The Deathworlders – Chapter 62: Tooth and Claw Part 4

Date Point: 417th Year of the Punishment
Library bunker at Old-Bent-Leg, the Great Ruin

Ukusevi, Librarian and Keeper of the Long Chant


Ukusevi woke at her desk. She’d only put her head down for a moment….

But no. The fire-safe oil lantern beside her had burned dry, and was going to need a new wick. Her back was sore, and the fur on her cheek was matted with her own saliva. She scrubbed at it with her fingers to try and restore some dignity, stretched her back which went crrrunch so hard that she gasped in relief, and turned to face the door.

“…Come in.”

The boy, Teeisyo, poked his head around the door. “The Gao is back, Keeper…”

“Thank you.”

She considered the wax tablet she’d been using to draft her thoughts before writing them in the journal. It was a mess of crossed-out aborted passages, backtracking and hesitation. But, that was why she drafted her thoughts first. It would be a sin to deface a record of history with such disordered scribblings…

…Or at least, so Uku felt. She was feeling a lot less certain about what was and was not sinful than she had just a few days ago.

She tidied the journal safely away, took her note tablet and stylus, and followed Teeisyo back up the tunnel toward the surface. The library was excessively quiet today… in fact, when she looked around, there were fewer people than there ought to be.

“Where…?” she began.

“They left, Keeper,” Teeisyo said, in a subdued voice. “Some of them said you were blaspheming. Others said you were right… the angry ones took their things and went into the tunnels during the night.”

Ukusevi sighed. That wasn’t unexpected, but…

…But she didn’t even know what they thought she was right or wrong about.

“How many?”

“Fourteen, I think.”

Fewer than she’d feared, more than she’d hoped… Almighty bless and keep them safe.

Garr-avf was waiting for her just like the last time. He’d removed his hood and mask, and the blunt stubs of his ears—where had he lost them?—tilted and angled subtly in what might have been recognition to match the duck of his head.

“Keeper,” he greeted her, via his translation device.

“Garr-avf.” Ukusevi sat opposite him and for the moment two very alien cultures considered each other carefully.

Garr-avf spoke first. “…We’re just mortals like you,” he said. “We aren’t divine beings, we weren’t sent here by the Almighty as far as I know. I know that raises… questions. Difficult ones.”

“Yes, it did,” Ukusevi agreed. “Some of my people left last night. We had a… difference of opinion, you could say.”

He tilted his head curiously. “You’re here talking with me. So I assume that means…?”

“I’m… confused,” Uku confessed. “I don’t know what to believe right now. My belly tells me one thing, the Chant tells me two or three others, and my head is pulled taut between all of them. If you aren’t divine beings—If—then… how do you know you aren’t defying the Almighty’s plan?”

Garr-avf made a duck-shrugging gesture. “I don’t. I doubt we are,” he said. “I don’t know what the Almighty’s plan is, or even if He has one. My people don’t even think about the Almighty in the way you do. All I can say is, we don’t claim to be divine beings, and we doubt the Hunters are either.”

Inwardly, Uku was trembling. If the Hunt—if the Punishers were not agents of divine justice then… then that left a hole in her core where her whole sense of the world and the way of it had once stood. The very idea sent dreadful cold tendrils along her limbs.

Out loud, though, her voice was level, calm and mild. “If you are not—and if they are not—then that would mean my people have suffered all of this—” she waved her hand at everything around them to indicate the whole world, “—for no reason. That the last four hundred and seventeen years were just… misfortune.”

Garr-avf ducked his head solemnly. “It would imply that, yes.”

“That seems a… a bleak way of looking at things. Don’t your people believe in meaning? In structure?”

Garr-avf tilted his head. “Do you want the Almighty to be angry with you?”

He may as well have stood on his head. Uku gave him a bewildered look. “What does what I want have to do with anything?”

Garr-avf sat forward and looked directly into her eyes. “You want there to be a purpose to all this. You want all the millions and millions of suffering and dead to have suffered and died because it was necessary. You want the Infinite and the Unseen to make sense. You want the universe to be just.”

Each repetition of the word ‘want’ stung like a papercut. Garr-avf watched her for a second, then sat back again. “But, you’re right. Why should what you want matter? Why should things make sense, or be just? Are you the center of all creation? Does the world dance to your desires? It certainly doesn’t dance to mine. So what does what you want have to do with anything at all?”

“You speak… harsh words, Garr-avf of Gao,” Ukusevi managed, around the sick icy knot in her stomach.

“We don’t have time to be gentle. And we will not be dishonest. Our great leader…abhors dishonesty in any form.”

“Great leader?”

“Just a leader. No kind of divine being himself, and he’d say so even more strenuously than me. His actual title is ‘Great Father.’ I don’t know how well that concept translates for you.”

Uku took up her stylus and tablet. “Tell me about him. And about your people.”

Garr-avf chittered darkly. “The Great Father is…personally, he’s a big, powerful, cheerful parody of a male, and would gleefully admit to it, too. He is…a good man. But.”


She was learning to read the movements of Garr-avf’s body. Some were almost familiar, others very strange indeed. But she guessed that the way his head lowered and tilted back and forth meant he was composing his words with just as much care as she would before writing in her journal.

“…A Great Father is…my people were severely tested by our great enemy. He was created Great Father at the moment of our greatest crisis, and his purpose is to obliterate all that threaten our people. He is…unequaled at that task. Which is why we are here.”

“The Punishers threaten your people?”

“The Hunters would have gladly done this to us,” Garr-avf said, gesturing around them. “But they’re the lesser foe. The greater foe are subtle, conniving, invisible and patient. Everything your tormentors aren’t. They are merely…more powerful than your people; the greater foe shaped my people, long ago. Worked our bodies like clay, shaped our culture, deleted our history, and tried to strike the very idea of the Almighty, the Unseen or the Infinite from our minds.”

Ukusevi boggled at him. He simply nodded solemnly, and waited for her to remember herself and write down his words.

“The Hunters are the discarded corporeal husks of that enemy,” he continued, once her stylus was scratching through the wax again. “They left their bodies behind a long time ago, and learned how to hide invisibly in people’s heads, control them, prod them in their desired direction, even take them over and pretend to be them.”

Uku listened. She didn’t know whether to believe him, but she recorded his words as he told her his people’s history. Whether he was speaking the truth or not, she couldn’t know, but she could at least faithfully and accurately record his exact words.

Until one of them jumped out at her.

“Your box didn’t translate that woord hoomun.”

“The name of our good friends, the ones who came up with that quote about the Almighty working in strange ways. I call you E-skurel-ir, you call me Gao, we call them Humans. They’re younger and less advanced than the Gao, but our good friends nonetheless, and they exposed the Hierarchy.”

Ukusevi put her tablet aside. “…Everything you say tears at the truths I built my life on,” she said. “You paint this picture of a sky full of civilizations—”

“Dozens of them,” Garr-avf agreed.

“…And you left us here to suffer alone?”

“We only learned you exist less than forty days ago.” Garr-avf shook his head. “This whole attack is rushed and dangerous. If it had just been our enemies on this planet, we would have watched, and planned, and got everything in place more methodically and carefully before we struck. As it is… a lot of Gao are dead. Many more are wounded, or sick. And we’ve only just started.”

Uku deflated. That much was true, at least. A few brave Penitents had snuck above ground to watch the fighting, and the Gao weren’t emerging from this conflict unscathed, far from it. There were wrecked vehicles littering the paths and roads near the facility, new and terrifying kinds of Punisher lurking among the rocks, rubble and foliage, and it seemed like there was a whole corps of Gao whose job was to retrieve the injured and dead.

“…I… suppose I should be grateful then,” she said.

“Yes. But you’re conflicted, I understand that.” Garr-avf sat forward. “…Keeper Ukusevi, we are not going away. We are here to defeat our enemy and to liberate your people. The Great Father was very clear on that point: When I asked him what we would do if you did not wish to be liberated, his exact words were ‘Then we’ll have to cure them.’”

“Cure us?”

“Somebody I know said to me earlier that a people are more than their flesh, which is true. Your people are sick, Ukusevi. In both body and soul. The air they breathe up on the surface is laden with heavy metals and harmful gases. The land is poisoned with radioactive and chemical contaminants, the water is corrosive… Your bodies get sick and wither the longer you spend up there. Well, your souls are in just as toxic an environment. You’ve adapted, found a way to endure… but yes. You have grown sick in a poisoned environment and we intend to heal you.”

Ukusevi drooped. “…So no matter what we do, we are in the grip of a higher power,” she said. “Either you, or the Almighty.”

Garr-avf let the silence last before speaking, quietly and carefully.

“You have it in your souls to heal yourselves,” he clarified. “I was a slave to the Hunters once myself. The difference, Keeper Ukusevi, is that I never blamed myself for it. I trusted myself. I had—and this is a concept the Great Enemy tried to eradicate among my people—I had faith. Not in the Almighty as you know Him, but in my own rightness. I knew that I had done nothing to be punished for, and neither had the slaves around me.”

Transfixed, Ukusevi could only watch him warily as he looked her unwaveringly in the eyes. “Your people were never so wicked and vile as to deserve this, and you know it,” he said. “What does that mean for you and your relationship with the Almighty? I don’t know. But the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can help yourselves.”

“Help… ourselves?” The thought was almost impossible. “I don’t even know if that’s… how can we?”

“You can.” Garr-avf asserted. “I’d much prefer it if you did, and I’m sure the Great Father would too.”


Garr-avf interrupted her. “Helplessness is like a heavy blanket: It smothers at the same time as it comforts. It takes an effort of will to get up and face the cold, exhausting, awake world of agency and empowerment where you have to actually take responsibility for your future. But that is where your people must go, Keeper Ukusevi. We hope you will take that step for yourselves, but if we must drag you out of bed and force you to stand, then we shall.”

“Is that how you see us? Asleep?”

“Asleep, and in the grip of a nightmare. But the thing about nightmares is, you have no control over them. At least when you’re awake, you can do something about your problems… so wake up.”

Ukusevi watched him for a long moment, then recorded that in particular for posterity.

“…I appreciate your words, Garr-avf of the Gao,” she thanked him, and rose to her feet. “I will pass on what you said.”

With that, she turned to go. He stopped her after only three steps, however.


She didn’t turn back, though her ears did. She heard him rise to his feet,. “Remaking oneself is what survival is all about,” he said. “On that topic…my people know much. And so do yours, I think. So I will give you time.”

He placed something on the ground. “When you are ready to talk again, just use this and ask for me.”

Ukusevi turned around as his pawsteps trotted away up the tunnel. Sure enough, he’d left a small black box on the ground. She hesitated, then collected it and hid it under her robes.

Then, with a remarkably clear and quiet head, she trotted back down the tunnel, and back to the library.

Date Point: 16y11m5d AV
High Mountain Fortress, The Northern Planes, Gao

Naydra, Mother-Consort of the Great Father

“I think your scars are fading, Bumpkin…”

Daar had a decidedly functional relationship with his fur. In general he didn’t pay it much mind, leaving Naydra to fret over it when it was long and prone to tangling, or to slick it glossy when he was shorn short. Left to his own devices he’d look maddingly unkempt…and it was somewhat irritating how well that worked for him. The ‘scruffy’ look made most males look a bit worse for wear, but not him. In fact, he’d transformed ‘scruffy’ into the mark of a well-bred brownfur; if a male could pull it off, he’d definitely score highly in most female’s lists.

Daar didn’t pay much attention to any of that. Probably. Though he was more than a little vain…in any case, today he was heading off to lead his military into war, one where he’d likely end up in battle himself inside that personal armor of his. That demanded the shortest coat he could get away with, and that in turn led them to the private moment they were sharing.

She was helping him shave right down to the undercoat, and then clipping that back to barely a tick long, too. It was a weirdly intimate moment they were sharing; anyone a gaoian trusted with shears was a close relationship, indeed. There wasn’t anything a person could hide when they were shaved almost down to the skin.

Not many males could pull that off, even fewer looked better short-clipped. Her Bumpkin certainly did, and that was no small part of her enjoyment. She could appreciate every inch of him, give him one last comb-down before he marched off…

…And notice things. Like his fading scars.

“Yeah,” he grumbled discontentedly, “they prol’ly are, ‘cuz of the regimen I’m on. In not too long I prob’ly won’t have any left. Gonna be somethin’ when th’ rest o’ the Males find out.”

That would certainly be a change. Gaoian males took pride in their scars. Naydra had always had a conflicted relationship with them. On the one hand, scars worth keeping were always from dangerous encounters, and that seemed just reckless from her admittedly Female perspective. Why should Males endanger themselves for a few token trophies?

But on the other hand, a big strong lacerated brute like her Bumpkin had an interesting life story to show and tell. Having come out of all that, wiser and stronger at the other end…

“It seems a shame to lose them,” she decided out loud.

“Can’t be helped. Th’ Corti are improvin’ their tech by leaps an’ bounds now that they’ve got the sample sizes they need, and I ain’t about to ask for deliberately worse medicine.”

“No.” Naydra felt along the thick topology of his dense, muscular flank and applied the trimmer to some rough spots she’d missed. If he was going to be shorn, then he would at least look as perfect as he actually was. There was a strange pride Naydra took in his vigor and general appearance: part motherly, part proud life-mate, part vain Sister showing off her prize…

She maybe spent a bit longer feeling him than was strictly necessary.

Daar chittered deep in his thick chest. “I hate ‘ta say no to ‘yer attentions Naydi, but I gotta get goin’ and we ain’t got th’ time.”

Naydra chittered teasingly, “Not even a quickie?”

“I ain’t never managed quick,” Daar growled suggestively, “an’ I ain’t ‘bout ‘ta start!” He spun around, found the good light like the smarmy Keeda he was and struck a pose. “Well! Do I pass ‘yer inspection?”

“…Yes.” Yes he did.

“Good!” Daar’s smug contrabass chitter practically shook the floor. “Walk wit’ me?”

They made a brisk pace since he was running a bit behind schedule, and he took the opportunity to shift his four-paw gait into a bouncy, powerful prance. He always showed off for her every chance he got, without fail, and no matter who else might be watching.

Still. As much as she enjoyed the attention, her mind drifted back to her earlier observation.

“Regenerative medicine that good is going to change society, I think.”

“Yeah. Mebbe jus’ as much as better color vision an’ all the other unlocked bits we’re gonna start seeing crop up en masse here in the next few years. The trials are goin’ super well…”

“Yes. Leemu seems to have made a full recovery.”

“Not unscarred, though. I mean…in his soul.”

“No. And Gorku?”

“He’s gonna challenge th’ Second Ring here right quick! I’m super proud o’ him!”

That was good to hear. She’d found herself particularly fond of the unlikely friends, and wished them well. After all, their relationship did bear a passing similarity to Daar and Regaari’s…

“Do you think we’re ready for this?”

“We still gotta expand th’ sample size to a few hunnerd more gao an’ make a public announcement ‘bout essactly what it’s all gonna mean—”

“No no, I mean…are we ready?”

“…No. Don’t think we can be, though. Balls, the Humans ain’t an’ they’ve built th’ HEAT entirely around dealing with this stuff, yijao? An’ honnestly, If it weren’t ‘fer ‘Horse I don’t know how they’d manage. Trainin’ at this level is intense, ‘specially inside ‘yer head.”

They rounded the corner to the jump array’s access corridor, deep in the side of the mountain abutting the northernmost face of High Mountain Fortress. Daar rose up to his hind legs and continued along at a stately walk. After a moment, he resumed his thought.

“He’s the heart an’ soul o’ the team,’ y’know. An’ he’s the big-little bro o’ all the old crew. Err’time the Corti improve their science on this kwekshit, he jus’ figgers it out, does the work, an’ gets on with it. That’s super important ‘cuz any improvements we get, they get not long after, an’ vice-versa. I admire the fuck outta him, Naydi. He’s why I can do all this in th’ first place.”

“You are very blessed in your friendships.”

“I’m blessed in my everythin’ Naydi. ‘Specially you.”

“Blessings get blessed,” she retorted.” She snuggled up to him.. “And you’re a blessing to me, the Gao and the Humans, Bumpkin.”

He opened the door for them to pass through the empty, echoing Conclave chamber. “I hope so… ‘cuz it looks like I got a third species on my hands.”

“Yes, I’ve been reading Garaaf’s reports. It’s… I can see why they need it, but something inside me chafes at the idea of deliberately and knowingly destroying a culture. Even theirs.”

“Not all cultures are equal, Naydi. Y’ever want proof’a that, go look at the way some Humans live.”

“You don’t need to tell me that, Bumpkin,” she reminded him. “I’ve seen the worst of Gaoian cultures, remember?” She indicated the huge tableau of of Fyu’s life that dominated the wall opposite the great table. They were passing the scene where Tiritya’s skinned hide was delivered to him, the moment that transformed Fyu from a soulful warrior-poet and general into the vengeful and terrible figure of a Great Father.

Daar paused to consider it, and she rested her head against his arm. “…That kind of barbarism isn’t so far away,” she mused. “I know these ‘penitent ones’ will need deprogramming, but…”

“But there’s a fine thread between healin’ them an’ enslavin’ them,” Daar duck-nodded. “Even ‘fer the right reasons, an’ even if we don’t spill a drop o’ their blood doin’ it, it’s a violent thing we’re gonna do ‘ta these people…”

“A violent blessing.” Naydra considered that, then chittered softly. “That’s… apt, for you.”

He scritched her back, considering the scene in front of them. The stylized mural wasn’t true-to-life accurate in its anatomy or perspective, but it conveyed the emotion in big ways through color selection and framing.

“…This one hurts ‘ta look at,” Daar said. “Now I know how he musta felt about her…” He shifted his arm and held her close. “…If anythin’ ever happened to you… I don’t wanna think ‘bout what kinda monster I’d become.”

“I think Fyu became what he did because Tiritya would have wanted it,” Naydi replied. “She loved his passion, his poetry, his rage and his love. Fyu was so ruled by his passions that he inscribed love poems on his armor and sword, conquered cities for her and burned the world down to avenge her. That’s… romantic.”

“An’ in response, the Females banned love.”

“Yes.” She turned her face upward to look Daar in the eye. “What I love about you is that you have all that passion but you rule it,” she said.

“Because you want me to.”

“And I’d want you to even if anything happened to me.”

He duck-nodded, slowly and sadly, then looked toward the far door. “…The jump’s waitin’ ‘fer me.”

She duck-nodded, understandingly. “Go. Be a blessing.”

He didn’t go immediately. There was always time for a last tender moment. But then he went, and she watched him until the door closed behind him.

Once it had, she turned back to consider the next scene in the tableau—Fyu going to war. And if the previous scene had been painful to look at for the raw grief and anguish it conveyed so well, the next one was painful for a very different reason.

…Because it was all too familiar.

Date Point: 16y11m5d AV
Orbital Superiority Platform Raining Vengeance, In orbit around planet ‘Mordor’, Hunter Space

Hiyal, Champion of Clan One-Fang

“What are they building?”

“Anything that close to a star is Keeda’s own matted ass-fur to make out from this distance, Champion. We’re doing well to see that they’re building something in the first place.”

Hiyal growled to himself and watched his sensor technicians do their best to filter out a clear image from the glare of low orbit over a white-yellow star. They were making progress, at least.

He was acutely aware of two important points. First, that the Farthrow wormhole suppression field being generated by the Destroying Fury was only good enough to cover the planet below them and the surrounding volume of space out to about half a light-second, which left a lot of star system for the Hunters to jump in and out of unmolested…

And second, that they weren’t doing what he’d expected. He’d seriously anticipated that the Hunters would evacuate resources, stations, mining equipment and other spaceborne infrastructure. Which they were certainly doing, in a frenzied rush, but a not insubstantial portion of that equipment was being diverted in-system toward the star rather than being safely evacuated to some other stronghold.

Finding out exactly what they were building down there was, therefore, a priority. Fucking with stars? Not on Hiyal’s watch.

“What assets do we have available for a stealth flyby?”

“The Silent But Deadly is preparing to hit a facility on the surface. The… Drunker on Turkeyer …is on mission turnaround and can be ready in three hours…”

“Three hours it is, then,” Hiyal decided. “Keep me informed. I’ll be over on the Destroying Fury to receive the Great Father.”

“Yes, Champion.”

Hiyal gave his Clan-Brother an encouraging pat on the shoulder, and left the Intelligence Center, which was always a bustle of noise and activity as the Vengeance’s small army of analysts and technicians tracked and filtered the flow of information from the ground war far below.

He took a minor detour on his route to the jump array to take a quick mental rest. There were two observation decks along the Vengeance’s lateral hull, tucked away under the overhanging dorsal armor. Each existed purely for the purpose of giving the crew somewhere to escape the claustrophobia of life aboard a starship. While Human crews apparently just had to suck it up and endure, Clan One-Fang had learned a long time ago that setting aside a long, narrow space where a crewman could run up and down to burn off some energy, or sit and meditate on the void outside, had great benefits for morale.

Naturally, they pulled double-duty: the Vengeance’s bulky refrigeration units, the ones that shunted waste heat into the shields so it could be harmlessly radiated into space, needed some hollow space around them in order to work efficiently. So the observation decks provided that space and were kept pleasantly warm as a result.

Right now, they also afforded an excellent view of the planet they were liberating.

Planets were always beautiful when seen from above, and this one was no exception. Hiyal had seen plenty of planets in his life, and no two were ever quite the same—even the most standard of barren, airless rockballs had their own unique features.

Temperate worlds came in all kinds of hues. Gao’s seas were steely and dark, the land a rugged yellowish-green fading to white north and south of the tropics. Earth, though he hadn’t yet seen it in person, was a vibrant riot of greens and lustrous blues in every picture he’d ever seen. He’d seen the Corti homeworld, however: Origin’s arid landmasses shaded much more to the yellow, tan and brown thanks to the dominance of fungi, while the seas were a rich emerald green and almost syrupy with algae.

Mordor, like Origin, was browns and yellows and greens to his eye, but not so vibrant or well-curated. Even the heavy, nearly omnipresent clouds had a faint dull off-white cast to them. The whole planet looked unwell, though perhaps that was just prejudice brought on by Hiyal’s knowledge of the conditions down there. He tried to put that knowledge aside for a second, imagine what his impression would be if he found this world and knew nothing of where it was, what it was like, or how life was for its natives…

…No. Still sick. Beautiful, yes, but only in a damaged, dark, morbid kind of way. If there was any kind of beauty to be seen in a diseased thing, Hiyal could see it from where he was standing.

The trip to the observation deck performed its function at least: it cleared his head and focused his mind. He duck-nodded to himself, waved down a Brother who was off-duty and meditating at the forward end of the observation deck, and headed directly to the jump array.

The Destroying Fury and the Raining Vengeance were effectively opposites in their role and design. The Fury was a Stoneback in starship form, all claws and fangs and deadly speed. Her whole design was built around making her presence felt on the battlefield, as quickly and as overwhelmingly as possible. Her Farthrow generator, her incredible shields that could literally smash lesser ships down into a ball of scrap metal, her overcharged engines… she was a pouncing, tearing, killing predator.

Raining Vengeance’s job was perfectly described by her class: Orbital Superiority Platform. She could maneuver, certainly, and was equipped for evasive blink-jumps, but her job was to provide orbit-to-ground fire support over an entire planetary hemisphere while keeping that planet’s sky clean of hostiles. Her shields were every bit as fearsome as the Fury’s, but were firmly defensive, and supported by a hefty shell of advanced armor plating. That shell in turn bristled with superluminal weapons, megalight drone launchers, microsatellite cannons, and all the other tools of battlefield superiority.

Placing both of them in orbit over one planet would be what was known in Human culture as a ‘flex.’

A crude word for a crude act of dominance, but sometimes that sort of show was necessary. The Great Father wasn’t the kind of male he was purely for ego’s sake, after all, and when it came to things as crude as the Hunters themselves… Hiyal could appreciate the logic.

His jump from one ship to the other was uneventful, and none too soon, either. Had he delayed much longer, he’d have been forced to wait or come over in a shuttle instead, as the Great Father’s jump from the homeworld took priority. As it was, the timing was good enough for him to arrive, and for the Array to fully charge again just in time.

Champion Fiin was waiting for him.

“You have a fine sense of timing.”

“Thank you,” Hiyal duck-nodded his gratitude. “Have you been waiting long?”

“I’ve been up here long enough to take a proper dust bath and change into something that doesn’t stink of acid rain and chemical spills.” Fiin made a frustrated growling noise. “We’re suffering a lot of attrition to the environment. It has a way of creeping in through the seals. Even my piss is showing elevated toxin levels, and I’m sealed up inside the command post most of the time.”

“How do the natives survive?”

“They’ve adapted to it. Garaaf tells me their oral history says that when the land first started sickening, the birth rate declined, people died… the ones who could have kids wound up having a lot of them, so their people ‘could pay their penance.’ Natural selection in action.”

“First contact has been a success, then.”

“…Hasn’t ended in blood yet.” Fiin’s ear-flick said everything else.

“Still might?”

“Still might.”

“What do we do if it does?”

“The Great Father was pretty clear on that point, I thought,” Fiin sniffed. “…Surely you’ve occasionally had to give an idiot a few new scars for his own good?”

“That’s our way,” Hiyal retorted. “I don’t know if we have the right to treat them like upstart young associates!”

“Champion Hiyal, I speak with love as your friend and ally, but if you think those people are anything other’n broken then you’re a fool,” Fiin growled, pouncing right up to the line where Hiyal’s dignity and that of his Clan would demand a duel. Hiyal’s hackles raised and his claws came out on reflex, and several nearby officers and technicians subtly moved away from them before Fiin offered a mollification. “…Which I know you ain’t.”

That was enough to take them back from the edge of violence, and Hiyal drew his claws back in with a deep breath, but his hackles were still up when the Array thumped and the Great Father strode onto the deck. He sniffed the air, then gave his two Champions a semi-amused but dangerous look.

“…There a problem?”

Hiyal settled down. “…Champion Fiin was…” he paused, glanced at Fiin, then sighed and shook his head in capitulation. “…Speaking a hard truth that I didn’t want to hear.”

“As the Champion of Stoneback would,” Daar rumbled approvingly. “Though tact is somethin’ that’s awful useful too.”

“As you say, My Father,” Fiin agreed, evenly.

“…Not that I was ever any good at it,” the Great Father chittered. “Anyway. We’re at war, ain’t time ‘fer pleasant catchin’-up. Brief me.”

Fiin and Hiyal looked at each other, and Fiin made further peace by gesturing for Hiyal to go first.

“I just came from Fleet Intelligence over on the Raining Vengeance. We’ve detected Hunter construction activity in close stellar orbit. They’re building something near the star. We don’t know what, but they’ve been suspiciously quiet otherwise so I don’t like it one bit. Drunker on Turkeyer will be taking a look at it as soon as she’s ready.”

“Why not Silent But Deadly?” Daar inquired.

“They have a groundside target. Champion Fiin?”

“We’ve lost a lot of troops and vehicles to these cyberized Hunters, even with the change in weapon loadout,” Fiin reported. “Claws from Fourth Fang are joining up with the JETS team to take out what we think is their primary production center. That operation should be going ahead any minute now.”

“And the flyby on this thing the Hunters’re buildin’?”

“Not for a few hours yet, My Father,” Hiyal said.

“Then we’re gonna watch our people work,” the Great Father decided. “An’ enjoy watchin’ the Hunters get what’s comin’ to them…”

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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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

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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

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Shades of White and Orange

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

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Mother Earth

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

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

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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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