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Книга Neuromancer. Содержание - 20

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Case jacked out.

`Strange little customer, huh?' The Finn grinned at Case from the old Sony.

Case shrugged. He saw Maelcum coming back along the corridor with the Remington at his side. The Zionite was smiling, his head bobbing to a rhythm Case couldn't hear. A pair of thin yellow leads ran from his ears to a side pocket in his sleeveless jacket.

`Dub, mon,' Maelcum said.

`You're fucking crazy,' Case told him.

`Hear okay, mon. Righteous dub.'

`Hey, guys,' the Finn said, `on your toes. Here comes your transportation. I can't finesse many numbers as smooth as the pic of 8Jean that conned your doorman, but I can get you a ride over to 3Jane's place.'

Case was pulling the adaptor from its socket when the riderless service cart swiveled into sight, under the graceless concrete arch marking the far end of their corridor. It might have been the one his Africans had ridden, but if it was, they were gone now. Just behind the back of the low padded seat, its tiny manipulators gripping the upholstery, the little Braun was steadily winking its red LED.

`Bus to catch,' Case said to Maelcum.


He'd lost his anger again. He missed it.

The little cart was crowded: Maelcum, the Remington across his knees, and Case, deck and construct against his chest. The cart was operating at speeds it hadn't been designed for, it was top heavy, cornering, and Maelcum had taken to leaning out in the direction of the turns. This presented no problem when the thing took lefts, because Case sat on the right, but in the right turns the Zionite had to lean across Case and his gear, crushing him against the seat.

He had no idea where they were. Everything was familiar, but he couldn't be sure he'd seen any particular stretch before. A curving hallway lined with wooden showcases displayed collections he was certain he'd never seen: the skulls of large birds, coins, masks of beaten silver. The service cart's six tires were silent on the layered carpets. There was only the whine of the electric motor and an occasional faint burst of Zion dub, from the foam beads in Maelcum's ears, as he lunged past Case to counter a sharp right. The deck and the construct kept pressing the shuriken in his jacket pocket into his hip.

`You got a watch?' he asked Maelcum.

The Zionite shook his locks. `Time be time.'

`Jesus,' Case said, and closed his eyes.

The Braun scuttled over mounded carpets and tapped one of its padded claws against an oversized rectangular door of dark battered wood. Behind them, the cart sizzled and shot blue sparks from a louvered panel. The sparks struck the carpet beneath the cart and Case smelled scorched wool.

`This th'~ way, mon?' Maelcum eyed the door and snapped the shotgun's safety.

`Hey,' Case said, more to himself than to Maelcum, `you think I know?' The Braun rotated its spherical body and the LED strobed.

`It wan'~ you open door,' Maelcum said, nodding.

Case stepped forward and tried the ornate brass knob. There was a brass plate mounted on the door at eye level, so old that the lettering that had once been engraved there had been reduced to a spidery, unreadable code, the name of some long dead function or functionary, polished into oblivion. He wondered vaguely if Tessier-Ashpool had selected each piece of Straylight individually, or if they'd purchased it in bulk from some vast European equivalent of Metro Holografix. The door's hinges creaked plaintively as he edged it open, Maelcum stepping past him with the Remington thrust forward from his hip.

`Books,' Maelcum said.

The library, the white steel shelves with their labels.

`I know where we are,' Case said. He looked back at the service cart. A curl of smoke was rising from the carpet. `So come on,' he said. `Cart. Cart?' It remained stationary. The Braun was plucking at the leg of his jeans, nipping at his ankle. He resisted a strong urge to kick it. `Yeah?'

It ticked its way around the door. He followed it.

The monitor in the library was another Sony, as old as the first one. The Braun paused beneath it and executed a sort of jig.


The familiar features filled the screen. The Finn smiled.

`Time to check in, Case,' the Finn said, his eyes screwed up against the smoke of a cigarette. `C'mon, jack.'

The Braun threw itself against his ankle and began to climb his leg, its manipulators pinching his flesh through the thin black cloth. `Shit!' He slapped it aside and it struck the wall. Two of its limbs began to piston repeatedly, uselessly, pumping the air. `What's wrong with the goddam thing?'

`Burned out,' the Finn said. `Forget it. No problem. Jack in now.'

There were four sockets beneath the screen, but only one would accept the Hitachi adaptor.

He jacked in.

Nothing. Gray void.

No matrix, no grid. No cyberspace.

The deck was gone. His fingers were...

And on the far rim of consciousness, a scurrying, a fleeting impression of something rushing toward him, across leagues of black mirror.

He tried to scream.

There seemed to be a city, beyond the curve of beach, but it was far away.

He crouched on his haunches on the damp sand, his arms wrapped tight across his knees, and shook.

He stayed that way for what seemed a very long time, even after the shaking stopped. The city, if it was a city, was low and gray. At times it was obscured by banks of mist that came rolling in over the lapping surf. At one point he decided that it wasn't a city at all, but some single building, perhaps a ruin; he had no way of judging its distance. The sand was the shade of tarnished silver that hadn't gone entirely black. The beach was made of sand, the beach was very long, the sand was damp, the bottoms of his jeans were wet from the sand... He held himself and rocked, singing a song without words or tune.

The sky was a different silver. Chiba. Like the Chiba sky. Tokyo Bay? He turned his head and stared out to sea, longing for the hologram logo of Fuji Electric, for the drone of a helicopter, anything at all.

Behind him, a gull cried. He shivered.

A wind was rising. Sand stung his cheek. He put his face against his knees and wept, the sound of his sobbing as distant and alien as the cry of the searching gull. Hot urine soaked his jeans, dribbled on the sand, and quickly cooled in the wind off the water. When his tears were gone, his throat ached.

`Wintermute,' he mumbled to his knees, `Wintermute...'

It was growing dark, now, and when he shivered, it was with a cold that finally forced him to stand.

His knees and elbows ached. His nose was running; he wiped it on the cuff of his jacket, then searched one empty pocket after another. `Jesus,' he said, shoulders hunched, tucking his fingers beneath his arms for warmth. `Jesus.' His teeth began to chatter.

The tide had left the beach combed with patterns more subtle than any a Tokyo gardener produced. When he'd taken a dozen steps in the direction of the now invisible city, he turned and looked back through the gathering dark. His footprints stretched to the point of his arrival. There were no other marks to disturb the tarnished sand.

He estimated that he'd covered at least a kilometer before he noticed the light. He was talking with Ratz, and it was Ratz who first pointed it out, an orange-red glow to his right, away from the surf. He knew that Ratz wasn't there, that the bartender was a figment of his own imagination, not of the thing he was trapped in, but that didn't matter. He'd called the man up for comfort of some kind, but Ratz had had his own ideas about Case and his predicament.

`Really, my artiste, you amaze me. The lengths you will go to in order to accomplish your own destruction. The redundancy of it! In Night City, you hadit, in the palm of your hand! The speed to eat your sense away, drink to keep it all so fluid, Linda for a sweeter sorrow, and the street to hold the axe. How far you've come, to do it now, and what grotesque props... Playgrounds hung in space, castles hermetically sealed, the rarest rots of old Europa, dead men sealed in little boxes, magic out of China...' Ratz laughed, trudging along beside him, his pink manipulator swinging jauntily at his side. In spite of the dark, Case could see the baroque steel that laced the bartender's blackened teeth. `But I suppose that is the way of an artiste, no? You needed this world built for you, this beach, this place. To die.'

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