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a sip of Carlsberg.
"I got him to drop me off at this shop. Bought this." She
ran her palm across the fabric, curve of the pelvic girdle. He
saw the blue derm on her wrist. "Like it?"
"Sure." He automatically scanned the faces around them,
then looked back at her. "What do you think you're up to,
"You like the beta you got off us, Lupus?" She was very
close now, radiating heat and tension, eyes slitted over enor-
mous pupils and a tendon in her neck tense as a bowstring.
She was quivering, vibrating invisibly with the fresh buzz.
"You get off?"
"Yeah. But the comedown's a bitch."
"Then you need another one."
"And what's that supposed to lead to?"
"I got a key. Up the hill behind the Paradise, just the cream-
iest crib. People down the well on business tonight, if you
"If I follow you."
She took his hand between hers, her palms hot and dry.
"You're Yak, aren't you, Lupus? Gaijin soldierman for the
"You got an eye, huh?" He withdrew his hand and fumbled
for a cigarette.
"How come you got all your fingers, then? I thought you
had to chop one off every time you screwed up."
"I never screw up." He lit his cigarette.
"I saw that girl you're with. Day I met you. Walks like
Hideo. Scares me." She smiled too widely. "I like that. She
like it with girls?"
"Never said. Who's Hideo?"
"3Jane's, what she calls it, retainer. Family retainer."
Case forced himself to stare dully at the Emergency crowd
while he spoke. "Dee-Jane?"
"Lady 3Jane. She's triff. ъich. Her father owns all this."
"Freeside ! "
"No shit. You keepin' some class company, huh?" He raised
an eyebrow. Put his arm around her, his hand on her hip. "So
how you meet these aristos, Cathy? You some kinda closet
deb? You an' Bruce secret heirs to some ripe old credit? Huh?"
He spread his fingers, kneading the flesh beneath the thin black
cloth. She squirmed against him. Laughed.
"Oh, you know," she said, lids half lowered in what must
have been intended as a look of modesty, "she likes to party.
Bruce and I, we make the party circuit.... It gets real boring
for her, in there. Her old man lets her out sometimes, as long
as she brings Hideo to take care of her."
"Where's it get boring?'
"Straylight, they call it. She told me, oh, it's pretty, all the
pools and lilies.It's a castle, a real castle, all stone and sunsets."
She snuggled in against him. "Hey, Lupus, man, you need a
derm. So we can be together."
She wore a tiny leather purse on a slender neck-thong. Her
nails were bright pink against her boosted tan, bitten to the
quick. She opened the purse and withdrew a paperbacked bub-
ble with a blue derm inside. Something white tumbled to the
floor; Case stooped and picked it up. An origami crane.
"Hideo gave it to me," she said. "He tried to show me how,
but I can't ever get it right. The necks come out backwards."
She tucked the folded paper back into her purse. Case watched
as she tore the bubble away, peeled the derm from its backing,
and smoothed it across his inner wrist.
"3Jane, she's got a pointy face, nose like a bird?" He watched
his hands fumble an outline. "Dark hair? Young?"
"I guess. But she's triff, you know? Like, all that money."
The drug hit him like an express train, a white-hot column
of light mounting his spine from the region of his prostate,
illuminating the sutures of his skull with x-rays of short-cir-
cuited sexual energy. His teeth sang in their individual sockets
like tuning forks, each one pitch-perfect and clear as ethanol.
His bones, beneath the hazy envelope of flesh, were chromed
and polished, the joints lubricated with a film of silicone. Sand-
storms raged across the scoured floor of his skull, generating
waves of high thin static that broke behind his eyes, spheres
of purest crystal, expanding....
"Come on," she said, taking his hand. "You got it now.
We got it. Up the hill, we'll have it all night."
The anger was expanding, relentless, exponential, riding
out behind the betaphenethylamine rush like a carrier wave, a
seismic fluid, rich and corrosive. His erection was a bar of
lead. The faces around them in Emergency were painted doll
things, the pink and white of mouth parts moving, moving,
words emerging like discrete balloons of sound. He looked at
Cath and saw each pore in the tanned skin, eyes flat as dumb
glass, a tint of dead metal, a faint bloating, the most minute
asymmetries of breast and collarbone, the--something flared
white behind his eyes.
He dropped her hand and stumbled for the door, shoving
someone out of the way.
"Fuck you!" she screamed behind him, "you ripoff shit!"
He couldn't feel his legs. He used them like stilts, swaying
crazily across the flagstone pavement of Jules Verne, a distant
rumbling in his ears, his own blood, razored sheets of light
bisecting his skull at a dozen angles.
And then he was frozen, erect, fists tight against his thighs,
head back, his lips curled, shaking. While he watched the
loser's zodiac of Freeside, the nightclub constellations of the
hologram sky, shift, sliding fluid down the axis of darkness,
to swarm like live things at the dead center of reality. Until
they had arranged themselves, individually and in their hundreds,
to form a vast simple portrait, stippled the ultimate mono-
chrome, stars against night sky. Face of Miss Linda Lee.
When he was able to look away, to lower his eyes, he found
every other face in the street upraised, the strolling tourists
becalmed with wonder. And when the lights in the sky went
out, a ragged cheer went up from Jules Verne, to echo off the
terraces and ranked balconies of lunar concrete.
Somewhere a clock began to chime, some ancient bell out
He walked till morning.
The high wore away, the chromed skeleton corroding hourly,
flesh growing solid, the drug-flesh replaced with the meat of
his life. He couldn't think. He liked that very much, to be
conscious and unable to think. He seemed to become each
thing he saw: a park bench, a cloud of white moths around an
antique streetlight, a robot gardener striped diagonally with
black and yellow.
A recorded dawn crept along the Lado-Acheson system,
pink and lurid. He forced himself to eat an omelette in a De-
siderata cafe, to drink water, to smoke the last of his cigarettes.
The rooftop meadow of the Intercontinental was stirring as he
crossed it, an early breakfast crowd intent on coffee and crois-
sants beneath the striped umbrellas.
He still had his anger. That was like being rolled in some
alley and waking to discover your wallet still in your pocket,
untouched. He warmed himself with it, unable to give it a name
or an object.
He rode the elevator down to his level, fumbling in his
pocket for the Freeside credit chip that served as his key. Sleep
was becoming real, was something he might do. To lie down
on the sand-colored temperfoam and find the blankness again.
They were waiting there, the three of them, their perfect
white sportsclothes and stenciled tans setting off the handwoven
organic chic of the furniture. The girl sat on a wicker sofa, an
automatic pistol beside her on the leaf-patterned print of the
"Turing," she said. "You are under arrest."
PAъT FOUъ. THE STъAYLIGHT ъUN
"Your name is Henry Dorsett Case." She recited the year
and place of his birth, his BAMA Single Identification Number,
and a string of names he gradually recognized as aliases from
"You been here awhile?" He saw the contents of his bag
spread out across the bed, unwashed clothing sorted by type.
The shuriken lay by itself, between jeans and underwear, on
the sand-tinted temperfoam.
"Where is Kolodny?" The two men sat side by side on the
couch, their arms crossed over tanned chests, identical gold
chains slung around their necks. Case peered at them and saw
that their youth was counterfeit, marked by a certain telltale
corrugation at the knuckles, something the surgeons were un-
able to erase.
"That was the name in the register. Where is she?"
"I dunno," he said, crossing to the bar and pouring himself
a glass of mineral water. "She took off."
"Where did you go tonight, Case?" The girl picked up the
pistol and rested it on her thigh, without actually pointing it at
"Jules Verne, couple of bars, got high. How about you?"
His knees felt brittle. The mineral water was warm and flat.
"I don't think you grasp your situation," said the man on
the left, taking a pack of Gitanes from the breast pocket of his
white mesh blouse. "You are busted, Mr. Case. The charges
have to do with conspiracy to augment an artificial intelli-
gence." He took a gold Dunhill from the same pocket and
cradled it in his palm. "The man you call Armitage is already
The man's eyes widened. "Yes. How do you know that that
is his name?" A millimeter of flame clicked from the lighter.
"I forget," Case said.
"You'll remember," the girl said.
Their names, or worknames, were Michele, ъoland, and
Pierre. Pierre, Case decided, would play the Bad Cop; ъoland
would take Case's side, provide small kindnesses--he found
an unopened pack of Yeheyuans when Case refused a Gitane--
and generally play counterpoint to Pierre's cold hostility.
Michele would be the ъecording Angel, making occasional
adjustments in the direction of the interrogation. One or all of
them, he was certain, would be kinked for audio, very likely
for simstim, and anything he said or did now was admissible
evidence. Evidence, he asked himself, through the grinding
come-down, of what?
Knowing that he couldn't follow their French, they spoke
freely among themselves. Or seemed to. He caught enough as
it was: names like Pauley, Armitage, Sense/Net. Panther Mod-
erns protruding like icebergs from an animated sea of Parisian
French. But it was entirely possible that the names were there
for his benefit. They always referred to Molly as Kolodny.
"You say you were hired to make a run, Case," ъoland
said, his slow speech intended to convey reasonableness, "and
that you are unaware of the nature of the target. Is this not
unusual in your trade? Having penetrated the defenses, would
you not be unable then to perform the required operation? And
surely an operation of some kind is required, yes?" He leaned
forward, elbows on his stenciled brown knees, palms out to
receive Case's explanation. Pierre paced the room; now he was
by the window, now by the door. Michele was the kink, Case
decided. Her eyes never left him.
"Can I put some clothes on?" he asked. Pierre had insisted
on stripping him, searching the seams of his jeans. Now he sat
naked on a wicker footstool, with one foot obscenely white.
ъoland asked Pierre something in French. Pierre, at the
window again, was peering through a flat little pair of binoc-
ulars. "Non," he said absently, and ъoland shrugged, raising
his eyebrows at Case. Case decided it was a good time to smile.
ъoland returned the smile.
Oldest cop bullshit in the book, Case thought. "Look," he
said, "I'm sick. Had this godawful drug in a bar, you know?
I wanna lie down. You got me already. You say you got
Armitage. You got him, go ask him. I'm just hired help."
ъoland nodded. "And Kolodny?"
"She was with Armitage when he hired me. Just muscle, a
razorgirl. Far as I know. Which isn't too far."
"You know that Armitage's real name is Corto," Pierre said,
his eyes still hidden by the soft plastic flanges of the binoculars.
"How do you know that, my friend?"
"I guess he mentioned it sometime," Case said, regretting
the slip. "Everybody's got a couple names. Your name Pierre?"
"We know how you were repaired in Chiba," Michele said,
"and that may have been Wintermute's first mistake." Case
stared at her as blankly as he could. The name hadn't been
mentioned before. "The process employed on you resulted in
the clinic's owner applying for seven basic patents. Do you
know what that means?"
"It means that the operator of a black clinic in Chiba City
now owns a controlling interest in three major medical research
consortiums. This reverses the usual order of things, you see.
It attracted attention." She crossed her brown arms across her
small high breasts and settled back against the print cushion.
Case wondered how old she might be. People said that age
always showed in the eyes, but he'd never been able to see it.
Julie Deane had had the eyes of a disinterested ten-year-old
behind the rose quartz of his glasses. Nothing old about Michele
but her knuckles. "Traced you to the Sprawl, lost you again,
then caught up with you as you were leaving for Istanbul. We
backtracked, traced you through the grid, determined that you'd
instigated a riot at Sense/Net. Sense/Net was eager to cooperate.
They ran an inventory for us. They discovered that McCoy
Pauley's ъOM personality construct was missing."
"In Istanbul," ъoland said, almost apologetically, "it was
very easy. The woman had alienated Armitage's contact with
the secret police."
"And then you came here," Pierre said, slipping the bin-
oculars into his shorts pocket. "We were delighted."
"Chance to work on your tan?"
"You know what we mean," Michele said. "If you wish to
pretend that you do not, you only make things more difficult
for yourself. There is still the matter of extradition. You will
return with us, Case, as will Armitage. But where, exactly,
will we all be going? To Switzerland, where you will be merely
a pawn in the trial of an artificial intelligence? Or to le BAMA,
where you can be proven to have participated not only in data
invasion and larceny, but in an act of public mischief which
cost fourteen innocent lives? The choice is yours."
Case took a Yeheyuan from his pack; Pierre lit it for him
with the gold Dunhill. "Would Armitage protect you?" The
question was punctuated by the lighter's bright jaws snapping
Case looked up at him through the ache and bitterness of
betaphenethylamine. "How old are you, boss?"
"Old enough to know that you are fucked, burnt, that this
is over and you are in the way."
"One thing," Case said, and drew on his cigarette. He blew
the smoke up at the Turing ъegistry agent. "Do you guys have
any real jurisdiction out here? I mean, shouldn't you have the
Freeside security team in on this party? It's their turf, isn't it?"
He saw the dark eyes harden in the lean boy face and tensed
for the blow, but Pierre only shrugged.
"It doesn't matter," ъoland said. "You will come with us.
We are at home with situations of legal ambiguity. The treaties
under which our arm of the ъegistry operates grant us a great
deal of flexibility. And we create flexibility, in situations where
it is required." The mask of amiability was down, suddenly,
ъoland's eyes as hard as Pierre's.
"You are worse than a fool," Michele said, getting to her
feet, the pistol in her hand. "You have no care for your species.
For thousands of years men dreamed of pacts with demons.
Only now are such things possible. And what would you be
paid with? What would your price be, for aiding this thing to
free itself and grow?" There was a knowing weariness in her
young voice that no nineteen-year-old could have mustered.
"You will dress now. You will come with us. Along with the
one you call Armitage, you will return with us to Geneva and
give testimony in the trial of this intelligence. Otherwise, we
kill you. Now." She raised the pistol, a smooth black Walther
with an integral silencer.
"I'm dressing already," he said, stumbling toward the bed.
His legs were still numb, clumsy. He fumbled with a clean
"We have a ship standing by. We will erase Pauley's con-
struct with a pulse weapon."
"Sense/Net'll be pissed," Case said, thinking: and all the
evidence in the Hosaka.
"They are in some difficulty already, for having owned such
Case pulled the shirt over his head. He saw the shuriken on
the bed, lifeless metal, his star. He felt for the anger. It was
gone. Time to give in, to roll with it.... He thought of the
toxin sacs. "Here comes the meat," he muttered.
In the elevator to the meadow, he thought of Molly. She
might already be in Straylight. Hunting ъiviera. Hunted, prob-
ably, by Hideo, who was almost certainly the ninja clone of
the Finn's story, the one who'd come to retrieve the talking
He rested his forehead against the matte black plastic of a
wall panel and closed his eyes. His limbs were wood, old,
warped and heavy with rain.
Lunch was being served beneath the trees, under the bright
umbrellas. ъoland and Michele fell into character, chattering
brightly in French. Pierre came behind. Michele kept the muz-
zle of her pistol close to his ribs, concealing the gun with a
white duck jacket she draped over her arm.
Crossing the meadow, weaving between the tables and the
trees, he wondered if she would shoot him if he collapsed now.
Black fur boiled at the borders of his vision. He glanced up at
the hot white band of the Lado-Acheson armature and saw a
giant butterfly banking gracefully against recorded sky.
At the edge of the meadow they came to railinged cliffside,
wild flowers dancing in the updraft from the canyon that was
Desiderata. Michele tossed her short dark hair and pointed,
saying something in French to ъoland. She sounded genuinely
happy. Case followed the direction of her gesture and saw the
curve of planing lakes, the white glint of casinos, turquoise
rectangles of a thousand pools, the bodies of bathers, tiny bronze
hieroglyphs, all held in serene approximation of gravity against
the endless curve of Freeside's hull.
They followed the railing to an ornate iron bridge that arched
over Desiderata. Michele prodded him with the muzzle of the
"Take it easy, I can't hardly walk today."
They were a little over a quarter of the way across when
the microlight struck, its electric engine silent until the carbon
fiber prop chopped away the top of Pierre's skull.
They were in the thing's shadow for an instant; Case felt
the hot blood spray across the back of his neck, and then
someone tripped him. He rolled, seeing Michele on her back,
knees up, aiming the Walther with both hands. That's a waste
of effort, he thought, with the strange lucidity of shock. She
was trying to shoot down the microlight.
And then he was running. He looked back as he passed the
first of the trees. ъoland was running after him. He saw the
fragile biplane strike the iron railing of the bridge, crumple,
cartwheel, sweeping the girl with it down into Desiderata.
ъoland hadn't looked back. His face was fixed, white, his
teeth bared. He had something in his hand.
The gardening robot took ъoland as he passed that same
tree. It fell straight out of the groomed branches, a thing like
a crab, diagonally striped with black and yellow.
"You killed 'em," Case panted, running. "Crazy mother-
fucker, you killed 'em all...."
The little train shot through its tunnel at eighty kilometers
per hour. Case kept his eyes closed. The shower had helped,
but he'd lost his breakfast when he'd looked down and seen
Pierre's blood washing pink across the white tiles.
Gravity fell away as the spindle narrowed. Case's stomach
Aerol was waiting with his scooter beside the dock.
"Case, mon, big problem." The soft voice faint in his phones.
He chinned the volume control and peered into the Lexan
face-plate of Aerol's helmet.
"Gotta get to Garvey, Aerol."
"Yo. Strap in, mon. But Garvey captive. Yacht, came be-
fore, she came back. Now she lockin' steady on Marcus
Turing? "Came before?" Case climbed into the scooter's
frame and began to fasten the straps.
"Japan yacht. Brought you package...."
Confused images of wasps and spid