Mark Satchez, the famous TV host behind the Pantero Report, plans the report about the battle at LC-5437.




Sour Fame

"The show will go on."
— Mark Satchez, Rabit News, when he was killed

The sky above Rako-2 was clear blue. Since the planet had no inclination to speak of, the weather was always warm and steady. Nevertheless, the mood was depressed. On his way to work, Mark noticed people sitting on benches, grazing leaves and fruits from busches. But only a few. No one was laughing. Every conversation was muted. On the meadows, a couple of children played halfheartedly. He hadn't even seen a single street performer today.

«Hey, Mark a couple of really cute managers called and waved. Mark flashed them a professional smile and waved back: «Ladies!»

«I wonder if the Hero from Pantero is still available for the night?» one of them asked her friend.

«He probably can't decide among all the offers,» the friend laughed.

Mark Satchez felt a pang of anger. They were talking as if he wasn't standing in front of them. 'Just a male,' he though bitterly. 'We conquer space but there are as many men in higher positions as there are hair on a stone.' His smile never faltered. In his profession, you acted on cue, even when your leg was broken. «I'd love to stay for a chat,» he told them and there might be a trace of his emotions in his words, he wasn't sure, «but my show starts in a few moments.» He turned and walked away.

Just as he was about to lose sight of them, he saw the smile of the first woman fall apart. Her friend started to laugh at his boldness. «Oh, look, what a bite!»

He ignored the urge to show her how much he could chew. 'What's wrong on with me?' he wondered. He hadn't slept well last night, what he had seen on Pantero still haunted him, the pictures they hadn't used because they had been just too sickening. Molten horror that once had been cars, buildings and the people who had lived in them, all mixed into revolting images that seemed to mock life itself. Already, five psychologists had stopped talking to him, passing him on because they "couldn't possible help him." The real reason was probably what he told them cause them nightmares, too. Still, that shouldn't be enough reason for such a thin fur, to risk his career on a mindless comment.

'Except that we're probably all dead before that bitch can pull her strings to strangle me in them.' The thought was suddenly there, uncalled for, hard to push out of his head. Inadvertently, he remembered the one thing he had seen, the one thing that had been too horrible to weep out of his mind. It had been a child, protected by a massive block of steel and concrete. It had been burned to a black mass, nonetheless. A plastic toy had been in its hands, molten by the terrible heat, leaving long traces of blackened reflection along its arms as it had held it out, away from itself, the head back, the mouth open to cry out its pain, only a mere crater in a black mass that had once been a face. He had turned away in an instant but the image had been burned into his memory like nothing before.

The big doors of the Rabit News building closed behind him, shutting the heat of the day out. He wished he could do the same with his thoughts. A switch in his head. Just one click to forget. The reporter, whose name was connected to the Pantero Report forever, just nodded as Tom at the reception greeted him happily. There wasn't enough happiness left in the universe to cancel what the Haul had done on the farm world. The news from the war front were devastating. He didn't dare to broadcast most of it, people would panic. But he knew they were loosing. Fast. By the glum emotions he noticed on the streets, he wasn't the only one fearing the worst, only his sources were more accurate. It was just a matter of time until the Haul would come to wipe out another world and there seemed to be nothing that could possibly stop them.

Since he wasn't in the mood for a walk, he stepped into a transport capsule which lifted him gently into the depth. Like all Rabit buildings, the most part was underground. With the exploration of space, robotics had had an enormous boost and today, it was cheap to dig hundred or more floors into the ground. Most Rabits didn't like open space, they preferred close quarters and the protection of a massive layer of earth, rock and CS-concrete.

«You okay?» Reike Rasemson asked, genuinely worried, as he entered the conference room where they would plan today's show. Even Simon, usually too preoccupied with his own problems, looked at him with a surprised expression.

Mark wiped his face clean of all emotion with his trademark smile. «The show must go on,» he said easily. «What have we got?»

«The 3rd fleet was attacked at LC-5437 the director told him.

«The usual?» Mark asked and felt surprised how calm his voice was.


Silence filled the room as everyone tried to cope with the fact that another fleet had been wiped out, no survivors, no Haul captured, another surprise attack out of the blackness of space. Only the carriers ever got away. For some reason, the Haul ignored them, concentrated on the small fighters instead. Rumors were spreading that the Haul didn't actually kill the pilots but captured them to spend them in sick games wherever they were hiding between the raids. How they always found the fleets despite all the efforts put into security measures was one of the big mysteries of the war. It was as if there was a traitor somewhere but no matter what they tried, they couldn't locate her or him. Also, after what had happened to Pantero, no one could believe that any sane Rabit would even think to talk to the Haul, let alone share any secrets with them.

«How many?»

«Over 800.»

Mark nodded. «Okay, people, we need a new angle on this. If we continue to tell the people that our soldiers get beaten wherever they go, people will loose all hope.»

«Oh really?» Simon moaned showily. «What're we supposed to say? "Oh, don't worry, we'll get 'em?"»

«Yes,» Mark said forcefully. «We just need more time until someone comes up with something ...»

The wrib of the director beeped, interrupting him. He frowned, everyone muted the things for the conferences. She seemed irritated herself, then her face showed utter surprise, then delight. With tears in her eyes, she looked up. «We ... did it. We did it! The Haul lost one of their three carriers at LC-5437

There was a moment of utter silence while everyone digested the thought, then all hell broke loose as the cheering and shouting started, everyone in the room wanting to hug everyone else. Even Simon seemed genuinely happy for what might have been the first time in his entire life.

«That is ... great news!» Mark cleared his throat that was raw from shouting, laughing and crying. He wiped the tears of joy from his face and wasn't ashamed of them at all.

«It is!» Reike agreed. She was the balance of the trio, always mediating between him, the face of the show, and Simon "Deep Thought" Raktet. «But we must be careful how we deliver it. I mean, it's obvious that the Haul won't just take that blow. We all know it took only one of their carriers and a few minutes to wipe out Pantero

«Who fucking cares!» Simon cried. His special ability was to see connections where other only saw chaos. More than one high-ranking manager had been tripped in their show thanks to his genius. «We'll kick their sorry butts into the next sun, now! I mean, everyone knows that they only have three of them! Let them come!»

'No,' Mark thought behind his mask as everyone around the table nodded. 'Everyone hopes that they only have three of them.' He turned to the director: «Anything else we got?»

«No information how we did it,» she told them. «Top secret. But I've been told that we can do it again. Mass production of the new weapon has started a few days ago, the 3rd just had four of them and they were taken by surprise, so they couldn't take another one down. So ... even if in the unlikely case that the Haul might have more than three carriers, ...»

«We can beat them!» Simon shouted. He seemed an entirely different Rabit. His face fur shone, his expression was radiant. «Damn, we can really beat them!»

«It will take some time to spread them in our systems,» the director dampened his enthusiasm. «But yes ... it seems we made it. By the tips of our ears but we made it. Now, we can beat these monsters when they show their ugly faces.»


The director nodded. «It will take a couple of hours until the other shows will learn about this.»

Mark jumped into action. He recalled one of the less horrible images from Pantero and put it on the big screen. «I'd like to open with this image,» he said. «Give people something to chew on. Then, I'll talk some about the huge size of the carriers. Reike, I'll need visuals, try to get something new, not only the featureless cylinders that we usually show.»

«Terry has been working on something promising,» she replied. «I'll see how far he got. And after the success, I can try to milk my sources again.»

«Cool. Then, in the second half of the show, we'll drop the bomb, right before taking the calls.»

«I'll order twice the amount of lines,» the director said and made some notes on her wrib. «People ... this could be bigger than the Pantero Report

«Maybe,» Mark licked his lips, «maybe we should take the other channels in.»

Heads turned, several Rabit were looking at him as if he had suddenly turned insane.

«Seriously,» he stood his ground. «This is going the biggest news item of the century. There will be so much feedback, we will never be able to handle them alone. If we create a flip-channel broadcast, showing that everyone works together on this one, that will be the signal that no one can beat us, not the Haul, no one, as long as we stand together.»

He was exceeding his authority, but he took the hard gaze of the director. Then, a smile broke her features. Even if he was just a male, she was taking him and his advice seriously. She knew that she could depend on his instincts as a media man on how to make something good great. When other channels had brought the devastation of Pantero like any other news item, he had sent the raw, unabridged material he had shot right after the fact. Now his face, his emotions were forever connected to the incident and his show had become known as "The Pantero Report." Viewer counts, already high, had soared. His show, right after lunch, was probably the most watched space since the war started. «I'll need upper level approval for that. I'll let you know in half an hour.»

«Thanks, Pam.» Mark knew why he had refused the tempting offers he had got from other channels after the Pantero Report.

Half an hour later, the director called everyone for a metting. Curiously, they gathered: The camera men, mask, lightning, audio-, video- and encryption-technicians, direction, assistents, security and the team around Mark. In the end, 50 Rabit jostled in the room. Next to the director stood the CEO of Rabit News.

«Today,» began the director, «we make history. Madam CEO.» A murmur went through the room.

The CEO of the broadcast station stepped forward. «Following a proposal by Mark, we decided: Today's show will be broadcasted by us, NN, K-5, RBC, ...» More names were swalled by the common buzzing. Pam took a hard look around and silence fell. «As well as the official stations R1 as well as R2 inclusive all the planetary substations. Todays show has a reach of 93%.» She let the words sink in. «But I'm confident that no later than 1205, every Rabit in the Commonwealth will be watching.» Another pause. With a gesture, she activated the wall screens. Different stations appeared. Each had a ticker running: "Breaking News! The show at 1200 is cancelled. Instead, we will broadcast todays issue of the Mark Satchez Show."

«The layout of the show is: First block, commercial break. Then Mark drops the bomb. Then flip-channel broadcast until 1300 or longer, depending on how well it goes. All our street reporters are moving out. Five other teams will preselect the streams that we'll cut live into the show. On top of that, we have reserved 100 call-in-lines. The end of todays show is not fixed. All following shows will be cancelled or shortened. No commercial breaks but for the first.»

Another murmur as the Rabit realized that this will cost the station millions of credits in advertising revenue.

«I know that you can be trusted, therefore I will tell you now: At LC-5437, our fleet has destroyed one of the Haul carriers.»

Deafening cries of joy filled the room. It took long minutes until the noise had died down enough for the CEO to continue. «I understand how hard it is not to call your loved ones right now. The same is true for me. So: No word to no one. And: Today's show has top priority. Pam has clear instructions to move any obstacle out of the way. Is that understood?»

A paw came up. «There's always problems with the sync with K-5,» a technician complained. «We need at least 10% buffers to handle that, better 20.»

«20% it is,» the director said and made a note.

The technician was still concerned. «Capacity-planning will object.»

«Not today,» the CEO said dryly. She looked around. «I'm sure you will do your best. Thank you!»

«Okay!» The director clapped her paws. «Five minute break for everyone to calm down. I'll see a perfect show today!»

While everyone started to party, the CEO and the director came over to Mark. «The FCB is a brilliant idea,» she praised him.

«Thanks,» Mark simply replied.

«And we also remember that you were loyal despite the offers you must have received after the Pantero Report. We would like to show our gratitude.»

«I stayed because my word means something here.» Mark looked around and smiled. «But Simon is always in trouble with capacity-planning because he need so much CPU power and storage space.»

«Something can be arranged, I'm sure,» she promised and took his paw in farewell.

«I can beg myself,» grumbled Simon.

Mark laughed. «You're welcome. Come on, let's get a drink.»


The Rabit society is a matriarchy. Women rule, men have to obey.

Even when writing the story, it felt odd to write "my woman" (when an officer would say "my men"). It's an interesting experience. A lot of English words simply have no female form and we don't notice until we try to describe such a community.


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