Interlude two

6 and a half years ago

Chet Dean (yes, it was his real name) stared into the camera, waiting for the light to come on. He'd spent most of the afternoon meeting with the news editors and listening to how he was supposed to read the stories he was given for his hour on the air.

Sneer when he talked about how the Democrats were saying that they needed to take the focus off of Iraq and start going after the zombies in the US, look reverent as he discussed the President's plan to make Saddam Hussein give us the results of his biological weapons, since Iraq would have to have an antidote if they created the virus that caused the dead to come back to life. All other stories were being given short shrift, none of them mattered now.

The head of the network was meeting with the President's team on a near hourly basis, making sure that they gave the story the White House wanted given, even though everyone at VEX knew it was propaganda and lies to get people to quit thinking about the fact that this whole thing may have been caused by the US's own bioweapon research. The President's team rightly thought that if the people panicked about that, they wouldn't work hard to defend themselves, give up the cities and let the country fall into chaos.

OK, more chaos.

The people working in the newsroom didn't worry much about the zombie chaos outside, since they had a National Guard unit on the main floor, and the Army Corps of Engineers was working hard to keep the channel on the air. Once things started falling apart, all of the VEX Broadcast channels were converted into 24-hour VEX News channels.

Not that it matter a whole lot anymore, he thought glumly to himself. Many large cities had been given up (mostly in the states that voted for the Democrats) and the last stat he heard was that less than 75 channels were still broadcasting, most of them near army bases or areas that were currently under a lot of snow like Minnesota and Michigan. People were moving there as fast as they could, which wasn't as fast as they wanted with all of the gasoline being taken by the military for National Defense.

Chet made it a practice not to watch the Carmen Dickens Show, the one that was on before his, partly because he wanted to come into his broadcast fresh, and partly because the woman who had the show before his wouldn't sleep with him. "You have a disgusting body, and you actually believe the shit you tell the trolls who watch us," she'd said when he propositioned her at one of the parties long before the zombies started showing up in Missouri, of all places. If there was a just and caring God, he would have made it so that lesbian bitch was torn apart by zombies, live on Charlie McCannes's show.

That would get the ratings into record territory.

"What are you laughing about, Dean?" he heard over his earpiece, "You're on in thirty seconds, and people are getting turned into fois gras. You had better look as serious as you did when we told you that you were too fucking stupid to run for office, let alone work for a real news organization. You screw up again and Natalie gets a second hour for her show. People like looking at her, unlike you."

If the director's intention was to get him to look pissed off when the camera came on, it worked. He ran though the news of the day he'd been given to read as if he was reporting on his own house being stolen. He accentuated the news the way he always had, rolling his eyes at anyone who didn't follow the agenda laid out by the VEX CEO, interrupting them and then closing with "his view", a carefully crafted editorial that worked in all the contempt he could muster for those who didn't agree with their bias. Then he concluded by saying that his stories had all been "Fair and Balanced".

When the camera went dark, he returned to his thoughts of what it would be like to see that little bitch torn apart on camera when he heard in his earphone, "All staff meeting in 5, pretty boy. Don't be late, or you're critter chow."

If only he hadn't faked those interviews when he worked on 20/20. He heard that the ABC people were taken to a secured facility Walt Disney himself had built when he was worried about the Russians until they were knocked off the air by the White House for trying to do a story about how the zombies started to show up. No one had heard from them after that, and their broadcasts were replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System, which showed a lot of stuff from the Army, along with the evening VEX News broadcasts.

There were rumors about what happened to them. Rumors no one even talked about. Because if they were true, the lies they were putting out about this being another terrorist plot by Iraq were that much worse. And if they were true, it would be a bad idea to talk about anything the White House didn't approve of.

He left the studio, flanked by two National Guardsmen in fully batter fatigues carrying M-16s and looking for all the world like they were escorting a military leader to a summit conference. Maybe that's what he should have done with his life. Instead of being a political spokesman, actually run for office. That's where the BIG money was. Had to be, or else people wouldn't have spent millions of dollars to get into office.

Not that that mattered anymore when the President declared a state of emergency, suspended elections and then Congress voted to disband until the threat was dealt with. They hadn't mattered for a while anyway, being a rubber stamp once the first zombies were sighted.

He got into the elevator and was quickly whisked to the top floor, where the main meeting rooms were. The building still had power thanks to a autonomous power system and a military supplied generator.

When he got to the top floor, he was quickly escorted to the main meeting room in the center of the building's top floor. It was actually able to hold over 500 people, a large meeting hall that reminded him of a Freshman college class. Most everyone who worked in the building was there, other than a few people that were probably running a tape of some kind so that something was on the air. A re-run of an earlier show during prime time? This had to be big.

He sat down quickly and noticed that there were about 20 National Guard troops in front of the main stage. It disturbed him a little how the people in the room were all chatting as if nothing was odd about the meeting, yet looking out at them without saying a word or showing any emotion were 20 young men with weapons.

A shudder went down his spine and he shifted in his seat. Carmen, who had hadn't noticed enter the room, sat down in the empty chair next to him. She was a short blonde woman who wore business suits, had hair as hard as frost and a face that looked like someone had grabbed her ears and pulled back hard. Of course, whe was on VEX News for one reason.

OK. Two reasons.

Both of them D cups.

She had no illusion of being a journalist, and constantly referred to what she did as a "role". He hated her, and wanted to fuck her doggie style with a sock in her mouth so he wouldn't be able to hear her painful California accent.

"Have you heard anything about this meeting?" she said, leaning over and putting a hand on his arm. She smelled incredibly good, and he could feel a stirring that overcame his anger and disgust for what she had done to him almost three years previous and wondered if she would change her mind now that the world was ending.

"Nothing," he said finally, putting his hand on hers and getting a bit more angry when she pulled away.

She didn't have time to respond when the Owner came out and stood before the podium. He was a stout little man who dressed in suits that might have made him look good fifty pounds ago, but now looked bulky and tattered on him.

"I don't want to waste a lot of time, because we don't have very much of it." The old man started, his Aussie accent so think that Chet had trouble understanding him as fast as he spoke. It reminded him of the time he went to a Shakespearian play and had to suffer through the first hour trying to figure out what the hell people were saying. "The President has informed me that he will be pulling his protection of us because there is simply no reason for us to be broadcasting at this point. The cities are falling, the people are migrating to get away from the menace and the military is going to go to its bases until scientists can discover a way to stop the zombies. The citizens are going to be on their own, but they do not need to know that. They will simply have to discover that for themselves."

"We are not to announce this, because we have been told that this news is not to be reported. I am personally moving the network to a 30 second delay, and anyone who attempts to get this information out will be removed from the air and dealt with." He paused and looked at the troops standing in front of the stage before saying, "Dealt with severely. Yes, very severely."

"Those who are not to be on the air for the rest of the day are to leave. Once you leave, you will not be allowed to reenter. You may take your personal belongings, for all the good they will do you. I will be leaving the building via my helicopter and going to an undisclosed location," this phrase brought a morbid chuckle from the people there, all of whom knew that the Vice President had been running the country from an "undisclosed location" that was thought to be impervious to any attacks, as well as a number of businessmen who ran companies that had contributed heavily to the President's last campaign.

"I wish you luck, because you will all need it."

With that, he turned and left. Before the crowd could fully digest what had been said, one of the National Guardsman jumped up on the stage and said, "This room is to be cleared immediately. Anyone still here in five minutes will be shot."

Chet was near the door, and was one of the first ones out.

As he gathered his stuff from his office, he heard someone say that five people had been killed in the stampede to get out of the room. He hoped that Carmen was one of them, and if she wasn't she was at least injured. That would make this all worth it.

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