The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

“Of course not,” Hartz said uncomfortably, running his finger around his collar as though it had suddenly grown too tight.

Freeman smiled. The effect was that of a black turnip-ghost.

“Shall I have the pleasure of your company tomorrow?”

“No, I have to get back to Washington. But—uh…”


“What did he do after leaving Toledo in such a hurry?”

“Oh, he took a vacation. Very sensible. In fact, the best thing he could possibly have done.”

FOR PURPOSES OF RE-IDENTIFICATION At present I am being Sandy (short, as I admit to people when I get stonkered and confidential, not for good old Alexander but for Lysander, of all things!) P. (worse yet, for Pericles!!!) Locke, aged thirty-two, swingle and in view of my beardless condition probably skew. However, I’m trying to give that up and might even consider getting married one of these years.

I shall remain Sandy Locke for a while at least, even after I finish my vacation at this resort hotel in the Georgia Sea Islands, medium-fashionable, not so boringly up-to-the-second as some even if it does boast an underwater wing for womb-retreat therapy and the manager is a graduate psychologist. At least there’s no obligatory experiential R&P.

It’s my second vacation this year and I shall take at least one further in late fall. But I’m among people who aren’t likely to mistake “taking another vacation” for “surpled and unemployable,” as some would that I can think of.

Many of my fellow guests are taking their third this year already and plan to make the total five. These latter, though, are considerably older, shut of the care and cost of kids. To be a triple-vacationer at thirty-two marks me as a comer… in all three senses. Right now the third kind matters; I need a job.

I’ve picked a good age, not so difficult as forty-six to put on when you’re chronologically twenty-eight (the sudden recollection of spectacles! Ow!) and youthful enough to attract the middlers while being mature enough to impress the teeners. Memo to selves: could thirty-two be stretched until I’m actually, say, thirty-six? Keep eyes and ears ajar for data.

WINED AND DENIED Past forty but not saying by how much, beautiful and apt to stay so for a long while yet, currently looking her best by reason of a bright brown tan, hair bleached by sun instead of shampoo, and an hour more sleep per night than she’d enjoyed for ages, Ina Grierson was also tough. Proof lay in the fact that she was heading the transient-executive recruitment dept at the Kansas City HQ of Ground-to-Space Industries Inc., world’s largest builders of orbital factories.

The question was, though: tough enough?

She thought of the old saying about being promoted to your level of incompetence—what was it called, the Peter-Pays-Paul Principle, or something like that? — and fumed and fretted. Her daughter kept declining to quit school, just signed up year after year for weirder and wilder courses of study (and all at the same university, for heaven’s sake! Wouldn’t be so bad if she’d consent to go someplace else). Ina felt tied, wanted to break away, move to the Gulf or Colorado or even the Bay Area, given that the slippage techniques were as efficient as the seismologists claimed and there wasn’t going to be another million-victim quake, not ever… or at least for fifty years.

On her own terms, of course—no one else’s.

Last year she’d rejected five offers. This year, so far only one. Next year?

Having a daughter out of step like Kate—hell! Why couldn’t the stupid slittie act normal like everybody else, dig up her roots and plug them in some other socket, preferably on a different continent?

If Anti-Trauma Inc. had started up soon enough… !

Tactless people sometimes wondered publicly why Ina insisted on remaining in the same city as her daughter who was, after all, twenty-two and had had her own apt since entering college and was not noticeably clinging or dependent. But Ina hated to be asked about that.

She never like being asked questions she couldn’t answer.

One week into her two-week vacation Ina wanted to be cheered up but the man she’d kept company with since arrival had left today. That meant dining alone.

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