Kimberly Unger The Extractionist is about a woman who does just that: extract people. Of virtual space, It is. But at the same time his hacking skills are unmatched, sometimes its targets don’t want to be deleted â and sometimes its customers prove dangerously traitor to face. io9 has a first look at this exciting new tale, which will be released next July.
Here’s a description of the story to give you a little more context:
Underground hacker Eliza McKay is one of the best in the virtual space where people create characters who can interact in the form of data. When wealthy or important people get stuck in the Swim – for shady, illegal, or just plain bad luck – it’s McKay’s job to extract them. And McKay’s job has become much more dangerous.
While on a mission to Singapore, McKay is pointed out by an investigative team led by Ellie Brighton. Brighton is in desperate need of their corporate boss from Swim. Brighton Rose’s tech brute-force hacking tactics have already failed. The personality of the executive remains trapped and fragmented; if left on longer, it will not survive.
But the job turns out to be more dangerous than McKay initially thought: his house is broken into, his target surprisingly reluctant to be extracted, and something threatens his artificial intelligence sprite, Spike. Something huge.
Here’s the full cover, designed by Elizabeth Story, followed by the excerpt.
It took a moment for McKay to register the woman standing across the dripping bistro table with a handful of useful napkins. The woman was probably taller than McKay even without the heels – a catastrophic red hair twist and a teal overcoat meant she stood out from the crowd. Not what you expect from someone trying to stay under the radar. But maybe that’s the point.
The still useless Overlay reminded him that the meeting was about to begin.
âUh. . . yes, McKay replied awkwardly. She took half of the salute offered and between them the table was cleared and straightened in an instant. “Sorry,” she continued, “the coffee was having a real kick.”
One of the ubiquitous voomer robots emphatically banged against her shoe until she dropped the soaked towels into her wide open jaw. The blue enamel paint on its leading edge was marked by the excessive pursuit of fallen trash, and probably also by the boots of a few local children. McKay suppressed a flash of irritation at the thought of his occasional mistreatment as he walked away, grassing rapturously in the contented tones encoded in service bots everywhere.
âIt must be a Monday,â said the woman across from McKay, then sat down without being asked. “I almost took a caffeine shower on the MRT on my way here.”
The smile she offered was more like I know what you’re feeling than my, what a fool, which suggested that McKay had retained a touch of professionalism intact.
The Overlay did its job and told McKay the client was not carrying one of the coded MRT passes, suggesting she was lying. You can always buy a plastic pass at the station. The Overlay might not see it, but his personal AI tended to deal in the absolute. It was McKay’s job to interpret the results. Lying to hide how she got here? Make conversation ? Set up a backstory?
The other woman showed none of the nervousness that usually comes with an inexperienced customer. This suggested that the roundabout connection had not been overdone at all. It was sort of a professional – guns, news, or the silver needle of political intrigue – McKay wasn’t sure yet. She was reluctant to risk the distraction of a background check during a client meeting, despite the overlay’s eagerness to get to work.
McKay asked the Overlay to stay in the background so she could focus on her assessment. Already, this woman was launching contradictions which suggested that it was not an ordinary mission. No freckles. Entirely human eyes, and green to boot.
“Can I get you something, ma’am?” . ? âMcKay paused for the other woman to write down the name, but the woman’s attention was elsewhere, rummaging in a purse McKay hadn’t noticed a few seconds ago. It was a risk. to keep the AI ââin the background, the human mind could be distracted, miss things. The Overlay could have provided the information in the space between the blinks of the eyes, but the connection, the human connection was critical. McKay had to remember that sometimes.
âUnfortunately, Ms. McKay, I’m already running out of time this morning. I am part of a group specializing in the abuse of new technologies. . . . “She carelessly touched a spot on his neck as she searched, just below and behind the ear. Tympanic loudspeaker. Her casual skill, pragmatism, affected a good ten foot radius around her. She was not easily categorized as damsel in distress.
âI need an extraction done here in town. . . . His eyes narrowed slightly as something McKay couldn’t hear caught his attention. “Excuse me, I think we’re going to have to reprogram.”
McKay had just opened his lips to respond when she felt the full kiss of something very powerful charge through the “line of sight that connected all the computers in her body.” She recognized the feeling and had to stifle the panic that threatened to ensue. The woman’s green eyes met his, and everything in her expression told McKay to avoid what was to follow.
As if repeated, they both got up from the table smoothly and headed in opposite directions. They were each walking fast, but not too fast. McKay was already locking everything in his head, making sure the Overlay was off, and not just facing down but off. In a city like Singapore, you didn’t have to worry about guns and bombs. Any attack would be digital, virtual, it would come from a place where Eliza McKay was particularly exposed. An EMP pulse could destroy all of its head components and no one else in the room would be affected. She briefly weighed the risk of jaywalking jail time against the cost of repairing her own internal computers, but the light was in her favor.
McKay hit the other side of the crosswalk just as the EMP went off in the cafe. No sound, no explosion, just the supernatural silence of electric death.
Extract from Kimberly Unger The Extractionist reprinted with permission. Copyright Publications Tachyon.
The Extractionist by Kimberly Unger will be released on July 12, 2022; you can pre-order a copy here.
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