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Molly turned. She crossed the room to Ashpool's chair. The
man's breathing was slow and ragged. She peered at the litter
of drugs and alcohol. She put his pistol down, picked up her
fletcher, dialed the barrel over to single shot, and very carefully
put a toxin dart through the center of his closed left eyelid. He
jerked once, breath halting in mid-intake. His other eye, brown
and fathomless, opened slowly.
It was still open when she turned and left the room.
"Got your boss on hold," the Flatline said. "He's coming
through on the twin Hosaka in that boat upstairs, the one that's
riding us piggy-back. Called the Haniwa."
"I know," Case said, absently, "I saw it."
A lozenge of white light clicked into place in front of him,
hiding the Tessier-Ashpool ice; it showed him the calm, per-
fectly focused, utterly crazy face of Armitage, his eyes blank
as buttons. Armitage blinked. Stared.
"Guess Wintermute took care of your Turings too, huh?
Like he took care of mine," Case said.
Armitage stared. Case resisted the sudden urge to look away,
drop his gaze. "You okay, Armitage?"
"Case"--and for an instant something seemed to move,
behind the blue stare--"you've seen Wintermute, haven't you?
In the matrix."
Case nodded. A camera on the face of his Hosaka in Marcus
Garvey would relay the gesture to the Naniwa monitor. He
imagined Maelcum listening to his tranced half conversations,
unable to hear the voices of the construct or Armitage.
"Case"--and the eyes grew larger, Armitage leaning toward
his computer--"what is he, when you see him?"
"A high-rez simstim construct."
"Finn, last time.... Before that, this pimp I ..."
"Not General Girling?"
The lozenge went blank.
"ъun that back and get the Hosaka to look it up," he told
The perspective startled him. Molly was crouching between
steel girders, twenty meters above a broad, stained floor of
polished concrete. The room was a hangar or service bay. He
could see three spacecraft, none larger than Garvey and all in
various stages of repair. Japanese voices. A figure in an orange
jumpsuit stepped from a gap in the hull of a bulbous construc-
tion vehicle and stood beside one of the thing's piston-driven,
weirdly anthropomorphic arms. The man punched something
into a portable console and scratched his ribs. A cartlike red
drone rolled into sight on gray balloon tires.
CASE, flashed her chip.
"Hey," she said. "Waiting for a guide."
She settled back on her haunches, the arms and knees of
her Modern suit the color of the blue-gray paint on the girders.
Her leg hurt, a sharp steady pain now. "I shoulda gone back
to Chin," she muttered.
Something came ticking quietly out of the shadows, on a
level with her left shouder. It paused, swayed its spherical body
from side to side on high-arched spider legs, fired a micro-
second burst of diffuse laserlight, and froze. It was a Braun
microdrone, and Case had once owned the same model, a
pointless accessory he'd obtained as part of a package deal with
a Cleveland hardware fence. It looked like a stylized matte
black daddy longlegs. A red LED began to pulse, at the sphere's
equator. Its body was no larger than a baseball. "Okay," she
said, "I hear you." She stood up, favoring her left leg, and
watched the little drone reverse. It picked its methodical way
back across its girder and into darkness. She turned and looked
back at the service area. The man in the orange jumpsuit was
sealing the front of a white vacuum rig. She watched him ring
and seal the helmet, pick up his console, and step back through
the gap in the construction boat's hull. There was a rising whine
of motors and the thing slid smoothly out of sight on a ten-
meter circle of flooring that sank away into a harsh glare of
arc lamps. The red drone waited patiently at the edge of the
hole left by the elevator panel.
Then she was off after the Braun, threading her way between
a forest of welded steel struts. The Braun winked its LED
steadily, beckoning her on.
"How you doin', Case? You back in Garvey with Maelcum?
Sure. And jacked into this. I like it, you know? Like I've always
talked to myself, in my head, when I've been in tight spots.
Pretend I got some friend, somebody I can trust, and I'll tell
'em what I really think, what I feel like, and then I'll pretend
they're telling me what they think about that, and I'll just go
along that way. Having you in is kinda like that. That scene
with Ashpool . . ." She gnawed at her lower lip, swinging around
a strut, keeping the drone in sight. "I was expecting something
maybe a little less gone, you know? I mean, these guys are all
batshit in here, like they got luminous messages scrawled across
the inside of their foreheads or something. I don't like the way
it looks, I don't like the way it smells...."
The drone was hoisting itself up a nearly invisible ladder
of U-shaped steel rungs, toward a narrow dark opening. "And
while I'm feeling confessional, baby, I gotta admit maybe I
never much expected to make it out of this one anyway. Been
on this bad roll for a while, and you're the only good change
come down since I signed on with Armitage." She looked up
at the black circle. The drone's LED winked, climbing. "Not
that you're all that shit hot." She smiled, but it was gone too
quickly, and she gritted her teeth at the stabbing pain in her
leg as she began to climb. The ladder continued up through a
metal tube, barely wide enough for her shoulders.
She was climbing up out of gravity, toward the weightless
Her chip pulsed the time.
It had been a long day. The clarity of her sensorium cut the
bite of the betaphenethylamine, but Case could still feel it. He
preferred the pain in her leg.
CASE: O O O O
O O O O O O O O O
O O O O O O O O .
"Guess it's for you," she said, climbing mechanically. The
zeros strobed again and a message stuttered there, in the corner
of her vision, chopped up by the display circuit.
COъTO F O ъ
FIST A N D
SOLD H I S
E IS A
CT OF G
"Well," she said, pausing, taking all of her weight on her
right leg, "guess you got problems too." She looked down.
There was a faint circle of light, no larger than the brass round
of the Chubb key that dangled between her breasts. She looked
up. Nothing at all. She tongued her amps and the tube rose
into vanishing perspective, the Braun picking its way up the
rungs. "Nobody told me about this part," she said.
Case jacked out.
"Maelcum . . ."
"Mon, you bossman gone ver' strange." The Zionite was
wearing a blue Sanyo vacuum suit twenty years older than the
one Case had rented in Freeside, its helmet under his arm and
his dreadlocks bagged in a net cap crocheted from purple
cotton yarn. His eyes were slitted with ganja and tension. "Keep
callin' down here wi' orders, mon, but be some Babylon war...."
Maelcum shook his head. "Aerol an' I talkin', an' Aerol talkin'
wi' Zion, Founders seh cut an' run." He ran the back of a large
brown hand across his mouth.
"Armitage?" Case winced as the betaphenethylamine hang-
over hit him with its full intensity, unscreened by the matrix
or simstim. Brain's got no nerves in it, he told himself, it can't
really feel this bad. "What do you mean, man? He's giving
you orders? What?"
"Mon, Armitage, he tellin' me set course for Finland, ya
know? He tellin' me there be hope, ya know? Come on my
screen wi' his shirt all blood, mon, an' be crazy as some dog,
talkin' screamin' fists an' ъussian an' th' blood of th' betrayers
shall be on our hands." He shook his head again, the dreadcap
swaying and bobbing in zero-g, his lips narrowed. "Founders
seh the Mute voice be false prophet surely, an' Aerol an' I
mus' 'bandon Marcus Garvey and return."
"Armitage, he was wounded? Blood?"
"Can't seh, ya know? But blood, an' stone crazy, Case."
"Okay," Case said, "So what about me? You're going home.
What about me, Maelcum?"
"Mon," Maelcum said, "you comin' wi' me. I an' I come
Zion wi' Aerol, Babylon ъocker. Leave Mr. Armitage t' talk
wi' ghost cassette, one ghost t' 'nother...."
Case glanced over his shoulder: his rented suit swung against
the hammock where he'd snapped it, swaying in the air current
from the old ъussian scrubber. He closed his eyes. He saw the
sacs of toxin dissolving in his arteries. He saw Molly hauling
herself up the endless steel rungs. He opened his eyes.
"I dunno, man," he said, a strange taste in his mouth. He
looked down at his desk, at his hands. "I don't know." He
looked back up. The brown face was calm now, intent. Mael-
cum's chin was hidden by the high helmet ring of his old blue
suit. "She's inside," he said. "Molly's inside. In Straylight,
it's called. If there's any Babylon, man, that's it. We leave on
her, she ain't comin' out, Steppin' ъazor or not."
Maelcum nodded, the dreadbag bobbing behind him like a
captive balloon of crocheted cotton. "She you woman, Case?"
"I dunno. Nobody's woman, maybe." He shrugged. And
found his anger again, real as a shard of hot rock beneath his
ribs. "Fuck this," he said. "Fuck Armitage, fuck Wintermute,
and fuck you. I'm stayin' right here."
Maelcum's smile spread across his face like light breaking.
"Maelcum a rude boy, Case. Garvey Maelcum boat." His gloved
hand slapped a panel and the bass-heavy rocksteady of Zion
dub came pulsing from the tug's speakers. "Maelcum not run-
nin', no. I talk wi' Aerol, he certain t' see it in similar light."
Case stared. "I don't understand you guys at all," he said.
"Don' 'stan' you, mon," the Zionite said, nodding to the
beat, "but we mus' move by Jah love, each one."
Case jacked in and flipped for the matrix.
"Get my wire?"
"Yeah." He saw that the Chinese program had grown; del-
icate arches of shifting polychrome were nearing the T-A ice.
"Well, it's gettin' stickier," the Flatline said. "Your boss
wiped the bank on that other Hosaka, and damn near took ours
with it. But your pal Wintermute put me on to somethin' there
before it went black. The reason Straylight's not exactly hop-
pin' with Tessier-Ashpools is that they're mostly in cold sleep.
There's a law firm in London keeps track of their powers of
attorney. Has to know who's awake and exactly when. Ar-
mitage was routing the transmissions from London to Straylight
through the Hosaka on the yacht. Incidently, they know the
old man's dead."
"The law firm and T-A. He had a medical remote planted
in his sternum. Not that your girl's dart would've left a res-
urrection crew with much to work with. Shellfish toxin. But
the only T-A awake in Straylight right now is Lady 3Jane
Marie-France. There's a male, couple years older, in Australia
on business. You ask me, I bet Wintermute found a way to
cause that business to need this 8Jean's personal attention. But
he's on his way home, or near as matters. The London lawyers
give his Straylight ETA as 09:00:00, tonight. We slotted Kuang
virus at 02:32:03. It's 04:45:20. Best estimate for Kuang pen-
etration of the T-A core is 08:30:00. Or a hair on either side.
I figure Wintermute's got somethin' goin' with this 3Jane, or
else she's just as crazy as her old man was. But the boy up
from Melbourne'll know the score. The Straylight security sys-
tems keep trying to go full alert, but Wintermute blocks 'em,
don't ask me how. Couldn't override the basic gate program
to get Molly in, though. Armitage had a record of all that on
his Hosaka; ъiviera must've talked 3Jane into doing it. She's
been able to fiddle entrances and exits for years. Looks to me
like one of T-A's main problems is that every family bigwig
has riddled the banks with all kinds of private scams and ex-
ceptions. Kinda like your immune system falling apart on you.
ъipe for virus. Looks good for us, once we're past that ice."
"Okay. But Wintermute said that Arm--"
A white lozenge snapped into position, filled with a close-
up of mad blue eyes. Case could only stare. Colonel Willie
Corto, Special Forces, Strikeforce Screaming Fist, had found
his way back. The image was dim, jerky, badly focused. Corto
was using the Haniwa's navigation deck to link with the Hosaka
in Marcus Garvey.
"Case, I need the damage reports on Omaha Thunder."
"Hang in there, boy. ъemember your training."
But where have you been, man? he silently asked the an-
guished eyes. Wintermute had built something called Armitage
into a catatonic fortress named Corto. Had convinced Corto
that Armitage was the real thing, and Armitage had walked,
talked, schemed, bartered data for capital, fronted for Win-
termute in that room in the Chiba Hilton.... And now Arm-
itage was gone, blown away by the winds of Corto's madness.
But where had Corto been, those years?
Falling, burned and blinded, out of a Siberian sky.
"Case, this will be difficult for you to accept, I know that.
You're an officer. The training. I understand. But, Case, as
God is my witness, we have been betrayed."
Tears started from the blue eyes.
"Colonel, ah, who? Who's betrayed us?"
"General Girling, Case. You may know him by a code name.
You do know the man of whom I speak."
"Yeah," Case said, as the tears continued to flow, "I guess
I do. Sir," he added, on impulse. "But, sir, Colonel, what
exactly should we do? Now, I mean."
"Our duty at this point, Case, lies in flight. Escape. Evasion.
We can make the Finnish border, nightfall tomorrow. Treetop
flying on manual. Seat of the pants, boy. But that will only
be the beginning." The blue eyes slitted above tanned cheek-
bones slick with tears. "Only the beginning. Betrayal from
above. From above..." He stepped back from the camera,
dark stains on his torn twill shirt. Armitage's face had been
masklike, impassive, but Corto's was the true schizoid mask,
illness etched deep in involuntary muscle, distorting the ex-
"Colonel, I hear you, man. Listen, Colonel, okay? I want
you to open the, ah . . . shit, what's it called, Dix?"
"The midbay lock," the Flatline said.
"Open the midbay lock. Just tell your central console there
to open it, right? We'll be up there with you fast, Colonel.
Then we can talk about getting out of here."
The lozenge vanished.
"Boy, I think you just lost me, there," the Flatline said.
"The toxins," Case said, "the fucking toxins," and jacked
"Poison?" Maelcum watched over the scratched blue shoul-
der of his old Sanyo as Case struggled out of the g-web.
"And get this goddam thing off me...." Tugging at the
Texas catheter. "Like a slow poison, and that asshole upstairs
knows how to counter it, and now he's crazier than a shithouse
rat." He fumbled with the front of the red Sanyo, forgetting
how to work the seals.
"Bossman, he poison you?" Maelcum scratched his cheek.
"Got a medical kit, ya know."
"Maelcum, Christ, help me with this goddam suit."
The Zionite kicked off from the pink pilot module. "Easy,
mon. Measure twice, cut once, wise man put it. We get up
There was air in the corrugated gangway that led from Mar-
cus Garvey's aft lock to the midbay lock of the yacht called
Haniwa, but they kept their suits sealed. Maelcum executed
the passage with balletic grace, only pausing to help Case,
who'd gone into an awkward tumble as he'd stepped out of
Garvey. The white plastic sides of the tube filtered the raw
sunlight; there were no shadows.
Garvey's airlock hatch was patched and pitted, decorated
with a laser-carved Lion of Zion. Haniwa's midbay hatch was
creamy gray, blank and pristine. Maelcum inserted his gloved
hand in a narrow recess. Case saw his fingers move. ъed LEDs
came to life in the recess, counting down from fifty. Maelcum
withdrew his hand. Case, with one glove braced against the
hatch, felt the vibration of the lock mechanism through his suit
and bones. The round segment of gray hull began to withdraw
into the side of Haniwa. Maelcum grabbed the recess with one
hand and Case with the other. The lock took them with it.
Haniwa was a product of the Dornier-Fujitsu yards, her
interior informed by a design philosophy similar to the one that
had produced the Mercedes that had chauffeured them through
Istanbul. The narrow midbay was walled in imitation ebony
veneer and floored with gray Italian tiles. Case felt as though
he were invading some rich man's private spa by way of the
shower. The yacht, which had been assembled in orbit, had
never been intended for re-entry. Her smooth, wasplike line
was simply styling, and everything about her interior was cal-
culated to add to the overall impression of speed.
When Maelcum removed his battered helmet, Case followed
his lead. They hung there in the lock, breathing air that smelled
faintly of pine. Under it, a disturbing edge of burning insula-
Maelcum sniffed. "Trouble here, mon. Any boat, you smell
A door, padded with dark gray ultrasuede, slid smoothly
back into its housing. Maelcum kicked off the ebony wall and
sailed neatly through the narrow opening, twisting his broad
shoulders, at the last possible instant, for clearance. Case fol-
lowed him clumsily, hand over hand, along a waist-high padded
rail. "Bridge," Maelcum said, pointing down a seamless, cream-
walled corridor, "be there." He launched himself with another
effortless kick. From somewhere ahead, Case made out the
familiar chatter of a printer turning out hard copy. It grew
louder as he followed Maelcum through another doorway, into
a swirling mass of tangled printout. Case snatched a length of
twisted paper and glanced at it.
O O O O O O O O O
O O O O O O O O O
O O O O O O O O O
"Systems crash?" The Zionite flicked a gloved finger at the
column of zeros.
"No," Case said, grabbing for his drifting helmet, "the Flat-
line said Armitage wiped the Hosaka he had in there."
"Smell like he wipe 'em wi' laser, ya know?" The Zionite
braced his foot against the white cage of a Swiss exercise
machine and shot through the floating maze of paper, batting
it away from his face.
The man was small, Japanese, his throat bound to the back
of the narrow articulated chair with a length of some sort of
fine steel wire. The wire was invisible, where it crossed the
black temperfoam of the headrest, and it had cut as deeply into
his larynx. A single sphere of dark blood had congealed there
like some strange precious stone, a red-black pearl. Case saw
the crude wooden handles that drifted at either end of the
garrotte, like worn sections of broom handle.
"Wonder how long he had that on him?" Case said, re-
membering Corto's postwar pilgrimage.
"He know how pilot boat, Case, bossman?"
"Maybe. He was Special Forces."
"Well, this Japan-boy, he not be pilotin'. Doubt I pilot her
easy myself. Ver' new boat. . ."
"So find us the bridge."
Maelcum frowned, rolled backward, and kicked.
Case followed him into a larger space, a kind of lounge,
shredding and crumpling the lengths of printout that snared him
in his passage. There were more of the articulated chairs, here,
something that resembled a bar, and the Hosaka. The printer,
still spewing its flimsy tongue of paper, was an in-built bulk-
head unit, a neat slot in a panel of handrubbed veneer. He
pulled himself over the circle of chairs and reached it, punching
a white stud to the left of the slot. The chattering stopped. He
turned and stared at the Hosaka. Its face had been drilled through,
at least a dozen times. The holes were small, circular, edges
blackened. Tiny spheres of bright alloy were orbiting