Mira was in her glory. It was a little weird how she couldn’t quite tell her friends the whole story, even when she swapped to a different visor. The hacker boy had somehow put a filter on her account and she couldn’t describe him, his drone, or his mother. But the holes in her story only made it more interesting to her social network. And there was no denying that she had been offline for a crazy amount of time with no record anywhere of her activity. As word spread of her strange adventure and Mira’s status rose, she was able to start acquiring more Bling for her avatar.
As her social status points soared, Mira and her friends eagerly scanned the Bling catalog together. They chattered madly, high on the prospect of disposable status. Each of her pals started tagging accessories they thought Mira should get for her avatar to wear. She added an animated rainbow feather boa, a giant rhinestone cowboy hat, and some ruby slippers, for good measure. Some snarky comments about her taste level started showing up on third degree of separation boards, but Mira just blurred those windows out so that she wouldn’t have to see them, while her friends loudly defended their recommendations.
Some local boys heard about her story and flew a drone into the building she had described. They confirmed that there was an apple tree and a mini forest there. They attached their footage to Mira’s thread and soon both they and Mira were getting more attention and more status. People with lots of followers were tagging her story and she was surfing on the network effect, riding it higher than she ever had before.
Even with all of this Bling though, Mira still needed actual money, so she continued her original plan and headed for the blood bank. She followed the green dots absentmindedly, while reveling in her notoriety. But she was forced to lift her visor when it showed her a boy firing his gun into the air. He was a skinny Hispanic kid. The recoil of his rifle nearly knocked him over as he shot at a formation of drones patrolling the area around the clinic. Mira had never seen this sort of thing before and she took cover behind a burnt out gasoline car as she fed the sight into a feed for her newfound social audience.
The boy managed to knock down one of the drones, but not before it released a stream of tiny bots, which converged on the little gangster like a swarm of insects. Mira almost felt bad for the kid as he waved his arms about frantically, trying to drive them away. But his efforts were futile, and he dropped his gun and ran, howling with pain as the tiny bots stung and harassed him. Mira wondered if she should wait until another gangster came to replace this one, so she could make sure she paid her tax. The tiny bots must have drugged the boy, because he dropped to the ground and lay still. A few moments later, a police autocar appeared, scooped the kid up into its hopper, and then sent out a crablike bot to collect his gun before peeling away. This was something Mira had seen only once or twice before. There wasn’t much law enforcement in the refugee zones normally. And none of the other blood banks operated drones out here, either. This must be a pretty fancy clinic.
Now Mira’s ChatTime feed was exploding and a huge flame war was erupting as the leftists screamed about due process and how these new automated detention procedures were unconstitutional. Mira wanted to complain that the kid had been there to shake her down and must have murdered someone with a knife or a club in order to earn his rifle, which was the standard initiation for the gangs around there, but she bit her tongue. Talking shit on gangsters on social media was a good way to get hung from a bridge. So she let the leftists battle it out with the New Right Front assholes and just collected her status from both groups of idiots.
She didn’t know what she was going to do with all of this Bling, and she was giddy with excitement as she approached the entrance to the blood bank. She knew this was a special place when a smiling avatar appeared before her, welcoming her into the clinic as the door slid open to admit her. All of the other blood banks made her take off her visor and deal with the attendants in meatspace. But here, a pretty anime nurse led her to a machine to scan her vital signs. Mira lifted her visor briefly, but there were no humans to be seen. This was a fully automated lab. She felt pretty special to be admitted to such a place, and she hoped that she hadn’t picked up any diseases along the way that would prevent her from donating.
Mira heaved a sigh of relief as a big green check mark appeared before her and a pleasant chime sounded in her ears, letting her know that she was healthy enough to donate.
“You are a perfect candidate, Mira,” said the anime nurse with a fantastically enthusiastic smile. “We can offer you a special rate if you will donate 2 litres of plasma today.”
Mira let her closest friends have access to her feed pretty much all the time and her pal Rebo pinged her right away.
That’s a LOT of blood, Mira, is it SAFE?
“We use a special blood replacement that is fully FDA approved,” said the anime nurse at that moment. Mira had to double check her privacy settings, but the nurse shouldn’t have been able to hear what Rebo said. Maybe it was just good at guessing the cause of her hesitation. The amount on offer was displayed before her in kaosKoin or USD, and Mira gasped. They were offering as much as she would make from two months of weekly donations at the other blood banks. She readily signed the waiver over the worried murmurings of Rebo and her other close friends.
The nurse gave her a cute smile and led her to a big machine, where she could lay down. One cuff went over each arm, slipping into place automatically. One to pull out her whole blood and one to put back her red blood cells, along with the synthetic blood replacement, explained the nurse. And this machine was just as painless as the injection. Mira couldn’t believe it. She saw the cheerful cartoon readout displaying how much blood was being withdrawn, as a big red heart slowly filled up from the bottom. But she hardly felt anything. Normally, it was an uncomfortable procedure for her, and Mira was acutely aware of the metal spike embedded in her arm, but this process was practically painless. The cuffs inflated around each arm and squeezed her tight, and there was just a tiny prick at the beginning, but then nothing but the tightness of the cuff.
Mira went deeper into the Bling catalog than she had ever gone before. Her friends thrashed with excitement like a pack of sharks with chum in the water. For the first time, Mira could afford an assistant with some decent AI, so she chose a yellow boa constrictor to wear around her avatar’s shoulders. She could give the boa simple commands to complete, and it would give her shopping advice, since it was partially sponsored.
The next thing she knew, Mira felt the cuffs loosen. She swiped away most of her social feeds and saw that the cartoon clinic’s readouts were showing her a list of green checkmarks.
“Well done, Mira!” chirped the friendly anime nurse. “You didn’t complain a bit. And I like your new boa too, by the way. I have transferred your kaosKoin now, you should see it any moment.”
“Thanks so much,” said Mira. She checked her kaosKlutch app and found that her new balance was safely frozen. “I’m rich!”
Way to go, Mira! chimed Rebo.
And the newly rich Mira emerged back into the blazing wasteland of the abandoned plaza, totally oblivious to the rubble and destruction all around her, as the virtual boa entertained her and her friends with a musical mashup that it had devised itself from the latest hit songs. Her eyes filled with the flashing glitter of her Bling, as the blue line safely guided her around the blasted area where the drone had attacked the gangster. She was on her way back to the squalid camp under the overpass that she called home.