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“I’m sure we can live without an hour’s recordings of the security team,” I said. “Shaun, get the lights?”

“On it.” He put his crossbow aside and rose, moving to drop the shade over the van’s window and pull the rear door closed. Buffy made a small grunt of protest, and he flicked the switch to turn on the interior lights. The area was promptly bathed in a soft, specially formulated light designed to be gentle on sensitive eyes. The bulbs cost fifty bucks each, and they’re worth it. They’re even better than the black lights I use in my room at home. They don’t just prevent headaches; sometimes, they cure them.

I removed my glasses with a sigh, massaging my right temple with my fingertips. “All right, folks, we have our first official, on-the-record encounter. Impressions?”

“Like the wife,” said Shaun. “She’s photogenic, and a definite asset. I still need a handle on the senator. He’s either the biggest Boy Scout ever to make it past the local level, or he’s playing us.”

“The fish tacos were good,” said Buffy. “I like Senator Ryman, actually. He’s nice even when he doesn’t have to be. This could be a pretty fun gig.”

“Who cares about fun as long as it brings in the green?” asked Shaun, with a philosophical shrug. “We’re made when this is over. Everything else is gravy.”

“I agree with both of you, to a degree,” I said, still massaging my temple. I could already tell I was going to need painkillers before we wrapped for the night. “Senator Ryman can’t be as nice as he wants us to think he is, but he’s also nicer than he has to be; it’s not entirely a put-on. There’s a degree of sincerity there that you can’t fake. I’ll do a pull-and-drop profile on him tonight, something like ‘First Impressions of the Man Who Would Be President.’ Puff piece, but still. Buff, how long is it going to take you to splice our footage?”

“Once everything is ready to run again, I’ll need an hour—two, tops.”

“Try for an hour. We want to hit the East Coast while they’re still awake. Shaun, care to do a review of the security precautions? Hit up a few of the guards, find out what sort of ordnance they’re carrying with them?”

His face split in a wide grin. “Already on it. You know the big blond guy? Built like a linebacker?”

“I did notice the presence of a giant on the security team, yes.”

“His name’s Steve. He carries a baseball bat.” Shaun made an exaggerated swinging motion. “Can you imagine him hitting one out of the park?”

“Ah,” I said, dryly. “The classics. Grab a few cameras, harass the locals until you get what you want. Which brings us to my last order of business—we have a request from the senator.”

Buffy slid out from under the desk again, another bundle of wires in her hands, and gave me a curious look. Shaun scowled.

“Don’t tell me we’re being censored already.”

“Yes and no,” I said. “He wants us to keep Emily out of things as much as we can for right now. Minimize her inclusion in the lunch footage, that sort of thing.”

“Why?” asked Buffy.

“San Diego,” I said, and waited.

I didn’t have to wait long. Shaun doesn’t feel as strongly as I do about the universal application of Mason’s Law, but he still follows the debate. Expression changing from one of incomprehension to complete understanding, he said, “He’s afraid somebody’s going to target her at the ranch if we make too big a deal of things.”

“Exactly.” I switched my massaging to my other temple. “Their kids are out there with their grandparents, and he sort of wants the family alive. A little risk is unavoidable, but he’d like to keep them low-profile as long as he can.”

“I can manage the footage edits,” said Buffy.

“She wouldn’t feature in my piece at all,” said Shaun.

“And I’ll sidebar her. So we’re in agreement?”

“Guess so,” said Shaun.

“Great. Buffy, let me know when we’re back to live-feed capacity on all bands. I’m going to step outside for a few minutes.” I slid my sunglasses back on and stood. “Just getting a little air.”

“I’ll get to work,” said Shaun, and stood as I did, exiting the van a few steps ahead of me. He didn’t stop or look back as I came out; he just kept going. Shaun knows me better than anyone else in the world. Sometimes I think he knows me better than I do. He knows I need a few minutes by myself before I can start working. Location doesn’t matter. Just solitude.

The afternoon light had dimmed without dying, and my bike wasn’t quite as painful to look at. I walked over and leaned against it, resting my heels on the driveway as I closed my eyes and tilted my face up into the dying light. Welcome to the world, kids. Things were moving now, and all we could do was make sure that the truth kept getting out, and getting where it needed to be.

When I was sixteen and told my father that I wanted to be a Newsie—it wasn’t a surprise by that point, but it was the first time I had said it to his face—he pulled some strings and got me enrolled in a history of journalism course at the university. Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe I met the greats the way you should meet them, through their words and the things they did, when I was still young enough to fall in love without reservations or conditions. I never wanted to be Lois Lane, girl reporter, even though I dressed like her for Halloween one year. I wanted to be Edward R. Murrow, facing down corruption in the government. I wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson, ripping the skin off the world. I wanted the truth, and I wanted the news, and I’d be damned before I settled for anything less.

Shaun’s the same, even if his priorities are different. He’s willing to let a good story come before the facts, as long as the essential morals stay true. That’s why he’s so good at what he does, and why I double-check every report he writes before I release it.