Autonomy by Jude Houghton – excerpt + giveaway!

Autonomy
Jude Houghton
Published by: Grimbold Books
Publication date: July 29th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, New Adult, Science Fiction

Balmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They are two strangers, who never should have met, and now they will rip apart the world.

What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite?

What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world?

What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making?

What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed?

Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

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excerpt

Sector 2, ChurinLi Bao felt a pop between her legs followed by wetness. It was her fourth child, about to nose its way into the world. Silently cursing, she glanced across the Battery floor. A thousand pairs of hands worked in unison, but no Supervisor patrolled the lines.

Thank the Faith.

She had to get to the end of the shift. There was a bonus if they hit quota, and with the baby coming, she needed the credits. She gritted her teeth. The baby would have to wait.

The contractions came in short, agonizing bursts. Every time one peaked she had to stop, breathe and wait for the pain to pass. Twice a red warning light flashed in the corner of her viewer, telling her to speed up. The line could only move as fast as its slowest worker.

For almost ten years, Li had sat in the same seat assembling microchips. The components were something to do with iNet, but she had no idea what. Not that it mattered. Her function was to lay thirty-seven parts into the correct chip beds, each colour coded and thinner than a human hair.

The tricky part was manipulating each piece into exactly the right spot. Her iNet glasses magnified the components while her hands, enveloped in a rubbery gel, controlled robotic pincers. She didn’t know what the gel contained and she hardly ever thought about it. She thought about it now as another contraction ripped through her body.

What if the chemicals penetrated her skin and travelled down the umbilical cord to infect her baby? Her other children were fine, but Li had not been on the line as long when they were born. The air was worse now too, not inside the Battery, where it was filtered, but outside where it was not safe to walk without a respirator, every breath filled with poison.

She shook away the thought.

Do not dwell on what you cannot change.

The teaching of the Faith gave her solace. To endure hardship was part of life; a small sacrifice when compared to the eternal bliss that followed. As she laid in another component, her mind wandered to a more practical problem.

Would she be able to hold her baby?

Li had held her other children, even if she couldn’t nurse them, but recently her hands had become little better than claws, conditioned by daily shifts of at least twelve hours. She had the tell-tale folding-over of the wrist, the pincering of the fingers, the chapped red skin eroded by chemicals; what the workers called crab hands.

In the Stacks you could tell where someone worked by their particular deformity; the missing limbs of the machinists, the racking coughs and weeping eyes of the sterilization groups, the permanent hunch of the technicians and the crab hands of the assembly lines.

Her grip was poor and sometimes she dropped even the lightest loads. Perhaps it didn’t matter. Their amah would look after the child while Li worked in the Battery.

She was not angry about her hands; neither did she blame her employers. The same repetition that curled her wrists made her efficient, and that meant she was allocated to a highly productive line, one that often qualified for quota bonuses. Li could lay a batch of components in less than fifteen minutes. Only enhanced workers earned more, those who had productive surgery such as a drill gun instead of a hand, a microscope instead of an eye.

Another contraction racked her frame and Li felt the baby’s head push against her cervix. Sweat poured down her face as she struggled to keep her fingers steady. Singing under her breath, she rode the wave of pain, “A Grey, B Green, C Black bean . . .”

about the author

Jude developed a love of fantasy from a relatively early age after realising an innate talent for making stuff up could result in something other than detention. Working across the globe in fields as diverse as journalism, data entry, sales, management consultancy and babysitting, Jude has partially succeeded in putting an English and History degree from Oxford University to good use. A somnambulist, insomniac, lover of letters, Jude writes late into the night, most nights, tumbling down the rabbit hole to dream of other lives. Jude currently lives in Pennsylvania with an over-enthusiastic family and absurdly entitled dog.

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