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Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 10

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`Is he still crazy?'

`He's not quite a personality.' Deane smiled. `But I'm sure you're aware of that. But Corto is in there, somewhere, and I can no longer maintain that delicate balance. He's going to come apart on you, Case. So I'll be counting on you...'

`That's good, motherfucker,' Case said, and shot him in the mouth with the .357.

He'd been right about the brains. And the blood.

`Mon,' Maelcum was saying, `I don't like this...'

`It's cool,' Molly said. `It's just okay. It's something these guys do, is all. Like, he wasn't dead, and it was only a few seconds...'

`I saw th'~ screen, EEG readin'~ dead. Nothin'~ movin'~, forty second.'

`Well, he's okay now.'

`EEG flat as a strap,'Maelcum protested.


He was numb, as they went through customs, and Molly did most of the talking. Maelcum remained on board Garvey.Customs, for Freeside, consisted mainly of proving your credit. The first thing he saw, when they gained the inner surface of the spindle, was a branch of the Beautiful Girl coffee franchise.

`Welcome to the Rue Jules Verne,' Molly said. `If you have trouble walking, just look at your feet. The perspective's a bitch, if you're not used to it.'

They were standing in a broad street that seemed to be the floor of a deep slot or canyon, its either end concealed by subtle angles in the shops and buildings that formed its walls. The light, here, was filtered through fresh green masses of vegetation tumbling from overhanging tiers and balconies that rose above them. The sun...

There was a brilliant slash of white somewhere above them, too bright, and the recorded blue of a Cannes sky. He knew that sunlight was pumped in with a Lado-Acheson system whose two-millimeter armature ran the length of the spindle, that they generated a rotating library of sky effects around it, that if the sky were turned off, he'd stare up past the armature of light to the curves of lakes, rooftops of casinos, other streets... But it made no sense to his body.

`Jesus,' he said, `I like this less than SAS.'

`Get used to it. I was a gambler's bodyguard here for a month.'

`Wanna go somewhere, lie down.'

`Okay. I got our keys.' She touched his shoulder. `What happened to you, back there, man? You flatlined.'

He shook his head. `I dunno, yet. Wait.'

`Okay. We get a cab or something.' She took his hand and led him across Jules Verne, past a window displaying the season's Paris furs.

`Unreal,' he said, looking up again.

`Nah,' she responded, assuming he meant the furs, `grow it on a collagen base, but it's mink DNA. What's it matter?'

`It's just a big tube and they pour things through it,' Molly said. `Tourists, hustlers, anything. And there's fine mesh money screens working every minute, make sure the money stays here when the people fall back down the well.'

Armitage had booked them into a place called the Intercontinental, a sloping glass-fronted cliff face that slid down into cold mist and the sound of rapids. Case went out onto their balcony and watched a trio of tanned French teenagers ride simple hang gliders a few meters above the spray, triangles of nylon in bright primary colors. One of them swung, banked, and Case caught a flash of cropped dark hair, brown breasts, white teeth in a wide smile. The air here smelled of running water and flowers. `Yeah,' he said, `lotta money.'

She leaned beside him against the railing, her hands loose and relaxed. `Yeah. We were gonna come here once, either here or some place in Europe.'

`We who?'

`Nobody,' she said, giving her shoulders an involuntary toss. `You said you wanted to hit the bed. Sleep. I could use some sleep.'

`Yeah,' Case said, rubbing his palms across his cheekbones. `Yeah, this is some place.'

The narrow band of the Lado-Acheson system smoldered in abstract imitation of some Bermudan sunset, striped by shreds of recorded cloud. `Yeah,' he said, `sleep.'

Sleep wouldn't come. When it did, it brought dreams that were like neatly edited segments of memory. He woke repeatedly, Molly curled beside him, and heard the water, voices drifting in through the open glass panels of the balcony, a woman's laughter from the stepped condos on the opposite slope. Deane's death kept turning up like a bad card, no matter if he told himself that it hadn't been Deane. That it hadn't, in fact, happened at all. Someone had once told him that the amount of blood in the average human body was roughly equivalent to a case of beer.

Each time the image of Deane's shattered head struck the rear wall of the office, Case was aware of another thought, something darker, hidden, that rolled away, diving like a fish, just beyond his reach.


Deane. Blood on the wall of the importer's office.

Linda. Smell of burnt flesh in the shadows of the Chiba dome. Molly holding out a bag of ginger, the plastic filmed with blood. Deane had had her killed.

Wintermute. He imagined a little micro whispering to the wreck of a man named Corto, the words flowing like a river, the flat personality-substitute called Armitage accreting slowly in some darkened ward... The Deane analog had said it worked with givens, took advantage of existing situations.

But what if Deane, the real Deane, had ordered Linda killed on Wintermute's orders? Case groped in the dark for a cigarette and Molly's lighter. There was no reason to suspect Deane, he told himself, lighting up. No reason.

Wintermute could build a kind of personality into a shell. How subtle a form could manipulation take? He stubbed the Yeheyuan out in a bedside ashtray after his third puff, rolled away from Molly, and tried to sleep.

The dream, the memory, unreeled with the monotony of an unedited simstim tape. He'd spent a month, his fifteenth summer, in a weekly rates hotel, fifth floor, with a girl called Marlene. The elevator hadn't worked in a decade. Roaches boiled across grayish porcelain in the drain-plugged kitchenette when you flicked a lightswitch. He slept with Marlene on a striped mattress with no sheets.

He'd missed the first wasp, when it built its paperfine gray house on the blistered paint of the windowframe, but soon the nest was a fist-sized lump of fiber, insects hurtling out to hunt the alley below like miniature copters buzzing the rotting contents of the dumpsters.

They'd each had a dozen beers, the afternoon a wasp stung Marlene. `Kill the fuckers,' she said, her eyes dull with rage and the still heat of the room, `burn 'em.' Drunk, Case rummaged in the sour closet for Rollo's dragon. Rollo was Marlene's previous -and, Case suspected at the time, still occasional -boyfriend, an enormous Frisco biker with a blond lightning bolt bleached into his dark crewcut. The dragon was a Frisco flamethrower, a thing like a fat anglehead flashlight. Case checked the batteries, shook it to make sure he had enough fuel, and went to the open window. The hive began to buzz.

The air in the Sprawl was dead, immobile. A wasp shot from the nest and circled Case's head. Case pressed the ignition switch, counted three, and pulled the trigger. The fuel, pumped up to 100 psi, sprayed out past the white-hot coil. A five-meter tongue of pale fire, the nest charring, tumbling. Across the alley, someone cheered.

`Shit!' Marlene behind him, swaying. `Stupid! You didn't burn 'em. You just knocked it off. They'll come up here and kill us!' Her voice sawing at his nerves, he imagined her engulfed in flame, her bleached hair sizzling a special green.

In the alley, the dragon in hand, he approached the blackened nest. It had broken open. Singed wasps wrenched and flipped on the asphalt.

He saw the thing the shell of gray paper had concealed.

Horror. The spiral birth factory, stepped terraces of the hatching cells, blind jaws of the unborn moving ceaselessly, the staged progress from egg to larva, near-wasp, wasp. In his mind's eye, a kind of time-lapse photography took place, revealing the thing as the biological equivalent of a machine gun, hideous in its perfection. Alien. He pulled the trigger, forgetting to press the ignition, and fuel hissed over the bulging, writhing life at his feet.

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