Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 22 of 61

Chapter 5

When I finally returned to the Park, 36 hours had passed and Lil had not come back to the house. If she’d tried to call, she would’ve gotten my voicemail — I had no way of answering my phone. As it turned out, she hadn’t been trying to reach me at all.

I’d spent the time alternately moping, drinking, and plotting terrible, irrational vengeance on Debra for killing me, destroying my relationship, taking away my beloved (in hindsight, anyway) Hall of Presidents and threatening the Mansion. Even in my addled state, I knew that this was pretty unproductive, and I kept promising that I would cut it out, take a shower and some sober-ups, and get to work at the Mansion.

I was working up the energy to do just that when Dan came in.

“Jesus,” he said, shocked. I guess I was a bit of a mess, sprawled on the sofa in my underwear, all gamy and baggy and bloodshot.

“Hey, Dan. How’s it goin’?”

He gave me one of his patented wry looks and I felt the same weird reversal of roles that we’d undergone at the U of T, when he had become the native, and I had become the interloper. He was the together one with the wry looks and I was the pathetic seeker who’d burned all his reputation capital. Out of habit, I checked my Whuffie, and a moment later I stopped being startled by its low score and was instead shocked by the fact that I could check it at all. I was back online!

“Now, what do you know about that?” I said, staring at my dismal Whuffie.

“What?” he said.

I called his cochlea. “My systems are back online,” I subvocalized.

He started. “You were offline?”

I jumped up from the couch and did a little happy underwear dance. “I was, but I’m not now.” I felt better than I had in days, ready to beat the world — or at least Debra.

“Let me take a shower, then let’s get to the Imagineering labs. I’ve got a pretty kickass idea.”

The idea, as I explained it in the runabout, was a preemptive rehab of the Mansion. Sabotaging the Hall had been a nasty, stupid idea, and I’d gotten what I deserved for it. The whole point of the Bitchun Society was to be more reputable than the next ad-hoc, to succeed on merit, not trickery, despite assassinations and the like.

So a rehab it would be.

“Back in the early days of the Disneyland Mansion, in California,” I explained, “Walt had a guy in a suit of armor just past the first Doom Buggy curve, he’d leap out and scare the hell out of the guests as they went by. It didn’t last long, of course. The poor bastard kept getting punched out by startled guests, and besides, the armor wasn’t too comfortable for long shifts.”

Dan chuckled appreciatively. The Bitchun Society had all but done away with any sort of dull, repetitious labor, and what remained — tending bar, mopping toilets — commanded Whuffie aplenty and a life of leisure in your off-hours.

“But that guy in the suit of armor, he could improvise. You’d get a slightly different show every time. It’s like the castmembers who spiel on the Jungleboat Cruise. They’ve each got their own patter, their own jokes, and even though the animatronics aren’t so hot, it makes the show worth seeing.”

“You’re going to fill the Mansion with castmembers in armor?” Dan asked, shaking his head.

I waved away his objections, causing the runabout to swerve, terrifying a pack of guests who were taking a ride on rented bikes around the property. “No,” I said, flapping a hand apologetically at the white-faced guests. “Not at all. But what if all of the animatronics had human operators — telecontrollers, working with waldoes? We’ll let them interact with the guests, talk with them, scare them. . . We’ll get rid of the existing animatronics, replace ’em with full-mobility robots, then cast the parts over the Net. Think of the Whuffie! You could put, say, a thousand operators online at once, ten shifts per day, each of them caught up in our Mansion. . . We’ll give out awards for outstanding performances, the shifts’ll be based on popular vote. In effect, we’ll be adding another ten thousand guests to the Mansion’s throughput every day, only these guests will be honorary castmembers.”

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