The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

To his surprise, however, the visitor was Freeman. And alone.

He carefully closed the door before speaking; when he did so, it was in a perfectly neutral tone.

“You probably noticed that I authorized the delivery of some refreshments to your quarters last night. I need a stiff drink. Make it whisky on the rocks.”

“I take it you’re not here?”

“What? Oh!” Freeman gave a hideous grin; his facial skin stretched so tight over his bones that it threatened to tear. “Quite correct. The monitors are being fed a wholly convincing set of lies.”


“What do you mean?”

“This took a lot of courage on your part. Most people lack the guts to disobey an immoral order.” Slowly, over several seconds, Freeman’s grin transformed into a smile.

“Goddamn,” he said. “Haflinger or whatever you’d rather call yourself. I fought like hell to stay objective, and I didn’t make it. Turns out I kind of like you. I can’t help it.” Angrily he kicked around a chair and slumped into it.

A few moments later, over full glasses: “Tell me something. What reflex got punched by whom to trigger this reaction?”

Freeman bridled. “No need to gibe at me. You can’t take credit for everything that’s happened inside my head.”

“At least you say credit, not blame… I suspect you found out you hate the people who give you your orders.”

“Ah… Yes. I got loaded with my final straw when they decided to bring Kate here. You were right about it not being my idea. So I did as I was told, neither more nor less.”

“So Hartz blasted you for not being smarter than he is. Galling, isn’t it?”

“Worse. Much worse.” Cradling his glass in bony fingers, Freeman leaned forward, staring at nothing. “All argument aside, I do believe that we need wisdom. Need it desperately. I have a conception of how it would be manifest. Hartz doesn’t have it. I think you do. And as to Kate…” The words trailed away.

“Kate Lilleberg is wise. No question of it.”

“I’m obliged to agree.” With a trace of defiance. “And because of it—well, you’ve seen.”

“What else would you expect? I don’t mean that sarcastically, by the way. Just as my recruitment to Tarnover was predictable once they learned of my existence, so her arrest was predictable when I led them to her.”

After a fractional hesitation Freeman said, “I get the idea you stopped classing me as one of them.”

“You absconded, didn’t you?”

“Hah! I guess I did.” He emptied his glass and waved aside the offer of a refill. “No, I’ll fix it. I know where… But it isn’t right, it can’t be right! What the hell did she do to deserve indefinite detention without trial, being interrogated until her soul is as naked as her body? We went off the track somewhere. It shouldn’t have turned out this way.”

“You think I may have notions about a different way?”

“Sure.” This response was crisp and instant. “And I want to hear them. I’ve lost my bearings. Right now I don’t know where in the world I am. You may find it hard to believe, but—well, I’ve always had an article of faith in my personal universe to the effect that maximizing information flow is objectively good. I mean being frank, and open, and candid, telling the truth as you see it regardless of the consequences.” A harsh laugh. “A shrink I know keeps insisting it’s overcompensation for the way I was taught to hide my body as a kid. I was raised to undress in the dark, sneak in and out the bathroom when nobody was looking, run like hell when I flushed the can for fear someone would notice me and think about what I’d done in there… Ah, maybe the poker’s partly right. Anyhow, I grew up to be a top-rank interrogator, dedicated to extracting information from people without torture and with the least possible amount of suffering. Phrase it that way and it sounds defensible, doesn’t it?”

“Of course. But it’s a different matter when the data you uncover are earmarked for concealment all over again, this time becoming the private property of those in power.”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114

Categories: John Brunner