In the Norcom Union, there are predators and prey. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise.
Xiao Mei is a normal high school girl: Naive, ambitious, and hyper-patriotic. For years, she’s dreamt of bringing glory to her family by becoming the first to ascend to Full Citizenship. After all, isn’t that what all residents of NorCap want? Thing is, ya can’t become a Citizen without assimilating into the Aether Network. Can’t assimilate without the tech. When that wetware clinic opened up near Xiao Mei’s school, the choice to go under the knife was really no choice at all. Now she’s joined the ranks of the augmented. The future is bright, and the opportunities limitless. If she had known the hidden cost of admission into this strange new world, she might have chosen differently.
Zhang Jun is a tech cultist from deep in The Exclusion Zone. His devotion to the brutal faith that drives his every action takes him and his crew through the walls of NorCap into Eastern Suncourt District. His mission? To hunt down and convert NorCap’s emerging class of augmented Citizens for the glory of his deity and assimilation into its hallowed Void Network. Now, he has a new target.
For Xiao Mei, it’s assimilate or die. The only question is: Which side will she assimilate into?
It took me a long time to really figure out who I was. I was kind of a typical rebel when I was younger. I grew up with ADHD and that made it hard to get through school. My mind was always wandering, always churning out ideas and adventures. Ever-disconnected from the moment, I dreamt relentlessly of being anywhere but where I was.
As a kid, my family moved around a lot. I was born in Utah, moved to San Jose as a baby, spent my first few years exploring the townhouse community where we lived and went to kindergarten there. We moved back to Utah and I developed a love for the desert and dirt-biking, moved to Oregon, and developed a love for the mountains and high-powered rifles, then back to Utah. As a result, I caught a serious case of wanderlust.
I couldn’t stand high school. My teachers and I got on great, and I had a lot of friends, but I needed room to grow and express myself. So, I graduated high school early with trade qualifications as a network engineer and let my boots take me where they would.
The oil fields in early-2000s Colorado was my first stop. I had a fascination with industrial machines and wanted to learn how they worked so I could incorporate them into my growing library of game mods for the popular Source SDK.
With the money I earned from working sixteen-hour days for a few months, those boots marched me onto an airplane and took me to Japan where I spent a year. I was an elementary school teacher by day and a barkeeper by night at a seedy Karaoke bar in downtown Kitakyushu. Every free moment was spent getting lost in the city, finding interesting spots to sketch, and seeking out the perfect tonkotsu ramen shop!
Just for the record, my favorite ended up being a noodle cart set up by an old man at four o’clock every morning for the office crowd outside of a shopping mall by Mojiko rail station. I was always his first customer on the nights I worked at the bar. He always gave me an extra boiled egg while we chatted.
Never satisfied, my boots got to itching, and I was off again. This time they took me to Beijing, China, where I spent the next eleven years. It was a whirlwind of motorcycles, business deals, late nights exploring the city, and tense days evading communist business rivals out for an easy way to shut me down. I learned more about myself during my time there than I ever realized there was to know about me. I love the city and its people, and I miss it bitterly.
It was also where I met my wife and the mother of my daughter.
Now I’m settled down in Salt Lake City with my family and our cat, writing novels and just trying to figure out how to be an American, again.
All in all, I couldn’t be more satisfied.
That phase of my life being over, I decided (with encouragement and support from friends and family) that it was time to share my stories with the world.
Please enjoy my writings. There may be flaws, and I am always striving to improve, but I wrote them just for you.