10. Great Role Models

My father simply spreads his wealth and privilege around to get his way and keep everyone happy. Screwing the rules with his money and making a profit in the process.

9. An Enlightened Society

The closer we get to the center of the upmarket district, the more images and vids crowd the streets and storefronts. A disgusting amount of sights and sounds fill my senses. Try this. Buy this. You want this. You need this.

And they call this progress.

8. A Down-to-Earth Hero

“You’re taking advantage of your privileges,” Clay says.

“But if we don’t take advantage of our privileges,” I ask, “what’s the point in having them?”

7. Bare-Knuckled Brawls

I lie there, the rough ceramic pavement pressed against the side of my face, peering up at the world from a sideways perspective. I know. It’d be easier to stay down. But if I’m anything, it’s stubborn. And, in retrospect, probably not all that bright, either.

I struggle to my feet and stagger to one side, barely able to stay standing. “Okay,” I say and spit blood on the ground. “You asked for it. Who wants some of this?”

6. All the Qualities of a Good Protagonist

“Let me see. You’re selfish, you’re immature, you’re spoiled.” She ticks them off on her fingers as she lists them. “You’re a drunk, you’re a chauvinistic pig and a womanizer, you’re lazy, you’re egotistical, arrogant, mean, conceited, wasteful, out of touch with reality, selfish, narcissistic–“

“Ah ha!” I cry, pointing at her. “You said selfish twice.”

5. A Beautiful World

Meanwhile, in the middle of what I affectionately refer to as the “multipocalypse,” enriched uranium hit rock-bottom prices. It got so ridiculously cheap that any extremist group with an ax to grind could dig around in the cushions of the old extremist couch and scrounge up enough bitchip to buy a miniaturized atomic bomb.

4. Friendly Robots

After a pause, Bentley bops in the air. “Smashing. You’re all set. Cheerio and good day, sir! Should you live to see it.” It whirls on its axis, does another little aerial hop, and whizzes back into the hatch in the wall, which closes behind it.

“Well, that wasn’t, like, foreboding at all,” I say.

3. The Miracle of Cloning

“The world hasn’t changed in centuries,” she says. “There’s no change anymore. No innovation. No progress. How do you expect there to be progress when the people in charge keep reliving the same lives over and over?”

2. A Virtual-Reality Utopia

The virtual realityscape of the Orbis is nothing like the real world. Because–let’s face it–the real world sucks, and no one wants to experience that suck in full-definition VR. Instead, Nanosoft used data algorithms to create a procedurally generated utopia. And they’ve had centuries to edit and perfect it. A limitless, bright and shiny world where you can forget about the meaningless nature of your existence for hours–even days–at a time. Why rage against the system when it’s so much easier to log in and lose yourself instead? It’s like a tranquilizer for the soul.

1. Legendary Sword Fights

I scoop up the katana and try to twirl it through the air like I saw Liviana doing earlier. But I fumble it and almost disembowel myself. It clatters to the floor. I stare at it stupidly.

Liviana lies on her back, gaping at me in disbelief. “You are so going to die.”

What Are You Waiting For?

In the immortal words of Titus Remington, “Some of the best stories start with a bad decision.” But all it takes to start this story is one good decision.

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