==February 23, 2096, 10h


Shirro Lang's office was large, moderately expensive, and dominated by his gigantic desk (imported mahogany, of course) and the wallscreen behind it, which showed a peaceful and perfectly silent scene of the Alpha Centauri asteroid fields. Lang himself seemed to draw power from it, gaining authority and a couple decades as he sat down, until he had a fitting image for a WAR department head as he began to speak. "Welcome to the WAR power structure, Trent. Because you're a public hero and all that, you've been given temporary authority to requisition personnel from other departments, and you have personal control over most of the testing department..." A pause here, presumably for effect, since Trent assumed Lang thought he would be fooled by the strong impression of regret and reluctance Lang was giving off. "But I'm afraid the entire Mantis development was cancelled a week before you got here."

"Mantis was... what?!"

"Cancelled. I'm sorry. Dr. Hothe and a few of his men were transferred to project Nova by order from the President himself, and Kreissack's new executive vice president Menaza is watching us all closely to make sure we do exactly as he says."

Cancelled! Menaza, promoted *above* him, without so much as a formality! Trent thought fast and came up with the only card he could play in this situation. "I hope you understand that I'll have to announce this unforeseen development to the public. I'll have a press release ready for the major networks in a few hours." He turned to leave, but Lang put up a hand to stay him.

Lang was no fool - if the networks (especially the ones which tended to be anti-WAR, like LBC and OSS) got wind of this, there would be massive PR fallout against the Company, and his job would almost certainly be forfeit. Lang's estimation of Trent jumped a few notches: he didn't think the boy had any experience with blackmail. The words he needed, however, twisted his mouth, and not just because he hated to admit defeat. Finally, though, he said them. "Very well. What do you want? I can't countermand an executive order, but I can call in a couple favors."

Trent's smile was even more grimly satisfied than usual. "Three things. First, I want the autonomy over my department that Dr. Hothe had - I may be new to the job, but I'm not new to HAR testing or to Company regulations. Second, I want as much security clearance as any department head, more if you can get it. There are... certain things I want to look up." A penetrating look from Lang revised his speech slightly, but he was careful to keep talking without making it known that he had noticed. "Third, I want good publicity, so much of it that even the President won't be able to fire me. You know it'll only help you, since I'll be a good little employee."

You could hear the wheels grinding in Lang's head as he sized up Trent and his chances of making it out as a personal victory. "I can get you the PR and the authority, but the security clearance is, I'm afraid, out of the question. It would be against regulations and--"

Trent casually interrupted him, something no one had done to Lang in months, not even his friends. "Don't give me any of that. You can do it, so do it before the President decides he needs to rearrange the command structure a little further!"

"Don't talk to me that way. You may be a celebrity now, but in three months Menaza could have you executed and no one would know the difference. You're a likeable young man, and I'd hate to see you lose your biggest opportunity."

"That being said, I'll see what I can do. You know where your office is." Lang turned away and flicked the wallscreen on, a clear dismissal. Trent gave a bow to his back (old habits die hard), walked out, and heard the door cycle shut behind him. Time to make the best of a bad situation, he thought, and catalogued the up-and-coming young employees he remembered from his casual look at the files this morning: Jean-Paul Rafale from Marketing, Cossette Akira from Design, Hans and Mary Roiman from Testing, a half-dozen others. He couldn't have Mantis, but he could work on a project that had been growing in the back of his mind for years. The new Jaguar would be sleek, handsome, and well-armed, with a laser array where the cannon used to be...


==September 9, 2116


"Aidoann's Dojo" was the newest and best publicized HAR training center outside of Earth, and one of the most selective due to its small staff. Although Mrs. Traillieu herself, 2106 World Champion and star attraction of the dojo, spent most of her time training advanced students, she taught one "HAR Combat 101" class every year, to keep herself in the swing of things. After the rules of the class had been laid down on the first day, she arranged a demonstration on the room's holovision: four robots fighting in a desert setting, sound turned off. As the class watched, the battle slowly turned to the Katana pilot's favor. "What fight is this? Anyone care to guess?"

A few seconds of silence, and one boy, small and nerdy, popped a hand up. "They're using HARs that are at least ten years old. Plus, there's no finesse, no speed in these fights - it's like they've never been in a real fight before. I'd guess maybe 2100?"

"Close, but not quite. Let's jump forward a few minutes." Two pilots disappeared, and the remaining two - the Katana and a particularly decrepit-looking Jaguar - were talking. "It is an honor to fight with you", said one of them. With that, the half of the class that knew anything about HAR history scratched their heads, trying to figure out that oddly familiar voice - was it Tavares? Tommas? Augardi? Then they began to fight, and twenty-five pairs of eyes widened - all except Aidoann, who by now knew this fight like a favorite novel. Suddenly the Katana was moving every bit as fast as today's challengers, and the Jaguar - old as it was - was astonishing, taking on its opponent with ease and blinding speed. "Is that Jaguar on stimulants?" asked a girl (obviously inexperienced). Aidoann smiled and shook her head. "No. If you don't know by now, this is the final round of the 2096 Mantis Championships, Hawkins vs. Augardi. It took Hawkins, the Jaguar, five years to duplicate his performance here; Augardi never did."

Another student: "You mean we can do *this* in a HAR?"

Aidoann's smile grew even more secretive, if possible. "No, you'll be better."


==THE END


==Appendix: The OMF Universe

I have made several assumptions about OMF that I think I should put here, for posterity (and probably for the DE team as well, who at the time this is being written don't know what the BG storyline is). So:
* Human lifespan has increased by 50% across the adult life. Thus, 80-year-old Shirro Lang would not be expected to retire for another twenty years.
* There is no interstellar communication. Faster-than-light travel requires a stardrive that would bankrupt most small countries, so sending something as trivial as information across the galaxy is out of the question. This means that although there are colonies outside of the solar system, they do not create an "empire of man"; in fact, they have almost no impact on Earth, the cultural center, except as they bring in riches and scientific wonders.
* There are no computer intelligences. Computers are as small and powerful as necessary, but they won't do your thinking for you. For example, Eliza Laim uses the computer to analyze fighting techniques in real-time with previous records (presumably downloaded from the nets by the computer itself), but all it can do is spit out the figures for her, it won't call up Menaza.
* There are no friendly aliens. The near-universal response is that of the Ganymedians in 2097: leave us alone. This requires very little explanation: it's in there to prevent a clich├ęd "man rises to the top of the galactic heap" OMF story. Earth and colonies is quite big enough, thank you.
* WAR is not a strictly HAR corporation. Its HAR monopoly is its biggest success, but it's involved in almost everything else that's large scale and tech-related. Like any big operation, it's got a number of shady plots, from Trent to Nova to an incomplete robot armada.

As far as possible, I have complied with the OMF 2097 storyline, but since my source material is about two pages total, I'm creating most of it myself. In particular, I'd like to clarify Christian's 2097 ending, in which he meets Iron Fist in a bar. Obviously, since Iron Fist is a Mafia-like organization in 2096, he can't be casually meeting the entire administrative staff, but he refers to their "leader". This man is the "Yu-san" referred to on 2/14/96, who actually oversees Iron Fist's jobs, since the Talon has to keep up a double identity.

For those of you wondering why Trent, Jonus and Aidoann aren't in the OMF games, there's a very simple explanation: they don't have the kind of personality President Kreissack wants in charge of Ganymede for OMF 2097. Whoever's sent out there will become extremely powerful and disappear from public notice. Jonus would never abandon his loving public, Aidoann doesn't have the experience or leadership to run Ganymede, and Lang would rather have the public never hear about Trent again. However, Trent does have a significant impact on the OMF storyline, as the driving force behind the eponymous Hawkins Act of 2101, which stripped WAR of the patents on the HAR link and all related technology. This provided the opportunity for WAR's first serious competition, Aeronautics and Robotics Technologies, led by Milano Steele (the heir to Marcus Faraday's organization from 2/16/96) and Jean-Paul Rafale (the young marketing genius from 2/23/96). Their cutting-edge "Force" HAR was soon one of the top-ranked machines in the world championship, and their exclusive deal with Systex gave them considerable influence in the outer planetary system. 2101 was also a significant year for HAR fighting because it marked the sport's first retirement: Trent Hawkins, in a highly publicized move, demonstrated his "yomi" in a four-on-one match against the World Championship's best pilots, declared that the sport would be better without him, and dropped out of public view completely. Trent was later inducted into the HAR Combat Hall of Fame, as the only man to win four consecutive World Championships (2097-2100).