University of Nottingham Campus, England, 2039

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It had been a long week, full of paperwork and phone calls, but he'd finally managed to transfer over to Biology. It hadn't taken long being a Chemistry undergraduate – one lecture on organic mechanisms, thirty minutes of an inorganic reflux experiment, and one visit to the nurse with a burn and a cut (on the same hand), to be exact- before he'd realised it wasn't for him.

His mum hadn't been impressed, but his brother Tom had taken two gap years because he kept starting and restarting degrees before he settled on computing, so she had no reason to complain. At least he wasn't changing universities to get away from an ex-girlfriend, like her other offspring.

Matt didn't even have any ex-girlfriends.

Now he was starting Biology – a week behind everyone else, without any of the textbooks, or any friends, or having studied any Biology for months, or – he took a deep, calming breath. He could do this. He had moved to England for a reason, and he wasn't going to mess it up by freaking out before his first lab.

It was all going to be fine, and nothing terrible was going to happen – nothing as bad as spilling acid down his labcoat and then catching his sleeve alight on the Bunsen Burner in panic.

Nothing could be as bad as that . . . right?

Except being late . . . which he was.

By the time he'd found the right lab, everyone else had already started working. A tired looking postgraduate demonstrator was sorting pipette fillers, with a disinterest that spoke of poor pay and a distracted mind. Matt walked over and cleared his throat.

"Hi," he said, when she looked up. "I've just changed to Biology. This is my first lab."

"Right, hey. " She pulled out a folder from under the stores desk. "Matthew Galloway, right?"

"Yeah."

"Here's your folder. It has instructions for all the experiments for the semester. There's one a week, and you have to hand in the questions on the pre-lab at the start of each session, as well as your report from the previous week. Does that make sense?"

"Er, sure."

"Great," she said, and turned back to her pipettes.

He hovered for a moment, and then cleared his throat once again. "So, where do I work?"

"Oh, right." She blinked. "I think there's one kid without a partner. You can work with her."

He thought about objecting to being part of an age group she called "kids", but instead followed quietly in her wake. He looked around the lab, trying to predict who he would end up hanging around with for the next three years.

Those indie kids, headphones around their necks and hair in their eyes?

The group of hungover guys in low slung jeans, who were chatting up a couple of disinterested blonde girls?

Or the group of other international students, who had segregated themselves on the far workbench, away from the English?

Matt wondered why they were studying in England rather than their own countries, and whether they had another reason for being here, like himself. If all he had cared about was getting an education, he wasn't sure it would have been worth it. Why commit to spending three years in a country that was on the brink of war with the rest of the world, just for a university with better ratings? Why not stay at home, where the danger was so much lower?

The postgrad stopped next to a student, and tapped her on the shoulder. The girl turned around, revealing labcoat, goggles, and a mass of red hair. The sight of her pulled Matt out of his thoughts with a rush of adrenaline.

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