Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 15
`Essay of 3Jane's,' the Finn said, producing his Partagas. `Wrote that when she was twelve. Semiotics course.'
`The architects of Freeside went to great pains to conceal the fact that the interior of the spindle is arranged with the banal precision of furniture in a hotel room. In Straylight, the hull's inner surface is overgrown with a desperate proliferation of structures, forms flowing, interlocking, rising toward a solid core of microcircuitry, our clan's corporate heart, a cylinder of silicon wormholed with narrow maintenance tunnels, some no wider than a man's hand. The bright crabs burrow there, the drones, alert for micromechanical decay or sabotage.'
`That was her you saw in the restaurant,' the Finn said.
`By the standards of the archipelago,' the head continued, `ours is an old family, the convolutions of our home reflecting that age. But reflecting something else as well. The semiotics of the Villa bespeak a turning in, a denial of the bright void beyond the hull.
`~Tessier and Ashpool climbed the well of gravity to discover that they loathed space. They built Freeside to tap the wealth of the new islands, grew rich and eccentric, and began the construction of an extended body in Straylight. We have sealed ourselves away behind our money, growing inward, generating a seamless universe of self.
`~The Villa Straylight knows no sky, recorded or otherwise.
`~At the Villa's silicon core is a small room, the only rectilinear chamber in the complex. Here, on a plain pedestal of glass, rests an ornate bust, platinum and cloisonn, studded with lapis and pearl. The bright marbles of its eyes were cut from the synthetic ruby viewport of the ship that brought the first Tessier up the well, and returned for the first Ashpool...'
The head fell silent.
`Well?' Case asked, finally almost expecting the thing to answer him.
`That's all she wrote,' the Finn said. `Didn't finish it. Just a kid then. This thing's a ceremonial terminal, sort of. I need Molly in here with the right word at the right time. That's the catch. Doesn't mean shit, how deep you and the Flatline ride that Chinese virus, if this thing doesn't hear the magic word.'
`So what's the word?'
`I don't know. You might say what I am is basically defined by the fact that I don't know, because I can'tknow. I am that which knoweth not the word. If you knew, man, and told me, I couldn't know.It's hardwired in. Someone else has to learn it and bring it here, just when you and the Flatline punch through that ice and scramble the cores.'
`What happens then?'
`I don't exist, after that. I cease.'
`Okay by me,' Case said.
`Sure. But you watch your ass, Case. My, ah, other lobe is on to us, it looks like. One burning bush looks pretty much like another. And Armitage is starting to go.'
`What's that mean?'
But the paneled room folded itself through a dozen impossible angles, tumbling away into cyberspace like an origami crane.
`You tryin'~ to break my record, son?' the Flatline asked. `You were braindead again, five seconds.'
`Sit tight,' Case said, and hit the simstim switch.
She crouched in darkness, her palms against rough concrete.
CASE CASE CASE CASE. The digital display pulsed his name in alphanumerics, Wintermute informing her of the link.
`Cute,' she said. She rocked back on her heels and rubbed her palms together, cracked her knuckles. `What kept you?'
TIME MOLLY TIME NOW.
She pressed her tongue hard against her lower front teeth. One moved slightly, activating her microchannel amps; the random bounce of photons through the darkness was converted to a pulse of electrons, the concrete around her coming up ghost-pale and grainy. `Okay, honey. Now we go out to play.'
Her hiding place proved to be a service tunnel of some kind. She crawled out through a hinged, ornate grill of tarnished brass. He saw enough of her arms and hands to know that she wore the polycarbon suit again. Under the plastic, he felt the familiar tension of thin tight leather. There was something slung under her arm in a harness or holster. She stood up, unzipped the suit and touched the checkered plastic of a pistolgrip.
`Hey, Case,' she said, barely voicing the words, `you listening? Tell you a story... Had me this boy once. You kinda remind me...' She turned and surveyed the corridor. `Johnny, his name was.'
The low, vaulted hallway was lined with dozens of museum cases, archaic-looking glass-fronted boxes made of brown wood. They looked awkward there, against the organic curves of the hallway's walls, as though they'd been brought in and set up in a line for some forgotten purpose. Dull brass fixtures held globes of white light at ten-meter intervals. The floor was uneven, and as she set off along the corridor, Case realized that hundreds of small rugs and carpets had been put down at random. In some places, they were six deep, the floor a soft patchwork of handwoven wool.
Molly paid little attention to the cabinets and their contents, which irritated him. He had to satisfy himself with her disinterested glances, which gave him fragments of pottery antique weapons, a thing so densely studded with rusted nails that it was unrecognizable, frayed sections of tapestry.
`My Johnny, see, he was smart, real flash boy. Started out as a stash on Memory Lane, chips in his head and people paid to hide data there. Had the Yak after him, night I met him, and I did for their assassin. More luck than anything else but I did for him. And after that, it was tight and sweet, Case.' Her lips barely moved. He felt her form the words, he didn't need to hear them spoken aloud. `We had a set-up with a squid, so we could read the traces of everything he'd ever stored. Ran it all out on tape and started twisting selected clients, ex-clients. I was bagman, muscle, watchdog. I was real happy. You ever been happy, Case? He was my boy. We worked together. Partners. I was maybe eight weeks out of the puppet house when I met him...' She paused, edged around a sharp turn, and continued. More of the glossy wooden cases, their sides a color that reminded him of cockroach wings.
`Tight, sweet, just ticking along, we were. Like nobody could ever touch us. I wasn't going to let them. Yakuza. I guess, they still wanted Johnny's ass. 'Cause I'd killed their man. 'Cause Johnny'd burned them. And the Yak, they can afford to move so fucking slow, man, they'll wait years and years. Give you a whole life, just so you'll have more to lose when they come and take it away. Patient like a spider. Zen spiders.
`~I didn't know that, then. Or if I did. I figured it didn't apply to us. Like when you're young, you figure you're unique. I was young. Then they came, when we were thinking we maybe had enough to be able to quit, pack it in, go to Europe maybe. Not that either of us knew what we'd do there, with nothing to do. But we were living fat. Swiss orbital accounts and a crib full of toys and furniture. Takes the edge off your game.
`~So that first one they'd sent, he'd been hot. Reflexes like you never saw, implants, enough style for ten ordinary hoods. But the second one, he was. I dunno, like a monk.Cloned. Stone killer from the cells on up. Had it in him, death, this silence, he gave it off in a cloud...' Her voice trailed off as the corridor split, identical stairwells descending. She took the left.
`One time, I was a little kid, we were squatting. It was down by the Hudson, and those rats, man, they were big. It's the chemicals get into them. Big as I was, and all night one had been scrabbling under the floor of the squat. Round dawn somebody brought this old man in, seams down his cheeks and his eyes all red. Had a roll of greasy leather like you'd keep steel tools in, to keep the rust off. Spread it out, had this old revolver and three shells. Old man, he puts one bullet in there, then he starts walking up and down the squat, we're hanging back by the walls.