The senator was winding down. You can only give your political platform in so many ways, no matter how much practice you have at saying the same thing from sixteen different angles. I adjusted my sunglasses, settling in my chair as I waited for the real fun to begin: the question-and-answer period. Most of the questions people come up with have something to do with the infected, as in, What are you going to do about the zombies that the other guys havent tried already? The answers can get seriously entertaining, and honestly, so can the questions.
Most questions are e-mailed in by the home audiences and asked by the polite, slightly bland voice of the senators digital personal assistant, which has been programmed to sound like a well-educated female of indeterminate age and race. Senator Ryman calls it Beth for no reason anyone has been able to get him to explain. I intend to keep trying. The best questions are the ones that come from the live audiences. Most of them are scared out of their minds after being out of the house for more than half an hour, and nothing loosens the tongue like fear. If I had my way, all questions would be asked by people who had just taken a trip through a really well-designed haunted house.
and now Id like to take a few questions from our audienceboth those watching this event through the electronic methods provided by my clever technicians, Senator Ryman chuckled, managing to telegraph his utter lack of understanding of such petty details as how the video feeds work, and the good people of Eakly, Oklahoma, who have been good enough to host us this evening.
Come on, lady, dont let me down, I murmured. Sure enough, the lady in the front row had her hand in the air almost before the senator finished speaking, arm jutting upward at a fierce, near-military angle. I settled back in my chair, grinning. Jackpot.
Huh? Buffy looked up from her watch.
Live one, I said, indicating the lady.
Oh. Suddenly interested in something other than the data feed, Buffy sat forward. She knows potential ratings when she sees them.
Yesthe lady in the front row. Senator Ryman indicated the woman, whose tight-lipped face promptly filled half the monitors in the room. Buffy tapped two buttons on her phone, directing her cameras to zoom in. The senators tech team is good, and even Buffy admits it; they understand camera angles, splicing footage, and when to go for a tight shot. Thanks to Chuck Wong, who does all their planning and design, theyre probably near the top of their field. But Buffy is better.
The lady in question lowered her hand, fixing the senator with a stern gaze. What is your stance on the Rapture? Her voice was as clipped and thin as Id expected. The sound system picked it up clear as a bell, reproducing every harsh edge and disapproving inflection flawlessly.
Senator Ryman blinked, looking nonplussed. It was the first time Id seen a question take him completely by surprise. He recovered with admirable speed, though, saying, I beg your pardon?
The Rapture. The event in which the faithful will be elevated to the Heavens, while the unfaithful, sinners, and infidels will be left to suffer Hell on Earth. Her eyes narrowed. What is your stance on this holy, foreordained event?
Ah. Senator Ryman continued to look at her, thoughtfulness clearing away his confusion. I heard a faint clink and glanced to my left; Shaun had put down his chain mail and was watching the stage with open interest. Buffy was staring at her phone, furiously tapping buttons as she angled her cameras. You cant edit or pause a live feed, but you can set up the data to give you the best material to work from later. And this was the sort of material you just cant stage. Would he bow to the religious nuts who have been taking over more and more of the party in recent years? Or would he risk alienating the entire religious sector of the voting public? Only the senator knew. And in a moment, so would we.
Senator Ryman didnt break eye contact with the woman as he stepped out from behind his podium, walked to the edge of the stage, and sat, resting his elbows on his knees. He looked like a schoolboy approaching confession, not a man jockeying for the leadership of the most powerful country on the planet. It was a well-considered position, and I applauded it inwardly, even as I began to consider an article on the showmanship of modern politics. Whats your name, maam?
Suzanne Greeley, she said, pursing her lips. You havent answered my question, young man.
Well, Ms. Greeley, that would be because I was thinking, he said, and looked out at the small gathering, a smile spreading across his face. I was taught that its rude to answer a ladys question without giving it proper thought. Sort of like putting your elbows on the table during dinner. A ripple of laughter passed through the crowd. Ms. Greeley didnt join in.
Turning back toward her, the senator continued: Youve asked me about my position on the Rapture, Ms. Greeley. Well, first, I think I should say that I dont really have positions on religious events: God will do as He wills, and it isnt my place or my position to judge Him. If He chooses to lift the faithful into Heaven, He will, and I doubt all the politicians in the world saying, I dont believe you can do that would stop him.
At the same time, I doubt Hes going to do anything like that, Ms. Greeley, because Godthe God I believe in, anyway, and as a lifelong Methodist, I feel I know Him about as well as a man who doesnt devote his life to the Church candoesnt throw good things away. God is the ultimate recycler. We have a good planet here. It has its troubles, yes. We have overpopulation, we have pollution, we have global warming, we have the Thursday night television lineup, more laughter, and, of course, we have the infected. We have a lot of problems on Earth, and it might seem like a great idea to hold the Rapture nowwhy wait? Lets move on to Heaven, and leave the trials and tribulations of our earthly existence behind us. Lets get while the gettings good, and beat the rush.