A fast-paced thriller set in a brutal underworld, which is both a search for self and family and a desperate race for survival.
There are many places to party on Foon Gung’s claustrophobic sprawl but Plaza’s the only one bright enough to be seen from the hubs, the cities smugly orbiting the boundary to endless space. Plaza’s high-end is a migraine-provoking frenzy; a gaudy parade of VIP clubs, Slip joints, art houses and karaoke bars. Despite the money practically oozing from the cracks in the sidewalk these multifarious amusements look cheap stacked side by side and swaddled in neon and fairy lights spangled as a K-rock star’s thong.
This scene is as far from Shock’s idea of a good time as it’s possible to get, but he’s not surprised Mim’s blipped to meet him here. She’s a freaking magpie, and always out for maximum flim expenditure. Doubtless she’s not numbing her arse much, probably got a gaggle of lanky Biz-Cad creeps orbiting her horizons, dazzled by the glare of her headlights.
Reluctantly jacking her IM, Shock hooks her signal, tracing it to one of the cheesiest karaoke joints on Plaza: Keen Machine.
“F**king jim goddamn dandy,” he sneers, shielding his eyes from the high-intensity blast of illumination that comprizes the entrance.
Concentrating hard to remain steady on his feet, he rolls in past the muscle, a gaggle of uberpumped gorks in suits, their necks so thick they look like truncated thighs, and heads for the bar. There’s a skinny little short-arse with neon fangs serving the whole thirty meters of polished copper by herself, clacking to and fro on knifeblade heels and snarling at everyone as she juggles glasses and snatches flim.
All out of sympathy, his head still basically tofu beneath the straggly S bump-sheen and Mim-xiety, he orders an apple juice, no ice, with two shots of pure green caffeine for himself and a voddie lime slim for Mim and skulks off to hunt her down in the shadowy recesses.
Predictably, he finds her holding court amongst a gaggle of wide-eyed Frat boys from the Biz-Cad, a different shade of learning than the academies, for hI-Qs and the wealthy. These are the latter, all spending daddy’s money and trying to look smart in clothes so new they still smell of the print factory; a clean, sharp scent not unlike bleach.
Mim’s in her usual uniform, a bodysuit fitted close as second skin in holographic material, blending her into the corner like a mirage; the only signs of her existence an inky mass of iridescent black hair and those crazy mirrored eyes. Mim’s a chameleon – you can’t see her, only her surroundings and yourself, reflected back at you into infinity.
That’s Mim’s problem. She lives her role. 24/7 365 in Imp-mode. Consequently she’s only ever been any use as a reflection. Expecting to find a person somewhere in those vague distorted echoes is a sure-fire route to ending up disappointed. At least he did. Disappointed and sick to the core, his heart aching, just like it is now. He only has to look at her to feel wrecked. She’s a wall he keeps crashing into.
He still remembers the first time he saw her. In Tech. She’d transferred in from Cad after a Tech-skills test, was perched like a crow in the window of his lecture hall on the seventeenth floor, smoking a long, purple cigarette. Psy. Illegal as hell. She wore a flimsy, red-plastic playsuit and shades, had her feet rammed into
When Mimic brings Shock a job which could help him escape his miserable existence, he accepts, little realizing that this will turn out to be his most impossible, illegal and insane assignment yet.
Her distant grin and cold mirror eyes gave him shivers he mistook for attraction
matching bladers, stack-heel shoes with a mag-strip for speeding along mono lines, and he fell for her catastrophically.
Her distant grin and cold mirror eyes gave him shivers he mistook for attraction, and that off-hand way she has drove him out of his mind, full-on crazy as a primo high. He took to following her like a shadow, hanging in her wake, nebulous as a cloud of smoke and half as noticeable. Sometimes he thinks she only noticed him by accident, out of the corner of her eye, like seeing a ghost. Appropriate. It makes him laugh nowadays. But only now and then.
It took him a year to persuade her to f**k him, another for her to scheme a way to get rid of him. By that time they’d moved in together and everyone spoke their name in one long breathless mouthful, like they were conjoined twins in a freak show. What a f**king waste of two years, and he doesn’t plead the stupidity of youth about any of it. He’s forgotten how to be that kind to himself.
Unable to muster up a shout, Shock stands at her table and stares, waiting until she notices him, trying to ignore how much like the old days it is. This is his choice, not hers – and it’s all business. There’s nothing personal in it. When she clocks him, her headlights flare, and she throws down a serious grin, like a challenge.
“Shocking boy, long time no spy.” She makes shooing gestures with tiny hands tipped with nails like talons. She-bird. Bird of prey. “Skedaddle, dickheads, my boy is here. We have business.”
“I’m not your boy,” he says with infinitely more calm than he feels, sliding in beside her and slamming her drink down next to a half-empty flute of what looks like liquid purple glitter and smells bad as candy-coated burnt rubber. “What’s the job?”
“What, no time to reminisce?”
She tries for a hurt tone, but it falls light years short. Sounds like she’s asking a bug she’s got under a magnifying glass if the sun burns yet. The fact she still gets to him as easily as when he thought they were a going concern makes him despise her even more. Or maybe he just despises himself?
He should quit the habit of her. Quit this vicious cycle, a viscous cycle, clinging to him like she still does, out of convenience, and he lets her. More fool him. He takes a deep breath, feeling like he’s sucking the whole club down into his lungs. “Job, Mim, or I’m out.” Her teeth flash, blinding, making him dizzy. “Tetchy,” she drawls, and he knows that she’s feeling his discomfort and loving it. F**k but he hates her. “I need a bullseye, close as dammit to my stats as you can hit. Two K flim.”
Mim is an ID sniper, an info clone, an Imp. She hunts, copies, and temporarily replaces for the purposes of theft. Pretty good at hacking bullseyes on a basic level, Mim’s proficiency dive-bombs to below useless with any kind of VA, Virtual Armament.
Her current f**k, Johnny Sez, an L-plates hack, can only crack up to level 6. For anything above that, she has Shock, her reluctant hacker on call. It’s a crap job, and far too intermittent, but it’s flim and really he’s in no position to be picky. He wishes he were. Whenever he works for Mim, she always wants delivery in person. Maximising his discomfort is one of her favourite pastimes.
“I need the company you expect me to phish in before I Y or N.”
“Olbax Corp.” Olbax. Great. Could be worse though. Could be Paraderm. “That’s a pretty mean amount of VA for Two K. Two K barely even covers my f**king rent.” “Take it or leave it, sport. Not running a charity here. Or maybe you don’t think you need it?” She gives him the sly look, up and down. “I’m guessing that’s why you’re looking so swell. Corpse-chic suits you.” Shock tries not to react, it costs him way too much dignity and temporary control of an eyelid. “Fine.” She reaches out and pats his hand. “Good Shocking Boy. Info in your IM as we speak.” Sliding out of the booth, the back of his hand tingling like it’s been stung, he makes for the Risi District and enough alcohol to drown a land ship the size of the Gung. Maybe this time it’ll be enough to drown out the ugly mix of hate and need he gets from too close proximity to her. He makes a concerted effort to forget about the job before he’s even halfway there. At some point his IM will blip and Mim will squeak a reminder. Until then, f**k her, f**k everything. All he wants to do is drown.
To find out what happens next, pick up Escapology, out on 14 June in all good bookshops. Ebook also available.