5: Big Time
AD 2227, December 14
"It's the chance of a lifetime."
The Genoshans had offered talks. Limited contact if the UN and the Genoshan government could come to a mutual agreement. A delegation would be allowed past the Great Barrier. The delegation to include representatives of the world's news media.
The chance of a lifetime.
That's what Alistair's editor Nigel said. He had to admit, it sounded like it. The first people to cross Genosha's borders in — count them — two hundred nine years. The first to ever chronicle the reality of a mutant nation behind the Great Barrier. Columbus, Louis and Clark, Marco Polo, Admiral Perry, how many men have an opportunity of that caliber?
"Why me?" Alistair asked.
"Twenty possible names were nominated to the UN by a coalition of world news organizations. Whoever goes will be representing everyone." Jeremiah Jameson's dark eyes narrowed. They were in the publisher's corner offices. Banks of windows on both walls displayed the panorama of London. The International Bugle offices occupied the top floors of one of the highest buildings in modern London. "The UN tossed three of the biggest names — Parker, Russell, and Noriko. They submitted the list to the Genoshans as a courtesy. The Genoshans sent back the list pared down to five acceptable names, with yours on it."
Alistair's fingers itched to pull out his stick case, get out a tran, snap it and suck down the soporific vapors. Jameson didn't approve of reporters using stims or trans on the job, so he didn't.
The Ares Explorer crew had been debriefed extensively, while teams of scientists and engineers examined and tried to reverse engineer the methods and technology used to repair the ship.
Interviews with the crew by news organizations had revealed that the Genoshans had been uncommunicative but polite. Rumors that they were monstrous looking aliens were dismissed. The Genoshans the crew meet were human looking.
Only one name had been revealed: Rickman Davies, the captain of the Ares Explorer, had been delivered to the Station commander's compartments to receive the Genoshans' offer to open a diplomatic dialogue with the UN. The offer had been tendered by Prime Northstar and a deputy introduced as Councilor Milan.
Four months of debate in the UN Security Council had been the result. The decision to send a delegation with an official ambassador of the UN had passed by only three votes. The North American Union had been set against it. Threats of withdrawal from the UN were ignored. North America had never recovered its superpower status after the Scourge.
"There's places for three reporters, Kelly," Jameson told him. "Two places go to a holo-man and his videorama operator. The third space is for a text man."
The news that the crippled return-bound from Mars ship Ares Explorer had been rescued by crew from Avalon Station - mutants — had echoed around the world. The textfeeds and holo-newsvids had been non-stop with the story. People were scared. People were excited. People were fascinated, hanging on every pundit's words, baying for more. This was better than the Mars Colony. This was the mystery in their backyard.
"The UN settled on Dezane and his vidder Valeriev and wanted Mitch Almondalar as the text reporter — "
"So, again, why me?"
"He's getting married this month and doesn't want reschedule his honeymoon," Nigel said with a quirk to his mouth. Alistair could see his newshound editor didn't understand that. Blowing off the story of the decade — hell, maybe the century — to go on a honeymoon? What kind of reporter did that?
"Three others though."
"One of them will go if you refuse."
Alistair leaned back in his chair.
"Who are they?"
"Obume, Rodriguez, or Skiller."
"I thought that would piss you off."
"That soddin' git," Alistair said through gritted teeth.
"Whoever goes will get a Pulitzer," Nigel taunted. "You want Skiller taking it … again?"
"I want this for the Bugle, Kelly," Jameson stated. "My family has been publishing this paper since it was the Daily Bugle and based in New York."
"I — All right," Alistair said.
"I guess I better go do some homework on mutant history and the Gene Wars," he said. He got to his feet.
Jameson shook his hand and Nigel clapped him on the back.
"Unh, how long will I be gone?"
He'd need to clean out his apartment a little, pay his urgent bills, and let Gale know he'd be out of town and couldn't attend her parents' anniversary in Ludwell with her next month. There was a bloody relief. Plus getting one over on that worthless arsebite Skiller made it all sweeter too.
Alistair's footsteps picked up as he headed for his cube.
He began to whistle.