Lucille walked beneath the tent. The sheets of plastic fabric were running with condensation and bright with the heat of the air. The unshaven, dirty man standing and frowning before her was a con artist, but he was holding a lightning ray, silver in the darkness.
The hologram had come to prominence only in the last ten years. The interference effect was almost twenty years old, but it had taken a long time to perfect the plates of microdots. A year ago, the Sony project to develop an electric hologram imager had produced a prototype the size of a room, massive beyond belief, but it could pick up realtime images of the body, the motion of the blood, living portraits of anatomy. She was peaking then, she was rising to success. Then Joseph Ackerman, engineer, boyfriend, hacked some of the test materials into a crude free-standing current projector, and blew up some cans with friends while on vacation in England. Somehow the Yakuza knew.
"So," she asked, with a dry mouth, "where did you get this?"
He shifted it from one hand to the other. "The outside mall, bridge. You look like you have a problem needs solving."
"I know, the outside mall. Who from?"
"Aw, come on, bridge. You know the outside mall: it's never the same person twice." He sat down on the heat shield, his legs sprawling to either side, and the white flesh of his ankle showed underneath his pant leg. "I did see a landmark. I saw some stained glass windows above the shield, like the ones they have in the big concrete church on Stone Street, and that was only a few blocks away."
The back of Lucille's blouse was becoming damp and sticky. "Very well. For the gadget, I'll give you five thousand yen." She reached into her jacket.
"Hey, wait a minute. I need it in coins. No bills."
"I know that," she said, taking out two rolls of hundred-yen coins. They were wrapped in brown paper, decorated in Japanese. Her hand swung back, she threw them slowly through the air. He stuck his hands out, jerkily caught them, and winked at her while stuffing them down in his pockets. She gathered the lightning ray up from where it lay beside him.
Without a word, she elbowed back the tarp covering the entrance and ducked underneath. The sun was faint and the rain was soft. She walked with rubber soles on the gentle slope of the mirrored shield, reaching one of the plastic struts, and continued along and down. Nice day.