Our Story Continues
Last time, Caleb and Titania tracked down Darrel Charm and sent him to meet his maker for selling Focus No. 9 potion to Johnny Zest. Akira paid the Sages a royal visit and walked away with a binding full of corrupt magic and an impossible task. Summer hinted at Liberty’s dangerous plans for the Ultimate Vampire Tome, and Caleb made a romantic misstep.
“You will hold that sword for another hour before you scrub the privies.” Mother Applebyne’s voice echoed off the rafters. She preferred Ana’s punishments to occur in the chapel because it was supposed to engender reverence.
The only thing it actually engendered was Ana’s annoyance. The privies? Again? Didn’t anyone else in this llama-forsaken place get punished?
“You have the devil in you,” the old nun chastized. “That’s why you never learn.”
It was a statement too ridiculous to be true. If the Good Order Monks wanted to modify Ana’s behavior, they needed to offer something better than extra gruel and quiet prayer time. The devil? Please. Ana would be glad to meet him. Maybe she could trade her soul for a decent bowl of stew.
Mother Applebyne continued watching, occasionally checking a silver pocket watch. It seemed a bit ostentatious for a place that left the orphans in rags because it brought them closer to the Great Llama in the sky. Ana brought it up once and received a backhand so hard that stars exploded before her eyes.
“Fifteen more minutes, and you will beat your record,” the nun informed her. “Or you’ll fail and prove you’re the weakest of this year’s class.”
Ana gritted her teeth and adjusted her grip. She would not drop the sword, and one day, she’d shove that pocket watch down Mother Applebyne’s throat.
“You never cry.”
Ana’s eyes flew open. Her arms were numb, and she’d lost all track of time. Surruptisouly, she checked to make sure she was still holding the sword.
“Did you hear me?” the nun demanded.
Loud and clear. But it wasn’t a real question. Or rather, not a question that Ana could answer. Had she cried as a baby? Likely. But it wasn’t a thing she was capable of now. For Ana, crying was a great divide. On one side, a vast blankness, and on the other, a jumble of physical sensations she couldn’t understand.
Ana preferred the vast blankness.
Mother Applebyne narrowed her eyes. “How many times must I repeat myself? Is it true, Anastasia? Do you only cry on camera?”
DEL SOL VALLEY, PRESENT DAY
Anastasia reared back in surprise. “What did you say?”
Brytani sighed. “Sims InTouch says inside sources confirm you can only cry on camera because you’re a robot.”
Ana stared blankly. She was rarely caught off guard, but lately, she’d begun to drift. In fact, she couldn’t help sneaking a glance behind to ensure that she was in her agent’s office and not the Good Order Monks’ chapel. “Is that an actual question?”
“No, it’s not a real question! Are you high?” Brytani slammed her pen down on top of the magazine. Anastasia was pleased to see that they at least got a good photo of her for the cover, but she could tell her agent was less than enthused.
“Obviously, you’re not a robot, but the point is, you don’t give audiences anything to work with. You’re not vulnerable or approachable.”
“They voted me Sim Nation’s Sweetest Actress,” Anastasia argued.
“That was over a year ago, which might as well be a century in this town. Seriously, Anastasia, you don’t even have a Sims Tok account!”
And she never would. No vampire in their right mind would have social media. “I show up to events, sign autographs, take pictures like a good little soldier. I like my privacy.”
“Exactly! Everything is sanctioned by the studio! Everything is staged. Fuck. It’s like you graduated from acting school in 1950.”
Actually, Ana took her first acting class in 1850, and she trained under the best. Watching all of these children run around whining about not doing their own stunts was infuriating. None of them had ever performed a monologue while wearing paper-mache fairy wings and hanging from a rope tied around a rotting rafter, and it showed. She took a deep breath. “If this is about doing another event—“
Brytani immediately cut her off. “This is not about another press event.” She slid her phone across the desk and pointed at Vanessa Jeong’s Social Bunny account. “Media darlings share makeup-free selfies and get photographed hanging out with friends. What about that girlfriend of yours? Penny? Why not bring her out and actually get photographed having a life for once?”
Ana was on her feet and looming over the desk in seconds. “Fuck no.” Her claws sank into the glass. When Brytani left comedy to become an agent, Anastasia was her first client. They never talked about Ana’s eccentricities. Brytani was too desperate for a paycheck, and Ana was not in the business of taking mortals into her confidence like her ex-husband. But she always wondered if Brytani knew.
Her gaze focused on Ana’s claws and then flicked back up to Ana’s face. “Okay,” she said carefully, “ I can see that’s a non-starter.”
Ana forced herself to calm down, retracted her claws, and stepped back.
“Give me something to work with,” Brytani said softly, “Or you’re going to lose this part.”
That part was so vital to Ana that it made her dizzy. The Sheriff of Alpha Centaura was her swan song. Every vampire had to bid adieu to their personas; she’d kept hers longer than most. Longer than was safe—or sane. Soon, she’d have to retire to a country home and become an exiled senior citizen like Vladislaus.
But not without her swan song.
Ana smoothed her skirt and squared her shoulders. “I’ll give you something.”
“Good. And a new PA is waiting for you to interview her in the green room. The studio sent her over. They think a personal assistant can help you organize your schedule.”
“You mean free me up to be photographed acting like a not-a-robot.”