“Hey,” she says, pretending she’s not surprised to see me.
“Hey,” I say back.
“Long time no see.”
“Long time.” I glance around the inside of her van. Lots of bright wood and potted ferns and a colorful, shagedelic throw rug. There’s also a desk and a small kitchen area complete with cupboard and hotplate. Val’s sitting cross-legged on the twin-sized bed in the wayback. She’s got her laptop propped on one knee. Theo wasn’t kidding when he’d told me she’d gone fourteen-year-old fundoshi Sam Huntington. I’m already missing her—his—ex-favorite skin, a yoga-fit, bikini-bottomed twenty-something Latina. “Fundoshi culture, huh? As in the steampunk of fashion?”
Mimi-Siku closes his laptop, gets to his feet. He instinctively starts coming in for a hug, but switches to a fist-bump at the last second. “You can’t tell me it doesn’t make spending time in the San Angelico area more convenient. You’re looking good, by the way.”
“Kind of an Asian muscle hunk thing going on?”
“Gay porn star skin I found.”
“I didn’t know you swing that way.”
“I don’t. I just like the look.”
“No complaints from me. So, we’re talking again?”
I shrug. “Just dropped in to say hello.”
“Took you long enough. How’s Joey?”
“Your black and white jungle friend.”
Oh, right. The little dude. “He’s good.”
Mimi-Siku nods. Waits.
I smile. He never was a fan of small talk. “You’re not still running with the metaphysics crew, are you?”
“Me? I’m solo as Han. Same as you these days. Why?”
“Something about a cassette tape of Mexican banda music.” I head to the front of the van, setting myself in the driver’s seat and pretending to admire the golden wheat field horizon beyond the windshield—though really I’m keeping an eye on Mimi-Siku as much as he’s keeping an eye on me. I don’t think we outright mistrust each other. It’s just been so long since we hung out together…we’re like new jeans, you know? “El Cassetto. Joey and his friends are talking about it making the rounds via SuperMegaNet. Peeps are getting pregnant. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
Mimi-Siku sits beside me in the passenger seat. “Should I?” He looks genuinely curious.
“You think it’s one of mine, don’t you?”
“I never said that.”
“But you came here to ask about it. You came specifically to me.” Mimi-Siku folds his arms. “You really think I’m using a cassette tape of Mexican banda music to get people pregnant? Are you hearing yourself?”
Yeah, I am, and I sound ridiculous. I know that. But how ridiculous was it twenty years ago to entertain the notion that one day we’d be uploading and downloading ourselves to phones and computers around the world—just like we’re doing today? Besides, I promised Theo I’d ask.
Changing the subject, I say, “I hear you’ve been trying to get a hold of me.”
Mimi-Siku nods. “Rumor has it you’ve got a backdoor.”
“Rumor has it George Lucas’ hair is powered by the Force.”
“Do you have a backdoor?”
So that’s it. He’s looking for an in. Maybe he’s also vaguely interested in how I’m doing, but mostly he’s after a way back onto the Taurus Labs servers. “I’ve been…locked out.”
“The person who kept my passwords current hasn’t updated me in a good long while. Maybe Taurus Labs fired them, or someone offered them a better deal. Or maybe they’re simply tired of the risks. Bottom line, it means no more poking around the Taurus servers at my leisure. Also, I have no more cloud backup there. For the past few months I’ve been existing solely on a pile of hard drives in a, uh, friend’s bedroom.”
Mimi-Siku looks away. “Is that wise?”
“Ever consider torrenting yourself?”
“I tried that once. I’m not popular enough for people to seed me. Besides, I’m not sure I want to risk that some or eventually all of me will end up on the computers of my enemies. I just…I thought you ought to know that’s why I haven’t been in touch lately.”
“Geez,” Mimi-Siku says, smirking, “you act like you’re all America’s Most Wanted.”
“If Taurus’ legal department, the US military, patent trolls, and the human rights activists yipping at my heels isn’t enough to put me on a list, I don’t know what is.”