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Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 7

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`They sure as hell did shaft you, boss,' Case said, and Molly stirred beside him.

The microlights had been unarmed, stripped to compensate for the weight of a console operator, a prototype deck, and a virus program called Mole IX, the first true virus in the history of cybernetics. Corto and his team had been training for the run for three years. They were through the ice, ready to inject Mole IX, when the emps went off. The Russian pulse guns threw the jockeys into electronic darkness; the Nightwings suffered systems crash, flight circuitry wiped clean.

Then the lasers opened up, aiming on infrared, taking out the fragile, radar-transparent assault planes, and Corto and his dead console man fell out of a Siberian sky. Fell and kept falling...

There were gaps in the story, here, where Case scanned documents concerning the flight of a commandeered Russian gunship that managed to reach Finland. To be gutted, as it landed in a spruce grove, by an antique twenty-millimeter cannon manned by a cadre of reservists on dawn alert. Screaming Fist had ended for Corto on the outskirts of Helsinki, with Finnish paramedics sawing him out of the twisted belly of the helicopter. The war ended nine days later, and Corto was shipped to a military facility in Utah, blind, legless, and missing most of his jaw. It took eleven months for the Congressional aide to find him there. He listened to the sound of tubes draining. In Washington and McLean, the show trials were already underway. The Pentagon and the CIA were being Balkanized, partially dismantled, and a Congressional investigation had focused on Screaming Fist. Ripe for watergating, the aide told Corto.

He'd need eyes, legs, and extensive cosmetic work, the aide said, but that could be arranged. New plumbing, the man added, squeezing Corto's shoulder through the sweat-damp sheet.

Corto heard the soft, relentless dripping. He said he preferred to testify as he was.

No, the aide explained, the trials were being televised. The trials needed to reach the voter. The aide coughed politely.

Repaired, refurnished, and extensively rehearsed, Corto's subsequent testimony was detailed, moving, lucid, and largely the invention of a Congressional cabal with certain vested interests in saving particular portions of the Pentagon infrastructure. Corto gradually understood that the testimony he gave was instrumental in saving the careers of three officers directly responsible for the suppression of reports on the building of the EMP [17] installations at Kirensk.

His role in the trials over, he was unwanted in Washington. In an M Street restaurant, over asparagus crepes, the aide explained the terminal dangers involved in talking to the wrong people. Corto crushed the man's larynx with the rigid fingers of his right hand. The Congressional aide strangled, his face in an asparagus crepe, and Corto stepped out into cool Washington September.

The Hosaka rattled through police reports, corporate espionage records, and news files. Case watched Corto work corporate defectors in Lisbon and Marrakesh, where he seemed to grow obsessed with the idea of betrayal, to loathe the scientists and technicians he bought out for his employers. Drunk, in Singapore, he beat a Russian engineer to death in a hotel and set fire to his room.

Next he surfaced in Thailand, as overseer of a heroin factory. Then as enforcer for a California gambling cartel, then as a paid killer in the ruins of Bonn. He robbed a bank in Wichita. The record grew vague, shadowy, the gaps longer.

One day, he said, in a taped segment that suggested chemical interrogation, everything had gone gray.

Translated French medical records explained that a man without identification had been taken to a Paris mental health unit and diagnosed as schizophrenic. He became catatonic and was sent to a government institution on the outskirts of Toulon. He became a subject in an experimental program that sought to reverse schizophrenia through the application of cybernetic models. A random selection of patients were provided with microcomputers and encouraged, with help from students, to program them. He was cured, the only success in the entire experiment.

The record ended there.

Case turned on the foam and Molly cursed him softly for disturbing her.

The telephone rang. He pulled it into bed. `Yeah?'

`We're going to Istanbul,' Armitage said. `Tonight.'

`What does the bastard want?' Molly asked.

`Says we're going to Istanbul tonight.'

`That's just wonderful.'

Armitage was reading off flight numbers and departure times.

Molly sat up and turned on the light.

`What about my gear?' Case asked. `My deck.'

`Finn will handle it,' said Armitage, and hung up.

Case watched her pack. There were dark circles under her eyes, but even with the cast on, it was like watching a dance. No wasted motion. His clothes were a rumpled pile beside his bag.

`You hurting?' he asked.

`I could do with another night at Chin's.'

`Your dentist?'

`You betcha. Very discreet. He's got half that rack, full clinic. Does repairs for samurai.' She was zipping her bag. `You ever been to 'Stambul?'

`Couple days, once.'

`Never changes,' she said. `Bad old town.'

`It was like this when we headed for Chiba,' Molly said, staring out the train window at blasted industrial moonscape, red beacons on the horizon warning aircraft away from a fusion plant. `We were in L.A. He came in and said Pack, we were booked for Macau. When we got there, I played fantan in the Lisboa and he crossed over into Zhongshan. Next day I was playing ghost with you in Night City.' She took a silk scarf from the sleeve of her black jacket and polished the insets. The landscape of the northern Sprawl woke confused memories of childhood for Case, dead grass tufting the cracks in a canted slab of freeway concrete.

The train began to decelerate ten kilometers from the airport. Case watched the sun rise on the landscape of childhood, on broken slag and the rusting shells of refineries.


It was raining in Beyoglu, and the rented Mercedes slid past the grilled and unlit windows of cautious Greek and Armenian jewelers. The street was almost empty, only a few dark-coated figures on the sidewalks turning to stare after the car.

`This was formerly the prosperous European section of Ottoman Istanbul,' purred the Mercedes.

`So it's gone downhill,' Case said.

`The Hilton's in Cumhuriyet Caddesi,' Molly said. She settled back against the car's gray ultrasuede.

`How come Armitage flies alone?' Case asked. He had a headache.

`'Cause you get up his nose. You're sure getting up mine.'

He wanted to tell her the Corto story, but decided against it. He'd used a sleep derm, on the plane.

The road in from the airport had been dead straight, like a neat incision, laying the city open. He'd watched the crazy walls of patchwork wooden tenements slide by, condos, arcologies, grim housing projects, more walls of plyboard and corrugated iron.

The Finn, in a new Shinjuku suit, sarariman black, was waiting sourly in the Hilton lobby, marooned on a velour armchair in a sea of pale blue carpeting.

`Christ,' Molly said. `Rat in a business suit.'

They crossed the lobby.

`How much you get paid to come over here, Finn?' She lowered her bag beside the armchair. `Bet not as much as you get for wearing that suit, huh?'

The Finn's upper lips drew back. `Not enough, sweetmeat.' He handed her a magnetic key with a round yellow tag. `You're registered already. Honcho's upstairs.' He looked around. `This town sucks.'

`You get agoraphobic, they take you out from under a dome. Just pretend it's Brooklyn or something.' She twirled the key around a finger. `You here as valet or what?'

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