We didnt get to choose our own names, maam, I said, fighting a smile. Shaun and I dont even know what names we were born with. We were orphaned in the Rising, and when the Masons adopted us, we were both listed under Baby Doe.
Oh, but one of you did, she said. One of the Georges is also a Buffy, and if I remember my pop culture right, it should be the blonde one. She turned, extending a hand toward Buffy. Georgette Meissonier, correct?
Absolutely, Buffy said, taking her hand. You can call me Buffy. Everyone else does.
Its a pleasure to meet you, Emily replied, and released her hand, turning toward Shaun and me. That must make you the Masons. Shaun and Georgia. Yes?
Got it, Shaun said, saluting her. Somehow, he kept the gesture from looking like he was making fun. Ive never understood how he does that.
I stepped forward, offering her a hand. George is fine by me, or Georgia. Whichever is easier for you, Mrs. Ryman.
Call me Emily, she said. Her grip was cool, and the glance she cast toward my sunglasses was understanding. Are the lights too bright for you? Theyre all soft bulbs, but I can dim the window a bit more if you need me to.
No, thank you, I said, eyebrows rising as I studied her face more closely. Her eyes werent dark, as I had first assumed; what I had taken to be deep brown irises were actually her pupils, so dilated that they pushed the natural muddy hazel of her eyes into a thin ring around the edges. Wouldnt you know if the lights were a problem?
She smiled, wryly. My eyes arent as sensitive as they used to be. I was an early case, and there was some nerve damage by the time they figured out what was going on. Youll tell me if the lights get to be too much?
I nodded. Sure will.
Wonderful. You three make yourselves comfortable. Lunch will be up in a few minutes. Were having fish tacos with mango salsa and virgin mimosas. She raised a finger to the senator, adding playfully, I dont want to hear a word of complaint from you, Mister. Were not getting these nice reporters drunk before things even get started.
Dont worry, maam, Shaun said. Some of us can hold our liquor.
And some of us cant, I said dryly. Buffy weighs ninety-five pounds, soaking wet. The one time we took her out drinking, she wound up climbing onto a table and reciting half of Night of the Living Dead before Shaun and I could pull her down. Thank you, Mrs . Emily.
Her smile was approving. You can be taught. Now all of you, go sit down while I finish taking care of business. Peter, that means you, too.
Yes, dear, said the senator, kissing her on the cheek before moving to take a seat at the dining room table. The three of us followed him in an obedient, slightly ragged line. Ill challenge senators and kings for the right to know the truth, but far be it from me to challenge a woman in her own kitchen.
Watching the places everyone took around the table was interesting in a purely sociological sense. Shaun settled with his back to the wall, affording him the best view of the room. He may seem like an idiot, but in some ways, hes the most careful of us all. You cant be an Irwin and not learn some things about keeping your exits open. If the zombies ever mob en masse again, hell be ready. And filming.
Buffy took the seat nearest the light, where the cameras studded through her jewelry would get the best pickup shots. Her portables work on the principles defined during the big pre-Rising wireless boom; they transmit data to the server on a constant basis, allowing her to come back later and edit it at her leisure. I once tried to figure out how many transmitters she actually had on her, but wound up giving up and wandering off to do something more productive, like answering Shauns fan mail. He gets more marriage proposals a week than he likes to think about, and he lets me handle them all.
The senator took the seat closest to the kitchen and his wife, thus conveniently leaving me the chair with the highest degree of shadow. So he was a family man and someone who understood that consideration was a virtue. Nice. I settled, asking, You provide home-cooked meals for all your news staff?
Just the controversial ones, he replied, his tone easy and assured. Im not going to beat around the bush. I read your public reports, your op-ed pieces, everything, before I agreed to your application. I know youre smart and wont forgive bullshit. That doesnt, he held up a finger, mean Im going to be one hundred percent straight with you, because there are some things no reporter ever gets to be privy to. Mostly having to do with my home life and my family, but still, there are no-go zones.
We respect that, I said. Shaun and Buffy were nodding.
Senator Ryman seemed to approve, because he nodded in turn, looking satisfied. Nobody wanted me to bring blog folks on this campaign, he said, without preamble. I sat up a little straighter. The entire online community knew that the senators handlers had been recommending against including bloggers in the official campaign press corps, but Id never expected to hear it put so baldly. They have this idea that you three will report whatever you damn well want to and not whats good for the campaign.
So youre saying theyre pretty smart, then? Shaun asked, in a bland surfer-boy drawl that might almost have been believable, if he hadnt been smirking as he said it.
The senator roared with laughter, and Emily looked up from the stove, clearly amused. Thats what I pay them for, so I certainly hope so, Shaun. Yeah, theyre pretty smart. Theyve got you pegged for exactly what you are.
And whats that, Senator? I asked.
Sobering, he leaned forward. The children of the Rising. Biggest revolution that our generationsyours, mine, and at least two more besidesare ever going to see. The world changed overnight, and sometimes Im sorry I was born too early to be in on the ground level of what its turned into. You kids, youre the ones who get to shape the real tomorrow, the one thats going to matter. Not me, not my lovely wife, and certainly not a bunch of talking heads who get paid to be smart enough to realize that a bunch of Bay Area blogger kids are going to tell the truth as they see it, and damn the political consequences.