First Neuromancer page
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
"It's not like I'm using," Case heard someone say, as he
shouldered his way through the crowd around the door of the Chat.
"It's like my body's developed this massive drug deficiency." It
was a Sprawl voice and a Sprawl joke.
The Chatsubo was a bar for
professional expatriates; you could drink there for a week and never hear
two words in Japanese.
Ratz was tending bar, his prosthetic arm jerking monotonously as he
filled a tray of glasses with draft Kirin. He saw Case and smiled, his teeth
a web work of East European steel and brown decay. Case found a place at the
bar, between the unlikely tan on one of Lonny Zone's whores and the
crisp naval uniform of a tall African whose cheekbones were ridged with
precise rows of tribal scars. "Wage was in here early, with two Joe boys,"
Ratz said, shoving a draft across the bar with his good hand. "Maybe some
business with you, Case?"
The girl to his right giggled
The bartender's smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of
legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about
his lack of it. The antique arm whined as he reached for another mug. It was
a Russian military prosthesis, a seven-function force-feedback manipulator,
cased in grubby pink plastic. "You are too much the artiste, Herr Case."
Ratz grunted; the sound served him as laughter. He scratched his overhang of
white-shirted belly with the pink claw. "You are the artiste of the slightly
"Sure," Case said, and sipped his beer. "Somebody's gotta be
funny around here. Sure the fuck isn't you."
The whore's giggle went up an octave.
"Isn't you either, sister. So you vanish, okay? Zone, he's
a close personal friend of mine."
She looked Case in the eye and made the softest possible spitting
sound, her lips barely moving. But she left. "Jesus," Case said, "what kind
a creep joint you running here? Man can't have a drink."
"Ha," Ratz said, swabbing the scarred wood with a rag, "Zone shows a
percentage. You I let work here for entertainment value."
As Case was picking up his beer, one of those strange instants of
silence descended, as though a hundred unrelated conversations had
simultaneously arrived at the same pause. Then the whore's giggle rang
out, tinged with a certain hysteria.
Ratz grunted. "An angel passed."
"The Chinese," bellowed a drunken Australian, "Chinese bloody invented
nerve-splicing. Give me the mainland for a nerve job any day. Fix you right,
mate. . ."
"Now that," Case said to his glass, all his bitterness suddenly rising
in him like bile, "that is so much bullshit."
The Japanese had already forgotten more neurosurgery than the Chinese
had ever known. The black clinics of Chiba were the cutting edge, whole
bodies of technique supplanted monthly, and still they couldn't repair
the damage he'd suffered in that Memphis hotel.
A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly.
All the speed he took, all the turns he'd taken and the corners
he'd cut in Night City, and still he'd see the matrix in his
sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void. . .
The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no
console man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it
through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like live wire voodoo
and he'd cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark,
curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands clawed into the
bedslab, temperfoam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console
that wasn't there.