12

Short story, could have been in Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, or Amazing. Basically there is some sort of war with aliens, and disease is being used as a weapon. Travelers to the planet have to go through a month of quarantine which is handled in a time bubble so that it is only a few minutes of real time. Each quarantine has to be staffed, though, so the people staffing the quarantine age most of their life in one day. After his day of service, the attendant emerges as an old man with a vast knowledge (from reading and watching shows) of the present he never experienced.

5
  • Main character's name was Frank. Story starts with him hosting a group of people in quarantine (he wears a special suit to protect him). He detects a faint trace of a suspect biological, and spends a few weeks (experienced) messing with the metabolisms of his guests (hiding the liquor from an alcoholic, etc.) and reveals one of them is a carrier for an engineered alien plague. Earth is saved!
    – DavidW
    Jun 8 '18 at 22:10
  • This is his last period running quarantine, and he musters out. Returning home, we find out he enlisted in order to pay for medical treatment for his younger brother. (Who caught an earlier plague.) He comes back home having aged 52 years in just a few months.
    – DavidW
    Jun 8 '18 at 22:10
  • He's afraid to face his family, and ends up getting picked up by a pair of young women who are probably planning to rob him. But he can speak twip just like they can, knows all the current slang, fashion, music, etc. He asks them to turn off "Starborough Fair" because he's so sick of it; he's heard it, the song it's based on, and the folk song that's based on so many times in the past 52 years. The women catch on that he's a "fast-timer," and their curiosity gets the better of them. Eventually they drop him off at the hospital.
    – DavidW
    Jun 8 '18 at 22:10
  • His father is appalled to see Frank older than he is, but his brother is getting treatment.
    – DavidW
    Jun 8 '18 at 22:11
  • Definitely in Analog, not F&SF or Azimov's. I probably have it in at least one anthology too.
    – DavidW
    Jun 8 '18 at 22:11
5

Short story, could have been in Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, or Amazing.

"The Million Dollar Day", a novelette by Kevin O'Donnell, Jr.; published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1987; apparently never reprinted.

Basically there is some sort of war with aliens, and disease is being used as a weapon.

Some considered Abe lucky. He had caught, but survived, one of the plagues released in Bysk's only successful bio-attack on Terra. His bones were melting into cartilage, and his system had reabsorbed most of his brown hair, as well as his fingers and toes, but he had survived. So far.

Travelers to the planet have to go through a month of quarantine which is handled in a time bubble so that it is only a few minutes of real time.

"Right," he said sourly, and cut the connection. He pushed back from his desk, there in his office in the Sirius Wing of the Quarantine & Relay Station a billion kilometers darkside of Pluto. He glared at his chrono. "Damn. Damn, damn, damn! Why did they have to come back early?"

The chrono said nothing but:
Universal Time—4 Jul 2204 1300GMT
Experienced Time—18 Jan 2232 0937

[. . . .]

He slapped the writing surface of the console. The damn monitors worked after all. Halfway to retirement and things had to go wrong.

He had expected to retire at seventeen hundred hours on 4 July 2204 Universal Time. Late spring, early summer of his seventieth year, Experienced Time.

After withholding taxes, BCQ would credit his account with a million dollars, give or take a few cents. Not bad for a universal day's work, even if the day did happen to run a few hours over forty-eight apparent years. And more than enough to pay for Abe's treatment.

[. . . .]

Fradero almost cringed. He had played similar scenes with other Guests many times, and never liked them. This one, though, this one would hurt. "To put it most simply, time in Quarantine moves 260,000 times faster than normal. That means that even though you'll spend one hundred eighty days in here, only about a minute will have elapsed in the outside, real world."

Each quarantine has to be staffed, though, so the people staffing the quarantine age most of their life in one day. After his day of service, the attendant emerges as an old man with a vast knowledge (from reading and watching shows) of the present he never experienced.

"But more than that. For me, Earth is a fossil in amber. I will experience forty-five or fifty years in here, and Terra will not change.When I emerge, I will understand the world of my retirement better than anyone alive except my colleagues."

"But then the carousel resumes its ceaseless spin."

"Of course. But I'll know why it's spinning because I will have had time to study trends and fads and social influences and technological developments and anything else that affects my world."

P.S. As pointed out incomments by DavidW, there was a sequel, "Fradero Goes Home", which appeared in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1988:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Nikolaites came home hurting, both in his body and in his mind.

He had lived fifty-two years (experienced years, they called them) in the space of one day (a universal day, they called it). He had done it to make money, to defend human civilization, and to learn all he could about the civilization he was protecting. In pretty much that order of priority.

He had succeeded.

He had earned (net of all withholding taxes) a few dollars over a million.

He had prevented seven plague-carriers from reaching Earth in the infectious but asymptomatic state.

He had studied the history and the geography of his planet, the science and the art of his culture, the politics and the economics of his country. He understood the world into which he would retire better, perhaps, than anyone alive.

Seventy (experienced) years old, returning to the town where he had drawn his first breath eighteen (universal) years ago, Fradero hurt, in both his body and his mind.

2
  • Amazing. How did you find it? (I was apparently conflating "Million Dollar Day" with "Fradero Goes Home." I did think that it was a lot of plot/characters for a single short story...)
    – DavidW
    Jun 12 '18 at 18:07
  • Thanks davidw and user14111 ! I havent seen these stories for 30 years... just dug them out for a re-read.
    – Ac91174
    Aug 10 '18 at 15:08

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