The control room above Veri was bustling with activity as editors, writers and producers clambered to and fro. From the stage below and through all of the lighting, Veri could barely make out their mouths, let alone the subjects of their conversation. It was late–roughly 4:00 A.M. New Eden Standard Time–but crews had been called up and reporters dispatched following a series of rumors and then confirmed reports of a major firefight occurring at a holding facility for high-profile criminals within the Sakakibara Family Holding.

Large monitors off of the set showed raw footage from the station’s news drones. Gunships hovered over the facility, casting searchlights over the grounds as teams of riot police entered the facility to restore order. At least, they looked like riot police.

In reality, the holding facility technically didn’t exist, nor did the riot police or the police gunships. He took a sip of coffee as he continued to wait, mulling over what he knew and what viewers would never know. The facility–masked to look like a detention center–had been constructed specifically for three criminals: Naomi Sakakibara, Alexa de’Crux, and Alexa’s mother, Rebeka Nemzik. The riot police? DENT operatives and auxiliaries eager to take their revenge on the tyrant that had run rampant through the Holding. The gunships? Actually of Pandemic Legion origin, provided for so-called “security purposes” by Lady Katerina Sakakibara.

He sat behind his staged desk, chuckling to himself with a smug smile at what he knew. It paid to be a journalist–and an established one at that–rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty in interviews, cocktail parties, and social gatherings. None of that investigative journalism that fresh recruits into The Scope wanted so badly in order to make a name for themselves. News in the Empire was of an entirely different category. It wasn’t so much that the media was censored, rather, it was careful in what it selected to present to the masses. A delicate balance had to be achieved between informing the populace and ensuring the preservation of their way of life. Casting doubt on the legitimacy of the execution of a tyrant? Unthinkable.

But it was unthinkable because it was not a game open to the masses. It was a game reserved for the incredibly wealthy and those with the divine right to rule, an unspoken agreement among the ruling institutions. And in that sense, the news in the Sakakibara Holding was presented on the basis of an understanding: The understanding that nobles will handle nobles. Everything else would fall into place as long as the proper respect was held regarding the social structure. But shootings, lockdowns, and mobilizations needed to be explained. Of course, it took professionals to explain away explosions and warzone-esque expenditure of bullets and manpower. And that’s why they turned to people like Veri and his bosses–the controllers of the faucets of information.

An indicator light turned red, signalling the crews to make final preparations before the broadcast. Make-up artists applied the last bits of necessary dusting to Veri’s face so that he would be the immaculate image of trustworthy journalism to the people. As the set hushed, he thought to himself, at the end of the day, what harm did it really do to go along with the Sakakibara family’s charade? The people received their just desserts regarding a tyrant and Lord and Lady Sakakibara would go on and live their lives in peace and happiness–a state of affairs that everyone would benefit from.

“Three, two, one,” A crew foreman counted down then pointed to Veri, indicating he was on the air.

Summoning the persona he had created with nearly a century of anchoring for the Holding’s premier news outlet, he began, “We are with you at this late hour to report that Naomi Sakakibara has attempted to escape from lawful custody along with Alexa de’Crux and Doctor Rebeka Nemzik. Holding security forces are already on the scene…”

He knew that as he described the scene, that the audiences, tuning into the broadcast would see an aerial view of the complex. Riot police were still flooding into what appeared to be a loading dock for the facility, while military-grade gunships hovered overhead. Had the three prisoners just been murderers or fraudsters, the mobilization would have likely seemed to be overkill. But Naomi Sakakibara was clever. And Alexa de’Crux was a kameira. Doctor Rebeka Nemzik had been a creche matron for kameiras. DENT had planned and staged this execution in such a manner as to make it look like an escape–they would then claim that the use of deadly force was inevitable. All of that would be explained by a late-night address by Lord Reginald himself. Veri showed no emotion through his presentation, even though he understood entirely that Lord and Lady Sakakibara didn’t just want to kill the three–they wanted them obliterated.

“We now go live to the scene with field reporter Misaja Rura. Misaja?”

“Thank you, Veri,” The scene cut to a reporter separated from the loading dock by a line of traditionally-clothed constables, “It would appear that the gunfire has died off substantially. Only moments ago was the loading dock behind me flickering with rounds of gunfire. Witnesses have reported that it seemed as if the firefight had lasted only for a few brief moments, streams of gunfire broken only by the staccato punctuation of a single-shot followed by anoth–”

“Any updates on casualties?” Veri asked, pulling Misaja away from indicating the second, and most likely, third single shot.

“Right now, Veri, the casualty list is easily in the dozens, though no hard numbers have been reported by police representatives as of yet. In fact, police headquarters seems to be silen–.”

“Excellent. And the status of the escapees?”

Misaja nodded as she listened to Veri’s question through her earpiece, “Veri, details are still unclear regarding the escapees, but we will let you know as soon as we hear anything definitive.”

Of course, however, Misaja’s role was over. She was just there to show that the event really happened and to give some context for the viewers. The feed switched over to a conference room that Veri recognized as sitting squarely within the Sakakibara Estate manor. After several minutes–the bottom of the feed reading that Lord Reginald Sakakibara was about to make an address–Lord Reginald, dressed in full regalia, appeared at a podium. Lady Katerina, wearing an evening gown that complemented her eyes and hair stood with him, holding onto his arm.

“It is with a heavy heart that I offer the following announcement: Naomi Sakakibara is dead…”


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