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Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 11

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`Thing is, can I metabolize it?' Case raised his eyebrows.

`Tell you what,' the boy said. `You do a taste. If you pancreas passes on it, it's on the house. First time's free.'

`I heard that one before,' Case said, taking the bright blue derm that Bruce passed across the black bedspread.

`Case?' Molly sat up in bed and shook the hair away from her lenses.

`Who else, honey?'

`What's got into you?' The mirrors followed him across the room.

`I forget how to pronounce it,' he said, taking a tighty rolled strip of bubble-packed blue derms from his shirt pocket.

`Christ,' she said, `just what we needed.'

`Truer words were never spoken.'

`I let you out of my sight for two hours and you score.' She shook her head. `I hope you're gonna be ready for our big dinner date with Armitage tonight. This Twentieth Century place. We get to watch Riviera strut his stuff, too.'

`Yeah,' Case said, arching his back, his smile locked into a rictus of delight, `beautiful.'

`Man,' she said, `if whatever that is can get in past what those surgeons did to you in Chiba, you are gonna be in sad ass shape when it wears off.'

`Bitch, bitch, bitch,' he said, unbuckling his belt. `Doom. Gloom. All I ever hear.' He took his pants off, his shirt, his underwear. `I think you oughta have sense enough to take advantage of my unnatural state.' He looked down. `I mean, lookat this unnatural state.'

She laughed. `It won't last.'

`But it will,' he said, climbing into the sand-colored temperfoam, `that's what's so unnaturalabout it.'


`Case, what's wrong with you?' Armitage said, as the waiter was seating them at his table in the Vingtime Sicle. It was the smallest and most expensive of several floating restaurants on a small lake near the Intercontinental.

Case shuddered. Bruce hadn't said anything about after effects. He tried to pick up a glass of ice water, but his hands were shaking. `Something I ate, maybe.'

`I want you checked out by a medic,' Armitage said.

`Just this hystamine reaction,' Case lied. `Get it when I travel, eat different stuff, sometimes.'

Armitage wore a dark suit, too formal for the place, and a white silk shirt. His gold bracelet rattled as he raised his wine and sipped. `I've ordered for you,' he said.

Molly and Armitage ate in silence, while Case sawed shakily at his steak, reducing it to uneaten bite-sized fragments, which he pushed around in the rich sauce, finally abandoning the whole thing.

`Jesus,' Molly said, her own plate empty, `gimme that. You know what this costs?' She took his plate. `They gotta raise a whole animal for years and then they kill it. This isn't vat stuff.' She forked a mouthful up and chewed.

`Not hungry,' Case managed. His brain was deep-fried. No, he decided, it had been thrown into hot fat and left there, and the fat had cooled, a thick dull grease congealing on the wrinkled lobes, shot through with greenish-purple flashes of pain.

`You look fucking awful,' Molly said cheerfully.

Case tried the wine. The aftermath of the betaphenethylamine made it taste like iodine.

The lights dimmed.

`Le Restaurant Vingtime Sicle,' said a disembodied voice with a pronounced Sprawl accent, `proudly presents the holographic cabaret of Mr.~ Peter Riviera.' Scattered applause from the other tables. A waiter lit a single candle and placed it in the center of their table, then began to remove the dishes. Soon a candle flickered at each of the restaurant's dozen tables, and drinks were being poured.

`What's happening?' Case asked Armitage, who said nothing.

Molly picked her teeth with a burgundy nail.

`Good evening,' Riviera said, stepping forward on a small stage at the far end of the room. Case blinked. In his discomfort, he hadn't noticed the stage. He hadn't seen where Riviera had come from. His uneasiness increased.

At first he assumed the man was illuminated by a spotlight.

Riviera glowed. The light clung around him like a skin, lit the dark hangings behind the stage. He was projecting.

Riviera smiled. He wore a white dinner jacket. On his lapel, blue coals burned in the depths of a black carnation. His fingernails flashed as he raised his hands in a gesture of greeting, an embrace for his audience. Case heard the shallow water lap against the side of the restaurant.

`Tonight,' Riviera said, his long eyes shining, `I would like to perform an extended piece for you. A new work.' A cool ruby of light formed in the palm of his upraised right hand. He dropped it. A gray dove fluttered up from the point of impact and vanished into the shadows. Someone whistled. More applause.

`The title of the work is `The Doll.'' Riviera lowered his hands. `I wish to dedicate its premiere here, tonight, to Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool.' A wave of polite applause. As it died, Riviera's eyes seemed to find their table. `And to another lady.'

The restaurant's lights died entirely, for a few seconds, leaving only the glow of candles. Riviera's holographic aura had faded with the lights, but Case could still see him, standing with his head bowed.

Lines of faint light began to form, verticals and horizontals, sketching an open cube around the stage. The restaurant's lights had come back up slightly, but the framework surrounding the stage might have been constructed of frozen moonbeams. Head bowed, eyes closed, arms rigid at his sides, Riviera seemed to quiver with concentration. Suddenly the ghostly cube was filled, had become a room, a room lacking its fourth wall, allowing the audience to view its contents.

Riviera seemed to relax slightly. He raised his head, but kept his eyes closed. `I'd always lived in the room,' he said. `I couldn't remember ever having lived in any other room.' The room's walls were yellowed white plaster. It contained two pieces of furniture. One was a plain wooden chair, the other an iron bedstead painted white. The paint had chipped and flaked, revealing the black iron. The mattress on the bed was bare. Stained ticking with faded brown stripes. A single bulb dangled above the bed on a twisted length of black wire. Case could see the thick coating of dust on the bulb's upper curve. Riviera opened his eyes.

`I'd been alone in the room, always.' He sat on the chair, facing the bed. The blue coals still burned in the black flower on his lapel. `I don't know when I first began to dream of her,' he said, `but I do remember that at first she was only a haze, a shadow.'

There was something on the bed. Case blinked. Gone.

`I couldn't quite hold her, hold her in my mind. But I wanted to hold her, hold her and more...' His voice carried perfectly in the hush of the restaurant. Ice clicked against the side of a glass. Someone giggled. Someone else asked a whispered question in Japanese. `I decided that if I could visualize some part of her, only a small part, if I could see that part perfectly, in the most perfect detail...'

A woman's hand lay on the mattress now, palm up, the white fingers pale.

Riviera leaned forward, picked up the hand, and began to stroke it gently. The fingers moved. Riviera raised the hand to his mouth and began to lick the tips of the fingers. The nails were coated with a burgundy lacquer.

A hand, Case saw, but not a severed hand; the skin swept back smoothly, unbroken and unscarred. He remembered a tattooed lozenge of vatgrown flesh in the window of a Ninsei surgical boutique. Riviera was holding the hand to his lips, licking its palm. The fingers tentatively caressed his face. But now a second hand lay on the bed. When Riviera reached for it, the fingers of the first were locked around his wrist, a bracelet of flesh and bone.

The act progressed with a surreal internal logic of its own. The arms were next. Feet. Legs. The legs were very beautiful. Case's head throbbed. His throat was dry. He drank the last of the wine.

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