Any resemblance between the content of this story or any of the characters depicted herein and real persons or events is highly unlikely and purely coincidental
This is a sequel to 'Catch a Rising Star' and should be read after that story.
Lt. Jared Baker, Confederacy Navy, walked through the doors of the US government's General Services Administration building in LA, California. He was in civilian clothes and carried a large attaché case. Few people other than close family would have recognized him. He was nearly thirty-five now, but he looked about twenty. The biggest changes however, were the removal of several small scars on his face and the repair of his formerly blind left eye. Before his pickup, he had worn tinted lenses at all times to conceal the filmy look it had. Sophia would have never hired him if he had appeared disfigured. The small scars and the associated reconstructive surgery had somewhat reshaped the way his face looked, so without them he was not going to be easily recognized. The rental car was waiting in the Zipcar spot as planned. He used his card, got in and drove away. It was very early on a Saturday morning, and he hoped to be in place in just over an hour.
The door was answered by a man that Jared recognized from the dossier that he himself had prepared on him. That was two years ago, but Jared's memory of the face was still sharp. Also, he had been expecting to see him sometime today, anyway. "Mr. Winter. It is early and I don't have an appointment, but I believe that she will see me." He handed the man a business card. There was only one word on the card. It was his name: 'Jared'.
Mark Winter looked at the card and gave a little start. He peered into Jared's face. "I have a security question to ask in this circumstance. What happened with the security personnel when you were last here?"
"Two stayed professional, two got grabby, and two just kind of faded into the crowd of naked women."
Mark nodded. "If you will wait in the front room, I'll see if she is up."
"Where the hell have you been? You said one year!"
"Hello, Sophia. It is so nice to see you again. I am so glad that the anger management classes are working for you."
The beautiful actress snorted as she tried to stay mad, while acknowledging the sly hit. "Never could win an exchange with you." She stepped up to him and gave him a rib-straining hug. "Missed you! I missed all of you! But I missed you the most. I can't fight with Mark. He loses and takes it personally. It gets his feelings hurt. Which reinforces my anger management training, actually." She thought for a moment. "He didn't do that at first. It started after I got into the class. That bastard! I'll get him for that." She grinned and then seemed to focus back on Jared. "Is it time?"
"Maybe. It's your choice. I have a transporter right here," he said, tapping the attaché case sitting beside his foot. "However I, or more accurately we, have an offer for you. A two-for-one sale, with bonus offers." Jared pulled out a card reader. "Give me your card, please."
Instead of searching for her purse, as she would have two years ago, she opened a small card case that she had in a pouch on her belt. He slipped the card into the reader.
"You beefed your score up from a 6.3 to a 6.7 in one year. Well done. You were making a movie at the time and it seemed that you were on a roll, so we let you finish it. Then the Hollywood establishment started going anti-Confederacy and we were glad that you were publicly opposing that. Not really loudly, but it was noticeable. You got some press." He showed her a cluster of scores on the reader. "I see the spatial relationships and mechanical training paid off. And your math skills went even higher than we had predicted. The Navy wants you."
"Who is this 'WE' you keep talking about?
"Myself, the AI in charge of monitoring trends on Earth, and my Admiral."
"I'm his aide. Same job as for you, but he's not as good-looking. He's in N-4, Logistics, Personnel, CAP Evaluation. When I was picked up, I passed your info up to him and he read my brief. Then he drafted me. I was supposed to be a Marine. I was previously an Army Sergeant after all. One more month in this job and I get to go out with the ships. Still Navy though."
He tapped the card reader again. "Anyway, We were planning how to collect you in the best way and then we found you were scheduled to be on that cable TV show, 'The Squad: War and Lust'. It's very popular with the Marines. They treat the series stars and the combat scenes as comedy, but they do love the actresses. So we left you here to do that show and then the next movie seemed like a good fit for you. The Marines rate that episode of yours very highly by the way. You had a CAP test anniversary coming up by then, so we just waited. You got a 6.9. Not bad at all! I see here that the martial arts training has helped. And, of course, we all know about the scuffle you had with those Earth First sympathizers. That guy you put in the hospital is going to end up not getting any prison time if you leave the planet, but at least he got his ribs broken. And a stilletto hole in the top of his foot. And his groin smushed. Publicly. On camera. They must have played that a million times on the news. It's been bad publicity for the more rabid Earth First factions and thus good for the Confederacy. So! And then the public voted yes on Proposition 43, the California State Confederacy Free Zone.
"So, here is the deal. We'll count your 6.9 as a 7.0, letting you get four picks instead of two. We pick you and your people up the night before the Proposition goes into law, in public, preferably on live-camera. But wait! There's more!" Jared grinned at Sophia when she frowned at the line from late night infomercials. "Any celebrities you can get to go along with you publicly as part of your Harem are yours to keep as extras. Free and clear. If they want their families, we can work something out. We have a list of people in the industry that can qualify on their own as well. We'll give them a similar deal. If you get the chance to say something publicly, we would love that as well. We want to thumb our nose at Hollywood and California. What do you think?"
The press conference was scheduled for the Patio of The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel at 3 PM Pacific Time. It would be live for most east coast news channels and several local television channels, and tape delayed for the center of the country and the local evening news shows. Rumors abounded, from Sophia announcing her retirement, to allegations of scandal, to a new movie signing. Security was unusually tight, but everyone tolerated and understood that. Sophia had been attacked at this very venue last year. Several news programs showed that event as a teaser for the upcoming live broadcast. Others concentrated upon whom else was rumored to be attending. When the event finally started, they saw a rather large group of well-known people walking out to flank the podium. Various family members were in the background including lots of spouses and children. Appearing in the front ranks were dozens of celebrities of various levels:
Kelly, a young, teenaged supporting actress, who had played Sophia's niece in her last movie role. As always, Kelly was accompanied, in the background, by her mother. She had a restraining order out on her father, who had tried to sell nude pictures of her; A dozen actors, both male and female who had not aged as well as they might have wished. They ranged in age from their forties to well into their sixties; Another dozen lesser actresses that had appeared on the hit cable show, 'The Squad' and were now somewhat blacklisted in Hollywood. Two married singers, one male and one female, whose voices had given out from the smoke, booze and other excesses; One aging boy band, minus the drummer; Two girl bands, one was aging a bit, one was just not getting any more gigs; Nearly two-dozen other male and female actors, singers and celebrities of varying levels of fame, who had a known disdain for the Anti Confederacy movement and who also had families that they famously doted on; Several producers, directors and writers whose faces were well known to the media; And finally, three of the most outspoken critics of the recent Proposition 43; One was a retired soldier, one a physicist and one a politician. The celebrities had families of varying sizes from none to a dozen resulting in nearly three hundred people facing the reporters
Sophia walked out last and moved to the podium. "My friends and colleagues here have agreed to allow me to give this speech on their behalf. It will be brief and I will not be taking any questions. This is addressed to everyone who is willing to listen to it, but it is especially meant for all the people who supported the California Confederacy Free Zone Proposition.
"Fine. We get it. You don't want our views heard anymore. You think we should all dig foxholes and wait to fight the Swarm without outside support. What, you say? No outside support? But they are giving us weapons and ships? Get real! Do you really think they will KEEP supporting us if it gets them nothing? Thirty naval personnel in a ship fifty light years from here can result in one hundred thousand less of the Swarm arriving on this planet. Our people going off to fight is the way we are paying for the Confederacy's help. It is also letting our troops find out how to fight these creatures. And furthermore, it is giving us the time to prepare the world for its defense. However, you have decided. In two short years you have managed to stop pickups in America. Fine. The State of California is now under Confederacy Interdict. This decision is not from the Confederacy's Aliens. It's from the Confederacy's Humans.
"My contacts in the Confederacy have told me they are not taking your replicators back from the restaurants and the grocery stores. The few medical stations that are here will stay here. Anything else that is already here will stay here, as well, and so will all of the people of this state. As of tomorrow, every CAP testing station in the state will close down, except for those in Federal buildings or foreign consulates. If you want to test, you will need to leave the state. If you want to be picked up, you will need to leave the state. My friends and I are leaving the state and among other things, we do not intend to ever again make a movie, song, play or anything else written, financed, cast, produced or shown in the State of California.
"Nothing produced by the Confederacy will any longer be shipped into this state. No more replicators. And the ones you have will no longer take new recipes or templates. If you had a contract, sorry, it's been nullified by the votors of the state. No new medical procedures or equipment. No new Confederacy supplied weapons, armor or other gear will be provided to military units in this state. Specifically, this means the National Guard units stationed here. No e-mails or other communications will be allowed to or from your relatives serving in the Confederacy Forces.
"This event right now is the last pick-up from this state. Anyone here who wants out can follow us as we leave. We'll find a place for you if you aren't a volunteer. If you are, we'll find you some people for your harem."
Sophia looked back at the people behind and beside her. When she nodded her head, most of them started stripping. They sorted themselves into rather large clusters of one sponsor and several concubines. The audience did not know that the actual selections had already happened quietly and discreetly. Many of the celebrities had been quietly collected while officially at a 'spa', placed in med tubes and given the mother-of-all skin tucks. The sponsors all had their implants as well. The youngest children in the background were either thirteen-year-olds who had been warned to leave shorts or panties on or they were babes in arms. The other young children were already in orbit. And, of course, everyone had been carefully dressed in either their sexiest clothes and underwear or their easiest to strip out of, preferably both.