The flesh was weak, cold sweats and tremulous heart; it had betrayed her. She had become conscious of the inadequacies of her physical frame whilst still young, failing to understand why there were things that others could do that she was warned away from. During adolescence, she had become even more aware of the distance between how she thought she should be and the reflection that greeted her in the mirror, skin pockmarked by acne and faint downy hair, bad breath and body odour. Every day had been agony, a pain so intense that it could be dulled only by the control she could exert over her own frame, the red welts that remained long after the expression of her loathing.
They said that the 'first' Moore was still in gaol, she reflected, catching a glimpse of her reflection in the glass of a window as she passed, the shape of her figure, the trailing form of the plush toy behind her, a white rabbet; the fringe of blonde hair, and the unreadable expression.
It had taken six months after the main servers had allegedly been destroyed that the Thinknet assets had been dumped on the net by console cowboys; six months in which anyone with even the faintest interest had been granted access to the architecture of everything the movement's founder had attempted to do following its inception. The digital world originally marketed as a Hell for unbelievers, later revealed as a paradise for the founder's dead bride, had proved unsalvageable, too unstable and glitched to really be accessed properly, and those that had managed to datamine it reported back that the map was little more than an empty subway train and an unfinished city shrouded in mist, unpopulated by daemons in any sense of the word. The avatars and the armour, however, that was a different matter.
Initially reliant on nanotechnology, the bootlegged Thinknet assets had been forced to downgrade to thin Microsofts, shards of metal and plastic that could be inserted into HumaGear modules adapted for human use, not entirely unlike the Progrisekeys used both to read and write to the modules and to affect the transformation into the secondary armoured form, or the old-fashioned Gaia Memories that she had heard had once been popular alongside other obsolete formats such as MiniDiscs.
They were not easy to come by, nor were they cheap. Nor even, she thought, were they as effective as the original nanotech had been, the programmes requiring considerable compression to fit onto the Microsofts. Many a time had she seen glitched out versions of the Abaddon armour, the colour scheme flickering, the assets failing to realise correctly, the users stuck in a continual T-pose, like scarecrows hopelessly littering the street. Seeing the generals in their human forms—Behru, Lugo, Buga, and, of course, Mua—was less common, and even then, such avatars were not always rendered without errors.
She had paid an extortionate amount for her Mua Microsoft, not just in actual money. Access and use of such illegal programmes made the user a prime suspect for both the Turing Police and A.I.M.S. To access Thinknet data, to accept the changes the use of such unregulated and bootlegged software had on the user's physical and mental wellbeing was costly indeed. Not, of course, that such mattered to her. Long dissatisfied with the shape of her body, with the circumstances of her life, it had been easy for her to weigh the costs and accept them. She had what she wanted now, there was no need to go back.
Unable to break down and digitise the consciousness like the original nanotechnology used by Thinknet's founder, the use of the Microsofts took their toll on the body in a similar fashion when used via the HumaGear module. It was suggested that the use of the technology burnt out the human body, made it uninhabitable, meaning that the user could not return after a set amount of time had elapsed as the avatar they chose. She had no regrets. Better to live out the remainder of her existence in the shape of something idealised than the sweaty, disappointing shape she saw when her headset was not attached.
Upon the stone, the heels of her white leather shoes resounded in a satisfying manner, assuring her of her presence in the moment, of the reality of the form she now inhabited. At her back, she did not see the hooded figure in lace, her hands folded before her in her lap, following carefully behind, a wide smile on her rich, red lips.