Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 17 of 61

My opportunity came later that week. Debra’s ad-hocs were showboating, announcing a special preview of the new Hall to the other ad-hocs that worked in the Park. It was classic chutzpah, letting the key influencers in the Park in long before the bugs were hammered out. A smooth run would garner the kind of impressed reaction that guaranteed continued support while they finished up; a failed demo could doom them. There were plenty of people in the Park who had a sentimental attachment to the Hall of Presidents, and whatever Debra’s people came up with would have to answer their longing.

“I’m going to do it during the demo,” I told Dan, while I piloted the runabout from home to the castmember parking. I snuck a look at him to gauge his reaction. He had his poker face on.

“I’m not going to tell Lil,” I continued. “It’s better that she doesn’t know — plausible deniability.”

“And me?” he said. “Don’t I need plausible deniability?”

“No,” I said. “No, you don’t. You’re an outsider. You can make the case that you were working on your own — gone rogue.” I knew it wasn’t fair. Dan was here to build up his Whuffie, and if he was implicated in my dirty scheme, he’d have to start over again. I knew it wasn’t fair, but I didn’t care. I knew that we were fighting for our own survival. “It’s good versus evil, Dan. You don’t want to be a post-person. You want to stay human. The rides are human. We each mediate them through our own experience. We’re physically inside of them, and they talk to us through our senses. What Debra’s people are building — it’s hive-mind shit. Directly implanting thoughts! Jesus! It’s not an experience, it’s brainwashing! You gotta know that.” I was pleading, arguing with myself as much as with him.

I snuck another look at him as I sped along the Disney back-roads, lined with sweaty Florida pines and immaculate purple signage. Dan was looking thoughtful, the way he had back in our old days in Toronto. Some of my tension dissipated. He was thinking about it — I’d gotten through to him.

“Jules, this isn’t one of your better ideas.” My chest tightened, and he patted my shoulder. He had the knack of putting me at my ease, even when he was telling me that I was an idiot. “Even if Debra was behind your assassination — and that’s not a certainty, we both know that. Even if that’s the case, we’ve got better means at our disposal. Improving the Mansion, competing with her head to head, that’s smart. Give it a little while and we can come back at her, take over the Hall — even the Pirates, that’d really piss her off. Hell, if we can prove she was behind the assassination, we can chase her off right now. Sabotage is not going to do you any good. You’ve got lots of other options.”

“But none of them are fast enough, and none of them are emotionally satisfying. This way has some goddamn balls.”

We reached castmember parking, I swung the runabout into a slot and stalked out before it had a chance to extrude its recharger cock. I heard Dan’s door slam behind me and knew that he was following behind.

We took to the utilidors grimly. I walked past the cameras, knowing that my image was being archived, my presence logged. I’d picked the timing of my raid carefully: by arriving at high noon, I was sticking to my traditional pattern for watching hot-weather crowd dynamics. I’d made a point of visiting twice during the previous week at this time, and of dawdling in the commissary before heading topside. The delay between my arrival in the runabout and my showing up at the Mansion would not be discrepant.

Dan dogged my heels as I swung towards the commissary, and then hugged the wall, in the camera’s blindspot. Back in my early days in the Park, when I was courting Lil, she showed me the A-Vac, the old pneumatic waste-disposal system, decommissioned in the 20s. The kids who grew up in the Park had been notorious explorers of the tubes, which still whiffed faintly of the garbage bags they’d once whisked at 60 mph to the dump on the property’s outskirts, but for a brave, limber kid, the tubes were a subterranean wonderland to explore when the hypermediated experiences of the Park lost their luster.

I snarled a grin and popped open the service entrance. “If they hadn’t killed me and forced me to switch to a new body, I probably wouldn’t be flexible enough to fit in,” I hissed at Dan. “Ironic, huh?”

I clambered inside without waiting for a reply, and started inching my way under the Hall of Presidents.

My plan had covered every conceivable detail, except one, which didn’t occur to me until I was forty minutes into the pneumatic tube, arms held before me and legs angled back like a swimmer’s.

How was I going to reach into my pockets?

Specifically, how was I going to retrieve my HERF gun from my back pants-pocket, when I couldn’t even bend my elbows? The HERF gun was the crux of the plan: a High Energy Radio Frequency generator with a directional, focused beam that would punch up through the floor of the Hall of Presidents and fuse every goddamn scrap of unshielded electronics on the premises. I’d gotten the germ of the idea during Tim’s first demo, when I’d seen all of his prototypes spread out backstage, cases off, ready to be tinkered with. Unshielded.

“Dan,” I said, my voice oddly muffled by the tube’s walls.

“Yeah?” he said. He’d been silent during the journey, the sound of his painful, elbow-dragging progress through the lightless tube my only indicator of his presence.

“Can you reach my back pocket?”

“Oh, shit,” he said.

“Goddamn it,” I said, “keep the fucking editorial to yourself. Can you reach it or not?”

I heard him grunt as he pulled himself up in the tube, then felt his hand groping up my calf. Soon, his chest was crushing my calves into the tube’s floor and his hand was pawing around my ass.

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