Read Torn (Cold Awakening) Online
Authors: Robin Wasserman
“A convincing and imaginative dystopia that her characters fill with action and a wide range of human emotion.”
“A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. The ending will leave readers pondering the nature of humanity.”
“This is one of the best final-book-in-a-series I have ever read.”
“The twist-filled payoff I had been hoping for all along.”
ALSO BY ROBIN WASSERMAN
The Cold Awakening trilogy
The Seven Deadly Sins series
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales o r persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
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First Simon Pulse paperback edition October 2011
Copyright © 2010 by Robin Wasserman
Previously published as
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Designed by Mike Rosamilia
The text of this book was set in Edlund.
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Wired / by Robin Wasserman
Sequel to: Crashed.
Summary: Lia is back at home, pretending to be the perfect daughter, but she has become the public face of the mechs, devoting her life to convincing the world that she and others like her deserve to exist, until shocking truths are revealed, forcing her to make a life-changing decision.
ISBN 978-1-4169-7454-3 (hc)
[1. Science fiction.] I. Title.
ISBN 978-1-4169-3636-7 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-4224-3361-8 (eBook)
For my parents, Barbara and Michael Wasserman, who did everything right.
(Though I never did get a puppy.)
Chapter 14: For Your Protection
All moveables of wonder, from all parts,
The Bust that speaks and moves its goggling eyes,
The Wax-work, Clock-work, all the marvellous craft
Of modern Merlins, Wild Beasts, Puppet-shows,
All out-o’-the-way, far-fetched, perverted things,
All freaks of nature, all Promethean thoughts
Of man, his dulness, madness, and their feats
All jumbled up together, to compose
A Parliament of Monsters. …
Humans are machines of the angels.
“Just make them love you.”
his is not real.
“This is real,” I said, because the voice in my head ordered me to say it.
Because machines follow orders, and I am a machine.
This is not me.
“This is me,” I said. Because I was programmed to lie.
You see everything, but you get nothing.
“What you see is what you get,” I said, and I smiled.
You see: Perfect lips drawn back in a perfect smile. Perfect skin pulled taut over a perfect body.
You see: Hands that grasp, legs that stretch, eyes that understand.
You see a machine that plays the part she was built to play. You see a dead girl walking. You see a freak, a transgression, a sin,
a hero. You see a mech; you see a skinner. You see what you want to see.
You don’t see me.
“So it doesn’t bother you, millions of people watching your every move?” the interviewer asked. She was sweating under the camera lights. I wasn’t. Machines neither sweat nor shiver; we endure. This interviewer had a reputation for wringing tears from all her interview subjects, but in my case it would be easier to get a toaster to cry. So something else was needed. Extra feeling from her, to make up for my lack. Shining eyes welling with liquid, rosy cheeks at opportune moments for anger or passion, a shudder for effect when we passed through the really gory parts: the aftermath of the accident, the uploading of spongy brain matter into sterile hardware, the death and reawakening. I had to admit her act was better than mine. But then, pretending to be human is easier when you actually are.
“You don’t feel like you need to put on an act for us? Keep something private, something only for you?”
Artificial neural synapses fired, and electrical impulses shot through artificial conduits, zapped artificial nerves. My perfect shoulders shrugged. My perfect forehead wrinkled in the perfect approximation of human emotion.
“Why would I?” I said.
It had been fifteen days. Fifteen days of posing and preening under their cameras, mouthing their words, following their orders. Burrowing deeper into my own head, desperate for some
hidden refuge that their cameras couldn’t penetrate, somewhere dark and empty and safe that belonged only to me.
“After all, I have nothing to hide.”
“I’ll be fine,” I said flatly. I’d had voices in my head before. One of the many perks of being a machine: the potential for
“improvements.” Like a neural implant that would let me speak silently to other mechs, and hear their voices in my head. Like infrared vision and internal GPS and all the other inhuman modifications I’d had stripped away when I moved back in with my org parents and my org sister and pretended to return to my org life. Like I could close my eyes, make a wish, and suddenly be
again, suddenly be the living, breathing Lia Kahn that had gotten into that car a year ago, pulled onto the highway, slammed into a shipping truck, and been blown into a million burned, bloody pieces.
“The commands will feed directly into your auditory system, and it’ll sound like the voice is coming from inside your head,” Ben said, giving the equipment one final check like the perpetual employee-of-the-week I knew him to be. BioMax’s best mender of broken mechs—mender, fixer, occasionally builder, but, as he was always careful to clarify, not doctor. Doctors tended to real, live orgs, and Ben fixed broken-down machines who only looked human. These last six months, every single thing in my life had changed and changed again, everything except for Ben, who was a constant: same tacky flash suits, same waxy hair, same plastic good looks. Same fake-modesty shtick, as in
Aw, shucks, I’m no one important, no one to be afraid of, certainly no one who’d keep secrets from you and manipulate you and blackmail you and hold the power of life and death over your remarkably lifelike head; I’m just a guy, like any other, so you can call me Ben.
“Some people get disoriented by the voice—”
“I want to make sure you understand how everything’s going to work,” call-me-Ben said, always pushing. “Once things start, we’re not going to have a chance to talk like this.”
“What a shame.”
He ignored me. “So if you have any questions, it’s best to ask—”
“If Lia says she’ll be fine, she’ll be
.” That was Kiri Napoor, director of public relations and my own personal liaison to the BioMax powers that be. She caught my eye and winked, Kiri-speak for
I know he’s lame; just go with it.
Kiri was my watchdog, assigned to make sure I kept both feet on the company line. When they’d first told me about her, I’d imagined a female version of call-me-Ben, some puffbag of hot air with a tacky weave and skin pulled watertight from one too many lift-tucks, a nag who would follow me around all day, tattling back to her BioMax overlords every time I opened my mouth. Instead she turned out to be
, with her sleek purple
hair, perma-smirk, impeccable taste (retroslum shift dress paired with networked boots flashing mangarock vids, that first time I saw her), and enough of a punk twist to make her look cool without even trying.
“You say you want to help the mechs,” she’d said, that first day. “So I trust you to do that. I’m not here to spy on you; I’m here to help you.”
It was pretty much the same line call-me-Ben had been feeding me ever since I’d signed on to the BioMax cause. But when Kiri said it, something in her voice suggested she thought as little of the corp as I did, and felt the same about the crap spewing out of her mouth. Then she’d kicked call-me-Ben out of the room, telling him that from now on if he wanted to bother me, he’d have to bother her first. That sealed the deal.
Kiri was the only reason I’d gone along with this stupid idea to begin with. It had been hers, which meant it couldn’t be all bad. At least that’s what I’d let myself believe when she talked me into it.
Guesting in a vidlife meant wiring myself with micro-cams and mics, ensuring that anyone who wanted could track my every move. Worse, it meant playing whatever part my audience wanted to give me. The perfect blend of scripted melodrama and absolute 24/7 reality, that’s how they had advertised it when vidlifes first started popping up. Your favorite characters mouthing
lines, dosing on
favorite b-mod, hooking up with
choice of guy, running their lives by your rules and ruining their lives for your personal entertainment.