Episode 30: The Propaganda Racket #3 (of three)
Lizzie was an absolute fucking nightmare, Petersen realized. If he’d been given a director’s bullhorn, he’d have slammed it down on the floor in utter frustration. Whatever Kodek had done to his leading lady, or whatever she had done to herself (impossible to differentiate as neither of them were talking about what had happened in the hours between Lizzie walking off the set and Kodek being sent out to fetch her), she was single-handedly ruining every take. And the Morimoto Corp had insisted they shoot on 35mm film, not the far cheaper Betacam video that was sure as shit good enough for broadcast television, so each bungled take was costing the production a small fortune. Especially as this was only a moderately-budgeted commercial, for Christ’s sake.
Petersen was at least thankful that Derrikson, Morimoto’s lawyer, had decided to leave them in peace now that the starlet was back (even though she was not up to anything closely resembling the art of acting). Oddly, Petersen found, the presence of Derrikson had been replaced by that of the lead researcher in Morimoto Corp’s R&D department, Larry the Brain. At least Larry was busy discussing something lengthy with Kodek in the far corner of the studio. Petersen couldn’t figure why Morimoto had placed Kodek on set as an executive producer, either, and it chapped his hide, just a little. Back at Met-Rag, Petersen was Kodek’s boss. Here, Kodek could have Petersen fired (eliminated) if there was any friction. The thought of which was also contributing to Petersen’s increasingly foul mood. If only he had that bullhorn…
On the other side of the camera, Lizzie had begun to swoon. Petersen clenched his teeth.
Kodek was trying to keep his side of the conversation quiet. It was pissing him off that Brain was seemingly effortlessly able to keep his words so cool and low-key, and that Kodek had to struggle for it. Fucker.
“I got her back, and now she’s holding up the entire fucking show. At this rate, the whole thing’s going to be behind schedule and over-budget.”
“The corporation is not going to put any further funding into this propaganda project,” Brain assured him. He was, after all, the executive producer.
“So, what the dick are we doing here?” Kodek asked, indicating the entire production.
“Obviously, that’s where you come in,” Brain told him with particular disdain.
“Not as the producer, I take it.”
“Correct,” Brain said flatly.
Kodek took a glance over Brain’s shoulder, seeing B.B. Now eyeballing him suspiciously. “Why didn’t you give it to B.B.?” Kodek asked.
“They gave it to you. Your job. Can’t give it away now.”
Already Kodek was aware of his hand creeping down the backside, to the pistol tucked under the waistband of his slacks.
B.B. Was approaching him now. Petersen, at least, was still completely distracted with the seemingly overnight incompetence of Lizzie, their lead actress.
Kodek’s finger fluttered over the trigger.
“So if you’ll excuse me then,” Brain said, and briskly walked past Kodek to exit the studio. B.B. Was coming directly for him. And it looked like he was reaching for a weapon of his own.
Kodek pulled the gun out. B.B. Was almost on him. B.B. Pulled his own pistol out, aiming it–
Kodek pointed his pistol at his own right thigh. B.B. Look momentarily confused, he paused in his tracks.
Kodek lifted the barrel of the gun an inch higher… two inches… he felt the metal raise up over the leftovers in the take-out bag in his front right pocket.
As if somehow understanding what was about to happen, something inside the bag squirmed. In fact, Kodek would swear he heard a squeal come from the back crumpled in his pocket just before his finger pulled the trigger, splashing oily black flesh all over the studio – is sprayed right up into B.B.’s face – and embedded like hot lava into the flesh of Kodek’s thigh, fusing with it and insane white-hot pain—
Kodek’s eyes shot open and he was instantly disoriented. The studio was gone, just fucking gone-!- and he was surrounded by night, trees and moonlight slashing through. But not just him… All of them.
Panic was most definitely ensuing.
Kodek was trying to figure out a way to shake himself out of the fogginess, but he should really have been too busy taking up all the screaming efforts now, as the black things, both the cobra-ones and the beetle-ones (and now there were so many more, spider-ones, tentacled-ones, malformed-melty-looking-blue-black-bird-ones), and they were all biting, pecking, injecting, stinging, attacking, and Kodek forgot his mouth was open and screaming and when he thought to close it it was too late – and he bit the head right off of one of the long thin ones and he felt the head-half snake down his throat, and he was choking on the thing’s black-oil blood, choking, and panicking, and still flailing even as he dropped to his knees and tried to clutch his throat-
He hit the forest floor, face-down.
And then something grabbed his ankles and dragged him backwards, fast and hard, his gut scraping against the rocks and dirt underneath.