The Deathworlders – Chapter 59: New Life Part 4

Date Point: 16y7m3w1d AV
Ninja Taco, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Sister Leela, proprietor

Folctha was a strange and protected place, one where the great and powerful of the galaxy could freely intermingle with everyday folk. Presidents and Prime Ministers had wandered its streets. Premiers and Potentates had visited her shop to purchase her tacos.

And the most powerful and awe-inspiring of them all, the Great Father of the Gao himself…made a habit of visiting her, and her specifically, at her humble little shack.

And flirting with her. Hard.

They had long ago settled into a roughly bi-weekly routine. Daar would somehow sneak off to do…well, to run banal little errands in Folctha, like buy ice cream for his ‘Naydi.’ Why he insisted on doing that himself was frankly beyond Leela’s capacity to understand. How he managed it in relative secrecy was another question entirely.

She did know one of the consequences. On that day, whenever it happened to be and whenever it was getting late, and the customers were heading home to avoid the rain, Daar would appear and order a huge tray of tacos. He was always alone. He would pay her in cash and tip very generously. He would insist they drop the pretenses of rank. And then he would flirt with her like the unabashedly brutish brownie he truly was. There was crude innuendo. There was posing, and preening and all that excessively macho silliness, as one might stereotypically expect of big athletic Stonebacks.

And as much as it bothered her to admit it, she was growing to love every second of it.

He’d made several earnest offers to bed her, too. She’d found herself deeply flattered of course; how often would an offer like that come along? He was smart and clever, silly, somehow both super polite yet also crude and raunchy…and ridiculously handsome…brave…

Truth be told, his sex appeal was obvious even despite his penchant for playful oafishness. The problem was, well, he was just…too much. In every way. He was so far out of her league, out of everyone’s league, that meeting him in person had a nearly unreal quality to it even though he was, despite it all, a strangely approachable male. Maybe, it was like meeting a living Keeda.

Over time the amazing weirdness of the situation had her re-considering everything she thought she knew about brownies. For the first time since the War, she found herself warming to one of them, and warming to the biggest and most dangerous one of them all, no less.

That just made her wonder: why not take him up on his offer? A cub by the Great Father himself would be clever and strong, her cachet would skyrocket in the Commune…but she’d ultimately said no. At first he was surprised when she declined. Daar was used to having the pick of his mates and it was obvious why. That had stung his pride but much to his credit, he was graceful and good-natured about it. A lot of males took rejection quite hard but he shrugged it off, and even re-assured her that he understood, there were no hard feelings, and so on.

That almost convinced her right there to change her mind say yes after all…but she wasn’t…she couldn’t…

And somehow, without her saying anything even remotely hinting at her fears…he understood.

“Okay,” he’d said when she had at last tried to give voice to what bothered her. “You don’ hafta say anythin’ more. I get it. But, uh…we can still flirt, right? An’ I can still show off ‘fer you?”

“Well, I think you’d explode if you tried not to,” she’d said wryly. She wasn’t going to say no to an ongoing opportunity for the Great Father to put on a show for her up close and personal, after all…

Daar had duck-nodded sheepishly. “Honestly ‘yer not wrong. It’s fun!”

After that he’d proceeded to make a huge smarmy playful fool of himself every time he visited. Thankfully, he did this with much less of his usual aggressive come-on routine, which could be…an intense experience, physically and emotionally. She understood why her fellow Sisters enjoyed that kind of male attention, and why he was so good at it, but for her it was just, way, way, way too much. But he backed off, which was wonderfully considerate of him. Males could get awfully pushy when attempting to woo a Female and he of course had more advantages than anyone else, so that he showed her such respect and deference was…

Leela chittered to herself in fond recollection. One day. If he was still interested. When the wartime memories weren’t quite so sharp, maybe.

The evening had been pretty slow, which meant she’d have a lot of unsalable food at closing time. That always felt like a waste but Deathworld precautions against taint and spoilage made a lot of sense. It was why so many gaoian foods were pickled or preserved, after all….

A familiar scent reached her nose, cutting right through the nasal landscape of food, cooking oil, cleaning products and hot metal.

Well, it had been a couple of weeks since his last visit…

She called out through the window towards the huge silhouette shambling over on all fours. “I hope you’re hungry!”

“I am! An’ I’ve got friends ta’ feed! Gonna take ya’ a while to fill this order!” He flicked his ears in amusement. “Mebbe we can chit-chat a bit? Share gossip? Negotiate a mating contract? Or, y’know, jus’ go lay down in the grass right now? I’d keep ‘ya warm all night, if ‘ya wanted…”

Yup. he was definitely in a happy mood.

“I’m pretty sure that isn’t happening. Just like, you know, it’s not ever happened before.”

“Bah! You don’t know what ‘yer missing!” The Great Father rose to his hind legs and filled her window as he rested his body-thick forearms on the window ledge. Her little taco shack groaned as it took on some of his weight.

“I need a dozen o’ everything! An’ all the fixins too!” He settled himself down and wrenched yet more unhappy protests from her apparently not-Daar-proof shack.

Leela chittered in exasperation. “Daar! Please don’t destroy my taco stand! I haven’t paid off the loan yet!”

“Aww, don’t worry! It’s a sturdy little fella, I can tell! An’ it’s at such a nice height to, y’know…”

Even though he was crouching low, his chest was just a bit above her eye level, completely filling the window and therefore impossible to miss. He grinned and snapped every muscle in his entire body into stone-like hardness, all without moving an inch.

“…Conspire together.”

Leela’s shack had a nice wide window so she could better interact with her customers. Even so, Daar filled and exceeded its frame; he was a huge furry wall of muscle blotting out the sunset. She tried not to stare, but…he was sleek and short-furred today, which was when he was his most unashamedly distracting. It was raining too, so his fur was slicking down and clinging to every inch of him…

…Well, there were definitely some perks to being a target of Daar’s affections.

He watched her try not to ogle for a bit, then grumbled in knowing amusement. “My eyes are up here, you know.” The playful look on his face was infuriatingly smug.

So. It was going to be one of those nights.

Leela sighed, rolled her eyes and chittered. “Conspire on what, exactly?”

“Oh, y’know. On a nice warm blanket! All night! All day. Err’day ‘fer weeks on end if ‘ya wanna see what th’ Stud-Prime o’ Stoneback can really do…”

Leela flicked an ear at him. “Oh? That’s an impressive boast.” She turned her attention to her work; since he had friends to feed, he’d basically just buy everything she had left. No wastage tonight. “Don’t know if I’ve ever met a male that could back a claim like that.”

“Ya’ need a better class o’ male in ‘yer life, then! Mebbe those nice polite lil’ guys you been datin’ need ‘ta work on their cardio.” Daar sniffed toward her and grumbled, “‘Cuz y’know what? I don’t lie. An’ if anythin’ I was bein’ modest ‘bout just what I can do…”

…Well. She looked over her shoulder and he was being a big smarmy Keeda just like always. And…yes, he was playfully posing even harder. Leela chitter-sighed again in a combination of amusement and exasperation. Most likely, he wouldn’t let up or relax for the rest of their encounter, no matter how many times she told him off. Daar was ridiculous.

“Impressive as that is, you’re still not getting a contract out of me tonight, you huge oaf.”

“Who said anythin’ ‘bout a contract? I’m a flexible sorta ‘Back, y’know…”

The tone of his voice suggested that he wasn’t speaking strictly about his social engagements.

Leela harrumphed primly. “I’m not that kind of Female, Daar. I know some of the younger, inexperienced Sisters succumb to your advances, but I’m not interested in a one-night stand.”

“Hey! I love ‘em just the same! An’ a girl’s gotta learn the ways o’ man an’ woman just like the boys do! ‘Sides… I like bein’ the teacher, y’know…an’ I’m really good at it…”

“Are you.” It wasn’t difficult to keep her tone dry and unimpressed. If Leela had one guaranteed turn-off, it was a male bragging up his experience as though females were just… conquests. “With as many Sisters as you’ve plowed through in your time, I imagine you would be by now, if for no other reason than sheer brute repetition.”

“Ha! Well, even a thick-skulled ‘ol ‘Back’ll learn somethin’ if’n he practices enough… an’ if repetition is what ‘ya want, I got endurance like ‘ya wouldn’t believe…”

Leela growled at that while she quickly assembled a dozen plain, crispy tacos. They were the most popular kind even if they weren’t strictly authentic: just seasoned ground beef, shredded cheese, and a thin topping of lettuce. “Practice, huh? Daar, I’m disappointed in you.”

“Huh? Oh.”

“Are you here because you enjoy the company and the break from your responsibilities, or are you here because you can’t stand the idea of a Female left unconquered?”

Daar retreated from the stand a little, and his head tilted a touch as he considered that. Just for a moment, she’d got him to stop the clowning.

“…Gotta be honest… It’s prol’ly a little o’ both,” he admitted. “But the first one more!”

She’d stung him. For a second she considered apologizing, but in truth he probably needed stinging now and then. Maybe that was why he kept coming back.

Leela waggled her spatula at him. “Well, If you’re going to seduce me, that’s entirely the wrong attitude.”

He perked up. “Aww! So you’re saying I still have a chance, right?”

Great Mother he was ridiculous. “Less and less as the night goes on…”

He chittered, confirming her suspicion that he took a kind of perverse joy in being stung by her, and veered onto a new tack. “…Is that ‘chicharones’ I smell? Can I have a big order o’ that too?!”

Daar somehow managed to wriggle his massive head in through the smaller sliding window, despite the thick girth of his neck pressing alarmingly against its frame. His musk immediately permeated the entire taco stand even more forcefully than usual; he was heavily lathered up and had clearly been engaged in Maximally Brownie Activities all day long. Normally she wouldn’t mind—quite the opposite, actually—but her taco stand was not a locker room for huge well-exercised brownfurs, no matter who they thought they were. He snuffled around gleefully until Leela deftly swatted his nose with her spatula. “Get out, you stinky oaf!”

“But it smells nice in here! Like happiness! An’ cumin!”

Leela’s ears were happily up, but still. She spatulated him a bit more forcefully.


Daar chittered and withdrew his head, shaking the entire stand as he did so. “Okay, fine!”

“Much better. Now wait nicely while I make your tacos. And yes, you can have some chicharones, if it’ll keep you busy while I work.” She filled a bowl and slid it toward the window.

Daar grabbed half the bowl’s contents in one massive paw and popped a few into his mouth. “Thankee!” He made delighted cronching sounds for a long moment while she assembled tacos, but apparently he wasn’t done with mischief, either. “Rain always makes me feel itchy in a short coat! Can I scratch my back on the corner again?”

He was being deliberately irritating now in his maddeningly charming way. She had to work to suppress her happy ears.

“No! Do not wear down the corner of my taco stand! Neither I nor my stand will appreciate it!”

“Aww! But can I sniff through the window again? I know you like it!”

“I like it when Folctha’s health inspectors don’t find Daar hairs in my food. Nobody will appreciate that, no matter how much you try to… charm them.”

Daar rumbled a pleased avalanche of a note. “Oh, I dunno, smell’s like ‘yer enjoyin’ my charms plenty! …Or mebbe that’s just the cumin again!”

“I’m pretty sure those two things don’t smell at all the same, Daar.”

“Naw, but both of ‘em are happy smells, yijao? An’ I can still smell ‘yer amusement…”

Well, he had her there.

“I will admit, there is a certain…crude entertainment value to your shenanigans, yes.”

He chittered in turn, this time innocently. “Good! That’s why I do it! ‘Cuz what’s the point o’ anything if’n ‘ya can’t get a pretty Female ta’ pant-grin at ‘ya?!”

She couldn’t argue with that line of reasoning. Still. Leela carefully twisted her ears into the most mocking positions she could wrestle them into without betraying her amusement. “Oh? If you’re looking for a grinning Female you may have come to the wrong taco stand, Daar!”

“Naw! See, I think o’ this as makin’ an investment.”

Daar punctuated his last word by pressing his forehead against the side of the stand, his shining puppy-dog amber eyes peering ridiculously into her front window while his weight gently rocked the stand back on its wheels. Leela swayed with the motion, having long since gained her ‘sea legs’ weathering the bi-weekly Daar-storm.

At least there was a layer of sheet metal between her and him.

“Are you like this with every Female? Literally every one? I fear for the whole town, frankly.”

“Naw, jus’ the most bestest ones! Investment, remember?!”

“Well, I feel honored…”

“‘Ya should! I’m the most bestest at botherin’ a Female! An’ the bestest at showin’ off! I could show off ‘fer you all night long, y’know!” He put deed to word, and despite herself Leela did stop to watch and enjoy his oafish, hypermuscular clowning, until the smell of warming tortillas managed to remind her of her culinary and business responsibilities. She immediately found herself frustrated by his ongoing campaign of distraction.

“Behave! Or no tacos for you!” She yipped, and swatted her spatula at him again for effect.


“I mean it!”

“But I ain’t even shown you my back yet! It’s my most bestest part!!” Daar spun away from her, raised his massive arms and pulled them down and sideways. “See?! I’m th’ most hugest ‘Back ever! From my neck down to my calves! An’ all my other bits, too!!”

Leela chittered in exasperation. “Daar!”

“Fine, fine…” Daar ambled back and re-settled his ridiculous weight on her little taco stand; she really needed to put it up on cinderblocks or something if they were going to keep the game going. “‘Ya can ogle me here jus’ fine…”

Leela rolled her eyes at him and chuffed in disapproval, and determinedly focused on something other than him. Daar, of course, kept preening for her, and probably himself, too. For a precious minute or two, the only sounds in her stand were the rain on the roof and the hiss of frying.

…And an occasional grunt of effort from Daar, whom she studiously ignored. Well. Mostly.

“But f’real, this is why I pester ‘ya,” He finally broke the silence, in a slightly quieter but no less playful tone. “It’s fun to banter, yijao?”

“What banter?! All you’ve done is bounce your muscles at me like a bad movie villain!”

“Well, how ‘bout this bit o’ conversation right here?”

“Wh–no! Couldn’t you talk about, oh, anything else at all?!”

“Well, okay…how’s gossip at th’ Commune?”

“Same as always. Try again!”

“Anythin’ new in the world of taco cuisine?”

“I’ve perfected a ten-herb salsa made entirely from Gao-native plants…”

“Ooh! I want some! But now we’ve got a problem, ‘cuz…what else you wanna talk ‘bout?”

“…Need I remind you, Daar, I’m not the one attempting to woo a Female!”

“Essactly! Y’ain’t never been one ta’ volunteer a topic, after all…”

“Maybe I’d rather hear about the massive lout who won’t stop preening for my attention!”

“Did you say massive?!”


“Aww! Fine…Well, if’n ‘ya wanna talk ‘bout my life, there’s three general categories ‘ya got: farm stuff, civil engineering stuff, or really boring-ass anodyne dung like Clan politics…”

“I think you’re omitting several entire categories, there…”

“I am! ‘Cuz this here is the part where I remind you I’m actually the Great Father in disguise. An’ that means I gotta be careful ‘bout jus’ how spicy a topic I pick, yijao?”

…Admittedly, that was a good point. “Well, fair enough. Actually, wait a minute. How do you talk about anything, then?”

Daar gave her a slightly melancholy look. “Honestly? I don’t usually. ‘Less it’s, y’know, like a Champion’s business or somethin’ all Great Fathery. Why d’ya think I keep my hobby farm?”

“…I hadn’t appreciated the problem that would present. What about movies?”

“I ain’t got time ta’ watch ‘em! An’ that’d be takin’ sides.”


“Love ‘em! Mostly do audiobooks an’ podcasts when I’m workin’ out! Still can’t take sides…”

“…What in the Great Mother’s name does that leave you, then?! Surely there’s something!”

“Oh, there’s sports, food, and a vast an’ tangled web of Clan praise I gotta be careful ‘bout, since th’ last thing I wanna do is kick off a centuries-long rivalry like Fyu did that one time…”

Leela reset for her next batch of tacos. “That doesn’t sound so great. How do you cope?”

“Well, Naydi firstly. She’s amazing! Also tusslin’ and play wif my Brothers an’ stuff. An’ trainin’! But really, the thing that works the bestest when I jus’ need to get away from it all…”

“Oh? Is that what we low-rank Females are to you? Just a distraction?”

“Naw! ‘Yer a chance ‘ta love regular folk! Ain’t nothin’ wrong with high society an’ all, but sometimes they ain’t real, yijao? An’ honestly, I can’t have the same conversation over an’ over again ‘fore I get bored half ‘ta death. But y’know what never gets old?”

He rammed his head through the window again and snarled suggestively right next to her ear. “Real people ‘preciate the direct approach, so lemme cut through the shit. If what ‘ya want is a smart, strong an’ healthy cub, then ain’t nobody gonna give ‘ya one as good as me. I’m th’ bestest. That interest ‘ya?”

Some instinctual, primitive part of Leela really wanted to give in. But her Civilized mind couldn’t let that pass without notice. “…What…how can you be so arrogant?!”

“‘Cuz it ain’t arrogant if it’s the truth, Leela. I ain’t never sired a male under third degree. I was born luckier’n anyone an’ I’ve worked harder’n ‘em all ‘ta maximize my gods-given potential. Ain’t hardly anyone smarter’n me, or quicker’n me, either wit’ words or on my paws. An’ ain’t nobody bigger, or faster, or stronger. The only guys in th’ whole known damn universe that’re tough an’ lasting like me…well, they ain’t gaoian. I’m gettin’ better err’day too, ‘Horse thinks I ain’t gonna slow down ‘fer mebbe decades yet t’come. I’m more blessed’n I got words ‘fer an’ I’m proud o’ what I’ve done with that, an’ I wanna share it all wit’ ‘ya, if ya’ let me.”

“…Wh–why me, Daar?”

“Cuz I think ‘yer pretty fuckin’ gods-damned special ‘yerself. Naydi really likes ‘ya, too. An’ like her, ‘ya clawed ‘yer way back from somethin’ that’d break pretty much anyone else. Din’t break ‘ya though, jus’ made everythin’ ‘bout ‘ya way more beautifuller. ‘Yer tough. ‘Yer a survivor. And balls if that ain’t the sexiest thing ever.”

All the pretense of the game was gone. All that remained was the most frank and unbelievably blunt statement of…well, of inescapable reality that she’d ever heard any male even dare.

He held the intense moment on its edge almost long enough for Leela to just…

“But…that’s kinda heavy stuff. So if’n you ain’t in the mood ‘fer heavy, an’ since I gotta be all Great Fathery with my words an’ all…I guess that jus’ leaves me with makin’ a fool o’ myself!”

Leela burst out chittering—why, she couldn’t quite say—and spatulized his face back out of the window. “Great Mother! You don’t do anything gently, do you?”

“Nope! Well, I do when it’s important…”

Leela chittered to herself as she fell back into her taco rhythm. “Don’t you even.”

“Bah! How’s a ‘Back s’posed ‘ta get his lewd banter in then?”

“Go lewd someone else, then!”

“But they don’t have tacos!”

“They don’t have weapons-grade spatulas, either.”

“Aww, ‘yer no fun! An’ here I am, poor Daar, jus’ hungry ‘fer some tacos an’ someone warm ‘ta cuddle…balls, some workin’ days all I get is Sheeyo and he’s maybe too girly…”

It took Leela a moment to process that, since she was busy adding the latest batch to the growing mountain of tacos.

“Sheeyo…wait. The Goldpaw Champion!?”

“Yup! Smart lil’ guy, an’ a lotta fun ‘ta banter with! An’ he’s a friendly enough tail. Only a firs’-degree, though. I think ’yer paws are rougher’n his!”

He meant it as a compliment, she knew. Deep down she was even flattered, since hard work was something he admired. She did too, being honest about it. Still…

“That’s because I work for a living,” she replied icily, and didn’t quite manage to hide her amusement. He practically howled with laughter.

“T’be fair, he’s sired Keeda’s own share of females, so he’s not so bad! I’ve only ever had three, so I guess I’ll keep tryin’…and tryin,’ workin’ hard an’ all…”

That playfully smug face of his just couldn’t be contained. She flicked an ear and looked down through the window, and…yes. He was still showing off, like the world’s most predictable workhouse romance novel cover.

She managed to keep her expression dry and sardonic despite herself, and deployed her rejoinder. “That looks painful. I hear there’s a human in town that can work those muscle spasms out for you, My Father.”

“Y’mean ‘Horse? Do I look like a masochist to you?”

“Well…you do keep stepping up to pounce, and you do keep missing…”

“Naw, ‘ya just don’t know what ‘yer missin’!” He chittered, then curled one of those giant arms of his right in front of the order window. With a smoldering growl, “Wanna feel it?”

…Yes. “No! Can’t you act civilized for ten seconds?!” Please don’t.

He knew, the big Keeda. “‘Ya sure? Ain’t nobody got big buff biceps like me!”

Just… Aargh.

“…True enough. But I can think of many who have a more subtle delivery…”

“Oh, sure! ‘Subtle’ ain’t exactly my specialty. I’ll leave that tricky game to clever lil’ silverfurs!” His tail was wagging up a storm. Brownfurs really had trouble controlling it. “Speaking o’ that, I hear ya’ got ‘yer nose on a handsome lil’ friend o’ mine these days! Howzzat goin’?”

Well that was different. Daar usually focused on her qualities. And especially his. Not on other males.’ What was he up to?

“I am suddenly deeply suspicious.”

“Ya should be! Smart Female like ‘yerself prol’ly knows all the tricks us big lunks use!”

“Mmhmm. And this one? I believe the humans call this the ‘wingman’ technique.”

“Absolutely! Also, I can smell ‘em all over in ‘yer lil’ shack, y’know…he were here a few hours ago weren’t he?! I bet you let him help make tacos, too. Scandalous!”

Leela chittered happily as her paws worked. “Oh dear, you’ve caught me, Daar! Yes, all this time I’ve been stringing you along when really I’d put all my attention on some other Male. And yes, I’ve seen his paintings, and he politely asked if he could paint me.”

“Ooh, really?”

“Really. And I said yes.”

Daar’s tail whipped back and forth like a rudder, swatting at the air audibly. He looked like a gricka readying itself to pounce on a dizi rat.

“Ah! But you ain’t really seen ‘em, did’ya know that? Those paintin’s o’ his got something a little extra…an’ Leemu’s one o’ the only gao who can see it! Can ‘ya guess what it is?”

Daar’s chafing-dish-sized paw had crept a little too close to the window opening, which earned the offending limb a swift spatulatory whap.

“Bad Daar! And I honestly could not possibly imagine what it might be, I just admire his skill. You’re right, he really is a talented painter.”

“Talented an’ more! See, it’s ‘cuz he can see the color red.”

Leela paused. “He… wait, what?”

Daar’s contrabass chitter rattled the window in its frame. “Yeah! Turns out, we all can, it’s just a gene what’s not activated! An’ he, uh, sorta helped us ‘ta discover that!”

Leela peered thoughtfully into the fog that Daar’s breath was building on her window. A whole primary color she’d never seen? What would that even be like?

What were Leemu’s paintings like? She wanted to see that.

Remembering herself, she quickly rescued some almost over-browned corn tortillas and assembled another half-dozen tacos with a few efficient motions.

“So he can see red,” she said nonchalantly, trying to control her twitching, swiveling ears.

Of course, under all the comically hulking brawn, Daar was still the Great Father. He noticed everything, even through the fogged-over window. “Yup! Y’should, y’know, ask ‘em ‘bout it!”

“I…you’re serious. You’re actually talking him up. Earnestly.”

“‘Course I am! I happen ‘ta like the lil’ fella! An’ you two would make a cute couple! He’s tough an’ determined and creative as balls, an’ ‘yer industrious, super smart, beautiful…”

Earnest praise always felt good of course, but it felt doubly so coming from Daar. He was a Stoneback and they never lied. Ever. He wasn’t one to sugar-coat things either. To be called beautiful and smart by someone like him…

That didn’t mean she couldn’t tease him, though. She knew exactly the jab to take.

“Daar, I’m surprised! You’ve somehow learned to think beyond your own Little Father!”

Daar’s uproarious chitter sounded like a revving motorcycle and shook the ground for several seconds. “Naw! Ain’t been little since I were! It’s a long an’ heavy pawful, even ‘fer me!”


“An’ besides! While ‘yer busy with Leemu, I’ll just go fuck all ‘yer most bestest Sisters ‘fore ‘ya give in ta’ the inevitable!”


“Oh! An’ ‘fore I forget, how’dya like ta’ get a nice, fat caterin’ job?”

Leela needed just a second to recover from the conversational whiplash. Life around Daar was just that way, it seemed.

“Uh…wow. Okay. That’s a novel means of attracting my affections…”

“Naw, right now I’m jus’ tryna get more tacos. Priorities, y’know!”


“Fer’ serious! There’s gonna be a whole lotta First Fang and Human operators there. Couple hunnerd bottomless stomachs! An’ I bet they’ll tip well!”

“…And one bottomless Daar.”

“Naw! You need proof otherwise? ‘Cuz I’ll shake my big ol’ glutes ‘fer a pretty Female any day!”

“That’s not what I— Oh for fuck sake.”

Daar shook them anyway, because preening for Females was just what he did.

Leela wasn’t as disapproving as she pretended. There was something perversely delightful in rejecting the earnest advances of a male like him, but leaving aside his extreme smarmy boisterousness, it was hard to say no. He was without any serious question the greatest gaoian male to ever live; that unbelievably brash self-assessment he’d unleashed on her had the virtue of being entirely true. Yet nonetheless, Leela resisted him. She wasn’t entirely sure why. He was genuinely affectionate and charming under it all, but…

He was just so…


Ridiculous. Blatant. So completely over the top, an outright parody of himself…and yet.

And yet.

Leela gave in and chitter-sighed.

“Alright, you irredeemable meathead. Fine. You win, just like you always do. But right now I’ve got a mountain of tacos here. How are you carrying a ll this?”

“I got saddlebags! Hang on, I gotta put ‘em on…can ‘ya help?”

Well. Leela tidied up the last of the tacos into a big paper stasis bag and stepped out under the awning she kept over the door. Daar thumped over on his rear legs, his body still tensed…

…And abruptly, the playful illusion between them was broken. Leela didn’t know if it was the lighting, that his attention was on something else for the moment, that she was standing so close to him and he was so utterly, unbelievably huge and so toweringly tall—

For that moment he wasn’t big, goofy Daar, an incorrigible oaf with a penchant for silliness and light-heartedly boorish behavior. Standing before her was the Great Father in all his glory, all his noble being, all his terrible power and unrestrained capacity for action.

He sighed, and a touch of melancholy colored his voice. “See that sunset, Leela?”

She looked. Even though it was raining locally, those clouds were only a local phenomenon. The sunset itself was a warm wash of yellows. Pretty enough, she supposed. The dying light shining through the rain was certainly striking, and the faint arc of a rainbow added an intriguing highlight, but… Still, she couldn’t quite see what was so enrapturing about it.


He sighed again and finally relaxed. Somehow his slackened muscles only amplified the sense of tragic nobility about him. Right then, staring into the sunset, his face lit with warm yellows and his expression almost mournful…he was wasn’t just handsome. He was beautiful.

She keened softly and suddenly felt very, very small. “…What’s wrong?”

“I wish all my people could see that. Soon, maybe…” He looked down at her and smiled wanly. “But that’s a problem for tomorrow-Daar.”

Whatever it was that had bothered at him seemingly passed without much issue. He fell to all fours with a heavy ‘thump’ and pranced over to a little package he’d brought with him. It turned out to be a pack harness, which he wriggled into without much complaint. Leela yet again enjoyed the view—she was doing that a lot tonight—until he was ready.

“Can ‘ya load me up? I don’t fit so well in ‘yer little stand…”

“No,” she chittered. “If you tried to squeeze yourself in I fear it would burst!”


Leela popped in and fetched the order. Half of the order went into one of his side-bags, and he spun around on the spot so she could load the other half. She secured the flaps and he was loaded up, ready to charge over to wherever he was going next.

“Balls that smells good, can’t wait to dig in! Thankee!” He reached for his money and they settled up accounts.

“Will there be anything else?”

“Nah, you made everything jus’ how I like it, I can tell. And…uh…thank you. ‘Fer puttin’ up with me. It means more’n you’ll ever know that I can have an occasional dose o’ normalcy.”

On all fours, his head was only a bit below eye level, which made it much easier to look him in the eye. She didn’t see smarminess there, or boisterous ego. No preening, no boasting…

Just thankfulness.

That was…she didn’t quite know what to say, but humor seemed a safe escape. “Uh…well, if you want your hopes repeatedly dashed, then I guess I’m the Female for you.”

Daar chittered, this time warmly. “Good! Even a Great Father needs someone ‘ta put ‘em in his place now an’ then! But, uh, on a more serious note…”


“…I weren’t kiddin’ ‘bout you an’ Leemu. It’s just…he’s been through some shit, Leela. An’ I respect the balls outta him ‘fer copin’ as well as he has. So, uh…I ain’t askin’ a favor or nothin’ and this isn’t me as the Great Father tryin’ ‘ta intervene…but, uh…give him a fair shake?”

Leela smiled warmly and scritched at the side of his brutish jaw. “You don’t need to worry about that, Daar. I like him. And…thank you, too.”

“Oh? ‘Fer what?”

Leela felt a bit at a loss for words. “Um…just, in general. I think mostly, thank you for paying attention to me. Even if it is over-the-top hypermacho attention.”

Daar nuzzled against her hand and chuffed. “You like it, though.”

“…I do. I don’t know why, but I do.”

Daar sighed and looked up at her. “Yeah. Better that, then be all terrified o’ me, I guess.”


“Just a few ticks ago, you saw somethin’ in me that gave ‘ya a fright, din’t ‘ya?”

Great Mother he was perceptive. “…Yes. The light caught you just so…”

“Right.” Daar shook out the fur on his nape. “But ‘ya know I’m mostly jus’ a goofball, right?”

She understood. “You do it deliberately, to disarm yourself.”

“Partly, yeah. Mostly I do it ‘cuz that’s just how I naturally am, but…”

“You never wanted any of this, did you.”

“No. I want to protect an’ ain’t nobody else can do this, but balls if I’d rather just, y’know…”

That was…well, there was only one thing to do. She crouched down and hugged his massive head to her chest, and scritched her claws in his dense neckfur.

“Daar…” She pulled back to look him in the eyes. They were beautiful really, a very pure amber that was almost like they were glowing. “Daar. My Father.” Leela touched noses with the Great Father, and then pushed his muzzle down to her throat. Not an easy thing to do, the memories flooded back…

She summoned up her courage and didn’t quaver. “I believe in you. I trust you. We all do.”

Daar, bless him, understood her meaning. He snuffled against her throat and gave her a single affectionate lick, then guided her muzzle against the brutishly thick cords of his own neck with his great, skull-encircling paws. He could kill her so easily, even by accident…

But she trusted him. She hadn’t lied, and he knew it. “I know. An’ I trust you, too.”

They held for a long, profound moment.

Daar eventually broke the moment. “Well…I better git goin’ before the Lads send out a search party. We’re havin’ a bit of a get-together, ‘fer old time’s sake.”

Leela stepped back and duck-nodded. “You should get going. Go find a nice warm towel or something, you’ll catch a chill.”

Daar gave her one last smarmy look, this one more gently playful than the others. “Naw, I like the rain! I don’t git cold, even bein’ all super lean an’ short-furred like this. My ‘tabolism’s always been pretty crazy.”

“It’s certainly kept me in business…”

“An’ me full o’ energy!”

Leela smiled warmly at him, but decided she needed to do one last thing. She leaned in and touched noses again, and then nibbled at the side of his heavy jaw. “One day. If I ever go in for an oaf again…it’ll be you.”

Daar duck-nodded seriously and returned the nip. “An’ I’ll be ready, when you are. Take ‘yer time, ‘kay? An’ if ‘ya ever want me ‘ta stop, or mebbe dial it back a bit…”

Leela smiled warmly. “We should get you on your way. Someone’s got to put the Lads in line!”


They hugged one last time. Leela gave him a taco-shaped business card, with a custom pop-up ninja inside the fold brandishing “throwing tacos.” Daar was suitably delighted with it, said his goodbyes—warmly, as always—and with tacos filling his side bags, finally thumped off toward his other business. She admired the roll of his hugely muscular haunches as he thundered off at a prancing trot, shaking the ground underfoot as he went. When he was at a fair distance away, he looked back at her, flicked his ears, and poured on so much speed, he handily outran the cars cruising the road.

She went inside to close for the night, and found herself grinning.

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)

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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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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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