Legend of Galactic Heroes

Legend of Galactic Heroes – Prologue: History of the Galaxy

It was in AD 2801 that humanity declared the formation of the Galactic Federation and relocated the crux of its political authority from Terra (the third planet of the solar system) to Teoria (the second planet of the Alderbaran system). In this same year, humanity reset the its calendar to Space Era 1 and began to expand inexorably into the inner reaches of the frontier of the galaxy. After the wars and the chaos that had been so starkly characteristic of the 2700s-which had brought development of space to a standstill-the energy that came bursting forth was all the more explosive.

Subspace jump theory, gravitational control, and inertial control technology- these were the Three Graces that made interstellar flight possible. and they were refined day by day as humankind spurred its starships toward unknown horizons and set sail upon oceans brimming with stars.

“Onward! And onward still!”

These were familiar words to the people of those days. It was plain to see that the consciousness of the human race itself had entered a period of exuberance.

And so with a resolute will and a dazzling passion, humanity grappled with every difficulty that came its way.

Even in the face of great hardships, it didn’t indulge in the consolations of pessimism; instead it overcame obstacles with good cheer. Humanity in that age was what might perhaps have been called a legion of hopeless optimists.

“A golden age! Overflowing with enterprise and renewal!”

Perhaps. But although that period may well have been described in such terms, it
does not mean that its veneer was without a number of scratches. Foremost among
these was the existence of interstellar pirates. These were the malformed progeny of privateers that had once been employed by Terra and Sirius when they battled for dominance in the 27003. Among these pirates were a number of individuals who stole from the rich, gave to the poor. and sang the praises of freedom. They, and their battles with the federal navy that pursued them, provided endless fodder for 3-D solivision programs.

The facts, however, were more prosaic. The majority of these pirates were nothing more than criminal syndicates, colluding with corrupt politicians and businessmen in order to collect and consume ill-gotten gains. For the people who lived on the frontier worlds in particular, they were nothing less than a Pandora’s box of troubles. Naturally, they often haunted the shipping lanes connecting the outlying systems. Starships just put into service were destroyed, deliveries of supplies were delayed, and what goods did make it to their destinations were exorbitantly priced since the cost of protection money was being piled onto the original prices. The seriousness of this problem cannot be underestimated. As the dissatisfaction and uncertainty mounted, confidence in the federation’s ability to govern was eroded, and the result was an eroding of the people’s enthusiasm for developing the frontier.

ln SE 106, the government finally put forth a serious effort to eliminate the pirates, and thanks to the efforts of admirals M. Chuffrin and C. Wood, this objective had been all but achieved two years later. It was by no means easy. As Admiral Wood, known for his sharp tongue, later wrote in his memoirs,

I had competent enemies in front of me, incompetent allies behind me, and had to fight with both of them at once. Hell, I wasn’t even entirely sure I could count on myself?

After Admiral Wood moved into the world of politics, he was known as “that insensitive, stubborn old geezer” who waged a tireless, tenacious war against corrupt politicians and business people.

These societal diseases continued to flare up without interruption. However, they were-if we consider the whole of humanity as a single individual-really nothing more than the equivalent of minor skin irritations. There is no way to prevent them completely, just as it is impossible to fully eliminate abrasions to one’s skin. But as long as proper treatment is applied, there is no reason at all for such ailments to lead to a patient’s death. And so it was that without ascending the operating table, humanity continued on in mostly good health for the next two centuries.

Left behind by this prosperity and development was Terra, once the home of all humanity. This planet had already been scoured for every last bit of its resources, suffering the loss of both its real and potential political and economic power. lt’s population had plummeted, leaving it nothing more than a used-up and useless old state relying on faded traditions-its sovereignty still recognized, just barely, thanks to its harmlessness.

The interstellar colonies that Terra had wrested from Sirius and others, the accumulated wealth it had possessed during the days when it still dominated the galaxy-all had been lost somewhere along the way.

And so at last the cancerous cells began to multiply, and the shadow of a so-called
medieval stagnation fell across the face of human society.

The hearts and minds of the people came to be ruled not by hope and ambition, but by exhaustion and weariness. Activity, optimism, and initiative gave way to passivity, pessimism, and protectionism. In the fields of science and technology, new discoveries and inventions ground to a halt. The democratically elected government of the republic lost its ability to maintain self-discipline and declined into an oligarchy interested in nothing but concessions and political infighting.

Plans for the development of the frontier regions were scrapped. The potential bounty of countless habitable worlds was forsaken, along with half-constructed facilities that were left abandoned. Social lifestyles and culture steadily decayed. People lost sight of their proper values and gave themselves over to drug abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, and mysticism. Crime rates skyrocketed, while arrest rates fell in inverse proportion. The tendency to make little of human life and to ridicule morality grew increasingly pronounced.

Of course, there were many who lamented these phenomena, who could not stand to sit idly by while humanity in its decadence marched toward the same miserable fate that had awaited the dinosaurs. They believed that drastic treatment of humanity’s collective illness was needed, and in this they were not mistaken. But when they selected their favoured form of medication, the majority opted not for the kind of long-term therapy that requires endurance and perseverance-instead, they quaffed a fast-acting elixir that came with many side effects.

This was the powerful drug called “dictatorship.”

And so the stage was set for the ascent of Rudolf von Goldenbaum.

 *******

Rudolf von Goldenbaum was born into a military family in SE. 268, and just as one
would expect, he entered the military service as well.

While at the Space Force’s officer school, he was the very picture of a top- ranked student. With a powerful body 196 centimetres in height and weighing in at ninety-nine kilograms. people who saw him often had the feeling that they were gazing up at a steel tower.

Von Goldenbaum’s towering form contained not a trace of fat, nor the slightest hint of vulnerability. He received his commission as an ensign at age twenty, and was attached to a guard unit patrolling the Rigel shipping lanes as its legal affairs officer. There he applied himself to the enforcement of military discipline, driving out the “four evils” of alcohol, gambling, drugs, and homosexuality. Even when these problems entangled his superior officers, he showed no mercy, pursuing them with unassailable logic and regulations brandished high. His embarrassed senior officers responded by promoting him to lieutenant junior grade, then transferring him out toward Betelgeuse.

This was a dangerous region often called the “Space Pirate’s Main Street.” but Rudolf von Goldenbaum went into it in high spirits. in time, the pirate syndicate there was driven to destruction by his ingenious and unsparing attacks, bearing witness to the shrewd ways of he who came to be called “the second coming of Admiral Wood.”

Von Goldenbaum’s enthusiasm for ferocity-even those who wished to surrender and face trial were incinerated along with their ships-was, naturally, a target of some criticism, but the voices praising his escapades were far louder.

The citizens of the Galactic Federation knew well the suffocating feeling of life as part of a generation that was going nowhere, and they joyfully welcomed this young and spirited new hero. Rudolf’s appearance came like a shining supernova to a world that had been enshrouded in thick fog.

In SE 296, Rudolf von Goldenbaum, who had made rear admiral at age twenty- eight, resigned from the military and entered the political arena, winning a seat in parliament. When he became leader of a political party called the National Reformation Alliance, he brought in many young politicians by virtue of his popularity.

By the time a few more election cycles had passed, von Goldenbaum’s power had grown by leaps and bounds, and amid a complex brew of fervent support, uncertainty, opposition, and decadent unconcern, he succeeded in building a firm political foundation.

He was elected prime minister by popular vote, and then-by exploiting vague wording in the constitutional article that banned holding multiple offices simultaneously–was also appointed head of state by parliament. It had been an unwritten rule that no individual should hold more than one office at a time. These two positions possessed only limited powers alone. But when both were united in the person of a single individual, a fearsome chemical reaction took place. Now there was essentially no one left who could stand in the way of Rudolf van Goldenbaum’s political power. As historian D. Sinclair would write a generation later:

Von Goldenbaum’s ascension was striking historical evidence that,
fundamentally, people do not prefer independent thought and the
accompanying responsibility, but rather orders, subordination, and the
accompanying exemption from responsibility. In a popular democracy,
the masses who elect unfit rulers are to blame for bad government, but
that is not the case in a monarchy. Rather than reflecting upon their own
mistakes, the people are free to enjoy speaking ill of leaders who are
even more irresponsible than they.

Regardless of his theory’s validity or lack thereof, it is certain that the people of
von Goldenbaum’s generation were on his side.

“Strong government! Powerful leaders! Order and revitalisation!”

Somewhere along the way, the young, powerful leader who had cried out these slogans came to be a dictator called “Administrator for Life,” and he did not permit the existence of any criticism. By SE 310, when he attained the title of “Sacred and lnviolable Emperor of the Galactic Empire,” not a few citizens found themselves cursing their stupidity for failing to learn the lessons of history. As for those who had been consistently critical all along, no one could blame them for feeling deeply resentful. But the numbers shouting for joy had been so much greater.

Hassan el-Sayyid-one of the politicians of the republican faction of that time–wrote the following in his diary on the day of the coronation: “Here in my room, I can hear the crowds outside shouting ‘Hail, Rudolf!’ I wonder how many days they’ll need to realise that they’re cheering their own hangman.”

The publication of the diary was later suppressed by the imperial authorities. It was also on this day that the SE calendar was abolished, and the first year of the imperial calendar was begun. Here the Galactic Federation collapsed, and the Galactic Empire-and the Goldenbaum Dynasty-were born.

It cannot be doubted that this man-who as Emperor Rudolf l of the Galactic Empire had become the first absolute monarch of the political system uniting all humanity was possessed of extraordinary talents. With the boundless strength of his political leadership and the fortitude of his will, he enforced discipline, improved the efficiency of government, and purged corrupt officials.

This was all according to standards which Rudolf set himself, but the “vulgar, decadent, fallen, and unhealthy” way of life and entertainment vanished, and the rates of crime and juvenile delinquency plummeted in the face of severe-even cruel-judicial activism. In any case, the evil that had enshrouded human society was blown away.

And yet, the “Steel Giant” (as some liked to refer to Rudolf) was still not satisfied. His idealised society was one with a high degree of unity, regulated and managed in an orderly fashion by powerful leaders.

For Rudolf-who relied greatly on himself and had utmost faith in the justice that he himself executed-critics and opponents were nothing but foreign contaminants disrupting the unity and order of society. As a natural consequence, the cruel suppression of opposition forces began.

In Year 9 of the imperial calendar, this created the opportunity for the Genetic Inferiority Elimination Act to be promulgated.

The strong consume the weak! The fittest survive! Excellence is victorious while inferiority is defeated! This is the providence of the universe!

So Rudolf expressed his beliefs to his “subjects.”

Human society is no exception. When the number of aberrations exceeds a critical mass, society loses its vitality and declines into weakness. My ardent desire is for humanity’s everlasting prosperity. Therefore, the elimination of those elements that would weaken humanity as a species is my holy obligation as ruler of humanity.

Specifically, this meant forced sterilisation for the physically handicapped, those below the poverty line, and those who “did not excel.” it meant euthanasia for the mentally handicapped. It meant that societal measures for the support of the weak were all but eliminated.

For Rudolf, weakness was the unforgivable sin, and the weaker members of society who “use their weakness as a shield, then demand to be taken care of” were nothing more than objects of his hatred.

When this bill was shown to the people, even the throngs that had thus far worshipped and followed Rudolf blindly were ashamed of themselves, as might be expected. The number of those who could confidently declare themselves to be superior beings was not so great. Everyone was thinking, isn’t this a little too high- handed?

Politicians of the all-but-vanished republican faction still hung on in parliament,
and they gave voice to the will of the people, lambasting the emperor. To this, the emperor determined to make a decisive counter-strike.

He immediately and permanently dissolved the parliament.

The following year, the imperial Ministry of the Interior created the Bureau for the Maintenance of Public Order, which came to wield fierce power against political crime. Ernst Falstrong, who was Minister of the Interior as well as a close associate of Rudolf’s, ran the bureau himself, arresting, incarcerating, imprisoning, and punishing-not according to law, but according to his own judgement.

Such was the unholy matrimony of authority and violence. These two soon gave birth to the infant known as “state terrorism,” which grew in no time to be a giant that engulfed all of human society.

At that time, a blackly humorous joke was making the rounds: “If you don’t want to be executed, don’t get arrested by the police. Get yourself caught by Public Order instead, because they don’t execute anybody!”

It is a fact that of all those whom the bureau arrested for political and thought crimes, not a single one was ever formally executed. However, those who were shot dead without trial, who died under torture, who were “disappeared” to barren penal asteroids, who were left disabled by lobotomies or massive doses of drugs, who died in prison of “illnesses” or “accidents” the combined tally of these climbed to four billion. But because this number was only 1.3 percent of the Galactic Empire’s total population of three hundred billion, the bureau was able to spuriously claim, “We have eliminated a handful of dangerous elements for the sake of the absolute majority.”

Of course, that “absolute majority” did not include the four billion who shuddered in fear for their fates or the countless others who swallowed their objections amid the oppressive silence.

Rudolf crushed those who opposed him, and at the same time selected and granted special privileges to certain “people of superior ability,” creating an aristocracy to support the imperial family. But was it a sign of the inferiority of Rudolf’s own knowledge that all of them were white people who bore old Germanic family names?

Based on his strong service record, Falstmng also received the title of count, but on his way home he ran into a terror attack carried out by an underground republican group. In the flash of a neutron bomb, he met a tragic end. Rudolf mourned, and with the execution of twenty thousand suspects, he sought to comfort the soul of one who had served him well.

In the forty-second year of the imperial calendar, Rudolf’s life of eighty-three years came to an end. It was said that his huge frame had been stronger than ever, but psychological distress had cast a heavy burden on his heart.

The emperor did not die in full satisfaction. Of the four children he and his empress Elizabeth had, all were girls, and he was left without a male heir. Late in life, his concubine Magdalena gave birth to a baby boy, but it is said that the child was born an idiot.

Of this episode, the public records of the empire are silent, but we may surmise that the rumours circulating at the time were almost certainly true, because not just Magdalena, but also her parents, her siblings, and even the doctors and nurses who had attended her birth were afterwards all put to death.

It must have come as a stinging blow for Rudolf, who had promulgated the Genetic Inferiority Elimination Act and sought the development of a superior form of humanity.

For Rudolf, the gene decided everything, and to prevent the collapse of his belief system, Magdalena had had to die. It simply could not be that Emperor Rudolf had a genetic makeup that produced retardation. The fault had to lie completely with Magdalena.

After the death of Rudolf, the imperial crown of the Galactic Empire came to rest upon the head of Sigismund, eldest son of Rudolf’s eldest daughter, Katharina. And so at the age of twenty-five, with the assistance of his father Joachim, Lord of Neue-Staufen, this young emperor came to rule the galaxy.

With the death of Rudolf l, republican rebellions erupted in every quarter. It was believed that with the loss of Rudolf ’s leadership and fierce personality, the empire would soon crumble; however, that kind of thinking was too optimistic. The aristocrats, military leaders, and bureaucrats that Rudolf had been nourishing at his side for the past forty years made up a troika far stronger than the republicans’ hopeful estimation.

These forces were led by Lord Joachim of Neue-Staufen, who was both the emperor’s father and prime minister. Displaying the composed, cool leadership that might be expected of a man chosen by Rudolf as groom for his daughter, Joachim crushed the weaker forces of insurrection as though they were eggshells beneath his heel.

More than five hundred million who had participated in the uprisings were killed, and of their families more than ten billion had their citizenship revoked and were thrown into serfdom. “In the suppression of opposing forces, be unsparing,” said the imperial regulations, and they were followed to the letter.

The forces of republicanism were once again made to endure a long winter.

In the face of such powerful dictators, it was thought that this harsh winter would stretch on forever. After Joachim’s death, Sigismund ruled directly. And after his death, Sigismund was succeeded by his eldest son Richard, who was in turn succeeded by his own eldest, Ottfried. The highest position of authority passed only to the descendants of Rudolf, and it looked as if heredity was the only thing that could determine the transition of power.

However, deep beneath the thick ice, a watery convection current was silently moving.

In IC 164, the republicans of the Altair system-who had been denounced as a rebel clan, reduced to slave status, and set to hard labour-succeeded in escaping, using a spaceship they had constructed themselves.

Their plan was not like the ones that their forebears had been carefully refining for generations. The number of such plans that had been proposed was equal to the number that had ended in failure. The grave markers of republicans had only increased. and in place of elegies, only the cruel laughter of the Bureau for the Maintenance of Public Order resounded among the graveyards. It was a cycle that had repeated itself endlessly. Yet finally, there was success. And from conception to execution, it had only taken three standard months.

It had literally begun as child’s play. A child of two slaves who were mining
molybdenum and antimony in the cruel cold of Altair 7 had dodged out of the sight
of his overseers and was playing at carving small boats from the ice, which he then
floated out onto the water. A young man named Able Heinessen had been
watching him absently, and this image reverberated in the back of his mind like a
divine revelation. Wasn’t this lonely planet, after all, a bottomless storehouse of
shipbuilding materials?

On the seventh planet, the overall amount of water was not so great; it abounded
more in natural dry ice than in frozen water. Heinessen chose a gargantuan mass of
dry ice that was entirely buried in a certain valley. Its dimensions were 122
kilometres in length, forty kilometres in width, and thirty kilometres in height.
After hollowing out the center, he made a propulsion area and a living area, and
soon it began to look like it could fly. The most difficult part of the plan was the
question of how to get materials to actually build a spaceship. It was no good
trying to obtain materials illegally, for if the Bureau for the Maintenance of Public
Order got wind of it, they would simply arrest and slaughter everyone involved.

However, this world also had natural resources that would not draw the bureau’s
attention. In the absolute zero cold of outer space, there was no fear of dry ice
sublimating into gas. If they could just isolate the heat that would be generated by
the propulsion and living areas. a considerably long-term flight would be possible.
During that time, they could search asteroids and uninhabited planets for the
materials needed to build an interstellar spaceship. There was no need to keep
flying in the same ship in which they had departed.

And so their glittering white spaceship of dry ice was christened the Ion
Fazegas, named after the boy who had made that toy boat out of ice. Four hundred
thousand men and women entered that vessel and escaped from the Altair system.
This was the first step on a journey that historians would later dub the Long March
of 10,000 Light-Years.

After shaking off the ruthless pursuit of the Galactic Empire’s military, they hid
themselves beneath the surface of a nameless planet and there constructed eighty
interstellar spacecraft. Then they set out into the inner core of the galaxy. Here the
escapees faced an immensity brimming with deadly giant stars, dwarfs, and
variables. Here the ill will of the Creator crashed down on their heads time and
time again.

In the midst of this journey of hardship, they lost their leader l-Ieinessen to an
accident. Ilis dear friend Kim Ilua Nguyen took over as leader. By the time this
man grew old and his eyesight faded, they at last passed out of the dangerous regions and found their future in a stable cluster of main sequence stars. More than
half a century had passed since they had left Altair.

To the stars of their new world they gave the names of the gods of ancient
Phoenicia: Baalat, Astarte, Melqan, Hadad, and others. They made their base on
the fourth planet from Baalat, to which they gave the name of their fallen leader
Heinessen, that his deeds might be forever honoured.

The conclusion of the Long March of 10,000 Light-Years occured in IC 218,
but these people-who had escaped the yoke of the dictatorship-chose to abolish
the imperial calendar and revive the SE calendar instead. In this, they prided
themselves that it was they who were the rightful heirs of the Galactic Federation.
Rudolf and his ilk were nothing more than contemptible traitors to democratic rule.

In this manner, the establishment of the Free Planets Alliance was solemnly
declared. It took place in SE 527. The first generation of its citizens numbered
around 160,000. More than half of their comrades had perished during the Long
March.

It was far too small a number to truly say that humanity had been divided, but the
founders of the Free Planets Alliance possessed incomparable diligence and
passion, and by their power, material fulfillment was rapidly attained. Childbearing
was encouraged, and the population grew. A national establishment was put in
order, and the agricultural and industrial production capacity steadily increased.

It was as if the golden age of the Galactic Federation had returned. Then, in SF. 640, the forces of the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets encountered one another for the first time in the form of a clash between battleships of both sides.

From the standpoint of the Free Planets, such an encounter was a possibility for
which they had long been preparing themselves. To the imperial side, however, it
came like a bolt from the blue, and so victory in the battle went to the Free Planets.
However, just before a direct hit from a neutron-beam cannon tumed the imperial
warship into a fireball of destruction, an emergency communique leapt away
toward the capital of the empire.

Imperial bureaucrats there extracted old records from computer archives and learned that more than a century before, there had been an incident involving slaves escaping from Altair. So they had not died out in space after all; they lived and even prospered! A force was assembled to put down this insurrection. Great battleships were dispatched to the stronghold of those rebels.

And there those warships were utterly defeated.

There are many reasons why the imperial military was so soundly beaten despite
its superior numbers. For one thing, the long-distance campaign caused physical
and mental exhaustion to set in on the empire’s soldiers and officers. For another,
the issue of resupply was taken too lightly. In addition, the imperial military knew
too little about the area in which they were fighting. They also underestimated both the enemy’s strength and will to fight. Their strategy was careless. The Free
Planets’ military had capable commanders. Et cetera, et cetera.

Pao Lin commander in chief of the alliance military was a womanizer, a
heavy drinker, and a glutton, and although the statesmen of the alliance-who
placed great importance on an ancient and puritanical simplicity of lifestyle-were
apt to cast a cold eye on his behavior, the man was a genius when it came to tactics
and strategy. Yusuf Topparole his chief of staff, who assisted him in this work
was also known as “Griping Yusuf,” for he was constantly crying foul in matters
large and small, saying, “Why do you have to give me such a hard time?”

Topparole, however, was also a precise and accurate theorist who might well
have been called a living, breathing computer. Both men were still in their thirties
when-on the outer fringes of the Dagon system-they conducted the greatest
envelopment operation in history, annihilating the enemy and becoming the
greatest heroes of the alliance since its founding.

For the Free Planets, this was an occasion for material expansion. When
malcontent elements within the Galactic Empire learned of the existence of an
independent power resisting the hegemony, they fled the empire in droves. Seeking
a home where they could live in peace, they came flooding into the alliance.

In the three centuries following Emperor Rudolf’s death, the establishment-
firm as it had once been-had become somewhat more lenient. and the influence
of the Bureau for the Maintenance of Public Order, which had once spared no
effort in oppressing the people, had faded as well. Voices of discontent within the
empire were growing louder.

The men and women who flowed into the Free Planets Alliance were accepted
in a spirit of “he who comes shall not be turned away,” but not all of these people
held to republican ideals. Among this number there were even some aristocrats and
members of the imperial family who came, having been on the losing side of court
intrigues. With such people being allowed entry, and with the Free Planets
growing too quickly, it was an inevitable progression, perhaps, that the nature of
the alliance should begin to change more and more.

The Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance had been in a chronic state of
war since first contact, but from time to time they were visited by periods of
uncertain peace as well. A product of this was the Phezzan Land Dominion. This
was a sort of city-state in the Phezzan star system, which lay almost exactly
between the two powers. It was under the sovereign rule of the Galactic Emperor
and paid tribute to the empire, but when it came to its internal affairs, it was almost
entirely self-governing- above all, in that it was permitted to have diplomatic
relations and trade with the Free Planets Alliance.

The Galactic Empire, in making itself out to be the singular, absolute ruler of all
humanity, did not acknowledge the existence of any legitimate authority outside
the sphere of its influence. In official documents, the Free Planets Alliance was not
referred to by its formal name; “the rebel entity” was written instead. The
alliance’s military were “rebels” as well, and the chairman of the High Council
(the alliance’s head of state) was “that deplorable rebel warlord.” With state
regulations such as these in place, diplomacy and trade with the alliance should
have been out of the question, but Leopold Raap-a powerful merchant of Terran
birth-was possessed of a passion that might be called extraordinary, and drove forward the establishment of this most peculiar dominion. With petitions and
persuasion-and above all, very large bribes-the matter was decided.

Representing the dominion was the landesherr, or domain lord, who as vassal of
the emperor ruled there in his name, oversaw commerce with the alliance, and
occasionally even played the role of diplomat. By monopolizing foreign trade, the
dominion accumulated massive stores of wealth, and small as it was, its power
became impossible to ignore.

It would be untrue to say that no one ever worked for amity between empire and
alliance. Manfred II, who was enthroned in IC 398 (SE 707) was one of Emperor
Helmut’s numerous illegitimate children. After slipping through the clutches of
assassins, he came to spend his early childhood in the Free Planets Alliance and
grew up in a more liberal atmosphere.

Because of this, it appeared that his enthronement might soon bring about peace
and fair trade between the two powers, as well as political reform within the
empire. However, these hopes soon came to nothing, as this young and popular
emperor was assassinated within a year, and relations between the two powers
immediately cooled. Manfred ll’s assassin was a reactionary aristocrat, but there is
also a compelling argument suggesting that behind the scenes, the hands of
Phezzan were at work, seeking to preserve its monopoly on the right to foreign
commerce.

And so at the close of the eighth century SE and the fifth century lC, the Galactic
Empire-undisciplined and uncontrolled simply because of its immense size-and
the Free Planets Alliance-having lost the ideals of its founding period-
continued on with their snuggle mainly out of inertia, with Phezzan in their midst.
According to the calculations of certain economists, the relative national power of
the three states was as follows:

Galactic Empire 48 percent

Free Planets Alliance 40 percent

Phezzan Dominion 12 percent

The balance of power was precarious.

Moreover, the total population of humanity, which had numbered three hundred
billion at the height of the Galactic Federation’s prosperity, had by this time
plummeted to forty billion, due to the long years of chaos.

The distribution was twenty-five billion living in the empire, thirteen billion in
the Free Planets, and two billion in Phezzan.

“It would be nice if something would work out, but it doesn’t look like it will.”

That was a statement that described the situation nicely.

What turned that situation on its head was the appearance of one young man on Odin, the third planet of the Valhalla system. Named after the chief deity of Norse
mythology, Odin was the hauptplanet to which Rudolf had relocated the capital of
the Galactic Empire. The name of that young man of icy beauty and fearless
countenance was Count Reinhard von Lohengramm.

Reinhard von Lohengramm’s last name was originally Miisel, and in IC 467 (SE
776) he was born into an impoverished family that was aristocracy in name only.
Reinhard’s life changed when he was ten years old, and Annerose-his elder sister
by five years-was taken away to the inner palace of Emperor Friedrich lV.
Reinhard, a youth with golden hair and ice-blue eyes, became lieutenant
commander of a division of imperial guards at age fifteen, receiving accelerated
promotions thanks both to his own talent and to Annerose’s favour with the
emperor.

When he reached the age of twenty, he received the title of Count von
Lohengramm and was promoted to the position of senior admiral in the Imperial
Navy. This sort of extreme personnel management is typical of dictatorships, but
with rank also comes responsibility. Had he been a noble of fine ancestry, there
would have been no great need to prove himself, but because Reinhard was
nothing more than “the little brother of the emperor’s favourite,” he had no choice
but to do so.

At almost the same time, the Free Planets Alliance gained a new strategist. This
was Yang Wen-Ii, who was born in SE 767 and enlisted at age twenty. Yang Wen-
li had never aimed for a career in the military, and if a series of coincidences

hadn’t pushed him in the right direction, he would have reached the end of his life
not as a creator of history, but as a spectator.

“There are things you can do and things you can’t do.”

That was Yang’s pet philosophy. Toward fate, he had a much more passive
disposition than Reinhard, but on the other hand. he had great adaptability and
inventiveness. Even so, he remained uncomfortable with war and the soldier’s job
of prosecuting it, and for the rest of his life, the military authorities were never free
of his requests to “chuck my rank and retire.”

At the start of SE 796 and IC 487, Reinhard led a fleet numbering twenty thousand
vessels on an expedition. His goal was to bring the rebel forces-who so
audaciously referred to themselves as the Free Planets Alliance-to heel, and
through that achievement establish his own personal position.

The alliance’s military had organised a fleet of forty thousand ships to intercept
him. One of the staff officers in that fleet was named Yang Wen-li.

Count Reinhard von Lohengramm. was twenty years old that year, and Yang
Wen-Ii was twenty-nine.


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