Year One: Duquesa Bay

"Tests"

    In her KCON office cube, "Fingers" Takanachi is furiously typing HTML code on her computer as the phone rings. She hits the speaker button and continues typing.

Gracie: Speak to me!

Jeremy Colvin: Hey Grace, it's Jere

Gracie: Hey you, all recovered from Moonglow?

Jeremy: Getting there

Gracie: (Still typing) Heh

Jeremy: Am I on speaker phone? - I hate speaker phone

Gracie: Grow up and deal, I need all eight fingers right now

Jeremy: Updating your "Sig 7" site?

Gracie: Yep - I have some super duper new screen shots to upload

Jeremy: You should stop wasting your talent on that lame TV show and waste your time on something COOLER... like helping me layer in some fart sounds with my fireworks sample

Gracie: Listen, you laid down some seriously sick jungle tracks on your own - I want to use them in my next mix

Jeremy: Excellent - when I come by to pay you for the rave gig, I'll bring them

Gracie: (Still typing) No payment necessary, I had fun AND I sold a bunch of my CDs - in fact, I owe you a commission for delivering such a receptive audience to my clutches

Jeremy: (Defensive) I am NOT a charity case, I don't need your money!

Gracie: WHOA, did I say you were a charity case? - don't confuse me with your rich girlfriend!

Jeremy: That was low

Gracie: Sweetie, I see you as my collaborator, therefore, I will pay you as a collaborator - it's not charity, it's salary

Jeremy: I guess that works

Gracie: Are you going with Penny to the party tonight?

Jeremy: I suppose I should, but I want to come by Techtonic later and watch you DJ

Gracie: You're not of age

    There is silence for a few seconds.

Gracie: Meet me in the alley at 10:20 and wear a jacket with a hood... Jere, JERE?

Jeremy: The trash truck outside is making some funky noises, I need to capture it - see you tonight!

    As she clicks off the phone, the KCON station manager walks by, causing Gracie to quickly switch screens to a work-related matter.

Turner: Nose to the grindstone, that's what I love to see, Takanachi!

Gracie: (All smiles) ABSOLUTELY, MR. GATES

    He walks away.

Gracie: (Under her breath) It's better than my nose up Kylee's BLECH

    After shaking off the repulsive thought, she returns to her HTML screen.

Gracie: Let's see, maybe this font would work better in a dark blue

    The phone rings again.

Gracie: (Hitting the speaker button) NOW WHAT?

Zach: Love you too, Fingers!

Gracie: Eyes, do you have your parodies ready for the site?

Zach: I'll e-mail them to you this afternoon, I promise

Gracie: (Doesn't believe him) Uh-huh

Zach: I saw the new Sig 7 banner you did, I have to say, it's not working for me

Gracie: Well, when you become Adobe proficient, you can try it yourself - right now, you're the lowly writer, remember your place!

Zach: Yes, master - where's our sweet little newbie?

Gracie: Morri is in the video library going through old footage - she's convinced the yahoos at the Coast Guard are sitting on a ton of info about our "In Search Of... " mystery

Zach: I could've told her that!

Gracie: You did

Zach: Oh yeah

Gracie: Anyway, she's familiarizing herself with the background and looking for leads, in between our challenging adventures of covering a flock of wild parakeets and the soaring cost of gas

Zach: Things have been slightly on the tame side since the train wreck

Gracie: I'll tell ya, if I don't get some excitement soon, I'm likely to drop dead of boredom

    Morrigan charges into Gracie's cube.

Morrigan McBride: SMELT INNARDS? - THAT'S FUCKING BULLSHIT

Gracie: Here's our sweet little newbie, now!

Morrigan: Does he think I was born yesterday? - I might not be a marine biologist or even a fisherman but even I know those were NOT smelt innards

Zach: This conversation sounds disgusting, what's it about?

    McBride reaches over and clicks off the speaker phone.

Morrigan: I hate speaker phone

    Almost instantly, Zach calls back and Gracie puts him on speaker again.

Gracie: (Eyeing Morrigan) My phone, my cube, my RULE

Morrigan: Look, I need to take off for a little bit, I'll explain everything at the party tonight

    As she turns to leave, Morrigan is blasted with cackles from both Gracie and Zach.

Morrigan: What?

Gracie: You actually think we're going to the museum ball?

Morrigan: Aren't you?

    The cackles resound louder.

Zach: Sorry, M&M, we're not part of the Duquesa Bay upper crust

Gracie: (Snooty voice) Tonight, we shall be bowling with Half and the Mirabello Twins

Morrigan: Half?

Gracie: His name is really Hal but I call him Half since he's nothing more than a breathing sex toy to me, it's the half I use

Zach: Put that in a Hallmark card!

Gracie: If Zach plays his cards right with Justine tonight, she might let us do some probing, literally and figuratively, with the Celoso Beach bodies

Zach: I am so proud that my dating skills allow me to barter for corpses

Morrigan: Great, I was counting on you guys to be there for me tonight - I won't know anyone there

Gracie: I realize we're adorable and cuddly but take this as an opportunity to meet new playmates!

Zach: That reminds me, Kylee and her Sugar Daddy will be there

Morrigan: Eww! - not exactly at the top of my list of cool people to hang with

Gracie: It will be tres enjoyable - you get to watch him parade around with his wife and you get to watch her jump everything that possesses a "Y" chromosome

Morrigan: Thrilling

Zach: Hey, I bet R'xal will be there!

    Takanachi pulls a mini digital camera out of her drawer and thrusts it into McBride's hand.

Gracie: Get some pictures of her!

Morrigan: (Perplexed look) Who or what is R'xal?

Zach: (Deep voice) R'XAL, QUEEN OF THE WARRIOR MOONS AND SWORN ENEMY OF THE SIGMA SEVEN COLONY

Morrigan: (Rolling her eyes) You two have too much time on your hands

Zach: Hey, it beats peddling drugs in school parking lots... not that I'd know

Gracie: Actually, R'xal is Ursula Dragovic aka Mrs. Douglas Martel II

Morrigan: I remember Ursula on all of the covers of my fashion magazines as a teenager!

Zach: (Deep voice again) Now she is R'XAL, QUEEN OF THE WARRIOR MOONS, PLAGUE OF KRAKIS PRIME

Gracie: On the subject of costumes, do you have one picked out?

Morrigan: Yes, and it's driving KJ crazy because he doesn't know what it is

Gracie: (Evil grin) Smart girl... string him along

Zach: So, what is it?

Morrigan: I'm going as "Lois Lane"

Gracie: OH MY GOD, ARE YOU SERIOUS? - that is so lame, Honey, think of something else!

Zach: (Deep voice continued) It would be better if you went as R'XAL, QUEEN OF THE WARRIOR MOONS, ALLY OF THE AMPHIBIAN...

    Gracie clicks off the phone.

Gracie: I can let you borrow my family kimono

Morrigan: No, there is nothing wrong with going as Lois Lane - I have my grandmother's beautiful wool suit from the 40's, I'll pull my hair back in a bun and put on my round, tortoiseshell glasses

Gracie: Ooh, sexy

Morrigan: It was a big hit with the office Halloween party back in Montana

Gracie: The operative words being "back in Montana"

Morrigan: Hey, it's all I have - I'm still digging out of debt from moving, I do not have the money to rent a fancy costume NOR do I want KJ throwing his trust fund in my face

Gracie: (Making a lewd gesture with her mouth) He is more than welcome to throw it in mine

Morrigan: (Taking off) I need to get going, I'll call you later

Gracie: Have fun with the faux smelt innards!

    The field producer returns to the HTML.

Gracie: (To herself) I never thought I'd utter those words together in a sentence

    Inside the Renselier family home, Penelope sits outside of an alabaster tub and assists her 45-year-old mother, Lydia, with her bath.

Lydia Renselier: Did you change the blade in the razor, Darling? - it feels a little dull

Penny Renselier: (Shaving the leg) Yes mom, but the razor can't deal with the fact that you're growing timber instead of hair

Lydia: DAMN SIDE EFFECTS

Penny: Did you take your morning meds today?

Lydia: I'm tired of taking pills, they don't work

Penny: But the doctor said...

Lydia: (Splashing about) DO YOU SEE THE DOCTOR HERE SHAVING MY LEGS?

Penny: Please don't get upset, you have a big night ahead of you

Lydia: (Observing her daughter's ensemble) At least you're always ready in the costume department

Penny: (Putting the razor down) Actually, I was considering going to the ball in "normal" clothes, just for a change

Lydia: Do you own any normal clothes?

    Penny sits back and thinks for a moment.

Lydia: So, Penelope, do I dare ask where you were last night?

Penny: (Soaping up her mother's other leg) I was in the general vicinity

Lydia: Having sex and doing drugs with that rowdy bunch of yours, no doubt

Penny: Oh, we do more than that - we discuss how the former Eastern Bloc countries are faring since the downfall of Communism, THEN we have sex and do drugs

    Her mother glowers at her.

Penny: (Half smile) And we dance, too

Lydia: It's not funny, Dear, I worry about you

Penny: Don't worry - I hear they're training Golden Retrievers now to shave legs

Lydia: (Infuriated) DO YOU THINK THAT'S THE ONLY REASON I WORRY ABOUT YOU?

    The surprised girl pulls back.

Lydia: DAMMIT, YOU'RE MY DAUGHTER, I MIGHT AS WELL HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO YOU SINCE I CANNOT IMAGINE ANOTHER SOUL ON THIS PLANET THAT I WOULD GLADLY GIVE UP MY LIFE FOR IN A HEARTBEAT

    The older woman struggles to sit forward in the tub to be closer to her daughter.

Lydia: (On the verge of tears) I know I won't stop you from doing what you want to do, but the very thought of something horrible happening to you makes me insane, can't you understand that?

Penny: (Hugging her mother) Shhhh, I do... I do

Lydia: (Leaning back in the tub) Good

Penny: (Trying to keep her composure) For... um, for your information, I just watch them

Lydia: I'm supposed to take comfort in you being a voyeur?

Penny: WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY is that I'm still a virgin, believe it or not

Lydia: (Looking her daughter in the eye) I do believe you... why?

Penny: (Shaving the other leg) I'm just not ready yet - as for drugs, I've seen what doctor-prescribed chemicals do to you, why would I want to take illegal ones?

Lydia: (Smiling) Despite the nose ring, you make me proud to be your mother

Penny: (Finishing up the leg) What can I say, my parents raised me right

Lydia: Well, when the time IS right for you, I pray that it is with anyone other than that Jeremy boy - I don't like him

Penny: (Throwing down the razor) You just HAD to ruin this moment - why don't you like him, because his mother is a sales clerk?

Lydia: I believe that Byron is better suited for you, that's all

Penny: (Scowling) Because he lives in the same gated community? - FYI, he's the one that does the most X at parties

Lydia: I should inform his parents!

Penny: (Folding her arms) Sure, right after his mother comes down from her coke high and his dad drops the bottle of Porfidio

Lydia: Dear lord, I've had enough of this subject matter - and I've had enough of this bath - help me out, I'm getting all pruney!

Penny: (Hoisting her mother under her arms) Why don't you paint yourself purple and go as a California Raisin tonight?

Lydia: (Wrapping a towel around her) Lend me your sunglasses and I'll consider it

    The Goth Chick watches her MS-afflicted mother struggle across the room with her arm crutches.

Penny: You know, Aunt Steph said she'd be happy to come by and help out whenever you need it... why won't you take her up on it?

Lydia: I don't need anyone's help!

Penny: And what am I doing?

Lydia: (Applying some lotion) You're my daughter, that's different

Penny: Why don't you ask dad to help?

Lydia: He has important business matters to take care of

Penny: (Coming over and helping with the lotion) Is that why he was out all night?

    Lydia looks at her with a combination of surprise and quiet defeat.

Penny: The maid told me

Lydia: It's none of her business

Penny: It's my business

    The two walk out of the bathroom and down the hall.

Penny: There's nothing wrong with asking others for help

Lydia: Yes, there is - the minute you do, they see you as weak

Penny: Why aren't you afraid of me seeing you as weak?

    Before she enters her bedroom, Mrs. Renselier turns to face Penelope.

Lydia: Because I love you

Penny: I love you too, mom

    At the Quartz County Museum, there is a mad rush of people getting ready for the "Etruscan Nights" Masquerade Ball. A man and a woman, dressed as caterers, enter one of the main rooms and spot a security guard. He looks around and nods to them. Within seconds, they blanket the room, stashing tiny electronic devices at various points. The security guard follows them as they enter another room and repeat the process.

    Inside a well-kept condo overlooking Duquesa Bay, Timothy Hajanian reads the Daily Beacon as he sips a cup of coffee and smokes a cigarette. The sounds of smooth jazz are suddenly overwhelmed by loud pounding on his door.

Timothy Hajanian: (Opening it) Yes?

    The petite KCON reporter barges her way inside.

Morrigan McBride: I need to talk to you, Mr. Hajanian

Tim: (Slamming the door shut) Come right in!

Morrigan: I'M NOT STUPID

Tim: Alright, we've established you're not stupid but I still don't know who the hell you are!

Morrigan: Morrigan McBride - I just came from the university - they said you were the one who did the testing on my sample

Tim: Oh yeah, the smelt innards

Morrigan: SMELT INNARDS, MY ASS

Tim: There is no need to be crude - why don't we sit down, relax, and try to have a civil exchange so we can figure out exactly what your problem is

    The pony-tailed man leads Morrigan to an Italian leather sofa.

Tim: Would you like some coffee? - on second thought, that's probably not a good idea for you

Morrigan: (Getting in his face) Who are you protecting?

Tim: WHOM

Morrigan: I'm broadcast, not print

Tim: Let's take this one step at a time... what is your issue with the test results?

Morrigan: My issue with the test results, Mr. Hajanian...

Tim: Please, call me Tim

Morrigan: TIM, is that they are 100% bogus!

Tim: And you came to this conclusion how?

Morrigan: Because I know better

Tim: That's scientific!

Morrigan: I thought Dr. Sanchez would be doing the test himself?

Tim: (Angered) ARE YOU DOUBTING MY ABILITY?

Morrigan: No, don't misunderstand me, I just assumed that Dr. Sanchez...

Tim: (Jumping up and pacing) Look, Dr. Sanchez does not have time to run samples for some stranger off the street - my testing procedures are just as precise, if not more, than his - and the results, Ms. McBride, if you like them or not, are SMELT INNARDS

Morrigan: BULL

Tim: Wrong species

Morrigan: Do you honestly expect me to believe that someone was cutting bait on my bumper at 2:00 in the morning?

Tim: (Sitting down again) Now, you've totally lost me!

Morrigan: Well, let's go on the premise that you really have no clue what I'm talking about

Tim: So far, so good

Morrigan: Did Dr. Sanchez hand my sample over to you himself?

Tim: (Guilty expression) No, he did not

Morrigan: Who did?

Tim: It was waiting for me when I got in

Morrigan: Who else had access to that sample?

Tim: It could've been a number of people - department professors, even students

Morrigan: (Shaking her head) That's just wonderful, anyone could have doctored it!

Tim: Ms. McBride... Morrigan, why don't you tell me what you THINK the test results should be and we'll work from there?

Morrigan: Not smelt innards

Tim: You're not helping

Morrigan: Let's just say it will help me make a positive ID

Tim: (Fake excitement) Will it lead to the "real killers"

    The two are interrupted by the phone. Tim's answering machine comes on and a man's voice speaks.

Man's Voice: Hello Timothy, I just wanted to say what great time I had last night - are you free this weekend?

    A nervous Hajanian rushes over and turns it down as a smiling Morrigan rises and goes over to one of the many nude sculptures throughout the rooms.

Tim: (Returning to her side) Where were we?

Morrigan: I know who that was, I interviewed him yesterday for a piece - nice guy - married guy - prominent guy!

Tim: YOU BITCH

Morrigan: I will do anything for my story

Tim: What do you want?

Morrigan: I have a backup sample...

Tim: Why am I not surprised?

Morrigan: Clear a time this weekend - we will go to the lab and I will WATCH as you redo the test - deal?

Tim: If I do this, will you promise not to use my friend as an eternal marker with me?

    The woman lightly runs her fingers down a bronze male torso statue.

Morrigan: It's an awfully big marker

Tim: (Getting in her face) It's an awfully big test

Morrigan: (Extending her hand) Deal

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