Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Twenty Five

Previous chapter: Francesca's Cry For Help.

Chapter Twenty Five: Stirred Memories.

The morning after Francesca went to attend the writers' convention, Isabel was drawing something on the balcony easel. It was of a supernova vomiting fire into a lake of sulfur.

"I didn't want to worry Francesca," Isabel said to herself. "But I had nightmares too, just not as much as she did. An underworld, a city suspended over a lake of fire and brimstone. Villains spewing out of the underworld like lava..."

She put some finishing touches on the painting of the supernova. "I think this reflects my nightmares pretty well," Isabel thought as she stepped back. "Maybe a brunch will help me feel better."


Isabel helped herself to some steak that Attie had cooked the evening before, and went over to where the younger Lion was running. Attie puffed out her small chest as she ran. "Someone's feeling proud today," said Isabel. "So much on display, huh?"

"Yep," replied Attie. "Why shouldn't I be proud of my figure?"

At that moment, Hera walked out of the downstairs bathroom and passed by the Twins. She stared at Attie and gestured wildly behind Isabel's back.
"Put some clothes on!" yelled Hera.
"Put some clothes on!" yelled Hera. "You think you can run around in a bra and shorts? Do you feel lucky, tart? Do you?"

"If you're going to quote Dirty Harry, you should at least do it properly," said Attie. "Besides, I'm not going to put on more clothes till I finish this run."
Hera threw a little tantrum.
"I suppose you think you're hot stuff, Attie," Hera said crossly. "I think you look lame showing off your skin like that."

Attie turned up her nose at Hera. The blue-eyed woman went over to the fridge and took out some slices of French toast in a huff. She sat down beside Francesca, who had a bowl of curry noodles in front of her.

"How's things?" Hera asked. "I heard you went to a writers' convention yesterday. Was it fun?"

"It was fun, I learned a number of things about the market for game stories. You know, keep it simple, don't load it up unnecessarily, the average gamer tends to go for the game rather than the story," Francesca rambled on. Hera nodded to be polite. "Also, one should tie up loose ends before stopping a project."

"Why?" Hera asked curiously.

"Tethercat Principle. It's the assumption that the last thing you see at the end of the show will continue offscreen."

"I see. You've learned a lot there."
"Oh no!" said Hera.
"Speaking of the Tethercat Principle, I saw on the net a few days ago that SuperHeroQuest is being abandoned in favor of CelebQuest," Francesca complained in her brassy little voice. "The last thing shown in SuperHeroQuest was the city's Heart being stolen and an alien preparing to mess up time! Now we'll never know if the heroes will make a comeback or fight off Messer Time unless someone coughs up a big wad of cash."
"Oh no!" said Hera, as she covered her mouth in disappointment. "What a pity! CelebQuest is just shoehorned celeb appearance after appearance nowadays."

Isabel listened to the conversation as she washed the oily steak plate.

"Yeah, Voltaire's role was only in name last Halloween," said Francesca. "As much as I like Goth celebs, it's not a label or cure-all kit you can slap on and say look at me, we pander to you Goths! Pony up for the next Fashion Week! There was a time when CelebQuest wasn't just a virtual Broadway stage and fashion show."

"You make my dreams of getting fame from musicals sound lame, Fran. Besides, isn't your mother in the fashion business?"

"Sorry, but that's what the latest stars are known for, just plain lame fame and not much else. Kim K, you know? My mom's an image consultant, different story altogether."

Isabel growled when she heard Francesca's remark about the reality star. Hera said, "She's not calling you names, Isabel."

"For the last time, my face is not from plastic surgery and it doesn't look like Kim K," Isabel muttered under her breath. She put away the steak plate and strutted off huffily.

Attie remarked, "And she says I'm acting too much like a celeb with my skin showing."


Later that afternoon, Isabel and Francesca were exercising in the upstairs hall. Francesca sat down and pushed at the weights, grumbling to herself. Isabel jogged sedately on the treadmill beside her cousin, and turned on some light pop music to listen to.
"Stupid celeb-obsessed bastards!"
"Lack of players? Just an excuse to drop SuperHeroQuest like a hot potato and focus on their fantasy-turned-pantomime, stupid celeb-obsessed bastards!" Francesca grumbled loudly as she pushed the weights. Isabel took longer strides as she ran, making no reply to Francesca's remarks.
"It's NOT FAIR!"
"It's NOT FAIR!" Francesca yelled suddenly. "They only want this celeb and that celeb to shoehorn into a high fantasy! Even the Kardashians are invited and you know what most of my peers think of them! In the meantime, they ignore everything about their superhero story, pretend that it never existed, etcetra!"

Isabel continued jogging as Francesca resumed her remarks, "In their eyes, the only game worth hosting is one that's turned into a celebrity pantomime! A heavy metal laden excuse to be a parade of stars! Players who wanted a heroic tale are saddled with Disney ripoffs and Voltaire endorsing things in name only! And and and-"

"Francesca Takahashi! Listen to me!" Isabel said sharply before her cousin could continue spouting her opinions. Francesca blinked and stared at the Lion.
Isabel gave Francesca some advice.
"See here, Fran, you don't work for the company, so you can't really tell whether the lack of players is just a stupid excuse as you put it," said Isabel. "It could be true, but you're right that badly done celebrity endorsements eventually backfire."

"Is a lack of players even a valid excuse? The admins stopped updating SuperHeroQuest suddenly long before players left," Francesca said, trying to hold back her temper. "I hung around for a few months along with some other fans, but even they gave up after the admins clearly ignored all our feedback. Now the admins won't update the game at all unless people want to pay for an unfinished work!"

"Fran, you can't expect everything to run smoothly," Isabel explained. "I know you like the game, you've made sketches of your character. Couldn't you reuse the design elsewhere?"

"Oh, I could, but the problem is that the admins are the kind of people who can't be bothered to finish works, and now they've proved that they'll drop projects without notice."

"Big companies are like that."

"In that case, I don't want to work for a big company!" Francesca said and pouted.

"Your Peter Pan mentality's acting up again."

"I'd rather act like Peter Pan than be so stuck up in adulthood that I forget the merit of a so-called unprofitable story!"

"Don't get so childish that you forget what's a necessary evil around here."

"I know what's necessary."
"Oh, I've got a good handle on what's necessary," Francesca remarked. "Pretending that I never made a story after posting it is not one of them." Isabel decided to show Francesca the supernova painting some other time.

Next chapter: I'm Georgina Amelia!

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