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"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
- Larry Niven

Donnersprache  
  A hypnotic transceiver that enhances the charisma of speakers.  

According to the best guesses of spook historians, Donnersprache had pertained to electronics, probably an aid to eavesdropping, no doubt primitive by modern standards but still an enigma. No mention of it had ever been found in official records, though the two men closest to Adolf Hitler had at various times scribbled cryptic references to the thing, or possibly the person, called Donnersprache.

Dieter Mainz returned before the major did, lugging an old leather valise that, Kalvin presumed, held the secrets of Donnersprache. Kalvin tried not to stare at it, smiling instead at his companion, who kept jerking his head away from the street to scan the shadows. I think you need not fear for your life,'' Kalvin said, noticing the old man's nervous glances. How important can Donnersprache be, in a time when a radio transmitter can be hidden in the heel of a shoe?

Can that transmitter hypnotize ten million listeners?

Kalvin shrugged. I suppose it depends on what is Mid, he hedged, watching a bulky shadow stroll into the street two hundred meters away. He tensed as the distant stranger began to walk in their direction. This old guy is getting to me, he admitted to himself. No, it does not matter what is said when the machine makes one's words seem absolutely true. What matters is the listener's capacity, and desire, to believe in something. Mainz said it dogmatically, as if lecturing on fundamentals.

Before enlisting to avoid the draft and a rifleman's fate in Vietnam, Walter Kalvin had been a mediocre student of rhetoric at NYU. The concept of charisma, the overwhelming power of certain individuals to convince many others, had never seemed so real to him as it did at this moment. Maybe old Mainz himself has charisma, thought Kalvin. He's sure got my nerves twanging. Lord, what if it's a kind of force field, and he has one in his pocket? Chuckling at his own fanciful notion, Kalvin said, Perhaps you will tell me exactly what Donnersprache is, and what it does.

From Silent Thunder, by Dean Ing.
Published by Tom Doherty in 1991
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