The Deathworlders – Chapter 66: Unbowed Part 3

Date Point: 17y5m AV

Clan Firefang headquarters, The Great Isthmus, Gao


Clan meant politics. And Tooko hated politics. Oh, he was definitely good at it, like he was good at most things—a Brother needed to know his strengths—but that didn’t mean he reveled in it. He’d much rather be out there, doing what he first learned to do on the runway just outside the headquarters.

Clan Firefang was among the youngest. That was the way of a Clan system built around specialization, and fighter pilots were a fairly recent vocation. Even the Longears were older, if one counted their early days laying undersea cable and telegraph wires.

Every Clan had its moment of recognition, too, and Firefang’s had come shortly after the development of fixed-wing flight. The military applications had been immediately apparent, and Gao had never exactly been a peaceful world, so there’d come a point where One-Fang and Firefang had… parted ways.


Other Clans had stepped in before that vigorous parting grew too bloody, and Firefang had been unofficially acknowledged by the others. They did that, of course, because Straightshield and Stoneback had made it abundantly clear what their desired outcome had been…

Things had changed in recent history. There was a Great Father, now. The Conclave was once again active and feeling out the scope and extent of its power. A standing committee of the most powerful and influential Clans had become the Great Father’s private council, and were beginning to feel out their power, too.

And, of course, Daar himself had torn the throat out of the prior Champion. Halti had been buried in the cold ground, a disgrace before the Conclave, before the Great Father had even been recognized. Consecrated. Crowned.

And there was the big issue that pretty much all of Firefang’s politics revolved around nowadays. Because while Champions came and went, sure, usually they came and went in response to internal events. New talent rose to supplant the old incumbent, or else the wiley veteran kept the upstarts in check… either way, the Champion kept the Clan sharp.

Having their leader, representative and figurehead brutally slaughtered in a heartbeat by another Clan’s Champion was… well, over the course of Gao’s history, Clans had warred and been eradicated for less. But who could stand against Stoneback? Not even Straightshield could, if it ever came to that. It would take all the Clans, and most of the martial Clans were already allied with them.

Stoneback ruled with an iron paw, and always had. Maybe they’d let their fur grow soft over the millennia since that truth had come to be, but the reality of it was always there.

And what Champion would dare stand face-to-face against Daar? It wasn’t just what he could do to anyone so stupid, or how easily he could do it. It was that he perfectly willing to do so, without an instant of hesitation.

…And so on. Grievance and wounded pride were at war with simple practicality in the Clan’s heart, made all the worse by the fact that it hadn’t just been the Champion, or the Champion and the Grandfather for that matter.

Most of Firefang had been implanted. Cybernetic enhancement had been the norm among the Clan’s pilots, certainly Tooko would have gone for it if he’d been a year or so older… And every single one of the enhanced Brothers had been put down. The Clan was a shadow of its former self. Brought low by a relentlessly logical act of dispassionate violence. Practical brutality at its absolute deepest expression. Obviously necessary, and inflicted by a truly charismatic leader.

One whose side Tooko had firmly taken. And that was a polarizing thing, nowadays.

It never came to overt hostility, though. Nobody could afford that, not with the Great Father’s “pet pilot.” But Tooko knew good and well that those two words flew around a lot when he wasn’t in earshot. Usually, anyway. One or two less discrete fools knew just how sharp Tooko’s claws were.

And he did have some allies…

“Got our ship damaged, did you? You do know they work better in the air?”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t be bothered to care, what with the hundreds of fusionblade-wielding drones, the full might of the Hierarchy in orbit above me, and a gigaton-class warhead’s energies chasing me down.”

“Hmm. The Tooko I know would have got out of that without a scratch. You must be slipping!”

“And a good man lost an eye over this. I fail to see the humor.”

Father Mereek sighed, and ducked his head. “Humor’s your shield against the darkness, pup,” he said fondly, and they traded the nose-sniffs of old friends. Mereek had been Tooko’s first flight instructor. “But, you always were a serious one.”

“And you were never serious enough.” Tooko retorted. He was glad to see the old joker, though. He just wasn’t in any mood at all for joking.

Fortunately, Mereek knew him well. He duck-nodded affably and they ambled down the long corridor beside the airfield, where the huge floor-to-ceiling windows let them watch new pilots learn the basics of how to gain a plane safely off the ground… and back down onto it, too. The other wall was dominated by various trophies, art pieces, accolades and other Clan keepsakes. Pride of place went to a piece of Hunter broodship, a flat, shredded armor plate mounted up there as a reminder of a particularly fine kill.

“How is your friend?” Mereek asked.

“I’ll give the Humans this, their cosmetic surgeons are pretty incredible. By the time he woke up, he had a face again. He never saw how bad it really was.”

“That must have helped.”

“Well… Maybe.” Tooko paused to consider an antique photo of the team of enterprising young males who’d first got a flying machine off the ground, hundreds of years ago. “It’s out of my hands, really. I worry for him, but worrying for him won’t achieve anything, so…”

“True enough.”

“…So why was I called back?”

“You didn’t hear? The Champion actually defended his position.”

Tooko flicked his ear. “Really? I thought Goruu was…well, he wasn’t exactly a high-degree brawler, yijao?”

“So did the challenger. Tyimu sure got a nasty surprise!” Mereek chittered.

“Well, that’s… interesting, I suppose, but what does it have to do with me?”

“Now that Goruu actually has some of the old authority, not just being thrust into the role because he was the first one the Great Father laid eyes on, he’s decided the time has come to actually put some of it to work.” Mereek indicated the airfield. “He wants to increase recruitment and expand our mandate.”

“And he wants me to be the pretty face of the recruiting campaign,” Tooko guessed.

“He’s on your side, it seems. Then again, both of you were personally picked by the Great Father, so I suppose that makes sense…”

Tooko bristled at that. “The Great Father picked me because I’m good. I’m one of the best damn pilots we’ve got, and that was true before the War, too.”

“And now the Champion’s proved he’s good too. Tyimu was no mewling cub.”


“Well, still isn’t. But he’s not as handsome any more!” Mereek chittered again.

“Still. The Champion and I aren’t cut from the same die,” Tooko sniffed, still feeling a little insulted.

“Careful, cub. That ego of yours is flaring up again.”

“Why should I say yes? I have things to do! I have ships to fly and missions to complete!”

“Because it’ll be good for the Clan,” Mereek replied, suddenly much more serious. “And the Clan put you where you are, Tooko. The Clan found, cultivated and enabled your talents. The Clan is the reason you have those ships to fly and those missions to complete, and now the Clan needs your help so that more talent can be cultivated, so more ships can be flown and more missions completed. You owe the Clan your duty, young Brother. You do not get to decide what that duty entails. It would be better if you voluntarily agreed…”

“…Because the alternative is the Champion claws my tail off.” Tooko sighed. A competent Champion who could legitimately back up his authority with violence really was a different proposition. “Fine, fine. I suppose I’m probably grounded until Wilde recovers anyway… what do I need to do?”

Mereek chittered again, his good humor returning now that he’d finished being firm.

“Oh,” he said. “You’re going to love this…”

Date Point: 17y5m AV
The Clawhold, liberated planet, former Hunter space

Ginn, aide to Grandfather Vark

There was a duty that came with totally destabilizing people’s lives, no matter how awful the stability had been. Even if that duty turned bloody, the Gao had a responsibility to bring a new kind of order to E-Skurel-Ir life.

And the problem with order—if it was a problem—was that ultimately it always came down to violence. Order was what people adopted when the alternative was death. Work together, or be destroyed.

For the Gao, throughout most of their history, loyal cooperation had been how Clans and their clanless peasantry survived in the face of other Clans. The Gao had united in the face of other Gao, basically. Civil war (of a low intensity) was their norm.

Never had it become a religious conflict, though. The Gao were too pragmatic for that. Their passions were for brotherhood and courting females. Intense ideology was almost an alien concept. Ginn sure as balls hadn’t ever found a cause like that. He’d found… purpose? A way to be worthy and to shoulder his own burden? Utility? Whatever it was he’d found in the Grand Army, it hadn’t been what the humans called a crusade.

The E-Skurel-Ir, though? Their whole world was a crusade. Every fiber of their skinny, stringy bodies was devoted to the pursuit of Higher Purpose. They wanted the world to be orderly and sensible, and a lot of them had gladly plunged themselves into senseless chaos rather than abandon that vision.

Blood was running in the tunnels. So it fell to the Gao to try and stem the bleeding.

It wasn’t happening unopposed. After centuries of cowering under Hunter rule, the E-Skurel-Ir were fighting again, with the mad, frantic clumsiness of a pacifist in a melee. They were passionate but undisciplined, and weakened by lifetimes of malnutrition. Probably that affected their cognitive development, too. Their tactics weren’t exactly clever.

But they knew the tunnels intimately, and they weren’t above deploying the dirtiest traps and tricks. Whole subterranean cities were effectively off-limits to the Gao: it would have been like sending their units straight into an industrial grinder.

Besides, the Grand Army’s goal wasn’t to clear them out and kill them all. It was to get them to calm down. It was to end the burning ceremonies, where books and heretics alike met a fiery, cruel end. Getting them to calm down basically meant breaking their will to fight, and so to that end, there were two goals.

Firstly, take control of the Libraries. That was proving tricky, but Daar had prioritized that at all costs and if that included gassing them out and literally excavating their way down, then so be it.

Secondly, neutralize the ringleaders. Capture preferred, conversion ideal, killing… when necessary. The latter was more of a Stoneback and Whitecrest operation, and they weren’t pulling any punches. The ‘Backs went in with as much fierce visage as they could manage: vicious skulls painted on their masks, polished, exposed claws…

The Whitecrests preferred to act as invisible terror. They preferred to strike them in their safe spaces, when everyone should be asleep…

And only after they’d slunk away, would the Stonebacks hammer their way in. It didn’t matter that they lived through the raid; the Gao were being careful, there. Mostly, they just went up to an internment camp on Gao, where they got to experience clean air and rations and crushing boredom…

And then the Grand Army would get involved. Their job was to clean out everything else and occupy the territory. They were learning to seismically map the tunnels, search for air currents, build redoubts…

It was gonna be years, if the zealots fought to the very last.

Not that the zealots were a big part of the population. Most of the E-Skurel-Ir were still living the same life they always had, mortally afraid of the powerful aliens who ruled the surface, trying to make sense of a universe that routinely treated them like a chew-toy. When it came to the conflict between the staunch Penitents and Ukusevi’s faction—known to themselves as the Saved, and to the Penitents as the Fooled—most E-Skurel-Ir just kept their heads down.

The Penitents though… they embraced suffering. Their uniform was rags, or outright nudity, their battle cry the rattling cough of damaged lungs, scarred from breathing unfiltered surface air. They believed in the deliverance of a Punishment embraced, and the promised reward for the life that came after. They cared almost nothing for themselves, unless they were well and truly pushed.

But, like all cults, the leaders weren’t so fervent as the followers. And even where they were, much of that fervor died out in the internment camps. Clean air and bland food tamped most any high spirits. Some of them were even growing downright calm, and the tricky business of rehabilitation was beginning to rear its head.

Vark was obviously in agreement, as he read through the staff report.

“Shoulda figgered the locals’d give us more trouble’n the Hunters,” he grumbled.

He was hosting Champion Thurrsto, who’d come along to personally oversee and participate in some of the trickier infiltrations. Thanks to him, there were a few prophets in custody who might otherwise have had to be put down more… emphatically. Ginn had got a hint of how the Whitecrests worked just from watching them head out on a mission, and was quite convinced that he found them even scarier than the Stonebacks, now. At least you’d see the Stonebacks coming.

Having an impending meeting with the Great Father, the two had come together to compare notes and make sure they were appropriately well-informed and coordinated.

“The Hunters had the option of retreating,” the Champion pointed out. “The E-Skurel-Ir are stuck here. They can’t leave even if they wanted to. They’re cornered, with no way out, and that always means fighting harder.”

“Dumbasses shouldn’t be fightin’ at all,” Vark opined, irritably, but he accepted the Champion’s point with a duck-nod and a shrug. “It’s such a fuckin’ waste o’ potential.”

Thurrsto duck-nodded sadly. “Yes it is. But our initial xenopsychological profiles on them seem to be bearing fruit. Those we’re holding in confinement seem to respond very well to high nutrition and predictable structure. Their health is improving dramatically, as is their behavior.”

“What ‘bout the Saved who went offworld?”

“Only a few have been to their new world so far, but those that have…” Thurrsto seemed suddenly quite uncomfortable. “Well. I won’t glaze it over. They’re having some sort of intense religious experience over the whole thing. Which to me seems like the same problem, just in the opposite direction. Champion Gyotin is quite worried.”

“Yeah, he tol’ me about it. Said the term is ‘cargo cult.’” Vark sniffed expressively. “…Y’ever notice how wherever there’s a term for somethin’ really ball-bitin’ weird, it’s always a Human expression?”

Ginn felt he had an insight, there. “They’ve had millennia to be Deathworlder weird without the Hierarchy in their heads.”

Thurrsto flicked his ear in amusement. “I like him! You aren’t afraid to speak your mind, are you?”

“I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly if I was a meek little cub, sir,” Ginn flicked a mischievous look at Vark.

That earned a harrumph from Vark, and a full-blown chitter from the Champion.

“Careful, Vark. I may try to poach him.”

“An’ I might hafta have ‘yer nuts on a plate if you try,” Vark replied, amiably. “But that’s okay. I picked ‘em ‘cuz he don’t give two watery shits ‘bout protocol, don’t’cha?”

Vark had his fangs exposed, which was…a clear message. But his tail was wagging, too.

“I’d like to think I know when protocol matters and when it hinders,” Ginn retorted.

“Ha! Well, anyhoo.” Vark stood and made toward the door. “I think we’re all in agreement over what we’re gonna say. Ginn, go make arrangements please, me an’ Thurrsto are goin’ to see the Great Father. And you, Thurrsto…” Vark turned to the hulking Whitecrest, “Lookin’ ‘ta poach my best talent, eh? Well now, I find myself curious jus’ what a HEAT-grade Whitecrest operator can really do…wanna spar? We’ve got a few minutes, I think…”

Ginn suppressed an internal sigh. High-degrees were relentlessly competitive, even across breeds. He instead duck-nodded and took his leave to make arrangements, while the two enjoyed their rough play together.

Though he had to admit, sparring was a fantastic way to burn stress away…

Anyway. Best to put his mind off of religious zealots and powerful Clan Champions.

“The jump is in twenty minutes, Grandfather.”

”More’n enough time ‘ta put ‘em in his place…g’on, Ginn. We’ll follow in a few minutes.”

“Yes sir.” They both had their ears up and the start of pant-grins on their face…well, if they were happy, Ginn wasn’t going to complain. He left them to it.

He was pretty excited about the jump, actually. He’d be going back to Gao for the first time since arriving here! Gao, with its clean cold air and clear waters and—whisper it—some females who might just find him a lot more interesting now that he had a respectable job…

Even if that last part didn’t pan out, the rest was still enticing enough. It wasn’t a vacation, but it certainly beat staying on this polluted war-clawed rock.

He could do with a moment’s peace.

Date Point: 17y5m AV
Dodge City, Kansas, USA, Earth

Austin Beaufort

Austin couldn’t put his finger on exactly why, but lately he was feeling motivated. Well, more motivated than usual, anyway, and he was the kinda dude to get up at four in the morning for his pre-work jog, so…

It was a bunch of little things. He put in a bit more effort to keep the shop clean. Did a little more pre-planting agronomy research than he’d ever done before. Maybe they’d try out some promising new hybrids he’d heard about down at the bar! The stuff they’d been planting since forever on their rotation was pretty damn good, but still; it’d be nice to cut down on inputs.

Maybe he’d buy that no-till air drill this year, too. They’d already moved from dragging a chisel plow through every field every year to a much cheaper vertical tillage program, so it wasn’t that much of a change, really…well, weeds might be a problem. He’d really need to sit down and do the math on what no-till might mean for his herbicide bills…

He wasn’t eating so much junk food–and honestly, probably a good idea since his abs had definitely been getting a bit softer. Better to actually be a dad before he gave in to the dad bod!

And better to be a hot dad!

There were just… lots of little ways he suddenly wanted to go harder on everything. Eating right, sleeping right, not half-assing a job, managing his time better… He didn’t know what exactly had kicked him in the ass. Maybe it was the realization that he was getting married to a woman that, honestly, he probably didn’t deserve. Maybe he’d just felt an itch. Who knew?

He’d decided that he’d keep it up, though. Yeah. Definitely keep it up, even if he started to feel fat and happy again. Maybe that’s all a guy needed to do. Don’t let the slump get you down, don’t fall into the routine too hard.

…Maybe he should go fool around with Lauren. She was off work, after all…

Well. Okay. After he talked with the dealer. It was definitely time to take the plunge into full precision ag, no-till or not. Maybe strip till instead? He could do that if he went all in, after all. His checkbook was gonna be hurtin’ but…well, things were coming up on depreciation, and all his equipment still had good resale value…

Gotta spend money to earn money, after all. And he wanted to have the farm in good working order for Lauren.

He hummed merrily to himself as he worked.


Six had encountered the concept of banging his head against a wall before, both as a gesture of frustration and as a metaphor for futility. Though the act itself was meaningless to a digital sophont, right now, both versions were applicable.

No matter how much he pushed, no matter what he tried, Austin just seemed to grow more inspired to be a better farmer! His ambitions really didn’t extend beyond what he was already doing, and Six was having no success whatsoever in inspiring him to think beyond that little box.

It was… simultaneously wretched and yet honestly marvellous at the same time. And so very, aggravatingly, relentlessly human! Six had learned more than he ever wanted to know about tillage. Just…apparently the simple act of digging in the dirt was several sciences all on its own, and Austin spent endless time agonizing over just how much he should dig, or if he should dig at all, or how he should dig…worrying about soil structure, inoculants for his peas…

Madness! He had the body and mind to conquer a whole star system if he wanted to! Austin Beaufort could have effortlessly become the emperor of some distant simpering planet full of lesser beings, but Six had spent long enough now prompting him to pursue his innermost, darkest passions to know that Austin’s innermost darkest passion was… farming.

Farming. Digging a hole in the ground, planting a seed, and adding water.


Well, that and when his fiance called him “Daddy” in bed, but that seemed even less useful. Humans really spent far too much time indulging in bizarre, aggressive intromission.

He’d had to disconnect his sensory inputs to keep some semblance of awareness and sanity.

So. Six was stuck. The ship was safe at least, in that it was now parked securely in the depths of the Pacific ocean, thousands of kilometers from the nearest landmass. Indeed, the only thing of note in the area was the point humans had identified as being the furthest from land it was possible to get on their oversized, bloated, high-gravity deathtrap of a cradle world. Six could recall it any time he liked, but… why? Every time he did so he risked discovery. He could swap hosts, but he had no guarantee that the next one wouldn’t be fiercely committed to something even more banal.

At least Austin had resources. He might be the most aggravatingly unambitious host that Six had ever stepped into, but… well, ultimately it was to Six’s benefit if he became an agricultural powerhouse. Wealth and influence were wealth and influence.

Think upon it as a challenge. An opportunity to learn new and subtler forms of influence, and an opportunity to grow rich while remaining hidden.

Six’s moment would come, eventually. He had all the time in the world.

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Date Point: 16y3m6d HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Technical Sergeant Adam “Warhorse” Arés “Firth, I gotta ask ‘ya something.” Per Colonel Powell’s standing orders, they had the rest of the day off for individual training time after a mission. Adam always took maximum advantage, but some of the other operators might use

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Causal Results – Chapter 2

First Landing Earth, Florida, Launch pad 39A April 12, 2033 “Ignition Sequence start, five, four, three, two, one, lift off!” The crowds several miles away from the historic launch pad watched as the craft slowly began to move up into the atmosphere. Almost an homage to the craft that had taken Humans to the moon

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Good Training – Survival Part 7

Date point: 14y 8m 2w 2d AV The Dog House, Folctha, Cimbrean Late afternoon Julian Etsicitty Agony. If Adam had a singular talent that stood out, it would have to be his supernatural ability to give his training victims some very dramatic results by inflicting insane amounts of pain. Julian both dreaded and eagerly anticipated

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Henosis – Chapter 3

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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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 2

Date Point: 16y3m6d η Ithacae, 94.9° 12-GERBER-UNARY G2V III, “Heafield” Technical Sergeant Adam “Warhorse” Arés Every now and then, Adam had a day where every little thing went so well and he found himself firing on all cylinders so perfectly, he could feel right in his big ol’ slab of a chest that exact same

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 56: Dataquake Part 1

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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Henosis – Chapter 2

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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Henosis – Chapter 1

[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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Causal Results – Chapter 1

Dorvakian Home World 4 Years 3 months 8 days Before C1764 FTL Jump Looking across the grounds for several moment’s Silnersalkara tapped the table in front of her. The data controls embedded in the device quickly shut off and the hologram above its surface died. “Kermarcus, I’m aware of the situation. The opposition’s been attempting

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 4

Date Point: 16y3m AV Planet Akyawentuo, Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Yan Given-Man “I like these Core-tie.” “You do? Why the change of heart?” When the ‘del-a-gay-shun’ had returned, there was of course much eagerness to learn the news. Yan was very happy to tell everyone they would be getting vack-seens from the Core-tie as

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Good Training – Survival Part 6

Date point: 14y 8m AV Residence of the Great Father of the Gao, Folctha, Cimbrean Sister Naydra The months on Cimbrean had been…therapeutic. She found herse lf greatly appreciating the Female presence on the Human’s first colony world, and everything it stood for: stability, acceptance. Survival. The Humans had done so much to support the

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 3

Date Point: 16y3m AV USS Robert A. Heinlein, Akyawentuo Orbit, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Third Director Tran Some of the other Directors had expressed reservations when Tran had informed them he was taking Nofl along to the meeting with the Ten’Gewek. He’d invested some of their trust and patience by reassuring them that

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 2

Date Point: 16y2m3w AV Hierarchy/Cabal Joint Communications session #1722 ++0008++: In summary, the infiltration of Sol means the operation was a success, though not an unqualified one. We have four Injunctors on Earth, and a further two in the outer system, but the new Arutech biodrones appear to be an abject failure. The Cimbrean infiltration

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Rising Titans – Chapter 51 (End)

9 Years, 7 Months, 2 Days After Eridani Landing Chront Leaning down and putting her head to the table Stagg yawned. “Try the tea,” repeated Derrick sounding just as exhausted as she felt. The Captain turned to look at the engineer and then at the small pot on the table. “I did. Taste’s like mold.”

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 55: Reinvention Part 1

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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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 6

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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Good Training – Survival Part 5

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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Rising Titans – Chapter 50

+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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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 3

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

Date point: 14y 2m 1w AV Planet Akyawentuo, The Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Singer “So, if we salt the roots in boiling water with some herbs, and use a very tight…what was the word?” [“Jar,”] Julian said encouragingly. “—And then we boil the whole jar with the lid on loose, so the bad spirits

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Rising Titans – Chapter 49

+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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The Deathworlders – Chapter 54: Here Be Dragons Part 1

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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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 6

Date Point: 16y2m4d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Julian Etsicitty Daar caught up with them about an hour after Xiù called ahead to let them know he was coming. A lot had happened in that hour. Yan had laid out his bibtaws in a kind of scent lure, some distance out

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 5

Date Point: 16y2m3d AV Gaoian embassy, Alien Quarter, Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches Daar, Great Father of the Gao People who didn’t know Daar all that well thought he had a pathological aversion to Civilized pursuits. Not true at all! Daar had always enjoyed history, writing, and the more subtle arts of courtship, and he

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 4

Date point: 16y2m3d AV Planet Akyawentuo, the Ten’Gewek Protectorate, Near 3Kpc Arm Daniel “Chimp” Hoeff Julian had a habit of singing in the woods. Not loud, exactly, and Hoeff wasn’t even sure he was totally conscious he was doing it, but loud enough to hear. Apparently it kept critters from blundering into them that might

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Rising Titans – Chapter 48

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 3

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 47

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 53: The Wild Hunt Part 1

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 2

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 46

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 5

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 3

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

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Good Training – Survival Part 1

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 45

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 2

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

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Good Training – April Fool’s

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 52: Autoimmune Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 5

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 44

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 4

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

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

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Good Training – Pecking Order

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

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

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The Good Samaritan

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

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

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

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

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

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

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

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

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

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