Chapter 8: Leith

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"Simon, have you decided yet?"

"Well, I've already committed to at least complicity in your little scheme just by taking the time to think about it instead of turning you in."

"Because you know I'm right. You saw my logs. I've been compiling a report for when this is all over, and I plan to face the music in the full light of the Record. This is my idea, not yours, and my report will emphasize that."

"What, so you can take all the credit? If we're doing this, my name goes right next to yours."

"Thank you, Simon. I appreciate that. As long as you understand that mine goes first."

"Of course, that goes without saying."

"And I will maintain control of the project's overall direction."

"Darlena, please. You can trust me."

"Just want to make sure we're clear."

"This is your baby. I get it."

"Great. We've got work to do."

#

On the lavish main set of the Core Media Network aboard Overlook Station, Governor Strump sat across from the charismatic news anchor Chep Stanley. An imposing desk separated them, made of a glossy black material and laced with real wood from Surface. Behind them, a large window gave a magnificent backdrop of Surface against the darkness of space, the bright blue bands of the planet's atmosphere gradually giving way to black.

In front of them, cameras and their operators separated the two from an audience of a few hundred people. For the Governor, it was a familiar setting, but not one he'd relished lately. The balancing act of politics, the constant tending of the narrative, the spin and counter-spin... it drained all the fun out of being Governor. He pined for the simplicity of his campaign for office, of the certainty he felt in his desire to win.

With a few minutes before the segment began, Strump waited patiently as an assistant touched up Chep Stanley's makeup. The news anchor's affable charm shone through even without the world watching, as he joked quietly with the young woman finishing her final pass. They shared a laugh and Chep thanked her as she left.

Chep returned his attention to his guest and leaned forward, speaking softly with a conversational tone. "So you were saying you came back aboard Aristeia? She's quite the little gem."

"Magnificent. That was her maiden voyage, believe it or not! You can bet that'll stand out on the Record in the future. This whole debacle will, I'm sure," Strump griped.

Chep nodded and grunted his agreement. "Without a doubt. The people are worried, my friend. They're very concerned about all this pirate business. It's bad for our business."

"And they should be worried. We've never seen an attack like that. But it's our job to help ease their fears, eh? We're here to make them feel safe and comforted. Our military is the only thing standing between the savage hordes and our people, and we need to remind them of that." The Governor watched with a grin as Chep's eyebrows perked up. "Are you with me?"

After a glance at the audience, Chep replied with a wry smile, "That's what we're here for. To help each other along when it's needed."

"Wonderful. We'll have our people talk after the show. I've got a little surprise for the viewers, too." Strump looked over his shoulder and directed Chep's gaze to the fabricant Gim, who was standing off-camera watching them. "I'll bring him on after we do the intro, okay? The guys at BioLock will love it."

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