Authors: A. Bertram Chandler
Tags: #Science Fiction, #General, #Space Opera, #Adventure, #Fiction
A. Bertram Chandler
Baen Books by
A. Bertram Chandler
To the Galactic Rim
Ride the Star Winds
RIDE THE STAR WINDS
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
The Anarch Lords
copyright © 1981 by A. Bertram Chandler.
The Last Amazon
copyright © 1984 by A. Bertram Chandler.
The Wild Ones
copyright © 1985 by A. Bertram Chandler.
Catch the Star Winds
copyright © 1969 by A. Bertram Chandler. “Chance Encounter” was first published in
March 1959. “On the Account” was first published in
May 1973. “The Dutchman” was first published in
November 1972. “The Last Hunt” was first published in
March 1973. “Rim Change” was first published in
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
A Baen Books Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
Cover art by Stephen Hickman
First Baen paperback printing, April 2012
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Chandler, A. Bertram (Arthur Bertram), 1912-1984.
[Works. Selections. 2012]
Ride the star winds / A. Bertram Chandler.
ISBN 978-1-4516-3812-7 (pbk.)
1. Science fiction, Australian. I. Chandler, A. Bertram (Arthur Bertram), 1912-1984. Anarch lords. II. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Vice-Admiral William Bligh R.N., one-time commanding Officer of the H.M.S.
one-time Governor of New South Wales, with belated apologies for the participation of an ancestral Grimes in the Rum Rebellion of 1808 A.D.
“You got off lightly, Grimes,”
said Rear Admiral Damien.
Grimes’s prominent ears flushed angrily as he scowled at the older man across the vast, gleaming surface of the desk, uncluttered save for telephone, read-out screen and the thick folder that must contain, among other documents relating to himself, a transcript of the proceedings of the recent Court of Inquiry.
“You got off lightly, Grimes,” Damien repeated.
His elbows on the desk, the tips of his steepled, skeletal fingers propping his great beak of a nose, he stared severely at the owner and erstwhile master of the star tramp (the privateer, the pirate)
Grimes thought irreverently,
If it weren’t for that schnozzle his face would look just like a skull . . . Come to that, his uniform tailor must use a skeleton for his dummy . . .
Briefly he entertained the ludicrous vision of a spidery tailorbot, fussily measuring and recording, scuttling around and over an assemblage of dry, articulated bones.
“What are you thinking, Grimes?” demanded Damien sharply.
“Ha. Of course. Nothing that you’d dare to tell me, you mean. May I remind you that the crime of Dumb Insolence, with its penalties, is still listed in Survey Service Regulations despite all the efforts of the Human Rights League to have it removed? And even though your Master Astronaut’s Certificate of Competency was suspended by the court you still hold your Survey Service Reserve commission. And you have not yet been released from Active Duty.”
“I was under the impression, sir,” said Grimes stiffly, “that my Reserve Officer’s commission was a secret.”
“Was—and is. But
know your status. I can still throw the book at you if I feel like it.” Then Damien allowed himself a grin and, briefly, looked almost genial. “But I didn’t send for you so that I could haul you over the coals, although it has been like old times, hasn’t it?” (That grin, Grimes decided, had become wolfish.) “Officially I’m supposed to be conducting a little inquiry of my own. The safe passage of merchant shipping is among my responsibilities—so, quite naturally, I’m interested in such activities as privateering. And piracy. But I already have your confidential report. And Mayhew’s. I know what really happened—which is more than can be said for Lord Justice Kirby and his assessors, or for the boarding party that brought your ship in under arrest. That ex-girlfriend of yours—or not so ‘ex’—did a good job of brainwashing your officers. My people thought that the apparatus she brought aboard
was just an aid to interrogation, not for the implantation of false memories.”
Damien laughed. “And it was a good story that the witnesses told the court, wasn’t it? The wicked Kate Connellan and the even wickeder Countess of Walshingham seizing the ship at gunpoint and forcing you to embark upon a career of piracy . . . But somebody had to carry the can back. They didn’t survive—and you did.”
He opened the thick folder, found the right page. “And what did that old fogey Kirby say? Ah, here we are. ‘Nonetheless I am of the strong opinion that the master, John Grimes, was not entirely blameless. He deliberately set his feet onto the downward path into violent crime when he placed his ship, his people and himself at the service of the notorious Commodore Baron Kane, as he is now known. John Grimes should have pondered the truth of the old adage,
He who sups with the devil needs a long spoon.
But John Grimes was like too many in this decadent day and age, money hungry. Had his avarice put only himself at risk I should not think so hardly of him—but all of his crew, merchant spacemen and women, ignorant of the arts—if they may so be called—of war, were compelled, willy nilly, to share the perils to which their captain had deliberately exposed himself, persuaded by him that privateering is no risk and all profit . . . Sanctimonious old swine, isn’t he? ‘And some of his crew whom he deluded were not even experienced spacemen. His engineering officers, for example, young men recruited from industry and the Halls of Academe on the world of Austral, true innocents abroad . . .’”
“Those bastards!” exploded Grimes.
were with the Green Hornet and Wally!”
“I know, I know. But they don’t, not now. They have that fine set of false memories. They’re little, woolly, innocent lambs, all of them, in their own minds, and in old Kirby’s mind.” He switched to his imitation of the judge’s voice. “‘It is obvious to me that John Grimes is unfit to hold command. I have considered the cancellation of his qualifications but have decided to temper justice with mercy, hoping that in the fullness of time he may come to see the error of his ways. Therefore I order that his Certificate of Competency be suspended for a period of ten Standard Years.’”
“And what am I supposed to be doing with myself for all that time?” asked Grimes.
“You still have your ship. We released her to you. We’ll see that she finds employment. I’ve no doubt that your mate—your ex-mate, rather—will make quite a good master . . .”
“While I sit and sulk in the owner’s suite when I’m not getting into his hair. No, sir. That wouldn’t be fair to Billy Williams. Come to that, it wouldn’t be fair to me. It’d be worse than just being an ordinary passenger.” He got to his feet, began to pace up and down. He pulled his pipe from a pocket of his civilian slacks, filled and lit it. He said, speaking through an eruption of acrid fumes, “I think that the Service should do something for me in the way of employment.”
“I didn’t give you permission to smoke, Grimes. Oh, all right, all right. Carry on asphyxiating yourself. As far as the universe knows you’re a civilian shipmaster—ex-shipmaster, rather—and I have no jurisdiction over you.
you’re still on pay, captain’s salary. We’ll not let you starve even if
running at a loss.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll not hurt your feelings by refusing my pay. I’ve earned it. But I want to be
“Why don’t you write a book, Grimes? Your autobiography should make fascinating reading.”
“And would the Survey Service provide legal defense if I were sued for libel? And if such a case were heard by Lord Justice Kirby the best lawyers in the universe couldn’t save me.”
Damien laughed. “All right, all right. If you wrote the book I’d probably be among those screaming libel. Now, Grimes, sit down and listen. I sent for you so that I could sound you out. I’ve an offer to make that I’d not be making if you’d indicated that you’d be quite happy bumbling around in that rustbucket of yours even if not in command of her.
“Have you ever heard of Liberia?”
“No. Not the province. The planet. The colony.”
"Oh. That Liberia. Founded by a bunch of freedom-loving anarchists during the days of the gaussjammers. I've heard about it but I've never been there."
"How would you like to go?"
"Doing what? Or as what?"
“You have to be joking,”
said Grimes at last.
“I’m serious,” Damien told him.
“Then this is another piece of dirty work for you.”
“On the contrary, Grimes. If you take the job it will be in the nature of a clean-up operation.”
“That sounds even worse. Sir.”
“Grimes, Grimes, you have a suspicious mind.”
“With very good reason.”
“Do you want the job, or don’t you?”
“Tell me about it first,” Grimes said.
“Very well. Liberia is a Federated Planet but not now fully autonomous. I’ll not bore you with a detailed history; you’ll be able to read it up before you are installed in the Governor’s Lodge. Suffice it to say that the original colonists, the idealistic Anarchists, after a bad start during which their settlement almost perished, became devotees of the goddess Laura Norder . . .”
(I’d better laugh,
to keep the old bastard in a good mood.)
“Their numbers increased and eventually they were able to exercise control over their environment. There was a resurgence of Anarchism and armed revolt against the authorities. The president—he was more of a dictator, actually—appealed for help to the Federation. After the mess had been more or less cleaned up it was decided that the Liberians would be far happier if governed by an outsider, somebody whom everybody, right, left and center, could hate. So now there’s an elected president who, in effect, just does what the Earth-appointed governor tells him.
“Liberia is an agricultural planet. When it was first settled it was little more than a mudball crawling with primitive yet motile plant life. Now it is all, or almost all, wheatfields and beanfields and orchards. It has been called the granary of the Shaula Sector. There is only light, very light industry. In the past all heavy agricultural machinery has had to be imported. Now, as such equipment wears out it is not replaced.”
“So they have their own factories?” asked Grimes.
“No. They’re getting away from the use of machinery. They’re using manpower.”
“They must be gluttons for hard work.”
“They’re not. They import their labor.”
“But who would ever emigrate to such a world, to sweat in the fields?”
“Quite a few, Grimes. Quite a few—although I doubt if they were expecting what they got. Have you ever wondered what happens to all the refugees? There was the so-called Holy War on Iranda, sect against sect. The losers—those of them who had not been slaughtered—were evicted. They were evacuated by Survey Service transports. Liberia, very nobly, offered to give a new home to those hapless people. And do you remember when the New Canton sun went nova?”
“Before my time,” said Grimes. “But I’ve read about it.”
“A large number of the New Cantonese finished up on Liberia,” Damien said. “Wars, revolutions, natural disasters—all have contributed to the build-up of Liberia’s vast pool of slave labor.”
“It’s not called that, of course. It’s indentured labor. It’s got to the stage where the Liberians need no longer import expensive machines. It’s got to the stage where they’re pampered aristocrats, waited on hand and foot. (I wonder what their anarchistic ancestors would have thought!) The real ruler of the planet is not the governor, or the president, but the commanding officer of the peace-keeping force, Colonel Bardon, Terran Army. He’s got the president eating out of his hand.”
“And the governor?”
“The last governor—your predecessor?—met with an accident. It seems that he tried to put a stop to many of the abuses. The military didn’t like it. His aircraft crashed when he was on the way to investigate conditions at one of the orchards. The Board of Inquiry decided that the disaster—killing the governor, his wife and his personal pilot—was attributable to pilot error.”