by Lisa Acerbo
Published by: Etopia Press
Publication date: November 20th 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published by: Etopia Press
Publication date: November 20th 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
When technology fulfills every dream, reality becomes a nightmare.
Below the streets of New State, the undergrounders fight to remain free of the technological control of the world above. Every night, Yara risks her life fighting New State’s deadliest weapons, the drones. Half human and half machine, their living half tortured until everything human is gone, the drones have only one objective. Kill. And they do it with exacting precision.
Yara is good at her job and committed to her raids on New State. Until one of those raids brings her face-to-face with Joshua, a New State citizen who doesn’t quite fit her preconceived expectations. After a couple of awkward encounters, he shows her the meaning of hooking up—a computer simulation that allows people to live out their fantasies—without the complication of emotional entanglements or physical reality. But what Yara feels for Joshua is very real. And it’s punishable by law.
As she and Joshua grow closer, she convinces him to leave New State for her underground cause. But as the unrest between New State and the underground escalates, and the drones move in to destroy her world, nothing goes as planned. Families are arrested, loyalties are strained, and Yara’s forced to choose between her people and her feelings. The wrong choice could mean the end of her people, and reality could slip away—forever…
Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and holds an EdD in Educational Leadership. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, three cats, and horse. She is the author of Apocalipstick and has contributed to local newspapers, news and travel blogs including The Patch and Hollywood Scriptwriter.
I really enjoyed this unique sci-fi , dystopian type book. It was unusual and very exciting and kept me up late reading it. I like the sweet relationship between Yara and Joshua. It was such a sweet but different type relationship.
The writer did a great how the author spun this story in a pretty believable way, in fact a bit scary, in the way I can see how this could happen way in the future. The depending of technology, like having the computer chip implanted at birth, and the required "hooking up" to the computer at night and live out your wildest fantasies, including sex, war, anything you want. So it's scary to me, as it can happen eventually.
I really liked the tough as nails main character Yara. She is tough, and love that. Joshua is so sweet and innocent like, that is touching.
I highly recommend this to anyone who likes sci-fi and dystopian type books. Be warned this has a huge cliffhanger which is the one thing I hated. Especially when I can't find out when to expect the next book. I need it now, lol.
I was provided a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.
December 31, 2057
Time: 11:56 p.m.
The first two New Year’s babies were about to be born. Joshua15111, name predetermined by a highly sophisticated computer program, arrived in the sterile enclave of the New State Hospital. White walls and bright lights excluded any inkling of the shadowy night soon to arrive. When evening came, no one would be allowed to leave the hospital and the only arrivals would be true emergencies.
Technology, beeping and thrumming in the background, monitored the mother, who was at peace, not feeling any pain due to the variety and quantity of drugs pumped into her system. Any change to her status would cause the machines to instantaneously alter the levels of medications. In New State, all medicine was measured and monitored by computer, avoiding the horrors of a possible human error.
At Joshua15111’s birth, the nurse conducted the usual tests. She weighed him, checked his temperature and the circumference of his head. She pricked his heel and tested for any thyroid problems, enzyme deficiencies, or other genetic disorders. When the baby was declared healthy, she brought out the Computerized Holographic Implant Program. The CHIP was a small silver ring half the size of a thumbnail. The nurse hooked Joshua15111 up to his own computer, which pumped the tiny baby full of sedatives. After strapping his head in place and pressing a button, the nurse watched the robotic arms conduct surgery. The metallic, lifeless fingers, using a laser to make a precise, predetermined incision, implanted the CHIP with a quick cut into Joshua’s brain. Microscopic wires grew out the CHIP and adhered to the living tissue. The CHIP and Joshua were instantly connected and would grow together. Joshua15111, now considered alive and activated, became a cherished citizen of New State.
As one of the few live nurses on duty, her job included unhooking the baby and displaying Joshua15111 to his mother, but the mother was lost in the happy haze of medication. She smiled, but did not request the nurse bring the child closer. Anyway, everyone in New State understood how critical the first few moments of life were in regard to conditioning, and Joshua needed to be conditioned well, his parents being important citizens in New State. The nurse left with Joshua15111, walking to the nursery where she hooked the infant up for computer conditioning while his mother fell into the tranquil haze of a world between waking and sleep. Another nurse took the time to hook up Joshua15111’s mother for the night. She pondered the virtual reality a new mother might create under the influence of all the medications.
Many miles away, deep below ground, another woman was in the throes of labor. She screamed with the pain, staring overhead at the high, cavernous ceiling of weathered rock that made up the underground infirmary. It was dark, even with the kerosene lamps spaced evenly throughout the rows of cots. She was the only patient in sight, but the nurses were huddled around, wiping her brow with a damp towel and providing encouragement as the labor pains continued. The soon-to-be mother clamped her hands down on the metallic handrails of the cot as a contraction shot through her.
“Where’s my husband?” the woman, Jodi, begged.
“He’s coming soon,” a nurse replied.
Few luxuries found their way to these underground caves. Even basic provisions like food and medicines were secured or stolen by the rebels, who had revolted against New State’s oppressive technocratic government. The large cave complex was slowly being turned into a city, but medication and other essentials were hard to come by and not wasted on something as natural as childbirth unless an emergency occurred. The woman chanted the name of her child over and over. “Yara, Yara, Yara.” She held a protective amulet of corded leather tethering a small flying bird at the end, ready to place it around the baby’s neck.
“Am I too late?” A large man, her husband Rafe, ran into the room. Grabbing the soon-to-be new mother’s hand, he joined her at the bedside.
“Finally, you made it,” she huffed before letting out a groan when another contraction hit.
Concern etched on his face, Rafe kissed Jodi on the forehead and offered her words of encouragement. The love these two people shared was evident to the nurses, but when the man noticed the amulet, he rolled his eyes.
“What’s the necklace for?” he asked.
“To protect the baby,” Jodi said between puffs of labored breath.
“You and your superstitions,” Rafe said with a smile and shake of his head. While not believing in the same portents as his wife, he would never keep her from doing what she thought correct.
When Yara was born at 12:02 a.m. on January 1, 2058, her mother knew she was destined for great things. The omens had told her so. She put the amulet on the newborn.
“This will help her for many years to come,” Jodi said to her husband.
“I’m just happy you’re both okay.” He kissed her forehead.
The midwife looked Yara over, pronounced her healthy, and handed her to the mother, who snuggled against the infant, happy but exhausted. Yara’s father, one of the newly elected leaders of the rebels, beamed with pride from the bedside.
Another Excerpt to enjoy! (within chapter 2)
She moved cautiously in the darkness, avoiding the streetlights, but still failed to notice Joshua15111.
“Hey,” he called out.
Yara jumped and looked for the source of his voice. He was leaning stone-silent against a dark corner of the house. “Hi,” she said softly, shyly. How had she failed to notice him?
“You want to come inside this time?” He got straight to the point. Obviously, New Staters were not schooled intact.
“You’ll turn me in.”
“No, I promise. I won’t.” Joshua15111 ran over to Yara and grabbed her hand.
She pulled it back and wiped it against her pants. “Impulse control problems much?”
“Sorry, I just really wanted to show you something in my room.”
“Really?” Yara was astounded at the stranger’s nerve. “Why would I go up to your room? You said yourself that you could have a supermodel when hooked up. What could you want to do with a real person?”
Joshua15111 looked slightly amused. “I’m sorry I said that. I was just trying to make a point. It was stupid and I apologize. I want to show you how to hook up. Let you experience it for once. I’ve been thinking about you since you left.”
“Creepy,” Yara said, only half joking.
“No. You really have to experience what it means to hook up.”
“I don’t want to hook up with you,” Yara said with all seriousness.
“Not like that.” Joshua15111 laughed. Yara noted it was a nice, natural laugh so unlike his otherwise robotic voice.
“I know what hooking up means to tech heads like you. No thank you.”
“I want you to see what it’s like to interface with the computer.” Joshua15111 babbled. “It’s called a hook up when you go into an alternate reality and live your fantasy. You’ve never done that before, right?”
“Of course not.” Yara’s stared in disbelief.
“Did you ever reject a CHIP implant?”
Now she was just confused. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Stupid question. Please come inside,” Joshua begged.
“No. Why should I even trust you?”
“Why’d you come back? Why are you standing here?”
She shrugged. She had wanted to see him and had questions to ask, but now didn’t seem like the right time for those. Her curiosity got the best of her.
“Fine, I’ll go.”
Joshua15111 tugged at her shirt, urging her toward the house. Yara, against her better judgment, let him pull her along the long paved driveway and through the front door of a very expensive, ostentatious house. His aftershave smelled of citrus and mint. It was both refreshing and a little tart and tangy.
Joshua15111 was out of breath by the time he closed the door. He slid to the floor gulping air.
“Walk much?” Yara asked.
“Asthma. No. You?”
“Duh,” Yara replied, looking around warily as Joshua15111 regained his breath from the short dash from sidewalk to house. She had never met another person on her raids, just drones, and found the whole situation beyond odd. She had no problem destroying the half-human and half-machine malformations if she couldn’t outrun them, but a person, a living being—never. Now she was in a house with a tech head and had no idea what came next or what to do if trouble occurred. Let him go, take him back as a hostage, or kill him. The third option sounded best, but Yara didn’t think she’d be capable of this. Even the possibility of taking a life made her uncomfortable.
Yara fished inside her pocket, bracing her hand on the handle of her knife. Just in case. She surveyed the entryway. It was large and ornate. A chandelier hung over her head. Tiled floors gleamed under her feet, and the smell of fresh flowers made her nose itch.
Her curiosity got the best of her. “Who lives here?”
“I do, of course,” the boy said.
She narrowed her eyes, taking him in. She couldn’t really call him a boy. He looked about her age. Tall, thin, and well-manicured, he wore a crisp white tailored shirt. His dark jeans had extra pockets for computer gear, which poked out from them. Joshua15111’s blond hair was casually spiked this time so Yara could clearly see his green eyes staring at her. He could have been a fallen angel. Genetically perfect and visually stunning on the outside, but weak on the inside. From her studies, Yara had been taught that one way New State kept people under control was to limit their physical strength and athletic ability. Unless, needed for a job, tech heads tended to be thin and somewhat fragile, athletic ability not seen as a desirable trait to be developed.
He continued to stare.
“What?” Yara didn’t understand and it made her nervous.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She couldn’t tell if a smile was about to crack his kissable lips above his strong jaw. She stared at a small scar that followed the bottom one and wondered how he got it.
“Why do you want to know?” Yara countered, trying to sound dangerous.
He laughed at her instead. “So I have something to call you.” He waited.
She stood mute. He could give her away, call the patrol. Drones would be here in minutes. She shuddered.
“Well?” Joshua15111 continued to prod Yara. “I invited you in my house. The least you could do is tell me your name.”
She ignored him. “Why were you outside anyway since you know it’s dangerous and against the law? You started to tell me last time.”
“Good question, and I guess I could ask you the same thing. Let’s go up to my room and I’ll tell you. I said I live here but not alone. My parents are hooked up for the night, but you never know when one of them will take a break and come downstairs for a glass of water.”
He didn’t wait for her answer. Instead, he grabbed her hand again and led her up the staircase. This time she didn’t pull back. Her heavy boots didn’t make a sound when they hit the plush white carpet on the steps, but the dusty bottoms left nasty stains. Yara decided not to say anything about them to Joshua15111.
She wondered why she followed him. “Crazy and destructive” could describe her recent actions and could mean the end of her life, but she had to know what he had been doing outside when he should have been hooked up. And the chance to actually hook up to a computer herself, that was an experience Yara never considered having.
She also couldn’t help but consider how his fingers interlaced with hers and how his hand felt warm and strong. He quietly opened a door and led Yara into his room. When he dropped her hand, Yara regretted it.
Like the rest of the house, the room was large and opulent, but with some personal touches. Along with the computer and the sixty-inch screen mandated for every living area of the house, his room also had posters of some of the popular retro television shows and artists. She pretended to examine a copy of Goldfish by Matisse that hung on the wall, but she was attempting to puzzle him out. She hadn’t known anyone who hung posters or artwork anymore. After the implant, all you needed to do was think about the song, show, or artist and it instantly appeared in your mind.
She had to ask. “I’m confused. You’re supposed to be tucked in bed and hooked up for the night enjoying a virtual whatever session with some woman or maybe drinking at the bar with your friends. It’s really late. Why aren’t you in virtual reality tonight?”
Joshua15111 shrugged. “I don’t know. My mom taught me the value of sitting and thinking about the important stuff. She used to be a top professor at the University, but she’s been demoted for her radical thinking. The hook up, well, it’s not real. I don’t understand why anyone wants to live a fake life all the time. I like hooking up, I really do, but sometimes, I’d rather watch the moon or sit and ponder what’s going on around me.”
“It’s more than real,” Yara countered. “I’ve heard hooking up is better than reality. You feel everything a hundred times more intensely than when you live it. At least all the good stuff.”
“Heard? Wait, so I guess I am right. You’ve never been hooked up?” He looked stunned and then thrilled. “You are a rebel.”
Hearing the words sent a jolt of adrenaline through Yara, and she bolted toward the door. This was a stupid mistake. Joshua15111 was nearer and blocked her exit.
“Stop,” he begged. “I won’t tell. Please, don’t leave. There’s so much I want to know.”
The doorknob was cold when Yara touched it. “Let me go.” His hand covered hers, and she stopped her escape attempt.
“No. I never met a rebel before. This is exactly why I don’t want to get hooked up. This is so much better.”
Yara was stunned. “Better? We’re dangerous and destructive.”
Josh laughed. “You don’t look dangerous or destructive. Please stay, just for a few minutes.”
Yara felt for her knife inside her pocket. If she had to use it to get out of here, she thought she could. Maybe.
“Listen, stay for ten minutes and talk to me, and I’ll let you raid my parent’s fridge. There’s a lot of good stuff. You can even sample some of the farm-market fruits. They weren’t genetically modified and created in a plant lab. Someone actually grew them in another country. My mom had to order them online special from a database. Please.”
“Fruit? Non-GMO?” Yara remembered hearing about apple orchards and fruit trees from her dad but had never seen any. “Really?”
“Sure, why not.”
Against her better judgment, Yara edged over to the bed. “What do you want to know?”
“Let’s start with the basics. Are you really a rebel?” Joshua15111 asked. “Or are you just a little girl sick of New State and looking for danger, playing at rebellion?”
Yara was offended but didn’t have time to shoot out a sarcastic response.
Joshua1511 continued, almost to himself. “If you are a rebel, where do you live?”
“You think I’d tell you that?” Yara, instantly nervous, scanned the room for escape possibilities and any hidden cameras.
He clearly picked up on her concern. “You’re safe here. The security cameras are in the main living areas. I have a camera in the computer, but it’s only active when I hook up, and my parents don’t monitor it. They haven’t since I turned twelve.”
“How old are you?” Yara couldn’t help wondering.
“Eighteen. How old are you? Oh, and what’s your name?”
Shyly she said, “Yara. Eighteen too.”
“You look so young. Must be the rebel garb you’re wearing and lack of real meals.” Joshua15111 laughed, but Yara didn’t find it funny. She was military-trained, and ready to kill, though most of her time went to raiding New State citizens of their forgotten or discarded possessions. The worst she had done so far was disable drones. In her defense, that was tough to accomplish.
“Can I just call you Josh?” Yara asked. “It’s weird having numbers at the end of your name.”
“Sure,” Josh replied. “Usually it’s the other way around. My nickname is 111.”
Yara didn’t know how to respond to that. She couldn’t fathom not using names. Instead, she changed the subject. “If your camera’s not on, won’t your parents know you’re not hooked up?”
Josh blushed. “I’m old enough that they don’t care. They love me and would never turn me in. Plus, my mom is a professor at the University, and she’s a little batty herself. She has a campaign going against too much time on the network. The University is pretty upset with her right now. Like I said, she’s been recently demoted. That’s why I’m so worried for her and wondering if the police will show up.”
“I’m really sorry about that.”
Josh shrugged. “I’m sure it will work out.” He pointed to the computer console. “This is what you came for.”
“Can I see how it works?” Yara was suddenly shy, not believing she’d asked such a personal question. Once hooked up, people could be anyone or anything, and do anything and, okay, anyone. Parents were able to monitor children, but once they were adults, being hooked up meant freedom. The freedom to do whatever you wanted in the network, except that the New State saw it all—not that they cared as long as whatever happened stayed on the network and didn’t make it out to the streets. While it was an artificial reality, from what Yara had heard, it could feel even better than what she knew of the world.
“Sure.” Josh shrugged. “No one will see what you do. Come here.” He moved over to the computer and placed a finger on the keypad to boot up. His fingerprint also synchronized the chip in his brain with the computer and downloaded any relevant new data.
“I guess you’re not synched, are you.”
Yara shook her head.
“You’re the first person I’ve ever met without a brain CHIP. How do you get any information?”
“It’s called talking,” Yara shot back.
“I do that too. Once in a while.” Josh smiled.
Seeing his face light up, Yara felt funny. Must be nerves, she reasoned.
“Okay, so you’ll need the external prosthesis. Friends use it when they come over. It synchronizes you to my computer.” He handed her glove-like appendages and a sleek, close-fitting helmet. She wondered if she should risk putting any of the apparatus on. A small part of her thought this had to all be an elaborate trick by the New State. Thoughts raced through her mind: Maybe she was a simulation already… What if she got lost in one? What if he called the police while she was under?
Joshua could see her reservation. “Scared?” he asked.
“No,” she said defiantly, but Yara hoped Josh couldn’t see her shivering.
Josh pushed Yara down in the comfortable reclining seat. “Here, I’ll help you put these on,” he said as he pulled the long, black tight-fitting gloves up her arms. A multitude of tiny bumps made the fabric hug her skin.
“Why are they bumpy?” Yara wondered.
“They monitor you. Everything from your respiration to your enjoyment levels. They help the computers figure out what to put in front of you next, but the real information comes from this.” He put the helmet on her head and placed the shield-like cover in front of her eyes.
“Won’t it be able to tell I’m not you?”
“No.” Josh laughed. “It’s a computer. People use it if they visit, but most of the time that is not needed because we mostly communicate online. But it does happen; we can be social. People do stop by once in a while. The computer just picks up what you want to see, touch, hear, taste, and smell, and shows those images. Are you ready?”
“Ready,” Yara replied.
She sat back, heard the click of the keyboard, and was instantly transported into a beautiful field full of wildflowers. It was sunny, but not overbearingly hot. Maple trees rustled in the breeze at the end of the meadow. This most definitely was a projection. Yara would never venture out into the daylight with drones around. Too easy to be caught. She loved the sun on her neck and basked in its warmth. She could stay here for hours and be happy.
She looked around, not sure what to do next. Her feet suddenly felt light. Too light. And then she knew exactly what she had always wanted to experience. She was flying. She rose off the ground even though it was not humanly possible. Only drones could fly. The wind caressed her cheek as she drifted slowly. She circled an apple tree, the limbs laden with fruit. Yara reached out and plucked a leaf off one of the highest branches. She watched it wave in the breeze as she soared higher. She let the leaf fall from her hand and stared as it drifted to the ground. She picked up speed as she abandoned the tree for a new perspective. A few geese flew in V formation, honking as she disturbed them. Yara couldn’t help but let out a joyful squeal. She flew higher.
The farther from the earth she went, the colder it became. Yara didn’t care. The view astounded her. New State glowed. Bright sunlight sparkled off the skyscrapers. She watched the drones patrol the air, but they ignored her. She turned away, happy to reach toward the sun. She rose, enveloped in clouds, heading south away from New State.
Suddenly, as she shot forward again, she began to lose control. The air went from chilly to frigid. Whatever force had been propelling her upward suddenly stopped and gravity began to pull her back. Yara plummeted, picking up speed. The ground rushed to meet her. She felt sick; her heart raced. She stared at death below her.
Suddenly, Yara became aware of the beeping and Josh’s hand on her arm shaking her.
“Hey,” he said softly. “Come on back.”
With trembling hands, she lifted the visor from her face and discarded the helmet and the gloves. Her entire body shook.
“What happened?” Yara asked.
“I forgot what it’s like to be a newbie.”
“Someone who doesn’t know how to control the program. Sorry. I guess I should have warned you.”
“You think!” Yara squeaked in anger.
“I said I was sorry. Geez, you have a temper. Don’t they condition your emotions at all wherever it is you come from?”
“Me? Conditioned? Never!”
Josh looked at Yara as though he had a lot of additional questions but said instead, “Listen, let’s go down to the kitchen and have a snack. It will give to time to recover. Then you can see what else you want to take. Feel free to raid the fridge.”
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