Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 837
Downbelow Station begins with an overview of the years 2005-2352, during which time Earth falls under the dominion of the Company, a politico-commercial entity that invests in interstellar exploration. This investment results in dominion over known space that is uncontested until a rival power emerges from the distant colony worlds...
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- Critical Essays
Downbelow Station begins with an overview of the years 2005-2352, during which time Earth falls under the dominion of the Company, a politico-commercial entity that invests in interstellar exploration. This investment results in dominion over known space that is uncontested until a rival power emerges from the distant colony worlds located in a region of space known as The Beyond. This power, the Union, grows swiftly, fueled by a mass eugenics program that creates a burgeoning population of laboratory-born soldiers and workers.
Friction between Earth and the Union causes Earth to establish the Fleet, an interstellar flotilla that protects Company interests in interstellar space. The decline of Earth and the Company leads to retrenchment and neglect, leaving the Fleet without support, save that which it can beg, borrow, or steal from the Company space stations, which are the most important assets in colonized space.
The story begins on Pell station. Captain Signy Mallory, in command of the fleet-carrier Norway, demands docking privileges in order to complete the evacuation of refugees from Mariner station, which has been destroyed by the Union. Mallory, a good leader whose basic honesty is offset by ruthlessness and a considerable ego, also deposits a Union prisoner on Pell station. This prisoner, test-tube born Josh Talley, elects to have his memories erased rather than to recall the horrors of his service to the Union and of his sexual enslavement to Mallory.
The influx of refugees compels Damon Konstantin, the son of station chief Angelo Konstantin, to accept increasingly dangerous positions of authority as the station’s resources are pushed to the breaking point. His wife, Elene Quen, discovers that her entire family has been killed by the Union at Mariner. Filled with a desire for vengeance, Elene does not immediately accept Da-mon’s caretaking friendship for the now amnesiac and forlorn Josh Talley.
On Pell’s Planet, the mostly habitable world that Pell station orbits, Damon’s brother Emilio is forced to dismiss security personnel who are still loyal to Jon Lukas, the previous overseer of the planetside operations. Lukas, a longtime rival of the Konstantins, decides to seek covert means of toppling Angelo and his sons from power. The Konstantin hold on the planetside activities—a collection of multipurpose bases known collectively as Downbelow station—is reinforced by the rapport between the Konstantin family and the Downers, an indigenous humanoid species who are gentle and usually trusting. Many of the Downers are relocated to Pell station to help with maintenance and cargo handling. Emilio sends up a particularly clever and loyal pair of mated Downers, Satin and Bluetooth.
Mallory, having departed from Pell station, makes a rendezvous with the rest of the Fleet, which is massing for a strike at Union-held Viking station. Fleet commander Mazian aborts the assault at the last second, fleeing the vicinity of Viking. Mallory is at first dismayed by, and then suspicious of, Mazian’s action.
As the Fleet reapproaches Pell station, Jon Lukas, with the help of a Union agent, kills Angelo Konstantin and takes control of the station. His treachery is uncovered by Mazian, and he is forced to act as the Fleet’s puppet administrator in charge of both Pell station and Down-below station.
Elene Quen manages to escape the occupation by the Fleet and sets out to unify the nomadic merchanters into a cohesive political and military force, using the name Quen—that of her martyred merchanter family—as a rallying cry. Her husband, Damon, is forced to go into hiding, along with Josh, who has begun to remember that he was more than a Union computer expert; he was a saboteur who helped destroy Mariner station.
The Fleet occupation of the station draws the Union forces closer. They hope to engage and destroy Mazian at Pell. Meanwhile, Mallory confirms that Mazian never meant to assault Viking; that operation was merely an excuse to reunite the Fleet for the conquest of Earth itself. Mazian’s heavy-handed rule causes Downbelow station to revolt. Emilio and his forces are aided by the Downers, who offer sanctuary to the humans after they break for freedom.
This sanctuary turns out to be unnecessary. Aided by Satin and Bluetooth, Damon and Josh avoid capture by Fleet forces long enough to be seized by Mallory’s troops, not Mazian’s. Mallory learns from Josh that Mazian has concealed the fact that Jon Lukas was not merely a murderer but a traitor for the Union. Still loyal to the Company and Earth—and disgusted by Mazian’s duplicity and egomania—Mallory breaks away from the station and, in order to ruin the Fleet’s attempt at Earth conquest, leads the Union forces toward Pell. Mazian is forced to disperse his fleet.
Before the Union can seize the station, Elene Quen arrives with a sizable armada of merchanter vessels, which declare an alliance to Pell station and declare it neutral ground. The station is left unmolested, Damon is placed in charge, and Mallory’s Norway becomes the core of its new Fleet.