by Vaughan Stanger
"I hear you're known as 'The Green Ghost,' Mister Franklin."
Word gets around in the entertainment industry. I earned the nickname because I'm the guy who ensures the real and the computer-generated blend seamlessly. Clad in green-screen cloth, I twitch the hem of Superman's cloak while he zooms across the CGI skyline, or bounce the actress's hair in a shampoo advert. No one sees me after the background is inserted, but everyone notices the effect.
I directed a carefully calibrated nod towards H. Gerrard Conway Junior, purveyor of eye-candy to the movie-going masses, and said, "That's correct, sir."
"So why are you here?"
"I want to diversify my portfolio."
My agent had mentioned "an exciting new role at Universal Media Corp, with a diverse range of future opportunities." That sounded a lot better than continuing as a peripatetic CGI fluffer.
"I'm sure you do, Mister Franklin." Conway's tone harbored misgivings.
I gave a tiny shrug. "To be frank, working on shampoo ads is a dead end. So I'm interested to hear what you're offering."
Conway leaned across the polished mahogany table, his left elbow skidding towards a steaming cup of Java. Without pausing to think, I nudged it out of harm's way.
Oh, crap. Talk about pushing my luck!
To my relief, Conway responded with a grin instead of the expected rebuke.
"Very good, Mister Franklin. You've passed our first test. Ready for more?"
"Yes, of course!"
Tested for what, though?
The gangly, mustachioed man who'd met me outside Conway's office sifted through a pile of body suits while glancing over his right shoulder.
"This one looks like your size."
"But definitely not my color." I shook my head in disbelief. "You do realize that beige won't work with a green screen, don't you?"
Wardrobe Guy gave me an amused look. "Where you're going, it'll work just fine."
"Which studio might that be?"
"You'll see. Now if you'll please get suited up."
When I emerged from the dressing room, Wardrobe Guy handed me a set of augmented reality glasses, likewise beige.
"Put these on," he said.
I tapped the switch on the frame. "Now that's really weird."
The world had duplicated itself. One Wardrobe Guy was standing in front of me, clutching his pad, the other moving off to my right, pad tucked under his arm and a spare pair of AR glasses dangling from his fingers. When the inevitable happened, I dived towards him and grabbed the glasses before they hit the floor. Those things are expensive.
Wardrobe Guy tapped his pad.
"Okay, you've entered Delta Plus-One."
"You've moved into a universe one bifurcation step from ours." He tapped his pad again. "What do you see now?"