His wild career as a space pirate ended, Grimes faced his toughest assignment - he was "punished" by being made governor of the anarchists' own planet! John Grimes, living legend of the spaceways, had been in and out of some cosmic catastrophes but this threatened to reach his luck's ultimate breaking point! An influx of planetary refugees had made that world a paradise of cheap labor and the original anarchist colonists had become such masters of wealth that no mere outsider could hope to dictate "law and order" to them. They had their own ideas which included slavery, treachery, and utter villainy. Grimes' first task as governor would be simply to stay alive with a whole world plotting his murder!
Release date: January 28, 2016
Print pages: 204
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The Anarch Lords
A. Bertram Chandler
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) Sister Sue. 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 I 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 Sister Sue 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. “They 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. But you’re still on pay, captain’s salary. We’ll not let you starve even if Sister Sue’s 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 doing something.”
“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, thought Grimes, 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.”
“A not uncommon cause of such disasters, sir.”
“The Board of Inquiry, Grimes, consisted of Major Timms, Captain Vinor and Lieutenant Delaney, all of them Bardon’s officers. And there were witnesses who saw the aircraft—a helium-filled blimp with electric motors—explode and come down in flaming fragments.”
“Oh. I’m surprised that they, too, didn’t meet with accidents.”
“Most of them did. The one who didn’t managed to stow away aboard a bulk carrier and make it to New Maine. He told his story to our Sub-Base Commander there, who passed it on to Survey Service Intelligence.”
“Then why isn’t this Colonel Bardon relieved of his command?”
“Politics, Grimes. Politics. For quite some time now the Army has been the Lord Protector’s pet. For some reason he despises the Survey Service. And Field Marshal von Tempsky refuses to believe anything bad about any of his people, especially when the complaint is laid by us. Nonetheless, it’s a known fact that the Army sweeps all its misfits and bad bastards under the mat by shipping them off to outworld garrison duties.”
“And the Survey Service is doing the same, sir?”
Damien chuckled. “You’re a misfit, Grimes, but even I wouldn’t call you a bad bastard. Your forte has always been giving bad bastards what they deserve. People like Colonel Bardon, for example …”
“So you want me to become governor of Liberia so that I can put a spoke in Bardon’s wheel?”
“You could put it that way.”
“But since when, sir, has the Survey Service been appointing colonial governors?”
“A good question, Grimes. We never have done so. But the Protector of the Colonies—Bendeen—is a friend of mine. We were midshipmen together. He got as high as lieutenant commander, then married into a political family. Not long after he resigned his commission and went into politics himself. His wife’s family found a safe seat for him and he was elected to the Assembly. Surprisingly, despite his idealism and an honesty more typical of spacemen than politicians, he attained ministerial rank. He has his sights set on the Lord Protectorship but I don’t think he’ll make it. He tramples on too many corns.”
“And he wants to trample on Field Marshal von Tempsky’s corns?”
“Yes. And those of the Cereal Consortium. He hasn’t forgiven them for the engineered famine on Damboon, which resulted in the downfall of the Free Democrat regime.”
“Mphm.” Grimes knocked out his pipe in Damien’s waste-paper disposer, refilled and lit it. “Mphm. So I’m supposed to be Protector Bendeen’s cat’s paw. If I take the job, that is …”
“You could put it that way, Grimes.”
“Mphm. But won’t it look fishy? A Survey Service dropout, a master astronaut who’s lost his ticket after a widely publicized inquiry, appointed to a governorship … Won’t there be questions asked, in the World Assembly, by the media, on every streetcorner?”
“Our rumor factory will be working overtime, Grimes. The El Dorado Corporation has its tentacles everywhere. It will be hinted that El Dorado is behind the appointment, that highly placed people on that world are pulling strings to find a soft, highly paid job for a man who was one of their officers, a Company Commodore, and who served them to the best of his ability. Bendeen will try to convey the impression that your appointment is not one that he would have made of his own free will.”
“You should have become a politician yourself, sir.”
“Whatever makes you think that I didn’t?” asked the Rear Admiral.
Grimes watched Sister Sue lift off from Port Woomera.
He stood there, on the stained and scarred concrete of the commercial spaceport apron, staring up at the dull-gleaming spindle that was the ship—his ship—climbing steadily until it was no more than a speck in the cloudless blue sky, listening to the cacophony of the inertial drive until it was no more than a faint, irritable mutter. And then the sky was empty and the only noises were those normal to a working spaceport at ground level—the whining of motors, the occasional clank and rattle from conveyor belts and gantries, now and again a shouted order.
Williams would do all right, he thought, despite his initial diffidence, even though the ex-Mate had made it plain that he had hoped that Grimes would be along in an advisory capacity.
(“The old ship won’t be the same without you, skipper,” he had said. Then, “I’ll look after her for you. You’ll be back. I know you will.” And Grimes had thought, But ten years is a long time.)
And now Sister Sue was up and away, outbound for Caribbea with a cargo of manufactured goods, everything from robotutors to robutterflies, the beautiful little devices that had been developed to deal, lethally and expeditiously, with flying insect pests. (They would sell well enough, Grimes thought, while the craze lasted.) Her discharge completed she would go on Time Charter to the Interstellar Transport Commission, carrying anything and everything anywhere and everywhere.
At least, thought Grimes, Williams had a good crew. Magda Granadu was still Catering Officer/Purser and the two old-timers, Crumley and Stewart, were still Reaction Drive Chief and Radio Officer respectively. The other engineers, Reaction Drive and Mannschenn Drive, were real space engineers, not refugees from universities and bicycle shops. (Their predecessors, together with their false memories, had been given passage back to Austral.) The Chief, Second and Third Officers were all young, properly qualified and actually employees of the Commission which, by the terms of the charter party, was required to supply necessary personnel.
So that was that.
Ex-Captain Grimes, ex-Company Commodore Grimes, soon-to-be-Governor Grimes climbed into the ground car that had been waiting to take him to the airport from where he would fly to Alice Springs to spend a few days with his parents before leaving for Liberia.
They met him in the waiting room at the base of the mooring mast.
Grimes senior, a tall, white-haired old man, greeted his son with enthusiasm. “I envy you, John,” he said. “I really do. I just write about adventures; you have them!”
Matilda Grimes—also tall, red-haired and pleasantly horse-faced—frowned disapprovingly. “Don’t encourage him, George. Ever since he left the Survey Service he’s been doing nothing but getting into trouble. I hoped to see him become an admiral one day. I never dreamed that he’d become a pirate.” She turned on her son. “And what do you intend to do now, John? You’ve had your Certificate taken from you …”
“Only suspended,” said her husband.
She ignored this. “You’ll never command a ship again, not even a merchant vessel. And after that trial …”
“Court of Inquiry, my dear.”
“… nobody will ever employ you.”
“As a matter of fact, Matilda,” Grimes said, “I shall shortly be going out to take up a new appointment.”
“What as?” asked Grimes’s father.
“Governor, as a matter of fact. Of Liberia.”
“I’ve always thought,” said his mother, “that the standard of intelligence in the World Assembly is appallingly low. Now I am sure of it. And I’ve never trusted Bendeen. Any man who would give up a career in the Survey Service for one in politics must have something wrong with him. Appointing a pirate as governor …”
“There are precedents,” said George Whitley Grimes. “Sir Henry Morgan, for example.” He realized that the other people in the lounge were looking curiously at the small family party and said, “I suggest that we continue this discussion at home.”
The robutler brought in drinks. The Old Man must be doing well, thought Grimes. The machine was one of the very latest models, a beautifully proportioned and softly gleaming cylinder moving on silent treads rather than something unconvincingly humanoid. From a circular port midway up the thing’s body a sinuous tentacle produced the drinks ordered—dry sherry, chilled, for Matilda Grimes, a pink gin for Grimes and beer for his father. A dish of assorted nuts, placed on the coffee table, followed.
“Here’s to crime,” toasted George Whitley Grimes, raising his glass.
“I’ll not drink to that!” snapped his wife. Nonetheless she gulped rather than sipped from hers.
Grimes sampled his pink gin. He could not have mixed a better one himself.
He said, “You seem very prosperous, George.”
“Yes. It was that If Of History novel.”
“The Ned Kelly idea that you were telling me about the last time that I was here?”
“No. The one after that, based on the Australian Constitutional Crisis. If Gough Whitlam, the Prime Minister, had refused to relinquish office after the Governor General fired him …”
“Don’t go putting ideas into his head,” admonished Matilda.
“The last time that he was here the pair of you talked about privateering and piracy—and look what happened! The next thing we hear will be that he’s fired the President of Liberia!”
“Perhaps I . . .
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