Technology is the new drug…
When Maggie Stone straps on the Vertix H2, an innovative device that creates a social media and online experience unlike anything she’s ever known, she quickly becomes a fan.
Able to control virtual reality with her mind, the rush is intoxicating. But soon the device begins to take over her life. Immersed in a colorful and explosive world of technology, she finds it impossible to disconnect. As her addiction grows, Maggie’s world spirals out of control, endangering and pushing away reality.
Can she kick the social addiction, or will the thrill of the connection pull her under?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The first time had been a dare.
The turquoise liquid had looked like Kool-Aid, but in the split second the numbing liquid splashed against the back of his throat, Joe knew it wasn't.
He looked down at the little plastic cup where more green-blue liquid waited and bit his lip. The first time had been fun, the effects harmless enough. It reminded him of being high — if weed also unleashed incredible powers, like vision that allowed one to see through walls into the apartment of their ex-girlfriend. It was the craving that followed that he disliked, worse than caffeine or carbs.
"So, what are you waiting for?" Ryan asked, arching his eyebrows. "Have another taste."
Sometimes Ryan reminded him of Eve corrupting Adam.
A gentle chime sounds and my eyes dart to my wrist, abandoning the gritty manuscript on my screen. Above my iJewel, a glistening hologram of my roommate, Sarah, materializes. Her pixilated hand rests on her curvy hips as the message delivers.
"Hey, Mags! Andy and I just got to the Cheesecake Factory. I'm wearing that off-the-shoulder gray top that makes my boobs look awesome, see!" The miniature version of Sarah thrusts out her chest. Frowning, I glance down at my own and note with disappointment that Sarah's miniscule hologram has bigger boobs than me.
"Anyway," Sarah continues, "put down that creepy novel and get over here! Fast, but not too fast!" She winks and my iJewel chimes once more to signal the end of the message.
A wave of annoyance replaces my contented mood. She just won't quit. She can have any guy in Boston, but no, of course she wants my brother. Andy wants her back, too. I know I should let them hook up, or whatever it is they want to do. But I don't want to become the awkward third wheel and get pushed out of the way while they have a fling that will likely end in disaster, given their dating histories.
I look back at the manuscript and sigh. "Must be nice," I grumble, double-tapping the screen to create a comment. "To be out on a date ... to have cute clothes to have boobs bigger than a pair of Reese's cups ..." I stop and frown at the words I'm typing. "Focus, Mags."
I backspace, wondering if I'm currently winning or losing at life. I used to be fun and wild. I used to date. Then, a year ago, I'd forced myself to try and grow up and do things on my own without the crutch of my parents to bail me out.
It had paid off, moving me from lowly assistant to Literary Agent quicker than most. Authors weren't interested in agents who stumbled into work late, stinking of the Axe body spray from the latest frat boy they'd hooked up with. Those days were far behind me now.
Yeah but no one likes a brown-nose either.
"Margaret, are you all right?"
I jump out of my chair and spin around, mortified. Had I been talking out loud? My boss, Ms. Robins, stands behind me, staring over the rims of her white-framed glasses. The frames throw me off every time I see her. No one wears glasses anymore, not since Cannon Eye came into the picture five years ago.
"Oh, y-yeah," I stutter, tucking a long strand of light brown hair behind my ear. "Sorry, I was just, uh, talking to myself."
Ms. Robins chuckles.
"Yeah." I grin awkwardly. "Well, I'll just get back to work." This is so embarrassing.
"No, wait, Margaret. I know what time you got here this morning, and I know what time you left last night. Every night in fact," Robins says, cocking her head to the side. "Ever since I promoted you, you've been killing yourself over this manuscript. Go home; be with your friends and family. The story can wait until morning. And when I say morning I mean like nine. I don't want any more of this coming in at six-thirty, all right? All your overtime is killing me!"
I blush. "Yes, ma'am. I'm actually meeting my roommate and brother for dinner downtown to celebrate my promotion tonight." I lean over the back of my chair and hit the save button three times before closing Word. I swipe my fingers in a pattern across the screen and my computer shuts off.
"Oh, how nice. Hopefully you're going to a place that serves strong drinks," Ms. Robins says, waving me forward. "Come on, I'll walk you out."
I pull on my coat and grab my messenger bag, slinging it over my head and situating it so the bulk of the weight rests against my backside. We walk in silence for a few minutes until we reach the elevators.
"So, I guess I don't have to ask you how you like being an agent so far," Ms. Robins teases, pressing the dull number one until it glows to life under her touch.
"I just love it," I say in a rush. "Thank you so much for the opportunity. I hope that I can make you and Red Leaf proud."
Ms. Robins smiles. "Yes, well I'm sure you will. I noticed that you chose to rep the same YA novel that I myself tossed away, even after I told you it wasn't a good fit for us." Her dark green eyes study her fingers.
I fumble for the right words in my head. It wasn't that I wanted to go behind her back with the story or rub it in her face that I was right, but the connection I felt with the manuscript had been too strong for me to pass up. I want to tell her this, yet nothing but awkward syllables spill from my lips.
"Well, I, you, um —"
"Relax, Margaret." Ms. Robins chuckles. "I didn't mean to put you on the spot. I actually think that it was very brazen of you to reach back out to that author. You knew it was a good story all those months ago and then, when you finally had the opportunity, you went out there and fought for what you wanted. It's very impressive."
Warm color spreads across my face once more. "Oh, well thank you very much, ma'am. I'm so thankful that I have the chance to discover the next great stories for our youth and that a few are still interested in reading."
The elevator doors ping open and slide apart to reveal the deserted lobby and the darkening night beyond.
"The next great stories," she repeats. "What a lovely idea."
Before I can ask what she means, she gives me a curt wave and briskly walks across the shiny tile toward the bustling streets of Boston. I consider running after her to continue our conversation, but my iJewel chimes again. This time, my brother Andy's goofy lopsided grin greets my gaze.
"Hey, Maggie. We got your favorite table reserved for when you get here. Sarah and I will be hanging out at the bar until then. Just tell the hostess to grab us. Oh, and the Q train isn't running. Try catching a ride through UPick or rent a hoverbike. There's a station right around the block where you can return it. And, Mags ... take your time." Andy laughs and waves before ending the message.
I roll my eyes and groan. "Great. Way to be subtle, Andy." My promotion was probably just an excuse for a date. I shake my head and push the awkward situation from my mind. Tonight is about me. I'm going to celebrate, damn it!
"Hoverbike rental," I state, alerting the iJewel to fulfill my need. Instantly, four rental sites ding and the device maps out the closest one with the expected step-distance away. They're convenient, but I'm wary. My love handles are already softening because of all the crap I've been ingesting at the office. I need to skip rides on a gliding seat running along a fabricated rail as often as I can. "You don't even have to pedal," I scoff, shaking my head.
Acey, the old security guard, tips his hat to me as I approach the double doors. "Good evening, Miss Maggie, last one as always. Off to have some fun I hope." He gives me a wide smile that exposes the few teeth he has left.
"Off to dinner actually," I say, wrapping my scarf around my neck tightly. "My brother and roommate are meeting me there to celebrate my promotion."
Acey's smile widens and he reaches out a weathered hand to me. "Well, congratulations, Miss Maggie. That sure is wonderful news to hear," he says warmly, giving my hand a gentle squeeze.
"Thank you, Acey. Well, have a good night. I'll see you tomorrow," I call over my shoulder as I step from the tile floor to the concrete stairs. He waves back, pulling the door shut behind me and locking the thick deadbolt with a solid clunk.
I inhale deeply as the late August evening envelopes me. Summer has just started to release its hold, giving way to slightly cooler nights, but warm air still lingers over the city during the day. The wind blows, carrying the slightest chill from the harbor. A shiver tickles my spine and all the hairs on my arms stand erect. I pull back the left sleeve of my coat, exposing my silent iJewel. "Weather Cat," I command, shivering again.
The beautiful machine chimes to life at the sound of my voice. A holographic tabby cat leaps out of the screen, suspended a few centimeters above it. Weather Cat regards me with indifference, its silver eyes glowing. "Yes, Maggie?" Weather Cat purrs, licking a paw. Every time I use him I'm reminded of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.
"Weather report, please. What's the temperature?" I ask, walking down the wide stairs to the sidewalk below.
"Temperature is warm. Seventy-four degrees Fahrenheit," Weather Cat replies. "You're wearing a coat?"
I frown and narrow my eyes. "I didn't ask for your opinion." I turn left and begin heading downtown but leave the app open. It's nice to talk to someone after staring at a screen all day.
"Was it an opinion? I thought I was simply stating a fact," Weather Cat argues lazily. "If you'd like to know, there's also a light breeze about five miles an hour coming from the north. I'd get home quick, you wouldn't want to blow away."
I roll my eyes at the cat's dramatics. "Thank you, but I'll be fine and I'm not going home."
"Not going home? But you're heading west," Weather Cat insists.
"Yes, but the restaurant is only a few blocks away from my apartment," I counter. Why am I arguing with Weather Cat?
"A restaurant, eh? I hope you have a scarf in that bag. Most restaurants have an interior temperature of sixty-two. Don't want patrons getting too comfortable," the cat purrs.
"As always, thank you for your insight, Cat," I say with a grin. Using the tip of my index finger, I close the app and the smug tabby vanishes.
I double-tap the black screen and select Sarah's name from the small list of contacts as I pass an empty hoverbike station. Glancing up, I see at least a dozen people riding the bikes, their eyes glued to their iJewels as the smart machines glide in and out of traffic.
Damn. I wish there was one left. As much as I want to walk off all the empty calories I consumed today, I could wrap up the chapter from my client's manuscript and still get to the restaurant faster than if I walked. Why does nothing ever work out for me? I keep walking and hold my left arm out, pointing the iJewel screen toward my face.
"Launch," I command. A pale white light glistens, beginning the broadcast. "Hey, Sarah, I got your message. Your boobs do look awesome ... like always," I praise. "I just left the office, but there aren't any hoverbikes so I'm walking to — oh —"
I stop as I collide with a very solid object and look up to see a young kid, no more than eighteen, holding out his hands and blinking rapidly. "Sorry about that," I say. "I was broadcasting and didn't see you."
The kid doesn't reply. His dark brown eyes look oddly glazed.
"Hey, are you okay?" I ask. "Did I hurt you?"
The kid reaches up, touches the back of his neck, and resumes a slow walk. I turn to watch and see the dark green metal machine partially lodged beneath the skin on his neck.
He's wearing a Vertix.
"Oh, that explains it." I sigh, turning back to my iJewel. I double-tap the screen and resume my broadcast. "Sorry, Sarah, I just ran into a kid wearing one of those Vertixes. He didn't even see me. I bet he thought I was a pole until I started talking. Are you sure you still want to get one?" I glance away from the screen and twist my body, just missing a large blue mailbox. One of the very last in the city. "Anyway, I should be there in ten minutes, I know I know, walk slow," I finish. "Bye." I hold my index finger on the front of the screen for three seconds and release.
Hoisting my bag strap back onto my shoulder, I focus on avoiding other potential hazards in my path. There aren't many people out for a Thursday night. I listen to my heels clack against the concrete and think about the kid and his Vertix. The first edition came out last fall. The papers called it "Revolutionary!" and "An incredible advancement for a new era!"
"Vertix," I command. I swipe my finger to activate the speaker once the search engine, Jet, displays an article on the screen.
"Vertix. A technological feat designed by Ramsey Coon in 2029. First sold in stores in 2030, the Vertix is promised to be an experience unlike any other. The device is worn by the user on the back of the neck with sensors that connect the device to the spinal cord. From there, the device uploads to the brain stem, flooding the occipital lobe with unimaginable information. Sold at all cellular retailers," the smooth voice concludes.
"Huh." I frown. I get it's supposed to submerge you into a new world of social media and data, but it seems pretty intense. Sarah got one when they first came out, but she hadn't kept it for very long. I'm not sure why she wants the new model. "Vertix latest news," I instruct Jet.
Several articles ping and the smooth masculine voice speaks again. "The Vertix H2 premieres tomorrow, August twenty-seventh. It is the second generation of the Vertix. Remastered to enhance the digital visualizing experience and give the user a split screen experience, rather than the original option. The Vertix H2 has —"
"Cons of Vertix," I interrupt, narrowing my search.
The iJewel recalculates and launches into a new article. As the male speaker begins, my heart melts at the deep baritone and slightly southern accent. Man, I'm glad I picked him.
"With the Vertix H2 launching this week, some reports have gone viral regarding potential side effects of usage. These reports highlight the negative effects the Vertix has had over human interaction. With more and more people switching to the new technology, reports have shown a decrease in sociability and an increase in the amount of time people spend alone. The studies also measured the quality of social interactions and found that, compared to several years ago, in-person conversations have become shorter and revolve solely around money or social media," the speaker explains. "One study, based at the University of Cambridge, even found similarities between Cocaine addicts and —"
"Stop," I say, feet from the large ornate doors of the restaurant. The article disappears as I take in the large crowd milling around the doors. Thank God Andy reserved our table. "Excuse me," I say, pushing through the stagnant mob. Most of them don't move, eyes glued to iJewels and other devices.
Hunching my shoulders, I flex my elbows and barrel through the people. A few groans and grunts are expelled as I go by. Sorry not sorry. At last I reach the doors and slip inside.
My iJewel softly chimes again and I tap it to release the message. Holographic Sarah appears. "Hey, girl. We just left the bar. Have the hostess bring you to our table," she says with a squeal. "Say hi, Andy!" Sarah grins and aims her iJewel at my brother. A small holographic Andy waves and takes a drink before she ends the broadcast.
"Perfect timing, I'm starving." I sigh happily. I let my wrist fall to my side and scan the interior crowd for the hostess stand. Nothing but large stomachs and hyper children fill my gaze. I bend down and peer through the bodies and catch a glimpse of a large wooden block.
"Excuse me!" I say loudly over the hum and crescendo of the action movie someone is streaming. Sirens and a growl similar to the Hulk answer me. Clutching my bag in front of me like a shield, I wind and weave my way through bodies packed together like a herd of cattle.
It feels like days have passed when I tumble out of the crowd toward the hostess stand, completely out of breath. I reach up and feel my long brown hair sticking up in sweaty patches. Great.
The young blonde hostess looks bored. "Welcome to the Cheesecake Factory. Can I help you?"
"Yes, hi. I'm meeting my friend and brother here. I got a broadcast saying that they were at their table. Name is under Stone," I relay.
The blonde nods and touches a large Torch, the more commercial tablet. She clicks on the correct table and alters the yellow symbol to neon green. "You're all set. Head to the left and look for the green light," she says, her eyes already on to the next group.
"Thanks," I say, hiking up my bag again as I turn to the tightly clustered labyrinth of tables. I swear there's more crammed in here than last time.
Four servers swerve out of my way, balancing a large tray between two of them as the others stop to dole out their piled-high plates. I look up and lock eyes with a handsome guy walking toward me.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wired"
Copyright © 2018 Caytlyn Brooke.
Excerpted by permission of BHC Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Celebration
Chapter 2: Welcome to the Rave
Chapter 3: Unlike Anything
Chapter 4: Comfort Zone
Chapter 5: Surrender
Chapter 6: Left Behind
Chapter 7: Slipping
Chapter 8: No Big Deal
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Losing It
Chapter 11: Dead Inside
Chapter 12: Prime Example
Chapter 13: In a World of White
Chapter 14: Reactions
Chapter 15: Dark Thoughts
Chapter 16: Mirror Image
Chapter 17: Gathering Storm
Chapter 18: No Going Back
Chapter 19: Agony
Chapter 20: Numb
Chapter 21: Rock Bottom
Chapter 22: Forward