When I was a kid, I thought Laurent Michaelmas made the news,"" gushes the ambitious young reporter to the great man himself. How right he was. That the planet is still in one piece on the brink of the 21st century is directly attributable to the constant, secret electronic sleuthing of the world's most revered newscaster and his loyal computer Domino, a sardonic type keyed into virtually every bit of processable information on earth. The world may be pretty tame, emptied of all but the most artificial media-generated heroisms and rivalries. But Michaelmas is not about to let it return to its old jingoistic manias. As far as Michaelmas and Domino know, no power on earth could have contrived the nationalistic monkey wrench suddenly thrown into a planned American-Soviet Outer Planets expedition. They have next to no time in which to find out who could have. Budrys is incapable of writing anything less than a deeply thoughtful book. This one is sometimes a bit aridly written, sometimes fiercely charged, always full of fine invention. One of the season's more important offerings.