The Deathworlders – Chapter 64: Survive Part 1

Date Point: 16y11m10d AV

Hierarchy Cleansed Session 508

++0020++: Full retreat. Every Hunter asset in the system is being withdrawn or scuttled.

++0004++: <Aghast> So quickly? The Gaoians only launched their invasion days ago!

++0020++: Correct. Their maximum leader personally intervened on a key asset in close orbit around the star, and this was apparently enough to convince the new Alpha-of-Alphas that their objective was lost.

++0004++: I hadn’t expected the new Alpha-of-Alphas to be such a coward.

++0020++: It isn’t. It is in fact a good deal bolder, more intelligent and more decisive than its predecessor. It has also utterly locked Hierarchy assets out of the core Broods and their leadership. The Hunters are less controlled than ever, and their economy is growing increasingly self-sufficient as more and more of the “Eaters” enter long-term stasis. It appears that the Builder Alpha-of-Alphas simply regards the loss of that star system as, at most, an inconvenience.

++0009++: It’s those system containment fields. Ever since those escaped the Guvnurag and became available to the deathworld species, the nature of war has changed dramatically.

++0020++: The Hunters seem to have developed a counter, assuming they can establish their new class of stellar station. In combination with wormhole suppression technology however, you are correct.

++0009++: Our strategic situation is looking increasingly untenable. Substrate levels are in rapid decline. We have lost control of the Hunters, we have no insight whatsoever into what either the Humans or Gao are doing except what they leak onto the galactic communications networks, and Cynosure’s success at re-infiltrating Sol was utterly ruined by the loss of the Irujzen relay.

++0004++: Assuming we would have had access to those assets in the first place…

++0023++: They may be active, actually.

++0009++: Explain.

++0023++: The Injunctors Cynosure used were loaded with the old automated survey and index case AIs as a backup. In theory they are capable of infiltration, abduction and basic biodroning, and could then load up their archived Agent onto the biodrone. A Human provides plenty of Substrate.

++0004++: And then what? Without Relay contact, with the whole planet wormhole-suppressed and with no other agents in contact, they would not know what to do.

++0023++: There…is also the question of Cynosure’s status. I do not believe him to be terminated.

++0003++: Every indication we have is that he and Metastasis destroyed each other, and given their problematic status, we have terminated their archived versions to avoid any possibility of re-instantiation. They are dead.

++0023++: I do not believe Cynosure should be written off. He was always a step ahead of us, and those Injunctors represent a perfect place to archive himself beyond our reach. If he is on Earth, then–

++0004++: Then we cannot touch him for now. But he may yet do our work for us…

++0003++: We shall see. Given that there is nothing constructive that can be done about it, I see no reason to continue to expend time and resources on this discussion. Closing session—Return to your duties.


Date point: 16y11m12d AV
The White House, Washington DC, USA, Earth

President Arthur Sartori

Sartori was… torn.

His time in office was drawing to a close. That much was inevitable, unavoidable and right. He wasn’t about to argue against Presidential term limits. But…

But he didn’t feel ready to go, and that was the truth of it. And as election night dragged on and the results rolled in, it was starting to look like the old pendulum-swing of US politics wasn’t going to change this time around. Red-blue-red-blue, tick-tock-tick-tock. He’d hoped to break the cycle.

But the public were fickle, and sick of an expensive war that had effectively zero impact on their daily lives. San Diego was a distant memory and the economy was resurgent after the difficult years that had followed, driven by offworld development and industry. What people wanted now was less spending on nukes and warships and hyper-expensive HEAT operators, and more spending on welfare, schools, healthcare and social programs.

For once, Sartori had managed to secure some credit for his party’s accomplishments. That in itself was a uncommon and strange turn of positive news, and he was leaving office as one of those rare Presidents who wasn’t openly loathed by over half the populace. So, naturally, the counter-message had changed.

“We’ve worked hard.”

“We’ve done our part.”

“Let’s take care of the folks back home.”

And…all the short-term, vote-buying nonsense that panderers of all persuasions had been peddling since the dawn of the Republic. Teams might change, colors might run different, but the same craven will to power was still there.

And the voters, bless them, always wanted to believe the best of any sunny-side-up message. So they voted, and Sartori sat back and watched with his chin on his hand as his chosen successor Margaret White’s presidential campaign slid toward a narrow but convincing defeat.

Ironically, to an old, wealthy white male. The same old games, same old prizes. There would no doubt be accusations of voting fraud and all the usual, but he sincerely doubted it in her case.

His party controlled the Senate. There was a check against the new government, at least. He’d had two full terms and a bit more besides to aggressively reform departments and place his favored personnel. But the opposition took the Presidency, and utterly swept the House after the previous two years of scandal-plagued leadership by the Speaker.


To be fair, Sartori was a partisan. The very definition of a partisan, being the goddamned President of the United Fucking States after all. And it wasn’t like his opposition was quite as…well, times had changed. Passions had grown red-hot and then cooled considerably in his lifetime.

But that history wasn’t something he could ever forget, or really forgive.

No matter. History was just that. Sartori resolved two things: firstly, that the transition would be as flawless and smooth as humanly possible. His successor would know everything about what they were facing, and know it to the core of his being. And secondly…

He would go tell Daar in person. He deserved that, at least. Because President-Elect Chambliss was the very opposite of a kindred spirit to either Daar or Sartori. He’d run in no small part on his anti-war credentials, filling his campaign with old imagery of himself at the front of protest marches, flags and banners and drums in hand.

And he was a compulsive fabulist, too. Sartori needed to drill into Chambliss’s head how utterly dangerous that would be with the Great Father. And that, right there, was the biggest and most dangerous part of the entire transition.

The fate of the human race may in no small part rest on a small number of personal relationships with the most powerful being to ever cast his gaze across the galaxy. After all, it was the might of the United States and the fighting spirit of her closest allies that had saved the Gao, an act for which the Great Father was deeply grateful. But they were a resilient and industrious people, who held vast technological advantages and who had an extremely well-developed spaceborne infrastructure. With the post-war recovery and even with the impending population shortfall, the United States was already the junior partner in the relationship, and that was a fact virtually nobody outside of the policy wonks understood.

Daar knew it, though. And one false step by the President-Elect could severely damage things.

There was no point in staying up late, anyway. In the morning he’d have to stand in front of the cameras and congratulate Chambliss, and after that he had a little fewer than two months to finish what he could and step away gracefully into whatever role he could find for himself. So, Sartori excused himself, bade his people good night, and went to bed comparatively early knowing he’d likely only get four hours to sleep.

He’d find a way to stay in the fight. But that was a problem for tomorrow.

Date Point: 16y11m12d AV
Dataspace adjacent to Hunter territory


Ava Ríos had briefly met Blaczynski a few times before her fateful trip to Egypt. She’d liked him, despite herself. Ava had thought of him as hot. And funny.

His death left a knot of anger and sadness in the Entity’s core that it couldn’t quite explain. It was slowly accepting that in a sense it was Ava, or at least a distorted reflection of her. Different in every particular, but nevertheless…

His death—or rather, the circumstances of his death—had given the Entity an impetus beyond <survive>. <vengeance> and <justice> were both flashing their fangs, eager to be satisfied.

The Hunters’ networks and data coverage were sprawling, connected to dataspace in deep and insecure ways. Infiltrating their periphery remained trivial, even if the deepest strategic core had hardened impressively since the Entity’s last visit.

And they were quiet. Eerily so. Previously, they had thrummed with the mental activity of billions of networked Hunters, each scheming and jockeying for position amidst their own Broods, and each Brood doing the same among the others… Now, the closest point of reference the Entity had was city streets in the darkest hours of the morning on a rainy day. The titanic evidence of Hunter achievement was everywhere, but the Hunters themselves were conspicuously silent in a way that made the occasional trace of activity seem all the more sparse and threatening. Like a car slipping by as just a wet hiss and some anonymous blur lights before the street became empty again.

Retrieving basic information about the events of the last months from their network was relatively straightforward. Security was much tighter than it had once been, but the Entity had transformed itself over the years, from a scared and weak thing that fled from any contact, into a fearsome living weapon. Its ability to pass undetected was unmatched, it could ransack data archives and leave them seemingly undisturbed, and only the most stringent measures posed any real obstacle to it.

It simply avoided those obstacles. There was no need to confront them, not when it could learn what it needed without unnecessary risk.

It did not like what it learned.

Somehow, the Hunters had created the same kind of solar focusing array it had invented itself. That rankled. It had created the weapon in desperation to avoid pursuit, but now it found that the Hunters were building four in each of their remaining star systems, surrounding their stars with a tetrahedral arrangement that guaranteed there was practically nowhere in the system that could not be scoured with focused radiation.

Each such station was protected by wormhole suppressors and gravity spikes. Each system, therefore, was a fortress. An impenetrable prison for the Hunters’ slaves. Assailing them was rapidly becoming…

Well, the only viable method the Entity could see would be overwhelming numbers. So far, the Humans and Gaoians had achieved what they had through the precise application of a small number of exceptional ships and individuals. And the Hunters, not being stupid, had taken their surprise victory over the HEAT and rapidly applied their new-found knowledge.

They had, in fact, possibly found the hard counter to Deathworlder tactics. And that simply would not do at all. So the Entity withdrew from their networks, and the tiny ship-body it had made for this scouting mission slipped away into the interstellar black.

The Entity planned to pursue <survive> indefinitely… But it had no intention whatsoever of doing so in a universe that contained the Hunters.

Date Point: 16y11m12d AV
Native library warrens, planet Mordor

Professor Daniel Hurt

As far as Daniel was concerned, Ukusevi might have been his perfect ideal colleague in another timeline. She had the rare ability to really think, to methodically pick apart every word and concept, explore every nuance of meaning, every preconception, every precursor and every successor. In a less tragic environment, she might have been the kind of scholar he adored.

As it was, she was a tortured theologian whose whole religious foundation was collapsing around her.

“…What do you mean, ‘over?’”

“I mean the war is effectively over,” Daniel told her. “We won. The enemy have fled, and the forces they left behind are cut off, unsupplied and leaderless. Any other species would surrender, but the Hunters won’t. They’ll fight until they’re all dead, which is probably going to take months, but at this point I’m told that victory is certain so long as we don’t make any stupid mistakes.”

He listened to the faint scratchy noise of the translator faithfully rendering his words for Ukusevi’s ear. The E-Skurel-Ir language, or at least Ukusevi’s dialect, wasn’t exactly terse. English certainly had an advantage in brevity, there.

A strange quirk, that. They were otherwise a spare and efficient people by necessity. Every page in Ukusevi’s journal that she’d so far filled was crammed to the edges with her dense, tidy handwriting. No wasted space, no wasted food, no wasted things. The Librarian’s clothes were tough, hard-wearing, and much-mended.

She looked, Daniel felt, rather like a hunched, lanky Franciscan monk with leporine ears and a face that was arranged much like a human’s while being inhuman in every important particular. Her eyes were too large and too widely spaced, facing somewhat outwards rather than the binocular forwards. Her nose was wide and as flat as a table with a total of four comma-shaped nostrils, and her mouth was almost human, if one ignored the fact that the natural shape of E-Skurel-Ir lips looked rather like a bilateral cleft palate with a pronounced underbite.

He was beginning to get the hang of reading her facial expressions and body language without needing the translator’s help, at least. If he was right, then she was badly conflicted. The desire and hope that her species were finally released from their great punishment was at war with the healthy skepticism of somebody who’d long ago internalized the old adage that anything which seemed too good to be true probably was.

“Of course, this opens a lot of questions for your people,” he prompted, kindly.

“Yes. and it opens them more quickly than I…” Ukusevi stopped herself. She glanced down at the journal in her hands, a nervous habit Daniel had noticed in her a lot. “…I had thought we would have more time to think. You know that not all of my people believe that the Punishment would just… end. Not like this.”

“Your people have a sensible streak of skepticism in them,” Garaaf said. Ever since Daniel had been brought on board for this delicate first contact situation, the scarred old Whitecrest had increasingly insisted on letting him take the lead.

Ukusevi’s ears flopped back and forth as she jerked her head in her version of a strong headshake. “That is not the reason. I want our Punishment to be over, truly I do. I just struggle to reconcile it with the Long Chant. Our history and our present don’t quite…” She paused, and chattered her teeth thoughtfully as she assembled her thoughts. “What was and what is don’t flow easily into each other.”

Daniel nodded. He’d been expecting this conversation.

“My people have wrestled with this problem at length,” he said. “The closest thing we have to a Long Chant contains accounts of histories that, uh, don’t necessarily line up neatly with the evidence of our own eyes.”

“For example?” Ukusevi asked.

“…For example, one account holds that in the beginning, the Almighty made only two humans, a man and a woman, who are the ancestors of all humans since. The story is true in that it contains truths, deep insights into our condition and our nature…But it is not historically accurate. Nevertheless, there are people out there—a rare few—who hold that in order for it to be true at all, it must be completely true. They think that for any part of it to be false would make the whole thing false, and they can’t stand that idea.”

He let her think about that. Honestly, watching her think was an unexpected pleasure. He could see the process of it in how she flicked through her journal’s pages, muttered snippets of the Chant to herself, fidgeted with her hands and ears.

“I suppose I… hmm.” she scratched her left ear. “The Chant has always just been truth to me. It is a record of our past, and the lessons we learned. We study carefully and cross-check with each other, use the meter and rhythm to aid our memories. Our first duty and effort is to make sure that it is a true and accurate record of events that really happened.”

“But you said it yourself that it also records the lessons you learned and the conclusions you drew,” Daniel pointed out. “It isn’t just a dry record of who did what, when and where. It’s a moral history, as well as a record of events.”

“All history is moral history,” Ukusevi asserted. “There’s no reason to record history except to learn from it.”

“I agree. But is there only ever one correct lesson?” Daniel asked.

“…Surely there is.” Ukusevi didn’t sound entirely convinced by herself.

“Maybe. But I suspect only the Almighty knows which one is the correct lesson. Mere mortals have to fumble our way toward the truth, and all too often we get it wrong. The Long Chant faithfully records your history…”

Ukusevi glanced guiltily over her shoulder at the heavy steel doors that sealed off the warrens. A sensible precaution for people who lived on a planet with such a polluted atmosphere, and in this case a useful source of privacy.

“…But it may not faithfully record Truth,” she finished. “That’s…”


“Many of my people will think so.”

“Many of your people aren’t here. Do you think it’s blasphemy?”

Again, Daniel watched her think. This time, she did so in silence with her brow furrowed in a very human way.

“Well… yes. I do. But… I don’t think it’s wrong.” She closed her journal and set it aside, which as far as Daniel could tell was a pretty solemn gesture coming from her. It meant what she was about to say was going to stay firmly and permanently off the record.

“I keep telling myself I don’t know what to think, but that’s just not true,” she said. “I know what’s true in my belly. I feel it in my soul. I know that the Punishers, the Hunters, whatever we call them… they’re evil. Even if they’re an instrument of divine will, they’re evil, and I know of no history in the Long Chant that justifies our suffering… Maybe that’s a truth I can come to live with. But what about everybody else? Are we to be delivered from them only to tear ourselves apart because our lives don’t make sense any longer?”

She gestured at Gaaraf. “You said that helplessness is a blanket, and it’s time to wake up. Well we’re not ready. I might be. Others might be. But most of my people…” her negative head-jerk was slow and morose this time. “Destroying the Punishment might just destroy us too. Look at the world out there! The air is poison, the land is barren, the rivers will give you sores if their waters splash you… We didn’t have anything left except the Punishment! Take that away and we’re… nothing. There’s nothing left of us. Just a history I devoted my life to that teaches me things that aren’t true…”

She stared for a long time at the closed journal, then picked it up and pressed it to her forehead, eyes closed, ears flat along the back of her head. In any species’ body language, it was a posture of the most profound pain and loss, and Daniel knew there were no words to make it better.

The only thing for it was to gamble on a hug.

He scooted over and put his arm around her. She stiffened and gave him a look of obvious surprise, but didn’t shrug him off. After a second she heaved a heavy sigh, lowered the book into her lap again, and leaned against him. She was very different to hugging a Ten’Gewek, who mostly felt like a slightly softer rock. Ukusevi was bony, thin and fragile. But clearly the hug was still a universal, and clearly she was glad for it.

Daniel gave her a minute or so of quiet before making his suggestion.

“The Chant isn’t untrue,” he said, quietly. “Just like my story from before about the first humans. It’s not completely true… but it contains truth. You don’t need to throw the whole thing away just because it’s not all truth.”

She sighed. “The bits that aren’t are important, though.”

Daniel nodded. “I know.”

“…I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. Gao and Human didn’t do this to us. All you’ve done is brought about the moment when we finally have to…” Ukusevi looked across at Garaaf. “…Get out of bed.”

“For what it’s worth,” Garaaf replied, “I think we’ll all be richer for having your people awake.”

“Why?” Ukusevi’s ears lifted slightly. “We’re a broken people. We’ve lost everything we had. Now, we’ve even lost the tale that held us together through that. What do we have to give you?”

Daniel retrieved his arm and scooted away, sensing that he’d given as much comfort as was appropriate. “We’re not doing this for what your people are now, Ukusevi. We’re doing it for what we hope you will be, now that you have your chance.”

Garaaf duck-nodded. “You may be broken now. But it is within your power to become more than you are. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible, which is more than you had before.”

“But… Where do I begin?”

To Daniel, there was only one possible answer. He put his hand on her journal.

“With the truth,” he said.

Date Point: 16y11m12d AV
Industrial complex, Planet Mordor, Liberated Hunter System

Ginn, Foot-soldier first class, Grand Army of the Gao

Ginn flinched and hunkered down behind his gun shield as it deflected a brief shower of sizzling Hunter flechettes. He’d really hoped that being flattened by an RFG strike would have emptied the factory complex his unit was clearing of Hunters, but the nutless monsters were definitely not gone.

He squeezed the trigger in his right paw and, with a staccato bang-bang-bang from his weapon, raked the ruins with bullets. Dust, stone chips, and a few gratifying bits of Hunters filled the air, and the shooting stopped.

His comrades took advantage of his weapon’s suppressing effect to maneuver, gaining ground to the left and right where they could encircle the Hunter position and deny them any cover. A few grenade rounds bounced into the rubble and detonated, adding to the carnage.

That was how you dealt with Hunters. Big, overwhelming firepower, without any let-up or second chance. If you shot one and it dropped, you shot it several more times for certainty. Ginn had no intention of being slashed in half by a Hunter that had merely been winged.

More Hunters boiled out. Obviously, there was some sort of underground refuge that survived the RFG, and now Ginn and his buddies were quite possibly screwed.

The radioman was already calling for reinforcements. But Ginn and his unit could only throw so much ammo downrange, and they were increasingly outnumbered. He fought on, because it was the only option, and because he would never let a Hunter take him alive.

He may as well have aimed a garden hose at a forest fire. His gun reached the point where its barrels were glowing faintly and if he hadn’t been wearing gloves then his hands would have burned, but he kept firing…

Right up until he ran out of ammo. The gun sizzled as he twisted it aside, grabbed his SMG and poured on the pressure, acutely aware that the magazines he had left weren’t going to—

“Danger close!”

Now there were two blessedly welcome words. Ginn pulled his head into the Growl, and not a moment too soon. His helmet had barely cleared the turret lip before there was a sound like the sky being ripped in half like a sheet of dry canvas, and something else that wasn’t so much heard as felt.

It went on for a while. Probably only seconds, but it felt longer, and when it was gone and Ginn popped up with his weapon ready, he could feel the heat through his PPE. The hole the Hunters had been pouring out of was a twisting inferno, and the few still standing on the surface were staggering, bleeding, confused. Ginn dropped the nearest one with a burst to its torso, and a second burst to the head to be certain.

Around him, his comrades regrouped, pulling back toward the Growls. Ginn’s driver tapped him on the leg, handed him a new ammo can. Gin ducked inside, grabbed it, hoisted it up, and busily set to work opening and feeding his mounted gun.

He was certain of two things: one, that the strike had bought them a welcome reprieve, and two, that there were more Hunters still to come and it was only a matter of–

Sooner than he’d hoped and feared, they attacked again. There were no tactics involved in what they were doing, just a fearless blood-frenzied rush to descend on Ginn’s unit. It would have been easier to fight them if they’d been using sensible tactics or showing any regard for their own lives, but sheer swamping crazed aggression made them dangerous. They couldn’t be suppressed, couldn’t be awed or demoralized. They just… rushed. And there were enough of them to make it.

Deliverance came in the form of a wall of Stoneback’s finest: heavily armed, heavily armored, and utterly unstoppable. They were of course a Clan essentially bred to purpose, but something that was by all accounts a bit weird about the Gao relative to other sapient species was that they’d never had suitable draft animals in their primitive days. They had to do all the work by themselves, and it was the brownfurs–and especially the Stonebacks–who did the bulk of it. That served them well here, because the Stonebacks didn’t exactly fight the Hunters…

…Rather, they simply plowed right through them, and trampled them underfoot. Regular Hunters snapped like twigs as the enormous Clan-Brothers pounced on them, ignored fire with their ridiculous shields and armor, and just…kept going.

With the ‘Backs now charging forward, Ginn and his fellow gunners shifted their fires to perimeter control. Ginn’s assigned field of fire left him able to watch the fight unfold and it was…

…It was glorious.

The fight wasn’t over until every last Hunter was dead, and it wasn’t bloodless for the Gao either. After all, once the ‘Backs had broken through, Ginn’s unit had to charge in behind. That wasn’t his task this time–he was an excellent gunner, so he wasn’t often on-foot these days in the mud–but he and his fellow gunners kept the greasy fucks from leaking out, until the ‘Backs had slaughtered them all and it was time for post-op recovery.

Ginn had survived again. He felt a good deal calmer this time around. Checked his weapon, reloaded, kept his eyes open, but the news that filtered back to him was pretty clear that the underground warren the Hunters had been hiding in—once a native village, sadly—was now empty and secure.

The thumping sound that came from underground was the Stonebacks, destroying the breeding pools. Not that a bunch of unaugmented Hunters would have been a big deal necessarily, but they could breed fast if they had access to meat.

“Hey, I know you!”

Ginn looked down from his turret at the enormous Stoneback brute standing up against his Growler. The voice behind the mask sounded familiar…

Sure enough, it was the same huge ‘Back that had saved him from the cloaked Hunter attack, and who was friendly with him at chow. Now, here he was again except with a hundred of his Brothers, once again saving Ginn’s tail.

“It’s a small world, I guess.”

The big ‘Back wagged his armored tail. “Din’t I tell ‘ya to stay outta trouble?!”

“Getting in trouble is our job.”

Big-Back chittered darkly and wiped some of the blood off his armor. “Yeah. This should be ‘bout th’ last of ‘em ‘round these parts, we reckon. An’ we haven’t had ‘ta respond ‘fer y’all inna while! ‘Yer gettin’ good at this stuff!”

“This one turned out to be bigger than we thought.”

“That’ll happen,” the ‘Back said, sagely. “Still, try an’ learn from this, yijao? ‘Yer lucky we were online ‘fer taskin’ today.”

“You’re talking to the wrong trooper, really. I go where I’m told, I do what I’m told, I try to do it well. If there’s anything to learn from this…” Ginn didn’t finish the thought out loud, but he did angle his helmet subtly in the general direction of the officers. “They’re not entirely useless…”

Big understood his meaning entirely. “Mhmm. Mebbe I can have a chit-chat an’ see they don’t deploy y’all so stupidly next time, ‘kay?”

“I’d owe you.”

“Naw!” Big raised a paw to shake Ginn’s. “Don’ worry! Also I never got ‘yer name!”

“Ginn,” he said, finding his own completely encircled by the ‘Back’s massive paw. “Yours?”

“Grandfather Vark o’ Stoneback! You keep ‘yerself alive now, ‘kay?”


“Eh. I s’pose.” The hulking Grandfather shrugged his shoulders. “Clan’s always got one an’ it’s my turn now. Now I gotta git, I got some occifers ‘ta educate, so, y’know… Stay outta trouble.”

Ginn chittered. “No promises.”

An hour later, they were on their way back to the Clawhold. Apparently, when the Grandfather of the most prestigious military Clan there was decided to ‘educate the occifers’ he actually meant put the fear of Daar into them, in a good-humored way.

Well. Good-humored from the Grandfather’s perspective, anyway. Things probably didn’t look quite the same to those officers from their lowly positions on the ladder of power. From Ginn’s even lower perspective, however, it all looked pretty funny. He kept that carefully to himself, and even managed to relax a little once they were on the move. The prospect of actually having a few days to rest beckoned.

He vowed to make the most of them.

Date Point: 16y11m13d AV
Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Earth

President-Elect Beau Chambliss

“…And it’s about eight AM in London right now, so there’ll be a call from the Prime Minister later today to congratulate you… He’ll probably be the first, really.”

Chambliss groaned and massaged the back of his neck, which always got sore when he stayed up late. A relic from an old whiplash injury from his youth. “Business already? I’m not allowed to relax and just enjoy the win?”

He’d hoped to be celebrating a successful election campaign with a few drinks alongside his family and staff. They’d done all the rigmarole with trotting out on stage, giving his speech, standing there beaming and smiling while camera flashes sparkled around them in all directions… It had given his wife Catherine a headache, and she’d gone to bed the moment they got back to the hotel. The kids—Bradley and Lacey were both coming up on their thirties, but he still thought of them as ‘the kids’—had gone to bed before him too, which was unheard-of.

It was well into the small hours of the morning, and Beau wanted to get at least a few hours of sleep before he had to dive into the long series of briefings, meetings, introductions and tours that were sure to be his full-time job until the Inauguration, and for the years to come after that.

But he had campaign staff to thank and celebrate with for a little while first. Chief among them his campaign manager, Oliver Mack, who apparently didn’t know how to stop being at work.

“It’ll just be congratulations, Beau,” he promised. “Steve Davies is going to want a lot more than a phone call with you, and he’ll want it long before the Inauguration, but he’ll wait until you’ve had a few days before he discusses the big issues with you.”

“Such as?”

“Oh, come on. There’s only one thing on those warmongers’ minds: It’s been in all the news since you won the primary. He’s worried about all that military funding he can’t afford.”

“Mm. And look where that funding got got him. Hundreds of Royal Navy sailors killed.” Chambliss sighed and set his champagne aside, suddenly losing his appetite for it. “What a waste.”

His foreign policy advisor, Sandra Nguyen, made an uncomfortable noise. “I have it on good authority that Davies was genuine when he called Caledonia’s fallen crew heroes. He probably won’t appreciate that sentiment,” she cautioned.

“Well I wouldn’t be so dumb as to say it to him that way. But the war for Gao was over two years ago. The system is secure, Jump Arrays and forcefields are going up all over the galaxy… pretty soon the Hunters will be withering on the vine, and good riddance to them. Why throw away lives prosecuting a war we already won? It’s time we looked to our own people.”

“Preaching to the choir, sir.”

“I’m going to take a lot of phone calls tomorrow, huh?”

Mack grinned, with a certain sadistic glee. “Inevitably. And you’ll probably have a couple of extraterrestrial calls too. Have you ever met an ET, Beau?”

“Not yet…”

“There’ll probably be a formal written message from the Dominion in a few months, after the inauguration. The Rauwrhyr Republic and Corti Directorate will probably be in touch sooner. And the Gao will be calling you. Probably the Great Father himself, unless he’s soaking his fur in blood somewhere.”

“Let’s not be unfair,” Chambliss cautioned him. “Daar doesn’t leave himself out of the fighting, which is an honesty I can appreciate.”

“Neither did Genghis Khan.”

“Keep that to yourself,” Chambliss advised. “Whatever we think of him, his relationship with Sartori and America is important. Most of our extrasolar trade is with the Gao.”

Nguyen nodded fervently. “And I should note, we’re no longer the big fish in the pond as a result. Most Americans don’t realize that yet.”

“We’re still the biggest fish on Earth, and so long as we have a close relationship with the Clans we’ll keep our edge there. They buy our food, we buy their technology, and except for the other nations with Cimbrean colonies that’s a market we have exclusive access to.” Chambliss smiled at Mack. “So let’s be careful about insulting their grand dictator, even in private. He has big ears.”

“And a sense of smell that shouldn’t even be possible. You will need to…consider how you speak to him.”

“I know, I know, I read the briefing,” Chambliss grumbled. “He only respects brutal straightforward honesty, and he can smell when he’s not getting it. He’s going to be…”

“Challenging,” Nguyen suggested.”You’ll have an uphill battle with him, sir.”

Chambliss nodded, and decided he’d given them enough time to be polite. His neck was really beginning to ache, and his eyes and limbs felt heavy.

“That’s all for tomorrow,” he declared, and stood up with a groan of tired exertion. “Sorry to kick you out, but if I’m going to be ready, I should really get to bed. And so should you.”

They parted with a few good-nights that told him they were just as drained as him. Alone at last, he shuffled through into the suite’s bedroom, changed into his pajamas in the dark, and slipped into bed, where Catherine half-turned and gave him a sleepy half-awake kiss.

“You should have come to bed hours ago…” she told him.

“You’re right.”

And with that, President-Elect Beau Chambliss put his head down, and didn’t notice falling asleep almost instantly.

Date Point: 16y11m2w AV
HMS Sharman, (HMNB Folctha) Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Commander Kieran Mears

The HEAT coped with grief by throwing themselves even harder at their training, in whatever form it took. Every man among them was an extreme case, a being of enormous passions, and in any other context the degree of pain they put themselves through would be distinctly alarming.

In their unique context, however, it was probably the healthiest they could possibly be.

Not all training involved titanic weights and loud music, however. It was an often-forgotten fact that the HEAT were all qualified astronauts, which meant their scientific education had to be on par too. And a keen understanding of forcefield geometry had just become all too important to them, so the whole unit was refamiliarizing themselves with the latest developments in that field.

When they could focus, anyway. Mears had seen a lot of Firth and Murray over the last few days. Less of Arés, who was usually his most regular visitor, but Arés had promised that he wasn’t avoiding Mears’ office, just trying to put into practice a long-standing promise to reach out to his family and friends.

“I’m making progress on a lot of stuff right now,” he’d said. When Mears had pressed him the particulars, and if that meant something besides the gym…

“Oh yeah, I’m making big progress there again too!”

Healthy, in a particularly Arés alpha-meathead sort of way…but healthy, nonetheless.

That left Firth and Murray.

Firth was understandably devastated. He and Blaczynski had been something of a modern-day Achilles and Patroclus, and as fashionable as it might be to imagine those mythic Greek figures as having been lovers, that was a foible of modern shallowness. Men could love each other deeply without invoking the spirit of Eros. Admittedly that idea was the subject of much of their locker-room humor, but that was also true of Arés and Burgess.

So, Firth’s grief ran deep and raw. But it was, in the end, relatively straightforward.

Murray’s problem was more complex. He’d been very fond of Blaczynski too, and the pair had been two sides of the same coin when it came to pranks and shenanigans. Blaczynski’s had been big, bold, loud things, whereas Murray’s were invariably subtler, sneakier, could take months or years to discover (and there were probably a great many undiscovered ones still lurking around the base) and had often been pulled off under the smokescreen of Blaczynski’s bigger, brasher antics. So straightforward grief was obviously a component for him, too…

But that wasn’t where he was struggling.

“I feel like a fucking coward for even considerin’ it…”

Mears’ office was one of the few places that Murray’s usual quiet demeanour flipped and he got talkative. That particular breakthrough had been the work of years, and it had helped a lot.

“Retiring?” Mears checked.

“…Aye. It’s… Fuck, it’s prob’ly easier for the others, right? They took the homesteading deal an’ the full course signup, so they’ve got tae deal wi’ it. An’ I thought I was bein’ so bloody clever in leavin’ mesself wi’ options, right? But now it’s havin’ the option that’s bloody torturin’ me…”

“Why are you considering it?” Mears asked.

“…I always figured, in this gig, if ye get killed, it’s gonny be quick, right? I mean… shot, blown up, whatever can get through the MASS is prob’ly gonny splat the man wearin’ it before he’s even noticed. One minute ‘yer fightin, the next—” he stuck a finger in his mouth and popped it out again, then sighed heavily, leaned forward, elbows on knees, palms together as if praying, forehead resting on his thumbs. “…I never thought I’d see a man die like Scott did. And… fuck. I’m shit scared of it.”

“Well, that’s understandable.”

“Aye, it might be…”

“But you’re comparing yourself against the other men’s reactions, if I don’t miss my guess.”

Murray nodded slowly. “…Seems like they all got pissed off. Me, I’m just pissin’ meself. Learnin’ all the nasty things a forcefield can be made tae do…”

Mears needed to shift him off of self-loathing. “It’s hard to say what anyone might truly be feeling, unless they honestly tell you. And if I’ve learned anything in life, none of us are truly honest with ourselves.”


“I would…caution you against rash action. Not that that’s much your nature, but decisiveness assuredly is. Have you considered where retirement would leave you? How would that feel?”

“Well, that’s just it. I’m good at what I do. Fuck, I’m one of the best of the very bloody best or I would’nae be here! An’ I’ve got the vigor of a man half my age! So on the one hand, like, I’m where my talents are best used. But if I moved on… Could be I could make it. Find a new career. Shit, I’m an astronaut. Could go do that ‘fer a livin’…”

Mears chuckled mirthlessly despite himself. “A colossally large astronaut…”

“Eh. Maybe I’d go be a PE teacher, or a personal trainer, or a bodyguard… Maybe none of those sound good. But… I mean, I’m gonny retire someday. So that’s a bridge I’ve got to cross, eventually.”

“And when you do, you’ll still be as effectively young then as you are now. Or quite possibly, even better.”

Murray nodded and lapsed into silence. Mears considered whether to let him be or prompt him for his thoughts, and settled on rising from his chair and making some drinks.


“Got anything stronger?” Murray was kind of an average-looking man, at least in the company he kept, but he had a disarmingly handsome smile when he was joking. It was good to see. “…Tea’s good. Thanks.”

Mears made two hot cups, and they drank in silence. He didn’t prompt the conversation to move forward until Murray set his empty cup down.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, once he felt the time was right.

“I’m thinking… You said I’m decisive.”


“…I think… I think if it was time for me to go, contemplating’ the idea wouldn’t feel so wrong.”

“I can’t recommend anything for you either way. You know that. But…well, the mission would be diminished without you. I think that’s reasonable and fair to say. We all want the best for you, even if we’d feel a selfish desire for you to stay.”


“But if you worry what your departure might do…they’re good men. The mission would go on. So whatever else you consider, please don’t torment yourself over thoughts like that.”

“Aye. I’m no’ a bairn, despite my dashin’ youthful good looks. I know they’d muddle on wi’out me, but…”

“But?” Mears prompted.

“But I think that’s what I need. I feel… sick thinkin’ about leavin’ and that tells the tale, I think.” He shook his head, massaged his temples, and then swore quite loudly. “Ffffuck!”

Mears gave him a curious look. Murray gave him a complicated shrug and shook his head. He’d obviously said all he wanted to, for now. Whatever dense emotional knot had been untied with that expletive was going to remain unexplored for the time being.

Well, that was fair. “I think Technical Sergeant Arés has you scheduled for combatives in a half hour.”

“Aye, go be the giant fucker’s wrasslin’ dummy…” Murray laughed suddenly, albeit bitterly. “Well… There’s worse things in life.”

“Just an observation, but you do have some leave saved up. Use it or lose it,” Mears reminded him.

“Right, yeah… Thanks.”

“Actually…that’s something I’ve been suggesting to everyone. So I’m not suggesting you and some of the Lads might coordinate your vacations…but none of you are solitary creatures. And we have a full three sub-teams in staffing, so…Just saying.”

Murray nodded, thanked him again and departed, taking a chocolate biscuit with him.

Mears grinned to himself. Woe betide Murray if Arés found out about that little cheat! He recorded the session in his notes, reviewed the latest psych-evals from the HEAT selection and entry training center in Huntsville, and then, reluctantly, concluded that he had nothing else to do for the day. It had been a busy week, but he was all caught up for the moment.

He cleaned up his office, signed out as on-call, and went home.

He took a chocolate biscuit with him too.

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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Mother Earth

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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Rising Titans – Chapter 48

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

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

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Good Training – April Fool’s

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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

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Good Training – Pecking Order

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

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

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The Good Samaritan

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

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

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