Richard didn't know quite know what to expect as he stepped into The Studios. He'd heard stories about what some people had called a world of magic, fame and glamour. The place being surrounded by a tall, solid wall had helped add to the mystique of the place from the outside. On the inside however it was however more a collection of hangars and props of various qualities, mostly house and wall facades that stood stacked up against hangar walls here and there. It was actually somewhat disappointing. Richard had half expected a world that recreated other worlds to an almost lifelike degree and charismatic actors creating the next Shakespearean epics. Instead it was like peering behind the curtain to see the the strings that barely held the show together; the actors rehearsing their lines in a stilted manner, a director or similar sort yelling at someone, and the assistants running around trying their best not to trip over anything.
All of them were rather busy in some way and preferred to ignore Richard as he tried to interject with an “Excuse me.” It took a few attempts of meandering around between various people before someone deigned to stop and talk with him. At which point Richard had managed to wander into some kind of corridor where there were a lot of doors with names written on them, none of which belonged to Mike Bush.
To his surprise the person that did stop for him turned out to be Felicia. The short, young woman wore a simple yellow dress and had her brown hair let out and neatly combed. She gave him a confused and slightly curious look.
“You sound… familiar. Have we met before?”
“Yeah. I’m Richard. We met at the Halloween festival.”
“Right. Now I remember. You were together with that screamy, rude… girl.” Felicia smiled brightly as if to cover up the fact that she had been about to say something incredibly rude herself.
“Don’t look at me like that. She did scream at me.”
“Though she did so when you pushed her away for helping you stand.”
“No she didn’t.” Felicia looked confused as she seemed to be trying to remember. “She yelled at me when… I’m not quite sure.”
“You also don’t remember that I carried your friend home on my back?”
“No,” said Felicia hesitantly. She then gave Richard a long stare as if waiting for an explanation.
“Isabelle had had too much and fell unconscious, I carried her while you led the way to her home. You fell asleep on the sofa. Me and Aly left in the morning before you had woken up because we got jobs to do.”
“Well… They must have had some really good booze for me to not remember any of it. Nor Belle for that matter. She was more gone than I.”
“Given that there was more than just alcohol at the party I’m not surprised.”
“Alright big guy.” Felicia suddenly appeared a bit insulted. “I may have tried some stuff before but I don’t do that shit anymore. But Belle has always been clean.”
“I’m not saying she did any on purpose. I’m just saying that I found her all drugged up and in the arms of Mr Hudson.”
“What? Mr Who?” Felicia looked a bit confused and worried while she leaned back onto a table where a few filled water bottles and a fancy glass statue of an angel stood. Something Richard thought was just set up for a domino effect and thought about pointing that out but decided against it.
“The guy who owned the house we were at.”
Felicia still looked somewhat unsure about who this Mr Hudson was but seemed somewhat satisfied with the answer after a couple of seconds of thought, but still gave Richard a look of disbelief. “You pulling my leg?”
“That’s what I saw: Isabelle with Mr Hudson’s arm around her while she was so drunk and high she could barely stand on her own legs.”
For several seconds Felicia gave him a blank and silent stare as she was clearly trying to wrap her head around it all. One could almost see the cogs turning in her head as the realization of what Richard was implying slowly dawned to her. That look then turned to confusion and then inquisitive as she looked at Richard. “So you somehow wrestled Belle from Hudson’s grasp and then picked her up on your back?” Felicia sounded rather suspicious.
“Hardly. I just introduced me as her friend and pulled her away before he could protest. After that I looked for you so you could take her home. But she collapsed and you were so drunk you could barely stand yourself, even less carry her home.”
Felicia expression turned to one of shame as she averted her gaze. “Well… Thanks… I guess.” She fiddled with her hands for a bit before placing one on the table, and in doing so knocked over one of the water bottles that then set of the chain reaction that ended with several bottles and the glass statue falling to the ground. The bottles landed to dull thuds but were largely drowned out by the sound of the glass statue cracking into thousands of pieces.
Richard partly regretted not having warned Felicia but also felt part of the blame should also be put on whoever put the glass statue in such a vulnerable position. Felicia however did not share that sentiment as she froze and looked downright horrified as she realized what had been shattered.
“No no no no…” Felicia then kept mumbling to herself while just standing there otherwise completely stunned before she slowly began to back away.
Richard meanwhile just felt a sense of annoyance at the possibility of him being dragged into another situation like when he made his delivery to the Hudsons. “Come on, let’s run.” He grabbed Felicia’s upper arm and had to almost forcefully drag her before she finally snapped to some of her senses and mumbled something that Richard could only interpret as agreeing due to the tone of her voice.
“What happened? Who did this?” shouted frantic voice of a woman from behind them a moment after they had rounded a corner and got out of view from the corridor.
It seemed like they had gotten away, even if it was barely. Felicia took the lead as Richard had no idea how to navigate the place. Soon enough they were far away and in a dark corner hiding among various stage equipment.
“So whose statue did you just break?” asked Richard once Felicia stopped and faced him.
“Uhm…” Felicia’s expression became slightly painful and embarrassed. “Velvet’s. Velvet Vulpina. The big movie star.”
“Vulpina?” Richard gave Felicia a slightly confused look.
“It’s her stage name. Her real name is Emma... something.”
“Is she the vindictive type?”
At first Felicia gave him a confused look that showed she didn’t quite understand what he meant before it clicked and Richard could almost see the light dawn inside her mind. “She is. But she tend to forget and move on after a few days. This though… She’ll probably be mad for a couple of months. At least.”
“Well I guess I won’t be returning for a long while.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“Look on the bright side: No one saw us. You’ll be fine. You’re an actress right? Just act as if you weren’t there.”
“Yeah,” Felicia said and averted her eyes in a clear sign of lack of confidence.
There was a short awkward silence that after a moment of Richard decided to peek out from behind all the props they were hiding behind. “I think the coast is clear.”
“Yeah? Good,” Felicia sounded a bit more sure of herself now. “I better make it back to my set before they wonder where I am.”
“Before you go, mind pointing me to where Mike Bush is? Reason I’m here is to deliver a letter.”
“Oh he’s around here somewhere. Not sure where exactly. But I do know he’ll be on set in about a few minutes.”
Felicia first gave him a dull questioning look before it was replaced by one of dawning realization. “Oh right. I forgot you’re a wastelander.” When she then saw Richard’s annoyed expression at being called wastelander she looked away in a very unconvincing attempt at playing innocent. “This way to the set. Where we shoot the movie.” Her voice was a bit awkward and stilted as she said that last sentence.
The first picture that came to Richard’s mind at that those last words was them holding up a movie poster which they shot at, even though it was rather clear what she meant after just a second of thought.
Felicia led him past some more props and doors till they arrived at what looked like a few rooms that each had had one of their walls and their roofs removed. After a few minutes of waiting more and more people gathered near the open rooms. Felicia tugged at Richard’s sleeve and pointed at a slim man with a long face, short brown hair and clean shave, and wearing black pants and a dark blue shirt.
“That’s Mike Bush. He’s the director. You better hurry before he starts shooting.”
At that word again Richard pictured Mike Bush pulling out a gun to start shooting at the open rooms. Even though he knew what she meant he found these strange terms a little confusing.
Richard quickly walked up to Mike Bush and held out the small envelope. “Delivery to Mike Bush.”
“Huh. Well, thanks,” said Mike Bush and took the envelope and was about to continue on his way before Richard made a fake sound of clearing his throat, at which he turned back to Richard with a slightly annoyed expression. “What?”
Richard then took out and held forth a piece of paper and a pen. “I need you to sign this.”
“You want my autograph?” Mike’s mood took a small upswing as there was a glint of joy in his eyes even though his lips remained neutral.
“I need it to prove that I delivered the letter.”
“Oh.” The glint of joy disappeared from Mike’s eyes before he took and signed the paper. “You sound like you’re not from around here. So word of advice: keep it. You may find that it has some value.”
“Okay,” said Richard with a little confusion.
Mike then turned away and walked over and sat down in some chair made up sticks and cloth. He picked up some cone from besides the chair that he spoke into the smaller end of to enhance his voice. He shouted out that everyone was to get to their places along with some more movie making jargon Richard had no desire to try to decipher.
As he was leaving Richard thought about saying a few words of goodbye to Felicia but noticed that she was one of what like to be the actors. So it was probably best not to disturb her. Instead he just gave her a small wave of goodbye he wasn’t sure that she saw before heading towards the exit. Or at least what he thought was the exit as he ended up somewhere between a few buildings he didn’t quite recognize from when he entered. Slightly annoyed at being a bit lost he looked at his watch to see it was still a bit before noon, then looked to the sky to locate the sun and from there figured out which way was west. After that it was just to go west till he hit the faraway wall and following it till he reached the gate leading to the Crossroads District. He picked up his dagger from the guards and went on his way.
As he hurriedly walked back to The Post Office he wondered what Mike Bush had meant that his signature was worth something. The city seemed to always find something new and strange to throw at him. Which managed to be both a little amusing, interesting and annoying. Hopefully Richard would figure out what Mike Bush meant. He could use a bit of extra money.