The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

“No, I’ve had my house four years so I decided to trade it in. Matter of fact, I might get my next built here. I’m told there are good architects around KC.”

“Well, I wouldn’t know. I prefer to plug into an apt, but someone at the party might advise you.”

“I’ll ask around. What time is it set for?”

“Eight o’clock. The welcome suite is right on the entrance floor. All your signifying colleagues will be there.”

PARADOX, NEXT STOP AFTER THE BOONDOCKS “It’s not because my mind is made up that I don’t want you to confuse me with any more facts.

“It’s because my mind isn’t made up. I already have more facts than I can cope with.

“So SHUT UP, do you hear me? SHUT UP!”

YOU’RE BEING FRAMED Although this was strictly transient accommodation, it differed subtly from a hotel suite. He noted with approval the touches that made it more like a smart private apartment. Retractable textured walls could subdivide the main room in half a dozen ways, according to taste. The decor on his arrival was in neutral shades: beige, pale blue and white. He made use at once of the switch by the door to change that to rich dark green, russet and old gold. It was done with lights behind translucent paneling. The conveniences, such as the three-vee, the polarity-reversal clothing cleaner and the electrotoner attached to the bathtub, were not the basic hotel-chain type but the more expensive home-use version.

Perhaps most important of all, you could not only draw back the curtains but even open the windows. That was a facility not found in hotels nowadays.

Out of curiosity he did open one, and found he was looking over treetops toward the source of a roaring noise which a moment ago had been inaudible thanks to superefficient soundproofing.

What in the world — ?

Followed a moment later by the wry contradiction: What out of this world — ?

A brilliant light, dazzling as a magnesium flare, rose into sight above the trees and to the roar was added the impact of blast. He just managed to discern the needle-form of a one-man orbital ship before the glare compelled him to shut his eyes and turn away, groping for the window-closure again.

No doubt that would be one of G2S’s troubleshooters on his way to orbit. The company was proud of its prompt and efficient after-sales service, and since even now three out of four orbital factories were one-off projects—new industries kept deciding to jump up there every other week—that was an essential element in preserving its field-leader rating.

Which was not, in fact, as stable as the G2S board wished the public to believe.

He’d investigated. Among the tasks he expected to be assigned, even though Ina hadn’t mentioned it, was penetration of a rival corporation’s research into so-called olivers, electronic alter egos designed to save the owner the strain of worrying about all his person-to-person contacts. A sort of twenty-first-century counterpart to the ancient Roman nomenclator, who discreetly whispered data into the ear of the emperor and endowed him with the reputation of a phenomenal memory. G2S was badly in need of diversification, but before picking up the option it had on a small independent company’s work in this area, it wanted to make certain nobody else had reached the stage of commercial launching.

It would be a good-sized feather in his cap if he produced the answer within a few days of starting work.

Continuing his tour of inspection he discovered, neatly tucked away under the bed, a tension reliever with a reversible proboscis which a woman could let stand out and a man could simply push inward… or not, according to taste.

Above it was a small but fine-detail screen, the images fed to which were changed—said a little label—on an eight-day rota; there were also headphones and a mask offering twenty odors.

Replacing the instrument in its sanitizing case, he decided he’d have to experiment with it at least once or twice; it was appropriate to the plug-in life-style, after all. But at most two or three times. Corporations like G2S were wary of people who relied excessively on machines in place of person-to-person contact. They would be watching.

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