Chiba City Blues

Chapter 1

Theskyabovetheportwasthecoloroftelevision,tunedtoadeadchannel.

`It’snotlikeI’musing,’Caseheardsomeonesay,asheshoulderedhiswaythroughthecrowdaroundthedooroftheChat.`It’slikemybody’sdevelopedthismassivedrugdeficiency.’ItwasaSprawlvoiceandaSprawljoke.TheChatsubowasabarforprofessionalexpatriates;youcoulddrinkthereforaweekandneverheartwowordsinJapanese.

Ratzwastendingbar,hisprostheticarmjerkingmonotonouslyashefilledatrayofglasseswithdraftKirin.HesawCaseandsmiled,histeethawebworkofEastEuropeansteelandbrowndecay.Casefoundaplaceatthebar,betweentheunlikelytanononeofLonnyZone’swhoresandthecrispnavaluniformofatallAfricanwhosecheekboneswereridgedwithpreciserowsoftribalscars.`Wagewasinhereearly,withtwojoeboys,’Ratzsaid,shovingadraftacrossthebarwithhisgoodhand.`Maybesomebusinesswithyou,Case?’

Caseshrugged.Thegirltohisrightgiggledandnudgedhim.

Thebartender’ssmilewidened.Hisuglinesswasthestuffoflegend.Inanageofaffordablebeauty,therewassomethingheraldicabouthislackofit.Theantiquearmwhinedashereachedforanothermug.ItwasaRussianmilitaryprosthesis,aseven-functionforce-feedbackmanipulator,casedingrubbypinkplastic.`Youaretoomuchtheartiste,HerrCase.’Ratzgrunted;thesoundservedhimaslaughter.Hescratchedhisoverhangofwhite-shirtedbellywiththepinkclaw.`Youaretheartisteoftheslightlyfunnydeal.’

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