Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 16 of 61

Chapter 4

One night in the Hall of Presidents convinced me of three things:

1. That Debra’s people had had me killed, and screw their alibis,

2. That they would kill me again, when the time came for them to make a play for the Haunted Mansion,

3. That our only hope for saving the Mansion was a preemptive strike against them: we had to hit them hard, where it hurt.

Dan and I had been treated to eight hours of insectile precision in the Hall of Presidents, Debra’s people working with effortless cooperation born of the adversity they’d faced in Beijing. Debra moved from team to team, making suggestions with body language as much as with words, leaving bursts of inspired activity in her wake.

It was that precision that convinced me of point one. Any ad-hoc this tight could pull off anything if it advanced their agenda. Ad-hoc? Hell, call them what they were: an army.

Point two came to me when I sampled the Lincoln build that Tim finished at about three in the morning, after intensive consultation with Debra. The mark of a great ride is that it gets better the second time around, as the detail and flourishes start to impinge on your consciousness. The Mansion was full of little gimcracks and sly nods that snuck into your experience on each successive ride.

Tim shuffled his feet nervously, bursting with barely restrained pride as I switched on public access. He dumped the app to my public directory, and, gingerly, I executed it.

God! God and Lincoln and cannon-fire and oratory and ploughs and mules and greatcoats! It rolled over me, it punched through me, it crashed against the inside of my skull and rebounded. The first pass through, there had been a sense of order, of narrative, but this, this was gestalt, the whole thing in one undifferentiated ball, filling me and spilling over. It was panicky for a moment, as the essence of Lincolness seemed to threaten my own personality, and, just as it was about to overwhelm me, it receded, leaving behind a rush of endorphin and adrenaline that made me want to jump.

“Tim,” I gasped. “Tim! That was. . .” Words failed me. I wanted to hug him. What we could do for the Mansion with this! What elegance! Directly imprinting the experience, without recourse to the stupid, blind eyes; the thick, deaf ears.

Tim beamed and basked, and Debra nodded solemnly from her throne. “You liked it?” Tim said. I nodded, and staggered back to the theatre seat where Dan slept, head thrown back, snores softly rattling in his throat.

Incrementally, reason trickled back into my mind, and with it came ire. How dare they? The wonderful compromises of technology and expense that had given us the Disney rides — rides that had entertained the world for two centuries and more — could never compete head to head with what they were working on.

My hands knotted into fists in my lap. Why the fuck couldn’t they do this somewhere else? Why did they have to destroy everything I loved to realize this? They could build this tech anywhere — they could distribute it online and people could access it from their living rooms!

But that would never do. Doing it here was better for the old Whuffie — they’d make over Disney World and hold it, a single ad-hoc where three hundred had flourished before, smoothly operating a park twice the size of Manhattan.

I stood and stalked out of the theater, out into Liberty Square and the Park. It had cooled down without drying out, and there was a damp chill that crawled up my back and made my breath stick in my throat. I turned to contemplate the Hall of Presidents, staid and solid as it had been since my boyhood and before, a monument to the Imagineers who anticipated the Bitchun Society, inspired it.

I called Dan, still snoring back in the theater, and woke him. He grunted unintelligibly in my cochlea.

“They did it — they killed me.” I knew they had, and I was glad. It made what I had to do next easier.

“Oh, Jesus. They didn’t kill you — they offered their backups, remember? They couldn’t have done it.”

“Bullshit!” I shouted into the empty night. “Bullshit! They did it, and they fucked with their backups somehow. They must have. It’s all too neat and tidy. How else could they have gotten so far with the Hall so fast? They knew it was coming, they planned a disruption, and they moved in. Tell me that you think they just had these plans lying around and moved on them when they could.”

Dan groaned, and I heard his joints popping. He must have been stretching. The Park breathed around me, the sounds of maintenance crews scurrying in the night. “I do believe that. Clearly, you don’t. It’s not the first time we’ve disagreed. So now what?”

“Now we save the Mansion,” I said. “Now we fight back.”

“Oh, shit,” Dan said.

I have to admit, there was a part of me that concurred.

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