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The Start

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Food. Need food. That was the mantra in Reid's head after a six-hour coding jag. His right hand ached across the knuckles, but that was more about how hard he'd hit the bag, last night than the keyboard. Should take better care of his hands. Needed them. Running, lifting, kickboxing would be safer. Food. Need food.

He stepped out into the day and shut his eyes as the sun blinded him. When was the last time he'd stood in the sun? Months. Before the semester began. He'd been toting roof tiles, trying to pay attention to what he was doing so he didn't step off a beam and go through the insulation, land in some unlucky householder's kitchen covered in plaster dust and itchy fibers.

It smelled good out here. Air that wasn't tainted by the odor of stale coffee, rotting fruit peel and a pile of laundry that needed doing. That didn't smell of two students working in a small room with no window not designed as a workspace.

"Hey man, you going to move?"

He shifted to let a group of students get through the door and tipped his face up to the sun, feeling it prickle on his skin and filter though his body, forcing a groan out of his mouth. He should get more sunshine. It was affordable, a quick fix, for aches and pains and a spirit lifter. Not that his spirit was low. This was where he was meant to be.

His stomach growled. Food. He'd come out for food, because he couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten, there was no more of the curry Dev made and he'd started to feel lightheaded.

Now he felt hot and lightheaded.

Where was Dev anyway? He'd been there, on the other side of Reid's desk and then when Reid next looked up, he simply wasn't. He hadn't heard him go.

A girl brushed his arm as she went past. That's when he realized he was standing on the walkway like an idiot while the rest of Stanford navigated around him. But that's because his head wasn't here, it was back in his room, trying to figure out why that code hadn't done what he'd wanted it to do. His stomach however was most definitely standing in the sunshine and rumbling.

Twenty minutes. That's all he should need. Find food. Eat food. Go back to his room and get that fucking code to work. At some point he had to hand in an assignment, because he still needed to graduate, in case he couldn't crack the unicorn idea and crash out of school to do a Gates/Zuckerberg.

So far the unicorn code cracking had been a giant stinking ball of shit. There was a job search somewhere in his future and it was dumb to resent that. Having a decent job in the IT industry meant he'd never have to go back home and work as a roofer, do odd laboring jobs again. He still resented it. He didn't want a job. He wanted to moon walk, do something no one else had done before.

He just wasn't sure how he was going to get anyone to believe he was capable of being anything more than a crack programmer, an ace engineer.

Except Dev.

Dev already had him fitted for moon boots.

And there was something disturbing about how that made him feel. Like it might legitimately be possible to be something more than the weird, awkward loner whose study was part funded by a church scholarship, who forgot to eat, and stood numbly in the sunshine making people walk around him.

One foot in front of the other, heat on the back of his neck. He should've shaved, probably. Needed a haircut. Needed a new logic that . . .

"Watch where you're going?"

"Huh."

"Lughead."

Short people. They were a hazard. They had no idea how easy they were to walk into.

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