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Michael "Mike" Stearns is a major fictional character created by author-editor Eric Flint in the best selling science-fiction series 1632, and is arguably the most central and visibly important protagonist in the series as a whole. Cast as a "non-traditional leader type" in the lead novel 1632 (novel), Stearns is an ex-prize fighter and college drop-out that holds the position as the regional president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) local chapter, and is hosting and paying for his sister Rita's wedding reception as the first novel begins. He is introduced being painfully polite to his brother-in-law Tom Simpson's parents, and in particular the stuck-up overbearing conceited corporate CEO father John Simpson who acts as the first novels' most visible resident jerk, in-town antagonist, and enemy to Mike Stearns as events unfold.
In time, the rough and tumble ex-professional pugilist is shown to have an almost uncanny sense of what is possible and what is not with people and in negotiations—he is in many ways a born politician, and his skills mesh like precision gears with circumstances as he leads, argues, cajoles, and intimidates as needed. The 'New United States' needs to grow, and Stearns knows how to pitch a proposal, and then argue the details—skills honed in many a union labor negotiation.
Enter the born leaderEdit
Battle of the Farm HouseEdit
After introducing the sub-plot tension between the two, Flint expands Stearns likability with additional introduction of sympathetic characters such as Doctor James Nichols and union tough guy-organizer Harry Lefferts, and the massively built Tom Simpson who comes on scene as sympathetic figure tendering an apology for his parents behavior to his new brother-in-law Mike. At that point, author Flint drops Grantville back in time 369 years to May 1631 in the event known locally as The Ring of Fire, actually an act of sublime alien carelessness known as an Assiti Shards event. Mistaking the thunderclap and powerful flash of the Ring of Fire event as a nearby lightning stroke, the men at the reception gravitate outside to assess damages. Deputized along with a coterie of his union members, Stearns follows Grantville's town Police Chief Dan Frost in an effort to find out why the power went out and the ground shook with that weird red flash. In the parking lot talking it over, one of the miners spots smoke, and the whole party heads towards the fire. Within moments, the road comes to an abrupt end at a cliff, the party being West Virginia rednecks grabs arms from their ubiquitous pickup trucks, and as they examine the cliff face at the end of the severed road, a young woman flees past them charging blindly ahead heedlessly through their midst, and before they can recover composure, Chief Frost is shot by several Spanish soldiers using matchlock muskets. The doctors tend to the police chief while the smoke grows more pronounced. Faced with his incapacity, Frost places Mike Stearns in charge of the posse who proceeds over the short cliff and investigates the nearby burning farm. A battle ensues with a squad of Count Tilly's army and the up-timers demonstrate the virtues of fire power and rate of fire to the hapless Spanish rapists and torturers busy with the wife and carving on the farmer who they have nailed to the farm house's door.
Damsel in distressEdit
After this rescue, Doctor Nichols tends their wounds and another party of armed men approaches followed by a carriage in the distance—the mercenary escort of a coach being pursued by another band of soldiery after the coach. The coachmen and escort flees the confrontation of the strange but deadly looking weapons in the hands of even stranger looking clean shaven men wearing weird wedding attire.
The coach is occupied by Mike's soon to be girlfriend and future National Security Advisor, Rebecca "Becky" Abrabanel (based on a real family of influential shepardic Jews) and her well connected father Balthazar Abrabanel, who is suffering a moderately severe heart attack. "Please, ma'am, do you need help?" Stearns is forced to ask three times before the frozen woman parses the phrase; and after three-quarters pages of 'Love at first sight', she answers: "Yes, please! My father..." Within moments, Stearns has James Nichols inside the coach treating the old man. In a few more, he deposes his men in an ambush but stands in the open to draw fire away from the coach and its occupants. A short brief battle ensues, and the UMWA posse hang a placard on the mass grave:
WE DON'T KNOW WHO THESE MURDERING RAPING BASTARDS ARE THAT WE PUT HERE. DON'T MUCH CARE NEITHER. IF THERE ARE ANY MORE OF YOU OUT THERE BE WARNED. THIS AREA IS NOW UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE UMWA. IF YOU TRY TO HARM OR ROB ANYBODY WE WILL KILL YOU. THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER WARNING. WE WILL NOT NEGOTIATE. WE WILL NOT ARREST YOU.
YOU WILL SIMPLY BE DEAD
WE GUARANTEE IT.
GO AHEAD, TRY US.
Within a few days, Stearns speaks up and accidentally becomes head of the Emergency Committee and de facto head of the town trying to cope with the "new" 17th century world turned upside down. In the emergency town meetings, Stearns clashes once more with John Simpson in front of the whole town confirming the two at odds politically for the rest of the book and well into 1633. The town sides with Stearns and essentially elects him by acclaim as head of an emergency committee to guide the community through the troubled times ahead as Grantville under Mike's firm and unhesitating leadership begins to cope with survival imperatives, and the odd army of murderous mercenaries, typical of the era. Mid-way through the first part of the novel, in another clash in front of a town meeting, things come to a head again as Simpson wants to take charge and close the town off to refugees and Stearns advocates the opposite approach, welcoming all and sundry as he and the emergency committee know from looking over man-power needs, if Grantville is to survive unscathed and healthy, it will need far more men than have gone back in time. Flint alludes it to a man running his legs back under himself, instead of reaching out in a stumble. The approaches are irreconcilable, and sparks fly between these two, the philosophical avatars of the two points of view. The clash will eventually turn them into opposing poles around which political parties form, threatening the town with discord and disunity even as it faces potential starvation, exhaustion of resources, a flood of refugees, lack of resources of all kinds — especially pharmaceuticals and medical supplies — and malevolent outside religious fanatics—of several different faiths. Half of Germany brands the townspeople witches, and their presence is blamed on the devil, while the occasional voices calling the Ring of Fire a message from God are distant and muted.
The deal makerEdit
In between, Stearns and his cabinet meet up with a Scottish cavalry officer of Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden, Alexander Mackay...
A Politician bornEdit
Subsequently, as circumstances in the neo-history evolve governmental forms and circumstances, he is successively elected president of the New United States, Prime Minister of the Confederated Principalities of Europe (CPoE), and first prime minister of Gustavus II, Emperor of the newly formed federated republic, the United States of Europe.