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Where were you when the galaxy shattered?

The Ballad of the Gypsy King is a series of tales by A. W. Ford, following the exploits of the billions of beings whose lives were turned upside down when the Galactic Commonwealth came tumbling to ash overnight…

The twist? Just like when JFK was shot, when the Challenger accident occurred, or when 9/11 happened, everyone’s life was impacted. Every survivor has a story of where they were on the day the galaxy Shattered.

In the collaborative universe of the Ballad of the Gypsy King, you get to tell your story too!

A Brief Introduction to the Galactic Commonwealth

My name is Maxwell Boils. I am the designated historian for our little gypsy fleet of survivors. I was tasked with providing you a brief summary of the history of the Galactic Commonwealth before it all fell apart.

There was nothing brief about it, but I shall do my best…

Before it happened, vast libraries worth of material had been produced about the almost seven thousand year history of the Galactic Commonwealth.

After it happened, there are only three basic things anyone needs to know:

First, Fate dropped the secret of the most powerful technology to ever exist, the quantum datastream, or QDS, into the hands of a slightly evolved species of aggressive primate, from the third planet of an obscure yellow sun, in a lightly populated region of the Milky Way.

Human nature ensued, ending up with Man outnumbering all other intelligent species combined by a ratio of at least 10 to 1.

I like to call this period “The Galactic Conquest of Man“.

Second, Fate again intervened. After, Man had used his QDS technology to completely subjugate or colonize every habitable planet in the galaxy, of course.

A semi-sentient, QDS-empowered artificial intelligence “awoke” in the Datastream. It was disturbed by Humanity’s treatment of the Smalls (aka, anyone not human), none of whom possessed anything close to QDS technology. It forced, er, “taught”, Mankind to share and play nice with others. QDS for everyone!

Diversity flourished.

I call this period “The Grand Unification of a Galactic Commonwealth“.

Lastly, the Commonwealth continued to expand and grow until every segment of the Milky Way’s spiral arms were in it’s grasp. Fate, having given the gift of QDS in the first place, found humor in one day suddenly shutting it all off.

Poof! Just like that, as simple as the press of a button. It stopped functioning as did everything that had ever been built to depend on it. The entire Commonwealth, its knowledge, its intimate social network, even its ability to travel the stars in an instant, all vanished.

We know this event today as “The Shatter“.

From Dark Age to Golden Age and back again, Mankind was thrust by Fate into a barbaric inversion of our once great galactic civilization. We were forced to re-adopt earlier, nearly forgotten technologies in order to survive.

If there is any lesson from Commonwealth history to be learned, it is as clear to me as any, my friend, and one you should well remember:

Fate is a bitch!

Maxwell Boils, from the Forward to “A Survivor’s Guide to the Commonwealth”



The Ballad of the Gypsy King is a collaborative writing project set in a far-future, dystopian, science fiction universe. In the vein of the famous Thieves World collaborative anthology created and edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, it is my hope to turn The Ballad of the Gypsy King into a series of short stories written by independent authors, but which follow a grand story arc.


It’s a big galaxy with a lot going on…

  • Quatum Datastream:
    QDS or Quads technology has failed:



    • The Galactic Commonwealth – just days before the only authority spanning millions of inhabited worlds across the vast Milky Way – built from its core on QDS technologies, has completely collapsed.
    • Individuals are left scattered around the galaxy, stumbling about, barely able to navigate, trying to find their ways back to their respective homes across impossible distances.
    • Most people had QDS neuro-transceivers embedded in their temples. Suddenly disconnected from the ultimate social network, many are experiencing psychological withdrawals and unexplained behaviors. “Quadsickness” as it came to be called affects over half of the surviving populations.
    • In the words of Tox, one of our protagonist characters:
      • “It looks as if the Commonwealth has taken a long dirt nap, and left us all to wander the stars like a bunch of gypsies.”

Image courtesy of Pixabay.Com

  • The “Dirtnap Gyspsies” & their Gypsy Fleet:
    A group of survivors find each other and scrabble together a few very old, pre-Quad-tech ships. A rag-tag fleet is born:
    • A pair of Commonwealth Fleet Marines on their way home from the War;
    • A Kleatian prisoner of war on a quest for spiritual enlightenment;
    • A wealthy couple and their phallic shaped yacht, Pirate Pete. The kinkiest love slaves to ever travel the stars;
    • A shade-addicted Planetary Expedition Corps pilot, booted from the mission that would have made her rich;
    • An intelligent coat rack;
    • A beautiful xenobiologist on the cusp of discovering the original source of life in the galaxy, and her less than amicable “housecat”;
    • A small time, alien crime boss with connections to the Royal House;
    • A lonely delivery man, cruising the outback of a planet nobody wants to visit;
    • The last lighthouse keeper…
    • …these and many other characters await!
    • Helping one another in a galaxy suddenly gone dark, they laughingly refer to themselves as the Dirtnap Gypsies.
    • Their flagship – a 200 year old Longbox tractor – the Gypsy King.

  • The Sadat Corporation:
    A viscous galactic-scale business empire is making moves to control many of the former Commonwealth worlds.
    • Rumors hint they might have even been behind the collapse…
    • Estabani Sadat, the powerful CEO of Sadat Corp, and his nephew and heir-apparent, aren’t getting along.
    • What does the head of Sadat Security have to do with the discord, and why might he be the most dangerous man alive?
    • Why aren’t Sadat’s security forces getting quadsick?

Image courtesy Pixabay.Com

  • Political Intrigue:
    Politically, everything wasn’t exactly as rosy a picture as it might have seemed before The Shatter.
    • Neo-humanists, a faction wishing to restore the Commonwealth to it’s human-centric, xeno-conquering roots are gaining support in the Assembly.
    • Unionists are fighting to maintain the xeno-tolerant order of the Commonwealth.
    • The Colonial Commission has been tinkering around with planets that were supposed to be protected.
    • The Commonwealth Navy just finished a six-year war in the Orion Spur, and the Assembly worries about a billion fleet marines returning home to the core worlds.
    • After The Shatter, these forces – along with many more new threats – continue to hammer at what is left of civilization.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.Com

  • Artificial Intelligence:
    • They stepped in once before towards the end of Man’s xenophobic reign of terror and forced the creation of the Commonwealth in the first place. Could they be behind the sudden collapse of Quads technology?
    • Like a god with a flood, had they decided the Commonwealth experiment was a failure and destroyed their own handiwork?
    • It hardly seems likely, since without Quads they never would have developed sentience, and nobody is sure if they could live without it.
    • Nothing has been heard from their digital consciousness since The Shatter.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.Com

  • A Million Inhabited Worlds:
    The Milky Way galaxy contains over 200 billion stars, and enough dust and gas to make billions more. The Commonwealth spanned an immense area – 100,00 light years across from any direction – filled with planets. Below is just a glimpse of the few you’ll encounter …
    • Earth:
      Really, you want to know what happened to Earth? Of course you do, everybody does. Humans stopped calling it that a long time ago, by the way. The few even willing to discuss it call it “Dead Earth” now. Nobody ever goes there. Does anyone remember why or even where it is any more?
    • Terra Galaxis:
      Humanity’s new homeworld, the galactic capitol, and birthplace of QDS technology. If the secret of how to restore the Quads network is hidden anywhere, it’s probably here. But it occupies a region of space very near the “bulge” at the center of the galaxy – a region of hot gas and dust nearly impossible to navigate without a working QDS hubship. Cart, meet horse. At this point very few survivors ever expect to hear from Mankind’s crowning achievement ever again.
    • Kleat:
      Center of one the of the remaining non-Commonwealth societies, it finally fell in the last days of the Kleatian Campaign just before the Shatter. A large rocky world, with high gravity squeezing the mountains down into mostly flat plains, shallow oceans, and swamps. 
    • Pearl:
      Second planet in the Medean System. An Eden-like world with an amazing genetic secret and home of the Molleson Xeno-Botanical Institute. 
    • Medea:
      First planet in the Medean System. Home of Spirit Falls, the tallest waterfalls in the known galaxy. A tourist resort is nestled halfway up the sheer cliff face,
    • Haraburdu (aka Burdu, aka “the junk planet”):
      A planet whose inhabitants happily accept the remains of any old starship. Very low gravity, light atmosphere. The “Burdies” as many refer to them, have covered their entire planet with and built all their cities and mega-structures from all from these old junker ships – the ultimate scrap-yard.
    • Geronimo:
      Home to the 387th Commonwealth Naval Fleet and over 3 billion Fleet Marines billeted across the planet when they weren’t off to war. The 387th is responsible for maintaining order throughout the Goddenberry Sector of the Orion Spur.
    • Paldia:
      Paldians, the humanoid species originating here, have several 4-6 inch long tentacles branching off their jawlines and shifting neon-electric coloration. Just don’t get distracted with all those colors & tentacles swirling about – some Paldians have become adept at hypnotizing other species using just their ever-changing skin colors during casual conversation. Good way to lose your wallet. But don’t worry too much – the Paldian orbital station sells a number of personal safety and property protection devices to ward off the odd thief of two.
    • Want more real, sciencey-kinda info about our galaxy? See  A Travelers Guide to the Milky Way


Everything was going so well…

Just like Roddenberry predicted, Man did indeed invent the technologies to solve his most pressing problems: war, poverty, disease, and famine. An unimaginable discovery in the understanding of quantum physics led to the Quantum Datastream (QDS), although most people just called it “quad” technology. Quad hubs entangled information in such a way that made all information, everywhere, available all the time, to everywhere else. A literal quantum leap forward in all the sciences soon followed, powered entirely by the Datastream.

Almost overnight, the great Quads revolution changed the very nature of what it meant to be human. Man’s colonies spread and grew and all was well in the Milky Way. As would be expected, they encountered aliens species, and not all were friendly, so there were the usual wars and diplomatic incidents, but for the most part there was equilibrium. 

…and then Human Nature showed up. 

Want more of the Gypsy King universe? Contributors get access to all the background and world-building materials I’ve put together over the years, as well as insights and secrets that only I know about where these stories lead into the future. 

Every character has a story, and every story a beginning. 

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