QSFer James Wake has a new queer cyberpunk book out: “The Sapphire Shadow.”
Nadia was born the heiress to a corporate empire, destined for a life of wealth and privilege in what used to be America. But she never had any interest in running things; happy to spend her days shoplifting, street racing, and doing whatever drugs she could get her hands on.
Until the day her father was euthanized, anyway.
Running away wasn’t good enough. Hiding would only delay the inevitable. A career in theft and burglary sounded much more appealing, not to mention how the very thought would positively enrage her mother. With the help of her old classmate Tess, a reclusive genius who designed and built her own right arm, Nadia embarks on a life of high-tech heists. Not to steal jewels or gold, but instead the real wealth of her digital era—information. Secrets. Evidence.
After all, what better way could there be to destroy her family’s empire?
The Sapphire Shadow is a science-fiction cyberpunk novel of the near future, set in an America fractured into rival nation-states ravaged by climate change. In a city owned and run by an all-powerful corporation, an unlikely heroine sets out on a spiteful quest of revenge, ready to die if it means destroying everything her family has built. But an even unlikelier romance could show her that there still is some hope, even in a broken world.
It was ugly, really.
She stared at herself in a small mirror, the gem around her neck barely catching her eye.
“Stunning,” the salesman said. “That color is perfect for you.”
She ignored him. He didn’t know what he was talking about. The gem on this necklace was too big and tawdry. Not at all like the simple, elegant silver thing a few inches farther down the display, with diamonds so small and clear they looked like pinpricks of light running down the chain.
It had caught her eye the moment she’d walked in. She hadn’t once looked at it since.
“I’ll take it,” she said, eyes still on the mirror and showing the salesman a perfectly forged smile.
“I’ll get the case then.” He stepped away. He didn’t seem to suspect a thing.
She rested her purse on the display case, just so, her hand fast and precise. When the man returned, nothing appeared out of place.
The glass lit up, a bill and scanner appearing over the more expensive pieces locked up below.
That much? she thought. For this garbage?
She didn’t shake her head or roll her eyes or betray any hint of what she was thinking. Instead she dug a card out of her bag and pushed it across the glass display case.
It was important to buy something. No one was ever suspicious of a paying customer. Most customers paid using a tiny chip in their wrist, invisible under the skin. She had a small scar instead.
“Thank you, Miss…Nadia,” the salesman said. Still smiling but his eyes were hollow. Customer service eyes. Or maybe it was just the retinal implants.
With practiced nonchalance, Nadia took off the ugly necklace and let the man case it up for her. A few long, agonizing moments later, she stepped outside into the city.
Her city. Her home.
A healthy stream of people flowed down the stark pavement of the sidewalk. Nadia melded into them, just another fashionably dressed young woman shopping downtown. One of many wearing this season’s latest, hers being a slim white trench coat with a sweeping scarlet “A” spiraling down one sleeve. This was the fashion district, after all.
Stretching up the glass-paneled side of a skyscraper, an ad reminded her that she was in an urban redevelopment zone owned by Auktoris Global Funds, Inc. Celebrating twenty years of their reclaimed city. The ad flickered, replaced by a cartoon cat’s face with a smile full of sinister teeth, grinning over the words TWENTY YEARS OF SLAVERY LOL.
Nadia ignored it—as did everyone else—ignored it as steadily as she ignored the small drone hovering a few feet over them, clicking dozens of times a second as it collected face scans.
Her own face was calm. Nothing to see there at all, no reason for anyone to look at her tiny pleased smirk. In her bag, her fingers curled around the simple, elegant silver necklace, with tiny brilliant diamonds running down its length.
James Wake is a guy in California with a boring desk job who prefers to stay as anonymous as possible. As anonymous as it is possible to be while writing LGBTQ+ science fiction, but still.
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/WakeBooks