My code, of course, begins with 4GH, and has done so for the past six years.
Memo to selves: find out whether there’s been any change in the status of a 4GH, and particularly whether something better has been introduced… a complication devoutly to be ‘fished.
MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ She ran, blinded by sorrow, under a sky that boasted a thousand extra stars moving more swiftly than a minute hand. The air of the June night rasped her throat with dust, every muscle ached in her legs, her belly, even her arms, but she kept right on as hard as she could pelt. It was so hot, the tears that leaked from her eyes dried as they were shed.
Sometimes she went on more or less level roadway, not repaired for years but still quite sound; sometimes she crossed rough ground, the sites perhaps of factories whose owners had transferred their operations up to orbit, or of homes which had been tribaled in some long-ago riot.
In the blackness ahead loomed lights and illuminated signs bordering a highway.
Three of the signs advertised a church and offered free Delphi counseling to registered members of its congregation.
Wildly glancing around, blinking her eyes to clear perception, she saw a monstrous multi-colored dome, as though a lampshade made from a puffer-fish were to be blown up larger than a whale.
Pacing her at a discreet distance, tracking a tracer concealed in the paper frock which was all she wore except sandals, a man in an electric car fought his yawns and hoped that on this particular Sunday the pursuit would not be too long or too dull.
MINOR PROFIT IN THE BELLY OF THE GREAT ‘fish As well as presiding at the church, Reverend Lazarus lived in it, his home being a trailer parked behind the cosmoramic altar—formerly the projection screen, twenty meters high. How else could a man with a minister’s vocation afford so much privacy and so much space?
Surrounded by the nonstop hum of the compressor that kept his polychrome plastic dome inflated—three hundred meters by two hundred by ninety high—he sat alone at his desk in the nose compartment of the trailer, his tiny office, comping the take from the day’s collection.
He was worried. His deal with the coley group who provided music at his services was on a percentage basis, but he had to guarantee a thousand, and attendance was falling off as the church’s novelty declined. Today only about seven hundred people had come here; there had not even been a jam as they drove back on to the highway.
Moreover, for the first time in the nine months since the church was launched, today’s collections had yielded more scrip than cash. Cash didn’t circulate much any more—at least not on this continent—except in the paid-avoidance areas, where people drew a federal grant for going without some of the twenty-first century’s more expensive gadgetry, but activating a line to the federal credit computers on a Sunday, their regular down-time day, meant a heavy surcharge, beyond the means of most churches including his. So churchgoers generally remembered to bring coins or bills or one of the little booklets of scrip vouchers issued to them when they joined.
The trouble with all this scrip, though—as he knew from sad experience—was that when he presented it to his bank tomorrow at least half of it would be returned marked VOID: the bigger the sum pledged, the more likely. Some would have been handed in by people already so deep in pointless debt the computers had banned expenditure on nonessentials; any new church inevitably attracted a lot of shock victims. But some would have been canceled overnight as the result of a family row: “You credded how much? My God, what did I do to deserve a twitch like you? Get that scrip deeveed this minute!” Still, some people had been ignorantly generous. There was a stack of over fifty copper dollars, worth three hundred to any electronics firm, asteroid ores being poor in high-conduction metals. It was illegal to sell currency for scrap, but everybody did it, saying they’d found old saucepans in the attic of a secondhand house, or a disused cable while digging over the back yard.