As in the previous two volumes of the “Game of Life” subseries, the scene is our world in the future, this time the mid-twenty-fourth century, not quite a century after the events of The Alliance. The main and point-of-view character is again Alice Hansen, also known as Alatumbra, an SCA enthusiast, linguist, and by now somewhat experienced mage and (despite her inclinations) politician and diplomat.
The tentative logline for The Counter is:
When Earth receives advance warning of Gondolor yet again returning to try for revenge, Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra, liaison between Earth’s people and the outside forces defending it, must lead her country’s small space navy in preparing a defense to prevent Gondolor from reaching the planet’s surface.
In the decades since the end of the previous volume, Earth has again changed significantly. Second colonies have been established on both the Moon and Mars, and one was attempted in the Asteroid Belt, but finally failed only a couple of decades before this volume begins. There is a major university on Mars.
Perhaps most notably, about three decades after The Alliance, the Fourth World War devastates most of Europe, much of North Africa, and the Near East, among other areas. Rebuilding Europe takes decades, but Islam fades back into obscurity after the damage throughout the areas it once ruled.
Technology has attempted new challenges, with mixed success. A space elevator is built, but only lasts for about thirty years before it fails, and eventually collapses. Research into nanotechnology resumes, due to economic pressure, despite taboos dating back to the late twenty-first century. And the expanding human presence outside lunar orbit brings changes: ships begin to be constructed entirely in space, and a semi-regular “data trade” (caravans of itinerant spaceship-sized data centers moving between colonies) begins.
After The Alliance, Earth’s governments become more generally involved in diplomacy with the Shine and Wild Empire, Elvida, and their other allies. One of the first fruits of this engagement is a new international treaty (one of the first on this scale since the collapse of the United Nations) governing genetic engineering, but it also leads to joint military exercises in the less-traveled areas of the solar system.
It is in the aftermath of those military exercises that news of Gondolor’s escape comes. Alice Hansen (who may even bring this warning) knows that he is heading toward Earth yet again, undoubtedly to try for revenge with yet more knowledge and experience of Earth’s cultures and peoples, where he could set off an all-but-indefinite standoff if he were allowed to reach Earth’s surface. Even if he merely established a base of any kind anywhere in the system, the conflict could drag on for a long time.
But even with their allies, and even after the recent training exercises, Earth’s space navies are small and untested, and defeating Gondolor alone seems either unlikely or impossible. Reinforcements are coming, but they will have to prepare, then hold him off long enough, and fighting a purely defensive battle will certainly make his eventual capture far more difficult.
So Alice organizes as much of a defense in depth as the navies can muster, then leads them in responding to Gondolor’s attack, somehow fighting him off as he tries to descend through the fleet layers into Earth’s atmosphere. Once he is forced to retreat to regroup, she counterattacks to keep him from gathering enough strength to overwhelm a weak point, and the battles continue until reinforcements arrive and capture Gondolor.
While I hadn’t thought of this until preparing this précis, I think it’s likely that at least part of the story will take Alice to the Mars colonies, since Gondolor will attempt to land there once it’s clear that Earth is too strongly defended. He might also try to use something from the failed Belt colony. We’ll see.
Do you have any thoughts about my plans for The Counter?