Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 40 of 61

But the resemblance to my killer ended with her dress and body. She wasn’t wearing a designer face, rather one that had enough imperfections to be the one she was born with, eyes set close and nose wide and slightly squashed.

I admired the way she moved through the crowd, fast and low but without jostling anyone. “Kim,” I called as she drew near. “Over here.”

She gave a happy shriek and made a beeline for us. Even charging full-bore, she was good enough at navigating the crowd that she didn’t brush against a single soul. When she reached us, she came up short and bounced a little. “Hi, I’m Kim!” she said, pumping my arm with the peculiar violence of the extra-jointed. “Julius,” I said, then waited while she repeated the process with Dan.

“So,” she said, “what’s the deal?”

I took her hand. “Kim, we’ve got a job for you, if you’re interested.”

She squeezed my hand hard and her eyes shone. “I’ll take it!” she said.

I laughed, and so did Dan. It was a polite, castmembery sort of laugh, but underneath it was relief. “I think I’d better explain it to you first,” I said.

“Explain away!” she said, and gave my hand another squeeze.

I let go of her hand and ran down an abbreviated version of the rehab plans, leaving out anything about Debra and her ad-hocs. Kim drank it all in greedily. She cocked her head at me as I ran it down, eyes wide. It was disconcerting, and I finally asked, “Are you recording this?”

Kim blushed. “I hope that’s okay! I’m starting a new Mansion scrapbook. I have one for every ride in the Park, but this one’s gonna be a world-beater!”

Here was something I hadn’t thought about. Publishing ad-hoc business was tabu inside Park, so much so that it hadn’t occurred to me that the new castmembers we brought in would want to record every little detail and push it out over the Net as a big old Whuffie collector.

“I can switch it off,” Kim said. She looked worried, and I really started to grasp how important the Mansion was to the people we were recruiting, how much of a privilege we were offering them.

“Leave it rolling,” I said. “Let’s show the world how it’s done.”

We led Kim into a utilidor and down to costuming. She was half-naked by the time we got there, literally tearing off her clothes in anticipation of getting into character. Sonya, a Liberty Square ad-hoc that we’d stashed at costuming, already had clothes waiting for her, a rotting maid’s uniform with an oversized toolbelt.

We left Kim on the scaffolding, energetically troweling a water-based cement substitute onto the wall, scraping it off and moving to a new spot. It looked boring to me, but I could believe that we’d have to tear her away when the time came.

We went back to trawling the Net for the next candidate.

By lunchtime, there were ten drilling, hammering, troweling new castmembers around the scaffolding, pushing black wheelbarrows, singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and generally having a high old time.

“This’ll do,” I said to Dan. I was exhausted and soaked with sweat, and the transdermal under my costume itched. Despite the happy-juice in my bloodstream, a streak of uncastmemberly crankiness was shot through my mood. I needed to get offstage.

Dan helped me hobble away, and as we hit the utilidor, he whispered in my ear, “This was a great idea, Julius. Really.”

We jumped a tram over to Imagineering, my chest swollen with pride. Suneep had three of his assistants working on the first generation of mobile telepresence robots for the exterior, and had promised a prototype for that afternoon. The robots were easy enough — just off-the-shelf stuff, really — but the costumes and kinematics routines were something else. Thinking about what he and Suneep’s gang of hypercreative super-geniuses would come up with cheered me up a little, as did being out of the public eye.

Suneep’s lab looked like it had been hit by a tornado. Imagineer packs rolled in and out with arcane gizmos, or formed tight argumentative knots in the corners as they shouted over whatever their HUDs were displaying. In the middle of it all was Suneep, who looked like he was barely restraining an urge to shout Yippee! He was clearly in his element.

He threw his arms open when he caught sight of Dan and me, threw them wide enough to embrace the whole mad, gibbering chaos. “What wonderful flumgubbery!” he shouted, over the noise.

“Sure is,” I agreed. “How’s the prototype coming?”

Suneep waved absently, his short fingers describing trivialities in the air. “In due time, in due time. I’ve put that team onto something else, a kinematics routine for a class of flying spooks that use gasbags to stay aloft — silent and scary. It’s old spy-tech, and the retrofit’s coming tremendously. Take a look!” He pointed a finger at me and, presumably, squirted some data my way.

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