As every thinking man knows, every slave always yearns for the freedom his master denies him...
t he had never owned a groundcar. What need had a spaceman of a groundcar? Still, it would be nice to drive one just once, he thought; it would be a new experience, certainly.
Right now, though, he was looking for a Class Three bar; just a place to have a small, quiet drink and a bite to eat. He had a perfect right to go into a lower class bar, of course, but he had never felt quite comfortable associating with his inferiors in such a manner, and certainly they would feel nervous in his presence because of the sidearm at his hip.
No one below Class Three was allowed to carry a beamgun, and only Ones and Twos were allowed to wear the screening fields that protected them from the nerve-searing effects of the weapon. And they, being Execs, were in no danger from each other.
Finally, after much walking, he decided that he was in the wrong part of town. There were no Class Three bars anywhere along these streets. Perhaps, he thought, he should have gone to the Spacemen's Club at the spaceport
Not one of Garrett's better stories. He creates an interesting society but his protagonist doesn't grow or change his world view. The conclusion is very disappointing.
In an intragalactic empire organized as an aristocracy (from Execs to lowly Sevens) the empire's ships are being attacked in hyperspace by the ships of the Misfits. To shoot a Misfit ship in hyperspace requires a Guesser to predict where the ship will have maneuvered to by the time the weapon beam reaches them. A Guesser is the main character of the story, and while his intuition and precognition are useful, he gets stranded on a planet with no way out.
The part of the story that is most wrenching is the callous way the upper classes exploit and abuse the lower classes. I'd like to believe people would behave better than that, but I'm afraid it's realistic.
In an incredibly rigid class society (we're talking much worse than Victorian England here) of allied planets, a "guesser" is necessary to get spaceships to ports through a gauntlet of classless pirates. He calculates by training and precognition where the enemy ships will be, and uses fire control to direct the ships weapons to the exact place they'll show up momentarily in order counter their defensive maneuvering.
On shore leave, something very bad happens to the Guesser, which I won't give away, and he must try to set it right one way or another.
The plot rolls right along till the somewhat disappointing ending. It is fun getting to understand the protagonist's class rank in the society and how it determines his actions, and this could be the first chapter of a really fun novel. Maybe it is, and I don't know about it. I think it's a disappointment that Mr. Garrett has created such an interesting and detailed universe but doesn't follow up. Read it anyway.