Y.T. knocked on one of the rice-paper walls that surround Hiro's office and the second time her knuckles landed the paper tore. She felt guilty until she realized that it was Hiro's fault for making it too real. He's the one who should have thought to make his rice-paper unrippable. She listened, and hearing nothing, and stepped through the door. Hiro's office was empty; his desk neat. In the corner above the desk, a globe model of the earth floated, rotating almost imperceptibly and glowing slightly. Y.T. watched the clouds swirl for a moment, and then pulled a piece of paper from her pocket, consulted it, and then said to the globe, "Show me New New Sicily."
The globe spun and zoomed in on a tiny island out in the Pacific, in the middle of a chain of larger islands. "Zoom in again," she said. The picture of New New Sicily sharpened to reveal turquoise waters, a black sand beach, and what looked like palm trees. A slightest scratch of crepe-paper soles caught her attention and she spun around.
"Can I help you?" A pleasant-sounding man stood at Y.T.'s side, watching the glove over her shoulder.
"Hiro said I could come here to do my homework," Y.T. said, and looked at the black sand beach a moment longer before turning to the Librarian.
"I know," the Librarian said. "My offer is literal. Can I help you?"
"You can," Y.T. said as she walked around Hiro's desk and sat in his chair. "Tell me about the Mafia."
"Please choose from one of these sections first," the Librarian responded, "Mafia, History of, Mafia Personnel, Mafia Corporation Holdings, Ma-"
Y.T. cut him off. "History."
The Librarian began reciting, "Although the exact origin of the word 'mafia' is uncertain, some believe it originated in 1282 during the French invasion of Sicily with the saying, "Morte Alla Francia Italia Anela" (Death to the French is Italy's Cry). Another theory of the origin of "mafia" begins as early as the 9th century when Sicily was ruled by Arab forces. In Arabic, the word 'mafia' means 'refuge'."
"Forget it. Try Personnel."
"Do you have a name in mind, or shall I list individual names in alphabetical order?"
"No, I have a name. Tell me what info you have about Uncle Enzo."
There was a slight pause as the Librarian looked up at what seemed to be the ceiling, retrieving the information.
The Librarian began reciting, "Uncle Enzo has been head of the Mafia for thirty-six years, coming into power after George "Espresso" Pugliani, purportedly short-tempered with his chauffeur, forced the driver out of the car one evening and insisted on driving himself home. He was never seen again. Uncle Enzo, who has never revealed his paternal name, appears to have risen through the ranks of the Mafia through managing a chain of restaurants,and is notoriously secretive about all personal information, except for sharing with anyone who asks the story about how he came to have a six scarred on his ankle." The Librarian paused. "I don't have that story on record, but other sources confirm an alligator was responsible."
"So, he's like a man with no past," Y. T. said.
"It would be factually incorrect to say that he does not have a past, however it is correct that we do not have any further information about his life on file. Or am I misinterpreting your simile?"
"No, no, you're fine," Y.T. said. "Can you just give me a minute? I need to think before I ask you another question."
"I will gather other information about the Mafia while you think."
The Librarian kindly disappeared into the next room. Y.T. pulled out the piece of paper from her pocket. Her RadiKS coverall, full of pockets in the real world, has only one pocket on her avatar. It was too detailed to replicate them all, and anyway, she didn't need the other pockets or anything in them in the Metaverse. The letter had taken a lot of work, because he wanted to keep the paper. She could have uploaded it into a disc or a little index tablet with the data, but she'd wanted the paper, and the handwriting, to be exactly the same. So she had a nearly exact copy of the letter in her one pocket, the same in both places.
The letter was from Uncle Enzo. She'd received it a few days ago, nearly two weeks after the apocalyptic stand-off with L. Bob Rife. She'd heard Uncle Enzo had been hurt but no one had seen him since. She reassured herself that she'd have heard, at least, if he were dead. The letter came to her through another twisted Mafia bait-and-switch Kourier run. She delivered a package to WOIMN, Way Out In the Middle of Nowhere, the vacation resort populated by the Burbclave families, the sort of place you went for a vacation from your vacation. A thick-necked Mafia Teen signed for the package, opened it, and handed her the letter from inside.
"What the fuck is that?" Y.T. said, before taking it.
"It's for you." The teenager gestured for her to take it.
"Then why the hell couldn't I open it 30 miles ago?" She thought better, then changed her mind and grabbed it, tearing the fancy envelope.
The Mafia Teen shrugged.
I'm enjoying a relaxing recuperation at New New Sicily after the injuries I sustained in that unfortunate incident a few weeks back. I'm sorry I haven't been able to write sooner, but secrecy was unusually important, and as my sources assured me that you were fine, I hoped you would forgive me for waiting to write. Anyway, this letter is already longer than I wanted it to be. No need for me to bore you. Just one more thing. Several occurrences during that madness with our evangelical anti-Christ, including the phenomenally lacking performance of some of my associates, have convinced me of something I had already been considering. You'll see I've made the appropriate changes to all the important documents.
I hope we can meet again soon. And if my doctor says I'm well enough, maybe you can teach me to ride on one of those planks.
Y.T. was surprised how relieved she was to get actual confirmation that Uncle Enzo was fine. She quickly flipped through the attached papers. There appeared to be a section from Uncle Enzo's will. A paragraph which very clearly appointed her Head Honcho of the Mafia in the case of Uncle Enzo's death. She skimmed the rest quickly; it included several amendments which spelled out what to do in the case that Y.T. wasn't interested.
"How do I get in touch with him?" Y.T. demanded.
"With who?" The Mafia Teen asked.
"Are they really going to let you have your own car dealership? With Uncle Enzo, you thug."
"I'm leaving," Y.T. said, and hopped back onto her board, and floated, lost in thought, until she realized she was pooned to an incredibly slow-moving furniture truck. She quickly released and pooned to a speeding Jaguar.
She read the letter over again, her elbows up at Hiro's desk. She wanted to ask the Librarian about what the Mafia was really like, but she didn't think it would be in the collection any more than Uncle Enzo's past. What she was looking for, really, for a history of humor, or practical jokes. She hadn't known him long, but she had a feeling he wasn't much of a joker. Still, Uncle Enzo couldn't be serious about his will. At least he didn't seem to think he'd be dying anytime soon, so she had time to talk to him. She'd just have to wait. Or possibly find a ride out to New New Sicily. As she was trying to remember any Kourier routes that took you overseas, she heard approaching steps from outside the office. She put the letter back into her pocket.
"Shit," she heard Hiro say. She could see his shadow on the other side of the ripped rice-paper panel. He came in, saw her, and his hand was halfway to his swords when he recognized her. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"You invited me here," Y.T. said. "You said I was welcome anytime."
"Oh," Hiro said. "Right. Hey, did you rip the rice paper?"
"No," Y.T. said, hoping she was being convincing. "How was your pseudo-romantic sexcapde with Juanita? You were gone for like, ten days. Must have been good."
"It was good," Hiro said. "Juanita's good." And then he added a moment later, "It wasn't a sexcapde."
"Whatever," Y.T. said. "Here, have your seat back. I came here to use your Librarian but since you're back, I have good news for you."
"Good news I like," Hiro said, taking his seat. "Go on, give it up."
"I cured Da5id," Y.T. said proudly.
Hiro's mouth dropped open. "You cured Da5id?"
"While you were on your special relationship-building retreat. I fixed him."
"How?" Hiro remained shocked with disbelief. This pissed Y.T. off.
"Well it certainly wasn't with your swords," she said.
"I don't understand. How could you have fixed him on your own?
"No, I just mean..."
"I know what you fucking mean," Y.T. said. She glared at Hiro before she continued. "It was easy. He just needed to look at the reverse of the poisoned bitmap, with a few changes in the code to include the Enki mumbo-jumbo."
"I didn't know you could program?"
"I don't. Well, not enough. But I have a friend who does. Another Kourier who owed me a favor. I just told him what to do and he did it."
"You sound like the Mafia," Hiro said.
"What do you know? All you did was deliver pizza for them. And even then you needed my help."
Hiro busied himself with smoothing a non-existent buckle in the tatami mat under his feet before meeting Y.T.'s glare. "So," he said. "Da5id's fine?"
"Almost good as new. He had to rewrite his avatar, though. Snow Crash screwed with the original. Said he was thinking of changing his hair."
Y.T. waited for Hiro to say something, to offer some praise, or a backhanded compliment, or to make excuses for why he hadn't cured Da5id first. He didn't seem on the verge of any big revelation and so instead she said, "So, I think we need to talk."
That flustered him, and he stuttered, "Listen, Y.T, I'm not the kind of guy who..."
"About our partnership, asshole," she said.
"Yeah, oh. Listen, I don't care how insightful you think you are about women. All you see is what you want to see."
"And I'm a girl, pod. Just because you aren't screwing me doesn't mean that makes me a boy."
"Right," Hiro said, as though he didn't really have any idea what she was talking about.
"Look, Juanita's gonna dump you sooner or later."
"You're not a good match. She gets that. You don't. It won't last."
"And why are you telling me this?" Hiro asked.
"Do I have to spell it out for you? I'm not interested in being your girlfriend. I just need to make sure that once you and Juanita split up that you're not going to go all manic-depressive, self-destructive on me and be a danger to our partnership. I need to make sure I'm not gonna need to be saving your ass every time we partner up, huh?"
Hiro took this in.
"Look, I'm sure all the sex has tired you out and you're not at your usual intellectual level. Why don't you think about what I said and we'll talk later, ok? I have some stuff to take care of. And you'd better get going. Da5id's waiting for you over at the Black Sun."
"He is?" Hiro asked. Y.T. nodded. "You didn't by any chance tell him it was you who cured him did you? Or that I was off with Juanita?"
"What do you think I told him?"
Hiro didn't say anything. Y.T. made for the door, and then turned back. "You know, what I said earlier, it wasn't all true. I'd consider being your girlfriend. Once you grow up."
Hiro looked scandalized. "Hey, you're the one who's only 15."
"Yeah," Y.T. said with a big grin. "And look at me."
A few minutes after Y.T. left, once he was sure she was out of earshot, Hiro called over the Librarian.
"Welcome back," the Librarian said. "What information do you need?"
"What did Y.T. tell Da5id?" Hiro asked in a low voice. "Did she tell him she was the one who cured him?"
The Librarian paused as he searched. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment. "That's not in my database."