Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 6

It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct, a hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions, kneejerk responses... The local came booming in along the black induction strip, fine grit sifting from cracks in the tunnel's ceiling. Case shuffled into the nearest door and watched the other passengers as he rode. A pair of predatory looking Christian Scientists were edging toward a trio of young office techs who wore idealized holographic vaginas on their wrists, wet pink glittering under the harsh lighting. The techs licked their perfect lips nervously and eyed the Christian Scientists from beneath lowered metallic lids. The girls looked like tall, exotic grazing animals, swaying gracefully and unconsciously with the movement of the train, their high heels like polished hooves against the gray metal of the car's floor. Before they could stampede, take flight from the missionaries, the train reached Case's station.

He stepped out and caught sight of a white holographic cigar suspended against the wall of the station, FREESIDE pulsing beneath it in contorted capitals that mimicked printed Japanese. He walked through the crowd and stood beneath it, studying the thing. WHY WAIT? pulsed the sign. A blunt white spindle, flanged and studded with grids and radiators, docks, domes. He'd seen the ad, or others like it, thousands of times. It had never appealed to him. With his deck, he could reach the Freeside banks as easily as he could reach Atlanta. Travel was a meat thing. But now he noticed the little sigil, the size of a small coin, woven into the lower left corner of the ad's fabric of light: T-A.

He walked back to the loft, lost in memories of the Flatline. He'd spent most of his nineteenth summer in the Gentleman Loser, nursing expensive beers and watching the cowboys. He'd never touched a deck, then, but he knew what he wanted. There were at least twenty other hopefuls ghosting the Loser, that summer, each one bent on working joeboy for some cowboy. No other way to learn.

They'd all heard of Pauley, the redneck jockey from the 'Lanta fringes, who'd survived braindeath behind black ice. The grapevine -slender, street level, and the only one going -had little to say about Pauley, other than that he'd done the impossible. `It was big,' another would-be told Case, for the price of a beer, `but who knows what? I hear maybe a Brazilian payroll net. Anyway, the man was dead, flat down braindeath.' Case stared across the crowded bar at a thickset man in shirtsleeves, something leaden about the shade of his skin.

`Boy,' the Flatline would tell him, months later in Miami, `I'm like them huge fuckin'~ lizards, you know? Had themself two goddam brains, one in the head an'~ one by the tailbone, kept the hind legs movin'~. Hit that black stuff and ol'~ tailbrain jus'~ kept right on keepin'~ on.'

The cowboy elite in the Loser shunned Pauley out of some strange group anxiety, almost a superstition. McCoy Pauley, Lazarus of cyberspace...

And his heart had done for him in the end. His surplus Russian heart, implanted in a POW camp during the war. He'd refused to replace the thing, saying he needed its particular beat to maintain his sense of timing. Case fingered the slip of paper Molly had given him and made his way up the stairs.

Molly was snoring on the temperfoam. A transparent cast ran from her knee to a few millimeters below her crotch, the skin beneath the rigid micropore mottled with bruises, the black shading into ugly yellow. Eight derms, each a different size and color, ran in a neat line down her left wrist. An Akai transdermal unit lay beside her, its fine red leads connected to input trodes under the cast.

He turned on the tensor beside the Hosaka. The crisp circle of light fell directly on the Flatline's construct. He slotted some ice, connected the construct, and jacked in.

It was exactly the sensation of someone reading over his shoulder.

He coughed. `Dix? McCoy? That you man?' His throat was tight.

`Hey, bro,' said a directionless voice.

`It's Case, man. Remember?'

`Miami, joeboy, quick study.'

`What's the last thing you remember before I spoke to you, Dix?'


`Hang on.' He disconnected the construct. The presence was gone. He reconnected it. `Dix? Who am I?'

`You got me hung, Jack. Who the fuck are you?'

`Ca -your buddy. Partner. What's happening, man?'

`Good question.'

`Remember being here, a second ago?'


`Know how a ROM personality matrix works?'

`Sure, bro, it's a firmware construct.'

`So I jack it into the bank I'm using, I can give it sequential, real time memory?'

`Guess so,' said the construct.

`Okay, Dix. You area ROM construct. Got me?'

`If you say so,' said the construct. `Who are you?'


`Miami,' said the voice, `joeboy, quick study.'

`Right. And for starts, Dix, you and me, we're gonna sleaze over to London grid and access a little data. You game for that?'

`You gonna tell me I got a choice, boy?'


`You want you a paradise,' the Flatline advised, when Case had explained his situation. `Check Copenhagen, fringes of the university section.' The voice recited coordinates as he punched.

They found their paradise, a `pirate's paradise,' on the jumbled border of a low-security academic grid. At first glance it resembled the kind of graffiti student operators sometimes left at the junctions of grid lines, faint glyphs of colored light that shimmered against the confused outlines of a dozen arts faculties.

`There,' said the Flatline, `the blue one. Make it out? That's an entry code for Bell Europa. Fresh, too. Bell'll get in here soon and read the whole damn board, change any codes they find posted. Kids'll steal the new ones tomorrow.'

Case tapped his way into Bell Europa and switched to a standard phone code. With the Flatline's help, he connected with the London data base that Molly claimed was Armitage's.

`Here,' said the voice, `I'll do it for you.' The Flatline began to chant a series of digits, Case keying them on his deck, trying to catch the pauses the construct used to indicate timing. It took three tries.

`Big deal,' said the Flatline. `No ice at all.'

`Scan this shit,' Case told the Hosaka. `Sift for owner's personal history.'

The neuroelectronic scrawls of the paradise vanished, replaced by a simple lozenge of white light. `Contents are primarily video recordings of postwar military trials,' said the distant voice of the Hosaka. `Central figure is Colonel Willis Corto.'

`Show it already,' Case said.

A man's face filled the screen. The eyes were Armitage's.

Two hours later, Case fell beside Molly on the slab and let the temperfoam mold itself against him.

`You find anything?' she asked, her voice fuzzy with sleep and drugs.

`Tell you later,' he said, `I'm wrecked.' He was hungover and confused. He lay there, eyes closed, and tried to sort the various parts of a story about a man called Corto. The Hosaka had sorted a thin store of data and assembled a precis, but it was full of gaps. Some of the material had been print records, reeling smoothly down the screen, too quickly, and Case had had to ask the computer to read them for him. Other segments were audio recordings of the Screaming Fist hearing.

Willis Corto, Colonel, had plummeted through a blind spot in the Russian defenses over Kirensk. The shuttles had created the hole with pulse bombs, and Corto's team had dropped in in Nightwing microlights, their wings snapping taut in moonlight, reflected in jags of silver along the rivers Angara and Podhamennaya, the last light Corto would see for fifteen months. Case tried to imagine the microlights blossoming out of their launch capsules, high above a frozen steppe.

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