“”I-is t-that all yo-ou need,” the young Earthling woman said to the hologram, struggling to contain her stutter. Even through the hologram’s fuzzy rendering, one could see the red remains of a burn mark on her neck.
A planet away, C’therax smiled and gave a little bow. “You know that better than I, Sarah De Battista.”
Sarah squinted, confused.
C’therax continued, “It’s not often that a reporter gets to interview another reporter.”
“I-I am just a blog-g-g-er,” Sarah said.
“And your blog is trusted in some quarters more than the State Media.”
“So…?” C’therax asked.
Sarah lifted her hands and shrugged. “I-I’ve told y-you about me.”
“Could you write an article based on what you have given me?” C’therax asked.
Sarah held her glance steady, but was unsure of how to respond.
“Not a very good one,” C’therax said with a chuckle.
“I-I don’t k-know w-what else to say,” Sarah said. She is a good liar, C’therax thought.
C’therax nodded and was silent for a while. He then tried a different approach. “You told the story of a C’rululian War Chief that showed him to be vulnerable. You got a politician to admit that he considered his time in office to be a catastrophic failure. Oh, and my personal favorite: you blackmailed the gaurds of New Alcatraz into letting you inside the high security wing. For an interview! Because you believed that a man most people, human and multiterrestrial alike, had written off as worthless scum deserved a chance to tell his side of events. You know a good story, Sarah. And you get people to tell them.”
Sarah nodded and kept her expression unchanged.
“You are Earth’s greatest storyteller, Sarah De Battista. Many multiterrestials consider you their last hope. I can’t believe that Earth’s greatest storyteller doesn’t have a story herself.”
“You know full well what you would want you to say if you were interviewing yourself.”
Sarah’s remained stoic.
“Sarah…I am not trying to be a jerk. Well, I am. Reporters are paid in some situations to be jerks-you know this. The Martian Muckraker and the Milky Way Gazette exist to start a resistance of our own. And every good rebellion needs a story. And I, undeservedly and unashamedly, am asking you to entrust me with yours.”
There was another silence.
“I-I- w-w-ill n-e-ed a t-trade,” Sarah said. “A-fter -I- tell you mine, you mu-us-t tell me yours. A-and k-know that i-if t-this g-gets back to e-earth I c-c-ould be c-compromised…”
C’therax was silent for a long time. “Deal,” he said, finally. “We will be each other’s confessors.”
“But there is no Seal here,” Sarah muttered. “Everything’s on the record…”
Sarah remembered the first time she had told someone the story…she had admitted it to a priest when she was fourteen. She had stumbled over the words spitting one out after another for fear that if she stopped talking she may lose her nerve and not finish the story…
“D-daddy was m-meeting with women in the basement. I-I mention this to friend at school and he m-made fun of-of me. Said Dad was doing Bad Things when m-m-ommy wasn’t home. I yelled at that boy and punched him, said Dad would never-r do that. B-but, I w-worried. I didn’t eat well that week…mom and dad were worried…I said I was sick. Well…I…I eventually snuck to the b-basement door while he was with one of the woman and used—I was always b-building things—I had a listening device…I built it from…well that doesn’t matter…I l-listened through the door…”
“Dad wasn’t being…improper….It was a witness…he was d-doing interviews in secret…she had seen her son shot by H-Humanity First supporters for supposedly harboring multiterrestrials. The government was planning on covering it up. He wanted to protect me from…the b-brutality of the stories he was recording.”
“The witnesses preferred to speak at the house because anywhere else may be too public given the political tensions…I started listening at the door every night…each night a new witnesses…a new tragedy…a new blow to democracy…and I was j-just s-even y-years old gaining knowledge of good and evil…”
The past was the past though. Slowly, deliberately and factually she told the story to C’therax.
“Just seven…you were just a larva…” C’therax said, stunned when Sarah paused.
“We call them ‘children.’ And we are m-mammals…” she said.
“You were so young…did you tell anyone?”
“I kept it all b-bottled in. Se–se-v-en going on eight…I didn’t tell anyone that I was listening in on the interviews…b-because if I told him that …that I was listening…he would say not to worry about Grown Up Stuff and to just be a k-kid. So, I eavesdropped every night to the murders…the abuse…the scandals…the v-violence. I was just seven years old and I knew too much about the world. I stole a k-knife from the garage…and started carrying it to school…for protection…because I was afraid that the things in the interviews were going to get me…I started to believe that all adults were stupid, that I had to protect m-my-self, that I was alone in a brutal world and …well…my eight-year-old head was on the verge of popping. And one d-day it did…”
To be continued…
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