Pay-backs Are A B@#$%!

by Maureen Wynn (with some help from Betsy Vera)
Copyright © 1997

Yes, kiddies, this is the one that started it all... fighting, back-stabbing, snarling, biting, swordplay and derring-do... Well, okay, maybe not all that, but definitely hostility galore between yours-truly and Dianne La Mercennaire. I mean, I was betrayed — what else was I supposed to do?!

You must of course ignore the fact that I wrote myself as nose-to-nose with Dianne, and without benefit of a crate to stand on. (So we didn't think to compare vital stats until after the War. C'est la vie!)

Real-time, after "Kidnapped! etc....: Pawn Switched to Rook Going for Bishop"

Dianne was relaxing on the set, in the Security ready-room, enjoying the fruits of her labors. She took a sip of wine, and looked again at the bracelet in her hand, twirling it slowly around so that the light caught the facets of the jewels, twinkling softly. When the knock sounded at the door, she groaned, wishing she had a litle more time to relax. What a day! she thought. But very profitable! She got up to unlock the door.

When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Maureen standing in the hall outside the room. She quickly shoved the hand still holding the bracelet into her pants pocket, and leaving it there, she leaned casually against the door jamb. "Hi, Maureen! Are they finished cleaning out the sound-stage yet?"

"They're still working on it," Maureen answered. She added, "May I come in? I have something important I need to talk to you about."

Dianne stilled the panic that rose in her briefly. Don't worry, she can't possibly know anything about my part in the kidnapping! she thought confidently. "Sure, come on in... can I give you a glass of wine?" she asked, picking up her own glass.

Maureen looked at the bottle sitting on the battered table, raising her eyebrow slightly at the vintage. "Pouilly Fousse, '74... I wouldn't mind a taste of that." She smiled slightly as Dianne poured her a glass and handed it to her. "Business must be good for you lately...?" she asked.

Dianne replied "I can't complain; I've had some good commissions. So, what did you need?" she said, changing the subject before Maureen had a chance to ask about some of those commissions.

"Well, something's come up. I need you to listen to something, and tell me what you think it means..." She pulled a small tape-recorder out of her pocket, and pressed the "Play" button. They both heard a familiar voice say: "It's done." Then, "I'll expect prompt payment?"

There was a moment of silence on the tape (matched by the sudden silence in the room), then a new voice on the tape said: "Hi, Dianne. Listen — meet us at Sound Stage 2 in 10 minutes, the next part of your job requires you to be there for some... ah... lifting," followed by the first voice saying, "See you there."

Maureen turned off the tape, and said, "Cellular phones are a wonderful invention, and so useful that everyone uses them. Isn't it a pity that they're not a very secure form of communication? I'm glad that I decided to pay the expense of the equipment needed to monitor transmissions to and from the set." She looked at Dianne's shocked face, and raised one eybrow. "I guess you didn't know about that..." She finished her wine and set the glass down. "I know these calls were made on your cel line, so don't try to deny it."

OK, how do I get out of this one...? "I don't need to confirm or deny anything. You realize, of course, that I can't talk to you about my commissions? Confidentiality, you know?" Dianne said, having decided that silence was the best defense. After all, what can she do to me? she thought smugly. "I was paid to do a job, and I did it. I would think that you would understand my position...?"

Maureen's eyes flashed angrily, and Dianne backed up a pace, startled. Maureen moved quickly, and Dianne suddenly found herself backed up against the wall, Maureen nose to nose with her, glaring into her eyes. I guess this is what is meant by 'in your face', Dianne thought.

"I understand that your "position" is that you took money to provide a service that you had no intention of providing! I hope you understand that you have violated the Guild Charter?"

"Not the way I read it!"

"Let me quote for you — '...all Guild mercenaries have an obligation to complete all jobs that they accept contracts for, or return their fee, unless specific provision has been made in the contract for payment regardless of the success of the job.' You contracted to help keep the set secure, and then deliberately violated security by leaving your post unguarded, not to mention giving information to others. How else do you read that?"

Dianne said "But I thought double-dipping was sanctioned by the Guild! Every mercenary has taken multiple payments for the same job..." Dianne stopped, her eyes widening, as she realized that her rationalization didn't apply to this situation. Her confidence started to crumble, as she saw her cozy little loop-hole closing behind her, leaving her stranded on the other side.

Maureen saw the chink opening in Dianne's armor, and shoved another wedge into it. "If I take this to a Guild tribunal, you could lose your membership." She turned away from Dianne, and walked to the table. Picking up the bottle of wine and refilling her glass, she added, "Without your Guild protection, there are certain... 'people'... who might want to take the opportunity to repay you for past indignities."

Dianne went pale, thinking of who might want retribution. "You wouldn't!"

"Oh, wouldn't I?" Maureen replied, raising one eybrow. "I'd even make the phone call!" she added, the dangerous glint back in her eyes.

Dianne glared back at her erstwhile employer. "OK, what do you want? 25%? Half? I won't give you any more than that!" She jumped as the wineglass smashed against the wall.

"I don't want money, you greedy back-stabber!" Maureen took something out of her pocket, and tossed it to Dianne, who caught it automatically, then looked at it in surprise — it was her bracelet! She put her hand into the pocket the bracelet should be in, and when she discovered that it was empty, realized that her pocket had been picked. Quite expertly, too.

Warily, Dianne asked, "What exactly do you want?"

"You're going to help us get Mr. P back!"

"Oh, no! I can't do that! If nothing else, I'm still being paid by Can— um, I mean, my other employer — I can't help you against her."

"You can provide us with some information... like where they're holding Mr. P, and how many people are likely to be there."

Dianne thought carefully about the wording of her contracts, trying to see if there was a way to honorably do this. "I don't think I can do that, Maureen."

Maureen held out her hands, palm up. She's not going to beg, is she? Dianne thought, startled. Then Maureen said, "On one side we have your ethics," holding up the right hand, "on the other side, your Guild membership," holding up the left hand. "Which one is more important to you? Hmmmm..." as she moved her hands up and down, as if seeking a balance. Suddenly, the left hand moved down as if filled with a heavy weight, while the right hand moved up. Maureen looked up at Dianne, and said "Looks like your ethics are rather light-weight. I think keeping the protection of the Guild probably wins out here."

Dianne glared at Maureen, but she had the sinking feeling that the other woman was right...

Real-time, after "A Little Action Drama" by Dawn Steele (sometime later...)

"Tell me who was involved!"

"Boss, that's not impor—"

"I want to know! I was the one who was kidnapped, wasn't I? I think I have a right to know!" he said, pacing around the office.

"Now, calm down, Boss. We know you wouldn't have been hurt - they just wanted to frighten you, and get you to go back to the original version of the script."

"I didn't know that I wouldn't be hurt! I was tied up, blindfolded, gagged — I was totally helpless. That's not a position that I enjoy very much, no matter what Darkangel says! How happy would you be in that state?"

She shuddered, thinking about it. "I wouldn't like it at all; that's the main reason I became a mercenary — I don't like to leave my life in the hands of anyone else." She smiled wryly, as she added, "I like being in control."

"So do I; that's why I became a producer, which, after all, is much the same as a mercenary." His expression changed, and he looked very much, for the moment, like an angry vampire, as he stood over the desk, pounding on it with his fist in syncopation with his words. "Now, I want to know. Who. Was. Involved?"

"Can you at least tell me what you're going to do with that information?"

"Yes, I can tell you exactly what I'm going to do with that information. I'm going to find every last frame of film they're in and I'm going to cut them out of the episode, and, and... jump on the pieces! I'll edit them out of existence, if I can! And then maybe I'll have a nice little fire and burn the frames and toast some marshmallows over them. Hey, I like the sound of that. Hmmm, I wonder if props has some charcoal I can borrow..."

Oh, brother! "You might wind up with a really short episode, Boss... Boss? Where are you going?!"

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