Jan 14, 2014

The Ingenue (7) - The Unholy Trio

Chapter Title: The Unholy Trio
Rating: PG  (adult language).
Word Count:  ~4,195.
Characters: The Unholy Trio, Maraina Stratten, Jeremy Rylon, Riley Stratten, Noel Cruz, Wayne Garson, Cate Willis, Sterling Mitchell, Danny Wright.
Synopsis: In Hollywood, it doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they mention your name and the Unholy Trio are the best in getting down and dirty. During a creative meeting, Mari has a chance to change The Odyssey and the opportunity to reach out to other fans with a crazy idea that could change the way the whole industry.

“That noise you hear right now,” she said, “that’s my entire navy screaming in ecstasy.”

“We’re back!” The three women who looked like they just stepped out of a WWII movie said to  the web camera.
“Did you miss us, our little gossip monsters?” The blonde asked.
“Of course they missed us,” The red-head replied as she adjusted the veil on her hat. “Or at least our filthy dirt.”
“Welcome to the Scandalous Unholy Trio Grapevine. If we’re not talking about it, then it ain’t worth knowing.” The brunette winked. “I’m Lacey
“I’m Hadley,” the blond said. “We do apologize for the loss of signal recently.”
“Right. We were hiding from those pesky cease and desist lawyers,” Lacey said.
“Cuz you know our motto,” The red-head piped in. “‘Can’t serve us if you can’t find us!’” She cackled, then stooped short when the other two just looked at her. “What? Oh, I’m Shay.”
Lacey shook her head. “That’s not our motto.”
“No? Then what is our motto,” Shay asked.
A predatory smile twisted her full red lips. “You’re not the center of our world. Just the center our entertainment.”
“Heh,” Shay snorted, “I prefer friends don’t let friends talk sober.”
Lacey shrugged. “Either works.”
“And we weren’t just hiding from lawyers, we were waiting for all our contacts to get out of rehab. You’d think they were doing a buy one treatment get one free special considering the mass influx of the past two weeks.” Hadley picked up a long cigarette holder and put it to her mouth, then took a big bite out of it.
“One of us should go to rehab next time.” Lacey picked up her ‘cigarette holder’ and put it in her coffee stirring it several times become carefully bringing it to her lips, avoiding the beaded veil of her hat.
They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, 'No, no, no.'”
Hadley threw a small piece of a scone at Shay. “Are you trying to get us sued?”
“Again,” Lacey finished. “Speaking of rehab, the delicious Zac Efren had to have his jaw shut due to a kink accident.”
“I thought it was a ‘freak’ accident,” Hadley said.
“How was the poodle involved?” Shay asked.
“Puddle,” Hadley replied. “Puddle. He fell outside on a puddle and broke his jaw.”
Shay and Lacey looked at each other. “Uh huh.”
“Can we talk about those delish Hemsworth boys? Both have movies coming out soon and I really don’t care what the movies are about as long as they take off their shirts. I think that should be the law, doncha think?” Shay placed her hand on her chin and sighed.
Lacey bumped Shay’s shoulder. “Save the kink for the second half of the show. We have huge breaking news coming out of Imperium. Barney ‘I’m so old, I invented the wheel’ Harris has been kicked to the curb by Richard Jackson. Now, I know what all of you are thinking…WHO? Well, these are the movers and shakers that make and break careers of those too hot to handle actors we’d all ‘kneel’ for.”
“The importance of this move,” Hadley continued, “is that Jackson was the up and coming executive who brought us The Odyssey, Killer Women, Between Darkness and Light and almost single handedly forced Imperium into the 21st century in terms of innovative programming. It’s taken him almost twenty years, but he’s now running the whole shebang and rumors are flying about the changes already taking place.”
Lacey nodded. “Exactly. And it starts with Odyssey being taken over by it’s creator, Sterling Mitchell.”
“So long, Boring Teen Angst Barker,” Hadley said and waved. “Don’t let the airlock hit your ass on the way out.”
“Hey,” Shay complained, “I liked the changes of the show. It brought life to a boring ass diplomacy in space show and it gave us the delish Dave Farley and Wesley Tanner to drool over. Without all the mindless action and ripping off of shirts, it’s just going back to yawn in space.”
Lacey tapped her long nails on the table. “Yes, the show was getting a bit stale before Barker, but the grapevine is hinting that the Scribblers will be in charge and they are the only thing Barker did right. So now we’ll have smart, plot-driven action,” she glanced at Shay rolling her eyes, “as well as shirt ripping fun.”
“Change was coming anyway with the fact that Jack Matthews, who has helmed the show for the last eight years, is more than ready to take time off and head back to the stage. This leaves the smoking hot Patrick Westfield prime for taking over.”
“Speaking of Patrick ‘I wanna bang like a screen door during a hurricane’ Westfield.” Shay pushed a button and the screen now had a picture of a shirtless Westfield before being minimized. “Patrick has been busy this week. Not only was he seen partying with Dave Farley, who by the way, left Mimi’s with two gorgeous wannabe starlets on his arm, but Westfield has also been seen cozying up with his co-star, Jaime Connors.
“Of course, they are ‘just friends’,” Shay mimicked air quotes, “but how often do friends hang out all hot and sweaty with each other before they start hitting the sheets?”
“At least this finally squashes those rumors that everyone else talked about, but we knew to be false, about Patrick hooking up with his much younger co-star, Sofia Royce.” Hadley shuddered.
“Aw,” Lacey pouted, “I thought they made a cute couple. A modern day Beauty and the Beast.”
Hadley snickered. “Speaking of beast, Sofia Royce certainly didn’t make any new friends in her movie with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. Apparently, both veteran, Oscar winning actresses had little patience for the starlet’s diva-manding attitude and have shut her out of all the promo rounds for Love and Marriage in favor of Abigail Breslin.”
“That girl sure knows how bite the hand that feeds her,” Lacey said.
“Speaking of biting,” Shay said, “wasn’t Wesley Tanner just adorable hosting SNL? He really showed he’s more than willing to poke fun at his teen heartthrob reputation.”
“But the night was stolen by the return of magnificent Callum Finley, former lead singer of the Soul Stealers. After taking two years off from the grind of being hard rock icon and returned with two impassioned songs about love and loss that bode well for his first solo project which is scheduled to come out in the Fall.”
“Why do you watch that drivel?” Riley asked.
Noel rolled his eyes and paused the web show and clicked on the link to play the Callum Finley song. He leaned back on his chair, listening to the operatic strings before the ridiculously soothing gravely voice started singing about the loss of love and innocence.
“They’re right,” he said. “This is a definite hit.” He turned to Riley who just shrugged. “And this is not drivel. The Unholy Trio, despite their costumes, are almost always right on the money when it comes to Hollywood gossip. Did you hear them talking about Odyssey and Sterling? Well, now that Mari is right in the middle of we need to keep up in the know in order to protect our girl.”
Riley snorted. “So you’re just watching a gossip show to help out Mari?”
“Well, not just to help Mari.” Noel smiled. “It’s fun to find out all the dirty laundry about the rich and shameless.”
Riley’s brow furrowed. “They are going to eat her alive, aren’t they?”
“Maybe, but it’s our job to help keep her together.” Riley nodded. “So how was your first civilian job? Still remember how to mix drinks?”
An irresistible grin lit up Riley’s face and Noel couldn’t help but return it. “All the women tipped you, didn’t they?” Noel shook his head. “You are way too charming for your own good,” he called out as Riley left the room. “Lucky bastard.”
"What problem?” Jeremy asked Wayne who plopped down on the cushions with an annoyed huff.
For being one of the most prolific and indispensable writers in Hollywood, Wayne Garson was quite the antithesis of a mover and shaker. At below average height, balding and just on the pudgy side, he looked more like a cuddly elementary school teacher than someone who was creating and destroying multiple universes with godlike abandon.
“The Minion just gutted The Odyssey crew. Anyone who was in our top tier, writers, costumer designers, set designers…” He shrugged. “Hell, they stole the Best Boy!”
Mari turned to Cate. “The Minion?” she mouthed.
“Phillip the Minion Carter is Barker’s ‘Yes Man’,” Cate answered. “If Barker stopped short, he’d have to have Phillip surgically removed from his ass.” Mari cringed at the visual.
Jeremy threw his notebook into the unlit pit. “Jesus Fucking Christ! When did this happen?”
“In the last twelve hours,” Wayne replied. “Texts and calls have been flying. They got everyone not directly tied to us with a promise of hefty bonuses based on ratings.”
Jeremy picked up a pillow, burying a guttural scream in it.
Wayne glanced at Cate, then turned back to Jeremy. “But that’s not the right question.” Jeremy pulled the pillow from his face and stared at Wayne. “They are doing the Psy Wars.”
“We’re fucked!” Jeremy tossed the pillow and and dropped his head into his hands.
The silence was deafening as everyone else simply looked at each other. Except for Sterling.
“What’s the Psy Wars?”
Mari could have kissed him. She was constantly feeling like she was drowning under a sea of terms or names that were completely foreign to her. Talk about sink or swim. She was terrified to open her mouth in case something completely inane came out. But despite not knowing Jack from Steve, she wasn’t a total moron. It was clear from the undercurrent, from the looks between Wayne and Cate, and from the punch to the gut look on Jeremy’s face, that things were about to get worse.
“Well?” Sterling looked from Jeremy to Wayne.
“The Psy Wars is my brainchild,” Jeremy said without looking up. He released a defeated breath and turned to Sterling. “I was pissed off at you for stifling all creativity at Odyssey even as the ratings were dropping. Barker was a sympathetic ear. Even pitched it to Barney when he took over but it was nixed because of the budget would explode.”
“Apparently, he’s got the budget now,” Cate said.
“Yes,” Sterling nodded, “Richard is betting on both horses. Not that I blame him.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and turned to Jeremy. “Why didn’t you come to me with the idea?”
Jeremy sighed. “It has everything you don’t like. Battles, conflict, sex. It’s classic space opera.”
“But isn’t that what we are doing now?” Mari asked. “Battles, conflict, sex?”
“Yeah, but, and no offense here, because I really like the Camerians, it’s the difference between hamburger and prime rib. We have an awesome Angus burger with all the trimmings, but they are going to offer a big, thick and juicy prime rib.” He shook his head. “We can’t compete. Especially since all of the top tiers writers have jumped ship. This late in the season everyone who’s good is booked up.”
Cate turned to Mari. “We have six weeks until pre-production and we still don’t have the first episode written. We have the season’s arc, but even if all of us worked 24/7 we’d only get about five eps before production caught up with us. We need experienced writers to add the filler while we progress the main storyline.”
“What about fandom? The writers there have about twenty seasons of experience writing in this universe.”
Jeremy chuckled, but there was no humor in it. “That’s sweet, kid, but fandom is a powder keg of litigation, submerged in swamp, and encased in last week’s jock strap.” He held up his hand when both Cate and Mari started to complain. “Maybe there are diamonds in the rough. Maybe there are good writers there we could use, but legal would have a cow if we rummaged through fan fiction for story lines, even filler ones.”
Sterling nodded. “He’s right. It’s the concept of dealing with litigious amateurs that’s a nightmare.”
“Maybe not,” Cate said with a distracted look in face. When she realized everyone was looking at her, she cringed. “Umm, okay. Early this year, the Beautiful Disaster crew sent out an open call for fan art for the movie—”
“Art is different than writing or plot ideas,” Jeremy interrupted.
Cate threw a pillow at his face. “The producers included a media pack and made it a contest. That’s the important part because once you submitted the artwork, there was all this fine obnoxious print attached to it.”
“So you’re suggesting we make it a contest?” Sterling asked. “That might work, actually.”
Jeremy shook his head. “It still leaves us open to fans stealing from other fans and if we end up using something, we’d still get sued.”
“Maybe not,” Sterling said and smiled at Cate. “In the end, the series is mine. I’m letting everyone else play in the universe I created and that includes fans.” He winked at Cate and Mari. “It might work.” He pulled out his phone and dialed. “Jerry, I have a wonderful idea.” He got up and walked out of the pit, still talking in his phone.
“This won’t work. Even if legal gets on board, we don’t have time to put the contest together or read through the muck.” Jeremy looked at Wayne for support, but he was looking at Cate and Mari.
“We have a secret weapon,” Wayne said, looking at Mari.
Cate smiled. “Yes, yes we do.” She patted Mari back.
“What? Wait! No!” Mari shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I just tossed it out there without knowing the repercussions. Jeremy is right, it’s a litigation nightmare. And there’s too much to go through, anyway.”
“But you’re up to date on it, aren’t you?” Cate asked. “You know who the Big Name Fans are, the ones that have all the other fans swooning over them. We can start there.”
Mari closed her eyes and leaned back. “Okay, yes, I’m in fandom, though not as much now because of work and this, but I’m just the wrong person for this.” She opened her eyes and looked at Jeremy. “Sorry, I’m one of those pesky amateurs.” She licked her lips and confessed. “But I’m not in the BNF circle, in fact, the ship I sail is a rinky little row boat forgotten by the BNF fleet.”
“What ship do you sail?” Cate asked.
Mari looked at her feet. Then her nails and anywhere but at Cate.
“Ship?” Jeremy said.
“Relationship,” Wayne answered. “Fandom pairs off characters regardless of whether they’ve met or not and put them into romantic relationships.”
“Wayne, I didn’t just fall out of the turnip truck. I’ve been to a Con. I know all about ships and fandom.” He turned to Mari. “All right, princess, spill it. What ship do you sail?”
Mari sighed. “I’ve always liked Dane Scott from the beginning of the show.”
“Scott and Dr. Waylon,” Cate said. “They are a huge ship in random.”
Mari nodded. “Yes, but it’s almost too easy to ship them. It’s a given that if the show ended tomorrow they’d end up together.”
“You’re one of those happily ever after fans, aren’t you?” Danny asked.
“It speaks!” Cate glared. “You finally decided to join the conversation?”
“I had nothing to say before.” Danny shrugged. “And I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut, lest my foot becomes permanently wedged in it.”
“It’s not just about HEA’s,” Mari said. “It’s the idea that love does conquer all, that there is someone in the universe that just gets you.”
“Some people are fine being alone,” Cate pointed out.
“Some people have no choice in that matter.” Every head turned towards Danny. “That came out very wrong. I wasn’t a slam on you,” he told Cate.
Mari shook her head. “Yes, we are fine alone. A few people are better off alone, but humans are social beings and we tend to want to share our lives with a significant other.”
“If only for the convenience of sex,” Wayne piped in and smiled.
“I didn’t think married people had sex after the wedding,” Jeremy said.
Wayne held up three fingers. “Once for each kid.” He rested his arms on the back of the bench and looked at Mari. “I’m fine with romance as long as it’s supplementing a bigger story. Romantic tension works to progress a story. Why is Scott/Waylon too easy for you?”
“Because the thing that keeps them apart right now is simply a good conversation to clear up their past and set up their future. They are in the same place in their lives and practically agree all the time, when they actually talk. The lack of communication is the worst reason for a couple not to hook up.”
Wayne nodded. “I know, we’ve been milking that for over a decade. It’s stale even for those of us who write it. So who do you ship?”
Mari bit her lip and stared at Wayne. “Scott/Kerrigan.”
Wayne’s eyes bulged. Jeremy snorted his orange juice. Danny choked on a potato chip.
Cate clapped her hands and laughed. “I knew it!”
“But…why?” Wayne looked at her as if she’d grown a second head. “They are hardly on screen together and when they do it’s almost always adversarial.”
Mari sighed. “Chemistry. Jack Matthews oozes it and Jaime plays Sarah differently when she’s on screen with him. Like she’s trying to prove herself worthy of notice from the heroic Captain Scott. There’s a lot of conflict between them. The age difference, the class difference, the clash of personalities but in the end they are very much the same person. The one who will do anything for their crew and their star system. They are willing to risk everything and I think they see that in each other. It’s subtle or at least it is in my mind because I think they’d be an amazing couple.”
Mari looked at the stupefied faces staring at her and sat back on the cushions. “Never mind. I’ll shut up now.”
Jeremy tossed the napkins he’d use to clean up the orange juice into the pit. “Ya know, most people like Kerrigan with Leonidas or even Benton.”
“Benton is a man-whore and Kerrigan doesn’t give him the light of day because who knows where he’s been,” Mari answered. “As for Leonidas, well, he’s the bad boy you bang until your eyes cross, but he’s not the one you’d die for.”
“Are you saying, Sarah wouldn’t die for Leonidas?” Wayne asked.
Mari bit the inside of her cheek as the thought of way to express how much she loved her unlikely pairing. “Yes, in combat, Kerrigan would take the bullet for Leonidas, but she wouldn’t willingly sacrifice herself for him.” Wayne’s eyes narrowed, but Mari knew she wasn’t explaining it right. “Kerrigan would die for the officer that holds Leonidas’ rank, but she’d willingly die for the man that is Dane Scott, regardless of his rank. Does that make sense?”
Wayne nodded, but it was Jeremy who responded. “But that’s not how we are writing it.”
“I know,” Mari conceded. “But it’s how I’m interpreting it because I like them as a couple and every once in a while you get Jack or Jaime doing something subtle like a smile or a look that just feeds my imagination about them, whether they intend that or not.”
Wayne cocked his head sideways . “I can work with that.”
“That’s insane!”
Jeremy and Danny just glared at Cate. “What? I love the idea of them together.”
“Look,” Wayne started. “This is part of the filler we were talking about. Add to the fact that Jack won’t be in every episode and we’re probably going to lose Jaime for several eps because Tarvernier is courting her for a project…” He looked at Jeremy. “Right, that was the next crinkle in our plan. Jaime is about to get offered a part that she can’t pass up and would actually look good for the show, but she’ll be out for about five weeks so we’ll have to write around her.”
“Terrific,” Jeremy grumbled. “This just keeps getting better and better.”
Wayne turned back to Mari. “Scott/Kerrigan is not a popular ship?”
Mari shook her head. “But we are loyal.”
“By the time I’m done with them, it will be the ship of the show,” he said with a smile. “We’ll start it with Dane’s rescue, work in an episode that features the two of them….” His voice trailed off.
“Then we can work in some sort of capture when Jaime is unavailable and have Dane be part of the rescue,” Cate finished off.
“Oh, I like that,” Wayne said, grabbing Danny’s notebook and scribbling on it.
Mari blinked and wiped off a fake tear. “That noise you hear right now,” she said, “that’s my entire navy screaming in ecstasy.”
Cate snorted. “You're such a dork. That’s why we get along so well.”
“I’ll give you that might - might - work, but that still doesn’t solve our problem about the lack of writers or content or general crew to help us even try to keep up with the Psy Wars.”
“No,” Wayne said, “but this is a good way to get us some filler eps and Jamie and Jack are on board for this new romantic angle.” He tossed his phone to Jeremy. “In fact, they are both giddy about the idea.”
“Good news,” Sterling said as he walked towards the pit, a definite bounce in his step. “The legal department have been pistol-whipped into agreeing to the contest and marketing is already putting something together. We should have something to look at by tomorrow. What did I miss?”
Jeremy gave Wayne’s phone to Sterling. “Apparently, Wayne and Mari have just paired off Dane Scott and Sarah Kerrigan as a super couple and Jamie and Jack are all for it.”
Sterling stopped short and stared at Jeremy.
“Don’t blame me,” Jeremy said. “This is all on your canary.” He pointed to Mari.
Sterling looked between Mari and Wayne. “Get off my lawn.” Then he smiled. “If the actors are on board it will make that insanity workable.”
“The contest is a go, then?” Cate asked.
Sterling nodded. “But legal warned that we could be facing a can of worms. They’ll add so much fine print that it should cover us though. The real question is how we are going to set up the rules and go through the entries in time in order to avoid delays in this season.”
“I was thinking about that,” Cate said. “I looked through the rules of Beautiful Disaster and I think we can make something similar. The thing about fandom is that they are going to be easy to please with the big prizes. All expense trip to the set, meet the stars, walk on role, all work as prizes.”
“Paid internship will get you quality entries,” Mari said. “A lot fans are in college and it would look great on a resume, especially if they are hoping to break into the business. If you open it up to designers, musicians, etc you’ll be able to do the rest of the season at half the normal cost. It will be a Kickstarter but with talent instead of money.”
Danny looked rather stunned. “That’s brilliant,” he said. “It’s a social media bonanza for the marketing department. A talent Kickstarter to do a season’s worth of episodes. A true fan driven season.”
They were all silent for a few seconds, contemplating how they just might be changing the television industry as they knew it.
“Alexander wept for there were no worlds left to conquer,” Sterling said looking out over the water.
“Who will watch the Watchmen,” Danny said.
“That’s copyrighted.” Cate smiled. “Adapt to change or get left behind.”
“You do know that fandom will bonkers with this contest, right?” Wayne said. “How are we going to go through all the entries? Or more to the point how are we going to be use these baby writers effectively?”
“The answer to the first question is Mari,” Jeremy said.
“I can’t,” Mari interrupted. “I have friends in fandom. I’d be biased towards them. Talk about legal nightmare then.”
“Don’t worry,” Jeremy pointed out. “You won’t be making the final pick, you can vet all your friends if you want, well, you, Cate and Danny, that is. Then Sterling, Wayne and I will make the final decisions on who we bring in.
“As for how we use them,” he shrugged, “that depends on them. If they want writing careers in television we can put them under our second tier and work them until they cry mercy.”
“And if they don’t?” Wayne asked.
“Then we wine and dine them, give them the pat on the back for a job well done and a souvenir before shipping them home.”

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