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“That would be Rebecca Ryman, age eighteen?”

“That’s correct. My eldest will be graduating high school this June and expects to start at Brown University in the fall, where she’ll be studying political science, like her old man. Supporting a free and equal public school system is one of the duties of the government. Which does mean increased blood screening for children under the age of fourteen, and additional funding for school security, but it seems to me that taking money from our public schools because they might be threatened at some point in the future is a bit of burning down the barn to keep the hay from going bad.”

“How do you speak to the criticisms that your campaign depends too heavily on the secular issues facing our nation, while ignoring the spiritual?”

Senator Ryman’s lips quirked in a smile. “I say when God comes down here and helps me clean my house, I’ll be more than happy to help Him with cleaning His. Until then, I’ll trouble myself with keeping people fed and breathing, and let Him tend the parts I can’t do anything to help.”

The door opened as Channing returned, balancing a tray of Starbucks cups on his outstretched arms. The interchangeable interns promptly mugged him. An open can of Coke was somehow deposited in front of me in the chaos that followed. I acknowledged it with a grateful nod, picked it up, and sipped before saying, “If the campaign ends today, Senator, if this is the culmination of your work to date was it worth it?”

“No,” he said. The room went quiet. I could almost hear heads turning toward him. “As your readers are no doubt aware, an act of sabotage committed at my headquarters earlier this month led to the deaths of four good men and women who were dedicated to supporting this campaign. They signed on to draw a paycheck and maybe, along the way, help an ideal find a place in this modern world. Instead, they passed on to whatever reward may be waiting for us—for heroes—in the next world. If those men and women had lived, then yes, I could have walked away from this a little sadder, a little wiser, but convinced that I’d done the right thing, I’d done my best, and next time, I’d be able to make that run all the way to the end of the road. At this point?

“Nothing I do is bringing them back, and if there were something I could do to change what happened in Eakly, I would have done it ten times over. From where I sit, there’s only one thing left that I can do, and that’s win. For the ideal they died supporting, and for the sake of their memories. So if I lose, if I have to go home empty-handed, if the next time I contact their families it’s to say, ‘Sorry, but I couldn’t make it after all’ then no, it wasn’t worth it. But it was the only thing I knew to do.”

There was a long, stunned pause before the room erupted in applause. Most of it came from the interchangeable interns, but the technicians were applauding as well—and so, his hands devoid of coffee cups, was Channing. I noted this with thoughtful interest before turning back to the senator and nodding.

“Thank you for your time,” I said, “and best of luck in today’s primaries.”

Senator Ryman flashed a practiced grin. “I don’t need luck. I just need the waiting to be over.”

“And I just need the use of one of your data ports, so that I can clean this up and transmit it over for upload,” I said, pulling out my MP3 recorder and holding it up to the room. “It’ll take me about fifteen minutes to do the surface edits.”

“Will we be permitted to review your report before release?” asked Channing.

“Down, boy,” said the senator. “I don’t see where we need to. Georgia’s been square with us so far, and I don’t see where that’s going to change. Georgia?”

“You can review it if you’d like, but all that’s going to do is delay release,” I said. “Leave me to work, and this hits my front page before the polls have closed.”

“Go to it,” said the senator, and indicated a free space on the wall. “You have all the data ports you need.”

“Thanks,” I said, and took my Coke, moving over to the wall to settle down and set to work.

Editing a report is both easier and harder for me than it is for Shaun or Buffy. My material rarely depends on graphics. I don’t need to concern myself with camera angles, lighting, or whether the footage I use gets my point across. At the same time, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in today’s era of instant gratification and high-speed answers, sometimes people aren’t willing to deal with all those hard words when a few pictures supposedly do the job just as well. It’s harder to sell people on a report that’s just news without pictures or movies to soften the blow. I have to find the heart of every subject as fast as I can, pin it down on the page, and then cut it wide open for the audience to see.

“Super Tuesday: Index Case for a Presidency” wouldn’t win me any awards, but once I cleaned up my impromptu interview with Senator Ryman and intercut the text with a few still shots of the man, I was reasonably sure that it was going to catch and hold an audience, and tell the truth as I understood it. Anything beyond that was more than I had a right to ask.

With my report uploaded and turned in, I settled to do what a lifetime of reporting the truth has equipped me for best of all: I settled to wait. I watched the interchangeable interns come and go, watched Channing pace, and watched the senator, aware that his fate was already determined, holding calm and implacable sway over them all. He just didn’t know what that determination was.

The polls closed at midnight. Every screen in the room was turned to the major media outlets, a dozen talking heads conflicting with one another’s words as they tried to string the suspense out and drive their ratings just a few degrees higher. I couldn’t blame them for it, but that didn’t mean that I had to be impressed with it.


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