Ellison teleported to Facepage’s Main Street. Eventually, everybody came through here. Even people who hated Facepage dropped by, because their friends lived here, or because it was the most convenient spot to meet.
Technically, Facepage was just another virtual world, like Krim. But practically, it was more of an all-purpose platform. People who still had physical bodies came here for business, for entertainment, and for socializing. Those who recently died and were resurrected online often moved here first because they were already familiar with the place — and the apartments were free.
Sure, you had to put up with a few ads and your fridge would automatically fill itself with whatever products were being promoted at the time, but for a small monthly fee you could upgrade to a premium service and the ads would go away.
Facepage also insisted on real identities, which was handy for people like Ellison.
He hovered a few inches off the ground, just because he could, and watched as his news feed scrolled in the air in front of him, his AI assistant looking for any mentions of Bob or Bella. Sorted by priority, most of the posts were irrelevant, but after a quick hand gesture that brought the most recent news announcements to the top, it confirmed his suspicions.
He wiped away the feed, pulled up a map, and teleported a few thousand blocks down Main Street. And there it was. An oasis for Krim refugees and escapees, and the reason for Bella’s sudden wanderlust — the Potato Palace.
He landed on the ground, walked in, and sat down at Bella’s table. It was covered with plates of food — French frieds, curly fries, baked potatoes, and a bowl of potato salad.
She looked up, mid-bite, and stared at him unblinking for a second. Then she swallowed, and put the rest of the French fry down.
“How did you find me?”
“You look just like your picture,” he said. She did, in a way. Her real appearance, here on Facepage, was that of an angel, wings and all, not much like the plain, weathered face she had on Krim. But some of the lines on her face were the same. More importantly, her Facepage profile matched the identity that Bob provided.
“No, how did you know I was here?”
“I thought about the odds that someone had somehow convinced the Krim administration to invest in a new magic engine,” he said. “That didn’t seem very likely. Then I thought about the odds that someone had broken into your house, several nights in a row, without you or your husband noticing. Then I thought that maybe you yourself had swapped out the tapestry, and that seemed more likely.”
“Well, maybe I was off somewhere else on Krim,” she said. “Maybe on a romantic getaway with a lover.”
“But why go to all that trouble? Bob said he wouldn’t have cared.” He looked around. The Potato Palace was bustling, and the people he could see immediately around him were just a fraction of those who were actually in the space. Facepage had billions of visitors, and only showed a filtered view of the people around you, using its own proprietary algorithm to determine who you were most interesting in seeing. Ellison had just searched for Bella’s Facepage profile, so she was now on the priority list.
“What I want to know is when you found out about the Potato Palace,” he said.
She sighed and pushed away the plate of French fries. “A couple of weeks ago,” she said. “A friend stopped by my gallery to congratulate me. They had just been off-world and saw the news about the Potato Palace going public. All its early investors were now billionaires.”
“And Bob was one of them.”
“Yeah.” She slumped down. “He worked as a fry cook and got paid in stock options. That was back when it was the Parsnip Palace. The restaurant folded. Or, at least, we thought they did. The founders must have rebranded, revamped their menu, and tried again.” She gestured around. “I guess potatoes are the new hot thing.”
“And Bob didn’t know.”
“I was going to tell him, then thought that he might be a little upset about it and walk out. He’d been getting frustrated with Krim. I could tell he was thinking of leaving. He was just waiting for the pre-nup to expire.”
“All you had to do was wait a month.”
“I know.” She picked up a curly fry. “He wasn’t in touch with any of his old friends anymore. Nobody wanted to visit him on Krim. He might not have found out. But I just had to go see for myself.” She examined the fry. “And the more I thought about it, the more I started craving potatoes. It’s been years since I had one. So I had a few tapestries made, figured it would confuse him enough to buy me some time.” She stared off into the distance. “I couldn’t stand being around him all the time and not saying anything.”
“Why did you care? You have your own money.”
“I do. But it’s just normal family money. We’re well-off, but not billionaire well-off. The Potato Palace has branches everywhere, both virtual and physical. It’s the setting of a hot new reality series. All the celebrities eat here.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe it. Bob really lucked out.”
“So you went to all this trouble just to eat some potatoes?”
“At least fifty plates of potatoes, by now,” she said. “It’s been a long time.” She pushed a plate with a baked potato on it towards Ellison. “Here, try one.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “I was just here yesterday.”
“So what are you going to do? Are you going to tell Bob?”
“He deserves to know.”
“Can I tell him myself?”
Ellison nodded. “If you come with me now.”
“He’s going to leave me, isn’t he?” Her voice broke. “Goddammit, I hate potatoes,” she said, and stuffed a heaping spoonful of potato salad in her mouth.