The Deathworlders – Chapter 64: Survive Part 2

Date Point: 16y11m2w2d AV
Leadership’s Gymnasium, Stoneback Chapterhouse, High Mountain Fortress

Arthur Sartori

The Great Father was in a bad mood from the word go. That was easy to tell of course, partly because Daar wasn’t one to hide his feelings, but mostly because aside from his many noble and civilized qualities, in his heart of hearts he was the predictable type of working-man alpha meathead who preferred to gym-beast his rage and frustrations away, rather than talk them out.

He had, apparently, been doing a hell of a lot of that lately, and was just finishing up yet another round of apparently rather intense lifting when Sartori arrived. What greeted him was a creature pumped up into something almost cartoonishly muscular and borderline feral, who was barely straddling the line between physically exhausted and desperate to do more…which made the Great Father’s personality somehow even more on-the-sleeve than his usual.

He was still extremely happy to see his friend, though. That naturally resulted in a great big spine-crushing, feet-off-ground hug while Daar momentarily flashed into his genuine personality, and simply enjoyed saying hello to a friend. His fur was damp from a plunge into the cold pool that Gaoian laborers used, because although Gaoians did sweat, it wasn’t as efficient (or hygienic) a process as it was for a human’s comparatively naked skin.

Arthur had needed to get his back popped straight anyway.

Daar’s bouncy joyousness at reuniting with a friend didn’t last long, however. They set off on the long walk from his gym up the twisting, ancient and uneven staircase that led to his private apartments, during which time neither of them said anything to each other.

Daar broke the ice as soon as he’d squeezed himself through the apartment door and closed it gently behind them. He may have been in a bad mood, but he didn’t shirk from the civilized arts of entertaining.

“Y’ain’t gonna win ‘em all,” he commiserated. “‘Least you kept the Senate, huh?” Daar took the time to busy himself with…a wet bar? Since when did he mix drinks?

Sartori found a tired smile inside himself. He liked the way Daar cut to the chase, even on painful or difficult subjects. “At least we kept the Senate,” he agreed. “And you’re right… But this one’s hard to swallow. I really had hoped that San Diego and the war on Gao would live longer in people’s memories.”

“In a way it’s not so surprisin’ I guess. How big is SOR, anyway? An’ the associated units, when ‘ya really add it all up? Couple-ten thousand people or so? That’s ‘bout what First Fang’s total chapter-holdings add up to.” Daar picked up…yes, a Boston shaker (or something like one, anyway) and set himself to vigorously mixing some kind of iced drink. “In the grand scheme o’ things that ain’t so big, yijao? Most folk remember San Diego, but it ain’t like they got a personal connection to th’ ongoin’ fight.”

“We’re a victim of our own success. We kept the war so far away from Earth that the American public didn’t really feel it. What they felt was the APA pulling off successful terror attacks.”

“An’ ‘ya fuckin’ smashed the APA. I ‘member ‘ya got lotsa good press ‘fer that, too.” Daar opened the shaker and poured out…something that smelled sweet and very herbal into two tall, well-iced glasses; it was a cloudy drink, and slightly green. He then turned around and fiddled with his record player…

…Quiet death metal. On vinyl. He was definitely in a strange mood.

Not totally humorless, though. “I figger’d I’d spare ‘ya my legendary singin’ voice today…”

“It’s certainly memorable, but thank you. I’m not really in the right frame of mind.”

“No. Drink up, it’s good ‘fer you.”

Sartori accepted it, gave it a sniff, then sampled it. The concoction was something like if a mojito had been made with absinthe and a healthy dash of watermelon. It wasn’t bad at all! He took a deeper sip and decided he liked it.

…Hell of a high-proof drink, though. It wasn’t noticeable at first but that alcohol snuck up like a freight train. He probably ought to nurse it carefully.

“Like it? That’ll put fur on ‘yer balls an’ give ‘ya a nice thick chest ruff!”

“It’s a dangerous one. You could drink these all night, stand up, and wake up at home with the worst headache ever.”

“Naw. One o’ my Human contractors taught me this ‘lil number, real sharp guy I met at the beginnin’ o’ the War. An’ talamay ‘parently’s pretty good ‘fer not givin’ hangovers.”

“Mm. Reminds me of a drink we used to make in college.”

Daar grumbled in something like a dry amusement. “Well, enjoy it ‘fer me. Ain’t like I could get blasted these days even if I wanted to, way too big an’ way too gaoian ‘ta get dizzy offa any amount o’ booze. Balls, it don’t even help me relax much no more.”

Sartori nodded, sipped the drink again, then rested it on his knee as he sat back on the couch. Being made for Gaoians, it was a little short in the leg for him, so the result was like sitting on a well-padded and surprisingly comfortable pew.

Daar had his own built-for-his-hugeness couch opposite the table, which he promptly ignored, opting instead to plop himself down comfortably on the floor nearby. That still left his head about two feet above Arthur’s. The effect was very much like a small boy sitting next to his pet dire bear. Except the bear wasn’t the pet.

“You’re trying to be in a jolly mood, and I appreciate it,” Arthur said after a brief silence that would have been comfortable if not for the palpable emotion rolling off Daar.

“…No. You misunnerstand. I’m tryin’ to enjoy a friend’s visit an’ not rage out in front of an ally.”

“…I was briefed on the situation in Mordor. And the mission. I hadn’t appreciated you were so close to the HEAT.”

Daar sighed sadly. “I’m as close wit’ them as any Brother or Cousin I got among my own people, Arthur. We’ve killed together, cried together… They’re special, an’ I’m special, and we’re together special inna way ain’t nobody else is. But fuck that. It’s more’n bein’ the bestest. It’s ‘cuz, when things were movin’ super fast, nobody managed ‘ta think with our gods-given thinkers ‘bout jus’ how fucked up th’ mission could get. An’ maybe it ain’t anyone’s fault…but that don’t change th’ feelin.”

“And you feel personally responsible.”

“I am personally responsible. It were my orders that sent ‘em in, an’ I was right there wit’em.”

“Our experts said that the configuration of shield tech you encountered was unique,” Sartori offered by way of consolation. “Something about shield geometry, power draw and a lot of other technobabble I barely followed.”

“I know all that. Has to do with a 4-space entanglement an’ some other big science words I won’t pretend either of us really unnerstand.”

“The short version being, shields can’t normally do that.”

Daar sighed heavily. “Still ain’t saying anythin’ I don’t know. And I ‘preciate it,” he was quick to add, “but think ahead. Any ship we encounter now that’s got space enough to fit entangled the right kind o’ field interaction nodes is basically unboardable now. An’ ‘ya wanna know what the most fuckedest part o’ the whole thing is? There’s a reason ain’t nobody done this before. Surgical suites have their own fusion reactors ‘cuz any time ‘ya make a field more complicated, it’s power draw grows geometrically! Y’know what that means, here?”

“…I suspect I won’t like the answer.”

“Nope! It means that if the greasy fucks had caught Guruum too, together they might’ve overpowered the restraining forcefields an’ escaped! Which is such a fucked up thought ‘cuz now the Hunters’ll make every field geometrically optimized ‘fer killin’ and build ‘em way overpowered, ‘cuz now they really know what they’re up against!”

Sartori considered his ally and friend for a long moment, then sipped his drink and put it aside. “There are traps that all of us can fall into, no matter how wise or clever or experienced. And I’m not talking about the literal physical trap that claimed now Senior Master Sergeant Blaczynski. I’m talking about in here,” he tapped his forehead. “You’re the most powerful individual in the galaxy. You take charge, you lead from the front. You always have, and you always will. But the built-in trap that comes with that kind of power and leadership, and it’s one I think you’re uniquely vulnerable to, is the trap of believing that because you manage so closely, every last thing that goes wrong must be your fault.”

“…I know. ‘Yer right, I know it ain’t only my personal burden t’carry. Starfall signed on the dotted line too, jus’ like I did way back when. But not every trap out there denies us total access to an entire domain o’ the battlespace like this evil lil’ idea jus’ did. What I fear is that those brave, beautiful men jus’ got made useless, an’ now we lost the only way we had ta’ fight these fuckers where they actually live.”

“Hmm.” Sartori picked up his drink and thought. He wasn’t sure if he was naturally an optimist or a pessimist for himself, but here and now he felt what Daar needed was an optimist. Somebody to at least show him a spark of light in the tunnel ahead.

Then again, usually he had one.

“…Where’s Naydra?”

“Seclusion ‘fer the moment ‘cuz we jus’ contracted an’ bred ‘fer another cub. She’s in the sensitive first few weeks an’ healin’ up nice…an’ she’s also waitin’ on the election, which is gonna be pretty soon now. An’ also, I don’t wanna be a terror ‘fer her, neither.”

Sartori suppressed a grimace at the word ‘healing.’ That hinted at aspects of Gaoian mating that he didn’t really want to contemplate, so instead he got back on track.

“I can pretty much guarantee that the HEAT won’t be useless,” he said. “They can do things that nobody else can, there will always be need for that. What you’re worried about is that they’ll no longer be the speartip in this fight. That they’ll be relegated to hostage rescues on Earth or search and rescue after industrial asteroid mining accidents, and that we’ll permanently lose a major strategic option.”

“Careful. That’s all worthy work, Arthur…”

“But there are other very good men who can manage. It’s not what HEAT is trained for.”

“…No. Men that good who have given so much don’t deserve ‘ta have their mission kicked out from unner’em. But the thing that galls th’ mostest is pro’ly waitin’ on our big-brains out at Erebor ‘ta see if they’ve got any kinda solution, yijao? …‘Nother drink ‘fer ‘ya?”

“Sure. Thanks…” Arthur finished the one in his hand and watched Daar stand to make another one. “Isn’t this technology we can use for ourselves too? As I recall, we’ve had some nasty situations when the Hunters boarded our own ships…”

“Yeah. In the end this may hurt ‘em more’n it hurts us, ‘cuz raiding ‘fer food is a lot harder now, theoretically. No bets on if the Dominion’ll actually implement this time…”

Arthur nodded and thought for a moment as the drink was made.

“It seems to me…” he said, just as Daar was putting the finishing touches on his creation, “that there’s a whole species who are no longer living under the Hunters. That the Hunters retreated from a whole planet and star system, which has got to be a painful loss for anyone or anything, that we now have technology of theirs to build on and exploit, and that your Grand Army has been given the purpose and project they so desperately needed. To me, all of that sounds like a victory. Not a flawless one, but not pyrrhic, either.”

“Y’can’t just let a guy be mis’rable, can ‘ya?” Daar grumbled, handing over the drink.

“Can you afford to be?”

“I mean…no.” He grumbled again, and then a flicker of his usual humor crept back into his tone. “Though I gotta say, I ain’t gonna knock the gains I’ve been gettin’ outta all this stress liftin’…”

…And the giant furry wall of meat flashed a feral grin, and did exactly what he stereotypically always did.

Sartori sighed, but couldn’t suppress his grin. “Jesus Christ.”

Daar didn’t chitter, but he did perk his ears up a bit and thumped down next to the couch again. “I ain’t gonna pretend ‘ta be anybody but who I am. ‘Sides, ‘ya ain’t really here ‘ta cheer me up. I can smell ‘yer feelins’, ‘ya know.”

“If you weren’t so notoriously honest, I’d accuse you of exaggerating a little.” Arthur sipped the fresh drink, and hoped that it wouldn’t make him pay too hard in the morning. He got the impression there was at least another one in his future. “I have… well, I wanted to discuss my successor with you. That’s the official business between us. Unofficially, as your friend, I wanted to make a request.”

“…What request?”

“I want to see this fight out. One way or the other, I don’t want my contribution to history to end with the moment I step out of the Oval Office for the last time.”

“An’ you don’t trust ‘yer successor ‘ta finish the job.”

“…I worry, let’s say.”

Daar tapped his snout with one of his gigantic, chest-ripping claws. “‘Yer more’n worried, friend. An’ I think ‘yer right to be. Chambliss is prol’ly a good person I bet…but he’s naive, he ain’t ever really faced up to evil, he’s made big promises to th’ voters, an’ he’s got people in his orbit that ain’t so nice, who won’t let ‘em break those promises without a cost. That ‘bout cover it?”

“I try not to think of anybody as being truly evil,” Sartori said. “Everyone thinks they’re the good guy. But Chambliss’ advisors include people who think power is its own end, and a couple of them are… they’ve condemned the APA’s methods while not condemning the message. Global politics can’t afford for my voice to vanish yet.”

Daar sniffed. “Y’know…that’s a heckuva arrogant thing ‘ta say, but I think it’s true. An’ it’s good that you believe it.”

“We’re moving into a delicate moment. Every military advisor I have tells me that the war’s at a tipping point. We haven’t heard from the Hierarchy in months, the Hunters just lost a sixth of their territory—”

“An’ they’re heavily reinforcin’ the ones they got left, I bet,” Daar replied.

“No doubt, but I don’t need to tell you that nobody ever won a war by staying on the defensive. We’re winning, Daar. Hell, if Presidents got a third term, I bet I’d be able to step away in four years and feel like it was a job well done. But right now I can’t, and I won’t. I’m not willing to retire until the job is finished.”

Daar looked at him carefully. “…Careful what ‘ya wish for,” he advised. “Some’a us don’t have th’ luxury o’ choosin’.”

They stared at each other for a while, until Arthur finished his drink and set it aside. Daar’s ear flicked, and he made a rumbling sound somewhere in his chest that might almost have been a kind of purr. Sometimes, Gaoian nonverbal language could be very alien, but Arthur got the impression he was pleased.

“Fine,” Daar said, and took the glass to go make a third drink. “What d’ya have in mind?”

Date Point: 16y11m2w2d AV
The Clawhold, Planet Mordor, liberated space

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

No more gunfire. That was the major difference. Ginn had grown so used to the sound of weapons fire and explosions just during the first days of the campaign to liberate the planet—which was probably going to be renamed to whatever the natives preferred—that he’d started being able to sleep through it, if it was distant enough and not coming his way.

But tonight… silence.

Rumour had it that there’d been a victory in the spaceborne side of the war, albeit a costly one. Details were sparse, but it seemed that the Hunters had just… quit. They’d salvaged what they still had access to, sabotaged what they had to leave behind, and jumped out their ships and stations.

On the ground, RFGs and airstrikes had destroyed Hunter materiel, stockpiles, bases, infrastructure and command posts. Every Hunter line of communication was cut, their logistics network was in tatters, their leadership nonexistent, and their magazines empty. In just one week, the Hunters had collapsed dramatically.

They were still out there, lurking in the hills and forests, still armed with their teeth and fusion claws, still raiding the native warrens for slaughter, but the natives had plenty of experience with such raids. They knew how to fade into their tunnels and minimize the casualties. A few were even setting up traps to get some long-overdue revenge on their tormentors, but most just fled. Apparently they were having some kind of a religious schism down there.

Ginn neither knew the details nor wanted to. He’d only been on the planet for a few weeks, and already he was feeling… frayed. Maybe it was the constant smog, the low clouds that meant he hadn’t seen blue sky or stars since he arrived, or the constant deadly threat always out there waiting to kill him… he had no idea how the E-Skurel-Ir were still sane.

So the silence of a night without any shooting or explosions, or sirens and the flash of the overhead shields intercepting an attack, was a moment of such relative peace that it actually grated on his nerves. He couldn’t relax. He kept expecting an alarm and shouting, or the distant rattle of a patrol in the nearby hills making contact. Something.

Quite against the wisdom of any soldier anywhere, instead of sleeping he got up from his warm nest-bed to go prowl.

He stayed inside the sealed base environment at least. The air outside was only marginally cleaner than breathing exhaust fumes, and he didn’t really fancy a lungful of carcinogens just because he couldn’t sleep. So instead he decided he may as well get some food in his belly.

As it turned out, there were Humans in the food hall. A tall, elderly, dignified one; a short, extremely broad and powerfully-built fighter; and a third man who stood taller than the first, and looked like a scaled up, stockier and even more heavily-built version of the second.

They were eating pizza, and Ginn’s nose twitched enviously. It smelled incredible.

The big one noticed and beckoned Ginn toward them with a cheery grin. “Oh hey, fella! You look hungry! Want some? It’s pepperoni, fresh from Folctha.”

“Good thing you brought enough for that generous streak of yours…” the short one grumbled, but didn’t actually object. He scooted aside on his bench. Sure enough, there was a whole stack of warm, flat boxes on the table.

“Oh shaddup. You’ve always been a food vacuum. Don’t mind him,” the big one said, turning his attention back to Ginn. “He’s a jerk with a heart of gold, I promise.”

“I resent that remark. My heart is cold, black and frozen, and you don’t get to tell anyone otherwise.”

“Mhmm. So scary.”

The older stately Human rolled his eyes. This was apparently normal.

Ginn took the invitation and sat down. “Ginn,” he introduced himself. “Seventeenth armored.”

“I go by Julian. This little boulder of sunshine and happiness is Hoeff, he’s our personal security. Nice guy, s’long as you ain’t on his bad side…”

Hoeff grunted. Somehow, it wasn’t entirely unfriendly.

“…And the skinny one is Professor Hurt.”

Ginn didn’t think the Professor looked particularly skinny at all. But Humans were, well…the original Deathworlders. All three were more substantial than Ginn himself was, and probably Hurt was only ‘skinny’ relative to his present company. Maybe a good brownfur would make Hurt look skinny…but Julian would put most any Stoneback that Ginn had ever met to shame.

“Pleasure,” Hurt shook Ginn’s paw, a little too firmly. “I apologize for my meathead colleagues. They mean well…”


“It’s true and you know it, Julian.”

“I’ve never met Humans before,” Ginn confessed. “I didn’t know we had any here, except the JETS team.”

“We’re here on a consultation with the natives.”

“Their environment is fucked,” Julian said with so much dripping distaste, it actually managed to flare Ginn’s anger at the Hunters’ rapacious evil.

“I thought some Whitecrest Father was handling that?” Ginn asked, before maneuvering a beautifully greasy slice into his mouth and savoring it. The best part of a pizza was the crust, as far as he was concerned, in that it was about the perfect combination of chewy and crispy. But to get the best out of it, you had to get all those nice cheese and tomato and spicy meat flavors on the tongue first.

The best pizza could only be found in Wi Kao, though. Sure it was originally a Human food, but the Gao had perfected it. Sweet-herb was so much better than basil. Add a little kwek roe, maybe a bit of sooba paste…

Pepperoni was still the best topping there was, though. Closely followed by anchovies.

Hurt nodded. “Garaaf. He is. But the natives are a… complex problem. He asked Champion Gyotin for some advice, and Gyotin brought us in.”

“Brought you in,” Julian corrected him, modestly. “I’m just here to do a quick little exploration, grab some samples, and get my opinion down on their options. Which, uh…aren’t. I don’t think there’s any saving this. The whole planet is a Superfund site.”

“Is it reversible?” Ginn asked. He’d been wondering that himself, out of self-interest. If he was going to be assigned to this poisoned wasteland long-term, it would be nice to know if one day he’d be able to go out on patrol without the PPE.

“…Give it a couple hundred thousand years maybe. Let speciation and evolution do their thing. But the only crops on this planet are the ones the natives grow in the warrens in hydroponics farms, or in clean soil they’ve managed to preserve or make for themselves. Honestly, we could learn a thing or three from ‘em about farming in confined environments.”

“You only just arrived bearing hot pizza, and you already know all that?” Ginn asked.

“Well…” Julian reached up and scratched the back of his head, which turned out to be a weirdly satisfying gesture to watch. “That’s, like, where I’m starting from with the briefing documents and that stuff. I’m looking forward to meeting some of ‘em tomorrow and maybe learn a few more things.”

“He’s good at what he does,” Hurt said wryly. “Don’t let his meathead caveman routine fool you into thinking he’s any kind of stupid.”

That wasn’t at all the impression Ginn was under, but there was apparently a long-running joke at play, given the two sturdier men’s reaction.

Julian’s for instance, was embarrassment, more head-scratching, and a change of subject. “So. Seventeenth Armored? What have y’all been up to?”

“Killing Hunters, and getting killed in turn. We seem to be winning now. Rumor has it that the Great Father himself was involved in some important mission.” Ginn made to shrug. “I dunno.”

Hoeff nodded solemnly. “Yeah.”

That said all Ginn needed to know; the “little” one knew exactly where he was coming from. The other two…didn’t.

That was okay, though. He chittered quietly, and snagged another piece of pizza. Heaven.

He did have one question for them, though. “So… what’s gonna happen to the natives?” he asked, after a minute or so of comfortable silence. “I mean, we came all this way and did all this fighting for them, and now you’re saying this planet’s fucked for thousands and thousands of years.”

“I’m gonna say we gotta find a way for them to get off-world,” Julian said firmly. “…Not that my word will necessarily mean much. So, yeah. Actually, I think that’s the best use of my time here, y’know? Take some basic measurements, see if I can figure out what their climate is supposed to be, match their bio-type against the Corti database…”

“See? He’s plenty smart. If only I could convince him to read more…”

Julian ignored him. He seemed to be thinking out loud in a distracted way. “They’ll probably be anomalous, actually. If they’re as resistant to toxins and stuff as I think they are…”

“I’ve never bothered with that stuff,” Ginn admitted. “So the Corti like to put numbers on things. You’re anomalous, we’re anomalous, the natives here are going to be anomalous… It must not be a very good system.”

“Nah.” Hoeff said while swallowing a bite. “Anomalous things mean careers at universities. Anything not-Corti or not-Dominion is therefore anomalous, so the Corti can make money off it.”

That got a kind of snorting sound out of Professor Hurt, which morphed into a laugh. “I didn’t know you were so au fait with academia.”

“There’s a lot about me you don’t know,” Hoeff said, plainly. Ginn thought he smelled just the faintest hint of menace, but probably not. Neither of the Humans seemed to notice. He slid one of the pizza boxes along to Ginn. “Here. Big bastard brought too much anyway. May as well share it with ‘yer buddies.”

Julian grinned in a strange sideways sort of way no Gaoian could ever match. “I brought him two pizzas ‘cuz he normally demolishes ‘em both by himself. I think Hoeff here likes you!”

“Shuddup.” Hoeff stood up. “Hey, where’s the latrine in this place?”

“Back that way,” Ginn indicated with his paw, back in the general direction of the barracks. Sensing that the conversation was over, he scooped up the gifted pizza, gave Julian and Hurt a duck-nod of appreciation, and left them in peace.

Hoeff ambled along next to him.

“Too quiet, huh?” he murmured, once they were around the corner.


“Done a whole lot of what ‘yer doin,’ over the years.”

“…Does it get better?”

“Mostly, for most people. Gonna take a while, though. Still got any friends?”

“Most of the people I was close with died in the homeworld war. I…don’t exactly keep a distance with my unit, but…” Ginn trailed off. He didn’t really want to say it aloud, but he’d always stood slightly apart from what should have been his Brothers. Too many painful losses had made him shy about getting too close, especially after the casualties they’d taken fighting the Hunters.

But it suddenly occurred to him that maybe he’d fallen into a different trap without ever seeing it was there.

Hoeff nodded. “Well…I ain’t a gaoian, if you somehow didn’t notice. So I don’t know if it works the same. But the thing about this shit? The best friendships I’ve ever had were all people I served with. And in a weird way that includes that huge fucker back there. So, y’know… How are they sleeping?”

“Better than I do.”

“Yeah. That’ll happen.” Hoeff tapped the untouched pizza box in front of Ginn. “Here. Go make friends.”

“…I will. Thank you.”

They parted ways. Ginn returned to his dormitory, where the scent of fresh hot pizza woke several of his squadmates up and had them clustering around like curious cubs before they were even properly awake.

And an hour or so later, when he went back to bed feeling a little warmer and a little more secure, Ginn found that the quiet was a little easier to bear.

Date Point: The opening days of the first year of Liberation. The deep tunnels, a freed world

Ukusevi, Librarian of the archives at Old-Bent-Leg and Keeper of the Long Chant

Keepers had to meet occasionally. How else could they share and discuss their proposed additions to the Long Chant?

Such meetings had always posed a grave danger, before. If the Punishers—the Hunters—had found the gathered Keepers and devoured them, then much of the Penitent People’s history would have been lost. Even though it was all written down… It took a certain kind of skilled mind to organize the archives, to winnow through them in search of important details, to memorize the shape of it, to know where to search and what to keep in the mind, and to know how to shape it all into the Chant.

So, the meetings were rare… but necessary.

This one was more necessary than most, but also safer. Their chosen meeting spot was a deep tunnel, far below the territory now controlled by Gao forces. Once, it had been a mine, clawing the valuable lifeblood from their world to go to the Hunters. Once the rich seams had run out, the vicious overlords had left them behind and never looked back.

Now, among long-abandoned machines, deep under the surface, Ukusevi laid eyes on her fellow Keepers for the first time in half a year.

They began with a round of warm, fond embraces, welcomed the new young faces who were attending for the first time, and mourned for two who had not lived to see this moment. But by tradition, these gatherings were brief.

Ukusevi felt compelled to take charge as soon as they began .The moment they were all seated, she stood and surprised her fellows who had always known her as one of the quieter listeners.

“I must be bold this time,” she declared, stepping into the middle of their circle. “As you know, the Almighty saw fit to give me the duty of meeting these Gao and making what they call ‘First Contact.’ My mind has been greatly troubled since, and I fear we must discuss things which would normally be taboo. There are hard questions of faith and the nature of the Punishment to resolve.”

To her relief, Keeper Selkis immediately raised a hand to agree with her, and his voice was about the strongest ally Ukusevi could have asked for. He was the oldest, and the most learned, and had contributed more to the Chant than anyone else present.

“The end of the Punishment is here, and it hasn’t been at all like we hoped it would,” he intoned. “Ukusevi alludes to doubts I’m sure we all fear. Those doubts are historic fact. We must face them and record them.”

“Then I shall give voice to them,” Ukusevi replied. She took a deep breath, shut her eyes, and immersed herself in this last moment of sure footing before she leapt into the void. “What it… what if the last four hundred and seventeen years were not divine punishment?”

There were a few shocked noises, but it wasn’t the collective hurricane of outrage she’d feared. A lot of the Keepers bowed their heads and flattened their ears along their backs.

Emboldened, she pushed on. “What if the creatures we called the Punishers this whole time were just… conquerers? Malevolent evil mortals who found us and, being stronger than us, did this to us for their own selfish reasons. What if the reason we and our predecessors have struggled for so long to identify the Great Sin is because…” she had to pause and take a deep breath to summon the courage to speak the next words. “…Because there never was one?”

Keeper Umilivi stood up, trembling with rage and disgust. Ukusevi didn’t know if she was about to storm away into the tunnels, or level an accusatory finger and start shouting.

She did neither. In fact, it took her three attempts just to coax a sound out of her throat. “You want all that suffering… to be for nothing?” she asked, in a voice knotted and tangled by emotion.

“I want the truth,” Ukusevi replied. “Isn’t that what we are? Isn’t that what we’re for? Recording and remembering the truth, whatever it happens to be?”

“You’re saying that we’ve failed in that duty up until now. All the Keepers, and the Long Chant itself!” The logjam in Umilivi’s throat seemed to have cleared a little.

Ukusevi shook her head, feeling more confident in her thoughts now. It was strange: waiting for and anticipating this argument had been so hard, but now that she was here and having it, now that she had committed to it, the fear was ebbing away to be replaced by… not certainty, but conviction.

“No,” she said. “We’ve always recorded what we thought was true. But the core message of the Chant has always been humility, and our own ability to fail. Now we have the chance to see the truth we already recorded in a new light!”

Selkis’ head bobbed in agreement. “Are we going to be so arrogant as to think that we could do no wrong?” he asked. “We who have lived our whole lives preaching that the Almighty is punishing us for our wrongness? We of all people have no business pretending to infallibility.”

“Unless these Gao are agents of doubt!” Umilivi insisted. “How can you know this is not a test? How can you know you are not failing that test?”

“How can you know that we are not passing it?” Selki s retorted. “How can you know anything? Here and now, in this time and place, is exactly the moment for doubt!”

Ukusevi injected her own, quieter voice into the echoes of his outburst. “In the end, we cannot know,” she said. “That’s what it means to be faithful. And frankly, I refuse to believe in a god who is capable of wanton, purposeless cruelty.

“We never did!” Umilivi replied. “The whole point of the Punishment is that it is not wanton or purposeless!”

“Then why are we being punished for a crime we cannot identify, in an age so long ago?”

“Maybe we were still committing it!” One of the few who’d been nodding frantically along in agreement with Umilivi suggested. His voice was shaky with uncertainty, though.

“Your tale grows less tenuous as you tell it, and I think you know it,” Selkis told him.

“A story must be believable, and belief is the first step toward faith,” Ukusevi added. “I find…I cannot believe such a tale, anymore. Not in the face of the Gao and how easily they brushed aside our tormentors. Not in the face of what they and their friends the Humans have said… One of them said something I have meditated on at length. Garr-avf of the Gao said ‘Helplessness is like a heavy blanket: It smothers at the same time as it comforts.’ He meant that we have been asleep, and that it is time to wake up… but that we will not want to.”

There weren’t nods around the circle, but rather a lot of thoughtful looks. Umilivi reached up and scratched at a sore on her ear as she considered that sentiment.

“…You say that as though you believe it should go in the Chant,” she said after a quiet moment.

“I do.” Ukusevi turned and picked up her journal. “I have written a stanza. Will the Keepers hear it?”

A quick show of hands indicated that they would. For a moment, Ukusevi’s nerves returned. She had never contributed a stanza to the Long Chant before. Nothing of sufficient import had ever happened at Old-Bent-Leg to warrant inclusion.

She quieted her jitters with a deep breath, put a finger to the first line of what she had written, and read the Chant.

Date Point:16y11m2w2d AV
Mrwrki Station, Erebor system, Uncharted Space


Nanofactories could do incredible things, when used properly.

They weren’t the most efficient way to build things, as such. A specialized assembly line designed to produce a specific item could produce that item much faster than the nanofactory would. But when it came to assembling a small number of novel, new or experimental things, nanofactories were the proper go-to. Prototype satellites, for instance, were exactly the sort of thing they were perfect for.

Given that the satellites in question were designed to trace down the characteristic energy signatures of the Hierarchy’s relay network, they were technically Darcy’s responsibility. She’d be the first one to get a look at the data they generated, the first one to write a report and make a recommendation…

Which was why she was the one who got to figuratively press the button that turned them on.

It wasn’t a moment of much fanfare. She sat at the desk, she put her hand on the mouse, moved it, clicked once…

“…How long should this take?”

“It’s a big-ass sky, but first results should be in by tomorrow morning.” Sergeant Lee looked pleased with himself. He’d set up a little animation to show off the satellites as their delivery drones hung them in a concentric series of massive orbits around Erebor. Each of the satellites was about as big—and about the same shape and general appearance—as the monolith from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, and consisted mostly of field emitters.

After all, when it came to absorbing and emitting energy, forcefields were basically the supreme technology. They could handily do both, and could function-switch in milliseconds. The satellites could, on a human timescale, simultaneously power themselves by absorbing solar radiation, trawl the skies for the subtle signs of the Hierarchy’s strongholds, and transmit the gathered data back to Mrwrki for analysis.

Darcy nodded, glad of that answer. She’d had her head down on the observatory project for a while, and suddenly found herself with nothing to do but wait for results. Rather than leaving her off-balance, it was an honest relief to be able to set the project aside at least for one night.

“Drink?” she suggested.

“Sounds good.”

They retired to the station’s small bar, Kirk’s. Named for the owner and proprietor, who seemed genuinely happy to have bowed out of making the decisions and being a driving force, especially now that he was getting old.

Well. “Old” was a relative term. Kirk had been in his prime twenty years ago when he’d been involved in the Outlook on Forever incident. His political career and his time on first Sanctuary and now Mrwrki had consumed his middle age. He probably had another twenty or thirty years in him, but he was definitely slowing down.

Darcy wondered how he managed to stay so upbeat and positive considering he hadn’t seen one of his own kind in several years, but in that regard the Rrrrtktktp’ch were genuinely alien. They lived solitary lives, remaining aloof from their Vzk’tk cousins and keeping each other at four arms’ length except for mating. Kirk claimed to have fathered a child at one point, in his youth. Just the one. He’d shrugged when the conversation came up, as though that wasn’t particularly important.

In short, if Kirk was typical for his species, then Rrrtk didn’t really need each other. Whatever social itch he may have was adequately scratched by the humans around him.

And it had to be said, once he’d got his eye in, a being with four arms and natural ambidexterity could make for a pretty deft bartender.

“You two look pleased with yourselves,” he commented as Darcy and Lee entered.

“Project phase complete,” Lee announced.

“Well, that is good news. Care to celebrate?”

Lee glanced at Darcy, who nodded, and a few busy moments later Kirk was preparing two drinks at once. An old-fashioned for Darcy, and a beer for Lee.

“Have you been following the election news?” he asked conversationally as they settled on bar stools.

“Too busy. Who won?”


Darcy tutted in irritation. “Well, there goes half our funding…”

“C’mon, it won’t be that bad will it?” Lee ventured.

“Half is optimistic,” Darcy declared, suddenly grateful she’d ordered a strong drink. “The man’s a pacifist.”

“You make that sound like a dirty word,” Kirk observed. “Surely everyone likes peace?”

“A pacifist isn’t just ‘somebody who likes peace,’ they’re somebody who believes that war and violence are inherently unjustifiable. Which in the face of a war against not one but two foes who’d happily see us all dead, that we’re currently winning, is just… Ugh, never mind. I’ll give myself a migraine if I get all political.”

“Yes. I left politics behind for a very good reason,” Kirk agreed. “Winning, you think?”

“Hell yeah we’re winning. Come on, you watch the news, you have to know about that Hunter system that got liberated…”

“Mordor,” Kirk’s head slowly dipped in his version of a nod as he handed over Lee’s beer and peeled a slice of lemon peel into Darcy’s drink. “That makes two systems named for the works of Tolkien, I believe. I wonder how many there will be eventually?”

Lee shook his head. “Nah, Mordor won’t keep that name for long. It’ll go on the chart as whatever the natives call it… poor bastards.”

Darcy looked around. “…I haven’t heard from Lewis and his team, actually. What are they up to? Something new?”

“Urgent something came in from the brass at AEC. A new application of forcefield tech they’re worried about.”

“Worried how?”

“The HEAT lost one of their operators to it.”

“Jesus.” That was a bit like hearing Superman was dead, as far as Darcy was concerned. The last time a HEAT operator fell had been the Battle for Gao.

“Yeah. Now if it can do that reliably, and considering how rare and valuable those guys are, and the new POTUS and all the rest of it…”

Darcy accepted her drink off Kirk and took a healthy sip, nodding solemnly. “Yeah. What would we do without the HEAT?”

“Gao would have fallen. There’d be no Great Father without them. A lot of people wouldn’t be alive right now. Like… a lot of people. Billions.”

“And the Hierarchy would still be active on Earth. They made all the difference at Marsa Alam.” Darcy shivered internally at that thought. When Big Hotel’s network had been unravelled, they’d found it had spread all over the Middle East and south-east Asia. Biodrones had turned up as far afield as Indonesia and embedded in a troubling number of governments, some of them nuclear powers. That and the thought of a Hierarchy spaceship free to roam inside the Sol containment field were, as far as she was concerned, more than adequate to justify the HEAT’s existence. Throw in the fact that the Gao as a species only existed thanks to them, and…

Her train of thought was interrupted by her phone chirping at her. Unconsciously, she fished it out of her jacket’s inside pocket, flipped it over, and unlocked it.

The characters on the screen were the most welcome bit of good news she could possibly have asked for:

< 🙂 o/ >

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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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 3 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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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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