Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - PART TWO

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 RAM. 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.





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 temperfoam. 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 firedoor. 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 interzone 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 crosslegged 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 I?' 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 windblown 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. [13]

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