The year is 2746.
Centuries earlier, a worldwide financial crisis brought about by online terrorism saw the fall of the United States. Four nations have risen from the ashes of America, divided along lines of ideology and geography: The East became known as The Eastern Seaboard; The South adopted the name The Confederation; the middle of the country is now simply Texas; and the West, where our story takes place, is now called Apotheosis.
Isidore RAM is a hexer: a hacker working as a Sister of the Circuit for the Church of Technology. One night during her rounds in the virtual world known as the Grid, the code mysteriously changes around her, sparking a mystery that leads her from the digital landscape into a dystopic cyberpunk Orange County. Isidore is forced headlong into a world of intrigue that results from the death of her mentor and the search for something called “Artifacts”. Along the way she befriends a mech gang leader more interested in selling the artifacts Isidore finds than studying them. Together they must answer the most important question of their lives: What is Cri-Lux?
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Who am I? I am the author of Deus Hex Machina and Shadow of the Owl (out now at your favorite bookstore). When I’m not writing I am most often found gaming with my husband, cooking with my son, or reading in a comfy corner of our Toney, AL home. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter, on Facebook, and here on Inkshares.
If you ask anyone at the monastery about Isidore RAM, the first word that will come up is devoted. There is no shortage of faith within the cloister of the sisters of the Circuit, but within Isidore there is no capacity for doubt. They doubt that she even knows the word. To her the church is all, partly because she was placed within the cloister before she could even walk. The sisters were her family more than the single mother who bore her, and the cloister her only home. More than anything she wants to promote the message of the Circuit, to keep the peace and do the will of Technology. So when she is faced with a test of her faith -- with the idea that things might be happening in the world that cannot be explained by technology -- she must do whatever she can to disprove this by any means. It’s this drive that keeps her going even when others say stop, because deep inside her, under the layers of faith, there is a tiny seed of doubt. Because if the world is built by technology, why is so much of it organic?
From the time that he was able to stand, Daxas Piers was running. At first he ran from a father whose thirst for drink was only equaled by his need to vent his frustrations out on his children. Later he ran from the long arm of the law, running the streets in search of food and companionship. Once he had found the crew, he finally had a reason to stop running – well, maybe stop is a bit of an exaggeration. Dax fell in love, not with any woman, but with the Machina – the gargantuan machines the crew rode, and felt at last there was something worth sticking around for. His crew brothers became his family, and he would do anything for them, and often does. Because his crew fought for him when no one else would, they are the most important thing in his life. He doesn’t have time for women or for causes. Life in the crew is all he has and all he wants. So when he is thrown in with a devout hexer with a mystery to solve, suddenly he sees that there might be something worth fighting for outside his crew, and suddenly his heart is torn. Is there room enough in Dax’s heart for love of the girl and love of the crew, or will he have to keep running until he finds someplace he can call home?
Evite Motherboard should have been a politician, but she was unfortunately born with the wrong gender. Instead her overbearing father dropped her off at the cloister at age 12, never to speak to her again. More than anything, she just wants to earn her father’s respect, and so rose through the ranks of the Sisterhood of the Circuit quicker than any Motherboard before her. She was their best hexer, their best leader, the best of them. And still, she never felt it enough. She was using the Church of Technology to fill a void too large to fill. Still, she was talented, and took it upon her to protect her charges with the rule of law. Then she starts hearing word of large sections of the Grid are being changed, against the mandate of the Church and artifacts begin showing up in the real world bearing striking resemblance to the errant code online. Evite knows that if she doesn’t do something soon everything she’s worked for could be destroyed. And so she fights, knowing that if she ever lets down her guard, she will fail not only the Church she leads, but her father as well. And failure is not an option.
In a family of six children, all boys, you learn to fight or you get used to being beaten. Bushnell hated being beaten, and so even though he was the youngest of his brothers, he was easily the strongest of the lot. His family soon realized that the violence within him would need to be trained lest it become destructive, and so sent their little terror to military boarding school. There Bushnell learned the vicious brutality of children, as well as how to hide rage under a façade of calm. The result was a man who knew how to hide his emotions, but never to control them. During school he was recruited by the Church who gleaned only the most disciplined killers and used them to hunt their own. The Church taught him that if he obeyed he would not be beaten and tortured, and Bushnell hated being beaten, and so he learned that lesson quickly. Years of turning off his emotions have left him as hollow as his stare, and so when he meets his latest assignment, the vibrant Isidore, it takes him a while to recognize the stirrings of feeling within him. And once it does dawn on him what is happening, he has a difficult choice to make: Give into emotion and risk execution, or do the Church’s duty and kill off the only creature he has ever loved.
Clover ENUM has lived her life with only one purpose: To serve the Circuit. Growing up knowing she was meant for great things, Clover rose through the ranks quickly, outdistancing her fellow hexers and becoming the youngest Sister of the Circuit on record since the Motherboard herself. But it only takes one slip up to end a career in the Church of Technology, and Clover’s whole world was fractured the day she failed her mission. Ousted from her position, she was sent off to where every failed hexer goes: The same place where they all come from. Scarred physically and mentally, Clover escaped from tragedy a survivor vowing never to deal with the Church again. But the past has now arrived on her doorstep, literally, in the form of Isidore RAM. Will she take the chance to wreak havoc on the Church that rejected her, or keep her simple, invisible life just the way she likes it? Or will she let her dark secret drive her to an even more desperate act?