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Neuromancer

William Gibson

The Sprawl - 1

for Deb who made it possible with love

PART ONE

CHI A CIT! "#ES

The s$% above the port was the &olor of televisio'( t)'ed to a dead &ha''el* +It,s 'ot li$e I,m )si'-(, Case heard someo'e sa%( as he sho)ldered his wa% thro)-h the &rowd aro)'d the door of the Chat* +It,s li$e m% bod%,s developed this massive dr)defi&ie'&%*, It was a Sprawl .1/ voi&e a'd a Sprawl 0o$e* The Chats)bo was a bar for professio'al e1patriates2 %o) &o)ld dri'$ there for a wee$ a'd 'ever hear two words i' 3apa'ese* Rat4 was te'di'- bar( his prostheti& arm 0er$i'- mo'oto'o)sl% as he filled a tra% of -lasses with draft 5iri'* He saw Case a'd smiled( his teeth a webwor$ of East E)ropea' steel a'd brow' de&a%* Case fo)'d a pla&e at the bar( betwee' the )'li$el% ta' o' o'e of "o''% 6o'e,s whores a'd the &risp 'aval )'iform of a tall Afri&a' whose &hee$bo'es were rid-ed with pre&ise rows of tribal s&ars* +7a-e was i' here earl%( with two 0oebo%s(, Rat4 said( shovi'- a draft a&ross the bar with his -ood ha'd* +8a%be some b)si'ess with %o)( Case9, Case shr)--ed* The -irl to his ri-ht -i--led a'd ')d-ed him*

The barte'der,s smile wide'ed* His )-li'ess was the st)ff of le-e'd* I' a' a-e of affordable bea)t%( there was somethi'- heraldi& abo)t his la&$ of it* The a'ti:)e arm whi'ed as he rea&hed for a'other m)-* It was a R)ssia' militar% prosthesis( a seve'f)'&tio' for&e-feedba&$ ma'ip)lator( &ased i' -r)bb% pi'$ plasti&* +!o) are too m)&h the artiste( Herr Case*, Rat4 -r)'ted2 the so)'d served him as la)-hter* He s&rat&hed his overha'- of white-shirted bell% with the pi'$ &law* +!o) are the artiste of the sli-htl% f)''% deal*, +S)re(, Case said( a'd sipped his beer* +Somebod%,s -otta be f)''% aro)'d here* S)re the f)&$ is',t %o)*, The whore,s -i--le we't )p a' o&tave* +Is',t %o) either( sister* So %o) va'ish( o$a%9 6o'e( he,s a &lose perso'al frie'd of mi'e*, She loo$ed Case i' the e%e a'd made the softest possible spitti'- so)'d( her lips barel% movi'-* )t she left* +3es)s(, Case said( +what $i'da &reep0oi't %o) r)''i'- here9 8a' &a',t have a dri'$*, +Ha(, Rat4 said( swabbi'- the s&arred wood with a ra-( +6o'e shows a per&e'ta-e* !o) I let wor$ here for e'tertai'me't val)e*, As Case was pi&$i'- )p his beer( o'e of those stra'-e i'sta'ts of sile'&e des&e'ded( as tho)-h a h)'dred )'related &o'versatio's had sim)lta'eo)sl% arrived at the same pa)se* The' the whore,s -i--le ra'- o)t( ti'-ed with a &ertai' h%steria* Rat4 -r)'ted* +A' a'-el passed*, +The Chi'ese(, bellowed a dr)'$e' A)stralia'( +Chi'ese blood% i've'ted 'erve-spli&i'-* ;ive me the mai'la'd for a 'erve 0ob a'% da%* <i1 %o) ri-ht( mate***, +Now that(, Case said to his -lass( all his bitter'ess s)dde'l% risi'- i' him li$e bile( +that is so m)&h b)llshit*, The 3apa'ese had alread% for-otte' more 'e)ros)r-er% tha' the Chi'ese had ever $'ow'* The bla&$ &li'i&s of Chiba were the &)tti'- ed-e( whole bodies of te&h'i:)e s)ppla'ted mo'thl%( a'd still the% &o)ld',t repair the dama-e he,d s)ffered i' that 8emphis hotel* A %ear here a'd he still dreamed of &%berspa&e( hope fadi'- 'i-htl%* All the speed he too$( all the t)r's he,d ta$e' a'd the &or'ers he,d &)t i' Ni-ht Cit%( a'd still he,d see the matri1 i' his sleep( bri-ht latti&es of lo-i& )'foldi'- a&ross that &olorless void*** The

Sprawl was a lo'- stra'-e wa% home over the Pa&ifi& 'ow( a'd he was 'o &o'sole ma'( 'o &%berspa&e &owbo%* 3)st a'other h)stler( tr%i'- to ma$e it thro)-h* )t the dreams &ame o' i' the 3apa'ese 'i-ht li$e livewire voodoo( a'd he,d &r% for it( &r% i' his sleep( a'd wa$e alo'e i' the dar$( &)rled i' his &aps)le i' some &offi' .1/ hotel( his ha'ds &lawed i'to the bedslab( temperfoam b)'&hed .=/ betwee' his fi'-ers( tr%i'- to rea&h the &o'sole that was',t there* +I saw %o)r -irl last 'i-ht(, Rat4 said( passi'- Case his se&o'd 5iri'* +I do',t have o'e(, he said( a'd dra'$* +8iss "i'da "ee*, Case shoo$ his head* +No -irl9 Nothi'-9 O'l% bi4( frie'd artiste9 Dedi&atio' to &ommer&e9, The barte'der,s small brow' e%es were 'ested deep i' wri'$led flesh* +I thi'$ I li$ed %o) better( with her* !o) la)-hed more* Now( some 'i-ht( %o) -et ma%be too artisti&2 %o) wi'd )p i' the &li'i& ta'$s( spare parts*, +!o),re brea$i'- m% heart( Rat4*, He fi'ished his beer( paid a'd left( hi-h 'arrow sho)lders h)'&hed be'eath the rai'stai'ed $ha$i '%lo' of his wi'dbrea$er* Threadi'his wa% thro)-h the Ni'sei .>/ &rowds( he &o)ld smell his ow' stale sweat* Case was twe't%-fo)r* At twe't%-two( he,d bee' a &owbo%( a r)stler( o'e of the best i' the Sprawl* He,d bee' trai'ed b% the best( b% 8&Co% Pa)le% a'd obb% ?)i'e( le-e'ds i' the bi4* He,d operated o' a' almost perma'e't adre'ali'e hi-h( a b%prod)&t of %o)th a'd profi&ie'&%( 0a&$ed i'to a &)stom &%berspa&e de&$ that pro0e&ted his disembodied &o's&io)s'ess i'to the &o'se's)al hall)&i'atio' that was the matri1* A thief( he,d wor$ed for other( wealthier thieves( emplo%ers who provided the e1oti& software re:)ired to pe'etrate the bri-ht walls of &orporate s%stems( ope'i'- wi'dows i'to ri&h fields of data* He,d made the &lassi& mista$e( the o'e he,d swor' he,d 'ever ma$e* He stole from his emplo%ers* He $ept somethi'- for himself a'd tried to move it thro)-h a fe'&e i' Amsterdam* He still was',t s)re how he,d bee' dis&overed( 'ot that it mattered 'ow* He,d e1pe&ted to die( the'( b)t the% o'l% smiled* Of &o)rse he was wel&ome( the% told him( wel&ome to the mo'e%* A'd he was -oi'- to 'eed it* e&a)se -still smili'- -the% were -oi'- to ma$e s)re he 'ever wor$ed a-ai'* The% dama-ed his 'ervo)s s%stem with a wartime R)ssia' m%&oto1i'* .@/ Strapped to a bed i' a 8emphis hotel( his tale't b)r'i'- o)t mi&ro' b% mi&ro'( he hall)&i'ated for thirt% ho)rs*

The dama-e was mi')te( s)btle( a'd )tterl% effe&tive* <or Case( who,d lived for the bodiless e1)ltatio' of &%berspa&e( it was the <all* I' the bars he,d fre:)e'ted as a &owbo% hotshot( the elite sta'&e i'volved a &ertai' rela1ed &o'tempt for the flesh* The bod% was meat* Case fell i'to the priso' of his ow' flesh* His total assets were :)i&$l% &o'verted to New !e'( a fat sheaf of the old paper &)rre'&% that &ir&)lated e'dlessl% thro)-h the &losed &ir&)it of the world,s bla&$ mar$ets li$e the seashells of the Trobria'd isla'ders* It was diffi&)lt to tra'sa&t le-itimate b)si'ess with &ash i' the Sprawl2 i' 3apa'( it was alread% ille-al* I' 3apa'( he,d $'ow' with a &le'&hed a'd absol)te &ertai't%( he,d fi'd his &)re* I' Chiba* Either i' a re-istered &li'i& or i' the shadowla'd of bla&$ medi&i'e* S%'o'%mo)s with impla'ts( 'erve-spli&i'-( a'd mi&robio'i&s( Chiba was a ma-'et for the Sprawl,s te&h'o&rimi'al s)b&)lt)res* I' Chiba( he,d wat&hed his New !e' va'ish i' a two-mo'th ro)'d of e1ami'atio's a'd &o's)ltatio's* The me' i' the bla&$ &li'i&s( his last hope( had admired the e1pertise with whi&h he,d bee' maimed( a'd the' slowl% sha$e' their heads* Now he slept i' the &heapest &offi's( the o'es 'earest the port( be'eath the :)art4halo-e' floods that lit the do&$s all 'i-ht li$e vast sta-es2 where %o) &o)ld',t see the li-hts of To$%o for the -lare of the televisio' s$%( 'ot eve' the toweri'- holo-ram lo-o of the <)0i Ele&tri& Compa'%( a'd To$%o a% was a bla&$ e1pa'se where -)lls wheeled above drifti'- shoals of white st%rofoam* ehi'd the port la% the &it%( fa&tor% domes domi'ated b% the vast &)bes of &orporate ar&olo-ies .1/* Port a'd &it% were divided b% a 'arrow borderla'd of older streets( a' area with 'o offi&ial 'ame* Ni-ht Cit%( with Ni'sei its heart* % da%( the bars dow' Ni'sei were sh)ttered a'd feat)reless( the 'eo' dead( the holo-rams i'ert( waiti'-( )'der the poiso'ed silver s$%* Two blo&$s west of the Chat( i' a teashop &alled the 3arre de Th( Case washed dow' the 'i-ht,s first pill with a do)ble espresso* It was a flat pi'$ o&ta-o'( a pote't spe&ies of ra4ilia' de1 .=/ he bo)-ht from o'e of 6o'e,s -irls* The 3arre was walled with mirrors( ea&h pa'el framed i' red 'eo'* At first( fi'di'- himself alo'e i' Chiba( with little mo'e% a'd less hope of fi'di'- a &)re( he,d -o'e i'to a $i'd of termi'al overdrive( h)stli'- fresh &apital with a &old i'te'sit% that had seemed to belo'- to someo'e else* I' the first mo'th( he,d $illed two me' a'd a woma' over s)ms that a %ear before wo)ld have seemed l)di&ro)s* Ni'sei wore him dow' )'til the street itself &ame to seem the e1ter'ali4atio' of some death wish( some se&ret poiso' he had',t $'ow' he &arried*

Ni-ht Cit% was li$e a dera'-ed e1perime't i' so&ial Darwi'ism( desi-'ed b% a bored resear&her who $ept o'e th)mb perma'e'tl% o' the fast-forward b)tto'* Stop h)stli'a'd %o) sa'$ witho)t a tra&e( b)t move a little too swiftl% a'd %o),d brea$ the fra-ile s)rfa&e te'sio' of the bla&$ mar$et2 either wa%( %o) were -o'e( with 'othi'- left of %o) b)t some va-)e memor% i' the mi'd of a fi1t)re li$e Rat4( tho)-h heart or l)'-s or $id'e%s mi-ht s)rvive i' the servi&e of some stra'-er with New !e' for the &li'i& ta'$s* i4 here was a &o'sta't s)blimi'al h)m( a'd death the a&&epted p)'ishme't for la4i'ess( &areless'ess( la&$ of -ra&e( the fail)re to heed the dema'ds of a' i'tri&ate proto&ol* Alo'e at a table i' the 3arre de Th( with the o&ta-o' &omi'- o'( pi'heads of sweat starti'- from his palms( s)dde'l% aware of ea&h ti'-li'- hair o' his arms a'd &hest( Case $'ew that at some poi't he,d started to pla% a -ame with himself( a ver% a'&ie't o'e that has 'o 'ame( a fi'al solitaire* He 'o lo'-er &arried a weapo'( 'o lo'-er too$ the basi& pre&a)tio's* He ra' the fastest( loosest deals o' the street( a'd he had a rep)tatio' for bei'- able to -et whatever %o) wa'ted* A part of him $'ew that the ar& of his selfdestr)&tio' was -lari'-l% obvio)s to his &)stomers( who -rew steadil% fewer( b)t that same part of him bas$ed i' the $'owled-e that it was o'l% a matter of time* A'd that was the part of him( sm)- i' its e1pe&tatio' of death( that most hated the tho)-ht of "i'da "ee* He,d fo)'d her( o'e rai'% 'i-ht( i' a' ar&ade* #'der bri-ht -hosts b)r'i'- thro)-h a bl)e ha4e of &i-arette smo$e( holo-rams of 7i4ard,s Castle( Ta'$ 7ar E)ropa( the New !or$ s$%li'e*** A'd 'ow he remembered her that wa%( her fa&e bathed i' restless laser li-ht( feat)res red)&ed to a &odeA her &hee$bo'es flari'- s&arlet as 7i4ard,s Castle b)r'ed( forehead dre'&hed with a4)re whe' 8)'i&h fell to the Ta'$ 7ar( mo)th to)&hed with hot -old as a -lidi'- &)rsor str)&$ spar$s from the wall of a s$%s&raper &a'%o'* He was ridi'- hi-h that 'i-ht( with a bri&$ of 7a-e,s $etami'e .>/ o' its wa% to !o$ohama a'd the mo'e% alread% i' his po&$et* He,d &ome i' o)t of the warm rai' that si44led a&ross the Ni'sei paveme't a'd somehow she,d bee' si'-led o)t for him( o'e fa&e o)t of the do4e's who stood at the &o'soles( lost i' the -ame she pla%ed* The e1pressio' o' her fa&e( the'( had bee' the o'e he,d see'( ho)rs later( o' her sleepi'- fa&e i' a portside &offi'( her )pper lip li$e the li'e &hildre' draw to represe't a bird i' fli-ht* Crossi'- the ar&ade to sta'd beside her( hi-h o' the deal he,d made( he saw her -la'&e )p* ;ra% e%es rimmed with sm)d-ed bla&$ pai'tsti&$* E%es of some a'imal pi''ed i' the headli-hts of a' o'&omi'- vehi&le* Their 'i-ht to-ether stret&hi'- i'to a mor'i'-( i'to ti&$ets at the hoverport a'd his first trip a&ross the a%* The rai' $ept )p( falli'- alo'- Hara0)$)( beadi'- o' her plasti&

0a&$et( the &hildre' of To$%o troopi'- past the famo)s bo)ti:)es i' white loafers a'd &li'-wrap &apes( )'til she,d stood with him i' the mid'i-ht &latter of a pa&hi'$o parlor a'd held his ha'd li$e a &hild* It too$ a mo'th for the -estalt of dr)-s a'd te'sio' he moved thro)-h to t)r' those perpet)all% startled e%es i'to wells of refle1ive 'eed* He,d wat&hed her perso'alit% fra-me't( &alvi'- li$e a' i&eber-( spli'ters drifti'- awa%( a'd fi'all% he,d see' the raw 'eed( the h)'-r% armat)re of addi&tio'* He,d wat&hed her tra&$ the 'e1t hit with a &o'&e'tratio' that remi'ded him of the ma'tises the% sold i' stalls alo'- Shi-a( beside ta'$s of bl)e m)ta't &arp a'd &ri&$ets &a-ed i' bamboo* He stared at the bla&$ ri'- of -ro)'ds i' his empt% &)p* It was vibrati'- with the speed he,d ta$e'* The brow' lami'ate of the tabletop was d)ll with a pati'a of ti'% s&rat&hes* 7ith the de1 mo)'ti'- thro)-h his spi'e he saw the &o)'tless ra'dom impa&ts re:)ired to &reate a s)rfa&e li$e that* The 3arre was de&orated i' a dated( 'ameless st%le from the previo)s &e't)r%( a' )'eas% ble'd of 3apa'ese traditio'al a'd pale 8ila'ese plasti&s( b)t ever%thi'- seemed to wear a s)btle film( as tho)-h the bad 'erves of a millio' &)stomers had somehow atta&$ed the mirrors a'd the o'&e -loss% plasti&s( leavi'- ea&h s)rfa&e fo--ed with somethi'- that &o)ld 'ever be wiped awa%* +He%* Case( -ood b)dd%***, He loo$ed )p( met -ra% e%es ri'-ed with pai'tsti&$* She was weari'- faded <re'&h orbital fati-)es a'd 'ew white s'ea$ers* +I bee' loo$i',B for %o)( ma'*, She too$ a seat opposite him( her elbows o' the table* The sleeves of the bl)e 4ips)it had bee' ripped o)t at the sho)lders2 he a)tomati&all% &he&$ed her arms for si-'s of derms or the 'eedle* +7a't a &i-arette9, She d)- a &r)mpled pa&$ of !ehe%)a' filters .1/ from a' a'$le po&$et a'd offered him o'e* He too$ it( let her li-ht it with a red plasti& t)be* +!o) sleepi',B o$a%( Case9 !o) loo$ tired*, Her a&&e't p)t her so)th alo'- the Sprawl( toward Atla'ta* The s$i' below her e%es was pale a'd )'health%-loo$i'-( b)t the flesh was still smooth a'd firm* She was twe't%* New li'es of pai' were starti'- to et&h themselves perma'e'tl% at the &or'ers of her mo)th* Her dar$ hair was draw' ba&$( held b% a ba'd of pri'ted sil$* The patter' mi-ht have represe'ted mi&ro&ir&)its( or a &it% map* +Not if I remember to ta$e m% pills(, he said( as a ta'-ible wave of lo'-i'- hit him( l)st a'd lo'eli'ess ridi'- i' o' the wavele'-th of amphetami'e* He remembered the smell of her s$i' i' the overheated dar$'ess of a &offi' 'ear the port( her fi'-ers lo&$ed a&ross the small of his ba&$*

All the meat( he tho)-ht( a'd all it wa'ts* +7a-e(, she said( 'arrowi'- her e%es* +He wa'ts to see %o) with a hole i' %o)r fa&e*, She lit her ow' &i-arette* +7ho sa%s9 Rat49 !o) bee' tal$i'- to Rat49, +No* 8o'a* Her 'ew s:)ee4e is o'e of 7a-e,s bo%s*, +I do',t owe him e'o)-h* He does me( he,s o)t the mo'e% a'%wa%*, He shr)--ed* +Too ma'% people owe him 'ow( Case* 8a%be %o) -et to be the e1ample* !o) serio)sl% better wat&h it*, +S)re* How abo)t %o)( "i'da9 !o) -ot a'%where to sleep9, +Sleep*, She shoo$ her head* +S)re( Case*, She shivered( h)'&hed forward over the table* Her fa&e was filmed with sweat* +Here(, he said( a'd d)- i' the po&$et of his wi'dbrea$er( &omi'- )p with a &r)mpled fift%* He smoothed it a)tomati&all%( )'der the table( folded it i' :)arters( a'd passed it to her* +!o) 'eed that( ho'e%* !o) better -ive it to 7a-e*, There was somethi'- i' the -ra% e%es 'ow that he &o)ld',t read( somethi'- he,d 'ever see' there before* +I owe 7a-e a lot more tha' that* Ta$e it* I -ot more &omi'-(, he lied( as he wat&hed his New !e' va'ish i'to a 4ippered po&$et* +!o) -et %o)r mo'e%( Case( %o) fi'd 7a-e :)i&$*, +I,ll see %o)( "i'da(, he said( -etti'- )p* +S)re*, A millimeter of white showed be'eath ea&h of her p)pils* Sa'pa$)* +!o) wat&h %o)r ba&$( ma'*, He 'odded( a'1io)s to be -o'e* He loo$ed ba&$ as the plasti& door sw)'- sh)t behi'd him( saw her e%es refle&ted i' a &a-e of red 'eo'* <rida% 'i-ht o' Ni'sei*

He passed %a$itori sta'ds a'd massa-e parlors( a fra'&hised &offee shop &alled ea)tif)l ;irl( the ele&tro'i& th)'der of a' ar&ade* He stepped o)t of the wa% to let a dar$-s)ited sararima' b%( spotti'- the 8its)bishi-;e'e'te&h lo-o tattooed a&ross the ba&$ of the ma',s ri-ht ha'd* 7as it a)the'ti&9 If that,s for real( he tho)-ht( he,s i' for tro)ble* If it was',t( served him ri-ht* 8-; emplo%ees above a &ertai' level were impla'ted with adva'&ed mi&ropro&essors that mo'itored m)ta-e' levels i' the bloodstream* ;ear li$e that wo)ld -et %o) rolled i' Ni-ht Cit%( rolled strai-ht i'to a bla&$ &li'i&* The sararima' had bee' 3apa'ese( b)t the Ni'sei &rowd was a -ai0i' &rowd* ;ro)ps of sailors )p from the port( te'se solitar% to)rists h)'ti'- pleas)res 'o -)ideboo$ listed( Sprawl heavies showi'- off -rafts a'd impla'ts( a'd a do4e' disti'&t spe&ies of h)stler( all swarmi'- the street i' a' i'tri&ate da'&e of desire a'd &ommer&e* There were &o)'tless theories e1plai'i'- wh% Chiba Cit% tolerated the Ni'sei e'&lave( b)t Case te'ded toward the idea that the !a$)4a mi-ht be preservi'- the pla&e as a $i'd of histori&al par$( a remi'der of h)mble ori-i's* )t he also saw a &ertai' se'se i' the 'otio' that b)r-eo'i'- te&h'olo-ies re:)ire o)tlaw 4o'es( that Ni-ht Cit% was',t there for its i'habita'ts( b)t as a deliberatel% )'s)pervised pla%-ro)'d for te&h'olo-% itself* 7as "i'da ri-ht( he wo'dered( stari'- )p at the li-hts9 7o)ld 7a-e have him $illed to ma$e a' e1ample9 It did',t ma$e m)&h se'se( b)t the' 7a-e dealt primaril% i' pros&ribed biolo-i&als( a'd the% said %o) had to be &ra4% to do that* )t "i'da said 7a-e wa'ted him dead* Case,s primar% i'si-ht i'to the d%'ami&s of street deali'- was that 'either the b)%er 'or the seller reall% 'eeded him* A middlema',s b)si'ess is to ma$e himself a 'e&essar% evil* The d)bio)s 'i&he Case had &arved for himself i' the &rimi'al e&olo-% of Ni-ht Cit% had bee' &)t o)t with lies( s&ooped o)t a 'i-ht at a time with betra%al* Now( se'si'- that its walls were starti'- to &r)mble( he felt the ed-e of a stra'-e e)phoria* The wee$ before( he,d dela%ed tra'sfer of a s%'theti& -la'd)lar e1tra&t( retaili'- it for a wider mar-i' tha' )s)al* He $'ew 7a-e had',t li$ed that* 7a-e was his primar% s)pplier( 'i'e %ears i' Chiba a'd o'e of the few -ai0i' dealers who,d ma'a-ed to for-e li'$s with the ri-idl% stratified &rimi'al establishme't be%o'd Ni-ht Cit%,s borders* ;e'eti& materials a'd hormo'es tri&$led dow' to Ni'sei alo'- a' i'tri&ate ladder of fro'ts a'd bli'ds* Somehow 7a-e had ma'a-ed to tra&e somethi'- ba&$( o'&e( a'd 'ow he e'0o%ed stead% &o''e&tio's i' a do4e' &ities* Case fo)'d himself stari'- thro)-h a shop wi'dow* The pla&e sold small bri-ht ob0e&ts to the sailors* 7at&hes( fli&$'ives( li-hters( po&$et CTRs( simstim de&$s .1/( wei-hted

ma'ri$i &hai's( a'd sh)ri$e'* The sh)ri$e' had alwa%s fas&i'ated him( steel stars with $'ife-sharp poi'ts* Some were &hromed( others bla&$( others treated with a rai'bow s)rfa&e li$e oil o' water* )t the &hrome stars held his -a4e* The% were mo)'ted a-ai'st s&arlet )ltras)ede with 'earl% i'visible loops of '%lo' fishli'e( their &e'ters stamped with dra-o's or %i'%a'- s%mbols* The% &a)-ht the street,s 'eo' a'd twisted it( a'd it &ame to Case that these were the stars )'der whi&h he vo%a-ed( his desti'% spelled o)t i' a &o'stellatio' of &heap &hrome* +3)lie(, he said to his stars* +Time to see old 3)lie* He,ll $'ow*, 3)li)s Dea'e was o'e h)'dred a'd thirt%-five %ears old( his metabolism assid)o)sl% warped b% a wee$l% fort)'e i' ser)ms a'd hormo'es* His primar% hed-e a-ai'st a-i'was a %earl% pil-rima-e to To$%o( where -e'eti& s)r-eo's re-set the &ode of his DNA( a pro&ed)re )'available i' Chiba* The' he,d fl% to Ho'-$o'- a'd order the %ear,s s)its a'd shirts* Se1less a'd i'h)ma'l% patie't( his primar% -ratifi&atio' seemed to lie i' his devotio' to esoteri& forms of tailor-worship* Case had 'ever see' him wear the same s)it twi&e( altho)-h his wardrobe seemed to &o'sist e'tirel% of meti&)lo)s re&o'str)&tio's of -arme'ts of the previo)s &e't)r%* He affe&ted pres&riptio' le'ses( framed i' spider% -old( -ro)'d from thi' slabs of pi'$ s%'theti& :)art4 a'd beveled li$e the mirrors i' a Ci&toria' dollho)se* His offi&es were lo&ated i' a wareho)se behi'd Ni'sei( part of whi&h seemed to have bee' sparsel% de&orated( %ears before( with a ra'dom &olle&tio' of E)ropea' f)r'it)re( as tho)-h Dea'e had o'&e i'te'ded to )se the pla&e as his home* Neo A4te& boo$&ases -athered d)st a-ai'st o'e wall of the room where Case waited* A pair of b)lbo)s Dis'e%-st%led table lamps per&hed aw$wardl% o' a low 5a'di's$%-loo$ &offee table i' s&arlet-la&:)ered steel* A Dali &lo&$ h)'- o' the wall betwee' the boo$&ases( its distorted fa&e sa--i'- to the bare &o'&rete floor* Its ha'ds were holo-rams that altered to mat&h the &o'vol)tio's of the fa&e as the% rotated( b)t it 'ever told the &orre&t time* The room was sta&$ed with white fiber-lass shippi'- mod)les that -ave off the ta'- of preserved -i'-er* +!o) seem to be &lea'( old so'(, said Dea'e,s disembodied voi&e* +Do &ome i'*, 8a-'eti& bolts th)dded o)t of positio' aro)'d the massive imitatio'-rosewood door to the left of the boo$&ases* 3#"I#S DEANE I8PORT EDPORT was lettered a&ross the plasti& i' peeli'- self-adhesive &apitals* If the f)r'it)re s&attered i' Dea'e,s ma$eshift fo%er s)--ested the e'd of the past &e't)r%( the offi&e itself seemed to belo'- to its start* Dea'e,s seamless pi'$ fa&e re-arded Case from a pool of li-ht &ast b% a' a'&ie't brass lamp with a re&ta'-)lar shade of dar$ -ree' -lass* The importer was se&)rel% fe'&ed behi'd a vast des$ of pai'ted steel( fla'$ed o' either side b% tall( drawered &abi'ets

made of some sort of pale wood* The sort of thi'-( Case s)pposed( that had o'&e bee' )sed to store writte' re&ords of some $i'd* The des$top was littered with &assettes( s&rolls of %ellowed pri'to)t( a'd vario)s parts of some sort of &lo&$wor$ t%pewriter( a ma&hi'e Dea'e 'ever seemed to -et aro)'d to reassembli'-* +7hat bri'-s %o) aro)'d( bo%o9, Dea'e as$ed( offeri'- Case a 'arrow bo'bo' wrapped i' bl)e-a'd-white &he&$ed paper* +Tr% o'e* Ti'- Ti'- D0ahe( the ver% best*, Case ref)sed the -i'-er( too$ a seat i' a %awi'- woode' swivel &hair( a'd ra' a th)mb dow' the faded seam of o'e bla&$ 0ea's-le-* +3)lie( I hear 7a-e wa'ts to $ill me*, +Ah* 7ell the'* A'd where did %o) hear this( if I ma%9, +People*, +People(, Dea'e said( aro)'d a -i'-er bo'bo'* +7hat sort of people9 <rie'ds9, Case 'odded* +Not alwa%s that eas% to $'ow who %o)r frie'ds are( is it9, +I do owe him a little mo'e%( Dea'e* He sa% a'%thi'- to %o)9, +Have',t bee' i' to)&h( of late*, The' he si-hed* +If I did $'ow( of &o)rse( I mi-ht 'ot be i' a positio' to tell %o)* Thi'-s bei'- what the% are( %o) )'dersta'd*, +Thi'-s9, +He,s a' importa't &o''e&tio'( Case*, +!eah* He wa't to $ill me( 3)lie9, +Not that I $'ow of*, Dea'e shr)--ed* The% mi-ht have bee' dis&)ssi'- the pri&e of -i'-er* +If it proves to be a' )'fo)'ded r)mor( old so'( %o) &ome ba&$ i' a wee$ or so a'd I,ll let %o) i' o' a little somethi'- o)t of Si'-apore*, +O)t of the Na' Hai Hotel( e'&oole' Street9, +"oose lips( old so'E, Dea'e -ri''ed* The steel des$ was 0ammed with a fort)'e i' deb)--i'- -ear* + e seei'- %o)( 3)lie* I,ll sa% hello to 7a-e*, Dea'e,s fi'-ers &ame )p to br)sh the perfe&t $'ot i' his pale sil$ tie*

He was less tha' a blo&$ from Dea'e,s offi&e whe' it hit( the s)dde' &ell)lar aware'ess that someo'e was o' his ass( a'd ver% &lose* The &)ltivatio' of a &ertai' tame para'oia was somethi'- Case too$ for -ra'ted* The tri&$ la% i' 'ot letti'- it -et o)t of &o'trol* )t that &o)ld be :)ite a tri&$( behi'd a sta&$ of o&ta-o's* He fo)-ht the adre'ali'e s)r-e a'd &omposed his 'arrow feat)res i' a mas$ of bored va&a'&%( prete'di'- to let the &rowd &arr% him alo'-* 7he' he saw a dar$e'ed displa% wi'dow( he ma'a-ed to pa)se b% it* The pla&e was a s)r-i&al bo)ti:)e( &losed for re'ovatio's* 7ith his ha'ds i' the po&$ets of his 0a&$et( he stared thro)-h the -lass at a flat lo4e'-e of vat-row' flesh that la% o' a &arved pedestal of imitatio' 0ade* The &olor of its s$i' remi'ded him of 6o'e,s whores2 it was tattooed with a l)mi'o)s di-ital displa% wired to a s)b&)ta'eo)s &hip* 7h% bother with the s)r-er%( he fo)'d himself thi'$i'-( while sweat &o)rsed dow' his ribs( whe' %o) &o)ld 0)st &arr% the thi'- aro)'d i' %o)r po&$et9 7itho)t movi'- his head( he raised his e%es a'd st)died the refle&tio' of the passi'&rowd* There* ehi'd sailors i' short-sleeved $ha$i* Dar$ hair( mirrored -lasses( dar$ &lothi'-( sle'der*** A'd -o'e* The' Case was r)''i'-( be't low( dod-i'- betwee' bodies* +Re't me a -)'( Shi'9, The bo% smiled* +Two ho)r*, The% stood to-ether i' the smell of fresh raw seafood at the rear of a Shi-a s)shi stall* +!o) &ome ba&$( two ho)r*, +I 'eed o'e 'ow( ma'* ;ot a'%thi'- ri-ht 'ow9, Shi' r)mma-ed behi'd empt% two-liter &a's that had o'&e bee' filled with powdered horseradish* He prod)&ed a sle'der pa&$a-e wrapped i' -ra% plasti&* +Taser* O'e ho)r( twe't% New !e'* Thirt% deposit*, +Shit* I do',t 'eed that* I 'eed a -)'* "i$e I ma%be wa''a shoot somebod%( )'dersta'd9, The waiter shr)--ed( repla&i'- the taser behi'd the horseradish &a's* +Two ho)r*, He we't i'to the shop witho)t botheri'- to -la'&e at the displa% of sh)ri$e'* He,d 'ever

throw' o'e i' his life* He bo)-ht two pa&$s of !ehe%)a's with a 8its)bishi a'$ &hip that -ave his 'ame as Charles Dere$ 8a%* It beat Tr)ma' Starr( the best he,d bee' able to do for a passport* The 3apa'ese woma' behi'd the termi'al loo$ed li$e she had a few %ears o' old Dea'e( 'o'e of them with the be'efit of s&ie'&e* He too$ his sle'der roll of New !e' o)t of his po&$et a'd showed it to her* +I wa't to b)% a weapo'*, She -est)red i' the dire&tio' of a &ase filled with $'ives* +No(, he said( +I do',t li$e $'ives*, She bro)-ht a' oblo'- bo1 from be'eath the &o)'ter* The lid was %ellow &ardboard( stamped with a &r)de ima-e of a &oiled &obra with a swolle' hood* I'side were ei-ht ide'ti&al tiss)e-wrapped &%li'ders* He wat&hed while mottled brow' fi'-ers stripped the paper from o'e* She held the thi'- )p for him to e1ami'e( a d)ll steel t)be with a leather tho'- at o'e e'd a'd a small bro'4e p%ramid at the other* She -ripped the t)be with o'e ha'd( the p%ramid betwee' her other th)mb a'd forefi'-er( a'd p)lled* Three oiled( teles&opi'- se-me'ts of ti-htl% wo)'d &oilspri'- slid o)t a'd lo&$ed* +Cobra(, she said* e%o'd the 'eo' sh)dder of Ni'sei( the s$% was that mea' shade of -ra%* The air had -otte' worse2 it seemed to have teeth to'i-ht( a'd half the &rowd wore filtratio' mas$s* Case had spe't te' mi')tes i' a )ri'al( tr%i'- to dis&over a &o've'ie't wa% to &o'&eal his &obra2 fi'all% he,d settled for t)&$i'- the ha'dle i'to the waistba'd of his 0ea's( with the t)be sla'ti'- a&ross his stoma&h* The p%ramidal stri$i'- tip rode betwee' his rib&a-e a'd the li'i'- of his wi'dbrea$er* The thi'- felt li$e it mi-ht &latter to the paveme't with his 'e1t step( b)t it made him feel better* The Chat was',t reall% a deali'- bar( b)t o' wee$'i-hts it attra&ted a related &lie'tele* <rida%s a'd Sat)rda%s were differe't* The re-)lars were still there( most of them( b)t the% faded behi'd a' i'fl)1 of sailors a'd the spe&ialists who pre%ed o' them* As Case p)shed thro)-h the doors( he loo$ed for Rat4( b)t the barte'der was',t i' si-ht* "o''% 6o'e( the bar,s reside't pimp( was observi'- with -la4ed fatherl% i'terest as o'e of his -irls we't to wor$ o' a %o)'- sailor* 6o'e was addi&ted to a bra'd of h%p'oti& the 3apa'ese &alled Clo)d Da'&ers* Cat&hi'- the pimp,s e%e( Case be&$o'ed him to the bar* 6o'e &ame drifti'- thro)-h the &rowd i' slow motio'( his lo'- fa&e sla&$ a'd pla&id* +!o) see' 7a-e to'i-ht( "o''%9, 6o'e re-arded him with his )s)al &alm* He shoo$ his head* +!o) s)re( ma'9,

+8a%be i' the Namba'* 8a%be two ho)rs a-o*, +;ot some 0oebo%s with him9 O'e of ,em thi'( dar$ hair( ma%be a bla&$ 0a&$et9, +No(, 6o'e said at last( his smooth forehead &reased to i'di&ate the effort it &ost him to re&all so m)&h poi'tless detail* + i- bo%s* ;raftees*, 6o'e,s e%es showed ver% little white a'd less iris2 )'der the droopi'- lids( his p)pils were dilated a'd e'ormo)s* He stared i'to Case,s fa&e for a lo'- time( the' lowered his -a4e* He saw the b)l-e of the steel whip* +Cobra(, he said( a'd raised a' e%ebrow* +!o) wa''a f)&$ somebod% )p9, +See %o)( "o''%*, Case left the bar* His tail was ba&$* He was s)re of it* He felt a stab of elatio'( the o&ta-o's a'd adre'ali'e mi'-li'- with somethi'- else* !o),re e'0o%i'- this( he tho)-ht2 %o),re &ra4%* e&a)se( i' some weird a'd ver% appro1imate wa%( it was li$e a r)' i' the matri1* ;et 0)st wasted e'o)-h( fi'd %o)rself i' some desperate b)t stra'-el% arbitrar% $i'd of tro)ble( a'd it was possible to see Ni'sei as a field of data( the wa% the matri1 had o'&e remi'ded him of protei's li'$i'- to disti'-)ish &ell spe&ialties* The' %o) &o)ld throw %o)rself i'to a hi-hspeed drift a'd s$id( totall% e'-a-ed b)t set apart from it all( a'd all aro)'d %o) the da'&e of bi4( i'formatio' i'tera&ti'-( data made flesh i' the ma4es of the bla&$ mar$et*** ;o it( Case( he told himself* S)&$ ,em i'* "ast thi'- the%,ll e1pe&t* He was half a blo&$ from the -ames ar&ade where he,d first met "i'da "ee* He bolted a&ross Ni'sei( s&atteri'- a pa&$ of strolli'- sailors* O'e of them s&reamed after him i' Spa'ish* The' he was thro)-h the e'tra'&e( the so)'d &rashi'- over him li$e s)rf( s)bso'i&s throbbi'- i' the pit of his stoma&h* Someo'e s&ored a te'-me-ato' hit o' Ta'$ 7ar E)ropa( a sim)lated airb)rst drow'i'- the ar&ade i' white so)'d as a l)rid holo-ram fireball m)shroomed overhead* He &)t to the ri-ht a'd loped )p a fli-ht of )'pai'ted &hipboard stairs* He,d &ome here o'&e with 7a-e( to dis&)ss a deal i' pros&ribed hormo'al tri--ers with a ma' &alled 8ats)-a* He remembered the hallwa%( its stai'ed matti'-( the row of ide'ti&al doors leadi'- to ti'% offi&e &)bi&les* O'e door was ope' 'ow* A 3apa'ese -irl i' a sleeveless bla&$ t-shirt -la'&ed )p from a white termi'al( behi'd her head a travel poster of ;ree&e( Ae-ia' bl)e splashed with streamli'ed ideo-rams* +;et %o)r se&)rit% )p here(, Case told her* The' he spri'ted dow' the &orridor( o)t of her si-ht* The last two doors were &losed a'd( he ass)med( lo&$ed* He sp)' a'd slammed the sole of his '%lo' r)''i'- shoe i'to the bl)ela&:)ered &ompositio' door at the far e'd* It popped( &heap hardware faili'- from

the spli'tered frame* Dar$'ess there( the white &)rve of a termi'al ho)si'-* The' he was o' the door to its ri-ht( both ha'ds aro)'d the tra'spare't plasti& $'ob( lea'i'- i' with ever%thi'- he had* Somethi'- s'apped( a'd he was i'side* This was where he a'd 7a-e had met with 8ats)-a( b)t whatever fro't &ompa'% 8ats)-a had operated was lo'-o'e* No termi'al( 'othi'-* "i-ht from the alle% behi'd the ar&ade( filteri'- i' thro)-h sootblow' plasti&* He made o)t a s'a$eli$e loop of fiberopti&s protr)di'- from a wall so&$et( a pile of dis&arded food &o'tai'ers( a'd the bladeless 'a&elle of a' ele&tri& fa'* The wi'dow was a si'-le pa'e of &heap plasti&* He shr)--ed o)t of his 0a&$et( b)'dled it aro)'d his ri-ht ha'd( a'd p)'&hed* It split( re:)iri'- two more blows to free it from the frame* Over the m)ted &haos of the -ames( a' alarm be-a' to &%&le( tri--ered either b% the bro$e' wi'dow or b% the -irl at the head of the &orridor* Case t)r'ed( p)lled his 0a&$et o'( a'd fli&$ed the &obra to f)ll e1te'sio'* 7ith the door &losed( he was &o)'ti'- o' his tail to ass)me he,d -o'e thro)-h the o'e he,d $i&$ed half off its hi'-es* The &obra,s bro'4e p%ramid be-a' to bob -e'tl%( the spri'--steel shaft amplif%i'- his p)lse* Nothi'- happe'ed* There was o'l% the s)r-i'- of the alarm( the &rashi'- of the -ames( his heart hammeri'-* 7he' the fear &ame( it was li$e some half-for-otte' frie'd* Not the &old( rapid me&ha'ism of the de1-para'oia( b)t simple a'imal fear* He,d lived for so lo'- o' a &o'sta't ed-e of a'1iet% that he,d almost for-otte' what real fear was* This &)bi&le was the sort of pla&e where people died* He mi-ht die here* The% mi-ht have -)'s*** A &rash( from the far e'd of the &orridor* A ma',s voi&e( sho)ti'- somethi'- i' 3apa'ese* A s&ream( shrill terror* A'other &rash* A'd footsteps( )'h)rried( &omi'- &loser* Passi'- his &losed door* Pa)si'- for the spa&e of three rapid beats of his heart* A'd ret)r'i'-* O'e( two( three* A bootheel s&raped the matti'-* The last of his o&ta-o'-i'd)&ed bravado &ollapsed* He s'apped the &obra i'to its ha'dle a'd s&rambled for the wi'dow( bli'd with fear( his 'erves s&reami'-* He was )p( o)t( a'd falli'-( all before he was &o's&io)s of what he,d do'e* The impa&t with paveme't drove d)ll rods of pai' thro)-h his shi's* A 'arrow wed-e of li-ht from a half-ope' servi&e hat&h framed a heap of dis&arded fiberopti&s a'd the &hassis of a 0)'$ed &o'sole* He,d falle' fa&e forward o' a slab of so--% &hipboard2 he rolled over( i'to the shadow of the &o'sole* The &)bi&le,s wi'dow

was a s:)are of fai't li-ht* The alarm still os&illated( lo)der here( the rear wall d)lli'the roar of the -ames* A head appeared( framed i' the wi'dow( ba&$lit b% the fl)ores&e'ts i' the &orridor( the' va'ished* It ret)r'ed( b)t he still &o)ld',t read the feat)res* ;li't of silver a&ross the e%es* +Shit(, someo'e said( a woma'( i' the a&&e't of the 'orther' Sprawl* The head was -o'e* Case la% )'der the &o'sole for a lo'- &o)'t of twe't%( the' stood )p* The steel &obra was still i' his ha'd( a'd it too$ him a few se&o'ds to remember what it was* He limped awa% dow' the alle%( ')rsi'- his left a'$le* Shi',s pistol was a fift%-%ear-old Ciet'amese imitatio' of a So)th Ameri&a' &op% of a 7alther PP5( do)ble-a&tio' o' the first shot( with a ver% ro)-h p)ll* It was &hambered for *== lo'- rifle( a'd Case wo)ld,ve preferred lead a4ide e1plosives to the simple Chi'ese hollowpoi'ts Shi' had sold him* Still( it was a ha'd-)' a'd 'i'e ro)'ds of amm)'itio'( a'd as he made his wa% dow' Shi-a from the s)shi stall he &radled it i' his 0a&$et po&$et* The -rips were bri-ht red plasti& molded i' a raised dra-o' motif( somethi'- to r)' %o)r th)mb a&ross i' the dar$* He,d &o'si-'ed the &obra to a d)mp &a'ister o' Ni'sei a'd dr%-swallowed a'other o&ta-o'* The pill lit his &ir&)its a'd he rode the r)sh dow' Shi-a to Ni'sei( the' over to aiits)* His tail( he,d de&ided( was -o'e( a'd that was fi'e* He had &alls to ma$e( bi4 to tra'sa&t( a'd it wo)ld',t wait* A blo&$ dow' aiits)( toward the port( stood a feat)reless te'-stor% offi&e b)ildi'- i' )-l% %ellow bri&$* Its wi'dows were dar$ 'ow( b)t a fai't -low from the roof was visible if %o) &ra'ed %o)r 'e&$* A' )'lit 'eo' si-' 'ear the mai' e'tra'&e offered CHEAP HOTE" )'der a &l)ster of ideo-rams* If the pla&e had a'other 'ame( Case did',t $'ow it2 it was alwa%s referred to as Cheap Hotel* !o) rea&hed it thro)-h a' alle% off aiits)( where a' elevator waited at the foot of a tra'spare't shaft* The elevator( li$e Cheap Hotel( was a' aftertho)-ht( lashed to the b)ildi'- with bamboo a'd epo1%* Case &limbed i'to the plasti& &a-e a'd )sed his $e%( a' )'mar$ed le'-th of ri-id ma-'eti& tape* Case had re'ted a &offi' here( o' a wee$l% basis( si'&e he,d arrived i' Chiba( b)t he,d 'ever slept i' Cheap Hotel* He slept i' &heaper pla&es* The elevator smelled of perf)me a'd &i-arettes2 the sides of the &a-e was s&rat&hed a'd th)mb-sm)d-ed* As it passed the fifth floor( he saw the li-hts of Ni'sei* He dr)mmed his fi'-ers a-ai'st the pistol-rip as the &a-e slowed with a -rad)al hiss* As alwa%s( it &ame to a f)ll stop with a viole't 0olt( b)t he was read% for it* He stepped o)t i'to the &o)rt%ard that served the pla&e as some &ombi'atio' of lobb% a'd law'* Ce'tered i' the s:)are &arpet of -ree' plasti& t)rf( a 3apa'ese tee'a-er sat behi'd a C-

shaped &o'sole( readi'- a te1tboo$* The white fiber-lass &offi's were ra&$ed i' a framewor$ of i'd)strial s&affoldi'-* Si1 tiers of &offi's( te' &offi's o' a side* Case 'odded i' the bo%,s dire&tio' a'd limped a&ross the plasti& -rass to the 'earest ladder* The &ompo)'d was roofed with &heap lami'ated matti'- that rattled i' a stro'- wi'd a'd lea$ed whe' it rai'ed( b)t the &offi's were reaso'abl% diffi&)lt to ope' witho)t a $e%* The e1pa'sio'--rate &atwal$ vibrated with his wei-ht as he ed-ed his wa% alo'- the third tier to N)mber F=* The &offi's were three meters lo'-( the oval hat&hes a meter wide a'd 0)st )'der a meter a'd a half tall* He fed his $e% i'to the slot a'd waited for verifi&atio' from the ho)se &omp)ter* 8a-'eti& bolts th)dded reass)ri'-l% a'd the hat&h rose verti&all% with a &rea$ of spri'-s* <l)ores&e'ts fli&$ered o' as he &rawled i'( p)lli'- the hat&h sh)t behi'd him a'd slappi'- the pa'el that a&tivated the ma')al lat&h* There was 'othi'- i' N)mber F= b)t a sta'dard Hita&hi po&$et &omp)ter a'd a small white st%rofoam &ooler &hest* The &ooler &o'tai'ed the remai's of three te'-$ilo slabs of dr% i&e( &aref)ll% wrapped i' paper to dela% evaporatio'( a'd a sp)' al)mi')m lab flas$* Cro)&hi'- o' the brow' temperfoam slab that was both floor a'd bed( Case too$ Shi',s *== from his po&$et a'd p)t it o' top of the &ooler* The' he too$ off his 0a&$et* The &offi',s termi'al was molded i'to o'e &o'&ave wall( opposite a pa'el listi'- ho)se r)les i' seve' la'-)a-es* Case too$ the pi'$ ha'dset from its &radle a'd p)'&hed a Ho'-$o'- ')mber from memor%* He let it ri'- five times( the' h)'- )p* His b)%er for the three me-ab%tes of hot RA8 i' the Hita&hi was',t ta$i'- &alls* He p)'&hed a To$%o ')mber i' Shi'0)$)* A woma' a'swered( somethi'- i' 3apa'ese* +S'a$e 8a' there9, +Cer% -ood to hear from %o)(, said S'a$e 8a'( &omi'- i' o' a' e1te'sio'* +I,ve bee' e1pe&ti'- %o)r &all*, +I -ot the m)si& %o) wa'ted*, ;la'&i'- at the &ooler* +I,m ver% -lad to hear that* 7e have a &ash flow problem* Ca' %o) fro't9, +Oh( ma'( I reall% 'eed the mo'e% bad***, S'a$e 8a' h)'- )p* +!o) shit(, Case said to the h)mmi'- re&eiver* He stared at the &heap little pistol*

+Iff%(, he said( +it,s all loo$i'- ver% iff% to'i-ht*, Case wal$ed i'to the Chat a' ho)r before daw'( both ha'ds i' the po&$ets of his 0a&$etA o'e held the re'ted pistol( the other the al)mi')m flas$* Rat4 was at a rear table( dri'$i'- Apollo'aris water from a beer pit&her( his h)'dred a'd twe't% $ilos of do)-h% flesh tilted a-ai'st the wall o' a &rea$i'- &hair* A ra4ilia' $id &alled 5)rt was o' the bar( te'di'- a thi' &rowd of mostl% sile't dr)'$s* Rat4,s plasti& arm b)44ed as he raised the pit&her a'd dra'$* His shave' head was filmed with sweat* +!o) loo$ bad( frie'd artiste(, he said( flashi'- the wet r)i' of his teeth* +I,m doi'- 0)st fi'e(, said Case( a'd -ri''ed li$e a s$)ll* +S)per fi'e*, He sa--ed i'to the &hair opposite Rat4( ha'ds still i' his po&$ets* +A'd %o) wa'der ba&$ a'd forth i' this portable bombshelter b)ilt of boo4e a'd )ps( s)re* Proof a-ai'st the -rosser emotio's( %es9, +7h% do',t %o) -et off m% &ase( Rat49 !o) see' 7a-e9, +Proof a-ai'st fear a'd bei'- alo'e(, the barte'der &o'ti')ed* +"iste' to the fear* 8a%be it,s %o)r frie'd*, +!o) hear a'%thi'- abo)t a fi-ht i' the ar&ade to'i-ht( Rat49 Somebod% h)rt9, +Cra4% &)t a se&)rit% ma'*, He shr)--ed* +A -irl( the% sa%*, +I -otta tal$ to 7a-e* Rat4( I***, +Ah*, Rat4,s mo)th 'arrowed( &ompressed i'to a si'-le li'e* He was loo$i'- past Case( toward the e'tra'&e* +I thi'$ %o) are abo)t to*, Case had a s)dde' flash of the sh)ri$e' i' their wi'dow* The speed sa'- i' his head* The pistol i' his ha'd was slipper% with sweat* +Herr 7a-e(, Rat4 said( slowl% e1te'di'- his pi'$ ma'ip)lator as if he e1pe&ted it to be sha$e'* +How -reat a pleas)re* Too seldom do %o) ho'or )s*, Case t)r'ed his head a'd loo$ed )p i'to 7a-e,s fa&e* It was a ta''ed a'd for-ettable mas$* The e%es were vat-row' sea--ree' Ni$o' tra'spla'ts* 7a-e wore a s)it of -)'metal sil$ a'd a simple bra&elet of plati')m o' either wrist* He was fla'$ed b% his 0oebo%s( 'earl% ide'ti&al %o)'- me'( their arms a'd sho)lders b)l-i'- with -rafted m)s&le*

+How %o) doi'-( Case9, +;e'tleme'(, said Rat4( pi&$i'- )p the table,s heaped ashtra% i' his pi'$ plasti& &law( +I wa't 'o tro)ble here*, The ashtra% was made of thi&$( shatterproof plasti&( a'd advertised Tsi'-tao beer* Rat4 &r)shed it smoothl%( b)tts a'd shards of -ree' plasti& &as&adi'- o'to the tabletop* +!o) )'dersta'd9, +He%( sweetheart(, said o'e of the 0oebo%s( +%o) wa''a tr% that thi'- o' me9, +Do',t bother aimi'- for the le-s( 5)rt(, Rat4 said( his to'e &o'versatio'al* Case -la'&ed a&ross the room a'd saw the ra4ilia' sta'di'- o' the bar( aimi'- a Smith G 7esso' riot -)' at the trio* The thi'-,s barrel( made of paper-thi' allo% wrapped with a $ilometer of -lass filame't( was wide e'o)-h to swallow a fist* The s$eletal ma-a4i'e revealed five fat ora'-e &artrid-es( s)bso'i& sa'dba- 0ellies* +Te&h'i&all% 'o'lethal(, said Rat4* +He%( Rat4(, Case said( +I owe %o) o'e*, The barte'der shr)--ed* +Nothi'-( %o) owe me* These(, a'd he -lowered at 7a-e a'd the 0oebo%s( +sho)ld $'ow better* !o) do',t ta$e a'%bod% off i' the Chats)bo*, 7a-e &o)-hed* +So who,s tal$i'- abo)t ta$i'- a'%bod% off* 7e 0)st wa''a tal$ b)si'ess* Case a'd me( we wor$ to-ether*, Case p)lled the *== o)t of his po&$et a'd levelled it at 7a-e,s &rot&h* +I hear %o) wa''a do me*, Rat4,s pi'$ &law &losed aro)'d the pistol a'd Case let his ha'd -o limp* +"oo$( Case( %o) tell me what the f)&$ is -oi'- o' with %o)( %o) wi- or somethi'-9 7hat,s this shit I,m tr%i'- to $ill %o)9, 7a-e t)r'ed to the bo% o' his left* +!o) two -o ba&$ to the Namba'* 7ait for me*, Case wat&hed as the% &rossed the bar( whi&h was 'ow e'tirel% deserted e1&ept for 5)rt a'd a dr)'$e' sailor i' $ha$is( who was &)rled at the foot of a barstool* The barrel of the Smith G 7esso' tra&$ed the two to the door( the' sw)'- ba&$ to &over 7a-e* The ma-a4i'e of Case,s pistol &lattered o' the table* Rat4 held the -)' i' his &law a'd p)mped the ro)'d o)t of the &hamber* +7ho told %o) I was -oi'- to hit %o)( Case9, 7a-e as$ed* "i'da* +7ho told %o)( ma'9 Somebod% tr%i'- to set %o) )p9,

The sailor moa'ed a'd vomited e1plosivel%* +;et him o)t of here(, Rat4 &alled to 5)rt( who was sitti'- o' the ed-e of the bar 'ow( the Smith G 7esso' a&ross his lap( li-hti'- a &i-arette* Case felt the wei-ht of the 'i-ht &ome dow' o' him li$e a ba- of wet sa'd settli'behi'd his e%es* He too$ the flas$ o)t of his po&$et a'd ha'ded it to 7a-e* +All I -ot* Pit)itaries* ;et %o) five h)'dred if %o) move it fast* Had the rest of m% roll i' some RA8( b)t that,s -o'e b% 'ow*, +!o) o$a%( Case9, The flas$ had alread% va'ished behi'd a -)'metal lapel* +I mea'( fi'e( this,ll s:)are )s( b)t %o) loo$ bad* "i$e hammered shit* !o) better -o somewhere a'd sleep*, +!eah*, He stood )p a'd felt the Chat swa% aro)'d him* +7ell( I had this fift%( b)t I -ave it to somebod%*, He -i--led* He pi&$ed )p the *==,s ma-a4i'e a'd the o'e loose &artrid-e a'd dropped them i'to o'e po&$et( the' p)t the pistol i' the other* +I -otta see Shi'( -et m% deposit ba&$*, +;o home(, said Rat4( shifti'- o' the &rea$i'- &hair with somethi'- li$e embarrassme't* +Artiste* ;o home*, He felt them wat&hi'- as he &rossed the room a'd sho)ldered his wa% past the plasti& doors* + it&h(, he said to the rose ti't over Shi-a* Dow' o' Ni'sei the holo-rams were va'ishi'- li$e -hosts( a'd most of the 'eo' was alread% &old a'd dead* He sipped thi&$ bla&$ &offee from a street ve'dor,s foam thimble a'd wat&hed the s)' &ome )p* +!o) fl% awa%( ho'e%* Tow's li$e this are for people who li$e the wa% dow'*, )t that was',t it( reall%( a'd he was fi'di'- it i'&reasi'-l% hard to mai'tai' the se'se of betra%al* She 0)st wa'ted a ti&$et home( a'd the RA8 i' his Hita&hi wo)ld b)% it for her( if she &o)ld fi'd the ri-ht fe'&e* A'd that b)si'ess with the fift%2 she,d almost t)r'ed it dow'( $'owi'she was abo)t to rip him for the rest of what he had* 7he' he &limbed o)t of the elevator( the same bo% was o' the des$* Differe't te1tboo$* +;ood b)dd%(, Case &alled a&ross the plasti& t)rf( +%o) do',t 'eed to tell me* I $'ow alread%* Prett% lad% &ame to visit( said she had m% $e%* Ni&e little tip for %o)( sa% fift% New o'es9, The bo% p)t dow' his boo$* +7oma'(, Case said( a'd drew a li'e a&ross his forehead with his th)mb* +Sil$*, He smiled broadl%* The bo% smiled ba&$( 'odded* +Tha'$s( asshole(, Case said* O' the &atwal$( he had tro)ble with the lo&$* She,d messed it )p somehow whe' she,d fiddled it( he tho)-ht* e-i''er* He $'ew where to re't a bla&$bo1 that wo)ld ope'

a'%thi'- i' Cheap Hotel* <l)ores&e'ts &ame o' as he &rawled i'* +Close the hat&h real slow( frie'd* !o) still -ot that Sat)rda% 'i-ht spe&ial %o) re'ted from the waiter9, She sat with her ba&$ to the wall( at the far e'd of the &offi'* She had her $'ees )p( resti'- her wrists o' them2 the pepperbo1 m)44le of a fle&hette pistol emer-ed from her ha'ds* +That %o) i' the ar&ade9, He p)lled the hat&h dow'* +7here,s "i'da9, +Hit that lat&h swit&h*, He did* +That %o)r -irl9 "i'da9, He 'odded* +She,s -o'e* Too$ %o)r Hita&hi* Real 'ervo)s $id* 7hat abo)t the -)'( ma'9, She wore mirrored -lasses* Her &lothes were bla&$( the heels of bla&$ boots deep i' the temperfoam* +I too$ it ba&$ to Shi'( -ot m% deposit* Sold his b)llets ba&$ to him for half what I paid* !o) wa't the mo'e%9, +No*, +7a't some dr% i&e9 All I -ot( ri-ht 'ow*, +7hat -ot i'to %o) to'i-ht9 7h%,d %o) p)ll that s&e'e at the ar&ade9 I had to mess )p this re'ta&op &ame after me with ')'&h)&$s*, +"i'da said %o) were -o''a $ill me*, +"i'da said9 I 'ever saw her before I &ame )p here*, +!o) are',t with 7a-e9, She shoo$ her head* He reali4ed that the -lasses were s)r-i&all% i'set( seali'- her so&$ets* The silver le'ses seemed to -row from smooth pale s$i' above her &hee$bo'es( framed b% dar$ hair &)t i' a ro)-h sha-* The fi'-ers &)rled aro)'d the flet&her .1/ were sle'der( white( tipped with polished b)r-)'d%* The 'ails loo$ed artifi&ial* +I thi'$ %o)

s&rewed )p( Case* I showed )p a'd %o) 0)st fit me ri-ht i'to %o)r realit% pi&t)re*, +So what do %o) wa't( lad%9, He sa--ed ba&$ a-ai'st the hat&h* +!o)* O'e live bod%( brai's still somewhat i'ta&t* 8oll%( Case* 8% 'ame,s 8oll%* I,m &olle&ti'- %o) for the ma' I wor$ for* 3)st wa'ts to tal$2 is all* Nobod% wa'ts to h)rt %o)*, +That,s -ood*, +,Cept I do h)rt people sometimes( Case* I -)ess it,s 0)st the wa% I,m wired*, She wore ti-ht bla&$ -loveleather 0ea's a'd a b)l$% bla&$ 0a&$et &)t from some matte fabri& that seemed to absorb li-ht* +If I p)t this dart-)' awa%( will %o) be eas%( Case9 !o) loo$ li$e %o) li$e to ta$e st)pid &ha'&es*, +He%( I,m ver% eas%* I,m a p)shover( 'o problem*, +That,s fi'e( ma'*, The flet&her va'ished i'to the bla&$ 0a&$et* + e&a)se %o) tr% to f)&$ aro)'d with me( %o),ll be ta$i'- o'e of the st)pidest &ha'&es of %o)r whole life*, She held o)t her ha'ds( palms )p( the white fi'-ers sli-htl% spread( a'd with a barel% a)dible &li&$( te' do)ble-ed-ed( fo)r&e'timeter s&alpel blades slid from their ho)si'-s be'eath the b)r-)'d% 'ails* She smiled* The blades slowl% withdrew*

After a %ear of &offi's( the room o' the twe't%-fifth floor of the Chiba Hilto' seemed e'ormo)s* It was te' meters b% ei-ht( half of a s)ite* A white ra)' &offeema$er steamed o' a low table b% the slidi'- -lass pa'els that ope'ed o'to a 'arrow bal&o'%* +;et some &offee i' %o)* "oo$ li$e %o) 'eed it*, She too$ off her bla&$ 0a&$et2 the flet&her h)'- be'eath her arm i' a bla&$ '%lo' sho)lder ri-* She wore a sleeveless -ra% p)llover with plai' steel 4ips a&ross ea&h sho)lder* )lletproof* Case de&ided( sloppi'&offee i'to a bri-ht red m)-* His arms a'd le-s felt li$e the% were made o)t of wood* +Case*, He loo$ed )p( seei'- the ma' for the first time* +8% 'ame is Armita-e*, The dar$ robe was ope' to the waist( the broad &hest hairless a'd m)s&)lar( the stoma&h flat a'd

hard* l)e e%es so pale the% made Case thi'$ of blea&h* +S)',s )p( Case* This is %o)r l)&$% da%( bo%*, Case whipped his arm sidewa%s a'd the ma' easil% d)&$ed the s&aldi'- &offee* row' stai' r)''i'- dow' the imitatio' ri&epaper wall* He saw the a'-)lar -old ri'- thro)-h the left lobe* Spe&ial <or&es* The ma' smiled* +;et %o)r &offee( Case(, 8oll% said* +!o) re o$a%( b)t %o),re 'ot -oi'- a'%where ,til Armita-e has his sa%*, She sat &rossle--ed o' a sil$ f)to' a'd be-a' to fieldstrip the flet&her witho)t botheri'- to loo$ at it* Twi' mirrors tra&$i'- as he &rossed to the table a'd refilled his &)p* +Too %o)'- to remember the war( are',t %o)( Case9, Armita-e ra' a lar-e ha'd ba&$ thro)-h his &ropped brow' hair* A heav% -old bra&elet flashed o' his wrist* +"e'i'-rad( 5iev( Siberia* 7e i've'ted %o) i' Siberia( Case*, +7hat,s that s)pposed to mea'9, +S&reami'- <ist( Case* !o),ve heard the 'ame*, +Some $i'd of r)'( was',t it9 Tried to b)r' this R)ssia' 'e1)s with vir)s pro-rams* !eah( I heard abo)t it* A'd 'obod% -ot o)t*, He se'sed abr)pt te'sio'* Armita-e wal$ed to the wi'dow a'd loo$ed o)t over To$%o a%* +That is',t tr)e* O'e )'it made it ba&$ to Helsi'$i( Case*, Case shr)--ed( sipped &offee* +!o),re a &o'sole &owbo%* The protot%pes of the pro-rams %o) )se to &ra&$ i'd)strial ba'$s were developed for S&reami'- <ist* <or the assa)lt o' the 5ire's$ &omp)ter 'e1)s* asi& mod)le was a Ni-htwi'- mi&roli-ht( a pilot( a matri1 de&$( a 0o&$e%* 7e were r)''i'- a vir)s &alled 8ole* The 8ole series was the first -e'eratio' of real i'tr)sio' pro-rams*, +I&ebrea$ers(, Case said( over the rim of the red m)-* +I&e from ICE( i'tr)sio' &o)'termeas)res ele&tro'i&s*, +Problem is( mister( I,m 'o 0o&$e% 'ow( so I thi'$ I,ll 0)st be -oi'-***, +I was there( Case2 I was there whe' the% i've'ted %o)r $i'd*, +!o) -ot 4ip to do with me a'd m% $i'd b)dd%* !o),re ri&h e'o)-h to hire e1pe'sive

ra4or-irls to ha)l m% ass )p here( is all* I,m 'ever -o''a p)'&h a'% de&$ a-ai'( 'ot for %o) or a'%bod% else*, He &rossed to the wi'dow a'd loo$ed dow'* +That,s where I live 'ow*, +O)r profile sa%s %o),re tr%i'- to &o' the street i'to $illi'- %o) whe' %o),re 'ot loo$i'-*, +Profile9, +7e,ve b)ilt )p a detailed model* o)-ht a -o-to for ea&h of %o)r aliases a'd ra' the s$im thro)-h some militar% software* !o),re s)i&idal( Case* The model -ives %o) a mo'th o' the o)tside* A'd o)r medi&al pro0e&tio' sa%s %o),ll 'eed a 'ew pa'&reas i'side a %ear*, ++7e*,, He met the faded bl)e e%es* ++7e, who9, +7hat wo)ld %o) sa% if I told %o) we &o)ld &orre&t %o)r 'e)ral dama-e( Case9, Armita-e s)dde'l% loo$ed to Case as if he were &arved from a blo&$ of metal2 i'ert( e'ormo)sl% heav%* A stat)e* He $'ew 'ow that this was a dream( a'd that soo' he,d wa$e* Armita-e wo)ld',t spea$ a-ai'* Case,s dreams alwa%s e'ded i' these free4eframes( a'd 'ow this o'e was over* +7hat wo)ld %o) sa%( Case9, Case loo$ed o)t over the a% a'd shivered* +I,d sa% %o) were f)ll of shit*, Armita-e 'odded* +The' I,d as$ what %o)r terms were*, +Not ver% differe't tha' what %o),re )sed to( Case*, +"et the ma' -et some sleep( Armita-e(, 8oll% said from her f)to'( the &ompo'e'ts of the flet&her spread o' the sil$ li$e some e1pe'sive p)44le* +He,s &omi'- apart at the seams*, +Terms(, Case said( +a'd 'ow* Ri-ht 'ow*, He was still shiveri'-* He &o)ld',t stop shiveri'-* The &li'i& was 'ameless( e1pe'sivel% appoi'ted( a &l)ster of slee$ pavilio's separated b% small formal -arde's* He remembered the pla&e from the ro)'d he,d made his first

mo'th i' Chiba* +S&ared( Case* !o),re real s&ared*, It was S)'da% after'oo' a'd he stood with 8oll% i' a sort of &o)rt%ard* 7hite bo)lders( a sta'd of -ree' bamboo( bla&$ -ravel ra$ed i'to smooth waves* A -arde'er( a thi'- li$e a lar-e metal &rab( was te'di'- the bamboo* +It,ll wor$ Case* !o) -ot 'o idea( the $i'd of st)ff Armita-e has* "i$e he,s -o''a pa% these 'erve bo%s for fi1i'- %o) with the pro-ram he,s -ivi'- them to tell them how to do it* He,ll p)t them three %ears ahead of the &ompetitio'* !o) -ot a'% idea what that,s worth9, She hoo$ed th)mbs i' the beltloops of her leather 0ea's a'd ro&$ed ba&$ward o' the la&:)ered heels of &herr% red &owbo% boots* The 'arrow toes were sheathed i' bri-ht 8e1i&a' silver* The le'ses were empt% :)i&$silver( re-ardi'- him with a' i'se&t &alm* +!o),re street sam)rai(, he said* +How lo'- %o) wor$ for him9, +Co)ple of mo'ths*, +7hat abo)t before that9, +<or somebod% else* 7or$i'- -irl( %o) $'ow9, He 'odded* +<)''%( Case*, +7hat,s f)''%9, +It,s li$e I $'ow %o)* That profile he,s -ot* I $'ow how %o),re wired*, +!o) do',t $'ow me( sister*, +!o),re o$a%( Case* 7hat -ot %o)( it,s 0)st &alled bad l)&$*, +How abo)t him9 He o$a%( 8oll%9, The robot &rab moved toward them( pi&$i'- its wa% over the waves of -ravel* Its bro'4e &arapa&e mi-ht have bee' a tho)sa'd %ears old* 7he' it was withi' a meter of her boots( it fired a b)rst of li-ht( the' fro4e for a' i'sta't( a'al%4i'- data obtai'ed* +7hat I alwa%s thi'$ abo)t first( Case( is m% ow' sweet ass*, The &rab had altered &o)rse to avoid her( b)t she $i&$ed it with a smooth pre&isio'( the silver boot-tip &la'-i'- o' the &arapa&e* The thi'- fell o' its ba&$( b)t the bro'4e limbs soo' ri-hted it* Case sat o' o'e of the bo)lders( s&)ffi'- at the s%mmetr% of the -ravel waves with the

toes of his shoes* He be-a' to sear&h his po&$ets for &i-arettes* +I' %o)r shirt(, she said* +!o) wa't to a'swer m% :)estio'9, He fished a wri'$led !ehe%)a' from the pa&$ a'd she lit it for him with a thi' slab of ;erma' steel that loo$ed as tho)-h it belo'-ed o' a' operati'- table* +7ell( I,ll tell %o)( the ma',s defi'itel% o' to somethi'-* He,s -ot bi- mo'e% 'ow( a'd he,s 'ever had it before( a'd he -ets more all the time*, Case 'oti&ed a &ertai' te'sio' aro)'d her mo)th* +Or ma%be( ma%be somethi'-,s o' to him***, She shr)--ed* +7hat,s that mea'9, +I do',t $'ow( e1a&tl%* I $'ow I do',t $'ow who or what we,re reall% wor$i'- for*, He stared at the twi' mirrors* "eavi'- the Hilto'( Sat)rda% mor'i'-( he,d -o'e ba&$ to Cheap Hotel a'd slept for te' ho)rs* The' he,d ta$e' a lo'- a'd poi'tless wal$ alo'- the port,s se&)rit% perimeter( wat&hi'- the -)lls t)r' &ir&les be%o'd the &hai'li'$* If she,d followed him( she,d do'e a -ood 0ob of it* He,d avoided Ni-ht Cit%* He,d waited i' the &offi' for Armita-e,s &all* Now this :)iet &o)rt%ard( S)'da% after'oo'( this -irl with a -%m'ast,s bod% a'd &o'0)rer,s ha'ds* +If %o),ll &ome i' 'ow( sir( the a'esthetist is waiti'- to meet %o)*, The te&h'i&ia' bowed( t)r'ed( a'd ree'tered the &li'i& witho)t waiti'- to see if Case wo)ld follow* Cold steel odor* I&e &aressed his spi'e* "ost( so small amid that dar$( ha'ds -row' &old( bod% ima-e fadi'- dow' &orridors of televisio' s$%* Coi&es* The' bla&$ fire fo)'d the bra'&hi'- trib)taries of the 'erves( pai' be%o'd a'%thi'- to whi&h the 'ame of pai' is -ive'*** Hold still* Do',t move* A'd Rat4 was there( a'd "i'da "ee( 7a-e a'd "o''% 6o'e( a h)'dred fa&es from the 'eo' forest( sailors a'd h)stlers a'd whores( where the s$% is poiso'ed silver( be%o'd &hai'li'$ a'd the priso' of the s$)ll* ;oddam' do',t %o) move* 7here the s$% faded from hissi'- stati& to the 'o'&olor of the matri1( a'd he -limpsed

the sh)ri$e'( his stars* +Stop it( Case( I -otta fi'd %o)r vei'E, She was straddli'- his &hest( a bl)e plasti& s%rette i' o'e ha'd* +!o) do',t lie still( I,ll slit %o)r f)&$i'- throat* !o),re still f)ll of e'dorphi' i'hibitors*, He wo$e a'd fo)'d her stret&hed beside him i' the dar$* His 'e&$ was brittle( made of twi-s* There was a stead% p)lse of pai' midwa% dow' his spi'e* Ima-es formed a'd reformedA a fli&$eri'- mo'ta-e of the Sprawl,s towers a'd ra--ed <)ller domes( dim fi-)res movi'- toward him i' the shade be'eath a brid-e or overpass*** +Case9 It,s 7ed'esda%( Case*, She moved( rolli'- over( rea&hi'- a&ross him* A breast br)shed his )pper arm* He heard her tear the foil seal from a bottle of water a'd dri'$* +Here*, She p)t the bottle i' his ha'd* +I &a' see i' the dar$( Case* 8i&ro&ha''el ima-eamps i' m% -lasses*, +8% ba&$ h)rts*, +That,s where the% repla&ed %o)r fl)id* Cha'-ed %o)r blood( too* lood ,&a)se %o) -ot a 'ew pa'&reas throw' i'to the deal* A'd some 'ew tiss)e pat&hed i'to %o)r liver* The 'erve st)ff( I d)''o* "ot of i'0e&tio's* The% did',t have to ope' a'%thi'- )p for the mai' show*, She settled ba&$ beside him* +It,s =A@>A1= A8( Case* ;ot a reado)t &hipped i'to m% opti& 'erve*, He sat )p a'd tried to sip from the bottle* ;a--ed( &o)-hed( l)$ewarm water spra%i'his &hest a'd thi-hs* +I -otta p)'&h de&$(, he heard himself sa%* He was -ropi'- for his &lothes* +I -otta $'ow***, She la)-hed* Small stro'- ha'ds -ripped his )pper arms* +Sorr%( hotshot* Ei-ht da% wait* !o)r 'ervo)s s%stem wo)ld fall o)t o' the floor if %o) 0a&$ed i' 'ow* Do&tor,s orders* esides( the% fi-)re it wor$ed* Che&$ %o) i' a da% or so*, He la% dow' a-ai'* +7here are we9, +Home* Cheap Hotel*, +7here,s Armita-e9,

+Hilto'( selli'- beads to the 'atives or somethi'-* 7e,re o)t of here soo'( ma'* Amsterdam( Paris( the' ba&$ to the Sprawl*, She to)&hed his sho)lder* +Roll over* I -ive a -ood massa-e*, He la% o' his stoma&h( arms stret&hed forward( tips of his fi'-ers a-ai'st the walls of the &offi'* She settled over the small of his ba&$( $'eeli'- o' the temperfoam( the leather 0ea's &ool a-ai'st his s$i'* Her fi'-ers br)shed his 'e&$* +How &ome %o),re 'ot at the Hilto'9, She a'swered him b% rea&hi'- ba&$( betwee' his thi-hs( a'd -e'tl% e'&ir&li'- his s&rot)m with th)mb a'd forefi'-er* She ro&$ed there for a mi')te i' the dar$( ere&t above him( her other ha'd o' his 'e&$* The leather of her 0ea's &rea$ed softl% with the moveme't* Case shifted( feeli'- himself harde' a-ai'st the temperfoam* His head throbbed( b)t the brittle'ess i' his 'e&$ seemed to retreat* He raised himself o' o'e elbow( rolled( sa'$ ba&$ a-ai'st the foam( p)lli'- her dow'( li&$i'- her breasts( small hard 'ipples slidi'- wet a&ross his &hee$* He fo)'d the 4ip o' the leather 0ea's a'd t)--ed it dow'* +It,s o$a%(, she said( +I &a' see*, So)'d of the 0ea's peeli'- dow'* She str)--led beside him )'til she &o)ld $i&$ them awa%* She threw a le- a&ross him a'd he to)&hed her fa&e* #'e1pe&ted hard'ess of the impla'ted le'ses* +Do',t(, she said( +fi'-erpri'ts*, Now she straddled him a-ai'( too$ his ha'd( a'd &losed it over her( his th)mb alo'- the &left of her b)tto&$s( his fi'-ers spread a&ross the labia* As she be-a' to lower herself( the ima-es &ame p)lsi'- ba&$( the fa&es( fra-me'ts of 'eo' arrivi'- a'd re&edi'-* She slid dow' aro)'d him a'd his ba&$ ar&hed &o'v)lsivel%* She rode him that wa%( impali'- herself( slippi'- dow' o' him a-ai' a'd a-ai'( )'til the% both had &ome( his or-asm flari'- bl)e i' a timeless spa&e( a vast'ess li$e the matri1( where the fa&es were shredded a'd blow' awa% dow' h)rri&a'e &orridors( a'd her i''er thi-hs were stro'a'd wet a-ai'st his hips* O' Ni'sei( a thi''er( wee$da% versio' of the &rowd we't thro)-h the motio's of the da'&e* 7aves of so)'d rolled from the ar&ades a'd pa&hi'$o parlors* Case -la'&ed i'to the Chat a'd saw 6o'e wat&hi'- over his -irls i' the warm( beer-smelli'- twili-ht* Rat4 was te'di'- bar* +!o) see' 7a-e( Rat49, +Not to'i-ht*, Rat4 made a poi't of raisi'- a' e%ebrow at 8oll%* +!o) see him( tell him I -ot his mo'e%*,

+")&$ &ha'-i'-( m% artiste9, +Too soo' to tell*, +7ell( I -otta see this -)%(, Case said( wat&hi'- his refle&tio' i' her -lasses* +I -ot bi4 to &a'&el o)t of*, +Armita-e wo',t li$e it( I let %o) o)t of m% si-ht*, She stood be'eath Dea'e,s melti'&lo&$( ha'ds o' her hips* +The -)% wo',t tal$ to me if %o),re there* Dea'e I do',t -ive two shits abo)t* He ta$es &are of himself* )t I -ot people who,ll 0)st -o )'der if I wal$ o)t of Chiba &old* It,s m% people( %o) $'ow9, Her mo)th harde'ed* She shoo$ her head* +I -ot people i' Si'-apore( To$%o &o''e&tio's i' Shi'0)$) a'd Asa$)4a( a'd the%,ll -o dow'( )'dersta'd9, he lied( his ha'd o' the sho)lder of her bla&$ 0a&$et* +<ive* <ive mi')tes* % %o)r &lo&$( o$a%9, +Not what I,m paid for*, +7hat %o),re paid for is o'e thi'-* 8e letti'- some ti-ht frie'ds die be&a)se %o),re too literal abo)t %o)r i'str)&tio's is somethi'- else*, + )llshit* Ti-ht frie'ds m% ass* !o),re -oi'- i' there to &he&$ )s o)t with %o)r sm)--ler*, She p)t a booted foot )p o' the d)st-&overed 5a'di's$% &offee table* +Ah( Case( sport( it does loo$ as tho)-h %o)r &ompa'io' there is defi'itel% armed( aside from havi'- a fair amo)'t of sili&o' i' her head* 7hat is this abo)t( e1a&tl%9, Dea'e,s -hostl% &o)-h seemed to ha'- i' the air betwee' them* +Hold o'( 3)lie* A'%wa%( I,ll be &omi'- i' alo'e*, +!o) &a' be s)re of that( old so'* 7o)ld',t have it a'% other wa%*, +O$a%(, she said* +;o* )t five mi')tes* A'% more a'd I,ll &ome i' a'd &ool %o)r ti-ht frie'd perma'e'tl%* A'd while %o),re at it( %o) tr% to fi-)re somethi'- o)t*, +7hat,s that9, +7h% I,m doi'- %o) the favor*, She t)r'ed a'd wal$ed o)t( past the sta&$ed white mod)les of preserved -i'-er*

+5eepi'- stra'-er &ompa'% tha' )s)al( Case9, as$ed 3)lie* +3)lie( she,s -o'e* !o) wa''a let me i'9 Please( 3)lie9, The bolts wor$ed* +Slowl%( Case(, said the voi&e* +T)r' o' the wor$s( 3)lie( all the st)ff i' the des$(, Case said( ta$i'- his pla&e i' the swivel &hair* +It,s o' all the time(, Dea'e said mildl%( ta$i'- a -)' from behi'd the e1posed wor$s of his old me&ha'i&al t%pewriter a'd aimi'- it &aref)ll% at Case* It was a bell% -)'( a ma-')m revolver with the barrel saw' dow' to a ')b* The fro't of the tri--er -)ard had bee' &)t awa% a'd the -rips wrapped with what loo$ed li$e old mas$i'- tape* Case tho)-ht it loo$ed ver% stra'-e i' Dea',s ma'i&)red pi'$ ha'ds* +3)st ta$i'- &are( %o) )'dersta'd* Nothi'- perso'al* Now tell me what %o) wa't*, +I 'eed a histor% lesso'( 3)lie* A'd a -o-to o' somebod%*, +7hat,s movi'-( old so'9, Dea'e,s shirt was &a'd%-striped &otto'( the &ollar white a'd ri-id( li$e por&elai'* +8e( 3)lie* I,m leavi'-* ;o'e* )t do me the favor( o$a%9, +;o-to o' whom( old so'9, +;ai0i' 'ame of Armita-e( s)ite i' the Hilto'*, Dea'e p)t the pistol dow'* +Sit still( Case*, He tapped somethi'- o)t o' a lap termi'al* +It seems as tho)-h %o) $'ow as m)&h as m% 'et does( Case* This -e'tlema' seems to have a temporar% arra'-eme't with the !a$)4a( a'd the so's of the 'eo' &hr%sa'them)m have wa%s of s&ree'i'- their allies from the li$es of me* I wo)ld',t have it a'% other wa%* Now( histor%* !o) said histor%*, He pi&$ed )p the -)' a-ai'( b)t did',t poi't it dire&tl% at Case* +7hat sort of histor%9, +The war* !o) i' the war( 3)lie9, +The war9 7hat,s there to $'ow9 "asted three wee$s*, +S&reami'- <ist*, +<amo)s* Do',t the% tea&h %o) histor% these da%s9 ;reat blood% postwar politi&al football( that was* 7ater-ated all to hell a'd ba&$* !o)r brass( Case( %o)r Sprawlside brass i'( where was it( 8&"ea'9 I' the b)'$ers( all of that*** -reat s&a'dal* 7asted a fair

bit of patrioti& %o)'- flesh i' order to test some 'ew te&h'olo-%* The% $'ew abo)t the R)ssia's,B defe'ses( it &ame o)t later* 5'ew abo)t the emps( ma-'eti& p)lse weapo's* Se't these fellows i' re-ardless( 0)st to see*, Dea'e shr)--ed* +T)r$e% shoot for Iva'*, +A'% of those -)%s ma$e it o)t9, +Christ(, Dea'e said( +it,s bee' blood% %ears*** Tho)-h I do thi'$ a few did* O'e of the teams* ;ot hold of a Sov -)'ship* Heli&opter( %o) $'ow* <lew it ba&$ to <i'la'd* Did',t have e'tr% &odes( of &o)rse( a'd shot hell o)t of the <i''ish defe'se for&es i' the pro&ess* Spe&ial <or&es t%pes*, Dea'e s'iffed* + lood% hell*, Case 'odded* The smell of preserved -i'-er was overwhelmi'-* +I spe't the war i' "isbo'( %o) $'ow(, Dea'e said( p)tti'- the -)' dow'* +"ovel% pla&e( "isbo'*, +I' the servi&e( 3)lie9, +Hardl%* Tho)-h I did see a&tio'*, Dea'e smiled his pi'$ smile* +7o'derf)l what a war &a' do for o'e,s mar$ets*, +Tha'$s( 3)lie* I owe %o) o'e*, +Hardl%( Case* A'd -oodb%e*, A'd later he,d tell himself that the eve'i'- at Sammi,s had felt wro'- from the start( that eve' as he,d followed 8oll% alo'- that &orridor( sh)ffli'- thro)-h a trampled m)l&h of ti&$et st)bs a'd st%rofoam &)ps( he,d se'sed it* "i'da,s death( waiti'-*** The%,d -o'e to the Namba'( after he,d see' Dea'e( a'd paid off his debt to 7a-e with a roll of Armita-e,s New !e'* 7a-e had li$ed that( his bo%s had li$ed it less( a'd 8oll% had -ri''ed at Case,s side with a $i'd of e&stati& feral i'te'sit%( obvio)sl% lo'-i'- for o'e of them to ma$e a move* The' he,d ta$e' her ba&$ to the Chat for a dri'$* +7asti'- %o)r time( &owbo%(, 8oll% said( whe' Case too$ a' o&ta-o' from the po&$et of his 0a&$et* +How,s that9 !o) wa't o'e9, He held the pill o)t to her* +!o)r 'ew pa'&reas( Case( a'd those pl)-s i' %o)r liver* Armita-e had them desi-'ed to b%pass that shit*, She tapped the o&ta-o' with o'e b)r-)'d% 'ail* +!o),re bio&hemi&all% i'&apable of -etti'- off o' amphetami'e or &o&ai'e*,

+Shit(, he said* He loo$ed at the o&ta-o'( the' at her* +Eat it* Eat a do4e'* Nothi'-,ll happe'*, He did* Nothi'- did* Three beers later( she was as$i'- Rat4 abo)t the fi-hts* +Sammi,s(, Rat4 said* +I,ll pass(, Case said( +I hear the% $ill ea&h other dow' there*, A' ho)r later( she was b)%i'- ti&$ets from a s$i''% Thai i' a white t-shirt a'd ba--% r)-b% shorts* Sammi,s was a' i'flated dome behi'd a portside wareho)se( ta)t -ra% fabri& rei'for&ed with a 'et of thi' steel &ables* The &orridor( with a door at either e'd( was a &r)de airlo&$ preservi'- the press)re differe'tial that s)pported the dome* <l)ores&e't ri'-s were s&rewed to the pl%wood &eili'- at i'tervals( b)t most of them had bee' bro$e'* The air was damp a'd &lose with the smell of sweat a'd &o'&rete* No'e of that prepared him for the are'a( the &rowd( the te'se h)sh( the toweri'- p)ppets of li-ht be'eath the dome* Co'&rete sloped awa% i' tiers to a $i'd of &e'tral sta-e( a raised &ir&le ri'-ed with a -litteri'- thi&$et of pro0e&tio' -ear* No li-ht b)t the holo-rams that shifted a'd fli&$ered above the ri'-( reprod)&i'- the moveme'ts of the two me' below* Strata of &i-arette smo$e rose from the tiers( drifti'- )'til it str)&$ &)rre'ts set )p b% the blowers that s)pported the dome* No so)'d b)t the m)ted p)rri'of the blowers a'd the amplified breathi'- of the fi-hters* Refle&ted &olors flowed a&ross 8oll%,s le'ses as the me' &ir&led* The holo-rams were te'-power ma-'ifi&atio's2 at te'( the $'ives the% held were 0)st )'der a meter lo'-* The $'ifefi-hter,s -rip is the fe'&er,s -rip( Case remembered( the fi'-ers &)rled( th)mb ali-'ed with blade* The $'ives seemed to move of their ow' a&&ord( -lidi'- with a rit)al la&$ of )r-e'&% thro)-h the ar&s a'd passes of their da'&e( poi't passi'- poi't( as the me' waited for a' ope'i'-* 8oll%,s )pt)r'ed fa&e was smooth a'd still( wat&hi'-* +I,ll -o fi'd )s some food(, Case said* She 'odded( lost i' &o'templatio' of the da'&e* He did',t li$e this pla&e* He t)r'ed a'd wal$ed ba&$ i'to the shadows* Too dar$* Too :)iet* The &rowd( he saw( was mostl% 3apa'ese* Not reall% a Ni-ht Cit% &rowd* Te&hs dow'

from the ar&olo-ies* He s)pposed that mea't the are'a had the approval of some &orporate re&reatio'al &ommittee* He wo'dered briefl% what it wo)ld be li$e( wor$i'all %o)r life for o'e 4aibats) .1/* Compa'% ho)si'-( &ompa'% h%m'( &ompa'% f)'eral* He,d made 'earl% a f)ll &ir&)it of the dome before he fo)'d the food stalls* He bo)-ht %a$itori o' s$ewers a'd two tall wa1% &arto's of beer* ;la'&i'- )p at the holo-rams( he saw that blood la&ed o'e fi-)re,s &hest* Thi&$ brow' sa)&e tri&$led dow' the s$ewers a'd over his $')&$les* Seve' da%s a'd he,d 0a&$ i'* If he &losed his e%es 'ow( he,d see the matri1* Shadows twisted as the holo-rams sw)'- thro)-h their da'&e* The' the fear be-a' to $'ot betwee' his sho)lders* A &old tri&$le of sweat wor$ed its wa% dow' a'd a&ross his ribs* The operatio' had',t wor$ed* He was still here( still meat( 'o 8oll% waiti'-( her e%es lo&$ed o' the &ir&li'- $'ives( 'o Armita-e waiti'- i' the Hilto' with ti&$ets a'd a 'ew passport a'd mo'e%* It was all some dream( some patheti& fa'tas%*** Hot tears bl)rred his visio'* lood spra%ed from a 0)-)lar i' a red -o)t of li-ht* A'd 'ow the &rowd was s&reami'-( risi'-( s&reami'- -as o'e fi-)re &r)mpled( the holo-ram fadi'-( fli&$eri'-*** Raw ed-e of vomit i' his throat* He &losed his e%es( too$ a deep breath( ope'ed them( a'd saw "i'da "ee step past him( her -ra% e%es bli'd with fear* She wore the same <re'&h fati-)es* A'd -o'e* I'to shadow* P)re mi'dless refle1A he threw the beer a'd &hi&$e' dow' a'd ra' after her* He mi-ht have &alled her 'ame( b)t he,d 'ever be s)re* Afterima-e of a si'-le hair-fi'e li'e of red li-ht* Seared &o'&rete be'eath the thi' soles of his shoes* Her white s'ea$ers flashi'-( &lose to the &)rvi'- wall 'ow( a'd a-ai' the -host li'e of the laser bra'ded a&ross his e%e( bobbi'- i' his visio' as he ra'* Someo'e tripped him* Co'&rete tore his palms* He rolled a'd $i&$ed( faili'- to &o''e&t* A thi' bo%( spi$ed blo'd hair lit from behi'd i' a rai'bow 'imb)s( was lea'i'- over him* Above the sta-e( a fi-)re t)r'ed( $'ife held hi-h( to the &heeri'- &rowd* The bo% smiled a'd drew somethi'- from his sleeve* A ra4or( et&hed i' red as a third beam bli'$ed past them i'to the dar$* Case saw the ra4or

dippi'- for his throat li$e a dowser,s wa'd* The fa&e was erased i' a h)mmi'- &lo)d of mi&ros&opi& e1plosio's* 8oll%,s flet&hettes( at twe't% ro)'ds per se&o'd* The bo% &o)-hed o'&e( &o'v)lsivel%( a'd toppled a&ross Case,s le-s* He was wal$i'- toward the stalls( i'to the shadows* He loo$ed dow'( e1pe&ti'- to see that 'eedle of r)b% emer-e from his &hest* Nothi'-* He fo)'d her* She was throw' dow' at the foot of a &o'&rete pillar( e%es &losed* There was a smell of &oo$ed meat* The &rowd was &ha'ti'- the wi''er,s 'ame* A beer ve'dor was wipi'- his taps with a dar$ ra-* O'e white s'ea$er had &ome off( somehow( a'd la% beside her head* <ollow the wall* C)rve of &o'&rete* Ha'ds i' po&$ets* 5eep wal$i'-* Past )'seei'fa&es( ever% e%e raised to the vi&tor,s ima-e above the ri'-* O'&e a seamed E)ropea' fa&e da'&ed i' the -lare of a mat&h( lips p)rsed aro)'d the short stem of a metal pipe* Ta'- of hashish* Case wal$ed o'( feeli'- 'othi'-* +Case*, Her mirrors emer-ed from deeper shadow* +!o) o$a%9, Somethi'- mewled a'd b)bbled i' the dar$ behi'd her* He shoo$ his head* +<i-ht,s over( Case* Time to -o home*, He tried to wal$ past her( ba&$ i'to the dar$( where somethi'- was d%i'-* She stopped him with a ha'd o' his &hest* +<rie'ds of %o)r ti-ht frie'd* 5illed %o)r -irl for %o)* !o) have',t do'e too well for frie'ds i' this tow'( have %o)9 7e -ot a partial profile o' that old bastard whe' we did %o)( ma'* He,d fr% a'%bod%( for a few New o'es* The o'e ba&$ there said the% -ot o' to her whe' she was tr%i'- to fe'&e %o)r RA8* 3)st &heaper for them to $ill her a'd ta$e it* Save a little mo'e%*** I -ot the o'e who had the laser to tell me all abo)t it* Coi'&ide'&e we were here( b)t I had to ma$e s)re*, Her mo)th was hard( lips pressed i'to a thi' li'e* Case felt as tho)-h his brai' were 0ammed* +7ho(, he said( +who se't them9, She passed him a blood-fle&$ed ba- of preserved -i'-er* He saw that her ha'ds were sti&$% with blood* a&$ i' the shadows( someo'e made wet so)'ds a'd died* After the postoperative &he&$ at the &li'i&( 8oll% too$ him to the port* Armita-e was waiti'-* He,d &hartered a hover&raft* The last Case saw of Chiba were the dar$ a'-les of the ar&olo-ies* The' a mist &losed over the bla&$ water a'd the drifti'- shoals of waste*

PART T7O

THE SHOPPIN; EDPEDITION

>

Home* Home was A8A( the Sprawl( the osto'-Atla'ta 8etropolita' A1is* Pro-ram a map to displa% fre:)e'&% of data e1&ha'-e( ever% tho)sa'd me-ab%tes a si'-le pi1el o' a ver% lar-e s&ree'* 8a'hatta' a'd Atla'ta b)r' solid white* The' the% start to p)lse( the rate of traffi& threate'i'- to overload %o)r sim)latio'* !o)r map is abo)t to -o 'ova* Cool it dow'* #p %o)r s&ale* Ea&h pi1el a millio' me-ab%tes* At a h)'dred millio' me-ab%tes per se&o'd( %o) be-i' to ma$e o)t &ertai' blo&$s i' midtow' 8a'hatta'( o)tli'es of h)'dred-%ear-old i'd)strial par$s ri'-i'- the old &ore of Atla'ta*** Case wo$e from a dream of airports( of 8oll%,s dar$ leathers movi'- ahead of him thro)-h the &o'&o)rses of Narita( S&hipol( Orl%*** He wat&hed himself b)% a flat plasti& flas$ of Da'ish vod$a at some $ios$( a' ho)r before daw'* Somewhere dow' i' the Sprawl,s ferro-&o'&rete roots( a trai' drove a &ol)m' of stale air thro)-h a t)''el* The trai' itself was sile't( -lidi'- over its i'd)&tio' &)shio'( b)t displa&ed air made the t)''el si'-( bass dow' i'to s)bso'i&s* Cibratio' rea&hed the room where he la% a'd &a)sed d)st to rise from the &ra&$s i' the dessi&ated par:)et floor* Ope'i'- his e%es( he saw 8oll%( 'a$ed a'd 0)st o)t of rea&h a&ross a' e1pa'se of ver% 'ew pi'$ temperfoam* Overhead( s)'li-ht filtered thro)-h the soot-stai'ed -rid of a s$%li-ht* O'e half-meter s:)are of -lass had bee' repla&ed with &hipboard( a fat -ra% &able emer-i'- there to da'-le withi' a few &e'timeters of the floor* He la% o' his side a'd wat&hed her breathe( her breasts( the sweep of a fla'$ defi'ed with the f)'&tio'al

ele-a'&e of a war pla'e,s f)sila-e* Her bod% was spare( 'eat( the m)s&les li$e a da'&er,s* The room was lar-e* He sat )p* The room was empt%( aside from the wide pi'$ bedslab a'd two '%lo' ba-s( 'ew a'd ide'ti&al( that la% beside it* la'$ walls( 'o wi'dows( a si'-le white-pai'ted steel firedoor* The walls were &oated with &o)'tless la%ers of white late1 pai't* <a&tor% spa&e* He $'ew this $i'd of room( this $i'd of b)ildi'-2 the te'a'ts wo)ld operate i' the i'ter4o'e where art was',t :)ite &rime( &rime 'ot :)ite art* He was home* He sw)'- his feet to the floor* It was made of little blo&$s of wood( some missi'-( others loose* His head a&hed* He remembered Amsterdam( a'other room( i' the Old Cit% se&tio' of the Ce'tr)m( b)ildi'-s &e't)ries old* 8oll% ba&$ from the &a'al,s ed-e with ora'-e 0)i&e a'd e--s* Armita-e off o' some &r%pti& fora%( the two of them wal$i'alo'e past Dam S:)are to a bar she $'ew o' a Damra$ thoro)-hfare* Paris was a bl)rred dream* Shoppi'-* She,d ta$e' him shoppi'-* He stood( p)lli'- o' a wri'$led pair of 'ew bla&$ 0ea's that la% at his feet( a'd $'elt beside the ba-s* The first o'e he ope'ed was 8oll%,sA 'eatl% folded &lothi'- a'd small e1pe'sive-loo$i'- -ad-ets* The se&o'd was st)ffed with thi'-s he did',t remember b)%i'-A boo$s( tapes( a simstim de&$( &lothi'- with <re'&h a'd Italia' labels* e'eath a -ree' t-shirt( he dis&overed a flat( ori-ami-wrapped pa&$a-e( re&%&led 3apa'ese paper* The paper tore whe' he pi&$ed it )p2 a bri-ht 'i'e-poi'ted star fell -to sti&$ )pri-ht i' a &ra&$ i' the par:)et* +So)ve'ir(, 8oll% said* +I 'oti&ed %o) were alwa%s loo$i'- at ,em*, He t)r'ed a'd saw her sitti'- &rossle--ed o' the bed( sleepil% s&rat&hi'- her stoma&h with b)r-)'d% 'ails* +Someo'e,s &omi'- later to se&)re the pla&e(, Armita-e said* He stood i' the ope' doorwa% with a' old-fashio'ed ma-'eti& $e% i' his ha'd* 8oll% was ma$i'- &offee o' a ti'% ;erma' stove she too$ from her ba-* +I &a' do it(, she said* +I -ot e'o)-h -ear alread%* I'fras&a' perimeter( s&reamers***, +No(, he said( &losi'- the door* +I wa't it ti-ht*, +S)it %o)rself*, She wore a dar$ mesh t-shirt t)&$ed i'to ba--% bla&$ &otto' pa'ts* +!o) ever the heat( 8r*B Armita-e9, Case as$ed( from where he sat( his ba&$ a-ai'st a wall* Armita-e was 'o taller tha' Case( b)t with his broad sho)lders a'd militar% post)re he

seemed to fill the doorwa%* He wore a somber Italia' s)it2 i' his ri-ht ha'd he held a brief&ase of soft bla&$ &alf* The Spe&ial <or&es earri'- was -o'e* The ha'dsome( i'e1pressive feat)res offered the ro)ti'e bea)t% of the &osmeti& bo)ti:)es( a &o'servative amal-am of the past de&ade,s leadi'- media fa&es* The pale -litter of his e%es hei-hte'ed the effe&t of a mas$* Case be-a' to re-ret the :)estio'* +"ots of <or&es t%pes wo)'d )p &ops( I mea'* Or &orporate se&)rit%(, Case added )'&omfortabl%* 8oll% ha'ded him a steami'- m)- of &offee* +That ')mber %o) had them do o' m% pa'&reas( that,s li$e a &op ro)ti'e*, Armita-e &losed the door a'd &rossed the room( to sta'd i' fro't of Case* +!o),re a l)&$% bo%( Case* !o) sho)ld tha'$ me*, +Sho)ld I9, Case blew 'oisil% o' his &offee* +!o) 'eeded a 'ew pa'&reas* The o'e we bo)-ht for %o) frees %o) from a da'-ero)s depe'de'&%*, +Tha'$s( b)t I was e'0o%i'- that depe'de'&%*, +;ood( be&a)se %o) have a 'ew o'e*, +How,s that9, Case loo$ed )p from his &offee* Armita-e was smili'-* +!o) have fiftee' to1i' sa&s bo'ded to the li'i'- of vario)s mai' arteries( Case* The%,re dissolvi'-* Cer% slowl%( b)t the% defi'itel% are dissolvi'-* Ea&h o'e &o'tai's a m%&oto1i'* !o),re alread% familiar with the effe&t of that m%&oto1i'* It was the o'e %o)r former emplo%ers -ave %o) i' 8emphis*, Case bli'$ed )p at the smili'- mas$* +!o) have time to do what I,m hiri'- %o) for( Case( b)t that,s all* Do the 0ob a'd I &a' i'0e&t %o) with a' e'4%me that will dissolve the bo'd witho)t ope'i'- the sa&s* The' %o),ll 'eed a blood &ha'-e* Otherwise( the sa&s melt a'd %o),re ba&$ where I fo)'d %o)* So %o) see( Case( %o) 'eed )s* !o) 'eed )s as badl% as %o) did whe' we s&raped %o) )p from the -)tter*, Case loo$ed at 8oll%* She shr)--ed* +Now -o dow' to the frei-ht elevator a'd bri'- )p the &ases %o) fi'd there*, Armita-e ha'ded him the ma-'eti& $e%* +;o o'* !o),ll e'0o% this( Case* "i$e Christmas mor'i'-*, S)mmer i' the Sprawl( the mall &rowds swa%i'- li$e wi'dblow' -rass( a field of flesh

shot thro)-h with s)dde' eddies of 'eed a'd -ratifi&atio'* He sat beside 8oll% i' filtered s)'li-ht o' the rim of a dr% &o'&rete fo)'tai'( letti'- the e'dless stream of fa&es re&apit)late the sta-es of his life* <irst a &hild with hooded e%es( a street bo%( ha'ds rela1ed a'd read% at his sides2 the' a tee'a-er( fa&e smooth a'd &r%pti& be'eath red -lasses* Case remembered fi-hti'- o' a rooftop at seve'tee'( sile't &ombat i' the rose -low of the daw' -eodesi&s* .1/ He shifted o' the &o'&rete( feeli'- it ro)-h a'd &ool thro)-h the thi' bla&$ de'im* Nothi'- here li$e the ele&tri& da'&e of Ni'sei* This was differe't &ommer&e( a differe't rh%thm( i' the smell of fast food a'd perf)me a'd fresh s)mmer sweat* 7ith his de&$ waiti'-( ba&$ i' the loft( a' O'o-Se'dai C%berspa&e H* The%,d left the pla&e littered with the abstra&t white forms of the foam pa&$i'- )'its( with &r)mpled plasti& film a'd h)'dreds of ti'% foam beads* The O'o-Se'dai2 'e1t %ear,s most e1pe'sive Hosa$a &omp)ter2 a So'% mo'itor2 a do4e' dis$s of &orporate--rade i&e2 a ra)' &offeema$er* Armita-e had o'l% waited for Case,s approval of ea&h pie&e* +7here,d he -o9, Case had as$ed 8oll%* +He li$es hotels* i- o'es* Near airports( if he &a' ma'a-e it* "et,s -o dow' to the street*, She,d 4ipped herself i'to a' old s)rpl)s vest with a do4e' oddl% shaped po&$ets a'd p)t o' a h)-e pair of bla&$ plasti& s)'-lasses that &ompletel% &overed her mirrored i'sets* +!o) $'ow abo)t that to1i' shit( before9, he as$ed her( b% the fo)'tai'* She shoo$ her head* +!o) thi'$ it,s tr)e9, +8a%be( ma%be 'ot* 7or$s either wa%*, +!o) $'ow a'% wa% I &a' fi'd o)t9, +No(, she said( her ri-ht ha'd &omi'- )p to form the 0ive for sile'&e* +That $i'd of $i'$,s too s)btle to show )p o' a s&a'*, The' her fi'-ers moved a-ai'A wait* +A'd %o) do',t &are that m)&h a'%wa%* I saw %o) stro$i'- that Se'dai2 ma'( it was por'o-raphi&*, She la)-hed* +So what,s he -ot o' %o)9 How,s he -ot the wor$i'- -irl $i'$ed9, +Professio'al pride( bab%( that,s all*, A'd a-ai' the si-' for sile'&e* +7e,re -o''a -et some brea$fast( o$a%9 E--s( real ba&o'* Probabl% $ill %o)( %o) bee' eati'- that reb)ilt Chiba $rill for so lo'-* !eah( &ome o'( we,ll t)be i' to 8a'hatta' a'd -et )s a real brea$fast*,

"ifeless 'eo' spelled o)t 8ETRO HO"O;RA<ID i' d)st% &apitals of -lass t)bi'-* Case pi&$ed at a shred of ba&o' that had lod-ed betwee' his fro't teeth* He,d -ive' )p as$i'- her where the% were -oi'- a'd wh%2 0abs i' the ribs a'd the si-' for sile'&e were all he,d -otte' i' repl%* She tal$ed abo)t the seaso',s fashio's( abo)t sports( abo)t a politi&al s&a'dal i' Califor'ia he,d 'ever heard of* He loo$ed aro)'d the deserted dead e'd street* A sheet of 'ewspri't we't &artwheeli'past the i'terse&tio'* <rea$ wi'ds i' the East side2 somethi'- to do with &o've&tio'( a'd a' overlap i' the domes* Case peered thro)-h the wi'dow at the dead si-'* Her Sprawl was',t his Sprawl( he de&ided* She,d led him thro)-h a do4e' bars a'd &l)bs he,d 'ever see' before( ta$i'- &are of b)si'ess( )s)all% with 'o more tha' a 'od* 8ai'tai'i'&o''e&tio's* Somethi'- was movi'- i' the shadows behi'd 8ETRO HO"O;RA<ID* The door was a sheet of &orr)-ated roofi'-* I' fro't of it( 8oll%,s ha'ds flowed thro)-h a' i'tri&ate se:)e'&e of 0ive that he &o)ld',t follow* He &a)-ht the si-' for &ash( a th)mb br)shi'- the tip of the forefi'-er* The door sw)'- i'ward a'd she led him i'to the smell of d)st* The% stood i' a &leari'-( de'se ta'-les of 0)'$ risi'- o' either side to walls li'ed with shelves of &r)mbli'- paperba&$s* The 0)'$ loo$ed li$e somethi'- that had -row' there( a f)'-)s of twisted metal a'd plasti&* He &o)ld pi&$ o)t i'divid)al ob0e&ts( b)t the' the% seemed to bl)r ba&$ i'to the massA the -)ts of a televisio' so old it was st)dded with the -lass st)mps of va&))m t)bes( a &r)mpled dish a'te''a( a brow' fiber &a'ister st)ffed with &orroded le'-ths of allo% t)bi'-* A' e'ormo)s pile of old ma-a4i'es had &as&aded i'to the ope' area( flesh of lost s)mmers stari'- bli'dl% )p as he followed her ba&$ thro)-h a 'arrow &a'%o' of impa&ted s&rap* He heard the door &lose behi'd them* He did',t loo$ ba&$* The t)''el e'ded with a' a'&ie't Arm% bla'$et ta&$ed a&ross a doorwa%* 7hite li-ht flooded o)t as 8oll% d)&$ed past it* <o)r s:)are walls of bla'$ white plasti&( &eili'- to mat&h( floored with white hospital tile molded i' a 'o'slip patter' of small raised dis$s* I' the &e'ter stood a s:)are( whitepai'ted woode' table a'd fo)r white foldi'- &hairs* The ma' who stood bli'$i'- 'ow i' the doorwa% behi'd them( the bla'$et drapi'- o'e sho)lder li$e a &ape( seemed to have bee' desi-'ed i' a wi'd t)''el* His ears were ver% small( plastered flat a-ai'st his 'arrow s$)ll( a'd his lar-e fro't teeth( revealed i' somethi'- that was',t :)ite a smile( were &a'ted sharpl% ba&$ward* He wore a' a'&ie't tweed 0a&$et a'd held a ha'd-)' of some $i'd i' his left ha'd* He peered at them( bli'$ed( a'd dropped the -)' i'to a 0a&$et po&$et* He -est)red to Case( poi'ted at a slab of white plasti& that lea'ed 'ear the doorwa%* Case &rossed to it a'd saw that it was a

solid sa'dwi&h of &ir&)itr%( 'earl% a &e'timeter thi&$* He helped the ma' lift it a'd positio' it i' the doorwa%* ?)i&$( 'i&oti'e-stai'ed fi'-ers se&)red it with a white vel&ro border* A hidde' e1ha)st fa' be-a' to p)rr* +Time(, the ma' said( strai-hte'i'- )p( +a'd &o)'ti'-* !o) $'ow the rate( 8oll*, +7e 'eed a s&a'( <i''* <or impla'ts*, +So -et over there betwee' the p%lo's* Sta'd o' the tape* Strai-hte' )p( %eah* Now t)r' aro)'d( -imme a f)ll threesi1t%*, Case wat&hed her rotate betwee' two fra-ile-loo$i'sta'ds st)dded with se'sors* The ma' too$ a small mo'itor from his po&$et a'd s:)i'ted at it* +Somethi'- 'ew i' %o)r head( %eah* Sili&o'( &oat of p%roliti& &arbo's* A &lo&$( ri-ht9 !o)r -lasses -imme the read the% alwa%s have( low-temp isotropi& &arbo's* etter bio&ompatibilit% with p%roliti&s( b)t that,s %o)r b)si'ess( ri-ht9 Same with %o)r &laws*, +;et over here( Case*, He saw a s&)ffed D i' bla&$ o' the white floor* +T)r' aro)'d* Slow*, +;)%,s a vir-i'*, The ma' shr)--ed* +Some &heap de'tal wor$( is all*, +!o) read for biolo-i&als9, 8oll% )'4ipped her -ree' vest a'd too$ off the dar$ -lasses* +!o) thi'$ this is the 8a%o9 Climb o' the table( $id( we,ll r)' a little biops%*, He la)-hed( showi'- more of his %ellow teeth* +Nah* <i'',s word( sweetmeat( %o) -ot 'o little b)-s( 'o &orte1 bombs* !o) wa't me to sh)t the s&ree' dow'9, +3)st for as lo'- as it ta$es %o) to leave( <i''* The' we,ll wa't f)ll s&ree' for as lo'- as we wa't it*, +He%( that,s fi'e b% the <i''( 8oll* !o),re o'l% pa%i'- b% the se&o'd*, The% sealed the door behi'd him a'd 8oll% t)r'ed o'e of the white &hairs aro)'d a'd sat o' it( &hi' resti'- o' &rossed forearms* +7e tal$ 'ow* This is as private as I &a' afford*, +7hat abo)t9, +7hat we,re doi'-*, +7hat are we doi'-9, +7or$i'- for Armita-e*,

+A'd %o),re sa%i'- this is',t for his be'efit9, +!eah* I saw %o)r profile( Case* A'd I,ve see' the rest of o)r shoppi'- list( o'&e* !o) ever wor$ with the dead9, +No*, He wat&hed his refle&tio' i' her -lasses* +I &o)ld* I -)ess* I,m -ood at what I do*, The prese't te'se made him 'ervo)s* +!o) $'ow that the Di1ie <latli'e,s dead9, He 'odded* +Heart( I heard*, +!o),ll be wor$i'- with his &o'str)&t*, She smiled* +Ta)-ht %o) the ropes( h)h9 Him a'd ?)i'e* I $'ow ?)i'e( b% the wa%* Real asshole*, +Somebod%,s -ot a re&ordi'- of 8&Co% Pa)le%9 7ho9, Now Case sat( a'd rested his elbows o' the table* +I &a',t see it* He,d 'ever have sat still for it*, +Se'seINet* Paid him me-a( %o) bet %o)r ass*, +?)i'e dead too9, +No s)&h l)&$* He,s i' E)rope* He does',t &ome i'to this*, +7ell( if we &a' -et the <latli'e( we,re home free* He was the best* !o) $'ow he died brai'death three times9, She 'odded* +<latli'ed o' his EE;* Showed me tapes* o%( I was daid*, +"oo$( Case( I bee' tr%i'- to s)ss o)t who it is is ba&$i'- Armita-e si'&e I si-'ed o'* )t it does',t feel li$e a 4aibats)( a -over'me't( or some !a$)4a s)bsidiar%* Armita-e -ets orders* "i$e somethi'- tells him to -o off to Chiba( pi&$ )p a pillhead who,s ma$i'o'e last wobble thro)-h the b)r'o)t belt( a'd trade a pro-ram for the operatio' that,ll fi1 him )p* 7e &o)lda bo)-ht twe't% world &lass &owbo%s for what the mar$et was read% to pa% for that s)r-i&al pro-ram* !o) were -ood( b)t 'ot that -ood***, She s&rat&hed the side of her 'ose* +Obvio)sl% ma$es se'se to somebod%(, he said* +Somebod% bi-*, +Do',t let me h)rt %o)r feeli'-s*, She -ri''ed* +7e,re -o''a be p)lli'- o'e hard&ore r)'( Case( 0)st to -et the <latli'e,s &o'str)&t* Se'seINet has it lo&$ed i' a librar% va)lt

)ptow'* Ti-hter tha' a' eel,s ass( Case* Now( Se'seINet( the% -ot all their 'ew material for the fall seaso' lo&$ed i' there too* Steal that a'd we,d be ri&her tha' shit* )t 'o( we -otta -et )s the <latli'e a'd 'othi'- else* 7eird*, +!eah( it,s all weird* !o),re weird( this hole,s weird( a'd who,s the weird little -opher o)tside i' the hall9, +<i'',s a' old &o''e&tio' of mi'e* <e'&e( mostl%* Software* This priva&% bi4 is a sideli'e* )t I -ot Armita-e to let him be o)r te&h here( so whe' he shows )p later( %o) 'ever saw him* ;ot it9, +So what,s Armita-e -ot dissolvi'- i'side %o)9, +I,m a' eas% ma$e*, She smiled* +A'%bod% a'% -ood at what the% do( that,s what the% are( ri-ht9 !o) -otta 0a&$( I -otta t)ssle*, He stared at her* +So tell me what %o) $'ow abo)t Armita-e*, +<or starters( 'obod% 'amed Armita-e too$ part i' a'% S&reami'- <ist* I &he&$ed* )t that does',t mea' m)&h* He does',t loo$ li$e a'% of the pi&s of the -)%s who -ot o)t*, She shr)--ed* + i- deal* A'd starters is all I -ot*, She dr)mmed her 'ails o' the ba&$ of the &hair* + )t %o) are a &owbo%( are',t %o)9 I mea'( ma%be %o) &o)ld have a little loo$ aro)'d*, She smiled* +He,d $ill me*, +8a%be* 8a%be 'ot* I thi'$ he 'eeds %o)( Case( a'd real bad* esides( %o),re a &lever 0oh'( 'o9 !o) &a' wi'$le him( s)re*, +7hat else is o' that list %o) me'tio'ed9, +To%s* 8ostl% for %o)* A'd o'e &ertified ps%&hopath 'ame of Peter Riviera* Real )-l% &)stomer*, +7here,s he9, +D)''o* )t he,s o'e si&$ f)&$( 'o lie* I saw his profile*, She made a fa&e* +;odawf)l*, She stood )p a'd stret&hed( &atli$e* +So we -ot a' a1is -oi'-( bo%9 7e,re to-ether i' this9 Part'ers9, Case loo$ed at her* +I -otta lotta &hoi&e( h)h9, She la)-hed* +!o) -ot it( &owbo%*,

+The matri1 has its roots i' primitive ar&ade -ames(, said the voi&e-over( +i' earl% -raphi&s pro-rams a'd militar% e1perime'tatio' with &ra'ial 0a&$s*, O' the So'%( a twodime'sio'al spa&e war faded behi'd a forest of mathemati&all% -e'erated fer's( demo'strati'- the spa&ial possibilities of lo-arithmi& spirals2 &old bl)e militar% foota-e b)r'ed thro)-h( lab a'imals wired i'to test s%stems( helmets feedi'- i'to fire &o'trol &ir&)its of ta'$s a'd war pla'es* +C%berspa&e* A &o'se's)al hall)&i'atio' e1perie'&ed dail% b% billio's of le-itimate operators( i' ever% 'atio'( b% &hildre' bei'- ta)-ht mathemati&al &o'&epts*** A -raphi& represe'tatio' of data abstra&ted from the ba'$s of ever% &omp)ter i' the h)ma' s%stem* #'thi'$able &omple1it%* "i'es of li-ht ra'-ed i' the 'o'spa&e of the mi'd( &l)sters a'd &o'stellatio's of data* "i$e &it% li-hts( re&edi'-***, +7hat,s that9, 8oll% as$ed( as he flipped the &ha''el sele&tor* +5id,s show*, A dis&o'ti')o)s flood of ima-es as the sele&tor &%&led* +Off(, he said to the Hosa$a* +!o) wa't to tr% 'ow( Case9, 7ed'esda%* Ei-ht da%s from wa$i'- i' Cheap Hotel with 8oll% beside him* +!o) wa't me to -o o)t( Case9 8a%be easier for %o)( alo'e***, He shoo$ his head* +No* Sta%( does',t matter*, He settled the bla&$ terr% sweatba'd a&ross his forehead( &aref)l 'ot to dist)rb the flat Se'dai dermatrodes .1/* He stared at the de&$ o' his lap( 'ot reall% seei'- it( seei'- i'stead the shop wi'dow o' Ni'sei( the &hromed sh)ri$e' b)r'i'- with refle&ted 'eo'* He -la'&ed )p2 o' the wall( 0)st above the So'%( he,d h)'her -ift( ta&$i'- it there with a %ellow-headed drawi'- pi' thro)-h the hole at its &e'ter* He &losed his e%es* <o)'d the rid-ed fa&e of the power st)d* A'd i' the bloodlit dar$ behi'd his e%es( silver phosphe'es boili'- i' from the ed-e of spa&e( h%p'a-o-i& ima-es 0er$i'- past li$e film &ompiled from ra'dom frames* S%mbols( fi-)res( fa&es( a bl)rred( fra-me'ted ma'dala of vis)al i'formatio'* Please( he pra%ed( 'ow -A -ra% dis$( the &olor of Chiba s$%* Now -Dis$ be-i''i'- to rotate( faster( be&omi'- a sphere of paler -ra%* E1pa'di'- --

A'd flowed( flowered for him( fl)id 'eo' ori-ami tri&$( the )'foldi'- of his dista'&eless home( his &o)'tr%( tra'spare't >D &hessboard e1te'di'- to i'fi'it%* I''er e%e ope'i'- to the stepped s&arlet p%ramid of the Easter' Seaboard <issio' A)thorit% b)r'i'- be%o'd the -ree' &)bes of 8its)bishi a'$ of Ameri&a( a'd hi-h a'd ver% far awa% he saw the spiral arms of militar% s%stems( forever be%o'd his rea&h* A'd somewhere he was la)-hi'-( i' a white-pai'ted loft( dista't fi'-ers &aressi'- the de&$( tears of release strea$i'- his fa&e* 8oll% was -o'e whe' he too$ the trodes off( a'd the loft was dar$* He &he&$ed the time* He,d bee' i' &%berspa&e for five ho)rs* He &arried the O'o-Se'dai to o'e of the 'ew wor$tables a'd &ollapsed a&ross the bedslab( p)lli'- 8oll%,s bla&$ sil$ sleepi'- baover his head* The se&)rit% pa&$a-e taped to the steel firedoor bleeped twi&e* +E'tr% re:)ested(, it said* +S)b0e&t is &leared per m% pro-ram*, +So ope' it*, Case p)lled the sil$ from his fa&e a'd sat )p as the door ope'ed( e1pe&ti'to see 8oll% or Armita-e* +Christ(, said a hoarse voi&e( +I $'ow that bit&h &a' see i' the dar$***, A s:)at fi-)re stepped i' a'd &losed the door* +T)r' the li-hts o'( o$a%9, Case s&rambled off the slab a'd fo)'d the old-fashio'ed swit&h* +I,m the <i''(, said the <i''( a'd made a war'i'- fa&e at Case* +Case*, +Pleased to mee&ha( I,m s)re* I,m doi'- some hardware for %o)r boss( it loo$s li$e*, The <i'' fished a pa&$ of Parta-as from a po&$et a'd lit o'e* The smell of C)ba' toba&&o filled the room* He &rossed to the wor$table a'd -la'&ed at the O'o Se'dai* +"oo$s sto&$* Soo' fi1 that* )t here,s %o)r problem( $id*, He too$ a filth% ma'ila e'velope from i'side his 0a&$et( fli&$ed ash o' the floor( a'd e1tra&ted a feat)reless bla&$ re&ta'-le from the e'velope* +;oddam' fa&tor% protot%pes(, he said( tossi'- the thi'dow' o' the table* +Cast ,em i'to a blo&$ of pol%&arbo'( &a',t -et i' with a laser witho)t fr%i'- the wor$s* oob%-trapped for 1-ra%( )ltras&a'( ;od $'ows what else* 7e,ll -et i'( b)t there,s 'o rest for the wi&$ed( ri-ht9, He folded the e'velope with -reat &are a'd t)&$ed it awa% i' a' i'side po&$et* +7hat is it9, +It,s a flipflop swit&h( basi&all%* 7ire it i'to %o)r Se'dai here( %o) &a' a&&ess live or re&orded simstim witho)t havi'- to 0a&$ o)t of the matri1*,

+7hat for9, +I have',t -ot a &l)e* 5'ow I,m fitti'- 8oll for a broad&ast ri-( tho)-h( so it,s probabl% her se'sori)m %o),ll a&&ess*, The <i'' s&rat&hed his &hi'* +So 'ow %o) -et to fi'd o)t 0)st how ti-ht those 0ea's reall% are( h)h9,

Case sat i' the loft with the dermatrodes strapped a&ross his forehead( wat&hi'- motes da'&e i' the dil)ted s)'li-ht that filtered thro)-h the -rid overhead* A &o)'tdow' was i' pro-ress i' o'e &or'er of the mo'itor s&ree'* Cowbo%s did',t -et i'to simstim( he tho)-ht( be&a)se it was basi&all% a meat to%* He $'ew that the trodes he )sed a'd the little plasti& tiara da'-li'- from a simstim de&$ were basi&all% the same( a'd that the &%berspa&e matri1 was a&t)all% a drasti& simplifi&atio' of the h)ma' se'sori)m( at least i' terms of prese'tatio'( b)t simstim itself str)&$ him as a -rat)ito)s m)ltipli&atio' of flesh i'p)t* The &ommer&ial st)ff was edited( of &o)rse( so that if Tall% Isham -ot a heada&he i' the &o)rse of a se-me't( %o) did',t feel it* The s&ree' bleeped a two-se&o'd war'i'-* The 'ew swit&h was pat&hed i'to his Se'dai with a thi' ribbo' of fiberopti&s* A'd o'e a'd two a'd -C%berspa&e slid i'to e1iste'&e from the &ardi'al poi'ts* Smooth( he tho)-ht( b)t 'ot smooth e'o)-h* Have to wor$ o' it*** The' he $e%ed the 'ew swit&h* The abr)pt 0olt i'to other flesh* 8atri1 -o'e( a wave of so)'d a'd &olor*** She was movi'- thro)-h a &rowded street( past stalls ve'di'- dis&o)'t software( pri&es feltpe''ed o' sheets of plasti&( fra-me'ts of m)si& from &o)'tless spea$ers* Smells of )ri'e( free mo'omers( perf)me( patties of fr%i'- $rill* <or a few fri-hte'ed se&o'ds he fo)-ht helplessl% to &o'trol her bod%* The' he willed himself i'to passivit%( be&ame the passe'-er behi'd her e%es* The -lasses did',t seem to &)t dow' the s)'li-ht al all* He wo'dered if the b)ilt-i' amps

&ompe'sated a)tomati&all%* l)e alpha')meri&s wi'$ed the time( low i' her left peripheral field* Showi'- off( he tho)-ht* Her bod% la'-)a-e was disorie'ti'-( her st%le forei-'* She seemed &o'ti')all% o' the ver-e of &ollidi'- with someo'e( b)t people melted o)t of her wa%( stepped sidewa%s( made room* +How %o) doi'-* Case9, He heard the words a'd felt her form them* She slid a ha'd i'to her 0a&$et( a fi'-ertip &ir&li'- a 'ipple )'der warm sil$* The se'satio' made him &at&h his breath* She la)-hed* )t the li'$ was o'e-wa%* He had 'o wa% to repl%* Two blo&$s later( she was threadi'- the o)ts$irts of 8emor% "a'e* Case $ept tr%i'- to 0er$ her e%es toward la'dmar$s he wo)ld have )sed to fi'd his wa%* He be-a' to fi'd the passivit% of the sit)atio' irritati'-* The tra'sitio' to &%berspa&e( whe' he hit the swit&h( was i'sta'ta'eo)s* He p)'&hed himself dow' a wall of primitive i&e belo'-i'- to the New !or$ P)bli& "ibrar% a)tomati&all% &o)'ti'- pote'tial wi'dows* 5e%i'- ba&$ i'to her se'sori)m( i'to the si')o)s flow of m)s&le( se'ses sharp a'd bri-ht* He fo)'d himself wo'deri'- abo)t the mi'd he shared these se'satio's with* 7hat did he $'ow abo)t her9 That she was a'other professio'al2 that she said her bei'-( li$e his( was the thi'- she did to ma$e a livi'-* He $'ew the wa% she,d moved a-ai'st him( earlier( whe' she wo$e( their m)t)al -r)'t of )'it% whe' he,d e'tered her( a'd that she li$ed her &offee bla&$( afterward*** Her desti'atio' was o'e of the d)bio)s software re'tal &omple1es that li'ed 8emor% "a'e* There was a still'ess( a h)sh* ooths li'ed a &e'tral hall* The &lie'tele were %o)'-( few of them o)t of their tee's* The% all seemed to have &arbo' so&$ets pla'ted behi'd the left ear( b)t she did',t fo&)s o' them* The &o)'ters that fro'ted the booths displa%ed h)'dreds of slivers of mi&rosoft .1/( a'-)lar fra-me'ts of &olored sili&o' mo)'ted )'der oblo'- tra'spare't b)bbles o' s:)ares of white &ardboard* 8oll% we't to the seve'th booth alo'- the so)th wall* ehi'd the &o)'ter a bo% with a shave' head stared va&a'tl% i'to spa&e( a do4e' spi$es of mi&rosoft protr)di'- from the so&$et behi'd his ear* +"arr%( %o) i'( ma'9, She positio'ed herself i' fro't of him* The bo%,s e%es fo&)sed* He sat )p i' his &hair a'd pried a bri-ht ma-e'ta spli'ter from his so&$et with a dirt% th)mb'ail* +He%( "arr%*, +8oll%*, He 'odded*

+I have some wor$ for some of %o)r frie'ds( "arr%*, "arr% too$ a flat plasti& &ase from the po&$et of his red sportshirt a'd fli&$ed it ope'( slotti'- the mi&rosoft beside a do4e' others* His ha'd hovered( sele&ted a -loss% bla&$ &hip that was sli-htl% lo'-er tha' the rest( a'd i'serted it smoothl% i'to his head* His e%es 'arrowed* +8oll%,s -ot a rider(, he said( +a'd "arr% does',t li$e that*, +He%(, she said( +I did',t $'ow %o) were so*** se'sitive* I,m impressed* Costs a lot( to -et that se'sitive*, +I $'ow %o)( lad%9, The bla'$ loo$ ret)r'ed* +!o) loo$i'- to b)% some softs9, +I,m loo$i'- for the 8oder's*, +!o) -ot a rider( 8oll%* This sa%s*, He tapped the bla&$ spli'ter* +Somebod% else )si'%o)r e%es*, +8% part'er*, +Tell %o)r part'er to -o*, +;ot somethi'- for the Pa'ther 8oder's( "arr%*, +7hat are %o) tal$i'- abo)t( lad%9, +Case( %o) ta$e off(, she said( a'd he hit the swit&h( i'sta'tl% ba&$ i' the matri1* ;host impressio's of the software &omple1 h)'- for a few se&o'ds i' the b)44i'- &alm of &%berspa&e* +Pa'ther 8oder's(, he said to the Hosa$a( removi'- the trodes* +<ive mi')te pre&is*, +Read%(, the &omp)ter said* It was',t a 'ame he $'ew* Somethi'- 'ew( somethi'- that had &ome i' si'&e he,d bee' i' Chiba* <ads swept the %o)th of the Sprawl at the speed of li-htA e'tire s)b&)lt)res &o)ld rise over'i-ht( thrive for a do4e' wee$s( a'd the' va'ish )tterl%* +;o(, he said* The Hosa$a had a&&essed its arra% of libraries( 0o)r'als( a'd 'ews servi&es* The pre&is be-a' with a lo'- hold o' a &olor still that Case at first ass)med was a &olla-e of some $i'd( a bo%,s fa&e s'ipped from a'other ima-e a'd -l)ed to a photo-raph of a pai't-s&rawled wall* Dar$ e%es( epi&a'thi& folds obvio)sl% the res)lt of

s)r-er%( a' a'-r% d)sti'- of a&'e a&ross pale 'arrow &hee$s* The Hosa$a released the free4e2 the bo% moved( flowi'- with the si'ister -ra&e of a mime prete'di'- to be a 0)'-le predator* His bod% was 'earl% i'visible( a' abstra&t patter' appro1imati'- the s&ribbled bri&$wor$ slidi'- smoothl% a&ross his ti-ht o'epie&e* 8imeti& pol%&arbo'* C)t to Dr*B Cir-i'ia Rambali( So&iolo-%( N!#( her 'ame( fa&)lt%( a'd s&hool p)lsi'a&ross the s&ree' i' pi'$ alpha')meri&s* +;ive' their pe'&ha't for these ra'dom a&ts of s)rreal viole'&e(, someo'e said( +it ma% be diffi&)lt for o)r viewers to )'dersta'd wh% %o) &o'ti')e to i'sist that this phe'ome'o' is',t a form of terrorism*, Dr*B Rambali smiled* +There is alwa%s a poi't at whi&h the terrorist &eases to ma'ip)late the media -estalt* A poi't at whi&h the viole'&e ma% well es&alate( b)t be%o'd whi&h the terrorist has be&ome s%mptomati& of the media -estalt itself* Terrorism as we ordi'aril% )'dersta'd it is i'atel% media-related* The Pa'ther 8oder's differ from other terrorists pre&isel% i' their de-ree of self-&o's&io)s'ess( i' their aware'ess of the e1te't to whi&h media divor&e the a&t of terrorism from the ori-i'al so&iopoliti&al i'te't***, +S$ip it(, Case said* Case met his first 8oder' two da%s after he,d s&ree'ed the Hosa$a,s pre&is* The 8oder's( he,d de&ided( were a &o'temporar% versio' of the i- S&ie'tists of his ow' late tee's* There was a $i'd of -hostl% tee'a-e DNA at wor$ i' the Sprawl( somethi'that &arried the &oded pre&epts of vario)s short-lived s)b&)lts a'd repli&ated them at odd i'tervals* The Pa'ther 8oder's were a softhead varia't o' the S&ie'tists* If the te&h'olo-% had bee' available( the i- S&ie'tists wo)ld all have had so&$ets st)ffed with mi&rosofts* It was the st%le that mattered a'd the st%le was the same* The 8oder's were mer&e'aries( pra&ti&al 0o$ers( 'ihilisti& te&h'ofetishists* The o'e who showed )p at the loft door with a bo1 of dis$ettes from the <i'' was a softvoi&ed bo% &alled A'-elo* His fa&e was a simple -raft -row' o' &olla-e' a'd shar$ &artila-e pol%sa&&harides( smooth a'd hideo)s* It was o'e of the 'astiest pie&es of ele&tive s)r-er% Case had ever see'* 7he' A'-elo smiled( reveali'- the ra4or-sharp &a'i'es of some lar-e a'imal( Case was a&t)all% relieved* Toothb)d tra'spla'ts* He,d see' that before* +!o) &a',t let the little pri&$s -e'eratio'--ap %o)(, 8oll% said* Case 'odded( absorbed i' the patter's of the Se'seINet i&e* This was it* This was what he was( who he was( his bei'-* He for-ot to eat* 8oll% left &arto's of ri&e a'd foam tra%s of s)shi o' the &or'er of the lo'- table* Sometimes he

rese'ted havi'- to leave the de&$ to )se the &hemi&al toilet the%,d set )p i' a &or'er of the loft* I&e patter's formed a'd reformed o' the s&ree' as he probed for -aps( s$irted the most obvio)s traps( a'd mapped the ro)te he,d ta$e thro)-h Se'seINet,s i&e* It was -ood i&e* 7o'derf)l i&e* Its patter's b)r'ed there while he la% with his arm )'der 8oll%,s sho)lders( wat&hi'- the red daw' thro)-h the steel -rid of the s$%li-ht* Its rai'bow pi1el ma4e was the first thi'- he saw whe' he wo$e* He,d -o strai-ht to the de&$( 'ot botheri'- to dress( a'd 0a&$ i'* He was &)tti'- it* He was wor$i'-* He lost tra&$ of da%s* A'd sometimes( falli'- asleep( parti&)larl% whe' 8oll% was off o' o'e of her re&o''aissa'&e trips with her re'ted &adre of 8oder's( ima-es of Chiba &ame floodi'ba&$* <a&es a'd Ni'sei 'eo'* O'&e he wo$e from a &o'f)sed dream of "i'da "ee( )'able to re&all who she was or what she,d ever mea't to him* 7he' he did remember( he 0a&$ed i' a'd wor$ed for 'i'e strai-ht ho)rs* The &)tti'- of Se'seINet,s i&e too$ a total of 'i'e da%s* +I said a wee$(, Armita-e said( )'able to &o'&eal his satisfa&tio' whe' Case showed him his pla' for the r)'* +!o) too$ %o)r ow' -ood time*, + alls(, Case said( smili'- at the s&ree'* +That,s -ood wor$( Armita-e*, +!es(, Armita-e admitted( +b)t do',t let it -o to %o)r head* Compared to what %o),ll eve't)all% be )p a-ai'st( this is a' ar&ade to%*, +"ove %o)( Cat 8other(, whispered the Pa'ther 8oder',s li'$ ma'* His voi&e was mod)lated stati& i' Case,s headset* +Atla'ta( rood* "oo$s -o* ;o( -ot it9, 8oll%,s voi&e was sli-htl% &learer* +To hear is to obe%*, The 8oder's were )si'- some $i'd of &hi&$e'wire dish i' New 3erse% to bo)'&e the li'$ ma',s s&rambled si-'al off a So's of Christ the 5i'- satellite i' -eos%'&hro'o)s orbit above 8a'hatta'* The% &hose to re-ard the e'tire operatio' as a' elaborate private 0o$e( a'd their &hoi&e of &omsats seemed to have bee' deliberate* 8oll%,s si-'als were bei'- beamed )p from a o'e-meter )mbrella dish epo1%-ed to the roof of a bla&$ -lass ba'$ tower 'earl% as tall as the Se'seINet b)ildi'-* Atla'ta* The re&o-'itio' &ode was simple* Atla'ta to osto' to Chi&a-o to De'ver( five mi')tes for ea&h &it%* If a'%o'e ma'a-ed to i'ter&ept 8oll%,s si-'al( )'s&ramble it( s%'th her voi&e( the &ode wo)ld tip the 8oder's* If she remai'ed i' the b)ildi'- for more tha' twe't% mi')tes( it was hi-hl% )'li$el% she,d be &omi'- o)t at all* Case -)lped the last of his &offee( settled the trodes i' pla&e( a'd s&rat&hed his &hest be'eath his bla&$ t-shirt* He had o'l% a va-)e idea of what the Pa'ther 8oder's pla''ed

as a diversio' for the Se'seINet se&)rit% people* His 0ob was to ma$e s)re the i'tr)sio' pro-ram he,d writte' wo)ld li'$ with the Se'seINet s%stems whe' 8oll% 'eeded it to* He wat&hed the &o)'tdow' i' the &or'er of the s&ree'* Two* O'e* He 0a&$ed i' a'd tri--ered his pro-ram* +8ai'li'e(, breathed the li'$ ma'( his voi&e the o'l% so)'d as Case pl)'-ed thro)-h the -lowi'- strata of Se'seINet i&e* ;ood* Che&$ 8oll%* He hit the simstim a'd flipped i'to her se'sori)m* The s&rambler bl)rred the vis)al i'p)t sli-htl%* She stood before a wall of -old-fle&$ed mirror i' the b)ildi'-,s vast white lobb%( &hewi'- -)m( appare'tl% fas&i'ated b% her ow' refle&tio'* Aside from the h)-e pair of s)'-lasses &o'&eali'- her mirrored i'sets( she ma'a-ed to loo$ remar$abl% li$e she belo'-ed there( a'other to)rist -irl hopi'- for a -limpse of Tall% Isham* She wore a pi'$ plasti& rai'&oat( a white mesh top( loose white pa'ts &)t i' a st%le that had bee' fashio'able i' To$%o the previo)s %ear* She -ri''ed va&a'tl% a'd popped her -)m* Case felt li$e la)-hi'-* He &o)ld feel the mi&ropore tape a&ross her rib&a-e( feel the flat little )'its )'der itA the radio( the simstim )'it( a'd the s&rambler* The throat mi$e( -l)ed to her 'e&$( loo$ed as m)&h as possible li$e a' a'al-esi& dermadis$* Her ha'ds( i' the po&$ets of the pi'$ &oat( were fle1i's%stemati&all% thro)-h a series of te'sio'-release e1er&ises* It too$ him a few se&o'ds to reali4e that the pe&)liar se'satio' at the tips of her fi'-ers was &a)sed b% the blades as the% were partiall% e1tr)ded( the' retra&ted* He flipped ba&$* His pro-ram had rea&hed the fifth -ate* He wat&hed as his i&ebrea$er strobed a'd shifted i' fro't of him( o'l% fai'tl% aware of his ha'ds pla%i'- a&ross the de&$( ma$i'- mi'or ad0)stme'ts* Tra'sl)&e't pla'es of &olor sh)ffled li$e a tri&$ de&$* Ta$e a &ard( he tho)-ht( a'% &ard* The -ate bl)rred past* He la)-hed* The Se'seINet i&e had a&&epted his e'tr% as a ro)ti'e tra'sfer from the &o'sorti)m,s "os A'-eles &omple1* He was i'side* ehi'd him( viral s)bpro-rams peeled off( meshi'- with the -ate,s &ode fabri&( read% to defle&t the real "os A'-eles data whe' it arrived* He flipped a-ai'* 8oll% was strolli'- past the e'ormo)s &ir&)lar re&eptio' des$ at the rear of the lobb%* 1=AJ1A=J as the reado)t flared i' her opti& 'erve* At mid'i-ht( s%'&hed with the &hip behi'd 8oll%,s e%e( the li'$ ma' i' 3erse% had -ive' his &omma'd* +8ai'li'e*, Ni'e 8oder's( s&attered alo'- two h)'dred miles of the Sprawl( had sim)lta'eo)sl% dialed 8AD E8ER; from pa% pho'es* Ea&h 8oder' delivered a short set spee&h( h)'- )p( a'd drifted o)t i'to the 'i-ht( peeli'- off s)r-i&al -loves* Ni'e differe't poli&e departme'ts a'd p)bli& se&)rit% a-e'&ies were absorbi'-

the i'formatio' that a' obs&)re s)bse&t of milita't Christia' f)'dame'talists had 0)st ta$e' &redit for havi'- i'trod)&ed &li'i&al levels of a' o)tlawed ps%&hoa&tive a-e't $'ow' as l)e Ni'e i'to the ve'tilatio' s%stem of the Se'seINet P%ramid* l)e Ni'e( $'ow' i' Califor'ia as ;rievo)s A'-el( had bee' show' to prod)&e a&)te para'oia a'd homi&idal ps%&hosis i' ei-ht%-five per&e't of e1perime'tal s)b0e&ts* Case hit the swit&h as his pro-ram s)r-ed thro)-h the -ates of the s)bs%stem that &o'trolled se&)rit% for the Se'seINet resear&h librar%* He fo)'d himself steppi'- i'to a' elevator* +E1&)se me( b)t are %o) a' emplo%ee9, The -)ard raised his e%ebrows* 8oll% popped her -)m* +No(, she said( drivi'- the first two $')&$les of her ri-ht ha'd i'to the ma',s solar ple1)s* As he do)bled over( &lawi'- for the beeper o' his belt( she slammed his head sidewa%s( a-ai'st the wall of the elevator* Chewi'- a little more rapidl% 'ow( she to)&hed C"OSE DOOR a'd STOP o' the ill)mi'ated pa'el* She too$ a bla&$bo1 from her &oat po&$et a'd i'serted a lead i' the $e%hole of the lo&$ that se&)red the pa'el,s &ir&)itr%* The Pa'ther 8oder's allowed fo)r mi')tes for their first move to ta$e effe&t( the' i'0e&ted a se&o'd &aref)ll% prepared dose of misi'formatio'* This time( the% shot it dire&tl% i'to the Se'seINet b)ildi'-,s i'ter'al video s%stem* At 1=AJ@AJ>( ever% s&ree' i' the b)ildi'- strobed for ei-htee' se&o'ds i' a fre:)e'&% that prod)&ed sei4)res i' a s)s&eptible se-me't of Se'seINet emplo%ees* The' somethi'- o'l% va-)el% li$e a h)ma' fa&e filled the s&ree's( its feat)res stret&hed a&ross as%mmetri&al e1pa'ses of bo'e li$e some obs&e'e 8er&ator pro0e&tio'* l)e lips parted wetl% as the twisted( elo'-ated 0aw moved* Somethi'-( perhaps a ha'd( a thi'- li$e a reddish &l)mp of -'arled roots( f)mbled toward the &amera( bl)rred( a'd va'ished* S)blimi'all% rapid ima-es of &o'tami'atio'A -raphi&s of the b)ildi'-,s water s)ppl% s%stem( -loved ha'ds ma'ip)lati'- laborator% -lassware( somethi'- t)mbli'- dow' i'to dar$'ess( a pale splash*** The a)dio tra&$( its pit&h ad0)sted to r)' at 0)st less tha' twi&e the sta'dard pla%ba&$ speed( was part of a mo'th-old 'ews&ast detaili'- pote'tial militar% )ses of a s)bsta'&e $'ow' as Hs;( a bio&hemi&al -over'i'- the h)ma' s$eletal -rowth fa&tor* Overdoses of Hs; threw &ertai' bo'e &ells i'to overdrive( a&&elerati'-rowth b% fa&tors as hi-h as o'e tho)sa'd per&e't* At 1=AJKAJJ( the mirror-sheathed 'e1)s of the Se'seINet &o'sorti)m held 0)st over three tho)sa'd emplo%ees* At five mi')tes after mid'i-ht( as the 8oder's,B messa-e e'ded i' a flare of white s&ree'( the Se'seINet P%ramid s&reamed* Half a do4e' N!PD Ta&ti&al hover&raft( respo'di'- to the possibilit% of l)e Ni'e i' the

b)ildi'-,s ve'tilatio' s%stem( were &o'ver-i'- o' the Se'seINet P%ramid* The% were r)''i'- f)ll riot li-hts* A A8A Rapid Deplo%me't heli&opter was lifti'- off from its pad o' Ri$er,s* Case tri--ered his se&o'd pro-ram* A &aref)ll% e'-i'eered vir)s atta&$ed the &ode fabri& s&ree'i'- primar% &)stodial &omma'ds for the s)b-baseme't that ho)sed the Se'seINet resear&h materials* + osto'(, 8oll%,s voi&e &ame a&ross the li'$( +I,m dow'stairs*, Case swit&hed a'd saw the bla'$ wall of the elevator* She was )'4ippi'- the white pa'ts* A b)l$% pa&$et( e1a&tl% the shade of her pale a'$le( was se&)red there with mi&ropore* She $'elt a'd peeled the tape awa%* Strea$s of b)r-)'d% fli&$ered a&ross the mimeti& pol%&arbo' as she )'folded the 8oder' s)it* She removed the pi'$ rai'&oat( threw it dow' beside the white pa'ts( a'd be-a' to p)ll the s)it o' over the white mesh top* 1=AJLA=L* Case,s vir)s had bored a wi'dow thro)-h the librar%,s &omma'd i&e* He p)'&hed himself thro)-h a'd fo)'d a' i'fi'ite bl)e spa&e ra'-ed with &olor-&oded spheres str)'o' a ti-ht -rid of pale bl)e 'eo'* I' the 'o'spa&e of the matri1( the i'terior of a -ive' data &o'str)&t possessed )'limited s)b0e&tive dime'sio'2 a &hild,s to% &al&)lator( a&&essed thro)-h Case,s Se'dai( wo)ld have prese'ted limitless -)lfs of 'othi'-'ess h)'- with a few basi& &omma'ds* Case be-a' to $e% the se:)e'&e the <i'' had p)r&hased from a mid-es&helo' sararima' with severe dr)- problems* He be-a' to -lide thro)-h the spheres as if he were o' i'visible tra&$s* Here* This o'e* P)'&hi'- his wa% i'to the sphere( &hill bl)e 'eo' va)lt above him starless a'd smooth as frosted -lass( he tri--ered a s)bpro-ram that effe&ted &ertai' alteratio's i' the &ore &)stodial &omma'ds* O)t 'ow* Reversi'- smoothl%( the vir)s re$'itti'- the fabri& of the wi'dow* Do'e* I' the Se'seINet lobb%( two Pa'ther 8oder's sat alertl% behi'd a low re&ta'-)lar pla'ter( tapi'- the riot with a video &amera* The% both wore &hameleo' s)its* +Ta&ti&als are spra%i'- foam barri&ades 'ow(, o'e 'oted( spea$i'- for the be'efit of his throat mi$e* +Rapids are still tr%i'- to la'd their &opter*, Case hit the simstim swit&h* A'd flipped i'to the a-o'% of bro$e' bo'e* 8oll% was bra&ed a-ai'st the bla'$ -ra% wall of a lo'- &orridor( her breath &omi'- ra--ed a'd )'eve'* Case was ba&$ i' the matri1 i'sta'tl%( a white-hot li'e of pai' fadi'- i' his left thi-h*

+7hat,s happe'i'-( rood9, he as$ed the li'$ ma'* +I d)''o( C)tter* 8other,s 'ot tal$i'-* 7ait*, Case,s pro-ram was &%&li'-* A si'-le hair-fi'e thread of &rimso' 'eo' e1te'ded from the &e'ter of the restored wi'dow to the shifti'- o)tli'e of his i&ebrea$er* He did',t have time to wait* Ta$i'- a deep breath( he flipped a-ai'* 8oll% too$ a si'-le step( tr%i'- to s)pport her wei-ht o' the &orridor wall* I' the loft( Case -roa'ed* The se&o'd step too$ her over a' o)tstret&hed arm* #'iform sleeve bri-ht with fresh blood* ;limpse of a shattered fiber-lass sho&$stave* Her visio' seemed to have 'arrowed to a t)''el* 7ith the third step( Case s&reamed a'd fo)'d himself ba&$ i' the matri1* + rood9 osto'( bab%***, Her voi&e ti-ht with pai'* She &o)-hed* +"ittle problem with the 'atives* Thi'$ o'e of them bro$e m% le-*, +7hat %o) 'eed 'ow( Cat 8other9, The li'$ ma',s voi&e was i'disti'&t( 'earl% lost behi'd stati&* Case for&ed himself to flip ba&$* She was lea'i'- a-ai'st the wall( ta$i'- all of her wei-ht o' her ri-ht le-* She f)mbled thro)-h the &o'te'ts of the s)it,s $a'-aroo po&$et a'd withdrew a sheet of plasti& st)dded with a rai'bow of dermadis$s* She sele&ted three a'd th)mbed them hard a-ai'st her left wrist( over the vei's* Si1 tho)sa'd mi&ro-rams of e'dorphi' a'alo- &ame dow' o' the pai' li$e a hammer( shatteri'- it* Her ba&$ ar&hed &o'v)lsivel%* Pi'$ waves of warmth lapped )p her thi-hs* She si-hed a'd slowl% rela1ed* +O$a%( rood* O$a% 'ow* )t I,ll 'eed a medi&al team whe' I &ome o)t* Tell m% people* C)tter( I,m two mi')tes from tar-et* Ca' %o) hold9, +Tell her I,m i' a'd holdi'-(, Case said* 8oll% be-a' to limp dow' the &orridor* 7he' she -la'&ed ba&$( o'&e( Case saw the &r)mpled bodies of three Se'seINet se&)rit% -)ards* O'e of them seemed to have 'o e%es* +Ta&ti&als a'd Rapids have sealed the -ro)'d floor( Cat 8other* <oam barri&ades* "obb%,s -etti'- 0)i&%*, +Prett% 0)i&% dow' here(, she said( swi'-i'- herself thro)-h a pair of -ra% steel doors* +Almost there( C)tter*,

Case flipped i'to the matri1 a'd p)lled the trodes from his forehead* He was dre'&hed with sweat* He wiped his forehead with a towel( too$ a :)i&$ sip of water from the bi&%&le bottle beside the Hosa$a( a'd &he&$ed the map of the librar% displa%ed o' the s&ree'* A p)lsi'- red &)rsor &rept thro)-h the o)tli'e of a doorwa%* O'l% millimeters from the -ree' dot that i'di&ated the lo&atio' of the Di1ie <latli'e,s &o'str)&t* He wo'dered what it was doi'- to her le-( to wal$ o' it that wa%* 7ith e'o)-h e'dorphi' a'alo-( she &o)ld wal$ o' a pair of blood% st)mps* He ti-hte'ed the '%lo' har'ess that held him i' the &hair a'd repla&ed the trodes* Ro)ti'e 'owA trodes( 0a&$( a'd flip* The Se'seINet resear&h librar% was a dead stora-e area2 the materials stored here had to be ph%si&all% removed before the% &o)ld be i'terfa&ed* 8oll% hobbled betwee' rows of ide'ti&al -ra% lo&$ers* +Tell her five more a'd te' to her left( rood(, Case said* +<ive more a'd te' left( Cat 8other(, the li'$ ma' said* She too$ the left* A white-fa&ed libraria' &owered betwee' two lo&$ers( her &hee$s wet( e%es bla'$* 8oll% i-'ored her* Case wo'dered what the 8oder's had do'e to provo$e that level of terror* He $'ew it had somethi'- to do with a hoa1ed threat( b)t he,d bee' too i'volved with his i&e to follow 8oll%,s e1pla'atio'* +That,s it(, Case said( b)t she,d alread% stopped i' fro't of the &abi'et that held the &o'str)&t* Its li'es remi'ded Case of the Neo-A4te& boo$&ases i' 3)lie Dea'e,s a'teroom i' Chiba* +Do it( C)tter(, 8oll% said* Case flipped to &%berspa&e a'd se't a &omma'd p)lsi'- dow' the &rimso' thread that pier&ed the librar% i&e* <ive separate alarm s%stems were &o'vi'&ed that the% were still operative* The three elaborate lo&$s dea&tivated( b)t &o'sidered themselves to have remai'ed lo&$ed* The librar%,s &e'tral ba'$ s)ffered a mi')te shift i' its perma'e't memor%A the &o'str)&t had bee' removed( per e1e&)tive order( a mo'th before* Che&$i'- for the a)thori4atio' to remove the &o'str)&t( a libraria' wo)ld fi'd the re&ords erased* The door sw)'- ope' o' sile't hi'-es* +J@LHM>F(, Case said( a'd 8oll% drew a bla&$ stora-e )'it from the ra&$* It resembled the ma-a4i'e of a lar-e assa)lt rifle( its s)rfa&es &overed with war'i'- de&als a'd se&)rit% rati'-s*

8oll% &losed the lo&$er door2 Case flipped* He withdrew the li'e thro)-h the librar% i&e* It whipped ba&$ i'to his pro-ram( a)tomati&all% tri--eri'- a f)ll s%stem reversal* The Se'seINet -ates s'apped past him as he ba&$ed o)t( s)bpro-rams whirli'- ba&$ i'to the &ore of the i&ebrea$er as he passed the -ates where the% had bee' statio'ed* +O)t( rood(, he said( a'd sl)mped i' his &hair* After the &o'&e'tratio' of a' a&t)al r)'( he &o)ld remai' 0a&$ed i' a'd still retai' aware'ess of his bod%* It mi-ht ta$e Se'seINet da%s to dis&over the theft of the &o'str)&t* The $e% wo)ld be the defle&tio' of the "os A'-eles tra'sfer( whi&h &oi'&ided too 'eatl% with the 8oder',s terror r)'* He do)bted that the three se&)rit% me' 8oll% had e'&o)'tered i' the &orridor wo)ld live to tal$ abo)t it* He flipped* The elevator( with 8oll%,s bla&$bo1 taped beside the &o'trol pa'el( remai'ed where she,d left it* The -)ard still la% &)rled o' the floor* Case 'oti&ed the derm o' his 'e&$ for the first time* Somethi'- of 8oll%,s( to $eep him )'der* She stepped over him a'd removed the bla&$bo1 before p)'&hi'- "O !* As the elevator door hissed ope'( a woma' h)rtled ba&$ward o)t of the &rowd( i'to the elevator( a'd str)&$ the rear wall with her head* 8oll% i-'ored her( be'di'- over to peel the derm from the -)ard,s 'e&$* The' she $i&$ed the white pa'ts a'd the pi'$ rai'&oat o)t the door( tossi'- the dar$ -lasses after them( a'd drew the hood of her s)it dow' a&ross her forehead* The &o'str)&t( i' the s)it,s $a'-aroo po&$et( d)- i'to her ster')m whe' she moved* She stepped o)t* Case had see' pa'i& before( b)t 'ever i' a' e'&losed area* The Se'seINet emplo%ees( spilli'- o)t of the elevators( had s)r-ed for the street doors( o'l% to meet the foam barri&ades of the Ta&ti&als a'd the sa'dba---)'s of the A8A Rapids* The two a-e'&ies( &o'vi'&ed that the% were &o'tai'i'- a horde of pote'tial $illers( were &ooperati'- with a' )'&hara&teristi& de-ree of effi&ie'&%* e%o'd the shattered wre&$a-e of the mai' street doors( bodies were piled three deep o' the barri&ades* The hollow th)mpi'- of the riot -)'s provided a &o'sta't ba&$-ro)'d for the so)'d the &rowd made as it s)r-ed ba&$ a'd forth a&ross the lobb%,s marble floor* Case had 'ever heard a'%thi'- li$e that so)'d* Neither( appare'tl%( had 8oll%* +3es)s(, she said( a'd hesitated* It was a sort of $ee'i'-( risi'- i'to a b)bbli'- wail of raw a'd total fear* The lobb% floor was &overed with bodies( &lothi'-( blood( a'd lo'- trampled s&rolls of %ellow pri'to)t* +C,mo'( sister* 7e,re for o)t*, The e%es of the two 8oder's stared o)t of madl% swirli'-

shades of pol%&arbo'( their s)its )'able to $eep )p with the &o'f)sio' of shape a'd &olor that ra-ed behi'd them* +!o) h)rt9 C,mo'* Tomm%,ll wal$ %o)*, Tomm% ha'ded somethi'- to the o'e who spo$e( a video &amera wrapped i' pol%&arbo'* +Chi&a-o(, she said( +I,m o' m% wa%*, A'd the' she was falli'-( 'ot to the marble floor( sli&$ with blood a'd vomit( b)t dow' some bloodwarm well( i'to sile'&e a'd the dar$* The Pa'ther 8oder' leader( who i'trod)&ed himself as ")p)s !o'derbo%( wore a pol%&arbo' s)it with a re&ordi'- feat)re that allowed him to repla% ba&$-ro)'ds at will* Per&hed o' the ed-e of Case,s wor$table li$e some $i'd of state of the art -ar-o%le( he re-arded Case a'd Armita-e with hooded e%es* He smiled* His hair was pi'$* A rai'bow forest of mi&rosofts bristled behi'd his left ear2 the ear was poi'ted( t)fted with more pi'$ hair* His p)pils had bee' modified to &at&h the li-ht li$e a &at,s* Case wat&hed the s)it &rawl with &olor a'd te1t)re* +!o) let it -et o)t of &o'trol(, Armita-e said* He stood i' the &e'ter of the loft li$e a stat)e( wrapped i' the dar$ -loss% folds of a' e1pe'sive-loo$i'- tre'&h&oat* +Chaos( 8r*B 7ho(, ")p)s !o'derbo% said* +That is o)r mode a'd mod)s* That is o)r &e'tral $i&$* !o)r woma' $'ows* 7e deal with her* Not with %o)( 8r*B 7ho*, His s)it had ta$e' o' a weird a'-)lar patter' of bei-e a'd pale avo&ado* +She 'eeded her medi&al team* She,s with them* 7e,ll wat&h o)t for her* Ever%thi'-,s fi'e*, He smiled a-ai'* +Pa% him(, Case said* Armita-e -lared at him* +7e do',t have the -oods*, +!o)r woma' has it(, !o'derbo% said* +Pa% him*, Armita-e &rossed stiffl% to the table a'd too$ three fat b)'dles of New !e' from the po&$ets of his tre'&h&oat* +!o) wa't to &o)'t it9, he as$ed !o'derbo%* +No(, the Pa'ther 8oder' said* +!o),ll pa%* !o),re a 8r*B 7ho* !o) pa% to sta% o'e* Not a 8r*B Name*, +I hope that is',t a threat(, Armita-e said* +That,s b)si'ess(, said !o'derbo%( st)ffi'- the mo'e% i'to the si'-le po&$et o' the fro't of his s)it*

The pho'e ra'-* Case a'swered* +8oll%(, he told Armita-e( ha'di'- him the pho'e* The Sprawl,s -eodesi&s were li-hte'i'- i'to predaw' -ra% as Case left the b)ildi'-* His limbs felt &old a'd dis&o''e&ted* He &o)ld',t sleep* He was si&$ of the loft* ")p)s had -o'e( the' Armita-e( a'd 8oll% was i' s)r-er% somewhere* Cibratio' be'eath his feet as a trai' hissed past* Sire's dopplered i' the dista'&e* He too$ &or'ers at ra'dom( his &ollar )p( h)'&hed i' a 'ew leather 0a&$et( fli&$i'- the first of a &hai' of !ehe%)a's i'to the -)tter a'd li-hti'- a'other* He tried to ima-i'e Armita-e,s to1i' sa&s dissolvi'- i' his bloodstream( mi&ros&opi& membra'es weari'thi''er as he wal$ed( it did',t seem real* Neither did the fear a'd a-o'% he,d see' thro)-h 8oll%,s e%es i' the lobb% of Se'seINet* He fo)'d himself tr%i'- to remember the fa&es of the three people he,d $illed i' Chiba* The me' were bla'$s2 the woma' remi'ded him of "i'da "ee* A battered tri&%&le-tr)&$ with mirrored wi'dows bo)'&ed past him( empt% plasti& &%li'ders rattli'- i' its bed* +Case*, He darted sidewa%s( i'sti'&tivel% -etti'- a wall behi'd his ba&$* +8essa-e for %o)( Case*, ")p)s !o'derbo%,s s)it &%&led thro)-h p)re primaries* +Pardo'* Not to startle %o)*, Case strai-hte'ed )p( ha'ds i' 0a&$et po&$ets* He was a head taller tha' the 8oder'* +!o) o)-hta be &aref)l( !o'derbo%*, +This is the messa-e* 7i'term)te*, He spelled it o)t* +<rom %o)9, Case too$ a step forward* +No(, !o'derbo% said* +<or %o)*, +7ho from9, +7i'term)te(, !o'derbo% repeated( 'oddi'-( bobbi'- his &rest of pi'$ hair* His s)it we't matte bla&$( a &arbo' shadow a-ai'st old &o'&rete* He e1e&)ted a stra'-e little da'&e( his thi' bla&$ arms whirli'-( a'd the' he was -o'e* No* There* Hood )p to hide the pi'$( the s)it e1a&tl% the ri-ht shade of -ra%( mottled a'd stai'ed as the sidewal$ he stood o'* The e%es wi'$ed ba&$ the red of a stopli-ht* A'd the' he was reall% -o'e* Case &losed his e%es( massa-ed them with ')mb fi'-ers( lea'i'- ba&$ a-ai'st peeli'-

bri&$wor$* Ni'sei had bee' a lot simpler*

The medi&al team 8oll% emplo%ed o&&)pied two floors of a' a'o'%mo)s &o'do-ra&$ 'ear the old h)b of altimore* The b)ildi'- was mod)lar( li$e some -ia't versio' of Cheap Hotel( ea&h &offi' fort% meters lo'-* Case met 8oll% as she emer-ed from o'e that wore the elaboratel% wor$ed lo-o of o'e ;ERA"D CHIN( DENTIST* She was limpi'-* +He sa%s if I $i&$ a'%thi'-( it,ll fall off*, +I ra' i'to o'e of %o)r pals(, he said( +a 8oder'*, +!eah9 7hi&h o'e9, +")p)s !o'derbo%* Had a messa-e*, He passed her a paper 'ap$i' with 7 I N T E R 8 # T E pri'ted i' red feltpe' i' his 'eat( laborio)s &apitals* +He said --, )t her ha'd &ame )p i' the 0ive for sile'&e* +;et )s some &rab(, she said* After l)'&h i' altimore( 8oll% disse&ti'- her &rab with alarmi'- ease( the% t)bed i' to New !or$* Case had lear'ed 'ot to as$ :)estio's2 the% o'l% bro)-ht the si-' for sile'&e* Her le- seemed to be botheri'- her( a'd she seldom spo$e* A thi' bla&$ &hild with woode' beads a'd a'ti:)e resistors wove' ti-htl% i'to her hair ope'ed the <i'',s door a'd led them alo'- the t)''el of ref)se* Case felt the st)ff had -row' somehow d)ri'- their abse'&e* Or else it seemed that it was &ha'-i'- s)btl%( &oo$i'- itself dow' )'der the press)re of time( sile't i'visible fla$es settli'- to form a m)l&h( a &r%stalli'e esse'&e of dis&arded te&h'olo-%( floweri'- se&retl% i' the Sprawl,s waste pla&es* e%o'd the arm% bla'$et( the <i'' waited at the white table* 8oll% be-a' to si-' rapidl%( prod)&ed a s&rap of paper( wrote somethi'- o' it( a'd passed it to the <i''* He too$ it betwee' th)mb a'd forefi'-er( holdi'- it awa% from his

bod% as tho)-h it mi-ht e1plode* He made a si-' Case did',t $'ow( o'e that &o've%ed a mi1t)re of impatie'&e a'd -l)m resi-'atio'* He stood )p( br)shi'- &r)mbs from the fro't of his battered tweed 0a&$et* A -lass 0ar of pi&$led herri'- stood o' the table beside a tor' plasti& pa&$a-e of flatbread a'd a ti' ashtra% piled with the b)tts of Parta-as* +7ait(, the <i'' said( a'd left the room* 8oll% too$ his pla&e( e1tr)ded the blade from her i'de1 fi'-er( a'd speared a -ra%ish slab of herri'-* Case wa'dered aimlessl% aro)'d the room( fi'-eri'- the s&a''i'- -ear o' the p%lo's as he passed* Te' mi')tes a'd the <i'' &ame b)stli'- ba&$( showi'- his teeth i' a wide %ellow smile* He 'odded( -ave 8oll% a th)mbs )p sal)te( a'd -est)red to Case to help him with the door pa'el* 7hile Case smoothed the vel&ro border i'to pla&e( the <i'' too$ a flat little &o'sole from his po&$et a'd p)'&hed o)t a' elaborate se:)e'&e* +Ho'e%(, he said to 8oll%( t)&$i'- the &o'sole awa%( +%o) have -ot it* No shit( I &a' smell it* !o) wa''a tell me where %o) -ot it9, +!o'derbo%(, 8oll% said( shovi'- the herri'- a'd &ra&$ers aside* +I did a deal with "arr%( o' the side*, +Smart(, the <i'' said* +It,s a' AI*, +Slow it dow' a little(, Case said* + er'e(, the <i'' said( i-'ori'- him* + er'e* It,s -ot limited Swiss &iti4e'ship )'der their e:)ivale't of the A&t of ,K>* )ilt for Tessier-Ashpool S*A* The% ow' the mai'frame a'd the ori-i'al software*, +7hat,s i' er'e( o$a%9, Case deliberatel% stepped betwee' them* +7i'term)te is the re&o-'itio' &ode for a' AI* I,ve -ot the T)ri'- Re-istr% .1/ ')mbers* Artifi&ial i'telli-e'&e*, +That,s all 0)st fi'e(, 8oll% said( +b)t where,s it -et )s9, +If !o'derbo%,s ri-ht(, the <i'' said( +this AI is ba&$i'- Armita-e*, +I paid "arr% to have the 8oder's 'ose aro)'d Armita-e a little(, 8oll% e1plai'ed( t)r'i'- to Case* +The% have some ver% weird li'es of &omm)'i&atio'* Deal was( the%,d -et m% mo'e% if the% a'swered o'e :)estio'A who,s r)''i'- Armita-e9,

+A'd %o) thi'$ it,s this AI9 Those thi'-s are',t allowed a'% a)to'om%* It,ll be the pare't &orporatio'( this Tessle***, +Tessier-Ashpool S*A*(, said the <i''* +A'd I -ot a little stor% for %o) abo)t them* 7a''a hear9, He sat dow' a'd h)'&hed forward* +<i''(, 8oll% said* +He loves a stor%*, +Have',t ever told a'%bod% this o'e(, the <i'' be-a'* The <i'' was a fe'&e( a traffi&$er i' stole' -oods( primaril% i' software* I' the &o)rse of his b)si'ess( he sometimes &ame i'to &o'ta&t with other fe'&es( some of whom dealt i' the more traditio'al arti&les of the trade* I' pre&io)s metals( stamps( rare &oi's( -ems( 0ewelr%( f)rs( a'd pai'ti'-s a'd other wor$s of art* The stor% he told Case a'd 8oll% be-a' with a'other ma',s stor%( a ma' he &alled Smith* Smith was also a fe'&e( b)t i' balmier seaso's he s)rfa&ed as a' art dealer* He was the first perso' the <i'' had $'ow' who,d +-o'e sili&o', -the phrase had a' old-fashio'ed ri'- for Case -a'd the mi&rosofts he p)r&hased were art histor% pro-rams a'd tables of -aller% sales* 7ith half a do4e' &hips i' his 'ew so&$et( Smith,s $'owled-e of the art b)si'ess was formidable( at least b% the sta'dards of his &ollea-)es* )t Smith had &ome to the <i'' with a re:)est for help( a frater'al re:)est( o'e b)si'essma' to a'other* He wa'ted a -o-to o' the Tessier-Ashpool &la'( he said( a'd it had to be e1e&)ted i' a wa% that wo)ld -)ara'tee the impossibilit% of the s)b0e&t ever tra&i'- the i':)ir% to its so)r&e* It mi-ht be possible( the <i'' had opi'ed( b)t a' e1pla'atio' was defi'itel% re:)ired* +It smelled(, the <i'' said to Case( +smelled of mo'e%* A'd Smith was bei'ver% &aref)l* Almost too &aref)l*, Smith( it developed( had had a s)pplier $'ow' as 3imm%* 3imm% was a b)r-lar a'd other thi'-s as well( a'd 0)st ba&$ from a %ear i' hi-h orbit( havi'- &arried &ertai' thi'-s ba&$ dow' the -ravit% well* The most )')s)al thi'- 3imm% had ma'a-ed to s&ore o' his swi'- thro)-h the ar&hipela-o was a head( a' i'tri&atel% wor$ed b)st( &loiso'' over plati')m( st)dded with seedpearls a'd lapis* Smith( si-hi'-( had p)t dow' his po&$et mi&ros&ope a'd advised 3imm% to melt the thi'- dow'* It was &o'temporar%( 'ot a' a'ti:)e( a'd had 'o val)e to the &olle&tor* 3imm% la)-hed* The thi'- was a &omp)ter termi'al( he said* It &o)ld tal$* A'd 'ot i' a s%'th-voi&e( b)t with a bea)tif)l arra'-eme't of -ears a'd mi'iat)re or-a' pipes* It was a baro:)e thi'- for a'%o'e to have &o'str)&ted( a perverse thi'-( be&a)se s%'th-voi&e &hips &ost 'e1t to 'othi'-* It was a &)riosit%* Smith 0a&$ed the head i'to his &omp)ter a'd liste'ed as the melodio)s( i'h)ma' voi&e piped the fi-)res of last %ear,s ta1 ret)r'* Smith,s &lie'tele i'&l)ded a To$%o billio'aire whose passio' for &lo&$wor$ a)tomata

approa&hed fetishism* Smith shr)--ed( showi'- 3imm% his )pt)r'ed palms i' a -est)re old as paw' shops* He &o)ld tr%( he said( b)t he do)bted he &o)ld -et m)&h for it* 7he' 3imm% had -o'e( leavi'- the head( Smith we't over it &aref)ll%( dis&overi'&ertai' hallmar$s* Eve't)all% he,d bee' able to tra&e it to a' )'li$el% &ollaboratio' betwee' two 6)ri&h artisa's( a' e'amel spe&ialist i' Paris( a D)t&h 0eweler( a'd a Califor'ia &hip desi-'er* It had bee' &ommissio'ed( he dis&overed( b% Tessier-Ashpool S*A* Smith be-a' to ma$e prelimi'ar% passes at the To$%o &olle&tor( hi'ti'- that he was o' the tra&$ of somethi'- 'oteworth%* A'd the' he had a visitor( a visitor )'a''o)'&ed( o'e who wal$ed i' thro)-h the elaborate ma4e of Smith,s se&)rit% as tho)-h it did',t e1ist* A small ma'( 3apa'ese( e'ormo)sl% polite( who bore all the mar$s of a vat-row' 'i'0a assassi'* Smith sat ver% still( stari'- i'to the &alm brow' e%es of death a&ross a polished table of Ciet'amese rosewood* ;e'tl%( almost apolo-eti&all%( the &lo'ed $iller e1plai'ed that it was his d)t% to fi'd a'd ret)r' a &ertai' artwor$( a me&ha'ism of -reat bea)t%( whi&h had bee' ta$e' from the ho)se of his master* It had &ome to his atte'tio'( the 'i'0a said( that Smith mi-ht $'ow of the whereabo)ts of this ob0e&t* Smith told the ma' that he had 'o wish to die( a'd prod)&ed the head* A'd how m)&h( his visitor as$ed( did %o) e1pe&t to obtai' thro)-h the sale of this ob0e&t9 Smith 'amed a fi-)re far lower tha' the pri&e he,d i'te'ded to set* The 'i'0a prod)&ed a &redit &hip a'd $e%ed Smith that amo)'t o)t of a ')mbered Swiss a&&o)'t* A'd who( the ma' as$ed( bro)-ht %o) this pie&e9 Smith told him* 7ithi' da%s( Smith lear'ed of 3imm%,s death* +So that was where I &ame i'(, the <i'' &o'ti')ed* +Smith $'ew I dealt a lot with the 8emor% "a'e &rowd( a'd that,s where %o) -o for a :)iet -o-to that,ll 'ever be tra&ed* I hired a &owbo%* I was the &)t-o)t( so I too$ a per&e'ta-e* Smith( he was &aref)l* He,d 0)st had a ver% weird b)si'ess e1perie'&e a'd he,d &ome o)t o' top( b)t it did',t add )p* 7ho,d paid( o)t of that Swiss stash9 !a$)4a9 No wa%* The% -ot a ver% ri-id &ode &overs sit)atio's li$e that( a'd the% $ill the re&eiver too( alwa%s* 7as it spoo$ st)ff9 Smith did',t thi'$ so* Spoo$ bi4 has a vibe( %o) -et so %o) &a' smell it* 7ell( I had m% &owbo% b)44 the 'ews mor-)es )'til we fo)'d Tessier-Ashpool i' liti-atio'* The &ase was',t a'%thi'-( b)t we -ot the law firm* The' he did the law%er,s i&e a'd we -ot the famil% address* "otta -ood it did )s*, Case raised his e%ebrows* +<reeside(, the <i'' said* +The spi'dle* T)r's o)t the% ow' dam' 'ear the whole thi'-* The i'teresti'- st)ff was the pi&t)re we -ot whe' the &owbo% ra' a re-)lar -o-to o' the

'ews mor-)es a'd &ompiled a pre&is* <amil% or-a'i4atio'* Corporate str)&t)re* S)pposedl% %o) &a' b)% i'to a' S*A*( b)t there has',t bee' a share of Tessier-Ashpool traded o' the ope' mar$et i' over a h)'dred %ears* O' a'% mar$et( as far as I $'ow* !o),re loo$i'- at a ver% :)iet( ver% e&&e'tri& first--e'eratio' hi-h orbit famil%( r)' li$e a &orporatio'* i- mo'e%( ver% sh% of media* "ot of &lo'i'-* Orbital law,s a lot softer o' -e'eti& e'-i'eeri'-( ri-ht9 A'd it,s hard to $eep tra&$ of whi&h -e'eratio'( or &ombi'atio' of -e'eratio's( is r)''i'- the show at a -ive' time*, +How,s that9, 8oll% as$ed* +;ot their ow' &r%o-e'i& set)p* Eve' )'der orbital law( %o),re le-all% dead for the d)ratio' of a free4e* "oo$s li$e the% trade off( tho)-h 'obod%,s see' the fo)'di'- father i' abo)t thirt% %ears* <o)'di'- momma( she died i' some lab a&&ide't***, +So what happe'ed with %o)r fe'&e9, +Nothi'-*, The <i'' frow'ed* +Dropped it* 7e had a loo$ at this fa'tasti& ta'-le of powers of attor'e% the T-A,s have( a'd that was it* 3imm% m)st,ve -otte' i'to Stra%li-ht( lifted the head( a'd Tessier-Ashpool se't their 'i'0a after it* Smith de&ided to for-et abo)t it* 8a%be he was smart*, He loo$ed at 8oll%* +The Cilla Stra%li-ht* Tip of the spi'dle* Stri&tl% private*, +!o) fi-)re the% ow' that 'i'0a( <i''9, 8oll% as$ed* +Smith tho)-ht so*, +E1pe'sive(, she said* +7o'der whatever happe'ed to that little 'i'0a( <i''9, +Probabl% -ot him o' i&e* Thaw whe' 'eeded*, +O$a%(, Case said( +we -ot Armita-e -etti'- his -oodies off a' AI 'amed 7i'term)te* 7here,s that -et )s9, +Nowhere %et(, 8oll% said( +b)t %o) -ot a little side -i- 'ow*, She drew a folded s&rap of paper from her po&$et a'd ha'ded it to him* He ope'ed it* ;rid &oordi'ates a'd e'tr% &odes* +7ho,s this9, +Armita-e* Some data base of his* o)-ht it from the 8oder's* Separate deal* 7here is it9, +"o'do'(, Case said*

+Cra&$ it*, She la)-hed* +Ear' %o)r $eep for a &ha'-e*, Case waited for a tra's- A8A lo&al o' the &rowded platform* 8oll% had -o'e ba&$ to the loft ho)rs a-o( the <latli'e,s &o'str)&t i' her -ree' ba-( a'd Case had bee' dri'$i'steadil% ever si'&e* It was dist)rbi'- to thi'$ of the <latli'e as a &o'str)&t( a hardwired RO8 &assette repli&ati'- a dead ma',s s$ills( obsessio's( $'ee0er$ respo'ses*** The lo&al &ame boomi'- i' alo'- the bla&$ i'd)&tio' strip( fi'e -rit sifti'- from &ra&$s i' the t)''el,s &eili'-* Case sh)ffled i'to the 'earest door a'd wat&hed the other passe'-ers as he rode* A pair of predator% loo$i'- Christia' S&ie'tists were ed-i'- toward a trio of %o)'offi&e te&hs who wore ideali4ed holo-raphi& va-i'as o' their wrists( wet pi'$ -litteri')'der the harsh li-hti'-* The te&hs li&$ed their perfe&t lips 'ervo)sl% a'd e%ed the Christia' S&ie'tists from be'eath lowered metalli& lids* The -irls loo$ed li$e tall( e1oti& -ra4i'- a'imals( swa%i'- -ra&ef)ll% a'd )'&o's&io)sl% with the moveme't of the trai'( their hi-h heels li$e polished hooves a-ai'st the -ra% metal of the &ar,s floor* efore the% &o)ld stampede( ta$e fli-ht from the missio'aries( the trai' rea&hed Case,s statio'* He stepped o)t a'd &a)-ht si-ht of a white holo-raphi& &i-ar s)spe'ded a-ai'st the wall of the statio'( <REESIDE p)lsi'- be'eath it i' &o'torted &apitals that mimi&$ed pri'ted 3apa'ese* He wal$ed thro)-h the &rowd a'd stood be'eath it( st)d%i'- the thi'-* 7H! 7AIT9 p)lsed the si-'* A bl)'t white spi'dle( fla'-ed a'd st)dded with -rids a'd radiators( do&$s( domes* He,d see' the ad( or others li$e it( tho)sa'ds of times* It had 'ever appealed to him* 7ith his de&$( he &o)ld rea&h the <reeside ba'$s as easil% as he &o)ld rea&h Atla'ta* Travel was a meat thi'-* )t 'ow he 'oti&ed the little si-il( the si4e of a small &oi'( wove' i'to the lower left &or'er of the ad,s fabri& of li-htA T-A* He wal$ed ba&$ to the loft( lost i' memories of the <latli'e* He,d spe't most of his 'i'etee'th s)mmer i' the ;e'tlema' "oser( ')rsi'- e1pe'sive beers a'd wat&hi'- the &owbo%s* He,d 'ever to)&hed a de&$( the'( b)t he $'ew what he wa'ted* There were at least twe't% other hopef)ls -hosti'- the "oser( that s)mmer( ea&h o'e be't o' wor$i'0oebo% for some &owbo%* No other wa% to lear'* The%,d all heard of Pa)le%( the red'e&$ 0o&$e% from the ,"a'ta fri'-es( who,d s)rvived brai'death behi'd bla&$ i&e* The -rapevi'e -sle'der( street level( a'd the o'l% o'e -oi'-had little to sa% abo)t Pa)le%( other tha' that he,d do'e the impossible* +It was bi-(, a'other wo)ld-be told Case( for the pri&e of a beer( +b)t who $'ows what9 I hear ma%be a ra4ilia' pa%roll 'et* A'%wa%( the ma' was dead( flat dow' brai'death*, Case stared a&ross the &rowded bar at a thi&$set ma' i' shirtsleeves( somethi'- leade' abo)t the shade of his s$i'* + o%(, the <latli'e wo)ld tell him( mo'ths later i' 8iami( +I,m li$e them h)-e f)&$i',B

li4ards( %o) $'ow9 Had themself two -oddam brai's( o'e i' the head a',B o'e b% the tailbo'e( $ept the hi'd le-s movi',B* Hit that bla&$ st)ff a'd ol,B tailbrai' 0)s,B $ept ri-ht o' $eepi',B o'*, The &owbo% elite i' the "oser sh)''ed Pa)le% o)t of some stra'-e -ro)p a'1iet%( almost a s)perstitio'* 8&Co% Pa)le%( "a4ar)s of &%berspa&e*** A'd his heart had do'e for him i' the e'd* His s)rpl)s R)ssia' heart( impla'ted i' a PO7 &amp d)ri'- the war* He,d ref)sed to repla&e the thi'-( sa%i'- he 'eeded its parti&)lar beat to mai'tai' his se'se of timi'-* Case fi'-ered the slip of paper 8oll% had -ive' him a'd made his wa% )p the stairs* 8oll% was s'ori'- o' the temperfoam* A tra'spare't &ast ra' from her $'ee to a few millimeters below her &rot&h( the s$i' be'eath the ri-id mi&ropore mottled with br)ises( the bla&$ shadi'- i'to )-l% %ellow* Ei-ht derms( ea&h a differe't si4e a'd &olor( ra' i' a 'eat li'e dow' her left wrist* A' A$ai tra'sdermal )'it la% beside her( its fi'e red leads &o''e&ted to i'p)t trodes )'der the &ast* He t)r'ed o' the te'sor beside the Hosa$a* The &risp &ir&le of li-ht fell dire&tl% o' the <latli'e,s &o'str)&t* He slotted some i&e( &o''e&ted the &o'str)&t( a'd 0a&$ed i'* It was e1a&tl% the se'satio' of someo'e readi'- over his sho)lder* He &o)-hed* +Di19 8&Co%9 That %o) ma'9, His throat was ti-ht* +He%( bro(, said a dire&tio'less voi&e* +It,s Case( ma'* Remember9, +8iami( 0oebo%( :)i&$ st)d%*, +7hat,s the last thi'- %o) remember before I spo$e to %o)( Di19, +Nothi',B*, +Ha'- o'*, He dis&o''e&ted the &o'str)&t* The prese'&e was -o'e* He re&o''e&ted it* +Di19 7ho am I9, +!o) -ot me h)'-( 3a&$* 7ho the f)&$ are %o)9, +Ca -%o)r b)dd%* Part'er* 7hat,s happe'i'-( ma'9, +;ood :)estio'*,

+Remember bei'- here( a se&o'd a-o9, +No*, +5'ow how a RO8 perso'alit% matri1 wor$s9, +S)re( bro( it,s a firmware &o'str)&t*, +So I 0a&$ it i'to the ba'$ I,m )si'-( I &a' -ive it se:)e'tial( real time memor%9, +;)ess so(, said the &o'str)&t* +O$a%( Di1* !o) are a RO8 &o'str)&t* ;ot me9, +If %o) sa% so(, said the &o'str)&t* +7ho are %o)9, +Case*, +8iami(, said the voi&e( +0oebo%( :)i&$ st)d%*, +Ri-ht* A'd for starts( Di1( %o) a'd me( we,re -o''a slea4e over to "o'do' -rid a'd a&&ess a little data* !o) -ame for that9, +!o) -o''a tell me I -ot a &hoi&e( bo%9,

+!o) wa't %o) a paradise(, the <latli'e advised( whe' Case had e1plai'ed his sit)atio'* +Che&$ Cope'ha-e'( fri'-es of the )'iversit% se&tio'*, The voi&e re&ited &oordi'ates as he p)'&hed* The% fo)'d their paradise( a +pirate,s paradise(, o' the 0)mbled border of a low-se&)rit% a&ademi& -rid* At first -la'&e it resembled the $i'd of -raffiti st)de't operators sometimes left at the 0)'&tio's of -rid li'es( fai't -l%phs of &olored li-ht that shimmered a-ai'st the &o'f)sed o)tli'es of a do4e' arts fa&)lties* +There(, said the <latli'e( +the bl)e o'e* 8a$e it o)t9 That,s a' e'tr% &ode for ell E)ropa* <resh( too* ell,ll -et i' here soo' a'd read the whole dam' board( &ha'-e a'% &odes the% fi'd posted* 5ids,ll steal the 'ew o'es tomorrow*,

Case tapped his wa% i'to ell E)ropa a'd swit&hed to a sta'dard pho'e &ode* 7ith the <latli'e,s help( he &o''e&ted with the "o'do' data base that 8oll% &laimed was Armita-e,s* +Here(, said the voi&e( +I,ll do it for %o)*, The <latli'e be-a' to &ha't a series of di-its( Case $e%i'- them o' his de&$( tr%i'- to &at&h the pa)ses the &o'str)&t )sed to i'di&ate timi'-* It too$ three tries* + i- deal(, said the <latli'e* +No i&e at all*, +S&a' this shit(, Case told the Hosa$a* +Sift for ow'er,s perso'al histor%*, The 'e)roele&tro'i& s&rawls of the paradise va'ished( repla&ed b% a simple lo4e'-e of white li-ht* +Co'te'ts are primaril% video re&ordi'-s of postwar militar% trials(, said the dista't voi&e of the Hosa$a* +Ce'tral fi-)re is Colo'el 7illis Corto*, +Show it alread%(, Case said* A ma',s fa&e filled the s&ree'* The e%es were Armita-e,s* Two ho)rs later( Case fell beside 8oll% o' the slab a'd let the temperfoam mold itself a-ai'st him* +!o) fi'd a'%thi'-9, she as$ed( her voi&e f)44% with sleep a'd dr)-s* +Tell %o) later(, he said( +I,m wre&$ed*, He was h)'-over a'd &o'f)sed* He la% there( e%es &losed( a'd tried to sort the vario)s parts of a stor% abo)t a ma' &alled Corto* The Hosa$a had sorted a thi' store of data a'd assembled a pre&is( b)t it was f)ll of -aps* Some of the material had bee' pri't re&ords( reeli'- smoothl% dow' the s&ree'( too :)i&$l%( a'd Case had had to as$ the &omp)ter to read them for him* Other se-me'ts were a)dio re&ordi'-s of the S&reami'- <ist heari'-* 7illis Corto( Colo'el( had pl)mmeted thro)-h a bli'd spot i' the R)ssia' defe'ses over 5ire's$* The sh)ttles had &reated the hole with p)lse bombs( a'd Corto,s team had dropped i' i' Ni-htwi'- mi&roli-hts( their wi'-s s'appi'- ta)t i' moo'li-ht( refle&ted i' 0a-s of silver alo'- the rivers A'-ara a'd Podhame''a%a( the last li-ht Corto wo)ld see for fiftee' mo'ths* Case tried to ima-i'e the mi&roli-hts blossomi'- o)t of their la)'&h &aps)les( hi-h above a fro4e' steppe* +The% s)re as hell did shaft %o)( boss(, Case said( a'd 8oll% stirred beside him* The mi&roli-hts had bee' )'armed( stripped to &ompe'sate for the wei-ht of a &o'sole operator( a protot%pe de&$( a'd a vir)s pro-ram &alled 8ole ID( the first tr)e vir)s i' the

histor% of &%ber'eti&s* Corto a'd his team had bee' trai'i'- for the r)' for three %ears* The% were thro)-h the i&e( read% to i'0e&t 8ole ID( whe' the emps we't off* The R)ssia' p)lse -)'s threw the 0o&$e%s i'to ele&tro'i& dar$'ess2 the Ni-htwi'-s s)ffered s%stems &rash( fli-ht &ir&)itr% wiped &lea'* The' the lasers ope'ed )p( aimi'- o' i'frared( ta$i'- o)t the fra-ile( radar-tra'spare't assa)lt pla'es( a'd Corto a'd his dead &o'sole ma' fell o)t of a Siberia' s$%* <ell a'd $ept falli'-*** There were -aps i' the stor%( here( where Case s&a''ed do&)me'ts &o'&er'i'- the fli-ht of a &omma'deered R)ssia' -)'ship that ma'a-ed to rea&h <i'la'd* To be -)tted( as it la'ded i' a spr)&e -rove( b% a' a'ti:)e twe't%-millimeter &a''o' ma''ed b% a &adre of reservists o' daw' alert* S&reami'- <ist had e'ded for Corto o' the o)ts$irts of Helsi'$i( with <i''ish paramedi&s sawi'- him o)t of the twisted bell% of the heli&opter* The war e'ded 'i'e da%s later( a'd Corto was shipped to a militar% fa&ilit% i' #tah( bli'd( le-less( a'd missi'- most of his 0aw* It too$ eleve' mo'ths for the Co'-ressio'al aide to fi'd him there* He liste'ed to the so)'d of t)bes drai'i'-* I' 7ashi'-to' a'd 8&"ea'( the show trials were alread% )'derwa%* The Pe'ta-o' a'd the CIA were bei'al$a'i4ed( partiall% disma'tled( a'd a Co'-ressio'al i'vesti-atio' had fo&)sed o' S&reami'- <ist* Ripe for water-ati'-( the aide told Corto* He,d 'eed e%es( le-s( a'd e1te'sive &osmeti& wor$( the aide said( b)t that &o)ld be arra'-ed* New pl)mbi'-( the ma' added( s:)ee4i'- Corto,s sho)lder thro)-h the sweatdamp sheet* Corto heard the soft( rele'tless drippi'-* He said he preferred to testif% as he was* No( the aide e1plai'ed( the trials were bei'- televised* The trials 'eeded to rea&h the voter* The aide &o)-hed politel%* Repaired( ref)r'ished( a'd e1te'sivel% rehearsed( Corto,s s)bse:)e't testimo'% was detailed( movi'-( l)&id( a'd lar-el% the i've'tio' of a Co'-ressio'al &abal with &ertai' vested i'terests i' savi'- parti&)lar portio's of the Pe'ta-o' i'frastr)&t)re* Corto -rad)all% )'derstood that the testimo'% he -ave was i'str)me'tal i' savi'- the &areers of three offi&ers dire&tl% respo'sible for the s)ppressio' of reports o' the b)ildi'- of the E8P .1/ i'stallatio's at 5ire's$* His role i' the trials over( he was )'wa'ted i' 7ashi'-to'* I' a' 8 Street resta)ra't( over aspara-)s &repes( the aide e1plai'ed the termi'al da'-ers i'volved i' tal$i'- to the wro'- people* Corto &r)shed the ma',s lar%'1 with the ri-id fi'-ers of his ri-ht ha'd* The Co'-ressio'al aide stra'-led( his fa&e i' a' aspara-)s &repe( a'd Corto stepped o)t i'to &ool 7ashi'-to' September*

The Hosa$a rattled thro)-h poli&e reports( &orporate espio'a-e re&ords( a'd 'ews files* Case wat&hed Corto wor$ &orporate defe&tors i' "isbo' a'd 8arra$esh( where he seemed to -row obsessed with the idea of betra%al( to loathe the s&ie'tists a'd te&h'i&ia's he bo)-ht o)t for his emplo%ers* Dr)'$( i' Si'-apore( he beat a R)ssia' e'-i'eer to death i' a hotel a'd set fire to his room* Ne1t he s)rfa&ed i' Thaila'd( as overseer of a heroi' fa&tor%* The' as e'for&er for a Califor'ia -ambli'- &artel( the' as a paid $iller i' the r)i's of o''* He robbed a ba'$ i' 7i&hita* The re&ord -rew va-)e( shadow%( the -aps lo'-er* O'e da%( he said( i' a taped se-me't that s)--ested &hemi&al i'terro-atio'( ever%thi'had -o'e -ra%* Tra'slated <re'&h medi&al re&ords e1plai'ed that a ma' witho)t ide'tifi&atio' had bee' ta$e' to a Paris me'tal health )'it a'd dia-'osed as s&hi4ophre'i&* He be&ame &atato'i& a'd was se't to a -over'me't i'stit)tio' o' the o)ts$irts of To)lo'* He be&ame a s)b0e&t i' a' e1perime'tal pro-ram that so)-ht to reverse s&hi4ophre'ia thro)-h the appli&atio' of &%ber'eti& models* A ra'dom sele&tio' of patie'ts were provided with mi&ro&omp)ters a'd e'&o)ra-ed( with help from st)de'ts( to pro-ram them* He was &)red( the o'l% s)&&ess i' the e'tire e1perime't* The re&ord e'ded there* Case t)r'ed o' the foam a'd 8oll% &)rsed him softl% for dist)rbi'- her* The telepho'e ra'-* He p)lled it i'to bed* +!eah9, +7e,re -oi'- to Ista'b)l(, Armita-e said* +To'i-ht*, +7hat does the bastard wa't9, 8oll% as$ed* +Sa%s we,re -oi'- to Ista'b)l to'i-ht*, +That,s 0)st wo'derf)l*, Armita-e was readi'- off fli-ht ')mbers a'd depart)re times* 8oll% sat )p a'd t)r'ed o' the li-ht* +7hat abo)t m% -ear9, Case as$ed* +8% de&$*, +<i'' will ha'dle it(, said Armita-e( a'd h)'- )p*

Case wat&hed her pa&$* There were dar$ &ir&les )'der her e%es( b)t eve' with the &ast o'( it was li$e wat&hi'- a da'&e* No wasted motio'* His &lothes were a r)mpled pile beside his ba-* +!o) h)rti'-9, he as$ed* +I &o)ld do with a'other 'i-ht at Chi',s*, +!o)r de'tist9, +!o) bet&ha* Cer% dis&reet* He,s -ot half that ra&$( f)ll &li'i&* Does repairs for sam)rai*, She was 4ippi'- her ba-* +!o) ever bee' to ,Stamb)l9, +Co)ple da%s( o'&e*, +Never &ha'-es(, she said* + ad old tow'*, +It was li$e this whe' we headed for Chiba(, 8oll% said( stari'- o)t the trai' wi'dow at blasted i'd)strial moo's&ape( red bea&o's o' the hori4o' war'i'- air&raft awa% from a f)sio' pla't* +7e were i' "*A* He &ame i' a'd said Pa&$( we were boo$ed for 8a&a)* 7he' we -ot there( I pla%ed fa'ta' i' the "isboa a'd he &rossed over i'to 6ho'-sha'* Ne1t da% I was pla%i'- -host with %o) i' Ni-ht Cit%*, She too$ a sil$ s&arf from the sleeve of her bla&$ 0a&$et a'd polished the i'sets* The la'ds&ape of the 'orther' Sprawl wo$e &o'f)sed memories of &hildhood for Case( dead -rass t)fti'- the &ra&$s i' a &a'ted slab of freewa% &o'&rete* The trai' be-a' to de&elerate te' $ilometers from the airport* Case wat&hed the s)' rise o' the la'ds&ape of &hildhood( o' bro$e' sla- a'd the r)sti'- shells of refi'eries*

It was rai'i'- i' e%o-l)( a'd the re'ted 8er&edes slid past the -rilled a'd )'lit wi'dows of &a)tio)s ;ree$ a'd Arme'ia' 0ewelers* The street was almost empt%( o'l% a few dar$-&oated fi-)res o' the sidewal$s t)r'i'- to stare after the &ar* +This was formerl% the prospero)s E)ropea' se&tio' of Ottoma' Ista'b)l(, p)rred the 8er&edes* +So it,s -o'e dow'hill(, Case said*

+The Hilto',s i' C)mh)ri%et Caddesi(, 8oll% said* She settled ba&$ a-ai'st the &ar,s -ra% )ltras)ede* +How &ome Armita-e flies alo'e9, Case as$ed* He had a heada&he* +,Ca)se %o) -et )p his 'ose* !o),re s)re -etti'- )p mi'e*, He wa'ted to tell her the Corto stor%( b)t de&ided a-ai'st it* He,d )sed a sleep derm( o' the pla'e* The road i' from the airport had bee' dead strai-ht( li$e a 'eat i'&isio'( la%i'- the &it% ope'* He,d wat&hed the &ra4% walls of pat&hwor$ woode' te'eme'ts slide b%( &o'dos( ar&olo-ies( -rim ho)si'- pro0e&ts( more walls of pl%board a'd &orr)-ated iro'* The <i''( i' a 'ew Shi'0)$) s)it( sararima' bla&$( was waiti'- so)rl% i' the Hilto' lobb%( maroo'ed o' a velo)r arm&hair i' a sea of pale bl)e &arpeti'-* +Christ(, 8oll% said* +Rat i' a b)si'ess s)it*, The% &rossed the lobb%* +How m)&h %o) -et paid to &ome over here( <i''9, She lowered her ba- beside the arm&hair* + et 'ot as m)&h as %o) -et for weari'- that s)it( h)h9, The <i'',s )pper lips drew ba&$* +Not e'o)-h( sweetmeat*, He ha'ded her a ma-'eti& $e% with a ro)'d %ellow ta-* +!o),re re-istered alread%* Ho'&ho,s )pstairs*, He loo$ed aro)'d* +This tow' s)&$s*, +!o) -et a-oraphobi&( the% ta$e %o) o)t from )'der a dome* 3)st prete'd it,s roo$l%' or somethi'-*, She twirled the $e% aro)'d a fi'-er* +!o) here as valet or what9, +I -otta &he&$ o)t some -)%,s impla'ts(, the <i'' said* +How abo)t m% de&$9, Case as$ed* The <i'' wi'&ed* +Observe the proto&ol* As$ the boss*, 8oll%,s fi'-ers moved i' the shadow of her 0a&$et( a fli&$er of 0ive* The <i'' wat&hed( the' 'odded* +!eah(, she said( +I $'ow who that is*, She 0er$ed her head i' the dire&tio' of the elevators* +Come o'( &owbo%*, Case followed her with both ba-s*

Their room mi-ht have bee' the o'e i' Chiba where he,d first see' Armita-e* He we't to the wi'dow( i' the mor'i'-( almost e1pe&ti'- to see To$%o a%* There was a'other hotel a&ross the street* It was still rai'i'-* A few letter-writers had ta$e' ref)-e i' doorwa%s( their old voi&epri'ters wrapped i' sheets of &lear plasti&( evide'&e that the writte' word still e'0o%ed a &ertai' presti-e here* It was a sl)--ish &o)'tr%* He wat&hed a d)ll bla&$ Citroe' seda'( a primitive h%dro-e'-&ell &o'versio'( as it dis-or-ed five s)lle'-loo$i'T)r$ish offi&ers i' r)mpled -ree' )'iforms* The% e'tered the hotel a&ross the street* He -la'&ed ba&$ at the bed( at 8oll%( a'd her pale'ess str)&$ him* She,d left the mi&ropore &ast o' the bedslab i' their loft( beside the tra'sdermal i'd)&er* Her -lasses refle&ted part of the room,s li-ht fi1t)re* He had the pho'e i' his ha'd before it had a &ha'&e to ri'- twi&e* +;lad %o),re )p(, Armita-e said* +I,m 0)st* "ad%,s still )'der* "iste'( boss( I thi'$ it,s ma%be time we have a little tal$* I thi'$ I wor$ better if I $'ow a little more abo)t what I,m doi'-*, Sile'&e o' the li'e* Case bit his lip* +!o) $'ow as m)&h as %o) 'eed to* 8a%be more*, +!o) thi'$ so9, +;et dressed( Case* ;et her )p* !o),ll have a &aller i' abo)t fiftee' mi')tes* His 'ame is Ter4ibash0ia'*, The pho'e bleated softl%* Armita-e was -o'e* +7a$e )p( bab%(, Case said* + i4*, +I,ve bee' awa$e a' ho)r alread%*, The mirrors t)r'ed* +7e -ot a 3erse% astio' &omi'- )p*, +!o) -ot a' ear for la'-)a-e( Case* et %o),re part Arme'ia'* That,s the e%e Armita-e has had o' Riviera* Help me )p*, Ter4ibash0ia' proved to be a %o)'- ma' i' a -ra% s)it a'd -old-framed( mirrored -lasses* His white shirt was ope' at the &ollar( reveali'- a mat of dar$ hair so de'se that Case at first mistoo$ it for some $i'd of t-shirt* He arrived with a bla&$ Hilto' tra% arra'-ed with three ti'%( fra-ra't &)ps of thi&$ bla&$ &offee a'd three sti&$%( straw&olored Orie'tal sweets* +7e m)st( as %o) sa% i' I'-ili4( ta$e this o'e ver% eas%*, He seemed to stare poi'tedl% at

8oll%( b)t at last he removed the silver -lasses* His e%es were a dar$ brow' that mat&hed the shade of his ver% short militar%-&)t hair* He smiled* +It is better( this wa%( %es9 Else we ma$e the t)'el i'fi'it%( mirror i'to mirror*** !o) parti&)larl%(, he said to her( +m)st ta$e &are* I' T)r$e% there is disapproval of wome' who sport s)&h modifi&atio's*, 8oll% bit o'e of the pastries i' half* +It,s m% show( 3a&$(, she said( her mo)th f)ll* She &hewed( swallowed( a'd li&$ed her lips* +I $'ow abo)t %o)* Stool for the militar%( ri-ht9, Her ha'd slid la4il% i'to the fro't of her 0a&$et a'd &ame o)t with the flet&her* Case had',t $'ow' she had it* +Cer% eas%( please(, Ter4ibash0ia' said( his white &hi'a thimble fro4e' &e'timeters from his lips* She e1te'ded the -)'* +8a%be %o) -et the e1plosives( lots of them( or ma%be %o) -et a &a'&er* O'e dart( shitfa&e* !o) wo',t feel it for mo'ths*, +Please* !o) &all this i' I'-ili4 ma$i'- me ver% ti-ht***, +I &all it a bad mor'i'-* Now tell )s abo)t %o)r ma' a'd -et %o)r ass o)t of here*, She p)t the -)' awa%* +He is livi'- i' <e'er( at 5&h$ ;lha'e D0addesi 1@* I have his t)'el ro)te( 'i-htl% to the ba4aar* He performs most re&e'tl% at the !e'ishehir Palas Oteli( a moder' pla&e i' the st%le t)risti$( b)t it has bee' arra'-ed that the poli&e have show' a &ertai' i'terest i' these shows* The !e'ishehir ma'a-eme't has -row' 'ervo)s*, He smiled* He smelled of some metalli& aftershave* +I wa't to $'ow abo)t the impla'ts(, she said( massa-i'- her thi-h( +I wa't to $'ow e1a&tl% what he &a' do*, Ter4ibash0ia' 'odded* +7orst is how %o) sa% i' I'-ili4( the s)blimi'als*, He made the word fo)r &aref)l s%llables* +O' o)r left(, said the 8er&edes( as it steered thro)-h a ma4e of rai'% streets( +is 5apali Carsi( the -ra'd ba4aar*, eside Case( the <i'' made a' appre&iative 'oise( b)t he was loo$i'- i' the wro'dire&tio'* The ri-ht side of the street was li'ed with mi'iat)re s&rap%ards* Case saw a -)tted lo&omotive atop r)st-stai'ed( bro$e' le'-ths of fl)ted marble* Headless marble stat)es were sta&$ed li$e firewood* +Homesi&$9, Case as$ed*

+Pla&e s)&$s(, the <i'' said* His bla&$ sil$ tie was starti'- to resemble a wor' &arbo' ribbo'* There were medallio's of $ebab -rav% a'd fried e-- o' the lapels of the 'ew s)it* +He%( 3erse%(, Case said to the Arme'ia'( who sat behi'd them( +where,d this -)% -et his st)ff i'stalled9, +I' Chiba Cit%* He has 'o left l)'-* The other is boosted( is how %o) sa% it9 A'%o'e mi-ht b)% these impla'ts( b)t this o'e is most tale'ted*, The 8er&edes swerved avoidi'a balloo'-tired dra% sta&$ed with hides* +I have followed him i' the street a'd see' a do4e' &%&les fall( 'ear him( i' a da%* <i'd the &%&list i' a hospital( the stor% is alwa%s the same* A s&orpio' poised beside a bra$e lever***, ++7hat %o) see is what %o) -et(, %eah(, the <i'' said* +I see' the s&hemati&s o' the -)%,s sili&o'* Cer% flash* 7hat he ima-i'es( %o) see* I fi-)re he &o)ld 'arrow it to a p)lse a'd fr% a reti'a over eas%*, +!o) have told this to %o)r woma' frie'd9, Ter4ibash0ia' lea'ed forward betwee' the )ltras)ede b)&$ets* +I' T)r$e%( wome' are still wome'* This o'e***, The <i'' s'orted* +She,d have %o) weari'- %o)r balls for a bow tie if %o) loo$ed at her &ross-e%ed*, +I do 'ot )'dersta'd this idiom*, +That,s o$a%(, Case said* +8ea's sh)t )p*, The Arme'ia' sat ba&$( leavi'- a metalli& ed-e of aftershave* He be-a' to whisper to a Sa'%o tra's&eiver i' a stra'-e salad of ;ree$( <re'&h( T)r$ish( isolated fra-me'ts of E'-lish* The tra's&eiver a'swered i' <re'&h* The 8er&edes sw)'- smoothl% aro)'d a &or'er* +The spi&e ba4aar( sometimes &alled the E-%ptia' ba4aar(, the &ar said( +was ere&ted o' the site of a' earlier ba4aar ere&ted b% S)lta' Hati&e i' 1LLJ* This is the &it%,s &e'tral mar$et for spi&es( software( perf)mes( dr)-s***, +Dr)-s(, Case said( wat&hi'- the &ar,s wipers &ross a'd re&ross the b)lletproof "e1a'* +7hat,s that %o) said before( 3erse%( abo)t this Riviera bei'- wired9, +A mi1t)re of &o&ai'e a'd meperidi'e( %es*, The Arme'ia' we't ba&$ to the &o'versatio' he was havi'- with the Sa'%o* +Demerol the% )sed to &all that(, said the <i''* +He,s a speedball artist* <)''% &lass of people %o),re mi1i'- with( Case*,

+Never mi'd(, Case said( t)r'i'- )p the &ollar of his 0a&$et( +we,ll -et the poor f)&$er a 'ew pa'&reas or somethi'-*, O'&e the% e'tered the ba4aar( the <i'' bri-hte'ed 'oti&eabl%( as tho)-h he were &omforted b% the &rowd de'sit% a'd the se'se of e'&los)re* The% wal$ed with the Arme'ia' alo'- a broad &o'&o)rse( be'eath soot-stai'ed sheets of plasti& a'd -ree'pai'ted iro'wor$ o)t of the a-e of steam* A tho)sa'd s)spe'ded ads writhed a'd fli&$ered* +He%( Christ(, the <i'' said( ta$i'- Case,s arm( +loo$a that*, He poi'ted* +It,s a horse( ma'* !o) ever see a horse9, Case -la'&ed at the embalmed a'imal a'd shoo$ his head* It was displa%ed o' a sort of pedestal( 'ear the e'tra'&e to a pla&e that sold birds a'd mo'$e%s* The thi'-,s le-s had bee' wor' bla&$ a'd hairless b% de&ades of passi'- ha'ds* +Saw o'e i' 8ar%la'd o'&e(, the <i'' said( +a'd that was a -ood three %ears after the pa'demi&* There,s Arabs still tr%i'- to &ode ,em )p from the DNA( b)t the% alwa%s &roa$*, The a'imal,s brow' -lass e%es seemed to follow them as the% passed* Ter4ibash0ia' led them i'to a &afe 'ear the &ore of the mar$et( a low-&eili'-ed room that loo$ed as tho)-h it had bee' i' &o'ti')o)s operatio' for &e't)ries* S$i''% bo%s i' soiled white &oats dod-ed betwee' the &rowded tables( bala'&i'- steel tra%s with bottles of T)r$-T)bora'd ti'% -lasses of tea* Case bo)-ht a pa&$ of !ehe%)a's from a ve'dor b% the door* The Arme'ia' was m)tteri'- to his Sa'%o* +Come(, he said( +he is movi'-* Ea&h 'i-ht he rides the t)'el to the ba4aar to p)r&hase his mi1t)re from Ali* !o)r woma' is &lose* Come*, The alle% was a' old pla&e( too old( the walls &)t from blo&$s of dar$ sto'e* The paveme't was )'eve' a'd smelled of a &e't)r%,s drippi'- -asoli'e( absorbed b% a'&ie't limesto'e* +Ca',t see shit(, he whispered to the <i''* +That,s o$a% for sweetmeat(, the <i'' said* +?)iet(, said Ter4ibash0ia'( too lo)dl%* 7ood -rated o' sto'e or &o'&rete* Te' meters dow' the alle%( a wed-e of %ellow li-ht fell a&ross wet &obbles( wide'ed* A fi-)re stepped o)t a'd the door -rated sh)t a-ai'( leavi'- the 'arrow pla&e i' dar$'ess* Case shivered* +Now(, Ter4ibash0ia' said( a'd a brillia't beam of white li-ht( dire&ted from the rooftop of the b)ildi'- opposite the mar$et( pi''ed the sle'der fi-)re beside the a'&ie't woode' door i' a perfe&t &ir&le* ri-ht e%es darted left( ri-ht( a'd the ma' &r)mpled* Case tho)-ht someo'e had shot him2 he la% fa&e dow'( blo'd hair pale a-ai'st the old sto'e( his limp ha'ds white a'd patheti&*

The floodli-ht 'ever wavered* The ba&$ of the falle' ma',s 0a&$et heaved a'd b)rst( blood splashi'- the wall a'd doorwa%* A pair of impossibl% lo'-( rope-te'do'ed arms fle1ed -ra%ish-pi'$ i' the -lare* The thi'- seemed to p)ll itself )p o)t of the paveme't( thro)-h the i'ert( blood% r)i' that had bee' Riviera* It was two meters tall( stood o' two le-s( a'd seemed to be headless* The' it sw)'- slowl% to fa&e them( a'd Case saw that it had a head( b)t 'o 'e&$* It was e%eless( the s$i' -leami'- a wet i'testi'al pi'$* The mo)th( if it was a mo)th( was &ir&)lar( &o'i&al( shallow( a'd li'ed with a seethi'- -rowth of hairs or bristles( -litteri'- li$e bla&$ &hrome* It $i&$ed the ra-s of &lothi'- a'd flesh aside a'd too$ a step( the mo)th seemi'- to s&a' for them as it moved* Ter4ibash0ia' said somethi'- i' ;ree$ or T)r$ish a'd r)shed the thi'-( his arms spread li$e a ma' attempti'- to dive thro)-h a wi'dow* He we't thro)-h it* I'to the m)44leflash of a pistol from the dar$ be%o'd the &ir&le of li-ht* <ra-me'ts of ro&$ whi44ed .1/ past Case,s head2 the <i'' 0er$ed him dow' i'to a &ro)&h* The li-ht from the rooftop va'ished( leavi'- him with mismat&hed afterima-es of m)44le-flash( mo'ster( a'd white beam* His ears ra'-* The' the li-ht ret)r'ed( bobbi'- 'ow( sear&hi'- the shadows* Ter4ibash0ia' was lea'i'a-ai'st a steel door( his fa&e ver% white i' the -lare* He held his left wrist a'd wat&hed blood drip from a wo)'d i' his left ha'd* The blo'd ma'( whole a-ai'( )'bloodied( la% at his feet* 8oll% stepped o)t of the shadows( all i' bla&$( with her flet&her i' her ha'd* +#se the radio(, the Arme'ia' said( thro)-h -ritted teeth* +Call i' 8ahm)t* 7e m)st -et him o)t of here* This is 'ot a -ood pla&e*, +"ittle pri&$ 'earl% made it(, the <i'' said( his $'ees &ra&$i'- lo)dl% as he stood )p( br)shi'- i'effe&t)all% at the le-s of his tro)sers* +!o) were wat&hi'- the horror-show( ri-ht9 Not the hamb)r-er that -ot tossed o)t of si-ht* Real &)te* 7ell( help ,em -et his ass o)ta here* I -otta s&a' all that -ear before he wa$es )p( ma$e s)re Armita-e is -etti'- his mo'e%,s worth*, 8oll% be't a'd pi&$ed somethi'- )p* A pistol* +A Namb)(, she said* +Ni&e -)'*, Ter4ibash0ia' made a whi'i'- so)'d* Case saw that most of his middle fi'-er was missi'-* 7ith the &it% dre'&hed i' predaw' bl)e( she told the 8er&edes to ta$e them to Top$api* The <i'' a'd a' e'ormo)s T)r$ 'amed 8ahm)t had ta$e' Riviera( still )'&o's&io)s(

from the alle%* 8i')tes later( a d)st% Citroe' had arrived for the Arme'ia'( who seemed o' the ver-e of fai'ti'-* +!o),re a' asshole(, 8oll% told the ma'( ope'i'- the ear door for him* +!o) sho)lda h)'- ba&$* I had him i' m% si-hts as soo' as he stepped o)t*, Ter4ibash0ia' -lared at her* +So we,re thro)-h with %o) a'%wa%*, She shoved him i' a'd slammed the door* +R)' i'to %o) a-ai' a'd I,ll $ill %o)(, she said to the white fa&e behi'd the ti'ted wi'dow* The Citroe' -ro)'d awa% dow' the alle% a'd sw)'- &l)msil% i'to the street* Now the 8er&edes whispered thro)-h Ista'b)l as the &it% wo$e* The% passed the e%o-l) t)'el termi'al a'd sped past ma4es of deserted ba&$ streets( r)'-dow' apartme't ho)ses that remi'ded Case va-)el% of Paris* +7hat is this thi'-9, he as$ed 8oll%( as the 8er&edes par$ed itself o' the fri'-es of the -arde's that s)rro)'d the Sera-lio* He stared d)ll% at the baro:)e &o'-lomeratio' of st%les that was Top$api* +It was sort of a private whoreho)se for the 5i'-(, she said( -etti'- o)t stret&hi'-* +5ept a lotta wome' there* Now it,s a m)se)m* 5i'da li$e <i'',s shop( all this st)ff 0)st 0)mbled i' there( bi- diamo'ds( swords( the left ha'd of 3oh' the aptist***, +"i$e i' a s)pport vat9, +Nah* Dead* ;ot it i'side this brass ha'd thi'-( little hat&h o' the side so the Christia's &o)ld $iss it for l)&$* ;ot it off the Christia's abo)t a millio' %ears a-o( a'd the% 'ever d)st the -oddam thi'-( ,&a)se it,s a' i'fidel reli&*, la&$ iro' deer r)sted i' the -arde's of the Sera-lio* Case wal$ed beside her( wat&hi'the toes of her boots &r)'&h )'$ept -rass made stiff b% a' earl% frost* The% wal$ed beside a path of &old o&ta-o'al fla-sto'es* 7i'ter was waiti'-( somewhere i' the al$a's* +That Ter4i( he,s -rade-A s&)m(, she said* +He,s the se&ret poli&e* Tort)rer* Real eas% to b)% o)t( too( with the $i'd of mo'e% Armita-e was offeri'-*, I' the wet trees aro)'d them( birds be-a' to si'-* +I did that 0ob for %o)(, Case said( +the o'e i' "o'do' I -ot somethi'-( b)t I do',t $'ow what it mea's*, He told her the Corto stor%* +7ell( I $'ew there was',t a'%bod% 'ame of Armita-e i' that S&reami'- <ist* "oo$ed it )p*, She stro$ed the r)sted fla'$ of a' iro' doe* +!o) fi-)re the little &omp)ter p)lled him o)t of it9 I' that <re'&h hospital9,

+I fi-)re 7i'term)te(, Case said* She 'odded* +Thi'- is(, he said( +do %o) thi'$ he $'ows he was Corto( before9 I mea'( he was',t a'%bod% i' parti&)lar( b% the time he hit the ward( so ma%be 7i'term)te 0)st***, +!eah* )ilt him )p from -o* !eah***, She t)r'ed a'd the% wal$ed o'* +It fi-)res* !o) $'ow( the -)% does',t have a'% life -oi'-( i' private* Not as far as I &a' tell* !o) see a -)% li$e that( %o) fi-)re there,s somethi'- he does whe' he,s alo'e* )t 'ot Armita-e* Sits a'd stares at the wall( ma'* The' somethi'- &li&$s a'd he -oes i'to hi-h -ear a'd wheels for 7i'term)te*, +So wh%,s he -ot that stash i' "o'do'9 Nostal-ia9, +8a%be he does',t $'ow abo)t it(, she said* +8a%be it,s 0)st i' his 'ame( ri-ht9, +I do',t -et it(, Case said* +3)st thi'$i'- o)t lo)d*** How smart,s a' AI( Case9, +Depe'ds* Some are',t m)&h smarter tha' do-s* Pets* Cost a fort)'e a'%wa%* The real smart o'es are as smart as the T)ri'- heat is willi'- to let ,em -et*, +"oo$( %o),re a &owbo%* How &ome %o) are',t 0)st flat o)t fas&i'ated with those thi'-s9, +7ell(, he said( +for starts( the%,re rare* 8ost of them are militar%( the bri-ht o'es( a'd we &a',t &ra&$ the i&e* That,s where i&e all &omes from( %o) $'ow9 A'd the' there,s the T)ri'- &ops( a'd that,s bad heat*, He loo$ed at her* +I d)''o( it 0)st is',t part of the trip*, +3o&$e%s all the same(, she said* +No ima-i'atio'*, The% &ame to a broad re&ta'-)lar po'd where &arp ')44led the stems of some white a:)ati& flower* She $i&$ed a loose pebble i' a'd wat&hed the ripples spread* +That,s 7i'term)te(, she said* +This deal,s real bi-( loo$s to me* 7e,re o)t where the little waves are too broad( we &a',t see the ro&$ that hit the &e'ter* 7e $'ow somethi'-,s there( b)t 'ot wh%* I wa''a $'ow wh%* I wa't %o) to -o a'd tal$ to 7i'term)te*, +I &o)ld',t -et 'ear it(, he said* +!o),re dreami'-*, +Tr%*,

+Ca',t be do'e*, +As$ the <latli'e*, +7hat do we wa't o)t of that Riviera9, he as$ed( hopi'- to &ha'-e the s)b0e&t* She spat i'to the po'd* +;od $'ows* I,d as soo' $ill him as loo$ at him* I saw his profile* He,s a $i'd of &omp)lsive 3)das* Ca',t -et off se1)all% )'less he $'ows he,s betra%i'the ob0e&t of desire* That,s what the file sa%s* A'd the% have to love him first* 8a%be he loves them( too* That,s wh% it was eas% for Ter4i to set him )p for )s( be&a)se he,s bee' here three %ears( shoppi'- politi&als to the se&ret poli&e* Probabl% Ter4i let him wat&h( whe' the &attle prods &ame o)t* He,s do'e ei-htee' i' three %ears* All wome' a-e twe't% to twe't%-five* It $ept Ter4i i' disside'ts*, She thr)st her ha'ds i'to her 0a&$et po&$ets* + e&a)se if he fo)'d o'e he reall% wa'ted( he,d ma$e s)re she t)r'ed politi&al* He,s -ot a perso'alit% li$e a 8oder',s s)it* The profile said it was a ver% rare t%pe( estimated o'e i' a &o)ple of millio'* 7hi&h a'%wa% sa%s somethi'- -ood abo)t h)ma' 'at)re( I -)ess*, She stared at the white flowers a'd the sl)--ish fish( her fa&e so)r* +I thi'$ I,m -oi'- to have to b)% m%self some spe&ial i's)ra'&e o' that Peter*, The' she t)r'ed a'd smiled( a'd it was ver% &old* +7hat,s that mea'9, +Never mi'd* "et,s -o ba&$ to e%o-l) a'd fi'd somethi'- li$e brea$fast* I -otta b)s% 'i-ht a-ai'( to'i-ht* ;otta &olle&t his st)ff from that apartme't i' <e'er( -otta -o ba&$ to the ba4aar a'd b)% him some dr)-s***, + )% him some dr)-s9 How,s he rate9, She la)-hed* +He,s 'ot d%i'- o' the wire( sweetheart* A'd it loo$s li$e he &a',t wor$ witho)t that spe&ial taste* I li$e %o) better 'ow( a'%wa%( %o) are',t so -oddam s$i''%*, She smiled* +So I,ll -o to Ali the dealer a'd sto&$ )p* !o) bet&ha*, Armita-e was waiti'- i' their room at the Hilto'* +Time to pa&$(, he said( a'd Case tried to fi'd the ma' &alled Corto behi'd the pale bl)e e%es a'd the ta''ed mas$* He tho)-ht of 7a-e( ba&$ i' Chiba* Operators above a &ertai' level te'ded to s)bmer-e their perso'alities( he $'ew* )t 7a-e had had vi&es( lovers* Eve'( it had bee' r)mored( &hildre'* The bla'$'ess he fo)'d i' Armita-e was somethi'else* +7here to 'ow9, he as$ed( wal$i'- past the ma' to stare dow' i'to the street* +7hat $i'd of &limate9,

+The% do',t have &limate( 0)st weather(, Armita-e said* +Here* Read the bro&h)re*, He p)t somethi'- o' the &offee table a'd stood* +Did Riviera &he&$ o)t o$a%9 7here,s the <i''9, +Riviera,s fi'e* The <i'' is o' his wa% home*, Armita-e smiled( a smile that mea't as m)&h as the twit&h of some i'se&t,s a'te''a* His -old bra&elet &li'$ed as he rea&hed o)t to prod Case i' the &hest* +Do',t -et too smart* Those little sa&s are starti'- to show wear( b)t %o) do',t $'ow how m)&h*, Case $ept his fa&e ver% still a'd for&ed himself to 'od* 7he' Armita-e was -o'e( he pi&$ed )p o'e of the bro&h)res* It was e1pe'sivel% pri'ted( i' <re'&h( E'-lish( a'd T)r$ish* <REESIDE -7H! 7AIT9 The fo)r of them were boo$ed o' a TH! fli-ht o)t of !esil$% airport* Tra'sfer at Paris to the 3A" sh)ttle* Case sat i' the lobb% of the Ista'b)l Hilto' a'd wat&hed Riviera browse bo-)s %4a'ti'e fra-me'ts i' the -lass-walled -ift shop* Armita-e( his tre'&h&oat draped over his sho)lders li$e a &ape( stood i' the shop,s e'tra'&e* Riviera was sle'der( blo'd( soft-voi&ed( his E'-lish a&&e'tless a'd fl)id* 8oll% said he was thirt%( b)t it wo)ld have bee' diffi&)lt to -)ess his a-e* She also said he was le-all% stateless a'd traveled )'der a for-ed D)t&h passport* He was a prod)&t of the r)bble ri'-s that fri'-e the radioa&tive &ore of old o''* Three smili'- 3apa'ese to)rists b)stled i'to the shop( 'oddi'- politel% to Armita-e* Armita-e &rossed the floor of the shop too :)i&$l%( too obvio)sl%( to sta'd beside Riviera* Riviera t)r'ed a'd smiled* He was ver% bea)tif)l2 Case ass)med the feat)res were the wor$ of a Chiba s)r-eo'* A s)btle 0ob( 'othi'- li$e Armita-e,s bla'dl% ha'dsome ble'd of pop fa&es* The ma',s forehead was hi-h a'd smooth( -ra% e%es &alm a'd dista't* His 'ose( whi&h mi-ht have bee' too 'i&el% s&)lpted( seemed to have bee' bro$e' a'd &l)msil% reset* The s)--estio' of br)talit% offset the deli&a&% of his 0aw a'd the :)i&$'ess of his smile* His teeth were small( eve'( a'd ver% white* Case wat&hed the white ha'ds pla% over the imitatio' fra-me'ts of s&)lpt)re* Riviera did',t a&t li$e a ma' who,d bee' atta&$ed the 'i-ht before( dr)--ed with a to1i'fle&hette( abd)&ted( s)b0e&ted to the <i'',s e1ami'atio'( a'd press)red b% Armita-e i'to 0oi'i'- their team* Case &he&$ed his wat&h* 8oll% was d)e ba&$ from her dr)- r)'* He loo$ed )p at Riviera a-ai'* +I bet %o),re sto'ed ri-ht 'ow( asshole(, he said to the Hilto' lobb%* A -ra%i'-

Italia' matro' i' a white leather t)1edo 0a&$et lowered her Pors&he -lasses to stare at him* He smiled broadl%( stood( a'd sho)ldered his ba-* He 'eeded &i-arettes for the fli-ht* He wo'dered if there was a smo$i'- se&tio' o' the 3A" sh)ttle* +See %a( lad%(, he said to the woma'( who promptl% slid the s)'-lasses ba&$ )p her 'ose a'd t)r'ed awa%* There were &i-arettes i' the -ift shop( b)t he did',t relish tal$i'- with Armita-e or Riviera* He left the lobb% a'd lo&ated a ve'di'- &o'sole i' a 'arrow al&ove( at the e'd of a ra'$ of pa% pho'es* He f)mbled thro)-h a po&$etf)l of lirasi( slotti'- the small d)ll allo% &oi's o'e after a'other( va-)el% am)sed b% the a'a&hro'ism of the pro&ess* The pho'e 'earest him ra'-* A)tomati&all%( he pi&$ed it )p* +!eah9, <ai't harmo'i&s( ti'% i'a)dible voi&es rattli'- a&ross some orbital li'$( a'd the' a so)'d li$e wi'd* +Hello( Case*, A fift%-lirasi &oi' fell from his ha'd( bo)'&ed( a'd rolled o)t of si-ht a&ross Hilto' &arpeti'-* +7i'term)te( Case* It,s time we tal$*, It was a &hip voi&e* +Do',t %o) wa't to tal$( Case9, He h)'- )p* O' his wa% ba&$ to the lobb%( his &i-arettes for-otte'( he had to wal$ the le'-th of the ra'$ed pho'es* Ea&h ra'- i' t)r'( b)t o'l% o'&e( as he passed*

PART THREE

8IDNI;HT IN THE R#E 3#"ES CERNE

Ar&hipela-o* The isla'ds* Tor)s( spi'dle( &l)ster* H)ma' DNA spreadi'- o)t from -ravit%,s steep well li$e a' oilsli&$* Call )p a -raphi&s displa% that -rossl% simplifies the e1&ha'-e of data i' the "-K ar&hipela-o* O'e se-me't &li&$s i' as red solid( a massive re&ta'-le domi'ati'- %o)r s&ree'* <reeside* <reeside is ma'% thi'-s( 'ot all of them evide't to the to)rists who sh)ttle )p a'd dow' the well* <reeside is brothel a'd ba'$i'- 'e1)s( pleas)re dome a'd free port( border tow' a'd spa* <reeside is "as Ce-as a'd the ha'-i'- -arde's of ab%lo'( a' orbital ;e'eva a'd home to a famil% i'bred a'd most &aref)ll% refi'ed( the i'd)strial &la' of Tessier a'd Ashpool* O' the TH! li'er to Paris( the% sat to-ether i' <irst Class( 8oll% i' the wi'dow seat( Case beside her( Riviera a'd Armita-e o' the aisle* O'&e( as the pla'e ba'$ed over water( Case saw the 0ewel--low of a ;ree$ isla'd tow'* A'd o'&e( rea&hi'- for his dri'$( he &a)-ht the fli&$er of a thi'- li$e a -ia't h)ma' sperm i' the depths of his bo)rbo' a'd water* 8oll% lea'ed a&ross him a'd slapped Riviera,s fa&e( o'&e* +No( bab%* No -ames* !o) pla% that s)blimi'al shit aro)'d me( I,ll h)rt %o) real bad* I &a' do it witho)t dama-i'%o) at all* I li$e that*, Case t)r'ed a)tomati&all% to &he&$ Armita-e,s rea&tio'* The smooth fa&e was &alm( the bl)e e%es alert( b)t there was 'o a'-er* +That,s ri-ht( Peter* Do',t*, Case t)r'ed ba&$( i' time to &at&h the briefest flash of a bla&$ rose( its petals shee'ed li$e leather( the bla&$ stem thor'ed with bri-ht &hrome* Peter Riviera smiled sweetl%( &losed his e%es( a'd fell i'sta'tl% asleep* 8oll% t)r'ed awa%( her le'ses refle&ted i' the dar$ wi'dow*

+!o) bee' )p( have',t %o)9, 8oll% as$ed( as he s:)irmed his wa% ba&$ i'to the deep temperfoam &o)&h o' the 3A" sh)ttle* +Nah* Never travel m)&h( 0)st for bi4*, The steward was atta&hi'- reado)t trodes to his wrist a'd left ear* +Hope %o) do',t -et SAS(, she said* +Airsi&$9 No wa%*, +It,s 'ot the same* !o)r heartbeat,ll speed )p i' 4ero--( a'd %o)r i''er ear,ll -o ')ts for a while* 5i&$s i' %o)r fli-ht refle1( li$e %o),ll be -etti'- si-'als to r)' li$e hell( a'd a lot of adre'ali'e*, The steward moved o' to Riviera( ta$i'- a 'ew set of trodes from his red plasti& apro'* Case t)r'ed his head a'd tried to ma$e o)t the o)tli'e of the old Orl% termi'als( b)t the sh)ttle pad was s&ree'ed b% -ra&ef)l blast-defle&tors of wet &o'&rete* The o'e 'earest the wi'dow bore a' Arabi& slo-a' i' red spra%bomb* He &losed his e%es a'd told himself the sh)ttle was o'l% a bi- airpla'e( o'e that flew ver% hi-h* It smelled li$e a' airpla'e( li$e 'ew &lothes a'd &hewi'- -)m a'd e1ha)stio'* He liste'ed to the piped $oto m)si& a'd waited* Twe't% mi')tes( the' -ravit% &ame dow' o' him li$e a -reat soft ha'd with bo'es of a'&ie't sto'e* Spa&e adaptatio' s%'drome was worse tha' 8oll%,s des&riptio'( b)t it passed :)i&$l% e'o)-h a'd he was able to sleep* The steward wo$e him as the% were prepari'- to do&$ at 3A" ,s termi'al &l)ster* +7e tra'sfer to <reeside 'ow9, he as$ed( e%ei'- a shred of !ehe%)a' toba&&o that had drifted -ra&ef)ll% )p o)t of his shirt po&$et to da'&e te' &e'timeters from his 'ose* There was 'o smo$i'- o' sh)ttle fli-hts* +No( we -ot the boss,s )s)al little $i'$ i' the pla's( %o) $'ow9 7e,re -etti'- this ta1i o)t to 6io'( 6io' &l)ster*, She to)&hed the release plate o' her har'ess a'd be-a' to free herself from the embra&e of the foam* +<)''% &hoi&e of ve')e( %o) as$ me*, +How,s that9, +Dreads* Rastas* Colo'%,s abo)t thirt% %ears old 'ow*, +7hat,s that mea'9,

+!o),ll see* It,s a' o$a% pla&e b% me* A'%wa%( the%,ll let %o) smo$e %o)r &i-arettes there*, 6io' had bee' fo)'ded b% five wor$ers who,d ref)sed to ret)r'( who,d t)r'ed their ba&$s o' the well a'd started b)ildi'-* The%,d s)ffered &al&i)m loss a'd heart shri'$a-e before rotatio'al -ravit% was established i' the &olo'%,s &e'tral tor)s* See' from the b)bble of the ta1i( 6io',s ma$eshift h)ll remi'ded Case of the pat&hwor$ te'eme'ts of Ista'b)l( the irre-)lar( dis&olored plates laser-s&rawled with Rastafaria' s%mbols a'd the i'itials of welders* 8oll% a'd a s$i''% 6io'ite &alled Aerol helped Case 'e-otiate a freefall &orridor i'to the &ore of a smaller tor)s* He,d lost tra&$ of Armita-e a'd Riviera i' the wa$e of a se&o'd wave of SAS verti-o* +Here(, 8oll% said( shovi'- his le-s i'to a 'arrow hat&hwa% overhead* +;rab the r)'-s* 8a$e li$e %o),re &limbi'- ba&$ward( ri-ht9 !o),re -oi'toward the h)ll( that,s li$e %o),re &limbi'- dow' i'to -ravit%* ;ot it9, Case,s stoma&h &h)r'ed* +!o) be fi'e( mo'(, Aerol said( his -ri' bra&$eted with -old i'&isors* Somehow( the e'd of the t)''el had be&ome its bottom* Case embra&ed the wea$ -ravit% li$e a drow'i'- ma' fi'di'- a po&$et of air* +#p(, 8oll% said( +%o) -o''a $iss it 'e1t9, Case la% flat o' the de&$( o' his stoma&h( arms spread* Somethi'- str)&$ him o' the sho)lder* He rolled over a'd saw a fat b)'dle of elasti& &able* +;otta pla% ho)se(, she said* +!o) help me stri'- this )p*, He loo$ed aro)'d the wide( feat)reless spa&e a'd 'oti&ed steel ri'-s welded o' ever% s)rfa&e( seemi'-l% at ra'dom* 7he' the%,d str)'- the &ables( a&&ordi'- to some &omple1 s&heme of 8oll%,s( the% h)'them with battered sheets of %ellow plasti&* As the% wor$ed( Case -rad)all% be&ame aware of the m)si& that p)lsed &o'sta'tl% thro)-h the &l)ster* It was &alled d)b( a se's)o)s mosai& &oo$ed from vast libraries of di-itali4ed pop2 it was worship( 8oll% said( a'd a se'se of &omm)'it%* Case heaved at o'e of the %ellow sheets2 the thi'- was li-ht b)t still aw$ward* 6io' smelled of &oo$ed ve-etables( h)ma'it%( a'd -a'0a* +;ood(, Armita-e said( -lidi'- loose-$'eed thro)-h the hat&h a'd 'oddi'- at the ma4e of sheets* Riviera followed( less &ertai' i' the partial -ravit%* +7here were %o) whe' it 'eeded doi'-9, Case as$ed Riviera* The ma' ope'ed his mo)th to spea$* A small tro)t swam o)t( traili'- impossible b)bbles* It -lided past Case,s &hee$* +I' the head(, Riviera said( a'd smiled*

Case la)-hed* +;ood(, Riviera said( +%o) &a' la)-h* I wo)ld have tried to help %o)( b)t I,m 'o -ood with m% ha'ds*, He held )p his palms( whi&h s)dde'l% do)bled* <o)r arms( fo)r ha'ds* +3)st the harmless &low'( ri-ht( Riviera9, 8oll% stepped betwee' them* +!o(, Aerol said( from the hat&h( +%o) wa',B &ome wi,B me( &owbo% mo'*, +It,s %o)r de&$(, Armita-e said( +a'd the other -ear* Help him -et it i' from the &ar-o ba%*, +!o) ver,B pale( mo'(, Aerol said( as the% were -)idi'- the foam-b)'dled Hosa$a termi'al alo'- the &e'tral &orridor* +8a%be %o) wa',B eat somethi',B*, Case,s mo)th flooded with saliva2 he shoo$ his head* Armita-e a''o)'&ed a' ei-ht%-ho)r sta% i' 6io'* 8oll% a'd Case wo)ld pra&ti&e i' 4ero -ravit%( he said( a'd a&&limati4e themselves to wor$i'- i' it* He wo)ld brief them o' <reeside a'd the Cilla Stra%li-ht* It was )'&lear what Riviera was s)pposed to be doi'-( b)t Case did',t feel li$e as$i'-* A few ho)rs after their arrival( Armita-e had se't him i'to the %ellow ma4e to &all Riviera o)t for a meal* He,d fo)'d him &)rled li$e a &at o' a thi' pad of temperfoam( 'a$ed( appare'tl% asleep( his head orbited b% a revolvi'- halo of small white -eometri& forms( &)bes( spheres( a'd p%ramids* +He%( Riviera*, The ri'&o'ti')ed to revolve* He,d -o'e ba&$ a'd told Armita-e* +He,s sto'ed(, 8oll% said( loo$i'- )p from the disassembled parts of her flet&her* +"eave him be*, Armita-e seemed to thi'$ that 4ero-- wo)ld affe&t Case,s abilit% to operate i' the matri1* +Do',t sweat it(, Case ar-)ed( +I 0a&$ i' a'd I,m 'ot here* It,s all the same*, +!o)r adre'ali'e levels are hi-her(, Armita-e said* +!o),ve still -ot SAS* !o) wo',t have time for it to wear off* !o),re -oi'- to lear' to wor$ with it*, +So I do the r)' from here9, +No* Pra&ti&e( Case* Now* #p i' the &orridor***, C%berspa&e( as the de&$ prese'ted it( had 'o parti&)lar relatio'ship with the de&$,s ph%si&al whereabo)ts* 7he' Case 0a&$ed i'( he ope'ed his e%es to the familiar &o'fi-)ratio' of the Easter' Seaboard <issio' A)thorit%,s A4te& p%ramid of data* +How %o) doi'-( Di1ie9,

+I,m dead( Case* ;ot e'o)-h time i' o' this Hosa$a to fi-)re that o'e*, +How,s it feel9, +It does',t*, + other %o)9, +7hat bothers me is( 'othi',B does*, +How,s that9, +Had me this b)dd% i' the R)ssia' &amp( Siberia( his th)mb was frostbit* 8edi&s &ame b% a'd the% &)t it off* 8o'th later he,s tossi',B all 'i-ht* Elro%( I said( what,s eati',B %o)9 ;oddam th)mb,s it&hi',B( he sa%s* So I told him( s&rat&h it* 8&Co%( he sa%s( it,s the other -oddam th)mb*, 7he' the &o'str)&t la)-hed( it &ame thro)-h as somethi'- else( 'ot la)-hter( b)t a stab of &old dow' Case,s spi'e* +Do me a favor( bo%*, +7hat,s that( Di19, +This s&am of %o)rs( whe' it,s over( %o) erase this -oddam thi'-*, Case did',t )'dersta'd the 6io'ites* Aerol( with 'o parti&)lar provo&atio'( related the tale of the bab% who had b)rst from his forehead a'd s&ampered i'to a forest of h%dropo'i& -a'0a* +Cer,B small bab%( mo'( 'o lo'-,B %o) fi'-a*, He r)bbed his palm a&ross a' )'s&arred e1pa'se of brow' forehead a'd smiled* +It,s the -a'0a(, 8oll% said( whe' Case told her the stor%* +The% do',t ma$e m)&h of a differe'&e betwee' states( %o) $'ow9 Aerol tells %o) it happe'ed( well( it happe'ed to him* It,s 'ot li$e b)llshit( more li$e poetr%* ;et it9, Case 'odded d)bio)sl%* The 6io'ites alwa%s to)&hed %o) whe' the% were tal$i'-( ha'ds o' %o)r sho)lder* He did',t li$e that* +He%( Aerol(, Case &alled( a' ho)r later( as he prepared for a pra&ti&e r)' i' the freefall &orridor* +Come here( ma'* 7a''a show %o) this thi'-*, He held o)t the trodes* Aerol e1e&)ted a slow-motio' t)mble* His bare feet str)&$ the steel wall a'd he &a)-ht a -irder with his free ha'd* The other held a tra'spare't waterba- b)l-i'- with bl)e--ree' al-ae* He bli'$ed mildl% a'd -ri''ed*

+Tr% it(, Case said* He too$ the ba'd( p)t it o'( a'd Case ad0)sted the trodes* He &losed his e%es* Case hit the power st)d* Aerol sh)ddered* Case 0a&$ed him ba&$ o)t* +7hat did %o) see( ma'9, + ab%lo'(, Aerol said( sadl%( ha'di'- him the trodes a'd $i&$i'- off dow' the &orridor* Riviera sat motio'less o' his foam pad( his ri-ht arm e1te'ded strai-ht o)t( level with his sho)lder* A 0ewel-s&aled s'a$e( its e%es li$e r)b% 'eo'( was &oiled ti-htl% a few millimeters behi'd his elbow* Case wat&hed the s'a$e( whi&h was fi'-er-thi&$ a'd ba'ded bla&$ a'd s&arlet( slowl% &o'tra&t( ti-hte'i'- aro)'d Riviera,s arm* +Come the'(, the ma' said &aressi'-l% to the pale wa1% s&orpio' poised i' the &e'ter of his )pt)r'ed palm* +Come*, The s&orpio' swa%ed its brow'ish &laws a'd s&)rried )p his arm its feet tra&$i'- the fai't dar$ telltales of vei's* 7he' it rea&hed the i''er elbow( it halted a'd seemed to vibrate* Riviera made a soft hissi'- so)'d* The sti'- &ame )p( :)ivered( a'd sa'$ i'to the s$i' above a b)l-i'- vei'* The &oral s'a$e rela1ed( a'd Riviera si-hed slowl% as the i'0e&tio' hit him* The' the s'a$e a'd the s&orpio' were -o'e( a'd he held a mil$% plasti& s%ri'-e i' his left ha'd* ++If ;od made a'%thi'- better( he $ept it for himself*, !o) $'ow the e1pressio'( Case9, +!eah(, Case said* +I heard that abo)t lots of differe't thi'-s* !o) alwa%s ma$e it i'to a little show9, Riviera loose'ed a'd removed the elasti& le'-th of s)r-i&al t)bi'- from his arm* +!es* It,s more f)'*, He smiled( his e%es dista't 'ow( &hee$s fl)shed* +I,ve a membra'e set i'( 0)st over the vei'( so I 'ever have to worr% abo)t the &o'ditio' of the 'eedle*, +Does',t h)rt9, The bri-ht e%es met his* +Of &o)rse it does* That,s part of it( is',t it9, +I,d 0)st )se derms(, Case said* +Pedestria'(, Riviera s'eered( a'd la)-hed( p)tti'- o' a short-sleeved white &otto' shirt* +8)st be 'i&e(, Case said( -etti'- )p* +;et hi-h %o)rself( Case9, +I hadda -ive it )p*,

+<reeside(, Armita-e said( to)&hi'- the pa'el o' the little ra)' holo-ram pro0e&tor* The ima-e shivered i'to fo&)s( 'earl% three meters from tip to tip* +Casi'os here*, He rea&hed i'to the s$eletal represe'tatio' a'd poi'ted* +Hotels( strata-title propert%( bi- shops alo'here*, His ha'd moved* + l)e areas are la$es*, He wal$ed to o'e e'd of the model* + i&i-ar* Narrows at the e'ds*, +7e &a' see that fi'e(, 8oll% said* +8o)'tai' effe&t( as it 'arrows* ;ro)'d seems to -et hi-her( more ro&$%( b)t it,s a' eas% &limb* Hi-her %o) &limb( the lower the -ravit%* Sports )p there* There,s velodrome ri'here*, He poi'ted* +A what9, Case lea'ed forward* +The% ra&e bi&%&les(, 8oll% said* +"ow -rav( hi-h-tra&tio' tires( -et )p over a h)'dred $ilos a' ho)r*, +This e'd does',t &o'&er' )s(, Armita-e said with his )s)al )tter serio)s'ess* +Shit(, 8oll% said( +I,m a' avid &%&list*, Riviera -i--led* Armita-e wal$ed to the opposite e'd of the pro0e&tio'* +This e'd does*, The i'terior detail of the holo-ram e'ded here( a'd the fi'al se-me't of the spi'dle was empt%* +This is the Cilla Stra%li-ht* Steep &limb o)t of -ravit% a'd ever% approa&h is $i'$ed* There,s a si'-le e'tra'&e( here( dead &e'ter* 6ero -ravit%*, +7hat,s i'side( boss9, Riviera lea'ed forward( &ra'i'- his 'e&$* <o)r ti'% fi-)res -littered( 'ear the tip of Armita-e,s fi'-er* Armita-e slapped at them as if the% were -'ats* +Peter(, Armita-e said( +%o),re -oi'- to be the first to fi'd o)t* !o),ll arra'-e %o)rself a' i'vitatio'* O'&e %o),re i'( %o) see that 8oll% -ets i'*, Case stared at the bla'$'ess that represe'ted Stra%li-ht( rememberi'- the <i'',s stor%A Smith( 3imm%( the tal$i'- head( a'd the 'i'0a* +Details available9, Riviera as$ed* +I 'eed to pla' a wardrobe( %o) see*, +"ear' the streets(, Armita-e said( ret)r'i'- to the &e'ter of the model* +Desiderata Street here* This is the R)e 3)les Cer'e*,

Riviera rolled his e%es* 7hile Armita-e re&ited the 'ames of <reeside ave')es( a do4e' bri-ht p)st)les rose o' his 'ose( &hee$s( a'd &hi'* Eve' 8oll% la)-hed* Armita-e pa)sed( re-arded them all with his &old empt% e%es* +Sorr%(, Riviera said( a'd the sores fli&$ered a'd va'ished* Case wo$e( late i'to the sleepi'- period( a'd be&ame aware of 8oll% &ro)&hed beside him o' the foam* He &o)ld feel her te'sio'* He la% there &o'f)sed* 7he' she moved( the sheer speed of it st)''ed him* She was )p a'd thro)-h the sheet of %ellow plasti& before he,d had time to reali4e she,d slashed it ope'* +Do',t %o) move( frie'd*, Case rolled over a'd p)t his head thro)-h the re't i' the plasti&* +7ha***9, +Sh)t )p*, +!o) th,B o'e( mo'(, said a 6io' voi&e* +Cate%e( &all ,em( &all ,em Steppi',B Ra4or* I 8ael&)m( sister* rothers wa',B &o'verse wi,B %o) a',B &owbo%*, +7hat brothers9, +<o)'ders( mo'* Elders of 6io'( %a $'ow***, +7e ope' that hat&h( the li-ht,ll wa$e bossma'(, Case whispered* +8a$e it spe&ial dar$( 'ow(, the ma' said* +Come* I a',B I visit th,B <o)'ders*, +!o) $'ow how fast I &a' &)t %o)( frie'd9, +Do',B sta',B tal$i',B( sister* Come*, The two s)rvivi'- <o)'ders of 6io' were old me'( old with the a&&elerated a-i'- that overta$es me' who spe'd too ma'% %ears o)tside the embra&e of -ravit%* Their brow' le-s( brittle with &al&i)m loss( loo$ed fra-ile i' the harsh -lare of refle&ted s)'li-ht* The% floated i' the &e'ter of a pai'ted 0)'-le of rai'bow folia-e( a l)rid &omm)'al m)ral that &ompletel% &overed the h)ll of the spheri&al &hamber* The air was thi&$ with resi'o)s smo$e* +Steppi',B Ra4or(, o'e said( as 8oll% drifted i'to the &hamber* +"i$e )'to a whippi',B

sti&$*, +That is a stor% we have( sister(, said the other( +a reli-io' stor%* 7e are -lad %o),ve &ome with 8ael&)m*, +How &ome %o) do',t tal$ the patois9, 8oll% as$ed* +I &ame from "os A'-eles(, the old ma' said* His dreadlo&$s were li$e a matted tree with bra'&hes the &olor of steel wool* +"o'- time a-o( )p the -ravit% well a'd o)t of ab%lo'* To lead the Tribes home* Now m% brother li$e's %o) to Steppi',B Ra4or*, 8oll% e1te'ded her ri-ht ha'd a'd the blades flashed i' the smo$% air* The other <o)'der la)-hed( his head throw' ba&$* +Soo' &ome( the <i'al Da%s*** Coi&es* Coi&es &r%i',B i''a wilder'ess( prophes%i',B r)i' )'to ab%lo'***, +Coi&es*, The <o)'der from "os A'-eles was stari'- at Case* +7e mo'itor ma'% fre:)e'&ies* 7e liste' alwa%s* Came a voi&e( o)t of the babel of to'-)es( spea$i'- to )s* It pla%ed )s a mi-ht% d)b*, +Call ,em 7i'ter 8)te(, said the other( ma$i'- it two words* Case felt the s$i' &rawl o' his arms* +The 8)te tal$ed to )s(, the first <o)'der said* +The 8)te said we are to help %o)*, +7he' was this9, Case as$ed* +Thirt% ho)rs prior %o) do&$i',B 6io'*, +!o) ever hear this voi&e before9, +No(, said the ma' from "os A'-eles( +a'd we are )'&ertai' of its mea'i'-* If these are <i'al Da%s( we m)st e1pe&t false prophets***, +"iste'(, Case said( +that,s a' AI( %o) $'ow9 Artifi&ial i'telli-e'&e* The m)si& it pla%ed %o)( it probabl% 0)st tapped %o)r ba'$s a'd &oo$ed )p whatever it tho)-ht %o),d li$e to --, + ab%lo'(, bro$e i' the other <o)'der( +mothers ma'% demo'( I a',B I $'ow* 8)ltit)de hordeE, +7hat was that %o) &alled me( old ma'9, 8oll% as$ed*

+Steppi',B Ra4or* A',B %o) bri'- a s&o)r-e o' ab%lo'( sister( o' its dar$est heart***, +7hat $i'da messa-e the voi&e have9, Case as$ed* +7e were told to help %o)(, the other said( +that %o) mi-ht serve as a tool of <i'al Da%s*, His li'ed fa&e was tro)bled* +7e were told to se'd 8ael&)m with %o)( i' his t)- ;arve% to the ab%lo' port of <reeside* A'd this we shall do*, +8ael&)m a r)de bo%(, said the other( +a',B a ri-hteo)s t)- pilot*, + )t we have de&ided to se'd Aerol as well( i' ab%lo' Ro&$er( to wat&h over ;arve%*, A' aw$ward sile'&e filled the dome* +That,s it9, Case as$ed* +!o) -)%s wor$ for Armita-e or what9, +7e re't %o) spa&e(, said the "os A'-eles <o)'der* +7e have a &ertai' i'volveme't here with vario)s traffi&s( a'd 'o re-ard for ab%lo',s law* O)r law is the word of 3ah* )t this time( it ma% be( we have bee' mista$e'*, +8eas)re twi&e( &)t o'&e(, said the other( softl%* +Come o'( Case(, 8oll% said* +"et,s -et ba&$ before the ma' fi-)res o)t we,re -o'e*, +8ael&)m will ta$e %o)* 3ah love( sister*,

The t)- 8ar&)s ;arve%( a steel dr)m 'i'e meters lo'- a'd two i' diameter( &rea$ed a'd sh)ddered as 8ael&)m p)'&hed for a 'avi-atio'al b)r'* Spla%ed i' his elasti& --web( Case wat&hed the 6io'ite,s m)s&)lar ba&$ thro)-h a ha4e of s&opolami'e* He,d ta$e' the dr)- to bl)'t SAS 'a)sea( b)t the stim)la'ts the ma')fa&t)rer i'&l)ded to &o)'ter the s&op had 'o effe&t o' his do&tored s%stem* +How lo'-,s it -o''a ta$e )s to ma$e <reeside9, 8oll% as$ed from her web beside 8ael&)m,s pilot mod)le* +Do' be lo'- 'ow( m,seh dat*,

+!o) -)%s ever thi'$ i' ho)rs9, +Sister( time( it be time( %a $'ow wha mea'9 Dread(, a'd he shoo$ his lo&$s( +at &o'trol( mo'( a',B I a',B I &ome a <reeside whe' I a',B I &ome***, +Case(, she said( +have %o) ma%be do'e a'%thi'- toward -etti'- i' to)&h with o)r pal from er'e9 "i$e all that time %o) spe't i' 6io'( pl)--ed i' with %o)r lips movi'-9, +Pal(, Case said( +s)re* No* I have',t* )t I -ot a f)''% stor% alo'- those li'es( left over from Ista'b)l*, He told her abo)t the pho'es i' the Hilto'* +Christ(, she said( +there -oes a &ha'&e* How &ome %o) h)'- )p9, +Co)lda bee' a'%bod%(, he lied* +3)st a &hip*** I d)''o*, He shr)--ed* +Not 0)st ,&a)se %o) were s&ared( h)h9, He shr)--ed a-ai'* +Do it 'ow*, +7hat9, +Now* A'%wa%( tal$ to the <latli'e abo)t it*, +I,m all doped(, he protested( b)t rea&hed for the trodes* His de&$ a'd the Hosa$a had bee' mo)'ted behi'd 8ael&)m,s mod)le alo'- with a ver% hi-h-resol)tio' Cra% mo'itor* He ad0)sted the trodes* 8ar&)s ;arve% had bee' throw' to-ether aro)'d a' e'ormo)s old R)ssia' air s&r)bber( a re&ta'-)lar thi'- da)bed with Rastafaria' s%mbols( "io's of 6io' a'd la&$ Star "i'ers( the reds a'd -ree's a'd %ellows overla%i'- word% de&als i' C%rilli& s&ript* Someo'e had spra%ed 8ael&)m,s pilot -ear a hot tropi&al pi'$( s&rapi'most of the overspra% off the s&ree's a'd reado)ts with a ra4or blade* The -as$ets aro)'d the airlo&$ i' the bow were festoo'ed with semiri-id -lobs a'd streamers of tra'sl)&e't &a)l$( li$e &l)ms% stra'ds of imitatio' seaweed* He -la'&ed past 8ael&)m,s sho)lder to the &e'tral s&ree' a'd saw a do&$i'- displa%A the t)-,s path was a li'e of red dots( <reeside a se-me'ted -ree' &ir&le* He wat&hed the li'e e1te'd itself( -e'erati'- a 'ew dot* He 0a&$ed i'* +Di1ie9,

+!eah*, +!o) ever tr% to &ra&$ a' AI9, +S)re* I flatli'ed* <irst time* I was lar$i',B( 0a&$ed )p real hi-h( o)t b% Rio heav% &ommer&e se&tor* i- bi4( m)lti'atio'als( ;over'me't of ra4il lit )p li$e a Christmas tree* 3)st lar$i',B aro)'d( %o) $'ow9 A'd the' I started pi&$i'- )p o' this o'e &)be( ma%be three levels hi-her )p* 3a&$ed )p there a'd made a pass*, +7hat did it loo$ li$e( the vis)al9, +7hite &)be*, +How,d %o) $'ow it was a' AI9, +How,d I $'ow9 3es)s* It was the de'sest i&e I,d ever see'* So what else was it9 The militar% dow' there do',t have a'%thi'- li$e that* A'%wa%( I 0a&$ed o)t a'd told m% &omp)ter to loo$ it )p*, +!eah9, +It was o' the T)ri'- Re-istr%* AI* <ro- &ompa'% ow'ed its Rio mai'frame*, Case &hewed his lower lip a'd -a4ed o)t a&ross the platea)s of the Easter' Seaboard <issio' A)thorit%( i'to the i'fi'ite 'e)roele&tro'i& void of the matri1* +Tessier-Ashpool( Di1ie9, +Tessier( %eah*, +A'd %o) we't ba&$9, +S)re* I was &ra4%* <i-)red I,d tr% to &)t it* Hit the first strata a'd that,s all she wrote* 8% 0oebo% smelled the s$i' fr%i'- a'd p)lled the trodes off me* 8ea' shit( that i&e*, +A'd %o)r EE; was flat*, +7ell( that,s the st)ff of le-e'd( ai',t it9, Case 0a&$ed o)t* +Shit(, he said( +how do %o) thi'$ Di1ie -ot himself flatli'ed( h)h9 Tr%i'- to b)44 a' AI* ;reat***, +;o o'(, she said( +the two of %o) are s)pposed to be d%'amite( ri-ht9,

+Di1(, Case said( +I wa''a have a loo$ at a' AI i' er'e* Ca' %o) thi'$ of a'% reaso' 'ot to9, +Not )'less %o) -ot a morbid fear of death( 'o*, Case p)'&hed for the Swiss ba'$i'- se&tor( feeli'- a wave of e1hilaratio' as &%berspa&e shivered( bl)rred( -elled* The Easter' Seaboard <issio' A)thorit% was -o'e( repla&ed b% the &ool -eometri& i'tri&a&% of 6)ri&h &ommer&ial ba'$i'-* He p)'&hed a-ai'( for er'e* +#p(, the &o'str)&t said* +It,ll be hi-h*, The% as&e'ded latti&es of li-ht( levels strobi'-( a bl)e fli&$er* That,ll be it( Case tho)-ht* 7i'term)te was a simple &)be of white li-ht( that ver% simpli&it% s)--esti'- e1treme &omple1it%* +Do',t loo$ m)&h( does it9, the <latli'e said* + )t 0)st %o) tr% a'd to)&h it*, +I,m -oi'- i' for a pass( Di1ie*, + e m% -)est*, Case p)'&hed to withi' fo)r -rid poi'ts of the &)be* Its bla'$ fa&e( toweri'- above him 'ow( be-a' to seethe with fai't i'ter'al shadows( as tho)-h a tho)sa'd da'&ers whirled behi'd a vast sheet of frosted -lass* +5'ows we,re here(, the <latli'e observed* Case p)'&hed a-ai'( o'&e2 the% 0)mped forward b% a si'-le -rid poi't* A stippled -ra% &ir&le formed o' the fa&e of the &)be* +Di1ie***, + a&$ off( fast*, The -ra% area b)l-ed smoothl%( be&ame a sphere( a'd deta&hed itself from the &)be* Case felt the ed-e of the de&$ sti'- his palm as he slapped 8AD RECERSE* The matri1 bl)rred ba&$ward2 the% pl)'-ed dow' a twilit shaft of Swiss ba'$s* He loo$ed )p* The

sphere was dar$er 'ow( -ai'i'- o' him* <alli'-* +3a&$ o)t(, the <latli'e said* The dar$ &ame dow' li$e a hammer* Cold steel odor a'd i&e &aressed his spi'e* A'd fa&es peeri'- i' from a 'eo' forest( sailors a'd h)stlers a'd whores( )'der a poiso'ed silver s$%*** +"oo$( Case( %o) tell me what the f)&$ is -oi'- o' with %o)( %o) wi- or somethi'-9, A stead% p)lse of pai'( midwa% dow' his spi'e Rai' wo$e him( a slow dri44le( his feet ta'-led i' &oils of dis&arded fiberopti&s* The ar&ade,s sea of so)'d washed over him( re&eded( ret)r'ed* Rolli'- over( he sat )p a'd held his head* "i-ht from a servi&e hat&h at the rear of the ar&ade showed him bro$e' le'-ths of damp &hipboard a'd the drippi'- &hassis of a -)tted -ame &o'sole* Streamli'ed 3apa'ese was ste'&iled a&ross the side of the &o'sole i' faded pi'$s a'd %ellows* He -la'&ed )p a'd saw a soot% plasti& wi'dow( a fai't -low of fl)ores&e'ts* His ba&$ h)rt( his spi'e* He -ot to his feet( br)shed wet hair o)t of his e%es* Somethi'- had happe'ed*** He sear&hed his po&$ets for mo'e%( fo)'d 'othi'-( a'd shivered* 7here was his 0a&$et9 He tried to fi'd it( loo$ed behi'd the &o'sole( b)t -ave )p* O' Ni'sei( he too$ the meas)re of the &rowd* <rida%* It to be a <rida%* "i'da was probabl% i' the ar&ade* 8i-ht have mo'e%( or at least &i-arettes*** Co)-hi'-( wri'-i'rai' from the fro't of his shirt( he ed-ed thro)-h the &rowd to the ar&ade,s e'tra'&e* Holo-rams twisted a'd sh)ddered to the roari'- of the -ames( -hosts overlappi'- i' the &rowded ha4e of the pla&e( a smell of sweat a'd bored te'sio'* A sailor i' a white t-shirt ')$ed o'' o' a Ta'$ 7ar &o'sole( a' a4)re flash* She was pla%i'- 7i4ard,s Castle( lost i' it( her -ra% e%es rimmed with sm)d-ed bla&$

pai'tsti&$* She loo$ed )p as he p)t his arm aro)'d her( smiled* +He%* How %o) doi',B9 "oo$ wet*, He $issed her* +!o) made me blow m% -ame(, she said* +"oo$ there( asshole* Seve'th level d)'-eo' a'd the -oddam vampires -ot me*, She passed him a &i-arette* +!o) loo$ prett% str)'-( ma'* 7here %o) bee'9, +I do',t $'ow*, +!o) hi-h( Case9 Dri'$i',B a-ai'9 Eati',B 6o'e,s de19, +8a%be*** how lo'- si'&e %o) see' me9, +He%( it,s a p)t-o'( ri-ht9, She peered at him* +Ri-ht9, +No* Some $i'd of bla&$o)t* I*** I wo$e )p i' the alle%*, +8a%be somebod% de&$ed %o)( bab%* ;ot %o)r roll i'ta&t9, He shoo$ his head* +There %o) -o* !o) 'eed a pla&e to sleep( Case9, +I -)ess so*, +Come o'( the'*, She too$ his ha'd* +7e,ll -et %o) a &offee a'd somethi'- to eat* Ta$e %o) home* It,s -ood to see %o)( ma'*, She s:)ee4ed his ha'd* He smiled* Somethi'- &ra&$ed* Somethi'- shifted at the &ore of thi'-s* The ar&ade fro4e( vibrated -She was -o'e* The wei-ht of memor% &ame dow'( a' e'tire bod% of $'owled-e drive' i'to his head li$e a mi&rosoft i'to a so&$et* ;o'e* He smelled b)r'i'- meat* The sailor i' the white t-shirt was -o'e* The ar&ade was empt%( sile't* Case t)r'ed slowl%( his sho)lders h)'&hed( teeth bared( his ha'ds b)'&hed i'to i'vol)'tar% fists* Empt%* A &r)mpled %ellow &a'd% wrapper( bala'&ed o' the ed-e of a &o'sole( dropped to the floor a'd la% amid flatte'ed b)tts a'd st%rofoam &)ps*

+I had a &i-arette(, Case said( loo$i'- dow' at his white $')&$led fist* +I had a &i-arette a'd a -irl a'd a pla&e to sleep* Do %o) hear me( %o) so' of a bit&h9 !o) hear me9, E&hoes moved thro)-h the hollow of the ar&ade( fadi'- dow' &orridors of &o'soles* He stepped o)t i'to the street* The rai' had stopped* Ni'sei was deserted* Holo-rams fli&$ered( 'eo' da'&ed* He smelled boiled ve-etables from a ve'dor,s p)sh&art a&ross the street* A' )'ope'ed pa&$ of !ehe%)a's la% at his feet( beside a boo$ of mat&hes* 3#"I#S DEANE I8PORT EDPORT* Case stared at the pri'ted lo-o a'd its 3apa'ese tra'slatio'* +O$a%(, he said( pi&$i'- )p the mat&hes a'd ope'i'- the pa&$ of &i-arettes* +I hear %o)*, He too$ his time &limbi'- the stairs of Dea'e,s offi&e* No r)sh( he told himself( 'o h)rr%* The sa--i'- fa&e of the Dali &lo&$ still told the wro'- time* There was d)st o' the 5a'di's$% table a'd the Neo-A4te& boo$&ases* A wall of white fiber-lass shippi'mod)les filled the room with a smell of -i'-er* +Is the door lo&$ed9, Case waited for a' a'swer( b)t 'o'e &ame* He &rossed to the offi&e door a'd tried it* +3)lie9, The -ree'-shaded brass lamp &ast a &ir&le of li-ht o' Dea'e,s des$* Case stared at the -)ts of a' a'&ie't t%pewriter( at &assettes( &r)mpled pri'to)ts( at sti&$% plasti& ba-s filled with -i'-er samples* There was 'o o'e there* Case stepped aro)'d the broad steel des$ a'd p)shed Dea'e,s &hair o)t of the wa%* He fo)'d the -)' i' a &ra&$ed leather holster faste'ed be'eath the des$ with silver tape* It was a' a'ti:)e( a *>KH 8a-')m with the barrel a'd tri--er--)ard saw' off* The -rip had bee' b)ilt )p with la%ers of mas$i'- tape* The tape was old( brow'( shi'% with a pati'a of dirt* He flipped the &%li'der o)t a'd e1ami'ed ea&h of the si1 &artrid-es* The% were ha'dloads* The soft lead was still bri-ht a'd )'tar'ished* 7ith the revolver i' his ri-ht ha'd( Case ed-ed past the &abi'et to the left of the des$ a'd stepped i'to the &e'ter of the &l)ttered offi&e( awa% from the pool of li-ht* +I -)ess I,m 'ot i' a'% h)rr%* I -)ess it,s %o)r show* )t all this shit( %o) $'ow( it,s -etti'- $i'd of*** old*, He raised the -)' with both ha'ds( aimi'- for the &e'ter of the des$( a'd p)lled the tri--er*

The re&oil 'earl% bro$e his wrist* The m)44le-flash lit the offi&e li$e a flashb)lb* 7ith his ears ri'-i'-( he stared at the 0a--ed hole i' the fro't of the des$* E1plosive b)llet* A4ide* He raised the -)' a-ai'* +!o) 'eed',t do that( old so'(, 3)lie said( steppi'- o)t of the shadows* He wore a threepie&e drape s)it i' sil$ herri'-bo'e( a striped shirt( a'd a bow tie* His -lasses wi'$ed i' the li-ht* Case bro)-ht the -)' aro)'d a'd loo$ed dow' the li'e of si-ht at Dea'e,s pi'$( a-eless fa&e* +Do',t(, Dea'e said* +!o),re ri-ht* Abo)t what this all is* 7hat I am* )t there are &ertai' i'ter'al lo-i&s to be ho'ored* If %o) )se that( %o),ll see a lot of brai's a'd blood( a'd it wo)ld ta$e me several ho)rs -%o)r s)b0e&tive time -to effe&t a'other spo$esperso'* This set is',t eas% for me to mai'tai'* Oh( a'd I,m sorr% abo)t "i'da( i' the ar&ade* I was hopi'- to spea$ thro)-h her( b)t I,m -e'erati'- all this o)t of %o)r memories( a'd the emotio'al &har-e*** 7ell( it,s ver% tri&$%* I slipped* Sorr%*, Case lowered the -)'* +This is the matri1* !o),re 7i'term)te*, +!es* This is all &omi'- to %o) &o)rtes% of the simstim )'it wired i'to %o)r de&$( of &o)rse* I,m -lad I was able to &)t %o) off before %o),d ma'a-ed to 0a&$ o)t*, Dea'e wal$ed aro)'d the des$( strai-hte'ed his &hair( a'd sat dow'* +Sit( old so'* 7e have a lot to tal$ abo)t*, +Do we9, +Of &o)rse we do* 7e have had for some time* I was read% whe' I rea&hed %o) b% pho'e i' Ista'b)l* Time,s ver% short 'ow* !o),ll be ma$i'- %o)r r)' i' a matter of da%s( Case*, Dea'e pi&$ed )p a bo'bo' a'd stripped off its &he&$ered wrapper( popped it i'to his mo)th* +Sit(, he said aro)'d the &a'd%* Case lowered himself i'to the swivel &hair i' fro't of the des$ witho)t ta$i'- his e%es off Dea'e* He sat with the -)' i' his ha'd( resti'- it o' his thi-h* +Now(, Dea'e said bris$l%( +order of the da%* +7hat(, %o),re as$i'- %o)rself( +is 7i'term)te9, Am I ri-ht9, +8ore or less*, +A' artifi&ial i'telli-e'&e( b)t %o) $'ow that* !o)r mista$e( a'd it,s :)ite a lo-i&al o'e( is i' &o'f)si'- the 7i'term)te mai'frame( er'e( with the 7i'term)te e'tit%*, Dea'e s)&$ed his bo'bo' 'oisil%* +!o),re alread% aware of the other AI i' Tessier-Ashpool,s

li'$-)p( are',t %o)9 Rio* I( i'sofar as I have a' +I, -this -ets rather metaph%si&al( %o) see -I am the o'e who arra'-es thi'-s for Armita-e* Or Corto( who( b% the wa%( is :)ite )'stable* Stable e'o)-h(, said Dea'e a'd withdrew a' or'ate -old wat&h from a vest po&$et a'd fli&$ed it ope'( +for the 'e1t da% or so*, +!o) ma$e abo)t as m)&h se'se as a'%thi'- i' this deal ever has(, Case said( massa-i'his temples with his free ha'd* +If %o),re so -oddam smart***, +7h% ai',t I ri&h9, Dea'e la)-hed( a'd 'earl% &ho$ed o' his bo'bo'* +7ell( Case( all I &a' sa% to that( a'd I reall% do',t have 'earl% as ma'% a'swers as %o) ima-i'e I do( is that what %o) thi'$ of as 7i'term)te is o'l% a part of a'other( a( shall we sa%( pote'tial e'tit%* I( let )s sa%( am merel% o'e aspe&t of that e'tit%,s brai'* It,s rather li$e deali'-( from %o)r poi't of view( with a ma' whose lobes have bee' severed* "et,s sa% %o),re deali'- with a small part of the ma',s left brai'* Diffi&)lt to sa% if %o),re deali'- with the ma' at all( i' a &ase li$e that*, Dea'e smiled* +Is the Corto stor% tr)e9 !o) -ot to him thro)-h a mi&ro i' that <re'&h hospital9, +!es* A'd I assembled the file %o) a&&essed i' "o'do'* I tr% to pla'( i' %o)r se'se of the word( b)t that is',t m% basi& mode( reall%* I improvise* It,s m% -reatest tale't* I prefer sit)atio's to pla's( %o) see*** Reall%( I,ve had to deal with -ive's* I &a' sort a -reat deal of i'formatio'( a'd sort it ver% :)i&$l%* It,s ta$e' a ver% lo'- time to assemble the team %o),re a part of* Corto was the first( a'd he ver% 'earl% did',t ma$e it* Cer% far -o'e( i' To)lo'* Eati'-( e1&reti'-( a'd mast)rbati'- were the best he &o)ld ma'a-e* )t the )'derl%i'- str)&t)re of obsessio's was thereA S&reami'- <ist( his betra%al( the Co'-ressio'al heari'-s*, +Is he still &ra4%9, +He,s 'ot :)ite a perso'alit%*, Dea'e smiled* + )t I,m s)re %o),re aware of that* )t Corto is i' there( somewhere( a'd I &a' 'o lo'-er mai'tai' that deli&ate bala'&e* He,s -oi'- to &ome apart o' %o)( Case* So I,ll be &o)'ti'- o' %o)***, +That,s -ood( motherf)&$er(, Case said( a'd shot him i' the mo)th with the *>KH* He,d bee' ri-ht abo)t the brai's* A'd the blood* +8o'(, 8ael&)m was sa%i'-( +I do',t li$e this***, +It,s &ool(, 8oll% said* +It,s 0)st o$a%* It,s somethi'- these -)%s do( is all* "i$e( he was',t dead( a'd it was o'l% a few se&o'ds***, +I saw th,B s&ree'( EE; readi',B dead* Nothi',B movi',B( fort% se&o'd*,

+7ell( he,s o$a% 'ow*, +EE; flat as a strap(, 8ael&)m protested*

1J

He was ')mb( as the% we't thro)-h &)stoms( a'd 8oll% did most of the tal$i'-* 8ael&)m remai'ed o' board ;arve%* C)stoms( for <reeside( &o'sisted mai'l% of provi'- %o)r &redit* The first thi'- he saw( whe' the% -ai'ed the i''er s)rfa&e of the spi'dle( was a bra'&h of the ea)tif)l ;irl &offee fra'&hise* +7el&ome to the R)e 3)les Cer'e(, 8oll% said* +If %o) have tro)ble wal$i'-( 0)st loo$ at %o)r feet* The perspe&tive,s a bit&h( if %o),re 'ot )sed to it*, The% were sta'di'- i' a broad street that seemed to be the floor of a deep slot or &a'%o'( its either e'd &o'&ealed b% s)btle a'-les i' the shops a'd b)ildi'-s that formed its walls* The li-ht( here( was filtered thro)-h fresh -ree' masses of ve-etatio' t)mbli'- from overha'-i'- tiers a'd bal&o'ies that rose above them* The s)'*** There was a brillia't slash of white somewhere above them( too bri-ht( a'd the re&orded bl)e of a Ca''es s$%* He $'ew that s)'li-ht was p)mped i' with a "ado-A&heso' s%stem whose two-millimeter armat)re ra' the le'-th of the spi'dle( that the% -e'erated a rotati'- librar% of s$% effe&ts aro)'d it( that if the s$% were t)r'ed off( he,d stare )p past the armat)re of li-ht to the &)rves of la$es( rooftops of &asi'os( other streets*** )t it made 'o se'se to his bod%* +3es)s(, he said( +I li$e this less tha' SAS*, +;et )sed to it* I was a -ambler,s bod%-)ard here for a mo'th*, +7a''a -o somewhere( lie dow'*, +O$a%* I -ot o)r $e%s*, She to)&hed his sho)lder* +7hat happe'ed to %o)( ba&$ there( ma'9 !o) flatli'ed*, He shoo$ his head* +I d)''o( %et* 7ait*, +O$a%* 7e -et a &ab or somethi'-*, She too$ his ha'd a'd led him a&ross 3)les Cer'e( past a wi'dow displa%i'- the seaso',s Paris f)rs*

+#'real(, he said( loo$i'- )p a-ai'* +Nah(, she respo'ded( ass)mi'- he mea't the f)rs( +-row it o' a &olla-e' base( b)t it,s mi'$ DNA* 7hat,s it matter9, +It,s 0)st a bi- t)be a'd the% po)r thi'-s thro)-h it(, 8oll% said* +To)rists( h)stlers( a'%thi'-* A'd there,s fi'e mesh mo'e% s&ree's wor$i'- ever% mi')te( ma$e s)re the mo'e% sta%s here whe' the people fall ba&$ dow' the well*, Armita-e had boo$ed them i'to a pla&e &alled the I'ter&o'ti'e'tal( a slopi'- -lassfro'ted &liff fa&e that slid dow' i'to &old mist a'd the so)'d of rapids* Case we't o)t o'to their bal&o'% a'd wat&hed a trio of ta''ed <re'&h tee'a-ers ride simple ha'-liders a few meters above the spra%( tria'-les of '%lo' i' bri-ht primar% &olors* O'e of them sw)'-( ba'$ed( a'd Case &a)-ht a flash of &ropped dar$ hair( brow' breasts( white teeth i' a wide smile* The air here smelled of r)''i'- water a'd flowers* +!eah(, he said( +lotta mo'e%*, She lea'ed beside him a-ai'st the raili'-( her ha'ds loose a'd rela1ed* +!eah* 7e were -o''a &ome here o'&e( either here or some pla&e i' E)rope*, +7e who9, +Nobod%(, she said( -ivi'- her sho)lders a' i'vol)'tar% toss* +!o) said %o) wa'ted to hit the bed* Sleep* I &o)ld )se some sleep*, +!eah(, Case said( r)bbi'- his palms a&ross his &hee$bo'es* +!eah( this is some pla&e*, The 'arrow ba'd of the "ado-A&heso' s%stem smoldered i' abstra&t imitatio' of some erm)da' s)'set( striped b% shreds of re&orded &lo)d* +!eah(, he said( +sleep*, Sleep wo)ld',t &ome* 7he' it did( it bro)-ht dreams that were li$e 'eatl% edited se-me'ts of memor%* He wo$e repeatedl%( 8oll% &)rled beside him( a'd heard the water( voi&es drifti'- i' thro)-h the ope' -lass pa'els of the bal&o'%( a woma',s la)-hter from the stepped &o'dos o' the opposite slope* Dea'e,s death $ept t)r'i'- )p li$e a bad &ard( 'o matter if he told himself that it had',t bee' Dea'e* That it had',t( i' fa&t( happe'ed at all* Someo'e had o'&e told him that the amo)'t of blood i' the avera-e h)ma' bod% was ro)-hl% e:)ivale't to a &ase of beer* Ea&h time the ima-e of Dea'e,s shattered head str)&$ the rear wall of the offi&e( Case was aware of a'other tho)-ht( somethi'- dar$er( hidde'( that rolled awa%( divi'- li$e a fish( 0)st be%o'd his rea&h* "i'da*

Dea'e* lood o' the wall of the importer,s offi&e* "i'da* Smell of b)r't flesh i' the shadows of the Chiba dome* 8oll% holdi'- o)t a baof -i'-er( the plasti& filmed with blood* Dea'e had had her $illed* 7i'term)te* He ima-i'ed a little mi&ro whisperi'- to the wre&$ of a ma' 'amed Corto( the words flowi'- li$e a river( the flat perso'alit%-s)bstit)te &alled Armita-e a&&reti'slowl% i' some dar$e'ed ward*** The Dea'e a'alo- had said it wor$ed with -ive's( too$ adva'ta-e of e1isti'- sit)atio's* )t what if Dea'e( the real Dea'e( had ordered "i'da $illed o' 7i'term)te,s orders9 Case -roped i' the dar$ for a &i-arette a'd 8oll%,s li-hter* There was 'o reaso' to s)spe&t Dea'e( he told himself( li-hti'- )p* No reaso'* 7i'term)te &o)ld b)ild a $i'd of perso'alit% i'to a shell* How s)btle a form &o)ld ma'ip)latio' ta$e9 He st)bbed the !ehe%)a' o)t i' a bedside ashtra% after his third p)ff( rolled awa% from 8oll%( a'd tried to sleep* The dream( the memor%( )'reeled with the mo'oto'% of a' )'edited simstim tape* He,d spe't a mo'th( his fiftee'th s)mmer( i' a wee$l% rates hotel( fifth floor( with a -irl &alled 8arle'e* The elevator had',t wor$ed i' a de&ade* Roa&hes boiled a&ross -ra%ish por&elai' i' the drai'-pl)--ed $it&he'ette whe' %o) fli&$ed a li-htswit&h* He slept with 8arle'e o' a striped mattress with 'o sheets* He,d missed the first wasp( whe' it b)ilt its paperfi'e -ra% ho)se o' the blistered pai't of the wi'dowframe( b)t soo' the 'est was a fist-si4ed l)mp of fiber( i'se&ts h)rtli'- o)t to h)'t the alle% below li$e mi'iat)re &opters b)44i'- the rotti'- &o'te'ts of the d)mpsters* The%,d ea&h had a do4e' beers( the after'oo' a wasp st)'- 8arle'e* +5ill the f)&$ers(, she said( her e%es d)ll with ra-e a'd the still heat of the room( +b)r' ,em*, Dr)'$( Case r)mma-ed i' the so)r &loset for Rollo,s dra-o'* Rollo was 8arle'e,s previo)s -a'd( Case s)spe&ted at the time( still o&&asio'al -bo%frie'd( a' e'ormo)s <ris&o bi$er with a blo'd li-ht'i'- bolt blea&hed i'to his dar$ &rew&)t* The dra-o' was a <ris&o flamethrower( a thi'- li$e a fat a'-lehead flashli-ht* Case &he&$ed the batteries( shoo$ it to ma$e s)re he had e'o)-h f)el( a'd we't to the ope' wi'dow* The hive be-a' to b)44* The air i' the Sprawl was dead( immobile* A wasp shot from the 'est a'd &ir&led Case,s head* Case pressed the i-'itio' swit&h( &o)'ted three( a'd p)lled the tri--er* The f)el( p)mped )p to 1JJ psi( spra%ed o)t past the white-hot &oil* A five-meter to'-)e of pale fire( the 'est &harri'-( t)mbli'-* A&ross the alle%( someo'e &heered* +ShitE, 8arle'e behi'd him( swa%i'-* +St)pidE !o) did',t b)r' ,em* !o) 0)st $'o&$ed it

off* The%,ll &ome )p here a'd $ill )sE, Her voi&e sawi'- at his 'erves( he ima-i'ed her e'-)lfed i' flame( her blea&hed hair si44li'- a spe&ial -ree'* I' the alle%( the dra-o' i' ha'd( he approa&hed the bla&$e'ed 'est* It had bro$e' ope'* Si'-ed wasps wre'&hed a'd flipped o' the asphalt* He saw the thi'- the shell of -ra% paper had &o'&ealed* Horror* The spiral birth fa&tor%( stepped terra&es of the hat&hi'- &ells( bli'd 0aws of the )'bor' movi'- &easelessl%( the sta-ed pro-ress from e-- to larva( 'ear-wasp( wasp* I' his mi'd,s e%e( a $i'd of time-lapse photo-raph% too$ pla&e( reveali'- the thi'- as the biolo-i&al e:)ivale't of a ma&hi'e -)'( hideo)s i' its perfe&tio'* Alie'* He p)lled the tri--er( for-etti'- to press the i-'itio'( a'd f)el hissed over the b)l-i'-( writhi'- life at his feet* 7he' he did hit the i-'itio'( it e1ploded with a th)mp( ta$i'- a' e%ebrow with it* <ive floors above him( from the ope' wi'dow( he heard 8arle'e la)-hi'-* He wo$e with the impressio' of li-ht fadi'-( b)t the room was dar$* Afterima-es( reti'al flares* The s$% o)tside hi'ted at the start of a re&orded daw'* There were 'o voi&es 'ow( o'l% the r)sh of water( far dow' the fa&e of the I'ter&o'ti'e'tal* I' the dream( 0)st before he,d dre'&hed the 'est with f)el( he,d see' the T-A lo-o of Tessier-Ashpool 'eatl% embossed i'to its side( as tho)-h the wasps themselves had wor$ed it there* 8oll% i'sisted o' &oati'- him with bro'4er( sa%i'- his Sprawl pallor wo)ld attra&t too m)&h atte'tio'* +Christ(, he said( sta'di'- 'a$ed i' fro't of the mirror( +%o) thi'$ that loo$s real9, She was )si'- the last of the t)be o' his left a'$le( $'eeli'- beside him* +Nah( b)t it loo$s li$e %o) &are e'o)-h to fa$e it* There* There is',t e'o)-h to do %o)r foot*, She stood( tossi'- the empt% t)be i'to a lar-e wi&$er bas$et* Nothi'- i' the room loo$ed as tho)-h it had bee' ma&hi'e-made or prod)&ed from s%'theti&s* E1pe'sive( Case $'ew( b)t it was a st%le that had alwa%s irritated him* The temperfoam of the h)-e bed was ti'ted to resemble sa'd* There was a lot of pale wood a'd ha'dwove' fabri&* +7hat abo)t %o)(, he said( +%o) -o''a d%e %o)rself brow'9 Do',t e1a&tl% loo$ li$e %o) spe'd all %o)r time s)'bathi'-*, She wore loose bla&$ sil$s a'd bla&$ espadrilles* +I,m a' e1oti&* I -ot a bi- straw hat for this( too* !o)( %o) 0)st wa''a loo$ li$e a &heap-ass hood who,s )p for what he &a' -et(

so the i'sta't ta',s o$a%*, Case re-arded his pallid foot morosel%( the' loo$ed at himself i' the mirror* +Christ* !o) mi'd if I -et dressed 'ow9, He we't to the bed a'd be-a' to p)ll his 0ea's o'* +!o) sleep o$a%9 !o) 'oti&e a'% li-hts9, +!o) were dreami'-(, she said* The% had brea$fast o' the roof of the hotel( a $i'd of meadow( st)dded with striped )mbrellas a'd what seemed to Case a' )''at)ral ')mber of trees* He told her abo)t his attempt to b)44 the er'e AI* The whole :)estio' of b)--i'- seemed to have be&ome a&ademi&* If Armita-e were tappi'- them( he,d be doi'- it thro)-h 7i'term)te* +A'd it was li$e real9, she as$ed( her mo)th f)ll of &heese &roissa't* +"i$e simstim9, He said it was* +Real as this(, he added( loo$i'- aro)'d* +8a%be more*, The trees were small( -'arled( impossibl% old( the res)lt of -e'eti& e'-i'eeri'- a'd &hemi&al ma'ip)latio'* Case wo)ld have bee' hard pressed to disti'-)ish a pi'e from a' oa$( b)t a street bo%,s se'se of st%le told him that these were too &)te( too e'tirel% a'd defi'itivel% treeli$e* etwee' the trees( o' -e'tle a'd too &leverl% irre-)lar slopes of sweet -ree' -rass( the bri-ht )mbrellas shaded the hotel,s -)ests from the )'falteri'radia'&e of the "ado-A&heso' s)'* A b)rst of <re'&h from a 'earb% table &a)-ht his atte'tio'A the -olde' &hildre' he,d see' -lidi'- above river mist the eve'i'- before* Now he saw that their ta's were )'eve'( a ste'&il effe&t prod)&ed b% sele&tive mela'i' boosti'-( m)ltiple shades overlappi'- i' re&tili'ear patter's( o)tli'i'- a'd hi-hli-hti'm)s&)lat)re( the -irl,s small hard breasts( o'e bo%,s wrist resti'- o' the white e'amel of the table* The% loo$ed to Case li$e ma&hi'es b)ilt for ra&i'-2 the% deserved de&als for their hairdressers( the desi-'ers of their white &otto' d)&$s( for the artisa's who,d &rafted their leather sa'dals a'd simple 0ewelr%* e%o'd them( at a'other table( three 3apa'ese wives i' Hiroshima sa&$&loth awaited sararima' h)sba'ds( their oval fa&es &overed with artifi&ial br)ises2 it was( he $'ew( a' e1tremel% &o'servative st%le( o'e he,d seldom see' i' Chiba* +7hat,s that smell9, he as$ed 8oll%( wri'$li'- his 'ose* +The -rass* Smells that wa% after the% &)t it*, Armita-e a'd Riviera arrived as the% were fi'ishi'- their &offee( Armita-e i' tailored $ha$is that made him loo$ as tho)-h his re-ime'tal pat&hes had 0)st bee' stripped( Riviera i' a loose -ra% seers)&$er o)tfit that perversel% s)--ested priso'* +8oll%( love(, Riviera said( almost before he was settled o' his &hair( +%o),ll have to dole

me o)t more of the medi&i'e* I,m o)t*, +Peter(, she said( +a'd what if I wo',t9, She smiled witho)t showi'- her teeth* +!o) will(, Riviera said( his e%es &)tti'- to Armita-e a'd ba&$* +;ive it to him(, Armita-e said* +Pi- for it( are',t %o)9, She too$ a flat( foil-wrapped pa&$et from a' i'side po&$et a'd flipped it a&ross the table* Riviera &a)-ht it i' midair* +He &o)ld off himself(, she said to Armita-e* +I have a' a)ditio' this after'oo'(, Riviera said* +I,ll 'eed to be at m% best*, He &)pped the foil pa&$et i' his )pt)r'ed palm a'd smiled* Small -litteri'- i'se&ts swarmed o)t of it( va'ished* He dropped it i'to the po&$et of his seers)&$er blo)se* +!o),ve -ot a' a)ditio' %o)rself( Case( this after'oo'(, Armita-e said* +O' that t)-* I wa't %o) to -et over to the pro shop a'd -et %o)rself fitted for a va& s)it( -et &he&$ed o)t o' it( a'd -et o)t to the boat* !o),ve -ot abo)t three ho)rs*, +How &ome we -et shipped over i' a shit&a' a'd %o) two hire a 3A" ta1i9, Case as$ed( deliberatel% avoidi'- the ma',s e%es* +6io' s)--ested we )se it* ;ood &over( whe' we move* I do have a lar-er boat( sta'di'b%( b)t the t)- is a 'i&e to)&h*, +How abo)t me9, 8oll% as$ed* +I -ot &hores toda%9, +I wa't %o) to hi$e )p the far e'd to the a1is( wor$ o)t i' 4ero--* Tomorrow( ma%be( %o) &a' hi$e i' the opposite dire&tio'*, Stra%li-ht( Case tho)-ht* +How soo'9, Case as$ed( meeti'- the pale stare* +Soo'(, Armita-e said* +;et -oi'-( Case*, +8o'( %o) doi',B 0)s,B fi'e(, 8ael&)m said( helpi'- Case o)t of the red Sa'%o va&))m s)it* +Aerol sa% %o) doi',B 0)s,B fi'e*, Aerol had bee' waiti'- at o'e of the sporti'do&$s at the e'd of the spi'dle( 'ear the wei-htless a1is* To rea&h it( Case had ta$e' a' elevator dow' to the h)ll a'd ridde' a mi'iat)re i'd)&tio' trai'* As the diameter of the spi'dle 'arrowed( -ravit% de&reased2 somewhere above him( he,d de&ided( wo)ld be the mo)'tai's 8oll% &limbed( the bi&%&le loop( la)'&hi'- -ear for the ha'- -liders a'd mi'iat)re mi&roli-hts*

Aerol had ferried him o)t to 8ar&)s ;arve% i' a s$eletal s&ooter frame with a &hemi&al e'-i'e* +Two ho)r a-o(, 8ael&)m said( +I ta$e deliver% of ab%lo' -oods for %o)2 'i&e 3apa'bo% i''a %a&ht( mos,B prett% %a&ht*, <ree of the s)it( Case p)lled himself -i'-erl% over the Hosa$a a'd f)mbled i'to the straps of the web* +7ell(, he said( +let,s see it*, 8ael&)m prod)&ed a white l)mp of foam sli-htl% smaller tha' Case,s head( fished a pearl-ha'dled swit&hblade o' a -ree' '%lo' la'%ard o)t of the hip po&$et of his tattered shorts a'd &aref)ll% slit the plasti&* He e1tra&ted a re&ta'-)lar ob0e&t a'd passed it to Case* +Thas part some -)'( mo'9, +No(, Case said( t)r'i'- it over( +b)t it,s a weapo'* It,s vir)s*, +Not o' this bo% t)-( mo'(, 8ael&)m said firml%( rea&hi'- for the steel &assette* +A pro-ram* Cir)s pro-ram* Ca',t -et i'to %o)( &a',t eve' -et i'to %o)r software* I,ve -ot to i'terfa&e it thro)-h the de&$( before it &a' wor$ o' a'%thi'-*, +7ell* 3apa'-mo'( he sa%s Hosa$a here,ll tell %o) ever% what a',B wherefore( %o) wa''a $'ow*, +O$a%* 7ell( %o) leave me to it( o$a%9, 8ael&)m $i&$ed off a'd drifted past the pilot &o'sole( b)s%i'- himself with a &a)l$ -)'* Case hastil% loo$ed awa% from the wavi'- fro'ds of tra'spare't &a)l$* He was',t s)re wh%( b)t somethi'- abo)t them bro)-ht ba&$ the 'a)sea of SAS* +7hat is this thi'-9, he as$ed the Hosa$a* +Par&el for me*, +Data tra'sfer from o&$ris S%stems ;mbH( <ra'$f)rt( advises( )'der &oded tra'smissio'( that &o'te't of shipme't is 5)a'- ;rade 8ar$ Eleve' pe'etratio' pro-ram* o&$ris f)rther advises that i'terfa&e with O'o-Se'dai C%berspa&e H is e'tirel% &ompatible a'd %ields optimal pe'etratio' &apabilities( parti&)larl% with re-ard to e1isti'- militar% s%stems***, +How abo)t a' AI9, +E1isti'- militar% s%stems a'd artifi&ial i'telli-e'&es*, +3es)s Christ* 7hat did %o) &all it9,

+5)a'- ;rade 8ar$ Eleve'*, +It,s Chi'ese9, +!es*, +Off*, Case faste'ed the vir)s &assette to the side of the Hosa$a with a le'-th of silver tape( rememberi'- 8oll%,s stor% of her da% i' 8a&ao* Armita-e had &rossed the border i'to 6ho'-sha'* +O'(, he said( &ha'-i'- his mi'd* +?)estio'* 7ho ow's o&$ris( the people i' <ra'$f)rt9, +Dela% for i'terorbital tra'smissio'(, said the Hosa$a* +Code it* Sta'dard &ommer&ial &ode*, +Do'e*, He dr)mmed his ha'ds o' the O'o-Se'dai* +Rei'hold S&ie'tifi& A*;*( er'e*, +Do it a-ai'* 7ho ow's Rei'hold9, It too$ three more 0)mps )p the ladder before he rea&hed Tessier-Ashpool* +Di1ie(, he said( 0a&$i'- i'( +what do %o) $'ow abo)t Chi'ese vir)s pro-rams9, +Not a whole hell of a lot*, +Ever hear of a -radi'- s%stem li$e 5)a'-( 8ar$ Eleve'9, +No*, Case si-hed* +7ell( I -ot a )ser-frie'dl% Chi'ese i&ebrea$er here( a o'e shot &assette* Some people i' <ra'$f)rt sa% it,ll &)t a' AI*, +Possible* S)re* If it,s militar%*, +"oo$s li$e it* "iste'( Di1( a'd -imme the be'efit of %o)r ba&$-ro)'d( o$a%9 Armita-e seems to be setti'- )p a r)' o' a' AI that belo'-s to Tessier-Ashpool* The mai'frame,s i' er'e( b)t it,s li'$ed with a'other o'e i' Rio* The o'e i' Rio is the o'e that flatli'ed %o)( that first time* So it loo$s li$e the% li'$ via Stra%li-ht( the T-A home base( dow' the e'd of the spi'dle( a'd we,re s)pposed to &)t o)r wa% i' with the Chi'ese i&ebrea$er* So

if 7i'term)te,s ba&$i'- the whole show( it,s pa%i'- )s to b)r' it* It,s b)r'i'- itself* A'd somethi'- that &alls itself 7i'term)te is tr%i'- to -et o' m% -ood side( -et me to ma%be shaft Armita-e* 7hat -oes9, +8otive(, the &o'str)&t said* +Real motive problem( with a' AI* Not h)ma'( see9, +7ell( %eah( obvio)sl%*, +Nope* I mea'( it,s 'ot h)ma'* A'd %o) &a',t -et a ha'dle o' it* 8e( I,m 'ot h)ma' either( b)t I respo'd li$e o'e* See9, +7ait a se&(, Case said* +Are %o) se'tie't( or 'ot9, +7ell( it feels li$e I am( $id( b)t I,m reall% 0)st a b)'&h of RO8* It,s o'e of them( ah( philosophi&al :)estio's( I -)ess***, The )-l% la)-hter se'satio' rattled dow' Case,s spi'e* + )t I ai',t li$el% to write %o) 'o poem( if %o) follow me* !o)r AI( it 0)st mi-ht* )t it ai',t 'o wa% h)ma'*, +So %o) fi-)re we &a',t -et o' to its motive9, +It ow' itself9, +Swiss &iti4e'( b)t T-A ow' the basi& software a'd the mai'frame*, +That,s a -ood o'e(, the &o'str)&t said* +"i$e( I ow' %o)r brai' a'd what %o) $'ow( b)t %o)r tho)-hts have Swiss &iti4e'ship* S)re* "otsa l)&$( AI*, +So it,s -etti'- read% to b)r' itself9, Case be-a' to p)'&h the de&$ 'ervo)sl%( at ra'dom* The matri1 bl)rred( resolved( a'd he saw the &omple1 of pi'$ spheres represe'ti'- a si$$im steel &ombi'e* +A)to'om%( that,s the b)-aboo( where %o)r AI,s are &o'&er'ed* 8% -)ess( Case( %o),re -oi'- i' there to &)t the hardwired sha&$les that $eep this bab% from -etti'- a'% smarter* A'd I &a',t see how %o),d disti'-)ish( sa%( betwee' a move the pare't &ompa'% ma$es( a'd some move the AI ma$es o' its ow'( so that,s ma%be where the &o'f)sio' &omes i'*, A-ai' the 'o'la)-h* +See( those thi'-s( the% &a' wor$ real hard( b)% themselves time to write &oo$boo$s or whatever( b)t the mi')te( I mea' the 'a'ose&o'd( that o'e starts fi-)ri'- o)t wa%s to ma$e itself smarter( T)ri'-,ll wipe it* Nobod% tr)sts those f)&$ers( %o) $'ow that* Ever% AI ever b)ilt has a' ele&troma-'eti& shot-)' wired to its forehead*, Case -lared at the pi'$ spheres of Si$$im*

+O$a%(, he said( fi'all%( +I,m slotti'- this vir)s* I wa't %o) to s&a' its i'str)&tio' fa&e a'd tell me what %o) thi'$*, The half se'se of someo'e readi'- over his sho)lder was -o'e for a few se&o'ds( the' ret)r'ed* +Hot shit* Case* It,s a slow vir)s* Ta$e si1 ho)rs( estimated( to &ra&$ a militar% tar-et*, +Or a' AI*, He si-hed* +Ca' we r)' it9, +S)re(, the &o'str)&t said( +)'less %o) -ot a morbid fear of d%i'-*, +Sometimes %o) repeat %o)rself( ma'*, +It,s m% 'at)re*, 8oll% was sleepi'- whe' he ret)r'ed to the I'ter&o'ti'e'tal* He sat o' the bal&o'% a'd wat&hed a mi&roli-ht with rai'bow pol%mer wi'-s as it soared )p the &)rve of <reeside( its tria'-)lar shadow tra&$i'- a&ross meadows a'd rooftops( )'til it va'ished behi'd the ba'd of the "ado-A&heso' s%stem* +I wa''a b)44(, he said to the bl)e artifi&e of the s$%* +I tr)l% do wa''a -et hi-h( %o) $'ow9 Tri&$ pa'&reas( pl)-s i' m% liver( little ba-s of shit melti'-( f)&$ it all* I wa''a b)44*, He left witho)t wa$i'- 8oll%( he tho)-ht* He was 'ever s)re( with the -lasses* He shr)--ed te'sio' from his sho)lders a'd -ot i'to the elevator* He rode )p with a' Italia' -irl i' spotless whites( &hee$bo'es a'd 'ose da)bed with somethi'- bla&$ a'd 'o'refle&tive* Her white '%lo' shoes had steel &leats2 the e1pe'sive-loo$i'- thi'- i' her ha'd resembled a &ross betwee' a mi'iat)re oar a'd a' orthopedi& bra&e* She was off for a fast -ame of somethi'-( b)t Case had 'o idea what* O' the roof meadow( he made his wa% thro)-h the -rove of trees a'd )mbrellas( )'til he fo)'d a pool( 'a$ed bodies -leami'- a-ai'st t)r:)oise tiles* He ed-ed i'to the shadow of a' aw'i'- a'd pressed his &hip a-ai'st a dar$ -lass plate* +S)shi(, he said( +whatever %o) -ot*, Te' mi')tes later( a' e'th)siasti& Chi'ese waiter arrived with his food* He m)'&hed raw t)'a a'd ri&e a'd wat&hed people ta'* +Christ(, he said( to his t)'a( +I,d -o ')ts*, +Do',t tell me(, someo'e said( +I $'ow it alread%* !o),re a -a'-ster( ri-ht9, He s:)i'ted )p at her( a-ai'st the ba'd of s)'* A lo'- %o)'- bod% a'd a mela'i'boosted ta'( b)t 'ot o'e of the Paris 0obs*

She s:)atted beside his &hair( drippi'- water o' the tiles* +Cath(, she said* +")p)s(, after a pa)se* +7hat $i'd of 'ame is that9, +;ree$(, he said* +Are %o) reall% a -a'-ster9, The mela'i' boost had',t preve'ted the formatio' of fre&$les* +I,m a dr)- addi&t( Cath*, +7hat $i'd9, +Stim)la'ts* Ce'tral 'ervo)s s%stem stim)la'ts* E1tremel% powerf)l &e'tral 'ervo)s s%stem stim)la'ts*, +7ell( do %o) have a'%9, She lea'ed &loser* Drops of &hlori'ated water fell o' the le- of his pa'ts* +No* That,s m% problem( Cath* Do %o) $'ow where we &a' -et some9, Cath ro&$ed ba&$ o' her ta''ed heels a'd li&$ed at a stra'd of brow'ish hair that had pasted itself beside her mo)th* +7hat,s %o)r taste9, +No &o$e( 'o amphetami'es( b)t )p( -otta be )p*, A'd so m)&h for that( he tho)-ht -l)ml%( holdi'- his smile for her* + etaphe'eth%lami'e(, she said* +No sweat( b)t it,s o' %o)r &hip*, +!o),re $iddi'-(, said Cath,s part'er a'd roommate( whe' Case e1plai'ed the pe&)liar properties of his Chiba pa'&reas* +I mea'( &a',t %o) s)e them or somethi'-9 8alpra&ti&e9, His 'ame was r)&e* He loo$ed li$e a -e'der swit&h versio' of Cath( ri-ht dow' to the fre&$les* +7ell(, Case said( +it,s 0)st o'e of those thi'-s( %o) $'ow9 "i$e tiss)e mat&hi'- a'd all that*, )t r)&e,s e%es had alread% -o'e ')mb with boredom* ;ot the atte'tio' spa' of a -'at( Case tho)-ht( wat&hi'- the bo%,s brow' e%es* Their room was smaller tha' the o'e Case shared with 8oll%( a'd o' a'other level( &loser to the s)rfa&e* <ive h)-e Ciba&hromes of Tall% Isham were taped a&ross the -lass of the bal&o'%( s)--esti'- a' e1te'ded reside'&%*

+The%,re def triff( h)h9, Cath as$ed seei'- him e%e the tra'spare'&ies* +8i'e* Shot ,em at the SIN P%ramid( last time we we't dow' the well* She was that &lose( a'd she 0)st smiled( so 'at)ral* A'd it was bad there( ")p)s( da% after these Christ the 5i'- terrs p)t a'-el i' the water( %o) $'ow9, +!eah(, Case said( s)dde'l% )'eas%( +terrible thi'-*, +7ell(, r)&e &)t i'( +abo)t this beta %o) wa't to b)%***, +Thi'- is( &a' I metaboli4e it9, Case raised his e%ebrows* +Tell %o) what(, the bo% said* +!o) do a taste* If %o) pa'&reas passes o' it( it,s o' the ho)se* <irst time,s free*, +I heard that o'e before(, Case said( ta$i'- the bri-ht bl)e derm that r)&e passed a&ross the bla&$ bedspread* +Case9, 8oll% sat )p i' bed a'd shoo$ the hair awa% from her le'ses* +7ho else( ho'e%9, +7hat,s -ot i'to %o)9, The mirrors followed him a&ross the room* +I for-et how to pro'o)'&e it(, he said( ta$i'- a ti-ht% rolled strip of b)bble-pa&$ed bl)e derms from his shirt po&$et* +Christ(, she said( +0)st what we 'eeded*, +Tr)er words were 'ever spo$e'*, +I let %o) o)t of m% si-ht for two ho)rs a'd %o) s&ore*, She shoo$ her head* +I hope %o),re -o''a be read% for o)r bi- di''er date with Armita-e to'i-ht* This Twe'tieth Ce't)r% pla&e* 7e -et to wat&h Riviera str)t his st)ff( too*, +!eah(, Case said( ar&hi'- his ba&$( his smile lo&$ed i'to a ri&t)s of deli-ht( +bea)tif)l*, +8a'(, she said( +if whatever that is &a' -et i' past what those s)r-eo's did to %o) i' Chiba( %o) are -o''a be i' sad ass shape whe' it wears off*, + it&h( bit&h( bit&h(, he said( )'b)&$li'- his belt* +Doom* ;loom* All I ever hear*, He too$ his pa'ts off( his shirt( his )'derwear* +I thi'$ %o) o)-hta have se'se e'o)-h to ta$e adva'ta-e of m% )''at)ral state*, He loo$ed dow'* +I mea'( loo$ at this )''at)ral state*,

She la)-hed* +It wo',t last*, + )t it will(, he said( &limbi'- i'to the sa'd-&olored temperfoam( +that,s what,s so )''at)ral abo)t it*,

11

+Case( what,s wro'- with %o)9, Armita-e said( as the waiter was seati'- them at his table i' the Ci'-time Si&le* It was the smallest a'd most e1pe'sive of several floati'resta)ra'ts o' a small la$e 'ear the I'ter&o'ti'e'tal* Case sh)ddered* r)&e had',t said a'%thi'- abo)t after effe&ts* He tried to pi&$ )p a -lass of i&e water( b)t his ha'ds were sha$i'-* +Somethi'- I ate( ma%be*, +I wa't %o) &he&$ed o)t b% a medi&(, Armita-e said* +3)st this h%stami'e rea&tio'(, Case lied* +;et it whe' I travel( eat differe't st)ff( sometimes*, Armita-e wore a dar$ s)it( too formal for the pla&e( a'd a white sil$ shirt* His -old bra&elet rattled as he raised his wi'e a'd sipped* +I,ve ordered for %o)(, he said* 8oll% a'd Armita-e ate i' sile'&e( while Case sawed sha$il% at his stea$( red)&i'- it to )'eate' bite-si4ed fra-me'ts( whi&h he p)shed aro)'d i' the ri&h sa)&e( fi'all% aba'do'i'- the whole thi'-* +3es)s(, 8oll% said( her ow' plate empt%( +-imme that* !o) $'ow what this &osts9, She too$ his plate* +The% -otta raise a whole a'imal for %ears a'd the' the% $ill it* This is',t vat st)ff*, She for$ed a mo)thf)l )p a'd &hewed* +Not h)'-r%(, Case ma'a-ed* His brai' was deep-fried* No( he de&ided( it had bee' throw' i'to hot fat a'd left there( a'd the fat had &ooled( a thi&$ d)ll -rease &o'-eali'o' the wri'$led lobes( shot thro)-h with -ree'ish-p)rple flashes of pai'* +!o) loo$ f)&$i'- awf)l(, 8oll% said &heerf)ll%* Case tried the wi'e* The aftermath of the betaphe'eth%lami'e made it taste li$e iodi'e* The li-hts dimmed*

+"e Resta)ra't Ci'-time Si&le(, said a disembodied voi&e with a pro'o)'&ed Sprawl a&&e't( +pro)dl% prese'ts the holo-raphi& &abaret of 8r*B Peter Riviera*, S&attered appla)se from the other tables* A waiter lit a si'-le &a'dle a'd pla&ed it i' the &e'ter of their table( the' be-a' to remove the dishes* Soo' a &a'dle fli&$ered at ea&h of the resta)ra't,s do4e' tables( a'd dri'$s were bei'- po)red* +7hat,s happe'i'-9, Case as$ed Armita-e( who said 'othi'-* 8oll% pi&$ed her teeth with a b)r-)'d% 'ail* +;ood eve'i'-(, Riviera said( steppi'- forward o' a small sta-e at the far e'd of the room* Case bli'$ed* I' his dis&omfort( he had',t 'oti&ed the sta-e* He had',t see' where Riviera had &ome from* His )'easi'ess i'&reased* At first he ass)med the ma' was ill)mi'ated b% a spotli-ht* Riviera -lowed* The li-ht &l)'- aro)'d him li$e a s$i'( lit the dar$ ha'-i'-s behi'd the sta-e* He was pro0e&ti'-* Riviera smiled* He wore a white di''er 0a&$et* O' his lapel( bl)e &oals b)r'ed i' the depths of a bla&$ &ar'atio'* His fi'-er'ails flashed as he raised his ha'ds i' a -est)re of -reeti'-( a' embra&e for his a)die'&e* Case heard the shallow water lap a-ai'st the side of the resta)ra't* +To'i-ht(, Riviera said( his lo'- e%es shi'i'-( +I wo)ld li$e to perform a' e1te'ded pie&e for %o)* A 'ew wor$*, A &ool r)b% of li-ht formed i' the palm of his )praised ri-ht ha'd* He dropped it* A -ra% dove fl)ttered )p from the poi't of impa&t a'd va'ished i'to the shadows* Someo'e whistled* 8ore appla)se* +The title of the wor$ is +The Doll*,, Riviera lowered his ha'ds* +I wish to dedi&ate its premiere here( to'i-ht( to "ad% >3a'e 8arie-<ra'&e Tessier-Ashpool*, A wave of polite appla)se* As it died( Riviera,s e%es seemed to fi'd their table* +A'd to a'other lad%*, The resta)ra't,s li-hts died e'tirel%( for a few se&o'ds( leavi'- o'l% the -low of &a'dles* Riviera,s holo-raphi& a)ra had faded with the li-hts( b)t Case &o)ld still see him( sta'di'- with his head bowed* "i'es of fai't li-ht be-a' to form( verti&als a'd hori4o'tals( s$et&hi'- a' ope' &)be aro)'d the sta-e* The resta)ra't,s li-hts had &ome ba&$ )p sli-htl%( b)t the framewor$ s)rro)'di'- the sta-e mi-ht have bee' &o'str)&ted of fro4e' moo'beams* Head bowed( e%es &losed( arms ri-id at his sides( Riviera seemed to :)iver with &o'&e'tratio'* S)dde'l% the -hostl% &)be was filled( had be&ome a room( a room la&$i'- its fo)rth wall( allowi'- the a)die'&e to view its &o'te'ts*

Riviera seemed to rela1 sli-htl%* He raised his head( b)t $ept his e%es &losed* +I,d alwa%s lived i' the room(, he said* +I &o)ld',t remember ever havi'- lived i' a'% other room*, The room,s walls were %ellowed white plaster* It &o'tai'ed two pie&es of f)r'it)re* O'e was a plai' woode' &hair( the other a' iro' bedstead pai'ted white* The pai't had &hipped a'd fla$ed( reveali'- the bla&$ iro'* The mattress o' the bed was bare* Stai'ed ti&$i'- with faded brow' stripes* A si'-le b)lb da'-led above the bed o' a twisted le'-th of bla&$ wire* Case &o)ld see the thi&$ &oati'- of d)st o' the b)lb,s )pper &)rve* Riviera ope'ed his e%es* +I,d bee' alo'e i' the room( alwa%s*, He sat o' the &hair( fa&i'- the bed* The bl)e &oals still b)r'ed i' the bla&$ flower o' his lapel* +I do',t $'ow whe' I first be-a' to dream of her(, he said( +b)t I do remember that at first she was o'l% a ha4e( a shadow*, There was somethi'- o' the bed* Case bli'$ed* ;o'e* +I &o)ld',t :)ite hold her( hold her i' m% mi'd* )t I wa'ted to hold her( hold her a'd more***, His voi&e &arried perfe&tl% i' the h)sh of the resta)ra't* I&e &li&$ed a-ai'st the side of a -lass* Someo'e -i--led* Someo'e else as$ed a whispered :)estio' i' 3apa'ese* +I de&ided that if I &o)ld vis)ali4e some part of her( o'l% a small part( if I &o)ld see that part perfe&tl%( i' the most perfe&t detail***, A woma',s ha'd la% o' the mattress 'ow( palm )p( the white fi'-ers pale* Riviera lea'ed forward( pi&$ed )p the ha'd( a'd be-a' to stro$e it -e'tl%* The fi'-ers moved* Riviera raised the ha'd to his mo)th a'd be-a' to li&$ the tips of the fi'-ers* The 'ails were &oated with a b)r-)'d% la&:)er* A ha'd( Case saw( b)t 'ot a severed ha'd2 the s$i' swept ba&$ smoothl%( )'bro$e' a'd )'s&arred* He remembered a tattooed lo4e'-e of vat-row' flesh i' the wi'dow of a Ni'sei s)r-i&al bo)ti:)e* Riviera was holdi'- the ha'd to his lips( li&$i'- its palm* The fi'-ers te'tativel% &aressed his fa&e* )t 'ow a se&o'd ha'd la% o' the bed* 7he' Riviera rea&hed for it( the fi'-ers of the first were lo&$ed aro)'d his wrist( a bra&elet of flesh a'd bo'e* The a&t pro-ressed with a s)rreal i'ter'al lo-i& of its ow'* The arms were 'e1t* <eet* "e-s* The le-s were ver% bea)tif)l* Case,s head throbbed* His throat was dr%* He dra'$ the last of the wi'e* Riviera was i' the bed 'ow( 'a$ed* His &lothi'- had bee' a part of the pro0e&tio'( b)t Case &o)ld',t remember seei'- it fade awa%* The bla&$ flower la% at the foot of the bed( still seethi'- with its bl)e i''er flame* The' the torso formed( as Riviera &aressed it i'to bei'-( white( headless( a'd perfe&t( shee'ed with the fai'test -loss of sweat*

8oll%,s bod%* Case stared( his mo)th ope'* )t it was',t 8oll%2 it was 8oll% as Riviera ima-i'ed her* The breasts were wro'-( the 'ipples lar-er( too dar$* Riviera a'd the limbless torso writhed to-ether o' the bed( &rawled over b% the ha'ds with their bri-ht 'ails* The bed was thi&$ 'ow with folds of %ellowed( rotti'- la&e that &r)mbled at a to)&h* 8otes of d)st boiled aro)'d Riviera a'd the twit&hi'- limbs( the s&)rr%i'-( pi'&hi'-( &aressi'- ha'ds* Case -la'&ed at 8oll%* Her fa&e was bla'$2 the &olors of Riviera,s pro0e&tio' heaved a'd t)r'ed i' her mirrors* Armita-e was lea'i'- forward( his ha'ds ro)'d the stem of a wi'e-lass( his pale e%es fi1ed o' the sta-e( the -lowi'- room* Now limbs a'd torso had mer-ed( a'd Riviera sh)ddered* The head was there( the ima-e &omplete* 8oll%,s fa&e( with smooth :)i&$silver drow'i'- the e%es* Riviera a'd the 8oll% ima-e be-a' to &o)ple with a re'ewed i'te'sit%* The' the ima-e slowl% e1te'ded a &lawed ha'd a'd e1tr)ded its five blades* 7ith a la'-)oro)s( dreamli$e deliberatio'( it ra$ed Riviera,s bare ba&$* Case &a)-ht a -limpse of e1posed spi'e( b)t he was alread% )p a'd st)mbli'- for the door* He vomited over a rosewood raili'- i'to the :)iet waters of the la$e* Somethi'- that had seemed to &lose aro)'d his head li$e a vise had released him 'ow* 5'eeli'-( his &hee$ a-ai'st the &ool wood( he stared a&ross the shallow la$e at the bri-ht a)ra of the R)e 3)les Cer'e* Case had see' the medi)m before2 whe' he,d bee' a tee'a-er i' the Sprawl( the%,d &alled it( +dreami'- real*, He remembered thi' P)erto Ri&a's )'der East Side streetli-hts( dreami'- real to the :)i&$ beat of a salsa( dream-irls sh)dderi'- a'd t)r'i'-( the o'loo$ers &lappi'- i' time* )t that had 'eeded a va' f)ll of -ear a'd a &l)ms% trode helmet* 7hat Riviera dreamed( %o) -ot* Case shoo$ his a&hi'- head a'd spat i'to the la$e* He &o)ld -)ess the e'd( the fi'ale* There was a' i'verted s%mmetr%A Riviera p)ts the dream-irl to-ether( the dream-irl ta$es him apart* 7ith those ha'ds* Dreamblood soa$i'- the rotte' la&e* Cheers from the resta)ra't( appla)se* Case stood a'd ra' his ha'ds over his &lothes* He t)r'ed a'd wal$ed ba&$ i'to the Ci'-time Si&le* 8oll%,s &hair was empt%* The sta-e was deserted* Armita-e sat alo'e( still stari'- at the sta-e( the stem of the wi'e-lass betwee' his fi'-ers* +7here is she9, Case as$ed*

+;o'e(, Armita-e said* +She -o after him9, +No*, There was a soft ti'$* Armita-e loo$ed dow' at the -lass* His left ha'd &ame )p holdi'- the b)lb of -lass with its meas)re of red wi'e* The bro$e' stem protr)ded li$e a sliver of i&e* Case too$ it from him a'd set it i' a water -lass* +Tell me where she we't( Armita-e*, The li-hts &ame )p* Case loo$ed i'to the pale e%es* Nothi'- there at all* +She,s -o'e to prepare herself* !o) wo',t see her a-ai'* !o),ll be to-ether d)ri'- the r)'*, +7h% did Riviera do that to her9, Armita-e stood( ad0)sti'- the lapels of his 0a&$et* +;et some sleep( Case*, +7e r)'( tomorrow9, Armita-e smiled his mea'i'-less smile a'd wal$ed awa%( toward the e1it* Case r)bbed his forehead a'd loo$ed aro)'d the room* The di'ers were risi'-( wome' smili'- as me' made 0o$es* He 'oti&ed the bal&o'% for the first time( &a'dles still fli&$eri'- there i' private dar$'ess* He heard the &li'$ of silverware( m)ted &o'versatio'* The &a'dles threw da'&i'- shadows o' the &eili'-* The -irl,s fa&e appeared as abr)ptl% as o'e of Riviera,s pro0e&tio's( her small ha'ds o' the polished wood of the bal)strade2 she lea'ed forward( fa&e rapt( it seemed to him( her dar$ e%es i'te't o' somethi'- be%o'd* The sta-e* It was a stri$i'- fa&e( b)t 'ot bea)tif)l* Tria'-)lar( the &hee$bo'es hi-h %et stra'-el% fra-ile-loo$i'-( mo)th wide a'd firm( bala'&ed oddl% b% a 'arrow( avia' 'ose with flari'- 'ostrils* A'd the' she was -o'e( ba&$ i'to private la)-hter a'd the da'&e of &a'dles* As he left the resta)ra't( he 'oti&ed the two %o)'- <re'&hme' a'd their -irlfrie'd( who were waiti'- for the boat to the far shore a'd the 'earest &asi'o* Their room was sile't( the temperfoam smooth as some bea&h after a retreati'- tide* Her ba- was -o'e* He loo$ed for a 'ote* There was 'othi'-* Several se&o'ds passed before the s&e'e be%o'd the wi'dow re-istered thro)-h his te'sio' a'd )'happi'ess* He loo$ed )p a'd saw a view of Desiderata( e1pe'sive shopsA ;)&&i( Ts)%a$o( Hermes( "ibert%* He stared( the' shoo$ his head a'd &rossed to a pa'el he had',t bothered e1ami'i'-* He t)r'ed the holo-ram off a'd was rewarded with the &o'dos that terra&ed the far slope*

He pi&$ed )p the pho'e a'd &arried it o)t to the &ool bal&o'%* +;et me a ')mber for the 8ar&)s ;arve%(, he told the des$* +It,s a t)-( re-istered o)t of 6io' &l)ster*, The &hip voi&e re&ited a te'-di-it ')mber* +Sir(, it added( +the re-istratio' i' :)estio' is Pa'ama'ia'*, 8ael&)m a'swered o' the fifth to'e* +!o9, +Case* !o) -ot a modem( 8ael&)m9, +!o* O' th,B 'avi-atio' &omp( %a $'ow*, +Ca' %o) -et it off for me( ma'9 P)t it o' m% Hosa$a* The' t)r' m% de&$ o'* It,s the st)d with the rid-es o' it*, +How %o) doi',B i' there( mo'9, +7ell( I 'eed some help*, +8ovi',B( mo'* I -et th,B modem*, Case liste'ed to fai't stati& while 8ael&)m atta&hed the simple pho'e li'$* +I&e this(, he told the Hosa$a( whe' he heard it beep* +!o) are spea$i'- from a heavil% mo'itored lo&atio'(, the &omp)ter advised priml%* +<)&$ it(, he said* +<or-et the i&e* No i&e* A&&ess the &o'str)&t* Di1ie9, +He%( Case*, The <latli'e spo$e thro)-h the Hosa$a,s voi&e &hip( the &aref)ll% e'-i'eered a&&e't lost e'tirel%* +Di1( %o),re abo)t to p)'&h %o)r wa% i' here a'd -et somethi'- for me* !o) &a' be as bl)'t as %o) wa't* 8oll%,s i' here somewhere a'd I wa''a $'ow where* I,m i' >>K7( the I'ter&o'ti'e'tal* She was re-istered here too( b)t I do',t $'ow what 'ame she was )si'-* Ride i' o' this pho'e a'd do their re&ords for me*, +No soo'er said(, the <latli'e said* Case heard the white so)'d of the i'vasio'* He smiled* +Do'e* Rose 5olod'%* Che&$ed o)t* Ta$e me a few mi')tes to s&rew their se&)rit% 'et deep e'o)-h to -et a fi1*, +;o*,

The pho'e whi'ed a'd &li&$ed with the &o'str)&t,s efforts* Case &arried it ba&$ i'to the room a'd p)t the re&eiver fa&e )p o' the temperfoam* He we't i'to the bathroom a'd br)shed his teeth* As he was steppi'- ba&$ o)t( the mo'itor o' the room,s ra)' a)diovis)al &omple1 lit )p* A 3apa'ese pop star re&li'i'- a-ai'st metalli& &)shio's* A' )'see' i'terviewer as$ed a :)estio' i' ;erma'* Case stared* The s&ree' 0)mped with 0a-s of bl)e i'terfere'&e* +Case( bab%( %o) lose %o)r mi'd( ma'9, The voi&e was slow( familiar* The -lass wall of the bal&o'% &li&$ed i' with its view of Desiderata( b)t the street s&e'e bl)rred( twisted( be&ame the i'terior of the 3arre de Th( Chiba( empt%( red 'eo' repli&ated to s&rat&hed i'fi'it% i' the mirrored walls* "o''% 6o'e stepped forward( tall a'd &adavero)s( movi'- with the slow )'dersea -ra&e of his addi&tio'* He stood alo'e amo'- the s:)are tables( his ha'ds i' the po&$ets of his -ra% shar$s$i' sla&$s* +Reall%( ma'( %o),re loo$i',B ver% s&attered*, The voi&e &ame from the ra)',s spea$ers* +7i'term)te(, Case said* The pimp shr)--ed la'-)idl% a'd smiled* +7here,s 8oll%9, +Never %o) mi'd* !o),re s&rewi'- )p to'i-ht( Case* The <latli'e,s ri'-i'- bells all over <reeside* I did',t thi'$ %o),d do that( ma'* It,s o)tside the profile*, +So tell me where she is a'd I,ll &all him off*, 6o'e shoo$ his head* +!o) &a',t $eep too -ood tra&$ of %o)r wome'( &a' %o)( Case* 5eep losi',B ,em( o'e wa% or a'other*, +I,ll bri'- this thi'- dow' aro)'d %o)r ears(, Case said* +No* !o) are',t that $i'd( ma'* I $'ow that* !o) $'ow somethi'-( Case9 I fi-)re %o),ve -ot it fi-)red o)t that it was me told Dea'e to off that little &)'t of %o)rs i' Chiba*, +Do',t(, Case said( ta$i'- a' i'vol)'tar% step toward the wi'dow* + )t I did',t* 7hat,s it matter( tho)-h9 How m)&h does it reall% matter to 8r*B Case9 ?)it $iddi'- %o)rself* I $'ow %o)r "i'da( ma'* I $'ow all the "i'das* "i'das are a

-e'eri& prod)&t i' m% li'e of wor$* 5'ow wh% she de&ided to rip %o) off9 "ove* So %o),d -ive a shit* "ove9 7a''a tal$ love9 She loved %o)* I $'ow that* <or the little she was worth( she loved %o)* !o) &o)ld',t ha'dle it* She,s dead*, Case,s fist -la'&ed off the -lass* +Do',t f)&$ )p the ha'ds( ma'* Soo' %o) p)'&h de&$*, 6o'e va'ished( repla&ed b% <reeside 'i-ht a'd the li-hts of the &o'dos* The ra)' sh)t off* <rom the bed( the pho'e bleated steadil%* +Case9, The <latli'e was waiti'-* +7here %o) bee'9 I -ot it( b)t it is',t m)&h*, The &o'str)&t rattled off a' address* +Pla&e had some weird i&e aro)'d it for a 'i-ht&l)b* That,s all I &o)ld -et witho)t leavi'- a &alli'- &ard*, +O$a%(, Case said* +Tell the Hosa$a to tell 8ael&)m to dis&o''e&t the modem* Tha'$s( Di1*, +A pleas)re*, He sat o' the bed for a lo'- time( savori'- the 'ew thi'-( the treas)re* Ra-e* +He%* ")p)s* He%( Cath( it,s frie'd ")p)s*, r)&e stood 'a$ed i' his doorwa%( drippi'wet( his p)pils e'ormo)s* + )t we,re 0)st havi'- a shower* !o) wa''a wait9 7a''a shower9, +No* Tha'$s* I wa't some help*, He p)shed the bo%,s arm aside a'd stepped i'to the room* +He%( reall%( ma'( we,re***, +;oi'- to help me* !o),re reall% -lad to see me* e&a)se we,re frie'ds( ri-ht9 Are',t we9, r)&e bli'$ed* +S)re*, Case re&ited the address the <latli'e had -ive' him* +I $'ew he was a -a'-ster(, Cath &alled &heerf)ll% from the shower*

+I -otta Ho'da tri$e(, r)&e said( -ri''i'- va&a'tl%* +7e -o 'ow(, Case said* +That level,s the &)bi&les(, r)&e said( after as$i'- Case to repeat the address for the ei-hth time* He &limbed ba&$ i'to the Ho'da* Co'de'satio' dribbled from the h%dro-e'&ell e1ha)st as the red fiber-lass &hassis swa%ed o' &hromed sho&$s* +!o) be lo'-9, +No sa%i'-* )t %o),ll wait*, +7e,ll wait( %eah*, He s&rat&hed his bare &hest* +That last part of the address( I thi'$ that,s a &)bi&le* N)mber fort% three*, +!o) e1pe&ted( ")p)s9, Cath &ra'ed forward over r)&e,s sho)lder a'd peered )p* The drive had dried her hair* +Not reall%(, Case said* +That,s a problem9, +3)st -o dow' to the lowest level a'd fi'd %o)r frie'd,s &)bi&le* If the% let %o) i'( fi'e* If the% do',t wa''a see %o)***, She shr)--ed* Case t)r'ed a'd des&e'ded a spiral stair&ase of floral iro'* Si1 t)r's a'd he,d rea&hed a 'i-ht&l)b* He pa)sed a'd lit a !ehe%)a' loo$i'- over the tables* <reeside s)dde'l% made se'se to him* i4* He &o)ld feel it h)mmi'- i' the air* This was it( the lo&al a&tio'* Not the hi-h--loss fa&ade of the R)e 3)les Cer'e( b)t the real thi'-* Commer&e* The da'&e* The &rowd was mi1ed2 ma%be half were to)rists( the other half reside'ts of the isla'ds* +Dow'stairs(, he said to a passi'- waiter( +I wa't to -o dow'stairs*, He showed his <reeside &hip* The ma' -est)red toward the rear of the &l)b* He wal$ed :)i&$l% past the &rowded tables( heari'- fra-me'ts of half a do4e' E)ropea' la'-)a-es as he passed* +I wa't a &)bi&le(, he said to the -irl who sat at the low des$( a termi'al o' her lap* +"ower level*, He ha'ded her his &hip* +;e'der prefere'&e9, She passed the &hip a&ross a -lass plate o' the fa&e of the termi'al* +<emale(, he said a)tomati&all%* +N)mber thirt%-five* Pho'e if it is',t satisfa&tor%* !o) &a' a&&ess o)r spe&ial servi&es displa% beforeha'd( if %o) li$e*, She smiled* She ret)r'ed his &hip*

A' elevator slid ope' behi'd her* The &orridor li-hts were bl)e* Case stepped o)t of the elevator a'd &hose a dire&tio' at ra'dom* N)mbered doors* A h)sh li$e the halls of a' e1pe'sive &li'i&* He fo)'d his &)bi&le* He,d bee' loo$i'- for 8oll%,s( 'ow( &o'f)sed( he raised his &hip a'd pla&ed it a-ai'st a bla&$ se'sor set dire&tl% be'eath the ')mber plate* 8a-'eti& lo&$s* The so)'d remi'ded him of Cheap Hotel* The -irl sat )p i' bed a'd said somethi'- i' ;erma'* Her e%es were soft a'd )'bli'$i'-* A)tomati& pilot* A 'e)ral &)t o)t* He ba&$ed o)t of the &)bi&le a'd &losed the door* The door of fort%-three was li$e all the others* He hesitated* The sile'&e of the hallwa% said that the &)bi&les were so)'dproof* It was poi'tless to tr% the &hip* He rapped his $')&$les a-ai'st e'ameled metal* Nothi'-* The door seemed to absorb the so)'d* He pla&ed his &hip a-ai'st the bla&$ plate* The bolts &li&$ed* She seemed to hit him( somehow( before he,d a&t)all% -otte' the door ope'* He was o' his $'ees( the steel door a-ai'st his ba&$( the blades of her ri-id th)mbs :)iveri'&e'timeters from his e%es*** +3es)s Christ(, she said( &)ffi'- the side of his head as she rose* +!o),re a' idiot to tr% that* How the hell %o) ope' those lo&$s( Case9 Case9 !o) o$a%9, She lea'ed over him* +Chip(, he said( str)--li'- for breath* Pai' was spreadi'- from his &hest* She helped him )p a'd shoved him i'to the &)bi&le* +!o) bribe the help( )pstairs9, He shoo$ his head a'd fell a&ross the bed* + reathe i'* Co)'t* O'e( two( three( fo)r* Hold it* Now o)t* Co)'t*, He &l)t&hed his stoma&h* +!o) $i&$ed me(, he ma'a-ed* +Sho)lda bee' lower* I wa''a be alo'e* I,m meditati'-( ri-ht9, She sat beside him* +A'd -etti'- a briefi'-*, She poi'ted at a small mo'itor set i'to the wall opposite the bed*

+7i'term)te,s telli'- me abo)t Stra%li-ht*, +7here,s the meat p)ppet9, +There is',t a'%* That,s the most e1pe'sive spe&ial servi&e of all*, She stood )p* She wore her leather 0ea's a'd a loose dar$ shirt* +The r)',s tomorrow( 7i'term)te sa%s*, +7hat was that all abo)t( i' the resta)ra't9 How &ome %o) ra'9, +,Ca)se( if I,d sta%ed( I mi-ht have $illed Riviera*, +7h%9, +7hat he did to me* The show*, +I do',t -et it*, +This &ost a lot(, she said( e1te'di'- her ri-ht ha'd as tho)-h it held a' i'visible fr)it* The five blades slid o)t( the' retra&ted smoothl%* +Costs to -o to Chiba( &osts to -et the s)r-er%( &osts to have them 0a&$ %o)r 'ervo)s s%stem )p so %o),ll have the refle1es to -o with the -ear*** !o) $'ow how I -ot the mo'e%( whe' I was starti'- o)t9 Here* Not here( b)t a pla&e li$e it( i' the Sprawl* 3o$e( to start with( ,&a)se o'&e the% pla't the &)t-o)t &hip( it seems li$e free mo'e%* 7a$e )p sore( sometimes( b)t that,s it* Re'ti'- the -oods( is all* !o) are',t i'( whe' it,s all happe'i'-* Ho)se has software for whatever a &)stomer wa'ts to pa% for***, She &ra&$ed her $')&$les* +<i'e* I was -etti'- m% mo'e%* Tro)ble was( the &)t-o)t a'd the &ir&)itr% the Chiba &li'i&s p)t i' were',t &ompatible* So the wor$time started bleedi'- i'( a'd I &o)ld remember it*** )t it was 0)st bad dreams( a'd 'ot all bad*, She smiled* +The' it started -etti'- stra'-e*, She p)lled his &i-arettes from his po&$et a'd lit o'e* +The ho)se fo)'d o)t what I was doi'- with the mo'e%* I had the blades i'( b)t the fi'e 'e)romotor wor$ wo)ld ta$e a'other three trips* No wa% I was read% to -ive )p p)ppet time*, She i'haled( blew o)t a stream of smo$e( &appi'- it with three perfe&t ri'-s* +So the bastard who ra' the pla&e( he had some &)stom software &oo$ed )p* erli'( that,s the pla&e for s')ff( %o) $'ow9 i- mar$et for mea' $i&$s( erli'* I 'ever $'ew who wrote the pro-ram the% swit&hed me to( b)t it was based o' all the &lassi&s*, +The% $'ew %o) were pi&$i'- )p o' this st)ff9 That %o) were &o's&io)s while %o) were wor$i'-9, +I was',t &o's&io)s* It,s li$e &%berspa&e( b)t bla'$* Silver* It smells li$e rai'*** !o) &a' see %o)rself or-asm( it,s li$e a little 'ova ri-ht o)t o' the rim of spa&e* )t I was starti'to remember* "i$e dreams( %o) $'ow* A'd the% did',t tell me* The% swit&hed the software a'd started re'ti'- to spe&ialt% mar$ets*,

She seemed to spea$ from a dista'&e* +A'd I $'ew( b)t I $ept :)iet abo)t it* I 'eeded the mo'e%* The dreams -ot worse a'd worse( a'd I,d tell m%self that at least some of them were 0)st dreams( b)t b% the' I,d started to fi-)re that the boss had a whole little &lie'tele -oi'- for me* Nothi'-,s too -ood for 8oll%( the boss sa%s( a'd -ives me this shit raise*, She shoo$ her head* +That pri&$ was &har-i'- ei-ht times what he was pa%i'me( a'd he tho)-ht I did',t $'ow*, +So what was he &har-i'- for9, + ad dreams* Real o'es* O'e 'i-ht*** o'e 'i-ht( I,d 0)st &ome ba&$ from Chiba*, She dropped the &i-arette( -ro)'d it o)t with her heel( a'd sat dow'( lea'i'- a-ai'st the wall* +S)r-eo's we't wa% i'( that trip* Tri&$%* The% m)st have dist)rbed the &)t-o)t &hip* I &ame )p* I was i'to this ro)ti'e with a &)stomer***, She d)- her fi'-ers deep i' the foam* +Se'ator( he was* 5'ew his fat fa&e ri-ht awa%* 7e were both &overed with blood* 7e were',t alo'e* She was all***, She t)--ed at the temperfoam* +Dead* A'd that fat pri&$( he was sa%i'-( +7hat,s wro'-* 7hat,s wro'-9, ,Ca)se we were',t fi'ished %et***, She be-a' to sha$e* +So I -)ess I -ave the Se'ator what he reall% wa'ted( %o) $'ow9, The sha$i'- stopped* She released the foam a'd ra' her fi'-ers ba&$ thro)-h her dar$ hair* +The ho)se p)t a &o'tra&t o)t o' me* I had to hide for a while*, Case stared at her* +So Riviera hit a 'erve last 'i-ht(, she said* +I -)ess it wa'ts me to hate him real bad( so I,ll be ps%&hed )p to -o i' there after him*, +After him9, +He,s alread% there* Stra%li-ht* O' the i'vitatio' of "ad% >3a'e( all that dedi&atio' shit* She was there i' a private bo1( $i'da***, Case remembered the fa&e he,d see'* +!o) -o''a $ill him9, She smiled* Cold* +He,s -oi'- to die( %eah* Soo'*, +I had a visit too(, he said( a'd told her abo)t the wi'dow( st)mbli'- over what the 6o'efi-)re had said abo)t "i'da* She 'odded* +8a%be it wa'ts %o) to hate somethi'- too*, +8a%be I hate it*,

+8a%be %o) hate %o)rself( Case*, +How was it9, r)&e as$ed( as Case &limbed i'to the Ho'da* +Tr% it sometime(, he said( r)bbi'- his e%es* +3)st &a',t see %o) the $i'da -)% -oes for the p)ppets(, Cath said )'happil%( th)mbi'- a fresh derm a-ai'st her wrist* +Ca' we -o home( 'ow9, r)&e as$ed* +S)re* Drop me dow' 3)les Cer'e( where the bars are*,

1=

R)e 3)les Cer'e was a &ir&)mfere'tial ave')e( loopi'- the spi'dle,s midpoi't( while Desiderata ra' its le'-th( termi'ati'- at either e'd i' the s)pports of the "ado-A&heso' li-ht p)mps* If %o) t)r'ed ri-ht( off Desiderata( a'd followed 3)les Cer'e far e'o)-h( %o),d fi'd %o)rself approa&hi'- Desiderata from the left* Case wat&hed r)&e,s tri$e )'til it was o)t of si-ht( the' t)r'ed a'd wal$ed past a vast( brillia'tl% lit 'ewssta'd( the &overs of do4e's of -loss% 3apa'ese ma-a4i'es prese'ti'the fa&es of the mo'th,s 'ewest simstim stars* Dire&tl% overhead( alo'- the 'i-hted a1is( the holo-ram s$% -littered with fa'&if)l &o'stellatio's s)--esti'- pla%i'- &ards( the fa&es of di&e( a top hat( a marti'i -lass* The i'terse&tio' of Desiderata a'd 3)les Cer'e formed a $i'd of -)l&h( the bal&o'ied terra&es of <reeside &liff dwellers risi'- -rad)all% to the -rass% tablela'ds of a'other &asi'o &omple1* Case wat&hed a dro'e mi&roli-ht ba'$ -ra&ef)ll% i' a' )pdraft at the -ree' ver-e of a' artifi&ial mesa( lit for se&o'ds b% the soft -low of the i'visible &asi'o* The thi'- was a $i'd of pilotless bipla'e of -ossamer pol%mer( its wi'-s sil$s&ree'ed to resemble a -ia't b)tterfl%* The' it was -o'e( be%o'd the mesa,s ed-e* He,d see' a wi'$ of refle&ted 'eo' off -lass( either le'ses or the t)rrets of lasers* The dro'es were part of the spi'dle,s se&)rit% s%stem( &o'trolled b% some &e'tral &omp)ter* I' Stra%li-ht9 He wal$ed o'( past bars 'amed the Hi-"o( the Paradise( le 8o'de( Cri&$eteer* Sho4o$) Smith,s( Emer-e'&%* He &hose Emer-e'&% be&a)se it was the smallest a'd most &rowded( b)t it too$ o'l% se&o'ds for him to reali4e that it was a to)rist pla&e* No h)m of bi4 here( o'l% a -la4ed se1)al te'sio'* He tho)-ht briefl% of the

'ameless &l)b above 8oll%,s re'ted &)bi&le( b)t the ima-e of her mirrored e%es fi1ed o' the little s&ree' diss)aded him* 7hat was 7i'term)te reveali'- there 'ow9 The -ro)'d pla's of the Cilla Stra%li-ht9 The histor% of the Tessier-Ashpools9 He bo)-ht a m)- of Carlsber- a'd fo)'d a pla&e a-ai'st the wall* Closi'- his e%es( he felt for the $'ot of ra-e( the p)re small &oal of his a'-er* It was there still* 7here had it &ome from9 He remembered feeli'- o'l% a $i'd of baffleme't at his maimi'- i' 8emphis( 'othi'- at all whe' he,d $illed to defe'd his deali'- i'terests i' Ni-ht Cit%( a'd a sla&$ si&$'ess a'd loathi'- after "i'da,s death )'der the i'flated dome* )t 'o a'-er* Small a'd far awa%( o' the mi'd,s s&ree'( a sembla'&e of Dea'e str)&$ a sembla'&e of a' offi&e wall i' a' e1plosio' of brai's a'd blood* He $'ew the'A the ra-e had &ome i' the ar&ade( whe' 7i'term)te res&i'ded the simstim -host of "i'da "ee( %a'$i'- awa% the simple a'imal promise of food( warmth( a pla&e to sleep* )t he had',t be&ome aware of it )'til his e1&ha'-e with the holo-&o'str)&t of "o''% 6o'e* It was a stra'-e thi'-* He &o)ld',t ta$e its meas)re* +N)mb(, he said* He,d bee' ')mb a lo'- time( %ears* All his 'i-hts dow' Ni'sei( his 'i-hts with "i'da( ')mb i' bed a'd ')mb at the &old sweati'- &e'ter of ever% dr)- deal* )t 'ow he,d fo)'d this warm thi'-( this &hip of m)rder* 8eat( some part of him said* It,s the meat tal$i'-( i-'ore it* +;a'-ster*, He ope'ed his e%es* Cath stood beside him i' a bla&$ shift( her hair still wild from the ride i' the Ho'da* +Tho)-ht %o) we't home(, he said( a'd &overed his &o'f)sio' with a sip of Carlsber-* +I -ot him to drop me off at this shop* o)-ht this*, She ra' her palm a&ross the fabri&( &)rve of the pelvi& -irdle* He saw the bl)e derm o' her wrist* +"i$e it9, +S)re*, He a)tomati&all% s&a''ed the fa&es aro)'d them( the' loo$ed ba&$ at her* +7hat do %o) thi'$ %o),re )p to( ho'e%9, +!o) li$e the beta %o) -ot off )s( ")p)s9, She was ver% &lose 'ow( radiati'- heat a'd te'sio'( e%es slitted over e'ormo)s p)pils a'd a te'do' i' her 'e&$ te'se as a bowstri'-* She was :)iveri'-( vibrati'- i'visibl% with the fresh b)44* +!o) -et off9, +!eah* )t the &omedow',s a bit&h*, +The' %o) 'eed a'other o'e*,

+A'd what,s that s)pposed to lead to9, +I -ot a $e%* #p the hill behi'd the Paradise( 0)st the &reamiest &rib* People dow' the well o' b)si'ess to'i-ht( if %o) follow me***, +If I follow %o)*, She too$ his ha'd betwee' hers( her palms hot a'd dr%* +!o),re !a$( are',t %o)( ")p)s9 ;ai0i' soldierma' for the !a$)4a*, +!o) -ot a' e%e( h)h9, He withdrew his ha'd a'd f)mbled for a &i-arette* +How &ome %o) -ot all %o)r fi'-ers( the'9 I tho)-ht %o) had to &hop o'e off ever% time %o) s&rewed )p*, +I 'ever s&rew )p*, He lit his &i-arette* +I saw that -irl %o),re with* Da% I met %o)* 7al$s li$e Hideo* S&ares me*, She smiled too widel%* +I li$e that* She li$e it with -irls9, +Never said* 7ho,s Hideo9, +>3a'e,s( what she &alls it( retai'er* <amil% retai'er*, Case for&ed himself to stare d)ll% at the Emer-e'&% &rowd while he spo$e* +Dee-3a'e9, +"ad% >3a'e* She,s triff* Ri&h* Her father ow's all this*, +This bar9, +<reesideE, +No shit* !o) $eepi',B some &lass &ompa'%( h)h9, He raised a' e%ebrow* P)t his arm aro)'d her( his ha'd o' her hip* +So how %o) meet these aristos( Cath%9 !o) some $i'da &loset deb9 !o) a',B r)&e se&ret heirs to some ripe old &redit9 H)h9, He spread his fi'-ers( $'eadi'- the flesh be'eath the thi' bla&$ &loth* She s:)irmed a-ai'st him* "a)-hed* +Oh( %o) $'ow(, she said( lids half lowered i' what m)st have bee' i'te'ded as a loo$ of modest%( +she li$es to part%* r)&e a'd I( we ma$e the part% &ir&)it*** It -ets real bori'for her( i' there* Her old ma' lets her o)t sometimes( as lo'- as she bri'-s Hideo to ta$e &are of her*,

+7here,s it -et bori'-9, +Stra%li-ht( the% &all it* She told me( oh( it,s prett%( all the pools a'd lilies* It,s a &astle( a real &astle( all sto'e a'd s)'sets*, She s')--led i' a-ai'st him* +He%( ")p)s( ma'( %o) 'eed a derm* So we &a' be to-ether*, She wore a ti'% leather p)rse o' a sle'der 'e&$-tho'-* Her 'ails were bri-ht pi'$ a-ai'st her boosted ta'( bitte' to the :)i&$* She ope'ed the p)rse a'd withdrew a paperba&$ed b)bble with a bl)e derm i'side* Somethi'- white t)mbled to the floor2 Case stooped a'd pi&$ed it )p* A' ori-ami &ra'e* +Hideo -ave it to me(, she said* +He tried to show me how( b)t I &a',t ever -et it ri-ht* The 'e&$s &ome o)t ba&$wards*, She t)&$ed the folded paper ba&$ i'to her p)rse* Case wat&hed as she tore the b)bble awa%( peeled the derm from its ba&$i'-( a'd smoothed it a&ross his i''er wrist* +>3a'e( she,s -ot a poi't% fa&e( 'ose li$e a bird9, He wat&hed his ha'ds f)mble a' o)tli'e* +Dar$ hair9 !o)'-9, +I -)ess* )t she,s triff( %o) $'ow9 "i$e( all that mo'e%*, The dr)- hit him li$e a' e1press trai'( a white-hot &ol)m' of li-ht mo)'ti'- his spi'e from the re-io' of his prostate( ill)mi'ati'- the s)t)res of his s$)ll with 1-ra%s of short&ir&)ited se1)al e'er-%* His teeth sa'- i' their i'divid)al so&$ets li$e t)'i'- for$s( ea&h o'e pit&h-perfe&t a'd &lear as etha'ol* His bo'es( be'eath the ha4% e'velope of flesh( were &hromed a'd polished( the 0oi'ts l)bri&ated with a film of sili&o'e* Sa'dstorms ra-ed a&ross the s&o)red floor of his s$)ll( -e'erati'- waves of hi-h thi' stati& that bro$e behi'd his e%es( spheres of p)rest &r%stal( e1pa'di'-*** +Come o'(, she said( ta$i'- his ha'd* +!o) -ot it 'ow* 7e -ot it* #p the hill( we,ll have it all 'i-ht*, The a'-er was e1pa'di'-( rele'tless( e1po'e'tial( ridi'- o)t behi'd the betaphe'eth%lami'e r)sh li$e a &arrier wave( a seismi& fl)id( ri&h a'd &orrosive* His ere&tio' was a bar of lead* The fa&es aro)'d them i' Emer-e'&% were pai'ted doll thi'-s( the pi'$ a'd white of mo)th parts movi'-( movi'-( words emer-i'- li$e dis&rete balloo's of so)'d* He loo$ed at Cath a'd saw ea&h pore i' the ta''ed s$i'( e%es flat as d)mb -lass( a ti't of dead metal( a fai't bloati'-( the most mi')te as%mmetries of breast a'd &ollarbo'e( the -somethi'- flared white behi'd his e%es* He dropped her ha'd a'd st)mbled for the door( shovi'- someo'e o)t of the wa%* +<)&$ %o)E, she s&reamed behi'd him( +%o) ripoff shitE,

He &o)ld',t feel his le-s* He )sed them li$e stilts( swa%i'- &ra4il% a&ross the fla-sto'e paveme't of 3)les Cer'e( a dista't r)mbli'- i' his ears( his ow' blood( ra4ored sheets of li-ht bise&ti'- his s$)ll at a do4e' a'-les* A'd the' he was fro4e'( ere&t( fists ti-ht a-ai'st his thi-hs( head ba&$( his lips &)rled( sha$i'-* 7hile he wat&hed the loser,s 4odia& of <reeside( the 'i-ht&l)b &o'stellatio's of the holo-ram s$%( shift( slidi'- fl)id dow' the a1is of dar$'ess( to swarm li$e live thi'-s at the dead &e'ter of realit%* #'til the% had arra'-ed themselves( i'divid)all% a'd i' their h)'dreds( to form a vast simple portrait( stippled the )ltimate mo'o&hrome( stars a-ai'st 'i-ht s$%* <a&e of 8iss "i'da "ee* 7he' he was able to loo$ awa%( to lower his e%es( he fo)'d ever% other fa&e i' the street )praised( the strolli'- to)rists be&almed with wo'der* A'd whe' the li-hts i' the s$% we't o)t( a ra--ed &heer we't )p from 3)les Cer'e( to e&ho off the terra&es a'd ra'$ed bal&o'ies of l)'ar &o'&rete* Somewhere a &lo&$ be-a' to &hime( some a'&ie't bell o)t of E)rope* 8id'i-ht* He wal$ed till mor'i'-* The hi-h wore awa%( the &hromed s$eleto' &orrodi'- ho)rl%( flesh -rowi'- solid( the dr)--flesh repla&ed with the meat of his life* He &o)ld',t thi'$* He li$ed that ver% m)&h( to be &o's&io)s a'd )'able to thi'$* He seemed to be&ome ea&h thi'- he sawA a par$ be'&h( a &lo)d of white moths aro)'d a' a'ti:)e streetli-ht( a robot -arde'er striped dia-o'all% with bla&$ a'd %ellow* A re&orded daw' &rept alo'- the "ado-A&heso' s%stem( pi'$ a'd l)rid* He for&ed himself to eat a' omelette i' a Desiderata &afe( to dri'$ water( to smo$e the last of his &i-arettes* The rooftop meadow of the I'ter&o'ti'e'tal was stirri'- as he &rossed it( a' earl% brea$fast &rowd i'te't o' &offee a'd &roissa'ts be'eath the striped )mbrellas* He still had his a'-er* That was li$e bei'- rolled i' some alle% a'd wa$i'- to dis&over %o)r wallet still i' %o)r po&$et( )'to)&hed* He warmed himself with it( )'able to -ive it a 'ame or a' ob0e&t* He rode the elevator dow' to his level( f)mbli'- i' his po&$et for the <reeside &redit &hip that served as his $e%* Sleep was be&omi'- real( was somethi'- he mi-ht do* To lie dow' o' the sa'd-&olored temperfoam a'd fi'd the bla'$'ess a-ai'* The% were waiti'- there( the three of them( their perfe&t white sports&lothes a'd ste'&iled ta's setti'- off the ha'dwove' or-a'i& &hi& of the f)r'it)re* The -irl sat o' a

wi&$er sofa( a' a)tomati& pistol beside her o' the leaf-patter'ed pri't of the &)shio'* +T)ri'-(, she said* +!o) are )'der arrest*,

PART <O#R

THE STRA!"I;HT R#N

1>

+!o)r 'ame is He'r% Dorsett Case*, She re&ited the %ear a'd pla&e of his birth( his A8A Si'-le Ide'tifi&atio' N)mber( a'd a stri'- of 'ames he -rad)all% re&o-'i4ed as aliases from his past* +!o) bee' here awhile9, He saw the &o'te'ts of his ba- spread o)t a&ross the bed( )'washed &lothi'- sorted b% t%pe* The sh)ri$e' la% b% itself( betwee' 0ea's a'd )'derwear( o' the sa'd-ti'ted temperfoam* +7here is 5olod'%9, The two me' sat side b% side o' the &o)&h( their arms &rossed over ta''ed &hests( ide'ti&al -old &hai's sl)'- aro)'d their 'e&$s* Case peered at them a'd saw that their %o)th was &o)'terfeit( mar$ed b% a &ertai' telltale &orr)-atio' at the $')&$les( somethi'- the s)r-eo's were )'able to erase* +7ho,s 5olod'%9, +That was the 'ame i' the re-ister* 7here is she9, +I d)''o(, he said( &rossi'- to the bar a'd po)ri'- himself a -lass of mi'eral water* +She too$ off*, +7here did %o) -o to'i-ht( Case9, The -irl pi&$ed )p the pistol a'd rested it o' her thi-h( witho)t a&t)all% poi'ti'- it at him*

+3)les Cer'e( &o)ple of bars( -ot hi-h* How abo)t %o)9, His $'ees felt brittle* The mi'eral water was warm a'd flat* +I do',t thi'$ %o) -rasp %o)r sit)atio'(, said the ma' o' the left( ta$i'- a pa&$ of ;ita'es from the breast po&$et of his white mesh blo)se* +!o) are b)sted( 8r*B Case* The &har-es have to do with &o'spira&% to a)-me't a' artifi&ial i'telli-e'&e*, He too$ a -old D)'hill from the same po&$et a'd &radled it i' his palm* +The ma' %o) &all Armita-e is alread% i' &)stod%*, +Corto9, The ma',s e%es wide'ed* +!es* How do %o) $'ow that that is his 'ame9, A millimeter of flame &li&$ed from the li-hter* +I for-et(, Case said* +!o),ll remember(, the -irl said* Their 'ames( or wor$'ames( were 8i&hle( Rola'd( a'd Pierre* Pierre( Case de&ided( wo)ld pla% the ad Cop( Rola'd wo)ld ta$e Case,s side( provide small $i'd'esses -he fo)'d a' )'ope'ed pa&$ of !ehe%)a's whe' Case ref)sed a ;ita'e -a'd -e'erall% pla% &o)'terpoi't to Pierre,s &old hostilit%* 8i&hle wo)ld be the Re&ordi'- A'-el( ma$i'o&&asio'al ad0)stme'ts i' the dire&tio' of the i'terro-atio'* O'e or all of them( he was &ertai'( wo)ld be $i'$ed for a)dio( ver% li$el% for simstim( a'd a'%thi'- he said or did 'ow was admissible evide'&e* Evide'&e( he as$ed himself( thro)-h the -ri'di'- &omedow'( of what9 5'owi'- that he &o)ld',t follow their <re'&h( the% spo$e freel% amo'- themselves* Or seemed to* He &a)-ht e'o)-h as it wasA 'ames li$e Pa)le%( Armita-e( Se'seINet( Pa'ther 8oder's protr)di'- li$e i&eber-s from a' a'imated sea of Parisia' <re'&h* )t it was e'tirel% possible that the 'ames were there for his be'efit* The% alwa%s referred to 8oll% as 5olod'%* +!o) sa% %o) were hired to ma$e a r)'( Case(, Rola'd said( his slow spee&h i'te'ded to &o've% reaso'able'ess( +a'd that %o) are )'aware of the 'at)re of the tar-et* Is this 'ot )')s)al i' %o)r trade9 Havi'- pe'etrated the defe'ses( wo)ld %o) 'ot be )'able the' to perform the re:)ired operatio'9 A'd s)rel% a' operatio' of some $i'd is re:)ired( %es9, He lea'ed forward( elbows o' his ste'&iled brow' $'ees( palms o)t to re&eive Case,s e1pla'atio'* Pierre pa&ed the room2 'ow he was b% the wi'dow( 'ow b% the door* 8i&hle was the $i'$( Case de&ided* Her e%es 'ever left him* +Ca' I p)t some &lothes o'9, he as$ed* Pierre had i'sisted o' strippi'- him( sear&hi'the seams of his 0ea's* Now he sat 'a$ed o' a wi&$er footstool( with o'e foot obs&e'el%

white* Rola'd as$ed Pierre somethi'- i' <re'&h* Pierre( at the wi'dow a-ai'( was peeri'thro)-h a flat little pair of bi'o&)lars* +No'(, he said abse'tl%( a'd Rola'd shr)--ed( raisi'- his e%ebrows at Case* Case de&ided it was a -ood time to smile* Rola'd ret)r'ed the smile* Oldest &op b)llshit i' the boo$( Case tho)-ht* +"oo$(, he said( +I,m si&$* Had this -odawf)l dr)- i' a bar( %o) $'ow9 I wa''a lie dow'* !o) -ot me alread%* !o) sa% %o) -ot Armita-e* !o) -ot him( -o as$ him* I,m 0)st hired help*, Rola'd 'odded* +A'd 5olod'%9, +She was with Armita-e whe' he hired me* 3)st m)s&le( a ra4or-irl* <ar as I $'ow* 7hi&h is',t too far*, +!o) $'ow that Armita-e,s real 'ame is Corto(, Pierre said( his e%es still hidde' b% the soft plasti& fla'-es of the bi'o&)lars* +How do %o) $'ow that( m% frie'd9, +I -)ess he me'tio'ed it sometime(, Case said( re-retti'- the slip* +Ever%bod%,s -ot a &o)ple 'ames* !o)r 'ame Pierre9, +7e $'ow how %o) were repaired i' Chiba(, 8i&hle said( +a'd that ma% have bee' 7i'term)te,s first mista$e*, Case stared at her as bla'$l% as he &o)ld* The 'ame had',t bee' me'tio'ed before* +The pro&ess emplo%ed o' %o) res)lted i' the &li'i&,s ow'er appl%i'- for seve' basi& pate'ts* Do %o) $'ow what that mea's9, +No*, +It mea's that the operator of a bla&$ &li'i& i' Chiba Cit% 'ow ow's a &o'trolli'i'terest i' three ma0or medi&al resear&h &o'sorti)ms* This reverses the )s)al order of thi'-s( %o) see* It attra&ted atte'tio'*, She &rossed her brow' arms a&ross her small hi-h breasts a'd settled ba&$ a-ai'st the pri't &)shio'* Case wo'dered how old she mi-ht be* People said that a-e alwa%s showed i' the e%es( b)t he,d 'ever bee' able to see it* 3)lie Dea'e had had the e%es of a disi'terested te'-%ear-old behi'd the rose :)art4 of his -lasses* Nothi'- old abo)t 8i&hle b)t her $')&$les* +Tra&ed %o) to the Sprawl( lost %o) a-ai'( the' &a)-ht )p with %o) as %o) were leavi'- for Ista'b)l* 7e ba&$tra&$ed( tra&ed %o) thro)-h the -rid( determi'ed that %o),d i'sti-ated a riot at Se'seINet* Se'seINet was ea-er to &ooperate* The% ra' a' i've'tor% for )s* The% dis&overed that 8&Co% Pa)le%,s RO8 perso'alit% &o'str)&t was missi'-*, +I' Ista'b)l(, Rola'd said( almost apolo-eti&all%( +it was ver% eas%* The woma' had alie'ated Armita-e,s &o'ta&t with the se&ret poli&e*,

+A'd the' %o) &ame here(, Pierre said( slippi'- the bi'o&)lars i'to his shorts po&$et* +7e were deli-hted*, +Cha'&e to wor$ o' %o)r ta'9, +!o) $'ow what we mea'(, 8i&hle said* +If %o) wish to prete'd that %o) do 'ot( %o) o'l% ma$e thi'-s more diffi&)lt for %o)rself* There is still the matter of e1traditio'* !o) will ret)r' with )s( Case( as will Armita-e* )t where( e1a&tl%( will we all be -oi'-9 To Swit4erla'd( where %o) will be merel% a paw' i' the trial of a' artifi&ial i'telli-e'&e9 Or to le A8A( where %o) &a' be prove' to have parti&ipated 'ot o'l% i' data i'vasio' a'd lar&e'%( b)t i' a' a&t of p)bli& mis&hief whi&h &ost fo)rtee' i''o&e't lives9 The &hoi&e is %o)rs*, Case too$ a !ehe%)a' from his pa&$2 Pierre lit it for him with the -old D)'hill* +7o)ld Armita-e prote&t %o)9, The :)estio' was p)'&t)ated b% the li-hter,s bri-ht 0aws s'appi'- sh)t* Case loo$ed )p at him thro)-h the a&he a'd bitter'ess of betaphe'eth%lami'e* +How old are %o)( boss9, +Old e'o)-h to $'ow that %o) are f)&$ed( b)r't( that this is over a'd %o) are i' the wa%*, +O'e thi'-(, Case said( a'd drew o' his &i-arette* He blew the smo$e )p at the T)ri'Re-istr% a-e't* +Do %o) -)%s have a'% real 0)risdi&tio' o)t here9 I mea'( sho)ld',t %o) have the <reeside se&)rit% team i' o' this part%9 It,s their t)rf( is',t it9, He saw the dar$ e%es harde' i' the lea' bo% fa&e a'd te'sed for the blow( b)t Pierre o'l% shr)--ed* +It does',t matter(, Rola'd said* +!o) will &ome with )s* 7e are at home with sit)atio's of le-al ambi-)it%* The treaties )'der whi&h o)r arm of the Re-istr% operates -ra't )s a -reat deal of fle1ibilit%* A'd we &reate fle1ibilit%( i' sit)atio's where it is re:)ired*, The mas$ of amiabilit% was dow'( s)dde'l%( Rola'd,s e%es as hard as Pierre,s* +!o) are worse tha' a fool(, 8i&hle said( -etti'- to her feet( the pistol i' her ha'd* +!o) have 'o &are for %o)r spe&ies* <or tho)sa'ds of %ears me' dreamed of pa&ts with demo's* O'l% 'ow are s)&h thi'-s possible* A'd what wo)ld %o) be paid with9 7hat wo)ld %o)r pri&e be( for aidi'- this thi'- to free itself a'd -row9, There was a $'owi'weari'ess i' her %o)'- voi&e that 'o 'i'etee'-%ear-old &o)ld have m)stered* +!o) will dress 'ow* !o) will &ome with )s* Alo'- with the o'e %o) &all Armita-e( %o) will ret)r' with )s to ;e'eva a'd -ive testimo'% i' the trial of this i'telli-e'&e* Otherwise( we $ill %o)* Now*, She raised the pistol( a smooth bla&$ 7alther with a' i'te-ral sile'&er* +I,m dressi'- alread%(, he said( st)mbli'- toward the bed* His le-s were still ')mb( &l)ms%* He f)mbled with a &lea' t-shirt*

+7e have a ship sta'di'- b%* 7e will erase Pa)le%,s &o'str)&t with a p)lse weapo'*, +Se'seINet,ll be pissed(, Case said( thi'$i'-A a'd all the evide'&e i' the Hosa$a* +The% are i' some diffi&)lt% alread%( for havi'- ow'ed s)&h a thi'-*, Case p)lled the shirt over his head* He saw the sh)ri$e' o' the bed( lifeless metal( his star* He felt for the a'-er* It was -o'e* Time to -ive i'( to roll with it*** He tho)-ht of the to1i' sa&s* +Here &omes the meat(, he m)ttered* I' the elevator to the meadow( he tho)-ht of 8oll%* She mi-ht alread% be i' Stra%li-ht* H)'ti'- Riviera* H)'ted( probabl%( b% Hideo( who was almost &ertai'l% the 'i'0a &lo'e of the <i'',s stor%( the o'e who,d &ome to retrieve the tal$i'- head* He rested his forehead a-ai'st the matte bla&$ plasti& of a wall pa'el a'd &losed his e%es* His limbs were wood( old( warped a'd heav% with rai'* ")'&h was bei'- served be'eath the trees( )'der the bri-ht )mbrellas* Rola'd a'd 8i&hle fell i'to &hara&ter( &hatteri'- bri-htl% i' <re'&h* Pierre &ame behi'd* 8i&hle $ept the m)44le of her pistol &lose to his ribs( &o'&eali'- the -)' with a white d)&$ 0a&$et she draped over her arm* Crossi'- the meadow( weavi'- betwee' the tables a'd the trees( he wo'dered if she wo)ld shoot him if he &ollapsed 'ow* la&$ f)r boiled at the borders of his visio'* He -la'&ed )p at the hot white ba'd of the "ado-A&heso' armat)re a'd saw a -ia't b)tterfl% ba'$i'- -ra&ef)ll% a-ai'st re&orded s$%* At the ed-e of the meadow the% &ame to raili'-ed &liffside( wild flowers da'&i'- i' the )pdraft from the &a'%o' that was Desiderata* 8i&hle tossed her short dar$ hair a'd poi'ted( sa%i'- somethi'- i' <re'&h to Rola'd* She so)'ded -e')i'el% happ%* Case followed the dire&tio' of her -est)re a'd saw the &)rve of pla'i'- la$es( the white -li't of &asi'os( t)r:)oise re&ta'-les of a tho)sa'd pools( the bodies of bathers( ti'% bro'4e hiero-l%phs( all held i' sere'e appro1imatio' of -ravit% a-ai'st the e'dless &)rve of <reeside,s h)ll* The% followed the raili'- to a' or'ate iro' brid-e that ar&hed over Desiderata* 8i&hle prodded him with the m)44le of the 7alther* +Ta$e it eas%( I &a',t hardl% wal$ toda%*, The% were a little over a :)arter of the wa% a&ross whe' the mi&roli-ht str)&$( its ele&tri& e'-i'e sile't )'til the &arbo' fiber prop &hopped awa% the top of Pierre,s s$)ll*

The% were i' the thi'-,s shadow for a' i'sta't( Case felt the hot blood spra% a&ross the ba&$ of his 'e&$( a'd the' someo'e tripped him* He rolled( seei'- 8i&hle o' her ba&$( $'ees )p( aimi'- the 7alther with both ha'ds* That,s a waste of effort( he tho)-ht( with the stra'-e l)&idit% of sho&$* She was tr%i'- to shoot dow' the mi&roli-ht* A'd the' he was r)''i'-* He loo$ed ba&$ as he passed the first of the trees* Rola'd was r)''i'- after him* He saw the fra-ile bipla'e stri$e the iro' raili'- of the brid-e( &r)mple( &artwheel( sweepi'- the -irl with it dow' i'to Desiderata* Rola'd had',t loo$ed ba&$* His fa&e was fi1ed( white( his teeth bared* He had somethi'i' his ha'd* The -arde'i'- robot too$ Rola'd as he passed that same tree* It fell strai-ht o)t of the -roomed bra'&hes( a thi'- li$e a &rab( dia-o'all% striped with bla&$ a'd %ellow* +!o) $illed ,em(, Case pa'ted( r)''i'-* +Cra4% motherf)&$er( %o) $illed ,em all***,

1@

The little trai' shot thro)-h its t)''el at ei-ht% $ilometers per ho)r* Case $ept his e%es &losed* The shower had helped( b)t he,d lost his brea$fast whe' he,d loo$ed dow' a'd see' Pierre,s blood washi'- pi'$ a&ross the white tiles* ;ravit% fell awa% as the spi'dle 'arrowed* Case,s stoma&h &h)r'ed* Aerol was waiti'- with his s&ooter beside the do&$* +Case( mo'( bi- problem*, The soft voi&e fai't i' his pho'es* He &hi''ed the vol)me &o'trol a'd peered i'to the "e1a' fa&e-plate of Aerol,s helmet* +;otta -et to ;arve%( Aerol*, +!o* Strap i'( mo'* )t ;arve% &aptive* !a&ht( &ame before( she &ame ba&$* Now she lo&$i',B stead% o' 8ar&)s ;arve%*, T)ri'-9 +Came before9, Case &limbed i'to the s&ooter,s frame a'd be-a' to faste' the straps* +3apa' %a&ht* ro)-ht %o) pa&$a-e***,

Armita-e* Co'f)sed ima-es of wasps a'd spiders rose i' Case,s mi'd as the% &ame i' si-ht of 8ar&)s ;arve%* The little t)- was s')- a-ai'st the -ra% thora1 of a slee$( i'se&tile ship five times her le'-th* The arms of -rapples stood o)t a-ai'st ;arve% ,s pat&hed h)ll with the stra'-e &larit% of va&))m a'd raw s)'li-ht* A pale &orr)-ated -a'-wa% &)rved o)t of the %a&ht( s'a$ed sidewa%s to avoid the t)-,s e'-i'es( a'd &overed the aft hat&h* There was somethi'- obs&e'e abo)t the arra'-eme't( b)t it had more to do with ideas of feedi'- tha' of se1* +7hat,s happe'i'- with 8ael&)m9, +8ael&)m fi'e* Nobod% &ome dow' the t)be* !a&ht pilot tal$ to him( sa% rela1*, As the% sw)'- past the -ra% ship( Case saw the 'ame HANI7A i' &risp white &apitals be'eath a' oblo'- &l)ster of 3apa'ese* +I do',t li$e this( ma'* I was thi'$i'- ma%be it,s time we -ot o)r ass o)t of here a'%wa%*, +8ael&)m thi'$i',B that pre&ise thi'-( mo'( b)t ;arve% 'ot be -oi',B far li$e that*, 8ael&)m was p)rri'- a speeded-)p patois to his radio whe' Case &ame thro)-h the forward lo&$ a'd removed his helmet* +Aerol,s -o'e ba&$ to the Ro&$er(, Case said* 8ael&)m 'odded( still whisperi'- to the mi&ropho'e* Case p)lled himself over the pilot,s drifti'- ta'-le of dreadlo&$s a'd be-a' to remove his s)it* 8ael&)m,s e%es were &losed 'ow2 he 'odded as he liste'ed to some repl% over a pair of pho'es with bri-ht ora'-e pads( his brow &reased with &o'&e'tratio'* He wore ra--ed 0ea's a'd a' old -ree' '%lo' 0a&$et with the sleeves ripped o)t* Case s'apped the red Sa'%o s)it to a stora-e hammo&$ a'd p)lled himself dow' to the --web* +See what th,B -host sa%( mo'(, 8ael&)m said* +Comp)ter $eeps as$i',B for %o)*, +So who,s )p there i' that thi'-9, +Same 3apa'-bo% &ame before* A',B 'ow he 0oi'ed b% %o) 8ister Armita-e( &ome o)t <reeside***, Case p)t the trodes o' a'd 0a&$ed i'*

+Di1ie9, The matri1 showed him the pi'$ spheres of the steel &ombi'e i' Si$$im* +7hat %o) -etti',B )p to( bo%9 I bee' heari',B l)rid stories* Hosa$a,s pat&hed i'to a twi' ba'$ o' %o)r boss,s boat 'ow* Reall% hoppi',B* !o) p)ll some T)ri'- heat9, +!eah( b)t 7i'term)te $illed ,em*, +7ell( that wo',t hold ,em lo'-* Ple't% more where those &ame from* e )p here i' for&e* et their de&$s are all over this -rid se&tor li$e flies o' shit* A'd %o)r boss( Case( he sa%s -o* He sa%s r)' it a'd r)' it 'ow*, Case p)'&hed for the <reeside &oordi'ates* +"emme ta$e that a se&( Case***, The matri1 bl)rred a'd phased as the <latli'e e1e&)ted a' i'tri&ate series of 0)mps with a speed a'd a&&)ra&% that made Case wi'&e with e'v%* +Shit( Di1ie***, +He%( bo%( I was that -ood whe' I was alive* !o) ai',t see' 'othi',B* No ha'dsE, +That,s it( h)h9 i- -ree' re&ta'-le off left9, +!o) -ot it* Corporate &ore data for Tessier-Ashpool S*A*( a'd that i&e is -e'erated b% their two frie'dl% AI,s* O' par with a'%thi'- i' the militar% se&tor( loo$s to me* That,s $i'- hell i&e( Case( bla&$ as the -rave a'd sli&$ as -lass* <r% %o)r brai' soo' as loo$ at %o)* 7e -et a'% &loser 'ow( it,ll have tra&ers )p o)r ass a'd o)t both ears( be telli',B the bo%s i' the T-A boardroom the si4e of %o)r shoes a'd how lo'- %o)r di&$ is*, +This is',t loo$i'- so hot( is it9 I mea'( the T)ri'-s are o' it* I was thi'$i'- ma%be we sho)ld tr% to bail o)t* I &a' ta$e %o)*, +!eah9 No shit9 !o) do',t wa''a see what that Chi'ese pro-ram &a' do9, +7ell( I***, Case stared at the -ree' walls of the T-A i&e* +7ell( s&rew it* !eah* 7e r)'*, +Slot it*, +He%( 8ael&)m(, Case said( 0a&$i'- o)t( +I,m probabl% -o''a be )'der the trodes for ma%be ei-ht ho)rs strai-ht*, 8ael&)m was smo$i'- a-ai'* The &abi' was swimmi'- i' smo$e* +So I &a',t -et to the head***,

+No problem( mo'*, The 6io'ite e1e&)ted a hi-h forward somersa)lt a'd r)mma-ed thro)-h the &o'te'ts of a 4ippered mesh ba-( &omi'- )p with a &oil of tra'spare't t)bi'a'd somethi'- else( somethi'- sealed i' a sterile b)bble pa&$* He &alled it a Te1as &atheter( a'd Case did',t li$e it at all* He slotted the Chi'ese vir)s( pa)sed( the' drove it home* +O$a%(, he said( +we,re o'* "iste'( 8ael&)m( if it -ets reall% f)''%( %o) &a' -rab m% left wrist* I,ll feel it* Otherwise( I -)ess %o) do what the Hosa$a tells %o)( o$a%9, +S)re( mo'*, 8ael&)m lit a fresh 0oi't* +A'd t)r' the s&r)bber )p* I do',t wa't that shit ta'-li'- with m% 'e)rotra'smitters* I -ot a bad ha'-over as it is*, 8ael&)m -ri''ed* Case 0a&$ed ba&$ i'* +Christ o' a &r)t&h(, the <latli'e said( +ta$e a loo$ at this*, The Chi'ese vir)s was )'foldi'- aro)'d them* Pol%&hrome shadow( &o)'tless tra'sl)&e't la%ers shifti'- a'd re&ombi'i'-* Protea'( e'ormo)s( it towered above them( blotti'- o)t the void* + i- mother(, the <latli'e said* +I,m -o''a &he&$ 8oll%(, Case said( tappi'- the simstim swit&h* <reefall* The se'satio' was li$e divi'- thro)-h perfe&tl% &lear water* She was falli'-risi'- thro)-h a wide t)be of fl)ted l)'ar &o'&rete( lit at two-meter i'tervals b% ri'-s of white 'eo'* The li'$ was o'e wa%* He &o)ld',t tal$ to her* He flipped* + o%( that is o'e mea' pie&e of software* Hottest thi'- si'&e sli&ed bread* That -oddam thi'-,s i'visible* I 0)st 'ow re'ted twe't% se&o'ds o' that little pi'$ bo1( fo)r 0)mps left of the T-A i&e2 had a loo$ at what we loo$ li$e* 7e do',t* 7e,re 'ot there*, Case sear&hed the matri1 aro)'d the Tessier-Ashpool i&e )'til he fo)'d the pi'$

str)&t)re( a sta'dard &ommer&ial )'it( a'd p)'&hed i' &loser to it* +8a%be it,s defe&tive*, +8a%be( b)t I do)bt it* O)r bab%,s militar%( tho)-h* A'd 'ew* It 0)st does',t re-ister* If it did( we,d read as some $i'd of Chi'ese s'ea$ atta&$( b)t 'obod%,s twi--ed to )s at all* 8a%be 'ot eve' the fol$s i' Stra%li-ht*, Case wat&hed the bla'$ wall that s&ree'ed Stra%li-ht* +7ell(, he said( +that,s a' adva'ta-e( ri-ht9, +8a%be*, The &o'str)&t appro1imated la)-hter* Case wi'&ed at the se'satio'* +I &he&$ed ol,B 5)a'- Eleve' o)t a-ai' for %o)( bo%* It,s real frie'dl%( lo'- as %o),re o' the tri--er e'd( 0)s,B polite a',B helpf)l as &a' be* Spea$s -ood E'-lish( too* !o) ever hear of slow vir)s before9, +No*, +I did( o'&e* 3)st a' idea( ba&$ the'* )t that,s what ol,B 5)a'-,s all abo)t* This ai',t bore a'd i'0e&t( it,s more li$e we i'terfa&e with the i&e so slow( the i&e does',t feel it* The fa&e of the 5)a'- lo-i&s $i'da slea4es )p to the tar-et a'd m)tates( so it -ets to be e1a&tl% li$e the i&e fabri&* The' we lo&$ o' a'd the mai' pro-rams &)t i'( start tal$i'&ir&les ,ro)'d the lo-i&s i' the i&e* 7e -o Siamese twi' o' ,em before the% eve' -et restless*, The <latli'e la)-hed* +7ish %o) were',t so dam' 0oll% toda%( ma'* That la)-h of %o)rs sort of -ets me i' the spi'e*, +Too bad(, the <latli'e said* +Ol,B dead ma' 'eeds his la)-hs*, Case slapped the simstim swit&h* A'd &rashed thro)-h ta'-led metal a'd the smell of d)st( the heels of his ha'ds s$iddi'as the% str)&$ sli&$ paper* Somethi'- behi'd him &ollapsed 'oisil%* +C,mo'(, said the <i''( +ease )p a little*, Case la% sprawled a&ross a pile of %ellowi'- ma-a4i'es( the -irls shi'i'- )p at him i' the dim'ess of 8etro Holo-rafi1( a wistf)l -ala1% of sweet white teeth* He la% there )'til his heart had slowed( breathi'- the smell of old ma-a4i'es* +7i'term)te(, he said* +!eah(, said the <i''( somewhere behi'd him( +%o) -ot it*, +<)&$ off*, Case sat )p( r)bbi'- his wrists*

+Come o'(, said the <i''( steppi'- o)t of a sort of al&ove i' the wall of 0)'$* +This wa%,s better for %o)( ma'*, He too$ his Parta-as from a &oat po&$et a'd lit o'e* The smell of C)ba' toba&&o filled the shop* +!o) wa't I sho)ld &ome to %o) i' the matri1 li$e a b)r'i'- b)sh9 !o) are',t missi'- a'%thi'-( ba&$ there* A' ho)r here,ll o'l% ta$e %o) a &o)ple of se&o'ds*, +!o) ever thi'$ ma%be it -ets o' m% 'erves( %o) &omi'- o' li$e people I $'ow9, He stood( swatti'- pale d)st from the fro't of his bla&$ 0ea's* He t)r'ed( -lari'- ba&$ at the d)st% shop wi'dows( the &losed door to the street* +7hat,s o)t there9 New !or$9 Or does it 0)st stop9, +7ell(, said the <i''( +it,s li$e that tree( %o) $'ow9 <alls i' the woods b)t ma%be there,s 'obod% to hear it*, He showed Case his h)-e fro't teeth( a'd p)ffed his &i-arette* +!o) &a' -o for a wal$( %o) wa''a* It,s all there* Or a'%wa% all the parts of it %o) ever saw* This is memor%( ri-ht9 I tap %o)( sort it o)t( a'd feed it ba&$ i'*, +I do',t have this -ood a memor%(, Case said( loo$i'- aro)'d* He loo$ed dow' at his ha'ds( t)r'i'- them over* He tried to remember what the li'es o' his palms were li$e( b)t &o)ld',t* +Ever%bod% does(, the <i'' said( droppi'- his &i-arette a'd -ri'di'- it o)t )'der his heel( +b)t 'ot ma'% of %o) &a' a&&ess it* Artists &a'( mostl%( if the%,re a'% -ood* If %o) &o)ld la% this &o'str)&t over the realit%( the <i'',s pla&e i' lower 8a'hatta'( %o),d see a differe'&e( b)t ma%be 'ot as m)&h as %o),d thi'$* 8emor%,s holo-raphi&( for %o)*, The <i'' t)--ed at o'e of his small ears* +I,m differe't*, +How do %o) mea'( holo-raphi&9, The word made him thi'$ of Riviera* +The holo-raphi& paradi-m is the &losest thi'- %o),ve wor$ed o)t to a represe'tatio' of h)ma' memor%( is all* )t %o),ve 'ever do'e a'%thi'- abo)t it* People( I mea'*, The <i'' stepped forward a'd &a'ted his streamli'ed s$)ll to peer )p at Case* +8a%be if %o) had( I wo)ld',t be happe'i'-*, +7hat,s that s)pposed to mea'9, The <i'' shr)--ed* His tattered tweed was too wide a&ross the sho)lders( a'd did',t :)ite settle ba&$ i'to positio'* +I,m tr%i'- to help %o)( Case*, +7h%9, + e&a)se I 'eed %o)*, The lar-e %ellow teeth appeared a-ai'* +A'd be&a)se %o) 'eed me*,

+ )llshit* Ca' %o) read m% mi'd( <i''9, He -rima&ed* +7i'term)te( I mea'*, +8i'ds are',t read* See( %o),ve still -ot the paradi-ms pri't -ave %o)( a'd %o),re barel% pri't-literate* I &a' a&&ess %o)r memor%( b)t that,s 'ot the same as %o)r mi'd*, He rea&hed i'to the e1posed &hassis of a' a'&ie't televisio' a'd withdrew a silver-bla&$ va&))m t)be* +See this9 Part of m% DNA( sort of***, He tossed the thi'- i'to the shadows a'd Case heard it pop a'd ti'$le* +!o),re alwa%s b)ildi'- models* Sto'e &ir&les* Cathedrals* Pipe-or-a's* Addi'- ma&hi'es* I -ot 'o idea wh% I,m here 'ow( %o) $'ow that9 )t if the r)' -oes off to'i-ht( %o),ll have fi'all% ma'a-ed the real thi'-*, +I do',t $'ow what %o),re tal$i'- abo)t*, +That,s +%o), i' the &olle&tive* !o)r spe&ies*, +!o) $illed those T)ri'-s*, The <i'' shr)--ed* +Hadda* Hadda* !o) sho)ld -ive a shit2 the% wo)lda offed %o) a'd 'ever tho)-ht twi&e* A'%wa%( wh% I -ot %o) here( we -otta tal$ more* Remember this9, A'd his ri-ht ha'd held the &harred wasps,B 'est from Case,s dream( ree$ of f)el i' the &lose'ess of the dar$ shop* Case st)mbled ba&$ a-ai'st a wall of 0)'$* +!eah* That was me* Did it with the holo ri- i' the wi'dow* A'other memor% I tapped o)t of %o) whe' I flatli'ed %o) that first time* 5'ow wh% it,s importa't9, Case shoo$ his head* + e&a)se, -a'd the 'est( somehow( was -o'e -+it,s the &losest thi'- %o) -ot to what Tessier-Ashpool wo)ld li$e to be* The h)ma' e:)ivale't* Stra%li-ht,s li$e that 'est( or a'%wa% it was s)pposed to wor$ o)t that wa%* I fi-)re it,ll ma$e %o) feel better*, +<eel better9, +To $'ow what the%,re li$e* !o) were starti'- to hate m% -)ts for a while there* That,s -ood* )t hate them i'stead* Same differe'&e*, +"iste'(, Case said( steppi'- forward( +the% 'ever did shit to me* !o)( it,s differe't***, )t he &o)ld',t feel the a'-er* +So T-A( the% made me* The <re'&h -irl( she said %o) were selli'- o)t the spe&ies* Demo'( she said I was*, The <i'' -ri''ed* +It does',t m)&h matter* !o) -otta hate somebod% before this is over*, He t)r'ed a'd headed for the ba&$ of the shop* +7ell( &ome o'( I,ll show %o) a little bit of Stra%li-ht while I -ot %o) here*, He lifted the &or'er of the bla'$et* 7hite li-ht po)red o)t* +Shit( ma'( do',t 0)st sta'd there*,

Case followed( r)bbi'- his fa&e* +O$a%(, said the <i''( a'd -rabbed his elbow* The% were draw' past the stale wool i' a p)ff of d)st( i'to freefall a'd a &%li'dri&al &orridor of fl)ted l)'ar &o'&rete( ri'-ed with white 'eo' at two-meter i'tervals* +3es)s(, Case said( t)mbli'-* +This is the fro't e'tra'&e(, the <i'' said( his tweed flappi'-* +If this were',t a &o'str)&t of mi'e( where the shop is wo)ld be the mai' -ate( )p b% the <reeside a1is* This,ll all be a little low o' detail( tho)-h( be&a)se %o) do',t have the memories* E1&ept for this bit here( %o) -ot off 8oll%***, Case ma'a-ed to strai-hte' o)t( b)t be-a' to &or$s&rew i' a lo'- spiral* +Hold o'(, the <i'' said( +I,ll fast-forward )s*, The walls bl)rred* Di44%i'- se'satio' of headlo'- moveme't( &olors( whippi'- aro)'d &or'ers a'd thro)-h 'arrow &orridors* The% seemed at o'e poi't to pass thro)-h several meters of solid wall( a flash of pit&h dar$'ess* +Here(, the <i'' said* +This is it*, The% floated i' the &e'ter of a perfe&tl% s:)are room( walls a'd &eili'- pa'eled i' re&ta'-)lar se&tio's of dar$ wood* The floor was &overed b% a si'-le s:)are of brillia't &arpet patter'ed after a mi&ro&hip( &ir&)its tra&ed i' bl)e a'd s&arlet wool* I' the e1a&t &e'ter of the room( ali-'ed pre&isel% with the &arpet patter'( stood a s:)are pedestal of frosted white -lass* +The Cilla Stra%li-ht(, said a 0eweled thi'- o' the pedestal( i' a voi&e li$e m)si&( +is a bod% -row' i' )po' itself( a ;othi& foll%* Ea&h spa&e i' Stra%li-ht is i' some wa% se&ret( this e'dless series of &hambers li'$ed b% passa-es( b% stairwells va)lted li$e i'testi'es( where the e%e is trapped i' 'arrow &)rves( &arried past or'ate s&ree's( empt% al&oves***, +Essa% of >3a'e,s(, the <i'' said( prod)&i'- his Parta-as* +7rote that whe' she was twelve* Semioti&s &o)rse*, +The ar&hite&ts of <reeside we't to -reat pai's to &o'&eal the fa&t that the i'terior of the spi'dle is arra'-ed with the ba'al pre&isio' of f)r'it)re i' a hotel room* I' Stra%li-ht( the h)ll,s i''er s)rfa&e is over-row' with a desperate proliferatio' of str)&t)res( forms flowi'-( i'terlo&$i'-( risi'- toward a solid &ore of mi&ro&ir&)itr%( o)r &la',s &orporate heart( a &%li'der of sili&o' wormholed with 'arrow mai'te'a'&e t)''els( some 'o wider

tha' a ma',s ha'd* The bri-ht &rabs b)rrow there( the dro'es( alert for mi&rome&ha'i&al de&a% or sabota-e*, +That was her %o) saw i' the resta)ra't(, the <i'' said* + % the sta'dards of the ar&hipela-o(, the head &o'ti')ed( +o)rs is a' old famil%( the &o'vol)tio's of o)r home refle&ti'- that a-e* )t refle&ti'- somethi'- else as well* The semioti&s of the Cilla bespea$ a t)r'i'- i'( a de'ial of the bri-ht void be%o'd the h)ll* +BTessier a'd Ashpool &limbed the well of -ravit% to dis&over that the% loathed spa&e* The% b)ilt <reeside to tap the wealth of the 'ew isla'ds( -rew ri&h a'd e&&e'tri&( a'd be-a' the &o'str)&tio' of a' e1te'ded bod% i' Stra%li-ht* 7e have sealed o)rselves awa% behi'd o)r mo'e%( -rowi'- i'ward( -e'erati'- a seamless )'iverse of self* +BThe Cilla Stra%li-ht $'ows 'o s$%( re&orded or otherwise* +BAt the Cilla,s sili&o' &ore is a small room( the o'l% re&tili'ear &hamber i' the &omple1* Here( o' a plai' pedestal of -lass( rests a' or'ate b)st( plati')m a'd &loiso''( st)dded with lapis a'd pearl* The bri-ht marbles of its e%es were &)t from the s%'theti& r)b% viewport of the ship that bro)-ht the first Tessier )p the well( a'd ret)r'ed for the first Ashpool***, The head fell sile't* +7ell9, Case as$ed( fi'all% almost e1pe&ti'- the thi'- to a'swer him* +That,s all she wrote(, the <i'' said* +Did',t fi'ish it* 3)st a $id the'* This thi'-,s a &eremo'ial termi'al( sort of* I 'eed 8oll% i' here with the ri-ht word at the ri-ht time* That,s the &at&h* Does',t mea' shit( how deep %o) a'd the <latli'e ride that Chi'ese vir)s( if this thi'- does',t hear the ma-i& word*, +So what,s the word9, +I do',t $'ow* !o) mi-ht sa% what I am is basi&all% defi'ed b% the fa&t that I do',t $'ow( be&a)se I &a',t $'ow* I am that whi&h $'oweth 'ot the word* If %o) $'ew( ma'( a'd told me( I &o)ld',t $'ow* It,s hardwired i'* Someo'e else has to lear' it a'd bri'- it here( 0)st whe' %o) a'd the <latli'e p)'&h thro)-h that i&e a'd s&ramble the &ores*, +7hat happe's the'9, +I do',t e1ist( after that* I &ease*, +O$a% b% me(, Case said*

+S)re* )t %o) wat&h %o)r ass( Case* 8%( ah( other lobe is o' to )s( it loo$s li$e* O'e b)r'i'- b)sh loo$s prett% m)&h li$e a'other* A'd Armita-e is starti'- to -o*, +7hat,s that mea'9, )t the pa'eled room folded itself thro)-h a do4e' impossible a'-les( t)mbli'- awa% i'to &%berspa&e li$e a' ori-ami &ra'e*

1K

+!o) tr%i',B to brea$ m% re&ord( so'9, the <latli'e as$ed* +!o) were brai'dead a-ai'( five se&o'ds*, +Sit ti-ht(, Case said( a'd hit the simstim swit&h* She &ro)&hed i' dar$'ess( her palms a-ai'st ro)-h &o'&rete* CASE CASE CASE CASE* The di-ital displa% p)lsed his 'ame i' alpha')meri&s( 7i'term)te i'formi'- her of the li'$* +C)te(, she said* She ro&$ed ba&$ o' her heels a'd r)bbed her palms to-ether( &ra&$ed her $')&$les* +7hat $ept %o)9, TI8E 8O""! TI8E NO7* She pressed her to'-)e hard a-ai'st her lower fro't teeth* O'e moved sli-htl%( a&tivati'her mi&ro&ha''el amps2 the ra'dom bo)'&e of photo's thro)-h the dar$'ess was &o'verted to a p)lse of ele&tro's( the &o'&rete aro)'d her &omi'- )p -host-pale a'd -rai'%* +O$a%( ho'e%* Now we -o o)t to pla%*, Her hidi'- pla&e proved to be a servi&e t)''el of some $i'd* She &rawled o)t thro)-h a hi'-ed( or'ate -rill of tar'ished brass* He saw e'o)-h of her arms a'd ha'ds to $'ow that she wore the pol%&arbo' s)it a-ai'* #'der the plasti&( he felt the familiar te'sio' of thi' ti-ht leather* There was somethi'- sl)'- )'der her arm i' a har'ess or holster* She stood )p( )'4ipped the s)it a'd to)&hed the &he&$ered plasti& of a pistol-rip* +He%( Case(, she said( barel% voi&i'- the words( +%o) liste'i'-9 Tell %o) a stor%*** Had me this bo% o'&e* !o) $i'da remi'd me***, She t)r'ed a'd s)rve%ed the &orridor* +3oh''%( his 'ame was*,

The low( va)lted hallwa% was li'ed with do4e's of m)se)m &ases( ar&hai&-loo$i'-lass-fro'ted bo1es made of brow' wood* The% loo$ed aw$ward there( a-ai'st the or-a'i& &)rves of the hallwa%,s walls( as tho)-h the%,d bee' bro)-ht i' a'd set )p i' a li'e for some for-otte' p)rpose* D)ll brass fi1t)res held -lobes of white li-ht at te'meter i'tervals* The floor was )'eve'( a'd as she set off alo'- the &orridor( Case reali4ed that h)'dreds of small r)-s a'd &arpets had bee' p)t dow' at ra'dom* I' some pla&es( the% were si1 deep( the floor a soft pat&hwor$ of ha'dwove' wool* 8oll% paid little atte'tio' to the &abi'ets a'd their &o'te'ts( whi&h irritated him* He had to satisf% himself with her disi'terested -la'&es( whi&h -ave him fra-me'ts of potter% a'ti:)e weapo's( a thi'- so de'sel% st)dded with r)sted 'ails that it was )'re&o-'i4able( fra%ed se&tio's of tapestr%* +8% 3oh''%( see( he was smart( real flash bo%* Started o)t as a stash o' 8emor% "a'e( &hips i' his head a'd people paid to hide data there* Had the !a$ after him( 'i-ht I met him( a'd I did for their assassi'* 8ore l)&$ tha' a'%thi'- else b)t I did for him* A'd after that( it was ti-ht a'd sweet( Case*, Her lips barel% moved* He felt her form the words( he did',t 'eed to hear them spo$e' alo)d* +7e had a set-)p with a s:)id( so we &o)ld read the tra&es of ever%thi'- he,d ever stored* Ra' it all o)t o' tape a'd started twisti'- sele&ted &lie'ts( e1-&lie'ts* I was ba-ma'( m)s&le( wat&hdo-* I was real happ%* !o) ever bee' happ%( Case9 He was m% bo%* 7e wor$ed to-ether* Part'ers* I was ma%be ei-ht wee$s o)t of the p)ppet ho)se whe' I met him***, She pa)sed( ed-ed aro)'d a sharp t)r'( a'd &o'ti')ed* 8ore of the -loss% woode' &ases( their sides a &olor that remi'ded him of &o&$roa&h wi'-s* +Ti-ht( sweet( 0)st ti&$i'- alo'-( we were* "i$e 'obod% &o)ld ever to)&h )s* I was',t -oi'- to let them* !a$)4a* I -)ess( the% still wa'ted 3oh''%,s ass* ,Ca)se I,d $illed their ma'* ,Ca)se 3oh''%,d b)r'ed them* A'd the !a$( the% &a' afford to move so f)&$i'slow( ma'( the%,ll wait %ears a'd %ears* ;ive %o) a whole life( 0)st so %o),ll have more to lose whe' the% &ome a'd ta$e it awa%* Patie't li$e a spider* 6e' spiders* +BI did',t $'ow that( the'* Or if I did* I fi-)red it did',t appl% to )s* "i$e whe' %o),re %o)'-( %o) fi-)re %o),re )'i:)e* I was %o)'-* The' the% &ame( whe' we were thi'$i'we ma%be had e'o)-h to be able to :)it( pa&$ it i'( -o to E)rope ma%be* Not that either of )s $'ew what we,d do there( with 'othi'- to do* )t we were livi'- fat* Swiss orbital a&&o)'ts a'd a &rib f)ll of to%s a'd f)r'it)re* Ta$es the ed-e off %o)r -ame* +BSo that first o'e the%,d se't( he,d bee' hot* Refle1es li$e %o) 'ever saw( impla'ts( e'o)-h st%le for te' ordi'ar% hoods* )t the se&o'd o'e( he was* I d)''o( li$e a mo'$* Clo'ed* Sto'e $iller from the &ells o' )p* Had it i' him( death( this sile'&e( he -ave it off i' a &lo)d***, Her voi&e trailed off as the &orridor split( ide'ti&al stairwells des&e'di'-* She too$ the left*

+O'e time( I was a little $id( we were s:)atti'-* It was dow' b% the H)dso'( a'd those rats( ma'( the% were bi-* It,s the &hemi&als -et i'to them* i- as I was( a'd all 'i-ht o'e had bee' s&rabbli'- )'der the floor of the s:)at* Ro)'d daw' somebod% bro)-ht this old ma' i'( seams dow' his &hee$s a'd his e%es all red* Had a roll of -reas% leather li$e %o),d $eep steel tools i'( to $eep the r)st off* Spread it o)t( had this old revolver a'd three shells* Old ma'( he p)ts o'e b)llet i' there( the' he starts wal$i'- )p a'd dow' the s:)at( we,re ha'-i'- ba&$ b% the walls* +B a&$ a'd forth* ;ot his arms &rossed( head dow'( li$e he,s for-otte' the -)'* "iste'i'- for the rat* 7e -ot real :)iet* Old ma' ta$es a step* Rat moves* Rat moves( he ta$es a'other step* A' ho)r of that( the' he seems to remember his -)'* Poi'ts it at the floor( -ri's( a'd p)lls the tri--er* Rolled it ba&$ )p a'd left* +BI &rawled )'der there later* Rat had a hole betwee' its e%es*, She was wat&hi'- the sealed doorwa%s that ope'ed at i'tervals alo'- the &orridor* +The se&o'd o'e( the o'e who &ame for 3oh''%( he was li$e that old ma'* Not old( b)t he was li$e that* He $illed that wa%*, The &orridor wide'ed* The sea of ri&h &arpets )'d)lated -e'tl% be'eath a' e'ormo)s &a'delabr)m whose lowest &r%stal pe'da't rea&hed 'earl% to the floor* Cr%stal ti'$led as 8oll% e'tered the hall* THIRD DOOR "E<T( bli'$ed the reado)t* She t)r'ed left( avoidi'- the i'verted tree of &r%stal* +I 0)st saw him o'&e* O' m% wa% i'to o)r pla&e* He was &omi'- o)t* 7e lived i' a &o'verted fa&tor% spa&e( lots of %o)'&omers from Se'seINet( li$e that* Prett% -ood se&)rit% to start with( a'd I,d p)t i' some reall% heav% st)ff to ma$e it reall% ti-ht* I $'ew 3oh''% was )p there* )t this little -)%( he &a)-ht m% e%e( as he was &omi'- o)t* Did',t sa% a word* 7e 0)st loo$ed at ea&h other a'd I $'ew* Plai' little -)%( plai' &lothes( 'o pride i' him( h)mble* He loo$ed at me a'd -ot i'to a pedi&ab* I $'ew* 7e't )pstairs a'd 3oh''% was sitti'- i' a &hair b% the wi'dow( with his mo)th a little ope'( li$e he,d 0)st tho)-ht of somethi'- to sa%*, The door i' fro't of her was old( a &arved slab of Thai tea$ that seemed to have bee' saw' i' half to fit the low doorwa%* A primitive me&ha'i&al lo&$ with a stai'less fa&e had bee' i'set be'eath a swirli'- dra-o'* She $'elt( drew a ti-ht little roll of bla&$ &hamois from a' i'side po&$et( a'd sele&ted a 'eedle-thi' pi&$* +Never m)&h fo)'d a'%bod% I -ave a dam' abo)t( after that*, She i'serted the pi&$ a'd wor$ed i' sile'&e( 'ibbli'- at her lower lip* She seemed to rel% o' to)&h alo'e( her e%es )'fo&)sed a'd the door was a bl)r of blo'd wood* Case liste'ed to the sile'&e of the hall( p)'&t)ated b% the soft &li'$ of the &a'delabr)m* Ca'dles9 Stra%li-ht was all wro'-* He remembered Cath,s stor% of a &astle with pools a'd lilies( a'd >3a'e,s ma''ered words re&ited m)si&all% b% the head* A pla&e -row' i' )po' itself* Stra%li-ht smelled fai'tl% m)st%( fai'tl% perf)med( li$e a &h)r&h* 7here were the Tessier-Ashpools9 He,d e1pe&ted some &lea' hive of dis&ipli'ed a&tivit%( b)t 8oll% had

see' 'o o'e* Her mo'olo-)e made him )'eas%2 she,d 'ever told him that m)&h abo)t herself before* Aside from her stor% i' the &)bi&le( she,d seldom said a'%thi'- that had eve' i'di&ated that she had a past* She &losed her e%es a'd there was a &li&$ that Case felt rather tha' heard* It made him remember the ma-'eti& lo&$s o' the door of her &)bi&le i' the p)ppet pla&e* The door had ope'ed for him( eve' tho)-h he,d had the wro'- &hip* That was 7i'term)te( ma'ip)lati'- the lo&$ the wa% it had ma'ip)lated the dro'e mi&ro a'd the robot -arde'er* The lo&$ s%stem i' the p)ppet pla&e had bee' a s)b)'it of <reeside,s se&)rit% s%stem* The simple me&ha'i&al lo&$ here wo)ld pose a real problem for the AI( re:)iri'- either a dro'e of some $i'd or a h)ma' a-e't* She ope'ed her e%es( p)t the pi&$ ba&$ i'to the &hamois( &aref)ll% rerolled it( a'd t)&$ed it ba&$ i'to its po&$et* +;)ess %o),re $i'da li$e he was(, she said* +Thi'$ %o),re bor' to r)'* <i-)re what %o) were i'to ba&$ i' Chiba( that was a stripped dow' versio' of what %o),d be doi'- a'%where* ad l)&$( it,ll do that sometimes( -et %o) dow' to basi&s*, She stood( stret&hed( shoo$ herself* +!o) $'ow( I fi-)re the o'e Tessier-Ashpool se't after that 3imm%( the bo% who stole the head( he m)st be prett% m)&h the same as the o'e the !a$ se't to $ill 3oh''%*, She drew the flet&her from its holster a'd dialed the barrel to f)ll a)to* The )-li'ess of the door str)&$ Case as she rea&hed for it* Not the door itself( whi&h was bea)tif)l( or had o'&e bee' part of some more bea)tif)l whole( b)t the wa% it had bee' saw' dow' to fit a parti&)lar e'tra'&e* Eve' the shape was wro'-( a re&ta'-le amid smooth &)rves of polished &o'&rete* The%,d imported these thi'-s( he tho)-ht( a'd the' for&ed it all to fit* )t 'o'e of it fit* The door was li$e the aw$ward &abi'ets( the h)-e &r%stal tree* The' he remembered >3a'e,s essa%( a'd ima-i'ed that the fitti'-s had bee' ha)led )p the well to flesh o)t some master pla'( a dream lo'- lost i' the &omp)lsive effort to fill spa&e( to repli&ate some famil% ima-e of self* He remembered the shattered 'est( the e%eless thi'-s writhi'-*** 8oll% -rasped o'e of the &arved dra-o',s forele-s a'd the door sw)'- ope' easil%* The room behi'd was small( &ramped( little more tha' a &loset* ;ra% steel tool &abi'ets were ba&$ed a-ai'st a &)rvi'- wall* A li-ht fi1t)re had &ome o' a)tomati&all%* She &losed the door behi'd her a'd we't to the ra'-ed lo&$ers* THIRD "E<T( p)lsed the opti& &hip( 7i'term)te overridi'- her time displa%* <ICE DO7N* )t she ope'ed the top drawer first* It was 'o more tha' a shallow tra%* Empt%* The se&o'd was empt% as well* The third( whi&h was deeper( &o'tai'ed d)ll beads of solder a'd a small brow' thi'- that loo$ed li$e a h)ma' fi'-erbo'e* The fo)rth drawer held a damp-swolle' &op% of a' obsolete te&h'i&al ma')al i' <re'&h a'd 3apa'ese* I'

the fifth( behi'd the armored -a)'tlet of a heav% va&))m s)it( she fo)'d the $e%* It was li$e a d)ll brass &oi' with a short hollow t)be braised a-ai'st o'e ed-e* She t)r'ed it slowl% i' her ha'd a'd Case saw that the i'terior of the t)be was li'ed with st)ds a'd fla'-es* The letters CH# were molded a&ross o'e fa&e of the &oi'* The other was bla'$* +He told me(, she whispered* +7i'term)te* How he pla%ed a waiti'- -ame for %ears* Did',t have a'% real power( the'( b)t he &o)ld )se the Cilla,s se&)rit% a'd &)stodial s%stems to $eep tra&$ of where ever%thi'- was( how thi'-s moved( where the% we't* He saw somebod% lose this $e% twe't% %ears a-o( a'd he ma'a-ed to -et somebod% else to leave it here* The' he $illed him( the bo% who,d bro)-ht it here* 5id was ei-ht*, She &losed her white fi'-ers over the $e%* +So 'obod% wo)ld fi'd it*, She too$ a le'-th of bla&$ '%lo' &ord from the s)it,s $a'-aroo po&$et a'd threaded it thro)-h the ro)'d hole above CH# * 5'otti'- it( she h)'- it aro)'d her 'e&$* +The% were alwa%s f)&$i'him over with how old-fashio'ed the% were( he said( all their 'i'etee'th-&e't)r% st)ff* He loo$ed 0)st li$e the <i''( o' the s&ree' i' that meat p)ppet hole* Almost tho)-ht he was the <i''( if I was',t &aref)l*, Her reado)t flared the time( alpha')meri&s s)perimposed over the -ra% steel &hests* +He said if the%,d t)r'ed i'to what the%,d wa'ted to( he &o)ld,ve -otte' o)t a lo'- time a-o* )t the% did',t* S&rewed )p* <rea$s li$e >3a'e* That,s what he &alled her( b)t he tal$ed li$e he li$ed her*, She t)r'ed( ope'ed the door( a'd stepped o)t( her ha'd br)shi'- the &he&$ered -rip of the holstered flet&her* Case flipped* 5)a'- ;rade 8ar$ Eleve' was -rowi'-* +Di1ie( %o) thi'$ this thi'-,ll wor$9, +Does a bear shit i' the woods9, The <latli'e p)'&hed them )p thro)-h shifti'- rai'bow strata* Somethi'- dar$ was formi'- at the &ore of the Chi'ese pro-ram* The de'sit% of i'formatio' overwhelmed the fabri& of the matri1( tri--eri'- h%p'a-o-i& ima-es* <ai't $aleidos&opi& a'-les &e'tered i' to a silver-bla&$ fo&al poi't* Case wat&hed &hildhood s%mbols of evil a'd bad l)&$ t)mble o)t alo'- tra'sl)&e't pla'esA swasti$as( s$)lls a'd &rossbo'es( di&e flashi'- s'a$e e%es* If he loo$ed dire&tl% at that ')ll poi't( 'o o)tli'e wo)ld form* It too$ a do4e' :)i&$( peripheral ta$es before he had it( a shar$ thi'-( -leami'- li$e obsidia'( the bla&$ mirrors of its fla'$s refle&ti'- fai't dista't li-hts that bore 'o relatio'ship to the matri1 aro)'d it*

+That,s the sti'-(, the &o'str)&t said* +7he' 5)a'-,s -ood a'd bell%ti-ht with the Tessier-Ashpool &ore( we,re ridi',B that thro)-h*, +!o) were ri-ht( Di1* There,s some $i'd of ma')al override o' the hardwiri'- that $eeps 7i'term)te )'der &o'trol* However m)&h he is )'der &o'trol(, he added* +He(, the &o'str)&t said* +He* 7at&h that* It* I $eep telli'- %o)*, +It,s a &ode* A word( he said* Somebod% has to spea$ it i'to a fa'&% termi'al i' a &ertai' room( while we ta$e &are of whatever,s waiti'- for )s behi'd that i&e*, +7ell( %o) -ot time to $ill( $id(, the flatli'e said* +Ol,B 5)a'-,s slow b)t stead%*, Case 0a&$ed o)t* I'to 8ael&)m,s stare* +!o) dead awhile there( mo'*, +It happe's(, he said* +I,m -etti'- )sed to it*, +!o) deali',B wi,B th,B dar$'ess( mo'*, +O'l% -ame i' tow'( it loo$s li$e*, +3ah love( Case(, 8ael&)m said( a'd t)r'ed ba&$ to his radio mod)le* Case stared at the matted dreadlo&$s( the ropes of m)s&le aro)'d the ma',s dar$ arms* He 0a&$ed ba&$ i'* A'd flipped* 8oll% was trotti'- alo'- a le'-th of &orridor that mi-ht have bee' the o'e she,d traveled before* The -lass-fro'ted &ases were -o'e 'ow( a'd Case de&ided the% were movi'toward the tip of the spi'dle2 -ravit% was -rowi'- wea$er* Soo' she was bo)'di'smoothl% over rolli'- hillo&$s of &arpets* <ai't twi'-es i' her le-*** The &orridor 'arrowed s)dde'l%( &)rved split* She t)r'ed ri-ht a'd started )p a frea$ishl% steep fli-ht of stairs( her le- be-i''i'- to a&he* Overhead( strapped a'd b)'dled &ables h)--ed the stairwell,s &eili'- li$e &olor&oded -a'-lia* The walls were splot&hed with damp*

She arrived at a tria'-)lar la'di'- a'd stood r)bbi'- her le-* 8ore &orridors( 'arrow( their walls h)'- with r)-s* The% bra'&hed awa% i' three dire&tio's* "E<T* She shr)--ed* +"emme loo$ aro)'d( o$a%9, "E<T* +Rela1* There,s time*, She started dow' the &orridor that led off to her ri-ht* STOP* ;O AC5* DAN;ER* She hesitated* <rom the half-ope' oa$ door at the far e'd of the passa-e &ame a voi&e( lo)d a'd sl)rred( li$e the voi&e of a dr)'$* Case tho)-ht the la'-)a-e mi-ht be <re'&h( b)t it was too i'disti'&t* 8oll% too$ a step( a'other( her ha'd slidi'- i'to the s)it to to)&h the b)tt of her flet&her* 7he' she stepped i'to the 'e)ral disr)ptor,s field( her ears ra'-( a ti'% risi'- to'e that made Case thi'$ of the so)'d of her flet&her* She pit&hed forward( her striated m)s&les sla&$( a'd str)&$ the door with her forehead* She twisted a'd la% o' her ba&$( her e%es )'fo&)sed( breath -o'e* +7hat,s this(, said the sl)rred voi&e( +fa'&% dress9, A trembli'- ha'd e'tered the fro't of her s)it a'd fo)'d the flet&her( t)--i'- it o)t* +Come visit( &hild* Now*, She -ot )p slowl%( her e%es fi1ed o' the m)44le of a bla&$ a)tomati& pistol* The ma',s ha'd was stead% e'o)-h( 'ow2 the -)',s barrel seemed to be atta&hed to her throat with a ta)t( i'visible stri'-* He was old( ver% tall( a'd his feat)res remi'ded Case of the -irl he had -limpsed i' the Ci'-time Si&le* He wore a heav% robe of maroo' sil$( :)ilted aro)'d the lo'- &)ffs a'd shawl &ollar* O'e foot was bare( the other i' a bla&$ velvet slipper with a' embroidered -old fo1head over the i'step* He motio'ed her i'to the room* +Slow( darli'-*, The room was ver% lar-e( &l)ttered with a' assortme't of thi'-s that made 'o se'se to Case* He saw a -ra% steel ra&$ of old-fashio'ed So'% mo'itors( a wide brass bed heaped with sheeps$i's( with pillows that seemed to have bee' made from the $i'd of r)- )sed to pave the &orridors* 8oll%,s e%es darted from a h)-e Telef)'$e' e'tertai'me't &o'sole to shelves of a'ti:)e dis$ re&ordi'-s( their &r)mbli'- spi'es &ased i' &lear plasti&( to a wide wor$table littered with slabs of sili&o'* Case re-istered the &%berspa&e de&$ a'd the trodes( b)t her -la'&e slid over it witho)t pa)si'-*

+It wo)ld be &)stomar%(, the old ma' said( +for me to $ill %o) 'ow*, Case felt her te'se( read% for a move* + )t to'i-ht I i'd)l-e m%self* 7hat is %o)r 'ame9, +8oll%*, +8oll%* 8i'e is Ashpool*, He sa'$ ba&$ i'to the &reased soft'ess of a h)-e leather arm&hair with s:)are &hrome le-s( b)t the -)' 'ever wavered* He p)t her flet&her o' a brass table beside the &hair( $'o&$i'- over a plasti& vial of red pills* The table was thi&$ with vials( bottles of li:)or( soft plasti& e'velopes spilli'- white powders* Case 'oti&ed a' old-fashio'ed -lass h%podermi& a'd a plai' steel spoo'* +How do %o) &r%( 8oll%9 I see %o)r e%es are walled awa%* I,m &)rio)s*, His e%es were red-rimmed( his forehead -leami'- with sweat* He was ver% pale* Si&$( Case de&ided* Or dr)-s* +I do',t &r%( m)&h*, + )t how wo)ld %o) &r%( if someo'e made %o) &r%9, +I spit(, she said* +The d)&ts are ro)ted ba&$ i'to m% mo)th*, +The' %o),ve alread% lear'ed a' importa't lesso'( for o'e so %o)'-*, He rested the ha'd with the pistol o' his $'ee a'd too$ a bottle from the table beside him( witho)t botheri'to &hoose from the half-do4e' differe't li:)ors* He dra'$* ra'd%* A tri&$le of the st)ff ra' from the &or'er of his mo)th* +That is the wa% to ha'dle tears*, He dra'$ a-ai'* +I,m b)s% to'i-ht( 8oll%* I b)ilt all this( a'd 'ow I,m b)s%* D%i'-*, +I &o)ld -o o)t the wa% I &ame(, she said* He la)-hed( a harsh hi-h so)'d* +!o) i'tr)de o' m% s)i&ide a'd the' as$ to simpl% wal$ o)t9 Reall%( %o) ama4e me* A thief*, +It,s m% ass( boss( a'd it,s all I -ot* I 0)st wa''a -et it o)t of here i' o'e pie&e*, +!o) are a ver% r)de -irl* S)i&ides here are &o'd)&ted with a de-ree of de&or)m* That,s what I,m doi'-( %o) )'dersta'd* )t perhaps I,ll ta$e %o) with me to'i-ht( dow' to hell*** It wo)ld be ver% E-%ptia' of me*, He dra'$ a-ai'* +Come here the'*, He held o)t the bottle( his ha'd sha$i'-* +Dri'$*, She shoo$ her head* +It is',t poiso'ed(, he said( b)t ret)r'ed the bra'd% to the table* +Sit* Sit o' the floor* 7e,ll tal$*,

+7hat abo)t9, She sat* Case felt the blades move( ver% sli-htl%( be'eath her 'ails* +7hatever &omes to mi'd* 8% mi'd* It,s m% part%* The &ores wo$e me* Twe't% ho)rs a-o* Somethi'- was afoot( the% said( a'd I was 'eeded* 7ere %o) the somethi'- 8oll%9 S)rel% the% did',t 'eed me to ha'dle %o)( 'o* Somethi'- else*** b)t I,d bee' dreami'-( %o) see* <or thirt% %ears* !o) were',t bor'( whe' last I la% me dow' to sleep* The% told )s we wo)ld',t dream( i' that &old* The% told )s we,d 'ever feel &old( either* 8ad'ess( 8oll%* "ies* Of &o)rse I dreamed* The &old let the o)tside i'( that was it* The o)tside* All the 'i-ht I b)ilt this to hide )s from* 3)st a drop( at first( o'e -rai' of 'i-ht seepi'i'( draw' b% the &old*** Others followi'- it( filli'- m% head the wa% rai' fills a' empt% pool* Calla lilies* I remember* The pools were terra&otta( ')rsemaids all of &hrome( how the limbs we't wi'$i'- thro)-h the -arde's at s)'set*** I,m old( 8oll%* Over two h)'dred %ears( if %o) &o)'t the &old* The &old*, The barrel of the pistol s'apped )p s)dde'l%( :)iveri'-* The te'do's i' her thi-hs were draw' ti-ht as wires 'ow* +!o) &a' -et free4erb)r'(, she said &aref)ll%* +Nothi'- b)r's there(, he said impatie'tl%( loweri'- the -)'* His few moveme'ts were i'&reasi'-l% s&leroti&* His head 'odded* It &ost him a' effort to stop it* +Nothi'- b)r's* I remember 'ow* The &ores told me o)r i'telli-e'&es are mad* A'd all the billio's we paid( so lo'- a-o* 7he' artifi&ial i'telli-e'&es were rather a ra&% &o'&ept* I told the &ores I,d deal with it* ad timi'-( reall%( with M3ea' dow' i' 8elbo)r'e a'd o'l% o)r sweet >3a'e mi'di'- the store* Or ver% -ood timi'-( perhaps* 7o)ld %o) $'ow( 8oll%9, The -)' rose a-ai'* +There are some odd thi'-s afoot 'ow( i' the Cilla Stra%li-ht*, + oss(, she as$ed him( +%o) $'ow 7i'term)te9, +A 'ame* !es* To &o'0)re with( perhaps* A lord of hell( s)rel%* I' m% time( dear 8oll%( I have $'ow' ma'% lords* A'd 'ot a few ladies* 7h%( a :)ee' of Spai'( o'&e( i' that ver% bed*** )t I wa'der*, He &o)-hed wetl%( the m)44le of the pistol 0er$i'- as he &o'v)lsed* He spat o' the &arpet 'ear his o'e bare foot* +How I do wa'der* Thro)-h the &old* )t soo' 'o more* I,d ordered a 3a'e thawed( whe' I wo$e* Stra'-e( to lie ever% few de&ades with what le-all% amo)'ts to o'e,s ow' da)-hter*, His -a4e swept past her( to the ra&$ of bla'$ mo'itors* He seemed to shiver* +8arie-<ra'&e,s e%es (, he said( fai'tl%( a'd smiled* +7e &a)se the brai' to be&ome aller-i& to &ertai' of its ow' 'e)rotra'smitters( res)lti'i' a pe&)liarl% pliable imitatio' of a)tism*, His head swa%ed sidewa%s( re&overed* +I )'dersta'd that the effe&t is 'ow more easil% obtai'ed with a' embedded mi&ro&hip*, The pistol slid from his fi'-ers( bo)'&ed o' the &arpet* +The dreams -row li$e slow i&e(, he said* His fa&e was ti'-ed with bl)e* His head sa'$ ba&$ i'to the waiti'- leather a'd he be-a' to s'ore*

#p( she s'at&hed the -)'* She stal$ed the room( Ashpool,s a)tomati& i' her ha'd* A vast :)ilt or &omforter was heaped beside the bed( i' a broad p)ddle of &o'-ealed blood( thi&$ a'd shi'% o' the patter'ed r)-s* Twit&hi'- a &or'er of the :)ilt ba&$( she fo)'d the bod% of a -irl( white sho)lder blades sli&$ with blood* Her throat had bee' slit* The tria'-)lar blade of some sort of s&raper -li'ted i' the dar$ pool beside her* 8oll% $'elt( &aref)l to avoid the blood( a'd t)r'ed the dead -irl,s fa&e to the li-ht* The fa&e Case had see' i' the resta)ra't* There was a &li&$( deep at the ver% &e'ter of thi'-s( a'd the world was fro4e'* 8oll%,s simstim broad&ast had be&ome a still frame( her fi'-ers o' the -irl,s &hee$* The free4e held for three se&o'ds( a'd the' the dead fa&e was altered( be&ame the fa&e of "i'da "ee* A'other &li&$( a'd the room bl)rred* 8oll% was sta'di'-( loo$i'- dow' at a -olde' laser dis$ beside a small &o'sole o' the marble top of a bedside table* A le'-th of fiberopti& ribbo' ra' li$e a leash from the &o'sole to a so&$et at the base of the sle'der 'e&$* +I -ot %o)r ')mber( f)&$er(, Case said( feeli'- his ow' lips movi'-( somewhere( far awa%* He $'ew that 7i'term)te had altered the broad&ast* 8oll% had',t see' the dead -irl,s fa&e swirl li$e smo$e( to ta$e o' the o)tli'e of "i'da,s deathmas$* 8oll% t)r'ed* She &rossed the room to Ashpool,s &hair* The ma',s breathi'- was slow a'd ra--ed* She peered at the litter of dr)-s a'd al&ohol* She p)t his pistol dow'( pi&$ed )p her flet&her( dialed the barrel over to si'-le shot( a'd ver% &aref)ll% p)t a to1i' dart thro)-h the &e'ter of his &losed left e%elid* He 0er$ed o'&e( breath halti'- i' mid-i'ta$e* His other e%e( brow' a'd fathomless( ope'ed slowl%* It was still ope' whe' she t)r'ed a'd left the room*

1L

+;ot %o)r boss o' hold(, the <latli'e said* +He,s &omi'- thro)-h o' the twi' Hosa$a i' that boat )pstairs( the o'e that,s ridi'- )s pi--%-ba&$* Called the Ha'iwa*, +I $'ow(, Case said( abse'tl%( +I saw it*, A lo4e'-e of white li-ht &li&$ed i'to pla&e i' fro't of him( hidi'- the Tessier-Ashpool i&e2 it showed him the &alm( perfe&tl% fo&)sed( )tterl% &ra4% fa&e of Armita-e( his e%es

bla'$ as b)tto's* Armita-e bli'$ed* Stared* +;)ess 7i'term)te too$ &are of %o)r T)ri'-s too( h)h9 "i$e he too$ &are of mi'e(, Case said* Armita-e stared* Case resisted the s)dde' )r-e to loo$ awa%( drop his -a4e* +!o) o$a%( Armita-e9, +Case, -a'd for a' i'sta't somethi'- seemed to move( behi'd the bl)e stare -+%o),ve see' 7i'term)te( have',t %o)9 I' the matri1*, Case 'odded* A &amera o' the fa&e of his Hosa$a i' 8ar&)s ;arve% wo)ld rela% the -est)re to the Ha'iwa mo'itor* He ima-i'ed 8ael&)m liste'i'- to his tra'&ed half &o'versatio's( )'able to hear the voi&es of the &o'str)&t or Armita-e* +Case, -a'd the e%es -rew lar-er( Armita-e lea'i'- toward his &omp)ter -+what is he( whe' %o) see him9, +A hi-h-re4 simstim &o'str)&t*, + )t who9, +<i''( last time*** efore that( this pimp I***, +Not ;e'eral ;irli'-9, +;e'eral who9, The lo4e'-e we't bla'$* +R)' that ba&$ a'd -et the Hosa$a to loo$ it )p(, he told the &o'str)&t* He flipped* The perspe&tive startled him* 8oll% was &ro)&hi'- betwee' steel -irders( twe't% meters above a broad( stai'ed floor of polished &o'&rete* The room was a ha'-ar or servi&e ba%* He &o)ld see three spa&e&raft( 'o'e lar-er tha' ;arve% a'd all i' vario)s sta-es of repair* 3apa'ese voi&es* A fi-)re i' a' ora'-e 0)mps)it stepped from a -ap i' the h)ll of a b)lbo)s &o'str)&tio' vehi&le a'd stood beside o'e of the thi'-,s pisto'-drive'( weirdl% a'thropomorphi& arms* The ma' p)'&hed somethi'- i'to a portable &o'sole a'd s&rat&hed his ribs* A &artli$e red dro'e rolled i'to si-ht o' -ra% balloo' tires* CASE( flashed her &hip*

+He%(, she said* +7aiti'- for a -)ide*, She settled ba&$ o' her ha)'&hes( the arms a'd $'ees of her 8oder' s)it the &olor of the bl)e--ra% pai't o' the -irders( Her le- h)rt( a sharp stead% pai' 'ow* +I sho)lda -o'e ba&$ to Chi'(, she m)ttered* Somethi'- &ame ti&$i'- :)ietl% o)t of the shadows( o' a level with her left sho)lder* It pa)sed( swa%ed its spheri&al bod% from side to side o' hi-h-ar&hed spider le-s( fired a mi&rose&o'd b)rst of diff)se laserli-ht( a'd fro4e* It was a ra)' mi&rodro'e( a'd Case had o'&e ow'ed the same model( a poi'tless a&&essor% he,d obtai'ed as part of a pa&$a-e deal with a Clevela'd hardware fe'&e* It loo$ed li$e a st%li4ed matte bla&$ dadd% lo'-le-s* A red "ED be-a' to p)lse( at the sphere,s e:)ator* Its bod% was 'o lar-er tha' a baseball* +O$a%(, she said( +I hear %o)*, She stood )p( favori'- her left le-( a'd wat&hed the little dro'e reverse* It pi&$ed its methodi&al wa% ba&$ a&ross its -irder a'd i'to dar$'ess* She t)r'ed a'd loo$ed ba&$ at the servi&e area* The ma' i' the ora'-e 0)mps)it was seali'- the fro't of a white va&))m ri-* She wat&hed him ri'- a'd seal the helmet( pi&$ )p his &o'sole( a'd step ba&$ thro)-h the -ap i' the &o'str)&tio' boat,s h)ll* There was a risi'- whi'e of motors a'd the thi'- slid smoothl% o)t of si-ht o' a te'meter &ir&le of floori'- that sa'$ awa% i'to a harsh -lare of ar& lamps* The red dro'e waited patie'tl% at the ed-e of the hole left b% the elevator pa'el* The' she was off after the ra)'( threadi'- her wa% betwee' a forest of welded steel str)ts* The ra)' wi'$ed its "ED steadil%( be&$o'i'- her o'* +How %o) doi',B( Case9 !o) ba&$ i' ;arve% with 8ael&)m9 S)re* A'd 0a&$ed i'to this* I li$e it( %o) $'ow9 "i$e I,ve alwa%s tal$ed to m%self( i' m% head( whe' I,ve bee' i' ti-ht spots* Prete'd I -ot some frie'd( somebod% I &a' tr)st( a'd I,ll tell ,em what I reall% thi'$( what I feel li$e( a'd the' I,ll prete'd the%,re telli'- me what the% thi'$ abo)t that( a'd I,ll 0)st -o alo'- that wa%* Havi'- %o) i' is $i'da li$e that* That s&e'e with Ashpool***, She -'awed at her lower lip( swi'-i'- aro)'d a str)t( $eepi'- the dro'e i' si-ht* +I was e1pe&ti'- somethi'- ma%be a little less -o'e( %o) $'ow9 I mea'( these -)%s are all batshit i' here( li$e the% -ot l)mi'o)s messa-es s&rawled a&ross the i'side of their foreheads or somethi'-* I do',t li$e the wa% it loo$s( I do',t li$e the wa% it smells***, The dro'e was hoisti'- itself )p a 'earl% i'visible ladder of #-shaped steel r)'-s( toward a 'arrow dar$ ope'i'-* +A'd while I,m feeli'- &o'fessio'al( bab%( I -otta admit ma%be I 'ever m)&h e1pe&ted to ma$e it o)t of this o'e a'%wa%* ee' o' this bad roll for a while( a'd %o),re the o'l% -ood &ha'-e &ome dow' si'&e I si-'ed o' with Armita-e*, She loo$ed )p at the bla&$ &ir&le* The dro'e,s "ED wi'$ed( &limbi'-* +Not that %o),re all that shit hot*, She smiled( b)t it was -o'e too :)i&$l%( a'd she -ritted her teeth at the stabbi'- pai' i' her le- as she be-a' to &limb* The ladder &o'ti')ed )p

thro)-h a metal t)be( barel% wide e'o)-h for her sho)lders* She was &limbi'- )p o)t of -ravit%( toward the wei-htless a1is* Her &hip p)lsed the time* J@A=>AJ@* It had bee' a lo'- da%* The &larit% of her se'sori)m &)t the bite of the betaphe'eth%lami'e( b)t Case &o)ld still feel it* He preferred the pai' i' her le-* CAS EA J J J J JJJJJJJJJ JJJJJJJJ* +;)ess it,s for %o)(, she said( &limbi'- me&ha'i&all%* The 4eros strobed a-ai' a'd a messa-e st)ttered there( i' the &or'er of her visio'( &hopped )p b% the displa% &ir&)it* ;ENE RA"; IR"IN;AAA TRAIN E D CORTO<OR SCREA8IN; < I S TAN D SO"DHIS AS STO THEPENT A;ONA A A A 7 I 8 # T E ,B S PRI8AR!

;RIPON AR 8 I TA; EI SA CONSTR# CTO<; IR"IN;A 7I8#TE S E 6 A ,B S 8ENTION O<; 8EANS H E ,B S CRAC 5 IN;AAAA 7AT C H !O#R AS S A A A A AADIDIE +7ell(, she said( pa)si'-( ta$i'- all of her wei-ht o' her ri-ht le-( +-)ess %o) -ot problems too*, She loo$ed dow'* There was a fai't &ir&le of li-ht( 'o lar-er tha' the brass ro)'d of the Ch)bb $e% that da'-led betwee' her breasts* She loo$ed )p* Nothi'at all* She to'-)ed her amps a'd the t)be rose i'to va'ishi'- perspe&tive( the ra)' pi&$i'- its wa% )p the r)'-s* +Nobod% told me abo)t this part(, she said* Case 0a&$ed o)t*

+8ael&)m***, +8o'( %o) bossma' -o'e ver,B stra'-e*, The 6io'ite was weari'- a bl)e Sa'%o va&))m s)it twe't% %ears older tha' the o'e Case had re'ted i' <reeside( its helmet )'der his arm a'd his dreadlo&$s ba--ed i' a 'et &ap &ro&heted from p)rple &otto' %ar'* His e%es were slitted with -a'0a a'd te'sio'* +5eep &alli',B dow' here wi,B orders( mo'( b)t be some ab%lo' war***, 8ael&)m shoo$ his head* +Aerol a',B I tal$i',B( a',B Aerol tal$i',B wi,B 6io'( <o)'ders seh &)t a',B r)'*, He ra' the ba&$ of a lar-e brow' ha'd a&ross his mo)th* +Armita-e9, Case wi'&ed as the betaphe'eth%lami'e ha'-over hit him with its f)ll i'te'sit%( )'s&ree'ed b% the matri1 or simstim* rai',s -ot 'o 'erves i' it( he told himself( it &a',t reall% feel this bad* +7hat do %o) mea'( ma'9 He,s -ivi'- %o) orders9 7hat9, +8o'( Armita-e( he telli',B me set &o)rse for <i'la'd( %a $'ow9 He telli',B me there be hope( %a $'ow9 Come o' m% s&ree' wi,B his shirt all blood( mo'( a',B be &ra4% as some do-( tal$i',B s&reami',B fists a',B R)ssia' a',B th,B blood of th,B betra%ers shall be o' o)r ha'ds*, He shoo$ his head a-ai'( the dread&ap swa%i'- a'd bobbi'- i' 4ero--( his lips 'arrowed* +<o)'ders seh the 8)te voi&e be false prophet s)rel%( a',B Aerol a',B I m)s,B ,ba'do' 8ar&)s ;arve% a'd ret)r'*, +Armita-e( he was wo)'ded9 lood9, +Ca',t seh( %a $'ow9 )t blood( a',B sto'e &ra4%( Case*, +O$a%(, Case said +So what abo)t me9 !o),re -oi'- home* 7hat abo)t me( 8ael&)m9, +8o'(, 8ael&)m said( +%o) &omi',B wi,B me* I a',B I &ome 6io' wi,B Aerol( ab%lo' Ro&$er* "eave 8r*B Armita-e t,B tal$ wi,B -host &assette( o'e -host t,B ,'other***, Case -la'&ed over his sho)lderA his re'ted s)it sw)'- a-ai'st the hammo&$ where he,d s'apped it( swa%i'- i' the air &)rre't from the old R)ssia' s&r)bber* He &losed his e%es* He saw the sa&s of to1i' dissolvi'- i' his arteries* He saw 8oll% ha)li'- herself )p the e'dless steel r)'-s* He ope'ed his e%es* +I d)''o( ma'(, he said( a stra'-e taste i' his mo)th* He loo$ed dow' at his des$( at his ha'ds* +I do',t $'ow*, He loo$ed ba&$ )p* The brow' fa&e was &alm 'ow( i'te't* 8ael&)m,s &hi' was hidde' b% the hi-h helmet ri'- of his old bl)e s)it* +She,s i'side(, he said* +8oll%,s i'side* I' Stra%li-ht( it,s &alled* If there,s a'% ab%lo'( ma'( that,s it* 7e leave o' her( she ai',t &omi',B o)t( Steppi',B Ra4or or 'ot*, 8ael&)m 'odded( the dreadba- bobbi'- behi'd him li$e a &aptive balloo' of &ro&heted

&otto'* +She %o) woma'( Case9, +I d)''o* Nobod%,s woma'( ma%be*, He shr)--ed* A'd fo)'d his a'-er a-ai'( real as a shard of hot ro&$ be'eath his ribs* +<)&$ this(, he said* +<)&$ Armita-e( f)&$ 7i'term)te( a'd f)&$ %o)* I,m sta%i',B ri-ht here*, 8ael&)m,s smile spread a&ross his fa&e li$e li-ht brea$i'-* +8ael&)m a r)de bo%( Case* ;arve% 8ael&)m boat*, His -loved ha'd slapped a pa'el a'd the bass-heav% ro&$stead% of 6io' d)b &ame p)lsi'- from the t)-,s spea$ers* +8ael&)m 'ot r)''i',B( 'o* I tal$ wi,B Aerol( he &ertai' t,B see it i' similar li-ht*, Case stared* +I do',t )'dersta'd %o) -)%s at all(, he said* +Do',B ,sta',B %o)( mo'(, the 6io'ite said( 'oddi'- to the beat( +b)t we m)s,B move b% 3ah love( ea&h o'e*, Case 0a&$ed i' a'd flipped for the matri1* +;et m% wire9, +!eah*, He saw that the Chi'ese pro-ram had -row'( deli&ate ar&hes of shifti'pol%&hrome were 'eari'- the T-A i&e* +7ell( it,s -etti',B sti&$ier(, the <latli'e said* +!o)r boss wiped the ba'$ o' that other Hosa$a( a'd dam' 'ear too$ o)rs with it* )t %o)r pal 7i'term)te p)t me o' to somethi',B there before it we't bla&$* The reaso' Stra%li-ht,s 'ot e1a&tl% hoppi',B with Tessier-Ashpools is that the%,re mostl% i' &old sleep* There,s a law firm i' "o'do' $eeps tra&$ of their powers of attor'e%* Has to $'ow who,s awa$e a'd e1a&tl% whe'* Armita-e was ro)ti'- the tra'smissio's from "o'do' to Stra%li-ht thro)-h the Hosa$a o' the %a&ht* I'&ide'tl%( the% $'ow the old ma',s dead*, +7ho $'ows9, +The law firm a'd T-A* He had a medi&al remote pla'ted i' his ster')m* Not that %o)r -irl,s dart wo)ld,ve left a res)rre&tio' &rew with m)&h to wor$ with* Shellfish to1i'* )t the o'l% T-A awa$e i' Stra%li-ht ri-ht 'ow is "ad% >3a'e 8arie-<ra'&e* There,s a male( &o)ple %ears older( i' A)stralia o' b)si'ess* !o) as$ me( I bet 7i'term)te fo)'d a wa% to &a)se that b)si'ess to 'eed this M3ea',s perso'al atte'tio'* )t he,s o' his wa% home( or 'ear as matters* The "o'do' law%ers -ive his Stra%li-ht ETA as JFAJJAJJ( to'i-ht* 7e slotted 5)a'- vir)s at J=A>=AJ>* It,s J@A@KA=J* est estimate for 5)a'- pe'etratio' of the T-A &ore is JMA>JAJJ* Or a hair o' either side* I fi-)re 7i'term)te,s -ot somethi',B -oi',B with this >3a'e( or else she,s 0)st as &ra4% as her old ma' was* )t the bo% )p from 8elbo)r'e,ll $'ow the s&ore* The Stra%li-ht se&)rit% s%stems $eep tr%i'- to -o f)ll

alert( b)t 7i'term)te blo&$s ,em( do',t as$ me how* Co)ld',t override the basi& -ate pro-ram to -et 8oll% i'( tho)-h* Armita-e had a re&ord of all that o' his Hosa$a2 Riviera m)st,ve tal$ed >3a'e i'to doi'- it* She,s bee' able to fiddle e'tra'&es a'd e1its for %ears* "oo$s to me li$e o'e of T-A,s mai' problems is that ever% famil% bi-wi- has riddled the ba'$s with all $i'ds of private s&ams a'd e1&eptio's* 5i'da li$e %o)r imm)'e s%stem falli'- apart o' %o)* Ripe for vir)s* "oo$s -ood for )s( o'&e we,re past that i&e*, +O$a%* )t 7i'term)te said that Arm --, A white lo4e'-e s'apped i'to positio'( filled with a &lose)p of mad bl)e e%es* Case &o)ld o'l% stare* Colo'el 7illie Corto( Spe&ial <or&es( Stri$efor&e S&reami'- <ist( had fo)'d his wa% ba&$* The ima-e was dim( 0er$%( badl% fo&)sed* Corto was )si'- the Ha'iwa ,s 'avi-atio' de&$ to li'$ with the Hosa$a i' 8ar&)s ;arve%* +Case( I 'eed the dama-e reports o' Omaha Th)'der*, +Sa%* I*** Colo'el9, +Ha'- i' there( bo%* Remember %o)r trai'i'-*, )t where have %o) bee'( ma'9 he sile'tl% as$ed the a'-)ished e%es* 7i'term)te had b)ilt somethi'- &alled Armita-e i'to a &atato'i& fortress 'amed Corto* Had &o'vi'&ed Corto that Armita-e was the real thi'-( a'd Armita-e had wal$ed( tal$ed( s&hemed( bartered data for &apital( fro'ted for 7i'term)te i' that room i' the Chiba Hilto'*** A'd 'ow Armita-e was -o'e( blow' awa% b% the wi'ds of Corto,s mad'ess* )t where had Corto bee'( those %ears9 <alli'-( b)r'ed a'd bli'ded( o)t of a Siberia' s$%* +Case( this will be diffi&)lt for %o) to a&&ept( I $'ow that* !o),re a' offi&er* The trai'i'-* I )'dersta'd* )t( Case( as ;od is m% wit'ess( we have bee' betra%ed*, Tears started from the bl)e e%es* +Colo'el( ah( who9 7ho,s betra%ed )s9, +;e'eral ;irli'-( Case* !o) ma% $'ow him b% a &ode 'ame* !o) do $'ow the ma' of whom I spea$*, +!eah(, Case said( as the tears &o'ti')ed to flow( +I -)ess I do* Sir(, he added( o' imp)lse* + )t( sir( Colo'el( what e1a&tl% sho)ld we do9 Now( I mea'*,

+O)r d)t% at this poi't( Case( lies i' fli-ht* Es&ape* Evasio'* 7e &a' ma$e the <i''ish border( 'i-htfall tomorrow* Treetop fl%i'- o' ma')al* Seat of the pa'ts( bo%* )t that will o'l% be the be-i''i'-*, The bl)e e%es slitted above ta''ed &hee$bo'es sli&$ with tears* +O'l% the be-i''i'-* etra%al from above* <rom above***, He stepped ba&$ from the &amera( dar$ stai's o' his tor' twill shirt* Armita-e,s fa&e had bee' mas$li$e( impassive( b)t Corto,s was the tr)e s&hi4oid mas$( ill'ess et&hed deep i' i'vol)'tar% m)s&le( distorti'- the e1pe'sive s)r-er%* +Colo'el( I hear %o)( ma'* "iste'( Colo'el( o$a%9 I wa't %o) to ope' the( ah*** shit( what,s it &alled( Di19, +The midba% lo&$(, the <latli'e said* +Ope' the midba% lo&$* 3)st tell %o)r &e'tral &o'sole there to ope' it( ri-ht9 7e,ll be )p there with %o) fast( Colo'el* The' we &a' tal$ abo)t -etti'- o)t of here*, The lo4e'-e va'ished* + o%( I thi'$ %o) 0)st lost me( there(, the <latli'e said* +The to1i's(, Case said( +the f)&$i'- to1i's(, a'd 0a&$ed o)t* +Poiso'9, 8ael&)m wat&hed over the s&rat&hed bl)e sho)lder of his old Sa'%o as Case str)--led o)t of the --web* +A'd -et this -oddam thi'- off me***, T)--i'- at the Te1as &atheter* +"i$e a slow poiso'( a'd that asshole )pstairs $'ows how to &o)'ter it( a'd 'ow he,s &ra4ier tha' a shitho)se rat*, He f)mbled with the fro't of the red Sa'%o( for-etti'- how to wor$ the seals* + ossma'( he poiso' %o)9, 8ael&)m s&rat&hed his &hee$* +;ot a medi&al $it( %a $'ow*, +8ael&)m( Christ( help me with this -oddam s)it*, The 6io'ite $i&$ed off from the pi'$ pilot mod)le* +Eas%( mo'* 8eas)re twi&e( &)t o'&e( wise ma' p)t it* 7e -et )p there***, There was air i' the &orr)-ated -a'-wa% that led from 8ar&)s ;arve% ,s aft lo&$ to the midba% lo&$ of the %a&ht &alled Ha'iwa( b)t the% $ept their s)its sealed* 8ael&)m e1e&)ted the passa-e with balleti& -ra&e( o'l% pa)si'- to help Case( who,d -o'e i'to a' aw$ward t)mble as he,d stepped o)t of ;arve%* The white plasti& sides of the t)be filtered the raw s)'li-ht2 there were 'o shadows* ;arve% ,s airlo&$ hat&h was pat&hed a'd pitted( de&orated with a laser-&arved "io' of

6io'* Ha'iwa ,s midba% hat&h was &ream% -ra%( bla'$ a'd pristi'e* 8ael&)m i'serted his -loved ha'd i' a 'arrow re&ess* Case saw his fi'-ers move* Red "EDs &ame to life i' the re&ess( &o)'ti'- dow' from fift%* 8ael&)m withdrew his ha'd* Case( with o'e -love bra&ed a-ai'st the hat&h( felt the vibratio' of the lo&$ me&ha'ism thro)-h his s)it a'd bo'es* The ro)'d se-me't of -ra% h)ll be-a' to withdraw i'to the side of Ha'iwa* 8ael&)m -rabbed the re&ess with o'e ha'd a'd Case with the other* The lo&$ too$ them with it* Ha'iwa was a prod)&t of the Dor'ier-<)0its) %ards( her i'terior i'formed b% a desi-' philosoph% similar to the o'e that had prod)&ed the 8er&edes that had &ha)ffe)red them thro)-h Ista'b)l* The 'arrow midba% was walled i' imitatio' ebo'% ve'eer a'd floored with -ra% Italia' tiles* Case felt as tho)-h he were i'vadi'- some ri&h ma',s private spa b% wa% of the shower* The %a&ht( whi&h had bee' assembled i' orbit( had 'ever bee' i'te'ded for re-e'tr%* Her smooth( waspli$e li'e was simpl% st%li'-( a'd ever%thi'abo)t her i'terior was &al&)lated to add to the overall impressio' of speed* 7he' 8ael&)m removed his battered helmet( Case followed his lead* The% h)'- there i' the lo&$( breathi'- air that smelled fai'tl% of pi'e* #'der it( a dist)rbi'- ed-e of b)r'i'- i's)latio'* 8ael&)m s'iffed* +Tro)ble here( mo'* A'% boat( %o) smell that***, A door( padded with dar$ -ra% )ltras)ede( slid smoothl% ba&$ i'to its ho)si'-* 8ael&)m $i&$ed off the ebo'% wall a'd sailed 'eatl% thro)-h the 'arrow ope'i'-( twisti'- his broad sho)lders( at the last possible i'sta't( for &leara'&e* Case followed him &l)msil%( ha'd over ha'd( alo'- a waist-hi-h padded rail* + rid-e(, 8ael&)m said( poi'ti'- dow' a seamless( &reamwalled &orridor( +be there*, He la)'&hed himself with a'other effortless $i&$* <rom somewhere ahead( Case made o)t the familiar &hatter of a pri'ter t)r'i'- o)t hard &op%* It -rew lo)der as he followed 8ael&)m thro)-h a'other doorwa%( i'to a swirli'- mass of ta'-led pri'to)t* Case s'at&hed a le'-th of twisted paper a'd -la'&ed at it* JJJJJJJJJ JJJJJJJJJ JJJJJJJJJ +S%stems &rash9, The 6io'ite fli&$ed a -loved fi'-er at the &ol)m' of 4eros* +No(, Case said( -rabbi'- for his drifti'- helmet( +the <latli'e said Armita-e wiped the Hosa$a he had i' there*,

+Smell li$e he wipe ,em wi,B laser( %a $'ow9, The 6io'ite bra&ed his foot a-ai'st the white &a-e of a Swiss e1er&ise ma&hi'e a'd shot thro)-h the floati'- ma4e of paper( batti'- it awa% from his fa&e* +Case( mo'***, The ma' was small( 3apa'ese( his throat bo)'d to the ba&$ of the 'arrow arti&)lated &hair with a le'-th of some sort of fi'e steel wire* The wire was i'visible( where it &rossed the bla&$ temperfoam of the headrest( a'd it had &)t as deepl% i'to his lar%'1* A si'-le sphere of dar$ blood had &o'-ealed there li$e some stra'-e pre&io)s sto'e( a redbla&$ pearl* Case saw the &r)de woode' ha'dles that drifted at either e'd of the -arrotte( li$e wor' se&tio's of broom ha'dle* +7o'der how lo'- he had that o' him9, Case said( rememberi'- Corto,s postwar pil-rima-e* +He $'ow how pilot boat( Case( bossma'9, +8a%be* He was Spe&ial <or&es*, +7ell( this 3apa'-bo%( he 'ot be piloti',B* Do)bt I pilot her eas% m%self* Cer,B 'ew boat***, +So fi'd )s the brid-e*, 8ael&)m frow'ed( rolled ba&$ward( a'd $i&$ed* Case followed him i'to a lar-er spa&e( a $i'd of lo)'-e( shreddi'- a'd &r)mpli'- the le'-ths of pri'to)t that s'ared him i' his passa-e* There were more of the arti&)lated &hairs( here( somethi'- that resembled a bar( a'd the Hosa$a* The pri'ter( still spewi'its flims% to'-)e of paper( was a' i'-b)ilt b)l$head )'it( a 'eat slot i' a pa'el of ha'dr)bbed ve'eer* He p)lled himself over the &ir&le of &hairs a'd rea&hed it( p)'&hi'a white st)d to the left of the slot* The &hatteri'- stopped* He t)r'ed a'd stared at the Hosa$a* Its fa&e had bee' drilled thro)-h( at least a do4e' times* The holes were small( &ir&)lar( ed-es bla&$e'ed* Ti'% spheres of bri-ht allo% were orbiti'- the dead &omp)ter* +;ood -)ess(, he said to 8ael&)m* + rid-e lo&$ed( mo'(, 8ael&)m said( from the opposite side of the lo)'-e* The li-hts dimmed( s)r-ed( dimmed a-ai'* Case ripped the pri'to)t from its slot* 8ore 4eros* +7i'term)te9, He loo$ed aro)'d the bei-e a'd brow' lo)'-e( the spa&e s&rawled with drifti'- &)rves of paper* +That %o) o'

the li-hts( 7i'term)te9, A pa'el beside 8ael&)m,s head slid )p( reveali'- a small mo'itor* 8ael&)m 0er$ed apprehe'sivel%( wiped sweat from his forehead with a foam pat&h o' the ba&$ of a -loved ha'd( a'd sw)'- to st)d% the displa%* +!o) read 3apa'ese( mo'9, Case &o)ld see fi-)res bli'$i'- past o' the s&ree'* +No(, Case said* + rid-e is es&ape pod( lifeboat* Co)'ti',B dow'( loo$s li$e it* S)it )p 'ow*, He ri'-ed his helmet a'd slapped at the seals* +7hat9 He,s ta$i',B off9 ShitE, He $i&$ed off from the b)l$head a'd shot thro)-h the ta'-le of pri'to)t* +7e -otta ope' this door( ma'E, )t 8ael&)m &o)ld o'l% tap the side of his helmet* Case &o)ld see his lips movi'-( thro)-h the "e1a'* He saw a bead of sweat ar& o)t from the rai'bow braided ba'd of the p)rple &otto' 'et the 6io'ite wore over his lo&$s* 8ael&)m s'at&hed the helmet from Case a'd ri'-ed it for him smoothl%( the palms of his -loves sma&$i'- the seals* 8i&ro "ED mo'itors to the left of the fa&eplate lit as the 'e&$ ri'- &o''e&tio's &losed* +No seh 3apa'ese(, 8ael&)m said( over his s)it,s tra's&eiver( +b)t &o)'tdow',s wro'-*, He tapped a parti&)lar li'e o' the s&ree'* +Seals 'ot i'ta&t( brid-e mod)le* "a)'&hi',B wi,B lo&$ ope'*, +Armita-eE, Case tried to po)'d o' the door* The ph%si&s of 4ero-- se't him t)mbli'ba&$ thro)-h the pri'to)t* +CortoE Do',t do itE 7e -otta tal$E 7e -otta --, +Case9 Read %o)( Case***, The voi&e barel% resembled Armita-e,s 'ow* It held a weird &alm* Case stopped $i&$i'-* His helmet str)&$ the far wall* +I,m sorr%( Case( b)t it has to be this wa%* O'e of )s has to -et o)t* O'e of )s has to testif%* If we all -o dow' here( it e'ds here* I,ll tell them* Case( I,ll tell them all of it* Abo)t ;irli'- a'd the others* A'd I,ll ma$e it( Case* I $'ow I,ll ma$e it* To Helsi'$i*, There was a s)dde' sile'&e2 Case felt it fill his helmet li$e some rare -as* + )t it,s so hard( Case( so -oddam hard* I,m bli'd*, +Corto( stop* 7ait* !o),re bli'd( ma'* !o) &a',t fl%E !o),ll hit the f)&$i'- trees* A'd the%,re tr%i'- to -et %o)( Corto* I swear to ;od( the%,ve left %o)r hat&h ope'* !o),ll die( a'd %o),ll 'ever -et to tell ,em( a'd I -otta -et the e'4%me( 'ame of the e'4%me( the e'4%me( ma'***, He was sho)ti'-( voi&e hi-h with h%steria* <eedba&$ shrilled o)t of the helmet,s pho'e pads* +Remember the trai'i'-( Case* That,s all we &a' do*, A'd the' the helmet filled with a &o'f)sed babble( roari'- stati&( harmo'i&s howli'dow' the %ears from S&reami'- <ist* <ra-me'ts of R)ssia'( a'd the' a stra'-er,s voi&e( 8idwester'( ver% %o)'-* +7e are dow'( repeat( Omaha Th)'der is dow'( we***,

+7i'term)te(, Case s&reamed( +do',t do this to meE, Tears bro$e from his lashes( rebo)'di'- off the fa&eplate i' wobbli'- &r%stal droplets* The' Ha'iwa th)dded( o'&e( shivered as if some h)-e soft thi'- had str)&$ her h)ll* Case ima-i'ed the lifeboat 0olti'- free( blow' &lear b% e1plosive bolts( a se&o'd,s &lawi'- h)rri&a'e of es&api'- air teari'- mad Colo'el Corto from his &o)&h( from 7i'term)te,s re'ditio' of the fi'al mi')te of S&reami'- <ist* +,Im -o'e( mo'*, 8ael&)m loo$ed at the mo'itor* +Hat&h ope'* 8)te m)s,B override e0e&tio' failsafe*, Case tried to wipe the tears of ra-e from his e%es* His fi'-ers &la&$ed a-ai'st "e1a'* +!a&ht( she ti-ht for air( b)t bossma' ta$i',B -rapple &o'trol wi,B brid-e* 8ar&)s ;arve% still st)&$*, )t Case was seei'- Armita-e,s e'dless fall aro)'d <reeside( thro)-h va&))m &older tha' the steppes* <or some reaso'( he ima-i'ed him i' his dar$ )rberr%( the tre'&h&oat,s ri&h folds spread o)t aro)'d him li$e the wi'-s of some h)-e bat*

1H

+;et what %o) we't for9, the &o'str)&t as$ed* 5)a'- ;rade 8ar$ Eleve' was filli'- the -rid betwee' itself a'd the T-A i&e with h%p'oti&all% i'tri&ate tra&eries of rai'bow( latti&es fi'e as s'ow &r%stal o' a wi'ter wi'dow* +7i'term)te $illed Armita-e* lew him o)t i' a lifeboat with a hat&h ope'*, +To)-h shit(, the <latli'e said* +7ere',t e1a&tl% asshole b)ddies( were %o)9, +He $'ew how to )'bo'd the to1i' sa&s*, +So 7i'term)te $'ows too* Co)'t o' it*, +I do',t e1a&tl% tr)st 7i'term)te to -ive it to me*, The &o'str)&t,s hideo)s appro1imatio' of la)-hter s&raped Case,s 'erves li$e a d)ll blade* +8a%be that mea's %o),re -etti',B smart*,

He hit the simstim swit&h* JLA=HAK= b% the &hip i' her opti& 'erve2 Case had bee' followi'- her pro-ress thro)-h Cilla Stra%li-ht for over a' ho)r( letti'- the e'dorphi' a'alo- she,d ta$e' blot o)t his ha'-over* The pai' i' her le- was -o'e2 she seemed to move thro)-h a warm bath* The ra)' dro'e was per&hed o' her sho)lder( its ti'% ma'ip)lators( li$e padded s)r-i&al &lips( se&)re i' the pol%&arbo' of the 8oder' s)it* The walls here were raw steel( striped with ro)-h brow' ribbo's of epo1% where some $i'd of &overi'- had bee' ripped awa%* She,d hidde' from a wor$ &rew( &ro)&hi'-( the flet&her &radled i' her ha'ds( her s)it steel--ra%( while the two sle'der Afri&a's a'd their balloo'-tired wor$&art passed* The me' had shave' heads a'd wore ora'-e &overalls* O'e was si'-i'- softl% to himself i' a la'-)a-e Case had 'ever heard( the to'es a'd melod% alie' a'd ha)'ti'-* The head,s spee&h( >3a'e,s essa% o' Stra%li-ht( &ame ba&$ to him as she wor$ed her wa% deeper i'to the ma4e of the pla&e* Stra%li-ht was &ra4%( was &ra4i'ess -row' i' the resi' &o'&rete the%,d mi1ed from p)lveri4ed l)'ar sto'e( -row' i' welded steel a'd to's of $'i&$-$'a&$s( all the bi4arre impedime'tia the%,d shipped )p the well to li'e their wi'di'- 'est* )t it was',t a &ra4i'ess he )'derstood* Not li$e Armita-e,s mad'ess( whi&h he 'ow ima-i'ed he &o)ld )'dersta'd2 twist a ma' far e'o)-h( the' twist him as far ba&$( i' the opposite dire&tio'( reverse a'd twist a-ai'* The ma' bro$e* "i$e brea$i'- a le'-th of wire* A'd histor% had do'e that for Colo'el Corto* Histor% had alread% do'e the reall% mess% wor$( whe' 7i'term)te fo)'d him( sifti'- him o)t of all of the war,s ripe detrit)s( -lidi'- i'to the ma',s flat -ra% field of &o's&io)s'ess li$e a water spider &rossi'- the fa&e of some sta-'a't pool( the first messa-es bli'$i'- a&ross the fa&e of a &hild,s mi&ro i' a dar$e'ed room i' a <re'&h as%l)m* 7i'term)te had b)ilt Armita-e )p from s&rat&h( with Corto,s memories of S&reami'- <ist as the fo)'datio'* )t Armita-e,s +memories, wo)ld',t have bee' Corto,s after a &ertai' poi't* Case do)bted if Armita-e had re&alled the betra%al( the Ni-htwi'-s whirli'- dow' i' flame*** Armita-e had bee' a sort of edited versio' of Corto( a'd whe' the stress of the r)' had rea&hed a &ertai' poi't( the Armita-e me&ha'ism had &r)mbled2 Corto had s)rfa&ed( with his -)ilt a'd his si&$ f)r%* A'd 'ow Corto-Armita-e was dead( a small fro4e' moo' for <reeside* He tho)-ht of the to1i' sa&s* Old Ashpool was dead too( drilled thro)-h the e%e with 8oll%,s mi&ros&opi& dart( deprived of whatever e1pert overdose he,d mi1ed for himself* That was a more p)44li'- death( Ashpool,s( the death of a mad $i'-* A'd he,d $illed the p)ppet he,d &alled his da)-hter( the o'e with >3a'e,s fa&e* It seemed to Case( as he rode 8oll%,s broad&ast se'sor% i'p)t thro)-h the &orridors of Stra%li-ht( that he,d 'ever reall% tho)-ht of a'%o'e li$e Ashpool( a'%o'e as powerf)l as he ima-i'ed Ashpool had bee'( as h)ma'*

Power( i' Case,s world( mea't &orporate power* The 4aibats)s( the m)lti'atio'als that shaped the &o)rse of h)ma' histor%( had tra's&e'ded old barriers* Ciewed as or-a'isms( the% had attai'ed a $i'd of immortalit%* !o) &o)ld',t $ill a 4aibats) b% assassi'ati'- a do4e' $e% e1e&)tives2 there were others waiti'- to step )p the ladder( ass)me the va&ated positio'( a&&ess the vast ba'$s of &orporate memor%* )t Tessier Ashpool was',t li$e that( a'd he se'sed the differe'&e i' the death of its fo)'der* T-A was a' atavism( a &la'* He remembered the litter of the old ma',s &hamber( the soiled h)ma'it% of it( the ra--ed spi'es of the old a)dio dis$s i' their paper sleeves* O'e foot bare( the other i' a velvet slipper* The ra)' pl)&$ed at the hood of the 8oder' s)it a'd 8oll% t)r'ed left( thro)-h a'other ar&hwa%* 7i'term)te a'd the 'est* Phobi& visio' of the hat&hi'- wasps( time-lapse ma&hi'e -)' of biolo-%* )t were',t the 4aibats)s more li$e that( or the !a$)4a( hives with &%ber'eti& memories( vast si'-le or-a'isms( their DNA &oded i' sili&o'9 If Stra%li-ht was a' e1pressio' of the &orporate ide'tit% of Tessier-Ashpool( the' T-A was &ra4% as the old ma' had bee'* The same ra--ed ta'-le of fears( the same stra'-e se'se of aimless'ess* +If the%,d t)r'ed i'to what the% wa'ted to***, he remembered 8oll% sa%i'-* )t 7i'term)te had told her the% had',t* Case had alwa%s ta$e' it for -ra'ted that the real bosses( the $i'-pi's i' a -ive' i'd)str%( wo)ld be both more a'd less tha' people* He,d see' it i' the me' who,d &rippled him i' 8emphis( he,d see' 7a-e affe&t the sembla'&e of it i' Ni-ht Cit%( a'd it had allowed him to a&&ept Armita-e,s flat'ess a'd la&$ of feeli'-* He,d alwa%s ima-i'ed it as a -rad)al a'd willi'- a&&ommodatio' of the ma&hi'e( the s%stem( the pare't or-a'ism* It was the root of street &ool( too( the $'owi'- post)re that implied &o''e&tio'( i'visible li'es )p to hidde' levels of i'fl)e'&e* )t what was happe'i'- 'ow( i' the &orridors of Cilla Stra%li-ht9 7hole stret&hes were bei'- stripped ba&$ to steel a'd &o'&rete* +7o'der where o)r Peter is 'ow( h)h9 8a%be see that bo% soo'(, she m)ttered* +A'd Armita-e* 7here,s he( Case9, +Dead(, he said( $'owi'- she &o)ld',t hear him( +he,s dead*, He flipped* The Chi'ese pro-ram was fa&e to fa&e with the tar-et i&e( rai'bow ti'ts -rad)all% domi'ated b% the -ree' of the re&ta'-le represe'ti'- the T-A &ores* Ar&hes of emerald a&ross the &olorless void*

+How,s it -o Di1ie9, +<i'e* Too sli&$* Thi'-,s ama4i'-*** Sho)lda had o'e that time i' Si'-apore* Did the old New a'$ of Asia for a -ood fiftieth of what the% were worth* )t that,s a'&ie't histor%* This bab% ta$es all the dr)d-er% o)t of it* 8a$es %o) wo'der what a real war wo)ld be li$e( 'ow***, +If this $i'da shit was o' the street2 we,d be o)t a 0ob(, Case said* +!o) wish* 7ait,ll %o),re steeri'- that thi'- )pstairs thro)-h bla&$ i&e*, +S)re*, Somethi'- small a'd de&idedl% 'o'-eometri& had 0)st appeared o' the far e'd of o'e of the emerald ar&hes* +Di1ie***, +!eah* I see it* Do',t $'ow if I believe it*, A brow'ish dot( a d)ll -'at a-ai'st the -ree' wall of the T-A &ores* It be-a' to adva'&e( a&ross the brid-e b)ilt b% 5)a'- ;rade 8ar$ Eleve'( a'd Case saw that it was wal$i'-* As it &ame( the -ree' se&tio' of the ar&h e1te'ded( the pol%&hrome of the vir)s pro-ram rolli'- ba&$( a few steps ahead of the &ra&$ed bla&$ shoes* +;otta ha'd it to %o)( boss(, the <latli'e said( whe' the short( r)mpled fi-)re of the <i'' seemed to sta'd a few meters awa%* +I 'ever see' a'%thi'- this f)''% whe' I was alive*, )t the eerie 'o'la)-h did',t &ome* +I 'ever tried it before(, the <i'' said( showi'- his teeth( his ha'ds b)'&hed i' the po&$ets of his fra%ed 0a&$et* +!o) $illed Armita-e(, Case said* +Corto* !eah* Armita-e was alread% -o'e* Hadda do it* I $'ow( I $'ow( %o) wa''a -et the e'4%me* O$a%* No sweat* I was the o'e -ave it to Armita-e i' the first pla&e* I mea' I told him what to )se* )t I thi'$ ma%be it,s better to let the deal sta'd* !o) -ot e'o)-h time* I,ll -ive it to %o)* O'l% a &o)pla ho)rs 'ow( ri-ht9, Case wat&hed bl)e smo$e billow i' &%berspa&e as the <i'' lit )p o'e of his Parta-as* +!o) -)%s(, the <i'' said( +%o),re a pai'* The <latli'e here( if %o) were all li$e him( it wo)ld be real simple* He,s a &o'str)&t( 0)st a b)'&ha RO8( so he alwa%s does what I

e1pe&t him to* 8% pro0e&tio's said there was',t m)&h &ha'&e of 8oll% wa'deri'- i' o' Ashpool,s bi- e1it s&e'e( -ive %o) o'e e1ample*, He si-hed* +7h%,d he $ill himself9, Case as$ed* +7h%,s a'%bod% $ill himself9, The fi-)re shr)--ed* +I -)ess I $'ow( if a'%bod% does( b)t it wo)ld ta$e me twelve ho)rs to e1plai' the vario)s fa&tors i' his histor% a'd how the% i'terrelate* He was read% to do it for a lo'- time( b)t he $ept -oi'- ba&$ i'to the free4er* Christ( he was a tedio)s old f)&$*, The <i'',s fa&e wri'$led with dis-)st* +It,s all tied i' with wh% he $illed his wife( mai'l%( %o) wa't the short reaso'* )t what se't him over the ed-e for -ood a'd all( little >3a'e fi-)red a wa% to fiddle the pro-ram that &o'trolled his &r%o-e'i& s%stem* S)btle( too* So basi&all%( she $illed him* E1&ept he fi-)red he,d $illed himself( a'd %o)r frie'd the ave'-i'- a'-el fi-)res she -ot him with a' e%eball f)ll of shellfish 0)i&e*, The <i'' fli&$ed his b)tt awa% i'to the matri1 below* +7ell( a&t)all%( I -)ess I did -ive >3a'e the odd hi't( a little of the old how to( %o) $'ow9, +7i'term)te(, Case said( &hoosi'- the words &aref)ll%( +%o) told me %o) were 0)st a part of somethi'- else* "ater o'( %o) said %o) wo)ld',t e1ist( if the r)' -oes off a'd 8oll% -ets the word i'to the ri-ht slot*, The <i'',s streamli'ed s$)ll 'odded* +O$a%( the' who we -o''a be deali'- with the'9 If Armita-e is dead( a'd %o),re -o''a be -o'e( 0)st who e1a&tl% is -oi'- to tell me how to -et these f)&$i'- to1i' sa&s o)t of m% s%stem9 7ho,s -oi'- to -et 8oll% ba&$ o)t of there9 I mea'( where( where e1a&tl%( are all o)r asses -o''a be( we &)t %o) loose from the hardwiri'-9, The <i'' too$ a woode' toothpi&$ from his po&$et a'd re-arded it &riti&all%( li$e a s)r-eo' e1ami'i'- a s&alpel* +;ood :)estio'(, he said( fi'all%* +!o) $'ow salmo'9 5i'da fish9 These fish( see( the%,re &ompelled to swim )pstream* ;ot it9, +No(, Case said* +7ell( I,m )'der &omp)lsio' m%self* A'd I do',t $'ow wh%* If I were -o''a s)b0e&t %o) to m% ver% ow' tho)-hts( let,s &all ,em spe&)latio's( o' the topi&( it wo)ld ta$e a &o)ple of %o)r lifetimes* e&a)se I,ve -ive' it a lot of tho)-ht* A'd I 0)st do',t $'ow* )t whe' this is over( we do it ri-ht( I,m -o''a be part of somethi'- bi--er* 8)&h bi--er(, The <i'' -la'&ed )p a'd aro)'d the matri1* + )t the parts of me that are me 'ow( that,ll still be here* A'd %o),ll -et %o)r pa%off*, Case fo)-ht ba&$ a' i'sa'e )r-e to p)'&h himself forward a'd -et his fi'-ers aro)'d the fi-)re,s throat( 0)st above the ra--ed $'ot i' the r)st% s&arf* His th)mbs deep i' the

<i'',s lar%'1* +7ell( -ood l)&$(, the <i'' said* He t)r'ed( ha'ds i' po&$ets a'd be-a' tr)d-i'- ba&$ )p the -ree' ar&h* +He%( asshole(, the <latli'e said( whe' the <i'' had -o'e a do4e' pa&es* The fi-)re pa)sed( half t)r'ed* +7hat abo)t me9 7hat abo)t m% pa%off9, +!o),ll -et %o)rs(, it said* +7hat,s that mea'9, Case as$ed( as he wat&hed the 'arrow tweed ba&$ re&ede* +I wa''a be erased(, the &o'str)&t said* +I told %o) that( remember9, Stra%li-ht remi'ded Case of deserted earl% mor'i'- shoppi'- &e'ters he,d $'ow' as a tee'a-er( low-de'sit% pla&es where the small ho)rs bro)-ht a fitf)l still'ess( a $i'd of ')mb e1pe&ta'&%( a te'sio' that left %o) wat&hi'- i'se&ts swarm aro)'d &a-ed b)lbs above the e'tra'&e of dar$e'ed shops* <ri'-e pla&es( 0)st past the borders of the Sprawl( too far from the all-'i-ht &li&$ a'd sh)dder of the hot &ore* There was that same se'se of bei'- s)rro)'ded b% the sleepi'- i'habita'ts of a wa$i'- world he had 'o i'terest i' visiti'- or $'owi'-( of d)ll b)si'ess temporaril% s)spe'ded( of f)tilit% a'd repetitio' soo' to wa$e a-ai'* 8oll% had slowed 'ow( either $'owi'- that she was 'eari'- her -oal or o)t of &o'&er' for her le-* The pai' was starti'- to wor$ its 0a--ed wa% ba&$ thro)-h the e'dorphi's( a'd he was',t s)re what that mea't* She did',t spea$( $ept her teeth &le'&hed( a'd &aref)ll% re-)lated her breathi'-* She,d passed ma'% thi'-s that Case had',t )'derstood( b)t his &)riosit% was -o'e* There had bee' a room filled with shelves of boo$s( a millio' flat leaves of %ellowi'- paper pressed betwee' bi'di'-s of &loth or leather( the shelves mar$ed at i'tervals b% labels that followed a &ode of letters a'd ')mbers2 a &rowded -aller% where Case had stared( thro)-h 8oll%,s i'&)rio)s e%es( at a shattered( d)stste'&iled sheet of -lass( a thi'- labeled -her -a4e had tra&$ed the brass pla:)e a)tomati&all% -+"a marie mise ') par ses &libataires( mme*, She,d rea&hed o)t a'd to)&hed this( her artifi&ial 'ails &li&$i'- a-ai'st the "e1a' sa'dwi&h prote&ti'- the bro$e' -lass* There had bee' what was obvio)sl% the e'tra'&e to Tessier-Ashpool,s &r%o-e'i& &ompo)'d( &ir&)lar doors of bla&$ -lass trimmed with &hrome* She,d see' 'o o'e si'&e the two Afri&a's a'd their &art( a'd for Case the%,d ta$e' o' a sort of ima-i'ar% life2 he pi&t)red them -lidi'- -e'tl% thro)-h the halls of Stra%li-ht( their smooth dar$ s$)lls -leami'-( 'oddi'-( while the o'e still sa'- his tired little so'-* A'd 'o'e of this was a'%thi'- li$e the Cilla Stra%li-ht he wo)ld have e1pe&ted( some &ross betwee' Cath,s fair% tale &astle a'd a half-remembered &hildhood fa'tas% of the

!a$)4a,s i''er sa'&t)m* JHAJ=A1M* O'e a'd a half ho)rs* +Case(, she said( +I wa''a favor*, Stiffl%( she lowered herself to sit o' a sta&$ of polished steel plates( the fi'ish of ea&h plate prote&ted b% a' )'eve' &oati'- of &lear plasti&* She pi&$ed at a rip i' the plasti& o' the topmost plate( blades slidi'- from be'eath th)mb a'd forefi'-er* +"e-,s 'ot -ood( %o) $'ow9 Did',t fi-)re a'% &limb li$e that( a'd the e'dorphi' wo',t &)t it( m)&h lo'-er* So ma%be -0)st ma%be( ri-ht9 -I -ot a problem here* 7hat it is( if I b)% it here( before Riviera does, -a'd she stret&hed her le-( $'eaded the flesh of her thi-h thro)-h 8oder' pol%&arbo' a'd Paris leather -+I wa't %o) to tell him* Tell him it was me* ;ot it9 3)st sa% it was 8oll%* He,ll $'ow* O$a%9, She -la'&ed aro)'d the empt% hallwa%( the bare walls* The floor here was raw l)'ar &o'&rete a'd the air smelled of resi's* +Shit( ma'( I do',t eve' $'ow if %o),re liste'i'-*, CASE* She wi'&ed( -ot to her feet( 'odded* +7hat,s he told %o)( ma'( 7i'term)te9 He tell %o) abo)t 8arie-<ra'&e9 She was the Tessier half( >3a'e,s -e'eti& mother* A'd of that dead p)ppet of Ashpool,s( I -)ess* Ca',t fi-)re wh% he,d tell me( dow' i' that &)bi&le*** lotta st)ff*** 7h% he has to &ome o' li$e the <i'' or somebod%( he told me that* It,s 'ot 0)st a mas$( it,s li$e he )ses real profiles as valves( -ears himself dow' to &omm)'i&ate with )s* Called it a template* 8odel of perso'alit%*, She drew her flet&her a'd limped awa% dow' the &orridor* The bare steel a'd s&abro)s epo1% e'ded abr)ptl%( repla&ed b% what Case at first too$ to be a ro)-h t)''el blasted from solid ro&$* 8oll% e1ami'ed its ed-e a'd he saw that i' fa&t the steel was sheathed with pa'els of somethi'- that loo$ed a'd felt li$e &old sto'e* She $'elt a'd to)&hed the dar$ sa'd spread a&ross the floor of the imitatio' t)''el* It felt li$e sa'd( &ool a'd dr%( b)t whe' she drew her fi'-er thro)-h it( it &losed li$e a fl)id( leavi'- the s)rfa&e )'dist)rbed* A do4e' meters ahead( the t)''el &)rved* Harsh %ellow li-ht threw hard shadows o' the seamed pse)do-ro&$ of the walls* 7ith a start( Case reali4ed that the -ravit% here was 'ear earth 'ormal( whi&h mea't that she,d had to des&e'd a-ai'( after the &limb* He was thoro)-hl% lost 'ow2 spatial disorie'tatio' held a pe&)liar horror for &owbo%s* )t she was',t lost( he told himself* Somethi'- s&)rried betwee' her le-s a'd we't ti&$i'- a&ross the )'-sa'd of the floor* A red "ED bli'$ed* The ra)'*

The first of the holos waited 0)st be%o'd the &)rve( a sort of tript%&h* She lowered the flet&her before Case had had time to reali4e that the thi'- was a re&ordi'-* The fi-)res were &ari&at)res i' li-ht( lifesi4e &artoo'sA 8oll%( Armita-e( a'd Case* 8oll%,s breasts were too lar-e( visible thro)-h ti-ht bla&$ mesh be'eath a heav% leather 0a&$et* Her waist was impossibl% 'arrow* Silvered le'ses &overed half her fa&e* She held a' abs)rdl% elaborate weapo' of some $i'd( a pistol shape 'earl% lost be'eath a fla'-ed overla% of s&ope si-hts( sile'&ers( flash hiders* Her le-s were spread( pelvis &a'ted forward( her mo)th fi1ed i' a leer of idioti& &r)elt%* eside her( Armita-e stood ri-idl% at atte'tio' i' a threadbare $ha$i )'iform* His e%es( Case saw( as 8oll% stepped &aref)ll% forward( were ti'% mo'itor s&ree's( ea&h o'e displa%i'- the bl)e--ra% ima-e of a howli'- waste of s'ow( the stripped bla&$ tr)'$s of ever-ree's be'di'- i' sile't wi'ds* She passed the tips of her fi'-ers thro)-h Armita-e,s televisio' e%es( the' t)r'ed to the fi-)re of Case* Here( it was as if Riviera -a'd Case had $'ow' i'sta'tl% that Riviera was respo'sible -had bee' )'able to fi'd a'%thi'- worth% of parod%* The fi-)re that slo)&hed there was a fair appro1imatio' of the o'e he -limpsed dail% i' mirrors* Thi'( hi-h-sho)ldered( a for-ettable fa&e be'eath short dar$ hair* He 'eeded a shave( b)t the' he )s)all% did* 8oll% stepped ba&$* She loo$ed from o'e fi-)re to a'other* It was a stati& displa%( the o'l% moveme't the sile't -)sti'- of the bla&$ trees i' Armita-e,s fro4e' Siberia' e%es* +Tr%i',B to tell )s somethi'-( Peter9, she as$ed softl%* The' she stepped forward a'd $i&$ed at somethi'- betwee' the feet of the holo-8oll%* 8etal &li'$ed a-ai'st the wall a'd the fi-)res were -o'e* She be't a'd pi&$ed )p a small displa% )'it* +;)ess he &a' 0a&$ i'to these a'd pro-ram them dire&t(, she said( tossi'- it awa%* She passed the so)r&e of %ellow li-ht( a' ar&hai& i'&a'des&e't -lobe set i'to the wall( prote&ted b% a r)st% &)rve of e1pa'sio' -rati'-* The st%le of the improvised fi1t)re s)--ested &hildhood( somehow* He remembered fortresses he,d b)ilt with other &hildre' o' rooftops a'd i' flooded s)b-baseme'ts* A ri&h $id,s hideo)t( he tho)-ht* This $i'd of ro)-h'ess was e1pe'sive* 7hat the% &alled atmosphere* She passed a do4e' more holo-rams before she rea&hed the e'tra'&e to >3a'e,s apartme'ts* O'e depi&ted the e%eless thi'- i' the alle% behi'd the Spi&e a4aar( as it tore itself free of Riviera,s shattered bod%* Several others were s&e'es of tort)re( the i':)isitors alwa%s militar% offi&ers a'd the vi&tims i'variabl% %o)'- wome'* These had the awf)l i'te'sit% of Riviera,s show at the Ci'-time Si&le( as tho)-h the% had bee' fro4e' i' the bl)e flash of or-asm* 8oll% loo$ed awa% as she passed them* The last was small a'd dim( as if it were a' ima-e Riviera had had to dra- a&ross some private dista'&e of memor% a'd time* She had to $'eel to e1ami'e it2 it had bee'

pro0e&ted from the va'ta-e poi't of a small &hild* No'e of the others had had ba&$-ro)'ds2 the fi-)res( )'iforms( i'str)me'ts of tort)re( all had bee' freesta'di'displa%s* )t this was a view* A dar$ wave of r)bble rose a-ai'st a &olorless s$%( be%o'd its &rest the blea&hed( halfmelted s$eleto's of &it% towers* The r)bble wave was te1t)red li$e a 'et( r)sti'- steel rods twisted -ra&ef)ll% as fi'e stri'-( vast slabs of &o'&rete still &li'-i'- there* The fore-ro)'d mi-ht o'&e have bee' a &it% s:)are2 there was a sort of st)mp( somethi'that s)--ested a fo)'tai'* At its base( the &hildre' a'd the soldier were fro4e'* The tablea) was &o'f)si'- at first* 8oll% m)st have read it &orre&tl% before Case had :)ite assimilated it( be&a)se he felt her te'se* She spat( the' stood* Childre'* <eral( i' ra-s* Teeth -litteri'- li$e $'ives* Sores o' their &o'torted fa&es* The soldier o' his ba&$( mo)th a'd throat ope' to the s$%* The% were feedi'-* + o''(, she said( somethi'- li$e -e'tle'ess i' her voi&e* +?)ite the prod)&t( are',t %o)( Peter9 )t %o) had to be* O)r >3a'e( she,s too 0aded 'ow to ope' the ba&$ door for 0)st a'% pett% thief* So 7i'term)te d)- %o) )p* The )ltimate taste( if %o)r taste r)'s that wa%* Demo' lover* Peter*, She shivered* + )t %o) tal$ed her i'to letti'- me i'* Tha'$s* Now we,re -o''a part%*, A'd the' she was wal$i'- -strolli'-( reall%( i' spite of the pai' -awa% from Riviera,s &hildhood* She drew the flet&her from its holster( s'apped the plasti& ma-a4i'e o)t( po&$eted that( a'd repla&ed it with a'other* She hoo$ed her th)mb i' the 'e&$ of the 8oder' s)it a'd ripped it ope' to the &rot&h with a si'-le -est)re( her th)mb blade parti'- the to)-h pol%&arbo' li$e rotte' sil$* She freed herself from the arms a'd le-s( the shredded rem'a'ts dis-)isi'- themselves as the% fell to the dar$ false sa'd* Case 'oti&ed the m)si& the'* A m)si& he did',t $'ow( all hor's a'd pia'o* The e'tra'&e to >3a'e,s world had 'o door* It was a ra--ed five-meter -ash i' the t)''el wall( )'eve' stairs leadi'- dow' i' a broad shallow &)rve* <ai't bl)e li-ht( movi'shadows( m)si&* +Case(, she said( a'd pa)sed( the flet&her i' her ri-ht ha'd* The' she raised her left( smiled( to)&hed her ope' palm with a wet to'-)e tip( $issi'- him thro)-h the simstim li'$* +;otta -o*, The' there was somethi'- small a'd heav% i' her left ha'd( her th)mb a-ai'st a ti'% st)d( a'd she was des&e'di'-*

1M

She missed it b% a fra&tio'* She 'earl% &)t it( b)t 'ot :)ite* She we't i' 0)st ri-ht( Case tho)-ht* The ri-ht attit)de2 it was somethi'- he &o)ld se'se( somethi'- he &o)ld have see' i' the post)re of a'other &owbo% lea'i'- i'to a de&$( fi'-ers fl%i'- a&ross the board* She had itA the thi'-( the moves* A'd she,d p)lled it all to-ether for her e'tra'&e* P)lled it to-ether aro)'d the pai' i' her le- a'd mar&hed dow' >3a'e,s stairs li$e she ow'ed the pla&e( elbow of her -)' arm at her hip( forearm )p( wrist rela1ed( swa%i'- the m)44le of the flet&her with the st)died 'o'&hala'&e of a Re-e'&% d)elist* It was a performa'&e* It was li$e the &)lmi'atio' of a lifetime,s observatio' of martial arts tapes( &heap o'es( the $i'd Case had -row' )p o'* <or a few se&o'ds( he $'ew( she was ever% bad-ass hero( So'% 8ao i' the old Shaw videos( 8i&$e% Chiba( the whole li'ea-e ba&$ to "ee a'd Eastwood* She was wal$i'- it the wa% she tal$ed it* "ad% >3a'e 8arie-<ra'&e Tessier-Ashpool had &arved herself a low &o)'tr% fl)sh with the i''er s)rfa&e of Stra%li-ht,s h)ll( &hoppi'- awa% the ma4e of walls that was her le-a&%* She lived i' a si'-le room so broad a'd deep that its far rea&hes were lost to a' i'verse hori4o'( the floor hidde' b% the &)rvat)re of the spi'dle* The &eili'- was low a'd irre-)lar( do'e i' the same imitatio' sto'e that walled the &orridor* Here a'd there a&ross the floor were 0a--ed se&tio's of wall( waist-hi-h remi'ders of the lab%ri'th* There was a re&ta'-)lar t)r:)oise pool &e'tered te' meters from the foot of the stairwa%( its )'derwater floods the apartme't,s o'l% so)r&e of li-ht -or it seemed that wa%( to Case( as 8oll% too$ her fi'al step* The pool threw shifti'- blobs of li-ht a&ross the &eili'above it* The% were waiti'- b% the pool* He,d $'ow' that her refle1es were so)ped )p( 0a44ed b% the 'e)ros)r-eo's for &ombat( b)t he had',t e1perie'&ed them o' the simstim li'$* The effe&t was li$e tape r)' at half speed( a slow( deliberate da'&e &horeo-raphed to the $iller i'sti'&t a'd %ears of trai'i'-* She seemed to ta$e the three of them i' at a -la'&eA the bo% poised o' the pool,s hi-h board( the -irl -ri''i'- over her wi'e-lass( a'd the &orpse of Ashpool( his left so&$et -api'- bla&$ a'd &orr)pt above his wel&omi'- smile* He wore his maroo' robe* His teeth were ver% white* The bo% dove* Sle'der( brow'( his form perfe&t* The -re'ade left her ha'd before his ha'ds &o)ld &)t the water* Case $'ew the thi'- for what it was as it bro$e the s)rfa&eA a &ore of hi-h e1plosive wrapped with te' meters of fi'e( brittle steel wire*

Her flet&her whi'ed as she se't a storm of e1plosive darts i'to Ashpool,s fa&e a'd &hest( a'd he was -o'e( smo$e &)rli'- from the po&$ed ba&$ of the empt%( white-e'ameled pool &hair* The m)44le sw)'- for >3a'e as the -re'ade deto'ated( a s%mmetri&al weddi'- &a$e of water risi'-( brea$i'-( falli'- ba&$( b)t the mista$e had bee' made* Hideo did',t eve' to)&h her( the'* Her le- &ollapsed* I' ;arve%( Case s&reamed* +It too$ %o) lo'- e'o)-h(, Riviera said( as he sear&hed her po&$ets* Her ha'ds va'ished at the wrists i' a matte bla&$ sphere the si4e of a bowli'- ball* +I saw a m)ltiple assassi'atio' i' A'$ara(, he said( his fi'-ers pl)&$i'- thi'-s from her 0a&$et( +a -re'ade 0ob* I' a pool* It seemed a ver% wea$ e1plosio'( b)t the% all died i'sta'tl% of h%drostati& sho&$*, Case felt her move her fi'-ers e1perime'tall%* The material of the ball seemed to offer 'o more resista'&e tha' temperfoam* The pai' i' her le- was e1&r)&iati'-( impossible* A red moire shifted i' her visio'* +I wo)ld',t move them( if I were %o)*, The i'terior of the ball seemed to ti-hte' sli-htl%* +It,s a se1 to% 3a'e bo)-ht i' erli'* 7i--le them lo'- e'o)-h a'd it &r)shes them to a p)lp* Caria't of the material the% ma$e this floori'- from* Somethi'- to do with the mole&)les( I s)ppose* Are %o) i' pai'9, She -roa'ed* +!o) seem to have i'0)red %o)r le-*, His fi'-ers fo)'d the flat pa&$et of dr)-s i' the left ba&$ po&$et of her 0ea's* +7ell* 8% last taste from Ali( a'd 0)st i' time*, The shifti'- mesh of blood be-a' to whirl* +Hideo(, said a'other voi&e( a woma',s( +she,s losi'- &o's&io)s'ess* ;ive her somethi'-* <or that a'd for the pai'* She,s ver% stri$i'-( do',t %o) thi'$( Peter9 These -lasses( are the% a fashio' where she &omes from9, Cool ha'ds( )'h)rried( with a s)r-eo',s &ertai't%* The sti'- of a 'eedle* +I wo)ld',t $'ow(, Riviera was sa%i'-* +I,ve 'ever see' her 'ative habitat* The% &ame a'd too$ me from T)r$e%*, +The Sprawl( %es* 7e have i'terests there* A'd o'&e we se't Hideo* 8% fa)lt( reall%* I,d let someo'e i'( a b)r-lar* He too$ the famil% termi'al*, She la)-hed* +I made it eas% for him* To a''o% the others* He was a prett% bo%( m% b)r-lar* Is she wa$i'-( Hideo9 Sho)ld',t she have more9,

+8ore a'd she wo)ld die(, said a third voi&e* The blood mesh slid i'to bla&$* The m)si& ret)r'ed( hor's a'd pia'o* Da'&e m)si&* CAS EA A A A A A A A AA 3AC 5 O#TAAAAAA Afterima-es of the flashed words da'&ed a&ross 8ael&)m,s e%es a'd &reased forehead as Case removed the trodes* +!o) s&ream( mo'( while a-o*, +8oll%(, he said( his throat dr%* +;ot h)rt*, He too$ a white plasti& s:)ee4e bottle from the ed-e of the --web a'd s)&$ed o)t a mo)thf)l of flat water* +I do',t li$e how a'% of this shit is -oi'-*, The little Cra% mo'itor lit* The <i''( a-ai'st a ba&$-ro)'d of twisted( impa&ted 0)'$* +Neither do I* 7e -otta problem*, 8ael&)m p)lled himself )p( over Case,s head( twisted a'd peered over his sho)lder* +Now who is that mo'( Case9, +That,s 0)st a pi&t)re( 8ael&)m(, Case said wearil%* +;)% I $'ow i' the Sprawl* It,s 7i'term)te tal$i'-* Pi&t)re,s s)pposed to ma$e )s feel at home*, + )llshit(, the <i'' said* +"i$e I told 8oll%( these are',t mas$s* I 'eed ,em to tal$ to %o)* ,Ca)se I do',t have what %o),d thi'$ of as a perso'alit%( m)&h* )t all that,s 0)st pissi'i' the wi'd( Case( ,&a)se( li$e I 0)st said( we -otta problem*, +So e1press th%self( 8)te(, 8ael&)m said* +8oll%,s le-,s falli'- off( for starts* Ca',t wal$* How it was s)pposed to -o dow'( she,d wal$ i'( -et Peter o)t of the wa%( tal$ the ma-i& word o)ta >3a'e( -et )p to the head( a'd sa% it* Now she,s blow' it* So I wa't %o) two to -o i' after her*, Case stared at the fa&e o' the s&ree'* +#s9, +So who else9,

+Aerol(, Case said( +the -)% o' ab%lo' Ro&$er( 8ael&)m,s pal*, +No* ;otta be %o)* ;otta be somebod% who )'dersta'ds 8oll%( who )'dersta'ds Riviera* 8ael&)m for m)s&le*, +!o) ma%be for-et that I,m i' the middle of a little r)'( here* Remember9 7hat %o) ha)led m% ass o)t here for***, +Case( liste' )p* Time,s ti-ht* Cer% ti-ht* "iste'* The real li'$ betwee' %o)r de&$ a'd Stra%li-ht is a sideba'd broad&ast over ;arve% ,s 'avi-atio' s%stem* !o),ll ta$e ;arve% i'to a ver% private do&$ I,ll show %o)* The Chi'ese vir)s has &ompletel% pe'etrated the fabri& of the Hosa$a* There,s 'othi'- i' the Hosa$a b)t vir)s 'ow* 7he' %o) do&$( the vir)s will be i'terfa&ed with the Stra%li-ht &)stodial s%stem a'd we,ll &)t the sideba'd* !o),ll ta$e %o)r de&$( the <latli'e( a'd 8ael&)m* !o),ll fi'd >3a'e( -et the word o)t of her( $ill Riviera( -et the $e% from 8oll%* !o) &a' $eep tra&$ of the pro-ram b% 0a&$i'%o)r de&$ i'to the Stra%li-ht s%stem* I,ll ha'dle it for %o)* There,s a sta'dard 0a&$ i' the ba&$ of the head( behi'd a pa'el with five 4ir&o's*, +5ill Riviera9, +5ill him*, Case bli'$ed at the represe'tatio' of the <i''* He felt 8ael&)m p)t his ha'd o' his sho)lder* +He%* !o) for-et somethi'-*, He felt the ra-e risi'-( a'd a $i'd of -lee* +!o) f)&$ed )p* !o) blew the &o'trols o' the -rapples whe' %o) blew Armita-e* Ha'iwa ,s -ot )s -ood a'd ti-ht* Armita-e fried the other Hosa$a a'd the mai'frames we't with the brid-e( ri-ht9, The <i'' 'odded* +So we,re st)&$ o)t here* A'd that mea's %o),re f)&$ed( ma'*, He wa'ted to la)-h( b)t it &a)-ht i' his throat* +Case( mo'(, 8ael&)m said softl%( +;arve% a t)-*, +That,s ri-ht(, said the <i''( a'd smiled* +!o) havi',B f)' i' the bi- world o)tside9, the &o'str)&t as$ed( whe' Case 0a&$ed ba&$ i'* +<i-)red that was 7i'term)te re:)esti',B the pleas)re***, +!eah* !o) bet* 5)a'- o$a%9, + a'- o'* 5iller vir)s*,

+O$a%* ;ot some s'a-s( b)t we,re wor$i'- o' it*, +!o) wa''a tell me( ma%be9, +Do',t have time*, +7ell( bo%( 'ever mi'd me( I,m 0)st dead a'%wa%*, +<)&$ off(, Case said( a'd flipped( &)tti'- off the tor' fi'-er'ail ed-e of the <latli'e,s la)-hter* +She dreamed of a state i'volvi'- ver% little i' the wa% of i'divid)al &o's&io)s'ess(, >3a'e was sa%i'-* She &)pped a lar-e &ameo i' her ha'd( e1te'di'- it toward 8oll%* The &arved profile was ver% m)&h li$e her ow'* +A'imal bliss* I thi'$ she viewed the evol)tio' of the forebrai' as a sort of sidestep*, She withdrew the broo&h a'd st)died it( tilti'- it to &at&h the li-ht at differe't a'-les* +O'l% i' &ertai' hei-hte'ed modes wo)ld a' i'divid)al -a &la' member -s)ffer the more pai'f)l aspe&ts of self-aware'ess***, 8oll% 'odded* Case remembered the i'0e&tio'* 7hat had the% -ive' her9 The pai' was still there( b)t it &ame thro)-h as a ti-ht fo&)s of s&rambled impressio's* Neo' worms writhi'- i' her thi-h( the to)&h of b)rlap( smell of fr%i'- $rill -his mi'd re&oiled from it* If he avoided fo&)si'- o' it( the impressio's overlapped( be&ame a se'sor% e:)ivale't of white 'oise* If it &o)ld do that to her 'ervo)s s%stem( what wo)ld her frame of mi'd be9 Her visio' was ab'ormall% &lear a'd bri-ht( eve' sharper tha' )s)al* Thi'-s seemed to vibrate( ea&h perso' or ob0e&t t)'ed to a mi')tel% differe't fre:)e'&%* Her ha'ds( still lo&$ed i' the bla&$ ball( were o' her lap* She sat i' o'e of the pool &hairs( her bro$e' lepropped strai-ht i' fro't of her o' a &amels$i' hasso&$* >3a'e sat opposite( o' a'other hasso&$( h)ddled i' a' oversi4ed d0ellaba of )'blea&hed wool* She was ver% %o)'-* +7here,d he -o9, 8oll% as$ed* +To ta$e his shot9, >3a'e shr)--ed be'eath the folds of the pale heav% robe a'd tossed a stra'd of dar$ hair awa% from her e%es* +He told me whe' to let %o) i'(, she said* +He wo)ld',t tell me wh%* Ever%thi'- has to be a m%ster%* 7o)ld %o) have h)rt )s9, Case felt 8oll% hesitate* +I wo)ld,ve $illed him* I,d,ve tried to $ill the 'i'0a* The' I was s)pposed to tal$ with %o)*, +7h%9, >3a'e as$ed( t)&$i'- the &ameo ba&$ i'to o'e of the d0ellaba,s i''er po&$ets* +A'd wh%9 A'd what abo)t9, 8oll% seemed to be st)d%i'- the hi-h( deli&ate bo'es( the wide mo)th( the 'arrow haw$

'ose* >3a'e,s e%es were dar$( &)rio)sl% opa:)e* + e&a)se I hate him(, she said at last( +a'd the wh% of that,s 0)st the wa% I,m wired( what he is a'd what I am*, +A'd the show(, >3a'e said* +I saw the show*, 8oll% 'odded* + )t Hideo9, + e&a)se the%,re the best* e&a)se o'e of them $illed a part'er of mi'e( o'&e*, >3a'e be&ame ver% -rave* She raised her e%ebrows* + e&a)se I had to see(, 8oll% said* +A'd the' we wo)ld have tal$ed( %o) a'd I9 "i$e this9, Her dar$ hair was ver% strai-ht( &e'ter-parted( draw' ba&$ i'to a $'ot of d)ll sterli'-* +Shall we tal$ 'ow9, +Ta$e this off(, 8oll% said( raisi'- her &aptive ha'ds* +!o) $illed m% father(, >3a'e said( 'o &ha'-e whatever i' her to'e* +I was wat&hi'- o' the mo'itors* 8% mother,s e%es( he &alled them*, +He $illed the p)ppet* It loo$ed li$e %o)*, +He was fo'd of broad -est)res(, she said( a'd the' Riviera was beside her( radia't with dr)-s( i' the seers)&$er &o'vi&t o)tfit he,d wor' i' the roof -arde' of their hotel* +;etti'- a&:)ai'ted9 She,s a' i'teresti'- -irl( is',t she9 I tho)-ht so whe' I first saw her*, He stepped past >3a'e* +It is',t -oi'- to wor$( %o) $'ow*, +Is',t it( Peter9, 8oll% ma'a-ed a -ri'* +7i'term)te wo',t be the first to have made the same mista$e* #'derestimati'- me*, He &rossed the tiled pool border to a white e'amel table a'd splashed mi'eral water i'to a heav% &r%stal hi-hball -lass* +He tal$ed with me( 8oll%* I s)ppose he tal$ed to all of )s* !o)( a'd Case( whatever there is of Armita-e to tal$ to* He &a',t reall% )'dersta'd )s( %o) $'ow* He has his profiles( b)t those are o'l% statisti&s* !o) ma% be the statisti&al a'imal( darli'-( a'd Case is 'othi'- b)t( b)t I possess a :)alit% )':)a'tifiable b% its ver% 'at)re*, He dra'$* +A'd what e1a&tl% is that( Peter9, 8oll% as$ed( her voi&e flat*

Riviera beamed* +Perversit%*, He wal$ed ba&$ to the two wome'( swirli'- the water that remai'ed i' the de'se( deepl% &arved &%li'der of ro&$ &r%stal( as tho)-h he e'0o%ed the wei-ht of the thi'-* +A' e'0o%me't of the -rat)ito)s a&t* A'd I have made a de&isio'( 8oll%( a wholl% -rat)ito)s de&isio'*, She waited( loo$i'- )p at him* +Oh( Peter(, >3a'e said( with the sort of -e'tle e1asperatio' ordi'aril% reserved for &hildre'* +No word for %o)( 8oll%* He told me abo)t that( %o) see* >3a'e $'ows the &ode( of &o)rse( b)t %o) wo',t have it* Neither will 7i'term)te* 8% 3a'e,s a' ambitio)s -irl( i' her perverse wa%*, He smiled a-ai'* +She has desi-'s o' the famil% empire( a'd a pair of i'sa'e artifi&ial i'telli-e'&es( $i'$% as the &o'&ept ma% be( wo)ld o'l% -et i' o)r wa%* So* Comes her Riviera to help her o)t( %o) see* A'd Peter sa%s( sit ti-ht* Pla% Dadd%,s favorite swi'- re&ords a'd let Peter &all %o) )p a ba'd to mat&h( a floor of da'&ers( a wa$e for dead 5i'- Ashpool*, He dra'$ off the last of the mi'eral water* +No( %o) wo)ld',t do( Dadd%( %o) wo)ld 'ot do* Now that Peter,s &ome home*, A'd the'( his fa&e pi'$ with the pleas)re of &o&ai'e a'd meperidi'e( he sw)'- the -lass hard i'to her left le's impla't( smashi'- visio' i'to blood a'd li-ht* 8ael&)m was pro'e a-ai'st the &abi' &eili'- whe' Case removed the trodes* A '%lo' sli'- aro)'d his waist was faste'ed to the pa'els o' either side with sho&$ &ords a'd -ra% r)bber s)&tio' pads* He had his shirt off a'd was wor$i'- o' a &e'tral pa'el with a &l)ms%-loo$i'- 4ero-- wre'&h( the thi'-,s fat &o)'terspri'-s twa'-i'- as he removed a'other he1head* 8ar&)s ;arve% was -roa'i'- a'd ti&$i'- with --stress* +The 8)te ta$i',B I a',B I do&$(, the 6io'ite said( poppi'- the he1head i'to a mesh po)&h at his waist* +8ael&)m pilot th,B la'di',B( mea'time 'eed we tool f,B th,B 0ob*, +!o) $eep tools ba&$ there9, Case &ra'ed his 'e&$ a'd wat&hed &ords of m)s&le b)'&hi'- i' the brow' ba&$* +This o'e(, 8ael&)m said( slidi'- a lo'- b)'dle wrapped i' bla&$ pol% from the spa&e behi'd the pa'el* He repla&ed the pa'el( alo'- with a si'-le he1head to hold it i' pla&e* The bla&$ pa&$a-e had drifted aft before he,d fi'ished* He th)mbed ope' the va&))m valves o' the wor$belt,s -ra% pads a'd freed himself( retrievi'- the thi'- he,d removed* He $i&$ed ba&$( -lidi'- over his i'str)me'ts -a -ree' do&$i'- dia-ram p)lsed o' his &e'tral s&ree' -a'd s'a--ed the frame of Case,s --web* He p)lled himself dow' a'd pi&$ed at the tape of his pa&$a-e with a thi&$( &hipped th)mb'ail* +Some ma' i' Chi'a sa% th,B tr)th &omes o)t this(, he said( )'wrappi'- a' a'&ie't( oilsli&$ Remi'-to'

a)tomati& shot-)'( its barrel &hopped off a few millimeters i' fro't of the battered foresto&$* The sho)ldersto&$ had bee' removed e'tirel%( repla&ed with a woode' pistol-rip wo)'d with d)ll bla&$ tape* He smelled of sweat a'd -a'0a* +That the o'l% o'e %o) -ot9, +S)re( mo'(, he said( wipi'- oil from the bla&$ barrel with a red &loth( the bla&$ pol% wrappi'- b)'&hed aro)'d the pistol-rip i' his other ha'd( +I a',B I th,B Rastafaria' 'av%( believe it*, Case p)lled the trodes dow' a&ross his forehead* He,d 'ever bothered to p)t the Te1as &atheter ba&$ o'( at least he &o)ld ta$e a real piss i' the Cilla Stra%li-ht( eve' if it was his last* He 0a&$ed i'* +He%(, the &o'str)&t said( +ol,B Peter,s totall% apeshit( h)h9, The% seemed to be part of the Tessier-Ashpool i&e 'ow2 the emerald ar&hes had wide'ed( -row' to-ether( be&ome a solid mass* ;ree' predomi'ated i' the pla'es of the Chi'ese pro-ram that s)rro)'ded them* +;etti',B &lose( Di1ie9, +Real &lose* Need %o) soo'*, +"iste'( Di1* 7i'term)te sa%s 5)a'-,s set itself )p solid i' o)r Hosa$a* I,m -oi'- to have to 0a&$ %o) a'd m% de&$ o)t of the &ir&)it( ha)l %o) i'to Stra%li-ht( a'd pl)- %o) ba&$ i'( i'to the &)stodial pro-ram there( 7i'term)te sa%s* Sa%s the 5)a'- vir)s will be all thro)-h there* The' we r)' from i'side( thro)-h the Stra%li-ht 'et*, +7o'derf)l(, the <latli'e said( +I 'ever did li$e to do a'%thi'- simple whe' I &o)ld do it ass-ba&$wards*, Case flipped* I'to her dar$'ess( a &h)r'i'- s%'aesthesia( where her pai' was the taste of old iro'( s&e't of melo'( wi'-s of a moth br)shi'- her &hee$* She was )'&o's&io)s( a'd he was barred from her dreams* 7he' the opti& &hip flared( the alpha')meri&s were haloed( ea&h o'e ri'-ed with a fai't pi'$ a)ra* JHA=FA@J* +I,m ver% )'happ% with this( Peter*, >3a'e,s voi&e seemed to arrive from a hollow dista'&e* 8oll% &o)ld hear( he reali4ed( the' &orre&ted himself* The simstim )'it was

i'ta&t a'd still i' pla&e2 he &o)ld feel it di--i'- a-ai'st her ribs* Her ears re-istered the vibratio's of the -irl,s voi&e* Riviera said somethi'- brief a'd i'disti'&t* + )t I do',t(, she said( +a'd it is',t f)'* Hideo will bri'- a medi&al )'it dow' from i'te'sive &are( b)t this 'eeds a s)r-eo'*, There was a sile'&e* Cer% disti'&tl%( Case heard the water lap a-ai'st the side of the pool* +7hat was that %o) were telli'- her( whe' I &ame ba&$9, Riviera was ver% &lose 'ow* +Abo)t m% mother* She as$ed me to* I thi'$ she was i' sho&$( aside from Hideo,s i'0e&tio'* 7h% did %o) do that to her9, +I wa'ted to see if the% wo)ld brea$*, +O'e did* 7he' she &omes aro)'d -if she &omes aro)'d -we,ll see what &olor her e%es are*, +She,s e1tremel% da'-ero)s* Too da'-ero)s* If I had',t bee' here to distra&t her( to throw )p Ashpool to distra&t her a'd m% ow' Hideo to draw her little bomb( where wo)ld %o) be9 I' her power*, +No(, >3a'e said( +there was Hideo* I do',t thi'$ %o) :)ite )'dersta'd abo)t Hideo* She does( evide'tl%*, +"i$e a dri'$9, +7i'e* The white*, Case 0a&$ed o)t* 8ael&)m was h)'&hed over ;arve% ,s &o'trols( tappi'- o)t &omma'ds for a do&$i'se:)e'&e* The mod)le,s &e'tral s&ree' displa%ed a fi1ed red s:)are that represe'ted the Stra%li-ht do&$* ;arve% was a lar-er s:)are( -ree'( that shra'$ slowl%( waveri'- from side to side with 8ael&)m,s &omma'ds* To the left( a smaller s&ree' displa%ed a s$eletal -raphi& of ;arve% a'd Ha'iwa as the% approa&hed the &)rvat)re of the spi'dle* +7e -ot a' ho)r( ma'(, Case said( p)lli'- the ribbo' of fiberopti&s from the Hosa$a* His de&$,s ba&$-)p batteries were -ood for 'i'et% mi')tes( b)t the <latli'e,s &o'str)&t wo)ld be a' additio'al drai'* He wor$ed :)i&$l%( me&ha'i&all%( faste'i'- the &o'str)&t to the bottom of the O'o-Se'dai with mi&ropore tape* 8ael&)m,s wor$belt drifted past* He s'a--ed it( )'&lipped the two le'-ths of sho&$ &ord( with their -ra% re&ta'-)lar s)&tio' pads( a'd hoo$ed the 0aws of o'e &lip thro)-h the other* He held the pads a-ai'st the

sides of his de&$ a'd wor$ed the th)mb lever that &reated s)&tio'* 7ith the de&$( &o'str)&t( a'd improvised sho)lder strap s)spe'ded i' fro't of him( he str)--led i'to his leather 0a&$et( &he&$i'- the &o'te'ts of his po&$ets* The passport Armita-e had -ive' him( the ba'$ &hip i' the same 'ame( the &redit &hip he,d bee' iss)ed whe' he,d e'tered <reeside( two derms of the betaphe'eth%lami'e he,d bo)-ht from r)&e( a roll of New !e'( half a pa&$ of !ehe%)a's( a'd the sh)ri$e'* He tossed the <reeside &hip over his sho)lders( heard it &li&$ off the R)ssia' s&r)bber* He was abo)t to do the same with the steel star( b)t the rebo)'di'- &redit &hip &lipped the ba&$ of his s$)ll( sp)' off( str)&$ the &eili'-( a'd t)mbled past 8ael&)m,s left sho)lder* The 6io'ite i'terr)pted his piloti'- to -lare ba&$ at him* Case loo$ed at the sh)ri$e'( the' t)&$ed it i'to his 0a&$et po&$et( heari'- the li'i'- tear* +!o) missi',B th,B 8)te( mo'(, 8ael&)m said* +8)te sa% he messi',B th,B se&)rit% for ;arve%* ;arve% do&$i',B as ,'other boat( boat the% ,spe&ti',B o)t of ab%lo'* 8)te broad&asti',B &odes for )s*, +7e -o''a wear the s)its9, +Too heav%*, 8ael&)m shr)--ed* +Sta% i' web ,til I tell %o)*, He tapped a fi'al se:)e'&e i'to the mod)le a'd -rabbed the wor' pi'$ ha'dholds o' either side of the 'avi-atio' board* Case saw the -ree' s:)are shri'$ a fi'al few millimeters to overlap the red s:)are* O' the smaller s&ree'( Ha'iwa lowered her bow to miss the &)rve of the spi'dle a'd was s'ared* ;arve% was still sl)'- be'eath her li$e a &aptive -r)b* The t)- ra'-( sh)ddered* Two st%li4ed arms spra'- o)t to -rip the sle'der wasp shape* Stra%li-ht e1tr)ded a te'tative %ellow re&ta'-le that &)rved( -ropi'- past Ha'iwa for ;arve%* There was a s&rapi'- so)'d from the bow( be%o'd the trembli'- fro'ds of &a)l$* +8o'(, 8ael&)m said( +mi'd we -ot -ravit%*, A do4e' small ob0e&ts str)&$ the floor of the &abi' sim)lta'eo)sl%( as tho)-h draw' there b% a ma-'et* Case -asped as his i'ter'al or-a's were p)lled i'to a differe't &o'fi-)ratio'* The de&$ a'd &o'str)&t had falle' pai'f)ll% to his lap* The% were atta&hed to the spi'dle 'ow( rotati'- with it* 8ael&)m spread his arms( fle1ed te'sio' from his sho)lders( a'd removed his p)rple dreadba-( sha$i'- o)t his lo&$s* +Come 'ow( mo'( if %o) seh time be mos,B pre&io)s*,

1F

The Cilla Stra%li-ht was a parasiti& str)&t)re( Case remi'ded himself( as he stepped past the te'drils of &a)l$ a'd thro)-h 8ar&)s ;arve% ,s forward hat&h* Stra%li-ht bled air a'd water o)t of <reeside( a'd had 'o e&os%stem of its ow'* The -a'-wa% t)be the do&$ had e1te'ded was a more elaborate versio' of the o'e he,d t)mbled thro)-h to rea&h Ha'iwa( desi-'ed for )se i' the spi'dle,s rotatio' -ravit%* A &orr)-ated t)''el( arti&)lated b% i'te-ral h%dra)li& members( ea&h se-me't ri'-ed with a loop of to)-h( 'o'slip plasti&( the loops servi'- as the r)'-s of a ladder* The -a'-wa% had s'a$ed its wa% aro)'d Ha'iwa2 it was hori4o'tal( where it 0oi'ed ;arve% ,s lo&$( b)t &)rved )p sharpl% a'd to the left( a verti&al &limb aro)'d the &)rvat)re of the %a&ht,s h)ll* 8ael&)m was alread% ma$i'- his wa% )p the ri'-s( p)lli'- himself )p with his left ha'd( the Remi'-to' i' his ri-ht* He wore a stai'ed pair of ba--% fati-)es( his sleeveless -ree' '%lo' 0a&$et( a'd a pair of ra--ed &a'vas s'ea$ers with bri-ht red soles* The -a'-wa% shifted sli-htl%( ea&h time he &limbed to a'other ri'-* The &lips o' Case,s ma$eshift strap d)- i'to his sho)lder with the wei-ht of the O'oSe'dai a'd the <latli'e,s &o'str)&t* All he felt 'ow was fear( a -e'erali4ed dread* He p)shed it awa%( for&i'- himself to repla% Armita-e,s le&t)re o' the spi'dle a'd Cilla Stra%li-ht* He started &limbi'-* <reeside,s e&os%stem was limited( 'ot &losed* 6io' was a &losed s%stem( &apable of &%&li'- for %ears witho)t the i'trod)&tio' of e1ter'al materials* <reeside prod)&ed its ow' air a'd water( b)t relied o' &o'sta't shipme'ts of food( o' the re-)lar a)-me'tatio' of soil ')trie'ts* The Cilla Stra%li-ht prod)&ed 'othi'- at all* +8o'(, 8ael&)m said :)ietl%( +-et )p here( ,side me*, Case ed-ed sidewa%s o' the &ir&)lar ladder a'd &limbed the last few r)'-s* The -a'-wa% e'ded i' a smooth( sli-htl% &o've1 hat&h( two meters i' diameter* The h%dra)li& members of the t)be va'ished i'to fle1ible ho)si'-s set i'to the frame of the hat&h* +So what do we --, Case,s mo)th sh)t as the hat&h sw)'- )p( a sli-ht differe'tial i' press)re p)ffi'- fi'e -rit i'to his e%es* 8ael&)m s&rambled )p( over the ed-e( a'd Case heard the ti'% &li&$ of the Remi'-to',s safet% bei'- released* +!o) th,B mo' i' th,B h)rr%***, 8ael&)m whispered( &ro)&hi'there* The' Case was beside him* The hat&h was &e'tered i' a ro)'d( va)lted &hamber floored with bl)e 'o'slip plasti& tiles* 8ael&)m ')d-ed him( poi'ted( a'd he saw a mo'itor set i'to a &)rved wall* O' the s&ree'( a tall %o)'- ma' with the Tessier-Ashpool feat)res was br)shi'- somethi'- from the sleeves of his dar$ s)it&oat* He stood beside a' ide'ti&al hat&h( i' a' ide'ti&al

&hamber* +Cer% sorr%( sir(, said a voi&e from a -rid &e'tered above the hat&h* Case -la'&ed )p* +E1pe&ted %o) later( at the a1ial do&$* O'e mome't( please*, O' the mo'itor( the %o)'- ma' tossed his head impatie'tl%* 8ael&)m sp)' as a door slid ope' to their left( the shot-)' read%* A small E)rasia' i' ora'-e &overalls stepped thro)-h a'd -o--led at them* He ope'ed his mo)th( b)t 'othi'- &ame o)t* He &losed his mo)th* Case -la'&ed at the mo'itor* la'$* +7ho9, the ma' ma'a-ed* +The Rastafaria' 'av%(, Case said( sta'di'- )p( the &%berspa&e de&$ ba'-i'- a-ai'st his hip( +a'd all we wa't,s a 0a&$ i'to %o)r &)stodial s%stem*, The ma' swallowed* +Is this a test9 It,s a lo%alt% &he&$* It m)st be a lo%alt% &he&$*, He wiped the palms of his ha'ds o' the thi-hs of his ora'-e s)it* +No( mo'( this a real o'e*, 8ael&)m &ame )p o)t of his &ro)&h with the Remi'-to' poi'ted at the E)rasia',s fa&e* +!o) move it*, The% followed the ma' ba&$ thro)-h the door( i'to a &orridor whose polished &o'&rete walls a'd irre-)lar floor of overlappi'- &arpets were perfe&tl% familiar to Case* +Prett% r)-s(, 8ael&)m said( proddi'- the ma' i' the ba&$* +Smell li$e &h)r&h*, The% &ame to a'other mo'itor( a' a'ti:)e So'%( this o'e mo)'ted above a &o'sole with a $e%board a'd a &omple1 arra% of 0a&$ pa'els* The s&ree' lit as the% halted( the <i'' -ri''i'- te'sel% o)t at them from what seemed to be the fro't room of 8etro Holo-rafi1* +O$a%(, he said( +8ael&)m ta$es this -)% dow' the &orridor to the ope' lo&$er door( sti&$s him i' there( I,ll lo&$ it* Case( %o) wa't the fifth so&$et from the left( top pa'el* There,s adaptor pl)-s i' the &abi'et )'der the &o'sole* Needs O'o-Se'dai twe't%-poi't i'to Hita&hi fort%*, As 8ael&)m ')d-ed his &aptive alo'-( Case $'elt a'd f)mbled thro)-h a' assortme't of pl)-s( fi'all% &omi'- )p with the o'e he 'eeded* 7ith his de&$ 0a&$ed i'to the adaptor( he pa)sed* +Do %o) have to loo$ li$e that( ma'9, he as$ed the fa&e o' the s&ree'* The <i'' was erased a li'e at a time b% the ima-e of "o''% 6o'e a-ai'st a wall of peeli'- 3apa'ese posters* +A'%thi'- %o) wa't( bab%(, 6o'e drawled( +0)st hop it for "o''%***, +No(, Case said( +)se the <i''*, As the 6o'e ima-e va'ished( he shoved the Hita&hi adaptor i'to its so&$et a'd settled the trodes a&ross his forehead* +7hat $ept %o)9, the <latli'e as$ed( a'd la)-hed*

+Told %o) do',t do that(, Case said* +3o$e( bo%(, the &o'str)&t said( +4ero time lapse for me* "emme see what we -ot here***, The 5)a'- pro-ram was -ree'( e1a&tl% the shade of the T-A i&e* Eve' as Case wat&hed( it -rew -rad)all% more opa:)e( altho)-h he &o)ld see the bla&$-mirrored shar$ thi'&learl% whe' he loo$ed )p* The fra&t)re li'es a'd hall)&i'atio's were -o'e 'ow( a'd the thi'- loo$ed real as 8ar&)s ;arve%( a wi'-less a'ti:)e 0et( its smooth s$i' plated with bla&$ &hrome* +Ri-ht o'(, the <latli'e said* +Ri-ht(, Case said( a'd flipped* +-li$e that* I,m sorr%(, >3a'e was sa%i'-( as she ba'da-ed 8oll%,s head* +O)r )'it sa%s 'o &o'&)ssio'( 'o perma'e't dama-e to the e%e* !o) did',t $'ow him ver% well( before %o) &ame here9, +Did',t $'ow him at all(, 8oll% said blea$l%* She was o' her ba&$ o' a hi-h bed or padded table* Case &o)ld',t feel the i'0)red le-* The s%'aestheti& effe&t of the ori-i'al i'0e&tio' seemed to have wor' off* The( bla&$ ball was -o'e( b)t her ha'ds were immobili4ed b% soft straps she &o)ld',t see* +He wa'ts to $ill %o)*, +<i-)res(, 8oll% said( stari'- )p at the ro)-h &eili'- past a ver% bri-ht li-ht* +I do',t thi'$ I wa't him to(, >3a'e said( a'd 8oll% pai'f)ll% t)r'ed her head to loo$ )p i'to the dar$ e%es* +Do',t pla% with me(, she said* + )t I thi'$ I mi-ht li$e to(, >3a'e said( a'd be't to $iss her forehead( br)shi'- the hair ba&$ with a warm ha'd* There were smears of blood o' her pale d0ellaba* +7here,s he -o'e 'ow9, 8oll% as$ed* +A'other i'0e&tio'( probabl%(, >3a'e said( strai-hte'i'- )p* +He was :)ite impatie't for %o)r arrival* I thi'$ it mi-ht be f)' to ')rse %o) ba&$ to health( 8oll%*, She smiled( abse'tl% wipi'- a blood% ha'd dow' the fro't of the robe* +!o)r le- will 'eed to be reset( b)t we &a' arra'-e that*, +7hat abo)t Peter9,

+Peter*, She -ave her head a little sha$e* A stra'd of dar$ hair &ame loose( fell a&ross her forehead* +Peter has be&ome rather bori'-* I fi'd dr)- )se i' -e'eral to be bori'-*, She -i--led* +I' others( at a'% rate* 8% father was a dedi&ated ab)ser( as %o) m)st have see'*, 8oll% te'sed* +Do',t alarm %o)rself*, >3a'e,s fi'-ers br)shed the s$i' above the waistba'd of the leather 0ea's* +His s)i&ide was the res)lt of m% havi'- ma'ip)lated the safet% mar-i's of his free4e* I,d 'ever a&t)all% met him( %o) $'ow* I was de&a'ted after he last we't dow' to sleep* )t I did $'ow him ver% well* The &ores $'ow ever%thi'-* I wat&hed him $ill m% mother* I,ll show %o) that( whe' %o),re better* He stra'-les her i' bed*, +7h% did he $ill her9, Her )'ba'da-ed e%e fo&)sed o' the -irl,s fa&e* +He &o)ld',t a&&ept the dire&tio' she i'te'ded for o)r famil%* She &ommissio'ed the &o'str)&tio' of o)r artifi&ial i'telli-e'&es* She was :)ite a visio'ar%* She ima-i'ed )s i' a s%mbioti& relatio'ship with the AI,s( o)r &orporate de&isio's made for )s* O)r &o's&io)s de&isio's( I sho)ld sa%* Tessier Ashpool wo)ld be immortal( a hive( ea&h of )s )'its of a lar-er e'tit%* <as&i'ati'-* I,ll pla% her tapes for %o)( 'earl% a tho)sa'd ho)rs* )t I,ve 'ever )'derstood her( reall%( a'd with her death( her dire&tio' was lost* All dire&tio' was lost( a'd we be-a' to b)rrow i'to o)rselves* Now we seldom &ome o)t* I,m the e1&eptio' there*, +!o) said %o) were tr%i'- to $ill the old ma'9 !o) fiddled his &r%o-e'i& pro-rams9, >3a'e 'odded* +I had help* <rom a -host* That was what I tho)-ht whe' I was ver% %o)'-( that there were -hosts i' the &orporate &ores* Coi&es* O'e of them was what %o) &all 7i'term)te( whi&h is the T)ri'- &ode for o)r er'e AI( altho)-h the e'tit% ma'ip)lati'- %o) is a sort of s)bpro-ram*, +O'e of them9 There,s more9, +O'e other* )t that o'e has',t spo$e' to me i' %ears* It -ave )p( I thi'$* I s)spe&t that both represe't the fr)itio' of &ertai' &apa&ities m% mother ordered desi-'ed i'to the ori-i'al software( b)t she was a' e1tremel% se&retive woma' whe' she felt it 'e&essar%* Here* Dri'$*, She p)t a fle1ible plasti& t)be to 8oll%,s lips* +7ater* O'l% a little*, +3a'e( love(, Riviera as$ed &heerf)ll%( from somewhere o)t of si-ht( +are %o) e'0o%i'%o)rself9, +"eave )s alo'e( Peter*,

+Pla%i'- do&tor***, S)dde'l% 8oll% stared i'to her ow' fa&e( the ima-e s)spe'ded te' &e'timeters from her 'ose* There were 'o ba'da-es* The left impla't was shattered( a lo'- fi'-er of silvered plasti& drive' deep i' a so&$et that was a' i'verted pool of blood* +Hideo(, >3a'e said( stro$i'- 8oll%,s stoma&h( +h)rt Peter if he does',t -o awa%* ;o a'd swim( Peter*, The pro0e&tio' va'ished* JHAKMA@J( i' the dar$'ess of the ba'da-ed e%e* +He said %o) $'ow the &ode* Peter said* 7i'term)te 'eeds the &ode*, Case was s)dde'l% aware of the Ch)bb $e% that la% o' its '%lo' tho'-( a-ai'st the i''er &)rve of her left breast* +!es(, >3a'e said( withdrawi'- her ha'd( +I do* I lear'ed it as a &hild* I thi'$ I lear'ed it i' a dream*** Or somewhere i' the tho)sa'd ho)rs of m% mother,s diaries* )t I thi'$ that Peter has a poi't( i' )r-i'- me 'ot to s)rre'der it* There wo)ld be T)ri'- to &o'te'd with( if I read all this &orre&tl%( a'd -hosts are 'othi'- if 'ot &apri&io)s*, Case 0a&$ed o)t* +Stra'-e little &)stomer( h)h9, The <i'' -ri''ed at Case from the old So'%* Case shr)--ed* He saw 8ael&)m &omi'- ba&$ alo'- the &orridor with the Remi'-to' at his side* The 6io'ite was smili'-( his head bobbi'- to a rh%thm Case &o)ld',t hear* A pair of thi' %ellow leads ra' from his ears to a side po&$et i' his sleeveless 0a&$et* +D)b( mo'(, 8ael&)m said* +!o),re f)&$i'- &ra4%(, Case told him* +Hear o$a%( mo'* Ri-hteo)s d)b*, +He%( -)%s(, the <i'' said( +o' %o)r toes* Here &omes %o)r tra'sportatio'* I &a',t fi'esse ma'% ')mbers as smooth as the pi& of M3ea' that &o''ed %o)r doorma'( b)t I &a' -et %o) a ride over to >3a'e,s pla&e*, Case was p)lli'- the adaptor from its so&$et whe' the riderless servi&e &art swiveled i'to si-ht( )'der the -ra&eless &o'&rete ar&h mar$i'- the far e'd of their &orridor* It mi-ht have bee' the o'e his Afri&a's had ridde'( b)t if it was( the% were -o'e 'ow* 3)st behi'd the ba&$ of the low padded seat( its ti'% ma'ip)lators -rippi'- the )pholster%( the little ra)' was steadil% wi'$i'- its red "ED*

+ )s to &at&h(, Case said to 8ael&)m*

=J

He,d lost his a'-er a-ai'* He missed it* The little &art was &rowdedA 8ael&)m( the Remi'-to' a&ross his $'ees( a'd Case( de&$ a'd &o'str)&t a-ai'st his &hest* The &art was operati'- at speeds it had',t bee' desi-'ed for( it was top heav%( &or'eri'-( a'd 8ael&)m had ta$e' to lea'i'- o)t i' the dire&tio' of the t)r's* This prese'ted 'o problem whe' the thi'- too$ lefts( be&a)se Case sat o' the ri-ht( b)t i' the ri-ht t)r's the 6io'ite had to lea' a&ross Case a'd his -ear( &r)shi'him a-ai'st the seat* He had 'o idea where the% were* Ever%thi'- was familiar( b)t he &o)ld',t be s)re he,d see' a'% parti&)lar stret&h before* A &)rvi'- hallwa% li'ed with woode' show&ases displa%ed &olle&tio's he was &ertai' he,d 'ever see'A the s$)lls of lar-e birds( &oi's( mas$s of beate' silver* The servi&e &art,s si1 tires were sile't o' the la%ered &arpets* There was o'l% the whi'e of the ele&tri& motor a'd a' o&&asio'al fai't b)rst of 6io' d)b( from the foam beads i' 8ael&)m,s ears( as he l)'-ed past Case to &o)'ter a sharp ri-ht* The de&$ a'd the &o'str)&t $ept pressi'- the sh)ri$e' i' his 0a&$et po&$et i'to his hip* +!o) -ot a wat&h9, he as$ed 8ael&)m* The 6io'ite shoo$ his lo&$s* +Time be time*, +3es)s(, Case said( a'd &losed his e%es* The ra)' s&)ttled over mo)'ded &arpets a'd tapped o'e of its padded &laws a-ai'st a' oversi4ed re&ta'-)lar door of dar$ battered wood* ehi'd them( the &art si44led a'd shot bl)e spar$s from a lo)vered pa'el* The spar$s str)&$ the &arpet be'eath the &art a'd Case smelled s&or&hed wool* +This th,B wa%( mo'9, 8ael&)m e%ed the door a'd s'apped the shot-)',s safet%* +He%(, Case said( more to himself tha' to 8ael&)m( +%o) thi'$ I $'ow9, The ra)' rotated its spheri&al bod% a'd the "ED strobed* +It wa',B %o) ope' door(, 8ael&)m said( 'oddi'-*

Case stepped forward a'd tried the or'ate brass $'ob* There was a brass plate mo)'ted o' the door at e%e level( so old that the letteri'- that had o'&e bee' e'-raved there had bee' red)&ed to a spider%( )'readable &ode( the 'ame of some lo'- dead f)'&tio' or f)'&tio'ar%( polished i'to oblivio'* He wo'dered va-)el% if Tessier-Ashpool had sele&ted ea&h pie&e of Stra%li-ht i'divid)all%( or if the%,d p)r&hased it i' b)l$ from some vast E)ropea' e:)ivale't of 8etro Holo-rafi1* The door,s hi'-es &rea$ed plai'tivel% as he ed-ed it ope'( 8ael&)m steppi'- past him with the Remi'-to' thr)st forward from his hip* + oo$s(, 8ael&)m said* The librar%( the white steel shelves with their labels* +I $'ow where we are(, Case said* He loo$ed ba&$ at the servi&e &art* A &)rl of smo$e was risi'- from the &arpet* +So &ome o'(, he said* +Cart* Cart9, It remai'ed statio'ar%* The ra)' was pl)&$i'- at the le- of his 0ea's( 'ippi'- at his a'$le* He resisted a stro')r-e to $i&$ it* +!eah9, It ti&$ed its wa% aro)'d the door* He followed it* The mo'itor i' the librar% was a'other So'%( as old as the first o'e* The ra)' pa)sed be'eath it a'd e1e&)ted a sort of 0i-* +7i'term)te9, The familiar feat)res filled the s&ree'* The <i'' smiled* +Time to &he&$ i'( Case(, the <i'' said( his e%es s&rewed )p a-ai'st the smo$e of a &i-arette* +C,mo'( 0a&$*, The ra)' threw itself a-ai'st his a'$le a'd be-a' to &limb his le-( its ma'ip)lators pi'&hi'- his flesh thro)-h the thi' bla&$ &loth* +ShitE, He slapped it aside a'd it str)&$ the wall* Two of its limbs be-a' to pisto' repeatedl%( )selessl%( p)mpi'- the air* +7hat,s wro'- with the -oddam thi'-9, + )r'ed o)t(, the <i'' said* +<or-et it* No problem* 3a&$ i' 'ow*, There were fo)r so&$ets be'eath the s&ree'( b)t o'l% o'e wo)ld a&&ept the Hita&hi adaptor* He 0a&$ed i'* Nothi'-* ;ra% void*

No matri1( 'o -rid* No &%berspa&e* The de&$ was -o'e* His fi'-ers were*** A'd o' the far rim of &o's&io)s'ess( a s&)rr%i'-( a fleeti'- impressio' of somethi'r)shi'- toward him( a&ross lea-)es of bla&$ mirror* He tried to s&ream* There seemed to be a &it%( be%o'd the &)rve of bea&h( b)t it was far awa%* He &ro)&hed o' his ha)'&hes o' the damp sa'd( his arms wrapped ti-ht a&ross his $'ees( a'd shoo$* He sta%ed that wa% for what seemed a ver% lo'- time( eve' after the sha$i'- stopped* The &it%( if it was a &it%( was low a'd -ra%* At times it was obs&)red b% ba'$s of mist that &ame rolli'- i' over the lappi'- s)rf* At o'e poi't he de&ided that it was',t a &it% at all( b)t some si'-le b)ildi'-( perhaps a r)i'2 he had 'o wa% of 0)d-i'- its dista'&e* The sa'd was the shade of tar'ished silver that had',t -o'e e'tirel% bla&$* The bea&h was made of sa'd( the bea&h was ver% lo'-( the sa'd was damp( the bottoms of his 0ea's were wet from the sa'd*** He held himself a'd ro&$ed( si'-i'- a so'- witho)t words or t)'e* The s$% was a differe't silver* Chiba* "i$e the Chiba s$%* To$%o a%9 He t)r'ed his head a'd stared o)t to sea( lo'-i'- for the holo-ram lo-o of <)0i Ele&tri&( for the dro'e of a heli&opter( a'%thi'- at all* ehi'd him( a -)ll &ried* He shivered* A wi'd was risi'-* Sa'd st)'- his &hee$* He p)t his fa&e a-ai'st his $'ees a'd wept( the so)'d of his sobbi'- as dista't a'd alie' as the &r% of the sear&hi'- -)ll* Hot )ri'e soa$ed his 0ea's( dribbled o' the sa'd( a'd :)i&$l% &ooled i' the wi'd off the water* 7he' his tears were -o'e( his throat a&hed* +7i'term)te(, he m)mbled to his $'ees( +7i'term)te***, It was -rowi'- dar$( 'ow( a'd whe' he shivered( it was with a &old that fi'all% for&ed him to sta'd* His $'ees a'd elbows a&hed* His 'ose was r)''i'-2 he wiped it o' the &)ff of his 0a&$et( the' sear&hed o'e empt% po&$et after a'other* +3es)s(, he said( sho)lders h)'&hed( t)&$i'- his fi'-ers be'eath his arms for warmth* +3es)s*, His teeth be-a' to &hatter*

The tide had left the bea&h &ombed with patter's more s)btle tha' a'% a To$%o -arde'er prod)&ed* 7he' he,d ta$e' a do4e' steps i' the dire&tio' of the 'ow i'visible &it%( he t)r'ed a'd loo$ed ba&$ thro)-h the -atheri'- dar$* His footpri'ts stret&hed to the poi't of his arrival* There were 'o other mar$s to dist)rb the tar'ished sa'd* He estimated that he,d &overed at least a $ilometer before he 'oti&ed the li-ht* He was tal$i'- with Rat4( a'd it was Rat4 who first poi'ted it o)t( a' ora'-e-red -low to his ri-ht( awa% from the s)rf* He $'ew that Rat4 was',t there( that the barte'der was a fi-me't of his ow' ima-i'atio'( 'ot of the thi'- he was trapped i'( b)t that did',t matter* He,d &alled the ma' )p for &omfort of some $i'd( b)t Rat4 had had his ow' ideas abo)t Case a'd his predi&ame't* +Reall%( m% artiste( %o) ama4e me* The le'-ths %o) will -o to i' order to a&&omplish %o)r ow' destr)&tio'* The red)'da'&% of itE I' Ni-ht Cit%( %o) had it( i' the palm of %o)r ha'dE The speed to eat %o)r se'se awa%( dri'$ to $eep it all so fl)id( "i'da for a sweeter sorrow( a'd the street to hold the a1e* How far %o),ve &ome( to do it 'ow( a'd what -rotes:)e props*** Pla%-ro)'ds h)'- i' spa&e( &astles hermeti&all% sealed( the rarest rots of old E)ropa( dead me' sealed i' little bo1es( ma-i& o)t of Chi'a***, Rat4 la)-hed( tr)d-i'- alo'- beside him( his pi'$ ma'ip)lator swi'-i'- 0a)'til% at his side* I' spite of the dar$( Case &o)ld see the baro:)e steel that la&ed the barte'der,s bla&$e'ed teeth* + )t I s)ppose that is the wa% of a' artiste( 'o9 !o) 'eeded this world b)ilt for %o)( this bea&h( this pla&e* To die*, Case halted( swa%ed( t)r'ed toward the so)'d of s)rf a'd the sti'- of blow' sa'd* +!eah(, he said* +Shit* I -)ess***, He wal$ed toward the so)'d* +Artiste(, he heard Rat4 &all* +The li-ht* !o) saw a li-ht* Here* This wa%***, He stopped a-ai'( sta--ered( fell to his $'ees i' a few millimeters of i&% seawater* +Rat49 "i-ht9 Rat4***, )t the dar$ was total( 'ow( a'd there was o'l% the so)'d of the s)rf* He str)--led to his feet a'd tried to retra&e his steps* Time passed* He wal$ed o'* A'd the' it was there( a -low( defi'i'- itself with his ever% step* A re&ta'-le* A door* +<ire i' there(, he said( his words tor' awa% b% the wi'd* It was a b)'$er( sto'e or &o'&rete( b)ried i' drifts of the dar$ sa'd* The doorwa% was low( 'arrow( doorless( a'd deep( set i'to a wall at least a meter thi&$* +He%(, Case said( softl%( +he%***, His fi'-ers br)shed the &old wall* There was a fire( i' there( shifti'-

shadows o' the sides of the e'tra'&e* He d)&$ed low a'd was thro)-h( i'side( i' three steps* A -irl was &ro)&hed beside r)sted steel( a sort of firepla&e( where driftwood b)r'ed( the wi'd s)&$i'- smo$e )p a de'ted &him'e%* The fire was the o'l% li-ht( a'd as his -a4e met the wide( startled e%es( he re&o-'i4ed her headba'd( a rolled s&arf( pri'ted with a patter' li$e ma-'ified &ir&)itr%* He ref)sed her arms( that 'i-ht( ref)sed the food she offered him( the pla&e beside her i' the 'est of bla'$ets a'd shredded foam* He &ro)&hed beside the door( fi'all%( a'd wat&hed her sleep( liste'i'- to the wi'd s&o)r the str)&t)re,s walls* Ever% ho)r or so( he rose a'd &rossed to the ma$eshift stove( addi'- fresh driftwood from the pile beside it* No'e of this was real( b)t &old was &old* She was',t real( &)rled there o' her side i' the fireli-ht* He wat&hed her mo)th( the lips parted sli-htl%* She was the -irl he remembered from their trip a&ross the a%( a'd that was &r)el* +8ea'( motherf)&$er(, he whispered to the wi'd* +Do',t ta$e a &ha'&e( do %o)9 7o)ld',t -ive me a'% 0)'$ie( h)h9 I $'ow what this is***, He tried to $eep the desperatio' from his voi&e* +I $'ow( see9 I $'ow who %o) are* !o),re the other o'e* >3a'e told 8oll%* )r'i'- b)sh* That was',t 7i'term)te( it was %o)* He tried to war' me off with the ra)'* Now %o) -ot me flatli'ed( %o) -ot me here* Nowhere* 7ith a -host* "i$e I remember her before***, She stirred i' her sleep( &alled somethi'- o)t( drawi'- a s&rap of bla'$et a&ross her sho)lder a'd &hee$* +!o) are',t a'%thi'-(, he said to the sleepi'- -irl* +!o),re dead a'd %o) mea't f)&$-all to me a'%wa%* Hear that( b)dd%9 I $'ow what %o),re doi'-* I,m flatli'ed* This has all ta$e' abo)t twe't% se&o'ds( ri-ht9 I,m o)t o' m% ass i' that librar% a'd m% brai',s dead* A'd prett% soo' it,ll be dead( if %o) -ot a'% se'se* !o) do',t wa't 7i'term)te to p)ll his s&am off( is all( so %o) &a' 0)st ha'- me )p here* Di1ie,ll r)' 5)a'-( b)t his ass is dead a'd %o) &a' se&o'd -)ess his moves( s)re* This "i'da shit( %eah( that,s all bee' %o)( has',t it9 7i'term)te tried to )se her whe' he s)&$ed me i'to the Chiba &o'str)&t( b)t he &o)ld',t* Said it was too tri&$%* That was %o) moved the stars aro)'d i' <reeside( was',t it9 That was %o) p)t her fa&e o' the dead p)ppet i' Ashpool,s room* 8oll% 'ever saw that* !o) 0)st edited her simstim si-'al* ,Ca)se %o) thi'$ %o) &a' h)rt me* ,Ca)se %o) thi'$ I -ave a shit* 7ell( f)&$ %o)( whatever %o),re &alled* !o) wo'* !o) wi'* )t 'o'e of it mea's a'%thi'- to me 'ow( ri-ht9 Thi'$ I &are9 So wh%,d %o) do it to me this wa%9, He was sha$i'- a-ai'( his voi&e shrill*

+Ho'e%(, she said( twisti'- )p from the ra-s of bla'$ets( +%o) &ome here a'd sleep* I,ll sit )p( %o) wa't* !o) -otta sleep( o$a%9, Her soft a&&e't was e1a--erated with sleep* +!o) 0)st sleep( o$a%9, 7he' he wo$e( she was -o'e* The fire was dead( b)t it was warm i' the b)'$er( s)'li-ht sla'ti'- thro)-h the doorwa% to throw a &roo$ed re&ta'-le of -old o' the ripped side of a fat fiber &a'ister* The thi'- was a shippi'- &o'tai'er( he remembered them from the Chiba do&$s* Thro)-h the re't i' its side( he &o)ld see half a do4e' bri-ht %ellow pa&$ets* I' the s)'li-ht( the% loo$ed li$e -ia't pats of b)tter* His stoma&h ti-hte'ed with h)'-er* Rolli'- o)t of the 'est( he we't to the &a'ister a'd fished o'e of the thi'-s o)t( bli'$i'- at small pri't i' a do4e' la'-)a-es* The E'-lish was o' the bottom* E8ER;*B RATION( HI-PRO( + EE<,( T!PE A;-M* A listi'- of ')tritive &o'te't* He f)mbled a se&o'd o'e o)t* +E;;S,* +If %o),re ma$i'- this shit )p(, he said( +%o) &o)ld la% o' some real food( o$a%9, 7ith a pa&$et i' either ha'd( he made his wa% thro)-h the str)&t)re,s fo)r rooms* Two were empt%( aside from drifts of sa'd( a'd the fo)rth held three more of the ratio' &a'isters* +S)re(, he said to)&hi'- the seals* +Sta% here a lo'- time* I -et the idea* S)re***, He sear&hed the room with the firepla&e( fi'di'- a plasti& &a'ister filled with what he ass)med was rai'water* eside the 'est of bla'$ets( a-ai'st the wall( la% a &heap red li-hter( a seama',s $'ife with a &ra&$ed -ree' ha'dle( a'd her s&arf* It was still $'otted( a'd stiff with sweat a'd dirt* He )sed the $'ife to ope' the %ellow pa&$ets( d)mpi'their &o'te'ts i'to a r)sted &a' that he fo)'d beside the stove* He dipped water from the &a'ister( mi1ed the res)lti'- m)sh with his fi'-ers( a'd ate* It tasted va-)el% li$e beef* 7he' it was -o'e( he tossed the &a' i'to the firepla&e a'd we't o)t* "ate after'oo'( b% the feel of the s)'( its a'-le* He $i&$ed off his damp '%lo' shoes a'd was startled b% the warmth of the sa'd* I' da%li-ht( the bea&h was silver--ra%* The s$% was &lo)dless( bl)e* He ro)'ded the &or'er of the b)'$er a'd wal$ed toward the s)rf( droppi'- his 0a&$et o' the sa'd* +D)''o whose memories %o),re )si'- for this o'e(, he said whe' he rea&hed the water* He peeled off his 0ea's a'd $i&$ed them i'to the shallow s)rf( followi'- them with t-shirt a'd )'derwear* +7hat %o) doi',B( Case9, He t)r'ed a'd fo)'d her te' meters dow' the bea&h( the white foam slidi'- past her a'$les* +I pissed m%self last 'i-ht(, he said* +7ell( %o) do',t wa''a wear those* Saltwater* ;ive %o) sores* I,ll show %o) this pool ba&$ i' the ro&$s*, She -est)red va-)el% behi'd her* +It,s fresh*, The faded <re'&h

fati-)es had bee' ha&$ed awa% above the $'ee2 the s$i' below was smooth a'd brow'* A bree4e &a)-ht at her hair* +"iste'(, he said( s&oopi'- his &lothes )p a'd wal$i'- toward her( +I -ot a :)estio' for %o)* I wo',t as$ %o) what %o),re doi'- here* )t what e1a&tl% do %o) thi'$ I,m doi'here9, He stopped( a wet bla&$ 0ea's-le- slappi'- a-ai'st his bare thi-h* +!o) &ame last 'i-ht(, she said* She smiled at him* +A'd that,s e'o)-h for %o)9 I 0)st &ame9, +He said %o) wo)ld(, she said( wri'$li'- her 'ose* She shr)--ed* +He $'ows st)ff li$e that( I -)ess*, She lifted her left foot a'd r)bbed salt from the other a'$le( aw$ward( &hildli$e* She smiled at him a-ai'( more te'tativel%* +Now %o) a'swer me o'e( o$a%9, He 'odded* +How &ome %o),re pai'ted brow' li$e that( all e1&ept %o)r foot*, +A'd that,s the last thi'- %o) remember9, He wat&hed her s&rape the last of the free4edried hash from the re&ta'-)lar steel bo1 &over that was their o'l% plate* She 'odded( her e%es h)-e i' the fireli-ht* +I,m sorr%( Case( ho'est to ;od* It was 0)st the shit( I -)ess( a',B it was***, She h)'&hed forward( forearms a&ross her $'ees( her fa&e twisted for a few se&o'ds with pai' or its memor%* +I 0)st 'eeded the mo'e%* To -et home( I -)ess( or*** hell(, she said( +%o) wo)ld',t hardl% tal$ to me*, +There,s 'o &i-arettes9, +;od dam( Case( %o) as$ed me that te' times toda%E 7hat,s wro'- with %o)9, She twisted a stra'd of hair i'to her mo)th a'd &hewed at it* + )t the food was here9 It was alread% here9, +I told %o)( ma'( it was washed )p o' the dam' bea&h*, +O$a%* S)re* It,s seamless*, She started to &r% a-ai'( a dr% sobbi'-* +7ell( dam' %o) a'%wa%( Case(, she ma'a-ed( fi'all%( +I was doi',B 0)st fi'e here b% m%self*, He -ot )p( ta$i'- his 0a&$et( a'd d)&$ed thro)-h the doorwa%( s&rapi'- his wrist o' ro)-h &o'&rete* There was 'o moo'( 'o wi'd( sea so)'d all aro)'d him i' the dar$'ess*

His 0ea's were ti-ht a'd &lamm%* +O$a%(, he said to the 'i-ht( +I b)% it* I -)ess I b)% it* )t tomorrow some &i-arettes better wash )p*, His ow' la)-hter startled him* +A &ase of beer wo)ld',t h)rt( while %o),re at it*, He t)r'ed a'd re-e'tered the b)'$er* She was stirri'- the embers with a le'-th of silvered wood* +7ho was that( Case( )p i' %o)r &offi' i' Cheap Hotel9 <lash sam)rai with those silver shades( bla&$ leather* S&ared me( a'd after( I fi-)red ma%be she was %o)r 'ew -irl( ,&ept she loo$ed li$e more mo'e% tha' %o) had***, She -la'&ed ba&$ at him* +I,m real sorr% I stole %o)r RA8*, +Never mi'd(, he said* +Does',t mea' a'%thi'-* So %o) 0)st too$ it over to this -)% a'd had him a&&ess it for %o)9, +To'%(, she said* +I,d bee' seei',B him( $i'da* He had a habit a',B we*** a'%wa%( %eah( I remember him r)''i'- it b% o' this mo'itor( a'd it was this real ama4i'- -raphi&s st)ff( a'd I remember wo'deri',B how %o) --, +There was',t a'% -raphi&s i' there(, he i'terr)pted* +S)re was* I 0)st &o)ld',t fi-)re how %o),d have all those pi&t)res of whe' I was little( Case* How m% dadd% loo$ed( before he left* ;imme this d)&$ o'e time( pai'ted wood( a'd %o) had a pi&t)re of that***, +To'% see it9, +I do',t remember* Ne1t thi'-( I was o' the bea&h( real earl%( s)'rise( those birds all %elli',B so lo'el%* S&ared ,&a)se I did',t have a shot o' me( 'othi',B( a',B I $'ew I,d be -etti',B si&$*** A',B I wal$ed a',B wal$ed( ,til it was dar$( a',B fo)'d this pla&e( a',B 'e1t da% the food washed i'( all ta'-led i' the -ree' sea st)ff li$e leaves of hard 0ell%*, She slid her sti&$ i'to the embers a'd left it there* +Never did -et si&$(, she said( as embers &rawled* +8issed &i-arettes more* How ,bo)t %o)( Case9 !o) still wired9, <ireli-ht da'&i'- )'der her &hee$bo'es( remembered flash of 7i4ard,s Castle a'd Ta'$ 7ar E)ropa* +No(, he said( a'd the' it 'o lo'-er mattered( what he $'ew( tasti'- the salt of her mo)th where tears had dried* There was a stre'-th that ra' i' her( somethi'- he,d $'ow' i' Ni-ht Cit% a'd held there( bee' held b% it( held for a while awa% from time a'd death( from the rele'tless Street that h)'ted them all* It was a pla&e he,d $'ow' before2 'ot ever%o'e &o)ld ta$e him there( a'd somehow he alwa%s ma'a-ed to for-et it* Somethi'he,d fo)'d a'd lost so ma'% times* It belo'-ed( he $'ew -he remembered -as she p)lled him dow'( to the meat( the flesh the &owbo%s mo&$ed* It was a vast thi'-( be%o'd $'owi'-( a sea of i'formatio' &oded i' spiral a'd pheromo'e( i'fi'ite i'tri&a&% that o'l% the bod%( i' its stro'- bli'd wa%( &o)ld ever read*

The 4ipper h)'-( &a)-ht( as he ope'ed the <re'&h fati-)es( the &oils of toothed '%lo' &lotted with salt* He bro$e it( some ti'% metal part shooti'- off a-ai'st the wall as saltrotte' &loth -ave( a'd the' he was i' her( effe&ti'- the tra'smissio' of the old messa-e* Here( eve' here( i' a pla&e he $'ew for what it was( a &oded model of some stra'-er,s memor%( the drive held* She sh)ddered a-ai'st him as the sti&$ &a)-ht fire( a leapi'- flare that threw their lo&$ed shadows a&ross the b)'$er wall* "ater( as the% la% to-ether( his ha'd betwee' her thi-hs( he remembered her o' the bea&h( the white foam p)lli'- at her a'$les( a'd he remembered what she had said* +He told %o) I was &omi'-(, he said* )t she o'l% rolled a-ai'st him( b)tto&$s a-ai'st his thi-hs( a'd p)t her ha'd over his( a'd m)ttered somethi'- o)t of dream*

=1

The m)si& wo$e him( a'd at first it mi-ht have bee' the beat of his ow' heart* He sat )p beside her( p)lli'- his 0a&$et over his sho)lders i' the predaw' &hill( -ra% li-ht from the doorwa% a'd the fire lo'- dead* His visio' &rawled with -host hiero-l%phs( tra'sl)&e't li'es of s%mbols arra'-i'themselves a-ai'st the 'e)tral ba&$drop of the b)'$er wall* He loo$ed at the ba&$s of his ha'ds( saw fai't 'eo' mole&)les &rawli'- be'eath the s$i'( ordered b% the )'$'owable &ode* He raised his ri-ht ha'd a'd moved it e1perime'tall%* It left a fai't( fadi'- trail of strobed afterima-es* The hair stood )p alo'- his arms a'd at the ba&$ of his 'e&$* He &ro)&hed there with his teeth bared a'd felt for the m)si&* The p)lse faded( ret)r'ed( faded*** +7hat,s wro'-9, She sat )p( &lawi'- hair from her e%es* + ab%***, +I feel*** li$e a dr)-*** !o) -et that here9, She shoo$ her head( rea&hed for him( her ha'ds o' his )pper arms* +"i'da( who told %o)9 7ho told %o) I,d &ome9 7ho9,

+O' the bea&h(, she said( somethi'- for&i'- her to loo$ awa%* +A bo%* I see him o' the bea&h* 8a%be thirtee'* He lives here*, +A'd what did he sa%9, +He said %o),d &ome* He said %o) wo)ld',t hate me* He said we,d be o$a% here( a'd he told me where the rai' pool was* He loo$s 8e1i&a'*, + ra4ilia'(, Case said( as a 'ew wave of s%mbols washed dow' the wall* +I thi'$ he,s from Rio*, He -ot to his feet a'd be-a' to str)--le i'to his 0ea's* +Case(, she said( her voi&e sha$i'-( +Case( where %o) -oi',B9, +I thi'$ I,ll fi'd that bo%(, he said( as the m)si& &ame s)r-i'- ba&$( still o'l% a beat( stead% a'd familiar( altho)-h he &o)ld',t pla&e it i' memor%* +Do',t( Case*, +I tho)-ht I saw somethi'-( whe' I -ot here* A &it% dow' the bea&h* )t %esterda% it was',t there* !o) ever see' that9, He %a'$ed his 4ipper )p a'd tore at the impossible $'ot i' his shoela&es( fi'all% tossi'- the shoes i'to the &or'er* She 'odded( e%es lowered* +!eah* I see it sometimes*, +!o) ever -o there( "i'da9, He p)t his 0a&$et o'* +No(, she said( +b)t I tried* After I first &ame( a',B I was bored* A'%wa%( I fi-)red it,s a &it%( ma%be I &o)ld fi'd some shit*, She -rima&ed* +I was',t eve' si&$( I 0)st wa'ted it* So I too$ food i' a &a'( mi1ed it real wet( be&a)se I did',t have a'other &a' for water* A',B I wal$ed all da%( a',B I &o)ld see it( sometimes( &it%( a',B it did',t seem too far* )t it 'ever -ot a'% &loser* A',B the' it was -etti',B &loser( a',B I saw what it was* Sometimes that da% it had loo$ed $i'da li$e it was wre&$ed( or ma%be 'obod% there( a',B other times I tho)-ht I,d see li-ht flashi',B off a ma&hi'e( &ars or somethi',B***, Her voi&e trailed off* +7hat is it9, +This thi'-(, she -est)red aro)'d at the firepla&e( the dar$ walls( the daw' o)tli'i'- the doorwa%( +where we live* It -ets smaller( Case( smaller( &loser %o) -et to it*, Pa)si'- o'e last time( b% the doorwa%* +!o) as$ %o)r bo% abo)t that9, +!eah* He said I wo)ld',t )'dersta'd( a',B I was wasti',B m% time* Said it was( was

li$e*** a' eve't* A',B it was o)r hori4o'* Eve't hori4o'( he &alled it*, The words mea't 'othi'- to him* He left the b)'$er a'd str)&$ o)t bli'dl%( headi'- -he $'ew( somehow -awa% from the sea* Now the hiero-l%phs sped a&ross the sa'd( fled from his feet( drew ba&$ from him as he wal$ed* +He%(, he said( +it,s brea$i'- dow'* et %o) $'ow( too* 7hat is it9 5)a'-9 Chi'ese i&ebrea$er eati'- a hole i' %o)r heart9 8a%be the Di1ie <latli'e,s 'o p)shover( h)h9, He heard her &all his 'ame* "oo$ed ba&$ a'd she was followi'- him( 'ot tr%i'- to &at&h )p( the bro$e' 4ip of the <re'&h fati-)es flappi'- a-ai'st the brow' of her bell%( p)bi& hair framed i' tor' fabri&* She loo$ed li$e o'e of the -irls o' the <i'',s old ma-a4i'es i' 8etro Holo-rafi1 &ome to life( o'l% she was tired a'd sad a'd h)ma'( the ripped &ost)me patheti& as she st)mbled over &l)mps of salt-silver sea -rass* A'd the'( somehow( the% stood i' the s)rf( the three of them( a'd the bo%,s -)ms were wide a'd bri-ht pi'$ a-ai'st his thi' brow' fa&e* He wore ra--ed( &olorless shorts( limbs too thi' a-ai'st the slidi'- bl)e--ra% of the tide* +I $'ow %o)(, Case said( "i'da beside him* +No(, the bo% said( his voi&e hi-h a'd m)si&al( +%o) do 'ot*, +!o),re the other AI* !o),re Rio* !o),re the o'e who wa'ts to stop 7i'term)te* 7hat,s %o)r 'ame9 !o)r T)ri'- &ode* 7hat is it9, The bo% did a ha'dsta'd i' the s)rf( la)-hi'-* He wal$ed o' his ha'ds( the' flipped o)t of the water* His e%es were Riviera,s( b)t there was 'o mali&e there* +To &all )p a demo' %o) m)st lear' its 'ame* 8e' dreamed that( o'&e( b)t 'ow it is real i' a'other wa%* !o) $'ow that( Case* !o)r b)si'ess is to lear' the 'ames of pro-rams( the lo'- formal 'ames( 'ames the ow'ers see$ to &o'&eal* Tr)e 'ames***, +A T)ri'- &ode,s 'ot %o)r 'ame*, +Ne)roma'&er(, the bo% said( slitti'- lo'- -ra% e%es a-ai'st the risi'- s)'* +The la'e to the la'd of the dead* 7here %o) are( m% frie'd* 8arie-<ra'&e( m% lad%( she prepared this road( b)t her lord &ho$ed her off before I &o)ld read the boo$ of her da%s* Ne)ro from the 'erves( the silver paths* Roma'&er* Ne&roma'&er* I &all )p the dead* )t 'o( m% frie'd(, a'd the bo% did a little da'&e( brow' feet pri'ti'- the sa'd( +I am the dead( a'd their la'd*, He la)-hed* A -)ll &ried* +Sta%* If %o)r woma' is a -host( she does',t $'ow it* Neither will %o)*, +!o),re &ra&$i'-* The i&e is brea$i'- )p*,

+No(, he said( s)dde'l% sad( his fra-ile sho)lders sa--i'-* He r)bbed his foot a-ai'st the sa'd* +It is more simple tha' that* )t the &hoi&e is %o)rs*, The -ra% e%es re-arded Case -ravel%* A fresh wave of s%mbols swept a&ross his visio'( o'e li'e at a time* ehi'd them( the bo% wri--led( as tho)-h see' thro)-h heat risi'- from s)mmer asphalt* The m)si& was lo)d 'ow( a'd Case &o)ld almost ma$e o)t the l%ri&s* +Case( ho'e%(, "i'da said( a'd to)&hed his sho)lder* +No(, he said* He too$ off his 0a&$et a'd ha'ded it to her* +I do',t $'ow(, he said( +ma%be %o),re here* A'%wa%( it -ets &old*, He t)r'ed a'd wal$ed awa%( a'd after the seve'th step( he,d &losed his e%es( wat&hi'the m)si& defi'e itself at the &e'ter of thi'-s* He did loo$ ba&$( o'&e( altho)-h he did',t ope' his e%es* He did',t 'eed to* The% were there b% the ed-e of the sea( "i'da "ee a'd the thi' &hild who said his 'ame was Ne)roma'&er* His leather 0a&$et da'-led from her ha'd( &at&hi'- the fri'-e of the s)rf* He wal$ed o'( followi'- the m)si&* 8ael&)m,s 6io' d)b* There was a -ra% pla&e( a' impressio' of fi'e s&ree's shifti'-( moire( de-rees of half to'e -e'erated b% a ver% simple -raphi&s pro-ram* There was a lo'- hold o' a view thro)-h &hai'li'$( -)lls fro4e' above dar$ water* There were voi&es* There was a plai' of bla&$ mirror( that tilted( a'd he was :)i&$silver( a bead of mer&)r%( s$itteri'- dow'( stri$i'- the a'-les of a' i'visible ma4e( fra-me'ti'-( flowi'- to-ether( slidi'- a-ai'*** +Case9 8o'9, The m)si&* +!o) ba&$( mo'*, The m)si& was ta$e' from his ears* +How lo'-9, he heard himself as$( a'd $'ew that his mo)th was ver% dr%* +<ive mi')te( ma%be* Too lo'-* I wa',B p)ll th,B 0a&$( 8)te seh 'o* S&ree' -oi',B f)''%( the' 8)te seh p)t th,B pho'es o' %o)*,

He ope'ed his e%es* 8ael&)m,s feat)res were overla%ed with ba'ds of tra'sl)&e't hiero-l%phs* +A',B %o) medi&i'e(, 8ael&)m said* +Two derm*, He was flat o' his ba&$ o' the librar% floor( below the mo'itor* The 6io'ite helped him sit )p( b)t the moveme't threw him i'to the sava-e r)sh of the betaphe'eth%lami'e( the bl)e derms b)r'i'- a-ai'st his left wrist* +Overdose(, he ma'a-ed* +Come o'( mo'(, the stro'- ha'ds be'eath his armpits( lifti'- him li$e a &hild( +I a',B I m)s,B -o*,

==

The servi&e &art was &r%i'-* The betaphe'eth%lami'e -ave it a voi&e* It wo)ld',t stop* Not i' the &rowded -aller%( the lo'- &orridors( 'ot as it passed the bla&$ -lass e'tra'&e to the T-A &r%pt( the va)lts where the &old had seeped so -rad)all% i'to old Ashpool,s dreams* The tra'sit was a' e1te'ded r)sh for Case( the moveme't of the &art i'disti'-)ishable from the i'sa'e mome't)m of the overdose* 7he' the &art died( at last( somethi'be'eath the seat -ivi'- )p with a shower of white spar$s( the &r%i'- stopped* The thi'- &oasted to a stop three meters from the start of >3a'e,s pirate &ave* +How far( mo'9, 8ael&)m helped him from the sp)tteri'- &art as a' i'te-ral e1ti'-)isher e1ploded i' the thi'-,s e'-i'e &ompartme't( -o)ts of %ellow powder s:)irti'- from lo)vers a'd servi&e poi'ts* The ra)' t)mbled from the ba&$ of the seat a'd hobbled off a&ross the imitatio' sa'd( dra--i'- o'e )seless limb behi'd it* +!o) m)s,B wal$( mo'*, 8ael&)m too$ the de&$ a'd &o'str)&t( sli'-i'- the sho&$ &ords over his sho)lder* The trodes rattled aro)'d Case,s 'e&$ as he followed the 6io'ite* Riviera,s holos waited for them( the tort)re s&e'es a'd the &a''ibal &hildre'* 8oll% had bro$e' the tript%&h* 8ael&)m i-'ored them* +Eas%(, Case said( for&i'- himself to &at&h )p with the stridi'- fi-)re* +;otta do this ri-ht*,

8ael&)m halted( t)r'ed( -loweri'- at him( the Remi'-to' i' his ha'ds* +Ri-ht( mo'9 How,s ri-ht9, +;ot 8oll% i' there( b)t she,s o)t of it* Riviera( he &a' throw holos* 8a%be he,s -ot 8oll%,s flet&her*, 8ael&)m 'odded* +A'd there,s a 'i'0a( a famil% bod%-)ard*, 8ael&)m,s frow' deepe'ed* +!o) liste'( ab%lo' mo'(, he said* +I a warrior* )t this 'o m,B fi-ht( 'o 6io' fi-ht ab%lo' fi-hti',B ab%lo'( eati',B i,self( %a $'ow9 )t 3ah seh I a',B I t,B bri'- Steppi',B Ra4or o)ta this*, Case bli'$ed* +She a warrior(, 8ael&)m said( as if it e1plai'ed ever%thi'-* +Now %o) tell me( mo'( who I 'ot t,B $ill*, +>3a'e(, he said( after a pa)se* +A -irl there* Has a $i'da white robe thi'- o'( with a hood* 7e 'eed her*, 7he' the% rea&hed the e'tra'&e( 8ael&)m wal$ed strai-ht i'( a'd Case had 'o &hoi&e b)t to follow him* >3a'e,s &o)'tr% was deserted( the pool empt%* 8ael&)m ha'ded him the de&$ a'd the &o'str)&t a'd wal$ed to the ed-e of the pool* e%o'd the white pool f)r'it)re( there was dar$'ess( shadows of the ra--ed( waist-hi-h ma4e of partiall% demolished walls* The water lapped patie'tl% a-ai'st the side of the pool* +The%,re here(, Case said* +The% -otta be*, 8ael&)m 'odded* The first arrow pier&ed his )pper arm* The Remi'-to' roared( its meter of m)44le-flash bl)e i' the li-ht from the pool* The se&o'd arrow str)&$ the shot-)' itself( se'di'- it spi''i'- a&ross the white tiles* 8ael&)m sat dow' hard a'd f)mbled at the bla&$ thi'that protr)ded from his arm* He %a'$ed at it* Hideo stepped o)t of the shadows( a third arrow read% i' a sle'der bamboo bow* He bowed* 8ael&)m stared( his ha'd still o' the steel shaft* +The arter% is i'ta&t(, the 'i'0a said* Case remembered 8oll%,s des&riptio' of the ma' who,d $illed her lover* Hideo was a'other* A-eless( he radiated a se'se of :)iet( a' )tter

&alm* He wore &lea'( fra%ed $ha$i wor$pa'ts a'd soft dar$ shoes that fit his feet li$e -loves( split at the toes li$e tabi so&$s* The bamboo bow was a m)se)m pie&e( b)t the bla&$ allo% :)iver that protr)ded above his left sho)lder had the loo$ of the best Chiba weapo's shops* His brow' &hest was bare a'd smooth* +!o) &)t m% th)mb( mo'( wi,B se&o',B o'e(, 8ael&)m said* +Coriolis for&e(, the 'i'0a said( bowi'- a-ai'* +8ost diffi&)lt( slow-movi'- pro0e&tile i' rotatio'al -ravit%* It was 'ot i'te'ded*, +7here,s >3a'e9, Case &rossed to sta'd beside 8ael&)m* He saw that the tip of the arrow i' the 'i'0a,s bow was li$e a do)ble-ed-ed ra4or* +7here,s 8oll%9, +Hello( Case*, Riviera &ame strolli'- o)t of the dar$ behi'd Hideo( 8oll%,s flet&her i' his ha'd* +I wo)ld have e1pe&ted Armita-e( somehow* Are we hiri'- help o)t of that Rasta &l)ster 'ow9, +Armita-e is dead*, +Armita-e 'ever e1isted( more to the poi't( b)t the 'ews hardl% &omes as a sho&$*, +7i'term)te $illed him* He,s i' orbit aro)'d the spi'dle*, Riviera 'odded( his lo'- -ra% e%es -la'&i'- from Case to 8ael&)m a'd ba&$* +I thi'$ it e'ds here( for %o)(, he said* +7here,s 8oll%9, The 'i'0a rela1ed his p)ll o' the fi'e( braided stri'-( loweri'- the bow* He &rossed the tiles to where the Remi'-to' la% a'd pi&$ed it )p* +This is witho)t s)btlet%(, he said( as if to himself* His voi&e was &ool a'd pleasa't* His ever% move was part of a da'&e( a da'&e that 'ever e'ded( eve' whe' his bod% was still( at rest( b)t for all the power it s)--ested( there was also a h)milit%( a' ope' simpli&it%* +It e'ds here for her( too(, Riviera said* +8a%be >3a'e wo',t -o for that( Peter(, Case said( )'&ertai' of the imp)lse* The derms still ra-ed i' his s%stem( the old fever starti'- to -rip him( Ni-ht Cit% &ra4i'ess* He remembered mome'ts of -ra&e( deali'- o)t o' the ed-e of thi'-s( where he,d fo)'d that he &o)ld sometimes tal$ faster tha' he &o)ld thi'$* The -ra% e%es 'arrowed* +7h%( Case9 7h% do %o) thi'$ that9,

Case smiled* Riviera did',t $'ow abo)t the simstim ri-* He,d missed it i' his h)rr% to fi'd the dr)-s she &arried for him* )t how &o)ld Hideo have missed it9 A'd Case was &ertai' the 'i'0a wo)ld 'ever have let >3a'e treat 8oll% witho)t first &he&$i'- her for $i'$s a'd &o'&ealed weapo's* No( he de&ided( the 'i'0a $'ew* So >3a'e wo)ld $'ow as well* +Tell me( Case(, Riviera said( raisi'- the pepperbo1 m)44le of the flet&her* Somethi'- &rea$ed( behi'd him( &rea$ed a-ai'* >3a'e p)shed 8oll% o)t of the shadows i' a' or'ate Ci&toria' bath&hair( its tall( spider% wheels s:)ea$i'- as the% t)r'ed* 8oll% was b)'dled deep i' a red a'd bla&$ striped bla'$et( the 'arrow( &a'ed ba&$ of the a'ti:)e &hair toweri'- above her* She loo$ed ver% small* ro$e'* A pat&h of brillia'tl% white mi&ropore &overed her dama-ed le's2 the other flashed emptil% as her head bobbed with the motio' of the &hair* +A familiar fa&e(, >3a'e said( +I saw %o) the 'i-ht of Peter,s show* A'd who is this9, +8ael&)m(, Case said* +Hideo( remove the arrow a'd ba'da-e 8r*B 8al&olm,s wo)'d*, Case was stari'- at 8oll%( at the wa' fa&e* The 'i'0a wal$ed to where 8ael&)m sat( pa)si'- to la% his bow a'd the shot-)' well o)t of rea&h( a'd too$ somethi'- from his po&$et* A pair of bolt &)tters* +I m)st &)t the shaft(, he said* +It is too 'ear the arter%*, 8ael&)m 'odded* His fa&e was -ra%ish a'd shee'ed with sweat* Case loo$ed at >3a'e* +There is',t m)&h time(, he said* +<or whom( e1a&tl%9, +<or a'% of )s*, There was a s'ap as Hideo &)t thro)-h the metal shaft of the arrow* 8ael&)m -roa'ed* +Reall%(, Riviera said( +it wo',t am)se %o) to hear this failed &o' artist ma$e a last desperate pit&h* 8ost distastef)l( I &a' ass)re %o)* He,ll wi'd )p o' his $'ees( offer to sell %o) his mother( perform the most bori'- se1)al favors***, >3a'e threw ba&$ her head a'd la)-hed* +7o)ld',t I( Peter9, +The -hosts are -o''a mi1 it to'i-ht( lad%(, Case said* +7i'term)te,s -oi'- )p a-ai'st the other o'e( Ne)roma'&er* <or $eeps* !o) $'ow that9,

>3a'e raised her e%ebrows* +Peter,s s)--ested somethi'- li$e that( b)t tell me more*, +I met Ne)roma'&er* He tal$ed abo)t %o)r mother* I thi'$ he,s somethi'- li$e a -ia't RO8 &o'str)&t( for re&ordi'- perso'alit%( o'l% it,s f)ll RA8* The &o'str)&ts thi'$ the%,re there( li$e it,s real( b)t it 0)st -oes o' forever*, >3a'e stepped from behi'd the bath&hair* +7here9 Des&ribe the pla&e( this &o'str)&t*, +A bea&h* ;ra% sa'd( li$e silver that 'eeds polishi'-* A'd a &o'&rete thi'-( $i'da b)'$er***, He hesitated* +It,s 'othi'- fa'&%* 3)st old( falli'- apart* If %o) wal$ far e'o)-h( %o) &ome ba&$ to where %o) started*, +!es(, she said* +8oro&&o* 7he' 8arie-<ra'&e was a -irl( %ears before she married Ashpool( she spe't a s)mmer alo'e o' that bea&h( &ampi'- i' a' aba'do'ed blo&$ho)se* She form)lated the basis of her philosoph% there*, Hideo strai-hte'ed( slippi'- the &)tters i'to his wor$pa'ts* He held a se&tio' of the arrow i' either ha'd* 8ael&)m had his e%es &losed( his ha'd &lapped ti-ht aro)'d his bi&ep* +I will ba'da-e it(, Hideo said* Case ma'a-ed to fall before Riviera &o)ld level the flet&her for a &lear shot* The darts whi'ed past his 'e&$ li$e s)perso'i& -'ats* He rolled( seei'- Hideo pivot thro)-h %et a'other step of his da'&e( the ra4ored poi't of the arrow reversed i' his ha'd( shaft flat alo'- palm a'd ri-id fi'-ers* He fli&$ed it )'derha'd( wrist bl)rri'-( i'to the ba&$ of Riviera,s ha'd* The flet&her str)&$ the tiles a meter awa%* Riviera s&reamed* )t 'ot i' pai'* It was a shrie$ of ra-e( so p)re( so refi'ed( that it la&$ed all h)ma'it%* Twi' ti-ht beams of li-ht( r)b% red 'eedles( stabbed from the re-io' of Riviera,s ster')m* The 'i'0a -r)'ted( reeled ba&$( ha'ds to his e%es( the' fo)'d his bala'&e* +Peter(, >3a'e said( +Peter( what have %o) do'e9, +He,s bli'ded %o)r &lo'e bo%(, 8oll% said flatl%* Hideo lowered his &)pped ha'ds* <ro4e' o' the white tile( Case saw whisps of steam drift from the r)i'ed e%es* Riviera smiled*

Hideo sw)'- i'to his da'&e( retra&i'- his steps* 7he' he stood above the bow( the arrow( a'd the Remi'-to'( Riviera,s smile had faded* He be't -bowi'-( it seemed to Case -a'd fo)'d the bow a'd arrow* +!o),re bli'd(, Riviera said( ta$i'- a step ba&$ward* +Peter(, >3a'e said( +do',t %o) $'ow he does it i' the dar$9 6e'* It,s the wa% he pra&ti&es*, The 'i'0a 'ot&hed his arrow* +7ill %o) distra&t me with %o)r holo-rams 'ow9, Riviera was ba&$i'- awa%( i'to the dar$ be%o'd the pool* He br)shed a-ai'st a white &hair2 its feet rattled o' the tile* Hideo,s arrow twit&hed* Riviera bro$e a'd ra'( throwi'- himself over a low( 0a--ed le'-th of wall* The 'i'0a,s fa&e was rapt( s)ff)sed with a :)iet e&stas%* Smili'-( he padded off i'to the shadows be%o'd the wall( his weapo' held read%* +3a'e-lad%(, 8ael&)m whispered( a'd Case t)r'ed( to see him s&oop the shot-)' from the tiles( blood spatteri'- the white &erami&* He shoo$ his lo&$s a'd la% the fat barrel i' the &roo$ of his wo)'ded arm* +This ta$e %o)r head off( 'o ab%lo' do&tor fi1 it*, >3a'e stared at the Remi'-to'* 8oll% freed her arms from the folds of the striped bla'$et( raisi'- the bla&$ sphere that e'&ased her ha'ds* +Off(, she said( +-et it off*, Case rose from the tiles( shoo$ himself* +Hideo,ll -et him( eve' bli'd9, he as$ed >3a'e* +7he' I was a &hild(, she said( +we loved to bli'dfold him* He p)t arrows thro)-h the pips i' pla%i'- &ards at te' meters*, +Peter,s -ood as dead a'%wa%(, 8oll% said* +I' a'other twelve ho)rs( he,ll start to free4e )p* 7o',t be able to move( his e%es is all*, +7h%9, Case t)r'ed to her* +I poiso'ed his shit for him(, she said* +Co'ditio',s li$e Par$i'so',s disease( sort of*, >3a'e 'odded* +!es* 7e ra' the )s)al medi&al s&a'( before he was admitted*, She to)&hed the ball i' a &ertai' wa% a'd it spra'- awa% from 8oll%,s ha'ds* +Sele&tive destr)&tio' of the &ells of the s)bsta'tia 'i-ra* Si-'s of the formatio' of a "ew% bod%* He sweats a -reat deal( i' his sleep*, +Ali(, 8oll% said( te' blades -litteri'-( e1posed for a' i'sta't* She t)--ed the bla'$et

awa% from her le-s( reveali'- the i'flated &ast* +It,s the meperidi'e* I had Ali ma$e me )p a &)stom bat&h* Speeded )p the rea&tio' times with hi-her temperat)res* N -meth%l@-phe'%l-1=>L(, she sa'-( li$e a &hild re&iti'- the steps of a sidewal$ -ame( +tetra-h%drop%ride'e*, +A hotshot(, Case said* +!eah(, 8oll% said( +a real slow hotshot*, +That,s appalli'-(, >3a'e said( a'd -i--led* It was &rowded i' the elevator* Case was 0ammed pelvis to pelvis with >3a'e( the m)44le of the Remi'-to' )'der her &hi'* She -ri''ed a'd -ro)'d a-ai'st him* +!o) stop(, he said( feeli'- helpless* He had the -)',s safet% o'( b)t he was terrified of i'0)ri'- her( a'd she $'ew it* The elevator was a steel &%li'der( )'der a meter i' diameter( i'te'ded for a si'-le passe'-er* 8ael&)m had 8oll% i' his arms* She,d ba'da-ed his wo)'d( b)t it obvio)sl% h)rt him to &arr% her* Her hip was pressi'- the de&$ a'd &o'str)&t i'to Case,s $id'e%s* The% rose o)t of -ravit%( toward the a1is( the &ores* The e'tra'&e to the elevator had bee' &o'&ealed beside the stairs to the &orridor( a'other to)&h i' >3a'e,s pirate &ave de&or* +I do',t s)ppose I sho)ld tell %o) this(, >3a'e said( &ra'i'- her head to allow her &hi' to &lear the m)44le of the -)'( +b)t I do',t have a $e% to the room %o) wa't* I 'ever have had o'e* O'e of m% father,s Ci&toria' aw$ward'esses* The lo&$ is me&ha'i&al a'd e1tremel% &omple1*, +Ch)bb lo&$(, 8oll% said( her voi&e m)ffled b% 8ael&)m,s sho)lder( +a'd we -ot the f)&$i'- $e%( 'o fear*, +That &hip of %o)rs still wor$i'-9, Case as$ed her* +It,s ei-ht twe't%-five( P8( ;ree'wi&h f)&$i'- 8ea'(, she said* +7e -ot five mi')tes(, Case said( as the door s'apped ope' behi'd >3a'e* She flipped ba&$ward i' a slow somersa)lt( the pale folds of her d0ellaba billowi'- aro)'d her thi-hs* The% were at the a1is( the &ore of Cilla Stra%li-ht*

=>

8oll% fished the $e% o)t o' its loop of '%lo'* +!o) $'ow(, >3a'e said( &ra'i'- forward with i'terest( +I was )'der the impressio' that 'o d)pli&ate e1isted* I se't Hideo to sear&h m% father,s thi'-s( after %o) $illed him* He &o)ld',t fi'd the ori-i'al*, +7i'term)te ma'a-ed to -et it st)&$ i' the ba&$ of a drawer(, 8oll% said( &aref)ll% i'serti'- the Ch)bb $e%,s &%li'dri&al shaft i'to the 'ot&hed ope'i'- i' the fa&e of the bla'$( re&ta'-)lar door* +He $illed the little $id who p)t it there*, The $e% rotated smoothl% whe' she tried it* +The head(, Case said( +there,s a pa'el i' the ba&$ of the head* 6ir&o's o' it* ;et it off* That,s where I,m 0a&$i'- i'*, A'd the' the% were i'side* +Christ o' a &r)t&h(, the <latli'e drawled( +%o) do believe i' ta$i',B %o)r ow' -ood time( do',t %o)( bo%9, +5)a'-,s read%9, +Hot to trot*, +O$a%*, He flipped* A'd fo)'d himself stari'- dow'( thro)-h 8oll%,s o'e -ood e%e( at a white-fa&ed( wasted fi-)re( afloat i' a loose fetal &ro)&h( a &%berspa&e de&$ betwee' its thi-hs( a ba'd of silver trodes above &losed( shadowed e%es* The ma',s &hee$s were hollowed with a da%,s -rowth of dar$ beard( his fa&e sli&$ with sweat* He was loo$i'- at himself* 8oll% had her flet&her i' her ha'd* Her le- throbbed with ea&h beat of her p)lse( b)t she &o)ld still ma'e)ver i' 4ero--* 8ael&)m drifted 'earb%( >3a'e,s thi' arm -ripped i' a lar-e brow' ha'd* A ribbo' of fiberopti&s looped -ra&ef)ll% from the O'o Se'dai to a s:)are ope'i'- i' the ba&$ of the pearl-&r)sted termi'al*

He tapped the swit&h a-ai'* +5)a'- ;rade 8ar$ Eleve' is ha)li',B ass i' 'i'e se&o'ds( &o)'ti',B( seve'( si1( five***, The <latli'e p)'&hed them )p( smooth as&e't( the ve'tral s)rfa&e of the bla&$ &hrome shar$ a mi&rose&o'd fli&$ of dar$'ess* +<o)r( three***, Case had the stra'-e impressio' of bei'- i' the pilot,s seat i' a small pla'e* A flat dar$ s)rfa&e i' fro't of him s)dde'l% -lowed with a perfe&t reprod)&tio' of the $e%board of his de&$* +Two( a',B $i&$ ass --, Headlo'- motio' thro)-h walls of emerald -ree'( mil$% 0ade( the se'satio' of speed be%o'd a'%thi'- he,d $'ow' before i' &%berspa&e*** The Tessier-Ashpool i&e shattered( peeli'- awa% from the Chi'ese pro-ram,s thr)st( a worr%i'- impressio' of solid fl)idit%( as tho)-h the shards of a bro$e' mirror be't a'd elo'-ated as the% fell -+Christ(, Case said( awestr)&$( as 5)a'- twisted a'd ba'$ed above the hori4o'less fields of the Tessier-Ashpool &ores( a' e'dless 'eo' &it%s&ape( &omple1it% that &)t the e%e( 0ewel bri-ht( sharp as ra4ors* +He%( shit(, the &o'str)&t said( +those thi'-s are the RCA )ildi'-* !o) $'ow the old RCA )ildi'-9, The 5)a'- pro-ram dived past the -leami'- spires of a do4e' ide'ti&al towers of data( ea&h o'e a bl)e 'eo' repli&a of the 8a'hatta' s$%s&raper* +!o) ever see resol)tio' this hi-h9, Case as$ed* +No( b)t I 'ever &ra&$ed a' AI( either*, +This thi'- $'ow where it,s -oi'-9, +It better*, The% were droppi'-( losi'- altit)de i' a &a'%o' of rai'bow 'eo'* +Di1 --, A' arm of shadow was )'&oili'- from the fli&$eri'- floor below( a seethi'- mass of dar$'ess( )'formed( shapeless***

+Compa'%(, the <latli'e said( as Case hit the represe'tatio' of his de&$( fi'-ers fl%i'a)tomati&all% a&ross the board* The 5)a'- swerved si&$e'i'-l%( the' reversed( whippi'- itself ba&$ward( shatteri'- the ill)sio' of a ph%si&al vehi&le* The shadow thi'- was -rowi'-( spreadi'-( blotti'- o)t the &it% of data* Case too$ them strai-ht )p( above them the dista'&eless bowl of 0ade--ree' i&e* The &it% of the &ores was -o'e 'ow( obs&)red e'tirel% b% the dar$ be'eath them* +7hat is it9, +A' AI,s defe'se s%stem(, the &o'str)&t said( +or part of it* If it,s %o)r pal 7i'term)te( he,s 'ot loo$i',B real frie'dl%*, +Ta$e it(, Case said* +!o),re faster*, +Now %o)r best de -fe'se( bo%( it,s a -ood off -fe'se*, A'd the <latli'e ali-'ed the 'ose of 5)a'-,s sti'- with the &e'ter of the dar$ below* A'd dove* Case,s se'sor% i'p)t warped with their velo&it%* His mo)th filled with a' a&hi'- taste of bl)e* His e%es were e--s of )'stable &r%stal( vibrati'- with a fre:)e'&% whose 'ame was rai' a'd the so)'d of trai's( s)dde'l% spro)ti'- a h)mmi'- forest of hair-fi'e -lass spi'es* The spi'es split( bise&ted( split a-ai'( e1po'e'tial -rowth )'der the dome of the TessierAshpool i&e* The roof of his mo)th &leaved pai'lessl%( admitti'- rootlets that whipped aro)'d his to'-)e( h)'-r% for the taste of bl)e( to feed the &r%stal forests of his e%es( forests that pressed a-ai'st the -ree' dome( pressed a'd were hi'dered( a'd spread( -rowi'- dow'( filli'- the )'iverse of T-A( dow' i'to the waiti'-( hapless s)b)rbs of the &it% that was the mi'd of Tessier Ashpool S*A* A'd he was rememberi'- a' a'&ie't stor%( a $i'- pla&i'- &oi's o' a &hessboard( do)bli'- the amo)'t at ea&h s:)are*** E1po'e'tial*** Dar$'ess fell i' from ever% side( a sphere of si'-i'- bla&$( press)re o' the e1te'ded &r%stal 'erves of the )'iverse of data he had 'earl% be&ome***

A'd whe' he was 'othi'-( &ompressed at the heart of all that dar$( there &ame a poi't where the dar$ &o)ld be 'o more( a'd somethi'- tore* The 5)a'- pro-ram sp)rted from tar'ished &lo)d( Case,s &o's&io)s'ess divided li$e beads of mer&)r% ar&i'- above a' e'dless bea&h the &olor of the dar$ silver &lo)ds* His visio' was spheri&al( as tho)-h a si'-le reti'a li'ed the i''er s)rfa&e of a -lobe that &o'tai'ed all thi'-s( if all thi'-s &o)ld be &o)'ted* A'd here thi'-s &o)ld be &o)'ted( ea&h o'e* He $'ew the ')mber of -rai's of sa'd i' the &o'str)&t of the bea&h Na ')mber &oded i' a mathemati&al s%stem that e1isted 'owhere o)tside the mi'd that was Ne)roma'&erO* He $'ew the ')mber of %ellow food pa&$ets i' the &a'isters i' the b)'$er Nfo)r h)'dred a'd seve'O* He $'ew the ')mber of brass teeth i' the left half of the ope' 4ipper of the salt-&r)sted leather 0a&$et that "i'da "ee wore as she tr)d-ed alo'- the s)'set bea&h( swi'-i'- a sti&$ of driftwood i' her ha'd Ntwo h)'dred a'd twoO* He ba'$ed 5)a'- above the bea&h a'd sw)'- the pro-ram i' a wide &ir&le( seei'- the bla&$ shar$ thi'- thro)-h her e%es( a sile't -host h)'-r% a-ai'st the ba'$s of loweri'&lo)d* She &ri'-ed( droppi'- her sti&$( a'd ra'* He $'ew the rate of her p)lse( the le'-th of her stride i' meas)reme'ts that wo)ld have satisfied the most e1a&ti'- sta'dards of -eoph%si&s* + )t %o) do 'ot $'ow her tho)-hts(, the bo% said( beside him 'ow i' the shar$ thi'-,s heart* +I do 'ot $'ow her tho)-hts* !o) were wro'-( Case* To live here is to live* There is 'o differe'&e*, "i'da i' her pa'i&( pl)'-i'- bli'd thro)-h the s)rf* +Stop her(, he said( +she,ll h)rt herself*, +I &a',t stop her(, the bo% said( his -ra% e%es mild a'd bea)tif)l* +!o),ve -ot Riviera,s e%es(, Case said* There was a flash of white teeth( lo'- pi'$ -)ms* + )t 'ot his &ra4i'ess* e&a)se the% are bea)tif)l to me*, He shr)--ed* +I 'eed 'o mas$ to spea$ with %o)* #'li$e m% brother* I &reate m% ow' perso'alit%* Perso'alit% is m% medi)m*, Case too$ them )p( a steep &limb( awa% from the bea&h a'd the fri-hte'ed -irl* +7h%,d %o) throw her )p to me( %o) little pri&$9 Over a'd f)&$i'- over( a'd t)r'i'- me aro)'d* !o) $illed her( h)h9 I' Chiba*, +No(, the bo% said*

+7i'term)te9, +No* I saw her death &omi'-* I' the patter's %o) sometimes ima-i'ed %o) &o)ld dete&t i' the da'&e of the street* Those patter's are real* I am &omple1 e'o)-h( i' m% 'arrow wa%s( to read those da'&es* <ar better tha' 7i'term)te &a'* I saw her death i' her 'eed for %o)( i' the ma-'eti& &ode of the lo&$ o' the door of %o)r &offi' i' Cheap Hotel( i' 3)lie Dea'e,s a&&o)'t with a Ho'-$o'- shirtma$er* As &lear to me as the shadow of a t)mor to a s)r-eo' st)d%i'- a patie't,s s&a'* 7he' she too$ %o)r Hita&hi to her bo%( to tr% to a&&ess it -she had 'o idea what it &arried( still less how she mi-ht sell it( a'd her deepest wish was that %o) wo)ld p)rs)e a'd p)'ish her -I i'terve'ed* 8% methods are far more s)btle tha' 7i'term)te,s* I bro)-ht her here* I'to m%self*, +7h%9, +Hopi'- I &o)ld bri'- %o) here as well( $eep %o) here* )t I failed*, +So what 'ow9, He sw)'- them ba&$ i'to the ba'$ of &lo)d* +7here do we -o from here9, +I do',t $'ow( Case* To'i-ht the ver% matri1 as$s itself that :)estio'* e&a)se %o) have wo'* !o) have alread% wo'( do',t %o) see9 !o) wo' whe' %o) wal$ed awa% from her o' the bea&h* She was m% last li'e of defe'se* I die soo'( i' o'e se'se* As does 7i'term)te* As s)rel% as Riviera does( 'ow( as he lies paral%4ed beside the st)mp of a wall i' the apartme'ts of m% "ad% >3a'e 8arie-<ra'&e( his 'i-ra-striatal s%stem )'able to prod)&e the dopami'e re&eptors that &o)ld save him from Hideo,s arrow* )t Riviera will s)rvive o'l% as these e%es( if I am allowed to $eep them*, +There,s the word( ri-ht9 The &ode* So how,ve I wo'9 I,ve wo' 0a&$ shit*, +<lip 'ow*, +7here,s Di1ie9 7hat have %o) do'e with the <latli'e9, +8&Co% Pa)le% has his wish(, the bo% said( a'd smiled* +His wish a'd more* He p)'&hed %o) here a-ai'st m% wish( drove himself thro)-h defe'ses e:)al to a'%thi'- i' the matri1* Now flip*, A'd Case was alo'e i' 5)a'-,s bla&$ sti'-( lost i' &lo)d* He flipped* I'to 8oll%,s te'sio'( her ba&$ li$e ro&$( her ha'ds aro)'d >3a'e,s throat* +<)''%(, she said( +I $'ow e1a&tl% what %o),d loo$ li$e* I saw it after Ashpool did the same thi'- to

%o)r &lo'e sister*, Her ha'ds were -e'tle( almost a &aress* >3a'e,s e%es were wide with terror a'd l)st2 she was shiveri'- with fear a'd lo'-i'-* e%o'd the freefall ta'-le of >3a'e,s hair( Case saw his ow' strai'ed white fa&e( 8ael&)m behi'd him( brow' ha'ds o' the leather-0a&$eted sho)lders( stead%i'- him above the &arpet,s patter' of wove' &ir&)itr%* +7o)ld %o)9, >3a'e as$ed( her voi&e a &hild,s* +I thi'$ %o) wo)ld*, +The &ode(, 8oll% said* +Tell the head the &ode*, 3a&$i'- o)t* +She wa'ts it(, he s&reamed( +the bit&h wa'ts itE, He ope'ed his e%es to the &ool r)b% stare of the termi'al( its plati')m fa&e &r)sted with pearl a'd lapis* e%o'd it( 8oll% a'd >3a'e twisted i' a slow motio' embra&e* +;ive )s the f)&$i'- &ode(, he said* +If %o) do',t( what,ll &ha'-e9 7hat,ll ever f)&$i'&ha'-e for %o)9 !o),ll wi'd )p li$e the old ma'* !o),ll tear it all dow' a'd start b)ildi'a-ai'E !o),ll b)ild the walls ba&$( ti-hter a'd ti-hter*** I -ot 'o idea at all what,ll happe' if 7i'term)te wi's( b)t it,ll &ha'-e somethi'-E, He was sha$i'-( his teeth &hatteri'-* >3a'e we't limp( 8oll%,s ha'ds still aro)'d her sle'der throat( her dar$ hair drifti'-( ta'-led( a soft brow' &a)l* +The D)&al Pala&e at 8a't)a(, she said( +&o'tai's a series of i'&reasi'-l% smaller rooms* The% twi'e aro)'d the -ra'd apartme'ts( be%o'd bea)tif)ll% &arved doorframes o'e stoops to e'ter* The% ho)sed the &o)rt dwarfs*, She smiled wa'l%* +I mi-ht aspire to that( I s)ppose( b)t i' a se'se m% famil% has alread% a&&omplished a -ra'der versio' of the same s&heme***, Her e%es were &alm 'ow( dista't* The' she -a4ed dow' at Case* +Ta$e %o)r word( thief*, He 0a&$ed* 5)a'- slid o)t of the &lo)ds* elow him( the 'eo' &it%* ehi'd him( a sphere of dar$'ess dwi'dled* +Di1ie9 !o) here( ma'9 !o) hear me9 Di1ie9, He was alo'e* +<)&$er -ot %o)(, he said* li'd mome't)m as he h)rtled a&ross the i'fi'ite datas&ape*

+!o) -otta hate somebod% before this is over(, said the <i'',s voi&e* +Them( me( it does',t matter*, +7here,s Di1ie9, +That,s $i'da hard to e1plai'( Case*, A se'se of the <i'',s prese'&e s)rro)'ded him( smell of C)ba' &i-arettes( smo$e lo&$ed i' m)st% tweed( old ma&hi'es -ive' )p to the mi'eral rit)als of r)st* +Hate,ll -et %o) thro)-h(, the voi&e said* +So ma'% little tri--ers i' the brai'( a'd %o) 0)st -o %a'$i',B ,em all* Now %o) -otta hate* The lo&$ that s&ree's the hardwiri'-( it,s dow' )'der those towers the <latli'e showed %o)( whe' %o) &ame i'* He wo',t tr% to stop %o)*, +Ne)roma'&er(, Case said* +His 'ame,s 'ot somethi'- I &a' $'ow* )t he,s -ive' )p( 'ow* It,s the T-A i&e %o) -otta worr% abo)t* Not the wall( b)t i'ter'al vir)s s%stems* 5)a'-,s wide ope' to some of the st)ff the% -ot r)''i'- loose i' here*, +Hate(, Case said* +7ho do I hate9 !o) tell me*, +7ho do %o) love9, the <i'',s voi&e as$ed* He whipped the pro-ram thro)-h a t)r' a'd dived for the bl)e towers* Thi'-s were la)'&hi'- themselves from the or'ate s)'b)rst spires( -litteri'- lee&h shapes made of shifti'- pla'es of li-ht* There were h)'dreds of them( risi'- i' a whirl( their moveme'ts ra'dom as wi'dblow' paper dow' daw' streets* +;lit&h s%stems(, the voi&e said* He &ame i' steep( f)eled b% self-loathi'-* 7he' the 5)a'- pro-ram met the first of the defe'ders( s&atteri'- the leaves of li-ht( he felt the shar$ thi'- lose a de-ree of s)bsta'tialit%( the fabri& of i'formatio' loose'i'-* A'd the' -old al&hem% of the brai' a'd its vast pharma&% -his hate flowed i'to his ha'ds* I' the i'sta't before he drove 5)a'-,s sti'- thro)-h the base of the first tower( he attai'ed a level of profi&ie'&% e1&eedi'- a'%thi'- he,d $'ow' or ima-i'ed* e%o'd e-o( be%o'd perso'alit%( be%o'd aware'ess( he moved( 5)a'- movi'- with him( evadi'- his atta&$ers with a' a'&ie't da'&e( Hideo,s da'&e( -ra&e of the mi'd-bod% i'terfa&e -ra'ted

him( i' that se&o'd( b% the &larit% a'd si'-le'ess of his wish to die* A'd o'e step i' that da'&e was the li-htest to)&h o' the swit&h( barel% e'o)-h to flip -'ow a'd his voi&e the &r% of a bird )'$'ow'( >3a'e a'sweri'- i' so'-( three 'otes( hi-h a'd p)re* A tr)e 'ame* Neo' forest( rai' si44li'- a&ross hot paveme't* The smell of fr%i'- food* A -irl,s ha'ds lo&$ed a&ross the small of his ba&$( i' the sweati'- dar$'ess of a portside &offi'* )t all of this re&edi'-( as the &it%s&ape re&edesA &it% as Chiba( as the ra'$ed data of Tessier-Ashpool S*A*( as the roads a'd &rossroads s&ribed o' the fa&e of a mi&ro&hip( the sweatstai'ed patter' o' a folded( $'otted s&arf*** 7a$i'- to a voi&e that was m)si&( the plati')m termi'al pipi'- melodi&all%( e'dlessl%( spea$i'- of ')mbered Swiss a&&o)'ts( of pa%me't to be made to 6io' via a ahamia' orbital ba'$( of passports a'd passa-es( a'd of deep a'd basi& &ha'-es to be effe&ted i' the memor% of T)ri'-* T)ri'-* He remembered ste'&iled flesh be'eath a pro0e&ted s$%( sp)' be%o'd a' iro' raili'-* He remembered Desiderata Street* A'd the voi&e sa'- o'( pipi'- him ba&$ i'to the dar$( b)t it was his ow' dar$'ess( p)lse a'd blood( the o'e where he,d alwa%s slept( behi'd his e%es a'd 'o other,s* A'd he wo$e a-ai'( thi'$i'- he dreamed( to a wide white smile framed with -old i'&isors( Aerol strappi'- him i'to a --web i' ab%lo' Ro&$er* A'd the' the lo'- p)lse of 6io' d)b*

CODA

DEPART#RE AND ARRICA"

=@

She was -o'e* He felt it whe' he ope'ed the door of their s)ite at the H%att* la&$ f)to's( the pi'e floor polished to a d)ll -loss( the paper s&ree's arra'-ed with a &are bred over &e't)ries* She was -o'e* There was a 'ote o' the bla&$ la&:)er bar &abi'et beside the door( a si'-le sheet of statio'er%( folded o'&e( wei-hted with the sh)ri$e'* He slid it from be'eath the 'i'epoi'ted star a'd ope'ed it* HE! ITS O5A! #T ITS TA5IN; THE ED;E O<< 8! ;A8E( I PAID THE I"" A"READ!* ITS THE 7A! I8 7IRED I ;#ESS( 7ATCH !O#R ASS O5A!9 DDD 8O""! He &r)mpled the paper i'to a ball a'd dropped it beside the sh)ri$e'* He pi&$ed the star )p a'd wal$ed to the wi'dow( t)r'i'- it i' his ha'ds* He,d fo)'d it i' the po&$et of his 0a&$et( i' 6io'( whe' the% were prepari'- to leave for the 3A" statio'* He loo$ed dow' at it* The%,d passed the shop where she,d bo)-ht it for him( whe' the%,d -o'e to Chiba to-ether for the last of her operatio's* He,d -o'e to the Chats)bo that 'i-ht( while she was i' the &li'i&( a'd see' Rat4* Somethi'- had $ept him awa% from the pla&e( o' their five previo)s trips( b)t 'ow he,d felt li$e -oi'- ba&$* Rat4 had served him witho)t the sli-htest -limmer of re&o-'itio'* +He%(, he,d said( +it,s me* Case*, The old e%es re-ardi'- him o)t of their dar$ webs of wri'$led flesh* +Ah(, Rat4 had said( at last( +the artiste*, The barte'der shr)--ed* +I &ame ba&$*, The ma' shoo$ his massive( st)bbled head* +Ni-ht Cit% is 'ot a pla&e o'e ret)r's to( artiste(, he said( swabbi'- the bar i' fro't of Case with a filth% &loth( the pi'$ ma'ip)lator whi'i'-* A'd the' he,d t)r'ed to serve a'other &)stomer( a'd Case had fi'ished his beer a'd left* Now he to)&hed the poi'ts of the sh)ri$e'( o'e at a time( rotati'- it slowl% i' his

fi'-ers* Stars* Desti'%* I 'ever eve' )sed the -oddam thi'-( he tho)-ht* I 'ever eve' fo)'d o)t what &olor her e%es were* She 'ever showed me* 7i'term)te had wo'( had meshed somehow with Ne)roma'&er a'd be&ome somethi'else( somethi'- that had spo$e' to them from the plati')m head( e1plai'i'- that it had altered the T)ri'- re&ords( erasi'- all evide'&e of their &rime* The passports Armita-e had provided were valid( a'd the% were both &redited with lar-e amo)'ts i' ')mbered ;e'eva a&&o)'ts* 8ar&)s ;arve% wo)ld be ret)r'ed eve't)all%( a'd 8ael&)m a'd Aerol -ive' mo'e% thro)-h the ahamia' ba'$ that dealt with 6io' &l)ster* O' the wa% ba&$( i' ab%lo' Ro&$er( 8oll% had e1plai'ed what the voi&e had told her abo)t the to1i' sa&s* +Said it was ta$e' &are of* "i$e it -ot so deep i'to %o)r head( it made %o)r brai' ma')fa&t)re the e'4%me( so the%,re loose( 'ow* The 6io'ites,ll -ive %o) a blood &ha'-e( &omplete fl)sh o)t*, He stared dow' i'to the Imperial ;arde's( the star i' his ha'd( rememberi'- his flash of &omprehe'sio' as the 5)a'- pro-ram had pe'etrated the i&e be'eath the towers( his si'-le -limpse of the str)&t)re of i'formatio' >3a'e,s dead mother had evolved there* He,d )'derstood the' wh% 7i'term)te had &hose' the 'est to represe't it( b)t he,d felt 'o rev)lsio'* She,d see' thro)-h the sham immortalit% of &r%o-e'i&s2 )'li$e Ashpool a'd their other &hildre' -aside from >3a'e -she,d ref)sed to stret&h her time i'to a series of warm bli'$s str)'- alo'- a &hai' of wi'ter* 7i'term)te was hive mi'd( de&isio' ma$er( effe&ti'- &ha'-e i' the world o)tside* Ne)roma'&er was perso'alit%* Ne)roma'&er was immortalit%* 8arie-<ra'&e m)st have b)ilt somethi'- i'to 7i'term)te( the &omp)lsio' that had drive' the thi'- to free itself( to )'ite with Ne)roma'&er* 7i'term)te* Cold a'd sile'&e( a &%ber'eti& spider slowl% spi''i'- webs while Ashpool slept* Spi''i'- his death( the fall of his versio' of Tessier-Ashpool* A -host( whisperi'to a &hild who was >3a'e( twisti'- her o)t of the ri-id ali-'me'ts her ra'$ re:)ired* +She did',t seem to m)&h -ive a shit(, 8oll% had said* +3)st waved -oodb%e* Had that little ra)' o' her sho)lder* Thi'- had a bro$e' le-( it loo$ed li$e* Said she had to -o a'd meet o'e of her brothers( she had',t see' him i' a while*, He remembered 8oll% o' the bla&$ temperfoam of the vast H%att bed* He we't ba&$ to the bar &abi'et a'd too$ a flas$ of &hilled Da'ish vod$a from the ra&$ i'side* +Case*,

He t)r'ed( &old sli&$ -lass i' o'e ha'd( steel of the sh)ri$e' i' the other* The <i'',s fa&e o' the room,s e'ormo)s Cra% wall s&ree'* He &o)ld see the pores i' the ma',s 'ose* The %ellow teeth were the si4e of pillows* +I,m 'ot 7i'term)te 'ow*, +So what are %o)*, He dra'$ from the flas$( feeli'- 'othi'-* +I,m the matri1( Case*, Case la)-hed* +7here,s that -et %o)9, +Nowhere* Ever%where* I,m the s)m total of the wor$s( the whole show*, +That what >3a'e,s mother wa'ted9, +No* She &o)ld',t ima-i'e what I,d be li$e*, The %ellow smile wide'ed* +So what,s the s&ore9 How are thi'-s differe't9 !o) r)''i'- the world 'ow9 !o) ;od9, +Thi'-s are',t differe't* Thi'-s are thi'-s*, + )t what do %o) do9 !o) 0)st there9, Case shr)--ed( p)t the vod$a a'd the sh)ri$e' dow' o' the &abi'et a'd lit a !ehe%)a'* +I tal$ to m% ow' $i'd*, + )t %o),re the whole thi'-* Tal$ to %o)rself9, +There,s others* I fo)'d o'e alread%* Series of tra'smissio's re&orded over a period of ei-ht %ears( i' the 'i'etee'-seve'ties* ,Til there was me( 'at&h( there was 'obod% to $'ow( 'obod% to a'swer*, +<rom where9, +Ce'ta)ri s%stem*, +Oh(, Case said* +!eah9 No shit9, +No shit*, A'd the' the s&ree' was bla'$*

He left the vod$a o' the &abi'et* He pa&$ed his thi'-s* She,d bo)-ht him a lot of &lothes he did',t reall% 'eed( b)t somethi'- $ept him from 0)st leavi'- them there* He was &losi'- the last of the e1pe'sive &alfs$i' ba-s whe' he remembered the sh)ri$e'* P)shi'- the flas$ aside( he pi&$ed it )p( her first -ift* +No(, he said( a'd sp)'( the star leavi'- his fi'-ers( flash of silver( to b)r% itself i' the fa&e of the wall s&ree'* The s&ree' wo$e( ra'dom patter's fli&$eri'- feebl% from side to side( as tho)-h it were tr%i'- to rid itself of somethi'- that &a)sed it pai'* +I do',t 'eed %o)(, he said* He spe't the b)l$ of his Swiss a&&o)'t o' a 'ew pa'&reas a'd liver( the rest o' a 'ew O'o-Se'dai a'd a ti&$et ba&$ to the Sprawl* He fo)'d wor$* He fo)'d a -irl who &alled herself 8i&hael* A'd o'e O&tober 'i-ht( p)'&hi'- himself past the s&arlet tiers of the Easter' Seaboard <issio' A)thorit%( he saw three fi-)res( ti'%( impossible( who stood at the ver% ed-e of o'e of the vast steps of data* Small as the% were( he &o)ld ma$e o)t the bo%,s -ri'( his pi'$ -)ms( the -litter of the lo'- -ra% e%es that had bee' Riviera,s* "i'da still wore his 0a&$et2 she waved( as he passed* )t the third fi-)re( &lose behi'd her( arm a&ross her sho)lders( was himself* Somewhere( ver% &lose( the la)-h that was',t la)-hter* He 'ever saw 8oll% a-ai'*

Ca'&o)ver 3)l% 1FM>

8! THAN5S to r)&e Sterli'-( to "ewis Shi'er( to 3oh' Shirle%( Helde'* A'd to Tom 8addo1( the i've'tor of ICE* A'd to the others( who $'ow wh%*

1* Cities -rowi'- i'to other &ities( where 'o &e'ter is re&o-'i4ible*

=* Cheap mi'iat)rised hotel rooms i' 3apa'*

>* Soft s%'theti& filli'- material*

@* Heart of Ni-ht Cit%( To$%o*

K* Nerve to1i'*

L* H)-e( self-&o'tai'ed &ities e'&losed i' a si'-le b)ildi'- with a b)ilt e'viro'me't( ima-i'ed b% Paolo Soleri2 'eolo-ism from e&olo-ie G ar&hite&t)re*

H* De1edri'e( a form of amphetami'e*

M* Dr)-*

F* Chi'ese &i-arettes*

1J* Pla%erIRe&ordes of the whole se'sori)m of a perso'* Similiar to te&h'olo-% i' H)1le%,s , rave New 7orld, a'd Philip 5* Di&$,s 'ovels* I' the Sprawl series f)t)re it is as pop)lar as televisio' is toda%( there is all $i'ds of differe't pro-rams( people -et addi&ted from simstim* It &a' also be broad&asted live thro)-h a broad&ast ri-*

11* <le&hette pistol( arrow spitti'- pistol with paral%si'- or poiso'i'- f)'&tio'*

1=* Ori-i'al term for 3apa',s famil%-&orporatio's before 77II( whi&h are 'ow $'ow' as ,$eirets),* I' the Sprawl world the term des&ribes m)lti'atio'al &orporatio's*

1>* Dome str)&t)re developed b% )&$mi'ster <)ller( a philosopher( mathemati&ia'( e'-i'eer( historia' a'd poet( i' the 1F@Jies a'd KJies whi&h is re&o-'i4ed to be the most e'er-%-effi&ie't b)ildi'- s%stem*

1@* S$i' i'terfa&es for &%berspa&e &o'soles*

1K* A small &hip whi&h &a' be i'serted i'to a so&$et behi'd the ear a'd allows &ertai' s$ills( for e1ample fl%i'- a pla'e( fl)e'&% i' la'-)a-es et&*

1L* I'ter'atio'al poli&e whi&h mo'itors the i'telli-e'&e levels of AIs* Named after Ala' T)ri'-( a pio'eer theoreti&ia' of ma&hi'e i'telli-e'&e( who said that a &omp)ter bei'able to &o'versate with a h)ma' for a &ertai' time wo)ld be i'telli-e't*

1H* Eletroma-'eti& p)lse weapo's that se'd a stro'- ele&troma-'eti& b)rst whi&h destro%s the &ir&)its i' ele&tro'i&al e:)ipme't a'd re'ders it )seless*

1M* 7i4Iwhi4 Dr)-( &r%stal form*

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