Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 9 of 61

“Has anyone ID’d the girl?” I asked, once I’d finished reliving the events. The anger was starting to boil within me now. My new fists clenched for the first time, soft palms and uncallused fingertips.

Dan shook his head. “None of the girls she was with had ever seen her before. The face was one of the Seven Sisters — Hope.” The Seven Sisters were a trendy collection of designer faces. Every second teenage girl wore one of them.

“How about Jungle Traders?” I asked. “Did they have a record of the pith helmet purchase?”

Lil frowned. “We ran the Jungle Traders purchases back for six months: only three matched the girl’s apparent age; all three have alibis. Chances are she stole it.”

“Why?” I asked, finally. In my mind’s eye, I saw my lungs bursting out of my chest, like wings, like jellyfish, vertebrae spraying like shrapnel. I saw the girl’s smile, an almost sexual smirk as she pulled the trigger on me.

“It wasn’t random,” Lil said. “The slug was definitely keyed to you — that means that she’d gotten close to you at some point.”

Right — which meant that she’d been to Disney World in the last ten years. That narrowed it down, all right.

“What happened to her after Tomorrowland?” I said.

“We don’t know,” Lil said. “Something wrong with the cameras. We lost her and she never reappeared.” She sounded hot and angry — she took equipment failures in the Magic Kingdom personally.

“Who’d want to do this?” I asked, hating the self-pity in my voice. It was the first time I’d been murdered, but I didn’t need to be a drama-queen about it.

Dan’s eyes got a far-away look. “Sometimes, people do things for reasons that seem perfectly reasonable to them, that the rest of the world couldn’t hope to understand. I’ve seen a few assassinations, and they never made sense afterwards.” He stroked his chin. “Sometimes, it’s better to look for temperament, rather than motivation: who could do something like this?”

Right. All we needed to do was investigate all the psychopaths who’d visited the Magic Kingdom in ten years. That narrowed it down considerably. I pulled up a HUD and checked the time. It had been four days since my murder. I had a shift coming up, working the turnstiles at the Haunted Mansion. I liked to pull a couple of those shifts a month, just to keep myself grounded; it helped to take a reality check while I was churning away in the rarified climate of my crowd-control simulations.

I stood and went to my closet, started to dress.

What are you doing?” Lil asked, alarmed.

“I’ve got a shift. I’m running late.”

“You’re in no shape to work,” Lil said, tugging at my elbow. I jerked free of her.

“I’m fine — good as new.” I barked a humorless laugh. “I’m not going to let those bastards disrupt my life any more.”

Those bastards? I thought — when had I decided that there was more than one? But I knew it was true. There was no way that this was all planned by one person: it had been executed too precisely, too thoroughly.

Dan moved to block the bedroom door. “Wait a second,” he said. “You need rest.”

I fixed him with a doleful glare. “I’ll decide that,” I said. He stepped aside.

“I’ll tag along, then,” he said. “Just in case.”

I pinged my Whuffie. I was up a couple percentiles — sympathy Whuffie — but it was falling: Dan and Lil were radiating disapproval. Screw ’em.

I got into my runabout and Dan scrambled for the passenger door as I put it in gear and sped out.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Dan said as I nearly rolled the runabout taking the corner at the end of our cul-de-sac.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I said. “I’m as good as new.”

“Funny choice of words,” he said. “Some would say that you were new.”

I groaned. “Not this argument again,” I said. “I feel like me and no one else is making that claim. Who cares if I’ve been restored from a backup?”

“All I’m saying is, there’s a difference between you and an exact copy of you, isn’t there?”

I knew what he was doing, distracting me with one of our old fights, but I couldn’t resist the bait, and as I marshalled my arguments, it actually helped calm me down some. Dan was that kind of friend, a person who knew you better than you knew yourself. “So you’re saying that if you were obliterated and then recreated, atom-for-atom, that you wouldn’t be you anymore?”

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