Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 25 of 61

“Lil,” I said, looking into her eyes, trying to burn my POV into her. “We have to do this. It’s our only chance. We’ll recruit hundreds to come to Florida and work on the rehab. We’ll give every Mansion nut on the planet a shot at joining up, then we’ll recruit them again to work at it, to run the telepresence rigs. We’ll get buy-in from the biggest super-recommenders in the world, and we’ll build something better and faster than any ad-hoc ever has, without abandoning the original Imagineers’ vision. It will be unspeakably Bitchun.”

Lil dropped her eyes and it was her turn to flush. She paced the floor, hands swinging at her sides. I could tell that she was still angry with me, but excited and scared and yes, passionate.

“It’s not up to me, you know,” she said at length, still pacing. Dan and I exchanged wicked grins. She was in.

“I know,” I said. But it was, almost — she was a real opinion-leader in the Liberty Square ad-hoc, someone who knew the systems back and forth, someone who made good, reasonable decisions and kept her head in a crisis. Not a hothead. Not prone to taking radical switchbacks. This plan would burn up that reputation and the Whuffie that accompanied it, in short order, but by the time that happened, she’d have plenty of Whuffie with the new, thousands-strong ad-hoc.

“I mean, I can’t guarantee anything. I’d like to study the plans that Imagineering comes through with, do some walk-throughs –“

I started to object, to remind her that speed was of the essence, but she beat me to it.

“But I won’t. We have to move fast. I’m in.”

She didn’t come into my arms, didn’t kiss me and tell me everything was forgiven, but she bought in, and that was enough.

My systems came back online sometime that day, and I hardly noticed, I was so preoccupied with the new Mansion. Holy shit, was it ever audacious: since the first Mansion opened in California in 1969, no one had ever had the guts to seriously fuxor with it. Oh, sure, the Paris version, Phantom Manor, had a slightly different storyline, but it was just a minor bit of tweakage to satisfy the European market at the time. No one wanted to screw up the legend.

What the hell made the Mansion so cool, anyway? I’d been to Disney World any number of times as a guest before I settled in, and truth be told, it had never been my absolute favorite.

But when I returned to Disney World, live and in person, freshly bored stupid by the three-hour liveheaded flight from Toronto, I’d found myself crowd-driven to it.

I’m a terrible, terrible person to visit theme-parks with. Since I was a punk kid snaking my way through crowded subway platforms, eeling into the only seat on a packed car, I’d been obsessed with Beating The Crowd.

In the early days of the Bitchun Society, I’d known a blackjack player, a compulsive counter of cards, an idiot savant of odds. He was a pudgy, unassuming engineer, the moderately successful founder of a moderately successful high-tech startup that had done something arcane with software agents. While he was only moderately successful, he was fabulously wealthy: he’d never raised a cent of financing for his company, and had owned it outright when he finally sold it for a bathtub full of money. His secret was the green felt tables of Vegas, where he’d pilgrim off to every time his bank balance dropped, there to count the monkey-cards and calculate the odds and Beat The House.

Long after his software company was sold, long after he’d made his nut, he was dressing up in silly disguises and hitting the tables, grinding out hand after hand of twenty-one, for the sheer satisfaction of Beating The House. For him, it was pure brain-reward, a jolt of happy-juice every time the dealer busted and every time he doubled down on a deckfull of face cards.

Though I’d never bought so much as a lottery ticket, I immediately got his compulsion: for me, it was Beating The Crowd, finding the path of least resistance, filling the gaps, guessing the short queue, dodging the traffic, changing lanes with a whisper to spare — moving with precision and grace and, above all, expedience.

On that fateful return, I checked into the Fort Wilderness Campground, pitched my tent, and fairly ran to the ferry docks to catch a barge over to the Main Gate.

Crowds were light until I got right up to Main Gate and the ticketing queues. Suppressing an initial instinct to dash for the farthest one, beating my ferrymates to what rule-of-thumb said would have the shortest wait, I stepped back and did a quick visual survey of the twenty kiosks and evaluated the queued-up huddle in front of each. Pre-Bitchun, I’d have been primarily interested in their ages, but that is less and less a measure of anything other than outlook, so instead I carefully examined their queuing styles, their dress, and more than anything, their burdens.

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