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Length: 315 pages4 hours



In 20018AD, Global Warming led to a sudden environmental holocaust. Those responsible, the world's political and social élite, built themselves two-mile-wide utopian biosphere’s called Shells. Meanwhile, outside the Shells, in a world increasingly gripped by famine and disease, billions of abandoned people were plunged into a new Dark Age. Some became Trodes; a growing techno-cult of ‘wireheads’ who believed software narcotics would help them to escape Earth through 'Ascension' into a virtual reality Heaven. Others built Zones; fortified colonies to protect them from the lethal gangs that began roaming the all-surrounding Dead Zone. Earth, its condition irreversible, was dying...

The Story (Dec, 2032AD):

It is now 2032AD. Lead scientists in the Los Angeles Shell have begun researching Virtual Reality technology. When they find an impossibly real VR simulation (in this instance, a computer generated subterranean environment full of ‘coffins’), an amorphous creature called the SIM materializes from the program, kills them, erases all evidence of the VR program’s existence, then leaves a doctored security tape showing a more ‘conventional’ attack.

Later that day, the normally unsavory decision to hire two ‘cops’ from the Zone 2 section of the city is made, because the Shell security tape shows the killer was a city spy. The spy, a Trode named Leo, has now escaped back to the city where he is believed to be hiding in the Trode Colony. The cops, Ray and Max, are ordered to help a Shell agent, named Gerner, to find him. But when Ray later sees Gerner kill Leo and Max, then turn into the SIM, he determines to find out what is really happening.

He finds a 'Juicer' that Leo had made (Juicers are software narcotics that Trodes get ‘high’ on, via cranial implants, in the hope of 'Ascending'). Using a conventional computer, he finds the simulated subterranean environment. He realizes he needs the Shell’s VR lab to explore it. After tricking Clare — a young Shell scientist who despises Ray because he is from the City — into letting him into the Shell’s VR lab, Ray enters and explores the impossibly real Juicer simulation. This leads to their discovery by the terrifying SIM, which once again emerges from the program, then chases Ray and Clare through the reality of the Shell’s streets.

They hide in a Shell cyber-cafe and, re-checking the Juicer, find Leo's 'video' diary. Leo outlines the 'incredible truth'; that the Juicer is a 'key' for access to reality. Earth, he states, is not real! It is a VR 'prison'. The SIM is its 'warden', and the real world — which Ray, Clare and Leo witnessed via the Juicer — is a post-apocalyptic Atlantis where Earth's remaining half billion inhabitants, including themselves, were cryo-frozen 10,000 year ago!

Ray and Clare escape to the Dead Zone while trying to evade the omnipotent SIM. Once there, they use VR to escape to the subterranean cryo-center of reality. But there they discover that the SIM has decided that Earth has become a threat to its masters, the Atlantan Founders (who occupy another program — the 'cyberspace Heaven' that the Trodes seek), and so 'erasure' of Earth and the minds of its half billion inhabitants has begun.

In the last Act, Ray and Clare unite to save Mankind (having finally put aside their bigotry and hatred for each other in favor of a growing attraction). As ‘erasure’, in the form of a huge “black-hole-like” wall, sweeps across Earth's surface and erases everything in its path, Ray returns to Earth to find a way to save everyone. With Clare’s help, he succeeds, and half a billion people are released from their cryo-freezers. As the underground 'cryo-machine' self-destructs, killing the Atlantan Founders, everyone else evacuates to the surface which they discover, having been unoccupied by humans for 10,000 years, has re-achieved environmental harmony and become the perfect place for Humankind to begin again...

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