The Between Seasons Conference of ICBW
As recorded by Sulia Serafine and Legato Bluesummers.
[Disclaimer: the latter of characters you see belong to Tamora Pierce, from the POTS series. I'm not making money, nor profit in any way but innocuous entertainment. ALSO: brief cursing.
IMPORTANT: We are addressing the issue of certain events in SQUIRE and also the future of our series.]
In a tall executive building, with glass windows that reflected the orange setting sun, actors and producers and directors gathered about, waiting to hear the news and reason of their gathering. Tours began at the lobbies, hushed crowds of picture snapping sightseers. They vied for a glance of celebrities, whose bodyguards surrounded them and escorted them upstairs.
"Excuse me! Coming through! Hey, let go of that!" Cleon shouted as he yanked his tie from a crazed fan. He'd risked entering the building without a protective escort, hoping that the hat of his fellow actor, Faleron, would hide his recognizable red hair.
He navigated his way to the elevator, yelling for help of any kind.
"Over here!" a feminine voice called from the next elevator. Two guards came forward and shielded Cleon as he ran past. Upon reaching the elevator, he leant upon the side and attempted to slow his racing heart.
Sweat beaded at his forehead. "The crowd is exceptionally restless today."
"Yes, I agree."
He looked up. A partly familiar face greeted him. "Oh, I'm sorry, miss. I know we've met, but I don't seem to recall your name." He scratched the back of his head. "I guess I've been playing too many jokes on the others to notice. But please don't be offended."
"I'm not," she assured. She brushed back her long dark hair over her shoulder and extended her hand to him. "I play Kalasin Jasson, Roald's sister? And you get a crush on me by the end of the season." She thought for a moment. "Purely physical if I recollect my memory correctly."
He nodded blankly. "Well, Kalasin, I'm so sorry to have forgotten you. Perhaps you'd be interested in my friend Fal? I mean, you are very attractive, but I'm just not… you know… towards you." He pushed the elevator button. The door closed and a slight jolt and a strange rising sensation in his feet indicated their movement.
"It's okay. Although I must say, I'm disappointed," she pouted.
"Oh! Like Lalasa was disappointed that Roald was assigned her love interest and they killed off Vinson Genlith's character?"
Kalasin laughed. "No, not that disappointed. I hear the girl won't speak to Roald off set."
"No, she won't. Roald's all right, anyhow. He's been seeing the head make-up artist."
"Well, we're here." He sighed. The doors slid open and they stepped onto the new floor. There was a long, brightly-lit hall. The carpet was peach, brand new if they examined it hard enough. But then again, they'd rarely received a chance to come up to the conference floor.
A secretary waited at the end of the hall, waiting to take their names and tell the people inside the room.
The secretary nodded. She pressed a button on her desk. "Mr. Kennan and Ms. Jasson are here, Mr. Bluesummers."
There was a beep and the director's voice floated in over the intercom. "Thank you, please send them in."
Legato reached into a manila folder, extracting a paper with a list of names on it. He checked two off with his short stub of a pencil and replaced the paper within the folder once again. The door opened. Cleon and Kalasin came in, a few smiles exchanged and 'hello's among the men and women at the conference table. Then they sat at their pre-arranged seats.
"This is really comfortable. Where did Miss Serafine get these chairs, Director-dude?" Cleon asked.
The director narrowed his eyes. "Leave out the dude, if you mind. Anyway, the chairs were from the office supply store down the street. They were practically a steal at the price. Sulia went ahead and indulged herself in furnishing the conference room with the best since we're bound to be here for a while."
"A while?" Keladry droned. "That didn't sound good at all."
"Well, there are a lot of things we need to discuss."
Neal spoke up. "Shouldn't we wait for Miss Serafine?"
Legato nodded. "Sulia should be here any second now-"
The door opened, and the author strode in, taking her seat besides the director quickly and quietly. She dabbed at the corner of her mouth with a napkin, an apologetic smile on her face. "I'm sorry everyone. I had a business brunch with some colleagues of mine. Have we begun yet, Legato?"
"We were waiting for you," he replied. "Nice timing on the entrance, by the way. How did you do it?"
She gently took the folder from in front of him and opened it up so she could read it. "I'm the author. I always have good timing."
There were murmurs of agreement among the rest. Mostly for butt-kissing purposes.
"Um, excuse me, Miss Serafine," Numair called from the far end. "We're missing Joren Stone."
A shadow passed over her face. She lowered her eyes. "Mr. Stone will not be joining us, to my knowledge. Not today, I'm afraid."
Keladry sat up taller in her seat. "What's wrong with him now? He objected to another script? That whiner…"
"If I do recall, you've rejected a few yourself," Faleron snorted.
"Oh, shut up."
Sulia shook her head. "No, it's nothing like that. It's just that he's… sulking."
Everyone started chattering all at once.
"No, he broods."
"I thought he just let it out through violence, not depression."
"I don't think it's major. I mean, I've had worse."
"Yeah, you would have."
"What's that supposed to mean, huh?"
"This is a bad omen, guys."
"…Persons of each gender."
"Quiet down," Legato said in a forceful voice as he stood up from his seat. The bantering came to an end. He sat down and looked to Sulia for her to continue. "And…?"
She scribbled some words down in the folder and closed it. One by one, she met the eyes of her cast.
"Joren, for lack of good scripts from myself, decided to get some ideas from his original creator, the esteemed Tamora Pierce." There was a brief pause for them to echo their appreciation of the author, Pierce. "He violated the contract and read the third book of the series, titled Squire."
Roald yawned. "So, is his pay docked?"
"No. He's already being punished enough as it is from what he read."
Neal leaned forward with both elbows on the table. He leveled his curious eyes at her. "And what did he read?"
Sulia sighed. "Joren's dead. He's killed off by the end of the third book."
Amazingly enough, there were no surprised reactions from them. There were no gasps or shocked expressions. Sulia and Legato exchanged confused glances.
"Have you read the book?" Legato demanded more than asked.
They all looked sheepishly at their laps, save for Faleron, who merely polished his glasses- the ones he'd not been allowed to wear during filming.
"Well?" Sulia frowned. "Doesn't anyone have something to say about it?"
The noteworthy actor, so like his character, raised his hand.
"Yes, Mr. King?"
Faleron cleared his throat. "If his original character is dead. Does that mean perhaps that the ICBW is canceled?"
At this, everyone in the room held their breaths. Sulia drummed her fingers on the table, pondering how to go about answering such an important and significant question.
"No. We will stay."
And then everyone let out the breaths they were so nervously holding. She continued.
"Thom Trebond was dead. His original character was dead. I employed him. Roger was dead. Ozorne was dead. Rikash was dead. I employed them all, did I not?"
"You never employed Liam and he died," Alanna pointed out.
"You're right. I didn't want all the deceased coming in the first season. That would be too much of a rush of characters. I had enough trouble keeping track of the variety I used in this season."
"So you might bring Liam in this next season?"
Sulia nodded. "It depends. Anyway, the point is, so Joren's original character from the magical, adventurous land of Tortall is dead. So are many of you. I mean, well, you know what I mean. Not you here in this room. A lot of the aforementioned group is not here. The point is, just because he's dead, doesn't mean he has to be that way in this series."
She stood up and began pacing around the room. They watched her calmly.
"I've taken a lot of grief for starting the K/J pairing. Before Squire, there was a large increase in its story population. But now the word is out, there are very few left. I cannot recall a permanent K/J series at the moment except our selves. I think they've mostly deserted. And I don't blame them. We were a fad, and then we weren't. It began with K/N, then to K/J, then to K/R, then to K/C… and the list goes on.
"The thing is, there are still dead or no longer 'spotlighted' characters being written about. And I think we're fine with Joren as a permanent resident to this fic. The guy needs someplace to live. If it isn't in the original POTS series, then it's with us.
"Now, there have been some new authors going around, one who went up to me and told me to fuck off, and quit the K/J writing. But I tell you… I don't tell them to fuck off just because they write and avidly prefer K/N or K/C or K/F. I'm happy with all pairings. It's the quality of writing that interests me. If the story is articulated and structured in a way that I'm impressed, then who cares if Kel is paired up with the weirdest match in the world?"
From her seat, Keladry Mindelan bristled at the thought. Neal, who sat beside her, gave her a wink. She tried not to snicker.
"As I was saying, to all people out there, not just authors, but regular reviewers and readers as well: I don't mind that you express your disliking of whatever pair or idea I have or anyone else has. But don't go around bad mouthing me without any good reason. And no, I'm not going to sink to your level. I'm not going to tell anyone how to write. From now on, contrary to a lot of people out there (you know who you are, you who have pissed me off) I'm going to be tolerant to everything. I'm going to express my opinion, but I am not going to trash any ONE person or thing. You can be assured of that."
She approached the window and gazed down at the busy, car-filled streets below. "And we're keeping Stone."
Clapping sounded from across the room. Everyone's heads turned toward the newcomer. He leaned upon the door, having come in so quietly during her speech that he didn't dare interrupt. His blond hair was limp and matted to his head. His eyes had dark circles under them. His loose shirt was only halfway buttoned, and very wrinkled. It looked like he'd been staying up all night for the last week or so. His body was of exhaustion.
Joren forced a small, appreciative smile. "Thanks for giving me a home. Thanks for letting me live."
Cleon, closest to him, raised his hand for a high-five. "Are you kidding, dude? We need assholes like you to make the rest of us real heroes look good!"
Laughter echoed around. It faded away until there was silence again. Joren's piercing eyes bore into Sulia's.
"You do realize that if you kill me off in ICBW, I truly die, don't you?"
She nods. "I know."
He coughed subtly. "I trust you to decide when it's time for me to die."
"Not die, Joren. Retire. Retire to memory. And who knows? Perhaps a fresh new author would resurrect you after even Sulia is gone," the director suggested, reaching to his employer and squeezing her hand.
Sulia sighed. "Listen to me. Everyone. The times and civilizations of man will always change. But once you have had your say in that world. Once others have heard it, be they one or one million persons, your say will live on. Characters live on in the pages of books, and maybe in the future, the electronic circuits of prosperity. No, not just characters. People, real people live on. Every single one."
Joren nodded. He tried smoothing his shirt as he stood up. Things were becoming way too sentimental for his tastes. They all watched him as he started for the door again.
"Well, make sure my gun's loaded by the time you call the beginning to season two. Will it be much longer, Serafine?"
She smiled. "No, I don't believe so. I have affairs with Gundam Wing series finales, but that will be done with, and we'll be back in business."
Legato knocked on the table to grab everyone's attention as they all started to get up and prepare to leave. "I expect you all to enjoy your characters while you can. In the meantime, I also expect everyone in this room to be present in Owen's new Broadway production, where he will be performing. Ozorne and Roger have been casted by a friend of ours in a new dramatic independent film. We are supporting them all the way… Mr. Gower and his family send their greetings from the Bahamas… the rest of the extras are all with their families and celebrating the quiet life… was there anything else, Sulia?"
"Vinson was nominated for an Academy Award for another film. It seems our show has had the privilege of knowing these wonderful people. We hope the best for all of you, current cast members or alumni. Now, let's go for some food, eh?"
Cleon clapped both Roald and Faleron on the shoulders. "Well, boys, where are we off to today? There's this new diner down the street. Looks cozy to me."
Neal jogged to catch up. "I have to go meet Garvey and his wife. They just had a kid. A girl."
"That's awesome man, after the diner, we'll go with you. Will you wait for us?" Roald asked.
Daine yawned. "I heard Kaddar, Zahir, and Hakuin may come back this next season."
"Do you really want to ask?" George said.
"Oh, please. There are so many characters from all the Tortallian books. There's an infinite number of possibilities for the appearances of any of them," Numair argued.
Wyldon snorted. "I would like to think, with all these people, the salaries may go down."
"Don't start thinking like that. You're going to hex it," Gareth grumbled.
There was laughter from behind them.
"You know, Legato, that doesn't sound like a bad idea," Sulia grinned.
"It sure doesn't. It would take a load off of my wallet and our funding."
"Nice going, Wyldon. I swear, you can be so vexing," Jonathan said. He hooked his arm with Thayet's, and the two of them strode out the door behind the others. There remained two people left in the conference room.
Keladry shook her head. "I'm never going to get rid of you, am I?"
"Not in this universe," he joked. They both paused.
"You're right. Not in this universe," she murmured.
He rolled his eyes. "Okay, would you please not remind me that I'm a walking dead man?"
"No," he corrected. "Don't be sorry. Just be you. Mindelan."
"Stone," she mimicked.
They started down the hall, when everyone else had already departed down the elevator. The secretary behind them closed up the room and left her own separate way. The two co-stars took their time ambling toward the steel doors. Joren tried to smooth the wrinkles out of his shirt, while tugging at his black pants. Keladry idly scratched the back of her head.
"Oh, and Mindelan?"
"Do you remember that one scene… with the crazed visiting author?"
She frowned. "What scene?"
"With the towel- never mind."
"No, tell me, what?"
He relented and flashed a mischievous smile. "They were Hanes."