Quiet On the Set!
You nod to Bragho, and open the door to the hangar-like building the yell came from.
When you heard "actress" and saw a red light, and Bragho teased you about special roles, you felt ice all down your spine. Which was especially weird with your new tail. But these are cartoons he's talking about. And to act in a cartoon the way he described it -- does that make you a living cartoon character? Anything's possible. But your paws don't have the fuzzy glow you'd expect from one, as you step into the set.
And suddenly you're in a Western town where Napoleon is whapping someone with a director's megaphone. Well, not a French dictator, but a fox with way too many buttons on his fancy vest and with plenty of decibels for his size. The poor stagehand he's berating says, "Boss, wait! She's here!"
The director whirls and peers up at you. "Lenara? It's about time you... No, wait. Who are you?"
You start to give your actual name, but play along and use the version Bragho had listed. Before you can explain about the costume, the director says, "Close enough!" He snaps fingers at his assistants, adding, "Script, costume -- attack!"
Five bewildering minutes later, you're wearing some kind of motion-capture suit and another fox is coaching you on how to drawl a line about paintin' a wagon a'fore the cattle get here. Then you get dragged out to the fake street where a bunch of foxes are rehearsing an argument. But they're almost all in Western costumes. No, not 19th-century American stuff, since the fashions are different, but it's rugged and familiar just the same. "Hey," you say, thinking of your own outfit. "Am I in the wrong show?"
"Places!" the director bellows, and everyone scatters. A fox-man in a techno-suit like yours grins at you and takes your hand. He says, "Ma'am, you're over there." He's got this knowing grin like he's been in a hundred movies -- or he knows all about this costume game you've gotten into. And somehow you just know he's playing a cowboy, even without the getup.
So you run through a scene from a story you don't know. The foxes hear you talk about the wagon, and then they argue, and then the other suited fox breaks it up. Then suddenly you hear, "Cut!" and it's all over in one take. You were just getting into the role, wondering whether somebody was going to get shot or what.
"Not bad, ma'am," says the other suited fox to you. The "ma'am"s still distract you, but he makes them sound good.
"I thought this was going to be a cartoon," you say.
"Sure is! Whoever wants to play a lead role can watch it from your view or mine, or put somebody else's picture there while they watch it from the couch."
"Oh. That's not the kind of cartoon I'm used to."
He looks you over, making you conscious of the tight motion-capture suit and the way your tail curls inside it. "You're a costumer?"
You end up looking nervously aside, scratching your ear. "Ah... yeah."
"'s all right, ma'am." He turns to the director and calls out, "Hey, are we set for lunch yet?"
The director's been badgering everyone in sight about lighting and noise, but he stops and droops ears when the other actor talks to him. "Sorry, Wylan. Our caterer is having trouble."
The actor --- Wylan -- gives that same cowboy smile to him. "No loss. Say, Bragho and my new co-star have some things to discuss with me. So we're gonna grab a bite off-set, okay?"
"Yes, of course," the director says. "We'll get on with some establishing shots while you're away."
Wylan waves Bragho over to him and tells him the same. They get you to walk a bit away from the set, and then the two of them fall silent and look at you.
It's your first day among the foxes, and they feel like people to you already. There's a new world for you to explore, and it seems pretty nice so far -- especially if the house you've got is "homeworld average" like the costume-maker said. You could do a lot worse than this world. And it's not like you have to do this acting job forever. You can quit, or in a couple of Earth weeks leave the whole world and go back to trying on costumes.
Something's kind of bothering you though. Where'd this Lenara actress go, and how'd you get to be her stand-in so easily? Why's this place so Earth-like? And why is Wylan so intent on a private conversation?
Wylan waves a paw in front of your eyes. "You there?"
He and Bragho walk with you to a restaurant outside the studio. The decor isn't any style you recognize, but there're benches and cushions around a big central firepit. Lots of roast meat spins on spits, and suddenly you realize just how sensitive your nose is to the sizzling roasts and faint charcoal smoke. You're about to start drooling by the time you get a bench and waiters come out with portable tables.
"So," says Wylan, with a strange expression. He glances at Bragho, who's staring at the food and sniffing. "There's something you'd best be telling our new guest."
"Yeah," he says, turning you to explain something about...
Written by Snow on 02 May 2010
Lenara, the Missing Actress