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The Rats, the Bats & the Ugly: Chapter Six

       Last updated: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 00:04 EDT



George Bernard Shaw City, An elegant, wood-panelled coffee-house with Art-deco styled frosted windows and the buzz of expensive clientele in the background

    "You're losing the media war, you know, Talbot," said Sanjay Devi. "You've done well on the other fronts. But you should have done more there. INB has been showing live coverage of the troops running down the Magh' and countless interviews of the soldiers in that section. I won't say I suspect anything, but those interviews have all been with junior officers, or even Vats. INB has got a big Vat viewership, don't forget."

    She took a forkful of the Dobos torte from the beautiful hand-painted gilt-edged plate. "This is all stoking unrest among the lower classes. And we don't want that, do we?"

    The Cafe Gerbeaud used these beautiful fine china plates, despite the fact that it meant that every one had to be washed by hand. But then, before the war, labor had been cheap and plentiful. It was strange to think that there had been a time, back when the colony was new, that this had not been so. When the Shareholders had been all the labor there was. After the first Vat-bred kids had come onto the labor market, however, the tide had turned. The colony had had ten years of going from shortage to glut—and then the war had come.

    Sanjay wondered, sometimes, if the war could have been engineered. Or was it just fortuitous for the Shareholders? It gave her something to think about while Talbot fulminated at length about the vileness of Vats. Something other than the pain in her chest.

    "Naturally I have to agree with you, Talbot. But what are you going to do about it?" she asked.

    He snorted cake crumbs and threw his hands up. "What does one do about Vat ingratitude? I proposed that indoctrination in suitable patriotism be part of their school curriculum, but that was blocked by some bleeding-heart. I mean we raised, educated and cared for them. They owe us... Oh, you mean about the media. Well, I've dealt with the two main ones. And nobody pays much attention to the rats and mice like INB."

    She raised her eyebrows. "I've heard rumors—and you know I am very good at hearing those—that HBC is going to start on covering the campaign again."



    Talbot hoped that his dismay didn't show. HBC! Sanjay Devi took very little part in public life. She was head of the HAR Scientific Council, and a powerful woman in her own right. She also obviously had her sources, in among people he struggled to touch. The top shareholders all had a greater or lesser security compliment, and his men had infiltrated most of those. But she had contacts in the business community—often minor shareholders, but wealthy people despite this. Private wealth outside of the Share-dividend was something Talbot held in distrust. Nonetheless it was a reality.

    Sanjay obviously saw herself as a kingmaker, bridging the growing Shareholder/money divide. By the way she had sought him out and advised him, she was grooming him. Well, he certainly didn't mind. But HBC! HBC was the largest network, and he'd been sure that their disinterest would lead the public and the minor media players away from the story. It came as a bit of a shock to discover that he might be wrong.


    "The board of HBC has demanded an emergency meeting to get editorial control removed from Carsey." She smiled, maliciously. "I'm a shareholder in that company and I got a call from Marcus Sidaropolis. You can't rely on him, you know."

    Marcus! Marcus was an ally. You couldn't trust anyone these days. "I'll get on top of it," he promised, his eyes narrowing.

    "Better deal with IBN first."

    "Oh, I plan to. A move to have their license rescinded is already underway. That should shut them up. Their finances aren't great, according to my agents." He laughed. "If all else fails, we'll blow up their offices up and blame it on the Vats."

    Sanjay Devi murmured something which Talbot couldn't quite hear. "What?"

    She shook her head. "Nothing. Just thinking aloud. If I were you, I'd try threats first. The licensing board could be tricky. And open to legal challenge."

    She was probably right. But he'd brushed against Independent Broadcasting Network before... He’d have to think about it. He would go and lean on John Carsey first.

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