Vynessa Somerton was just a girl when she learned about true evil. An encounter with the tyrannical Corporation scarred her body and exiled her to the crime-ridden S-District. Now an adult, Vyn creates glamours, worn by those who visit a virtual playground to live synthetic dreams. She's tried to stay unnoticed by the Corporation, but her latest invention has brought their agents to her door.
Paul Cross works for the Corporation, but he's been plotting their downfall since they took his brother and replaced him with an imposter. Paul has a plan to get his brother back, but he's going to need Vyn and her invention to carry it out.
Vyn agrees to help Paul, but their alliance shatters the barriers she's put up to protect herself, tempting her to give in to desire. Just as Vyn starts to trust Paul and believe he wants her, scars and all, the Corporation prepares for its final move. Can Vyn trust Paul completely, or has he been using her all along?
Wearing another body...itched.
Vyn pushed back her shoulders, the movement of her false skin a torment of light nails down her spine. It was a design flaw she needed to work on. Still, it wouldn't stop her first trial use. She couldn't help herself, not when it was so damn close to being perfect.
Simulacrum was the holy grail of the low-level skanks, of which she was now one, and others were close to solving its manufacture. It had driven her over the last few days. She had to be first. She had a reputation as a Fomorian to uphold.
The upper tier of the Mind--in the form of the Corporation's most exclusive club--wrapped around her, feeling to her false skin as real as the cold-world beyond the server-generated walls. It was a short test. In and out. The club was the first virtual layer, a lobby area to the Halls. And no amount of confidence in her disguise would take her into their depravity. The insanely rich could keep those joys to themselves.
The air brushed warmth against her bared shoulders. The heavy scent of polish, the musk of perfumes, the wreath of smoke from cigars and cigarettes smelled as real as the industrial burn of the outside world. Soft notes of music threaded around the silk-walled room, mixing with the chatter of the club's ultra-rich clientele.
Vyn sat back on her padded bar stool and picked up her drink. So far, so good. She'd entered via the upper-tier portal with no issues. When she was ready, she'd thank her friend Ossian for aiding her with that. Men had gaped as she broke free of the bright air of the arched entrance portal, but she was confident it was for the reason she wanted. Look at the gloss...don't see the technology.
She stirred the olive in her martini and flicked a glance at the long mirror stretching across the bar. A pneumatic blonde in a clinging red dress stared back at her, her features sculpted, her lips red and pouting. Those who came to the Mind never came as themselves. Not really, even though the Corporation had banned the wearing of disguise. Hints of glamour tightened sagging middles, lifted jawlines, removed bags. The Corporation made money on selling the legal versions of glamour. She made money on the not so legal.
To the trained eye, the changes wrought in their flesh were obvious. Legal glamour was tagged. It was as if they wore labels. Discreet, but there. Even illegal glamour left a pattern against skin and clothes if you knew what you were looking for.
A smile lifted her lips. Simulacrum was different.
And the Corporation feared it. With her gear, they couldn't fix her true identity within the Mind, which would break down their operation, undermining the faith every individual and company placed in the virtual reality they'd created.
To everyone in the club, she appeared real, untouched, untainted by gear. A true representation. The true woman. They'd believe she was as perfect in the cold-world. That thought made her sultry smile deepen. It couldn't be any further from the truth.
Vyn curled a long blond strand around her finger, its silky feel fighting with the pricking of the ill-fitting simulacrum. She lifted her chin, watching her image move in the mirror. Pins jabbed her real flesh. Yes, it still needed work. She hadn't found perfection just yet.
Movement in the mirror pulled her attention away from her reflection. A man drew back the metal stool next to her and waved at the loitering barman. His gaze slid over hers, brief and unseeing, and moved on. Security. She ignored the quick, panicked twist of her gut. He hadn't made her. But--something about him was familiar.