Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 23

They rose out of gravity, toward the axis, the cores.

The entrance to the elevator had been concealed beside the stairs to the corridor, another touch in 3Jane's pirate cave decor.

`I don't suppose I should tell you this,' 3Jane said, craning her head to allow her chin to clear the muzzle of the gun, `but I don't have a key to the room you want. I never have had one. One of my father's Victorian awkwardnesses. The lock is mechanical and extremely complex.'

`Chubb lock,' Molly said, her voice muffled by Maelcum's shoulder, `and we got the fucking key, no fear.'

`That chip of yours still working?' Case asked her.

`It's eight twenty-five, PM, Greenwich fucking Mean,' she said.

`We got five minutes,' Case said, as the door snapped open behind 3Jane. She flipped backward in a slow somersault, the pale folds of her djellaba billowing around her thighs.

They were at the axis, the core of Villa Straylight.


Molly fished the key out on its loop of nylon.

`You know,' 3Jane said, craning forward with interest, `I was under the impression that no duplicate existed. I sent Hideo to search my father's things, after you killed him. He couldn't find the original.'

`Wintermute managed to get it stuck in the back of a drawer,' Molly said, carefully inserting the Chubb key's cylindrical shaft into the notched opening in the face of the blank, rectangular door. `He killed the little kid who put it there.' The key rotated smoothly when she tried it.

`The head,' Case said, `there's a panel in the back of the head. Zircons on it. Get it off. That's where I'm jacking in.'

And then they were inside.

`Christ on a crutch,' the Flatline drawled, `you do believe in takin'~ your own good time, don't you, boy?'

`Kuang's ready?'

`Hot to trot.'

`Okay.' He flipped.

And found himself staring down, through Molly's one good eye, at a white-faced, wasted figure, afloat in a loose fetal crouch, a cyberspace deck between its thighs, a band of silver trodes above closed, shadowed eyes. The man's cheeks were hollowed with a day's growth of dark beard, his face slick with sweat.

He was looking at himself.

Molly had her fletcher in her hand. Her leg throbbed with each beat of her pulse, but she could still maneuver in zero-g. Maelcum drifted nearby, 3Jane's thin arm gripped in a large brown hand.

A ribbon of fiberoptics looped gracefully from the Ono Sendai to a square opening in the back of the pearl-crusted terminal.

He tapped the switch again.

`Kuang Grade Mark Eleven is haulin'~ ass in nine seconds, countin'~,seven, six, five...'

The Flatline punched them up, smooth ascent, the ventral surface of the black chrome shark a microsecond flick of darkness.

`Four, three...'

Case had the strange impression of being in the pilot's seat in a small plane. A flat dark surface in front of him suddenly glowed with a perfect reproduction of the keyboard of his deck.

`Two, an'~ kick ass --'

Headlong motion through walls of emerald green, milky jade, the sensation of speed beyond anything he'd known before in cyberspace... The Tessier-Ashpool ice shattered, peeling away from the Chinese program's thrust, a worrying impression of solid fluidity, as though the shards of a broken mirror bent and elongated as they fell --

`Christ,' Case said, awestruck, as Kuang twisted and banked above the horizonless fields of the Tessier-Ashpool cores, an endless neon cityscape, complexity that cut the eye, jewel bright, sharp as razors.

`Hey, shit,' the construct said, `those things are the RCA Building. You know the old RCA Building?' The Kuang program dived past the gleaming spires of a dozen identical towers of data, each one a blue neon replica of the Manhattan skyscraper.

`You ever see resolution this high?' Case asked.

`No, but I never cracked an AI, either.'

`This thing know where it's going?'

`It better.'

They were dropping, losing altitude in a canyon of rainbow neon.

`Dix --'

An arm of shadow was uncoiling from the flickering floor below, a seething mass of darkness, unformed, shapeless...

`Company,' the Flatline said, as Case hit the representation of his deck, fingers flying automatically across the board. The Kuang swerved sickeningly, then reversed, whipping itself backward, shattering the illusion of a physical vehicle.

The shadow thing was growing, spreading, blotting out the city of data. Case took them straight up, above them the distanceless bowl of jade-green ice.

The city of the cores was gone now, obscured entirely by the dark beneath them.

`What is it?'

`An AI's defense system,' the construct said, `or part of it. If it's your pal Wintermute, he's not lookin'~ real friendly.'

`Take it,' Case said. `You're faster.'

`Now your best de–fense, boy, it's a good off–fense.'

And the Flatline aligned the nose of Kuang's sting with the center of the dark below. And dove.

Case's sensory input warped with their velocity.

His mouth filled with an aching taste of blue.

His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines. The spines split, bisected, split again, exponential growth under the dome of the Tessier-Ashpool ice.

The roof of his mouth cleaved painlessly, admitting rootlets that whipped around his tongue, hungry for the taste of blue, to feed the crystal forests of his eyes, forests that pressed against the green dome, pressed and were hindered, and spread, growing down, filling the universe of T-A, down into the waiting, hapless suburbs of the city that was the mind of Tessier Ashpool S.A.

And he was remembering an ancient story, a king placing coins on a chessboard, doubling the amount at each square...


Darkness fell in from every side, a sphere of singing black, pressure on the extended crystal nerves of the universe of data he had nearly become...

And when he was nothing, compressed at the heart of all that dark, there came a point where the dark could be no more,and something tore.

The Kuang program spurted from tarnished cloud, Case's consciousness divided like beads of mercury arcing above an endless beach the color of the dark silver clouds. His vision was spherical, as though a single retina lined the inner surface of a globe that contained all things, if all things could be counted.

And here things could be counted, each one. He knew the number of grains of sand in the construct of the beach (a number coded in a mathematical system that existed nowhere outside the mind that was Neuromancer). He knew the number of yellow food packets in the canisters in the bunker (four hundred and seven). He knew the number of brass teeth in the left half of the open zipper of the salt-crusted leather jacket that Linda Lee wore as she trudged along the sunset beach, swinging a stick of driftwood in her hand (two hundred and two).

He banked Kuang above the beach and swung the program in a wide circle, seeing the black shark thing through her eyes, a silent ghost hungry against the banks of lowering cloud. She cringed, dropping her stick, and ran. He knew the rate of her pulse, the length of her stride in measurements that would have satisfied the most exacting standards of geophysics.

`But you do not know her thoughts,' the boy said, beside him now in the shark thing's heart. `I do not know her thoughts. You were wrong, Case. To live here is to live. There is no difference.'

Linda in her panic, plunging blind through the surf.

`Stop her,' he said, `she'll hurt herself.'

`I can't stop her,' the boy said, his gray eyes mild and beautiful.

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