September 09, 2014

Chapter One:

"Mr. Jason Fernandez, I think after this you will be declared the worst man on the planet." The tall, thin woman standing in the corner of her office gestured to the television, her eyes never moving away from the screen and the serious blonde anchor featured. "Have you seen this?"

The other man she spoke to was perched on a paper-covered desk and wasn't paying the screen nor the woman any attention. His focus was on the sheaf of papers in his hand, and he was idly tapping a red pen against his full lips.

"I don't need to see it," he pointed out after a delayed moment. "I wrote it." All the same, dark eyes flickered up to study her with every sign of amusement. "Why? Is it good?"

She snorted and tossed her long plaited brown hair over her shoulder. "Take a look." She grabbed the remote from the cluttered surface of her desk next to her and hit the volume button until the low, pleasant but overall solemn tones of the serious blonde anchor filled the room. Fernandez rolled his eyes and gave up all pretenses of working on the paper. He dropped them onto the desk with a clatter to indicate the pen had followed, and then came to stand next to her, arms folded over his t-shirt clad top, and thick black brows lifted in disbelief as he saw who was dictating.

"This is who they got?" he muttered to her.

"Shut up," was her retort. He made a face at her, but leaned back against the surface of the desk alongside her and just watched. The anchor might not have been his choice, looking more like a blonde Adonis than a serious reporter, but he would give him credit for this—he delivered the story with just the right even tone. Good.

"And now, onto a more serious topic, regarding the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11th nuclear attack, a day remembered by all as not only the day when the city of New York was saved from the devastation of a nuclear bomb, but also of the day when our wars with North Korea and Russia began in earnest…"

The woman's eyes flickered to the young man standing next to her. He was paying no mind. His own eyes were now locked on the screen, as she suspected they would be, and he was mouthing the words along with the anchor he claimed to dislike.

"…The attack has gained infamy in that no one in any of these governments claimed to know anything about the attacks, including the United States military, who only had time to evacuate one million of New York City's eight-million population at the time, and is cited as one of the worst neglects in our government's history…"

"Now that's a low blow," the woman murmured. "There was no way to get eight million people out in thirty minutes, and you know it." But Fernandez paid her no attention. He was still staring, lips moving in silent recitation of the words he had written.

"However, new evidence has come to light that perhaps this was not a simple mistake or a lack of preparation for an emergency evacuation, but instead a purposeful ignorance of important government information that could have led to knowledge of the missile before its launch."

"Maybe he's not so bad after all." The woman jumped at the strange tone drifting out of Fernandez's mouth. "He's got a certain frankness. I don't know, though." His eyes flicked to her thin and bony face. "I would've preferred Lisa."

"Don't let my sister hear that," she said.

"Ha. No."

"Government documents recently found by a reporter of the SBT network prove now that the missile's reaching New York was purely due to the government's neglect. Evidence has been found that the government had been provided information regarding the attack three years before September 11th. According to these files, government officials took no action because they believed this was 'posturing' by the Russians. Furthermore, some military advisors from our own country said that it would be beneficial for pulling a divided country behind one common cause, a fact which proved accurate later."

"Is that true?"

Fernandez shrugged. "More or less." He watched, interest rapidly fading, as the man began to show the documents and quote from them, the white sheets with their many blacked over passages. But not that many. He was too good for that. Once he was satisfied that it was over, he leaned over the woman's lap grab the remote. He turned the TV off and smiled at her, cool and calm in spite of what he had just done, and his rapidly beating heart in his own chest. "It's close, though. What do you think?"

The woman waved the pile of papers—suspiciously similar to the ones just shown on the television—and grinned. "I wish you'd let me show it off with more fanfare. It's the scoop of the decade! Can't I have some fun with it?"

His lips twitched up into an admiring smile. "Only the decade?"

She grinned back. "I don't know. What's your next topic?"

He laughed and waved it all off. "I told you, later. Have them dissect it, have them analyze it. Even let that stupid MBC pick it up if they want to. But for now…" He shook his head. "Oh, no. I don't want fanfare I want it crystal clear, and I want it without drama. Later, let them build it up. But for now…give the facts time to sink in."

"But drama is what sells, Jason," the woman reminded him, shaking the papers at him. "Oh, you get a good story, I grant you—" and he bowed his head graciously at the begrudging compliment "—but next time I want to spin it the way I choose."

"As you wish," he told her. He'd managed to tug his angular and wide face into a serious expression. "I shall run all information by you in advance and let you sell it or sink it to your liking."

She gaped at him, then hit his arm—hard—with the folded papers.

"You're lucky I like you," she said. "Now get out and take that smug grin with you. I can't stand to look at you." And when Jason picked up his things and hastily skedaddled as promised, he was rewarded with the low mutter of, "Give me a story like that and then don't let me sell it..."

Ah, but the begrudging comments of Melody—or more commonly known as "the Bitch" to everyone in the office—were music to his ears. It was almost a shame he didn't get to hear it more.

No one spoke to him as he crossed through the cubicles to his desk. The Associated Press didn't acknowledge when one of their own had done well. If he truly had, they would come when he'd won the Pulitzer Prize to offer him a handshake. That was it. There was no camaraderie here. It was all about fighting to stay at the top. You didn't work together for anything. That only gave someone the opportunity to stab you in the back.

Just how Jason liked it. He didn't trust anyone anyways. He settled down at the laptop at his desk, glanced around, then typed in his password to bring up his email. The cursor flicked over the screen to move emails in a haphazard fashion. Offers to win a million dollars went into the folder labeled "Nixon," "Spam" got a bunch that read "Urgent" and "Response to Job Inquiry," and another folder, called "Poetry," got all the angry letters typed in red.

And then there was the last one, titled "Telemachus." No emails got moved into it, although he did double-click it to scan its short list of contents.

The clunky cellphone by his elbow vibrated. Without looking, he picked it up hit the "answer" button.

"Mom," he sang into the receiver, "what have I told you about calling me at work?"

She did make a habit of it. Always while he was looking at that folder, too, or maybe that was just his guilty conscience waving a flag and trying to get his attention. Jason did pride himself on the fact that was the only time it succeeded. But he'd already decided he didn't care. His mother would know about this file when he was good and ready.

"Jason, you're always at work. So when else am I supposed to call you?"

On the other end of the line, her son winced.

"Besides, it's important."

It always was important. Jason had decided that it was a mother thing. Seth told him his was much the same, and he liked Seth's mom. So obviously it had to be biological. As soon as they got close to their offspring, mothers had to make everything more dramatic. He made a mental note to request a study done of it soon. Maybe he could find a pre-made study and fudge the facts a little. News was what sold, after all.

But he wasn't doing anything, so after glancing around to make sure no one was hearing this embarrassment, he ducked his head below the walls of his cubicle and drummed his fingers on the desk, wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible.

"All right," he sighed. "What is it?"

"It's about Lauren."

There was a long pause. Jason's fingers had stilled, and he stared ahead with the same intensity with which he'd watched the broadcast of his story. At last, he spoke.

"I'll be right there."