"Hey, isn't that how Deja Voodoo communicates with people?" asked the latter.
"It is," said the Operator, seizing it. "But how--? I thought he was trapped in the Upper Levels, powerless, with all the other 70+ episode Authors!"
He looked at the paper. It said:
Yes and no. My current Avatar is there, but I'm the original writing this, and I can do whatever the hell I want.
"Great," muttered the Operator. "Wonder what the hell he wants here?" To his surprise, additional words appeared on the paper:
Just to assure your original that, while I did not envision his particular wrinkle on the Backstage Ring, I do indeed approve, if he feels he needs my approval. I have followed your AddVentures with interest. And in return, I have decided to take care of a little problem he (and you) appear to have forgotten about. Look down at your chest.
"Huh?" The Operator did so. It was normal. Then he remembered. "Oh, right," he said. "The radiation fallout from the first BE missile back in the Concourse. But you can't take credit for fixing that, the transition when we passed into the First Backstage took care of it."
Exactly. At least, it did now. But there was no mention of that at the time, so you can't really be sure, can you? However, I have fixed it that way in the present "reality." You know, I'm not sure just going to the First Backstage really does wipe out physical changes acquired in the AddVenture, according to L.E.'s original concept. I suspect not. But we'll say it did, in this case -- we're running with F-Cup Fitzgerald's scenario at present, and he and L.E. don't see eye to eye anyway. Probably doesn't make much difference, when you get right down to it. After all, I'm not sure the "First Backstage" standing for L.E.'s concept here on the Ring is truly representative of his idea to begin with. Lord knows my first attempt to work it in, now known as Hilbert's Hotel, wasn't.
"You lose a lot of sleep over this sort of thing, don't you?" the Operator said.
From what I've read of your work, you see to as well. But that's neither here nor there. Incidentally, Opera has also been restored from her BE-irradiated condition, in case you hadn't noticed.
The Operator glanced at Opera Taur. It was true. She had been.
"Well," he said, turning back to the paper, "it's been surreal, but I was supposed to be sowing mischief in this option, and it hasn't happened yet. Mind letting me get back to it?"
By all means, go right ahead.
Don't mention it. Bye, now.
The Operator folded the note into a paper airplane and sailed it over to the nearest wastebasket.
"Now," he told Opera, "time to get to work. See that bank of big screens in front of you? From here we can see anywhere on the whole Backstage Ring."
"No we can't," she told him. "They're off."
The Operator clapped his hands, and they all turned on. The nearest few showed views of the lobby of Hilbert's Hotel, which was in chaos, and of the Concourse (likewise), and the Suite where the 70+ Authors had gathered to discuss strategy (they were currently deciding how to react to the Operator's offer). Another view showed Backstage Central, where Sid Russell seemed to have successfully held off a MIG invasion with the aid of his wives and Mirage (this is after his restoration as Keeper). Yet another showed the Bar and Grill, where the Old Wizard had likewise been victorious, but was having a hell of a time keeping all the resulting colobus monkeys (sp?) out of his Private Reserve. The firefighting imps seemed to have gotten the fire at Elevator Tube 4 under control.
Opera turned her attention to other views. The Service Sector Section appeared mostly under the sway of the MIGs, aside from the Upper Levels (they didn't seem to know what to make of the Orphan Episodes Asylum) and the Vault (not open to non-Authors, not to mention anyone who hadn't had at least one of his versions shuffle off this mortal coil. The Last Resort was suffering a power outage -- it was impossible to tell what was going on there. The Jungle of Confusion, longest Sector on the Ring, which was the physical representation of Readers' confusion amid all the backlinks and stalled threads of the AddVenture, was positively crawling with MIGs. Sector after sector showed disruption by the invaders, even the First Backstage, although the horde in place there had been effectively neutralized. (Most seemed to be sitting down to enjoy a nice spot of tea served by Marjorie Mandelberg, while chatting amicably with various Jims, Ricks, Robins, Ernies, and Demonicas...) All in all, the Men in Gray's occupation of the Ring now approached fifty percent.
"Right," said the Operator. "Time to start turning the tables." He started with the Jungle of Confusion, since that would be the easiest. All he had to do was add a little more confusion, and the MIGs there would be helpless...
Wed May 9 15:03:57 2001