For generations, the Republic of the Sphere has known a Golden Age of peace. Mighty BattleMechs, once kings of the battlefields, now aid the reconstruction of war-torn worlds. But when terrorists destroy the interstellar communications net, each planet is thrust into isolation. Suddenly old hatreds resurface and a people who have never known war face the prospect of learning its meaning firsthand.
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September 01, 2003
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Excerpt from Ghost War by Michael A. Stackpole
Wise men think twice before they act once.
-- Ancient Terran proverb
Prefecture III, Republic of the Sphere
13 November 3132
I once heard someone complain that the two most abundant things in the universe were hydrogen and stupidity, but she declined to say which led the way. I figure that in the random distribution of things throughout the universe, hydrogen probably has the edge, but in Leary's Eyrie stupidity was being stockpiled at an alarming rate. This wasn't unusual or even rare, but the pressure of it seemed to dull even smart folks and fray nerves.
I'd come to the Eyrie hoping for a Tri-Vid beer ad. Not for a specific advert, mind you, but the sort of situation they depict: warm night, hot woman, cold beer, sweat -- on the beer bottle and otherwise. I wanted the full-on fantasy that had inspired generations of men to swill the liquid that gave them the bellies they sucked in when such a woman appeared in their midst. I knew it was a fantasy, but that was all we had out here in the hinterland of Helen.
Of course, I wasn't looking much like a fantasy. Or an ad, unless it was one of those late-night ads for a product that is guaranteed to make you feel younger, look younger and turbo-charge the parts you'd need working if the beer-ad fantasy came through. The crew and I had just come off the line after eighteen hours straight, and I'd not been near a bed for about double that time and a razor triple it. I did have a clean shirt on, but the jeans and work boots could have starred in their own ads for miracle cleaning products.
Or public service spots about toxic waste and hazmat dumping.
We'd been up in the forest, harvesting old growth, and having to pour on the diesel to clear a swath before noon. The local courts had issued a restraining order pending the review of some endangered species protection action filed by the People and Divergent Species Union. PADSU was the political arm of the militant Gaia Guerrilla Front, which viewed the use of any tool against the earth or anything on it as an assault that needed avenging. While they preached a sort of Luddite, return-to-nature-and-embrace-peace philosophy, they were pretty good at wielding high explosives and other weapons in attacking the forestry and mining industries on Helen.
Rusty, over by the pool table, sucked beer from a bottle. "What do you mean you don't believe PADSU and the GGF are behind the collapse of the communications grid Good Lord, Pep, it's obvious. They hate technology, and that was huge technology. It goes down, they crawl out of the woodwork and begin really going to town on us. One and one is two."
Pep, who earned her nickname by being small and quick, pointed her pool cue at him as if it were a rapier. "Problem is, you ain't got one to add to one. The grid goes down, The Republic gets divided into its various worlds. No news flows, so The Republic can't react. Folks get fearful, opportunists take over and groups like the GGF pop up. PADSU's been around forever, always protesting and things, but peacefully. Now that the Knights of The Republic can't figure out where to tromp with big BattleMech feet, the GGF forms up and starts getting nasty."