Here’s a second taster:
Julia Rogers was the ultimate in Hipster designers and she certainly looked the part. Her appearance, with its writhing scarlet medusa hair, dresses made of living material that transformed into swirls of psychedelic colour that interacted with the mutable splashes of vividly coloured transition tattoos that flowed and swirled across her skin, was every bit as extreme and garish as the vibrant Holographic designs for which she was renowned. It made for uneasy family reunions with the rather conventional father who had made his name and fortune mining the asteroids. John ‘Buck’ Rogers was quite a pillar of society and his daughter’s chosen lifestyle proved difficult to swallow. That was probably why they rarely met up. She tended to keep her distance and he was rarely on planet. It suited them both.
Julia took her usual precautions. It was part of the game. She knew that the bureau kept tabs on her; they kept tabs on anyone who was not main-stream. She also knew that they closely monitored Josie even more closely. That was the way of the world. She’d even discussed it with Josie while knowing full well that their conversation was probably being listened to. But they were old hands at the game and knew the score. As long as they kept their business low-key and followed the protocol they knew they would be left alone. So Julia played her role and went through the motions.
She disembarked from her scudcab at the supermart, walked briskly through to the other side and flicked for another. It dropped her off a block away from Josie’s. She walked to the aperture resisting all inclination to look around her, glanced at the iris recorder and stepped into the vestibule as the aperture slid open.
She always followed the same routine. She figured that they expected it of her. There was a game to be played.
Josie had a limited clientele and deliberately kept it that way. She figured that her small enterprise would be tolerated but if she got too greedy they would soon be taking her in for reprogramming. Besides, she liked it this way. It was more personal, more of a family business that operated between associates and friends. She had no desire to expand the operation. She made a comfortable living out of it and enjoyed herself into the bargain. What more could one want? She’d found her niche. She provided for her small group who she regarded more as personal friends than clients and the authorities let her alone.
‘Hi Jules,’ she said in way of greeting, looking genuinely pleased to see her, gesturing towards a pexicush and passing her a vessel of red liquid. ‘Try some of this.’
Julie accepted the vessel, sniffed and took a sip. They made quite a contrast, the two girls – Julie with her extreme Avant Garde appearance and Josie, equally striking with her dark complexion and large hair, but in a much more conventional garb.
‘J675,’ Josie explained, sitting herself down on a nearby pexicush and sipping a similar beverage. ‘It’s got some strange name but I can’t remember what.’ She laughed. ‘I just remember the code to dial it up. Bren introduced me to it. I just adore the taste and it’s a great pick me up – restores all the vital juices to homeostatic equilibrium according to Bren.’ She chuckled again. ‘I don’t know about that. It just tastes good and does me a power of good. That’s all I know and it’s all I care to know.’
Julie took a sip. The flavour exploded on her tongue and caused her whole mouth to tingle. She swallowed it and felt the strange sensation spread down to her stomach. ‘Is it legal?’ She enquired with raised eyebrows.
Josie laughed. ‘Yes. Perfectly legal and extremely healthy. If it catches on it will be putting me out of business I think.’
‘I doubt that,’ Julie said, sitting back into her pexicush and taking another large sip. ‘But it is rather flavoursome.’
They spent a pleasant half hour sipping drinks and hanging out.
‘So what are you up to?’ Josie finally got round to asking.
‘Well that’s why I’m here,’ Julie replied with a smile. ‘I’ve got a big installation I’m working on. Honkers have commissioned me, well at least, approached me for a trial.’
‘Wow! Going up in the world, girl.’
‘I know,’ Julie agreed. ‘It is quite a big project. Honkers would take it to a whole new audience. I guess you could say it’s my big opportunity.’
‘Is that what you want Jules?’ Josie asked with a concerned expression. ‘You don’t think that might take it somewhere you don’t want to go?’
There was a lot left unsaid. They both knew what a cut-throat world it was out there. The pressures were immense. Once you were in that pool it became a whole new ballgame. Lives changed.
Julie laughed and then became very serious. She swirled the red liquid around in her glass thoughtfully while she contemplated her answer.
‘I’ve thought about it lots,’ Julie said, looking up at Josie. ‘I don’t want the fame and pressure. I’ve seen that with my Dad. That’s the last thing I want. I don’t need the money either. I make enough to get by and live comfortably as it is.’ She diverted her eyes back to her drink. ‘But I do want it for myself.’ Her eyes rose to meet Josie’s eyes and held them. ‘I want to prove to myself that my art is up there with the best, that I can hold my own. Is that wrong?’
Josie shook her head. ‘No. It’s not wrong. I just don’t think you’ve got anything to prove on that score, girl. You know you’re already up there with anyone in the system.’
‘Yeah,’ Josie replied slowly, contemplating the issue, looking at it from all sides. ‘But I guess I need to prove that to myself.’
Josie shrugged and slowly rose from her seat. ‘OK, girl, just as long as you know what you are doing. Beware the big boys and girls. They play dirty and they’re not nice.’
‘I know that. I’ll be careful.’
‘So what do you need?’
‘I reckon this installation will take me about a week,’ Julie explained. ‘I’ll need something to keep my energy levels high throughout. Something to aid my concentration and something that’ll get my mind right out there and motoring. The last stuff you gave me was just the job.’
‘Hmmm,’ Josie pondered the requirements. ‘You know I think I’ve got something that will do the trick nicely. Some mind flippers that could be even better than that last batch.’ She began dialling in details on a private dispensor, concentrating hard. When she was satisfied she pressed the screen and fourteen capsules emerged. Josie bagged them up and handed them to Julie who slipped them into her purse.
‘Take care with those, Jules,’ Josie advised. ‘They are very strong. I’ve mixed in the wham and something to maintain your focus. The flippers are right out there. They’ll give you a right psychedelic sunshine. They’ll get you buzzing and give you just the zingy trip you are looking for. I wouldn’t normally give such a strong dose but you are experienced.’ She busied herself with her apparatus again and produced a number of other pills. ‘If you find you need to come down, if things get too heavy, take one of these,’ she handed Julie the pills and Julia stashed them away with the others. ‘If you want to come right out of it take two.’
‘OK, thanks,’ Julie said, adjusting her purse. ‘I’ll credit your account.’
‘No problem,’ Josie said casually, casting a look of caution. ‘Just take care. They are very strong. And make sure to drink and eat. It’s easy to forget. Get that all sorted before you start. I don’t want you bumming out and being carted off to the medos.’
Julie laughed. ‘Thanks Josie. I’ll take care. I’m sure they’re just what I need. Thank you.’
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