23: mage, eagles

by Chris J

Joshua swept his long, brown hair back over his shoulder, then clasped it into a ragged ponytail and pulled a torn and stained White Palace t-shirt over his head. Joey had buzzed him about five minutes ago, and if he knew his friend he'd be walking in that door any second. Last time Joey'd walked in and Josh had been shirtless, they hadn't gotten shit done for at least an hour.

"What the fuck?" came Joey's voice, right one cue, from behind him. "I tried to buzz you again on the way over and you aren't logged in, you ass. I thought the day I saw you logged out was the day I saw you dead."

"You caught me during a reboot," said Josh, snatching his PCD off the table and flicking it open with his thumb, then stringing a wire from it and sliding it into the back of his hand. "Shit, I'm offline for two minutes and you panic. Wait...what the hell's this?" Josh squinted at the screen, as though he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing.

"Shit, you got it, too?" said Joey, whipping his sunglasses and peering at Josh's screen. He pulled his own PCD out and compared the two. "It's a fucking broadcast. From the Corps. They're on to us, Josh, they're ON to us. What the fuck are we going to do?"

"All right, all right," said Josh. "Sit down, Joey. What the fuck did you take, anyway? I thought you were off that shit." He looked searchingly into Joey's eyes, using his fingers to push Joey's neon green hair away from his forehead.

"Just a couple red ones," said Joey. "I kept 'em for an emergency, and if this ain't an emergency, I don't know what is."

"Think about it, Fatone," said Josh reasonably. "It's a broadcast message. It's just a warning. It probably went to the whole fucking student body, so you don't need to get yourself so worked up about nothing."

"Yeah, but they know something. They know!"

"They're guessing. The average kindergarten baby who took a look at the conditions here could guess that someone's working to change things. They don't know shit, Joe. If they did, they sure as hell wouldn't be giving us warning." Joey's body was shaking less, but his eyes were still dilated and glazed.

"They're tricking us, then," he said. "It's a trick!"

"Look, if you're so fucking concerned about it then let's get Curly to go digging around. If there's anything to be found, he'll find it." Since Joey had taken over his only chair, Josh straddled him as he cpoke and rested his weight on Joey's thighs. "Okay?"

"Curly, yeah, that guy's a fucking mage," enthused Joey. "He's soaring with the eagles while we're down here playing in the sandbox. Curly. Yeah. Curly'll do it."

Josh shook his head. "Next time you take any of that red shit, I'm kicking your ass. Got that?" Joey closed his eyes as relief flooded through him and the adrenaline rush began to fade. Josh leaned over to give him a quick kiss on his pouty lips before getting up off his lap and turning back to his PCD. "Get up."

"Why?" said Joey. "I'm just gonna sit here for a while..." his voice trailed off and his body got limp, tilting dangerously to one side.

"Because we need to get our shit together if we're going to do another run tonight," he said. "And we've got to find out where the hell Curly's at these days. And if that weren't enough, finals are next week. I don't know about you, but I'm not even sure what classes I'm in." He poked a few buttons on his PCD and waited for the information to scroll up. "German Lit? What the fuck..."

"Shit," said Joey, struggling to open his eyes. "I'm crashing here. You got any big greens around here? You used to always have big greens..."

Josh sighed and picked up his jeans off the floor, digging around in all the pockets until he came out with a small metallic rectangle. "That's all I've got. Take 'em all and you won't get laid for a month. And I mean that this time. If we're gonna do a run, I'm gonna need 'em later." He slapped the case into Joey's palm, then pulled his pants on.

"Yeah, sure, whatever," said Joey distantly, popping the case open and taking a couple of the pills, chewing them up with a look of disgust on his face, then swallowing. A few moments later he was already more alert. He hit a sequence of keys on his PCD and turned to Josh. "I buzzed Trigger. If he doesn't know where Curly's at, no one will."

"Hit up Spike, too. Lance is good, but he and Curly have been on the outs ever since the Tampa crash last month." Josh made another face as he continued to scroll through his course list. He was gonna have to bust into Lance's notes tonight, too, if he had any hope of passing. That meant picking up some more big greens if he could score them. When you had this much shit to do, sleep was optional.

"I've got Chris on the line," said Joey. Josh looked over, and saw the wire between his PCD and his hand shimmering with a faint blue light. "He's got a line on Curly. He's sending me the stats now. Fuck, he's even in town!"

"Score," said Josh with a grin. "Spike's the man. Listen, I gotta hit the Union for a few," he added, slipping the PCD into his pocket, the wire lengthening to accommodate the change of position. "Watch the place, and don't let anyone touch my shit."

"Hey, come on, you know me," said Joey, still engrossed in his conversation with Chris.

"Yeah, exactly. So watch? Okay? And find us some food, too," he said. "We're gonna need it." Without waiting for a verbal response--he knew Joey would have him on the line no more than a few minutes after he was out of sight--he headed out of the room to get the shit he needed. It was going to be a long fucking night.

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