Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 46: Fume, Fume, Fume

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Cassandra True, plucky girl reporter, has survived her first assignment for the Redemption Morning Star, having been imprisoned by the sweet old lady she was supposed to be interviewing. Now she faces an even more harrowing ordeal...

Cassandra had been working for the Morning Star less than thirty-six hours and already she had come to dread her editor's Kindly Voice.

"This is not the Daily Oracle, Miss True," Mr. Johnson said like a soothing parent explaining that This Will Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You. "We have a certain obligation to our readers. We can't have these unsubstantiated wild fantasies, no matter how imaginative."

"Unsubstantiated? I have quotes from witnesses!"

"Then there is the matter of your allegations against Mrs. Morrigan."

"The witch kidnapped me!"

A pained expression crossed the editor's face. "That word. It has certain negative connotations. You must understand, the Wiccan Anti-Defamation League is very powerful in this city. It is the policy of this paper not to disparage anyone's religion."

"Religion has nothing to do with it! She locked me up in a bloody iron cage!"

Mr. Johnson shut his eyes with a saintly patience and when he opened them said, "I can see that you are too close to this story. Your emotional investment is too great. I suggest that you turn your notes over to one of our more experienced reporters and let him write it."

That was the end of the matter. Cassandra spent the rest of the morning proofreading wire copy and sizing photographs -- something any halfway competent intern could do -- and fuming.

Mostly, she fumed at Strephon. She had saved his life the night before; or at least saved him from whatever that Morrigan woman had planned for him, and how did he react? Clever girl!  Like she was a cocker spaniel who had brought him his newspaper. Well, it hadn't seemed quite so condescending at the time, but then the police showed up.

As soon as the police arrived, Strephon took charge. He explained how a messenger had told him that Mrs. Morrigan was holding a friend of his and demanded he come to negotiate her release, which was true as far as it went, but he described Morrigan's servants as purely human agents. He explained that Morrigan had once been in love with his grandfather and had developed an irrational obsession with him. It all sounded so reasonable, except...

What about the Banshee? What about the Wisp? What about Morrigan's certainty that Strephon was the same man she had loved years ago?

She told the police her story, but they seemed skeptical. "The tea she offered you, you thought it was drugged?" Strephon offered. "Perhaps some of the things you thought you saw..." "But I did see it!"

Finally, Cassandra grudgingly accepted Strephon's version of the night's events and that was the version she wrote in her story; and even that was too unbelievable, apparently.

"Hi, Cassie. How's it going?" Cassandra shook herself out of her self-pity and saw Saul Taylor leaning on her desk. He flashed her a charming smile.

She was not in the mood. "How does it look like it's going?"

Saul shifted his weight uncomfortably. "Um, listen. I hope you're not mad. Billy gave me your story to re-write."

Cassandra growled.

"It's a good story. Well-written. It's just, well... it is a bit fantastic."

"Hah!" Cassandra grumbled. "I didn't write the half of what happened."

"Well then. Would you like to tell me about it... over lunch, maybe?"

Cassandra softened. She was feeling peckish and Saul did have a nice smile. "Hmmm... I suppose I could be persuaded."
* * * * *
"He talks to me like I'm a child," Cassandra said through a mouthful of Thai beef. "I've noticed that everyone else he yells at, but with me he uses this smarmy, soothing, patronizing voice like he's explaining to me why I can't have a lolly until after dinner."

"Well, I'm afraid you're a victim of your own success there," Saul replied. "Billy likes to hire his own reporters. He doesn't like it when the Celestial Mister Knox graces us with new employees by Imperial Decree. Until you can prove otherwise, Billy's going to assume you're incompetent and only got your jobs through nepotism. It isn't fair, but there you are."

Cassandra grumbled and stabbed at a water chestnut with her fork.

"You have to also remember, this is a very conservative paper. Billy believes that reporters should report the news, not make the news."

"It's not like I asked to be kidnapped!"

"I know, I know," Saul said soothingly. "Listen. Let me try to talk to Billy. Maybe I can persuade him to cut you a little slack." He reached across the table and put his hand on hers. "And then maybe we could talk it over at dinner?"

Cassandra thought it over for a moment. "You know, there is one other thing you could do for me..."

NEXT:  Business Luncheon 

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