William Gibson: Count Zero

THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted

it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up

with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scram-

bling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs

and pedicab tires. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized

hexogene and flaked TNT.

	He didn't see it coming. The last he saw of India was the

pink stucco facade of a place called the Khush-Oil Hotel.

	Because he had a good agent, he had a good contract.

Because he had a good contract, he was in Singapore an hour

after the explosion. Most of him, anyway The Dutch surgeon

liked to joke about that, how an unspecified percentage of

Turner hadn't made it out of Palam International on that first

flight and had to spend the night there in a shed, in a support


	It took the Dutchman and his team three months to put

Turner together again. They cloned a square meter of skin for

him, grew it on slabs of collagen and shark-cartilage polysac-

charides They bought eyes and genitals on the open market

The eyes were green.

	He spent most of those three months in a ROM-generated

simstim construct of an idealized New England boyhood of

the previous century. The Dutchman's visits were gray dawn

dreams, nightmares that faded as the sky lightened beyond his

secondfloor bedroom window You could smell the lilacs,

late at night. He read Conan Doyle by the light of a sixty-watt

bulb behind a parchment shade printed with clipper ships He

masturbated in the smell of clean cotton sheets and thought

about cheerleaders. The Dutchman opened a door in his back

brain and came strolling in to ask questions, but in the

morning his mother called him down to Wheaties, eggs and

bacon, coffee with milk and sugar.

	And one morning he woke in a strange bed, the Dutchman

standing beside a window spilling tropical green and a sun-

light that hurt his eyes. "You can go home now, Turner

We're done with you You're good as new

	He was good as new. How good was that? He didn't know.

He took the things the Dutchman gave him and flew out of

Singapore Home was the next airport Hyatt.

	And the next. And ever was.

	He flew on. His credit chip was a rectangle of black

mirror, edged with gold. People behind counters smiled when

they saw it, nodded. Doors opened, closed behind him. Wheels

left ferroconcrete, dnnks arrived, dinner was served.

	[n Heathrow a vast chunk of memory detached itself from a

blank bowl of airport sky and fell on him. He vomited into a

blue plastic canister without breaking stride. When he amved

at the counter at the end of the comdor, he changed his


	He flew to Mexico.

	And woke to the rattle of steel buckets on tile, wet swish of

brooms, a woman's body warm against his own

	The room was a tall cave. Bare white plaster reflected

sound with too much clarity; somewhere beyond the clatter of

the maids in the morning courtyard was the pounding of surf.

The sheets bunched between his fingers were coarse cham-

bray, softened by countless washings.

	He remembered sunlight through a broad expanse of tinted

window. An airport bar, Puerto Vallarta. He'd had to walk

twenty meters from the plane, eyes screwed shut against the

sun. He remembered a dead bat pressed flat as a dry leaf on

runway concrete.

	He remembered riding a bus, a mountain road, and the reek

of internal combustion, the borders of the windshield plas-

tered with postcard holograms of blue and pink saints. He'd

ignored the steep scenery in favor of a sphere of pink lucite

and the jittery dance of mercury at its core. The knob crowned

the bent steel stem of the transmission lever, slightly larger

than a baseball. It had been cast around a crouching spider

blown from clear glass, hollow, half filled with quicksilver.

Mercury jumped and slid when the driver slapped the bus

through switchback curves, swayed and shivered in the straight-

aways. The knob was ridiculous, handmade, baleful; it was

there to welcome him back to Mexico.

	Among the dozen~odd microsofts the Dutchman had given

him was one that would allow a limited fluency in Spanish,

but in Vallarta he'd fumbled behind his left ear and inserted a

dustplug instead, hiding the socket and plug beneath a square

of flesh-tone micropore. A passenger near the back of the bus

had a radio. A voice had periodically interrupted the brassy

pop to recite a kind of litany, strings of ten-digit figures, 


day's winning numbers in the national lottery.

	The woman beside him stirred in her sleep.

	He raised himself on one elbow to look at her A stranger's

face, but not the one his life in hotels had taught him to

expect. He would have expected a routine beauty, bred out of

cheap elective surgery and the relentless Darwinism of fash-

ion, an archetype cooked down from the major media faces of

the previous five years.

	Something Midwestern in the bone of the jaw, archaic and

Amencan. The blue sheets were nicked across her hips, the

sunlight angling in through hardwood louvers to stripe her

long thighs with diagonals of gold. The faces he woke with in

the world's hotels were like God's own hood ornaments.

Women's sleeping faces, identical and alone, naked, aimed

straight out to the void. But this one was different. Already.

somehow, there was meaning attached to it. Meaning and a


	He sat up, swinging his legs off the bed. His soles regis-

tered the grit of beach-sand on cool tile. There was a faint,

pervasive smell of insecticide. Naked, head throbbing, he

stood. He made his legs move. Walked, tried the first of two

doors, finding white tile, more white plaster, a bulbous chrome

shower head hung from rust-spotted iron pipe The sink's taps

offered identical trickles of blood-warm water. An antique

wristwatch lay beside a plastic tumbler, a mechanical Rolex

on a pale leather strap.

	The bathroom's shuttered windows weie unglazed, strung

with a fine green mesh of plastic. He peered out between

hardwood slats, wincing at the hot clean sun, and saw a dry

fountain of flower-painted tiles and the rusted carcass of a

VW Rabbit

	Allison. That was her name.

	She wore frayed khaki shorts and one of his white T-shirts.

Her legs were very brown. The clockwork Rolex, with its

dull stainless case, went around her left wrist on its pigskin

strap. They went walking, down the curve of beach, toward

Barre de Navidad. They kept to the narrow strip of firm wet

sand above the line of surf.

	Already they had a history together; he remembered her at

a stall that morning in the little town's iron-roofed mercado,

how she'd held the huge clay mug of boiled coffee in both

hands. Mopping eggs and salsa from the cracked white plate

with a tortilla, he'd watched flies circling fingers of sunlight

that found their way through a patchwork of palm frond and

corrugated siding. Some talk about her job with some legal

firm in L.A., how she lived alone in one of the ramshackle

pontoon towns tethered off Redondo. He'd told her he was in

personnel. Or had been, anyway. "Maybe I'm looking for a

new line of work

	But talk seemed secondary to what there was between

them, and now a frigate bird hung overhead, tacking against

the breeze, slid sideways, wheeled, and was gone. They both

shivered with the freedom of it, the mindless glide of the

thing. She squeezed his hand.

	A blue figure came marching up the beach toward them, a

military policeman headed for town, spitshined black boots

unreal against the soft bright beach. As the man passed,

his face dark and immobile beneath mirrored glasses, Turner

noted the carbine-format Steiner-Optic laser with Fabrique

Nationale sights. The blue fatigues were spotless, creased like


	Turner had been a soldier in his own nght for most of his

adult life, although he'd never worn a uniform. A mercenary,

his employers vast corporations warring covertly for the con-

trol of entire economies. He was a specialist in the extraction

of top executives and research people. The multinationals he

worked for would never admit that men like Turner existed.

	You worked your way through most of a bottle of Her-

radura last night," she said.

	He nodded. Her hand, in his, was warm and dry. He was

watching the spread of her toes with each step, the nails

painted with chipped pink gloss.

	The breakers rolled in, their edges transparent as green


	The spray beaded on her tan.

	After their first day together, life fell into a simple pattern

They had breakfast in the mercado. at a stall with a concrete

counter worn smooth as polished marble. They spent the

morning swimming, until the sun drove them back into the

shuttered coolness of the hotel, where they made love under

the slow wooden blades of the ceiling fan, then slept. In the

afternoons they explored the maze of narrow streets behind

the Avenida, or went hiking in the hills. They dined in

beachfront restaurants and drank on the patios of the white

hotels. Moonlight curled in the edge of the surf

	And gradually, without words, she taught him a new style

of passion. He was accustomed to being served, serviced

anonymously by skilled professionals. Now, in the white

cave, he knelt on tile. He lowered his head, licking her, salt

Pacific mixed with her own wet, her inner thighs cool against

his cheeks. Palms cradling her hips, he held her, raised her

like a chalice, lips pressing tight, while his tongue sought the

locus, the point, the frequency that would bring her home

Then, grinning, he'd mount, enter, and find his own way


	Sometimes, then, he'd talk, long spirals of unfocused nar-

rative that spun out to join the sound of the sea. She said very

little, but he'd learned to value what little she did say, and,

always, she held him. And listened.

	A week passed, then another. He woke to their final day

together in that same cool room, finding her beside him. Over

breakfast he imagined he felt a change in her, a tension.

	They sunbathed, swam, and in the familiar bed he forgot

the faint edge of anxiety.

	In the afternoon, she suggested they walk down the beach,

toward Barre, the way they'd gone that first morning.

	Turner extracted the dustplug from the socket behind his

ear and inserted a sliver of microsoft The structure of Span-

ish settled through him like a tower of glass, invisible gates

hinged on present and future, conditional, preterite perfect.

Leaving her in the room, he crossed the Avenida and entered

the market. He bought a straw basket, cans of cold beer,

sandwiches, and fruit. On his way back, he bought a new pair

of sunglasses from the vendor in the Avenida.

	His tan was dark and even The angular patchwork left by

the Dutchman's grafts was gone, and she had taught him the

unity of his body Mornings, when he met the green eyes in

the bathroom mirror, they were his own, and the Dutchman

no longer troubled his dreams with bad jokes and a dry

cough. Sometimes, still, he dreamed fragments of India, a

country he barely knew, bright splinters, Chandni Chauk, the

smell of dust and fried breads

	The walls of the ruined hotel stood a quarter of the way

down the bay's arc. The surf here was stronger, each wave a


	Now she tugged him toward it, something new at the

corners of her eyes, a tightness. Gulls scattered as they came

hand in hand up the beach to gaze into shadow beyond empty

doorways. The sand had subsided, allowing the structure's

fa~ade to cave in, walls gone, leaving the floors of the three

levels hung like huge shingles from bent, rusted tendons of

finger-thick steel, each one faced with a different color and

pattern of tile

	HOTEL PLAYA DEL M was worked in childlike seashell capi-

tals above one concrete arch. "Mar," he said, completing it,

though he'd removed the microsoft.

	"It's over," she said, stepping beneath the arch, into


	"What's over?" He followed, the straw basket rubbing

against his hip. The sand here was cold, dry, loose between

his toes.

	"Over. Done with. This place. No time here, no future."

He stared at her, glanced past her to where rusted bed-

springs were tangled at the junction of two crumbling walls.

"It smells like piss," he said. ``Let's swim.

	The sea took the chill away, but a distance hung between

them now. They sat on a blanket from Turner's room and ate,

silently. The shadow of the ruin lengthened. The wind moved

her sun-streaked hair.

	"You make me think about horses," he said finally

	"Well," she said, as though she spoke from the depths of

exhaustion, "they've only been extinct for thirty years."

	"No," he said, "their hair. The hair on their necks, when

they ran."

	"Manes," she said, and there were tears in her eyes.

"Fuck it." Her shoulders began to heave. She took a deep

breath She tossed her empty Carta Blanca can down the

beach. "It, me, what's it matter?" Her arms around him

again. "Oh, come on, Turner Come on"

	And as she lay back, pulling him with her, he noticed

something, a boat, reduced by distance to a white hyphen,

where the water met the sky.

	When he sat up, pulling on his cut-off jeans, he saw the

yacht It was much closer now, a graceful sweep of white

riding low in the water. Deep water. The beach must fall

away almost vertically, here, judging by the strength of the

surf. That would be why the line of hotels ended where it did,

back a long the beach, and why the ruin hadn't survived. The

waves had licked away its foundation.

	"Give me the basket

	She was buttoning her blouse. He'd bought it for her in one

of the tired little shops along the Avenida Electric blue

Mexican cotton, badly made. The clothing they bought in the

shops seldom lasted more than a day or two. "I said give me

the basket."

	She did. He dug through the remains of their afternoon,

finding his binoculars beneath a plastic bag of pineapple

slices drenched in lime and dusted with cayenne. He pulled

them out, a compact pair of 6 X 30 combat glasses. He

snapped the integral covers from the objectives and the pad-

ded eyepieces, and studied the streamlined ideograms of the

Hosaka logo. A yellow inflatable rounded the stern and swung

toward the beach.

	``Turner, I''

	"Get up." Bundling the blanket and her towel into the

basket. He took a last warm can of Carta Blanca from the

basket and put it beside the binoculars. He stood, pulling her

quickly to her feet, and forced the basket into her hands.

"Maybe I'm wrong," he said. "If I am, get out of here. Cut

for that second stand of palms." He pointed. "Don't go back

to the hotel. Get on a bus, Manzanillo or Vallarta. Go home~~

He could hear the purr of the outboard now

	He saw the tears start, but she made no sound at all as she

turned and ran, up past the ruin, clutching the basket, stum-

bling in a drift of sand. She didn't look back.

	He turned, then, and looked toward the yacht. The inflat-

able was bouncing through the surf. The yacht was named

Tsushima, and he'd last seen her in Hiroshima Bay. He'd

seen the red Shinto gate at ltsukushima from her deck.

	He didn't need the glasses to know that the inflatable's

passenger would be Conroy, the pilot one of Hosaka's ninjas.

He sat down cross-legged in the cooling sand and opened his

last can of Mexican beer.

	He looked back at the line of white hotels, his hands inert

on one of Tsushima's teak railings Behind the hotels, the

little town's three holograms glowed: Banamex, Aeronaves,

and the cathedral's six-meter Virgin.

	Conroy stood beside him. "Crash job," Conroy said. "You

know how it is." Conroy's voice was flat and uninflected, as

though he'd modeled it after a cheap voice chip. His face was

broad and white, dead white. His eyes were dark-ringed and

hooded, beneath a peroxide thatch combed back from a wide

forehead. He wore a black polo shirt and black slacks. "In-

side," he said, turning. Turner followed, ducking to enter the

cabin door. White screens, pale flawless pineTokyo's aus-

tere corporate chic.

	Conroy settled himself on a low, rectangular cushion of

slate-gray ultrasuede. Turner stood, his hands slack at his

sides. Conroy took a knurled silver inhaler from the low

enamel table between them. "Choline enhancer?"


	Conroy jammed the inhaler into one nostril and snorted.

"You want some sushi?" He put the inhaler back on the

table. "We caught a couple of red snapper about an hour


	Turner stood where he was, staring at Conroy.

	"Christopher Mitchell," Conroy said. "Maas Biolabs. Their

head hybridoma man. He's coming over to Hosaka."

	"Never heard of him."

	"Bullshit. How about a drink?"

	Turner shook his head.

	Silicon's on the way out, Turner. Mitchell's the man who

made biochips work, and Maas is sitting on the major patents.

You know that. He's the man for monoclonals. He wants out


and me, Turner, we're going to shift him."

	"I think I'm retired, Conroy. I was having a good time,

back there."

	"That's what the psych team in Tokyo say. I mean, it's not

exactly your first time out of the box, is it? She's a field

psychologist, on retainer to Hosaka."

	A muscle in Turner's thigh began to jump.

	"They say you're ready, Turner. They were a little wor-

ried, after New Delhi. so they wanted to check it out. Little

therapy on the side. Never hurts, does it?"



SHE'D WORN HER BEST for the interview, but it was raining in

Brussels and she had no money for a cab. She walked from

the Eurotrans station.

	Her hand, in the pocket of her good jacketa Sally Stanley

but almost a year oldwas a white knot around the crumpled

telefax. She no longer needed it, having memorized the ad-

dress, but it seemed she could no more release it than break

the trance that held her here now, staring into the window of

an expensive shop that sold menswear, her focus phasing

between sedate flannel dress shirts and the reflection of her

own dark eyes.

	Surely the eyes alone would be enough to cost her the job.

No need for the wet hair she now wished she'd let Andrea

cut. The eyes displayed a pain and an inertia that anyone

could read, and most certainly these things would soon

be revealed to Herr Josef Virek, least likely of potential


	When the telefax had been delivered, she'd insisted on

regarding it as some cruel prank, another nuisance call. She'd

had enough of those, thanks to the media, so many that

Andrea had ordered a special program for the apartment's

phone, one that filtered out incoming calls from any number

that wasn't listed in her permanent directory. But that, An-

drea had insisted, must have been the reason for the telefax.

How else could anyone reach her?

	But Marly had shaken her head and huddled deeper into

Andrea's old terry robe. Why would Virek, enormously weal-

thy, collector and patron, wish to hire the disgraced former

operator of a tiny Paris gallery?

	Then it had been Andrea's time for head-shaking, in her

impatience with the new, the disgraced Marly Krushkhova,

who spent entire days in the apartment now, who sometimes

didn't bother to dress. The attempted sale, in Paris, of a

single forgery, was hardly the novelty Marly imagined it to

have been, she said. If the press hadn't been quite so anxious

to show up the disgusting Gnass for the fool he most as-

suredly was, she continued, the business would hardly have

been news. Gnass was wealthy enough, gross enough, to

make for a weekend's scandal. Andrea smiled. "If you had

been less attractive, you would have gotten far less attention."

	Marly shook her head.

	"And the forgery was Alain's. You were innocent. Have

you forgotten that?"

	Marly went into the bathroom, still huddled in the thread-

bare robe, without answering.

	Beneath her friend's wish to comfort, to help, Marly could

already sense the impatience of someone forced to share a

very small space with an unhappy, nonpaying guest.

	And Andrea had had to loan her the fare for the Eurotrans.

	With a conscious, painful effort of will, she broke from the

circle of her thoughts and merged with the dense but sedate

flow of serious Belgian shoppers.

	A girl in bright tights and a boyfriend's oversized loden

jacket brushed past, scrubbed and smiling. At the next inter-

section, Marly noticed an outlet for a fashion line she'd

favored in her own student days. The clothes looked impossi-

bly young.

	In her white and secret fist, the telefax.

	Galerie Duperey, 14 Rue au Beurre, Bruxelles

Josef Virek.

	The receptionist in the cool gray anteroom of the Galerie

Duperey might well have grown there, a lovely and likely

poisonous plant, rooted behind a slab of polished marble

inlaid with an enameled keyboard. She raised lustrous eyes as

Marly approached. Marly imagined the click and whirr of

shutters, her bedraggled image whisked away to some far

corner of Josef Virek's empire.

	`Marly Krushkhova," she said, fighting the urge to pro-

duce the compacted wad of telefax, smooth it pathetically on

the cool and flawless marble. "For Herr Virek."

	"Fraulein Krushkhova," the receptionist said, "Herr Virek

is unable to be in Brussels today."

	Marly stared at the perfect lips, simultaneously aware of

the pain the words caused her and the sharp pleasure she was

learning to take in disappointment. "I see."

	"However, he has chosen to conduct the interview via a

sensory link. If you will please enter the third door on your

left .

	The room was bare and white. On two walls hung un-

framed sheets of what looked like rain-stained cardboard,

stabbed through repeatedly with a variety of instruments.

Katatonenkunst. Conservative. The sort of work one sold to

committees sent round by the boards of Dutch commercial


	She sat down on a low bench covered in leather and finally

allowed herself to release the telefax. She was alone, but

assumed that she was being observed somehow.

	"Fraulein Krushkhova." A young man in a technician's

dark green smock stood in the doorway opposite the one

through which she'd entered. "In a moment, please, you will

cross the room and step through this door. Please grasp the

knob slowly, firmly, and in a manner that affords maximum

contact with the flesh of your palm. Step through carefully.

There should be a minimum of spatial disorientation."

	She blinked at him "I beg"

	"The sensory link," he said, and withdrew, the door clos-

ing behind him.

	She rose, tried to tug some shape into the damp lapels of

her jacket, touched her hair, thought better of it, took a deep

breath, and crossed to the door. The receptionist's phrase had

prepared her for the only kind of link she knew, a simstim

signal routed via Bell Europa. She'd assumed she'd wear a

helmet studded with dermatrodes, that Virek would use a

passive viewer as a human camera.

	But Virek's wealth was on another scale of magnitude


	As her fingers closed around the cool brass knob, it seemed

to squirm, sliding along a touch spectrum of texture and

temperature in the first second of contact.

	Then it became metal again, green-painted iron, sweeping

out and down, along a line of perspective, an old railing she

grasped now in wonder.

	A few drops of rain blew into her face.

	Smell of rain and wet earth.

	A confusion of small details, her own memory of a drunken

art school picnic warring with the perfection of Virek's 


	Below her lay the unmistakable panorama of Barcelona,

smoke hazing the strange spires of the Church of the Sagrada

Familia. She caught the railing with her other hand as well,

fighting vertigo. She knew this place She was in the Guell

Park, Antonio Gaudi's tatty fairyland, on its barren rise be-

hind the center of the city. To her left, a giant lizard of

crazy-quilt ceramic was frozen in midslide down a ramp of

rough stone. Its fountain-grin watered a bed of tired flowers.

	"You are disoriented. Please forgive me."

	Josef Virek was perched below her on one of the park's

serpentine benches, his wide shoulders hunched in a soft

topeoat. His features had been vaguely familiar to her all her

	she remembered, for some reason, a photograph of

life. Now

Virek and the king of England. He smiled at her. His head

was large and beautifully shaped beneath a brush of stiff dark

gray hair. His nostrils were permanently flared, as though he

sniffed invisible winds of art and commerce. His eyes, very

large behind the round, rimless glasses that were a trademark,

were pale blue and strangely soft.

	"Please." He patted the bench's random mosaic of shat-

ftered pottery with a narrow hand. "You must forgive my

reliance on technology. I have been confined for over a

decade to a vat. In some hideous industrial suburb of Stock-

holm. Or perhaps of hell. I am not a well man, Marly. Sit

beside me."

	Taking a deep breath, she descended the stone steps and

crossed the cobbles "Herr Virek," she said, "I saw you

lecture in Munich, two years ago. A critique of Faessler and

his autisuches Theater. You seemed well then

	"Faessler?" Virek's tanned forehead wrinkled. "You saw

a double. A hologram perhaps. Many things, Marly, are

perpetrated in my name. Aspects of my wealth have become

autonomous, by degrees; at times they even war with one

I	another. Rebellion in the fiscal extremities. However, for

reasons so complex as to be entirely occult, the fact of my

illness has never been made public."

She took her place beside him and peered down at the dirty

pavement between the scuffed toes of her black Paris boots.

She saw a chip of pale gravel, a rusted paper clip, the small

dusty corpse of a bee or hornet. "It's amazingly detailed.

	"Yes," he said, "the new Maas biochips. You should

know," he continued, "that what I know of your private life

is very nearly as detailed. More than you yourself do, in sox~~e


	"You do?" It was easiest, she found, to focus on the city,

picking out landmarks remembered from a half-dozen student

holidays. There, just there, would be the Ramblas, parrots

and flowers, the taverns serving dark beer and squid.

	"Yes I know that it was your lover who convinced you

that you had found a lost Cornell original .

	Many shut her eyes.

	"He commissioned the forgery, hiring two talented student-

artisans and an established historian who found himself in

certain personal difficulties . . . He paid them with money

he'd already extracted from your gallery, as you have no

doubt guessed. You are crying .

	Marly nodded. A cool forefinger tapped her wrist.

	"I bought Gnass. I bought the police off the case. The

press weren't worth buying; they rarely are And now, per-

haps, your slight notoriety may work to your advantage."

	"Herr Virek, I"

"A moment, please. Paco! Come here, child."

	Marly opened her eyes and saw a child of perhaps six

years, tightly gotten up in dark suit coat and knickers, pale

stockings, high-buttoned black patent boots. Brown hair fell

across his forehead in a smooth wing. He held something in

his hands, a box of some kind.

	"Gaudi began the park in 1900," Virek said "Paco wears

the period costume. Come here, child. Show us your marvel."

	"Sefior," Paco lisped, bowing, and stepped forward to

exhibit the thing he held.

	Marly stared. Box of plain wood, glass-fronted. Objects.

	"Cornell," she said, her tears forgotten. "Cornell?" She

turned to Virek.

	"Of course not. The object set into that length of bone is a

Braun biomonitor. This is the work of a living artist."

	"There are more? More boxes?"

	"I have found seven. Over a period of three years. The

Virek Collection, you see, is a sort of black hole. The unnatu-

ral density of my wealth drags irresistibly at the rarest works

of the human spirit. An autonomous process, and one I

ordinarily take little interest in     

	But Marly was lost in the box, in its evocation of impossi-

ble distances, of loss and yearning. It was somber, gentle,

and somehow childlike. It contained seven objects.

	The slender fluted bone, surely formed for flight, surely

from the wing of some large bird. Three archaic circuit

boards, faced with mazes of gold A smooth white sphere of

baked clay. An age-blackened fragment of lace. A finger-

length segment of what she assumed was bone from a human

wrist, grayish white, inset smoothly with the silicon shaft of a

small instrument that must once have ridden flush with the

surface of the skinbut the thing's face was seared and


	The box was a universe, a poem, frozen on the boundaries

of human experience.

	"Gracias, Paco."

Box and boy were gone.

She gaped.

	"Ah. Forgive me, I have forgotten that these transitions are

too abrupt for you. Now, however, we must discuss your

	assignment .

 "Herr Virek," she said, "what is `Paco'?"

	"A subprogram."

	``I see.''

"I have hired you to find the maker of the box

"But, Herr Virek, with your resources"

	"Of which you are now one, child. Do you not wish to be

employed? When the business of Gnass having been stung

with a forged Cornell came to my attention, I saw that you

might be of use in this matter." He shrugged. "Credit me

with a certain talent for obtaining desired results."

	"Certainly, Herr Virek! And, yes, I do wish to work!"

	"Very well You will be paid a salary. You will be given

access to certain lines of credit, although, should you need to

purchase, let us say. substantial amounts of real estate"

	"Real estate?"

	"Or a corporation, or spacecraft. In that event, you will

require my indirect authorization. Which you will almost

certainly be given Otherwise, you will have a free hand I

suggest, however, that you work on a scale with which you

yourself are comfortable. Otherwise, you run the risk of

losing touch with your intuition, and intuition, in a case such

as this, is of crucial importance." The famous smile glittered

for her once more.

	She took a deep breath. "Herr Virek, what if I fail? How

long do I have to locate this artist?"

	"The rest of your life," he said.

	Forgive me," she found herself saying, to her horror,

"but I understood you to say that you live in aa vat?"

	"Yes, Marly. And from that rather terminal perspective, I

should advise you to strive to live hourly in your own flesh.

Not in the past, if you understand me. I speak as one who can

no longer tolerate that simple state, the cells of my body

having opted for the quixotic pursuit of individual careers. I

imagine that a more fortunate man, or a poorer one, would

have been allowed to die at last, or be coded at the core of

some bit of hardware. But I seem constrained, by a byzantine

net of circumstance that requires, I understand, something

like a tenth of my annual income. Making me, I suppose, the

world's most expensive invalid. I was touched, Marly, at

your affairs of the heart. I envy you the ordered flesh from

which they unfold."

	And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue

eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that

the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.

	A wing of night swept Barcelona's sky. like the twitch of a

vast slow shutter, and Virek and Gdell were gone, and she

found herself seated again on the low leather bench, staring at

torn sheets of stained cardboard.





IT WAS sUCH an easy thing, death. He saw that now: It just

happened. You screwed up by a fraction and there it was, some-

thing chill and odorless, ballooning out from the four stupid

corners of the room, your mother's Barrytown living room.

	Shit, he thought, Two-a-Day'll laugh his ass off, first time

out and I pull a wilson.

	The only sound in the room was the faint steady burr of his

teeth vibrating, supersonic palsy as the feedback ate into his

nervous system. He watched his frozen hand as it trembled

delicately, centimeters from the red plastic stud that could

break the connection that was killing him


	He'd come home and gotten right down to it, slotted the

icebreaker he'd rented from Two-a-Day and jacked in. punch-

ing for the base he'd chosen as his first live target. Figured

that was the way to do it; you wanna do it. then do it. He'd

only had the little Ono-Sendai deck for a month, but he

already knew he wanted to be more than just some Barrytown

hotdogger. Bobby Newmark, aka Count Zero, but it was

already over. Shows never ended this way, not right at the

beginning. In a show, the cowboy hero's girl or maybe his

partner would run in, slap the trodes off, hit that little red 


stud. So you'd make it, make it through.

	But Bobby was alone now, his autonomic nervous system

overridden by the defenses of a database three thousand kilo-

meters from Barrytown, and he knew it. There was some

magic chemistry in that impending darkness, something that

let him glimpse the infinite desirability of that room, with its

carpet-colored carpet and curtain-colored curtains, its dingy

foam sofa-suite, the angular chrome frame supporting the

components of a six-year-old Hitachi entertainment module.

	He'd carefully closed those curtains in preparation for his

run, but now, somehow, he seemed to see out anyway, where

the condos of Barrytown crested back in their concrete wave

to break against the darker towers of the Projects. That condo

wave bristled with a fine insect fur of antennas and chicken-

wired dishes, strung with lines of drying clothes. His mother

liked to bitch about that; she had a dryer. He remembered her

knuckles white on the imitation bronze of the balcony railing,

dry wrinkles where her wrist was bent. He remembered a

dead boy carried out of Big Playground on an alloy stretcher,

bundled in plastic the same color as a cop car. Fell and hit his

head. Fell. Head. Wilson.

	His heart stopped. It seemed to him that it fell sideways,

kicked like an animal in a cartoon.

	Sixteenth second of Bobby Newmark's death. His hotdog-

ger's death.

	And something leaned in, vastness unutterable, from beyond

the most distant edge of anything he'd ever known or imag-

ined, and touched him.


Girlvoice, brownhair, darkeyes


Darkeyes, desertstar, tanshirt, girlhair




	And his heart rolled right over, on its back, and kicked his

	lunch up with its red cartoon legs, galvanic frog-leg spasm

hurling him from the chair and tearing the trodes from his

forehead. His bladder let go when his head clipped the corner

of the Hitachi, and someone was saying fuck fuck fuck into

the dust smell of carpet. Girlvoice gone, no desertstar, flash

impression of cool wind and waterworn stone

	Then his head exploded. He saw it very clearly, from

somewhere far away. Like a phosphorus grenade.





Thn BLACK HONDA hovered twenty meters above the octagonal

deck of the derelict oil rig. It was nearing dawn, and Turner

could make out the faded outline of a biohazard trefoil mark-

ing the helicopter pad.

	"You got a biohazard down there, Conroy?"

	"None you aren't used to," Conroy said.

	A figure in a red jumpsuit made brisk arm signals to the

Honda's pilot. Propwash flung scraps of packing waste into

the sea as they landed. Conroy slapped the release plate on

his harness and leaned across Turner to unseal the hatch The

roar of the engines battered them as the hatch slid open.

Conroy was jabbing him in the shoulder, making urgent

lifting motions with an upturned palm. He pointed to the


	Turner scrambled out and dropped, the prop a blur of

thunder, then Conroy was crouching beside him. They cleared

the faded trefoil with the bent-legged crab scuttle common to

helicopter pads. the Honda's wind snapping their pants legs

around their ankles. Turner camed a plain gray suitcase

molded from ballistic ABS, his only piece of luggage; some-

one had packed it for him, at the hotel, and it had been

waiting on Tsushima. A sudden change in pitch told him the

Honda was rising. It went whining away toward the coast,

showing no lights. As the sound faded, Turner heard the cries

of gulls and the slap and slide of the Pacific.

	"Someone tried to set up a data haven here once," Conroy

said. "International waters. Back then nobody lived in orbit,

so it made sense for a few years. . ." He started for a rusted

forest of beams supporting the rig's superstructure. "One

scenario Hosaka showed me, we'd get Mitchell out here,

clean him up, stick him on Tsushima, and full steam for old

Japan. I told `em, forget that shit. Mans gets on to it and they

can come down on this thing with anything they want. I told

`em, that compound they got down in the D.F, that's the

ticket, right? Plenty of shit Mans wouldn't pull there, not in

the fucking middle of Mexico City . .

	A figure stepped from the shadows, head distorted by the

bulbous goggles of an image-amplification rig. It waved them

on with the blunt, clustered muzzles of a Lansing fldchette

gun. "Biohazard," Conroy said as they edged past. "Duck

your head here. And watch it, the stairs get slippery

	The rig smelled of rust and disuse and brine. There were no

windows. The discolored cream walls were blotched with

spreading scabs of rust. Battery-powered fluorescent lanterns

were slung, every few meters, from beams overhead, casting

a hideous green-tinged light, at once intense and naggingly

uneven. At least a dozen figures were at work, in this central

room; they moved with the relaxed precision of good techni-

cians. Professionals, Turner thought; their eyes seldom met

and there was little talking. It was cold, very cold, and Conroy

had given him a huge parka covered with tabs and zippers.

	A bearded man in a sheepskin bomber jacket was securing

bundled lengths of fiber-optic line to a dented bulkhead with

silver tape. Conroy was locked in a whispered argument with

a black woman who wore a parka like Turner's. The bearded

tech looked up from his work and saw Turner. "Shee-it," he

said, still on his knees, "I figured it was a big one, but I

guess it's gonna be a rough one, too." He stood, wiping his

palms automatically on his jeans. Like the rest of the techs,

he wore micropore surgical gloves. "You're Turner." He

grinned, glanced quickly in Conroy's direction, and pulled a

black plastic flask from a jacket pocket. "Take some chill

off. You remember me. Worked on that job in Marrakech.

IBM boy went over to Mitsu-G. Wired the charges on that

bus you `n' the Frenchman drove into that hotel lobby."

	Turner took the flask, snapped its lid, and tipped it. Bour-

bon. It stung deep and sour, warmth spreading from the

region of his sternum. "Thanks." He returned the flask and

the man pocketed it.

	"Onkey," the man said. "Name's Oakey? You remember?"

	"Sure," Turner lied, "Marrakech."

	"Wild Turkey," Onkey said. "Flew in through Schipol, I

hit the duty-free. Your partner there," another glance at

Conroy, "he's none too relaxed, is he? I mean, not like

Marrakech, right?"

	Turner nodded.

	"You need anything," Oakey said, "lemme know."

	"Like what?"

	`Nother drink, or I got some Peruvian flake, the kind

that's real yellow." Oakey grinned again.

	"Thanks," Turner said, seeing Conroy turn from the black

woman. Onkey saw, too, kneeling quickly and tearing off a

fresh length of silver tape.

	"Who was that?" Conroy asked, after leading Turner through

a narrow door with decayed black gasket seals at its edges

Conroy spun the wheel that dogged the door shut, someone

had oiled it recently.

	"Name's Onkey," Turner said, taking in the new room.

Smaller. Two of the lanterns, folding tables, chairs, all new

On the tables, instrumentation of some kind, under black

plastic dustcovers.

	"Friend of yours?"

	"No," Turner said. "He worked for me once." He went

to the nearest table and flipped back a dustcover. "What's

this?" The console had the blank, half-finished look of a

factory prototype.

	"Maas-Neotek cyberspace deck

	Turner raised his eyebrows. "Yours?"

	"We got two. One's on site. From Hosaka. Fastest thing in

the matrix, evidently, and Hosaka can't even de-engineer the

chips to copy them. Whole other technology."

	"They got them from Mitchell?"

	"They aren't saying. The fact they'd let go of `em just to

give our jockeys an edge is some indication of how badly

they want the man."

	"Who's on console, Conroy?"

	"Jaylene Slide. I was talking to her just now." He jerked

his head in the direction of the door. "The site man's out of

L.A., kid called Ramirez."

	"They any good?" Turner replaced the dustcover.

"Better be, for what they'll cost. Jaylene's gotten herself a

hot rep the past two years, and Ramirez is her understudy.

Shit' `Conroy shrugged' `you know these cowboys. Fuck-

ing crazy

	`Where'd you get them? Where'd you get Gakey for that


	Conroy smiled. "From your agent, Turner."

	Turner stared at Conroy, then nodded. Turning, he lifted

the edge of the next dustcover. Cases, plastic and styrofoam,

stacked neatly on the cold metal of the table. He touched a

blue plastic rectangle stamped with a silver monogram: S&W.

	"Your agent," Conroy said, as Turner snapped the case

open. The pistol lay there in its molded bed of pale blue

foam, a massive revolver with an ugly housing that bulged

beneath the squat barrel. "S&W Tactical. .408. with a xenon

projector," Conroy said. "What he said you'd want."

	Turner took the gun in his hand and thumbed the batterytest

stud for the projector. A red LED in the walnut grip pulsed

twice. He swung the cylinder out. "Ammunition?"

	"On the table. Hand-loads, explosive tips."

	Turner found a transparent cube of amber plastic, opened it

with his left hand, and extracted a cartridge. "Why did they

pick me for this, Conroy?" He examined the cartridge, then

inserted it carefully into one of the cylinder's six chambers.

	"I dont know," Conroy said. "Felt like they had you

slotted from go, whenever they heard from Mitchell . .

	Turner spun the cylinder rapidly and snapped it back into

the frame. "I said, `Why did they pick me for this, Conroy?'

He raised the pistol with both hands and extended his arms,

pointing it directly at Conroy's face. "Gun like this, some-

times you can see right down the bore, if the light's right, see

if there's a bullet there."

	Conroy shook his head, very slightly.

"Ormaybeyoucanseeitinoneoftheothercham~~ .

"No," Conroy said, very softly, "no way."

"Maybe the shrinks screwed up, Conroy. How about that?"

	"No," Conmy said, his face blank. "They didn't, and you


	Turner pulled the trigger. The hammer clicked on an empty

chamber. Conmy blinked once, opened his mouth, closed it,

watched as Turner lowered the Smith & Wesson. A single

bead of sweat rolled down from Conroy's hairline and lost

itself in an eyebrow.

	"Well?" Turner asked, the gun at his side.

	Conmy shrugged. "Don't do that shit," he said.

	"They want me that badT'

	Conroy nodded. "It's your show. Turner."

	"Where's Mitchell?" He opened the cylinder again and

began to load the five remaining chambers.

	"Arizona. About fifty kilos from the Sonora line, in a

mesatop research arcology. Maas Biolabs North America.

They own everything around there, right down to the border,

and the mesa's smack in the middle of the footprints of four

recon satellites. Mucho tight."

	"And how are we supposed to get in?"

	"We aren't. Mitchell's coming out, on his own. We wait

for him, pick him up, get his ass to Hosaka intact" Conroy

hooked a forefinger behind the open collar of his black shirt

and drew out a length of black nylon cord, then a small black

nylon envelope with a Velcro fastener. He opened it carefully

and extracted an object, which he offered to Turner on his

open palm "Here. This is what he `sent

	Turner put the gun down on the nearest table and took the

thing from Conroy. It was like a swollen gray microsoft. one

end routine neurojack, the other a strange, rounded formation

unlike anything he'd seen. "What is it?"

	"It's biosoft. Jaylene jacked it and said she thought it was

output from an Al. It's sort of a dossier on Mitchell, with a

message to Hosaka tacked on the end. You better jack it

yourself; you wanna get the picture fast . .

	Turner glanced up from the gray thing "How'd it grab


	"She said you better be lying down when you do it She

didn't seem to like it much."

	Machine dreams hold a special vertigo. Turner lay down on

a virgin slab of green temperfoam in the makeshift dorm and

jacked Mitchell's dossier. It came on slow; he had time to

close his eyes.

	Ten seconds later, his eyes were open. He clutched the

green foam and fought his nausea. Again, he closed his

eyes. . . . It came on, again, gradually, a flickering, nonlin-

ear flood of fact and sensory data, a kind of narrative con-

veyed in surreal jump cuts and juxtapositions. It was vaguely

like riding a roller coaster that phased in and out of existence

at random, impossibly rapid intervals, changing altitude, at-

tack, and direction with each pulse of nothingness, except

that the shifts had nothing to do with any physical orientation,

but rather with lightning alternations in paradigm and symbol

system. The data had never been intended for human input.

	Eyes open, he pulled the thing from his socket and held it,

his palm slick with sweat. It was like waking from a night-

mare. Not a screamer, where impacted fears took on simple,

terrible shapes, but the sort of dream, infinitely more disturb-

ing, where everything is perfectly and horribly normal, and

where everything is utterly wrong

The intimacy of the thing was hideous He fought down

waves of raw transference, bringing all his will to bear on

crushing a feeling that was akin to love, the obsessive tender-

ness a watcher comes to feel for the subject of prolonged

surveillance. Days or hours later, he knew, the most minute

details of Mitchell's academic record might bob to the surface

of his mind, or the name of a mistress, the scent of her heavy

red hair in the sunlight through

He sat up quickly, the plastic soles of his shoes smacking

the rusted deck. He still wore the parka, and the Smith &

Wesson, in a side pocket, swung painfully against his hip.

	It would pass. Mitchell's psychic odor would fade, as

surely as the Spanish grammar in the lexicon evaporated after

each use. What he had experienced was a Maas security

dossier compiled by a sentient computer, nothing more He

replaced the biosoft in Conroy's little black wallet, smoothed

the Velcro seal with his thumb, and put the cord around his


	He became aware of the sound of waves lapping the flanks

of the rig.

	"Hey, boss," someone said, from beyond the brown mili-

tary blanket that screened the entrance to the dorm area,

"Conroy says it's time for you to inspect the troops, then you

and him depart for other parts." Oakey's bearded face slid

from behind the blanket "Otherwise, I wouldn't wake you

up, right?"

	"I wasn't sleeping," Turner said, and stood, fingers reflex-

ively kneading the skin around the implanted socket.

	"Too bad," Oakey said. "I got derms'll put you under all

the way, one hour on the button, then kick in some kind of

righteous upper, get you up and on the case, no lie

	Turner shook his head. "Take me to Conroy"



MAIU..Y CHECKED iwro a small hotel with green plants in heavy

brass pots, the corridors tiled like worn marble chessboards.

The elevator was a scrolled gilt cage with rosewood panels

smelling of lemon oil and small cigars.

	Her room was on the fifth floor. A single tall window

overlooked the avenue, the kind of window you could actu-

ally open. When the smiling bellman had gone, she collapsed

into an armchair whose plush fabric contrasted comfortably

with the muted Belgian carpet. She undid the zips on her old

Paris boots for the last time, kicked them off, and stared at

the dozen glossy carrier bags the bellman had arranged on the

bed. Tomorrow, she thought, she'd buy luggage. And a


	"I'm in shock," she said to the bags on the bed. "I must

take care. Nothing seems real now." She looked down and

saw that her hose were both out at the toe. She shook her

head. Her new purse lay on the white marble table beside the

bed; it was black, cut from cowhide tanned thick and soft as

Flemish butter. It had cost more than she would have owed

Andrea for her share of a month's rent, but that was also true

of a single night's stay in this hotel. The purse contained her

passport and the credit chip she'd been issued in the Galerie

Duperey, drawn on an account held in her name by an orbital

branch of the Nederlands Algemeen Bank.

	She went into the bathroom and worked the smooth brass

levers of the big white tub. Hot, aerated water hissed out

through a Japanese filtration device. The hotel provided pack-

ets of bath salts, tubes of creams and scented oils. She

emptied a tube of oil into the filling tub and began to remove

her clothes, feeling a pang of loss when she tossed the Sally

Stanley behind her. Until an hour before, the year-old jacket

had been her favorite garment and perhaps the single most

expensive thing she'd ever owned. Now it was something for

the cleaners to take away; perhaps it would find its way to

one of the city's flea markets, the sort of place where she'd

hunted bargains as an art-school girl.

	The mirrors misted and ran, as the room filled with scented

steam, blurring the reflection of her nakedness. Was it really

this easy? Had Virek's slim gold credit chip checked her out

of her misery and into this hotel, where the towels were white

and thick and scratchy? She was aware of a certain spiritual

vertigo, as though she trembled at the edge of some precipice.

She wondered how powerful money could actually be, if one

had enough of it, really enough. She supposed that only the

Vireks of the world could really know, and very likely they

were functionally incapable of knowing; asking Virek would

be like interrogating a fish in order to learn more about water.

Yes, my dear, it's wet; yes, my child, it's certainly warm,

scented, scratchy-toweled. She stepped into the tub and lay


	Tomorrow she would have her hair cut. In Paris.

	Andrea's phone rang sixteen times before Marly remem-

bered the special program. It would still be in place, and this

expensive little Brussels hotel would not be listed. She leaned

out to replace the handset on the marble-topped table and it

chimed once, softly.

	"A courier has delivered a parcel, from the Galerie


	When the bellmana younger man this time, dark and

possibly Spanishhad gone, she took the package to the

window and turned it over in her hands It was wrapped in a

single sheet of handmade paper, dark gray, folded and tucked

in that mysterious Japanese way that required neither glue nor

string, but she knew that once she'd opened it, she'd never

get it folded again. The name and address of the Galerie were

embossed in one corner, and her name and the name of her

hotel were handwritten across the center in perfect italic


	She unfolded the paper and found herself holding a new

Braun holoprojector and a flat envelope of clear plastic. The

envelope contained seven numbered tabs of holofiche. Beyond

the miniature iron balcony, the sun was going down, painting

the Old Town gold. She heard car horns and the cries of

children. She closed the window and crossed to a writing

desk. The Braun was a smooth black rectangle powered by

solar cells. She checked the charge, then took the first holo-

fiche from the envelope and slotted it.

	The box she'd seen in Virek's simulation of the Guell Park

blossomed above the Braun, glowing with the crystal resolu-

tion of the finest museum-grade holograms. Bone and circuit-

gold, dead lace, and a dull white marble rolled from clay.

Marly shook her head. How could anyone have arranged

these bits, this garbage, in such a way that it caught at the

heart, snagged in the soul like a fishhook? But then she

nodded. It could be done, she knew; it had been done many

years ago by a man named Cornell, who'd also made boxes.

	Then she glanced to the left, where the elegant gray paper

lay on the desktop. She'd chosen this hotel at random, when

she'd grown tired of shopping. She'd told no one she was

here, and certainly no one from the Galerie Duperey.



HE STAYED OUT FOR something like eight hours, by the clock

on his mother's Hitachi. Came to staring at Its dusty face, some

hard thing wedged under his thigh. The Ono-Sendai. He

rolled over. Stale puke smell.

	Then he was in the shower, not sure quite how he'd gotten

there, spinning the taps with his clothes still on. He clawed

and dug and pulled at his face. It felt like a rubber mask.

	"Something happened." Something bad, big, he wasn't

sure what.

	His wet clothes gradually mounded up on the tile floor of

the shower. Finally he stepped out, went to the sink and

flicked wet hair back from his eyes, peered at the face in the

mirror. Bobby Newmark, no problem.

	"No, Bobby, problem. Gotta problem .

	Towel around his shoulders, dripping water, he followed

the narrow hallway to his bedroom, a tiny, wedge-shaped

space at the very back of the condo. His holoporn unit lit as

he stepped in, half a dozen girls grinning, eyeing him with

evident delight. They seemed to be standing beyond the walls

of the room, in hazy vistas of powder-blue space, their white

smiles and taut young bodies bright as neon. Two of them

edged forward and began to touch themselves.

	"Stop it," he said.

	The projection unit shut itself down at his command; the

dreamgirls vanished. The thing had originally belonged to

Ling Warren's older brother; the girls' hair and clothes were

dated and vaguely ridiculous. You could talk with them and

get them to do things with themselves and each other. Bobby

remembered being thirteen and in love with Brandi, the one

with the blue rubber pants. Now he valued the projections

mainly for the illusion of space they could provide in the

makeshift bedroom.

	"Something fucking happened," he said, pulling on black

jeans and an almost-clean shirt. He shook his head. "What?

Fucking what?" Some kind of power surge on the line? Some

flukey action down at the Fission Authority? Maybe the base

he'd tried to invade had suffered some strange breakdown, or

been attacked from another qu~er... But he was left with

the sense of having met someone, someone who . . . He'd

unconsciously extended his right hand, fingers spread, be-

seechingly. "Fuck," he said. The fingers balled into a fist.

Then it came back: first, the sense of the big thing, the really

big thing, reaching for him across cyberspace, and then the

girl-impression. Someone brown, slender, crouching some-

where in a strange bright dark full of stars and wind. But it

slid away as his mind went for it.

	Hungry, he got into sandals and headed back toward the

kitchen, rubbing at his hair with a damp towel. On his way

through the living room, he noticed the ON telltale of the

Ono-Sendai glaring at him from the carpet. "0 shit." He

stood there and sucked at his teeth. It was still jacked in. Was

it possible that it was still linked with the base he'd tried to

run? Could they tell he wasn't dead? He had no idea. One

thing he did know, though, was that they'd have his number

and good. He hadn't bothered with the cutouts and frills that

would've kept them from running a backtrack.

	They had his address.

	Hunger forgotten, he spun into the bathroom and rooted

through the soggy clothing until he found his credit chip.

	He had two hundred and ten New Yen stashed in the

hollow plastic handle of a multibit screwdriver. Screwdriver

and credit chip secure in his jeans, he pulled on his oldest,

heaviest pair of boots, then clawed unwashed clothing from

beneath the bed. He came up with a black canvas jacket with

at least a dozen pockets, one of them a single huge pouch

across the small of the back, a kind of integral rucksack.

There was a Japanese gravity knife with orange handles be-

neath his pillow; that went into a narrow pocket on the

jacket's left sleeve, near the cuff.

	The dreamgirls clicked in as he was leaving: "Bobby,

Bobb-y, come back and play. .

	In his living room, he yanked the Ono-Sendai's jack from

the face of the Hitachi, coiling the fiber-optic lead and tuck-

ing it into a pocket. He did the same with the trode set, then

slid the Ono-Sendai into the jacket's pack-pocket.

	The curtains were still drawn. He felt a surge of some new

exhilaration. He was leaving. He had to leave. Already he'd

forgotten the pathetic fondness that his brush with death had

generated. He parted the curtains carefully, a thumb-wide

gap, and peered out.

	It was late afternoon. In a few hours, the first lights would

start blinking on in the dark bulks of the Projects. Big Play-

ground swept away like a concrete sea; the Projects rose

beyond the opposite shore, vast rectilinear structures softened

by a random overlay of retrofitted greenhouse balconies,

catfish tanks, solar heating systems, and the ubiquitous 


wire dishes.

	Two-a-Day would be up there now, sleeping, in a world

Bobby had never seen, the world of a mincome aicology.

Two-a-Day caine down to do business, mostly with the hot-

doggers in Barrytown, and then he climbed back up. It had

always looked good to Bobby, up there, so much happening

on the balconies at night, amid red smudges of charcoal, little

kids in their underwear swarming like monkeys, so small you

could barely see them. Sometimes the wind would shift, and

the smell of cooking would settle over Big Playground, and

sometimes you'd see an ultralight glide out from some secret

country of rooftop so high up there. And always the mingled

beat from a million speakers, waves of music that pulsed and

faded in and out of the wind.

	Two-a-Day never talked about his life, where he lived.

Two-a-Day talked biz, or, to be more social, women. What

Two-a-Day said about women made Bobby want to get out of

Barrytown worse than ever, and Bobby knew that biz would

be his only ticket out. But now he needed the dealer in a

different way, because now he was entirely out of his depth.

	Maybe Two-a-Day could tell him what was happening.

There wasn't supposed to be any lethal stuff around that base

Two-a-Day had picked it out for him, then rented him the

software he'd need to get in. And Two-a-Day was ready to

fence anything he could've gotten out with. So Two-a-Day

had to know. Know something, anyway.

	"I don't even have your number, man," he said to the

Projects, letting the curtains fall shut. Should he leave some-

thing for his mother? A note? "My ass," he said to the room

behind him, "out of here," and then he was out the door and

down the hall, headed for the stairs. "Forever," he added,

kicking open an exit door.

	Big Playground looked safe enough, except for a lone

shirtless duster deep in some furious conversation with God.

Bobby cut the duster a wide circle; he was shouting and

jumping and karate-chopping the air. The duster had dried

blood on his bare feet and the remnants of what had probably

been a Lobe haircut.

	Big Playground was neutral temtory, at least in theory, and

the Lobes were loosely confederated with the Gothicks; Bobby

had fairly solid affiliations with the Gothicks, but retained 


indie status. Barrytown was a dicey place to be an indie. At

least, he thought, as the duster's angry gibberish faded behind

him, the gangs gave you some structure. If you were Gothick

and the Kasuals chopped you out, it made sense. Maybe the

ultimate reasons behind it were crazy, but there were rules

But indies got chopped out by dusters running on brainstem,

by roaming predatory loonies from as far away as New

Yorklike that Penis Collector character last summer, kept

the goods in his pocket in a plastic bag .

	Bobby had been trying to chart a way out of this landscape

since the day he was born, or anyway it felt that way. Now,

as he walked, the cyberspace deck in the pack-pocket banged

against his spine. Like it. too, was urging him to get out.

"Come on, Two-a-Day," he said to the looming Projects,

"get your ass down outa there and be in Leon's when I get

there, okay?"

	Two-a-Day wasn't in Leon's.

	Nobody was, unless you wanted to count Leon, who was

probing the inner mysteries of a wall-screen converter with a

bent paper clip.

	"Why don't you just get a hammer and pound the fucker

till it works?" Bobby asked. "Do you about as much good."

	Leon looked up from the converter. He was probably in his

forties, but it was hard to say. He seemed to be of no

particular race, or, in certain lights, to belong to some race

that nobody else belonged to. Lots of hypertrophied facial

bone and a mane of curly, nonreflective black hair. His

basement pirate club had been a fixture in Bobby's life for the

past two years.

	Leon stared dully at Bobby with his unnerving eyes, pupils

of nacreous gray overlaid with a hint of translucent olive.

Leon's eyes made Bobby think of oysters and nail polish, two

things he didn't particularly like to think about in connection

with eyes. The color was like something they'd use to uphol-

ster barstools.

	"I just mean you can't fix shit like that by poking at it,"

Bobby added uncomfortably. Leon shook his head slowly and

went back to his exploration. People paid to get into the place

because Leon pirated kino and simstim off cable and ran a lot

of stuff that Barrytowners couldn't otherwise afford to access.

There was dealing in the back and you could make "dona-

tions" for drinks, mostly clean Ohio hooch cut with some

synthetic orange drink Leon scored in industrial quantities.

	"Say, uh, Leon," Bobby began again, "you seen Two-a-

Day in here lately?"

	The horrible eyes came up again and regarded Bobby for

entirely too long. "No."

	``Maybe last night?''


	"Night before?"


	"Oh. Okay. Thanks." There was no point in giving Leon a

hard time. Lots of reasons not to, actually. Bobby looked

around at the wide dim room, at the simstim units and the

unlit kino screens. The club was a series of nearly identical

rooms in the basement of a semi-residential rack zoned for

singles and a sprinkling of light industry. Good soundproof-

ing: You hardly ever heard the music, not from outside.

Plenty of nights he'd popped out of Leon's with a head full of

noise and pills, into what seemed a magic vacuum of silence,

his ears ringing all the way home across Big Playground.

	Now he had an hour. probably, before the first Gothicks

started to arrive. The dealers, mostly black guys from the

Projects or whites from the city or some other `burb, wouldn't

turn up until there was a patch of Gothicks for them to work

on. Nothing made a dealer look worse than just sitting there,

waiting, because that would mean you weren't getting any

action, and there was no way a genuinely hot dealer would be

hanging out in Leon's just for the pleasure of it. It was all

hotdog shit, in Leon's, weekenders with cheap decks who

watched Japanese icebreaker kinos .

	But Two-a-Day wasn't like that, he told himself, on his

way up the concrete stairs. Two-a-Day was on his way. Out

of the Projects, out of Barrytown, out of Leon's. On his way

to the City. To Paris, maybe, or Chiba The Ono-Sendai

bumped against his spine. He remembered that Two-a-Day's

icebreaker cassette was still in it. He didn't want to have to

explain that to anyone. He passed a news kiosk. A yello fax

of the New York edition of the Asahi Shimbun was reeling

past a plastic window in the mirrored siding, some govern-

ment going down in Africa, Russian stuff from Mars .

	It was that time of day when you could see things very

clear, see every little thing so far down the streets, fresh

green just starting from the black branches of the trees in 


holes in the concrete, and the flash of steel on a girl's boot a

block away, like looking through a special kind of water that

made seeing easier, even though it was nearly dark. He

turned and stared up at the Projects. Whole floors there were

forever unlit, either derelict or the windows blacked out.

What did they do in there? Maybe he'd ask Two-a-Day


	He checked the time on the kiosk's Coke clock. His mother

would be back from Boston by now, had to be, or else she'd

miss one of her favorite soaps. New hole in her head. She

was crazy anyway, nothing wrong with the socket she'd had

since before he was born, but she'd been whining for years

about static and resolution and sensory bleedover, so she'd

finally swung the credit to go to Boston for some cheapass

replacement. Kind of place where you don't even get an

appointment for an operation. Walk in and they just slap it in

your head. . . . He knew her, yeah, how she'd come through

the door with a wrapped bottle under her arm, not even take

her coat off, just go straight over and jack into the Hitachi,

soap her brains out good for six solid hours. Her eyes would

unfocus, and sometimes, if it was a really good episode,

she'd drool a little. About every twenty minutes she'd man-

age to remember to take a ladylike nip out of the bottle.

	She'd always been that way, as long as he could remem-

her, gradually sliding deeper into her half-dozen synthetic

jives, sequential simstim fantasies Bobby had had to hear

about all his life. He still harbored creepy feelings that some

of the characters she talked about were relatives of his, rich

and beautiful aunts and uncles who might turn up one day if

only he weren't such a little shit. Maybe, he thought now, it

had been true, in a way; she'd jacked that shit straight through

the pregnancy, because she'd told him she had, so he, fetus

Newmark, curled up in there, had reverberated to about a

thousand hours of People of Importance and Atlanta. But he

didn't like to think about being curled up in Marsha Newmark's

belly. It made him feel sweaty and kind of sick

	Marsha-momma. Only in the past year or so had Bobby

come to understand the world well enoughas he now saw

itto wonder exactly how she still managed to make her way

in it, marginal as that way had become, with her bottle and

the socket ghosts to keep her company. Sometimes, when she

was in a certain mood and had had the right number of nips,

she still tried to tell him stories about his father. He'd known

since age four that these were bullshit, because the details

changed from time to time, but for years he'd allowed himself

a certain pleasure in them anyway.

	He found a loading bay a few blocks west of Leon's,

screened from the street by a freshly painted blue dumpster,

the new paint gleaming over pocked, dented steel. There was

a single halogen tube slung above the bay. He found a

comfortable ledge of concrete and sat down there, careful not

to jar the Ono-Sendai. Sometimes you just had to wait. That

was one of the things Two-a-Day had taught him.

	The dumpster was overflowing with a varied hash of indus-

trial scrap. Barrytown had its share of gray-legal manufac-

turers, part of the ~shadow economy" the news faces liked to

talk about, but Bobby never paid much attention to news

faces. Biz. It was all just biz.

	Moths strobed crooked orbits around the halogen tube.

Bobby watched blanidy as three kids, maybe ten at the oldest,

scaled the blue wall of the dumpster with a length of dirty

white nylon line and a makeshift grapple that might once have

been part of a coatrack. When the last one made it over the

top, into the mess of plastic scrap, the line was drawn swiftly

up. The scrap began to creak and rustle.

	Just like me, Bobby thought, I used to do that shit, fill my

room up with weird garbage I'd find. One time Ling War-

ren's sister found most of somebody's arm, all wrapped in

green plastic and done up with rubber bands.

	Marsha-momma'd get these two-hour fits of religion some-

times, come into Bobby's room and sweep all his best gar-

bage out and gum some God-awful self-adhesive hologram up

over his bed. Maybe Jesus, maybe Hubbard, maybe Virgin

Mary, it didn't much matter to her when the mood was on

her. It used to piss Bobby off real good, until one day he was

big enough to walk into the front room with a ballpeen

hammer and cock it over the Hitachi; you touch my stuff

again and I'll kill your friends, Mom, all of `em. She never

tried it again. But the stick-on holograms had actually had

some effect on Bobby, because religion was now something

he felt h&d considered and put aside. Basically, the way he

figured it, there were just some people around who needed

that shit, and he guessed there always had been, but he wasn't

one of them, so he didn't.

	Now one of the dumpster kids popped up and conducted a

slit-eyed survey of the immediate area, then ducked out of

sight again. There was a clunking,, scraping sound. Small

white hands tipped a dented alloy canister up and over the

edge, lowering it on the nylon line. Good score, Bobby

thought; you could take the thing to a metal dealer and get a

little for it. They lowered the thing to the pavement, about a

meter from the soles of Bobby's boots; as it touched down, it

happened to twist around, showing him the six horned symbol

that stood for biohazard. "Hey, fuck," he said, drawing his

feet up reflexively.

	One of them slid down the rope and steadied the canister.

The other two followed. He saw that they were younger than

he'd thought.

	"Hey," Bobby said, "you know that could be some real

bad shit? Give you cancer and stuff

	"Go lick a dog's ass till it bleeds," the first kid down the

rope advised him, as they flicked their grapple loose, coiled

their line, and dragged the canister around the corner of the

dumpster and out of sight.

	He gave it an hour and a half. Time enough Leon's was

starting to cook

	At least twenty Gothicks postured in the main room, like a

herd of baby dinosaurs, their crests of lacquered hair bobbing

and twitching. The majority approached the Gothick ideal:

tall, lean, muscular, but touched by a certain gaunt rest-

lessness, young athletes in the early stages of consumption.

The graveyard pallor was mandatory, and Gothick hair was

by definition black. Bobby knew that the few who couldn't

warp their bodies to fit the subcultural template were best

avoided; a short Gothick was trouble, a fat Gothick homicidal.

	Now he watched them flexing and glittering in Leon's like

a composite creature, slime mold with a jigsaw surface of

dark leather and stainless spikes. Most of them had nearly

identical faces, features reworked to match ancient archetypes

culled from kino banks. He chose a particularly artful Dean

whose hair swayed like the mating display of a nocturnal

lizard. "Bro," Bobby began, uncertain if he'd met this one


	"My man," the Dean responded languidly, his left cheek

distended by a cud of resin. "The Count, baby"as an aside

to his girl' `Count Zero Interrupt." Long pale hand with a

fresh scab across the back grabbing ass through the girl's

leather skirt. "Count, this is my squeeze." The Gothick girl

regarded Bobby with mild interest but no flash of human

recognition whatever, as though she were seeing an ad for a

product she'd heard of but had no intention of buying.

	Bobby scanned the crowd. A few blank faces, but none he

knew. No Two-a-Day. "Say, hey," he confided, "how you

know how it is `n' all, I'm bookin' for this close personal

friend, business friend' `and at this the Gothick sagely bobbed

his crest' `goes by Two-a-Day...." He paused. The Gothick

looked blank, snapping his resin. The girl looked bored,

restless. " `Wareman," Bobby added, raising his eyebrows,

"black `wareman."

	"Two-a-Day," the Gothick said. "Sure. Two-a-Day. Right,

babe?" His girl tossed her head and looked away.

	"You know `im?"


"He here tonight?"

"No," the Gothick said, and smiled meaninglessly.

	Bobby opened his mouth, closed it, forced himself to nod.

"Thanks, bro."

	"Anything for my man," the Gothick said.

	Another hour, more of the same. Too much white, chalk-

pale Gothick white. Flat bright eyes of their girls, their

bootheels like ebony needles. He tried to stay out of the

simstim room, where Leon was running some kind of weird

jungle fuck tape phased you in and out of these different

kinda animals, lotta crazed arboreal action up in the trees,

which Bobby found a little disorienting. He was hungry

enough now to feel a little spaced, or maybe it was afterburn

-	from whatever it was had happened to him before, but he was

starting to have a hard time concentrating, and his thoughts

drifted in odd directions. Like who, for instance, had climbed

up into those trees full of snakes and wired a pair of those rat

things for simstim?

	The Gothicks were into it, whoever. They were thrashing

and stomping and generally into major tree-rat identification.

Leon's new hit tape, Bobby decided.

	Just to his left, but well out of range of the stim, two

Project girls stood, their baroque finery in sharp contrast with

Gothick monochrome Long black frock coats opened over

tight red vests in silk brocade, the tails of enormous white

shirts hanging well beneath their knees. Their dark features

were concealed beneath the brims of fedoras pinned and hung

with fragments of antique gold: sti.ckpins, charms, teeth,

mechanical watches Bobby watched them covertly; the clothes

said they had money, but that someone would make it worth

your ass if you tried to go for it. One time Two-a-Day had

come down from the Projects in this ice-blue shaved-velour

number with diamond buckles at the knees, like maybe he

hadn't had time to change, but Bobby had acted like the

`wareman was dressed in his usual leathers, because he fig-

ured a cosmopolitan attitude was crucial in biz

	He tried to imagine going up to them so smooth. just

putting it to them: Hey, you ladies surely must know my good

friend Mr. Two-a-Day? But they were older than he was,

taller, and moved with a dignity he found intimidating. Prob-

ably they'd just laugh, but somehow he didn't want that at


	What he did want now, and very badly, was food. He

touched his credit chip through the denim of his jeans. He'd

go across the street and get a sandwich . . Then he remem-

bered why he was here, and suddenly it didn't seem very

smart to use his chip. If he'd been sussed, after his attempted

run, they'd have his chip number by now; using it would

spotlight him for anyone tracking him in cyberspace. pick

him out in the Barrytown grid like a highway flare in a dark

football stadium. He had his cash money, but you couldn't

pay for food with that It wasn't actually illegal to have the

stuff, it was just that nobody ever did anything legitimate

with it. He'd have to find a Gothick with a chip, buy a New

Yen's worth of credit, probably at a vicious discount, then

have the Gothick pay for the food. And what the hell was he

supposed to take his change in?

	Maybe you're just spooked, he told himself. He didn't

know for sure that he was being backtracked, and the base

he'd tried to crack was legit. or was supposed to be legit

That was why Two-a-Day had told him he didn't have to

worry about black ice Who'd put lethal feedback programs

around a place that leased soft kino porn? The idea had been

that he'd bleep out a few hours of digitalized kino, new stuff

that hadn't made it to the bootleg market. It wasn't the kind

of score anybody was liable to kill you for

	But somebody had tried. And something else had hap-

pened. Something entirely else. He trudged back up the stairs

again, out of Leon's He knew there was a lot he didn't know

about the matrix, but he'd never heard of anything that weird

	. . You got ghost stories, sure, and hotdoggers who swore

thcy'd seen things in cyberspace, but he had them figured for

wilsons who jacked in dusted; you could hallucinate in the

matrix as easily as anywhere else

2	Maybe that's what happened, he thought. The voice was

just part of dying, being flat-lined, some crazy bullshit your

brain threw up to make you feel better, and something had

happened back at the source, maybe a brownout in their part

of the grid, so the ice had lost its hold on his nervous system.

	Maybe. But he didn't know. Didn't know the turf. His

ignorance had started to dig into him recently, because it kept

him from making the moves he needed to make. He hadn't

ever much thought about it before, but he didn't really know

that much about anything in particular. In fact, up until he'd

started hotdogging, he'd felt like he knew about as much as

he needed to. And that was what the Gothicks were like, and

that was why the Gothicks would stay here and burn them-

selves down on dust, or get chopped out by Kasuals, and the

process of attrition would produce the percentage of them

who'd somehow become the next wave of childbearing, condo-

buying Barrytowners~ and the whole thing could go round


	He was like a kid who'd grown up beside an ocean, taking

it as much for granted as he took the sky, but knowing

nothing of currents, shipping routes, or the ins and outs of

weather. He'd used decks in school, toys that shuttled you

through the infinite reaches of that space that wasn't space,

mankind's unthinkably complex consensual hallucination, the

matrix, cyberspace, where the great corporate hotcores burned

like neon novas, data so dense you suffered sensory overload

if you tried to apprehend more than the merest outline.

	But since he'd started hotdogging, he had some idea of

how precious little he knew about how anything worked, and

not just in the matrix. It spilled over, somehow, and he'd

started to wonder, wonder and think. How Barrytown worked,

what kept his mother going, why Gothicks and Kasuals in-

vested all that energy in trying to kill each other off Or why

Two-a-Day was black and lived up in the Projects, and what

made that different.

	As he walked, he kept up his search for the dealer. White

faces, more white faces. His stomach had started to make a

certain amount of noise; he thought about the fresh package

of wheat cutlets in the fridge at home, fry `em up with some

soy and crack a pack of krill wafers

	Passing the kiosk again, he che~ked the Coke clock. Mar-

sha was home for sure, deep in the labyrinthine complexities

of People of Importance. whose female protagonist's life

she'd shared through a socket for almost twenty years The

Asahi Shimbun fax was still rolling down behind its little

window, and he stepped closer in time to see the first report

of the bombing of A Block, Level 3, Covina Concourse

Courts, Barrytown, New Jersey..

	Then it was gone, past, and there was a story about the

formal funeral of the Cleveland Yakusa boss Strictly trad.

They all carried black umbrellas.

	He'd lived all his life in 503, A Block.

	That enormous thing, leaning in, to stomp Marsha New-

mark and her Hitachi flat. And of course it had been meant

for him.

	`There's somebody doesn't mess around," he heard him-

self say.

	"Hey! My man! Count! You dusted, bro? Hey! Where you

headin !"

	The eyes of two Deans twisting to follow him in the course

of his headlong panic.




CONROY SWUNG ThE Nue Fokker off the eroded ribbon of

prewar highway and throttled down. The long rooster tail of

pale dust that had followed them from Needles began to

settle; the hovercraft sank into its inflated apron bag as they

	came to a halt.

"Here's the venue, Turner

	"What hit it?" Rectangular expanse of concrete spreading

to uneven walls of weathered cinderblock.

	"Economics," Conroy said. "Before the war. They never

finished it Ten klicks west of here and there's whole subdivi-

sions, just pavement grids, no houses, nothing"

	"How big a site team?"

"Nine, not counting you. And the medics."

"What medics?"

	"Hosaka's. Maas is biologicals, right? No telling how they

might have our boy kinked. So Hosaka's built a regular little

neurosurgery and staffed it with three hotshots. Two of them

are company men, the third's a Korean who knows black

medicine from both ends. The medical pod's in that long one

there' `he pointed' `gotta partial section of roof."

	"How'd you get it on site?"

	"Brought it from Tucson inside a tanker. Faked a break-

down Got it out, rolled it in. Took all hands. Maybe three


	"Maas," Turner said.

	"Sure" Conroy killed the engines. "Chance you take,"

he said in the abrupt silence "Maybe they missed it. Our guy

in the tanker sat there and bitched to his dispatcher in Tucson

on the CB, all about his shit-eating heat exchanger and how

long it was going to take to fix it. Figure they picked that up.

You think of a better way to do it?"

	"No. Given that the client wants the thing on the site. But

we're sitting here now in the middle of their recon foot-


	"Sweetheart"and Conroy snorted"maybe we just

stopped for a screw Break up our trip to Tucson, right? It's

that kind of place People stop here to piss, you know?" He

checked his black Porsche watch. "I'm due there in an hour,

get a copter back to the coast."

	"The rig?"

"No. Your fucking jet. Figured I handle that myself."

` `Gcxl. ~

	"I'd go for a Dornier System ground-effect plane myself.

Have it wait down the road until we see Mitchell heading in.

It could get here by the time the medics clean him up; we toss

him in and take off for the Sonora border .

	"At subsonic speeds," Turner said. "No way. You're on

your way to California to buy me that jump jet. Our boy's

going out of here in a multimission combat aircraft that's

barely even obsolete."

"You got a pilot in mind?"

"Me," Turner said, and tapped the socket behind his ear.

"It's a fully integrated interactive system. They'll sell you 


interface software and I'll jack straight in."

	"Didn't know you could fly."

	"I can't. You don't need hands-on to haul ass for Mexico


	"Still the wild boy, Turner? You know the rumor's that

somebody blew your dick off, back there in New Delhi?"

Conroy swung around to face him, his grin cold and clean.

	Turner dug the parka from behind the seat and took out the

pistol and the box of ammunition. He was stuffing the parka

back again when Conroy said, "Keep it. It gets cold as hell

here, at night."

	Turner reached for the canopy latch, and Conroy revved

the engines. The hovercraft rose a few centimeters, swaying

slightly as Turner popped the canopy and climbed out. White-

out sun and air like hot velvet. He took his Mexican sun-

glasses from the pocket of the blue work shirt and put them

on.	He wore white deck shoes and a pair of tropical combat

fatigues. The box of explosive shells went into one of the

thigh pockets on the fatigues. He kept the gun in his right

hand, the parka bundled under his left arm. "Head for the

long building," Conroy said, over the engine. "They're ex-

pecting you."

	He jumped down into the furnace glow of desert noon as

Conroy revved the Fokker again and edged it back to the

highway. He watched as it sped east, its receding image

distorted through wrinkles of rising heat.

	When it was gone, there was no sound at all, no move-

ment. He turned, facing the ruin. Something small and stone-

gray darted between two rocks.

	Perhaps eighty meters from the highway the jagged walls

began. The expanse between had once been a parking lot.

	Five steps forward and he stopped. He heard the sea, surf

pounding, soft explosions as breakers fell. The gun was in his

hand, too large, too real, its metal warming in the sun.

	No sea, no sea, he told himself, can't hear it He walked

on, the deck shoes slipping in drifts of ancient window glass

seasoned with brown and green shards of bottle. There were

rusted discs that had been bottle caps, flattened rectangles 


had been aluminum cans. Insects whirred up from low clumps

of dry brush.

	Over. Done with. This place. No time.

	He stopped again, straining forward, as though he sought

something that would help him name the thing that was rising

in him. Something hollow .

	The mall was doubly dead. The beach hotel in Mexico had

lived once, at least for a season

	Beyond the parking lot, the sunlit cinderblock, cheap and

soulless, waiting.

	He found them crouched in the narrow strip of shade

provided by a length of gray wall. Three of them; he smelled

the coffee before he saw them, the fire-blackened enamel pot

balanced precariously on the tiny Primus cooker. He was

meant to smell it, of course; they were expecting him Other-

wise, he'd have found the ruin empty, and then, somehow,

very quietly and almost naturally, he would have died.

	Two men, a woman; cracked, dusty boots out of Texas,

denim so shiny with grease that it would probably be water-

proof. The men were bearded, their uncut hair bound up in

sun-bleached topknots with lengths of rawhide, the woman's

hair center-parted and pulled back tight from a seamed, wind-

burnt face. An ancient BMW motorcycle was propped against

the wall, flecked chrome and battered paintwork daubed with

airbrush blobs of tan and gray desert camo.

	He released the Smith & Wesson's grip, letting it pivot

around his index finger, so that the barrel pointed up and


	"Turner," one of the men said, rising, cheap metal flash-

ing from his teeth. `Sutcliffe." Trace of an accent, probably


	"Point team?" He looked at the other two.

"Point," Sutcliffe said, and probed his mouth with a tanned

thumb and forefinger, coming away with a yellowed, steel-

capped prostho. His own teeth were white and perfectly even.

"You took Chauvet from IBM for Mitsu," he said, "and

they say you took Semenov out of Tomsk."

	"Is that a question?"

	"I was security for IBM Marrakech when you blew the


	Turner met the man's eyes. They were blue, calm, very

bright. "Is that a problem for you?"

	"No fear," Sutcliffe said. "Just to say I've seen you

work." He snapped the prostho back in place. "Lynch"

nodding toward the other man' `and Webber' `toward

the woman.

"Run it down to me," Turner said, and lowered himself

into the scrap of shade. He squatted on his haunches, still

holding the gun.

	"We came in three days ago," Webber said, "on two

bikes. We arranged for one of them to snap its crankshaft, in

case we had to make an excuse for camping here. There's a

sparse transient population, gypsy bikers and cultists. Lynch

walked an optics spool six kilos east and tapped into a

phone .


"Pay," Lynch said.

	"We sent out a test squirt," the woman continued. "If it

hadn't worked, you'd know it."

	Turner nodded. "Incoming traffic?"

	"Nothing. It's strictly for the big show, whatever that is."

She raised her eyebrows.

	"It's a defection."

"Bit obvious, that," Sutcliffe said, settling himself beside

Webber, his back to the wall. "Though the general tone of

the operation so far suggests that we hirelings aren't likely to

even know who we're extracting. True, Mr. Turner? Or will

we be able to read about it in the fax?"

	Turner ignored him. "Go on. Webber."

	"After our landline was in place, the rest of the crew

filtered in, one or two at a time. The last one in primed us for

the tankful of Japs

	"That was raw," Sutcliffe said, "bit too far up front."

"You think it might have blown us?" Turner asked.

	Sutcliffe shrugged. "Could be, could be no. We hopped it

pretty quick. Damned lucky we'd the roof to tuck it under."

	"What about the passengers?"

	"They only come out at night," Webber said. "And they

know we'll kill them if they try to get more than five meters

away from the thing."

	Turner glanced at Sutcliffe.

"Conroy's orders," the man said.

	"Conroy's orders don't count now," Turner said. "But

that one holds. What are these people like?"

	"Medicals,'~ Lynch said, "bent medicals."

	"You got it," Turner said. "What about the rest of the


	"We rigged some shade with mimetic tarps. They sleep in

shifts. There's not enough water and we can't risk much in

the way of cooking." Sutcliffe reached for the coffeepot.

"We have sentries in place and we run periodic checks on the

integrity of the landline." He splashed black coffee into a

plastic mug that looked as though it had been chewed by a

dog. "So when do we do our dance, Mr. Turner?"

	"I want to see your tank of pet medics. I want to see a

command post. You haven't said anything about a command


	"All set," Lynch said.

	"Fine. Here." Turner passed Webber the revolver. "See if

you can find me some sort of rig for this. Now I want Lynch

to show me these medics."

	"He thought it would be you," Lynch said, scrambling

effortlessly up a low incline of rubble. Turner followed

`You've got quite a rep." The younger man glanced back at

him from beneath a fringe of dirty, sun-streaked hair.

	"Too much of one," Turner said. "Any is too much. You

worked with him before? Marrakech?" Lynch ducked side-

ways through a gap in the cinderblock, and Turner was close

behind. The desert plants smelled of tar; they stung and

grabbed if you brushed them. Through a vacant, rectangular

opening intended for a window, Turner glimpsed pink moun-

taintops; then Lynch was loping down a slope of gravel.

	"Sure, I worked for him before," Lynch said, pausing at

the base of the slide. An ancient-looking leather belt rode low

on his hips, its heavy buckle a tarnished silver death's-head

with a dorsal crest of blunt, pyramidal spikes. "Marrakech-

that was before my time."

	"Connie, too, Lynch?"

	"How's that?"

	"Conroy. You work for him before? More to the point

are you working for him now?" Turner came slowly, deliber-

ately down the gravel as he spoke; it crunched and slid

beneath his deck shoes, uneasy footing. He could see the

delicate little fletcher holstered beneath Lynch's denim vest.

	Lynch licked dry lips, held his ground. "That's Sut's

contact. I haven't met him."

	"Conroy has this problem, Lynch. Can't delegate respon-

sibility. He likes to have his own man from the start, some-

one to watch the watchers. Always. You the one, Lynch?"

	Lynch shook his head, the absolute minimum of movement

required to convey the negative. Turner was close enough to

smell his sweat above the tarry odor of the desert plants.

"I've seen Conroy blow two extractions that way," Turner

	said. "Lizards and broken glass, Lynch? You feel like dying

F	here?" Turner raised his fist in front of Lynch's face and

slowly extended the index finger, pointing straight up "We're

in their footprint. If a plant of Conroy's bleeps the least

fucking pulse out of here, they'll be on to us."

	"If they aren't already."

F	"That's right."

	"Sut's your man," Lynch said. "Not me, and I can't see it

being Webber." Black-rimmed, broken nails came up to

scratch abstractedly at his beard. "Now, did you get me back

here exclusively for this little talk, or do you still wanna see

our canful of Japs?"

	"Let's see it."

Lynch. Lynch was the one.

	*	*	*

	Once, in Mexico, years before, Turner had chartered a

portable vacation module, solar-powered and French-built, its

seven-meter body like a wingless housefly sculpted in pol-

ished alloy, its eyes twin hemispheres of tinted, photosensi-

tive plastic; he sat behind them as an aged twin-prop Russian

cargo lifter lumbered down the coast with the module in its

jaws, barely clearing the crowns of the tallest palms. Depos-

ited on a remote beach of black sand, Turner spent three days

of pampered solitude in the narrow, teak-lined cabin, micro-

waving food from the freezer and showering, frugally but

regularly, in cool fresh water. The module's rectangular banks

of cells would swivel, tracking the sun, and he'd learned to

tell time by their position.

	Hosaka's portable neurosurgery resembled an eyeless ver-

sion of that French module, perhaps two meters longer and

painted a dull brown. Sections of perforated angle iron had

been freshly braised at intervals along the lower half of the

hull, and supported simple spring suspensions for ten fat,

heavily nubbed red rubber bicycle tires.

	"They're asleep," Lynch said. "It bobs around when they

move, so you can tell. We'll have the wheels off when the

time comes, but for now we like being able to keep track of


	Turner walked slowly around the brown pod, noting the

glossy black sewage tube that ran to a small rectangular tank


	"Had to dump that, last night. Jesus." Lynch shook his

head. "They got food and some water."

	Turner put his ear to the hull.

	"It's proofed," Lynch said.

	Turner glanced up at the steel roof above them. The sur-

gery was screened from above by a good ten meters of rusting

roof. Sheet steel, and hot enough now to fry an egg. He

nodded. That hot rectangle would be a permanent factor in

the Maas infrared scan.

	"Bats," Webber said, handing him the Smith & Wesson in

a black nylon shoulder rig. The dusk was full of sounds that

seemed to come from inner space, metallic squeaks and the

cackling of bugs, cries of unseen birds. Turner shoved gun

and holster into a pocket on the parka. "You wanna piss, go

up by that mesquite. But watch out for the thorns."

	"Where are you from?"

	"New Mexico," the woman said, her face like carved

wood in the remaining light. She turned and walked away,

heading for the angle of walls that sheltered the tarps. He

could make out Sutcliffe and a young black man there. They

were eating from dull foil envelopes Ramirez, the on-site

console jockey, Jaylene Slide's partner. Out of Los Angeles.

	Turner looked up at the bowl of sky, limitless, the map of

stars. Strange how it's bigger this way, he thought, and from

orbit it's just a gulf, formless, and scale lost all meaning. 


tonight he wouldn't sleep, he knew, and the Big Dipper

would whirl round for him and dive for the horizon, pulling

its tail with it.

	A wave of nausea and dislocation hit him as images from

the biosoft dossier swam unbidden through his mind.

ANDREA LIVED iN mn Quartier des Ternes, where her ancient

building, like the others in her street, awaited sandblasting

by the city's relentless renovators. Beyond the dark entrance,

one of Fuji Electric's biofluorescent strips glowed dimly above

a dilapidated wall of small wooden hutches, some with their

slotted doors still intact. Marly knew that postmen had once

made daily deposits of mail through those slots; there was

something romantic about the idea, although the hutches,

with their yellowing business cards announcing the occupa-

tions of long-vanished tenants, had always depressed her. The

walls of the hallway were stapled with bulging loops of cable

and fiber optics, each strand a potential nightmare for some

hapless utilities repairman. At the far end, through an open

door paneled with dusty pebble glass, was a disused court-

yard, its cobbles shiny with damp.

	The concierge was sitting in the courtyard as Marly entered

the building, on a white plastic crate that had once held

bottles of Evian water. He was patiently oiling each link of an

old bicycle's black chain. He glanced up as she began to

climb the first flight of stairs, but registered no particular


	The stairs were made of marble, worn dull and concave by

generations of tenants. Andrea's apartment was on the fourth

floor. Two rooms, kitchen, and bath. Marly had come here

when she'd closed her gallery for the last time, when it was

no longer possible to sleep in the makeshift bedroom she'd

shared with Alain, the little room behind the storeroom. Now


the building brought her depression circling in again, but the

feel of her new outfit and the tidy click of her bootheels on

marble kept it at a distance. She wore an oversized leather

coat a few shades lighter than her handbag, a wool skirt, and

a silk blouse from Paiis Isetan. She'd had her hair cut that

morning on Faubourg St. Honor~, by a Burmese girl with a

West German laser pencil; an expensive cut, subtle without

being too conservative.

	She touched the round plate bolted in the center of An-

drea's door, heard it peep once, softly, as it read the whorls

and ridges of her fingertips. "It's me, Andrea," she said to

the tiny microphone. A series of clanks and tickings as her

friend unbolted the door.

	Andrea stood there, dripping wet, in the old terry robe. She

took in Marly's new look, then smiled. "Did you get your

job, or have you robbed a bank?" Marly stepped in, kissing

her friend's wet cheek. "It feels a~bit of both," she said, and


	"Coffee," said Andrea, "make us coffee Grandes cremes.

I must rinse my hair And yours is beautiful . ." She went

into the bathroom and Marly heard a spray of water across


	"I've brought you a present," Marly said, but Andrea

couldn't hear her She went into the kitchen and filled the

kettle, lit the stove with the old-fashioned spark gun, and

began to search the crowded shelves for coffee.

	"Yes," Andrea was saying, "I do see it." She was peer-

ing into the hologram of the box Marly had first seen in

Virek's construct of Gaudi's park. "It's your sort of thing."

She touched a stud and the Braun's illusion winked out.

Beyond the room's single window, the sky was stippled with

a few wisps of cirrus. "Too grim for me, too serious. Like

the things you showed at your gallery. But that can only mean

that Herr Virek has chosen well; you will solve his mystery

for him. If I were you, considering the wage, I might take my

own good time about it." Andrea wore Marly's gift, an

expensive, beautifully detailed man's dress shirt, in gray

Flemish flannel. It was the sort of thing she liked most, and

her delight in it was obvious. It set off her pale hair, and was

very nearly the color of her eyes

	"He's quite horrible, Virek, I think .." Marly hesitated.

"Quite likely," Andrea said, taking another sip of coffee.

"Do you expect anyone that wealthy to be a nice, normal


	"I felt, at one point, that he wasn't quite human. Felt that

very strongly."

	"But he isn't, Marly. You were talking with a projection, a

special effect

	"Still	She made a gesture of helplessness, which

immediately made her feel annoyed with herself.

	"Still, he is very, very wealthy, and he's paying you a

great deal to do something that you may be uniquely suited to

do." Andrea smiled and readjusted a finely turned charcoal

cuff. "You don't have a great deal of choice, do you?"

	"I know. I suppose that's what's making me uneasy.

	"Well," Andrea said, "I thought I might put off telling

you a bit longer, but I have something else that may make

you feel uneasy. If `uneasy' is the word."


	"I considered not telling you at all, but I'm sure he'll get

to you eventually. He smells money, I suppose."

	Marly put her empty cup down carefully on the cluttered

little rattan table.

	"He's quite acute that way," Andrea said.


	"Yesterday. It began, I think, about an hour after you

would have had your interview with Virek. He called me at

work. He left a message here, with the concierge. If I were to

remove the screen program' `she gestured toward the

phone' `I think he'd ring within thirty minutes."

	Remembering the concierge's eyes, the ticking of the bicy-

cle chain.

	"He wants to talk, he said," Andrea said. "Only to talk.

Do you want to talk with him, Marly?"

	"Not" she said, and her voice was a little girl's voice,

high and ridiculous. Then, "Did he leave a number?" Andrea

sighed, slowly shook her head, and then said, "Yes, of

course he did."




Tire DARK wA5 FULL of honeycomb patterns the color of blood.

Everything was warm. And soft, `too, mostly soft

	"What a mess," one of the angels said, her voice far off

but low and rich and very clear.

	"We should've clipped him out of Leon's," the other

angel said. "They aren't gonna like this upstairs

	"Must've had something in this big pocket here, see? They

slashed it for him, getting it out."

	"Not all they slashed, sister. Jesus. Here."

	The patterns swung and swam as something moved his

head. Cool palm against his cheek.

	"Don't get any on your shirt," the first angel said.

	"Two-a-Day ain't gonna like this. Why you figure he

freaked like that and ran?"

	It pissed him off, because he wanted to sleep. He was

asleep, for sure, but somehow Marsha's jack-dreams were

bleeding into his head so that he tumbled through broken

sequences of People of Importance. The soap had been run-

ning continuously since before he was born, the plot a

multiheaded narrative tapeworm that coiled back in to devour

itself every few months, then sprouted new heads hungry for

tension and thrust. He could see it writhing in its totality, 


way Marsha could never see it, an elongated spiral of Sense!

Net DNA, cheap brittle ectoplasm spun out to uncounted

hungry dreamers. Marsha, now, she had it from the POV of

Michele Morgan Magnum, the female lead, hereditary corpo-

rate head of Magnum AG. But today's episode kept veering

weirdly away from Michele's frantically complex romantic

entanglements, which Bobby had anyway never bothered to

keep track of, and jerking itself into detailed 


descriptions of Soleri-style mincome arcologies. Some of the

detail, even to Bobby, seemed suspect; he doubted, for in-

stance, that there really were entire levels devoted to the sale

of ice-blue shaved-velour lounge suites with diamond-buckled

knees, or that there were other levels, perpetually dark, in-

habited exclusively by starving babies. This last, he seemed

to recall, had been an article of faith to Marsha, who regarded

the Projects with superstitious horror, as though they were

some looming vertical hell to which she might one day be

forced to ascend. Other segments of the jack-dream reminded

him of the Knowledge channel Sense/Net piped in free with

every stim subscription; there were elaborate animated dia-

grams of the Projects' interior structure, and droning lectures

in voice-over on the life-styles of various types of residents.

These, when he was able to focus on them, seemed even less

convincing than the flashes of ice-blue velour and feral babies

creeping silently through the dark. He watched a cheerful

young mother slice pizza with a huge industrial waterknife in

the kitchen corner of a spotless one-room An entire wall

opened onto a shallow balcony and a rectangle of cartoon-

blue sky. The woman was black without being black, it

seemed to Bobby, like a very, very dark and youthfully

maternal version of one of the porno dolls on the unit in his

bedroom. And had, it looked like, the identical small but

cartoon-perfect breasts. (At this point, to add to his dull

confusion, an astonishingly loud and very unNet voice said,

"Now I call that a definite sign of life, Jackie. If the progno-

sis ain't bookin' up yet, at least somethin' is.") And then

went spinning back into the all-glitz universe of Michele

Morgan Magnum, who was desperately struggling to prevent

Magnum AG's takeover by the sinister Shikoku-based Naka-

mura industrial clan, represented in this case by (plot compli-

cation) Michele's main squeeze for the season, wealthy (but

somehow grindingly in need of additional billions) New So-

viet boy-politician Vasily Suslov, who looked and dressed

remarkably like the Gothicks in Leon's.

	The episode seemed to be reaching some sort of climaxan

antique BMW fuel-cell conversion had just been strafed by

servo-piloted miniature West German helicopters on the street

below Covina Concourse Courts, Michele Morgan Magnum

was pistol-whipping her treacherous personal secretary with a

nickel-plated Nambu, and Susbov, who Bobby was coming

increasingly to identify with, was casually preparing to get 

his ass

out of town with a gorgeous female bodyguard who was

Japanese but reminded Bobby intensely of another one of the

dreamgirls on his holoporn unitwhen someone screamed

	Bobby had never heard anyone scream that way, and there

was something horribly familiar about the voice. But before

he could start to worry about it, those blood-red honeycombs

came swirling in again and made him miss the end of People

of Importance. Still, some part of him thought, as red went to

black, he could always ask Marsha how it came out

	"Open your eyes, man. That's it. Light too bright for


	It was, but it didn't change White, white, he remembered

his head exploding years away, pure white grenade in that

cool-wind desert dark. His eyes were open, but he couldn't

see. Just white.

	"Now, I'd leave you down, ordinarily, boy in your con-

dition, but the people paying me for this say get a jump on,

so I'm wakin' you up before I'm done. You wonderin' why

you can't see shit, right? Just light, that's all you can see,

that's right. What we got here is a neural cutout. Now,

between you and me, this thing come out of a sex shop, but

there's no reason not to use it in medicine if we want to. And

we do want to, because you're still hurtin' bad, and anyway,

it keeps you still while I get on with it." The voice was calm

and methodical. "Now, your big problem, that was your

back, but I took care of that with a stapler and a few feet of

claw You don't get any plastic work here, you understand,

but the honeys'll think those scars are real Interesting. What

I'm doin' now is I'm cleanin' this one on your chest, then I'll

zip a little claw down that and we're all done, except you

better move easy for a couple of days or you'll pull a staple I

got a couple of derms on you, and I'll stick on a few more

Meantime, I'm going to click your sensonum up to audio and

full visual so you can get into being here. Don't mind the

blood; it's all yours but there isn't any more comm."

	White curdled to gray cloud, objects taking form with the

slow deliberation of a dust vision. He was flat against a

padded ceiling, staring straight down at a blood-stained white

doll that had no head at all, only a greenish blue surgical

lamp that seemed to sprout from its shoulders. A black man

in a stained green smock was spraying something yellow into

a shallow gash that ran diagonally from just above the doll's

pelvic bone to just below its left nipple. He knew the man

was black because his head was bare, bare and shaven, slick

with sweat: his hands were covered in tight green gloves and

all that Bobby could see of him was the gleaming crown of

his head There were pink and blue dermadisks stuck to the

skin on either side of the doll's neck. The edges of the wound

seemed to have been painted with something that looked like

chocolate syrup, and the yellow spray made a hissing sound

as it escaped from its little silver tube.

	Then Bobby got the picture, and the universe reversed

itself sickeningly. The lamp was suspended from the ceiling,

the ceiling was mirrored, and he was the doll. He seemed to

snap back on a long elastic cord, back through the red honey-

combs, to the dream room where the black girl sliced pizza

for her children. The waterknife made no sound at all, micro-

scopic gnt suspended in a needle-stream of high-speed water.

The thing was intended to cut glass and alloy, Bobby knew,

not to slice microwaved pizza, and he wanted to scream at her

because he was terrified she'd take off her thumb without

even feeling it.

	But he couldn't scream, couldn't move or make a sound at

all. She lovingly sliced the last piece, toed the kickplate that

shut the knife down, transferred the sliced pizza to a plain

white ceramic platter, then turned toward the rectangle of

blue beyond the balcony, where her children wereno, Bobby

said, way down in himself, no way. Because the things that

wheeled and plunged for her weren't hang-gliding kids, but

babies, the monstrous babies of Marsha's dream, and the

tattered wings a confusion of pink bone, metal, patched taut

membranes of scrap plastic . . . He saw their teeth

	"Whoa," said the black man, "lost you for a second. Not

for long, you understand, just maybe a New York minute.. ."

His hand, in the mirrors overhead, took a flat spool of blue

transparent plastic from the bloody cloth beside Bobby's ribs.

Delicately, with thumb and forefinger, he drew out a length

of some sort of brown, beaded plastic. Minute points of light

flashed along its edges and seemed to quiver and shift. "Claw,"

he said, and with his other hand thumbed some sort of

integral cutter in the sealed blue spool. Now the length of

beaded stuff swung free and began to writhe. "Good shit,"

he said, bringing the thing into Bobby's line of sight. "New.

What they use in Chiba now." It was brown, headless, each

bead a body segment, each segment edged with pale shining

legs. Then, with a conjurer's flick of his green-gloved wrists,

he lay the centipede down the length of the open wound and

pinched delicately at the final segment, the one nearest Bob-

by's face. As the segment came away. it withdrew a glittering

black thread that had served the thing as a nervous system,

and as that went, each set of claws locked shut in turn,

zipping the slash tight as a new leather jacket.

	"Now, you see," said the black man, mopping the last of

the brown syrup away with a wet white pad, "that wasn't so

bad, was it?"

	His entrance to Two-a-Day's apartment wasn't anything

like the way he'd so often imagined it. To begin with, he'd

never imagined being wheeled in in a wheelchair that some-

one had appropriated from St. Mary's Maternitythe name

and a serial number neatly laser-etched on the dull chrome of

the left armrest. The woman who was wheeling him would

have fitted neatly enough into one of his fantasies; her name

was Jackie, one of the two Project girls he'd seen at Leon's,

and, he'd come to understand, one of his two angels. The

wheelchair was silent as it glided across the scabrous gray

wall-to-wall of the apartment's narrow entranceway, but the

gold bangles on Jackie's fedora tinkled cheerfully as she

pushed him along.

	And he'd never imagined that Two-a-Day's place would be

quite this large, or that it would be full of trees.

	Pye, the doctor, who'd been careful to explain that he

wasn't a doctor, just someone who "helped out sometimes,"

had settled back on a torn barstool in his makeshift surgery,

peeled off his bloody green gloves, lit a menthol cigarette,

and solemnly advised Bobby to take it real easy for the next

week or so. Minutes later, Jackie and Rhea, the other angel,

had wrestled him into a pair of wrinkled black pajamas that

looked like something out of a very cheap ninja kino, depos-

ited him in the wheelchair, and set out for the central stem of

elevators at the arcology's core. Thanks to an additional three

derms from Pye's store of drugs, one of them charged with a

good two thousand mikes of endorphin analog, Bobby was

alert and feeling no pain.

	"Where's my stuff," he protested, as they rolled him out

into a corridor grown penlously narrow with decades of

retrofitted ducts and plumbing. "Where's my clothes and my

deck and everything?"

	"Your clothes, hon, such as they were, are taped up in a

plastic bag waiting for Pye to shitcan `em. Pye had to cut `em

off you on the slab, and they weren't but bloody rags to begin

with. If your deck was in your jacket, down the back, I'd say

the boys who chopped you out got it. Damn near got you in

the process. And you ruined my Sally Stanley shirt, you little

shithead." Angel Rhea didn't seem too friendly.

	"Oh~'~ Bobby said, as they rounded a corner, "right

Well, did you happen to find a screwdriver in there? Or a

credit chip?"

	"No chip, baby. But if the screwdriver's the one with the

two hundred and ten New ones screwed into the handle, that's

the price of my new shirt . .

	Two-a-Day didn't look as though he was particularly glad

to see Bobby. In fact, it almost seemed as if he didn't see him

at all. Looked straight through him to Jackie and Rhea, and

showed his teeth in a smile that was all nerves and sleep-lack.

They wheeled Bobby close enough that he saw how yellow

Two-a-Day's eyeballs looked, almost orange in the pinky-pur-

ple glow of the gro-light tubes that seemed to dangle at

random from the ceiling. "What took you bitches?" the

wareman asked, but there was no anger in his voice, only

bone weariness and something else, something Bobby couldn't

identify at first.

	"Pye," Jackie said, swaggering past the wheelchair to take

a package of Chinese cigarettes from the enormous wooden

slab that served Two-a-Day as a coffee table. "He's a perfec-

tionist, ol' Pye

	"Learned that in vet school," Rhea added, for Bobby's

benefit, "`cept usually he's too wasted, nobody'd let him

work on a dog .

	"So," Two-a-Day said, and finally let his eyes rest on

Bobby, "you gonna make it." And his eyes were so cold, so

tired and clinical, so far removed from the hustling manic

bullshitter's act that Bobby had taken for the man's person-

ality, that Bobby could only lower his own eyes, face burn-

ing, and lock his gaze on the table.

	Nearly three meters long and slightly over a meter wide, it

was strapped together from timbers thicker than Bobby's

thigh. It must have been in the water once, he thought;

sections still retained the bleached silvery patina of 


like the log he remembered playing beside a long time ago in

Atlantic City. But it hadn't seen water for a long time, and

the top was a dense mosaic of candle drippings, wine stains,

oddly shaped overspray marks in matte black enamel, and the

dark burns left by hundreds of cigarettes. It was so crowded

with food, garbage, and gadgets that it looked as though some

street vendor had set up to unload hardware, then decided to

have dinner. There were half-eaten pizzaskrill balls in red

sauce, and Bobby's stomach began to churnbeside cascad-

ing stacks of software, smudged glasses with cigarettes crushed

out in purple wine dregs, a pink styrene tray with neat rows

of stale-looking canapes, open and unopened cans of beer, an

antique Gerber combat dagger that lay unsheathed on a flat

block of polished marble, at least three pistols, and perhaps

two dozen pieces of cryptic-looking console gear, the kind of

cowboy equipment that ordinarily would have made Bobby's

mouth water.

	Now his mouth was watering for a slice of cold krill pizza,

but his hunger was nothing in the face of his abrupt humilia-

tion at seeing that Two-a-Day just didn't care. Not that Bobby

had thought of him as a friend, exactly, but he'd definitely

had something invested in the idea that Two-a-Day saw him

as someone, somebody with talent and initiative and a chance

of getting out of Barrytown. But Two-a-Day's eyes told him

he was nobody in particular, and a wilson at that .

	"Look here, my man," someone said, not Two-a-Day, and

Bobby looked up. Two other men flanked Two-a-Day on the

fat chrome and leather couch, both of them black. The one

who'd spoken wore a gray robe of some kind and antique

plastic-framed glasses. The frames were square and oversized

and seemed to lack lenses. The other man's shoulders were

twice as wide as Two-a-Day's, but he wore the kind of plain

black two-piece suit you saw on Japanese businessmen in

kinos. His spotless white French cuffs were closed with bright

rectangles of gold microcircuitry. "It's a shame we can't let

you have some downtime to heal up," the first man said,

"but we have a bad problem here." He paused, removed his

glasses, and massaged the bridge of his nose. "We require

your help."

	"Shit," Two-a-Day said He leaned forward, took a Chi-

nese cigarette from the pack on the table, lit it with a dull

pewter skull the size of a large lemon, then reached for a

glass of wine. The man with the glasses extended a lean

brown forefinger and touched Two-a-Day's wrist. Two-a-Day

released the glass and sat back, his face carefully blank. The

man smiled at Bobby. "Count Zero," he said, "they tell us

that's your handle."

	"That's right," Bobby managed, though it came out as a

kind of croak.

	"We need to know about the Virgin, Count." The man


	Bobby blinked at him.

	"Vy~j Mirak"and the glasses went back on' `Our Lady,

Virgin of Miracles. We know her' `and he made a sign with

his left hand' `as Ezili Freda."

	Bobby became aware of the fact that his mouth was open,

so he closed it. The three dark faces waited. Jackie and Rhea

were gone, but he hadn't seen them leave. A kind of panic

took him then, and he glanced frantically around at the strange

forest of stunted trees that surrounded them. The gro-light

tubes slanted at every angle, in any direction, pink-purple

jackstraws suspended in a green space of leaves. No walls

You couldn't see a wall at all. The couch and the battered

table sat in a sort of clearing, with a floor of raw concrete.

	"We know she came to you," the big man said, crossing

his legs carefully. He adjusted a perfect trouser-crease, and a

gold cufflink winked at Bobby. "We know, you understand?"

	"Two-a-Day tells me it was your first run," the other man

said. "That the truth?"

	Bobby nodded.

	"Then you are chosen of Legba," the man said, again

removing the empty frames," to have met Vy4~ Mirak." He


	Bobby's mouth was open again.

	"Legba," the man said, "master of roads and pathways,

the ba of communication . .

	Two-a-Day ground his cigarette out on the scarred wood,

and Bobby saw that his hand was shaking.

THEY AGREED TO MEET in the brasserie on the fifth sublevel of

the Napoleon Court complex. beneath the Louvre's glass

pyramid. It was a place they both knew, although it had had

no particular meaning for them. Alain had suggested it. and

she suspected him of having chosen it carefully. It was neu-

tral emotional ground; a familiar setting, yet one that was free

of memories. It was decorated in a style that dated from the

turn of the century: granite counters, black floor-to-ceiling

beams, wall-to-wall mirror, and the sort of Italian restaurant

furniture, in dark welded steel, that might have belonged to

any decade of the past hundred years. The tables were cov-

ered in gray linen with a fine black stripe, a pattern picked up

and repeated on the menu covers and matchbooks and the

aprons of the waiters.

	She wore the leather coat she'd bought in Brussels, a red

linen blouse, and new black cotton jeans. Andrea had pre-

tended not to notice the extreme care with which she'd dressed

for the meeting, and then had loaned her a simple single

strand of pearls, which set off the red blouse perfectly.

	He'd come early, she saw as she entered, and already the

table was littered with his things. He wore his favorite scarf,

the one they'd found together at the flea market the year

before, and looked, as he usually did, disheveled but per-

fectly at ease. The tattered leather attache case had disgorged

its contents across the little square of polished granite: 


notebooks, an unread copy of the month's controversial novel,

Gauloise nonfilters, a box of wooden matches, the leather-

bound agenda she'd bought for him at Browns

	"I thought you might not cOme," he said, smiling up at


	"Why would you have thought that?" she asked, a random

responsepathetic, she thoughtmasking the terror she now

felt, that she allowed herself at last to feel, which was fear 


some loss of self, of will and direction, fear of the love she

still felt. She took the other chair and seated herself as the

young waiter amved, a Spanish boy in a striped apron, to

take her order. She asked for Vichy water.

	"Nothing else?" Alain asked. The waiter hovered

"No, thank you."

	"I've been trying to reach you for weeks," he said, and

she knew that that was a lie, and yet, as she often had before,

she wondered if he was entirely conscious of the fact that he

was lying. Andrea maintained that men like Alain lied so

constantly, so passionately, that some basic distinction had

been lost. They were artists in their own right, Andrea said,

intent on restructuring reality, and the New Jerusalem was a

fine place indeed, free of overdrafts and disgruntled landlords

and the need to find someone to cover the evening's bill.

	"I didn't notice you trying to reach me when Gnass came

with the police," she said, hoping at least that he would

wince, but the boyish face was calm as ever, beneath clean

brown hair he habitually combed back with his fingers.

	"I'm sorry," he said, crushing out his Gauloise Because

she'd come to associate the smell of the dark French tobacco

with him, Paris had seemed full of his scent, his ghost, his

trail. "I was certain he'd never detect thethe nature of the

piece. You must understand: Once I had admitted to myself

how badly we needed the money, I knew that I must act

You, I knew, were far too idealistic. The gallery would have

folded in any case. If things had gone as planned, with

Gnass, we would be there now, and you would be happy.

Happy," he repeated, taking another cigarette from the pack

	She could only stare at him, feeling a kind of wonder, and

a sick revulsion at her desire to believe him.

	"You know," he said, taking a match from the red and

yellow box, "I've had difficulties with the police before.

When I was a student. Politics, of course." He struck the

match, tossed the box down, and lit the cigarette

	"Politics," she said, and suddenly felt like laughing "I

was unaware that there was a party for people like you. I

can't imagine what it might be called."

	"Marly," he said, lowering his voice, as he always did

when he wished to indicate intensity of feeling, "you know,

you must know, that I acted for you For us, if you will But

surely you know, you can feel, Marly, that I would never

deliberately hurt you, or place you in jeopardy." There was

no room on the crowded little table for her purse, so she'd

held it in her lap; now she was aware of her nails buried deep

in the soft thick leather

	"Never hurt me	The voice was her own, lost and

amazed, the voice of a child, and suddenly she was free, free

of need, desire, free of fear, and all that she felt for the

handsome face across the table was simple revulsion, and she

could only stare at him, this stranger she'd slept beside for

one year, in a tiny room behind a very small gallery in the

Rue Mauconseil. The waiter put her glass of Vichy down in

front of her.

	He must have taken her silence for the beginning of accep-

tance, the utter blankness of her expression for openness.

"What you don't understand"this, she remembered, was a

favorite opening' `is that men like Gnass exist, in some

sense, to support the arts To support us, Marly." He smiled

then, as though he laughed at himself, a jaunty, conspiratorial

smile that chilled her now. "I suppose, though, that I should

have credited the man with having at least the requisite sense

to hire his own Cornell expert, although my Cornell expert, I

assure you, was by far the more erudite of the two .

	How was she to get away? Stand, she told herself Turn.

Walk calmly back to the entrance Step through the door. Out

into the subdued glitter of Napoleon Court, where polished

marble overlay the Rue du Champ Fleuri, a fourteenth-cen-

tury street said to have been reserved primarily for prostitu-

tion. Anything, anything, only go, only leave, now, and be

away, away from him, walking blind, to lose herself in the

guidebook Paris she'd learned when she'd first come here.

	"But now." he was saying. "you can see that things have

worked out for the best. It's often like that, isn't it?" Again,

the smile, but this time it was boyish, slightly wistful, and

somehow, horribly, more intimate "We've lost the gallery,

but you've found employment, Marly. You have a job to do,

an interesting one, and I have the connections you'll need,

Marly. I know the people you'll need to meet, in order to find

your artist

	"My artist?" Covering her abrupt confusion with a sip of


	He opened his scarred attache and removed something flat,

a simple reflection hologram. She took it, grateful to have

something to do with her hands, and saw that it was a casual

shot of the box she'd seen in Virek's construct of Barcelona.

Someone was holding it forward A man's hands, not Alains,

and on one of them, a signet ring of some dark metal. The

background was lost. Only the box, and the hands

	"Alain," she said, "where did you get this?" Looking up

to meet brown eyes filled with a temble childlike triumph

	It s going to cost someone a very great deal to find out

He ground out his cigarette and stood. "Excuse me." He

walked away, headed in the direction of the restrooms. As he

vanished, behind mirrors and black steel beams, she dropped

the hologram, reached across the table, and flipped back the

lid of his attache. There was nothing there, only a blue elastic

band and some crumbs of tobacco

	"May I bring you something else? More Vichy, perhaps?"

The waiter stood beside her.

	She looked up at him, struck suddenly by a sense of

familiarity. The lean dark face

	"He's wearing a broadcast unit," the waiter said. "He's

armed as well. I was the bellman in Brussels. Give him what

he wants. Remember that the money means nothing to you."

He took her glass and placed it carefully on his tray. "And,

very likely, it will destroy him."

	When Alain returned, he was smiling. "Now, darling," he

said reaching for his cigarettes, "we can do business."

	Marly smiled back and nodded

HE ALLOWED HIMSELF three hours of sleep, finally, in the

windowless bunker where the point tekm had established the

command post. He'd met the rest of the site team Ramirez

was slight, nervous, perpetually wired on his own skill as a

console jockey; they were depending on him, along with

Jaylene Slide on the offshore rig, to monitor cyberspace

around the grid sector that held the heavily iced banks of

Maas Biolabs, if Maas became aware of them, at the last

moment, he might be able to provide some warning. He was

also charged with relaying the medical data from the surgery

to the offshore rig, a complex procedure if they were to keep

it from Maas. The line out ran to a phone booth in the middle

of nowhere Once past that booth, he and Jaylene were on

their own in the matrix. If they blew it, Maas could backtrack

and pinpoint the site. And then there was Nathan. the repair-

man, whose real job consisted of watching over the gear in

the bunker. If some part of their system went down, there was

at least a chance he could fix it. Nathan belonged to the

species that had produced Oakey and a thousand others Turner

had worked with over the years, maverick techs who liked

earning danger money and had proven they could keep their

mouths shut The othersCompton, Teddy, Costa, and Davis

were Just expensive muscle, mercs, the sort of men you hired

for a job like this. For their benefit, he'd taken particular 


in questioning Sutcliffe about the arrangements for clear-out.

He'd explained where the copters would come in, the order of

pickup, and precisely how and when they would be paid.

	Then he'd told them to leave him alone in the bunker, and

ordered Webber to wake him in three hours.

	The place had been either a pump house or some sort of

nexus for electrical wiring. The stumps of plastic tubing that

protruded from the walls might have been conduit or sewage

line, the room provided no evidence that any of them had ever

been connected to anything. The ceiling, a single slab of

poured concrete, was too low to allow him to stand, and there

was a dry, dusty smell that wasn't entirely unpleasant The

team had swept the place before they brought in the tables

and the equipment, but there were still a few yellow flakes of

newsprint on the floor, that crumbled when he touched them.

He made out letters, sometimes an entire word.

	Each of the folding metal camp tables had been set up

along a wall, forming an L, each arm supporting an array of

extraordinarily sophisticated communications gear. The best,

he thought, that Hosaka had been able to obtain

	He hunched his way carefully along the length of each

table, tapping each console, each black box, lightly as he

went There was a heavily modified military side-band trans-

ceiver rigged for squirt transmission. This would be their link

in case Ramirez and Jaylene flubbed the data transfer. The

squirts were prerecorded, elaborate technical fictions encoded

by Hosaka's cryptographers. The content of a given squirt

was meaningless, but the sequence in which they were broad-

cast would convey simple messages. Sequence B/C/A would

inform Hosaka of Mitchell's ariival; F/D would indicate his

departure from the site, while F/G would signal his death and

the concurrent closure of the operation. Turner tapped the

side-band rig again, frowning He wasn't pleased with

Sutcliffe's arrangements there. If the extraction was blown, it

wasn't likely they'd get out, let alone get out clean, and

Webber had quietly informed him that, in the event of trou-

ble, she'd been ordered to use a hand-held antitank rocket on

the medicals in their miniature surgery. They know," she

said. "You can bet they're getting paid for it, too." The rest

of them were depending on the helicopters, which were based

near Tucson. Turner assumed that Maas, if alerted, would

easily take them out as they came in. When he'd objected to

Sutcliffe, the Australian had only shrugged: "It isn't the way

I'd set it up under the best circumstances, mate. but we're all

in here on short notice, aren't we?"

	Beside the transceiver was an elaborate Sony biomonitor,

linked directly with the surgical pod and charged with the

medical history recorded in Mitchell's biosoft dossier. The

medicals, when the time came, would access the defector's

history; simultaneously, the procedures they carried out in the

pod would be fed back to the Sony and collated, ready for

Ramirez to ice them and shift them out into cyberspace,

where Jaylene Slide would be riding shotgun from her seat in

the oil rig. If it all went smoothly, the medical update would

be waiting in Hosaka's Mexico City compound when Turner

brought him in in the jet. Turner had never seen anything

quite like the Sony, but he supposed the Dutchman would

have had something very similar in his Singapore clinic The

thought brought his hand to his bare chest, where he uncon-

sciously traced the vanished line of a graft scar.

	The second table supported the cyberspace gear. The deck

was identical with the one he'd seen on the oil rig, a Maas-

Neotek prototype. The deck configuration was standard, but

Conroy had said that it was built up from the new biochips.

There was a fist-sized lump of pale pink plastique squashed

on top of the console; someone, perhaps Ramirez, had thumbed

in twin depressions for eyes and a crude curve of idiot grin.

Two wires, one blue, the other yellow, ran from the thing's

pink forehead to one of the black, gaping tubes that protruded

from the wall behind the console. Another of Webber's chores.

if there seemed any danger of the site being overrun. Turner

eyed the wires, frowning; a charge that size, in that small,

enclosed space. guaranteed death for anyone in the bunker.

	His shoulders aching, the back of his head brushing the

rough concrete of the ceiling, he continued his inspection

The rest of the table was taken up with the deck's peripherals,

a series of black boxes positioned with obsessive precision.

He suspected that each unit was a certain specific distance

from its neighbor, and they were perfectly aligned. Ramirez

himself would have set them out, and Turner was certain that

if he touched one, moved it the least fraction, the jockey

would know. He'd seen that same neurotic touch before, in

other console men, and it told him nothing about Ramirez.

He'd watched other jockeys who reversed the trait, deliber-

ately tangling their gear in a rat's nest of leads and cables,

who were temfied of tidiness and plastered their consoles

with decals of dice and screaming skulls There was no way

to tell, he thought; either Ramirez was good, or else they all

might be dead soon.

	At the far end of the table were five Telefunken ear-bead

transceivers with adhesive throat mikes, still sealed in 


ual bubble packs. During the crucial phase of the defection,

which Turner took to be the twenty minutes on either side of

Mitchell's amval, he, Ramirez, Sutcliffe, Webber, and Lynch

would be linked, although the use of the transceivers was to

be kept to an absolute minimum

	Behind the Telefunkens was an unmarked plastic carton

that contained twenty Swedish catalytic handwarmers, smooth

flat oblongs of stainless steel, each in its own drawstring bag

of Christmas-red flannelette. `You're a clever bastard," he

said to the carton. "I might have thought that one up my-


	He slept on a corrugated foam hiker's pad on the floor of

the command post, using the parka as a blanket. Conroy had

been nght about the desert night, but the concrete seemed to

hold the day's heat He left his fatigues and shoes on; Webber

had advised him to shake his shoes and clothing out whenever

he dressed. "Scorpions," she'd say, "they like sweat, any

kind of moisture " He removed the Smith & Wesson from

the nylon holster before he lay down, carefully positioning it

beside the foam pad. He left the two battery lanterns on, and

closed his eyes.

	And slid into a shallow sea of dream, images tossing past,

fragments of Mitchell's dossier melding with bits of his own

life. He and Mitchell drove a bus through a cascade of plate

glass, into the lobby of a Marrakech hotel. The scientist

whooped as he pressed the button that detonated the two

dozen canisters of CN taped along the flanks of the vehicle,

and Oakey was there, too, offenng him whiskey from a

bottle, and yellow Peruvian cocaine on a round, plastic-

rimmed mirror he'd last seen in Allison's purse. He thought

he saw Allison somewhere beyond the windows of the bus,

choking in the clouds of gas, and he tried to tell Oakey, tried

to point her out, but the glass was plastered with Mexican

holograms of saints, postcards of the Virgin, and Oakey was

holding up something smooth and round, a globe of pink

crystal, and he saw a spider crouched at its core, a spider

made of quicksilver, but Mitchell was laughing, his teeth full

of blood, and extending his open palm to offer Turner the

gray biosoft. Turner saw that the dossier was a brain, grayish

pink and alive beneath a wet clear membrane, pulsing softly

in Mitchell's hand, and then he tumbled over some submarine

ledge of dream and settled smoothly down into a night with

no stars at all.

	Webber woke him, her hard features framed in the square

doorway, her shoulders draped in the heavy military blanket

taped across the entrance. "Got your three hours The medi-

cals are up, if you want to talk to `em." She withdrew, her

boots crunching gravel.

	Hosaka's medics were waiting beside the self-contained

neurosurgery. Under a desert dawn they looked as though

they'd just stepped from some kind of matter transmitter in

their fashionably rumpled Ginza casuals. One of the men was

bundled in an oversized Mexican handknit, the sort of belted

cardigan Turner had seen tourists wear in Mexico City. The

other two wore expensive-looking insulated ski jackets against

the desert cold. The men were a head shorter than the Ko-

rean, a slender woman with strong, archaic features and a

birdlike ruff of red-tinged hair that made Turner think of

raptors. Conroy had said that the two were company men,

and Turner could see it easily; only the woman had the

attitude. the stance that belonged to Turner's world, and she

was an outlaw, a black medic She'd be right at home with

the Dutchman, he thought.

	"I'm Turner," he said. "I'm in charge here."

	"You don't need our names," the woman said as the two

Hosaka men bowed automatically. They exchanged glances,

looked at Turner, then looked back to the Korean

	"No," Turner said, "it isn't necessary."

	"Why are we still denied access to the patient's medical

data?" the Korean aked.

	"Security," Turner said, the answer very nearly an auto-

matic response. In fact, he could see no reason to prevent

them from studying Mitchell's records.

	The woman shrugged, turned away, her face hidden by the

upturned collar of her insulated jacket.

	"Would you like to inspect the surgery?" the man in the

bulky cardigan asked, his face polite and alert, a perfect

corporate mask.

	"No," Turner said. "We'll be moving you out to the lot

twenty minutes prior to his arrival. We'll take the wheels off,

level you with jacks. The sewage link will be disconnected. I

want you fully operational five minutes after we set you


	"There will be no problem," the other man said, smiling.

	"Now I want you to tell me what you're going to be doing

in there, what you'll do to him and how it might affect him."

	"You don't know?" the woman asked, sharply, turning

back to face him.

	"I said that I wanted you to tell me," Turner said.

	"We'll conduct an immediate scan for lethal implants,"

the man in the cardigan said.

	"Cortex charges, that sort of thing?"

	"I doubt," said the other man, . `that we will encounter

anything so crude, but yes, we will be scanning for the full

range of lethal devices. Simultaneously, we'll run a full blood

screen. We understand that his current employers deal in

extremely sophisticated biochemical systems. It would seem

possible that the greatest danger would lie in that direc-


	"It's currently quite fashionable to equip top employees

with modified insulin-pump subdermals," his partner broke

in. `The subject's system can be tricked into an artificial

reliance on certain synthetic enzyme analogs. Unless the sub-

dermal is recharged at regular intervals, withdrawal from the

sourcethe employercan result in trauma."

	"We are prepared to deal with that as well," said the


	"Neither of you are even remotely prepared to deal with

what I suspect we will encounter," the black medic said, her

voice as cold as the wind that blew out of the east now.

Turner heard sand hissing across the rusted sheet of steel

above them.

	"You," Turner said to her, "come with me." Then he

turned, without looking back, and walked away. It was possi-

ble that she might not obey his command, in which case he'd

lose face with the other two, but it seemed the right move.

When he was ten meters from the surgery pod, he halted. He

heard her feet on the gravel.

	"What do you know?" he asked without turning.

"Perhaps no more than you do," she said, "perhaps more.

"More than your colleagues, obviously."

	"They are extremely talented men. They are also .


	"And you are not."

	"Neither are you, mercenary. I was hired out of the finest

unlicensed clinic in Chiba for this I was given a great deal of

material to study in preparation for my meeting with this

	illustrious patient. The black clinics of Chiba are the cutting

edge of medicine: not even Hosaka could know that my

	position in black medicine would allow me to guess what it is

that your defector carries in his head. The street tries to find

its own uses for things, Mr. Turner Already, several times,

I've been hired to attempt the removal of these new implants.

A certain amount of advanced Maas biocircuitry has found its

way into the market. These attempts at implanting are a

logical step. I suspect Maas may leak these things deliberately

	"Then explain it to me

	"I don't think I could," she said, and there was a strange

hint of resignation in her voice. "I told you, I've seen it. I

didn't say that I understood it." Fingertips suddenly brushed

the skin beside his skull jack "This, compared with biochip

implants, is like a wooden staff beside a myoelectric limb."

	"But will it be life-threatening, in his case?"

	"Oh, no," she said, withdrawing her hand, "not for him

 And then he heard her trudging back toward the sur-


	Conroy sent a runner in with the software package that

would allow Turner to pilot the jet that would carry Mitchell

to Hosaka's Mexico City compound. The runner was a wild-

eyed, sun-blackened man Lynch called Hariy, a rope-muscled

apparition who came cycling in from the direction of Tucson

on a sand-scoured bike with balding lug tires and bone-yellow

rawhide laced around its handlebars. Lynch led Harry across

the parking lot. Harry was singing to himself, a strange sound

in the enforced quiet of the site, and his song, if you could

call it that, was like someone randomly tuning a broken radio

up and down midnight miles of dial, bringing in gospel shouts

and snatches of twenty years of international pop. Harry had

his bike slung across one burnt, bird-thin shoulder

	"Hariy's got something for you from Tucson," Lynch


	"You two know each other?" Turner asked, looking at

Lynch "Maybe have a friend in common?"

	"What's that supposed to mean?" Lynch asked.

Turner held his stare. "You know his name."

"He told me his fucking name, Turner."

	"Name's Harry," the burnt man said. He tossed the bicy-

cle down on a clump of brush. He smiled vacantly, exposing

badly spaced, eroded teeth. His bare chest was filmed with

sweat and dust, and hung with loops of fine steel chain,

rawhide, bits of animal horn and fur, brass cartridge casings,

copper coins worn smooth and faceless with use, and a small

pouch made of soft brown leather.

	Turner looked at the assortment of things strung across the

skinny chest and reached out, flipping a crooked bit of bent

gristle suspended from a length of braided string. "What the

hell is that, Harry?"

	"That's a coon's pecker," Harry said. "Coon's got him a

jointed bone in his pecker Not many as know that"

	"You ever meet my friend Lynch before, Hariy?"

	Harry blinked.

	"He had the passwords," Lynch said. "There's an ur-

gency hierarchy. He knew the top. He told me his name. Do

you need me here, or can I get back to work?"

"Go," Turner said.

	When Lynch was out of earshot, Harry began to work at

the thongs that sealed the leather pouch. "You shouldn't be

harsh with the boy," he said. "He's really very good. I

actually didn't see him until he had that fletcher up against

my neck." He opened the pouch and fished delicately inside.

"Tell Conroy I've got him pegged."

"Sorry," Harry said, extracting a folded sheet of yellow

notebook paper from his pouch. "You've got who pegged?"

He handed it to Turner; there was something inside.

	"Lynch. He's Conroy's bumboy on the site. Tell him." He

unfolded the paper and removed the fat military microsoft.

There was a note in blue capitals: BREAK A LEG, ASSHOLE SEE


	"Do you really want me to tell him that?"

"Tell him."

	"You're the boss."

	"You fucking know it," Turner said, crumpling the paper

and thrusting it into Harry's left armpit. Harry smiled, sweetly

and vacantly, and the intelligence that had risen in him settled

again, like some aquatic beast sinking effortlessly down into a

smooth sea of sun-addled vapidity. Turner stared into his

eyes. cracked yellow opal, and saw nothing there but sun and

the broken highway. A hand with missing joints came up to

scratch absently at a week's growth of beard. "Now," Turner

said. Harry turned, pulled his bike up from the tangle of

brush, shouldered it with a grunt, and began to make his way

back across the ruined parking lot. His oversized, tattered

khaki shorts flapped as he went, and his collection of chains

rattled softly.

	Sutcliffe whistled from a rise twenty meters away, held up

a roll of orange surveyor's tape. It was time to start laying 


Mitchell's landing strip. They'd have to work quickly, before

the sun was too high, and still it was going to be hot.

 "So," Webber said, "he's coming in by air." She spat

brown juice on a yellowed cactus. Her cheek was packed with

Copenhagen snuff

"You got it," Turner said. He sat beside her on a ledge of

buff shale. They were watching Lynch and Nathan clear the

strip he and Sutcliffe had laid out with the orange tape The

tape marked out a rectangle fodr meters wide and twenty

long Lynch carried a length of rusted I-beam to the tape and

heaved it over. Something scurried away through the brush as

the beam rang on concrete.

~`They can see that tape, if they want to," Webber said,

wiping her lips with the back of her hand. "Read the head-

lines on your morning fax, if they want to."

  "I know," Turner said, "but if they don't know we're

here already, I don't think they're going to. And you couldn't

see it from the highway." He adjusted the black nylon cap

Ramirez had given him, pulling the long bill down until it

touched his sunglasses. "Anyway, we're just moving the

heavy stuff, the things that could tear a leg off. It isn't 

going	to look like anything, not from orbit."

	 "No," Webber agreed, her seamed face impassive beneath

her sunglasses He could smell her sweat from where she sat,

sharp and animal.

	"What the hell do you do, Webber, when you aren't doing

this?" He looked at her.

	`Probably a hell of a lot more than you do," she said.

"Part of the time I breed dogs." She took a knife from her

boot and began to strop it patiently on her sole, flipping it

smoothly with each stroke, like a Mexican barber sharpening

a razor. "And I fish. Trout."

	"You have people, in New Mexico?"

	"Probably more than you've got," she said flatly. "I

figure the ones like you and Sutcliffe, you aren't from any

place at all. This is where you live, isn't it, Turner? On the

site, today, the day your boy comes out. Right?" She tested

the blade against the ball of her thumb, then slid it back into

its sheath.

"But you have people? You got a man to go back to?"

	"A woman, you want to know," she said. "Know any-

thing about breeding dogs?"

	"No," he said

	"I didn't think so." She squinted at him. "We got a kid,

too. Ours. She carried it."

"DNA splice?"

She nodded.

	"That's expensive," he said.

	"You know it; wouldn't be here if we didn't need to pay it

off. But she's beautiful."

	"Your woman?"

"Our kid."

As SHE WALKED FROM the Louvre, she seemed to sense some

articulated structure shifting to accommodate her course through

the city. The waiter would be merely a part of the thing, one

limb, a delicate probe or palp. The whole would be larger,

much larger. How could she have imagined that it would be

possible to live, to move, in the unnatural field of Virek's

wealth without suffering distortion? Virek had taken her up.

in all her misery, and had rotated her through the monstrous,

invisible stresses of his money, and she had been changed. Of

course, she thought, of course: It moves around me con-

stantly, watchful and invisible, the vast and subtle mechanism

of Herr Virek's surveillance.

	Eventually she found herself on the pavement below the

terrace of the Blanc. It seemed as good a place as any. A

month before, she would have avoided it; she'd spent too

many evenings with Alain there. Now, feeling that she had

been freed, she decided to begin the process of rediscovering

her own Paris by choosing a table at the Blanc She took one

near a side screen. She asked a waiter for a cognac, and

shivered, watching the Paris traffic flow past, perpetual river

of steel and glass, while all around her, at other tables,

strangers ate and smiled, drank and argued, said bitter good-

byes or swore private fealties to an afternoon's feeling.

	Butshe smiledshe was a part of it all. Something in her

was waking from a long and stifled sleep, brought back into

the light in the instant she'd fully opened her eyes to Alain's

viciousness and her own desperate need to continue loving

him. But that need was fading, even as she sat here. The

shabbiness of his lies, somehow, had broken the chains of her

depression. She could see no logic to it, because she had

known, in some part of herself, and long before the business

wih Gnass, exactly what it was that Alain did in the world,

and that had made no difference to her love. In the face of

this new feeling, however, she would forgo logic. It was

enough, to be here, alive, at a table in the Blanc, and to

imagine all around her the intricate machine that she now

knew Virek had deployed.

	Ironies, she thought, seeing the young waiter from Napo-

leon Court step up onto the terrace. He wore the dark trousers

he had worked in, but the apron had been replaced with a

blue windbreaker. Dark hair fell across his forehead in a

smooth wing. He came toward her, smiling, confident, know-

ing that she wouldn't run. There was something in her then

that wanted very badly to run, but she knew that she wouldn't.

Irony, she told herself: As I luxuriate in the discovery that I

am no special sponge for sorrow, but merely another fallible

animal in this stone maze of a city, I come simultaneously to

see that I am the focus of some vast device fueled by an

obscure desire.

	"My name is Paco," he said, pulling out the white-painted

iron chair opposite her own

	"You were the child, the boy, in the park .

	"A long time ago, yes." He sat. "Sefior has preserved the

image of my childhood."

	"I have been thinking, about your Sefior." She didn't look

at him, but at the passing cars, cooling her eyes in the flow of

traffic, the colors of polycarbon and painted steel. "A man

like Virek is incapable of divesting himself of his wealth. His

money has a life of its own. Perhaps a will of its own. He

implied as much when we met."

	"You are a philosopher."

	"I'm a tool, Paco. I'm the most recent tip for a very old

machine in the hands of a very old man, who wishes to pene-

trate something and has so far f~led to do so. Your em-

ployer fumbles through a thousand tools and somehow chooses

me .

	"You are a poet as well!"

	She laughed, taking her eyes from the traffic; he was

grinning, his mouth bracketed in deep vertical grooves. "While

I walked here, I imagined a structure, a machine so large that

I am incapable of seeing it. A machine that surrounds me,

anticipating my every step."

	"And you are an egotist as well?"

"Am I?"

	"Perhaps not. Certainly, you are observed. We watch, and

it is well that we do. Your friend in the brasserie, we watch

him as well. Unfortunately, we've been unable to determine

where he obtained the hologram he showed you. Very likely,

he already had it when he began to phone your friend's

number Someone got to him, do you understand? Someone

has put him in your way. Don't you think that this is most

intriguing? Doesn't it pique the philosopher in you?"

"Yes, I suppose it does I took the advice you gave me, in

the brasserie, and agreed to his price.

"Then he will double it." Paco smiled.

	"Which is of no importance to me, as you pointed out. He

has agreed to contact me tomorrowi I assume that you can

arrange the delivery of the money. He asked for cash

	"Cash"he rolled his eyes"how risqmi! But, yes, I

can. And I know the details as well. We were monitoring the

conversation. Not difficult, as he was helpful enough to

broadcast it himself, from a bead microphone. We were

anxious to learn who that broadcast was intended for, but we

doubt he knows that himself."

	"It was unlike him," she said, frowning, "to excuse him-

self, to break off that way, before he had made his demands.

He fancies he has a flair for the dramatic moment

	"He had no choice," Paco said "We engineered what he

took to be a failure of the bead's power source It required a

trip to the hommes. then. He said very nasty things about

you, alone in the cubicle."

	She gestured to her empty glass as a waiter passed. "I still

find it difficult to see my part in this, my value. To Virek, I


	"Don't ask me. You are the philosopher, here. I merely

execute Sefior's orders, to the best of my ability."

	"Would you like a brandy, Paco? Or perhaps some coffee?"

	"The French," he said, with great conviction, "know

nothing about coffee."

"MAYBE YOU CAN RUN that one by me again," Bobby said,

around a mouthful of rice and eggs "I thought you already

said it's not a religion."

	Beauvoir removed his eyeglass frames and sighted down

one of the earpieces. "That wasn't what I said. I said you

didn't have to worry about it, is all, whether it's a religion 


not It's Just a structure. Lets you an' me discuss some things

that are happening, otherwise we might not have words for it,


	"But you talk like these, whatchacallem, lows, are"

	"Loa," Beauvoir corrected, tossing his glasses down on

the table He sighed, dug one of the Chinese cigarettes from

Two-a-Day's pack, and lit it with the pewter skull. "Plural's

same as the singular." He inhaled deeply, blew out twin

streams of smoke through arched nostrils. "You think reli-

gion, what are you thinking about, exactly?"

	"Well, my mother's sister, she's a Scientologist, real ortho-

dox, you know? And there's this woman across the hall, she's

Catholic. My old lady' `he paused, the food gone tasteless

in his mouth-' `she'd put these holograms up in my room

sometimes, Jesus or Hubbard or some shit. I guess I think

about that."

	"Vodou isn't like that," Beauvoir said. "It isn't concerned

with notions of salvation and transcendence. What it's about

is getting things done. You follow me? In our system, there

are many gods. spirits Part of one big family, with all the

virtues, all the vices. There's a ritual tradition of communal

manifestation, understand? Vodou says, there's God, sure,

Gran Met, but He's big, too big and too far away to worry

Himself if your ass is poor, or you can't get laid. Come on,

man, you know how this works, it's street religion, came out

of a dirt-poor place a million years ago. Vodou's like the

street. Some duster chops out your sister, you don't go camp

on the Yakuza's doorstep, do you? No way. You go to

somebody, though, who can get the thing done. Right?"

Bobby nodded, chewing thoughtfully. Another derm and

two glasses of the red wine had helped a lot, and the big man

had taken Two-a-Day for a walk through the trees and the

fluorescent jackstraws, leaving Bobby with Beauvoir. Then

Jackie had shown up all cheerful, with a big bowl of this

eggs-and-rice stuff, which wasn't bad at all, and as she'd put

it down on the table in front of him, she'd pressed one of her

tits against his shoulder.

  "So," Beauvoir said, "we are' concerned with getting

things done. If you want, we're concerned with systems. And

so are you, or at least you want to be, or else you wouldn't be

a cowboy and you wouldn't have a handle, right?" He dunked

what was left of the cigarette in a fingerprinted glass half 

full of red wine. "Looks like Two-a-Day was about to get down

to serious partying, about the time the shit hit the fan

  "What shit's that?" Bobby asked, wiping his mouth with

the back of his hand.

  "You," Beauvoir said, frowning. "Not that any of it is

your fault. As much as Two-a-Day wants to make out that's

the case."

  "He does? He seems pretty tense now Real bitchy, too."

  "Exactly. You got it Tense Scared shitless is more like


  "So how come?"

  "Well, you see, things aren't exactly what they seem, with

Two-a-Day. I mean, yeah, he actually does the kind of shit

you've known him to. hustles hot software to the caspers,

pardon me' `he grinned-' `down in Barrytown, but his main

shot, I mean the man's real ambitions, you understand, lie

elsewhere." Beauvoir picked up a wilted canapd, regarded it

with evident suspicion, and flicked it over the table, into the

trees. "His thing, you understand, is dicking around for a

couple of bigtime Sprawl oungans."

	Bobby nodded blankly.

"Dudes who serve with both hands"


	`You lost me there."

	"We're talking a professional priesthood here, you want to

call it that. Otherwise, just imagine a couple of major dudes

console cowboys, among other thingswho make it their

business to get things done for people. `To serve with both

hands' is an expression we have, sort of means they work

both ends. White and black, got me?"


Bobby swallowed, then shook his head

	"Sorcerers," Beauvoir said "Never mind. Bad dudes, big

money, that's all you need to know Two-a-Day, he acts like

an up-line joeboy for these people. Sometimes he finds some-

thing they might be interested in, he downloads it on `em,

collects a few favors later. Maybe he collects a dozen too

many favors, they download something on him. Not quite the

same proposition, you follow me? Say they get something

they think has potential, but it scares them. These characters

tend to a certain conservatism, you see? No? Well, you'll


	Bobby nodded.

	"The kind of software someone like you would rent from

Two-a-Day, that's nothin'. I mean, it'll work, but it's nothing

anybody heavy would ever bother with. You've seen a lot of

cowboy kinos, right? Well, the stuff they make up for those

things isn't much, compared with the kind of shit a real heavy

operator can front. Particularly when it comes to icebreakers

Heavy icebreakers are kind of funny to deal in, even for the

big boys You know why? Because ice, all the really hard

stuff, the walls around every major store of data in the

matrix, is always the produce of an Al, an ariificial intelli-

gence Nothing else is fast enough to weave good ice and

constantly alter and upgrade it So when a really powerful

icebreaker shows up on the black market, there are already a

couple of very dicey factors in play. Like, for starts, where

did the product come from? Nine times out of ten, it came

from an Al, and Al's are constantly screened, mainly by the

Turing people, to make sure they don't get too smart. So

maybe you'll get the Turing machine after your ass, because

maybe an Al somewhere wants to augment its private cash

flow Some Al's have citizenship, right? Another thing you

have to watch out for, maybe it's a military icebreaker, and

that's bad heat, too, or maybe it's taken a walk out of some

zaibatsu's industrial espionage arm, and you don't want that

either You takin' this shit in, Bobby?"

	Bobby nodded. He felt like he'd been waiting all his life to

hear Beauvoir explain the workings of a world whose exis-

tence he'd only guessed at before.

	"Still, an icebreaker that'll really cut is worth mega, I

mean beaucoup. So maybe you're Mr. Big in the market,

someone offers you this thing, and you don't want to just

tell `em to take a walk So you buy it. You buy it, real quiet,

but you don't slot it, no. What do you do with it? You take it

home, have your tech fix it up so that it looks real average

Like you have it set up in a format like this' `and he tapped

a stack of software in front of him' `and you take it to your

joeboy, who owes you some favors, as usual.

	"Wait a sec," Bobby said. "I don't think I like"

	"Good. That means you're getting smart, or anyway smarter.

Because that's what they did. They brought it out here to your

friendly `wareman, Mr. Two-a-Day, and they told him their

problem. `Ace,' they say, `we want to check this shit out,

test-drive it, but no way we gonna do it ourselves It's down

to you, boy.' So, in the way of things, what's Two-a-Day

gonna do with it? Is he gonna slot it? No way at all. He just

does the same damn thing the big boys did to him, `cept he

isn't even going to bother telling the guy he's going to do it

to. What he does, he picks a base out in the Midwest that's

full of tax-dodge programs and yen-laundry flowcharts for

some whorehouse in Kansas City, and everybody who didn't

just fall off a tree knows that the motherfucker is eyeball-deep

in ice, black ice, totally lethal feedback programs There isn't

a cowboy in the Sprawl or out who'd mess with that base.

first, because it's dripping with defenses; second, because the

stuff inside isn't worth anything to anybody but the IRS, and

they're probably already on the owner's take

	"Hey," Bobby said, "lemme get this straight"

	"I'm giving it to you straight, white boy! He picked out

that base, then he ran down his list of hotdoggers, ambitious

punks from over in Barrytown, wilsons dumb enough to run a

program they'd never seen before against a base that some

joker like Two-a-Day fingered for them and told them was an

easy make. And who's he pick? He picks somebody new to

the game, natch, somebody who doesn't even know where he

lives, doesn't even have his number, and he says, here, my

man, you take this home and make yourself some money.

You get anything good, Ill fence it for you!" Beauvoir's

eyes were wide, he wasn't smiling. "Sound like anybody you

know, man, or maybe you try not to hang out with losers?"

	"You mean he knew I was going to get killed if I plugged

into that base?"

	"No, Bobby, but he knew it was a possibility if the

package didn't work. What he mainly wanted was to watch

you try. Which he didn't bother to do himself, just put a

couple of cowboys on it. It could've gone a couple different

ways. Say, if that icebreaker had done its number on the

black ice, you'd have gotten in, found a bunch of figures that

meant dick to you, you'd have gotten back out, maybe with-

out leaving any trace at all. Well, you'd have come back to

Leon's and told Two-a-Day that he'd fingered the wrong

data. Oh, he'd have been real apologetic, for sure, and you'd

have gotten a new target and a new icebreaker, and he'd have

taken the first one back to the Sprawl and said it looked okay.

Meanwhile, he'd have an eye cocked in your direction, just to

monitor your health, make sure nobody came looking for the

icebreaker they might've heard you'd used. Another way it

might have gone, the way it nearly did go, something could've

been funny with the icebreaker, the ice could've fned you

dead, and one of those cowboys would've had to break into

your momma's place and get that software back before any-

body found your body."

	`I dunno, Beauvoir, that's pretty fucking hard to

	"Hard my ass. Life is hard. I mean, we're talkin' biz, you

know?" Beauvoir regarded him with some seventy, the plas-

tic frames far down his slender nose. He was lighter than

either Two-a-Day or the big man, the color of coffee with

only a little whitener, his forehead high and smooth beneath

close-cropped black fizz. He looked skinny, under his gray

sharkskin robe, and Bobby didn't really find him threatening

at all. "But our problem, the reason we're here, the reason

you're here, is to figure out what did happen. And that's

something else."

	"But you mean he set me up, Two-a-Day set me up so I'd

get my ass killed?" Bobby was still in the St Mary's Mater-

nity wheelchair, although he no longer felt like he needed it.

"And he's in deep shit with these guys, these heavies from

the Sprawl?"

	"You got it now."

	"And that's why he was acting that way, like he doesn't

give a shit, or maybe hates my guts, right? And he's real


	Beauvoir nodded.

	"And," Bobby said, suddenly seeing what Two-a-Day was

really pissed about, and why he was scared, "it's because I

got my ass jumped, down by Big Playground, and those Lobe

fucks npped me for my deck! And their software, it was still

in my deck!" He leaned forward, excited at having put it

together. "And these guys, it's like they'll kill him or some-

thing, unless he gets it back for them, right?"

	"I can tell you watch a lot of kino," Beauvoir said, "but

that's about the size of it, definitely."

	"Right," Bobby said, settling back in the wheelchair and

putting his bare feet up on the edge of the table. "Well,

Beauvoir, who are these guys? Whatchacallem, hoonguns?

Sorcerers, you said? What the fuck's that supposed to mean?"

	"Well, Bobby," Beauvoir said~ "I'm one, and the big

fellayou can call him Lucashe's the other."

	"You've probably seen one of these before," Beauvoir

said, as the man he called Lucas put the projection tank down

on the table, having methodically cleared a space for it.

	`In school," Bobby said.

	"You go to school, man?" Two-a-Day snapped "Why the

fuck didn't you stay there?" He'd been chainsmoking since

he came back with Lucas, and seemed in worse shape than

he'd been in before

	"Shut up, Two-a-Day," Beauvoir said. "Little education

might do you some good.~'

	"They used one to teach us our way around in the matnx,

how to access stuff from the print library, like that

	"Well, then," Lucas said, straightening up and brushing

nonexistent dust from his big pink palms, "did you ever use

it for that, to access print books?" He'd removed his immac-

ulate black suit coat, his spotless white shirt was traversed by

a pair of slender maroon suspenders, and he'd loosened the

knot of his plain black tie.

	"I don't read too well," Bobby said. "I mean, I can, but

it's work. But yeah, I did I looked at some real old books on

the matnx and stuff"

	"I thought you had," Lucas said, jacking some kind of

small deck into the console that formed the base of the tank.

"Count Zero. Count zero interrupt. Old programmer talk

He passed the deck to Beauvoir, who began to tap commands

into it.

	Complex geometric forms began to click into place in the

tank, aligned with the nearly invisible planes of a three-dimen-

sional grid. Beauvoir was sketching in the cyberspace coordi-

nates for Barrytown, Bobby saw. "We'll call you this blue

pyramid, Bobby. There you are." A blue pyramid began to

pulse softly at the very center of the tank. "Now we'll show

you what Two-a-Day's cowboys saw, the ones who were

watching you. From now on, you're seeing a recording " An

interrupted line of blue light extruded from the pyramid,

following a grid line Bobby watched, seeing himself alone in

his mother's living room, the Ono-Sendai on his lap, the

curtains drawn, his fingers moving across the deck

	"Icebreaker on its way," Beauvoir said. The line of blue

dots reached the wall of the tank. Beauvoir tapped the deck,

and the coordinates changed. A new set of geometrics re-

placed the first arrangement Bobby recognized the cluster of

orange rectangles centered in the grid. "That's it," he said.

	The blue line progressed from the edge of the tank, headed

for the orange base. Faint planes of ghost-orange flickered

around the rectangles, shifting and strobing, as the line grew


	"You can see something's wrong right there." Lucas said.

"That's their ice, and it was already hip to you. Rumbled you

before you even got a lock."

	As the line of blue dots touched the shifting orange plane,

it was surrounded by a translucent orange tube of slightly

greater diameter The tube began to lengthen, traveling back,

along the line, until it reached the wall of the tank

	"Meanwhile," Beauvoir said, "back home in Barry-

town     He tapped the deck again and now Bobby's blue

pyramid was in the center. Bobby watched as the orange tube

emerged from the wall of the projection tank, still following

the blue line, and smoothly approached the pyramid. "Now

at this point, you were due to start doing some serious dying,

cowboy." The tube reached the pyramid; triangular orange

planes snapped up, walling it in. Beauvoir froze the projection.

	"Now," Lucas said, "when Two-a-Day's hired help, who

are all in all a pair of tough and experienced console jockeys,

when they saw what you are about to see, my man, they

decided that their deck was due for that big overhaul in the

sky. Being pros, they had a backup deck. When they brought

it on line, they saw the same thing. It was at that point that

they decided to phone their employer, Mr. Two-a-Day, who,

as we can see from this mess, was about to throw himself a


	"Man," Two-a-Day said, his voice tight with hysteria, "I

told you. I had some clients up here needed entertaining. I

paid those boys to watch, they were watching, and they

phoned me. I phoned you. What the hell you want, anyway?"

	"Our property," Beauvoir said softly. "Now watch this,

real close. This motherfucker is what we call an anomalous

phenomenon, no shit      He tapped the deck again, start-

ing the recording.

	Liquid flowers of milky white blossomed from the floor of

the tank; Bobby, craning forward, saw that they seemed to

consist of thousands of tiny spheres or bubbles, and then they

aligned perfectly with the cubical grid and coalesced, forming

a top-heavy, asymmetrical structure,' a thing like a rectilinear

mushroom. The surfaces, facets, were white, perfectly blank.

The image in the tank was no longer than Bobby's open hand.

but to anyone jacked into a deck it would have been enor-

mous. The thing unfolded a pair of horns; these lengthened,

curved, became pincers that arced out to grasp the pyramid.

He saw the tips sink smoothly through the flickering orange

planes of the enemy ice.

	"She said, `What are you doing?' " he heard himself say.

"Then she asked me why they were doing that, doing it to

me, killing me .

	"Ah," Beauvoir said, quietly, "now we are getting some-


 He didn't know where they were going, but he was glad to

be out of that chair. Beauvoir ducked to avoid a slanting

gro-light that dangled from twin lengths of curly-cord: Bobby

followed, almost slipping in a green-filmed puddle of water

Away from Two-a-Day's couch-clearing, the air seemed thicker.

There was a greenhouse smell of damp and growing things.

	"So that's how it was," Beauvoir said, "Two-a-Day sent

some friends round to Covina Concourse Courts, but you

were gone. Your deck was gone. too."

 "Well," Bobby said, "I don't see it's exactly his fault,

then. I mean, if I hadn't split for Leon'sand I was lookin'

for Two-a-Day. even bookin' to try to get up herethen he'd

have found me, right?" Beauvoir paused to admire a leafy

stand of flowering hemp, extending a thin brown forefinger to

lightly brush the pale, colorless flowers.

	"True," he said, "but this is a business matter. He should

have detailed someone to watch your place for the duration of

the run, to ensure that neither you nor the software took any

unscheduled walks."

	"Well, he sent Rhea `n' Jackie over to Leon's, because I

saw `em there." Bobby reached into the neck of his black

pajamas and scratched at the sealed wound that crossed his

chest and stomach. Then he remembered the centipede thing

Pye had used as a suture, and quickly withdrew his hand. It

itched, a straight line of itch, but he didn't want to touch it.

	"No, Jackie and Rhea are ours. Jackie is a mambo, a

priestess, the horse of Danbala." Beauvoir continued on his

way, picking out what Bobby presumed was some existing

track or path through the jumbled forest of hydroponics,

although it seemed to progress in no particular direction.

Some of the larger shrubs were rooted in bulbous green

plastic trash bags filled with dark humus. Many of these had

burst, and pale roots sought fresh nourishment in the shadows

between the gro-lights, where time and the gradual fall of

leaves conspired to produce a thin compost. Bobby wore a

pair of black nylon thongs Jackie had found for him, but there

was already damp earth between his toes. "A horse?" he

asked Beauvoir, dodging past a prickly-looking thing that

suggested an inside-out palm tree.

	"Danbala rides her, Danbala Wedo, the snake. Other times,

she is the horse of Aida Wedo, his wife."

	Bobby decided not to pursue it. He tried to change the

subject: "How come Two-a-Day's got such a motherhuge

place? What are all these trees `n' things for?" He knew that

Jackie and Rhea had wheeled him through a doorway, in the

St. Mary's chair, but he hadn't seen a wall since. He also

knew that the arcology covered x number of hectares, so that

it was possible that Two-a-Day's place was very large indeed,

but it hardly seemed likely that a `wareman, even a very

sharp one, could afford this much space. Nobody could afford

this much space, and why would anybody want to live in a

leaky hydroponic forest?

	The last derm was wearing off, and his back and chest

were beginning to burn and ache.

	"Ficus trees, mapou trees . . . This whole level of the

Projects is a lieu saint, holy place." Beauvoir tapped Bobby

on the shoulder and pointed out twisted, bicolored strings

dangling from the limbs of a nearby tree. "The trees are

consecrated to different ba. That one is for Ougou, Ougou

Feray, god of war. There's a lot of other things grown up

here, herbs the leaf-doctors need, and some just for fun. But

this isn't Two-a-Day's place, this is communal

	"You mean the whole Project's into this? All like voodoo

and stuff?" It was worse than Marsha's darkest fantasies.

	"No, man," and Beauvoir laughed. "There's a mosque up

top, and a couple or ten thousand holyroller Baptists scattered

around, some Church o' Sci. . .. All the usual stuff. Still' 


grinned-' `we are the ones with the tradition of getting shit

done. . . . But how this got started, this level, that goes way

back. The people who designed these places, maybe eighty, a

hundred years ago, they had the idea they'd make `em as

self-sufficient as possible Make `em grow food Make `em

heat themselves, generate power, whatever Now this one,

you drill far enough down, is sitting on top of a lot of

geothermal water. It's real hot down there, but not hot enough

to run an engine, so it wasn't gonna give em any power

They made a stab at power, up on the roof, with about a

hundred Darrieus rotors, what they call eggbeaters Had them-

selves a wind farm, see? Today they get most of their watts

off the Fission Authority, like anybody else. But that geother-

mal water, they pump that up to a heat exchanger. It's too

salty to drink, so in the exchanger it Just heats up your

standard Jersey tap water, which a lot of people figure isn't

worth drinking anyway.

	Finally, they were approaching a wall of some kind. Bobby

looked back. Shallow pools on the muddy concrete floor

caught and reflected the limbs of the dwarf trees, the bare

pale roots straggling down into makeshift tanks of hydroponic


	"Then they pump that into shrimp tanks, and grow a lot of

shrimp. Shrimp grow real fast in warm water. Then they

pump it through pipes in the concrete, up here, to keep this

place warm. That's what this level was for, to grow `ponic

amaranth, lettuce, things like that. Then they pump it out into

the catfish tanks, and algae eat the shrimp shit. Catfish eat 


algae, and it all goes around again. Or anyway, that was the

idea. Chances are they didn't figure anybody'd go up on the

roof and kick those Darrieus rotors over to make room for a

mosque, and they didn't figure a lot of other changes either

So we wound up with this space. But you can still get you

some damned good shrimp in the Projects. . . . Catfish, too"

	They had arrived at the wall. It was made of glass, beaded

heavily with condensation. A few centimeters beyond it was

another wall, that one made of what looked like rusty sheet

steel. Beauvoir fished a key of some kind from a pocket in his

sharkskin robe and slid it into an opening in a bare alloy beam

dividing two expanses of window. Somewhere nearby, an

engine whined into life; the broad steel shutter rotated up and

out, moving jerkily, to reveal a view that Bobby had often


	They must be near the top, high up in the Projects, because

Big Playground was something he could cover with two

hands. The condos of Barrytown looked like some gray-white

fungus, spreading to the horizon. It was nearly dark, and he

could make out a pink glow, beyond the last range of condo


	"That's the Sprawl, over there, isn't it? That pink."

	"That's right, but the closer you get, the less pretty it

looks. How'd you like to go there, Bobby? Count Zero ready

to make the Sprawl?"

	"Oh, yeah," Bobby said, his palms against the sweating

glass, "you got no idea...." The derm had worn off

entirely now, and his back and chest hurt like hell.

As ThE NIGHT came on, Turner found the edge again.

	It seemed like a long time since he'd been there, but when

it clicked in, it was like he'd never left. It was that super-

human synchromesh flow that stimulants only approximated.

He could only score for it on the site of a major defection,

one where he was in command, and then only in the final

hours before the actual move.

	But it had been a long time; in New Delhi, he'd only been

checking out possible escape routes for an executive who

wasn't entirely certain that relocation was what he wanted. If

he had been working the edge, that night in Chandni Chauk,

maybe he'd have been able to dodge the thing. Probably not,

but the edge would've told him to try.

	Now the edge let him collate the factors he had to deal with

at the site, balancing clusters of small problems against sin-

gle, larger ones. So far there were a lot of little ones, but no

real ballbreakers. Lynch and Webber were starting to get in

each other's hair, so he arranged to keep them apart. His

conviction that Lynch was Conroy's plant, instinctive from

the beginning, was stronger now. Instincts sharpened, on the

edge; things got witchy. Nathan was having trouble with the

lowtech Swedish hand warmers; anything short of an elec-

tronic circuit baffled him. Turner put Lynch to work on the

hand warmers, fueling and priming them, and let Nathan

carry them out, two at a time, and bury them shallowly, at

meter intervals, along the two long lines of orange tape.

	The microsoft Conroy had sent filled his head with its own

universe of constantly shifting factors: airspeed, altitude, at-

titude, angle of attack, g-forces, headings. The plane's weapon

delivery information was a constant subliminal litany of target

designators, bomb fall lines, search circles, range and release

cues, weapons counts. Conroy had tagged the microsoft with

a simple message outlining the plane's time of arrival and

confirming the arrangement for space for a single passenger

	He wondered what Mitchell was doing, feeling. The Mans

Biolabs North America facility was carved into the heart of a

sheer mesa, a table of rock thrusting from the desert floor.

The biosoft dossier had shown Turner the mesa's face, cut

with bright evening windows; it rode about the uplifted arms

of a sea of saguaros like the wheelhouse of a giant ship. To

Mitchell, it had been prison and fortress, his home for nine

years. Somewhere near its core he had perfected the hybridoma

techniques that had eluded other researchers for almost a

century; working with human cancer cells and a neglected,

nearly forgotten model of DNA synthesis, he had produced

the immortal hybrid cells that were the basic production tools

of the new technology, minute biochemical factories end-

lessly reproducing the engineered molecules that were linked

and built up into biochips. Somewhere in the Maas arcology,

Mitchell would be moving through his last hours as their star


	Turner tried to imagine Mitchell leading a very different

sort of life following his defection to Hosaka, but found it

difficult. Was a research arcology in Arizona very different

from one on Honshu?

	There had been times, during that long day, when Mitch-

ell's coded memories had risen in him, filling him with a

strange dread that seemed to have nothing to do with the

operation at hand.

	It was the intimacy of the thing that still disturbed him, and

perhaps the feeling of fear sprang from that. Certain frag-

ments seemed to have an emotional power entirely out of

proportion to their content. Why should a memory of a plain

hallway in some dingy Cambridge graduate dormitory fill him

with a sense of guilt and self-loathing? Other images, which

logically should have carried a degree of feeling, were 


lacking in affect: Mitchell playing with his baby daughter on

an expanse of pale woolen broadloom in a rented house in

Geneva, the child laughing, tugging at his hand. Nothing.

The man's life, from Turner's vantage, seemed marked out

by a certain inevitability; he was brilliant, a brilliance that 


been detected early on, highly motivated, gifted at the kind of

blandly ruthless in-company manipulation required by some-

one who aspired to become a top research scientist. If anyone

was destined to rise through laboratory-corporate hierarchies,

Turner decided, it would be Mitchell.

	Turner himself was incapable of meshing with the intensely

tribal world of the zaibatsumen, the lifers. He was a perpetual

outsider, a rogue factor adrift on the secret seas of 


rate politics. No company man would have been capable of

taking the initiatives Turner was required to take in the course

of an extraction. No company man was capable of Turner's

professionally casual ability to realign his loyalties to fit a

change in employers. Or, perhaps, of his unyielding commit-

ment once a contract had been agreed upon. He had drifted

into security work in his late teens, `when the grim doldrums

of the postwar economy were giving way to the impetus of

new technologies. He had done well in security, considering

his general lack of ambition. He had a ropy, muscular poise

that impressed his employer's clients, and he was bright, very

bright. He wore clothes well. He had a way with technology.

	Conroy had found him in Mexico, where Turner's em-

ployer had contracted to provide security for a Sense/Net

simstim team who were recording a series of thirty-minute

segments in an ongoing jungle adventure series When Conroy

arrived, Turner was finishing his arrangements. He'd set up a

liaison between Sense/Net and the local government, bribed

the town's top police official, analyzed the hotel's security

system, met the local guides and drivers and had their histo-

ries doublechecked. arranged for digital voice protection on

the simstim team's transceivers, established a crisis-management

team, and planted seismic sensors around the Sense/Net


	He entered the hotel's bar, a jungle-garden extension of the

lobby, and found a seat by himself at one of the glass-topped

tables. A pale man with a shock of white, bleached hair

crossed the bar with a drink in each hand. The pale skin was

drawn tight across angular features and a high forehead; he

wore a neatly pressed military shirt over jeans, and leather


	"You're the security for those simstim kids," the pale man

said, putting one of the drinks down on Turner's table. "Al-

fredo told me." Alfredo was one of the hotel bartenders.

	Turner looked up at the man, who was evidently sober and

seemed to have all the confidence in the world. "I don't think

we've been introduced," Turner said, making no move to

accept the proffered drink.

	"It doesn't matter," Conroy said, seating himself, "we're

in the same ball game." He seated himself.

	Turner stared. He had a bodyguard's presence, something

restless and watchful written in the lines of his body, and few

strangers would so casually violate his private space.

	"You know," the man said, the way someone might com-

ment on a team that wasn't doing particularly well in a given

season, "those seismics you're using really don't make it.

I've met people who could walk in there, eat your kids for

breakfast, stack the bones in the shower, and stroll out whis-

tling. Those seismics would say it never happened." He took

a sip of his drink. "You get A for effort, though. You know

how to do a job."

	The phrase "stack the bones in the shower" was enough.

Turner decided to take the pale man out.

"Look, Turner, here's your leading lady." The man smiled

up at Jane Hamilton, who smiled back, her wide blue eyes

clear and perfect, each iris ringed with the minute gold letter-

ing of the Zeiss Ikon logo. Turner froze, caught in a split-

second lock of indecision. The star was close, too close, and

the pale man was rising

"Nice meeting you, Turner," he said. "We'll get together

sooner or later. Take my advice about those seismics; back

em up with a perimeter of screamers." And then he turned

and walked away, muscles rolling easily beneath the crisp

fabric of his tan shirt.

	"That's nice, Turner," Hamilton said, taking the strang-

er's place.

	"Yeah?" Turner watched as the man was lost in the con-

fusion of the crowded lobby, amid pink-fleshed tourists.

	"You don't ever seem to talk to people. You always look

like you're running a make on them, filing a report. It's nice

to see you making friends for a change"

	Turner looked at her. She was twenty, four years his

junior, and earned roughly nine times his annual salary in a

given week She was blonde, her hair cropped short for the

series role, deeply tanned, and looked as if she was illumi-

nated from within by sunlamps. The blue eyes were inhu-

manly perfect optical instruments, grown in vats in Japan.

She was both actress and camera, her eyes worth several

million New Yen, and in the hierarchy of Sense/Net stars, she

barely rated.

	He sat with her. in the bar, until she'd finished two drinks,

then walked her back to the suite-cluster.

	"You wouldn't feel like coming in for another, would you,


	"No." he said. This was the second evening she'd made

the offer, and he sensed that it would be the last. "I have to

check the seismics."

	Later that night, he phoned New York for the number of a

firm in Mexico City that could supply him with screamers for

the perimeter of the suite-cluster.

	But a week later. Jane and three others, half the series cast,

were dead.

	"We're ready to roll the medics," Webber said. Turner

saw that she was wearing fingerless brown leather gloves

She'd replaced her sunglasses with clear-glass shooting glasses,

and there was a pistol on her hip. "Sutcliffe's monitoring the

perimeter with the remotes. We'll need everybody else to get

the fucker through the brush."

"Need me?"

	"Ramirez says he can't do anything too strenuous this

close to jacking in. You ask me, he's just a lazy little L.A.


	"No," Turner said, getting up from his seat on the ledge,

"he's right. If he sprained his wrist, we'd be screwed. Even

something so minor that he couldn't feel it could affect his

speed . .

	Webber shrugged. "Yeah. Well, he's back in the bunker,

bathing his hands in the last of our water and humming to

himself, so we should be just fine."

	When they reached the surgery, Turner automatically counted

heads. Seven. Ramirez was in the bunker; Sutcliffe was

somewhere in the cinderblock maze, monitoring the sentry-

remotes. Lynch had a Steiner-Optic laser slung over his right

shoulder, a compact model with a folding alloy skeleton

stock, integral batteries forming a fat handgrip below the gray

titanium housing that served the thing as a barrel. Nathan was

wearing a black jumpsuit, black paratrooper boots filmed with

pale dust, and had the bulbous ant-eye goggles of an image-

amplification rig dangling below his chin on a head strap.

Turner removed his Mexican sunglasses, tucked them into a

breast pocket in the blue work shirt, and buttoned the flap

	"How's it going, Teddy?" he asked a beefy six-footer with

close-cropped brown hair.

	"Jus' fine," Teddy said, with a toothy smile.

	Turner surveyed the other three members of the site team,

nodding to each man in turn: Compton, Costa, Davis.

	"Getting down to the wire, huh?" Costa asked. He had a

round, moist face and a thin, carefully trimmed beard. Like

Nathan and the others, he wore black.

	"Pretty close," Turner said "All smooth so far."

	Costa nodded.

	"We're an estimated thirty minutes from amval," Turner


	Nathan, Davis," Webber said, "disconnect the sewage

line " She handed Turner one of the Telefunken ear-bead

sets. She'd already removed it from its bubble pack. She put

one on herself, peeling the plastic backing from the self-

adhesive throat microphone and smoothing it into place on

her sunburnt neck.

	Nathan and Davis were moving in the shadows behind the

module. Turner heard Davis curse softly.

	"Shit," Nathan said, "there's no cap for the end of the

tube." The others laughed.

	"Leave it," Webber said. "Get to work on the wheels.

Lynch and Compton unlimber the jacks."

	Lynch drew a pistol-shaped power driver from his belt and

ducked beneath surgery. It was swaying now, the suspension

creaking softly; the medics were moving inside. Turner heard

a brief, high-pitched whine from some piece of internal ma-

chinery, and then the chatter of Lynch's driver as he readied

the jacks.

	He put his ear-bead in and stuck the throat mike beside his

larynx. "Sutcliffe? Check?"

	"Fine," the Australian said, a tiny voice that seemed to

come from the base of his skull.


	"Loud and clear. .

	Eight minutes. They were rolling the module out on its ten

fat tires. Turner and Nathan were on the front pair, steering;

Nathan had his goggles on. Mitchell was coming out in the

dark of the moon. The module was heavy, absurdly heavy,

and very nearly impossible to steer. "Like balancing a truck

on a couple of shopping carts," Nathan said to himself.

Turner's lower back was giving him trouble. It hadn't been

quite right since New Delhi.

	"Hold it," Webber said, from the third wheel on the left.

"I'm stuck on a fucking rock . .

	Turner released his wheel and straightened up. The bats

were out in force tonight, flickering things against the bowl of

desert starlight. There were bats in Mexico, in the jungle,

fruit bats that slept in the trees that overhung the 


where the Sense/Net crew slept. Turner had climbed those

trees, had strung the overhanging limbs with taut lengths of

molecular monofilament, meters of invisible razor waiting for

an unwary intruder. But Jane and the others had died anyway,

blown away on a hillside in the mountains near Acapulco.

Trouble with a labor union, someone said later, but nothing

was ever determined, really, other than the fact of the primi-

tive claymore charge, its placement and the position from

which it had been detonated. Turner had climbed the hill

himself, his clothes filmed with blood, and seen the nest of

crushed undergrowth where the killers had waited, the knife

switch and the corroded automobile battery. He found the

butts of hand-rolled cigarettes and the cap from a bottle of

Bohemia beer, bright and new.

	The series had to be canceled, and the crisis-management

team did yeoman duty, arranging the removal of bodies and

the repatriation of the surviving members of the cast and

crew. Turner was on the last plane out, and after eight

Scotches in the lounge of the Acapulco airport, he'd wandered

blindly out into the central ticketing area and encountered a

man named Buschel, an executive tech from Sense/Net's Los

Angeles complex. Buschel was pale beneath an L.A. tan, his

seersucker suit limp with sweat. He was carrying a plain

aluminum case, like a camera case, its sides dull with con-

densation. Turner stared at the man, stared at the sweating

case, with its red and white warning decals and lengthy labels

explaining the precautions required in the transportation of

materials in cryogenic storage

	"Christ," Buschel said, noticing him "Turner. I'm sorry,

man. Came down this morning. Ugly fucking business " He

took a sodden handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped

his face. "Ugly job. I've never had to do one of these, be-

fore . .

	"What's in the case, Buschel?" He was much closer now,

although he didn't remember stepping forward. He could see

the pores in Buschel's tanned face.

	"You okay, man?" Buschel taking a step back. "You look


	"What's in the case, Buschel?" Seersucker bunched in his

fist, knuckles white and shaking.

	"Damn it, Turner," the man jerking free, the handle of the

case clutched in both hands now. "They weren't damaged.

Only some minor abrasion on one of the corneas. They belong

to the Net. It was in her contract, Turner."

	And he'd turned away, his guts knotted tight around eight

glasses of straight Scotch, and fought the nausea. And he'd

continued to fight it, held it off for nine years, until, in his

flight from the Dutchman, all the memory of it had come

down on him, had fallen on him in London, in Heathrow, and

he'd leaned forward, without pausing in his progress down

yet another corridor, and vomited into a blue plastic waste


	"Come on. Turner," Webber said, "put some back in it.

Show us how it's done." The module began to strain forward

again, through the tarry smell of the desert plants

	"Ready here," Ramirez said, his voice remote and calm.

	Turner touched the throat mike' "I'm sending you some

company." He removed his finger from the mike. "Nathan,

it's time. You and Davis, hack to the bunker."

	Davis was in charge of the squirt gear, their sole nonmatrix

link with Hosaka. Nathan was Mr. Fix-it. Lynch was rolling

the last of the bicycle wheels away into the brush beyond the

parking lot. Webber and Compton were kneeling beside the

module, attaching the line that linked the Hosaka surgeons

with the Sony biomonitor in the command post. With the

wheels removed, lowered and leveled on four jacks, the

portable neurosurgery reminded Turner once again of the

French vacation module. That had heen a much later trip,

four years after Conroy had recruited him in Los Angeles.

	"How's it going?" Sutcliffe asked, over the link.

	"Fine," Turner said, touching the mike.

	"Lonely out here," Sutcliffe said.

	"Compton," Turner said, "Sutcliffe needs you to help him

cover the perimeter. You, too, Lynch."

	"Too bad," Lynch said, from the dark. ~`I was hoping I'd

get to see the action

	Turner's hand was on the grip of the holstered Smith &

Wesson, under the open flap of the parka. "Now, Lynch." If

Lynch was Connie's plant. he'd want to be here. Or in the


	"Fuck it," Lynch said. "There's nobody out there and you

know it. You don't want me here, I'll go in there and watch

Ramirez .

	"Right," Turner said, and drew the gun, depressing the

stud that activated the xenon projector. The first tight-beam

flash of noon-bright xenon light found a twisted saguaro, its

needles like tufts of gray fur in the pitiless illumination The

econd lit up the spiked skull on Lynch's belt, framed it in a

sharp-edged circle The sound of the shot and the sound of

he bullet detonating on impact were indistinguishable, waves

of concussion rolling out in invisible, ever-widening rings,

out into the flat dark land like thunder.

	In the first few seconds after, there was no sound at all,

even the bats and bugs silenced, waiting. Wehber had thrown

herself flat in the scrub, and somehow he sensed her there,

now, knew that her gun would be out, held dead steady in

those brown, capable hands. He had no idea where Compton

was. Then Sutcliffe's voice, over the ear-bead, scratching at

him from his hrainpan: "Turner. What was that?"

	There was enough starlight now to make out Webber. She

was sitting up, gun in her hands, ready, her elbows hraced on

her knees.

"He was Conroy's plant," Turner said, lowering the Smith

& Wesson.

"Jesus Christ," she said. "I'm Conroy's plant

"He had a line out. I've seen it before

She had to say it twice.

Sutcliffe's voice in his head, and then Ramirez: "We got

your transportation. Eighty klicks and closing. . . . Every-

thing else looks clear. There's a blimp twenty klicks south-

southwest, Jaylene says, unmanned cargo and it's right on

schedule. Nothing else. What the fuck's Sut yelling about?

Nathan says he heard a shot" Ramirez was jacked in. most

of his sensorium taken up with the input from the Maas-

Neotek deck. "Nathan's ready with the first squirt .

	Turner could hear the jet banking now, braking for the

landing on the highway. Webber was up and walking toward

him, her gun in her hand. Sutcliffe was asking the same

question, over and over.

	He reached up and touched the throat mike. "Lynch. He's

dead. The jet's here. This is it."

	And then the Jet was on them, black shadow, incredibly

low, coming in without lights. There was a flare of blow-back

jets as the thing executed a landing that would have killed a

human pilot, and then a weird creaking as it readjusted its

articulated carbon-fiber airframe. Turner could make out the

green reflected glow of instrumentation in the curve of the

plastic canopy.

	"You fucked up," Webber said.

	Behind her, the hatch in the side of the surgery module

popped open, framing a masked figure in a green paper

contamination suit. The light from inside was blue-white,

brilliant, it threw a distorted shadow of the suited medic out

through the thin cloud of dust that hung above the lot in the

wake of the Jet's landing. "Close it!" Webber shouted. "Not


	As the door swung down, shutting out the light, they both

heard the ultralight's engine. After the roar of the jet, it

seemed no more than the hum of a dragonfly, a drone that

stuttered and faded as they listened. "He's out of fuel,"

Webber said. "But he's close."

	"He's here," Turner said, pressing the throat mike. "First


	The tiny plane whispered past them, a dark delta against

the stars They could hear something flapping in the wind of

its silent passage, perhaps one of Mitchell's pants legs You're

up there, Turner thought, all alone, in the warmest clothes

you own, wearing a pair of infrared goggles you built for

yourself, and you're looking for a pair of dotted lines picked

out for you in hand warmers "You crazy fucker," he said,

his heart filling with a strange admiration, "you really wanted

out bad."

	Then the first flare went up, with a festive little pop. and

the magnesium glare began its slow white parachute ride to

the desert floor. Almost immediately, there were two more,

and the long rattle of automatic fire from the west end of the

mall. He was peripherally aware of Webber stumbling through

the brush, in the direction of the bunker, but his eyes were

fixed on the wheeling ultralight, on its gay orange and blue

fabric wings, and the goggled figure hunched there in the

open metal framework above the fragile tripod landing gear


	The lot was bright as a football field, under the drifting

flares. The uhralight banked and turned with a lazy grace that

made Turner want to scream. A line of tracers hosed out in a

white arc from beyond the site perimeter. Missed.

	Get it down. Get it down. He was running, jumping clumps

of brush that caught at his ankles, at the hem of his parka.

	The flares. The light. Mitchell couldn't use the goggles

now, couldn't see the infrared glow of the hand warmers. He

was bringing it in wide of the strip. The nose wheel caught in

something and the ultralight cartwheeled, crumpling, torn

butterfly, and then lay down in its own white cloud of dust

	The flash of the explosion seemed to reach him an instant

before the sound, throwing his shadow before him across the

pale brush. The concussion picked him up and threw him

down, and as he fell, he saw the broken surgery module in a

ball of yellow flame and knew that Webber had used her

antitank rocket Then he was up again, moving, running, the

gun in his hand.

	He reached the wreckage of Mitchell's ultralight as the first

flare died. Another one arced out of nowhere and blossomed

overhead. The sound of firing was continuous now. He scram-

bled over a twisted sheet of rusted tin and found the sprawled

figure of the pilot, head and face concealed hy a makeshift

helmet and a clumsy-looking goggle rig. The goggles were

fastened to the helmet with dull silver strips of gaffer tape

The twisted limbs were padded in layers of dark clothing.

Turner watched his hands claw at the tape, tear at the infrared

goggles; his hands were distant creatures, pale undersea things

that lived a life of their own far down at the bottom of some

unthinkable Pacific trench, and he watched as they tore franti-

cally at tape, goggles, helmet Until it all came away, and the

long brown hair, limp with sweat, fell across the girl's white

face, smearing the thin trickle of dark blood that ran ftom one

nostril, and her eyes opened, revealing empty whites, and he

was tugging her up, somehow, into a fireman's carry, and

reeling in what he hoped was the direction of the jet

	He felt the second explosion through the soles of his deck

shoes, and saw the idiot grin on the lump of plastique that sat

on Ramirez's cyberspace deck. There was no flash, only

sound and the sting of concussion through the concrete of the


	And then he was in the cockpit, breathing the new-car

smell of long-chain monomers, the familiar scent of newly

minted technology, and the girl was behind him, an awkward

doll sprawled in the embrace of the g-web that Conroy had

paid a San Diego arms dealer to install behind the pilot's

web. The plane was quivering, a live thing, and as he squirmed

deeper into his own web, he fumbled for the interface cable,

found it, ripped the microsoft from his socket, and slid the

cable-jack home.

	Knowledge lit him like an arcade game, and he surged

forward with the plane-ness of the jet, feeling the flexible

airframe reshape itself for jump-off as the canopy whined

smoothly down on its servos. The g-web ballooned around

him, locking his limbs rigid, the gun still in his hand. "Go,

motherfucker." But the jet already knew, and g-force crushed

him down into the dark.

"You lost consciousness," the plane said Its chip-voice

sounded vaguely like Conroy.

"How long?"

"Thirty-eight seconds."

"Where are we?"

"Over Nagos." The head-up display lit, a dozen constantly

altered figures beneath a simplified map of the Arizona-

Sonora line.

The sky went white.

"What was that?"


"What was that?"

"Sensors indicate an explosion," the plane said. "The

magnitude suggests a tactical nuclear warhead, but there was

no electromagnetic pulse. The locus of destruction was our

point of departure."

The white glow faded and was gone.

"Cancel course," he said.

"Canceled. New headings. please."

"That's a good question," Turner said. He couldn't turn

his head to look at the girl behind him. He wondered if she

were dead yet.

MARLY DREAMED OF ALAN, dusk in a wildflower field, and he

cradled her head, then caressed and broke her neck. Lay there

unmoving but she knew what he was doing. He kissed her all

over. He took her money and the keys to her room. The stars

were huge now, fixed above the bright fields, and she could

still feel his hands on her neck. .

	She woke in the coffee-scented morning and saw the squares

of sunlight spread across the books on Andrea's table, heard

Andrea's comfortingly familiar morning cough as she lit a

first cigarette from the stove's front burner. She shook off the

dark colors of the dream and sat up on Andrea's couch,

hugging the dark red quilt around her knees. After Gnass,

after the police and the reporters, she'd never dreamed of

him. Or if she did, she'd guessed, she somehow censored the

dreams, erased them before she woke. She shivered, although

it was already a warm morning, and went into the bathroom.

She wanted no more dreams of Alain.

	"Paco told me that Alain was armed when we met," she

said when Andrea handed her the blue enamel mug of coffee.

	"Alain armed?" Andrea divided the omelet and slid half

onto Marly's plate. "What a bizarre idea. It would be like

	like arming a penguin." They both laughed. "Alain is

not the type," Andrea said "He'd shoot his foot off in the

middle of some passionate declaration about the state of art

and the amount of the dinner bill. He's a big shit, Alain, but

that's hardly news. If I were you, I'd expend a bit more

worry on this Paco. What reason do you have for accepting

that he works for Virek?" She took a bite of omelet and

reached for the salt.

	"I saw him. He was there in Virek's construct."

	"You saw somethingan image only, the image of a

child which only resembled this man."

	Marly watched Andrea eat her half of the omelet, letting

her own grow cold on the plate How could she explain,

about the sense she'd had, walking from the Louvre? The

conviction that something surrounded her now, monitoring

her with relaxed precision; that she had become the focus of

at least a part of Virek's empire. ``He's a very wealthy man,"

she began.

	"Virek?" Andrea put her knife and fork down on the plate

and took up her coffee. "I should say he is. If you believe the

journalists, he's the single wealthiest individual, period. As

rich as some zaibatsu. But there's the catch, really: is he an

individual? In the sense that you are, or I am? No. Aren't you

going to eat that?"

	Marly began to mechanically cut and fork sections of the

cooling omelet, while Andrea continued: "You should look at

the manuscript we're working on this month

	Marly chewed, raised her eyebrows questioningly

	"It's a history of the high-orbit industrial clans. A man at

the University of Nice did it. Your Virek's even in it, come to

think; he's cited as a counterexample, or rather as a type of

parallel evolution. This fellow at Nice is interested in the

paradox of individual wealth in a corporate age. in why it

should still exist at all. Great wealth, I mean. He sees the

high-orbit clans, people like the Tessier-Ashpools, as a very

late variant on traditional patterns of aristocracy, late 


the corporate mode doesn't really allow for an aristocracy."

She put her cup down on her plate and camed the plate to the

sink "Actually, now that I've started to describe it, it isn't

that interesting. There's a great deal of very gray prose about

the nature of Mass Man. With caps, Mass Man. He's big on

caps Not much of a stylist." She spun the taps and water

hissed out through the filtration unit.

	"But what does he say about Virek?"

	"He says, if I remember all this correctly, and I'm not at

all certain that I do, that Virek is an even greater fluke than

the industrial clans in orbit The clans are transgenerational,

and there's usually a fair bit of medicine involved: cryogen-

ics, genetic manipulation, various ways to combat aging. The

death of a given clan member, even a founding member,

usually wouldn't bring the clan, as a business entity. to a

crisis point. There's always someone to step in, someone

waiting. The difference between a clan and a corporation,

however, is that you don't need to literally marry into a


 "But they sign indentures

 Andrea shrugged. "That's like a lease. It isn't the same

thing. It's job security, really. But when your Herr Virek

dies, finally, when they run out of room to enlarge his vat,

whatever, his business interests will lack a logical focus. At

that point, our man in Nice has it, you'll see Virek and

Company either fragment or mutate, the latter giving us the

Something Company and a true multinational, yet another

home for capital-M Mass Man." She wiped her plate, rinsed

it, dried it. and placed it in the pine rack beside the sink "He

says that's too bad, in a way, because' there are so few people

left who can even see the edge."

	"The edge?"

	"The edge of the crowd. We're lost in the middle, you

and I Or I still am, at any rate." She crossed the kitchen and

put her hands on Marly's shoulders "You want to take care

in this. A part of you is already much happier, but now I see

that I could have brought that about myself, simply by arrang-

ing a little lunch for you with your pig of a former lover The

rest of it, I'm not sure    I think our academic's theory is

invalidated by the obvious fact that Virek and his kind are

already far from human. I want you to be careful     Then

she kissed Marly's cheek and went off to her work as an

assistant editor in the fashionably archaic business of printing


	She spent the morning at Andrea's, with the Braun, view-

ing the holograms of the seven works. Each piece was extraordi-

nary in its own way, but she repeatedly returned to the box

Virek had shown her first. If I had the original here, she

thought, and removed the glass, and one by one removed the

objects inside, what would be left? Useless things, a frame

of space, perhaps a smell like dust.

	She sprawled on the couch, the Braun resting on her stom-

ach, and stared into the box. It ached It seemed to her that

the construction evoked something perfectly, but it was an

emotion that lacked a name. She ran her hands through the

bright illusion, tracing the length of the fluted, avian bone.

She was certain that Virek had already assigned an ornitholo-

gist the task of identifying the bird from whose wing that

bone had come And it would be possible to date each object

with the greatest precision, she supposed. Each tab of holofiche

also housed an extensive report on the known origin of each

piece, but something in her had deliberately avoided these. It

was sometimes best, when you came to the mystery that was

art, to come as a child. The child saw things that were too

evident, too obvious for the trained eye

	She put the Braun down on the low table beside the couch

and crossed to Andre&s phone, intending to check the time.

She was meeting Paco at one, to discuss the mechanics of

Alain's payment. Alain had told her he would phone her at

Andrea's at three. When she punched for the time service, an

automatic recap of satellite news strobed across the screen: a

JAL shuttle had disintegrated during reentry over the Indian

Ocean, investigators from the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan

Axis had been called in to examine the site of a brutal and

apparently pointless bombing in a drab New Jersey residential

suburb, militiamen were supervising the evacuation of the

southern quadrant of New Bonn following the discovery, by

construction workers, of two undetonated wartime rockets

believed to be armed with biological weapons, and official

sources in Arizona were denying Mexico's accusation of the

detonation of a small-scale atomic or nuclear device near the

Sonora border. . . As she watched, the recap cycled and the

simulation of the shuttle began its fire-death again. She shook

her head, tapping the button. It was noon.

	Summer had come, the sky hot and blue above Paris, and

she smiled at the smell of good bread and black tobacco. Her

sense of being observed had receded now, as she walked from

the m~tro to the address Paco had given her. Faubourg St.

Honor& The address seemed vaguely familiar. A gallery, she


	Yes. The Roberts. The owner an American who operated

three galleries in New York as well. Expensive, but no longer

quite chic. Paco was waiting beside an enormous panel on

which were layered, beneath a thick and uneven coat of

varnish, hundreds of small square photographs, the kind pro-

duced by certain very old-fashioned machines in train stations

and bus terminals. All of them seemed to be of young girls.

Automatically, she noted the name of the artist and the work's

title: Read Us the Book of the Names of the Dead.

"I suppose you understand this sort of thing," the Spaniard

said glumly. He ~sore an expensive-looking blue suit cut in

Parisian business style, a white broadcloth shirt, and a very

English-looking tie, probably from Charvet He didn't look at

all like a waiter now. There was an Italian bag of black ribbed

rubber slung over his shoulder

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Names of the dead," and he nodded in the direction of

the panel. "You were a dealer in these things."

"What don't you understand?"

"I sometimes feel as though this, this culture, is entirely a

trick. A ruse. All my life I have served Sefior, in one guise or

another, you understand? And my work has not been without

its satisfactions, moments of triumph But never, when he

involved me with this business of ah, have I felt any satisfac-

tion. He is wealth itself. The world is filled with objects of

great beauty. And yet Sefior pursues . He shrugged.

"You know what you like, then " She smiled at him.

"Why did you choose this gallery for our meeting?"

"Sefior's agent purchased one of the boxes here. Haven't

you read the histories we provided you with in Brussels?"

"No," she said. "It might interfere with my intuition.

Herr Virek is paying for my intuition."

He raised his eyebrows. "I will introduce you to Picard,

the manager. Perhaps he can do something for this intuition

of yours."

	He led her across the room and through a doorway. A

graying, heavyset Frenchman in a rumpled corduroy suit was

speaking into the handset of a phone. On the phone's screen

she saw columns of letters and figures. The day's quotations

on the New York market.

"Ah," the man said, "Estevez. Excuse me. Only a mo-

ment. He smiled apologetically and returned to his conver-

sation. Marly studied the quotations Pollock was down again.

This, she supposed, was the aspect of art that she had the

most difficulty understanding. Picard, if that was the man's

name, was speaking with a broker in New York, arranging

the purchase of a certain number of "points" of the work of a

particular artist. A "point" might be defined in any number

of ways, depending on the medium involved, but it was

almost certain that Picard would never see the works he was

purchasing. If the artist enjoyed sufficient status, the 

originals were very likely crated away in some vault, where no one

saw them at all. Days or years later, Picard might pick up that

same phone and order the broker to sell.

	Marly's gallery had sold originals. There was relatively

little money in it, but it had a certain visceral appeal. And, 

of course, there had been the chance that one would get lucky.

She had convinced herself that she'd gotten very lucky indeed

when Alain had arranged for the forged Cornell to surface as

a wonderful, accidental find. Cornell had his place on the

broker's board, and his "points" were very expensive.

	"Picard," Paco said, as though he were addressing a ser-

vant, "this is Many Krushkhova. Seiior has brought her into

the matter of the anonymous boxes. She may wish to ask you


	"Charmed," Picard said, and smiled warmly, but she thought

she detected a flicker in his brown eyes. Very likely, he was

trying to connect the name to some scandal, relatively recent.

	"I understand that your gallery handled the transaction,


	"Yes," Picard said "We had displayed the work in our

New York rooms, and it had attracted a number of bids. We

decided to give it its day in Paris, however,"he beamed

"and your employer made our decision most worthwhile.

How is Herr Virek, Estevez? We have not seen him in several


Marly glanced quickly at Paco, but his dark face was

smooth, utterly controlled

"Sefior is very well, I would think," he said.

"Excellent," said Picard, somewhat too enthusiastically.

He turned to Marly. "A marvelous man. A legend. A great

patron. A great scholar."

Marly thought she heard Paco sigh

"Could you tell me, please, where your New York branch

obtained the work in question?"

Picard's face fell. He looked at Paco, then back at Marly.

"You don't know? They haven't told you?"

"Could you tell me, please?"

"No," Picard said, "I'm sorry, but I can't. You see, we

don't know."

Marly stared at him "I beg your pardon, but I don't quite

see how that is possible .

"She hasn't read the report, Picard. You tell her. It will be

good for her intuition, to hear it from your own lips."

Picard gave Paco an odd look, then regained his compo-

sure. "Certainly," he said. "A pleasure

	"Do you think it's true?" she asked Paco as they stepped

out into Faubourg St Honors and summer sunlight. The

crowds were thick with Japanese tourists.

	"I went to the Sprawl myself," Paco said, "and inter-

viewed everyone involved. Roberts left no record of the

purchase, although ordinarily he was no more secretive than

the next art dealer."

	"And his death was accidental?"

	He put on a pair of mirrored Porsche glasses. "As acciden-

tal as that sort of death ever is," he said. "We have no way

of knowing when or how he obtained the piece We located

it, here, eight months ago, and all' our attempts to work

backward end with Roberts, and Roberts has been dead for a

year Picard neglected to tell you that they very nearly lost the

thing. Roberts kept it in his country house, along with a

number of other things that his survivors regarded as mere

curiosities. The whole lot came close to being sold at public

auction. Sometimes I wish it had been."

	"These other things," she asked, falling into step beside

him, "what are they?"

	He smiled. "You think we haven't tracked them, each

one? We have They were' `here he frowned, exaggerating

the effort of memory" `a number of rather unremarkable

examples of contemporary folk art'

	"Was Roberts known to be interested in that sort of thing?"

	"No," he said, "but approximately a year before his

death, we know that he made application for membership in

the Institut de l'Art Brut, here in Paris, and arranged to

become a patron of the Aeschmann Collection in Hamburg"

	Marly nodded The Aeschmann Collection was restricted to

the works of psychotics.

	"We are reasonably certain," Paco continued, taking her

elbow and guiding her around a corner, into a side street,

"that he made no attempt to use the resources of either,

unless he employed an intermediary, and we regard that as

unlikely. Sefior, of course, has employed several dozen schol-

ars to sweep the records of both institutions. To no avail . .

	"Tell me," she said, "why Picard assumed that he had

recently seen Herr Virek. How is that possible?"

	"Sefior is wealthy. Sefior enjoys any number of means of


	Now he led her into a chrome-trimmed barn of a place,

glittering with mirrors, bottles, and arcade games. The mir-

rors lied about the depth of the room; at its rear, she could 


the reflected pavement, the legs of pedestrians, the flash of

sunlight on a hubcap. Paco nodded to a lethargic-looking man

behind the bar and took her hand, leading her through the

tightly packed shoal of round plastic tables.

	"You can take your call from Alain here," he said. "We

have arranged to reroute it from your friend's apartment." He

drew a chair out for her, an automatic bit of professional

courtesy that made her wonder if he might actually once have

been a waiter, and placed his bag on the tabletop.

	"But he'll see that I'm not there," she said. "If I blank the

video, he'll become suspicious

	"But he won't see that We've generated a digital image of

your face and the required background We'll key that to the

image on this phone "He took an elegant modular unit from

the bag and placed it in front of her. A paper thin polycarbon

screen unfurled silently from the top of the unit and imme-

diately grew rigid. She had once watched a butterfly emerge

into the world, and seen the transformation of its drying

wings. "How is that done?" she asked, tentatively touching

the screen. It was like thin steel.

	"One of the new polycarbon variants," he said, "one of

the Maas products . .

	The phone purred discreetly He positioned it more care-

fully in front of her, stepped to the far side of the table, and

said, "Your call. Remember, you are at home!" He reached

forward and brushed a titanium-coated stud.

	Alain's face and shoulders filled the little screen. The

image had the smudged, badly lit look of a public booth.

"Good afternoon, my dear," he said.

"Hello, Alain."

	"How are you, Marly? I trust you've gotten the money we

discussed?" She could see that he was wearing a jacket of

some kind, dark, but she could make out no details. "Your

roommate could do with a lesson in housecleaning," he said,

and seemed to be peering back over her shoulder.

	"You've never cleaned a room in your life," she said

	He shrugged, smiling. "We each have our talents," he

said. "Do you have my money, Marly?"

	She glanced up at Paco, who nodded. "Yes," she said,

"of course."

	"That's wonderful, Marly. Marvelous We have only one

small difficulty." He was still smiling.

	"And what is that?"

	"My informants have doubled their price. Consequently, I

must now double mine."

	Paco nodded. He was smiling, too.

	"Very well. I will have to ask, of course ..~" He sick-

ened her now. She wanted to be off the phone.

	"And they, of course, will agree.

	"Where shall we meet, then?"

	"I will phone again, at five," he said. His image shrank to

a single blip of blue-green, and then that was gone as well.

	"You look tired," Paco said as he collapsed the screen and

replaced the phone in his bag "You look older when you've

talked with him."

	"Do I?" For some reason, now, she saw the panel in the

Roberts, all those faces Read Us the Book of the Names of

the Dead. All the Marlys, she thought all the girls she'd been

through the long season of youth.

"HEY, SHITHEAD." RHEA poked him none too lightly in the

ribs "Get your ass up."

	He came up fighting with the crocheted comforter, with the

half-formed shapes of unknown enemies. With his mother's

murderers. He was in a room he didn't know, a room that

might have been anywhere. Gold plastic gilt frames on a lot

of mirrors. Fuzzy scarlet wallpaper. He'd seen Gothicks dec-

orate rooms that way, when they could afford it, but he'd also

seen their parents do whole condos in the same style Rhea

flung a bundle of clothes down on the temperfoam and shoved

her hands in the pockets of a black leather jacket.

	The pink and black squares of the comforter were bunched

around his waist. He looked down and saw the segmented

length of the centipede submerged in a finger-wide track of

fresh pink scar tissue. Beauvoir had said that the thing 


ated healing. He touched the bright new tissue with a hesitant

fingertip, found it tender but bearable. He looked up at Rhea.

"Get your ass up on this," he said, giving her the finger.

	They glared at each other, for a few seconds, over Bobby's

upraised middle finger. Then she laughed "Okay," she said,

"you got a point. I'll get off your case But pick those clothes

up and get `em on. Should be something there that fits Lucas

is due by here soon to pick you up, and Lucas doesn't like to

be kept waiting

	"Yeah? Well, he seems like a pretty relaxed guy to me

He began to sort through the heap of clothing, discarding a

black shirt with a paisley pattern printed on it in laundered-

out gold, a red satin number with a fringe of white imitation

leather down the sleeves, a black sort of leotard thing with

panels of some translucent material . . . "Hey," he said,

"where did you get this stuff? I can't wear shit like this

	"It's my little brother's," Rhea said. "From last season,

and you better get your white ass dressed before Lucas gets

down here. Hey," she said, "that's mine," snatching up the

leotard as though he might be about to steal it.

	He pulled the black and gold shirt on and fumbled with

domed snaps made of black imitation pearl. He found a pair

of black jeans, but they proved to be baggy and elaborately

pleated, and didn't seem to have any pockets "This all the

pants you got?"

	"Jesus," she said. "I saw the clothes Pye cut off you,

man. You aren't anybody's idea of a fashion plate. Just get

dressed, okay? I don't want any trouble with Lucas. He may

come on all mellow with you, but `that just means you got

something he wants bad enough to take the trouble. Me, I

sure don't, so Lucas got no compunctions, as far as I'm


	He stood up unsteadily beside the bedslab and tried to zip

up the black jeans. "No zip," he said, looking at her.

	"Buttons In there somewhere. It's part of the style you


	Bobby found the buttons. It was an elaborate arrangement

and he wondered what would happen if he had to piss in a

hurry He saw the black nylon thongs beside the slab and

shoved his feet into them. "What about Jackie?" he asked,

padding to where he could see himself in the gold-framed

mirrors. `Lucas got any compunctions about her?" He watched

her in the mirror, saw something cross her face

	"What's that mean?"

	"Beauvoir, he told me she was a horse"

	"You hush," she said, her voice gone low and urgent.

"Beauvoir mention anything like that to you, that's his busi-

ness. Otherwise, it's nothing you talk about, understand?

There's things bad enough, you'd wish you were back out

there getting your butt carved up."

	He watched her eyes, reflected in the mirror, dark eyes

shadowed by the deep brim of the soft felt hat. Now they

seemed to show a little more white than they had before

	"Okay," he said, after a pause, and then added, "Thanks."

He fiddled with the collar of the shirt, turning it up in the

back, down again, trying it different ways.

	"You know," Rhea said, tilting her head to one side,

"you get a few clothes on you, you don't look too bad. `Cept

you got eyes like two pissholes in a snowbank . .

	"Lucas." Bobby said, when they were in the elevator, "do

you know who it was offed my old lady?" It wasn't a

question he'd planned on asking, but somehow it had come

rushing up like a bubble of swamp gas.

	Lucas regarded him benignly, his long face smooth and

black. His black suit, beautifully cut, looked as though it had

been freshly pressed. He carried a stout stick of oiled and

polished wood, the grain all swirly black and red, topped with

a large knob of polished brass. Finger-long splines of brass

ran down from the knob, inlaid smoothly in the cane's shaft.

"No, we do not." His wide lips formed a straight and very

serious line. "That's something we'd very much like to

know .

	Bobby shifted uncomfortably. The elevator made him self-

conscious. It was the size of a small bus, and although it

wasn't crowded, he was the only white Black people, he

noted, as his eyes shifted restlessly down the thing's length,

didn't look half dead under fluorescent light, the way white

people did.

	Three times, in their descent, the elevator came to a halt at

some floor and remained there, once for nearly fifteen min-

utes. The first time this happened, Bobby had looked ques-

tioningly at Lucas. "Something in the shaft," Lucas had

said. "What?" "Another elevator." The elevators were lo-

cated at the core of the arcology, their shafts bundled together

with water mains, sewage lines, huge power cables, and

insulated pipes that Bobby assumed were part of the geother-

mal system that Beauvoir had described. You could see it all

whenever the doors opened; everything was exposed, raw, as

though the people who built the place had wanted to be able

to see exactly how everything worked and what was going

where And everything, every visible surface, was covered

with an interlocking net of graffiti, so dense and heavily

overlaid that it was almost impossible to pick out any kind

of message or symbol.

	"You never were up here before, were you, Bobby?"

Lucas asked as the doors jolted shut once again and they were

on their way down. Bobby shook his head. "That's too bad,"

Lucas said. "Understandable, certainly, but kind of a shame

Two-a-Day tells me you haven't been too keen on sitting

around Barrytown. That true?"

	"Sure is," Bobby agreed.

	"I guess that's understandable, too. You seem to me to be

a young man of some imagination and initiative Would you

agree?" Lucas spun the cane's bright brass head against his

pink palm and looked at Bobby steadily.

	"I guess so I can't stand the place. Lately I've kind of

been noticing how, well, nothing ever happens, you know? I

mean, things happen, but it's always the same stuff, over and

fucking over, like it's all a rerun, every summer like the last

one. . ." His voice trailed off, uncertain what Lucas would

think of him.

	"Yes," Lucas said, "I know that feeling. It may be a little

more true of Barrytown than of some other places, but you

can feel the same thing as easily in New York or Tokyo."

	Can't be true, Bobby thought, but nodded anyway, Rhea's

warning in the back of his head. Lucas was no more threaten-

ing than Beauvoir, but his bulk alone was a caution. And

Bobby was working on a new theory of personal deportment;

he didn't quite have the whole thing yet, but part of it

involved the idea that people who were genuinely dangerous

might not need to exhibit the fact at all, and that the ability 


conceal a threat made them even more dangerous. This ran

directly opposite to the rule around Big Playground, where

kids who had no real clout whatever went to great pains to

advertise their chrome-studded rabidity. Which probably did

them some good, at least in terms of the local action. But

Lucas was very clearly nothing to do with local action.

	"I see you doubt it," Lucas said. "Well, you'll probably

find out soon enough, but not for a while. The way your life's

going now, things should remain new and exciting for quite a


	The elevator door shuddered open, and Lucas was moving,

shooing Bobby in front of him like a child They stepped out

into a tiled foyer that seemed to stretch forever, past kiosks

and cloth-draped stalls and people squatting beside blankets

with things spread out on them. "But not to linger," Lucas

said, giving Bobby a very gentle shove with one large hand

when Bobby paused in front of stacks of jumbled software.

"You are on your way to the Sprawl, my man, and you are

going in a manner that befits a count."

	"How's that?"

"In a limo."

	Lucas's car was an amazing stretch of gold-flecked black

bodywork and mirror-finished brass, studded with a collection

of baroque gadgets whose purpose Bobby only had time to

guess at. One of the things was a dish antenna, he decided,

but it looked more like one of those Aztec calendar wheels,

and then he was inside, Lucas letting the wide door clunk

gently shut behind them. The windows were tinted so dark, it

looked like nighttime outside, a bustling nighttime where the

Projects' crowds went about their noonday business The

interior of the vehicle was a single large compartment padded

with bright rugs and pale leather cushions, although there

seemed to be no particular place to sit. No steering wheel

either, the dash was a padded expanse of leather unbroken by

controls of any kind. He looked at Lucas, who was loosening

his black tie. "How do you drive it?"

	"Sit down somewhere. You drive it like this: Ahmed, get

our asses to New York, lower east."

	The car slid smoothly away from the curb as Bobby dropped

to his knees on a soft pile of rugs.

	"Lunch will be served in thirty minutes, sir, unless you'd

care for something sooner," a voice said. It was soft, melo-

dious, and seemed to come from nowhere in particular.

	Lucas laughed. "They really knew how to build `em in

Damascus," he said.


	"Damascus," Lucas said as he unbuttoned his suit coat

and settled back into a wedge of pale cushions. "This is a

Rolls. Old one Those Arabs built a good car, while they had

the money."

	"Lucas," Bobby said, his mouth half full of cold fried

chicken, "how come it's taking us an hour and a half to get

to New York? We aren't exactly crawling .

	"Because," Lucas said, pausing for another sip of cold

white wine, "that's how long it's taking us. Ahmed has all

the factory options, including a first-rate countersurveillance

system. On the road, rolling, Ahmed provides a remarkable

degree of privacy, more than I'm ordinarily willing to pay for

in New York. Ahmed, you get the feeling anybody's trying to

get to us, listen in or anything?"

	"No, sir," the voice said. "Eight minutes ago our identifica-

tion panel was infra-scanned by a Tactical helicopter. The

helicopter's number was MH-dash-3-dash-848, piloted by Cor-

poral Roberto

	"Okay, okay," Lucas said. "Fine. Never mind You see?

Ahmed got more on those Tacs than they got on us." He

wiped his hands on a thick white linen napkin and took a gold

toothpick from his jacket pocket.

	"Lucas," Bobby said, while Lucas probed delicately at the

gaps between his big square teeth, "what would happen if,

say, I asked you to take me to Times Square and let me out?"

	"Ah," Lucas said, lowering the toothpick, "the city's

most resonant acre What's the matter, Bobby, a drug


	"Well, no, but I was wondering."

	"Wondering what? You want to go to Times Square?"

	"No, that was just the first place I thought of. What I mean

is, I guess, would you let me go?"

	"No," Lucas said, "not to put too fine a point on it. But

you don't have to think of yourself as a prisoner. More like a

guest. A valued guest."

	Bobby smiled wanly. "Oh. Okay. Like what they call

protective custody, I guess."

	"Right," Lucas said, bringing the gold toothpick into play

again. "And while we are here, securely screened by the

good Ahmed, it's time we have a talk. Brother Beauvoir has

already told you a little about us, I think What do you think,

Bobby. about what he's told you?"

	"Well," Bobby said, "it's real interesting, but I'm not

sure I understand it."

	"What don't you understand?"

	"Well, I don't know about this voodoo stuff.

	Lucas raised his eyebrows

	"I mean, it's your business, what you wanna buy, I mean,

believe, right? But one minute Beauvoir's talking biz, street

tech, like I never heard before, and the next he's talking

mambos and ghosts and snakes and, and . .

	"And what?"

	"Horses," Bobby said, his throat tight.

	"Bobby, do you know what a metaphor is?"

	"A component? Like a capacitor?"

	"No. Never mind metaphor, then. When Beauvoir or I talk

to you about the ba and their horses, as we call those few the

ba choose to ride, you should pretend that we are talking two

languages at once. One of them, you already understand.

That's the language of street tech, as you call it. We may be

using different words, but we're talking tech. Maybe we call

something Ougou Feray that you might call an icebreaker,

you understand? But at the same time, with the same words,

we are talking about other things, and that you don't under-

stand. You don't need to." He put his toothpick away.

	Bobby took a deep breath. "Beauvoir said that Jackie's a

horse for a snake, a snake called Danbala. You run that by

me in street tech?"

	"Certainly. Think of Jackie as a deck, Bobby, a cyberspace

deck, a very pretty one with nice ankles." Lucas grinned and

Bobby blushed. "Think of Danbala, who some people call

the snake, as a program. Say as an icebreaker. Danbala slots

into the Jackie deck, Jackie cuts ice. That's all."

	"Okay," Bobby said, getting the hang of it, "then what's

the matrix? If she's a deck, and Danbala's a program, what's


	"The world," Lucas said.

	"Best if we walk from here," Lucas said

	The Rolls came to a silent, silken halt and Lucas stood,

buttoning his suit coat. "Ahmed attracts too much attention."

He picked up his cane, and the door made a soft chunking

sound as it unlocked itself.

	Bobby climbed down behind him, into the unmistakable

signature smell of the Sprawl, a rich amalgam of stale subway

exhalations, ancient soot, and the carcinogenic tang of fresh

plastics, all of it shot through with the carbon edge of illicit

fossil fuels. High overhead, in the reflected glare of arc

lamps, one of the unfinished Fuller domes shut out two thirds

of the salmon-pink evening sky, its ragged edge like broken

gray honeycomb. The Sprawl's patchwork of domes tended to

generate inadvertent microclimates; there were areas of a few

city blocks where a fine drizzle of condensation fell continu-

ally from the soot-stained geodesics, and sections of high

dome famous for displays of static-discharge, a peculiarly

urban variety of lightning. There was a stiff wind blowing, as

Bobby followed Lucas down the street, a warm, gritty breeze

that probably had something to do with pressure shifts in the

Sprawl-long subway system.

	"Remember what I told you," Lucas said, his eyes nar-

rowed against the grit. "The man is far more than he seems.

Even if he were nothing more than what he seems, you would

owe him a degree of respect. If you want to be a cowboy,

you're about to meet a landmark in the trade."

	"Yeah, right." He skipped to avoid a graying length of

printout that tried to wrap itself around his ankle. "So he's

the one you an' Beauvoir bought the A"

	"Ha! No! Remember what I told you. You speak in the

open street, you may as well put your words up on a bulletin-


	Bobby grimaced, then nodded. Shit. He kept blowing it.

Here he was with a major operator, up to his neck in some

amazing kind of biz, and he kept acting like a wilson Oper-

ator. That was the word for Lucas, a'nd for Beauvoir, too, and

that voodoo talk was Just some game they ran on people, he'd

decided. In the Rolls, Lucas had launched into some strange

extended number about Legha, who he said was the ba of

communication, "the master of roads and pathways," all

about how the man he was taking Bobby to meet was a

favorite of Legba's. When Bobby asked if the man was

another oungan, Lucas said no; he said the man had walked

with Legha all his life, so close that he'd never known the ba

was there at all, like it was just a part of him, his shadow.

And this was the man, Lucas had said, who'd sold them the

software that Two-a-Day had rented to Bobby. .

	Lucas rounded a corner and stopped, Bobby close behind.

They stood in front of a blackened brownstone whose win-

dows had been sealed decades before with sheets of corru-

gated steel. Part of the ground floor had once been a shop of

some kind, its cracked display windows opaque with grime.

The door, between the blind windows, had been reinforced

with the same steel that sealed the windows of the upper

floors, and Bobby thought he could make out some sort of

sign behind the window to his left, discarded neon script

tilted diagonally in the gloom. Lucas just stood there, facing

the doorway, his face expressionless, the tip of his cane

planted neatly on the sidewalk and his large hands one atop

the other on the brass knob. "First thing that you learn," he

said, with the tone of a man reciting a proverb, "is that you

always gotta wait .

	Bobby thought he heard something scrape, behind the door,

and then there was a rattle like chains. "Amazing," Lucas

said, "almost as though we were expected."

	The door swung ten centimeters on well-oiled hinges and

seemed to catch on something. An eye regarded them, un-

blinking, suspended there in that crack of dust and dark, and

at first it seemed to Bobby that it must be the eye of some

large animal, the iris a strange shade of brownish yellow, and

the whites, mottled and shot through with red, the lower lid

gaping redder still below. "Hoodoo man," said the invisible

face the eye belonged to, then, "hoodoo man and some little

lump of shit. Jesus ..~" There was an awful, gurgling

sound, as of antique phlegm being drawn up from hidden

recesses, and then the man spat. "Well, move it, Lucas."

There was another grating sound and the door swung inward

on the dark. "I'm a busy man~.~." This last from a meter

away, receding, as though the eye's owner were scurrying

from the light admitted by the open door.

	Lucas stepped through, Bobby on his heels, Bobby feeling

the door swing smoothly shut behind him. The sudden dark-

ness brought the hairs on his forearms up. It felt alive, that

dark, cluttered and dense and somehow sentient.

	Then a match flared and some sort of pressure lamp hissed

and spat as the gas in its mantle ignited. Bobby could only

gape at the face beyond the lantern, where the bloodshot

yellow eye waited with its mate in what Bobby would very

much have liked to believe was a mask of some kind.

	"I don't suppose you were expecting us, were you, Finn?"

Lucas asked.

	"You wanna know," the face said, revealing large flat

yellow teeth, "I was on my way out to find something to

eat " He looked to Bobby as though he could survive on a

diet of moldering carpet, or burrow patiently through the

brown wood pulp of the damp-swollen books stacked shoulder-

high on either side of the tunnel where they stood. "Who's

the little shit, Lucas?"

	"You know, Finn, Beauvoir and I are experiencing diffi-

culties with something we acquired from you in good faith."

Lucas extended his cane and prodded delicately at a dan-

gerous-looking overhang of crumbling paperbacks.

	"Are you, now?" The Finn pursed his gray lips in mock

concern. "Don't fuck with those first editions, Lucas. You

bring `em down, you pay for `em."

	Lucas withdrew the cane. Its polished ferrule flashed in the

lantern glare.

	"So,'~ the Finn said. "You got problems Funny thing,

Lucas, funny fucking thing." His cheeks were grayish, seamed

with deep diagonal creases. "I got some problems, too, three

of `em. I didn't have `em, this morning. I guess that's just the

way life is, sometimes " He put the hissing lantern down on

a gutted steel filing cabinet and fished a bent, unfiltered

cigarette from a side pocket of something that might once

have been a tweed jacket. "My three problems, they're up-

stairs. Maybe you wanna have a look at them     He struck

a wooden match on the base of the lantern and lit his ciga-

rette. The pungent reek of black Cuban tobacco gathered in

the air between them.

	"You know," the Finn said, stepping over the first of the

bodies, "I been at this location `a long time. Everybody

knows me. They know I'm here You buy from the Finn, you

know who you're buying from. And I stand behind my

product, every time .

	Bobby was staring down at the upturned face of the dead

man, at the eyes gone dull. There was something wrong with

the shape of the torso, wrong with the way it lay there in the

black clothes. Japanese face, no expression, dead eyes .

	"And all that time," the Finn continued, "you know how

many people ever dumb enough to try to get in here to take

me off? None' Not one, not till this morning, and I get

fucking three already. Well," he shot Bobby a hostile glance,

"that's not counting the odd little lump of shit, I guess,

but     He shrugged.

	"He looks kind of lopsided," Bobby said still staring at the

first corpse.

	"That's `cause he's dog food, inside " The Finn leered

"All mashed up."

	"The Finn collects exotic weapons," Lucas said, nudging

the wrist of a second body with the tip of his cane. "Have

you scanned them for implants, Finn?"

	"Yeah. Pain in the butt. Hadda carry `em downstairs to the

back room. Nothing. other than what you'd expect. They're

just a hit team." He sucked his teeth noisily. "Why's any-

body wanna hit me?"

	"Maybe you sold them a very expensive product that

wouldn't do its job," Lucas volunteered.

	"I hope you aren't sayin' you sent `em, Lucas," the Finn

said levelly, "unless you wanna see me do the dog-food


	"Did I say you'd sold us something that doesn't work?"

	Experiencing difficulties,' you said. And what else have

you guys bought from me recently?"

	"Sorry, Finn, but they're not ours. You know it, too."

	"Yeah, I guess I do So what the fuck's got you down

here, Lucas? You know that stuff you bought wasn't covered

by the usual guarantees

	~You know," said the Finn, after listening to the story of

Bobby's abortive cyberspace run, "that's some weird shit out

there.' He slowly shook his narrow, strangely elongated

head. "Didn~ used to be this way." He looked at Lucas.

"You people know, don't you?"

	They were seated around a square white table in a white

room on the ground floor, behind the junk-clogged storefront.

The floor was scuffed hospital tile, molded in a nonslip

pattern, and the walls broad slabs of dingy white plastic

concealing dense layers of antibugging circuitry. Compared to

the storefront, the white room seemed surgically clean. Sev-

eral alloy tripods bnstling with sensors and scanning gear

stood around the table like abstract sculpture.

	Know what?" Bobby asked. With each retelling of his

story, he felt less like a wilson. Important. It made him feel


	"Not you, pisshead," the Finn said weanly. ~Him. Big

hoodoo man. He knows. Knows it's not the same. Hasn't

been, not for a long time. I been in the trade forever. Way

back. Before the war, before there was any matrix, or anyway

before people knew there was one." He was looking at Bobby

now. `I got a pair of shoes older than you are, so what the

fuck should I expect you to know? There were cowboys ever

since there were computers. They built the first computers to

crack German ice. nght? Codebreakers. So there was ice

before computers, you wanna look at it that way " He lit his

fifteenth cigarette of the evening, and smoke began to fill the

white room.

	"Lucas knows, yeah. The last seven, eight years, there's

been funny stuff out there, out on the console cowboy circuit.

The new jockeys, they make deals with things, don't they.

Lucas? Yeah, you bet I know; they still need the hard and the

soft, and they still gotta be faster than snakes on ice, but all

of `em, all the ones who really know how to cut it, they got

allies, don't they, Lucas?"

	Lucas took his gold toothpick out of his pocket and began

to work on a rear molar, his face dark and serious.

	"Thnnes and dominions," the Finn said obscurely. "Yeah,

there's things out there. Ghosts, voices Why not? Oceans

had mermaids, all that shit, and we had a sea of silicon, see?

Sure, it's just a tailored hallucination we all agreed to have,

cyberspace, but anybody who jacks in knows, fucking knows

it's a whole universe. And every year it gets a little more

crowded, sounds like

	"For us," Lucas said, "the world has always worked that


	"Yeah" the Finn said, "so you guys could slot right into

it, tell people the things you were cutting deals with were

your same old bush gods

	"Divine Horsemen

	Sure. Maybe you believe it. But I'm old enough to

remember when it wasn't like that. Ten years ago, you went

in the Gentleman Loser and tried telling any of the top jocks

you talked with ghosts in the matrix, they'd have figured you

were crazy."

	"A wilson," Bobby put in. feeling left out and no longer

as Important.

	The Finn looked at him, blankly. "A what?"

	"A wilson A fuck-up. It's hotdogger talk, I guess

Did it again. Shit.

	The Finn gave him a very strange look. "Jesus. That's

your word for it, huh? Christ I know the guy


	"Bodine Wilson," he said. `First guy I ever knew wound

up as a figure of speech."

	"Was he stupid?" Bobby asked, immediately regretting it

	"Stupid? Shit, no, he was smart as hell." The Finn stubbed

his cigarette out in a cracked ceramic Campan ashtray. lust

a total fuck-up, was all He worked with the Dixie Flatline

once      The bloodshot yellow eyes grew distant.

	"Finn," Lucas said, ~where did you get that icebreaker

you sold us?"

	The Finn regarded him bleakly. "Forty years in the busi-

ness, Lucas. You know how many times I've been asked that

question? You know how many times I'd be dead if I'd

answered it?"

	Lucas nodded. "I take your point. But at the same time, I

put one to you." He held the toothpick out toward the Finn

like a toy dagger. "The real reason you're willing to sit here

and bullshit is that you think those three stiffs upstairs have

something to do with the icebreaker you sold us. And you sat

up and took special notice when Bobby told you about his

mother's condo getting wiped, didn't you?"

	The Finn showed teeth "Maybe."

	"Somebody's got you on their list, Finn. Those three dead

ninjas upstairs cost somebody a lot of money. When they

don't come back, somebody'll be even more determined,


	The red-rimmed yellow eyes blinked. "They were all tooled

up," he said, "ready for a hit, but one of `em had some other

things. Things for asking questions " His nicotine-stained

fingers, almost the color of cockroach wings, came up to

slowly massage his short upper lip. "I got it off Wigan

Ludgate," he said, "the Wig."

	"Never heard of him," Lucas said.

	"Crazy little motherfucker," the Finn said, "used to be a


	How it was, the Finn began, and to Bobby it was all

infinitely absorbing, even better than listening to Beauvoir

and Lucas, Wigan Ludgate had had five years as a top jock,

which is a decent run for a cyberspace cowboy. Five years

tends to find a cowboy either rich or brain-dead, or else

financing a stable of younger cracksmen and strictly into the

managerial side. The Wig, in his first heat of youth and

glory, had stormed off on an extended pass through the rather

sparsely occupied sectors of the matrix representing those

geographical areas which had once been known as the Third


	Silicon doesn't wear out; microchips were effectively im-

mortal. The Wig took notice of the fact. Like every other

child of his age, however, he knew that silicon became

obsolete, which was worse than wearing out; this fact was a

grim and accepted constant for the Wig, like death or taxes,

and in fact he was usually more worried about his gear falling

behind the state of the art than he was about death (he was

twenty-two) or taxes (he didn't file, although he paid a Singa-

pore money laundry a yearly percentage that was roughly

equivalent to the income tax he would have been required to

pay if he'd declared his gross). The Wig reasoned that all that

obsolete silicon had to be going somewhere. Where it was

going, he learned, was into any number of very poor places

struggling along with nascent industrial bases. Nations so

benighted that the concept of nation was still taken seriously.

The Wig punched himself through a couple of African back-

waters and felt like a shark cruising a swimming pool thick

with caviar. Not that any one of those tasty tiny eggs arnounted

to much, but you could just open wide and scoop, and it was

easy and filling and it added up. The Wig worked the Afri-

cans for a week, incidentally bringing about the collapse of at

least three governments and causing untold human suffering.

At the end of his week, fat with the crearn of several million

laughably tiny bank accounts, he retired. As he was going

out, the locusts were coming in; ofher people had gotten the

African idea.

	The Wig sat on the beach at Cannes for two years, ingest-

ing only the most expensive designer drugs and periodically

flicking on a tiny Hosaka television to study the bloated

bodies of dead Africans with a strange and curiously innocent

intensity. At some point, no one could quite say where or

when or why, it began to be noted that the Wig had gone over

the edge. Specifically, the Finn said, the Wig had become

convinced that God lived in cyberspace, or perhaps that

cyberspace was God, or some new manifestation of same.

The Wig's ventures into theology tended to be marked by

major paradigm shifts, true leaps of faith. The Finn had some

idea of what the Wig was about in those days; shortly after

his conversion to his new and singular faith, Wigan Ludgate

had returned to the Sprawl and embarked on an epic if

somewhat random voyage of cybernetic discovery. Being a

former console jockey, he knew where to go for the very best

in what the Finn called the hard and the soft. The Finn

provided the Wig with all manner of both, as the Wig was

still a rich man. The Wig explained to the Finn that his

technique of mystical exploration involved projecting his con-

sciousness into blank, unstructured sectors of the matrix and

waiting. To the man's credit, the Finn said, he never actually

claimed to have met God, although he did maintain that he

had on several occasions sensed His presence moving upon

the face of the grid. In due course, the Wig ran out of money.

His spiritual quest having alienated the few remaining busi-

ness connections from his pre-African days, he sank without a


	"But then he turned up one day," the Finn said, "crazy as

a shithouse rat. He was a pale little fucker anyway, but now

he wore all this African shit, beads and bones and every-

thing." Bobby let go of the Finn's narrative long enough to

wonder how anyone who looked like the Finn could describe

somebody as a pale little fucker, then glanced over at Lucas,

whose face was dead grim. Then it occurred to Bobby that

Lucas might take the Africa stuff personally, sort of. But the

Finn was continuing his story.

	"He had a lot of stuff he wanted to sell. Decks, peripher-

als, software. It was all a couple of years old, but it was top

gear, so I gave him a price on it. I noticed he'd had a socket

implant, and he kept this one sliver of microsoft jacked

behind his ear. What's the soft? It's blank, he says. He's

sitting right where you are now, kid, and he says to me, it's

blank and it's the voice of God, and I live forever in His

white hum, or some shit like that. So I think, Christ, the

Wig's gone but good now, and there he is counting up the

money I'd given him for about the fifth time. Wig, I said,

time's money but tell me what you intend to do now? Be-

cause I was curious. Known the guy years, in a business way

Finn, he says, I gotta get up the gravity well, God's up there.

I mean, he says, He's everywhere but there's too much static

down here, it obscures His face. Right, I say. you got it. So I

show him the door and that's it. Never saw him again."

	Bobby blinked, waited, squirmed a little on the hard seat of

the folding chair.

	"Except, about a year later, a guy turns up, high-orbit

rigger down the well on a leave, and he's got some good

software for sale. Not great, but interesting. He says it's from

the Wig. Well, maybe the Wig's a freak, and long out of the

game, but he can still spot the good shit. So I buy it. That

was maybe ten years ago, right? And every year or so, some

guy would turn up with something. `The Wig told me I

should offer you this.' And usually I'd buy it. It was never

anything special, but it was okay. Never the same guy bring-

ing it, either."

	"Was that it, Finn, just software?" Lucas asked

	"Yeah, mainly, except for these weird sculpture things. I'd

forgotten that. I figured the Wig made `em. First time a guy

came in with one of those, I bought the `ware he had, then

said what the fuck do you call that? Wig said you might be

interested, the guy said. Tell him he's crazy, I said. The guy

laughed. Well, you keep it, he says I'm not carrying the

Goddamn thing back up with me. I mean, it was about the

size of a deck, this thing, just a bunch of garbage and shit,

stuck together in a box . . . So I pushed it behind this Coke

crate fulla scrap iron, and forgot it, except old Smith-he's a

colleague of mine in those days, dealt mostly art and collecti-

bleshe sees it and wants it. So we do some dipshit deal.

Any more of these, Finn, he says, get `em. There's assholes

uptown go for this kind of shit. So the next time a guy turned

up from the Wig, I bought the sculpture thing, too, and traded

it to Smith. But it was never much money for any of it . .

The Finn shrugged. "Not until last month, anyway. Some kid

came in with what you bought. It was from the Wig. Listen.

he says, this is biosoft and its a bfeaker. Wig says it's worth 

a lot. I put a scan on it and it looked right. I thought it looked

interesting, you know? Your partner Beauvoir thought it looked

pretty interesting, too. I bought it. Beauvoir bought it off me.

End of story." The Finn dragged out a cigarette, this one

broken, bent double. "Shit," he said He pulled a faded pack

of cigarette papers from the same pocket and extracted one of

the fragile pink leaves, rolling it tightly around the broken

cigarette, a sort of splint. When he licked the glue, Bobby

caught a glimpse of a very pointed gray-pink tongue.

	"And where, Finn, does Mr. Wig reside?" Lucas asked,

his thumbs beneath his chin, his large fingers forming a

steeple in front of his face.

	"Lucas, I haven't got the slightest fucking clue. In orbit

somewhere. And modestly, if the kind of money he was

getting out of me meant anything to him. You know, I hear

there's places up there where you don't need money, if you

fit into the economy, so maybe a little goes a long way. Don't

ask me, though, I'm agoraphobic." He smiled nastily at

Bobby, who was trying to get the image of that tongue out of

his mind. "You know," he said, squinting at Lucas, "it was

about that time that I started hearing about weird shit happen-

ing in the matrix."

	"Like what?" Bobby asked.

	"Keep the fuck out of this," the Finn said, still looking at

Lucas. "That was before you guys turned up, the new hoo-

doo team. I knew this street samurai got a job working for a

Special Forces type made the Wig look flat fucking normal.

Her and this cowboy they'd scraped up out of Chiba, they

were on to something like that. Maybe they found it. Istanbul

was the last I saw of `em. Heard she lived in London, once, a

few years ago. Who the fuck knows? Seven, eight years."

The Finn suddenly seemed tired, and old, very old. He

looked to Bobby like a big, mummified rat animated by

springs and hidden wires. He took a wristwatch with a cracked

face and a single greasy leather strap from his pocket and

consulted it. "Jesus. Well, that's all you get from me. Lucas.

I've got some friends from an organ bank coming by in

twenty minutes to talk a little biz."

	Bobby thought of the bodies upstairs. They'd been there all


	"Hey," the Finn said, reading the expression on his face,

"organ banks are great for getting rid of things. I'm paying

them. Those motherless assholes upstairs, they don't have too

much left in the way of organs ..."And the Finn laughed

	"You said he was close to . . . Legba? And Legba's the

one you and Beauvoir said gave me luck when I hit that black


	Beyond the honeycomb edge of the geodesics, the sky was


	"Yes," Lucas said. He seemed lost in thought.

	"But he doesn't seem to trust that stuff at all."

	"It doesn't matter," Lucas said as the Rolls came into

view. "He's always been close to the spirit of the thing."

THE PLANE HAD GONE to ground near the sound of running

water. Turner could hear it, turnin'g in the g-web in his fever

or sleep, water down stone, one of the oldest songs The

plane was smart, smart as any dog, with hard-wired instincts

of concealment. He felt it sway on its landing gear, some-

where in the sick night, and creep forward, branches brushing

and scraping against the dark canopy. The plane crept into

deep green shadow and sank down on its knees, its airframe

whining and creaking as it flattened itself, belly down, into

loam and granite like a manta ray into sand. The mimetic

polycarbon coating its wings and fuselage mottled and dark-

ened, taking on the colors and patterns of moon-dappled stone

and forest soil. Finally it was silent, and the only sound was

the sound of water over a creekbed .

	He came awake like a machine, eyes opening, vision plugged

in, empty, remembering the red flash of Lynch's death out

beyond the fixed sights of the Smith & Wesson. The arc of

the canopy above him was laced with mimetic approximations

of leaves and branches Pale dawn and the sound of running

water He was still wearing Oakey's blue work shirt It

smelled of sour sweat now, and he'd ripped the sleeves out

the day before. The gun lay between his legs, pointing at the

jet's black joystick. The g-web was a limp tangle around his

hips and shoulders. He twisted around and saw the girl, oval

face and a brown dried trickle of blood beneath a nostril She

was still out, sweating, her lips slightly parted, like a 


	"Where are we?"

	"We are fifteen meters south-southeast of the landing coordi-

nates you provided," the plane said. "You were unconscious

again. I opted for concealment."

	He reached back and removed the interface plug from his

socket, breaking his link with the plane. He gazed dully

around the cockpit until he found the manual controls for the

canopy. It sighed up on servos, the lacework of polycarbon

leaves shifting as it moved. He got his leg over the side,

looked down at his hand flat against the fuselage at the edge

of the cockpit Polycarbon reproduced the gray tones of a

nearby boulder; as he watched, it began to paint a hand-sized

patch the color of his palm He pulled his other leg over, the

gun forgotten on the seat, and slid down into earth and long

sweet grass. Then he slept again, his forehead against the

grass and dreamed of running water.

	When he woke, he was crawling forward on his hands and

knees, through low branches heavy with dew. Finally he

reached a cleanng and pitched forward, rolling over, his arms

spread in what felt like surrender. High above him, something

small and gray launched itself from one branch, caught an-

other, swung there for an instant, then scrambled away, out

of his sight.

	Lie still, he heatti a voice telling him, years away. Just lay

out and relax and pretty soon they'll forget you, forget you in

the gray and the dawn and the dew. They're out to feed, feed

and play, and their brains can't hold two messages, not for

long. He lay there on his back, beside his brother, the nylon-

stocked Winchester across his chest, breathing the smell of

new brass and gun oil, the smell of their campfire still in his

hair. And his brother was always right, about the squirrels.

They came. They forgot the clear glyph of death spelled out

below them in patched denim and blue steel; they came,

racing along limbs, pausing to sniff the morning, and Turner's

.22 cracked, a limp gray body tumbling down. The others

scattered, vanishing, and Turner passed the gun to his brother.

Again, they waited, waited for the squirrels to forget them.

	"You're like me," Turner said to the squirrels, bobbing up

out of his dream. One of them sat up suddenly on a fat limb

and looked directly at him. "I always come back." The

squirrel hopped away. "I was coming back when I ran from

the Dutchman. I was coming back when I flew to Mexico. I

was coming back when I killed Lynch

	He lay there for a long time, watching the squirrels, while

the woods woke and the morning warmed around him. A

crow swept in, banking, braking with feathers it spread like

black mechanical fingers. Checking to see if he were dead.

	Turner grinned up at the crow as it flapped away.

	Not yet.

	He crawled back in, under the overhanging branches, and

found her sitting up in the cockpit. She wore a baggy white

T-shirt slashed diagonally with the MAAS-NEOTEK logo. There

were lozenges of fresh red blood across the front of the shirt.

Her nose was bleeding again. Bright blue eyes, dazed and

disoriented, in sockets bruised yellow-black, like exotic 


	Young, he saw, very young.

	"You're Mitchell's daughter," he said, dragging the name

up from the biosoft dossier. "Angela."

	"Angie," she said, automaticalfy "Who' re you? I'm bleed-

ing. She held out a bloody carnation of wadded tissue.

	"Turner. I was expecting your father." Remembering the

gun now, her other hand out of sight, below the edge of the

cockpit. "Do you know where he isV

	"In the mesa. He thought he could talk with them, explain

it Because they need him."

	"With who?" He took a step forward.

	"Maas. The Board. They can't afford to hurt him. Can


	"Why would they'?" Another step

	She dabbed at her nose with the red tissue. "Because he

sent me out. Because he knew they were going to hurt me,

kill me maybe. Because of the dreams."

	"The dreams'?"

	"Do you think they'll hurt him?"

	"No, no, they wouldn't do that. I'm going to climb up

there now. Okay?"

	She nodded. He had to run his hands over the side of the

fuselage to find the shallow, recessed handholds; the mimetic

coating showed him leaf and lichen, twigs . And then he

was up, beside her, and he saw the gun beside her sneakered

foot. "But wasn't he coming himself? I was expecting him.

your father''

	"No. We never planned that. We only had the one plane.

Didn't he tell you?" She started to shake. "Didn't he tell you


	"Enough," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder, "he

told us enough. It'll be all right .." He swung his legs

over, bent, moved the Smith & Wesson away from her foot.

and found the interface cable. His hand still on her, he raised

it, snapped it into place behind his ear.

	`Give me the procedures for erasing anything you stored in

the past forty-eight hours," he said. "I want to dump that

course for Mexico City, your flight from the coast, any-

thing .

	"There was no plan logged for Mexico City," the voice

said, direct neural input on audio.

	Turner stared at the girl, rubbed his jaw.

	"Where were we going?"

	~Bogot6," and the jet reeled out coordinates for the land-

ing they hadn't made

	She blinked at him, her lids bruised dark as the surrounding

skin. `Who are you talking to?"

	"The plane. Did Mitchell tell you where he thought you'd

be going""


	Know anyone in Bogota? Where's your mother?"

	"No. Berlin, I think. I don't really know her."

	He wiped the plane's banks, dumping Conroy's program-

ming, what there was of it: the approach from California,

identification data for the site, a flight plan that would have

taken them to a stnp within three hundred kilometers of

Bogota's urban core

	Someone would find the jet eventually. He thought about

the Maas orbital recon system and wondered if the stealth-

and-evasion programs he'd ordered the plane to run had done

any real good. He could offer the jet to Rudy for salvage, but

he doubted Rudy would want to be involved. For that matter,

simply showing up at the farm, with Mitchell's daughter in

tow, dragged Rudy in right up to his neck But there was

nowhere else to go, not for the things he needed now.

	It was a four-hour walk, along half-remembered trails and

down a weed-grown, winding stretch of two-lane blacktop.

The trees were different, it seemed to him, and then he

remembered how much they would have grown over the years

since he'd been back. At regular intervals they passed the

stumps of wooden poles that had once supported telephone

wires, overgrown now with bramble and honeysuckle, the

wires pulled down for fuel. Bees grazed in flowering grass at

the roadside

	"Is there food where we're going?" the girl asked, the

soles of her white sneakers scuffing the weathered blacktop.

	"Sure," Turner said, "all you want."

	"What I want right now's water." She swiped a lank

strand of brown hair back from a tanned cheek. He'd noticed

she was developing a limp, and she'd started to wince each

time she put her right foot down.

	"What's wrong with your leg?"

	"Ankle. Something, I think when I decked the `light " She

grimaced, kept walking.

	"We'll rest."

	"No. I want to get there, get anywhere

	"Rest, he said, taking her hand, leading her to the edge

of the road. She made a face, but sat down beside him, her

right leg stretched carefully in froflt of her.

	"That's a big gun," she said. It was hot now, too hot for

the parka. He'd put the shoulder rig on bareback, with the

sleeveless work shirt over it, tails out and flapping. "Why's

the barrel look like that, like a cobra's head, underneath?"

	"That's a sighting device, for night-fights." He leaned

forward to examine her ankle. It was swelling quickly now.

"I don't know how much longer you'll want to walk on

that," he said.

	"You get into a lot of fights, at night? With guns?"


	"I don't think I understand what it is that you do

	He looked up at her. I don't always understand that

myself, not lately I was expecting your father. He wanted to

change companies, work for somebody else. The people he

wanted to work for hired me and some other people to make

sure he got out of his old contract."

	"But there wasn't any way out of that contract," she said.

"Not legally."

	"That's right " Undoing the knot, unlacing the sneaker

"Not legally

	"Oh So that's what you do for a living?"

	"Yes." Sneaker off now, she wore no sock, the ankle

swelling badly. "This is a sprain

	`What about the other people, then? You had more peoples

back there, in that ruin? Somebody was shooting, and those

flares . .

	"Hard to say who was shooting," he said, "but the flares

weren't ours. Maybe Maas security team, following you out.

Did you think you got out clean?"

	"I did what Chris told me," she said. "Chris, that's my


	"I know. I think I'm going to have to carry you the rest of

the way."

	"But what about your friends?"

	"What friends?"

	"Back there, in Arizona."

	"Right. Well," and he wiped sweat from his forehead with

the back of his hand, "can't say. Don't really know."

	Seeing the white-out sky, flare of energy, brighter than the

sun. But no pulse of electromagnetics, the plane had said

The first of Rudy's augmented dogs picked them up fifteen

minutes after they started out again. Angie riding Turner's

back, arms around his shoulders, skinny thighs under his

armpits, his fingers locked in front of his sternum in a double

fist. She smelled like a kid from the up-line `burbs, some

vaguely herbal hint of soap or shampoo. Thinking that, he

thought about what he must smell like to her. Rudy had a


"Oh, shit, what's that?" Stiffening on his back, pointing.

	A lean gray hound regarded them from a high clay bank at

a turning in the road, its narrow head sheathed and blindered

in a black hood studded with sensors. It panted, tongue

lolling, and slowly swung its head from side to side.

	"It's okay," Turner said. "Watchdog. Belongs to my


	The house had grown, sprouting wings and workshops, but

Rudy had never painted the peeling clapboard of the original

structure. Rudy had thrown up a taut square of chainlink,

since Turner's time, fencing away his collection of vehicles,

but the gate was open when they arrived, the hinges lost in

morning glory and rust. The real defenses, Turner knew.

were elsewhere. Four of the augmented hounds trotted after

him as he trudged up the gravel drive, Angie's head limp on

his shoulder, her arms still locked around him.

	Rudy was waiting on the front porch, in old white shorts

and a navy T-shirt, its single pocket displaying at least nine

pens of one kind or another. He looked at them and raised a

green can of Dutch beer in greeting. Behind him, a blonde in

a faded khaki shirt stepped out of the kitchen, a chrome

spatula in her hand; her hair was clipped short, swept up and

back in a cut that made Turner think of the Korean medic in

Hosaka's pod, of the pod burning, of Webber, of the white

sky . . He swayed there, in Rudy's gravel driveway, legs

wide to support the girl, his bare chest streaked with sweat,

with dust from the mall in Arizona, and looked at Rudy and

the blonde.

	"We got some breakfast for you," Rudy said. "When you

came up on the dog screens, we figured you'd be hungry

His tone was carefully noncommittal.

	The girl groaned.

	"That's good," Turner said. "She's got a bum ankle.

Rudy. We better look at that. Some other things I have to talk

to you about, too."

	"Little young for you. I'd say," Rudy said, and took

another swig of his beer.

	"Fuck off, Rudy," the woman beside him said, "can't you

see she's hurt? Bring her in this way," she said to Turner,

and was gone, back through the kitchen door.

	"You look different," Rudy said, peering at him, and

Turner saw that he was drunk. "The same, but different."

	"It's been a while," Turner said, starting for the wooden


	"You get a face job or something""

	"Reconstruction. They had to build it back from records

He climbed the steps, his lower back stabbed through with

pain at every move.

	"It's not bad," Rudy said. "I almost didn't notice." He

belched. He was shorter than Turner, and going to fat, but

they had the same brown hair, very similar features.

	Turner paused, on the stair, when their eyes were level.

"You still do a little bit of everything. Rudy? I need this kid

scanned. I need a few other things, too."

	"Well," his brother said, "we'll see what we can do. We

heard something last night. Maybe a sonic boom. Anything to

do with you?"

	"Yeah. There's a jet up by the squirrel wood, but it's

pretty well out of sight

	Rudy sighed "Jesus . . . Well, bring her in . .

	Rudy's years in the house had stripped it of most of the

things that Turner might have remembered, and something in

him was obscurely grateful for that. He watched the blonde

crack eggs into a steel bowl, dark yellow free-range yolks;

Rudy kept his own chickens. "I'm Sally," she said, whisking

the eggs around with a fork.


	`That's all he ever calls you either," she said. "He never

has talked about you much

	"We haven't kept all that much in touch. Maybe I should

go up now and help him."

	"You sit. Your little girl's okay with Rudy. He's got a

good touch."

	"Even when he's pissed?"

	"Half pissed. Well, he's not going to operate, just derm

her and tape that ankle." She crushed dry tortilla chips into a

black pan, over sizzling butter, and poured the eggs on top.

"What happened to your eyes, Turner? You and her .

She stirred the mixture with the chrome spatula, slopping in

salsa from a plastic tub.

	"G-force. Had to take off quick

	"That how she hurt her ankle?"

	"Maybe. Don't know."

	"People after you now? After her?" Busy taking plates

from the cabinet above the sink, the cheap brown laminate of

the cabinet doors triggering a sudden rush of nostalgia in

Turner, seeing her tanned wrists as his mother's. .

	"Probably," he said. "I don't know what's involved, not


	"Eat some of this." Transferring the mixture to a white

plate, rummaging for a fork. "Rudy's scared of the kind of

people you might get after you."

	Taking the plate, the fork. Steam rising from the eggs. "So

am I."

	"Got some clothes," Sally said, over the sound of the

shower, "friend of Rudy's left `em here, ought to fit you.

The shower was gravity-operated, rainwater from a roof tank,

a fat white filtration unit strapped into the pipe above the

spray head. Turner stuck his head out between cloudy sheets

of plastic and blinked at her. "Thanks."

	"Girl's unconscious," she said. "Rudy thinks it's shock,

exhaustion. He says her crits are high, so he might as well

run his scan now." She left the room then, taking Turner's

fatigues and Oakey's shirt with her.

* * *

	"What is she?" Rudy extending a crumpled scroll of sil-

very printout.

	"I don't know how to read that," Turner said, looking

amund the white room, looking for Angie. "Where is she?"

	"Sleeping. Sally's watching her." Rudy turned and walked

back, the length of the room, and Turner remembered it had

been the living room once. Rudy began to shut his consoles

down, the tiny pilot lights blinking out one by one. "I don't

know, man. I just don't know. What is it, some kind of


	Turner followed him down the room, past a worktable

where a micromanipulator waited beneath its dustcover Past

the dusty rectangular eyes of a bank of aged monitors, one of

them with a shattered screen.

	"It's all through her head," Rudy said "Like long chains

of it. It doesn't look like anything I've ever seen, ever.


	"How much do you know about biochips, Rudy?"

	Rudy grunted. He seemed very sober now, but tense,

agitated. He kept running his hands back through his hair

"That's what I thought. It's some kind of . . . Not an im-

plant. Graft."

	"What's it for?"

	"For? Christ Who the fuck knows? Who did it to her?

Somebody you work for?"

	"Her father, I think."

	"Jesus." Rudy wiped his hand across his mouth. "It shad-

ows like tumor, on the scans, but her crits are high enough,

normal What's she like, ordinanly?"

	"Don't know. A kid." He shrugged.

	"Fucking hell," Rudy said. "I'm amazed she can walk."

He opened a little lab freezer and came up with a frosted

bottle of Moskovskaya "Want it out of the bottle?" he


	"Maybe later."

	Rudy sighed, looked at the bottle, then returned it to the

fridge. "So what do you want? Anything as weird as what's

in that little girl's head, somebody's going to be after it 


If they aren't already."

	"They are," Turner said. "I don't know if they know

she's here."

	"Yet." Rudy wiped his palms on his grubby white shorts.

"But they probably will, right?"

	Turner nodded.

	"Where you going to go, then?"

	"The Sprawl."


	"Because I've got money there I've got credit lines in four

different names, no way to link `em back to me Because I've

got a lot of other connections I may be able to use. And

because it's always cover, the Sprawl. So damned much of it,

you know?"

	"Okay," Rudy said. "When?"

	"You that womed about it, you want us right out?"

	"No I mean, I don't know It's all pretty interesting,

what's in your girl friend's head. I've got a friend in Atlanta

could rent me a function analyzer, brain map, one to one; put

that on her, I might start to figure out what that thing is .

Might be worth something."

	"Sure If you knew where to sell it."

	"Aren't you curious? I mean, what the hell is she? You

pull her out of some military lab?" Rudy opened the white

freezer door again, took out the bottle of vodka, opened it,

and took a swallow.

	Turner took the bottle and tilted it, letting the icy fluid

splash against his teeth. He swallowed, shuddered. "It's

corporate. Big. I was supposed to get her father out, but he

sent her instead Then somebody took the whole site out,

looked like a baby nuke. We just made it. This far." He

handed Rudy the bottle. "Stay straight for me, Rudy You

get scared, you drink too much."

	Rudy was staring at him, ignoring the bottle. "Arizona,"

he said "It was on the news. Mexico's still kicking about it.

But it wasn't a nuke. They've had crews out there, all over it.

No nuke."

	"What was it'~"

	"They think it was a railgun They think somebody put up

a hypervelocity gun in a cargo blimp and blew hell out of

some derelict mall out there in the boonies. They know there

was a blimp near there, and so far nobody's found it You can

rig a railgun to blow itself to plasma when it discharges. The

projectile could have been damn near anything, at those

velocities. About a hundred and fifty kilos of ice would do

the trick." He took the bottle, capped it, and put it down on

the counter beside him. "All that land around there, it be-

longs to Maas, Maas Biolabs, doesn't it? They've been on the

news, Maas. Cooperating fully with various authorities. You

bet. So that tells us where you got your little honey from, I


	"Sure. But it doesn't tell me who used the railgun Or


	Rudy shrugged.

	"You better come see this," Sally said from the door.

	Much later, Turner sat with Sally on the front porch. The

girl had lapsed, finally, into something Rudy's EEG called

sleep. Rudy was back in one of his workshops, pmbably with

his bottle of vodka. There were fireflies around the hon-

eysuckle vines beside the chainlink gate Turner found that if

he half closed his eyes, from his seat on the wooden porch

swing, he could almost see an apple' tree that was no longer

there, a tree that had once supported a length of silvery-gray

hemp rope and an ancient automobile tire There were fire-

flies then as well, and Rudy's heels thumping a bare hard skid

of earth as he pumped himself out on the swing's arc, legs

kicking, and Turner lay on his back in the grass, watching the

stars. .

	"Tongues," Sally said, Rudy's woman, from the creaking

rattan chair, her cigarette a red eye in the dark "Talking in

the tongues."

	"What's that?"

	"What your kid was doing, upstairs. You know any


	"No, not much. Not without a lexicon."

	"Some of it sounded French to me." The red amber was a

short slash for an instant, when she tapped ash "When I was

little, my old man took me one time to this stadium, and I

saw the testifying and the speaking in tongues. It scared me I

think it scared me more, today, when she started

	"Rudy taped the end of it, didn't he?"

	"Yeah. You know, Rudy hasn't been doing too good.

That's mainly why I moved back in here. I told him I wasn't

staying unless he straightened himself out, but then it got real

bad, so about two weeks ago I moved back in. I was about

ready to go when you showed up" The coal of the cigarette

arced out over the railing and fell on the gravel that covered

the yard.


	"That and the stuff he cooks for himself in the lab You

know, that man knows a little bit of damn near everything.

He's still got a lot of friends, around the county; I've heard

`em tell stories about when you and him were kids, before

you left."

	"He should have left, too," he said.

	"He hates the city," she said. "Says it all comes in on line

anyway, so why do you need to go there?"

	"I went because there was nothing happening here Rudy

could always find something to do. Still can, by the look of


	"You should've stayed in touch. He wanted you here when

your mother was dying."

	"I was in Berlin. Couldn't leave what I was doing

	"I guess not. I wasn't here then either I came later. That

was a good summer. Rudy just pulled me out of this sleaze-

ass club in Memphis; came in there with a bunch of country

boys one night. and next day I was back here, didn't really

know why. Except he was nice to me, those days, and funny,

and he gave my head a chance to slow down. He taught me to

cook." She laughed. "I liked that, except I was scared of

those Goddamn chickens out back." She stood up then and

stretched, the old chair creaking, and he was aware of the

length of her tanned legs, the smell and summer heat of her,

close to his face.

	She put her hands on his shoulders. His eyes were level

with the band of brown belly where her shorts rode low, her

navel a soft shadow, and remembering Allison in the white

hollow room, he wanted to press his face there, taste it

all . He thought she swayed slightly, but he wasn't sure.

	"Turner," she said, "sometimes bein' here with him, it's

like bein' here alone .

	So he stood, rattle of the old swing chain where the eye-

bolts were screwed deep in the tongue and groove of the

porch roof, bolts his father might have turned forty years

before, and kissed her mouth as it opened, cut loose in time

by talk and the fireflies and the subliminal triggers of mem-

ory, so that it seemed to him, as he ran his palms up the

warmth of her bare back, beneath the white T-shirt, that the

people in his life weren't beads strung on a wire of sequence,

but clustered like quanta, so that he knew her as well as he'd

known Rudy, or Allison, or Conroy, as well as he knew the

girl who was Mitchell's daughter.

	"Hey," she whispered, working her mouth free, "you

come upstairs now "

ALAiN PHONED AT FIVE and verified the availability of the

amount he required, fighting to control the sickness she felt at

his greed. She copied the address carefully on the back of a

card she'd taken from Picard's desk in the Roberts Gallery.

Andrea returned from work ten minutes later, and Marly was

glad that her friend hadn't been there for Alain's call.

	She watched Andrea prop up the kitchen window with a

frayed, blue-backed copy of the second volume of the Shorter

Oxford English Dictionary, sixth edition. Andrea had wedged

a kind of plywood shelf there, on the stone ledge, wide

enough to support the little hibachi she kept beneath the sink.

Now she was arranging the black squares of charcoal neatly

on the grate. "I had a talk about your employer today," she

said, placing the hibachi on the plywood and igniting the

greenish fire-starter paste with the spark gun from the stove.

"Our academic was in from Nice. He's baffled as to why I'd

choose Josef Virek as my focus of interest, but he's also a

horny old goat, so he was more than glad to talk."

	Marly stood beside her, watching the nearly invisible flames

lick around the coals.

	"He kept dragging the Tessier-Ashpools into it," Andrea

continued, "and Hughes. Hughes was mid to late twentieth

century, an American. He's in the book as well, as a sort of

proto-Virek I hadn't known that Tessier-Ashpool had started

to disintegrate     She went back to the counter and un-

wrapped six large tiger prawns.

	"They're Franco-Australian? I remember a documentary, I

think They own one of the big spas?"

	"Freeside. It's been sold now, my professor tells me. It

seems that one of old Ashpool's daughters somehow managed

to gain personal control of the entire business entity, became

increasingly eccentric, and the clan's interests went to hell.

This over the past seven years."

	"I don't see what it has to do with Virek," Marly said,

watching Andrea skewer each prawn on a long needle of


	"Your guess is as good as mine. My professor maintains

that both Virek and the Tessier-Ashpools are fascinating anach-

ronisms and that things can be learned about corporate evolu-

tion by watching them. He's convinced enough of our senior

editors, at any rate

	"But what did he say about Virek?"

	"That Virek's madness would take a different form."


	"Actually, he avoided calling it'that. But Hughes was mad

as birds, apparently, and old Ashpool as well, and his daugh-

ter totally bizarm. He said that Virek would be forced, by

evolutionary pressures, to make some sort of `jump.' `Jump

was his word."

	"Evolutionary pressures?"

	"Yes," Andrea said, carrying the skewered prawns to the

hibachi. "He talks about corporations as though they were

animals of some kind."

	After dinner, they went out walking. Marly found herself

straining, at times, to sense the imagined mechanism of Virek's

surveillance, but Andrea filled the evening with her usual

warmth and common sense, and Marly was grateful to walk

through a city where things were simply themselves. In Virek's

world, what could be simple? She remembered the brass knob

in the Galerie Duperey, how it had squirmed so indescribably

in her fingers as it drew her into Virek's model of the Parque

Guell. Was he always there, she wondered, in Gaudi's park,

in an afternoon that never ended? Sefior is wealthy. Seiior

enjoys any number of means of manifestation. She shivered in

the warm evening air, moved closer to Andrea.

	The sinister thing about a simstim construct, really, was

that it carried the suggestion that any environment might be

unreal, that the windows of the shopfronts she passed now

with Andrea might be figments. Mirrors, someone had once

said, were in some way essentially unwholesome; constructs

were more so, she decided.

	Andrea paused at a kiosk to buy her English cigarettes and

the new Elle. Marly waited on the pavement, the pedestrian

traffic parting automatically for her, faces sliding past, stu-

dents and businessmen and tourists. Some of them, she as-

sumed, were part of Virek's machine, wired into Paco. Paco

with his brown eyes, his easy way, his seriousness, muscles

moving beneath his broadcloth shirt. Paco, who had worked

for Sefior all his life.

	"What's wrong? You look as though you've just swal-

lowed something." Andrea, stripping the cellophane from her

twenty Silk Cut.

	"No," Marly said, and shivered, "But it occurs to me that

I very nearly did. ."

	And walking home, in spite of Andrea's conversation, her

warmth, the shopwindows had become boxes, each one, con-

structions, like the works of Joseph Cornell or the mysterious

boxmaker Virek sought. the books and furs and Italian cot-

tons arranged to suggest geometries of nameless longing.

	And waking, once again, face smudged into Andrea's couch,

the red quilt humped around her shoulders, smelling coffee,

while Andrea hummed some Tokyo pop song to herself in the

next room, dressing. in a gray morning of Paris rain.

	"No,~' she told Paco, "I'll go myself. I prefer it."

	"That is a great deal of money." He looked down at the

Italian bag on the cafu table between them. "It's dangerous,

you understand?'~

	"There's no one to know I'm carrying it, is there? Only

Alain. Alain and your friends. And I didn't say I'd go alone,

only that I don't feel like company.'

	"Is something wrong?" The serious deep lines at the cor-

ners of his mouth "You are upset?"

	"I only mean that I wish to be by myself. You and the

others, whoever they are, are welcome to follow, to follow

and observe. If you should lose me, which I think unlikely,

I'm sure you have the address."

	"That is true," he said. "But for you to carry several

million New Yen, alone, through Paris     He shrugged.

	"And if I were to lose it? Would Sefior register the loss?

Or would there be another bag, another four million?" She

reached for the shoulder strap and stood.

	"There would be another bag, certainly, although it re-

quires some effort on our part to assemble that amount of

cash. And, no, Se,'ior would not `register' its loss, in the

sense you mean, but I would be disciplined even for the

pointless loss of a lesser sum. The very rich have the common

characteristic of taking care with their money, you will find

	"Nonetheless. I go by myself. Not alone, but leave me

with my thoughts."

	"Your intuition


	If they followed, and she was sure they did, they were

invisible as ever. For that matter, it seemed most likely that

they would leave Alain unobserved. Certainly the address he

had given her that morning would aWeady be a focus of their

attention, whether he were there or not

	She felt a new strength today She had stood up to Paco It

had had something to do with her abrupt suspicion, the night

before, that Paco might be there, in part, for her, with his

humor and his manliness and his endearing ignorance of art.

She remembered Virek saying that they knew more about her

life than she herself did. What easier way, then, for them to

pencil in those last few blanks in the grid that was Marly

Krushkhova? Paco Estevez. A perfect stranger Too perfect.

She smiled at herself in a wall of blue mirror as the escalator

carried her down into the metro, pleased with the cut of her

dark hair and the stylishly austere titanium frames of the

black Porsche glasses she'd bought that morning. Good lips,

she thought, really not bad lips at all, and a thin boy in a

white shirt and dark leather jacket smiled at her from the up

escalator, a huge black portfolio case beneath his arm

	I'm in Paris, she thought. For the first time in a very long

time, that alone seemed reason to smile. And today I will

give my disgusting fool of a former lover four million New

Yen, and he will give me something in return A name, or an

address, perhaps a phone number. She bought a first-class

ticket; the car would be less crowded, and she could pass the

time guessing which of her fellow passengers belonged to


* * *

	The address Alain had given her, in a grim northern sub-

urb. was one of twenty concrete towers rising from a plain of

the same material, speculative real estate from the middle of

the previous century. The rain was falling steadily now, but

she felt as though she were somehow in collusion with it; it

lent the day something conspiratorial, and beaded on the chic

rubber bag stuffed with Alain's fortune. How queer to stroll

through this hideous landscape with millions beneath her arm,

on her way to reward her utterly faithless former lover with

these bales of New Yen.

	There was no answer when she buzzed the apartment's

numbered speaker button. Beyond smudged sheet glass, a

darkened foyer, entirely bare. The sort of place where you

turned the lights on as you entered; they turned themselves off

again, automatically, invariably before your elevator had ar-

rived, leaving you to wait thei'e in the smell of disinfectant

and tired air. She buzzed again. "Alain?" Nothing.

	She tried the door. It wasn't locked. There was no one in

the foyer. The dead eye of a derelict video camera regarded

her through a film of dust. The afternoon's watery light

seeped in from the concrete plain behind her. Bootheels

clicking on brown tile, she crossed to the bank of elevators

and pressed button 22. There was a hollow thump, a metallic

groan, and one of the elevators began to descend. The plastic

indicators above the doors remained unlit. The car arrived

with a sigh and a high-pitched, fading whine. "Cher Alain,

you have come down in the world. This place is the shits,

truly " As the doors slid open on the darkness of the car, she

fumbled beneath the Italian bag for the flap of her Brussels

purse She found the flat little green tin flashlight she'd

carried since her first walk in Paris, with the lion-headed Pile

Wonder trademark embossed on its front, and pulled it out. In

the elevators of Paris, you could step into many things: the

arms of a mugger, a steaming pile of fresh dog shit .

	And the weak beam picking out the silver cables, oiled and

shining, swaying gently in the vacant shaft, the toe of her

right boot already centimeters past the scuffed steel edge of

the tile she stood on; her hand automatically jerking the beam

down in terror, down to the dusty, littered roof of the car, two

levels below She took in an extraordinary amount of detail in

the seconds her flash wavered on the elevator. She thought of

a tiny submarine diving the cliffs of some deep seamount, the

frail beam wavering on a patch of silt undisturbed for cen-

turies: the soft bed of ancient furry soot, a dried gray thing

that was a used condom, the bright reflected eyes of crumpled

bits of tinfoil, the frail gray barrel and white plunger of a

diabetic syringe . . . She held the edge of the door so tightly

that her knuckle joints ached. Very slowly, she shifted her

weight backward, away from the pit. Another step and she

clicked off her light.

	"Damn you," she said. "0 Jesus."

	She found the door to the stairwell. Clicking the little flash

back on, she began to climb. Eight floors up, the numbness

began to fade, and she was shaking, tears ruining her makeup.

	Rapping on the door again. It was pressboard, laminated

with a ghastly imitation of rosewood, the lithographed grain

just visible in the light from the long corridor's single strip 


biofluorescence. "Damn you Alain? Alan!" The myopic

fisheye of the door's little spyglass'booking through her, blank

and vacant. The comdor held a homble smell, embalmed

cooking odors trapped in synthetic carpeting.

	Trying the door, knob turning, the cheap brass greasy and

cold, and the bag of money suddenly heavy, the strap cutting

into her shoulder. The door opening easily. A short stretch of

orange carpet flecked with irregular rectangles of salmon-

pink, decades of dirt ground into it in a clearly defined track

by thousands of tenants and their visitors .

	"Alain?" The smell of black French cigarettes, almost

comforting .

	And finding him there in that same watery light, silver

light, the other tower blocks featureless, beyond a rectangle

of window, against pale rainy sky, where he lay curled like a

child on the hideous orange carpet, his spine a question mark

beneath the taut back of his bottle-green velour jacket, his 


hand spread above his ear, white fingers, faintest bluish tint 


the base of his nails.

	Kneeling, she touched his neck. Knew. Beyond the win-

dow, all the rain sliding down, forever. Cradling his head,

legs open, holding him, rocking, swaying, the dumb sad

animal keening filling the bare rectangle of the room .

And after a time, becoming aware of the sharp thing under

her palm, the neat stainless end of a length of very fine, very

rigid wire, that protruded from his ear and between the spread

cool fingers.

	Ugly, ugly, that was no way to die; it got her up, anger,

her hands like claws To survey the silent room where he had

died. There was no sense of him there, nothing, only his

ragged attach& Opening that, she found two spiral notebooks,

their pages new and clean, an unread but very fashionable

novel, a box of wooden matches, and a half-empty blue

packet of Gauloise. The leather-bound agenda from Browns

was gone. She patted his jacket, slid fingers through his

pockets, but it was gone.

	No, she thought, you wouldn't have written it there, would

you? But you could never remember a number or an address,

could you? She looked around the room again, a weird calm

overtaking her. You had to write things down, but you were

secretive, and you didn't trust my little book from Browns,

no; you'd meet a girl in some cafe and write her number in a

matchbook or on the back of some scrap, and forget it, so that

I found it weeks later, straightening up your things.

	She went into the tiny bedroom. There was a bright red

folding chair and a slab of cheap yellow foam that served as a

bed. The foam was marked with a brown butterfly of men-

strual blood. She lifted it, but there was nothing there

	"You'd have been scared," she said, her voice shaking

with a fury she didn't try to understand, her hands cold,

colder than Alain's, as she ran them down the red wallpaper,

striped with gold, seeking some loose seam, a hiding place

"You poor stupid shit. Poor stupid dead shit

	Nothing. Back into the living room, and amazed, somehow,

that he hadn't moved; expecting him to jump up, hello, waving

a few centimeters of trick wire. She removed his shoes. They

needed resoling, new heels. She looked inside, felt the lining.

Nothing. "Don't do this to me "And back into the bedroom.

The narrow closet. Brushing aside a clatter of cheap white

plastic hangers, a limp shroud of drycleaner's plastic Dragging

the stained bedslab over and standing on it, her heels sinking

into the foam, to slide her hands the length of a pressboard

shelf, and find, in the far corner, a hard little fold of paper,

rectangular and blue. Opening it, noticing how the nails she'd

done so carefully were chipped, and finding the number he'd

written there in green feltpen. It was an empty Gauloise packet.

	There was a knock at the door.

	And then Paco's voice: "Marly? Hello? What has happened?"

	She thrust the number into the waistband of her jeans and

turned to meet his calm, serious eyes.

	"It's Alain," she said, "he's dead."

HE SAW LUCAS for the last time in front of a big old depart-

ment store on Madison Avenue. Thht was how he remem-

bered him, after that, a big black man in a sharp black suit,

about to step into his long black car, one black, softly pol-

ished shoe already on the lush carpet of Ahmed's interior, the

other still on the crumbling concrete of the curb.

	Jackie stood beside Bobby, her face shadowed by the wide

brim of her gold-hung fedora, an orange silk headscarf knot-

ted at the back of her neck.

	"You take care of our young friend, now," Lucas said,

pointing the knob of his cane at her. "He's not without his

enemies, our Count."

	"Who is?" Jackie asked.

	"I'll take care of myself," Bobby said, resenting the idea

of Jackie being seen as more capable, yet at the same time

knowing that she almost certainly was.

	"You do that," Lucas said, the knob swinging, lined up now

with Bobby's eyes. "Sprawltown's a twisty place, my man

Things are seldom what they seem." To illustrate his point,

he did something to the cane that caused the long brass splines

below the ball to open smoothly. for an instant, silently,

extended like the ribs of an umbrella, each one glinting sharp

as a razor, pointed like needles. Then they were gone, and

Ahmed's wide door swung shut with an armor-plated thud.

	Jackie laughed. "Shee-it. Lucas still carryin' that killin'

stick. Bigtime lawyer now, but the street leaves a mark on

you. Guess it's a good thing . .


	She looked at him. "You never mind, honey. You just

come with me, do like I tell you, you be okay."

	Ahmed merged with the sparse traffic, a pedicab jockey

blaring pointlessly at the receding brass bumper with a hand-

held air horn.

	Then, one manicured, gold-ringed hand on his shoulder,

she led him across the sidewalk, past a sleeping huddle of

rag-bundled transients, and into the slowly waking world of


	Fourteen floors, Jackie said, and Bobby whistled. "All like

this?" She nodded, spooning brown crystals of rock sugar

into the tan foam atop her coffee glass. They sat on scrolly

castiron stools at a marble counter in a little booth, where a

girl Bobby's age, her hair dyed and lacquered into a kind of

dorsal fin, worked the knobs and levers of a big old machine

with brass tanks and domes and burners and eagles with

spread chrome wings. The countertop had been something

else, originally; Bobby saw where one end was bashed off in

a long crooked jag to allow it to fit between two green-

painted steel pillars.

	"You like it, huh?" She sprinkled the foam with powdered

cinnamon from a heavy old glass shaker. " `Bout as far from

Barrytown as you been, some ways."

	Bobby nodded, his eyes confused by the thousand colors

and textures of the things in the stalls, the stalls themselves.

There seemed to be no regularity to anything, no hint of any

central planning agency. Crooked corridors twisted off from

the area in front of the espresso booth. There seemed to be no

central source of lighting either. Red and blue neon glowed

beyond the white hiss of a Primus lantern, and one stall, just

being opened by a bearded man with leather pants, seemed to

be lit with candles, the soft light reflecting off hundreds of

polished brass buckles hung against the reds and blacks of old

rugs. There was a morning rattle to the place, a coughing and

a clearing of throats. A blue Toshiba custodial unit whirred

out of a corridor, dragging a battered plastic cart stacked with

green plastic bales of garbage. Someone had glued a big

plastic doll head to the Toshiba's upper body segment, above

the clustered camera eyes and sensors, a grinning blue-eyed

thing once intended to approximate the features of a leading

stimstar without violating Sense/Net copyrights. The pink

head, its platinum hair bound up in a length of pale blue

plastic pearls, bobbed absurdly as the robot rolled past. Bobby


	"This place is okay," he said, and gestured to the girl to

refill his cup.

	"Wait a sec, asshole," the countergirl said, amiably enough.

She was measuring ground coffee into a dented steel hopper

on one end of an antique balance. "You get any sleep last

night, Jackie, after the show?"

	"Sure," Jackie said, and sipped at her coffee "I danced

their second set, then I slept at Jammer's. Hit the couch, you


	"Wish I'd got some. Every time Henry sees you dance, he

won't let me alone ..." She laughed, and refilled Bobby's

cup from a black plastic thermos.

	"Well," Bobby said, when the girl was busy again with

the espresso machine, "what fl~~t~"

	"Busy man, huh?" Jackie regarded him coolly from be-

neath the gold-pinned hat brim. "Got places you need to go,

people to see?"

	"Well, no. Shit. I just mean, well, is this it?"

"Is what it?"

	"This place. We're staying here?"

	"Top floor. Friend of mine named Jammer runs a club up

there. Very unlikely anyone could find you there, and even if

they do, it's a hard place to sneak up on. Fourteen floors of

mostly stalls, and a whole lot of these people sell stuff they

don't have out in plain view, right? So they're all very

sensitive to strangers turning up, anyone asking questions.

And most of them are friends of ours, one way or another

Anyway, you'll like it here. Good place for you. Lots to

learn, if you remember to keep your mouth shut."

	"How am I gonna learn if I don't ask questions?"

	"Well, I mean keep your ears open, more like it. And be

polite. Some tough people in here, but you mind your biz,

they'll mind theirs. Beauvoir's probably coming by here late

this afternoon. Lucas has gone out to the Projects to tell him

whatever you learned from the Finn. What did you learn from

the Finn, hon?"

	"That he's got these three dead guys stretched out on his

floor. Says they're ninjas." Bobby looked at her. "He's

pretty weird . .

	"Dead guys aren't part of his usual line of goods. But,

yeah, he's weird all right. Why don't you tell me about it?

Calmly. and in low, measured tones. Think you can do


	Bobby told her what he could remember of his visit to the

Finn. Several times she stopped him, asked questions he

usually wasn't able to answer. She nodded when he first

mentioned Wigan Ludgate. "Yeah," she said, "Jammer talks

about him, when he gets going on the old days. Have to ask

him .." At the end of his recitation, she was lounging back

against one of the green pillars, the hat very low over her

dark eyes.

	"Well?" he asked

	"Interesting," she said, but that was all she'd say.

	"Right," Jackie said, taking in the tight black jeans, the

heavy leather boots with spacesuit-style accordion folds at the

ankles, the black leather garrison belt trimmed with twin lines

of pyrarnidal chrome studs. "Well, I guess you look more

like the Count Come on, Count, I got a couch for you to

sleep on, up in Jammer's place."

	He leered at her, thumbs hooked in the front pockets of the

black Levis.

	"Alone," she added, "no fear."

	"I want some new clothes," Bobby said when they'd

climbed the immobile escalator to the second floor.

	"You got any money?" she asked.

	"Shit," he said, his hands in the pockets of the baggy,

pleated jeans. "I don't have any fucking money, but I want

some clothes. You and Lucas and Beauvoir are keeping my

ass on ice for something, aren't you? Well, I'm tired of this

God-awful shirt Rhea palmed off on me, and these pants

always feel like they're about to fall off my ass. And I'm here

because Two-a-Day, who's a lowlife fuck, wanted to risk my

butt so Lucas and Beauvoir could test their fucking software.

So you can fucking well buy me some clothes, okay?"

	"Okay," she said, after a pause. "I'll tell you what." She

pointed to where a Chinese girl in faded denim was furling

the sheets of plastic that had fenced a dozen steel-pipe gar-

ment racks hung with clothing. "You see Lin, there? She's a

friend of mine. You pick out what you want, I'll straighten it

out between Lucas and her."

	Half an hour later, he emerged from a blanket-draped

fitting room and put on a pair of Indo-Javanese mirrored

aviator glasses. He grinned at Jackie. "Real sharp," he said.

	"Oh, yeah." She did a thing with her hand, a fanning

movement, as though something nearby were too hot to touch.

"You didn't like that shirt Rhea loaned you?"

	He looked down at the black T-shirt he'd chosen, at the

square holodecal of cyberspace on his chest. It was done so

you seemed to be punching fast-forward through the matrix,

grid lines blurring at the edges of the decal. "Yeah. It was

too tacky .

PACO SLUNG THE Citroen-Dornier down the Champs, along the

north bank of the Seine, then up through Les Halles. Marly

sank back into the astonishingly soft leather seat, more beau-

tifully stitched than her Brussels jacket. and willed her mind

to blankness, lack of affect. Be eyes, she told herself. Only

eyes, your body a weight pressed evenly back by the speed of

this obscenely expensive car. Humming past the Square des

Innocents, where whores dickered with the drivers of cargo

hovers in bleu de travail, Paco steering effortlessly through

the narrow streets.

	"Why did you say, `Don't do this to me'?" He took his

hand from the steering console and tapped his ear-bead into


	"Why were you listening?"

	"Because that is my job. I sent a woman up, up into the

tower opposite his, to the twenty-second floor, with a para-

bolic microphone. The phone in the apartment was dead;

otherwise, we could have used that. She went up, broke into

a vacant unit on the west face of the tower, and aimed her

microphone in time to hear you say, `Don't do this to me.'

And you were alone?"


	"He was dead?"


	"Why did you say it, then?"

	"I don't know."

	"Who did you feel was doing something to you?"

	"I don't know. Perhaps Alan."

	"Doing what?"

	"Being dead? Complicating matters? You tell me."

	"You are a difficult woman."

	"Let me out."

	"I will take you to your friend's apartment . .

	"Stop the car."

	"I will take you to"

	"I'll walk."

	The low silver car slid up to the curb.

	"I will call you, in the"

	"Good night."

	"You're certain you wouldn't prefer one of the spas?"

asked Mr. Paleologos, thin and elegant as a mantis in his

white hopsack jacket. His hair was white as well, brushed

back from his forehead with extreme care. "It would be less

expensive, and a great deal more fun. You're a very pretty

girl~ .

	"Pardon?" Jerking her attention back from the street beyond

the rain-streaked window. "A what?" His French was clumsy,

enthusiastic, strangely inflected.

	"A very pretty girl." He smiled primly. "You wouldn't

prefer a holiday in a Med cluster? People your own age? Are

you Jewish?"

	"I beg your pardon?"

	"Jewish. Are you?"


	"Too bad," he said. "You have the cheekbones of a

certain sort of elegant young Jewess ....I' ye a lovely dis-

count on fifteen days to Jerusalem Prime, a marvelous envi-

ronment for the price. Includes suit rental, three meals per

diem, and direct shuttle from the JAL torus."

	"Suit rental?"

	"They haven't entirely established atmosphere, in Jerusa-

lem Prime," Mr. Paleologos said, shuffling a stack of pink

flimsies from one side of his desk to the other. His office was

a tiny cubicle walled with hologram views of Poros and

Macau. She'd chosen his agency for its evident obscurity, and

because it had been possible to slip in without leaving the

little commercial complex in the metro station nearest Andrea's.

	"No" she said, "I'm not interested in spas I want to go

here." She tapped the writing on the wrinkled blue wrapper

from a pack of Gauloise

	"Well," he said, "it's possible, of course, but I have no

listing of accommodations. Will you be visiting friends?"

	"A business trip," she said impatiently. "I must leave


	"Very well, very well," Mr. Paleologos said, taking a

cheap-looking lap terminal from a shelf behind his desk.

"Can you give me your credit code, please?"

	She reached into her black leather bag and took out the

thick bundle of New Yen she'd removed from Paco's bag

while he'd been busy examining the apartment where Alain

had died. The money was fastened with a red band of translu-

cent elastic "I wish to pay cash."

	"Oh, dear," Mr. Paleologos said, extending a pink finger-

tip to touch the top bill, as though he expected the lot of it 


vanish. "I see. Well, you understand, I wouldn't ordinarily

do business this way. . . . But, I suppose, something can be

arranged. .

	"Quickly," she said, "very quickly . .

	He looked at her. "I understand. Can you tell me, please"

his fingers began to move over the keys of the lap terminal

"the name under which you wish to travel?"

Tuat'iER WOKE TO the silent hous~, the sound of birds in the

apple trees in the overgrown orchard. He'd slept on the

broken couch Rudy kept in the kitchen. He drew water for

coffee, the plastic pipes from the roof tank chugging as he

filled the pot, put the pot on the propane burner, and walked

out to the porch.

	Rudy's eight vehicles were filmed with dew, arranged in a

neat row on the gravel One of the augmented hounds trotted

through the open gate as Turner came down the steps, its

black hood clicking softly in the morning quiet. It paused,

drooling, swayed its distorted head from side to side, then

scrambled across the gravel and out of sight, around the

corner of the porch.

	Turner paused by the hood of a dull brown Suzuki Jeep, a

hydrogen-cell conversion Rudy would have done the work

himself, Four-wheel drive, big tires with off-road lugs crusted

in pale dry river mud. Small, slow, reliable, not much use on

the road .

	He passed two rust-flecked Honda sedans, identical, same

year and model. Rudy would be ripping one for parts from

the other; neither would be running. He grinned absently at

the immaculate brown and tan paintwork on the 1?4? Chevrolet

van, remembering the rusted shell Rudy had hauled home

from Arkansas on a rented flatbed. The thing still ran on

gasoline, the inner surfaces of its engine likely as spotless as

the hand-rubbed chocolate lacquer of its fenders.

	There was half of a Dornier ground-effect plane, under

gray plastic tarps, and then a wasplike black Suzuki racing

bike on a homemade trailer. He wondered how long it had

been since Rudy had done any serious racing. There was a

snowmobile under another tarp, an old one, next to the bike

trailer. And then the stained gray hovercraft, surplus from the

war, a squat wedge of armored steel that smelled of the

kerosene its turbine burned, its mesh-reinforced apron bag

slack on the gravel. Its windows were narrow slits of thick,

high-impact plastic. There were Ohio plates bolted to the

thing's ram-like bumpers. They were current. "I can see what

you're thinking," Sally said, and he turned to see her at the

porch rail with the pot of steaming coffee in her hand. "Rudy

says, if it can't get over something, it can anyway get through


`Is it fast?" Touching the hover's armored flank.

	"Sure, but you'll need a new spine after about an hour."

"How about the law?"

	"Can't much say they like the way it looks, but it's

certified street-legal. No law against armor that I know of."

	"Angie's feeling better," Sally said as he followed her in

through the kitchen door, "aren't you, honey?"

	Mitchell's daughter looked up from the kitchen table. Her

bruising, like Turner's, had faded to a pair of fat commas, like

painted blue-black tears.

	"My friend here's a doctor," Turner said. "He checked

you out when you were under. He says you're doing okay."

	"Your brother He's not a doctor"

	"Sorry, Turner," Sally said, at the stove. "I'm pretty

much straightforward."

	"Well, he's not a doctor," he said, "but he's smart. We

were worried that Maas might have done something to you,

fixed it so you'd get sick if you left Arizona . .

	"Like a cortex bomb?" She spooned cold cereal from a

cracked bowl with apple blossoms around the rim, part of a

set that Turner remembered.

	"Lord," Sally said, "what have you gotten yourself into,


	"Good question." He took a seat at the table.

	Angie chewed her cereal, staring at him.

	"Angie," he said, "when Rudy scanned you, he found

something in your head."

	She stopped chewing.

	"He didn't know what it was. Something someone put

there, maybe when you were a lot younger. Do you know

what I mean?"

	She nodded.

"Do you know what it is?"

She swallowed. "No."

	"But you know who put it there?"


	"Your father?"


	"Do you know why?"

	"Because I was sick."

	"How were you sick?"

	"I wasn't smart enough."

	He was ready by noon, the hovercraft fueled and waiting

by the chainlink gates. Rudy h~d given him a rectangular

black ziploc stuffed with New Yen, some of the bills worn

almost translucent with use.

	"I tried that tape through a French lexicon," Rudy said,

while one of the hounds rubbed its dusty ribs against his legs.

"Doesn't work. I think it's some kind of creole. Maybe

African. You want a copy?"

	"No," Turner said, "you hang on to it."

	"Thanks," Rudy said, "but no thanks. I don't plan on

admitting you were ever here if anybody asks. Sally and I,

we're heading in to Memphis this afternoon, stay with a

couple of friends. Dogs'll watch the house." He scratched the

animal behind its plastic hood. "Right, boy?" The dog whined

and twitched. "I had to train `em off coon hunting when I put

their infrareds in," he said. "There wouldn't've been any

coons left in the county .

	Sally and the girl came down the porch steps, Sally carry-

ing a broken-down canvas carryall she'd filled with sand-

wiches and a thermos of coffee. Turner remembered her in

the bed upstairs and smiled. She smiled back. She looked

older today, tired. Angie had discarded the bloodstained MAAS-

NEOTEK T-shirt in favor of a shapeless black sweatshirt Sally

had found for her. It made her look even younger than she

was. Sally had also managed to incorporate the remaining

bruises into a baroque job of eye makeup that clashed weirdly

with her kid's face and baggy shirt.

	Rudy handed Turner the key to the hovercraft. "I had my

old Cray cook me a pr~cis of recent corporate news this

morning One thing you should probably know is that Maas

Biolabs has announced the accidental death of Dr. Christo-

pher Mitchell."

	"Impressive, how vague those people can be."

	"And you Just keep the harness on real tight," Sally was

saying, or your ass'll be black and blue before you hit that

Statesboro bypass."

	Rudy glanced at the girl, then back at Turner. Turner could

see the broken veins at the base of his brother's nose. His

eyes were bloodshot and there was a pronounced tic in his left

eyelid. "Well, I guess that's it. Funny, but I'd come to figure

I wouldn't see you again. Kind of funny to see you back


	"Well," Turner said, "you've both done more than I'd

any right to expect

	Sally glanced away.

	"So thanks. I guess we better go" He climbed up into the

cab of the hover, wanting to be gone Sally squeezed the

girl's wrist, gave her the carryall, and stood beside her while

she climbed up the two hinged footrests. Turner settled into

the driver's seat.

	"She kept asking for you," Rudy said. "After a while it

got so bad, the endorphin analogs couldn't really cut the pain,

and every two hours or so, she'd ask where you were, when

you were coming

	"I sent you money," Turner said "Enough to take her to

Chiba. The clinics there could have tried something new."

	Rudy snorted. "Chiba? Jesus. She was an old woman.

What the hell good would it have done, keeping her alive in

Chiba for a few more months? What she mainly wanted was

to see you."

	"Didn't work out that way." Turner said as the girl got

into the seat beside his and placed the bag on the floor,

between her feet. "Be seeing you, Rudy." He nodded.


	"So long," Sally said, her arm around Rudy.

	"Who were you talking about?" Angie asked, as the hatch

came down. Turner put the key in the ignition and fired up

the turbine, simultaneously inflating the apron bag. Through

the narrow window at his side, he saw Rudy and Sally back

quickly away from the hover, the hound cowering and snap-

ping at the noise of the turbine. The pedals and hand controls

were oversized, designed to permit ease of operation for a

driver wearing a radiation suit. Turner eased them out through

the gates and swung around on a wide patch of gravel drive

Angie was buckling her harness

	"My mother," he said.

	He revved the turbine and they jolted forward

	"I never knew my mother," she said, and Turner remem-

bered that her father was dead, and that she didn't know it

yet. He hit the throttle and they shot off down the gravel

drive, barely missing one of Rudy's hounds.

	Sally had been right about the thing's ride~ there was

constant vibration from the turbine. At ninety kilometers per

hour, on the skewed asphalt of the old state highway, it shook

their teeth. The armored apron bag rode the broken surfaces

heavily; the skim effect of a civilian sport model would only

be possible on a perfectly smooth, flat surface.

	Turner found himself liking it, though You pointed, eased

back the throttle, and you went. Someone had hung a pair of

pink sun-faded foam dice above the forward vision-slit, and

the whine of the turbine was a solid thing behind him. The

girl seemed to relax, taking in the roadside scenery with an

absent, almost contented expression, and Turner was grateful

that he wasn't required to make conversation. You're hot, he

thought, glancing sidelong at her, you're probably the single

most hotly pursued little item on the face of the planet today,

and here I am hauling you off to the Sprawl in Rudy's

kidstuff war wagon, no fucking idea what I'm going to do

with you now . Or who it was zapped the mall

	Run it through, he told himself, as they swung down into

the valley, run it through again, eventually something'll click.

Mitchell had contacted Hosaka, said he was coming over

Hosaka hired Conroy and assembled a medical crew to check

Mitchell for kinks. Conroy had put the teams together, work-

ing with Turner's agent. Turner's agent was a voice in Ge-

neva. a telephone number. Hosaka had sent Allison in to vet

him in Mexico, then Conroy had pulled him out Webber,

just before the shit hit the fan, had said that she was Conroy's

plant at the site. . . . Someone had jumped them, as the girl

was coming in, flares and automatic weapons. That felt like

Maas, to him, it was the sort of move he'd expect, the sort of

thing his hired muscle was there to deal with Then the white

sky. . . . He thought about what Rudy had said about a

railgun. . . Who? And the mess in the girl's head, the

things Rudy had turned up on his tomograph and his NMR

imager. She said her father had never planned on coming out


	"No company," she said, to the window.

	"How's that?"

	"You don't have a company, do you? I mean, you work

for whoever hires you."

	"That's right."

	"Don't you get scared?"

	"Sure, but not because of that .

	"We've always had the company. My father said I'd be all

right. that I was just going to another company

	"You'll be fine. He was right. I just have to find out

what's going on. Then I'll get you where you need to go

"To Japan?"


	"Have you been there?"


	"Would I like it?"

"Why not?"

	Then she lapsed into silence again, and Turner concen-

trated on the road.

	"It makes me dream," she said as he leaned forward to

turn on the headlights, her voice barely audible above the


	"What does?" He pretended to be lost in his driving.

careful not to glance her way.

	"The thing in my head. Usually it's only when I'm asleep."

	"Yeah?" Remembering the whites of her eyes in Rudy's

bedroom, the shuddering, the rush of words in a language he

didn't know.

	"Sometimes when I'm awake. It's like I'm jacked into a

deck, only I'm free of the grid, flying, and I'm not alone

there. The other night I dreamed about a boy, and he'd

reached out, picked up something, and it was hurting him,

and he couldn't see that he was free, that he only needed to

let go. So I told him. And for just a second, I could see where

he was, and that wasn't like a dream at all, just this ugly 


room with a stained carpet, and I could tell he needed a

shower, and feel how the insides of his shoes were sticky,

because he wasn't wearing socks. . . . That's not like the

dreams. .


	"No. The dreams are all big, big things, and I'm big too,

moving, with the others.

	Turner let his breath out as the hover whined up the

concrete ramp to the Interstate, suddenly aware that he'd been

holding it. "What others?"

	"The bright ones." Another silence. "Not people .

	"You spend much time in cyberspace, Angie? I mean

jacked in, with a deck?"

	"No. Just school stuff. My father said it wasn't good for


	"He say anything about those dreams?"

	"Only that they were getting realer. But I never told him

about the others.

	``You want to tell me? Maybe `it'll help me understand,

figure out what we need to do     

	"Some of them tell me things Stories. Once, there was

nothing there, nothing moving on its own, just data and

people shuffling it around Then something happened, and it

	it knew itself. There's a whole other story, about that, a

girl with mirrors over her eyes and a man who was scared to

care about anything Something the man did helped the whole

thing know itself. . . . And after that, it sort of split off 


different parts of itself, and I think the parts are the others,

the bright ones. But it's hard to tell, because they don't tell 


with words, exactly     

	Turner felt the skin on his neck prickle. Something coming

back to him, up out of the drowned undertow of Mitchell's

dossier Hot burning shame in a hallway, dirty cream paint

peeling, Cambridge, the graduate dorms . . "Where were

you born, Angie?"

	"England. Then my father got into Maas, we moved. To


	Somewhere in Virginia he eased the hovercraft over onto

the gravel shoulder and out into an overgrown pasture, dust

from the dry summer swirling out behind them as he swung

them left and into a stand of pine. The turbine died as they

settled into the apron bag.

	"We might as well eat now." he said, reaching back for

Sally's canvas carryall.

	Angie undid her harness and unzipped the black sweatshirt

Under it, she wore something tight and white, a child's

smooth tanned flesh showing in the scoop neck above young

breasts. She took the bag from him and began unwrapping the

sandwiches Sally had made for him. "What's wrong with

your brother?" she asked, handing him half a sandwich.

	"How do you mean?"

	"Well, there's something . He drinks all the time, Sally

said Is he unhappy?"

	"I don't know," Turner said, hunching and twisting the

aches out of his neck and shoulders. "I mean, he must be,

but I don't know exactly why. People get stuck, sometimes."

	"You mean when they don't have companies to take care

of them?" She bit into her sandwich.

	He looked at her. "Are you putting me on?"

	She nodded, her mouth full Swallowed "A little bit I

know that a lot of people don't work for Maas. Never have

and never will You're one, your brother's another. But it

was a real question. I kind of liked Rudy. you know? But he

just seemed so

	"Screwed up," he finished for her, still holding his sand-

wich. "Stuck. What it is, I think there's a jump some people

have to make, sometimes, and if they don't do it, then they're

stuck good . And Rudy never did it."

	"Like my father wanting to get me out of Mans? Is that a


	"No. Some jumps you have to decide on for yourself.

Just figure there's something better waiting for you some-

where .." He paused, feeling suddenly ridiculous, and bit

into the sandwich

	"Is that what you thought?"

	He nodded, wondering if it were true

	"So you left, and Rudy stayed'~"

	"He was smart Still is, and he'd rolled up a bunch of

degrees, did it all on the line. Got a doctorate in biotechnol-

ogy from Tulane when he was twenty, a bunch of other stuff.

Never sent out any r~sum~s, nothing. We'd have recruiters

turn up from all over, and he'd bullshit them, pick fights .

I think he thought he could make something on his own. Like

those hoods on the dogs I think he's got a couple of original

patents there, but . . Anyway, he stayed there. Got into

dealing and doing hardware for people, and he was hot stuff

in the county. And our mother got sick, she was sick for a

long time, and I was away.

	"Where were you?" She opened the thermos and the smell

of coffee filled the cabin.

	"As far away as I could get," he said, startled by the anger

in his voice.

	She passed him the plastic mug, filled to the brim with hot

black coffee.

	"How about you? You said you never knew your mother."

	"I didn't. They split when I was little. She wouldn't come

back in on the contract unless he agreed to cut her in on some

kind of stock plan. That's what he said anyway."

	"So what's he like?" He sipped coffee, then passed it


	She looked at him over the rim of the red plastic mug, her

eyes ringed with Sally's makeup. `You tell me," she said.

"Or else ask me in twenty years. I'm seventeen, how the hell

am I supposed to know?"

	He laughed. "You're starting to feel a little better now?"

	"I guess so. Considering the circumstances."

	And suddenly he was aware of her, in a way he hadn't

been before, and his hands went anxiously to the controls

"Good. We still have a long way to go

	 They slept in the hovercraft that night, parked behind

	the rusting steel lattice that had once supported a drive-in

	theater screen in southern Pennsylvania, Turner's parka

	spread on the armor-plate floorboards below the turbine's

	long bulge. She'd sipped the last of the coffee, cold now,

	as she sat in the square hatch opening above the passenger

	seat, watching the lightning bugs pulse across a field of

	yellowed grass.

	 Somewhere in his dreamsstill colored with random flashes

	from her father's dossiershe rolled against him, her breasts

	soft and warm against his bare back through the thin fabric of

	her T-shirt, and then her arm came over him to stroke the flat

	muscles of his stomach, but he lay still, pretending to a

	deeper sleep, and soon found his way down into the darker

	passages of Mitchell's biosoft, where strange things came to

	mingle with his own oldest fears and hurts. And woke at

	dawn to hear her singing softly to herself from her perch in

	the roof hatch.

		"My daddy he's a handsome devil

	got a chain `bout nine miles long

	And from every link

	A heart does dangle

	Of another maid

	He's loved and wronged."

JAMMER'S wAS u~ twelve more flights of dead escalator and

occupied the rear third of the top floor. Aside from Leon's

place, Bobby had never seen a nightclub, and he found

Jammer's both impressive and scary. Impressive because of

its scale and what he took to be the exceptional quality of the

fittings, and scary because a nightclub, by day, is somehow

inately unreal. Witchy. He peered around, thumbs snagged in

the back pockets of his new jeans, while Jackie conducted a

whispered conversation with a long-faced white man in rum-

pled blue coveralls. The place was fitted out with dark

ultrasuede banquettes, round black tables, and dozens of or-

nate screens of pierced wood. The ceiling was painted black,

each table faintly illuminated by its own little recessed flood

aimed straight down out of the dark There was a central

stage, brightly lit now with work lights strung on yellow flex,

and, in the middle of the stage, a set of cherry-red acoustic

drums. He wasn't sure why, but it gave him the creeps; some

sidelong sense of a half-life, as though something was about

to shift, just at the edge of his vision .

	"Bobby," Jackie said, "come over here and meet Jammer."

	He crossed the stretch of plain dark carpet with all the cool

he could muster and faced the long-faced man, who had dark,

thinning hair and wore a white evening shirt under his cover-

alls. The man's eyes were narrow, the hollows of his cheeks

shadowed with a day's growth of beard.

	"Well," the man said, "you want to be a cowboy?" He

was looking at Bobby's T-shirt and Bobby had the uncomfort-

able feeling that he might be about to laugh.

	"Jammer was a jockey," Jackie said. "Hot as they come.

	Weren't you, Jammer?"

	"So they say," Jammer said, still looking at Bobby. "Long

time ago, Jackie. How many hours you logged, running?" he

asked Bobby.

	Bobby's face went hot. "Well, one, I guess."

	Jammer raised his bushy eyebrows. "Gotta start some-

where." He smiled, his teeth small and unnaturally even and,

	Bobby thought, too numerous.

	"Bobby," Jackie said,"why don't you ask Jammer about

this Wig character the Finn was telling you about?"

	Jammer glanced at her, then back to Bobby. "You know

the Finn? For a hotdogger you're in pretty deep, aren't you?"

He took a blue plastic inhaler from his hip pocket and inserted

it in his left nostril, snorted, then put it back in his pocket.

"Ludgate. The Wig. Finn's talking about the Wig? Must be

in his dotage."

	Bobby didn't know what that meant, but it didn't seem like

	the time to ask. "Well," Bobby ventured, "this Wig's up in

	orbit somewhere, and he sells the Finn stuff, sometimes...~"

	"No shit? Well, you coulda fooled me. I woulda told you

the Wig was either dead or drooling. Crazier than your usual

cowboy, you know what I mean? Batshit. Gone. Haven't

heard of him in years."

	"Jammer," Jackie said, "I think it's maybe best if Bobby

just tells you the story. Beauvoir's due here this afternoon,

and he'll have some questions for you, so you better kno~v

where things stand...."

	Jammer looked at her. "Well. I see. Mr. Beauvoir's call-

ing in that favor, is he?"

	"Can't speak for him," she said, "but that would be my

	guess. We need a safe place to store the Count here."

	"What count?"

	"Me," Bobby said, "that's me."

	"Great," Jammer said, with a total lack of enthusiasm.

"So come on back into the office."

	Bobby couldn't keep his eyes off the cyberspace deck that

took up a third of the surface of Jammer's antique oak desk

It was matte black, a custom job, no trademarks anywhere.

He kept craning forward, while he told Jammer about Two-a-

Day and his attempted run, about the girl-feeling thing and

his mother getting blown up. It was the hottest-looking deck

he'd ever seen, and he remembered Jackie saying that Jam-

mer had been such a shithot cowboy in his day.

	Jammer slumped back in his chair when Bobby was fin-

ished. "You wanna try it?" he asked. He sounded tired.

	"Try it?"

	"The deck. I think you might wanna try it It's something

about the way you keep rubbing your ass on the chair. Either

you wanna try it or you gotta piss bad"

	"Shit yeah. I mean, yeah, thanks, yeah, I would . .

	"Why not? No way for anybody to know it's you and not

me. right? Why don't you jack in with him, Jackie? Kinda

keep track." He opened a desk drawer and took out two trode

sets. "But don't do anything, right? I mean, just buzz on out

and spin. Don't try to run any numbers I owe Beauvoir and

Lucas a favor, and it looks like how I'm paying it back is by

helping keep you intact." He handed one set of trodes to

Jackie, the other to Bobby. He stood up, grabbed handles on

either side of the black console, and spun it around so it faced

Bobby. "Go on. You'll cream your jeans. Thing's ten years

old and it'll still wipe ass on most anything. Guy name of

Automatic Jack built it straight up from scratch He was

Bobby Quine's hardware artist, once. The two of `em burnt

the Blue Lights together, but that was probably before you

were born."

	Bobby already had his trodes on. Now he looked at Jackie

	"You ever jack tandem before?"

	He shook his head.

	"Okay. We'll jack, but I'll hang off your left shoulder. I

say jack out, jack out. You see anything funny. it'll be

because I'm with you, understand?"

	He nodded.

	She undid a pair of long, silver-headed pins at the rear of

her fedora and took it off, putting it down on the desk beside

Jammer's deck. She slid the trodes on over the orange silk

headscarf and smoothed the contacts against her forehead.

	"Let's go," she said.

	Now and ever was, fast forward, Jammer's deck jacked up

so high above the neon hotcores, a topography of data he

didn't know. Big stuff, mountain-high, sharp and corporate in

the nonplace that was cyberspace. "Slow it down, Bobby."

Jackie's voice low and sweet, beside him in the void.

	"Jesus Christ, this thing's slick!"

	"Yeah, but damp it down. The rush isn't any good for us.

You want to cruise. Keep us up here and slow it down .

	He eased off on forward until they seemed to coast along.

He turned to the left, expecting to see her there, but there was


	"I'm here," she said, "don't wony

	"Who was Quine?"

	"Quine? Some cowboy Jammer knew. He knew `em all, in

his day."

	He took a nght-angle left at random, pivoting smoothly at

the grid intersection, testing the deck for response. It was

amazing, totally unlike anything he'd felt before in cyberspace.

"Holy shit. This thing makes an Ono-Sendai look like a kid's


	"It's probably got 0-S circuitry in it. That's what they

used to use, Jammer says. Takes us up a little more

	They rose effortlessly through the gnd, the data receding

below them "There isn't a hell of a lot to see up here," he


	"Wrong. You see some interesting stuff, you hang out

long enough in the blank parts . .

	The fabric of the matrix seemed to shiver, directly in front

of them

	"Uh, Jackie . .

	"Stop here. Hold it. It's okay. Trust me."

	Somewhere, far away, his hands moving over the unfamil-

iar keyboard configuration He held them steady now, while a

section of cyberspace blurred, grew milky. "What is"

	"Danbala ap monte I," the voice said, harsh in his head,

and in his mouth a taste like blood. "Danbala is nding her."

He knew, somehow, what the words meant, but the voice was

iron in his head The milky fabric divided, seemed to bubble,

became two patches of shifting gray.

	"Legba," she said, "Legba and Ougou Feray, god of war.

Papa Ougou' St. Jacques Majeur! Viv Ia Vy4j!"

	Iron laughter filled the matnx, sawing through Bobby's


	"Map kite tout mtz~ ak tout giyon," said another voice,

fluid and quicksilver and cold. "See, Papa, she has come

here to throw away her bad luck!" And then that one laughed

as well, and Bobby fought down a wave of sheer hysteria as

the silver laughter rose through him like bubbles.

	"Has she bad luck, the horse of Danbala?" boomed the

iron voice of Ougou Feray, and for an instant Bobby thought

he saw a figure flicker in the gray fog. The voice hooted its

terrible laughter. "Indeed! Indeed! But she knows it not! She

is not my horse, no, else I would cure her luck!" Bobby

wanted to cry, to die, anything to escape the voices, the

utterly impossible wind that had started to blow out of the

gray warps, a hot damp wind that smelled of things he

couldn't identify. "And she calls praise on the Virgin! Hear

me, little sister! La Vy~j draws close indeed!"

	"Yes," said the other, "she moves through my province

now, I who rule the roads, the highways

	"But I, Ougou Feray, tell you that your enemies draw near

as well! To the gates, sister, and beware"'

	And then the gray areas faded, d'windled, shrank .

	"Jack us out," she said her voice small and distant And

then she said, "Lucas is dead."

	Jammer took a bottle of Scotch from his desk drawer and

carefully poured six centimeters of the stuff into a plastic

highball glass. "You look like shit," he said to Jackie, and

Bobby was startled by the gentleness in the man's voice

They'd been jacked out for at least ten minutes and nobody

had said anything at all. Jackie looked crushed and kept

gnawing at her lower lip. Jammer looked either unhappy or

angry, Bobby wasn't sure.

	"How come you said Lucas was dead?" Bobby ventured,

because it seemed to him that the silence was silting up in

Jammer's cramped office like something that could choke


	Jackie looked at him but didn't seem to focus. "They

wouldn't come to me like that if Lucas were alive," she said.

"There are pacts, agreements. Legba is always invoked first,

but he should have come with Danbala. His personality de-

pends on the ba he manifests with. Lucas must be dead."

	Jammer pushed the glass of whiskey across the desk, but

Jackie shook her head, the trode set still riding her forehead.

chrome and black nylon. He made a disgusted face, pulled

the glass back, and downed it himself. "What a load of shit

Things made a lot more sense before you people started

screwing around with them."

	"We didn't bring them here, Jammer," she said. "They

were just there, and they found us because we understood


	"Same load of shit," Jammer said, wearily. "Whatever

they are, wherever they came from, they just shaped them-

selves to what a bunch of crazed spades wanted to see. You

follow me? There's no way in hell there'd be anything out

there that you had to talk to in fucking bush Haitian! You and

your voodoo cult, they just saw that and they saw a setup,

and Beauvoir and Lucas and the rest, they're businessmen

first. And those Goddamn things know how to make deals!

It's a natural!" He tightened the cap on his bottle and put it

back in the drawer. "You know. hon. it could just be that

somebody very big, with a lot of muscle on the grid, they're

just taking you for a ride. Projecting those things, all that 


	And you know it's possible, don't you? Don't you,


	"No way," Jackie said, her voice cold and even. "But

how I know that's not anything I can explain . .

	Jammer took a black slab of plastic from his pocket and

began to shave. "Sure," he said. The razor hummed as he

worked on the line of his jaw. "I lived in cyberspace for eight

years, nght? Well, I know there wasn't anything out there,

not then. . . . Anyway, you want me to phone Lucas, set

your mind at ease one way or the other? You got the phone

number for that Rolls of his?"

	"No," Jackie said, "don't bother Best we lay low till

Beauvoir turns up." She stood, pulling off the trodes and

picking up her hat. "I'm going to lie down, try to sleep. You

keep an eye on Bobby     She turned and walked to the

office door. She looked as though she were sleepwalking, all

the energy gone out of her.

	"Wonderful." Jammer said, running the shaver along his

upper lip. "You want a drink?" he asked Bobby.

	"Well," Bobby said, "it's kind of early...."

	"For you. maybe." He put the razor back in his pocket.

The door closed behind Jackie. Jammer leaned forward slightly.

"What did they look like, kid? You get a make?"

	"Just kind of grayish. Fuzzy...."

	Jammer looked disappointed. He slouched back in his chair

again. "I don't think you can get a good look at `em unless

you're part of it." He drummed his fingers on the chair ann.

"You think they're for real?"

	"Well, I wouldn't wanna try messing one around .

	Jammer looked at him. "No? Well, maybe you're smarter

than you look, there. I wouldn't wanna try messing one

around myself. I got out of the game before they started

turning up .

	"So what do you think they are?"

	"Ah, still getting smarter... Well, I don't know Like I

said, I don't think I can swallow them being a bunch of

Haitian voodoo gods, but who knows?" He narrowed his

eyes. "Could be, they're virus programs that have gotten

loose in the matnx and replicated, and gotten really smart

That's scary enough; maybe the Tunng people want it kept

quiet. Or maybe the Al's have found a way to split parts

of themselves off into the matnx, which would drive the

Turings crazy. I knew this Tibetan guy did hardware mod

for jockeys, he said they were tulpas

	Bobby blinked.

	`A tulpa's a thought form, kind of. Superstition. Really

heavy people can split off a kind of ghost, made of negative

energy." He shrugged "More horseshit Like Jackie's voo-

doo guys."

	"Well, it looks to me like Lucas and Beauvoir and the

others, they sure as hell play it like it was all real, and not

just like it was an act .

	Jammer nodded. "You got it And they been doing damn

well for themselves by it, too, so there's something there

He shrugged and yawned "I gotta sleep, too. You can do

whatever you want, as long as you keep your hands off my

deck. And don't try to go outside, or ten kinds of alarms will

start screaming. There's juice and cheese and shit in the

fridge behind the bar.

	Bobby decided that the place was still scary, now that he

had it to himself, but that it was interesting enough to make

the scariness worthwhile. He wandered up and down behind

the bar, touching the handles of the beer taps and the chrome

drink nozzles. There was a machine that made ice, and

another one that dispensed boiling water. He made himself a

cup of Japanese instant coffee and sorted through Jammer's

file of audio cassettes. He'd never heard of any of the bands

or artists. He wondered whether that meant that Jammer, who

was old, liked old stuff, or if this was all really new stuff 

that wouldn't filter out to Barrytown, probably by way of Leon's,

for another two weeks. . . . He found a gun under the black

and silver universal credit console at the end of the bar, a

kind of fat little machine gun with a magazine that stuck

straight down out of the handle. It was stuck under the bar

with a strip of lime-green Velcro, and he didn't think it was a

good idea to touch it. After a while, he didn't feel frightened

anymore, just kind of bored and edgy. He took his cooling

coffee and walked out into the middle of the seating area. He

sat at one of the tables and pretended he was Count Zero, top

console artist in the Sprawl, waiting for some dudes to show

and talk about a deal, some run they needed done and nobody

but the Count was even remotely up for it. "Sure," he said,

to the empty nightclub, his eyes hooded, "I'll cut it for

you. . . . If you got the money...." They paled when he

named his price.

	The place was soundproofed; you couldn't hear the bustle

of the fourteenth floor's stalls at all, only the hum of some

kind of air conditioner and the occasional gurgles of the

hot-water machine. Tired of the Count's power plays, Bobby

left the coffee cup on the table and crossed to the entrance-

way, running his hand along an old stuffed velvet rope that

was slung between polished brass poles. Careful not to touch

the glass doors themselves, he settled himself on a cheap steel

stool with a tape-patched leatherette top, beside the coat-

check window A dim bulb burned in the coatroom; you

could see a couple of dozen old wooden hangers dangling

from steel rods, each one hung with a round yellow hand-

numbered tag. He guessed Jammer sat here sometimes to

check out the clientele. He didn't really see why anybody

who'd been a shithot cowboy for eight years would want to

run a nightclub, but maybe it was sort of a hobby. He guessed

you could get a lot of girls, running a nightclub, but he'd

assumed you could get a lot anyway if you were rich. And if

Jammer had been a top jock for eight years, Bobby figured he

had to be nch .

	He thought about the scene in the matnx, the gray patches

and the voices. He shivered. He still didn't see why it meant

Lucas was dead. How could Lucas be dead? Then he remem-

bered that his mother was dead, and somehow that didn't

seem too real either. Jesus. It all got on his nerves. He

wished he were outside, on the other side of the doors,

checking out the stalls and the shoppers and the people who

worked there

 He reached out and drew the velour curtain aside, just wide

enough to peer out through the thick old glass, taking in the

rainbow jumble of stalls and the charactenstic grazing gait of

the shoppers. And framed for him, square in the middle of it

all, beside a table jammed with surplus analog VOM's, logic

probes, and power conditioners, was the raceless, bone-heavy

face of Leon, and the deepset, hideous eyes seemed to look

into Bobby's with an audible click of recognition. And then

Leon did something Bobby couldn't remember ever having

seen him do. He smiled

THE JAL STEWARD offered her a choice of simstim cassettes: a

tour of the Foxton retrospective at the Tate the previous

August, a period adventure taped in Ghana (Ashanu!), high-

lights from Bizet's Carmen as viewed from a private box at

the Tokyo Opera, or thirty minutes of Tally Isham's syndi-

cated talk show Top People.

	"Your first shuttle flight, Ms. Ovski?"

	Marly nodded. She'd given Paleologos her mother's maiden

name, which had probably been stupid.

	The steward smiled understandingly "A cassette can defi-

nitely ease the lift-off. The Carmen's very popular this week.

Gorgeous costumes, I understand."

	She shook her head, in no mood for opera She loathed

Foxton, and would have preferred to feel the full force of

acceleration rather than live through Ashanti! She took the

Isham tape by default, as the least of four evils. 

The steward checked her seat harness, handed her the

cassette and a little throwaway tiara in gray plastic, then

moved on. She put the plastic trode set on, jacked it into the

seat arm, sighed, and slotted the cassette in the opening

beside the jack The interior of the JAL shuttle vanished in a

burst of Aegean blue, and she watched the words TALLY

ISHAM'S TOP PEOPLE expand across the cloudless sky in

elegant sans-serif capitals.

	Tally Isham had been a constant in the stim industry for as

long as Marly remembered, an ageless Golden Girl who'd

come in on the first wave of the new medium. Now Marly

found herself locked into Tally's tanned, lithe, tremendously

comfortable sensorium. Tally Isham glowed, breathed deeply

and easily, her elegant bones riding in the embrace of a

musculature that seemed never to have known tension. Ac-

cessing her stim recordings was like falling into a bath of

perfect health, feeling the spring in the star's high arches and

the jut of her breasts against the silky white Egyptian cotton

of her simple blouse. She was leaning against a pocked white

balustrade above the tiny harbor of a Greek island town, a

cascade of flowering trees falling away below her down a

hillside built from whitewashed stone and narrow, twisting

stairs A boat sounded in the harbor

	"The tourists are hurrying back to their cruise ship now,"

Tally said, and smiled; when she smiled, Marly could feel the

smoothness of the star's white teeth, taste the freshness of her

mouth, and the stone of the balustrade was pleasantly rough

against her bare forearms. "But on~ visitor to our island will

be staying with us this afternoon, someone I've longed to

meet, and I'm sure that you'll be delighted and surprised. as

he's someone who ordinarily shuns major media coverage

 She straightened, turned, and smiled into the tanned,

smiling face of Josef Virek

	Marly tore the set from her forehead, and the white plastic

of the JAL shuttle seemed to slam into place all around her

Warning signs were blinking on the console overhead, and

she could feel a vibration that seemed to gradually rise in

pitch .

	Virek? She looked at the trode set. "Well," she said, "I

suppose you are a top person

	"I beg your pardon?" The Japanese student beside her

bobbed in his harness in a strange little approximation of a

bow. "You are in some difficulty with your stim'~"

	"No, no," she said. "Excuse me." She slid the set on

again and the interior of the shuttle dissolved in a buzz of

sensory static, a jamng mdange of sensations that abruptly

gave way to the calm grace of Tally Isham, who had taken

Virek's cool, firm hand and was smiling into his soft blue

eyes. Virek smiled back, his teeth very white "Delighted to

be here, Tally." he said, and Marly let herself sink into the

reality of the tape, accepting Tally's recorded sensory input as

her own. Stim was a medium she ordinarily avoided, some-

thing in her personality conflicting with the required degree of


	Virek wore a soft white shirt, cotton duck trousers rolled

to just below the knee, and very plain brown leather sandals.

His hand still in hers, Tally returned to the balustrade "I'm

sure, ` she said, "that there are many things our audience"

	The sea was gone. An irregular plain covered in a green-

black growth like lichen spread out to the horizon, broken by

the silhouettes of the neo-Gothic spires of Gaudi's church of

the Sagrada Familia. The edge of the world was lost in a low

bright mist, and a sound like drowned bells tolled in across

the plain.

	"You have an audience of one, today," Virek said, and

looked at Tally Isham through his round, rimless glasses.

"Hello, Marly."

	Marly struggled to reach the trodes, but her artns were

made of stone. G-force, the shuttle lifting off from its con-

crete pad . . He'd trapped her here

	"I understand," said Tally, smiling, leaning back against

the balustrade, her elbows on warm rough stone. "What a

lovely idea Your Marly, Herr Virek, must be a lucky girl

indeed .." And it came to her, to Marly, that this wasn't

Sense/Net's Tally Isham, but a part of Virek's construct, a

programmed point of view worked up from years of Top

People, and that now there was no choice, no way out, except

to accept it, to listen, to give Virek her attention. The fact 


his having caught her here, pinned her here this way, told her

that her intuition had been correct: The machine, the struc-

ture, was there, was real. Virek's money was a sort of

universal solvent, dissolving barriers to his will

	"I'm sorry," he said, "to learn that you are upset Paco

tells me that you are fleeing from us, but I prefer to see it as

the drive of an artist toward her goal. You have sensed, I

think, something of the nature of my gestalt, and it has

frightened you As well it should. This cassette was prepared

an hour before your shuttle was scheduled to lift off from

Orly. We know your destination, of course, but I have no

intention of following you. You are doing your job. Marly. I

only regret that we were unable to prevent the death of your

friend Alain, but we now know the identity of his killers and

their employers . .

	Tally Isham's eyes were Marly's eyes now, and they were

locked with Virek's, a blue energy burning there.

	"Alain was murdered by the hired agents of Maas Biolabs,"

he continued, "and it was Maas who provided him with the

coordinates of your current destination, Maas who gave him

the hologram you saw. My relationship with Maas Biolabs

has been ambivalent, to say the least. Two years ago a

subsidiary of mine attempted to buy them out. The sum

involved would have affected the entire global economy.

They refused. Paco has determined that Alain died because

they discovered that he was attempting to market the informa-

tion they had provided, market it to third parties . " He

frowned. "Exceedingly foolish, because he was utterly igno-

rant of the nature of the product he was offering

	How like Alain, she thought, and felt a wave of pity.

Seeing him curled there on the hideous carpet, his spine

outlined beneath the green fabric of his jacket .

	"You should know, I think, that my search for our boxmaker

involves more than art, Marly." He removed his glasses and

polished them in a fold of his white shirt; she found some-

thing obscene in the calculated hurhanity of the gesture. "I

have reason to believe that the maker of these artifacts is in

some position to offer me freedom. Marly. I am not a well

man." He replaced the glasses, settling the fine gold ear-

pieces carefully. "When I last requested a remote visual of

the vat I inhabit in Stockholm, I was shown a thing like three

truck trailers, lashed in a dripping net of support lines . . . 


I were able to leave that, Marly, or rather, to leave the riot 


cells it contains . . . Well' `he smiled his famous smile

again' `what wouldn't I pay?"

	And Tally-Marly's eyes swung to take in the expanse of dark

lichen and the distant towers of the misplaced cathedral .

	"You lost consciousness," the steward was saying, his

fingers moving across her neck. "It isn't uncommon, and our

onboard medical computers tell us you're in excellent health.

However, we've applied a dermadisk to counteract the adapta-

tion syndrome you might experience prior to docking." His

hand left her neck.

	"Europe After the Rains." she said. "Max Ernst The

lichen . .

	The man stared down at her, his face alert now and express-

ing professional concern. "Excuse me? Could you repeat


	"I'm sorry," she said. "A dream ... Are we there yet, at

the terminal?"

	"Another hour," he said.

* * *

	Japan Air's orbital terminus was a white toroid studded

with domes and ringed with the dark-rimmed oval openings

of docking bays. The terminal above Marly's g-web-though

above had temporarily lost its usual meaningdisplayed an

exquisitely drafted animation of the torus in rotation, while a

series of voicesin seven languagesannounced that the

passengers on board JAL's Shuttle 580, Orly Terminus I,

would be taxied to the terminal at the earliest opportunity.

JAL offered apologies for the delay, which was due to routine

repairs underway in seven of the twelve bays

	Marly cringed in her g-web, seeing the invisible hand of

Virek in everything now. No. she thought, there must be a

way. I want out of it, she told herself, I want a few hours as a

free agent, and then I'll be done with him . . Good-bye,

Herr Virek, I return to the land of the living, as poor Alain

never will, Alain who died because I took your job. She

blinked her eyes when the first tear came, then stared wide-

eyed as a child at the minute floating spherelet the tear had


	And Maas, she wondered, who were they? Virek claimed

that they had murdered Alain, that Alain had been working

for them. She had vague recollections of stories in the media,

something to do with the newest generation of computers,

some ominous-sounding process in which immortal hybrid

cancers spewed out tailored molecules that became units of

circuitry. She remembered, now, that Paco had said that the

screen of his modular telephone was a Maas product

	The interior of the JAL toroid was so bland, so unremarka-

ble, so utterly like any crowded airport, that she felt like

laughing. There was the same scent of perfume, human ten-

sion, and heavily conditioned air, and the same background

hum of conversation. The point-eight gravity would have

made it easier to carry a suitcase, but she only had her black

purse Now she took her tickets from one of its zippered inner

pockets and checked the number of her connecting shuttle

against the columns of numbers arrayed on the nearest wall


	Two hours to departure. Whatever Virek might say, she

was sure that his machine was already busy, infiltrating the

shuttle's crew or roster of passengers, the substitutions lubri-

cated by a film of money . . There would be last-minute

illnesses, changes in plans, accidents

	Slinging the purse over her shoulder, she marched off

across the concave floor of white ceramic as though she

actually knew where she was going, or had some sort of plan,

but knowing, with each step she took, that she didn't.

	Those soft blue eyes haunted her

	"Daren you." she said, and a jowly Russian businessman

in a dark Ginza suit sniffed and raised his newsfax, blocking

her out of his world.

	"So I told the bitch, see, you gotta get those opto-isolators

and the breakout boxes out to Sweet Jane or I'll glue your ass

to the bulkhead with gasket paste...." Raucous female

laughter and Marly glanced up from her sushi tray. The three

women sat two empty tables away, their own table thick with

beer cans and stacks of styrofoam trays smeared with brown

soy sauce. One of them belched loudly and took a long pull at

her beer. "So how'd she take it, Rez?" This was somehow

the cue for another, longer burst of laughter, and the woman

who'd first attracted Marly's attention put her head down in

her arms and laughed until her shoulders shook. Marly stared

dully at the trio, wondering what they were. Now the laughter

had subsided and the first woman sat up, wiping tears from

her eyes. They were all quite drunk, Marly decided, young

and loud and rough-looking. The first woman was slight and

sharp-faced, with wide gray eyes above a thin straight nose.

Her hair was some impossible shade of silver, clipped short

like a schoolboy's, and she wore an oversized canvas vest or

sleeveless jacket covered entirely in bulging pockets, studs,

and rectangular strips of Velcro. The garment hung open,

revealing, from Marly's angle, a small round breast sheathed

in what seemed to be a bra of fine pink and black mesh. The

other two were older and heavier, the muscles of their bare

arms defined sharply in the seemingly sourceless light of the

terminal cafeteria.

	The first woman shrugged, her shoulders moving inside the

big vest. "Not that she'll do it." she said.

	The second woman laughed again, but not as heartily, and

consulted a chronometer riveted on a wide leather wristband.

"Me for off." she said. "Gotta Zion run, then eight pods of

algae for the Swedes." Then shoved her chair back from the

table, stood up, and Marly read the embroidered patch cen-

tered across the shoulders of her black leather vest.




	Now the woman beside her stood, hitching up the waist-

band of her baggy jeans. "I tell you, Rez, you let that cunt

short you on those breakouts, it'll be bad for your name."

	"Excuse me," Marly said, fighting the quaver in her voice.

	The woman in the black vest turned and stared at her.

"Yeah?" The woman looked her up and down, unsmiling.

	"I saw your vest, the name Edith S., that's a ship, a


	"A spaceship?" The woman beside her raised thick eye-

brows. "Oh, yeah, honey, a whole mighty spaceship!"

	"She's a tug," the woman in the black vest said, and

turned to go.

	"I want to hire you," Marly said.

	"Hire me?" Now they were all staring at her, faces blank

and unsmiling. "What's that mean?"

	Marly fumbled deep in the black Brussels purse and came

up with the half sheaf of New Yen that Paleologos the travel

agent had returned, after taking his fee. "I'll give you

this . .

	The girl with the short silver hair whistled softly. The

women glanced at one another. The one in the black vest

shrugged. "Jesus," she said. "Where you wanna go? Mars?"

	Marly dug into her purse again and produced the folded

blue paper from a pack of Gauloise. She handed it to the

woman in the black vest, who unfolded it and read the orbital

coordinates that Alain had written there in green feltpen.

	"Well," the woman said, "it's a quick enough hop. for

that kind of money, but O'Grady and I, we're due in Zion

2300GMT. Contract job. What about you, Rez?"

	She handed the paper to the seated girl, who read it, looked

up at Marly, and asked, "When?"

	"Now," Marly said, "right now."

	The girl pushed up from the table, the legs of her chair

clattering on the ceramic, her vest swinging open to reveal

that what Marly had taken for the net of a pink and black bra

was a single tattooed rose that entirely covered her left 


"You're on, sister, cash up."

	"Means give her the money now," O'Grady said.

"I don't want anyone to know where we're going," Marly


	The three women laughed.

	"You come to the right girl," O'Grady said, and Rez



THE RAIN CAME on when he turned east again, making for the

Sprawl's fringe `burbs and the blasted belt country of the

industrial zones. It came down in a solid wall, blinding him

until he found the switch for the wipers. Rudy hadn't kept the

blades in shape, so he slowed, the turbine's whine lowering

to a roar, and edged over the shoulder, the apron bag nosing

past shredded husks of truck tires.

	"What's wrong?''

	"I can't see. The wiper blades are rotten." He tapped the

button for the lights, and four tight beams stabbed out from

either side of the hover's wedge of hood and lost themselves

in the gray wall of the downpour. He shook his head.

	"Why don't we stop?"

	"We're too close to the Sprawl. They patrol all this.

Copters. They'd scan the ID panel on the roof and see we've

got Ohio plates and a weird chassis configuration. They might

want to check us out. We don't want that."

	"What are you going to do?"

	"Keep to the shoulder until I can turn off, then get us

under some cover, if I can .

	He held the hover steady and swung it around in place, the

headlights flashing off the dayglow orange diagonals on an

upright pole marking a service road. He made for the pole,

the bulging lip of the apron bag bobbling over a thick rectan-

gular crash guard of concrete. "This might do it," he said as

they slid past the pole. The service road was barely wide

enough for them; branches and undergrowth scratched against

the narrow side windows, scraping along the hover's steel-

plate flanks.

	"Lights down there," Angie said, straining forward in her

harness to peer through the rain.

	Turner made out a watery yellow glow and twin dark

uprights. He laughed. "Gas station," he said. "Left over

from the old system, before they put the big road through.

Somebody must live there. Too bad we don't run on gasoline

	He eased the hover down the gravel slope; as he drew

nearer, he saw that the yellow glow came from a pair of

rectangular windows. He thought he saw a figure move in one

of them. "Country," he said. "These boys may not be too

happy to see us." He reached into the parka and slid the

Smith & Wesson from its nylon holster, put it on the seat

between his thighs. When they were five meters from the

rusting gas pumps, he sat the hover down in a broad puddle

and killed the turbines. The rain ~was still pissing down in

windblown sheets, and he saw a figure in a flapping khaki

poncho duck out of the front door of the station. He slid the

side window open ten centimeters and raised his voice above

the rain: "Sony t' bother you. We had to get off the road.

Our wipers are trashed. Didn't know you were down here

The man's hands, in the glow from the windows, were hidden

beneath the plastic poncho, but it was obvious that he held


	"Private property," the man said, his lean face streaked

with rain.

	"Couldn't stay on the road," Turner called. "Sony to

bother you..

	The man opened his mouth, began to gesture with the thing

he held beneath the poncho, and his head exploded. It almost

seemed to Turner that it happened before the red line of light

scythed down and touched him, pencil-thick beam swinging

casually, as though someone were playing with a flashlight.

A blossom of red, beaten down by the rain, as the figure went

to its knees and tumbled forward, a wire-stocked Savage 410

sliding from beneath the poncho.

	Turner hadn't been aware of moving, but he found that

he'd stoked the turbines, swung the controls over to Angie,

and clawed his way out of his harness. "I say go, run it

through the station ..." Then he was up, yanking at the

lever that opened the roof hatch, the heavy revolver in his

hand. The roar of the black Honda reached him as soon as the

hatch slid back, a lowering shadow overhead, just visible

through the driving rain. "Now!" He pulled the trigger be-

fore she could kick them forward and through the wall of the

old station, the recoil jarring his elbow numb against the roof

of the hover. The bullet exploded somewhere overhead with a

gratifying crack; Angie floored the hover and they plunged

through the woodframe structure, with barely enough time for

Turner to get his head and shoulders back down through the

hatch. Something in the house exploded, probably a propane

canister, and the hover skewed to the left.

	Angie swung them back around as they crashed out through

the far wall. "Where?" she yelled, above the turbine.

	As if in answer, the black Honda came corkscrewing down,

twenty meters in front of them, and threw up a silver sheet of

rain. Turner grabbed the controls and they slid forward, the

hover blasting up ten-meter fantails of ground water; they

took the little combat copter square in its polycarbon canopy,

its alloy fuselage crumpling like paper under the impact.

Turner backed off and went in again, faster. This time the

broken copter slammed into the trunks of two wet gray pines,

lay there like some kind of long-winged fly.

	"What happened?" Angie said, her hands to her face.

"What happened?"

	Turner tore registration papers and dusty sunglasses from a

compartment in the door beside him, found a flashlight,

checked its batteries.

	"What happened?" Angie said again, like a recording,

"What happened?"

	He scrambled back up through the hatch, the gun in one

hand, the light in the other The rain had slackened. He

jumped down onto the hover's hood, and then over the bump-

ers and into anlde-deep puddles, splashing toward the bent

black rotors of the Honda.

	There was a reek of escaping jet fuel. The polycarbon

canopy had cracked like an egg. He aimed the Smith &

Wesson and thumbed the xenon flash twice, two silent pops

of merciless light showing him blood and twisted limbs through

the shattered plastic. He waited, then used the flashlight. Two

of them. He came closer, holding the flashlight well away

from his body, an old habit. Nothing moved. The smell of

escaping fuel grew even stronger. Then he was tugging at the

bent hatch. It opened. They both wore image-amp goggles.

The round blank eye of the laser stared straight up into the

night, and he reached down to touch the matted sheepskin

collar of the dead man's bomber jacket The blood that

covered the man's beard looked very dark, almost black in

the flashlight's beam. It was Oakey. He swung the beam left

and saw that the other man, the pilot, was Japanese. He

swung the beam back and found a flat black flask beside

Oakey's foot. He picked it up, stuffed it into one of the

parka's pockets, and dashed back to the hover In spite of the

rain, orange flames were starting to lick up through the

wreckage of the gas station. He scrambled up the hover's

bumper, across the hood, up again, and down through the


	"What happened?" Angie said, as though he hadn't left

"What happened?"

	He fell into his seat, not bothering with the harness, and

revved the turbine. "That's a Hosaka helicopter," he said,

swinging them around. "They mu'~t have been following us

They had a laser. They waited until we were off the highway.

Didn't want to leave us out there for the cops to find When

we pulled in here, they decided to go for us, but they must

have figured that that poor fucker was with us. Or maybe they

were just taking out a witness . .

	"His head," she said, her voice shaking, "his head

	"That was the laser," Turner said, steering back up the

service road. The rain was thinning, nearly gone. "Steam

The brain vaponzes and the skull blows .

	Angie doubled over and threw up. Turner steered with one

hand, Oakey's flask in the other. He pned the snap-fit lid

open with his teeth and gulped back a mouthful of Oakey's

Wild Turkey.

	As they reached the shoulder of the highway, the Honda's

fuel found the flames of the ruined station, and the twisted

fireball showed Turner the mall again, the light of the para-

chute flares, the sky whiting out as the Jet streaked for the

Sonora border.

	Angie straightened up, wiped her mouth with the back of

her hand, and began to shake

	"We've got to get out of here," he said, driving east

again. She said nothing, and he glanced sideways to see her

rigid and upright in her seat, her eyes showing white in the

faint glow of the instruments, her face blank. He'd seen her

that way in Rudy's bedroom, when Sally had called them in,

and now that same flood of language, a soft fast rattle of

something that might have been patois French. He had no

recorder, no time, he had to drive

	"Hang on," he said, as they accelerated, "you'll be okay

	." Sure she couldn't hear him at all. Her teeth were

chattering; he could hear it above the turbine. Stop, he 


long enough to get something between her teeth, his wallet or

a fold of cloth. Her hands were plucking spastically at the

straps of the harness

	"There is a sick child in my house." The hover nearly left

the pavement, when he heard the voice come from her mouth,

deep and slow and weirdly glutinous. "I hear the dice being

tossed, for her bloody dress. Many are the hands who dig her

grave tonight, and yours as well. Enemies pray for your

death, hired man They pray until they sweat. Their prayers

are a river of fever." And then a sort of croaking that might

have been laughter.

	Turner risked a glance, saw a silver thread of drool descend

from her rigid lips. The deep muscles of her face had con-

torted into a mask he didn't know. "Who are you?"

	"I am the Lord of Roads."

	"What do you want?"

	"This child for my horse, that she may move among the

towns of men. It is well that you drive east. Carry her to your

city I shall ride her again. And Samedi rides with you,

gunman. He is the wind you hold in your hands, but he is

fickle, the Lord of Graveyards, no matter that you have

served him well      He turned in time to see her slump

sideways in the harness, her head lolling, mouth slack.

"THIS is ThE Finn's phone program," said the speaker below

the screen, "and the Finn, he's not here. You wanna download,

you know the access code already. You wanna leave a mes-

sage, leave it already." Bobby stared at the image on the

screen and slowly shook his head Most phone programs were

equipped with cosmetic video subprograms written to bring

the video image of the owner into greater accordance with the

more widespread paradigms of personal beauty, erasing

blemishes and subtly molding facial outlines to meet idealized

statistical norms. The effect of a cosmetic program on the

Finn's grotesque features was definitely the weirdest thing

Bobby had ever seen, as though somebody had gone after the

face of a dead gopher with a full range of mortician's crayons

and paraffin injections.

	"That's not natural," said Jammer, sipping Scotch

	Bobby nodded.

	"Finn," Jammer said, "is agoraphobic. Gives him the

hives to leave that impacted shitpile of a shop. And he's a

phone junkie, can't not answer a call if he's there. I'm

starting to think the bitch is right. Lucas is dead and some

heavy shit is going down .

	"The bitch," Jackie said, from behind the bar, "knows


	"She knows," Jammer said, putting the plastic glass down

and fingering his bob tie, "she knows. Talked to a hoodoo in

the matrix, so she knows .

"Well, Lucas isn't answering, and Beauvoir isn't answer-

ing, so maybe she's right." Bobby reached out and shut off

the phone as the record tone began to squeal.

	Jammer was gotten up in a pleated shirt, white dinner

jacket, and black trousers with satin stripes down the leg, and

Bobby took this to be his working outfit for the club. "No-

body's here," he said now, looking from Bobby to Jackie.

"Where's Bogue and Sharkey? Where's the waitresses?"

	"Who's Bogue and Sharkey?" Bobby asked.

	"The bartenders I don't like this." He got up from his

chair, walked to the door, and gently edged one of the

curtains aside. "What the fuck are those dipshits doing out

there? Hey, Count, this looks like your speed. Get over


	Bobby got up, full of misgivingshe hadn't felt like tell-

ing Jackie or Jammer about letting Leon see him, because he

didn't want to look like a wilsonand walked over to where

the club owner stood.

	"Go on. Take a peek. Don't let `em see you. They're

pretending so hard not to watch us~ you can almost smell it."

	Bobby moved the curtain, careful to keep the crack no

more than a centimeter wide, and looked out. The shopping

crowd seemed to have been replaced almost entirely by black-

crested Gothick boys in leather and studs, andamazingly-by

an equal proportion of blond Kasuals, the latter decked out in

the week's current Shinjuku cottons and gold-buckled white

loafers. "I dunno," Bobby said, looking up at Jammer, "but

they shouldn't be together, Kasuals and Gothicks, you know?

They're like natural enemies, it's in the DNA or some-

thing .." He took another look. "Goddamn, there's about

a hundred of `em."

	Jammer stuck his hands deep in his pleated trousers. "You

know any of those guys personally?"

	"Gothicks, I know some of `em to talk to. Except it's hard

to tell `em apart Kasuals, they'll stomp anything that isn't

Kasual. That's mainly what they're about. But I just been cut

up by Lobes anyway, and Lobes are supposed to be under

treaty with the Gothicks, so who knows?"

	Jammer sighed. "So, I guess you don't feel like strolling

out there and asking one what they think they're up to?"

	"No," Bobby said earnestly, "I don't."

	"Hmmm." Jammer looked at Bobby in a calculating way,

a way that Bobby definitely didn't like.

	Something small and hard dropped from the high black

ceiling and clicked loudly on one of the round black tables.

The thing bounced and hit the carpet, rolling, and landed

between the toes of Bobby's new boots. Automatically, he

bent and picked it up. An old-fashioned, slot-headed machine

screw, its threads brown with rust and its head clotted with

dull black latex paint. He looked up as a second one struck

the table, and caught a glimpse of an unnervingly agile

Jammer vaulting the bar, beside the universal credit unit.

Jammer vanished, there was a faint ripping soundVelcro

and Bobby knew that Jammer had the squat little automatic

weapon he'd seen there earlier in the day. He looked around,

but Jackie was nowhere in sight.

	A third screw ticked explosively on the formica of the


	Bobby hesitated, confused, but then followed Jackie's exam-

pIe and got out of sight, moving as quietly as he could. He

crouched behind one of the club's ~vooden screens and watched

as the fourth screw came down, followed by a slender cas-

cade of fine dark dust. There was a scraping sound, and then

a square steel ceiling grate vanished abruptly, withdrawn into

some kind of duct. He glanced quickly to the bar, in time to

see the fat recoil compensator on the barrel of Jammer's gun

as it swung up.

	A pair of thin brown legs dangled from the opening now,

and a gray sharkskin hem smudged with dust.

	"Hold it," Bobby said, "it's Beauvoir!"

	"You bet it's Beauvoir," came the voice from above, big

and hollow with the echo of the duct. "Get that danm table

out of the way."

	Bobby scrambled out from behind the screen and hauled

the table and chairs to the side.

	"Catch this," Beauvoir said, and dangled a bulging olive-

drab pack from one of its shoulder straps, then let it go The

weight of the thing nearly took Bobby to the floor. "Now get

out of my way     Beauvoir swung down out of the duct,

hung from the opening's edge with both hands, then dropped.

	"What happened to the screamer I had up there?" Jammer

asked, standing up behind the bar, the little machine gun in

his hands.

	"Right here," Beauvoir said, tossing a dull gray bar of

phenolic resin to the carpet. It was wrapped with a length of

fine black wire. "No other way I could get in here without a

regular anny of shitballs knowing about it, as it happens.

Somebody's obviously given them the blueprints to the place,

but they've missed that one,"

	"How'd you get up to the roof?" Jackie asked, stepping

from behind a screen.

	"I didn't," Beauvoir said, pushing his big plastic frames

back up his nose. "I shot a line of monomol across from the

stack next door, then slid over on a ceramic spindle ..." His

short nappy hair was full of furnace dust, He looked at her

gravely. "You know," he said,

	"Yes. Legba and Papa Ougou, in the matrix. I jacked with

Bobby, on Jammer's deck . .

	"They blew Ahmed away on the Jersey freeway. Probably

used the same launcher they did Bobby's old lady with . .


	"Still not sure," Beauvoir said, kneeling beside the pack

and clicking open the quick-release plastic fasteners, "but it's

starting to shape up . . . What I was working on, up until I

heard Lucas had been hit, was running down the Lobes who

mugged Bobby for his deck, That was probably an accident,

just business as usual, but somewhere there's a couple of

Lobes with our icebreaker . . . That had potential, for sure,

because the Lobes are hotdoggers, some of them, and they do

a little business with Two-a-Day. So Two-a-Day and I were

making the rounds, looking to learn what we could. Which

was dick, as it turned out, except that while we were with this

dust case called Alix, who's second assistant warlord or

something, he gets a call from his opposite number, who

Two-a-Day pins as a Barrytown Gothick name of Raymond."

He was unloading the pack as he spoke, laying out weapons,

tools, ammunition, coils of wire. "Raymond wants to talk

real bad, but Alix is too cool to do it in front of us, `Sorry,

gentlemen, but this is official warlord biz,' this dumbshit

says, so natch. we excuse our humble selves, shuffle and bow

and all, and nip around the corner. Use Two-a-Day's modular

phone to ring up our cowboys back in the Sprawl and put

them on to Alix's phone, but fast. Those cowboys went into

Alix's conversation with Raymond like a wire into cheese."

He pulled a deformed twelve-gauge shotgun, barely longer

than his forearm, from the pack, selected a fat drum magazine

from the display he'd made on the carpet, and clicked the two

together, "You ever see one of these motherfuckers? South

African, prewar ..." Something in his voice and the set of

his jaw made Bobby suddenly aware of his contained fury.

"Seems Raymond has been approached by this guy, and this

guy has lots of money, and he wants to hire the Gothicks

outright, the whole apparat, to go into the Sprawl and do a

number, a real crowd scene This guy wants it so big, he's

gonna hire the Kasuals too. Well, the shit hit the fan then,

because Alix, he's kind of conservative. Only good Kasual's

a dead one, and then only after x number of hours of torture,

etc, `Fuck that,' Raymond says, ever the diplomat. `We're

talking big money here, we're talking corporate.' "He opened

a box of fat red plastic shells and began to load the gun,

cranking one after another into the magazine. "Now I could

be way off, but I keep seeing these Maas Biolabs PR types on

video lately Something very weird's happened, out on some

property of theirs in Arizona. Some people say it was a nuke,

some people say it was something else. And now they're

claiming their top biosoft man's dead, in what they call an

unrelated accident. That's Mitchell, the guy who more or less

invented the stuff. So far, nobody else is even pretending to

be able to make a biochip, so Lucas and I assumed from the

beginning that Maas had made that icebreaker " If it was an

icebreaker, . . But we had no idea who the Finn got it from,

or where they got it But if you put all that together, it looks

like Maas Biolabs might be out to cook us all. And this is

where they plan to do it, because they got us here but good."

"I dunno," Jammer said, "we got a lot of friends in this

building .

  "Had," Beauvoir put the shotgun down and started loading

a Nambu automatic, "Most of the people on this level and the

next one down got bought out this afternoon. Cash. Duffels

full of it, There's a few holdouts, but not enough."

 "That doesn't make any sense," Jackie said, taking the

glass of Scotch from Jammer's hand and drinking it straight

off. "What do we have that anybody could want that bad?"

 "Hey," Bobby said, "don't forget, they probably don't

know those Lobes ripped me for the icebreaker. Maybe that's

all they want."

 "No," Beauvoir said, snapping the magazine into the

Nambu, "because they couldn't have known you hadn't stashed

it in your mother's place, right?"

"But maybe they went there and looked. .

 "So how did they know Lucas wasn't carrying it in Abmed?"

Jammer said, walking back to the bar.

 "Finn thought someone sent those three ninjas to kill him,

too," Bobby said. "Said they had stuff to make him answer

questions first, though . .

	"Maas again," Beauvoir said. "Whoever, here's the deal

with the Kasuals and Gothicks. We'd know more, but Alix

the Lobe got on his high horse and wouldn't parley with

Raymond. No co-employment with the hated Kasuals. Near

as our cowboys could make out, the army's outside to keep

you people in. And to keep people like me out. People with

guns and stuff." He handed the loaded Nambu to Jackie.

"You know how to use a gun?" he asked Bobby.

	"Sure," Bobby lied.

	"No," Jammer said, "we got enough trouble without arm-

ing him. Jesus Christ .

"What all that suggests to me," Beauvoir said, "is that we

can expect somebody else to come in after us. Somebody a

little more professional . .

	"Unless they just blow Hypermart all to shit and gone,"

Jammer said, "and all those zombies with it . .

	"No," Bobby said, "or else they'd already have done it."

	They all stared at him.

	"Give the boy credit," Jackie said. "He's got it right."

Thirty minutes later and Jammer was staring glumly at

Beauvoir. "I gotta hand it to you. That's the most half-assed

plan I've heard in a long time."

	"Yeah, Beauvoir," Bobby cut in, "why can't we just

crawl back up that vent, sneak across the roof, and get over to

the next building? Use the line you came over on."

	"There's Kasuals on the roof like flies on shit,' Beauvoir

said. "Some of them might even have brain enough to have

found the cap I opened to get down here. I left a couple of

baby frag mines on my way in." He grinned mirthlessly.

"Aside from that, the building next door is taller. I had to go

up on that roof and shoot the monomol down to this one. You

can't hand-over-hand up monomolecular filament; your fin-

gers fall off."

	"Then how the hell did you expect to get out?" Bobby


"Drop it, Bobby," Jackie said quietly. "Beauvoir's done

what he had to do. Now he's in here with us, and we're


	"Bobby," Beauvoir said, "why don't you run the plan

back to us, make sure we understand it.

	Bobby had the uncomfortable feeling that Beauvoir wanted

to make sure he understood it, but he leaned back against the

bar and began. "We get ourselves all armed up and we wait,

okay? Jammer and I, we go out with his deck and scout around

the matrix, maybe we get some idea what's happening .

	"I think I can handle that by myself," Jammer said.

	"Shit!" Bobby was off the bar "Beauvoir said! I wanna

go, I wanna jack! How am lever supposed to learn anything?"

	"Never mind, Bobby," Jackie said, "you go on."

	"Okay," Bobby said, sulkily, "so, sooner or later, the

guys who hired the Gothicks and Kasuals to keep us here,

they're gonna come for us. When they do, we take `em. We

get at least one of `em alive. Same time, we're on our way

out, and the Goths `n' all, they won't expect all the fire-

power, so we get to the street and head for the Projects .

	"I think that about covers it," Jammer said, strolling

across the carpet to the locked and curtained door. "I think

that about sums it up." He pressed his thumb against a coded

latch plate and pulled the door half open. "Hey, you!" he

bellowed. "Not you! You with the hat! Get your ass over

here. I want to talk"

	The pencil-thick red beam pierced door and curtain, two of

Jammer's fingers, and winked over the bar. A bottle ex-

ploded, its contents billowing out as steam and vaporized

esters. Jammer let the door swing shut again, stared at his

ruined hand, then sat down hard on the carpet. The club

slowly filled with the Christmas-tree smell of boiled gin.

Beauvoir took a silver pressure bottle from the bar counter

and hosed the smouldering curtain with seltzer, until the

CO2 cartridge was exhausted and the stream faltered. "You're

in luck, Bobby," Beauvoir said, tossing the bottle over his

shoulder, " `cause brother Jammer, he ain't gonna be punch-

ing any deck .

	Jackie was making clucking sounds over Jammer's hand,

kneeling down. Bobby caught a glimpse of cauterized flesh,

then quickly looked away.

"You KNOW," REZ said, hanging upside down in front of

Marly, "it's strictly no biz of mine, but is somebody maybe

expecting you when we get there? I mean, I'm taking you

there, for sure, and if you can't get in, I'll take you back to

JAL Term But if nobody wants to let you in, I don't know

how long I want to hang around. That thing's scrap, and we

get some funny people hanging out in the hulks, out here."

Rezor Ther~se, Marly gathered, from the laminated pilot's

license clipped to the Sweet Jane's consolehad removed her

canvas work vest for the trip.

	Marly, numb with the rainbow of derms Rez had pasted

along her wrist to counteract the convulsive nausea of space

adaptation syndrome, stared at the rose tattoo. It had been

executed in a Japanese style hundreds of years old, and Marly

woozily decided that she liked it. That, in fact, she liked Rez,

who was at once hard and girlish and concerned for her

strange passenger. Rez had admired her leather jacket and

purse, before bundling them into a kind of narrow nylon net

hammock already stuffed with cassettes, print books, and

unwashed clothing.

	"I don't know," Marly managed, "I'll just have to try to

getin. ."

	"You know what that thing is, sister?" Rez was adjusting

the g-web around Marly's shoulders and armpits.

	"What thing?" Marly blinked.

	"Where we're going. It's part of the old Tessier-Ashpool

cores. Used to be the mainframes for their corporate mem-


	"I've heard of them," Marly said, closing her eyes. "An-

drea told me     

	"Sure, everybody's heard of `emthey used to own alla

Freeside. Built it, even. Then they went tits up and sold out

Had their family place cut off the spindle and towed to

another orbit, but they had the cores wiped before they did

that, and torched `em off and sold `em to a scrapper. The

scrapper's never done anything with `em I never heard any-

body was squatting there, but out here you live where you can

	I guess that's true for anybody. Like they say that Lady

Jane, old Ashpool's daughter. she's still living in their old

place, stone crazy     She gave the g-web a last profes-

sional tug. "Okay. You just relax. I'm gonna burn Jane hard

for twenty minutes, but it'll get us there fast, which I figure 


what you're paying for.."

	And Marly slid back into a landscape built all of boxes,

vast wooden Cornell constructions where the solid residues of

love and memory were displayed behind rain-streaked sheets

of dusty glass, and the figure of the mysterious boxmaker fled

before her down avenues paved with mosaics of human teeth,

Marly's Paris boots clicking blindly over symbols outlined in

dull gold crowns. The boxmaker was male and wore Alain's

green jacket, and feared her above all things. "I'm sorry,"

she cried, running after him, "I'm sorry . .

	"Yeah. Ther~se Lorenz, the Sweet Jane. You want the

numbers? What? Yeah, sure we're pirates. I'm Captain fuck-

ing Hook already. . Look, Jack, lemme give you the

numbers, you can check it out. . . . I said already. I gotta

passenger. Request permission, et Goddamn cetera. . . . Marly

Something, speaks French in her sleep ."

	Many's lids flickered, opened Rez was webbed in front of

her, each small muscle of her back precisely defined. "Hey,"

Rez said, twisting around in the web, "I'm sorry. I raised

`em for you, but they sound pretty flaky. You religious?"

	"No," Marly said, baffled.

	Rez made a face. "Well, I hope you can make sense out of

this shit, then." She shrugged out of the web and executed a

tight backward somersault that brought her within centimeters

of Marly's face An optic ribbon trailed from her hand to the

console, and for the first time Marly saw the delicate sky-blue

socket set flush with the skin of the girl~s wrist. She popped a

speaker-bead into Marly's right ear and adjusted the trans-

parent microphone tube that curved down from it.

	"You have no right to disturb us here," a man's voice

said. "Our work is the work of God, and we alone have seen

His true face!"

	"Hello? Hello, can you hear me? My name is Marly

Krushkhova and I have urgent business with you. Or with

someone at these coordinates. My business concerns a series

of boxes, collages. The maker of these boxes may be in

terrible danger! I must see him!"

	"Danger?" The man coughed. "God alone decides man's

fate! We are entirely without fear. But neither are we


	"Please, listen to me. I was hired by Josef Virek to locate

the maker of the boxes. But now I have come to warn you.

Virek knows you are here, and his agents will follow me

	Rez was staring at her hard.

	"You must let me in! I can tell you more .

	"Virek?" There was a long, static-filled pause. "Josef


	"Yes." Marly said. "That one You've seen his picture

all your life, the one with the king of England . . . Please,

please .

	"Give me your pilot," the voice said, and the bluster and

hysteria were gone, replaced with something Marly liked

even less.

	"It's a spare," Rez said, snapping the mirrored helmet

from the red suit. "I can afford it, you paid me enough.

	"No," Marly protested, "really, you needn't         

She shook her head, Rez was undoing the fastenings at the

spacesuit's waist.

	"You don't go into a thing like that without a suit," she

said. "You don't know what they got for atmosphere. You

don't even know they got atmosphere! And any kinda bacte-

ria, spores . . What's the matter?" Lowering the silver


	"I'm claustrophobic!"

	"Oh     Rez stared at her. "I heard of that . . . It means

you're scared to be inside things?" She looked genuinely


	"Small things, yes."

"Like Sweet Jane?"

	"Yes, but     She glanced at the cramped cabin, fight-

ing her panic. "I can stand this, but not the helmet." She


	"Well," Rez said, "tell you what. We get you into the

suit, but we leave the helmet off. I'll teach you how to fasten

it. Deal? Otherwise, you don't leave my ship . ." Her

mouth was straight and firm.

	"Yes," Marly said, "yes

"Here's the drill," Rez said. "We're lock to lock. This

hatch opens, you get in, I close it. Then I open the other side.

Then you're in whatever passes for atmosphere, in there. You

sure you don't want the helmet on?"

"No," Marly said, looking down at the helmet she grasped

in the suit's red gauntlets. at her pale reflection in the mir-

rored faceplate

Rez made a little clicking sound with her tongue. "Your

life. If you want to get back, have them put a message

through JAL Term for the Sweet Jane."

	Marly kicked off clumsily and spun forward into the lock,

no larger than an upright coffin. The red suit's breastplate

clicked hard against the outer hatch, and she heard the inner

one hiss shut behind her. A light came on, beside her head,

and she thought of the lights in refrigerators. "Good-bye,


	Nothing happened. She was alone with the beating of her


	Then the Sweet Jane's outer hatch slid open. A slight

pressure differential was enough to tumble her out into a

darkness that smelled old and sadly human, a smell like a

long-abandoned locker room. There was a thickness, an un-

clean dampness to the air, and, still tumbling, she saw Sweet

Jane's hatch slide shut behind her. A beam of light stabbed

past her, wavered, swung, and found her spinning.

	"Lights," someone bawled hoarsely. "lights for our guest!

Jones!" It was the voice she'd heard through the ear-bead. It

rang strangely, in the iron vastness of this place, this hollow

she fell through, and then there was a grating sound and a

distant ring of harsh blue flared up, showing her the far curve

of a wall or hull of steel and welded lunar rock. The surface

was lined and pitted with precisely carved channels and de-

pressions, where equipment of some kind had once been

fitted. Scabrous clumps of brown expansion foam still ad-

hered in some of the deeper cuts, and others were lost in dead

black shadow .." You'd better get a line on her, Jones,

before she cracks her head .

	Something struck the shoulder of her suit with a damp

smack, and she turned her head to see a pink gob of bright

plastic trailing a finc pink line, which jerked taut as she

watched, flipping her around. The derelict cathedral space

filled with the laboring whine of an engine, and, quite slowly,

they reeled her in

	"It took you long enough," the voice said. "I wondered

who would be first, and now it's Virek . .. Mammon . .

And then they had her, spinning her around. She almost lost

the helmet: it was drifting away, but one of them batted it

back into her hands. Her purse, with her boots and jacket

folded inside, executed its own arc, on its shoulder strap, and

bumped the side of her head.

	"Who are you?" she asked.

	"Ludgate!" the old man roared. "Wigan Ludgate, as you

well know. Who else did he send you to deceive?" His

seamed, blotched face was cleanshaven, but his gray, un-

trimmed hair floated free, seaweed on a tide of stale air.

	"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm not here to deceive you. I no

longer work for Virek . . . I came here because . . I mean,

I'm not at all sure why I came here, to begin with, but on my

way I learned that the artist who makes the boxes is in

danger. Because there~s something else, something Virek

thinks he has, something Virek thinks will free him from his

cancers      Her words ran down to silence, in the face of

the almost palpable craziness that radiated from Wigan Ludgate,

and she saw that he wore the cracked plastic carapace of an

old work suit, with cheap metal crucifixes epoxied like a

necklace around the tarnished steel helmet ring. His face was

very close. She could smell his decaying teeth.

	"The boxes!" Little balls of spittle curled off his lips,

obeying the elegant laws of Newtonian physics. "You whore!

They're of the hand of God!"

	"Easy there, Lud," said a second voice, `~youre scam'

the lady Easy, lady, `cause old Lud, he hasn't got too many

visitors. Gets him quite worked up, y'see, but he's basically a

harmless old bugger     She turned her head and met the

relaxed gaze of a pair of wide blue eyes in a very young face.

"I'm Jones," he said, "I live here, too . .

	Wigan Ludgate threw back his head and howled, and the

sound rang wild against the walls of steel and stone.

	"Mostly, y'see," Jones was saying as Marly pulled her

way behind him along a knotted line stretched taut down a

corridor that seemed to have no end, "he's pretty quiet.

Listens to his voices, y'know. Talks to himself, or maybe to

the voices, I dunno, and then a spell comes on him and he's

	like this	When he stopped speaking, she could still hear

faint echoes of Ludgate's howls. "You may think it's cruel,

me leavin' him this way, but it's best, really. He'll tire of it

soon. Gets hungry. Then he comes to find me. Wants his~

tuck, y'see."

 "Are you Australian?" she asked.

 ~`New Melbourne," he said. "Or was, before I got up the

well .

 "Do you mind my asking why yoU're here? I mean, here in

this, this . . .	What is it?"

 The boy laughed. "Mostly, I call it the Place. Lud, he calls

it a lot of things, but mostly the Kingdom. Figures he's found

God, he does. Suppose he has, if you want to look at it that

way. Near as I make it, he was some kind of console crook

before he got up the well. Don't know how he came to be

here, exactly, other than that it suits the poor bastard .

Me, I came here runnin', understand? Trouble somewhere,

not to be too specific, and my arse for out of there. Turn up

herethat's a long tale of its ownand here's bloody Ludgate

near to starvin'. He'd had him a sort of business, sellin'

things he'd scavenge, and those boxes you're after, but he'd

gotten a bit far gone for that. His buyers would come, oh,

say, three times a year, but he'd send `em away. Well. I

thought, the hidin' here's as good as any, so I took to helpin

him. That's it, I guess

	"Can you take me to the artist? Is he here? It's extremely

urgent .

	"I'll take you, no fear. But this place, it was never really

built for people, not to get around in, I mean, so it's a bit 

of a

journey . . . It isn't likely to be going anywhere, though.

	Can't guarantee it'll make a box for you. Do you really work

for Virek? Fabulous rich old shit on the telly? Kraut, isn't


	"I did," she said, "for a number of days. As for national-

ity, I would guess Herr Virek is the sole citizen of a nation

consisting of Herr Virek . .

	"See what you mean," Jones said, cheerily. "It's all the

same, with these rich old fucks, I suppose, though it's more

fun than watching a bloody zaibatsu . . You won't see a

zaibatsu come to a messy end, will you? Take old Ashpool

countryman of mine, he waswho built all this; they say his

own daughter slit his throat, and now she's bad as old Lud,

holed up in the family castle somewhere. The Place being a

former part of all that, y'see."

	"Rez. . . I mean, my pilot, said something like that. And

a friend of mine, in Paris, mentioned the Tessier-Ashpools

recently . . . The clan is in eclipse?"

	"Eclipse? Lord! Down the bloody tube's more like it.

Think about it: We're crawhn', you an' me, through what

used to be their corporate data cores. Some contractor in

Pakistan bought the thing; hull's fine, and there's a fair bit 


gold in the circuitry, but not as cheap to recover as some

might like ...It' s been hangin' up here ever since, with only

old Lud to keep it company, and it him. Till I come along,

that is. Guess one day the crews'll come up from Pakistan

and get cuttin' . . Funny, though, how much of it still

seems to work, at least part of the time Story I heard, one

got me here in the first place, said T-A's wiped the cores

dead, before they cut it loose

	"But you think they are still operative?"

	"Lord, yes. About the way Lud is, if you call that opera-

	tive. What do you think your boxmaker is?"

	"What do you know about Maas Biolabs?"

	"Moss what?"

	"Maas. They make biochips

	`Oh. Them. Well, that's all I do know about `em . .

	"Ludgate speaks of them?"

	"He might. Can't say as I listen all that close. Lud, he

does speak a fair bit

HE BROUGHT ThEM in through avenues lined with rusting slopes

of dead vehicles, with wrecker's cranes and the black towers

of smelters. He kept to the back streets as they eased into the

western flank of the Sprawl, and eventually gunned the hover

down a brick canyon, armored sides scraping sparks. and

drove it hard into a wall of soot-blown, compacted garbage.

An avalanche of refuse slid down, almost covering the vehi-

cle, and he released the controls, watching the foam dice

swing back and forth, side to side The kerosene gauge had

been riding on empty for the last twelve blocks.

	"What happened back there?" she said, her cheekbones

green in the glow of the instruments.

	"I shot down a helicopter. Mostly by accident. We were


	"No, I mean after that. I was . . . I had a dream."

	"What did you dream?"

	"The big things, moving

	"You had some kind of seizure."

	"Am I sick? Do you think I'm sick? Why did the company

want to kill me?"

	"I don't think you're sick."

	She undid her harness and scrambled back over the seat, to

crouch where they had slept. "It was a bad dream .." She

began to tremble. He climbed out of his harness and went to

her, held her head against him, stroking her hair, smoothing it

back against the delicate skull, stroking it back behind her

cars Her face in the green glow like something hauled from

dreams and abandoned, the skin smooth and thin across the

bones. The black sweatshirt half unzipped, he traced the

fragile line of her collarbone with a fingertip. Her skin was

cool, moist with a film of sweat. She clung to him.

	He closed his eyes and saw his body in a sun-striped bed,

beneath a slow fan with blades of brown hardwood His body

pumping, jerking like an amputated limb, Allison's head

thrown back, mouth open, lips taut across her teeth.

	Angie pressed her face into the hollow of his neck.

	She groaned, stiffened, rocked back "Hired man," the

voice said. And he was back against the driver's seat, the

Smith & Wesson's barrel reflecting a single line of green

instrument glow, the luminous head on its front sight eclips-

ing her left pupil.

	~No," the voice said.

	He lowered the gun, "You're back."

	"No. Legba spoke to you. I am Samedi."


	"Baron Saturday, hired man. You met me once on a

hillside. The blood lay on you like dew. I drank of your full

heart that day." Her body jerked violently. "You know this

town well .

	"Yes." He watched as muscles tensed and relaxed in her

face, molding her features into a new mask

	"Very well. Leave the vehicle here, as you intended. But

follow the stations north. To New York. Tonight. I will guide

you with Legba's horse then, and you will kill for me

"Kill who?"

	"The one you most wish to kill, hired man."

	Angie moaned, shuddered, and began to sob.

	"It's okay," he said. "We're half way home." It was a

meaningless thing to say, he thought, helping her out of the

seat; neither of them had homes at all. He found the case of

cartridges in the parka and replaced the one he'd used on the

Honda He found a paint-spattered razor-knife, in the dash

tool kit and sliced the ripstop lining out of the parka, a

million microtubes of poly insulation whirling up as he cut.

When he'd stripped it out, he put the Smith & Wesson in the

holster and put the parka on. It hung around him in folds, like

an oversized raincoat, and didn't show the bulge of the big

gun at all.

	"Why did you do that?" she asked, running the back of

her hand across her mouth.

	"Because ifs hot out there and I need to cover the gun."

He stuffed the ziploc full of used New Yen into a pocket.

"Come on," he said, "we got subways to catch

	Condensation dripped steadily from the old Georgetown

dome, built forty years after the ailing Federals decamped for

the lower reaches of McLean. Washington was a Southern

city, always had been, and you felt the tone of the Sprawl

shift here if you rode the trains down the stations from

Boston. The trees in the District were lush and green, and

their leaves shaled the arc lights as Turner and Angela Mitch-

ell made their way along the broken sidewalks to Dupont

Circle and the station There were drums in the circle, and

someone had lit a trash fire in the giant's marble goblet at the

center. Silent figures sat beside spread blankets as they 


the blankets arrayed with surreal assortments of merchandise:

the damp-swollen cardboard coveis of black plastic audio

disks beside battered prosthetic limbs trailing crude nerve-

jacks, a dusty glass fishbowl filled with oblong steel dog tags,

rubber-banded stacks of faded postcards, cheap Indo trodes

still sealed in wholesaler~s plastic, mismatched ceramic salt-

and-pepper sets, a golf club with a peeling leather grip, Swiss

army knives with missing blades, a dented tin wastebasket

lithographed with the face of a president whose name Turner

could almost remember (Carter? Grosvenor?), fuzzy holo-

grams of the Monument

	In the shadows near the station's entrance, Turner haggled

quietly with a Chinese boy in white Jeans, exchanging the

smallest of Rudy's bills for nine alloy tokens stamped with

the ornate BAMA Transit logo.

	Two of the tokens admitted them to the station. Three of

them went into vending machines for bad coffee and stale

pastries. The remaining four carried them north, the train

rushing silently along on its magnetic cushion. He sat back

with his arms around her, and pretended to close his eyes; he

watched their reflections in the opposite window. A tall man,

gaunt now and unshaven, hunched back in defeat with a

hollow-eyed girl curled beside him. She hadn't spoken since

they'd left the alley where he'd abandoned the hover.

	For the second time in an hour he considered phoning his

agent. If you had to trust someone, the rule ran, then trust

your agent. But Conroy had said he'd hired Qakey and the

others through Turner's agent, and the connection made Turner

dubious. Where was Conroy tonight? Turner was fairly cer-

tain that it would have been Conroy who ordered Oakey after

them with the laser. Would Hosaka have arranged the railgun,

in Arizona, to erase evidence of a botched defection attempt?

But if they had, why order Webber to destroy the medics,

their neurosurgery, and the Maas-Neotek deck? And there

was Mans again. . . . Had Maas killed Mitchell? Was there

any reason to believe that Mitchell was really dead? Yes, he

thought, as the girl stirred beside him in uneasy sleep, there

was: Angie. Mitchell had feared they~d kill her, he'd arranged

the defection in order to get her out. get her to Hosaka, with

no plan for his own escape. Or that was Angie's version,


	He closed his eyes, shut out the reflections. Something

stirred, deep in the silt of Mitchell's recorded memories.

Shame. He couldn~t quite reach it. . . . He opened his eyes

suddenly. What had she said, at Rudy's? That her father had

put the thing into her head because she wasn't smart enough?

Careful not to disturb her, he worked his arm from behind her

neck and slid two fingers into the waist pocket of his pants,

came up with Conroy's little black nylon envelope on its neck

cord. He undid the Velcro and shook the swollen, asym-

metrical gray biosoft out onto his open palm. Machine dreams.

Roller coaster. Too fast, too alien to grasp. But if you wanted

something, something specific, you should be able to pull it


	He dug his thumbnail under the socket's dustcover, pried it

out, and put it down on the plastic seat beside him. The train

was nearly empty, and none of the other passengers seemed

to be paying any attention to him. He took a deep breath, set

his teeth, and inserted the biosoft

	Twenty seconds later, he had it, the thing he'd gone for.

The strangeness hadn't touched him, this time, and he de-

cided that that was because he'd gone after this one specific

thing, this fact, exactly the sort of data you'd expect to find 


the dossier of a top research man: his daughter's IQ, as

reflected by annual batteries of tests.

	Angela Mitchell was well above the norm. Had been, all


	He took the biosoft out of his socket and rolled it absently

between thumb and forefinger. The shame. Mitchell and the

shame and grad school. . . . Grades, he thought. I want the

bastard's grades. I want his transcripts.

	He jacked the dossier again.

	Nothing. He'd gotten it, but there was nothing.

No. Again.


	"Goddamn," he said, seeing it.

	A teenager with a shaved head glanced at him from a seat

across the aisle, then turned back to the stream of his friend's

monologue: "They're gonna run the games again, up on the

hill, midnight. We're goin', but we're just gonna hang, we're

not gonna make it, just kick back and let `em thump each

other's butts, and we're gonna laugh, see who gets thumped,

`cause last week Susan got her arm busted, you there for that?

An' it was funny, `cause Cal was tryin' t' takem to the

hospital but he was dusted `n' he ran that shitty Yamaha over

aspeedbump. .

	Turner snapped the biosoft back into his socket.

	This time, when it was over, he `said nothing at all. He put

his arm back around Angie and smiled, seeing the smile in

the window. It was a feral smile; it belonged to the edge

	Mitchell's academic record was good, extremely good

Excellent. But the arc wasn't there. The arc was something

Turner had learned to look for in the dossiers of research

people, that certain signal curve of brilliance. He could spot

the arc the way a master machinist could identify metals by

observing the spark plume off a grinding wheel. And Mitchell

hadn't had it.

	The shame. The graduate dorms Mitchell had known,

known he wasn't going to make it. And then, somehow, he

had. How? It wouldn't be in the dossier. Mitchell, somehow,

had known how to edit what he gave the Maas security

machine. Otherwise, they would have been on to him

Someone, something, had found Mitchell in his postgraduate

slump and had started feeding him things. Clues, directions.

And Mitchell had gone to the top, his arc hard and bright and

perfect then, and it had carried him to the top .

Who? What?

	He watched Angie's sleeping face in the shudder of subway



	Mitchell had cut a deal. Turner might never know the

details of the agreement, or Mitchell's price, but he knew he

understood the other side of it. What Mitchell had been

required to do in return.

	Legba, Samedi, spittle curling from the girl's contorted


	And the train swept into old Union in a black blast of

midnight air.

	"Cab, sir?" The man's eyes were moving behind glasses

with a polychrome tint that swirled like oil slicks. There were

flat, silvery sores across the backs of his hands. Turner

stepped in close and caught his upper arm, without breaking

stride, forcing him back against a wall of scratched white tile.

between gray ranks of luggage lookers.

	"Cash," Turner said. "I'm paying New Yen. I want my

cab. No trouble with the driver Understand? I'm not a mark."

He tightened his grip. "Fuck up on me, I'll come back here

and kill you, or make you wish I had."

	"Got it Yessir. Got it. We can do that, sir, yessir. Where d'

you wanna go to, sir?" The man's wasted features contorted

in pain.

	"Hired man." the voice came from Angie, a hoarse whis-

per. And then an address. Turner saw the tout's eyes dart

nervously behind the swirls of colors. "That's Madison?" he

croaked. "Yessir. Get you a good cab, real good cab . .

	"What is this place," Turner asked the cabby, leaning

forward to thumb the SPEAK button beside the steel speaker

grid, "the address we gave you?"

	There was a crackle of static. "Hypermart. Not much open

there this time of night. Looking for anything in particular?"

	"No," Turner said. He didn't know the place. He tried to

remember that stretch of Madison, Residential, mostly. Un-

counted living spaces carved out of the shells of commercial

buildings that dated from a day when commerce had required

clerical workers to be present physically at a central loca-

tion. Some of the buildings were tall enough to penetrate a


	"Where are we going?" Angie asked, her hand on his arm.

	"It's okay," he said. "Don't worry."

	"God," she said, leaning against his shoulder, looking up

at the pink neon HYPERMART sign that slashed the granite face

of the old building, "I used to dream about New York, back

on the mesa. I had a graphics program that would take me

through all the streets, into museums and things. I wanted to

come here more than anything in the world

	"Well, you made it. You're here."

	She started to sob, hugged him, her face against his bare

chest, shaking. "I'm scared. I'm so scared.

	``It'll be okay,'' he said, stroking her hair, his eyes on the

main entrance. He had no reason to believe anything would

ever be okay for either of them. She seemed to have no idea

that the words that had brought them here had come from her

mouth. But then, he thought, she hadn't spoken them

There were bag people huddled on either side of Hypermart's

entranceway, prone hummocks of rag gone the exact shade of

the sidewalk; they looked to Turner as though they were

being slowly extruded from the dark concrete, to become

mobile extensions of the city. "lammer's," the voice said,

muffled by his chest, and he felt a cold revulsion, "a club.

Find Danbala's horse." And then she was crying again He

took her hand and walked past the sleeping transients, in

under the tarnished gilt scroliwork and through the glass

doors. He saw an espresso machine down an aisle of tents and

shuttered stalls, a girl with a black crest of hair swabbing a

counter. "Coffee." he said. "Food. Come on. You need to


	He smiled at the girl while Angie settled herself on a stool.

	How about cash?" he said. "You ever take cash?"

	She stared at him, shrugged. He took a twenty from Rudy's

ziploc and showed it to her. `What do you want?"

	"Coffees. Some food."

	"That all you got? Nothing smaller?"

He shook his head.

	"Sorry. Can't make the change."

	"You don't have to."

	"You crazy?"

	"No, but I want coffee

	"That's some tip, mister. I don't make that in a week."

``It's yours.''

	Anger crossed her face. "You're with those shitheads up-

stairs. Keep your money. I'm closing."

	"We aren't with anybody," he said, leaning across the

counter slightly, so that the parka fell open and she could see

the Smith & Wesson. "We're looking for a club. A place

called Jammer s.

	The girl glanced at Angie, back to Turner. "She sick?

Dusted? What is this?"

	"Here's the money," Turner said. "Give us our coffee.

You want to earn the change, tell me how to find Jammer's

place It's worth it to me. Understand?"

	She slid the worn bill out of sight and moved to the

espresso machine. "I don't think I understand anything any-

more." She rattled cups and milk-filmed glasses out of the

way. "What is it with Jammer's? You a friend of his? You

know Jackie?"

	"Sure," Turner said.

	"She came by early this morning with this little wilson

from the `burbs. I guess they went up there .


	"Jammer's. Then the weirdness started."


	"All these creeps from Barrytown, greaseballs and white-

shoes, walking in like they owned the place. And now they

damn well do, the top two floors. Started buying people out

of their stalls. A lot of people on the lower floors just packed

and left. Too weird. . .

	"How many came?"

	Steam roared out of the machine. "Maybe a hundred. I

been scared shit all day, but I can't reach my boss. I close up

in thirty minutes anyway. The day girl never showed, or else

she came in, caught the trouble smell, and walked . ." She

took the little steaming cup and put it in front of Angie. "You

okay, honey?"

	Angie nodded.

	"You have any idea what these people are up to?" Turner


	The girl had returned to the machine. It roared again. "I

think they're waiting for someone," she said quietly and

brought Turner an espresso. "Either for someone to try to

leave Jammer's or for someone to try to get in .

	Turner looked down at the swirls of brown foam on his

coffee. "And nobody here called the police?"

	"The police? Mister, this is Hypermart. People here don't

call the police .

	Angie's cup shattered on the marble counter.

	"Short and straight, hired man," the voice whispered.

"You know the way. Walk in."

	The countergirl's mouth was open. "Jesus," she said,

"she's gotta be dusted bad     She looked at Turner coldly.

"You give it to her?"

	"No," Turner said, "but she's sick. It'll be okay." He

drank off the black bitter coffee. It seemed to him, just for a

second, that he could feel the whole Sprawl breathing, and its

breath was old and sick and tired, all up and down the

stations from Boston to Atlanta. . .

~~JEsus,~' BOBBY SAID to Jackie, "can't you wrap it up or

something?" Jammer's burn filled the office with a smell,

like overdone pork, that turned Bobby's stomach.

	"You don't bandage a burn," she said, helping Jammer sit

down in his chair. She began to open his desk drawers, one

after another. "You got any painkillers? Derms? Anything?"

	Jammer shook his head, his long face slack and pale.

"Maybe. Behind the bar, there's a kit. . .

	"Get it!" Jackie snapped. "Go on!"

	"What are you so worried about him for." Bobby began,

hurt by her tone. "He tried to let those Gothicks in here.

	"Get the box, asshole! He just got weak for a second, is

all. He got scared. Get me that box or you'll need it yourself."

	He darted out into the club and found Beauvoir wiring pink

hotdogs of plastic explosive to a yellow plastic box like the

control unit for a kid's toy truck. The hotdogs were mashed

around the hinges of the doors and on either side of the lock.

	~What's that for?" Bobby asked, scrambling over the bar.

"Somebody might want in," Beauvoir said. "They do,

we'll open it for them."

	Bobby paused to admire the arrangement. "Why don't you

just mash it up against the glass, so it'll blow straight out?"

	"Too obvious," Beauvoir said, straightening up, the yel-

low detonator in his hands. "But I'm glad you think about

these things. If we try to blow it straight out, some of it 


back in. This way is . . . neater."

	Bobby shrugged and ducked behind the bar. There were

wire racks filled with plastic sacks of krill wafers, an assort-

ment of abandoned umbrellas, an unabridged dictionary, a

woman's blue shoe, a white plastic case with a runny-looking

red cross painted on it with nail polish . . . He grabbed the

case and climbed back over the bar.

	`~Hey, Jackie     he said, putting the first-aid kit down

beside Jammer's deck.

	"Forget it." She popped the case open and rummaged

through its contents. "Jammer, there's more poppers in here

than anything else . .

	Jammer smiled wealdy.

	"Here. These'll do you." She unrolled a sheet of red

derms and began to peel them off the backing, smoothing

three across the back of the burnt hand. "What you need's a

local, though."

	"I was thinking," Jammer said, staring up at Bobby.

"Maybe now's when you can earn yourself a little running


	"How's that?" Bobby asked, eyeing the deck.

"Stands to reason," Jammer said, "that whoever's got

those jerks outside, they've also got the phones tapped."

	Bobby nodded. Beauvoir had said the same thing, when

he'd run his plan down to them.

	"Well, when Beauvoir and I decided you and I might hit

the matrix for a little look-see, I actually had something else

in mind." Jammer showed Bobby his expanse of small white

teeth. "See, I'm in this because I owed Beauvoir and Lucas a

favor. But there are people who owe me favors, too, favors

that go way back. Favors I never needed to call in."

	"Jammer." Jackie said, "you gotta relax. Just sit back.

You could go into shock."

	"How's your memory, Bobby? I'm going to run a se-

quence by you. You practice it on my deck. No power, not

jacked. Okay?"

	Bobby nodded.

	"So dry-run this a couple of times. Entrance code. Let you

in the back door."

	"Whose back door?" Bobby spun the black deck around

and poised his fingers above the keyboard.

	"The Yakuza," Jammer said.

	Jackie was staring at him. "Hey, what do you"

	"Like I said. It's an old favor. But you know what they

say, the Yakuza never forget. Cuts both ways     

	A whiff of singed flesh reached Bobby and he winced.

	"How come you didn't mention this to Beauvoir?" Jackie

was folding things back into the white case.

	`Honey," Jammer said, "you'll learn. Some things you

teach yourself to remember to forget."

	"Now look," Bobby said, fixing Jackie with what he

hoped was his heaviest look, "I'm running this. So I don't

need your loas, okay, they get on my nerves .

	"She doesn't call them up," Beauvoir said, crouching by

the office door, the detonator in one hand and the South

Mrican riot gun in the other, "they just come. They want to

come, they're there. Anyway, they like you .

	Jackie settled the trodes across her forehead. "Bobby,"

she said, "you'll be fine. Don't worry, just jack." She'd

removed her headscarf. Her hair was cornrowed between neat

furrows of shiny brown skin, with antique resistors woven in

at random intervals, little cylinders of brown phenolic resin

ringed with color-coded bands of paint.

	"When you punch out past the Basketball," Jammer said

to Bobby, "you wanna dive right three clicks and go for the

floor, I mean straight down..

	"Past the what?"

	"Basketball. That's the Dallas-Fort Worth Sunbelt Co-Pros-

perity Sphere, you wanna get your ass down fast, all the way,

then you run how I told you, for about twenty clicks. It's all

used-car lots and tax accountants down there, but just stand

on that mother, okay?"

	Bobby nodded, grinning.

	"Anybody sees you going by, well, that's their lookout.

People who jack down there are used to seeing some weird

shit anyway .

	"Man," Beauvoir said to Bobby, "get it on. I gotta get

back to the door. .

	Bobby jacked.

	He followed Jammer's instructions, secretly grateful that he

could feel Jackie beside him as they plunged down into the

workaday depths of cyberspace, the glowing Basketball dwin-

dling above them. The deck was quick, superslick, and it

made him feel fast and strong. He wondered how Jammer had

come to have the Yakuza owing him a favor, one he'd never

bothered to collect, and a part of him was busily constructing

scenarios when they hit the ice.

	"Jesus ..." And Jackie was gone. Something had come

down between them, something he felt as cold and silence

and a shutting off of breath. "But there wasn't anything

there, Goddamn it!" He was frozen, somehow, locked steady

He could still see the matrix, but he couldn't feel his hands.

	"Why the hell anybody plug the likes of you into a deck

like that? Thing ought to be in a museum, you ought to be in

grade school."

	"Jackie!" The cry was reflex.

	"Man," said the voice, "I dunno. It's been a long few

days I haven't slept, but you sure don't look like what I was

set to catch when you came out of there . . . How old are


	"Fuck off!" Bobby said. It was all he could think of to


	The voice began to laugh. "Ramirez would split his sides

at this, you know? He had him a fine sense of the ridiculous.

That's one of the things I miss .

	"Who's Ramirez?"

	"My partner. Ex. Dead. Very. I was thinking maybe you

could tell me how he got that way."

	"Never heard of him," Bobby said. "Where's Jackie?"

	"Sittin' cold-cocked in cyberspace while you answer my

questions, wilson. What's your name?"

	"B Count Zero."

	"Sure. Your name!"

	"Bobby, Bobby Newmark .

	Silence. Then: "Well. Hey. Does make a litle sense, then.

That was your mother's place I watched those Maas spooks

use the rocket on, wasn't it? But I guess you weren't there, or

you wouldn't be here Hold on a sec

	A square of cyberspace directly in front of him flipped

sickeningly and he found himself in a pale blue graphic that

seemed to represent a very spacious apartment, low shapes of

furniture sketched in hair-fine lines of blue neon. A woman

stood in front of him, a sort of glowing cartoon squiggle of a

woman, the face a brown smudge. "I'm Slide," the figure

said, hands on its hips, "Jaylene. You don't fuck with me.

Nobody in L.A."she gestured, a window suddenly snap-

ping into existence behind her"fucks with me. You got


	"Right," Bobby said. "What is this? I mean, if you could

sort of explain.." He still couldn't move The "window"

showed a blue-gray video view of palm trees and old buildings.

	"How do you mean?"

	"This sort of drawing. And you. And that old picture. .

	"Hey, man, I paid a designer an arm and a leg to punch

this up for me. This is my space, my construct. This is L.A.,

boy. People here don't do anything without jacking. This is

where I entertain!

	"Oh," Bobby said, still baffled.

	"Your turn. Who's back there, in that sleaze-ass dancehall?"

	"Jammer's? Me, Jackie, Beauvoir, Jammer."

	"And where were you headed when I grabbed you?"

	Bobby hesitated. "The Yakuza. Jammer has a code

	"What for?" The figure moved forward, an animated sen-

suous brush-sketch.


	"Shit You're probably telling the truth . .

	"I am, I am, swear to God.

	"Well, you ain't what I need, Bobby Zero. I been out

cruising cyberspace, all up and down, trying to find out who

killed my man. I thought it was Maas, because we were

taking one of theirs for Hosaka, so I hunted up a spook team

of theirs. First thing I saw was what they did to your mom-

ma's condo. Then I saw three of them drop in on a man they

call the Finn, but those three never came back out . .

	"Finn killed `em," Bobby said. "I saw `em. Dead."

	"You did? Well, then, could be we do have things to talk

about. After that, I watched the other three use that same

launcher on a pimpmobile . .

	"That was Lucas," he said.

	"But no sooner had they done it than a copter overfiew

em and fried all three with a laser. You know anything about



	"You think you can tell me your story. Bobby Zero? Make

it quick!"

	"I was gonna do this run, see? And I'd got this icebreaker

off Two-a-Day, from up the Projects, and I . .

	When he finished, she was silent. The slinky cartoon figure

stood by the window, as though she were studying the televi-

sion trees.

	"I got an idea," he ventured. "Maybe you can help


	`No," she said.

	"But maybe it'll help you find out what you want . .

	"No. I just want to kill the motheifucker who killed


	"But we're trapped in there, they're gonna kill us. It's

Mans, the people you were following around in the matrix!

They hired a bunch of Kasuals and Gothicks

	"That's not Maas," she said "That's a bunch of Euros

over on Park Avenue. Ice on `em a mile deep."

	Bobby took that in "They the ones in the copter, the ones

killed the other Maas guys?"

	"No. I couldn't get a fix on that copter, and they flew

south. Lost `em. I have a hunch, though. . . Anyway, I'm

sending you back. You want to try that Yak code, go ahead."

	"But, lady, we need help .

	"No percentage in help, Bobby Zero," she said, and then

he was sitting in front of Jammer's deck, the muscles in his

neck and back aching. It took him a while before he could get

his eyes to focus, so it was nearly a minute before he saw that

there were strangers in the room.

	The man was tall, maybe taller than Lucas, but rangier,

narrower at the hips. He wore a kind of baggy combat jacket

that hung around him in folds, with giant pockets, and his

chest was bare except for a horizontal black strap. His eyes

looked bruised and feverish, and he held the biggest handgun

Bobby had ever seen, a kind of distended revolver with some

weird fixture molded under the barrel, a thing like a cobra's

head. Beside him, swaying, stood a girl who might have been

Bobby's age, with the same bruised eyesthough hers were

darkand lank brown hair that needed to be washed. She

wore a black sweatshirt, several sizes too large, and jeans.

The man reached out with his left hand and steadied her.

	Bobby stared, then gaped as the memory hit him

	Girlvoice, brownhair, darkeyes, the ice eating into him,

his teeth burring, her voice, the big thing leaning in .

	"Viv Ia Vy4~," Jackie said, beside him, rapt, her hand

gripping his shoulder hard, "the Virgin of Miracles. She's

come, Bobby. Danbala has sent her!"

	"You were under a while, kid," the tall man said to

Bobby. "What happened?"

	Bobby blinked, glanced frantically around, found Jammer's

eyes, glazed with drugs and pain.

	"Tell him," Jammer said.

	"I couldn't get to the Yak. Somebody grabbed me, I don't

know how.

	"Who?" The tall man had his arm around the girl now.

	"She said her name was Slide From Los Angeles."

	"Jaylene," the man said

	The phone on Jammer's desk began to chime.

	"Answer it," the man said.

	Bobby turned as Jackie reached over and tapped the call-

bar below the square screen. The screen lit, flickered, and

showed them a man's face, broad and very pale, the eyes

hooded and sleepy-looking. His hair was bleached nearly

white, and brushed straight back. He had the meanest mouth

Bobby had ever seen

	"Turner." the man said, "we'd better talk now.~ You

haven't got a lot of time left. I think you should get those

people out of the room, for starts .

THE KNOTTED LINE stretched on and on. At times they came to

angles, forks of the tunnel. Here the line would be wrapped

around a strut or secured with a fat transparent gob of epoxy.

The air was as stale, but colder. When they stopped to rest in

a cylindrical chamber, where the shaft widened before a triple

branching, Marly asked Jones for the flat little work light he

wore across his forehead on a gray elastic strap. Holding it in

one of the red suit's gauntlets, she played it over the cham-

ber's wail. The surface was etched with patterns, microscopi-

cally fine lines

	"Put your helmet on," Jones advised, "you've got a better

light than mine .

	Marly shuddered. "No." She passed him the light. "Can

you help me out of this, please?" She tapped a gauntlet

against the suit's hard chest. The mirror-domed helmet was

fastened to the suit's waist with a chrome snap-hook.

	"You'd best keep it," Jones said. "It's the only one in the

Place. I've got one, where I sleep, but no air for it. Wig's

bottles won't fit my transpirator, and his suit's all holes .

He shrugged.

	"No, please," she said, struggling with the catch at the

suit's waist, where she'd seen Rez twist something. "I can't

stand it . .

	Jones pulled himself half over the line and did something

she oouldn't see. There was a click. "Stretch your arms, over

your head," he said. It was awkward, but finally she floated

free, still in the black jeans and white silk blouse she'd worn

to that final encounter with Alain. Jones fastened the empty

red suit to the line with another of the snap-rings mounted

around its waist, and then undid her bulging purse. "You

want this? To take with you, I mean? We could leave it here,

get it on our way back."

	"No,'~ she said, "I'll take it. Give it to me." She hooked

an elbow around the line and fumbled the purse open. Her

jacket came out, but so did one of her boots. She managed to

get the boot back into the purse, then twisted herself into the


	"That's a nice piece of hide," Jones said.

	"Please," she said, "let's hurry . .

	"Not far now." he sald, his work light swinging to show

her where the line vanished through one of three openings

arranged in an equilateral triangle.

	"End of the line," he said. "Literal, that is." He tapped

the chromed eyebolt where the line was tied in a sailor's knot.

His voice caught and echoed, somewhere ahead of them, until

she imagined she heard other voices whispering behind the

round of echo. "We'll want a bit of light for this," he said,

kicking himself across the shaft and catching a gray metal

coffin thing that protruded there. He opened it. She watched

his hands move in the bright circle of the work light; his

fingers were thin and delicate, but the nails were small and

blunt, outlined with black, impacted grime. The letters "CJ"

were tattooed in crude blue across the back of his right hand.

The sort of tattoo one did oneself, in jail. . . . Now he'd

fished out a length of heavy, insulated wire. He squinted into

the box, then wedged the wire behind a copper D-connector.

	The dark ahead vanished in a white flood of light.

	"Got more power than we need, really," he said, with

something akin to a homeowner's pride. "The solar banks are

all still workin', and they were meant to power the main-

frames . . . Come on, then, lady, we'll meet the artist you

come so far to see      He kicked off and out, gliding

smoothly through the opening, like a swimmer, into the light.

Into the thousand drifting things. She saw that the red plastic

soles of his frayed shoes had been patched with smears of

white silicon caulking.

And then she'd followed, forgetting her fears, forgetting

the nausea and constant vertigo, and she was there. And she


"My God," she said.

"Not likely," Jones called. "Maybe old Wig's, though.

Too bad it's not doing it now, though That's even more of a


Something slid past, ten centimeters from her face. An

ornate silver spoon, sawn precisely in half, from end to end.

	She had no idea how long she'd been there, when the

screen lit and began to flicker. Hours, minutes . . She'd

already learned to negotiate the chamber, after a fashion,

kicking off like Jones from the dome's concavity. Like Jones.

she caught herself on the thing's folded, jointed arms, pivoted

and clung there, watching the swirl of debris. There were

dozens of the arms, manipulators, tipped with pliers, 

hexdrivers,knives, a subminiature circular saw, a dentist's drill

They bristled from the alloy thorax of what must once have

been a construction remote, the sort of unmanned, semiauton-

omous device she knew from childhood videos of the high

frontier. But this one was welded into the apex of the dome,

its sides fused with the fabric of the Place, and hundreds of

cables and optic lines snaked across the geodesics to enter it.

Two of the arms, tipped with delicate force-feedback devices,

were extended; the soft pads cradled an unfinished box.

  Eyes wide, Marly watched the uncounted things swing


  A yellowing kid glove, the faceted crystal stopper from

some vial of vanished perfume, an armless doll with a face of

French porcelain, a fat, gold-fitted black fountain pen, rec-

tangular segments of perf board, the crumpled red and green

snake of a silk cravat . . . Endless, the slow swarm, the

spinning things .

 Jones tumbled up through the silent storm, laughing, grab-

bing an arm tipped with a glue gun. "Always makes me want

to laugh, to see it. But the boxes always make me sad .

 "Yes," she said, "they make me sad, too. But there are

sadnesses and sadnesses .

 "Quite right." He grinned. "No way to make it go, though.

Guess the spirit has to move it, or anyway that's how old Wig

has it. He used to come out here a lot I think the voices are

stronger for him here. But lately they've been talking to him

wherever, it seems like . .

 She looked at him through the thicket of manipulators. He

was very dirty, very young, with his wide blue eyes under a

tangle of brown curls. He wore a stained gray zipsuit, its

collar shiny with grime. "You must be mad," she said with

something like admiration in her voice, "you must be totally

mad, to stay here . .

He laughed. "Wigan's madder than a sack of bugs. Not


	She smiled. "No, you're crazy I'm crazy, too

	"Hello then," he said, looking past her. "What's this?

One of Wig's sermons, looks like, and no way we can shut it

off without me cutting the power . .

	She turned her head and saw diagonals of color strobe

across the rectangular face of a large screen glued crookedly

to the curve of the dome The screen was occluded, for a

second, by the passage of a dressmaker's dummy, and then

the face of Josef Virek filled it, his soft blue eyes glittering

behind round lenses.

"Hello, Marly," he said. "I can't see you, but I'm sure I

know where you are

	"That's one of Wig's sermon screens," Jones said, rub-

bing his face. "Put `em up all over the Place, `cause he

figured one day he'd have people up here to preach to. This

geezer's linked in through Wig's communication gear, I guess.

Who is he?"

	"Virek," she said.

	"Thought he was older. .

	"It's a generated image," she said. "Ray tracing, texture

mapping     She stared as the face smiled out at her from

the curve of the dome, beyond the slow-motion hurricane of

lost things, minor artifacts of countless lives, tools and toys

and gilded buttons.

	"I want you to know," the image said, "that you have

fulfilled your contract. My psychoprofile of Marly Krushkhova

predicted your response to my gestalt. Broader profiles indi-

cated that your presence in Paris would force Maas to play

their hand. Soon, Marly, I will know exactly what it is that

you have found. For four years I've known something that

Maas didn't know. I've known that Mitchell, the man Mans

and the world regards as the inventor of the new biochip

processes, was being fed the concepts that resulted in his

breakthroughs. I added you to an intricate array of factors,

Marly, and things came to a most satisfying head. Mans,

without understanding what they were doing, surrendered the

location of the conceptual source. And you have reached it.

Paco will be arriving shortly . .

	"You said you wouldn't follow," she said. "I knew you


	"And now, Marly, at last I think I shall be free. Free of the

four hundred kilograms of rioting cells they wall away behind

surgical steel in a Stockholm industrial park. Free, eventu-

ally, to inhabit any number of real bodies, Marly Forever."

	"Shit," Jones said, "this one's as bad as Wig. What's he

think he's talking about?"

"About his jump," she said, remembering her talk with

Andrea, the smell of cooking prawns in the cramped little

kitchen. "The next stage of his evolution

"You understand it?"

"No," she said, "but I know that it will be bad, very bad

	.." She shook her head.

	`Convince the inhabitants of the cores to admit Paco and

his crew, Marly," Virek said. "I purchased the cores an hour

before you departed Orly, from a contractor in Pakistan. A

bargain, Marly, a great bargain. Paco will oversee my inter-

ests, as usual."

	And then the screen was dark.

	"Here now," Jones said, pivoting around a folded manip-

ulator and taking her hand, "what's so bad about all that? He

owns it now, and he said you'd done your bit . . . I don't

know what old Wig's good for, except to listen to the voices,

but he's not long for this side anyway Me, I'm as easy for

Outasnot. .

	"You don't understand," she said. "You can't He's found

his way to something, something he's sought for years. But

nothing he wants can be good. For anyone      ye seen

him, I've felt it . .

	And then the steel arm she held vibrated and began to

move, the whole turret rotating with a muted hum of servos

TURNER STARED AT Conroy's face on the screen of the office

phone. "Go on," he said to Angie. "You go with her " The

tall black girl with the resistors woven into her hair stepped

forward and gently put her arm around Mitchell's daughter,

crooning something in that same click-infested creole. The

kid in the T-shirt was still gaping at her, his jaw slack.

"Come on, Bobby," the black girl said. Turner glanced

across the desk at the man with the wounded hand, who wore

a wrinkled white evening jacket and a bob tie with thongs of

braided black leather. Jammer, Turner decided, the club owner.

Jammer cradled his hand in his lap, on a blue-striped towel

from the bar He had a long face, the kind of beard that

needed constant shaving, and the hard, narrow eyes of a stone

professional. As their eyes met, Turner realized that the man

sat well out of the line of the phone's camera, his swivel chair

pushed back into a corner.

	The kid in the T-shirt, Bobby, shuffled out behind Angie

and the black girl. his mouth still open.

	"You could've saved us both a lot of hassle, Turner,"

Conroy said. "You could've called me. You could've called

your agent in Geneva"

	"How about Hosaka," Turner said, "could I have called


	Conroy shook his head, slowly.

	"Who are you working for, Conroy? You went double on

this one, didn't you?"

	"But not on you, Turner. If it had gone down the way I

planned it, you'd have been in Bogota, with Mitchell The

railgun couldn't fire until the jet was out, and if we cut it

right, Hosaka would have figured Mans took the whole sector

out to stop Mitchell But Mitchell didn't make it, did he,


	"He never planned to," Turner said

	Conroy nodded. "Yeah. And the security on the mesa

picked up the girl, going out. That's her, isn't it, Mitchell's


	Turner was silent.

	"Sure," Conroy said, "figures .

	"I killed Lynch," Turner said, to steer the subject away

from Angie. "But just before the hammer came down, Webber

told me she was working for you .

	"They both were," Conroy said, ~`but neither one knew

about the other." He shrugged.

"What for?"

	Conroy smiled. "Because you'd have missed `em if they

weren't there, wouldn't you? Because you know my style,

and if I hadn't been flying all my usual colors, you'd have

started to wonder. And I knew you'd never sell out. Mr

Instant Loyalty, right? Mr. Bushido. You were bankable,

Turner. Hosaka knew that. That's why they insisted I bring

youin. .

	"You haven't answered my first question, Conroy. Who

did you go double for?"

	"A man named Virek," Conroy said. "The moneyman

That's right, same one. He'd been trying to buy Mitchell for

years. For that matter, he'd been trying to buy Maas No go.

They re getting so rich, he couldn't touch them. There was a

standing offer for Mitchell making the rounds. A blind offer.

When Hosaka heard from Mitchell and called me in, I de-

cided to check that offer out. Just out of curiosity. But before

I could, Virek's team was on me. It wasn't a hard deal to cut,

Turner, believe me."

	"I believe you."

	"But Mitchell fucked us all over, didn't he, Turner? Good

and solid."

	"So they killed him."

	"He killed himself," Conroy said, "according to Virek's

moles on the mesa. As soon as he saw the kid off in that

ultralight. Cut his throat with a scalpel."

	"Lot of dead people around, Conroy," Turner said

"Oakey's dead, and the Jap who was flying that copter for


	"Figured that when they didn't come back," Conroy


	"They were trying to kill us," Turner said.

	"No, man, they just wanted to talk . . . Anyway, we

didn't know about the girl then We just knew you were gone

and that the damn jet hadn't made it to the strip in Bogoti

We didn't start thinking about the girl until we took a look at

your brother's farm and found the jet. Your brother wouldn't

tell Oakey anything Pissed off `cause Oakey burned his

dogs. Qakey said is looked like a woman had been living

there, too, but she didn't turn up . .

	"What about Rudy?"

	Conroy's face was a perfect blank. Then he said, "Qakey

got what he needed off the monitors. Then we knew about the


	Turner's back was aching. The holster strap was cutting

into his chest. I don't feel anything, he thought, I don't feel

anything at all

	"I've got a question for you, Turner. I've got a couple.

But the main one is, what the flick are you doing in there?"

	"Heard it was a hot club, Conroy."

	"Yeah. Real exclusive. So exclusive, you had to break up

two of my doormen to get in. They knew you were coming,

Turner, the spades and that punk. Why else would they let

you in?"

	"You'll have to work that one out, Connie. You seem to

have a lot of access, these days

	Conroy leaned closer to his phone's camera. "You bet

your ass Virek's had people all over the Sprawl for months,

feeling out a rumor, cowboy gossip that there was an experi-

mental biosoft floating around. Finally his people focused on

the Finn, but another team, a Maas team, turned up, obvi-

ously after the same thing. So Virek's team just kicked back

and watched the Maas boys, and the Maas boys started

blowing people away. So Virek's team picked up on the

spades and little Bobby and the whole thing. They laid it all

out for me when I told `em I figured you'd headed this way

from Rudy's. When I saw where they were headed, I hired

some muscle to ice `em in there, until I could get somebody I

could trust to go in after them . .

	"Those dusters out there?" Turner smiled. "You just

dropped the ball, Connie. You can't go anywhere for profes-

sional help, can you? Somebody's twigged that you doubled,

and a lot of pros died, out there. So you're hiring shitheads

with funny haircuts. The pros have all heard you've got

Hosaka after your ass, haven't they, Connie? And they all

know what you did." Turner was grinning now; out of the

corner of his eye, he saw that the man in the dinner jacket

was smiling, too, a thin smile with lots of neat small teeth,

like white grains of corn

	"It's that bitch Slide," Conroy said. "I could've taken her

out on the rig . . . She punched her way in somewhere and

started asking questions. I don't even think she's really on to

it, yet, but she's been making sounds in certain circles

Anyway, yeah, you got the picture. But it doesn't help your

ass any, not now. Virek wants the girl. He's pulled his people

off the other thing and now I'm running things for him.

Money, Turner, money like a zaibatsu'.

	Turner stared at the face, remembering Conroy in the bar

of a jungle hotel. Remembering him later, in Los Angeles,

making his pass, explaining the covert economics of corpo-

rate defection     Hi, Connie," Turner said, "I know you,

don't I?"

	Conroy smiled. "Sure, baby."

	"And I know the offer. Already. You want the girl

	"That's right."

	"And the split, Connie. You know I only work fifty-fifty,


	"Hey," Conroy said, "this is the big one I wouldn't have

it any other way."

	Turner stared at the man's image.

	"Well," Conroy said, still smiling, "what do you say?"

	And Jammer reached out and pulled the phone's line from

the wall plug. "Timing," he said. "Timing's always impor-

tant." He let the plug drop. "If you'd told him, he'd have

ni.ved right away. This way buys us time. He'll try to get

back, try to figure what happened."

	"How do you know what I was going to say?"

	"Because I seen people. I seen a lot of them, too fucking

many. Particularly I seen a lot like you. You got it written

across your face, mister, and you were gonna tell him he

could eat shit and die " Jammer hunched his way up in the

office chair, grimacing as his hand moved inside the bar

towel. "Who's this Slide he was talking about? A jockey?"

	 "Jaylene Slide. Los Angeles. Top gun."

	 "She was the one hijacked Bobby," jammer said. "So

	she's damn close to your pal on the phone 

	 "She probably doesn't know it, though."

	 "Let's see what we can do about that. Get the boy back in


	"I'D BElTER FiND old Wig," he said

	She was watching the manipulators: hypnotized by the way

they moved; as they picked through the swirl of things, they

also caused it, grasping and rejecting, the rejected objects

whirling away, striking others, drifting into new alignments.

The process stined them gently, slowly, perpetually.

	"I'd better," he said.


	"Go find Wig. He might get up to something, if your

bossman's people turn up. Don't want him to hurt himself,

	y'know." He looked sheepish, vaguely embarrassed.

	"Fine," she said. "I'm fine, I'll watch " She remembered

the Wig's mad eyes. the craziness she'd felt roll off him in

waves; she remembered the ugly cunning she'd sensed in his

voice, over the Sweet Jane's radio. Why would Jones show

this kind of concern? But then she thought about what it

would be like, living in the Place, the dead cores of Tessier-

Ashpool. Anything human, anything alive, might come to

seem quite precious, here "You're right," she said "Go

and find him."

	The boy smiled nervously and kicked off, tumbling for the

opening where the line was anchored. "I'll come back for

	you," he said. "Remember where we left your suit . .

	The turret swung back and forth, humming, the manip-

ulators darting, finishing the new poem.

* * *

	She was never certain, afterward, that the voices were real,

but eventually she came to feel that they had been a part of

one of those situations in which real becomes merely another


	She'd taken off her jacket, because the air in the dome

seemed to have grown warmer, as though the ceaseless move-

ment of the arms generated heat. She'd anchored the jacket

and her purse on a strut beside the sermon screen. The box

was nearly finished now, she thought, although it moved so

quickly, in the padded claws, that it was difficult to see

Abruptly, it floated free, tumbling end over end, and she

sprang for it instinctively, caught it, and went tumbling past

the flashing arms, her treasure in her arms. Unable to slow

herself, she struck the far side of the dome, bruising her

shoulder and tearing her blouse. Drifting, stunned, she cra-

dIed the box. staring through the rectangle of glass at an

arrangement of brown old maps and tarnished mirror. The

seas of the cartographers had been cut away, exposing the

flaking mirrors, landmasses afloat on dirty silver . . . She

looked up in time to see a glittering arm snag the floating

sleeve of her Brussels jacket. Her purse, half a meter behind

it and tumbling gracefully, went next, hooked by a manipula-

tor tipped with an optic sensor and a simple claw.

	She watched as her things were drawn into the ceaseless

dance of the arms. Minutes later, the jacket came whirling out

again. Neat squares and rectangles seemed to have been cut

away, and she found herself laughing. She released the box

she held. "Go ahead," she said. "I am honored." The arms

whirled and flashed, and she heard the whine of a tiny saw.

	I am honored I am honored I am honoredEcho of her

voice in the dome setting up a shifting forest of smaller,

partial sounds, and behind them, very faint. . . Voices

	"You're here, aren't you?" she called, adding to the ring

of sound, ripples and reflections of her fragmented voice.

	Yes, I am here.

	"Wigan would say you've always been here, wouldn't


	Yes, but it isn't true. I came to be, here. Once I was not.

Once, for a brilliant time, time without duration, I was every-

where as well . . . But the bright time broke. The mirror was

flawed. Now I am only one. . . But I have my song, and you

have heard it. I sing with these things that float around me,

fragments of the family that funded my birth. There are

others, but they will not speak to me. Vain, the scattered

fragments of myself, like children Like men. They send me

new things, but I prefer the old things. Perhaps I do their

bidding. They plot with men, my other selves, and men

imagine they are gods

	"You are the thing that Virek seeks, aren't you?"

	No. He imagines that he can translate himself, code his

personality into my fabric. He yearns to be what I once was.

What he might become most resembles the least of my broken


	"Are youare you sad?"


	"But youryour songs are sad."

	My songs are of time and distance. The sadness is in

you. Watch my arms. There is only the dance. These things

you treasure are shells.

	"II knew that. Once."

	But now the sounds were sounds only, no forest of voices

behind them to speak as one voice, and she watched the

perfect globes of her tears spin out to join forgotten human

memories in the dome of the boxmaker.

	"I understand," she said, sometime later, knowing that she

spoke now for the comfort of hearing her own voice. She

spoke quietly, unwilling to wake that bounce and ripple of

sound. "You are someone else's collage. Your maker is the

true artist. Was it the mad daughter? It doesn't matter. Some-

one brought the machine here, welded it to the dome, and

wired it to the traces of memory. And spilled, somehow, all

the worn sad evidence of a family's humanity, and left it all

to be stirred, to be sorted by a poet. To be sealed away in

boxes. I know of no more extraordinary work than this. No

more complex gesture      A silver-fitted tortoise comb

with broken teeth drifted past. She caught it like a fish and

dragged the teeth through her hair.

	Across the dome, the screen lit, pulsed, and filled with Paco's

face. "The old man refuses to admit us, Marly," the Spaniard

said. "The other, the vagabond, has hidden him. Seijor is most

anxious that we enter the cores and secure his property. If you

can't convince Ludgate and the other to open their lock, we will

be forced to open it ourselves, depressurizing the entire struc-

hire." He glanced away from the camera, as though consulting

an instrument or a member of his crew. "You have one hour."

Bonny FOLLOWED JACKIE and the brown-haired girl out of the

office. It felt like he'd been in Jammer's for a month and he'd

never get the taste of the place out of his mouth. The stupid

little recessed spots staring down from the black ceiling, the

fat ultrasuede seats, the round black tables, the carved wooden

screens . . Beauvoir was sitting on the bar with the detona-

tor beside him and the South African gun across his gray

sharkskin lap.

	"How come you let `em in?" Bobby asked when Jackie

had led the girl to a table.

	"Jackie." Beauvoir said, "she tranced while you were

iced. Legba. Told us the Virgin was on her way up with this


	"Who is he?"

	Beauvoir shrugged. "A merc, he looks like. Soldier for the

zaibatsus. Jumped-up street samurai. What happened to you

when you were iced?"

	He told him about Jaylene Slide.

	"L.A ," Beauvoir said. "She'll drill through diamond to

get the man who fried her daddy, but a brother needs help,

forget it."

	"I'm not a brother."

	"I think you got something there."

	"So I don't get to try to get to the Yakuza?"

	"What's Jammer say?"

	"Dick He's in there now, watchin' your merc take a


	"A call? Who?"

	"Some white guy with a bleach job. Mean-looking."

Beauvoir looked at Bobby, looked at the door, looked

back. "Legba says sit tight and watch. This is getting random

enough already, the Sons of the Neon Chrysanthemum aside."

	"Beauvoir," Bobby said, keeping his voice down, "that

girl, she's the one, the one in the matrix, when I tried to run


	He nodded, his plastic frames sliding down his nose. "The


	"But what's happening? I mean"

	"Bobby, my advice to you is just take it like it comes.

She's one thing to me, maybe something different to Jackie.

To you, she's just a scared kid. Go easy. Don't upset her.

She's a long way from home, and we're still a long way from

getting out of here"

	"Okay     Bobby looked at ifie floor. "I'm sorry about

Lucas, man. He washe was a dude."

	"Go talk to Jackie and the girl." Beauvoir said "I'm

watching the door."


	He crossed the nightclub carpet to where Jackie sat with the

girl. She didn't look like much, and there was only a small

part of him that said she was the one. She didn't look up, and

he could see that she'd been crying.

	"I got grabbed," he said to Jackie "You were flat gone."

	"So were you," the dancer said. "Then Legba came to


	"Newmark," the man called Turner said, from the door to

Jammer's office, "we want to talk to you."

	"Gotta go," he said, wishing the girl would look up, see

the big dude asking for him. "They want me."

	Jackie squeezed his wrist.

	"Forget the Yakuza," Jammer said. "This is more compli-

cated. You're going into the L.A grid and locking into a top

jock's desk. When Slide grabbed you, she didn't know my

desk sussed her number."

	"She said your deck oughta be in a museum."

	"Shit she knows," Jammer said "I know where she lives,

don't I?" He took a hit from his inhaler and put it back on the

deck. "Your problem is, she's written you off. She doesn't

wanna hear from you. You gotta get into her and tell her what

she wants to know."

	"What's that?"

	`That it was a man named Conroy got her boyfriend

offed," the tall man said, sprawled back in one of Jammer's

office chairs with the huge pistol on his lap. "Conroy Tell

her it was Conroy. Conroy hired those bighairs outside~"

	"I'd rather try the Yak," Bobby said.

	"No," Jammer said, "this Slide, she'll be on his ass first.

The Yak'll measure my favor, check the whole thing out first.

Besides, I thought you were all hot to learn deck."

	"I'll go with him," Jackie said, from the door.

	They jacked.

	She died almost immediately, in the first eight seconds.

	He felt it, rode it out to the edge and almost knew it for

what it was. He was screaming, spinning, sucked up through

the glacial white funnel that had been waiting for them

	The scale of the thing was impossible, too vast, as though

the kind of cybernetic megastructure that represented the

whole of a multinational had brought its entire weight to bear

on Bobby Newmark and a dancer called Jackie. Impossible.

	But somewhere, on the fringe of consciousness, Just as he

lost it, there was something . . . Something plucking at his


	He lay on his face on something rough. Opened his eyes. A

walk made of round stones, wet with rain. He scrambled up,

reeling, and saw the hazy panorama of a strange city, with the

sea beyond it. Spires there, a sort of church, mad ribs and

spirals of dressed stone . . He turned and saw a huge lizard

slithering down an incline, toward him, its jaws wide. He

blinked. The lizard's teeth were green-stained ceramic, a slow

drool of water lapping over its blue mosaic china lip. The

thing was a fountain, its flanks plastered with thousands of

fragments of shattered china. He spun around, crazy with the

nearness of her death. Ice, ice, and a part of him knew then

exactly how close he'd really come, in his mother's living


	There were weird curving benches, covered with the same

giddy patchwork of broken china, and trees, grass . A


	"Extraordinary." someone said. A man, rising from his

seat on one of the serpentine benches. He had a neat brush of

gray hair, a tanned face, and round, rimless glasses that

magnified his blue eyes. "You came straight through, didn't


	"What is this? Where am I?"

	"Giiell Park. after a fashion. Barcelona, if you like

	"You killed Jackie."

	The man frowned. "I see. I think I see Still, you shouldn't

be here. An accident."

"Accident? You killed Jackie!"

	"My systems are overextended today," the man said, his

hands in the pockets of a loose tan overcoat. "This is really

quite extraordinary .

	"You can't do that shit," Bobby said, his vision swim-

ming in tears. "You can't. You can't kill somebody who was

just there .

	"Just where?" The man took off his glasses and began to

polish them with a spotless white l~andkerchief he took from

the pocket of his coat.

	"Just alive," Bobby said, taking a.step forward

The man put his glasses back on. "This has never hap-

pened before."

	"You can't." Closer now.

	"This is becoming tedious, Paco!"


	Bobby turned at the sound of the child's voice and saw a

little boy in a strange stiff suit, with black leather boots 


fastened with buttons.

	"Remove him."

	"Sefior," the boy said, and bowed stiffly, taking a tiny

blue Browning automatic from his dark suit coat. Bobby

looked into the dark eyes beneath the glossy forelock and saw

a look no child had ever worn. The boy extended the gun,

aiming it at Bobby.

	"Who are you?" Bobby ignored the gun, but didn't try to

get any closer to the man in the overcoat.

	The man peered at him. "Virek. Josef Virek. Most people,

I gather, are familiar with my face."

	"Are you on People of Importance or something?"

The man blinked, frowning. "I don't know what you're

talking about. Paco, what is this person doing here?"

	"An accidental spillover," the child said, his voice light

and beautiful. "We've engaged the bulk of our system via

New York, in an attempt to prevent Angela Mitchell's es-

cape. This one tried to enter the matrix, along with another

operator, and encountered our system. We're still attempting

to determine how he breached our defenses. You are in no

danger." The muzzle of the little Browning was absolutely


	And then the sensation of something plucking at his sleeve.

Not his sleeve, exactly, but part of his mind, something

	"Sefior," the child said, "we are experiencing anomalous

phenomena in the matrix, possibly as a result of our own

current overextension. We strongly suggest that you allow us

to sever your links with the construct until we are able to

determine the nature of the anomaly."

	The sensation was stronger now. A scratching, at the back

of his mind .

	"What?" Virek said. "And return to the tanks? It hardly

seems to warrant that

	"There is the possibility of real danger," the boy said, and

now there was an edge in his voice. He moved the barrel of

the Browning slightly. "You," he said to Bobby, "lie down

upon the cobbles and spread your arms and legs

	But Bobby was looking past him, to a bed of flowers,

watching as they withered and died, the grass going gray and

powdery as he watched, the air above the bed writhing and

twisting. The sense of the thing scratching in his head was

stronger still, more urgent.

Virek had turned to stare at the dying flowers. "What is

	Bobby closed his eyes and thought of Jackie. There was a

sound, and he knew that he was making it. He reached down

into himself, the sound still coming. and touched Jammer's

deck. Come! he screamed, inside himself, neither knowing

nor caring what it was that he addressed Come now! He felt

something give, a barrier of some kind, and the scratching

sensation was gone.

	When he opened his eyes, there was something in the bed

of dead flowers. He blinked. It seemed to be a cross of plain,

white-painted wood; someone had fitted the sleeves of an

ancient naval tunic over the horizontal arms, a kind of mold-

spotted tailcoat with heavy, fringed epaulets of tarnished gold

braid, rusting buttons, more braid at the cuffs . . A rusted

cutlass was propped, hilt up, against the white upright, and

beside it was a bottle half filled with clear fluid.

	The child spun, the little pistol blurring . . . And crum-

pled, folded into himself like a deflating balloon, a balloon

sucked away into nothing at all, the Browning clattering to

the stone path like a forgotten toy.

	"My name," a voice said, and Bobby wanted to scream

when he realized that it came from his own mouth, "is

Samedi, and you have slain my cousin's horse

	And Virek was running, the big coat flapping out behind

him, down the curving path with its serpentine benches, and

Bobby saw that another of the white crosses waited there, just

where the path curved to vanish. Then Virek must have seen

it, too; he screamed, and Baron Samedi. Lord of Graveyards,

the ba whose kingdom was death, leaned in across Barcelona

like a cold dark rain.

"What the hell do you want? Who are you?" The voice

was familiar, a woman's. Not Jacki~'s

	"Bobby," he said, waves of darkness pulsing through him.

"Bobby . .

	"How did you get here?"

	"Jammer. He knew. His deck pegged you when you iced

me before. He'd just seen something, something huge

He couldn't remember.." Turner sent me. Conroy. He said

tell you Conroy did it. You want Conroy      Hearing his

own voice as though it were someone else's. He'd been

somewhere, and returned, and now he was here, in Jaylene

Slide's skeletal neon sketch. On the way back, he'd seen the

big thing, the thing that had sucked them up, start to alter 

and shift, gargantuan blocks of its rotating, merging, taking on

new alignments, the entire outline changing

 `Conroy," she said. The sexy scrawl leaned by the video

window, something in its line expressing a kind of exhaus-

tion, even boredom. "I thought so." The video image whited

out, formed again as a shot of some ancient stone building.

Park Avenue. He's up there with all those Euros, clicking

away at some new scam." She sighed. "Thinks he's safe,

see? Wiped Ramirez like a fly, lied to my face, flew off to

New York and his new job, and now he thinks he's safe

   The figure moved, and the image changed again. Now

the face of the white-haired man, the man Bobby had seen

talking to the big guy, on Jammer's phone, filled the screen.

She's tapped into his line, Bobby thought

 "Or not," Conroy said, the audio cutting in. "Either way,

we've got her. No problem." The man looked tired, Bobby

thought, but on top of it. Tough. Like Turner.

	"I've been watching you, Conroy," Slide said softly. "My

good friend Bunny, he's been watching you for me. You ain't

the only one awake on Park Avenue tonight .

	"No," Conroy was saying, "we can have her in Stock-

holm for you tomorrow Absolutely." He smiled into the


	"Kill him, Bunny," she said. "Kill `em all. Punch out the

whole goddamn floor and the one under it. Now."

	"That's right," Conroy said, and then something hap-

pened, something that shook the camera, blurring his image.

"What is that?" he asked, in a very different voice, and then

the screen was blank.

	"Burn, motherfucker,' she said.

	And Bobby was yanked back into the dark


MARLY PASSED ThE hour adrift in the ~low storm, watching the

boxmaker's dance. Paco's threat didn't frighten her, although

she had no doubt of his willingness to carry it out. He would

carry it out, she was certain. She had no idea what would

happen if the lock were breached. They would die. She would

die, and Jones, and Wigan Ludgate. Perhaps the contents of

the dome would spill out into space, a blossoming cloud of

lace and tarnished sterling, marbles and bits of string, brown

leaves of old books, to orbit the cores forever That had the

right tone, somehow; the artist who had set the boxmaker in

motion would be pleased.

	The new box gyrated through a round of foam-tipped claws.

Discarded rectangular fragments of wood and glass tumbled

from the focus of creation, to join the thousand things, and

she was lost in it, enchanted, when Jones, wildeyed, his face

filmed with sweat and dirt, heaved up into the dome, trailing

the red suit on a lanyard. "I can't get the Wig into a place I

can seal," he said, "so this is for you	The suit spun up

below him and he grabbed for it, frantic.

 "I don't want it," she said, watching the dance.

 "Get into it! Now! No time!" His mouth worked, but no

sound came. He tried to take her arm.

 "No," she said, evading his hand. "What about you?"

 "Put the goddamn suit on!" he roared, waking the deeper

range of echo.


	Behind his head, she saw the screen strobe itself into life,

fill with Paco's features.

	"Sefior is dead," Paco said, his smooth face expression-

less, "and his various interests are undergoing reorganization.

In the interim, I am required in Stockholm. I am authorized to

inform Marly Krushkhova that she is no longer in the employ

of the late Josef Virek, nor is she an employee of his estate.

Her salary in full is available at any branch of the Bank of

France, upon submission of valid identification. The proper

tax declarations are on file with the revenue authorities of

France and Belgium. Lines of working credit have been

invalidated. The former corporate cores of Tessier-Ashpool

SA are the property of one of the late Herr Virek's subsidiary

entities, and anyone on the premises will be charged with


	Jones was frozen there, his arm cocked, his hand tensed

open to harden the striking edge of his palm.

	Paco vanished.

	"Are you going to hit me?" she asked.

	He relaxed his arm. "I was about to. Cold-cock you and

stuff you into this bleeding suit . ." He started to laugh.

"But I'm glad I don't have to now . Here, look, it's done

a new one.

	The new box came tumbling out of the shifting flitter of

arms. She caught it easily.

	The interior, behind the rectangle of glass, was smoothly

lined with the sections of leather cut from her jacket. Seven

numbered tabs of holofiche stood up from the box's black

leather floor like miniature tombstones. The crumpled wrap-

per from a packet of Gauloise was mounted against black

leather at the back, and beside it a black-striped gray match-

book from a brasserie in Napoleon Court

	And that was all.

	Later, as she was helping him hunt for Wigan Ludgate in

the maze of corridors at the far end of the cores, he paused,

gripping a welded handhold, and said, "You know, the queer

thing about those boxes


	"Is that Wig got a damn good price on them, somewhere

in New York. Money, I mean. But sometimes other things as

well, things that came back up . .

	"What sort of things?"

	"Software, I guess it was. He's a secretive old fuck when

it comes to what he thinks his voices are telling him to do

Once, it was something he swore was biosoft, that new

	"What did he do with it?"

	"He'd download it all into the cores." Jones shrugged

	"Did he keep it, then?"

	"No," Jones said, "he'd just toss it into whatever pile of

stuff we'd managed to scrounge for our next shipment out

Just jacked it into the cores and then resold it for whatever he

could get."

	Do you know why? What it was about?"

	"No," Jones said, losing interest in his story, "he'd just

say that the Lord moved in strange ways .." He shrugged

"He said God likes to talk to Himself . .

HE HELPED BEAUvOIR carry Jackie out to the stage, where they

lay her down in front of a cherry-red acoustic drum kit and

covered her with an old black topcoat they found in the

checkroom, with a velvet collar and years of dust on the

shoulders, it had been hanging there so long. "Map f~ jubile

mnan," Beauvoir said, touching the dead girl's forehead with

his thumb. He looked up at Turner. "It is a self-sacrifice,"

he translated, and then drew the black coat gently up, cover-

ing her face.

	"It was fast," Turner said. He couldn't think of anything

else to say.

	Beauvoir took a pack of menthol cigarettes from a pocket

in his gray robe and lit one with a gold Dunhill. He offered

Turner the pack, but Turner shook his head. "There's a

saying in creole," Beauvoir said

	"What's that?''

`Evil exists.'

	"Hey," said Bobby Newmark, dully, from where he

crouched by the glass doors, eye to the edge of the curtain.

"Musta worked, one way or another . . The Gothicks are

starting to leave, looks like most of the Kasuals are already


	"That~s good,~~ Beauvoir said, gently. "That's down to

you. Count. You did good. Earned your handle."

	Turner looked at the boy. He was still moving through the

fog of Jackie's death, he decided. He'd come out from under

the trodes screaming, and Beauvoir had slapped him three

times, hard, across the face, to stop it. But all he'd said to

them, about his run, the run that had cost Jackie her life, was

that he'd given Turner's message to Jaylene Slide. Turner

watched as Bobby got up stiffly and walked to the bar; he saw

the care the boy took not to look at the stage. Had the two

been lovers? Partners? Neither seemed likely.

	He got up from where he sat, on the edge of the stage, and

went back into Jammer's office, pausing to check on the

sleeping Angie, who was curled into his gutted parka on the

carpet, beneath a table. Jammer was asleep, too, in his chair,

his burned hand still on his lap, loosely enveloped in the

striped towel. Tough old mother, Turner thought, an old

jockey. The man had plugged his phone back in as soon as

Bobby had come off his run, but Conroy had never called

back. He wouldnt now, and Turner knew that that meant that

Jammer had been right about the speed with which Jaylene

would strike, to revenge Ramirez, and that Conroy was al-

most certainly dead. And now his hired army of suburban

bighairs was decamping, according to Bobby

	Turner went to the phone and punched up the news recap,

and settled into a chair to watch. A hydrofoil ferry had

collided with a miniature submarine in Macau; the hydrofoil's

life jackets had proven to be substandard, and at least fifteen

people were assumed drowned, while the sub, a pleasure craft

registered in Dublin, had not yet been located. . . . Someone

had apparently used a recoilless rifle to pump a barrage of

incendiary shells into two floors of a Park Avenue co-op

building, and Fire and Tactical teams were still on the scene;

the names of the occupants had not yet been released, and so

far no one had taken credit for the act. . . . (Turner punched

this item up a second time . . ) Fission Authority research

teams at the site of the alleged nuclear explosion in Arizona

were insisting that minor levels of radioactivity detected there

were far too low to be the result of any known form of

tactical warhead. . . . In Stockholm, the death of Josef Virek,

the enormously wealthy art patron had been announced, the

announcement surfacing amid a flurry of bizarre rumors that

Virek had been ill for decades and that his death was the

result of some cataclysmic failure in the life-support systems

in a heavily guarded private clinic in a Stockholm suburb. . .

	(`rurner punched this item past again, and then a third time,

frowned, and then shrugged.) For the morning's human inter-

est note, police in a New Jersey suburb said that


	He shut the recap off and turned to find Angie in the


	"How you doing, Angie?"

	"Okay. I didn't dream." She hugged the black sweatshirt

around her, peered up at him from beneath limp brown bangs.

"Bobby showed me where there's a shower. Sort of a dress-

ing room I'm going back there soon. My hair's horrible."

	He went over to her and put his hands on her shoulders.

"You've handled this all pretty well. You'll be out of here,


	She shrugged out of his touch. "Out of here? Where to?


	"Well, maybe not Japan Maybe not Hosaka

	~`She'll go with us," Beauvoir said, behind her.

	"Why would I want to?"

	"Because," Beauvoir said, "we know who you are. Those

dreams of yours are real. You met Bobby in one, and saved

his life, cut him loose from black ice. You said, `Why are

they doing that to you?' . .

	Angie's eyes widened, darted to Turner and back to Beauvoir.

	"It's a whole long story," Beauvoir said, "and it's open to

interpretation. But if you come with me, come back to the

Projects, our people can teach you things We can teach you

things we don't understand, but maybe you can .


	"Because of what's in your head" Beauvoir nodded sol-

emnly, then shoved the plastic eyeglass frames back up his

nose. "You don't have to stay with us, if you don't want to.

In fact, we're only there to serve you .

"Serve me?"

	`Like I said, it's a long story . . How about it, Mr.


	Turner shrugged. He couldn't think where else she might

go, and Maas would certainly pay to either have her back or

dead, and Hosaka as well. "That might be the best way," he


	"I want to stay with you," she said to Turner. "I like

Jackie, but then she .

	"Never mind," Turner said. "I know." I don't know

anything, he screamed silently. `I'll keep in touch .." I'll

never see you again. "But there's something I'd better tell

you, now. Your father's dead." He killed himself. "The

Maas security people killed him; he held them off while you

got the ultralight off the mesa."

	"Is that true? That he held them off? I mean, I could feel

it, that he was dead, but .

	`Yes," Turner said He took Conroy's black wallet from

his pocket, hung the loop around her neck. "There's a biosoft

dossier in there For when you're older It doesn't tell the

whole story. Remember that Nothing ever does .

	Bobby was standing by the bar when the big guy walked

out of Jammer's office. The big guy crossed to where the girl

had been sleeping and picked up his grungy army coat, put it

on, then walked to the edge of the stage. where Jackie

laylooking so smallbeneath the black coat. The man

reached into his own coat and drew out the gun, the huge

Smith & Wesson Tactical. He opened the cylinder and ex-

tracted the shells, put the shells into hrs coat pocket, then 


the gun down beside Jackie's body, quiet, so it didn't make a

sound at all.

	"You did good, Count," he said, turning to face Bobby,

his hands deep in the pockets of his coat

	"Thanks, man." Bobby felt a surge of pride through his


	"So long, Bobby "The man crossed to the door and began

to try the various locks.

	"You want out?" He hurried to the door. "Here. Jammer

showed me. You goin', dude? Where you gonna go?" And

then the door was open and Turner was walking away through

the deserted stalls.

	"I don't know," he called back to Bobby "I've got to buy

eighty liters of kerosene first, then I'll think about it .

	Bobby watched until he was gone, down the dead escalator

it looked like, then closed the door and relocked it. Looking

away from the stage, he crossed Jammer's to the office door

and looked in. Angie was crying, her face pressed into

Beauvoir's shoulder, and Bobby felt a stab of jealousy that

startled him. The phone was cycling, behind Beauvoir, and

Bobby saw that it was the news recap.

	"Bobby," Beauvoir said, "Angela's coming to live with

us, up in the Projects, for a while. You want to come, too?"

	Behind Beauvoir, on the phone screen, the face of Marsha

Newmark appeared, Marsha-momma, his mother "ning's

human interest note, police in a New Jersey suburb said that a

local woman whose condo was the target of a recent bombing

was startled when she returned last night and disco"

"Yeah," Bobby said, quickly, "sure, man."

"SHE'S GOOD," THE unit director said, two years later, dab-

bing a crust of brown village bread ihto the pool of oil at the

bottom of his salad bowl. "Really, she's very good. A quick

study. You have to give her that, don't you?"

	The star laughed and picked up her glass of chilled retsina.

"You hate her, don't you, Roberts? She's too lucky for you,

isn't she? Hasn't made a wrong move yet     They were

leaning on the rough stone balcony, watching the evening

boat set out for Athens. Two rooftops below, toward the

harbor, the girl lay sprawled on a sun-warmed waterbed,

naked, her arms spread out, as though she were embracing

whatever was left of the sun.

He popped the oil-soaked crust into his mouth and licked

his thin lips. "Not at all," he said `~1 don't hate her. Don't

think it for a minute."

	"Her boyfriend," Tally said, as a second figure, male,

appeared on the rooftop below. The boy had dark hair and

wore loose, casually expensive French sports clothes. As they

watched, he crossed to the waterbed and crouched beside the

girl, reaching out to touch her. "She's beautiful, Roberts,

isn't she?"

	"Well," the unit director said, "I've seen her `befores.'

It's surgery." He shrugged, his eyes still on the boy.

	"If you've seen my `befores,"' she said, "someone will

hang for it. But she does have something. Good bones . .

She sipped her wine. "Is she the one? `The new Tally


	He shrugged again. "Look at that little prick," he said.

"Do you know he's drawing a salary nearly the size of mine,

now? And what exactly does he do to earn it? A bodyguard

 His mouth set, thin and sour.

	"He keeps her happy." Tally smiled. "We got them as a

package. It's a rider in her contract. You know that."

	"I loathe that little bastard. He's right off the street and he

knows it and he doesn't care. He's trash Do you know what

he carries around in his luggage? A cyberspace deck! We

were held up for three hours yesterday, Turkish customs,

when they found the damned thing     He shook his head.

	The boy stood now, turned, and walked to the edge of the

roof. The girl sat up, watching him, brushing her hair back

from her eyes He stood there a long time, staring after the

wake of the Athens boats, neither Tally Isham nor the unit

director nor Angie knowing that he was seeing a gray sweep

of Barrytown condos cresting up into the dark towers of the


	The girl stood, crossed the roof to join him, taking his


	"What do we have tomorrow?" Tally asked finally.

	"Paris." he said, taking up his Hermes clipboard from the

stone balustrade and flipping automatically through a thin

sheaf of yellow printouts. "The Kruslikhova woman."

	"Do I know her?"

	"No," he said. "It's an art spot. She runs one of their two

most fashionable galleries. Not much of a backgrounder,

though we do have an interesting hint of scandal, earlier in

her career."

	Tally Isham nodded, ignoring him, and watched her under-

study put her arm around the boy with the dark hair.

WHEN ThE boy was seven, Turner took Rudy's old nylon-

stocked Winchester and they hiked together along the old

road, back up into the clearing.

	The clearing was already a special place, because his mother

had taken him there the year before and shown him a plane, a

real plane, back in the trees. It was settling slowly into the

loam there, but you could sit in the cockpit and pretend to fly

it. It was secret, his mother said, and he could only tell his

father about it and nobody else. If you put your hand on the

plane's plastic skin, the skin would eventually change color,

leaving a handprint there, just the color of your palm. But his

mother had gotten all funny then, and cried, and wanted to

talk about his uncle Rudy, who he didn't remember. Uncle

Rudy was one of the things he didn't understand, like some of

his father's jokes. Once he'd asked his father why he had red

hair, where he'd gotten it, and his father had just laughed and

said he'd gotten it from the Dutchman. Then his mother threw

a pillow at his father, and he never did find out who the

Dutchman was.

	In the clearing, his father taught him to shoot, setting up

lengths of pine against the trunk of a tree When the boy

tired of it, they lay on their backs, watching the squirrels. "I

promised Sally we wouldn't kill anything," he said, and then

explained the basic principles of squirrel hunting. The boy

listened, but part of him was daydreaming about the plane. It

was hot, and you could hear bees buzzing somewhere close,

and water over rocks. When his mother had cried, she'd said

that Rudy had been a good man, that he'd saved her

saved her once from being young and stupid, and once fri

real bad man...

"Is that true?" he asked his father when his father

through explaining about the squirrels. "They're just so di

they'll come back over and over and get shot?"

"Yes," Turner said, "it is." Then he smiled. 

"almost always ."

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