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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 3
[]

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Progress Report[]

Taurus, Taurian Concordat


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[[[Brannis, proved to be a rarity in the periphery— a world colonized mostly by North Americans along with a substantial Japanese Minority. With Four major continents (New California, New Texas, Yamato, and oddly enough, Muleshoe), the world had a population of just over 200 million and was known for being strongly loyal to the Star League.]]]

[[[In the beginning of the Second Periphery Revolt, unknown parties, widely assumed to be Taurian seperationists, unleashed both nuclear and biological attacks upon urban and military centers. The widespread death toll grew only worse as the civil war and later succession war ensured that no help would be reaching the isolated world…]]]
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Thomas closed the article and snapped his pad shut as the dropship started to hit the lower atmosphere, securing it in its holder. “So, Muleshoe?”

“It’s the location of the big SLDF bases—most of them got nuked, but we had a pretty large number of underground installations—all stripped of course.” Jacob was now his official aid, and Thomas intended to make use of his intelligence—and willingness to let him know when he was wrong. “But we’ve got a lot of underground spaces, and in any case, a world’s a big place.”

So is a system. Their initial research made it plain that they would be using a lot of zero-g and variable-g fabrication systems, so there were already pre-fabbed space stations being established in the asteroid belt. Nothing short of an in depth survey would find them.

“Locals?”

“About twenty million or so around the periphery of the continent—nobody anywhere near where we are—after the bombing, the whole interior was abandoned.”

“And what about the progress?” Thomas asked.

Jacob grinned. “I’ll let the doctors tell you themselves.”

Thomas raised his eyebrows.

“Oh fine, ruin their fun. The fact is that there is a tremendous amount of stuff we can use immediately. Right now, water filters, advanced heat sinks and ferro-fibrious armor appear to be the most immediately deployable new tech,but…” Jacob shrugged. “There’s a ton of information that will let us streamline and improve our current technology. They’re babbling about a ten percent reduction in the cost of fabricating fusion plans which doesn’t sound like much until…”

“Until you multiply it by every fusion plant we make for civilian and military purposes.”

“Right. I’d say that might actually be more useful but…”

“Yes.”

“You’re going to have to really ride herd on them. Half the scientists and engineers want to try to go straight for extra-light engines, powered armor, mini-mechs, and direct neural interfaces. You know, the stuff that was cutting edge even for the old Hegemony. If they had their way, we’d be putting all of our effort into that and we’d probably have maybe a single prototype by the end of the decade to show for it.”

“Warning understood, Doctor.” Thomas shook his head. “Now, how about our local workforce.”

“Oh, that’s coming along quite nicely…”


Desperation for Flight[]

Muleshoe


Mary Cheng was nervous. She had outscored all of the other students at her school, but the 16-year-old was painfully aware of how little that meant. Her parents had been students in school, using incandescent bulbs tied to a grid that was down as often as it was up.

Then the Taurians had come. She remembered the frantic run to the shelters, wondering if they were about to be attacked again.

The last time pirates had come, the militia at Lubbock had fought back and driven them off.

And then the pirates had retaliated from the sky, sweeping the few prop-planes away with contemptuous ease, randomly bombing their cities. By the time the President had surrendered, over 500,000 had died. Another 600 were taken by the pirates, never to be seen again.

But the Taurians hadn’t attacked. They had grounded their dropships and sent ambassadors, and the last several years…

Her school had LEDs, their cool light running whenever they needed it. Steamers were increasingly sharing the city roads with battery-powered roadsters and the clinics… Her mother had burst into tears when the papers had run articles talking about eliminating eye rot in the next decade.

And now, here she was, waiting for the interview that would decide whether or not they’d let her work with them. Mary Cheng, top student in a class of over two hundred—but there were many more than that across the world.

But even so. Daughter of tailors and I might actually go into space… She ruthlessly tamped that hope down. More likely she’d work with the Department of Uplift or Brannis Health Ministry.

The door opened, and Mary felt her spine stiffen as she stared at the officer. He was a… subaltern?

“Hello, Ms. Cheng, I’m Subaltern Liam Wilson.”

Good, I was right.

“Hello, sir.” Wendy looked around. “I was…”

“Ms. Thomas, has been otherwise detained.” Wilson looked at her. “We ran through your tests and you tested extremely high on several areas that could be of great use to the Concordat. Have you considered becoming a mechwarrior?”

Wait, what? “But mechs are rare—shouldn’t you have enough—” Wendy blushed and dipped her head. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s a fair question,” Wilson said with a chuckle. “Let’s simply say that due to issues of operational security, it has been decided that as much as possible, we will be recruiting locally.”

“If I…Passed, would I ever have a chance to go… Offworld?” Please, please…

“Yes. Eventually units raised here would likely be deployed to other parts of the Concordat. But you might not qualify, so don’t…”

His warnings were lost. Everyone knew that it would be decades before even the wealthy would be able to travel, and Wendy wasn’t wealthy. And here she was, being offered the chance…

“I’ll take it, sir.”

“Very well. If the paperwork comes through, you’ll have two weeks to settle your affairs, before you’re brought to our new training base—it’s on world, but the location is classified for now.” He smiled, pushing some papers to her. “But for now, here’s some things to read and sign…”

I could be leaving the world… I could be going to another world… Wendy couldn’t stop smiling. She was going to have the chance that none of her friends had…

And to do that, to be able to journey across the stars, was worth nearly any price.


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