Buffy was waiting at her neighborhood guard station, dressed in an eye-popping combination of tie-dyed leggings and knee-length glitter tunic, with star-and-moon hologram clips in her hair. Anyone who didnt know her would have thought she was completely devoid of sense, fashion or common. Thats what she was aiming for. Buffy travels with more hidden cameras than Shaun and I combined. As long as people are busy staring at her hair, they dont wonder why shes so careful about pointing the tiny jewels she has pasted to her nails in their direction.
She waved and grabbed her duffel bag when the van pulled up. Then she ran to hop into the back with Shaun and me. The footage of that moment would be on the site within the hour.
Hey, Georgia. Hey, Shaungood evening, Mr. and Mrs. Mason, she chirped, buckling herself in while Shaun slammed the door. I just finished watching your trip to Colma, Mrs. Mason. Really great stuff. I would never have thought to elude a bunch of zombies by climbing a high-dive platform.
Why, thank you, Georgette, said Mom.
Thrill as Buffy kisses ass, Shaun said, deadpan. Buffy shot him a poisonous look, and he just laughed.
Content that all was right with the world, I settled back in my seat, folded my arms across my chest, and closed my eyes, letting the chatter in the van wash over me without registering it. It had been a long day, and it was nowhere near over.
When blogging first emerged as a major societal trend, it was news rendered anonymous. Rather than trusting something because Dan Rather looked good on camera, you trusted things because they sounded true. The same went for reports of personal adventures, or people writing poetry, or whatever else folks felt like putting out there for the world to see; you got no context on who created it, and so you judged the work on the basis of what it actually was. That changed when the zombies came, at least for the people who went professional. These days, bloggers dont just report the news; they create it, and sometimes, they become it. Landing the position of pet bloggers for Senator Rymans presidential campaign? That definitely counts as becoming the news.
Thats part of why Shaun and Buffy keep me around. My journalistic integrity is unquestioned by our peers, and when we make the jump to alphathe suddenly feasible jump to alphathats going to cement our credibility. Shaun and Buffy will bring in the readers. Ill make it okay for them to trust us. They just have to deal with my depressed personal ratings because part of what makes me so credible is the fact that my news is free from passion, opinion, and spin. I do op-ed, but for the most part, what youll get from me is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
So help me God.
Shaun elbowed me when we reached Bronsons. I slid my sunglasses back into position and opened my eyes.
Status? I asked.
A least four visible cameras. Probably twelve to fifteen, all told.
That many cameras, at least six sites already know.
Got it. Buffy?
Taking point, she said, and straightened, putting on her best camera-ready smile. My parents exchanged amused looks in the front seat.
Its all uphill from here, I said.
Shaun leaned over and opened the van door.
Before the Rising, crowds of paparazzi were pretty much confined to the known haunts of celebrities and politiciansthe people whose faces could be used to sell a few more magazines. The rise of reality television and the Internet media changed all that. Suddenly, anybody could be a star if they were willing to embarrass themselves in the right ways. People got famous for wanting to get laid, a stunt men have been trying to achieve since the day we discovered puberty. People got famous for having useless talents, memorizing trivia, or just being willing to get filmed twenty-four hours a day while living in a house full of strangers. The world was a weird place before the Rising.
After the Rising, with an estimated eighty-seven percent of the populace living in fear of infection and unwilling to leave their homes, a new breed of reality star was born: the reporter. While you can be an aggregator or a Stewart without risking yourself in the real world, its hard to be an Irwin, a Newsie, or even a really good Fictional if you cut yourself off that way. So were the ones who eat in restaurants and go to theme parks, the ones who visit national parks even though wed really rather not, the ones who take the risks the rest of the country has decided to avoid. And when were not taking those risks ourselves, we report on the people who are. Were like a snake devouring its own tail, over and over again, forever. Shaun and I have done paparazzi duty when the stories were thin on the ground and we needed to make a few bucks fast. Id rather go for another filming session in Santa Cruz. Something about playing vulture just makes me feel dirty.
Buffy was the first to flounce into the crowd, looking like a little glittering ball of sunshine and happiness before they closed ranks around her, flashbulbs going off in all directions. Her giggle could cut through steel. I could hear it even after shed made it halfway to the restaurant doors, distracting the worst of the paparazzi in the process. Buffys cute, photogenic, a hell of a lot friendlier than I am, and, best of all, shes been known to drop hints about her personal life that can be turned into valuable rating points when the stories go live. Once, she even brought out a boyfriend. He didnt last long, but when she had him, Shaun and I could practically have danced naked on the van without getting harassed. Good times.
Shaun stepped out of the van already smiling. That smiles made him a lot of friends in the female portion of the blogospheresomething about him looking like hed be just as happy to explore the dangerous wilderness of the bedroom as he is to explore the mysteries of things that want to make him die. They should know by now its a gimmick, given his continuing lack of a social life that doesnt include the infected, but they keep falling for it. Half the cameras swung around to face him, and several of the chirpy little anchorwomenbecause every twit who knows how to post an interview on the vid sites is an anchorwoman these days; just ask themshoved their microphones into his face. Shaun immediately started giving them what they wanted, chattering merrily about our latest reports, offering coy, meaningless come-ons, and basically talking about anything and everything other than our new assignment.