Last to Die

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Joined: November 10th, 2008, 9:40 pm

September 25th, 2016, 6:12 pm #1

2015

PART I: ROUTE 66

She was just outside of Barstow and heading to the Arizona border when she decided this was a bad idea.

Granted, it wasn't a totally sudden decision or anything. Her self-doubt had been growing for hours. But it really took charge when she gassed up and stared around that godawful place they called a city that was the last feeble gasp of civilization before she went straight into the desert. And she realized that Kingman was the exact same thing and how she was gonna look driving a six-figure-plus Audi Spyder into that town right now being who she was.

So she pulled off to the side of the barren interstate and sat there in the blazing sun for a while, air conditioner still going full blast because she wasn't some animal. She stared out at the Mojave. Yeah. This was the land songs and horror movies alike were based on, all right. And she'd been driving from Santa Monica for like five hours now and realized she wasn't going to go any further. Yet.

Then her phone rang. She glanced down at the caller.

'BfHK'

Of course. Of fucking course it was him.

"Hey," she said.

"Hi Andrea--" he started.

"You got some kind of psychic powers or something?"

"No..."

"Cause you caught me just as I pulled off the road on my way to Arizona and thought better about it."

"Uh, okay."

"Yeah. I took Route 66 for a while because it's supposed to be cool or something."

"I have no idea what Route 66 is. I might've heard the name somewhere."

"You're not missing much. I'm in the ass end of nowhere. Gotta give Verizon credit I'm honestly surprised there's decent service where I am."

"Maybe you can work out some product placement or something."

Andrea chuckled. It was a terrible joke. But then again, wasn't this how all their few conversations started before they got to the meat? She heard him cough on the other end, like he was just waiting for this awkward pause to play out so he could drop whatever hammer he had planned. Fuck. She wasn't ready for that yet.

"So," he finally said.

"So," she said.

"How are you?"

She smiled. "Good, I guess. I've gone back to being blonde for like the first time in ten years. Feels weird. You probably wouldn't even recognize me."

"You're a blonde?"

"Amusing."

"No seriously. I had no idea. You still with that BMX guy?"

"Dev? Eh. Occasionally. You still bored to death and working for your dad over there?"

"Same as always, I guess. I'm still trying, though. When I can. And obviously you've aware of Arizona if you're--"

"Look, can we keep with the small talk for a while? I really don't know if I'm ready to talk about this yet."

"...You just said you were already going there before you--"

"Yeah, before I changed my mind and realized that maybe it wasn't exactly the right time, OK? Just... give me ten more minutes of chit-chat. I need a cigarette first or something."

"Those things'll kill you, Andrea."

She got out of her car and suddenly missed Minnesota. Days like these were about the only days she did that. Andrea pulled a lighter out of her pocket and lit up and reflected for a second on how young she still was. Christ, there was something to be said for finding your fame early, but it could leave you exhausted beyond belief and thinking you were way older than you actually were at times. Granted, she still looked good, bad habits be damned. And no, she hadn't had any work done outside of the fixing her vision for good a couple years ago.

"Don't worry. I've got like five years left. I figured it out way back when--"
v6!
G058: Kaitlyn Greene aka Katy Buried - Horse Tranquilizer and Syringe
She Knew She'd Found Freedom - Questions - Fools - Barons - Opportunities - Sideshows - Dawns - Gulches

v5!
G038: Deanna Hull - Replica Freddy Glove - DECEASED
From Sea to Sky -Smoke--Sun--Tiki--Nine--Repeat--Talk--Now--Drift--Hunger--Valley--Fall--Rust--Paper--Heart--Sky-
B023: Jesse Jennings - Riz Action Figure - DECEASED
From Vision to Glory -Vision--Summon--Time--Plan--Length--Sleep--Cause-

v4!
B006: Ricky Fortino - Trowel - DECEASED
B022: Imraan Al-Hariq - Remington 870 - DECEASED
G036: Carly Jean Dooley - VASE D: - DECEASED
G077: Andrea Raymer - Gunpowder - ?????
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Joined: November 10th, 2008, 9:40 pm

November 9th, 2016, 5:38 am #2

2012

PART II: SANTA MONICA

It was July 7 and as Andrea finished her jog along the boardwalk and lit up a cigarette, she reflected on what she'd figured out and what she'd continue to espouse about in her conversations three years later. And it was something damn important.

It was the realization that she could smoke like a chimney up till around age 30 -- which was so far into the future it wasn't even fucking conceivable right now -- and so long as she quit then, she wouldn't have to worry about lung cancer or any of the other horrible byproducts of long-term smoking because she'd give her body plenty of time to repair itself. And the short-term stuff, you might ask?

Don't make her laugh.

See, that was why the beautiful people smoked. There was no worrying about yellow fingers or yellow teeth because you could nip those side effects in the bud long before they turned problematic. There was no nicotine in your clothes because you never owned anything long enough to let the smell burrow in and if you did? Just drop it off at your local dry cleaner to the stars and go back to your morning soiree alongside the other beautiful people that packed the beach and boardwalk here all day, every day. There were designer shades on every face and bronze on every body because baby, this place was fucking Neverland.

Yeah, it was a place where they could live beside the ocean and leave the fire behind, all right. And they could almost forget that hey, SOTF. Version 5. That plane crash from Seattle. And all those snakes left behind in the back of her memories were slithering up to the surface, where they mingled with all those wonderful magic fairies and pixie dust that fame and fortune brought. It was one toxic and heavenly mix.

----

Andrea lived in a top floor almost-seaside condo stuffed with cheap, mismatched furnishings and expensive toys: an old kitchen counter with a nickel-plated Nespresso; a ratty coffee table with expensive green and a custom-made pipe. And speaking of, there was Dev, sprawled on the leather couch with one tatted-up forearm thrown over his eyes.

"When'd you get here?" she asked.

He mumbled something incoherent, so she flopped down on top of him. That woke him up, at least enough to move that arm down and fold it around her.

"I dunno, half hour ago? More? You're sweating all over me Dree, you gonna take a shower?"

"Romantic. What, you come to comfort me?"

He played his fingers in her hair. Devin Redden was six feet tall, bright eyed and shaggy haired; he looked like an overgrown teenager at 25 and would probably still look like one at 45. He'd grown up on a sprawling Colorado ranch alongside two tomboy sisters and three roughhouse brothers: his older sister Hayden had been an Olympic snowboarder; his youngest brother Tyson was a freshman prospect at Vanderbilt with a 94-mph fastball. Devin had spent his childhood careening down mountains on bikes and boards, then moved to Cali to join the BMX circuit and become the latest of the Redden brood to make a career of the extreme.

"Not, like... comfort, babe."

"You expect to come in and see me having like PSTD flashbacks or something?"

He smiled. "You know what I mean. I know you're cool."

Of course. She'd already done CNN again. No breakdowns on air. No heading home to sleep and waking up clutching the sheets like some cheesy old movie. Wasn't her style. Wasn't what people'd expect of her.

And speaking of expectations, she was feeling fine partially because she'd always expected it, hadn't she?

"I'll take that shower now."

-------

When Andrea got out of the shower, her cell was ringing.

"You can get that," she called out.

"Huh? Oh, uh ok-- ah shit. Sorry, too late."

She sighed.

"Who was it?"

"Uh..." Devin glanced down at her phone, then chuckled. "Who's Ben from Hong Kong?"

She stopped in her tracks.

Well, that was a new fucking wrinkle. 'Cause it had been what, two years?

Pretty much. She could still remember--

v6!
G058: Kaitlyn Greene aka Katy Buried - Horse Tranquilizer and Syringe
She Knew She'd Found Freedom - Questions - Fools - Barons - Opportunities - Sideshows - Dawns - Gulches

v5!
G038: Deanna Hull - Replica Freddy Glove - DECEASED
From Sea to Sky -Smoke--Sun--Tiki--Nine--Repeat--Talk--Now--Drift--Hunger--Valley--Fall--Rust--Paper--Heart--Sky-
B023: Jesse Jennings - Riz Action Figure - DECEASED
From Vision to Glory -Vision--Summon--Time--Plan--Length--Sleep--Cause-

v4!
B006: Ricky Fortino - Trowel - DECEASED
B022: Imraan Al-Hariq - Remington 870 - DECEASED
G036: Carly Jean Dooley - VASE D: - DECEASED
G077: Andrea Raymer - Gunpowder - ?????
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Joined: November 10th, 2008, 9:40 pm

September 3rd, 2017, 4:51 am #3

--remember when it was years ago when he dropped in for the first time and they had all that pleasant icebreaking chat before he brought up

2010

PART III: LITTLE NEXT DOOR

"Spike TV, huh?"

Ben Nakamura smiled over his drink at her. His smile was the best of several attractive features on his face; it was wide and pleasant without a hint of insecurity. Andrea hadn't determined whether it was natural or due to lots of practice.

It was smack in the middle of August and they were at a West Hollywood French place called the Little Next Door, drinking and waiting for lunch. Ben had ordered something called a Moscow Mule, a vodka cocktail that came in a copper cup and was apparently all the rage during Hollywood's golden era. They hadn't asked him for ID, even though Andrea suspected he was barely older than she was. She'd ordered a caramel latte with soy milk. They hadn't asked her for ID either.

Andrea poured a bit more sugar into her latte before answering. They'd been chatting for few minutes and she could already sense Ben's deliberate small talk beginning to dissipate like a raincloud between them.

"Yeah. It's a co-hosting gig for a new show. Spike likes me; I fit their demographics."

She sipped and looked back up at him. If nothing else, she was always fine chatting about herself.

Andrea had known via tracy that Ben Nakamura was going to be a young Japanese guy, but she'd expected some buttoned-down businessman in his late twenties or something. What's she'd found was a long-haired kid in Italian jeans and a silk blazer, who'd gotten up to shake hands and stood six inches taller than her. Ben was short for Benjirou, which he told her meant 'son of two speeches', an affliction his Japanese father and Chinese mother presumably thought was cute. Although the perfect English kind of ruined the name's effect, a byproduct of growing up in Hong Kong. When Andrea told him she'd stick with Ben because she'd never liked gimmicky names, he'd flashed that grin, said "None taken, Ms. Dree Raymer," and they'd at least gotten off to a good start.

So she was willing to let the small talk play out.

"We taped ten episodes in July," she continued, "the show airs this fall sometime. It's got this Navy SEAL; he was actually pretty cool, and each episodes takes a group of people and puts them in a different simulated disaster scenario. Earthquake, ship sinking, terrorists, you get the idea. Guy who 'survives' it best is the winner."

"I can see that. You've got the obvious Survival of the Fittest tie-in of course."

Andrea shrugged. "Yeah. To be honest, it's a, uh, kinda cheapo show, I'm mostly there for the studio segments. I mean, I'm glad I did it, and I signed up for more episodes if they order them, but we'll see how it goes."

Ben gave a knowing look, and as he sipped his cocktail Andrea saw his sleeve slide down to reveal a gold and silver Rolex that probably cost half as much as her car, and she wasn't driving a shitty decade-old Saturn these days. She could tell why Tracy had been so flummoxed by this guy.

"So what are you up to now?" he asked.

"Wait and see for the next couple weeks. I've got some stuff in September I'm hopeful on."

"Like Dancing with the Stars?"

She blinked. "Umm..."

Yeah, that had just toed the line between deliberate small talk and creepy stalker talk.

"Tracy tell you about that, Ben?"

He sipped again, noncommittal.

"Well..." she drew it out for a second, "Yeah, my hat's in the ring, guess it leaked out, no surprise there. They do the cast announcement in a couple weeks on Good Morning America or something, but you don't know for sure if you're on 'til a couple days before. So who knows? Apparently they're having one of those mega-seasons with a couple extra contestants this year, so Tracy thinks I have a good shot. I think I've got a pretty good shot."

"Yes, they've got a lot of angles they could run with you, I'm sure. Not just what happened on SOTF, but your ups and downs since then."

"Oh... ha, 'I've got a good shot', well yeah, the fact that I GOT shot, plus the whole troubled teen redemption-from-addiction storyline, it's all good stuff. That's, uh, probably all I can really say there."

"Mind if I ask whether you're fully recovered--?"

"Yeah enough about me for now. How 'bout I ask what your deal is, Ben from Hong Kong? You mind that?"

His smiled faded, but not completely.

Still felt good. Andrea saw the waitress coming up behind Ben and smiled herself. Felt better still.

"Wait, don't answer that yet," she said matter-of-factly. "Food's here."

==========

Ben ordered a second cocktail and a thirty dollar burger called the Hambourgeoisie, which was so ridiculous Andrea had gamely chosen a brie and fig sandwich on artisanal bread in response. Sadly, it had no clever moniker, so he'd probably beaten her in the pretentiousness department.

She took a few bites and watched Ben as he seemed to steel himself, finished his drink, ordered a third, and finally set down his burger and smiled again, controlled.

"I suppose I invited that. Don't worry, I'm not a stalker or anything. I did give your agent my information when I met her."

"Yeah, and she told me you were evasive and advised me to decline lunch. Didn't think you were worth meeting. I was bored and ignored her. Are you really with that big media or telecom company or whatever?"

"It's my family's company. Mostly. The stock situation is complicated."

"OK. So what brings you to California, Ben from Hong Kong?"

"Well, I'm a grad student. At CalTech."

"Seriously?" Andrea had to surpress a laugh, and was about to ask if he wanted to star in his student film or what, when Ben shook his head and interrupted.

"Look, hear me out. I promise I'm not some just some rich kid wasting your time."

"Hey," she said. "Not doing much with it right now. Have to stay out of the clubs and all. What's your pitch?"

Ben took another bite of his burger, and Andrea could sense he was mentally rehearsing something.

"The reason I wanted to meet with you was... I understand you've been trying to get a few projects off the ground, into production. On the talk shows in the spring, when your book came out, you talked about the search for the group that rescued you, for example."

"Yeah, STAR search? I loved that name, by the way. It's dead."

"Really?" For the first time, Ben truly looked to be thrown for a loop. "Just like that?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Any particular reason why?" he asked.

"Can't get enough funding, people to sign off on it without any guarantee they'll find anything. No one wants to drop money on a wild goose chase, you know? I mean, we don't even know what STAR stands for, we've just got some vague descriptions of them from the rescue and that's it."

"Hmm." Ben looked to be reliving some private joke. His smile had turned bitter. Andrea found this look a lot more natural than the one she'd been dealing with earlier.

"Well, what if I could get you that funding? Again, just hypothetically speaki--"

"You got your student card with you?" she cut in.

"My what?"

"Your CalTech student card, Ben from CalTech from Hong Kong. Lemme see it."

He shrugged, opened his wallet, and passed over the card. Andrea glanced at it. Not that she had the first fucking idea what a CalTech student card actually looked like, but she guessed it was good enough.

She slid the card across the table and back to Ben, who'd polished off drink number three in the meantime.

"Convinced I'm not a secret paparazzi?" he asked. "Working for the government, maybe?" She didn't dignify that with an answer.

"Whatever. Honestly, even if I decided do take a blank cheque from you no questions asked, which I wouldn't, that doesn't mean it'd actually get made, or find a network for that matter. 'Cause hey, SOTF is dead, so who cares anymore, right? 'Hypothetically', I dunno, if we got some new angle, get Kim Nguyen on board or permission to shoot on the actual island or something we could maybe sell it."

Ben sat there a second before the waitress materialized; he ordered a fourth Moscow Mule and Andrea wondered for the first time how many he'd polished off before she'd arrived. After deliberating a moment, she ordered one of her own.

"I guess I might just be wasting your time then," Ben said.

"So what, you're actually serious? Why do you care?"

Ben snorted, his charm continuing to melt away. "Hey, I'm only a potential investor, Andrea. I'm trying to see how much YOU care about getting this made. You're the crusading, wounded survivor, right? Trying to blow the lid off the whole scandal?"

The drinks came. Andrea downed half of her Mule at once, and nearly gaged. It was fucking awful.

Ben was chuckling now, sipping his own.

"Sorry Andrea, I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at myself. It's..."

He trailed off, and Andrea started out of her seat.

"Yeah, I don't even want to know why you care. Thanks for lunch Ben, you can pay for it. Don't--"

"STAR stood for Students Against the Regime," he said, freezing her in place halfway out of the booth. "How's that for a new angle."

She sat back down, numb, as Ben shotgunned the rest of his drink.

"S-T, students. A, against. R, the regime. Stupid, stupid name. It wasn't even... you mind if I finish your drink?"

He didn't wait for a reply, and afterwards dropped the copper cup on the table, where it bounced off and clattered to the floor.

"Fuck it," he said. "Yeah, you should go. I'll go first. Sorry, Andrea"

Ben fumbled for his wallet, tossed down a handful of bills, and staggered towards the door, leaving her staring open-mouthed.

And yeah, then she was up and---



v6!
G058: Kaitlyn Greene aka Katy Buried - Horse Tranquilizer and Syringe
She Knew She'd Found Freedom - Questions - Fools - Barons - Opportunities - Sideshows - Dawns - Gulches

v5!
G038: Deanna Hull - Replica Freddy Glove - DECEASED
From Sea to Sky -Smoke--Sun--Tiki--Nine--Repeat--Talk--Now--Drift--Hunger--Valley--Fall--Rust--Paper--Heart--Sky-
B023: Jesse Jennings - Riz Action Figure - DECEASED
From Vision to Glory -Vision--Summon--Time--Plan--Length--Sleep--Cause-

v4!
B006: Ricky Fortino - Trowel - DECEASED
B022: Imraan Al-Hariq - Remington 870 - DECEASED
G036: Carly Jean Dooley - VASE D: - DECEASED
G077: Andrea Raymer - Gunpowder - ?????
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