Chapter 1


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One of the most influential families of the Garentin colony ship is the Oqertons. Using their status and wealth, they all but assured their legacy would carry on to the digital frontier.

It has been three weeks since the colony was digitized. Eizel, the sole daughter and inheritor of the Oqerton estate, is the only one to have survived the transition.

And no one else can know.

Eizel Oqerton, darling princess of the highly esteemed Oqerton family of entrepreneurs, woke to the irksome and jarring sound of her alarm clock.

She mindlessly turned over on her ridiculously uncomfortable bed and slammed her hand through the infernal thing, entirely intent on ridding the world of its nagging presence.

Her hand triumphantly won, which should have ended the whole affair. But . . . it didn’t. The noise continued to ricochet in her brain, notably not coming from some device on her nightstand but from within her head.

She sighed, realizing for the centillionth time that she was no longer in the real world. No, this was their digital reality, a reality built from some game retrofitted to serve them for all eternity.

Now, cursed alarm clocks weren’t fragile devices to be thrown across the room. They didn’t break into tiny irreparable pieces that Dossen cleaned up after making her bed and tidying up her rooms.

That reality didn’t exist anymore. . . .

Those muddled morning thoughts wriggled into a wretched recollection. It hit her the same way every- single- day. In this new, better reality, she didn’t have a . . . family . . . or servants or all the many businesses they’d sweat for, bled for.

And no one else knew.

No one else could know.

Government promises ran on contracts, contracts that were developed into this reality before its creation. If all parties were not present to fulfill the terms, they would be forfeited.

Nothing would stop the seizure of this mansion and all of the riches she couldn’t sell without revealing the truth.

The truth. . . .

The truth that she was just as poor as those market Runners, just as lost as all the other orphans: no parents to claim her and barely two months before her eighteenth birthday.

She was doing everything she could to hold down the fort: forged names, wrote letters on her parents’ behalf, voted in the last government session, and lied and lied and lied. It was hard remembering what was a lie and what wasn’t.

But it was only until her parents came back. It was so they had something to come back to because they were not dead. They were out there, somewhere. And she would claw and scrape her way—

Something groaned!

Something other than her perpetually empty stomach. It was loud and close, which forced her thoughts to wonder what she, moments ago, had triumphantly smashed?

She opened her eyes to find she had passed out—again—on the hardwood floor, working to the full extent of her already low Stamina. Hundreds of clothing pattern sheets were sprawled everywhere or crumpled into balls, failing to live up to her scrutiny. One such sheet was stuck to her cheek.

The groaning came from the ancient-looking bookcase next to her, stacked with a hundred thick leather tomes of her father’s backups: every picture, every transaction, every journal entry from a long line of Oqertons. It was but one bookcase of many.

The thing she destroyed—regrettably—was its frontmost leg. She had shattered the wood like a barbarian. And now, in proper revenge fashion, it teetered forward, tomes sliding out and slapping the floor.

She let out a frightful gasp, kicked and pushed at the floor covered in sheets, and slid as if on ice. Then, with a clamorous bang! it slammed its full weight down on top of her.