|Author||Michael A. Stackpole|
|Cover artwork||Ray Lundgren|
|First published||3 December 2002|
|Era||Dark Age era|
|Timeline||3132 – 3133|
|Series||MechWarrior: Dark Age Novels|
|Followed by||A Call to Arms|
Ghost War, by Michael A. Stackpole, is the first book in MechWarrior: Dark Age Novels series which was drawn up to complement the new MechWarrior: Dark Age setting and game line. Set in the Dark Age, it jumped the timeline ahead more than six decades over Endgame, the last novel previously published in the classic BattleTech setting.
The book is written as a first-person narrative of the protagonist as he infiltrates a terrorist organisation within the Republic of the Sphere.
 From the back cover
|“|| For generations, the Republic of the Sphere has known a Golden Age of peace. Mighty BattleMechs, once kings of the battlefields, now aid the reconstruction of war-torn worlds. But when terrorists destroy the interstellar communications net, each planet is thrust into isolation. Suddenly old hatreds resurface and a people who have never known war face the prospect of learning its meaning firsthand.
Sam Donelly is one of the best LumberMech jockeys on the planet, wielding his 'Mech's fifteen-foot chainsaw with the grace and precision of a surgeon. Caught in a skirmish with revolutionaries, he soon finds himself a rebel recruit. But Sam is no mere lumberjack, and if his true identity is discovered, the repercussions could be disastrous not only for Sam, but for the entire Republic...
 Plot Summary
On 13 November 3132, two environmental activists concerned about the Mottled Lemur approach woodworkers in a bar. One of the women is a martial artist looking to start trouble, and the protagonist, Sam Donelly, ends up breaking her jaw and nose in self-defense. On the next day, his ForestryMech is targeted by militant environmental activists (the Gaia Guerilla Front) with satchel charges. The attack turns into a firefight between heavily armed terrorists and the Civil Defense Reaction Forces under Commander Ichabod Reis. In the aftermath of the fight, Donelly is summoned to the Constabulary where he is interrogated by Reis and Republic Knight Janella Lakewood, and learns that he was fired for taking his ForestryMech into a fight. The blame for causalties among the CDRF is laid at Donelly’s feet and he is accused of having helped the terrorists and hampered the CDRF by Reis who is trying to cover up the results of his own incompetence.
Unemployed and homeless (as his employer also provided his lodging), Donelly meets Andy Harness, a former Stone’s Lament MechWarrior who could not adjust to civilian life after the war, got into conflict with the law, and was erroneously declared dead. They both have a grudge against Reis, and Harness takes Donelly, now an outspoken detractor of Reis, under his wing. A week later, Donelly is kidnapped from the homeless shelter by the GGF. They introduce him to their mastermind, a man called Mr. Handy, who proceeds to recruit Donelly for his terrorist cell as they have a common enemy in Reis and because Donelly, who has proven himself a resourceful and skillful warrior, made it quite clear that he has a mercenary attitude. Letitia, the red-haired woman whose jaw and nose Donelly broke earlier is assigned as his liaison. Donelly finds that both the CDRF and the GGF seem to have informants in each other’s camp.
Donelly is assigned to follow Janella Lakewood as she leaves the Constabulary building, but he is apprehended by her security guards. Feeling that he has been set up, he confronts Mr. Handy. Because of his wits and skill, Donelly is included in a plan to attack a precinct house during a parade and steal weapons. Donelly is to pilot a ConstructionMech to breach the building. However, this operation, too, goes awry when security forces have been expecting an attack on the precinct building and the promised other attacks on Reis' parade stand fail to materialize. Donelly's ConstructionMech is downed by Lakewood piloting a Centurion, leading to his arrest. Lakewood declares him a Republic prisoner and takes him with her aboard her DropShip.
The pair return to Terra, where Dunne meets with his friend and mentor, Paladin Victor Steiner-Davion, his niece Nessa Davion, and Republic Knight Consuela Dagmar. They discuss the political situation at length, especially the tensions that have arisen within the Republic since the recent collapse of the HPG grid.
Before long, a message from Basalt is delivered wherein Mr. Handy requests "Sam Donelly" to resume their partnership. It is decided that Dunne should resume the Sam Donelly identity, travel to Basalt, and investigate Mr. Handy's doings there because he seems to be working for an unknown party that might seek to capitalize on the communications blackout to the detriment of the Republic.
Arriving on Basalt on 29 January 3033 via Epsilon Indi and Fletcher, Donelly settles into a hotel in Manville, the capital city. He is quickly paid a threatening visit by Colonel Nicodemus Niemeyer of the district's Public Safety Department, who is aware of Donelly's criminal record and seeks to warn him off.
In a scruffy bar, Donelly makes contact with Alba Dolehide, another ex-Lament MechWarrior and mercenary working for an unknown party. He is later contacted by Letitia, whom he now takes to calling Elle. She re-establishes contact with Mr. Handy, who goes by the name "Gypsy" on Basalt and openly states that their aim is to overthrow the planetary government. He introduces Donelly to his mercenary team as one of two battalion commanders. Battalion commander Catford, a resigned Republican Guards major, and Isabel Siwek, a former militia commander who had been imprisoned four years earlier on charges of using excessive force to put down a rebellion, had both expected Siwek to command second battalion and are furious, but acquiesce when Donelly presents the terrorists with an intricate low-intensity terrorism plan to overthrow the government that might not even require the use of 'Mechs.
The plan is to target infrastructure to garner unrest and cast a negative light on the government's ability to protect the citizenry. The first step is an attack against the city's sewage system that causes sewage water to flow back into the city at high pressure, causing significant property damage. It is highly successful, and results in Gypsy's principal—local business tycoon Aldrington Emblyn—paying both Gypsy and Donelly a large bonus sum, and inviting Donelly to a high society gala party at the Emblyn Palace Contressa.
Travelling to the resort, Donelly meets and befriends Bianca Germayne, daughter to Count Hector Germayne, the planetary ruler. He also meets her brother Bernard and her cousin Teyte at the reception, both of whom openly display their dislike for him, and proceeds to win a fortune from them in a poker game. Donelly proceeds his extensive winnings to the Basalt Foundation, a charity organisatin Bianca Germayne created in the wake of the low-intensity terrorism campaign. She seems to genuinely care for the people, while her father has become a somewhat elitist ruler under the influence of his heir-apparent, Bernard, who dreams of the old days of MechWarrior nobility under House Davion.
The terrorism campaign continues, and Donelly, figuring that Alba Dolehide is working for Bernard Germayne, seeks her out and briefs her fully on Gypsy and his operation. Bernard and Teyte Germayne enter the room and attack Donelly, who has to incapacitate both of them before they will listen to him. He then suggests they start a counter-terrorist operation, claim responsibility for the previous attacks, and thus provide the government with a tangible enemy. They could also use it to inflict damage to Emblyn's property. Next, Donelly plots with Gypsy to create yet another terrorist group that will discredit the government's group and possibly even reveal it as a scam, further damaging the government's standing.
Suspecting his double-dealings, Bernard and Teyte Germayne put increasing pressure on Donelly, including physically brutalizing him yet they still want him to deliver Emblyn to them, considering Donelly their inside man in Emblyn's organisation. Donelly successfully sows mistrust between Alba Dolehide and Bernard, resulting in her abandoning Bernard's cause. This deprives Bernard of his most competent lieutenant and a share of his military assets. As a result, Bernard intensifies the terroristic activities and the war between the various terrorist organisations and the Public Safety Department soon escalates out of control though Donelly himself is largely out of the loop.
Elle eventually contacts Donelly and informs him about a major strike planned by Gypsy, to be carried out by Catford. She requests his opinion on the plan and Donelly proceeds to investigate the projected site, only to be caught up in the attack when it happens a day earlier than Elle suggested. Bernard's private 'Mechs and PSD Battlearmor troopers have been waiting for Catford's force, however, and a battle ensues. During the battle, Donelly realizes that Bernard is trying to kill Niemeyer and rescues him, resulting in the two of them having a talk in the hospital. On the way back, Teyte Germayne has his lackeys within the PSD illegally abduct Donelly who can do nothing over the following days but watch on Tri-Vid how Bernard Germayne slowly gains the upper hand in the public opinion for taking decisive military action against the terrorists.
Then Bernards father, ruling Count Hector Germayne, is unexpectedly gunned down and critcally wounded while joining Bianca's charity work by a vengeful citizen. Bernard quickly assumes his fathers authority, declares martial law, and uses the momentum to have Aldrington Emblyn arrested on charges of treason for running the terrorist cell. As Teyte prepares to shoot Donelly on Bernards orders, the apartment is stormed by PSD troopers led by Niemeyer and Teyte is shot in a brief firefight. It turns out he rescued Donelly on orders of Janella Lakewood after the cab driver who witnessed Donelly's abduction complained at the PSD headquarters, identifying Teyte Germayne and one of the crooked PSD officers. Lady Lakewoods authority then overrode that of Teyte Germayne with the PSD.
To lure Emblyn's mercenaries - Gypsy's organisation - into action, Emblyn is imprisoned in a remote fortification in the jungle, with militia forces and a part of Bernard's private force guarding him. As expected, a strong force commanded by Catford and Siwek attacks the fortification shortly afterwards, outnumbering the defenders. Donelly (Dunne) and Lakewood join the fray in support of the militia ("the only innocents in the battle") via combat drop from orbit as planned, but it turns out Siwek was bought by Bernard. She betrays Catford and turns her forces against him, dramatically shifting the battle. Siwek is killey by head hits from Catford's Jupiter who quickly reacts to the changed situation. Bernard proceeds to kill Catford, then confronts Lakewood and Dunne. In response to Lakewood's arrest warrant, he places a bounty on her head for his mercenaries.
This prompts Alba Dolehide to join the fight with her unit that lay hidden in the fortress at Niemeyer's behest. This, and Dunne's announcement that Bernard is broke, promts the mercenaries to quit fighting. Bernard's 'Mech is disabled by Dunne.
In the aftermath, surviving mercenaries are drafted into the planetary militia through ten years of community service in return for full pardons. Popular Bianca Germayne assumes leadership at her father's request and continues her charity and reconstruction work. Public Safety manages to arrest Gypsy, whose testimony leads to the convicion of Eldryn. The Eldryn empire collapses, and is bought up by Jacob Bannson. Dunne believes Bannson may have been behind at least some of what went down, as Siwek received more money than Bernard Germayne could have offered her. Dunne figures that Elle, who vanished, may have been Bannson's agent. Niemeyer is made a Knight-Errant, with Alba Dolehide as his aide. They proceed to arrest Ichabod Reis on Helen, also based on Gypsy's testimony (he hired Gypsy to cause trouble so that the worried population would back his reach for more power). Andy Harness, Donelly's down-on-his-luck acquaintance on Helen, has his case reviewed and is restored to his pension claims.
 Technical Readout: 3130
The first printing of Ghost War featured a color Mini-Technical Readout: 3130 for the M1 Marksman Tank, Legionnaire, and ForestryMech specs and background. Later printings of the book did not include this section. The snapshot TRO had in-character notes written on it addressing the novel's featuring character Mason Dunne from Janella Lakewood. Her notes point out descriptencies and new developments for each of featured elements in the publication.
 Featured characters
- Major Catford
- Sam Donelly
- Alba Dolehide
- Ghost Knight Mason Dunne
- Aldrington "Ring" Emblyn
- Andy Harness
- Knight-Errant Janella Lakewood
- Nicodemus Niemeyer
- Perason Quam
- Captain Isabel Siwek
- Paladin Victor Ian Steiner-Davion
 Featured worlds
- Acamar (mentioned)
- Epsilon Indi (mentioned)
- Fletcher (mentioned)
- Ingress (mentioned)
 Featured BattleTech
- unspecified ConstructionMech
- Black Hawk (Dark Age variant)
- Centurion (Dark Age variant)
- Mad Cat III
- Pack Hunter
- Ryoken II
- Tundra Wolf
- Condor Multi-Purpose Tank (Dark Age upgrade variant)
- Fox Armored Hovercar
- Demon Medium Tank
- JES Tactical Missile Carrier ("Jessies")
- Joust Medium Tank
- M1 Marksman Tank
- Scimitar Medium Hover Tank
- Shandra Scout Vehicle
- unspecified helicopters
- unspecified infantry carriers
- At one point in the novel, it is discussed how an unspecified JumpShip deployed a DropShip, jumped elsehwere, deployed another DropShip, jumped again and deployed a third DropShip. It is then explained that this would require the ship to mount a "Lithium Ion battery". It was clarified by Line Developer Herbert A. Beas II in an official ruling on the BattleTech Forum that the technology referred to was a in fact a Lithium-Fusion battery, not some new technology, and that the ship in fact only performed two (not three) consecutive jumps without recharging; it must have recharged prior to releasing the first DropShip.