The Industry has come to Network here at the Bacall Mansion.
Thanks to Taylor’s luncheon to celebrate Victoria’s newest TV commercial, almost a hundred people have all shown up to chatter and clamor and eat some small portioned food.
The food is good, and quite good enough that I have earned +3 Destiny Points from the various morsels I have eaten off the many butlers’ trays. Now I have 65 Destiny Points, and I’m hoping for even more. If not for my exercise regiment and active lifestyle, the amount of food I consume would surely overtake me. I can easily imagine myself as a much more rotund individual, and I worry to some extent that that would severely impact my combat abilities. Or perhaps it would keep me the same. It would be hard to tell until I reached such a point.
Everyone here at the party is completely shallow and pointless, though; even I can see that. The people who have shown up here are looking not to socialize and make friends, but to get a job or advance in their careers. They see the people they talk to as targets rather than humans.
I see a man cornering an uncomfortable and bored lady as he talks about his new screenplay called Hands Held in the Bro, a masculine reimagining of some classic young adult novel I have never heard of. Next to them, a film producer finds himself hounded by not one, not two, but three young actors trying to schmooze for a gig.
Depraved behavior in what is supposed to be a celebratory luncheon.
Still, there is an upside. I am able to “rock” my traditional North Spiran-style outfit, with a suit and tie for a top, and a bright pink skirt that goes all the way down past my knees. Many people at the party have complimented me on it and have talked about my bravery for exhibiting such masculinity despite everything. While I do not understand Earth’s obsession with fashion or separating fashion among the genders, I do enjoy when my fashion is beloved.
However, I am outshone by one Delta Rafati. As a symbol of protest for this faux-formal luncheon, she is in the most casual outfit possible—a black Nirvana smiley face t-shirt, short-shorts, and stockings up to her thighs. She even wears a ponytail instead of letting her hair down. Somehow, despite everything, Delta has become a huge hit with the partygoers. People constantly stopping her for selfies and trying to chat her up in the hopes that this, too, will help them Network. She’s the most popular person at the luncheon, even more so than Victoria herself. (Victoria is fine, of course; she enjoys herself by building a castle in the sand box by the pool.)
I wish for this luncheon to be over. It would tickle my fancy to explore Los Angeles, not to be trapped here with all these vapid clout-chasers.
It is then that Taylor approaches me, again in a strange whisper.
“Remember that thing I asked you about earlier?” She grins at me.
“I do somewhat.”
“Well, after the luncheon we can go check it out. I got an offer for you and you’re going to love it.”
“For me? By name?”
“Yep. Just a couple days ago, from a couple named, uh, I forget, but they were wearing suits and sunglasses. Funny accents.”
This sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t put my finger on why.
“I’m intrigued,” I say, “but also worried. Why does anyone know my name?”
“Eryk, you’re the King of Santa Barbara.”
“Oh, right, I forgot about that.”
“Well, are you in or are you out?”
“I’m... let me think about it,” I say with an unsatisfying dodge.
She blows me off after that to go talk to a young female director who wants to subvert the patriarchal expectations of narrative coherency in television.
Her secrecy about this matter is disconcerting. What exactly does she have planned, that Taylor Bacall?
Then, after a while of wandering in this sunny afternoon lawn, I notice Francis, alone, leaned up against a white picket fence and sipping on a bright red mixed drink with a parasol in the glass. He looks absolutely miserable, meaning I am currently failing with all my heart at my current destiny.
I must fix this.
“Francis, my dear friend,” I say. “How goes it?”
“Do you always have to talk like that?” he asks.
“What manner of question is that?”
“I know you can talk less like a fantasy book character, you know,” Francis says. “I’ve heard you slip into normal speech patterns a few times. It’s almost like you’re trying for the weird accent and stuff.”
“Why, the very thought of it... I’ll have you know, I speak very much like any North Spiran. My companions on Mystix with Team Fanghook often chided me for my speech, but I cannot change it easily. It was how I was raised, and if it makes me sound more like an idiot, then that is simply how I have to live.”
“Oh, I didn’t know it was a... Sorry. I’m just not in a good mood.”
“I can tell that much,” I say. “What troubles you?”
He stirs on the question, wondering how much to reveal about what is on his mind. I wish I could probe that mind and find out for myself...
“Hey, Eryk, want to get out of here?” he asks suddenly. “This luncheon is going to go on another couple of hours, but I really can’t stand it anymore.”
“Nor can I.”
“So let’s sneak out and get an Uber into the city, okay?”
“Great thinking. Shall we bring Delta as well?”
“No!” he says immediately. “I mean, no. She’s killing it here at the party. See her?”
Delta is currently being swarmed by all manner of guests who wish for her autograph on their personal items. I am so confused.
Francis takes out his phone and begins making the order, and I go off for a second, out of sight of him or anyone else.
This is a dilemma. Francis Bacall wants to visit the sights of Los Angeles with me, my perfect chance to lift the spirits of this emotionally low young man. Taylor Bacall wants me to go with her for a secret rendezvous for something that seems quite important.
I must choose one. I cannot do them both, so I must ponder heavily about the consequences of my action. I must...
I CAN do them both! Huzzah!
Perfect Clone: Rank 5. Make a clone for 5 days, Cost: 7600 LP.
Yes, yes indeed. I cast the [Perfect Clone] card without another thought and take every bit of those -7600 Life Points.
A puff of smoke appears...
And a pink-haired, pink-eyed young man stares smiling at me.
“Eryk Solbourne, here at your service!” Clone Eryk shouts.
“Shhh! This is a secret. We cannot let anyone else know about your existence. You are my clone, and you will go with Taylor Bacall, understood?”
“Yeah, yeah, I follow you,” he says. “Am I gonna kick some ass?”
“No, you shall not.”
“Keep it as cool as possible with the tension, and we will both end up very happy.”
Clone Eryk pats me on the back. “I’m going to do whatever the hell I want, and that’s going to be what makes me happy. Alright, Pops?”
Without a further response, Clone Eryk walks off and disappears into the crowd of the party. Luckily, Los Angeles is a diverse enough town that there are many pink-haired folk here, so our dual presence is not quite that intimidating.
I am not confident at all about Clone Eryk based on a first impression. Then again, he is me, so I trust him to some extent. If worst comes to worst... He will only exist for 5 days, at least.
Francis finally returns and says, “Okay, the Uber is coming. Let’s get out to the side entrance where the help comes in and out. Taylor will never notice.”
“Alright. Let us commence our fantastic journey into the tragically unattractive city of Los Angeles!”
“Yeah!” He pumps his fist together, and we are off.
The Eryk and Francis ship sets sail!