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The Iralians were humanoid and techically free citizens of the Galactic Empire. But as slaves they were prized above all others, for they had the unique capacity to transmit acquired knowledge through heredity. And so when the space mercenary Wanderer was hired by GLASS (Galactic League for the Abolition and Supression of Slavery) to take a cargo of Iralians home it was going to be a simple task!
For one thing, they'd be hunted by interstellar slavers for their priceless passengers.
For another, the Iralians themselves had other ideas which included mutiny and high treason.
And for the third and worst, they were too close to the Horsehead Nebula, whose capacity for warping time, space and the dimensions was a permanent Red Alert for all spacecraft.
A. Bertram Chandler (1912-1984)
Arthur Bertram Chandler was a British-Australian science fiction author born in Aldershot, England in 1912. He sailed the world in everything from tramp steamers to troop transports and emigrated to Australia in 1956, where he commanded merchant ships under Australian and New Zealand flags until his retirement in 1975. Chandler's first published work was "This Means War!" for Astounding in May 1944 and he concentrated on short fiction for nearly two decades, often writing under various pseudonyms. He won the Ditmar Award four times and the A Bertram Chandler Award for lifetime achievement in sf in Australia has been presented in his memory since 1992.