Sterling Distraction

Distraction by Bruce Sterling (1998!) ISBN:0553576399

(Takes place in 2045.)


For the fifty-first time (according to his laptop), Oscar studied the riot video from Worcester

Oscar assumed that they were all radical proles. Dissidents, autonomen, gypsies, leisure-union people. This was a reasonable as-sumption, since a quarter of the American population no longer had jobs. More than half of the people in modern America had given up on formal employment. The modern economy no longer generated many commercial roles that could occupy the time of people

In fact—Oscar had concluded this only after repeated close study of the tape—they weren't even aware of one another's existence as members of the same group. He further suspected that many of them—maybe most of them—didn't know what they were about to do

The conspirators had deliberately punished the bank" "Once fuller attention had been paid to the Worcester bank, a number of grave financial irregularities had surfaced. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of three Massachusetts state representatives and the jailing of four bank executives and the mayor of Worcester

Oscar Valparaiso had once imagined politics as a chess game. His kind of chess game. Pawns, knights, and queens, powers and strategies, ranks and files, black squares and white squares. Studying this tape had cured him of that metaphor. Because this phenomenon on the tape was not a chess piece. It was there on the public chessboard all right, but it wasn't a rook or a bishop. It was a wet squid, a swarm of bees (Swarming). It was a new entity that pursued its own orthogonal agenda, and vanished into the silent interstices of a deeply networked and increasingly Non Linear society

I'm going out," Oscar announced, "to assess the local situa-tion." Donna, his image consultant, brought Oscar a dress shirt. Oscar accepted silk braces, his dress hat, and his Milanese trench coat. As the stylist ministered to his shoes,...

Oscar Valparaiso had been Bambakias's chief political consultant. He had also been the campaign's Executive Director. From the spoils of victory, Oscar had swiftly won himself a new assignment. Thanks to rapid backstage string-pulling, Oscar had become a brand-new pol-icy analyst for the U.S. Senate Science Committee

Oscar possessed goals, a mission, options, tactics, and a future. The other campaign staffers lacked all these things. Oscar knew this. He knew all of these people only too well

He rode the motorbike with intense lack of phys-ical grace, as if trying to do algebra with his legs

It was always reassuring to see Fontenot. Fontenot was a former Secret Service agent, a security veteran of presidential caliber. Fonte-not knew American Presidents personally.

They need the money," Fontenot told him. "What?" Norman said. "The Air Force?" "Got no federal funding to pay their power bills at the local air base. Either they pony up, or the utility cuts 'em off." "The continuing Emergency

let's have a look anyway. I think I can smell an issue here. The Senator always likes issues

This local Governor is a real character, isn't he? A stunt like this . . . There must be better ways for a state politician to provoke the feds.

Green Huey is crazy. But he's the people's kind of crazy, these days. The State of Emergency, the budget crisis—it's no joke down here. People really resent it

Whoa. . . . You're the son of Logan Valparaiso!" Oscar nodded, restraining a sigh. A good netsearch program was guaranteed to puncture your Privacy, but you could never predict its angle of attack beforehand

The computer had spewed up a bit of Common Ground for them. It was a cheap stunt, a party trick, but like a lot of psychological operations (PsyOps) techniques, it worked pretty well. The three of them were no longer strangers

The films, though hugely popular, had been very bad. The later real-estate deals had been money-laundering cover for his father's Hollywood backers: émigré Colombian mafiosi

The officer looked up. "So you might call this an alternative, decentralized, tax-base scheme." Oscar glanced at Fontenot. "Can they do that?" "Sure, it's Do Able," Fontenot said. Fontenot was ex-Secret Ser-vice. The USSS had always been very up to speed on these issues.... The PR man laughed bitterly. "That's what the Governor likes to call it. . . . Look, this is just a standard Info War operation, the stuff we used to do overseas all the time.

Journalists certainly had their uses in the power game, but spooks had always struck him as a malformed and not very bright subspecies of political consultant

Fontenot looked at him. "You want to be Barnbakias's chief of staff in Washington." Oscar shrugged. "Well, I never denied that. Did I ever deny it?" "Stick with your Senate committee job, instead. You're a clever guy, and I think maybe you could accomplish something in Washing-ton

And besides," Fontenot mimicked, "there's your little personal background problem

Young people were a distinct minority in contemporary Amer-ica. Like most minorities, they tended to fraternize

They're stuck in the military, so they just don't think politically

They'd been repeatedly informed that they were in the state of Louisiana, but now they could feel that fact in their richly clotted bloodstreams

Since the age of six, he had customarily slept for about three hours a night... In his later life, Oscar had put his night-owl hours to further good use: first, the Harvard MBA. Then the biotechnology start-up, where he'd picked up his long-time accountant and finance man, Yosh Pelicanos, and also his faithful scheduler/receptionist, Lana Ramachandran.

Politics had become the new career. The challenge. The cause

He generally ended each day with a diary annotation (NoteBook), a summary of the options taken and important operational events

it was necessary to keep up a steady flow of news and counsel across the net. To be out of the Senator's sight might be very useful in some ways, but to drift out of his mind would be a profes-sional blunder

Oscar was prepared to tolerate their guide's bare and bony legs, and even his fusty beard. But it was hard to take a man entirely seriously when he lacked a proper hat

Oh, we never claim that we 'tame' animals here at the Collaboratory. He's been de-feralized. But he's not what you'd call friendly

The federal lab had been funded, created, and built in an age when recombinant DNA had been considered as dangerous as nuclear power plants. The dome of the Buna National Collaboratory had been designed to survive tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, a saturation bombing. "I've never been in a sealed environment so large it required its own map," Oscar said.

It was considered wise to thaw out a few bits from the tissue samples every once in a while, and to use these bits to produce full-grown organisms. This practice established that the genetic data was still viable. Generally, the resultant living creatures were also nicely photogenic. The clones were a useful public relations asset

Genuine wilderness generally bored him, but there was something very modern and appealing about this rational, urbanized, pocket version of nature

And Pelicanos cheered up. Oscar saw his spirits lift; it came across the man in a little visible wave

Pelicanos was an excellent organizer, a fine accountant, a book-keeper of near genius, and yet his personal life was an abysmal tragedy. Oscar found this intensely interesting. It appealed to the deepest ele-ment in Oscar, his ravenous curiosity about human beings and the tactics and strategies by which they could be coaxed and compelled to behave. Yosh Pelicanos made his way through his life seemingly just like any other man, and yet he always carried this secret half-ton bur-den on his shoulders. Pelicanos truly knew the meaning of devotion and loyalty... Oscar himself had no particular acquaintance with either devo-tion or loyalty, but he'd trained himself to recognize these qualities in others

Sosik's a professional. " "Yes, he is. And in his book, we're just beginners. But we're going to win this one anyway. You know how? It's going to be just like the campaign was. "First, we're going to lowball expectations, be-cause nobody will really believe that we have a serious chance here. But then we're going to succeed on such a level—we're going to exceed expectations to such a huge extent—we're gonna bring so much firepower onto this campaign that we just blow the opposition away

Here's the plan. We find the major players here, and we find out what they want, and we cut deals. We get our people excited, and we get their people confused. And in the end, we just out-organize anyone who tries to stop us. We just out--work them, and we swarm on them from angles they would never expect, and we never, ever stop, and we just beat them into the ground!"

The specimen stared back at him fearlessly, its bulging black eyes as blankly suggestive as a Ouija board. The de-feralization process, a spin-off of the Collaboratory's flourishing neural research, had left all the local animals in some strangely altered state of liquid Detachment

Oscar felt a very strong intuition that the ani-mal would take enormous pleasure in killing and eating him. This was the animal's primary impulse in their brief relationship. Somehow, it had lost the will (Will Power) to follow through

In rapidity and silence, his laptop collated a huge series of Collaboratory purchase orders with five years' worth of public-domain Texas arrest records. The results looked very intriguing

Young women nowa-days, they're much better at the new economy. They're really trained for personal image services. They like being in a krewe; they like dressing the principal and doing her hair and her shoes. They make a real career of service work

These scientists dress like slobs, because they can get away with that. (Signalling)

No-one could possibly dress that badly by accident

Donna was in a confessional mood. Oscar had sensed this. He generally made it a point to appear in the lives of his entourage whenever they were confessing

How is your ex-husband, Donna?" "He still thinks real people work nine-to-five jobs. He's an id-iot." She paused. "Also, he's fired, and he's broke

Oscar hotlinked back to the minutes of the Senate Science and Technology Committee for 2029. These sixteen-year-old volumes of committee minutes had the works on the original founding of the Buna National Collaboratory. Oscar felt quite sure that no one had closely examined these archives for ages. They were chock-full of hid-den pay dirt

I'm an American female in the fifty-to-seventy demo-graphic, so life never made any sense to me. Nothing ever turned out the way I was taught to expect. Ever since the economy crashed and the nets ate up everything. (Software Is Eating The World)

She'd come to know Oscar's basic routines, and was pleased to be out with him on one of his confidential walking conferences. Oscar was touched to see her being so streetwise—she kept glancing alertly over her shoulder, as if expecting to find them trailed by sinister operatives in black trench coats

He knows that this place re-quires a serious shaking-up. So, our agenda here is to provide him with what he needs for a real reform effort. We're laying the ground-work for his first legislative success.

I want to thank you for bringing that Louisiana matter to my attention. Those tapes you sent." Bambakias's resonant voice glided upward into its podium pitch. "That roadblock. The Air Force. Amazing, Oscar. Outrageous!"

Senator, nobody starves now-a-days. With food as cheap as it is, that's almost impossible.

But on the other hand, Bambakias's rhetoric clearly had merit. It sounded very strong and punchy. It was clear, it was quotable. It was a bit far-fetched, but it was very patriotic. One of the great beauties of politics as an art form was its lack of restriction to merely standard forms of realism

Tomorrow morning, I'm holding a net conference here in Cambridge. Lorena and I are declaring a hunger strike

Is it"—Oscar chose his words—"is it fully consonant with the dignity of the office?" "Look, I never promised the voters dignity. I promised them results.

There is a fallback option. . . . If a hunger strike doesn't get results, then we can start a convoy and lead our own rescue mission. We'll ride down to Louisiana and feed that air base ourselves

Of course a giant protest march is credible. A pro-military protest, that sounds great

Oscar had chosen to physically attend all of the Collaboratory board meetings. He had no plans to formally announce himself, or to take any part in the committee's business. He was attending strictly in order to be seen. To make sure that his ominous presence fully regis-tered, he brought with him his net administrator, Bob Argow, and his oppo researcher, Audrey Avizienis

We've poisoned the ocean, we've burned down and plowed the jungles, and we even screwed up the weather. All for the sake of modern life, right? Eight billion psychotic media-freaks!

It's every bit as bad as you say. It's worse than you say. Much worse. But this is the biggest bio-research center in the world. These people in front of us—these are the people who are in charge of this place. So you're at the front lines now. You're guilty all right, but you're nowhere near as guilty as you will be, if you don't shape up. Because we are in power and you are the responsible party now

It's an algorithmic landscape," Audrey said intently. "A Visualization map" "This is Sosik's simulation map for current public issues. These moun-tains and valleys, they're supposed to model current political trends. Press coverage, the feedback from constituents, the movement of lob-bying funds, dozens' of factors that Sosik fed into his simulator

"It's garbage," Argow grumbled. "Just because you have a cute Simulation doesn't mean you're actually connecting to political reality. Or to any kind of reality

They had noticed him and—Oscar realized this suddenly—they were all afraid of him. They knew that he had the power to do them harm. He had infiltrated their ivory tower and was judging their work. He was very new to them, he owed them nothing at all, and they were all guilty

He wasn't cruel by nature—but he knew that there were moments in the game that required direct and primal acts of intimidation. One of those moments had just arrived. (Alpha Dog)

What's going on? Why is Greta Penninger staring at you like that?"

Oscar had arranged a bus outing, a picnic for part of his krewe. It helped to maintain the thin fiction of "vacation," and it got them away from the fog of mechanical surveillance, and best of all, it offered some relief from the psychic oppression of the Collaboratory dome

The stove was made of disassembled oil barrels, heat-scorched tin sheeting, and brass-nozzled propane burners. It looked as if it had been welded into shape by Mardi Gras drunks

The town just doesn't have a proper place for us to stay; a place where we could entertain a visiting Senate committee, for instance. So, let's build our own hotel

That's definitely within our means and abilities. After all, that was always our best campaign tactic. The other candidates would throw rallies and photo ops, and try to work the media. But Alcott Bambakias could bring a campaign crowd together and assemble permanent housing

I saw that done ten times. I helped to do it, even. But I still can't get used to the concept. I mean, that big crowds of unskilled people can construct permanent housing.

I agree, distributed instantiation still has some shock value. It's made Bambakias very rich, but it's still a novelty down here. I like the idea of doing that work in East Texas. It'll show these local yokels what we're made of

Spelling it all out for them in black and white would only spoil their fun

Putting Alcott's blood sugar levels onto the net—that was bril-liant. People are logging on around the clock just to watch him starve!

Back when I had tatts and piercings, people got on your case if you ate fats and drank yourself stupid. Of course, that was before they found out the full awful truth about pseudo-estrogen poisoning." "Well," Oscar said companionably, "at least those massive pesti-cide disasters got us off the hook with that Diet And Exercise non-sense."

We may have to move soon," Fontenot said. "The Regulators have been rallying at the Alabama-Coushatta reservation, and their rally is coming through now. These local proles, they aren't tame

Oscar was deeply bothered by their Nomad laptops. They were using nonstandard keyboards, boards where QWERTYUIOP had been junked and the letters redesigned for efficient typing. The wretches didn't even type like normal people. Somehow this bothered him far more than the fact that these particular nomads were Mexican illegals.

Oscar was entranced by the Spectacle. These weren't the low-key dropouts of the Northeast, people who managed on cheap food and public assistance. These were people who had rallied in a horde and marched right off the map. They had tired of a system that offered them nothing, so they had simply invented their own

Clare said. ''I'm not doing Boston politics. Not anymore."

I'm really sorry that I was never able to . . . you know. . . quite get over your personal background thing

Oscar peeled a strip of tape from a yellow spool and wrapped the tape around a cinder block. He swept a hand-scanner over the block, activating the tape

"I'm a cornerstone," the cinder block announced. "Good for you," Oscar grunted. ''I'm a cornerstone. Carry me five steps to your left

Bambakias had created this construction system. Like all of the architect's brainchildren, his system was very functional, yet rife with idiosyncratic grace-notes. Oscar had full confidence in the system, a pragmatic faith won from much hands-on experience. Oscar had la-bored like a mule in many Bambakias construction sites. No one ever won the trust of Alcott Bambakias, or joined his inner circle, without a great deal of merciless grunt work

Bambakias had quite a number of unorthodox be-liefs, but chief among them was his deep conviction that sycophants and rip-off artists always tired easily

Oscar himself had grown up in Hollywood. He'd never minded the poseur elements in the Bambakias couple

In any case, the construction system made it all worthwhile. There was no pretense to the system—no question that it worked. Any number could play. It was a system that could find a working role for anyone. It was both a network and a way of life, flowing from its basis in digital communication and design into the rock-hard emer-gent reality of walls and floors. There was a genuine comfort in work-ing within a system like this one, because it always kept its promises, it always brought results

To the right," urged the block. "To the right, to the right, to the right. . . . To the left. . . . Move me backward. . . . Twist me, twist me, twist me .... Good! Now scan me

Oscar hated the plumbing, always the most troublesome construction element. Plumbing was a very old technology, not so plug-and-play, never so slick and easy as the flow of computation. Plumbing mistakes were permanent and ugly

Would you like to help?" This was a standard invitation at any Bambakias site. It was very much part of the game

You see that yellow ridge of tape across the knuckles? Those are embedded locators, so our construction sys-tem will always know the position of your hands

You should visit us in daylight, when we have the full krewe at work. It's the coordination of elements, the teamwork, that's the key to Distributed Instantiation (Daemon). The structure simply flies up all at once sometimes, as if it were crystallizing. That's well worth watch-ing

Red poppies, parsley, and mistletoe—he presumed she knew the flower code

I've noticed that the book-keeping at the Collaboratory is not in standard federal formats. There seem to have been some irregularities in supply

If I were casual about this, I wouldn't be here now." Oscar looked up in surprise. She stared back boldly. She'd done all this on purpose. She had her own agenda.

Romance in the sciences . . . 'The odds are good, but the goods are odd

The Senator's the man with the ideas and the message. I was just his campaign technician.

Hmmm. I know a lot of technicians. I don't know many technicians who are multimillionaires, like you are

Tell me something very frankly. Do you know about my personal background problem?

Well, to begin with, I'm an adopted child. Logan Valparaiso was not my biological father

Anyway, Logan was Method acting deep into the role, and he and wife number three had a solid relationship at the time, as Logan's marriages went, that is. So he decided that as a kind of combination personal-growth move and film-related publicity stunt, he was going to adopt a real victim child from a real embryo mill

So then they decided they would try to grow the embryos to term in vitro. They got a bunch of support vats together, but they weren't very good at it, because by this point, they'd already lost most of their working capital. Still, they got their hands on enough mammal-cloning data to give the artificial-womb thing a serious try with hu-man beings. So I was never actually born, per se

I had a full genetic scan done in Copenhagen, and it turned out that they'd simply lopped off most of the introns from the zygote DNA

The truth is that people have a prejudice against persons like me. I can take their point, too, frankly. I can run a political campaign and I can get away with that, but I don't think I'd ever actually vote for me. Because I'm not sure that I can really trust me. I'm really different. There are big chunks in my DNA that probably aren't even of human origin.

But he'd never seen a reaction like Greta Penninger's

You're always doing this. Why? I can't believe you got away with shacking up with that journalist

You can't keep getting away with this, cutting things close this way. It's like some kind of compulsion

Lana would come around. Lana always did. Dealing with him took her mind off her own troubles

Keep the herd moving. It was progress, it was doable

You have a security problem." "Yes?" "You've offended the Governor of Louisiana." Oscar shook his head rapidly. "Look, the hunger strike isn't about Governor Huguelet" "Don't be naive. Green Huey doesn't think the way you guys think. He's not some go-along get-along pol, who makes tactical deals with the opposition. Huey is always the center of Huey's universe. So you're for him, or you're agin him." "Why would Huey make unnecessary enemies? That's just not smart politics." "Huey does make enemies. He enjoys it. It's part of his game. It always has been. Huey's a smart pol all right, but he can be a one-man goon squad.

Huey learned plenty from Dougal, and he doesn't make Dougal's mistakes.

After someone's name reaches a certain level of annoyance, your program triggers automatic responses." Fontenot adjusted his straw hat. "The response is to send out automatic messages, urging people to kill this guy." (Daemon)

The problem came when our profile sniffers fell into the wrong hands .... See, there's a different application for that protective software. Bad people can use it to compile large mailing lists of dangerous lunatics. Finding the crazies with net analysis, that's the easy part. Convincing them to take action, that part is a little harder. But if you've got ten or twelve thousand of them, you've got a lotta fish, and somebody's bound to bite. If you can somehow put it into their heads that some particular guy deserves to be attacked, that guy might very well come to harm.

Somebody, somewhere, built some software years ago that automatically puts Green Huey's enemies onto hit lists

How many of those messages were mailed out, do you suppose?" "Maybe a couple of thousand? The USSS protective-interest files list over three hundred thousand people. A clever program wouldn't hit up every possible lunatic every single time, of course."

But nowadays, this just isn't a violent time anymore. It's just a very weird time. People don't fight real hard for anything in particular, when they know their whole lives could be turned inside out in a week flat. People's lives don't make sense anymore, but most people in America, the poor people espe-cially, they're a lot happier than they used to be. They might be pro-foundly lost, like your Senator likes to say, but they're not all crushed and desperate. They're just . . . wandering around

Once you're yesterday's news, the machines will just forget you." "I don't intend to become yesterday's news for quite a while, Jules." "Then you'd better learn how famous people go on living."

Strangely enough, the work really did become fun, in its own way; there was a rich sense of schadenfreude in fully sharing the sufferings of others. The system logged the movements of everyone's hands, cruelly eliminating any easy method of deceiving your friends while you yourself slacked off work. Distributed instantiation was fun in the way that hard-core team sports were fun

There were certain set-piece construction activities guaranteed to attract an admiring crowd: the tightening of tensegrity cables, for in-stance, that turned a loose skein of blocks into a solidly locked-together parapet, good for the next three hundred years. Bambakias krewes took elaborate pleasure in these theatrical effects. The krewe would vigorously play to the crowd when they were doing the boring stuff, they would ham it up. But during these emergent moments when the system worked serious magic, they would kick back all loose and indifferent, with the heavy-lidded cool of twentieth-century jazz musicians.

Constant morbid speculation on the subject of murder was enough to convince Oscar that he himself would have made an excellent assassin—clever, patient, disciplined, resolute, and sleepless. This painful discovery rather harmed his self-image.

Oscar was much safer under glass—but he could feel himself curtailed, under pressure, his life delimited by unseen hands. However, he still had one major field of counterattack. Oscar dived aggressively into his laptop. He, Pelicanos, Bob Argow, and Audrey Avizienis had all been collaborating on the chams of evidence

It was very clear to him that this man had no focused malice. The poor wretch had simply been hammered into his clumsy evildoing through a ceaseless wicked pelting of deceptive net-based spam

It was clear that he needed a safe house. And the safest area inside the Collaboratory was, of course, the Hot Zone.

Oscar was met by Greta's krewe majordomo, Dr. Albert Gazzaniga

If we could only get proper resources, there's no telling what we could accomplish here. Neuroscience is really breaking open right now, the same way genetics did forty years ago, or computers forty years before that.

Politics is the art of reconciling human aspirations

Have you ever heard of that old term 'Tenure'?" "No," Oscar said. "It was all too good to last," Greta said

So the Golden Age stopped when the First Cold War ended?" Oscar said.

*She nodded. "Once we'd won, Congress wanted to redesign American science for national competitiveness, for global economic warfare. But that never suited us at all. We never had a chance." *

Well, basic research gets you two economic benefits: Intellectual Property and Patent-s. To recoup the investment in R And D, you need a gentlemen's agreement that inventors get exclusive rights to their own discoveries. But the Chinese never liked 'intellectual property.' We never stopped pressuring them about the issue, and finally a major trade war broke out, and the Chinese just called our bluff. They made all English-language intellectual property freely available on their satellite networks to anybody in the world. They gave away our store for nothing, and it bankrupted us

Dutch appropriate-technology. . . . The Dutch have been going to every island, every seashore, every low-lying area in the world, making billions building dikes. They've built an alliance against us of islands and low-lying states, they get in our face in every international arena . . . . They want to reshape global scientific research for purposes of ecological survival. (Climate Change) They don't want to waste time and money on things like neutrinos or spacecraft. The Dutch are very troublesome."

What did the Golden Age get us? The public couldn't handle the miracles. We had an Atomic Age, but that was dangerous and poisonous. Then we had a Space Age, but that burned out in short order. Next we had an Information Age, but it turned out that the real killer apps for computer networks are social disruption and software piracy. Just lately, American science led the BioTech Age, but it turned out the killer app there was making free food for Nomads-! And now we've got a Cognition Age (Cognitive Science) waiting

Let me get this straight. You're dedicating your life to neural research, but you can't tell us what it will do to us?"

You can't make informed decisions about the social results of scientific advances. We scientists don't even really know what we know anymore

There's a lot of life in science—we've made some major historic discoveries, even in the past ten years." "Name some for me," Oscar said

Knowledge will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no knowledge.' You know, there might be something to that. I like the sound of it. That's very contemporary rhetoric

We're not some crowd of pious, sniveling, red-green Europeans trying to make the world safe for boutiques! We're not some swarm of Confucian Social Engineer-s who would love to watch the masses chop cotton for the next two millennia! We are a nation of hands-on cosmic mechanics (Hacker-s)!"

Oscar made no real effort to persuade Moira to stay on with his krewe. He'd thought the matter over carefully, and he couldn't accept the risk of keeping her around. Moira had grown fatally bored. He knew he could no longer trust her. Bored people were just too vulnerable

Strangely, the Collaboratory scientists seemed oblivious to the stark fact that their Director's post was at risk. The scientists weren't fully cognizant of their own situation, somehow—they would refer to their Power structure as "collegial assessment," or maybe the "succession process"—anything but "politics." But it was politics, all right. The Collaboratory seethed with a form of politics that dared not speak its own name

Oscar had devoted many fascinated hours to study of the scientific community and its weirdly orthogonal power structure. The genuine work of science struck him as sadly geekish and tedious, but he was always charmed by an arcane political arrangement. A scientist with many citations and discoveries had political power. (cf Open Source)

Greta Penninger. She was on the board already, which gave her legitimacy, and a power base of sorts. And she had an untapped constituency—the Collaboratory's ac-tual scientists. These were the long-oppressed working researchers, who did their best to generate authentic lab results while cordially ignoring the real world. The scientists had been cowering in the woodwork for years, while official corruption slowly ate away at their morale, their honor, and their livelihood. But if there was to be any chance of genuine reform inside the Collaboratory, it would have to come from the scientists themselves

It was as if science had sucked up everyone on the planet who was too bright to be practical

Poker was truly Oscar's game. He rarely failed to lose at poker

There was American cash around, flimsy plastic stuff, but most people wouldn't take American cash (Money) anymore. It was hard to take American cash seriously when it was no longer convertible outside U.S. borders. Besides, all the bigger bills were bugged

Oscar recognized the United States Senate as a strong and graceful structure built to last by political architects committed to their work. It was a system that he would have been delighted to exploit, under better circumstances

He knew it was his duty to confront and master modern political reality. Political reality in modern America was the stark fact that electronic networks had eaten the guts out of the old order, while never finding any native order of their own. The horrific speed of digital communication, the consonant flattening of hierarchies, the rise of net-based Civil Society (Network Society), and the decline of the industrial base had simply been too much for the American government to cope with and successfully legitimize

There would have to be a new Fourth Branch of government made up of nongeographical nets

The American people would just have to get over the fact that software no longer had any economic value

She stood up. "I'll tell you what I need, since you want to know so badly. I need a guy who's kind of cold-blooded and disposable, who won't kick up a big fuss. He has to want me in this completely shallow, obvious way. But you're not the kind of guy I want, are you. Not really."

Senator Bambakias taught me how to play Go. It's a core metaphor for his krewe, it's how we think. So if you want to mix with modern politicians and accomplish something, then you need to learn this game right away

They started a second game. Oscar was very serious about go. He played poker for social reasons, but he never threw a game of go.

Your laboratory was built by a politician who was deeply corrupt. Texas lost the space program when it shut down. They never quite made the big time in digital. So they tried very hard to move into biotech. But East Texas was the stupidest place in the world to build a genetics lab." "Huey declared all of Louisiana a free-fire zone for unlicensed DNA gumbo

That's the truly tragic part. You can't save an endangered species by cloning animals. I admit, it's better than having them completely exterminated and lost forever. But they're curios now, they walk around looking pretty, they've become collector's items for the ultra-rich. A living species isn't just the DNA code, it's the whole spread of genetic variety in a big wild population, plus their learned behaviors, and their prey and their predators, all inside a natural environment

Only two kinds of plants really thrive in today's world: genetically altered crops, and really fast-moving weeds. So our world is all Bam Boo and kudzu now.

She scowled. "What's option number two?" "Take power. A preemptive strike. Just take the place over, and root out everyone of those crooked sons of bitches

Look, I just want to work in my lab." "That's not an option

Oh, he's out. He left science, he's in banking now." "You're kidding. Banking? He won the Nobel Prize for medicine." "Oh, the Nobel doesn't count so much, since those Swedish bribery scandals

If you get famous, they just won't let you work anymore. They bump you up in the hierarchy, they promote you out of the lab, there's a million stupid distractions. Then it's not about science anymore. It's all about feeding your postdoc's children. (Management)

The band was playing classical string quartets. Typical Anglo ethnic music. It was amazing how many Anglos had gone into the booming classical music scene. Anglos seemed to have some innate talent for rigid, linear music that less troubled ethnic groups couldn't match

Crazy people with time on their hands can learn a lot of weird things on the net. But they're still crazy people, no matter how much they learn. They're not players, so they just don't count

Hello, Etienne," Greta said. "Hallo, petite!" To Oscar's intense annoyance, the two of them began speaking in rapid, idiomatic French

Without the services of Fontenot to scope out trouble and smooth his way, Oscar found travel difficult.

Green Huey had lost patience with the long-festering scandal. He was moving in for the kill. Attacking and seizing a federal air base with his loyal state militia would have been entirely too blatant and straightforward. Instead, the rogue Governor employed proxy guerrillas

Proles cheerfully grouped in any locale where conventional authority had grown weak. Whenever the net-based proles were not consistently harassed by the authorities, they coalesced and grew ambitious. Though easily scattered by focused crackdowns, they re-grouped as swiftly as a horde of gnats

These Louisianans were a powerful, ambitious, thriving countersociety, with their own clothing, their own customs, their own police, economy, and media. They could rather lord it over the nation's less-organized dissies, hobos, and leisure unions. They were known as the Regulators

Fontenot was out of the picture for good now; he had dumped his phone and laptop in a bayou and moved into his new shack with a boat and fishing tackle

You're on the road all the time. You're a nomad yourself, just like they are. You're a suit-Nomad.

You don't have any role for me. Or for any guys like me. Why are there millions of nomads now? They don't have jobs, man! You don't care about 'em! You don't have any use for 'em! You can't make any use for them

Man, that's the creepy part—they're a lot better organized than the government is. Organization is the only thing they've got! They don't have money or jobs or a place to live, but organization, they sure got plenty of that stuff. See, they're exactly like you are, man

The most remarkable of Washington's autonomen were the groups known as "martians." Frustrated by years of studied nonreaction to their crazy grievances, the martians had resolved to act as if the federal government simply didn't exist. The martians treated the entire structure of Washington, DC, as raw material

He gave Oscar a clip-on ID bracelet. The system was now logging Oscar's presence and his movements, along with everything else of relevance inside the building: furniture, appliances, tools, kitchenware, clothes, shoes, pets, and of course all the squatters themselves. The locators were as small as orange pips and as rugged as tenpenny nails, so they could invisibly infest any device that anyone found of interest. This universal tagging (Room Mate Ware) made the contents of the building basically theft-proof It also made communal property a rather simple proposition

The woman with the wheelchair tugged off her fright wig, re-vealing a neat set of cornrows. She then shrugged off her ragged caftan. Beneath it she wore a navy blue skirt, a blue vest, a silk blouse, and hose. Her three technicians began assembling a conference network on the welder-stained workbench

Nakamura was the Science Committee's longest-serving staffer. Nakamura had survived an astonishing number of purges

Lorena was a player to the bone, but she was manageable, usually. She was manageable as long as her advice was always heeded with unfeigned attention and a straight face, and as long as she knew that she held big cards. Anyone who knew about Oscar's personal background problem always assumed that they possessed a killer trump against him. This was all right. He had never placed Lorena in any situation where she would feel the need to play killer trumps

That's a lovely cabinet," Oscar said. "I've never seen responsive furniture done in a Federal Period idiom

"But it's not like his dirty proles can run a federal air base. His whole little state militia can't run a federal air base."

That's true, but now he has the data. Advanced avionics, chips, software, the orders of battle and such. . . . That's a military asset of the first order. If the feds push him again, he can push back with whole new sets of options

How was your first committee meeting, Oscar? I never asked. Were you brilliant?" "Oh, heavens no. They hate it when you're brilliant. Brilliance only makes them mulish. I just recited my facts and figures until they got very bored and logged off. By then, my chairman had all their voting proxies. So I asked him for a mile, and he gave me a hundred yards. But a hundred yards was all that I wanted in the first place. So my meeting was really successful. I have a much freer hand now

I never said a word about you and Bambakias." "Yes you did! You kept lifting your big black eyebrows at me

Oscar sometimes liked to imagine that he was brilliant under pressure, but that was a pretense. He wasn't brilliant. He was just extremely fast. He wasn't a Genius. He just burned more brightly, his internal chip-cycle ran a little faster

At times like this it always helped him to make a list (List Making). Not on a screen. With his own hands

Note: rational game strategy not possible when pieces are invisible, intangible, or immaterial

He had to do something. Just one thing. Get one single thing accomplished, put one issue finally away

If you'd just let me do the things I'm really good at, I wouldn't have to go through any of this!" Oscar smiled. "I bet that felt marvelous. Can we talk like adults now?" She snorted

Hamilton waved his cane. "The art of computing hasn't advanced in ten years! It can't move anymore, 'cause there's no commercial potential left to push it. The Euros have settled all the net protocols nice and neat, and the Chinese always pirate anything you publish

Things are so different here in Boston," she said. "Why?" "Politics," he said. "The ultra-rich run Boston. And Boston's rich people mean well—that's the difference. They have civic pride. They're patricians

Sosik rarely wore a hat, since he proudly sported a fine head of hair-—successfully treated male pattern baldness

Thirty-five people lived within the offices, Bambakias's professional krewe. It was both a communal residence (Commune) and a design center

Oh, these chairs of mine never caught on," Bambakias said, jamming one scrawny arm through the ruffled sleeve of his dress shirt. "For some reason, people just don't trust computation enough to sit on it

Well . . . Realism is a matter of opinion

This wasn't a game at all. It was no game. We weren't players. We'd all gone mad." There was an evil silence.

He spent a lot of time on the net with those Air Force people," the dresser told them meekly. "He really was almost there with them. Practically

No, that's where you are both totally wrong. I've ruined everything. I provoked a major crisis before I was even sworn into office. And now that I'm a stinking criminal just like the rest of them, I'll have no choice—from now on I'll have to play the game just the way they like it. And the Senate is a sucker's game

This whole business has been a tragic error from day one. The Emergency committee never meant to drop that air base. Their management and budget software was buggy. Nobody ever double-checked, because everything the stupid bastards do is an official emergency

We can't make politics work, be-cause the system's so complex that its behavior is basically random (Complex System). Nobody trusts the system anymore, so nobody ever, ever plays it straight

We've given up on the Republic. We've abandoned democracy. I'm not a Senator! I'm a robber baron, a feudal lord. All I can do is build a personality cult

You really think that the Senator is clinically depressed?" "Of course he is! It's obvious! He's crashed from starvation stress. And that myoclonic tremor in his hands—that's an overdose of neural appetite suppressants" "Your Senator has bipolarity

We could have used an honest, decent Senator to back the lab, for once. Obviously, Alcott's some-one who could really understand us. But now he's been destroyed, because he went head-to-head against Huey—a man who just chews up people like him. Politics always chews up people like him

I almost went to Europe myself, and then I thought . . . what the hell? You can Drop Out as a road prole and it's almost the same as leaving the country

You don't have tenure or job security. You've been robbed of your Peer Review traditions. Your traditional high culture has been crushed underfoot by ignoramuses and fast-buck artists. You're the technical intelligentsia all right, but you're being played for suckers and patsies by corrupt pols who line their pockets at your expense

You just think that this is the ivory tower, sweetheart. In reality, you're slum tenants.

But nobody thinks that way!" "That's because you've been fooling yourselves for years now. You're smart, Greta. You have eyes and ears. Think about what you've been through. Think about how your colleagues really have to live now. Think a little harder

She was silent for a moment. "Won't you miss me?" "How can I miss you? I'm managing you. You're the very center of my life now. You're my candidate

Well, nothing's ever enough. . . . Politics isn't precision machinery, it's a Performance Art. It's Stage Magic.

It's not just that their field is technically difficult to grasp. It is, but I also have a feeling they're hiding something

He looked up again to see the cowboy lose his hat. To his deep astonishment he recognized the assailant as his krewe gofer, Norman-the--Intern

You've been reading too many sabotage manuals. Proles can get away with urban NetWar, because they don't mind doing jail time. Proles have nothing much to lose—but you do. You came in there to shout her down and cover your own ass, but you lost your temper and destroyed your own career.

You'll get a lot of excitement and solidarity for about six weeks, and then they'll all get fired. They'll shut the whole place down and lock the gates in your face. Then you'll all turn into proles." "You really think so?" "Well, maybe not. Maybe basic research scientists are somehow smarter than computer programmers, or stock traders, or assembly-line workers, or traditional farmers. . . . You know, all those other people who lost their Profession-s and got pushed off the edge of the earth

Money just doesn't need human beings anymore" "Money's not a law of nature. Money's a medium. You can live without money, if you replace it with the right kind of computation. The proles know that. They've tried a million weird stunts to get by, road-blocks, shakedowns, smuggling, scrap metal, road shows. . . . Heaven knows they never had much to work with. But the proles are almost there now. You know how reputation servers (Reputation Graph) work, right?

It can work all right. The problem is that the organized-crime feds are on to the proles, so they netwar their systems and deliberately break them down. They prefer the proles chaotic, because they're a threat to the Status Quo. Living without money is just not the American way

His state government runs Regulator servers now. And they didn't over-run that air base by any accident. Huey's nomads really have what it takes now—no more of this penny-ante roadblock and wire-clipper nonsense. Now they've got U.S. Air Force equipment that's knocked over national governments. It's a silent coup in progress, pal. They're gonna eat the country right out from under you.

That was a fed bank, they were running cointelpro out of it. The word bubbled up from below, some heavy activists accreted, they wasp-swarmed the place. And once they'd trashed it, they all ducked and scattered. You'd never find any 'orders,' or anyone responsible. You'd never even find the software. That thing is a major-league hit-server. It's so far underground that it doesn't need eyes anymore

I did it for the trust ratings (Trust Metric). And because, well, they stank." Kevin's eyes glittered. "Because the people who rule us are spooks, they lie and they cheat and they spy. The sons of bitches are rich, they're in power. They hold all the cards over us, but they still have to screw people over the sneaky way. They had it coming

Look, we're not talking Geronimo here. The President is a billionaire timber baron who was Governor of Colorado.

*We are talking Geronimo, Oscar. Take away America's money, and you've got a country of tribes" (Tribal)

I want you to resign, and I need your help in establishing the new Director." "Greta Penninger." "No," Oscar said at once, "we both know that's just not Do Able." "Well, I'm not quite the helpless buffoon that you take me for! Penninger is the next Director. You and your scurvy krewe can sneak back to Washington

The abrupt departure of Dr. Felzian gave Oscar a vital window of opportunity. With the loss of his patron Bambakias, he had very little to fall back on. He had to seize the initiative

Greta's postindustrial action was a highly unorthodox "strike," (Labor Strike) because the strikers were not refusing to do their work. They were refusing to do anything except their work... The scientists were continuing their investigations, but they were refusing to fill out the federal paperwork. They refused to ask for grants, refused to pay rent on their barracks rooms, refused to pay for their food, refused to pay their power bills

All the Strike Committee's central members were also refusing their salaries

So, through this swift and unpredictable seizure of the tactical initiative, the Strike won a series of heartening little moral victories... Each successful step away from the status quo won Greta more adherents

However, the power vacuum was brief Oscar's own krewe was a group of political operatives who could easily have become a Senate staff. With a little bending and jamming, they slotted very nicely into place, and quietly usurped the entire operation. Oscar himself served as Greta's (very unofficial) chief of staff

He knew now that if he could simply keep the lab alive, solvent, and out of Huey's hands, he would have accomplished the greatest feat of his career

Like revolutionaries everywhere, they were discovering that every trifling matter was a moral and intellectual crisis

Part of the Southern U.S. radar boundary was run out of that Louisiana air base. Now that radar's gone, and there's a missing overlap between Texas and Georgia.

We can't ignore it. Huey won't let us. He's making real hay out of the issue. He says this proves that his Louisiana air base was vital to national security all along

A declaration of war would dissolve the Emergency committees by immediate fiat

You guys don't realize what you have here. You've got a perfect nomad rally-ground inside that lab. It's like you've roadblocked the place; you can do anything you want with it. Why don't you ask all the scientists in America to come down here and join you?"

If a million scientists showed up here and joined you, that wouldn't be just a strike anymore. It would be a revolution

Why do mobs always hate other mobs? Some-body stole somebody's girlfriend, somebody hacked somebody's phones. They're mobs. So they have no laws. So they have to feud with each other. It's Tribal. Tribes always act like that

If we let this situation spin out of control like Kevin is suggesting . . . Well, I actually suspect that it's possible. What Huey did to the Air Force, that proves that it's possible. But it's not doable, because there's no brakes

It is made of jelly! It's a neural watch!" she told him. "It's the only one in the world! We made it in the lab

There's no such thing as 'pure science.' 'Pure science' is an evil lie, it's a killer fraud, like 'pure justice' or 'pure liberty.' Desire is never pure, and the desire for knowledge is just another kind of desire

Now I know what power is, and my God, it's really good. It's changing me completely. I just want more and more

Your department has been through five reorganizations in four years. Your production record is, frankly, abysmal." "I'm not denying that," Chander said. "But it was sabotage"... "Electromotive power! My krewe and I were researching new power sources for the American transportation industry" "So you've created an AutoMobile engine that runs on sugar" "The real problem is that Detroit doesn't want our product. They won't put it into production

We have interlocking directorates all throughout the structure, raw materials, fuel, spare parts, the dealerships . . . . We can't get into the face of our fuel suppliers, telling them that we're replacing them with sugar water! We own our fuel suppliers! It'd be like sawing off our own foot" "Batteries (Battery) have the highest profit margin of any automobile component. We were making money there. You can't make real money anywhere else in our business" "We're required by federal fiat to invest in basic R&D. It was part of our federal Bail-Out deal. We're supposed to have trade protection, and we're supposed to catch our breath, and jump a generation ahead of our foreign competitors. But if we jump a generation ahead of the damn Koreans, our industry will vanish entirely

Science has never been the friend of commerce. The truth doesn't have any friends. Sometimes the interests of science and commerce can coincide for a little while, but that's not a marriage. It's a dangerous liaison

You need protection from the menace of basic research. Instead of paying federal scientists to march your industry right off the cliff, you should be paying scientists protection money not to research your business

Four miles from Buna they encountered a lunatic in a rusted rental car. He raced past them at high speed. The car then screeched to a halt, did a U-turn, and rapidly pulled up behind them, honking furiously" "Their pursuer stuck his head out the window of his car and waved. It was Kevin Hamilton" "Don't go into Buna!" Kevin yelled as he drew near. "It's hit the fan" "There's a counter-coup at the lab—they're trying to put us all away

I guess it's time for me to explain how I found you," Kevin said. "I bugged your shoes, Dr. Penninger" "And I wasn't the only guy on the job, either. Your shoes had six other bugs planted inside the heels and seams

So I get up from my laptop screen, and I check my real-life windows. Sheriff's department on the prowl outside, three AM. Not healthy" "Because what I just saw—that was a leadership decapitation. It's a classic cointelpro thing. A tribe that's making big trouble-they've gotta have a charismatic leader" "The word's out already about you two! You're a major scandal. You eloped together last night, and oh, by the way, while you were doing that, you somehow cleaned out the lab's treasury

So now, it's little me versus Green Huey, right? And who's gonna help me against Huey?

So then I thought of Senator Bambakias—he's an okay guy, I guess, and at least he's a real sworn-in Senator now, but he's somewhat insane at the moment." "just before I go, I think—what the hell, what have I got to lose? I'll call the President

I can tell you who's up at four AM, at the White House national security desk. It's this brand-new, young, military aide from Colorado

I don't think that a shooting war between state and federal spooks is what the President had in mind for his first day in office," Oscar said. "That's not a healthy development for American democracy" "Man, I never knew that I could just talk to the President! Y'know, I'm a prole, and a hacker, and a phone phreak. I admit all that. But when you get to be my age, you just get sick of outsmarting them all the time! You get tired of having to dodge 'em, that's all

So, man, do you know where we're going? Where is that?" "Where's the nearest big camp of Moderators?"

She forced him to share her personal hangover cure: six aspirin, four acetaminophen, three heaping spoonfuls of white sugar, and forty micrograms of over-the-counter lysergic acid. This melange, she insisted authoritatively, would "pep them up

The lab is bankrupt. It's bad. It's worse than bad. It's beyond mere bankruptcy. It's total financial wreckage, because all the lab's budgets and all the records are trashed. I've never seen anything like it. Even the backups have been targeted and garbaged. The system can't even add, it can't update, it churns out nonsense. It's a total financial lobotomy." "American military infowar viruses," Oscar said. "Huey's loot from the Air Force base."

No, Oscar, it's much, much worse than that. The Spin Off-s people were always Huey's favorite allies. They knew they were next up on Greta's chopping block, so last night they re-belled. The Spinoffs gang have launched a counterstrike

Huey's next moves are obvious, right? He's going to crash the Collaboratory just like he did the Air Force base" "We have to physically seize that facility. What we need at this juncture are some tough, revolutionary desperados." Oscar drew a breath. "So let's drive into this flea market and hire ourselves some goons

Kevin bought four sets of Ear Clip-s from a blanket vendor. "Here, put these on" "Somewhere a system was mapping out the flow of people, and controlling them with these gentle hints. (Daemon)

But this was not the strange part. The strange part was that brand-new nomad manufacturers were vigorously infiltrating this jungle of ancient junk

Where there had once been employees, there were jobless fanatics with cheap equipment, complex networks, and all the time in the world

Look, I was the head of the Instrumentation Department. If they're giving away protein sequencers, I really need to know about that

Scratch a scientist, find a hardware junkie

Kevin was sitting and chatting with a man he introduced as "General Burningboy". "I got some excellent career advice for you overachievers. Why don't you clowns just give up? Just quit! Knock it off, hit the road

Listen, it's not too late for you two to get a life! You're derelicts right now, but you could be bon vivants, if you knew what life was for

We used to get along with the Regulators. They're a civilized tribe. But those Cajun goofballs got all puffed up about their genetic skills, and their state support from Green Huey. . . . Started bossin' other people around, doing talent raids on our top people

Do these men have the discipline that it takes to maintain civil order in that facility?" Oscar said. "They're not men, pal. They're teenage girls. We used to send in our young men when we wanted to get tough, but hey, young men are extremely tough guys. Young men kill people. We're a well-established alternative society, we can't afford to be perceived as murdering marauders. These girls keep a cooler head about urban sabotage. Plus, underage women tend to get a much lighter criminal sentencing when they get caught

Their platoons were split into operational groups of five, coordinated by elderly women"... "Once the buses and their soldiery had successfully made it through the eastern airlock gate, the assault on the Collaboratory was a foregone conclusion. Oscar watched in numb astonishment as the first platoon ambushed and destroyed a police car

I never liked you," Karnes said. "I never trusted you. But somehow, you always seem like such a reasonable guy" "I know things seem a little disordered now, Chief: but I still believe in the law. I just have to find out where the order is

Kevin nodded eagerly. "We still need our troops, Oscar. We have a gang of dangerous Huey contras who are holed up in the Spinoffs building. We have to break them right where they stand

Overreaction would be a serious mistake. From now on, we have to worry about how this plays in Washington." Greta's long face went bleak. "Oh, to hell with Washington! They never do anything useful. They can't protect us here. I'm sick of them and their double-talk

I need some time off," Oscar realized. "Maybe a nice long nap. It's really been a trying day

He searched for a place to hide. An obscure equipment closet would be ideal. There was just one more little matter, before he relaxed and came fully apart at the seams. He needed to have his laptop. That was a deeply comforting thought to Oscar: retreating into a locked closet with a laptop to hold. It was an instinctive reaction to unbearable crisis; it was something he had been doing since the age of six.

Governor, why have we come to this? Why are you trying so hard to outsmart me? We're both very smooth operators. We're out-smarting ourselves out of all sense and reason

Why'd you even pick on him?" "He was the only one who was willing to hire me to run a Senate campaign," Oscar said

Huey barked with astonished laughter. "What? Who do you take me for, Mao Zedong? I don't need any brainwashed robots! I need smart people, all the smart people I can get! You just don't understand!"... "So what am I missing, exactly?" "You're missing me, boy, me! I love my state!

You won't need a 'comb," Kevin said. "The President's calling on a head-mounted display (HUD)

Well, he can't have that facility." "No sir?" "No, he can't have it—and neither can you. Because it belongs to the country, dammit! What the hell are you up to? You can't hire Moderator militia and overpower a federal lab! That is not in your job description! You are a campaign organizer who has a patronage job. You are not Davy Crockett

You cannot pull a stunt like the one you just pulled and call yourself a congressional staffer. Forget the Senate, and forget your poor friend the Senator. You are a Pirate. The only way you can survive this situation is if you join my National Security staff. So, that's what you'll have to do. From now on, you'll be working for your President. You will be reporting to me. Your new title will be—NSC Science Adviser."

Once checked into the Collaboratory clinic, Oscar got the reaction he always received from medical personnel: grave puzzlement and polite distress. He was exhibiting many symptoms of illness, but he couldn't be properly diagnosed, because his metabolism simply wasn't entirely human

Oscar swiftly discovered that he was not, in fact, the National Security Council's official Science Adviser" "Besides, there were distinct advantages to his questionable status. De-spite the humiliations, Oscar was now far more powerful than he had ever been before. Oscar had become a spook. Spookhood was doable

The Moderators had to be dissuaded from wrecking and sacking the facility. Oscar finessed this through the simple gambit of informing the Moderators that they now owned the facility

was a misconception to imagine that the Moderators were merely violent derelicts. The roads of America boasted a great many sadly desperate people, but the Moderators were not a mob of hobos. The Moderators were no longer even a "gang" or a "tribe." Basically, the Moderators were best understood as a nongovernmental network organization (NGO)

The proles considered themselves the only free Americans. Nomadism had once been the linchpin of human existence;"... "NomAd-s were an entire alternate society for whom life by old-fashioned political and economic standards was simply no longer possible

Now it was clear to him that the proles were a source of real power, and as far as he knew, there was only one American politician who had made a deliberate effort to recruit and sustain them. That politician was Green Huey.

So—as Oscar explained to the Emergency Committee—it was a question of symbiosis. And symbiosis was doable

Yosh, just forget the red ink for a minute. We don't have to 'afford them.' They are affording us. They can feed and clothe us, and all we have to do is share our shelter and give them a political cover. That's the real beauty of this Emergency, you see? We can go on here indefinitely

This just isn't going to work," Greta said. "We don't even speak the same language. We have nothing in common." She pointed dramatically.

Just look at that laptop he's carrying! It's made out oj straw.

Why am I the only one who sees the obvious here?" Oscar said. "You people have amazing commonalities. Look at all that no-mad equipment—those leaf grinders, and digesters, and catalytic cracking units. They're using biotechnology. And computer networks, too. They live off those things, for heaven's sake" "Greta's face hardened. "Yes but ... not scientifically." "But they live exactly like you live—by their reputations. You are America's two most profoundly noncommercial societies. Your societies are both based on reputation, respect, and prestige" "What do you want out of life, besides a chance to hang out in your lab and look down on the rest of us? Quit being such a pack of sorry weasels—do something big, you losers! Take a chance, for Christ's sake. Act like you matter

Tree-spikes, which ruined saw blades, were common enough for radical Greens; but these spikes contained audio bugs and cellphone repeaters. They could be hammered deep into trees, and they would stay there forever, and they would listen, and they would even take phone calls. They had bizarre little pores in them so that they could drink sap for their batteries

Then I want you to explain to me how a telephone runs on wet jelly," Gazzaniga said. "You know something? These spikes sure look a lot like our vegetation monitors." "It was all invented here," Oscar said. "This is all Collaboratory equipment. You've just never seen it repackaged and repurposed."

The tone of that meeting changed totally when you had that goon brought in. I wonder what they'd have done if he'd told 'em that we caught him two days ago."... "You see, talking Common Sense to scientists just doesn't work. Scientists despise common sense, they think it's irrational. To get 'em off the dime, you need strong moral pressure, something from outside their expectations

Did you ever wonder why I've never moved against Huey's people inside this lab? Why they're still inside there, holding the Spinoffs building, barricaded against us? It's because we're in a NetWar. We're just like a group of go-stones

Do you really believe any of that junk?" "No, I don't believe it in the way that I believe that two and two are four. But it's doable, it's my working Metaphor. What can politicians ever really 'know' about anything? History isn't a laboratory. You never step in the same river twice. But some people have effective political insight, and some just don't."

Oscar knew that the situation had stabilized when a roaring sex scan-dal broke out" "Oscar found the scandal a very cheering development. It meant that the conflict between the Collaboratory's two populations had broken through to a symbolic, psychosexual, politically meaningless level

He was eager to brief Pelicanos on the fascinating social differences he had discovered between the Regulators and the Moderators. To the undiscerning eye, the shabby and truculent proles could not be distinguished with an electron microscope—all their real and genuinely striking differences were inherent in the architecture of their network software (Governance)

Pelicanos sat down and knotted his hands. "You know what your problem is? Every time you lose sight of your objective, you redouble your efforts

The proles are worse even than the Left Progressives. They have funny slang, and funny clothes, and laptops, and bio-tech, so they're colorful, but they're still a Mafia

What about your krewe, Oscar? What about the rest of us? You're a great campaign manager: you really have a gift. But this is not an election campaign. It's not even a strike or a protest anymore. This is a little coup d'etat. You're like a militia guru in a secessionist compound here. Even if the krewepeople agree to stay with you, how can you put them at that kind of risk? You never asked them, Oscar

those evil fools who somehow believe that mental illness is a glamorous, romantic thing. They think that going mad is some kind of spiritual adventure. It isn't. Not a bit of it. It's horrible. It's banal

Oscar, what are you really doing over there? It seems like a very strange thing. I don't think it's in the interests of the Federal Democrats. It's not a sensible reform, it's not like what we had in mind." "That's true—it's certainly not what we had in mind

Oscar began the liquidation of his fortune. Without Pelicanos to manage his accounts and investments, the time demands were impossible. And, on some deep level, he knew the money was a liability now

Resignations followed immediately. They took departure pay and left his service" "This left Oscar with just four diehard hangers-on

Oscar had some acquaintance with the lieutenant colonel through his NSC connections. Having finally met the man in person, he swiftly realized that the colonel was a clear and present danger to himself and every human being within firing range

It was, of course, of no use. The lieutenant colonel, and his men, and his impressionable, airborne war correspondents, left on dawn patrol the next morning. Not a single one of them was ever seen again

Oscar was pained to see Burningboy abandoning him. It seemed so unnecessary. Burningboy, who had been drinking heavily, took Oscar aside and explained his motives in pitiless detail. It all had to do with Social Network structure

Well, that's why I'm going to jail now. We Moderators have a kinda pet state magistrate out in New Mexico. He's willing to put me away on a completely irrelevant charge." "You're not telling me that you're actually going to prison, Burningboy." "You should try it, amigo. It's the ultimate invisible American population. Prisons have everything that interests you. People with a lot of spare time. Weird economics, based on drugs and homemade tattoos. There's a lot of time to think seriously

If you change hundreds of people's lives, you ought to pay a stiff price for that. Just to, you know, keep everybody from tryin' it. So I'm doing the honorable thing here. My people understand about prison

You know how hard it is to fully debug a facility? It's technically impossible, that's how hard

When they want to take action, they take actions that matter to them. The other proles, that's who matters. They're like tribes who are wandering through an enormous hostile desert made of your laws and money. But the Moderators hate the Regulators

So that's why Burningboy helped you. And that's why he's getting out now, while the getting is good. He set a trap for the other side, and to his eyes, we're just poisoned bait

Sure, I'm keeping order for you. But it's not law and order, Oscar. There's order, but there is no law. We let things get out of control. We let it get all emergent and unpredictable. We let it fall back to AdHoc. I'm keeping order here because I'm a secret tyrant. I've got everything but legitimacy. I'm a spy and a usurper, and I have no rules (Rule Of Law). I have no brakes. I have no honor

Haitian refugees. You get me? A camp for Haitians" "It's something lots weirder than that. Huey's done something strange to those people. Drugs, I think. Genetics maybe. They are acting weird. Really weird

It occurred to him suddenly that he deeply enjoyed this part of a relationship. Women always seemed more interesting to him as objects of negotiation than they were as lovers or partners. This was a sinister self-revelation. He felt very contrite about it

I'm guilty because I know it's going to work. Talking with those Moderators for so long ... I really understand it now. Science truly is going to change. It'll still be 'Science.' It'll have the same intellectual structure, but its political structure will be completely different. Instead of being poorly paid government workers, we'll be avant-garde dissident intellectuals for the dispossessed

We don't get to be government functionaries who can have all the money we want just because we give the government a lot of military-industrial knowledge. That's all over now. From now on we're going to be like other creative intellectuals. We're going to be like artists or violin-makers, with our little krewes of fans (True Fan) who pay attention and support us

The Teche was getting bad algae blooms, almost as bad as that giant Dead Spot in the Gulf. So, they cobbled together these vacuum-cleaner fish. Big old channel catfish with tilapia genes. Them lunkers get big, bro. Damn big. I mean to say, four hundred pounds with eyes like baseballs. See, lunkers are sterile. Lunkers do nothin' but eat and grow

They're working on the water hyacinth, they've brought back some black bear and even cougar. It's not ever gonna be natural, but it's gonna be real doable. (Re-Wilding)

They had a minister, back in the old country, doing his Moses free-the-people thing. So of course the regime had the guy shot" "But Huey . . . well, Huey takes it real personal when charismatic leaders get shot. Huey's into the French diaspora. He tried twisting the arm of the State Department, but they got too many emergencies all their own. So one day, Huey just sent a big fleet of shrimp boats to Haiti, and picked them all up.

These people were engaged in an ancient peasant round of pre-industrial agriculture. They were literally living off the land—not by chewing up the landscape and transmuting it in sludge tanks, but by gardening it with hand tools. These were strange, nuseumlike activities

the Dutch have been trying that for years. Everybody in the advanced world thinks they can reinvent peasant life and keep tribal people ignorant and happy. Appropriate-tech just doesn't work. Because peasant life is boring

The deal is this: that old man was thinking of two things at once." "What do you mean?" Kevin said. "I mean that it's a neural hack

Huey's a great man, and he's a visionary, but Huey is around the bend. He's not just your standard southern-fried good-old-boy megalomaniac anymore. Now I know the full truth. These Haitians? They were just his proof of concept. Huey's done something weird to himself. Something very dark and neural

Before Huey came along, the mosquitoes were kicking our ass. Mosquitoes love the Greenhouse future" "He sent out the fogger trucks. Not insecticide, not that poison gas like before—DDT and toxins. That screwed up everything—not doable, everybody knows that. But Huey figured it out—he didn't gas the bugs, he gassed the people. With airborne antibodies. They're like breathable vaccinations. The people of Louisiana are toxic to mosquitoes now

serious difficulties pressed at the Collaboratory. Morale was cracking among the civilian support staff. None of them were being paid anymore. None of the support staff enjoyed the prestige and glamour of the scientists

It didn't take genius to understand that civil order in East Texas was being deliberately undermined by Green Huey

The military crisis was distorting the odd underpinnings of the Regulator attention--economy. Violent hotheads were vaulting through the ranks by their daring attacks on Moderators

The PR attack on Huey was badly handled, amateurish, graceless even. But it was lethal. Huey had laughed off many other scandals, sidestepped them, passed the buck, silenced his critics, suborned them. But this scandal was beyond the pale. It was all about invisible, help-less, rootless people, deliberately driven out of their minds as an industrial process. That was just a little too close to home for most Americans. They couldn't live with that

They're gonna out you as a bolt-in-the-neck monster. People are gonna Frankenstein you! You're gonna be barbecued by a torch-wielding mob

A closer analysis showed that the "Civil Defense Intelligence Agency" was the Moderators. The CDIA was a gigantic prole gang with the direct backing of the nation's chief executive

This was a classic political coalition: it had worked in medieval France. It was the long-forgotten bottom of the heap, allied with the formerly feeble top, to scare the hell out of the arrogant and divisive middle

The CDIA lacked the legal power to arrest anyone, so they pursued Emergency committee members with nonviolent "body pickets." These were armbanded bursars who methodically stalked committee members for twenty-four hours a day. This tactic was not difficult for a prole group

A new era was clearly at hand. America's Emergency was truly and finally over. The War was on. Oscar followed these developments with great professional care, and reacted to catch the popular tide. He had Greta formally declare the Emergency over at the Collaboratory. There was no more Emergency. From now on, it was Wartime

I certainly don't see why we have to imitate his radical, bully-boy tactics." "Greta, the President is imitating us. That is exactly what we did, right here. The President is doing it because you and I got away with doing it

But the Collaboratory was beginning to resemble a giant subway. The ideal solution was to build more shelter. The Moderators, in uneasy symbiosis with the feds, set up tents on the Collaboratory's spare ground outside the dome. Oscar would have liked to build annexes to the Collaboratory. Bambakias's emergency design plans suggested some quite astonishing methods by which this might be done. The materials were available. Manpower was in generous supply. The will to do it was present. But there was no money

They had proved that the business of science could run on sheer charisma for a while, a life powered by sheer sense of wonder, like some endless pledge drive. But people were still people; they ran out of charisma, and the sense of wonder ate its young. The need for Money was always serious, and always there

They could only wait. The situation was out of their hands. They were no longer masters of their own destiny, they no longer held the initiative

there was a battery of specialized, short-range, surface-to-surface missiles in that Air Force base" "The first missile overshot the Collaboratory dome and landed in the western edge of Buna. A section of the city the size of four football fields was soaked with caustic black goo

By ten AM, a lab study of the black tar had revealed that it was paint

The CDIA's raid across Louisiana's border was canceled, because the missile battery had been moved. Worse yet, twenty new dummy missile batteries had suddenly appeared in its place: on farms, in towns, roaming on shrimp trucks, all over Louisiana

Hundreds of people spontaneously arrived in Buna, anxious to scrape up paint and sniff it

The Collaboratory was airtight. It was safe from gas; but it couldn't hold everyone. The obvious answer was to launch an architectural sortie. The fortress should be extended over the entire city

For their own part, the techies of the Collaboratory flew into a strange furor over the plans of Alcott Bambakias. The scientists were long-used to the security of their armored dome, but it had never occurred to them that the rigid substance of their shelter might become cheap, smart, and infinitely distensible networks. This was architecture as airtight ephemera: structure like a dewy spiderweb: smart, hypersensitive, always calculating, always on the move. There seemed to be no limit to the scale of it. The dome could become a living fluid, a kind of decentered, membranous amoeba

They hit the Collaboratory dead on—it was a large target—and splattered the glass sky with black muck. The dome's interior light became dim and scary, the temperature dropped, the plants and animals suffered...

People didn't fear or hate him the way they feared and hated Huey. He was both a politician and a monster, and yet people, in an odd and marginal way, had come to sympathize with him

The place was an intellectual magnet for every species of dreamer, faker, failed grad student, techie washout, downsized burnout; every guru, costumed geek, ditzy theorist, and bug collector; every microscope peerer, model-rocket builder, and gnarly simulationist; every code-dazed hacker, architectural designer; everyone, in short, who had ever been downgraded, denied, and excluded by their society's sick demand that their wondrous ideas should make commercial sense

Now the smart money had it that the War would soon be folded up and put away. The smart money took the unlikely personage of Alcott Bambakias. The junior Senator from Massachusetts had chosen this moment to make a long-expected tour of the Buna National Col-laboratory

That isn't 'nomad architecture.' It's ultrascale emergency relief." "That's an interesting distinction, Alcott, but let me just put it this way: it's nomad architecture now

Oh yes, instincts," Bambakias said. "Instincts are wonderful. You can live off instincts, as long as you don't plan to live very long. How long do you expect all this to last, Oscar?"

You know, developments here remind me of the Internet. That old computer network, invented by the American scientific community. It was all about free communications. Very simple and widely distributed—there was never any central control.

I mean they don't have any way to properly deal with the rest of society. They don't even have proper ways to deal with each other. They have no Rule Of Law. There's no Constitution. There's no legal redress

They also brought along the new senatorial press secretary in the krewe; and the new press secretary was Clare Emerson

Oscar sighed. "I just don't believe you, Clare. I'm a smooth talker and I know how to please, but as a male specimen, I'm just not that overwhelming" "Then it's the President, isn't it?" Her face went stiff

Then there was big news on the War front. The Dutch were giving up" "He commandeered domestic airlines by executive order. There were swarms of American troops in every Dutch airport by morning

This epoch was to be henceforth known as the Return to Normalcy. Like a sorcerer slamming swords through a barrel, the President began to bloodlessly reshape the American body politic.

The Normalcy manifesto was a rather astonishing twenty-eight point document. It stole the clothes of so many of America's splintered political parties that they were left quite stunned

A constitutional amendment was offered to create a new Fourth Branch of government for American citizens whose "primary residences were virtual networks

There was also a new national health plan, more or less on a sensible Canadian model. This would never work. It had been put there deliberately, so that the President's domestic opposition could enjoy the pleasure of destroying something

Huey resigned his office as Governor

The gawkers, and the fakers, and the most easily distracted trendies, began to realize that a glamorous, noncommercial, intellectual-dissident Greenhouse Society was simply not for everyone. Living there was going to involve a lot of work. The mere fact that money was not involved did not signify that work was not involved; the truth was the exact opposite

I took the plunge and I wasn't afraid to do it, because when it's all said and done, you have one huge, final, saving grace. Because you're temporary. You're not my destiny. You're not my prince. You're just a visitor in my life, a traveling salesman

We'll put down roots." "We don't have roots. We're network people. We have aerials

Something is going to work here. Something of it will last. But it's not a whole new world. It's just a new Political System.

We'll drop off the net, we'll use pens and candlelight. We'll really, seriously concentrate, without any distractions at all. We'll write a Constitution

Moira came to my office. She brought me a brand-new air filter. She was very nice"... "Oscar had been slowly and gently poisoned as he was making the speech of his life. This foul realization sent him into a towering animal rage. This reaction revealed yet another remarkable quality of his poisoned brain. He could literally think of two things at once; but it stretched him so thin that he had very little impulse control

See, I just lost track. That's all. Just plain couldn't keep up with it all. All these Boston krewepeople, and former krewepeople, and krewepeople of the former krewepeople; look, nobody could keep track of that crap. Hell, I don't even know if I'm your krewepeople anymore" "I get the picture, Kevin. That's a by-product of what's basically a semifeudal, semilegal, distributable-deniable, net-centered segmented polycephalous influence sociality process

Did you know that you actually have two different voices when you say contradictory stuff like that? I

I mean, that Holland has so much potential. I mean, we own Holland now, basically, don't we?" "Yes, that's right. You see, Holland is the new Louisiana

Well, it's a random phone, man. It's a big state. Huey can't be tapping every last one of 'em." Two hours later they were arrested on a roadside by Louisiana state police

They gave up easy because they planned that whole damn gambit from the get-go

I could have spread a new cognition on a massive scale. In fact, I'm still gonna do that—I'm gonna make the people of this state the smartest, most capable, most creative people on God's green earth

You'll be doin' just exactly what you did before. But instead of just fast--talkin' people into a new way of life—hell, words never stick any-how—you can blast 'em into it. When you do that to 'em, they don't go back, son. Just like you're never going back

Hey, Huey! Give it up, dude! I know this guy. You'll never make him happy! He doesn't know what the word means! You can't get away with this, man—you've made him twice as bad

And the best of all, boy—is when you get two good trains of thought going, and they start switch-ing passengers. That's what intuition is all about—when you know things, but you don't know how you know. That's all done in the preconscious mind—it's thought that you don't know you're thinking. But when you're really bearing down, and you're thinking two things at once—ideas bleed over. They mix. They flavor each other. They cook down real rich and fine. That's inspiration. It's the finest mental sensation you'll ever have

it bothers me to see foreign troops stationed in the capital of the United States" "But the Dutch will clean the streets if it takes ten years

We need a massive shake-out and total political reconsolidation

are you Left Wing, or Right Wing?" "I'm Down Wing, Oscar. I have my feet on the ground, and I know where I stand. Everyone else can be Up Wing. They can all be up in the air, scattering crazy, high-tech, birdbrained ideas, and the ones that fall to ground without shattering, those will belong to me." "Mr. President, I congratulate you on that formulation

This is your role. You will be a White House congressional liaison to interface with the current party structure. You'll shake the radicals and crazies out, and agglomerate them into the up-wing." "I'm not down-wing, sir?" "Up-wing is crucially important to the game plan. The up-wing has to be brilliant. It has to be genuinely glamorous. It has to be visionary, and it has to almost make sense. And it has to never, ever quite work out in Real Life

You can't trust abstract mathematics, sir; it always turns out to be practical." "Computer simulation, then. Extremely, extremely time-consuming, complex, and detailed simulations that never do any harm to reality." "I think that's a lot more likely to produce your intended result, sir, but frankly, no one in the sciences takes Cybernetics seriously any-more

I'm glad that I know the truth now. It's a shattering truth that just destroyed every ambition I have ever had, but I'm glad that I know the truth. It's the highest value I have, as the person that I am, and I won't surrender it. I don't want your job

The Mississippi River had cut New Orleans in half, but if anything, the flooding had added to the city's raffish charm. The spectral isolation of the French Quarter was only intensified by its becoming an island; there was an almost Venetian quality to it, intensified by the gondolas

Did I tell you that I had a cellular cleansing done?" "It all felt very normal. Very fiat. Like living in black and white. I had to go back again, I don't care anymore, I just had to."

I can run a business full-time while I work full-time for legalization." "So you're nuking money again." "Yes, it's a thing I tend to do." Oscar sighed. "It's the basic American way. It's my only real path to legitimacy. With serious money, I can finance candidates, run court challenges, set up foundations. It's no use wandering around the margins with our bears and tambourines, dancing for pennies

I've had affairs with three different women since last August. I used to line my women up one at a time. I can't manage that anymore. Now I multiplex them

You haven't ever made me happy. You've just made me complicated. I'm very complicated now. I've become the kind of woman who flies to Mardi Gras to meet her lover

Well, maybe I get the credit." She smiled. "I didn't mean to make him happy. Science gets the credit for things science never meant to do. Science isn't a better effort just because it sometimes helps humanity.

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