Lady opened the lid at last and tumbled them both onto the floor. Basil lay panting for a moment, rubbing the lump on his head.
"Well done, Daws--, that is, my dear." She did make quite a good sidekick.
"Well, back to business, eh?" he continued, jumping to his feet, drenched, but undaunted.
Fortunately, the launderer chap had disappeared somewhere after starting the machine. And if there were any other castmembers somewhere in the cavernous room, the deafening hum of the washing machines would prevent them from hearing our heroes' conversation.
"As I began to say a moment ago, the room called Information Central should be in...that direction. But first, a few moments beneath this dryer vent are in order."
Suiting action to words, Basil stepped beneath the hot air vent, even though he had to hold on to keep from being blown away.
After much coughing and spluttering on the floor, Lady slowly pulled herself up, shaking her now soaking wet fur. Since she was so fluffy it was weighing her down even when she was out of the water. Wishing for a warm fire and a blanket she turned to Basil to make sure he was okay.
"Thank you," she panted, trying her best to steady herself and get her breath back. It had an extremely exciting and dangerous few minutes. This however, appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary for Basil who was already back on his feet and ready to continue.
She soon felt a rush of admiration for Basil's skills as he spotted a hot air vent nearby. She timidly stood under it, hoping that it wouldn't puff out her fur too much and make her look like an over sized fur ball. The air was soothingly warm and Lady felt her body relax from the previous coldness.
Suddenly feeling a lot better as she dried, Lady asked, "How far do we have to go until we get there?" She looked around but found that their undercover bag was no where in sight. What would they use as a disguise now?
"We are nearly at our destination," answered the mouse, picking up his hat from where the hot air had blown it. "In fact, I can see it from here."
As he peeked through the crack in the door, Basil got a look at his reflection in the glass, noting with annoyance the absurd way his hair was sticking up. He quickly jammed the deerstalker down firmly upon his head.
"One swift dash, and we are inside, with no one the wiser." He jumped onto the dog's somewhat overly-fluffy back. "The hall seems to be empty just now. Ready, steady...go!"
Although Lady's legs were still shaking from the previous experience, a new feeling was beginning to grow now. That mixed emotion of excitement and nervousness was starting to bubble in her stomach again as she looked over to where Basil was stating.
She gave a slight smile as she noticed Basil checking himself in the mirror but made no comment on it. After all, being a well respected detective, you'd want to look your best wouldn't you?
"Okay," replied Lady very quietly, focusing on her destination as Basil returned to the small of her back. "Now?" She added shakily, her voice a little frightened now that she realised the time was upon them. Hesitating for a moment as Basil whispered urgently in her ear, she ran as quickly and as quietly as she could, her long fluffy ears the last thing to be seen as they disappeared through the door.
The somewhat odd pair made it into the adjoining room without incident. Basil could tell his companion was nervous, but she had the courage to overcome her fears when necessary, and not allow them to cripple her. He must remember to compliment her on it when time permitted.
Once inside Information Central, Basil leapt down to the floor and dashed under a nearby desk. There were always castmembers working here, and it would not do to be seen.
Basil led the way under the various workstations, deftly avoiding the legs of those sitting there, until he came to the very back of the room. Past experience told him that there were generally several terminals back here that were not in use.
The detective had been fascinated by computers since he'd first discovered them here in the park, even though his experimentation had caused him a few unpleasant moments. Still, access to so vast an accumulation of data gave the computer an irresistable attraction.
Basil climbed stealthily to an unmanned keyboard and began to search. He hadn't forgotten their reason for penetrating these sacrosanct halls:
Why could humans speak to animals in the park? Why did time pass so slowly here? How did persons from the past and future coexist? Where did the mythological creatures come from?
The mouse was certain that the answers were hidden here, somewhere deep in the bowels of the place. It only remained to search them out.
Lady watched as Basil jumped down from her back and ran under the desk and out of sight. Hurrying after him, she tried to be as light on her feet as she could, yet she sure her fur had brushed a cast member's legs.
Basil non verbally hastened her to follow him weaving in and out of various workstations and legs. On one particular moment, Lady took a slight stumble as a leg outstretched dangerously near her. Trying to avoid it, she had tripped over her over paws and fallen in to the wall. She scrunched up her eyes, afraid of being found but they either hadn't noticed or not bothered to look.
Moving quickly on and her head now beginning to ache, she watched the little mouse scramble up a chair and on to some strange machinery which she didn't reconigise. As he stepped on it, it began to make weird clicking noises.
"What are you doing?" She whispered to him, glancing around nervously in case of detection.
"Hush!" he whispered, perhaps too curtly. But Basil could be frightfully single-minded when it came to investigating.
He muttered to himself as he clicked the typewriting machine--that is what he still thought a computer was, a typewriter with a television screen attached.
This would've beeen easier for him if the letters were a bit closer together.
Finally, Basil found a map of the entire tunnel system. He scanned the various rooms one by one, unsure what precisely he was looking for. Until he found it.
"Aha!" he fairly shouted before recollecting himself. The detective clicked the mouse (what a peculiar name for that device--it looked about as much like a mouse as that odd creature with the two black circles on its head) to turn off the machine, and hopped easily to the floor.
"Every room on the map is labelled, whether accounting, or costuming, or simply an office. All, that is, save one."
"This area goes by the enigmatic designation of '51' and nothing more. It is an axiom of mine that when one and only one item breaks the pattern, that item is significant."
"Ergo, the secret of the park's magic can be found in Area 51."
Lady quickly shut her mouth as Basil hushed her quiet. She felt a twinge of guilt at inrrupting his train of thought but if he didn't hurry they were going to get caught. Someone was bound to notice them sooner or later. However, he was in charge and if he needed silence to concentrate that was what she would give him.
"Basil!" Lady warned him quietly as after a few minutes, he get a triumph cheer. She looked over her shoulder checking once more that there were no castmembers coming towards them. "What is it? What have you found out?" She listened intently, a slight frown on her golden fluffy face as she tried to keep up. There was a lot of technical jargon in there that was new to Lady but she pretend to know all the same.
"So," she said after a moment, "How are we going to get to this - this area 51?"
"I have a bit of an idea about that," he replied with a sly smile.
The castmembers seated at the various computers were quite engrossed in their work. There was something about those flickering screens, Basil had noted, that could be almost mesmerizing. And he planned to take full advantage of that fact.
Silently, the mouse climbed the back of an occupied chair. Once on the top, he leaned over the unsuspecting technician's shoulder.
Then, with the utmost care, Basil undid the fellow's nametag. The detective was rather adept at picking pockets and such, and would've made a creditable thief if he'd cared to turn his talents that way. Fortunately for society at large, he preferred to use his abilities on the side of justice.
Basil moved quickly to a second chair, similarly removing the name badge from a female cast member, and then returning to Lady's hiding place under the desk.
"Here we are," he crowed in triumph, displaying the two badges. "Now we are simply two humble castmembers going about our business."
"You are DeeDee," and he pinned the name to her collar, "And I am...Floyd." Ugh! He wished he'd chosen a different badge, but there was nothing for it now.
Lady opened her mouth to reply, but before she could do so, Basil had scurried off and had run up a random cast members chair. She watched in horror as he came dangerously close to one of them. What was he doing? They would surely be spotted now. To her amazement however, they didn't seem to notice that a mouse in a suit was unattaching their name tags.
She stood a step forward, inkling her head and lifting her brow curiously. How extraordinary! Lady thought in wonderment. Either Basil was particularly good at such things or these cast members were unaware of what was going on around them. As if they were somehow memorized. As Basil came back she decided to voice these thoughts.
"How did she do that?" She asked in awe, gazing down and putting her nose close to the name tag Basil had now handed to her. "Are they in a trance?" She added looking up at them as they still appeared to have not noticed a thing.
((Hey Basil I'm really sorry but I won't be able to reply until Monday so I'm going away for an Easter Break. )
Lady, how was now holding on to the tip of the name tag between her teeth, simply nodded in response to Basil. She quickly trotted after him, trying to blend in and look as innocent as possible. She glanced nervously at the mouse detective out of the corner of her eye as she noticed a few stop and stare. Perhaps they had realized that herself and Basil weren't really cast members?
Before she could think of any idea on how to voice these thoughts however, the humans seemed to carry on, dismissing their doubts because of the handy piece of plastic now clenched in her mouth. How gullible they must all be! Lady thought in astonishment but then immediately realized she was being rude to a species she very much liked. Jim Dear and Darling were humans after all, and she loved them very much.
They suddenly came to an abrupt stop in front of a plain oak door with a plaque that said '51. Lady's eyes widened in a strange mixture of wonderment, excitement and fright. It was very big and a little over whelming for two small animals. She gulped as as she watched Basil walk forwards and enter the room. She too then took a deep breath and with a fierce look of determination, enter with him.
((Hmmm... We need a good idea! Maybe we should post a thread in the plot board about it and get everyones ideas on what it could be? )
<<Oh, ye of little faith. Would I have come so far without knowing what's on the other side of the door? >>
Basil, with Lady at his side, found himself in a spacious office. The walls were well-adorned with photographs of various characters, many of whom they had met in the park.
Two plump leather chairs faced an old-fashioned wooden desk littered with papers and small models in not-untidy profusion. The whole room gave off a comfortable, inviting feeling, though Basil was at a loss to explain why.
A voice came from the desk chair, which was facing away from them. "Well, now, come in, Lady...Basil." The chair swivelled round to reveal the speaker: an elderly, grey-haired man with a dapper mustache and a cheerful expression.
"Or should I say," he continued with a twinkle of merriment in his eyes, "DeeDee and Floyd? Do you know you two are the first to find your way here?"
Puzzled, the mouse detective hopped up onto one of the chairs. "You were correct the first time, sir." The time for subterfuge was obviously past. "But you have the advantage of us," he said, with a glance at Lady to see if she recognized the human. "Who precisely are you?"
The man chuckled warmly. "Why don't you tell me what you can deduce?"
"Well..." Basil stroked his chin thoughtfully, "if you insist."
"Your mid-western accent tells me that you are most definitely not a native to Florida. Your singular office in this unique location proclaims your importance to this park, yet your decor is remarkably free of ostentation, as is your well-made yet understated clothing. Inference: you are a man of humble beginnings not particularly comfortable with wealth or enamoured of postion."
"You were at one time a smoker, hence the only ashtray in a building filled with 'No Smoking' signs, although it clearly has not been used in quite sometime, which tells me you have given up the practice."
"You are also a railroad fancier, as those photographs proclaim, and a model-building hobbiest."
The chuckle deepened into friendly laughter. "Well done! But I expected no less from the Great Mouse Detective. And I deduce that you are curious about what I do here."
"Indeed, sir. We have already surmised that you are in some way responsible for the...rather outre aspects of this park, are you not?"
"If you mean the magic," the man continued, "yes, I guess you could say I have somthing to do with that."
"I oversee the rides and attractions and make sure everything in the place is up to the standard of excellence. I keep an eye on everything and, yes, I even use a few secrets to slow down the passage of time. Keeps everybody young that way."
"I'm also responsible for bringing a lot of folks here from the past and the future."
"Are you a...wizard then?"
"Been called that. But my type of magic is the magic of imagination. It's pretty powerful stuff. Any other questions?"
Lady's eyes were as round as saucers, her mouth hanging open as she saw rows and rows of pictures in front of her, even spotting herself in the mix as well. What is this place? she thought, feeling wrong-footed.
A part of her wanted to feel unnerved but there was some magic aura around the room that seemed to soak up any kind of fear. She jumped and lifted a paw as the chair swiveled round to reveal an elderly, grey-haired man with a dapper mustache and a cheerful expression.
Lady said nothing but listened hard as Basil and the man had a conversation. He really was rather wonderful, both two brilliant minds together was quite a sight. Taking a few timid steps forward towards the two, she felt it was time to speak up. "What's your name? And how do you know ours?"
<<Sorry if my post was too long--had a lot to say>>
"What's your name? And how do you know ours?"
The man reached down to scratch Lady's ears. "Well, now, it's nice to hear you speak up, little lady. You know you can be too timid sometimes."
"To answer your questions, I was there when you were born, though of course, you don't remember. And I've been keeping tabs on you, on both of you, all your lives. Along with all the other dogs, mice, humans, and all the rest. It's...what I do, you might say."
"As to my name, I have a nametag here somewhere..." He fished around in the desk drawers and finally pulled out a plastic badge. "Don't usually need this, but..." He pinned on a tag that said 'Walt.'
Any other questions, he'd asked. Basil had any number of questions, but somehow felt he ought not to ask them. He wasn't sure why, but he felt implicit trust in the mysterious gentleman, such as a child feels toward a beloved parent.
"We came here with many questions, sir, wondering where the magic of this place comes from. Now I perceive that the secret of the park is embodied in one man."
Walt laughed hard at that remark. "Basil, you make me sound like some grand high poobah! I'm just an ordinary country boy. I had some dreams that came true, but that was all hard work and perseverence. Now I'm retired, but I like to keep my hand in the mix here and there."
The mouse suspected that was a bit too modest, but chose to withhold comment.