by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card's first novel - back in print for the first time in 25 years!
Orson Scott Card's first science fiction novel, Hot Sleep, was published in April
1979 by Baronet Books in trade paperback format. It is permanently out of print
and was replaced by The Worthing Chronicle, published by Ace Books in July
This is the first of five parts of Hot Sleep to be serialized completely within this
issue over the next few weeks at the rate of one part every other week. The entire
novel will remain online.
Jas Worthing was being kept alive by State Paper FN3xxR-5a, and he knew it. He
didn't need an assistant professor of education to tell him that. But once Hartman
Tork had begun a lecture, he was unstoppable.
"There's no way, Jas Worthing, that you could have made a perfect score on that
test. The information is classified, it was only bumped onto the computers by a
mistake in the program --"
"Your mistake," Jas pointed out.
"Maybe not a mistake at all," Tork said, his face turning red with anger. "Maybe
we've found out something about you that we desperately wanted to know. You
couldn't possibly have copied off anyone else's paper --"
"Are you accusing me of cheating? Because the juvenile code requires a proper
hearing and substantiating evidence --"
Tork whirled around on his swivel stool and stood up. He walked around the
glowing teacherboard until he stood only a meter or less away from Jas. Again, as
a hundred times before, Jas felt the vertigo of childhood, realizing that everything
is up, that only when he tumbled into the future would he be as large as those who
manipulated him today -- or tried to, anyway.
"I've had enough," Tork said, softly, trying to be menacing; and though Jas knew
that the menace was a facade worn to intimidate the small and weak, he also knew
that behind the facade the threat was very, very real. "I've had enough of your
cocky smartass self-assurance. Now you're going to take the test over again."
And in spite of himself Jas was trembling, though he kept the quaver out of his
voice. "Unless you can prove malfeasance --"
"I know the juvenile code, Jas. And I don't have to prove malfeasance if I can
prove something else."
His look of triumph was disconcerting. Jas gripped the sides of the nearest
console. "I didn't cheat, Mr. Tork, and unless you have a witness --"
"The law, boy, is a lot more open when it comes to the question of the Swipe."
Tork pounded his finger on the teacherboard for emphasis.
"Are you calling me a Swipe, Mr. Tork?" Jas asked. This time the quaver came
into his voice. "That's slander, Mr. Tork, unless you can prove --"
"I'm working on that, boy. Now get out."
Jas got out. But at the door he heard Tork call after him, "You got those answers
out of my head and I'm going to prove it! You passed that test by picking my
Jas turned around and said, "Assistant professor Tork, no one in his right mind,
given a choice, would pick your brains." Tork didn't answer, just smiled savagely.
But Jas felt a little better for having said it.
He was shaking and weak all the way home.
His mother met him at the door of their flat. "What happened?" she asked, trying
to keep the fear out of her voice, as if it couldn't be read on her face.
"Tork yelled a lot."
"What about the proof? Did you have the proof?"
"Your blood test came out okay, mom." Jas sat down on the bed that doubled as a
sofa in the living room. "Sorry you had to get jabbed."
His mother sat next to him and took his hand. Her palms were clammy. "I was so
afraid. They were so sure."
"I guess they can't cope with somebody outsmarting their stupid tests." Jas lay
back on the bed and breathed deeply. "I need to rest, mom," he said. His mother
nodded and got up and went to the kitchen-dining-bathroom to ring up dinner.
Jas lay on the bed, his heart still pounding. He had been stupid, not to realize that
they'd know. But it had been so easy -- the test in front of him, and then just by
looking at Tork the answers so clear, sitting right behind Tork's eyes. It was as if
for a moment Jas had forgotten that telepathy was a capital crime. In fact, of
course, he hadn't really realized, not for sure, that what was happening was
telepathy. It had grown so gradually, his gift -- beginning when he turned twelve
-- fleeting glimpses at random of what people thought, what they felt. And then
in the room last week, just as a child might discover a new muscle that let him
wiggle his ears or twitch his scalp, Jas had realized he could control it. Not just
random glimpses, but a deep, hard, long look into their minds.
The Swipe? Swipes were monsters, Swipes were planet-wreckers, Swipes weren't
kids in schoolrooms taking calculus tests.
He stared at the picture of his father on the ceiling. The tiling had been there since
their last authorized remodeling, when Jas was seven, and he had instantly seen
the picture. That squiggle was the nose; the dark space was his eye; the lips the
gentle curves just below. It was a benign face, kind if monstrous, trustworthy if
incredible. How had he decided that it was his father? Jas knew. After all, he had
seen no other picture.
He wanted the face to smile, but it always just smirked, as if just about to laugh, or
as if it had just tired of laughter. Or as if it knew that a meal was coming. Jas
And as he did his mind gave his body a reason for the fear. How was I to know,
he asked himself. How was I to know that the last three questions were cross-programmed from another classroom, a classified, advanced, damn-it-but-it-all-made-so-much-sense classroom, and Jason rolled over and dug his hand into his
mattress, partly because it felt good, and party because his mother had told him,
"When you muck up the mattress it has to replaced early, and if it has to be
replaced early, the government gets angry."
Advanced astrodynamics. Well, it just felt like more math, how was I to know I
was playing little games with stars and planets? And I understood it, once I got
the answer. Jas rumpled the bed again. Once he got the answer: that was the
problem. He couldn't show them any figuring. He couldn't show them how he
arrived at the correct answer. "I figure in my head," he said, and they showed him
the paper where he had done some other figuring, and Jas had smiled and said,
If only Tork had been a moron and had remembered astrodynamics wrong.
If only God were still alive and not just a face on the ceiling.
"I'm a Swipe," Jas said under his breath, trying out the words.
Suddenly a hand was fiercely clamped over his mouth. Startled, he opened his
eyes to see his mother glaring down at him.