“ - Some people are starting to put it together, and that might cause complications. What do you think, murderbot?” I quickly reviewed the last few minutes of my feed. All these humans like to talk, and even when it’s the people I like, it’s still much better to watch some entertainment media. This time, Dr. Mensah was listening to Ratthi who was worried that the company would figure out that the security consultant living on Preservation and the rogue SecUnit from TranRollinHyfa were the same. I also worried about this, but it was so big that I found it preferable to focus on the show I was watching. They’d just updated Worldhoppers and the main explorer had just opened a wormhole to a parallel universe where he and the main scientist were married!
They were looking at me like they were waiting for me to answer so I just shrugged. Ratthi rolled his eyes, at this point too used to me for anything else, I hoped.
Mensah interjected, “I assume you’re not bringing this up for no reason.”
“No, I have an idea,” he grimaced a little. “You remember my cousin, Jai, the one who left Preservation to try and make it an entertainment writer?”
“Yes, we are all familiar with your family’s complaints.”
“Well, she’s been working on a new entertainment, it hasn’t been released yet but they’re starting filming.” I gasped. Just a little inhalation, but it was deviant enough from my norm that both Ratthi and Dr. Mensah noticed. Jai must be Jaina Malhotra, creator and executive producer of Sanctuary Moon. Since Sanctuary Moon had ended, there had been no updates from her, though I knew it couldn’t be her last show, she had to be making something else.
“Oh good, you know who she is.” Ratthi, continued. This explained why he knew about Sanctuary Moon plots even though the entertainment was a little old by the time we met. “Apparently they’re doing some intrigue plot and are looking for an authenticity consultant.” I didn’t get what he was saying, but Mensah had a look of dawning clarity on her face.
“That’s the opposite of subtle.”
“I know,” he said grimly, “but I think it’s what we need.”
Mensah turned to me and explained, “he’s suggesting you go work on the show.”
Ratthi quickly added, “I think if we raise your profile, get you out there, then then company can’t just attack you, because that would lead to questions. We can do what we can here, but we’re just one place - Jai can make you bigger.” I thought this was a little naive. They could always disappear me in the night, or kill me and make it look like an accident. Right now they wanted me to alive, to take me apart and figure out what made me go off-script, but that might not always be the case.
But getting to see Jaina’s new show? I felt a growing tension in my body that I was slowly starting to learn meant I wanted something.
“What do I have to do?” I asked. Ratthi looked relieved, Mensah a little knowing. But I she kept saying she meant it about letting me pick my own jobs, live my own life. I believed her. Mostly. And at least on this job I wouldn’t have to kill anyone.
By day four, I was ready for a threat of bodily harm to anyone, including myself, just to break things up. The waiting was excruciating. We’d filmed all of ten minutes, all of it inaccurate. At least as a SecUnit, there was a chance that staring into nothingness would get interrupted with a fight for your life at any time. In media production, everything was so carefully practiced and cushioned that no one was even at risk of spraining an ankle.
And the mistakes! They’d hired me on - at an extortionate rate - to tell them how to actually do security, and then they didn’t listen. They wanted the realism up until it ‘wasn’t entertaining enough.’ By now, I think I know what entertaining is. I happened to think it would be more entertaining to see these characters face off against an actually competent opponent, rather than the cliched story they were turning out. And that’s coming from someone who has seen each episode of Sanctuary Moon 150 times, even the bad ones.
For example, no one would back their way into a room they hadn’t assessed for threats. Especially not in a high-altitude environment with no-guard rails, like this set was meant to be, although a fan was doing most of the job of representing height.
I left a few of my processes monitoring the action, and the rest watching Worldhoppers . One of the main characters had “died” and I wasn’t sure how I felt about his replacement. It almost felt a little disloyal to be watching another entertainment, given my new job. Even distracted I was able to respond quicker than anyone else and I started moving before my processes could send their update to my feed. Shuffling backwards in stylish but inflexible shoes, the actress had caught the edge of the set and started to tumble. I caught her mid-air and slung her over my back protectively, instinct causing me to reach for a weapon that wasn’t there. It took ten, maybe twenty seconds, but I’d have to check my chronometer to be sure. I set her down gently before turning back towards my chair.
“Wow, my cousin wasn’t joking about you.” These were the first words Jai had spoken to me since I arrived. I’d thought so much about what I’d say, if I should mention Sanctuary Moon, or not. Instead, I said none of that and just snapped,
“No security consultant would ever have approached like that. If any of you had listened to me, she would have approached head-on, seen any dangers and swiftly adapted. She’s supposed to be a military professional and she looks like an idiot.” I was embarrassed but Jai just looked at me and tilted her head.
“Ok.” She paused. “Show me how you would do it.” That was probably an insult but I’d been needing to move for hours. I quickly jumped up onto the set, explaining myself as I went.
“Keeping a crouch gives me an advantage if any threats poke their head out.” I moved silently along the edge. When I got to the room, I mimed pulling some charges from my belt. “Here I’d deploy a drone or throw some shock charges, just to neutralise the room. Then,” I rolled in and popped up along the back edge of the room, stood up, miming holding a gun, “I’d attack the room from a central vantage, able to see all exits.” I lowered my arms, hopped back down, went to Jai.
Jai continued like I hadn’t spoken, “We need a minute of gunplay here. Otherwise the episode is under-time.” I shrugged a little.
“The combat unit that attacks them in the third act. It shouldn’t be so easy to dispose of, you could add a minute to that, easy.”
“How?” I said nothing, tired of being pushed around. “No, I’m really asking,” she got ready to write so I laid out a potential approach, based on the description of the terrain from the script, borrowing heavily from my last encounter with one. I’d imitated entertainments to do it the first time, might as well try letting media imitate life.
Jai nodded a little, before saying. “Hm, yes, but no. We can’t do an explosion like that, too expensive. What if we,” and she laid out another option. I considered it. I personally had never attempted to dismember one limb by limb, but reviewing the schematics I had, I didn’t see why that wouldn’t work. S I said as much.
“Ok,” Jai bellowed out, deafening me. “Reset for action! Anyushka, try it the new way.” In the background, Anyushka had been practicing the crawl.
The harried director ran up at that point, “Jai, that’s my job!” She gave him a withering look. He withered.
At the end of the day, I’d just finished going over the script with the stunt coordinator and was heading back to my hotel when Jai leaned out of her office and pulled me in. “Hey, come check out the dailies.” I sat for a minute and watched the scheme we’d filmed for while. I said nothing, and eventually she said, “this looks better.” That was unsurprising, anything would look better. I probably could have cut together a more compelling edit from my own feed, though.
“Yes,” I said.
“You know, I could use you more full-time, like, as a producer - or writer, or something.” I looked over at her swiftly, but she wasn’t lying.
“I live on Preservation.” Since making a base there, I hadn’t left for more than short jobs.
“Ratthi made it sound as if I’d abandoned the family and they hadn’t seen me ten years, didn’t he.” That had been the strong suggestion, so I said nothing. But something must have come through on my un-helmeted face, so she just sighed the sigh of a woman who knew that no matter what, she couldn’t change her family. “I see my family hasn’t lost their flair for the dramatic.”
This was a bit rich for a woman who had screamed at a network executive that they were crushing her vision when they told her she couldn’t say that the company had engaged in illegal experiments on humans. Apparently it was libel, but I was with her 100%. Still, point taken.
I was wary. If I’d learned anything, it was to be cautious when taking a new job. They’re always more complicated than you think. And this one, in particular, was a security nightmare. New people in and out every day, and the company still out to get me. Jay kept talking.
“I’m home six months out of the year when I’m writing. I’m only away during production, and only for that long because I have to do pre-pro and post. If you signed on, I’d expect you in the writers’ room at Preservation, then on set for 3 months. You get the rest of the time off, and I can’t guarantee how many years’ we’ll run.” Well, being reasonable was nice while it lasted. If I thought I had wanted to just consult before, that was nothing to how much I wanted to be in that writers’ room. All of my subroutines locked up in their competition to assert how much I wanted to do that.
My physical processes won priority over verbal and I started nodding and couldn’t stop. Next year, their opponents wouldn’t be so stupid. Oh, I had plans, and several of them might even make it past the corporate command.
She laughed. “Great, I’ll send the papers to your agent.” And before I could ask what that meant, she sashayed away.
And that’s what led me to becoming the first bot-owner of an entertainment network with my friend the ART. But that’s a story for another time.