Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. The city of Yokohama comes up with a system where fame is considered currency. An extra. Her only chance to escape obscurity is to find a big story to kick - something wild and unexpected.
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Down and Out "Moggle," Aya whispered. A pile of dorm uniforms rustled, as if a small animal stirred underneath. Then a shape slipped from among the folds of spider silk and cotton.
Tiny lenses gazed at her face, curious and alert, reflecting starlight from the open window. Aya grinned. The hovercam nuzzled against her shoulder apologetically. They liked to pretend the world was still stuck in the Prettytime, when everyone had to wait until they turned sixteen to change themselves.
Crumblies could be so fashion-missing. So Aya was stuck with her big nose -- definitely ugly -- and her normal vision.
Still, it was better than nothing. She flexed her finger and the city interface flickered to life, layering across her vision. It was probably crowded by now, packed enough with surge-monkeys and manga-heads that nobody would notice one ugly extra snooping around.
Besides, Aya Fuse was an expert at being invisible. Her face rank was proof of that. It sat unmoving in the corner of her vision: , She let out a slow sigh. In a city of a million, that was total extra-land. Well, tonight was finally going to change that. A gray robe lay in a shapeless puddle at her feet.
Aya pulled it over her dorm uniform and tied it at the waist, then perched on the windowsill. She turned to face the night sky slowly, easing one leg, then the other, out into the cool air. She slipped on her crash bracelets, glancing at the ground fifty meters below. That was the kick thing about a thirteenth-story room -- no one expected you to sneak out your window.
Thick clouds hung low in the sky, reflecting worklights from the construction site across town. The cold tasted of pine needles and rain, and Aya wondered if she was going to freeze in her disguise.
It was the size of half a soccer ball, sheathed in hard plastic and warm to the touch. She squeezed her eyes shut. Clinging to the hovercam with all her strength, Aya pushed herself into the void. Getting out was much simpler these days.
But like most tech-heads, Ren took pride in his mods. The new Moggle was waterproof, shockproof, and powerful enough to carry an Aya-size passenger through the air.
Close enough, anyway. With her arms wrapped around the hovercam, she fell no faster than a cherry blossom twirling toward the ground. It was much easier than stealing a bungee jacket. And except for the nervous-making moment of jumping, it was kind of fun. She watched the windows flicker past -- dreary rooms full of standard-requisition squalor.
No one famous lived in Akira Hall, just loads of face-missing extras wearing generic designs. A few ego-kickers sat talking into their cams, watched by no one. The average face rank here was six hundred thousand, despair-making and pathetic. Obscurity in all its horror.
Back in the Prettytime, Aya vaguely remembered, you just asked for awesome clothes or a new hoverboard and they popped out of the hole in the wall like magic. And getting merits meant taking classes or doing chores -- whatever the Good Citizen Committee commanded, basically. The wet grass squished beneath her like a sodden sponge, soft but shivery cold. She let go of Moggle and lay for a moment on the rain-soaked earth, letting her heartbeat slow down. True AI might still be illegal, but the new Moggle was more than just a wedge of circuitry and lifters.
She kept her eyes closed, listening hard as she watched the spots across her vision fade. No footsteps, no whir of monitor drones. Nothing but the muffled thump of music from the dorm. Aya rose to her feet and brushed herself off. Not that anyone would notice the wet grass clinging to her; Reputation Bombers dressed to disappear.
The robe was hooded and shapeless, the perfect disguise for party-crashing. With a twist of a crash bracelet, a hoverboard rose from its hiding place in the bushes. Stepping on, Aya faced the glittering lights of Prettyville. Prettyville was full of pixel-skins and surge-monkeys, and plenty of other strange new fads and fashions.
You could choose among a million kinds of beauty or weirdness, or even keep your natural-born face your whole life. These days "pretty" meant whatever got you noticed. Not at night, when all the good stuff happened. Especially if you were an extra, a loser, an unknown. Gazing at the city, she felt engulfed by her own invisibility. Each of its sparkling lights stood for one of the million people who had never heard of Aya Fuse.
Who probably never would. She sighed, urging her hoverboard forward. The government feeds always said that the Prettytime was gone forever, freeing humanity from centuries of bubbleheadedness. They claimed that the divisions among uglies, pretties, and crumblies had all been washed away.
That the last three years had unleashed a host of new technologies, setting the future in motion again. It still pretty much sucked, being fifteen. Moggle was already shooting, the shimmer of safety fireworks reflecting from its lenses. Hot-air balloons swayed over the mansion, and revelers screamed down from the rooftops in bungee jackets.
It looked like a party back in the old days: self-indulgent and eye-kickingly radiant. Back then everyone had gotten one big operation on their sixteenth birthday. It made you beautiful, but secretly changed your personality, leaving you brain-missing and easily controlled.
He liked to claim that those months had been awful -- as if being shallow and vain was such a stretch for him. But he never denied that the parties had been awesome. Not that Hiro would be here tonight; he was way too famous. Aya checked her eyescreen: the average face rank inside was about twenty thousand. Compared with her older brother, the people at this bash were total extras. Compared to an ugly ranked at half a million, though, they were legends.
Inside, the air was full of hovercams. From Moggle-size all the way down to paparazzi swarms, each cam no bigger than a champagne cork. There was always plenty to see at tech-head parties, crazy people and kick new gadgets. Tech-heads lived for new technologies -- they loved showing off their latest tricks, and kickers loved putting them on their feeds.
Everyone who got invited, anyway. She lowered her head, making her way toward a cluster of Reputation Bombers. Here in public they all kept their hoods up, like a bunch of pre-Rusty Buddhist monks. They were already bombing: chanting the name of some random member of the clique, trying to convince the city interface to bump his face rank.
Aya bowed to the group and joined the blur of name-dropping, keeping her ugly face covered. How quickly did you drop if everyone stopped talking about you? The clique was one big controlled experiment, which was why they all wore the same anonymous outfits. They were just cheaters, pathetic extras trying to talk themselves famous. What was the point of the reputation economy, if someone was telling you who to talk about? The hovercam drifted over the crowd, picking out faces one by one.
The secret clique Aya had discovered had to be here somewhere. Only tech-heads could pull off a trick like that Aya had to find them again. Whoever kicked a crazy trick like mag-lev riding would be instantly famous.
But Moggle was already distracted, watching a gaggle of NeoFoodies underneath a pink blob floating in the air. They were drinking from it with meter-long straws, like astronauts recapturing a spilled cup of tea.
NeoFoodies were old news -- Hiro had kicked a story about them last month. They ate extinct mushrooms grown from ancient spores, made ice cream with liquid nitrogen, and injected flavors into weird forms of matter.
Kazrarisar I felt like Scott Westerfeld just wrote this one for the fans and that he was really finished when he did the third book. I wish that the authors of popular series, would take a little more thought about wesyerfeld story lines before they quickly release their sequels. Extras Uglies, 4 by Scott Westerfeld Being westerteld, he has become somewhat arrogant, and is still harping about fame. Speaking of Zane, though Also, I found it a little eye-rolling that the heroine does attain a very very high rank in the end, after all, which kind of deflates the purpose of the book, or a purpose. You can help by adding to it.
Down and Out "Moggle," Aya whispered. A pile of dorm uniforms rustled, as if a small animal stirred underneath. Then a shape slipped from among the folds of spider silk and cotton. Tiny lenses gazed at her face, curious and alert, reflecting starlight from the open window.