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This Liaden Universe® story is set in the milieu of December series entry Trader’s Leap. Maine-based writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have written dozens of short stories and twenty plus novels, most set in their star-spanning Liaden Universe®. Before settling down to the serene and stable life of a science fiction and fantasy writer, Steve was a traveling poet, rock-band reviewer, reporter, and editor of a string of community newspapers. Sharon, less adventurous, has been an advertising copywriter, copy editor on night-side news at a small city newspaper, reporter, photographer, and book reviewer. Both credit their newspaper experiences with teaching them the finer points of collaboration. Sharon and Steve passionately believe that reading fiction ought to be fun, and that stories are entertainment. They maintain a web presence at

Say what you might about foolish valor—and Can Ith had said his share—the mission had provided an interesting piloting exercise, and fortunate it was that he had been home on leave, if one could conceive of such a thing.

They had made excellent time to this faraway port, three small tradeships, pod-stripped, one of Ixin's, showing the Moon and Rabbit with some reluctance—but what else could they do when Korval's two vessels flaunted the Tree-and-Dragon and never thought to do otherwise?

So, three small ships, as traders went, pelting through space as though pursued, which was only . . . somewhat . . . likely. Port was raised, and permission gained to offload the cargo, which was done, shuttle-load by shuttle-load, none of the captains being quite so gallant as to risk the big ships at dock.

Can Ith had drawn shuttle duty, which would not have been so ill, had he not drawn second seat, and his cousin Sin Jin first. Still, it wasn't as if they needed to speak to one another, and the off-loading went quickly.

It wasn't until the last of the cargo was down and off, that the mission acquired a complication, and red tape tied the shuttles to the dock.

It seemed that there were tests to be administered to the cargo, and those found to fall short were to be returned to the ships. The number of those failing was as of this port-morning had been three, which was not so high a percentage. Still, their contract had been to make delivery here, offloading Safely and fully before turning back to the homeworld.

Safely and fully had its own power, in contracts; and if it had not, even Sin Jin would have been hard-put to justify simply abandoning the culls at the dock.

It was decided in consultation between the captains that the Rabbit's ship was best placed to take up the rejected, as there was another port open to them, which would not necessarily welcome a Dragon. The shuttle Firsts were dispatched as a group to place this plan before the portmaster. Assuming it found favor, Korval's ships would be free to return to the homeworld. In theory. Can Ith's faith in theory was . . . not non-existent, and of no matter in any case. Scout captain he might be, but family, so the saying went, kept its own rank, and Sin Jin was his elder by two Standards, and was further favored by the delm, for the sake of his mother.

The Firsts had been away for some time. Rather longer, Can Ith considered, than they ought to have been, had the portmaster been inclined to the proposal. That was worrying, for personal reasons. Home-leave from the Scouts only seemed to last forever, and he was running close to time. Mission planning had not considered the possibility of a lengthy layover. If the proposal was accepted, and Korval's ships given leave to depart, and they flew home with the same vigor with which they had flown away . . . 

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Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe® Series Ebooks November Sale

$2 off on Accepting the Lance (regularly $6.99, now $4.99)

Plus $1 off on all Baen Liaden Universe® series ebooks.


This is a three-part series on the world-building behind the Tom Kratman’s Carreraverse, presented with Kratman’s inimitable, deadpan style. Days of Burning, Days of Wrath is now out from Baen Books and chronicles a climactic storyline finale within Kratman’s best-selling Carrera military science fiction series.

It may not be as obvious as the techno-innovations, but there is a good deal of nation building going on in the series. Part of it is, yes, strictly military. Part is also political, as in the Timocratic system set up. A good deal of it, however, is much more personal. As much is infrastructure building. Still more is industrial. It is, in fact, a fairly holistic program to make a fine country out of one hovering between what we would call the first world and the third. The garment factories that provide clothing to the legions also make clothes for civilians and for export. The furniture factories that make furniture for the legions also impart the skills to make furniture for export. The solar chimneys that provide power to supplement hydro-electric also provide electricity to sell to neighbors.

More important, though, is this: We in the liberal west talk skills and spend vast sums, plow massive personal effort, into providing skill training to whoever will sign up for it. (Yes, it’s more complicated than that.) Maybe this is okay in a universe of unconstrained resources. In a universe of constrained resources, as Balboa has, the better question is, “Who can reliably be expected to make good use of the skill training? We’ll spend what we have on him and her. We’ll identify who they are through character testing…and use the military to do so.”

I’d suggest to you, dear reader, that even if we can afford the more hopeful and idealistic approach, we ought not indulge in it. Character first, and then skills, is a lot more likely to give you a useful product than skills and a groundless assumption of character.

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Baen Books announces the top ten finalists for the 2020 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award for best original fantasy short story.

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Join David Weber, Eric Flint and More in Livestream Showcasing New and Upcoming Books

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M.T. Reiten of Los Alamos, New Mexico, has won the grand prize in the 2020 Jim Baen Memorial Award competition for his short story “Bagala Devi Objective.”

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Innovative Independent Publisher to Bring Author Readings, Q&As, and Convention-Style Programming to Facebook LIVE

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A list of all novels, short stories, and nonfiction pieces published by Baen Books in 2019, which are thereby eligible for most major awards

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Over 170 titles from Baen Books to be published as audiobooks over the next three years

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Seventh Annual Contest for Best Original Fantasy Adventure Story To be Presented at NASFIC 2020 in Columbus, Ohio

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