Special Metal: a Tale of the Bloo Cluster
During a nasty little action on the metals-rich planet Threnn, Natvig Tomelos, a young officer on mountain patrol, is captured and savagely mutilated by an ambush commander. Regenerative surgery restores Tom's body, but he cannot rest until he faces his enemy again in the field. Help from an unexpected quarter returns him to Threnn in an unexpected role, and the hunt is on. More
Teams of Falmuth commandos destroy a significant portion of Bloo Cluster's supply of hexennoctium ('Xek'), a meganuclear element crucial to the operation of a starship. Secretly supported by the Falmuth government, the Collective Polity of the Bloo legislature (the 'Col-Pols') exploit the panic occasioned by the Xek shortage to displace the Federal Party as the Bloos' governing majority. Once in office, they proceed with plans to collectivize Bloo Cluster.
Meanwhile, Natvig Tomelos, a chemistry student at a Bloo college, graduates with honors in his specialty of Metallics. He completes military training and is commissioned an infantry lieutenant in the Bloo Cluster Surface Forces.
As Natvig joins his unit, Borloe Blenn, a light-metals specialist, uncovers evidence of a possible Xek strike within Bloo Cluster. He prospects and confirms a huge deposit of Xek in the OllohunTai mountains on a metals-rich but primitive planet called Threnn.
Using the Xek strike as a bludgeon, Borloe forces a general election to get the Col-Pols out of office, and opens a mining effort on Threnn. The Falmuth government places a secret operative on Threnn to disrupt the mining program. The agent convinces a local sept to organize an attack on Borloe's mining party. Naming themselves the Toch Tinn after an old Thrennish legend, they attack, and Borloe's party is nearly annihilated. Borloe, seriously wounded, realizes the obvious: he should have provided for armed security to begin with. The second attempt goes in behind a battalion of the Bloo Surface Forces under Colonel Rykos Thegndor, whose best platoon leader is a lieutenant named Natvig Tomelos.
Months later, Natvig, patrolling in the mountains with his platoon, is betrayed by his interpreter, a Threnner, into an ambush. Tom is seriously wounded and cannot avoid capture, but manages to kill the interpreter, who turns out to be the brother of the Toch Tinn ambush commander. In rage, the commander tortures and mutilates Tom and leaves him for dead. His men recover him, and Rykos arranges for him to undergo regenerative surgery. In eight Earth months, Natvig is whole again, but bitterly determined to deal with the ambush commander.
In preparing to return to Threnn, Tom meets a young business-woman named Drockner Prennin, they are attracted, and after some misunderstandings they fall in love. Tom recounts his experiences on Threnn and discloses his plan to return as an infantry officer under false orders. When Prennin recovers from her horror, she suggests instead that they form a metals business on the planet, as it is metals-rich and full of opportunities. After hesitating, Tom accepts the suggestion, and they proceed with a business plan and stock sale.
When they are set up on Threnn in a city called Shumwal, Natvig travels to the OllohunTai mountains and starts his hunt. His radio is destroyed in an unexpected fight, but not before he gets a last message to Prennin. He has located his man and now follows the unit he is leading into the field. On the third day, he captures the commander, but despite all the army's immunizations, he has contracted a Thrennish fever. His enemy escapes from him, rearms, and gets help. Tom soon finds himself seriously wounded, desperately ill, and in a forlorn gun-battle.
Prennin, in the meantime, has gotten through by satellite to General Rykos, who takes her and a quickly-assembled force into the field to try to rescue Tom if he needs it.