A young hero comes of age in the crucible of war and galactic struggle. When Allen Allenson, scion of a noble family that has fallen on hard times, gets a mission to roust the power-hungry Terrans from a "wild" star sector where they're encroaching, he jumps at the chance to show his individual worth, improve his family's fortunes - and gather enough lucre to make a good marriage. But the wily Terrans are not so easily persuaded by a young colonial they think of as a "rube".
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The Cutter Stream colonies were at peace. If everybody behaved reasonably, that peace could last a thousand years. Allen Allenson had known war; it had made him peaceful and reasonable. He was far too experienced to believe the same was true of all his fellow colonists, however, let alone the government of the distant homeworld across the Bight.