(Yes, in the next Luna City Chronicle, there are some matters which will be addressed … such as  — what is going on with the Mills Farm movie project, and why will it be a disaster? Yes – a stealth volunteer company of Lunaites propose to find out…)

 Show Business in Luna City

“I might have to take you up on your kind invitation of hospitality very soon,” Richard said morosely to Chris, late one afternoon at the VFW. It was visitors’ evening, and the place was still relatively uncrowded. Midsummer was at hand, and the Age of Aquarius Campground had filled almost to overflowing with the reunited members of the old commune. “Between the constant drum-circle, and visitors constantly tapping at my door asking for this or that, and that obnoxious Canadian treasure-hunter yammering on and on about his latest test-pit and trying to recruit me into pulling a commando raid dig on Mills Farm, I hardly get a wink of sleep.”

“You’re more than welcome,” Chris replied, shrugging. “Me, I had trouble getting used to the country, because it was so damn quiet. For the longest time, I missed the sounds of sirens, gunshots and fenders crunching.”

“It’s dark, usually,” Richard continued. “I got kind of used to that – seeing the stars, all clear of a night … Venus in the morning, clear and bright by the moon. The only moon I’ve seen lately is sagging old hippy bum.”

“My sympathies,” Chris murmured, nodding towards Sylvester Gonzalez, and Benny Cordova, who had just come in out of the harsh afternoon sunshine. “Hey, Benny, man! How’s show-biz?”

“Crazy,” Benny answered. He joined them at the bar, shaking his head somberly. “Just a beer, Chris. They’re setting up for the exterior shooting, supposed to start with it next week, if they keep to schedule. The director himself flew in just this morning … on a private helicopter, no less. I can’t remember the last time I took such a deep dislike of someone, just by shaking hands. Made me want to sponge myself off all over, with about a quart of hand sanitizer. I can’t wait until this movie stuff is all over and done with.”

“Same here,” Richard agreed with a lugubrious sigh. “This whole movie project has a definite pong to it. No, it stinks to high heaven, and I’d be saying so even if Pip Noel-Barrett wasn’t involved.”

“Funny you should say that,” Benny regarded his drink with a thoughtful expression. “That’s the exact same thing as I’ve been thinking myself.” Almost inconsequentially, he added, “Anyone like to take a look at the shooting script?  Looking at that script might explain a hell of a lot.”

“Why? Did you get a look? Could you get ahold of one?” Richard’s interest was piqued – not the least over why Benny had suddenly soured on Pip Noel-Barrett’s movie project.

“No can do, partner,” Benny drawled. “Tightly controlled items … numbered, signed for individually and secured under lock and key. I’m not on the need-to-know distribution list.  But Miz Wyatt has a copy. Board of directors; VPI has its privileges, after all.” Benny directed a significant look at the wall, over Chris’ head. “I had a look at a few pages. Not hard to cultivate the ability to read upside-down. You ought to figure out a way to get a better look at Miz Wyatt’s copy – the whole thing. And then … do what you think best.”

“Man, I thought you were all about corporate loyalty,” Chris spoke, after a long silence, and Richard said, “What is it that got up your nose, Benny? What did you see in that script?”

“I can’t really be specific, Ricardo,” Benny replied, with carefully-selected words. “You’ll just know why, once you’ve had a look.” He considered for another moment, before addressing Chris’ question. “Corporate loyalty – it’s a give and take, Chris. Me, I’ve been the GM for Mills Farm for … eight, nine years, now. Best job I’ve ever had. Guess you can say that I love the place. My folks out there – they’re like family. If something happened … a huge, flaming corporate disaster with the result that VPI decides to close Mills Farm, you know how many people would be out of a job? I do. I sign their paychecks, every two weeks. You think many of them are going to be employed again soon, if they loose their jobs? In this economy – you gotta be kidding me.”

“You’re saying this movie will be such a stinker that having anything to do with it might very well might sink Mills Farm?” Chris shook his head. “There are people in Luna City who wouldn’t mind that at all.”

“I can see that,” Benny replied, with a serious expression on his face. “But if Mills Farm goes down, Luna City will most definitely feel the pain. This movie project is a stinker – not a doubt in my low-level corporate management mind. We have a commonality of interests, guys, in preventing Mills Farm and VPI from committing a self-inflicted public-relations disaster.”

“So, exactly how big a sh*t-storm will this blasted movie create?” Richard asked as a matter of self-preservation, as he had survived several in his time and did not wish to participate, however peripherally, in another. And anything which could get Pip Noel-Barrett out of Luna City would be all to the good.

“Not measurable with current technology,” Benny was examining the wall over their heads again. “Miz Wyatt is staying in the little pink guest cottage, round the other side of the Mills Farm Dance Hall – that’s where her office is. You gotta know that security has cameras pretty much covering all the public areas, and the grounds between buildings. Figure out a way to fox security, and you’re home free. I can’t be seen to cover for you too obviously, but I’ll do what I can.”

“We’d welcome suggestions as to timing,” Chris drew out another beer for himself and after due consideration, another for Sylvester, who came drifting over from the pool table, as soon as Chris caught his eye and beckoned. Benny seemed to be conducting a detailed survey of the wall above their heads. Sylvester silently took a seat several stools away, as length along the bar went.

“This Saturday night, there’s going to be an all-hands launch party at the Dance Hall,” he said. “A kind of meet and greet, for the out-of-town crew, the cast, and all the local folks involved. Lotsa people drifting in and out. Miz Wyatt, couple of investors,  a VPI VIP or two, maybe. Lotsa alcohol and food, a live band. Best time? Maybe at the shank end of the evening. As for the rest, I’ll leave it all up to you.”

“We’ll keep you posted,” Chris lifted his own beer in a toast and salute.

Benny grinned. “No, I’d rather you not. Plausible deniability, you know. And if you flub the mission, I was never part of this conversation.”

“Got it,” Chris replied. “And this tape will self-destruct in three minutes.”

“Good luck,” Benny swallowed the last of his beer, and set the bottle on the bar with a small but definite clink of glass against tin countertop. “See you Saturday … or not, depending on good luck. Ricardo,” he fixed Richard with a particularly speculative gaze, “You know, Miz Wyatt – she has the hots for ya, in a not-wholesome way. If you choose to exploit that weakness, be a gentleman, ‘kay? She might be a real PITA, in some ways – but she’s an OK boss. Or at least, not near as rotten as some, in my experience. That’s all I’m gonna say. An’ now I’m gonna go, so that I won’t have to testify later about what I heard, should this all go south.”

“Appreciate the consideration, dear chap,” Richard sketched a brief bow. “I will be the complete gentleman; I assure you most sincerely on that account.”  Benny departed silently, grinning – although how a man in cowboy boots could ghost though a room with a creaky wooden floor was a mystery beyond anyone’s ken.

With a brief gesture, Chris summoned Sylvester even closer, to join the knot of conspiracy at that end of the bar. “OK, Comm-expert; you’ve been listening to all of this. What’s your plan for foxing the Mills Farm security system?”

“You’re gonna love it,” Sylvester replied, a mad grin spreading across his face.

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