Illustration by Idiots’Books
The barman at Suzanne’s hotel started building her a Lapu-Lapu as she came up the stairs. The drink involved a hollow pineapple, overproof rum, and an umbrella, and she’d concluded that it contained the perfect dosage of liquid CNS depressant to unwind her after a day of battle at the parks. That day she’d spent following around the troupes of role-playing actors at Disney’s Hollwood Studios: a cast of a hundred costumed players who acted out a series of interlocking comedies set in the black-and-white days of Hollywood. They were fearlessly cheeky, grabbing audience members and conscripting them in their plays.
Now she was footsore and there was still a nighttime at Epcot in her future. The barman passed her the pineapple and she thumped her lanyard against the bar twice—once to pay for the drink and once to give him a generous tip. He was gay as a goose, but fun to look at, and he flirted with her for kicks.
“Gentleman caller for you, Suzanne,” he said, tilting his head. “You temptress.”
She looked in the direction indicated and took in the man sitting on the bar-stool. He didn’t have the look of a harried dad and he was too old to be a love-flushed honeymooner. In sensible tropical-weight slacks and a western shirt, he was impossible to place. He smiled and gave her a little wave.
“He came in an hour ago and asked for you.”
She looked back at the man. “What’s your take on him?”
“I think he works here. He didn’t pay with an employee card, but he acted like it.”
“OK,” she said, “send out a search party if I’m not back in an hour.”
“Go get him, tiger,” the barman said, giving her hand a squeeze.
She carried her pineapple with her and drifted down the bar.
“Hello there,” she said.
“Ms Church,” the man said. He had a disarming, confident smile. “My name is Sammy Page.”
She knew the name, of course. The face, too, now that she thought about it. He offered her his hand. She didn’t take it. He put it down, then wiped it on his trouser-leg.
“Are you having a good time?”
“A lovely time, thank you.” She sipped her drink and wished it was a little more serious and intimidating. It’s hard to do frosty when you’re holding a rum-filled pineapple with a paper parasol.
His smile faltered. “I read your article. I can’t believe I missed it. I mean, you’ve been here for six days and I just figured it out today? I’m a pretty incompetent villain.”
She let a little smile slip out at that. “Well, it’s a big Internet.”
“But I love your stuff. I’ve been reading it since, well, back when I lived in the Valley. I used to get the Merc actually delivered on paper.”
“You are a walking fossil, aren’t you?”
He bobbed his head. “So it comes down to this. I’ve been very distracted with making things besides lawsuits lately, as you know. I’ve been putting my energy into doing stuff, not preventing stuff. It’s been refreshing.”
She grubbed in her pocket and came up with a little steno book and a pencil. “Do you mind if I take notes?”
He gulped. “Can this all be on background?”
She hefted her notebook. “No,” she said finally. “If there’s anything that needs publishing, I’m going to have to publish it. I can respect the fact that you’re speaking to me with candor, but frankly, Mr Page, you haven’t earned the privilege of speaking on background.”
He sipped at his drink—a more grown-up highball, with a lone ice-cube in it, maybe a Scotch and soda. “OK, right. Well, then, on the record, but candorously. I loved your article. I love your work in general. I’m really glad to have you here, because I think we make great stuff and we’re making more of it than ever. Your latest post was right on the money—we care about our work here. That’s how we got to where we are.”
“But you devote a lot of your resources to other projects here, don’t you? I’ve heard about you, Mr Page. I’ve interviewed Death Waits.” He winced and she scribbled a note, leaving him on tenterhooks while she wrote. Something cold and angry had hold of her writing arm. “I’ve interviewed him and heard what he has to say about this place, what you have done.”
“My hands aren’t the cleanest,” he said. “But I’m trying to atone.” He swallowed. The barman was looking at them. “Look, can I take you for a walk, maybe? Someplace more private?”
She thought about it. “Let me get changed,” she said. “Meet you in the lobby in ten.”
She swapped her tennis shoes for walking sandals and put on a clean shirt and long slacks, then draped a scarf over her shoulders like a shawl. Outside, the sunset was painting the lagoon bloody. She was just about to rush back down to the lobby when she stopped and called Lester, her fingers moving of their own volition.
“Hey, you,” he said. “Still having fun in Mauschwitz?”
“It keeps getting weirder here, let me tell you,” she said. She told him about Sammy showing up, wanting to talk with her.
“Ooh, I’m jealous,” Lester said. “He’s my arch-rival, after all.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way. He is kind of cute—”
“In a slimy, sharky way. Don’t worry, Lester. I miss you, you know?”
“Really. I think I’m about done here. I’m going to come home soon.”
There was a long pause, then a snuffling sound. She realized he was crying. He slurped. “Sorry. That’s great, babe. I missed you.”
“I—I missed you too. Listen, I’ve got to go meet this guy.”
“Go, go. Call me after dinner and tell me how it goes. Meanwhile, i’m going to go violate the DiaB some more.”
“Channel it, that’s right.”
Sammy met her in the lobby. “I thought we could go for a walk around the lake,” he said. “There’s a trail that goes all the way around. It’s pretty private.”
She looked at the lake. At twelve o’clock, the main gates of the Magic Kingdom; at three, the retro A-frame Contemporary hotel, at nine, the wedding-cake Grand Floridian Resort.
“Lead on,” she said. He led her out onto the artificial white-sand beach and around, and a moment later they were on pathway paved with octagonal tiles, each engraved with the name of a family and a year.
“I really liked your article.”
“You said that.”
They walked a while longer. “It reminded me of why I came here. I worked for startups, and they were fun, but they were ephemeral. No one expected something on the Web to last for half a century. Maybe the brand survives, but who knows? I mean, who remembers Yahoo! anymore? But for sure, anything you built then would be gone in a year or two, a decade tops.
“But here...” He waved his hands. They were coming around the bend for the Contemporary now, and she could see it in all its absurd glory. It had been kept up so that it looked like it might have been erected yesterday, but the towering white A-frame structure with the monorail running through its midriff was clearly of another era. It was like a museum piece, or a bit of artillery on the field at a civil war reenactment.
“It’s about the grandiosity, the permanence. The belief in doing something—anything—that will endure.”
“You didn’t need to bring me someplace private to tell me that.”
“No, I didn’t.” He swallowed. “It’s hard because I want to tell you something that will compromise me if I say it.”
“And I won’t let you off the hook by promising to keep it confidential.”
“Well, you’re on the horns of a dilemma then, aren’t you?” The sun was nearly set now, and stones at their feet glittered from beneath, sprinkled with twinkling lights. It made the evening, scented with tropical flowers and the clean smell of the lake, even more lovely. A cool breeze fluffed her hair.
He groaned. She had to admit it, she was enjoying this. Was it any less than this man deserved?
“Let me try this again. I have some information that, if I pass it on to you, could save your friends down in Hollywood from terrible harm. I can only give you this information on the condition that you take great pains to keep me from being identified as the source.”
They’d come to the Magic Kingdom now. Behind them, the main gates loomed, and a pufferbelly choo-choo train blew its whistle as it pulled out of the station. Happy, exhausted children ran across the plaza, heading for the ferry docks and the monorail ramps. The stones beneath her feet glittered with rainbow light, and tropical birds called to each other from the Pirates of the Caribbean Adventure Island in the middle of the lake.
“Hum,” she said. The families laughed and jostled each other. “Hum. OK, one time only. This one is off the record.”
Sammy looked around nervously. “Keep walking,” he said. “Let’s get past here and back into the private spots.”
But it’s the crowds that put me in a generous mood. She didn’t say it. She’d give him this one. What harm could it do? If it was something she had to publish, she could get it from another source.
“They’re going to sue your friends.”
“So what else is new?”
“No, personally. They’re going to the mattresses. Every trumped up charge they can think of. But the point here isn’t to get the cops to raid them, it’s to serve discovery on every single communication, every document, every file. Open up everything. Root through every email until they find something to hang them with.”
“You say ‘they’—aren’t you ‘they’?”
It was too dark to see his face now, but she could tell the question made him uncomfortable.
“No. Not anymore.” He swallowed and looked out at the lake. “Look, I’m doing something now—something... amazing. The DiaB, it’s breaking new ground. We’re putting 3D printers into every house in America. What your friend Lester is doing, it’s actually helping us. We’re inventing a whole new—”
“No, not just a business. A world. It’s what the New Work was missing—a 3D printer in every living room. A killer app. There were personal computers and geeks for years before the spreadsheet came along. Then there was a reason to put one in every house. Then we got the Internet, the whole software industry. A new world. That’s where we’re headed. It’s all I want to do. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life suing people. I want to do stuff.”
He kicked at the rushes that grew beside the trail. “I want to be remembered for that. I want that to be my place in the history books—not a bunch of lawsuits.”
Suzanne walked along beside him in silence for a time. “OK, so what do you want me to do about it?”
“I thought that if—” He shut up. “Look, I tried this once before. I told that Freddy bastard everything in the hopes that he’d come onto my side and help me out. He screwed me. I’m not saying you’re Freddy, but—”
Suzanne stopped walking. “What do you want from me, sir? You have hardly been a friend to me and mine. It’s true that you’ve made something very fine, but it’s also true that you helped sabotage something every bit as fine. You’re painting yourself as the victim of some mysterious ‘them.’ But as near as I can work out, the only difference between you and ‘them’ is that you’re having a little disagreement with them. I don’t like to be used as part of your corporate head-games and power-struggles.”
“Fine,” he said. “Fine. I deserve that. I deserve no better. Fine. Well, I tried.”
Suzanne refused to soften. Grown men sulking did not inspire any sympathy in her. Whatever he wanted to tell her, it wasn’t worth going into his debt.
He gave a shuddering sigh. “Well, I’ve taken you away from your evening of fun. Can I make it up to you? Would you like to come with me on some of my favorite rides?”
This surprised her a little, but when she thought about it, she couldn’t see why not. “Sure,” she said.
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As part of the ongoing project of crafting Tor.com’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.