In Eskridge's near future, project manager Ren "Jackal" Segura of the huge Ko corporation is a Hope, one of a handful selected by birth for fast-tracking to positions of influence in the world government. Later, however, Jackal learns that she isn't a real Hope: her date and time of birth were faked, because Ko considered it necessary. Depressed and angry, Jackal strikes a colleague, but is permitted to continue her studies—and
she's given charge of a project developing a virtual reality that's reprogrammable from within. Then, blamed for a peculiar disaster—accident or act of terrorism, more than 400 people are killed, friends and colleagues included—Jackal agrees to help Ko and the world government hush things up. She accepts a sentence of solitary confinement in VR—inside her own project. Jackal endures for subjective years, undergoing profound readjustments in order to retain her sanity, rejecting memories of her friends, even her female lover, Snow—but then she learns how to escape her cell. Finding herself in Ko-land, though empty of people, Jackal joyously rides her bicycle, dances on tables, and masturbates. Finally, released from VR, she's sent under close surveillance to a grim, distant city. Learning to cope with horrid flashbacks, refusing to divulge how she escaped her cell, Jackal stumbles into Solitaire, a bar run by and for fellow survivors of VR confinement. Shakily, she tries to come to terms with her experience and circumstances.
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