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The Proliferation Cycle is a series of short stories that were published online on BattleCorps in PDF format between 2004 and 2011. The stories tell the proliferation of BattleMech technology throughout the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere.
In August 2019 the six original stories were re-published in electronic form as part of the rewards for the successful BattleTech: Clan Invasion crowdfunding project where they had been offered as stretch goals (all of which were met).
The individual Proliferation Cycle stories are:
- Break-Away (30 November 2004), by Ilsa J. Bick - Terran Hegemony invents the BattleMech
- Prometheus Unbound (10 January 2005), by Herbert A. Beas II - Lyran Commonwealth obtains 'Mech technology
- Nothing Ventured (18 February 2005), by Christoffer Trossen - Federated Suns obtain 'Mech technology
- Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight (12 April 2005), by Randall N. Bills - Draconis Combine obtains 'Mech technology
- A Dish Served Cold (19 May 2005), by Chris Hartford and Jason Hardy - Free Worlds League obtains 'Mech technology
- The Spider Dances (18 May 2011), by Jason Schmetzer - Capellan Confederation obtains 'Mech technology
- Exclusive: Dragonfire (18 May 2011) - a Technical Readout-style writeup for the Dragonfire aerospace fighter featured in The Spider Dances
The original sixth story, Machine Nations by Loren Coleman, had been slated for publication circa June 2005, but it was never published and became one of the more prominent cases of vaporware on BattleCorps. This left the Proliferation Cycle series unfinished for years, much to the chagrin of fans and BattleCorps staff alike. It was explained that a first draft of the story had been submitted, but was rejected for factchecking/continuity issues; the story as written could not be salvaged.
On 7 May 2011 an announcement in BattleCorps' "General" news section proclaimed that Machine Nations, "a title without a story", had been consigned to history and that Jason Schmetzer had written a new story named The Spider Dances to tell the Capellan Confederation's tale in the Cycle. The original Proliferation Cycle stories were re-released, one per day, leading up to The Spider Dances, starting with the re-release of Break-Away on 13 May 2011. A BattleCorps Exclusive presentation for a new unit, the Dragonfire (an early aerospace fighter design) was added "as a small bonus to our subscribers for sticking with us until the long-awaited end of the Proliferation Cycle".
At least two more stories exist that some consider to be part of the series in spirit if not in name:
- Highlander Chronicles: Goliath out of the Box (23 October 2004), by Randall N. Bills - First encounter with a BattleMech by Capellan troops
- Top of the Scrap Heap (10 September 2007), by Jason Hardy - Outworlds Alliance obtains 'Mech technology
- BattleCorps news item "At Long Last... the Proliferation Cycle"