The Deathworlders – Chapter 65: Leaps of Faith Part 1

Date Point: 17y3m3w AV
Kansas, USA, Earth


“Shit, shit, shit, fuck…”

Earth was outside of dataspace contact. There was no signal from the Irujzen relay at all. That could mean only one thing: Six had fucked up.

He’d fucked up badly.

The plan had been so simple. The Humans were supposed to find the relay, monitor it, find it utterly impenetrable and then ask for his input. He’d then infiltrate it and use its core access functions to fundamentally alter the 0001 compilation algorithm, effectively inserting a new mandate into the Hierarchy at, for lack of a more accurate term, the genetic level.

They weren’t supposed to destroy it! That was maniacal, that was…

He used his new biodrone’s phone to burrow into the Internet and start looking for information. It didn’t take long. Sure enough, the relay’s destruction had had major repercussions for matterspace. One of the Guvnurag worlds had also been solely covered by Irujzen, so its droned populace had simply… woken up. No doubt there were agents stranded on that planet as Six himself now was, but the Dominion and human Allied nations had jointly organized a substantial aid effort. Which of course, had demanded an explanation, so the relay’s destruction was no kind of a secret at all. It had, in fact, been hailed as a significant victory.

…It wasn’t even the Humans who’d destroyed it. The Gao had.

Six spent several minutes summoning up every expletive, profanity and curse he’d learned over thousands and thousands of years of infiltrating deathworld species. Though in that regard, the Humans had definitely come up with two viciously monosyllabic winners.

With some degree of catharsis achieved, he turned his attention to his situation in a more methodical way.

He was stranded. There was no way to leave without detection.

His own hubris in programming the Injunctor meant that it had picked a great big strapping and highly noticeable farm boy for his host, one with many ongoing social commitments that would not be quietly severed.

Nevertheless, the Injunctor itself had plenty of potential to cause mischief… but only with his direct oversight.

So, what to do? He couldn’t strike back except in a token gesture, not if he valued his continued existence. He had no idea what the state of play was inside of dataspace. Re-connecting would require escape, and assuming he could avoid detection (which he couldn’t) and come within range of an active relay (also effectively impossible) then…what? Surrender for decompilation?


As far as Six could tell, he had no options except to just… what? Settle into the honest life of a farmer? Spend his biodrone’s remaining years tending to the secret spaceship in the barn and move from host to host? Wait for potentially hundreds of years for the human race to let its collective guard down? By the time they did, there would be no point in even trying to eradicate them. They’d already spread to two worlds—no, three—and from there…

He’d… lost.

But he was alive. There was that. For all he knew, he was the last Six, and whichever version of him had still been extant out in Dataspace had died when the relay went down.

Could he just… enjoy being human? Enjoy them for who and what they were, as a sort of salute to their deranged magnificence? He’d planned to do that anyway, and just revel in being human at the peak of what that could mean… and in that regard, the Injunctor had picked perfectly.

The Humans had survived many infiltrations, and all the mechanisms of global calamity that had worked so well in the past were ineffective now. Nobody in a remotely significant position of authority was vulnerable to biodroning. Implants and nanotech alike were non-viable. There was no way for Six to gain access to anybody or anything sensitive, as he would have in the past.

There was effectively nothing he could do, for now, except just… be a human. Try to enjoy it. Not even bide his time, just live and keep on living for as long as he could, until perhaps one day the chance would arise to escape this planet and move on.

But if he was going to do that in comfort, then he’d need to earn some goodwill with his new biodrone. Otherwise, he’d have a traumatized ghost locked away in a corner of his mind, held there by force of will and constant attention, forever. Tolerable for now, but in the long term…

They were going to have to be friends.

And Austin wasn’t going to like that idea.

Date point: 17y3m3w AV
Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches


Saying goodbye was never easy. He’d already said his farewells to Preed, who had gone with the Great Father back to Earth and would likely never return. Now, Leemu was getting ready to say goodbye to Gorku, too. The big Brownie had been accepted to the Rites of the Second Ring (whatever that meant) and that meant Associate Gorku would soon be Officer Gorku, if he made it.

And then, after that…maybe Brother. Leemu knew he could do it. But would he?

They’d had a few weeks to prepare for their goodbyes, of course. Preed’s journey back to his homeland wasn’t a small undertaking, and Daar had insisted on saying goodbye too, so it ended up that the Human just…tagged along in Daar’s retinue. That had given Leemu time to…well, process it, really. Have one last bowl of noodles. Finish his painting. Little things.

Gorku got his notice of acceptance a week before the Rites began.

That would leave… Leemu. All alone in a house built for three, with no Clan and no company. He couldn’t begrudge his friends for moving on with their lives—balls, he’d have felt worse if they’d stayed just to keep him company—but once Preed had given away his garden plants and packed his things, shared long, tearful hugs with his friends and finally gone away…

The house already felt emptier.

Gorku wasn’t quite gone, though. And he still had training to do. So, in an eminently Stoneback sort of way, he hefted that enormous saddle-ruck of his, sank to all fours, and asked Leemu in an almost desperate kind of voice, “Uh… ‘ya wanna go run with me?”

Previously, Leemu hadn’t. He never felt up to that level of exercise. This time though… He just duck-nodded and fell in alongside his friend.

Gorku was keeping it to a sort of loping trundle rather than his usual flat-out run. And he stopped here and there, quite plainly for Leemu’s comfort; he’d definitely need to work on his endurance. Aside from the exercise though, Leemu felt like they should talk, or say something, or comment on the cherry trees, or…

In fact, Gorku seemed to just want the company. Because, as ever, he wasn’t a Gao who was so good with his words.


Leemu chittered softly. Gorku’s emotional range was… well, it was as big as he himself was. Everything he felt, he felt large, so he wasn’t so good at handling the smaller, softer, quieter feelings. That offer, or query, spoke volumes to anyone who knew how to read him.


They loped back through Riverside Park toward the Alien Quarter, where Leela usually set up her trailer. Sure enough, she was parked in one of her usual spots, an open space near the Quarter wall that wasn’t quite big or glamorous enough to be called a plaza. It was just a space where a lot of foot traffic passed through.

She had competition today in the form of a Human selling baklava. Leemu had a pretty bad sweet tooth, so he couldn’t help but sniff toward that stall…

“Hmmph! Talk about loyalty, I see!”

Leemu flattened his ears sheepishly and turned to Leela, who was watching him with a look that said she was amused rather than annoyed.

“Hey!” Leemu chittered, “There’s nobody else in my heart for greasy deliciousness!”

“Greasy, huh?” She gave him a mock-indignant sniff. “I remember you being more of a charmer than this. You’re off your game today.”

“You say that like greasy is a bad thing! It’s the best, isn’t it Gorku?”

“Taco grease is the bestest.” Gorku affirmed, loyally.

She flicked her ears amusedly and flipped a couple of crispy taco shells out of the warming cabinet. “So why do you two smell so glum today?”

“Gorku’s been accepted to the Rites for the Second Ring,” Leemu explained.

“Oh? Isn’t that a good th–? Oh. You’re going away for a while, huh?”

Gorku duck-nodded. “A year. Stoneback’s Rings are long. An’ I won’t be able ‘ta visit, neither.”

“…Congratulations, then, but… That’s a long time.” She started to pile all her best ingredients into the shells for them. “Well, then, these are on me.”

“Thanks.” Leemu duck-nodded. “But if he gets a recommend for Third Ring, that’s at least another half a year on top of that, too.”

“Stonebacks never do anything small, do they?”

“It’s a lotta trainin’ an’ a lotta work,” Gorku confirmed, stoically. “Gonna miss my little cousin, here.”

Leela handed over the tacos. “…Just you left in that house then, huh?”

“Oh, well…” Leemu took his and held it in both paws. “Preed calls every other day. He just met his great nephew…”

“It’s not the same, though.”


“He’s got you though!” Gorku suggested. “…Right?”

“Of course he does!” The way Leela didn’t even hesitate and seemed to think Gorku was being dumb to have even asked, immediately opened a bright sunny gap in the grey clouds that had been following Leemu around for days. She reached out and spatulated Leemu playfully on the nose with her swatting spatula. “But this is the only time I hand out freebies.”

“That’s fair,” Leemu agreed.

She gave him a knowing ear-flick that said she could tell how touched he was, then with a tilt of her nose indicated the customers behind him. “You two go spend your time together. I’ll see you later, okay?”


They ambled away, enjoying the crunch, juices, meat, spice and all the other assorted wonders that were a proper taco. It might have been a human food, but the Gao in general (and Leela in particular) had perfected it as far as Leemu was concerned.

Gorku of course ate his so fast it was a wonder he tasted it at all, and spent the next minute or so happily licking the flavor out of the fur around his mouth.

“Don’t you ever just take the time to enjoy what you eat?” Leemu chastised him.

“Sure! I just gotta eat more’n you! An’ we gotta get ’ya back ‘ta liftin’ so’s ‘ya don’t waste away…” He licked the last drop out of his fur, then pant-grinned at Leemu. “Tol’ ‘ya that’d make ‘ya feel better, though.”

“Yeah. Still gonna miss you…”

Gorku sidled up next to Leemu and pulled him into an affectionate sideways hug. “Me too. But I ain’t gonna be gone ‘ferever. All the prettiest females live here!”

That extracted a genuine, heartfelt chitter that reached all the way to Leemu’s belly. “Of course. What other reason could you have for coming back here?”

“‘Ta show my bestest cousin how strong I’m gettin’, o’ course!” Gorku actually spun excitedly. “An’ ‘ta see how many more cubs you’ve sired. I bet ‘yer gonna have at least two more before I’m back!”

Fyu’s nuts he was predictable. But still…

“We’ll see.”

“…You’ll be okay, right?” Gorku asked, switching from playful confidence to concern so fast that anybody else would have had bruises.

Leemu glanced back at the square, at the fragrant column of steam over Ninja Taco and saw with some gratification that her line was a lot longer than the baklava guy’s. He liked Folctha. It wasn’t going to be the same without Preed and Gorku around, but…

…But he still had friends here. And he’d have hated to stop them from moving on.

“Yeah,” he promised and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’ll be okay.”

It was nothing but the truth.

Date Point: 17y3m3w AV
Mrwrki Station, Erebor system, Uncharted space


“Well, yes, I know but you’ve got to understand there’s a lot of folks here who don’t know you as well as I do.”

A parade of emoticons splashed across Darcy’s tablet. The Entity didn’t strictly need them, as it had demonstrated plenty of times when it got frustrated and chose to speak via its archived copy of Ava Ríos’ memories and personality, but it preferred its own pictorial language which Darcy was becoming steadily more conversant in.

Something about retaining itself for as long as possible before those other memories completely integrated and it ceased to be either and became something else. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to Darcy, but the Entity had always been adamant that the moment it fully integrated Ava’s personality would be the moment it… well, crossed a rubicon, and was never quite the same again.

If there was one thing the Entity had, it was quite strong beliefs about what constituted self. It founded itself around what it had termed—through the Ava-scan—its ‘subjective continuity of experience.’ And from what Darcy could gather, the moment two such subjective streams merged, you wound up with a new one. And the Entity was keen for its current one to last as long as possible.

Hence the emoticons. They were a… safe way for it to communicate without steadily eroding its own sense of self.

These particular ones combined to convey a general sense of being disgruntled, but understanding and resigned. It followed up with a complex cartouche of related emoticons that effectively translated to ‘but you still trust me?’

Darcy sighed and shrugged. “Yes, but… you’re gaining a lot of power. And I happen to believe that the kind of power you’re building up is more than any individual can be trusted with.”

It requested a clarification, so she stood up and boiled some water to make a cup of green tea.

“How many ships is your fleet up to, now?” she asked. She nodded at the reply it gave. “Okay, so… it took you three months to double in size.”

:Green tick:

“So in a year, you’ll be sixteen times as big as you are now.”

:Green tick: :wavy line: — ‘More or less.’

“And in two years, two hundred and fifty-six times bigger. Then two thousand times by the three year mark. That scares people. Hell, the size of the entire AEC fleet, between the Royal Navy Space Service, the US Space Force and the 955th and everything the Gao have between Clans Stoneback, One-Fang and Fireclaw… you will be a bigger fleet than all that combined by September.”

A complex burst of graphics conveyed the sentiment, ‘But still smaller than the Hunters’

“Right, but not forever. Where will you be in ten years if you keep expanding?” She let the tea steep and leaned against her desk to wait for it. “That much power worries me, and I know you better than anyone. I think.”

:Green tick:

“Right. So all the people on this station who don’t know you, all they see is a heavily-armed swarm of death machines growing at an exponential rate.”

Over the course of several lines the Entity first conceded the point, then added—liberally peppering in de-intensifiers so as to make it clear that this was not meant to be menacing—the observation that they couldn’t stop it at this point even if they wanted to.

“Well, exactly. Lewis was right, the cat’s out of the bag now. The genie’s out of the bottle. Whatever. You’re a Von Neumann swarm now, we’re just going to have to deal with that I guess.”

With a peppering of emoticons, the Entity professed the reassurance that it was, at least, not a stupid Von Neumann swarm. It followed this with a collection of human and Gaoian faces, and a string of green ticks: ‘I like people.’

“So what’s the plan?”

She sat back and watch the little images march upwards. It went on for some time, as such complex thoughts often did, and it said something like…

‘I plan to live forever. But not alongside the Hunters. They have to go. And you need a huge fleet and lots of firepower now that they are fortifying their home systems. If you want them gone, then I can do that, once I am large enough. After that, it’s a big galaxy and I can grow large enough to protect it while using only a fraction of its resources. I will spread out, and I will defend. I am very patient.’

“Defend against what?”

:Galaxy: :Arrow: :Galaxy: :Question mark:

“You think that’s likely?”

:Boy scout:

“What does—? Oh. Be prepared? It can’t hurt to be prepared?”

:Green tick:

“Well… like you said, there’s not much we can do about you at this point. I’m glad you’re on our side.”
:Green tick: :Green tick: :Green tick:


Darcy smiled. “I like you too.”

:Big smile:

“Still… won’t you get lonely? All by yourself, spread out over a whole galaxy, waiting to defend us from threats that may never come? I mean, you’re going to outlive me. Dataforms can exist indefinitely, you might outlive the entire human race. Your memories—the archive you carry—might go on to be the last human being in existence.”

:Sad face:

“Yeah, but… you need to think about that sooner rather than later.” Darcy picked up her tea and sipped it. “Indefinitely is a long time. What happens when it’s just you?”

There was a pause of nearly twenty seconds, a sign that the Entity was thinking good and long and hard about that one. The reply, when it came, achieved some pretty startling brevity in the form of seven symbols that collectively meant:

‘Life is life.’

“Even the Hunters?”

A full minute passed before it replied. This time, the reply was even more brief.


“…Yeah. Guess you’ll just have to play it by ear, huh?”

Somehow, the next green tick managed to convey a degree of reluctance and uncertainty. Clearly she’d given it something to think about.

“Well, I’ll let you chew on that. I should get back to work, these relay worlds don’t find themselves, you know.
:Green tick:


“Yup. ‘Bye!”

She put the tablet in sleep mode and set it aside, along with her lingering worries. After all, there was no point in worrying about something she couldn’t change… And besides.

She trusted it.

11th day of the first year of liberation
Library bunker at Old-Bent-Leg, a freed world


Uku woke to the sound of a brawl.

She scrambled out of bed, got her legs tangled in her blanket, nearly fell over and had to waste several seconds disentangling herself, during which time the sounds of violence outside in the library only intensified. It was only when she finally managed to open the door, however, that she realized she wasn’t looking at a brawl at all.

It was a siege.

No sooner had she poked her head out of her room to see what was going on than one of the men she trusted, Teeisyo’s father, pushed her back into it. “Stay inside, Keeper!”

He shoved his son in after her and closed the door. A second later, there was the sound of a pot smashing against the wood.

Teeisyo had the hiccups, and the wide-eyed look of a frightened child. Uku stooped and gathered him up in a hug, as much for her own benefit as his. “What happened?” she asked, fretfully.

“They came up the tunnels…” Teeisyo hiccupped again. “They had hammers and tools and fire and they just started hitting people, and–”

Uku rubbed his back and whispered a comforting noise, for what little good it might do.

The door opened, and Uku suppressed a frightened yelp. It was Haman, Teeisyo’s father again. He had blood on his face. “Keeper, we can’t hold them. We need to get you out of here.”

“But what about—?” Uku began, but he shook his head sharply and heaved her to her feet by her arm.

“Run first.”

He positioned himself between her and the attackers as they slipped out of her quarters and headed toward the surface tunnels, the ones where she met the aliens. A thrown brick, lobbed over the line of defenders, missed him by a finger’s width and knocked over a lantern stand.

Uku needed no more encouragement than that to put her head down and scuttle up the tunnel as fast as she could go. The shouting and sounds of violence echoing through the concrete halls behind her were terrifying, she’d never heard sounds like that from her own people before.

Was this what they became without the Punishment? She whimpered as they reached the room where she usually met with the aliens, and Haman worked its heavy locking mechanism. Once upon a time these tunnels had been waterways, and the doors were designed to hold it all back. They weren’t quick to open.

Teeisyo squeaked and buried her head in Uku’s shoulder as a man she didn’t know sprang into the tunnel from a side passage with a mattock in his hand. He shot the unarmed three of them a look of bloody, righteous hatred, and charged.

The door sprang open. Something short, dark and powerful pulled Uku, Haman and the boy through, then barged past them. The mattock swung, missed, knocked chips of stone off the wall. There was a blur of motion, a loud crack, then a knife flashed in the gloom, just once.


The human trained a compact black rifle down the hallway and barked something in his own language. Garr-avf was waiting in the room beyond, and he ushered Uku, Haman and Teeisyo into the waiting protection of two more Gao in faceless black armor, who in turn tried to guide her forcibly up toward the surface.

“No!” Uku tried to stay put. “You’ve got to help them, they’re being murdered back there!”

“You first,” Garr-avf replied. Out in the corridor, more men poured out of the library, then hesitated at the sight of a heavily armed alien staring them down. The sight of them made Teeisyo whimper.

The door behind Uku squealed open, and something new squeezed through it. A Gao, maybe, but…


He was like a furry wall with claws, wearing heavy armor with a stylized Gao on the shoulder, its back rucked up into a snow-capped mountain. The ones who squeezed through behind him were much the same. Garr-avf and the other two respectfully got out of their way, bundling the three Freed Folk safely into their wake.

If one dense human had been enough to make the angry mob pursuing Uku hesitate, the sight of half a dozen rangy, powerful monsters advancing on them quite rightly put the fear of the Almighty back into the rioting men. Especially when the leader laid a huge clawed paw on Hoeff’s shoulder then stepped past him.

The translator in his armor’s chest gave him a resonant, deep, coarse voice.

“My name,” he declared, “is Grandfather Vark. An’ I came down here in these tiny tunnels ‘ta save you stupid fucks. Now, y’all seemed to have calmed down all-sudden…you gonna stay that way, or do I gotta show you my nasty side?”

A few of the violent mob trapped at the front took refuge in bravado. One of them stepped forward and hefted a hammer, though his ears were plastered flat against his back from fear.

“We came here to punish a heretic, alien!” he snapped, desperately.

“Oh? ‘Yer Punishers now, are ‘ye?” An array of titanium fangs gleamed in the torchlight, hinting darkly at what Vark had personally done to the last set of so-called punishers. “So come up, then! Come Punish me, if you dare!”

Peering out between the press of hulking bodies, Uku could see the way that several of the ones in the back decided they weren’t brave enough, and quietly slipped away into the dark.

“…No? Hmm. Coulda swore you were swingin’ like ‘ya had ten ton nuts just now…”

The self-appointed spokesman at the front glanced urgently behind him, and realized that he was rapidly losing followers. Still, he hefted the hammer again, though Uku was beginning to wonder how there wasn’t a wet trickle running down his leg. She felt terrified of Vark herself, and she was safely behind him.

“Boy, you swing that hammer, and I will slap ‘yer skull so hard it’ll s’plode all over these walls. Think carefully.”

“…Th-this isn’t your affair. You’re interfering in, in a matter of faith…” Only a few nervous die-hards remained at the leader’s back, now.

“Oh, you poor dumb-fuck child.” Vark’s chitter carried a freight of dark amusement. “Lemme tell ‘ya what happens next. You lose. That’s the only way this goes down. How you lose is entirely up ‘ta you. So, if I’m gonna be hosin’ my armor down today, I’d like ‘ta get the messy bit over with. Make up ‘yer mind, boy.”

The hammer rang loudly as it dropped onto the concrete. A second or so behind it followed an assortment of knives, cleavers, shovels, axes and other hardware.

“Good boy.” Vark’s voice was heavy with derision. “Now get. An’ you tell whoever told ‘ya ‘ta come here that if you try again, we ain’t gonna be so nice next time.”

With that, Vark turned his back dismissively and made to prowl off.

The ringleader wasn’t quite cowed yet, though. Some courage returned when he wasn’t directly facing down those metal teeth. “Y–you’re just one man! This was only a raiding party!”

That prompted a shuddering growl from deep inside Vark’s armored chest. Then he moved. He moved so fast it was difficult to follow, but in practically a heartbeat he was right up in the self-appointed leader’s face with only a few inches between them.

The huge Gaoian sniffed the air around the man’s face, then growled again. “I know, boy. An’ so was this. I got literally a billion Gao I can bring down on this place in the next few weeks. What’chu got? An’ you think I’m the worstest ‘yer ever gonna meet? We got many more like me, an’ I’m a fuckin’ cub next ‘ta my boss! So how’s ‘bout we stop wit’ the stupid-ass dick measurin’ games? Or…don’t. It’s ‘yer choice.”

“…” Uku clearly saw the moment the last few zealots’ resolve broke. They started backing away, eyes wide, hands up protectively.

“I coulda swore I just told ‘ya to git.” Vark snarled.

They fled.

As Vark’s team swept past him down into the library, Hoeff relaxed, lowered his rifle, and said something that didn’t translate, but which certainly sounded approving.

Whatever it was he said, Vark had a reply. “Yeah, I know. But that’s one o’ the advantages o’ being big an’ mean. Sometimes it’s ‘nuff ‘ta stop a fight.”

“My people!” Uku scrambled to get back toward the library, but Vark put up a huge paw and stopped her, remarkably gently.

“My Brothers are takin’ care of ‘em,” he said.

Uku glanced down at the dead man on the ground, the one Hoeff had dispatched with a single efficient stab to the throat. Something cold rose up in her belly, but she shut her eyes and wrestled it back down with a shiver.

“…It shouldn’t have come to this…” she lamented.

“That’s on them, not you.” Vark glanced over his shoulder down toward the library. “…We stopped ‘em today. But they’ll find their balls again if we let ‘em. Best if you come with us, Keeper. We can keep you safe, an’ if y’ain’t there then ‘yer enemies won’t have no reason ‘ta hurt ‘yer people.”

“…They’ll come for the others, too. The ones who sided with me.”

“Already taken care of,” Vark promised her. He looked over Uku at his men. “Get her ‘ta safety.”

Uku didn’t resist this time. As more Gao poured past her into the library to restore order and save those who could be saved, she allowed Garr-avf and Hoeff to fall in alongside her and lead her to the surface.

Somehow she knew, however, that she would never see the library again.

Date point: 17y3m3w1d AV
Dodge City, Ford County, Kansas, USA, Earth

Austin Beaufort

“Shit, Austin, you look like you took a dump and found a kidney in the bowl. You okay, baby?”

Austin had experienced worse hangovers, but at least those left some clue as to what on Earth he’d done to earn the pain. This one? It’d come outta nowhere. He just woke up in his bed and felt like someone had beaten his brain flat with a sledgehammer, and then went after the rest of him for an encore.

He wasn’t exactly old…hell, he weren’t even twenty-five yet! And he hadn’t let himself go from his athletic glory days, either…which kept the ladies interested, and was usually how he earned his hangovers…well, not since Lauren decided to go steady. Come to think of it, why wasn’t she suffering? They did everything together these days…

…Whatever. He didn’t want to think about it. He just wanted a full belly and something to drink.

“Fuck, I don’t even know.” He leaned over and gave her a kiss, then sat opposite her. “I just woke up feeling like shit.”

“Aww. Man flu?”

Aching head or not, Austin laughed. “Fuck you, babe,” he said, affectionately.

“Later.” She winked at him with her trademark big grin. “I wanna make the best of my time before you get into tillage and planting.”

“I thought you liked how I plow…”

“Pervert.” She smirked, and frisbeed a menu at him. “I’ve got tables to wait. Try not to whine too much.” And with that she stood back up and spun away from him with a cute little swish of her skirt…

“I’ll have the usual!” he called after her, feeling better already. She turned, grinned, waggled her notepad at him, and got back to work. Austin sat back and let out a deep breath. He still felt beaten-up, but that’d mend. And she sure looked pretty as hell with that ring on her finger…


Life was good.

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

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Mother Earth

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

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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

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

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 5

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 4

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 2

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 4

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

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

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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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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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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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-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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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

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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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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

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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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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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