By William Zellmann
Copyright 2012 William Zellmann
Thank you for buying my book. I hope you enjoy it!
FREE SYSTEMS ALLIANCE: Name given to a group of some 340 systems, of which 186 have inhabited planets, occupying the outer part of a spiral arm to the Galactic East of the Empire. Originally part of the Empire, the Alliance of Free Systems became independent in 3428 A.E., and remains the only multi-system government not part of the Empire. In contrast to the centralized Emperor/Council of the Empire, the Free Systems Alliance is governed by a Congress consisting of one representative from each inhabited system, a President elected by the Congress, and a cabinet appointed by the President. Since the member systems fiercely defend their own independence, the Alliance government itself is, by design, relatively weak, and the sessions of the Congress often chaotic and contentious.
-Encyclopedia Galactica, 2473rd edition
The pebble had been wandering the outer fringes of the Boondock system for millennia since being formed in the primordial protostar that became the system's primary. The chance of its course intersecting that of another material object was so slight as to be infinitesimal …
The first hint of trouble came when the faint but steadily increasing vibration of the reaction drive generators stopped with no warning but a faint shudder. Even before several alarms went off simultaneously a moment later, Captain Jirik Jeffson of the independent trader Bonny Lass had jumped to his feet, staring around wildly. As the alarms sounded, he spun to the Engineering console, glaring at the red lights flashing there. The needle of the normal space acceleration gauge, which had only moments before slowly lifted from its peg, had fallen back to the zero mark, as had the output indicators for the reaction drive generators. He instinctively flicked the life support switch to "Emergency" just as the bridge lighting began to flicker, and jerked a nod as the indicator lights flared green and the associated gauges showed the emergency generators coming to life.