She was back, just as Calix had hoped.
The metal doors slid closed behind as she approached the neon bar. Her hips swayed slightly with every delicate step. Poised with both hands on the bar, her eyes flitted to meet Calix’s for the briefest moment before staring ahead confidently.
God, she is hot, Calix thought. More than hot: She was his dream girl — as if designed precisely for him — right down to the bright-pink, punk-rock streak running through her hair. But what the hell does she want with a Level 0 newb like me?
Calix shook the last drop into his mouth and let the mug fall heavy on the bar. He glanced at her, and she smiled quietly back. Now or never, he thought, and he walked over.
He leaned into the bar and mustered the courage to meet her gaze. Panic rattled him. But to his surprise, she initiated before he even had the chance to botch it.
“Hey there,” she said in a sultry, feminine whisper, “How about a drink?”
Calix perked up, realizing this might be easier than he thought. “What, uhh, what can I get you?” he replied as cooly as possible.
“Bartender!” She called, waving down the robot whirring around behind the counter. “Two Mountain Dews.”
Mountain Dews? In a bar like this? Calix thought. He loved Mountain Dew, but it wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Eh what the hell, he thought. I’ll go with it.
Calix was glad that he did, because she really was his dream: Witty, athletic, and best of all, a raging Ramones fan like he was. She laughed and drummed the driving rhythm to Judy is a Punk when Calix started singing.
“Hey, let’s get out of here,” Calix offered, heart pounding — partially from nerves, but mostly from the three Mountain Dews.
She smiled and turned out of the bar, looking over her shoulder and beckoning him to follow.
* * *
The street outside bustled with a panoply of alien creatures. The couple walked hand-in-hand, giggling at the strangest among them. As they passed a nearby convenience store, Calix felt a tug on his hand. She had stopped and was peering into the storefront.
“Do you, uh, need something?” Calix asked.
“Well,” she replied, biting her lip seductively. “How about a couple more Mountain Dews for… after?”
Calix had smoked cigarettes after, but the thought of drinking Mountain Dew after was weird. What was with her and Dew? Something is off, he thought.
Then it hit him. His mood tumbled to disappointment, then anger: “Are you sponsored?” he demanded. “You are required to tell me if I ask!”
* * *
John ripped off his virtual reality headset and apparatus. Still fuming, his heart continued to pound as it did when he was Calix. He couldn’t stand being duped by these sexy, targeted ad bots.
The Hook Up
A girl too good to be true