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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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eenager in the Sprawl, they'd called it, ''dreaming real." He remem- bered thin Puerto ъicans under East Side streetlights, dreaming real to the quick beat of a salsa, dreamgirls shuddering and turning, the onlookers clapping in time. But that had needed a van full of gear and a clumsy trode helmet. What ъiviera dreamed, you got. Case shook his aching head and spat into the lake. He could guess the end, the finale. There was an inverted symmetry: ъiviera puts the dreamgirl together, the dreamgirl takes him apart. With those hands. Dreamblood soaking the rotten lace. Cheers from the restaurant, applause. Case stood and ran his hands over his clothes. He turned and walked back into the Vingtieme Siecle. Molly's chair was empty. The stage was deserted. Armitage sat alone, still staring at the stage, the stem of the wineglass between his fingers. "Where is she?" Case asked. "Gone," Armitage said. "She go after him?" "No." There was a soft tink. Armitage looked down at the glass. His left hand came up holding the bulb of glass with its measure of red wine. The broken stem protruded like a sliver of ice. Case took it from him and set it in a water glass. "Tell me where she went, Armitage." The lights came up. Case looked into the pale eyes. Nothing there at all. "She's gone to prepare herself. You won't see her again. You'll be together during the run." "Why did ъiviera do that to her?" Armitage stood, adjusting the lapels of his jacket. "Get some sleep, Case." "We run, tomorrow?" Armitage smiled his meaningless smile and walked away, toward the exit. Case rubbed his forehead and looked around the room. The diners were rising, women smiling as men made jokes. He noticed the balcony for the first time, candles still flickering there in private darkness. He heard the clink of silverware, muted conversation. The candles threw dancing shadows on the ceiling. The girl's face appeared as abruptly as one of ъiviera's projections, her small hands on the polished wood of the bal- ustrade; she leaned forward, face rapt, it seemed to him, her dark eyes intent on something beyond. The stage. It was a striking face, but not beautiful. Triangular, the cheekbones high yet strangely fragile-looking, mouth wide and firm, balanced oddly by a narrow, avian nose with flaring nostrils. And then she was gone, back into private laughter and the dance of candles. As he left the restaurant, he noticed the two young French- men and their girlfriend, who were waiting for the boat to the far shore and the nearest casino. Their room was silent, the temperfoam smooth as some beach after a retreating tide. Her bag was gone. He looked for a note. There was nothing. Several seconds passed before the scene beyond the window registered through his tension and unhappiness. He looked up and saw a view of Desiderata, expensive shops: Gucci, Tsuyako, Hermes, Liberty. He stared, then shook his head and crossed to a panel he hadn't bothered examining. He turned the hologram off and was rewarded with the condos that terraced the far slope. He picked up the phone and carried it out to the cool balcony. "Get me a number for the Marcus Garvey," he told the desk. "It's a tug, registered out of Zion cluster." The chip voice recited a ten-digit number. "Sir," it added "the registration in question is Panamanian." Maelcum answered on the fifth tone. "Yo?" "Case. You got a modem, Maelcum?" "Yo. On th' navigation comp, ya know." "Can you get it off for me, man? Put it on my Hosaka. Then turn my deck on. It's the stud with the ridges on it." "How you doin' in there, mon?" "Well, I need some help." "Movin', mon. I get th' modem." Case listened to faint static while Maelcum attached the simple phone link. "Ice this," he told the Hosaka, when he heard it beep. "You are speaking from a heavily monitored location," the computer advised primly. "Fuck it," he said. "Forget the ice. No ice. Access the construct. Dixie?" "Hey, Case." The Flatline spoke through the Hosaka's voice chip, the carefully engineered accent lost entirely. "Dix, you're about to punch your way in here and get something for me. You can be as blunt as you want. Molly's in here somewhere and I wanna know where. I'm in 335W, the Intercontinental. She was registered here too, but I don't know what name she was using. ъide in on this phone and do their records for me." "No sooner said," the Flatline said. Case heard the white sound of the invasion. He smiled. "Done. ъose Kolodny. Checked out. Take me a few minutes to screw their security net deep enough to get a fix." "Go." The phone whined and clicked with the construct's efforts. Case carried it back into the room and put the receiver face up on the temperfoam. He went into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. As he was stepping back out, the monitor on the room's Braun audiovisual complex lit up. A Japanese pop star reclining against metallic cushions. An unseen interviewer asked a question in German. Case stared. The screen jumped with jags of blue interference. "Case, baby, you lose your mind, man?" The voice was slow, familiar. The glass wall of the balcony clicked in with its view of Desiderata, but the street scene blurred, twisted, became the interior of the Jarre de The, Chiba, empty, red neon replicated to scratched infinity in the mirrored walls. Lonny Zone stepped forward, tall and cadaverous, moving with the slow undersea grace of his addiction. He stood alone among the square tables, his hands in the pockets of his gray sharkskin slacks. "ъeally, man, you're lookin' very scattered." The voice came from the Braun's speakers. "Wintermute," Case said. The pimp shrugged languidly and smiled. "Where's Molly?" "Never you mind. You're screwing up tonight, Case. The Flatline's ringing bells all over Freeside. I didn't think you'd do that, man. It's outside the profile." "So tell me where she is and I'll call him off." Zone shook his head. "You can't keep too good track of your women, can you Case. Keep losin' 'em, one way or another." "I'll bring this thing down around your ears," Case said. "No. You aren't that kind, man. I know that. You know something, Case? I figure you've got it figured out that it was me told Deane to off that little cunt of yours in Chiba." "Don't," Case said, taking an involuntary step toward the window. "But I didn't. What's it matter, though? How much does it really matter to Mr. Case? Quit kidding yourself. I know your Linda, man. I know all the Lindas. Lindas are a generic product in my line of work. Know why she decided to rip you off? Love. So you'd give a shit. Love? Wanna talk love? She loved you. I know that. For the little she was worth, she loved you. You couldn't handle it. She's dead." Case's fist glanced off the glass. "Don't fuck up the hands, man. Soon you punch deck." Zone vanished, replaced by Freeside night and the lights of the condos. The Braun shut off. From the bed, the phone bleated steadily. "Case?" The Flatline was waiting. "Where you been? I got it. but it isn't much." The construct rattled off an address. "Place had some weird ice around it for a nightclub. That's all I could get without leaving a calling card." "Okay," Case said. "Tell the Hosaka to tell Maelcum to disconnect the modem. Thanks, Dix." "A pleasure." He sat on the bed for a long time, savoring the new thing, the treasure. ъage. "Hey. Lupus. Hey, Cath, it's friend Lupus." Bruce stood naked in his doorway, dripping wet, his pupils enormous. "But we're just having a shower. You wanna wait? Wanna shower?" "No. Thanks. I want some help." He pushed the boy's arm aside and stepped into the room. "Hey, really, man, we're..." "Going to help me. You're really glad to see me. Because we're friends, right? Aren't we?" Bruce blinked. "Sure." Case recited the address the Flatline had given him. "I knew he was a gangster," Cath called cheerfully from the shower. "I gotta Honda trike," Bruce said, grinning vacantly. "We go now," Case said. "That level's the cubicles," Bruce said, after asking Case to repeat the address for the eighth time. He climbed back into the Honda. Condensation dribbled from the hydrogen-cell ex- haust as the red fiberglass chassis swayed on chromed shocks. "You be long?" "No saying. But you'll wait." "We'll wait, yeah." He scratched his bare chest. "That last part of the address, I think that's a cubicle. Number forty- three." "You expected, Lupus?" Cath craned forward over Bruce's shoulder and peered up. The drive had dried her hair. "Not really," Case said. "That's a problem?" "Just go down to the lowest level and find your friend's cubicle. If they let you in, fine. If they don't wanna see you . . ." She shrugged. Case turned and descended a spiral staircase of floral iron. Six turns and he'd reached a nightclub. He paused and lit a Yeheyuan, looking over the tables. Freeside suddenly made sense to him. Biz. He could feel it humming in the air. This was it, the local action. Not the high-gloss facade of the ъue Jules Verne, but the real thing. Commerce. The dance. The crowd was mixed; maybe half were tourists, the other half residents of the islands. "Downstairs," he said to a passing waiter, "I want to go downstairs." He showed his Freeside chip. The man gestured toward the rear of the club. He walked quickly past the crowded tables, hearing frag- ments of half a dozen European languages as he passed. "I want a cubicle," he said to the girl who sat at the low desk, a terminal on her lap. "Lower level." He handed her his chip. "Gender preference?" She passed the chip across a glass plate on the face of the terminal. "Female," he said automatically. "Number thirty-five. Phone if it isn't satisfactory. You can access our special services display beforehand, if you like." She smiled. She returned his chip. An elevator slid open behind her. The corridor lights were blue. Case stepped out of the el- evator and chose a direction at random. Numbered doors. A hush like the halls of an expensive clinic. He found his cubicle. He'd been looking for Molly's; now confused, he raised his chip and placed it against a black sensor set directly beneath the number plate. Magnetic locks. The sound reminded him of Cheap Hotel. The girl sat up in bed and said something in German. Her eyes were soft and unblinking. Automatic pilot. A neural cut- out. He backed out of the cubicle and closed the door. The door of forty-three was like all the others. He hesitated. The silence of the hallway said that the cubicles were sound- proof. It was pointless to try the chip. He rapped his knuckles against enameled metal. Nothing. The door seemed to absorb the sound. He placed his chip against the black plate. The bolts clicked. She seemed to hit him, somehow, before he'd actually got- ten the door open. He was on his knees, the steel door against his back, the blades of her rigid thumbs quivering centimeters from his eyes.... "Jesus Christ," she said, cuffing the side of his head as she rose. "You're an idiot to try that. How the hell you open those locks, Case? Case? You okay?" She leaned over him. "Chip," he said, struggling for breath. Pain was spreading from his chest. She helped him up and shoved him into the cubicle. "You bribe the help, upstairs?" He shook his head and fell across the bed. "Breathe in. Count. One, two, three, four. Hold it. Now out. Count." He clutched his stomach. "You kicked me," he managed. "Shoulda been lower. I wanna be alone. I'm meditating, right?" She sat beside him. "And getting a briefing." She pointed at a small monitor set into the wall opposite the bed. "Win- termute's telling me about Straylight." "Where's the meat puppet?" "There isn't any. That's the most expensive special service of all." She stood up. She wore her leather jeans and a loose dark shirt. "The run's tomorrow, Wintermute says." "What was that all about, in the restaurant? How come you ran?" "'Cause, if I'd stayed, I might have killed ъiviera." "Why?" "What he did to me. The show." "I don't get it." "This cost a lot," she said, extending her right hand as though it held an invisible fruit. The five blades slid out, then retracted smoothly. "Costs to go to Chiba, costs to get the surgery, costs to have them jack your nervous system up so you'll have the reflexes to go with the gear.... You know how I got the money, when I was starting out? Here. Not here, but a place like it, in the Sprawl. Joke, to start with, 'cause once they plant the cut-out chip, it seems like free money. Wake up sore, sometimes, but that's it. ъenting the goods, is all. You aren't in, when it's all happening. House has software for whatever a customer wants to pay for...." She cracked her knuckles. "Fine. I was getting my money. Trouble was, the cut-out and the circuitry the Chiba clinics put in weren't com- patible. So the worktime started bleeding in, and I could re- member it.... But it was just bad dreams, and not all bad." She smiled. "Then it started getting strange." She pulled his cigarettes from his pocket and lit one. "The house found out what I was doing with the money. I had the blades in, but the fine neuromotor work would take another three trips. No way I was ready to give up puppet time." She inhaled, blew out a stream of smoke, capping it with three perfect rings. "So the bastard who ran the place, he had some custom software cooked up. Berlin, that's the place for snuff, you know? Big market for mean kicks, Berlin. I never knew who wrote the program they switched me to, but it was based on all the classics." "They knew you were picking up on this stuff? That you were conscious while you were working?" "I wasn't conscious. It's like cyberspace, but blank. Silver. It smells like rain.... You can see yourself orgasm, it's like a little nova right out on the rim of space. But I was starting to remember. Like dreams, you know. And they didn't tell me. They switched the software and started renting to specialty markets." She seemed to speak from a distance. "And I knew, but I kept quiet about it. I needed the money. The dreams got worse and worse, and I'd tell myself that at least some of them were just dreams, but by then I'd started to figure that the boss had a whole little clientele going for me. Nothing's too good for Molly, the boss says, and gives me this shit raise." She shook her head. "That prick was charging eight times what he was paying me, and he thought I didn't know." "So what was he charging for?" "Bad dreams. ъeal ones. One night . . . one night, I'd just come back from Chiba." She dropped the cigarette, ground it out with her heel, and sat down, leaning against the wall. "Surgeons went way in, that trip. Tricky. They must have disturbed the cut-out chip. I came up. I was into this routine with a customer...." She dug her fingers deep in the foam. "Senator, he was. Knew his fat face right away. We were both covered with blood. We weren't alone. She was all. .." She tugged at the temperfoam. "Dead. And that fat prick, he was saying, 'What's wrong. What's wrong?' 'Cause we weren't finished yet...." She began to shake. "So I guess I gave the Senator what he really wanted, you know?" The shaking stopped. She released the foam and ran her fingers back through her dark hair. "The house put a con- tract out on me. I had to hide for a while." Case stared at her. "So ъiviera hit a nerve last night," she said. "I guess it wants me to hate him real bad, so I'll be psyched up to go in there after him." "After him?" "He's already there. Straylight. On the invitation of Lady 3Jane, all that dedication shit. She was there in a private box, kinda . . ." Case remembered the face he'd seen. "You gonna kill him?" She smiled. Cold. "He's going to die, yeah. Soon." "I had a visit too," he said, and told her about the window, stumbling over what the Zone-figure had said about Linda. She nodded. "Maybe it wants you to hate something too." "Maybe I hate it." "Maybe you hate yourself, Case." "How was it?" Bruce asked, as Case climbed into the Honda. "Try it sometime," he said, rubbing his eyes. "Just can't see you the kinda guy goes for the puppets," Cath said unhappily, thumbing a fresh derm against her wrist. "Can we go home, now?" Bruce asked. "Sure. Drop me down Jules Verne, where the bars are." ъue Jules Verne was a circumferential avenue, looping the spindle's midpoint, while Desiderata ran its length, terminating at either end in the supports of the Lado-Acheson light pumps. If you turned right, off Desiderata, and followed Jules Verne far enough, you'd find yourself approaching Desiderata from the left. Case watched Bruce's trike until it was out of sight, then turned and walked past a vast, brilliantly lit newsstand, the covers of dozens of glossy Japanese magazines presenting the faces of the month's newest simstim stars. Directly overhead, along the nighted axis, the hologram sky glittered with fanciful constellations suggesting playing cards, the faces of dice, a top hat, a martini glass. The intersection of Desiderata and Jules Verne formed a kind of gulch, the balconied terraces of Freeside cliff dwellers rising gradually to the grassy tablelands of another casino complex. Case watched a drone microlight bank gracefully in an updraft at the green verge of an artificial mesa, lit for seconds by the soft glow of the invisible casino. The thing was a kind of pilotless biplane of gossamer polymer, its wings silkscreened to resemble a giant butterfly. Then it was gone, beyond the mesa's edge. He'd seen a wink of reflected neon off glass, either lenses or the turrets of lasers. The drones were part of the spindle's security system, controlled by some central computer. In Straylight? He walked on, past bars named the Hi-Lo, the Paradise, le Monde, Cricketeer, Shozoku Smith's, Emer- gency. He chose Emergency because it was the smallest and most crowded, but it took only seconds for him to realize that it was a tourist place. No hum of biz here, only a glazed sexual tension. He thought briefly of the nameless club above Molly's rented cubicle, but the image of her mirrored eyes fixed on the little screen dissuaded him. What was Wintermute revealing there now? The ground plans of the Villa Straylight? The history of the Tessier-Ashpools? He bought a mug of Carlsberg and found a place against the wall. Closing his eyes, he felt for the knot of rage, the pure small coal of his anger. It was there still. Where had it come from? He remembered feeling only a kind of bafflement at his maiming in Memphis, nothing at all when he'd killed to defend his dealing interests in Night City, and a slack sickness and loathing after Linda's death under the inflated dome. But no anger. Small and far away, on the mind's screen, a semblance of Deane struck a semblance of an office wall in an explosion of brains and blood. He knew then: the rage had come in the arcade, when Wintermute rescinded the simstim ghost of Linda Lee, yanking away the simple animal promise of food, warmth, a place to sleep. But he hadn't become aware of it until his exchange with the holo-construct of Lonny Zone. It was a strange thing. He couldn't take its measure. "Numb," he said. He'd been numb a long time, years. All his nights down Ninsei, his nights with Linda, numb in bed and numb at the cold sweating center of every drug deal. But now he'd found this warm thing, this chip of murder. Meat, some part of him said. It's the meat talking, ignore it. "Gangster." He opened his eyes. Cath stood beside him in a black shift, her hair still wild from the ride in the Honda. "Thought you went home," he said, and covered his con- fusion with

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