“Ms. Peralta, you are deranged,” John Handshy said. “A derangutan.”
A TAP trundled over to him. For its head, it had the hologram head of a baby elephant. It extended an arm, which was segmented, shiny, and purply maroon like a centipede’s body, and touched John Handshy’s legs. He began to roll on the ground, trying to put himself out, and the TAP got him again on the belly.
“That’s plenty,” Ms. Peralta said, still holding Dentist Gouveia’s skull, and Lou and Justicia were not sure if she was speaking to the TAP or John Handshy. “And that’s no way to speak to your president.”
It was, in fact, Mount Bastion. “I wanted you kids to me,” they said. “After all, that’s why you’re the only ones who don’t have to pay rent. Didn’t you wonder about that?”
Justicia said she did.
“This skull is astonishing. A stunner,” Mount Bastion said. “It has been going from head to head for thousands and thousands of years.”
They said that, 50,000 years ago, it was in someone’s head in a cave in France. “She was the one who thought it would be fun to paint the walls,” they said. “She painted animals. She painted her own female anatomy.”
Mount Bastion said the skull could go anywhere. They asked the children if they remembered when, years ago, the dominion had sent 3D negators and printers to the moon. “My predecessor had the idea that half the population, five billion people — the dumb people — should live in the moon for 500 years. To give the world a rest.”
Mount Bastion held up the skull. One of its front teeth was green and clean and clear. The children could see through it. They knew it.
“But do you know why she stopped that project?”
Lou and Justicia shook their heads no. John Handshy was coming around.
“They found this. It was in the middle of the moon. And then somehow it was in the president’s head, and she killed herself. And then I looked for it and searched for it, and it was in Dentist Gouveia.”
The skull’s green tooth got cloudy, and then it disappeared from Mount Bastion’s hand, which was still Ms. Peralta’s hand before it was millions of scattering particulate drones.