Author : Debbie Mac Rory

Sonia swallowed her meal pills, grimacing. She hated the things, and they always stuck in her throat. Adjusting the infusion cuff on her arm, she picked up the control and started thumbing through a selection of dining experiences: family dinner; ugh, no, not after the last one. Fancy French restaurant, seafood bar, roadside café… She finally settled on a noodle bar. Simple, easy and usually noisy enough so she wouldn’t have to deal with other people. Hitting select, she lay back on the couch and closed her eyes, waiting for the program to load.

* ** *** ** *

Dove grey walls greeted her when she opened her eyes. Great, she though, trust me to pick somewhere busy. Gradually the room began to resolve into an appropriate waiting room, and other people began to materialise, appearing in groups and couples. She ignored them all, wishing she didn’t have to go through this. But she’d missed her last two dining episodes. If she missed this one too she’d have to face going to the doctor for a check-up, and she needed that less than having to go through the episode.

It wasn’t always bad, she supposed, as a virtual waiter glided up to escort her to her seat. Less than fifteen minutes would elapse in her world but it would give the infusion band time to work with her meal pills, ensuring her body was in prime health and not deficient of any nutrients. The mind too was serviced in this time. Each episode gave a person a much needed chance to relax and socialise, to interact with other bases far distant, without taking much time at all out of their work schedules.

As the waiter collected menus for her, Sonia glanced about the room and found her eyes meeting with a gorgeous redhead, sitting on her own. The redhead smiled, and Sonia found her foul mood lifting as she smiled back. She leaned to the waiter and gestured. She didn’t even need to say a word; he smiled his understanding and guided her to the seat opposite.

Sonia gave her order, and introduced herself to the redhead… and the rest of the meal passed by in a flash. They shared gyoza and rice wine, laughing and chatting, and just touching each others fingers. People came and went around them but were barely noted by either. After entirely too short a time, a chime on Aimee’s wristband, and she smiled sadly. She cocked her head and blew Sonia a kiss, fading away so her smile lingered in Sonia’s mind like that of a cheshire cat.

Sonia looked down at the empty plates littering the space between them and only then noticed the shimmer of a data-card. She picked it up and with a skip of her heart beat she thumbed her wristband and began to exit the episode…

* ** *** ** *

Sonia stirred slowly, groaning. Coming out of an episode early always left her a little groggy, but the faint chime of her control drew up her awareness. She opened the data-card, biting her lower lips in nervousness. Aimee, it read, Luna 9, number 5164. Sonia smiled. Luna 9 wasn’t very far away, it wasn’t impossible that they could co-ordinate a week-break to meet in person… but for the mean time, a few more lunches, maybe a private dinner. Episodes were definitely looking up.

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