Empire Builders (Grand Tour Series #2)

Empire Builders (Grand Tour Series #2)

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by Ben Bova
     
 

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Dan Randolph never plays by the rules. A hell-raising maverick with no patience for fools, he is admired by his friends, feared by his enemies, and desired by the world's loveliest women. Acting as a twenty-first privateer, Randolph broke the political strangle-hold on space exploration, and became one of the world's richest men in the bargain.

Now an

Overview

Dan Randolph never plays by the rules. A hell-raising maverick with no patience for fools, he is admired by his friends, feared by his enemies, and desired by the world's loveliest women. Acting as a twenty-first privateer, Randolph broke the political strangle-hold on space exploration, and became one of the world's richest men in the bargain.

Now an ecological crisis threatens Earth--and the same politicians that Randolph outwitted the first time want to impose a world dictatorship to deal with it.

Dan Randolph knows that the answer lies in more human freedom, not less--and in the boundless resources of space. But can he stay free long enough to give the world that chance?

Editorial Reviews

Starlog
A rollicking good read!
Library Journal
Imagine that the economics of the world is determined by seven major companies, and scientists have recently discovered that the greenhouse effect is not just a theory but a ``cliff'' ready to overwhelm the coastal cities with a tidal wave of undreamed proportions. A global economic cartel is desperate to keep this information from the public, since it could hurt their attempts to gain control of the seven influential industrial powers. In addition, the Mafia wants a piece of the action. Enter Dan Randolph, whose job it is to keep Earth from destroying itself. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is out to keep Dan quiet. Herein lies the plot and all the action. Robert Lawrence reads this sf tale with a clear voice and a moderate amount of characterization. His fine narration brings the characters to life and keeps the frantic action flowing to the very end. For sf collections.-- Miriam Kahn, Columbus, Ohio
From the Publisher
"Solid action/adventure/politking/consciousness-raising from a veteran pro."—Kirkus Reviews

"A rollicking good read!"—Starlog

"I believe that by far the science fiction author who will have the greatest effect on the science fiction world, and the world as a whole, is Ben Bova."—Ray Bradbury

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429931915
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
04/01/2011
Series:
Grand Tour Series , #2
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
696,845
File size:
974 KB

Read an Excerpt

Empire Builders


By Ben Bova

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1993 Ben Bova
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3191-5


CHAPTER 1

"I don't want your crappy little company!" said Dan Randolph.

"The hell you don't!" Willard Mitchell snapped.

Dan gave a disgusted snort and leaned back in the stiff unpadded chair. Mitchell glared across the table at him. The two lawyers, seated beside their clients, shifted uneasily in their chairs.

The room was windowless, deep underground, without even a video screen on the wall. Just bare lunar concrete lit by glareless fluorescents set behind the ceiling panels. Technically, the chamber was not a cell or even an interrogation chamber. It was a conference room where defendants could meet in private with their lawyers.

Dan Randolph fished a small oblong plastic box from his inside tunic pocket. About the size of his palm, it was a flat gray color with a single row of tiny winking lights set across its face. All the lights were green.

"No bugs in here," he muttered, adding silently to himself, At least none that this little snooper can sniff out.

He slipped the detector back into his pocket and turned his gaze again to Mitchell, still glaring at him from across the wobbly conference table. Randolph was on the small side, but solidly built, a welterweight with sandy hair that was turning gray at the temples. He had a pugilist's face: strong square stubborn jaw, a nose that had been slightly flattened by someone's fist a long time ago. But his light gray eyes glinted with a secret amusement, as if he were inwardly laughing at the foolishness of men, himself included.

Across the table from him Willard Mitchell was scowling grimly. Once he had been lean and athletic, a polo champion at Princeton, a well-known young yachtsman. But years of living in the Moon's easy gravity had softened him. Now he appeared older than Randolph, bald pate gleaming with perspiration, badly overweight and overwrought. Like Randolph, he was wearing business clothes: a collarless waist- length tunic and matching slacks. But where Dan's suit of sky blue looked trim and new, Mitchell's pearl gray outfit was baggy, wrinkled, rumpled; stains of sweat darkened his armpits.

"This is all your doing, Randolph," he snarled in a heavy grating voice. "Don't think I don't know that you set me up."

Dan raised his eyes to the glowing ceiling panels. "Lord spare me from my friends," he said to the air. "I can protect myself from my enemies."

Mitchell's lawyer, a sallow-skinned old man with the build and demeanor of a cadaver, dressed in a blue so deep it looked almost black, leaned toward his client and whispered something that Dan could not hear.

Mitchell scowled at his lawyer, but turned back to Dan and grumbled, "All right, all right, as long as we're stuck here — what's your offer?"

Mitchell was on trial before the Global Economic Council's lunar tribunal for illegally exceeding his allotted quota of lunar ores. He was guilty. He knew it, his lawyers knew it, and the tribunal had the evidence to prove it. The fine that the tribunal was about to assess would bankrupt him.

Dan Randolph leaned both elbows on the rickety table and hunched forward in his chair. "First off," he said, his voice crisp with suppressed anger, "I did not set you up."

"The hell you say."

"Goddammit to hell and back! The day I turn anybody over to the GEC will be two weeks after the end of the world. If I wanted to grab your pissant little outfit I would've done it myself. I don't need the double-damned GEC to help me."

Mitchell fumed visibly, but held back from answering.

Randolph's lawyer, a strikingly red-haired young woman new to the Moon, was sitting attentively at her boss's left. She said mildly, "Mr. Mitchell has asked to hear your offer, Dan."

He grinned at her. "Yeah. Right."

"So?" Mitchell growled.

Randolph spread his hands. "I'll buy your stock at the current market price —"

"Which is forty percent below par because of this lawsuit."

"— and pay the fine that the GEC's going to sock you with. You continue to operate the company; you remain CEO and COO. You can buy back your shares at market value whenever you want to."

Mitchell sank back in his chair, the expression on his fleshy face somewhere between suspicion and hope. "Now, wait a minute," he said. "You buy my shares —"

"All your shares," said Randolph. "Sixty-three percent of the total outstanding, so I'm told."

The other man nodded. "You buy the shares. You pay the fine. I stay in charge of the company. And then I can buy the shares back?"

Randolph gave him a crooked grin. "The harder you work, the more the shares'll be worth."

"Suppose I let the company go to the dogs and leave you holding the bag?"

Randolph shrugged. "That's the risk I take. But I don't see you shitting on your own baby."

Mitchell glanced at his lawyer, who remained deadpan, then turned back to Randolph. "I don't get it. What's in it for you?"

Dan's smile turned dazzling. "A chance to shaft Malik and his double-damned GEC. What else?"

CHAPTER 2

Daniel Hamilton Randolph was the richest human being living off-Earth. While there was no dearth of suspicious souls who were convinced that no one could get that filthy rich while staying entirely within the law, for the most part Dan Randolph had earned his wealth legally.

Once, briefly, he had been accused of piracy. By Vasily Malik, who had then been director of the Russian Federation's space program. Dan had evaded the charges against him, married the Venezuelan woman Malik was engaged to, and personally broken the Russian's jaw, together with a knuckle of his own right hand.

Now, ten years later, Dan's marriage had long since ended in divorce. The woman he had loved, the woman who had thought she loved him, was now Malik's wife. And Malik himself had survived the turmoil and treachery in the Kremlin to become the new Russian Federation's representative on the Global Economic Council.

In the middle of the twenty-first century, space was becoming vitally important to the Earth's global economy. Even the United States, which had abandoned its space program decades earlier, was now building factories in orbit and allowing its citizens to operate mining facilities on the Moon. Under GEC supervision, of course. The GEC had legal control of all extraterrestrial operations, from the teams of explorers combing the rusted sands of Mars to the hordes of insect-sized probes examining Jupiter and the outer planets; from the factories and laboratories in orbit around the Earth to the mining operations on the Moon that fed them.

Dan Randolph had amassed his fortune from space. When America had floundered and waffled, too preoccupied with earthly problems to move boldly in space, Dan had battled his way to a job with the Japanese building the first solar power satellite. "When the going gets tough," he announced to anyone who would listen, "the tough get going — to where the going's easier."

Not that the going was altogether easy among the Japanese. It was on the Moon, in a brawl with four sneering Japanese mining engineers, that his nose had been broken. But he had won that fight, and won the grudging respect of all his fellow workers. Some of those fellow workers were women, and somehow Dan managed to be highly attractive to them. His rather ordinary features seemed to intrigue them. "Is it my smile?" he once asked a buxom Swedish electronics technician who shared his bed for a while. She considered carefully before she answered, "Your smile, yes. And your eyes. There is the devil in your eyes."

By the time he had returned to Earth he was a moderately wealthy man. He started his own company, Astro Manufacturing, and headquartered it in sprawling Houston, where a handful of entrepreneurs were desperately trying to start a new industrial revolution despite their own government's persistent indifference and occasional outright hostility. Houston, because by then Dan had met Morgan Scanwell, an earnest, incorruptible young politician who had the energy and drive to match Dan's own. Scanwell helped Dan to make the contacts that funded the fledgling Astro Manufacturing. Dan raised money for Scanwell's political campaigns. They joked between themselves that one day Scanwell would be in the White House and Dan would be on Mars.

They made an unlikely duo. Morgan Scanwell was austere, abstemious, a man whose ultimate guide was his deeply held religious faith. Dan Randolph was a hell-raising scoundrel who was out to make as many millions as he could while cutting a swath through the female population of every community in which he lived.

The glue that held the two men together was Morgan's wife, Jane Scanwell: a tall, regal woman with long, flowing copper red hair, alabaster skin, and eyes the color of a green icy fjord. Utterly loyal to her husband, Jane had no other goal in life than to see Morgan Scanwell elected President of the United States.

She was unobtainable. Naturally, Dan fell in love with her. It was impossible; it was sinfully treacherous. But as Morgan Scanwell inevitably abandoned his moral rectitude and succumbed at last to the women who sought to touch his power, Jane came at last to Dan Randolph's bed. To their mutual surprise, she discovered that she had fallen in love with this scoundrel, her husband's best friend.

By the time Scanwell was campaigning for the presidency, Jane had painfully terminated her affair with Dan. She had the strength to end it; the White House was more important to her than romance. "The country needs Morgan, Dan," she said, convincing herself by trying to convince him. "And he needs me. We can't jeopardize his chances by sneaking around behind his back. If anyone found out he'd be finished."

Morgan Scanwell was governor of Texas then. Dan's personal fortune was nearing a billion dollars. He knew that Jane's mind was made up, so he went back to his old ways and became notorious again for his sexual pursuits. While he was squandering his energies on every woman he desired, Jane allowed a compliant Oklahoma legislature to confer a residency upon her, so she could run for vice-president alongside her husband.

Morgan was elected president, only to face a string of crises that killed him. The Russian Federation emerged from its own desperate internal cataclysms with a new belligerency. After coming so perilously close to dissolution and civil war that the rest of the world expected the tottering new Federation to collapse, the Russians regained control of their sprawling land and peoples. The United States, half disarmed, was suddenly confronted with a resurgent, bellicose Moscow. America had long since lost real interest in space, and had allowed Japan and Europe to take the leadership in space developments. Now the Russians, with the world's most powerful rockets and still armed with thousands of ballistic missiles, quickly took a stranglehold on all space operations — military as well as civilian.

The U.S. economy was foundering. The Russians were making demands on an unprepared America. Congress studied opinion polls that showed the American people were in no mood for a war that would rain hydrogen bombs on their heads.

America bowed. And Morgan Scanwell suffered a fatal stroke. Dan Randolph left Texas when Congress revoked all federal licenses for space operations. Astro Manufacturing moved to Venezuela, and Jane Scanwell became the first woman President of the United States.

She still held a deep passion for Dan Randolph. But now that passion had turned to hatred.

CHAPTER 3

The Global Economic Council's lunar tribunal was based in Copernicus City. Like all the other centers on the Moon, Copernicus was deep underground, gouged out of lunar rock to protect its human population from the lethal radiation and enormous temperature swings up on the airless surface.

Ostensibly, the GEC was politically neutral. It insisted that all lunar habitats be given geographic names rather than being named after national biases. Thus the Russian penal colony was officially titled Aristarchus Center, even though most lunar residents still called it by its older name: Lunagrad. On all GEC maps, the great Japanese manufacturing center was called Alphonsus City, rather than Yamagata Industries Lunar Operation #1. The place where humans had first set foot on the Moon's dusty surface was still called Tranquillity Base; the American astronauts had, even then, been thinking in non-nationalistic terms.

The lunar tribunal had all the aspects of a court of law. There was a banc with high-backed seats for three judges, although officially they were titled "conciliators."

But as Dan Randolph took his seat among the rows of benches for onlookers, he thought that the conciliators never really reconciled grievances; all he had ever seen them do was take a man's hard-earned wealth and hand it over to the GEC. He looked with mixed emotions at the sky blue flag of the United Nations standing to one side of the bane. He knew the world could not afford the divisive competition of nationalism, especially when even the smallest nation could manufacture biological weapons that could slaughter millions. But the alternative was a global government to which there was no appeal: a worldwide bureaucracy that was gradually imposing a dictatorship by committee, leveling everything on Earth to the same flat gray dullness. And now they were extending their grip to the Moon.

There was no jury box in this courtroom. The three conciliators listened to the evidence and made their decision. There was no appeal, either.

Mitchell and his zombie of a lawyer entered the tribunal chamber from the side door. The robot recording machine said, "All rise," and the three conciliators trooped in from the door behind the bane. They wore ordinary business clothes rather than robes. Two men and one woman, the chief of the team.

Dan glanced at his own lawyer, sitting beside him. Katherine Williams was a pert, young, ambitious redhead who had swiftly risen to the top of his legal department despite fierce competition. She knew all the tales about Dan Randolph's skirt-chasing. When Dan had first interviewed her for a job, she had firmly announced that she did not sleep with the boss. Not yet, Dan had thought, eying her with approval. Now, several years later, she was his top lawyer, and he wondered what her body looked like underneath the tailored royal blue jacket and fitted gold slacks she was wearing.

"The tribunal is ready to pass sentence," said the woman occupying the middle chair up on the bane. Her voice was sharp, cutting. "Does the defendant have anything to say in his own behalf?"

Mitchell's lawyer got to his feet, a tall scarecrow dressed like a funeral director. With a voice to match, he intoned sorrowfully, "The defendant deeply regrets the actions which have led to this proceeding, Your Honors. He regrets his actions so deeply, in fact, that he has divested himself of all ownership in the company that he has founded and directed, Mitchell Mining and Smelting. His remorse has led him to repudiate the ownership of his own company; this is similar to renouncing parenthood of one's own child. It is a deeply wrenching emotional ... "

"Counselor," snapped the chief conciliator, "are you telling us that Mr. Mitchell has sold off his company?"

"Yes, Your Honor. And I respectfully request that this act of true remorse and regret be considered punishment enough for his mistaken actions of the past."

The woman snorted disdainfully and glanced at her two male colleagues. "To whom has he sold his company?" she asked.

"To Astro Manufacturing, Incorporated, Your Honor."

"I see. Is there a representative of Astro Manufacturing in this chamber?"

Dan got to his feet. "I represent Astro, Your Honor. My name is Daniel Hamilton Randolph."

All three judges smiled at Dan the way Torquemada might have smiled at a rabbi. Dan smiled back and said:

"Your Honors, Astro is quite willing to pay the penalty that you have already decided to assess against Mitchell Mining and Smelting."

Dan knew that the penalty was already recorded in their computer file of this proceeding. If they changed it now, because Astro could afford an astronomically larger fine or because they hated Dan Randolph's guts, it would give Astro's lawyers a perfect excuse to claim prejudice and demand a new trial.

The three judges put their heads together and conferred briefly, hands over the tiny microphones imbedded in the desktop before them.

Finally the chief conciliator, her face grim, leveled a hard stare at Dan. "Mr. Randolph, this tribunal cannot help but believe that your acquisition of Mitchell Mining and Smelting is nothing less than an obvious ploy to thwart justice."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Empire Builders by Ben Bova. Copyright © 1993 Ben Bova. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Ray Bradbury
I believe that by far the science fiction author who will have the greatest effect on the science fiction world, and the world as a whole, is Ben Bova.

Meet the Author

Born in Philadelphia, Ben Bova worked as a newspaper reporter, a technical editor for Project Vanguard (the first American satellite program), and a science writer and marketing manager for Avco Everett Research Laboratory, before being appointed editor of Analog, one of the leading science fiction magazines, in 1971. After leaving Analog in 1978, he continued his editorial work in science fiction, serving as fiction editor of Omni for several years and editing a number of anthologies and lines of books, including the "Ben Bova Presents" series for Tor. He has won science fiction's Hugo Award for Best Editor six times.

A published SF author from the late 1950s onward, Bova is one of the field's leading writers of "hard SF," science fiction based on plausible science and engineering. Among his dozens of novels are Millennium, The Kinsman Saga, Colony, Orion, Peacekeepers, Privateers, and the Voyagers series. Much of his recent work, including Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, The Precipice, and The Rock Rats, falls into the continuity he calls "The Grand Tour," a large-scale saga of the near-future exploration and development of our solar system.

A President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in 2001 Dr. Bova was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife, the well-known literary agent Barbara Bova.


Ben Bova is the author of more than a hundred works of science fact and fiction, including Able One, Leviathans of Jupiter and the Grand Tour novels, including Titan, winner of John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2005, and in 2008 he won the Robert A. Heinlein Award "for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature." He is President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction Writers of America, and a former editor of Analog and former fiction editor of Omni. As an editor, he won science fiction’s Hugo Award six times. Dr. Bova’s writings have predicted the Space Race of the 1960s, virtual reality, human cloning, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), electronic book publishing, and much more. He lives in Florida.

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