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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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curve, a sort of triptych. She lowered the fletcher before Case had had time to realize that the thing was a recording. The figures were caricatures in light, lifesize cartoons: Molly, Armitage, and Case . Molly' s breasts were too large, visible through tight black mesh beneath a heavy leather jacket. Her waist was impossibly narrow. Silvered lenses covered half her face. She held an absurdly elaborate weapon of some kind, a pistol shape nearly lost beneath a flanged overlay of scope sights, silencers, flash hiders. Her legs were spread, pelvis canted forward, her mouth fixed in a leer of idiotic cruelty. Beside her, Armitage stood rigidly at attention in a threadbare khaki uniform. His eyes, Case saw, as Molly stepped carefully forward, were tiny mon- itor screens, each one displaying the blue-gray image of a howling waste of snow, the stripped black trunks of evergreens bending in silent winds. She passed the tips of her fingers through Armitage's tele- vision eyes, then turned to the figure of Case. Here, it was as if ъiviera--and Case had known instantly that ъiviera was responsible--had been unable to find anything worthy of par- ody. The figure that slouched there was a fair approximation of the one he glimpsed daily in mirrors. Thin, high-shouldered, a forgettable face beneath short dark hair. He needed a shave, but then he usually did. Molly stepped back. She looked from one figure to another. rt was a static display, the only movement the silent gusting of the black trees in Armitage's frozen Siberian eyes. "Tryin' to tell us something, Peter?" she asked softly. Then she stepped forward and kicked at something between the feet of the holo-Molly. Metal clinked against the wall and the figures were gone. She bent and picked up a small display unit. "Guess he can Jack into these and program them direct," she said, tossing it away. She passed the source of yellow light, an archaic incandes- cent globe set into the wall, protected by a rusty curve of expansion grating. The style of the improvised fixture sug- gested childhood, somehow. He remembered fortresses he'd built with other children on rooftops and in flooded sub-base- ments. A rich kid's hideout, he thought. This kind of roughness was expensive. What they called atmosphere. She passed a dozen more holograms before she reached the entrance to 3Jane's apartments. One depicted the eyeless thing in the alley behind the Spice Bazaar, as it tore itself free of ъiviera's shattered body. Several others were scenes of torture, the inquisitors always military officers and the victims invari- ably young women. These had the awful intensity of ъiviera's show at the Vingtieme Siecle, as though they had been frozen in the blue flash of orgasm. Molly looked away as she passed them. The last was small and dim, as if it were an image ъiviera had had to drag across some private distance of memory and time. She had to kneel to examine it; it had been projected from the vantage point of a small child. None of the others had had backgrounds; the figures, uniforms, instruments of torture, all had been freestanding displays. But this was a view. A dark wave of rubble rose against a colorless sky, beyond its crest the bleached, half-melted skeletons of city towers. The rubble wave was textured like a net, rusting steel rods twisted gracefully as fine string, vast slabs of concrete still clinging there. The foreground might once have been a city square; there was a sort of stump, something that suggested a fountain. At its base, the children and the soldier were frozen. The tableau was confusing at first. Molly must have read it correctly before Case had quite assimilated it, because he felt her tense. She spat, then stood. Children. Feral, in rags. Teeth glittering like knives. Sores on their contorted faces. The soldier on his back, mouth and throat open to the sky. They were feeding. "Bonn," she said, something like gentleness in her voice. "Quite the product, aren't you, Peter? But you had to be. Our 3Jane, she's too jaded now to open the back door for just any petty thief. So Wintermute dug you up. The ultimate taste, if your taste runs that way. Demon lover. Peter." She shivered. "But you talked her into letting me in. Thanks. Now we're gonna party." And then she was walking--strolling, really, in spite of the pain--away from ъiviera's childhood. She drew the fletcher from its holster, snapped the plastic magazine out, pocketed that, and replaced it with another. She hooked her thumb in the neck of the Modern suit and ripped it open to the crotch with a single gesture, her thumb blade parting the tough po- lycarbon like rotten silk. She freed herself from the arms and legs, the shredded remnants disguising themselves as they fell to the dark false sand. Case noticed the music then. A music he didn't know, all horns and piano. The entrance to 3Jane's world had no door. It was a ragged five-meter gash in the tunnel wall, uneven stairs leading down in a broad shallow curve. Faint blue light, moving shadows, music. "Case," she said, and paused, the fletcher in her right hand. Then she raised her left, smiled, touched her open palm with a wet tongue tip, kissing him through the simstim link. "Gotta go." Then there was something small and heavy in her left hand, her thumb against a tiny stud, and she was descending. 18 She missed it by a fraction. She nearly cut it, but not quite. She went in just right, Case thought. The right attitude; it was something he could sense, something he could have seen in the posture of another cowboy leaning into a deck, fingers flying across the board. She had it: the thing, the moves. And she'd pulled it all together for her entrance. Pulled it together around the pain in her leg and marched down 3Jane's stairs like she owned the place, elbow of her gun arm at her hip, forearm up, wrist relaxed, swaying the muzzle of the fletcher with the studied nonchalance of a ъegency duelist. It was a performance. It was like the culmination of a life- time's observation of martial arts tapes, cheap ones, the kind Case had grown up on For a few seconds, he knew, she was every bad-ass hero, Sony Mao in the old Shaw videos, Mickey Chiba, the whole lineage back to Lee and Eastwood. She was walking it the way she talked it. Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool had carved her- self a low country flush with the inner surface of Straylight's hull, chopping away the maze of walls that was her legacy. She lived in a single room so broad and deep that its far reaches were lost to an inverse horizon, the floor hidden by the cur- vature of the spindle. The ceiling was low and irregular, done in the same imitation stone that walled the corridor. Here and there across the floor were jagged sections of wall, waist-high reminders of the labyrinth. There was a rectangular turquoise pool centered ten meters from the foot of the stairway, its underwater floods the apartment's only source of light--or it seemed that way, to Case, as Molly took her final step. The pool threw shifting blobs of light across the ceiling above it. They were waiting by the pool. He'd known that her reflexes were souped up, jazzed by the neurosurgeons for combat, but he hadn't experienced them on the simstim link. The effect was like tape run at half speed, a slow, deliberate dance choreographed to the killer instinct and years of training. She seemed to take the three of them in at a glance: the boy poised on the pool's high board, the girl grinning ove her wineglass, and the corpse of Ashpool, his left socket gaping black and corrupt above his welcoming smile. He wore his maroon robe. His teeth were very white. The boy dove. Slender, brown, his form perfect. The gre- nade left her hand before his hands could cut the water. Case knew the thing for what it was as it broke the surface: a core of high explosive wrapped with ten meters of fine, brittle steel wire. Her fletcher whined as she sent a storm of explosive darts into Ashpool's face and chest, and he was gone, smoke curling from the pocked back of the empty, white-enameled pool chair. The muzzle swung for 3Jane as the grenade detonated, a symmetrical wedding cake of water rising, breaking, falling back, but the mistake had been made. Hideo didn't even touch her, then. Her leg collapsed. In Garvey, Case screamed. "It took you long enough," ъiviera said, as he searched her pockets. Her hands vanished at the wrists in a matte black sphere the size of a bowling ball. "I saw a multiple assassination in Ankara," he said, his fingers plucking things from her jacket, "a grenade job. In a pool. It seemed a very weak explosion, but they all died instantly of hydrostatic shock." Case felt her move her fingers experimentally. The material of the ball seemed to offer no more resistance than temperfoam. The pain in her leg was excruciating, impossible. A red moire shifted in her vision. "I wouldn't move them, if I were you." The interior of the ball seemed to tighten slightly. "It' s a sex toy Jane bought in Berlin. Wiggle them long enough and it crushes them to a pulp. Variant of the material they make this flooring from. Something to do with the molecules, I suppose. Are you in pain?" She groaned. "You seem to have injured your leg." His fingers found the flat packet of drugs in the left back pocket of her jeans. "Well. My last taste from Ali, and just in time." The shifting mesh of blood began to whirl. "Hideo," said another voice, a woman's, "she's losing con- sciousness. Give her something. For that and for the pain. She's very striking, don't you think, Peter? These glasses, are they a fashion where she comes from?" Cool hands, unhurried, with a surgeon's certainty. The sting of a needle. "I wouldn't know," ъiviera was saying. "I've never seen her native habitat. They came and took me from Turkey." "The Sprawl, yes. We have interests there. And once we sent Hideo. My fault, really. I'd let someone in, a burglar. He took the family terminal." She laughed. "I made it easy for him. To annoy the others. He was a pretty boy, my burglar. Is she waking, Hideo? Shouldn't she have more?" "More and she would die," said a third voice. The blood mesh slid into black. The music returned, horns and piano. Dance music. C A S E : : : : : : : : : : J A C K O U T : : : : : : Afterimages of the flashed words danced across Maelcum's eyes and creased forehead as Case removed the trodes. "You scream, mon, while ago." "Molly," he said, his throat dry. "Got hurt." He took a white plastic squeeze bottle from the edge of the g-web and sucked out a mouthful of flat water. "I don't like how any of this shit is going." The little Cray monitor lit. The Finn, against a background of twisted, impacted junk. "Neither do 1. We gotta problem." Maelcum pulled himself up, over Case's head, twisted, and peered over his shoulder. "Now who is that mon, Case?" "That's just a picture, Maelcum," Case said wearily. "Guy I know in the Sprawl. It's Wintermute talking. Picture's sup- posed to make us feel at home." "Bullshit," the Finn said. "Like I told Molly, these aren't masks. I need 'em to talk to you. 'Cause I don't have what you'd think of as a personality, much. But all that's just pissing in the wind, Case, 'cause, like I just said, we gotta problem." "So express thyself, Mute," Maelcum said. "Molly's leg's falling off, for starts. Can't walk. How it was supposed to go down, she'd walk in, get Peter out of the way, talk the magic word outa 3Jane, get up to the head, and say it. Now she's blown it. So I want you two to go in after her." Case stared at the face on the screen. "Us?" "So who else?" "Aerol," Case said, "the guy on Babylon ъocker, Mael- cum's pal." "No. Gotta be you. Gotta be somebody who understands Molly, who understands ъiviera. Maelcum for muscle." "You maybe forget that I'm in the middle of a little run, here. ъemember? What you hauled my ass out here for...." "Case, listen up. Time's tight. Very tight. Listen. The real link between your deck and Straylight is a sideband broadcast over Garvey's navigation system. You'll take Garvey into a very private dock I'll show you. The Chinese virus has com- pletely penetrated the fabric of the Hosaka. There's nothing in the Hosaka but virus now. When you dock, the virus will be interfaced with the Straylight custodial system and we'll cut the sideband. You'll take your deck, the Flatline, and Maelcum . You'll find 3Jane, get the word out of her, kill ъiviera, get the key from Molly. You can keep track of the program by jacking your deck into the Straylight system. I'll handle it for you. There's a standard jack in the back of the head, behind a panel with five zircons." "Kill ъiviera'!" "Kill him." Case blinked at the representation of the Finn. He felt Mael- cum put his hand on his shoulder. "Hey. You forget some- thing." He felt the rage rising, and a kind of glee. "You fucked up. You blew the controls on the grapples when you blew Armitage. Haniwa's got us good and tight. Armitage fried the other Hosaka and the mainframes went with the bridge, right?" The Finn nodded. "So we're stuck out here. And that means you're fucked man." He wanted to laugh, but it caught in his throat. "Case, mon," Maelcum said softly, "Garvey a tug." "That's right," said the Finn, and smiled. "You havin' fun in the big world outside?" the construct asked, when Case jacked back in. "Figured that was Winter- mute requestin' the pleasure...." "Yeah. You bet. Kuang okay?" "Bang on. Killer virus." "Okay. Got some snags, but we're working on it." "You wanna tell me, maybe?" "Don't have time." "Well, boy, never mind me, I'm just dead anyway." "Fuck off," Case said, and flipped, cutting off the torn- fingernail edge of the Flatline's laughter. "She dreamed of a state involving very little in the way of individual consciousness," 3Jane was saying. She cupped a large cameo in her hand, extending it toward Molly. The carved profile was very much like her own. "Animal bliss. I think she viewed the evolution of the forebrain as a sort of sidestep." She withdrew the brooch and studied it, tilting it to catch the light at different angles. "Only in certain heightened modes would an individual--a clan member--suffer the more pain- ful aspects of self-awareness. . ." Molly nodded. Case remembered the injection. What had they given her? The pain was still there, but it came through as a tight focus of scrambled impressions. Neon worms writhing in her thigh, the touch of burlap, smell of frying krill--his mind recoiled from it. If he avoided focusing on it, the impres- sions overlapped, became a sensory equivalent of white noise. If it could do that to her nervous system, what would her frame of mind be? Her vision was abnormally clear and bright, even sharper than usual. Things seemed to vibrate, each person or object tuned to a minutely different frequency. Her hands, still locked in the black ball, were on her lap. She sat in one of the pool chairs, her broken leg propped straight in front of her on a camelskin hassock. 3Jane sat opposite, on another hassock, huddled in an oversized djellaba of unbleached wool. She was very young. "Where'd he go?" Molly asked. "To take his shot?" 3Jane shrugged beneath the folds of the pale heavy robe and tossed a strand of dark hair away from her eyes. "He told me when to let you in," she said. "He wouldn't tell me why. Everything has to be a mystery. Would you have hurt us?" Case felt Molly hesitate. "I would've killed him. I'd've tried to kill the ninja. Then I was supposed to talk with you." "Why?" 3Jane asked, tucking the cameo back into one of the djellaba's inner pockets. "And why? And what about?" Molly seemed to be studying the high, delicate bones, the wide mouth, the narrow hawk nose. 3Jane's eyes were dark, curiously opaque. "Because I hate him," she said at last, "and the why of that's just the way I'm wired, what he is and what I am." "And the show," 3Jane said. "I saw the show." Molly nodded. "But Hideo?" "Because they're the best. Because one of them killed a partner of mine, once." 3Jane became very grave. She raised her eyebrows. "Because I had to see," Molly said. "And then we would have talked, you and I? Like this?" Her dark hair was very straight, center-parted, drawn back into a knot of dull sterling. "Shall we talk now?" "Take this off," Molly said, raising her captive hands. "You killed my father," 3Jane said, no change whatever in her tone. "I was watching on the monitors. My mother's eyes, he called them." "He killed the puppet. It looked like you." "He was fond of broad gestures," she said, and then ъiviera was beside her, radiant with drugs, in the seersucker convict outfit he'd worn in the roof garden of their hotel. "Getting acquainted? She's an interesting girl, isn't she? I thought so when I first saw her." He stepped past 3Jane. "It isn't going to work, you know." "Isn't it, Peter?" Molly managed a grin. "Wintermute won't be the first to have made the same mis- take. Underestimating me." He crossed the tiled pool border to a white enamel table and splashed mineral water into a heavy crystal highball glass. "He talked with me, Molly. I suppose he talked to all of us. You, and Case, whatever there is of Armitage to talk to. He can't really understand us, you know. He has his profiles, but those are only statistics. You may be the statistical animal, darling, and Case is nothing but, but I possess a quality unquantifiable by its very nature." He drank. "And what exactly is that, Peter?" Molly asked, her voice flat. ъiviera beamed. "Perversity." He walked back to the two women, swirling the water that remained in the dense, deeply carved cylinder of rock crystal, as though he enjoyed the weight of the thing. "An enjoyment of the gratuitous act. And I have made a decision, Molly, a wholly gratuitous decision." She waited, looking up at him. "Oh, Peter," 3Jane said, with the sort of gentle exasperation ordinarily reserved for children. "No word for you, Molly. He told me about that you see. 3Jane knows the code, of course, but you won't have it. Neither will Wintermute. My Jane's an ambitious girl, in her perverse way." He smiled again. "She has designs on the family empire, and a pair of insane artificial intelligences, kinky as the concept may be, would only get in our way. So. Comes her ъiviera to help her out, you see. And Peter says, sit tight. Play Daddy's favorite swing records and let Peter call you up a band to match, a floor of dancers, a wake for dead King Ashpool." He drank off the last of the mineral water. "No, you wouldn't do, Daddy, you would not do. Now that Peter's come home." And then, his face pink with the pleasure of cocaine and meperidine, he swung the glass hard into her left lens implant, smashing vision into blood and light. Maelcum was prone against the cabin ceiling when Case removed the trodes. A nylon sling around his waist was fastened to the panels on either side with shock cords and gray rubber suction pads. He had his shirt off and was working on a central panel with a clumsy-looking zero-g wrench, the thing's fat countersprings twanging as he removed another hexhead. Mar- cus Garvey was groaning and ticking with g-stress. "The Mute takin' I an' I dock," the Zionite said, popping the hexhead into a mesh pouch at his waist. "Maelcum pilot th' landin', meantime need we tool f' th' job." "You keep tools back there?" Case craned his neck and watched cords of muscle bunching in the brown back. "This one," Maelcum said, sliding a long bundle wrapped in black poly from the space behind the panel.

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