Drop Out of the Privileged Middle Class and Make Trouble

Excerpt from the novel The Making of a Counter Culture icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Theodore Roszak icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

Theodore Roszak's "The Making of a Counter Culture" book cover. [Formatted]


     In fact, it seems to me quite possible that the 1960s represented the last burst of the human being before he was extinguished. And that this is the beginning of the rest of the future, and that from now on there will simply be all these robots walking around, feeling nothing, thinking nothing. And there will be nobody left almost to remind them that there was once a species called human being, with feelings and thoughts. And that history and memory are right now being erased, and that soon no one will really remember that life existed on the planet.

Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory,
My Dinner With Andre (1981)

     History is not sensibly measured out in decades. The period of upheaval we conventionally call “the sixties” is more appropriately seen within a broader setting that stretches from 1942 to 1972. These dates too are arbitrary, but they define with somewhat greater accuracy a remarkable period in American history. Let us call it the Age of Affluence.
     The year 1942 marks the point at which the United States finally emerged from the Great Depression. That transition was embodied in Franklin Roosevelt’s landmark announcement of the new wartime economic order. “Dr. New Deal has retired,” FDR proclaimed. “He has been replaced by Dr. Win the War.” In the brief three and a half years that followed, all the grim antagonisms and oppressive necessities of the depression rapidly melted from the scene. Corporate leaders who had spent the past dozen years vilifying FDR as a “traitor to his class” now flocked to Washington as “dollar-a-year men” in return for bulging, cost-plus military contracts. By the time the war was over, the entire industrial plant of the United States had been rebuilt from the ground up to become the world’s only state-of-the-art technological establishment. A new skilled workforce had been trained and booming new industries (electronics, chemicals, plastics, aerospace) had been born. Unscathed by the damage that other nations had suffered in the war, the United States had no economic rivals. It had emerged from the war as king of the world industrial mountain, so vastly wealthy that it could afford to export the capital needed to revive the European and Japanese economies that would one day become its major competitors.
     Move forward a generation to 1972 and we find ourselves in the midst of the oil shortages that hit America where it hurt the most—in the pocketbook via the gas tank. However it was engineered, the gasoline-pump crisis represented the first sighting by the general public of any advanced industrial society of a serious ecological constraint. An unsettling lesson was about to be learned: Things deplete. You can’t have it all. The sky is not the limit; the earth is.
     What I have called “the counter culture” took shape between these two points in time as a protest that was grounded paradoxically not in the failure, but in the success of a high industrial economy. It arose not out of misery but out of plenty; its role was to explore a new range of issues raised by an unprecedented increase in the standard of living. For a period of some twenty years the world’s most prosperous industrial society became an arena of raucous and challenging moral inquiry the likes of which we may never see again—at least not if those whose wealth, power, and authority are at stake have anything to say about it.
     During the mid to late sixties, I was living in England editing a small, radical pacifist journal. The publication was closely connected with the great Aldermaston disarmament marches that were calling for an end to the arms race, which most European protesters were prepared to blame primarily on the United States. The early sections of this book were written and sent home as articles for The Nation while I participated in a characteristic experiment of the period: the founding of a turbulent, short-lived “Antiuniversity of London” where transient students arrived with little more to their names than guitars, begging bowls, and a stash a magic mushrooms to study the teachings of Timothy Leary, anarchist politics, and Tantric sex. I mention this as a reminder that the upheaval of those years was more than an American phenomenon; it extended to western Europe. Living abroad in so intense and often anti-American a political ambience offered me an odd, distancing perspective on all I saw transpiring in my own country. I became aware of nuances between protest in America and abroad. I could not help but become more severely critical of the way the United States abused its prodigious power around the world, but at the same time I became more sympathetically appreciative of the strange new significance that the American protest movement had assumed in our time. Youthful insurgents in Europe tended to fall back on a long-established left-wing tradition that was all but nonexistent in this country. At first I was inclined to agree that this was a sign of America’s political immaturity. But before this book was completed, perhaps because I felt so stung by the somewhat smug remarks my European colleagues often made about the ideological naiveté of the United States, I had concluded that the very weakness of conventional ideological politics in the United States lent the counter culture its unique insight. Questions about the quality and purpose of life, about experience and consciousness, about the rationality and permanence of industrial growth, about our long-term relations with the natural environment arose more readily in America than in the older industrial societies. The United States was closer to the postindustrial horizon where issues of an unusual kind were coming into view.
     Oddly enough, many of those issues could be traced to pre-industrial origins. They stemmed from a dissenting sensibility as old as the lament that the Romantic poets had once raised against the Dark Satanic Mills. But as a factor in the political arena of the modern world, that cry of the heart was distinctly new—so new, in fact, that it was difficult to imagine it being successfully communicated to society at large. And, of course, it wasn’t. Little more than the sensational surface of the protest filtered through the mass media: gestures of irreverent disaffiliation that had to do with drugs and sex, jarring new styles of music and dress, obscene language and bizarre alternative lifestyles. Nevertheless, matters of remarkable philosophical substance did come to be hotly debated by a larger public than had ever participated in the serious political deliberations of any modern society. Members of a rising, college-educated generation—the “new class” as some commentators called them—were using their well-trained wits not to bolster the system in which they were meant to find their fortunes but to shake it to its foundations. Of course, most members of the new class were on the fast track into the technocratic elite, the regime of expertise that has since emerged in every advanced industrial society. More of them would become button-down junior executives at IBM and ITT than mangy hippies. But it was those who elected to drop out of the privileged middle class and make trouble who would stamp the era with its special character. The ingratitude of these malcontents could not help but attract concerned attention. Even the spectators who stood by bewildered before this thankless outburst could not fail to register this much of the message: Something isn’t right here. Something has gone desperately wrong. And those in charge cannot be trusted to fix it.
     Or words and music to that effect.

Nothing Was Your Own Except the Few Cubic Centimetres Inside Your Skull

Excerpt from the novel 1984 icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by George Orwell icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

George Orwell's "1984" book cover. [Formatted]

     The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet call, clear and beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly:
     ‘Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorised to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end. Here is the newsflash—‘
     Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure enough, following on a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with stupendous figures of killed and prisoners, came the announcement that, as from next week, the chocolate ration would be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty.
     Winston belched again. The gin was wearing off, leaving a deflated feeling. The telescreen—perhaps to celebrate the victory, perhaps to drown the memory of the lost chocolate—crashed into ‘Oceania, ’tis for thee’. You were supposed to stand to attention. However, in his present position he was invisible.
     ‘Oceania, ’tis for thee’ gave way to lighter music. Winston walked over to the window, keeping his back to the telescreen. The day was still cold and clear. Somewhere far away a rocket bomb exploded with a dull, reverberating roar. About twenty or thirty of them a week were falling on London at present.
     Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back at him:


He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters and on the wrapping of a cigarette packet—everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed—no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.
     The sun had shifted round, and the myriad windows of the Ministry of Truth, with the light no longer shining on them, looked grim as the loopholes of a fortress. His heart quailed before the enormous pyramidal shape. It was too strong, it could not be stormed. A thousand rocket bombs would not batter it down. He wondered again for whom he was writing the diary. For the future, for the past—for an age that might be imaginary. And in front of him there lay not death but annihilation. The diary would be reduced to ashes and himself to vapour. Only the Thought Police would read what he had written, before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. How could you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive?
     The telescreen struck fourteen. He must leave in ten minutes. He had to be back at work by fourteen-thirty.
     Curiously, the chiming of the hour seemed to have put new heart into him. He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. He went back to the table, dipped his pen, and wrote:

     To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone—to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
     From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink—greetings!

     He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote:

Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.

     Now that he had recognised himself as a dead man it became important to stay alive as long as possible. Two fingers of his right hand were inkstained. It was exactly the kind of detail that might betray you. Some nosing zealot in the Ministry (a woman, probably: someone like the little sandy-haired woman or the dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department) might start wondering why he had been writing during the lunch interval, why he had used an old-fashioned pen, what he had been writing—and then drop a hint in the appropriate quarter. He went to the bathroom and carefully scrubbed the ink away with the gritty dark-brown soap, which rasped your skin like sandpaper and was therefore well adapted for this purpose.
     He put the diary away in the drawer. It was quite useless to think of hiding it, but he could at least make sure whether or not its existence had been discovered. A hair laid across the page-ends was too obvious. With the tip of his finger he picked up an identifiable grain of whitish dust and deposited it on the corner of the cover, where it was bound to be shaken off if the book was moved.

Being Right Doesn’t Help Much When You’re Right About Something this Weird

Excerpt from the novel Rising Storm icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Rising Storm" book cover. [Formatted]


     John slipped into the auditorium/classroom quietly and sat down in the last row at the back. Very nearly every seat was filled for this class and he swept the rows with his gaze, looking for Wendy. He thought he saw her in the center of the middle row. Just a sense he had, since he’d never seen her in the flesh, let alone from the back. He settled in to listen. You never knew what knowledge might come in handy.
     Too soon the class was over, leaving John hungry for more. Some of it had been a bit esoteric, but what he had gotten was presented in such an interesting way that he envied the students. Good teachers definitely made a world of difference; it was just more fun than doing everything on your own or on the Net.
     The girl in the middle row was Wendy. She turned and began to slip out behind the other students, a thoughtful expression on her even features. The others all seemed to be chattering to one another in couples and groups, while she walked slowly and alone toward him.
     John felt a nervous electricity in his middle as he looked at her. Slender and graceful, she moved like a dreamer through the stream of students. He stood up as she drew near and fell in directly behind her, waiting until they were outside to speak.
     “Watcher,” he said.
     She spun on her heel, her eyes wide and her head at a stiff, almost challenging angel. “Who the hell are you?” she snapped, a slight frown marring her smooth brow.
     He smiled slowly. “You don’t recognize my voice?”
     She looked him over, dark eyes assessing. “You’re younger than you look, even with that beard.” Taking a step closer, she narrowed her eyes. “A fake beard?” She raised a hand and backed off a step. “I don’t know you.”
     “Sure you do,” he said, grinning. “You’ve just never met me.”
     “Yeah, right. Ciao, kid.” She started to walk away.
     Rolling his eyes, John fell into step beside her. “You know me as AM, we’ve spoken on the phone. You’ve done a little Web surfing for me.”
     Wendy stopped short and studied him again. “So what are you doing here?” she asked suspiciously.
     With a shrug he said, “I felt it was time I met you and your team in person. I have some information I’d like to share with you and an artifact to show you, and that couldn’t be done by phone or via the Net.” His lips quirked up at the corners. “So I’m here.”
     She looked at him for a long time. “Hmmm!” she said, and started off again. John watched her walk away, then jogged to catch up with her, walking silently by her side as she thought. Lifting her head suddenly, as though just waking up, she glanced around.
     “Um. that was my last class,” she said, giving him a sidelong glance. “Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not about to introduce you to my ‘team’ as you call them until I know a little bit more about you. So, why don’t we go have coffee at the student union?”
     “Sure. So how’s the coffee at the student union?”
     “Compared to what?” she growled.
     He looked at her wide-eyed. Wow, she’s a fierce little thing.
     “Uh, compared to the tea?”
     A slight smile touched her lips. “They’re both pretty bad, to be honest. Maybe we should stick to soda.”
     “Do you drink Jolt?” he asked.
     “No! I know all us geeks are supposed to thrive on the stuff, but I do not.” She pushed open a door and led him into a place teeming with students.
     “Uh”—he touched her arm, then removed his hand when she glared at it—“it’s a little crowded in here for the kind of conversation I had in mind.”
     Wendy raised a skeptical brow. “Nobody here knows you,” she pointed out. “I don’t know you. Which means there’s no reason to think anybody is going to eavesdrop.” She shrugged. “Sometimes the most private place you can find is in a crowd.”
     “Yo! Wen-dy!” a large, bearded student bellowed. She grinned and waved.
     “And sometimes not,” John said quietly.
     “Meeting tonight at eight in Snog’s room,” the beard said, leaning close. He grinned at John and moved on.
     Wendy gave John a look and went over to a machine, getting herself a diet drink. John pushed a dollar into the machine and got a Coke, then followed her to an empty table wondering if he should have bought hers. Probably not; buying her a drink might have some significance in the U.S. that a guy who went to an all-male school in South America was unaware of.
     Wendy shrugged off her knapsack and sat down, then took a sip of her drink. John divested himself of his own and sat across from her wondering how to begin. He’d rehearsed things to say, naturally, but felt that he’d somehow gotten off on the wrong foot here. Clearly their Internet acquaintance and one phone call didn’t mean that they knew each other as far as she was concerned.
     I should have let her know I was coming, he thought. Of course then she could have said don’t come and probably would have. And he would have come anyway, in which case she’d be even more hostile than she presently was. Still, showing up unexpectedly and in disguise… He winced inwardly. He’d actually forgotten about it. That’s the kind of thing stalkers do, I guess. The last thing he wanted to do was make her think he was crazy. Oh, c’mon, John, she’s gonna think you’re crazy anyway. Just a different kind of crazy.
     “Well!” she snapped. “You wanted to talk? Presumably during my lifetime?”
     He cupped his chin on his hand and said, “There’s no need to get snippy.”
     “Well, what do you expect when you show up like this? In a fake beard no less! I’ve gotta tell you”—she gave her head a little shake—“I’m really not feeling very good about this.” She flicked a hand at him. “Not good at all.”
     John allowed himself to show some temper. “Well, Wendy, I find it interesting that you’re perfectly comfortable invading the privacy of people you don’t know at the behest of someone else you don’t know for reasons that you don’t know. But when I attempt to meet you face-to-face to explain it all, you give me this rather obnoxious attitude that screams ‘hey, my space is being invaded.'”
     Her mouth dropped open and she straightened in her seat. Then she let out a little bark of a laugh and opened her mouth to speak.
     Before she could get out a word John said, “Has it ever occurred to you that, nevermind that it’s unethical, what you’re doing might be dangerous, or illegal?”
     “No,” she said instantly. “I’m not that clumsy and I’m not doing anything but looking. Information should be free.”
     It was John’s turn to stare. God! She’s so innocent! What must it be like to feel so invincible. He had at one time, but that was before the T-1000 and he couldn’t remember what it had been like.
     “Well, ideally we all should be free, and well fed and have a comfortable, safe place to sleep at night. But I don’t think that’s the way things are. Do you?”
     She gave a “hunh!” and glared at him.
     “Don’t let your pride get in the way of your considerable intelligence,” he said. “You know you never should have gotten involved in this without checking into it further, don’t you?”
     With a shrug she said, “I checked you out. As far as I could. Your Web address belongs to a guy named Dieter von Rossbach and he isn’t you. But why you’re using his computer, I couldn’t find out. I also couldn’t find any reference to an AM anywhere. Which indicates that it’s a new name. So, either you’ve never done anything like this yourself, or you’ve screwed it up so badly that you needed a new handle.”
     He considered her answer. Not bad for what was mostly guesswork. He scrubbed his face with his hands, being careful not to dislodge his facial hair, and looked at her.
     “Well?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.
     “It is a new name. Spur-of-the-moment thing,” he admitted. “I’ve done research on the Net before and I’ve lurked around a bit. But this sort of thing, getting other people involved…” He turned down the corners of his mouth and shook his head. “Yeah. This is new.”
     Wendy huffed a little and leaned back in her chair, studying him. He was young, probably younger than she was, but he felt older, and she instinctively knew she could trust him. Maybe she was being snippy.
     “So what’s this about?” she asked. “I guess you didn’t come all the way from South America because you thought I was cute or something.”
     “Sure I did,” he said, grinning. Then held up his hand to ward off her response. “Well, maybe it helped. I came up here because it would be irresponsible to let you keep doing this research without having some idea of why and what you’re doing. I am not lying when I tell you it could be dangerous. Now I’m not talking gun battles on the quad here.” At least I hope like hell I’m not. “Maybe a better word would be risk.
     “Risk?” she said. Wendy took a sip of her soda, watching him.
     “Yeah. You’re taking a risk on your future here. Which is why I believe you need more information.”
     Biting her lips, she nodded slowly, meeting his dark-eyed gaze. He had a point. The powers that be might, at the very least, think that what she’d been doing was unethical, if not uncommon. And that could impact her career path.
     “All right,” she said. “Enlighten me.”
     Okay, here goes. “What you’ve been working on is an attempt to locate a very dangerous military AI project.”
     After a moment’s pause she asked, “A U.S. government project?”
     “Ye-ah.” Who else? he wondered.
     “Because, you’re from Paraguay, aren’t you?”
     “I’m from the U.S., I live in Paraguay,” he said impatiently. “What’s your point?”
     “I dunno. I guess”—she shrugged—“I wondered why you’d be interested.”
     People are right, John thought, Americans are self-centered. If you’re not from here what do you care what we do? Naive and unconsciously arrogant, to say the least.
     “My interest is in stopping this project, at the very least slowing it down.”
     Suddenly mindful of where their acquaintance had begun, Wendy asked suspiciously, “Are you some kind of Luddite?”
     “Now you ask me?” John favored her with an exasperated look. “no, I’m not a Luddite. I’m willing to admit that they have a few good ideas, but by and large I don’t think their ideology is applicable to real life. And I don’t like terrorists; they’re all self-centered, mean-spirited nutcakes, if you ask me. Me, I just have this one lousy project that needs to be stopped. I have my reasons, which I’ll explain to you someplace less public. But I’m not here to hurt you, Wendy, far from it.”
     Wendy considered that. “Have you read Labane’s book?” she asked.
     John shook his head. “I haven’t had time.”
     “So you really can’t say whether their ideology is, in fact, applicable.” She crossed her arms and watched him for his reaction.
     John was a bit confused. Suddenly she wanted to play debating team? To him the question and its follow-up had come out of left field. Maybe it’s like a time-out, he thought. She’s trying to get some space to think about me being here so she’s distracting me with this nonsense.
     “You know what?” he said. “You’re right. I can’t speak to the Luddite ideology with any authority because I haven’t made a minute study of their position. I think they bear watching, but frankly”–he flattened his hand on his chest—“I’m not that interested. I have this one thing I have to do and it takes all my time and concentration. I’m hoping that once you’ve heard what I have to say, you and your friends will want to continue helping me. And if you don’t I’m trusting you to keep quiet about it. Everything else is irrelevant to me. Okay?”
     She kind of lifted her head and pursed her lips. “Sure, whatever.” Wendy took another sip of her drink, annoyed and slightly embarrassed. “So. Have you got a place to stay?”
     “Uh, actually I was kind of hoping you might have a suggestion about that.”
     She gave him a cool, level look that went on long enough to see that he understood he wasn’t staying with her.
     “A motel, a bed-and-breakfast maybe?” he quickly suggested.
     “Hotels in Boston and Cambridge, if you can find one with a room, tend to be expensive, and B-and-Bs are even more so. I’ll see if I can find someone to put you up in their room.” She took up her backpack. “You can eat here if you like.” She shrugged. “It’s not very good, but it is cheap. Or there are restaurants all around the campus that have reasonable prices and fairly good food.”
     John stood up to follow her, but she held up her hand.
     “I’m going to talk to my friends about you and I don’t think you should be there. Be back here by seven-thirty and I’ll bring you to the meeting.” She started off, then said “bye” over her shoulder with a vague sort of wave.
     John was left standing there, feeling a little foolish, and a lot uncertain about how this was going to work out. He wanted Wendy to like him and he’d really come on strong, which he could tell she didn’t like. Wait till she found out what he was talking about. He blew out his breath.
     No wonder Mom flipped out for a while, he thought. Being right doesn’t help much when you’re right about something this weird.
     He slipped on his backpack and looked around the busy room. He sure hoped Dieter was having a better time than he was.
     I’m beginning to look forward to meeting with those arms dealers. A sure sign that things weren’t going all that well here.

Dying Otters Just Drove Humans Wild

Excerpt from the novel Rising Storm icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Rising Storm" book cover. [Formatted]


     After only a scant seven months in maximum, Sarah had been transferred to the minimum-security wing at Pescadero. She’d been there an additional six months when Dr. Ray had gotten her transferred to the halfway house. It was rather pleasant here, comparatively speaking. No screaming in the night. Except for herself, of course. No sudden rushes of stink. The place was shabby, but in a comfortable way, sort of like a boardinghouse with a poor but honest clientele, rather than the antiseptics-and-despair atmosphere of a violent ward. And the patients were much safer to be around.
     With the possible exception of herself, naturally. Sarah was pleased to think that she was growing more dangerous by the minute. It was good to walk without pain again, though she still felt a peculiar internal pulling in her abdomen that might signal an adhesion. Particularly when she exercised hard, and she did, getting back into fighting trim.
     She’d been doing great physically even in maximum, until that crazy bitch Tanya had punctured an artery in an attack she’d been lucky to survive. The attack had set her back physically, but had gained her enough sympathy to get her transferred to minimum.
     Unfortunately, there she’d developed a nasty case of jaundice that still had her feeling weak. Hospitals were great places to catch bugs. Between her physical frailty and Ray’s silver tongue, she was pretty much where she wanted—but had never really expected—to be.
     After the shock of seeing Dr. Silberman again, Sarah had settled into the routine of the place. But she was still surprised at how deeply upset she had been by coming face-to-face with him unexpectedly. Understandable; her days under his care hadn’t been the brightest in her life.
     She was happy she’d been left to Dr. Ray and her own devices the last couple of weeks. Sarah knew that eventually she’d have to face up to the good doctor and deal with the complex stew of emotions he evoked, but not yet. Please, God, not yet.
     Still, after so many weeks in a hospital bed and in physical as well as mental therapy, she was more than a little bored. She missed John and thought of him constantly. But thanks to Dieter—whom she also missed to the point of being lonely—Sarah wasn’t afraid for him. One corner of her mouth lifted and she told herself that she should be grateful to be bored. It was something of a treat.
     She also found herself becoming slowly addicted to television. It couldn’t be account for by the content; Sarah was convinced it had some soporific effect on the brain. But anything that kept her soothed and even inadequately entertained until they let her go was a tool she’d gladly use.
     Sarah walked into the common area to find the nurse resetting the channel and threw herself down on one of the threadbare couches.
     “This is a very important program, people,” the woman said. “I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it.” Then she sat down.
     Raising an eyebrow at that, Sarah leaned back and crossed her legs. The nurses didn’t usually watch TV with the patients. Probably this one should be working or she’d be in the nurses’ lounge watching the little portable they had in there.
     Maybe this will be interesting. Sarah thought.


     Ron Labane watched from the wings as Tony warmed up the crowd for him. It didn’t take much; everyone was excited to be here at the opening show. The New Luddite movement’s new channel was doing fairly well, despite the fact that it showed mostly nature videos, news, and talk shows about environmental subjects. But his TV show was expected to draw an audience of at least three million or possibly more, two hundred of them right here in the studio. The air was hot with lights, and smelled of ozone and sweat and makeup.
     He’d seriously considered moving the whole works out to California, where they had the best facilities and trained personnel. But after a little reflection he’d changed his mind and chosen Oklahoma City. What he wanted was to make the statement that the New Luddites were just that—new. Not part of the establishment, not part of the old-money crowd, in no one’s pocket. These days placing your national show away from either coast was like a declaration of independence. That decision alone set them apart.
     Ron watched the cameras roam over the smiling, waving, applauding audience; the music was inspiring yet had a good beat, and as he watched, the audience began to clap in time, swaying in their seats until the whole place was in motion.
     Choose the moment, he thought, and ran onto the stage with his hands in the air and began clapping in time with them. The audience went wild. The New Day show was primarily a talk show with a little music thrown in for leavening. It just so happened that the singers and musicians they chose to present were those that Ron had handpicked.
     He’d been lucky. There were always dedicated youngsters out there with talent to burn, but that didn’t mean the public would embrace them. To find talented kids who agreed with Labane’s philosophy and made it palatable to millions with their music was a miracle. A miracle he’d been able to pull off four times now. He joked that he was beginning to suspect he was in the wrong business.
     Gradually, after a few more jokes, Ron began his speech, adopting the intimate, almost avuncular manner that the polls indicated his audience responded to best.
     “Y’know,” Ron began, “with all the brownouts in California, people are saying that we need to reasses our feelings about nuclear energy.” He led them through it step-by-step, pointed out that other resources could be exploited, other plans could be made. “The thing is, nobody is going to invest in those other alternatives if we’re all talked into building more nuclear plants. And, no matter what they say, nuclear power isn’t clean, it isn’t safe. Now the president wants to give them unlimited protection from liability. How safe does that make you feel?”
     Ron actually had a guest on the show tonight who held a dissenting view, and the guy had a good case. He also had a temper and a tendency to take things personally, which Ron fully intended to exploit. Waste not want not, was after all, one of the New Luddites’ mottos.
     He broke for a commercial, promising a great show when they came back. Then an announcer’s voice took over, describing an environmentally friendly array of cleaning products. Ron moved across the stage and took his place behind the desk, smiling out at his audience. He could feel that this was going to work out well.


     Clea turned out the commercial and thought about what she’d been watching. Ron Labane was one of Serena’s projects that Clea had taken over with some enthusiasm. She saw potential here to confuse and divide the humans that her predecessor hadn’t fully exploited. What better way to keep the humans as weak as possible, to make sure that as little as possible survived Judgment Day to be used against the sudden onslaught of the killer machines, that to encourage a fear of technology?
     Labane was making nuclear power the issue du jour on his inaugural program. It was an emotional issue for humans—especially Americans, for some reason. They were constantly fighting the opening of these highly efficient power plants. Which was surely in Skynet’s interests. Keeping the power-dependent humans from having all the juice they wanted would destabilize things nicely. It would create factions, even among the rich and powerful, and it would drive the proles nuts.
     As for their perfectly valid fear of nuclear waste, well, an accident had been arranged.
     With part of her mind still on the program, Clea contacted her T-101. Through its eyes she saw that the truck it had stolen was behind the convoy carrying some West Coast nuclear waste to its Southwestern dump site.
     She glanced at the television image in the upper corner of her screen. But first she’d wait until Ron’s program was over. It seemed the polite thing to do.


     The Terminator kept a precise distance between himself and the truck in front of him: exactly one hundred and fifty meters. The unmarked eighteen-wheeler carrying the specially designed cargo container was accompanied by two vans, also unmarked. It was all very discreet. Had they not known exactly what they were looking for, they would never have been able to find this particular truck.
     The T-101 glanced at the body beside it. It had entered the propane truck’s cab at a truck stop and waited for the driver to return. When he did, it had broken his neck before the human had even been aware of its presence. Soon the I-950 would signal the T-101 to go ahead and the body would be needed to stand in fro it when investigators sifted through the wreckage.
     *Now,* the Infiltrator sent.
     The Terminator pressed its booted foot down and sped toward the truck in front of it. The waste truck’s companion van tried to move in front of the propane truck, but the Terminator calculated angles as it maneuvered and struck the van at precisely the right point to send it spinning off the road and into the first of the few buildings that had begun to appear by the side of the road. It disappeared into the flimsy structure, sending glass flying.
     With nothing in its way, the Terminator pulled up beside the waste truck, swerved into the far lane so that it could aim the propane truck at the carrier’s exact center, and rammed it at eighty miles an hour, knocking the carrier onto its side with a screech of metal against pavement. The propane truck climbed on top of the rig and then collapsed slowly onto its side, but didn’t rupture.
     The Terminator was out of the cab and onto the street in seconds, a grenade launcher in its hands. While the van up ahead was backing up, fast, it took aim and fired. The propane truck burst into magenta flame, the blast picked the van up like a dry leaf and flung it nearly a thousand meters, it ripped and burned every inch of flesh from the front of the Terminator’s skeleton, leaving only smoking patches on its back. Briefly the T-101 went off-line.
     When it came back to itself, burning debris was still falling and the buildings along the highway had been blown flat all around the explosion. Its internal monitors reported radioactive contamination at a very high level.
     *Mission accomplished,* it sent.
     *Status?* the I-950 queried.
     *External sheath severely compromised, no secondary damage, some nuclear contamination.*
     Well, Clea thought, back to the vat for you. Any contamination it had picked up would mostly be rubbed away by its travels. *Return to base. Discreetly.*
     *Acknowledged.* It looked around itself. Off in the distance it saw a house, undamaged by the blast. Humans had come outside to gawk at the fire. Where there were humans there would be transportation. It headed for them.


     Ron offered the last few energy-saving tips and said good night when Tony came tearing onstage. For a split second he thought he’d made an error in his timing and had left them with a ridiculous amount of dead air. The audience began to rustle and murmur.
     Then Tony slipped him a news report and said, “It’s an accident. Maybe. Some asshole in a propane truck rammed into a nuclear-waste carrier right in the middle of a small town in New Mexico. There’s a news blackout. Apparently the whole state is out.”
     Ron turned to the audience and clapped his hands. When they’d quieted down he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some terrible news.”
     He read them the report in his hand, just the bare, unadorned facts. “I’m told there’s a new blackout on this incident, which means that this is all we may know for some time. I’d like you all to bow your heads with me and pray for the people of New Mexico.” After a moment’s silence he lifted his head and looked at them solemnly.
     “Now let’s all just remain calm,” he said. “We’ll know more by and by. But when you get home I’d like you to write your congressman or -woman and tell them we don’t want any more accidents like this one.”
     People applauded enthusiastically, rising to their feet and clapping with an energy that spoke of their anger and their horror. Then, as if someone had flipped a switch, they stopped and began filing out, murmuring to one another. Ron watched them go, a little seed of anger burning in his breast. This could have happened at the beginning of the show, and ruined everything.
     On the other hand, since they had finished the show, this little incident beautifully underscored what he’d been talking about. He’d have to get his publicist on this. He’d work up a statement emphasizing that his show had been talking about the dangers of nuclear power just before the news broke.
     Ron smirked; there was nothing quite like being able to say “I told you so!”


     The show ended, and it hadn’t been all that bad for blatant propaganda. As the credits began to roll someone came running in from offstage. Sarah got up, not really thinking anything about it except that the New Luddites didn’t have top-quality people running their programs. The nurse switched to another channel, where a news anchor was announcing that a fuel truck had crashed into an eighteen-wheeler carrying nuclear waste.
     My God! She thought.
     The anchor went on to say that background radiation as far away as Albuquerque had jumped by over 700 percent…
     I don’t think that’s even supposed to be possible! Sarah thought. Those containers are supposed to be specially designed to withstand just about anything up to a direct hit with a bomb. Which an exploding propane tank would very closely resemble. Maybe it’s just my nasty mind talking, but this sounds deliberate.
     The news anchor was saying that possible terrorist activity was being looked into.
     Nice to know it isn’t just me for a change, Sarah thought. Paranoids had real enemies, too.


     Clea smiled. Her timing had been exquisite. She’d found a weakness, exploited it and voilá. Panic in the streets. Or there would be after her message on the Net was discovered.
     They’d be blathering about it for weeks, maybe months, and spending untold amounts of money studying and correcting the problem. Little knowing that despite their best and most earnest efforts, she’d just do it again.
     Actually, next time she thought she’d cause an oil spill. Clea had been exploring the possibilities of hacking into a ship’s closed system by satellite. If it proved feasible she was going to try to time the incident so that some enormously popular place was soiled in the most appallingly photogenic manner possible. Preferably somewhere with otters. Dying otters just drove humans wild.
     For a while she’d toyed with the idea of having a Terminator do the job for her, but it would be better to do it by remote if possible. It would be much, much more difficult for the oil companies to explain if they didn’t have a convenient scapegoat, such as a mysteriously missing crewman.
     Heads will roll, she thought. What a charming image. She began to see why Serena had found such joy in her work.