She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug 'Zeal'. Now she's heading for self-destruction - until she has a vision of a dead girl. Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he's probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis - or she's next. To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she'll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary - before it changes us and our society, forever.
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Off-grid, San Francisco,
The man coughs, blood splattering into his hand. He doesn’t pause to wipe it away. His hands dance in midair, manipulating the code his ocular implants project into the room around him. The room is empty, the white walls stark. There are no windows. His body is exhausted, his lungs struggling to work. Medical advancement miracles can’t cure every disease, especially engineered ones.
Sweat trickles down his temples as he works. His hands shake, and he can’t afford to make a mistake. There’s only one person he can trust. Or at least, trust her to want to take Sudice down as much as he does.
There. His hands fall to his sides. The code floats around him, beautiful and perfect, like a nebula of the universe made of letters, numbers and symbols. Now all he has to do is find her. Minimizing the code, he opens the government map he cracked into earlier, typing in the numbers of her new VeriChip.
There she is. Right in Los Angeles, as he suspected. And she’s plugged in.
‘Finally, fate gives me a break,’ he mutters, beginning to prep the transfer when he hears the door open.
‘Fuck.’ His pulse spikes. He has seconds, if that. He locks onto the signal in LA. ‘Please, please let this work.’ He can’t stop a sob. ‘Don’t let this be for nothing.’
The footsteps come closer. The information streams into her brain. As soon as it finishes, he manages to still his shaking hands enough to obscure the breadcrumbs of the trail. He can only hope it’s enough. He turns to face his killer.
Someone shoots the lock and kicks the door open. The woman steps in and shakes her head at him. ‘I’m disappointed in you, Mark.’
‘I’m more disappointed in you, you fucking psychopath.’ He’s still shaking, but he hasn’t pissed himself. Maybe he’ll die with a modicum of dignity.
She tuts. ‘Language, Dr Teague. And I’ve never been officially diagnosed.’ She flashes him a mirthless smile before hefting the gun. ‘Now, what have you done here?’
He says nothing. She moves forward, and with a wave of her hands latches onto his ocular implants. As she rifles through his recent history, he stifles a satisfied smirk when she can’t find where he’s sent it.
‘You’ve made a mistake.’ She points the gun at him.
‘I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life. I only wish I could be around to see you and Sudice fall.’ He’s proud that, in the end, he stood up to them, at least put a wrench in their plans after all they’ve done.
No company is entirely invincible. Sudice has been trying for decades, buying politicians and using its deep entanglement in every aspect of Pacifica’s economy and government to strangle its competition. Mark knows there’s always a crack, a flaw that can be used to bring the whole thing down. He’s found the fissure, but he’s not strong enough to give it enough pressure to break.
‘Any regrets?’ the woman asks with a sardonic tilt of her head. ‘Any last-minute confessions before you meet your maker, if you believe in that sort of thing?’
Mark regrets ever working for Sudice. Greed was why he started, and he opened his eyes to the truth far too late. ‘I only had a few weeks left anyway, with whatever you gave me.’
He shrugs. ‘At least I might have done some good in the end. So no regrets.’
She pulls the trigger. Mark falls. He stares at nothing, the dark bullet hole on his forehead like a third eye. Roz steps over him and takes up his code, transferring it from his dying implants into her own. Face impassive, she begins her search.
Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart's desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn't. At times she misses the sunshine.