Tom Godwin's "--And Devious the Line of Duty" (short story, diplomacy, romance, free): A young man gets his heart broken as part of his work
This is the lightest read I've seen yet from the author of "The Cold Equations". Mildly humorous. No great ideas - just a love quadrangle & a bit of diplomacy; good enough for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
While the story has a space theme, plot would have been no different in any essential way had it been set on earth.
Story summary.Humans are spread through stars. Story involves two major powers - Terran Republic & Verdam People's Worlds. Terrans are influential & good (because protagonists are from here). Verdam are bad guys from opposite faction, out to grab some of the power Terrans currently wield.
Jardeen is a neutral power. Not important in itself, but swaying it either way will substantially add to the cause of Terrans or Verdam. This story is about a meeting among the various parties involved - on a third neutral world called Vesta.
Terran Republic is represented by a veteran diplomat George Rockford, & an inexperienced & expendable young military Lieutenant Dale Hunter. Others include "Val Boran, Jardeen's Secretary of Foreign Relations", "Verdam's Special Envoy Sonig; a wily little man". Plus two Vestans - Princess Lyla & Lord Narf.
Lyla is the sweet girl everyone wants to fall in love with. Narf is the evil man she is currently engaged to because of court reasons. Dale's job will require him to fall in love with Lyla, nearly die, & get his heart broken. Val will eventually win her over.
Through the story, bad men (Sonig & Narf) will plot evil deeds which will be eventually foiled by good ones. Ultimately a happy resolution, except for Dale.
Fact sheet.First published: Analog Science Fact and Fiction, December 1962.
Download full text from Project Gutenberg.
Listed among the stories from Campbell's Astounding/Analog.
Related: All stories of Tom Godwin.