Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein

  “Are you sure? Is it possible that it was a drone and nobody was inside?”

  “It’s possible, but it’s not the case. I wish it were—the pilot was a friend of mine.”

  “Oh—I’m sorry. But I had to know, for sure. You see, it’s very important to me.”


  Matt sketched out Burke’s version of what had happened, without giving Burke’s name. As he talked, Sabbatello showed more and more annoyance. “I see,” he said, when Matt was done. “It is true that some of the tests are psychological rather than overt. But this matter of the crash—who fed you that nonsense?”

  Matt did not say anything.

  “Never mind. You can protect your informant—it won’t matter in the least in the long run. But about the crash—” He considered. “I’d give my word of honor to you—in fact I do—but if you accept the hypothesis your friend holds, then you won’t pay any attention to my sworn word.” He thought a moment. “Are you a Catholic?”

  “Uh, nossir.” Matt was startled.

  “It doesn’t matter. Do you know who Saint Barbara is?”

  “Not exactly, sir. The field—”

  “Yes, the field. She was a third-century martyr. The point is that she is the patron saint of all who deal with high explosives, rocket men among others.” He paused.

  “If you go over to the chapel, you will find that a mass is scheduled during which Saint Barbara will be asked to intercede for the souls of the men who were lost this afternoon. I think you realize that no priest would lend his office to any such chicanery as your friend suggests?”

  Matt nodded solemnly. “I see your point, sir. I don’t need to go to the chapel—I’ve found out what I needed to know.”

  “Fine. You had better hightail it and get ready. It would be embarrassing to be late to your own swearing in.”

  First Muster was scheduled for twenty-one o’clock in the auditorium. Matt was one of the first to arrive, scrubbed and neat and wearing a fresh coverall. A cadet took his name and told him to wait inside. The floor of the hall had been cleared of seats. Above the stage at the far end were the three closed circles of the Federation—Freedom, Peace, and Law, so intertwined that, if any one were removed, the other two would fall apart. Under them was the Patrol’s own sign, a star blazing in the night.

  Tex was one of the last to show up. He was greeting Matt, breathlessly, when a cadet, speaking from the rostrum, called out, “Attention!

  “Gather on the left side of the hall,” he went on. The candidates milled and shuffled into a compact group. “Remain where you are until muster. When your name is called, answer ‘Here!’, then walk across to the other side. You will find white guide lines on the deck there. Toe the lines to form ranks.”

  Another cadet came down from the rostrum and moved toward the mass of boys. He stopped, picked a slip of paper from four such slips he held, and fixed Tex with his eye. “You, mister,” he said. “Take this.”

  Jarman took it, but looked puzzled. “What for?”

  “As well as answering to your own name, when you hear this name, speak up. Step out in front and sing out, ‘I answer for him!’”

  Tex looked at the slip. Matt saw that it read: “John Martin.”

  “But why?” demanded Tex.

  The cadet looked at him. “You really don’t know?”

  “Nary a notion.”

  “Hmmph! Well, since the name doesn’t ring a bell, just take it that he is a classmate of yours who can’t be here tonight, in person. So you answer for him to make the muster complete. Get it?”

  “Yes, sir. Can do.”

  The cadet moved on down the line. Tex turned to Matt. “What gives, d’you s’pose?”

  “It beats me.”

  “Me, too. Well, we’ll probably find out.”

  The cadet on the rostrum moved to stage left. “Silence!” he commanded. “The Commandant!”

  From the rear entered two men dressed in the midnight black. The younger of them walked so that his sleeve brushed the elbow of his senior. They moved to the center of the platform; the younger man stopped. The elder halted immediately, whereupon the aide withdrew. The Commandant of the Academy stood facing the new class.

  Or, rather, facing down the center of the hall. He stood still for a long moment; someone coughed and shuffled, at which he turned toward the group and faced them thereafter. “Good evening, gentlemen.”

  Seeing him, Matt was reminded strongly of Cadet Sabbatello’s protest: “Not blind, Mr. Dodson!” Commodore Arkwright’s eyes looked strange—the sockets were deep set and the eyelids drooped like a man in thought. Yet, as that sightless gaze rested on him, it seemed to Matt that the Commandant could not only see him but could peer inside his head.

  “I welcome you to our fellowship. You come from many lands, some from other planets. You are of various colors and creeds. Yet you must and shall become a band of brothers.

  “Some of you are homesick. You need not be. From this day on every part of this family of planets is your home, each place equally. Each living, thinking creature in this system is your neighbor—and your responsibility.

  “You are about to take an oath, by your own choice, as a member of the Patrol of this our System. In time, you expect to become an officer of that Patrol. It is necessary that you understand the burden you assume. You expect to spend long hours studying your new profession, acquiring the skills of the spaceman and the arts of the professional soldier. These skills and arts you must have, but they will not make you an officer of the Patrol.”

  He paused, then went on, “An officer in command of a ship of the Patrol, away from base, is the last of the absolute monarchs, for there is none but himself to restrain him. Many places where he must go no other authority reaches. He himself must embody law, and the rule of reason, justice and mercy.

  “More than that, to the members of the Patrol singly and together is entrusted such awful force as may compel or destroy, all other force we know of—and with this trust is laid on them the charge to keep the peace of the System and to protect the liberties of its peoples. They are soldiers of freedom.

  “It is not enough that you be skillful, clever, brave—The trustees of this awful power must each possess a meticulous sense of honor, self-discipline beyond all ambition, conceit, or avarice, respect for the liberties and dignity of all creatures, and an unyielding will to do justice and give mercy. He must be a true and gentle knight.”

  He stopped and there was no sound at all in the huge room. Then he said, “Let those who are prepared to take the oath be mustered.”

  The cadet who had been acting as adjutant stepped forward briskly. “Adams!”

  “Uh—here, sir!” A candidate trotted across the room.




  “Anderson, Peter—”

  “Anderson, John—”


  Then, presently, it was, “Dana—Delacroix—DeWitt—Diaz—Dobbs,” and “Dodson!”

  “Here!” shouted Matt. His voice squeaked but no one laughed. He hurried over to the other side, found a place and waited, panting. The muster went on:

  “Eddy—Eisenhower—Ericsson—” Boys trickled across the room until few were left. “Sforza, Stanley, Suliman,” and then, finally: “Zahm!” The last candidate joined his fellows.

  But the cadet did not stop. “Dahlquist!” he called out.

  There was no answer.

  “Dahlquist!” he repeated. “Ezra Dahlquist!”

  Matt felt cold prickles around his scalp. He recognized the name now—but Dahlquist would not be here, not Ezra Dahlquist. Matt was sure of that, for he remembered an alcove in the rotunda, a young man in a picture, and the hot, bright sand of the Moon.

  There was a stir in the rank behind him. A candidate pushed his way through and stepped forward. “I answer for Ezra Dahlquist!”


  This time there was no he
sitation. He heard Tex’s voice, his tone shrill: “I answer for him.”


  A strong baritone: “Answering for Rivera!”


  “I answer for Wheeler.”

  The cadet turned toward the Commandant and saluted:

  “All present, sir. Class of 2075, First Muster complete.”

  The man in black returned the salute. “Very well, sir. We will proceed with the oath.” He stepped forward to the very edge of the platform, the cadet at his elbow. “Raise your right hands.”

  The Commandant raised his own hand. “Repeat after me: Of my own free will, without reservation—”

  “‘Of my own free will, without reservation—’”

  “I swear to uphold the peace of the Solar System—”

  In chorus they followed him.

  “—to protect the lawful liberties of its inhabitants—

  “—to defend the constitution of the Solar Federation—

  “—to carry out the duties of the position to which I am now appointed—

  “—and to obey the lawful orders of my superior officers.

  “To these ends I subordinate all other loyalties and renounce utterly any that may conflict with them.

  “This I solemnly affirm in the Name I hold most sacred.”

  “So help me, God,” concluded the Commandant. Matt repeated his words, but the response around him took a dozen different forms, in nearly as many languages.

  The Commandant turned his head to the cadet by his side. “Dismiss them, sir.”

  “Aye aye, sir.” The cadet raised his voice. “On being dismissed, face to the right and file out. Maintain your formation until clear of the door. Dismissed!”

  At the cue of his command, music swelled out and filled the hall; the newly created cadets marched away to the strains of the Patrol’s own air, The Long Watch. It persisted until the last of them were gone, then faded out.

  The Commandant waited until the youngster cadets had left, then faced around. His aide joined him at once, whereupon the acting cadet adjutant moved quickly from his side. Commodore Arkwright turned toward the departing cadet. “Mr. Barnes.”

  “Yes, sir?”

  “Are you ready to be commissioned?”

  “Er—I don’t think so, sir. Not quite.”

  “So? Well, come see me soon.”

  “Yes, sir. Thank you.”

  The Commodore turned away and headed rapidly for the stage exit, with his aide’s sleeve brushing his. “Well, John,” asked the senior, “What did you think of them?”

  “A fine bunch of boys, sir.”

  “That was my impression. All youth and eagerness and young expectation. But how many of them will we have to eliminate? It’s a sorry thing, John, to take a boy and change him so that he is no longer a civilian, then kick him out. It’s the crudest duty we have to perform.”

  “I don’t see a way to avoid it.”

  “There is no way. If we had some magic touchstone—Tell the field that I want to raise ship in thirty minutes.”

  “Aye aye, sir.”

  The Patrol Academy may lack ivy-covered buildings and tree-shaded walks; it does not lack room. There are cadets in every reach of the Federation, from ships circling Venus, or mapping the scorched earth of Mercury, to ships patrolling the Jovian moons.

  Even on years-long exploration flights to the frozen fringes of the Solar System cadets go along—and are brevetted as officers when their captains think them ready, without waiting to return.

  The public thinks of the Academy as the school ship P.R.S. James Randolph, but every cadet mess in every ship of the Patrol is part of the Academy. A youngster cadet is ordered to the Randolph as soon as he is sworn in and he remains attached to that ship until he is ready to go to a regular Patrol vessel as a passed cadet. His schooling continues; in time he is ordered back to where he started, Hayworth Hall, to receive his final polish.

  An oldster, attached to Hayworth Hall, will not necessarily be there. He may be at the radiation laboratories of Oxford University, or studying interplanetary law at the Sorbonne, or he may even be as far away as Venus, at the Institute for System Studies. Whatever his route—and no two cadets pursue exactly the same course of training—the Academy is still in charge of him, until, and if, he is commissioned.

  How long it takes depends on the cadet. Brilliant young Hartstone, who died on the first expedition to Pluto, was brevetted less than a year after he reported to Hayworth Hall as a groundhog candidate. But it is not unusual to find oldsters at Terra Base who have been cadets for five years or more.

  Cadet Matthew Dodson admired himself in the mirror of the ’fresher. The oyster-white uniform he had found waiting when he returned from First Muster the evening before, and with it a small book of regulations embossed with his name and clipped to a new assignment schedule. The schedule had started out: “1. Your first duty as a cadet is to read the regulation book herewith, at once. Hereafter you are responsible for the contents.”

  He had read it before taps, until his mind was a jumble of undigested rules: “A cadet is an officer in a limited sense—” “—behave with decorum and sobriety appropriate to the occasion—” “—in accordance with local custom rather than Patrol custom unless in conflict with an invariant law of the Federation or regulation of the Patrol.” “—but the responsibility of determining the legality of the order rests on the person ordered as well as on the person giving the order.” “—circumstances not covered by law or regulation must be decided by the individual in the light of the living tradition of the Patrol.” “Cadets will at all times be smooth-shaven and will not wear their hair longer than two inches.”

  He felt that he understood the last mentioned.

  He got up before reveille the next morning and dived into the ’fresher, shaved hastily and rather unnecessarily and got into uniform.

  It fit him well enough, but to his eye the fit was perfect, the styling superb. As a matter of fact, the uniform lacked style, decoration, trim, insignia, or flattering cut.

  But Matt thought he looked wonderful.

  Burke pounded on the ’fresher door. “Have you died in there?” He stuck his head in. “Oh—all right, so you look sweet. Now how about getting out?”

  “Coming.” Matt stalled around the room for a few minutes, then overcome by impatience, tucked his regulation book in his tunic (regulation #383), and went to the refectory. He walked in feeling self-conscious, proud, and about seven feet tall. He sat down at his table, one of the first to arrive. Cadets trickled in; Cadet Sabbatello was one of the last.

  The oldster looked grimly down the table. “Attention,” he snapped. “All of you—stand up.”

  Matt jumped to his feet with the rest. Sabbatello sat down. “From now on, gentlemen, make it a rule to wait until your seniors are seated. Be seated.” The oldster studied the studs in front of him, punched his order, and looked up. The youngsters had resumed eating. He rapped the table sharply. “Quiet, please. Gentlemen, you have many readjustments to make. The sooner you make them, the happier you will be. Mr. Dodson—stop dunking your toast; you are dripping it on your uniform. Which brings me,” he went on, “to the subject of table manners—”

  Matt returned to his quarters considerably subdued.

  He stopped by Tex’s room and found him thumbing through the book of regulations. “Hello, Matt. Say, tell me something—is there anything in this bible that says Mr. Dynkowski has the right to tell me not to blow on my coffee?”

  “I see you’ve had it, too. What happened?”

  Jarman’s friendly face wrinkled. “Well, I’d begun to think of Ski as an all-right guy, helpful and considerate. But this morning at breakfast he starts out by asking me how I manage to carry around all that penalty-weight.” Tex glanced at his waist line; Matt noted with surprise that Tex looked quite chubby in cadet uniform.

  “All us Jarmans are portly,” Tex went on defensively. “He should see my Uncle Bodie.
Then he—”

  “Skip it,” said Matt. “I know the rest of it—now.”

  “Well, I guess I shouldn’t have lost my temper.”

  “Probably not.” Matt looked through the book. “Maybe this will help. It says here that, in case of doubt, you may insist that the officer giving the order put it in writing and stamp his thumbprint, or use other means to provide a permanent record.”

  “Does it, really?” Tex grabbed the book. “That’s for me!—’cause I sure am in doubt. Boy! Just wait and see his face when I pull this one.”

  “I’d like to,” agreed Matt. “Which way do you take the lift, Tex?” The Patrol Rocket Ship Simon Bolivar, transport, was at Santa Barbara Field, having discharged a battalion of Space Marines, but P.R.S. Bolivar could take but about half the new class. The rest were to take the public shuttle rocket from Pike’s Peak launching catapult to Terra Space Station, there to be transferred to the Randolph.

  “Transport,” Tex answered. “How about you?”

  “Me, too. I’d like to see Terra Station, but I’m glad we’re going in a Patrol ship. What are you taking with you?”

  Tex hauled out his luggage and hefted it. “It’s a problem. I’ve got about fifty pounds here. Do you suppose if I rolled it up real small I could get it down to twenty pounds?”

  “An interesting theory,” Matt said. “Let’s have a look at it—you’ve got to eliminate thirty pounds of penalty-weight.”

  Jarman spread his stuff out on the floor. “Well,” Matt said at once, “you don’t need all those photographs.” He pointed to a dozen large stereos, each weighing a pound or more.

  Tex looked horrified. “Leave my harem behind?” He picked up one. “There is the sweetest redhead in the entire Rio Grande Valley.” He picked up another. “And Smitty—I couldn’t get along without Smitty. She thinks I’m wonderful.”

  “Wouldn’t she still think so if you left her pic behind?”

  “Oh, of course. But it wouldn’t be gallant.” He considered. “I’ll compromise—I’ll leave behind my club.”

  “Your club?” Matt asked, failing to see anything of that description.

  “The one I use to beat off the little darlings when they get too persistent.”

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