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 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.
"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 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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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.
Back and forth, back and forth, like a tennis duel, Noyock thought, and eventually
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"It looks very strong," Arran said.
"You should see it where the ships cradle. Makes this look like foil."
"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
"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
"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?"
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
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
"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
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."
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
"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.
"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."
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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."
"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?"
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
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
"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
"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
"A Christian. How quaint. What world are you from?"
"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
"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
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
"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
The subhead said, "Shimon Rapth jailed. Says he killed 'for love of Arran
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"My name is Abner Doon. Welcome to my garden. I hope you've found it
Impatiently Hop moved on the branch. Skip the trash, buddy, and get on with the
"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
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."
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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.