Episode 28: The Propaganda Racket #1 (of three)
Kodek awoke before anything had happened. He awoke with a dizzy haze, a sore back, and a nearly overwhelming sensation of deja-vu which he knew, for at least ninety-six seconds upon first waking, that it was the memory of some future incident. So, if it was a memory, did that mean it had or hadn’t happened yet…?
The philosophy of the time-space continuum dissipated and was being replaced by the increasing clear auditory focus of someone yelling at him.
His eyes fluttered open, as if coming out of a half-drunk hangover. His head was splitting in two. He was sitting in a chair. Like a director’s chair. On set. What set, though…? The yelling persisted.
And then suddenly, Kodek’s arm reached out and grabbed something by the throat in mid-yell and half his name was cut short by the choke – “KO-DE–” and a tiny whimpered gasp.
When he looked over he saw Chief’s through in his grip and that they were both definitely on some kind of film set. He looked around.
Chief managed to choke out:”Kodek?” It was sort of a question, but not really, but it did the job because as Kodek slowly realized what was going on around him he loosened his grip on Chief’s throat.
The Chief was just a nickname, of course, his real name was Robert Riley Petersen of the Metro Newspaper, or the Met-Rag as Kodek lovingly referred to it. Kodek had been employed by the newspaper, and under the impression that he’d managed to land the extracurricular job all under his own steam, until he found out that Met-Rag was actually co-owned by the Morimoto Corporation, the very company he was moonlighting away from. And all along he’d been suspicious of getting caught working as an ad-hoc journalist, and now, recently, he’d begun to suspect he was actually a plant. Or a pawn. But what the hell would’ve given him the notion of chasing down a moonlighting job as a newspaper journalist in the first place? He frowned at himself, figuring that he should’ve been suspicious at his nearly immediate hiring in the first place, his main credentials were tracking and breaking & entering. He’d decided to leave high-profile assassination off of the list, for the time being. Maybe he should’ve remained in university…
“B.B. Wants a word,” Petersen told him. B.B. Had become the new moniker for the Bear of Berlin, which Kodek found endlessly amusing as whenever anyone called him that, Kodek could only imagine the six-year-old girl named B.B. from the neo-exploitation flick Kill Bill. He thought on that movie for a moment, and then his head began to ache all over again (just when he thought the hangover-drill was subsiding).
“What year is it?” Kodek whispered.
“What was that?” Petersen asked, and looked nervously aside when he realized someone was approaching. B.B. perhaps?
Kodek glance up in the direction Petersen was worrying at. It was Derrikson approaching, Morimoto Corp’s number one lawyer (soldier) and Kodek thought he knew why Petersen would be worried.
Derrikson looked absolutely pissed.
Derrikson barked: “Jesus Christ, what the fuck is all this goddamned shit over? I thought we’d put you in charge to handle all this shit! Why the fuck am I getting phone calls at two in the morning?!”
Kodek opened his mouth to answer, but a second before he could for any coherent excuse (which would’ve been utterly magical as he had no idea what in god’s name he was even doing on a movie set), he realized that Derrikson was addressing Petersen. Thank Christ for small favors. He checked his watch instead to verify Derrikson’s claims for himself. 2:31 in the A.M. Yeah, that was pretty fucking early.
“Well what do you want me to do?” Petersen questioned back, somewhat loudly, at least trying to stand part of his ground.
“Get another fucking actress! Call the fucking agency, not me! So the actress didn’t show up on set! Who gives a flying fuck? Fire her! Get someone else!”
Kodek looked around. Small crew, consisting of Petersen, obviously, who may or may not be the director… A camera man, one grip, a sound recordist, all of whom Kodek could not recall the names of, and he doubted he’d be able to even if at gunpoint; and then there was B.B. who looked more like a mean fucking bodyguard than a member of the technical crew. As the set came more into focus, Kodek realized that they must have been shooting a commercial of some sort. But then, what was Kodek’s role?
As Derrikson continued to berate Peterson, Kodek shifted in his chair, twisted around, and saw his name stenciled in the back over the words “Executive Producer”. Great, he thought. This likely meant he was next in line for a verbal thrashing, one he was not entirely in the mood for.
“But, Mr. Derrikson,” Petersen sounded like he was trying to explain, “Morimoto hired her himself! That’s why I didn’t call anyone else. Hell, there was no agency involved!”
Amazingly, this actually seemed to stop the train of Derrikson’s tirade in its tracks.
“So who the fuck was this wonder-woman, then?” Derrikson snarks.
“Francesca,” Petersen replies. This causes Derrikson’s brow to furrow. “Who?” He asked, but by this time his voice had retreated considerable. Kodek considered that Derrikson likely knew, if Morimoto had hired “Francesca” himself, that he’d be in as much deep shit as anyone else on this set if she wound up missing. Of course, as Executive Producer, this now concerned Kodek as well, which annoyed him to no end as he still wasn’t even sure where he was or what he was doing here.
“Do you mean Anna?” Derrikson asked.
“Sure yes,” Petersen had started pacing now, and he went to light a cigar which only served to remind Kodek of J. Jonah Jameson from the Marvel comics. Which seemed a little funny to Kodek now, because he couldn’t figure why, at one time, Bear had reminded Kodek of Petersen– “Anna, Francesca, whatever,” Petersen continued. “That yellow bitch has her codename changed every two weeks.
The mention of the name Anna brought a vision of San Francisco and Escape from New York Pizza to Kodek’s mind, and suddenly he tasted something like black oil on his tongue, and that gave him an inexplicable chill down his spine.
No, not Anna…
Lizzie Borden took and axe and gave her father forty whacks.
“Hey, Derrikson,” Kodek ventured, drawing a look of fiery annoyance from Derrikson and a hoisted eyebrow from Petersen. In his peripheral vision, Kodek though he even saw B.B. glancing over. The room had suddenly gone silent, as if the air had all been sucked out just as he’d called Derrikson’s name.
“Um, what sort of commercial are we filming, exactly…?”
Expecting to be berated himself, he was still only partially relieved when his question drew mere eye-rolling from Derrikson.
I’ve seriously got to focus and start finding out what the hell is going on here, Kodek knew the importance of this without a doubt.
Anna… Isn’t that… A vision of a pregnant woman popped into Kodek’s mind. Anna, pregnant, the journalism job at Met-Rag, the yellow waitress isn’t Anna, it’s a mixup with the name-tags, Francesca, then? San Fran, Berlin, Oktoberfest, slimy creatures in the dark–
Lizzie. She was wearing Anna’s nametag on that waitress uniform.
Kodek would’ve liked to think that his recent life was flashing before his eyes, but he had some gut-sinking feeling that his recent life was being manipulated in some parallel universe. Like he was living life simultaneously on an identical earth on the opposite side of the sun.
Instead of answering his question, Derrikson had walked off to the far corner of the set, and was pouring himself some type of drink. Petersen was staring (gawking) at Kodek now.
“Seriously what?” Kodek genuinely wondered.
“This is a propaganda film for the Corporation. You know, the whole reason Met-Rag exists in the first place?”
“Met-Rag is a propaganda rag?”
“Corporate, not political,” Petersen clarified, as if to justify.
“Um, that’s the same thing in this country,” Kodek clarified further.
“Don’t muddy the waters now, Kodek, we have a potential shit-storm on our hands now.”
“So, we have a missing actress. Who gives a shit? What can we do? Replace her, that’s it.”
“That’s not it. Morimoto hired her. Himself. That means it’s her or nothing.”
“Why would he do that? In fact, why does Morimoto keep sending her out on these fucking assignments, it seems like every time he does it all just goes tits-up and-”
“I don’t know, Kodek,” Petersen irritable interrupted. “Maybe he likes her. Maybe he’s fucking her. Maybe she just works for him, same as us, and that’s who he happened to send out. Doesn’t change the fact that he hired her personally for this gig, and now she’s fucking disappeared. And that’s all our problem now.” Petersen made a round circular motion with his finger, indicating it was indeed all of their problem.
“Yeah, well,” Kodek tried to blow it off but found he couldn’t articulate it.
“I have a feeling Derrikson is going to get you to track her down and bring her back.”
When Kodek glanced over to the other side of the set again, both Derrikson and B.B. Were approaching him.
“Well, you are the Executive Producer, right?”
That slick, oily taste found its way into Kodek’s mouth again. He knew he wasn’t going to like this. Not one bit…