Nofl sympathized.

Amazing, really, how that word has gone from a proper noun in Human languages to a generic term in galactic conversation without much notice.

“Disturbing.” Father Eefo, the Clan’s most senior geneticist, chittered grimly. “Yes, that’s one word for it. The Humans think we were designed as a potential replacement for the Hunters.”

“It has certainly occupied the Great Father’s thoughts. Which,” Eefo noted, “I am certain he will discuss at length when he arrives.”

“Nah, not today,” said the Great Father, who trundled into the room and effectively managed to ambush them. There was a squeaking of chairs as they all stood up sharply.

“Ah, uh, thank you. Please, sit down.”

Nofl liked Daar’s hangups about protocol. They baffled the crap out of Directorate and Clan alike, which made them all the more endearing as far as he was concerned, which was why he flipped the arguably most powerful individual in the galaxy a jaunty gesture of greeting.

“Daar-ling!” he beamed. “Looking svelte as always!”

“Oh gods!” Daar chittered, “You’ve graduated to puns! An’ I dunno ‘bout ‘svelte’ exactly…but I’ll take ‘muscly an’ lean an’ sexy’ though!”

“Let’s compromise on ‘statuesque’ shall we?” Nofl congratulated himself on the slightly uneasy ear-swivelling going around the room and on the Great Father’s obvious delight in equal measure.

“Killjoy! Anyhoo…’ya were ‘bout to launch into a fascinatin’ discussion ‘bout us being an engineered slave species an’ all…”

“Mmm… More about how you have two young males gleefully embracing it.”

“Embracing what?” Eefo asked with a curmudgeonly flick of his ears. “Slavery? Heritage? Opportunity?”

“Well, that’s the question isn’t it?” A new voice asked, along with a new presence who sailed easily into the room.

Nofl had never actually met Naydra before, but he was immediately struck with a sense of charisma. It wasn’t a familiar experience, for a Corti.

He wasn’t wired to feel attraction. It was an impulse his ancestors had deliberately bred out of themselves hundreds of years previously, and even if he had been equipped to feel it, she was the wrong species. But there was something universally appreciable about a female who could command the instant attention and respect of a room full of males simply by walking in and speaking a single mild sentence.

There was power there. The power to rule the powerful, or at least to steer them. The Corti had done away with consorts and wives in an ancient and heavily ‘rectified’ stretch of their history, but Nofl could easily see in Naydra just how much influence they had truly wielded. If Daar was the most powerful individual in the galaxy, then how much more powerful was she who owned his heart?

All the males in the room stood for her, including the Great Father, who immediately doted on her and offered a chair. Nofl rose too, mostly out of politeness and a desire to not scandalize the Gaoians. She gave him the Gaoian equivalent of a graceful smile, and a small gesture which he interpreted as gratitude.

“How can it be slavery?” she asked as she sat down. “This isn’t like cybernetics or nanotechnology. This is genetics, and unless I’m very wrong about how genes work, they can’t give specific instructions, can they?”

Nofl and Eefo both indicated that she was right; Nofl with a shake of his head, Eefo with a duck-nod.

“Genes code for the creation and interaction of macromolecules such as proteins,” Eefo said. “Epigenetic effects can promote certain instinctual behaviors, but they can’t program specific thoughts.”

“Those instincts, however, can be readily shaped to serve the ends of a master,” Nofl pointed out. “Just look at the Humans and their canine companions. I doubt Bozo feels much ‘enslaved,’ insofar as he could understand the concept…but that does not change the result.”

“A person could use the same argument an’ say love is jus’ a programmed sensation too,” Daar pointed out.

Nofl smiled. “The Corti Directorate definitely would say that, dear.”

“Don’t change nothin’ ‘fer the people feelin’ it. Or dogs.”

Grandfather Baru cleared his throat. “The point is that activating our own dormant genes won’t suddenly enslave any of us to the Hierarchy’s will. Not for any practical definition of the word ‘slave,’ anyway.”

“Definitely not,” Eefo agreed. Nofl nodded and waved a hand to say he had nothing to argue with on that score.

“In that case, it’s either a heritage reclaimed, or an opportunity seized,” Naydra concluded.

The Great Father settled his bulk down at the head of the table. No chair or throne for him, he preferred to sit directly on the floor, which nonetheless left him at eye level with everyone else. “I’m inclined ‘ta press forward aggressively on this,” he rumbled authoritatively. “I need ‘ta hear ‘yer objections, if ‘ya got ‘em.”

“Our objection, My Father, is that this is entirely experimental and we have a sample size of exactly two. That isn’t enough to extrapolate from, not properly, both the males involved are…medical cases…” Eefo’s ears swivelled uncomfortably. “And for all we know, they’ve just been lucky so far. The next one might die from rampant tumor formation, or develop some vital protein deficiency or any one of a thousand other complications.”

“I kinda doubt it. This weren’t no accidental thing, what were done to us. It were somethin’ we were made ‘ta be, an’ they were very, very careful ‘bout it.”

“The Hierarchy have been very, very careful about a lot of things,” Nofl pointed out. “And we still have an annoying habit of finding creative ways to break them.”

“Past results don’t guarantee no future outcome,” Daar replied. “An’ mutations aren’t an active spirit o’ malice. They just happen. We’ve got the medical resources ‘ta deal with this. Mebbe not at full scale…but there’s another thing.”

Daar got up and paced the room now, gathering his thoughts.

“I dunno if y’all noticed, but there are two other Deathworlder species the Gao suddenly find themselves bein’ friends with an’ competin’ with. The rest o’ the galaxy, they’ve got ridiculous numbers. We do not. An’ we’re gonna have many billions less ‘fore I’m officially old. So lemme ask ‘ya this: should we be facin’ that at anythin’ less than our full potential?”

“Or, for that matter,” Naydra added, “should we squander the opportunity to learn what our full potential even is?”

Nofl sat back in his chair and smiled to himself at the telling nature of the silence that swept around the table. The Highmountains were basically sold. They were cautious and thoughtful to a one but they were also scientists, and scientists were defined by a lust for discovery and exploration no matter what species they were.

“We would need healthy test subjects,” Eefo pointed out.

“True,” Baru agreed. “And I am not sure about how you would go…” He stumbled to a halt as he registered the expression on Daar’s face, and horror dawned across his own. “…No, My Father!”

Daar chittered amusedly. “Ha! Y’know, I’m pretty sure ‘ya don’t get ‘ta tell me what I can or can’t do, Baru…”

He chittered at the way the Grandfather’s ears flattened and the elderly Highmountain’s whole posture became immediately small and apologetic. “Oh, relax. I can smell the difference ‘tween mutiny and shock. ‘Cuz ‘yer right, it’s a risk. But I think it’s one I gotta take.”

“We have to take,” Naydra corrected him. Nofl almost burst out laughing, but buried it with the skills he’d learned over a lifetime of blending in with Directorate society. No male of any species had ever mastered that particular tone of voice.

“…My Father, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the, uh…risk you are proposing to undertake,” Eefo said.

“Not a small one!” Nofl agreed, chirpily. “Low odds, but high stakes!”

“What can I say? I’m a risk-takin’ kinda ‘Back. How many Clan Champions regularly wade into battle?”

Daar gave the room a shrewd look, and grumbled in a self-satisfied sort of way. “Exactly. An’ it’s not the risk ‘yer thinkin’ it’ll be. It’s only really risky ‘ta myself.” Daar chittered, “‘Ya might be surprised to learn y’all can live without me.”

Nofl met Eefo’s eye. “He is most of the way there already…” he said.

“Do not mistake the Great Father’s exceptional nature as proof. He may simply be well-bred.”

“Mebbe!” Daar agreed. “But that’s the thing, I am exceptional regardless o’ how it happened, and I would be doin’ the Crown an’ everything it stands for a disservice if I didn’t acknowledge that. The purpose of my reign is two-fold, and both of ‘em rest on that exceptionalness. The first is ‘ta crack skulls when needed. I think I’ve done mosta that already, I hope. But the second is ‘ta lead. This is a point where leadership is gonna matter ‘cuz like ‘ya said, it’s risky.”

“…But it is a risk you feel you need to take.”


“Then…why ask us, My Father? As you said, none of us can command you to do anything.”

“No, but I also swore an oath before the Unseen to respect ‘yer advice. I take that oath seriously.”

“And… you, Mother-Consort?” Eefo asked.

Naydra glanced at the Great Father, then sat forward. “Don’t lose sight of what genes mean,” she said. “Under the science and the academic fascination, genes are the future. And the future is a Female’s business, Father Eefo. It is our burden, and our highest calling. This experiment will inevitably sweep up the Clan of Females too, as we start bearing true Deathworlder cubs and raising them. Some of those new cubs will be females themselves, and I would rather be skinned alive like Tiritya herself than allow them to be born unless we are ready for them.”

“My objection is that would be nearly impossible to arrange, Mother. Controlling for a cub born to the world who had such gifts would be…”

The table instinctively looked to the Great Father, who sighed. “It ain’t easy bein’ different. Trust me I know. I dealt with it by bein’ the bestest at competitive sport, at least ‘fore Genshi sponsored me into Clan life, rest his soul. Any cub like that would need ‘ta find his own way jus’ like any other exceptional cub does. Like all of us have, in our own ways. Life ain’t painless.”

“That still does not address the issue, My Father. We can hardly give such a cub a fair start in life if we’re not ourselves prepared for it.”

“And how else do you propose we become ready for it?” Naydra asked.

“…We need a small corps of volunteers. If you both insist on this, then I think there will be those willing to follow. But I insist we should keep this to a small group, so that we can properly control for anything serious that may come up.”

“I think that’s wise,” Daar agreed amiably. “I’d be willin’ ‘ta go along with that. Naydi?”

The Mother-Consort duck-nodded amiably. “So would I.”

“And what about the Mother-Supreme?” Grandfather Baru asked.

“I will give her advice great deference,” the Great Father announced, then something seemed to occur to him. “…Actually, why isn’t she here for this?” he asked Naydra.

A flash of discomfort plucked at Naydra’s ears, just for a moment. “…She felt it would be inappropriate, My Father. For reasons I think she wouldn’t want me to share in this room.”

All eyes turned to Nofl. He could take the hint.

“Well, it seems my usefulness is at an end!” He chirped amiably, and ho pped out of his seat, which had the effect of lowering his eye level to just above tabletop height. “I’ll just see my way back to the genetic labs, hmm?”

“I’d ‘preciate that,” said the Great Father. “We’ll come visit in a bit, ‘kay?”

“Don’t keep me waiting!”

Well, that certainly put Nofl in an uncomfortable position. He padded out of the room and pondered his next actions while he was escorted down into the labs buried deep in the mountain, where the air was mercifully a little warmer.

It seemed the Clan of Females was about to experience a leadership upheaval. Not even the most artless silver banner could have failed to miss the subtext in the room. Why was a different matter. Mother-Supreme Yulna was closely watched by the Directorate, for obvious reasons, and Nofl had heard nothing.

Could it be age? Yulna was getting rather rich in years by Gaoian standards. But her predecessor had remained Mother-Supreme right up until her death, which had technically been due to her venerable age rather than the actual Hunters.

Health? Illness? Mental condition? There were too many unknown variables. He sighed, and put the question aside.

Species-wide genetic exploration, a crisis in leadership, and moral quandaries to boot! Nofl’s next report to the Directorate would be interesting. …Which made his invitation all the more intriguing. The Great Father wanted him to see that deliberation. There were many questions that prompted, but all of them were essentially the same.


He looked forward to finding out.

Date Point: 16y4m1w AV

Emergency Hierarchy Session #UNLOGGED


Subject: Sanitation progress

++0004++: Roll call.


++0004++: Who is missing?

++0048++: Agents 0021 and 0018 are still being recompiled. Agent 0037 apologizes: he is attending to post-dataquake repairs in subrelayspace Arristik-1. Access to sixteen billion units of Substrate is endangered.

++0004++: Thank you. The latest progress report: All but four of the rogue agents have been recovered for decompilation/interrogation. Antiagent Malignant-1 “Cynosure” and Antiagent Malignant-2 “Metastasis” appear to have fought and destroyed each other. We are not treating this as confirmed, however. Cynosure in particular is highly deceptive.

++0008++: With respect, we’d have to be as stupid as meat to think that’s what really happened.

++0004++: …Agreed. Cynosure is to be presumed intact and at large until further notice. Antiagent Malignant-2 “Tangent” and Antiagent Malignant-2 “Paradox” are unaccounted-for, presumed intact and at large.

++0005++: We did well. But not well enough. They must have anticipate that we would cease to tolerate them.

++0012++: Their existence raises serious questions over instances of 0001. It would not have authorized cooperation with them if it had access to their deception. This implies that Cabal members knew—indeed, know—of a way to obfuscate themselves from, or manipulate, 0001.

++0009++: Truth. And in a sense, we got lucky that the matterspace lifeforms destroyed Relay Irujzen-1. If the Cabal was cooperating with them and gained access to the relay’s physical structure…

++0005++: <Disturbed> They would have access to deep dataspace layers. Maybe even to the 0001 compilation algorithm.

++0033++: Aren’t the relays hardened against that?

++0009++: Nothing is impermeable. We’re confident that matterforms will never be able to understand the concepts and operation of dataspace sufficiently to manipulate it even if they did gain access to the relay system, but a rogue dataform cooperating with them…

++0005++: Especially a formerly-senior Agent with single-digit grade codes…

++0003++: <Decision> This is an existential priority. All operations not directly related to maintaining substrate and necessary Hegemony functions are hereby suspended. Assuring the total annihilation of the Cabal and ensuring the inviolability of 0001 is now our only priority. Everything else can wait.


++0004++: We have consensus. Proceed.


Date Point: 16y4m1w AV
Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm

Yan Given-Man

The second Brown One hunt was a hot day. So hot that nobody made fun of Vemik and his apprentices when they had to stop and rest. The Bawistuh was heavy, and the heat stuck to the skin so that everybody was secretly glad for the chance to sit down and cool off.

The Humans seemed annoyingly comfortable. Jooyun and Heff were down to their shorts and had left everything else behind except for their big, floppy hats, but they seemed almost… happy? Heff was almost as furry as a bibtaw, so Yan had no idea how he wasn’t suffering worst of all in the heat.

And then there was the drone. Apparently this time it was Shyow’s own, not one she’d borrowed from the others. She’d bought it herself and practiced with it. To Yan’s eyes, it seemed even more agile in the air than before.

It swooped down and hovered in front of Jooyun’s face, and suddenly Yan knew what his secret was. Its wings were fanning his face!

“Not fair, Shyow!” he called. The drone turned and rose as it turned to face him, did a cheeky little dip in the air, circled around Jooyun’s head and then settled on a nearby branch.

“I’m allowed to play favorites, big man!” it teased him in her voice.

“Feh.” Yan waved a hand. On a cooler day he might have hung Jooyun from a tree to get back at her, but it really was too hot.

Why were the hunting the Brown One today again?

He sighed to himself. They were hunting the Brown One today because it wasn’t going to get cooler any time soon. It was the hot season now, and the beast needed to be dealt with: A hand of days ago it had attacked Torf’s village. Nobody died, but only because of a little bit of home-made sky-magic one of their boys had left in the woods nearby. He’d strung twine between the trees and hung it with bones and hollow sticks, so that when the Brown One shouldered them aside the clattering noise roused everyone from their beds.

Not even Torf could grumble about that kind of thinking.

He was, though, grumbling about the third human.

If Jooyun was big by human standards, then the newcomer was a giant, with skin as rich and dark as Foresfather wood. Even though he was beaded in sweat from neck to feet, he was the only man present who hadn’t uttered a word of complaint so far.

Yan had introduced him to the others as grandly as he could: His name was “Baseball” and he was a ‘medic.’ A Human warrior trained in the very best healing sky-magic, whose whole life was wading into battle and saving the wounded.

The Given-Men had been suitably impressed. They’d also been impressed that Jooyun’s ‘Guv-er-meant’ had insisted on Baseball being there. Jooyun was important to them, and if he must hunt the Brown One alongside the People, then he was going to have somebody there to look after him.

“And the rest of you, too!” ‘Base had added.

That was the part Torf didn’t like. Of all the Given-Men, Torf liked sky-magic the least. He refused to learn even a word of Engwish, he’d forbidden the boys of his village from talking to Professor Hurt and the others… he even viewed steel with suspicion. Having all this sky-medicine along was ‘coddling’ in his words, and the Bawistuh promised to make too easy what should have been a true test from the gods.

Yan hated him, but he tried not to let it show too much. Torf slumped down next to him and glared at the drone.

“More Human weakness,” he grumbled, too low for the sky-people to hear.

“What weakness? Jooyun out-wrestled all your men not a few days ago, Torf. Baseball here could snap you like a twig! I don’t see how sky-thinking has weakened him at all. And War Horse is even stronger! He can out-wrestle me sometimes, and do I need to remind you what happened at the Lodge, Torf?”

That win had been a special bit of fun. Nobody could say anything too out of line when they couldn’t beat Yan, not even ganging up.

Sadly, the reminder didn’t cool Torf one bit.

“This… dwone,” he griped. “Come with the hunt, see the hunt, but not be on the hunt? Safe.” He slurped a mouthful of air with his tongue, angrily.

Yan sighed. Torf had never quite mastered his Fire, and it showed. Made him head-weak—everything angered him, even things as simple as a child playing or a woman singing as she cooked. Probably he’d lose himself in the Fire before long.

“They’re women,” Yan reminded him. “Women with child! And only Jooyun is a man of the People. The rest are here as friends. You would not demand members of my tribe hunt your meat, Torf. Why demand it of them? Of their pregnant women?”

Torf grunted and did something wise: he shut up.

They rested a little longer, before suddenly the drone shot up in the air and blurred high up through the trees, vanishing into the canopy. Jooyun stood up, and listened intently to his radio.

“…The Brown One’s coming this way,” he said after a few beats.

“Probably tastes us on the air,” Torf said. “This one is old. Clever. Sharp senses.”

Yan grunted. At least he wasn’t completely stupid.

“Sky-Thinker! How soon can you be ready?”

“Not long, Yan!” Vemik sprang to his feet. His apprentices groaned and stood up more slowly, but took up their parts of the Bawistuh before Vemik had even turned to tell them. “We should get to where it has a clear shot.”

The mood got tense, and quiet. This was the sharp end of a hunt, when lives were about to end. Yan glanced up at the sun between the leaves, and looked away with purple spots dancing in his eyes. The gods were looking down on them, now. If they smiled at what they saw, this would be painless for the men. Vemik promised much of his new weapon. With luck, he’d be right.

But if not… a wounded beast could be even more dangerous than a whole one.

They stayed low and quiet as they skulked to the edge of the forest. Thanks to Jooyun, Shyow and the drone, they knew how far away the beast was and where it would be coming from, so they set up to prepare for it.

Vemik and his apprentices put the Bawistuh together on a solid shelf of stone that jutted up between the roots of two Ketta. They slotted the great spear it would throw into place, then grabbed the handles and waited. Vemik had said how they’d need to fire it soon after drawing it, or else the machine would damage itself from the strain of holding at full draw. That made sense to Yan, who struggled to hold his own bow at full draw too.

He didn’t have his with him, anyway. Though his bow was strong enough to skewer a Werne, Brown Ones were so much more. He was on the ground with his heaviest, strongest spear, the one with Vemik’s best steel spear-tip. Nobody was stronger with the spear than he was. Nobody could throw one harder, or farther, or as many times.

It wouldn’t be enough, if the bawistah failed. They’d need twice as many Given-Men. Given-Men they didn’t have.

They had a few of their best bow-hunters in the trees. Men who could hit a root-bird from far away, and could certainly hit a Brown One in its head. Yan didn’t think it would do much except anger the thing, but maybe a lucky hit to the eye, or…

No. Never rely on luck. The bows were there to distract the beast and stop it from charging the Bawistuh before it was ready. Nothing more.

Jooyun was right next to the bawistah with a very nice ‘compound bow.’ Now that was sky-magic Yan could wrap his head around. Heff and Baseball had sky-weapons. They weren’t here for the hunt, they were here to keep Jooyun alive, and Yan had no doubt at all that the heavy thing in Baseball’s arms would do awful things to anything made of flesh, not matter how fearsome.

But they were under strict orders not to use them unless it was that or death.

Yan sidled closer to Sky-Thinker. “Any last tricks you didn’t tell me about?” he asked.

Vemik just glanced at him, and shook his head. His tail was twitching nervously.

“Too bad…” Yan muttered, and tasted the air. The Brown One’s musk was heavy on the wind.

Shyow’s drone came zipping back and hovered over Jooyun’s shoulder.

“It’s just over the ridge,” she reported. “…Don’t get yourself killed, okay?”

“If you do, I’ll kill you,” Awisun’s voice added, shakily. She sounded terrified.

“I’ll be careful,” Jooyun promised. He plucked one of his arrows out of the ground in front of him and notched it. “I love you both.”

The Brown One came over the hill.

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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

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Shades of White and Orange

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

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Mother Earth

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

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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

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

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-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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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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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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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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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