The Deathworlders – Chapter 59: New Life Part 6

Date point: 16y8m1w AV
Planet Rauwryhr, the Rauwryhr Republic

Scrythcra, Rauwryhr ambassador to the Dominion Security Council

Rauwryhr tradition symbolically put important things higher up. Leaders and visionaries flew higher, saw further… and stayed there. Climbing up the trees from the bottom was hard work after all.

For this occasion, and these leaders and visionaries, the Republic had chosen the highest and most symbolically important location possible: the canopy. Dappled green-and-white leaves sprawled away in all directions under the perfect open sky, pierced here and there by the silver needles of starports and transit hubs.

And on a wide platform built intricately of lightweight high-strength alloys and decorated with polished stone tiles and other such heavy luxuries, under the warm sun and the open blue, the leaders of the most militarily significant species in the Dominion were gathering.

The Deathworlders drew the most attention. All of them were conspicuous in their exceedingly competent physicality. Many were Human, some of which were small, a few were enormous, all were gifted with compact and dense bodies that variously shook the platform with every step.

There were also Gao, mostly lighter-footed and less conspicuous than the Humans, with a few brutes sprinkled within that competed with the largest Humans for sheer strength.

There were even a pair of Ten’Gewek: Yan Given-Man, Chief of the Lodge, and his niece known only by her title: The Singer. As Scrythcra understood it, her role was complex: a spiritual-philosophical guide to her uncle, a keeper of her people’s oral history, and a physician of sorts.

Primitive they may have been, but that only enhanced their Deathworlder presence; The Singer was as imposing as any Human Scrythcra had ever met, and only one other being present could stand beside her uncle as an equal.

They mostly kept counsel with the great leaders of the Deathworld nations and glanced warily at the sky whenever a security air shuttle passed nearby.

Handily surpassing them all was one hulking charismatic exemplar: Daar, the unacknowledged, de-facto leader of the Deathworld species. The treetop platform, sturdy enough to serve as a landing pad though it was, still thumped like a drum under the Great Father’s enormous mass. He spent most of the social morning leading Yan and the Singer around to the attendees and making introductions. The others paid close, if discreet attention; when the most powerful being in the galaxy, one who was arguably its most dangerous predator as well, wanted someone to meet his good and trusted friend…

He was nothing but civilized, polite friendliness to everyone. Nonetheless, all but Yan paid him deference, and some representatives of minor powers did so to the point of near terror. Even the great Human leaders, proud and capable all, gave the Great Father his due respect.

His clear and obvious fondness for the American President was a major topic of discussion during the morning social before the official start of business.

Not that it was much of a social. The Kwmbwrw Grandmatriarchs—conspicuously lacking Henenwgwyr among their number—huddled together and conspired, as did the assorted Vzk’tk and Rrrtk heads of state, the gaggle of Corti Deans, and the representatives of all the other minor species.

There was, however, an island of stillness in the middle of it all: a Guvnurag, thin and recovering. Furfeg, now elevated to President of the Guvnurag Confederacy by simple line of succession. He’d been eightieth, before the Hunter attack on their homeworld and the en-masse biodroning of his species’ entire population.

This had prompted an outpouring of sympathy from the Gaoian camp. And of course, the Gao had gone through something similar themselves: if anybody could genuinely sympathize, it was them.

The rest… faced the prospect. Scrythcra’s government had conducted quite an early investigation into Human claims about the dangers of neural interfacing cybernetics, and the Republic’s leadership had been methodically and slowly quarantined and cleansed… a process that had only become overt after the Battle of Gao and the Guvnurag invasion.

Everyone present today was clean of implants.

There were two notable moments during the social mingling and small-talk, the first of which happened quite early in the day when Scrythcra was introduced to the Ten’Gewek.

It was hard to know what to say to such people. The psychological profile on Ten’Gewek that he’d read upon learning of their attendance suggested that their culture placed a premium on physical brute strength. Rauwryhr, being among the Dominion’s more fragile species thanks to their lightweight bones, were apparently at a disadvantage there.

At least, until the Singer asked a question.

“I heard you can fly?” she asked.

“Here on this world, yes,” Scrythcra said. “Should I demonstrate?”

“I would love to see it!” the Singer replied eagerly. Yan was more impassive, but even he bobbed his head and issued a soft hoot which Scrythcra took for badly-restrained interest.

So he demonstrated. There was a nice updraft off the forest canopy, and he rode it to some distance above the platform before spiralling down again. An easy and gentle glide from his perspective, but the Ten’Gewek pair seemed thoroughly impressed before Daar guided them away to meet other delegates.

Their Human guide and minder, an enormous and solid specimen with plenty of shaggy hair and darker skin then most of the rest, smiled and shook Scrythcra’s hand with care.

“You impressed them,” he said. “Neither of them impress easily.”

“I thought they weren’t much impressed by weaker species?” Scrythcra inquired.

“Flight is a strength they don’t have…” The Human glanced over his shoulder as the Great Father introduced the Ten’Gewek to First Director Shanl. “…I should follow them. Thank you, Your Excellency.”

And with that, he was gone. Scrythcra spent the remainder of the morning feeling quite accomplished.

The second incident came later, and was much more consequential. Scrythcra didn’t catch the conversation between the Great Father and Furfeg, which had begun with the enormous Gaoian approaching with as cautious and non-threatening a prowl as he could manage: not, therefore, a particularly reassuring gesture to most present. They exchanged words and Furfeg’s chromataphores flashed many colors, which seemed to strongly fascinate the Great Father. There was a pause, the Great Father duck-nodded, rose to his hind legs…

…And gave Furfeg a hug.

Exactly what was said between them wasn’t clear, and Scrythcra heard much speculation for the rest of the morning as he mingled and talked with the delegates. Furfeg didn’t say, and Daar teased infuriatingly rather than answering.

Scrythcra could appreciate discretion. He didn’t pry.

Instead, when the time came, he called the delegates to order.

Today was the culmination of months of meetings between the Dominion species’ military thinkers, not to mention fraught negotiations with some of the Security Council members. Over the time the Symposium had been going on there had been practical demonstrations of technology, philosophical discussions, presentations and history lessons…

…All in preparation for today. The moment that the Gao and Humans revealed their big plans, and invited the other species to join in.

The delegates spread out around the platform, and an experienced political eye could see the underlying loyalties and affiliations in where they chose to coalesce. The Humans and Gao were side by side, as close as old friends. The Ten’Gewek sat with them, and then on either side of the Deathworlder trio were the Guvnurag and Corti.

An interesting statement from the Corti, that. The Directorate’s delegates, especially First Director Shanl, were experts at conveying much while saying little, and their choice of floor space must have been calculated to a very fine degree indeed.

The rest of the circle was more sparse. The Kwmbwrw remained aloof and sat opposite the Deathworld representatives. The Domain picked a diplomatic spot halfway between both, and the Locayl and Independents did the same on the opposite side.

It was all a subtle dance, and none of the species were blind to it. But the dance ended when two of the Gaoians stepped forward to begin the first presentation: Champion Thurrsto, and Champion Fiin.

Both were large and powerfully-bodied males of such stature that they fit comfortably in the company of their fellow Deathworlders. Both were possessed of an easy, assured grace that commanded instant respect and attention, as befitted the leadership of the two most capable military Clans of the Gao.

And they were not, apparently, interested in diplomatic preamble. There had been enough of that already.

Thurrsto launched into the presentation without even a note of welcome or an acknowledgement of the situation. “We begin by framing the obstacles in front of us,” he began. “The first component of a solution, after all, is understanding. And understanding the twin enemies we face is going to be crucial as we move forward.”

Unlike his colleague, Champion Fiin preferred to remain on four-paw. He never quite stopped moving as he spoke, either, creating a prowling impression that contrasted with Thurrsto’s upright stillness. “We have learned over many years that our two great enemies are two aspects of the same problem. The Hunters are, in fact, the discarded corporeal husks of the dataforms–” A grumble from the Great Father off in the corner made Fiin chitter resignedly. “–sapient malware that threaten our peoples’ freedom and existence.”

“A brief review of ancient history is probably the best place to start, therefore.” Thurrsto continued. “From what we can gather, the civilization known as the Igraens were among the first to evolve in this galaxy, sharing it with only a few others. Exactly how many is long-forgotten, but we know of one for certain: the V’Straki.”

“We’ve heard some fanciful stories about the V’Straki,” Fiin continued. “Including that they in fact evolved on Earth, homeworld of our Human friends. If so, they somehow managed to achieve advanced spaceflight without leaving any trace of their advanced industrial age in that planet’s well-studied geological record, but the details don’t truly matter. What matters is that the Igraens and the V’Straki were bitter enemies, and their conflict raged without regard for any other species. Each was so concerned with destroying the other that every other concern was secondary. And in the end… the Igraens won.”

“Their victory wasn’t complete, however,” Thurrsto took over. “Igraens were dependent on a dietary supplement native to their homeworld. Without it, they quickly descended into violent, mindless cannibalistic madness, and the V’Straki successfully eradicated the crop, most likely with some kind of tailored bioweapon. Again, the exact detail doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Igraens were left with a choice: descend into insanity and go extinct, or upload their mind-states to a digital format and persist in that form, no longer corporeal but arguably still themselves.”

“But the insane corporeal Igraens did not die off,” Fiin resumed his part in the back-and-forth. “A minority retained enough intelligence and insight to survive. In time, this intelligence was selected for and they evolved a twisted kind of sapience very different to what had once been. Eventually they became intelligent enough to understand the ruins of the civilization around them, to learn from it, to build, and to strike out to the stars in search of prey. Thus began the Hunters, and they have tormented spacefaring life forms ever since.”

“As for the—with My Father’s indulgence—the dataforms,” Thurrsto said, “They found that a version of their corporeal deficiency came with them. What had once been a dietary need became something else. A need for something they can hardly define to this day, but which they know as ‘Substrate.’ Its exact nature remains a little… arcane… but they derive it from living, material life forms such as us. But to get it, they require access to our brains. And over the long millions of years – nearly a third of a galactic rotation – the most effective method they found was to cultivate a thriving market for neural cybernetics.”

“This market needed protecting,” Fiin said. “They needed their own designs and technology to dominate, otherwise inevitably somebody would have invented a version that wasn’t vulnerable to their machinations and that didn’t provide the needed Substrate. So they brutally suppressed all innovation in the field, bought patents, engineered the law and the private sector alike across every incarnation of the galactic community going back far beyond the limits of our historical record.”

Thurrsto sighed, and padded back to the center of the floor. “However, this ran the risk of lulling the Substrate too far into complacency. They observed that a motivational threat was required. To that end, we suspect they aided the Hunters in their climb back to the stars…and from time to time, engineered Contingency species. The most recent such species…was the Gao.”

He looked over at the Great Father. “We do not know the degree to which we were tampered with. We know it was extensive, and that every aspect of our existence has been touched by their interference. We know that at some point, our planet was a rich class-eleven world and trending steadily higher. It is now…well, it flowers because of our industry. Only now, across deep geologic time, as Gao has begun to reclaim its former richness, do we begin to understand just how much was taken from us. We are as we are because we were designed to be, encouraged to be. Bred to be. How much of that was our will, we will never know.”

Daar rumbled from his seat at the high table. “But we ended it, on our terms. We ain’t nobody’s Janissaries.”

Thurrsto duck-nodded, then returned his focus to everyone else. “…There was another threat to their schemes, however. It’s an oversimplification, perhaps, to artificially separate the galaxy’s species into Deathworlders and not, but the fact remains that where many species thrive on stability, others thrive on the opposite. Put aside the strict rules of classification: a Deathworlder is a being who hails from a dynamic, dangerous, and fundamentally unpredictable world. Such people simply could not be relied upon to comply with the Hierarchy’s cybernetic monopoly…. Which left, in the Igraen’s estimation, only one option. Extermination.”

“We don’t even know how many species they destroyed,” Fiin said. He hung his head sadly. “But at a minimum… thousands. Tens of thousands, most likely. Tens of thousands of our fellow sophont species, trillions of individuals, all mercilessly eradicated because they might pose a potential future danger to the Igraen Hegemony. That, esteemed attendees, is the kind of ruthlessness we are up against.”

“It is the fate that was reserved for Humanity. We’ve since learned their final plan before they triggered the War for Gao, before My Father became a hindrance to their machinations…was to trigger an interstellar war between our peoples.”

The pair let a gentle susurrus of whispered comments swell and die around them before Thurrsto moved the history forward.

“So. That is where we are now. The Hierarchy lurking in the background, plucking the strings of our economy and the very neurons of our brains, and the Hunters at large in a vast and untamed swathe of uncharted space. Both know that things are about to change for them. And both, if pressed, will gladly wipe us all out and cultivate a new set of civilizations if given the chance. They have done it before.”

“Let’s review a few facts about Hunter space,” Fiin said. He finally turned to the holoprojector behind him and summoned a graphic: a map of the galaxy.

Scrythcra was always struck by how small the Dominion seemed, when he saw it on the map like this. Though the Interspecies Dominion claimed rather grandiosely to be the arbiter of galactic law and the mediator for every sapient species in the galaxy, in reality it was a thin band—presented in this case in yellow—that stretched maybe a third of the way around quite a narrow corridor of the galactic disk, perhaps two-thirds of the way out from the core.

Even so, in real terms that was an immense volume encompassing uncountable millions of stars, trillions of sophonts, an economy so immense and complex that nobody could begin to fathom it, and the richest known field of temperate worlds in the whole galaxy. Turnwise from Dominion space, the number of temperate worlds dwindled sharply. Counter-turnwise… well, the farthest-flung backwater of the whole Dominion was Earth, sitting alone and forgotten amidst the barren Border Stars.

There were two other hues on the map: A tiny green smudge that was the Celzi Alliance, once the Dominion’s most bitter enemy, now merely an irksome and unreasonable neighbor…

…And Hunter Space. A blue tumor whose sprawling tendrils reached out to lick the entire Dominion from the Coreward Marches at the edge of Kwmbwrw space all the way down to the largely uninhabited Far Reaches.

Fiin considered the map for a moment, then returned his gaze to the attendees. “…We don’t know exactly how big Hunter space is,” he said. “It’s never been adequately mapped or explored, as every attempt to do so has been intercepted. We do however have intelligence recovered from the Hunters’ own navigation charts.”

“At the cost, it must be said, of many brave and talented lives,” Fiin added. “Nevertheless, what matters is that we can put approximate limits on the boundaries of Hunter space, and an estimate on how many temperate worlds fall within those boundaries, all of which we presume to be claimed and used for slave farming.”

He swept his paw, and a constellation of little points of light filled the Hunter volume on the map. “…One hundred and six of them.”

Dismay swept around the chamber like a light breeze on leaves, causing much movement but still leaving everything where it had been. One hundred and six? The Vzk’tk Domain, by far the Dominion’s largest and most sprawling member state, encompassed twelve. The Kwmbwrw, in second place, had a mere ten.

Everyone else had six or fewer.

“I should point out that despite that number, the Hunters themselves prefer an exclusively spaceborne existence. Nevertheless, they have the resources to control and contain those planets and keep their slave population suppressed,” Thurrsto finished.

Fiin raised his voice as the dismay got a little louder. Not shouting or anything, just making himself heard. “Please, delegates! We’re not here to alarm you. We’re presenting raw facts here, which need putting in their proper context.” He paused long enough for the rising noise to settle, then duck-nodded. “A hundred and six planets is a lot, but we shouldn’t make the mistake of overestimating our foe; that’s often just as dangerous as underestimating them would be.”

“It’s difficult to translate their… uh… lifestyle into our terms,” Thurrsto agreed. “But if the planet ‘Hell’ is fairly average by their standards, we can expect each of these worlds to bear about a hundred million slaves. Considering the average Hunter’s nutritional requirements, that puts an upper limit on the population all those planets can support.”

“Those estimates would set the Hunter population at a little fewer than five and a half billion individuals,” Fiin said. “It could be less, or It could be more. It could be much more. Nevertheless, My Father’s Grand Army has, as of this morning, one billion, eleven million and seven-hundred thousand trained and experienced soldiers. They are well-drilled in the logistics and teamwork of dealing with unspeakable horrors and—go ahead?”

He had been (politely) interrupted by Ak’kk’brr, Grand Admiral of the Vzk’tk Domain, who raised his larger left hand to draw the Champion’s attention.

“Nobody disputes the competence and tenacity of Gaoian soldiers, Champion Fiin of Clan Stoneback” he said, diplomatically. “But you are still describing a five-to-one numbers deficit. How exactly do you propose we attack a power that much larger?”

“That question isn’t ours to answer, Grand Admiral,” Fiin replied. “But I can promise you that it will be, in due course.”

“Setting that question aside for a moment, the final issue to consider regarding the Hunters is the logistical and rehabilitation challenge posed by the slave populations of those planets, some of whom may even be hitherto-uncontacted species,” Thurrsto took over smoothly. “If our estimates are accurate, then the total slave population is more than ten billion individuals alive at any given time, and that population can be expected to explode without the Hunters. The question of how to deal with them will be a long-term and ongoing one.”

“That’s the Hunters. The Hierarchy pose a different set of challenges,” Fiin said. He waved his hand at the holoprojector, and the galactic map reappeared, dotted with a constellation of glowing zones like dried fruit in a cookie. “All software requires hardware, and they are no different. There are a number of communications relays dotted around the galaxy, though we have estimates on the upper and lower bounds, as well as mildly contradictory testimony from interrogated Igraens as to how many there are which fell inside those bounds.”

“We also know roughly where they are likely to be,” Thurrsto added. “Though I should point out that each of the highlighted volumes in this slide is hundreds of light years across and contains hundreds of thousands or even millions of stars. Work is ongoing to narrow down their locations. The one relay we have so far found was scouted extensively, tapped for a prolonged period to extract useful intelligence, and finally destroyed by orbital bombardment. The instantaneous effect of that last step was the liberation of the Guvnurag population on… uh…” He paused and gave the long alien word a fair attempt. “…Ugun-duvur-onag-thureg-nubur-thuruv. ”

For a brief moment, Fiin’s professional facade slipped and he gave his fellow Champion an amused look and flick of the ear. Thurrsto shot him a return look that clearly said ‘don’t laugh’ in any language, and the Stoneback Champion returned to his half of the briefing. “The work of identifying and demolishing these relays is going to take a while, But we expect that each such victory will be a painful loss for the Hierarchy. Their resistance will no doubt be fierce, and ruthless.”

“There’s also the implanted civilian population to consider,” he continued. “On Gao, the biodrone uprising was ferocious, and the necessary measures to put it down were extreme. It will be necessary to take appropriate steps to mitigate, contain or prevent such uprisings as the Hierarchy grow increasingly desperate.”

“Again, the question of how to resolve that issue is not for us to answer,” Thurrsto said. “Ambassador Sir Patrick Knight, Human representative to the Dominion Security Council, will discuss the philosophy behind the general strategic approach, and finally My Father will explain the details alongside General Gregory Kolbeinn, Supreme Allied Commander of Extrasolar Defence. Before we step aside for them, are there any questions?”

Scrythcra turned around and joined a brief huddle alongside Yrwcrohyr and their advisors.

“Do we have any?” Yrwcrohyr asked.

“What could we possibly ask at this point? What they are proposing is near-certain doom. Let them fall all the way down before we think about climbing down after them.”

“And yet, they’re still alive. Both of them, Gao and Humans alike. And the Ten’Gewek,” Scrythcra pointed out. “If the doom you speak of was so certain, I don’t think that would be so.”

“We were promised an explanation of how they intend to take on those odds,” another advisor agreed. “I say we hear it before we decide the situation is hopeless.”

“Agreed,” Yrwcrohyr said, and that settled it. They returned their attention to the waiting Gao, and indicated that the Rauwryhr contingent had nothing to ask at this time.

The Corti requested a few clarifications concerning the estimated number of Igraen relays, and the Kwmbwrw had a question regarding fleet deployment which Fiin politely explained was not within his authority to answer. Most seemed to have reached the same conclusion as the Rauwryhr had: that they would continue to listen before asking questions.

With that, the pair of Gaoian Champions withdrew to sit behind the Great Father, and Ambassador Knight stepped forward.

Knight had once explained the concept of Knighthoods to Scrythcra, noting that in his case he held the honor of being a knight, in addition to being a Knight. He’d laughed, and then had to explain the joke and the family naming conventions of his native culture.

As Scrythcra understood it, the title referred to highly prized and skilled warriors from the days before Humankind had invented steam power and explosives. Knight had described men wearing full suits of intricately beaten steel, armed with the finest weapons and riding astride a powerful war beast.

It was hard to compare that mental image with the tall and rather elderly Human who nevertheless bore himself upright and with dignity as he moved to the middle of the platform to take up his own chapter of the briefing. But there was something there. Scrythcra had worked with his Human counterpart for some time, and respected him greatly.

He was quite sure that Ambassador Knight would command similar respect from the other delegates, soon.

“So,” the old man said amiably. “The question I’m here to answer was already astutely raised by the Grand Admiral of the Domain—please forgive me if I don’t try to pronounce your name, Grand Admiral, I’m afraid the closest I can manage would be, er… obscurely unflattering—But how do we propose to attack a power that large?”

He turned to the holoemitter. “The answer is that we don’t. Have you ever studied how predators choose their prey? We do not contest with our enemy at their point of maximum strength. Instead…” he waved his hand, summoning the first animated slide. “We identify areas of weakness and strike at them, deftly and without mercy. With each weakness we exploit we create new weaknesses to strike at, and all of this is with a clear objective in mind: to starve them.”

The slide was a little complex for Scrythcra to make sense of at first, but it was that last comment which finally prompted understanding to blossom. The intricate three-dimensional inverted tree Knight had chosen to indicate was a summary of the dense and sprawling material needs demanded by even a modest military. Each extremity was a resource, each higher node a place where those resources came together to produce something necessary.

Knight spoke as though reciting an old adage. “For want of a nail…” he said, and one of the tree’s minor extremities flashed and went dark. “…A shoe was lost. For want of a shoe…” the darkness crept upwards and inwards, as the higher functions which drew from that resource were denied. “…A rider was lost. For want of the rider, the battle was lost… And for want of a battle…”

The creeping starvation reached the tree’s core, and the entire thing went dark.

Knight swept the room with a level, confident gaze. “This is how all wars are won,” he said, firmly. “Any action not directly devoted to this process is wasted action. Fleets can clash, armies can brawl in the mud, heroes can die by the thousand and megatons of munitions can be expended, but unless this happens, it is all… to quote a great poet, ‘It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

He dismissed the hologram and stood primly where it had been, with his hands loose at his sides

“We propose to teach you how to think like predators. Often, a predator is outnumbered and outmuscled by his prey. His true strength lies in his cunning and wits, and the careful application thereof.”

Scrythcra glanced across at the lumpen stone-age figure of Yan Given-Man, who was nodding in undisguised agreement. His people, Scrythcra was certain, had never fought a war on any kind of real scale in all their history… and yet it was clear that Knight was sharing knowledge that was already intimately familiar to the Ten’Gewek.

Knight saw Scrythcra’s head turn, followed his gaze, and smiled. “…Yes. It is no accident we have among us the great chieftain of a fierce, yet undeveloped people. There are few anywhere who could convey the lesson better than he.”

Yan nodded, and at Knight’s prompting stood up.

“Every day I visit, I see things I know are not magic only because your people long ago tamed the power of the gods. The world, the sky, the power that runs unseen behind it all… you teach me impossible things! Time bends like water ripples, and the world moves around it! Light and heat and fire and the earth, all the same, deep down! And you all can bend space and time to your whim, split the sky and tear the world apart whenever you wish… That is terror. That is strength! And yet I fear no one here but the Great Father. I respect him because he is the only man here who could Take me before the gods, as a hunter takes his meat. The rest of you…I say without disrespect, cower before me and him. You should not! You should stand strong! Why let us win before the fist has been raised or the knife drawn? Because I am bigger than you? My arm is stronger? That doesn’t matter!

“When I hunt… A werne is a mighty beast. A good bull has blades of bone on his face that can break even a steel knife and hooves that could crush my guts with a lucky stomp. I must be careful! I respect my prey, because my prey does not want to die, and it has the strength to fight back, and will kill me if it can. These Hunters and Hierarchy, they are dangerous too… but you do not respect them. You fear them. Not the same thing.”

“Not the same thing at all,” Knight agreed. Yan nodded to him, and resumed his seat.

“Please understand,” Knight said once he had the floor to himself again, “that I am not making any accusation here. We are dealing with a blameless reality of evolutionary psychology: That many of the beings in this room have instincts which served their well in their deep ancestral past, but which are no good for the present crisis. That is, I think, a surmountable obstacle with education and training. Goodness knows, I needed plenty of both myself when I was a young man.” He smiled tightly, and there were some variations on quiet mirth from around the room: a bass chitter from Daar, a brief trill from Yan, and some chuckles from the humans.

It wasn’t a humorous sound.

“Are there any questions before I step aside for the Great Father and General Kolbeinn?” Knight asked.

Scrythcra turned to Twrythruc, the fatalistic advisor from before. “Still think it’s hopeless?”

“Pretty-sounding aphorisms, and no detail on tactics. I am not convinced by magical thinking.”

“What was magical about that? It seemed logical enough to me. A tree dies when the roots rot.”

“And that’s a pretty aphorism from you, too,” Twrythruc grumbled. “Where is the detail?”

“We aren’t here to discuss detail. We are here to discuss grand strategy and our course. Besides: the Deathworlders are going to do this, with or without us. If they should fail, the backlash… might well end our civilization.”

“And if they fail with our assistance, then it certainly will!”

“But if they succeed with our assistance—and I dare to say that success is more likely if we do assist them than if not—then we will have taken a hand in our own future and left a safer tomorrow for our children,” Scrythcra insisted. “If we aren’t even interested in that, then what are we for?”

Yrwcrohyr simply remained quiet, though Scrythcra fancied he detected the faintest agreeable twitch of her left ear in response to his words.

Nevertheless, part of Twrythruc’s objection was put to Ambassador Knight by the Locayl delegate, Chief Secretary Oryus.

“A grand vision,” he said, “but lacking in detail. Do you have a finer-grained vision for the war effort?”

“The Great Father and General Kolbeinn do,” Knight replied. “My intent was simply to explain the underlying logic behind the details. If that is your most burning question, then I think the most appropriate thing to do now would be to hand over to them. Shall I?”

There were nods and equivalent gestures of encouragement from around the platform, so Knight bobbed his head in a gesture of respect and returned to the ranks of the Human delegation. A slightly younger, broader, meatier man in a uniform so dark blue it was almost black, decorated in gold and many colored patches traded a respectful nod and strode out onto the platform alongside Daar.

The Great Father wore no accoutrements. His fur was exquisitely groomed and brushed to a sleek sheen, but other than that he needed no decoration or badges of rank, and his energy quite unconsciously shook the room just from the simple act of standing. There was just something instinctive about him: Humans were intense and intimidating enough, but they at least didn’t have actual fangs and claws. They weren’t heavy enough to make the whole deck resonate like a giant drum with each step. Their danger was potential. His was immediate.

Despite what Yan Given-Man had said, the gathered non-Deathworld delegates couldn’t help but be instinctively afraid of Daar… and he knew it.

“See, that there is what my friends were a’talkin’ ‘bout. Y’all jus’ recoiled from me. I can see th’ alarm in Furfeg’s chromatophores an’ I can smell it in err’one. Th’ first thing we gotta teach ‘ya is ‘ta control that instinct, even if it’s to my personal advantage ‘ya don’t. I can’t have allies scared o’ me just ‘cuz I’m the most strongest. At this level o’ the game, that don’t matter none. An’ ‘ya gotta figger that out. Wars ain’t generally won by who’s got the most biggest muscles or the most hugest fleets.”

Kolbeinn nodded solemnly. “They are won by whoever has the most effective use of their logistics, and the strongest will to victory.”

“Yup! An’ to that end, war strategies’re ultimately pretty simple, ‘least at th’ highest levels. ‘Ya maximize ‘yer logistical ability ‘ta project force, an’ you minimize ‘yer enemy’s ability ‘ta do the same. All ‘yer tactics need ‘ta focus on that first.”

“First, frustrate an enemy’s ability to fight. But just as importantly, if you can, also destroy their will to fight.”

“War is a contest o’ wills. How much pain an’ sufferin’ can ‘yer enemy take ‘fore they decide it ain’t worth it? An’ how much opportunity are ‘ya givin’ ‘em ta’ let up? Cept, that part here is a problem, ‘cuz Hunters are as anti-Civilized as anythin’ thinkin’ can be. An’ that means…”

“We can only strike at their will to fight by threatening their capacity to exist in the first place.”

“Ayup. So this ain’t gonna be a quick war.”

“But it can be done,” Kolbeinn said. He summoned his presentation on the holoemitter: a not-to-scale model of a solar system with a temperate world. “As was said earlier, we intend to starve them out. We propose to do this by encasing each of their systems in a set of system shields, like so…”

The temperate planet pulsed, and was encased in a translucent blue web. Simultaneously, a far larger bubble encapsulated the entire star system. The view pulled in, and the bubble around the planet turned out to be double-walled.

“Pairs of system defence fields, one facing outwards and one facing inwards, with enough of a gap between them for a halo of jump beacons, and sufficient room to safely jump in ships and stations,” Kolbeinn explained. “With this arrangement, Hunters outside the shield can’t access the planet, and any that were trapped on the planet when the shield went up can’t attack the outer shield and destroy it. Instant orbital superiority.”

A series of flashes – twelve or so – sparkled across the planet. “We use that superiority to destroy any Hunter ground installations, terminate any trapped Hunters, and prevent the construction of groundside jump arrays. The job at this point is only half done, however.”

“Next, the Farthrow generator,” the Great Father rumbled. “Ain’t no such thing as a secure system now ‘less you control who gets ‘ta jump in an’ out.”

Korbeinn nodded. “Farthrows mean absolute control over the lines of communication. Once the generator is in place and operational, the system has been secured. Every slave on its surface is now safe, and any Hunters stuck down there can be isolated and exterminated in whatever manner is most appropriate.”

“Th’other pair o’ shields are there ‘fer two reasons,” Daar added, and pulled the presentation out to the lonely shields at the system’s edge. “Same arrangement, one ‘ta stop the greasy fucks from gettin’ in, one so’s they can’t shoot their way out. With this an’ the Farthrow, we cut off any industrial base in that system, stop ‘em from escapin’ an’ regroupin’, an’ make it so they can’t rally troops or coalesce anywhere. It ain’t enough ‘ta protect th’ slaves. We gotta pin the Hunters to th’ floor an’ rip their throats out.”

Despite himself and what the deathworlders had all said so far, Scrythcra found it impossible to completely suppress the nervous shiver that ran through him when the Great Father bared his fangs in a gratuitous display of righteous malice.

Even Kolbeinn gave him a sidelong glance, though the Human’s reaction was understated. He cleared his throat and opened a new slide, which looked like nothing more than a bullet list of needed items.

“So. Logistics,” he said. “At an estimated hundred and six planets, four shields per system comes out to four hundred and twenty-four units. That’s not a lot, but the hundred and six Farthrow generators? Those are a big deal. Just one is an enormous investment of time on even the largest and most advanced nanofactories.”

“My people…we’re not in a position ‘ta crank out Farthrows on that kinda scale,” Daar said. “Humankind ain’t, neither.”

“Nor us,” Yan added, with surprising dry wit that drew mirthful vocalizations from literally everyone present except for the Corti.

Daar looked back at Yan, who was baring his enormous fangs in what Scrythcra’s translator suggested was a friendly gesture. The Great Father chittered and shook his head. “Makes a sweet knife, though…anyhoo. I can supply well-trained soldiers an’ spaceborne operators only the Humans can stand side by side with. They can provide amazing trainers ‘fer basically any military of any ability. Together, we’ve got the finest warships in the galaxy, proud martial histories, an’ some tricks up our sleeves that’d just leave ‘ya awestruck.”

“We’re prepared and ready to be the tip of the spear in fighting the Hunters,” Kolbeinn said. “But we need a sturdy spear shaft behind us. That’s what we’re asking you to be. As for the Hierarchy…”

He flipped through onto the next slide. “Starving them will pose some slightly different obstacles. The first step obviously is to sanitize the neurocybernetics market. This is, however, going to come at a massive economic cost. Neurocybernetics are heavily integrated across many layers of the Dominion’s economy, and in some fields are actually necessary for certain kinds of workers to do their jobs.”

“Obviously, y’ain’t gonna wanna take the path my kind were forced down,” added the Great Father. “Doin’ it properly means ‘yer gonna need ‘ta secure critical personnel quickly, an’ that won’t be easy.”

“Fortunately, great strides have already been made in that direction, as evidenced by this very conference,” Kolbeinn said. “You have all successfully purged your leadership of neurocybernetics. Cleansing the layers below that, however, is going to require careful planning and preparation.”

“An’ it’s gotta be done carefully. The Hierarchy decided ‘ta burn my species, as a warnin’ t’anyone watchin’ about the cost o’ turnin’ down their ‘gifts.’”

“Specific proposals on that score will by necessity have to be on a case-by-case basis. There are too many variables for us to reasonably go into the details of each species’ emancipation and inoculation today,” Kolbeinn said.

“I make this pledge, though: if’n ‘ya need help with the plannin’ an’ mebbe some help executin’ on ‘yer mission, the Gao stand ready ‘ta help.”

“The Allied nations likewise stand ready to offer training and advice. Indeed, that will be the primary focus of our war effort in the early stages of the conflict,” Kolbeinn said. “It isn’t good enough to just describe the philosophy after all—the actual practical details of its implementation need to be taught to the people who’ll be doing the hard work. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience with that.”

“True words, those,” the Great Father rumbled. “Humans trained th’ Grand Army of the Gao; ain’t nobody else coulda. Balls, they taught me things I din’t know I din’t know! Me and my people owe ‘em everythin’ an’ we can pay it forward wit’ y’all, if ‘ya want it.”

“So there, in short, is our proposed plan of action,” Kolbeinn acknowledged the praise with a slow nod of his head. “We train your forces and equip them to fight this war as it must be fought. With our aid, your homelands will be better-defended, your peoples will be liberated from the sleeping threat in their midst, and your frontier colonists will be able to live without fear. In return, the Dominion’s economic and industrial base will supply us with the resources we need to not merely bring our mutual enemies to heel, but end them.”

Daar duck-nodded, and his amber eyes swept the whole platform with a challenge. “Th’ only question left is… are you with us?” he asked.

There was conversation among the various delegates for some time. Twrythruc, the dismissive advisor, was no longer so dismissive. He hardly seemed enthusiastic, but he did not venture a strong objection. Among the Rauwryhr, at least, the decision seemed straightforward. There would be politicking and votes in the Senate and Chamber of Representation of course, but Yrwcrohyr had already been empowered by both and by the Republic’s constitution to be here and make the choice today, and Scrythcra was fairly sure he knew what she would decide.

So, as he waited, he listened carefully. And as far as his sensitive ears could tell, the alien chattering around him mostly boiled down to ‘yes, that all seems like a solid plan’ and similar sentiments. He suppressed the urge to fidget.

It fell to him to bring the meeting back to order, as the host species’ ambassador to the Security Council. But when he stood up to do that, rather than the usual fractious and reluctant process of restoring focus that he might usually see…

…this time, everyone fell silent and looked. For once, it seemed, the species of the Dominion were thinking alike.

He tidied up his gliding membrane as he stepped to the middle, and turned to look at them all. The Deathworlders were looking… oddly wary.

They truly do need the rest of us, he realized.

“…Delegates. The time has come to commit to a course of action,” he announced. “The Allied species have presented their thinking, their plan, their rationale and their requests. We now know what is needed, what it will cost, and what the stakes are. All that remains is to determine what we will do. Will we join them in their war against the Hunters and Hierarchy? Or will we stand aside passively? I direct the question first to the esteemed Yrwcrohyr, President of the Rauwryhr Republic.”

Yrwcrohyr rose to her feet. “We will join the fight,” she declared, simply.

“President Furfeg, of the Guvnuragnaguvendrugun Confederated Worlds?”

Furfeg lurched to his feet. Vibrant resolve shone down his whole body. “The Herds of my people are with the Deathworlders,” he announced.

“First Director Shanl of the Corti Directorate?”

Shanl nodded curtly. “On behalf of the Directorate, I pledge the support of the Corti people.”

“The Grandmatriarchs of the Kwmbwrw Great Houses?”

One of the wisened old diplomats stood up on her hindlimbs, rearing to her full and impressive teetering height. “Our people have been preyed upon for long enough,” she said, fiercely. “We are with them.”

“Ak’kk’brr, Grand Admiral of the Vzk’tk Domain?”

The Admiral bowed his head in a long, slow nod. “The Gao and Humans came to my people’s aid, and shed their blood defending our citizens. We decided to repay our debt long before this council was even called.”

“Oryus, Chief Secretary of the Locayl Unified Nations?”

Oryus gave the simplest answer yet. He stood, and spread all four of his arms in a Locayl bow. “We’re with you,” he said.

“Yan Given-Man, Chief of the Lodge, on behalf of the many tribes of the Ten’Gewek of Akyawentuo?”

Yan sprang upright with such force that the whole deck shivered. “We live because of them! We will fight by them for as long as they will have us!” he barked.

“Skirnhiv, on behalf of the Associate Species of the Dominion?”

The Mjrnhrm chosen to represent the Dominion’s minor and less powerful members tilted his head and fluttered his vestigial wing casings with a sharp buzz. “…I am still awaiting instruction,” he declared. “I must abstain.”

There was dismay, a few outbursts of anger or disappointment from those at the edges of the room: Scrythcra simply recorded the abstention with a nod, and turned toward the Humans.

“I understand there are two major factions on Earth to consult,” he said. “Would the High Commissioner of the Global Representative Assembly please vote?”

Human internal politics were sadly a bit of a closed book, from Scrythcrur’s perspective. As he understood it, their homeworld was divided into more than two hundred sovereign territories, each with their own legal codes, agendas, beliefs, ethics…

Speaking on behalf of most of them was Ping Guozhi, a neat man in neat clothes who had remained utterly silent throughout the proceedings. When he rose to his feet, he cast an inscrutable glance at the five other Human leaders, then turned to Scrythcra.

“In consultation with the United Nations Security Council, and in line with the Global Representative Assembly’s mandate to protect the interests of our member states above and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere,” he said, formally, “I am instructed that the GRA member states will offer whatever support and aid they can to the Allied nations if they should choose to support this war.”

“And the Allied nations?” Scrythcra asked.

There was a brief and apparently ceremonial exchange between the Prime Ministers of Britain, Australia, Canada, Folctha and New Zealand, and President Sartori of the United States. It was all too complex and arcane for Scythcrur to truly follow: There was something about a Commonwealth of Nations, His Majesty King George, and formal permissions. Whatever it all meant, Sartori listened solemnly, thanked them quietly, then turned to the assembled species.

“On behalf of the United States of America, and with the permission of my counterparts, I renew the dedication and support of the Allied nations to the war effort against the Hunters and the Hierarchy,” he declared firmly.

That left only one.

“And… Daar. Great Father of the Gao?”

Daar duck-nodded slowly and gratefully to the Humans, then reared up on two-paw to complete the cycle. There was no doubt about what he’d say, of course: The only question was how he’d say it.

He spared a glance toward Skirnhiv, then turned back to Scrythcra and a slow, vicious pant-grin spread across his face to put every last one of his wicked teeth on display.

“…We accept,” he said.

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

Read More »
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

Read More »

More by HamboneHFY

Sweetness – Implications

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

Read More »

Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

Mother Earth

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

Read More »


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

Read More »

Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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

Read More »

Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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

Read More »

Similar Stories

Causal Results – Chapter 6: Squeaking By

Bellona 9 Years, 7 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing “We can do it!” Bemusement. Tinner cocked his head from his potion on the foot of her bunk. “We failed during the simulation, and that was with the entire class. How will the two of us complete the simulation alone?” Mary rolled her two eyes

Read More »

Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 4

Date Point: 14Y 2M 1W 5D AV The Thing, Folctha, Cimbrean Sister Naydra It was with some trepidation that Naydra attended a Meeting of Mothers. By all accounts, this was a continuation of a previous Meeting, which wasn’t so unusual—such Meetings were rare and never called for simple reasons that could be easily resolved. What

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 10

Date point: 14y 9m 2w 1d AV Trail hiking, Lakebeds National Park, west of Foltcha, Cimbrean Hayley Tisdale Julian had been quite firm that he wouldn’t do a sweat lodge or anything like that. She understood, there was some controversy about cultural appropriation and all that nonsense, and Julian seemed like he’d rather not be

Read More »

Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 3

Date Point: 14Y 1M 3W AV HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean Toran and Tybal “Shhh…” “You shhh…. I’m already ssssh’ing.” The two cubs, having crept past the outer fence surrounding the base, slinked in behind a short hedge and remained motionless. It was late enough that the nightly rain had, overall, stopped, but early enough that

Read More »

Causal Results – Chapter 5

Ruck, Willinkree Year 3042 Day 35 “No! Let go of me!” shouted [Sil] as she struggled to break the brute’s hold. The class C stared dumbly back at her, glaring at him [Sil] pulled at her bonds and sat down on the ground unable to make them even budge in the large alien’s hands. On

Read More »

Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 2

Date Point: 14Y 1M AV The Thing, Folctha, Cimbrean A Meeting of Mothers was much like a Conclave of Champions, and it was only coincidence that both terms alliterated nicely in English. Neither was terribly common, and both were typically invoked by their various constituencies to deal with an issue bigger than any one constituent

Read More »

Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 1

For He will instruct His angels in your behalf, to guard you in all your ways. They will carry you in their hands, lest you hurt your foot on a rock. You will tread upon the lion and the viper; you will trample upon the young lion and the serpent —Psalm 91 Date Point: 14Y

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 9

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

Read More »

Causal Results – Chapter 4

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

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 8

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

Read More »

Causal Results – Chapter 3

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 5

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 4

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

Read More »

Henosis – Chapter 4

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 3

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

Read More »

Causal Results – Chapter 2

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

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 7

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

Read More »

Henosis – Chapter 3

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 2

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 1

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

Read More »

Henosis – Chapter 2

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 5

Date Point: 16y3m5d AV Planet Rauwryhr, The Rauwryhr Republic, Perseus Arm Ambassador Sir Patrick Knight Rauwran Great Trees were… They were quite a thing to behold. Each one was as thick around at the base as a cricket ground, and soared up and up and up until their canopy was an invisible dark haze high

Read More »

Henosis – Chapter 1

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

Read More »

Causal Results – Chapter 1

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 4

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

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 6

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 3

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 2

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

Read More »

Rising Titans – Chapter 51 (End)

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 1

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 6

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

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 5

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 5

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

Read More »

Rising Titans – Chapter 50

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 4

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 3

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 2

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

Read More »

Good Training – Survival Part 4

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

Read More »

Rising Titans – Chapter 49

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 1

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 6

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 5

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

Read More »

The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 4

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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”

Read More »

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”

Read More »

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

Read More »

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!”

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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…

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »


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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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”

Read More »

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

Read More »


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

Read More »

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,

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »


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

Read More »

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

Read More »

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *