Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

Bookmark and Share

About IGMS / Staff
Write to Us
Print this Story

Issue 1
by Rachel Ann Dryden
A Rarefied View at Dawn
by Dave Wolverton
Loose in the Wires
by John Brown
Trill and the Beanstalk
by Edmund R. Schubert
Night Walks
by Robert Stoddard
Taint of Treason
by Eric James Stone
Eviction Notice
by Scott M. Roberts
From the Ender Saga
Mazer in Prison
by Orson Scott Card
Mazer na Prisão   (Portugues)
by Orson Scott Card
Audio Bonus
Mazer in Prison
Read by Audie-winner Stefan Rudnicki
Serialized Novel
Hot Sleep
by Orson Scott Card
Fat Farm
by Orson Scott Card
Column: I Screen the Body Eclectic
Special Software Bonus
I-Wei's Amazing Clocks
by I-Wei Huang

Hot Sleep
Artwork by Sam Ellis

What's this icon for?

Hot Sleep
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 1983.

This is the second 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.

Part II

Chapter Four

"The loop is a fake, Hop," Jazz said, with feeling.

Baak chuckled. "Should we enlarge the image for you? Show you the fingerprints? It's no fake. Jason Worthing is up to his ears in a plot to help someone -- this mysterious person who controls the Cabinet -- take over somec, and with it the government, not in the subtle way he now controls it, but openly, overtly, taking the reins of power himself. And I don't think I'm the only one who objects to someone playing around with my somec. I like the thought of being immortal. So does everybody else."

Jason said again, now sounding more tired. "The loop is a fraud."

Hop shook his head. "You can't fake a loop, Jazz. I know you. And that was you."

"You know me, but you don't know what that loop means," Jazz insisted.

Baak swung himself off the bed again, where he had reclined during the playback of the loop, and walked over to Jason. "Actually, Jazz, Arran's little cup didn't contain enough to kill you. Remember, the ritual she offered you required only a little sip. It would have put you to sleep long enough for us to get you here, where I can find out from you the one thing that nobody knows right now."

"I don't know anything that you don't know," Jason said wearily.

"You know one thing, Jazz. You know who is supposed to walk out when you hold out your arm in that loop. You know who our enemy is."

Jason shook his head.

"Don't worry, Jason. We don't expect you to volunteer the information. When the probe gets through with you, you'll have so little mind left that you won't even notice when we kill you." Baak waved to the guards and they pulled Jason out of the room.

Before the door slid closed behind them, though, Jason called out, "Don't believe it, Hop!" Then silence.

Farl Baak looked at Hop with raised eyebrows. "He must value your opinion very highly, Mr. Noyock, to want so badly for you to deny the evidence of your own eyes."

"Maybe," Hop said.

"Now we have a problem, Hop. What to do with you. You're a witness, unfortunately, and there could be serious legal repercussions to what happened today. Shimon Rapth and I have a lot left to accomplish, even after we find out from your ex-client who our enemy is."

"My enemy, too," Hop said.

"I'm glad you feel that way. Unfortunately, Hop, there's always the risk that you might suddenly feel a rush of loyalty to the bastard whom you've served so well during the last few centuries, and we can't afford to have you wandering around, able to tell people what you know. You understand?"

"I'd rather you didn't kill me," Hop said, amazed to discover that he could say thatcalmly. Baak laughed.

"Kill you! Of course not. You'll just be my guest here for a few days. We aren't animals, Hop. At least we try not to be. Arran will show you to your room. Unfortunately, we'll have to lock the door behind you, but that can't be helped. We happen to know that you're a wily old devil, and there's a strong risk of you sneaking out if we don't bar the door." Baak laughed again, but it was a friendly laugh, the kind of laugh that a good man laughs when he's been worried for days, but now knows that things are going to work out well for him. Hop found himself feeling almost at ease.

Arran led the way down a short hall to another room. It was almost as plush as Farl Baak's own. The guard waited outside as Arran went in with him. She touched his arm as he stood surveying his surroundings.

"Hop, I'm sorry I almost killed you there in the hiding place. I was fighting for my life."

"All in a day's work," Hop said. "You aren't the first."

"What I'm saying, Hop, is that we were both forced into doing things we usually wouldn't do. By Worthing. I don't think we have to hate each other."

"Are you looping this?" Hop asked.

"No," she said, looking a little angry.

"Well, I am," he said, and smiled. "I have an exclusive. I'll give it to you for your birthday."

She smiled back. "I was never born. Friends?"

Noyock shook his head. "Let's just say, temporarily not trying to kill each other. Let me decide what to believe about Jazz."

She looked ceilingward, but turned to leave. As she did, it occurred to Noyock that these people were basically decent. But, he reminded himself, they were also dangerous. (Never trust a woman who knows where to kick, my father always told me.)

"Can I ask you a question," he said.

She turned and faced him, and waited.

"What is a probe? What will it do to him?"

She shook her head. "It's fairly new and completely illegal and I don't know much about it. A scientist who is with us invented it."

"Who is us?"

"Just a few of us who believe that somec should be shared fairly. According to law. And this may not sound very plausible, coming from me, but we think it should be given only by merit. Not for money at all."

"Damned stupid idea," Noyock said. "I'd be dead now if that were the system when I came up out of the slime."

"Well, there are some advantages to the system now, that's true. But the main thing is that we've got to stop this man, whoever he is, from getting control of the Sleephouse. He'd have us all, then."

"So it boils down to self-preservation, in the end."

"Who said it didn't?" she retorted. "But you may be surprised to learn that sometimes even the rich and famous have consciences."

"Jazz Worthing has a conscience, too," Hop mused.

She laughed at him.

"I know him," Hop said. "You don't. Something doesn't fit in all this."

"Well, you believe what you want, Hop. All I know about Jazz Worthing is that he's sadistic and a traitor to humanity. Sorry if you like him, but when the probe finds out who the enemy is --"

"Jason won't tell it. He can take more pain than --"

"It isn't pain --"

"He's immune to drugs -- they do that the week they enter the Service --"

"It's not drugs, either. The inventor told me that it's like bright, dazzling lights that suddenly come and go from many directions. Only instead of lights, it's brain waves, like the recorders in the Sleephouse. It's like pouring different mindsets into your brain, distracting you, driving you crazy, breaking down all will to resist. You tell anything. You respond to anything. It's just too many surprises inside your own head."

"And does anybody recover?"

"We're not altogether sure. We've only used it a few times, and nobody has, if they stayed under for very long. If Jazz Worthing resists for very long at all, then he'll lose his mind." She patted Noyock's arm. "Think of it this way. Your friend won't even notice when he's killed."

"Thanks a lot."

"Sorry, old man." It didn't even sound like an obscenity when she said it. She left, and the door was locked behind her.

Hop went to the bed and lay down. The probe worked by surprise. It really would have a tough go with Jason Worthing, then -- Hop couldn't remember ever seeing Jazz surprised at all. It was the same in all the loops -- whatever the enemy did, Jazz always seemed to know just a hair in advance. He always spotted the ambush at the last moment. It made for great loops.

Even today. Even last night. Jazz had known the drink was drugged. He even seemed to know without asking --

Hop got up and turned on the loop recorder's playback. It was an excellent model, and the figures were almost a quarter size -- excellent for a portable. It started with the duel. Hop jumped it forward. The crowd, panicking. Jazz picking up Arran. Knocking Kapock aside. Hop stopping to pound Kapock into the ground, then following Jazz to the exit.

Noyock watched closely, then. He tried to see when Jazz heard the answer from Arran about where the hiding place was. He couldn't find it.

Breaking down the door. The library, and Jazz throwing Arran down and breaking her rib. Then. It had to be right then, and Hop took the action at tenth-speed, volume on full, close-up on the two heads, now larger than life-size. Jason, incredibly slowly, saying, "Where's the door?" Hop moved around, stared at Arran's lips.

They did not move. She was nearly unconscious. She did not make a sound at all.

He shifted back to normal size when the holo showed Jazz walking away, straight to the two books. The door opened as Jazz pulled on something.

Arran hadn't told him a thing. Hop sat, numbed, as the loop went on; turned down the volume when it became annoying; flipped off the machine when it finally stopped. Jazz knew things that hadn't been told to him. The only place he could have found out about that door was from Arran's mind.

(Be reasonable. If Jazz really is a traitor, he'd have sources of information.)

But he knew other things. The poison in the glass. How could he have learned about that forty years ago, before he left? And Hop knew for a fact that Jazz found out nothing after he came back to the planet. Unless he found it out in the ship before he disembarked. He might have....

Jazz as a traitor or Jazz as a Swipe. If I can choose between them, Hop told himself, I'd rather he were a traitor.

Or would I? Hop remembered all his association with Jazz, from the beginning. The young starpilot, eager, enthusiastic, itching for battle. That couldn't have been an act. And what change had there been since then? A gradual maturing. There was no time that Jazz seemed to show any change at all. When did he turn traitor? When did he start to plot? Noyock couldn't believe it.

But Jason Worthing a Swipe? That was even harder to believe. But the glass, the door, the inside information he seemed to pluck from midair. Even the battle with Kapock, seeming to know every motion before he made it.

And Jazz had even told him he was a Swipe. Noyock had assumed he was joking. Wasn't he?

Back and forth, back and forth, like a tennis duel, Noyock thought, and eventually he slept.

He awakened to the sound of the door opening. His first thought: they've come for me. He stiffened on the bed, prepared to struggle, though he didn't know what he could hope to accomplish.

But the hands that touched him were gentle. Insistent, but gentle. And the voice saying, "Hop, wake up," was Arran's.

"Is it morning already?" he asked.

"Shut up. Come with me, fast. Don't talk."

She sounded frightened out of her wits. Hop got up and followed her as she led him out into the hall and through a large meeting-room. She stopped only long enough to say, in a barely audible whisper, "Do you know how to kill an armed man?"

"Sometimes," Hop answered, wondering if he still remembered how. It was one thing to take Fritz Kapock from behind by surprise -- quite another to face a man who was pointing a cockle at you.

"Now's the time," she said. She pushed a button and a door slid open. A guard was standing on the other side, already turning to see why the door behind him was opening. There was a laser in his hand. Hop didn't stop to wonder why Arran was having him kill one of the men on her side. He just let the reflexes from his boyhood take over.

He finished with the guard by breaking his neck. In retrospect, Hop had the sickening knowledge that he had won only be a hair. Oh well, he thought. Better close than not at all. Still, when this was over, he'd have to lose weight. Get back in shape. This could kill him.

"Come here!" Arran hissed at him, and he came.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"There's no time." He followed her down the corridor. They went into a bathroom and closed and locked the door.

"Who's chasing you?" Hop asked.

"We only have a couple of seconds," she said. "In the shower, the ceiling light. Can you reach it?"

He could reach it. She told him to push it. It gave fairly easily, then swung back, out of the way. Arran immediately stepped into the shower and reached for the opening. Hop helped her up. When she was through the trap, she hissed down at him, "Come on up, quickly, they'll be here any minute, and I don't know how many people know about this way."

But Hop didn't go into the trap door. Instead he stepped to the bathroom door and unlocked it.

"Hop, don't!" she hissed, frightened. But he didn't leave. He just left the door unlocked and climbed back into the shower and, with a great deal of difficulty hoisted himself up into the opening in the ceiling. Once there, it was hard to find a way to get his legs up through the opening. He could hear shouting down the corridor the way they had come. Arran heard it, too, and started pulling and tugging at him. "You're not helping one damn little bit," Hop said impatiently, and she left him alone as he finally got his weight up far enough to let him turn around and pull his legs up.

The moment he was clear, sweating and panting from the exertion, Arran pushed down the trap. Now an innocent-looking lighting fixture hung over the shower again.

"Why did you unlock the door!" she whispered angrily.

"Because a bathroom door locked from the inside with nobody in there is an advertisement that there's another way out."

Worklights here and there provided a dim light, and soon they could both see -- a little. The crawlspace they were in was only a meter and a half high -- neither of them could stand up. Structural beams were hard to tell from air conduits, wiring frames, and exhaust shafts. Hop leaned over from the catwalk they were sitting on and pushed on a ceiling tile. It gave easily.

"We can only walk on beams and catwalks," he said.

"Wonderful. Do you know your way around in here?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Not right here, anyway. Capitol isn't the same anywhere. Nobody planned the remodeling over the last few thousand years. Good luck to us. Now will you tell me who the hell we're running from?"

She nodded. But Hop noticed that she was breathing too heavily, and her hands were trembling. She didn't say anything.

"What's wrong?"

She just shook her head and started to cry. Hop had seen her cry several times before, in pain, for effect, a play for sympathy. But this looked like real honest-to-goodness little-girl tears. Nothing controlled. She wasn't even beautiful or seductive as she cried. Her fans would be shocked. Hop reached over and touched her arm. A little human contact, he decided, might help. It didn't. She recoiled, turned away from him.

"Go ahead and cry, then," he said. "Just do it quietly."

"I am, dammit," she said. "Farl is dead."

And that explained it, at least well enough for Hop, well enough for right now. Farl Baak was the one relationship that Arran Handully had never looped; therefore it wasn't for sale to the public; therefore it must be real. And now he was dead, and her grief was also real.

"I'm sorry," Hop said.

She nodded, acknowledging his sympathy, and began to get control of herself. "Sorry," she finally said. "Sometimes things actually happen that aren't in the day's scenario."

"Yeah. I'll spill a few tears for you sometime and we'll be even."

"Don't hurry," she said, and managed a faint smile. "From now on I promise to cope. I don't know where to go now, you know. I knew how to get here, but from here I have no idea."

"Who killed him?"

"A man, just one of the guards. I didn't know him. I went to watch the -- questioning. With the probe. I couldn't believe it, Hop. Jazz Worthing lasted an hour and a half. No one has lasted fifteen minutes. An hour and a half. It was terrible. Like waiting for a deal to close in the other room, you know at first that it'll be simple, but when it takes longer, and longer, and longer, you begin to think that it's gone sour, that it'll never happen."

"But he finally broke?" Hop asked, not sure whether he was glad that Jazz had held out so long (the bastard traitor) or sick that he had suffered so much (I like him anyway, dammit).

"Yes. I was near the door. That's why I'm alive. The moment he named the man, the cockles went off, just like that. Farl didn't have a chance. Dead on the spot. A few others, too. As if it had been planned."

"But who was it? Who did Jazz name?"

"Didn't I tell you? Shimon Rapth."

Hop didn't know him, but remembered -- "Hey, wasn't he the guy who was helping Baak figure all this stuff out?"

She nodded, and a flash of hatred crossed her face. "Looks like he was just trying to find out who his opposition would be. The guards were all his men, of course. They'll be rounding up the whole group, there are at least a hundred of us, maybe more --"

"You mean Jazz Worthing was working for this Shimon Rapth?"

"Looks like it, doesn't it?"

"But -- that's impossible, I never even heard of him before. And why would he let them put Jazz through the probe, drive him insane like that --"

She shrugged. "Get rid of a possible future competitor, maybe. I don't know. I just ran."

"Why'd you come to me?"

"Farl was dead. I didn't trust anybody else in the group. I could have come here alone, I guess."

"I'm glad you didn't," Hop said. And then he got up -- as far as he could, since the floor of the room above kept him from standing straight. He took Arran's hand. "Hang on. Let's not get separated in the dark. But if I suddenly fall down a hole, let go."

"Where are we going?"

"I told you, I don't know this area. I was born and raised -- if you can call it raising -- in the bottom levels of the stinkingest borough of Orem district, and we'd go into the crawlspace all the time. The only way we could stay out of reach of the constables and Mother's Little Boys."

"Then there might be criminals here?"

"In this district?" Hop chuckled as they walked gingerly along the catwalk. "In this district all we'll meet is dust. Every district is absolutely sealed off from every other. Including the crawlspace."

"Oh," she said. They came to a ladder. Hop leaned on it, looked up. He could see light above -- dim, but light.

"Up," he said. "You first."

She started to climb. When they got to the next level up, she stopped.

"What're you stopping for?" he asked.

"Don't we get off here?"

"No, of course not. Do you think we'd ditch them by just changing floors? If they're serious about rounding up everybody from your little group, they'll seal off this whole district. Check anybody coming and going, and spot you the first time you use your credit card. We've got get out of this district."

"But you said they were all sealed off --"

"Just keep climbing. There's a way out, and it's up. This ladder's part of the exhaust system, and the exhaust system leads to the surface."

"And what then?"

"Maybe we'll think of something on the way."

And so they climbed. Following the exhaust vents meant hours of squeezing through narrow spaces, climbing ladders to dizzying heights before the great vents leveled off again, bellying through inches of dust in foot-high crawlspace. They were filthy and exhausted a few minutes after they started. They stopped three times to rest. Once they stayed long enough to sleep. And then they came to a place where huge steel girders stretched above them, and the vents plunged suddenly upward to a heavily girdered metal ceiling. For the first time, except on the ladders, they could stand up straight.

Arran looked around. The light was still dim, but it was obvious the space around them was huge -- much larger than any hall they had ever been in, and interrupted only by the rising vents and the huge steel shafts that apparently supported the roof.

"It looks very strong," Arran said.

"You should see it where the ships cradle. Makes this look like foil."

"What's outside?"

"We'll soon see," Hop said. "Better lie down and rest again. The next part's going to be hard."

"As if it had been easy up to now," Arran said, lying down willingly enough. They lay on a large vent, and the rush of air pouring through it made the surface vibrate. "I heard," Arran said, after a while, "that you can't breathe the air out there."

"A myth," said Hop. "You can breathe it. You just can't breathe it for very long."

"What'll we do?"

"We'll go along here until we find the end of the district. The sealed-off wall. Then we'll go up the nearest vent and try to get across to a vent on the other side of the barrier. The air isn't really dangerous. The real danger is the sun."

Of course Arran knew what the sun was. It was the nearest star, and the source of all of Capitol's energy. She had never seen it. "Why is the sun dangerous?" she asked.

"You'll see," he said. "I can't describe it -- just don't look at it! And whatever you do, don't let go of my hand. If the sun isn't up we're coming right back. At night we'd probably freeze to death in the winds and get lost to boot. So we'll wait for sunlight."

Silence for a few moments, and then Arran laughed softly. "Funny. I never think of Capitol as having winds. Just drafts. Just little breezes from the vents. Capitol is a planet after all."

"The surface is the worst desert you'll ever find, though. Any interference with our food supply or energy sources, and it'd be a desert down below, too. Sleep."

They both slept. When Hop woke, Arran wasn't beside him. He got up quickly, looked into the dimly-lighted distance for her. She wasn't too far away -- sitting at the edge of the huge exhaust duct they had slept on, off toward the ladder they had climbed to reach it. Hop walked toward her. His steps were muffled by dust and the distance of the walls -- no echoes here. But she heard him a few steps off, and turned to look at him. Wordlessly she waited until he came to the edge and sat down beside her.

"A long way down," he said. She nodded. "Ever been this close to the surface?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I woke just now without a toothbrush," she said. "I couldn't bathe. I couldn't go to the wardrobe and choose what I would wear for the day. Nobody's coming to call."

"You've got problems," Hop said. "I've already missed about fifteen appointments, and Jazz's latest tape isn't ready for distribution. It's costing me about a thousand a minute just to sit here."

"What will we do, even when we get to another district?"

"You're asking me?"

"We can't use our credit cards. They'd track us down in a moment."

Hop shrugged. "Maybe they aren't looking for me. Maybe I can use mine."

"And maybe not."

Suddenly there was an abrupt change of pitch in the hum of the air passing under them. "What was that?" asked Arran.

"Maybe eight thousand people flushed their toilets all at once in this district. Maybe fifteen thousand people turned their thermostats. Maybe there's a fire."

"I wonder what Capitol looked like before," Arran mused.

"That's a strange thing to wonder."

"Is it? But there must have been a time before men came here. What did the first colonists see?"

Hop laughed. "A virgin world, ready for raping."

"Or perhaps a home."

"What is this, a lifeloop? Nobody talks about home in a real life," Hop said.

"Nobody talks about home in lifeloops, Hop," she said, a little annoyed. "Nobody has used the word in thousands of years. But we keep it in the language. Why?"

Hop shrugged. "Everybody says, 'I'm going home'."

"But nobody says, 'This is my home. Come in.' We live in flats. We walk through corridors. We travel in tubes. What would it be like to live out under the sky?"

"I hear there are bugs."

"A huge park."

"Well," Hop said, "that's your solution. Go to a colony. Get on a colony ship, and your troubles are over."

Arran turned to him, horrified. "And go off somec? Are you crazy? I'd rather die."

She got up and walked back toward where they had slept, and Hop joined her. They looked around at the two patches where the dust had been largely cleared away by their sleep. "Nobody's ever going to believe this," Hop said. "Here I was, alone with Arran Handully for hours on end. We slept together, and not only did I not try to make love, lady, I didn't even have my loop recorder going."

"Thank God."

"Let's go."

They went to the opposite end of the duct, where it turned a ninety-degree angle and shot upward to the distant ceiling. A thin, spidery ladder crept up the shaft. They both stood and looked upward for a few moments, and then Arran said, "Me first?"

"Yeah. Try not to fall."

"Just don't tickle my feet."

And they began to climb. Their muscles were still cold from sleep; at first they climbed awkwardly, slowly, carefully. After a short while, though, they settled into a rather quick rhythm, hand-foot-hand-foot, the motion carrying them endlessly upward. Once Arran spoke, saying, "How many kilometers to go?" The speech broke her rhythm, and she missed a step, and for a mad moment she felt herself fall. But her hands never left the side shafts of the ladder, and her foot caught on the next rung down. From then on neither of them spoke.

At last the rhythm slowed down again. There are only so many rungs of a ladder that untrained, weary bodies can climb. "Stop," Hop said. Arran took a few more steps and came to a halt.

"Tired?" Hop asked.

"Are you?"

"I think maybe yes."

"Can we rest?"

"Sure. Just lean back and doze off."

"Laugh laugh. I'm too tired to be amused."

"Keep on going."

It was not long after that, though, that they reached their destination. It was a small platform built onto the side of the duct. The ladder kept going up, but Hop told Arran to climb up only a little way and stop. She did, and Hop stepped onto the ledge. There was only one handhold, beside a door that was too short to use comfortably. It was latched shut, and a wheel had closed the seal.

Arran climbed back down until she was even with the ledge. "How do we know we can get out of the vent?"

"We don't. But I'm betting that Capitol's surface arrangement is the same everywhere. And even though I was raised on the other side of the world, I'm betting that I can get through the screens the way I used to."

"And what if there isn't a vent down to the other district?"

"They channel all the exhaust vents from the same prefecture into the same general area, so that other areas can be kept relatively clear of smoke. I say relatively, of course, because it gets pretty smoky. Now on the other side of the door the air is pure poison. All that comes out here is the absolute crap that the filters couldn't clean and recirculate. Poison means don't breathe."

"How long?"

"Till you get out of the duct. So take a good big breath before you go in here. And don't look down in the shaft. If you think it's bad here in the dim worklights, you ought to see how it looks with all the fires of hell sending smoke up a sunlit shaft."

"What if the sun isn't up?"

"Then we go back down and wait."

Arran cursed. "I hope the sun is up," she said.

"All right, count to ten after I go through. Then hold your breath and come through. There'll be a ladder on the other side of this door. Stay on the ledge on the other side just long enough to close the door. We don't want to set off any alarms."

"Got it. Now let's hurry," she said.

"Let me have time to psych myself up, all right? Do a chicken middle-aged man a favor." Hop stood and counted to fifty, wondering why the hell he was counting. Then he took hold of the wheel and spun it until the seal was opened. A thin trail of smoke came in around the edges of the door. Hop flipped the two latches. The door slowly swung open, inward, and the smoke jumbled through the opening, falling mysteriously down toward the deep darkness they had climbed from. Through the door, sunlight made the smoke brightly gray, with black wisps here and there. Arran was immediately aware of a revolting stench. She looked at Hop with a disgusted expression, and Hop grinned back, took a deep breath, and swung through. She could hear the faint sound of his feet on the ladder.

Carefully, she stepped onto the ledge, took a deep breath, and then ducked into the smoke and passed through the door. She reached over and swung the door shut fastening only one latch (good enough for what we need, she decided) and then began to climb. She could hardly keep her eyes open -- the smoke stung terribly, and tears flowed. I'm not even acting, she said in her mind. Tears without acting; pain without pretense. What an education in theater I've been getting these last few days.

She scrambled on up the ladder and suddenly bumped into something with her head. It was Noyock, and she wondered what the hell he has stopped for. But a moment later, she heard a clanking sound, and Noyock was up and out of the way.

As she came out, almost totally blind from the smoke, she felt Noyock's hands on her shoulder, helping guide her. A moment later she was standing on the surface.

"Breathe now, but stay low," Hop ordered, and Arran breathed, then coughed. They were not in the thick smoke of the vent, but the atmosphere itself was thick as shower fog, and smelled hideous. She could open her eyes a little more now, however, and she watched as Hop swung the screen back down and latched it.

"Hold my hand," Hop said, taking her and starting to pull her along. "And stay low."

She noticed her feet were hot. "My feet are hot," she said.

"Be glad you're wearing shoes," Hop answered.

There was a constant breeze coming from the right. Abruptly the breeze turned into a tremendous gust that for a moment lifted them both off their feet. Hop landed standing; Arran did not. She skidded along the surface of the metal, knees and one hand holding her up, and Noyock hung onto the other hand and tried to keep her from sliding. The gust abated as quickly as it had come, and Noyock yanked Arran to her feet. She was gasping from the heat of the metal on her hand and knees, the scraping the metal seams had given her.

Just behind the gust, the air cleared noticeably. Suddenly the bright gray sky turned white, and the metal dazzled in sunlight. It completely blinded Arran. She closed her eyes, and tried to keep her balance as Noyock dragged her along. The heat of the sun on her head was intense; and then, just as quickly as the air had cleared, the smoke closed over them again, and Arran could open her eyes. She touched her hand to her hair -- it was scalding hot.

And then they were at another exhaust vent, the smoke pouring up darkly. Noyock took Arran's hand and made her hold onto the mesh of the vent. "Hang on and don't put your head in the smoke," he shouted, and just then the wind came up, blowing the smoke mostly away from them, but almost tearing Arran's hand away from the screen. Noyock hung on with one hand, while with the other he fiddled with the latch. Just as the gust died, he tossed the door open.

"Count to ten, take a deep breath, and follow me!" he shouted, and Arran nodded. Then Noyock disappeared down into the smoke.

I'm too tired, Arran thought. Her feet were burning hot from the metal; her eyes were in agony from the smoke of the atmosphere; her knees and hand hurt terribly; and her side, where the ribs hadn't had a chance to heal properly, ached deeply. Worst of all was the exhaustion, and she wondered why she was trying.

Can't think that way, she told herself, as she swung over the edge and began to climb down the ladder. But as she descended she thought of how restful it would be just to lean back into the smoke, falling out of sight into soft oblivion. She began to speed up her descent, stepping every other rung, her hands only skimming the sideshafts of the ladder.

"Arran!" somebody called from above her. "Arran, you passed me! Come back up!"

Air, she thought. I need air very badly.

"Arran, just five meters up. Climb up."

Have I stopped? I stopped. I must have stopped when he called me.

"Move, before you have to breathe! Move!"

I'm moving, aren't I? Aren't I still climbing?

"Can't you hear me? I've got the door open here! Just a few meters up."

Dammit, I'm climbing. I need air.

"Lift your right foot and put it on the next run."

Foot. Yes.

"Come on, now the left foot! That's it, keep coming." And slowly Arran climbed up to where a strong hand grabbed her arm, pulled her slowly to the right. She couldn't see in the smoke. Who was it? She brought her face close to him. Noyock. Ah, yes. She opened her mouth to speak to him, took a deep breath, and then began to cough violently. Someone -- must be Noyock -- pulled her through a door, forced her hands to hold a thin handrail. Couldn't hold the handrail, she decided. Had to cover her mouth as she coughed. Impolite not to cover your mouth when you cough.

Inhale again? Clean. She sighed. Her lungs still stung, and her head ached painfully. She was flat against a metal wall, covering her mouth with her hands. Behind her she could feel Noyock's body, and arms around her on both sides, holding the handrail, keeping her from falling backward. She opened her eyes. They still smarted, but she could see. Beside them, an open door still let smoke pour into the dimly-lighted interior of the space under the ceiling.

"I won't go in there," she said.

"You don't have to. You just came out."

"I did?" Oh, yes, I did. "Am I safe?"

"You are if you'll only take hold of the handrail. I've got to close the door before the smoke alarms go off. Do you have it?"


"Both hands."

"God it."

Noyock inched away from her and reached through, closed the door, spun the seal, latched the latches.

"How are you feeling?" he asked Arran.

"Really sick. My head aches."

"You breathed in the exhaust duct."

"Did I? Dumb. Dumb, that's all."

"Dead tired, that's all. But we've got to go down before you can rest. All right?"

"I don't want to go anywhere."

"You're going to, though."

And so he helped her to the ladder, and this time they went down virtually together, Noyock's feet only a few rungs below hers, so that his head was at the level of her waist as they slowly descended the ladder.

It took forever.

"Stay awake," he kept telling her.

"Sure," she kept answering. And finally something changed, and he wasn't behind her, and then his hands lifted her off the ladder and laid her gently down on the heating duct.

She woke in near darkness, the air cool and musty, but clean compared to the atmosphere outside. Her head still ached, her knees smarted, and her eyes were dully tired as she opened them. But she was breathing, and felt better. Than what? Than she thought she should.


"Alive. I didn't worry about anything else."


"Aches. But I can breathe."


She hadn't thought of it until he asked. "I could eat a person."

"I'll stand back."

"What are we going to do?"

"Get something to eat. Stay here."

"I'm coming with you," she insisted, trying to get up. But a pain shot through her from her head down her spine and she changed her mind. "I'll keep the home fires burning," she said. After he left, the darkness became overwhelming and she slept again.

"It's morning," a cheerful male voice said, and for a moment Arran was confused, and began speaking in character. "Morning, already? How can it be morning, and we just barely went to bed?" Her voice was seductive. But when she rolled onto her side (enhances cleavage, her manager had always reminded her) she realized she was dressed, and on a hard metal surface; more important, she was stiff and sore, with a headache. But the worst of the pain was dissipated while she slept. Noyock leaned over her, holding a bag of ragaway and another bag, this one cold and filled with -- "What?"


"Do they still make that?"

"The only place I could make a pull was in a school lunch room."

She nodded, and he helped her sit up. "It's hard to believe I worked that hard," she said, "and there wasn't even a loop on it."

Hop laughed and looked around as she put her mouth to the nipple on the milkbag and drank a little. He walked away as she ate the ragaway, and didn't return until after she had finished and was lying on her back, looking up into the darkness.

His footsteps were muffled by dust, of course, but she heard him long before he arrived. "How do you feel?" he asked softly.

"I feel like getting the hell out of here," she said.

"Which brings us to the next item of business," Hop said. "I'm pretty good at pulling a living out of Capitol without a credit card -- but you get pretty damn hungry that way, and you're competing with a lot of other people."

"Thieves? I never knew there were thieves --"

"At your level? Not many. Thieves can only afford to prey on the poor, Arran. The rich have Mother's Little Boys to protect them. The thieves have to live in the walls of the foulest boroughs. And I learned my trade in childhood -- I doubt you'd catch on fast enough to keep from getting caught on one of your first pulls."

Arran smiled wanly. "It didn't occur to me that if I couldn't live honestly, I'd actually have to live dishonestly."

"There's another alternative," Hop said. "You could hook."



"Oh my. Not even looped, I assume?"

"It pays very badly. And I'm not in love with the idea of being a pimp."

Arran laughed. "Do it on a loop in front of billions of eyes and it's an art. Do it in a dirty little room with no audience and it's a filthy career."

"If it's any consolation, I'd see to it the room was clean."

Arran shook her head. "If it's the only way. But Hop, that's the part of my job I hated worst. Do you realize that in four hundred years the only time I ever made love as to Farl? And he even preferred little boys."

"Well, you know that leaves us with only two other alternatives. One is to turn ourselves in."

"Throw ourselves on the mercy of the court."

"Not renowned for being particularly clement, especially when someone in a position of power has a vested interest in a guilty verdict. The other alternative, Arran, won't sound much better. The colonies."

"Are you joking?"

"Was it funny?"

They sat in silence, Hop making little balls of dust by allowing the last dregs of milk from Arran's milkbag to drip slowly out.

"You can't take any money into the colonies, can you?" Arran asked.

"You can't take somec, either, which is more to the point," Hop said.

"But what would you do when things got boring?"

"Stay awake and be bored," Hop answered. "You actually wouldn't lose any real lifespan, of course. Somec doesn't add to your lifespan. Just stretches it out over a few centuries."

"I know, I know. But it means that only three wakings from now, I'd be dead."

"That is what it means."

They sat for a while longer, and then Arran slowly got up. "I feel very old right now," she said, trying to make stiff muscles respond. "Dance exercises just don't prepare you for climbing kilometers of ladders."

"Have you made up your mind?"

"Yes," she said. "But of course that has no bearing on your decision. You can stay alive as a thief."

"You're going to the colonies, then?"

Arran shrugged, moved away a little. "I really don't have any other choice." She laughed. "I was getting bored with the life of a looper, anyway."

"Then I'll go with you."

"To the colonies registrar?"

"Yes. And then to the colonies. If you don't mind, I'd like to petition to be sent on the same ship with you."

"But why? You may not even be wanted, Hop. The colonies are like suicide."

"Whither thou goest, I will go, and whither thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy god, my god."

"What in the world did that mean?"

Hop walked to her, put his arm around her waist, and began leading her in the direction of the nearest ladder down. "My mother was a Christian. That's from the Bible."

"A Christian. How quaint. What world are you from?"

"Here. Capitol."

"A Christian on Capitol! How unusual! And what did it mean?"

"It's from an old story that Mother told us a lot. I got very bored with it. It's about a woman whose sons die and her daughter-in-law still won't leave her. She just figured, I suppose, that like it or not their fates were wrapped up together."

"Do you really think our fates are wrapped up together, Hop?" Arran said, awkwardly, no hint of the famous Arran Handully, Seductress.

"I'm not a fatalist. I want to go where you're going."

"So have a hundred billion other men," she said, and now the actress was in her voice again.

"I always thought you were a disgusting, cheap little tart," Hop said, mildly.

Arran stiffened, and stopped walking until Hop removed his arm. "Thank you," she said icily.

"Watch out for where this duct ends," Hop said, still calm. "It's a long drop."

"I can see perfectly well," Arran said.

"I was right, too, you know," Hop said. "That's all you've been for the last few centuries."

Arran didn't answer. They reached the edge, and Noyock swung easily down to the ladder. Arran followed.

"A pretty damn good cheap little tart," Noyock added, sounding very casual. "Very well worth the price of admission."

"Haven't you said enough?" Arran asked. But Noyock couldn't hear the famous Arran Handully anger. Only an unaccustomed tone. On another woman, it might be considered well-disguised pain.

"Have I?" Noyock said. "We get off the ladder here. It's just a step backward onto this catwalk."

"I can see it."

"I was just trying to tell you," Noyock said, lifting her down from the ladder by her waist, "that I didn't fall in love with what eight billion other men fell in love with."

"What a freethinker you are," Arran said, and they walked one behind the other along the catwalk.

"Watch your head," Noyock said, and they ducked as they passed under a floor. Now they had to walk stooped again, and below them the ceiling of a borough of flats stretched out for kilometers in either direction, until the dim worklights disappeared entirely in the dust and the distance.

"What I fell in love with," Noyock said, "was the kind of woman who could accept reality and decide to go to the colonies, giving up everything, without a qualm."

"I keep my qualms to myself."

"Three days ago I never would have believed someone who told me that Arran Handully would be capable of making the roof passage."

"Neither would I."

"And now it's discovery time, boys and girls," Hop said, imitating the nasal twang that always came on the daily school broadcasts. Arran laughed in spite of herself.

"What a cheerful sound," Hop said. "We get out here."

He knelt on the catwalk, reached over, and pulled up a section of ceiling tile. The room below was empty.

"Don't know how long it'll last," Hop said, "but this room is empty."

He dropped down through the hole, then helped Arran as she lowered her legs through. "Pull the tile back after you." Awkwardly, she did so, and when she was on the floor, Hop jumped up and adjusted it deftly with one swift pass of his hand, so that it set firmly into place.

"How can we get back in there?" she asked.

"You come out of the crawlspace through ceilings. You go into the crawlspace through exhaust ducts. What a sheltered childhood you must have had. Still want to find the nearest Department of Colonization?"

Arran nodded, then looked at her filthy clothing. "We look rather conspicuous."

"Not here," Hop said, and they opened the door and stepped into a corridor. Arran had never seen poverty before -- now she had ample opportunity to look. Her clothing was the dirtiest she could see, but there were many shabbier costumes on the grim-faced people who passed. No one looked at them. They just threaded their way through the corridors until they reached a main passage.

Three ramps later, they saw the lighted sign of the Department of Colonization.

"Home sweet home," Hop said.

"Shut up," Arran answered, and they headed for the sign.

"Chatter!" said a newsboy, with a gossip sheet in his hand. "Buy Chatter."

Hop brushed him aside, but Arran stopped and took a paper from his hand.

"Four and a half," said the boy.

"Wait a minute," said Arran, impatiently, using her can't-you-servants-ever-remember-your-place voice. "Look at this, Hop."

Hop looked. The item of interest was headlined: "Cabinet Minister Slain in Lover's Quarrel."

The subhead said, "Shimon Rapth jailed. Says he killed 'for love of Arran Handully'."

The story went on to tell how Shimon Rapth had confessed to murdering Farl Baak because he had alienated the affections of Arran Handully, who was even now secluded in her huge apartments, refusing all visitors.

"That doesn't look like very accurate reporting, does it?" Hop said.

"Shimon Rapth is arrested," Arran said.

"You certainly have distilled the most interesting aspect, haven't you?" Hop said in his most congratulatory tone. "Now pay the boy for the paper."

"I don't have any money. Just a credit card."

"I take credit cards, ma'am," said the boy.

"Not hers, you don't," Hop said. "Nor mine, either. So here's your paper and good luck selling it to someone else."

The boy's curses followed them on their way to the Department of Colonization.

"If Shimon Rapth isn't the man behind the coup --"

"He has to be," Arran answered, disturbed. "The probe. Under the probe, Jazz Worthing said --"

"Jazz Worthing is a man of many gifts. Ignore what he said under the probe. If Shimon Rapth wasn't the man you were out to stop, then who is?"

"Does it matter?" Arran asked.

"A little bit. It might be a friend of ours. It especially matters because whoever it was, he won."

"We're here." They went into the reception room. They ignored the advertising and headed straight for the desk.

"Would you like to register for a colony?" asked the beaming receptionist.

"We would. An agricultural planet."

"A bit of the farming blood, eh?" she asked, cheerfully. "We have just the thing, a little planet called Humboldt."

"Put away Humboldt, lady, and show us something that didn't have to be terraformed."

A bit miffed, the receptionist pulled out another folder. "Before we go any further, sir and madam, I will have to have your credit cards in order to get your aptitudes from the computer. You may not be suited to agricultural work at all."

They gave her their credit cards, which she slid into the terminal on her desk. Then they discussed the merits of Cecily, a new colony 112 light-years away. They were still discussing it when a dozen of Mother's Little Boys came in from all the entrances to the reception area and put them under arrest.

"What for?" Hop demanded.

"Preventive detention," said the apparent leader of the faceless security men. Hop grimaced at Arran. "That means it's political. Confess to everything. It saves time."

She looked at him with frightened eyes. "Can they do this?"

"Can you stop them?" Hop asked, and then smiled at her, trying to give her confidence. As if he felt any himself. They were led away -- but not out into the corridors. Instead they were taken into a door that said, "Employees Only," and Mother's Little Boys took them deeper into the Department of Colonization.

Chapter Five

It continues to amaze many people that the Doon Expeditions could have been set up and sent out in utter secrecy, right in the heart of Capitol. Those who understand Capitol society, however, find nothing surprising in this. Our present open society has almost nothing in common with the authoritarian, byzantine way of life in the corridors of Capitol. Doon, because he controlled the instruments of power -- the Cabinet, the secret police ("Mother's Little Boys," as they were less-than-affectionately called), the Service, and above all, the Sleeproom -- was able to construct, populate, and send a dozen colony ships, filled with the elite of the Empire, to destinations far beyond the pale of human settlement. It hardly needs repeating, of course, that the Doon Expeditions, conceived of by one man, and sent in spite of an empire, have done more to influence the post-Empire history of humanity than any other single event.

Solomon Harding, Abner

Doon: Worldmaker, 6690

P. 145.

Hop Noyock was sitting in a tree. His legs dangled from the branch. His hands were touching wood, and a slight breeze tousled his hair. Overhead, the imitation sun moved discernibly across the arch of imitation blue sky.

Below him, the garden was populated with many dozens of men and women, who had been moving aimlessly for the past several hours. Enough hours, in fact, that the sun had risen, set, and risen again in its hurried pattern. Hop had gathered very quickly that everyone in the overgrown park was one of the conspiracy. Each bit of news was eagerly seized on: this man dead, this woman yet uncaptured, this man probably a traitor, this woman seriously injured but accounted for. Hop knew none of the names, except in their more official roles. Here and there he recognized the name of an undersecretary of chamberpots or some other such meaningless title. But he personally knew no one, except Arran Handully, and he began to appreciate how important she had been in the conspiracy from the fact that practically everyone spoke to her and of her with respect.

But Hop gave up quickly on making any acquaintance. Many had already learned that Jazz Worthing was one of the chief manipulators of somec, and though he had been mentally stripped under the probe, Hop Noyock was still his manager -- worse, was not and never had been a part of the conspiracy -- and worst of all, still felt that Jazz Worthing was a decent human being and made the mistake of saying so.

And now he sat on a branch of a tree. No one noticed him, because in the corridor society no one was used to looking up. He sat and thought, and grew more uncomfortable and miserable the more he thought.

He remembered Jason, and wondered what had happened to him.

He remembered that he was a prisoner (but of whom? And what was going to happen?).

Most of all, however, he thought of Arran. It was childish (and I am several centuries old, he reminded himself) but when suddenly Arran was embraced and wept over by so many friends, he felt left out (self-pity, dammit, I haven't let myself feel that in years), he felt used. He had been an escape route -- but escape had proved impossible. He had thought himself a friend. Wrong again.

(I'm as bad as the other billions of gonad-dominated oafs who ogle the holos and dream of Arran Handully. I wish Jazz had broken another rib. Damn childish attitude, of course.)

And then the milling groups fell still. The sun did not set -- it darkened, and no stars came out. In a short time the entire room was pitch dark. Hop wondered idly if this was the first step to execution -- the garden, then darkness, then a gas. But it seemed unlikely. Why plant trees when a sterile room was all that was needed?

The silence, almost palpable when the darkness first came, was gradually nudged aside by whispers. But in the darkness, no one moved, and the conversations were soon exhausted.

Then, suddenly, a light. In the middle of the lake. A man standing on the surface of the water. Hope felt a sudden start, a quick memory of a story his mother had told him from the Bible; but he immediately recognized the brilliant colors of looped life, and relaxed again. Neither murder nor miracles today. Just a few doses of technology.

The man in the lake raised one hand, and silence fell again. Then came the voice, soft and gentle, but filling the entire garden. Hop had to admire the sound work -- very well designed, giving an illusion of omnipresence without any obvious stereo effect.

"My name is Abner Doon. Welcome to my garden. I hope you've found it comfortable."

Impatiently Hop moved on the branch. Skip the trash, buddy, and get on with the meat.

"You have all been arrested in the last forty-eight hours, ever since the unfortunate death of Farl Baak. May I assure you that Shimon Rapth did not kill his friend in deliberate betrayal -- he was, himself, the victim of a rather elaborate illusion. However, that unfortunate incident did have a fortunate side effect. Every member of your sincere but amateurish plot exposed himself in one way or another. Hundreds reacted by immediately betraying their fellow-conspirators. No, don't look around at one another -- all such have been held somewhere else. All of you are the ones who tried to hide, or who surrendered in order to shield someone else, and so forth. There were many others, of course, equally loyal as you were, who are not here. That is because I have selected, from the group most loyal to the conspiracy, those with the most intellect, the most creativity, the most ingenuity, the most impressive record of achievement. The elite, if you will."

Well. What a clever bunch we are. Hop sneered inwardly. Congratulate us, and then what? And who the hell is Abner Doon?

"I think the rest of your questions will be answered if I tell you two more facts. First, there are exactly 333 of you here in my garden."

A pause, while that sank in. Three hundred thirty three. The number of colonists in the standard colony ship: three passenger tubes, each with a mayor, ten aldermen, and ten more groups of ten citizens -- 111 per tube, three tubes per ship, deliberately set up so that no one leader under the captain could possibly get a majority of colonists to rebel. Three hundred thirty three. It meant that every man and woman in the group would lose somec privileges once the voyage was over. It meant that they would be irrevocably exiled from Capitol, from civilization, and be forced to rush through the rest of their lives in a mere handful of decades.

Hop smiled when he realized what the numbers meant. He and Arran had signed up for a colony, nearly -- and had been interrupted. Now it looked as though they would go out into deep space after all. Like it or not. Hop didn't like it -- but since he had already made up his mind to do it before, it came as less of a shock to him than it did to the others.

Only one thorn in his side: He had decided to go before in order to stay with Arran Handully, in a dramatic, chivalric gesture of love. (I've seen too many tapes.) Now he would be just another man along for the trip. And worse -- another man who had never belonged to the conspiracy, an outsider untrusted and unwanted.

Bon voyage, he wished himself.

"Second," said the man in the middle of the lake. "Second, I must tell you that because you have all been convicted of treason against our most perfect and majestic Empress, the Mother of all mankind, your last memory tapes have been removed from the Sleeproom and will accompany you on your colonizing voyage. You will make no new tapes. That is all. Try to get used to the idea quickly -- we have little time to waste, and there's no point in awakening at your destination with bruises and broken arms and legs. In other words, for your own sakes, cooperate, my friends. Good night."

And now the murmurs turned into shouts; of dismay, of fear, of protest. The darkness didn't hear, and the man on the lake disappeared, leaving the night complete again. Some panicked and ran -- a few splashes indicated that some of them had quickly run into the major obstacle in the garden. Hop didn't laugh when someone ran into the tree he was sitting on.

Convicted of treason meant that all laws and rights were suspended.

The use of a previous memory tape and the failure to make a new one meant that all the memory of their latest waking would be utterly erased. Once somec had drained all but the most basic brain activity, everything would vanish. They would awaken on their new planet remembering only what had happened up to the time they last went under somec. They would know that something was missing -- that would be enough to tell them that they had been convicted of treason. They would all assume that their conspiracy had been launched, that they had been defeated. But they wouldn't know how. They wouldn't know who had been cowardly or courageous, loyal or treasonous.

But at least they would know that they were conspirators. Hop laughed at what he would think when he woke on the colony planet. For he had known nothing of a conspiracy before he went to sleep. And this time there wouldn't even be a note between his buttocks to hint that something was wrong. He alone, of all of them, would understand nothing. Oh well, Noyock decided, what the hell. I'll survive.

And then he realized that he would remember nothing of Arran Handully beyond the actress he had seen in the lifeloops. A shallow, seductive, empty woman who mouthed insincere words and made phony love to paying lovers. Not the woman who had come to him in his prison and asked for his help in escaping her (suddenly their) enemies. He wouldn't remember the heart-stopping moment when she had descended past him on the ladder, hysterically closing her eyes and plunging deeper into the smoke of the exhaust duct. She wouldn't remember, either, nor would she recall whose voice had called to her to come back up. Whose hand had led her to safety.

It was a little harder to say What the hell now.

As abruptly as it had gone out, the sun lit up again, and the light was dazzling. Hop closed his eyes entirely, as all around him he could hear people beginning to call out to each other again. Given their vision, they found their voices, and began calling out names.

Hop left his eyes closed. He would have closed his ears, too, since he wished very much to be alone, but the sounds of the crowd wouldn't leave him alone. Snatches of grief, worry, anger -- "What right do they have!" said one, and the answer, "We are traitors, after all." (How philosophical.)

"I have three children! Do they ever think of that?" (Do you? Hop thought. Doubtless she was on somec -- it was unlikely that a conspiracy made up of somec users would include a non-sleeper. How much did she think of her children as the drug took her away from them for years at a time?)

And then a voice calling, from a distance, "Hop!" and then closer, saying, "Hop, there you are, I've looked everywhere."

He opened his eyes. Arran was at the foot of the tree.

"Hi," he said stupidly.

"What are you doing up there, Hop? I couldn't find you. I walked by here a dozen times at least --"

"I think I was hiding," Hop said. He pushed off and jumped to the ground, landing awkwardly on all fours.

"Hop," Arran was saying, as he got to his feet, "Hop, I had to find you, I had to talk to you -- why didn't you stay with me? -- never mind, nobody could expect you to follow along like a pet or a husband or something -- Hop, they've posted a roster at the doors. All the colonists, in their groups of ten and hundred."


"Well, for one thing, you're a mayor of three hundred, Hop."

"Me?" Hop laughed. "What a joke! Just what I was cut out for."

"Well, I'm an alderman, which is just as funny. In your group, for luck! But Hop -- it's the captain."

"Who is it? Anybody I know?" As if it would be.

"It's Jazz Worthing, Hop. Jason Harper Worthing."

And Hop couldn't think of anything to say to that.

"Hop, he's supposed to be crazy."

"That's all right. We're supposed to be sane."

"Don't you see, Hop? He's your friend. The notice said that anyone with a question could sign up for an appointment to see him. I signed us up, and it's only fifteen minutes or so from now."

"What do you want to see him for?"

"Us, Hop! We've got to see him. He's got to arrange it for us."

"Arrange what?"

"To keep our memories, Hop! If they take away my memory of this waking, I won't love you. I won't even know you. You'll just be the manager of that despicable bastard Jazz Worthing, and I'll be a disgusting, cheap little tart."

And suddenly Hop felt very good. She wanted to remember him. He took Arran's hand, and she led him along to the door. On the way it occurred to him that he would see Jazz again -- that it had been two days since he last saw him -- that the world had changed since then -- that he and Jazz were now on opposite sides of a very high fence. Would they be friends? Had they ever been? (Is there anything that can't be called into question, eventually?)

It is ironic that science itself, so long the graverobber of all the gods, should have proved conclusively the existence of the soul. It was certainly not intended, and judging from the acute embarrassment of the team that developed somec when they subsequently discovered the soul effect, they would have avoided discovery at all, if that had been possible. But somec had first been used to prolong the lives of the mortally ill in hopes of a cure for them. It was only afterward that somec's memory-erasing effect was noticed, leaving the first somec sleepers as mindless vegetables. George Rines was the first to make the connection between the new braintaping techniques and the disaster of ignorant and premature use of somec. When he tried to resurrect the sleepers by playing someone else's tape into their heads, the result was madness within a few days. There is something not part of memory (and therefore not learned but rather innate in the individual) that remains even after the somec has taken everything else, something that refuses to accept the implanted memories of another person for the simple reason that the new memories are of actions and decisions that the wakened sleeper himself would never have done or made. Rines reported that as an inevitable reaction: The wakened sleepers invariably said, "I remember doing it, but I would never have done it." They could not accept memories that they had no way of knowing were not their own. For lack of a better word, Rines whimsically named this property of the human individual the soul. Doubtless he meant to be ironic. But further research has borne out the fact that his irony was really accuracy.

The Soul: Awake in the Age

Of Sleep, 2433, preface ii.

The woman was crying, and, as she left, Jazz wondered why he was doing all this. As Doon had so aptly pointed out, any comfort Jazz might give them, any answers to questions he might offer would all be swept away by somec. They'd remember nothing so why waste time trying to help them?

But Jazz didn't see it that way. Though the memory would be gone, these people were still people. They deserved to be treated humanely. "Memory disappears with death, too, "Jazz had pointed out to Doon, "but we still let old people ask questions." So Doon had consented, laughing, and now Jazz found himself unable to help after all. His gift to see into people's minds was no particular boon -- in this extremity, they willingly unfolded all their thoughts to him, and he could give them no comfort. The decision was made to wipe out their knowledge of this waking; that decision would stand. Yet that decision was the cause of their distress.

"Next," Jazz said, bracing himself for another ordeal. But this time, he heard a familiar voice. "Jazz, you hunk of cooler grease! How the hell are you doing?" and then Hop's arms around him, and Jazz hugged him back, not the artificial, is-everybody-watching kind of hug they had shared at every docking of Jazz's ship, but a sincere embrace of friendship. Out of a long-standing habit, Jazz looked into Hop's mind, and heard there an absurd quotation: "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." Jazz found the quotation in his memory -- a snatch from an old religious book that still haunted Noyock from the time his mother had drummed it into his head in childhood.

Jazz smiled, and finished the passage, though Noyock hadn't spoken it aloud. "And they began to be merry."

Noyock looked at him, startled, and then suddenly stepped back. Jazz was still listening to Hop's mind; he heard Noyock's final, sure realization of what he had come to suspect: Jazz is a Swipe.

"Of course," Jazz answered. "Didn't I tell you so?"

Hop's boisterous confidence disappeared. He stepped back, unsure what he should do now. If Jazz could so easily read his thoughts now, that meant that Jazz could have heard every other thought he'd had before. He was embarrassed. He turned to Arran, mumbled something. What he wanted to say was, Let's get out of here.

"Arran Handully," Jazz said. "With clothes."

"And Jazz Worthing, with his mind intact," she said. "It looks as though the tables have turned back again, doesn't it?"

"I try to be a graceful winner," Jazz said. "And I see you have lost none of your grace in losing."

"It's losing that we've come to talk about," Arran said, and Jazz heard in her mind a puzzlement as to why Hop had suddenly become so reticent. Wasn't it his job to try to influence his friend? "Captain Worthing, Hop and I have found something that we don't want to lose --"

"That we don't believe we have to lose --" Hop said, fumbling for words.

"If you can help us."

"If you're willing -- you see, we --" and Hop gave up the struggle for the right words, quit trying to make sure his words matched the thoughts he knew Jazz was hearing anyway. "Dammit, Jason, you know what I'm trying to say. Save me the pain."

"You two have decided you love each other," Jazz said, "and in a sudden burst of domesticity you want me to have your memories taped so you can remember."

"That's it," Arran said, but Hop only turned away, his face red. "Hop," she said, "what's wrong?"

"He can hear us, dammit. He can hear every word we're thinking. He's a Swipe!"

Arran half-laughed, turned to look at Jazz, saw a beatific smile on his face, and whirled back to look at Hop. "How do you know!" she demanded.

"He's been reading my thoughts since we came in here. And for a dozen wakings before -- it all fits together --"

"A Swipe!" Arran said, then laughed again nervously. "You can read my --"

"Yes," Jason answered, quietly. "When I want to. If you had known that about me, you would have known the probe wouldn't work on me. I'm used to having other people's thought patterns imposed on my own. I almost fell asleep under the probe."

Arran fumbled for the chair. Sat down. Jazz listened as she tried to drain her mind of all the thoughts she didn't want Jazz to hear.

"You know," he said, "the more you think about what you don't want me to know, the better I can hear it."

It had taken only thirty seconds, and with that comment Arran was reduced to near-hysteria. "Hop!" she cried out. "Make him stop! Make him get out of my mind!" She was crying. Hop himself was trembling, but he understood what she felt, the insecurity of having no secrets.

"Jazz, please."

"I'm not listening right now, if that's all you're worried about," Jazz said. "But you see, don't you, why I never told you I was a Swipe until this waking. It makes other people very nervous. It makes them, in fact, want to kill me."

"I don't want to kill you," Arran said, regaining some control over her voice. "I just want to get out of here."

"I'm sorry, Arran," Jazz said. "You won't be able to rejoin the others now. If they knew I was a Swipe, they'd never go under somec at all."

"We'll promise not to tell," she said, and then she turned back and faced Jazz squarely. "Oh," she said. "You've already answered us, haven't you?"

"What do you mean?" Hop asked.

"You stinking Swipe bastard!" she shouted. "Why did you tell us that!"

Hop stood up, put his arm around her. "Arran, you aren't helping anything -"

"She's right, Hop," Jazz said, maintaining his calm. "If there were any chance that Abner Doon would let any of you have a memory tape, even you, Hop, I would never have let you know I was a telepath."

"So now that we know --"

"I'm sorry. Maybe you'll fall in love again, if that's what you want."

And now it was Hop's turn to be angry. "Jazz! My friend!" he said, spitting out the last words bitterly. "It's not being in love that I want. It's the last forty-eight hours that I want! It's every damned hideous thing we've gone through together! You don't have a right to take that away from me!"

"I'm sorry," Jazz said. "But I can't change it."

Hop tried to shout something else, but the words found no articulation, just a roar of fury and grief and loss as he scrambled around the table, striking at Jazz as he had struck at members of rival gangs in the deep slums of Capitol. Go for the eyes, the throat, the testicles, said his reflexes. You can't do this to me, shouted his mind. Weep, said the tears in his eyes, and Jazz overpowered him easily, had him sitting in a chair, sobbing like a child before he was sure what was happening.

Now it was Arran's turn to offer a comforting arm, and she softly whispered to him, "Hop, all we can do is think of it as death. We're being murdered, and in our place they'll be resurrecting a new person, the person we were at the beginning of this waking. We're just going to die."

"That's comfort?" asked Noyock, unable to resist seeing the irony. Jazz chuckled softly. "You can shut up," Arran snapped.

"You came in to ask me the impossible. When I denied it you hated me."

"Listen in our minds," said Arran, "and see how much."

"I was wrong," Jason said, "to give these interviews. False hopes are worse than no hope at all. I'm sorry." He stepped to the door, opened it, said to the guards outside, who were supervising the line of colonists-to-be waiting to plead for their past. "You can all leave," he said. "No more interviews today. Sorry." The people grumbled, cried out in frustration, muttered epithets. But they got up from the chairs where they had been sitting, and left.

Jazz came back in, closed the door. "I'm sorry," he said again. He heard both Arran and Hop think, "A lot of good that does," and then think again, "What else can he do, either?"

Aloud, Arran said, "We're all trapped, then, aren't we?"

"Who is this Abner Doon, anyway?" Hop asked.

"Just a man who collects people," Jazz answered. "Hundreds were collected today. You were collected centuries ago, Hop. He found out you were brilliant. And you lived to be sixteen years old as the most prominent member of the most prominent gang in the lower corridors. You're a born survivor. So he collected you -- and you've been my agent ever since."

"A puppet master," Arran said, bitterly. "And what does he do with his collection?"

"He has a vision," Jazz said. "He saw in his childhood that nothing important had happened to the human race since somec taught us to fear death and sleep through the centuries. He, and those of us who have seen his vision -- we're out to wake the sleepers up. Destroy somec. Make people live out their normal threescore and ten, so that perhaps the human race can get back about its business."

"Destroy somec!" Arran scoffed. "Do you think the sleepers will ever part with it?"

"No. But we know that those who are denied it will come to the point where they will either have it, or destroy all those who do."

"Insane," said Arran.

"And for that you manipulated a thousand of the best people of Capitol, so you could throw them out into space and let them rot," Hop said.

"Manipulate? Who isn't manipulated? Even you, Arran -- you were manipulating Farl Baak. And who was manipulating you? A person who believes with all his heart in Doon's vision, who is willing to go to the colonies, willing to lose his last waking for it --"

"Fritz Kapock," Arran whispered.

"There, you see?" Jazz said. "We all know who our manipulators are, once we're willing to admit that we're not really free."

"But Fritz is such a good, honest man --"

"So are we all," Jazz said. "Even me."

They left him then, and the guards took them directly to the tape and tap, so that they could see no other colonist and tell what they had learned. In the tape and tap, however, the attendant was called to the phone, and when he came back, he led Hop and Arran away from the somec table, and sat them in the taping chairs, and put the sleep helmets on their heads. "What does this mean?" Hop asked, knowing what it meant. "Captain Worthing told me to do this," the attendant said, and Hop and Arran wept with joy as they lay back and gave their memories to the whirring film. And when the helmets came off, and they were led to the somec beds, they embraced, and wept again, and smiled and laughed and kept thanking the attendant, who nodded, promising to offer their thanks to Captain Worthing. And then they were put to sleep, and laid in their coffins, and the attendant took the tapes to the colony ship, and gave them to the starpilot, who also thanked him, and paid him the money he had promised.

Colonists traveled nude, of course, in special boxes that were linked to the life-system of the ship. Because of their shape, these boxes were called coffins, though their purpose was exactly opposite. Instead of guarding a body as it rotted and decomposed, the colony ship coffins kept colonists alive, so that they didn't age a day as somec helped them sleep their way across the galaxy. As long as the coffins remained absolutely, perfectly sealed, and as long as the ship's life-system kept functioning, human beings placed inside them under somec sleep could, in theory, live forever.

Peopling the Planets: The

Colonies, 6559, II:33

The last of the coffins was wheeled through the lock, down through the storage compartments (which, on a military ship, would have held armaments) and on to the passenger section. The A and B tubes were full, sealed, locked, the dials and registers on the doors monitoring the almost infinitesimal but still detectable life-signs of the sleepers. Jazz Worthing and Abner Doon watched as the coffin was wheeled through into the tube. Watched as the silent workmen connected the tubes, wires, and drains that kept the sleepers alive.

"Back to the womb, back to the placenta," said Doon, and Jason laughed. And as they had done a dozen times before, stretched out in front of the highly illegal and therefore very expensive fireplace in Doon's flat, they began to play their game of archaism. "Western Airlines, the only way to fly," Jazz said. Doon blandly responded, "Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us." And so it went as they followed the workmen back through the ship. In the storage compartment, Doon paused to pat the oversized coffin that held an ox. "For years," he said, and the joking tone left his voice, "these people have known no other animal, except the rats. For the first time they're going to have to deal with an animal that's guaranteed to be stupider than they are."

"The sudden proof of superiority will probably bring back a belief in God, don't you think?" Jazz asked.

"God?" Doon asked. "There's only one God on this ship, and he's already playing his role."

"I thought you said you didn't claim that title."

"I don't. But you do."

"I? I'm part of your collection, remember?"

"Playing God with your colony, Jason, can be dangerous. Especially when you aren't following a plan. Doing things for sentimental reasons will destroy you and your colony. Sentiment has no place in a man of vision."

"I'm not a man of vision," Jazz said, shrugging.

"Then you'll die as fruitlessly as your father did. In the meantime, I advise you to destroy the memory tapes you had made of Hop Noyock and Arran Handully."

Jazz chuckled. "I knew I should have paid that attendant more."

"It would have made no difference. He has instructions to accept all bribes and do everything he's bribed to do. As long as he reports it to me. Destroy the tapes."

"I don't think it will do any harm to have two that remember their waking."

"No harm? A man with full knowledge will spread even more poison than a man with no knowledge. Hop and Arran would have you in their power. You'd have to ask their advice before you did something, and before long asking advice always turns into asking permission. It's up to you, though, Jazz. Be a fool if you like."

"Hop's my friend," Jazz said.

"And you're my friend," Doon said. "But of course, I'm a megalomaniac, as you love to remind me. A man with a eugenics program for the universe. The other ships are all gone."

"Eleven others?"

"And no, I won't tell you where the others are going. If you want to find them, you'll have to look."

"You told my colony that they were the best of the conspirators. Was that true?"

"For once, Jazz, I wasn't lying."

"Why are you giving me the best?"

"The others all have excellent colonies, too. I want the gene pool and the intellectual climate to be superb. The best start I can give my little projects."

"But why the best for me?" Jazz insisted.

"Because I love you so dearly," Doon said, reaching up to pat the starpilot's head. "But mostly, I'm afraid, because I believe that you, of all the captains I've sent, are best equipped to create what I want to have created."

"And what is that?"

"A better human race than the one we've had since men began killing each other and cooking the meat."

"And what improvement could the human race possibly make?"

"Perhaps," Doon said, "you might be able to develop a branch of the human family that could know and understand what other human beings are -- and love them anyway. Hmmm?"

"Impossible. And I should know."

"You should know," Doon said. They left the storage room and went back to the pilot's cabin, where a soldier was waiting, out of breath. "Captain Worthing," the soldier said, saluting. Jazz returned the salute. "Yes?" And then the boy noticed Abner Doon, and saluted again, his face showing even more awe. "Abner Doon, sir," he said.

"I take it this means the tape has been played," Jason said.

"It has, sir, and we're waiting for orders. The fleet is with you."

"Then tell the fleet," Jazz said, "that I have done all that I can do, and am leaving on an important expedition. Tell them that Abner Doon will give them somec. Tell them to follow Abner Doon."

The soldier nodded, saluted, and then said, "Sir," looking at Doon. "Sir, will you come with me? Admiral Pushkin is waiting."

Doon smiled at Jason. "See you again."

"Where?" asked Jason. "In heaven?"

"Unlikely," Doon said. "Give me three hundred years, and I'll have this Empire where it should be."

"And where is that?" Jazz asked.

"Please hurry, sir," the soldier insisted.

"In a gutter, bleeding to death," Doon said. And then he walked out of the ship. The door closed behind him, and he followed the soldier to the hall where the representatives of the Fleet were gathered.

Inside the control room, Jazz began working immediately. He didn't know his final destination -- only the official destination, Siis III, was known to him. The computer would tell him where Doon wanted him to go only after he got the ship to Siis. But Jason knew enough -- that the ultimate destination would be deep in the galaxy, far toward the center, far from the human pale. He knew that it would be hundreds of years of sleep, traveling all the while at many times the speed of light (using the drive that he himself had made possible in childhood). He knew that there was no record in the Empire, save in Abner Doon's head, that clearly told that Jazz Worthing and the other eleven ship captains were going anywhere but to their official destination.

All in the hope, as Doon had often explained, that once isolated, these little colonies of humanity might actually develop something new. Something better than the decaying remnant of the Empire. "All we are," Doon had often said, "all we are is that last relic of the European civilization that was born in England with the industrial revolution. All we are is the fading shadow of the Technical Age. We're ripe for something new. Either for regeneration of the human race, or for replacement." And Jazz had cast his vote for regeneration, as had dozens of others who, though at first coerced into Doon's collection, had later been willing servants of Doon's vision.

Vision, thought Jazz, and as he settled down to maneuver the ship out of the cradle and out of Capitol's system, the idea of vision kept nagging at him. Vision of what? Do I have anything I want so badly that I'd sacrifice anything to have it? Is there anything that I am so sure is right that I would fight for it?

My own life, Jazz thought, but that isn't vision -- every animal instinctively fights for that.

And then the go-ahead signal came, Jazz opened the view walls of the control pod, and the cradle slowly lifted him into the smoky sunlight of Capitol's surface. Around him the winds eddied and whirled, and from where Jazz sat in the retractable bubble at the front of the needlelike payload section of the ship, it seemed that the winds were dancing for him. Far below him, the vast doors of the ship cradle slowly closed, sliding under the massive landing gear that now bore the weight of the barrellike stardrive section of the ship.

When the door was closed, Jazz sat for a moment, waiting for clearance from the deeply buried traffic controllers, whose communications complex was called, for some nonsensical reason, the "tower." As he sat, he mentally said good-bye to Capitol. To the teeming crowds who had cheered on the exploits of Jazz Worthing, hero. To the men and women who had offered their bodies to him; to the incredible wealth and equally incredible poverty; to the oppression and the heady liberty that lived side-by-side in the corridors of Capitol. He also said good-bye to somec, and found that it was somec he would miss most of all.

"I'm a bloody hypocrite," Jazz said, laughing nastily at himself. "Out to destroy somec, when I crave it as much as anyone else."

And then the clearance came, and Jazz punched in the preset program alert, specified the route they had been cleared for, and then retracted the bubble so it wouldn't be shredded in the stresses of takeoff.

Days later, as the starship drifted lazily out of the Capitol system at a mere 1.35 gravities, and as the computer lavishly checked, double-checked, triple-checked, and then reported to Jason Worthing, Jazz realized the mistake he was making. Would Hop love him when they reached their colony, knowing he was a Swipe? Of course Hop and Arran would be grateful at first. But gratitude is the least dependable of human emotions, Jazz reminded himself. And I should know. I should know.

He confirmed the computer's verdict that the ship was ready for starflight. The readout warned him that he had thirty minutes before the ship would make its turn, putting the full thrust toward Capitol's sun, and accelerating to five, fifteen, twenty light-years per year. As always, Jazz had the whimsical thought that all the electromagnetic radiation in the universe was envious of him for the speed he could muster.

"Gratitude is the least dependable emotion," Jazz said aloud, and he went to the storage cabinet where the papers and rosters of the colonists were stored. There he found the two memory tapes that the Sleeproom attendant had brought him. On the one, the words Arran Handully, on the other the words Willard Noyock. Jazz felt a momentary longing to go and wake them, play the tapes into their heads, talk to them for a moment or two, plead for their reassurance that he was, after all, right in the choices he had made. But he squelched the desire. Who in the universe had ever been sure he was right?

Except Abner Doon, of course.

And thinking of the man who had collected him, and remembering his advice, Jazz confidently walked to the garbage recycler and tossed the two memory tapes inside. Within ten seconds they had been stripped to their basic molecules, and those had been simplified to uncombined elemental atoms, which hung in a static field, available for use later. "So easily we murder," he told himself, and then went to the coffin that waited for him in the control room -- the only coffin in the ship that was not in the control room -- the only coffin that was not in the hindmost compartment of the ship, the only one that would waken its occupant automatically, at the command of the ship's computer.

Jazz stripped off his clothing and laid it aside. Then he climbed into the coffin, eased himself down, and pulled the sleep helmet over his head. It recorded his brainwave pattern. A small amber light flashed on just outside Jazz's range of vision, and he said, "Jason Worthing, XX56N, sleep OK." That was the code; but he added, "Good night."

The cover slid over him, and he watched as the sealer oozed upward from the edges of the coffin and made the space airtight. And then a green light flashed on, and a needle entered his scalp from the sleep helmet, and the somec flowed hotly into his veins.

The somec burned, the somec was agony, the somec felt like death -- or worse, like the fear of death. Jason panicked, afraid that something was terribly wrong, afraid that somehow the somec was burning him up from the inside out, destroying him.

He didn't know that somec was always like that; it had always happened after the taping, and he had no memory of it.

But after a fifteen-second eternity the somec emptied his brain and Jason slept.

As soon as he was unconscious, the great stardrive silently fired, and the tremendous acceleration began. Jason's coffin, and each of the coffins in the passenger compartment, filled with a clear gel. As the acceleration reached 2.7 gravities, the gel solidified, formed a rigid supporting structure that kept the bodies from breaking under the strain of three gravities, four, five.

And the ship shoved its way relentless through the empty space with three hundred thirty-four bodies inside it, all of them alive, all of them on fire, though they didn't know it, with an agony that would make even life worth enduring by contrast.

Previous Next

Home | About IGMS
        Copyright © 2024 Hatrack River Enterprises   Web Site Hosted and Designed by WebBoulevard.com