Download Altered Carbon: A Takeshi Kovacs Novel (Takeshi Kovacs Novels) PDF

TitleAltered Carbon: A Takeshi Kovacs Novel (Takeshi Kovacs Novels)
File Size1.7 MB
Total Pages539
Document Text Contents
Page 2

'Hits the floor running and then starts to accelerate. For a first novel it is an
astonishing piece of work. Intriguing and inventive in equal proportions and
refuses to let go until the last page. A wonderful SF idea.'

Peter F. Hamilton

'Carbon-black noir with drive and wit, a tight plot and a back-story that leaves
the reader wanting a sequel like another fix.'

Page 269

'Really?' It was hard to tell with the low-grade synthetic voice, but Carnage
seemed to be amused. 'Are you quite sure it's a bomb you're looking for,
lieutenant? It seems to me the arena would be the obvious place to — '

'Got something to hide, Carnage?'

The synthetic turned back to look at me for a moment, quizzically. 'No, not at all,
detective Ryker. The tanks it is, then. Welcome to the conversation, by the way.
Was it cold on stack? Of course, you probably never expected to be there

'That's enough.' Ortega interposed herself. 'Just take us to the tanks and save the
small talk for tonight.'

'But of course. We aim to co-operate with law enforcement. As a legally
incorporated — '

'Yeah, yeah.' Ortega waved the verbiage away with weary patience. 'Just take us
to the fucking tanks.'

I reverted to my dangerous stare.

We rode to the tank area in a dinky little electromag train that ran along one side
of the hull, through two more converted cargo cells equipped with the same
fighting rings and banks of seats but this time covered over with plastic sheeting.
At the far end, we disembarked and stepped through the customary sonic
cleansing lock. A great deal dirtier than PsychaSec's facilities, ostensibly made
of black iron, the heavy door swung outward to reveal a spotlessly white interior.

'At this point we dispense with image,' said Carnage carelessly. 'Bare bones low-
tech is all very well for the audience, but behind the scenes, well,' he gestured
around at the gleaming facilities, 'you can't make an omelette without a little oil
in the pan.'

The forward cargo section was huge and chilly, the lighting gloomy, the
technology aggressively massive. Where Bancroft's low-lit womb mausoleum at
PsychaSec had spoken in soft, cultured tones of the trappings of wealth, where
the re-sleeving room at the Bay City storage facility had groaned minimal
funding for minimal deservers, the body bank was a brutal growl
of power. The storage tubes were racked on heavy chains like torpedoes on

Page 270

either side of us, jacked into a central monitor system at one end of the hold via
thick black cables that twisted across the floor like pythons. The monitor unit
itself squatted heavily ahead of us like an altar to some unpleasant spider god.
We approached it on a metal jetty raised a quarter-metre above the frozen
writhings of the data cables. Behind it to left and right, set into the far wall, were
the square glass sides of two spacious decanting tanks. The right-hand tank
already held a sleeve, floating backlit and tethered cruciform by monitor lines.

It was like walking into the Andric cathedral in Newpest.

Carnage walked to the central monitor, turned and spread his arms rather like the
sleeve above and behind him.

'Where would you like to start? I you've brought sophisticated bomb
detection equipment with you.'

Ortega ignored him. She took a couple of steps closer to the decanting tank and
looked up into the wash of cool green light it cast down into the gloom. 'This one
of tonight's whores?' she asked.

Carnage sniffed. 'In not so many words, it is. I do wish you'd understand the
difference between what they peddle in those greasy little shops down the coast,
and this.'

'So do I,' Ortega told him, eyes still upward on the body. 'Where'd you get this
one from, then?'

'How should I know?' Carnage made a show of studying the plastic nails on his
right hand. 'Oh, we have the bill of sale somewhere, if you look. By the
look of him, I'd say this one's out of Nippon Organics, or one of the Pacific Rim
combines. Does it really matter?'

I went to the wall and stared up at the floating sleeve. Slim, hard-looking and
brown, with the delicately lifted Japanese eyes on the shelf of unscaleably high
cheekbones, a thick, straight drift of impenetrably black hair like seaweed in the
tank fluid. Gracefully flexible with the long hands of an artist, but muscled for
speed combat. It was the body of a tech ninja, the body I'd dreamed about having
at fifteen, on dreary rain-filled days in Newpest. It wasn't far off the sleeve they'd
given me to fight the Sharya war in. It was a variation on the sleeve I'd bought
with my first big pay-off in Millsport, the sleeve I'd met Sarah in.

Page 538

'Kristin, nothing ever change.' I jerked a thumb back at the crowd outside.
'You'll always have morons like that, swallowing belief patterns whole so they
don't have to think for themselves. You'll always have people like Kawahara and
the Bancrofts to push their buttons and cash in on the program. People like you
to make sure the game runs smoothly and the rules don't get broken too often.
And when the Meths want to break the rules themselves, they'll send people like
Trepp and me to do it. That's the truth, Kristin. It's been the truth since I was
born a hundred and fifty years ago and from what I read in the history books, it's
never been any different. Better get used to it.'

She looked at me levelly for a moment, then nodded as if coming to an internal
decision. 'You always meant to kill Kawahara, didn't you? This confession
bullshit was just to get me along for the ride.'

It was a question I'd asked myself a lot, and I still didn't have a clear answer. I
shrugged again.

'She deserved to die, Kristin. To really die. That's all I know for certain.'

Over my head, a faint pattering sounded from the roof panels. I tipped my head
back and saw transparent explosions on the glass. It was starting to rain.

'Got to go,' I said quietly. 'Next time you see this face, it won't be me wearing it,
so if there's anything you want to say . . . '

Ortega's face flinched almost imperceptibly as I said it. I cursed myself for the
awkwardness and tried to take her hand.

'Look, if it makes it any easier, no one knows. Bautista probably suspects we got
it together, but no one really knows.'

' know,' she said sharply, not giving me her hand. 'I remember.'

I sighed. 'Yeah, so do I. It's remembering, Kristin. But don't let it fuck up
the rest of your life. Go get Ryker back, and get on to the next screen. That's
what counts. Oh yeah.' I reached into my coat and extracted a crumpled cigarette
packet. 'And you can have these back. I don't need them any more, and nor does
he, so don't start him off again. You owe me that much, at least. Just make sure
he stays quit.'

Page 539

She blinked and kissed me abruptly, somewhere between mouth and cheek. It
was an inaccuracy I didn't try to correct either way. I turned away before I could
see if there were going to be any tears and started for the doors at the far end of
the hall. I looked back once, as I was mounting the steps. Ortega was still
standing there, arms wrapped around herself, watching me leave. In the
stormlight, it was too far away to see her face clearly.

For a moment something ached in me, something so deep-rooted that I knew to
tear it out would be to undo the essence of what held me together. The feeling
rose and splashed like the rain behind my eyes, swelling as the drumming on the
roof panels grew and the glass ran with water.

Then I had it locked down.

I turned back to the next step, found a chuckle somewhere in my chest and
coughed it out. The chuckle fired up and became a laugh of sorts.

The doors were waiting at the top, the needlecast beyond.

Still trying to laugh, I went through.

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