Tzcuauht’li Concept Art

Today we have some more Valbaran-themed fan content commissioned by our friend SpookyRockfall, who you can find on Twitter. This one features a canonical depiction of one of the new Consensus spaceplanes.
The lovely artwork was created by SketchyPigeon, and you can find more of their content on their Artstation and Instagram pages.

The Tzcuauht’li, or Obsidian Raptor in its native Valbaran, is a two-seater close air support craft and light bomber fielded by the Consensus Navy. A recent design, the spaceplane incorporates many technologies sourced from the UNN, and saw its first combat missions during the joint Coalition assault on Kerguela in 2626.

Deployed from Landfall carriers in an offensive capacity, the Raptor is able to leverage its powerful engines and lifting body to glide down into a planet’s atmosphere, carry out its mission, then return to orbit under its own power. The rounded nose, delta-shaped wings, and heat tiles lining the belly of the craft call back to traditional Valbaran aircraft design tenets, the species being a relative newcomer to the Galactic stage.

Human influences can be seen in many aspects of its design, from the EM-absorbing stealth coating reminiscent of the venerable Beewolf, to the hydrogen fuel engines, to the vehicle’s impressive armament. The craft is equipped with a 25mm rotary railgun hidden inside a compartment beneath the nose that is employed to attack targets on the ground. This supplements a payload that includes guided bombs and air-to-surface missiles that descend from racks concealed beneath the fuselage.

Prior to the battle of Valbara, it was hoped that the invading hive fleet could be stopped in space with the help of the planetary defense stations. Even with the assistance of the UNN Rorke and its strike group, the intense fighting in orbit still allowed enemy troops to make it to the ground via drop pod, resulting in running street battles with Bug troops and heavy infantry. Many elite Valbaran units cut their teeth during these engagements, but it was quickly realized that strafing runs by fighters equipped with laser weaponry and dropship door gunners proved wholly insufficient for dealing with hard targets. The performance of strike craft from the Rorke like the Beewolf and Penguin did not go unnoticed either. The program to develop the Tzcuauht’li was intended to fill this gap in the Consensus fleet’s capabilities.

The Tzcuauht’li is crewed by a pair of Valbaran pilots, and often operates in pairs itself, the light strips that run down the craft’s nose allowing for quick communication via flashing color patterns in the usual Valbaran style when not operating in stealth mode.

The small stature of Valbarans, coupled with their excellent memories and reflexes, makes them formidable pilots. Flight suits are usually patterned with blue camouflage, as is traditional for the Consensus Navy, and feature interactive displays that double as color panels for relaying feather signals. They are rated for vacuum to protect the wearer in case of a hull breach or ejection, and they include limited protection against heat and spalling. The legs and tail of the suit can constrict to limit blood flow during high-G maneuvers, which is something Valbaran physiology is already well-suited to, a system of bird-like air sacks supplementing their lungs to give them considerable oxygen reserves. The clamshell helmet has a heads-up display, and the suit’s electronics are able to synchronize with those of the aircraft to relay important information.

Now that the Consensus has its own homegrown fleet, along with the ability to project its power to multiple star systems and theaters of war, the Tzcuauht’li will have a large role to play in future ground engagements.

Brokering Trust Cover

Here’s the finished cover for Brokering Trust, featuring Selkie and her faithful pet slug, Flower!
This piece is packed with intricate details, from shoals of colorful alien fish, to vibrant corals and ocean plants. The reflections and lighting on the skin is especially impressive, make sure you open the image in its full resolution to get a look. The Brokers remain one of my favorite alien designs and I’m so glad to be able to feature them more prominently.

This wonderful artwork comes courtesy of Exobelos, and you can check out more of their work over at the following links:

Brokering Trust – Gay Version

The first four chapters of the gay edition for Brokering Trust are live. This is going to be a little more involved than I was hoping, so please bear with me as I work my way through it. I would also welcome any feedback about errors or weirdness that you come across.

Both versions of the story are now accessible via this page:

Brokering Trust

Brokering Trust – Editing

All editing phases are complete, that should be it for this version. Next step is rewriting a few scenes for the gay version.
Weaver dialogue formatting is still fucky but I need to experiment with how that shows up in ebooks and on other sites before I commit to a fix.

Brokering Trust

State of the Galaxy Poll

After a lot of large, status quo changing stories in the Pinwheel setting, I’m ready for some smaller, less impactful slice of life tales. These will be around 30,000 words each and will explore various colony planets and aspects of Coalition relations. I’m thinking of doing three, and I’ve collected a bunch of ideas that you guys can vote on over on the Patreon page. Your top picks will be written next once Brokering Trust is finalized.

I may take a break to write another Halloween story in October, which will also have a poll, so stay tuned for that!

Remember that you can vote for multiple stories, so be sure to pick all of the options that appeal to you. Here are the options:

1. EE-4:
After the planet was liberated by the UNN Shiroyama during the events of Splashdown, EE-4 has gone largely ignored due to its dense and unforgiving jungles making it poorly suited to human habitation. Now, a joint colonization venture by the Araxie and the Jarilans is changing everything. With the Jarilans building underground infrastructure and the Araxie taming the jungles, human visitors often find themselves caught in the middle.
Pairing: Human x Jarilan x Araxie

2. Jarilo:
Now a thriving colony world and a center for shipbuilding, Jarilo has become a place where those who are down on their luck can start anew, leaving their old lives behind for the promise of blue skies and friendly insects. Whether you’re seeking medical care or a homestead to call your own, you’ll be welcomed with four open arms.
Pairing: Human x Jarilan

3. Rask:
The Rask territory is starting to recover from the events of the rebellion, and its warlike inhabitants have turned much of their energy towards farming and reconstruction. Greening the inhospitable deserts is a tough call, but not beyond the combined resources of the Coalition. That doesn’t mean the natives aren’t out to badger any off-worlders who happen to be working on infrastructure, however. Wayward engineers sometimes find themselves the target of prowling packs eager to give their new allies a warm welcome.
Pairing: Human x Rask pack

4. Valbara:
Despite its reputation as a peaceful and welcoming planet, adapting to life on Valbara can be challenging for humans. Their strict gender roles and unusual customs often put male expats on the back foot, and the rigors of their hectic work lives can be hard to keep up with. Office politics has a whole new meaning for the few aliens who seek employment in their shining cities.
Pairing: Human x Valbaran flock

5. Siberia:
The Siberian colony continues to grow and thrive since the Polars sought asylum on Earth, and the aliens have turned the inhospitable taiga into a bustling settlement with several outlying villages. Polar hospitality is as warm and as welcoming as their hearths, and even visitors who only stop by for a few days can expect to be ushered into their longhouses to share a hot meal and a warm bedroll.
Pairing: Human x Polar pack

6. Earth:
The crown jewel of UN space has seen few alien visitors, but the more time passes and the closer relations become, the more off-world tourists find themselves touching down on the human homeworld. For a solitary Valbaran male journeying alone, the experience is as exciting as it is overwhelming.
Pairing: Male Valbaran x Female Human/alt gay version

7. Pinwheel:
For new arrivals to the Pinwheel, navigating human social conventions can be a challenging affair, but those looking for advice can usually find it in the aliens who have spent more time living on the station. Valbaran and Borealan courtship methods might be very different, but when they put their heads together, they’re sure to succeed. Right…?
Pairing: Human x Valbaran x Equatorial

8. Jump Carrier:
Ever wondered what the crews of UNN jump carriers get up to during their long, uneventful voyages into deep space? How do they occupy their free time, and how to all of the different Coalition species interact when thrust into a confined space for such long deployments? When left to their own devices, their only option is to amuse themselves.
Pairing: multiple couples and situations

9. BFF:
When her human friend expresses a fascination with a Rask mercenary who frequents his favorite bar on the station, his Polar companion promises to teach him all the tips and tricks for courting (and pleasing) the alien. After scoping out the situation, however, she soon discovers that the mercenary is a terrible fit for her friend, and she decides to take the hands-on tutoring to a new level in the hope that he’ll lose interest.
Pairing: Human x Polar

10. Kiss the Cook:
Jarilan Repletes spend their whole lives producing food for their hive, but when one Replete feels that her duty should extend beyond her immediate kin, she’s confused by the negative reception to her honey. Undeterred, she decides to learn human food preparation techniques, opening up a bar and restaurant in the colony that serves all species.
Pairing: Human x Replete