It’s another Saturday here in Louisiana and Guy’s in trouble. He’s been arrested by the protectors and they think he– No, they couldn’t. Could they really think he committed the murder?
Find out what the protectors end up doing with him as we continue the Infinite Limits story with the next chapter in An Almost Tangent. And if you enjoy what you’re reading so far, join the email update list with news on new releases and book deals right here and pick you up a copy of both available novels in the Infinite Limits series right here.
Thanks for joining us, dear readers. Enjoy.
Guy wasn’t there. He couldn’t be there so he wasn’t. He sat perfectly still, and the harsh, blinding white room disappeared around him. In its place what though? What was this? Where was he? His mind had never taken him here before
Guy was standing outside of himself. No, he was standing outside of himselves. As he stepped further and further back so did they, and soon, there were seven of him, all breaking away from each other. He stopped and heard a noise behind him, then he jumped but didn’t turn to see what had produced the noise. The others jumped, too. All of him did. Then they all ran back together and tumbled into one Guy again. Just as they—or he, he wasn’t sure of the difference anymore—tried to stand up, a door opened and broke him out of his trance.
All of a sudden he remembered where he was. He squinted his eyes against the sterile white light, reflecting off the sterile white walls. He looked up in fear at the armor-clad protector standing in front of him. The protector’s actual uniforms looked much different than the costumes he was used to seeing on set. The real deal looked more utilitarian, less showy. The armor wasn’t overly bulky, and the helmets looked light and airy in comparison to the heavy props he was used to. Then there were the guns. Those were definitely bigger, and infinitely more deadly.
“Citizen,” the protector said in a deep, modulated voice, facemask smile teeth glowing neon with every word. “Come with me.”
“I—but—” Guy said.
Guy stood slowly with his hands up. He didn’t put them down until the protector turned and led him out the door and through a hall to a room with a big metal table and chairs on either side.
“Sit, citizen,” the protector said.
Guy raised his hands again and slowly moved toward the seat that was closest to him.
“Uh uh,” the protector said, pointing a gun at the other seat. “That one.”
Guy nodded and took the other seat. The protector left without another word. This room was just as bright and white as the one he had been waiting in. If anything, it was brighter. Even when he closed his eyes they burned from the heat of the lights. There was a big black mirror across the room from him, and he could see himself sitting behind the table in it. At least they didn’t have him in cuffs. If they did, he would look exactly like every criminal he had ever seen played on TV. But he wasn’t a criminal. He was Guy. He set his mind on getting back into his meditation trance when the door opened and a protector walked in wearing no helmet. Guy shaded his eyes with his hands to try to figure out more, but he still couldn’t make anything out with the bright lights.
“Well, well,” the protector said. “This is a predicament you find yourself in. Isn’t it?”
“I—uh—” Guy didn’t know how to respond. “What have I done?”
“That’s what we’re here to find out. Isn’t it?”
“I haven’t done anything,” Guy said. He blinked water from his eyes, not sure if it was from fear or the brightness of the lights.
“Oh, but haven’t you?” the protector asked. “Dim the lights please.”
The lights dimmed, but they still reflected hot off the white walls. Guy could see the protector’s face now, and she was grinning an evil grin.
“What do you want from me?” Guy asked.
“The truth,” she said. “I want to know everything you know about what happened: How you were involved, who else was, how you killed him, everything.”
“I—but—no!” She couldn’t be serious. What reason would he have to kill Russ Logo? What reason would he have to kill anyone? “I didn’t do anything.”
The woman scoffed. “No?”
Guy shook his head. He could feel tears building up behind his eyes again, and he knew these weren’t from the lights.
“Oh, well, okay then,” the woman said, smiling and nodding. “You’re free to go.” She gave a thumbs up.
“No, Mr. Rockwell!” She slammed her fists on the table. “Not really. Where do you think you are right now?”
He looked at the black mirror then back at her. “I—uh—”
“You’re in an interrogation room, citizen,” she said, “one short elevator ride away from the holding cell we’ll store you in when we find you guilty. Don’t worry, though. You won’t be staying there long. Not with the kind of insurance Lord Walker had out on the property you destroyed. No, with that much insurance—and your lack of it—I foresee a quick trip to the disposal unit in your future. Maybe they won’t even waste the expense of holding you at all, just send you straight there. There aren’t often vacancies in the cells these days. Now, Mr. Rockwell… Do you understand why it’s so important, so crucial, so…vital for you to tell me everything you know as soon as possible.”
Guy nodded, swallowing his fear. His tears had dried up with the rush of adrenaline his body produced in reaction to the protector’s speech. He wiped his sweaty hands on his thighs and tried to come up with something to say, but he couldn’t think straight. This protector couldn’t be serious. There was no way they could think that Guy had something to do with Russ’s death. How could they? He didn’t.
“Well,” the protector said, tapping her fingers on the table. “Sooner would have been better.”
“But I don’t know anything,” Guy complained. “What am I supposed to say?” His body started to tremble, and he tried to hold tight to his seat to stop it, but it was no use, the chair just shook with him. He had lost control.
“You’re a bit nervous for someone who hasn’t done anything wrong,” the protector said with a grin. “Now why’s that, Guy?”
“I, well…” His trembling got worse now that she had pointed it out. “Because you’re a—a protector,” he stammered.
“That’s right,” she said. “I’m here to protect you. Why would that make you nervous?”
“No, but you just said—”
“I just warned you of the consequences if you’re found to have some part in this,” she said. “If being the operative word, citizen. Like if you hadn’t done anything wrong, you wouldn’t be so nervous that I could hear your chair rattling.”
Guy jumped up, pushing the chair to the ground with a clatter and making his heart skip a beat.
The protector laughed. “Settle down now, son,” she said. “And get back in that chair.”
Guy picked it up, and the chair felt extra heavy because his arms wouldn’t stop shaking. He felt so weak. He made a lot of noise setting it upright and was relieved at the small comfort of being able to sit on its cold hard surface.
“Now,” the protector said when he had reseated himself. “Tell me what you know.”
“I told you,” Guy said, his voice breaking. “I—I know nothing.”
The protector shook her head. “You were there, weren’t you?
“And you were the first to notice something wrong. You were the one holding him while he died, and you alerted everyone else to that fact. Do you expect me to believe that this was all a coincidence?”
“He was already dead,” Guy blurted out then covered his mouth.
The protector raised an eyebrow. “Go on…”
“W—when I turned him over,” Guy said. “He was already dead. He didn’t die in my arms.”
She nodded. “Still,” she said, “it seems suspicious, don’t you think?”
“I didn’t do this,” Guy said. “I wouldn’t. I loved Russ. I worked on every movie he was ever in. I—we—he was going to give me notes on a script I wrote.” He wished he could take it back as soon as he had said it.
“You don’t say,” the protector said. “Russ Logo, the biggest star in the history of entertainment, was going to give a no name extra notes on his script. Was this some kind of charity?”
Guy’s cheeks flushed. He was angry and embarrassed at the same time. Who was this cop to talk to him about art? Who was she to say that he wasn’t good enough to work with Russ Logo? She didn’t know anything about writing, or movies, or anything in the world that mattered. “Yes,” he said. “That’s right.”
“It was charity?” The protector looked confused.
“I—wha—no,” Guy said, shaking his head. “It wasn’t.”
“You know what I think, Rockwell,” the protector said. “I think you’re lying. I think he denied your request for help, and that’s why you killed him. Isn’t it?”
“No more buts, Rockwell. Tell us what happened!’
“He wasn’t giving me notes, okay.” Guy sighed. He couldn’t keep that lie up any longer. It was too unbelievable. “But I wouldn’t kill him for that. That’s ridiculous. I don’t even know how to kill a person. I—I just couldn’t do it. It’s absurd.”
“Sure, Rockwell.” The protector scoffed. “That’s what you’d like us to believe. But I’m not buying your stupid routine. You got that?”
She slammed both hands on the table and pushed herself up from the chair. “I said, you got that?”
Guy nodded. He didn’t know if he wanted to hit her, run away and try to escape, or tremble in his seat, pissing himself.
“Good,” she said. “We’ll be watching you, Rockwell. You can count on that.” She left the room, slamming the door behind her.
Guy took a deep breath. The room spun around him. She really thought that he had something to do with Russ’s death. The protectors thought he was a suspect in Russ’s murder. His stomach gurgled like it wanted to expel all of its contents. Guy felt like passing out.
The door swung open and two protectors marched in. One pointed a gun at Guy and said, “Stand up, citizen. Over here.”
Guy put his hands up and slowly crept toward the protector.
“Stay put,” the protector said, pushing the gun closer as if Guy didn’t know it was there. The second protector bent down and strapped something heavy around Guy’s ankle.
“There we are, citizen,” the first said. “Now we’ll have our eyes on you at all times. Follow us.”
They marched him down a long hall to a big elevator and rode with him back to the entrance where they had arrested him. “Don’t forget,” the protector said, pushing Guy into the street. “We’re watching you.” The doors slid closed.
Guy looked around. This was his street alright, but it looked different. Where before all the close set balconies and squished together buildings were a comforting, warm embrace, now they seemed cold, hard, and distant. It was light out. He didn’t remember how long he had been gone for or if he had slept even. He thought that maybe the whole thing was a dream and he would wake up soon, warm and comfortable in his bed. But no matter how many times he blinked or tried to pinch himself, he just wouldn’t wake up.
He didn’t want to climb up to his tiny apartment and be alone right now. He didn’t think he could handle that. He still wasn’t entirely sure if he was insane, and he needed some other human to tell him the truth. He sighed and stepped back into the elevator to tell it to bring him to the closest stop to Indywood.
He hoped his crew would be there. He almost started trembling again in anticipation as he opened the bar doors, but when he saw what was behind them, his jaw dropped. Every single patron was dressed from head to toe in black. The bar’s decorations had been changed from their normal colorful festivity to a drab black motif, with only black and white movies playing on the screens. He felt like he had walked into a funeral. Even the music playing seemed dark and sad. But to his relief, most of the crew was sitting at their normal tables so Guy walked over and waved. “Uh, hey,” he said.
“Oh, Fortuna.” Jen gasped, standing from the couch and hugging him. “I was so worried about you.”
Guy blushed. “I—uh—”
“Here, take a seat,” she said, pulling him down to the couch. “Scoot over, Emir. Let him in.”
They shuffled around to let Guy onto the couch. Cohen looked him up and down. “Where have you been?” he asked.
“Shit, Cohen.” Jen shot him a look. “I told you the protectors took him. What do you mean where has he been?”
“Yeah, well.” Cohen sneered. “Why’d they take you, then? Huh? We were expecting our sheets this morning, Guy. We’re pretty much ready to shoot everything. All we need’s the script.”
“We don’t have every—” Laura started.
“We’re ready.” Cohen cut her off.
“Well, it wasn’t really my choice to be arrested,” Guy said.
“You were arrested!” Emily said.
“I told you!” Jen said.
“Is that why you aren’t wearing black?” Emir asked.
Guy looked down at himself. He was wearing the same clothes he had been wearing on what was apparently yesterday. “Why are you all wearing black?” he asked.
“Uh, doi,” Emily said.
“Because of Russ,” Jen said. “Like you said.”
Guy rubbed his face with his hands. Of course. The news must have gotten out by now. They were mourning Russ’s death. That’s why the entire bar was dressed in black, too. Guy had told his crew about it the day before, and they didn’t believe him then, but now that everyone knew the truth, they had no choice but to advertise their melancholy, wearing it on their sleeves and shirts and dresses and shoes—even the bar’s decorations and the movies on the projector screens. He wasn’t crazy after all. He felt an itch on his leg and went to scratch it, but abruptly stopped when he felt the weight on his ankle and remembered what it was.
“So,” Jen said, patting him on the back. “Tell us. What happened?”
“I, uh, well…”
“Go on,” Cohen said. “We’re not getting anything done until we get past this, so you might as well spit it out now.”
“Well,” Guy said, “they questioned me about what happened. Since he died in my arms and all…”
“So it was true,” Emir said, a proud look on his face.
“No way,” Emily said. “Really?”
“I was there,” Jen said. “They stole Guy right off his front steps and disappeared through the elevator. I was terrified. I thought they were going to kill me with their creepy voices and glowing teeth.”
Cohen laughed. “So what?” he asked. “They just asked you a few questions and let you go?”
The whole crew looked on at Guy expectantly. He relished the attention and paused for effect. “Well, not just that,” he said. He lifted his foot onto the table and pulled up his pants leg so they could all see his new fashion statement. “They said they were watching me, too,” he said with a shit-eating grin on his face.
The group let out a collective gasp.
“Bad ass,” Emir said.
“Fortuna,” Emily said.
“Holy shit,” Laura said.
“You can’t be serious,” Cohen said.
Steve came back from the bar with a drink in hand and said, “What? What happened, y’all? What did I miss?”
And Guy just nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Well I told y’all what had happened and you didn’t believe me. Remember?”
They all tried to avoid his gaze, except for Steve who was still trying to figure out what he had missed and Laura who was filling him in.
“Well, I had nothing to do with it,” Guy went on. “So this ought to be off my ankle in no time.”
“What?” Guy asked her.
“Oh, nothing,” she said, waving it away.
“Come on,” Cohen said. “Share it with the crew.”
“Well, it’s just—you’ve never had a run in with the protectors before, have you?” Laura said.
Everyone looked at him, and Guy shook his head.
“Yeah, well,” she said, “that thing won’t be as easy to get off you ankle as you think it will be. That’s all I’m saying.”
“But I didn’t even do anything,” Guy complained. “They can’t just tag me like an animal whenever they want to.”
Emily scoffed, taking a drink.
“Pretty much,” Laura said, sipping hers, too.
“Well, we’ll see about tha—”
“Alright, alright,” Cohen said, waving his hands to shut everyone up. Some small disparate conversations had started among the crew. “Enough. You see? That’s why I didn’t want to bring this up. We’ll be on it forever. It’s time we get on to the real business that brought us here.”
“Go on, then,” Emir said, losing interest.
“First,” Cohen went on, “and I hate to bring it back to you again already, but Guy, come on man, tell us, is the script finished yet?”
“Well, I didn’t really have time to get to the edits, did I?” Guy said. “I came straight here from prison.”
“No, and we didn’t get your new pages either,” Cohen said. “But am I to take that to mean the script is not finished?”
Guy wanted to slap the smug grin of his face. He hated that patronizing tone so much. “Yes, Cohen,” he said in the sweetest voice he could muster. “When I say I have more edits to do, that means the script’s not done yet.”
“Well, that’s a problem,” Cohen said, ignoring Guy’s tone. “Because I’m gonna need you to drop that script and work on a higher priority piece right away.”
“I—what?” Guy said. The rest of the crew complained with him. What could be higher priority than the project which all of them had been devoting their every free hour to for months now? “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“No,” Cohen said, grinning wider. “I’m more serious than I’ve ever been.”
“What the fuck, Cohen?” Emir demanded. “What could be more important than this script?”
“This script,” Cohen said, holding up a packet of papers. “There are only a few here so ya’ll’ll have to share for now.” He handed one to Guy then a couple to a few of the others. Jen read Guy’s over his shoulder as he flipped through it so he went a little slower than he normally would have.
“This is crap,” Guy said when he had flipped to the end and passed it to Jen so she could get a closer look.
“That’s where you come in,” Cohen said. “You have to make it workable.”
“But why?” Emir huffed, throwing his copy on the table. Emily smacked him, picked it up, and went on reading.
“Because this is how we get the equipment we need to make our project look like it’s done by professionals and not children,” Cohen said. “That’s why. Laura, you think you could make our shots cleaner with a better camera and some new lenses?”
“I—uh—of course,” she said. “But—”
“What about mics, lights, dollies, and tracks?”
“Steve, if you could have anything in the world, cost not a factor, could you solve that owner fatness issue? Could you make them look really, really, like, disgustingly alien fat?”
“Oh, of course,” Steve said, waving a hand at Cohen. “No problem. But cost is a factor, dear.”
“Not anymore it isn’t,” Cohen said. “Not if we film this script first. Then we can each write out a wish list containing anything we want and have every little bit of it fulfilled.” He put his smug grin back on and crossed his arms, full of himself.
No one said anything. They didn’t know how to answer. Guy did, though. He didn’t believe Cohen for one minute. “Yeah, right,” he said.
“Yeah, Guy,” Cohen said. “That is right.”
“But how?” Emir asked.
“Let’s just say I found an investor. They offered unlimited printer access in exchange for one small script.”
“Who?” Emily asked.
“You wouldn’t know ‘em,” Cohen said.
“We wouldn’t know someone with a 3D printer?” Jen asked.
“I don’t like it,” Laura said.
“Look,” Cohen said, “this is going to bring our project to the next level, y’all. Now, I know how much time and effort y’all have been putting into this because I’ve been there every step of the way with you, and I know it seems ridiculous to veer off course just now, when we seem so close to our hard sought destination, but a slight detour now will save us more time and effort in the end. It’ll save us money and, most importantly, respect. I know it seems like a gamble to you, but that’s because y’all haven’t met the investor. If you had, you would be as confident as I am in this thing, and you, Guy, would be hard at work fixing that script right now so we can bring her something we can all work with.”
“Why don’t we just meet her then?” Guy asked. “If that would change all of our minds, I mean.”
The rest of the crew seemed to agree.
“That’s the rub,” Cohen said. “For in that meeting what things may come? Our inertia might change her mind, then where would we be? Back where we started from—with extra time wasted. No, that’s the worst course of all. For now, you have to trust me as your director. You have to trust my judgement. And I swear before Fortuna that you will not be disappointed.”
Emir shrugged. “I’m in,” he said. “Whatever.”
“Me, too,” Emily said, throwing her copy on the table. “I can see something to work with in there. I just want to act.”
“I don’t know,” Laura said. “I need more time to read it before I decide.”
“Yeah, me, too,” Jen said, still flipping through her copy.
“That’s alright,” Cohen said. “Guy still needs to come up with his revisions before we know what we’re really working with, anyway. What about you, Steve?”
Steve shrugged. “You give me a costume to design, and I’ll make it.”
“Well, then,” Cohen said with a smile. “Guy. What about you?”
Guy didn’t want to do this. He was a writer, not an editor. The prospect of working on someone else’s project was already unappealing enough, and the tripe that he had skimmed through only made it worse. But he couldn’t let his crew down, either. Without them he’d be a sad, lonely extra, sitting by himself in his room, with only the imaginary friends in his head to keep him company. He shook his head. “I don’t know if I can make this workable,” he said.
“I believe in you,” Cohen said.
Guy scoffed. “It’s not me I’m worried about.”
“Still,” Cohen said. “I think you can do it.”
“I don’t know,” Guy said, standing up. “And I’m not deciding until I read it in full. I’ll let you know when I do.” He stomped out of the bar, noticing that he hadn’t brought a script with him when he was only halfway outside, but not stopping until he was in the fresh air anyway.
He took a deep breath. That was not a productive way to end the conversation, but Cohen didn’t care what the words actually said, what the film actually meant in the end. All he cared about was getting another director credit that he could slap on his resume. Most of the rest of them didn’t care, either. They were all the same, they just wanted to work. They didn’t realize it was different when you were a writer. Putting your name on something meant it represented your views, and Guy didn’t think that this script was speaking for him. He didn’t want to go back in for a copy because of that, so he decided he would just have to call Jen to get it later. He was about to head to the elevator when she came out waving one for him anyway. “Guy, wait,” she said.
Guy chuckled. “I wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.
“Yeah, well, you better not be,” she said, hitting him with the script. “We need you.”
Guy blushed. It was nice to know that at least one member of the crew thought that was true. “Not really,” he said. “You already have a script.”
“Yeah, but you said it sucks.”
“It does,” Guy said. “But what do you think?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I don’t read that fast. And I’m not a writer anyway. What does my opinion matter?”
“But you’re going to be working on the project,” Guy said. “You’re putting your time and effort into it. Don’t you think it would be a waste of your time if it wasn’t good?”
“Not if I’m getting paid well enough.” Jen smiled.
“But we’re not getting paid at all.”
“We are, though, silly.” She slapped his arm. “Cohen said we’d get to fill out a wish list. I’m asking for a new battle station.”
“But do you think that’s worth it? I mean, here. Look at this.” He grabbed the script out of her hand and flipped to a particularly horrible quote he remembered from his skim through. “Here it is: Assembly Worker—and that’s her name, mind you—Assembly Worker slip, snap, clicks at a line. Enter Android Thief—again a name. This is my job. How will my human children eat?—she literally says human children for Fortuna’s sake—then Android thief pushes Assembly Worker out of the way and slip, snap, clicks in her place, saying. I am a robot. I don’t care. And that’s all the robot ever says throughout the entire script, okay. I am a robot. I don’t care. I mean, that’s how ridiculous this shit is.” He looked at her, pointing at the spot in the script, and when she didn’t respond, he said, “That’s shit. I mean, the names alone are a red flag. The dialogue is stereotypical and stilted. The imagery is less than subtle.” He chuckled to himself. “This is pure garbage.”
“I don’t know,” Jen said. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“It wasn’t that bad?” Guy scoffed. “Do you even know what this thing is saying? That was the most obvious scene I could pick out.”
Jen looked offended now. Like she didn’t want to be there talking to Guy anymore. “What does it matter anyway?” she asked. “A job’s a job.”
“But this isn’t just a job, Jen. Who do you think’s going to watch this crap? What’s the point in working on something so ridiculous? I mean, robots stealing jobs? That was maybe topical like a hundred and fifty years ago, if then. It’s Luddite nonsense, and I don’t understand how anyone who has access to a printer could still be promoting such utter horse shit.”
“Guy, settle down.” Jen sighed. “You’re too worked up about this. It’s not that big of a deal, okay. It’s just a job.”
“No,” Jen stopped him. “I know you have your ideals, and you like to stick to them, but now’s not the time, okay. Wait—I know. Just listen. You wrote the script we really care about. Those are you’re words, Guy. Most of the rest of the crew trusts Cohen to—I know, but listen—most of them trust him to be a good judge of character, and I do, too, Guy. Even if their message is ignorant, I trust that this investor’s payment will be true. And if it is, we’ll be so much more capable when we get to finally do your script that it’ll be seen by more people because of it. Don’t you want your script to be seen by as wide an audience as possible, Guy?”
“Well, yeah, but—” Guy started.
“But nothing,” Jen said. “Do you trust me, Guy?”
He blushed again. “I—of course—but—”
“Then do it for me,” she said. “And the rest of the crew. Fuck Cohen. I know you can polish this turd up enough to make it easier on the rest of us, then we can get to the real work of putting your script into production, the job we all really want to do. What do you say?”
“Uh, yeah, well, I guess, but—”
“Well, it’s settled then.” She turned him toward the elevator and patted him on the butt. “Get to it,” she said. “We can’t wait to hear your edits.”
# # #
That’s it for this Saturday, dear readers. Again, thank for joining us, and don’t forget to pick up the full novel and sign up for the email update list in order to support my future writing projects, many of which are already well under way. Have a great weekend.