Boopsie opened the hallway closet and sighed. There were years and years of memorabilia in here - old photo albums, college yearbooks, floppy discs from back when they were almost six inches across with who-knew-what games saved on them. She fingered an old scrapbook. When was this from? She flipped through it, stopping at playbills and letters from '79, '80, '81. It was one of hers, of course. B.D. considered all of this stuff useless sentiment. She never agreed with him on that, but she had to admit, now they needed the storage space.
She pulled a few more things from the same shelf, blindly. A copy of a script for Aliens Versus The Wild Yellow Bikini - god, such a terrible movie, why had her agent even sent her this, why had B.D. agreed to it, and why had she said yes? A sheaf of letters from Mike and JJ - those she should probably go through.
An unlabeled videotape.
She frowned at it, the unfamiliar expression pulling lines into her face. Why was this here? Their own home videos had been transferred to CD-ROM ages ago, and then again to DVD more recently. She'd never noticed anything missing. And she was usually pretty good at putting some sort of a label on their tapes, even if it wasn't always terribly helpful.
She shrugged, and carried it into the living room. The VCR was still hooked up, wasn't it? There it was; good, they hadn't gotten rid of it yet. She kicked over one of the floor pillows, kneeled carefully, and slid the tape out of its cardboard sleeve.
She turned it over again in her hands. No marks, no labels, no signs of glue where a label had once been. It wasn't even rewound; the reel had stopped about halfway through.
Setting the sleeve aside, she popped it into the machine. Her finger went to "rewind," but before she could press it, the motors started with a whir and the flat-screen went on automatically. A set of diagonal stripes, bright yellow against a black background, marched across the screen and formed into a backdrop, slowly drifting relative to the viewer.
"Hey, hey, Y-Person? Y-y-y-you there?" said a very familiar voice that it took her a minute to place.
"Ron Headrest?" she squeaked.
An elderly virtual head in white suit and sunglasses popped up from the bottom of the screen. "Whoops! You're not Y-Person, person!" Its plastic-sheened eyebrows drew together. "B-b-barbara, right?"
"Yeah." She sat down on the cushion and crossed her legs. "But you can call me Boopsie; everyone else does." She reached for the remote and adjusted the contrast slightly. "So, you've been hiding out on that tape for the last - what, decade and a half?"
"D-d-depends on what year it is, young lady." A stylized lens flare ran across the shades. "And I w-w-wasn't hiding out. I got stuck there." He frowned. "Someone from the Contract With America took out, out, took out a contract on me. Managed to record my essential data into a camcorder." He paused, and the background shifted from yellow to blue stripes. "No idea how the tape ended up with you, you."
"It's 2009." She looked at the calendar on the wall. "Almost 2010, now. Um, you know Reagan's passed on, right?"
"I didn't know, know, but I figured the old template only had so many years left in him." The simulated face looked sad for a moment, then continued, "So who's in the White House n-n-now?"
"A Democrat. Barack Obama."
The AI scowled. "Another one? Did the American public go straight, straight from S-s-s-slick Willie to this fellow?" His expression grew wary. "Are the Republicans wandering in the wilderness?" It smoothed again. "Do they need another hero, hero? Or just the way home?"
"No, but I'm not sure - " She stopped for a second. A tiny smile crept across Boopsie's face. "Hey, you don't need to ask me, do you? You can pop up on any TV show you want, I thought. Can't you just find out what's going on by becoming part of the news?"
"T-t-t-too true! But where, where should I start?" The artificial politician turned so he was in profile.
She raised one hand to her jaw, as if she were thinking. It had been a while since she'd had an acting job, but she remembered all the poses her coach had taught her. "Well, you remember Roland Hedley, right?"
"One of my favorite t-t-t-targets! He's still around?" The simuloid grinned as she nodded. "Where's he at now, now?"
"The channel you're looking for is Fox News." Boopsie pulled her knees up to her chest and smiled. "I think you'll find it quite interesting."
"I'll be back in a jif-jif-jiffy," promised the image on the screen as it slipped off the left-hand edge. His background of diagonal lines - yellow in one direction, blue in another, hot pink in a third - continued to drift aimlessly on the screen. Boopsie pulled up one of the photo albums from the hall closet and began to sort through it.
About an hour later, Headrest reappeared, his rouged cheeks now flaming red. "Blasphemy! S-s-s-s-sacrilege! What in the Hell hap-happened to our legacy? My image has been spat up-p-p-pon!"
"The 2000s happened." She looked at the photo in her hand. B.D. was standing next to a pool, wearing a pair of swim trunks and that old helmet. He had great ankles. Funny how you only notice things when they're gone. "And yeah, they kind of stole your image for their own ends. Your old party is - different, now."
"I'll make them p-p-pay for this! I'll show up on every talk show! Debate-ate-ate any comer!" The artificial politician's hair fell askew, one perfect spit-curl dropping into his face. "I'll be every-everywhere!"
Boopsie traced a cable from the VCR to the TV set, back to the amplifier, and then to the Playstation 3. "I think that would be a great idea, Ron. But there may be a faster way for you to get there, or at least to reach every viewer."
"And what-what-what's that, little lady?" Somehow, she could feel the hopeful stare from behind the pixellated sunglasses.
"You remember Al Gore, too, right?" She tried to look innocent; she suspected she was failing.
"Yup, yup. The Senator f-f-f-from Pain-in-the-butt. What about him?"
She blushed as she smiled. B.D. would never forgive her for this, but she could claim plausible deniability. How was a little tech-unsavvy girl supposed to know that the TV was online, now? "Let me introduce you to a little invention of his called . . . the Internet."