Jackpot trilogy

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The jackpot killed 80 percent of every last person alive…water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone…diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic…

William Gibson's in-progress Jackpot trilogy of science fiction/mystery thriller novels includes The Peripheral (2014) and Agency (2020). The fictional "jackpot" described in the novels is an "androgenic, systemic, multiplex" cluster of environmental, medical and economic crises that begins to emerge in the present day and eventually reduces world population by 80 percent over the second half of the 21st century. One set of characters appearing in The Peripheral and Agency live in 22nd century London, when scientific advancements are lessening the severity of the jackpot. Another set of characters introduced in The Peripheral live in an unnamed rural American county before the middle of the 21st century, that resembles Gibson's ancestral home of Whythe County, Virginia. A third group, introduced in Agency, are in San Francisco, in 2017. All three groups share the same past, but face different literal futures. Despite this quantum separation, the three groups are able to communicate over conventional technology with the aid of a mysterious 22nd century "server" purported to be in China. Gibson explicitly avoids using "jackpot" as a proper noun, hence the lowercase "j," except in reference to the trilogy.

The Peripheral (2014)[edit]

About The Peripheral

  • I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time travelling.
Sometimes the haptics glitched Burton…ghosts of the tattoos he’d worn in the war…to tell him when to run, when to be still, when to do the bad-ass dance.
  • They didn’t think Flynne’s brother had PTSD, but that sometimes the haptics glitched him…like phantom limb, ghosts of the tattoos he’d worn in the war, put there to tell him when to run, when to be still, when to do the bad-ass dance…
    So they allowed him some disability for that, and he lived in the trailer down by the creek.
    • Chapter 1, "The Haptics" (first paragraph of the novel)
  • “You’re a publicist,” Rainey said. “She’s a celebrity. That’s interspecies.”
    • Chapter 2, "Death Cookie" (Rainey chastises her colleague, Wilf Netherton, for his brief affair with a client, Daedra West.)
  • Nobody liked Luke 4:5, but Burton had a bad thing about them. They’d started out as a church, or in a church, not liking anyone being gay or getting abortions or using birth control. Protesting military funerals…and took it as the measure of God’s satisfaction with them that everybody else thought they were assholes.
    • Chapter 3, "Pushing the Bugs" (Luke 4:5 is analogous to Westboro. The eponymous verse is from the temptation of Jesus: "The devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment.")
  • Netherton’s eyes widened, preparing to pitch something he hadn’t yet invented, none of what he’d said so far having been true.
    [Daedra's] head was perfectly still, eyes unblinking. He imagined her ego swimming up behind them, to peer at him suspiciously, something eel-like.
    …And then she smiled.
    Rainey’s sigil privacy-dimmed. “I’d want to have your baby now,” she said, from Toronto, “except I know it would always lie.”
    • Chapter 4, "Something So Deeply Earned"
Not a pedestrian or vehicle in sight. London’s vast quiet seemed suddenly to press in.
  • He imagined her now, stretched on a couch in her elongated Toronto apartment…She’d be wearing a headband, to trick her nervous system into believing the rented peripheral’s movements were hers in a dream.
    • Chapter 10, "The Maenads' Crush" (Netherton thinking of Rainey)
  • “And they’re dead?” she’d asked.
    “Probably.”
    “A long time ago?”
    “Before the jackpot.”
    “But alive, in the past?…Why haven’t I heard of it before?”
    “It’s new. It’s quiet…Something to do with quantum tunneling.”
    “How far back can they go?”
    2023, earliest. He thinks something changed, then; reached a certain level of complexity. Something nobody there had any reason to notice.”
    • Chapter 12, "Thylacine" (Wilf Netherton explains continua (stubs) to Daedra West.)
Luke 4:5…started out as a church, not liking anyone being gay or using birth control. Protesting military funerals. Basically, just assholes.
  • He was watching one of Lev’s two thylacine analogs through the kitchen window.…Now it turned, in its uncanine fashion, its vertically striped flank quite heraldic, and seemed to stare at him.
    The regard of a mammalian predator neither canid nor felid was a peculiar thing.
    • Chapter 12, "Thylacine" (genetically engineered "Tasmanian tigers")
  • And it was like she could see herself there, on the gray gravel in front of Jimmy’s, and the tall old cottonwoods on either side of the lot, trees older than her mother, older than anybody, and she was talking to a boy who was half a machine, like a centaur made out of a motorcycle, and maybe he’d been just about to kill another boy, or a few of them, and maybe he still would.
    • Chapter 17, "Cottonwood"
  • Actually seeing the polt had been surprisingly interesting...driving, eyes on whatever motorway, seventy-some years earlier, on the far side of the jackpot…Gloriously pre-posthuman. In a state of nature. And hustling, Netherton had soon seen, eye on the money. Improvising, and with utterly unfamiliar material.
    • Chapter 20, "Polt" (short for poltergeist, slang for the long-dead people inside the stubs)
  • "So Homes had Burton's phone overnight. What worries me is that they might have looked at mine while they had his.”
    “In that case,” Macon said, “they’d have looked at mine as well. Your brother and I pretty much in a way of business…Some bored Homes in a big white truck, looking for porn, I could probably tell. But some panoptic motherfucker federal AI? Fuck only knows.”
    • Chapter 25, "Kydex"
Quantum tunneling oscillations of probability in an integrable double well of potential, seen in phase space.
  • “You might begin by explaining this hobby of yours, Mr. Zubov…‘continua enthusiast.’”
    “You know about the server?”
    “The great mystery, yes. Assumed to be Chinese, and as with so many aspects of China today, quite beyond us. You use it to communicate with the past, or rather a past, since in our actual past, you didn’t. That rather hurts my head, Mr. Zubov."
    "The act of connection produces a fork in causality, the new branch causally unique. A stub, as we call them.”
    "But why do you call them that?" Lowbeer asked. "It sounds short. Nasty. Brutish.
    • Chapter 26, "Very Senior" (Detective Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer begins her inquiry into a possible murder.)
  • “Who called you?” Burton asked, seated behind Tommy, in the Faraday cage where they put prisoners.
    “State AI. Satellite noticed the vehicle hadn’t moved for two hours. Also flagged your property for unusual drone activity, but I told ’em that was you and your friends playing games.”
    “Appreciate it.”
    “How long you intend to be playing?”
    “Hard to say.”
    “Kind of a special tournament?”
    “Kind of.”
    • Chapter 27, "Dead Old Boys"
He was watching one of Lev’s two thylacine analogs. The regard of a mammalian predator neither canid nor felid was a peculiar thing.
  • “Do you print your own? Drones?”
    “Does a bear shit in the woods?”
    Netherton looked blank, then up and to his right. Appeared to read something. “You…do.”
    • Chapter 29, "Atrium"
  • “They won’t say what it is. Like we’re beta-testing something. Said they’re in Colombia."
    “Colombia was a drug place before there were builders,” said Edward. “Now it’s a money place. Like Switzerland…The files they sent. We’re being asked to fab something that we can’t find any record of having been built before.”
    “Could be corporate espionage,” said Macon. “That would be interesting. Haven’t gone there before. That has our attention.”
    • Chapter 31, "Funny"
  • Leon had to come into town to do contractually obligated promo media with a crew from the lottery, with, he said, the douchebag he’d bought the ticket from.
    “If he’s a douchebag,” Flynne asked, “why’d you buy the ticket from him?”
    “’Cause I knew it would burn his ass so bad, when I won,” Leon said.
    • Chapter 33, "Stupidity Tax"
"Some bored Homes in a big white truck, looking for porn, I could probably tell. But some panoptic motherfucker federal AI? Fuck only knows.”
  • “Too much like asymmetric warfare.”
    "Terrorism.”
    “We prefer not to use that term,” said Lowbeer, "if only because terror should remain the sole prerogative of the state.”
    • Chapter 34, "Headless"
  • Flynne pictured the stuff in Conner’s yard, humped over with morning glory vines, and imagined him never joining the Marines. So that he’d stayed here, found some unfunny way to make a living, met a girl, gotten married. Had kids. And his wife getting all the morning glory cleared away, and everything hauled off, and planting grass for a real front yard. But she couldn’t make it stick, couldn’t quite believe it, and she wished she could.
    • Chapter 35, "The Stuff in His Yard"
  • “Password?”
    Easy Ice, lowercase, no space.”
    “That’s such a shit password, it’s not even a password.”
    “I’m a just normal fucking person, Macon.”
    “Normal fucking people never do whatever it is you’re about to.” He smiled.
    • Chapter 41, "Zero"
A Mercedes land-yacht…Lev’s grandfather commissioned for a tour of Mongolia (Gobiwagen)
  • “I used to play in a game, because I needed the money…It was a hobby for them. Rich fucks. They bet on who’d win.” She was staring at Netherton.
    All his glibness, all his faithful machinery of convincing language, somehow spun silently against this, finding no traction whatever.
    “But if it’s a game, why did someone send those men to kill us? How’d you know the winning number in the lottery, Mr. Netherton?"
    “This isn’t…your world.”
    “So what is it?”
    “The future,” said Netherton, feeling utterly ridiculous. On impulse, he added the year.
    “No way.”
    • Chapter 42, "Body Language"
  • "Their stuff’s all seventy years faster than ours,” Flynne said.
    “Okay,” he said, and she wondered if what she was seeing in his eyes was the Corps’ speed, intensity, violence of action, or his right way of seeing. Because he just got it. Ignored the crazy, went tactically forward.
    "Just lock everything down, really tight," she said. "We don’t know enough now to make any kind of move at all.”
    Burton looked at her. “Easy Ice,” he said, and she saw the shiver run through him in the moonlight, the haptic thing.
    • Chapter 45, "Up There" ("Easy Ice" is Flynne's gaming handle)
  • “You’re used to telepresence, then,” Lev said.
    “We call it getting a haircut,” Flynne said, giving him a look as she got to her feet, “back in frontier days.”
    • Chapter 46, "The Sights"
  • The peripheral’s eyes opened wide. “Christ on a corndog,” it said, raising large hands until it could see them. It wiggled the fingers of both. "Goddamn. Look at all these fingers.”
    • Chapter 49, "The Sounds He Made" (Conner, now controlling the second peripheral, is a multi-amputee veteran.)
"Also flagged your property for unusual drone activity, but I told ’em that was you and your friends playing games.”
“Appreciate it.”
  • “It’s not a dream,” Flynne said. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a dream. Don’t know that any of us are okay.”
    “Never sprained anything in a dream,” Conner said.
    • Chapter 50, "While the Getting's Good"
  • “Lead the way then, Mr. Netherton,” said Lowbeer.
    Netherton did, imagining, as he climbed the stairs, a better world, one in which a relaxing drink would be waiting in the sitting room.
    • Chapter 52, "Boots on the Ground"
  • “Why’re you here?”
    “Thing is,” Tommy said, “strangers keep getting killed out this way.”
    Flynne looked at him, stuck for what to say.
    “Why, if you don’t mind my asking, have you been sleeping, if that was sleeping, with some kind of sugarloaf cake on your head? And what, and this is what I’ve really been wanting to ask somebody for the last little while, the actual fuck is going on out here? Out here, in town, over in Clanton, at the statehouse.”
    “We aren’t builders.”
    “The basic flow of cash in the county’s changed, Flynne, and I mean overnight. So pardon my jumping to conclusions.”
    • Chapter 55, "Complicated" (Tommy Constantine is a sheriff's deputy, the closest thing the county has to un-corrupt law enforcement.)
  • “Ash imagines you a conservative,” Lowbeer said, “or a romantic, perhaps. She sees your distaste for the present rooted in the sense of a fall from grace. That some prior order, or perhaps the lack of one, afforded a more authentic existence.”
    “I simply imagine things were less tedious,” Netherton said.
    “I personally recall that world, which you can only imagine was preferable to this one,” she said. “Eras are conveniences, particularly for those who never experienced them. We carve history from totalities beyond our grasp."
    • Chapter 68, "Antibody"
So Flynne had gone out to the chair and sat in it with Wilf in the Wheelie Boy, and he’d started to explain what he called the jackpot.
  • So Flynne sat with Wilf (in the Wheelie Boy), and started to explain what he called the jackpot…That it was multicausal, with no particular beginning and no end. More a climate than an event. And in fact the actual climate…had been the driver for a lot of other things. How that got worse and never better, and was just expected to, ongoing. Because people in the past, clueless as to how that worked, had fucked it all up, then not been able to get it together to do anything about it, even after they knew, and now it was too late.
    • Chapter 79, "The Jackpot"
  • So now they were headed into androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad shit, like she sort of already knew, figured everybody did, except for people who still said it wasn’t happening, and those people were mostly expecting the Second Coming anyway.
    • Chapter 79, "The Jackpot"
  • Wilf told her it killed 80 percent of every last person alive, over about forty years…droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves.
    • Chapter 79, "The Jackpot"
  • But science…had been the wild card, the twist. With everything stumbling deeper into a ditch of shit, history itself become a slaughterhouse, science had started popping.
    • Chapter 79, "The Jackpot"
  • She looked at the moon. It would look the same, she guessed, through the decades he’d sketched for her.
    None of that, he said, had necessarily been as bad for very rich people. Constant crisis had provided constant opportunity.
    • Chapter 79, "The Jackpot"
“Is there a window?”
“You’d just be seeing behind a strip-mall in Buttholeville.”
“Is that the town’s name?”
  • It is,” said Lowbeer, “as people used to say, to my unending annoyance, what it is."
    • Chapter 80, "The Clovis Limit"
  • “Conspiracy theory’s got to be simple. People are more scared of how complicated shit actually is than they ever are about whatever’s supposed to be behind the conspiracy.”
    “They think Homes was building drugs?” Flynne said.
    “How else do you finance the United Nations taking over?”
    “There’s hardly any UN left, Janice.”
    “UN’s got deep roots in the demonology.”
    • Chapter 81, "Alamo"
  • “Luke 4:5 still across the street?”
    “I think so, but Ossian’s exploring buying them out.”
    “Buying a church?”
    “You may already own several."
    • Chapter 95, "Whole Worlds Falling" (Flynne and Netherton)
Newgate Prison: At the City’s westernmost gate, for a thousand years, had stood a jail, and this its ultimate and final expression.
  • Conner was in the garden, on hands and knees, snarling at Gordon and Tyenna. They were facing him, side by side, as if ready to spring, their musculature looking even less canine than usual, their stiff tails in particular. Carnivorous kangaroos, in wolf outfits with Cubist stripes.
    “What’s he doing out there?” Netherton asked.
    “I don’t know,” said Lev, “but they love it.”
    Now the two creatures lunged at Conner simultaneously. He fell between them, flailing, wrestling with them. They were making a high-pitched, repetitious coughing sound.
    • Chapter 96, "Disanthropmorphized" (rough-housing with Lev's genetically engineered thylacines)
  • “You should be a weatherman,” Leon said, “you’re in the future and you know the weather.”
    “You’re someone who only pretends to be unintelligent,” Netherton said. “It serves you simultaneously as protective coloration and a medium for passive aggression. It won’t work with me.”
    “Future’s fucking snippy.”
    • Chapter 100, "Back Here"
Burton and Shaylene lived in town, in the residential wing of the Coldiron USA building. That stood, the whole block of it, where the strip mall had been.
  • Netherton saw the glowering bulk of Newgate…the structure’s pitted granite flanks, spiked with iron. At the City’s westernmost gate, for more than a thousand years, had stood a jail, and this its ultimate and final expression. Or had been, rather, as it had been torn down in 1902, at the start of that oddly optimistic age before the jackpot. To be rebuilt a few years before his birth. The klept having deemed its return a wise and necessary thing.
    • Chapter 117, "Its Granite Face, Bristling with Iron" (Newgate Prison)
  • In through a gate that reminded Flynne of a Baptist anime of hell she’d seen. Burton and Leon had thought the fallen women were hot.
    Into this thing’s shade, its coldness. Flagstone floors like paths in some very wrong garden. Dull lamps, like the eyes of big sick animals. It was like the intro segment for a Ciencia Loca episode, paranormal investigators, going someplace where a lot of people had suffered and died.
    • Chapter 118, "Balcony Man" (Flynne's impressions of Newgate Prison)
  • People who couldn’t imagine themselves capable of evil were at a major disadvantage in dealing with people who didn’t need to imagine, because they already were. Lowbeer had said it was always a mistake, to believe those people were different, special, infected with something that was inhuman, subhuman, fundamentally other. Which had reminded Flynne of what her mother had said…That evil wasn’t glamorous, but just the result of ordinary half-assed badness, high school badness, given enough room to become its bigger self, with more horrible results.
    • Chapter 123, "Compound"
  • “You're weird, Wilf…You want to fetishize an extremely narrow-bandwidth experience,” Macon said, “that’s your business.”
    • Chapter 124, "Putney"

Agency (2020)[edit]

About Agency

She put the glasses on…a cursor appearing.
“Here we go,” said a woman’s husky voice in Verity’s ear.
  • She put the glasses on…a cursor appearing. A white arrow, centered in her field of vision. Then moving down, of its own accord.
    “Here we go,” said a woman’s husky voice in Verity’s ear.
    • Chapter 1, "The Unboxing"
  • “Vespasian,” Detective Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer said, peering sidewise at Netherton over her greatcoat’s upraised collar, “our hobbyist of hellworlds. Recall him?”
    “The one who made such horrific stubs? All war, all the time?”
    “I’d wondered how he so quickly rendered them nightmares,” she said. “Eventually, I looked into it…Vespasian discovered a simple way of exaggerating the butterfly effect, or so it seems…On making contact, he’d immediately withdraw. Then return, months later, study the results, and very deliberately and forcefully intervene. He achieved remarkable if terrible results, and very quickly. Investigating his method, I happened on another of his so-called stubs, one in which he’d initiated contact in 2015, several years before the earliest previously known contact."
    • Chapter 2, "Our Hobbyist of Hellworlds"
  • "I dislike calling them stubs,” Lowbeer said. “They’re short because we’ve only just initiated them, by reaching into the past and making that first contact. We should call them branches, as they literally are."
    • Chapter 2, "Our Hobbyist of Hellworlds"
Smoke from the North Complex fire blankets Verity's neighborhood, the Mission District.
  • There was a looseness to this, beyond her experience of chatbots, but a wariness as well.
    • Chapter 3, "App Whisperer" (Verity reflecting on Eunice's conversational style)
  • Passing a laptop’s screen, Verity saw the president, seated at her desk in the Oval Office, explaining something. If it wasn’t the hurricane hitting Houston, the earthquake in Mexico, the other hurricane wrecking Puerto Rico, or the worst wildfires in California history, it was Qamishli.
    Increasingly, though, it seemed mainly to be Qamishli.
    • Chapter 3, "App Whisperer" (partial inventory of jackpot harbingers in Verity's stub)
  • When Lowbeer wished a conversation in public to be private, which she invariably did, London emptied itself around her.
    • Chapter 4, "The Sandwiches"
  • Ask Lowbeer something, almost anything, and she’d have the answer. Meeting strangers, she might answer questions they hadn’t thought to ask. The whereabouts, for instance, of possessions long misplaced. She was fundamentally connected…in ways resulting in her knowing virtually everything about anyone she happened to meet. She’d apologize, then, declaring herself an ancient monster of the surveillance state, something Netherton knew her to well and truly be.
    • Chapter 4, "The Sandwiches"
U.S. Army infantry carrier vehicles (ICV) passing through Qamishli, Syria, 2017.
  • “How far back did Vespasian go,” Netherton asked, “to initiate this stub?”
    “Mid-2015.”
    “When is it, there, now?”
    “2017,” she said, “fall.”
    “Much changed?”
    “The outcome of the previous year’s American presidential election. Brexit referendum as well….”
    “But why would Vespasian, of all people, have desired positive change?”
    “He was a sadist,” said Lowbeer, “and terribly clever at it…when he failed to return to fine-tune and amplify course, as he always did, things went their own way.”
    “How is it there, given that?”
    “Grim. They’re being driven into the same blades we were, but at a less acute angle.”
    • Chapter 4, "The Sandwiches"
From the crest of Dolores Park, Verity wondered if she could see the tower on Montgomery, where Gavin had first described the product that had turned out to be Eunice.
  • From the crest of Dolores Park, Verity wondered if she could see the tower on Montgomery, where Gavin had first described the product that had turned out to be Eunice.
    There was no one for Eunice to facially recognize, looking out across the city, but the cursor, having become a white circle, was darting around the skyline, trapping invisible airborne somethings under a plus sign.
    “Birds?” Verity asked.
    “Drones."
    • Chapter 5, "Situational Awareness"
  • "Gavin described the product, that’s you, as a cross-platform, individually user-based, autonomous avatar. Target demographic power-uses VR, AR, gaming, next-level social media. Idea is to sell a single unique super-avatar. Kind of a digital mini-self, able to fill in when the user can’t be online.”
    • Chapter 5, "Situational Awareness" (Until this conversation, Eunice had not realized that she, herself, was only software.)
  • “Got a go-bag?” Eunice asked.
    “I haven’t had my own place for the past year…Living out of a bag. That count?”
    “We had go-bags in our go-bags,” Eunice said, “depending.”
    “On what?”
    “Where we were going,” Eunice said.
    • Chapter 5, "Situation Awareness" (The go-bag conversation picks up again in Chapter 7, where Verity shows Eunice her Muji garment bag.)
“Hundreds of what?” Verity asked.
“Hundred-dollar bills. Thousand of ’em.”
“You’re shitting me, right?”
“Hundred large.”
  • Verity drew a bundle out with her glove-bagged hand, Franklin’s mild portrait bisected by a red elastic band. “This is wrong, this kind of money. You know that?”
    “Gives us agency.”
    “Agency?”
    “Capacity to act,” Eunice said.
    “Act how?”
    “Say we need to buy some shit.”
    “What shit?”
    “Kind that takes cash money.”
    • Chapter 7, "Franklins"
  • “We’ve sourced something field-expedient,” Ash began, “from what little’s available there…She’s a surprisingly advanced product of the early militarization of machine intelligence…They saw it as cloning complexly specific skill sets.”
    Netherton nodded, hoping his eyes weren’t visibly glazing.
    “There were, for instance, individuals adroit at managing what were termed competitive control areas…complexly volatile environments, where you might easily lose prized field operators. Hence a project to replace such operators with autonomous AI, piped directly into the goggles of local recruits.”
    • Chapter 8, "Joyous Victory" (The AI agent calls herself Eunice, a name derived from a Greek term meaning joyous victory, although Eunice is merely pronouncing her military acronym phonetically: U.N.I.S.S.)
“She’s a surprisingly advanced product of the early militarization of machine intelligence."
  • “You communicate with it?”
    Her. Given the technological asymmetry, she’s been rather like an operative whose handlers are recurrent figures in a dream.”
    • Chapter 8, "Joyous Victory**
  • Ash's pallor blending perfectly with the wall, her eyes and chartreuse lips seemed to float there, a disembodied Cheshire goth, beneath her snaky black thundercloud of anti-coiffure.
    • Chapter 8, "Joyous Victory"
  • Eunice had screened Inception for her, the night before…Returning her to Gavin had seemed the wisest option, but then something about her earnestly nerdy exposition of the film had been the start of a growing empathy. Somehow rooted, she thought now, in a sense of someone afflicted with extremely busy but only intermittently connected suburbs of the self.
    • Chapter 9, "Unobtanium"
  • "Cursion, when they were as legit as they ever really were, lived down in the underbrush. Still do, but their new coloration’s gaming. Sometimes, if DoD doubles down hard enough on the deniability, there’s zero memory left of the original mission. The op drifts free of the department, unfunded, forgotten…I figure Cursion took the keys to something with them, when they drifted on DoD. Or maybe drifted back, long enough to lift something. Tulpagenics would be their front for monetizing it.”
    “It?”
    “Me."
    • Chapter 9, "Unobtanium"
“Your military has been developing a noetic agent, for operating in competitive control areas."
  • “Nothing before the 2020s has ever seemed entirely real, to me,” Rainey said. “Hard to imagine they weren’t constantly happy, given all they still had. Tigers, for instance.”
    • Chapter 12, "Alfred Mews"
  • “I like it,” Stets said. “A Silicon Valley ghost story, assuming Eunice is real.”
    “Thing is,” Eunice said, “I’m here. Realness is kinda sorta.”
    “So why here, exactly, right now?” he asked.
    “I want to know where I come from. The infrastructure. Be some Area 51 shit, for real.”
    • Chapter 15, "Area 51 Shit"
  • Netherton was looking at the oversized bronze head of a bearded man, its neck having been crudely severed from whatever figure it must once have topped.
    “Lee,” said Fearing, noting the direction of Netherton’s gaze.
    “Lee?”
    “Robert E.”
    The name meaning nothing to Netherton.
    • Chapter 16, "COTS"
“Lee,” said Fearing, noting the direction of Netherton’s gaze.
“Lee?”
“Robert E.”
The name meaning nothing to Netherton.
  • “He's a criminal?”
    “Financial services,” Eunice said, “but on the street side.”
    • Chapter 17, "MIG"
  • “Good to see you, Wilf,” Janice said, from her black mesh workstation chair, his phone’s feed provided by her device’s camera…He’d forgotten about her having painted their living room Baker-Miller pink, an institutional shade once thought to reduce aggression in prisoners. Homeland Security had given the county drunk tank three more gallons than necessary, so she’d bartered a box of her preserves for them, at a community event.
    • Chapter 20, "Baker-Miller Pink"
  • “There’s lots of people happier with a dumbfuck in the White House…The people who were the most trouble, under Gonzalez, aren’t unhappy enough, now, to be much trouble at all,” Janice shrugged. “Life in the county, life in these United States.”
    • Chapter 20, "Baker-Miller Pink"
  • “Turkey and Syria weirding you out?…Folks in Frankfurt made me feel like the Cold War never really went away. Somebody shoots down a couple of Russian jets, wham, it’s Cold War Atlantis, risen from the depths.”
    • Chapter 25, "Branch Plants of Me"
  • “You’re too young to remember it,” her mother said, “but we were expecting nuclear war all the time, really, up into my early thirties. Later, all of that felt unreal. But the feeling that things became basically okay turns out to have actually been what was unreal.”
    “But it didn’t happen. That war,” Verity said.
    Decades of background dread did.”
    • Chapter 27, "Mother-Daughter"
Entrance to Alfred Mews, site of Wilf and Rainey's flat, at Tottenham Court Road; Camden, London.
  • “How do you keep this all sorted?”
    “My ass is legion,” said Eunice.
    • Chapter 29, "Legion"
  • The city so quiet, in that moment, that he could hear the gulls.
    Then a car passed, an antique Rolls, unoccupied, its driver a dash-top homunculus, in what he took to be a tiny chauffeur’s uniform.
    He walked on, intent on milk, his dreams of skating forgotten.
    • Chapter 30, "Tottenham Court Road"
  • "You’ll be contacting Verity Jane instead,” Lowbeer said.
    “Who?”
    “…you’ll help enlist her as our agent there. She’s not at all the person I’d choose for the job, but there it is. I’m repeatedly placed in the position of choosing which innocent to sacrifice, to whatever current idea of the greater good. I’m weary of that. You’ve no idea how weary.”
    • Chapter 32, "Churchill's Waistcoat Pocket"
Lowbeer's car decloaked behind her. It was patterned on something called a Dymaxion, though he’d never bothered to look the term up.
  • Money launderers, in Netherton’s experience of Flynne’s stub, were the sort of people least destabilized by discovering that their world was a branch of someone else’s. They immediately looked for advantage in the knowledge.
    • Chapter 44, "A Money Launderer"
  • “What are you doing?” Netherton asked, reminded of how Conner made him uneasy.
    “Running systems checks,” Conner said. “This is a fabbed-up repro of something at least six generations behind the oldest I ever piloted, but the software looks like it’s either ours or we’ve rewritten it. Seriously fucked up…but I meant 'fucked up' like I can’t fucking wait to use it.”
    • Chapter 54, "Systems Checks" (bootleg build of a Boston Dynamics recon drone)
  • “My mother’s story,” Netherton said, “held that everything would invariably collapse, if the klept were left to their own resources.”
    “Their tedious ambition and contempt for rule of law would bring everything down, around their ears and ours,” Lowbeer said. “They managed to do that with the previous world order, after all, though then it was effectively their goal. They welcomed the jackpot, the chaos it brought.”
    • Chapter 60, "Regard of the Adjustor"
  • “Rose Garden in ten,” Conner said, “got it.”
    “Say what?” Virgil asked.
    “My day job,” Conner said. “President’s taking questions from the press in half an hour, likes me to check if the translation from future-ese to folk wisdom’s solid. You need me, I’ll be right on it.”
    “Break a leg,” said Virgil.
    Verity, her mouth full of croissant and raspberry jam, said nothing.
    • Chapter 61, "Continental Breakfast"
Cursion…spared us direct contact with your military research and development sector…people able to recognize us as anomalous.
  • The City, Netherton had heard Lowbeer say, explaining the klept to Flynne, had long been, and well prior to the jackpot, a unique species of semi-autonomous crypto-state, the single least democratic element of elected British government. It was this singular status, according to Lowbeer, that had allowed it to ride out the eventual collapse of democracy. That, and its core expertise in laundering money, had brought it into a mutually beneficial synergy with the émigré oligarch community, dominated by Russians, who had themselves first been attracted to London by the City’s meta-criminal financial arcana, plus the lavish culture of personal amenities for those requiring same. With this in mind, he picked up the bowl of coffee and regarded Lev over its rim.
    • Chapter 80, "The Square Mile"
  • “Eunice’s network. Lowbeer now sees herself in it. Its skills are those she had to acquire during the worst decades of the jackpot.”
    • Chapter 86, "Empty Chair"
  • “When we nudged Cursion into experimenting with Eunice,” Ash said, “we understood that we’d be destabilizing them…By now, destabilization has tipped over into dysfunction.”
    “They were functional enough to mount an attack,” Wilf said.
    “They’re not strategists,” said Ash, “though they assume they are. A fully functional, strategically sound opponent would be a greater threat, but without posing the sort of unpredictable danger they currently do.”
    • Chapter 87, "Lane-Splitting"
“Rose Garden in ten,” Conner said, “got it.”
“Say what?” Virgil asked.
“My day job.”
  • Netherton said nothing, something he’d only recently been learning to deliberately do.
    • Chapter 88, "Denmark Street"
  • “They think they’re the only real continuum, the one original, not a stub,” Connor said. “They discovered the so-called server first, whatever anomaly allows all this. But they didn’t invent it, just found it. Anybody knows what it really is, or where, they’re not telling.”
    “Nobody knows what it is?” said Virgil.
    “Nobody has the least fucking idea, or where the hardware is. Lot of people think China, but China’s just naturally where you’d guess something like that would be…They opted to mostly go their own way, in the jackpot…Just rolled up the carpet and closed the door for a couple decades.”
    • Chapter 89, "Kinda Sorta"
  • “What’s going on?” asked Manuela, eyeing the container’s door. “Is this a cult? Kidnapping people and telling them somebody’s after them?”
    “Let me think about it,” Verity said.
    “You’re kidnapped too? Let’s fucking escape!”
    • Chapter 93, "Winch"
They think they’re the only real continuum, the one original, not a stub…Nobody has the least fucking idea.
  • “Conner’s up there telepresently,” Verity said.
    “So what you’re doing is some new way to give TED talks? Like theater, with really random props and locations?”
    “He’s using something like the iPads on wheels, but more like one of those dogs, except it’s got arms and two legs.”
    “So where is he, physically?”
    “D.C. Washington.”
    Manuela winced. “Please.”
    • Chapter 93, "Winch"
  • “Guys, I’m gonna pretend like all of you are incapacitated or unconscious. And if none of you makes a move, I’ll be leaving you to your own resources. Otherwise, this drone’s detonating its onboard explosives. As the only one of us who’s not physically present, I’ve got zero fucks to give about how that goes. Your call.
    "We’re muted now,” Conner said to Netherton.
    Thomas started to cry, in the nursery. “I need to see to my son,” said Netherton, getting up.
    “You do that,” said Conner, sounding as if he were enjoying his evening.
    • Ch. 96, "Junior Here"
  • “Given this city, and the things most of us do, you’ll have heard that before, ambitious people announcing something innovative, something they believe will drive change, but something they generally haven’t accomplished yet. This isn’t that. This isn’t a pitch.”
    • Chapter 107, "Prom Night"
"You got a gun," Conner said. "Nice one. I can see it. I don’t have one, but I’m telepresent in a bootleg build of a Boston Dynamics recon drone."
  • “Hi. I’m Eunice. No last name. Siri and Alexa don’t have ’em either, but the resemblance stops there. I’m an AI-upload hybrid…I’m here because I’m something new, and because I want to introduce myself before anyone else starts explaining their idea of me to you. While I’m at it, I’d like to say that I’m nobody’s property, not a product…I pay my own way…I’m globally distributed, and that’s how I view my citizenship…Whether I’m a person, it feels to me like I am. Me. Eunice.” She smiled.
    Everyone in the audience silent, except for a baby crying, toward the back of the crowd. Then people began to applaud.
    • Chapter 107, "Prom Night"
  • “As the jackpot got seriously going, after the first wave of pandemics, without EU membership to buffer anything, England started looking a lot like a competitive control area,” Eunice said. “[Lowbeer] did what she knew how to do, which by then was run a CCA. But as she kept building it back up, every time another change driver impacted, she found herself using Russians. They knew how to work a CCA. They’d been there before the jackpot hit the fan. Way before…"
    “So,” said Netherton, “you suggested to her that what we were hoping to have you do, in this stub, might well create a klept here, one with you as Lowbeer?”
    “She said you were smart,” said Eunice, in obvious agreement.
    “She did?” Netherton was at once amazed and dubious.
    • Chapter 108, "Mercy on the Stairs"

Quotes about concepts explored in Agency[edit]

  • Competitive control area: The unified field theory that best fits the currently known facts is what I call the "theory of competitive control." This is the notion that non-state armed groups, of many kinds, draw their strength and freedom of action primarily from their ability to manipulate and mobilize populations, and that they do this using a spectrum of methods from coercion to persuasion, by creating a normative system that makes people feel safe through the predictability and order that it generates. This theory has been part of many people’s thinking about insurgency and civil war for a long time. But the cases…suggest that it applies to any non-state armed group that preys on a population.
    • David Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, 2013.

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