Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 16

The pistol slid from his fingers, bounced on the carpet.

`The dreams grow like slow ice,' he said. His face was tinged with blue. His head sank back into the waiting leather and he began to snore.

Up, she snatched the gun. She stalked the room, Ashpool's automatic in her hand.

A vast quilt or comforter was heaped beside the bed, in a broad puddle of congealed blood, thick and shiny on the patterned rugs. Twitching a corner of the quilt back, she found the body of a girl, white shoulder blades slick with blood. Her throat had been slit. The triangular blade of some sort of scraper glinted in the dark pool beside her. Molly knelt, careful to avoid the blood, and turned the dead girl's face to the light. The face Case had seen in the restaurant.

There was a click, deep at the very center of things, and the world was frozen. Molly's simstim broadcast had become a still frame, her fingers on the girl's cheek. The freeze held for three seconds, and then the dead face was altered, became the face of Linda Lee.

Another click, and the room blurred. Molly was standing, looking down at a golden laser disk beside a small console on the marble top of a bedside table. A length of fiberoptic ribbon ran like a leash from the console to a socket at the base of the slender neck.

`I got your number, fucker,' Case said, feeling his own lips moving, somewhere, far away. He knew that Wintermute had altered the broadcast. Molly hadn't seen the dead girl's face swirl like smoke, to take on the outline of Linda's deathmask.

Molly turned. She crossed the room to Ashpool's chair. The man's breathing was slow and ragged. She peered at the litter of drugs and alcohol. She put his pistol down, picked up her fletcher, dialed the barrel over to single shot, and very carefully put a toxin dart through the center of his closed left eyelid. He jerked once, breath halting in mid-intake. His other eye, brown and fathomless, opened slowly.

It was still open when she turned and left the room.


`Got your boss on hold,' the Flatline said. `He's coming through on the twin Hosaka in that boat upstairs, the one that's riding us piggy-back. Called the Haniwa.'

`I know,' Case said, absently, `I saw it.'

A lozenge of white light clicked into place in front of him, hiding the Tessier-Ashpool ice; it showed him the calm, perfectly focused, utterly crazy face of Armitage, his eyes blank as buttons. Armitage blinked. Stared.

`Guess Wintermute took care of your Turings too, huh? Like he took care of mine,' Case said.

Armitage stared. Case resisted the sudden urge to look away, drop his gaze. `You okay, Armitage?'

`Case' -and for an instant something seemed to move, behind the blue stare -`you've seen Wintermute, haven't you? In the matrix.'

Case nodded. A camera on the face of his Hosaka in Marcus Garveywould relay the gesture to the Haniwamonitor. He imagined Maelcum listening to his tranced half conversations, unable to hear the voices of the construct or Armitage.

`Case' -and the eyes grew larger, Armitage leaning toward his computer -`what is he, when you see him?'

`A high-rez simstim construct.'

`But who?'

`Finn, last time... Before that, this pimp I...'

`Not General Girling?'

`General who?'

The lozenge went blank.

`Run that back and get the Hosaka to look it up,' he told the construct.

He flipped.

The perspective startled him. Molly was crouching between steel girders, twenty meters above a broad, stained floor of polished concrete. The room was a hangar or service bay. He could see three spacecraft, none larger than Garveyand all in various stages of repair. Japanese voices. A figure in an orange jumpsuit stepped from a gap in the hull of a bulbous construction vehicle and stood beside one of the thing's piston-driven, weirdly anthropomorphic arms. The man punched something into a portable console and scratched his ribs. A cartlike red drone rolled into sight on gray balloon tires.

CASE, flashed her chip.

`Hey,' she said. `Waiting for a guide.'

She settled back on her haunches, the arms and knees of her Modern suit the color of the blue-gray paint on the girders, Her leg hurt, a sharp steady pain now. `I shoulda gone back to Chin,' she muttered.

Something came ticking quietly out of the shadows, on a level with her left shoulder. It paused, swayed its spherical body from side to side on high-arched spider legs, fired a microsecond burst of diffuse laserlight, and froze. It was a Braun microdrone, and Case had once owned the same model, a pointless accessory he'd obtained as part of a package deal with a Cleveland hardware fence. It looked like a stylized matte black daddy longlegs. A red LED began to pulse, at the sphere's equator. Its body was no larger than a baseball. `Okay,' she said, `I hear you.' She stood up, favoring her left leg, and watched the little drone reverse. It picked its methodical way back across its girder and into darkness. She turned and looked back at the service area. The man in the orange jumpsuit was sealing the front of a white vacuum rig. She watched him ring and seal the helmet, pick up his console, and step back through the gap in the construction boat's hull. There was a rising whine of motors and the thing slid smoothly out of sight on a tenmeter circle of flooring that sank away into a harsh glare of arc lamps. The red drone waited patiently at the edge of the hole left by the elevator panel.

Then she was off after the Braun, threading her way between a forest of welded steel struts. The Braun winked its LED steadily, beckoning her on.

`How you doin'~, Case? You back in Garveywith Maelcum? Sure. And jacked into this. I like it, you know? Like I've always talked to myself, in my head, when I've been in tight spots. Pretend I got some friend, somebody I can trust, and I'll tell 'em what I really think, what I feel like, and then I'll pretend they're telling me what they think about that, and I'll just go along that way. Having you in is kinda like that. That scene with Ashpool...' She gnawed at her lower lip, swinging around a strut, keeping the drone in sight. `I was expecting something maybe a little less gone, you know? I mean, these guys are all batshit in here, like they got luminous messages scrawled across the inside of their foreheads or something. I don't like the way it looks, I don't like the way it smells...'

The drone was hoisting itself up a nearly invisible ladder of U-shaped steel rungs, toward a narrow dark opening. `And while I'm feeling confessional, baby, I gotta admit maybe I never much expected to make it out of this one anyway. Been on this bad roll for a while, and you're the only good change come down since I signed on with Armitage.' She looked up at the black circle. The drone's LED winked, climbing. `Not that you're all that shit hot.' She smiled, but it was gone too quickly, and she gritted her teeth at the stabbing pain in her leg as she began to climb. The ladder continued up through a metal tube, barely wide enough for her shoulders.

She was climbing up out of gravity, toward the weightless axis.

Her chip pulsed the time.


It had been a long day. The clarity of her sensorium cut the bite of the betaphenethylamine, but Case could still feel it. He preferred the pain in her leg.

C A S E : 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .

`Guess it's for you,' she said, climbing mechanically. The zeros strobed again and a message stuttered there, in the corner of her vision, chopped up by the display circuit.


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