Kadamba pocketed the cash from the little boy, glancing around to make sure no one had seen the transaction. He then reached back into his pocket and counted out Stelky’s cut.

“Here’s yours, man. But seriously, I can’t do that again. That kid was way too young,” Kadamba muttered.

“I hear you, Ka. I figured you’d send him off with empty hands. But it’s all cool,” replied Stelky.

“Stelky, I gotta move more product than before. Find me some more customers, but, dude, stay out of the daycare centers! They gotta be a lot older than that.”

The two of them started walking towards one of the corners of Schmarlo’s Landing. Unofficially, it was where the older teenagers hung out because many thought that the views were subpar. Rather than spectacular cityscapes, the teenagers looked over stunning views of the suburbs, farmlands, and mountains, far off in the distance. Of course, Kadamba wasn’t 118 stories up to look at the landscape.

She was sitting on the edge of a table, chatting a million miles a minute with a few of her friends when Kadamba walked up. She looked at him, and a little giggle arose from the other girls around the table.

“Jundana, girl, we’ll be seeing you later!” one of the girls announced in a sassy tone. “Hope you got a good story to tell us tonight!”

Kadamba smiled, as his eyes met hers. “You wanna grab a pastry or drink or something?”

“Sure,” Jundana replied softly.

The two of them headed further into the tangle of teenagers that were milling about, meandering to a vendor selling sweet frozen concoctions called Freezies. The line was long, but neither Kadamba nor Jundana cared. They began talking and enjoying their first real opportunity to be together outside of school.

After a few moments, Kadamba realized that they had been followed. “Stelky, why are you standing behind us here in line?” Kadamba inquired in a slightly irritated voice.

“Yo, seriously, Ka, I love these Freezies,” Stelky answered, defensively.

Jundana gently placed her hand on Kadamba’s shoulder before he could reply. “It’s alright, Ka. Stelky’s cool.”

Every bit of the annoyance that he felt vaporize with her touch. He couldn’t believe the effect that she was having on him. Just standing near her was so incredible. He found himself relaxed as if he was floating on a double dose of rath, but as excited as a little kid getting a giant stick of candy. He’d had a few girlfriends, and he’d thought he’d been in love before, but this was different. This was so much more intense.

A screeching scream ripped Kadamba’s and everyone else’s eardrums with its high pitch and unbelievable volume. “JUNDANA! JUNDANA! JUNDANA!” screamed Sorenha Woohurra in a panic, still outfitted like she was going on stage at a big music concert.

“MAN! That chick got some serious pipes!” Stelky exclaimed while poking his finger into his ear.

Sorenha came running up to Jundana and Kadamba, mouthing something that neither could understand. After a deep breath, she looked at Jundana and hastily explained, “Something’s happening to Alorus. You gotta get over there.” Her finger pointed to the playground where many people appeared to be watching something on the ground.

Jundana broke into a full sprint before Kadamba and Stelky even made a move in the playground’s direction. When they ran up, Jundana was on the ground, kneeling over a child’s body. A woman nearby, trying to calm her, was telling her that medics were on the way.

“Alorus! Alorus! Stay with me!” Jundana pleaded with the child, as tears fell from her face. “Alorus! Alorus! You have to breathe! Listen to me, NOW! Look at me! Alorus, breathe!”

The child began shaking violently as if he was having a massive seizure. Foam began pouring out of his mouth, as his eyes rolled back in his head. The foam appeared to have a red tint to it, as a medic came running up, carrying a large bag. Two more medics appeared almost immediately with a medical transportation board floating between them.

“Does the boy suffer from jakjaksonia episodes?” the paramedic quickly asked Jundana, as he immediately knelt beside the boy, opening his bag.

“No. He’s totally healthy! What’s wrong with him?” Jundana frantically demanded.

Before Stelky reached the center of the crowd surrounding Alorus, a justice enforcement bumped him aside. When he made his way to his friends, Stelky’s jaw dropped, and he blurted out, “Ka, ain’t that the kid you just hooked up with some …” His words trailed off as he realized that everyone was glaring at him, and then everyone looked at Kadamba.

The paramedic spoke quickly and directly, “Son, what did you give this boy?”

“I didn’t give him anything,” Kadamba replied, as the knot in his stomach began to rapidly expand and twist.

The justice enforcement officer drew his gun from his holster at an astonishing speed. He pointed the weapon directly at Kadamba’s chest.

“Ka, please!” Jundana’s panic-stricken voice broke the tension-filled silence. “What happened?”

“I … I … I sold him three packs of rath about thirty minutes ago.”

Tears burst from Jundana’s eyes, as they glazed over with hatred. Kadamba wanted more than anything to have the world end right there. He’d never fallen from a state of such euphoria to absolute regret and panic.

He heard the electric-sounding buzz as the bolt of energy burst from the tip of the justice enforcement officer’s gun. For a split second the entire world froze. He could see Jundana with her face in her hands. He could see the boy, lying on the ground. He could see the faces in the crowd either looking down sympathetically at the child or looking at him with a terrible malice in their eyes. Then he felt the energy bolt hit him, and the world went black.

• • •

Chapter 2 Chapter 4

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