‘Guys!’ Dennis yelled. Their attention drawn, he extended a closed fist over the table, opening it to reveal four small yellow and black capsules sitting in the palm of his hand.
Matthias watched as the two girls slipped one each from his palm, followed by Dennis himself. Dennis’ blonde companion swallowed hers with a long gulp from a tall glass of dark spirits. Courtney slipped hers between her lips with a sip from a cocktail, which until now had been abandoned.
‘Matthias!’ Dennis resought his attention, extending his palm even further across the table.
‘What is it?’
Dennis met Courtney’s eyes. Her slender arm slinked out to pluck the pill from his palm. She sidled close to Matthias. He leant forwards to speak into her ear: ‘What is it?’ and leant down to receive her reply.
‘Nanovirus. Expands your perception.’
He pulled back to see her enthusiastic expression.
‘It’s safe!’ she exclaimed, holding the pill by his chin.
‘I’m worried about my mods.’
‘Don’t! Who do you think invented it?’
‘Come on, Matthias!’ Dennis chided in the background.
Relenting, he took the pill from her palm and placed it into his mouth. Courtney offered her drink to follow it, and he accepted. Dennis cheered as he swallowed.
While Matthias pretended to take an interest in the broken conversation, internally he focused on studying the payload. The alcohol and pill sat together in a holding tank in his gut. While he was capable of extracting the potential energy from the food he ingested, there was little of value in a small amount of cocktail, and even less in the pill.
He sealed the compartment and gave the pill a digestive nudge. A swarm of miniature robots raced out and began climbing the walls like bees. He released a small sample of biological material, and observed as they attacked, swamping blood cells with sugars, pumping chemicals to release stored adrenaline, endorphins, and serotonin, a process which in a human might induce a supercharged euphoria. There was something else, dormant and benign, small devices floating like debris. Matthias destroyed the contents of his miniature lab and began constructing a substitute.
A small, smooth hand wearing a single freckle and clean nails caressed his thigh. He looked to Courtney, her pupils dilated like planets, her movements spasmodic.
‘Do you feel it yet?’ she gushed, leaning into him, her face inches from his own.
‘I think I’m getting there,’ he answered. She squeezed his leg and fell against him, resting her forehead on his chest.
‘Are you alright?’ he spoke into her scalp, voice muffled by her hair.
‘I’m fine,’ she answered, returning her face to his.
‘So Dennis says you like guys with prosthetics.’
‘Yeah! Well not prosthetics.. Enhancements! Body mods! He said you have a wicked arm!’
‘Yeah, I do,’ he grinned. ‘I’ll show you later, maybe. Not here.’
‘It would draw a lot of attention,’ he explained.
‘More attention than those?’ she motioned beyond the balcony. Matthias looked to the dancers on-stage. Cosmetic implants boosted the appearance of their faces, lines erased, dazzling eyes, foreign materials strengthening their muscles from the inside, tattoos shifting across the entirety of their skin. Although they were preoccupied with dancing, their eyes were recording everything.
‘It’s a little more dramatic than that.’
Dennis waved an arm in front of their faces. ‘Hey! Guys! Drinks?’
Courtney held up her full glass.
‘Sure,’ Matthias answered.
Dennis’ pupils were also like saucers, his manner confronting, body thrust halfway across the table, muscles tense and energised. He pulled back to depart the table with his friend, leaving Matthias with Stacey who had resumed looking out over the crowd. His substitute virus was ready. A simulation, to carry him into the void.