Waters of Babylon – Tzedakah Part 2

Date Point: 14Y 1M AV

The Thing, Folctha, Cimbrean

A Meeting of Mothers was much like a Conclave of Champions, and it was only coincidence that both terms alliterated nicely in English. Neither was terribly common, and both were typically invoked by their various constituencies to deal with an issue bigger than any one constituent group. Unlike the Conclave, the Mothers’ equivalent had no fixed customs for who would host or what the terms would be, other than that the Mother-Supreme was not invited except to witness or answer questions, and that all attendees were to be there by consensus, as were all decisions reached. Lack of clear consensus usually meant either agreeing to defer to the judgement of those most directly impacted, or a continuation to a follow up Meeting.

This was the first time a Meeting had been called anywhere outside of Gao, however.

The main hall of the Thing was easily large enough to host enough Mothers to adequately represent the growing refugee population, and the existence of that population along with the ever present question of what next was the reason for holding it. The presiding Mother, by general understanding the most senior Mother present, stood in the middle of the open hall and waited until the attendees resolved their initial greetings, exclamations at finding one another alive, and introductions. Mother-Supreme Yulna had not been invited to this particular Meeting, both because she was heavily occupied with the ongoing battle over Gao, and because many of the delegates felt that her actions in doubting Stoneback had tainted her opinions—her proclamation to raise Great Father Daar went a long way in argument the other way (if not outright coming out the other side, in fact), but it was generally felt that the fact that there was a discussion about it at all meant that it was wiser not to, even if she had been available or able to attend.

Mother Ginai, grey-whiskered and white-furred from nearly the point of her muzzle to the end of her tail, held up a fore-paw until the chatter stopped. It took several minutes for everything to die down. Her voice, reedy but still strong despite her advanced years, reached to the top seats due to the excellent acoustics of the room.

“Sisters, welcome. Welcome to the first Meeting of Mothers ever held in a place not on Gao.” Mother Ginai paused for a moment, turning and looking around the assembled Mothers. “This Meeting has been called to answer two Questions: First, shall the Clan of Females ask the government of Folctha to formally take over administration of aid supplies and the refugee camps. Second, shall the Clan of Females formally ask the human colony of Folctha for aid in permanently establishing a Colony of Females upon the world of Cimbrean?” She held up her paw again as comments started flying already on both questions, for and against. “We shall have order…..we shall have order,” she said over the hubbub as the questions trailed off. “We shall address the first Question first, as it has a direct bearing upon the second. To speak to this Question first, we recognize Mother Senim.”

The stout Mother so addressed surged to her feet, walked out to stand close to Mother Ginai, and began speaking almost before she had stopped moving. “I speak in favor of approving. The Humans have already done the impossible by taking on more Gaoian Females and cubs than their own population, continuing to feed us and find room for us. Human security officers patrol our camps. We live under the aegis of Human protection. To allow this to continue as is, is intolerable. We cannot return to Gao until the Great Father declares it safe; who among us believes that will be soon?” She returned to her seat.

“Discussion?” Mother Ginai said, looking around the room. “Mother Senim is correct, in that Great Father Daar has given the Clan of Females no clear indications that I know of when Gao might be safe. Mother-Supreme Yulna consults with him regularly and has said nothing.” Another Mother stood, and Mother Ginai gestured to her. “Mother…”

“Seema, Mother Ginai. I am Mother Seema.” She walked forward, slender, silver-furred and pretty, and much younger than most of the Females in the room.

“We recognize Mother Seema to speak to this Question.” Mother Ginai said, beckoning her forward.

“Sisters,” she began quietly, and then repeated, more loudly, at an impatient gesture from Mother Ginai. “…Sisters… I also speak in favor of approving, although…not for the same reasons as Mother Senim. Not quite.” She paused, gathering her thoughts. “A major part of raising cubs, as we all know, has always been to set a positive example, whether that be consistently assigning chores and punishments where appropriate. In the chaos of this last month, we have strayed from that single most important task, and I fear that the results are already, in some cases, becoming apparent.” A murmur of comments rippled through the hall, most of it rueful agreement. Mother Ginai raised her paw again for silence.

“Sisters, I fear that if we continue to allow the Humans to do these things for us, we are setting an example of accepting charity rather than administering aid. Without adequate Male Clan members, or even the workhouses of the Clanless Males to help in setting an example of proper adult conduct, we are allowing an avoidable problem to develop. This is not, I think, an appropriate thing for Females to do; we are the gatekeepers of raising responsible cubs to adults. It is we who educate them, who train them, who ready them for being productive adults at the least, and the elite Clans as a goal. It is we who are preparing our cubs to….” she paused and swallowed, then continued, “…to play a part in the Great Father’s planned need to raise a Grand Army of the Gao, and to prepare our cubs to rebuild when the fires are put out and the monsters are slain. Not to take this burden up would be failing our most basic task.” She trailed off. “….That’s all I wanted to say.” Seema scuttled back to her seat, and sat.

“Are there arguments against this Question?” Mother Ginai asked, turning slowly to survey the seats. There were no takers for a long moment, and then another Mother in the back stood.

“Mother Ginai, I call the Question. Shall the Clan of Females formally request of the Human government of Folctha that the Clan assume responsibility for refugee camp construction, maintenance, administration, and the distribution of aid?” She sat.

“The Question has been called. Since there are only arguments for, and none against, I propose to determine consensus by acclamation, unless there is dissent….?” Mother Ginai looked around again. “Hearing no dissent, all in favor, speak yes.” The resulting barked YES was deafening. “All against, speak no…?” The hall was silent. “Then we have an accord. The Clan of Females will so request of the Human government.”

There was a general susurrus of whispers, which again trailed off as Mother Ginai raised a paw. “To the second Question…,” she cleared her throat with a hrrrm noise, “…shall the Clan of Females petition the Human Folctha Colony government for aid in establishing a full Colony of Females elsewhere upon the world of Cimbrean, going further than the existing Enclave in the city of Folctha?”

A middle-aged Mother several rows from the front stood at once, beating others to their feet by only a second or two, and was gestured forward. The others sat, awaiting their turn, and she descended the steps as other Mothers moved out of the way to allow her to pass.

“I am Mother Menni, and I speak against this Question,” she said.

Mother Ginai duck-nodded in acknowledgement, and gestured with one fore paw to the room. “Speak, then, Sister.”

“Cimbrean is not our home,” Mother Menni said bluntly. “Gao is. Great Father Daar has promised to cleanse Gao of the monsters that plague it, monsters who were our own people. He has promised to rebuild. To claim, at this time, that the Clan of Females will build a home on an alien world is to, once again, say publicly that we do not honor the ancient Contract that is what we are, that we do not trust Stoneback, after the Mother-Supreme has renewed that Contract, and would say publicly that we do not submit to Great Father Daar.” She surveyed the room, which sat in silence, pondering.

“We cannot, at this point in our history, undermine Stoneback. Not submitting to the Great Father is….not an option. Sisters, this is something we cannot do. We must not.” She returned to her seat; before she had taken two steps, another Mother surged to her feet and began moving forward to speak.

“I am Mother Kyrie, and I speak for this Question,” she said, walking up to Mother Ginai and hardly waiting for an acknowledgement. Ginai duck-nodded again, and gestured to the room.

“Sisters, we are faced with a situation unlike anything in our history since Mother-Supreme Tiritya forged the first Contract with Great Father Fyu. We are faced, not with the eternal dance with the Males of our race, but with extinction at the hands of a foe whose evil I struggle to comprehend. Stoneback, the Humans, and Great Father Daar, sent us here to take shelter, to recover, and yes, to rebuild. Homes, for Females and for cubs, is wherever we happen to be.”

“Menni is correct. Cimbrean is not our home…because we have not yet made it one. We have lived in communes on Gao, on Gorai, and now here on Cimbrean, for our entire recorded history. Now we are presented, at the hands of Great Father Daar, with the opportunity for salvation…to rebuild not just the Gao we remember, but our very people, and to do so forever beyond the reach of our enemy. Great Father Daar wages war on our behalf upon our home world, and he has sent us here, for sanctuary, to the newest home made by our only allies in this fight.”

“No, Cimbrean is not home. Let us seize the opportunity offered by the Great Father, and honor the sacrifices that Stoneback and our Males make on our behalf, and let us make it so.” Mother Kyrie nodded in acknowledgement to Mother Ginai, and returned to her seat.

Another Mother, closer to the front, stood and made her way to the central floor. She acknowledged Mother Ginai with a duck-nod and turned to face the room.

“I am Mother Tiya, and I speak against this Question,” she said. Mother Ginai acknowledged her in return and indicated that she should speak with a paw-wave.

“While I believe Sister Kyrie is correct, that coming to Cimbrean for safety was Great Father Daar’s wish, I also believe that it is, and always was meant to be, temporary. Part of the definition of a crisis, which this most certainly is, is that such things are transitory, and if we are to rebuild our people, we must do so with an eye to the future and a nose to the wind. We cannot….must not, as Sister Menni said…place our home where we are not directly under the protection of Stoneback. Doing so insults them, grievously, and we have given them hurt enough with our distrust. Whether there was cause, or no, is beyond me, and is beyond the ability of this Meeting to determine—debating that is without merit. We have renewed the ancient Contract. The very Words of Stoneback, their motto, are to Provide and Protect….for us. No Human has ever sworn such an oath to a Female. Putting our future in the hands of aliens is not acceptable, and I urge that the answer to this Question be a resounding no.” She returned to her seat, passing another young Mother who had been seated up front, having jumped up the instant she was done speaking.

“I am Mother Laamu, and I speak for this Question,” was her declaration. Mother Ginai, seeing the trend in speakers, simply nodded, content to allow the younger Females to wax eloquent without needing to direct them.

“Tiya, and all of us, have forgotten a fact about the Humans. They are not aliens to us and they are not strangers. They are Cousins. Do we so quickly forget Sister Shoo, who left Gao to try to prevent exactly what has happened this last month from occurring at all? Do we so quickly forget her sacrifices, her valiant defense of both Mother-Supreme Yulna and others? Do we so quickly forget her taking the fight to the Hunters and single-handedly killing an entire raiding party of them by herself, boarding their ship and destroying them with her bare hands? Do we so quickly forget her clever hands teaching cubs to cook, or her prowess at teaching them the ways of war?”

“That, Sisters, is what this Question is about. Do we make a home here, when we have no idea how long, or ever, it will be before Gao can ever be a safe home for us? Do we make a home in the very nest-bed of our Human Cousins?” She waved a paw at the closed door. “There is an entire planet full of Sister Shoo outside these walls. They are not like us….but they are the best Cousins, the best resource, the best protection outside of Stoneback we could ever wish for, which is why Stoneback sent us here, out of harm’s way, that they could get on with the bloody work at home and not worry about our safety.” Laamu returned to her seat.

Mother Ginai stood silent. No further speakers stood to address the group, and she eventually ventured a thought.

“It seems we have a divided body, and from the arguments already advanced, I think perhaps further time to consider is in order. If there is no dissent,” she paused, looking around, “…I believe a continuance is in order; this Meeting is not ended, but we will close discussion for now. All attendees—you should discuss this Question among yourselves, and with the other Mothers in the camps. A consensus will present itself eventually—for now, we are adjourned.”

Date Point: 14Y 1M 3D AV

London, United Kingdom

Airlift in any military’s lexicon inevitably meant royal fucking pain in the ass for loadmasters, pilots, ground crews, tower crews, and whatever other usual traffic happened to be trying to use the same airport, runways, or general airspace. It was with a sigh that the traffic controller crews at RAF Northolt greeted the news that they were going to spend the next God-only-knew how many hours negotiating traffic around a massive airlift that was coming in across the European continent from Israel. Although the USAF for decades had had a regularly scheduled airlink in roughly the same route, because this was out of the main pattern, it was going to have an effect on “normal” operations. The consensus was that it was much better to be at the UK end, and not at the Israeli end, where the airlift was, in many cases, coming out of airports that weren’t used to handling heavy lift traffic.

Fortunately, the Israeli expertise with airlifts manifested itself in a well choreographed, steady flow of aircraft that took into account what few limitations the British had at the receiving end. A C5 Galaxy was followed by another, and then several 767s commandeered from El Al airlines stuffed with security personnel, doctors, nurses, surgical teams, vehicle mechanics and drivers, logistical technicians, and a bewildering assortment of other professions. Cargo payloads were quickly matched to the staff that went with them; the vehicles with their loads were driven off the big cargo aircraft almost before the ramps came down, and the aircraft lingered on the tarmac only long enough to take on fuel for the return trip, while the next group was landing, de-planing, and getting organized.

It went on for hours, each iteration bringing an expanded collection of materiel and personnel that built on the prior loads during the day. One controller on the early afternoon shift made the mistake of remarking out loud that things were going well, and was rounded upon by his superstitious coworkers immediately, summarily forced to wear a dunce hat for the rest of the shift, and had to buy the entire tower crew drinks at the end of the day to relieved and good-natured teasing.

At the jump portal to Cimbrean, things got a little more complicated. The power cycle of the jump portals and the need to synchronize them meant that the people, machines, and supplies could not go through as quickly as they were arriving, and they had already been operating at capacity sending through foodstuffs. It took nearly two days for everything to be sent through.

Folctha, Cimbrean

Rav Samal (Chief Sergeant) Moshe Harel, IDF

Stepping onto an actual, real alien world in the flesh was oddly anticlimactic. In the movies, things were accompanied by something that immediately demonstrated that one was in a place that was different. About the only thing Moshe could clearly identify as being different in Folctha was that the air was cleaner and smelled much less like centuries of culture and bad plumbing. That, and it had been mid-morning a moment ago and now was at dusk under a completely different set of stars. He shook off the sense of the oddly familiar and attended to the work in front of him.

It had been nearly four years since Moshe and his squad had spotted a lone van sitting unattended and by itself near their checkpoint. After discovering what had been in the van, he had abruptly changed his life plans and had decided to go career on little more than a sense that there was more to come. He’d questioned his decision occasionally ever since, but the revelations from the American President a few weeks earlier had cemented that it had been the right one, and the decision of the Knesset had only lent him additional resolve. It had put him at the head of the line to volunteer for relief duty on Cimbrean, one of the first to follow the urgings of tzedekah and perform a mitzvah unlike any of his forefathers before him. His parents and sister had originally been nonplussed at his decision; his mother had actually yelled at him and twisted his ear when he’d come home on leave after deciding to go career, but today she bragged about him to any that would listen.

No, he knew he was in the right place, and at the right time….and if he was honest about it, the idea of pulling duty with the Gaoians that everyone had seen in the broadcasts had him nerding out a little. Right now, however, he had a job to do; cajoling his junior platoon members into clearing the jump pad as quickly as possible so that the next exchange could take place was as easy as pointing a direction, hoisting himself up onto a floorboard, and riding on the outside of the vehicle to a large and obviously hastily arranged staging area. A frazzled-looking female Cimbrean Colonial Security officer waved them through with lit wands to another with simply a reflective vest and gloves who looked equally tired. Moshe hopped off as the truck was about to go past to talk to her.

“Help you?” she said tersely.

“I think it’s the other way ‘round, ma’am,” Moshe replied. “Do you have relief coming?” The look she gave him was more than clear enough an answer. “How long have you been out here?”

“What’s today?” she returned with a humorless, tight grimace.

“Okay, so we have a ton of stuff coming through today—major airlift into the London jump station. You’re gonna be at this for a long time getting us through. How about you contact your CO and I see if we can give you some help. What do you think?” She didn’t even pause, pulling her mic up to her face and calling for an officer to attend her station.

As it happened, the response wasn’t who she was expecting. As he pulled closer, she pulled herself tiredly erect. “Sir…Chief….I didn’t think I’d see you down here at this hour, sir.” The shorter Latino man waved a hand at her to relax.

“Carry on, Medina,” the man said “I’m Chief Ares. What’s going on?”

“I happened, sir,” Moshe said. “Moshe Harel, Israeli Defense Force. I’m here with a big aid package from the State of Israel, and when I saw how tired your people were….I think we can take over traffic duty, sir. Let your people get some rest, both of these two look like they’ve been at this all day.”

“Aid package, huh?” Ares said, looking at the vehicles that had pulled to a halt neatly and had greenish-brown uniforms dismounting. The rumbling of wheels on pavement behind him warned him, and he stepped off the road and let Medina direct the next several trucks coming through. “How big is it?”

“We’ll have loads coming through as fast as the jump portal can charge and send them, sir. I’d guess we’ll be at this all night and tomorrow at the very least; several mobile hospitals, support vehicles, and a lot more I haven’t even been told. My country has decided to aid the Gaoian refugees with as much as we are able. I’m just the first wave.”

“It’ll be welcome,” Ares said grimly. “We have refugees pouring in from Gao as fast as they can send them through, and it’s overwhelming us. All right—I’ll need to leave a liaison officer with you and link you into our comms, but I think we can manage that. Medina, gather up Flores over there and go home. I don’t want to see either of you back on duty for at least 12 hours, starting right now. Go.”

“Sir,” she acknowledged, handing Moshe her light wands and nodding in thanks. She left without another word, waving the other CCS officer over on her way out.

“My unit is mostly MP’s, sir,” Moshe said. “We’ll take care of things—if we can help and give some of your other people involved in logistics or direction a break, just say the word.” He said a few words over his radio, and two of the IDF MPs jogged over from the rest of the unit. Moshe handed off the light wands and gave them quick instructions on where to direct the next set of trundling, heavily laden trucks coming through.

Ares watched them working, then shook himself. “Bueno, I’ll leave you to it. I’ll send somebody down to liaison with you as soon as I can free them up. Oh,” he paused. “Wait. How are your people with the Frontline implant?”

“We were all given the treatment several days ago—everyone tapped to come through,” Moshe told him. “It wasn’t a fun acclimation process, but necessary.”

Madre de Dios, isn’t that the truth,” Ares asked rhetorically. “That’s outstanding. Ok, I’ll send somebody your way. Thank you, Sergeant.” He left, talking on his radio to whatever the next crisis was.

Date Point: 14Y 1M 5D AV

Folctha, Cimbrean

Aluf Mishne (Colonel) Tidhar Matusov, Israeli Defense Force

The last of the Biblical-sized tide of IDF troops and personnel finally came through the jump portal from London nearly 48 hours after they had arrived in the United Kingdom. The portals at both ends had been cycling as quickly as possible, load after load and vehicle after vehicle transiting, then making their way out to the staging area until a full-sized convoy was ready to go. First through had been the MPs for traffic control and the materials for a base and buildings on massive trucks, followed by supply materials of every imaginable type, then food, water, medical supplies, and then, finally, a full battalion of troops, aid workers, doctors, nurses, engineers and three completely self-contained mobile hospitals.

The convoys had been rumbling through the streets of Folctha and out to the refugee camps in a steady river of men and materiel. Rav Samal Harel’s unit, as the first unit through, had also been tasked with finding a good location, which they had done. It was more or less central to the plotted-out camp structure, had decent access to the thoroughfares that had been created by default to move both refugees and supplies, and was in a good position to accommodate further expansions of the camps if it proved necessary. Harel’s unit had staked out several acres, marking ingress and egress points, outlining the boundary fence, and had surveyed for one of the three hospitals, command bunkers, barracks, a warehouse, field generators, forcefield emitters, and, perhaps most crucially, the planned jump portal to Tel Aviv.

Crowds of curious Gaoian cubs gathered to watch as the Human soldiers arrived, many jumping and chirruping with excitement to anyone that would listen. Mothers also watched, trying to keep an aloof demeanor and keep an eye on the cubs, but no less interested at the sudden development. Truck after truck was waved through by the MPs, pallets of supplies being offloaded by three-wheeled forklifts and placed in neat stacks according to where they would be needed and the priority in reaching each one. Several portable excavators made their way to the surveyed boundaries of the camp and began to work their way around, delineating the boundary and making it clear where the ever-curious cubs shouldn’t be standing.

The first buildings to go up didn’t actually look like buildings at all. They came off of trucks in gigantic blue rubberized shrink-wrapped packages, and each was placed at one end of its intended destination, cut open, and a hose run to it from a nearby water tanker truck. Water was run in for several minutes, then the entire thing was cut open, dragged out via a vehicle’s tow hitch, and then each one hooked up to a blower which inflated it like a gigantic concrete balloon. There was a collective “ooooooo” from the cubs that could see, with younger or smaller ones in the back demanding loudly to see whatever new marvel it was that the Humans were debuting. Once erected, however, all they did was to spray the structures with additional water, and then all walked away leaving the blowers going. The buildings, actually, looked a great deal like a mature Nava grub about to pop, which occasioned a lot of chittering among the cubs that noticed it.

From somewhere in the middle of the scurrying horde, Matusov surveyed the work, directing as needed with as few words as possible and occasionally giving direction via his radio, or responding to a request from the Cimbrean Colonial Security forces. Chief Ares had been as good as his word at getting both a liaison officer and access to their comm channels, and thus far the two unfamiliar forces had managed to stay out of each others’ way. He had an awning set up with a table, upon which there were some crudely-drawn maps that his people had hastily put together. CCS had not been able to provide full schematics of the camps, mostly because the tents kept getting taken down and moved, and tracking who was who and where was much like trying to keep the ocean back with a broom.

His liaison officer spoke on the radio briefly, then approached him. “Sir, the CCS has identified two spots for the other two hospitals to set up.” He pointed to two places in turn on the map. “Here…and here There are a couple of level, open spots there where the trucks can set up.”

Matusov nodded in thanks. “Tell CCS dispatch thank you. Get that information to the drivers, if you would, please.”

“Yes, sir… there are two other items as well, sir. There are a couple of surgeons coming out from Sara Tisdale Memorial Hospital to talk about treatment for Gaoians. They should be here in about ten minutes.”

“Noted. And the other?”

“There is a delegation of the Clan of Females asking to speak with you, sir. They’re at the front where the trucks are coming in.”

“I’d best go talk to the Gaoians and say hello, then,” Matusov said. He excused himself, beckoned to an aide to come with him, and went up to the front, standing aside as another load of something went rumbling past. Outside the gate, there were five adult Females led by one with almost completely silver fur and grey whiskers and a truly enormous crowd of Gaoian youngsters maintaining a distance that he was somehow quite sure was not out of their earshot.

“Good morning,” he greeted them, belatedly remembering to turn his arm-mounted translator on, and repeating himself. The Female in the lead gave him a curious duck-nod of acknowledgement. “I am Aluf Mishne Matusov, of the Israeli Defense Forces, and I’m the commanding officer for this effort.”

“Good morning, Colonel. I am Mother Ginai. I would say where I’m from, but I’m no longer entirely certain that it is still standing, so simple introductions will have to suffice.”

“I am very pleased to meet you, Mother,” Matusov replied. Somehow, addressing her as ‘Mother’ seemed entirely natural, species difference be damned. “My nation on Earth has joined others for the Gaoian Crisis. We are offering military aid, to be sure, but our primary focus will be the relief effort.”

“That is excellent, Colonel. May we come into your …camp? I would talk further, away from prying little ears.” She didn’t even glance at the crowd of cubs, but suddenly, a wave of I just remembered something else I had to do went through the entire lot. The set to Mother Ginai’s ears was definitely amused.

“Of course, Mother. You are all welcome, please, come right this way.” He motioned with one hand, ushering them inside. “I do have a meeting with some of the medical people from Folctha’s hospital in a few minutes, but since it’s about us providing medical services to Gaoians, I suspect you’ll want to be present for that. We would welcome your help.” As they walked, all of the Mothers were looking around curiously, observing the bustling human activity in every direction.

“Your people are very…industrious, Colonel,” one of the Mothers ventured.

“We’re proud to have a mission of this importance, Mother,” he replied. “My government, and our people, consider aiding the Gao a moral imperative of the highest importance. All of the personnel you see here are volunteers…and to be honest, we had to turn people away. We had more volunteers than we had room to accommodate.”

A few minutes later, they had arrived at a relatively quiet corner of the new base, away from the constant rumbling of trucks and most of the directions being shouted to and fro. Matusov’s aide had had chairs brought, and they sat in a loose circle.

“I’ll get right to the point, Colonel,” Mother Ginai said, once they were all seated. “We’re guests here, of course, in Folctha. The response from Humanity has been….overwhelming in its level of support. One can only contrast that against the utter lack of support and relief coming from our supposed allies in the Dominion.”

“That being said, however, we had a Meeting of Mothers several days ago, for the very first time anywhere other than the surface of Gao in our peoples’ history, and to give you some idea how rare that is, if I understand human history well, the last such Meeting occurred before your people made First Contact…and the time before that was before you had discovered flight. The question resolved by our assembly was that we will be requesting a greater hand in administering the refugee crisis here on Cimbrean. Your arrival, I am afraid, may have complicated that somewhat.”

Matusov held up a hand, smiling. “Our sole purpose here, Mother, is to provide and coordinate relief supplies, what we call a ‘humanitarian’ effort, although the word doesn’t strictly apply under the present circumstances. Our current command oversight on the ground here is the Colonial Security force; we’ll be building a jump portal directly to Tel Aviv here for additional supply and enough warehouses and barracks here to house supplies and people, but if you’re concerned about us patrolling your camp, no. We aren’t an occupying force at all. We can provide additional manpower for such things, but that isn’t our mandate, and I would be very hesitant to take that on. The risk of cultural misunderstanding would, I think, be unacceptable to both of us.”

“Will you, then, be content to take direction from us?” Mother Ginai pressed him.

“I am confident that we can reach a solution that we are all satisfied with, Mother,” he said. “This is not the first time that I have worked to support other organizations, and accepting direction from you is, in my mind, no different.”

“In fact,” Matusov went on, “I would be pleased to host a delegation of Mothers here within the next few days—let me get our logistics set up and the camp organized a bit first—and we can arrange things to everyone’s satisfaction. The question I would be asking of you, Mother, is how we can support you. We don’t need an answer now, of course, but it is something to consider.”

Mother Ginai splayed her ears out thoughtfully. “We need…everything. Your people have supplied us with food, with water, with shelter, with organized restrooms, but the fact remains that there are already far more of us on Cimbrean than the entire population of Folctha, by a wide margin, and there remain millions of surviving Females and cubs that need to be evacuated.” The other Mothers with her all nodded.

“Mother, we have many more resources to bring to bear here,” Matusov said, finally. “The primary bottleneck in getting it here is the jump portal, which is why we’re building another directly to Israel.” He nodded a short distance away, where crews were assembling rebar and pouring concrete at an impressive pace.

“What we need,” said a younger Mother, “is hope, and for that we must begin to direct our own destiny. This has been done to us, and to regain our equilibrium, we must do for ourselves.”

“And not just us,” said another. “The cubs, particularly the older males, need something to do that is active and keeps them busy. Continuing to depend upon them to help with the younger cubs will not do; the older males are already getting fractious and rebellious. They must be given something…something useful, and productive…to do. At their ages, they would typically have been contemplating a year or two from now making a bid for a Clan, or taking up a trade with the Clanless—here, they are adrift with no future at all, and that will not do.”

“Perhaps we can help find something to occupy them,” Matusov replied. “I somehow doubt we will lack for tasks to put willing hands to.”

A man and two women came bustling up, trailing a soldier in the IDF green/brown uniform, and all three looking quite out of place in the camp. Seeing the Mothers sitting with Matusov, they visibly relaxed somewhat. Matusov’s aide introduced them as William Herrera, Sarah Janus, and Emily Masterson, from the Sara Tisdale Memorial Hospital of Folctha’s Board of Directors. Additional chairs were brought, they were seated, introductions to the rest of the group were made, and refrigerated bottles of water produced from somewhere for everyone.

“Welcome,” Matusov began. “We were just discussing our contribution to the Gaoian Crisis relief effort. I apologize for not contacting you yesterday,” he said to the three humans, “But I was trying to ensure that all of this got through the portal from the United Kingdom in good order and that my people got where they were supposed to be, to start off with.”

“I understand you have brought three…hospitals?” William asked.

“Yes, that’s correct—they’re field hospitals, but they’re fully equipped up to and including the ability to do surgery, intensive care, and stasis transport to a permanent facility,” Matusov said smoothly. “We had envisioned interfacing with your facility’s expertise in nonhuman medicine as well as identifying help among the Gaoians.” He nodded to Mother Ginai. “I assume, Mother, that you probably have medically trained people among you.”

“I am sure we have some,” Ginai said. “We will have to check.”

“We will need you,” Matusov said frankly. “Our doctors and surgeons all are well-qualified for human medicine, but not so much with your species. We will be depending on you, and on the staff from the hospital, for consultation—and, Doctor,” he said, turning back to William, “We are more than happy to fill in any staff vacancy needs you have with our people. Perhaps we can work out a trade.”

Later that day

Seeing a thousand Humans all arrive at once in gigantic vehicles (some of which were electrical, but most of which were the soot-belching internal combustion sort) and begin digging out a base in the middle of the camps had, for most of the cubs close enough in camp to have seen it, been easily the high point since they arrived. They speculated amongst themselves about the Human propensity to dig, everywhere they went—inside the base perimeter, there were literally dozens of tool-wielding soldiers industriously excavating holes here and there according to some mad plan. Trucks containing supplies and material pulled up, disgorging their loads, or taking on additional—several appeared to have been fitted with variable geometry field emitters and were having loads of gravel, water, and other components put into them, mixed thoroughly, and then disgorging slurry onto hastily-assembled beds of steel rebar that had been wired in place.

The most perplexing thing, however, was a goodly-sized team of Humans who started unpacking cinder blocks on the outside of the marked-out base, along one entire side. These, they set in place, dumped piles of charcoal down, and put down long metal grilles atop the blocks. The purpose for this was almost immediately apparent to those cubs old enough to have seen something very similar in Clanless workhouse arrangements to feed laborers on large projects, and those who knew what it meant refused to leave the vicinity, salivating.

It meant Food. A lot of food…and soon.

As the sun went down, a domed barrier shimmered into existence overhead to shield from the nightly rain, the charcoal was lit, and tub after tub of delicious-smelling meat and fresh vegetables were set out. They were clearly prepared to feed as many as possible.

The Mothers seeing this, of course, spread word to the other camps, and within minutes, it seemed, the entire refugee population had been alerted that Something was happening. Word quickly filtered back that the other two sites, where the hospital trucks and supplies had been sent, were also making similar preparations. Without direction, seemingly of their own accord, nearly the entire Gaoian population on Cimbrean began to filter in one of three directions.

The tantalizing scent of cooking meat began to waft over the crowd. The soldiers that had been doing most of the work inside the base’s perimeter were directed to put down shovels and other tools, and, understanding that there was desperation and hope outside, resolved to keep things as calm as possible. Chicken drumsticks, whole chickens, half chickens, Deathworld vegetables of every shape, color, and description, hot dogs, corn dogs (which were an enormous hit with everyone, and which were the first thing to totally run out), all came off the heat almost as fast as they were being snatched up. ESNN’s aired footage of a small female cub lying on her back, trying to eat an enormous grilled half-chicken held in all four paws by herself made it back to Earth, was aired by CNN, and resulted over the next several months in an entirely new class of memes as well as a noticeable uptick in military enrollment, charitable giving, and applications to emigrate to the colony of Folctha.

Watching the nigh-on feeding frenzy unfold, Colonel Matusov thought back to some of the things the Mothers had said earlier, about idle hands, and about hope. His cousin was a lead violinist for the Israel Philharmonic in Tel Aviv—perhaps he could help with the latter. For the former, he already had an idea. Most of these young males were likely to be headed into the Gaoian Grand Army at some point—he had been watching video and had talked to some of the American officers deployed to Gao that he’d been friends with for years. The Great Father had in mind to raise an army billions strong?

Well. Military discipline solved lots of different tasks. They’d just have to see.

Date Point: 14Y 1M 2W AV

The Thing, Folctha, Cimbrean

Membership of The Thing’s House of Representatives was sought-after by some, seen as irritatingly necessary by others, and overall unimpressive to most of Folctha’s residents. Since the colony had begun its own self-governance in a quasi-limbo legal state, the surprising result was that, like the taxation structure that emphasized personal fitness, it had resulted in a surprisingly high amount of public participation in colony governance. Voting was typically greeted by extremely high rates of votes cast vs. absolute population numbers, and the idea of a civic duty meaning something real was much less of an ephemeral or laughable concept than a similar arrangement on Earth might have been.

It was with some excitement, then, that the Representatives received, for their next session, a request from the refugee camps’ Clan of Females for an audience. Nobody was particularly surprised by it, exactly, since they had assented to allowing the Clan to use the building for their own meeting, whatever it had been. Everyone figured that there might be something to come out of that, and most were very interested in what that might be—there was speculation that they might ask for representation in The Thing, but most of the informed opinions wagered on a change in camp management of some kind.

If the Gaoian Mothers entering the Thing were discomfited by the fact that they were, quite literally, surrounded by Deathworlders, they didn’t show it; in fact, they showed much less nervousness than the lone Rrrrtktktkp’ch that represented the Alien Quarter. Mother Ginai led the way, followed by four other Mothers, looking around and noses sniffing the air as they entered, and made their way to the center of the debate floor to speak.

“Good evening, Representatives,” she began. “The Mothers would like start by thanking you for the use of your hall. We met and discussed many things, some of which is still under discussion.”

There was a murmur in the hall from the assembly. Mother Ginai forged on over the minor interruption.

“We did, however, arrive at a consensus on one topic—we wish to thank you, again, for opening your homes, your hearts, and your hands to us, and we believe that the time has come for the Mothers to take over administration of the camps. You took the burden of providing for us upon yourselves, and we may never be able to truly thank you for it. We are now at a point of recovery, however, where we are able to at least coordinate the relief effort and relieve you, in turn, of that burden.”

A Representative rose to reply. “It has been an honor to be of service to the Gao. I think I can speak for this entire Assembly when I say we are humbled by the opportunity, and we are very, very glad to be able to hand off the burden of administration to the Mothers.” He bowed, to scattered applause of agreement.

“We realize that there will continue to be some involvement from the colony’s leadership in coordinating the continuing supply needs of the Gao,” Mother Ginai said. “If you would appoint a representative from this body, perhaps to work through Chief Ares’ office, we would be pleased to have a single point of contact for coordinating such things.”

“Thank you, Mother, for your counsel,” the Speaker replied. “You should know, as well, that this body agreed before you entered to have an invitation extended to a delegation of representatives from the Gao to attend, witness, and participate without a vote in this body’s deliberations. We welcome your input, as friends of Humanity, and as representatives for our population of guests, while you remain.”

Mother Ginai and the others conferred for a moment, and then turned as one to bow in acknowledgement. “We are very pleased to accept your invitation.”

Previous Chapter

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Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

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

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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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