**Banished to Bollywood!**
James slowly sauntered down the dimly lit hallway of the security wing of Goldbright Pictures. He had received an out of character call from his contract manager asking him to swing by the office. James hadn't seen work from Goldbright for about a year. James was a pilot, and a mercenary, though he preferred 'independent security contractor' and worked for 3 different motion picture companies throughout the Nation of Hollywood. Mainly flying escorts and from time to time providing muscle on the ground during studio events and conferences.
Before the collapse of the United States and the foundation of California as the Nation of Hollywood James used to be in the movies. He was never top billing, but always a stuntman or double for some handsome actor to soft or self involved to do his own fight scene. Then the aeronautics boom happened and James, like many, changed careers.
James stood in front of his managers door and rapped loudly on the frosted glass pane.
“Who is it?!” a deep raspy voice from inside called.
“It's McGrady.” James shouted back
James opened the door and was assaulted by the hefty stench of cigar smoke. Standing behind his desk looking out his office window was Scotty de la Camp, his manager. Scotty was not a small man, just by looking at him it was easy to tell he wasn't an aviator, standing taller than most men and twice as wide, he had easily found his calling in security work. He wore a pin stripe suit and clenched a whiskey in one hand and a cigar in the other.
“Sit down McGrady, we need to talk.”
James pulled up a chair as instructed and watched Mr. De la Camp return to his desk placing down his whiskey and depositing his still smoldering cigar into his overloaded ash tray.
“Talk about what sir, I haven't had work fro-” James began but was cut off by Mr. De la Camp holding his pudgy hand to silence him.
“This is about work...” He began as he opened up his desk drawer and fished out a rigid looking file folder stuffed to the brim with paper.
He slapped it down on the desk and slid it towards James. The folder was clearly new, it was certainly not a case file about his last job. James hesitated for a moment and then lifted it and let the folder fall open into his opposing hand. He glanced down at the sheet of paper and his eyes widened as he read over a dollar sum on the page.
“...and that my boy, is just the starting bonus.” Mr. De la Camp said chuckling to himself. “We need a pilot, one single pilot, to go with one of our full time security teams across the country to perform an escort mission.”
“You certainly have my attention, but why across the country.” James said as he flipped through the rest of the documents in the folder which contained a bunch of legal jargon he couldn't quite decipher.
“Well, Benton MacKaye is hosting one of those thousands of dollars a plate charity events. It's a zeppelin cruise that will run from Dixie through Appalachia into Columbia briefly. Then through Empire State, the Atlantic Coalition, and finally end in the Maritime Provinces.”
James stared at him mouth just slightly agape, that tour was looking to go through some of the most hotly contested and pirate filled skies.
“That route is suicide for any zep other than something in the military class.” James said matter of factly flipping the folder closed and placing it back on the desk.
“Mr.MacKaye has acknowledged this and said that each donor can bring one pilot to serve on the escort mission, Goldbright films has 6 of our stars going to donate...so we get six slots and we'd like to use all of them to make sure our stars, our investments, are protected”
Mr. De la Camp stopped a moment, taking a light sip on his whiskey and clearing his throat before continuing.
“The squadron we are sending recently lost a pilot and only now have 5 pilots, therefore we have one slot to fill, and you were my pick.”
James looked at the man skeptically.
“After not giving me any work for a year and now you call me up for probably the highest risk security operation you've run while your name was on that door.” James said motioning behind him to the way he came in. “What gives?”
“Well Mr. McGrady what gives is that the escort fighters are Blackflag Nightingale's, yourself and the other 5 selected pilots are the only people in our employ that we think could handle one without having too much stick time in advance.”
“Pirate produced aircraft?! What the hell kind of show is this guy running?” James said astounded.
“Something about not showing national bias or something of that nature...who knows with that environmentalist nutcase.” Mr. De la Camp said rolling his eyes and taking a puff off he cigar and knocking the smoldering remains into the tray. “Either way McGrady I need to telegraph my roster in tonight....are you in?”
James was eerily quiet, considering the large sum of money he would receive up front, there was no way he was going to reject the offer, however it also seemed like Mr. De la Camp called as a last resort.
“One condition.” James stated. “Signing this document, also signs me to a 5 year contract with Goldbright. I never have to hang around my phone waiting for a call again, on my end I'll pull my availability from the other two studios I work with making me exclusively your employee.” He reopened the folder, grabbed a pen from a stand on the desk and poised to sign waiting for the acknowledgment of the agreement.
“Consider it done” Mr. De la Camp said extending his hand across the desk for a shake. James quickly scrawled his signature on the contract and shook over the deal.
“I'll have my secretary draw the contract up and meet you tomorrow morning on the flight-line for the final signature.”
James smirked and nodded. While it felt good to finally have steady employment as a pilot with one company he couldn't help shake the feeling that this was going to end poorly.