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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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her fingers moved again: wait. "And you don't care that much anyway. I saw you stroking that Sendai; man, it was pornographic." She laughed. "So what's he got on you? How's he got the working girl kinked?" "-Professional pride, baby, that's all." And again the sign for silence. "We're gonna get some breakfast, okay? Eggs, real bacon. Probably kill you, you been eating that rebuilt Chiba krill for so long. Yeah, come on, we'll tube in to Manhattan and get us a real breakfast." Lifeless neon spelled out METъO HOLOGъAFIX in dusty capitals of glass tubing. Case picked at a shred of bacon that had lodged between his front teeth. He'd given up asking her where they were going and why; jabs in the ribs and the sign for silence were all he'd gotten in reply. She talked about the season's fashions, about sports, about a political scandal in California he'd never heard of. He looked around the deserted dead end street. A sheet of newsprint went cart wheeling past the intersection. Freak winds in the East side; something to do with convection, and an overlap in the domes. Case peered through the window at the dead sign. Her Sprawl wasn't his Sprawl? he decided. She'd led him through a dozen bars and clubs he'd never seen before, taking care of business, usually with no more than a nod. Maintaining connections. Something was moving in the shadows behind METъO HOLOGъAFIX. The door was a sheet of corrugated roofing. In front of it, Molly's hands flowed through an intricate sequence of jive that he couldn't follow. He caught the sign for cash, a thumb brushing the tip of the forefinger. The door swung inward and sheled him into the smell of dust. They stood in a clearing, dense tangles of junk rising on either side to walls lined with shelves of crumbling paperbacks. The junk looked like something that had grown there, a fungus of twisted metal and plastic. He could pick out individual objects, but then they seemed to blur back into the mass: the guts of a television so old it was studded with the glass stumps of vacuum tubes, a crumpled dish antenna, a brown fiber canister stuffed with corroded lengths of alloy tubing. An enormous pile of old magazines had cascaded into the open area, flesh of lost summers staring blindly up as he followed her back through a narrow canyon of impacted scrap. He heard the door close behind them. He didn't look back. The tunnel ended with an ancient Army blanket tacked across a doorway. White light flooded out as Molly ducked past it. Four square walls of blank white plastic, ceiling to match, floored with white hospital tile molded in a non slip pattern of small raised disks. In the center stood a square, white-painted wooden table and four white folding chairs. The man who stood blinking now in the doorway behind them, the blanket draping one shoulder like a cape, seemed to have been designed in a wind tunnel. His ears were very small, plastered flat against his narrow skull, and his large front teeth, revealed in something that wasn't quite a smile, were canted sharply backward. He wore an ancient tweed jacket and held a handgun of some kind in his left hand. He peered at them, blinked, and dropped the gun into a jacket pocket. He gestured to Case, pointed at a slab of white plastic that leaned near the doorway. Case crossed to it and saw that it was a solid sandwich of circuitry, nearly a centimeter thick. He helped the man lift it and position it in the doorway. Quick, nicotine-stained fingers secured it with a white velcro border. A hidden exhaust fan began to purr. "Time," the man said, straightening up, "and counting. You know the rate, Moll." "We need a scan, Finn. For implants." "So get over there between the pylons. Stand on the tape. Straighten up, yeah. Now turn around, gimme a full threesixty." Case watched her rotate between two fragile-looking stands studded with sensors. The man took a small monitor from his pocket and squinted at it. "Something new in your head, yeah. Silicon. coat of pyrolitic carbons. A clock, right? Your glasses gimme the read they always have, low-temp isotropic carbons. Better biocompatibility with pyrolitics, but that's your business, right? Same with your claws." "Get over here, Case." He saw a scuffed X in black on the white floor. "Turn around. Slow." "Guy's a virgin." The man shrugged. "Some cheap dental work, is all." "You read for biologicals?" Molly unzipped her green vest and took off the dark glasses. "You think this is the Mayo? Climb on the table, kid, we'll run a little biopsy." He laughed, showing more of his yellow teeth. "Nah. Finn's word, sweetmeat, you got no little bugs, no cortex bombs. You want me to shut the screen down?" "Just for as long as it takes you to leave, Finn. Then we'll want full screen for as long as we want it." "Hey, that's fine by the Finn, Moll. You're only paying by the second." They sealed the door behind him and Molly turned one of the white chairs around and sat on it, chin resting on crossed forearms. "We talk now. This is as private as I can afford." "What about?" "What we're doing." "What are we doing?" "Working for Armitage." "And you're saying this isn't for his benefit?" "Yeah. I saw your profile, Case. And I've seen the rest of our shopping list, once. You ever work with the dead?" "No." He watched his reflection in her glasses. "I could, I guess. I'm good at what I do." The present tense made him nervous. "You know that the Dixie Flatline's dead?" He nodded. "Heart, I heard." "You'll be working with his construct." She smiled. "Taught you the ropes, huh? Him and Quine. I know Quine, by the way. ъeal asshole." "Somebody's got a recording of McCoy Pauley? Who?" Now Case sat, and rested his elbows on the table. "I can't see it. He'd never have sat still for it." "Sense/Net. Paid him mega, you bet your ass." "Quine dead too?" "No such luck. He's in Europe. He doesn't come into this." "Well, if we can get the Flatline, we're home free. He was the best. You know he died brain death three times?" She nodded. "Flat lined on his EEG. Showed me tapes. 'Boy, I was daid.' " "Look, Case, I been trying to suss out who it is is backing Armitage since I signed on. But it doesn't feel like a zaibatsu, a government, or some Yakuza subsidiary. Armitage gets orders. Like something tells him to go off to Chiba, pick up a pillhead who's making one last wobble throught the burnout belt, and trade a program for the operation that'll fix him up. We could a bought twenty world class cowboys for what the market was ready to pay for that surgical program. You were good, but not that good...." She scratched the side of her nose. "Obviously makes sense to somebody," he said. "Somebody big." "Don't let me hurt your feelings." She grinned. "We're gonna be pulling one hardcore run, Case, just to get the Flatline's construct. Sense/Net has it locked in a library vault uptown. Tighter than an eel's ass, Case. Now, Sense/Net, they got all their new material for the fall season locked in there too. Steal that and we'd be richer than shit. But no, we gotta get us the Flatline and nothing else. Weird." "Yeah, it's all weird. You're weird, this hole's weird, and who's the weird little gopher outside in the hall?" "Finn's an old connection of mine. Fence, mostly. Software. This privacy biz is a sideline. But I got Armitage to let him be our tech here, so when he shows up later, you never saw him. Got it?" "So what's Armitage got dissolving inside you?" "I'm an easy make." She smiled. "Anybody any good at what they do, that's what they are, right? You gotta jack, I gotta tussle." He stared at her. "So tell me what you know about Armitage." "For starters, nobody named Armitage took part in any Screaming Fist. I checked. But that doesn't mean much. He doesn't look like any of the pics of the guys who got out." She shrugged. "Big deal. And starters is all I got." She drummed her nails on the back of the chair. "But you are a cowboy, aren't you? I mean, maybe you could have a little look around." She smiled. "He'd kill me." "Maybe. Maybe not. I think he needs you, Case, and real bad. Besides, you're a clever john, no? You can winkle him, sure." "What else is on that list you mentioned?" "Toys. Mostly for you. And one certified psychopath name of Peter ъiviera. ъeal ugly customer." "Where's he?" "Dunno. But he's one sick fuck, no lie. I saw his profile." She made a face. "God awful." She stood up and stretched, catlike. "So we got an axis going, boy? We're together in this? Partners?" Case looked at her. "I gotta lotta choice, huh?" She laughed. "You got it, cowboy." "The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks." On the Sony, a two-dimensional space war faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstrating the spacial possibilities of logarithmic spirals- cold blue military footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire con. trot circuits of tanks and war planes. "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...." "What's that?" Molly asked, as he flipped the channel selector. "Kid's show." A discontinuous flood of images as the selector cycled. "Off," he said to the Hosaka. "You want to try now, Case?" Wednesday. Eight days from waking in Cheap Hotel with Molly beside him. "You want me to go out, Case? Maybe easier for you, alone...." He shook his head. "No. Stay, doesn't matter." He settled the black terry sweatband across his forehead, careful not to disturb the flat Sendai dermatrodes. He stared at the deck on his lap, not really seeing it, seeing instead the shop window on Ninsei, the chromed shuriken burning with reflected neon. He glanced up; on the wall, just above the Sony, he'd hung her gift, tacking it there with a yellow-headed drawing pin through the hole at its center. closed his eyes. Found the ridged face of the power stud. And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes boiling in from the edge of space, hypnagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information. Please, he prayed, now-- A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky. Now-- Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of palergray. Expanding-- And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distance less home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of military systems, forever beyond his reach. And somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face. Molly was gone when he took the trodes off, and the loft was dark. He checked the time. He'd been in cyberspace for five hours. He carried the Ono-Sendai to one of the new worktables and collapsed across the bedslab, pulling Molly's black silk sleeping bag over his head. The security package taped to the steel fire door bleeped twice. "Entry requested," it said. "Subject is cleared per my program." "So open it." Case pulled the silk from his face and sat up as the door opened, expecting to see Molly or Armitage. "Christ," said a hoarse voice, "I know that bitch can see in the dark...." A squat figure stepped in and closed the door. "Turn the lights on, okay?" Case scrambled off the slab and found the old-fashioned switch. "I'm the Finn," said the Finn, and made a warning face at Case. "Case." "Pleased to meecha, I'm sure. I'm doing some hardware for your boss, it looks like." The Finn fished a pack of Partagas from a pocket and lit one. The smell of Cuban tobacco filled the room. He crossed to the worktable and glanced at the Ono-Sendai. "Looks stock. Soon fix that. But here is your problem, kid." He took a filthy manila envelope from inside his jacket, flicked ash on the floor, and extracted a featureless black rectangle from the envelope. "Goddamn factory prototypes," he said, tossing the thing down on the table. "Cast 'em into a block of polycarbon, can't get in with a laser without frying the works. Booby-trapped for x-ray, ultrascan, God knows what else. We'll get in, but there's no rest for the wicked, right?" He folded the envelope with great care and tucked it away in an inside pocket. "What is it?" "It's a flip flop switch, basically. Wire it into your Sendai here, you can access live or recorded Sims Tim without having to jack out of the matrix." "What for?" "I haven't got a clue. Know I'm fitting Moll for a broadcast rig, though, so it's probably her sensorium you'll access." The Finn scratched his chin. "So now you get to find out just how tight those jeans really are, huh?" Case sat in the loft with the dermatrodes strapped across his forehead, watching motes dance in the diluted sunlight that filtered through the grid overhead. A countdown was in progress in one corner of the monitor screen. Cowboys didn't get into Simstim, he thought, because it was basically a meat toy. He knew that the trodes he used and the little plastic tiara dangling from a Simstim deck were basically the same, and that the cyberspace matrix was actually a drastic simplification of the human sensorium, at least in terms of presentation, but Simstim itself struck him as a gratuitous multiplication of flesh input. The commercial stuff was edited, of course, so that if Tally Isham got a headache in the course of a segment, you didn't feel it. The screen bleeped a two-second warning. The new switch was patched into his Sendai with a thin ribbon of fiber optics. And one and two and-- Cyberspace slid into existence from the cardinal points. Smooth, he thought, but not smooth enough. Have to work on it. Then he keyed the new switch. The abrupt jolt into other flesh. Matrix gone, a wave of sound and color.... She was moving through a crowded street, past stalls vending discount software, prices felt penned on sheets of plastic, fragments of music from countless speakers. Smells of urine, free monomers, perfume, patties of frying krill. For a few frightened seconds he fought helplessly to control her body. Then he willed himself into passivity, became the passenger behind her eyes. The glasses didn't seem to cut down the sunlight at all. He wondered if the built-in amps compensated automatically. Blue alphanumerics winked the time, low in her left peripheral field. Showing off, he thought. Her body language was disorienting, her style foreign. She seemed continually on the verge of colliding with someone, but people melted out of her way, stepped sideways, made room. "How you doing, Case?" He heard the words and felt her form them. She slid a hand into her jacket, a fingertip circling a nipple under warm silk. The sensation made him catch his breath. She laughed. But the link was one-way. He had no way to reply. Two blocks later, she was threading the outskirts of Memory Lane. Case kept trying to jerk her eyes toward landmarks he would have used to find his way. He began to find the passivity of the situation irritating. The transition to cyberspace, when he hit the switch, was instantaneous. He punched himself down a wall of primitive ice belonging to the New York Public Library, automatically counting potential windows. Keying back into her sensorium, into the sinuous flow of muscle, senses sharp and bright. He found himself wondering about the mind he shared these sensations with. What did he know about her? That she was another professional; that she said her being, like his, was the thing she did to make a living. He knew the way she'd moved against him, earlier, when she woke, their mutual grunt of unity when he'd entered her, and that she liked her coffee black, afterward.... Her destination was one of the dubious software rental complexes that lined Memory Lane. There was a stillness, a hush. Booths lined a central hall. The clientele were young, few of them out of their teens. They all seemed to have carbon sockets planted behind the left ear, but she didn't focus on them. The counters that fronted the booths displayed hundreds of slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon mounted under oblong transparent bubbles on squares of white cardboard. Molly went to the seventh booth along the south wall. Behind the counter a boy with a shaven head stared vacantly into space, a dozen spikes of microsoft protruding from the socket behind his ear. "Larry, you in, man?" She positioned herself in front of him. The boy's eyes focused. He sat up in his chair and pried a bright magenta splinter from his socket with a dirty thumbnail . "Hey, Larry." "Molly." He nodded. "I have some work for some of your friends, Larry." Larry took a flat plastic case from the pocket of his red sport shirt and flicked it open, slotting the microsoft beside a dozen others. His hand hovered, selected a glossy black chip that was slightly longer than the rest, and inserted it smoothly into his head. His eyes narrowed. "Molly's got a rider," he said, "and Larry doesn't like that." "Hey," she said, "I didn't know you were so . . . sensitive. I'm impressed. Costs a lot, to get that sensitive." "I know you, lady?" The blank look returned. "You looking to buy some softs?" "I'm looking for the Moderns." "You got a rider, Molly. This says." He tapped the black splinter. "Somebody else using your eyes." "My partner." "Tell your partner to go." "Got something for the Panther Moderns, Larry." "What are you talking about, lady?" "Case, you take off," she said, and he hit the switch, instantly back in the matrix. Ghost impressions of the software complex hung for a few seconds in the buzzing calm of cyberspace. "Panther Moderns," he said to the Hosaka, removing the trodes. "Five minute precis." "ъeady," the computer said. It wasn't a name he knew. Something new, something that had come in since he'd been in Chiba. Fads swept the youth of the Spraw] at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly. "Go," he said. The Hosaka had accessed its array of libraries, journals, and news services. The precis began with a long hold on a color still that Case at first assumed was a collage of some kind, a boy's face snipped from another image and glued to a photograph of a paint-scrawled wall. Dark eyes, epicanthic folds obviously the result of surgery, an angry dusting of acne across pale narrow cheeks. The Hosaka released the freeze; the boy moved, flowing with the sinister grace of a mime pretending to be a jungle predator. His body was nearly invisible, an abstract pattern approximating the scribbled brickwork sliding smoothly across his tight one piece. Mimetic polycarbon. Cut to Dr. Virginia ъambali, Sociology, NYU, her name, faculty, and school pulsing across the screen in pink alphanumerics. "Given their penchant for these random acts of surreal violence," someone said, "it may be difficult for our viewers to understand why you continue to insist that this phenomenon isn't a form of terr

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