The Deathworlders – Chapter 66: Unbowed Part 5

Date Point: 17y5m4d AV
Folctha, Cimbrean, the Far Reaches

Ian Wilde

Wilde learned three things that afternoon.

First, never play rugby with Hoeff. Short he might be, but he was quick, relentless, insanely strong, and absolutely willing to use his heft and low center of gravity to ruin a man’s day.

He didn’t quite manage to put Ferd in his place—he was still a reasonably normal-shaped human being, after all—but there was definitely a look of respect between the two tanky juggernauts. The rest of the Ten’Gewek had learned a painful lesson or two as well. In rugby, skill counted just as much as muscle power, and Hoeff had a heaping big pile of both.

Second, nothing summoned the Lads quicker than someone playing ball somewhere in a field. Seriously, there was almost a cartoonish rumbling in the distance, followed by something that was less a sport and more a good-natured battle, with unstoppable human forces of destruction running straight into the fact that Ten’gewek had no fewer than five dextrous limbs to mess with them, and the fact that a Gaoian on four-paw could flow like water through the ruckus and hit a handy thirty miles an hour without trying. Hell, the only reason they were even going that slow was to maintain their endurance; at a sprint they could apparently go much faster. Which was just…

But even still…holy hell could the Lads ever run! Warhorse and Righteous were both so fast they could keep the pressure on the Gaoians, and close-in they were a perilous threat to anyone, speedster or hulkmonkey alike. The cavemonkeys had found worthy, humbling opponents in the HEAT. Not even Ferd was a match for the Beef Bros.

Wilde had heard that Daar played on occasion, too. Somehow he couldn’t imagine the giant murderbear holding back for anyone, not even for friends. That would be a game to watch…

There wasn’t really such a thing as refereeing that sort of game. Really, they weren’t playing rugby at that point. It was basically an anarchic version of Gravball, without the grav.

The third thing came later on.

The Lads were great, really. But there was only so much great that a man could take before he started to feel… well, like he wanted the sympathy and playful attempts to buck him up to stop for a bit so he could just process. Not mope, he wasn’t the kind of man to listlessly flop around bemoaning his ill fortune, but he’d pretty much had his fill of positive energy.

“I think I’ll just take a load off, lads.”

“…You sure? Aww…”

Sometimes it was hard to remember that Warhorse was a stone-cold killer, because there was so much puppy in that man’s makeup. When he wasn’t being a titan of the battlefield or achieving shit that nobody else could, he was just a big, floppy, goofy, eager, fun, happy guy. You could literally get him bounce-off-the-furniture excited the same way you might hype your dog when you walk in the front door.

And you could make him crestfallen the exact same way, too.

“Yeah, mate. I’m just a mortal man, you know. You lads keep playing, though. I think Ferd over there thinks he’s hot stuff…”

Dangling the possibility of violent roughhousing with a Sufficiently Durable Friend was usually a pretty good way to redirect his–and therefore the HEAT’s–energies, too. Most of them were a lot like him, too…

Just. Like. Puppies.

Not all of them, though. The team did have some adults. Firth, who gave him a knowing nod, a grin, and followed the puppy-stampede. Titan, who yawned and stretched then went to grab some hydration for himself and the others…

And one more, who made himself known as a shadow next to Wilde once all the rest had thundered off over the horizon.

“Hello, Regaari. What can I do for you?”

Wilde felt a bit uneasy next to Regaari. Gaoians often had a strongly canid, somewhat indistinguishable look, but even beyond the wild white mohawk atop his head, something about Regaari was striking; Wilde was no gaoian, but Regaari was undeniably handsome, and that translated across species. He was tall too, at least next to Wilde, and while he wasn’t brutish or broad, his heavy neck sloped down to strong shoulders, which were matched to a lean and impressively athletic body. It seemed a ridiculous comparison, but to Wilde’s mind, Regaari was put together something like a bodybuilding greyhound.

“Oh, I was thinking you could do with a pessimist’s company for a change.” He sat down to WIlde’s left, the good eye side, and made a resigned noise when the park bench creaked.

Wilde chuckled. “Too many tacos, mate?”

“Too much Warhorse. I swear he thinks there’s no value at all to being sleek and slim.”

Regaari was HEAT after all, and that lanky build of his did a good job of discreetly carrying what was evidently quite a lot of muscle under that long, silky fur.

“Oh, I don’t know, it seems to work for you. You don’t look half as big as you sound.”

“I fought back. Perhaps unsuccessfully…”

“Or half-heartedly?

“…Never tell Warhorse.” Regaari chittered and looked down—Gaoians had proportionally longer torsos, so while sitting he practically towered over Wilde—gave him a friendly sort of expression, and pierced him with an inescapable gaze. “Anyway, you obviously have a lot on your mind…”

No hiding from him. Nor, really, any wanting to. It’d be nice to actually talk things out properly rather than just bask in sunshine and games for a while.

Wilde sighed, and got on with it. “My future, mostly. They haven’t started the retirement board yet, but…”

“They will.” Regaari duck-nodded. “How do you think the team will get on without you?”

“I think they’ll be fine. Hoeff’s…well, he’s OG JETS, and he trained us, and he’s got Ferd’s respect too…”

“Not an easy thing to secure, from my understanding.”

“No. They’ll be fine, that part I’m pretty sure of.”

Regaari sniffed discreetly toward Wilde’s face. “I understand the prognosis wasn’t good.”

“No. I’ll likely be blind in my right eye forever.”

“That’s a tough break.”

“Could be a lot worse, really.”

“Could be. But I bet you’d still rather have both eyes.”


Regaari just duck-nodded again and let him have a little comfortable silence, which Wilde appreciated. He did scoot a little closer, which was Gaoian body language for friendship and support. He didn’t get too close though, for which Wilde was grateful.

He also tinkered with his paw while he waited. Cleaned some mud off it or something. Everyone knew the story of how he’d lost the original, literally clawing at a Hunter Alpha’s face back on Capitol Station. That had been the HEAT’s blooding, and a costly one. The guys who’d been there had come home knowing they had a lot of improving to do.

Still. Considering his own situation, Wilde was suddenly more curious than ever why Regaari had kept the artificial limb.

May as well satisfy his curiosity. “Can I ask why you never had them grow a replacement?”

Regaari looked down at the metal and hard plastic of his mechanical paw. He wiggled his digits, and balled his paw closed into a fist; the motion didn’t seem to come quite naturally to him, but it did make his already substantial forearm bulge noticeably. He moved his prosthetic through its motions for a long while, ears forward-facing as he listened. There was a very faint mechanical noise to it. He eventually chitter-sighed to himself, as if he was confronting an old, painful tale.

“I probably should have. The injury originally required Openpaw to amputate my entire forearm.”


“Oh, yes. Hunters have nasty mouths, filled with nasty bacteria and nasty, slow-acting venoms. Not even Earthling antibiotics were enough. And the venoms, of course…”


“But to answer your question…I am not quite sure. I had my forearm regrown as the prosthetic wasn’t keeping up with my training. After the third upgrade, I’d had enough.”

Wilde felt like he was stuck on repeat. “Really?”

“Indeed. It’s surprising just what biology can do if you really push it. I think that’s true even outside us Deathworlders, if only the others would try. As to my paw? Well…”

He considered it again, briefly. “I think part of me wants to say I keep it because there’s things it can do that a living hand cannot. This is true, of course. I’ve got all sorts of small tools and secrets hidden away inside. And…yes, before you say anything…”

“I wasn’t going to, I swear.”

Regaari sniffed toward him. “…Thank you. So yes, it does that too. But I don’t think any of those are what actually drives my decision, because there are downsides. It needs a lot of maintenance, I must replace it every so often to avoid cumulative mechanical stress… A normal paw heals itself, grows stronger over time, and that’s especially true for someone in my position, training as I do. Its sensory input is muted, so I find myself using my living paw far more than I used to, just to enjoy the sensations…”

“So other than some Inspector Gadget tricks, it’s pretty shite.”

“…Mmm… A sidegrade, let’s say. I’m going to need to look up this Inspector Gadget reference, aren’t I?”

“Yeah. I’m surprised you’ve not heard that one before…”

Regaari shrugged, sorta. “They already named me Dexter. Anyway… The real reason I keep it is sentiment.”


“Yes. It’s a good reminder of what I was. Small. Naive. Weak, and kept that way by forces I had no idea existed in the first place. You know how fast I can run.”


“Years ago now, maybe… about two and a half years after First Contact for your people, when it wasn’t safe to be a human out in the galaxy, I had the mission of escorting and protecting then-Sister Shoo. We had her in a disguise. Quite a good one, if I say so myself. She learned the language right down to Mother Ayma’s accent, practiced Gaoian mannerisms, wore a mask to disguise the shape of her face, and robes to cover an ’embarrassing skin condition…’ She was very convincing. But there’s no such thing as a flawless disguise, of course.”

He flicked an imaginary speck of dust off his paw’s matte black surface. “Somebody saw through it. A Corti, I think his name was Astim. Particularly intelligent and ruthless even by Corti standards. He arranged to lure me away to the far side of the station, and I didn’t notice the trap until too late. I was… hopelessly compromised. Nothing like I am now. I thought I was one of the sharpest claws in the galaxy…”

He chittered and shook his head. “I was a dullard. So stupid and so hopelessly brainwashed that it didn’t even occur to me that I could run on four-paw. The thought never crossed my mind at all! I ran all the way back to the ship on two-paw, slower than you can jog. Can you imagine?”

“I really can’t,” Wilde said.

Regaari sighed, heavily. “My slowness got an innocent young Sister killed. I won’t go into the details but… well, you know how we are. You can imagine the shame attached to that thought.” He flexed the paw again and finally looked Wilde in the eye. “But we were all that weak. Every one of us. Our entire society was controlled, nudged, encouraged down the comfortable paths, guided away from greatness…none of us escaped it. Not even Cousin Daar. He wasn’t always the titan he is today.”

“I find that very hard to believe.”

“It’s true. He was still immensely strong, still a towering broad-shouldered brownfur. Even then his endurance was well beyond anyone’s…but he was lanky. Clumsy, at least compared to his current magnificence. Nothing like as strong or as quick or as capable as he is now, as he was always meant to be. Or as he will be over the coming years. He has much catch-up left to do.”

The idea that Daar was only getting started was…alarming, and Wilde felt he had to object to the premise. “I’m not sure I can…I mean, how could they hold you back that much?”

“Whispers over centuries add up, and all the evidence you’ll need for their effectiveness can be seen in how my people have changed over the last fifteen years. We’re now so much more than we were, even after the War. That we were held back by a whisper campaign we couldn’t even detect, one that was being waged inside our very brains is…”

Regaari growled to himself. There was hate there, Wilde realized suddenly. Strong hate.

And not only toward the Hierarchy.

He took a cleansing breath, glanced at his paw again, and continued. “In any case, nowhere was this suppression of our potential more evident than in creatures like My Father. The Hierarchy’s agents of influence had been nudging him towards a simple laborer’s life since he was born. I think some of them must have understood his terrible potential. Thank the Unseen he was never implanted! And thank the Loremaster of his Clan, and everyone else who kindled his interest in Stoneback’s ancient histories. Where would we be if he hadn’t been interested in that? If he hadn’t become a Master of War, despite everything?”

Wilde understood. “And where would we all be, if you hadn’t lost your paw?”

“Precisely. The chain of events that stemmed from that interaction are mind-boggling. I met Warhorse, then the most impressive being I had ever met. We became friends and eventually Cousins in the gaoian sense. From that friendship, our species formed its military partnership, which flowered into the HEAT. My Champion took notice and conspired to place Daar in the HEAT’s path. Our species began to understand what being a Deathworlder truly meant. Under that joint program, My Father’s true potential was finally unlocked as it had been in the rest of us, and not a moment too soon; if we had not unleashed a being like him, in exactly the right place and at exactly the right time, my entire people would have been destroyed. That victory drew the attention of the Corti, who now understand the threat…”

“And the Ten’Gewek, the exposure of the Hierarchy…”

“The causality is…humbling. I am not easily humbled, Wilde. All the beings who can are my close friends and teammates, none of whom would be what they are if I hadn’t lost my paw. Nor would I be here—nor would my people still exist, most likely—if a short, heroic young tank of a man from a backwater planet hadn’t saved my life, and shown me the meaning of strength.”

Wilde didn’t have…that was a lot, all at once. There was only one thing he could say.


Regaari chittered almost desperately. “Indeed. So: would a living paw be better? …Yes. In every way. It would certainly be less expensive…”

Wilde touched his eyepatch. “I think I understand.”

Regaari duck-nodded. “I’m never getting rid of it. Ever. It’s too important. Just putting it on a shelf won’t do. I need to remember, every time I look down, every time I touch something, every time I extend my claws, my failure needs to be right there, literally in the palm of my hand. Never again.”

He flicked an ear and gave Wilde a sympathetic look. “Of course… your mission was a success. And on that note…are you hungry?”

“I suppose, yeah? That’s a sudden change.”

“Were you aware Ninja Taco has a secret menu for the SOR? Warhorse helped write it. Nothing from it counts against our meal plans!!”

Wilde couldn’t help but shake his head and laugh. “Christ…yeah. Okay. I’m hungry. Don’t you wanna keep playing, though?”

Regaari looked back at the rugby-themed brawl that hadn’t ever really stopped. There was a small crowd now, cheering them on. “Of course, but I have a much more important use of my time, just now.”


Regaari chittered and stood. He gave Wilde a playful, or perhaps playfully predatory look, like only Gaoians could manage. “Oh yes,” he said. “You and I have your career options to discuss…”

Date Point: 17y5m1w AV
Diplomatic starship Rich Plains, Origin system, the Corti Directorate

Ambassador Sir Patrick Knight

Another day, another alien sky below him and another meeting of the Dominion Security Council. What little glamor had once belonged to representing humanity on the Rich Plains’ polished stone floor had gone rather dusty over the months. All the drama was in the past, a new status quo had been reached, and business was proceeding well.

At least the ship’s staff had learned to tone down the volume of comestibles on offer to something one man could eat. And they were getting rather good at delivering something that was pleasing to the human palate, too. It was amazing what a talented alien chef could do with tofu.

Though, Sir Patrick would have contemplated minor acts of treason for a proper breakfast of bacon and eggs.

Today’s agenda was a review of galactic communications infrastructure. It had been… temperamental of late. For reasons obscure and arcane beyond Sir Patrick’s understanding, the devastation wrought on Dataspace and the Hierarchy was having some kind of collateral effect on the infosphere. Not a big problem for the human race, but there were major interstellar trading conglomerates and national interests that depended on steady, reliable communication.

The Corti, allegedly, might be able to innoculate the infosphere against any future such disruption, hence the Rich Plains’ presence in orbit above their homeworld.

The Directorate’s representative was, however, being characteristically reticent.

“We view Dataspace as an ongoing concern. Our College of Information Sciences has…reconsidered much of our previous advancement. We are now in favor of more primitive packet relay systems such as the Humans and Gao favor.”

Sir Patrick had learned some time ago to not take umbrage at the word “primitive.” If he’d objected to every single instance of it, he’d have tripled how long the council’s deliberations took. He just made a note to point out that it would be best to reach out the extant experts in such ‘primitive’ solutions and sat back to listen patiently.

It was a dry discussion. A dull day in the making… at least until his personal security stepped forward to whisper in his ear.

“Sir, a ship of an unknown design just arrived.”

He turned his head. “Unknown design?”

“Yes sir. It, uh… it landed in the OmoAru delegation’s hangar.”

Sir Patrick looked around. Similar whispered conversations were playing out all around the chamber. Ambassador Furfeg was glowing brightly in an interesting medley of aqua and yellow, a sure sign of confusion and nerves. The Rrrrtk representative’s head turned slowly toward the entrance, the Mjrnhrm delegate’s wings were thrumming agitatedly… every corner of the chamber was a picture of shock and bewilderment.

“…They’re extinct, aren’t they?”

“Not quite, sir. Otherwise the council wouldn’t have reserved a spot for… them…”

There was commotion near the entrance. The doors were thrown open, scurrying staff got out of the way…

And a trio of creatures like leopard geckos with dreadlocked manes and large bat-like ears stepped forward into the chamber.

Sir Patrick had seen footage of the surviving OmoAru on their homeworld, the ones that still cared enough to actually grow a little food and eat every now and then. They were dopey, slow, blissful creatures, so high on the droud nanotech in their brains that just mustering the presence of mind to feed themselves came as an afterthought. They stumbled vaguely through existence like a commune of self-neglecting hippies, doing the absolute bare minimum to not die and then finding somewhere sunny to sit down and watch interesting patterns in the rubble of their disintegrating cities.

Not these three. The three who entered still had that slight curve to the mouth that looked like a perpetual smile to human eyes, but they considered the room carefully, taking in the view. One of them stared at Sir Patrick for a good long while. Another did the same to Father Sheeyo.

The one at the front twitched his tail back and forth a couple of times, and then strode over to his species’ long-neglected spot in the circle and, politely, indicated to the speaker that he wished to speak.

The speaker, an elderly Rrrtk, coughed a sotto voce utterance like somebody squeezing a bag of aquarium gravel, then leaned forward to his microphone.

“The Security Council recognizes the representative from the OmoAru Remnant,” he said. The translator gave him a cautious, formal inflection.

The newcomers bowed to him slightly, then took their moment in the spotlight. The leader simply surveyed the chamber a moment longer, looked at the deathworlders again for a moment, then turned to address the Corti delegate.

“I apologize for interrupting,” he said. The translator rendered him with a soft, youthful, cultured voice, but Sir Patrick could hear the liquid syllables of his real language behind it, rippling up and down in the way his throat inflated slightly. “And we apologize for our long absence. We had expected it to be longer still… But it seems that the galaxy has changed.”

He turned to look at Sir Patrick again. Sir Patrick had once heard the OmoAru described as jovial, from the Corti perspective. Maybe they were. But there wasn’t a whole lot of joking in those wide, intense eyes. Just keen interest in the force that had resurrected them, fuelled by a bottomless ambition and fury.

He gave the alien a shallow nod of his head. It was returned, and the OmoAru delegate turned his gaze away, returning it to the chair and the council. But there was no doubt who he was really talking to.

“We are here,” he said, “To take our place once again.”

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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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