The Deathworlders – Chapter 60: The Calm and The Storm Part 1

Date Point: 16y8m1w1d AV
Wi Kao city, Planet Gao


The painkillers weren’t working so well any longer, and Yulna had taken to wearing several thin layers of loose robes to hide her missing patches of fur. Her natural eye was almost useless thanks to a cataract, and without the replacement she’d had installed after losing the other one in a rogue Corti lab all those years ago she’d probably have been thoroughly blind.

But she was home.

Though, home looked rather like she felt. Wi Kao had been spared, but the Commune–once among the most populous and productive on the planet—was now a memorial. Its shattered walls had been made safe, its garden replanted, and all the dead named among the stones and flowers they’d once called home. Only a small staff of caretakers lived permanently there any longer.

Well. A small staff of caretakers, and now one retired Mother-Supreme.

She’d expected the smell to be wrong, somehow, but to the contrary it was almost too right. She didn’t know how the caretakers had so accurately recreated the fragrance of the commune at the height of its occupancy—the messy symphony of flowers, cut grass, young cubs, cleaning, cooking, nervous male petitioners and the occasional sniff of a female feeling very pleased with herself after a successful contract…

It felt mocking, somehow. Like the life Yulna remembered was just around the corner, if only she knew which corner. Like she could open a door and find Ayma and the others laughing over Talamay and Ta’Shen in the light and warmth, and the last few years would be…

Would be what? A bad dream? Yulna had enough reasons to feel as much, but she hesitated at the thought. She’d always tried to live by the belief that life, however it turned and twisted, was fundamentally a Good Thing. It was why she’d endured two decades of medical indignity and encroaching discomfort, rather than opt for gentle euthanasia when she’d been given her diagnosis.

Since the war, she’d lived to see the Clan of Females secure a place for themselves where they’d never again be so vulnerable as they had been the day the violence broke out. She’d met her cubs’ cubs, done great things, and had plenty of moments to chitter and enjoy life. It hadn’t all been bad. She would never throw away the good to chase an impossible dream of better.

But by the Great Fathers, the story her nose was telling her made her heart ache with nostalgia. So rather than linger in the commune garden, she returned to her quarters and lay down to rest.

Rest, but not sleep. Her mind was too full of today, of far too many painful yesterdays, and far too few tomorrows.

Should she have retired? Perhaps working until her last breath would have spared her this… this Limbo. Still herself, but no longer needed. No longer relevant. Just an old Female still dying too young.

Maybe she should—

There was a hefty scratch on the door. She sniffed, then heaved herself out of her nest-bed with a puzzled groan and opened the door.

“…I thought you were on Rauwryhr,” she said.


“Did it go well?”

“Better’n I thought it would. Can I come in?”

Yulna’s reply surprised her: She keened softly, touched at his concern and pain, and welcomed him in. Not even a few days ago she would have fallen back on sass and playful confrontation, but the truth was that if she could have picked one living person’s company tonight…

Daar understood. He ducked under and sideways through the doorframe, and by mutual unspoken agreement they curled up together on the nest-bed like the old friends they almost were. And, as she’d done back when they were friends and had even consummated a mating contract together, she chirped in frustration at the state of his fur. It was in that awkward stage between clipped-short and shaggy-long, and just running her claws through it turned up more than a few nascent tangles.

“I know Naydra combs you whenever she can,” she muttered. “How do you manage to do this to yourself?!”


Despite herself and the way it made her lungs feel dry and scratchy, Yulna chittered. She clawed a tangle apart, then resolved that Naydra could damn well do it herself and settled down to simply bask in some close physical affection. There’d been too little of that in her life for far too long.

“…Here to close the ledger, I suppose?” she asked, after a peaceful minute.

“…No. You deserve better’n a horny Daar.”

“Relax, I know that’s not why you’re here,” Yulna assured him. “I just thought… you like to get your accounts in order. Close off an old relationship properly.”

“I ain’t the kinda ‘Back to think that way. I just felt, uh…it might be nice to visit. An’ say goodbye.”

“…I appreciate it. And I’m sorry, I’m so used to everybody around me being all agendas and calculation. Too many cynics in my orbit.”

“Yeah. I got an advantage that ain’t nobody wanna lie in my presence, but…”

“Want to? Oh, I’m sure they want to!” Yulna chittered again. “They just can’t and don’t want to suffer the consequences of trying!”

“Small blessings, I guess. I s’pose I’d hafta make their first slip-up comical an’ embarassin’ though. Like, I dunno…go all pro wrasslin’ on ‘em?”

“As opposed to the friendly tussling you inflict on all the people you like.”

“Well yeah! I’m careful not ‘ta smush people too hard when I’m bein’ all nice-like!”

She chittered again and nuzzled down to listen to the sound of his industrial-sized lungs at work. And behind them, a steady, healthy, strong heartbeat.

“…You sound like you’re in ridiculously good health,” she commented after listening for a while.

“Yup.” Daar sighed uncomfortably. “Better’n ever, even. I’m in perfect condition, like I was fifteen again. No sign o’ age at all neither ‘cept ‘fer a tiny bit o’ silver, here an’ there.”

“Part of me wonders, you know…” Yulna mused. “I wonder if the treatment that has you in such fine shape came from the same research that put me in such a poor place?”

“Prob’ly. I know I have Julian to thank, in part. But that’s not the end of it. Have you ever done the math on my genes? It ain’t simply that I’m a natural sixth degree, that’s just the start. The odds against a male like me are literally astronomical. It’s awful hard t’ignore that these days, given…y’know. Everything.”

“You mean the way you only count as the same species by dint of the fact that you’ve sired a great many cubs?”

“…Okay.” Daar chittered quietly. “I admit I’m happy as balls ‘bout that bit. But, still. It’s…”

“You worry that you’re just as much of an experiment as I was.”

“There aren’t many possibilities. I am either an experiment, an anomaly beyond words, or I’ve been put here with purpose. An’ I ain’t happy with any o’ those possibilities, yijao?”

“Go with the experiment, I suppose. At least there’s rhyme and reason to it, and not one that will stoke your ego like divine providence would.”

“Yeah. There’s only duty. So where does that end? I’m pretty sure I’m gonna live a very, very long time ‘cuz o’ all this. Longer’n I got any right t’live, prol’ly.”

Yulna’s cough had an excellent sense of timing. It was a hacking, dry, agonizing thing and it entirely stopped her from replying for several breathless seconds before finally it subsided enough to let her croak her sarcastic reply to that.

“…What a curse.”

Daar chitter-sighed and pulled her a little more firmly against his bulk. “Point taken, I guess.”

“Yes. I… honestly, Daar, I’m scared. I’ve known this was coming for a long time, but I’m still… I don’t want to die. I’m not ready.”

“No.” The Great Father snuggled his brutish jaw against her neck and held her awhile.

Yulna found that she dozed. She was too uncomfortable for sleep, and wouldn’t be able to rest properly until she’d taken the strong painkillers, the ones that made her fuzzy and vague. But the moment was peaceful enough to at least put her ache aside like a heavy bag for a while.

She half-slept, half-dreamed, and found herself talking without being properly awake, only just conscious enough to notice the thought she was giving voice to, as though it slipped past while her waking mind had its back turned, like a sneaky cub raiding the pantry.

“…Every heartbeat… so precious. And we all get so few of them…” she murmured. Daar stiffened a little, listening. “If you get more than your fair share… you value it, Daar. Promise me that. Don’t you ever write off what you are as a burden. Too many people died for it… you owe it to them to treasure yourself.”

“I don’t, Yulna, not anymore. Not after Naydi. I promise that. I jus’ worry…am I good enough ‘fer this?”

“There’s nobody else, is there?”


“Then whose standard are you measuring against?”

“…I dunno.”

Yulna nodded to herself. “…I hope you figure it out,” she said. “Could you hand me one of the blue injectors from the case over there? I think I’d like to get some sleep now.”

He gently extracted himself from the nest-bed, fetched the device, and watched as she touched it to her own throat. It clicked, there was a faint cold, sharp scratch, and the pain immediately began to subside, as it always did when she took her sleep medication. She sighed in relief, and relaxed into the soft bedding.

“…Can you stay?” she asked.

“‘Fer you, I have all the time in the world.”

“Flatterer…” she yawned as he curled up alongside her again. It was good to have at least one old friend left. And she was glad to be his friend again.

Warm, comfortable, and drifting on the sleepy cloud of medication, she snuggled backwards into him, and fell asleep feeling comfortable and safe.

Date Point: 16y8m3w AV
Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm

Vemik Sky-Thinker

“These are vack-seens?”

Jooyun shook his head no as he inspected the weird things that had come in an even weirder box. Vemik itched to examine that box. It seemed… ‘over-engineered,’ but Jooyun said that Core-tie didn’t do that much.

“No they aren’t, big fella. This is a blood kit. They need your body-words and a small Giving of your blood so they can find the sickness and build a vaccine against it. As for the box, it’s ‘cuz it has to keep your blood-Givings super cold.”

One of the Core-tie was far above in a ship, talking through Jooyun’s fone. Vemik had a problem with Core-tie in that he couldn’t tell them apart. They all had the same narrow faces, the same huge leaf-shaped eyes, no hair…. And weirdest of all, no ‘gonads,’ either! (He liked that word; he’d picked it up from the scientists.)

Jooyun said there were subtle changes from one to another, but a tiny fone screen didn’t carry subtle changes well, so the Core-tie talking to them could have been anyone.

“Freezing the samples is a necessary step in the process,” it explained. “The fresher the better.”

“Why not use stay-sis?” Vemik asked. The subtlest little twitch of emotion crossed the Core-tie’s face, though he couldn’t say which one.

“…An item in stasis cannot be interacted with, which is necessary for proper sample preparation. The container will begin some of the safety preparations automatically. In addition, they would need to be cooled anyway for some of our processes.”

That made sense, Vemik nodded and shrugged, and offered his arm for Jooyun to press the sample-thing to.

“…Other side, buddy. Kinda think the needle won’t go through your hide unless we get a soft bit.”

Reluctantly, Vemik turned his arm over to expose the thinner, softer skin on the inside of his elbow. From what he gathered, this was going to be like a nasty bug bite, and those were always the worst in a soft place. Jooyun just shrugged at him, pulled a slightly sorry face, wiped something cold onto Vemik’s skin with a tiny white cloth and then applied the sampler.

It stuck to his skin strangely, then went click and stung a bit, but Vemik had had much worse over the years. He watched interestedly as a small amount of his blood was drawn up into a clear pod about the size and shape of Jooyun’s smallest fingertip. There was a cold feeling, and then the sampler let go again. Jooyun taped a small wad of white stuff that looked like a tiny cloud over the wound, and told Vemik to hold his fist tight against his shoulder.

Then it was the Singer’s turn. Then little Vemut, who didn’t like it one bit, and Vemik had to hold his arm still so Jooyun could take the sample without hurting him.

The rest of the village followed, some casually happy that if the Singer and Sky-Thinker had done it—and let their child do it—then there was no harm, others nervous but determined, a few swaggering and sneering at the idea they could be scared at all by anything any skinny dickless sky-person could do…

It didn’t matter why. They all Gave, in the end.

Yan was the last to Give, and wanted to deliver the samples—still one of Vemik’s favorite sky-words–in person.

Jooyun meanwhile turned to his fone and raised his eyebrows at it. “Satisfied?”

“The collection process seems to have been conducted competently and to specification.” That was a lot of big words where a simple “yes” would have done. Strange. “Our agent on Cimbrean awaits your timely delivery and the opportunity to take appropriate full scans.”

“He’ll get it,” Jooyun said.

“All is well, then. We will depart the system and return to Directorate space. Starship Thesis Crucible, signing off.”

The bland face on the fone’s screen vanished.

“What happens next?”

“Well, I’m gonna take these back to Folctha, along with you and the Singer for personal scans and stuff.”

Yan grumbled from his spot on a log, “took long enough…”

“Shit happens, big man. You know that. Honestly, I’m kinda fuckin’ impressed that the Corti even have a ‘universal basic vaccine’ to modify. But I suppose if they can figure out things like, uh, what they shaped me and my family into, or Cruezzir and stuff…eh, I’m not smart enough.”

“Shame to see smart-strength like that wasted on body-weakness.”

Jooyun shrugged in what Vemik had learned was a very non-committal sort of way. “I suppose. Still, that smart-strength is a big part of why I can out-wrestle your red-crests—didn’t ask for that, but whatever—and why you’ll be getting vaccines. Don’t underestimate it.”

“Am not. Just saying: they should be both.” Yan stood up with a push of his tail. “…We are.”

“No argument here. I think they know it too. I mean…why else would they be doing this?”

Yan nodded, then grinned in mischief. “Also, Vemik still out-wrestle you any day!”

Vemik trilled at that and bounced happily, while Jooyun chuckled gently. “Eh, we’ll see how long that lasts…there.” He closed the cold-box, then pressed a big shiny button on the side. The box made a hiss, and some fog poured out of a small hole on the side, and then it was still.

He grabbed one handle, Vemik the other, and together they transferred it to the jump platform. It was bulky and surprisingly heavy, but neither of them had any problem moving it.

A thought occurred to Vemik. “Shouldn’t we be doing blood-Givings from everyone?”

“Eventually, yeah. But you don’t map the whole forest in one go, Sky-Thinker. One tree at a time. Also, everyone’s body-words come half from their sire and half from their dam. We can use those family ties to see how body-words change over time, and how they work together.”

“How long to the jump?” the Singer asked.

“…Just before sunset,” Jooyun said after checking his watch.

“Awwgh,” Vemik muttered in frustration. “I want to meet… uh… Hawwisun.”

“Harrison, Vemik. I know it’s a hard name for your big-ass tongue but that’s okay.”

“Sound too much like Awisun anyway…” Vemik grumbled.

Jooyun chuckled in his easy-going, friendly way. “Don’t worry big fella, you’ll get to meet him. Mostly all he wants to do is eat and sleep right now anyway.”

Satisfied, Vemik’s mind turned to the question of how to occupy themselves until sunset. Work out? Eh, not right now. His muscles were still nicely tight after yesterday’s lifting and spear-hunt, so it felt important to rest. Wrassle Jooyun? …Nah. Tussles with Jooyun were always fun, especially since Vemik usually won, or learned neat tricks when he didn’t…but Jooyun was strong these days and Vemik needed to be well-rested to stand against him. So no, not today.

Write letters? Maybe! He still didn’t have a reply from Tis-dale about his last ‘field report’ though. He had to wait until he knew what the Humans were interested in before he went for more samples. Also, he wanted to do that with Jooyun! Doing samples with Tilly was always good fun, but they ended up playing with each other too much instead. Good fun with her, even if they didn’t always fuck…but Tilly-fun wasn’t getting the work done.

Make a knife? His forge wasn’t cold—he never let it get cold if he could help it, because starting it up again cost too much charcoal—but his apprentices were practicing right now and they needed some time at the anvil without him looming over them.

He had to let them ‘tinker’ in peace, no matter how much it hurt. They were doing it all wrong!

He could go and make merry with the other men. The village felt nice and lazy today and so did the neighbors, and days like this always had the taste of mischief about them. It was really fun to wrestle! Or maybe they could band up and go raid Ferd’s old village! They were good people and were just a nicely fun journey away, but they were a bit too proud about their brightest son, who hadn’t even been Given his totem yet! They were practically begging for someone to fight with. They had pretty women, too…it could be a fun day for everyone!


…Well, their village was maybe too far away. Now that he thought about it, if they made a warband right away, then by the time the singing had been done, and the spears had been carefully blunted and colored, so everyone knew they were only at play-war…

And, well, even play-war could be dangerous, especially a completely unexpected raid.

Also, the day’s heat and the heavy wetness of the air was sorta lulling everyone to sleep…

And also…

Vemik looked over at Singer, who was standing just so in the morning light…

Suddenly he had much better ideas floating in his head. He grunted at her, gave her his most suggestive snarl…she grinned, and flicked her tail…

That was all he needed. Vemik long-jumped and pounced, wrapping an arm and tail around and picking her clean up off the ground. She hooted a play-objection, but clung to him rather than struggling. Her hands were gripping nicely at his chest and that just got his blood going faster…

“See you at sunset!”

“Before sunset!” Jooyun corrected him with a smirk.

“Aww!” Vemik snuggled his Singer and bounced his way toward their hut. If there was a life-after and the gods rewarded him for good balance, then surely that reward must have been something like this: loved ones, and all the time in the world to indulge them.

Right now, Vemik didn’t have endless time. He just had the rest of the sunlight. But he had it with Singer, and for now, that was enough.

He laid down with his Singer, gave her every bit of his strength, and made the most of their time.

Date Point: 16y8m3w AV
Coreward Marches, Kwmbwrw Great Houses

Shipmatriarch Wrythwynw

It had been quite some time since the last distress call from a facility out in the Marches. Wrythwynw had foolishly begun to hope that maybe the Hunters would acknowledge that they were beaten, but no. More people were dying.

This time, it was an ice mining operation in a main sequence yellow-white star system quite close to the border. An important target, in fact: lots of outposts, stations and groundside facilities in a large radius around that star depended on the water and volatiles it extracted from an ice dwarf in the system’s outer halo.

The Sword of a Poet was back, this time accompanied by a different capital ship, the Scorching Claw. Wrythwynw was impressed: the Gaoians had lost no sharpness or eagerness while they waited. If anything, they seemed a little bit quicker and more precise.

Sadly, they weren’t the only ones.

Once again, the Hunters bolted when they saw the incoming response fleet. Once again, the Sword launched a megalight probe to chase them down.

This time, the Hunters launched one of their own.

It ate the light-years in an eyeblink, intercepted the Gaoian probe and pinned it back to relativistic spacetime with a gravity spike so fierce that the Gaoian and Kwmbwrw combined fleet felt it as a minor shockwave. The Gaoian probe sent a brief confused squawk of error messages, and disintegrated: apparently its Hunter counterpart was armed.

A new counter-tactic, then. That was deeply inauspicious.

The Gao adapted quickly and fired off a wide spread of interceptor probes, but the Hunters matched them shot-for-shot. Each one was caught, dumped back to sublight, and destroyed

The minutes dragged on, and the Hunters were too fast to catch without the probes. All Wrythwynw could do was watch as the ice station’s abducted crew were carried away into deep space, until the last faint sensor echo, itself barely a ghost on the instruments, vanished entirely. They had failed.

Shipfather Orno was not the pleased, happy, exhilarated Gao he’d been the last time they spoke. When his hail connected, every social context marker Wrythwynw’s screen had told a story of frustration, embarrassment and tightly contained anger.

“…Shipmatriarch, on behalf of the Clans of Gao and my Claw, I apologize to the Kwmbwrw Great Houses,” he began. It was… strange to see him so formal.

“On behalf of the Coreward Marches Fleet and House Wynw-arbryn, your apology is accepted, though unnecessary,” Wrythwynw replied in the same vein.

“You do not understand. I must report my failure to the Great Father.”

“Will he be…angry?”

Orno’s ears flattened dejectedly. “…I’d almost rather he would be. Instead, he will be saddened, understanding, and disappointed.”

“…Surely that’s good?”

“If he got angry, there’d be somethin’ I could work on an’ improve. If he’s understanding… ain’t nothin’ we coulda done different. An’ there ain’t nothin’ worse than bein’ completely useless.”

That was… weirdly logical. And it rather changed Wrythwynw’s perspective on her own report to her superiors. Hopefully they hadn’t grown too used to victory.

…And hopefully Henenwgwyr and her House wouldn’t seize too hard on this failure as a chance to inveigle themselves back into the political mainstream. A naive hope, that.

“So… what do we do now?” she asked instead.

Orno glanced off-screen at something she couldn’t see. Maybe the Gaoians had better sensors, because he watched attentively for a few seconds with his ears up, then sagged, shook his head, and offered her a complex expression that her console interpreted as a medley of resignation and melancholy.

“We make our reports, and see what happens,” he said. “But somehow, I think the Hunters might fight back after this…”

He reached forward to close the conversation, and paused just before his claw reached the button. “…Good luck,” he added, and closed comms.

Wrythwynw returned to her duties in a despondent mood.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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++:

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 48

+ 7 Minutes 38 Seconds The Canada “Captain, your message?” asked Arik as her Avatar superimposed itself over the main monitor. “Surrender now, call off the fighters and we’ll let you live. Then we can begin to negotiate for an end to this pointless violence.” “That’s it?” asked Arik after a moment. “Unless anyone else

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Good Training – Survival Part 3

Date point: 14y 1m 2w AV “Clan Young Glory,” western unincorporated territories, Gao Sister Naydra Naydra and her fellow Sisters were slowly dying. The “Clan” that had “liberated” them from the clutches of what they now knew were biodrones had decided their honored guests needed “protection.” Their so-called protection consisted of imprisonment. Their “protection fees”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 3

Date point: 16y2m3d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Professor Daniel Hurt “What exactly did he say he’s fetching, anyway?” “An M107.” Daniel frowned. Although he’d learned more about firearms in general over the past few years than he’d ever imagined he would, there were times that the people who really “got”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV Chiune Station, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Allison Buehler Allison hadn’t slept well in a couple of nights. It wasn’t that she begrudged Julian and Xiù going offworld, not at all, but it did disrupt the sense of familiarity that made home, well… Home. If she didn’t have her brothers to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

+ 30 Seconds The Canada “The Empire ships are now in range of the ACE field!” reported Arik. Stagg grimaced as the ship shook “Activate,” “New contact!” shouted Arik interrupting. “What?” “IFF is identifying the vessel as the HSB Russia, they just exited a spatial rupture directly between us and the Empire fleet!” “Open communications!”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m1d AV personal sanctum, Dataspace. Cynosure/Six Data sophonts did not sleep, and thus did not dream. Nevertheless, Cynosure had a recurring nightmare of sorts. When his attention wandered, he found that it almost inevitably alighted on a handful of disturbing subjects. The details varied, as he worried at different aspects of the problems

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

Date point: 14y 7d AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Later that day Julian Etsicitty It was approaching mid-day and the day’s morning work had been taken care of. The scouts had come back and reported that the nearby werne had just calved and would need to be left alone for a

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m AV Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao “Poor bugger hardly knew which way is up…” Powell grunted, once Wagner was gone. “Who can blame him? His whole crew going violently psychotic on him with no warning, only to be stasis-hopped right into a Corti’s lab being sniffed

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

9 Years, 6 Months, 14 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Diana blinked in surprise as the jungle was suddenly lit up by a fantastic reddish glow, glancing behind her towards the city Diana watched as another blast of energy, identical in color to the flash fell from the sky. Unable to see from her vantage

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m AV Folctha, Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Julian Etsicitty The house was a mess when Julian got back, which was rare. Nobody in their household was naturally untidy—living on Misfit had driven Allison, Xiù and himself into an ingrained habit of orderliness, and the boys had lived in fear of their father’s belt

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

Date Point: 16y2m AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1536 ++Asymptote++: I have bad news. It would seem our new drones are detectable. ++0004++: <Dismay> you’re certain? ++Asymptote++: The force I sent to Cimbrean was captured immediately upon arrival. ++0007++: How? ++Asymptote++: Unclear. The Arutech drones don’t report as concisely as conventional biodrones. The connection is…

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

Date Point: 16y2m AV The Thinghall, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Gabriel Arés Every civilization needed its icon of executive power. The UK had the black door of Number Ten Downing Street and, somewhere behind it, the Cabinet Room; the USA had the White House, and the Oval Office; Folctha had the Alien Palace. The

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

You may also want to read Pyrophytes in The Deathworlders series. Same story, different angles. Date point: 14y 7d AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Professor Daniel Hurt “You want me to read it by next week?” Julian mopped the sweat from his face and bounced loosely in place. “What was it

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

-7 Hours CHRONT THE CANADA “More contacts!” said Arik as she flashed every monitor on the bridge a bright red. Stagg glanced up at the monitor, “How many more?” “I’m counting!” “You’re counting!?” A grainy image of the approaching Empire patrol vessel was quickly displayed, a small box around it. Additional boxes quickly filled the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m AV Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Nofl Leemu had become unresponsive. Nofl’s quarantine facility had alerted him after the patient had been anomalously still for twenty minutes, and the reason why became obvious upon a quick inspection of the cell: Leemu was sprawled on his back, staring blissfully up at

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Good Training – April Fool’s

13y 3m 29d AV One-Fang workhouse, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Sergeant Regaari (Dexter) of Clan SOR One of the best things about the humans was that they had a springtime holiday dedicated to mischief. Before them, only the Gao could claim to celebrate such a thing and it was one of the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

Date Point: 16y2m AV Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Nofl Nofl’s lab was spacious, but inevitably finite. When it contained an alarming number of alarmed Humans, not to mention one particularly sculpted canine and a Gaoian brownie who was doing his best not to loom at everyone… well, there were times when Nofl

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m AV Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Allison Buehler After a lifetime of helicopter parenting, Tristan and Ramsey seemed addicted to every opportunity they could find to do something their mother would have scooted them away from. And who could blame them? Amanda had never managed to get her head around the idea

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

9 Years, 6 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing Deep Space The Russia shuddered again as the engines slowly powered down and the ship slid out of the red blue haze that was the tachyon FTL corridor. James blinked several times trying to clear the haze from his eyes as the regular black background of

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

Date Point: 16y1m AV Dataspace adjacent to Mrwrki Station Entity The Entity understood the concept of boredom in an academic, abstract way. It could even vaguely summon up Ava’s memories of being bored. But understanding the idea and actually feeling the emotion were two different things. The closest it could get was the sensation of

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

Date Point: 16y2w AV Air Force One, somewhere over Asia, Earth President Arthur Sartori “…You want to give us a Farthrow generator.” Daar’s image was janky and low-resolution thanks to the vagaries of current wormhole comms, but the audio was a lot clearer now. Technology marched onwards. “It’s loaded up on a train and ready

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Good Training – Pecking Order

13y, 8m AV Operator’s Barracks, HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean Officer Regaari (Dexter) of Clan Whitecrest “I got an idea, Regaari.” Regaari flicked his ears forward in annoyance. “This again?” “Well, yeah. I gotta win that bet, Cousin!” Regaari duck-nodded wearily. Not long after Daar had received the SACRED STRANGER briefing, he’d sulked off to think

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

Messier 24 Mission day: 3 Sergeant Daar (Tigger) The third day was always when things settled into routine. Daar didn’t really know why, ‘cuz that was prol’ly some complicated psychology stuff (maybe he should read up?) but he did know how it worked, practically speaking. Daar always pondered morning thoughts like that when he was

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

Date Point: 16y2w AV Weaver dropship, Gaoian space Sergeant Ian “Hillfoot” Wilde “So in all the excitement, we clean forgot about these things. That’s what you’re telling me.” Champion Meereo made a sound that was half a sigh and half a chitter. “…That’s more-or-less exactly right, yes. We had… well, bigger priorities.” Wilde had to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

9 Years, 6 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing Bellona “Ready?” asked Alpha from where he sat on top of the Captain’s chair. “I’m good!” said Red from where he sat at the controls for the ship. It hadn’t taken much to convince him to pilot the vessel. James glanced down at his own console

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

Date Point: 16y AV Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Zane Reid The cold didn’t hurt anymore. At first, it had been like forcing his way through a wall made of knives that cut through his clothes. Zane’s every breath had blinded him as it billowed and steamed in the air, and when he’d experimentally licked his

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

Date Point: 16y AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Hugh Johnson Snow. Of course, snow in January in Alaska was hardly surprising, and this one threatened to be heavy. At first, Hugh had thought it was probably just an seasonable dusting that’d add a couple of inches to the foot or

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I had made my way through the tournament, but most of my matches had been won by the skin of my teeth, and I had only the advantage of being evolved from a pursuit predator to thank for it. Our great endurance had been the one boon that had kept me going, and I was

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

Date Point: 15y 10m 1w AV HMS Violent, Rvzrk System, Domain Space The ground battle churned on for days. That was the problem with Hunters. There was no surrender involved, it was a kill-or-be-killed fight where smashing their will to engage in war simply didn’t achieve enough. Any Hunter left alive would just keep murdering

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

He awoke to a pleasant smell. “…Eggs?” Hoeff detangled himself from Natalie and the sheets and stumbled towards the kitchen. Daar was busy in front of the comparatively little stove and fridge, humming some terrible Gaoian tune to himself. Seriously, their music was like Chinese opera with extra pain. Some Humans liked it, though…but “atonal”

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

9 Years, 6 Months, 15 Days After Eridani Landing The [Singer] The explosion hit and [Vann] watched at the lights on the main hologram and different panels flashed a blinding white light, before dying and plunging the entire bridge of the [Singer] into darkness. “What were we supposed to do?” asked someone near the weapons

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Day 1. I’ve made it on board the human trading vessel! They didn’t detect my presence, and I’ve managed to smuggle myself into their engineering bay, and disguised myself within a cluster of cables! My small, serpentine body makes me indistinguishable from a thin, grayish cable, and the Humans won’t notice my existence until it

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

Date Point: 15y 10m AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Hugh Johnson Camp Tebbutt wasn’t actually a bad place to live, if you didn’t count the fact that it was essentially a prison for innocent victims. Hugh understood why he was there, and why he couldn’t leave… but after eleven years,

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

Firth Regaari chittered, “It is difficult to imagine you ‘humbled,’ Righteous.” “Heh,” Firth chuckled. “You do know most of my attitude is straight fuckin’ bullshit, right? Adam and John know why.” Regaari looked over at John, who shrugged massively. “He’s a scary dude. Being ridiculous kinda takes the edge off, y’know?” Regaari duck-nodded. He was

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

9 Years, 6 Months, 13 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Moving down the hallway Diana paused at the double doors, carefully she moved forwards into it’s threshold and they slid open. A woman in an orange smock looked up from her Comm for a moment, and then going back to look at it did a

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The Good Samaritan

I felt a white-hot pain in my back as I was stabbed. Once, twice and then three times. I fell to the ground clutching my new openings, and for a moment I couldn’t grasp what had just happened. I had walked through an alley as a shortcut back home, and then suddenly someone had grabbed

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

Date Point: 15y9m3w AV Mrwrki Station, Erebor System, Unexplored Space Darcy “Does it seem… different to you lately?” “What?” “The Entity. It’s actin’ different, dude, I swear it is.” Darcy sighed and set aside her work as Lewis sat down. She was sitting drinking a Moroccan Mint tea in the station’s rec lounge, with its

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

9 Years, 6 Months, 13 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Popping the restraints off of her legs Diana swung herself off of the table, the two class A’s still in their isolation suits were pounding at the door of the room the three of them were in. “It’s out! Open the door!” shouted the man

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

Master Sergeant Christian (Righteous) Firth The end of the movie came and the ladies were fast asleep and prolly too tired to head home with any comfort. The other bros were asleep, too, and Firth was tangled up with them pretty good. Oh well, both ‘Base and ‘Horse were heavy-ass sleepers and only danger or

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Hell. It’s a completely Human concept. The concept of a realm of eternal torture, to which you are sent depending on the whims of one deity or another, is something only found in Human fiction. And it’s not an isolated occurrence. Almost every human culture since the dawn of humanity itself has had it in

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

Date Point: 15y9m2w AV HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Senior Master Sergeant Christian (“Righteous”) Firth “Hey, fuckers! Guess what hit the newsstand today!” Adam looked up from his needlework for a second and raised an eyebrow. “Imma guess Coombes’ centerfold spread with Ava?” Firth deflated, somewhat flummoxed that ‘Horse had stolen his

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