All The World's A Stage (One Shot)

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Fardels
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All The World's A Stage (One Shot)

Post by Fardels » Mon May 11, 2015 8:55 pm

Hello.

I haven't posted anything in some time, so I thought I'd try another story. Some people liked the story I did on the Lilly route, so I thought I'd do another, with her in it this time. But not much - I'll warn you that the story revolves around the canon, but it's kind of a distant orbit. I also transferred the canon to nearer the present, because... I did. I guess I'm just fascinated with how advanced technology channeled through the free market transforms modern life, or something. And, yeah, he's probably too creepy to sit closer to the canon.

A little under 4400 words.

All The World’s A Stage

Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history. The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it.
Simone Weil


Chapter One – Setting The Scene

I was sitting at my desk signing things when the door banged open and Yoshi walked in. That’s bad right there – when Yoshi is a happy camper, he knocks. One look confirmed his discontent. He’d been out on location for some time, apparently. He hadn’t shaved in awhile, the thick, rumpled woolen coat was at a slight angle from his body, and it looked like he hadn’t changed the shirt under the coat anytime lately. His hair was down in his face, which had that basset-hound look people get when they haven’t slept for a while. He pulled the plastic chair over from beside the bookcase to my desk, and it made one of those scraping moans as it moved.

We stared at each other for a few seconds. I wasn’t going to start the conversation, not even with polite inquiries about his health. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that one little remark can bring down a whole avalanche of words and emotion. I outlasted him this time.

“I don’t like it.”

I leaned back in my chair and threw the pen on the desk. I tried to match his expression.

“Okay, it’s honesty time. I don’t like it either.”

“Then why…”

“Lots of reasons. One, we get our pay notifications tomorrow. Look at the numbers again. They’re about five times bigger than either of us would make on a film. And most films nowadays are made in some forsaken hole because some producer thinks it’s what the planet Bupkus looks like. At least we’re in civilization here. Two, if we succeed, we’ve done a nice thing. Two kids like each other, but they’re too young to figure out what to do next. We help, that’s all. We get paid to do it. Three, this job leads to other jobs, and they pay just as well as this one does. After we get our street cred in place, we can be pickier about what jobs we take.”

“Even if it’s fundamentally dishonest?”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that too. It might not be all that dishonest. I mean, the research guys have looked pretty deeply into both of them. We have traits, preferences, economic factors, personalities, everything. If Research has it right, these two are made for each other. Besides, she’s in on it, remember? All we really need to do is get him to buy in, and we’re home.”

“I dunno, boss. Seems to me, we’re screwing around with what could be a magic moment, something that doesn’t need us. If something goes wrong, we could blow the whole thing. It could happen all by itself.”

“True enough, Yoshi, but you have to think of us as a form of insurance. Hey, we’re not creating a magic moment, we’re just helping it along. We’re being paid well to do it. You’re right, it’s terrible if we mess up. So we make sure we don’t mess up. Look, you know most of the location people. First class professionals, right? Well, Research was top notch and Makeup is terrific. We’re all damn fine pros here. If it gets screwed up, several people will have their butts in a sling, and mine will be the first one they kick.”

Yoshi grinned. “Okay, you’re a pro, and I’m a pro. We can’t live with failure. My question is whether we can live with success. What if we’re doing the wrong thing?”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I don’t like it. I’ll probably agonize over it after I’m retired, maybe get drunk a few times if it doesn’t work out. In the meantime, I’m trying to make it to retirement. A half dozen more jobs like this, and I can pack a suitcase and start looking for someplace where they don’t even know what stage management is. When I find it, I’ll put my suitcase down under a palm tree and start to live. But that’s for later. This is for now.”

Yoshi shook his head slowly. “Man, that’s really cynical. You must really hate the film industry to want to get out of it that badly. How can somebody so good at something hate it that much?”

“I don’t hate it, Yoshi, I just know it. When I was a kid, do you know the first picture I worked on? Apocalypse Now. Two years of my life stumbling around every fever swamp in the Philippines. There was a hurricane that blew away the set. The lead had a heart attack. We filmed, I don’t know, maybe six end scenes, and they didn’t use any of them. Don’t get me started. Where did you and I meet? Kolyma… because some bright light in the film industry decided that you can’t just use Hokkaido or even Konashiri, no, you have to use a frozen forest where they used to send political prisoners. I’ve seen more of the arctic than most polar bears, and every other mosquito east of India has tasted my blood. Deserts? Kalahari, Thar, The Great Victoria… I’ve been nearly every place that no person should go. I’m too old to do that anymore.

Here, I sleep indoors at night, eat food that actually tastes good, and get to call home without six satellite hookups. And maybe, just maybe, I help somebody find a little light in their life. Is that better than trying to make some forty-year-old actress look like she’s eighteen in the middle of Scorpionland? I’m sorry, it is. If somebody is rich enough and megalomanic enough to try to script other people’s lives, sure, I’ll help.”

Yoshi just stared at me for awhile. Finally, he said, “I need to get back to the house. We go live the day after tomorrow, and I need sleep.” He walked out without another word. He didn’t bother to close the door after he left, so I suppose he was still upset. I still counted it as a win – he hadn’t quit. Forty-eight hours until we go live. Nobody quits on me now.

Chapter Two – Dead or Live

Forty-seven and three quarters hours later, I’m sitting at my console. Sure, I’m nervous, but I’m feeling pretty ready. There are five of us in the van working together, like a remote sports broadcast or something. We have the meeting place wired like a political convention, except there are only two people. The wiring, that’s Yoshi’s job, and he’s a master at it. We did equipment checks, and everything works perfectly. Yoshi’s at the equipment master control. We’re ready.

The perimeter monitor starts flashing, and we turn on the camera. That’s him, the guy, and he’s headed toward the meeting place. A few seconds before he gets there, we turn on the wind machine. Yoshi’s positioned it perfectly – too far away to see and hear, but close enough to blow the snow and rattle the branches. It’s perfect. The boy shivers a little. It’s not only good atmosphere, it covers the humming of the drone in the trees.

The perimeter monitor blinks again, and we turn the camera on again. It’s the girl, coming from the same direction. “Gimme a close-up on the girl,” I say. Noburu pulls the shot in. “Hey, she’s cute,” he says to no one in particular. “Yeah,” I say, “That’s Naoki's work. She’s wearing about a hundred thousand yen worth of cute, and that’s just the face.”

“Make-up? She’s not wearing make-up!”

“Trust me – she’s wearing whatever Mr. Naoki thinks she needs. That’s why we hired Mr. Naoki. Even when he’s through, you don’t ever know he’s been there."

“Look at that skirt… do they wear them that short in high school?”

“They do if Wardrobe says they do. Okay, she’s beyond the perimeter. Yoshi, get the drone out of the trees so we can see the action. Keep it west of them so the wind blows away the noise.”

Yoshi pulls the drone up and over. The drone camera, which had been showing a bunch of fuzzy branches, refocuses on the boy. The girl comes up behind him… “Audio! I need audio.” Annnd…there’s no audio.

“Where’s the audio? Fix it! Five minutes ago it worked fine!” I yell. The audio people start pushing buttons. The two kids are starting to talk to each other.

“Power! There’s no juice, not to any of the mikes,” Audio yells.

“Fix it!” I yell back.

All right, no audio. “Focus on the face, Yoshi, the boy’s face,” I say. He pulls the drone camera right on the boy’s face. The kid looks like somebody hit him on the back of the head with a bat. That’s good, he’s feeling the magic. “Pull it back, I need both of them,” I say. Yoshi eases it back perfectly. The boy, he’s practically panting. No, he really is panting. Oh hell. “Yoshi, back to the face, NOW!” He pulls it in. The boy is clutching his chest and his eyes roll upward. He drops out of the picture. “Pull back, Yoshi!” Yoshi pulls back. The boy is lying in a heap.

“He’s down!” I yell, “The boy is down! Something’s wrong with him. Get the medics out there! Make the call now. Do it, do it, do it! Get somebody over there to help…”

Yoshi calls back. “We don’t have anybody in the area. You said, remember?”

Yeah, all we have is equipment, because I don’t want some dumb technician stepping on the scene.

“Ambulance on its way,” yells Noburu.

“Pull the plug on everything. We’ll recover the equipment after the ambulance leaves... Keep the drone on for now.”

Yoshi maneuvers the drone right over the kids. You have to give Emergency credit – the ambulance is there in less time than I would have thought possible. When they reach the scene, we pull the drone up and away so they don’t see it. The last thing we see is the girl looking up at the camera. I have the clip somewhere, but I never watch it. I saw that face every night after I fell asleep for a few months after. I still do, sometimes.

Chapter Three - Among The Ruins

Well, it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Maybe we helped get the ambulance there quicker – I don’t know. I’d like to think so.

We got the equipment back, although we waited until the next morning. Somebody drove over the audio feed to the van, and if I ever find out who… oh, that’s water under the bridge I guess.

We reached a settlement with the client – we almost made expenses. They were looking for a magic moment, and that isn’t what they got, so we negotiated something. We continued on. Yoshi did a gig with a TV show, but it was in-country. By summer, he was looking for another situation. It took us a few more real-life dramas to get clientele, but we managed it. We made up for the winter fiasco.

This turns out to be a pretty good business. It’s kind of like being a private detective, only clients get to see footage of whatever they want to happen. Professional people and professional equipment cost, of course, and staying hidden raises the premium considerably. Like I said, people of wealth are willing to pay those premiums for all sorts of things. Companies want to gather intelligence on what their rivals are doing. Wives want to see what their husbands are doing, or maybe whom. Sure, most of those things don’t require a whole lot of staging, but if you get a reputation, you get some downscale business too.

I heard the boy got better, and I started to sleep through the night again.

One of my ex-wives got married, and that cut my monthly debt almost in half.

So when the big rains came, I was one big job away from suitcase time. Oh, was I looking forward to the next big job. Don’t let anyone tell you that all things happen randomly. I was sitting there checking my worth when he walked in.

One thing the movie industry has is suits, and this one was the ultimate suit. His was black, with a gold patterned tie. He was about thirty years younger than I am and his whole personality was focused on not smiling. In the industry, the suit would have been gray or blue or something, but he worked in some other industry that took itself too seriously, maybe law. If he had any real power, he would have dressed slightly less severely, but him, he was a go-fer, somebody who was still waiting to grab a piece of the action. Either that, or Mr. Naoki was suing me again. Dumbass.

So the guy in my office was either the big strike I was looking for or a big chunk of misery. We introduced ourselves, and five minutes after we started to talk, all I could hear was the scream of a reel playing out line, like when a big fish hits.

Show time – maybe the last one.

He was from the law firm of Whatever, Whosis and the Other One, and he had an unnamed client who wanted some work done. Okay. That’s the same as three-quarters of our clients. I went into how we got paid and when we got paid, and he was okay with that. He wanted an estimate, so we started to go into detail.

So this young woman of interest was dating a guy who she shouldn’t be dating, according to lawyer boy. The client wants the relationship to end. He doesn’t need film or anything, he just wants the guy to go away. Not killed, just not there for her. We stage it, we set it up, and we execute it. That’s better than okay. No film reduces the complexity to about half or less. No problem – a little less money maybe, but I’d still be able to pack that suitcase.

It was almost done. Yoshi was going to bitch about morality again, but I can handle that. We were close enough that he dragged some hardcopy profiles of the people out of his oh-so-serious briefcase. The young woman was... blind. I flipped through that and looked at the front page of the guy’s profile. It took one look.

“No,” I said.

“What do you mean, no?” he said, putting on his lawyerly Yakuza face.

“I mean I can’t help you,” I said. Damn, damn, damn, damn! I kept that part to myself.

After I got him to accept the refusal, he departed quickly. I punched up Yoshi on the phone.

“Hey, I had a prospect in the office…”

“Uh-huh…”

“Another romance job – this time the client wants it over.”

“Aaah… I hate that.”

“I know, but there’s more. I looked at the players. The guy involved… do you know the name Hisao Nakai?”

Yoshi paused. “The winter guy?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not doing it. Absolutely not.”

“That’s what I told the prospect.”

I thought that was the end of it, but of course it wasn’t. That night, she was back in my dreams again, that shocked, sad face looking up at the drone. It took a few days for her to go away.

Chapter Four – Welcome To Dushanbe

According to my shrink, when you come close to achieving a goal and fail, you start doing risky things to try to get to the same goal, even though you know they’re dumb. It’s a form of cognitive dissonance, says he.

That’s all terrific, but I see him to stop me from doing stupid things, not to explain to me why I did them.

I got tired of waiting for the next big score. Yoshi introduced me to a director who’s making an action adventure picture – Yoshi and Noburu had already signed on. The shoot was scheduled to last awhile, and if I saved my change, that put me over the top. They were shooting in in Tajikistan, so saving the change ought to be easy – there’s nothing to do there. I read up on it, after I signed on, of course. You have your choice of scrub desert or the High Pamirs. Ten months of the year, it’s either too hot or too cold, except in the Pamirs, when it’s too cold year round. In addition, all the inhabitants hate each other. Put a camera on a main street any day, and you’ll probably get an action picture without bothering about a script. It’s my kind of place, all right.

Oh, and the lead actress is an American, somewhere in her mid-thirties. She’s as tall as the average garden gnome, has hips wider than some of the smaller Pamirs, and she’s playing a college sophomore on an archaeological dig. Try composing a good camera angle with that in mind.

I packed for too hot, figuring I could buy clothes for too cold when I got there - they know how to dress for that, and it should be cheap. I looked at my ticket: from here to Beijing, Beijing to Dushanbe. I put all my entry permits, visas, and bribe money in a zip-up folder, and headed to the airport. I just hope the male lead is healthy.

So the airport was crowded, because airports are always crowded when I get there, and it just confirmed all the rotten conclusions I have about life. The international terminal is the farthest one from the entrance, and I started trudging toward it.

I was about fifty meters from the entrance when somebody hit me from behind. I dropped the zip-up as I fell, but rolled over it before anybody could grab it. Airport thieves do that in some places, though I never expected it here.

No, it wasn’t a thief – the guy kept going. He bounced against a few other people, then fell to the floor. It’s funny – I didn’t make the connection until he started to go down – it looked familiar. I made sure I had the zip-up, and walked over. Yeah, it was Nakai. I have this little angel of misfortune, and his name is Nakai. And he doesn’t even know he’s the albatross around my neck. I started to wonder about getting on the plane, with my unlucky charm in the house. His eyes were up in his head again, and he was gasping for breath. Everybody who had a cell phone was calling somebody, so one of them probably called the ambulance. I got out of there.

Maybe it was because of the all fuss my albatross was making in the entrance, but there were only a few people in line for the security check at the international gates. We waited awhile anyway, because wanting to leave the country is almost a confession of being a crazed terrorist. They toss everybody pretty thoroughly.

I looked around a little vacantly for ten minutes, and they got through two more people. There were five of us left – a blonde girl, a guy with a head so bald it shined the overhead lights in my eyes, some others, then me. The agent yelled, “Okay, Miss”. She was next, but she let the bald guy go through. She turned toward him, said “I’m waiting for someone,” and smiled.

I nearly dropped the zip-up. She was the other one in lawyer boy’s package.

That started the wheels spinning inside my head. He’s running full speed through the airport, and she’s standing here at the gate. Coincidence? I think not. Maybe he doesn’t want her to leave. Okay, but how does she feel about it? I mean, nobody goes and buys an international ticket on a whim. So do I go tell her that Nakai threw himself into another fit trying to get to her? Ordinarily, yes. Everybody loves to see people connect. This time, maybe not. I get the feeling that people have been herding Nakai this way and and that, and I have personal problems with being herded. Maybe he does too. Hey, maybe she's waiting for him. I didn't know what to do.

“She’s a little young for you, isn’t she, sport?”

The source of the voice was just to my right. When I turned my head, I was looking at what the suit in my office was trying to be. Her suit was black, but pinstriped, and didn’t fit all that well, not for a woman. The tie was at half mast – it probably spent most of its time there. The face was the blond girl’s face, except older, thinner, and probably way wiser. The eyes glinted red, and they seemed to see everything instead of nothing. I must have been staring.

“Nah. You got it wrong. I was just wondering…”

“No kidding? What could you be wondering about?” The sarcastic smile had turned into a sarcastic frown. I was losing control of this, if I ever had any.

“Look… I ran into a friend of hers. Actually he ran into me, literally. And then he got sick and collapsed in the lobby. I wondered if I should mention it, that’s all.”

“Does this friend have a name?”

“Yeah, Hideo Nakai.”

“You mean Hisao.”

“Yeah. Him.”

That got her thinking. At least she stopped making evil faces.

“How… do you know that my sister knows Hisao?”

Her sister – I should have known. “It came up at a business meeting I attended.”

That flipped her switch back to evil face. “Just what kind of business are you in?"

“Films. Stage management. I had a lawyer in my office awhile back, he happened to mention he had a client who didn’t think the two of them were right for each other.”

The sarcastic grin came back. “Lawyers don’t just happen to mention anything, unless they’re told to mention it. Were you hired to do something about it?”

“Not me. I would never do anything like that.” There’s honesty, and then there’s too much information.

She sensed that, I guess, and backed off for a few seconds.

“The lawyer… who was it?”

“I can’t remember his name, and telling you the firm would be a breach of professional ethics. I don’t know much about the law anyway. Whenever I have legal problems, I go to Whatever, Whosis and The Other One.”

She just looked disgusted. “I’ll bet you do. I know somebody else who uses them a lot, too.” She stayed silent for awhile.

“So do I talk to your sister or what?”

“No. You get within speaking distance of my sister at your own peril, and I mean ever. I’ll let her know. It’ll be interesting to see what choice she makes…”

“Fair enough. One last thing. Is there anybody you don’t want to know about that decision? At least right away?"

“Yeah, probably. Why?”

“See that bench over to the left and behind us? Go over to the bench and look at the row of light fixtures just in back of us. Count over five lights. There’s a big black spider-looking thing right below the light, and it isn’t attached to anything. It looks like something we use in the business, and the humming is awfully familiar.”

She headed for the bench without another word, and gave it a good stare. Then she walked a little closer and slightly behind it. She unzipped her bag, and took out a baseball. The drone started to make a half turn toward her, but it never completed the maneuver. She unleashed a fastball, dead red. It hit the drone center assembly and drove it back into the light fixture. The drone started making popping noises and fell to the floor. It had the aerodynamic capability of a pretzel, and since she hit it dead center, the camera was probably gone too.

She sauntered over picked it up. She brought back to the line and looked it over. If anyone saw what she did, they weren’t going to make a fuss about it.

“Hey, nice arm…”

“Remember it if you feel the urge to get near my sister. What do you know about Mr. Naoki’s Enterprises?”

So that’s where the business went. “You mean he was stupid enough to put an equipment tag on that thing?” Dumbass. Double-crossing rat dumbass.

She went over to the blind one and started talking. Five seconds after, they’re headed back to the lobby. I’ve never seen a blind person pull her escort along. The cane was tapping furiously, like shoes in an old Fred Astaire movie. It wasn’t a hard decision after all.

Chapter Five – Exuent Omnes

Eight months later, the phone rang.

“Hey boss, it’s Yoshi.”

“Yeah, Yoshi… How are things back in Japan?”

“Ahhh, you know. But I got a deal in Hollywood. Like, they’re really filming it in Hollywood. I leave in two weeks.”

“Yoshi, that’s great. Once they see what you can do, you’ll never leave. I’m proud of you. So what else?”

“I got your check for the balance – thanks a lot. Naoki appealed his conviction. Says he doesn’t know why his drone flew through the police station.”

“It’s like you said, Yoshi. If a man is dense enough to put an equipment tag on a drone, he probably isn’t smart enough to encrypt the signals to the drone either. I enjoyed the film by the way.”

“I heard he has his drones up for sale. He’s paying the lawyers with that and sticking with eyelashes and lip liner. Want to buy a drone, cheap?”

“No sale, Yoshi. Last night the moon came through the clouds over the lagoon about the same time as dinner ended. You didn’t need a drone to see it.”

“Boss, I have some wisdom for you. If I were you, I wouldn’t go near the Sheraton on the island for the next two weeks. The one by the airport.”

“No problem, Yoshi… I never go there anyway. I was there once, for dinner. It seemed pretentious to me. They mostly do business with the honeymooners… aha.”

“Well, not for two weeks, anyway.”

“Hey, I’m enjoying my life now. The last thing I need is an albatross around my neck and a fastball in my ear.”

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brythain
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Re: All The World's A Stage (One Shot)

Post by brythain » Mon May 11, 2015 9:22 pm

Your ability to juxtapose metaphors, images and natty turns of phrase does not fail to amuse and please. If that were all, I'd be mightily entertained. However, this staging of one of the greatest KS moments ever is very cathedral like; it reminds me that sometimes you can indeed gild the lily, so to speak, in a way that adds to the experience without detracting.

Who would've thought that there was yet another way to retell KS in about 4000 words? Excellent!

(And yes, I'm all for the honeymoon that we never got in the VN.)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: All The World's A Stage (One Shot)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue May 12, 2015 6:08 pm

Who would've thought that there was yet another way to retell KS in about 4000 words? Excellent!
I'm sure there are plenty more ways, and I'm always glad when someone finds one of them :-)
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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AntonSlavik020
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Re: All The World's A Stage (One Shot)

Post by AntonSlavik020 » Wed May 13, 2015 9:54 pm

I don't know why I delayed reading this like this, but that was a mistake. This was great. Very interesting new look at KS, and very well written to boot.
Best girl
Hanako=Shizune>Misha>Lilly>Rin>Emi

Best route
Hanako>Lilly>Rin>Emi>Shizune

PKMNthiefChris
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Re: All The World's A Stage (One Shot)

Post by PKMNthiefChris » Wed Jan 30, 2019 12:04 pm

This was interesting. Reminds me a bit of Project Blue Curtain although from a different angle and less people knew they were on screen.

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