Essex City

Planar sealed the door. For a few moments, nothing seemed to happen. Anna noticed an alert on her visor. The display showed that her suit had stopped heating operations to conserve power. Then a familiar hiss of atmosphere penetrated their suits and the exit panel glowed green.

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Corey OstmanMars Descent
Jailbreak

Martin brought his right hand to his holster and adjusted it, maneuvering his backup phasewave to a more comfortable position. Martin observed, with satisfaction, that the concierge stared at the weapon, too.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Geneville

Where once was rolling prairie, now squatted a hodgepodge of plastic sheeting, corrugated metal, and stacked earthen blocks. The structures were imitations of proper buildings, seemingly thrown together with whatever scraps Port Casper discarded.

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Corey OstmanPodPooch
In The Network

When Grace inserted the gel, his gel, into ITB’s network, Tim’s first sensation was of the smooth, polished public persona of the Italitech-Bransen company, Tadi Varghese. He stretched deeper into the network and heard echoes of a speech Varghese made last quarter. The accent bothered him. The words sounded like Varghese, but the accent was wrong. Wasn’t it?

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Tim's Lie

Raj shook his head, giving up. Tim always turned his appearance into a game. The more Raj fought, the more ludicrous Tim became. The last time they left during the day, Tim went as a dachshund in a wiener costume.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Implant

Grace’s heart raced as she looked at the pulse gun. The metarm dove under the skin of her right forearm, presumably anchored to her bones. Another gleaming piece of metal encircled her wrist and provided a pivot for aiming.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Repair

Grace floated in darkness. Phantasms of wispy blues and greens moved beyond her reach. If she concentrated hard enough, she saw shapes. She watched a green frog, but it rippled and she realized she was looking at a clam through green water.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Highway

Hours later, Grace arrived at the main highway outside Cloister Eleven. She wore a bandage around her head with a widening spot of blood on her left temple. She limped, favoring her knee, lugging her duffel as she crossed to the east side of the road. A sign pointed the way to destinations north.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Deploy

Maud walked out onto the ITB sky bridge. It was a cool, calm Wyoming night. She reached into her safecase and activated a loafer. It had no mission, so its navigation and propulsion kept it stationary in mid-air. Maud checked its systems, then downloaded an assignment from her ptenda into the L-4R661. A moment later, the loafer sailed off into the haze of city lights.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
The Search

Raj stopped in the alley and leaned against a wall. He let out several heavy, wheezing hacks and gulped air into his lungs. The fire in his chest burned and every breath afterwards stung a thousand pinpricks in his throat: a present from the sooty duct they had used to enter the last building. Their mimic clothes had kept them clean. Raj wished he could say the same for his lungs.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Spaceport

All too soon, they were at the spaceport entrance. Less than an hour ago, Grace had been waking up, pinching the skin of her arm like her graft had been a dream. Now she was going to Mars. Was she still dreaming?

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Transport

Grace followed the signs for transports. She knew that somewhere nearby, six-seat autonomous transports arrived, scanned her destination broadcast, and allowed her to board if the route didn’t cause the arrival times of other passengers to deviate too much. A couple of dozen commuters from the Frawley piled out of other lifts and joined her. She wondered if any might work at ITB. She followed the crowd.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Bod Town

Bod Town. A roach that attached itself to a shining princess. The mechflesh junkies of Bod Town had a culture of competition. Upgrades were envied, copied, surpassed. Literally empowered by their lust for tech, the junkies worked for whatever contract would give them the means for more modification.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
The Tunnel

“Not that way, either,” Avonaco huffed. He pressed a hand against the wall next to the medical pod. There was a click followed by a swishing sound as a small door swung outward. Beyond it was a dark tunnel, with hints of metal surfacing.

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Corey OstmanPodPooch
Escape Bod Town

Ahead was the neighborhood behind Raj’s. Unlike the heart of Bod Town with its dream castles, this area had smaller, older shops. Places where she could duck into, elude compstate should the need arise. And Tim was hundreds of times more stealthy than she because his mimic coat could look like anything, including the pile of metarm junk she saw to her left. Vaulting over the scrap pile, she headed down an alley.

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Corey OstmanMechflesh
Exercise

Grace emerged from the Frawley as the sun lit the top of the buildings. She smiled as she faced east, her belly full of nuts and unseasonal fruit. Her old academy clothes, black and lightweight, were still good for exercise if nothing else. Grace started to run.

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Corey OstmanPort Casper
Jaya, Arise

Avonaco held vigil by the medical pod, his cheek resting against its transparent canopy, his gaze locked on the operation inside. Procedure by procedure, the pod dutifully executed his instructions.

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Corey OstmanPodPooch