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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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tal silk and a simple bracelet of platinum on either wrist. He was flanked by his Joe boys, nearly identical young men, their arms and shoulders bulging with grafted muscle. "How you doing, Case?" "Gentlemen," said ъatz, picking up the table's heaped ashtray in his pink plastic claw, "I want no trouble here." The ashtray was made of thick, shatterproof plastic, and advertised Tsingtao beer. ъatz crushed it smoothly, butts and shards of green plastic cascading onto the table top. "You understand?" "Hey, sweetheart," said one of the Joe boys, "you wanna try that thing on me?" "Don't bother aiming for the legs, Kurt," ъatz said, his tone conversational. Case glanced across the room and saw the Brazilian standing on the bar, aiming a Smith & Wesson riot gun at the trio. The thing's barrel, made of paper-thin alloy wrapped with a kilometer of glass filament, was wide enough to swallow a fist. The skeletal magazine revealed five fat orange cartridges, subsonic sandbag jellies. "Technically nonlethal," said ъatz. "Hey, ъatz," Case said, "I owe you one." The bartender shrugged. "Nothing, you owe me. These," and he glowered at Wage and the Joe boys, "should know better. You don't take anybody off in the Chatsubo." Wage coughed. "So who's talking about taking anybody off? We just wanna talk business. Case and me, we work together." Case pulled the .22 out of his pocket and level led it at Wage's crotch. "I hear you wanna do me." ъatz's pink claw closed around the pistol and Case let his hand go limp. "Look, Case, you tell me what the fuck is going on with you, you wig or something? What's this shit I'm trying to kill you?" Wage turned to the boy on his left. "You two go back to the Namban. Wait for me." Case watched as they crossed the bar, which was now entirely deserted except for Kurt and a drunken sailor in khakis, who was curled at the foot of a barstool. The barrel of the Smith & Wesson tracked the two to the door, then swung back to cover Wage. The magazine of Case's pistol clattered on the table. ъatz held the gun in his claw and pumped the round out of the chamber. "Who told you I was going to hit you, Case?" Wage asked. Linda. "Who told you, man? Somebody trying to set you up?" The sailor moaned and vomited explosively. "Get him out of here," ъatz called to Kurt, who was sitting on the edge of the bar now, the Smith & Wesson across his lap, lighting a cigarette. Case felt the weight of the night come down on him like a bag of wet sand settling behind his eyes. He took the flask out of his pocket and handed it to Wage. "All I got. Pituitaries. Get you five hundred if you move it fast. Had the rest of my roll in some ъAM, but that's gone by now." "You okay, Case?" The flask had already vanished behind a gunmetal lapel. "I mean, fine, this'll square us, but you look bad. Like hammered shit. You better go somewhere and sleep." "Yeah." He stood up and felt the Chat sway around him. "Well, I had this fifty, but I gave it to somebody." He giggled. He picked up the .22's magazine and the one loose cartridge and dropped them into one pocket, then put the pistol in the other. "I gotta see Shin, get my deposit back." "Go home," said ъatz, shifting on the creaking chair with something like embarrassment. "Artiste. Go home." He felt them watching as he crossed the room and shouldered his way past the plastic doors. "Bitch," he said to the rose tint over Shiga. Down on Ninsei the holograms were vanishing like ghosts, and most of the neon was already cold and dead. He sipped thick black coffee from a street vendor's foam thimble and watched the sun come up. "You fly away, honey. Towns like this are for people who like the way down." But that wasn't it, really, and he was finding it increasingly hard to maintain the sense of betrayal. She just wanted a ticket home, and the ъAM in his Hitachi would buy it for her, if she could find the right fence. And that business with the fifty; she'd almost turned it down, knowing she was about to rip him for the rest of what he had. When he climbed out of the elevator, the same boy was on the desk. Different textbook. "Good buddy," Case called across the plastic turf, "you don't need to tell me. I know already. Pretty lady came to visit, said she had my key. Nice little tip for you, say fifty New ones?" The boy put down his book. "Woman," Case said, and drew a line across his forehead with his thumb. "Silk." He smiled broadly. The boy smiled back, nodded. "Thanks, ass hole," Case said. On the catwalk, he had trouble with the lock. She'd messed it up somehow when she'd fiddled it, he thought. Beginner. He knew where to rent a black box that would open anything in Cheap Hotel. Fluorescents came on as he crawled in. "Close the hatch real slow, friend. You still got that Saturday night special you rented from the waiter?" She sat with her back to the wall, at the far end of the coffin. She had her knees up, resting her wrists on them, the pepper box muzzle of a flechette pistol emerged from her hands. "That you in the arcade?" He pulled the hatch down. "Where's Linda?" "Hit that latch switch." He did. "That your girl? Linda?" He nodded. "She's gone. Took your Hitachi. ъeal nervous kid. What about the gun, man?" She wore mirrored glasses. Her clothes were black, the heels of black boots deep in the temper foam. "I took it back to Shin, got my deposit. Sold his bullets back to him for half what I paid. You want the money?" "No." "Want some dry ice? All I got, right now." "What got into you tonight? Why'd you pull that scene at the arcade? I had to mess up this rentacop came after me with nun chucks. " "Linda said you were gonna kill me." "Linda said? I never saw her before I came up here." "You aren't with Wage?" She shook her head. He realized that the glasses were surgically inset, sealing her sockets. The silver lenses seemed to grow from smooth pale skin above her cheekbones, framed by dark hair cut in a rough shag. The fingers curled around the fletcher were slender, white, tipped with polished burgundy. The nails looked artificial. "I think you screwed up, Case. I showed up and you just fit me right into your reality picture." "So what do you want, lady?" He sagged back against the hatch. "You. One live body, brains still somewhat intact. Molly, Case. My name's Molly. I'm collecting you for the man I work for. Just wants to talk, is all. Nobody wants to hurt you " "That's good." "'Cept I do hurt people sometimes, Case. I guess it's just the way I'm wired." She wore tight black glove leather jeans and a bulky black jacket cut from some matte fabric that seemed to absorb light. "If I put this dart gun away, will you be easy, Case? You look like you like to take stupid chances." "Hey, I'm very easy. I'm a pushover, no problem." "That's fine, man." The fletcher vanished into the black jacket. "Because you try to fuck around with me, you'll be taking one of the stupidest chances of your whole life." She held out her hands, palms up, the white fingers slightly spread, and with a barely audible click, ten double-edged, four centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings beneath the burgundy nails. She smiled. The blades slowly withdrew. After a year of coffins, the room on the twenty-fifth floor of the Chiba Hilton seemed enormous. It was ten meters by eight, half of a suite. A white Braun coffee maker steamed on a low table by the sliding glass panels that opened onto a narrow balcony. "Get some coffee in you. Look like you need it." She took off her black jacket, the fletcher hung beneath her arm in a black nylon shoulder rig. She wore a sleeveless gray pullover with plain steel zips across each shoulder. Bulletproof, Case decided, slopping coffee into a bright red mug. His arms and legs felt like they were made out of wood. "Case." He looked up, seeing the man for the first time. "My name is Armitage." The dark robe was open to the waist, the broad chest hairless and muscular, the stomach flat and hard. Blue eyes so pale they made Case think of bleach. "Sun's up, Case. This is your lucky day, boy." Case whipped his arm sideways and the man easily ducked the scalding coffee. Brown stain running down the imitation rice paper wall. He saw the angular gold ring through the left lobe. Special Forces. The man smiled. "Get your coffee, Case," Molly said. "You're okay, but you're not going anywhere 'til Armitage has his say." She sat cross legged on a silk futon and began to fieldstrip the fletcher without bothering to look at it. Twin mirrors tracking as he crossed to the table and refilled his cup. "Too young to remember the war, aren't you, Case?" Armitage ran a large hand back through his cropped brown hair. A heavy gold bracelet flashed on his wrist. "Leningrad, Kiev, Siberia. We invented you in Siberia, Case." "What's that supposed to mean?" "Screaming Fist, Case. You've heard the name." "Some kind of run, wasn't it? Tried to burn this ъussian nexus with virus programs. Yeah, I heard about it. And nobody got out." He sensed abrupt tension. Armitage walked to the window and looked out over Tokyo Bay. "That isn't true. One unit made it back to Helsinki, Case." Case shrugged, sipped coffee. "You're a console cowboy. The prototypes of the programs you use to crack industrial banks were developed for Screaming Fist. For the assault on the Kirensk computer nexus. Basic module was a Nightwing micro light, a pilot, a matrix deck, a jockey. We were running a virus called Mole. The Mole series was the first generation of real intrusion programs." "Icebreakers," Case said, over the rim of the red mug. "Ice from ICE, intrusion countermeasures electronics." "Problem is, mister, I'm no jockey now, so I think I'll just be going...." "I was there, Case; I was there when they invented your kind." "You got zip to do with me and my kind, buddy. You're rich enough to hire expensive razor girls to haul my ass up here, is all. I'm never gonna punch any deck again, not for you or anybody else." He crossed to the window and looked down. "That's where I live now." "Our profile says you're trying to con the street into killing you when you're not looking." "Profile?" "We've built up a detailed model. Bought a go-to for each of your aliases and ran the skim through some military software. You're suicidal, Case. The model gives you a month on the outside. And our medical projection says you'll need a new pancreas inside a year." "We." He met the faded blue eyes. "We who?" "What would you say if I told you we could correct your neural damage, Case'?" Armitage suddenly looked to Case as if he were carved from a block of metal; inert, enormously heavy. A statue. He knew now that this was a dream, and that soon he'd wake. Armitage wouldn't speak again. Case's dreams always ended in these freeze frames, and now this one was over. "What would you say, Case?" Case looked out over the Bay and shivered. "I'd say you were full of shit." Armitage nodded. "Then I'd ask what your terms were." "Not very different than what you're used to, Case." "Let the man get some sleep, Armitage," Molly said from her futon, the components of the fletcher spread on the silk like some expensive puzzle. "He's coming apart at the seams." "Terms," Case said, "and now. ъight now." He was still shivering. He couldn't stop shivering. The clinic was nameless, expensively appointed, a cluster of sleek pavilions separated by small formal gardens. He remembered the place from the round he'd made his first month in Chiba. "Scared, Case. You're real scared." It was Sunday afternoon and he stood with Molly in a sort of courtyard. White boulders, a stand of green bamboo, black gravel raked into smooth waves. A gardener, a thing like a large metal crab, was tending the bamboo. "It'll work, Case. You got no idea, the kind of stuff Armitage has. Like he's gonna pay these nerve boys for fixing you with the program he's giving them to tell them how to do it. He'll put them three years ahead of the competition. You got any idea what that's worth?" She hooked thumbs in the belt loops of her leather jeans and rocked backward on the lacquered heels of cherry red cowboy boots. The narrow toes were sheathed in bright Mexican silver. The lenses were empty quicksilver, regarding him with an insect calm. "You're street samurai," he said. "How long you work for him?" "Couple of months." "What about before that?" "For somebody else. Working girl, you know?" He nodded. "Funny, Case." "What's funny?" "It's like I know you. That profile he's got. I know how you're wired." "You don't know me, sister." "You're okay, Case. What got you, it's just called bad luck." "How about him? He okay, Molly?" The robot crab moved toward them, picking its way over the waves of gravel. Its bronze carapace might have been a thousand years old. When it was within a meter of her boots, it fired a burst of light, then froze for an instant, analyzing data obtained. "What I always think about first, Case, is my own sweet ass." The crab had altered course to avoid her, but she kicked it with a smooth precision, the silver boot-tip clanging on the carapace. The thing fell on its back, but the bronze limbs soon righted it. Case sat on one of the boulders, scuffing at the symmetry of the gravel waves with the toes of his shoes. He began to search his pockets for cigarettes. "In your shirt," she said. "You want to answer my question?" He fished a wrinkled Yeheyuan from the pack and she lit it for him with a thin slab of German steel that looked as though it belonged on an operating table. "Well, I'll tell you, the man's definitely on to something. He's got big money now, and he's never had it before, and he gets more all the time." Case noticed a certain tension around her mouth. "Or maybe, maybe something's on to him...." She shrugged. "What's that mean?" "I don't know, exactly. I know I don't know who or what we're really working for." He stared at the twin mirrors. Leaving the Hilton, Saturday morning, he'd gone back to Cheap Hotel and slept for ten hours . Then he'd taken a long and pointless walk along the port's security perimeter, watching the gulls turn circles beyond the chain link. If she'd followed him, she'd done a good job of it. He'd avoided Night City. He'd waited in the coffin for Armitage's call. Now this quiet courtyard, Sunday afternoon, this girl with a gymnast's body and conjurer's hands. "If you'll come in now, sir, the anesthetist is waiting to meet you." The technician bowed, turned, and reentered the clinic without waiting to see if Case would follow. Cold steel odor. Ice caressed his spine. Lost, so small amid that dark, hands grown cold, body image fading down corridors of television sky. Voices. Then black fire found the branching tributaries of the nerves, pain beyond anything to which the name of pain is given.... Hold still. Don't move. And ъatz was there, and Linda Lee, Wage and Lonny Zone, a hundred faces from the neon forest, sailors and hustlers and whores, where the sky is poisoned silver, beyond chain link and the prison of the skull. Goddamn don't you move. Where the sky faded from hissing static to the non color of the matrix, and he glimpsed the shuriken, his stars. "Stop it, Case, I gotta find your vein!" She was straddling his chest, a blue plastic syrette in one hand. "You don't lie still, I'll slit your fucking throat. You're still full of endorphin inhibitors." He woke and found her stretched beside him in the dark. His neck was brittle, made of twigs. There was a steady pulse of pain midway down his spine. Images formed and reformed: a flickering montage of the Sprawl's towers and ragged Fuller domes, dim figures moving toward him in the shade beneath a bridge or overpass.... "Case? It's Wednesday, Case." She moved, rolling over, reaching across him. A breast brushed his upper arm. He heard her tear the foil seal from a bottle of water and drink. "Here." She put the bottle in his hand. "I can see in the dark, Case. Micro channel image-amps in my glasses." "My back hurts." "That's where they replaced your fluid. Changed your blood too. Blood 'cause you got a new pancreas thrown into the deal. And some new tissue patched into your liver. The nerve stuff I dunno. Lot of injections. They didn't have to open anything up for the main show." She settled back beside him. "It's 2:43:12 AM, Case. Got a readout chipped into my optic nerve." He sat up and tried to sip from the bottle. Gagged, coughed, lukewarm water spraying his chest and thighs. "I gotta punch deck, ' he heard himself say. He was groping for his clothes. "I gotta know...." She laughed. Small strong hands gripped his upper arms. "Sorry, hotshot. Eight day wait. Your nervous system would fall out on the floor if you jacked in now. Doctor's orders. Besides, they figure it worked. Check you in a day or so." He lay down again. "Where are we?" "Home. Cheap Hotel." "Where's Armitage?" "Hilton, selling beads to the natives or something. We're out of here soon, man. Amsterdam, Paris, then back to the Sprawl." She touched his shoulder. "ъoll over. I give a good massage." He lay on his stomach, arms stretched forward, tips of his fingers against the walls of the coffin. She settled over the small of his back, kneeling on the temper foam, the leather jeans cool against his skin. Her fingers brushed his neck. "How come you're not at the Hilton?" She answered him by reaching back, between his thighs and gently encircling his scrotum with thumb and forefinger. She rocked there for a minute in the dark, erect above him, her other hand on his neck. The leather of her jeans creaked softly with the movement. Case shifted, feeling himself harden against the temper foam. His head throbbed, but the brittleness in his neck seemed to retreat. He raised himself on one elbow, rolled, sank back against the foam, pulling her down, licking her breasts, small hard nipples sliding wet across his cheek. He found the zip on the leather jeans and tugged it down. "It's okay," she said, "I can see." Sound of the jeans peeling down. She struggled beside him until she could kick them away. She threw a leg across him and he touched her face. Unexpected hardness of the implanted lenses. "Don't," she said, "fingerprints." Now she straddled him again, took his hand, and closed it over her, his thumb along the cleft of her buttocks, his fingers spread across the labia. As she began to lower herself, the images came pulsing back, the faces, fragments of neon arriving and receding. She slid down around him and his back arched convulsively. She rode him that way, impaling herself, slipping down on him again and again, until they both had come, his orgasm flaring blue in a timeless space, a vastness like the matrix, where the faces were shredded and blown away down hurricane corridors, and her inner thighs were strong and wet against his hips. On Nisei, a thinner, weekday version of the crowd went through the motions of the dance. Waves of sound rolled from the arcades and pachinko parlors. Case glanced into the Chat and saw Zone watching over his girls in the warm, beer-smelling twilight. ъatz was tending bar. "You seen Wage, ъatz?" "Not tonight." ъatz made a point of raising an eyebrow at Molly. "You see him, tell him I got his money." "Luck changing, my artiste?" "Too soon to tell." "Well, I gotta see this guy," Case said, watching his reflection in her glasses. "I got biz to cancel out of." "Armitage won't like it, I let you out of my sight." She stood beneath Deane's melting clock, hands on her hips. "The guy won't talk to me if you're there. Deane I

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