Peng Yueying sold herself to the Magic Kingdom, indentured herself to pay for the upload she could never have afforded on her own. She’s software now, just another NPC, in an MMO fallen on hard times.
But the Kingdom’s population of human players is dwindling. Its posthuman players are growing bored with playing at being human. Its AI owners will stop at nothing to keep the servers running.
And Peng Yueying has to decide: is she going to play, or is she going to be someone else’s game?
Yueying was drowning. There was fire, out beyond the broken crystal of the portholes, but the inside of the turtle sub was black. Something was on top of her, pinning her to the deck. There was no air left in her lungs and in a moment she was going to give into the Imogen-body's frantic demands and fill them with seawater.
Letitia was above her, struggling with her flexible cuttlewoman arms to lift whatever held Yueying down.
I don't need to move, Yueying wanted to say. I need to breathe.
Then there was another shape behind the cuttlewoman, enormous, hooded, broad-shouldered. Yueying squinted as a green-white light was kindled; and the looming shape became a mass of kelp and pale shell, and Yueying saw the broad kindly face of the terrapin sea-shepherd that had spoken to her, under the Dragontown sun, during the second twink invasion.
"Peng Yueying," the terrapin said, leaning down, "I can take you away from all this."