The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

Totals do not sum to 100 because most are entered under more than one head.

This is a cybernetic announcement in the public interest.


For the information of the person required to pay this tax Analysis of last year’s federal budget shows that: ***17% of your tax dollar went on boondoggles ***13%…propaganda, bribes and kickbacks ***11%…federal contracts with companies which are (a) fronting for criminal activities and/or (b) partly or wholly owned by persons subject to indictment for federal offenses and/or (c) hazardous to health and the environment. Fuller details may be obtained by punching the code number at top left of this form into any veephone. They take about 57 minutes to present.

This is a cybernetic datum appended without Treasury Department authorization.

AN ALARMING ITEM TO HEAR OVER THE VEEPHONE “No, Mr. Sullivan, we can’t stop it! There’s never been a worm with that tough a head or that long a tail! It’s building itself, don’t you understand? Already it’s passed a billion bits and it’s still growing. It’s the exact inverse of a phage—whatever it takes in, it adds to itself instead of wiping… Yes, sir! I’m quite aware that a worm of that type is theoretically impossible! But the fact stands, he’s done it, and now it’s so goddamn comprehensive that it can’t be killed. Not short of demolishing the net!”

THE OUTCOME OF THE BRAIN RACE (COMPUTED) The first shall be last and the last shall be first

THE WHOLE CONTINENT ON THE BRINK OF ONE PRECIPICE The press conference automatically called by Nick’s program was to be held in the largest auditorium on the UMKC campus. The students had been delighted to commandeer it. Discreetly, the university authorities declined a request from the state governor to intervene. Among the persons credited with work on Miranda and those like her were two incumbent faculty members, and they were—sensibly—spending today behind locked doors and steel shutters. The students were very unhappy about those deformed babies.

Moreover, for the first time in well over a generation, the mass of public opinion was in agreement with the students. Gratifying. If it didn’t heal the split, at least it moved the split to a healthier location.

The hall was packed—it was crammed. If modern technology hadn’t shrunk three-vee cameras and sound-recording equipment to a size that the engineers of fifty years ago would have called impossible, the puzzled but dutiful reporters who had arrived to cover a story they were certain must be sensational…whatever the hell it was, would have been unable to put anything on their tapes.

As it was, they were obliged to use poles, electric floaters and their longest-range mikes and lenses because they couldn’t get anywhere near the rostrum, and there was a squabble over priority in respect of lines of sight which delayed the start of the conference until well past the scheduled time of noon.

At long last, however, Kate was able to appear on stage, to be greeted by a standing ovation that threatened never to end. It took her a long time to pat down the noise. When she finally did so, the putter-of-cats-among-pigeons made his appearance, and the audience settled to an expectant hush.

“My name is Nicholas Haflinger.” In a loud clear voice, capable of filling the auditorium without the aid of microphones. “You’re wondering why I’ve called you here. The reason is simple. To answer all your questions. I mean—all. This is the greatest news of our time. As of today, whatever you want to know, provided it’s in the data-net, you can now know. In other words, there are no more secrets.” That claim was so sweeping that his listeners sat briefly stunned. Long seconds slid away before there came a diffident call from a woman reporter near the front, one of the lucky ones who had arrived early.

“Rose Jordan, W3BC! What about this story that was on the beams, the bait that pulled us in? This thing where you said G2S will sue officials of the Bureau of Data Processing for kidnaping one of its employees, and also some girlfriend of his?”

“That was me, and the story’s absolutely true,” Kate said. “But you didn’t have to come here for the details. Ask any veephone.”

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