Neuromancer: What IS The Matrix?

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by Jim Eaton

"I saw your girl last night," Willy said, passing Angel his second O Neg.
"I don't have one," he said, and drank.
"Miss Buffy Summers."
Angel shook his head.
"No girl? Nothing? Only biz, friend soul-boy? Dedication to world-savage?" The bartender's small brown eyes were nested deep in wrinkled flesh. "I think I liked you better, with her. You laughed more. Now, some night, you get maybe too soulful, you wind up in a fish tank, filter charcoal."
"You're breaking my heart, Willy."
He finished his blood,paid and left, high broad shoulders hunched beneath the rain-stainedblack nylon of his trenchcoat. Threading his way through the Sunnydale crowds, he could smell his own stale sweat. Angel was two-hundred and forty. At one hundred and forty, he'd been a vampire,a killer, one of the best in the world. He'd been trained by the best, by the Master and Darla, legends in theHellmouth. He'd operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a byproduct of torture and sadism. He'd made the classic mistake, the one he'd sworn he'd never make. He killed the wrong girl. He tore out the throat of some dumb gypsy chick in Romania, but it turned out her people had some extra resources. He still wasn't sure how he'd been discovered, not that it mattered now. He'd expected to die, then, but they only smiled.

Of course he was welcome, they told him, welcome to the blood. And he was going to need it. Because -- still smiling -- they were going to make sure he never hunted again.They damaged his nervous system with an ancient slavic ritual. Crashed out by a fire in the forest, his soul burning in minute by minute, he hallucinated for thirty hours. For Angel, who'd lived for the conscienceless exultation of genocide, it was the Fall. In the bars he'd frequented as a vampire hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the soul. Humans were meat. Angel fell into the prison of his own conscience.

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