The Deathworlders – Chapter 58: Gjallarhorn Part 5

Date Point:16y7m2w AV JETS training camp, New Albion Island, Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm

Sergeant Ian Wilde

Akyawentuo was a big planet, bigger even than Earth. And her native population would have utterly vanished just in Wilde’s home city of Sheffield, which was only the seventh most populous in the UK. The Hierarchy had come far too close to wiping them out.

In other words… it was an empty planet. A lot of open space and unclaimed territory that the Ten’Gewek weren’t going to want for probably centuries, if their civilization ever moved in that direction anyway. From what Wilde could gather, the People were fiercely protective of their way of life and knew good and well that they had their way and humans had the human way, and it was always best to do things their way.

A bare, windswept island the size of Scotland about seventy miles offshore with hardly any trees to climb and no herds to hunt was of no interest to them whatsoever. So, they’d readily given permission for the humans to use it for whatever sky-reasons they wanted with a few caveats regarding things like weapons testing and so on.

How exactly they’d known to say no to weapons testing was a question for another day.

The camp was pretty bloody spartan, so nothing new there really. The engineers had done what they did best: slap together something sturdy that wasn’t about to fall down on the people inside it. It had a septic tank, a water processor, a small fusion generator and a forcefield emitter, and a wormhole comms router for emergencies.

Sleeping arrangements were more of a “so long as it’s not actually sharp” situation. They had Gaoian teams coming through on occasion, and they slept basically on top of each other in as tight of a furry ball as possible. Ten’Gewek visited for training too, both to help with scenarios and to learn themselves, and their preferred sleeping arrangement was basically anything elevated and sheltered from rain.

Fancy spoiled demands, that.

In any case, their mission, such as it was, was to get JETS teams ready to someday explore hostile worlds, meet exotic new alien species, and kill them, probably. There were JETS teams up through number seven now, and the Gaoian Grand Army had just as many. The French were getting in on the act now, recruiting interest had spiked…

…And the Ten’Gewek had a team, too. Sorta.

Ferd was a newly-transformed “bachelor” Given-Man with no tribe of his own. The Lodge hadn’t yet Given him a peace totem to trade and until that happened, he and his small band of other young, un-bonded men wouldn’t acquire any willing maidens. He was, therefore, quite keen on proving his worthiness, as were the men that followed him in the hopes of founding a new tribe.

That was a big gamble they’d taken, but he was very well thought-of and everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the Lodge Gave his totem. Ferd was one of the shining stars in the current crop of Ten’Gewek men; extremely smart and curious, he’d taken to reading and writing and other various and sundry ‘sky-learnings’ almost as eagerly as Vemik and his crew.

Surprisingly, Ferd was also the shortest—barely five-foot-two—and most compactly-built man of his group, despite being the only red-crest among them. Ferd had apparently always been a stumpy little tank of a man, one who had been known for his shocking speed and strength even before he’d become a red-crest, and then a Given-Man once he was out of his teens. From a distance, his hunting party might have looked as if they out-hulked him, since they were all just about as broad across the shoulders and stood at least a few inches taller. Two were tall enough to look Wilde directly in the eye; by Ten’Gewek standards that made them veritable giants.

Ferd was also the youngest—very young for a Given-Man, though nobody held that against him, either. Because, although he might have seemed at a disadvantage among his team…

…He was by far the strongest, the quickest, the heaviest and most impressive-looking man in the group. He was the meanest, too. When he wanted to be, anyway.

Ten’Gewek crests were a literal color code to the health and virility of their males. Only the young, the sick, the starving, or the congenitally weak had straw or blond crests. From there, their crests went from tiger-stripe orange, to safety orange, to something so brightly colored the People simply called them orange-crests. Proper examples of such men were uncommon; most sat between tiger- and hunter orange. Real orange-crests were almost fluorescent, and only strong, healthy and well-fed men were able to keep one. They mostly had bodies as hard as teak, with a densely muscled, almost too-lean bodybuilder’s physique to go with it.

A red-crest was rarer and far more impressive, built more like a huge slab of steel or carved stone than a man. A very big village may have been two hundred souls strong, but even they only ever had two or maybe three such men, aside from their Given-Man. Usually they were older and well-settled lads who’d had the time and opportunity to grow over many years, but not always; Vemik was already becoming a red-crest himself, the youngest any of the Singers knew, even younger than Ferd had been. Probably it was the rich hunting and forge-work Vemik had on this side of the mountain at just the right time in his life. Give him a couple more years eating werne steaks, training with his human friends and beating on steel…

Ferd’s men were about the toughest and most impressively fit young bachelor orange-crests there were across all the tribes. Hell, the biggest of those four might have given Vemik a bit of trouble on a lucky day, who was a hench fuckin’ tank of a man even by Ten’Gewek standards. None of that really helped Ferd’s men compare against him, because in the end he, like all Given-Men, was quite handily in an altogether different league entirely.

Given-Men were hands down the most incredible specimens among the red-crests. Their mohawks were outrageously tall and had a strongly iridescent tinge to their color, in addition to being so nuclear bright red they were difficult to stare at. While there wasn’t much besides blades or maybe a particularly bad fall that could truly hurt a man of the People, Given-Men in general were so tough and hardy that they feared little besides each other. Whatever biological witchcraft made them into what they were was something all Ten’Gewek respected right down to their cores, so he had no problems whatsoever putting his teammates in their places, even all at once. None of the others gave him anything but the utmost respect.

And he was ambitious. As he was probably only about twenty-one years old, Ferd had literally decades of life at the top of the social heap to look forward to and would only get better with time. If he kept his wits about him, built alliances carefully, and wasn’t blindsided by some new young challenger, he’d probably end up being Yan’s successor one day. Ferd knew it, too.

Yan had once been a very young Given-Man much like Ferd. Or so the stories went.

Ferd approached once he and his group had finished their latest timed “run” through their little obstacle course. Wilde always had to steel himself in his mind for a brief moment whenever they talked, since Ferd was built exactly like a proportionately shorter Yan and had the same kind of completely invincible intensity carved across every line of his body. And like all Given-Men, Ferd was heavy, so much so that the gravel on the path crumbled apart under his feet.

All the weight and strength of a grown damn bull, compacted down into someone about the size and rough general shape of a plain ol’ big man. Only an insane person wouldn’t be intimidated by someone like that. Thankfully, Ferd was usually a very easy-going kind of lad.

His men were still sucking wind while he knuckled over with a generally placid expression on his face, seemingly hardly bothered by much at all. Wilde would make him run it on his own later, but for now the goal was teamwork, not sheer prowess. Either the whole team made progress, or none of them did. Ferd had done well on that mark, helping his fellows along as much as he could without making them feel useless. A mark of good leadership, that.

He stood up on his hind legs as tall as he could to talk face-to-face, or as close as he could get, anyway. Though he was friendly and still shorter than Wilde, Ferd never failed to intimidate.

“Sergeant. I have question. You have word from ‘leadership’ yet? About my idea?”

Ten’Gewek considered it respectful to focus on whoever they were talking to, and liked to make and hold eye contact during a conversation. They were much like humans in that regard. Well, humans in the anglosphere, anyway. Ferd had an intense gaze, one just as strong as Yan’s. Wilde met it levelly and never wavered, though that honestly ran against all his instincts.

He shook his head. “Not yet, mate. I’ve bigged it up as best I can, but Professor Daniel is, uh…”

Ferd nodded and broke eye contact to look back toward the mainland. “Afraid for us,” he finished. “Mind-strong and means well, but he is body-weak. I think, does not understand.”

Ten’Gewek learned fast. Their own rites of manhood had something in it that was much like basic training, so every man understood teamwork, discipline, and listening to orders right to the core of their beings. Every single male in their society had experienced it; hell, they were eager to, since that was one of the first chances they ever got to spar with young men from other tribes and impress the ladies.

Which was what they were really after, here. They wanted to go on a grand hunting party after the biggest and most dangerous possible prey, prey that even the ‘sky-tribes’ were afraid of. Nothing else could possibly give them such good mating prospects, or give Ferd a better start to his nascent tribe. What woman wouldn’t want children by such brave and strong warriors…

The biggest challenge, really, had been to get them to think beyond their cocks. Admittedly, with this lot that was trickier than most…but they figured it out, eventually. War among the Ten’Gewek was rarely a deadly thing. Injuries happened of course, sometimes there was some rape and pillage…but that was, weird as it was to say, almost normal among them.

A society that considered rape to be merely extremely rude instead of a capital offense was… that was tough for Ian and the lads. They’d been brought up with a different view of the world, different morals. A lot of the banter among the cavemonkeys was frankly offensive to English sensibilities, but… well, they were aliens. So long as they didn’t do it under his watch…

But, they were getting it. Ferd and his men had seen what real warfare could look like. All the Ten’Gewek had, when the Hierarchy had shown them the true meaning of evil. The warring between the tribes had calmed down in the face of that and lost much of its dangerous edge.

Now, the People were preparing for something much more important.

They’d never actually see battle against the Hunters of course. Nobody in their right mind was going to take a team of iron-age aliens who thought of a radio as a magic talking rock and drop them in a real firefight. But they had useful skills and knowledge to impart, and they could learn, and by teaching them, the Allied instructors could learn how to educate later generations.

No gunfights for the cavemonkeys. Helping to explore wild, dangerous Deathworlds, though…

Ferd looked back and tilted his head quizzically. “Do you think ‘pro-fess-or’ will say yes?”

“I do, eventually. I think you lot would do well. Hell, nothing I’ve seen yet says otherwise.”

Ferd gave a pleased grunt. “We good men, yes? Teach us sky-war, we help beat big enemy. Is strange thing, with ‘rifles’ and other sky-magic. Feels…weak. But…”

“You can’t flex your way out of a nuclear explosion, mate.”

Ferd trilled, and then did just that with a mischievous expression. “I can try!” Ten’Gewek all had big meaty arms, but Ferd had a bowling-ball sized bicep that could shatter rocks in its crook; he’d shown off that trick more than once. “Maybe, Human-people not man enough!”

…Of course. That was the way of it. Every interaction with him was a gut-check like this.

Probably always would be, too; he and his men needed to know that their much smaller sergeant was up to the task of leading them, and were therefore constantly testing Wilde’s resolve. If they wanted, they could tear him apart like wet tissue paper and everyone knew it. What they wanted to see instead was two-fold: could Wilde hold his own, and could he prove that he was “strong” in other ways they valued? If that meant guy-banter with tree-bendingly massive cavemonkeys and their hypermacho, pretty much literally tonnes of fun leader…

Well, they meant well. And they were genuinely fun lads too, even if a bit too intense…

“I mean, it’s a substantial bicep, I guess…but I’m pretty sure that bigass monkey-arm of yours wouldn’t stop a bomb or a bullet to the brain, Ferd. Even if it could pop my head like a zit.”

Ferd trilled happily and nodded in satisfaction, then sidled up to Wilde affectionately: gut-check passed, and the unspoken Contract of Protection between Wilde and literally anyone else at all was renewed. He smiled. And sighed internally. Ten’Gewek were terminally testosterone poisoned and a hell of a challenge to lead. Thankfully, Ferd seemed to respect Wilde, and he in turn followed Wilde’s lead amiably. Wilde did his best to be worthy of that trust.

“Yes. Must be clever. This high-rarchy, very dangerous prey, yes?”

“The most dangerous. You need to be very smart and very careful against them.”

“And strong, too. Else, why even talk with us?”

Well, he wasn’t wrong.

“Exploring their worlds isn’t easy work, true. Having literal supermonkeys would be helpful—”

Ferd looked down at his huge rippling legs and slapped them loudly in another round of well-meaning, not-quite-insubordinate macho teasing. Christ he was an impressive lad…

“—But don’t make the mistake of thinking this would be like any normal hunt. The prey is…strange. We would be exploring the ruined villages of other sky-people they’ve killed over more years than you can count, and maybe breaking the big enemy’s machines while we’re there. We need to do this without being noticed, too. This is almost like hunting ghosts.”

Ferd shuddered at that, from the top of his head-crest in a wave that went all the way down to the tip of his tail. Wilde hadn’t yet found another word that scared them quite like that.

The conversation was interrupted when Wilde’s satellite phone went off. Some horrible bastard had loaded Steppenwolf onto the bloody thing because of course they had, and he kept forgetting to undo the damage.

Ferd waggled his ears in an amused sort of gesture, and decided to give Wilde some privacy. All the excuse a red-blooded Given-Man needed to play-wrestle his charges, apparently.

Wilde turned away and answered. “Hallo?”

“Got my license again.” It was Hoeff’s imitable growl. “I’ll be out in a few minutes with some Given-Man mail and your shiny new orders!”

“About bloody time. What finally changed?”

“Arés handed the licensing off to somebody, and they reinstated it.”

There was a lot not being said there, but when it came down to it, Wilde knew only two absolute truths in life: Never take the first offer, and do not fuck with Mister Hoeff.

“…New orders? Why does that fill me with a vague sense of existential dread?”

“Oh, it should. It’s officially go time, my most bestest limey friend. And you get to tell me if you’re taking our monkey-pals along for the ride. Coombes has gotta get deployment orders going.”

Wilde considered it. The thing was, Ferd and his mates were good at what they did, no doubt. But if they were going to work with human and Gaoian forces then what they needed was a dose of culture.

“I know how we can test these guys…” he said, as the idea blossomed in his head. “We know they can fight, they’re hard-ass hardbodies that don’t ever give up, they’ll listen to orders, they can shoot and read and write and use a compass and all that. But you know what I really want to see? I want to see if we can send them to Folctha with some cash and a list of errands.”

There was a pause on the line, followed by a dark chuckle. “…That’s evil. I love it.”

They talked a bit more about the minutiae of command, then hung up with some loving trash-talk. Speaking of…

Ferd had, in the span of the two minutes of the phone call, managed to pin all four of his monkey-mates and was busy rolling around in the dirt with them. All five of them had massively happy facial expressions and similar exuberant joy across their body language; Ten’Gewek used both in equal measure to emote. That was good, because it meant Ferd wasn’t a bully, at least not by cavemonkey standards. Honestly, young aggressive human men weren’t so different when they got to know each other. Granted, maybe they weren’t quite so keen on grappling each other like that unless they were young teens…or drunk…

“Oi, my cave-apes! I’ve got good news!”

The affectionate ruckus broke up, and the five of them hopped into position around him, sitting attentively on their tails.

“Here’s the thing,” Wilde told them. “The reason we humans come here is to learn how to live in the way our ancestors used to, long ago. We come here to learn something we don’t already know, but you already know how to live off the land and thrive in the forest. So we need to find something you don’t already know.”

He gestured at the sky. “Up there are worlds and places like you haven’t dreamed of. There are places under far away skies where the people have built villages that reach to the horizon and claw at the clouds. There are places that are like giant flying villages between the skies, where many ships like the ones you’ve seen come and go on their way to somewhere else. Sometimes, our mission takes us to those places as well as to forests and swamps and deserts. If you are going to fight alongside us, you need to know how to handle civilization.”

Ferd tilted his head curiously. “‘Civilization’ make you soft, you say. But you grow hard when you want.” He thumped his ridiculous abs loudly in a sign of approval. “This is good I think. Teach us, is more to strong than body only.”

Wilde nodded. “Exactly.”

He gestured at the camp. “We’re short on a few supplies. They’re waiting for you to collect them in Folctha. That’s the biggest village on Cimbrean-anarakyuawentue,” he clarified, using the Ten’gewek word that loosely meant ‘planet’ and more literally meant far-place-under-other-sky.’

“Your mission,” he continued, “is to retrieve those supplies without making a scene. This isn’t a raid into another tribe’s territory, this is a respectful visit, and while you are there you will obey their rules. Our rules. We follow yours when we’re here…”

Ferd nodded. “We visit, smile and play nice. You say, some other sky-people so body-weak, we break them by accident.”

“Yes. You will respect them, or at least respect the rules. Humans and Gaoians—they look like Daar, but are a lot smaller—you can do things like shake hands and whatever else, if you are invited. Still be careful. Not all of us are monkey-tough. Any others…”

“No touch. Keep distance. Speak good words only.”

“Exactly. I’ll write out a list of what we need, who has it, and how much it should cost. I’ll also give you five hundred pounds in cash. Do not spend it all if you can avoid it. Think of cash like winter food.”

“Save, do not eat all at once.”

“Yes. One final problem: the jump array, the magic that takes us there and back, goes to other places as well. It only brings us to and from here once a day. You will need to find a place to sleep. To protect the supplies you are collecting, it is best if you sleep inside, not out in the open. There are places called ‘hotels’ which will give you a place to sleep for the night for some money. Again, treat the hotel and the people who work there carefully and with respect.”

He looked along the row of five hulking alien brutes. “This is a test of the strength that controls strength,” he said, and tapped the side of his head. “We have a saying. ‘Mind over body.’ One of the true tests of manhood among my people is self-control. A man is judged by his restraint just as much as anything else. Understand?”

Ferd nodded fiercely. “When I become Given-Man, and the Lodge Take me from the People and Give to the gods, I endure many things. And get many learnings. I learn, must always know my body. Given-Men so strong, so angry, we dangerous.”

Wilde nodded. “So. Get your gear, I’ll prepare the list of things you’re going to fetch. You’ll travel to the mainland on the Weaver, same as usual, then jump through to Folctha next chance you get. I’ll expect to see you back with all the stuff on the list on the next jump after that. Any questions?”

He fielded a couple of minor clarifications along the lines of who they should ask if they didn’t know what the rules were and so on, but it was all smart, sensible stuff. These guys weren’t dumb apes.

Ferd encouraged his men to ask questions, too. That was an excellent sign of leadership and almost completely sealed the deal right there. That kind of thinking was what made a modern military work. If you had that…all the rest was just a matter of experience and good training.

As he watched them get ready, Ian Wilde felt a certainty settle into his gut: They were ready. They were capable. They were eager. All of which meant that the Ten’Gewek were going to war.

Now, all that remained was to see if they could handle civilized peace.

Date Point: 16y7m2w AV
Folctha, Cimbream the Far Reaches

Allison Buehler

The rule might be ‘sleep when the baby sleeps,’ but Allison had slept enough for now. She didn’t need more. She needed to move, to stretch, to give her body something to do besides sleeping and nursing.

So, she was doing yoga in the middle of the living room. It wasn’t coming as easy as it once had, but then again she’d had a big natural birth only two months before, and she didn’t really have the time she’d have wanted to really get back into condition. Julian had given them both big babies, and truth be told, Allison wasn’t too sure if she’d be interested in another. She loved him dearly, but…

Well, they had a pretty big “misfit” family as it was. Maybe she’d reconsider down the road. Xiù so far was saying she wanted more than one…

Whatever. The look on his face was something other than wondering affection this time.

He’d come in from the gym without the usual bouncy stinking happy hello, instead vanishing upstairs to shower and change. Once cleansed and dressed in t-shirt and shorts, he’d flopped on the couch to stare down into Anna’s moses basket. Bassinet. Cradle. Whatever.

The look on his face was about the most complicated she’d ever seen him wear. There was far too much there to unpack it all, but… troubled? Worried? Protective? A lot of different things at once.

Allison sat down next to him and rubbed his back. “…Something wrong?”

“…You ever wonder what your purpose is?”

“I dunno. It’s always seemed pretty easy to me,” Allison replied. “Life puts a thing in my way, and I deal with the thing.”

Julian snorted in his affectionate way, but didn’t say anything for a moment. Allison sensed she should wait for him to set his own pace.

“What if you found out, literally a half an hour ago, that you were the result of a six-generation long Corti breeding experiment?”

Allison’s hand stopped moving. Slowly, she leaned forward to frown at him. He tore his gaze away from their sleeping daughter and gave her a red-eyed, lost stare.

“And now,” he continued, “you’re stuck questioning…everything.”

“…Back up. This isn’t hypothetical, is it?”


“Jesus fuck.”


“…I’d… I don’t… I mean, that’s… According to who?!”

“Nofl. He dug up some classified Directorate records from somewhere and… I am literally an experiment. My entire family is an experiment. Every single one of my ancestors further back than we have records were themselves bred—fucking bred—with a goal in mind.”

“Fucking Corti!” Allison groaned. She hushed herself as Anna stirred a little, but mercifully didn’t wake. “But… okay, a goal? What goal?”

Julian sighed. “I get the impression Nofl was struggling to tell me as much as he could, but I didn’t really get a solid answer. I think they just…wanted their idea of the best possible survivor. Or, uh, something like that.”

“That seems sketch as fuck, babe.”

Julian sighed again, and reached despondently into the basket to adjust the baby’s blanket.

“Yeah. And the more I think about it, the more sketch it seems. Like…look at how much fuckin’ magic they had that worked on us humans all-sudden! Miracle healing drugs, literal supersoldier stuff…and here I am, this… I mean, I thought I was just a regular guy they dumped on Nightmare probably just to see how long I’d last, and…”

“And you’re not a regular guy at all,” Allison finished.


She took his hand. “Let’s be honest. You’ve never been a regular guy. You’ve always been pretty special. Not just to me, either.”

“That makes two of us. Three of us—where is Xiù, anyway?”

“Grocery shopping.”

Julian laughed quietly with just an edge of desperation in his voice. “God, I love how stereotypically domestic she is sometimes.”

“She loves it too. Our badass spacebabe starship pilot likes her pink lace aprons and packing us lunch and stuff.”

“Somebody’s gotta make up for all the masculine energy around here.”

Allison laughed. “You callin’ me butch?”

“Tomboyish. I love it, but… you aren’t a girly girl, baobei. Except for your underwear.”

“Damn right!” Allison agreed, proudly. She lay down half on top of him and half beside him. “So. Bred, huh? By the finest minds in the Directorate to produce… what?”

“Well, somebody who could survive Nightmare, I guess? I dunno. And if Nofl knows, I don’t think he can tell me. A survivor or somethin’ like that, like I said.”

“What do you mean?”

“…I dunno. All I got is suspicions. And also, why tell me?! Nofl made me promise to come back later today, and I think some other bigass shoe is gonna drop…”

“Julian, babe. What kind of suspicions? I don’t mean to push but this is kinda important.”

He waved his hands expressively, though the expression was mostly lost bewilderment. “…I wonder if I wasn’t, uh, like a beta version of some of that spacemagic. Or, like, the test bed, anyway. And they were really interested in us as a species for a long time, we know that. And then the Gao once they’d made contact…Deathworlders.”


“So… ever since that crazy psycho bitch tried to kill me, things have been off, and I don’t mean in my head. I mean… Different. Physically. I thought I’d plateaued, or maybe sorta hoped I had because, uh…”

“Can’t really be a regular guy when you obviously aren’t.”

“…Right. And before I could sorta, uh, believe that I was just really, really super lucky and worked crazy hard for it, right? Well, now it turns out it wasn’t luck at all! I was literally bred to do this, probably! And now suddenly it’s like I’m in overdrive and it scares me but…”

“Hang on, why are you in overdrive? What changed?”

“I don’t know! Physically I’ve never felt so great! It’s…like, I was all super happy ‘cuz I had smashed all my previous PRs today, and I was just bouncy as fuck and…then Nofl was waiting for me. And the whole, uh…like, the whole life story just fuckin’ fell apart.”

The door beeped, and Xiù backed through it with a couple of bags of shopping. Julian, as was his habit, immediately forgot everything he was worried about, vaulted the couch and was next to her in a heartbeat to help her with the work.

Allison couldn’t help but grin ruefully. Even now, in the middle of what passed as a meltdown for him, Julian was more concerned about his women than himself: he was an old-fashioned soul in all the best ways.

Al welcomed her home with a kiss, and a brief whispered update in her ear as Julian put the shopping away, though skipped the details in favor of “He just got some really bad news.” It was Julian’s revelation to share, not hers.

“…Okay.” Xiù made some coffee—a green tea for herself—and once it was ready she sank onto the couch with a grateful sigh. “Hey, cutie,” she greeted Anna. The baby had woken up, so Allison plucked her out of the basket for another round of feeding and cuddles and maybe a diaper change…

Julian repeated the story to Xiù while all that was happening. He wasn’t quite so emotionally charged on the second telling, as far as Allison could tell.

“So,” Xiù recapped as Allison sat back down with Anna in her arms. “Let me get this straight. Nofl told you all of this just now. He wants you to come back later today, presumably to tell you more. You don’t know exactly what he’s going to say, but you’re pretty sure you won’t like it.”

“…Yeah. Pretty much.”

“Okay. So… what does knowing all that actually change?”


“Well, I mean…” Xiù gestured to the three of them. “We were all Corti experiments.”

“…Yes, but this?!”

“You gotta admit babe, it’s not quite the same thing,” Allison agreed. “I mean, abduction and that shit’s one thing, but generations of… how did they even do it?”

“Nofl reckons it was a combination of post-hypnotic suggestion, hormonal regulators and in one case they…” Julian paused, shuddered, and reached out to stroke Anna’s cheek. “…They interfered in a pregnancy. When the mother picked the ‘wrong’ guy they… replaced her baby.”

“Ew.” Xiù pulled a face and protectively touched her own belly.


“Well… alright, yeah. That’s evil. There’s no other word for it.”

“Yup. And now I learn my whole life has been playing right into what they wanted. They wanted some big tough purpose-built survivor? Well, here I fucking am, apparently! And you know what the stupidest part of the whole thing is? I can already feel myself…not being so mad about it. Like…I’m venting, right? And I can already just, uh…fuck!”

“That’s what venting is for…”

“Well, yeah, but I don’t think I want to stop being mad about this!” Julian stood up and prowled around the room. “I mean, where’s the fucking line? They crossed it alright, but isn’t that something I should be mad about?”

“Not if you can’t actually do anything about it,” Xiù said. “Bǎobèi, staying mad about it won’t fix it, it’ll just hurt you.”

Allison nodded in agreement. “Babe. You know who you might talk to? Gyotin. I think if there’s anyone who might have something to say on painful revelations about your past, it’d be him. Go for a run first. Let off some steam.”

“Yeah…I mean, why not? It’s like I was made for it or something…”

“And you’re good at it, and it makes you happy, so stop overthinking it.”

Julian looked like he wanted to grumble a bit more, so Al decided it was time to get blunt and practical with him. “Julian. Babe. Hear me now and listen later, okay?”


“Maybe this seems a bit cold-blooded, but consider this. Remember Bozo? Someone bred him into an absolute freak of canine nature for…whatever fuckin’ reason. I don’t think I’ve ever met a dog as big, or as tough, or as smart as he was. And y’know what else he was? Happy. Do you think he’d have given any kind of fucks about why he was the best?”


“So you’ve been given a hell of a blessing for dubious reasons. Fine. We’ll deal with it. You’ve given your kids that blessing too, and now you know a big part of why you’re our awesome space-Tarzan. Which, being honest, you already knew anyway. Whatever secrets they’re keeping, there’s nothing else they can say or do that will take that away from you. You’re the best and not just because of your genes. You throw yourself into everything, you’re super intense and loving and maybe just a bit crazy…and I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

Beside her, Xiù nodded fervently.

“…I…” Julian, like pretty much every big strong man ever, didn’t know how to cry tears of gratitude in any graceful way. He tried, and failed, to pretend they weren’t there and crushed Al and Xiù in a huge hug.

“…Okay. I’ll go, uh…run some errands, I guess. And not dwell.”

“We’ll be here,” Al promised. He gave them a last squeeze, a kiss apiece, a third kiss for Anna’s cheek, and headed out with… well, if not a spring in his step then at least with a purpose.

Xiù took a deep breath once he was gone, then turned and gave Allison a huge smile.

Al arched an eyebrow at her. “…What?”

“I love you so much.”

Al felt her face go warm, but in the best way. “Wo ye ai ni,” she replied, and snuggled up again, at least as well as she could with the baby in her arms. “…I hope he’ll be okay.”

“He will. C’mon, he’s bounced back from worse than this.”

“I hope so. But there’s whatever Nofl hasn’t told him yet to consider and…”

“He’ll be fine.”

Al sighed and nodded. “…Okay.” she considered her daughter, and stroked a thumb over the slumbering face. Anna was a chilled-out sort of baby, generally content to just eat and sleep. They had a few months before she’d get really interactive… or at least, so all the usual milestones supposedly went.

Now, though, knowing just what had gone into her… well… her pedigree…

…She found she didn’t care. If the entire point had been to breed tough, hale, strong, healthy humans then that actually was a good thing for Anna. From a purely practical point of view…

Well. Whatever was good for her baby was alright by Allison.

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Implications

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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

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Shades of White and Orange

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

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Mother Earth

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

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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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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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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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