PW #328: Young Adult Contemporary with speculative elements: DECODING EMMA

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Erin Foster Hartley

Mentee Name: Neicole M. Crepeau


Category: Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary with speculative elements

Word Count: 74,000 words


Prototype cyborg Delta has a hundred days to fit into human society undetected or be dismantled. To help, her creators have given her an AI based on the memories of a dead girl. When the AI turns on her and tries to sabotage their mission, Delta must discover how she was created and help the AI come to peace with it. Otherwise, neither she nor this last echo of the girl will survive. WESTWORLD meets WE WERE LIARS.


There’s a dead girl in my head. Most of the time, she’s quiet. But sometimes her voice drifts up, surfaced by my cyborg programming to provide momentary guidance or an all too human insight.

Relax, she says now. Like that’s possible.

Three minutes until my first test: stepping from my room and walking the Institute’s halls to the handler’s office. The second hand on the clock stutters a full circle as I run through my calculations.

Fifty-three yards.

Three turns.

Eight doors.

Chances I’ll succeed: 56.29%. Chances I’ll flee to my room: 43.71%. Or maybe I’ll just drop midway in a puddle of fear.

Breathe, Emma says. Or rather, the Emma AI—a program based on the memories of a seventeen-year old girl. That’s me, cyborg Delta Phoenix, a mix of dead-girl memories, code, and a modified human body. I’m a walking marvel—except I’m scared witless to go fifty-three yards alone.


I push myself up from the bed, then teeter, gnawing on a nail bitten to the quick. How can they think I’m ready? I haven’t even been awake a month. Though, waking is a poor analogy for my many-day climb from the dark depths of unconsciousness, kicking up through layers of awareness in a kind of reverse drowning.

Now, here I am, barely treading water.

But you are here.

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