Fallen Stars; Chapter 1

Dierks Santiago stepped out of the passenger side of his Mercedes MMZ smartly, shutting the door behind him. With a few quick hand motions the MMZ pulled out smoothly, driving itself off on a loop until the auction was over. For a brief moment he thought of sending it to a parking garage, to save the world from one more luxury driving itself around but, as in many things in Dierks’ life, his whim overruled any considerations for his fellow man.

He watched with satisfaction as the car signaled its left turn and pulled out and away. Its deep blue paint reflecting the orange-pinkish light of the late afternoon sun. Silent and gliding a few inches off the ground it truly was more a work of art than an automobile and, judging by the heads turning as it coasted down the street, he wasn’t the only one to consider it so.

However, this idle admiration for Federated Germany’s most excellent machine was quickly replaced with deep concentration at the task at hand. Because today was the day Dierks Santiago stepped out from his father’s shadow and into his own. Today, Dierks’ conquest of the world began in earnest.

Tugging on his right ear gently, Dierks Personal Use Display appeared in this left eye’s vision as he began, through a sequence of practiced ocular movements, to read. The transfers had been finalized and his accounts were settled and ready for him to make his much anticipated purchase.

Taking a deep breath, he began walking towards the Sotheby’s office on Chestnut Street which was about a mile and a half away according to his PUD. He could have dropped himself off at the office but found he was enjoying walks more and more. Too much physicality has been lost, he thought to himself as he began his trek. Not enough appreciation for nature in this day and age. Not enough actual activity.  Everyone monitoring their Q-score and building digital empires instead of enjoying parts of the human experience that have been integral for thousands of years. Of course, he wasn’t about to go Naturalist and forsake technology to live in a retreat in South Dakota or northern Sweden or the like but the annoyance at modern humanity’s vanity ate at him still. Well, nibbled at least.

The buildings were all brick and mortar. A quaint affectation that Dierks found he enjoyed compared to the sterile, durable, and sleek grey, white, and black permasteel structures that were starting to invade cityscapes across the globe. Those soulless edifices that drove out the character of humanities greatest cities making them annoyingly pristine, lacking any sort of local inspiration. You could be in Istanbul, London, Tokyo, or Mumbai and in moments surrounding by those uniform structures you could almost feel their hostility towards their architectural predecessors that had the annoying characteristic of being able to be damaged by fire, lightning, or human hands.

Of course, he had seen some of those modern monstrosities here in Boston as well but at least this neighborhood still had the flavor of buildings crafted and maintained by people. There was something disquieting about buildings that required no maintenance, could be rearranged, and made to display different colors and images all at the press of a couple of buttons and built with mostly robotic equipment. The originality was gone, the needing to accept the flaws and respect the work of human hands shaping shelter for their peers were all squeezed out of architecture in the name of progress, ease, and perfection. These old, crumbling buildings were a struggle to build and that made all the difference.

Of course, Dierks’ sentimentality and wistful daydreams were not much more than superficial philosophical musings. He lived in one of those unoriginal edifices he was currently railing against. Right on 5th Avenue in New York City. Even now, his wife, Dylan, was probably playing with the dogs as she changed the walls and floors in their living room for probably the twentieth time today. Maybe this time when he got back the floors would be bamboo with some horrendous pink walls. Perhaps a white marble floor, gleaming in the soft, artificial light of their apartment with a foreboding shade of gray adorning the walls. Dylan might have even lost her mind a bit and made the inside of their penthouse look like a log cabin. The thought made Dierks laugh out loud to himself as he came to the steps to the Sotheby’s office. He didn’t even think Dylan had seen a tree outside of Central Park nevermind a log cabin.

A brisk breeze blew through the antiquated street, swirling dead leaves around Dierks as he approached the door. Checking the time and realizing he didn’t want to show up too early, he spotted a cafe up ahead and decided to duck in, smoothly swerving from the steps leading to the Sotheby’s office and continuing down the street.

The Hot Pot was your typical coffee shop. The soft white glow of lights playing off a lighter, almost white wood adorning the walls as he glanced through the windows while approaching the entrance.. Birch, Dierks thought but didn’t really care. Small chairs and tables looking to be made of the same material as the walls dotted the establishment’s interior. The floor was smooth to the touch yet had the look of rough sandstone completing the cozy decor. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee and baked goods filled the air. Dierks couldn’t help himself and, as he stepped in the door, inhaled deeply.

He ordered a coffee and watched in idle amusement as the automated machines hummed and whirred, doubtless in their purpose to serve while the woman at the register, Melayny by her illuminated nameplate, drew his attention away from the mechanical baristas.

“That will be 8 Renlar sir”, she stated with the appropriate amount of practiced chippiness.

Dierks swiped his left index and middle fingers over the paypad. “Thanks”, he said as Melayny retrieved his Americano from its dispenser and handed it to him.

As he was turning to walk out, he noticed a news story running on the screen hanging in the corner of the shop. “TAKUMOTO TO ANNOUNCE NEW MAGNIFICENT SEVEN DEAL” said the runner along the bottom. His interest piqued, Dierks decided to take a seat. As he sat, he pointed with his right index finger at the screen then up at his own face. Instantly, after his action was completed, he could hear what the newscast was saying through his PUD broadcasting directly to his ears.

“…amidst his much celebrated acquisition of Yul Brenner, the last piece of the original cast he was missing, Mr. Takumoto was predictably elated during his press conference”, the male reporter said with his practiced and precise speech, “and went so far as to venture the new film, of which had always been a favorite of his, would be a remake of the 1960 classic albeit with a Steam Punk spin to it. Mr. Taku..”

Dierks motioned quickly and the broadcast ended in his ears while, on the screen in the coffee shop, it continued on silently. That was the problem with all these big players, no vision. Just rehashing the same scripts and material over and over again with minor changes hoping to rope in millions from the young and forgetful. “That will change with me,” Dierks thought to himself as he took a sip of his delicious Americano.

The broadcast had now cut away from the well groomed newsman to Mr. Takumoto himself. Dierks had never met the man but had read up on him extensively as his acquisitions grew and, Dierks had to admit, he was impressed with Takumoto’s stratagem. Too many of his competitors were overreaching for later era Hollywood stars but Takumoto had always worked closer to the Golden Age of Hollywood and the quality of those stars had shown in his productions and in his bottom line.

Takumoto’s assemblage of the Magnificent Seven stars had been done masterfully and Dierks had even been at the same auction where Takumoto acquired Charles Bronson for some 227 million Renlar. Dierks, at the time, had thought that a preposterous sum but the updated Death Wish trilogy had made that back in no time and now Charles and Yul would ride together again upon a wave of money. He wasn’t shocked, as he navigated the web on his PUD, to see that Yul had cost Takumoto a pretty penny. Several billions of them in fact as he had paid 503 million Renlar.

A flash of jealousy flitted through Dierks’ mind but it was quickly replaced with a much more tantalizing emotion; ambition. What Takumoto was doing, though small in Dierks mind from a creative standpoint, was everything he wanted and was trying to do. A stable of top of the line, high quality actors with golden pedigrees. Thespians that had myth and legend attached to them after all these years, ones that didn’t have to deal with the pervasive nature of the public or the self shaming vanity of social media.

Dierks saw the time and decided to finish his coffee, which he did with a flourish, and rose to leave. As we walked out, he became giddy. Yes, it was true Takumoto’s acquisition of Golden Age talent was sound but, at the same time, some of the latter day stars just had so much pop, had become so huge, that only a fool would pass up the opportunity to acquire one. That was precisely what he was doing in Boston and, if the intel he had gathered was correct, he’d be able to get this for a steal and soon it would be him being discussed on a broadcast.

The daydreams died however as he looked at the imposing green door at the top of the steps he had reached. A coolness ran through Dierks body as he began to shift mentally from idle thoughts to the business at hand. Touching his right earlobe, his PUD sprang into view in his left eye and he began scrolling through his emails with practised ocular movements. Finances were in order, the guest list for this auction was extremely small but the offerings were confirmed not even 15 minutes ago. Dierks heartbeat began to quicken at the thought of swooping in and gaining so much value that he had to shut his eyes and take a deep breath for a moment to regain cardiovascular composure.

Opening his eyes, Dierks used the brass knocker to bang upon the door. He wondered if that knocker had been there when the building was erected and, then, how many people over the centuries may have used it? Before he could come up with a figure the imposing green door of Sotheby’s had opened.

A woman in a sharp, red business suit smiled warmly. “Mr. Santiago?”, she asked in a clear, ringing voice.

Dierks cleared his throat, “Yes.”

“Welcome to Sotheby’s! We were expecting you. My name is Camilla Rogers and I am tonight’s auctioneer. We are going to be in the Winthrop Room. If you’ll just follow me, we can get you settled in your seat and then take your refreshment order.”

Dierks crossed the threshold as the door gently closed behind him. “Thank you, Camilla, that would be most excellent”. He flashed her a toothy, warm smile and was satisfied to see it returned with what was close enough to real gusto that it didn’t matter if it was genuine or not.

It was a short walk to the Winthrop Room and no more than twenty seats were arranged in front of the podium that Camilla would be occupying, and less than half of those were filled. Dierks’ heart began to leap again. Under ten bidders! It wa almost too good to be true. He checked his watched and was shocked to see that the auction barely had 10 minutes until it officially began. Could his luck really be this good? Could fortune have smiled so beatifically upon him?

“Here you are Mr. Santiago,” Camilla said, gracefully unfolding her arm from the postured walking position she held to indicate a seat in the second row. “May I get you anything to drink?”

“An Old Fashioned would be wonderful, Camilla. Thank you.” Dierks hadn’t even finished speaking as he saw Camilla’s hand twitch, no doubt putting in his order through her own PUD. He couldn’t help it and had to ask, “Do you know if this is everyone who will be here tonight?”

Dierks had expected almost a scoff at that but Camilla simply smiled warmly and said, “Actually, you were the final guest we were expecting. Of course walk ins are always welcome but at these sorts of auctions, well, we just don’t see many of those. Is there anything else I can get you Mr. Santiago?”

“No. That’s all for now. Thanks.”

Camilla turned and walked back out of the Winthrop Room just as a waiter with Dierks drink walked in wearing the typical white and black suit denoting his profession. Dierks took the drink, paid the man a 5 Renlar tip, and took a hearty swig.

He didn’t recognize anyone in the room which could have been either a good or a bad thing. They’d find out soon enough. He had gotten into the game relatively quickly and knew most of the big players, like Takumoto, but, as Mark Twain said, the best swordsman doesn’t fear the second best swordsman, he fears the novice. Even though Dierks didn’t know who anyone in the room was did not suddenly turn them into bystanders. The were here which made them competitors and no one was going to keep Dierks from his triumph.

Lost in his own machinations, Dierks didn’t even hear the pair of footsteps entering the Winthrop Room until Camilla was already striding past him on his left, seating another patron in the front row and a few seats down from him. A moment of sourness clouded Dierks mind as another variable was plugged into his dreams equation but it was quickly wiped away as he looked at the woman Camilla was escorting. She was young and beautiful. Her sunkissed skin, athletic body, and straight, dirty blonde hair were a sight to behold and Dierks drank it in.

Camilla and the mysterious beauty had a quick exchange and then Camilla strode to the front of the podium.

“Welcome to Sotheby’s Boston office ladies and gentlemen”, Camilla’s voice rang loud and clear, amplified by speakers elegantly hidden in the room so that Dierks actually couldn’t see the speakers it was projecting out of. “Tonight, we are bidding on a ATD or Automated Thespian Display for the actor Leonardo DiCaprio who was famous for his roles in Titanic, The Departed, The Revenant, Longfellow’s Bridge, and Titus Andronicus. Initial bid is set for 7 million Renlar. Do I hear more?”

Dierks felt like he was floating. It was true. He almost dared not to believe it when the information from his office confirming DiCaprio would be the subject but here it was. This was going to be the cornerstone of his empire. The first true step in becoming a legend in Hollywood and all he was going to have to do is raise his hand.

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