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Authors: William Gibson

The Peripheral

BOOK: The Peripheral
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TITLES BY WILLIAM GIBSON

 

Neuromancer

Count Zero

Burning Chrome

Mona Lisa Overdrive

Virtual Light

Idoru

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Pattern Recognition

Spook Country

Zero History

Distrust That Particular Flavor

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

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Copyright © 2014 by William Gibson

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Gibson, William, date.

The peripheral / William Gibson.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-698-17070-4

I. Title.

PS3557.I2264P47 2014 2014028558

813'.54—dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

 

To Shannie

CONTENTS
 

Titles by William Gibson

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

 

1. THE HAPTICS

2. DEATH COOKIE

3. PUSHING BUGS

4. SOMETHING SO DEEPLY EARNED

5. DRAGONFLIES

6. PATCHERS

7. SURVEILLANT

8. DOUBLE DICKAGE

9. PROTECTIVE CUSTODY

10. THE MAENADS’ CRUSH

11. TARANTULA

12. THYLACINE

13. EASY ICE

14. MOURNING JET

15. ANYTHING NICE

16. LEGO

17. COTTONWOOD

18. THE GOD CLUB

19. AQUAMARINE DUCT TAPE

20. POLT

21. GRIFTER

22. ARCHAISM

23. CELTIC KNOT

24. ANATHEMA

25. KYDEX

26. VERY SENIOR

27. DEAD OLD BOYS

28. THE HOUSE OF LOVE

29. ATRIUM

30. HERMÈS

31. FUNNY

32. TIPSTAFF

33. STUPIDITY TAX

34. HEADLESS

35. THE STUFF IN HIS YARD

36. IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING

37. COUNTY

38. STUB GIRL

39. THE FAIRY SHOEMAKERS

40. BULLSHIT ARTIST

41. ZERO

42. BODY LANGUAGE

43. ’SPLODING

44. PERVERSELY DIFFICULT

45. UP THERE

46. THE SIGHTS

47. POWER RELATIONSHIPS

48. PAVEL

49. THE SOUNDS HE MADE

50. WHILE THE GETTING’S GOOD

51. TANGO HOTEL SOLDIER SHIT

52. BOOTS ON THE GROUND

53. SANTA CLAUS’S HEADQUARTERS

54. IMPOSTOR SYNDROME

55. COMPLICATED

56. THE LIGHT IN HER VOICE MAIL

57. GOOD CHINA

58. WU

59. ADVENTURE CAPITALISTS

60. BROWNING IN

61. TIMESICK

62. NOT EXPECTED

63. THREW UP

64. STERILE

65. BACKDOOR TO NOW

66. DROP BEARS

67. BLACK BEAUTY

68. ANTIBODY

69. HOW IT SOUNDS

70. ASSET

71. McMANSION

72. HALFWAY POSH

73. RED GREEN BLUE

74. THAT FIRST GENTLE TOUCH

75. PRECURSORS

76. EMULATION APP

77. WHEELIE BOY

78. FRONTIERLAND

79. THE JACKPOT

80. THE CLOVIS LIMIT

81. ALAMO

82. THE NASTINESS

83. ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD IN A MOMENT OF TIME

84. SOHO SQUARE

85. FUTURE PEOPLE

86. CHATELAINE

87. THE ANTIDOTE FOR PARTY TIME

88. PARLIAMENT OF BIRDS

89. STROBE

90. METRIC OF CAUTION

91. ISOPOD

92. YOU GUYS

93. MISSION STATEMENT

94. APOLLINARIS WATER

95. WHOLE WORLDS FALLING

96. DISANTHROPOMORPHIZED

97. CONVOY

98. BICENTENNIAL

99. AMERICAN ANTIQUITIES

100. BACK HERE

101. ORDINARY SAD-ASS HUMANNESS

102. TRANSPLANT

103. SUSHI BARN

104. THE RED MEDICI

105. STATIC IN YOUR BONES

106. BUTTHOLEVILLE

107. LITTLE BUDDY

108. COLDIRON MORNING

109. BLACK SILK FROGS

110. NOTHING FANCY

111. ZIL

112. TO FARRINGDON

113. BOUNCY CASTLE

114. CELEBRATION OF LIFE

115. DISSOCIATIVE STATE

116. CANNONBALL

117. ITS GRANITE FACE, BRISTLING WITH IRON

118. BALCONY MAN

119. SIR HENRY

120. VESPASIAN’S CUBE

121. NOTTING HILL

122. COLDIRON MIRACLES

123. COMPOUND

124. PUTNEY

 

Acknowledgments and Thanks

I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time travelling.

—H. G. WELLS

1.

THE HAPTICS

 

T
hey didn’t think Flynne’s brother had PTSD, but that sometimes the haptics glitched him. They said it was like phantom limb, ghosts of the tattoos he’d worn in the war, put there to tell him when to run, when to be still, when to do the bad-ass dance, which direction and what range. So they allowed him some disability for that, and he lived in the trailer down by the creek. An alcoholic uncle lived there when they were little, veteran of some other war, their father’s older brother. She and Burton and Leon used it for a fort, the summer she was ten. Leon tried to take girls there, later on, but it smelled too bad. When Burton got his discharge, it was empty, except for the biggest wasp nest any of them had ever seen. Most valuable thing on their property, Leon said. Airstream, 1977. He showed her ones on eBay that looked like blunt rifle slugs, went for crazy money in any condition at all. The uncle had gooped this one over with white expansion foam, gone gray and dirty now, to stop it leaking and for insulation. Leon said that had saved it from pickers. She thought it looked like a big old grub, but with tunnels back through it to the windows.

Coming down the path, she saw stray crumbs of that foam, packed down hard in the dark earth. He had the trailer’s lights turned up, and closer, through a window, she partly saw him stand, turn, and on his spine and side the marks where they took the haptics off, like the skin was dusted with something dead-fish silver. They said they could get that off too, but he didn’t want to keep going back.

“Hey, Burton,” she called.

“Easy Ice,” he answered, her gamer tag, one hand bumping the
door open, the other tugging a new white t-shirt down, over that chest the Corps gave him, covering the silvered patch above his navel, size and shape of a playing card.

Inside, the trailer was the color of Vaseline, LEDs buried in it, bedded in Hefty Mart amber. She’d helped him sweep it out, before he moved in. He hadn’t bothered to bring the shop vac down from the garage, just bombed the inside a good inch thick with this Chinese polymer, dried glassy and flexible. You could see stubs of burnt matches down inside that, or the cork-patterned paper on the squashed filter of a legally sold cigarette, older than she was. She knew where to find a rusty jeweler’s screwdriver, and somewhere else a 2009 quarter.

Now he just got his stuff out before he hosed the inside, every week or two, like washing out Tupperware. Leon said the polymer was curatorial, how you could peel it all out before you put your American classic up on eBay. Let it take the dirt with it.

Burton took her hand, squeezed, pulling her up and in.

“You going to Davisville?” she asked.

“Leon’s picking me up.”

“Luke 4:5’s protesting there. Shaylene said.”

He shrugged, moving a lot of muscle but not by much.

“That was you, Burton. Last month. On the news. That funeral, in Carolina.”

He didn’t quite smile.

“You might’ve killed that boy.”

He shook his head, just a fraction, eyes narrowed.

“Scares me, you do that shit.”

“You still walking point, for that lawyer in Tulsa?”

“He isn’t playing. Busy lawyering, I guess.”

“You’re the best he had. Showed him that.”

“Just a game.” Telling herself, more than him.

“Might as well been getting himself a Marine.”

She thought she saw that thing the haptics did, then, that shiver, then gone.

“Need you to sub for me,” he said, like nothing had happened. “Five-hour shift. Fly a quadcopter.”

She looked past him to his display. Some Danish supermodel’s legs, retracting into some brand of car nobody she knew would ever drive, or likely even see on the road. “You’re on disability,” she said. “Aren’t supposed to work.”

He looked at her.

“Where’s the job?” she asked.

“No idea.”

“Outsourced? VA’ll catch you.”

“Game,” he said. “Beta of some game.”

“Shooter?”

“Nothing to shoot. Work a perimeter around three floors of this tower, fifty-fifth to fifty-seventh. See what turns up.”

“What does?”

“Paparazzi.” He showed her the length of his index finger. “Little things. You get in their way. Edge ’em back. That’s all you do.”

“When?”

“Tonight. Get you set up before Leon comes.”

“Supposed to help Shaylene, later.”

“Give you two fives.” He took his wallet from his jeans, edged out a pair of new bills, the little windows unscratched, holograms bright.

Folded, they went into the right front pocket of her cutoffs. “Turn the lights down,” she said, “hurts my eyes.”

He did, swinging his hand through the display, but then the place looked like a seventeen-year-old boy’s bedroom. She reached over, flicked it up a little.

She sat in his chair. It was Chinese, reconfiguring to her height and weight as he pulled himself up an old metal stool, almost no paint left on it, waving a screen into view.

MILAGROS COLDIRON SA

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Who we’re working for.”

“How do they pay you?”

“Hefty Pal.”

“You’ll get caught for sure.”

“Goes to an account of Leon’s,” he said. Leon’s Army service had been about the same time as Burton’s in the Marines, but Leon wasn’t due any disability. Wasn’t, their mother said, like he could claim to have caught the dumbfuck there. Not that Flynne had ever thought Leon was anything but sly, under it all, and lazy. “Need my log-in and the password. Hat trick.” How they both pronounced his tag, HaptRec, to keep it private. He took an envelope from his back pocket, unfolded and opened it. The paper looked thick, creamy.

“That from Fab?”

He drew out a long slip of the same paper, printed with what looked to be a full paragraph of characters and symbols. “You scan it, or type it outside that window, we’re out a job.”

She picked up the envelope, from where it lay on what she guessed had been a fold-down dining table. It was one of Shaylene’s top-shelf stationery items, kept literally on a top shelf. When letter orders came in from big companies, or lawyers, you went up there. She ran her thumb across the logo in the upper left corner. “Medellín?”

“Security firm.”

“You said it’s a game.”

“That’s ten thousand dollars, in your pocket.”

“How long you been doing this?”

“Two weeks now. Sundays off.”

“How much you get?”

“Twenty-five thousand per.”

“Make it twenty, then. Short notice and I’m stiffing Shaylene.”

He gave her another two fives.

BOOK: The Peripheral
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