SnowCrash

Neal Stephenson book, ISBN:0553351923

excerpt

Big chunk of story involves interacting with the MetaVerse Virtual World.

Someone quoted chunks from a scene involving managerial monitoring of how long it should take an employee to read a memo (about using Currency as Toilet Paper).

On International Development, Globalization: Once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out... once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity - There're only 4 things we (USA) do better than anyone else: music; movies; software; high-speed Pizza Delivery.

Excerpts

Why is the Deliverator so equipped? Because people rely on him. He is a role model. This is America.

There’s only four things we do better than anyone else:

Pizza delivery a major industry. A managed industry. People went to Cosa Nostra Pizza University four years just to learn it

If the thirty-minute deadline expires, news of the disaster is flashed to Cosa Nostra Pizza Headquarters and relayed from there to Uncle Enzo himself

But he wouldn’t drive for Cosa Nostra Pizza any other way.

You know why? Because there’s something about having your life on the line.

Cosa Nostra Pizza doesn’t have any competition. Competition goes against the Mafia ethic

Now a Burbclave, that’s the place to live. A city-state with its own constitution, a border, laws, cops, everything

The Deliverator was a corporal in the Farms of Merryvale State Security Force for a while once. Got himself fired for pulling a sword on an acknowledged perp

The Deliverator had to borrow some money to pay for it. Had to borrow it from the Mafia, in fact

when he applied for the Deliverator job they were happy to take him, because they knew him

So it was like being in a family. A really scary, twisted, abusive family

The Deliverator honks his horn. This is not a nominal outcome. Window slides open. That should never happen

*They have just given the Deliverator a twenty-minute-old pizza. He checks the address; it is twelve miles away. *

The Deliverator, in his distracted state, has allowed himself to get pooned. As in harpooned

The parasite is not just a punk out having a good time. It is a businessman making money. The orange and blue coverall, bulging all over with sintered armorgel padding, is the uniform of a Kourier

maybe he made a wrong turn somewhere—he realizes, as he catapults into an empty backyard swimming pool

Hiro, who as of thirty seconds ago is no longer the Deliverator

He is wearing shiny goggles that wrap halfway around his head. The bows of the goggles have little earphones that are plugged into his outer ears

he’s been putting a lot more emphasis on his auxiliary emergency backup job: freelance stringer for the CIC, the Central Intelligence Corporation of Langley, Virginia

The business is a simple one. Hiro gets information

He uploads it to the CIC database—the Library

CIC’s clients, mostly large corporations and Sovereigns, rifle through the Library looking for useful information, and if they find a use for something that Hiro put into it, Hiro gets paid

He has been learning the hard way that 99 percent of the information in the Library never gets used at all

The top surface of the computer is smooth except for a fisheye lens

Down inside the computer are three lasers—a red one, a green one, and a blue one

this beam is made to sweep back and forth across the lenses of Hiro’s goggles, in much the same way as the electron beam in a television paints the inner surface of the eponymous Tube. The resulting image hangs in space in front of Hiro’s view of Reality

So Hiro’s not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse

The dimensions of the Street are fixed by a protocol, hammered out by the computer-graphics ninja overlords of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Global Multimedia Protocol Group. The Street seems to be a grand boulevard going all the way around the equator of a black sphere with a radius of a bit more than ten thousand kilometers. That makes it 65,536 kilometers around, which is considerably bigger than Earth

Like any place in Reality, the Street is subject to development. Developers can build their own small streets feeding off of the main one

In order to place these things on the Street, they have had to get approval from the Global Multimedia Protocol Group, have had to buy frontage on the Street

*Y.T. has been privileged to watch many a young Clint plant his sweet face in an empty Burbclave pool during an unauthorized night run, but always on a skateboard, never ever in a car. The landscape of the suburban night has much weird beauty if you just look. *

Prompt delivery of the pizza will be a trivial matter

Y.T. can still see the LEDs: 29:54, and that’s what it says when she drops the pizza on Mr. Pudgely’s wing tips

The others are still blinded, but Y.T. sees into the night with her Knight Visions, sees all the way into near infrared, and she sees the source of it, a double-bladed stealth helicopter thirty feet above the neighbor’s house. It is tastefully black and unadorned, not a news crew—though another helicopter, an old-fashioned audible one, brightly festooned with up-to-the-minute logos, is thumping and whacking its way across White Columns airspace at this very moment, goosing the plantations with its own spotlight, hoping to be the first to obtain this major scoop: A pizza was delivered late tonight, film at eleven

The spotlight follows her for a moment, maybe picking up some stock footage. Videotape is cheap. You never know when something will be useful, so you might as well videotape it.

People make their living that way—people in the intel business. People like Hiro Protagonist

But apparently Hiro has a deal with them. Maybe she can make a deal with Hiro. Because Y.T. knows a lot of interesting little things

As Hiro approaches the Street, he sees two young couples

The people are pieces of software called avatars

*Your avatar can look any way you want it to, up to the limitations of your equipment. *

Hiro’s avatar just looks like Hiro, with the difference that no matter what Hiro is wearing in Reality, his avatar always wears a black leather kimono

You can’t just materialize anywhere in the Metaverse, like Captain Kirk beaming down from on high. This would be confusing and irritating to the people around you. It would break the metaphor

best done in the confines of your own House

a person who is coming in from a public terminal, then you materialize in a Port

Once you have materialized in a Port, you can walk down the Street or hop on the monorail or whatever

*The moment Hiro steps across the line separating his neighborhood from the Street, colored shapes begin to swoop down on him from all directions, like buzzards on fresh road kill. Animerda *

Hiro’s not so poor, yet, that he would go and write video games for this company. It’s owned by the Nipponese, which is no big deal. But it’s also managed by the Nipponese, which means that all the programmers have to wear white shirts and show up at eight in the morning and sit in cubicles and go to meetings

Software comes out of factories, and hackers are, to a greater or lesser extent, assembly-line workers

The prospect of becoming an assembly-line worker gives Hiro some incentive to go out and find some really good intel tonight

This intel thing can be great once you get yourself jacked into the grid. And with his connections it shouldn’t be any problem. He just has to get serious about it

But it’s so hard to get serious about anything.

He owes the Mafia the cost of a new car. That’s a good reason to get serious

headed for a large, low-slung black building

It’s a squat black pyramid with the top cut off

These people can’t pass through the door because they haven’t been invited

the name of the place: THE BLACK SUN

On the Street, avatars just walk right through each other

is—Hiro is just a starving CIC stringer who lives in a U-Stor-It by the airport. But in the entire world there are only a couple of thousand people who can step over the line into The Black Sun

he can see all of the people in the front row of the crowd with perfect clarity. They are all done up in their wildest and fanciest avatars, hoping that Da5id—The Black Sun’s owner and hacker-in-chief—will invite them inside

There’s one black-and-white who stands out because he’s taller than the rest. The Street protocol states that your avatar can’t be any taller than you are

Hey, Hiro,” the black-and-white guy says, “you want to try some Snow Crash

You can have it now.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a hypercard

The hypercard is an avatar of sorts. It is used in the Metaverse to represent a chunk of data

Or—more likely—a wide variety of nasty computer viruses. If Hiro reaches out and takes the hypercard, then the data it represents will be transferred from this guy’s system into Hiro’s computer. Hiro, naturally, wouldn’t touch it under any circumstances

That’s a hypercard. I thought you said Snow Crash was a drug,” Hiro says, now totally nonplussed.

“It is,” the guy says. “Try it.”

“Does it fuck up your brain?” Hiro says. “Or your computer?”

“Both. Neither. What’s the difference

Short-Range Chemical Restraint Projector—a loogie gun

Meta Cops have to tote this kind of gear because when each franchulate (Franchise) is so small, you can’t be chasing people around. The perp—almost always an innocent thrasher—is always a three-second skateboard ride away from asylum in the neighboring franchulate

Actually, it stands for Yours Truly, but if they can’t figure that out, fuck ‘em

THE HOOSEGOW

Premium incarceration and restraint services

I work for Radi K S. We protect our own.”

“Not tonight you don’t. Tonight you took a pizza from the scene of a car wreck. Left the scene of an accident. Radi K S tell you to deliver that pizza

Better take her uniform—all that gear,” the second Meta Cop suggests, not unlewdly

Y.T. shrugs, trying to think of something unnerving and wacky

A Kourier has to establish space on the pavement

The Black Sun is a much classier piece of software. In The Black Sun, avatars are not allowed to collide

The avatars look like real people. For the most part, so do the daemons

In The Black Sun, a daemon is like an avatar, but it does not represent a human being. It’s a robot that lives in the Metaverse

Hiro mumbles the word “Bigboard.” This is the name of a piece of software he wrote, a power tool for a CIC stringer. It digs into The Black Sun’s operating system, rifles it for information, and then throws up a flat square map in front of his face, giving him a quick overview of who’s here and whom they’re talking to

Looking up the aisle toward Da5id’s table, he sees Da5id talking to a black-and-white person. Despite her lack of color and shitty resolution, Hiro recognizes her by the way she folds her arms when she’s talking, the way she tosses her hair when she’s listening to Da5id. Hiro’s avatar stops moving and stares at her, adopting just the same facial expression with which he used to stare at this woman years ago

That first impression, back at the age of seventeen, was nothing more than that—the gut reaction of a post-adolescent Army brat who had been on his own for about three weeks. His mind was good, but he only understood one or two things in the whole world—samurai movies and the Macintosh—and he understood them far, far too well. It was a worldview with no room for someone like Juanita

Their skins were different colors but they all belonged to the same ethnic group: Military

And girls knew their place

they were all basically sweet and endearing and conforming and, if they happened to be smart, they went out of their way to hide it.

So the first time Hiro saw Juanita, or any other girl like her, his perspectives were bent all out of shape

When he saw her again after an absence of several years—a

*he was startled to realize that Juanita was an elegant, stylish knockout. *

By this point, Hiro’s face was frozen in a wary, astonished position that Juanita later made extensive use of in her work. Because, as she was talking to him, she was watching his face, analyzing the way the little muscles in his forehead pulled his brows up and made his eyes change shape

Then he had an alarming thought: What had he been like back in college? How much of an asshole had he been? Had he left Juanita with a bad impression?

In the end, it was probably his general disorientation that did them in

Juanita went celibate for a while and then started going out with Da5id and eventually got married to him

Then he got rich, and now he runs The Black Sun. Da5id has always been certain of everything

*In the early years of The Black Sun project, the only way the hackers ever got paid was by issuing stock to themselves. Hiro tended to sell his off almost as quickly as he got it. *

When Hiro’s father died, he cashed in all of his Black Sun stock to put Mom in a nice community in Korea. She loves it there

She was the one who figured out a way to make avatars show something close to real emotion. That is a fact Hiro has never forgotten, because she did most of her work when they were together, and whenever an avatar looks surprised or angry or passionate in the Metaverse, he sees an echo of himself or Juanita—the Adam and Eve of the Metaverse

they all came to the realization that what made this place a success was not the collision-avoidance algorithms or the bouncer daemons or any of that other stuff. It was Juanita’s faces

But Juanita never comes to The Black Sun anymore. Partly, she’s pissed at Da5id and the other hackers who never appreciated her work. But she has also decided that the whole thing is bogus. That no matter how good it is, the Metaverse is distorting the way people talk to each other, and she wants no such distortion in her relationships

he’s just taken an audio tape of the whole thing. Later, he can process it to disguise the voices, then upload it to the Library, cross-referenced under the director’s name. A hundred struggling screenwriters will call this conversation up, listen to it over and over until they’ve got it memorized, paying Hiro for the privilege, and within a few weeks, bazooka scripts will flood the director’s office

L. Bob Rife, the cable television monopolist. A very big name to the Industry, though he’s rarely seen. He seems to be meeting with a whole raft of big Nipponese honchos. Hiro has his computer memorize their names so that, later, he can check them against the CIC database and find out who they are. It has the look of a big and important meeting

“I hope you’re not going to mess around with Snow Crash,” she says. “Da5id won’t listen to me

Because of our relationship—when I was writing this thing—you and I are the only two people who can ever have an honest conversation in the Metaverse

It comes into his mind to wonder why she is always so alert in his presence

At this late date in his romantic career, he is just canny enough to come up with a new theory: She’s being careful because she likes him. She likes him in spite of herself. He is exactly the kind of tempting but utterly wrong romantic choice that a smart girl like Juanita must learn to avoid

Juanita has been using her excess money to start her own branch of the Catholic church—she considers herself a missionary to the intelligent atheists of the world

Juanita thinks for a while, eyeing him. Then she pulls a hypercard out of her pocket. “Here. Take this.”

As Hiro pulls it from her hand, the hypercard changes from a jittery two-dimensional figment into a realistic, cream-colored, finely textured piece of stationery. Printed across its face in glossy black ink is a pair of words

BABEL

INFOPOCALYPSE

Da5id gives him an indulgent smile. He has been very kind to Hiro ever since The Conversation, several years back. It was a conversation that started out as a friendly chat over beer and oysters between a couple of longtime comrades-in-arms. It was not until three-quarters of the way through The Conversation that it dawned on Hiro that he was, in fact, being fired, at this very moment. Since The Conversation, Da5id has been known to feed Hiro useful bits of intel and gossip from time to time

Da5id,” Hiro says, “I can’t believe you took a hypercard from a black-and-white person

Yeah. Go for it. It’s not every day you get to try out a new drug,” Hiro says

She puts her crude, ruby-red lips up by his ear and mumbles something that Hiro can’t hear.

When she leans back away from Da5id, his face has changed. He looks dazed and expressionless

You used to design avatars for rock stars, right?”

“Still do

Hiro turns around to look at Da5id. But Da5id’s not there anymore.

Instead of Da5id, there is just a jittering cloud of bad digital karma

About the second or third thing they learned how to do when studying to become Kouriers was how to shiv open a pair of handcuffs

You know, give me a hand. You’re my boyfriend,” she says, speaking very simply and plainly. “If I get popped, you’re supposed to come around and help bust me out.” Isn’t everyone supposed to know this stuff? Don’t parents teach their kids anything anymore?

What a jerk. Next date, he’s really going to have to grovel. But in the meantime, there’s one other person who owes her one

Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong,” Hiro says. “Half mile ahead on the right.”

“Nice thinkin’—but they won’t let you in with your swords, will they?”

“Yes,” he says, “because I’m a Citizen

*Hong Kong franchulates are famous for their lawngrids—who ever heard of a lawn you could park on?—and for their antennas. *

guns are illegal in Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong

There is nowhere he could have escaped to.”

“This happened very late in the war,” Hiro says, “and this camp was just outside of Nagasaki

Now Hiro knows something about this businessman, namely, that like most Nipponese sword fighters, all he knows is kendo

Kendo is to real samurai sword fighting what fencing is to real swashbuckling: an attempt to take a highly disorganized, chaotic, violent, and brutal conflict and turn it into a cute game

Hiro doesn’t have any zanshin at all. He just wants this over with. The next time the businessman sets up his ear-splitting screech and shuffles toward Hiro, cutting and snapping his blade, Hiro parries the attack, turns around, and cuts both of his legs off just above the knees

Then he leans down so he’s looking right into the businessman’s face. “Didn’t anyone tell you,” he says, losing the dialect, “that I was a hacker?”

Then he hacks the guy’s head off

The top ten swordsmen of all time are shown along with their photographs

Number One, the name and the photograph on the top of the list, belongs to Hirohito Protagonist

The Rat Thing has stopped. Which they never do. It’s part of their mystery that you never get to see them, they move so fast. No one knows what they look like. No one except for Y.T. and Hiro, now

The potentials of all ethnic races and anthropologies to merge under a banner of the Three Principles to follow

• Information, information, information! • Totally fair marketeering! • Strict ecology! have been peerless in the history of economic strife.

Who would disdain to live under this flowing banner? If you have not attained your Hong Kong citizenship, apply for a passport now

*She stands on the seat of the third toilet, pushes up one of the ceiling tiles, moves it aside. A cotton sleeve tumbles out, bearing a delicate floral print. She pulls on it and hauls down the whole ensemble, *

Mom works for the Feds. Feds don’t make much money, but they have to work hard, to show their loyalty

She has rolled up her sleeve to expose the fresh bruise, just above her elbow, where they put the blood-pressure cuff. Weekly Fed polygraph test

Of course I won the fucking sword fight,” Hiro says. “I’m the greatest sword fighter in the world.”

“And you wrote the software.”

“Yeah. That, too,” Hiro says

Traffic is not great, either. So Hiro jacks his computer into the cigarette lighter and goggles into the Metaverse

there’s no problem with going into his office, because that’s generated within the guts of his computer, which is sitting on his lap; he doesn’t need any communication with the outside world for that

There is something new: A globe about the size of a grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm’s length in front of his eyes. Hiro has heard about this but never seen it. It is a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns—all

apparently Juanita came in and made a major addition to his house as well. A man walks into the office.

The Librarian daemon looks like a pleasant, fiftyish, silverhaired, bearded man with bright blue eyes

The Librarian is the only piece of CIC software that costs even more than Earth; the only thing he can’t do is think

*Babel’s a city in Babylon, right?” *

For the most part I write myself,” the Librarian says. “That is, I have the innate ability to learn from experience. But this ability was originally coded into me by my creator

*I was not coded by a professional hacker, per se, but by a researcher at the Library of Congress who taught himself how to code,” the Librarian says. “He devoted himself to the common problem of sifting through vast amounts of irrelevant detail in order to find significant gems of information. His name was Dr. Emanuel Lagos.” *

Look up every piece of free information in the Library that contains L. Bob Rife and arrange it in chronological order

Rife went into business with his great-uncle, a financier with roots in the oil business

That sounded like summary to me. I thought you couldn’t summarize.”

“I can’t really. I was quoting a summary that Dr. Lagos made to Juanita Marquez recently, in my presence, when they were reviewing the same data

Are you telling me that Rife owns the Reverend Wayne?”

“He owns a majority share in Pearlygate Associates, which is the multinational that runs the Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates chain

the Nipponese finally knuckled under and let him corner the fiber-optics market in that country and, by extension, most of East Asia

we are looking out across the deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise, formerly of the U.S. Navy, now the personal yacht of L. Bob Rife

his efforts to extend his cable TV network throughout Korea and into China and link it up with his big fiber-optic trunk line that runs across Siberia and over the Urals

a number of Rife’s programmers, the people who made his systems run, got together and formed a union—unheard of, for hackers—and filed a suit against Rife, claiming that he had placed audio and video bugs in their homes, in fact placed all of them under twenty-four-hour surveillance, and harassed and threatened some programmers who were making what he called “unacceptable lifestyle choices

we’re working on refining our management techniques so that we can control that information no matter where it is—on our hard disks or even inside the programmers’ heads

new subject of infoastronomy, the search for radio signals coming from other solar systems

he has purchased a string of radio observatories and hooked them together, using his fabled fiber-optic net, to turn them into a single giant antenna as big as the whole earth

Again we are on the Enterprise, but this time the atmosphere is different again. The top deck has been turned into an open-air refugee camp. It is swarming with Bangladeshis that L. Bob Rife plucked out of the Bay of Bengal after their country washed into the ocean in a series of massive floods, caused by deforestation farther upstream in India—hydrological warfare. The camera pans to look out over the edge of the flight deck, and down below, we see the first beginnings of the Raft

Well, the function of the Raft is to bring more biomass. To renew America

You spend too much time goggled in,” she says. “Try a little Reality, man.”

“Where we are going,” Hiro says, “we’re going to get more Reality than I can handle

Vitaly puts on goggles, hooks himself into a computer on the sound truck, and begins tuning the system. There’s a 3-D model of the overpass already in memory. He has to figure out how to sync the delays on all the different speaker clusters to maximize the number of nasty, clashing echoes

Someone in this overpass, somewhere, is bouncing a laser beam off Hiro’s face. It’s annoying

Gargoyles represent the embarrassing side of the Central Intelligence Corporation. Instead of using laptops, they wear their computers on their bodies, broken up into separate modules that hang on the waist, on the back, on the headset. They serve as human surveillance devices, recording everything that happens around them

The laser that kept jabbing Hiro in the eye was shot out of this guy’s computer, from a peripheral device that sits above his goggles in the middle of his forehead. A long-range retinal scanner

Name’s Lagos,” the gargoyle says

You here on the Raven thing? Or just that fuzz-grunge tip you’ve been working on for the last, uh, thirty-six days approximately?” Lagos says

“The corporate assembly-line hackers are suckers for infection. They’re going to go down by the thousands, just like Sennacherib’s army before the walls of Jerusalem,” Lagos says

You’re a hacker. That means you have deep structures to worry about, too

selfmodifies—the software becomes part of the hardware. So now you’re vulnerable—all hackers are vulnerable—to a nam-shub. We have to look out for each other

You know, to the Mesopotamians, there was no independent concept of evil. Just disease and ill health. Evil was a synonym for disease

It does not seem as though such a large man could perch on a motorcycle, even a big chortling Harley like this one.

Correction. It’s a Harley with some kind of a sidecar added a sleek black projectile hanging off to the right, supported on its own wheel. But no one is sitting in the sidecar

He is looking at Hiro. He gives him the same fuck-you smile that he sported earlier tonight, when Hiro was standing in the entryway to The Black Sun, and he was in a public terminal somewhere.

This is the guy. Raven

The problem with you hackers is you never stop working.”

“That’s what a hacker is,” Hiro says

I’m Hiro Protagonist. You got my message, I take it.”

“Fabul” Sushi K cries

Lagos is lying on the ground, sprawled across the tire track. He has been slit open like a salmon

This wasn’t done with a sword,” Hiro says

This doesn’t look like a speed move. This looks like a strength move,” Squeaky says

As The Enforcer revolves, Hiro perceives that he has been impaled on an eight-foot-long bamboo spear

Mental note: Whether or not Raven intended to take on a bunch of Crips and Enforcers singlehandedly tonight, he didn’t even bother to pack a gun

See, T-Bone was, like, the registered owner of this unit. The suitcase. And as soon as he got more than about ten feet away from it—foosh—it self-destructed

*I would guess that whoever makes this drug—they call it Countdown, or Redcap, or Snow Crash—has a real thing about trade secrets. So if the pusher abandons the suitcase, or loses it, or tries to transfer ownership to someone else—*foosh

I’d be chasing Raven if I was a cop and it was my job to catch bad guys. But I’m an Enforcer, and it’s my job to enforce order. So I’m doing everything I can—and so is every other Enforcer in town—to protect Raven

Why should anyone protect Raven?”

Squeaky smiles, as though we have just crossed the border into the realm of kidding around. “He’s a Sovereign.”

“So declare war on him.”

“It’s not a good idea to declare war on a nuclear power

You volunteered to go to Vietnam?”

Uncle Enzo laughs. “Yes, I did. The only boy in my family to do so

You got millions of those Young Mafia types,” Y.T. says.

“All destined to wear blazers and shuffle papers in suburbia. You don’t respect those people very much, Y.T., because you’re young and arrogant. But I don’t respect them much either, because I’m old and wise

None of them would ever volunteer to go get his legs shot off in the jungle, just to piss off his old man. They lack a certain fiber. They are lifeless and beaten down

Y.T.’s not the first Kourier to take a job like this, and so she has heard about the place she is going. It is a narrow canyon, accessed only by this one road, and down in the bottom of the canyon a new gang lives. Everyone calls them the Falabalas, because that’s how they talk to each other. They have their own language and it sounds like babble

Y.T. is supposed to be on her way to a Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates franchise. If she screws up this delivery, that means she’s double-crossing God, who may or may not exist, and in any case who is capable of forgiveness. The Mafia definitely exists and hews to a higher standard of obedience

He is holding a one-meter-long piece of heavy rebar with tape wrapped around one end to make a handle. The rebar approximates a katana, but it is very much heavier. He calls it the redneck katana

Neurology ward,” Major Clem says, delivering this string of nouns like an order. “Fifth floor, east wing, room 564.”

The man in the hospital bed is Da5id

The franchise and the virus work on the same principle: what thrives in one place will thrive in another. You just have to find a sufficiently virulent business plan, condense it into a three-ring binder—its DNA—Xerox™ it, and embed it in the fertile lining of a well-traveled highway, preferably one with a left-turn lane. Then the growth will expand until it runs up against its property lines

. “No surprises” is the motto of the franchise ghetto

The people of America, who live in the world’s most surprising and terrible country, take comfort in that motto

The only ones left in the city are street people, feeding off debris; immigrants, thrown out like shrapnel from the destruction of the Asian powers; young bohos; and the technomedia priesthood of Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong. Young smart people like Da5id and Hiro, who take the risk of living in the city because they like stimulation and they know they can handle it.

*The Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates #1106 is a pretty big one. *

she sees that behind the franchise, near the dumpster, the asphalt is strewn with small glass vials, like the one that Squeaky was looking at last night

large colored light boxes that simulate tamed-glass windows. The largest of these, shaped like a fattened Gothic arch, is bolted to the back wall, above the altar, and features a blazing trinity: Jesus, Elvis, and the Reverend Wayne

Brandy’s scroll wasn’t just showing random static. It was flashing up a large amount of digital information, in binary form. That digital information was going straight into Da5id’s optic nerve. Which is part of the brain, incidentally—if you stare into a person’s pupil, you can see the terminal of the brain

What kind of information are we talking about?”

“Bad news. A metavirus,” Juanita says. “It’s the atomic bomb of informational warfare—a virus that causes any system to infect itself with new viruses

*But I have another question. Raven also distributes another drug—in Reality—called, among other things, Snow Crash. What is it?” *

It’s chemically processed blood serum taken from people who are infected with the metavirus,” Juanita says. “That is, it’s just another way of spreading the infection

Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing—is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”

*Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?” *

All people have religions. It’s like we have religion receptors built into our brain cells, or something, and we’ll latch onto anything that’ll fill that niche for us. Now, religion used to be essentially viral—a

That’s the way it used to be, and unfortunately, that’s the way it’s headed right now. But there have been several efforts to deliver us from the hands of primitive, irrational religion. The first was made by someone named Enki about four thousand years ago. The second was made by Hebrew scholars in the eighth century B.C., driven out of their homeland by the invasion of Sargon II, but eventually it just devolved into empty legalism. Another attempt was made by Jesus—that one was hijacked by viral influences within fifty days of his death

There’s some good stuff in the Babel stack about someone named Inanna,” she says.

“Who’s Inanna?”

“A Sumerian goddess. I’m sort of in love with her. Anyway, you can’t understand what I’m about to do until you understand Inanna.”

The Babel/Infopocalypse card is resting in the middle of his desk. Hiro picks it up

He doesn’t have an independent memory. The Library is his memory, and he only uses small parts of it at once

What can you tell me about speaking in tongues?” Hiro says.

“The technical term is ‘glossolalia,’” the Librarian says

It is a neurological phenomenon that is merely exploited in religious rituals

Pagan Greeks did it—Plato called it theornania. The Oriental cults of the Roman Empire did it. Hudson Bay Eskimos, Chukchi shamans, Lapps, Yakuts, Semang pygmies, the North Borneo cults, the Trhi-speaking priests of Ghana

*If mystical explanations are ruled out, then it seems that glossolalia comes from structures buried deep within the brain, common to all people.” *

Eusebius observed similar phenomena around the year 300, saying that the false prophet begins by a deliberate suppression of conscious thought, and ends in a delirium over which he has no control

From the Greek pentekostos, meaning fiftieth. It refers to the fiftieth day after the Crucifixion.”

*“Juanita just told me that Christianity was hijacked by viral influences when it was only fifty days old. She must have been talking about this. What is it?” *

Damned if I know,” Hiro says. “Sounds like Babel in reverse

Even the word ‘science’ comes from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to cut’ or ‘to separate.’ The same root led to the word ‘shit,’ which of course means to separate living flesh from nonliving waste. The same root gave us ‘scythe’ and ‘scissors’ and ‘schism,’ which have obvious connections to the concept of separation

Lagos was babbling to me about viruses and infection and something called a nam-shub. What does that mean?”

“Nam-shub is a word from Sumerian

No languages whatsoever are descended from Sumerian. It is an agglutinative tongue, meaning that it is a collection of morphemes or syllables that are grouped into words—very unusual

You are saying,” Hiro says, remembering Da5id in the hospital, “that if I could hear someone speaking Sumerian, it would sound like a long stream of short syllables strung together

Does anyone understand Sumerian?”

“Yes, at any given time, it appears that there are roughly ten people in the world who can read it

five at Rife Bible College in Houston, Texas

A nam-shub is a speech with magical force. The closest English equivalent would be ‘incantation,’ but this has a number of incorrect connotations

Religion, magic, and medicine are so completely intertwined in Mesopotamia that separating them is frustrating and perhaps futile work

A speech with magical force. Nowadays, people don’t believe in these kinds of things. Except in the Metaverse, that is, where magic is possible. The Metaverse is a fictional structure made out of code. And code is just a form of speech—the form that computers understand.

Port 127 is twenty thousand miles away.

“What is there?”

“A black cube exactly twenty miles on a side

Who do you think owns a black cube twenty miles across?”

“Just going on pure, irrational bias, I’m guessing L. Bob Rife. Supposedly, he has a big hunk of real estate out in the middle of nowhere where he keeps all the guts of the Metaverse

The room is filled with a three-dimensional constellation of hypercards, hanging weightlessly in the air. It looks like a highspeed photograph of a blizzard in progress. In some places, the hypercards are placed in precise geometric patterns, like atoms in a crystal. In other places, whole stacks of them are clumped together. Drifts of them have accumulated in the corners, as though Lagos tossed them away when he was finished

Rife Bible College, which he founded, has the richest archaeology department in the world. They have been conducting a dig in Eridu, which was the cult center of a Sumerian god named Enki

But the clay tablets were either baked or else buried in jars. So all the data of the Sumerians have survived. Egypt left a legacy of art and architecture; Sumer’s legacy is its megabytes

Tell me—has the inscription on this clay envelope been translated?”

“Yes. It is a warning. It says, ‘This envelope contains the nam-shub of Enki

This is a Babel story, isn’t it?” Hiro says. “Everyone was speaking the same language, and then Enki changed their speech so that they could no longer understand each other. This must be the basis for the Tower of Babel stuff in the Bible.”

“This room contains a number of cards tracing that connection,” the Librarian says

Did Lagos think that Babel really happened?”

“He was sure of it. He was quite concerned about the vast number of human languages. He felt there were simply too many of them

The social structure of any nation-state is ultimately determined by its security arrangements,” Ng says, “and Mr. Lee understands this

I tried prostheses for a while—some of them are very good. But nothing is as good as a motorized wheelchair. And then I got to thinking, why do motorized wheelchairs always have to be tiny pathetic things that strain to go up a little teeny ramp? So I bought this—it is an airport firetruck from Germany—and converted it into my new motorized wheelchair

Who decided to purge Asherah from Judaism?”

“The deuteronomic school—defined, by convention, as the people who wrote the book of Deuteronomy as well as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.”

“And what kind of people were they?”

“Nationalists. Monarchists. Centralists. The forerunners of the Pharisees

When you were going over this stuff with Lagos, did he ever say anything about the Bible being a virus?”

“He said it had certain things in common with a virus, but that it was different. He considered it a benign virus. Like that used for Vaccinations. He considered the Asherah virus to be more malignant, capable of being spread through exchange of bodily fluids

She was right. The Rat Things are made from dog parts.

“That’s cruel,” she says

*Can’t you imagine how liberating it is for a pit bull terrier to be capable of running seven hundred miles an hour?” *

Your mistake,” Ng says, “is that you think that all mechanically assisted organisms—like me—are pathetic cripples. In fact, we are better than we were before

Correct. Sumerian was used as the language of religion and scholarship by later civilizations, much as Latin was used in Europe during the Middle Ages. No one spoke it as their native language, but educated people could read it. In this way, Sumerian religion was passed on

Most Creation myths begin with a ‘paradoxical unity of everything, evaluated either as chaos or as Paradise,’ and the world as we know it does not really come into being until this is changed

As Kramer has it, Enki is the god of wisdom—but this is a bad translation. His wisdom is not the wisdom of an old man, but rather a knowledge of how to do things, especially occult things. ‘He astonishes even the other gods with shocking solutions to apparently impossible problems. He is a sympathetic god for the most part, who assists humankind

His word can bring order where there had been only chaos and introduce disorder where there had been harmony

Enki’s most important role is as the creator and guardian of the me and the gis-hur, the ‘key words’ and ‘patterns’ that rule the universe

In one myth, the goddess Inanna goes to Eridu and tricks Enki into giving her ninety-four me and brings them back to her home town of Uruk, where they are greeted with much commotion and rejoicing.”

“Inanna is the person that Juanita’s obsessed with

“I was a systems programmer for 3verse Systems in Mountain View, California,” the woman says

My system crashed,” she said. “I saw static. And then I became very sick. I went to the hospital. And there in the hospital, I met a man who explained everything to me. He explained that I had been washed in the blood. That I belonged to the Word now

The woman pushes up one sleeve of her raggedy sweatshirt to expose a needle-pocked arm.

“You took drugs?”

“No. We gave blood

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world

Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken

It orbits the Pacific clockwise. When they fire up the boilers on the Enterprise, it can control its direction a little bit, but real navigation is a practical impossibility with all the other shit lashed onto it. It mostly has to go where the wind and the Coriolis effect take it

That’s how Refus come across the Pacific, even though they are too poor to book passage on a real ship or buy a seaworthy boat. A new wave washes up onto the West Coast every five years or so, when the ocean currents bring the Enterprise back

Who were these gods anyway? Did Lagos have an opinion on that?”

“Lagos believed that they might have been magicians—that is, normal human beings with special powers—or they might have been aliens

A number of linguistic theories have been developed in an effort to tie all languages together.”

“Theories Lagos tried to apply to his virus hypothesis.”

“Yes. There are two schools: relativists and universalists. As George Steiner summarizes it, relativists tend to believe that language is not the vehicle of thought but its determining medium. It is the framework of cognition

In contrast with the relativists, who believe that languages need not have anything in common with each other, the universalists believe that if you can analyze languages enough, you can find that all of them have certain traits in common. So they analyze languages, looking for such traits.”

“Have they found any?”

“No. There seems to be an exception to every rule.”

The universalists place the active nodes of linguistic life—the deep structures—so deep as to defy observation and description

So which theory did Lagos believe in? The relativist or the universalist?”

“He did not seem to think there was much of a difference. In the end, they are both somewhat mystical. Lagos believed that both schools of thought had essentially arrived at the same place by different lines of reasoning

Lagos modified the strict Chomskyan theory by supposing that learning a language is like blowing code into PROMs—an analogy that I cannot interpret

Why aren’t there any nam-shubs in English?”

“Not all languages are the same, as Steiner points out

Early linguists, as well as the Kabbalists, believed in a fictional language called the tongue of Eden, the language of Adam. It enabled all men to understand each other, to communicate without misunderstanding. It was the language of the Logos, the moment when God created the world by speaking a word

Lagos believed that the legends about the tongue of Eden were exaggerated versions of true events,” the Librarian says. “These legends reflected nostalgia for a time when people spoke Sumerian, a tongue that was superior to anything that came afterward

Lagos believed that for this reason, Sumerian was a language ideally suited to the creation and propagation of viruses. That a virus, once released into Sumer, would spread rapidly and virulently, until it had infected everyone.”

“Maybe Enki knew that also,” Hiro says. “Maybe the nam-shub of Enki wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe Babel was the best thing that ever happened to us

Y.T.’s mom works in Fedland

Submitted to a frisking from an EBGOC girl. Annoying, but it sure beats a cavity search. They have a right to do a cavity search if they want. She got cavity searched every day for a month once, right after she had spoken up at a meeting and suggested that her supervisor might be on the wrong track with a major programming project

Climbed up half a dozen flights of stairs to her floor. The elevators here still work, but some very highly placed people in Fedland have let it be known—nothing official, but they have ways of letting this stuff out—that it is a duty to conserve energy

*Used to be divided up by partitions, but the EBGOC boys didn’t like it, said what would happen if there had to be an evacuation? *

Just workstations and chairs. Not even any desktops. Desktops encourage the use of paper

You’re only required to be at your workstation from eight to five, with a half-hour lunch break and two ten-minute coffee breaks, but if you stuck to that schedule it would definitely be noticed, which is why Y.T.’s mom is sliding into the first unoccupied workstation and signing on to her machine at quarter to seven

The problem of distributing bathroom tissue to workers presents inherent challenges for any office management system

many of you who have excess U.S. currency to get rid of have been trying to kill two birds with one stone by using old billions as bathroom tissue

She is an applications programmer for the Feds. In the old days, she would have written computer programs for a living. Nowadays, she writes fragments of computer programs. These programs are designed by Marietta and Marietta’s superiors in massive week-long meetings on the top floor

There’s Marietta. And a proctor. And some male Feds. And Leon the polygraph man

They want to know the only thing they can’t directly tap—what’s going on in her mind. They want to know whether she believes Y.T.’s virus story

The Alcan—the Alaska Highway—is the world’s longest franchise ghetto, a one-dimensional city two thousand miles long and a hundred feet wide, and growing at the rate of a hundred miles a year, or as quickly as people can drive up to the edge of the wilderness and park their bagos in the next available slot. It is the only way out for people who want to leave America but don’t have access to an airplane or a ship

*All these beefy Caucasians with guns! *

they are like beavers hyped up on crystal meth, manic engineers without a blueprint

The byproduct of the lifestyle is polluted rivers, greenhouse effect, spouse abuse, televangelists, and serial killers. But as long as you have that four-wheel-drive vehicle and can keep driving north, you can sustain it

He’s several hundred miles north of where the Raft is, and on the wrong side of the mountains. But there’s a guy here he wants to interview

*Chuck Wrightson,” he says. “Mr. President, are you here?” *

Yeah, I was president of TROKK for two years. And I still consider myself the president of the government in exile

*How were you forced out? Was there a civil war?” *

Russian Orthodox. At first they were a tiny minority. Mostly Indians—you know, Tlingits and Aleuts who’d been converted by the Russians hundreds of years ago. But when things got crazy in Russia, they started to pour across the Dateline in all kinds of different boats

The Orthos who came to TROKK were a new sect—all Pentecostals. They were tied in somehow with the Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates

They were always speaking in tongues

*how exactly did the Orthos manage to take the place over?” *

Well, one morning we woke up and there was an Airstream parked in the middle of Government Square

in the middle of the trailer, there’s this big black cone sitting on the floor. About the shape of an ice cream cone, except it’s about five feet long and it’s smooth and black. And I asked what the hell is that thing. And Gurov says, that thing is a ten-megaton hydrogen bomb

*Do you know how the Orthos came to be in possession of a hydrogen bomb?” *

There was a Soviet nuclear-missile submarine. The commander was named Ovchinnikov

Ovchinnikov let himself be persuaded to use his submarine—which is very large and very fast—to evacuate some of these poor Refus to TROKK

Well, the Stern Orthos have this guy named Raven—

*Raven’s an Aleut?” *

you said there was a metal detector.”

“Didn’t help. He uses glass knives. Chips them out of plate glass. It’s the sharpest blade in the universe, you know

On a sub, you know, there’s no place for things to drain to. The survivors claimed that the blood was knee-deep all through the submarine

He turns off all of the techno-shit in his goggles. All it does is confuse him; he stands there reading statistics about his own death even as it’s happening to him. Very post-modern. Time to get immersed in Reality, like all the people around him

Inanna.”

“A figure from Sumerian mythology. Later cultures knew her as Ishtar, or Esther

And so finally they come to the Raft. No one has told Y.T. this is where they’re going, but by now it’s obvious

Like Y.T. was brainwashed.

She can’t believe it has taken her this long to figure out what they were doing to her. And that just makes her more pissed

Hmm. This isn’t exactly the best service I’ve ever had at a Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong.”

“This is not a normal situation

We’re all in the same happy gang,” the man with the glass eye says.

“Which gang is that?”

“Lagos’s gang

the reason Lagos bothered to look it up is because he was doing market research. Looking for someone who might pay him hard cash for the stuff he dug up in the Babel/Infopocalypse stack

Rife stole Lagos’s idea. Just took it and ran with it. And after that, Lagos had no idea what Rife did with it. But a couple of years later, he started getting worried about a lot of stuff he was seeing

Lagos had a lot of stuff he was worried about. So he began to approach people. He approached us. He approached that girl you used to go out with—”

“Juanita.”

“Yeah. Nice girl. And he approached Mr. Lee. So you might say that a few different people have been working on this little project

There are four men in the life raft

For a couple of days, a powerful chill wind coming down out off the mountains drives them out of Oregon, out toward the open water

you have to understand the Mafia way. And the Mafia way is that we pursue larger goals under the guise of personal relationships

This is how we avoid the trap of self-perpetuating ideology. Ideology is a virus

But his real reason for being in Flatland is that Hiro Protagonist, last of the freelance hackers, is hacking

Hiro does not know what he is doing, what he is preparing for. That’s okay, though. Most of programming is a matter of laying groundwork, building structures of words that seem to have no particular connection to the task at hand

He knows one thing: The Metaverse has now become a place where you can get killed. Or at least have your brain reamed out to the point where you might as well be dead

It’s going to take a lot of work to change that—a full-on mental rebuilding of the whole Metaverse, carried out on a planetwide, corporate level

In the meantime, there may be a role for individuals who know their way around the place. A few hacks can make a lot of difference in this situation. A freelance hacker could get a lot of shit done, years before the giant software factories bestir themselves to deal with the problem

It’s not easy working with a piece of data that can kill you. But that’s okay

Once the virus has been extracted and isolated, it is easy enough for Hiro to write a new program called Snow Scan. Snow Scan is a piece of medicine

Hiro’s good with avatars, so he writes himself an invisible avatar—just because, in the new and more dangerous Metaverse, it might come in handy. This is easy to do poorly and surprisingly tricky to do well

Are you saying these guys are homos?” Fisheye says, his face shriveling up.

“Shit, man,” Eliot says, “you didn’t even blink when I told you about the scalps

REASON

version 1.0B7

Gatling-type 3mm hypervelocity railgun system

Ng Security Industries, Inc

Policy decision. The hostage tactic failed. So we go for an extraction.”

“Extraction of what?”

“Of Y.T

He’s talking politics. She hears a fragmented history of the Aleuts, a burst here and a burst here, when Raven isn’t poking squid into his mouth

But every nuclear power has one aboriginal group whose territory they nuked to test their weapons. In America, they nuked the Aleutians. Amchitka. My father,” Raven says, grinning proudly, “was nuked twice: once at Nagasaki, when he was blinded, and then again in 1972, when the Americans nuked our homeland

If you see Raft people with antennas coming out of their heads, try to kill them first, because they can talk to each other

We have a thing we do in kayaks. It’s like surfing,” Raven says.

“Really? I surf, too—in traffic,” Y.T. says

That’s what I’m doing with the Orthos. I agree with some of their religion. But not all of it. But their movement has a lot of power. They have a lot of people and money and ships.”

“And you’re surfing on it

All of this is fitting together now: the Feds and L. Bob Rife and the Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates and the Raft are all part of the same deal

And that’s how Hiro figures out that this isn’t a headset at all. The antenna has been permanently grafted onto the base of the man’s skull.

Hiro switches his goggles into millimeter-wave radar and stares into the man’s ruined head.

The antenna is attached to the skull by means of short screws that go into the bone, but do not pierce all the way through. The base of the antenna contains a few microchips, whose purpose Hiro cannot divine by looking at them. But nowadays you can put a supercomputer on a single chip, so anytime you see more than one chip together in one place, you’re looking at significant warez

Ng blows out more smoke, thinking. “As we learned in Vietnam, high-powered weapons are so sensorily overwhelming that they are similar to PsychoActive drugs. Like LSD, which can convince people they can fly—causing them to jump out of windows—weapons can make people overconfident. Skewing their tactical judgment. As in the case of Fisheye

We’ve got two kinds of language in our heads. The kind we’re using now is acquired. It patterns our brains as we’re learning it. But there’s also a tongue that’s based in the deep structures of the brain, that everyone shares. These structures consist of basic neural circuits that have to exist in order to allow our brains to acquire higher languages.”

*“Linguistic infrastructure,” Uncle Enzo says. *

Glossolalia—speaking in tongues—is the output side of it

You’re saying there’s an input side, too?” Ng says.

“Exactly. It works in reverse. Under the right conditions, your ears—or eyes—can tie into the deep structures, bypassing the higher language functions

Primitive societies were controlled by verbal rules called me

I think you have a chicken-and-egg problem,” Uncle Enzo says. “How did such a society first come to be organized?”

“There is an informational entity known as the metavirus

Any information system of sufficient complexity will inevitably become infected with viruses—viruses generated from within itself

*You are saying that civilization started out as an infection?” *

Sumerian culture—with its temples full of me—was just a collection of successful viruses that had accumulated over the millennia. It was a franchise operation, except it had ziggurats instead of golden arches, and clay tablets instead of three-ring binders

*Enki was an en who just happened to be especially good at his job. He had the unusual ability to write new me—he was a hacker. He was, actually, the first modern man, a fully conscious human being, just like us. *

At some point, Enki realized that Sumer was stuck in a rut

*So he created the nam-shub of Enki, a countervirus that spread along the same routes as the me and the metavirus. It went into the deep structures of the brain and reprogrammed them. Henceforth, no one could understand the Sumerian language, or any other deep structure-based language. *

Why didn’t everyone starve from lack of bread, having lost the bread-making me?” Uncle Enzo says.

“Some probably did. Everyone else had to use their higher brains and figure it out. So you might say that the nam-shub of Enki was the beginnings of human consciousness—when we first had to think for ourselves

The Asherah virus, which may be related to herpes, or they may be one and the same, passes through the cell walls and goes to the nucleus and messes with the cell’s DNA in the same way that steroids do. But Asherah is a lot more complicated than a steroid

No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information. But being physically infected with a virulent strain of the Asherah virus makes you a whole lot more susceptible

But because of its latency—coiled about the brainstem of those it infects, passed from one generation to the next—it always finds ways to resurface. In the case of Judaism, it came in the form of the Pharisees

The ministry of Jesus Christ was an effort to break Judaism out of this condition—sort of an echo of what Enki did. Christ’s gospel is a new nam-shub, an attempt to take religion out of the temple, out of the hands of the priesthood, and bring the Kingdom of God to everyone

People who were used to the rigid theocracy of the Pharisees couldn’t handle the idea of a popular, nonhierarchical church. They wanted popes and bishops and priests. And so the myth of the Resurrection was added onto the gospels. The message was changed to a form of idolatry

The Reformation opened the door a little wider. But Pentecostalism didn’t really take off until the year 1900, when a small group of Bible-college students in Kansas began to speak in tongues

The Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates is the cult of Asherah

L. Bob Rife’s glossolalia cult is the most successful religion since the creation of Islam. They do a lot of talking about Jesus, but like many self-described Christian churches, it has nothing to do with Christianity except that they use his name. It’s a postrational religion

He also wanted to spread the biological virus as a promoter or enhancer of the cult, but he couldn’t really get away with doing that through the use of cult prostitution because it is flagrantly anti-Christian. But one of the major functions of his Third World missionaries was to go out into the hinterlands and vaccinate people—and there was more than just vaccine in those needles

Here in the First World, everyone has already been vaccinated, and we don’t let religious fanatics come up and poke needles into us. But we do take a lot of drugs. So for us, he devised a means for extracting the virus from human blood serum and packaged it as a drug known as Snow Crash

He also has a digital metavirus, in binary code, that can infect computers, or hackers, via the optic nerve.”

“How did he translate it into binary form?” Ng says.

“I don’t think he did. I think he found it in space. Rife owns the biggest radio astronomy network

What do you think Rife wants?” Ng says.

“He wants to be Ozymandias, King of Kings

But there’s an antidote to Rife’s bogus religion. The nam-shub of Enki still exists

I am fairly certain that the information we need is contained within a clay envelope that was excavated from the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu in southern Iraq ten years ago

She doesn’t want you to understand her. She knows that’s impossible. She just wants you to understand yourself. Everything else is negotiable

What makes you think I don’t understand myself?”

“It’s just obvious. You’re a really smart hacker and the greatest sword fighter in the world—and you’re delivering pizzas and promoting concerts that you don’t make any money off of

Why? Why doesn’t it work on you?”

“I’ve spent the last several years hanging around with Jesuits

So all this time, your goal was to study Enki’s tablets.”

“To get the me, just like Inanna

And I can do it now. I’m a ba’al shem. I can hack the brainstem

And a string of syllables pours out of the speaker.

In the middle of it, Hiro glances up at Juanita. She’s standing in the far corner of the room with her fingers stuck in her ears

Normally, the stage is occupied by major rock groups. Tonight, it is occupied by the grandest and most brilliant computer hallucinations that the human mind can invent. A three-dimensional marquee hangs above it, announcing tonight’s event: a benefit graphics concert staged on behalf of Da5id Meier

He’s in front of Port 127. Rife’s black cube is there, just as Y.T. described it. There’s no door

He pokes his katana through the side of the cube and follows it through the wall and out the other side.

This is a hack. It is really based on a very old hack, a loophole

Don’t ask me why I think this. But I think that the government has been undertaking a big software development project for L. Bob Rife

I understand the depth of your feelings,” Hiro says. “But don’t you think you’ve had enough revenge?”

“There’s no such thing as enough,” Raven says

The concussion nearly blows his head off. Uncle Enzo, if he survives, will never hear well again. But it does wake him up a little bit. He lifts his head off the board to see Raven standing there stunned, empty-handed, a thousand tiny splinters of broken glass raining down out of his jacket


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