"So, how do you like the new implant?" Cindy asked and slowly sipped her double extra hot, no-frap, no-whip, extra smooth latte.
Keri subconsciously rubbed the side of her head where the device had been grown.
"Yeah, I think it's good. It finally came online last night. Freakiest thing ever! I was watching YouTube then all of a sudden I could see it playing in the air in front of me. I thought I was losing it for a second before I figured out what was happening."
Cindy blew the dirty blonde bangs out of her face before taking another sip of the hot beverage in front of her. She rummaged around in her purse to find a bobby pin.
"I still think you're crazy. No way am I ever letting someone grow bio-circuitry in my body."
Keri tossed her long inky-black tresses and shot her friend a sassy smirk. "It's not for everyone, you know? You actually have to have balls to embrace something like augmented reality."
"Ooooh," the blonde shot back, "did you have a pair of those graphed on as well? My goodness, you're so progressive!"
"Gross…" Keri whispered and wrinkled her nose.
Cindy stuck out her tongue in a playful fashion.
The brunette suddenly stiffened a little in her chair and started to look around the room.
The blonde looked surprised. "What's happening? What are you doing?"
Keri stopped and stared straight ahead for a moment. Her eyes opened wide. "Matt is about to enter the building," she whispered.
"What? How do you…" she trailed off as the captain of the college football team strode into the coffee shop. A look of surprise crossed her face. "How did you know that?" she whispered back.
"I felt him. I don't know how to describe it. I just… I knew it was him and that he was about to come inside."
Cindy looked to the handsome guy as he ordered a double-double at the coffee counter, then back to her friend. "You felt him? Are you serious? Can he feel you too?"
Keri made a confused face and shrugged her shoulders.
"Do you know how messed up that sounds?" the blonde continued.
"Shhh!" the brunette commanded. "He's coming over."
"Keri?" Matt asked as he came to a stop beside the girl's table.
"Heeeeeeey," she replied with her best smile.
"You're online now, aren't you?" he asked and returned the smile. "I can feel it."
Cindy's eyes opened wide, but she couldn't think of anything to say.
Keri nodded as casually as possible. "Oh yeah, I guess so."
"Wait," Cindy managed to sputter, "You've got an implant too?"
"Yep," Matt nodded and tapped the side of his head. "It's been active for a couple weeks now. It's totally trippy. My memory is like, razor sharp now. It's like… I can be doing something else in class while the professor drones on about some nonsense, but then when I sit down to take the test, I have perfect recall – even though I wasn't even listening. It's nuts!"
"Wow. I hope that happens for me too!" Keri said and shot her girlfriend a big smile. Cindy did her best to return the smile, but a sense of worry clouded her expression.
Matt continued, "Yeah, so anyway, whenever I get within a dozen yards of someone else with an active implant, I don't know, I just… sense them? I guess? It's so trippy!"
Keri nodded. "I totally knew you were about to walk in the door a second ago. So trippy."
Matt gave another smile. "Right on. Well, maybe I'll sense you again later. Maybe Friday night at Scott's party? Maybe we could find a room and… compare notes or something?"
Keri looked a wee bit uncomfortable, but managed to return the smile again. "Yeah. Maybe. We'll see I guess?"
"Right on," he repeated quietly. He gave Cindy a quick wink, then moved along with a little grin on his face.
Cindy gave the sports star her best fake smile until his back was turned. "Creep," she muttered. "Why do all sports guys just assume that every woman out there is lining up for casual sex anytime they want?"
"Oh yeah, totally," Keri said in a semi-mocking tone. "I mean, what woman wants a tall, sexy guy that's probably going to do quite well for himself. It's like… sooooooo…."
Keri stopped mid-sentence and stared straight ahead again.
"Soooooooo what? Don't tell me you're buying into his bull?" Cindy asked with a scowl.
She examined her seemingly frozen friend for a moment. "Keri?" Cindy asked. "Keri? Hey, are you alright? Keri?"
Cindy reached over and gently shook the other woman's shoulder. "Keri?" she said a little louder, a look of concern painting itself across her face now.
"…oooo unattractive," the brunette said with a smile – as if nothing had happened. "Oh, that was weird. You like… I don't know… moved super-fast for a second. How did you do that?"
"No," Cindy shook her head. "I wasn't moving fast, you were—"
Keri's phone suddenly rang, cutting off the blonde. "Sorry, Cindy, I need to take this. It's my mom," the brunette said without looking at the device in her purse. She stood, tapped the side of her head, said hello to her mother, then slowly walked out of the coffee shop.
"Keri…" Cindy muttered and slowly shook her head.
That night in bed, Cindy tossed and turned. Each time she closed her eyes, she saw disturbing images of her friend freezing over and over again. When she finally fell asleep, nightmares about Keri turning into a robot assaulted her mind. She finally awoke drenched in sweat – her heart racing.
"Keri…" she mumbled as she peeled off her soaking nightwear. "Are you really alright?"
After slipping into an old, oversized T-shirt, she dialed her long-time friend. To her shock, she heard Keri's phone ringing through her open bedroom window. Looking down to the street below, she saw a familiar looking brunette slowly walking in the dark.
"Keri?" Cindy called out. The other woman didn't give any signs of recognition.
"Keri?" she called out again, but again was ignored.
She glanced at the clock across the room. "Four AM?" She looked out the window again and watched as her friend continued down the street like a zombie.
"To Hell with this!" Cindy muttered and quickly slipped into her shoes.
A minute later, she grabbed Keri by the arm and spun her around. "Hey! What the Hell are you doing walking around alone at four in the morning?"
Keri stared right through her friend as if she wasn't there.
"Hello? Is anyone in there?" the blonde shouted and shook the other woman.
The brunette's eyes suddenly locked onto Cindy's. There was something unnatural about the way she did it and Cindy felt herself jump back a little in fear.
"You're coming with me… Cindy," Keri said and slowly started to reach for her friend.
Cindy intermingled her fingers with Keri's and pressed into her palms. The women struggled to over-power each other in the cold morning air.
"How about 'you're coming with me back to my apartment and sleeping on my couch tonight so I can keep an eye on you'? You're acting so crazy right now!" She struggled to gain the upper hand over her friend, but found that they were evenly matched.
"The Russians are our friends… Cindy. They want to meet you," Keri hissed.
Cindy's heart began to race. "The… Russians? What do you mean, 'The Russians'? She struggled a little harder and managed to wriggle free of her friend's grasp. "Stop it! You're seriously freaking me out!"
A strong pair of arms suddenly wrapped themselves around her chest from behind and lifted her off the ground.
"The Russians are our friends… Cindy. They want to meet you," a familiar male voice said.
Keri acknowledged the man holding Cindy in the air. She smiled, but her eyes looked completely dead. "Hello, Matt. The Russians want to meet… Cindy."
"Matt?" Cindy shouted and began wildly kicking her legs. "Let me go! Let me go!"
"Shhh… people are sleeping… Cindy," Keri whispered and stuffed a piece of cloth into the other woman's mouth.
The cloth had a terrible taste and Cindy's eyes quickly started to become heavy. She felt her whole body start to relax, despite the panic that was gripping her.
Everything went black.
Cindy's eyes suddenly shot open. A blinding white light directly over her head immediately made her shut them again and turn her head to the side.
"Hold her steady!" commanded an unfamiliar male voice with a thick accent.
"Yes, comrade," Matt's voice said calmly. His head blocked out the blinding white light as he loomed over the woman strapped to the table.
"Matt…" Cindy said weakly as his powerful hands forced her head straight again, "Please don't do this."
"Shhh," Keri whispered as she stepped from the shadows. She gently stroked the blonde's hair. "It will all be over soon."