By daviek

Rob made it home without further incident that night. He was really quite satisfied with the work he did on the trooper-turned-skater. He was amused to no end by the irony of a law enforcement officer becoming the very object of what would have once annoyed him: a weed-smoking, skateboarding kid, the type cops run off public staircases a dozen times a day.

After he parked his car, Rob walked the annoying half-mile from the lot to his campus apartment. It was late, and still raining lightly, so there weren't too many students milling about. There was one, though, and Rob found himself in a position to remake yet another oblivious passerby.

Rob spotted the kid sitting on the steps of his building, looking pretty depressed. A short, scrawny kid smoking a cigarette and dressed like he legitimately believed he was a thug. The sight of the oversized t-shirt, flat-brimmed fitted cap and chains on the pasty white stick figure in front of him made Rob want to laugh out loud. But he knew this kid had a story, and Rob was aiming to hear it.

"Hey dude," Rob said, taking a seat on the steps next to him. "You doing OK?"

The kid didn't turn to look at him as he took another half-hearted drag on the cigarette. Rob could tell the kid wasn't truly a smoker, and that it was just another piece of window dressing on an already over-cluttered facade. "I don't know, man," the kid said. "Just had a rough night."

"Want to talk about it?" Rob said, genuinely interested in hearing why this kid was upset.

"All my life I've tried so hard to fit in," he said. "And it never works. I just don't know what I'm doing wrong. I look at these guys," he said, gesturing with his smoke to a group of young black men loitering on the steps of a nearby building, "and I just think it would be nice to live that life, to have friends, to have...bros, you know?"

Rob nodded. He knew what he had to do. "Stop. Select object. Edit." As it had so many times before, time stopped in its tracks. Rob stood up and walked around the guy and realized the kid needed a lot of work if Rob was to give him what he truly wanted. He'd have to work differenty than he had with the cop/skater. He'd need to build a foundation and work up from there.

"Remove all clothing from object. Ethnicity: African-American. Age: 21. Skin tone: dark brown. Hair: shaved bald." Immediately the program processed his requests, and the tiny white kid became a tiny (and bald) black kid.

"Height: increase 10 inches. Weight: increase to 215 pounds. Musculature: increase 200 percent." Like a balloon, the subject's body warped, growing and expanding from a laughable lankiness into a tall column of ebony muscle.

"Eyes: brown. Nose: increase width and thickness 80 percent. Lips: increase thickness 100 percent. Ears: pierced, diamond studs." The boy--no, the man--was beginning to look more and more like an actual black man.

"Sexual orientation: heterosexual. Sexual activity: frequent, multiple partners. Finances: above average. Speech: load speech template Thug4. Adjust mannerisms and thought processes to match. Occupation: student, junior, varsity basketball player, guard - skill level expert. Clothing: load clothing template Black1.

"Selecting other options..." Rob mused. He could make this kid a straight edge student, give him a disadvantaged upbringing, make him the kind of story the sports publications ate up at tournament time. Or he could make him a stereotypical thug, smoking and drinking and all that came with it. Well, he thought, why not meet in the middle?

"Alcohol use: occasional, heavy. Drug use: marijuana, twice weekly. Tobacco use: none. Vehicle: 2007 Cadillac Escalade, black, all available options. IQ: increase 100%." Rob gave him the best of both worlds. The guy would be a star baller, an NBA lottery pick, but with the brains to match, in the Emeka Okafor mold. And he'd still have a social life, which is all the kid ever wanted.

All that was left for Rob were the finishing touches. "Name: Demetrius Collins. Area of origin: Baltimore, west side."

Rob smiled. The kid, whose old name he never bothered to get, wouldn't remember his life of lonely social exclusion. He'd be the big fish in the small pond.

Rob sat back down, where he'd been before he began editing. "Auto-fill subject's memory based on selections and save all changes. Load object Demetrius Collins and resume."

Demetrius called out to his boys. "'Ay, hold up." He stood up, superficially pulling up the way-too-loose jeans that hung around his ass and exposed a significant portion of his white boxers. He pulled the hood of his oversized university sweatshirt up over his black, flat-brimmed Orioles hat that rested loosely on a matching do-rag that covered his shiny ebony head.

Rob didn't expect Demetrius to speak to him, and he didn't. He made his way over to his new--old?--friends and walked away, off to do who knows what in the misty night.

Rob stood up and swiped himself into his building. He wasn't the biggest, the smartest or the most popular, but he had a very special gift, and he enjoyed little more in life than using it to help people realize their full potential.

Problem was, Rob was unable to use his gifts to change himself. So, barring an encounter with someone who shared his power, he'd always be Rob, the nondescript guy you passed on the street a million times without noticing, who you sat next to in class and never spoke a word. He may not have been able to live life as whomever he wanted, but he did have his fantasies.

And Rob's fantasies were far from realized. •

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