This installment is dedicated to Princess Laika Pupkino.
So I woke up slowly... 'cause I like it that way. The seagulls were singing and the surf was crashing and the crabs were casting long shadows as they scurried in the early dawn light.
I sat up in my bed and let the satin weave neosilk sheets drop off me so that I could enjoy the warm scented ocean breeze.
Yesterday, I woke up in a princess style canopy bed. The morning before, I awoke on a soft knoll in an enchanted forest with tiny fairies and pixies flying around, and rabbits and foxes cavorting in the clearing.
Sometimes I decide how I want to wake up, and sometimes I let the computer surprise me.
I got up and walked, nude, to my bathroom. My morning bubble bath was waiting for me. The ocean illusion faded after I entered the bathroom.
As illusions go, it was complete. Not a holograph, exactly, but the effect was the same. That, combined with the sound, smells, and breeze, made me almost believe that I was there. Only the lack of gritty sand and biting insects told me that I wasn't really on the beach.
According to my internal heads-up display, I had about five hours before the start of school.
I have one of those heads-up displays that acts like I'm looking at it with a separate eye. It takes longer to learn to use, but it's worth it because it doesn't get in the way of my regular vision.
Besides, I have plenty of time to learn. I have plenty of time for everything. Always and forever.
After my bath, I gazed upon my teenage pulchritude in the full length mirror.
My earlier life was hard, so now I make sure that I count my blessings. Part of counting my blessings is looking in the mirror every morning because I never used to like what I saw in the mirror before.
Since I still had a few hours before I had to be to school, I decided to visit the Matrix.
Did you know that a lot of our common words come from science fiction movies and books?
The Matrix was a movie where everyone was trapped in a computerized virtual world. Autodocs are from Larry Niven's Known Space series. Uterine Replicators are from Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar series of books. The Alcubierre faster-than-light drive that some of our scientists and engineers are trying to make work is often called a warp drive because of a the wildly successful Star Trek television series and movies. And it totally works by warping space, so it's a warp drive. The various attempts at making the EM drive work are often dubbed "reactionless thrusters" in honor of Larry Niven and his Known Space series. The concept of a thermonuclear rocket, or "torch drive," is a staple of science fiction that goes back to the mid twentieth century. The portable power supplies that have done so much to bring us this age of freedom and plenty are often called "Mister Fusion" because of the "Back to the Future" series of movies.
So anyhow, I laid down on the couch and entered the Matrix.
I entered my anteroom and looked at the various worlds I could enter, along with the avatars that I have chosen for each one.
I have half a dozen avatars for Second Life. After all, I have been a citizen of that world since forever, or so it seems. I started in the old days when it was just something put on a video screen by some software developed by Linden Labs.
But I have good memories. Even when I was stuck in my old ugly body, I could be beautiful and energetic. I have hundreds of friends and even some more-than-friends in Second Life. I met my RL boyfriend in Second Life.
But there are other universes that I can enter when I feel like it. There are sword-and-sorcery fantasy worlds, galactic civilizations, steampunk, cyberpunk, and even anime and comic book universes. If someone wrote a popular book, or even a not so popular book, someone probably made a universe out of it. All the web comics I used to love have their own worlds.
There are lots of historical worlds. Want to be a fifties housewife or a middle ages king? Want to be a robber-baron? A mafia boss? There's a world for you. Some are historically accurate, and some aren't.
You can make your own fantasy worlds. Want to be a fairy princess? I decided to try it, just to see what it is like. Most of my loyal subjects are non player characters. If I was really wanting to rule real people and not NPCs, I would have to find a way to attract real people that want to be my loyal subjects. That's really important to some people, but I hardly go to my princess universe.
And then there are the gaming worlds. Some are direct descendants of games that came out around the turn of the millennium, like Doom and Duke Nukem and World of Warcraft.
What's funny is that a lot of the games have a scarcity based economy. I mean, here we are in the real world where everybody has all the food and shelter and gadgets and health care that they can want and need, and everybody gets to wear whatever body they want, and we play games with scarcity based economies.
But that's good for people like me because I can earn game money and people buy that game money from me with other game money or bitcoins or dollars or whatever.
I started making custom avatars and fashion clothes in second life way before the singularity.
Did you know that people used to think that the singularity was something in the future where the robots would take over the world? Really!
Well, there were some science fiction stories where the singularity was where we would learn how to live forever.
Technically, there were two singularities. There was the first one where Santa Claus machines could make other Santa Claus machines, so that everyone could have everything they wanted. The post scarcity era. The age of plenty. The new golden age.
And then, when bio printing led to the autodocs so that we could live forever in any body we want, that was the second singularity.
And all the worry about artificial intelligence taking over the world? Well, nobody managed to come up with a computer that is really self aware, though the NPC programs are pretty good at making it look that way. Still, it doesn't take most people long to see the difference.
And with all our built-in HUDs and stuff, it's almost like we're as smart as the AIs that everyone was afraid of. I mean, everything we do is recorded, so we never have to forget anything. And we have the power of a super computer in our heads. And all that power is just a thought away. I use it all the time when I'm designing clothes and the bodies that wear them in second life. I have been using it for a long time, so it's really kinda like a part of me. I used to be so forgetful. A mind like a steel sieve, I used to say. Now, it's like I'm a super genius.
And I love it.
But I usually don't flaunt it. It's enough that I appreciate it. I don't have to impress anyone.
I decided to check up on my clothing business, so I chose my Lady Penelope Westfield avatar. Penelope (NOT Penny!) is the businesswoman that takes care of my store. She looks like an elegant thirty-something and oozes confidence and competence. Having been around for much more than a century, I can project that very well indeed.
Instantly, I was teleported into my store. A quick peek at my HUD showed that my latest set of fashions, both bodies and clothes, have been selling very well indeed.
A few of my sales people are real people, but most are NPCs. I do this because most people would rather play than make money, and because NPCs work for free. Still, anyone who wants to sell stuff for me is welcome to try earning a few Linden Dollars in commissions.
It's ironic that, after struggling so much in the first part of my life just to make enough money to have food and shelter, I'm now pretty rich. Not Trump level rich, but definitely rich enough to be very comfortable even if I still had to buy my food and stuff.
Back when all of the factories and office buildings and stuff became useless, and the big players didn't need that land anymore, people started using recycler bots to tear down the old useless buildings and clean up all of the pollution and junk that soaked in the soil. They built giant beehives of apartments underground, but they all looked like the best wide open habitats that would be in the best hotels or on the space stations you would see in movies. They are all open air and full of plants and ponds and swimming pools so that anyone that wants can live in a huge apartment and go out to the park that looks like it's open air, but is really underground. There are no mosquitoes underground.
And above ground, they planted trees and stuff. All of the factory districts and warehouse districts and concrete urban jungles got turned into real forests and meadows and parklands. This is partly because the people that designed them wanted it that way, and partly because the original owners and the government gave the land away with the promise that it would mostly become parkland and wilderness.
But anyway, since land was cheap, I bought a hundred and sixty acres for my mom. A quarter of a square mile. A square, half a mile on a side. A lovely piece of land with a river running through it, and with clear ponds fed and renewed by that river.
My mom worked so hard raising us, and she even helped babysit my kids so that I could go to work and school and stuff.
And she always dreamed of having her own land and living off the grid and growing her own food.
And she totally does that now. The land is still wild, but underground, she grows just about every kind of food plant she can find. And chickens and goats and stuff. She even has horses so that she can ride around her property and the national forest around it.
I walked around my virtual store -- the only one there. Of course, there were dozens of people looking at my wares, but they were all invisible to each other unless they wanted to see each other. Lots of people like to go shopping with friends.
I looked around, kind of letting my mind drift so that I could get new ideas. I also noted what sold and what didn't.
The Barbies and Kens were always good sellers. While the exaggeratedly tall and shapely Barbie girls and the matching Kens always drew criticism for giving kids unreasonable expectations and poor body images, it's telling that so many people chose those archetypes as soon as they were able. The Hots, caricatures of the old supermodels that they are, also sell well. As do the GI Joes. A lot of the guys like the no nonsense look of a body that is competent without being ostentatious or exaggerated.
Not that I don't have male customers who go for the exaggerated musculature of the Arnies.
They like to affect the Austrian accent of their hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, even as they take on exaggerated proportions that would never be possible in real life without steroids or bioprinting -- proportions that the real Arnold never achieved and, in fact, proportions that he doesn't currently wear.
But I can't sneer about affectations. I like to affect a vapid teen-age girl, like, you know, because it's so kewl.
The Buffs and Jocks, looking like the old fitness models, both male and female, remain steady sellers. Pure healthy look without any exaggerated proportions.
And then, there are the Nextdoors -- men and women with 'every day beauty.' People who aren't actually plain, but aren't pretentious, either. Perfectly symmetric and wearing flawless skin, but not overdone.
I have a modest selection of Beanpoles and Reubens. Some people like being long and gangly -- just like the old saying that you can never be too rich or too skinny. And certainly, if one wants to be anorexic, it's actually safe to go to that extent nowadays. And the whole problem with dry and leathery skin is no more.
And the lovely and lush Reubens! Classic beauty from centuries past! "A lovely 'unk of cuddle," as they say. Plush, comfy, and cuddly, just like the artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens envisioned them.
I don't do Gargoyles or Clinkers because my store is all about being attractive. Those who want to be grotesque or want to look like robots or battle droids can easily go elsewhere.
But I definitely do the various fantasy creatures -- Elves, Pixies, Fairies, Halflings, and even things like centaurs and pegataurs. But I don't do ugly. No trolls or gnomes.
And Furries! I love furries! And the various Anime types.
I have everything from the traditional Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse types to the happy bouncy cartoon critters to the sexy cats and dogs and skunks and kitty girls and kitsunes that have captured the imagination of people for decades. I even have dragon people and mermaids. They lack fur, but are still part of furry fandom.
Furry fandom was big in the late twentieth century and beyond, but it really came into its own once bio printing and virtual reality made it possible to really play the part.
And then there are those who want to capture their lost childhood, or the childhood that might have been. I have gangly naughty Pippy Longstocking type girls, boys with straw hats, stick fishing poles, and frogs in their pockets, girls with cornflower blue eyes and dresses and baskets full of eggs, little boys in shorts and fancy clothes ready to attend their parents' upper crust functions, little girls in yellow sundresses with fistfuls of dandelions, and lots of others. What I don't offer is lolitas.
While I have no problem with consenting adults role playing in any way they like, they can get their overly sexualized lola bodies elsewhere. They simply don't fit with the image that I am trying to project.
My HUD told me that someone was browsing my selection of kitty girls and wanted some assistance. I instantly 'ported there. "Can I help you?"
"Yes. Ummm... My daughter is looking for a kitty girl body."
"A lot of the bodies I design are free, and are licensed so that you can modify them. Does she have something in mind? Does she want custom modifications?"
She looked thoughtful. "Why don't I bring her here?"
I smiled. "Perhaps she would like someone younger to help her. While you get her, I'll get my daughter. She's my kitty girl specialist."
I 'ported to my anteroom, switched to a kitty girl version of my bubbly sweet sixteen persona, and 'ported back to the furry section of my store.
"Hiiiiya! I understand you're ready to join the kitty side! Nyah! I'm Catalina!"
"I'm..." she paused just a bit. "Catrina! You can call me 'Cat.'"
"Hi Cat!" I gave her a hug.
"Sooooo... Your mom says that you're looking for a kitty girl body. Most of the stuff mom makes is free, and you can modify it if you want. How much of a kitty do you want to be? I'm wearing my quarter form."
"Quarter form?" she asked.
"See? Kitty ears. Adorable kitty tail!" I waved my tail and floofed her nose. "And slitted kitty eyes if you want."
I shifted. "The half form has whiskers and a kitty mouth and digitigrade feet and fur from the knee down and fur from the elbows out and retractable claws and any kind of kitty markings you want all over your body!"
I shifted again. "Three quarter form is furry all over with a kitty face. Really, just a bipedal kitty. Full form is a fully quadrupedal kitty."
"Like, oh wow! Can I shift, too?"
"Of course! And you can even shift in RL! You would have to have a cyborg body, though. Or you can do like me and make remote cyber bodies and connect to them through the Matrix."
"Like, kewl!" she said. "The girls at school will be soooooo jealous!"
So we put our heads together and designed her new body set. She kept her regular teenage face on her quarter and half forms. She liked my lavender and indigo colors, but decided to go with tiger stripes instead of indigo rosettes on a lavender body that I have.
She tried the body out right away in Second Life, and promised to call me if she wanted any changes. She wanted to play around for a few hours, and told me that she would call me when she was ready for me to transfer the design to bioprinter and cyborg plans.
If I had to live on the money I made, then the small chunk of change that the hour or so netted me wouldn't have been enough.
But I had fun. And the good will of giving so much for so little money helps make other sales that happen when I'm not there playing an active role. And I don't need money to live. I don't have expenses. I can let it accumulate as quickly or slowly as I like. Life is for living and growing, not busting my tail for things that, when we really get down to it, don't really add to my life all that much.
I switched back to my Lady Penelope Westfield body and checked out other people's boutiques.
Laika's fantasy emporium is one of my favorites. She has mermaids, elves, mermaids, pixies, mermaids, imps, and all kinds of other mythical critters. And did I mentions the mermaids? And an octopus in a French maid outfit. And a dolphin wearing a scuba tank. And some Lovecraftian tentacled horror looking thing with a really friendly teenage voice. And some really tall sloe-eyed girls with knobby-ended antennas on their heads and fluffy white shag haircuts that look like they would be at home on the moon or Alpha Centauri 3 or somewhere like that.
I suspect that she makes most of her money with her various worlds, since they all have a scarcity based economy. The most popular is called "The Deep End." It has fairies and stuff on land, but the regular human NPCs officially don't know a thing about them.
The most popular part is the underwater world. Did I mention that there are lots of mermaids?
Off in the corner, I found some of her more whimsical creations.
One of her most famous is something that she created on a lark. The body is your standard blond sexpot with enormous breasts and enough curves to make Barbie look like an emaciated stick. Her hair color, prior to bio printing and the like, would have had to come from a bottle. Bleach, that is. With black roots.
And she is covered with a single piece skin tight rubber fetish suit that leaves nothing to the imagination. Said suit has built-in fingerless gloves and stiletto heels.
Not a black latex suit. A red latex suit.
This exhibit was labeled, "Goodyear Thing."
This prompted some to dub her 'Laika Latex,' though generally not to her face. To her face, she is usually called 'Princess Laika."
I saw another exhibit labeled "Too Much of a Goodyear Thing."
Same body. Same exaggerated proportions. Rubber from neck to feet, showing not a bit of real skin. Thick coarse pasty white makeup coving her entire head except for her hair, which has punkish pink tint. Neon cosmetics painted thickly upon her face, giving her a retro futuristically trampy look -- like a whore from the old Blade Runner movie.
A closer examination revealed that her entire body was made of red rubber, and the eyes were actually painted on.
Well, Laika is known for her bizarre sense of humor.
As I was shaking my head, she appeared, wearing a dress that one might expect to see on a Disney princess.
"Of all of the worlds and characters I have created, every one remembers me for the Goodyear Thing. Write one story just to be over the top, and you're marked for life!"
I gave a ladylike chuckle. "I guess 'over the top' is a good description."
She shook her head, then snickered. "But where are my manners? Would you like some tea, Lady P?"
"Yes, thank you."
A liveried butler appeared with a finely crafted bone china tea set, bowed, and served us.
The tea was excellent. The neural connections make for some really realistic tastes and sensations. And no calores -- not that I have had to worry about that in the past half century or more.
We chatted about some of our favorite worlds, and some of our less favorite worlds.
Somehow, we got on the subject of the older science fiction universes. A lot of people enjoy the old Edger Rice Burroughs stories of Mars, and other such fiction. We just have to kinda forgive the misogyny that was the simple reality of the time that they were written.
Still, how much of an excuse is that? Heinlein wrote stories in the same era. The mother on his Rolling Stones book was a doctor, and none of his characters were misogynistic.
But going way too far in the other direction was the whole Gor series, where sexual slavery was the way the world worked, and women were generally nothing but property. We both had to wonder about the people who read them avidly. Did they have fantasies of owning sex slaves?
We both decided that we detest the Gor universe, the Middle Eastern attitude that women are property and only useful for pleasure or procreation or to serve men, and other cultures that seek to subjugate women.
I told Laika, "I decided to check out one of the Gor worlds once. As soon as I appeared, some idiot claimed me as his personal slave. Didn't ask or challenge. Just claimed me. I couldn't do a thing. I couldn't release the avatar. I couldn't message anyone. I was stuck. I finally disconnected from the Internet. As far as I know, the virtual body is still there as his slave, controlled as an NPC."
Laika shook her head. "Most people who want the Gorean experience either go as men or expect to be slaves."
I shuddered. "No way! I put on a male virtual body several years ago. One of my friends challenged me to spend a few hours every day for a week. By the third day, I cried every time I had to be male. It was horrible! I couldn't wait for the week to be over."
She looked sympathetic. "I can't say that I like it either, but I can tolerate it if necessary. I know some people that like to flip back and forth on a whim."
I shook my head. "I know that I have a particularly bad reaction. I guess I'm just that strongly female."
We chatted for a while, then she said goodbye and went to check on her universes and how things were going.
I was about to go back to my anteroom when another woman appeared. She was built kind of like a Barbie, but more mature and sleek. She wore a leather dress and bodice -- sexy, but not at all trampy or trashy. Her air of quiet authority was enhanced by the riding crop that she carried. She puffed on a cigarette in a holder. Fortunately, I have my sensory input set to ignore unpleasant odors.
"I see that you are fascinated by the Goodyear Thing. You look like an excellent sub. Submit to me. I can make it worth your while."
"Not a chance," I said.
"Your mouth says 'no,' but I can tell that you are fascinated. I know that you are wondering what it would be like to be decked out in that sexy outfit. You ache for the sting of my whip."
I scowled, but she didn't see it because she turned around, pointedly ignoring me. She called out, "Oh, Minion! A flute of bubbly. On the double!"
Soon, a um... person in a rubber sissy maid costume came out on all fours. A serving platter was balanced on his back. Her back. Whatever. She had a ball gag in her mouth and a feather duster protruding from her posterior like some kind of a bird's tail.
"I hear and obey, mistress," she slurred around her gag.
The dom nodded imperiously. "Well done, minion." She took a glass and sipped it. The umm... servant crawled back on all fours.
She turned back to me. "Grovel, slave!"
I just looked at her with disdain and walked away.
I don't understand the whole sub thing. I can't see wanting to be dominated and humiliated.
I shook my head and went back to my anteroom. I put on my Regina Dolby persona and went to my laboratory.
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