The Deathworlders – Chapter 59: New Life Part 1

Date Point:16y7m2w AV
Folctha General Hospital, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Allison Buehler

Xiù had a Caesarian, in the end.

She needed it. Harrison just didn’t want to come out, and he was so overdue that when the obstetrician came to consider whether it was time to induce she took one look at the ultrasound and decided that surgery was the safer option.

Xiù hadn’t been terribly happy about the idea but, well…Harrison was a big baby. Bigger than Diego, even. And Xiù being small and narrow-hipped and punchy didn’t help at all…

So, Al and Julian held her hands and dried her tears, and were there with her while the surgeons worked their magic on the far side of a cloth screen.

The Singer had been completely awed by it all. She’d come over from Akyawentuo in anticipation of the birth and for the chance see human medicine again… though she’d got rather more than she bargained for.

When it all went wrong, she’d gone from barely-restrained frantic fear and grief, to confusion at how calm the healers were, to dawning delight, to… Well. She looked like she’d just seen a miracle. And she had, really.

So did Julian. So afterwards, in the recovery room, while Xiù slept fitfully through the drugs and the trauma and the sheer exhausting weight of transitioning from woman to mother… He sat by her side, stroking his thumb through her hair and watching her with a guilty look. It wasn’t often a woman got to see a man’s protective instincts so fiercely at war in his head.

He talked softly to the Singer while Al took care of her new stepson. “In years past…she would have died in childbirth. My son woulda killed her.”

“It’s not your fault,” Al reassured him. Harrison had announced his birth loud and clear at least, once he was out. In fact he’d hollered like he was trying to rattle the windows. He was a really healthy baby: Healthy color, nice and fat, all of a newborn’s instincts in place and working as intended. Okay, so Xiù was gonna have yet another scar to add to her collection, but Xiù had come to terms with her scars over the years. They were stories. She’d show it off with pride, once it healed.

“This is why motherhood is holy,” the Singer agreed. “Sometimes, it Takes everything. She is lucky: many others don’t live. One of my sisters, she died this way. I told her man then, I tell you now: You didn’t do this to her.”

“Feels like I did.” Julian sighed.

“Men. Always want to be responsible for everything.” The Singer trilled a soft laugh. “Just give thanks for your people’s medicine, steelbringer.”

“Absolutely. Fuck, they’re getting as big a donation as I can afford to give.”

Xiù woke with a groan. Al was honestly kinda impressed, and a little worried: she’d needed a big dose of painkillers during the operation, and shoulda been comatose. Instead, she was just… dozing. Lightly, too.

“Y’okay, Baobei?” Al asked her.

Xiù gave her a bleary look. “…Is it too early to ask for more meds? I don’t think these ones are working…”

“You already had the maximum dose, babe.”

“…Tā mā de…”

“God, I really hope Nofl’s wrong about the Cruezzir…” Julian agonized.

“Not like we coulda done anything about it anyway, babe,” Allison pointed out.

“Oh, that’d be just great…” Xiù grumbled. “…I am never swallowing ever again.”

The singer hooted and laughed, Allison giggled, and Julian went red in the face, though Allison felt a little relieved: The drugs were definitely having some effect on Xiù, as that was the kind of comment she’d usually be too embarrassed to make.

Allison, of course, prided herself on being nowhere near as inhibited. “Well, it’s kinda hard to avoid it when he’s all the way down your throat—”

“Al!” Julian objected, half laughing, half mortified.

“Humans fuck in strange ways,” The Singer opined. “Just use tongue!”

“This conversation took a wrong turn and I want off!”

The three women looked at each other and decided as one to accept their victory magnanimously. Laughing was plainly much too painful for Xiù right now in any case. Though as it happened, Julian would have been spared too many further blushes anyway thanks to the timely arrival of a nurse who knocked on the door to inform them that they had another nonhuman visitor.

Sure enough, it was Nofl.

“I believe the phrase is ‘burning the midnight oil,’” he chirped without any lead-in. “I’ve been up for days, dears, whole days investigating this! Fascinating! But on the whole, good news!”

“Nofl…” Julian said wearily, “I understand your enthusiasm and I genuinely appreciate everything you’ve done, but…”

“Fine, fine, I’ll tone it down. Because it’s you, my dear.” Nofl flashed his tight little smile, then as promised he dialled back the camp sass a few notches. “Anyway. Bad news first: All of you, Julian, Allison, Xiù, and both the babies, are indeed generating Cruezzir in your gut. Not surprising, considering how intimate you are. The good news is, you’ll all be fine. Even the babies. We ran simulations on the xenobiology college’s Prime Analytic engines–dear me we’re getting some novel use out of those lately–and long-term forecasting comes back with high confidence. As long as you do not undergo repeated psychological trauma or extreme physical stress, there should be no insurmountable complications.”

The three of them all breathed a huge sigh of relief all at once. Julian’s was perhaps the deepest and most relieved. “…Okay. That’s good. Yeah. Good. That’s… good to hear.”

“Yes. Unusual and unique, but you have unusual and unique friends with their own unusual and unique children, so that won’t be so bad now will it dears? But there are some long-term considerations you may not enjoy.”

“Here it comes…” Allison said, bracing herself.

“The first is that, unfortunately, Julian’s dependency on regenerative medicine appears to be incurable for now. There are some promising options we’re exploring, but right now… depriving you of the Cruezzir would be disruptive. Risky. And with that in mind, although we certainly can safely perform a microbiome transplant on you two—” he gestured to Allison and Xiù “—you’d just get infected again. There really isn’t a practical way to avoid that, or at least not one that you’d find remotely acceptable.”

He looked at Anna and Harrison. “…The babies—oh, where are my manners? Congratulations to you all!—The babies are very likely to be at the extreme ends of the probability curves I’m afraid, both due to the Cruezzir and their pedigree. That’s mostly a good thing. Your offspring are virtually guaranteed to be top specimens of your kind. But…”


“Well, things might get interesting during their growth spurts. They will probably be very, very hungry little children, to the point we should monitor it closely. That isn’t a serious problem and it’s absolutely manageable, but you should understand the likely consequences. I imagine nursing them will prove a serious immediate challenge, for example.”

The three of them shared a concerned look, before Julian spoke up. “Right, so…can they be cured?”

Nofl sighed. “I’m afraid not. For one it’s not a disease that can be cured so much as it is an adaptive reliance. There will almost certainly be lifelong dependency. It simply isn’t safe to perform a microbiome transplant on them right now, and by the time it would be, they’ll have completely adapted to its presence just as Julian did to its precursors…”

He saw their expressions, and switched into reassurance mode. “But that’s okay! Julian was healthy and happy for years and totally none the wiser, remember? The medicine itself isn’t the risk. It’s what you do with it that matters!”

“So… what?” Allison said. “What do we avoid? What do we stick to? Give us something to work with here, Nofl.”

“I would say… raise them normally. Both will inevitably turn out to be exceptional human specimens, I’m sure. And of course, if any of you repeatedly push yourselves beyond your physical or mental limits, you will find yourself adapting much faster in response. But that’s fine! Just don’t go, oh… splicing blue fur all over their bodies or anything insane like that.”

“Why on Earth would we–?” Xiù began with a bleary, confused frown.

“Don’t ask. It’s a complicated story.”

Julian raised an eyebrow in something approaching amusement. “…I think I kinda gotta ask. Fur?!”

“Yes. That’s all you’re getting from me, dear. The point is… The worst danger you face looks to be inconvenience and dependency, should you push yourselves too hard. Rather an improvement on your worst-case scenario, wouldn’t you say?”

“I would,” Xiù agreed. “Nofl… I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m in quite a lot of pain right now and I just want some peace and quiet, so–”

“I quite understand,” Nofl replied. “My warmest congratulations to all of you. I’ll forward a more thorough write-up of what to expect later. Good night, dears.”

He headed toward the door, but Allison felt compelled to add one last thing.

“Hey. Short stuff.”

Nofl turned. “Yes?”


He bowed slightly. “You’re very welcome.”

And then he was gone.

Xiù sighed, shut her eyes, and tried to sleep some more. “So. That’s why the painkillers don’t work so well?”

“‘Fraid so, babe.”

“Great. Just… great.”

“Guess that explains why they didn’t work so well on me either…” Julian stood up. “I’ll talk to the doctors. Maybe there’s something else they can do…”

That left Allison and Xiù alone. Al bent down and kissed her girlfriend’s rather sweaty forehead. “Hey.”


“Welcome to the club. Try to do it the easier way next time, dummy.”

Xiù laughed, then groaned and put her hand to her side. “…Please don’t do that.”

“‘Kay. But… please don’t ever scare me like that again?”

Xiù nodded, and closed her eyes. “…I’ll try,” she promised.

By the time Julian got back, she’d fallen asleep again.

Date Point:16y7m2w AV
Mrwrki Station, Erebor System, Uncharted Space


Substrate could be thought of like vitamins, if vitamins were a free-floating gas in the air. Its absence wouldn’t immediately harm or kill a datasophont… but prolonged deprivation had some truly devastating effects on their mental health.

It provided them with the very will to live. Without it, Igraens rapidly slipped into ennui and depression and ultimately self-terminated. Or occasionally they went the other way, flying into a manic, desperate frenzy, feverish to try and accomplish something, anything meaningful until they eventually suffered a total psychotic breakdown.

Understanding Substrate explained a lot about the Hierarchy.

Understanding it also made the Entity a lot weirder than it already was. The Entity lurked in the far corners of dataspace, or even in ordinary networks and storage devices. It seemed to have no need for Substrate at all. If the Igraens could copy that trick then they could in theory withdraw almost completely from the world of matter. They could build their infrastructure deep in interstellar space, out of the way, and withdraw into their so-called ‘Hegemony’ almost indefinitely.

Darcy wasn’t sure she liked the idea of just letting them do that after millions of years of genocide. Her sense of justice called out on behalf of trillions of murdered souls. But on the other hand, it also rescued the Allied nations—Allied species, even—from the specter of having to commit genocide themselves.

If, that was, the so-called Fellowship could figure out how the Entity pulled off that apparently unprecedented trick.

The problem was… the Entity had vanished.

That left only past observation to go on, at least until it showed up again. And Darcy, having been present for the act of neurological piracy that ultimately led to its creation, and having interviewed it and established a rapport over some time, was the human race’s best and only expert on the Entity.

The Igraen known as Proximal had insights she lacked. Indeed, he had insights that the Entity itself had lacked, or been unable to articulate.

“You obviously can’t simulate all the processes of an organic brain neuron-by-neuron,” he was explaining. “It would require vast processing resources, and be far too susceptible to latency, signal loss, far too bound up in sensory processing and a host of other things. It all has to be approximated, and not along the lines of different brain structures, but along the lines of… English doesn’t seem to have a word for it. The smallest practical components of a personality. If a mind was a language, then we calculate on the phoneme level.”

“Makes sense,” Lewis nodded. “We figured it was somethin’ like that, dude. I’m gonna go ahead and call ‘em an ‘egoneme.’”

“So there isn’t an… egoneme… for the will to live? That seems weird,” Lucy commented. Her specialty was metallurgy and materials science, Darcy knew, but honestly the people in this room knew a little bit about practically everything.

“Apparently there is. The Entity has it.”

“Nah, dude. Can’t possibly be that simple or y’all’d’ve figured it out by now. I mean, you’ve had millions of years! Give yourselves some credit,” Lewis said.

“One cannot deny observational reality. The Entity exists, independent of Substrate. Ergo, it has the thing we lack. Ergo, it exists.”

“Logical, but maybe that’s the problem right there,” Lee mused.

“Don’t go all Captain Kirk on me now, dude,” Lewis replied.

“Alright well… what makes the Entity so unique? Besides its freedom from Substrate?”

“Many things,” Proximal declared, morosely.

“It was originally formed from a human,” Darcy offered. She was mostly squicked out by that, not to mention appalled at what had happened to a young woman whose safety had been her responsibility… but at the same time, she was a little proud.

“Many datasophonts have been compiled from non-Igraen sources, most of them deathworlders. Your species may be exceptional, but I refuse to believe that you are unique.”

“And yet, as you said, here we are. You have a digital life-form that self-assembled out of the debris of a digitized human mind.”

“Maybe that’s it!” Lee chirped up. “Maybe the way you… compile? Is that the right word? Do you compile new Igraens?”

“We are generated by dynamically combining the… I suppose you would call it genetic, or a seed. Fundamental information that informs the growth and final outcome of the process. Two donors combine that information into a new “seed” which then flourishes into a sapient mind. The exact mechanics are… I don’t know them, any more than you know how your own nucleic acid resulted in you.”

“…Life as a dynamic terrain generator, God…”

“Well, maybe that process is flawed somehow?” Lee pressed. “Like… I dunno. Like, I know of genetic disorders in humans that do things like result in blindness because the retina can’t produce a vital protein.”

“Or a type one diabetic!” Lucy agreed.

“So we’re looking for a genetic flaw in the compiling process, then,” Lee concluded.

“Makes sense, if the Entity jerry-rigged itself together all haphazard-like,” Lewis agreed.

“There… may be a precedent,” Proximal said, slowly. Darcy looked down at the briefcase-sized box of hardware the Igraen was currently running and imprisoned in. He was deriving his Substrate from a voluntary human donor named Hugh Johnson, a man who’d had the misfortune to be a biodrone for a good third of his life to date.

He was hanging out in the corner, keeping to himself. But his presence meant that Proximal could be kept on a short leash. He was still a Hierarchy agent after all: not to be trusted.

“Precedent?” she asked.

“You’re aware of course that the Discarded—the Hunters—are Igraens themselves. The physical remains thereof, anyway. Specifically, they’re the bioengineered bodies we developed for warfare with an ancient species known as the V’Straki…”

“Who in turn evolved on Earth,” Lewis finished. “We know all this, dude. What’s this precedent?”

“Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why the Hunters are as they are? No empathy, no moral compass, just endless slavering hunger?”

“You’re suggesting… what? That the genetic flaw is related somehow?”

“Our ancient historical files suggest that when my species were still corporeal, we depended on a bacterium that we got from our food rather than growing naturally in our gut. Without it, we became psychotic. If what you are suggesting is accurate, then our dependence on Substrate may be that same deficiency but translated into our dataforms.”

“Sounds about as plausible as all the other dataspace weirdness…” Lee muttered.

“Well, it’s a place to start looking,” Lucy said. “But creating a datasophont is… I mean, that’s a few rungs up the tech ladder from where we are now. This is like asking the Wright Brothers to troubleshoot the design flaws in a Firebird.”

“Right now, this is just a proof of concept anyway,” Darcy informed them. “Senior figures in AEC are… squeamish… about the idea of a war to extinction.”

“How senior?” Lewis asked.

“I’m not at liberty to say. But they want to make an informed decision: Can we, or can we not, at least in theory permanently resolve the Igraen need for Substrate?”

Lewis, Lee and Lucy looked at each other and the kind of unspoken conversation that only happened between people who knew each other well and had worked together for a long time bounced back and forth across the room in a flurry of raised eyebrows, little shrugs and quizzical sets of eye and mouth.

Lewis brought the exchange to an end when he threw his hands up in surrender. “…I guess? I mean, it’s gotta be possible somehow. We just… like, there’s no way we could put a timetable on that, dude.”

“I’ll pass that along,” Darcy said. “Satisfied, Proximal?”

“Yes. Thank you. All of you.”

“Back to Alaska, then. Sorry, Hugh.”

The put-upon Substrate donor just shrugged ruefully and stood up. “Thanks for the vacation, I guess.”

“Dude, anytime,” Lewis promised him. “Guess this is gonna be a whole project, huh?”

“Hope so. It was… nice… to see something new.”

Darcy watched him go with helpless sympathy, but Lewis made a disgusted noise as soon as he was gone.

“Darcy. Dude. Why the fuck can’t we do something for that poor bastard? The Corti fuckin’ brought a woman back from the dead, can’t they do something for him?”

“His implant literally replaced part of his brain stem,” Darcy said, softly. Lewis went very still, and very quiet.

“…Well… Shit.”

“Yeah.” Darcy breathed heavily, then turned a weak smile on the Fellowship. “So, let’s make it matter. Yes?”

“Dude. You got it.”

Darcy left their workshop in a mixed mood.

Date Point: 16y7m2w4d AV
Coreward Marches, Kwmbwrw Great Houses

Shipmatriarch Wrythwynw

“Two ships?”

“Yes, Matriarch. The One-Fang capital ship Blazing Rage and the Stoneback assault transport Sword of a Poet, accompanied by four Voidripper strike fighters.”

“‘Sword of a poet?’ That seems strangely… well, poetic, compared to the others.”

“I gather it’s a Clan thing, Matriarch. Half their ships are like that. The others are…”

Wrythwynw considered the other ships in her squadron. The Coreward Marches fleet operated in groups of seven ships of identical class and loadout. The shewmei-class was designed for rapid response: they were fast, quite capable of warping to any of the hundreds of outposts, stations, mines and colonies in the Marches as soon as Fleet Command received a distress call…. And when they arrived, they said hello with a torrent of rapid-fire kinetic weapons that could chew the target’s shields down in moments and pulverize the ship underneath.

Never let it be said that the Kwmbwrw hadn’t watched and learned from the way Deathworlders had changed space combat. No matter the Grandmatriarch’s opinions on the matter, the Fleet knew a good thing when they saw it.

Now, the problem was that the Hunters adapted too. They struck, they raided, they took their slaves, and they fled at the first sign of incoming Fleet assets. Fleet losses were down dramatically on where they’d been just a few years before, which the Grandmatriarchs took as a win… but while civilian losses had dipped, they hadn’t dipped nearly enough.

Oh, yes, the Marches were big enough that the average facility could reasonably expect to never be raided. Most hadn’t. But the ones that did were…


Wrythwynw had seen the blood and bodies herself. And so far, she’d been powerless to avenge the dead. The Gao claimed to have a counter, but until just a few days ago the Grandmatriarchs had forbidden them from entering the Kwmbwrw Great Houses’ territory.

They did anyway, but only occasionally, in service to their own goals. Except, something had finally changed at the highest political level. And now…

Now they had two Deathworlder ships alongside them.

Rather than being intimidated by that label, Wrythwynw found she was eager to see them in action.

They were responding to a distress call from a mining operation in a nameless Minor-3000 system, a small and relatively cool fully convective star known only by its coordinates within a catalog volume. The system had only two planetoids, neither very large, both airless, and relevant only thanks to their high metallicity. They were both dotted with dozens of automated mining stations, and a control station with a population of a thousand or so orbited the inner planetoid: it was from this that the latest cry of alarm had come.

The Gaoian ships were marginally slower than the Shewmeis, but apparently equipped with something called megalight drones: Probes with a top speed in excess of a million times the speed of light. The plan, therefore, was for them to encircle the distressed system. If the Hunters did what they usually did and bolted away from the incoming response force, then the Gaoians would intercept them, the megalight probe would drop a gravity spike, and from there the combined Kwmbwrw and Gao fleet would swoop in…

…And, insanely, board the Hunters.

That was the part Wrythwynw’s fleet just wasn’t equipped for. In fact, the very notion was simply crazy. But the Stoneback “First Fang” warriors had done it before, they claimed.

Wrythwynw was hopefully about to see them back that claim in person.

Sure enough, the Hunters scared up as soon as the fleet came within long-distance sensor range of the target system. The leading edge of their collective warp disruption washed through the area, and the Hunters went to warp an impressively quick interval later. A half-dozen Ri’ at most.

Swift as the Shewmei-class was, the Hunters were just a little faster. Always just a little faster, suggesting their true top speed far outstripped the Kwmbwrw ships but that they preferred to keep the exact limits unknown.

They were not, however, faster than the megalight probes.

The probes weren’t subtle. They slammed through the substance of spacetime with a kind of straining ferocity, raising the equivalent of a shockwave. Time and distance in the light-seconds around them splashed and churned in strange ways, as though a whole fleet of much larger ships was coming through.

The Hunters promptly doubled their speed, easily outstripping what the Shewmei were capable of, but it was a futile effort. The gap narrowed, vanished, and then the probes caught them and spiked them.

The intense superluminal pursuit immediately dropped back into the world of normal inertia. The Shewmei caught up in minutes, blinked down to sublight and arrived within the immediate volume with their weapons already firing a hail of kinetic rounds ahead of them.

This part had been carefully coordinated with the Gao. There was only the one broodship, and its weapon emplacements sublimed into flashes of plasma, its kinetic drives became clouds of torn shrapnel, and its sensor clusters were ripped off the hull… but the core of the ship, the reactors and pressure vessels, remained intact.

The five swarmships escorting it were slapped into vengeful oblivion. Crippled, unescorted and vulnerable, the Broodship drifted and tumbled in the void. Ordinarily, Wrythwynw would have ordered it destroyed as a mercy to the poor Kwmbwrw trapped on board.

The Blazing Rage and Sword of a Poet dropped into sublight right on top of it. Together they wove a forcefield cage around the stricken Broodship, peeled it open, held it still… and the Sword pushed its sharp shovel nose into the Broodship’s underbelly.

Wrythwynw listened to the Gaoian communications as the boarding action proceeded. She expected to hear shouting, yelling, war cries and frantic violence.

What she heard was tersely professional at worst, and mostly… playful? The Stonebacks sounded almost like they were having fun.

A bare handful of Ri’ after the boarding action begun, the Sword hailed Wrythwynw’s flagship with a certain degree of well-earned smug humor. Shipfather Orno, missing half an ear and with four gold-plated titanium fangs flashing in his mouth, panted happily at her with a copious splash of blood covering his armor.

“Fleetmatriarch, we’re done wrasslin’ with our playmates here. Mosta them broke pretty easy.”

“The miners?” Wrythnwynw asked, taking refuge in professional concern for the mission.

“We got to ‘em right before the greasy fucks started up their, uh, abattoir operations. We’re checkin’ em for injuries or any nasty surprises. Uh…might need some help calmin’ ‘em down.”


“I’m a pretty scary ‘Back at the best’a times, Fleetmatriarch. Lotta my Brothers’re the same. A lotta these guys are convinced we’re gonna eat ‘em instead.”

“We’ll send over medical shuttles immediately,” Wrythwynw said, and gestured to put her words into action. Her junior officers were gratifyingly swift to make it happen.

When the footage from the medics came back a while later, she needed a moment to compose herself. There were bits of Hunter everywhere. Crumpled, torn piles of sickly white flesh, diseased cybernetics and off-color blood and organs lined the deck, walls, and even ceiling in places. It was…


She’d been fighting the Hunters her whole career, and to see them humiliated so totally almost gave her a maniacal fit of the giggles.

She contacted Orno again to congratulate him, keeping a strained lid on her jubilation. Somewhere in the back of her mind was the mild concern that she should be disturbed by the violence, but the truth was that it was just so sweet to see the old enemy dealt with like this.

Father Orno flashed a truly fearsome tooth-laden grin when she said as much. “Oh, we ain’t even close to th’ bestest First Fang’s got to offer. Mosta the ‘Backs here are reservists. When Alpha company an’ those HEAT Brothers git together an’ play…it’s fuckin’ beautiful.”


“I’m a bouncer ‘fer my normal job!”

So. That was the nature of their allies. For a moment, Wrythwynw entertained the troubled thought that maybe Henenwgwyr had been right about the Gao after all. There was simply no way the Hunters would stand in the face of this for long, and once they were gone… what then?

She shrugged the thought off. The Gao were notoriously loyal. Win their friendship, and it was yours for life. However terrible the carnage they could wreak—and revel in—might be, these Gao were no threat to Wrythwynw and her people.

But still…

“What drives you to fight so fiercely?” she asked.

She had to turn on the translation cues to get a sense of what the array of little facial emotes that flashed across his face meant. There was a healthy dose of honest confusion in there, among others. As though the answer was as obvious as the scarred nose on the end of his snout. “…Same reason you do, prol’ly,” he replied. “I got folks ‘ta protect. S’why I’m a bouncer, too.”

…Good, then.

Their conversation was suspended while the transfer of survivors and extraction of intelligence concluded. Finally, the Blazing Rage put an end to the whole interlude by pulverizing the Broodship and consigning it and the remains of its Hunters to the endless vacuum.

Wrythwynw and Orno traded one last set of pleasantries before they parted ways. The Gaoians remained in their home territory and had used jump drives to the Marches Fleet’s aid. Once the two ships and their voidripper escort were gone, Wrythwynw retired to her ready room to consider the future. What would life look like for the Kwmbwrw if the Hunters became nothing more than a scary story from the history books?

…Bright. Hopeful. Clean.

She composed a message to her superiors to report how successful the operation had been. And above all she fervently hoped that this new streak of actually listening would last.

They were long overdue a change.

Date Point: 16y7m3w AV
Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Xiù Chang

The Cruezzir thing was turning out to have a silver lining. In fact… Xiù had to admit, right at the moment, she was grateful for it.

First, the surgical wound from her C-section was gone. It had sealed itself overnight, and by the end of the second day it had healed leaving hardly any scar to speak of.

She felt a little mixed about that. Her scars were her story; to lose the one that marked the birth of her son was… it felt uncomfortably like erasing a chapter. Except, of course, that there was no erasing Harrison himself.

Nor would she ever want to.

Harrison Li Chang Etsicitty. It rolled off the tongue. Anna Belle Buehler Etsicitty was a nice name too, but… oh, she was allowed to have a favorite.

Even if he was nowhere near as, uh, cooperative a baby as his half-sister. But to be fair, Anna did have a two-month head start and they’d figured out what made her tick.

The second silver lining was that with two infants to look after, and with Xiù recovering from surgery, things should have been tough. Instead, the surgical recovery had happened almost overnight, Xiù was finding she got plenty of rest from cat-naps, and she had two fit, healthy and loving partners to help her. All three of them were strong, full of energy, eager…

So, give another tick to the Cruezzir.

There was an ethical problem with regard to feeding. So Xiù’s body was now flooded with an alien regenerative medicine. That meant probably her milk was, too. Which would have precluded breastfeeding, except Harrison’s tiny frame was even more pickled in Cruezzir than his parents’, and Anna had got a healthy dose from Allison as well before Nofl’s diagnosis.

So. They were raising two babies with chronic Cruezzir Gut. That being the case, the best guess Nofl, the paediatricians or anybody else could go with was that breastfeeding probably wouldn’t do them any harm, while switching to formula might deprive them with unknowable consequences.

So, that just left worrying about what it would do to the pair. So far, they seemed normal. Big, strong, healthy and energetic to be sure, but not abnormally so. But long term? Throughout their lives? If they couldn’t one day have it cured for whatever reason, then that raised questions about their own ability to raise a family and lead a normal life.

It was… a bit early maybe to start worrying about grandchildren. But Al and Xiù had got their cases of Cruezzir Gut off Julian pretty easily, and if Harrison was stuck with the condition for life, then…

…Well. There was no sense in worrying about what couldn’t be dealt with. Worry about it when it could be.

For now…

For now, Xiù got to appreciate the look in her father’s eyes as he rocked his grandson gently and cooed happily to him in Mandarin… And chatted to Julian in Mandarin, too.

It wasn’t even completely terrible Mandarin, either. Julian learned pretty fast. Apparently he’d been doing audiobooks and Pimsleur tracks on his lighter Slab days. Whatever worked! Xiù doubted he’d ever get the tones exactly right, but that was okay, and it made her parents happy.

They’d even started bragging up their “big strong handsome son-in-law” to their varied and numerous social circles. In those groups, there was no higher form of acceptance. And in the kitchen, Allison was getting an actual conversation from Meili Chang as they made lunch, rather than tuition. Which didn’t sound like a breakthrough, but it really was.

All in all, life was good. So for now, the Cruezzir was not a problem. Xiù was just enjoying being made a fuss of and basking in being a mother now.

Besides, watching her mom try to wrap her head around the Singer was interesting. Watching the Singer try to wrap her head around her mom, doubly so. They were… Different.

Take one elderly first-generation Chinese-Canadian woman with strongly traditional values, and put her in the same room as her daughter’s girlfriend and an inquisitive, friendly iron-age alien gorilla whose idea of modesty didn’t extend further than a clean loincloth. It was maybe a little unfair to enjoy how out of her depth she was… but Xiù wasn’t above enjoying it, even though she loved her parents dearly.

And the Singer was having a blast, learning about human cooking. Ten’Gewek really just cooked over an open fire or on hot rocks. The height of their haute cuisine was a stew cooked in an earthenware pot.

Steamed buns were fascinating. And nobody anywhere on any world could make them like Xiù’s mom.

It was food that gave the two something to connect over. Meili loved to cook, and the Singer, being Ten’Gewek, loved to eat. In the face of that happy convergence, mutual affection became practically inevitable. Xiù knew acceptance had been achieved when her mom decided it was time to comb out the Singer’s blaze-orange-red crest. The Singer wasn’t complaining.

Of course it was too good to last. Julian’s phone pinged shortly after midday, and his shoulders sagged heavily when he thumbed it into life.

“Dammit. I’ve been summoned to the ambassador,” he grumbled.

“Oh, what? Come on!” Allison objected. “I thought you had parental leave?”

“Subject to the demands of the office,” Julian sighed. He shrugged helplessly, sprang to his feet and vanished upstairs to change into his business clothes.

“That’s just not fair…” Al lamented.

“He’s a Federal officeholder, confirmed by the Senate and everything, remember? He doesn’t get to say no,” Xiù reminded her, though her heart wasn’t in it. She felt the same way.

“I know, I know…” Allison stood too, and slipped through into the kitchen where Xiù heard her explain where he was going and asking if some lunch could be set aside in the stasis fridge.

Xiù stood too, and waited at the bottom of the stairs. Julian didn’t need long to change and to briefly place his hair and a comb near one another: She made sure they got properly acquainted, and straightened his tie.

“Bǎobèi…” she fussed at him as she cleaned him up. “You’re such a handsome man, and you’re so much better-looking when you actually bother to clean up. You could, you know… make an effort?”

“Yeah, but then I wouldn’t get this little farewell.”

Despite herself, Xiù smiled. “…Okay. That’s devious. I approve.”

He chuckled, kissed her, kissed Allison, shook Papa’s hand, got a hug from Mama, and headed for the door. “I’ll pick the boys up from school on the way home, if I can,” he promised, then stopped dead in the doorway as he opened it.

“…Uh… I think this one might be for you, Baobei.”

Date Point: 16y7m3w AV
Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Ambassador Chris Rockefeller

Rockefeller had a game he liked to play with himself when thinking about the people he encountered. He tried to summarize their personalities as a simple object.

Some people were slippery and twisty, like an oiled rope. Others were as solid and straightforward as a concrete block, as transparent and brittle as glass, or as forceful as a wrecking ball. It was all a gross oversimplification, but it worked as a handy mnemonic for approaching his job.

In that sense, he thought of Julian Etsicitty as a rubber ball. A well-used racquetball maybe: still tough and resilient, despite some scuffs and marks on the surface, and capable of bouncing back no matter how hard he got clobbered.

The analogy’s shortcoming was that racquetballs were mass-produced: any one was just like any other. There wasn’t really a type of racquetball that stood head and shoulders above its peers like Julian did.

And that was a problem, because Julian was not a prideful man. He didn’t have the swaggering ego to really be comfortable with his singular status, let alone the recent rude introduction to just how unique he truly was. So far, he seemed to be handling it all okay… But for the first time since they’d first met, Rockefeller was beginning to wonder if there might not be a fragile core somewhere deep inside that ball.

“It’s just…fuck man, how does a guy even process something like that?”

“I couldn’t say,” Rockefeller replied honestly. “Personally, my work has always been my foundation. But for you, your foundation is your being, I’d daresay. Body and soul.”

“Yeah, and now I find out that it’s not all even really mine.”

Rockefeller stopped that train of thought dead in its tracks. “Julian? Bullshit. I don’t care about any of the rest. I have never seen anyone work harder for their goals than you or your own. That matters more than any leg u p you might have got. Even if it’s a hell of an advantage.”


“Julian. I don’t care what hand a man is dealt. I care how he plays his hand.”

He let that thought do its work for a second, and sat back in his chair to cross one leg comfortably over the other. He wasn’t at his desk, this wasn’t the time for desks. Instead they were using the couch and armchair in his office to talk.

“A bad hand played well will get you much further than a good hand played badly. You were dealt about the best hand that a man can get, but you are playing it like the precious gift that it is. That’s important. And it’s all you. Most men given half the advantage you were given squander it before they’re even properly men. They never grow out of being the high school quarterback, and end up dying at fifty from lung cancer and chronic injuries. You’re playing the game better than them all, and it isn’t because you were born with the winning hand. There’s no such thing.”

Julian thought on that, and eventually nodded. There was a very grateful look in those almost beetle-black eyes of his. “I…thank you. I’m… learning that I’m lucky in the people in my life, too.”

“Karma. We’re lucky to know you as well. Anyway. I know this, ah, ‘revelation’ we’ll say, it won’t be done with you for a while. I know all of that will take a while to process…but I really need the Superman version of you right now, the one who can earn the respect of superhuman cavemonkeys and teach them the fundaments of civilization. I don’t much need the uncertain Clark Kent who is questioning his own shadow. Can you do something for me?”

“I don’t mean any disrespect, but with Xiù just had a C-section and everything, I…”

“Julian, I wouldn’t pull you away from that unless something of literally galactic importance demanded it,” Rockefeller assured him. “…Which it does. The talks with the Kwmbwrw finally got past the impasse. The war council is going ahead.”


“Yeah. We might actually be in the final quarter of the game now.”

Some of Julian’s usual humor crept back in. “Rugby? Can we use a rugby analogy this time?”

“No! Football, like God intended it!” Rockefeller snorted. “Honestly, I think living in an ostensibly British colony is rubbing off on you.”

“You ever play rugby? It’s a rough sport…but anyway. War council.”

“Yes. A major strategic planning session involving heads of state from all over the Dominion and related species, factions… The guest list is a little complicated, but Yan Given-Man and his niece are invited. As are yourself and Professor Hurt.”

“…Yan. As in, Yan Given-Man, Chief of the Lodge.”

“I told you, the talks with the Kwmbwrw made real progress. They’re even prepared to accept the Ten’Gewek’s status as sapient life.”

“What the hell changed?”

“One of their respected Fleet Matriarchs stood up and told the Grandmatriarchs to pull their heads out of their… well. The point is, Henenwegir, or… oh, Hell, I can never pronounce her name. She finally had a vote go against her. I think a lot of the other Houses were starting to get fed up with her intransigence.” Rockefeller smiled slightly. “So, now the Protectorate status of the Ten’Gewek looks set to go ahead and be formally recognized by the Dominion Security Council. Which means they get a seat at the war council.”

“That’s good…though, who exactly is protecting the Protectorate? Did that ever get resolved?”

“The Clans of the Gao have taken primary responsibility. We’re doing the operational work. It’s complicated, but it was felt that the Great Father was in the best position to protect them from the vagaries of representative governments. He…really likes them, and he’s probably going to be the Great Father for a very, very long time, so… Anyway. You, my friend, may one day find yourself in the Great Father’s employ instead of mine. But that’s for later. For now, the point is they’re safe.”

“And they’re attending. As a Protectorate. Ambassador, that means…”

“Daar and Yan talked, and Yan insisted they not be left aside like children. So the SOR are trialling their first Ten’Gewek JETS candidates.”

“…Oh God. That’s why Ferd’s been so excited, isn’t it? When did this all happen?!”

“The last couple of weeks. You’ve been otherwise preoccupied.”

“…Thanks. I guess that woulda been a lot to drop on me on top of everything else. So… when is this happening?”

“Soon. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to jump over to Akyawentuo on the morning cycle. And of course, that means you’ll be there for as long as you’re there. If Yan’s away at the Lodge…”

Julian bore the bad news with good grace, at least. “Well…Okay. It has to be done. I get it.”

“I appreciate it.” Rockefeller glanced up at the wall clock. “And I won’t keep you. I’m sure you want to spend as much time as possible with your family.”

“Thanks.” Julian stood up. “I’ll keep in touch.”

Rockefeller nodded, and with that the big man was gone: understandably eager to get back to his newborn son, his two-month old daughter, his partners, his foster sons and his own worries.

Still. He’d probably be grateful for having something to do, in time. Rockefeller was a big believer in the healing power of honest work. In Julian’s case? Well. Honest work didn’t come much more honest than living with the Ten’Gewek. And he was only a text message and a quick jump away, making the lightyears feel like a quick jaunt down to the corner drug store.

Yes. Get him back in the mud and the sweat of his work, let his partners recover. Let them find their routine again. That, more than anything, was what the big woodsman really needed.

He was a racquetball: he needed a wall to bounce back against.

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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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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