Chapter One

How is Man to be well-governed? How is he to govern himself? Many approaches have been tried and many more proposed. Some of these have been, in the words of a philosopher of Old Earth whom we know of only as R.A.H. , 'Weird in the extreme.' None have worked; none have lasted. All have ultimately failed and usually in the most disastrous ways imaginable.

It must be admitted, as we begin our inquiry, that it may be that there is no answer. Possibly man cannot be well governed, or not for very long. Possibly he cannot govern himself very well for very long, either.

And yet, there may be a clue in the words of another philosopher of the home world, the man we know of as Sherlock Holmes (which is probably a pseudonym). Perhaps, just perhaps, if we can eliminate the impossible, what will then remain, however improbable, might be the answer.

Let us, then, begin our inquiry.

—Jorge y Marqueli Mendoza,

Historia y Filosofia Moral,

Legionary Press, Balboa,

Terra Nova, Copyright AC 468

Anno Condita 470 United Earth Peace Fleet Spirit of Peace

Against the tapestry of stars the ship, its lightsail furled, spun on its own long axis. Below, likewise spinning, though at right angles to the ship, was the unimaginatively named blue, green and white world of Terra Nova. Between the world and the stars, past the ship's geosynchronous orbit, whirled the moons Hecate, Eris, and Bellona.

Inside the ship, on the low gravity observation deck, through a thick, transparent viewing port, Captain and High Admiral pro tem Marguerite Wallenstein searched for familiar constellations, mostly hidden in the bright sea of stars.

Eyes squinting, Marguerite managed to pick out the first of the five stars that formed the fangs of the constellation Smilodon. The head, however, was beyond her ability to perceive among the mass, even with those five to guide her. After a while, she gave up on the rest of Smilodon and began to search for the Leaping Maiden. This one was easier to see with the naked eye, situated as it was to the galactic north, in a field less dense with stars.

This is a waste of time, Wallenstein half-chided herself. But for the nonce it's easier than thinking. For the moment, thinking was sending her blood pressure up and giving her a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

A leggy, blue-eyed blond who had missed beauty by an almost imperceptible fraction, Wallenstein was, despite appearances, well over a century old. The extra years and youth were the gift of Old Earth's anti-agathic medicine . . . that, and her position within the second highest of the home world's six castes.

In her hand, resting on her thigh, Wallenstein grasped a paper copy of a message received just that day via courier drone. The paper ordered her home for 'consultations.'

Still, I must think. What the fuck do they want of me, back on Earth? wondered Wallenstein. What could the Consensus ask of me there that they could not just as well ask me via courier? I don't like this. Does the Consensus suspect I had a hand in the disappearance of my predecessor? Do they know I did? Do they know I helped one of the barbarians below to capture him and the Marchioness of Amnesty? Do they know about the nukes? If they do, if they know any of that, I'll be going home to a quick court-martial, a quicker trip back to space, and an even quicker trip out an air lock sans suit.

But it's not like I have a choice. They've already designated my stand in. If I don't go, the Duke of Pksoi, Battaglia, will certainly have me arrested and that trip out the airlock will come even sooner.

Elder gods, if we knew of even one more world, I'd just take my ship there, colonize it, and set up in business for myself.

Sadly, we don't. It's Old Earth and New, and the rift that joins them, and that's it.

I can't even mutiny here. Senior in the Fleet I may be, but unlike most of the ships' captains I'm not in the peerage. A mutiny would have me and Peace and maybe a couple of others against the rest. That's a losing proposition, too. My own crew would space me if I tried it.

Her eyes continued their quest, searching now for the Pentagram, yet another of the constellations familiar here and unknown back home. Even while she searched though, her mind decided. Nothing for it but to go back home. There, maybe, I have a chance to survive. Maybe even I'll have a chance to prosper.

Wallenstein turned her vision from space to the planet below. Her eyes focused on the area where the continents of Southern Columbia and Colombia del Norte joined. The narrow isthmus there was cloud covered now, as was much of the sea to its north.

If I thought it would work, she mused, I'd consider asking Carrera for asylum. But since he hasn't answered my calls since that one day . . . no, home it is.

Wallenstein sighed, thinking, But who can I trust to keep an eye on things here for me? Mentally, she ticked off the names of the fleet's captains, before finally settling on, The Count of Wuxi, Bruce Shi. Not only are we friends, but he's one of the few Class Ones who hasn't let that status go completely to his head. More importantly, he absolutely loathes Battaglia. Yes, Bruce can at least give me good intelligence when I return. If I return.

The sick feeling in Wallenstein's stomach grew more acute with that thought. She turned her view back to that narrow isthmus. And, speaking of Balboa and Carrera, I think maybe I need to have a meeting with General Janier before I leave, to advise him to cool it until I come back. If I do.

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