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The Rim Worlds Confederacy would not be what it is today were it not for Rim Runners, the merchant fleet of our lonely and isolated planets. It is true that the first landings on the worlds to the galactic east, as well as the discovery of the anti-matter systems to the galactic west, were made by Faraway Quest, the Rim Worlds survey ship, an auxiliary cruiser of the Rim Worlds Navy. But Quest was never during her long and honourable career under the command of a regular naval officer. Her captain and crew—with the exception of the Marines whom she sometimes carried—were invariably reservists.

The most famous of her captains was John Grimes who, in addition to holding the rank of commodore in the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve, was chief astronautical superintendent of Rim Runners. Grimes was a typical rim runner of his period inasmuch as he was not born a Rim Worlder and was of Terran origin. He came out to the Rim when, it was said, a valid certificate of astronautical competency counted for far more than any past record, no matter how black. In those days the Rim Runners' fleet was captained and officered by refugees from shipping lines from all over the galaxy—the Interstellar Transport Commission, Waverley Royal Mail, Cluster Lines, Trans-Galactic Clippers, the Dog Star Line . . . And when spacemen resign or are dismissed from the service of companies of such high standing only an employer desperate for qualified personnel would be anxious to engage them.

Grimes differed in one respect from his contemporaries. He was not initially a merchant spaceman. He had resigned his commission in the Survey Service of the Interstellar Federation rather than face a court martial. Nonetheless he, like all the others, had come out to the Rim under a cloud.

It is difficult to paint a detailed picture of the commodore's childhood as many records were destroyed during the Central Australian Subsidence of 375 AG. It is known, however, that he was born in the city of Alice Springs on Primus 28, 259. His father, George Whitley Grimes, was a moderately successful author of historical romances. His mother—who, as was the custom of the time, had elected to retain her own family name—was Matilda Hornblower, a domestic solar heating engineer.

So far as can be ascertained no ancestral Grimes, on either his father's or his mother's side, was ever an astronaut. There are, however, seamen clambering in the branches of his family tree. One Roger Grimes, a minor pirate of the Seventeenth Century (old Terran reckoning) achieved the dubious distinction of being hanged from his own yardarm when Admiral Blake mounted his successful campaign against the corsairs who, at that time, infested the Mediterranean Sea.

Another Grimes, in the Twentieth Century, commanded mechanically driven surface ships trading up and down the Australian coast and across the Tasman Sea.

Neither seafaring Grimes, however, achieved the fame of that illustrious ancestor on the maternal side, Admiral Lord Hornblower.

In an earlier age young Grimes might well have decided to go to sea—but on Earth, at least, there was little or no romance remaining in that once glamorous profession. Had he been born on a world such as Atlantia he quite probably would have gone to sea. On that planet the mariners still maintain that men, not computers, should command, navigate and handle ocean-going ships.

So, as his ancestors would probably have done had they lived in his era, he wanted to become a spaceman. His own preference would have been the merchant service but his mother, conscious of her own family annals insisted that he try to obtain a scholarship to the Survey Service Academy in Antarctica.

The once proud Royal Navy was no more than history but the Federation's Survey Service had carried its traditions into Deep Space.


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