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The Reporters

By Susan
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It was a quiet day at the viscast office, even for reporters as famous as Altag and Dev. They had set up enough "shock inquiries" to fill the next three months, pay day wasn't until the end of the week, and they had exhausted the "research budget." Dev was now updating the obits files, while Altag was playing with the computer-imaging program.

'If you are going to use my obits to play "swapping heads," at least leave the originals as you found them,' Dev said and looked at his cup. It was his turn to make the coffee.

'I've done nothing to them lately. Probably somebody trying to make us look ridiculous. Or the usual foul up' Reporters on the various viscast channels had a running competition to create problems in each others' networks. Altag came over to look at Dev's screen. 'Show me- we can always plan a counter attack on whoever did it. Or do another promptly forgotten shock-horror-exposť of badly prepared information.'

'They'll only blame it on the Intergalactic War. Look. This is the late Supreme Commander and President, and all the other ridiculous titles the office carries, Servalan.' A striking face.

'Can't say I've seen many pictures of her before,' Altag admitted. 'So?'

'And this is Commissioner Sleer.' The identical image.

'Most odd.' Altag checked through the data. 'This Sleer character only started being active after Servalan's death.'

'The most logical explanation is that somebody glitched up with the pictures,' Dev said. It was before he had joined this particular office, so he was in the clear.

'More likely than her being resurrection. Unless you can think of anything better to do we can look into the matter... a couple of interviews, whatever. Sleer seems to be on the make - could do with a background article on her.'

'I agree. And we might get a bonus from them upstairs for our foresight.'

'All of two credits no doubt.'

'Between us.'

****

However there were no more images of either Servalan or Sleer to be found. Even stranger there was nobody left who had known, seen or heard President Servalan. A number had been exiled, imprisoned or killed after her successor had taken over, as tended to happen if the succession was slightly dubious - which was "usually." Others she had known, had died in somewhat peculiar circumstances: the only thing in common apparently being their connection to Servalan. There was enough "evidence" for a program for one of the independent channels. There would be no comeback from the present administration - not because they cared for the now non-person Servalan, but they appreciated "somebody" finding information on potential threats.

Commissioner Sleer could be the subject of another program, having been involved in a number of somewhat questionable activities. The Federation authorities did not object to an occasional lower ranking official being "exposed" for criminal or morally dubious activities, to divert attention away from the senior echelons, while the independent planets welcomed such programs to justify their continued independence.

At last Altag and Dev tracked Commissioner Sleer down. She was going to be on the planet Gauda Prime, which was about to be normalised, after having its "open status" revoked.

It was relatively easy, cashing in on their fame, for the two reporters to get their ship and their entourage attached to the Federation expeditionary force, ostensibly to produce a propaganda piece: the Federation imposing law and order on a planet where there was none. There were some things where nobody could complain about the positive aspects of the Federation: exotic foods and communications were among the others.

On the journey they arranged a visit to the commanding officer's ship for interviews with all the leading officers. Dev and Altag showed the commander what they had gathered on Commissioner Sleer. He was interested with the evidence - mainly with considerations of his promotion - one reason he had agreed to the reporters in the first place - and arresting the Commissioner, given the information against her, would raise his profile. So also, on a more personal basis, would be the removal of a possible competitor for the more interesting resources of Gauda Prime.

****

And so they came to Gauda Prime, with the reporters being directed towards a "relatively safe" area of engagement. The two reporters had a brief panic when they encountered an unknown civilian ship which might have contained some of their competitors. However, there was no evidence of viscast linkups, and the response of the on-board computer to a polite inquiry brought a rather brusque reply that it was not a communications machine, but that if the reporters wished to have an interesting story, they should await its signal.

A few hours later Altag and Dev had the scoop of a lifetime, with the arrest of Commissioner Sleer, who turned out to indeed be ex-President Servalan, in possession of some rather interesting threats - which were, fortunately, inoperable.

"Their" commanding officer was more than duly grateful, and invited them to join him on a visit to an "interesting" base, which, very luckily, was at the co-ordinates the reporters had been given.

The two reporters had, luckily, been checking their records more thoroughly than the military had theirs - though the as yet unidentified computer provided some useful prompts. They were able to convince the section leaders that "interviewing" a few now "disarmed and slightly damaged bounty hunters" on the reporters' spaceship was a useful idea - and the "bounty hunters" were reasonably willing to co-operate. The section leaders agreed, so long as there was no disturbance of their own activities - in fact said that Altag and Dev could take the bounty hunters, "a bits of interesting equipment" and whatever they cared to "salvage from a downed ship" and then go away quietly. When removed to a place of safety on the reporters' ship - departing with all due haste - the "piece of equipment" first acquired activated and started a long protest, until one of the "bounty hunters" removed a key.

It took a little time to get the retrieved group into a fit and tidy state for Dev and Altag's broadcasts, but presenting interviews with the "Federation's most wanted rebels" without any comeback from the authorities took some arranging.

It took considerably longer to persuade the "piece of protesting equipment," also known as the computer Orac that what was needed were five minute soundbites, while the ten hour explanations were best used as source material.

And so began the phenomenally successful "Rebel Broadcasting Service," which eventually became so popular that the official networks had to change their format to compete.

The Federation-as-was collapsed, the joke went, not because of the rebel movement, but because nobody was listening to its demands and instructions, and it was found to be far cheaper to not use repression and suppressant drugs and occasionally do what 'popular demand' wanted.

Roj Blake proved an extremely effective presenter, and Kerr Avon and Vila Restal proved very useful in investigative journalism. Servalan did very well as head of a rival broadcasting system. Orac, having finally worked out how humour "worked" became head of a greetings card firm, and could never understand what to do with its salary.


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