With gifts, warnings, and an offer we
Our choice was simple: we could be cannon fodder, or we could be ... fodder. We could send our forces to fight and die (as only humans can) against a ravening horde that was literally feeding on its interstellar conquests—or remain as we were—virtually weaponless and third in line for brunch.
We chose to fight.
Thanks to alien technology and sheer guts, the Terrans on two worlds fought the Posleen to a standstill. Thank God there was a moment to catch our breath, a moment, however brief, of peace—.
Now, for the survivors of the Barwhon and Diess Expeditionary Forces, it was a chance to get some distance from the blood and misery of battle against the Posleen centaurs. A blessed chance to forget the screams of the dying in purple swamps and massacres under searing alien suns.
For Earth it was an opportunity to flesh out their force of raw recruits with combat-seasoned veterans. Political, military and scientific blundering had left the Terran forces in shambles-and with the Posleen Invasion only months away, these shell-shocked survivors might be the only people capable of saving the Earth from devastation.
He was once called Lancelot, King Arthur's greatest knight. She was once called Sabra of the Lake, high priestess to the hidden goddess. Now ... they are vampires, united by unbreakable ties of blood and sworn to protect the weak no matter the cost to themselves.
And at the dawn of the new millennium, Lord Richard still stalks, still fights ... still kills.
In the dead of night, a desperate plea for help calls him to the rescue of a woman he had loved and lost. Reality and dream merge in a macabre dance of death as Richard seeks to save those few fragile human lives he has sworn a blood-oath to protect. Haunted by the anguish and raptures of his ancient past and locked in a lethal struggle to survive in the present, Richard must reconcile the two if he is ever to find eternal peace.
But the price that the Dark Fates demand of him is very high. For over a thousand years he has served them well, yet now they want all he has left: his battered and tarnished soul....
Just when the 21st century thought it was safe to throw Marxism on the ash heap of history once and for all, a worldwide economic collapse suddenly made freedom seem less desirable than security, and the Total State turned out to be the comeback kid. In the US, where the power elite had long shown heartfelt affection for collectivism and making the trains (nationalized, of course) run on time, communism had a second coming. Which meant that Earth was now the Red Planet. The few holdouts and counterrevolutionaries would be dealt with in good time.
Of course, collectivization only made the worldwide depression worse. But then the People's Astronomers noticed an asteroid with unusual spectrographic properties, seemingly a treasure trove of valuable minerals that might rejuvenate the Earth's economy. So three aged NASA shuttles were pulled out of mothballs. crewed by a team of handpicked misfits whom no one would miss, and sent to the asteroid.
However, someone else was there first, under an airtight canopy made by genetically engineered trees. And they weren't human, even if they were from Earth. The Elders were "nautiloids," like intelligent giant squids in Volkswagen-sized shells, from a parallel universe where they were Earth's dominant species. Worst of all, they were CAPITALISTS!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Writing in the libertarian tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, L. Neil Smith may be the most widely-published and prolific living libertarian author in the world, with over 20 books to his credit, two of them winners of the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Fiction: The Probability Broach and Pallas. He has also published numerous short stories and articles, has contributed gags to such comic strips as "Ziggy" and "Frank and Ernest," and has lectured annually in the Colorado State University Physics Department on the physics of alternative realities. He attended the same university 1964-69, majoring in philosophy and psychology. He has served as a reserve police officer for the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, is a skilled competitive shooter, and is a Life Member of the National Rifle Association. Smith was born in Denver, Colorado on May 12, 1946 to an Air Force family, which led to his growing up all over North America. A highly prophetic author, his writings have predicted, among other things, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the internet as we now know it, and the digital watch. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife Cathy, his daughter Rylla, and two cats, Amber and Ambrose.
THE HUB IS A VERY DANGEROUS PLACE-
BUT SO ARE ITS CITIZENS.
The Federation of the Hub: thousands of rough, ornery and tough-minded human worlds with only the subtlest of interstellar governments holding them all together. Stable at last after centuries of war, the Hub is now prime real estate ... making it a merciless arena for the conflicting schemes of criminals, unscrupulous corporations, and invaders from beyond the edges of Federation space.
But the Hub is well-defended, and not only by professional heroes such as Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee. In Hub Space a citizen is expected to stand up for herself, blaster in hand, as needs must; so when Trouble comes Hubward in large doses, there are an awful lot of armed citizens waiting for it....
"Take my advice and buy TWO copies of this book! You'll want to lend it to friends and (trust me on this: I have years of experience to back up the observation) once people get their hands on a Schmitz book, they don't let go!"
—Janet Kagan, Hugo-winning author of Uhura's Song
—The Horn Book
"A typical James Schmitz mix of humor, strange mental powers, and mild anarchy. Delightful."
—The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction