Behind the sideways building was a row of mobile homes parked haphazardly in the shadow cast by the dancing lights of downtown Tabula Ra$a. Inside one of the trailers, five of the men were standing around the cramped living room. Zoey and the stocky one with the tattoos, named Rico, were in the bedroom.
Rico sat upright on the bed and Zoey said, “Now the head. Hold still.”
She set the phone to scan and held it next to the man’s right ear. She slowly moved it in an arc around his face. She checked the scan, and tapped the screen and told it to save.
Rico said, “So that’s it? It’s got me in there? So I call somebody, it’ll look like I’m standing there in front of them, right?”
“Well, you’ll look like you’re a foot tall and standing on their phone. It’s not like Star Wars, it can’t project you into the middle of the room. You’d need a projector on the floor for that. Or the glasses, the glasses will make it look like the person is right in front of you. But they’ll make you look like a dork.”
They’d been at this for half an hour. It had turned out, after a lengthy and embarrassing discussion, that Rico and his crew were not, as Zoey had thought, a roving gang of rape bandits. They were the first wave of a demolition crew hired to recover anything and everything of value from the sideways building—copper wire, plumbing, undamaged fixtures—before the structure that had once been the Parkview Luxury Apartments would be demolished without having ever seen a single tenant.
“A-Ron! Get in here. We’ll do A-Ron next, then we’ll be done. Thanks for doing this. Bought these for the crew a month ago but the hologram thing never worked. Made everyone look deformed, like funhouse mirrors.”
Rico dialed from his phone, and A-Ron answered as he was walking through the doorway. A hologram of Rico’s squat frame popped out of A-Ron’s phone and A-Ron said, “Yay. It works. See, now you just got to hire Zoey to hang around you twenty-four hours a day for when you inevitably break it again a week from now.” To Zoey he said, “Yo, why does your cat smell so bad?”
Before she could answer, Rico asked, “If I’m sitting down then why am I standing up in the hologram thing?”
“It plays your face in real time but your body is just a standard animation. When you call somebody, your mouth and face will move while you talk but you’ll always be wearing what you’re wearing now.”
Zoey started to answer but A-Ron cut in. “So if I call you while you’re takin’ a dump, I don’t got to watch you.”
Zoey made A-Ron stand in the center of the room just as she had done with Rico. She stood back a few feet and started scanning A-Ron’s body.
Rico said, “Suck in your gut, ese. You see how fat I looked in mine? This thing adds twenty pounds.”
“It ain’t the phone, ese.”
Zoey said, “So, I don’t understand. That building just fell over? Perfectly intact?”
“Could have been way worse. If it’d fallen the other way, it’d have taken out the Rand Hotel, like dominoes.”
A-Ron said, “Inspectors in this city are a joke. Everybody’s dirty, nobody’s taking time to do it right.”
“Hey, Parkview was built to code, it’s what they did next door that doomed it. They started digging out the basement but they were too close to the foundation here, they dig and dig and one day you got twenty stories just falling gently on its side, like it got drunk and stepped in a ditch. Concrete pilings snapped like toothpicks, sounded like cannons going off.”
Zoey finished with A-Ron and he called Rico’s phone to test it. His hologram popped up and A-Ron said, “Huh, it does make you fatter.”
Zoey said, “You can actually download any body or outfit you want. Make yourself into a muscle man, put a little tuxedo on it to class it up.”
A skinny guy with a mustache, the oldest of the group, popped his head in the bedroom and said, “Why is it taking so long for the burritos to get here?”
There was an awkward silence. Zoey finally said, “Oh. That was for you. I might have . . . crashed it. I thought they had sent it after me.”
“You thought somebody sent a burrito helicopter after you?”
“I thought it was a security drone or something.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing! Well, I helped drown a man and set another man on fire and vandalized that restaurant’s toy helicopter but all of that was after. My biological father died and I’m in town to settle his affairs but now they’re trying to get into his safe or something, it’s a big mess. He was a . . .” Zoey trailed off as the expression on every face in the trailer froze. “What?”
Rico said, “Get Cesar.”
Confused, Zoey said, “This town has a Caesar?”
“No, that’s just his name. You know the whole world’s lookin’ for you, right?”