Dream Thief is a work of science fiction on the grand scale of Dune and Asimov's Foundation series. Dream Thief has it all: fast-paced adventure, alien settings, wonderful character development, cliff-hanging suspense, epic plot, and compelling spiritual underpinnings.
|6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.38(d)
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The man is sleeping. The huddled mass of nerves and sinews rests easily on the bed; outwardly there is no movement. Inwardly, the brain hums with random activity. A maintenance force continually monitors the man's internal activity by way of a vast trunkline of nerves.
At rest the network is dark. Momentary sparks of electrical impulses shunt their messages to and fro along the axons. At the outer fringes, the individual beads of light link up and begin their journey up the spinal column like midnight trains heading for the city. Eventually they arrive and send their impulses off into the tangled circuitry of the brain where each flash, briefly noted, dies out. Except for these momentary pinpoint flares, the system is dark and quiet.
Gradually, the sparks increase their activity; more messages are coming in, flooding the circuits. The lines begin to hum, glowing with energy. Impulses of light speed to their destination deep within the labyrinth, illuminating their passage. Soon the darkened webwork is alive with light arcing, tingling, pulsing, and throbbing with electricity. The man is waking.
The dreams had been at Spence again. He could feel their lingering presence like a dimly remembered whisper. They were unsettling in a vague sort of way. Nothing he could put a finger on haunting. There was a word that seemed to fit. He felt haunted.
Now, nine weeks into the project, he was not so sure he wanted to finish. That was a strange thought. For almost three years he had worked for nothing else but the chance to test his theories in the most highly respected advancement center: the orbiting space lab GM. It had taken him a year to write the grant proposal alone. And he was here; against considerable odds his project had been chosen. To back out now would be professional suicide.
Spence raised his head carefully from his pillow. He removed the scanning cap a thin, plastic helmet lined with neural sensors and placed it on its hook over the couch. He wondered how the night's scan had gone, but realized he was feeling less and less interested than before. When he had started the project, his first thought was to run to the control room to see his scan as soon as he awoke. Now he seldom bothered, although he still occasionally wondered. He shrugged and stumbled into the tiny sanibooth to begin his morning routine.
He emerged from his quarters and hurried off to the commissary without stopping by the control room. I'll check in later, he thought, not really caring if he did. He headed down the axial and joined the flow of traffic. The space station, even one the immense size of GM or Gotham as it was called by those who considered it home was beginning to wear on him. He glanced around at his colleagues, and at the well-scrubbed faces of the student cadets, and knew that he was in the presence of the brightest minds on any planet. But he watched as the cadets followed one another dumbly into Von Braun Hall and thought, there must be something more. Knowledge was supposed to set one free, wasn't it? Spence did not feel very free.
He suddenly felt an urge to lose himself among the eager students, and so allowed himself to be pushed into the lecture hall. When the line stopped moving he flopped into a cushioned chair. The overhead lights dimmed and the automatic transcriber poked its hood up from the seat directly in front of him. He absent-mindedly flicked a switch at the arm of his chair, which sent the hood sliding back into its receptacle. Unlike everyone else around him, Spence had no intention of taking notes.
He swiveled his head to his left and was shocked to find himself sitting next to a skeleton. The skeleton's sunken eyes blinked brightly back at him and the thin skin of its face tightened in a grimace. On anyone else it would have been a hearty grin.
'My name is Hocking,' said the apparition.
'I'm Reston.' Spence's mouth was dry and he licked his lips, trying not to stare.
Hocking's body was painfully thin. Bones jutted out at sharp angles, and his head wobbled uncertainly on his too-slender neck. Why isn't the man in a hospital bed somewhere, wondered Spence. He looked too weak to endure even sitting through the lecture.
Hocking rested in the hi-tech comfort of a pneumochair; his body, which could not have weighed more than eighty pounds, sank into the supporting cushions. He looked like a mummy in a sarcophagus. A thin tangle of wires made its way out of the base of Hocking's skull and disappeared into the headplate of the chair. Obviously mind-controlled, Spence considered; the chair probably monitored its occupant's vital signs as well.
'What level are you?' Spence heard his voice asking. It was an automatic question, one that opened every conversation between Gotham's inhabitants.
'A-level. Sector 1.' Hocking blinked. Spence was immediately impressed. He had never heard of anyone reaching that designation. To most people it was merely a theoretical possibility. 'How about you?' Hocking nodded slightly in his direction. Spence hesitated. Ordinarily he would have been proud to share his designation, but it was embarrassing to him now.
'Oh, I'm C-level,' he said, and let it go at that. Spence knew that most of his countrymen never progressed beyond the lower sectors of E-level. Even those allowed aboard advancement centers were mostly D-level although none were ever below Sector 2.
Spence realized he was staring again. Hocking shifted his weight awkwardly in the chair. It was clear that he suffered from some neuromuscular ailment he had no muscle control at all, or at least very little. 'I'm sorry,' Spence said at last. 'It's just that I've never met an A-level before. You must be very proud of yourself.' He knew it sounded foolish, but the words were already out.