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Authors: Gabel,Claudia

Etherworld

BOOK: Etherworld
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Advance Reader's e-proof

courtesy of
HarperCollins Publishers

This is an advance reader's e-proof made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs. Readers are reminded that changes may be made prior to publication, including to the type, design, layout, or content, that are not reflected in this e-proof, and that this e-pub may not reflect the final edition. Any material to be quoted or excerpted in a review should be checked against the final published edition. Dates, prices, and manufacturing details are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

HarperCollins Publishers

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UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

HarperCollins Publishers

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DEDICATION

To Sadie and Lily, the best daughters and fans ever

Contents

COVER

DISCLAIMER

TITLE

DEDICATION

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY CLAUDIA GABEL AND CHERYL KLAM

COPYRIGHT

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

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Contact: Leslie Hartwick
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tab: 313-555-8001
 
InstaComm:
[email protected]/NET
 

HOTTEST APP IN AMERICA APPROVED BY

CENTER FOR INTERFACE TECHNOLOGIES

Elusion Slated for National Release by the End of April

Tech giant Orexis announced today that its most popular product to date, Elusion, has received the Center for Interface Technologies seal of approval, granting the company permission to sell the app on the U.S. open market.

Invented by the late programming specialist David Welch, then refined by his young protégé, Patrick Simmons, Elusion transports users to a virtual reality where they can enjoy a variety of Utopian-type landscapes, all within the comfort and privacy of their own minds. The app is administrated through three combined components, known as the Equip: a visor, earbuds, and wristband work in tandem to redirect brainwaves through trypnosis, allowing the user to Escape to hundreds of destinations.

As of today, Orexis has sold 4.2 million units in three test cities—Detroit, Los Angeles, and Miami—and first-week sales projections post–national release are close to nine million. Elusion has been named “the most anticipated virtual reality app of the year” by fifteen top-rated journals and magazines, including the
MIT Review
.

“Now more than ever, people need a respite from the polluted environment and Standard 7 work schedules,” said CEO Cathryn Simmons at a recent press conference. “With Elusion, it's never been easier to get away! The app truly is a must-have for people who crave both relaxation and a little bit of adventure.”

Orexis is a Fortune 500 company specializing in the development of cutting-edge technology that strives to change the face of modern society. Orexis continues to lead the industry with award-winning devices, including the Florapetro refinery tool “XPet,” and the “Zimmel” laser pen. Orexis also recently announced a military contract with the US Department of Defense.

###

If you would like more information, or to schedule an interview with Leslie Hartwick, contact James Donovan at 313-555-8025 or InstaComm James at [email protected]/NET.

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The Los Angeles Record

Breaking News Alerts

New Lead in Missing Teens Case

by Rosanna Rodriguez

Local police are working on a solid lead in the case of three teens missing since mid-March: Claire Wilberstein, 19, a freshman at UCLA; Piper Lewis, 15, of Wilshire; and Wyatt Krissoff, 17, of Inglewood.

A witness, who does not wish to be named, has come forth identifying all three kids as part of a secret “E-fiend” society that frequently met inside an abandoned warehouse in Gardena, allegedly to hack into their Equips and interfere with Elusion's safety settings so they could stay inside the virtual world for longer time intervals.

“They were addicted,” said the witness, a shipping and receiving clerk at a nearby business, who watched the kids as they frequently entered and left the site. “Every time I saw them, they looked sicker and sicker. Like they hadn't eaten or slept in days.”

This is not the first report of teen users reengineering their Equips in order to increase their doses of trypnosis. Photos of IV bags, pills, mattresses, and Equip parts taken in a Detroit warehouse were made public soon after Anthony Caldwell, the seventeen-year-old son of a suburban high school principal, was found in a coma, allegedly from an unconfirmed Elusion overdose. Caldwell recently died. The attributed cause was a form of brain damage that has doctors baffled.

Police turned up items that belong to the teens in the Gardena warehouse. Similar evidence has been discovered at a similar location in Detroit.

“It's too early to say what this all adds up to, but if anyone has additional information on these kids, we ask that they call our hotline,” Captain Victor Grassi said.

Cecily Wilberstein, one victim's mother, expressed hope that her daughter will be found unharmed. “I just want my Claire back home, where she belongs.”

Patrick Simmons, chief product designer at Orexis, the manufacturer of Elusion, could not be reached for comment.

However, Avery Leavenworth, host of the popular vlog
AveryTruStory
, spoke on the record: “Elusion is a menace to society. It's only a matter of time before the truth comes out. I just hope nobody else dies before it does,” she said.

Her statement comes despite a court injunction against her site, issued on behalf of Orexis.

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ONE

“THERE IT IS, REGAN,” MY FATHER SAYS, pointing to a mountain range made out of great heaps of soot. “The way out of Elusion is hidden in those hills.”

The wind blows a funnel of dust in front of us. Patches of fog linger in the air, creating shapes that appear and vanish like ghosts. The sky here is forever dark and cloudless, with hints of light coming from a moon that never seems to appear. Still, I can see a glow of determination in my dad's pale eyes as he examines the area around us, like he's about to lead a charge across a battlefield.

And he is, in a sense. There are fourteen people trapped inside this dismal, virtual world, trying to get back home. But right now it's just the two of us, and when I look at him, I'm grateful he's alive. For months, I thought he had burned to death in a HyperSoar crash over the Florapetro-clogged skies of Detroit, but all this time he's been locked inside the program he created.

“It's weird,” I say, looking at the steep mounds of ash that seem to move back and forth with the blink of an eye. “Sometimes the hills look like they're right in front of us, other times far away.”

“I know. It's hard to trust what you see,” my dad says. He stares at the rocky path, which looks like jagged granite. The desolate, charred landscape of Etherworld is so different from the beauty of Elusion, which my dad designed so people could escape our polluted, overcrowded world and experience nature. With just an app, earbuds, a visor, and a wristband, Elusion provided an escape from the drudgery of everyday life. “I just want to get everyone home before anyone gets seriously hurt,” he says.

I think back to the first time he took me to Elusion. How we jumped off a cliff and soared through the fresh, clean air on hang gliders, the sun sparkling above the river below us. He told me that nothing could ever harm me inside Elusion, but he was wrong. Elusion can cause addiction, hallucinations, and maybe even death. But I can't bring myself to tell him about the worst of it just yet. A part of me just doesn't want to spoil the feeling of relief I've felt since I found out he was alive.

So instead I say, “I know.”

My dad wants us all to be safe, and we are, at least temporarily. Etherworld, a virtual dimension located behind the firewalls of my father's Elusion domain, offers such low stimuli that our minds are preserved in a suspended state with zero brain activity. That's why colors look so faded here. Although I can still see a hint of brown in my dad's hair, his eyes are translucent, void of any pigment.

Another gust of wind whips around us, and I shield my eyes from the silver particles floating on the breeze like radioactive snow.

“Are you sure you're okay?” he asks, worried. “Maybe we should've stayed at camp and given you a chance to get acclimated.”

“I'm fine,” I say, a little embarrassed. Josh and the others have all seemed to adapt to this environment pretty easily. But with me it's been the exact opposite. Every time I tried to make it out of bed, I was overcome with body aches, chills, and fatigue. “It feels like I've been sleeping for days,” I say. “How long have I been here?”

“I wish I knew,” he says, gazing up at the dark sky. “There's no way to keep track of the time. I guess I should've designed a sun . . .”

“Or moon,” I say.

He flashes a tired smile, and hesitates as if there's something else he wants to say. After a moment, he turns back toward the path and says, “Are you sure you're feeling up to this?”

“Yes, I want to help,” I say. Everyone else is out working at some place my father calls “the mines,” preparing to carry out an escape plan that he hasn't told me much about. While we've had some nice moments together as he's nursed me back to health, he hasn't really explained what his strategy is, probably because he doesn't want to overwhelm me.

But I can be here for him, if he'll just let me.

“You're still recovering from those delta-wave episodes,” he says. “I don't want to push you.”

“I'm okay. Promise. You don't have to worry.”

“It's my job,” he says. “I started worrying the day you were born.”

“I can take care of myself. I managed to figure out all those signs of yours and find you here, didn't I?”

My dad gives me a look, like this is the last thing he wants to talk about. “I've never doubted how strong you are,” he says softly.

I grin at him.

“The mines are just across that bridge,” he says, motioning toward a wooden plank in the distance. From here it looks at least a hundred feet long.

We walk another fifty yards or so, and the bridge is there, in front of us. “Be careful crossing,” my dad warns.

When he sees me sigh, he says, “I have a right to worry. There are deep cracks in the surface.”

He's right. The bridge isn't very wide and doesn't have any railings. It sways with the wind, as if it might break free from the side of the hill. At least the fog makes it impossible to see how far we'd fall.

BOOK: Etherworld
6.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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