APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 2 March, 2001


Hidden Agendas

Bryan Lee

"And we have Gord and Holly researching the Edden-Smythe relationship breakup." The image on the monitor said. The monitor was flat and thin and one of many that lined the briefing room table. There were nine in total.

A woman at the head of the table turned around to face the monitor. She had been listening to the status report with her back turned and her hands clasped behind her back. "Excellent. Let's also look into her relationship with the church." Shanna Artois said. "There might be an angle there. Is there anything else?"

"Uhm....no. That is about it." The face on the monitor replied.

Shanna turned to look at another monitor. "Peace River Bureau. How is the reconstruction coming along?"

The face on the monitor, a man dressed in a suit and tie, quickly flipped through some unseen notes. "We've found several possible locations to base the office out of. Right now we are still using an old Warehouse in a dusty hamlet 100 km East of Peace River. We need to verify the info-net hookups and lag time at each. We should have the new office by the end of the week."

"How is the Peace River investigation going by the way?"

"The Military is still using media blackout protocols. We haven't been able to get much other than what the official military press releases state. We're working on it."

Shanna pulled the plush black chair away from the large desk and sat in it. There were times when she just couldn't sit down during these meetings and had to stand. "Okay. That about sums up the meeting Ladies and Gentleman. Are there any other issues that need addressing?" No reply came from the faces in the monitors. "Fine. Oh before I forget, the First Follower is going to be holding a press conference this afternoon. Make sure that we have reporters on the street to get reactions. Let's be a little more careful in the Republic this time Morley. We don't need another cub reporter beaten up by angry Southies. I will see you all on Tuesday, same time. Meeting adjourned."

The monitors went blank and the lights in the meeting room brightened. Shanna pulled out a data disk that was recording the days meeting and stood up. She powered off the system and left the room.

Shanna's office was on the far end of the floor. This meant that she would have to walk through the office cubicles of the SNN reporters that were working out of the head office. The office was abuzz with activity as articles were being updated for the evenings edition of the news. The Satellite News Network beamed its signal across Terra Nova 24 hours each day. Shanna was extremely proud of the stations reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting. The station had won many awards and its reporters were among the best. There were bureaus in all city-states and all the local editors answered to her. As Editor-In-Chief, it was her job to keep everything working smoothly.

Along the way to her office, Shanna stopped to talk with a few of the office staff. The evening news broadcast would go live in 30 minutes and final preparations were going smoothly. The affects of the apparent suicide of the anchorman a few months back had been worked out and it was now business as usual, 24/7.

Shanna plopped down into the large chair behind her desk. As Editor-in-Chief she had certain perks, and a comfy office chair was the most important. She was about to review the meeting notes when there was a knocking at her door. In stepped a rather lanky, disheveled man holding a large datapadd.

"What do you want Mulholland?" Shanna leaned back in her chair and got comfortable. Mulholland was one of her more...interesting investigative journalists. He seemed to be obsessed with one hidden conspiracy theory after another. Most of his research was just the collections of a paranoid loner, but occasionally he turned up something interesting.

Mulholland looked around the office nervously. "Is your discretion device on?" he asked as he slowly closed the office door.

Shanna checked a small display built into her desk. "Yes it is Roy. What is on your mind?"

Roy Mulholland checked the office door to make sure that it was closed and locked it. He covered the distance to Shanna's desk and put the datapadd on it. He looked up into her eyes with an excited gleam.

"I've found something. This is big." He said, his anxiousness barely contained.

"You said that two months ago when you uncovered supposed plot involving the Stoneheads and mind control."

"I told you my informant disappeared. That all true you know....but that is not the point. I have uncovered evidence of CEF spying on Terra Nova. It was very cleverly disguised but I found it. There is a group that publishes an amateur monthly anthology over the info-net. Anyone can read it. This anthology deals with happenings on Terra Nova."

"There are many electronic magazines that cover happenings on Terra Nova Roy."

"But this anthology is different." Roy picked up the datapadd and turned it on. He flipped through several screens, found the one that he was looking for and handed the information device to Shanna. "Look at the table of contents for this months."

"What about it?"

Roy leaned over the edge of the desk and jabbed a finger at the screen. "Look at the subjects. They have articles on Heavy Gears and design notes for them. Even high-quality photos. And they're very detailed too. Look at this one." He jabbed at the screen until a photo of a Hunter was brought up. "How can a group of amateurs get such high-quality photos? And the level of design knowledge requires a great deal of mechanical expertise. I had this design modification for the Hunter checked out by a...er...friend of mine that works for Northco and he was very impressed by the soundness of it and how closely it resembled blueprints and mechanical drawings that he uses."

"And check out this supposed piece of fiction. It is about a group of Black Talon pilots on Caprice."

Shanna read a bit of the story and looked back up at Roy. "And why should this be significant?"

Roy continued almost ranting. "How do they know so much about Caprice and the Talons? I checked our own database and some of the information in this story is very similar to what we have in our archives. And these are archives with information that is not yet released to the public."

"Oh man." Shanna put her hand to her eyes and took a deep breath. "Tell me you haven't been hacking into our database...again. Roy we talked about this..."

"That doesn't matter." Roy interrupted. "Look at this article here. Its discussing battlefield tactics used by the Legion Noire. And this one discusses Northern verbal warfare techniques. This one talks about troop movements during the Basal revolt. And another one talks about the followers of Mamoud. All of this has far too much detail in it. No other amateur press group puts this amount of detail into their work."

"I studied the articles from the past few cycles. I learned how to read their encrypted information. It's ingenius. It looks like fiction but ninety-five percent of the information is accurate. Accurate enough that this might even qualify as military secrets. But it is all disguised and hidden in plain sight. And the leader of the group, someone named Kirish, I haven't been able to track down any birth records for him. It's like he doesn't even exist. And he runs this group with military-like precision. Like a military...operation..."

He stood upright and his eyes went wide with realization. "This could be a CEF spy network. Reporting our every move to their superiors. The scope of this is incredible. They must have members...no...spies in every league."

Shanna put the datapadd down. "You're reading too much into this.."

Roy looked at Shanna with an intensity that she had not seen before. "NO! This time I have proof. Real Proof. I tapped a stray info-burst from their info-net servers into a hidden transmitter frequency in the Hermes 72 satellite system. This transmitter beams not planetside but out into space. I have a feeling that there is a relay satellite out there that the is sending this information to Caprice and the CEF using micro-bursts."

Shanna slammed her hand on her desk and stood up. "Roy this is ridiculous! You've come up with some real hair-brained conspiracy theories in the past but this tops them all."

Mulholland picked up the datapadd and stared at Shanna. "But...you...you are going to run the story...right?"

"Roy you don't have a story. All you have is a wild fantasy that you put together. There is no CEF conspiracy using Amateur Press Groups." Shanna laid down the law. For some reason Roy Mulholland was really getting on her nerves today.

The reporter took a few steps back, a frightened expression on his face. "Sweet Mamoud." He murmured. "They got to you...didn't they? You're one of them."

Things had taken a turn for the worse now, Shanna realized. It was time to calm things down. "Nobody got to me Roy. There's no conspiracy."

"You can't stop me from running this story." Roy backed up to the door and opened it, all without taking his eyes off of Shanna. "I'll find someone who will. You and the others will never succeed!"

Roy Mulholland disappeared through the door and slammed it shut. Shanna sank back into her chair. Roy was never the most stable person to begin with. He had a talent for hacking info systems and researching but he was always searching for proof of some hidden agenda that he thought existed. Now he was about to go and do something foolish. Shanna sighed. She could've handled that better.

She tapped in a number on her vidphone. A face appeared on the monitor on her desk. "SNN technical support. Guy speaking."

"Guy it's Shanna. I have a problem."

Guy' facial expression became more serious. "Okay. What seems to be the problem?"

"Roy Mulholland just stormed out of here, babbling about some CEF conspiracy involving Hermes 72 satellites and some Amateur Press group. He has proof of signals being tracked out of orbit. Can we fix this please?"

"Understood. I'll get on it right away." The vidphone went black.

Shanna leaned back in her chair. With any luck Guy will arrange an accident for Roy and hide the transmit signal on another frequency. He was good at that.

"Hmph. Conspiracy indeed." She snorted as she started to punch in the number for Kirish on her vidphone. "How paranoid can some people get?"

The End

Or do you think it's the end?

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 2 March, 2001