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Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 8

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`Can't be done.'

`Ask the Flatline.'

`What do we want out of that Riviera?' he asked, hoping to change the subject.

She spat into the pond. `God knows. I'd as soon kill him as look at him. I saw his profile. He's a kind of compulsive Judas. Can't get off sexually unless he knows he's betraying the object of desire. That's what the file says. And they have to love him first. Maybe he loves them, too. That's why it was easy for Terzi to set him up for us, because he's been here three years, shopping politicals to the secret police. Probably Terzi let him watch, when the cattle prods came out. He's done eighteen in three years. All women age twenty to twenty-five. It kept Terzi in dissidents.' She thrust her hands into her jacket pockets. `Because if he found one he really wanted, he'd make sure she turned political. He's got a personality like a Modern's suit. The profile said it was a very rare type, estimated one in a couple of million. Which anyway says something good about human nature, I guess.' She stared at the white flowers and the sluggish fish, her face sour. `I think I'm going to have to buy myself some special insurance on that Peter.' Then she turned and smiled, and it was very cold.

`What's that mean?'

`Never mind. Let's go back to Beyoglu and find something like breakfast. I gotta busy night again, tonight. Gotta collect his stuff from that apartment in Fener, gotta go back to the bazaar and buy him some drugs...'

`Buy him some drugs? How's he rate?'

She laughed. `He's not dying on the wire, sweetheart. And it looks like he can't work without that special taste. I like you better now, anyway, you aren't so goddam skinny.' She smiled. `So I'll go to Ali the dealer and stock up. You betcha.'

Armitage was waiting in their room at the Hilton.

`Time to pack,' he said, and Case tried to find the man called Corto behind the pale blue eyes and the tanned mask. He thought of Wage, back in Chiba. Operators above a certain level tended to submerge their personalities, he knew. But Wage had had vices, lovers. Even, it had been rumored, children. The blankness he found in Armitage was something else.

`Where to now?' he asked, walking past the man to stare down into the street. `What kind of climate?'

`They don't have climate, just weather,' Armitage said. `Here. Read the brochure.' He put something on the coffee table and stood.

`Did Riviera check out okay? Where's the Finn?'

`Riviera's fine. The Finn is on his way home.' Armitage smiled, a smile that meant as much as the twitch of some insect's antenna. His gold bracelet clinked as he reached out to prod Case in the chest. `Don't get too smart. Those little sacs are starting to show wear, but you don't know how much.'

Case kept his face very still and forced himself to nod.

When Armitage was gone, he picked up one of the brochures. It was expensively printed, in French, English, and Turkish.


The four of them were booked on a THYflight out of Yesilky airport. Transfer at Paris to the JALshuttle. Case sat in the lobby of the Istanbul Hilton and watched Riviera browse bogus Byzantine fragments in the glass-walled gift shop. Armitage, his trenchcoat draped over his shoulders like a cape, stood in the shop's entrance.

Riviera was slender, blond, soft-voiced, his English accentless and fluid. Molly said he was thirty, but it would have been difficult to guess his age. She also said he was legally stateless and traveled under a forged Dutch passport. He was a product of the rubble rings that fringe the radioactive core of old Bonn.

Three smiling Japanese tourists bustled into the shop, nodding politely to Armitage. Armitage crossed the floor of the shop too quickly, too obviously, to stand beside Riviera. Riviera turned and smiled. He was very beautiful; Case assumed the features were the work of a Chiba surgeon. A subtle job, nothing like Armitage's blandly handsome blend of pop faces. The man's forehead was high and smooth, gray eyes calm and distant. His nose, which might have been too nicely sculpted, seemed to have been broken and clumsily reset. The suggestion of brutality offset the delicacy of his jaw and the quickness of his smile. His teeth were small, even, and very white. Case watched the white hands play over the imitation fragments of sculpture.

Riviera didn't act like a man who'd been attacked the night before, drugged with a toxin-flechette, abducted, subjected to the Finn's examination, and pressured by Armitage into joining their team.

Case checked his watch. Molly was due back from her drug run. He looked up at Riviera again. `I bet you're stoned right now, asshole,' he said to the Hilton lobby. A graying Italian matron in a white leather tuxedo jacket lowered her Porsche glasses to stare at him. He smiled broadly, stood, and shouldered his bag. He needed cigarettes for the flight. He wondered if there was a smoking section on the JALshuttle. `See ya, lady,' he said to the woman, who promptly slid the sunglasses back up her nose and turned away.

There were cigarettes in the gift shop, but he didn't relish talking with Armitage or Riviera. He left the lobby and located a vending console in a narrow alcove, at the end of a rank of pay phones.

He fumbled through a pocketful of lirasi, slotting the small dull alloy coins one after another, vaguely amused by the anachronism of the process. The phone nearest him rang.

Automatically, he picked it up.


Faint harmonics, tiny inaudible voices rattling across some orbital link, and then a sound like wind.

`Hello, Case.'

A fifty-lirasi coin fell from his hand, bounced, and rolled out of sight across Hilton carpeting.

`Wintermute, Case. It's time we talk.'

It was a chip voice.

`Don't you want to talk, Case?'

He hung up.

On his way back to the lobby, his cigarettes forgotten, he had to walk the length of the ranked phones. Each rang in turn, but only once, as he passed.





The islands. Torus, spindle, cluster. Human DNA spreading out from gravity's steep well like an oilslick.

Call up a graphics display that grossly simplifies the exchange of data in the L-5 archipelago. One segment clicks in as red solid, a massive rectangle dominating your screen.

Freeside. Freeside is many things, not all of them evident to the tourists who shuttle up and down the well. Freeside is brothel and banking nexus, pleasure dome and free port, border town and spa. Freeside is Las Vegas and the hanging gardens of Babylon, an orbital Geneva and home to a family inbred and most carefully refined, the industrial clan of Tessier and Ashpool.

On the THYliner to Paris, they sat together in First Class, Molly in the window seat, Case beside her, Riviera and Armitage on the aisle. Once, as the plane banked over water, Case saw the jewel-glow of a Greek island town. And once, reaching for his drink, he caught the flicker of a thing like a giant human sperm in the depths of his bourbon and water.

Molly leaned across him and slapped Riviera's face, once. `No, baby. No games. You play that subliminal shit around me, I'll hurt you real bad. I can do it without damaging you at all. I likethat.'

Case turned automatically to check Armitage's reaction. The smooth face was calm, the blue eyes alert, but there was no anger. `That's right, Peter. Don't.'

Case turned back, in time to catch the briefest flash of a black rose, its petals sheened like leather, the black stem thorned with bright chrome.

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