The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

After the madrigal concert where he also met her, and the lakeside ‘fish fry where he also met her, and the target-archery meet where he also met her, and the swimming gala where he also met her, and the lecture on advances in the application of topology to business administration where he also met her, he could hold back his challenge no longer.

“Are you following me or something?” Tonight she was wearing something sexy and diaphanous, and she had had her hair machine-coiffed. But she was still plain, still bony, still disturbing.

“No,” was her answer. “Pre-guessing you. I don’t have you completely pegged yet—I went to the wrong place last night—but I’m closing in fast. You, Sandy Locke, are trying far too hard to adhere to a statistical norm. And I hate to see a good man go to waste.” With which she spun on her heel and strode—one might almost have said marched—to rejoin her escort, a plump young man who scowled at him as though virulently jealous.

He simply stood there, feeling his stomach draw drumhead-tight and sweat break out on his palms.

To be sought by federal officials: that was one thing. He was accustomed to it after six years, and his precautions had become second nature. But to have his persona as Sandy Locke penetrated with such rapidity by a girl he barely knew.

Got to switch her off my circuit! She makes me feel the way I felt when I first quit Tarnover—as though I was certain to be recognized by everyone I passed on the street, as though a web were closing that would trap me for the rest of my life. And I thought that poor kid Gaila had problems… STOP STOP STOP!

I’m being Sandy Locke, and no child ever came sobbing out of the night to beg his help!

SEE ISAIAH 8:1-2 Make speed to the spoil, for the prey hasteneth.

YEARSHIFT “I thought you’d never show,” Kate said caustically, and stood back from the door of her apartment. He had caught her wearing nothing but shorts, baggy with huge pockets, and a film of dust turning here and there to slime with perspiration. “Still, you picked a good time. I’m just getting rid of last year’s things. You can give me a hand.”

He entered with circumspection, vaguely apprehensive of what he might find inside this home of hers: the upper floor of what at the turn of the century must have been a desirable one-family house. Now it was subdivided, and the area was on the verge of ghetto-hood. The streets were deep in litter and tribe-signs were plentiful. Bad tribes at that—the Kickapoos and the Bent Minds.

Four rooms here had been interconnected by enlarging doorways into archways; only the bathroom remained isolated. As he glanced around, his attention was immediately caught by a splendidly stuffed mountain lion on a low shelf at the end of the hallway, warmed by a shaft of bright sunlight—Stuffed?

It came back in memory as clear as though Ina were here to speak the words: “She blames it all on that cat her father gave her…”

Regarding him almost as steadily as her unlikely pet, Kate said, “I wondered how you would react to Bagheera. Congratulations; you get full marks. Most people turn and run. You’ve just gone a trifle pale around the gills. To answer all your questions in advance—yes, he is entirely tame except when I tell him to be otherwise, and he was a present from my father, who saved him from being used up in a circus. You know who my father was, I presume.”

His mouth very dry, he nodded. “Henry Lilleberg,” he said in a croaking voice. “Neurophysiologist. Contracted degenerative myelitis in the course of a research program and died about four years ago.”

“That’s right.” She was moving toward the animal, hand outstretched. “I’ll introduce you, and after that you needn’t worry.” Somehow he found himself scratching the beast behind his right ear, and the menace he had originally read in those opal eyes faded away. When he withdrew his hand Bagheera heaved an immense sigh, laid his chin on his paws and went to sleep.

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