Authors: David Palmer


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David R. Palmer



A Bantam Book / November 1984



All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1984 by David R. Palmer.
Cover art copyright © 1984 by Jim Burns.
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by
mimeograph or any other means. without permission.
For information address: Bantam Books, Inc.


ISBN 0-553-24501-5

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada


Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, Inc., 666 Fifth Avenue. New York. New York 10103.




H      0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This book is dedicated, with love, to
my wife,
without whose patience,
understanding, support, and unerring feel
for what's right and what isn't, this
book would never have seen print;
and who never, ever doubted.

With deepest gratitude to Stanley Schmidt, Ph.D., who bought my first (and second) sale; Betsy Mitchell, who copyedited them; March Laumer, who offered my first professional encouragement; and Russell Galen, my agent.

With thanks to all the patient folk who indulged and aided me in the necessary research, including (but not limited to): Bill Tjalsma, Russian Language Department, University of Florida. Ralph T. Guild III, M.D.; Frances Boulus Guild, R.N.; Allan W. March, M.D. (all of Shands Teaching Hospital, University of Florida). John J. Boyle, M.D., Gainesville, Florida. Joseph Green, Education and Awareness Branch, NASA. Joe Angelo, Ph.D., USAF, Eastern Space and Missile Center, Patrick Air Force Base. Kerry Mark Joels, Gregory P. Kennedy, David Larkin, authors of
The Space Shuttle Operator's Manual.
Jane Beckham, Law Librarian, Marion County, Florida. Sarah Willard, Tulane University.

And special thanks to Lou Aronica at Bantam Books, Inc.: an editor whose exemplary taste and literary discrimination is matched only by his courage . . . !













Nothing to do? Nowhere to go? Time hangs heavy? Bored? Depressed? Also badly scared? Causal factors beyond control?

Unfortunate. Regrettable. Vicious cycle—snake swallowing own tail. Mind dwells on problems; problems fester, assume ever greater importance for mind to dwell on. Etc. Bad enough where problems minor.

Mine aren't.

Psychology text offers varied solutions: Recommends keeping occupied, busywork if necessary; keep mind distracted. Better if busywork offers challenge, degree of frustration. Still better that I have responsibility. All helps.


Anyway, keeping busy difficult. Granted, more books in shelter than public library; more tools, equipment, supplies, etc., than Swiss Family Robinson's wrecked ship—all latest developments: lightest, simplest, cleverest, most reliable, nonrusting, Sanforized. All useless unless—correction—until I get out (and of lot, know uses of maybe half dozen: screwdriver for opening stuck drawer; hammer to tenderize steak, break ice cubes; hacksaw for cutting frozen meat. . .).

Oh, well, surely must be books explaining selection, use.

Truly, surely are books—thousands! Plus microfilm library—even bigger. Much deep stuff: classics, contemporary; comprehensive museum of Man's finest works: words, canvas, 3-D and multiview reproductions of statuary. Also scientific: medical, dental, veterinary, entomology, genetics, marine biology; engineering, electronics, physics (both nuclear and garden variety), woodcraft, survival, etc., etc.; poetry, fiction, biographies of great, near-great; philosophy—even complete selection of world's fantasy, new and old. Complete Oz books, etc. Happy surprise, that.

Daddy was determined Man's highest achievements not vanish in Fireworks; also positive same just around corner. (Confession: Wondered sometimes if was playing with complete deck; spent incalculable sums on shelter and contents. Turns out was right; is probably having last laugh Somewhere. Wish were here to needle me about it—but wouldn't if could; was too nice. Miss him. Very much.)

Growing maudlin. Above definitely constitutes "dwelling" in pathological sense as defined by psychology text. Time to click heels, clap hands, smile, Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

Anyhow, mountains of books, microfilm of limited benefit; too deep. Take classics: Can tolerate just so long; then side effects set in. Resembles obtaining manicure by scratching fingernails on blackboard—can, but would rather suffer long fingernails. Same with classics as sole remedy for "dwelling": Not sure which is worse. May be that too much culture in sudden doses harmful to health; perhaps must build up immunity progressively.

And technical is worse. Thought I had good foundation in math, basic sciences. Wrong—background good, considering age; but here haven't found anything elementary enough to form opening wedge. Of course, haven't gotten organized yet; haven't assimilated catalog, planned orderly approach to subjects of interest. Shall; but for now, can get almost as bored looking at horrid pictures of results of endocrine misfunctions as by wading through classics.

And am rationing fantasy, of course. Thousands of titles, but dasn't lose head. Speedreader, you know; breach discipline, well runs dry in matter of days.

Then found book on Pitman shorthand. Changed everything. Told once by unimpeachable source (Mrs. Hartman, Daddy's secretary and receptionist) was best, potentially fastest, most versatile of various pen systems. Also most difficult to learn well. (Footnote, concession to historical accuracy: Was also her system; source possibly contaminated by tinge of bias.) However, seemed promising; offered challenge, frustration. Besides, pothook patterns quite pretty; art form of sorts. Hoped would be entertaining.

Was—for about two days. Then memory finished absorbing principles of shorthand theory, guidelines for briefing and phrasing; transferred same to cortex—end of challenge. Tiresome being genius sometimes.

Well, even if no longer entertaining for own sake, still useful, much more practical than longhand; ideal for keeping journal, writing biography for archeologists. Probably not bother if limited to longhand; too slow, cumbersome. Effort involved would dull enthusiasm (of which little present anyway), wipe out paper supply in short order. Pitman fits entire life story on line and a half. (Of course helps I had short life—correction: Helps brevity; does nothing for spirits.)

Problem with spirits serious business. Body trapped far underground; emotional index substantially lower. Prospects not good for body getting out alive, but odds not improved by emotional state. Depression renders intelligent option assessment improbable. In present condition would likely overlook ten good bets, flip coin over dregs. Situation probably not hopeless as seems; but lacking data, useful education, specialized knowledge (and guts), can't form viable conclusion suggesting happy ending. And lacking same, tend to assume worst.

So journal not just for archeologists; is therapeutic. Catharsis: Spill guts on paper, feel better. Must be true—psychology text says so (though cautions is better to pay Ph.D.-equipped voyeur week's salary per hour to listen. However, none such included in shelter inventory; will have to make do).

First step: Bring journal up-to-date. Never kept one; not conversant with format requirements, Right Thing To Do. Therefore will use own judgment. One thing certain: Sentence structure throughout will have English teachers spinning in graves (those fortunate to have one).

English 60 percent flab, null symbols, waste. Suspect massive inefficiency stems from subconsciously recognized need to stall, give inferior intellects chance to collect thoughts into semblance of coherence (usually without success), and to show off (my twelve-dollar-word can lick your ten-dollar-word). Will not adhere to precedent; makes little sense to write shorthand, then cancel advantage by employment of rambling academese.

Keep getting sidetracked into social criticism. Probably symptom of condition. Stupid; all evidence says no society left. Was saying:

First step: Bring journal up to present; purge self of neuroses, sundry hang-ups. Then record daily orderly progress in study of situation, subsequent systematic (brilliant) self-extrication from dire straits. Benefits twofold:

First, will wash, dry, fold, put away psyche; restore mind to customary genius; enhance prospects for successful escape, subsequent survival. Second, will give archeologists details on cause of untimely demise amidst confusing mass of artifacts in shelter should anticipated first benefit lose rosy glow. (Must confess solicitude for bone gropers forced; bones in question

Enough maundering. Time to bear down, flay soul for own good. Being neurotic almost as tiresome as being genius. (Attention archeologists: Clear room of impressionable youths and/or mixed company—torrid details follow:)

Born 11 years ago in small Wisconsin town, only child of normal parents. Named Candidia Maria Smith; reduced to Candy before ink dried on certificate. Early indications of atypicality: Eyes focused, tracked at birth; cause-effect association evident by six weeks; first words at four months; sentences at six months.

Orphaned at ten months. Parents killed in car accident.

No relatives—created dilemma for baby-sitter. Solved when social worker took charge. Was awfully cute baby; adopted in record time.

Doctor Foster and wife good parents: Loving, attentive; very fond of each other, showed it. Provided good environment for formative years. Then Momma died.. Left just Daddy and me; drew us very close. Was probably shamelessly spoiled, but also stifled:

Barely five then, but wanted to
—only Daddy had firm notions concerning appropriate learning pace, direction for "normal" upbringing. Did not approve of precocity; felt was unhealthy, would lead to future maladjustment, unhappiness. Also paternalistic sexist; had bad case of ingrown stereotypitis. Censored activities, reading; dragged heels at slightest suggestion of precocious behavior, atypical interests.

Momma disagreed; aided, indulged. With her help I learned to read by age two; understood basic numerical relationships by three: Could add, subtract, multiply, divide. Big help until she had to leave.

So sneaked most of education. Had to—certainly not available in small-town classroom. Not difficult; developed speedreading habit, could finish high school text in 10, 20 minutes; digest typical best-seller in half, three quarters of hour. Haunted school, local libraries every opportunity (visits only; couldn't bring choices home). But town small; exhausted obvious resources three years ago. Have existed since on meager fruits of covert operations in friends' homes, bookstores; occasional raids on neighboring towns' libraries, schools. Of course not all such forays profitable; small-town resources tend to run same direction: slowly, in circles. Catalogs mostly shallow, duplicated; originality lacking.

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