David Louis Edelman
Infoquake
'Infoquake' mass market paperback cover

Draft 4: October 10, 2001

Both drafts 3 and 4 have the same Last Modified date, but I believe this version was actually written slightly later than the one I’ve labeled draft 3.

*

Natch was impatient.

He took one look at the bio/logic program floating in front of him and gave a snort of disgust. Imperfect! Unsatisfactory! The virtual diagram of NiteFocus 47.3 hovered before him like a mockery of all the projects he had left unfinished, all the goals he had left unattained. He felt like tearing the holographic programming code out of MindSpace with his bare hands and —

No. Natch pulled himself together. Rage was inefficient.

This was clearly Horvil’s sloppy work, and Horvil had prived himself to all incoming communication. So there was no use getting angry about it. Instead, Natch took a deep breath, picked up a pair of programming bars, and leapt back into the coding with a vengeance. The bio/logic programming bars looked like nondescript metal until they entered the bubble of MindSpace surrounding his workbench. It was only in MindSpace that you could see the holographic extensions to the metal that interacted with the floating blocks of virtual code. Natch reached for NiteFocus 47.3, spun it around like a top, caught it with one hand and began madly tugging at connexion strands. [1] This program would be perfect if it killed him.

Two hours later, Natch backed up with a sigh and tossed the programming bars aside. He launched the code and gave the program a moment to disseminate its instructions to the microscopic machines that had been floating in his bloodstream since birth. Yes, well, hmm, it’s doing something. Natch looked out the window into the coal-dark Shenandoah night and could clearly read the advertisement on a viewscreen down the road:

DRINK CHAIQUOKE
Because The Defense and Wellness Council Still Lets You.

So the damn [2] bio/logic program worked. Natch could upbraid his old friend Horvil later. For now, all that mattered was that NiteFocus 47.3 would be ready to launch onto the Data Sea on time. The Natch Personal Programming Fiefcorp would still be in business tomorrow.

Besides, there would always be NiteFocus 47.4. And NiteFocus 47.5. And NiteFocus 48…

His number one apprentice must have sensed that Natch had finished working for the night. “So is that one ready for launch?” said Jara hesitantly from her workbench six thousand kilometers away in Lundun.

“Does it look ready?” Natch replied brusquely. “Some of these connexions are clearly hooked up to the wrong PINs. [3] And there’s a whole section of code here that’s isolated from the rest of the program…. Horvil should be here poking through all this stuff, not me. Where is that lazy son-of-a-bitch anyway?”

“Probably asleep. It’s 7:30 in the morning over here.”

“So? It’s the middle of the night here in Shenandoah and I didn’t sleep at all yesterday.”

Jara gave an audible sigh that spoke volumes. It said: You are being too much of a perfectionist, Natch. It said: I’ve been an apprentice at your fiefcorp for three years now, and I know what it means when you get impatient like this. It said: What new schemes are you hatching that you’re not telling me about? “Do you want me to take a look at it?” she asked.

Natch started pacing back and forth across his pad, a sign of concentration. “No, don’t bother. I need you to research what the Patel Brothers are doing instead. They know we’re about to launch NiteFocus 47.3. We announced it. They know that we’re right at their heels. They know that we’re this close to knocking them out of the top spot. What I wanna know is, what are they doing about it?”

“Probably just launching an update to their competing product.”

” ‘Probably’ isn’t good enough, and you know it, Jara. We’ve got to take them down with this NiteFocus 47.3. I don’t care how.”

“All right, Natch.” Just don’t go off the deep end on me, Natch. I’ve got too much riding on this business. “Anything else?”

Natch absorbed the silent apprehension for a moment. It was amazing how much subtext you could communicate over thousands of kilometers, mind to mind, without a single word being spoken. “I need to get some air,” he announced. “No, that’s it. We’ll get the whole fiefcorp together for a meeting later today, say 3 p.m. Shenandoah time.” He summoned a newt, the invisible footservant of the bio/logic world. The newt received its instructions — inform the staff of the Natch Personal Generative Fiefcorp of a 3 p.m. meeting — and blinked away into the void to perform them. And then Natch prived himself, cutting Jara off from the conversation without further ado.

The Patel Brothers had some trick up their sleeve. Natch was sure of it. He had been competing against those clowns for three years now, slowly swimming against the tide, gobbling up the smaller fish as he went and growing bigger. Now that victory was within his grasp, Natch would do anything to put his fiefcorp on top of the bio/logic programming world. Jara would find out what Frederic and Petrucio Patel were up to, she would tell Natch, and Natch would devise a strategy to blow them out of the water.

As he walked out the door, the master of the Natch Personal Programming Fiefcorp had an instant of doubt. Maybe Jara was right. Maybe he was being too much of a perfectionist.

Natch shook his head. No. NiteFocus represented only the smallest fraction of the business to come. And if they couldn’t get simple bio/logic programs like NiteFocus 47.3 and EyeMorph 66a and Déjà vu Interpreter 21 right, how would they be prepared for what lay ahead? There was a tidal wave gathering offshore, a tidal wave that would make all their previous work look like mere ripples in the Data Sea. Jara did not see it yet. Few did. But soon enough, they would all be baptized in the fury and froth of a new order, and one could either be its prophet or its convert.

Natch intended to be its prophet. [4]

Notes

  1. This description of bio/logic programming at work was eventually shifted to later in the book, in chapter 12. [Back]
  2. I later removed all references to “damn,” “hell,” “God bless,” etc. from the book — basically any religious terminology. It became quite a challenge to find curses for the characters to use that didn’t sound too trite. (”By Grapthar’s Hammer!”) I think I almost succeeded. [Back]
  3. PINs stood for Programmable Interface Nodes, a concept in bio/logic programming. I did away with the term altogether when I realized that, after four drafts, I had no idea what a Programmable Interface Node was. [Back]
  4. Finally, by the fourth draft, I had abandoned the idea of including the Jump 225 sequence in the opening chapter. [Back]