The Deathworlders – Chapter 66: Unbowed Part 2

Date Point:17y4m2w AV
High Mountain Fortress, the Northern Plains, Gao

Daar, Great Father of the Gao

“That will almost certainly be a bloody campaign, My Father.”

Daar nodded sadly. “I know. Gotta do it, though. We ain’t got no right ‘ta come along, stick our noses’n their business, an’ leave ‘em so unstable they can’t fuckin’ cope.”

Vark knew all that, of course. So did the other Champions. They were bound by duty to advise Daar of the consequences, of course—not that they’d ever spelled out those duties anywhere, but whatever—and he wasn’t gonna dissuade ‘em of what was a generally good idea.

Also, this was one of the most bestest opportunities he’d had in a long, long while to delegate. He’d been making a habit of that, getting the Champions and his staff much more personally invested in running things, and leading, and mebbe get ‘em a share o’ the glory, too.

He had a reason for that. Daar wasn’t a Great Father like Fyu. He, and any prehistoric Great Fathers who mebbe preceded him, were the creatures they were because life was short, glory was cheap, and their society weren’t nearly so complex as it were in the modern era.

Probably that was by Hierarchy design.

Which meant that Daar couldn’t think like a Great Father from their ancient history. He couldn’t rule like one, either. He was becoming something else out of necessity. Something possibly far, far worse. Daar was becoming an emperor, in the full and terrible sense of the word. He needed to be, because the Gao had built a complex, fragile, inter-connected society that needed competent stability now more than it ever had.

And he had to be that because the Gao couldn’t jump straight to a Republic. Their apparatus of state looked like early medieval Europe and was even more informal. Evolving past that weren’t gonna be a thing Daar lived to see, prob’ly, even if he ended up livin’ another hunnerd years…or more, as was becoming worryingly likely from Corti science-magic. No. First, they needed a King and an Emperor to build the institutions and the trust they needed. Informally, the Deathworlders needed a single leader, too. That was probably egotistical as fuck but the more Daar looked at the situation, the more he grew to realize nobody else was in a position to do it, and even if they were…nobody else was good enough.

The American President? No. Powerful though he was, he was fundamentally a national leader, not the ruler of an empire. Governors governed and Presidents presided. It was right there in the name. People mighta claimed all sortsa stupid things ‘bout American power, but an empire it weren’t. the American President’s concerns were, ultimately, domestic. And that was more true the more they stepped out on the galactic scene, really. It’d be way more true once Chambliss had his way, for good or bad. No. The President couldn’t do it. Neither could any of Earth’s other Prime Ministers and Presidents.

His Majesty the King? …No. The history was there, but…not anymore. He reigned over a commonwealth and a set of kingdoms with the most ridiculously complex an’ tangled history. Reigned, but didn’t rule. At least…not directly. He embodied rulership, without necessarily wielding it.

That was an advanced notion of government the Gao were completely unprepared to accept.

The Given-Men? Yan had far bigger problems in his granite-breaking hands. But his concerns were also much, much too small for the scale needed. He had to guide his people through contact an’ that was just a terrible, horrible thing, when a man really sat down and had a think about it.

Nope. There weren’t nobody else who could be what Daar was or could be. Maybe that was even a good thing.

“Lemme say my intent, here. My first priority is in preservin’ their cultural heritage. Right now, that’s the libraries. My second priority is ‘ta de-escalate this ‘fore it’s a forever kinda thing. I’m not sure how we’re gonna do that. Might be we can’t, but if we can, we gotta. But not at the expense o’ the first thing.”

A lot of eyes turned to Gyotin, who calmly shook his head. “I have no insight,” he said. “Right now they’re angry and their world—the whole universe—has been flipped the wrong way up. There’s no quick fix to a spiritual and theological crisis like that. Maintaining order is going to be a question of force and patience.”

“Yeah.” Really, that was all that could be said. “So. This here, my, uh, ‘privy council’ or ‘cabinet’ I guess is what the Humans call it, is gonna be the lead on figgerin’ this out. This is prob’ly gonna need the Conclave’s involvement at some point, just ‘cuz it’s gonna need resources, and buy-in, and…”

Uriigo, as ever, found this to be an appropriate moment for some in-Clan grandstanding. “Privy council? Approval from the Conclave? Why, My Father, that sounds like a lot of Human thought being applied to our own affairs.”

…Gods. That fucking Champion. Some days it took everything Daar had not to just snap him in half. It weren’t that he was angry at Uriigo’s point, so much as the intent behind raising it; he knew Uriigo was in a tenuous position in his Clan, and he needed to show some measure of defiance ‘ta keep his cred. But the Bronzefurs were always only a bad mistake or two away from piracy and oblivion, so over time Daar had learned to just expect it.

He did enjoy fucking with Uriigo in turn, though.

“That’s ‘cuz ‘yer right ‘fer a change, Champion o’ Bronzefur. The Humans did all this shit centuries ago an’ we’d be dumb as fuck ‘ta ignore that. I can’t be an absolute dictator ‘fer everything, and I can’t be one ‘ferever. Somethin’s gotta be there ‘fer when I can’t. An’ I can appreciate that mebbe you ain’t happy ‘bout what that’s gonna mean…but it ain’t gonna be Clans fightin’ again. That’s what the fuckin’ malware did ‘ta us.”

“A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from,” Gyotin observed.

“Some might say all of this…delegation…is a means of evading responsibility…”

Nope. Not gonna take it. Not even gonna get a proper rise outta ‘ol Daar today.

“I’m responsible anyway. It’s a means o’ showin’ trust in my Champions an’ their Clans. ‘Cuz you’re mine whether you want it or not, an’ that means I get the blame ‘fer ‘yer fuckups, too.”

Remi ndin’ Uriigo—an’ the other Champions, too—of just who and what belonged to whom was definitely aggressive. But he was obviously feeling saltier than usual anyway, and had another rejoinder ready to go. “Or perhaps, a way to increase your…free time…”

Ah, that was his gambit. Impugn Daar’s work ethic. Well, that was…pretty artless, really, but whatever. Daar had a response for that too. “Absolutely! Know what I’m gonna do after this? I’m gonna go toss weights around heavier’n ‘ya couldn’t never dream o’ budgin,’ an’ I’m gonna look fuckin’ good doin’ it. Prob’ly gonna break some records ‘fer fun too, jus’ ‘ta make sure ain’t nobody ever gonna fuckin’ catch me. Not gao, not Human, not Ten’Gewek. Not nobody.

Daar snarled from his belly in a mostly non-threatening sorta way and flicked his ears playfully; he was enjoying himself, and there weren’t no point givin’ Uriigo the sense he’d got under the Great Father’s fur. “‘Know what I’ll do next? I’m gonna court some Females, visit a Commune an’ fulfill a few more matin’ contracts I got queued up, then mebbe go visit Foltcha and do it all again there, too. And I’m gonna do it with a totally clear conscience ‘cuz I’ll know all the way down my back that I did my duty ‘ta these people an’ to the Gao.

With that, he stood up from his spot on the floor and pranced to the doorway with a deliberately thumpy gait, so the more easily-swayed among them could feel his presence through the ground, backed by a visual reminder of just what kind of creature the Great Father truly was. “An’ it’s worth mebbe pointin’ out something: ‘yer my Champions I trust ‘ta do the job an’ do the right thing. Even if some of ‘ya—” he made eye contact with Uriigo, because there was a time for subtlety and this weren’t it, “—might be more interested in scorin’ points in ‘yer Clan than’s prob’ly a good thing. Y’all get some thinkin’ in, an’ get some fun in too. ‘Cuz when I come back, ‘yer gonna advise me. Yijao?”

There were attentive nods all around. He stood there on four-paw and looked over his Privy Council Champions, tensed to show he was always and forever ready for action. It had the intended effect; even Uriigo nodded along. Too bad about him, really. If it weren’t for his Clan’s actions during the War, maybe things wouldn’t have been so bitter between them…

Anyway. One last point to make, because insulting the Great Father could not go unpunished.

“Outstanding. ‘Yer welcome ‘ta join me, Uriigo…but ‘Horse ain’t gonna be happy when I crush all his lifts. Dunno if you can handle my friends when they’re cranky…”

One of Daar’s most favoritest things to do when he was dealing with incorrigibly belligerent ass-tails like Uriigo, was to hide a really deep insult inside something that didn’t sound like much of an insult at all. Anyone who weren’t thinking too hard would have just heard any of what Daar said and thought, “same ‘ol dumb meathead Daar.”

But the Champions weren’t dumb. And Uriigo absolutely caught the implied…free time…such an invitation would entail. Daar weren’t ashamed to admit, he enjoyed Uriigo’s impotent anger…

The Champion clearly felt he’d done enough poking at the Great Father for one day, though. He ducked his head in the bare minimum acceptable gesture of respect. “I hope you enjoy yourself, My Father.”

“Oh, I will. My Champions, you are dismissed. We reconvene next week.”

He left them to sort things out. Delegation was important, in that (in Daar’s view) it made the difference between a benevolent dictator and a tyrant. It also let him lead by means other than violence and brute force. A Great Father could set an example by playing with cubs or digging ditches just as much as he could by smashing skulls and layin’ down the law.

He preferred the cubs and ditches, too. Time to go find some.

Date Point: 17y4m2w AV
Starship Silent But Deadly, Relay system, Deep uncharted space


Tooko had three simultaneous problems, because of course he did. But multitasking was what Tookos did best, so like always, he just quietly got his tail unkinked and got it done.

Problem the first: A swarm of Hierarchy drones kept kamikaze-ramming his ship, and the shield was accumulating heat worryingly fast.

Problem the second: Capacitor power was down to 87%. Already.

Problem the third: the fucking ramp was jammed, leaving a gaping hole in the ship’s armor for the drones to get in once the shields dropped.

Well, he could solve all three of those in one fell swoop. He just needed to survive the next thirty-one ticks while the array capacitors charged.

“Ferd! Get my ramp closed!”

No response. A very quick glance at the monitor showed the big stinky brute was lying flat on the floor, gasping for breath with a hand clutched over his heart. Right. He was recovering from his overly heroic exertions. The humans, though, they had a little left in the tank… and frankly, knew a bit more about being mechanics anyway.

“Forward actuator’s fucked, mate!” Rees called back.

“Just cut it off and dump it!!” Tooko called back. He swiped a claw at some controls on his right, and spent five percent of his power reserve on a pulse of searing energy from the shields that turned the leading drones into melted, ruined wreckage raining down on the forest below.

Not like a little forest fire was going to matter in a few ticks anyway…

With that, Rees struck up his “lightsaber”—really a long fusion-edge machete—and chopped it off right at the hinge. He couldn’t do the same to the other end and, seeing the ramp wouldn’t close unless the actuator was properly stowed, channeled a bit of Ten’Gewek spirit and bent the Daar-damned thing back, then hacked it off too.

Frasier pulled him back by his belt and slapped the button, and, thank fuck, the ramp agreed to close this time.

Good. only two problems left to contend with.

Problem one was solving itself too: the drones just didn’t have SBD’s aerodynamic profile, and as Tooko pushed the flight fields into a long dart configuration and piled on the speed, he left them behind.

That just left the capacitor—now on 78%—and problems 4 and 5, namely the imminent detonation of an excessively large bomb behind him, and the imminent arrival of several excessively large warships in orbit above him.

The bomb might just solve the spaceship problem, though. There was definitely an Agent in charge right now, the drones and everything were acting way too smart to be automated. Smashing the Relay would sever control and—

He heaved the stick to the right and threw in some rudder pedal too as the tone for a hostile target lock yelped in his ear. A column of brilliant light the color of copper plasma missed him by a bare margin, adding to the heat load on the shields.

Fuck it.

He triggered the bomb.

Far behind him, exotic energy was pulled in from somewhere else as the bomb’s physics package did twisted, maniacal things to spacetime. The air and ground around it absorbed an infinitesimal fraction of that energy, and instantly converted to plasma.

…He didn’t really know how the damn thing worked. But it would make the Keeda tale of a lifetime, and get him laid at least three times. If he survived.

A lot more of the energy burst speared upwards out of the atmosphere and the two heavy contacts overhead promptly became lots of smaller contacts. That would have been SBD, too, if Tooko hadn’t put several hundred kilometers of planetary curvature between them and the warhead.

But now, he was racing a hypersonic shockwave. Somewhere behind him, a pressure pulse was spreading through both the sky and the ground, turning both into a travelling wave of raw smashing force, and from this close? Both were equally dangerous.

That countdown timer wasn’t moving nearly fast enough. He could hear the whine of the hypercapacitors building, and building…

And through the rear sensors, he could watch the world rip itself apart. Whole mountains were leaping into the air to chase them.


He shot out over an ocean, so fast that the shore vanished into the fracturing horizon before he’d even properly noticed it.


The sea flash-boiled: a wall of salty steam became the whole sky.


Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck….

Blue light.


Black space. And stars.

Tooko let out his breath very, very slowly, and flexed his fingers to release some of the pain and tension in his knuckles.

Radio sync. IFF beacon codes matched.

Right. They’d escaped. Now they had a medical emergency in stasis to deal with.

…Make that two medical emergencies. When Tooko glanced over his shoulder, he realized that Frasier and Rees were kneeling next to Ferd, working on him. The cables and sticky pads of a defibrillator on the big man’s chest told most of the story, as did the large injector that Nomuk was handing to Rees.

His dismayed stare was interrupted by a new and blessedly welcome voice on the radio, speaking English with a Gaori accent. “Silent But Deadly, this is Cimbrean border patrol cutter ‘Warding Shard.’ Heave to and state your purpose, over.”

“Warding Shard, we are declaring a medical emergency, I have…” Tooko glanced over his shoulder again. Frasier and Rees were groaning with effort as they heaved Ferd upright and into a stasis chamber, who was obviously in great pain. Thank fuck the huge brute was still conscious, or they’d have had to leave him on the floor to suffer. Tumik’s foot was swelling badly, and Genn looked about as weak as a kitten. “…Two patients in stasis, one Human, one Ten’Gewek. Several minor injuries besides that, but I’m not a doctor.”

“Copy. Stand by.”

Well. Tooko donned his headset and headed back to see what he could do.

Not a lot, as it turned out. All of the team were sporting burns or painful bleeding injuries from where molten metal had sprayed across the deck, though Wilde catching most of it in the face had spared them the worst. The Ten’Gewek were a bit luckier, with their thick leathery skin, but that wasn’t much of an improvement.

Silent But Deadly, you’re authorized to land on inspection platform one. Follow M-LAN and monitor frequency one-two-four point five.”

“Follow M-LAN for IP-1, monitor one-two-four decimal five, Silent But Deadly.” Tooko read back, and set the ship in motion.

The inspection platforms were a new-ish addition to Cimbrean’s security arsenal in the fight against Hierarchy infiltration. Parked outside the system fields they were exactly what the name suggested: landing platforms hanging in space, with air retention fields and customs inspection teams standing by. It was vastly cheaper and more practical than sending up a couple of HEAT operators whenever a ship arrived, especially now that Cimbrean was definitely a somewhere with a thriving trade station in orbit and five working spaceports on the ground below.

Of course, there’d be HEAT operators coming anyway. A returning JETS team got the full VIP treatment. In less stressful times, Tooko would have bet away a mating contract that Warhorse would come running when he heard they had wounded.

He turned out to be right. They settled on the platform, the field bubble went up, the air got pumped in, and moments later a pair of EV-MASS hustled across the platform and up to the ramp…

Which jammed again on the way down. ‘Horse just shrugged and yanked it open with an ear-shredding squeal of damaged metal.

He took a look around the inside, muttered something in Spanish (which Tooko didn’t speak a word of, but it sure sounded virulent, whatever it meant) and brusquely checked everyone’s heads for implants.

The other MASS was worn by Moho, who gave the damaged ramp a rueful look and got Tooko’s full damage report once it became clear that the guys out on the deck weren’t about to keel over dead, and the guys in stasis… well, they could stay there until other business was taken care of. A complete inspection revealed seven drones wedged in the ship’s hull, all thankfully fried by Tooko’s quick-thinking shield pulse before they could dig through the plating: Moho pried them out and secured them in their own stasis containers.

They were, eventually, given a clean bill of health. The ship, however, was not: Silent But Deadly wasn’t going to be doing any atmospheric descents until that ramp was repaired and certified.

But she was, when it came down to it, just a tool. When ‘Horse and Moho lifted the stasis chambers out of their slots and carried them toward the platform’s jump array, they took with them two endlessly more valuable lives. And Tooko honestly didn’t know if Wilde’s career had just come to an abrupt end. His face had been…

…Well…had been.

Tooko didn’t know anything about medicine. It was a magical art to him, sometimes able to perform miracles, sometimes completely incapable of solving what seemed like should be easy problems. In any case, he didn’t have the time. The ambulatory men were hustled off toward the waiting transport. Tooko had some safety protocols to accomplish, the shut-down checklist to finish.

And after that… He’d hoped he could relax, once they could get home. But instead, all he could do was worry. So he moved the ship to his Clan’s rented hangar aboard Armstrong Station, left it for the engineers to repair, and jumped down to Folctha.

He wanted to be there for Wilde when they brought him out of stasis.

Date Point: 17y4m2w AV
Planet Aru

AtaUmiUi, One of the Last

The chamber was not as decrepit as they had presumed it would be. No rust, no crumbling, no scent of mold or damp…

…No signal. No constant pulse in the back of the brain, force-feeding sickly, distracting pleasure. A kind of neural silence, except for the bright warmth of the others. Nearby, and sharing Ata’s surprise at the comparatively young condition of their tomb.

It looked almost as fresh as the day of their interment.

Ata sprung forward out of his stasis chamber, and subconsciously turned without looking to offer a hand for MaUmiOa. Her belly was getting heavy, and he sensed her need for physical assistance through the Link. He didn’t need to see her expression to sense his sister’s gratitude, tinged as it was with grief and loss. The baby’s father was far behind them in time, now.

Without words—there was no need for words, not among them—they spread across the chamber and accessed their terminals, checked the contents of their lockers and the presence of the few items they had wanted to keep.

There was a Huh on the counter next to Ata’s terminal. He picked it up and studied it for just a few heartbeats, turning the dimensionless ball over three times out of habit and reassurance, until he felt the fire in his gritted jaw drive away the uncertainty and fear.

He fired up the console.

It started without incident, and gave him his first desired datum almost as soon as it was fully awake: the date.

…Not long. Surprisingly not long. Ata had expected to emerge from stasis to find a gap of tens of thousands of years behind him. Instead…

…The galaxy had changed fast. The data flowed easily through the Link as though simply remembering a forgotten fact. The Dominion still existed, still bickered and argued. Three new species had joined its ranks: Gao, Human and Ten’Gewek…

…Curious. The definition for a sapient life form had been updated to accommodate that latter culture. They must be something special. They must be…

They were…

..The Hierarchy…

…Had failed.

The Last collectively looked at each other, a rare event for people who could know each other’s minds so easily. Unease returned, dampening the Huh’s influence. Deathworlders? The one thing the great enemy were committed above all else to eradicating? And now not only were three of them playing a role in Dominion politics, they were actively scorning Dominion politics and taking the initiative in a way that their fellow sapient species didn’t dare oppose. Ata was looking at a colossal cultural upheaval, all just in the last ten years or so.

Of course. The Hierarchy were an old structure, and poorly-maintained. When they had, finally, failed, the ensuing cascade of failure must have been inevitable.

And, intriguingly, there was still a place in the Dominion Council for an OmoAru representative. None had stood in that spot for lifetimes… but so long as there were still living Omo on the surface of Aru, the position remained.

And that was good.

Because Ata now wanted to meet these Deathworlders.

Date Point: 17y4m2w1d AV
HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Ferd Given-Man


Ferd’s heart felt like it wanted to explode. He couldn’t catch his breath, couldn’t do anything but clutch at his chest. His friends were helping, somehow, and then he was on his feet and shoved into the stay-sis box, and then he blinked and War-Horse yanked him out like a bibtaw from a hole, slammed him up against a new wall and stuck a tube in his mouth, right into Ferd’s tasting-hole which hurt even worse—

Right away, he started to feel better. He could breathe again. Slowly, he felt the world calming down, and whatever sky-magic his friends had poked him with was doing its work too. His heart slowed down, and Ferd started to feel very sleepy.

“Not yet, big guy. Drink these down.”

Another straw in his mouth and a flood of weird taste, like getting face-fucked by a lime. That was okay though. He liked any of the strange ‘sit-truss’ fruits and often ate them whole.

“There you go, dude. Provecho! Let’s just get you calmed down and refueled.”

The pain was going away, but gods. Ferd couldn’t remember ever being so tired, or so weak. Just nodding was a trial like his Rite of Manhood.

“What…happened?” he managed to splutter around the tubes.

“Remember when you did your big hero thing at the end? Well, you ditched your oxygen tank when you tossed your pack up into the ship. First thing I checked when they told me what happened.”

“Oh… yeah… weak air…” Like trying to breathe sting-buzzers. He remembered.

“Yup! But you were a fuckin’ hero anyway. We’ve got camera footage and everything. When you climbed that cliff, when you saved Tumik…”

Ferd turned his head. “…Wild?”

Adam’s wide, strong face contorted painfully. “He’s alive, and in surgery. He’s going to be in a lot of surgery for a while. His face was…”

“I saw.” Even through the pain and tiredness, Ferd had seen.

“We can probably fix it. We humans were good at this stuff before we ever met the rest of the galaxy. It’s his eyesight I’m worried about. Doctors think some metal vapor or whatever got around his eyepro and scalded his eyes.”

Ferd nodded. “Was a death-bird. Fusion wing, caught him right across the nose.”

“Yeah. Your own eyepro was destroyed by it, too. See?” Horse pulled out Ferd’s special big-faced Oakleys—or, what was left of them—and showed him.

Ferd trilled faintly. Even that hurt, somehow. “…I bet Nomuk will never complain about those ever again.”

“Yup. This right here is a lesson a guy only ever learns once.” ‘Horse managed a faint chuckle too. “Feeling better?”

“Not dying, which is good.” Ferd heaved a deep breath, glad to have strong air for his lungs. “…Might sleep.”

“Yeah. Here. I’mma take you to a recovery room, ‘kay?”

With that, War-Horse picked Ferd up like he was a little babe and thumped his way through some confusing hallways, until they came to a quiet, warm room. He pressed a button and some field sky-magic turned on. The gravity felt stronger, and he could taste the air growing stronger, and warmer, and wetter. Just like back home.

“I got this room set just right now, I think…anyway. Gotta pull that air tube out now. So, uh…go slowly.”

Ferd nodded, then hissed as the nasty thing slithered out of him. It was a lot longer than he’d thought, and took a few beats to come all the way out.

“How…how did you put this in me?!”

“I’m good. Also, I used a cannula. That’s a hard plastic bit I pull out once the hose is in.” ‘Horse grinned. “Trick with you fellas is to do it quick so you don’t bite me. Those fangs are nasty.”

With that, he threw a blanket over Ferd, left a big glass of water next to the bed, and left him in the quiet and warm.

Ferd slept. Afterwards, there was a nice doctor, with skin even darker than Jooyun’s and with a strange sound to his words. A different Human tribe, probably, but they were obviously friends so Ferd wasn’t worried. He’d been the one to heal Loor after the Brown One had stomped him. They did some simple things, like walk around the room, touch his toes, scratch his back, move his fingers. They took some pictures of his insides too, to make sure his heart wasn’t broken.

He was free to leave after that, with a stern warning that he had to rest for a few days. The first thing he did was ask to visit Wild.

What he visited was a mask of white cloth with tubes in it. Wild himself was asleep, kept that way by sky-medicine. Tooko was curled up on a chair next to him, nose-on-butt, but he uncurled and sat up when Ferd entered.

“You okay?”

“Not enough ock-see-gen. ‘Horse gave me more, and good sleep. Really hungry now, though.”

“Then go eat, you big dumbass.” Tooko’s chitter had a shiver in it, and Ferd’s hunger faded immediately. It took a lot to shake Tooko.

“I come and see if everyone’s okay, first,” he said, and sat on his tail next to Tooko. “…How bad is he?”

Tooko sighed, but some of that shiver went away. He considered their friend on the bed.

“He’s in a medically induced coma. Will be for the next few days. They’re using regenerative medicine but he was so torn up it’s going to take a while to work, and they’ll probably need to try several times to get things perfect.”

“And his eyes?”

Tooko shook his head. “He lost one. Other one’s… they’re hopeful.” He gave Wild a sympathetic look. “Eyes are difficult. Even Mother-supreme Yulna had a cybernetic her whole life.”

“Not even the Core-Tie?”

“Maybe. That’s a long story. For now, just…I dunno.”

“I pray to the gods for him.”

“…That sounds like a good idea.”

Prayer could be done a lot of ways. He sent a message to his favorite Singer with his fone. She replied that she would come visit and Sing for him, which was good. Ferd prayed by guarding him while he slept, and built up a nest-bed in the room so he could rest, too.

Wild had a lot of visitors. Some Ferd knew, others he didn’t, who he was polite to but kept a wary eye on. Daar visited, too. Knowing just what that bomb did, and knowing Daar…Ferd didn’t care what anyone said, Daar was some kind of a god even if he didn’t believe it himself. That seemed like a good blessing for Wild because the big furry man was so sad he made the air in the room taste like it, somehow.

Wild’s parents were there on the day the doctors let him wake up. He…

The doctors had put him back together. A healing like that was magical. But.

He looked like Ferd had punched his face flat. Or like a child had tried to sculpt his face out of mud. He almost didn’t look like Wild at all, but…

His smile was still there. Even if it obviously hurt him, and even if one of his eyes was still hidden away behind dressings. The doctors had saved the other one, thanks to Crude, and it twinkled brightly in his face as he hugged his mother and father and promised them he was okay.

The doctors and the ‘surgeons’ came in to explain everything to Wild. Ferd stayed, because Wild reached out and held his hand…he was scared. Very scared. Ferd could just taste it on the air, and he could feel it through Wild’s grip: desperately fierce. Smiling through it to keep others from seeing, but that was a lie that didn’t last between friends.

Afterwards, he inspected himself in a mirror.

“…Well… beats the fuck out of a box with a flag on it, I suppose.”

Ferd ambled up next to his friend and rested his head on Wild’s shoulder. He felt like he should say something good about it. “Doctors say, they can fix the rest. We need to get ‘fotos’ and videos and things, so they can—”

“Mess up this handsome mug even more?” Wild laughed, with an edge on it. “…Yeah. Sure my mum’s already digging out the old SD cards or whatever.”

“I have fotos too on my fone!”

“Ah, it’s not my face I’m worried about, mate.” Wild sighed heavily. “I’m sure they’ll put it right, eventually. I just…”

Ferd nodded. He knew. “I know a man with one eye. He got stung when he was a boy, when he was asleep in a tree above a stinger-nest. Didn’t stop him from hunting.”

“Yeah? He turned out alright?”

“Awful spear-thrower. Strong, though. Could carry a young bull all by himself almost as young as I could. And he’s a good fighter up close. Even now I would not want to fight him.” Ferd clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Besides. Tooko said about sigh-ber-net-icks. Meant to be just as good!”

“Hmm. Wonder if I should go for a realistic one or a badass black one or something.”

“Women love a good scar!”

“That right? Am I gonna need to barricade my bedroom door? ‘Cuz right now, I should be fighting ‘em off with a bloody stick.” Wild gestured to his misshapen features.

“Well…I think women like a good story more. Strong body, big cock gets you a good fuck, but good stories get you someone to warm your bed. And you, Wild Death-Eye, have a story better than almost any man.”

He got a real smile this time, not the brave one, and a real laugh to go with it. “…Alright, that’s fucking badass. I can live with that.”

“Good!” Ferd felt himself bouncy all-sudden, but restrained himself to an affectionate hug around Wild’s chest. Well…tail, too. Wild was a good man. “You tell story to all the pretty girls, yes? Women can’t resist! But, also? We all live because of you.”

“…I think Nomuk has you to thank, mate. And so do I.”

“I only ran because you told me to. We were only close enough to ship because you said so. Giving and Taking. Always there is balance, yes?”

Whatever Wild wanted to say next, he didn’t get the chance. The door burst open and Rees came to visit, carrying a large cake and a bag.

Ferd liked cake! Well. In small bites.

“Oi, there ‘e is! And fuck me, mate, I didn’t think you’d come out lookin’ better! Won’t miss that ugly fuckin’ mug of yours, that’s for sure.”

Wild laughed. “Fuck you, you inbred Welsh twat!”

They hugged, while Ferd shook his head with a trill. You had to really know Humans to see the love in such cruel words. The People would wrestle where they insulted, but that was okay. It was all the same thing in the end. Humans were strong in their words.

But Ferd could play that game too, and felt like he should say something. “You just jealous Rees. Wild gets the prettiest women!”

“You callin’ my wife ugly, mate?”

Wild cut in. “Sue? Nah. She’s just charitable, that’s all.”

Ferd missed something there, but he could fix that. He sidled up to Rees and hugged him too. “I just glad we all lived.”

“Hell yeah.” Rees nodded, and squirmed a bit so he could put the cake down. “Close fuckin’ call, like. But we made it.”

“Might be a while before the next one,” Wild said, ruefully glancing at the mirror again.

“…You’re already thinkin’ of the next one?” Rees shook his head. “You’re fuckin’ mental, mate.”

Wild just shrugged. “Job’s not finished.”

“Mm.” Rees glanced at Ferd, then shrugged, and grabbed a bottle of the dark brown fizzy “cola” from the bag he’d been carrying. He shrugged out of Ferd’s grasp, and shared the drink into three cups. “Well then. To the next one?”

Wild took the fizzing drink and nodded. “To the next one.”

They tapped the cups together and drank. The liquid felt weird on Ferd’s tongue, but he ignored it. All that mattered to him was that he had the strongest friends a man could ask for.

They could figure the rest out later.

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Implications

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 25 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Monty Publishing House, New Baltimore Slowly gathering myself I stepped into the hologram chamber, the projection flickered and the simulation automatically paused as I stepped in. I quickly looked around to get my bearings, I appeared to be on a starship bridge enduring greatly exaggerated

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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

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Shades of White and Orange

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

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Mother Earth

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

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 2

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

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Adam, Artemis, Atlas, & Icarus Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 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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