Lexi made her way through the crowded dance floor, eager to reach the anti-grav area. The party was in an older building on the edge of campus. Once abandoned, it had been retrofitted as a nightclub and served as the current hotspot for students.
She saw Beck, her dealer, dancing by himself in a corner. The tall blond boy seemed blissfully unaware of the heavy techno beats thrumming from the ceiling. He slowly danced with an imaginary partner. Lexi supposed he had an augmented program running.
She tapped his shoulder and smiled at him when he turned around.
“Got something for me, Beck?”
“I do, I do.”
He slipped a capsule surreptitiously into her hand, a small liquid-filled cartridge. She gave him a ten-credit token, which he pocketed.
He smiled at her and said, “Have fun!”
He resumed dancing with a partner only he could see.
Lexi popped the cartridge into her medical bracelet. Like most bracelets designed to slyly deliver drugs in public, it was disguised with costume jewelry. She activated the pneumatic injection system, and synthetic opiods flooded her bloodstream.
She smiled, relishing the high. Beck had designed the synthetic specifically for her body. She would suffer few, if any, side effects. The drug was called “Malicious Melody,” and she loved the feelings it gave her. All of her synapses seemed to be firing, and she felt on top of the world.
Finally she made it to the anti-grav area and waited in line, dancing in place with others and soaking up the music. She didn’t care how long she remained in the queue so long as she was high.
She lifted her arms above her head and twirled, the hologram blouse perfectly following the contours of her chest. Lexi laughed in delight, completely forgetting the test she had tomorrow, or the League History project that was overdue. She was de-stressing, in the best way she knew how.
Finally it was her turn for the anti-grav floor. She took a step out onto a large white circle and immediately floated up. She danced in zero gravity, shaking her legs and arms in time with the music as dozens of other students floated around her.
Somebody threw up nearby, and she ducked out of the way as globules of vomit sped for her face. A vacuum bot spotted the fluid, and puttered over quickly, sucking it all up with loud slurping noises. A tractor beam shot out, as the operator pulled out the sick dancer.
“What a way to spoil the mood,” a voice said near her.
She turned and saw the epitome of a “cute guy” smiling down at her. His long hair floated in the air, and his t-shirt drifted lazily around some well-defined abs. Lexi could see them clearly from her angle.
Lexi said, “I know, right?”
What a stupid thing to say, she thought. He’s going to think I’m some kind of airhead.
But he smiled at her and said, “I’m Rick.”
She returned the smile. “Lexi.”
He stretched as far as he could, reaching out. She reached up toward him and they shook hands, awkwardly at different angles and heights.
He said, “You wanna get out of here?”
They signaled the operator, who pulled them down with the tractor beam.
They left the club together, and once they exited the building and walked away from the loud, thumping music, they could talk. She found Rick very easy to converse with, and they wandered through the campus, ignoring other pedestrians and focusing exclusively on each other.
When they got to a park, Rick lowered his voice and began telling her about a new drug he had recently bought: Elixir of Life. Although it had been programmed specifically for his body, he thought she might like it. He gave her a capsule and she plugged it into her bracelet.
The high was different than what her dealer supplied. She felt blissful, relaxed, and something to close to an alcohol buzz. It seemed very pleasant.
They continued talking as the night progressed. Maybe it was his drugs, but Lexi had never been able to talk so freely. She revealed things from her childhood, her dreams and ultimate desires in life. Then she told him about the Resistance and how they were starting a chapter at EU.
Rick seemed open to the idea. He belonged to a fraternity. In fact he had come to the club with several buddies, but he was the only one interested in the anti-grav dance floor and had separated from them. But he assured Lexi his fraternity held very libertarian attitudes, and joining the Resistance would prove popular. There were others in the Greek system on campus who likely felt the same way.
The next morning she woke up in Rick’s frat house, downstairs on a couch next to him, with a surprisingly clear head. The powerpack on her holo-blouse had gone out, much to her embarrassment. Rick smiled and took off his own t-shirt and gave it to her.
“Omigosh, I’m late for class!”
She rushed out of the house, promising to talk to Rick later.
Somehow she got through her History exam, and went back to her dorm to work on projects through lunch. Around suppertime she got a text from Rick on the neural net. The words showed up in front of her face.
“Hey, a bunch of us are going to your meeting. See you there!”
Maybe this thing will actually take off, she thought.
After supper she waited around in her dorm room, browsing social media on the neural net. Somebody had uploaded a new holo of the mountain dogs of Morvana. They were different from dogs found on other planets because they spent a lot of time on two legs. Their puppies were adorable, and Lexi lost herself in the documentary.
Finally, the time came and she hopped out of bed and headed out the dorm.
Lexi casually glanced at her internal clock and said, “Omigosh! Late again!”
She picked up her pace, hurrying toward “The Lab.”
At last the building came into sight, campus lamps lighting up the sidewalk out front.
She stopped as the door burst open and a crowd of students came out. Behind them, SSI officers wearing black blaster armor shoved them through the door. The officers held their guns aimed at the students. They herded the students with curses and vicious blows to their backs.
One of the girls looked at the man behind her and he struck in the face. Lexi watched her nose blossom red with blood.
Another girl ran screaming as soon as she cleared the door.
Thoop! Thoop! Thoop!
Three SSI officers shot her down from behind. Her body lay on the grass, smoke drifting up from her back.
Lexi saw Caroline, hands restrained behind her back, as she stumbled out of the building. An officer shoved her and made her join the others in the grassy area in front of the building.
One of the SSI officers said, “Take them away, StarCen.”
Students started disappearing, popping away in clusters while officers covered them with their weapons. So many! Lexi thought. Several wore fraternity or sorority shirts.
Lexi covered her mouth in horror as she saw Rick stumble out with the last of the students. He stood in the middle of the grassy area looking miserable until he popped out of existence with several others.
“You need to get away.”
Lexi jumped in surprise. She turned and looked behind her. The boy staring back at her was skinny, of medium height, and looked like a classic nerd.
“I’m Basil. You’re Caroline’s friend, right? Lexi?”
“They’ll be coming for you. They’ll be coming for me, too. I’m sure they’ll find out all about us during interrogation. They’ll want to know who else is involved.”
Lexi watched as the last of the students popped away, along with some of the officers. A handful in SSI uniforms milled around the door.
Basil said, “Come on, it’s not safe to go back home. I know somebody who can help. They can put us up for a while until we figure out what to do.”
He turned and slinked away in the darkness.
Lexi looked back one more time. Her heart ached and the first wave of guilt hit her like a tidal wave.
Then she turned and followed Basil into the shadows.