FreeRIDErs (setting)

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FreeRIDErs story universe

Author: Jon Buck
Author: Robotech_Master

Separator f left.png Setting Overview Separator f right.png

Kaylee and Uncia in battle dress, by Marty Salsman (
In the 25th century, scientists and technicians on the distant colony world of Zharus make a startling breakthrough in energy storage and artificial intelligence, with the aid of "qubitite," a naturally-occurring metamaterial with remarkable quantum properties. The creation of true AI springs from quantum simulations of neural networks based on animals' genetic material that expand to take on true sapience.

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?

Uncia in battle dress, by Diana Harlan Stein (
In recent years, rumors of a new form of change have been circulating—a combining of rider and RIDE that goes far beyond Fusing. Called "Integration," this combines man and machine into a single gestalt being who can no longer separate—and who are rumored to possess powers far beyond those of mere mortals or RIDEs. It is as yet unclear whether these "Integrates" are to be welcomed or feared—and, indeed, many would place them in the same category as Bigfoot, the Yeti, or the Loch Ness Monster. But these Integrates may be growing tired of keeping to themselves.

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.

Separator f left.png Suggested Reading Order Separator f right.png

Robotech_Master's Take

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.
  • Of the newer stories, Slow Boat to Zharus, though you might want to read some of the early stuff first.

Separator f left.png Stories in Chronological Order Separator f right.png

Kaylee and Uncia in battle gear as depicted by David Faught -
Authors may add links to their stories as they happen in chronological order in story time. ("AL" stands for "After Landing," representing the number of years after the colony ships landed in 2350 AD.) For a complete listing of all FreeRIDErs stories, since this list may be updated sporadically, see 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)

108 AL

112 AL to 113 AL

121 AL to 123 AL

122 AL

128 AL

129 AL

131 AL

132 AL

134 AL

133 AL to 138 AL

138 AL to 152 AL

140 to 141 AL

143 AL

144 AL

146 AL

147 AL

147 AL to 154 AL

Zane, and the Zane Cane, by Diana Harlan Stein (

148 AL

149 AL

152 AL

152 to 153 AL

155 to 156 AL

Uncia and Kaylee in battle as depicted by Jacob Blackmon -
156 AL

156 to 157 AL

Rochelle and Kaylee as interpreted by William Levy (
157 AL

157 to 158 AL

158 AL

159 A.L.

Separator f left.png FreeRIDErs First Drafts Separator f right.png

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.

HawlSera - I really love writing for FreeRIDErs, it's pretty great, but overtime as my writing skills have evolved and to be truthful, most of the FreeRIDE stories I wrote, were done under the influence of illicit stimulants, which overall I feel had a negative effect on my writing ability. I'm now clean and will be rebooting my FreeRIDE stories. The old "canon", (which honestly failed to work with the overarching canon of FreeRIDE) will be in this section

Separator f left.png Background Material Separator f right.png

Due to the huge amount of material, we have moved this to its own page:

FreeRIDErs (background material)