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THE HISTORY of the Far Stars War, a war involving over a hundred systems and millions of participants, is the story of individuals. Its outcome was determined less by the decisions of Admiral MacDonald or the Gerin Supreme Triad than by uncounted minor decisions made on battlefields hundreds of light-years apart. It was a war that was marked by isolated battles, often fought by men who weeks earlier had been farmers or clerks.

By the time the war began, mankind had spread throughout much of its own arm of the galaxy. No government had been able to gain or keep control of the hundreds of human settled worlds. A lack of any means of faster-than-light communications encouraged the fragmentation of the race as it spread away from a depleted and backward Earth. The pattern of this expansion was hardly organized, and often simply haphazard. Though virtually every star has planets, perhaps one in ten thousand is not immediately inimical to human existence. Of these, less than 1 percent are habitable without extensive and prohibitively expensive artificial environments. All this still left an estimated fifty thousand human-habitable planets within our spiral arm alone. Carbon-based life being present on virtually all of these planets, it follows that in their two hundred years of expansion men have encountered several hundred other intelligent races, many having already perfected some form of space travel of their own.

Men also traveled outward, into the less densely filled regions farther away from the galactic core. The area, for obvious reasons, was designated the Far Stars by most stellar geographers. This was the nearest equivalent they had to “Here there be dragons” and other phrases signifying stellae incognitae. Among these stars, expansion tended to travel in lines, rather than bursts filling whole clusters. Each colony would often be weeks’ travel from another human world, culturally and physically isolated from the rest of the race. The inhabitants, too, tended to be a hardy breed, more concerned for their independence and prosperity than for any larger concerns. Served only by tramp freighters, these worlds gave no allegiance to any higher authority and often lacked even a planetary government. It was because of all this that the first contacts with the Gerin, and their conquest of DuQuesne, went virtually unnoticed by even her neighbors.

The Far Stars War, it was decided long after the fact, actually began in the Terran year 2237. Actually, the monolithic Council of Triads that ruled all eleven Gerin worlds had decided to drive mankind and all other races from “their” portion of the galaxy years before. Other races had fought men, often to their detriment, and the Gerin moved cautiously. Their first action had been to conquer the frontier planet of DuQuesne nearly fifty years earlier, circa 2187. The octopoid Gerin had landed in overwhelming numbers, and aided by complete domination of the air and space above, they quickly crushed all opposition. Most of the planet’s population died in the first few hours when the Gerin bombarded even the smallest villages. Those who survived were isolated, unable to contact each other, and any resistance was met by the complete slaughter of every human in the vicinity. Even so, for nearly two decades a few holdouts fought a hopeless guerrilla action.

By the time other men were once more concerned with the fate of the human population of DuQuesne, two generations had been born under the brutal domination of the Gerin. This interest was generated by a second Gerin assault, this time on the much larger and more prosperous planet of New Athens. Here they met surprising resistance and their landing forces took losses far greater than expected. The Gerin response was to withdraw and then bombard the planet until its surface was no longer habitable. Only a few survived, escaping in private ships.

These carried the warning to other human worlds, and also to the worlds of other races who feared the Gerin would turn on them next.

Though they didn’t know it at the time, and perhaps have never realized it, the slaughter of New Athens and the enslavement of the remaining humans on DuQuesne, more than anything, inspired the unification of the nearby human planets. At first, though, only one planet, Castleman’s World, chose to act. This planet had many advantages, including advanced factory complexes and space docks, which enabled it to construct a fleet of over a hundred warships in less than a decade. Many of these were purchased from the nearby League of Free Worlds; others were converted merchant ships. The loss of a recent minor war with another human world also provided Castleman’s with a cadre of experienced officers and the need to reestablish her prestige.

At first, the Castleman’s fleet met with surprising success. It defeated three separate Gerin formations and retook not only a now lifeless New Athens, but also DuQuesne.

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