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Copyright ©1982 Mike Resnick

NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the original purchaser. Making copies of this work or distributing it to any unauthorized person by any means, including without limit email, floppy disk, file transfer, paper print out, or any other method constitutes a violation of International copyright law and subjects the violator to severe fines or imprisonment. This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. To Carol, as always,

And to my parents,

William and Gertrude Resnick



Eons passed, and Man slithered out of the slime, sprouted limbs, developed thumbs. He stood erect, saw the stars for the first time, and knew that they must someday be his. Still more eons. Man grew taller, stronger, broader. He strode the face of his world, taking what he needed, spreading his seed across the length and breadth of it. He became clever, if not wise; strong, if

not indomitable. Earth was his, remade in his own image, yet Man was not satisfied.

He reached the moon, and in short order had erected settlements on Mars and the inner planets. The asteroid belt came next, and by the dawn of the twenty-fifth century his ingenuity had allowed him to place metropolis after metropolis on the moons of the outer planets. And there he came to a halt. A trip to the moon took a mere ten hours; even a journey to Pluto, while it required four years, was conceivable. Conceivable and possible, as three growing cities gave testimony. But the stars were another problem altogether. The nearest was almost five light- years from Earth, an inconceivable distance even for this technically oriented century. Not only would the trip require half a dozen long-lived generations, but the ship would need an enormous amount of room for oxygen-giving plants, making the venture both financially and physically unfeasible. So Man looked elsewhere for a solution. The concept of hyperspace was tackled by every scientific mind in the Solar System for more than a century; the sole conclusion, reached countless times in countless experiments, was that hyperspace was a myth. And then, in the early years of the twenty-seventh century, a young Tritonian scientist devised a theory for an engine that would propel a ship at a faster-than-light speed. The scientific community scoffed at him, citing the long-standing theories that made a Tachyon Drive impossible; but the Solar Government, in overpopulated desperation, funded his project. Within two years the ship was complete. It was taken out into space some 75 million miles beyond Pluto and set into motion. It disappeared immediately, and neither ship nor pilot were ever seen again. However, the total transmutation of mass into energy and subsequent explosion predicted by the men of science was also undetected, and more ships were built around the faster-than-light principle. As Aristotle's earth, air, fire, and water had kept Man from discovering the true nature of atoms and molecules for an extra thousand years, so had Einstein kept him from the stars for half a millennium. But no longer!

There were immense problems at first. Forty-three ships disappeared from the sight and knowledge of Man forever before one returned; and the one that did come back plunged into the sun—and continued right on through it.

It was another century and a half before an acceptable braking system was developed, and sixty additional years before the ships could maneuver and change directions in terms of mileage rather than light-years.

But by the advent of the thirtieth century, Man was ready for his rendezvous with the stars. Proxima Centauri was the first star he visited. It turned out to have no planets. Neither did Alpha Centauri, Polaris, or Arcturus.

Man discovered planetary bodies in the Barnard and Capella systems, but they were huge, cold, ancient worlds, totally devoid of life.

He made his first alien contact on the fifth planet of the Sirius system. The inhabitants were small, fuzzy little fluffballs with no sensory organs whatsoever. Since the Sirians had neither eyes nor ears nor, apparently, brains, Man couldn't ask them for living space on the planet, so he simply took it. It was only

after a small atomic war between two human cities a century later, which totally obliterated the Sirian

population, that Man discovered the little creatures were empaths who had been killed by involuntarily sharing the agony of the war's victims. By that time it didn't matter, though; Man was the dominant life form on Sirius V, just as he was on a hundred other planets sprinkled across the galaxy. He trod with a cautious foot when necessary, a diplomatic foot when expedient, and an iron foot when possible. After seven more centuries of exploration, colonization, and selective imperialism, Man had built himself an empire of truly galactic scope. He lived on only fourteen hundred planets, while two million worlds were inhabited by other life forms, but there was no doubt as to who was the master of the galaxy. It was Man the Industrialist, Man the Activist, Man the Warrior, and more than one doubting world had been decimated to prove the point beyond question. Man had been prepared for his conquest of the stars. He had the technology, the gumption, the will. The taking of the galaxy had been almost inevitable, completely inherent in his nature. However, the administration of his newfound empire was another matter altogether.... FIRST MILLENNIUM: REPUBLIC


...As man began expanding throughout the galaxy, the most vital part of this undertaking was carried out by the Pioneer Corps. Beginning with a mere two hundred men, the Corps numbered well over fifty thousand men by the end of the Republic's first millennium, and their bravery, intelligence and adaptability form a chapter unmatched in the annals of human history... —fromMan: Twelve Millennia of Achievement, by I. S. Berdan (published simultaneously on Earth and Deluros VIII in 13,205 G E.) ...If any single facet of Man could be said to present the first harbinger of what was to come, it was his creation of the Pioneer Corps. These technicians of expansion and destruction roamed the galaxy, assimilating what they could for the Republic, frequently destroying that which could not be annexed with ease. It was a bloody preface to Man's galactic history, and while one can objectively admire the intelligence which led to the annexation of many extremely inhospitable worlds, one cannot but wince at the end results. Perhaps no early triumph of the Pioneer Corps better illustrates this than the assimilation into the Republic of Zeta Cancri IV.... —fromOrigin and History of the Sentient Races, Vol. 7, by Qil Nixogit (published on Eridani XVI in 19,300 G.E.)

It evenlooked hot.

It hung in space, a small, blood-red world, circling a binary at an aloof distance of a third of billion miles. Its face was pockmarked with craters and chasms, crisscrossed with hundreds of crevices. During what passed for winter, it could make lead boil in something less than three seconds. But winter had just ended, and wouldn't come again for thirty Earth years. There were no clouds in the traditional sense, for water had never existed here. There were, however, huge masses of gas, layer upon layer of it in varying densities. Here and there one could see the surface, the ugly jagged edges, but for the most part there was just a billowing red screen. The surface was as red as the gas, red and grizzled, like a man badly in need of a shave. There was no dirt, but the vast shadows managed somehow to make it look dirty. Dirty, and hot. And, sometimes frequently, sometimes infrequently, there were the wildly flashing lights.

The planet, with its deep gouges and explosive brilliance, was as much an enigma as the ship orbiting it

was a commonplace.

And common it was, with its Republic

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