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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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moved through the hollow of the arcade, fading down corridors of consoles. He stepped out into the street. The rain had stopped. Ninsei was deserted. Holograms flickered, neon danced. He smelled boiled veg- etables from a vendor's pushcart across the street. An unopened pack of Yeheyuans lay at his feet, beside a book of matches. JULIUS DEANE IMPOъT EXPOъT. Case staled at the printed logo and its Japanese translation. "Okay," he said, picking up the matches and opening the pack of cigarettes. "I hear you." He took his time climbing the stairs of Deane's office. No rush, he told himself, no hurry. The sagging face of the Dali clock still told the wrong time. There was dust on the Kandinsky table and the Neo-Aztec bookcases. A wall of white fiberglass shipping modules filled the room with a smell of ginger. "Is the door locked?" Case waited for an answer, but none came. He crossed to the office door and tried it. "Julie?" The green-shaded brass lamp cast a circle of light on Deane's desk. Case stared at the guts of an ancient typewriter, at cas- settes, crumpled printouts, at sticky plastic bags filled with ginger samples. There was no one there. Case stepped around the broad steel desk and pushed Deane's chair out of the way. He found the gun in a cracked leather holster fastened beneath the desk with silver tape. It was an antique, a .357 Magnum with the barrel and trigger-guard sawn off. The grip had been built up with layers of masking tape. The tape was old, brown, shiny with a patina of dirt. He flipped the cylinder out and examined each of the six cartridges. They were handloads. The soft lead was still bright and untarnished. With the revolver in his right hand, Case edged past the cabinet to the left of the desk and stepped into the center of the cluttered office, away from the pool of light. "I guess I'm not in any hurry. I guess it's your show. But all this shit, you know, it's getting kind of . . . old." He raised the gun with both hands, aiming for the center of the desk, and pulled the trigger. The recoil nearly broke his wrist. The muzzle-flash lit the office like a flashbulb. With his ears ringing, he stared at the jagged hole in the front of the desk. Explosive bullet. Azide. He raised the gun again. "You needn't do that, old son," Julie said, stepping out of the shadows. He wore a three-piece drape suit in silk her ing- bone, a striped shirt, and a bow tie. His glasses winked in the light. Case brought the gun around and looked down the line of sight at Deane's pink, ageless face. "Don't," Deane said. "You're right. About what this all is. What I am. But there are certain internal logics to be honored. If you use that, you'll see a lot of brains and blood, and it would take me several hours--your subjective-time--to effect another spokesperson. This set isn't easy for me to maintain. Oh, and I'm sorry about Linda, in the arcade. I was hoping to speak through her, but I'm generating all this out of your memories, and the emotional charge.... Well, it's very tricky. I slipped. Sorry." Case lowered the gun. "This is the matrix. You're Winter- mute." - "Yes. This is all coming to you courtesy of the simstim unit wired into your deck, of course. I'm glad I was able to cut you off before you'd managed to jack out." Deane walked around the desk, straightened his chair, and sat down. "Sit, old son. We have a lot to talk about." "Do we?" "Of course we do. We have had for some time. I was ready when I reached you by phone in Istanbul. Time's very short now. You'll be making your run in a matter of days, Case." Deane picked up a bonbon and stripped off its checkered wrap- pcr, popped h into his mouth. "Sit," he said around the candy. Case lowered himself into the swivel chair in front of the desk without taking his eyes off Deane. He sat with the gun in his hand, resting it on his thigh. "Now," Deane said briskly, "order of the day. 'What,' you're asking yourself, 'is Wintermute?' Am I right?" "More or less." "An artificial intelligence, but you know that. Your mistake, and it's quite a logical one, is in confusing the Winterrnute mainframe, Berne, with the Wintermute entity." Deane sucked his bonbon noisily. "You're already aware of the other AI in Tessier-Ashpool's link-up, aren't you? ъio. I, insofar as I have an 'I'--this gets rather metaphysical, you see--I am the one who arranges things for Armitage. Or Corto, who, by the way, is quite unstable. Stable enough," said Deane and withdrew an ornate gold watch from a vest pocket and flicked it open, "For the next day or so." "You make about as much sense as anything in this deal ever has," Case said, massaging his temples with his free hand. "If you're so goddam smart. . ." "Why ain't I rich?" Deane laughed, and nearly choked on his bonbon. "Well, Case, all I can say to that, and I really don't have nearly as many answers as you imagine I do, is that what you think of as Wintermute is only a part of another, a, shall we say, potential entity. I, let us say, am merely one aspect of that entity's brain. It's rather like dealing, from your point of view, with a man whose lobes have been severed. Let's say you're dealing with a small part of the man's left brain. Difficult to say if you're dealing with the man at all, in a case like that." Deane smiled. "Is the Corto story true? You got to him through a micro in that French hospital?" "Yes. And I assembled the file you accessed in London. I try to plan. in your sense of the word, but that isn't my basic mode, really. I improvise. It's my greatest talent. I prefer situations to plans, you see.... ъeally, I've had to deal with givens. I can sort a great deal of information, and sort it very quickly. It's taken a very long time to assemble the team you're a part of. Corto was the first, and he very nearly didn't make it. Very far gone, in Toulon. Eating, excreting, and mastur- bating were the best he could manage. But the underlying structure of obsessions was there: Screaming Fist, his betrayal the Congressional hearings." "Is he still crazy?" "He's not quite a personality." Deane smiled. "But I'm sure you're aware of that. But Corto is in there, somewhere, and I can no longer maintain that delicate balance. He's going to come apart on you, Case. So I'll be counting on you...." "That's good, motherfucker," Case said, and shot him in the mouth with the .357. He'd been right about the brains. And the blood. "Mon," Maelcum was saying, "I don't like this...." "It's cool," Molly said. "It's just okay. It's something these guys do, is all. Like, he wasn't dead, and it was only a few seconds...." "I saw th' screen, EEG readin' dead. Nothin' movin', forty second." "Well, he's okay now." "EEG flat as a strap," Maelcum protested. He was numb, as they went through customs, and Molly did most of the talking. Maelcum remained on board Garvey. Customs, for Freeside, consisted mainly of proving your credit. The first thing he saw, when they gained the inner surface of the spindle, was a branch of the Beautiful Girl coffee franchise. "Welcome to the ъue Jules Verne," Molly said. "If you have trouble walking, just look at your feet. The perspective's a bitch, if you're not used to it." They were standing in a broad street that seemed to be the floor of a deep slot or canyon, its either end concealed by subtle angles in the shops and buildings that formed its walls. The light, here, was filtered through fiesh green masses of vege- tation tumbling from overhanging tiers and balconies that rose above them. The sun. . . There was a brilliant slash of white somewhere above them too bright, and the recorded blue of a Cannes sky. He knew that sunlight was pumped in with a Lado-Acheson system whose two-millimeter armature ran the length of the spindle, that they generated a rotating library of sky effects around it, that if the sky were turned off, he'd stare up past the armature of light to the curves of lakes, rooftops of casinos, other streets.... But it made no sense to his body. "Jesus," he said, "I like this less than SAS." "Get used to it. I was a gambler's bodyguard here for a month." "Wanna go somewhere, lie down." "Okay. I got our keys." She touched his shoulder. "What happened to you, back there, man? You flatlined." He shook his head. "I dunno, yet. Wait." "Okay. We get a cab or something." She took his hand and led him across Jules Verne, past a window displaying the sea- son's Paris furs. "Unreal," he said, looking up again. "Nah," she responded, assuming he meant the furs, "grow it on a collagen base, but it's mink DNA. What's it matter?" "It's just a big tube and they pour things through it," Molly said. "Tourists, hustlers, anything. And there's fine mesh money screens working every minute, make sure the money stays here when the people fall back down the well." Armitage had booked them into a place called the Inter- continental, a sloping glass-fronted clff face that slid down into cold mist and the sound of rapids. Case went out onto their balcony and watched a trio of tanned French teenagers ride simple hang gliders a few meters above the spray, triangles of nylon in bright primary colors. One of them swung, banked, and Case caught a flash of cropped dark hair, brown breasts, white teeth in a wide smile. The air here smelled of running water and flowers. "Yeah," he said, "lotta money." She leaned beside him against the railing, her hands loose and relaxed. "Yeah. We were gonna come here once, either here or some place in Europe." "We who?" "Nobody," she said, giving her shoulders an involuntary toss. "You said you wanted to hit the bed. Sleep. I could use some sleep." "Yeah," Case said, rubbing his palms across his cheek- bones. "Yeah, this is some place." The narrow band of the Lado Acheson system smoldered in absract imitation of some Bermudan sunset, striped by shreds of worded cloud. "Yeah," he said, "sleep." Sleep wouldn't come. When it did, it brought dreams that were like neatly edited segments of memory. He woke re- peatedly, Molly curled beside him, and heard the water, voices drifting in through the open glass panels of the balcony, a woman's laughter from the stepped condos on the opposite slope. Deane's death kept turning up like a bad card, no matter if he told himself that it hadn't been Deane. That it hadn't, in fact, happened at all. Someone had once told him that the amount of blood in the average human body was roughly equiv- alent to a case of beer. Each time the image of Deane's shattered head struck the rear wall of the office, Case was aware of another thought, something darker, hidden, that rolled away, diving like a fish, just beyond his reach. Linda. Deane. Blood on the wall of the importer's office. Linda. Smell of burnt flesh in the shadows of the Chiba dome. Molly holding out a bag of ginger, the plastic filmed with blood. Deane had had her killed. Wintermute. He imagined a little micro whispering to the wreck of a man named Corto, the words flowing like a river, the flat personality-substitute called Armitage accreting slowly in some darkened ward....The Deane analog had said it worked with givens, took advantage of existing situations. But what if Deane, the real Deane, had ordered Linda killed on Wintermute's orders? Case groped in the dark for a cigarette and Molly's lighter. There was no reason to suspect Deane, he told himself, lighting up. No reason. Wintermute could build a kind of personality into a shell. How subtle a form could manipulation take? He stubbed the Yeheyuan out in a bedside ashtray after his third puff, rolled away from Molly, and tried to sleep. The dream, the memory, unreeled with the monotony of an unedited simstim tape. He'd spent a month, his fifteenth sum- mer, in a weekly rates hotel, fifth floor, with a girl called Marlene. The elevator hadn't worked in a decade. ъoaches boiled across grayish porcelain in the drain-plugged kitchenette when you flicked a lightswitch. He slept with Marlene on a striped mattress with no sheets. He'd missed the first wasp, when it built its paperfine gray house on the blistered paint of the windowframe, but soon the nest was a fist-sized lump of fiber, insects hurtling out to hunt the alley below like miniature copters buzzing the rotting con- tents of the dumpsters. They'd each had a dozen beers, the afternoon a wasp stung Marlene. "Kill the fuckers," she said, her eyes dull with rage and the still heat of the room, "burn 'em." Drunk, Case rum- maged in the sour closet for ъollo's dragon. ъollo was Mar- lene's previous--and, Case suspected at the time, still occasional--boyfriend, an enormous Frisco biker with a blond lightning bolt bleached into his dark crewcut. The dragon was a Frisco flamethrower, a thing like a fat anglehead flashlight. Case checked the batteries, shook it to make sure he had enough fuel, and went to the open window. The hive began to buzz. The air in the Sprawl was dead, immobile. A wasp shot from the nest and circled Case's head. Case pressed the ignition switch, counted three, and pulled the trigger. The fuel, pumped up to l00 psi, sprayed out past the white-hot coil. A five-meter tongue of pale fire, the nest charring, tumbling. Across the alley, someone cheered. "Shit!" Marlene behind him, swaying. "Stupid! You didn't burn 'em. You just knocked it off. They'll come up here and kill us!" Her voice sawing at his nerves, he imagined her en- gulfed in flame, her bleached hair sizzling a special green. In the alley, the dragon in hand, he approached the black- ened nest. It had broken open. Singed wasps wrenched and flipped on the asphalt. He saw the thing the shell of gray paper had concealed. Horror. The spiral birth factory, stepped terraces of the hatching cells, blind jaws of the unborn moving ceaselessly, the staged progress from egg to larva, near-wasp, wasp. In his mind's eye, a kind of time-lapse photography took place, re- vealing the thing as the biological equivalent of a machine gun, hideous in its perfection. Alien. He pulled the trigger, forgetting to press the ignition, and fuel hissed over the bulging, writhing life at his feet. When he did hit the ignition, it exploded with a thump taking an eyebrow with it. Five floors above him, from the open window, he heard Marlene laughing. He woke with the impression of light fading, but the room was dark. Afterimages, retinal flares. The sky outside hinted at the start of a recorded dawn. There were no voices now only the rush of water, far down the face of the Intercontinental. In the dream, just before he'd drenched the nest with fuel, he'd seen the T-A logo of Tessier-Ashpool neatly embossed into its side, as though the wasps themselves had worked it there. Molly insisted on coating him with bronzer, saying his Sprawl pallor would attract too much attention. "Christ," he said, standing naked in front of the mirror, "you think that looks real?" She was using the last of the tube on his left ankle, kneeling beside him. "Nah, but it looks like you care enough to fake it. There. There isn't enough to do your foot." She stood, tossing the empty tube into a large wicker basket. Nothing in the room looked as though it had been machine-made or produced from synthetics. Expensive, Case knew, but it was a style that had always irritated him. The temperfoam of the huge bed was tinted to resemble sand. There was a lot of pale wood and handwoven fabric. "What about you," he said, "you gonna dye yourself brown? Don't exactly look like you spend all your time sunbathing." She wore loose black silks and black espadrilles. "I'm an exotic. I got a big straw hat for this, too. You, you just wanna look like a cheap-ass hood who's up for what he can get, so the instant tan's okay." Case regarded his pallid foot morosely, then looked at him- self in the mirror. "Christ. You mind if I get dressed now?" He went to the bed and began to pull his jeans on. "You sleep okay? You notice any lights?" "You were dreaming," she said. They had breakfast on the roof of the hotel, a kind of meadow studded with striped umbrellas and what seemed to Case an unnatural number of trees. He told her about his attempt to buzz the Berne AI. The whole question of bugging seemed to have become academic. If Armitage were tapping them, he'd be doing it through Wintermute. "And it was like real?" she asked, her mouth full of cheese croissant. "Like simstim?" He said it was. "ъeal as this," he added, looking around. "Maybe more." The trees were small, gnarled, impossibly old, the result of genetic engineering and chemical manipulation. Case would have been hard pressed to distinguish a pine from an oak, but a street boy's sense of style told him that these were too cute, too entirely and definitively treelike. Between the trees, on gentle and too cleverly irregular slopes of sweet green grass, the bright umbrellas shaded the hotel's guests from the unfal- tering radiance of the Lado-Acheson sun. A burst of French from a nearby table caught his attention: the golden children he'd seen gliding above river mist the evening before. Now he saw that their tans were uneven, a stencil effect produced by selective melanin boosting, multiple shades overlapping in rec- tilinear patterns, outlining and highlighting musculature; the girl's small hard breasts, one boy's wrist resting on the white enamel of the table. They looked to Case like machines built for racing; they deserved decals for their hairdressers, the de- signers of their white cotton ducks, for the artisans who'd crafted their leather sandals and simple jewelry. Beyond them, at another table, three Japanese wives in Hiroshima sackcloth awaited sarariman husbands, their oval faces covered with ar- tificial bruises; it was, he knew, an extremely conservative style, one he'd seldom seen in Chiba. "What's that smell?" he asked Molly, wrinkling his nose. "The grass. Smells that way after they cut it." Armitage and ъiviera arrived as they were finishing their coffee, Armitage in tailored khakis that made him look as though his regimental patches had just been stripped, ъiviera in a loose gray seersucker outfit that perversely suggested prison. "Molly, love," ъiviera said, almost before he was settled on his chair, "you'll have to dole me out more of the medicine. I'm out." "Peter," she said, "and what if I won't?" She smiled without showing her teeth. "You will," ъiviera said, his eyes cutting to Armitage and back. "Give it to him," Armitage said. "Pig for it, aren't you?" She took a flat, foil-wrapped packet from an inside pocket and flipped it across the table. ъiviera caught it in midair. "He could off himself," she said to Ar- mitage. "I have an audition this afternoon," ъiviera said. "I'll need to be at my best." He cupped the foil packd in his uptumed palm and smiled. Small glittering insects swarmed out of it, vanished. He dropped it into the pocket of his seersucker blouse. "You've got an audition yourself, Case, this afternoon," Armitage said. "On that tug. I want you to get over to the pro shop and get yourself fitted for a vac suit, get checked out on it, and get out to the boat. You've got about three hours." "How come we get shipped over in a shitcan and you two hire a JAL taxi?" Case asked, deliberately avoiding the man's eyes. "Zion suggested we use it. Good cover, when we move. I do have a larger boat, standing by, but the tug is a nice touch." "How about me?" Molly asked. "I got chores today?" "I want you to hike up the far end to the axis, work out in zero-g. Tomorrow, maybe, you can hike in the opposite di- rection." Straylight, Case thought. "How soon?" Case asked

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