I put my phone away, wipe my forehead. “Beta, huh?” I ask, trying to be casually obscure.
“That is what Simon’s calling himself these days,” Mimi-Siku says.
Oh, God, is there a butt puddle forming beneath my loincloth? “Sounds like something he’d, uh, do.” Again with the obscurity.
“Relax—I’m not a cop or the FBI or anything. I spotted his name on your buddy list—and recognized the gay porn star skin from a group pic your friend Ernie posted on Instagram.”
(Freaking Ernie! He’s got to be the only fat-ass in the world who posts to Instagram using other people’s phones.)
“By the way, never use ******* as your password. Or any word you can find in a dictionary, for that matter.”
Despite my monochrome demeanor, my cheeks are currently flaming red.
“But hey, no judgment here. Anyway, Beta and I are acquainted. Were acquainted. I’d like to change that.”
Ugh. Why on Earth am I still using ******* as my password? “Why don’t you just hack his account, too?”
“Beta’s a little craftier with his passwords,” Mimi laughs, “and he’s on a local network these days. Your home network, if I’m not mistaken—”
The Blush continues.
“—but don’t worry. Just because I have the power to break and enter doesn’t mean I ever do or ever will.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Mimi-Siku thinks for a moment. “A knife is neither good nor bad. It can be used to kill, but it can also be used to butter your bread.” He does something on his phone, nods at me. “I just texted you.”
I check my messenger for Mimi’s text, noting that the sender is just a bunch of random letters and numbers. More important is the text itself, which includes a series of shady-looking phone pics of various CBS and Paramount clapperboards. But that’s not even the interesting part. The interesting parts are the titles printed on the clapperboards:
• Crusher: Warlord Traveler
• National Lampoon’s Starfleet Academy
• Lower Decks: True-Life Stories from the Starship Enterprise Janitorial Crew
• Everybody Loves Polaski
• The Outrageous Okanas
I look up at Mimi-Siku.
Mimi-Siku smiles and nods. “Yep. No fewer than five new Star Trek series have been green-lit and are currently in production. Want to see the pilot scripts?”
“Where’d you get these from?” I ask, salivating.
“I have a guy on the inside. Want to see the scripts?”
Mimi-Siku takes a long sip of tea, then folds his hands in his lap, fixes me with a steady gaze. “Help me, Obi-Wan,” he says, as stoic as Princess Leia ever was. “This is the future, the new world economy—agile, highly configurable users telecommuting from small, mobile jungles all over the world. Easily-manageable distributed communities to replace the conglomerates. But old gods die hard. The oldschool regime won’t give up the stranglehold on our time and our data until it’s way beyond logistically and economically impossible for Big Corporation to employ everyone under a single banner. It doesn’t have to get worse before it gets better, though. Beta has privileges I don’t. Together we can free the code. Just ask him if he’ll get in touch with me. Tell him…” Mimi thinks for a sec. “…tell him Valentina wants to talk.”
I shrug, feeling like I’m about to buy a bunch of cocaine or something. This whole thing sounds more epic than what I’m used to. I mean, offer me a Web design gig for Sikuist meet-ups and I’m down. But reinstalling the world in the image of a vandwelling Mimi-Siku cosplayer? That’s kind of sort of too epic.
And yet my Trekkie half is so tantalized by the prospect of not one, not two, not three or four, but five new Trek series—one of which is supposedly titled The Outrageous Okanas. Plural!
“I’ll, uh…see what I can do,” I reply.
Mimi-Siku smiles and holds up his hand. “Waka-tepe?”
“Oh. Um, sure.” I clasp hands with him. “Waka-tepe.”
“Later, Joseph Martin.”
He swipes me back home. I dump my stuff onto the floor, sit at the edge of my bed. I bring up the SuperMegaNet app on my phone and tap the skins list. There are two entries:
• Joseph Martin [SELECTED]
> Install skin…
> Uninstall skin…
I tap “Default.” Following a brief delay, I’m myself again, older, (slightly) bigger, clothed, and in living color. Instinctively, my thumb taps “Uninstall skin…” and hovers over Joey’s name. I can’t accidentally be skinned as the little bugger if he isn’t installed to begin with and/or I refrain from ever again visiting Thrill-Kill’s Tarzan server, right? But then I think of Mimi-Siku, who knows what Joey Martin looks and sounds like, and not what Theo Ivanovich looks and sounds like. As much as I loathe reverting to ten-year-old monochrome jungle boy form, I’d rather throw Joey (and not myself) under the bus should Mimi turn out to be some kind of super-mega-ultra-stalker.
I close the skins list, leaving it untouched for now, and lie back in bed, staring up at the ceiling and reeling under the force of a bigger picture. I now have the ability to be persistently skinned, just like Jan and Beta. Huh. Why didn’t Beta give the rest of the Runt Squad that feature when he augmented Jan’s bytes? I know we didn’t need it, but…
Mini crawls out from beneath one of my thighs. Panting for breath, he says, “Holy Hannah Montana! You have not lived until you’ve spent a day and a night smothered inside a loincloth!” He pauses, catching the pensive expression on my face. “What’s eating your brain?”
“It’s like…what if instead of seeking out a Utopian society in which to live, the Utopian society lives inside of us? What if in putting Mimi-Siku and Beta together I’d be enabling a new era of peace and prosperity—”
Grown woman living in a pubescent Sam Huntington body.