Shine Cycle Précis: Third Empire

Third Empire is the next planned work in the “main line” of the Shine Cycle, following “Dracon Heights”, and the last story planned in the second arc. Today’s post is a brief introduction to this planned novel.

The Shine Cycle is, among other things, the saga of a long struggle between two empires—it’s not quite that simple, since the founding of each of the empires is a part of the story, but that will do for a précis. Third Empire is the story of an unexpected encounter with a third empire … and not one “on the side of the angels.”

The “two empires” I mentioned, that are in at least some sense the “main actors” of the Shine Cycle, are the Shine and Wild Empire and the Dragon Empire. And they have meaningful names because they have always had contact with countries outside themselves. The “third empire,” however, has not, until the event that sparks this story; it was the only political entity of its scale in an isolated galaxy, and so called itself simply “the Galactic Empire.”

Like Rome in our world, this “Galactic Empire” had been built on the ashes of a smaller republic, and had imposed peace throughout its galaxy by means of unrestrained tyranny and brute force—a peace constantly broken on a local scale by planetary revolts that are violently put down, but recently challenged by a small but multi-system rebellion that aims to either restore the old republic or at least dissolve the empire. A group of Imperial warships heading to a system sympathizing with this rebellion accidentally stumbles into a newly-formed wormhole (wormholes being essentially unknown in that galaxy) leading to a system quite a ways above the surface of “the world of the Shine Cycle.”

The commander of this fleet is ambitious and not entirely stupid, so he quickly grasps what’s happened, recognizes the opportunity this offers, and leads his fleet toward the nearest inhabited system. Which happens to contain an outpost of the Dragon Empire, and a smaller station manned by the Shine and Wild Empire or one of its allies to watch the Dragon outpost, so the two evil empires—natural allies except that, had they met at full strength, neither would want to submit to the other—come to an understanding, but the free worlds have a warning.

And there has been a sense of foreboding for some time now in the halls of power of the Shine and Wild Empire and its allies, which (since they tend to trust their hunches about such things as a general rule) means that there has been a gradual and quiet military buildup and activation of defense systems, and that the wide-spread colonies and protectorates have been quietly put on high alert.

All that immediately follows that “first contact” is a few brief skirmishes, both out in space (in that system and others) and on the ground, with tension becoming definite war, as each side tests the other’s strength. And then the newcomers start speeding toward the flat world below, while the Dragon Empire tries to get its space navy out of the atmosphere—past defense “containment” systems designed to prevent that—to join them, with some but not complete success.

When the two new allies meet up just outside the atmosphere, they make attempts to take any part of the Shine and Wild Empire within reach. But while they do a great deal of damage, and in a few cases come close, the planetary shields hold in this their first real test. So the newcomers and the Dragon Empire’s navy retreat, building resupply bases in a few of the nearest star-systems above the flat world and starting to build up their forces for a more substantial assault. The Shine and Wild Empire attacks many of these bases, and even takes some, but can’t prolong the inevitable forever.

What’s worse, eventually someone thinks of using the seam in the “containment” defenses through which the Dragon Empire’s ships got out, only the other way. As an attack vector on the Shine and Wild Empire it’s essentially useless, but they’re quickly able to take an island near the Dragon Empire—but not so near as to be covered by the Shine and Wild Empire’s cross-border defenses—to use as a terrestrial base for further attacks.

A siege is laid against Capitol, the capital of the Shine and Wild Empire; it’s too strong to take with any speed, but a siege keeps resources tied up there that then can’t be diverted to other needs. This beginning is followed by a flurry of attacks against various targets on both sides of the shields: major cities and defense emplacements below, and nearby colonies and trading partners above. Some are merely assaulted, while some are, like the capital, besieged when they prove a “tough nut to crack.” The last series of targets is the bunkers housing the generators that power the planetary shield, and in the end these succumb and the shield falls.

A “mass battle” at the edge of the atmosphere ensues. The newcomers are now able to bring their full might down into range, and the Dragon Empire, conversely, is able to give full scope to its forces that had been held near the ground. But the planetary shield had also held much of the navy of the Shine and Wild Empire back in a similar fashion, and all this time its terrestrial bases had been building new ships and training new pilots and crew, so despite achieving their objective the two empires come in only to be frustrated. The tide has shifted.

Once this battle is finished, and defenses (if perhaps not the biggest-scale planetary shield) back on line, the ships of the Shine and Wild Empire move first to lift sieges of allied stations and worlds, but then to get to the rear of their enemies’ forces and take or at least besiege their nearby bases. After that feat is accomplished, formations are arranged to try to drive the Dragon Empire’s navy back down to the surface and the newcomers out and towards the wormhole.

After a lengthy series of skirmishes, the Dragon Empire is again contained within its own territory, and the newcomers are forced back through the wormhole into their own galaxy. A new station is set up to guard the wormhole, and a few scout ships slip through to explore beyond and perhaps make contact with potential allies there. But the story closes here, with essentially (but not quite) the “status quo ante,” where the armies of the Dragon Empire cannot even take a single mile of land, even with a surprise attack, and even with outside help.

As usual with stories this late in my “Outline of History,” I don’t yet have a good idea of the principal characters or the theme, just the plot. But the plot is there, and sets up the turning point that is the next planned book … which I’ll describe next month.

Any thoughts?


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