Mack Reynolds: The Space Barbarians

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Mack Reynolds The Space Barbarians
  • Название:
    The Space Barbarians
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Ace Books
  • Жанр:
    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    1969
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • Рейтинг книги:
    5 / 5
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The Space Barbarians: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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A spaceship has crashed on a planet, and the descendants of the original colonists have all but forgotten their origins. But they have built a culture around the “holy books” that have survived the wreck—books of Indian lore and the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Then this culture in contact with a crew from a Company spaceship, coming from a society that is high-tech, opportunistic, and ruthless. We see the action through the eyes of the native warrior, John-of-the-Hawks. Can his bravery and cunning win the day? Or will his people be destroyed? The book is a “fixup” novel based on three long novelettes originally published in magazine in 1966 under the pseudonym of Guy McCord.

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The Space Barbarians

by Mack Reynolds

PART ONE

COUP!

Chapter One

John of the Hawks brought his steed to a sudden halt just short of the top of the hill they had been ascending. Some instinctive alarm had sounded. Something there is in the warrior born that warns of danger, and if the warrior would live, he heeds it ever. Were this not so there would be scarce a clannsman from Dumbarton to Stonehaven, for the ambush is a way of life on the planet Caledonia.

He slid from his animal and snaked his carbine from its scabbard. He tethered the animal lightly, so that no time would be wasted were it necessary to beat quick retreat, and made his way quietly to the hill’s crest. The last few yards he went on hands and knees; the last few inches he squirmed on his belly.

There were several bushes on the crest. He wiggled up behind one and peered through its branches and leaves. John of the Hawks sucked in air.

Below was a stream, flanked by trees and other vegetation. By the stream were standing four saddled horses and three draft animals. The latter were burdened down with what were obviously butchered cattle and, since this was Hawk preserve, obviously raided beef cattle.

Now he could make the men out. Three of them, and from their kilts, they were of the Claim Thompson. The kilts they were in the process of removing. The situation was obvious. They had butchered the animals and were now about to take a swim to clean up. Being deep in Aberdeen territory, they had not wanted to be slowed down by herding the beef back to their town but had butchered them on the spot and packed the choice portions of the carcasses on their extra animals.

Moving slowly, quietly, John flicked three cartridges from his bandolier. He threw the breech of his carbine and inserted one of the shells. The other two he stuck, point first, into the ground near his right hand, instantly available for a quick reloading.

The others had left their saddle guns in their scabbards, but John had no illusions about the fighting qualities of the Clann Thompson. Thieves they might notoriously be, but also competent fighters. Once he opened fire, the bets would all be down. There were three adult clannsmen down there, and he was but a lad, not yet raised up to full phyletic level.

Three of them?

He hesitated at squeezing the trigger, though he already had the sights trained on one who was just about to enter the water. There were four saddle horses.

He let his eyes go over the scene again and immediately received his answer. Slightly upstream, in a thicker clump of trees, was the other member of the party. She had drawn away from the men for privacy. John of the Hawks made a wry mouth. He had heard that the women of the Thompsons were shameless, but it was unseemly and not meet that one should accompany a raiding party.

He watched for a long moment. All were in the water now. The girl’s body gleamed white in the clearness of the stream. She was young, probably having no more years than John’s own seventeen.

He grunted his irritation. One does not fire upon men in the presence of their feminine kyn, although in this particular case there was little, if any, danger of his bullets going so far off aim that she would be endangered. There was no stronger bann than that against injuring a woman, even though vendetta was involved. The male of a species does not destroy the female, not even man. At least, not on the planet Caledonia.

He thought about it. It was too far back to Aberdeen to expect to be able to ride for assistance, enough assistance that the raiders, girl and all, might be captured without bloodshed.

But even as he thought about it, he knew the answer. It was foolhardy, without doubt, but it was the only thing lie could do, given the situation.

He took up the two extra cartridges, and returned them to his bandolier and began squirming backward. Once off the rise, he came to his feet and hurried to his animal. He put the carbine back into its scabbard and then unbuckled his belt with its claidheammor and skean and attached them to the saddle. He took his coup stick from its sheath and tucked it temporarily in his belt and then ascended the hill again.

They were all swimming, and even at this distance he could hear their shouts and jests as they made at their horseplay. He grinned wryly as he began squirming his way down the hill toward them. They would sing a different song, if John of the Hawks was successful in his scheme.

He took what advantage he could of trees, shrubs and bushes and finally achieved his immediate goal, a place in the shrubbery along the river, between the girl and the men. Now he had a slight advantage. If the clannsmen heard him stirring in the brush, they would think it the girl; if she heard a stirring, she would think it part of the noise the men were making as they splashed, dived and swam.

On hands and knees he crawled toward the animals. This, now, was the crucial point. It was all a matter of how soon they spotted him.

And there was a matter of sheer luck, too. There were four saddle horses. If he made the mistake of attempting one that was so trained that it would seat only its master, he was destroyed.

The answer to that, or so he hoped, came to him as he crept nearer. One of the beasts had no carbine scabbard. The girl’s, of course. And a girl’s horse- was less apt to be clannsman trained to accept no stranger on its back. At least, so was his prayer to the Holy.

There was a shout from the riverbank.

He was on his feet and dashing.

The shouts tripled.

He flung himself on the back of the animal he had chosen, and even as he mounted, he was tearing free the tether that had tied the horse to a small bush. He sunk heels into the beast’s side, screaming the battle halloo of the Clann Hawk. He pulled the coup stick from his belt and slashed at the other three mounts. He gripped their tethers one by one and pulled them free. He slashed their haunches, driving them before him. From the river’s edge, the Thompson clannsmen were coming at the run, shouting their anger in d threats.

He pulled hard on the reins of his mount, turning it, and headed back for the raiders. Only now did they see what he held in his hand, and they tried to take last-minute measures to avoid him.

The coup stick came up and down so fast as to be a blur.

He slashed them, one two three, calling in repetition so quickly that the words came out all a jumble, “I-count-coup-I-count-coup-I-count-coup!”

Then he was around again and away, dashing after the horses he had just stampeded. He looked over his shoulder in triumph and just in time, even as he was shouting his halloo.

Two of the three were seated on the ground, heads in hands, wailing their disgrace and frustration. But the other had turned and sped back to the river’s edge. And only now did John see the carbine leaning there against a tree trunk.

He cut short his battle cry, in midsyllable, and flung down on the far side of the horse, clinging to the saddle by but one heel, his left hand grasping a handful of mane.

And just in time. The carbine barked its command. One of the horses screamed. John came back full into the saddle now. The wounded horse ran another twenty yards then stumbled and pitched suddenly and fell.

John considered, only momentarily, halting long enough to strip it of its trappings but gave up the possibility. For all he knew, the rifleman had additional rounds of ammunition, and John was still within range. He scrambled up the hill, kicking his heels ever into the frightened animal In? rode, herding the remaining two beasts before him.

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