Xavier slipped the cage, as it was known over his head. He adjusted the device so that the electrodes sat on his temples with the third touching the back of his head where his neck began.

Less than a second after voice-activating the unit, he felt the rush of the virtual reality arch rushing towards him. And so, Xavier arrived on yet another RealTrip.

Though he’d been warned about the gang-wars of the 1980s, he found returning to the ‘simpler days of the 20th century’ refreshing. “Besides, the only time someone gets hurt or killed during a RealTrip is if they do something stupid like loop themselves into having one orgasm after another,” he told himself.

No, Xavier wasn’t after sex. Instead, he had found a safe way to experience crack cocaine without getting hooked or having to deal with real drug dealers.

Besides, he found Compton, California and it’s streets to be less dangerous than his everyday work life, pounding red rocks on the surface of dust-laden Mars. Also, unlike his real-life conditions, Xavier could enjoy the sensation of sunshine on his face.

And as he walked south on Main from Compton Blvd toward Redondo Beach Blvd., he couldn’t help but wonder how many others using RealTrip enjoyed the same feeling as he did.

His revere came to an end as two men rapidly approached him. They wore jeans, heavily creased down the front of each leg, full white tee’s and bandana’s, all signs Xavier recognized as clothing worn by gang members of the time-period.

“Best avoid these two,” he thought as he crossed the street, dodging traffic as it moved in both directions. Cars, trucks and the like were a hazard Xavier didn’t have to worry about on Mars.

The pair also crossed the street. Xavier felt a sudden tenseness in his gut.

“Hey, what’sa cracker-ass like you doin’ on our street?” the smaller one growled.

Xavier didn’t answer. Instead he began to will himself out of the trance that RealTrip had placed him in, but he was too late.

“I axed you a question, White-boy!” the smaller one yelled as he pounced, placing Xavier in a throat-crushing head-lock.

With fear overriding his theta waves he was powerless to escape the alternate reality he placed himself in. Instead, he felt the blows of the larger one slamming his fist repeatedly into the side of his head causing an explosion of white lights followed by complete darkness.

As suddenly as he slipped into unconsciousness, he found himself coming back to his sense. That’s when he grew aware of the coldness of a knife blade pressed against his Adam’s Apple.

“This is a RealTrip, right?” he said aloud.

“Yeah, it’s a RealTrip, asshole,” he heard a voice snarl. Xavier realized that his RealTrip experience had been ‘jacked’ by criminals known as MalFactors.

“Yeah, ya little cock-sucka,” a second voice grunted, “Teach you to avoid ‘synth,’ by RealTrippin’ the fake shit.”

He felt the knife press hard into his skin until Xavier could no longer ignore the weakness of his body and the heavy warmth that spilled liberally down the front of his shirt.

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