Shadow was a zero, a nothing, one of a growing underclass thrown up in the wake of the vast corporate leviathans which daily swallow ever-growing tracts of a crumbling society. The Net was his home, as it was to six billion others, the virtual worlds behind the eyepiece a new underworld where hackers cut deals and peddled terrabyte chunks of ripped-off corporate cake. But it was just data, the elaborate VR tapestry was an illusion spun by hi-res stereo optics. Cyberspace was just an electrical mirage, no more real than TV or hi-fi. Until one day it changed. At some point - nobody knows when - something happened, something barely on the threshold of consciousness. 'It' somehow woke up, came alive. At first there were just thin rumours, the hushed whispers and urban myths that spread like a voice-born virus. But when a clan of high-tech pagans go crazy the stories darken and intensify - a diabolical force permeating the Net, a hideous presence growing in an embryonic cyberspace. Shadow was starting pick up the vibe, too, but Shiva, 2-Bit and the others didn't have much time for ghost stories. They were more interested in the news that was spreading across the underworld. Word was out that someone had finally done it: Direct Neural Interfacing - the holy grail of technology - was here, enabling a direct cortical jack between the human mind and the electrical miasma of the Net. The door to cyberspace was finally open. Suddenly an old flame is dead after shadowing a satellite hack; dead from that particular species of coronary failure that stinks of corpshop erasure. The uneasy stand-off between the 'Big Three' super-corporations is over, and a deadly race begins for a technology that will change everything. Shadow is suddenly centre-stage in a drama that will decide the future of humanity, and brings him to a climactic confrontation with the nameless horror that awaits in a new-born cyberspace.
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September 30, 2000
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