3001: THE FINAL ODYSSEY by Arthur C. Clarke

Publication date: March 1997 in hardcover
Copyright ©1997 by Arthur C. Clarke

Permission to download this sample for personal use only  is hereby granted by Del Rey Books. It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted text without permission in writing from the publisher.

Chapter 2: Awakening

Frank Poole awoke, but he did not remember. He was not even sure of his name.

Obviously, he was in a hospital room: even though his eyes were still closed, the most primitive, and evocative, of his senses told him that. Each breath brought the faint and not unpleasant tang of antiseptics in the air, and it triggered a memory of the time when--of course!--as a reckless teenager he had broken a rib in the Arizona Hang-Gliding Championship.

Now it was all beginning to come back. I'm Deputy Commander Frank Poole, Executive Officer, USSS Discovery, on a Top Secret mission to Jupiter --

It seemed as if an icy hand had gripped his heart. He remembered, in slow-motion playback, that runaway space-pod jetting toward him, metal claws outstretched. Then the silent impact--and the not-so silent hiss of air rushing out of his suit. After that--one last memory, of spinning helplessly in space, trying in vain to reconnect his broken air-hose.

Well, whatever mysterious accident had happened to the space-pod controls, he was safe now. Presumably Dave had made a quick EVA and rescued him before lack of oxygen could do permanent brain damage.

Good old Dave! he told himself. I must thank--just a moment!--I'm obviously not aboard Discovery now--surely I haven't been unconscious long enough to be taken back to Earth!

His confused train of thought was abruptly broken by the arrival of a Matron and two nurses, wearing the immemorial uniform of their profession. They seemed a little surprised: Poole wondered if he had awakened ahead of schedule, and the idea gave him a childish feeling of satisfaction.

"Hello!" he said, after several attempts; his vocal cords appeared to be very rusty. "How am I doing?"

Matron smiled back at him and gave an obvious "Don't try to talk" command by putting a finger to her lips. Then the two nurses fussed swiftly over him with practiced skill, checking pulse, temperature, reflexes. When one of them lifted his right arm and let it drop again, Poole noticed something peculiar. It fell slowly, and did not seem to weigh as much as normal. Nor, for that matter, did his body, when he attempted to move.

So I must be on a planet, he thought. Or a space station with artificial gravity. Certainly not Earth--I don't weigh enough.

He was about to ask the obvious question when Matron pressed something against the side of his neck, he felt a slight tingling sensation, and sank back into a dreamless sleep. Just before he became unconscious, he had time for one more puzzled thought.

How odd--they never spoke a single word--all the time they were with me.