|FreeRIDErs story universe|
Author: Jon Buck
Matching these "Reticulated Intelligence" (RI) neural networks with nanotech-composite "Drive Extender" (DE) transforming robotic bodies produces the RIDE: a metallic animal that can transform itself into a vehicle such as a hover-motorcycle (or hover-car or even plane for larger animals), or into an environmentally sealed suit of anthropomorphic-animal body armor to survive the extreme environments of Zharus's deserts, undersea, or even outer space. (Because combining with such a suit goes beyond merely putting it on and involves elements of physical and neural linkage, the act of merging with a RIDE in armor mode is called "Fusing.") Thanks to "hardlight" technology, RIDEs can even be covered with solid holographic fur that feels real to the touch, and even to the RIDE itself.
However, due to their animal basis, Fusing with a RIDE can have consequences for the pilot. In order for them to be neurologically compatible, the pilot has to have similar physical features to the RIDE itself—and the RIDE's nanotech innards are designed to grant those changes. This means that Fusing with RIDEs based on ordinary land mammals will grant the rider their ears and tail (and sometimes more extreme additions such as nose, eyes, or fur).
RIDEs based on further different animals, such as reptiles, birds, or undersea mammals, can produce much extreme changes in their riders that restrict their ability to change back or combine with a different RIDE. And likewise, if the pilot is the wrong gender, the RIDE's nanites will adjust that, too. In most cases of gender or other extreme change, the changed human is unable to safely change back for at least three years.
These RIDEs are used in taming the huge continent of Gondwana, a harsh and often lawless frontier that, unlike the more sedate and longer-settled continent of Laurasia, has many rich resources there for the taking, and a number of city-states occupying the ring of fertile land around the great central desert. In the desert, RIDEs are necessary to live. In the cities, they are urban transportation and playthings of the wealthy and middle-class alike. But even as they are considered mere "equipment" by many, those who know and love them know they are more than that—they are people too. Will the world come to realize and acknowledge this?
And the latest potential threat may very well be the old home world of Earth itself. For fifty years, it has scoffed at the idea that a distant, backward world like Zharus could be the home of so many major technological breakthroughs. But Earth's mind may be changing on that score—and it has long been known for its willingness to reach out and take what it wants.
Welcome to the world of Zharus—and to its denizens. Colonists. Bandits. Miners. Mechanics. FreeRIDErs.
As this is a shared universe, there could be plenty of jumping-on points. The very best way to read it would probably be by publication order, since that would give you the same effect as the people who were reading it in real time from the beginning. There's a list available here.
Otherwise, I suggest reading "Deserted", "Merging Traffic", "Rochelle & Rufia: R&R", then "FreeRIDErs", then the first few chapters of "Integration" (and my "Foxed" tales), as those were all written earliest and have most of the earliest setting building in them. Then you can read Jetfire's and the other authors' stories in chronological order, and continue reading "Integration" after that. (Probably should leave "Second-Hand Lioness" until after Integration #21, otherwise some events in the main story could be spoiled.)
I'd suggest to have all of Jetfire's chronologically-earlier stuff read before you get to Integration #14, since that's where some of his characters merge into the storyline. That being said, you could probably just as easily read everything in straight chronological order without missing too much. Or just pick one writer at random and read his or her works through in order, then pick another one. Once you've read enough, it all starts to make sense together.
Either way, you should read at least some of the stories before you try to dig into the setting background material below the story list on this page. It was mainly written for our own reference and amusement while we built the setting overall, and can be kind of confusing if you come to it without a grounding from the stories in how the world works.
Claude LeChat's two cents
I went a different way myself. Deserted and Merging Traffic are of course the mandatory first two, since they introduce the setting and all the most important characters. Then you're free to read e.g. the first three Inspecteur Hollins stories. But not the fourth, not yet!
Before jumping into the pivotal novel Integration, you'll probably want to read FreeRIDErs, since it provides a crucial bit of background, and possibly All Spark Bulletin, since it's a good introduction to the Munns. But you can't go wrong with any of Jetfire's prequel stories. Fibio's Turnover will give you a good idea of the spaceship tech in the series, as well as being an emotional story in itself.
Last but not least, Barely Fused, Slightly Foxed and Longer Fused, More Foxed fill in a couple of holes in the aforementioned Integration, but you can safely read them afterwards since they're unrelated but for the characters. As for Wolves in the Fold, Part One: A Wolf at the Door, it makes for a nice "outboard epilogue" to the novel.
Stories that can stand on their own, for readers who aren't familiar with the franchise:
- Madison Brubeck and the Spotted Stowaway, but it arguably cheats because it's a spin-off;
- As a Woman I RIDE;
- My own Alpha Camp, if you don't mind minor spoilers for how the conflict of Integration unfolds.
the FreeRIDErs Category.
Stories that have been updated to the "Director's Cut" second draft edition are indicated with a (DC) afterward.
66 AL (2416 AD)
112 AL to 113 AL
121 AL to 123 AL
- Marshals: Beginnings
133 AL to 138 AL
138 AL to 152 AL
140 to 141 AL
142 to 150 AL
147 AL to 154 AL
- As A Woman I RIDE (HawlSera)
- At ACE, We RIDE (HawlSera)
- To Dream, We RIDE (HawlSera
- We live to RIDE, We RIDE to Live(HawlSera
- Nearing The End Of Our RIDE (HawlSera
- For Victory, For Venars, Together We RIDE (HawlSera)
- TWREpilogue:We'll RIDE Again Someday
152 to 153 AL
155 to 156 AL
- Jeanette & Tamarind: The Second-Hand Lioness (Robotech_Master) (begins before "Deserted" and covers all the way through Integration #21)
- Deserted (Robotech_Master) (DC)
- CrossRIDEr's Dream (HawlSera) (Takes place one week after Chapter 5 of Desserted, but is not a story in the Integration Storyline)
- Merging Traffic (Robotech_Master) (DC)
- Rochelle & Rufia: R&R (Robotech_Master)
- FreeRIDErs (JonBuck) (DC)
- Turnover (Fibio)
- Part 1: All Nighter (JonBuck and Robotech_Master) (DC)
- Part 2: Integrates (JonBuck and Robotech_Master) (DC)
- Part 3: RIDEgirls' Day Out (JonBuck and Robotech_Master) (DC)
- Part 4: Dating Games (JonBuck and Robotech_Master) (DC)
- Part 5: N00bs (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 6: All Aboard! (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 7: A Meating of the Board (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 8: Meat, the Press (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 9: Stockholm Vacation (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 10: Spaceflight of Fancy (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 11: Citizen Katie (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 12: The Crew (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 13: Kaylee & Anny (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 14: Assault and Batteries (JonBuck, Robotech_Master, and Jetfire)
- Part 15: The Task of Amontillado (JonBuck, Robotech_Master, and Jetfire)
- Part 16: The Integrate Raids (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 17: Family Matters (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 18: Many Meetings (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 19: Meetings Completing (JonBuck, Robotech_Master, and Jetfire)
- Part 20: Prodigals (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 21: Enemy Lines (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 22: Alpha Strike (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 23: Universe of Battle (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 24: What Happened to the Mouse? (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Part 25 (Epilogue): The Big Date (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Barely Fused, Slightly Foxed (Robotech_Master) (takes place between Part 5 and Part 6 of Integration)
- Longer Fused, More Foxed (Robotech_Master) (takes place between Part 5 and Part 14 of Integration)
- Cores of Sarium
- Omniverse OverRIDE
- Alpha Camp (Claude LeChat) (begins in Part 8 of Integration)
- Taking the Plunge (Kris) (takes place after Part 8 of Integration)
- Inspecteur Hollins and The Cat's Paw (Fibio) (takes place during parts 9-11 of Integration)
- Inspecteur Hollins and The Viral Thief (Fibio) (takes place sometime after part 12 of Integration)
- Inspecteur Hollins and The Multimillion Vault (Fibio) (takes place after part 12 of Integration)
- Kandace and Jenni: A Beautiful Friendship (Robotech_Master) (takes place during/after the end of Part 15 of Integration)
- Rochelle & Rufia Redux: Foxing About (Robotech_Master and Jetfire) (takes place after the end of Part 17 of Integration)
- Inspecteur Hollins and The Integral Assassin (Fibio) (takes place during part 23 of Integration)
- A Spacer Oddity (Jetfire)
- The Final Countdown (Robotech_Master with JonBuck)
156 to 157 AL
- Madison Brubeck and the Spotted Stowaway (Robotech_Master) (starts before "Deserted"; concludes after "Integration" and the "Stonegates" stories)
- Merging Traffic II: Yield Ahead (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- Wolves in the Fold, Part One: A Wolf at the Door (Robotech_Master) (with (JonBuck))
- Wolves in the Fold, Part Two: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- Return to Alpha Camp (Claude LeChat) (position in timeline is approximate)
- Impossible Things (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Aloha, Stonegates! (JonBuck, Robotech_Master, and Jetfire)
- Skunked! (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Paws Up! (JonBuck and Robotech_Master)
- Kevin, De-Claude (Robotech_Master)
- Jeanette & Tamarind: The Young Guns (Robotech_Master)
- Joseph Steader, This is Your Life! (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- The Gondwana Grand Tour (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- The Good, the Bad, and the Fritzy (Robotech_Master)
- The Saints Go Marching In (Robotech_Master)
- Family Lynx (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- Dog Day Morning (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- When the Lady Smiles (Robotech_Master)
157 to 158 AL
- Return to Totalia, Part One: Prelude (Robotech_Master and JonBuck)
- DragonRIDEr of Pharos (Jetfire) (Date fuzzy, sometime after Inties are revealed)
- Spies Among Us (Jetfire)
- Cat Scratch Fever (Jetfire) (Starts in 157 AL)
- Rescue 911 (Jetfire)
- United Way
- Return to Totalia, Part Two: Parallels
- The Power (Jetfire)
Since we've started going back and revising the early portions of the story to bring the into line with what we wrote later, we have decided to preserve early drafts when they are changed sufficiently to merit a separate presentation. For most of these (but not "FreeRIDErs"), you can also use the "History" function to see what changed.
Due to the huge amount of material, we have moved this to its own page: