They'd talk about the dust at the orphanage like it was some kind of disease. The story would be that you only got it by kissing, drinking contaminated water, or eating meat from animals grazing in the open. Fact was it was everywhere and nowhere.
It's true that people and things physically transported it around, and it could travel around in the air for a short distance, but the truth is that a lot of the dust was kinda dead or dormant. Autocracy scientists figured out pretty quickly that the dust could activate at random, run amok for a while if somebody was unlucky, then die away just as quickly. Sometimes the victims just plain died, other times, they kinda changed, did crazy things. Worst sort were the ones that turned into something completely alien. Nobody knew much about those, so the stories were even more lurid to make up for it.
I couldn't believe it when I started to hear about the drug gangs. I heard names like Firewire, Surge, WhiteLight, and Serenity, four words in a long list of nicknames for refined and segregated dust. It seemed that underworld scientists and chemists like their government counterparts had discovered there were different kinds of dust. Like snowflakes or diatoms under a microscope, dust came in a range of geometric forms and families, which when classified and concentrated had different properties.
Some lunatic had decided to see what affect the different types had on an animal, and it wasn't long till someone tried it on a human. Rumour has it that nothing happened to begin with, but as the scientists learned more and the purity rose, they started to see temporary but measurable effects.
Firewire was the variety of choice for hoodlums and thugs, giving them fast reflexes and accurate aiming, while Surge was the preferred drug for working long and arduous hours. WhiteLight and Serenity gave mental clarity and peace in equal measure. There were others with rumoured effects that belonged in the pages of fiction. All of them had side effects, and the stories that circulated about grotesque transformations or horrific deaths only added to the ghastly mythology that surrounded the trade.
My new job shifting concrete and equipment is no picnic, so looking around at the guys on my work crew, I gotta wonder which of them is taking something, and if a monster could be sleeping amongst us.
-- Joshua Isuza, Zone B2, Candor City
M3 figure with Xurge SF casuals, Hiro figures, all from DAZ.
Source images created in Poser 6 using custom shaders. Final image assembled in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CS2.