The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

“Despite any impression I may have given to the contrary,” Hartz continued, “we here in Washington are most cognizant of your skill, patience and thoroughness. Certainly we don’t know anyone who could have done a better job. That’s exactly why we’re sending you a new subject.”

“But…” Freeman raised a shaky finger to point. “But that’s Kate Lilleberg!”

“Yes indeed. That is Kate Lilleberg. And we expect her presence at Tarnover to afford the extra leverage you need in order to pry the last most precious secret out of Nickie Haflinger. Now you must excuse me. I can’t spare you any more of my time. Good afternoon.”


MAN PROPOSES “Now the way I see it—”

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT This is a basic place, a farm. Listen to it.

Land. House. Barn. Sun. Rain. Snow. Field. Fence. Pond. Corn. Wheat. Hay. Plow.

Sow. Reap. Horse. Pig. Cow.

This is an abstract place, a concert hall. Listen to it.

Conductor. Orchestra. Audience. Overture. Concerto. Symphony. Podium. Harmony.

Instrument. Oratorio. Variations. Arrangement. Violin. Clarinet. Piccolo.

Tympani. Pianoforte. Auditorium.

But consider also: Harp. Horn. Drum. Song. Pipe.

And similarly: Alfalfa. Rutabaga. Fertilizer. Combine harvester.

Assign the following (no credit) to one or other of the categories implied by the foregoing parameters:* Bit. Record. Memory. Switch. Program. Transistor. Tape. Data. Electricity.

On-line. Down-time. Printout. Read. Process. Cybernetics.

[* Do not on any account give the same answer tomorrow as you give today.]

A CASE OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT For the first time since the arrival on her threshold of the—late? — Sandy Locke, Kate’s annunciator sounded when she wasn’t expecting anybody.

These days, you simply did not go call on somebody without advance warning. It wasn’t worth it. For one thing, people were spending less time in their homes, statistics said, than ever before in history—despite the arrival of the world in full color and mock solidity thanks to three-vee in the corner of the living room. And for another, perhaps more important, calling without notice was liable to get you webbed in a net of unbreakable plastic, possibly even gassed, at any home above the poverty level.

So you used the veephone first.

In the middle of her largest room, whose walls she was redecorating with enormous photo-enlargements of microscopic circuit elements—eventually, touched in with metallic paint, they would be quite an efficient private computer—Kate stopped dead and pondered.

Well, no harm in looking at whoever it is.

Sighing, she switched on the camera and found herself staring at a man she didn’t know: young, fair, untidy, in casual clothes.

“You’re Kate!” he said brightly.

“And you are — ?”

“Name of Sid. Sid Fessier. Been spending summer vac in the paid-avoidance zones. Ran into a poker name of Sandy, said to greet you when I bounced off KC, and when it turned out I’d picked a hotel just one block distant… Guess I should have called ahead, but hell—one block on a fine day like today!”

“Well, great. Come on up.” He whistled as he climbed the stairs: a reel or jig. And when she opened the door, hit her with a webber that tied her into an instant package.

“Bagheera!” she screamed, falling sidelong as the strands of plastic tangled around her legs.


Still gathering himself for a pounce which could have carried him the full length of the hallway, straight to the intruder’s head, the mountain lion flinched, moaned, made as though to scrabble at an irritation on his chest—and collapsed.

He was good, this man, and very fast. Even as he returned the gun to his pocket he was slapping a patch of adhesive plastic over Kate’s mouth to silence her.

“Anesthetic dart,” he murmured. “No need to worry about him. He’ll be taken care of. Right as rain in two or three hours. But I had to give him the maximum dose, you know. Not my favorite pastime, messing with a beast like him.” Having eased the door softly shut, he now produced a communicator and spoke to it. “Okay, come and pick her up. But best be quiet. This looks like a neighborhood where folk still take an interest in other people’s business.”

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