Alison sat on the edge of the footstool, watching K-Bunny as she surfed the Matrix in VR. Mommy, daddy, and Jacob were sleeping in Uncle John’s magical lodge, but the little girl was too restless to stay in bed.
The older girl seemed to be suspicious of all the adults, and generally unhappy all the time. Especially when she got the bad headaches after surfing the Matrix. But she was always nice to Alison and had even showed the little girl a few cool things to do with her commlink.
The young woman stirred on the couch and opened her eyes, squinting against the headache. Alison leaned forward and said, “Hi, K-B. Whatchya doo-in?”
K-Bunny grimaced with the pain but managed a little smile for Alison. “Still trying to find out who’s taking my money.”
“Did-ya figure it out?”, asked the little girl.
“No”, groaned the teenager. “Whoever it is, they’re good at covering their tracks. I can’t find anything.”
“What’s it like?”, Alison asked. “Being in VR, I mean. Mom only lets me use AR.”
K-Bunny smiled, “You want to try?”
The little face beamed brightly, “Really!?!”
“Sure, just don’t tell your mom.”
The older girl pulled out a small band embedded with electronics and spent a few minutes arranging it on Alison’s head. The little girl could barely sit still in her excitement. After what seemed like an eternity, K-Bunny finally leaned back on the couch and nodded.
The world dissolved into an intense, yet clearly artificial landscape of lights, icons, and digital structures. Unlikely creatures hovered around various data points which stretched on as far as she could see. Glittering images and icons raced by at blinding speed, far more quickly than Alison could follow. It was no more like AR than a lizard was like a dragon. Thousands of times more vivid than what she had expected.
The little girl looked down at herself and saw the hands, feet and body of a small pink rabbit. Across from her, K-Bunny’s icon looked much more imposing and dangerous; an armored rabbit with black spiky body armor and several strange, comic-book style guns.
“WOWTHISISSOCOOL!!!!”, she burst out, trying to touch the symbols around her. The haptic feedback sensations were much more realistic than the AR gloves she usually used. The only flaw was in K-Bunny’s icon, which was out of focus as if a shadow image was almost, but not quite, superimposed over the armored rabbit.
“How come you’re so fuzzy and out of focus?”, she asked.
The other rabbit tilted her head and looked down at herself. “You mean my icon? I don’t see anything. Weird. Maybe there’s something wrong with your ’trodes.”
Alison’s wasn’t interested in the technical stuff. “This is AWESOME! But can I be something other than a bunny? How about a DRAGON, like Ryumyo? That’d be SO COOL!”
“Hang on”, replied K-Bunny. Seconds later, Alison could feel her virtual body shifting, a sensation of being longer, more sinuous. She looked down again and squeaked in excitement as she saw the long curving tail, glittering scales and sharp claws.
The little girl played around for a while, swooping about, roaring and biting at her tail. Finally, K-Bunny got her attention. “Okay, I know this a great node. The regulars will love your icon and you can try out some cool games. But remember not a word about this to your mom. She wouldn’t approve of some of the people there.”
“Are they dangerous?”, Alison asked, suddenly feeling more like a little girl than a powerful dragon. K-Bunny’s icon was looking even more out-of-focus now, almost like there was a solid shadow displaced by a few inches.
“No, they’re mostly harmless”, replied the rabbit. “I just don’t think your mom would like them. Don’t worry, I’ll watch out for you.”
They set off across the fantastical landscape, moving far slower than most of the other icons. Alison wasn’t sure why they were going so slowly, but it was more fun to fly through the virtual environment than to just flit quickly from node to node.
As they moved, Alison was having more and more trouble seeing K-B, as her icon became even more indistinct and separate. The shadowy rabbit mirrored all of K-Bunny’s movements, and was almost completely separate when the armored bunny stopped and turned back to her.
“Sorry kid, my head is killing me. We’re going to have to do this another time. When I’m feeling better.”
“Awwwww…Can’t we go for just a little while…?”, asked Alison, trying not to sound too disappointed. After all, dragons weren’t supposed to whine.
The two rabbit images separated completely and the entire VR experience collapsed into darkness. Alison opened her eyes to find herself back in Uncle John’s living room. K-Bunny staggered from the couch, groping blindly as she headed towards her bedroom. Alison took the teen’s hand and led the older girl to her bed, earning a smile of gratitude.
“Tomorrow, I promise”, croaked K-Bunny as she slumped over.
Alison returned to the living room and looked around. She didn’t really feel like sleeping, but maybe she should go back to bed. If mommy woke up, she’d be really upset that Alison wasn’t in the Lodge. Uncle John had said they needed to stay there to be safe, but she didn’t see why one room would be any different from another.
As she padded quietly through the house, Alison heard more rustling from K-Bunny’s room. She peeked in, just in time to see the teen slotting a credstick into her commlink. Hurt feelings welled up as she saw the older girl log back into the Matrix without her. But the grim look on the teenager’s face, and the memory of how grumpy the headaches made her, caused the little girl to rethink barging in and having a tantrum.
Alison yawned and stretched, heading back to bed. Maybe mommy would let K-B babysit one afternoon. Then she’d have lots of time to be Ryumyo. Without any headaches or interruptions.