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Dead World   By:

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Illustrated by BARR

Out on the ice buried planet, Commander Red Stone led his Free Companions to almost certain death. They died for a dangerous dream that had only one chance in a thousand trillion to come true. Is there a better reason for dying?

... although the most recent star to die, RNAC 89778 in the distant Menelaus galaxy (common name, Menelaus XII), had eight inhabited planets, only some one thousand people of the fifth planet escaped and survived as a result of a computer error which miscalculated the exact time by two years. Due to basic psycho philo maladjustments the refugees of Menelaus XII 5 are classified as anti social types B 6 and must be considered unstable. All anti social types B 6 are barred from responsible positions in United Galaxies by order of the Inter Galactic Council.

Short History of The United Galaxies

Yuan Saltario started it. He was serving in my Company and he was one of them. A Menelaus XII 5 "unstable," and don't ever call that damned little planet by its number if you meet one of them. They call it Nova Maurania. But you won't meet one of them. Or maybe you will, maybe they did make it. I like to think they did.

There were a lot of them in the Companies in 3078. Restless men. The Companies were the logical place for them. We're still classified anti social B 6, too. Every year it's harder to get recruits, but we still have to be careful who we take in. We took Yuan Saltario. There was something about him from the very start.

"Why do you want to join a Free Company?" He was a short, humanoid type with deep black eyes and a thin, lipless mouth that never smiled.

"I'm an anti social. I like to fight. I want to fight."

"A misfit joining the misfits? A grudge against the Council? It's not good enough, mister, we live on the Council. Try again."

Saltario's black eyes stared without a flicker. "You're Red Stone, Commander of the Red Company. You hate the Council and I hate the Council. You're the ..." Saltario stopped.

I said, "The Traitor of the Glorious War of Survival. You can say it, Saltario."

The lipless mouth was rigid. "I don't think of it that way. I think of a man with personal integrity," Saltario said.

I suppose I should have seen it then, the rock he carried deep inside him. It might have saved thirty thousand good men. But I was thinking of myself. Commander Red Stone of the Red Company, Earthmen. Only we're not all Earthmen now, every year there are fewer recruits, and it won't be long before we die out and the Council will have the last laugh. Old Red Stone, the Traitor of the War of Survival, the little finger of my left hand still missing and telling the Universe I was a very old soldier of the outlawed Free Companies hanging onto life on a rocky planet of the distant Salaman galaxy. Back at the old stand because United Galaxies still need us. In a way it's a big joke. Two years after Rajay Ben and I had a bellyfull of the Glorious War of Survival and they chased us all the way out here, they turned right around and made the peace. A joke on me, but sometimes I like to think that our runout was the thing that made them think and make peace. When you've been a soldier for thirty five years you like to win battles, but you like to feel you helped bring peace, too.

I said, "Personal integrity. That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? So you like personal integrity? All right, Saltario, are you sure you know what you're getting into? We're 60 million light years from Galaxy Center, 10 million from the nearest United Galaxy city. We've got no comforts, no future, nothing to do but fight. A woman in her right mind won't look at us, if they see you in uniform they'll spit on you, if they catch you out of uniform they'll kill you... Continue reading book >>

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