The Rim Gods: A John Grimes Rim Novel [Secure eReader]
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eBook by A. Bertram Chandler
eBook Category: Science Fiction
eBook Description: Dragons? Fairies? Frog Princes? Sir Dominik Flandry? In a John Grimes Rim Adventure?
Strange things happen out where the stellar medium grows thin, out where it is difficult to say if you remain within the galaxy or you're falling through the intergalactic void.
Add to that strangeness an Outsider ship filled with technology so far in advance of the human as to appear magical, and the catalytic presence of Commodore John Grimes, and anything can happen -- anything at all.
eBook Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2002
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"And who," demanded Commodore Grimes, "will it be this time?" He added, "Or what?"
"I don't know, sir, I'm sure," simpered Miss Walton.
Grimes looked at his new secretary with some distaste. There was no denying that she was far more photogenic then her predecessor, and that she possessed a far sweeter personality. But sweetness and prettiness are not everything. He bit back a sarcastic rejoinder, looked again at the signal that the girl had just handed him. It was from a ship, a vessel with the unlikely name of Piety. And it was not a word in some alien language that could mean anything-- the name of the originator of the message was Terran enough. Anglo-Terran at that. William Smith. And after that prosaic apellation there was his title -- but that was odd. It was not the usual Master, Captain, Officer Commanding or whatever. It was, plainly and simply, Rector.
Piety... Rector.... That ship's name, and that title of rank, had an archaic ring to them. Grimes had always been a student of naval history, and probably knew more about the vessels that had sailed Earth's oceans in the dim and distant past than anybody on the Rim Worlds and, come to that, the vast majority of people on the home planet itself. He remembered that most of the ancient sailing ships had been given religious names. He remembered, too, that rector had once been the shipmaster's official title.
So what was this ship coming out to the Rim, giving her ETA, details of last clearance, state of health on board and all the rest of it? Some cog, some caravel, some galleass? Grimes smiled at his own fancy. Nonetheless, strange ships, very strange ships, had drifted out to the Rim.
"Miss Walton..." he said.
"Yes, Commodore," she replied brightly.
"This Piety... see what details Lloyd's Register has on her."
"Very good, sir."
The Commodore -- rugged, stocky, short, iron-gray hair over a deeply tanned and seamed face, ears that in spite of suggestions made by two wives and several mistresses still protruded -- paced the polished floor of his office while the little blonde punched the buttons that would actuate the Port Forlorn robot librarian. Legally, he supposed, the impending arrival of the Piety was the port captain's pigeon. Grimes was Astronautical Superintendent of Rim Runners, the Confederacy's shipping line. But he was also the officer commanding the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve and, as such, was concerned with matters of security and defense. He wished that Sonya, his wife, were available so that he could talk things over with her. She, before her marriage to him, had held the rank of Commander in the Intelligence branch of the Interstellar Federation's Survey Service and, when it came to mysteries and secrets of any kind, displayed the aptitudes of a highly intelligent ferret. But Sonya, after declaring that another week on Lorn would have her climbing up the wallpaper, had taken off for a long vacation -- Waverley, Caribbea, Atlantia and points inward -- by herself. She, when she returned, would be sorry to have missed whatever odd adventures the arrival of this queerly named ship presaged -- and Grimes knew that there would be some. His premonitions were rarely, if ever, wrong.
He turned away from the banked sceens and instruments that made his office look like an exceptionally well fitted spaceship's control room, walked to the wide window that took up an entire wall, which overlooked the port. It was a fine day -- for Lorn. The almost perpetual overcast was thin enough to permit a hint of blue sky to show through, and the Lorn sun was a clearly defined disk rather than the usual fuzzy ball. There was almost no wind. Discharge of Rim Leopard, noted, seemed to be progressing satisfactorily. There was a blue flare of welding arcs about the little spacetug Rim Mamelute, presently undergoing her annual survey. And there, all by herself, was the ship that Grimes -- to the annoyance of his wife -- often referred to as his one true love, the old, battered Faraway Quest. She had been built how many (too many) years ago as a standard Epsilon Class tramp for the Interstellar Transport Commission. She had been converted into a survey ship for the Rim Worlds' government. In her, Grimes had made the first landings on the inhabited planets to the Galactic East, the worlds now referred to as the Eastern Circuit. In her he had made the first contact -- but not a physical one -- with the anti-matter systems to the Galactic West.
And would the arrival of the good ship Piety lead to her recommissioning? Grimes hoped so. He liked his job -- it was interesting work, carrying both authority and responsibility -- but he was often tired of being a deskborne commodore, and had always welcomed the chance to take the old Quest up and out into deep space again. As often in the past he had a hunch, a strong one. Something was cooking, and he would have a finger in the pie.
Miss Walton's childish treble broke into his thoughts. "Sir, I have the information on Piety...."
"She was built as Epsilon Crucis for the Interstellar Transport Commission fifty Terran standard years ago. She was purchased from them last year, Terran reckoning, by the Skarsten Theological Institute, whose address is listed as Nuevo Angeles on Francisco, otherwise known as Beta Puppis VI...."
"I've visited Francisco," he told her. "A pleasant world, in many ways. But an odd one."
"Odd? How, sir?"
"I hope I'm not treading on any of your corns, Miss Walton, but the whole planet's no more than a breeding ground for fancy religions."
"I'm a Latter Day Reformed Methodist myself, sir," she told him severely. "And that's not fancy."
"Indeed it's not, Miss Walton." And I'm a cynical, more or less tolerant agnostic, he thought. He went on, "And does Lloyds condescend to tell us the category in which this renamed Epsilon Crucis is now listed? A missionary ship, perhaps?"
"No, sir. A survey ship."
"Oh," was all that Grimes could say.
Copyright © 1968 by A. Bertram Chandler