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Neon Hearts: Chapter Four, Learning to Dissapear
I had forgotten I was suppose to be mad at Tox, almost instantly. We talked and laughed the whole time we were in Star Trolley. Dippy gave us some drinks on the house and we told Dex about our diabolical scheme to send my letter through the Warper in the basement of the CGT building. Dex was one little bot with a huge sense of humor. Of course, Dex 4000s’ were suppose to have the most advanced artificial intelligence of any other drone ever built.
Dippy finally had to kick us out of Star Trolley, and then Security bots had to kick us out of Voxiez. The whole time, Tox, Dex, and I were laughing and shouting and having a great old time. Tox and I raced on the way back to the ghetto, the whole time Dex was clinging to my shoulder with his little mechanical legs. Tox won the race. Dex chewed me out for that one. After I introduced Retta and Dex, I settled down on my hover bed and switched on the ScreenFeeds.
The familiar, blonde headed reporter flickered up on the wall, behind her, was the Global Tech Research Labs. “….And so brings us to our next story. Earlier today around 4:35pm, Pallin’s latest Deam-on, a large mutated Fox Bat, escaped today from the Global Tech Research Labs in downtown Deams.” I practically jumped out of bed. Dex yelped and tumbled to the floor. “Computer! Turn the ScreenFeed volume up!” I shouted. The volume went up and the reporter continued, “Authorities believe the Deam-on is still somewhere in the central part of Deams metropolis. We now go to Professor Pallin Jay Deams himself. Tell us Professor, what do you plan on doing about the escaped Deam-on?” Pallin Deams smiled into the camera. “Shmuck.” Dex muttered. “Shhh.” I scolded.
“Well there’s not much we can do,” he said, “The Deam-ons’ are built for biowarfare. So there’s a high chance that it could be a threat to Deams. There haven’t been but a few sightings of the Deam-on, and from what witnesses say, it seemed skittish. So as of now, my theory is that it’s spooked by the metropolis and is most likely hiding somewhere in the city. I’ve decided it’s too risky to leave this thing loose in the metropolis, so I’m sending out a team of Global Tech Authorization Officers to hunt it and bring it down.” I gasped, “No! They can’t do that!” The poor bat was probably scared to death, with all the lights and noises of the metropolis.
“Oh, why are you so worried about that dumb bat anyway?” Retta moaned, “So what if they take it down? What’s it matter?” That I didn’t know. But there was something different about the bat. Something that made me feel sad for it. The reporter went on in the background, “So there you have it folks. From Professor Deams himself. In other news, the Central Global Tech building was broken into last night.” My head shot up. A shock went through my bones.
“Take a look at this footage caught by security cameras in the basement.” The screen then went over to a tape of Tox and I running down the hallway, and how he stopped, and held me close to him. I rubbed my arms, remembering his touch. “According to the tape it appears two people had snuck into the basement, which looks like a male and a female. Authorities concluded that the two weren’t trying to rob the Global Tech building, but to get to the Warper hidden away in the basement of the building. They believe whoever it was in the basement was trying to send a message back to an earlier time. A letter, written with paper and ink were found in the pod of the Warper.”
My stomach lurched. My letter hadn’t gone through… The reporter went on, “To make circumstances even more strange, It appears to be written in old English language. Whoever wrote the letter had somehow held onto the long forgotten language. The letter was taken back to the Global Tech Labs to be decoded.” I thought about the old English Dictionary I had hidden away in my safe. It was made of paper and ink. If the scientists decoded the letter, I’d live in Solitary Confinement for the rest of my life.
Dex looked at me, “That’s you and Tox isn’t it?” I nodded, horrified. Tox would lose his job, I’d be locked up like an experiment rat. I trembled. I couldn’t go to Solitary Confinement I just couldn’t. I jumped out of bed and put some clothes on. “Rahli, where are you going?” Retta asked, and Dex jumped onto my shoulder. “I have to talk to Tox.” I said and hurried out the door.
The gates into the ghetto had been shut and locked so the younger kids couldn’t sneak out. I watched a surveillance camera closely. As soon as It turned the other way I raced across the road and over to Tox’s dorm house. I knocked once, twice, three times quietly before Remi opened the door. “Rahli? What are you doing here?” he asked. I pushed past him. “Shut the door.” I whispered and followed the dim glow of Tox’s eco-candles. He always kept some eco-candles above his hover bed. That’s why his dorm house always smelled like a forest.
Tox was snoozing in his hover bed, the blankets had been kicked down by his feet. I shook his tattooed shoulder. “Tox. Tox, wake up.” I whispered. He snorted in reply and refused to budge. “C’mon, Tox. Wake up this is important. Suddenly Tox yanked on my arm. I yelped in surprise and fell forwards. I landed across his chest. I heard him scream and the lights flickered on. “Rahli!? What are you doing?” He shrieked. I was laying on his bare chest staring directly into his glassy green eyes. Dex was clinging to his head.
“I’m in big trouble Tox!” I whispered, “The letter didn’t go through the Warper and they found it! It’s been taken to the Global Tech Research Labs to be decoded. Tox, if they decode that letter I’m done for!” Tox’s eyes widened. “What should we do?” He whispered. “Lay low for right now. They might not be able to decode it and we’ll be in the clear.” I explained. “And if they do?” Tox asked. I looked into his eyes. Hurt and confusion was swirled in with the twitching glass shards. Suddenly all my fears slid away. Our lips were so close to each other. My mouth tingled and temptation pulled at me from everywhere.
Tox turned his head and slid out from under me. He stood up and stared at the blank wall. My heart sank and I straightened up still sitting on the bed. “Well, If they do decode the letter, we’d have to leave the city. But you’re right. Until they decode it, we should lay low. I’ve got…. plans tomorrow so you should just jump around the city. Go for a ride on the hover bike, but whatever you do don’t talk to anyone or stay in one place for too long. I sighed and nodded. A slight disguise would be a good idea too, I thought to myself.
“Well, If you have plans tomorrow I’ll let you get some rest.” I muttered, annoyed at myself as another perfect opportunity slipped by. “Goodnight, Tox.” He walked me to the door. “Night, Rahli. And good luck.” he whispered. I turned back to look at him. The words were caught in my mouth like a bee on a strip of bug tape. Tox stared at me waiting for me to say more. “Okay…. Thanks.” Was all I could say before I turned and hurried soundlessly through the dark, Dex quietly hovering after me.
I easily evaded the security cameras and dashed back inside my dorm house. Retta had gone into sleep mode and was sitting on her charge pad in the corner, but she had left the lights on for me. I changed back into my pajamas and crawled into bed with a heavy heart. Who knew graduating would be such a pain. Dex nudged my cheek. “You okay, Rahli?” He asked. “Fine.” I lied, “I’m just a coward.” Dex nestled down beside me. “What are you afraid of exactly?” he asked. “Tox…. Of what he would say if I told him…” I sighed. There was a long pause and I stared up at the ceiling. “Told him what?” Dex finally whispered. I didn’t want to tell him. But I knew saying it out loud would make the weight in my chest lighten.
“I love him.” I whispered through the darkness. Dex’s glowing, yellow bug-eyes were fixated on me. I continued to watch the ceiling. “Ah…. I see….. I see….” Dex muttered, more to himself than me. I faced him again and stroked his back once. “Goodnight, Dex.” I whispered and turned over so my back was facing him. “Sweet dreams, Rahli.” The little robot replied and the yellow glow of his eyes went out as he transformed back into the simple oval shape he was when I first saw him. The room was dark now. I stared into the pitch blackness and sighed. I began thinking about how I’d disguise myself the next day. What I’d do for a whole day. Suddenly It hit me. The bat. I’d go looking for the Deam-on Fox Bat. Hopefully I could find it before the Global Tech goons did. So with thoughts of disguises and demon Fox Bats’ swirling around in my head, I slowly drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I quickly gobbled down a warm chocolate muffin and some milk Retta had fixed for me. I found a pair of dark shades and slid on some black skinny pants along with a matching skinny black belly top. I kept looking. The red swirl tattoos on my back were still visible. I couldn’t be Rahli Jenn Dahlia when I left the dorm house today. Finally I saw a long black coat in the back of my closet. The collar came up around my neck. Perfect. I slid it on along with some black, leather high heel boots. “Nice outfit!” Dex said as I walked out of the closet. “Do I look like me?” I asked. “You look like a Global Tech spy.” he said. “Good enough.” I muttered, “Lets go.” Dex nodded and flew up onto my shoulder.
“Retta, don’t let anyone in. No matter what.” I commanded as I hurried out the door. I quickly typed in my bike’s password and it whirred to life. I jumped on and speeded off into the SpeedWay. Dex clung to my shoulder. “Where are we going?” He shouted over the wind. “Voxiez. I’m getting some color in my hair so I’m less recognizable, then we’re going downtown. I’m going to look for that Fox Bat.” I replied as we weaved through traffic.
Finally, I parked my bike in the Voxiez Parking Garage and took the elevator up to the seventh floor. “Dex, get in my pocket.” I whispered. “Why!?” He whined. “Just do it!” I hissed, “There are tons of thugs out there who would just love to corner me and steal you.” Dex obeyed, crawled down my arm and into the pocket of my jacket. The elevator pod slid open. I hurried on out, leaving the elevator talking to no one. I looked around the hair and nail salons lined up on each side of the long hall. There it was. Razz-Dye. A salon specialized in color dying your hair.
I walked in cautiously and looked around. Everyone in there wore black and neon green. They had piercings’ in places unimaginable. I even saw a girl with a black and green Mohawk. Heavy metal music blasted from an old signal radio in the corner. “Can I help you there miss?” someone asked me. I turned and jumped. “Uhm… Yeah I need a streak job done.” I said. My knees felt weak. “Sure man. Come on over here.” Okay this guy was insanely scary. He had a black and green Mohawk and was shirtless. He had an old fashioned tattoo of a dragon on his chest. The kind Global Tech outlawed about eight years before. He motioned me over to a gray hover chair. I sat down and held my breath. The guy flipped on a the ScreenFeed in front of me. “Just look through these here. Pick your color and give me a holler when you find the color you want.” Someone called from the other side of the shop. “Lazlo! Your there’s someone here to see you!” I glanced up at Lazlo as I flipped through the hairstyles on the ScreenFeed. “Hey, Kale! What up man?!” Lazlo shouted and bounded away.
I sighed and touched the ScreenFeed again and it turned over to the next photograph. It was a punk girl wearing a black and pink striped tank top under a black jacket. Her hair was long, blonde and straight, like mine, streaked with neon pink. I smiled. That was it. I slid back into the hover seat and waited for Lazlo to return. Dex wriggled out of my pocket and onto my leg. “Are you almost finished?” I looked down. “Dex! Get back in there now.” I hissed. “Look I’m sick and tired of having to share pocket space with mister key ring and miss paper clip.”
“….. All right man, nice seeing you. I’m really sorry about that. But hey I’ll get back to you I got a chick waiting for a streak job back here.” I heard Lazlo say. I scooted to the edge of my seat and peeked around the corner. There was a tall young man about my age standing on the other side of the counter. His blonde spiky hair was up in all sorts of directions. His face was hidden in the palms of his black leather gloves. Something was wrong. I watched him closely. He pulled his head up. His blue eyes were foggy and he had this panicked expression. He turned to me. I quickly sank back into my chair. I heard Lazlo’s footsteps on the creaky floor.
I snatched Dex and jammed him back in my pocket. “You find one?” Lazlo asked smiling. “Uh, yeah. That one there.” I said, faking a smile. “Excellent choice m’ dear.” he said and went over to an old table, splattered with neon colors. I took a deep breath as he pushed the ScreenFeed up out of the way of the broken mirror in front of me. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see my transformation in process. “You okay miss?” Lazlo asked. I opened my eyes quickly. “Fine.” I whispered, faking another smile. Lazlo nodded and started on my hair. I stared at the familiar girl in the cracked mirror. She was staring back at me with a blank expression. She was way too familiar. I had a lot of work to do. I sighed and closed my eyes again as Lazlo continued to finish my hair.
I realized if I wanted to stay free, I’d have to get rid of the girl in the mirror. The Global Tech professors would soon decode my letter. My name. I had to get rid of the girl in the mirror. Rahli Jenn Dahlia had to disappear.