Ara had a bad day at school. Not bad by any standards of life, but bad by the standards of high schoolers.
Leron had called her a lez in front of her crush! And Ara isn’t a lez, she just likes this one girl! Any maybe even as just friends, Ara just wants to talk to her in peace!
The autobus passes her as she balances on the curb. Ara lives just a few miles walk from school, and she learned how to add her name to the auto-bus roster even when she doesn’t ride it. Mom checks the database readouts of Ara’s school activities, but is seldom there to check her physical daughter. Something about protecting her and Shiya, whatever that means. Mom just sits in a trailer on the Marine base at Pendleton instead of being at home, so Ara doesn’t feel particularly protected.
Ara likes to walk alone, walking alone gives her more time with her Eyez layers and games. She makes a finger gun at the stop sign and blows overlaid bullet holes into it, little bit of clipping on the overlay as she does a quick spin around and throws some GIFfetti in the air of shiba inu on a skeleton head dancing back and forth. Doge makes her feel better haha
Ah! In the distance she sees a red circle icon with a skull above it, someone is playing LightFight on her nemesis team the Tusks! And he has good score, his icon shows a freshly sliced Lovelace teammate of Ara’s. Oh it’s on now, Ara and her Lovelaces don’t stand for Tusks getting any over on them!
She concentrates on the icon and thinks fight! And the icon goes square and a wave of red ripples from it all the way through her vision to her periphery and out.
He knows she’s coming, but she immediately uses her saved up spell: Invisible Icon. He’ll have to guess where she is for 8 minutes while her spell is active, while she can see his icon through the walls the whole time!
He’s burnt kale!!
Ara takes off in a sprint toward her opponent’s icon, down in old Del Mar, San Clemente CA.
Going through the underpass of the old 5 freeway, past the McHealth fast food restaurant and she spies a Seagull scooter. She looks at its code and it unlocks. Oh this is just too good!
She weaves in and around the streets, passing by friends’ holoribbon drawings and graffiti left rendered on their shared layer of Eyez above the base world.
No time to appreciate now though, Eyez saved it all for later anyway, because there it is! His icon...and him!
Ara slinks down behind a few people, but then realizes that makes her look suspicious and she’s still digitally invisible, she checks her upper left periphery for the spell icon. Only five seconds left!
Shit, won’t make it for a silent take-out, it’s gonna be an open blazer then!
She gets as close to the Tusk-head as she can, 4, 3, he’s looking away from her in ready stance, 2, 1, almost there 0 and her icon is back and he snaps around to look at her, almost falling for how fast he turned.
Ara thinks activate Jae Te Gaang!! And her light sword emerges from her hands casting its ethereal glow on her arms and the ground.
He manifests a massive battle ax. Rendered iron with ornate cut swirls and flourishes like in that king of the ring movie.
She slides to the right and dodges but he had a smaller digi knife too (not fair!) and gets a slice on her left side; the polygons of the rendered blade disappear at the tip into her non-rendered flesh.
Minus points, her Jai Te loses strength, it’s at just over half!
She gets her self centered back in stance when she hears a wooshing sound and rolls forward the first way she can think. Wham! The ax comes down right next to her as she rolls away. The sound plays in her Earz, not quite the right sound for the asphalt they’re playing on, more like metal. But still super real feeling, she needs to deliver a blow fast, this guy is serious!
Ara stops inside her head though, remembers the class at school, practical calmness. She breathes into her heart and feels time relax.
He is rearing up for a sideways swipe at her with full strength, yet in one swift motion she passes the sword to her left hand as she rotates by pushing from her right foot - swish, polygons right through his belly!
His ax vanishes and the icon above his head becomes a grey skull, while hers turns into a glowing green diamond. Victory! Her sword ignites in rendered fire and she looks up to see his face with his handle Martian_b4ron is added to her recently slain list, payback for the Lovelaces!
He is pissed, and Ara is happy. He moves toward her teeth clenched, and a pang of worry cuts through her that he might hit her with flesh instead of just polygons, but a crowd had gathered and some had switched their Eyez to the public battle view to see them both with their weapons.
And an enforcer mecha was in the back of the crowd the entire time with its icon pulsing to remind everyone that things were safe.
Ara bows to her slain adversary and he lets out a sigh, unclenching his jaw, and bowing to her.
“That was a good move kid, but now us Tusks are out for you Lovelaces, so watch your backs!” he puffs up with new found bravado.
Just as Ara is about to do a full retort a chime goes off behind her and she turns around to see: mom coming home in 10 minutes.
Ah she’s early! “I gotta go thanks for the match, Lovelace rules, Tusk is a poser!”
The crowd claps slightly enthusiastically. There’s even a smalll ‘woo’ as she’s off running again toward her home.
Pant pant run run just a few minutes away from here!
She gets to her front door and opens it.
“Hello!?” She tip toes through the doorway, gently closes the door. Waits a beat… Mom’s not here? Just then, a glowing dove flies in through the wall with a parchment in its mouth, Ara’s preferred way of seeing text messages. Not coming actually, new threat need to stay, is safe - order some Lyber Fud on my app! XOXO
Ara lets out a huge sigh of relief.
“Hey Shiya!” Ara yells, “I’m home! Let’s play!”
And Ara hears Shiya squeal in delight from the next room mixed with the soft whir of the robotic nurse surrogate in action.
“Hello Ara” the nurse robot says, as she is changing Shiya’s diaper. Shiya is Ara’s older sister, but age doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone.
“Who are you today?” Ara asks the nurse robot, a little snarky, but also curious. Some tasks remain outside the purview of artificial minds, but outsourcing has taken on a new meaning with telerobotics. The foreign working class can beam in, no more emigration required; or allowed in the Corporate States of America.
“I am coming in from Philippines, you seen me previous week.” The auto-translation is so literal sometimes, “I am only in this unit for another 20 minutes though. You watch your sister and be good!”
Hurry up, thinks Ara; the cyber-present nurses never let her play with Shiya in the dreamcap, they’re almost worse than Mom!
“Ok will nice to see your metal body again, say hi to the people over there!” And Ara rushes to her room to get the dreamcap ready.
Inside on her desk she sees something funny… a grey cube. On her Eyez it has a glowing white aura around it.
“What... is this?” Ara says aloud, her Eyez answers her with a questionmark over the object but a winking emoticon above that identified with a ‘foreign software’ marker by her EyezOS.
Ara goes over to it.
It is featureless, matte metal, like clay mixed with steel. Scattered sparkles dance in the light as she shifts her view around the cube. Wait, one side is showing some words, not in her Eyez but inset on the actual cube!
Place on a charging surface to learn what I am
Ara rushes over to her desk and throws off the papers that had gathered over the charge pad portion.
She puts the cube on it and waits, her nose practically touching the cube.
Her gaze starts drifting over to her peripheral InstaFeed in boredom when suddenly the cube jumps three inches in the air, flattens into a circle and then grows a thin fan out of the middle.
Ara jumps back, then crawls closer.
A head emerges in 3D on the fan, is it in her Eyez? Ara reaches toward the cube, draws back a little though, then touches the face.
Holy shit it’s real!
“Hello Ara” the face says, in a shrill rattle that sounds like if millions of maracas were turned into a speaker.
The head and voice are a generic androgynous avatar.
“Congratulations on being selected to receive Constructor 2! We hope you enjoyed the constructor 1, it was a fine 3D fabricator.”
Ara looks over at her left side of the desk at her constructor 1 under a pile of books. Eh, it was no FabriBox, but it was good enough to print a play dildo and some covers for the Eyez glasses that she used to wear. When she was fourteen and an idiot, not like her sixteen year old refined self wearing Eyez contacts and having real sex, well trying to.
“But for version two,” the head on the fan continues, “we wanted to go outside of the box. So we flipped the printer inside out, and instead of printing static voxels from inside the computer to a world of plastics and metals, we put the voxels in the plastics and metals, so now you can mold whatever you’d like and have it come alive!”
At this the fan dropped back down into the goop and the head grew a body and walked toward her.
Ara can not believe her eyes! This transformation is all going on in her normal eyes, actual material reality!!
“We’re excited to see what you’ll do with Constructor 2,” the head begins morphing through faces, “have fun!”
And the figure turns back into a cube, and an icon above it in her Eyez says “20% charged, 44 minutes left”
“What the fuck was that?!” Ara exclaims!
Just then the Robonurse calls up “Ok girl I leave you now, come here and take care of sister or I send text to mommy!”
And Ara startles, grabs the dreamcap off her desk and runs downstairs. The telerobot is already asleep in its closet.
“Ok Shia, hold still we’re going in!” Shiya lets out a loud squeal of delight and gets some drool on Ara’s arm reaching over to position the dreamcap on Shiya’s head.
The doctors call Shiya ‘autistic’ but that is just a word, they have never been inside her mind like Ara does whenever she can. They diagnose and look down upon without experiencing, what idiots!
Ara puts on her end of the dreamcap and lies down on the floor opposite to Shiya, then hits the hologram ‘Go’ button floating over her face.
The world darkens then explodes into brightness. The room is no longer made of sight, sound, touch, taste, but is become a new meta sense, a merger of its vibrations with the sound of colors with the touch of smell! Through Shia’s brain the world is filtered without edges and with Ara’s brain the two of them gain the ability to focus on specific things and bring them up out of the sea of fractal radiance.
“It’s good to be Shara!” They say to themselves. Ara and Shia are both lying motionless but Shara is crystallized perception, she ‘walks’ through the real world as if it were a simulation, able to float through walls and almost move objects.
Shara remembers the cube in Ara’s bedroom and they rush over to it. Hovering around it with their shared sight they see a strange undulation. The cube emanates light yet is also taking in light. Shara brings her ghostly hand toward the cube and winces with a new found kind of pain: the cube is sucking in ambient energy!
Shara leans her sensorium closer and hears something, a singing above sound and below motion:
Shara feels herself being pushed away by and yet drawn in toward the cube. Just Ara did not detect any of this. The edges of the Shara body are blurring too as Ara’s focus is entranced by this new kind of frequency. Shara has seen, smelled and been every frequency in her world, Shara loves to rattle the radiowaves and stir up light, but this song it is of both ends of the spectrum at once, it is all there is, it is-
“Ara Nakamura! Take that off, get up off the floor!!”
Whaaa Mom’s home! Shara disintegrates and Ara bolts upright in the living room. Shiya starts wailing.
“I told you not to get your sister involved with this! Did you even order food?! Ara you are responsible what if Shia got hurt!” And before Ara can say anything Ara’s mom Judy is going over to Shia cooing, “there there, you’re alright, everything is back to normal, you’re alright.”
She gives Ara a glare which by now Ara has learned means to go up to her room and start studying. Judy continues to coddle Shiya as she continues to wail; stupid mom, Ara thinks as she walks up the stairs toward her room, Shia will never be comforted by your pathetic little mind, Shia is perception itself! A goddess! And I am her eyes.
And Ara slams the door to her room.
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