Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein

  From Mars to Venus—

  to danger-filled adventures

  deep in outer space…

  This is the seminal novel of a young man’s education as a member of an elite, paternalistic nonmilitary organization of leaders dedicated to preserving human civilization, a provocative parallel to Heinlein’s later military coming-of-age tale, Starship Troopers.

  Only the best and brightest—the strongest and the most courageous—ever managed to become Space Cadets at the Space Academy. Young men such as Matt and Tex, from Terra; Oscar, from Venus; Pierre, from one of Jupiter’s moons. They are in training to become part of the elite guard of the solar system, accepting missions others fear, taking risks no others dare, and upholding the peace of the solar system for the benefit of all.

  But before Matt Dodson can earn his rightful place in the ranks, his mettle is to be tested in the most severe and extraordinary ways—ways that change him forever, from the midwestern American boy into a man of the Solar Patrol.


  The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein

  Glory Road

  The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress


  Space Cadet

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.


  Copyright © 1948, 1975 by Robert A. Heinlein

  Copyright assigned to The Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Library Foundation, 1988

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

  This book is printed on acid-free paper.

  A Tor Book

  Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

  175 Fifth Avenue

  New York, NY 10010

  Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Heinlein, Robert A. (Robert Anson), 1907-1988

  Space cadet / Robert A. Heinlein.— 1st Tor ed.

  p. cm.

  “A Tom Doherty Associates book.”

  Summary: A young man reports for the final tests for appointment as a cadet in the Interplanetary Patrol, survives the tests, studies in the school ship, and goes on a regular Patrol vessel and encounters danger on Venus.

  ISBN 0-765-31450-9 (alk. paper)

  EAN 978-0-765-31450-5 (alk. paper)

  [1. Science fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7·H368Sp 2005



  First Tor Edition: December 2005

  Printed in the United States of America

  0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


  Terra Base

  Elimination Process

  Over the Bumps

  First Muster

  Into Space

  “Reading, and ’Riting, and ’Rithmetic—”

  To Make a Spaceman

  Terra Station

  Long Haul

  Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

  P.R.S. Aes Triplex

  P.R.S. Pathfinder

  Long Way Home

  “The Natives Are Friendly…”

  Pie with a Fork

  P.R.S. Astarte

  Hotcakes for Breakfast

  In the Commandant’s Office

  “To Matthew Brooks Dodson,” the paper in his hand read, “greetings:

  “Having successfully completed the field elimination tests for appointment to the position of cadet in the Interplanetary Patrol you are authorized to report to the Commandant, Terra Base, Santa Barbara Field, Colorado, North American Union, Terra, on or before One July 2075, for further examination.

  “You are cautioned to remember that the majority of candidates taking these final tests usually fail and you should provide—”

  Matt folded the paper and stuck it back in his belt pouch. He did not care to think about the chance of failure. The passenger across from him, a boy about his own age, caught his eye. “That paper looks familiar, you a candidate too?”

  “That’s right.”

  “Well, shake! M’ name’s Jarman—I’m from Texas.”

  “Glad to know you, Tex. I’m Matt Dodson, from Des Moines.”

  “Howdy, Matt. We ought to be about there—” The car sighed softly and slowed; their chairs rocked to meet the rapid deceleration. The car stopped and their chairs swung back to normal position. “We are there,” Jarman finished.

  The telescreen at the end of the car, busy a moment before with a blonde beauty demonstrating Sorkin’s Super-Stellar Soap, now read: TERRA BASE STATION. The two boys grabbed their bags, and hurried out. A moment later, they were on the escalator, mounting to the surface.

  Facing the station a half mile away in the cool, thin air stood Hayworth Hall, Earth headquarters of the fabulous Patrol. Matt stared at it, trying to realize that he was at last seeing it.

  Jarman nudged him. “Come on.”

  “Huh? Oh—sure.” A pair of slidewalks stretched from the station to the hall; they stepped onto the one running toward the building. The slidewalk was crowded; more boys streamed out of the station behind them. Matt noticed two boys with swarthy, thin features who were wearing high, tight turbans, although dressed otherwise much like himself. Further down the walk he glimpsed a tall, handsome youth whose impassive face was shiny black.

  The Texas boy hooked his thumbs in his belt and looked around. “Granny, kill another chicken!” he said. “There’s company for dinner. Speaking of that,” he went on, “I hope they don’t wait lunch too long. I’m hungry.”

  Matt dug a candy bar out of his pouch, split it and gave half to Jarman, who accepted it gratefully. “You’re a pal, Matt, I’ve been living on my own fat ever since breakfast—and that’s risky. Say, your telephone is sounding.”

  “Oh!” Matt fumbled in his pouch and got out his phone. “Hello?”

  “That you, son?” came his father’s voice.

  “Yes, Dad.”

  “Did you get there all right?”

  “Sure, I’m about to report in.”

  “How’s your leg?”

  “Leg’s all right, Dad.” His answer was not frank; his right leg, fresh from a corrective operation for a short Achilles’ tendon, was aching as he spoke.

  “That’s good. Now see here, Matt—if it should work out that you aren’t selected, don’t let it get you down. You call me at once and—”

  “Sure, sure, Dad,” Matt broke in. “I’ll have to sign off—I’m in a crowd. Good-by. Thanks for calling.”

  “Good-by, son. Good luck.”

  Tex Jarman looked at him understandingly. “Your folks always worry, don’t they? I fooled mine—packed my phone in my bag.” The slidewalk swung in a wide curve preparatory to heading back; they stepped off with the crowd, in front of Hayworth Hall. Tex paused to read the inscription over the great doorway. “Quis custodi—What does it say, Matt?”

  “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. That’s Latin for: Who will watch the guardians?”

  “You read Latin, Matt?”

  “No, I just remember that bit from a book about the Patrol.”

  The rotunda of Hayworth Hall was enormous and seemed even larger, for, despite brilliant lighting at the floor level, the domed ceiling gave back no reflection at all; it was midnight black—black and studded with stars. Familiar stars—blazing Orion faced the tossing head of Taurus; the homely shape of the Dipper balanced on its battered handle at north-northeast horizon; just south of overhead the Seven Sisters shone.

  The illusion of being outdoors at night was most persuasive. The lighted walls and floor at the level at which people walked and talked and hurried s
eemed no more than a little band of light, a circle of warmth and comfort, against the awful depth of space, like prairie schooners drawn up for the night under a sharp desert sky.

  The boys caught their breaths, as did everyone who saw it for the first time. But they could not stop to wonder as something else demanded their attention. The floor of the rotunda was sunk many feet below the level at which they entered; they stood on a balcony which extended around the great room to enclose a huge, shallow, circular pit. In this pit a battered spaceship lurched on a bed of rock and sand as if it had crash-landed from the mimic sky above.

  “It’s the Kilroy—” Tex said, almost as if he doubted it.

  “It must be,” Matt agreed in a whisper.

  They moved to the balcony railing and read a plaque posted there:

  USSF Rocket Ship Kilroy Was Here


  From Terra to Mars and return—Lieut. Colonel Robert deFries Sims, Commanding; Captain Saul S. Abrams; Master Sergeant Malcolm MacGregor. None survived the return landing. Rest in Peace.

  They crowded next to two other boys and stared at the Kilroy. Tex nudged Matt. “See the gash in the dirt, where she skidded? Say, do you suppose they just built right over her, where she lay?’

  One of the other two—a big-boned six-footer with tawny hair—answered, “No, the Kilroy landed in North Africa.”

  “Then they must have fixed it to look like where she crashed. You a candidate too?”

  “That’s right.”

  “I’m Bill Jarman—from Texas. And this is Matt Dodson.”

  “I’m Oscar Jensen—and this is Pierre Armand.”

  “Howdy, Oscar. Glad to know you, Pierre.”

  “Call me Pete,” Armand acknowledged. Matt noticed that he spoke Basic English with an accent, but Matt was unable to place it. Oscar’s speech was strange, too—a suggestion of a lisp. He turned back to the ship.

  “Imagine having the guts to go out into space in a cracker box like that,” he said. “It scares me to think about it”

  “Me, too,” agreed Oscar Jensen.

  “It’s a dirty shame,” Pierre said, softly.

  “What is, Pete?” Jarman demanded.

  “That their luck didn’t hold. You can see it was an almost perfect landing—they didn’t just crash in, or there would have been nothing left but a hole in the ground.”

  “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Say, there’s a stairway down over on the far side—see it, Matt? Do you suppose we could look through her?”

  “Maybe,” Matt told him, “but I think we had better put it off. We’ve got to report in, you know.”

  “We had all better check in,” agreed Jensen. “Coming, Pete?”

  Armand reached for his bag. Oscar Jensen pushed him aside and picked it up with his own. “That’s not necessary!” Armand protested, but Oscar ignored him.

  Jarman looked at Pierre. “You sick, Pete?” he asked. “I noticed you looked kind of peaked. What’s the trouble?”

  “If you are,” put in Matt, “ask for a delay.”

  Armand looked embarrassed. “He’s not sick and he’ll pass the exams,” Jensen said firmly. “Forget it.”

  “Sho’, sho’,” Tex agreed. They followed the crowd and found a notice which told all candidates to report to room 3108, third corridor. They located corridor three, stepped on the slideway, and put down their baggage.

  “Say, Matt,” said Tex, “tell me—who was Kilroy?”

  “Let me see,” Matt answered. “He was somebody in the Second Global War, an admiral, I think. Yeah, Admiral ‘Bull’ Kilroy, that sounds right.”

  “Funny they’d name it after an admiral.”

  “He was a flying admiral.”

  “You’re a savvy cuss,” Tex said admiringly. “I think I’ll stick close to you during the tests.”

  Matt brushed it off. “Just a fact I happened to pick up.”

  In room 3108 a decorative young lady waved aside their credentials but demanded their thumb prints. She fed these into a machine at her elbow. The machine quickly spit out instruction sheets headed by the name, serial number, thumb print, and photograph of each candidate, together with temporary messing and rooming assignments.

  The girl handed out the sheets and told them to wait next door. She abruptly turned away.

  “I wish she hadn’t been so brisk,” complained Tex, as they went out. “I wanted to get her telephone code. Say,” he went on, studying his sheet, “there’s no time left on here for a siesta.”

  “Did you expect it?” asked Matt.

  “Nope—but I can hope, can’t I?”

  The room next door was filled with benches but the benches were filled with boys. Jarman stopped at a bench which was crowded by three large cases, an ornate portable refresher kit, and a banjo case. A pink-faced youth sat next to this. “Your stuff?” Tex asked him.

  The young man grudgingly admitted it. “You won’t mind if we move it and sit down,” Tex went on. He started putting the items on the floor. The owner looked sulky but said nothing.

  There was room for three. Tex insisted that the others sit down, then sat down on his bag and leaned against Matt’s knees, with his legs stretched out. His footwear, thus displayed, were seen to be fine western boots, high-heeled and fancy.

  A candidate across from them stared at the boots, then spoke to the boy next to him. “Pipe the cowboy!”

  Tex snorted and started to get up. Matt put a hand on his shoulder, shoving him back. “It’s not worth it, Tex. We’ve got a busy day ahead.”

  Oscar nodded agreement. “Take it easy, fellow.”

  Tex subsided. “Well—all right. Just the same,” he added, “my Uncle Bodie would stuff a man’s feet in his mouth for less than that.” He glared at the boy across from him.

  Pierre Armand leaned over and spoke to Tex. “Excuse me—but are those really shoes for riding on horses?”

  “Huh? What do you think they are? Skis?”

  “Oh, I’m sorry! But you see, I’ve never seen a horse.”


  “I have,” announced Oscar, “in the zoo, that is.”

  “In a zoo?” repeated Tex.

  “In the zoo at New Auckland.”

  “Oh—” said Tex. “I get it. You’re a Venus colonial.” Matt then recalled where he had heard Oscar’s vaguely familiar lisp before—in the speech of a visiting lecturer. Tex turned to Pierre. “Pete, are you from Venus, too?”

  “No, I’m—” Pete’s voice was drowned out.

  “Attention, please! Quiet!” The speaker was dressed in the severely plain, oyster-white uniform of a space cadet. “All of you,” he went on, speaking into a hand amplifier, “who have odd serial numbers come with me. Bring your baggage. Even numbers wait where you are.”

  “Odd numbers?” said Tex. “That’s me!” He jumped up.

  Matt looked at his instructions. “Me, too!”

  The cadet came down the aisle in front of them. Matt and Tex waited for him to pass. The cadet did not hold himself erectly; he crouched the merest trifle, knees relaxed and springy, hands ready to grasp. His feet glided softly over the floor. The effect was catlike, easy grace; Matt felt that if the room were suddenly to turn topsy-turvy the cadet would land on his feet on the ceiling—which was perfectly true.

  Matt wanted very much to look like him.

  As the cadet was passing, the boy with the plentiful baggage plucked at his sleeve. “Hey, mister!”

  The cadet turned suddenly and crouched, then checked himself as quickly. “Yes?”

  “I’ve got an odd number, but I can’t carry all this stuff. Who can I get to help me?”

  “You can’t.” The cadet prodded the pile with his toe. “All of this is yours?”

  “Yes. What do I do? I can’t leave it here. Somebody’d steal it.”

  “I can’t see why anyone would.” The cadet eyed the pile with distaste. “Lug it back to the station and ship it home. Or throw it away.”

The youngster looked blank. “You’ll have to, eventually,” the cadet went on. “When you make the lift to the school ship, twenty pounds is your total allowance.”

  “But—Well, suppose I do, who’s to help me get it to the station?”

  “That’s your problem. If you want to be in the Patrol, you’ll have to learn to cope with problems.”


  “Shut up.” The cadet turned away. Matt and Tex trailed along.

  Five minutes later Matt, naked as an egg, was stuffing his bag and clothes into a sack marked with his serial number. As ordered, he filed through a door, clutching his orders and a remnant of dignity. He found himself in a gang refresher which showered him, scrubbed him, rinsed him, and blew him dry again, assembly-line style. His instruction sheet was waterproof; he shook from it a few clinging drops.

  For two hours he was prodded, poked, thumped, photographed, weighed, x-rayed, injected, sampled, and examined until he was bewildered. He saw Tex once, in another queue. Tex waved, slapped his own bare ribs, and shivered. Matt started to speak but his own line started up.

  The medicos examined his repaired leg, making him exercise it, inquired the date of the operation, and asked if it hurt him. He found himself admitting that it did. More pictures were taken; more tests were made. Presently he was told, “That’s all. Get back into line.”

  “Is it all right, sir?” Matt blurted out.

  “Probably. You’ll be given some exercises. Get along.”

  After a long time he came into a room in which several boys were dressing. His path took him across a weighing platform; his body interrupted electric-eye beams. Relays closed, an automatic sequence took place based on his weight, height, and body dimensions. Presently a package slid down a chute and plunked down in front of him.

  It contained an undergarment, a blue coverall, a pair of soft boots, all in his size.

  The blue uniform he viewed as a makeshift, since he was anxious to swap it for the equally plain, but oyster-white, uniform of a cadet. The shoes delighted him. He zipped them on, relishing their softness and glovelike fit. It seemed as if he could stand on a coin and call it, heads or tails. “Cat feet”—his first space boots! He took a few steps, trying to walk like the cadet he had seen earlier.

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