William Gibson. Neuromancer

                           for Deb
                     who made it possible
                          with love


The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned
to a dead channel.
"It's not like I'm using," Case heard someone say, as he
shouldered his way through the crowd around the door of the
Chat. "It's like my body's developed this massive drug deficiency."
It was a Sprawl voice and a Sprawl joke. The Chatsubo
was a bar for professional expatriates; you could drink there
for a week and never hear two words in Japanese.
Ratz was tending bar, his prosthetic arm jerking monotonously
as he filled a tray of glasses with draft Kirin. He saw
Case and smiled, his teeth a web work of East European steel
and brown decay. Case found a place at the bar, between the
unlikely tan on one of Lonny Zone's whores and the crisp naval
uniform of a tall African whose cheekbones were ridged with
Joe boys," Ratz said, shoving a draft across the bar with his
good hand. "Maybe some business with you, Case?"
Case shrugged. The girl to his right giggled and nudged

The bartender's smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff
of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something
heraldic about his lack of it. The antique arm whined as he
reached for another mug. It was a Russian military prosthesis,
a seven-function force-feedback manipulator, cased in grubby
pink plastic. "You are too much the artiste, Herr Case." Ratz
grunted; the sound served him as laughter. He scratched his
overhang of white-shirted belly with the pink claw. "You are
the artiste of the slightly funny deal."
"Sure," Case said, and sipped his beer. "Somebody's gotta
be funny around here. Sure the fuck isn't you."
The whore's giggle went up an octave.
"Isn't you either, sister. So you vanish, okay? Zone, he's
a close personal friend of mine."
She looked Case in the eye and made the softest possible
spitting sound, her lips barely moving. But she left.
"Jesus," Case said, "what kind a creep joint you running here?
Man can't have a drink."
"Ha," Ratz said, swabbing the scarred wood with a rag,
"Zone shows a percentage. You I let work here for entertainment
As Case was picking up his beer, one of those strange
instants of silence descended, as though a hundred unrelated
conversations had simultaneously arrived at the same pause.
Then the whore's giggle rang out, tinged with a certain hysteria.
Ratz grunted. "An angel passed."
"The Chinese," bellowed a drunken Australian, "Chinese
bloody invented nerve-splicing. Give me the mainland for a
nerve job any day. Fix you right, mate...."
"Now that," Case said to his glass, all his bitterness suddenly
rising in him like bile, "that is so much bullshit."

The Japanese had already forgotten more neurosurgery than
the Chinese had ever known. The black clinics of Chiba were
the cutting edge, whole bodies of technique supplanted monthly,
and still they couldn't repair the damage he'd suffered in that
Memphis hotel.
A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading
nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he'd taken and the
corners he'd cut in Night City, and still he'd see the matrix in
his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless
void.... The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the
Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy.
Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the
dreams came on in the Japanese night like live wire voodoo
and he'd cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the
dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands
clawed into the bedslab, temper foam bunched between his fingers,
trying to reach the console that wasn't there.

"I saw your girl last night," Ratz said, passing Case his
second Kirin.
"I don't have one," he said, and drank.
"Miss Linda Lee."
Case shook his head.
"No girl? Nothing? Only biz, friend artiste? Dedication to
commerce?" The bartender's small brown eyes were nested
deep in wrinkled flesh. "I think I liked you better, with her.
You laughed more. Now, some night, you get maybe too artistic,
you wind up in the clinic tanks, spare parts."
"You're breaking my heart, Ratz." He finished his beer,
paid and left, high narrow shoulders hunched beneath the rain-stained
khaki nylon of his windbreaker. Threading his way
through the Ninsei crowds, he could smell his own stale sweat.
Case was twenty-four. At twenty-two, he'd been a cowboy
a rustler, one of the best in the Sprawl. He'd been trained by
the best, by McCoy Pauley and Bobby Quine, legends in the
biz. He'd operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a
byproduct of youth and proficiency, jacked into a custom cyberspace
deck that projected his disembodied consciousness
into the con sensual hallucination that was the matrix. A thief
he'd worked for other, wealthier thieves, employers who provided
the exotic software required to penetrate the bright walls
of corporate systems, opening windows into rich fields of data.
He'd made the classic mistake, the one he'd sworn he'd
never make. He stole from his employers. He kept something
for himself and tried to move it through a fence in Amsterdam.
He still wasn't sure how he'd been discovered, not that it
mattered now. He'd expected to die, then, but they only smiled.

Of course he was welcome, they told him, welcome to the
money. And he was going to need it. Because--still smiling--
they were going to make sure he never worked again.
They damaged his nervous system with a wartime Russian
Strapped to a bed in a Memphis hotel, his talent burning
out micron by micron, he hallucinated for thirty hours.
The damage was minute, subtle, and utterly effective.
For Case, who'd lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace,
it was the Fall. In the bars he'd frequented as a cowboy
hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt
for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of
his own flesh.

His total assets were quickly converted to New Yen, a fat
sheaf of the old paper currency that circulated endlessly through
the closed circuit of the world's black markets like the seashells
of the Trobriand islanders. It was difficult to transact legitimate
business with cash in the Sprawl; in Japan, it was already
In Japan, he'd known with a clenched and absolute certainty,
he'd find his cure. In Chiba. Either in a registered clinic or in
the shadow land of black medicine. Synonymous with implants,
nerve-splicing, and micro bionics, Chiba was a magnet for the
Sprawl's techno-criminal subcultures.
In Chiba, he'd watched his New Yen vanish in a two-month
round of examinations and consultations. The men in the black
clinics, his last hope, had admired the expertise with which
he'd been maimed, and then slowly shaken their heads.
Now he slept in the cheapest coffins, the ones nearest the
port, beneath the quartz-halogen floods that lit the docks all
night like vast stages; where you couldn't see the lights of
Tokyo for the glare of the television sky, not even the towering
hologram logo of the Fuji Electric Company, and Tokyo Bay
was a black expanse where gulls wheeled above drifting shoals
of white styrofoam. Behind the port lay the city, factory domes
dominated by the vast cubes of corporate arcologies. Port and
city were divided by a narrow borderland of older streets, an
area with no official name. Night City, with Ninsei its heart.
By day, the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless,
the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting, under the poisoned
silver sky.

Two blocks west of the Chat, in a teashop called the Jarre
de The, Case washed down the night's first pill with a double
espresso. It was a flat pink octagon, a potent species of Brazilian
dex he bought from one of Zone's girls.
The Jarre was walled with mirrors, each panel framed in
red neon.
At first, finding himself alone in Chiba, with little money
and less hope of finding a cure, he'd gone into a kind of terminal
overdrive, hustling fresh capital with a cold intensity that had
seemed to belong to someone else. In the first month, he'd
killed two men and a woman over sums that a year before
would have seemed ludicrous. Ninsei wore him down until the
street itself came to seem the externalization of some death
wish, some secret poison he hadn't known he carried.
Night City was like a deranged experiment in social Darwinism,
designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb
permanently on the fast-forward button. Stop hustling and you
sank without a trace, but move a little too swiftly and you'd
break the fragile surface tension of the black market; either
way, you were gone, with nothing left of you but some vague
memory in the mind of a fixture like Ratz, though heart or
lungs or kidneys might survive in the service of some stranger
with New Yen for the clinic tanks.
Biz here was a constant subliminal hum, and death the
accepted punishment for laziness, carelessness, lack of grace,
the failure to heed the demands of an intricate protocol.
Alone at a table in the Jarre de The, with the octagon coming
on, pinheads of sweat starting from his palms, suddenly aware
of each tingling hair on his arms and chest, Case knew that at
some point he'd started to play a game with himself, a very
ancient one that has no name, a final solitaire. He no longer
carried a weapon, no longer took the basic precautions. He ran
the fastest, loosest deals on the street, and he had a reputation
for being able to get whatever you wanted. A part of him knew
that the arc of his self-destruction was glaringly obvious to his
customers, who grew steadily fewer, but that same part of him
basked in the knowledge that it was only a matter of time. And
that was the part of him, smug in its expectation of death, that
most hated the thought of Linda Lee.
He'd found her, one rainy night, in an arcade.
Under bright ghosts burning through a blue haze of cigarette
smoke, holograms of Wizard's Castle, Tank War Europa,
the New York skyline.... And now he remembered her that
way, her face bathed in restless laser light, features reduced to
a code: her cheekbones flaring scarlet as Wizard's Castle burned,
forehead drenched with azure when Munich fell to the Tank
War, mouth touched with hot gold as a gliding cursor struck
sparks from the wall of a skyscraper canyon. He was riding
high that night, with a brick of Wage's ketamine on its way
to Yokohama and the money already in his pocket. He'd come
in out of the warm rain that sizzled across the Ninsei pavement
and somehow she'd been singled out for him, one face out of
the dozens who stood at the consoles, lost in the game she
played. The expression on her face, then, had been the one
he'd seen, hours later, on her sleeping face in a port side coffin,
her upper lip like the line children draw to represent a bird in
Crossing the arcade to stand beside her, high on the deal
he'd made, he saw her glance up. Gray eyes rimmed with
smudged black paintstick. Eyes of some animal pinned in the
headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
Their night together stretching into a morning, into tickets
at the hover port and his first trip across the Bay. The rain kept
up, falling along Harajuku, beading on her plastic jacket, the
children of Tokyo trooping past the famous boutiques in white
loafers and cling wrap capes, until she'd stood with him in the
midnight clatter of a pachinko parlor and held his hand like a
It took a month for the gestalt of drugs and tension he moved
through to turn those perpetually startled eyes into wells of
reflexive need. He'd watched her personality fragment, calving
like an iceberg, splinters drifting away, and finally he'd seen
the raw need, the hungry armature of addiction. He'd watched
her track the next hit with a concentration that reminded him
of the mantises they sold in stalls along Shiga, beside tanks of
blue mutant carp and crickets caged in bamboo.
He stared at the black ring of grounds in his empty cup. It
was vibrating with the speed he'd taken. The brown laminate
of the table top was dull with a patina of tiny scratches. With
the dex mounting through his spine he saw the countless random
impacts required to create a surface like that. The Jarre was
decorated in a dated, nameless style from the previous century,
an uneasy blend of Japanese traditional and pale Milanese plastics,
but everything seemed to wear a subtle film, as though
the bad nerves of a million customers had somehow attacked
the mirrors and the once glossy plastics, leaving each surface
fogged with something that could never be wiped away.
"Hey. Case, good buddy...."
He looked up, met gray eyes ringed with paintstick. She
was wearing faded French orbital fatigues and new white sneakers.

"I been lookin' for you, man." She took a seat opposite
him, her elbows on the table. The sleeves of the blue zip suit
had been ripped out at the shoulders; he automatically checked
her arms for signs of terms or the needle. "Want a cigarette?"
She dug a crumpled pack of Yeheyuan filters from an ankle
pocket and offered him one. He took it, let her light it with a
red plastic tube. "You sleep in' okay, Case? You look tired."
Her accent put her south along the Sprawl, toward Atlanta.
The skin below her eyes was pale and unhealthy-looking, but
the flesh was still smooth and firm. She was twenty. New lines
of pain were starting to etch themselves permanently at the
corners of her mouth. Her dark hair was drawn back, held by
a band of printed silk. The pattern might have represented
microcircuits, or a city map.
"Not if I remember to take my pills," he said, as a tangible
wave of longing hit him, lust and loneliness riding in on the
wavelength of amphetamine. He remembered the smell of her
skin in the overheated darkness of a coffin near the port, her
locked across the small of his back.
All the meat, he thought, and all it wants.
"Wage," she said, narrowing her eyes. "He wants to see
you with a hole in your face." She lit her own cigarette.
"Who says? Ratz? You been talking to Ratz?"
"No. Mona. Her new squeeze is one of Wage's boys."
"I don't owe him enough. He does me, he's out the money
anyway." He shrugged.

"Too many people owe him now, Case. Maybe you get to
be the example. You seriously better watch it."
"Sure. How about you, Linda? You got anywhere to sleep?"
"Sleep." She shook her head. "Sure, Case." She shivered,
hunched forward over the table. Her face was filmed with
"Here," he said, and dug in the pocket of his windbreaker,
coming up with a crumpled fifty. He smoothed it automatically,
under the table, folded it in quarters, and passed it to her.
"You need that, honey. You better give it to Wage." There
was something in the gray eyes now that he couldn't read,
something he'd never seen there before.
"I owe Wage a lot more than that. Take it. I got more
coming," he lied, as he watched his New Yen vanish into a
zippered pocket.
"You get your money, Case, you find Wage quick."
"I'll see you, Linda," he said, getting up.
"Sure." A millimeter of white showed beneath each of her
pupils. Sanpaku. "You watch your back, man."
He nodded, anxious to be gone.
He looked back as the plastic door swung shut behind him,
saw her eyes reflected in a cage of red neon.

Friday night on Ninsei.
He passed yakitori stands and massage parlors, a franchised
coffee shop called Beautiful Girl, the electronic thunder of an
arcade. He stepped out of the way to let a dark-suited sarariman
by, spotting the Mitsubishi-Genentech logo tattooed across the
back of the man's right hand.
Was it authentic? if that's for real, he thought, he's in for
trouble. If it wasn't, served him right. M-G employees above
a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors
that monitored mutagen levels in the bloodstream. Gear like
that would get you rolled in Night City, rolled straight into a
black clinic.
The sarariman had been Japanese, but the Ninsei crowd was
a gaijin crowd. Groups of sailors up from the port, tense solitary
tourists hunting pleasures no guidebook listed, Sprawl heavies
showing off grafts and implants, and a dozen distinct species.
of hustler, all swarming the street in an intricate dance of desire
and commerce.
There were countless theories explaining why Chiba City
tolerated the Ninsei enclave, but Case tended toward the idea
that the Yakuza might be preserving the place as a kind of
historical park, a reminder of humble origins. But he also
saw a certain sense in the notion that burgeoning technologies
require outlaw zones, that Night City wasn't there for its inhabitants,
but as a deliberately unsupervised playground for
technology itself.
Was Linda right, he wondered, staring up at the lights?
Would Wage have him killed to make an example? It didn't
make much sense, but then Wage dealt primarily in proscribed
biologicals, and they said you had to be crazy to do that.
But Linda said Wage wanted him dead. Case's primary
insight into the dynamics of street dealing was that neither the
buyer nor the seller really needed him. A middleman's business
is to make himself a necessary evil. The dubious niche Case
had carved for himself in the criminal ecology of Night City
had beep cut out with lies, scooped out a night at a time with
betrayal. Now, sensing that its walls were starting to crumble,
he felt the edge of a strange euphoria.
The week before, he'd delayed transfer of a synthetic glandular
extract, retailing it for a wider margin than usual. He
knew Wage hadn't liked that. Wage was his primary supplier,
nine years in Chiba and one of the few gaijin dealers who'd
Managed to forge links with the rigidly stratified criminal establishment
beyond Night City's borders. Genetic materials and
hormones trickled down to Ninsei along an intricate ladder of
fronts and blinds. Somehow Wage had managed to trace something
back, once, and now he enjoyed steady connections in a
dozen cities.
Case found himself staring through a shop window. The
place sold small bright objects to the sailors. Watches, flicknives,
lighters, pocket VTRs, Sims Tim decks, weighted man-
riki chains, and shuriken. The shuriken had always fascinated
him, steel stars with knife-sharp points. Some were chromed,
others black, others treated with a rainbow surface like oil on
water. But the chrome stars held his gaze. They were mounted
against scarlet ultra suede with nearly invisible loops of nylon
fish line, their centers stamped with dragons or yin yang symbols.
They caught the street's neon and twisted it, and it came
to Case that these were the stars under which he voyaged, his
destiny spelled out in a constellation of cheap chrome.
"Julie," he said to his stars. "Time to see old Julie. He'll

Julius Deane was one hundred and thirty-five years old, his
metabolism assiduously warped by a weekly fortune in serums
and hormones. His primary hedge against aging was a yearly
pilgrimage to Tokyo, where genetic surgeons re-set the code
of his DNA, a procedure unavailable in Chiba. Then he'd fly
to Hong-Kong and order the year's suits and shirts. Sex-less and
inhumanly patient, his primary gratification seemed to lie in
his devotion to esoteric forms of tailor-worship. Case had never
seen him wear the same suit twice, although his wardrobe
seemed to consist entirely of meticulous reconstructions of garments
of the previous century. He affected prescription lenses,
framed in spidery gold, ground from thin slabs of pink synthetic
quartz and beveled like the mirrors in a Victorian doll house.
His offices were located in a warehouse behind Ninsei, part
of which seemed to have been sparsely decorated, years before,
with a random collection of European furniture, as though
Deane had once intended to use the place as his home. Neo-Aztec
bookcases gathered dust against one wall of the room
where Case waited. A pair of bulbous Disney-styled table lamps
perched awkwardly on a low Kandinsky-look coffee table in
scarlet-lacquered steel. A Dali clock hung on the wall between
the bookcases, its distorted face sagging to the bare concrete
floor. Its hands were holograms that altered to match the convolutions
of the face as they rotated, but it never told the correct
time. The room was stacked with white fiberglass shipping
modules that gave off the tang of preserved ginger.
"You seem to be clean, old son," said Deane's disembodied
voice. "Do come in."
Magnetic bolts thudded out of position around the massive
imitation-rosewood door to the left of the bookcases. JULIUS
DEANE IMPORT EXPORT was lettered across the plastic in
peeling self-adhesive capitals. If the furniture scattered in
Deane's makeshift foyer suggested the end of the past century,
the office itself seemed to belong to its start.
Deane's seamless pink face regarded Case from a pool of
light cast by an ancient brass lamp with a rectangular shade of
dark green glass. The importer was securely fenced behind a
vast desk of painted steel, flanked on either side by tall, drawer
Ed cabinets made of some sort of pale wood. The sort of
thing, Case supposed, that had once been used to store written
records of some kind. The desktop was littered with cassettes,
scrolls of yellowed printout, and various parts of some sort of
clockwork typewriter, a machine Deane never seemed to get
around to reassembling.
"What brings you around, boy?" Deane asked, offering
Case a narrow bonbon wrapped in blue-and-white checked paper.
"Try one. Tins Ting Djahe, the very best." Case refused
the ginger, took a seat in a yawing wooden swivel chair, and
ran a thumb down the faded seam of one black jeans-leg. "Julie
I hear Wage wants to kill me."
"Ah. Well then. And where did you hear this, if I may?"
"People," Deane said, around a ginger bonbon. "What sort
of people? Friends?"
Case nodded.
"Not always that easy to know who your friends are, is it?"
"I do owe him a little money, Deane. He say anything to
"Haven't been in touch, of late." Then he sighed. "If I did
know, of course, I might not be in a position to tell you. Things
being what they are, you understand."
"He's an important connection Case."
"Yeah. He want to kill me, Julie?"
"Not that I know of." Deane shrugged. They might have
been discussing the price of ginger. "If it proves to be an
unfounded rumor, old son, you come back in a week or so and
I'll let you in on a little something out of Singapore."
"Out of the Nan Hai Hotel, Bencoolen Street?"
"Loose lips, old son!" Deane grinned. The steel desk was
jammed with a fortune in debugging gear.
"Be seeing you, Julie. I'll say hello to Wage."

Deane's fingers came up to brush the perfect knot in his
pale silk tie.

He was less than a block from Deane's office when it hit,
the sudden cellular awareness that someone was on his ass,
and very close.
The cultivation of a certain tame paranoia was something
Case took for granted. The trick lay in not letting it get out of
control. But that could be quite a trick, behind a stack of
octagons. He fought the adrenaline surge and composed his
narrow features in a mask of bored vacancy, pretending to let
the crowd carry him along. When he saw a darkened display
window, he managed to pause by it. The place was a surgical
boutique, closed for renovations. With his hands in the pockets
of his jacket, he stared through the glass at a flat lozenge of
vat grown flesh that lay on a carved pedestal of imitation jade.
The color of its skin reminded him of Zone's whores; it was
tattooed with a luminous digital display wired to a sub-cutaneous
chip. Why bother with the surgery, he found himself thinking,
while sweat coursed down his ribs, when you could just carry
the thing around in your pocket?
Without moving his head, he raised his eyes and studied
the reflection of the passing crowd.
Behind sailors in short-sleeved khaki. Dark hair, mirrored
glasses, dark clothing, slender. . .
And gone.
Then Case was running, bent low, dodging between bodies.

"Rent me a gun, Shin?"
The boy smiled. "Two hour." They stood together in the
smell of fresh raw seafood at the rear of a Shiga sushi stall.
"You come back, two hour."
"I need one now, man. Got anything right now?"
Shin rummaged behind empty two-liter cans that had once
been filled with powdered horseradish. He produced a slender
package wrapped in gray plastic. "Taser. One hour, twenty
New Yen. Thirty deposit."
"Shit. I don't need that. I need a gun. Like I maybe wanna
shoot somebody, understand?"
The waiter shrugged, replacing the taser behind the horseradish
cans. "Two hour."
He went into the shop without bothering to glance at the
display of shuriken. He'd never thrown one in his life.
He bought two packs of Yeheyuans with a Mitsubishi Bank
chip that gave his name as Charles Derek May. It beat Truman
Starr, the best he'd been able to do for a passport.
The Japanese woman behind the terminal looked like she
had a few years on old Deane, none of them with the benefit
of science. He took his slender roll of New Yen out of his
pocket and showed it to her. "I want to buy a weapon."
She gestured in the direction of a case filled with knives.
"No," he said, "I don't like knives."
She brought an oblong box from beneath the counter. The
lid was yellow cardboard, stamped with a crude image of a
coiled cobra with a swollen hood. Inside were eight identical
tissue-wrapped cylinders. He watched while mottled brown
fingers stripped the paper from one. She held the thing up for
him to examine, a dull steel tube with a leather thong at one
end and a small bronze pyramid at the other. She gripped the
tube with one hand, the pyramid between her other thumb and
forefinger, and pulled. Three oiled, telescoping segments of
tightly wound coil spring slid out and locked. "Cobra," she said.

Beyond the neon shudder of Ninsei, the sky was that mean
shade of gray. The air had gotten worse; it seemed to have
teeth tonight, and half the crowd wore filtration masks. Case
had spent ten minutes in a urinal, trying to discover a convenient
way to conceal his cobra; finally he'd settled for tucking the
handle into the waistband of his jeans, with the tube slanting
across his stomach. The pyramidal striking tip rode between
his ribcage and the lining of his windbreaker. The thing felt
like it might clatter to the pavement with his next step, but it
made him feel better.
The Chat wasn't really a dealing bar, but on weeknights it
attracted a related clientele. Fridays and Saturdays were different.
The regulars were still there, most of them, but they
faded behind an influx of sailors and the specialists who preyed
on diem. As Case pushed through the doors, he looked for
Ratz, but the bartender wasn't in sight. Lonny Zone, the bar's
resident pimp, was observing with glazed fatherly interest as
one of his girls went to work on a young sailor. Zone was
addicted to a brand of hypnotic the Japanese called Cloud
Dancers. Catching the pimp's eye, Case beckoned him to the
bar. Zone came drifting through the crowd in slow motion, his
long face slack and placid.
"You seen Wage tonight, Lonny?"
Zone regarded him with his usual calm. He shook his head.
"You sure, man?"
"Maybe in the Namban. Maybe two hours ago."
"Got some Joeboys with him? One of 'em thin, dark hair,
maybe a black jacket?"
"No," Zone said at last, his smooth forehead creased to
indicate the effort it cost him to recall so much pointless detail.
"Big boys. Graftees." Zone's eyes showed very little white and
less iris; under the drooping lids, his pupils were dilated and
enormous. He stared into Case's face for a long time, then
lowered his gaze. He saw the bulge of the steel whip. "Cobra,"
he said, and raised an eyebrow. "You wanna fuck somebody
"See you, Lonny." Case left the bar.

His tail was back. He was sure of it. He felt a stab of elation
the octagons and adrenaline mingling with something else.
You're enjoying this, he thought; you're crazy.
Because, in some weird and very approximate way, it was
like a run in the matrix. Get just wasted enough, find yourself
in some desperate but strangely arbitrary kind of trouble, and
it was possible to see Ninsei as a field of data, the way the
matrix had once reminded him of proteins linking to distinguish
cell specialties. Then you could throw yourself into a high-speed
drift and skid, totally engaged but set apart from it all, and all
around you the dance of biz, information interacting, data made
flesh in the mazes of the black market....
Go it, Case, he told himself. Suck 'em in. Last thing they'll
expect. He was half a block from the games arcade where he'd
first met Linda Lee.
He bolted across Ninsei, scattering a pack of strolling sailors.
One of them screamed after him in Spanish. Then he was
through the entrance, the sound crashing over him like surf,
subsonics throbbing in the pit of his stomach. Someone scored
a ten-megaton hit on Tank War Europa, a simulated air burst
drowning the arcade in white sound as a lurid hologram fireball
mushroomed overhead. He cut to the right and loped up a flight
of unpainted chip board stairs. He'd come here once with Wage,
to discuss a deal in proscribed hormonal triggers with a man
called Matsuga. He remembered the hallway, its stained matting,
the row of identical doors leading to tiny office cubicles.
One door was open now. A Japanese girl in a sleeveless black
t-shirt glanced up from a white terminal, behind her head a
travel poster of Greece, Aegian blue splashed with streamlined
"Get your security up here," Case told her.
Then he sprinted down the corridor, out of her sight. The
last two doors were closed and, he assumed, locked. He spun
and slammed the sole of his nylon running shoe into the blue-lacquered
composition door at the far end. It popped, cheap
hardware falling from the splintered frame. Darkness there, the
white curve of a terminal housing. Then he was on the door
to its right, both hands around the transparent plastic knob,
leaning in with everything he had. Something snapped, and he
was inside. This was where he and Wage had met with Matsuga,
but whatever front company Matsuga had operated was
long gone. No terminal, nothing. Light from the alley behind
the arcade, filtering in through soot blown plastic. He made out
a snake like loop of fiber optics protruding from a wall socket,
a pile of discarded food containers, and the blade less nacelle
of an electric fan.
The window was a single pane of cheap plastic. He shrugged
out of his jacket, bundled it around his right hand, and punched.
It split, requiring two more blows to free it from the frame.
Over the muted chaos of the games, an alarm began to cycle,
triggered either by the broken window or by the girl at the head
of the corridor.
Case turned, pulled his jacket on, and flicked the cobra to
full extension.
With the door closed, he was counting on his tail to assume
he'd gone through the one he'd kicked half off its hinges. The
cobra's bronze pyramid began to bob gently, the spring-steel
shaft amplifying his pulse.
Nothing happened. There was only the surging of the alarm,
the crashing of the games, his heart hammering. When the fear
came, it was like some half-forgotten friend. Not the cold
rapid mechanism of the dex-paranoia, but simple animal fear.
He'd lived for so long on a constant edge of anxiety that he'd
almost forgotten what real fear was.
This cubicle was the sort of place where people died. He
might die here. They might have guns....
A crash, from the far end of the corridor. A man's voice,
shouting something in Japanese. A scream, shrill terror. Another
And footsteps, unhurried, coming closer.
Passing his closed door. Pausing for the space of three rapid
beats of his heart. And returning. One, two, three. A bootheel
scraped the matting.
The last of his octagon-induced bravado collapsed. He
snapped the cobra into its handle and scrambled for the window,
blind with fear, his nerves screaming. He was up, out, and
falling, all before he was conscious of what he'd done. The
impact with pavement drove dull rods of pain through his shins.
A narrow wedge of light from a half-open service hatch
framed a heap of discarded fiber optics and the chassis of a
junked console. He'd fallen face forward on a slab of soggy
chip board, he rolled over, into the shadow of the console. The
cubicle's window was a square of faint light. The alarm still
oscillated, louder here, the rear wall dulling the roar of the
A head appeared, framed in the window, back lit by the
fluorescents in the corridor, then vanished. It returned, but he
still couldn't read the features. Glint of silver across the eyes.
"Shit," someone said, a woman, in the accent of the northern
The head was gone. Case lay under the console for a long
count of twenty, then stood up. The steel cobra was still in his
hand, and it took him a few seconds to remember what it was.
He limped away down the alley, nursing his left ankle.

Shin's pistol was a fifty-year-old Vietnamese imitation of
a South American copy of a Walther PPK, double-action on
the first shot, with a very rough pull. It was chambered for .22
long rifle, and Case would've preferred lead azide explosives
to the simple Chinese hollow points Shin had sold him. Still
it was a handgun and nine rounds of ammunition, and as he
made his way down Shiga from the sushi stall he cradled it in
his jacket pocket. The grips were bright red plastic molded in
a raised dragon motif, something to run your thumb across
in the dark. He'd consigned the cobra to a dump canister on
Ninsei and dry-swallowed another octagon.
The pill lit his circuits and he rode the rush down Shiga to
Ninsei, then over to Baiitsu. His tail, he'd decided, was gone
and that was fine. He had calls to make, biz to transact, and
it wouldn't wait. A block down Baiitsu, toward the port, stood
a featureless ten-story office building in ugly yellow brick. Its
windows were dark now, but a faint glow from the roof was
visible if you craned your neck. An unlit neon sign near the
main entrance offered CHEAP HOTEL under a cluster of ideograms.
If the place had another name, Case didn't know it; it
was always referred to as Cheap Hotel. You reached it through
an alley off Baiitsu, where an elevator waited at the foot of a
transparent shaft. The elevator, like Cheap Hotel, was an afterthought,
lashed to the building with bamboo and epoxy. Case
climbed into the plastic cage and used his key, an unmarked
length of rigid magnetic tape.
Case had rented a coffin here, on a weekly basis, since he'd
arrived in Chiba, but he'd never slept in Cheap Hotel. He slept
in cheaper places.
The elevator smelled of perfume and cigarettes; the sides
of the cage was scratched and thumb-smudged. As it passed the
fifth floor, he saw the lights of Ninsei. He drummed his fingers
against the pistol grip as the cage slowed with a gradual hiss.
As always, it came to a full stop with a violent jolt, but he
was ready for it. He stepped out into the courtyard that served
the place as some combination of lobby and lawn.
Centered in the square carpet of green plastic turf, a lapanese
teenager sat behind a C-shaped console, reading a textbook.
The white fiberglass coffins were racked in a framework of
industrial scaffolding. Six tiers of coffins, ten coffins on a side.

Case nodded in the boy's direction and limped across the plastic
grass to the nearest ladder. The compound was roofed with
cheap laminated matting that rattled in a strong wind and leaked
when it rained, but the coffins were reasonably difficult to open
without a key.
The expansion-grate catwalk vibrated with his weight as he
edged his way along the third tier to Number 92. The coffins
were three meters long, the oval hatches a meter wide and just
under a meter and a half tall. He fed his key into the slot and
waited for verification from the house computer. Magnetic bolts
thudded reassuringly and the hatch rose vertically with a creak
of springs. Fluorescents flickered on as he crawled in, pulling
the hatch shut behind him and slapping the panel that activated
the manual latch.
There was nothing in Number 92 but a standard Hitachi
pocket computer and a small white styrofoam cooler chest. The
cooler contained the remains of three ten-kilo slabs of dry ice
carefully wrapped in paper to delay evaporation, and a spun
aluminum lab flask. Crouching on the brown temper foam slab
that was both floor and bed, Case took Shin's .22 from his
pocket and put it on top of the cooler. Then he took off his
jacket. The coffin's terminal was molded into one concave wall,
opposite a panel listing house rules in seven languages. Case
took the pink handset from its cradle and punched a Hong-Kong
number from memory. He let it ring five times, then hung up.
His buyer for the three megabytes of hot RAM in the Hitachi
wasn't taking calls.
He punched a Tokyo number in Shinjuku.
A woman answered, something in Japanese.
"Snake Man there?"
"Very good to hear from you," said Snake Man, coming in
on an extension. "I've been expecting your call."
"I got the music you wanted." Glancing at the cooler.
"I'm very glad to hear that. We have a cash flow problem.
Can you front?"
"Oh, man, I really need the money bad...."
Snake Man hung up.
"You shit " Case said to the humming receiver. He stared
at the cheap little pistol.
"Iffy," he said, "it's all looking very iffy tonight."

Case walked into the Chat an hour before dawn, both hands
in the pockets of his jacket; one held the rented pistol, the other
the aluminum flask.
Ratz was at a rear table, drinking Apollonaris water from
a beer pitcher, his hundred and twenty kilos of doughy flesh
tilted against the wall on a creaking chair. A Brazilian kid
called Kurt was on the bar, tending a thin crowd of mostly
silent drunks. Ratz's plastic arm buzzed as he raised the pitcher
and drank. His shaven head was filmed with sweat. "You look
bad, friend artiste," he said, flashing the wet ruin of his teeth.
"I'm doing just fine," said Case, and grinned like a skull.
"Super fine." He sagged into the chair opposite Ratz, hands
still in his pockets.
"And you wander back and forth in this portable bombshelter
built of booze and ups, sure. Proof against the grosser emotions,
"Why don't you get off my case, Ratz? You seen Wage?"
"Proof against fear and being alone," the bartender continued.
"Listen to the fear. Maybe it's your friend."
"You hear anything about a fight in the arcade tonight, Ratz?
Somebody hurt?"
"Crazy cut a security man." He shrugged. "A girl, they
"I gotta talk to Wage, Ratz, I. . ."
"Ah." Ratz's mouth narrowed, compressed into a single
line. He was looking past Case, toward the entrance. "I think
you are about to."
Case had a sudden flash of the shuriken in their window.
The speed sang in his head. The pistol in his hand was slippery
with sweat.
"Herr Wage," Ratz said, slowly extending his pink manipulator
as if he expected it to be shaken. "How great a pleasure.
Too seldom do you honor us."
Case turned his head and looked up into Wage's face. It
was a tanned and forgettable mask. The eyes were vat grown
sea-green Nikon transplants. Wage wore a suit of gunmetal
silk and a simple bracelet of platinum on either wrist. He was
flanked by his Joe boys, nearly identical young men, their arms
and shoulders bulging with grafted muscle.

"How you doing, Case?"
"Gentlemen," said Ratz, picking up the table's heaped ashtray
in his pink plastic claw, "I want no trouble here." The
ashtray was made of thick, shatterproof plastic, and advertised
Tsingtao beer. Ratz crushed it smoothly, butts and shards of
green plastic cascading onto the table top. "You understand?"
"Hey, sweetheart," said one of the Joe boys, "you wanna try
that thing on me?"
"Don't bother aiming for the legs, Kurt," Ratz said, his tone
conversational. Case glanced across the room and saw the Brazilian
standing on the bar, aiming a Smith & Wesson riot gun
at the trio. The thing's barrel, made of paper-thin alloy wrapped
with a kilometer of glass filament, was wide enough to swallow
a fist. The skeletal magazine revealed five fat orange cartridges,
subsonic sandbag jellies.
"Technically nonlethal," said Ratz.
"Hey, Ratz," Case said, "I owe you one."
The bartender shrugged. "Nothing, you owe me. These,"
and he glowered at Wage and the Joe boys, "should know better.
You don't take anybody off in the Chatsubo."
Wage coughed. "So who's talking about taking anybody
off? We just wanna talk business. Case and me, we work
Case pulled the .22 out of his pocket and level led it at
Wage's crotch. "I hear you wanna do me." Ratz's pink claw
closed around the pistol and Case let his hand go limp.
"Look, Case, you tell me what the fuck is going on with
you, you wig or something? What's this shit I'm trying to kill
you?" Wage turned to the boy on his left. "You two go back
to the Namban. Wait for me."
Case watched as they crossed the bar, which was now entirely
deserted except for Kurt and a drunken sailor in khakis,
who was curled at the foot of a barstool. The barrel of the
Smith & Wesson tracked the two to the door, then swung back
to cover Wage. The magazine of Case's pistol clattered on the
table. Ratz held the gun in his claw and pumped the round out
of the chamber.
"Who told you I was going to hit you, Case?" Wage asked.
"Who told you, man? Somebody trying to set you up?"
The sailor moaned and vomited explosively.
"Get him out of here," Ratz called to Kurt, who was sitting
on the edge of the bar now, the Smith & Wesson across his
lap, lighting a cigarette.
Case felt the weight of the night come down on him like a
bag of wet sand settling behind his eyes. He took the flask out
of his pocket and handed it to Wage. "All I got. Pituitaries.
Get you five hundred if you move it fast. Had the rest of my
roll in some RAM, but that's gone by now."
"You okay, Case?" The flask had already vanished behind
a gunmetal lapel. "I mean, fine, this'll square us, but you look
bad. Like hammered shit. You better go somewhere and sleep."
"Yeah." He stood up and felt the Chat sway around him.
"Well, I had this fifty, but I gave it to somebody." He giggled.
He picked up the .22's magazine and the one loose cartridge
and dropped them into one pocket, then put the pistol in the
other. "I gotta see Shin, get my deposit back."
"Go home," said Ratz, shifting on the creaking chair with
something like embarrassment. "Artiste. Go home."
He felt them watching as he crossed the room and shouldered
his way past the plastic doors.

"Bitch," he said to the rose tint over Shiga. Down on Ninsei
the holograms were vanishing like ghosts, and most of the neon
was already cold and dead. He sipped thick black coffee from
a street vendor's foam thimble and watched the sun come up.
"You fly away, honey. Towns like this are for people who like
the way down." But that wasn't it, really, and he was finding
it increasingly hard to maintain the sense of betrayal. She just
wanted a ticket home, and the RAM in his Hitachi would buy
it for her, if she could find the right fence. And that business
with the fifty; she'd almost turned it down, knowing she was
about to rip him for the rest of what he had.
When he climbed out of the elevator, the same boy was on
the desk. Different textbook. "Good buddy," Case called across
the plastic turf, "you don't need to tell me. I know already.
Pretty lady came to visit, said she had my key. Nice little tip
for you, say fifty New ones?" The boy put down his book.
"Woman," Case said, and drew a line across his forehead with
his thumb. "Silk." He smiled broadly. The boy smiled back,
nodded. "Thanks, ass hole," Case said.
On the catwalk, he had trouble with the lock. She'd messed
it up somehow when she'd fiddled it, he thought. Beginner.
He knew where to rent a black box that would open anything
in Cheap Hotel. Fluorescents came on as he crawled in.
"Close the hatch real slow, friend. You still got that Saturday
night special you rented from the waiter?"
She sat with her back to the wall, at the far end of the coffin.
She had her knees up, resting her wrists on them, the pepper box
muzzle of a flechette pistol emerged from her hands.
"That you in the arcade?" He pulled the hatch down.
"Where's Linda?"
"Hit that latch switch."
He did.
"That your girl? Linda?"
He nodded.
"She's gone. Took your Hitachi. Real nervous kid. What
about the gun, man?" She wore mirrored glasses. Her clothes
were black, the heels of black boots deep in the temper foam.
"I took it back to Shin, got my deposit. Sold his bullets
back to him for half what I paid. You want the money?"
"Want some dry ice? All I got, right now."
"What got into you tonight? Why'd you pull that scene at
the arcade? I had to mess up this rentacop came after me with
nun chucks. "
"Linda said you were gonna kill me."
"Linda said? I never saw her before I came up here."
"You aren't with Wage?"
She shook her head. He realized that the glasses were surgically
inset, sealing her sockets. The silver lenses seemed to
grow from smooth pale skin above her cheekbones, framed by
dark hair cut in a rough shag. The fingers curled around the
fletcher were slender, white, tipped with polished burgundy.
The nails looked artificial. "I think you screwed up, Case. I
showed up and you just fit me right into your reality picture."
"So what do you want, lady?" He sagged back against the
"You. One live body, brains still somewhat intact. Molly,
Case. My name's Molly. I'm collecting you for the man I work
for. Just wants to talk, is all. Nobody wants to hurt you "
"That's good."
"'Cept I do hurt people sometimes, Case. I guess it's just
the way I'm wired." She wore tight black glove leather jeans
and a bulky black jacket cut from some matte fabric that seemed
to absorb light. "If I put this dart gun away, will you be easy,
Case? You look like you like to take stupid chances."
"Hey, I'm very easy. I'm a pushover, no problem."
"That's fine, man." The fletcher vanished into the black
jacket. "Because you try to fuck around with me, you'll be
taking one of the stupidest chances of your whole life."
She held out her hands, palms up, the white fingers slightly
spread, and with a barely audible click, ten double-edged, four
 centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings beneath the
burgundy nails.
She smiled. The blades slowly withdrew.

After a year of coffins, the room on the twenty-fifth floor
of the Chiba Hilton seemed enormous. It was ten meters by
eight, half of a suite. A white Braun coffee maker steamed on
a low table by the sliding glass panels that opened onto a narrow
"Get some coffee in you. Look like you need it." She took
off her black jacket, the fletcher hung beneath her arm in a
black nylon shoulder rig. She wore a sleeveless gray pullover
with plain steel zips across each shoulder. Bulletproof, Case
decided, slopping coffee into a bright red mug. His arms and
legs felt like they were made out of wood.
"Case." He looked up, seeing the man for the first time.
"My name is Armitage." The dark robe was open to the waist,
the broad chest hairless and muscular, the stomach flat and
hard. Blue eyes so pale they made Case think of bleach. "Sun's
up, Case. This is your lucky day, boy."
Case whipped his arm sideways and the man easily ducked
the scalding coffee. Brown stain running down the imitation

rice paper wall. He saw the angular gold ring through the left
lobe. Special Forces. The man smiled.
"Get your coffee, Case," Molly said. "You're okay, but
you're not going anywhere 'til Armitage has his say." She sat
cross legged on a silk futon and began to fieldstrip the fletcher
without bothering to look at it. Twin mirrors tracking as he
crossed to the table and refilled his cup.
"Too young to remember the war, aren't you, Case?" Armitage
ran a large hand back through his cropped brown hair.
A heavy gold bracelet flashed on his wrist. "Leningrad, Kiev,
Siberia. We invented you in Siberia, Case."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Screaming Fist, Case. You've heard the name."
"Some kind of run, wasn't it? Tried to burn this Russian
nexus with virus programs. Yeah, I heard about it. And nobody
got out."
He sensed abrupt tension. Armitage walked to the window
and looked out over Tokyo Bay. "That isn't true. One unit
made it back to Helsinki, Case."
Case shrugged, sipped coffee.
"You're a console cowboy. The prototypes of the programs
you use to crack industrial banks were developed for Screaming
Fist. For the assault on the Kirensk computer nexus. Basic
module was a Nightwing micro light, a pilot, a matrix deck, a
jockey. We were running a virus called Mole. The Mole series
was the first generation of real intrusion programs."
"Icebreakers," Case said, over the rim of the red mug.
"Ice from ICE, intrusion countermeasures electronics."
"Problem is, mister, I'm no jockey now, so I think I'll just
be going...."
"I was there, Case; I was there when they invented your
"You got zip to do with me and my kind, buddy. You're
rich enough to hire expensive razor girls to haul my ass up here,
is all. I'm never gonna punch any deck again, not for you or
anybody else." He crossed to the window and looked down.
"That's where I live now."
"Our profile says you're trying to con the street into killing
you when you're not looking."
"We've built up a detailed model. Bought a go-to for each
of your aliases and ran the skim through some military software.
You're suicidal, Case. The model gives you a month on the
outside. And our medical projection says you'll need a new
pancreas inside a year."
"We." He met the faded blue eyes. "We who?"
"What would you say if I told you we could correct your
neural damage, Case'?" Armitage suddenly looked to Case as
if he were carved from a block of metal; inert, enormously
heavy. A statue. He knew now that this was a dream, and that
soon he'd wake. Armitage wouldn't speak again. Case's dreams
always ended in these freeze frames, and now this one was
"What would you say, Case?"
Case looked out over the Bay and shivered.
"I'd say you were full of shit."
Armitage nodded.
"Then I'd ask what your terms were."
"Not very different than what you're used to, Case."
"Let the man get some sleep, Armitage," Molly said from
her futon, the components of the fletcher spread on the silk
like some expensive puzzle. "He's coming apart at the seams."
"Terms," Case said, "and now. Right now."
He was still shivering. He couldn't stop shivering.

The clinic was nameless, expensively appointed, a cluster
of sleek pavilions separated by small formal gardens. He remembered
the place from the round he'd made his first month
in Chiba.
"Scared, Case. You're real scared." It was Sunday afternoon
and he stood with Molly in a sort of courtyard. White boulders,
a stand of green bamboo, black gravel raked into smooth waves.
A gardener, a thing like a large metal crab, was tending the
"It'll work, Case. You got no idea, the kind of stuff Armitage
has. Like he's gonna pay these nerve boys for fixing
you with the program he's giving them to tell them how to do
it. He'll put them three years ahead of the competition. You
got any idea what that's worth?" She hooked thumbs in the
belt loops of her leather jeans and rocked backward on the
lacquered heels of cherry red cowboy boots. The narrow toes
were sheathed in bright Mexican silver. The lenses were empty
quicksilver, regarding him with an insect calm.
"You're street samurai," he said. "How long you work for
"Couple of months."
"What about before that?"
"For somebody else. Working girl, you know?"
He nodded.
"Funny, Case."
"What's funny?"
"It's like I know you. That profile he's got. I know how
you're wired."
"You don't know me, sister."
"You're okay, Case. What got you, it's just called bad luck."
"How about him? He okay, Molly?" The robot crab moved
toward them, picking its way over the waves of gravel. Its
bronze carapace might have been a thousand years old. When
it was within a meter of her boots, it fired a burst of light, then
froze for an instant, analyzing data obtained.
"What I always think about first, Case, is my own sweet
ass." The crab had altered course to avoid her, but she kicked
it with a smooth precision, the silver boot-tip clanging on the
carapace. The thing fell on its back, but the bronze limbs soon
righted it.
Case sat on one of the boulders, scuffing at the symmetry
of the gravel waves with the toes of his shoes. He began to
search his pockets for cigarettes. "In your shirt," she said.
"You want to answer my question?" He fished a wrinkled
Yeheyuan from the pack and she lit it for him with a thin slab
of German steel that looked as though it belonged on an operating
"Well, I'll tell you, the man's definitely on to something.
He's got big money now, and he's never had it before, and he
gets more all the time." Case noticed a certain tension around
her mouth. "Or maybe, maybe something's on to him...."
She shrugged.
"What's that mean?"
"I don't know, exactly. I know I don't know who or what
we're really working for."
He stared at the twin mirrors. Leaving the Hilton, Saturday
morning, he'd gone back to Cheap Hotel and slept for ten hours .
Then he'd taken a long and pointless walk along the port's
security perimeter, watching the gulls turn circles beyond the
chain link. If she'd followed him, she'd done a good job of it.
He'd avoided Night City. He'd waited in the coffin for Armitage's
call. Now this quiet courtyard, Sunday afternoon, this
girl with a gymnast's body and conjurer's hands.
"If you'll come in now, sir, the anesthetist is waiting to
meet you." The technician bowed, turned, and reentered the
clinic without waiting to see if Case would follow.

Cold steel odor. Ice caressed his spine.
Lost, so small amid that dark, hands grown cold, body image
fading down corridors of television sky.
Then black fire found the branching tributaries of the nerves,
pain beyond anything to which the name of pain is given....

Hold still. Don't move.
And Ratz was there, and Linda Lee, Wage and Lonny Zone,
a hundred faces from the neon forest, sailors and hustlers and
whores, where the sky is poisoned silver, beyond chain link
and the prison of the skull.
Goddamn don't you move.
Where the sky faded from hissing static to the non color of
the matrix, and he glimpsed the shuriken, his stars.
"Stop it, Case, I gotta find your vein!"
She was straddling his chest, a blue plastic syrette in one
hand. "You don't lie still, I'll slit your fucking throat. You're
still full of endorphin inhibitors."

He woke and found her stretched beside him in the dark.
His neck was brittle, made of twigs. There was a steady
pulse of pain midway down his spine. Images formed and
reformed: a flickering montage of the Sprawl's towers and
ragged Fuller domes, dim figures moving toward him in the
shade beneath a bridge or overpass....
"Case? It's Wednesday, Case." She moved, rolling over,
reaching across him. A breast brushed his upper arm. He heard
her tear the foil seal from a bottle of water and drink. "Here."
She put the bottle in his hand. "I can see in the dark, Case.
Micro channel image-amps in my glasses."
"My back hurts."
"That's where they replaced your fluid. Changed your blood
too. Blood 'cause you got a new pancreas thrown into the deal.
And some new tissue patched into your liver. The nerve stuff
I dunno. Lot of injections. They didn't have to open anything
up for the main show." She settled back beside him. "It's
2:43:12 AM, Case. Got a readout chipped into my optic nerve."
He sat up and tried to sip from the bottle. Gagged, coughed,
lukewarm water spraying his chest and thighs.
"I gotta punch deck, ' he heard himself say. He was groping
for his clothes. "I gotta know...."
She laughed. Small strong hands gripped his upper arms.
"Sorry, hotshot. Eight day wait. Your nervous system would
fall out on the floor if you jacked in now. Doctor's orders.
Besides, they figure it worked. Check you in a day or so." He
lay down again.
"Where are we?"
"Home. Cheap Hotel."
"Where's Armitage?"
"Hilton, selling beads to the natives or something. We're
out of here soon, man. Amsterdam, Paris, then back to the
Sprawl." She touched his shoulder. "Roll over. I give a good
He lay on his stomach, arms stretched forward, tips of his
fingers against the walls of the coffin. She settled over the
small of his back, kneeling on the temper foam, the leather
jeans cool against his skin. Her fingers brushed his neck.
"How come you're not at the Hilton?"
She answered him by reaching back, between his thighs
and gently encircling his scrotum with thumb and forefinger.
She rocked there for a minute in the dark, erect above him,
her other hand on his neck. The leather of her jeans creaked
softly with the movement. Case shifted, feeling himself harden
against the temper foam.
His head throbbed, but the brittleness in his neck seemed
to retreat. He raised himself on one elbow, rolled, sank back
against the foam, pulling her down, licking her breasts, small
hard nipples sliding wet across his cheek. He found the zip on
the leather jeans and tugged it down.
"It's okay," she said, "I can see." Sound of the jeans peeling
down. She struggled beside him until she could kick them away.
She threw a leg across him and he touched her face. Unexpected
hardness of the implanted lenses. "Don't," she said, "fingerprints."

Now she straddled him again, took his hand, and closed it
over her, his thumb along the cleft of her buttocks, his fingers
spread across the labia. As she began to lower herself, the
images came pulsing back, the faces, fragments of neon arriving
and receding. She slid down around him and his back arched
convulsively. She rode him that way, impaling herself, slipping
down on him again and again, until they both had come, his
orgasm flaring blue in a timeless space, a vastness like the
matrix, where the faces were shredded and blown away down
hurricane corridors, and her inner thighs were strong and wet
against his hips.

On Nisei, a thinner, weekday version of the crowd went
through the motions of the dance. Waves of sound rolled from
the arcades and pachinko parlors. Case glanced into the Chat
and saw Zone watching over his girls in the warm, beer-smelling
twilight. Ratz was tending bar.
"You seen Wage, Ratz?"
"Not tonight." Ratz made a point of raising an eyebrow at
"You see him, tell him I got his money."
"Luck changing, my artiste?"
"Too soon to tell."

"Well, I gotta see this guy," Case said, watching his reflection
in her glasses. "I got biz to cancel out of."
"Armitage won't like it, I let you out of my sight." She
stood beneath Deane's melting clock, hands on her hips.
"The guy won't talk to me if you're there. Deane I don't
give two shits about. He takes care of himself. But I got people
who'll just go under if I walk out of Chiba cold. It's my people,
you know?"
Her mouth hardened. She shook her head.

"I got people in Singapore, Tokyo connections in Shinjuku
and Asakuza, and they'll go down, understand?" he lied, his
hand on the shoulder of her black jacket. "Five. Five minutes.
By your clock, okay?"
"Not what I'm paid for."
"What you're paid for is one thing. Me letting some tight
friends die because you're too literal about your instructions is
something else."
"Bullshit. Tight friends my ass. You're going in there to
check us out with your smuggler." She put a booted foot up
on the dust-covered Kandinsky coffee table.
"Ah, Case, sport, it does look as though your companion
there is definitely armed, aside from having a fair amount of
silicon in her head . What is this about, exactly?" Deane ' s ghostly
cough seemed to hang in the air between them.
"Hold on, Julie. Anyway, I'll be coming in alone."
"You can be sure of that, old son. Wouldn't have it any
other way."
"Okay," she said. "Go. But five Minutes. Any more and
I'll come in and cool your tight friend permanently. And while
you're at it, you try to figure something out."
"What's that?"
"Why I'm doing you the favor." She turned and walked
out, past the stacked white modules of preserved ginger.
"Keeping stranger company than usual, Case?" asked Julie.
"Julie, she's gone. You wanna let me in? Please, Julie?"
The bolts worked. "Slowly, Case," said the voice.
"Turn on the works, Julie, all the stuff in the desk," Case
said, taking his place in the swivel chair.
"It's on all the time," Deane said mildly, taking a gun from
behind the exposed works of his old mechanical typewriter and
aiming it carefully at Case. It was a belly gun, a magnum
revolver with the barrel sawn down to a nub. The front of the
trigger-guard had been cut away and the grips wrapped with
what looked like old masking tape. Case thought it looked very
strange in Dean's manicured pink hands. "Just taking care, you
Understand. Nothing personal. Now tell me what you want."
"I need a history lesson, Julie. And a go-to on somebody."
"What's moving, old son'?" Deane's shirt was candy-striped
cotton, the collar white and rigid, like porcelain.

"Me, Julie. I'm leaving. Gone. But do me the favor, okay?"
"Go-to on whom, old son?"
"Gaijin name of Armitage, suite in the Hilton."
Deane put the pistol down. "Sit still, Case." He tapped
something out on a lap terminal. "It seems as though you know
as much as my net does, Case. This gentleman seems to have
a temporary arrangement with the Yakuza, and the sons of the
neon chrysanthemum have ways of screening their allies from
the likes of me. I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, history.
You said history." He picked up the gun again, but didn't point
it directly at Case. "What sort of history?"
"The war. You in the war, Julie?"
"The war? What's there to know? Lasted three weeks."
"Screaming Fist."
"Famous. Don't they teach you history these days? Great
bloody postwar political football, that was. Watergated all to
hell and back. Your brass, Case, your Sprawlside brass in,
where was it, McLean? In the bunkers, all of that... great
scandal. Wasted a fair bit of patriotic young flesh in order to
test some new technology. They knew about the Russians' defenses,
it came out later. Knew about the emps, magnetic pulse
weapons. Sent these fellows in regardless, just to see." Deane
shrugged. "Turkey shoot for Ivan."
"Any of those guys make it out?"
"Christ,'' Deane said, "it's been bloody years.... Though
I do think a few did. One of the teams. Got hold of a Sov
gunship. Helicopter, you know. Flew it back to Finland. Didn't
have entry codes, of course, and shot hell out of the Finnish
defense forces in the process. Special Forces types." Deane
sniffed. "Bloody hell."
Case nodded. The smell of preserved ginger was overwhelming.

"I spent the war in Lisbon, you know," Deane said, putting
the gun down. "Lovely place, Lisbon."
"In the service, Julie?"
"Hardly. Though I did see action." Deane smiled his pink
smile. "Wonderful what a war can do for one's markets."
"Thanks, Julie. I owe you one."
"Hardly, Case. And goodbye."

x x x

And later he'd tell himself that the evening at Sammi's had
felt wrong from the start, that even as he'd followed Molly
along that corridor, shuffling through a trampled mulch of ticket
stubs and styrofoam cups, he'd sensed it. Linda's death, waiting....

They'd gone to the Namban, after he'd seen Deane, and
paid off his debt to Wage with a roll of Armitage's New Yen.
Wage had liked that, his boys had liked it less, and Molly had
grinned at Case's side with a kind of ecstatic feral intensity,
obviously longing for one of them to make a move. Then he'd
taken her back to the Chat for a drink.
"Wasting your time, cowboy," Molly said, when Case took
an octagon from the pocket of his jacket.
"How's that? You want one?" He held the pill out to her.
"Your new pancreas, Case, and those plugs in your liver.
Armitage had them designed to bypass that shit." She tapped
the octagon with one burgundy nail. "You're biochemically
incapable of getting off on amphetamine or cocaine."
"Shit," he said. He looked at the octagon, then at her.
"Eat it. Eat a dozen. Nothing'll happen."
He did. Nothing did.
Three beers later, she was asking Ratz about the fights.
"Sammi's," Ratz said.
"I'll pass," Case said, "I hear they kill each other down
An hour later, she was buying tickets from a skinny Thai
in a white t-shirt and baggy rugby shorts.
Sammi's was an inflated dome behind a port side warehouse,
taut gray fabric reinforced with a net of thin steel cables. The
corridor, with a door at either end, was a crude airlock preserving
the pressure differential that supported the dome. Fluorescent
rings were screwed to the plywood ceiling at intervals,
but most of them had been broken. The air was damp and close
with the smell of sweat and concrete.
None of that prepared him for the arena, the crowd, the
tense hush, the towering puppets of light beneath the dome.
Concrete sloped away in tiers to a kind of central stage, a raised
circle ringed with a glittering thicket of projection gear. No
light but the holograms that shifted and flickered above the
ring, reproducing the movements of the two men below. Strata
of cigarette smoke rose from the tiers, drifting until it struck
currents set up by the blowers that supported the dome. No
sound but the muted purring of the blowers and the amplified
breathing of the fighters.
Reflected colors flowed across Molly's lenses as the men
circled. The holograms were ten-power magnifications; at ten,
the knives they held were just under a meter long. The knife-fighter's
grip is the fencer's grip, Case remembered, the fingers
curled, thumb aligned with blade. The knives seemed to move
of their own accord, gliding with a ritual lack of urgency through
the arcs and passes of their dance, point passing point, as the
men waited for an opening. Molly's upturned face was smooth
and still, watching.
"I'll go find us some food," Case said. She nodded, lost in
contemplation of the dance.
He didn't like this place.
He turned and walked back into the shadows. Too dark.
Too quiet.
The crowd, he saw, was mostly Japanese. Not really a Night
City crowd. Teaks down from the arcologies. He supposed that
meant the arena had the approval of some corporate recreational
committee. He wondered briefly what it would be like, working
all your life for one zaibatsu. Company housing, company
hymn, company funeral.
He'd made nearly a full circuit of the dome before he found
the food stalls. He bought yakitori on skewers and two tall
waxy cartons of beer. Glancing up at the holograms, he saw
that blood laced one figure's chest. Thick brown sauce trickled
down the skewers and over his knuckles.
Seven days and he'd jack in. If he closed his eyes now,
he'd see the matrix.
Shadows twisted as the holograms swung through their dance.
Then the fear began to knot between his shoulders. A cold
trickle of sweat worked its way down and across his ribs. The
operation hadn't worked. He was still here, still meat, no Molly
waiting, her eyes locked on the circling knives, no Armitage
waiting in the Hilton with tickets and a new passport and
money. It was all some dream, some pathetic fantasy.... Hot
tears blurred his vision.
Blood sprayed from a jugular in a red gout of light. And
now the crowd was screaming, rising, screaming--as one figure
crumpled, the hologram fading, flickering....
Raw edge of vomit in his throat. He closed his eyes, took
a deep breath, opened them, and saw Linda Lee step past him
her gray eyes blind with fear. She wore the same French fatigues.

And gone. Into shadow.
Pure mindless reflex: he threw the beer and chicken down
and ran after her. He might have called her name, but he'd
never be sure.
Afterimage of a single hair-fine line of red light. Seared
concrete beneath the thin soles of his shoes.
Her white sneakers flashing, close to the curving wall now
and again the ghost line of the laser branded across his eye,
bobbing in his vision as he ran.
Someone tripped him. Concrete tore his palms.
He rolled and kicked, failing to connect. A thin boy, spiked
blond hair lit from behind in a rainbow nimbus, was leaning
over him. Above the stage, a figure turned, knife held high,
to the cheering crowd. The boy smiled and drew something
from his sleeve. A razor, etched in red as a third beam blinked
past them into the dark. Case saw the razor dipping for his
throat like a dowser's wand.
The face was erased in a humming cloud of microscopic
explosions. Molly's fletchettes, at twenty rounds per second.
The boy coughed once, convulsively, and toppled across Case's
He was walking toward the stalls, into the shadows. He
looked down, expecting to see that needle of ruby emerge from
his chest. Nothing. He found her. She was thrown down at the
foot of a concrete pillar, eyes closed. There was a smell of
cooked meat. The crowd was chanting the winner's name. A
beer vendor was wiping his taps with a dark rag. One white
sneaker had come off, somehow, and lay beside her head.
Follow the wall. Curve of concrete. Hands in pockets. Keep
walking. Past unseeing faces, every eye raised to the victor's
image above the ring. Once a seamed European face danced
in the glare of a match, lips pursed around the short stem of a
metal pipe. Tang of hashish. Case walked on, feeling nothing.

"Case." Her mirrors emerged from deeper shadow. "You
Something mewlcd and bubbled in the dark behind her.
He shook his head.
"Fight's over, Case. Time to go home."
He tried to walk past her. back into the dark, where something
was dying. She stopped him with a hand on his chest.
"Friends of your tight friend. Killed your girl for you. You
haven't done too well for friends in this town, have you? We
got a partial profile on that old bastard when we did you, man.
He'd fry anybody, for a few New ones. The one back there
said they got on to her when she was trying to fence your RAM.
Just cheaper for them to kill her and take it. Save a little
money.... I got the one who had the laser to tell me all about
it. Coincidence we were here, but I had to make sure." Her
mouth was hard, lips pressed into a thin line.
Case felt as though his brain were jammed. "Who," he said,
"who sent them?"
She passed him a blood-flecked bag of preserved ginger.
He saw that her hands were sticky with blood. Back in the
shadows, someone made wet sounds and died.

After the postoperative check at the clinic, Molly took him
to the port. Armitage was waiting. He'd chartered a hovercraft.
The last Case saw of Chiba were the dark angles of the arcologies.
Then a mist closed over the black water and the drifting
shoals of waste.


Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan
Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every
thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen.
Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to
pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation.
Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale.
Each pixel a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes
per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in
midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial
parks ringing the old core of Atlanta. . .

Case woke from a dream of airports, of Molly's dark leathers
moving ahead of him through the concourses of Narita, Schipol,
Orly.... He watched himself buy a flat plastic flask of Danish
vodka at some kiosk, an hour before dawn.
Somewhere down in the Sprawl's ferro-concrete roots, a
train drove a column of stale air through a tunnel. The train
itself was silent, gliding over its induction cushion, but displaced
air made the tunnel sing, bass down into subsonics.
Vibration reached the room where he lay and caused dust to
rise from the cracks in the dessicated parquet floor.
Opening his eyes, he saw Molly, naked and just out of reach
across an expanse of very new pink temper foam. Overhead,
sunlight filtered through the soot-stained grid of a skylight.
One half-meter square of glass had been replaced with chipboard,
a fat gray cable emerging there to dangle within a few
centimeters of the floor. He lay on his side and watched her
breathe, her breasts, the sweep of a flank defined with the
functional elegance of a war plane's fusilage. Her body was
spare, neat, the muscles like a dancer's.
The room was large. He sat up. The room was empty, aside
from the wide pink bedslab and two nylon bags, new and
identical, that lay beside it. Blank walls, no windows, a single
white-painted steel fire door. The walls were coated with countless
layers of white latex paint. Factory space. He knew this
kind of room, this kind of building; the tenants would operate
in the inter zone where art wasn't quite crime, crime not quite
He was home.
He swung his feet to the floor. It was made of little blocks
of wood, some missing, others loose. His head ached. He
remembered Amsterdam, another room, in the Old City section
of the Centrum, buildings centuries old. Molly back from the
canal's edge with orange juice and eggs. Armitage off on some
cryptic foray, the two of them walking alone past Dam Square
to a bar she knew on a Damrak thoroughfare. Paris was a
blurred dream. Shopping. She'd taken him shopping.
He stood, pulling on a wrinkled pair of new black jeans that
lay at his feet, and knelt beside the bags. The first one he
opened was Molly's: neatly folded clothing and small expensive-looking
gadgets. The second was stuffed with things he
didn't remember buying: books, tapes, a Simstim deck, clothing
with French and Italian labels. Beneath a green t-shirt, he
discovered a flat, origami-wrapped package, recycled Japanese
The paper tore when he picked it up; a bright nine-pointed
star fell--to stick upright in a crack in the parquet.
"Souvenir," Molly said. "I noticed you were always looking
at 'em." He turned and saw her sitting cross legged on the bed,
sleepily scratching her stomach with burgundy nails.

"Someone's coming later to secure the place," Armitage
said. He stood in the open doorway with an old-fashioned
magnetic key in his hand. Molly was making coffee on a tiny
German stove she took from her bag.
"I can do it," she said. "I got enough gear already. Infrascan
perimeter, screamers..."
"No," he said, closing the door. "I want it tight."
"Suit yourself." She wore a dark mesh t-shirt tucked into
baggy black cotton pants.
"You ever the heat, Mr. Armitage?" Case asked, from where
he sat, his back against a wall.
Armitage was no taller than Case, but with his broad shoulders
and military posture he seemed to fill the doorway. He
wore a somber Italian suit; in his right hand he held a briefcase
of soft black calf. The Special Forces earring was gone. The
handsome, inexpressive features offered the routine beauty of
the cosmetic boutiques, a conservative amalgam of the past
decade's leading media faces. The pale glitter of his eyes
heightened the effect of a mask. Case began to regret the question.
"Lots of Forces types wound up cops, I mean. Or corporate
security," Case added uncomfortably. Molly handed him a
steaming mug of coffee. "That number you had them do on
my pancreas, that's like a cop routine."
Armitage closed the door and crossed the room, to stand in
front of Case. "You're a lucky boy, Case. You should thank
"Should l?" Case blew noisily on his coffee.
"You needed a new pancreas. The one we bought for you
frees you from a dangerous dependency."
"Thanks, but I was enjoying that dependency."
"Good, because you have a new one."
"How's that?" Case looked up from his coffee. Armitage
was smiling.
"You have fifteen toxin sacs bonded to the lining of various
main arteries, Case. They're dissolving. Very slowly, but they
definitely are dissolving. Each one contains a mycotoxin. You're
already familiar with the effect of that mycotoxin. It was the
one your former employers gave you in Memphis."
Case blinked up at the smiling mask.
"You have time to do what I'm hiring you for, Case, but
that's all. Do the job and I can inject you with an enzyme that
will dissolve the bond without opening the sacs. Then you'll
need a blood change. Otherwise, the sacs melt and you're back
where I found you. So you see, Case, you need us. You need
us as badly as you did when we scraped you up from the gutter."
Case looked at Molly. She shrugged.
"Now go down to the freight elevator and bring up the cases
you find there." Armitage handed him the magnetic key. "Go
on. You'll enjoy this, Case. Like Christmas morning."

Summer in the Sprawl, the mall crowds swaying like wind-blown
grass, a field of flesh shot through with sudden eddies
of need and gratification.
He sat beside Molly in filtered sunlight on the rim of a dry
concrete fountain, letting the endless stream of faces recapitulate
the stages of his life. First a child with hooded eyes, a
street boy, hands relaxed and ready at his sides; then a teenager,
face smooth and cryptic beneath red glasses. Case remembered
fighting on a rooftop at seventeen, silent combat in the rose
glow of the dawn geodesics.
He shifted on the concrete, feeling it rough and cool through
the thin black denim. Nothing here like the electric dance of
Ninsei. This was different commerce, a different rhythm, in
the smell of fast food and perfume and fresh summer sweat.
With his deck waiting, back in the loft, an Ono-Sendai
Cyberspace 7. They'd left the place littered with the abstract
white forms of the foam packing units, with crumpled plastic
film and hundreds of tiny foam beads. The Ono-Sendai; next
year's most expensive Hosaka computer; a Sony monitor; a
dozen disks of corporate-grade ice; a Braun coffee maker. Armitage
had only waited for Case's approval of each piece.
"Where'd he go?" Case had asked Molly.
"He likes hotels. Big ones. Near airports, if he can manage
it. Let's go down to the street." She'd zipped herself into an
old surplus vest with a dozen oddly shaped pockets and put on
a huge pair of black plastic sunglasses that completely covered
her mirrored insets.
"You know about that toxin shit, before?" he asked her, by
the fountain. She shook her head. "You think it's true?"
"Maybe, maybe not. Works either way."
"You know any way I can find out?"
"No," she said, her right hand coming up to form the jive
for silence. "That kind of kink's too subtle to show up on a
scan." Then her fingers moved again: wait. "And you don't
care that much anyway. I saw you stroking that Sendai; man,
it was pornographic." She laughed.
"So what's he got on you? How's he got the working girl
"-Professional pride, baby, that's all." And again the sign
for silence. "We're gonna get some breakfast, okay? Eggs, real
bacon. Probably kill you, you been eating that rebuilt Chiba
krill for so long. Yeah, come on, we'll tube in to Manhattan
and get us a real breakfast."

Lifeless neon spelled out METRO HOLOGRAFIX in dusty
capitals of glass tubing. Case picked at a shred of bacon that
had lodged between his front teeth. He'd given up asking her
where they were going and why; jabs in the ribs and the sign
for silence were all he'd gotten in reply. She talked about the
season's fashions, about sports, about a political scandal in
California he'd never heard of.
He looked around the deserted dead end street. A sheet of
newsprint went cart wheeling past the intersection. Freak winds
in the East side; something to do with convection, and an
overlap in the domes. Case peered through the window at the
dead sign. Her Sprawl wasn't his Sprawl? he decided. She'd
led him through a dozen bars and clubs he'd never seen before,
taking care of business, usually with no more than a nod.
Maintaining connections.
Something was moving in the shadows behind METRO
The door was a sheet of corrugated roofing. In front of it,
Molly's hands flowed through an intricate sequence of jive that
he couldn't follow. He caught the sign for cash, a thumb brushing
the tip of the forefinger. The door swung inward and sheled
him into the smell of dust. They stood in a clearing, dense
tangles of junk rising on either side to walls lined with shelves
of crumbling paperbacks. The junk looked like something that
had grown there, a fungus of twisted metal and plastic. He
could pick out individual objects, but then they seemed to blur
back into the mass: the guts of a television so old it was studded
with the glass stumps of vacuum tubes, a crumpled dish antenna,
a brown fiber canister stuffed with corroded lengths of
alloy tubing. An enormous pile of old magazines had cascaded
into the open area, flesh of lost summers staring blindly up as
he followed her back through a narrow canyon of impacted
scrap. He heard the door close behind them. He didn't look

The tunnel ended with an ancient Army blanket tacked across
a doorway. White light flooded out as Molly ducked past it.
Four square walls of blank white plastic, ceiling to match,
floored with white hospital tile molded in a non slip pattern of
small raised disks. In the center stood a square, white-painted
wooden table and four white folding chairs.
The man who stood blinking now in the doorway behind
them, the blanket draping one shoulder like a cape, seemed to
have been designed in a wind tunnel. His ears were very small,
plastered flat against his narrow skull, and his large front teeth,
revealed in something that wasn't quite a smile, were canted
sharply backward. He wore an ancient tweed jacket and held
a handgun of some kind in his left hand. He peered at them,
blinked, and dropped the gun into a jacket pocket. He gestured
to Case, pointed at a slab of white plastic that leaned near the
doorway. Case crossed to it and saw that it was a solid sandwich
of circuitry, nearly a centimeter thick. He helped the man lift
it and position it in the doorway. Quick, nicotine-stained fingers
secured it with a white velcro border. A hidden exhaust fan
began to purr.
"Time," the man said, straightening up, "and counting. You
know the rate, Moll."
"We need a scan, Finn. For implants."
"So get over there between the pylons. Stand on the tape.
Straighten up, yeah. Now turn around, gimme a full threesixty."
Case watched her rotate between two fragile-looking
stands studded with sensors. The man took a small monitor
from his pocket and squinted at it. "Something new in your
head, yeah. Silicon. coat of pyrolitic carbons. A clock, right?
Your glasses gimme the read they always have, low-temp isotropic
carbons. Better biocompatibility with pyrolitics, but
that's your business, right? Same with your claws."
"Get over here, Case." He saw a scuffed X in black on the
white floor. "Turn around. Slow."
"Guy's a virgin." The man shrugged. "Some cheap dental
work, is all."
"You read for biologicals?" Molly unzipped her green vest
and took off the dark glasses.
"You think this is the Mayo? Climb on the table, kid, we'll
run a little biopsy." He laughed, showing more of his yellow
teeth. "Nah. Finn's word, sweetmeat, you got no little bugs,
no cortex bombs. You want me to shut the screen down?"
"Just for as long as it takes you to leave, Finn. Then we'll
want full screen for as long as we want it."
"Hey, that's fine by the Finn, Moll. You're only paying by
the second."
They sealed the door behind him and Molly turned one of
the white chairs around and sat on it, chin resting on crossed
forearms. "We talk now. This is as private as I can afford."
"What about?"
"What we're doing."
"What are we doing?"
"Working for Armitage."
"And you're saying this isn't for his benefit?"
"Yeah. I saw your profile, Case. And I've seen the rest of
our shopping list, once. You ever work with the dead?"
"No." He watched his reflection in her glasses. "I could, I
guess. I'm good at what I do." The present tense made him
"You know that the Dixie Flatline's dead?"
He nodded. "Heart, I heard."
"You'll be working with his construct." She smiled. "Taught
you the ropes, huh? Him and Quine. I know Quine, by the
way.  Real asshole."
"Somebody's got a recording of McCoy Pauley? Who?"
Now Case sat, and rested his elbows on the table. "I can't see
it. He'd never have sat still for it."
"Sense/Net. Paid him mega, you bet your ass."
"Quine dead too?"
"No such luck. He's in Europe. He doesn't come into this."
"Well, if we can get the Flatline, we're home free. He was
the best. You know he died brain death three times?"
She nodded.
"Flat lined on his EEG. Showed me tapes. 'Boy, I was daid.' "
"Look, Case, I been trying to suss out who it is is backing
Armitage since I signed on. But it doesn't feel like a zaibatsu,
a government, or some Yakuza subsidiary. Armitage gets orders.
Like something tells him to go off to Chiba, pick up a
pillhead who's making one last wobble throught the burnout
belt, and trade a program for the operation that'll fix him up.
We could a bought twenty world class cowboys for what the
market was ready to pay for that surgical program. You were
good, but not that good...." She scratched the side of her
"Obviously makes sense to somebody," he said. "Somebody
"Don't let me hurt your feelings." She grinned. "We're
gonna be pulling one hardcore run, Case, just to get the Flatline's
construct. Sense/Net has it locked in a library vault uptown.
Tighter than an eel's ass, Case. Now, Sense/Net, they
got all their new material for the fall season locked in there
too. Steal that and we'd be richer than shit. But no, we gotta
get us the Flatline and nothing else. Weird."
"Yeah, it's all weird. You're weird, this hole's weird, and
who's the weird little gopher outside in the hall?"
"Finn's an old connection of mine. Fence, mostly. Software.
This privacy biz is a sideline. But I got Armitage to let him
be our tech here, so when he shows up later, you never saw
him. Got it?"
"So what's Armitage got dissolving inside you?"
"I'm an easy make." She smiled. "Anybody any good at
what they do, that's what they are, right? You gotta jack, I
gotta tussle."
He stared at her. "So tell me what you know about Armitage."
"For starters, nobody named Armitage took part in any
Screaming Fist. I checked. But that doesn't mean much. He
doesn't look like any of the pics of the guys who got out." She
shrugged. "Big deal. And starters is all I got." She drummed
her nails on the back of the chair. "But you are a cowboy,
aren't you? I mean, maybe you could have a little look around."
She smiled.
"He'd kill me."
"Maybe. Maybe not. I think he needs you, Case, and real
bad. Besides, you're a clever john, no? You can winkle him,
"What else is on that list you mentioned?"
"Toys. Mostly for you. And one certified psychopath name
of Peter Riviera. Real ugly customer."
"Where's he?"
"Dunno. But he's one sick fuck, no lie. I saw his profile."
She made a face. "God awful." She stood up and stretched,
catlike. "So we got an axis going, boy? We're together in this?
Case looked at her. "I gotta lotta choice, huh?"
She laughed. "You got it, cowboy."

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said
the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation
with cranial jacks." On the Sony, a two-dimensional
space war faded behind a forest of mathematically
generated ferns, demonstrating the spacial possibilities of logarithmic
spirals- cold blue military footage burned through, lab
animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire con.
trot circuits of tanks and war planes. "Cyberspace. A consensual
hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate
operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical
concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted
from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable
complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space of
the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights,

"What's that?" Molly asked, as he flipped the channel selector.
"Kid's show." A discontinuous flood of images as the selector
cycled. "Off," he said to the Hosaka.
"You want to try now, Case?"
Wednesday. Eight days from waking in Cheap Hotel with
Molly beside him. "You want me to go out, Case? Maybe
easier for you, alone...." He shook his head.
"No. Stay, doesn't matter." He settled the black terry sweatband
across his forehead, careful not to disturb the flat Sendai
dermatrodes. He stared at the deck on his lap, not really seeing
it, seeing instead the shop window on Ninsei, the chromed
shuriken burning with reflected neon. He glanced up; on the
wall, just above the Sony, he'd hung her gift, tacking it there
with a yellow-headed drawing pin through the hole at its center.
closed his eyes.
Found the ridged face of the power stud.
And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes
boiling in from the edge of space, hypnagogic images jerking
past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols, figures,
faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information.
Please, he prayed, now--

A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky.

Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of palergray.
Expanding-- And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick,
the unfolding of his distance less home, his country, transparent
3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the
stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority
burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of
America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms
of military systems, forever beyond his reach.
And somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft,
distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his

Molly was gone when he took the trodes off, and the loft
was dark. He checked the time. He'd been in cyberspace for
five hours. He carried the Ono-Sendai to one of the new worktables
and collapsed across the bedslab, pulling Molly's black
silk sleeping bag over his head.
The security package taped to the steel fire door bleeped
twice. "Entry requested," it said. "Subject is cleared per my
"So open it." Case pulled the silk from his face and sat up
as the door opened, expecting to see Molly or Armitage.
"Christ," said a hoarse voice, "I know that bitch can see in
the dark...." A squat figure stepped in and closed the door.
"Turn the lights on, okay?" Case scrambled off the slab and
found the old-fashioned switch.
"I'm the Finn," said the Finn, and made a warning face at
"Pleased to meecha, I'm sure. I'm doing some hardware
for your boss, it looks like." The Finn fished a pack of Partagas
from a pocket and lit one. The smell of Cuban tobacco filled
the room. He crossed to the worktable and glanced at the Ono-Sendai.
"Looks stock. Soon fix that. But here is your problem,
kid." He took a filthy manila envelope from inside his jacket,
flicked ash on the floor, and extracted a featureless black rectangle
from the envelope. "Goddamn factory prototypes," he
said, tossing the thing down on the table. "Cast 'em into a
block of polycarbon, can't get in with a laser without frying
the works. Booby-trapped for x-ray, ultrascan, God knows
what else. We'll get in, but there's no rest for the wicked,
right?" He folded the envelope with great care and tucked it
away in an inside pocket.
"What is it?"
"It's a flip flop switch, basically. Wire it into your Sendai
here, you can access live or recorded Sims Tim without having
to jack out of the matrix."
"What for?"
"I haven't got a clue. Know I'm fitting Moll for a broadcast
rig, though, so it's probably her sensorium you'll access." The
Finn scratched his chin. "So now you get to find out just how
tight those jeans really are, huh?"

Case sat in the loft with the dermatrodes strapped across his
forehead, watching motes dance in the diluted sunlight that
filtered through the grid overhead. A countdown was in progress
in one corner of the monitor screen.
Cowboys didn't get into Simstim, he thought, because it
was basically a meat toy. He knew that the trodes he used and
the little plastic tiara dangling from a Simstim deck were basically
the same, and that the cyberspace matrix was actually a
drastic simplification of the human sensorium, at least in terms
of presentation, but Simstim itself struck him as a gratuitous
multiplication of flesh input. The commercial stuff was edited,
of course, so that if Tally Isham got a headache in the course
of a segment, you didn't feel it.
The screen bleeped a two-second warning.
The new switch was patched into his Sendai with a thin
ribbon of fiber optics.
And one and two and--

Cyberspace slid into existence from the cardinal points.

Smooth, he thought, but not smooth enough. Have to work on it.
Then he keyed the new switch.
The abrupt jolt into other flesh. Matrix gone, a wave of
sound and color.... She was moving through a crowded street,
past stalls vending discount software, prices felt penned on sheets
of plastic, fragments of music from countless speakers. Smells
of urine, free monomers, perfume, patties of frying krill. For
a few frightened seconds he fought helplessly to control her
body. Then he willed himself into passivity, became the passenger
behind her eyes.
The glasses didn't seem to cut down the sunlight at all. He
wondered if the built-in amps compensated automatically. Blue
alphanumerics winked the time, low in her left peripheral field.
Showing off, he thought.
Her body language was disorienting, her style foreign. She
seemed continually on the verge of colliding with someone,
but people melted out of her way, stepped sideways, made
"How you doing, Case?" He heard the words and felt her
form them. She slid a hand into her jacket, a fingertip circling
a nipple under warm silk. The sensation made him catch his
breath. She laughed. But the link was one-way. He had no way
to reply.
Two blocks later, she was threading the outskirts of Memory
Lane. Case kept trying to jerk her eyes toward landmarks he
would have used to find his way. He began to find the passivity
of the situation irritating.
The transition to cyberspace, when he hit the switch, was
instantaneous. He punched himself down a wall of primitive
ice belonging to the New York Public Library, automatically
counting potential windows. Keying back into her sensorium,
into the sinuous flow of muscle, senses sharp and bright.
He found himself wondering about the mind he shared these
sensations with. What did he know about her? That she was
another professional; that she said her being, like his, was the
thing she did to make a living. He knew the way she'd moved
against him, earlier, when she woke, their mutual grunt of
unity when he'd entered her, and that she liked her coffee black,
Her destination was one of the dubious software rental complexes
that lined Memory Lane. There was a stillness, a hush.
Booths lined a central hall. The clientele were young, few of
them out of their teens. They all seemed to have carbon sockets
planted behind the left ear, but she didn't focus on them. The
counters that fronted the booths displayed hundreds of slivers
of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon mounted
under oblong transparent bubbles on squares of white cardboard.
Molly went to the seventh booth along the south wall.
Behind the counter a boy with a shaven head stared vacantly
into space, a dozen spikes of microsoft protruding from the
socket behind his ear.
"Larry, you in, man?" She positioned herself in front of
him. The boy's eyes focused. He sat up in his chair and pried
a bright magenta splinter from his socket with a dirty thumbnail .
"Hey, Larry."
"Molly." He nodded.
"I have some work for some of your friends, Larry."
Larry took a flat plastic case from the pocket of his red
sport shirt and flicked it open, slotting the microsoft beside a
dozen others. His hand hovered, selected a glossy black chip
that was slightly longer than the rest, and inserted it smoothly
into his head. His eyes narrowed.
"Molly's got a rider," he said, "and Larry doesn't like that."
"Hey," she said, "I didn't know you were so . . . sensitive.
I'm impressed. Costs a lot, to get that sensitive."
"I know you, lady?" The blank look returned. "You looking
to buy some softs?"
"I'm looking for the Moderns."
"You got a rider, Molly. This says." He tapped the black
splinter. "Somebody else using your eyes."
"My partner."
"Tell your partner to go."
"Got something for the Panther Moderns, Larry."
"What are you talking about, lady?"
"Case, you take off," she said, and he hit the switch, instantly
back in the matrix. Ghost impressions of the software
complex hung for a few seconds in the buzzing calm of cyberspace.
"Panther Moderns," he said to the Hosaka, removing the
trodes. "Five minute precis."
"Ready," the computer said.

It wasn't a name he knew. Something new, something that
had come in since he'd been in Chiba. Fads swept the youth
of the Spraw] at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise
overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly.
"Go," he said. The Hosaka had accessed its array of libraries,
journals, and news services.
The precis began with a long hold on a color still that Case
at first assumed was a collage of some kind, a boy's face
snipped from another image and glued to a photograph of a
paint-scrawled wall. Dark eyes, epicanthic folds obviously the
result of surgery, an angry dusting of acne across pale narrow
cheeks. The Hosaka released the freeze; the boy moved, flowing
with the sinister grace of a mime pretending to be a jungle
predator. His body was nearly invisible, an abstract pattern
approximating the scribbled brickwork sliding smoothly across
his tight one piece. Mimetic polycarbon.
Cut to Dr. Virginia Rambali, Sociology, NYU, her name,
faculty, and school pulsing across the screen in pink alphanumerics.

"Given their penchant for these random acts of surreal violence,"
someone said, "it may be difficult for our viewers to
understand why you continue to insist that this phenomenon
isn't a form of terrorism."
Dr. RamBali smiled. "There is always a point at which the
terrorist ceases to manipulate the media gestalt. A point at
which the violence may well escalate, but beyond which the
terrorist has become symptomatic of the media gestalt itself.
Terrorism as we ordinarily understand it is inately media-related.
The Panther Moderns differ from other terrorists precisely
in their degree of self-consciousness, in their awareness
of the extent to which media divorce the act of terrorism from
the original sociopolitical intent...."
"Skip it," Case said.

Case met his first Modern two days after he'd screened the
Hosaka's precis. The Moderns, he'd decided, were a contemporary
version of the Big Scientists of his own late teens. There
was a kind of ghostly teenage DNA at work in the Sprawl,
something that carried the coded precepts of various short-lived
sub cults and replicated them at odd intervals. The Panther Moderns
were a soft head variant on the Scientists. If the technology
had been available the Big Scientists would all have had sockets
stuffed with microsofts. It was the style that mattered and
the style was the same. The Moderns were mercenaries, practical
jokers, nihilistic technofetishists.
The one who showed up at the loft door with a box of
diskettes from the Finn was a soft-voiced boy called Angelo.
His face was a simple graft grown on collagen and shark-
 cartilage polysaccharides, smooth and hideous. It was one of
the nastiest pieces of elective surgery Case had ever seen. When
Angelo smiled, revealing the razor-sharp canines of some large
animal, Case was actually relieved. Tooth bud transplants. He'd
seen that before.
"You can't let the little pricks generation-gap you," Molly
said. Case nodded, absorbed in the patterns of the Sense/Net
This was it. This was what he was, who he was, his being.
He forgot to eat. Molly left cartons of rice and foam trays of
sushi on the corner of the long table. Sometimes he resented
having to leave the deck to use the chemical toilet they'd set
up in a corner of the loft. Ice patterns formed and reformed on
the screen as he probed for gaps, skirted the most obvious
traps, and mapped the route he'd take through Sense/Net's ice.
It was good ice. Wonderful ice. Its patterns burned there while
he lay with his arm under Molly's shoulders, watching the red
dawn through the steel grid of the skylight. Its rainbow pixel
maze was the first thing he saw when he woke. He'd go straight
to the deck, not bothering to dress, and jack in. He was cutting
it. He was working. He lost track of days.
And sometimes, falling asleep, particularly when Molly was
off on one of her reconnaissance trips with her rented cadre of
Moderns, images of Chiba came flooding back. Faces and
Ninsei neon. Once he woke from a confused dream of Linda
Lee, unable to recall who she was or what she'd ever meant
to him. When he did remember, he jacked in and worked for
nine straight hours.
The cutting of Sense/Net's ice took a total of nine days.
"I said a week," Armitage said, unable to conceal his satisfaction
when Case showed him his plan for the run. "You
took your own good time."
"Balls," Case said, smiling at the screen. "That's good work,
"Yes," Armitage admitted, "but don't let it go to your head.
Compared to what you'll eventually be up against, this is an
arcade toy."

"Love you, Cat Mother," whispered the Panther Modern's
link man. His voice was modulated static in Case's headset.
"Atlanta, Brood. Looks go. Go, got it?" Molly's voice was
slightly clearer.
"To hear is to obey." The Moderns were using some kind
of chicken wire dish in New Jersey to bounce the link man's
scrambled signal off a Sons of Christ the King satellite in
geosynchronous orbit above Manhattan. They chose to regard
the entire operation as an elaborate private joke, and their
choice of comsats seemed to have been deliberate. Molly's
signals were being beamed up from a one-meter umbrella dish
epoxy-ed to the roof of a black glass bank tower nearly as tall
as the Sense/Net building.
Atlanta. The recognition code was simple. Atlanta to Boston
to Chicago to Denver, five minutes for each city. If anyone
managed to intercept Molly's signal, unscramble it, synth her
voice, the code would tip the Moderns. If she remained in the
building for more than twenty minutes, it was highly unlikely
she'd be coming out at all.
Case gulped the last of his coffee, settled the trodes in place,
and scratched his chest beneath his black t-shirt. He had only
a vague idea of what the Panther Moderns planned as a diversion
for the Sense/Net security people. His job was to make
sure the intrusion program he'd written would link with the
Sense/Net systems when Molly needed it to. He watched the
countdown in the corner of the screen. Two. One.
He jacked in and triggered his program. "Mainline," breathed
the link man, his voice the only sound as Case plunged through
the glowing strata of Sense/Net ice. Good. Check Molly. He
hit the Simstim and flipped into her sensorium.
The scrambler blurred the visual input slightly. She stood
before a wall of gold-flecked mirror in the building's vast white
lobby, chewing gum, apparently fascinated by her own reflection.
Aside from the huge pair of sunglasses concealing her
mirrored insets, she managed to look remarkably like she
belonged there, another tourist girl hoping for a glimpse of
Tally Isham. She wore a pink plastic raincoat, a white mesh
top, loose white pants cut in a style that had been fashionable
in Tokyo the previous year. She grinned vacantly and popped
her gum. Case felt like laughing. He could feel the micro pore
tape across her ribcage, feel the flat little units under it: the
radio, the Simstim unit, and the scrambler. The throat mike,
glued to her neck, looked as much as possible like an analgesic
dermadisk. Her hands, in the pockets of the pink coat, were
flexing systematically through a series of tension-release exercises.
It took him a few seconds to realize that the peculiar
sensation at the tips of her fingers was caused by the blades as
they were partially extruded, then retracted.
He flipped back. His program had reached the fifth gate.
He watched as his icebreaker strobed and shifted in front of
him, only faintly aware of his hands playing across the deck,
making minor adjustments. Translucent planes of color shuffled
like a trick deck. Take a card, he thought, any card.
The gate blurred past. He laughed. The Sense/Net ice had
accepted his entry as a routine transfer from the consortium's
Los Angeles complex. He was inside. Behind him, viral subprograms
peeled off, meshing with the gate' s code fabric, ready
to deflect the real Los Angeles data when it arrived.
He flipped again. Molly was strolling past the enormous
circular reception desk at the rear of the lobby.
12:01:20 as the readout flared in her optic nerve.
At midnight, synch Ed with the chip behind Molly's eye, the
link man in Jersey had given his command. "Mainline." Nine
Moderns, scattered along two hundred miles of the Sprawl,
had simultaneously dialed MAX EMERG from pay phones.
Each Modern delivered a short set speech, hung up, and drifted
out into the night, peeling off surgical gloves. Nine different
police departments and public security agencies were absorbing
the information that an obscure sub sect of militant Christian
fundamentalists had just taken credit for having introduced
clinical levels of an outlawed psychoactive agent known as
Blue Nine into the ventilation system of the Sense/Net Pyramid.
Blue Nine, known in California as Grievous Angel, had been
shown to produce acute paranoia and homicidal psychosis in
eighty-five percent of experimental subjects.

Case hit the switch as his program surged through the gates
of the subsystem that controlled security for the Sense/Net
research library. He found himself stepping into an elevator.
"Excuse me, but are you an employee?" The guard raised
his eyebrows. Molly popped her gum. "No," she said, driving
the first two knuckles of her right hand into the man's solar
plexus. As he doubled over, clawing for the beeper on his belt
she slammed his head sideways, against the wall of the elevator.
Chewing a little more rapidly now, she touched CLOSE
DOOR and STOP on the illuminated panel. She took a black box
from her coat pocket and inserted a lead in the keyhole of the
lock that secured the panel's circuitry.

The Panther Moderns allowed four minutes for their first
move to take effect, then injected a second carefully prepared
dose of misinformation. This time, they shot it directly into
the Sense/Net building's internal video system.
At 12:04:03, every screen in the building strobed for eighteen
seconds in a frequency that produced seizures in a susceptible
segment of Sense/Net employees. Then something only
vaguely like a human face filled the screens, its features stretched
across asymmetrical expanses of bone like some obscene Mercator
projection. Blue lips parted wetly as the twisted, elongated
jaw moved. Something, perhaps a hand, a thing like a reddish
clump of gnarled roots, fumbled toward the camera, blurred,
and vanished. Subliminally rapid images of contamination:
graphics of the building's water supply system, gloved hands
manipulating laboratory glassware, something tumbling down
into darkness, a pale splash.... The audio track, its pitch adjusted
to run at just less than twice the standard playback speed,
was part of a month-old newscast detailing potential military
uses of a substance known as HsG, a biochemical governing
the human skeletal growth factor. Overdoses of HsG threw
certain bone cells into overdrive, accelerating growth by factors
as high as one thousand percent.
At 12:05:00, the mirror-sheathed nexus of the Sense/Net
consortium held just over three thousand employees. At five
minutes after midnight, as the Moderns' message ended in a
flare of white screen, the Sense/Net Pyramid screamed.
Half a dozen NYPD Tactical hovercraft, responding to the
possibility of Blue Nine in the building's ventilation system,
were converging on the Sense/Net Pyramid. They were running
full riot lights. A BAMA Rapid Deployment helicopter was
lifting off from its pad on Riker's.

Case triggered his second program. A carefully engineered
virus attacked the code fabric screening primary custodial commands
for the sub-basement that housed the Sense/Net research
materials. "Boston," Molly's voice came across the link, "I'm
downstairs." Case switched and saw the blank wall of the
elevator. She was unzipping the white pants. A bulky packet,
exactly the shade of her pale ankle, was secured there with
micro pore. She knelt and peeled the tape away. Streaks of
burgundy flickered across the mimetic polycarbon as she unfolded
the Modern suit. She removed the pink raincoat, threw
it down beside the white pants, and began to pull the suit on
over the white mesh top.
Case's virus had bored a window through the library's command
ice. He punched himself through and found an infinite
blue space ranged with color-coded spheres strung on a tight
grid of pale blue neon. In the non space of the matrix, the interior
of a given data construct possessed unlimited subjective dimension;
a child's toy calculator, accessed through Case's Sen:j

dai, would have presented limitless gulfs of nothingness hung
with a few basic commands. Case began to key the sequence
the Finn had purchased from a mid-eschelon sarariman with
severe drug problems. He began to glide through the spheres
as if he were on invisible tracks.
Here. This one.
Punching his way into the sphere, chill blue neon vault above
him starless and smooth as frosted glass, he triggered a sub-
program that effected certain alterations in the core custodial
Out now. Reversing smoothly, the virus reknitting the fabric
of the window.

x x x
In the Sense/Net lobby, two Panther Moderns sat alertly
behind a low rectangular planter, taping the riot with a video
camera. They both wore chameleon suits. "Tacticals are spray-
ing foam barricades now," one noted, speaking for the benefit
of his throat mike. "Rapids are still trying to land their copter."

Case hit the Sim-Stim switch. And flipped into the agony of
broken bone. Molly was braced against the blank gray wall of
a long corridor, her breath coming ragged and uneven. Case
was back in the matrix instantly, a white-hot line of pain fading
in his left thigh.
"What's happening, Brood?" he asked the link man.
"I dunno, Cutter. Mother's not talking. Wait."
Case's program was cycling. A single hair-fine thread of
crimson neon extended from the center of the restored window
to the shifting outline of his icebreaker. He didn't have time
to wait. Taking a deep breath, he flipped again.
Molly took a single step, trying to support her weight on
the corridor wall. In the loft, Case groaned. The second step
took her over an outstretched arm. Uniform sleeve bright with
fresh blood. Glimpse of a shattered fiberglass shock stave. Her
vision seemed to have narrowed to a tunnel. With the third
step, Case screamed and found himself back in the matrix.
"Brood? Boston, baby. . ." Her voice tight with pain. She
coughed. "Little problem with the natives. Think one of them
broke my leg."
"What you need now, Cat Mother?" The link man's voice
was indistinct, nearly lost behind static.
Case forced himself to flip back. She was leaning against
the wall, taking all of her weight on her right leg. She fumbled
through the contents of the suit's kangaroo pocket and withdrew
a sheet of plastic studded with a rainbow of dermadisks. She
selected three and thumbed them hard against her left wrist,
over the veins. Six thousand micrograms of endorphin analog
came down on the pain like a hammer, shattering it. Her back
arched convulsively. Pink waves of warmth lapped up her thighs.
She sighed and slowly relaxed.
"Okay, Brood. Okay now. But I'll need a medical team
when l come out. Tell my people. Cutter, I'm two minutes
from target. Can you hold?"
"Tell her I'm in and holding," Case said.
Molly began to limp down the corridor. When she glanced
back, once, Case saw the crumpled bodies of three Sense/Net
security guards. One of them seemed to have no eyes.
"Tacticals and Rapids have sealed the ground floor, Cat
Mother. Foam barricades. Lobby's getting juicy."
"Pretty juicy down here," she said, swinging herself through
a pair of gray steel doors. "Almost there, Cutter."
Case flipped into the matrix and pulled the trodes from his
forehead. He was drenched with sweat. He wiped his forehead
with a towel, took a quick sip of water from the bicycle bottle
beside the Hosaka, and checked the map of the library displayed
on the screen. A pulsing red cursor crept through the outline
of a doorway. Only millimeters from the green dot that indicated
the location of the Dixie Flat line's construct. He wondered
what it was doing to her leg, to walk on it that way.
With enough endorphin analog, she could walk on a pair of
bloody stumps. He tightened the nylon harness that held him
in the chair and replaced the trodes.
Routine now: trodes, jack, and flip.
The Sense/Net research library was a dead storage area; the
materials stored here had to be physically removed before they
could be interfaced. Molly hobbled between rows of identical
gray lockers.
"Tell her five more and ten to her left, Brood," Case said.
"Five more and ten left, Cat Mother," the link man said.
She took the left. A white-faced librarian cowered between
two lockers, her cheeks wet, eyes blank. Molly ignored her.
Case wondered what the Moderns had done to provoke that
level of terror. He knew it had something to do with a hoaxed
threat, but he' d been too involved with his ice to follow Molly ' s
"That's it," Case said, but she'd already stopped in front of
the cabinet that held the construct. Its lines reminded Case of
the Neo-Aztec bookcases in Julie Deane's anteroom in Chiba.
"Do it, Cutter," Molly said.
Case flipped to cyberspace and sent a command pulsing
down the crimson thread that pierced the library ice. Five separate
alarm systems were convinced that they were still operative.
The three elaborate locks deactivated, but considered
themselves to have remained locked. The library's central bank
suffered a minute shift in its permanent memory: the construct
had been removed, per executive order, a month before. Checking
for the authorization to remove the construct, a librarian
would find the records erased.
The door swung open on silent hinges.
"0467839," Case said, and Molly drew a black storage unit
from the rack. It resembled the magazine of a large assault
rifle, its surfaces covered with warning decals and security
Molly closed the locker door; Case flipped.
He withdrew the line through the library ice. It whipped
back into his program, automatically triggering a full system
reversal. The Sense/Net gates snapped past him as he backed
out, subprograms whirling back into the core of the icebreaker
as he passed the gates where they had been stationed.
"Out, Brood," he said, and slumped in his chair. After the
concentration of an actual run, he could remain jacked in and
still retain awareness of his body. It might take Sense/Net days
to discover the theft of the construct. The key would be the
deflection of the Los Angeles transfer, which coincided too
neatly with the Modern's terror run. He doubted that the three
security men Molly had encountered in the corridor would live
to talk about it. He flipped.
The elevator, with Molly's black box taped beside the control
panel, remained where she'd left it. The guard still lay curled
on the floor. Case noticed the term on his neck for the first
time. Something of Molly's, to keep him under. She stepped
over him and removed the black box before punching LOBBY.
As the elevator door hissed open, a woman hurtled backward
out of the crowd, into the elevator, and struck the rear wall
with her head. Molly ignored her, bending over to peel the
derm from the guard's neck. Then she kicked the white pants
and the pink raincoat out the door, tossing the dark glasses
after them, and drew the hood of her suit down across her
forehead. The construct, in the suit's kangaroo pocket, dug
into her sternum when she moved. She stepped out.

Case had seen panic before, but never in an enclosed area.
The Sense/Net employees, spilling out of the elevators, had
surged for the street doors, only to meet the foam barricades
of the Tacticals and the sandbag-guns of the BAMA Rapids.
The two agencies, convinced that they were containing a horde
of potential killers, were cooperating with an uncharacteristic
degree of efficiency. Beyond the shattered wreckage of the
main street doors, bodies were piled three deep on the barricades.
The hollow thumping of the riot guns provided a constant
background for the sound the crowd made as it surged back
and forth across the lobby's marble floor. Case had never heard
anything like that sound.
Neither, apparently, had Molly. "Jesus," she said, and hesitated.
It was a sort of keening, rising into a bubbling wail of
MW and total fear. The lobby floor was covered with bodies,
clothing, blood, and long trampled scrolls of yellow printout.
"C'mon, sister. We're for out. " The eyes of the two Moderns
stared out of madly swirling shades of polycarbon, their suits
unable to keep up with the confusion of shape and color that
raged behind them. "You hurt? C'mon. Tommy'll walk you."
Tommy handed something to the one who spoke, a video camera
wrapped in polycarbon.
"Chicago," she said, "I'm on my way." And then she was
falling, not to the marble floor, slick with blood and vomit,
but down some blood warm well, into silence and the dark.

The Panther Modern leader, who introduced himself as Lupus
Yonderboy, wore a polycarbon suit with a recording feature
that allowed him to replay backgrounds at will. Perched on the
edge of Case's worktable like some kind of state of the art
gargoyle, he regarded Case and Armitage with hooded eyes.
He smiled. His hair was pink. A rainbow forest of microsofts
bristled behind his left ear; the ear was pointed, tufted with
more pink hair. His pupils had been modified to catch the light
like a cat's. Case watched the suit crawl with color and texture.
"You let it getout of control," Armitage said. He stood in
the center of the loft like a statue, wrapped in the dark glossy
folds of an expensive-looking trench coat.
"Chaos, Mr. Who," Lupus Yonderboy said. "That is our
mode and modus. That is our central kick. Your woman knows.
We deal with her. Not with you, Mr. Who." His suit had taken
on a weird angular pattern of beige and pale avocado. "She
needed her medical team. She's with them. We'll watch out
for her. Everything's fine." He smiled again.
"Pay him," Case said.
Armitage glared at him. "We don't have the goods."
"Your woman has it," Yonderboy said.
"Pay him."
Armitage crossed stiffly to the table and took three fat bundles
of New Yen from the pockets of his trench coat. "You
want to count it?" he asked Yonder boy.
"No," the Panther Modern said. "You'll pay. You're a Mr.
Who. You pay to stay one. Not a Mr. Name."
"I hope that isn't a threat," Armitage said.
"That's business," said Yonderboy, stuffing the money into
the single pocket on the front of his suit.
The phone rang. Case answered.
"Molly," he told Armitage, handing him the phone.

The Sprawl's geodesics were lightening into predawn gray
as Case left the building. His limbs felt cold and disconnected.
He couldn't sleep. He was sick of the loft. Lupus had gone,
then Armitage, and Molly was in surgery somewhere. Vibration
beneath his feet as a train hissed past. Sirens Doppler Ed in the
He took corners at random, his collar up, hunched in a new
leather jacket, flicking the first of a chain of Yeheyuans into
the gutter and lighting another. He tried to imagine Armitage's
toxin sacs dissolving in his bloodstream, microscopic membranes
wearing thinner as he walked. It didn't seem real. Neither
did the fear and agony he'd seen through Molly's eyes in
the lobby of Sense/Net. He found himself trying to remember
the faces of the three people he'd killed in Chiba. The men
were blanks; the woman reminded him of Linda Lee. A battered
tricycle-truck with mirrored windows bounced past him, empty
plastic cylinders rattling in its bed.
He darted sideways, instinctively getting a wall behind his
"Message for you, Case." Lupus Yonder boy's suit cycled
through pure primaries. "Pardon. Not to startle you."
Case straightened up, hands in jacket pockets. He was a
head taller than the Modern. "You ought a be careful, Yonder
"This is the message. Winter mute." He spelled it out.
"From you?" Case took a step forward.
"No," Yonderboy said. "For you."
"Who from?"
"Winter mute," Yonderboy repeated, nodding, bobbing his
crest of pink hair. His suit went matte black, a carbon shadow
against old concrete. He executed a strange little dance, his
thin black arms whirling, and then he was gone. No. There.
Hood up to hide the pink, the suit exactly the right shade of
gray, mottled and stained as the sidewalk he stood on. The
eyes winked back the red of a stoplight. And then he was really
Case closed his eyes, massaged them with numb fingers,
leaning back against peeling brickwork.
Ninsei had been a lot simpler.

The medical team Molly employed occupied two floors of
an anonymous condo-rack near the old hub of Baltimore. The
building was modular, like some giant version of Cheap Hotel
each coffin forty meters long. Case met Molly as she emerged
from one that wore the elaborately worked logo of one GERALD
CHIN, DENTIST. She was limping.
"He says if I kick anything, it'll fall off."
"I ran into one of your pals," he said, "a Modern."
"Yeah? Which one?"
"Lupus Yonderboy. Had a message." He passed her a paper
napkin with W I N T E R M U T E printed in red feltpen in
his neat, laborious capitals. "He said--" But her hand came
up in the jive for silence.
"Get us some crab," she said.

After lunch in Baltimore, Molly dissecting her crab with
alarming ease, they tubed in to New York. Case had learned
not to ask questions; they only brought the sign for silence.
Her leg seemed to be bothering her, and she seldom spoke.
A thin black child with wooden beads and antique resistors
woven tightly into her hair opened the Finn's door and led them
along the tunnel of refuse. Case felt the stuff had grown somehow
during their absence . Or else it seemed that it was changing
subtly, cooking itself down under the pressure of time, silent
invisible flakes settling to form a mulch, a crystalline essence
of discarded technology, flowering secretly in the Sprawl's
waste places.
Beyond the army blanket, the Finn waited at the white table.
Molly began to sign rapidly, produced a scrap of paper,
wrote something on it, and passed it to the Finn. He took it
between thumb and forefinger, holding it away from his body
as though it might explode. He made a sign Case didn't know,
one that conveyed a mixture of impatience and glum resignation.
He stood up, brushing crumbs from the front of his battered
tweed jacket. A glass jar of pickled herring stood on the
table beside a torn plastic package of flatbread and a tin ashtray
piled with the butts of Partagas.
"Wait," the Finn said, and left the room.
Molly took his place, extruded the blade from her index
finger, and speared a grayish slab of herring. Case wandered
aimlessly around the room, fingering the scanning gear on the
pylons as he passed.
Ten minutes and the Finn came bustling back, showing his
teeth in a wide yellow smile. He nodded, gave Molly a thumbs-up
salute, and gestured to Case to help him with the door panel.
While Case smoothed the velcro border into place, the Finn
took a flat little console from his pocket and punched out an
elaborate sequence.
"Honey," he said to Molly, tucking the console away, "you
have got it. No shit, I can smell it. You wanna tell me where
you got it?"
"Yonderboy," Molly said, shoving the herring and crackers
aside. "I did a deal with Larry, on the side."
"Smart," the Finn said. "It's an AI."
"Slow it down a little," Case said.
"Berne," the Finn said, ignoring him. "Berne. It's got limited
Swiss citizenship under their equivalent of the Act of '53.
Built for Tessier-Ashpool S.A. They own the mainframe and
the original software."
"What's in Beme, okay?" Case deliberately stepped between
"Wintermute is the recognition code for an AI. I've got the
Turing Registry numbers. Artificial intelligence."
"That's all just fine," Molly said, "but where's it get us?"
"If Yonderboy's right," the Finn said, "this Al is backing
"I paid Larry to have the Moderns nose around Ammitage a
little," Molly explained, turning to Case. "They have some
very weird lines of communication. Deal was, they'd get my
money if they answered one question: who's running Armitage?"
"And you think it's this AI? Those things aren't allowed
any autonomy. It'll be the parent corporation, this Tessle. . ."
"Tessier-Ashpool S.A.," said the Finn. "And I got a little
story for you about them. Wanna hear?" He sat down and
hunched forward.
"Finn," Molly said. "He loves a story."
"Haven't ever told anybody this one," the Finn began.

The Finn was a fence, a trafficker in stolen goods, primarily
in software. In the course of his business, he sometimes came
into contact with other fences, some of whom dealt in the more
traditional articles of the trade. In precious metals, stamps, rare
coins, gems, jewelry, furs, and paintings and other works of
art. The story he told Case and Molly began with another man's
story, a man he called Smith.
Smith was also a fence, but in balmier seasons he surfaced
as an art dealer. He was the first person the Finn had known
who'd "gone silicon"--the phrase had an old-fashioned ring
for Case--and the microsofts he purchased were art history
programs and tables of gallery sales. With half a dozen chips
in his new socket, Smith's knowledge of the art business was
formidable, at least by the standards of his colleagues. But
Smith had come to the Finn with a request for help, a fraternal
request, one businessman to another. He wanted a go-to on the
Tessier-Ashpool clan, he said, and it had to be executed in a
way that would guarantee the impossibility of the subject ever
tracing the inquiry to its source. It might be possible, the Finn
had opined, but an explanation was definitely required. "It
smelled," the Finn said to Case, "smelled of money. And Smith
was being very careful. Almost too careful."
Smith, it developed, had had a supplier known as Jimmy.
Jimmy was a burglar and other things as well, and just back
from a year in high orbit, having carried certain things back
down the gravity well. The most unusual thing Jimmy had
managed to score on his swing through the archipelago was a
head, an intricately worked bust, cloisonne over platinum, studded
with seedpearls and lapis. Smith, sighing, had put down
his pocket microscope and advised Jimmy to melt the thing
down. It was contemporary, not an antique, and had no value
to the collector. Jimmy laughed. The thing was a computer
terminal, he said. It could talk. And not in a synth-voice, but
with a beautiful arrangement of gears and miniature organ pipes.
It was a baroque thing for anyone to have constructed, a perverse
thing, because synth-voice chips cost next to nothing. It
was a curiosity. Smith jacked the head into his computer and
listened as the melodious, inhuman voice piped the figures of
last year's tax return.
Smith' s clientele included a Tokyo billionaire whose passion
for clockwork automata approached fetishism. Smith shrugged,
showing Jimmy his upturned palms in a gesture old as pawn
shops. He could try, he said, but he doubted he could get much
for it.
When Jimmy had gone, leaving the head, Smith went over
it carefully, discovering certain hallmarks. Eventually he'd been
able to trace it to an unlikely collaboration between two Zurich
artisans, an enamel specialist in Paris, a Dutch jeweler, and a
California chip designer. It had been commissioned, he discovered,
by Tessier-Ashpool S.A.
Smith began to make preliminary passes at the Tokyo collector,
hinting that he was on the track of something noteworthy.

And then he had a visitor, a visitor unannounced, one who
walked in through the elaborate maze of Smith's security as
though it didn't exist. A small man, Japanese, enormously
polite, who bore all the marks of a vatgrown ninja assassin.
Smith sat very still, staring into the calm brown eyes of death
across a polished table of Vietnamese rosewood. Gently, almost
apologetically, the cloned killer explained that it was his duty
to find and return a certain artwork, a mechanism of great
beauty, which had been taken from the house of his master. It
had come to his attention, the ninja said, that Smith might
know of the whereabouts of this object.
Smith told the man that he had no wish to die, and produced
the head. And how much, his visitor asked did you expect to
obtain through the sale of this object? Smith named a figure
far lower than the price he'd intended to set. The ninja produced
a credit chip and keyed Smith that amount out of a numbered
Swiss account. And who, the man asked, brought you this
piece? Smith told him. Within days, Smith learned of Jimmy's
"So that was where I came in," the Finn continued. "Smith
knew I dealt a lot with the Memory Lane crowd, and that's
where you go for a quiet go-to that'll never be traced. I hired
a cowboy. I was the cut-out, so I took a percentage. Smith,
he was careful. He'd just had a very weird business experience
and he'd come out on top, but it didn't add up. Who'd paid,
out of that Swiss stash? Yakuza? No way. They got a very
rigid code covers situations like that, and they kill the receiver
too, always. Was it spook stuff? Smith didn't think so. Spook
biz has a vibe, you get so you can smell it. Well, I had my
cowboy buzz the news morgues until we found Tessier-Ashpool
in litigation. The case wasn't anything, but we got the law
firm. Then he did the lawyer's ice and we got the family
address. Lotta good it did us."
Case raised his eyebrows.
"Freeside," the Finn said. "The spindle. Turns out they own
damn near the whole thing. The interesting stuff was the picture
we got when the cowboy ran a regular go-to on the news
morgues and compiled a precis. Family organization. Corporate
structure. Supposedly you can buy into an S.A., but there hasn't
been a share of Tessier-Ashpool traded on the open market in
over a hundred years. On any market, as far as I know. You're
looking at a very quiet, very eccentric first-generation high-
orbit family, run like a corporation. Big money, very shy of
media. Lot of cloning. Orbital law's a lot softer on genetic
engineering, right? And it's hard to keep track of which gen-
eration, or combination of generations, is running the show at
a given time."
"How's that?" Molly asked.
"Got their own cryogenic setup. Even under orbital law,
you're legally dead for the duration of a freeze. Looks like
they trade off, though nobody's seen the founding father in
about thirty years. Founding momma, she died in some lab
"So what happened with your fence?"
"Nothing." The Finn frowned. "Dropped it. We had a look
at this fantastic tangle of powers of attorney the T-A's have,
and that was it. Jimmy must've gotten into Straylight, lifted
the head, and Tessier-Ashpool sent their ninja after it. Smith
decided to forget about it. Maybe he was smart." He looked
at Molly. "The Villa Straylight. Tip of the spindle. Strictly
"You figure they own that ninja, Finn?" Molly asked.
"Smith thought so."
"Expensive," she said. "Wonder whatever happened to that
little ninja, Finn?"
"Probably got him on ice. Thaw when needed."
"Okay," Case said, "we got Armitage getting his goodies
off an AI named Wintermute. Where's that get us?"
"Nowhere yet," Molly said, "but you got a little side gig
now." She drew a folded scrap of paper from her pocket and
handed it to him. He opened it. Grid coordinates and entry
"Who's this?"
"Armitage. Some data base of his. Bought it from the Mod-
erns. Separate deal. Where is it?"
"London," Case said.
"Crack it." She laughed. "Earn your keep for a change."

Case waited for a trans-BAMA local on the crowded plat-
form. Molly had gone back to the loft hours ago, the Flatline's
construct in her green bag, and Case had been drinking steadily
ever since.
It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct, a
hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions,
kneejerk responses.... The local came booming in
along the black induction strip, fine grit sifting from cracks in
the tunnel's ceiling. Case shuffled into the nearest door and
watched the other passengers as he rode. A pair of predatory-
looking Christian Scientists were edging toward a trio of young
office techs who wore idealized holographic vaginas on their
wrists, wet pink glittering under the harsh lighting. The techs
licked their perfect lips nervously and eyed the Christian Scientists
from beneath lowered metallic lids. The girls looked
like tall, exotic grazing animals, swaying gracefully and unconsciously
with the movement of the train, their high heels
like polished hooves against the gray metal of the car's floor.
Before they could stampede, take flight from the missionaries,
the train reached Case's station.
He stepped out and caught sight of a white holographic cigar
suspended against the wall of the station, FREESIDE pulsing
beneath it in contorted capitals that mimicked printed Japanese.
He walked through the crowd and stood beneath it, studying
the thing. WHY WAIT? pulsed the sign. A blunt white spindle,
flanged and studded with grids and radiators, docks, domes.
He'd seen the ad, or others like it, thousands of times. It had
never appealed to him. With his deck, he could reach the
Freeside banks as easily as he could reach Atlanta. Travel was
a meat thing. But now he noticed the little sigil, the size of a
small coin, woven into the lower left corner of the ad's fabric
of light: T-A.
He walked back to the loft, lost in memories of the Flatline.
He'd spent most of his nineteenth summer in the Gentleman
Loser, nursing expensive beers and watching the cowboys.
He'd never touched a deck, then, but he knew what he wanted.
There were at least twenty other hopefuls ghosting the Loser,
that summer, each one bent on working joeboy for some cowboy.
No other way to learn.
They'd all heard of Pauley, the redneck jockey from the
'Lanta fringes, who'd survived braindeath behind black ice.
The grapevine--slender, street level, and the only one going--
had little to say about Pauley, other than that he'd done the
impossible. "It was big," another would-be told Case, for the
price of a beer, "but who knows what? I hear maybe a Brazilian
payroll net. Anyway, the man was dead, flat down braindeath."
Case stared across the crowded bar at a thickset man in shirtsleeves,
something leaden about the shade of his skin.
"Boy," the Flatline would tell him, months later in Miami,
"I'm like them huge fuckin' lizards, you know? Had themself
two goddam brains, one in the head an' one by the tailbone,
kept the hind legs movin'. Hit that black stuff and ol' tailbrain
jus' kept right on keepin' on."
The cowboy elite in the Loser shunned Pauley out of some
strange group anxiety, almost a superstition. McCoy Pauley,
Lazarus of cyberspace....
And his heart had done for him in the end. His surplus
Russian heart, implanted in a POW camp during the war. He'd
refused to replace the thing, saying he needed its particular
beat to maintain his sense of timing. Case fingered the slip of
paper Molly had given him and made his way up the stairs.
Molly was snoring on the temperfoam. A transparent cast
ran from her knee to a few millimeters below her crotch, the
skin beneath the rigid micropore mottled with bruises, the black
shading into ugly yellow. Eight derms, each a different size
and color, ran in a neat line down her left wrist. An Akai
transdermal unit lay beside her, its fine red leads connected to
input trodes under the cast.
He turned on the tensor beside the Hosaka. The crisp circle
of light fell directly on the Flatline's construct. He slotted some
ice, connected the construct, and jacked in.
It was exactly the sensation of someone reading over his
He coughed. "Dix? McCoy? That you man?" His throat was
"Hey, bro," said a directionless voice.
"It's Case, man. Remember?"
"Miami, joeboy, quick study."
"What's the last thing you remember before I spoke to you,
"Hang on." He disconnected the construct. The presence
was gone. He reconnected it. "Dix? Who am I?"
"You got me hung, Jack. Who the fuck are you?"
"Ca--your buddy. Partner. What's happening, man?"
"Good question."
"Remember being here, a second ago?"
"Know how a ROM personality matrix works?"
"Sure, bro, it's a firmware construct."
"So I jack it into the bank I'm using, I can give it sequential,
real time memory?"
"Guess so," said the construct.
"Okay, Dix. You are a ROM construct. Got me?"
"If you say so," said the construct. "Who are you?"
"Miami," said the voice, "joeboy, quick study."
"Right. And for starts, Dix, you and me, we're gonna sleaze
over to London grid and access a little data. You game for
"You gonna tell me I got a choice, boy?"
"You want you a paradise," the Flatline advised, when Case
had explained his situation. "Check Copenhagen, fringes of
the university section." The voice recited coordinates as he
They found their paradise, a "pirate's paradise," on the
jumbled border of a low-security academic grid. At first glance
it resembled the kind of graffiti student operators sometimes
left at the junctions of grid lines, faint glyphs of colored light
that shimmered against the confused outlines of a dozen arts
"There," said the Flatline, "the blue one. Make it out? That's
an entry code for Bell Europa. Fresh, too. Bell'll get in here
soon and read the whole damn board, change any codes they
find posted. Kids'll steal the new ones tomorrow."
Case tapped his way into Bell Europa and switched to a
standard phone code. With the Flatline's help, he connected
with the London data base that Molly claimed was Armitage's.
"Here," said the voice, "I'll do it for you." The Flatline
began to chant a series of digits, Case keying them on his deck,
trying to catch the pauses the construct used to indicate timing.
It took three tries.
"Big deal," said the Flatline. "No ice at all."
"Scan this shit," Case told the Hosaka. "Sift for owner's
personal history."
The neuroelectronic scrawls of the paradise vanished, re-
placed by a simple lozenge of white light. "Contents are pri-
marily video recordings of postwar military trials," said the
distant voice of the Hosaka. "Central figure is Colonel Willis
"Show it already," Case said.
A man's face filled the screen. The eyes were Armitage's.
Two hours later, Case fell beside Molly on the slab and let
the temperfoam mold itself against him.
"You find anything?" she asked, her voice fuzzy with sleep
and drugs.
"Tell you later," he said, "I'm wrecked." He was hungover
and confused. He lay there, eyes closed, and tried to sort the
various parts of a story about a man called Corto. The Hosaka
had sorted a thin store of data and assembled a precis, but it
was full of gaps. Some of the material had been print records,
reeling smoothly down the screen, too quickly, and Case had
had to ask the computer to read them for him. Other segments
were audio recordings of the Screaming Fist hearing.
Willis Corto, Colonel, had plummeted through a blind spot
in the Russian defenses over Kirensk. The shuttles had created
the hole with pulse bombs, and Corto's team had dropped in
in Nightwing microlights, their wings snapping taut in moonlight,
reflected in jags of silver along the rivers Angara and
Podhamennaya, the last light Corto would see for fifteen months.
Case tried to imagine the microlights blossoming out of their
launch capsules, high above a frozen steppe.
"They sure as hell did shaft you, boss," Case said, and
Molly stirred beside him.
The microlights had been unarmed, stripped to compensate
for the weight of a console operator, a prototype deck, and a
virus program called Mole IX, the first true virus in the history
of cybernetics. Corto and his team had been training for the
run for three years. They were through the ice, ready to inject
Mole IX, when the emps went off. The Russian pulse guns
threw the jockeys into electronic darkness; the Nightwings suffered
systems crash, flight circuitry wiped clean.
Then the lasers opened up, aiming on infrared, taking out
the fragile, radar-transparent assault planes, and Corto and his
dead console man fell out of a Siberian sky. Fell and kept
There were gaps in the story, here, where Case scanned
documents concerning the flight of a commandeered Russian
gunship that managed to reach Finland. To be gutted, as it
landed in a spruce grove, by an antique twenty-millimeter can-
non manned by a cadre of reservists on dawn alert. Screaming
Fist had ended for Corto on the outskirts of Helsinki, with
Finnish paramedics sawing him out of the twisted belly of the
helicopter. The war ended nine days later, and Corto was shipped
to a military facility in Utah, blind, legless, and missing most
of his jaw. It took eleven months for the Congressional aide
to find him there. He listened to the sound of tubes draining.
In Washington and McLean, the show trials were already un-
derway. The Pentagon and the CIA were being Balkanized,
partially dismantled, and a Congressional investigation had focused
on Screaming Fist. Ripe for watergating, the aide told
He'd need eyes, legs, and extensive cosmetic work, the aide
said, but that could be arranged. New plumbing, the man added,
squeezing Corto's shoulder through the sweat-damp sheet.
Corto heard the soft, relentless dripping. He said he preferred
to testify as he was.
No, the aide explained, the trials were being televised. The
trials needed to reach the voter. The aide coughed politely.
Repaired, refurnished, and extensively rehearsed, Corto's
subsequent testimony was detailed, moving, lucid, and largely
the invention of a Congressional cabal with certain vested interests
in saving particular portions of the Pentagon infrastructure.
Corto gradually understood that the testimony he gave
was instrumental in saving the careers of three officers directly
responsible for the suppression of reports on the building of
the emp installations at Kirensk.
His role in the trials over, he was unwanted in Washington.
In an M Street restaurant, over asparagus crepes, the aide explained
the terminal dangers involved in talking to the wrong
people. Corto crushed the man's larynx with the rigid fingers
of his right hand. The Congressional aide strangled, his face
in an asparagus crepe, and Corto stepped out into cool Washington
The Hosaka rattled through police reports, corporate espionage
records, and news files. Case watched Corto work corporate
defectors in Lisbon and Marrakesh, where he seemed
to grow obsessed with the idea of betrayal, to loathe the scientists
and technicians he bought out for his employers. Drunk,
in Singapore, he beat a Russian engineer to death in a hotel
and set fire to his room.
Next he surfaced in Thailand, as overseer of a heroin factory.
Then as enforcer for a California gambling cartel, then as a
paid killer in the ruins of Bonn. He robbed a bank in Wichita.
The record grew vague, shadowy, the gaps longer.
One day, he said, in a taped segment that suggested chemical
interrogation, everything had gone gray.
Translated French medical records explained that a man
without identification had been taken to a Paris mental health
unit and diagnosed as schizophrenic. He became catatonic and
was sent to a government institution on the outskirts of Toulon.
He became a subject in an experimental program that sought
to reverse schizophrenia through the application of cybernetic
models. A random selection of patients were provided with
microcomputers and encouraged, with help from students, to
program them. He was cured, the only success in the entire
The record ended there.

Case turned on the foam and Molly cursed him softly for
disturbing her.
The telephone rang. He pulled it into bed. "Yeah?"
"We're going to Istanbul," Armitage said. "Tonight."
"What does the bastard want?" Molly asked.
"Says we're going to Istanbul tonight."
"That's just wonderful."
Armitage was reading off flight numbers and departure times.
Molly sat up and turned on the light.
"What about my gear?" Case asked. "My deck."
"Finn will handle it," said Armitage, and hung up.
Case watched her pack. There were dark circles under her
eyes, but even with the cast on, it was like watching a dance.
No wasted motion. His clothes were a rumpled pile beside his
"You hurting?" he asked.
"I could do with another night at Chin's."
"Your dentist?"
"You betcha. Very discreet. He's got half that rack, full
clinic. Does repairs for samurai." She was zipping her bag.
"You ever been to 'Stanbul?"
"Couple days, once."
"Never changes," she said. "Bad old town."
"It was like this when we headed for Chiba," Molly said,
staring out the train window at blasted industrial moonscape,
red beacons on the horizon warning aircraft away from a fusion
plant. "We were in L.A. He came in and said Pack, we were
booked for Macau. When we got there, I played fantan in the
Lisboa and he crossed over into Zhongshan. Next day I was
playing ghost with you in Night City." She took a silk scarf
from the sleeve of her black jacket and polished the insets. The
landscape of the northern Sprawl woke confused memories of
childhood for Case, dead grass tufting the cracks in a canted
slab of freeway concrete.
The train began to decelerate ten kilometers from the airport.
Case watched the sun rise on the landscape of childhood, on
broken slag and the rusting shells of refineries.

It was raining in Beyoglu, and the rented Mercedes slid past
the grilled and unlit windows of cautious Greek and Armenian
jewelers. The street was almost empty, only a few dark-coated
figures on the sidewalks turning to stare after the car.
"This was formerly the prosperous European section of Ottoman
Istanbul," purred the Mercedes.
"So it's gone downhill," Case said.
"The Hilton's in Cumhuriyet Caddesi," Molly said. She
settled back against the car's gray ultrasuede.
"How come Armitage flies alone?" Case asked. He had a
"'Cause you get up his nose. You're sure getting up mine."
He wanted to tell her the Corto story, but decided against
it. He'd used a sleep derm, on the plane.
The road in from the airport had been dead straight, like a
neat incision, laying the city open. He'd watched the crazy
walls of patchwork wooden tenements slide by, condos, arcologies,
grim housing projects, more walls of plyboard and
corrugated iron.
The Finn, in a new Shinjuku suit, sarariman black, was
waiting sourly in the Hilton lobby, marooned on a velour armchair
in a sea of pale blue carpeting.
"Christ," Molly said. "Rat in a business suit."
They crossed the lobby.
"How much you get paid to come over here, Finn?" She
lowered her bag beside the armchair. "Bet not as much as you
get for wearing that suit, huh?"
The Finn' s upper lips drew back. "Not enough, sweetmeat. "
He handed her a magnetic key with a round yellow tag. "You're
registered already. Honcho's upstairs." He looked around. "This
town sucks."
"You get agoraphobic, they take you out from under a dome.
Just pretend it's Brooklyn or something." She twirled the key
around a finger. "You here as valet or what?"
"I gotta check out some guy's implants," the Finn said.
"How about my deck?" Case asked.
The Finn winced. "Observe the protocol. Ask the boss."
Molly's fingers moved in the shadow of her jacket, a flicker
of jive. The Finn watched, then nodded.
"Yeah," she said, "I know who that is." She jerked her head
in the direction of the elevators. "Come on, cowboy." Case
followed her with both bags.

Their room might have been the one in Chiba where he'd
first seen Armitage. He went to the window, in the morning,
almost expecting to see Tokyo Bay. There was another hotel
across the street. It was still raining. A few letter-writers had
taken refuge in doorways, their old voiceprinters wrapped in
sheets of clear plastic, evidence that the written word still
enjoyed a certain prestige here. It was a sluggish country. He
watched a dull black Citroen sedan, a primitive hydrogen-cell
conversion, as it disgorged five sullen-looking Turkish officers
in rumpled green uniforms. They entered the hotel across the
He glanced back at the bed, at Molly, and her paleness
struck him. She'd left the micropore cast on the bedslab in
their loft, beside the transdermal inducer. Her glasses reflected
part of the room's light fixture.
He had the phone in his hand before it had a chance to ring
twice. "Glad you're up," Armitage said.
"I'm just. Lady's still under. Listen, boss, I think it's maybe
time we have a little talk. I think I work better if I know a
little more about what I'm doing."
Silence on the line. Case bit his lip.
"You know as much as you need to. Maybe more."
"You think so?"
"Get dressed, Case. Get her up. You'll have a caller in
about fifteen minutes. His name is Terzibashjian." The phone
bleated softly. Armitage was gone.
"Wake up, baby," Case said. "Biz."
"I've been awake an hour already." The mirrors turned.
"We got a Jersey Bastion coming up."
"You got an ear for language, Case. Bet you're part Ar-
menian. That's the eye Armitage has had on Riviera. Help me
Terzibashjian proved to be a young man in a gray suit and
gold-framed, mirrored glasses. His white shirt was open at the
collar, revealing a mat of dark hair so dense that Case at first
mistook it for some kind of t-shirt. He arrived with a black
Hilton tray arranged with three tiny, fragrant cups of thick
black coffee and three sticky, straw-colored Oriental sweets.
"We must, as you say in Ingiliz, take this one very easy."
He seemed to stare pointedly at Molly, but at last he removed
the silver glasses. His eyes were a dark brown that matched
the shade of his very short military-cut hair. He smiled. "It is
better, this way, yes? Else we make the tunel infinity, mirror
into mirror.... You particularly," he said to her, "must take
care. In Turkey there is disapproval of women who sport such
Molly bit one of the pastries in half. "It's my show, Jack,"
she said, her mouth full. She chewed, swallowed, and licked
her lips. "I know about you. Stool for the military, right?" Her
hand slid lazily into the front of her jacket and came out with
the fletcher. Case hadn't known she had it.
"Very easy, please," Terzibashjian said, his white china
thimble frozen centimeters from his lips.
She extended the gun. "Maybe you get the explosives, lots
of them, or maybe you get a cancer. One dart, shitface. You
won't feel it for months."
"Please. You call this in Ingiliz making me very tight...."
"I call it a bad morning. Now tell us about your man and
get your ass out of here." She put the gun away.
"He is living in Fener, at Kuchuk Gulhane Djaddesi 14. 1
have his tunel route, nightly to the bazaar. He performs most
recently at the Yenishehir Palas Oteli, a modern place in the
style turistik, but it has been arranged that the police have
shown a certain interest in these shows. The Yenishehir man-
agement has grown nervous." He smiled. He smelled of some
metallic aftershave.
"I want to know about the implants," she said, massaging
her thigh, "I want to know exactly what he can do."
Terzibashjian nodded. "Worst is how you say in Ingiliz, the
subliminals." He made the word four careful syllables.

"On our left," said the Mercedes, as it steered through a
maze of rainy streets, "is Kapali Carsi, the grand bazaar."
Beside Case, the Finn made an appreciative noise, but he
was looking in the wrong direction. The right side of the street
was lined with miniature scrapyards. Case saw a gutted loco-
motive atop rust-stained, broken lengths of fluted marble.
Headless marble statues were stacked like firewood.
"Homesick?" Case asked.
"Place sucks," the Finn said. His black silk tie was starting
to resemble a worn carbon ribbon. There were medallions of
kebab gravy and fried egg on the lapels of the new suit.
"Hey, Jersey," Case said to the Armenian, who sat behind
them, "where'd this guy get his stuff installed?"
"In Chiba City. He has no left lung. The other is boosted,
is how you say it? Anyone might buy these implants, but this
one is most talented." The Mercedes swerved, avoiding a bal-
loon-tired dray stacked with hides. "I have followed him in the
street and seen a dozen cycles fall, near him, in a day. Find
the cyclist in a hospital, the story is always the same. A scorpion
poised beside a brake lever...."
"'What you see is what you get,' yeah," the Finn said. "I
seen the schematics on the guy's silicon. Very flash. What he
imagines, you see. I figure he could narrow it to a pulse and
fry a retina over easy."
"You have told this to your woman friend?" Terzibashjian
leaned forward between the ultrasuede buckets. "In Turkey,
women are still women. This one. . ."
The Finn snorted. "She'd have you wearing your balls for
a bow tie if you looked at her cross-eyed."
"I do not understand this idiom."
"That's okay," Case said. "Means shut up."
The Armenian sat back, leaving a metallic edge of after-
shave. He began to whisper to a Sanyo transceiver in a strange
salad of Greek, French, Turkish, isolated fragments of English.
The transceiver answered in French. The Mercedes swung
smoothly around a corner. "The spice bazaar, sometimes called
the Egyptian bazaar," the car said, "was erected on the site of
an earlier bazaar erected by Sultan Hatice in 1660. This is the
city's central market for spices, software, perfumes, drugs...."
"Drugs," Case said, watching the car's wipers cross and
recross the bulletproof Lexan. "What's that you said before,
Jersey, about this Riviera being wired?"
"A mixture of cocaine and meperidine, yes." The Armenian
went back to the conversation he was having with the Sanyo.
' Demerol, they used to call that," said the Finn. "He's a
speedball artist. Funny class of people you're mixing with,
"Never mind," Case said, turning up the collar of his jacket,
"we'll get the poor fucker a new pancreas or something."

Once they entered the bazaar, the Finn brightened notice-
ably, as though he were comforted by the crowd density and
the sense of enclosure. They walked with the Armenian along
a broad concourse, beneath soot-stained sheets of plastic and
green-painted ironwork out of the age of steam. A thousand
suspended ads writhed and flickered.
"Hey, Christ," the Finn said, taking Case's arm, "looka
that." He pointed. "It's a horse, man. You ever see a horse?"
Case glanced at the embalmed animal and shook his head.
It was displayed on a sort of pedestal, near the entrance to a
place that sold birds and monkeys. The thing's legs had been
worn black and hairless by decades of passing hands. "Saw
one in Maryland once," the Finn said, "and that was a good
three years after the pandemic. There's Arabs still trying to
code 'em up from the DNA, but they always croak."
The animal's brown glass eyes seemed to follow them as
they passed. Terzibashjian led them into a cafe near the core
of the market, a low-ceilinged room that looked as though it
had been in continuous operation for centuries. Skinny boys
in soiled white coats dodged between the crowded tables, bal-
ancing steel trays with bottles of Turk-Tuborg and tiny glasses
of tea.
Case bought a pack of Yeheyuans from a vendor by the
door. The Armenian was muttering to his Sanyo. "Come," he
said, "he is moving. Each night he rides the tunel to the bazaar,
to purchase his mixture from Ali. Your woman is close. Come."

The alley was an old place, too old, the walls cut from
blocks of dark stone. The pavement was uneven and smelled
of a century's dripping gasoline, absorbed by ancient limestone.
"Can't see shit," he whispered to the Finn. "That's okay for
sweetmeat," the Finn said. "Quiet," said Terzibashjian, too
Wood grated on stone or concrete. Ten meters down the
alley, a wedge of yellow light fell across wet cobbles, widened.
A figure stepped out and the door grated shut again, leaving
the narrow place in darkness. Case shivered.
"Now," Terzibashjian said, and a brilliant beam of white
light, directed from the rooftop of the building opposite the
market, pinned the slender figure beside the ancient wooden
door in a perfect circle. Bright eyes darted left, right, and the
man crumpled. Case thought someone had shot him; he lay
face down, blond hair pale against the old stone, his limp hands
white and pathetic.
The floodlight never wavered.
The back of the fallen man's jacket heaved and burst, blood
splashing the wall and doorway. A pair of impossibly long,
rope-tendoned arms flexed grayish-pink in the glare. The thing
seemed to pull itself up out of the pavement, through the inert,
bloody ruin that had been Riviera. It was two meters tall, stood
on two legs, and seemed to be headless. Then it swung slowly
to face them, and Case saw that it had a head, but no neck. It
was eyeless, the skin gleaming a wet intestinal pink. The mouth,
if it was a mouth, was circular, conical, shallow, and lined
with a seething growth of hairs or bristles, glittering like black
chrome. It kicked the rags of clothing and flesh aside and took
a step, the mouth seeming to scan for them as it moved.
Terzibashjian said something in Greek or Turkish and rushed
the thing, his arms spread like a man attempting to dive through
a window. He went through it. Into the muzzle-flash of a pistol
from the dark beyond the circle of light. Fragments of rock
whizzed past Case's head; the Finn jerked him down into a
The light from the rooftop vanished, leaving him with mis-
matched afterimages of muzzle-flash, monster, and white beam.
His ears rang.
Then the light returned, bobbing now, searching the shad-
ows. Terzibashjian was leaning against a steel door, his face
very white in the glare. He held his left wrist and watched
blood drip from a wound in his left hand. The blond man,
whole again, unbloodied, lay at his feet.
Molly stepped out of the shadows, all in black, with her
fletcher in her hand.
"Use the radio," the Armenian said, through gritted teeth.
"Call in Mahmut. We must get him out of here. This is not a
good place."
"Little prick nearly made it," the Finn said, his knees crack-
ing loudly as he stood up, brushing ineffectually at the legs of
his trousers. "You were watching the horror-show, right? Not
the hamburger that got tossed out of sight. Real cute. Well,
help 'em get his ass outa here. I gotta scan all that gear before
he wakes up, make sure Armitage is getting his money's worth."
Molly bent and picked something up. A pistol. "A Nambu,"
she said. "Nice gun."
Terzibashjian made a whining sound. Case saw that most
of his middle finger was missing.

With the city drenched in predawn blue, she told the Mercedes
to take them to Topkapi . The Finn and an enormous Turk named
Mahmut had taken Riviera, still unconscious, from the alley.
Minutes later, a dusty Citroen had arrived for the Armenian
who seemed on the verge of fainting.
"You're an asshole," Molly told the man, opening the car
door for him. "You shoulda hung back. I had him in my sights
as soon as he stepped out." Terzibashjian glared at her. "So
we're through with you anyway." She shoved him in and
slammed the door. "Run into you again and I'll kill you," she
said to the white face behind the tinted window. The Citroen
ground away down the alley and swung clumsily into the street.
Now the Mercedes whispered through Istanbul as the city
woke. They passed the Beyoglu tunel terminal and sped past
mazes of deserted back streets, run-down apartment houses that
reminded Case vaguely of Paris.
"What is this thing?" he asked Molly, as the Mercedes
parked itself on the fringes of the gardens that surround the
Scraglio. He stared dully at the baroque conglomeration of
styles that was Topkapi.
"It was sort of a private whorehouse for the King," she said,
getting out stretching. "Kept a lotta women there. Now it's a
museum. Kinda like Finn's shop, all this stuff just jumbled in
there big diamonds, swords, the left hand of John the
"Like in a support vat?"
"Nah. Dead. Got it inside this brass hand thing, little hatch
on the side so the Christians could kiss it for luck. Got it off
the Christians about a million years ago, and they never dust
the goddam thing, 'cause it's an infidel relic."
Black iron deer rusted in the gardens of the Seraglio. Case
walked beside her, watching the toes of her boots crunch unkept
grass made stiff by an early frost. They walked beside a path
of cold octagonal flagstones. Winter was waiting, somewhere
in the Balkans.
"That Terzi, he's grade-A scum," she said. "He's the secret
police. Torturer. Real easy to buy out, too, with the kind of
money Armitage was offering." In the wet trees around them,
birds began to sing.
"I did that job for you," Case said, "the one in London. I
got something, but I don't know what it means." He told her
the Corto story.

"Well, I knew there wasn't anybody name of Armitage in
that Screaming Fist. Looked it up." She stroked the rusted
flank of an iron doe. "You figure the little computer pulled
him out of it? In that French hospital?"
"I figure Wintermute," Case said.
She nodded.
"Thing is," he said, "do you think he knows he was Corto,
before? I mean, he wasn't anybody in particular, by the time
he hit the ward, so maybe Wintermute just. . ."
"Yeah. Built him up from go. Yeah..." She turned and
they walked on. "It figures. You know, the guy doesn't have
any life going, in private. Not as far as I can tell. You see a
guy like that, you figure there's something he does when he's
alone. But not Armitage. Sits and stares at the wall, man. Then
something clicks and he goes into high gear and wheels for
"So why's he got that stash in London? Nostalgia?"
"Maybe he doesn't know about it," she said. "Maybe it's
just in his name, right?"
"I don't get it," Case said.
"Just thinking out loud.... How smart's an Al, Case?"
"Depends. Some aren't much smarter than dogs. Pets. Cost
a fortune anyway. The real smart ones are as smart as the
Turing heat is willing to let 'em get."
"Look, you're a cowboy. How come you aren't just flat-
out fascinated with those things?"
"Well," he said, "for starts, they're rare. Most of them are
military, the bright ones, and we can't crack the ice. That's
where ice all comes from, you know? And then there's the
Turing cops, and that's bad heat." He looked at her. "I dunno,
it just isn't part of the trip."
"Jockeys all the same," she said. "No imagination."
They came to a broad rectangular pond where carp nuzzled
the stems of some white aquatic flower. She kicked a loose
pebble in and watched the ripples spread.
"That's Wintermute," she said. "This deal's real big, looks
to me. We're out where the little waves are too broad, we can't
see the rock that hit the center. We know something's there,
but not why. I wanna know why. I want you to go and talk to
"I couldn't get near it," he said. "You're dreaming."
"Can't be done."
"Ask the Flatline."
"What do we want out of that Riviera?" he asked, hoping
to change the subject.
She spat into the pond. "God knows. I'd as soon kill him
as look at him. I saw his profile. He's a kind of compulsive
Judas. Can't get off sexually unless he knows he's betraying
the object of desire. That's what the file says. And they have
to love him first. Maybe he loves them, too. That's why it was
easy for Terzi to set him up for us, because he's been here
three years, shopping politicals to the secret police. Probably
Terzi let him watch, when the cattle prods came out. He's done
eighteen in three years. All women age twenty to twenty-five.
It kept Terzi in dissidents." She thrust her hands into her jacket
pockets. "Because if he found one he really wanted, he'd make
sure she turned political. He's got a personality like a Modern's
suit. The profile said it was a very rare type, estimated one in
a couple of million. Which anyway says something good about
human nature, I guess." She stared at the white flowers and
the sluggish fish, her face sour. "I think I'm going to have to
buy myself some special insurance on that Peter." Then she
turned and smiled, and it was very cold.
"What's that mean?"
"Never mind. Let's go back to Beyoglu and find something
like breakfast. I gotta busy night again, tonight. Gotta collect
his stuff from that apartment in Fener, gotta go back to the
bazaar and buy him some drugs...."
"Buy him some drugs? How's he rate?"
She laughed. "He's not dying on the wire, sweetheart. And
it looks like he can't work without that special taste. I like you
better now, anyway, you aren't so goddam skinny." She smiled.
"So I'll go to Ali the dealer and stock up. You betcha."

Armitage was waiting in their room at the Hilton.
"Time to pack," he said, and Case tried to find the man
called Corto behind the pale blue eyes and the tanned mask.
He thought of Wage, back in Chiba. Operators above a certain
level tended to submerge their personalities, he knew. But
Wage had had vices, lovers. Even, it had been rumored, chil-
dren. The blankness he found in Armitage was something else.
"Where to now?" he asked, walking past the man to stare
down into the street. "What kind of climate?"
"They don't have climate, just weather," Armitage said.
"Here. Read the brochure." He put something on the coffee
table and stood.
"Did Riviera check out okay? Where's the Finn?"
"Riviera's fine. The Finn is on his way home." Armitage
smiled, a smile that meant as much as the twitch of some
insect's antenna. His gold bracelet clinked as he reached out
to prod Case in the chest. "Don't get too smart. Those little
sacs are starting to show wear, but you don't know how much."
Case kept his face very still and forced himself to nod.
When Armitage was gone, he picked up one of the bro-
chures. It was expensively printed, in French, English, and

The four of them were booked on a THY flight out of Yes-
ilkoy airport. Transfer at Paris to the JAL shuttle. Case sat in
the lobby of the Istanbul Hilton and watched Riviera browse
bogus Byzantine fragments in the glass-walled gift-shop. Ar-
mitage, his trenchcoat draped over his shoulders like a cape,
stood in the shop's entrance.
Riviera was slender, blond, soft-voiced, his English ac-
centless and fluid. Molly said he was thirty, but it would have
been difficult to guess his age. She also said he was legally
stateless and traveled under a forged Dutch passport. He was
a product of the rubble rings that fringe the radioactive core
of old Bonn.
Three smiling Japanese tourists bustled into the shop, nod-
ding politely to Armitage. Armitage crossed the floor of the
shop too quickly, too obviously, to stand beside Riviera. Ri-
viera turned and smiled. He was very beautiful; Case assumed
the features were the work of a Chiba surgeon. A subtle job,
nothing like Armitage's blandly handsome blend of pop faces.
The man's forehead was high and smooth, gray eyes calm and
distant. His nose, which might have been too nicely sculpted,
seemed to have been broken and clumsily reset. The suggestion
of brutality offset the delicacy of his jaw and the quickness of
his smile. His teeth were small, even, and very white. Case
watched the white hands play over the imitation fragments of
Riviera didn't act like a man who'd been attacked the night
before, drugged with a toxin-flechette, abducted, subjected to
the Finn's examination, and pressured by Armitage into joining
their team.
Case checked his watch. Molly was due back from her drug
run. He looked up at Riviera again. "I bet you're stoned right
now, asshole," he said to the Hilton lobby. A graying Italian
matron in a white leather tuxedo jacket lowered her Porsche
glasses to stare at him. He smiled broadly, stood, and shoul-
dered his bag. He needed cigarettes for the flight. He wondered
if there was a smoking section on the JAL shuttle. "See ya
lady," he said to the woman, who promptly slid the sunglasses
back up her nose and turned away.
There were cigarettes in the gift shop, but he didn't relish
talking with Armitage or Riviera. He left the lobby and located
a vending console in a narrow alcove, at the end of a rank of
pay phones.
He fumbled through a pocketful of lirasi, slotting the small
dull alloy coins one after another, vaguely amused by the anach-
ronism of the process. The phone nearest him rang.
Automatically, he picked it up.
Faint harmonics, tiny inaudible voices rattling across some
orbital link, and then a sound like wind.
"Hello. Case."
A fifty-lirasi coin fell from his hand, bounced, and rolled
out of sight across Hilton carpeting.
"Wintermute, Case. It's time we talk."
It was a chip voice.
"Don't you want to talk, Case?"
He hung up.
On his way back to the lobby, his cigarettes forgotten, he
had to walk the length of the ranked phones. Each rang in turn,
but only once, as he passed.


The islands. Torus, spindle, cluster. Human DNA spreading
out from gravity's steep well like an oilslick.
Call up a graphics display that grossly simplifies the ex-
change of data in the L-S archipelago. One segment clicks in
as red solid, a massive rectangle dominating your screen.
Freeside. Freeside is many things, not all of them evident
to the tourists who shuttle up and down the well. Freeside is
brothel and banking nexus, pleasure dome and free port, bor-
der town, and spa. Freeside is Las Vegas and the hanging gar-
dens of Babylon, an orbital Geneva and home to a family inbred
and most carefully refined, the industrial clan of Tessier and

On the THY liner to Paris, they sat together in First Class,
Molly in the window seat, Case beside her, Riviera and Ar-
mitage on the aisle. Once, as the plane banked over water,
Case saw the jewel-glow of a Greek island town. And once,
reaching for his drink, he caught the flicker of a thing like a
giant human sperm in the depths of his bourbon and water.
Molly leaned across him and slapped Riviera's face, once.
"No, baby. No games. You play that subliminal shit around
me, I'll hurt you real bad. I can do it without damaging you
at all. I like that."
Case turned automatically to check Armitage's reaction. The
smooth face was calm, the blue eyes alert, but there was no
anger. "That's right, Peter. Don't."
Case turned back, in time to catch the briefest flash of a
black rose, its petals sheened like leather, the black stem thorned
with bright chrome.
Peter Riviera smiled sweetly, closed his eyes, and fell in-
stantly asleep.
Molly turned away, her lenses reflected in the dark window.
"You been up, haven't you?" Molly asked, as he squirmed
his way back into the deep temperfoam couch on the JAL
"Nah. Never travel much, just for biz." The steward was
attaching readout trodes to his wrist and left ear.
"Hope you don't get SAS," she said.
"Airsick? No way."
"It's not the same. Your heartbeat'll speed up in zero-g, and
your inner ear'll go nuts for a while. Kicks in your flight reflex,
like you'll be getting signals to run like hell, and a lot of
adrenaline." The steward moved on to Riviera, taking a new
set of trodes from his red plastic apron.
Case turned his head and tried to make out the outline of
the old Orly terminals, but the shuttle pad was screened by
graceful blast-deflectors of wet concrete. The one nearest the
window bore an Arabic slogan in red spraybomb.
He closed his eyes and told himself the shuttle was only a
big airplane, one that flew very high. It smelled like an airplane,
like new clothes and chewing gum and exhaustion. He listened
to the piped koto music and waited.
Twenty minutes, then gravity came down on him like a
great soft hand with bones of ancient stone.

x x x
Space adaptation syndrome was worse than Molly's de-
scription, but it passed quickly enough and he was able to
sleep. The steward woke him as they were preparing to dock
at JAL's terminal cluster.
We transfer to Freeside now?" he asked, eyeing a shred
of Yeheyuan tobacco that had drifted gracefully up out of his
shirt pocket to dance ten centimeters from his nose. There was
no smoking on shuttle flights.
"No, we got the boss's usual little kink in the plans, you
know? We're getting this taxi out to Zion, Zion cluster." She
touched the release plate on her harness and began to free
herself from the embrace of the foam. "Funny choice of venue,
you ask me."
"How's that?"
"Dreads. Rastas. Colony's about thirty years old now."
"What's that mean?"
"You'll see. It's an okay place by me. Anyway, they'll let
you smoke your cigarettes there."

Zion had been founded by five workers who'd refused to
return, who'd turned their backs on the well and started build-
ing. They'd suffered calcium loss and heart shrinkage before
rotational gravity was established in the colony's central torus.
Seen from the bubble of the taxi, Zion's makeshift hull re-
minded Case of the patchwork tenements of Istanbul, the ir-
regular, discolored plates laser-scrawled with Rastafarian
symbols and the initials of welders.
Molly and a skinny Zionite called Aerol helped Case ne-
gotiate a freefall corridor into the core of a smaller torus. He'd
lost track of Armitage and Riviera in the wake of a second
wave of SAS vertigo. "Here," Molly said, shoving his legs
into a narrow hatchway overhead. "Grab the rungs. Make like
you're climbing backward, right? You're going toward the hull,
that's like you're climbing down into gravity. Got it?"
Case's stomach churned.
"You be fine, mon," Aerol said, his grin bracketed with
gold incisors.
Somehow, the end of the tunnel had become its bottom.
Case embraced the weak gravity like a drowning man finding
a pocket of air.
"Up," Molly said, "you gonna kiss it next?" Case lay flat
on the deck, on his stomach, arms spread. Something struck
him on the shoulder. He rolled over and saw a fat bundle of
elastic cable. "Gotta play house," she said. "You help me string
this up." He looked around the wide, featureless space and
noticed steel rings welded on every surface, seemingly at ran-
When they'd strung the cables, according to some complex
scheme of Molly's, they hung them with battered sheets of
yellow plastic. As they worked, Case gradually became aware
of the music that pulsed constantly through the cluster. It was
called dub, a sensuous mosaic cooked from vast libraries of
digitalized pop; it was worship, Molly said, and a sense of
community. Case heaved at one of the yellow sheets; the thing
was light but still awkward. Zion smelled of cooked vegetables,
humanity, and ganja.
"Good," Armitage said, gliding loose-kneed through the
hatch and nodding at the maze of sheets. Riviera followed, less
certain in the partial gravity.
"Where were you when it needed doing?" Case asked Ri-
The man opened his mouth to speak. A small trout swam
out, trailing impossible bubbles. It glided past Case's cheek.
"In the head," Riviera said, and smiled.
Case laughed.
"Good," Riviera said, "you can laugh. I would have tried
to help you, but I'm no good with my hands." He held up his
palms, which suddenly doubled. Four arms, four hands.
"Just the harmless clown, right, Riviera?" Molly stepped
between them.
"Yo," Aerol said, from the hatch, "you wan' come wi' me,
cowboy mon."
"It's your deck," Armitage said, "and the other gear. Help
him get it in from the cargo bay."
"You ver' pale, mon," Aerol said, as they were guiding the
foam-bundled Hosaka terminal along the central corridor.
"Maybe you wan' eat somethin'."
Case's mouth flooded with saliva; he shook his head.

x x x
Armitage announced an eighty-hour stay in Zion. Molly and
Case would practice in zero gravity, he said, and acclimatize
themselves to working in it. He would brief them on Freeside
and the Villa Straylight. It was unclear what Riviera was sup-
posed to be doing, but Case didn't feel like asking. A few
hours after their arrival, Armitage had sent him into the yellow
maze to call Riviera out for a meal. He'd found him curled
like a cat on a thin pad of temperfoam, naked, apparently
asleep, his head orbited by a revolving halo of small white
geometric forms, cubes, spheres, and pyramids. "Hey, Ri-
viera." The ring continued to revolve. He'd gone back and told
Armitage. "He's stoned," Molly said, looking up from the
disassembled parts of her fletcher. "Leave him be."
Armitage seemed to think that zero-g would affect Case's
ability to operate in the matrix. 'Don't sweat it," Case argued,
"I jack in and I'm not here. It's all the same."
"Your adrenaline levels are higher," Armitage said. "You've
still got SAS. You won't have time for it to wear off. You're
going to learn to work with it. '
"So I do the run from here'?"
"No. Practice, Case. Now. Up in the corridor...."

Cyberspace, as the deck presented it, had no particular re-
lationship with the deck's physical whereabouts. When Case
jacked in, he opened his eyes to the familiar configuration of
the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority's Aztec pyramid of
"How you doing, Dixie?''
"I'm dead, Case. Got enough time in on this Hosaka to
figure that one."
"How's it feel?"
"It doesn't."
"Bother you?"
"What bothers me is, nothin' does."
"How's that?"
"Had me this buddy in the Russian camp, Siberia, his thumb
was frostbit. Medics came by and they cut it off. Month later
he's tossin' all night. Elroy. l said, what's eatin' you? Goddam
thumb's itchin', he says. So l told him, scratch it. McCoy, he
says, it's the other goddam thumb." When the construct laughed,
it came through as something else, not laughter, but a stab of
cold down Case's spine. "Do me a favor, boy."
"What's that, Dix?"
"This scam of yours, when it's over, you erase this goddam

Case didn't understand the Zionites.
Aerol, with no particular provocation, related the tale of the
baby who had burst from his forehead and scampered into a
forest of hydroponic ganja. "Ver' small baby, mon, no long'
you finga." He rubbed his palm across an unscarred expanse
of brown forehead and smiled.
"It's the ganja," Molly said, when Case told her the story.
"They don't make much of a difference between states, you
know? Aerol tells you it happened, well, it happened to him.
It's not like bullshit, more like poetry. Get it?"
Case nodded dubiously. The Zionites always touched you
when they were talking, hands on your shoulder. He didn't
like that.
"Hey, Aerol," Case called, an hour later, as he prepared
for a practice run in the freefall corridor. "Come here, man.
Wanna show you this thing." He held out the trodes.
Aerol executed a slow-motion tumble. His bare feet struck
the steel wall and he caught a girder with his free hand. The
other held a transparent waterbag bulging with blue-green al-
gae. He blinked mildly and grinned.
"Try it," Case said.
He took the band, put it on, and Case adjusted the trodes.
He closed his eyes. Case hit the power stud. Aerol shuddered.
Case jacked him back out. "What did you see, man?"
"Babylon," Aerol said, sadly, handing him the trodes and
kicking off down the corridor.
Riviera sat motionless on his foam pad, his right arm ex-
tended straight out, level with his shoulder. A jewel-scaled
snake, its eyes like ruby neon, was coiled tightly a few
millimeters behind his elbow. Case watched the snake, which
was finger-thick and banded black and scarlet, slowly contract,
tightening around Riviera's arm.
"Come then," the man said caressingly to the pale waxy
scorpion poised in the center of his upturned palm. "Come."
The scorpion swayed its brownish claws and scurried up his
arm, its feet tracking the faint dark telltales of veins. When it
reached the inner elbow, it halted and seemed to vibrate. Ri-
viera made a soft hissing sound. The sting came up, quivered,
and sank into the skin above a bulging vein. The coral snake
relaxed, and Riviera sighed slowly as the injection hit him.
Then the snake and the scorpion were gone, and he held a
milky plastic syringe in his left hand. "'If God made anything
better, he kept it for himself. ' You know the expression, Case?"
"Yeah," Case said. "I heard that about lots of different
things. You always make it into a little show?"
Riviera loosened and removed the elastic length of surgical
tubing from his arm. "Yes. It's more fun." He smiled, his eyes
distant now, cheeks flushed. "I've a membrane set in, just over
the vein, so I never have to worry about the condition of the
"Doesn't hurt?"
The bright eyes met his. "Of course it does. That's part of
it, isn't it?"
"I'd just use derms," Case said.
"Pedestrian," Riviera sneered, and laughed, putting on a
short-sleeved white cotton shirt.
"Must be nice," Case said, getting up.
"Get high yourself, Case?"
"I hadda give it up."

"Freeside," Armitage said, touching the panel on the little
Braun hologram projector. The image shivered into focus, nearly
three meters from tip to tip. "Casinos here." He reached into
the skeletal representation and pointed. "Hotels, strata-title
property, big shops along here." His hand moved. "Blue areas
are lakes." He walked to one end of the model. "Big cigar.
Narrows at the ends."
"We can see that fine," Molly said.
"Mountain effect, as it narrows. Ground seems to get higher,
more rocky, but it's an easy climb. Higher you climb, the
lower the gravity. Sports up there. There's velodrome ring
here." He pointed.
"A what?" Case leaned forward.
"They race bicycles," Molly said. "Low grav, high-traction
tires, get up over a hundred kilos an hour."
"This end doesn't concern us," Armitage said with his usual
utter seriousness.
"Shit," Molly said, "I'm an avid cyclist."
Riviera giggled.
Armitage walked to the opposite end of the projection. "This
end does." The interior detail of the hologram ended here, and
the final segment of the spindle was empty. "This is the Villa
Straylight. Steep climb out of gravity and every approach is
kinked. There's a single entrance, here, dead center. Zero grav-
"What's inside, boss?" Riviera leaned forward, craning his
neck. Four tiny figures glittered, near the tip of Armitage's
finger. Armitage slapped at them as if they were gnats.
"Peter," Armitage said, "you're going to be the first to find
out. You'll arrange yourself an invitation. Once you're in, you
see that Molly gets in."
Case stared at the blankness that represented Straylight,
remembering the Finn's story: Smith, Jimmy, the talking head,
and the ninja.
"Details available?" Riviera asked. "I need to plan a ward-
robe, you see."
"Learn the streets," Armitage said, returning to the center
of the model. "Desiderata Street here. This is the Rue Jules
Riviera rolled his eyes.
While Armitage recited the names of Freeside avenues, a
dozen bright pustules rose on his nose, cheeks, and chin. Even
Molly laughed.
Armitage paused, regarded them all with his cold empty
"Sorry," Riviera said, and the sores flickered and vanished.

Case woke, late into the sleeping period, and became aware
of Molly crouched beside him on the foam. He could feel her
tension. He lay there confused. When she moved, the sheer
speed of it stunned him. She was up and through the sheet of
yellow plastic before he'd had time to realize she'd slashed it
"Don't you move, friend."
Case rolled over and put his head through the rent in the
plastic. "Wha. . . ?"
"Shut up."
"You th' one, mon," said a Zion voice. "Cateye, call 'em
call 'em Steppin' Razor. I Maelcum, sister. Brothers wan
converse wi' you an' cowboy."
"What brothers?"
"Founders, mon. Elders of Zion, ya know...."
"We open that hatch, the light'll wake bossman," Case
"Make it special dark, now," the man said. "Come. I an' I
visit th' Founders."
"You know how fast I can cut you, friend?"
"Don' stan' talkin', sister. Come."

The two surviving Founders of Zion were old men, old with
the accelerated aging that overtakes men who spend too many
years outside the embrace of gravity. Their brown legs, brittle
with calcium loss, looked fragile in the harsh glare of reflected
sunlight. They floated in the center of a painted jungle of
rainbow foliage, a lurid communal mural that completely cov-
ered the hull of the spherical chamber. The air was thick with
resinous smoke.
"Steppin' Razor," one said, as Molly drifted into the cham-
ber. "Like unto a whippin' stick."
"That is a story we have, sister," said the other, "a religion
story. We are glad you've come with Maelcum."
"How come you don't talk the patois?" Molly asked.
"I came from Los Angeles," the old man said. His dread-
locks were like a matted tree with branches the color of steel
wool. "Long time ago, up the gravity well and out of Babylon.
To lead the Tribes home. Now my brother likens you to Step-
pin' Razor."
Molly extended her right hand and the blades flashed in the
smoky air.
The other Founder laughed, his head thrown back. "Soon
come, the Final Days.... Voices. Voices cryin' inna wilder-
ness, prophesyin' ruin unto Babylon...."
"Voices." The Founder from Los Angeles was staring at
Case. "We monitor many frequencies. We listen always. Came
a voice, out of the babel of tongues, speaking to us. It played
us a mighty dub."
"Call 'em Winter Mute," said the other, making it two
Case felt the skin crawl on his arms.
"The Mute talked to us," the first Founder said. "The Mute
said we are to help you."
"When was this?" Case asked.
"Thirty hours prior you dockin' Zion."
"You ever hear this voice before?"
"No," said the man from Los Angeles, "and we are uncertain
of its meaning. If these are Final Days, we must expect false
prophets ...."
"Listen," Case said, "that's an Al, you know? Artificial
intelligence. The music it played you, it probably just tapped
your banks and cooked up whatever it thought you'd like
"Babylon," broke in the other Founder, "mothers many de-
mon, I an' I know. Multitude horde!"
"What was that you called me, old man?" Molly asked.
"Steppin' Razor. An' you bring a scourge on Babylon, sis-
ter, on its darkest heart...."
"What kinda message the voice have?" Case asked.
"We were told to help you," the other said, "that you might
serve as a tool of Final Days." His lined face was troubled.
"We were told to send Maelcum with you, in his tug Garvey,
to the Babylon port of Freeside. And this we shall do."
"Maelcum a rude boy," said the other, "an' a righteous tug
"But we have decided to send Aerol as well, in Babylon
Rocker, to watch over Garvey."
An awkward silence filled the dome.
"That's it?" Case asked. "You guys work for Armitage or
"We rent you space," said the Los Angeles Founder. "We
have a certain involvement here with various traffics, and no
regard for Babylon's law. Our law is the word of Jah. But this
time, it may be, we have been mistaken."
"Measure twice, cut once," said the other, softly.
"Come on, Case," Molly said. "Let's get back before the
man figures out we're gone."
"Maelcum will take you. Jah love, sister."

The tug Marcus Garvey, a steel drum nine meters long and
two in diameter, creaked and shuddered as Maelcum punched
for a navigational burn. Splayed in his elastic g-web, Case
watched the Zionite's muscular back through a haze of sco-
polamine. He'd taken the drug to blunt SAS, nausea, but the
stimulants the manufacturer included to counter the scop had
no effect on his doctored system.
"How long's it gonna take us to make Freeside?" Molly
asked from her web beside Maelcum's pilot module.
"Don' be long now, m'seh dat."
"You guys ever think in hours?"
"Sister, time, it be time, ya know wha mean? Dread," and
he shook his locks, "at control, moo, an' I an' I come a Freeside
when I an' I come...."
"Case," she said, "have you maybe done anything toward
getting in touch with our pal from Berne? Like all that time
you spent in Zion, plugged in with your lips moving?"
"Pal," Case said, "sure. No. I haven't. But I got a funny
story along those lines, left over from Istanbul." He told her
about the phones in the Hilton.
"Christ," she said, "there goes a chance. How come you
hung up?"
"Coulda been anybody," he lied. "lust a chip ... I dunno...."
He shrugged.
"Not just 'cause you were scared, huh?"
He shrugged again.
"Do it now."
"Now. Anyway, talk to the Flatline about it."
"I'm all doped," he protested, but reached for the trodes.
His deck and the Hosaka had been mounted behind Maelcum's
module along with a very high-resolution Cray monitor.
He adjusted the trodes. Marcus Garvey had been thrown
together around an enormous old Russian air scrubber, a rec-
tangular thing daubed with Rastafarian symbols, Lioos of Zion
and Black Star Liners, the reds and greens and yellows over-
laying wordy decals in Cyrillic script. Someone had sprayed
Maelcum's pilot gear a hot tropical pink, scraping most of the
overspray off the screens and readouts with a razor blade. The
gaskets around the airlock in the bow were festooned with
semirigid globs and streamers of translucent caulk, like clumsy
strands of imitation seaweed. He glanced past Maelcum's
shoulder to the central screen and saw a docking display: the
tug's path was a line of red dots, Freeside a segmented green
circle. He watched the line extend itself, generating a new dot.
He jacked in.
"You ever try to crack an AI?"
"Sure. I flatlined. First time. I was larkin' jacked up real
high, out by Rio heavy commerce sector. Big biz, multina-
tionals, Government of Brazil lit up like a Christmas tree. Just
larkin' around, you know? And then I started picking up on
this one cube, maybe three levels higher up. Jacked up there
and made a pass."
"What did it look like, the visual?"
"White cube."
"How'd you know it was an Al?"
"How'd I know? Jesus. It was the densest ice I'd ever seen.
So what else was it? The military down there don't have any-
thing like that. Anyway, I jacked out and told my computer to
look it up."
"It was on the Turing Registry. Al. Frog company owned
its Rio mainframe."
Case chewed his lower lip and gazed out across the plateaus
of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority, into the infinite
neuroelectronic void of the matrix. "Tessier-Ashpool, Dixie?"
"Tessier, yeah."
"And you went back?"
"Sure. I was crazy. Figured I'd try to cut it. Hit the first
strata and that's all she wrote. My joeboy smelled the skin
frying and pulled the trodes off me. Mean shit, that ice."
"And your EEG was flat."
"Well, that's the stuff of legend, ain't it?"
Case jacked out. "Shit," he said, "how do you think Dixie
got himself flatlined, huh? Trying to buzz an AI. Great...."
"Go on," she said, "the two of you are supposed to be
dynamite, right?"

"Dix," Case said, "I wanna have a look at an AI in Berne.
Can you think of any reason not to?"
"Not unless you got a morbid fear of death, no."
Case punched for the Swiss banking sector, feeling a wave
of exhilaration as cyberspace shivered, blurred, gelled. The
Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority was gone, replaced by the
cool geometric intricacy of Zurich commercial banking. He
punched again, for Berne.
"Up," the construct said. "It'll be high."
They ascended lattices of light, levels strobing, a blue flicker.
That'll be it, Case thought.
Wintermute was a simple cube of white light, that very
simplicity suggesting extreme complexity.
"Don't look much, does it?" the Flatline said. "But just you
try and touch it."
"I'm going in for a pass, Dixie."
"Be my guest."

Case punched to within four grid points of the cube. Its
blank face, towering above him now, began to seethe with faint
internal shadows, as though a thousand dancers whirled behind
a vast sheet of frosted glass.
"Knows we're here," the Flatline observed.
Case punched again, once; they jumped forward by a single
grid point.
A stippled gray circle formed on the face of the cube.
"Back off, fast."
The gray area bulged smoothly, became a sphere, and de-
tached itself from the cube.
Case felt the edge of the deck sting his palm as he slapped
MAX REVERSE. The matrix blurred backward; they plunged
down a twilit shaft of Swiss banks. He looked up. The sphere
was darker now, gaining on him. Falling.
"Jack out," the Flatline said.
The dark came down like a hammer.

Cold steel odor and ice caressed his spine.
And faces peering in from a neon forest, sailors and hustlers
and whores, under a poisoned silver sky....
"Look, Case, you tell me what the fuck is going on with
you, you wig or something?"
A steady pulse of pain, midway down his spine--

Rain woke him, a slow drizzle, his feet tangled in coils of
discarded fiberoptics. The arcade's sea of sound washed over
him, receded, returned. Rolling over, he sat up and held his
Light from a service hatch at the rear of the arcade showed
him broken lengths of damp chipboard and the dripping chassis
of a gutted game console. Streamlined Japanese was stenciled
across the side of the console in faded pinks and yellows.
He glanced up and saw a sooty plastic window, a faint glow
of fluorescents.
His back hurt, his spine.
He got to his feet, brushed wet hair out of his eyes.
Something had happened....
He searched his pockets for money, found nothing, and
shivered. Where was his jacket? He tried to find it, looked
behind the console, but gave up.
On Ninsei, he took the measure of the crowd. Friday. It
had to be a Friday. Linda was probably in the arcade. Might
have money, or at least cigarettes.... Coughing, wringing rain
from the front of his shirt, he edged through the crowd to the
arcade's entrance.
Holograms twisted and shuddered to the roaring of the games,
ghosts overlapping in the crowded haze of the place, a smell
of sweat and bored tension. A sailor in a white t-shirt nuked
Bonn on a Tank War console, an azure flash.
She was playing Wizard's Castle, lost in it, her gray eyes
rimmed with smudged black paintstick.
She looked up as he put his arm around her, smiled. "Hey.
How you doin'? Look wet."
He kissed her.
"You made me blow my game," she said. "Look there
ass hole. Seventh level dungeon and the god dam vampires got
me." She passed him a cigarette. "You look pretty strung, man.
Where you been?"
"I don't know."
"You high, Case? Drinkin' again? Eatin' Zone's dex?"
"Maybe . . . how long since you seen me?"
"Hey, it's a put-on, right?" She peered at him. "Right?"
"No. Some kind of blackout. I . . . I woke up in the alley."
"Maybe somebody decked you, baby. Got your roll intact?"
He shook his head.
"There you go. You need a place to sleep, Case?"
"I guess so."
"Come on, then." She took his hand. "We'll get you a coffee
and something to eat. Take you home. It's good to see you,
man." She squeezed his hand.
He smiled.
Something cracked.
Something shifted at the core of things. The arcade froze,

She was gone. The weight of memory came down, an entire body of
knowledge driven into his head like a microsoft into
a socket. Gone. He smelled burning meat.
The sailor in the white t-shirt was gone. The arcade was
empty, silent. Case turned slowly, his shoulders hunched, teeth
bared, his hands bunched into involuntary fists. Empty. A
crumpled yellow candy wrapper, balanced on the edge of a
console, dropped to the floor and lay amid flattened butts and
styrofoam cups.
"I had a cigarette," Case said, looking down at his white-
knuckled fist. "I had a cigarette and a girl and a place to sleep.
Do you hear me, you son of a bitch? You hear me?"
Echoes moved through the hollow of the arcade, fading
down corridors of consoles.
He stepped out into the street. The rain had stopped.
Ninsei was deserted.
Holograms flickered, neon danced. He smelled boiled veg-
etables from a vendor's pushcart across the street. An unopened
pack of Yeheyuans lay at his feet, beside a book of matches.
JULIUS DEANE IMPORT EXPORT. Case staled at the printed
logo and its Japanese translation.
"Okay," he said, picking up the matches and opening the
pack of cigarettes. "I hear you."

He took his time climbing the stairs of Deane's office. No
rush, he told himself, no hurry. The sagging face of the Dali
clock still told the wrong time. There was dust on the Kandinsky
table and the Neo-Aztec bookcases. A wall of white fiberglass
shipping modules filled the room with a smell of ginger.
"Is the door locked?" Case waited for an answer, but none
came. He crossed to the office door and tried it. "Julie?"
The green-shaded brass lamp cast a circle of light on Deane's
desk. Case stared at the guts of an ancient typewriter, at cas-
settes, crumpled printouts, at sticky plastic bags filled with
ginger samples.
There was no one there.
Case stepped around the broad steel desk and pushed Deane's
chair out of the way. He found the gun in a cracked leather
holster fastened beneath the desk with silver tape. It was an
antique, a .357 Magnum with the barrel and trigger-guard sawn
off. The grip had been built up with layers of masking tape.
The tape was old, brown, shiny with a patina of dirt. He flipped
the cylinder out and examined each of the six cartridges. They
were handloads. The soft lead was still bright and untarnished.
With the revolver in his right hand, Case edged past the
cabinet to the left of the desk and stepped into the center of
the cluttered office, away from the pool of light.
"I guess I'm not in any hurry. I guess it's your show. But
all this shit, you know, it's getting kind of . . . old." He raised
the gun with both hands, aiming for the center of the desk,
and pulled the trigger.
The recoil nearly broke his wrist. The muzzle-flash lit the
office like a flashbulb. With his ears ringing, he stared at the
jagged hole in the front of the desk. Explosive bullet. Azide.
He raised the gun again.
"You needn't do that, old son," Julie said, stepping out of
the shadows. He wore a three-piece drape suit in silk her ing-
bone, a striped shirt, and a bow tie. His glasses winked in the
Case brought the gun around and looked down the line of
sight at Deane's pink, ageless face.
"Don't," Deane said. "You're right. About what this all is.
What I am. But there are certain internal logics to be honored.
If you use that, you'll see a lot of brains and blood, and it
would take me several hours--your subjective-time--to effect
another spokesperson. This set isn't easy for me to maintain.
Oh, and I'm sorry about Linda, in the arcade. I was hoping to
speak through her, but I'm generating all this out of your
memories, and the emotional charge.... Well, it's very tricky.
I slipped. Sorry."
Case lowered the gun. "This is the matrix. You're Winter-
- "Yes. This is all coming to you courtesy of the simstim unit
wired into your deck, of course. I'm glad I was able to cut you
off before you'd managed to jack out." Deane walked around
the desk, straightened his chair, and sat down. "Sit, old son.
We have a lot to talk about."
"Do we?"
"Of course we do. We have had for some time. I was ready
when I reached you by phone in Istanbul. Time's very short
now. You'll be making your run in a matter of days, Case."
Deane picked up a bonbon and stripped off its checkered wrap-
pcr, popped h into his mouth. "Sit," he said around the candy.
Case lowered himself into the swivel chair in front of the
desk without taking his eyes off Deane. He sat with the gun
in his hand, resting it on his thigh.
"Now," Deane said briskly, "order of the day. 'What,' you're
asking yourself, 'is Wintermute?' Am I right?"
"More or less."
"An artificial intelligence, but you know that. Your mistake,
and it's quite a logical one, is in confusing the Winterrnute
mainframe, Berne, with the Wintermute entity." Deane sucked
his bonbon noisily. "You're already aware of the other AI in
Tessier-Ashpool's link-up, aren't you? Rio. I, insofar as I have
an 'I'--this gets rather metaphysical, you see--I am the one
who arranges things for Armitage. Or Corto, who, by the way,
is quite unstable. Stable enough," said Deane and withdrew an
ornate gold watch from a vest pocket and flicked it open, "For
the next day or so."
"You make about as much sense as anything in this deal
ever has," Case said, massaging his temples with his free hand.
"If you're so goddam smart. . ."
"Why ain't I rich?" Deane laughed, and nearly choked on
his bonbon. "Well, Case, all I can say to that, and I really
don't have nearly as many answers as you imagine I do, is that
what you think of as Wintermute is only a part of another, a,
shall we say, potential entity. I, let us say, am merely one
aspect of that entity's brain. It's rather like dealing, from your
point of view, with a man whose lobes have been severed. Let's
say you're dealing with a small part of the man's left brain.
Difficult to say if you're dealing with the man at all, in a case
like that." Deane smiled.
"Is the Corto story true? You got to him through a micro
in that French hospital?"
"Yes. And I assembled the file you accessed in London. I
try to plan. in your sense of the word, but that isn't my basic
mode, really. I improvise. It's my greatest talent. I prefer
situations to plans, you see.... Really, I've had to deal with
givens. I can sort a great deal of information, and sort it very
quickly. It's taken a very long time to assemble the team you're
a part of. Corto was the first, and he very nearly didn't make
it. Very far gone, in Toulon. Eating, excreting, and mastur-
bating were the best he could manage. But the underlying
structure of obsessions was there: Screaming Fist, his betrayal
the Congressional hearings."
"Is he still crazy?"
"He's not quite a personality." Deane smiled. "But I'm sure
you're aware of that. But Corto is in there, somewhere, and I
can no longer maintain that delicate balance. He's going to
come apart on you, Case. So I'll be counting on you...."
"That's good, motherfucker," Case said, and shot him in
the mouth with the .357.
He'd been right about the brains. And the blood.

"Mon," Maelcum was saying, "I don't like this...."
"It's cool," Molly said. "It's just okay. It's something these
guys do, is all. Like, he wasn't dead, and it was only a few
"I saw th' screen, EEG readin' dead. Nothin' movin', forty
"Well, he's okay now."
"EEG flat as a strap," Maelcum protested.
He was numb, as they went through customs, and Molly
did most of the talking. Maelcum remained on board Garvey.
Customs, for Freeside, consisted mainly of proving your credit.
The first thing he saw, when they gained the inner surface of
the spindle, was a branch of the Beautiful Girl coffee franchise.
"Welcome to the Rue Jules Verne," Molly said. "If you
have trouble walking, just look at your feet. The perspective's
a bitch, if you're not used to it."
They were standing in a broad street that seemed to be the
floor of a deep slot or canyon, its either end concealed by subtle
angles in the shops and buildings that formed its walls. The
light, here, was filtered through fiesh green masses of vege-
tation tumbling from overhanging tiers and balconies that rose
above them. The sun. . .
There was a brilliant slash of white somewhere above them
too bright, and the recorded blue of a Cannes sky. He knew
that sunlight was pumped in with a Lado-Acheson system whose
two-millimeter armature ran the length of the spindle, that they
generated a rotating library of sky effects around it, that if the
sky were turned off, he'd stare up past the armature of light
to the curves of lakes, rooftops of casinos, other streets....
But it made no sense to his body.
"Jesus," he said, "I like this less than SAS."
"Get used to it. I was a gambler's bodyguard here for a
"Wanna go somewhere, lie down."
"Okay. I got our keys." She touched his shoulder. "What
happened to you, back there, man? You flatlined."
He shook his head. "I dunno, yet. Wait."
"Okay. We get a cab or something." She took his hand and
led him across Jules Verne, past a window displaying the sea-
son's Paris furs.
"Unreal," he said, looking up again.
"Nah," she responded, assuming he meant the furs, "grow
it on a collagen base, but it's mink DNA. What's it matter?"

"It's just a big tube and they pour things through it," Molly
said. "Tourists, hustlers, anything. And there's fine mesh money
screens working every minute, make sure the money stays here
when the people fall back down the well."
Armitage had booked them into a place called the Inter-
continental, a sloping glass-fronted clff face that slid down
into cold mist and the sound of rapids. Case went out onto
their balcony and watched a trio of tanned French teenagers
ride simple hang gliders a few meters above the spray, triangles
of nylon in bright primary colors. One of them swung, banked,
and Case caught a flash of cropped dark hair, brown breasts,
white teeth in a wide smile. The air here smelled of running
water and flowers. "Yeah," he said, "lotta money."
She leaned beside him against the railing, her hands loose
and relaxed. "Yeah. We were gonna come here once, either
here or some place in Europe."
"We who?"
"Nobody," she said, giving her shoulders an involuntary
toss. "You said you wanted to hit the bed. Sleep. I could use
some sleep."
"Yeah," Case said, rubbing his palms across his cheek-
bones. "Yeah, this is some place."
The narrow band of the Lado Acheson system smoldered
in absract imitation of some Bermudan sunset, striped by shreds
of worded cloud. "Yeah," he said, "sleep."
Sleep wouldn't come. When it did, it brought dreams that
were like neatly edited segments of memory. He woke re-
peatedly, Molly curled beside him, and heard the water, voices
drifting in through the open glass panels of the balcony, a
woman's laughter from the stepped condos on the opposite
slope. Deane's death kept turning up like a bad card, no matter
if he told himself that it hadn't been Deane. That it hadn't, in
fact, happened at all. Someone had once told him that the
amount of blood in the average human body was roughly equiv-
alent to a case of beer.
Each time the image of Deane's shattered head struck the
rear wall of the office, Case was aware of another thought,
something darker, hidden, that rolled away, diving like a fish,
just beyond his reach.
Deane. Blood on the wall of the importer's office.
Linda. Smell of burnt flesh in the shadows of the Chiba
dome. Molly holding out a bag of ginger, the plastic filmed
with blood. Deane had had her killed.
Wintermute. He imagined a little micro whispering to the
wreck of a man named Corto, the words flowing like a river,
the flat personality-substitute called Armitage accreting slowly
in some darkened ward....The Deane analog had said it
worked with givens, took advantage of existing situations.
But what if Deane, the real Deane, had ordered Linda killed
on Wintermute's orders? Case groped in the dark for a cigarette
and Molly's lighter. There was no reason to suspect Deane, he
told himself, lighting up. No reason.
Wintermute could build a kind of personality into a shell.
How subtle a form could manipulation take? He stubbed the
Yeheyuan out in a bedside ashtray after his third puff, rolled
away from Molly, and tried to sleep.
The dream, the memory, unreeled with the monotony of an
unedited simstim tape. He'd spent a month, his fifteenth sum-
mer, in a weekly rates hotel, fifth floor, with a girl called
Marlene. The elevator hadn't worked in a decade. Roaches
boiled across grayish porcelain in the drain-plugged kitchenette
when you flicked a lightswitch. He slept with Marlene on a
striped mattress with no sheets.
He'd missed the first wasp, when it built its paperfine gray
house on the blistered paint of the windowframe, but soon the
nest was a fist-sized lump of fiber, insects hurtling out to hunt
the alley below like miniature copters buzzing the rotting con-
tents of the dumpsters.
They'd each had a dozen beers, the afternoon a wasp stung
Marlene. "Kill the fuckers," she said, her eyes dull with rage
and the still heat of the room, "burn 'em." Drunk, Case rum-
maged in the sour closet for Rollo's dragon. Rollo was Mar-
lene's previous--and, Case suspected at the time, still
occasional--boyfriend, an enormous Frisco biker with a blond
lightning bolt bleached into his dark crewcut. The dragon was
a Frisco flamethrower, a thing like a fat anglehead flashlight.
Case checked the batteries, shook it to make sure he had enough
fuel, and went to the open window. The hive began to buzz.
The air in the Sprawl was dead, immobile. A wasp shot
from the nest and circled Case's head. Case pressed the ignition
switch, counted three, and pulled the trigger. The fuel, pumped
up to l00 psi, sprayed out past the white-hot coil. A five-meter
tongue of pale fire, the nest charring, tumbling. Across the
alley, someone cheered.
"Shit!" Marlene behind him, swaying. "Stupid! You didn't
burn 'em. You just knocked it off. They'll come up here and
kill us!" Her voice sawing at his nerves, he imagined her en-
gulfed in flame, her bleached hair sizzling a special green.
In the alley, the dragon in hand, he approached the black-
ened nest. It had broken open. Singed wasps wrenched and
flipped on the asphalt.
He saw the thing the shell of gray paper had concealed.
Horror. The spiral birth factory, stepped terraces of the
hatching cells, blind jaws of the unborn moving ceaselessly,
the staged progress from egg to larva, near-wasp, wasp. In his
mind's eye, a kind of time-lapse photography took place, re-
vealing the thing as the biological equivalent of a machine gun,
hideous in its perfection. Alien. He pulled the trigger, forgetting
to press the ignition, and fuel hissed over the bulging, writhing
life at his feet.
When he did hit the ignition, it exploded with a thump
taking an eyebrow with it. Five floors above him, from the
open window, he heard Marlene laughing.
He woke with the impression of light fading, but the room
was dark. Afterimages, retinal flares. The sky outside hinted
at the start of a recorded dawn. There were no voices now
only the rush of water, far down the face of the Intercontinental.
In the dream, just before he'd drenched the nest with fuel,
he'd seen the T-A logo of Tessier-Ashpool neatly embossed
into its side, as though the wasps themselves had worked it

Molly insisted on coating him with bronzer, saying his Sprawl
pallor would attract too much attention.
"Christ," he said, standing naked in front of the mirror,
"you think that looks real?" She was using the last of the tube
on his left ankle, kneeling beside him.
"Nah, but it looks like you care enough to fake it. There.
There isn't enough to do your foot." She stood, tossing the
empty tube into a large wicker basket. Nothing in the room
looked as though it had been machine-made or produced from
synthetics. Expensive, Case knew, but it was a style that had
always irritated him. The temperfoam of the huge bed was
tinted to resemble sand. There was a lot of pale wood and
handwoven fabric.
"What about you," he said, "you gonna dye yourself brown?
Don't exactly look like you spend all your time sunbathing."
She wore loose black silks and black espadrilles. "I'm an
exotic. I got a big straw hat for this, too. You, you just wanna
look like a cheap-ass hood who's up for what he can get, so
the instant tan's okay."
Case regarded his pallid foot morosely, then looked at him-
self in the mirror. "Christ. You mind if I get dressed now?"
He went to the bed and began to pull his jeans on. "You sleep
okay? You notice any lights?"
"You were dreaming," she said.
They had breakfast on the roof of the hotel, a kind of meadow
studded with striped umbrellas and what seemed to Case an
unnatural number of trees. He told her about his attempt to
buzz the Berne AI. The whole question of bugging seemed to
have become academic. If Armitage were tapping them, he'd
be doing it through Wintermute.
"And it was like real?" she asked, her mouth full of cheese
croissant. "Like simstim?"
He said it was. "Real as this," he added, looking around.
"Maybe more."
The trees were small, gnarled, impossibly old, the result of
genetic engineering and chemical manipulation. Case would
have been hard pressed to distinguish a pine from an oak, but
a street boy's sense of style told him that these were too cute,
too entirely and definitively treelike. Between the trees, on
gentle and too cleverly irregular slopes of sweet green grass,
the bright umbrellas shaded the hotel's guests from the unfal-
tering radiance of the Lado-Acheson sun. A burst of French
from a nearby table caught his attention: the golden children
he'd seen gliding above river mist the evening before. Now he
saw that their tans were uneven, a stencil effect produced by
selective melanin boosting, multiple shades overlapping in rec-
tilinear patterns, outlining and highlighting musculature; the
girl's small hard breasts, one boy's wrist resting on the white
enamel of the table. They looked to Case like machines built
for racing; they deserved decals for their hairdressers, the de-
signers of their white cotton ducks, for the artisans who'd
crafted their leather sandals and simple jewelry. Beyond them,
at another table, three Japanese wives in Hiroshima sackcloth
awaited sarariman husbands, their oval faces covered with ar-
tificial bruises; it was, he knew, an extremely conservative
style, one he'd seldom seen in Chiba.
"What's that smell?" he asked Molly, wrinkling his nose.
"The grass. Smells that way after they cut it."
Armitage and Riviera arrived as they were finishing their
coffee, Armitage in tailored khakis that made him look as
though his regimental patches had just been stripped, Riviera
in a loose gray seersucker outfit that perversely suggested prison.
"Molly, love," Riviera said, almost before he was settled
on his chair, "you'll have to dole me out more of the medicine.
I'm out."
"Peter," she said, "and what if I won't?" She smiled without
showing her teeth.
"You will," Riviera said, his eyes cutting to Armitage and
"Give it to him," Armitage said.
"Pig for it, aren't you?" She took a flat, foil-wrapped packet
from an inside pocket and flipped it across the table. Riviera
caught it in midair. "He could off himself," she said to Ar-
"I have an audition this afternoon," Riviera said. "I'll need
to be at my best." He cupped the foil packd in his uptumed
palm and smiled. Small glittering insects swarmed out of it,
vanished. He dropped it into the pocket of his seersucker blouse.
"You've got an audition yourself, Case, this afternoon,"
Armitage said. "On that tug. I want you to get over to the pro
shop and get yourself fitted for a vac suit, get checked out on
it, and get out to the boat. You've got about three hours."
"How come we get shipped over in a shitcan and you two
hire a JAL taxi?" Case asked, deliberately avoiding the man's
"Zion suggested we use it. Good cover, when we move. I
do have a larger boat, standing by, but the tug is a nice touch."
"How about me?" Molly asked. "I got chores today?"
"I want you to hike up the far end to the axis, work out in
zero-g. Tomorrow, maybe, you can hike in the opposite di-
rection." Straylight, Case thought.
"How soon?" Case asked, meedng the pale stare.
"Soon," Armitage said. "Get going, Case."
"Mon, you doin' jus' fine," Maelcum said, helping Case
out of the red Sanyo vacuum suit. "Aerol say you doin' jus'
fine." Aerol had been waiting at one of the sporting docks at
the end of the spindle, near the weightless axis. To reach it
Case had taken an elevator down to the hull and ridden a
miniature induction train. As the diameter of the spindle nar-
rowed, gravity decreased; somewhere above him, he'd decided,
would be the mountains Molly climbed, the bicycle loop,
launching gear for the hang gliders and miniature microlights.
Aerol had ferried him out to Marcus Garvey in a skeletal
scooter frame with a chemical engine.
"Two hour ago," Maelcum said, "I take delivery of Babylon
goods for you; nice lapan-boy inna yacht, mos' pretty yacht."
Free of the suit, Case pulled himself gingerly over the Ho-
saka and fumbled into the straps of the web. "Well," he said,
"let's see it."
Maelcum produced a white lump of foam slightly smaller
than Case's head, fished a pearl-handled switchblade on a green
nylon lanyard out of the hip pocket of his tattered shorts, and
carefully slit the plasdc. He extracted a rectangular object and
passed it to Case. "Thas part some gun, mon?"
"No," Case said, turning it over, "but it's a weapon. It's
"Not on this boy tug, mon," Maelcum said firmly, reaching
for the steel cassette.
"A program. Virus program. Can't get into you, can't even
get into your software. I've got to interface it through the deck,
before it can work on anything."
"Well, Japan-mon, he says Hosaka here'll tell you every
what an' wherefore, you wanna know."
"Okay. Well, you leave me to it, okay?"
Maelcum kicked off and drifted past the pilot console, bus-
ying himself with a caulk gun. Case hastily looked away from
the waving fronds of transparent caulk. He wasn't sure why,
but something about them brought back the nausea of SAS.
"What is this thing?" he asked the Hosaka. "Parcel for me."
"Data transfer from Bockris Systems GmbH, Frankfurt, ad-
vises, under coded transmission, that content of shipment is
Kuang Grade Mark Eleven penetration program. Bockris fur-
ther advises that interface with Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 is
entirely compatdble and yields optimal penetradon capabilities,
particularly with regard to existing military systems...."
"How about an AI?"
"Existing military systems and artificial intelligences."
"Jesus Christ. What did you call it?"
"Kuang Grade Mark Eleven."
"It's Chinese?"
"Off." Case fastened the virus cassette to the side of the
Hosaka with a length of silver tape, remembering Molly's story
of her day in Macao. Armitage had crossed the border into
Zhongshan. "On," he said, changing his mind. "Questdon. Who
owns Bockris, the people in Frankfurt?"
"Delay for interorbital transmission," said the Hosaka.
"Code it. Standard commerical code."
He drummed his hands on the Ono-Sendai.
"Reinhold Scientdfic A.G., Berne."
"Do it again. Who owns Reinhold?"
It took three more jumps up the ladder before he reached
"Dixie," he said, jacking in, "what do you know about
Chinese v