Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 9

`What kinda message the voice have?' Case asked.

`We were told to help you,' the other said, `that you might serve as a tool of Final Days.' His lined face was troubled. `We were told to send Maelcum with you, in his tug Garveyto the Babylon port of Freeside. And this we shall do.'

`Maelcum a rude boy,' said the other, `an'~ a righteous tug pilot.'

`But we have decided to send Aerol as well, in Babylon Rocker,to watch over Garvey.'

An awkward silence filled the dome.

`That's it?' Case asked. `You guys work for Armitage or what?'

`We rent you space,' said the Los Angeles Founder. `We have a certain involvement here with various traffics, and no regard for Babylon's law. Our law is the word of Jah. But this time, it may be, we have been mistaken.'

`Measure twice, cut once,' said the other, softly.

`Come on, Case,' Molly said. `Let's get back before the man figures out we're gone.'

`Maelcum will take you. Jah love, sister.'


The tug Marcus Garvey,a steel drum nine meters long and two in diameter, creaked and shuddered as Maelcum punched for a navigational burn. Splayed in his elastic g-web, Case watched the Zionite's muscular back through a haze of scopolamine. He'd taken the drug to blunt SAS nausea, but the stimulants the manufacturer included to counter the scop had no effect on his doctored system.

`How long's it gonna take us to make Freeside?' Molly asked from her web beside Maelcum's pilot module.

`Don be long now, m'seh dat.'

`You guys ever think in hours?'

`Sister, time, it be time, ya know wha mean? Dread,' and he shook his locks, `at control, mon, an'~ I an'~ I come a Freeside when I an'~ I come...'

`Case,' she said, `have you maybe done anything toward getting in touch with our pal from Berne? Like all that time you spent in Zion, plugged in with your lips moving?'

`Pal,' Case said, `sure. No. I haven't. But I got a funny story along those lines, left over from Istanbul.' He told her about the phones in the Hilton.

`Christ,' she said, `there goes a chance. How come you hung up?'

`Coulda been anybody,' he lied. `Just a chip... I dunno.' He shrugged.

`Not just 'cause you were scared, huh?'

He shrugged again.

`Do it now.'


`Now. Anyway, talk to the Flatline about it.'

`I'm all doped,' he protested, but reached for the trodes. His deck and the Hosaka had been mounted behind Maelcum's module along with a very high-resolution Cray monitor.

He adjusted the trodes. Marcus Garveyhad been thrown together around an enormous old Russian air scrubber, a rectangular thing daubed with Rastafarian symbols, Lions of Zion and Black Star Liners, the reds and greens and yellows overlaying wordy decals in Cyrillic script. Someone had sprayed Maelcum's pilot gear a hot tropical pink, scraping most of the overspray off the screens and readouts with a razor blade. The gaskets around the airlock in the bow were festooned with semirigid globs and streamers of translucent caulk, like clumsy strands of imitation seaweed. He glanced past Maelcum's shoulder to the central screen and saw a docking display: the tug's path was a line of red dots, Freeside a segmented green circle. He watched the line extend itself, generating a new dot.

He jacked in.



`You ever try to crack an AI?'

`Sure. I flatlined. First time. I was larkin'~, jacked up real high, out by Rio heavy commerce sector. Big biz, multinationals, Government of Brazil lit up like a Christmas tree. Just larkin'~ around, you know? And then I started picking up on this one cube, maybe three levels higher up. Jacked up there and made a pass.'

`What did it look like, the visual?'

`White cube.'

`How'd you know it was an AI?'

`How'd I know? Jesus. It was the densest ice I'd ever seen. So what else was it? The military down there don't have anything like that. Anyway, I jacked out and told my computer to look it up.'


`It was on the Turing Registry. AI. Frog company owned its Rio mainframe.'

Case chewed his lower lip and gazed out across the plateaus of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority, into the infinite neuroelectronic void of the matrix. `Tessier-Ashpool, Dixie?'

`Tessier, yeah.'

`And you went back?'

`Sure. I was crazy. Figured I'd try to cut it. Hit the first strata and that's all she wrote. My joeboy smelled the skin frying and pulled the trodes off me. Mean shit, that ice.'

`And your EEG was flat.'

`Well, that's the stuff of legend, ain't it?'

Case jacked out. `Shit,' he said, `how do you think Dixie got himself flatlined, huh? Trying to buzz an AI. Great...'

`Go on,' she said, `the two of you are supposed to be dynamite, right?'

`Dix,' Case said, `I wanna have a look at an AI in Berne. Can you think of any reason not to?'

`Not unless you got a morbid fear of death, no.'

Case punched for the Swiss banking sector, feeling a wave of exhilaration as cyberspace shivered, blurred, gelled. The Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority was gone, replaced by the cool geometric intricacy of Zurich commercial banking. He punched again, for Berne.

`Up,' the construct said. `It'll be high.'

They ascended lattices of light, levels strobing, a blue flicker.

That'll be it, Case thought.

Wintermute was a simple cube of white light, that very simplicity suggesting extreme complexity.

`Don't look much, does it?' the Flatline said. `But just you try and touch it.'

`I'm going in for a pass, Dixie.'

`Be my guest.'

Case punched to within four grid points of the cube. Its blank face, towering above him now, began to seethe with faint internal shadows, as though a thousand dancers whirled behind a vast sheet of frosted glass.

`Knows we're here,' the Flatline observed.

Case punched again, once; they jumped forward by a single grid point.

A stippled gray circle formed on the face of the cube.


`Back off, fast.'

The gray area bulged smoothly, became a sphere, and detached itself from the cube.

Case felt the edge of the deck sting his palm as he slapped MAX REVERSE. The matrix blurred backward; they plunged down a twilit shaft of Swiss banks. He looked up. The sphere was darker now, gaining on him. Falling.

`Jack out,' the Flatline said.

The dark came down like a hammer.

Cold steel odor and ice caressed his spine.

And faces peering in from a neon forest, sailors and hustlers and whores, under a poisoned silver sky...

`Look, Case, you tell me what the fuck is going on with you, you wig or something?'

A steady pulse of pain, midway down his spine -

Rain woke him, a slow drizzle, his feet tangled in coils of discarded fiberoptics. The arcade's sea of sound washed over him, receded, returned. Rolling over, he sat up and held his head.

Light from a service hatch at the rear of the arcade showed him broken lengths of damp chipboard and the dripping chassis of a gutted game console. Streamlined Japanese was stenciled across the side of the console in faded pinks and yellows.

He glanced up and saw a sooty plastic window, a faint glow of fluorescents.

His back hurt, his spine.

He got to his feet, brushed wet hair out of his eyes.

Something had happened...

He searched his pockets for money, found nothing, and shivered. Where was his jacket? He tried to find it, looked behind the console, but gave up.

On Ninsei, he took the measure of the crowd. Friday. It to be a Friday. Linda was probably in the arcade. Might have money, or at least cigarettes... Coughing, wringing rain from the front of his shirt, he edged through the crowd to the arcade's entrance.

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