The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

He drew a deep breath. “No. I wondered about that myself and concluded that I can’t be. Hypnosis isn’t one of their basic tools. And if it were, the command would have been activated long ago, when I first quit the place. Of course, by now they may well use posthypnotics to stop others copying my example… But what I’m hamstrung by is in myself.”

Kate bit her lower lip with small and very white teeth. She said at length, “Funny. Meeting those grads from Tarnover that I mentioned, I felt sure they’d been treated with some quasi-hypnotic technique. They make my skin crawl, you know. They give the impression that they’ve learned everything, they could never possibly be wrong. Kind of inhuman. So my assumption has always been that Tarnover is some sort of behavioral-intensive education center for bright deprived kids, where they use extreme forms of stimulation as an inducement to learn. Zero-distraction environments—drugs, maybe—I don’t know.”

He picked on one key word. “You said… deprived?”

“Mm-hm.” With a nod. “I noticed that at once. Either they were orphaned, or they made no bones about hating their parents and family. It gave them a curious solidarity. Almost like White House aides. Or maybe more like the Jesus bit: ‘Who is my father and my mother?’” She spread her hands.

“When did you first hear about Tarnover?”

“Oh, it was news when I graduated from high school and went to UMKC four years ago. There was no publicity, at least not the drums-and-trumpets type. More kind of, ‘We got the answer to Akadiemgorodok—we think.’ Low-key stuff.”

“Shit, but they’re clever!” he said savagely. “If I didn’t hate them I’d have to admire them.”


“It’s the ideal compromise. You just described what they obviously want the world to think about Tarnover; how did you put it? An intensive education center for bright deprived kids? Very admirable!”

“And it isn’t?” Her sharp eyes rested on his face like sword points.

“No. It’s where they’re breeding the elite to run the continent.”

“I wish,” she said, “I didn’t suspect you of being literal.”

“Me too! But… Look, you’re in power. Think what’s the most dangerous thing about a kid with no parents and a high IQ.”

She stared at him for a long moment, then suggested, “He won’t look at things the way the men in charge do. But he could be more right than they are.”

He slapped his thigh in delight. “Kate, you impress the hell out of me! You’ve hit on it. Who are the people recruited to Tarnover and Crediton Hill and the rest of the secret centers? Why, those who might invent sides of their own if the government doesn’t enroll them on its side while they’re still tractable. Yes, yes! But on top of that—Say, did you check this room for bugs?”

The exclamation was overdue; what had become of his customary caution? He was half out of his chair before she said with a trace of scorn, “Of course I did! And I have a damned good bug detector. One of my boyfriends built it for me. He’s a post-grad in the UMKC school of industrial espionage. So relax and keep talking.” He sank back in relief and mopped his forehead.

“You said these Tarnover trainees you’ve met are mostly in the Behavioral Sciences Lab. Any of them in biology?”

“I met a couple but not at UMKC. Over the state line in Lawrence. Or they were. I loathed them and didn’t keep in touch.”

“Did they ever mention the pride and joy of Tarnover—the crippled kids they build with genius IQ?”


“I met the first of them, who was called Miranda. Of course she was not a genius, so they counted it small loss when she died at four. But techniques have improved. The last example I heard about before I—I quit still couldn’t walk, or even eat, but she could use a computer remote with the best of us and sometimes she was quicker than her teachers. They specialize in girls, naturally. Men, embryonically speaking, are imperfect women, as you know.”

There was never much color in Kate’s face. In the next few seconds what little there was drained away, leaving the flesh of her forehead and cheeks as pale as candlewax.

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