The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

“But if I can’t rewrite myself, what am I going to do?” He was on his feet, shaking.

“Sandy!” She rose also, confronting him with a glare. “Have you never tried to outface the enemy?”

“What?” He blinked at her.

“I get the impression that every time one of your schemes went wrong, you abandoned it—and the identity that went with it—and switched to something else. Maybe that’s why you’ve always failed. You’ve relied on this trick talent of yours to bail you out of trouble instead of seeing through what you started. The overload you’ve suffered today ought to be a warning to you. There’s a limit to the number of times you can revise your personality. There’s a limit to the load you can pile on your powers of reasoning. Your body just told you, loud and clear, you’ve gone too far at last.”

“Oh, shit…” His voice was full of misery. “In principle I’m certain you’re right. But is there any alternative?”

“Sure I have an alternative. One of the best things about a paid-avoidance area is you can still get manual cooking. I don’t know what it’s like here, but at Protempore it was delicious. We go find a good restaurant and a jug of wine.”

FENCED BUT NOT FOILED Interalia the Handbook of the National Association of Players at the Game of Fencing states: The game may be played manually or electronically.

The field shall consist of 101 parallel equidistant lines coded AA, AB, AC, …, BA, BB, BC… to EA (omitting the letter I), crossed at 90º by 71 parallel equidistant lines 01 to 71.

The object is to enclose with triangles a greater number of coordinate points than the opponent.

The players shall toss or draw for red or blue; red begins.

At each turn each player shall claim two points, one by visibly marking it in the field, the other by entering its coordinates in a list concealed from the opponent (but subject to scrutiny by a referee in match play).

After at least 10 points (5 red, 5 blue) have been visibly claimed, having claimed his visible point for that turn either player may forego the option of claiming a concealed point and attempt to enclose a triangle by connecting three of his visibly claimed points. Prior to doing so he must require the opponent to enter his concealed points in the field. He may then enclose any triangle that does not include a point claimed by the opponent. A point claimed in a concealed list, which proves on inspection to have been claimed visibly by the opponent, shall be deleted from the concealed list. A triangle may enclose a point claimed by the same color. A point once enclosed may not be claimed. If a player claims such a point in error he shall forfeit both the visible and the concealed point due on that turn.

If a player finds, when the opponent’s concealed points are entered in the field, he can enclose no valid triangle, he shall at once enter all his own concealed points, after which play shall proceed normally.

All triangles must have sides at least 2 units long, i.e. two adjacent coordinates cannot serve as apices of the same triangle, though they may serve as apices of two triangles of the same or different colors. No coordinate may serve as the apex of more than one triangle. No triangle may enclose a point enclosed by another triangle. A coordinate claimed by the opponent which lies on a horizontal or vertical line between apices of a proposed triangle shall be deemed included and renders the triangle invalid. A coordinate claimed by the opponent which lies on a true diagonal (45º) between apices of a proposed triangle shall be deemed excluded.

Scores shall be calculated in terms of coordinate points enclosed by valid triangles. An approved device shall be employed such that as each triangle is validly enclosed its apices may be entered into the memory store of the device and upon entry of the third apex the device shall unambiguously display the number of points enclosed. It shall be the responsibility of the player to keep accurate record of his cumulative score, which he shall not conceal from the opponent, except in matches played for stake money or on which there has been wagering or by mutual agreement of the players, when the cumulative score may be kept by a referee or electronically or mechanically, but in such cases there shall be no grounds for appeal by either player against the score shown at the conclusion or at any stage of the game.

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Categories: John Brunner