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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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don't give two shits about. He takes care of himself. But I got people who'll just go under if I walk out of Chiba cold. It's my people, you know?" Her mouth hardened. She shook her head. "I got people in Singapore, Tokyo connections in Shinjuku and Asakuza, and they'll go down, understand?" he lied, his hand on the shoulder of her black jacket. "Five. Five minutes. By your clock, okay?" "Not what I'm paid for." "What you're paid for is one thing. Me letting some tight friends die because you're too literal about your instructions is something else." "Bullshit. Tight friends my ass. You're going in there to check us out with your smuggler." She put a booted foot up on the dust-covered Kandinsky coffee table. "Ah, Case, sport, it does look as though your companion there is definitely armed, aside from having a fair amount of silicon in her head . What is this about, exactly?" Deane ' s ghostly cough seemed to hang in the air between them. "Hold on, Julie. Anyway, I'll be coming in alone." "You can be sure of that, old son. Wouldn't have it any other way." "Okay," she said. "Go. But five Minutes. Any more and I'll come in and cool your tight friend permanently. And while you're at it, you try to figure something out." "What's that?" "Why I'm doing you the favor." She turned and walked out, past the stacked white modules of preserved ginger. "Keeping stranger company than usual, Case?" asked Julie. "Julie, she's gone. You wanna let me in? Please, Julie?" The bolts worked. "Slowly, Case," said the voice. "Turn on the works, Julie, all the stuff in the desk," Case said, taking his place in the swivel chair. "It's on all the time," Deane said mildly, taking a gun from behind the exposed works of his old mechanical typewriter and aiming it carefully at Case. It was a belly gun, a magnum revolver with the barrel sawn down to a nub. The front of the trigger-guard had been cut away and the grips wrapped with what looked like old masking tape. Case thought it looked very strange in Dean's manicured pink hands. "Just taking care, you Understand. Nothing personal. Now tell me what you want." "I need a history lesson, Julie. And a go-to on somebody." "What's moving, old son'?" Deane's shirt was candy-striped cotton, the collar white and rigid, like porcelain. "Me, Julie. I'm leaving. Gone. But do me the favor, okay?" "Go-to on whom, old son?" "Gaijin name of Armitage, suite in the Hilton." Deane put the pistol down. "Sit still, Case." He tapped something out on a lap terminal. "It seems as though you know as much as my net does, Case. This gentleman seems to have a temporary arrangement with the Yakuza, and the sons of the neon chrysanthemum have ways of screening their allies from the likes of me. I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, history. You said history." He picked up the gun again, but didn't point it directly at Case. "What sort of history?" "The war. You in the war, Julie?" "The war? What's there to know? Lasted three weeks." "Screaming Fist." "Famous. Don't they teach you history these days? Great bloody postwar political football, that was. Watergated all to hell and back. Your brass, Case, your Sprawlside brass in, where was it, McLean? In the bunkers, all of that... great scandal. Wasted a fair bit of patriotic young flesh in order to test some new technology. They knew about the ъussians' defenses, it came out later. Knew about the emps, magnetic pulse weapons. Sent these fellows in regardless, just to see." Deane shrugged. "Turkey shoot for Ivan." "Any of those guys make it out?" "Christ,'' Deane said, "it's been bloody years.... Though I do think a few did. One of the teams. Got hold of a Sov gunship. Helicopter, you know. Flew it back to Finland. Didn't have entry codes, of course, and shot hell out of the Finnish defense forces in the process. Special Forces types." Deane sniffed. "Bloody hell." Case nodded. The smell of preserved ginger was overwhelming. "I spent the war in Lisbon, you know," Deane said, putting the gun down. "Lovely place, Lisbon." "In the service, Julie?" "Hardly. Though I did see action." Deane smiled his pink smile. "Wonderful what a war can do for one's markets." "Thanks, Julie. I owe you one." "Hardly, Case. And goodbye." x x x And later he'd tell himself that the evening at Sammi's had felt wrong from the start, that even as he'd followed Molly along that corridor, shuffling through a trampled mulch of ticket stubs and styrofoam cups, he'd sensed it. Linda's death, waiting.... They'd gone to the Namban, after he'd seen Deane, and paid off his debt to Wage with a roll of Armitage's New Yen. Wage had liked that, his boys had liked it less, and Molly had grinned at Case's side with a kind of ecstatic feral intensity, obviously longing for one of them to make a move. Then he'd taken her back to the Chat for a drink. "Wasting your time, cowboy," Molly said, when Case took an octagon from the pocket of his jacket. "How's that? You want one?" He held the pill out to her. "Your new pancreas, Case, and those plugs in your liver. Armitage had them designed to bypass that shit." She tapped the octagon with one burgundy nail. "You're biochemically incapable of getting off on amphetamine or cocaine." "Shit," he said. He looked at the octagon, then at her. "Eat it. Eat a dozen. Nothing'll happen." He did. Nothing did. Three beers later, she was asking ъatz about the fights. "Sammi's," ъatz said. "I'll pass," Case said, "I hear they kill each other down there." An hour later, she was buying tickets from a skinny Thai in a white t-shirt and baggy rugby shorts. Sammi's was an inflated dome behind a port side warehouse, taut gray fabric reinforced with a net of thin steel cables. The corridor, with a door at either end, was a crude airlock preserving the pressure differential that supported the dome. Fluorescent rings were screwed to the plywood ceiling at intervals, but most of them had been broken. The air was damp and close with the smell of sweat and concrete. None of that prepared him for the arena, the crowd, the tense hush, the towering puppets of light beneath the dome. Concrete sloped away in tiers to a kind of central stage, a raised circle ringed with a glittering thicket of projection gear. No light but the holograms that shifted and flickered above the ring, reproducing the movements of the two men below. Strata of cigarette smoke rose from the tiers, drifting until it struck currents set up by the blowers that supported the dome. No sound but the muted purring of the blowers and the amplified breathing of the fighters. ъeflected colors flowed across Molly's lenses as the men circled. The holograms were ten-power magnifications; at ten, the knives they held were just under a meter long. The knife-fighter's grip is the fencer's grip, Case remembered, the fingers curled, thumb aligned with blade. The knives seemed to move of their own accord, gliding with a ritual lack of urgency through the arcs and passes of their dance, point passing point, as the men waited for an opening. Molly's upturned face was smooth and still, watching. "I'll go find us some food," Case said. She nodded, lost in contemplation of the dance. He didn't like this place. He turned and walked back into the shadows. Too dark. Too quiet. The crowd, he saw, was mostly Japanese. Not really a Night City crowd. Teaks down from the arcologies. He supposed that meant the arena had the approval of some corporate recreational committee. He wondered briefly what it would be like, working all your life for one zaibatsu. Company housing, company hymn, company funeral. He'd made nearly a full circuit of the dome before he found the food stalls. He bought yakitori on skewers and two tall waxy cartons of beer. Glancing up at the holograms, he saw that blood laced one figure's chest. Thick brown sauce trickled down the skewers and over his knuckles. Seven days and he'd jack in. If he closed his eyes now, he'd see the matrix. Shadows twisted as the holograms swung through their dance. Then the fear began to knot between his shoulders. A cold trickle of sweat worked its way down and across his ribs. The operation hadn't worked. He was still here, still meat, no Molly waiting, her eyes locked on the circling knives, no Armitage waiting in the Hilton with tickets and a new passport and money. It was all some dream, some pathetic fantasy.... Hot tears blurred his vision. Blood sprayed from a jugular in a red gout of light. And now the crowd was screaming, rising, screaming--as one figure crumpled, the hologram fading, flickering.... ъaw edge of vomit in his throat. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, opened them, and saw Linda Lee step past him her gray eyes blind with fear. She wore the same French fatigues. And gone. Into shadow. Pure mindless reflex: he threw the beer and chicken down and ran after her. He might have called her name, but he'd never be sure. Afterimage of a single hair-fine line of red light. Seared concrete beneath the thin soles of his shoes. Her white sneakers flashing, close to the curving wall now and again the ghost line of the laser branded across his eye, bobbing in his vision as he ran. Someone tripped him. Concrete tore his palms. He rolled and kicked, failing to connect. A thin boy, spiked blond hair lit from behind in a rainbow nimbus, was leaning over him. Above the stage, a figure turned, knife held high, to the cheering crowd. The boy smiled and drew something from his sleeve. A razor, etched in red as a third beam blinked past them into the dark. Case saw the razor dipping for his throat like a dowser's wand. The face was erased in a humming cloud of microscopic explosions. Molly's fletchettes, at twenty rounds per second. The boy coughed once, convulsively, and toppled across Case's legs. He was walking toward the stalls, into the shadows. He looked down, expecting to see that needle of ruby emerge from his chest. Nothing. He found her. She was thrown down at the foot of a concrete pillar, eyes closed. There was a smell of cooked meat. The crowd was chanting the winner's name. A beer vendor was wiping his taps with a dark rag. One white sneaker had come off, somehow, and lay beside her head. Follow the wall. Curve of concrete. Hands in pockets. Keep walking. Past unseeing faces, every eye raised to the victor's image above the ring. Once a seamed European face danced in the glare of a match, lips pursed around the short stem of a metal pipe. Tang of hashish. Case walked on, feeling nothing. "Case." Her mirrors emerged from deeper shadow. "You okay?" Something mewlcd and bubbled in the dark behind her. He shook his head. "Fight's over, Case. Time to go home." He tried to walk past her. back into the dark, where something was dying. She stopped him with a hand on his chest. "Friends of your tight friend. Killed your girl for you. You haven't done too well for friends in this town, have you? We got a partial profile on that old bastard when we did you, man. He'd fry anybody, for a few New ones. The one back there said they got on to her when she was trying to fence your ъAM. Just cheaper for them to kill her and take it. Save a little money.... I got the one who had the laser to tell me all about it. Coincidence we were here, but I had to make sure." Her mouth was hard, lips pressed into a thin line. Case felt as though his brain were jammed. "Who," he said, "who sent them?" She passed him a blood-flecked bag of preserved ginger. He saw that her hands were sticky with blood. Back in the shadows, someone made wet sounds and died. After the postoperative check at the clinic, Molly took him to the port. Armitage was waiting. He'd chartered a hovercraft. The last Case saw of Chiba were the dark angles of the arcologies. Then a mist closed over the black water and the drifting shoals of waste. PAъT TWO. THE SHOPPING EXPEDITION Home. Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis. Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation. Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale. Each pixel a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta. . . Case woke from a dream of airports, of Molly's dark leathers moving ahead of him through the concourses of Narita, Schipol, Orly.... He watched himself buy a flat plastic flask of Danish vodka at some kiosk, an hour before dawn. Somewhere down in the Sprawl's ferro-concrete roots, a train drove a column of stale air through a tunnel. The train itself was silent, gliding over its induction cushion, but displaced air made the tunnel sing, bass down into subsonics. Vibration reached the room where he lay and caused dust to rise from the cracks in the dessicated parquet floor. Opening his eyes, he saw Molly, naked and just out of reach across an expanse of very new pink temper foam. Overhead, sunlight filtered through the soot-stained grid of a skylight. One half-meter square of glass had been replaced with chipboard, a fat gray cable emerging there to dangle within a few centimeters of the floor. He lay on his side and watched her breathe, her breasts, the sweep of a flank defined with the functional elegance of a war plane's fusilage. Her body was spare, neat, the muscles like a dancer's. The room was large. He sat up. The room was empty, aside from the wide pink bedslab and two nylon bags, new and identical, that lay beside it. Blank walls, no windows, a single white-painted steel fire door. The walls were coated with countless layers of white latex paint. Factory space. He knew this kind of room, this kind of building; the tenants would operate in the inter zone where art wasn't quite crime, crime not quite art. He was home. He swung his feet to the floor. It was made of little blocks of wood, some missing, others loose. His head ached. He remembered Amsterdam, another room, in the Old City section of the Centrum, buildings centuries old. Molly back from the canal's edge with orange juice and eggs. Armitage off on some cryptic foray, the two of them walking alone past Dam Square to a bar she knew on a Damrak thoroughfare. Paris was a blurred dream. Shopping. She'd taken him shopping. He stood, pulling on a wrinkled pair of new black jeans that lay at his feet, and knelt beside the bags. The first one he opened was Molly's: neatly folded clothing and small expensive-looking gadgets. The second was stuffed with things he didn't remember buying: books, tapes, a Simstim deck, clothing with French and Italian labels. Beneath a green t-shirt, he discovered a flat, origami-wrapped package, recycled Japanese paper. The paper tore when he picked it up; a bright nine-pointed star fell--to stick upright in a crack in the parquet. "Souvenir," Molly said. "I noticed you were always looking at 'em." He turned and saw her sitting cross legged on the bed, sleepily scratching her stomach with burgundy nails. "Someone's coming later to secure the place," Armitage said. He stood in the open doorway with an old-fashioned magnetic key in his hand. Molly was making coffee on a tiny German stove she took from her bag. "I can do it," she said. "I got enough gear already. Infrascan perimeter, screamers..." "No," he said, closing the door. "I want it tight." "Suit yourself." She wore a dark mesh t-shirt tucked into baggy black cotton pants. "You ever the heat, Mr. Armitage?" Case asked, from where he sat, his back against a wall. Armitage was no taller than Case, but with his broad shoulders and military posture he seemed to fill the doorway. He wore a somber Italian suit; in his right hand he held a briefcase of soft black calf. The Special Forces earring was gone. The handsome, inexpressive features offered the routine beauty of the cosmetic boutiques, a conservative amalgam of the past decade's leading media faces. The pale glitter of his eyes heightened the effect of a mask. Case began to regret the question. "Lots of Forces types wound up cops, I mean. Or corporate security," Case added uncomfortably. Molly handed him a steaming mug of coffee. "That number you had them do on my pancreas, that's like a cop routine." Armitage closed the door and crossed the room, to stand in front of Case. "You're a lucky boy, Case. You should thank me." "Should l?" Case blew noisily on his coffee. "You needed a new pancreas. The one we bought for you frees you from a dangerous dependency." "Thanks, but I was enjoying that dependency." "Good, because you have a new one." "How's that?" Case looked up from his coffee. Armitage was smiling. "You have fifteen toxin sacs bonded to the lining of various main arteries, Case. They're dissolving. Very slowly, but they definitely are dissolving. Each one contains a mycotoxin. You're already familiar with the effect of that mycotoxin. It was the one your former employers gave you in Memphis." Case blinked up at the smiling mask. "You have time to do what I'm hiring you for, Case, but that's all. Do the job and I can inject you with an enzyme that will dissolve the bond without opening the sacs. Then you'll need a blood change. Otherwise, the sacs melt and you're back where I found you. So you see, Case, you need us. You need us as badly as you did when we scraped you up from the gutter." Case looked at Molly. She shrugged. "Now go down to the freight elevator and bring up the cases you find there." Armitage handed him the magnetic key. "Go on. You'll enjoy this, Case. Like Christmas morning." Summer in the Sprawl, the mall crowds swaying like wind-blown grass, a field of flesh shot through with sudden eddies of need and gratification. He sat beside Molly in filtered sunlight on the rim of a dry concrete fountain, letting the endless stream of faces recapitulate the stages of his life. First a child with hooded eyes, a street boy, hands relaxed and ready at his sides; then a teenager, face smooth and cryptic beneath red glasses. Case remembered fighting on a rooftop at seventeen, silent combat in the rose glow of the dawn geodesics. He shifted on the concrete, feeling it rough and cool through the thin black denim. Nothing here like the electric dance of Ninsei. This was different commerce, a different rhythm, in the smell of fast food and perfume and fresh summer sweat. With his deck waiting, back in the loft, an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7. They'd left the place littered with the abstract white forms of the foam packing units, with crumpled plastic film and hundreds of tiny foam beads. The Ono-Sendai; next year's most expensive Hosaka computer; a Sony monitor; a dozen disks of corporate-grade ice; a Braun coffee maker. Armitage had only waited for Case's approval of each piece. "Where'd he go?" Case had asked Molly. "He likes hotels. Big ones. Near airports, if he can manage it. Let's go down to the street." She'd zipped herself into an old surplus vest with a dozen oddly shaped pockets and put on a huge pair of black plastic sunglasses that completely covered her mirrored insets. "You know about that toxin shit, before?" he asked her, by the fountain. She shook her head. "You think it's true?" "Maybe, maybe not. Works either way." "You know any way I can find out?" "No," she said, her right hand coming up to form the jive for silence. "That kind of kink's too subtle to show up on a scan." Then

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