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Richter 10

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Richter 10

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Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Mike McQuay
Publisher: Gollancz, 1996
Bantam Spectra, 1996

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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When he was seven years old, a major earthquake killed Lewis Crane's parents. As an adult, Crane has dedicated his life to protecting humanity from a similar tragedy. He's a Nobel-winning earthquake scientist, and the founder of the Foundation-an organization that has perfected equipment sensitive enough to predict an earthquake strike down to the minute.

With unrelenting dedication to his cause, Crane's organization explores the idea of fusing the Earth's tectonic plates together-stopping all earthquakes forever by halting tectonic activity. But what effect will this have on the earth-and can it stop another major earthquake due in the United States?

In this book, Arthur C. Clarke applies an imagination big enough for deep space to the inner workings of our planet. It's a fascinating exploration of the possible future of earthquake prediction technology-and a compelling read for science fiction fans.



Fingertips tingling and toes numb, pajamas damp with sweat, Lcwis Crane came wide awake. Evcry one of his worst night terrors was real! And at that horrible moment he knew he'd been right all along and the grownups had been wrong: The Wild Things did live in the back of his closet; a dragon did sneak in when the sun went down to curl up under his bed. The monsters were invisible in the dusty moonlight seeping through the slats of the blinds, but Lewis knew they were there. They roared hideously and stomped around the room, making his bed wiggle like a trampoline he was using to climb onto. He screwed his eyes closed and clamped his hands over his ears. But the monsters didn't go away. They got wilder and made even louder noises.

Suddenly pitched out of bed, Lewis screamed for his parents.

His voice was so little and the noise was so big that his Mama and Daddy would never hear him. He had to get to them. Heart pounding, he tried to make himself stand up, but fear kept him rooted to the floor as it started to buck beneath him and the walls began to undulate like the enormous pythons he'd seen at the big zoo in San Diego. His bookcases were quivering, the chairs trembling, and the video games stacked on top of his computer came tumbling down. Something whirred over his shoulder--the picture that had hung above the little table next to his bed--and landed beside his knee, glass popping out of its frame and spraying his leg.

"Mama," he cried. "Mama, Daddy, help me!"

Everything shook. Everything. Books and Tonka trucks fleu off the shelves; his Power Rangers and Ninja Turtle action figures danced as if alive on their way to the rug; matchbox cars and crayons sailed through the air.The mirror over his dresser and the aquarium next to his desk smashed onto bare parts of the floor, glass and water showering him from clear across the room.

"Daddy," he wailed again just as his chest of drawers crashed to within an inch of where he sat. He jumped up then, but the floor heaved and he Jost his balance, banging down hard on his knees.

And he plunged into the end of the world.

His body shook violently, his whole room shook violently, and he heard the most awfull noise he'd ever heard in all his seven years. It sounded like the ground for miles around was cracking open and his house was splitting apart and maybe even the sky was getting torn into pieces. Tears ran down his face. He began to crawl to the doorway, cockeyed and funny-looking as if a giant had twisted it sideways. He thought he heard his mother call his name, but he couldn't be sure. He was sobbing now. He wanted her, wanted his father, too. He had to get to them.

The hallway was full of dangerous stuff, and he stopped for a second. There were chunks of plaster and metal rods all mixed up with jagged spikes of wood and ugly shards of glass from the furniture and pictures that used to be so neatly strung along the walls. The pile uas higher than his knees and he uas scared that he was going to hurt himself crawling through it, but the house was rolling around so much that he didn't dare try to get up and run. He took a deep breath and started to crawl as fast as he could, his arms and hands getting bashed and cut, his thighs and feet feeling stung and torn.

He reached the dining room, and a sob caught in his throat. He could hear his parents. Mama was calling his name--but Daddy was screaming in pain. There uas a lot more light out here, but he didn't like it because it uas bluish and kind of winking over everything in a spooky way. He shivered, then turned, put his hands flat on the wall, pushed his legs out, and climbed palm over palm until he was on his feet. The whole room was rolling around, making Lewis suddenly remember the deep-sea fishing boat he'd been on last summer. It had dipped way down and way up, swung side to side, and, if he hadn't been on Daddy's lap, and if Daddy hadn't been strapped into the big chair bolted to the deck, they and the chair and everything else would have gone sliding from rail to rail. Could the house be riding a humongous wave? Silly. Their house couldn't get blown all the way from Northridge out to sea. But that other noise, that sort of sure sounded a lot like a big wind in a bad storm.

"Lewis!" he heard his mother shout, "Lewis, run. Get outside!"

She lurched into the room and started to shuffle toward him. Her nightgown was scrunched around her chest, hanging from the waist in rags that tangled around her knees. Joy and relief flooded him. He let go of the wall, stumbled forward, then froze. Mama was making a grab for the edge of the dining room table coasting toward her, but he could see behind her, see the huge breakfront Daddy had bought her for an anniversary gift slowly toppling away from the wall....

Glass exploded, splinters of it striking him, shredding his pajamas. And he heard the crash and Mama's scream and saw the stars through the sudden hole in the dining room ceiling and everything seemed to stop for a second. Then he was scrambling over the wreckage, clawing his way to his mother whose face and right arm were exposed to the night.

"I'll get you out, Mama," he called, tears tracking through the dust coating his face.

"Run, darling," she whispered when he reached her. "Run to the street."

In vain he pushed on the side panel of the breakfront.

"Please, Lewis," she said, strangely calm. "Do what Mama says."


"Don't disobey me. Do what I say right now."

Lewis's mind was spinning. He couldn't move that piece of furniture.Not alone. He needed help.

"I'm gonna go find someone to help me get you out from under there," he said, taking a step back as the rolling of the floor slowed somewhat. The rumbling was distant now and he realized he couldn't hear Daddy screaming from the bedroom anymore. "I'll be right back, Mama. Understand? I'll be right back for you and Daddy. "

"Yes, sweetheart," she said, voice weak. "Hurry...hurry outside."

He limped around thc rubble, got to thc living room, and was just going through thc opened front door whcn anothcr scction of the roof fell in with a grcat crash. Out on thc walk, he smelled gas and saw thc beams of flashlights darting around front lawns up and down thc block. Thc street was lumpy and brokcn, thc houses across thc way all crumplcd in front. Panic shook him, but he didn't havc time for it. He needcd to get help fast.

He heard people, and he headcd for the voices and flashlights, screaming as he ran.

"Help! Help mc! Please...somebody!"

Thcn he trippcd on a new hill on the lawn and fell hard, face down. He hurt all over...and he cried. But he didn't stay there. Struggling to his feet, hc uas suddcnly blindcd by a beam of light.

"It's thc Crane boy," a man looming ovcr him yelled. "Come hcre quick!"

People were all around him forcing him onto his back on the ground. He tried to shove them away. "Hclp, please. My Mama and Daddy arc still inside. Mama's trappcd. You've-- "

"Easy, son," came thc voice of thc man holding him down. "It's me...Mr. Haussman from across thc street. Don't worry, we'll get your parents out."

"God, look at him," a woman said as people played their flashlight beams across his tattered pajamas. "He's bleeding premy badly. I--Oh, my Lord! Look at his arm!"

Lewis rolled onto his side to see what she was pointing at. A piece of glass as big as a baseball card was sticking out of his upper left arm. He didn't even feel it. He didn't feel the arm at all.

"My Mama's trapped," he said, and a shadow reached doun and jerked hard, pulling the shard from his flesh. "Please help her."

The woman choked and turned away as Lewis stared at the blood squirting furiously out of his arm where she'd removed the glass.

"Dammit," Mr. Haussman muttered. He ripped the rest of Lewis's pajama shirt offand tied it just above the squirting blood. "We've got to get him to a hospital."

"My pickup truek," said Mr. Eornell, the next door neighbor. "We can put him in the back of that."

"Get it," Mr. Haussman said, and Mr. Comell went charging off.

"My parents...." Lewis said, trying to get up, only to have Mr. Haussman push him baek down.

"We'll get them out," the man said, then turned to the others, speeterS behind the beams of their flashlights. "Can somebody get into the house and look for the Cranes?"

The ground shook again, everyone reacting loudly, one lady even moaning as if in pain.

Several men ran toward his house, Lewis noted with relief. "What's happening?" he asked, grabbing Mr. Haussman's shirtsleeve...

Copyright © 1996 by Arthur C. Clarke

Copyright © 1996 by Mike McQuay


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