Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 52 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

Hilda eyed Perry curiously. “That sounded like an interesting conversation,” she said. She was wearing a long t-shirt of his that didn’t really cover much, and she looked delicious in it. It was all he could do to keep from grabbing her and tossing her on the bed—of course, the cast meant that he couldn’t really do that. And Hilda wasn’t exactly smiling, either.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up,” he said.

“It wasn’t the talking that did it, it was you not being there in the first place. Gave me the toss-and-turns.”

She came over to him then, the lean muscles in her legs flexing as she crossed the living room. She took his laptop away and set it down on the coffee-table, then took off his headset. He was wearing nothing but boxers, and she reached down and gave his dick a companionable honk before sitting down next to him and giving him a kiss on the cheek, the throat and the lips.

“So, Perry,” she said, looking into his eyes. “What the fuck are you doing sitting in the living room at 5 am talking to your computer? And why didn’t you come to bed last night? I’m not going to be hanging out in Florida for the rest of my life. I woulda thought you’d want to maximize your Hilda-time while you’ve got the chance.”

She smiled to let him know she was kidding around, but she was right, of course.

“I’m an idiot, Hilda. I fired Tjan and Kettlewell, told them to get lost.”

“I don’t know why you think that’s such a bad idea. You need business-people, probably, but it doesn’t need to be those guys. Sometimes you can have too much history with someone to work with him. Besides, anything can be un-said. You can change your mind in a week or a month. Those guys aren’t doing anything special. They’d come back to you if you asked ‘em. You’re Perry motherfuckin’ Gibbons. You rule, dude.”

“You’re a very nice person, Hilda Hammersen. But those guys are running our legal defense, which we’re going to need, because I’m about to do something semi-illegal that’s bound to get us sued again by the same pack of assholes as last time.”

“Disney?” She snorted. “Have you ever read up on the history of the Disney Company? The old one, the one Walt founded? Walt Disney wasn’t just a racist creep, he was also a mad inventor. He kept coming up with these cool high-tech ways of making cartoons—sticking real people in them, putting them in color, adding sync-sound. People loved it all, but it drove him out of business. It was all too expensive.

“So he recruited his brother, Roy Disney, who was just a banker, to run the business. Roy turned the business around, watching the income and the outgo. But all this came at a price: Roy wanted to tell Walt how to run the business. More to the point, he wanted to tell Walt that he couldn’t just spend millions from the company coffers on weird-ass R&D projects, especially not when the company was still figuring out how to exploit the last R&D project Walt had chased. But it was Walt’s company, and he’d overrule Roy, and Roy would promise that it was going to put them in the poorhouse and then he’d figure out how to make another million off of Walt’s vision, because that’s what the money guy is supposed to do.

“Then after the war, Walt went to Roy and said, ‘Give me $17 million, I’m going to build a theme-park. And Roy said, ‘You can’t have it and what’s a theme-park?’ Walt threatened to fire Roy, the way he always had, and Roy pointed out that Disney was now a public company with shareholders who weren’t going to let Walt cowboy around and piss away their money on his toys.”

“So how’d he get Disneyland built?”

“He quit. He started his own company, WED, for Walter Elias Disney. He poached all the geniuses away from the studios and turned them into his ‘Imagineers’ and cashed in his life-insurance policy and raised his own dough and built the park, and then made Roy buy the company back from him. I’m guessing that that felt pretty good.”

“It sounds like it must’ve,” Perry said. He was feeling thoughtful, and buzzed from the sleepless night, and jazzed from his conversation with Death Waits. He had an idea that they could push designs out to the printers that were like the Disney designs, but weird and kinky and subversive and a little disturbing.

“I can understand why you’d be nervous about ditching your suits, but they’re just that, suits. At some level, they’re all interchangeable, mercenary parts. You want someone to watch the bottom line, but not someone who’ll run the show. If that’s not these guys, hey, that’s cool. Find a couple more suits and run them.”

“Jesus, you really are Yoko, aren’t you?” Lester was wearing his boxers and a bleary grin, standing in the living room’s doorway where Hilda had stood a minute before. It had gone 6AM now, and there were waking up sounds through the whole condo, toilets flushing, a car starting down in the parking lot.

“Good morning, Lester,” Hilda said. She smiled when she said it, no offense taken, all good, all good.

“You fired who now, Perry?” Lester dug a pint of chocolate ice-cream out of the freezer and attacked it with a self-heating ceramic spoon that he’d designed specifically for this purpose.

“I got rid of Kettlewell and Tjan,” Perry said. He was blushing. “I would have talked to you about it, but you were with Suzanne. I had to do it, though. I had to.”

“I hate what happened to Death Waits. I hate that we’ve got some of the blame for it. But, Perry, Tjan and Kettlewell are part of our outfit. It’s their show, too. You can’t just go shit-canning them. Not just morally, either. Legally. Those guys own a piece of this thing and they’re keeping the lawyers at bay too. They’re managing all the evil shit so we don’t have to. I don’t want to be in charge of the evil, and neither do you, and hiring a new suit isn’t going to be easy. They’re all predatory, they all have delusions of grandeur.”

“You two have the acumen to hire better representation than those two,” Hilda said. “You’re experienced now, and you’ve founded a movement that plenty of people would kill to be a part of. You just need better management structure: an executive you can overrule whenever you need to. A lackey, not a boss.”

Lester acted as though he hadn’t heard her. “I’m being pretty mellow about this, buddy. I’m not making a big deal out of the fact that you did this without consulting me, because I know how rough it must have been to discover that this wickedness had gone down in our name, and I might have done the same. But it’s the cold light of day now and it’s time to go over there together and have a chat with Tjan and Kettlewell and talk this over and sort it out. We can’t afford to burn all this to the ground and start over now.”

Perry knew it was reasonable, but screw reasonable. Reasonable was how good people ended up doing wrong. Sometimes you had to be unreasonable.

“Lester, they violated our trust. It was their responsibility to do this thing and do it right. They didn’t do that. They didn’t look closely at this thing so that they wouldn’t have to put the brakes on if it turned out to be dirty. Which do you think those two would rather have happen: we run a cool project that everyone loves, or we run a lawsuit that makes ten billion dollars for their investors? They’re playing a different game from us and their victory condition isn’t ours. I don’t want to be reasonable. I want to do the right thing. You and me could have sold out a thousand times over the years and made money instead of doing good, but we didn’t. We didn’t because it’s better to be right than to be reasonable and rich. You say we can’t afford to get rid of those two. I say we can’t afford not to.”

“You need to get a good night’s sleep, buddy,” Lester said. He was blowing through his nose, a sure sign that he was angry. It made Perry’s hackles go up—he and Lester didn’t fight much but when they did, hoo-boy. “You need to mellow out and see that what you’re talking about is abandoning our friends, Kettlewell and Tjan, to make our own egos feel a little better. You need to see that we’re risking everything, risking spending our lives in court and losing everything we’ve ever built.”

A Zen-like calm descended on Perry. Hilda was right. Suits were everywhere, and you could choose your own. You didn’t need to let the Roy Disneys of the world call the shots.

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Lester. I hear everything you’re saying, but you know what, it’s going to be my way. I understand that what I want to do is risky, but there’s no way I can go on doing what I’m doing and letting things get worse and worse. Making a little compromise here and there is how you end up selling out everything that’s important. We’re going to find other business-managers and we’re going to work with them to make a smooth transition. Maybe we’ll all come out of this friends later on. They want to do something different from what I want to do is all.”

This wasn’t calming Lester down at all. “Perry, this isn’t your project to do what you want with. This belongs to a lot of us. I did most of the work in there.”

“You did, buddy. I get that. If you want to stick with them, that’s how it’ll go. No hard feelings. I’ll go off and do my own thing, run my own ride. People who want to connect to my network, no sweat, they can do it. That’s cool. We’ll still be friends. You can work with Kettlewell and Tjan.” Perry could hardly believe these words were coming out of his mouth. They’d been buddies forever, inseparable.

Hilda took his hand silently.

Lester looked at him with increasing incredulity. “You don’t mean that.”

“Lester, if we split, it would break my heart. There wouldn’t be a day that went by from now to the end of time that I didn’t regret it. But if we keep going down this path, it’s going to cost me my soul. I’d rather be broke than evil.” Oh, it felt so good to be saying this. To finally affirm through deed and word that he was a good person who would put ethics before greed, before comfort even.

Lester looked at Hilda for a moment. “Hilda, this is probably something that Perry and I should talk about alone, if you don’t mind.”

I mind, Lester. There’s nothing you can’t say in front of her.”

Lester apparently had nothing to say to that, and the silence made Perry uncomfortable. Lester had tears in his eyes, and that hit Perry in the chest like a spear. His friend didn’t cry often.

He crossed the room and hugged Lester. Lester was wooden and unyielding.

“Please, Lester. Please. I hate to make you choose, but you have to choose. We’re on the same side. We’ve always been on the same side. Neither of us are the kind of people who send lawyers after kids in hospital. Never. I want to make it good again. We can have the kind of gig where we do the right thing and the cool thing. Come on, Lester. Please.”

He let go of Lester. Lester turned on his heel and walked back into his bedroom. Perry knew that that meant he’d won. He smiled at Hilda and hugged her. She was a lot more fun to hug than Lester.

<<< Back to Part 51

Continue to Part 53>>>

As part of the ongoing project of crafting’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.

Doctorow’s Makers is now available in print from Tor Books. You can read all previous installments of Makers on on our index page.


Back to the top of the page


This post is closed for comments.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.