People say you have to be suicidal to be in my line of work. Do I believe them? Depends on the day.
Some days being one of only six sensory immersion artists in the world means nothing more than listening. Like today. I listened to my naked feet complain about the lines of sharp cold pressing into them from the diamond-pattern catwalk; I listened to the tiny hairs on my legs, belly, arms, and face bask in the gentle flow of thick aquarium air…and I listened to my heart trip as the dark blue dorsal fin broke the water’s surface in the isolation tank just a half meter below me.
Mo, my onboard AI recorded each of these sensations directly from my brain and sent them back to our library at Lone Pine Pictures.
This promised to be a hell of an enactment.
The only thing missing was the easy sibling-like banter I usually shared with the three other members of my team. Instead, we each occupied our own isolated section of the same two meter strip of catwalk over the brightly lit isolation tank. The blame was mine. They didn’t want to be here. I wasn’t changing my mind.
End of discussion.
I gave Tamsin Leonides, our field producer and my best friend, the nod. The two aquarists and the marine biologist charged with the care of Ike, that juvenile blue shark pacing the water below me, had sensed the tension in my team. The biologist’s thick, gloved fingers rapped on the railing, sending small vibrations through the bones of my elbows on the same hollow metal bar. I didn’t want those boys going logical on me and balking.
Tamsin wandered casually in their direction.
I knew what the three men were thinking: Ike was a national treasure, rescued from the toxic soup formerly known as the Atlantic Ocean. I was a billion-dollar piece of movie-making equipment. The orderly parts of their scientific minds would see the combination and extrapolate the most likely outcome—a very public disaster and the end of their distinguished careers.
Fortunately for the livelihood of my team, Tamsin was the most innocent of con artists. She easily pinned the trio on the ladder platform. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her block their mental retreat with an arsenal that was one part professionalism, one part enthusiasm, and two parts well-built, blue-eyed blonde. People tell me I’m intimidating. Not Tamsin. She’s approachably pretty. Then she opens her mouth and people fall in love.
“Oh, no, not at all. She’s brilliant with animals. In all the years we’ve been doing this, we’ve never had a serious animal accident. In fact, you should have been there, Jessie. You would have loved it. You remember Spirit Guide, that wolf movie? Well, when we were doing the enactment for that scene where…”
Behind me I heard Ben Norris-Stevenson, our stunt coordinator and my bodyguard, make a choking sound barely audible above the filtration system. Even I cracked a smile. I suppose Tamsin’s claim depended on your definition of “serious.” Possibly your average urbanized citizen would consider having her tibia cracked by grizzly bear fangs “serious.” Or maybe getting a few ribs shattered by a pissed off buffalo would fit the bill.
But Tamsin’s little exaggeration was safe. When the shark boys looked over at me, all they saw were long expanses of unmarred skin courtesy of my onboard medic, Margie. Gotta love Margie.
Satisfied that the progress of the enactment was in good hands, I squatted down next to Ryan Gunner, our swarm operator. It was time to integrate with the swarm cameras and get this show on the road.
Even in a crouch Ryan was at least a head shorter than me with sleek short brown hair, a slightly Hispanic cast to his features—as opposed to my hint of the Orient—and a timeless baby face he had finally stopped trying to hide with that ridiculous beard. He gave me one quick glance and then kept his gaze studiously averted. It wasn’t because he had issues with the bikini, either. He’d seen me in less.
Grief makes some people uncomfortable. My way of dealing with grief—with this off-schedule enactment—made my people very uncomfortable.
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