Date: Monday 5 December 2040ce 1455z
Location: ECNN Headquarters, Jersey City, New Jersey (-0500)
My Goddess, Roger… Do you people really want a second season?
To her knowledge, she had used almost all of the best material for the first season. While there was certainly a lot to pick from, diligently sorted and organized by ECNN’s elite team of staffers (well, one staffer and a half-dozen exhausted interns), almost the entirety of what remained was unconfirmed dead ends.
So unconfirmed, in fact, that the Code of Journalistic Ethics which was hard-wired (if that was the proper word for it) into the NewsNet Quantum servers rejected the archived footage for non-compliance.
Thankfully, the network established a secondary site on EntertaiNet, the servers proving to be far more forgiving in regard to collecting rumors and unsubstantiated mythology. They were even able to get the two databases to cross-reference one another, which her fans had been most thankful for.
The best stuff got used already… There isn’t a second season!
It didn’t help that the final episode had aired the night before, depriving her of sleep as she silently lurked the social networks reading the reactions of those who watched.
Opinions were mixed, but they were mostly distributed in the manner she had expected.
“Mister Cass will see you now,” the receptionist said over the counter, motioning in the direction of his office.
“Thanks,” she replied.
“Ah, Suze,” Roger said as she reached his office door. “Come in.”
Suzanne was glad Roger was the only person to call her Suze, although “Suze-A!” was often shouted out by fans of the show.
The branding had been Rogers idea; Some of it annoyed her without end, but it had proven successful.
What’s it matter if I occasionally feel cheap?
They exchanged casual greetings and, after turning down complimentary service, they sat down at the lounge area of his office.
The view was not especially flattering; The building was constructed to accommodate the second generation of shield generators, so peeked at seven stories. The handful of newer buildings, with the modular structure-mounted generators of the fourth generation, were starting to reach for pre-Invasion heights.
You won’t have much of a skyline view left by this time next year…
But while the new generators opened the door for taller buildings, there was little need for them as yet; The war effort, and security while the war continued, put an unspoken cap on most buildings.
Though I hear the new Capital Building is going to be incredible…
The plan was to build it over where the Sear Tower once stood.
“Last night’s ratings beat Fargo,” Roger said, drawing her attention back to her host.
“The Reverend still holds the crown,” she replied, not surprised.
Roger shrugged, an amused look on his face. “That’s going to reign for decades to come, I think.”
It was a good feeling, knowing that her last episode was ranked second only to the first, and some of her excitement slipped.
“Lot’s of chatter about last night,” she said.
“And what do you think?”
“I find the sudden popularity of the term ‘Yankee harlot’ to be somewhat daunting.”
“Yeah,” Roger said through a laugh. “The Last Worlder’s aren’t too happy.”
“They all say I don’t know what it was like at Faith Point,” she said. “But damn, no one wants to actually talk about being there. If it wasn’t for the fence, Faith Point wouldn’t have made the cut.”
“It’s a bit more confirmed than that,” Roger replied.
“Yeah… But still. No one… No residents, none of the soldiers, not even those Honored Reverends… The two that are left. No one would answer our questions.”
She stopped her complaining, knowing she had covered that exact issue during last night’s episode.
“It’s almost a conspiracy,” she added, calming herself by doing so.
“I’m inclined to agree… Numbers wise, however, you did very well in every market.”
“If you mean the SWS, then just call them West Coast,” he replied. “That’s what they’ll be in four weeks. But, yes, SWS. A lot of curiosity regarding the Last Worlders. They’ve got them out there, too, but most are isolated anti-federalists living on the fringes or in Deep Resistance territory.”
Like I need a history lesson, Roger.
She let it go, however, knowing it was very much like her own griping about Faith Point.
“Have you heard the term ‘living museum’?” Roger asked.
“Can’t say I have.”
“It’s becoming something of a social meme out west. Gaining traction recently here in the north. They use it to refer to Last World Baptist mostly, but it gets used anytime someone is confronted by fundamentalist thinking. Watching the NES debates regarding Reunification and the new constitution was their first time really paying attention to them as a political force.”
Watched them get muzzled and neutered, you mean.
“As for the other markets,” Roger continued, “very well. High ratings all around. Oregon, Washington, New Canada. Numbers for East Siberia locked up the Alaskan States. Nunavut was lukewarm, but you’re showing the usual network spike from there, so that’s all fine.”
“Idaho?” she asked, having a good idea what was coming.
“High ratings… But you might not want to go there anytime soon.”
Idaho was barred from Quantum, so there was little coming from there that she had seen.
“High ratings through the Iridium streams,” Roger said. “But then a lot of hate. Which is odd, given that Idaho became its own spin-off church a decade ago. Oh, and they burned down the embassy.”
“The NES embassy.”
“We don’t have an embassy there.”
“Closed down after they expelled the migrants.”
‘Expelled’, Suzanne knew, was not the proper word; Stripped them of all their belongings and set them off on foot towards the nearest border, whether than meant going into human or Invader territory, was the truth of the matter.
“So they burned down an empty building? I’ve set intra-American diplomacy back a decade… My job here is done.”
“I don’t think anyone cares about Idaho,” he said. “All the shit they’re stirring up along the Montana border, probably won’t be long before they get pacified.”
That’s a cold assessment.
“I don’t think the NES… Sorry. The Coalition military going against meth heads with shotguns and thirty-year-old pickups is going to make for a very patriotic sight.”
“Likely not,” Roger agreed. “Barely a step above Aberdeen.”
You really can be a bastard.
The surge of anger provided her the courage to say what she needed to say.
“Listen, Roger,” she began. “Tig and I… We went through everything left over from last season… And there’s some intriguing stuff… Stuff I’d love to go out and check out, most definitely.”
“But I don’t see how we’ll get a second season out of it all.”
“Oh?” Roger replied in a tone of passive curiosity.
“I mean, sure… Five minutes on this. Ten on that, maybe. We have testimonies, but most of the sources are dead, or just missing. Some are still alive, but a lot of those are retired. Age. Memory issues. A couple are willing and able to talk, from their comfortable accommodations in this or that mental hospital. So, there’s stuff… We just don’t think we can give you much more as far as a series goes.”
Roger just smiled at her.
“So,” she continued, “I understand that the network has a renewal option in the contract. But after we sorted everything and then made the season, and saw what was left… We didn’t think you’d want to… To… What?”
“Yes,” Roger said, still smiling. “I’m well aware. I do have a complete inventory of what’s left in your files.”
Of course he does.
“So what’s this about?” she asked.
“Well, like you said, there is more material. Just not enough to produce worthwhile episodes to continue Reports as a series. What we want to do is continue it as a feature.”
“You really did nail the problem down, Suze…”
“…Five to ten minute stories, no real conclusion, most of it restricted by the Code because, well, because of everything already said. The idea is to have Vick… Remember, Vick? One of the interns… He’s full time now. Idea is to have Vick put together the features, and then you can provide opening and closing narratives.”
“That sounds… Easy. I mean, that can’t possibly pay enough for me to stay here. And Tig’s… We’ll, he’s Tig.”
“Not as much as Season One,” he said. “But that’s just the start… To keep your name floating through the network.”
You mean to keep the competitors from knowing I’m available.
She wasn’t certain how much of that was wishful thinking.
“The real bread-and-butter is your research.”
“You want to go back on the road, don’t you? Tig certainly does.”
“We finished editing Faith Point three weeks ago,” he said. “Vacation’s over.”
“What do you mean by ‘research’?”
“You’ve got all those loose ends. A mountain of them.”
“I agree there’s a mountain of them, but they’re nothing… A friend of a friend type stuff. ‘I heard it from another trooper on patrol’ shit.”
“And there’s a few with some meat on them,” Roger prodded. “And don’t tell me you’re not lurking around you own server.”
“Posted a few times,” she said.
At first, she had posted as herself, thanking her fans and answering questions. But that ended quickly as her message folder turned into a legitimate crank file, more than some of a sexual nature. Her happiest moment was when she found out that she could just ask the quantum processor to eliminate posts objectively made for the purpose of sexual harassment or insult, reporting to authorities anything that was determined, again with complete objectivity, to be in violation of the law.
She did finally announce that she’d be too busy with the show to post often, or answer her messages, telling her fans to discuss the issues on the forums. There, they were told, the stories they gathered could be discussed and debated openly by everyone. And anything that was found to be especially credible would get her attention.
She still posted, but after having created an anonymous account, and kept her interactions to the rare compliment, agreement or question. The last of those three was usually to knock down a pile of bull by making a target of the weakest part.
“Which is why I said ‘lurking’,” Roger continued. “Those are rather lively. Point is, you started this quest of yours for a reason. You certainly know why, just as I’m certain I know what that is. It was everywhere in your research. No, don’t… I saw it clear as day once I knew what was in front of me. And I completely understand. You made a choice not to be your own witness.”
“Roger… I don’t know what to say.”
“The award shows are in mid-January,” he said. “Find a new rig. Something that’ll handle to road and not leave you scavenging for gas out in the Deadlands like in your old days. New gear, supplies… It’s not the wild west anymore. Everything north of Guatemala is under siege, and that’s boring until you get too close. Investigate whatever you wish; Heck, just a picture of you standing at the location while generate traffic.
“Vick will put together segments, using your intended route to find relevant topics. Five to ten-minute segments, and you upload the opening for us from the field. We’ll hire voice actors to narrate the segments.”
“Oh, no,” she protested.
“You expect to provide audible recordings while moving about? On schedule? No.”
“I approve script.”
“With a deadline to reject… No call, it’s approved.”
“Sounds good,” Roger replied, his ritualized manner of saying the agreement was finalized.
I’m coming for you, Reverend…