Automatically, he picked it up.
Faint harmonics. tiny inaudible voices rattling across some orbital link, and then a sound like wind.
A fifty-lirasi coin fell from his hand, bounced, and rolled out of sight across Hilton carpeting.
"Wintermute, Case. It's time we talk."
It was a chip voice.
"Don't you want to talk, Case?"
He hung up.
On his way back to the lobby. his cigarettes forgotten, he had to walk the length of the ranked phones. Each rang in turn, but only once, as he passed.
Voices. Ihe Founder from Los Angeles was staring at Case. "We monitor many frequencies. We listen always. Came a voice, out of the babel of tongues, speaking to us. It played us a mighty dub."
"Call 'em Winter Mute." said the other, making it two words.
Case felt the skin crawl on his arms.
"The Mute talked to us," the first Founder said. "The Mute said we are to help you."
"When was this?" Case asked.
"Thirty hours prior You dockin' Zion."
"You ever hear this voice before?"
"No," said the man from Los Angeles, "and we are uncertain of its meaning. If these are Final Days, we must expect false prophets .... " [N110]
Case brought the gun around and looked at Deane's pink, ageless face."Don't," Deane said. "You're right. About what this all is. What I am. But there are certain internal logics to be honored. If you use that, you'll see a lot of brains and blood, and it would take me several hours -- your subjective time --- to effect another spokesperson. This set isn't easy for me to maintain. Oh, and I'm sorry about Linda, in the arcade. I was hoping to speak through her, but I'm generating all this out of your memories, and the emotional charge.... Well, it's very tricky. I slipped. Sorry."
Case lowered the gun. "This is the matrix. You're Wintermute. "
"Yes. This is all coming to you courtesy of the simstim unit wired into your deck, of course. I'm glad I was able to cut you off before you'd managed to jack out." Deane walked around the desk, straightened his chair, and sat dowm. Sit, old son. We have a lot to talk about." [N119]
"Now," Deane said briskly, "order of the day. 'What, you're asking yourself, 'is Wintermute?' Am I right?"
"More or less."
"An artificial intelligence, but you know that. Your mistake, and it's quite a logical one, is in confusing the Wintermute mainframe, Berne, with the Wintermute entity." Deane sucked his bonbon noisily. "You're already aware of the other AI in Tessier-Ashpool's link-up, aren't you? Rio. I, insofar as I have an 'I' -- this gets rather metaphysical, you see -- I am the one who arranges things for Armitage. Or Corto, who, by the way, is quite unstable."
I really don't have nearly as many answers as you imagine I do . . . What you think of as Wintermute is only a part of another, a, shall we say, potential entity. I, let us say, am merely one aspect of that entity's brain. It's rather like dealing. from your point of view, with a man whose lobes have been severed. . . .
I try to plan, in your sense of the word, but that isn't my basic mode, really. I improvise. It's my greatest talent. I prefer situations to plans, you see.... Really, I've had to deal with givens. I can sort a great deal of infomation, and sort it very quickly. [N120]