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      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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was gettin' closer, an' I saw what it was. Sometimes that day it had looked kinda like it was wrecked, or maybe nobody there, an' other times I thought I'd see light flashin' off a machine, cars or somethin' ...." Her voice trailed off. "What is it?" "This thing," she gestured around at the fireplace, the dark walls, the dawn outlining the doorway, "where we live. It gets smaller, Case, smaller, closer you get to it." Pausing one last time, by the doorway. "You ask your boy about that?" "Yeah. He said I wouldn't understand, an' I was wastin' my time. Said it was, was like . . . an event. An' it was our horizon. Event horizon, he called it." The words meant nothing to him. He left the bunker and struck out blindly, heading--he knew, somehow--away from the sea. Now the hieroglyphs sped across the sand, fled from his feet, drew back from him as he walked. "Hey," he said, "it's breaking down. Bet you know, too. What is it? Kuang? Chinese icebreaker eating a hole in your heart? Maybe the Dixie Flatline's no pushover, huh?" He heard her call his name. Looked back and she was following him, not trying to catch up, the broken zip of the French fatigues flapping against the brown of her belly, pubic hair framed in torn fabric. She looked like one of the girls on the Finn's old magazines in Metro Holografix come to life, only she was tired and sad and human, the ripped costume pathetic as she stumbled over clumps of salt-silver sea grass. And then, somehow, they stood in the surf, the three of them, and the boy's gums were wide and bright pink against his thin brown face. He wore ragged, colorless shorts, limbs too thin against the sliding blue-gray of the tide. "I know you," Case said, Linda beside him. "No," the boy said, his voice high and musical, "you do not." "You're the other AI. You're io. You're the one who wants to stop Wintermute. What's your name? Your Turing code. What is it?" The boy did a handstand in the surf, laughing. He walked on his hands, then flipped out of the water. His eyes were iviera's, but there was no malice there. "To call up a demon you must learn its name. Men dreamed that, once, but now it is real in another way. You know that, Case. Your business is to learn the names of programs, the long formal names, names the owners seek to conceal. True names. . ." "A Turing code's not your name." "Neuromancer," the boy said, slitting long gray eyes against the rising sun. "The lane to the land of the dead. Where you are, my friend. Marie-France, my lady, she prepared this road but her lord choked her off before I could read the book of he; days. Neuro from the nerves, the silver paths. omancer. Nec- romancer. I call up the dead. But no, my friend," and the boy did a little dance, brown feet printing the sand, "I am the dead, and their land." He laughed. A gull cried. "Stay. If your woman is a ghost, she doesn't know it. Neither will you." "You're cracking. The ice is breaking up." "No," he said, suddenly sad, his fragile shoulders sagging. He rubbed his foot against the sand. "It is more simple than that. But the choice is yours." The gray eyes regarded Case gravely. A fresh wave of symbols swept across his vision, one line at a time. Behind them, the boy wriggled, as though seen through heat rising from summer asphalt. The music was loud now, and Case could almost make out the lyrics. "Case, honey," Linda said, and touched his shoulder. "No," he said. He took off his jacket and handed it to her. "I don't know," he said, "maybe you're here. Anyway, it gets cold." He turned and walked away, and after the seventh step, he'd closed his eyes, watching the music define itself at the center of things. He did look back, once, although he didn't open his eyes. He didn't need to. They were there by the edge of the sea, Linda Lee and the thin child who said his name was Neuromancer. His leather jacket dangled from her hand, catching the fringe of the surf. He walked on, following the music. Maelcum's Zion dub. There was a gray place, an impression of fine screens shift- ing, moire, degrees of half tone generated by a very simple graphics program. There was a long hold on a view through chainlink, gulls frozen above dark water. There were voices. There was a plain of black mirror, that tilted, and he was quicksilver, a bead of mercury, skittering down, striking the angles of an invisible maze, fragmenting, flowing together, sliding again.... "Case? Mon?" The music. "You back, mon." The music was taken from his ears. "How long?" he heard himself ask, and knew that his mouth was very dry. "Five minute, maybe. Too long. I wan' pull th' jack, Mute seh no. Screen goin' funny, then Mute seh put th' phones on you." He opened his eyes. Maelcum's features were overlayed with bands of translucent hieroglyphs. "An' you medicine," Maelcum said. "Two derm." He was flat on his back on the library floor, below the monitor. The Zionite helped him sit up, but the movement threw him into the savage rush of the betaphenethylamine, the blue derms burning against his left wrist. "Overdose," he man- aged. "Come on, mon," the strong hands beneath his armpits, lifting him like a child, "I an' I mus' go." 22 The service cart was crying. The betaphenethylamine gave it a voice. It wouldn't stop. Not in the crowded gallery, the long corridors, not as it passed the black glass entrance to the T-A crypt, the vaults where the cold had seeped so gradually into old Ashpool's dreams. The transit was an extended rush for Case, the movement of the cart indistinguishable from the insane momentum of the overdose. When the cart died, at last, something beneath the seat giving up with a shower of white sparks, the crying stopped. The thing coasted to a stop three meters from the start of 3Jane's pirate cave. "How far, mon?" Maelcum helped him from the sputtering cart as an integral extinguisher exploded in the thing's engine compartment, gouts of yellow powder squirting from louvers and service points. The Braun tumbled from the back of the seat and hobbled off across the imitation sand, dragging one useless limb behind it. "You mus' walk, mon." Maelcum took the deck and construct, slinging the shock cords over his shoul- der. The trodes rattled around Case's neck as he followed the Zionite. iviera's holos waited for them, the torture scenes and the cannibal children. Molly had broken the triptych. Maelcum ignored them. "Easy," Case said, forcing himself to catch up with the striding figure. "Gotta do this right." Maelcum halted, turned, glowering at him, the emington in his hands. "ight, mon? How's right?" "Got Molly in there, but she's out of it. iviera, he can throw holos. Maybe he's got Molly's fletcher." Maelcum nod- ded. "And there's a ninja, a family bodyguard." Maelcum's frown deepened. "You listen, Babylon mon," he said. "I a warrior. But this no m' fight, no Zion fight. Babylon fightin' Babylon, eatin' i'self, ya know? But Jah seh I an' I t' bring Steppin' azor outa this." Case blinked. "She a warrior," Maelcum said, as if it explained everything. "Now you tell me, mon, who I not t' kill." "3Jane," he said, after a pause. "A girl there. Has a kinda white robe thing on, with a hood. We need her." When they reached the entrance, Maelcum walked straight in, and Case had no choice but to follow him. 3Jane's country was deserted, the pool empty. Maelcum handed him the deck and the construct and walked to the edge of the pool. Beyond the white pool furniture, there was dark- ness, shadows of the ragged, waist-high maze of partially demolished walls. The water lapped patiently against the side of the pool. "They're here," Case said. "They gotta be." Maelcum nodded. The first arrow pierced his upper arm. The emington roared, its meter of muzzle-flash blue in the light from the pool. The second arrow struck the shotgun itself, sending it spinning across the white tiles. Maelcum sat down hard and fumbled at the black thing that protruded from his arm. He yanked at it. Hideo stepped out of the shadows, a third arrow ready in a slender bamboo bow. He bowed. Maelcum stared, his hand still on the steel shaft. "The artery is intact," the ninja said. Case remembered Molly's description of the man who-d killed her lover. Hideo was another. Ageless, he radiated a sense of quiet, an utter calm. He wore clean, frayed khaki workpants and soft dark shoes that fit his feet like gloves, split at the toes like tabi socks. The bamboo bow was a museum piece, but the black alloy quiver that protruded above his left shoulder had the look of the best Chiba weapons shops. His brown chest was bare and smooth. "You cut my thumb, mon, wi' secon' one," Maelcum said. "Coriolis force," the ninja said, bowing again. "Most dif- ficult, slow-moving projectile in rotational gravity. It was not intended." "Where's 3Jane?" Case crossed to stand beside Maelcum. He saw that the tip of the arrow in the ninja's bow was like a double-edged razor. "Where's Molly?" "Hello, Case." iviera came strolling out of the dark behind Hideo, Molly's fletcher in his hand. "I would have expected Armitage, somehow. Are we hiring help out of that asta cluster now?" "Armitage is dead." "Armitage never existed, more to the point, but the news hardly comes as a shock." "Wintermute killed him. He's in orbit around the spindle." iviera nodded, his long gray eyes glancing from Case to Maelcum and back. "I think it ends here, for you," he said. "Where's Molly?" The ninja relaxed his pull on the fine, braided string, low- ering the bow. He crossed the tiles to where the emington lay and picked it up. "This is without subtlety," he said, as if to himself. His voice was cool and pleasant. His every move was part of a dance, a dance that never ended, even when his body was still, at rest, but for all the power it suggested, there was also a humility, an open simplicity. "It ends here for her, too," iviera said. "Maybe 3Jane won't go for that, Peter," Case said, uncertain of the impulse. The derms still raged in his system, the old fever starting to grip him, Night City craziness. He remembered moments of grace, dealing out on the edge of things, where he'd found that he could sometimes talk faster than he could think. The gray eyes narrowed. "Why, Case? Why do you think that?" Case smiled. iviera didn't know about the simstim rig. He'd missed it in his hurry to find the drugs she carried for him. But how could Hideo have missed it? And Case was certain the ninja would never have let 3Jane treat Molly without first checking her for kinks and concealed weapons. No, he decided, the ninja knew. So 3Jane would know as well. "Tell me, Case," iviera said, raising the pepperbox muzzle of the fletcher. Something creaked, behind him, creaked again. 3Jane pushed Molly out of the shadows in an ornate Victorian bathchair, its tall, spidery wheels squeaking as they turned. Molly was bun- dled deep in a red and black striped blanket, the narrow, caned back of the antique chair towering above her. She looked very small. Broken. A patch of brilliantly white micropore covered her damaged lens; the other flashed emptily as her head bobbed with the motion of the chair. "A familiar face," 3Jane said, "I saw you the night of Peter's show. And who is this?" "Maelcum," Case said. "Hideo, remove the arrow and bandage Mr. Malcolm's wound." Case was staring at Molly, at the wan face. The ninja walked to where Maelcum sat, pausing to lay his bow and the shotgun well out of reach, and took something from his pocket. A pair of bolt cutters. "I must cut the shaft," he said. "It is too near the artery." Maelcum nodded. His face was grayish and sheened with sweat. Case looked at 3Jane. "There isn't much time," he said. "For whom, exactly?" "For any of us." There was a snap as Hideo cut through the metal shaft of the arrow. Maelcum groaned. "eally," iviera said, "it won't amuse you to hear this failed con artist make a last desperate pitch. Most distasteful, 1 can assure you. He'll wind up on his knees, offer to sell you his mother, perform the most boring sexual favors...." 3Jane threw back her head and laughed. "Wouldn't 1, Pe- ter?" "The ghosts are gonna mix it tonight, lady," Case said. "Wintermute's going up against the other one, Neuromancer. For keeps. You know that?" 3Jane raised her eyebrows. "Peter's suggested something like that, but tell me more." "I met Neuromancer. He talked about your mother. I think he's something like a giant OM construct, for recording per- sonality, only it's full AM. The constructs think they're there, like it's real, but it just goes on forever." 3Jane stepped from behind the bathchair. "Where? Describe the place, this construct." "A beach. Gray sand, like silver that needs polishing. And a concrete thing, kinda bunker...." He hesitated. "It's nothing fancy. Just old, falling apart. If you walk far enough, you come back to where you started." "Yes," she said. "Morocco. When Marie-France was a girl, years before she married Ashpool, she spent a summer alone on that beach, camping in an abandoned blockhouse. She for- mulated the basis of her philosophy there." Hideo straightened, slipping the cutters into his workpants. He held a section of the arrow in either hand. Maelcum had his eyes closed, his hand clapped tight around his bicep. "I will bandage it," Hideo said. Case managed to fall before iviera could level the fletcher for a clear shot. The darts whined past his neck like supersonic gnats. He rolled, seeing Hideo pivot through yet another step of his dance, the razored point of the arrow reversed in his hand, shaft flat along palm and rigid fingers. He flicked it underhand, wrist blurring, into the back of iviera's hand. The fletcher struck the tiles a meter away. iviera screamed. But not in pain. It was a shriek of rage, so pure, so refined, that it lacked all humanity. Twin tight beams of light, ruby red needles, stabbed from the region of iviera's sternum. The ninja grunted, reeled back, hands to his eyes, then found his balance. "Peter," 3Jane said, "Peter, what have you done?" "He's blinded your clone boy," Molly said flatly. Hideo lowered his cupped hands. Frozen on the white tile Case saw whisps of steam drift from the ruined eyes. iviera smiled. Hideo swung into his dance, retracing his steps. When he stood above the bow, the arrow, and the emington, iviera's smile had faded. He bent--bowing, it seemed to Case--and found the bow and arrow. "You're blind," iviera said, taking a step backward. "Peter," 3Jane said, "don't you know he does it in the dark? Zen. It's the way he practices." The ninja notched his arrow. "Will you distract me with your holograms now?" iviera was backing away, into the dark beyond the pool. He brushed against a white chair; its feet rattled on the tile. Hideo's arrow twitched. iviera broke and ran, throwing himself over a low, jagged length of wall. The ninja's face was rapt, suffused with a quiet ecstasy. Smiling, he padded off into the shadows beyond the wall, his weapon held ready. "Jane-lady," Maelcum whispered, and Case turned, to see him scoop the shotgun from the tiles, blood spattering the white ceramic. He shook his locks and lay the fat barrel in the crook of his wounded arm. "This take your head off, no Babylon doctor fix it." 3Jane stared at the emington. Molly freed her arms from the folds of the striped blanket, raising the black sphere that encased her hands. "Off," she said, "get it off." Case rose from the tiles, shook himself. "Hideo'll get him, even blind?" he asked 3Jane. "When I was a child," she said, "we loved to blindfold him. He put arrows through the pips in playing cards at ten meters." "Peter's good as dead anyway," Molly said. "In another twelve hours, he'll start to freeze up. Won't be able to move, his eyes is all." "Why?" Case turned to her. "I poisoned his shit for him," she said. "Condition's like Parkinson's disease, sort of." 3Jane nodded. "Yes. We ran the usual medical scan, before he was admitted." She touched the ball in a certain way and it sprang away from Molly's hands. "Selective destruction of the cells of the substantia nigra. Signs of the formation of a Lewy body. He sweats a great deal, in his sleep." "Ali," Molly said, ten blades glittering, exposed for an instant. She tugged the blanket away from her legs, revealing the inflated cast. "It's the meperidine. I had Ali make me up a custom batch. Speeded up the reaction times with higher temperatures. N-methyl-4-phenyl-1236," she sang, like a child reciting the steps of a sidewalk game, "tetra-hydro-pyridene." "A hotshot," Case said. "Yeah," Molly said, "a real slow hotshot." "That's appalling," 3Jane said, and giggled. It was crowded in the elevator. Case was jammed pelvis to pelvis with 3Jane, the muzzle of the emington under her chin. She grinned and ground against him. "You stop," he said, feeling helpless. He had the gun's safety on, but he was terrified of injuring her, and she knew it. The elevator was a steel cylinder, under a meter in diameter, intended for a single pas- senger. Maelcum had Molly in his arms. She'd bandaged his wound, but it obviously hurt him to carry her. Her hip was pressing the deck and construct into Case's kidneys. They rose out of gravity, toward the axis, the cores. The entrance to the elevator had been concealed beside the stairs to the corridor, another touch in 3Jane's pirate cave decor. "I don't suppose I should tell you this," 3Jane said, craning her head to allow her chin to clear the muzzle of the gun, "but I don't have a key to the room you want. I never have had one. One of my father's Victorian awkwardnesses. The lock is mechanical and extremely complex." "Chubb lock," Molly said, her voice muffled by Maelcum's shoulder, "and we got the fucking key, no fear." "That chip of yours still working?" Case asked her. "It's eight twenty-five, PM, Greenwich fucking Mean," she said. "We got five minutes," Case said, as the door snapped open behind 3Jane. She flipped backward in a slow somersault, the pale folds of her djellaba billowing around her thighs. They were at the axis, the core of Villa Straylight. Molly fished the key out on its loop of nylon. "You know," 3Jane said, craning forward with interest, "I was under the impression that no duplicate existed. I sent Hideo to search my father's things, after you killed him. He couldn't find the original." "Wintermute managed to get it stuck in the back of a drawer," Molly said, carefully inserting the Chubb key's cylindrical shaft into the notched opening in the face of the blank, rectangular door. "He killed the little kid who put it there." The key rotated smoothly when she tried it. "The head," Case said, "there's a panel in the back of the head. Zircons on it. Get it off. That's where I'm jacking in." And then they were inside. "Christ on a crutch," the Flatline drawled, "you do believe in takin' your own good time, don't you, boy?" "Kuang's ready?" "Hot to trot." "Okay." He flipped. And found himself staring down, through Molly's one good eye, at a white-faced, wasted figure, afloat in a loose fetal crouch, a cyberspace deck between its thighs, a band of silver trodes above closed, shadowed eyes. The man's cheeks were hollowed with a day's growth of dark beard, his face slick with sweat. He was looking at himself. Molly had her fletcher in her hand. Her leg throbbed with each beat of her pulse, but she could still maneuver in zero-g. Maelcum drifted nearby, 3Jane's thin arm gripped in a large brown hand. A ribbon of fiberoptics looped gracefully fro

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