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About the Author
Born in Oklahoma City in 1943, Joe traveled extensively as a child.
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Worlds Enough and Time
Worlds, Book 3
By Joe Haldeman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Joe Haldeman
All rights reserved.
23 September 2097 [13 Bobrovnikov 290]—Two days after launch day; I guess that will be "Launch Day" from now on. Less than an hour into the second day, actually. Left both husbands and my wife in a snoring pile in John's low-gee flat. I have a whole cot to myself and a measure of privacy, in exchange for tolerating a little more gravity. What's a little gravity, when you're lying down? Though of course I'm sitting now, typing.
I will miss the touch of pen on paper. I didn't type my journal very often in New New, even though the handwritten pages would eventually be read into the computer and the paper recycled. No sentimental anachronisms aboard Newhome, like paper for casual personal use. I even left behind the diary of my year on Earth, the year cut short at seven months. A leatherbound book from Bloomingdale's.
Bloomingdale's. I just ate the last caviar I will have in all my life. We divided my small jar up four ways and each had two crackers' worth. John opened a priceless bottle of Chateau d'Yquem, which also went four ways. Daniel followed with a mundane but effective liter of 200-proof chemically pure alcohol from the labs, which we mixed, variously, with Evy's tomato juice and orange juice and Dan's hot pepper sauce. John put all four together, saying it reminded him of the way they drank tequila in Guadalajara, a custom I had not embraced when I visited there. We had the telescope seek it out but, unsurprisingly, there was no sign of life, though we could see buildings and streets clearly. It would have been impenetrable smog a few years ago.
We watched the sun set on Los Angeles and rise over London. Then on to midmorning in New York, one of the few places with a large number of people. You could see them on the sidewalks. Some of the slidewalks were actually rolling again.
Evy has never been to Earth, of course. Of the ten thousand people aboard this crate, only a few hundred have.
I guess writing that down is a tacit admission that I'm writing this for other people to read. But not for a long time. Hello, reader, up there in the future. I'm dead now. And will feel worse in the morning.
I think it's a good thing this starship is automated. Many key personnel are functioning at a low level of efficiency, if functioning at all. Including yours truly, Entertainment Director. The entertainment program for tomorrow, this morning rather, will be quiet music and contemplation of the sequelae of overindulgence.
If I'd drunk less or more I would be sleepy. At this level I'm edgy, and too stimulated to read or rest and too stupid to stop writing. At least by typing it out on the machine, I can erase the evidence tomorrow. Unless Prime makes a copy. She's everywhere.
Are you listening, Prime? No answer. So you're a liar as well as a soulless machine.
Since this is indeed the first entry in the Diary of the Rest of My Life, which is of course true every time one makes any entry in a diary, I will include some background data for you generations yet unborn. Perhaps you are mumbling these words around a guttering fire in a cave on Epsilon, this starship a legend a million years gone to dust. Perhaps you are one of my husbands reading it tomorrow. You think I don't know I don't have any secrets. Hah. Marry computer experts and give up any hope of privacy. I saw John break Tulip Seven's thumbprint code the day after she died. (He didn't do it for any trivial reason; the tribunal wanted him to have her files scanned for evidence. She drank poison but it might have been murder. Nothing conclusive.)
As I was saying. Two days ago we left the planet Earth forever. Actually what we left was the satellite world New New York, which has been orbiting the Earth since before my grandmother was born. The Earth itself has been a mess since 2085, as you must know or can read about somewhere else. Almost everybody killed in a war. I started to write "senseless" war. Do you have sensible ones, up there in the future? That's something we never worked out, not to everyone's satisfaction.
One reason the ten thousand of us are embarked on this one-way fling into the darkness is that Earth does seem to be recovering, and the next time they decide to Kill Everybody they might be more successful.
Another reason is that there doesn't seem to be anyplace else to go. We could inhabit settlements on the Moon or Mars, or wherever, but they would just be extensions of New New; suburbs. This is the real thing. 'Bye, Mom. No turning back.
As a matter of fact, my mother isn't aboard. Nor my sister. Just as glad Mother stayed back but wish she had let Joyce come along. Old enough to be a good companion and still young enough to renew things for you as she discovers them.
I guess two husbands and a wife comprise enough family for anyone. God knows how many cousins I have scattered around. When the Nabors line kicked my mother out it was a mutual see-you-in-hell parting, and as I was only five days old, I had not yet formed any lasting relationships. There are a few Scanlans aboard, my formal line family, but I feel more kinship with some of the food animals.
Oh yes, you generations yet unborn. You do know what a starship is, don't you, mumbling around the guttering campfire? It is like a great bird with ten thousand people in its gullet and a matter/antimatter engine stuck up its huge birdy ass.
Up in the front, instead of a beak, there is a doughnut-shaped structure, with three spokes and a hub, which used to be Uchuden, a small world that also escaped destruction during the war, originally designed to be home for several hundred Japanese engineers. (Japan was an island nation on Earth, the most wealthy.) Now it functions as the control center for all of 'Home, the civil government as well as the thrilling engineering stuff.
Behind Uchuden, or "sternward," as they want us to say, are all the living quarters, offices, farms, factories, laboratories—you name it, even a market where you can spend all of your hard-earned fake money.
A simplified diagram of the ship would be six concentric cylinders, shells; the acreage per shell and apparent gravity increasing as the number goes down. Most people live and work on Shells 1, 2, and 3; the inner ones reserved for processes that require lower gravity, such as metallurgy and free-fall sex. There are also some living quarters up there for the elderly and infirm, such as my husband John Ogelby, who has an uncorrectable curvature of the spine that makes even three-quarters gee painful. He also has a lot of political pull ("friends in high places" has a strong literal meaning here) and so rates a rather large bedroom/office/galley combination on Shell 6. The family tends to gather there.
I'm writing this in my small office cubicle in Uchuden, which is by definition Shell 1. As perquisites of rank I do have a cot that folds down from the wall and an actual window to the outside—on the floor, of course. I can either watch the stars wheel by once each thirty-three seconds or flip on a revolving mirror that keeps the stars stationary for fifteen seconds at a time. I like to watch them roll.
That concentric-cylinder model is just a theoretical idealization. You'd go crazy, living in a metal hive like that. So the walls and ceilings are knocked down and conjoined in various ways to give a variety of volumes and lines of sight. Most people still spend a certain amount of time hopelessly lost, since only a few hundred of us lived here while it was being built, and have had time to get used to it. New New was laid out logically, the corridors a simple grid on each level, and it was impossible to get lost. 'Home is deliberately chaotic, even whimsical, and is supposed to be constantly changing. Only time will tell whether this will keep us sane or drive us mad.
Still, the longest line of sight is only a couple of hundred meters, looking across the park. It's a good thing that almost all of us grew up in satellite Worlds. Someone used to the wide open spaces of Earth would probably feel trapped by 'Home's claustrophobic architecture. In most corridors, for obvious instance, the floor curves up in two directions, cut off by the low ceiling in twenty meters or less—a lot less, up in 5 and 6. Of course you can look out for zillions of light-years if you have a window like mine, but for some reason some people don't find that relaxing.
Both of my husbands were born on Earth, but spent enough years in New New to have lost the need for long lines of sight; distant horizons.
I do miss horizons, vistas, from my three visits to Earth. The first couple of weeks I spent there I had a hard time adjusting to the long lines of sight, even though I was in New York City, which most groundhogs would consider crowded. I would look up from the sidewalk and see a building impossibly far away and lose my balance.
I remember flying over kilometer after kilometer of forest, ocean, farmland, city. The Pyramids and the Rockies and Angkor Wat and even Las Vegas. We live inside one of the largest structures ever built, surely the largest vehicle—but we'll never see anything big for the rest of our lives.
At least Dan and John and I have memories. Evy and nine thousand others just moved from one hollow rock into a newer one. Maybe they're the lucky ones, I have to say, conventionally. I wouldn't trade places.
Well, the rigors of composition seem to have sobered and tired me enough for sleep. Fold up the keyboard and unfold the cot. If the gravity gives me trouble I can always rejoin the hamster pile upstairs.CHAPTER 2
A CHANCE TO DREAM
O'Hara and her staff of twenty-six had more than a thousand diversions to offer Newhome's population. Most of the activities required very little in the way of administration other than keeping track of what went where: If you wanted to play chess, you went to the Game Room door and a person of adequate intelligence would figure out what day it would be one week hence, and loan you a set until then. If you didn't bring it back in a week, you would be called automatically every hour until you did bring it back—and it better not be missing a pawn; there was no way to send for a replacement. (On the other hand, the piece was bound to be somewhere. If someone had accidentally or perversely thrown it away, the recycler would identify it and buzz Entertainment.)
Some activities were more complicated because they required people or equipment primarily assigned to other departments. Religion had a claim on yoga, hamblin, and t'ai chi, but O'Hara's people also offered them, in a neutral secular context. Education had a hand in music, drama, and gymnastics. Communication was involved with social networking, and possibly New New Liaison as well, if your friend had stayed behind.
By far the most complicated was the Escape Room, a room with ten VR, virtual reality, installations. Every adult accumulated one minute per day of time on these machines. Five minutes was the minimum; some people wanted to come in every five days for a quick blast. Others saved up sixty days for the maximum hour of dream tripping. Some people wanted to come in wit friends and be wired in parallel, simultaneously wandering through an imaginary or remembered world.
Children were allowed to use certain game programs, and restricted travelogues that were really only an elaborate form of interactive cube. Usually nine at a time would visit some earthly locale, along with a teacher, to answer questions.
It was a scheduling nightmare, but that was only the beginning. VR was a powerful drug to some people, and had to be administered with care. Everyone had been carefully tested in New New at the age of eighteen, or would be examined at that age aboard ship. Some people would be disallowed the random abstraction or feedback modes, either of which could be terrifying. Others were cut off at ten or fifteen minutes because they were particularly susceptible to the machine's effects: staying in too long could put them in a "VR loop," a vegetative state that was usually irreversible (though some people who had recovered from it wanted to dive right back in).
Most users were not too adventurous; for them, the VR was a whole-body, whole- mind go-anywhere machine. It was the only contact most people would ever have with Earth, vicariously traveling to arctic wastes or the Grand Canyon, the busy hives of Calcutta or Tokyo; soaring over fields of grain or through coral reefs. There were stock fantasy scenarios, too—harems and battlefields and laboriously reconstructed historical events—and the possibility of virtual time travel, since there were crude VR recordings nearly a century old. Of course most of the Earth cubes represented an equally irretrievable past. Calcutta and Tokyo, like Paris and London, were now inhabited only by handfuls of doomed children.
O'Hara found the Earth cubes unbearably depressing. The Luna and Mars ones were interesting visually but not sensually, since a space suit was no novelty. She liked the feedback mode, spectacularly confusing in its synesthesia—smelling colors, tasting sounds, muscles bunching into surreal impossible distortions, the body everting itself through mouth or anus and reverting slippery back again—and though she could see why some people would find it a nightmare, she emerged from the state completely relaxed, wrung out.
John had never tried VR and had no desire for it, but Dan shared her inclination toward the weird random abstraction mode, and they'd often schedule a half hour in parallel, wandering together through a shifting turmoil of light and sound that would crystallize into nearly real, or at least solid, landscapes, and then melt into chaos again. Mirror lands and cloud islands and flaming icescapes. One time Dan let O'Hara join him in a visit to the harem, where they learned something about the limitations of parallel wiring. O'Hara found the viewpoint interesting but her projected penis had no more feeling than a dildo; she participated in his orgasm but felt it only from her ankles to the soles of her feet. For an hour afterward she couldn't walk without giggling, her toes curling up.CHAPTER 3
MEETING OF MINDS
O'Hara was supposed to meet John and Dan at the Athens lift fifteen minutes before the meeting. A little nervous, she was early. Evy came down and said the men would be late, as usual. The women went back up one level to get coffee and tea from the dispenser, which overcharged Evy by a dollar.
"This is a bad sign." She showed O'Hara the card. "Our lives are in the hands of people who can't keep a coffee machine working for one week?"
"Just inflation," O'Hara said. "A little experiment designed to make us more productive."
"I'll call Maintenance." She started to sip the tea but blew over it instead. "You are kidding, aren't you?"
"Hope so. With an economist in charge, anything could happen."
Evy nodded seriously. "You shouldn't have voted for him."
"Right." She looked around. "I haven't been up here since they put down the flooring. Makes your eyes hurt."
"It's different." Black and pearl checkerboard.
"Everything's different." She pushed the lift button twice. "Everything's the same."
"A philosopher this morning."
"Just crabby about the goddamn meeting." The door opened and they shared a short ride with two men in coveralls who stared sideways at Evelyn.
There was a bench built into the wall by the lift on Level 1. They sat down and watched the two men walk away muttering. "You with Dan last night?" O'Hara asked.
"Yes and no. I was asleep before he came in and he got up and left before I woke up."
"Could have been anybody, then."
"He needs a lot more sleep than he's been getting. I don't think it's been more than four or five hours a night since we left."
"Don't worry about that. I've seen him go through it a dozen times before."
"Wise old momma. Really?"
O'Hara nodded. "Every job change. Another couple of weeks and he'll break loose, get real drunk, sleep around the clock, and then go back to normal. Maybe a day off for moaning through a hangover."
"You know him. The job change is more profound than the planet change."
"Just like you?"
"You've got me there." O'Hara smiled but suddenly looked away.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean ..."
"I know what you meant." She patted the younger woman's arm. "John's the only sensible one in the family, you included. He doesn't let work take over his life."
The lift opened and the sensible one swung out on his crutches. "Jesus. One of you ladies turn down the gravity?" Dan held the door and followed him out.
"Only a couple of blocks," O'Hara said.
Excerpted from Worlds Enough and Time by Joe Haldeman. Copyright © 1992 Joe Haldeman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
2. A Chance to dream,
3. Meeting of minds,
4. Genesis and revelation,
5. Grave image,
6. Things that go bump in the night,
8. Big sister,
9. The power to soothe,
1. About time,
2. Happy new year,
3. Torn between two lovers,
4. From each according to his inclinations,
5. In the dead vast and middle of the night,
8. Divide and multiply,
9. Dionysus meets Godzilla,
10. Didn't she ramble?,
1. Long-range plans,
2. New beginnings,
3. Untimely plucked,
1. Labor-saving device,
2. From the cradle to the grave to the cradle,
3. A modest proposal,
4. Advice to the lovelorn,
5. One part harmony,
6. Two parts discord,
2. Remembrance of things past,
1. Watershed, bloodshed,
2. Night of the living dead,
3. A woman of discrimination,
4. That time of year thou mayest in me behold,
1. Auld Acquaintance,
2. Sowing, reaping,
4. Bad seed,
2. Population explosion,
2. The burdens of faith,
1. Growing pains,
2. Long-distance call,
3. Four novels,
1. In dreams awake,
2. Up tempo,
2. Pool party,
5. Interim report,
7. Be all that you can be,
8. Final approach,
1. Day zero,
2. First contact,
3. Letter 'home,
1. Settling, unsettling,
2. The hunt,
3. Final exam,
A Biography of Joe Haldeman,