June 15, 2017

Blog Tour| Shattered Mind [Extract]

Shattered Minds
Laura Lam

UK Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Release date: 15th June, 2017

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She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons.

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill.  She satisfies her craving in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug 'Zeal'. Now she's heading for self-destruction - until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl ws a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he's probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis - or she's next. 

To unlock the secrets Mark has hid in her mind, she'll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary - before it changes us and our society, forever.



Sudice headquarters, San Francisco,
California, Pacifica

‘What do you see?’ the doctor asks.

‘It’s a bee on a rose, just like before. And the time before that. And the time before that.’ The girl leans back in her Chair, crossing her arms over her chest.

‘And how does it make you feel?’ the doctor nudges.

The girl glances away from the rose and the bee. Her brain map floats above them, translucent and pink as candyfloss. That’s me, the girl thinks. She sees the brighter spots of the neural dust of her brain implants, sparkling deep in her cortex like stars. Within those pink-grey whorls are her thoughts, her dreams, her memories.
The doctor looks at the brain map and the waves on various machines dotted about the lab. The woman is trying to solve a puzzle about her mind, but the girl has no idea what the woman is searching for or how she’ll find it.
The girl has done this exact appointment five times before, though she usually sees the male doctor. She likes him, and wishes he were here instead. The girl has only met this doctor once before, at the first session. She can’t remember the woman’s name and is too embarrassed to ask. Being able to visit Sudice has been excellent extra credit for her senior project on neuroscience. Yet each time, she wonders about the point of this experiment. Perhaps she should simply stand up, shake the woman’s hand, thank her for her time and inform her she’s changed her mind.
‘I’m going to try something a little different today,’ the doctor says, her lips curling up at the corners. The girl does not like her smile.
‘Where’s Dr Teague?’ she asks.
‘He’s unavailable.’
‘I think I might just go,’ the girl says, making to stand. ‘I’m not feeling well. Maybe I can meet with Dr Teague when he’s back.’
‘I know these appointments are tedious, but the work you’re doing is going to change the world,’ the doctor says. ‘Don’t you want to be right at the forefront of that?’
The girl hesitates. The doctor stands, moves closer. ‘I’m going to dose you with our new compound, and then we’ll look at the images again, see if your emotional responses differ at all.’
Before the girl can respond, the doctor takes her arm and presses a syringe into her skin, just below her elbow. The girl startles and cries out at the pain.
‘All done,’ the doctor says, her eyes bright and unblinking.
The girl’s arm burns. The world goes soft and fuzzy around the edges. The doctor settles the girl back in the Chair, lays the back down flat. She fits restraints around the girl’s arms and legs.
‘Wh-what?’ the girl asks, words slurred.
‘Don’t worry. It’s just a partial sedative mixed with Verve.’ Another sharp smile. ‘With a little paralytic thrown in for good measure.’
‘V-Verve?’ the girl asks, a thrum of fear going through her. Verve is a drug the San Francisco mob, the Ratel, created; it was all over the news feeds for weeks last year. It was meant to be like Zeal, but so much worse. Not a dream you wake up from, your frustrations spent cathartically. Instead you emerge hungry for violence. Pacifica promised they’d destroyed it. What will it do to her? Her limbs are heavy. She tries to move a finger. Nothing.
Time fractures and grows strange. The girl feels a faint tickling along her skull, a strange release of pressure.
‘Look at the images again,’ the doctor instructs.
The girl’s eyes move to the wallscreen, as if she can’t help it. There is the bee, its segmented eyes staring at her, its pollen dusting the blood-red petals of the rose. Its stinger is as sharp as the thorns on the stem. Something new appears – a drop of blood drips from one thorn. Above the rose, two eyes open. One is blue, one is green. Heterochromic, just like hers. There’s something odd about the images. As if they’re more than they appear. As if she could fall into them.
‘How do the images make you feel?’ The pictures segment and flash before her. A bee. A rose. A thorn. A drop of blood. Mismatched eyes. Over and over, until they blur together.
‘I don’t feel anything,’ the girl says. And it’s true. All her emotions are just . . . gone. As if they’ve never existed.
‘I see.’ The doctor is excited, but trying to hide it. The top of the girl’s head tickles again. She looks away from the images, back to her brain scan.
It looks different. There are darker specks scattered throughout her brain, moving around like busy ants. It takes her a moment to figure out what they are.
‘Nanobots,’ the doctor answers for her. ‘They’ll help the code settle in quickly.’
‘How . . . ?’ the girl asks. Then she realizes why her skull itches. All her pain sensors are turned off, and the doctor has opened up her skull. A piece rests on the tray next to the Chair. The girl can just see it out of the corner of her eye.
The doctor holds up the blood-slicked bone.
‘It’s a barbaric approach these days, to actually open up a subject like this, but there’s no risk of infection. And there’s something about seeing the brain right there before you as the nanites do their work. It’s more . . . visceral.’ The doctor sets the bone aside. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll put it back where it belongs when we’re done.’
The girl should feel fear, but there is nothing. Nothing.
Until there is.
The nanobots converge in her brain, digging deeper, down into the very core of her. The girl’s emotions switch on. She feels everything – the pain in her skull, in her brain, the full horror of what’s happening to her.
She opens her mouth and screams. Alarms blare and beep in the room. She can smell blood, thick and coppery, and the taste hits the back of her throat.
‘You will change the world, my girl,’ the doctor says, leaning over her.
The world blinks out.

SHATTERED MINDS by Laura Lam is published by Pan Macmillan, 15 June, £12.99 Hardback.
Visit www.curiositykilledthebookworm.net tomorrow to read the next instalment… 

About the author:

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by her former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her finger-paint to her heart's desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but s glad she didn't. At times she misses the sunshine.

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