AlterNet Income

“I’m a cop, remember?” Mick smiled at his twins, Fern and Olive. The three family members sat in their kitchen enjoying breakfast when the subject of money came up. “I think I know how protection rackets work. But it’s a video game.” The twins sighed as one. Without a word they faced each other and shook their fists three times. On the third, Fern held his hand out flat while Olive’s two fingers mimicked scissors. He gave an accepting nod, then stood and walked out of the room.

Mick always enjoyed watching their interactions. He’d always heard twins were close; and, sometimes psychic but his pair seemed to take it to a whole new level. He assumed they were in constant communication with each other. They were only 13, but he could not remember a single instance where they talked over one another. As children, only one of them ever cried, usually Fern.

When they were toddlers, Fern would do all the crying, even if Olive was the one that needed something. It was extremely hard on his marriage; their mother felt like she wasn’t up to the job because she couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Fern. Luckily, they realized the answer was as simple as checking both of them in time to save their family.

Once that problem was solved, life became easy. With their needs met, the twins seemed content to spend time in each other’s company. Mick and his wife joked that the twins were talking psychically. Sometimes, Mick was more than sure it was true. The way the twins moved and spoke made Mick feel like they were one person in two bodies.

“Dad,” Olive sat up straight and looked at her father. “You’re getting focusing on the wrong thing. First, it’s not a video game, it’s a Virtual Reality game. It’s not real, but it feels real.” She flicked the edge of her juice glass with her finger to make a ‘ping’ sound. “As real as this.”

Mick wasn’t dumb. He researched the AlterNet before he bought access for the twins. He knew it was more than them sitting in front of a monitor at a keyboard because he dug the soil beds in their shared room.

“I get that. And I can see how people in the game would pay for your protection. But that’s game money,” he said.

Dad,” Olive said. Her voice carried more teenage condescension than a 13-year-old should have. “You’re still focusing on the word ‘game’. Just think of it as a different reality.”

“But it’s not real, it’s virtual,” Mick countered.

“It’s more than virtual,” Olive said while shaking her head.

“It’s like an alternate reality,” Fern said as he walked back into the kitchen. He returned to his seat next to Olive. While he sat down, Olive reached out and placed her node on the table in front of her dad. She tapped the screen, then pointed at a section for Mick to look at.

[Sharp Bank: Balance: $73,000.00 ] His eyes widened. He banked with the same company and recognized the balance as legitimate.

“I collected a service fee for a quick demonstration,” Olive said. As she spoke, Fern held out a small, luminescent, golden cube. “This is a payment from one of our clients in the game. First of all, as you can see…,” Olive said.

“You can see it. Even in our real world,” Fern finished Olive’s thought while he waved his hand over the cube for show. “You might think I brought any little toy from my room,” Fern said. He reached forward and placed the sugar-cube sized currency on the center of the node.

“But, I didn’t,” Olive said. The golden cube disintegrated into white powder. Instead of collecting in a pile, the powder vanished before it landed. Even though his attention was already on the node, Olive pointed at a specific line again.

[Sharp Bank $127.38 cents deposited after currency exchange.] Mick checked the balance again.

[Sharp Bank: Balance: $73,127.38]

“It’s.. real,” Mick said. He stared at the node until the screen disappeared; it left behind a card-sized piece of transparent glass. Suddenly, he looked up.

“Can I join your gang?” he asked. Both twins’ heads shook side to side in unison.

“Dad,” Olive said.

“You’d make the rest of the guild uneasy,” Fern said.

“You’re a cop, remember?” Olive said.