“You could always choose a younger version of yourself,” the wiry NextUs salesman said flipping his hand as he turned away and smiled at another customer entering the store. “That’s more expensive, of course, and it’ll take a week for us to clone you.”

“But the gala is tonight!” Misha pouted. She pressed her face into her boyfriend’s chiseled, muscular chest.

“You’re making this way harder than it has to be,” her boyfriend, Brock, soothed. “You just need to make a choice. Or, we can do like I suggested and you can be me and I can be you. Everyone does the gender swap sooner or later.”

“Ugh!” Misha stomped and turned away. She folded her arms. “I don’t want to be a guy! Guys aren’t pretty. Girls are pretty. I like being a girl; it’s a reflection of who I am inside.”

Misha walked herself towards the nearest gleaming white pod, an almond-skinned Asian teenager motionless before her. 5,000 credits, the sign read. It was a little more than she was hoping to spend. She didn’t want to be impulsive; it would take a while to save another 5,000 credits. But, like she said, the gala is tonight.

“Dammit,” she cursed under her breath. “Asians age really well, right? I can probably live with this model for a few years until I have enough money to buy the next one.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one,” Brock seconded, eying the model a little too long.

“Oh, so this half-black, half-white girl doesn’t turn you on anymore?” Misha snapped her tongue at the young man. Before her boyfriend could stutter his half-witted response, Misha broke a smile. “I’m kidding,” she laid a hand on his arm. “You think I had you choose the model you’re in now because the original you was so hot?”

Brock raised his eyebrows. “You want me to stick with this model for a while?” The muscle-head would be relieved. This body was very fit and he’d rather spend his credits on enjoying extreme sports.

“Actually, yeah, I still like it. And it makes other girls jealous,” Misha answered. This was due in part to how many credits Brock had spent on the model.

Misha returned her attention to the warm but lifeless model before her. The self-styled princess’ light chocolate fingertips glided along the Asian model’s arm. The arm was silky smooth.

“I wonder where they found her,” Misha spoke softly.

Brock moved to cover her mouth but thought the better of it and placed his hand on her shoulder. He spoke low. “You’ve heard the rumors. They were probably rounded up in the slums. But we don’t talk about it, Mish. You want this technology to stay cheap? Then don’t say stuff like that.”

“Fine,” Misha drew out. “Oh, Mister Salesman, over here. I think I’m going to go with this one.”

The effeminate gentleman returned and looked over the Asian model. “That is indeed a fine choice, Miss.” The salesman waved a hand and the display pod went from white to green. He pointed a finger to a cashier station at the back of the store. “Go see Javier at the desk, pay for your model and he’ll que you for the transfer.”

Misha spun towards Brock and gripped both hands around his bulging bicep. “Oo, my first swap! This is so exciting. Everyone is going to love the new me tonight.”

“Alright, Miss Milian, nothing to be scared of. Just gently lean back, take nice even breaths while we attach the headset…In just a moment we’ll begin transferring your consciousness.” Javier’s smile was warm and inviting, just the thing Misha needed before slipping into her new dress.

It was a fairly expensive dress to begin with, but the technician hadn’t double-checked the credit amount the young lady had been approved for. He’d accidently added two zeroes not so much in haste, but as one of those mistakes routine sometimes slips by us. Thing was, NextUs didn’t even have a 500,000 model.

With the headset in place, the white-clothed technician reached over to lift a clear plate of glass from a red button. A spark popped between Javier’s finger and the master control just before he pressed down. “And here you go, Miss.”

Brock was looking over the tech’s shoulder and waiting for the old Misha to open her eyes. They would be opaque and lifeless, the sign that her consciousness had left her original body. But her eyes didn’t open right away like they should have. Instead, Brock and Javier turned to each other as seconds ticked away. What was taking so long? The process was supposed to be near instantaneous.

Phones rang and vibrated in everyone’s pockets across the sales floor. Those who got to their phones fast enough before the ringing stopped barely managed to glimpse of an unknown caller ID. Brock and Javier whipped their heads around when the model Misha selected cried out in pain. Brock ran to his girlfriend’s side as she fell forward. His strong arms righted his paramour.

“Misha, you okay? We thought the transfer stalled or something.” Brock searched new Misha’s eyes for cognition.

“Hole. E. Shit,” Misha said as she lifted a hand to her head. “I’m here. I’m here. Little bit of a headache, though. That’s normal, right?”

“Ah, sure, Miss Milian. Probably dehydration from the excitement. I’ll fetch you a glass of water.” Javier scurried off into a back room shaking his head and talking to himself with the minor concern.

“No, I’ll be fine,” Misha stammered. “I just want to go get ready for the gala,” she finished before the technician could return.

“Misha, dahling, I love the new look!” an African woman with a long, gold-ringed neck chimed as they stood in the mansion’s enormous foyer.

Misha was momentarily confused. Was Diana referring to her new body or the shimmering silver dress? She looked at Brock standing beside her then back at Diana. Then it hit her.

The young Asian woman tilted her head. “Funny, Diana, that’s the first nice thing you’ve ever said about me. Except it’s not nice, is it? Why, I think it was just last night you confessed in your private video diary that you thought I was a cheap little girl trying to act like I had money and that you’d never accept me as an equal, that you let me come to your fancy parties to inflate your friend count. Sad, that last bit.”

Diana’s mouth dropped open but no words came out for a few moments. “How did you get access to my video diary?” The words spilled out of the hostess’ mouth like blood. It would have run her gown red had it not already been. Misha pushed passed the woman while Brock traded wide eyes with Diana.

Another woman approached Misha, a stunningly symmetrical face bordered by literally golden hair. “Misha! I saw your selfie on MyBook as you left NextUs. You have impeccable tas…”

“Oh, shut up, Coraline,” Misha rolled her eyes as she started up the winding, flower-patterned staircase. “You’re still using Siri to make your fashion choices for you. I didn’t even know anyone used Apple anymore.”

Brock fought to catch up with his girlfriend while putting out her pyrotechnics, finally catching her by the arm at the top of the staircase. “What the heck has gotten into you all of a sudden?” he growled gently, his eyes darting back and forth.

Misha used the strength of her new body to tug her arm free of her paramour’s grip. Her face scrunched up and thrust itself at him. “Would you please lay off the animal porn. You’re looking at it on your phone…almost non-stop for shit’s sake.” Brock’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He used an encrypted browser for that.

“I don’t even know what that’s about,” Misha continued. “I guess it’s better than looking a regular porn, or is it? I have no fucking idea.”

A slender pale-white gentleman in a tuxedo approached with arms wide open, undeterred by Brock’s silent insistence he come no closer.

“How is one of Georgiatown’s happiest couples these days?” he beamed.

“For the love of God, Chavo, would you just come out already? You’re in those chat rooms every day. Is it the NSA you’re worried about, think you’re going to lose your job because you’re gay? Trust me, they already know. They don’t care. I do find it interesting you’re a spy, though.” Misha’s head spun like a chain-gun, looking for another victim.

Brock was shocked by what was coming out of his young lover’s mouth, too scared to do anything about Chavo giving Misha a good shove over the balustrade. Her head hit the marble floor first and broke her neck, killing her instantly. Chavo swept his head across the foyer and noted the few who had the presence of mind to video the whole thing on their phone.

“No one saw anything, right?” Chavo said flippantly. “She just…fell over the railing here. Poor thing must have had too much to drink,” he finished with a sneer.

A dozen people swiped over to their photo bucket and hit delete. The gala was momentarily silent as everyone checked their phone’s history.

 

All Rights Reserved © February 2018 John J Vinacci

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