Halfskin by Tony Bertauski

Cover - HalfskinBiomites are artificial stem cells that can replace any cell in your body. No more kidney failure, no severed spines or blood disease. No cancer. Pharmaceuticals become obsolete. With each dose of biomites, we become stronger, we become smarter and prettier.

We become better.

At what point are we no longer human?

Nix Richards nearly died in a car accident when he was young. Biomites saved his life. Ten years later, he’s not so lucky. The Halfskin Laws decree a human composed of 50% biomites is no longer human. Halfskins have no legal rights and will have their biomites shutdown. It’s not called murder, merely deactivation.

Cali Richards has been Nix’s legal guardian since their parents died. She has lost far too many people in her life to let the government take Nix. She is a nanobiometric engineer and will discover how to hide him. But even brilliance can succumb to the pressure of suffering. And technology can’t cure insanity.

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Excerpt

THE REAL AVENGER’S BLOG
Shooting Truth-Bullets Since Birth
Subscribers: 3,233

It’s the end of time, peeps.
Mark this date, put a black X on your calendar because it’s all over, starting today. It used to be that if you didn’t like the laws where you lived, you just moved to another state or another country. Freedom existed somewhere in the world. We had a choice. I mean, hell, if you were desperate enough you could live on the South Pole with penguins and shit.
Not anymore.
Today, it’s all over.
Today, M0ther was born.
Who’s M0ther? Our M0ther. Already got a mother? Now you got two, only this one will know everything about you. You can’t hide from her, she’ll know when you’re full of crap, know where you stash your porn, know when you pick your nose and when you eat it.
You’ll hate her, and she’ll know that, too.
Case you’ve been asleep for the last 10 years, the Mitochondria Terraforming Hierarchy of Record is what I’m talking about.
Let’s just call her M0ther.
A mother that doesn’t bake cookies or wash your underwear. She’s not getting up to make you French toast or wipe your nose. Nope. This bitch is going to spy on you until you’re dead. Which may be sooner than you think.
M0ther is somewhere in the frozen plains of Wyoming. No pictures of her exist because no one’s allowed to even flyover. But rumors say she’s this massive dome, a computer the size of a football stadium, like some artificial brain heaved out of the frozen soil that’s wirelessly connected with every biomite in existence.
Did you catch that? EVERY BIOMITE IN EXISTENCE!
Hear that buzzing on your phone? She’s listening.
Feel that tickle on your laptop? She knows you’re tapping.
All that Do Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife crap? Yeah, that’s the real deal, now. M0ther might tell your wife what you’re thinking about doing to Joe-Bob’s wife mowing the lawn in a tube top.
George Orwell wasn’t even close, man. I mean, Big Brother was just a pea shooter compared to M0ther. Big Brother was pissing on a forest fire; M0ther’s bringing the goddamn ocean.
Here’s the official statement from Marcus Anderson, Chief of the Biomite Oversight Committee.
(BTW, he looks like a gargoyle. Right?)

It is with great pleasure that, after ten years of global effort, I present to you the greatest feat of humankind. I present to you a regulatory system that will keep all people safer and healthier for centuries to come. Bionanotechnolgy has put us on the brink of greatness, but with that comes uncertainty and danger. The human species has the potential to live forever. Or end tomorrow.
I prefer the former.
Mitochondria Terraforming Hierarchy of Record is linked to every booted cellular-sized biomite living inside our bodies. Its primary function will be to monitor individual levels of biomites and take appropriate action if, or when, they cross a previously determined threshold. This will keep us human.
This will keep us safe.
Forever.

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During the day, I’m a horticulturist. While I’ve spent much of my career designing landscapes or diagnosing dying plants, I’ve always been a storyteller. My writing career began with magazine columns, landscape design textbooks, and a gardening column at the Post and Courier (Charleston, SC). However, I’ve always fancied fiction.

My grandpa never graduated high school. He retired from a steel mill in the mid-70s. He was uneducated, but he was a voracious reader. I remember going through his bookshelves of paperback sci-fi novels, smelling musty old paper, pulling Piers Anthony and Isaac Asimov off shelf and promising to bring them back. I was fascinated by robots that could think and act like people. What happened when they died?

I’m a cynical reader. I demand the writer sweep me into his/her story and carry me to the end. I’d rather sail a boat than climb a mountain. That’s the sort of stuff I want to write, not the assigned reading we got in school. I want to create stories that kept you up late.

Having a story unfold inside your head is an experience different than reading. You connect with characters in a deeper, more meaningful way. You feel them, empathize with them, cheer for them and even mourn. The challenge is to get the reader to experience the same thing, even if it’s only a fraction of what the writer feels. Not so easy.

In 2008, I won the South Carolina Fiction Open with Four Letter Words, a short story inspired by my grandfather and Alzheimer’s Disease. My first step as a novelist began when I developed a story to encourage my young son to read. This story became The Socket Greeny Saga. Socket tapped into my lifetime fascination with consciousness and identity, but this character does it from a young adult’s struggle with his place in the world.

After Socket, I thought I was done with fiction. But then the ideas kept coming, and I kept writing. Most of my work investigates the human condition and the meaning of life, but not in ordinary fashion. About half of my work is Young Adult (Socket Greeny, Claus, Foreverland) because it speaks to that age of indecision and the struggle with identity. But I like to venture into adult fiction (Halfskin, Drayton) so I can cuss. Either way, I like to be entertaining.

And I’m a big fan of plot twists.

You can find out more on the authors website and blog.

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