The world has an addiction. Augmenting reality - augmenting ourselves - averted a looming energy crisis, but it has become something more than that. Overnight equality, says the slogan, and what’s a decade or two between advertisers?

We redefined what it means to be human, and bought our own bullshit retail.

But the physical world still exists, however much we stare into the infinite. People yet remain, living outside the reality bubbles we create. And so do the consequences of our inattention.

Character introductions

Hahana

Hahana is old. This isn’t how she defines herself, but it is chronological fact, and she is at peace with it. It isn’t the “old” of those who have forsaken their humanity, selling themselves for a slice of eternity. It is the “old” of a person who has lived with the land, for the land; who has let it carve calluses in her skin and sigils on her soul. Her children are gone. Her grandchildren, too. They just don’t realise it yet. But she remains. And she is the last guardian of this place.

Unless she follows her family.

Gordon (the thief)

Gordon only borrowed the horse. That’s what they all said, apparently. But even if he had been going to keep it, that hardly warranted a hanging. It definitely didn’t warrant two hangings.

Coral (the android)

Coral hasn’t been awake for very long. She shouldn’t be awake at all. The world has moved on while she slept, leaving her and her kind as figments of a broken past. And people, it turns out, aren’t too partial to myths when they show up looking for help.

She knows what should be. She is learning what is. Her sisters are scattered, she hopes, but she has a plan to find them - if only she can break the laws that bind her.

Sia

The ocean calls to Sia. It is one thing to live upon it, another to feel that urge. She wants to dive from the edge of the city, to plunge down into the murky waters beneath its rigid mass and find something - anything - primal. She wants to explore, to build and shape, like people used to.

Adventure, old Mikael would say, the stuff of stories. Nothing for a child to wish for. And his words make sense.

But still, the ocean calls.

About the science

For now, I’ll say the story involves several developing and plausible future technologies, ranging from near-future robotics, VR and augmented reality systems to medium-term nano-tech, artificial intelligence, and the "prediction net" introduced in the sample chapter.

Behind the story

Phase Three was inspired by a very simple question: How does an indigenous people (or any people whose identity is tied to the land) cope with a wholesale shift into virtual and augmented realities?

I wrote a short story that grappled with that scenario, but readers came back dissatisfied. The story ended in ambiguity, and they felt I had left too much implicit. It would, they suggested, make a great opening chapter for a novel. And so I picked up the story again a month later, and started to write. And new characters emerged, and with them additional implications to explore...

I am over halfway through the first draft at the moment, and it is coming together almost too easily. I’m still waiting for the catch, but the outline is done, the plot arcs are tight, the science is holding up (the benefit of a roboticist spouse) and the characters are really, really fun to work with.

I’d be hugely excited to bring this novel to completion - and will be doing so, either way - but a mandate from eager supporters would help me to prioritise it over my other work(s) in progress.

About me

For the record: I admit no first-hand knowledge of horse-thievery.

I do have an amateur background as a science and computer geek, but in two years of undergrad biotechnology I learned that I lacked the patience for lab work, vastly preferred applied science/engineering to advancing theory, and preferred writing still more. I completed a BA in English and Classical Studies, and worked in editing, journalistic and project management roles before establishing my own communication company.

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, with a genius wife and a less-than-genius but adorable labrador. Aside from reading and writing, I enjoy motorcycling, hiking, cooking, gaming, kayaking and photography.

This is my first (hopeful) publication with Inkshares, and my first attempt at the pre-order approach. I currently have three books available on Amazon: The Lonely Stars, a sequence of Shakespearean sonnets; The Truth Is in Here, a dark comedy novella; and the first volume in an urban fantasy series, The Fallen Shepherd Saga. In September 2014 I was a prizewinning finalist in the Hugh Howey Booktrack Fan Fiction Competition. I have also been short-listed in regional poetry competitions and events, and currently have three novels (including this one) under way. Shorter fiction, poetry and updates can be found at inklings.co.nz