Chapter Twenty Three
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
--William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part Two
"Now this one is just fucking stupid!" giggled the General,
"Listen to this - it's compulsory for every man over the age of
thirteen to practice archery every Sunday afternoon.
"According to that, the whole fucking country should be in
jail," he giggled again - he'd taken one or two tokes too many.
"That's nothing to the one about the monkey that was hanged for
treason," laughed Graham, "Now that was one precedent I'd like to
see applied to the London Zoo." All three were laughing now -
occasionally reaching across to a large, half-full bowl of cashew
nuts beside the terminal.
"Going anywhere nice this year?"
"Only to Italy for a couple of weeks," Dot said to the clerk at
the Airport, "So we'll be needing some lira."
"Fine - how much, or do you just want to change the entire
"I think three hundred pounds worth should be enough, dear,"
Gerald said. Since they'd both completed the philosophy classes,
they job-shared the same teaching position and so money was no
longer a serious problem.
"All in cash?" asked the clerk.
"What do you suggest?" asked Dot.
"Generally, you'd be better off with the equivalent of - say -
twenty or thirty pounds in lira, and the rest in traveller's
cheques," the clerk replied, "Or you could forget about the
traveller's cheques and just top up with more cash at the British
embassy when you run out," she added.
"Yes - that sounds better. Will we be needing our MoneyCards, do
"You don't have to take them, but - let me check - No, you don't
need a passport for Italy, and the Embassy there has a satellite
uplink to the central computer here, so you can leave them if you
"To be honest, it's a good idea to leave them where they'll be
safe - it saves risking a lot of bother if you lose them or they
get stolen abroad. Actually, now, with the trade embargo and
all," she went on, "Your MoneyCards won't operate abroad -
they'll cease to work as soon as you leave this country, and
would have to be completely replaced when you return.
"So your best bet would be to leave them behind, really," she
"Why would anybody want to steal a MoneyCard?" asked Gerald,
Then, alarmed, Dot interjected, "They don't have Thumbthieves
over there, do they?"
"Not so far as we know, madam," said the clerk, "But it's best
not to take chances, I suppose. If you just link your Card to
this terminal then it will be wiped and you can pick up a new one
when you return to the country."
"Fine," Dot replied, "But let's just get some lira first, shall
Later on that day, sobered up - more or less - Wye turned to the
Greenes and said, "This is hopeless - the law books are a mess.
"What we need to do is 'simplify, simplify' - as both Thoreau
and my physics teacher used to say." He thought a moment,
murmuring, "'The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.'"
"That's a bit harsh, isn't it, General?" asked Graham,
Deborah laughed, "Don't be silly, husband mine. It's from
Shakespeare. Henry the sixth part one, I think. Absolaam wasn't
seriously suggesting we kill all the lawyers. Were you?" she
asked, a more sober - and also worried - look on her face.
Wye grinned, malevolently, "I'm sorely tempted," his grin
collapsed into one of mirth as he went on, "But, no. It would be
a little drastic."
"One of the most obvious oddities is all the distinctions
between the different forms of law - civil law, criminal law,
company law, bylaws, and the like. What if we tried first of all
to collapse it all down into just one type of law."
"Good idea, in theory," said the General, "Any ideas?"
"Perhaps, General," Graham said, "Contract law?"
Wye broke into a huge, gleeful grin, "Yes!"
That evening, in a darkened office elsewhere in London, a
twenty-three year-old woman was scanning the government records
of more than five decades earlier. "Well, well, well," she said,
as she read through the files.
Following the Dictator's decree, all government records were now
placed into the public domain - regardless of content - five
years after they were written. And so, Carolyn Mayes had spent
the past month dredging the recently de-classified files of the
security services, MI5 and MI6.
Carolyn had been searching for evidence to support, or refute,
the conspiracy theory that MI5 had been responsible for the
downfall of the Wilson government. However, she had been
sidetracked by an intriguing reference which had led her to the
files she was perusing at the moment - files from nineteen forty-
This set of files dealt with the creation and upkeep of six
dummy towns in various parts of the UK for the apparent purpose
of providing quick and easy sources of rock-solid false
"Well, well, well," she repeated, as she recognised the names of
two of the towns mentioned.
Chapter Twenty Four
"To attempt to provide rules of conduct to cover every
eventuality...appears to be impossible."
--Alan M. Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence
"The first question," said Wye, "Is: What is a reasonable
The three were engaged in their usual after-breakfast
conference, lounging in easy chairs in the cabinet room. The
table in front of them bore two cups of tea - for the Greenes -
and a mug of black coffee - the Dictator's - along with a large
tea pot, a coffee percolator, and the various other objects
necessary to a civilised chat.
There was no notebook, because the meetings were always
automatically recorded by the cameras in each corner of the
cabinet room, the records kept on overlapping sets of optical
When the first disk was ten percent full, further records
continued to be kept both on that disk and on a second. When that
was ten percent full, a third was switched into the circuit. When
a disk became full, it was stored in the archives and a fresh
disk took its place.
Since the disks were all WORMs - Write Once Read Many times -
this method of storage meant that falsifying or deleting a
particular record would mean replacing and re-writing a complete
set of ten optical disks. Even then, the gap would need to be
plugged convincingly, and precisely, on every single disk in the
set of ten.
The technique was very useful in ensuring that all computer
records were accurate, complete and fully backed up. It was,
however, very wasteful in terms of storage media - at the moment,
as was usual, ten disks were each recording the events
"It depends," Deborah said, sipping delicately at her cup of
tea, "What the crime is, surely."
"Yes - but...what do you think about imprisonment?"
"With rehabilitation," said Graham, "Fine. But without
successful rehabilitation, there's little point in it as a
"No?" asked the Dictator, in some surprise.
"Not really, General. Taking away freedom is only effective if
the person being locked up is accustomed to making use of their
freedom. Unfortunately, in most cases, those who have been locked
up did little outside prison that they could not do just as well
inside - watching television, listening to music, reading, and
the like," he added.
"So, if we lock up criminals then we need to cut them off from
television, books and radio?" asked Wye.
"Looks fine on paper, Absolaam - but it doesn't work in
"What's the problem with it, Deborah?"
"Riots. If you lock people up all day with nothing to occupy
their minds, then they're going to occupy their bodies. Take away
sex as well, and you leave them with violence as the only way of
expressing themselves. So," she concluded, "They either commit
suicide, beat each other up or riot and try to destroy the
"What else can they do?"
"Good point. So," the General went on, "Is there any reliable
method of rehabilitation?"
"I'm afraid not, Absolaam," Deborah said, "Everything has been
tried, at one time or another, and the only methods which have
worked have done so only on a limited number of convicts and -
even then - only for short periods of time."
"Not imprisonment, then," mused the Dictator, "And execution's
out, of course," he went on, gulping hot coffee as the Greenes
nodded, "So, how about a system of fines?"
"That will work okay for smaller offences, but what about
murder, rape, kidnapping? What about the more serious offences -
you can't just fine, say, a serial killer, and leave it at that,"
"Graham's right, Absolaam," Deborah smoothly broke in, "But
there's also the question of whether somebody can afford a fine."
"That's not a problem, Deborah," said Wye, "A fine must be an
amount which the person can not afford, otherwise it isn't an
effective punishment," he paused a moment, "Graham's right about
the serious offences, though - what can be done?"
Wye got to his feet and walked over to the Network terminal,
saying, "Maybe there's a precedent in the history books for a way
of dealing with this kind of problem." In an easy, well-practised
movement, Wye used his Card to switch on the machine, pressing
his thumb to the plate, and called up the British library with a
Search by Topic command.
The software had progressed since the terminals were first
installed - a simple request for accounts of 'effective legal
punishments' soon provided the Dictator with a list of several
thousand example passages. A further search of this list for
'effective deterrent or rehabilitation' - followed by a request
to show only one major example of each approach - narrowed it
down to only three dozen or so entries.
The name Isaac Asimov seemed to leap out from the terminal
screen so Wye, curious what a science fiction writer had to say
on this subject, clicked on the screen and the text of one of
Asimov's short stories, A Perfect Fit, came up.
As Wye read it, the Greenes reading over his shoulder, his
delighted grin showed that he thought he'd found his effective
punishment. As a double check, however, he read the other marked
passages as well. A second science fiction short story - To See
the Invisible Man, by Robert Silverberg - helped confirm him in
his decision, while Heinlein's Coventry suggested yet another
interesting approach to their problem.
When he finished, he turned back to Deborah and Graham, all
ready to convince them. But one look told him all he needed to
know - they'd come to the same decision. The best way to punish
somebody who offends in a highly technological society had
already been devised by Isaac Asimov - a science fiction writer
writing decades earlier.
"In the past two years, many things have changed," the General
said, in a television broadcast a week later, "But - through it
all - several things have remained static. It is now time for the
first of those items to be changed.
"I am referring, as you may have gathered, to the legal system.
"Every country on this planet has a legal system, of one sort or
another, which sets out to prescribe both what individuals and
groups must do, and what they must not do. Many of those systems
- thanks to the spread of the British Empire - are modelled on
the English system of law - which itself was derived from the
Roman system, and dates back, in its essentials, for thousands of
"Now, in the twenty-first century, it is perhaps time for a
radical change." The General paused, licked his lips and grinned
Across the country, people gathered - as they always did for one
of the Dictator's broadcasts - and some began to become very
nervous. Across the continent, across the world, British citizens
overseas had travelled to their embassy specifically to listen to
"The law books in the British system are a mess. They are over-
complex, usually outdated and inflexible - and often
contradictory or uneven in their application.
"All that stops now."
When they heard those by-now-familiar four words from their
Dictator, British citizens across the planet uniformly reached
for the remote controls to turn up the volume of their sets and
craned forward to pay closer attention.
In Rome, Gerald, Dot and the twins automatically reached out to
take one another's hands, and took a step closer to the screen in
the British embassy.
Their reaction to the words was, by now, almost a reflex - Wye
had used those four words to introduce every major change made so
far, from the adult education classes through to the admonition
to check for thumbdoms before performing MoneyCard transactions.
Whenever a coming change was revolutionary in nature, or just
plain important, those four words had been used.
"The new legal system," Wye went on, after a few moments, "Is
based entirely on contracts. From this point forward, your word -
backed by your identification - is your bond.
"Aside from those contracts freely entered into by two or more
people, there are also a group of default contracts which each
individual is to enter into with every other individual. If you
check your Network terminal, you will find that the software has
now been updated and a new button added to the main menu screen.
"Clicking on that new button, 'Contracts,' will display the new
contracts in their entirety. Read them and re-read them until you
understand what they mean, and what they imply for you,
"After reading these contracts, you will be asked whether you
agree to be bound by them. If so, use your MoneyCard's thumbplate
to transmit the fact. If not, you will find that a ticket in your
name has been reserved for a ship or a 'plane out of the British
"Everybody who has not agreed to be bound by these contracts by
midnight tomorrow night, when they come into operation, will be
stripped of their British citizenship and their entire MoneyCard
balance will be given to them in the form of the currency of
whatever country they decide to move to, and which agrees to take
them. No further action will be taken.
"Those of you who are abroad may obtain a copy of the contracts
from the British embassy - you will be asked to confirm whether
you agree to be bound by them when you return to Britain."
Wye's face took on a sterner look as he continued, "You may be
asking yourself what the penalty for breaking such a contract is.
It is simply," he said, "That you will be noted as being
'untrustworthy,' and the remainder of society will be released
from all contracts concerning you for a period from one month to
life, depending on how serious a jury decides the breach of trust
to be. Minor cases may result merely in a fine being levied on
the individual. In extreme cases, British citizenship may be
"Think on the consequences of this as you read the contracts.
Particularly," Wye grinned, malevolently, into the camera as he
repeated, "Particularly when you consider that the 'right' to
possession of a working MoneyCard is covered by one of those
"I suggest that you read Isaac Asimov's short story, A Perfect
Fit, to obtain some idea of what this punishment would entail,"
Wye grinned maliciously, "Without your MoneyCard, you will find
life a little difficult. With your MoneyCard revoked permanently,
you will find that living in the British Isles is impossible.
"So, I urge you, if you do not wish to be bound by these
contracts then emigrate - leave now, with no fuss, and take your
money with you. Because you would not like to have your
trustworthy status revoked."
Gerald looked at Dot, then they both looked at the twins. All
four glanced at the British ambassador, who wordlessly handed out
sealed envelopes to everybody present.
To nobody's surprise, their names were printed on the outside of
the envelopes. There was one envelope each for Dot, Gerald and
each of the twins, and the ambassador was left with one envelope
which had his own name on the outside.
On the screen, Wye continued, "On a more positive note, a bonus
is to be put into operation. Anybody who goes ten years without
breaking any contracts will be honoured with enhanced Card
privileges including joint access to an expense account for
accessing the British library.
"Now, read the contracts and make up your minds. The final
decision is yours, and yours alone."
The screen faded to black as Wye lifted his glass of bourbon to
his lips. Dot, and everybody else in the embassy, tore open the
envelope, just as - throughout Britain - people dove toward their
Dot pulled out four sheets of paper, all four covered on one
side by reasonable-sized print, and started to read the
Across the top of the first page was a notice stating, simply,
that the 'I' mentioned throughout the contracts referred to the
person signing the contract, while the 'you' referred to each and
every other human being - the contracts were to be assumed to be
binding with every human being. Each contract carried with it at
least one example illustrating some possible effects of adhering
to or breaking that contract.
The first seemed to be straightforward enough: "I agree not to
physically harm, or attempt to physically harm, you
unnecessarily." The example given here was that if somebody broke
this contract with you - that is, attacked you - then you were
entitled to physically harm them to whatever extent is necessary
to prevent them harming you.
The second contract, too, appeared fairly easy to follow: "I
agree not to take, copy or use any object or concept which you
have created, bought or been given unless you freely give me
permission to do so." In this case, the example given was of
somebody stealing an item of yours.
The contracts went on, in straightforward English rather than
legalise, until the final half dozen paragraphs - which dealt
with the system to be used to resolve disputes, along with the
system of reward and punishment to be used.
Elsewhere, the language was clear and simple, even in the block
of contracts on the third page which spelled out precisely how
and in what manner contracts could be modified, deleted or added.
Apparently, anybody could propose a new contract.
That proposed contract would then require the agreement of ten
percent of the population - registering via the Network - before
it could be voted on, which was also to be done via the Network.
If it then received the votes of more than seventy five percent
of those eligible to vote, it became law and anybody who then did
not agree to be bound by it was to be stripped of their British
citizenship, given their MoneyCard balance in the form of the
currency of their choice and exiled - exactly as Wye had
described would happen to those who refused to be bound by the
Dot could see that lawyers, unless allowed to nit-pick over fine
definitions, were effectively out of business. The ultimate
catch-all was in the penultimate agreement, which read, "I agree
to interpret all contracts as a reasonable person would interpret
No attempt was given to define a 'reasonable' person, except for
an agreement elsewhere that - in the case of a dispute over
interpretation - the majority decision of a pair of two
independent juries, each consisting of five randomly-selected
humans, would be binding on both parties.
Gerald noticed that all legal expenses were to be paid by the
loser in any action, though the juries could - in extreme cases,
when the judgement was decided to be finely balanced - order the
expenses to be paid from tax money.
More than one person in the British Isles found himself
particularly intrigued by a contract on page two, which stated
that any two or more adults could, by means of an agreement
freely entered into by each individual, waive or modify their
contractual responsibilities - choosing to negate all contracts
or only individual ones, either permanently or for a fixed time
only - but only with regard to contracts between those two,
There were two examples given with that particular contract. The
first was in place to make it absolutely clear that somebody
could not unilaterally waive - say - the second contract and then
steal whatever they wished with impunity.
The second example dealt with a far more intriguing situation,
which was the source of much discussion throughout the country.
Suppose, it read, that Mr A and Mr B agree to waive the first
contract for a fixed period of - say - five minutes, starting at
twelve noon. Further suppose that, at four minutes past twelve,
Mr A kills Mr B. In that case, no crime has been committed.
A more sensible waiver contract, then, might be one which
modified - rather than removed - the first contract, indicating
the specific harm which is to be allowed to be inflicted on one
person by the other.
There was one contract, however, which caused more eyebrows to
be raised than did all of the others combined. "I agree, for the
purposes of all of these agreements," the twenty third, and
final, contract read, "To consider and treat the Network and its
coordinating computing systems as though it is a human being with
full adult status."
The justification given for the Twenty Third Agreement was the
number of human lives which potentially depended on the Network.
"While it is unlikely in the extreme that any person, or group of
people, could damage the Network sufficiently to cripple the
country," the text stated, "Such vandalism could conceivably
result in the loss of some human lives. The simplest course," it
went on, "Is, therefore, to treat the Network - for legal
purposes - as though it were a human being.
"This final agreement is included, then, as the equivalent of
such crimes as Attempted murder (Network) and Physical Assault
(Network), which were instituted under the previous legal system
to safeguard against such acts of terrorism, vandalism or
After the previous year's Hacker Case, most people tended to
agree with the statement that damage to the Network should be
considered a criminal act on a par with attempted murder.
Nonetheless, it was generally considered that the solution -
giving "full human status" to the Network - was akin to the old
sledgehammer-nut cliche: A clear case of overkill.
Despite these misgivings, that final agreement - like all the
others - received the consent of the entire population. By
definition, really, since those who did not consent to all twenty
three Agreements were immediately stripped of their British
citizenship before being promptly and efficiently despatched to
whichever country would agree to give them asylum (generous
compensation was provided in order to guarantee the speed of this
On their return to the British Isles, Dot, Gerald and the twins
each agreed to abide by the contracts. When they reached home,
however, they found that Mrs Wainthrop had decided not to,
choosing instead to move to live with her son in Australia.
The first thing Gerald did on getting home was to sit down in
front of their Network terminal and order up the main news items
from the 'papers while they had been away. After a moment,
printouts of the major articles from his preferred newspapers
were spewing from his terminal.
The old-style newspaper was dying - it had almost died by this
time, now that most people obtained their own printouts of news
reports and feature articles by direct link from the newspaper
offices themselves. Often, people would specify subjects or
writers in their search, ensuring a newspaper tailor-made to
their own tastes.
When Gerald's 'paper appeared, he put his feet up and drank a
cup of tea as he read about the recent activities of the French
French Government Sells Microchips To US Company
The French government today admitted trading technology
purchased from Britain to GZK Industries, a company based
in the United States of America, in defiance of the British
trade embargo against the United States.
The Dictator, General Wye, proclaimed a trade embargo
against the French government, effective immediately, until
such time - if any - that the French government made
reparation to the British people. The reparation demanded by
the Dictator is cash to ten times the value of the trade
with the US.
The French president, Monsieur Lafette, said that the
Dictator's words were an insult to the French people, and
would be treated with the contempt they deserve...
Gerald read on.
"Why full adult human status for the Network, Absolaam?" a
puzzled - and rather confused - Deborah asked when he insisted on
adding that sledgehammer of a Twenty Third Agreement to their
list. But the Dictator just grinned, almost to himself.
For as long as he lived, Absolaam Wye never did answer that
question - though it was asked many more times over the years.
Chapter Twenty Five
South African firm sells transgenic swine to US
Following yesterday's extension of the trade embargo to
cover France as well as the United States, the South African
pharmaceuticals conglomerate, Niels & Co, has expressed
solidarity with the embargoed countries.
Niels & Co has pledged to provide US industry with breeding
stock of pigs genetically-engineered to produce the
recently-discovered memory-enhancement protein, Stonalin, in
Both the discovery of stonalin and the new developments in
gene manipulation which were used to produce these swine are
results of the Dictator's science programme.
General Wye, Dictator of the British Isles, has now extended
the technology embargo to also cover South Africa, pledging
that any further breaking of the trade embargo by any
country, individual or business will result in the absolute
imposition of a global embargo on all British technology.
Reaction to the Dictator's statement was rapid, with support
for the Dictator coming from most quarters, the major
exception has been the Japanese government.
Trade Embargo Extended Globally
Despite the Dictator's warning earlier today, a Japanese
consortium has sold one of the new breed of organic super-
computer chips to the United States.
The technological trade embargo has now been extended
globally. Export of all British technology, without
exception, is now prohibited by order of General Absolaam
Wye, Dictator of the British Isles.
All British citizens are requested to co-operate in this
action. Further information will be provided by the Dictator
himself, in a television broadcast later today, at fourteen-
At fourteen thirty, Gerald and Dot - in common with the majority
of the population of the country - switched on their television
set. The Twins were already in the room, playing noisily, but
they quietened down without having to be told when the Dictator's
face appeared on the screen.
"Hello," the General said, his face set in an unhappy
expression, "This is not a good time, I'm afraid."
"He can say that again," said Dot, "Here we are, on the verge of
war, with this country against the rest of the world, and what's
he doing about it, that's what I'd like to know..." When Wye
continued, Dot stopped talking at once. No longer from an
irrational fear, but simply to find out what was going on.
"Due to the apparent impossibility of maintaining a selective
trade embargo, my hand has been forced. As you have no doubt
heard, the technological embargo has been extended to cover all
exports from this country.
"These islands are reasonably self-sufficient in all things bar
one. Unfortunately, that one item is food, which will be in short
supply for the next few months - until the embargo can be
"What are we supposed to eat, then?" shouted Dot, to horrified
glances from her husband and children.
As though he had heard her words, Wye went on, "While the
embargo is in place, then, the principle food available will be,"
his face crinkled in disgust as he said, "Protein wafers.
"I realise that protein wafers are not very appetizing. They're
virtually tasteless, but they do provide all of the vitamins,
minerals, fibre and carbohydrates required to sustain life.
"Their one virtue, in the present situation, is that they are
easy, quick and cheap to produce. So simple, in fact, that you
can manufacture them in your own home.
"After this broadcast, check the 'Commercial Catalogue' section
of the Library. The price of a protein wafer production facility
is listed there, along with a sales contract for the purchase of
one of the models available.
"I ask that you buy one of these devices - they are very cheap
both to buy and run, and will at least ensure that you do not
starve or suffer from malnutrition. You will even be able to add
some taste to the wafers, if you are willing to sacrifice some or
all of your existing food stocks.
"Believe me," Wye said, "I know that living on protein wafers is
not an appealing prospect, but we will all have to do so if this
embargo goes on for more than about a month. Myself included," he
grinned, wryly, as he added, "Though I'm sure that some of you
won't believe that fact."
The screen faded to black briefly, then flashed back up to the
image of the General, "Almost forgot," he grinned, "Before I
finish, I'd better add a few words about the embargo itself.
"It will inconvenience you, as British citizens. However, the
embargo should, if strictly enforced by all of us, quickly start
to hurt other countries as their stocks of technological devices
start to run down.
"You may have read, for example, of the transgenic swine sold to
the US by a South African pharmaceuticals company. Those swine
produce milk containing the protein stonalin, but the devices
used to extract that protein require regular maintenance -
maintenance which only a British technician has the knowledge to
"Within a month, without being maintained properly, those
devices and many others will begin to fail. Since British
technology is now being used in so many crucial industries in so
many countries, I do not expect the embargo to have to last more
than three to four months."
The screen faded to black for a second time. This time, Wye's
face did not return to it. Dot switched the television set off,
while her husband got to his feet and went over to their Network
The 'Commercial Catalogue' section held - as they had been told,
and had expected, the new sales contracts:
NOTICE: The contracts below are not compulsory.
I agree to purchase, at a price of one hundred pounds
sterling, an advanced model protein wafer manufacturing
plant - model PW-15.
Four other contracts were also listed, each a contract to
purchase a different model of protein wafer producing plant, with
prices ranging from ten to three hundred pounds.
In the case of each contract, Gerald's first action was to use
the mouse to click on the model number of the plant mentioned in
the contract. As he had expected, and as was now the usual method
of using the Network-linked computers, this brought up a box
describing the individual machines - from sales pitch to design
specifications. And further enquiring explained the general
theory behind their usage.
Gerald and Dot concentrated their attention on the design
specifications and operating instructions for each model, and
quickly settled on and ordered the PW-23 model, which cost one
hundred and seventy two pounds.
They chose that model because it was compact, taking up the same
amount of space as their microwave oven, and versatile. Even to
the extent of being able to add some semblance of taste to the
The input slot, as with all of the protein wafer manufacturing
plants, accepted any organic material - wood, leaves,
carbohydrates, anything - then broke it down and re-combined it,
at a molecular level, into edible form.
The process used to do this was too complex for either Dot or
Gerald to be able to follow the details, given that neither was a
chemist or biologist.
Dot, though, promised herself that she would go through the
library until she acquired a working understanding of it - then
she promised her husband to try to pass the knowledge on to him,
once she has obtained it.
After all, one of their students might ask about it.
July came and went, with more than ninety percent of households
in the British Isles purchasing a PW-model of some sort or
another - the number increasing to all-but one hundred percent as
the food stocks began to run low.
Across the rest of the world, the situation was becoming more serious.
"Jake! Jake!" came a woman's cry, "Where are you, Jake!"
"Coming!" Jake shouted. Jake Curshaw had been a farmer once,
tending sheep in the American Southwest. Then the big
corporations had started to move in, ranching huge herds of
cattle and importing ton after ton of Sheep carcasses until
nobody was willing to pay the prices his ranch was forced to
Jake's farm had almost gone under a few times before this new
business came along, less than a year ago. Now, he raised
transgenic animals - sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, anything,
really. There was no need to raise many of them, mainly because
they each produced drugs which - over the animal's lifetime -
were worth millions of dollars.
And so far, since each transgenic beast was so expensive, there
were no huge herds of animals to make his work uneconomic - the
only way Jake had been able to afford to set up in business in
the first place was because he'd received a grant from the
"Jake!" the urgent voice came again, breaking into his reverie,
"Coming, El!" he called, hurrying towards his wife, Eileen.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Gordon," the doctor said, wearily, "I realise
how distressing this is for you, but there really is nothing that
I can do for your husband."
"But, why not, doctor?" Mrs Gordon demanded, "I've got
insurance, I can pay - this is the best medical insurance money
can buy. Only last month," she went on, accusingly, "You told me
that Oscar could be totally cured."
The doctor sighed, "I'm sure I did, Mrs Gordon. And your
husband's Alzheimer's can be effectively cured if I insert a
slow-release capsule of stonalin."
"So? Then do it!" she screamed.
"I wish I could," he said, not for the first time that day, "But
our supply of stonalin has run out..."
"Okay, I'm here, El. What's the trouble?"
"Look at this," Eileen said, passing her husband a piece of paper.
Jake read the paper quickly, then looked over to his wife, "Are
they serious?" She shrugged. "I'd better call them to make sure,"
he said, "I sure don't want to slaughter these animals."
Jake lifted the receiver, then carefully dialled the number on
the government-headed notepaper. After half a dozen rings, the
'phone was answered, "Operator, can I help you?"
"Operator?" asked Jake, not entirely surprised, "I was calling
the FDA offices in..."
The operator interrupted him, "I see, sir. I'll try to connect
you, but the trans-state lines are temperamental right now. It
might take a little time," she added.
"Okay, go ahead," said Jake, wearily.
After thirty rings, the operator came back on the line, "Your
party is not answering, sir."
The connection was suddenly severed. Jake jiggled the 'phone and
said, "Hello? Hello?" a few times, uselessly, before he turned
back to his wife, "Well, it looks like it's up to us, El. And I
say we don't kill the animals unless we're forced to."
Eileen nodded her own agreement, as she stroked the pelt of one
of their stonalin-producing transgenic sheep. A sheep that had
been so valuable just a few short weeks earlier, before the
microchip in their extractor had failed. A sheep which the
federal authorities - now that the chips in the Welfare protein
wafer manufacturing plants had also failed - wanted slaughtered
for its meat alone.
Two days later, the food and drugs administration sent a van
around to collect the meat - which was taken at gunpoint.
Throughout these difficulties in the United States, it occurred
to few people to try to fix the British black-boxes of high
Even had they known what was wrong with the failing microchips,
it is highly unlikely that anything could be done about it -
there was no longer any technology outside of Wye's Britain that
was anywhere near advanced enough to manufacture chips of the
quantity, quality and - above all - reliability required.
Some members of the US government argued about that last
adjective. "If these chips are so reliable," they said, "Why is
it that they are failing us - all at once, and just when we need
That was when a minor official, collating statistics in a small
government department, noticed the odd coincidence of times.
The failure of the chips had come in batches, of roughly ten to
fifty thousand, with every chip in each particular batch failing,
apparently simultaneously, and each batch failing 24 hours after
the previous one.
US government officials had not, of course, been present at the
meeting almost two years previously.
"People," the Dictator had said, on December the twelfth, AD
2000, "In a modern world, we have the choice of many weapons of
war. The most devastating of these weapons, and the one likely to
cause the least loss of life in a war, is trade.
"We need a way to keep in control of our technology, so that we
can retaliate quickly and effectively in case of attack.
"My proposal is simple. We know that miniature radio receivers
have been developed for use in the National Network. We know that
a microchip is a delicate piece of equipment and - with the
assistance of the technology developed by our colleagues in
Sussex," Wye nodded acknowledgement in their direction, "We stand
here with a potential monopoly on the most powerful custom-built
chips on the planet."
"What are you getting at, Absolaam?" asked Dmitri, the ex-
Russian whose lab had been the one to make the first breakthrough
in the new chips, a scant two weeks before.
"I submit that, before we sell these chips overseas, we first
There was a minor uproar, which Wye had to actually stand up in
order to quell, "Please," the General said, "Hear me out." When
the clamour had settled down somewhat, he went on, "Is it
possible to install a radio receiver in each chip?" the General
"Da, it is possible - one of the chips developed for the Network
Cards incorporates a radio receiver and transmitter within its
microcircuitry, so the technology is there."
He was about to go on, but Wye interrupted with another
question, "Now, suppose that each chip had - say - half a dozen
points within it which resonated at the same frequency - that
chip could be disabled if sound waves of that frequency touched
"True," said Dmitri, thoughtfully, "But I can't see..."
"Now - if a simple radio receiver circuit is set to resonate at
that frequency when it receives a coded signal, then that signal
will effectively, and immediately, disable the chip?"
"Of course - and you are proposing that such a circuit be built
into every chip we produce for sale overseas, I suppose?" Dmitri
asked, intrigued almost despite himself, "Well, it could be done
- though the necessary circuits might monopolise a quarter -
maybe even half - of the chip's capacity."
"Given the capacity of the new chips, that's not a problem."
"I have just one question, Absolaam - why do this?"
Wye's face grew grave for a moment as he answered, "I want an
ace in the hole, Dmitri. Sometime, somewhere, somebody is going
to resent the technological might concentrated in this country. I
just want to be able to have something to fight them with.
"A first line of defence, to avoid an all-out war."
On the fourth of July, AD 2002, the first signal was sent via a
British satellite launched on board Phaelon II's second flight.
The complex pulse was transmitted for only a split-second, but
the chips failed immediately. Twenty four hours later, a second -
different - pulse was transmitted, and another batch of British
Over the course of that month, the US manufacturing industries
started to grind to a halt, for lack of the control systems
provided by the British chips. Several factories tried to re-tool
and re-organise, to operate without either the chips or the
machines which only they were capable of controlling.
This forced prices so high, however, that their sales figures
fell off to the extent that the investment in re-tooling could
not be recouped. Those companies were the ones which started to
go bankrupt first, though the others soon followed.
The public in the United States, which had initially been gung-
ho on the side of their president in kicking some of that
arrogant British butt, started to become uneasy.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.