Ghosts

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Chapter 22 – “Spitting venom”.

The gold CEOL sign glimmered proudly above the building entry. The entrance’s steel walls hid behind them thirty floors rising upwards, consuming the space on the Faith Space Station of fifteen levels. What little exterior glass there was showed the lower levels of the building, executive offices coveting executive decisions like gold-dust.

A row of statues outside the building lined up on a stone plaza, neatly detailed around a slow, elegant fountain, water shooting upwards every three minutes.

The statues around the plaza were of Georgi Balev and his other senior executives, each one holding the most prime of CEOL’s produce. Balev himself was shown juggling above himself asteroids as if they were small balls, hinting of the perceived universal power he ruled with. The rose hued metal statues had resided at the plaza since day one.

The exterior of the building hid the stress that had suddenly arisen within it. Soldiers stormed through the lobby, pushing past security guards whose simple attempts at stopping them soon failed. Challenged by the greater motivation of others, realising the folly of continuing, the security fell back to their posts.

One guard made a call, alerting senior executives in the building of impending trouble. He took with him a few of his colleagues and chased passively after the soldiers who moved on knowing exactly where they were going and of whom they sought.

Several of the soldiers forced the lifts to evacuate, two soldiers entering each of the four lifts held within the lobby. The other soldiers took the stairs, two steps at a time at break-neck speed, the exertion failing to force them to sweat.

A boardroom door locked as an executive meeting room became a hiding room for those inside. The men inside moved as far away from the door as possible, unable to hide behind the glass walls. Three soldiers approached the steel door, its lock tough enough to keep them out.

The sound of the smashing of the meeting room glass wall engulfed the corridors as a gun-butt struck the glass with venom. A shower of safety glass fell like a waterfall to the ground. Stepping over the broken glass the soldiers entered the meeting room.

With software identifying the men they sought, arrests were made, vocal, aggressive and leaving little room for argument. The arrested businessmen were led out of the room, towards the lifts, stunned office workers left to stare on as the soldiers and prisoners disappeared behind gold-tinted lift doors.

Deeper inside the office building more arrests were made; the soldiers in no mood for any discussion of innocence. Research and development offices were raided, key staff arrested, handcuffed and led to the lifts. Computers had their hard-drives were confiscated as the soldiers maintained their steady progress through the building. All in all, seventeen arrests were made, Georgi Balev not one of them, before the Police were satisfied with their mission.

The Military Police came and left with relative ease shepherding the last of the prisoners into Police shuttles waiting outside to take the men to lock-up and justice. A voice spoke casually, respectfully to a face on a vid-phone.

‘We have arrested all the names listed. Everyone has been given their rights. We are now returning back to HQ and we will follow the usual process. The proof should be on the hard-drives and I’ll put them in for evidence. You can arrange for the checks to be done later today. From there, Commander Zylinski, it will be all down to your team to find the prosecution the proof they need.’ The voice croaked out, eyes firmly on the face in front of it.

Commander Zylinski nodded his approval. The two men discussed the operation and of the expected complaints that Georgi Balev and CEOL would likely raise, one of which being a proclamation of innocence, the other being damage to the building. It was agreed that a request for compensation may be demanded by CEOL’s lawyers, keen to show CEOL as the victim.

Zylinski would patiently await their demands, and more pitifully, their complaints, knowing that innocence was something they’d struggle to prove.

The call ended, yet Zylinski’s work was not done. With keenness he made the calls to those he deemed eligible for the information, the first being Henry Poole, a man who had been informed of the Military Police’s need for the raid prior to the troops dispatch.

Zylinski had left it as late as possible, knowing that the new developments would be leaked to Balev. Little could be done. Executives going into hiding would change nothing but the public perception of guilt, and both Poole and Balev would be smart enough not to try to influence the public reaction by sending people underground. The law would have its say and Balev would have to fight to clear names in court.

Few words were spoken on both sides as Zylinski informed the Prime Minister. The official nodded, closed the call and kept his thoughts private. Little reaction was shown; most of it had already been seen with the original phone call.

A call to Benedict Valon followed in the same manner. More words had been said, but the same minor reaction. Politicians keeping their thoughts to themselves, a skill trained within from the first day seeking power.

Lynette de Cesare paused, waiting for a reply to her statement. Behind her people passed by, busily roaming the docking bays, a portrayal of the hustle and bustle of the station’s busy environment.

‘Lynette, the raid on CEOL offices has come as a surprise to some but not all. Some senior sources have stated that the situation has become tense between CEOL and Commander Zylinski’s Police force prior to the raids. Is this an accurate analysis?’

‘I would concur with that sentiment. Georgi Balev and his senior officials have blamed rogue elements for the stories that have surfaced lately and blamed everyone but themselves for the release of beta hardware out of their research and development departments and out into the hands of the Dead. Balev has re-iterated this stance since the raids saying nothing will be found from the raids because nothing illegal is there to be found.’

Lynette’s attention was caught by her assistant, who was indicating she should continue that line of commentary.

‘Balev has stated publicly that he feels this is an “intentional act of social warfare” designed to destabilise his company, the share price and create public outrage where none should exist. The blame for this social warfare has been directed at Neon One and rivals within CEOL’s industry, without directly naming corporate names.’ The deliberate, well-used pause occurred once more.

‘Balev expects a clean sweep of the data obtained by the military and his staff to return to work within the week. Some experts have said this is unlikely and that Zylinski’s raid may continue to de-stabilise CEOL share prices and business activities, regardless of Balev’s confidence.’
Lynette waited as her comments were fed over to the newsroom. Her assistant smiled contentedly as he looked down at a data device.

‘Lynette there has been talk of Balev’s staff possibly resigning. How likely is this to happen?’

‘At present it’s not expected, moreover, it’s not the right business move for CEOL. Although a feeling of anti-trust is building up, any moves to replace staff will make this feeling even stronger, almost considered to be an admission of guilt. Balev’s belief in his team’s innocence will be highly desired in order to maintain the status-quo.’

‘Would Balev and the CEOL board decide to make a change, strongly stating that the uncertainty hinders CEOL’s ambitions?’

‘Only when someone is charged with breaking the law will they resign or be dismissed. Balev is a very headstrong, stubborn person, and he will be likely to keep battling this through the courts until every last option is gone, assuming any charges are made of course. Should the share prices drop dramatically, drastic actions may be required, but not desired, leaving Georgi Balev a difficult decision that may need making.’

‘There has been a recent poll for the elections within Halcyon. The news will not have been good reading for Balev’s personal favourite, Henry Poole.’

‘That is right; the poll has registered a seventy-thirty split in favour of Benedict Valon, which is a large increase. Henry Poole has laughed this off as too early to be anything to concern him but with just a few weeks left until the people make their choices, the grim statistics are a stark reality of the negative public perception of Poole’s policies, and his chances.’

‘Will Poole react to the negative polls, and if so, Lynette, how?’

‘What remains to be seen is how much a swing in votes he can muster together between now and the elections. Will he garner enough support? Our analysts do not believe so, and we of course will be bringing live coverage throughout the next few weeks on this story and especially the elections.’

‘Further election coverage details will in fact be announced later today, Lynette.’

‘At present, it looks like the people are against Poole and this will be his last term in office unless he can find support from somewhere, anywhere. His biggest supporting partner is as we know, Georgi Balev, who has allied with him over the Anti-Piracy Tax; however the plan of encouraging CEOL staff to vote in favour of Poole is starting to fall apart due to the aforementioned raids on CEOL HQ.’

‘The polls were done before this all happened and we have yet to see accurate polls showing how this further affects Poole.’

‘Polls are obviously subjective. The instability of the leadership and the anti-trust stories circling around the media are combining to make the voters from CEOL too scared to vote one way or another. However, should Balev quickly conclude favourably the Police raids, with a public statement from Zylinski or the courts, which would be demanded, things could improve. Balev’s CEOL and his own partnering companies’ staff support alone may total up to a swing of between ten and twenty percent depending on current surveys.’

‘That swing in power shows the strength of the CEOL voters and those affiliated to CEOL and its partners and all staff involved. Lynette, those linked to CEOL, whether they be employees, family of employees etc., they all make up a powerful ally for Poole should they all vote in favour of Henry Poole.’

‘This is why Balev has a battle on his hands. He is aware that the raid has harmed his company’s support of Poole, and any loss in the election will mean the Anti-Piracy Tax will be deployed by Benedict Valon. The battle for CEOL now is to win back its own people, to gain their trust. How Balev manages that remains to be seen.’

The angry voice scowled within Georgi Balev’s office.

‘This is bull, Zylinski! How dare you! How dare you do this to my company? You have no evidence of any wrong-doing yet you can act like judge, jury and executioner! Who gave you the right?’

Balev stormed around the office, pacing furiously. His voice crackled with angry energy.
Zylinski decided to let the man vent his frustration, knowing that little he neither could nor would say was going to change the man’s opinions. Zylinski sighed a soft sigh, looking away from the vid-screen and down at a file on his desk.

‘You have had your fun, Commander. This has run on long enough, my legal team and Poole agree. If you have no charges, no evidence, my men need releasing immediately. It is affecting their work, more so my share prices.’
Zylinski smiled a soft, wry smile, before speaking during a brief moment of silence from Balev’s attempts at persuading him.

‘Of course, Poole would agree with you, he is your ally. He needs you, more than ever, as you well know. And as for formal charges, we arrested them, and yes, we have proof.’

The furious man rambling across the office stopped and turned back towards Zylinski. The Commander could not decide if the man was now more curious or angry, a scornful scowl creasing Balev’s face. Noting the businessman’s hands clench up, then quickly relax, Zylinski waited for him to respond. The man took longer than expected to do so.

‘Evidence? Has this been sent to my solicitors?’

‘Not yet. We will do so in due time.’

‘I expect you to do so. What evidence have you got? What could you possibly have? There is none.’

‘I disagree…’

‘Bullshit. This is lies, all lies. You have nothing. My people are not criminals. What would they gain from this? You lie. Stop lying, Commander. Fabricating the truth, I won’t tolerate it. You lie!’

Zylinski smiled as he leafed through the paperwork on his desk, letting the accusation slide by him.

‘If it was just one incriminating file, then maybe we would not have anything against the individuals. But, there are several files which cause concern for us and in the public’s interest we will act on it. As I said before, your solicitors will be informed as and when required,’ Zylinski knew his words would incite Balev. With little to concern him, he casually shrugged his shoulders as the man lost his temper once more, the brief calm lasting barely a mere minute.

‘I would have known if they were doing wrong. I know everything that goes on within my company. I know of everything.’

‘Then you need to say nothing further without legal advice. It might incriminate you. If you say you know of everything that might be an admission of guilt should our proof be accurate. I will leave you to discuss the documents with your solicitors as and when you need to. Goodbye Mr Balev.’

‘Get me Poole!’ Balev screamed at his assistant carelessly. He stormed around the room before sitting down in front of his desk. With a downward pounding of fists the desk shook as he released his anger. He stood up again, pacing around once more.

‘Poole! What has Zylinski told you?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Do not play coy with me old man! The decision to charge my men!’

‘Nothing has been decided, Georgi. Calm yourself.’

‘Calm myself? Calm myself? How dare you! I want answers!’ Balev’s stress levels hit a new high as his voice changed to a higher pitch.

‘Listen to me, Georgi, I have no new information. Zylinski will tell me when and if he finds charges to make. He arrested them on suspicion, but they will be released, won’t they, he can’t make the charges stick.’

‘He better not. How come he told me he has proof of malpractice or some other nonsense? Some charges that he will be sending over?’

‘Well, he has not mentioned it to me. He does not have to but as I asked personally for any updates, he will tell me. Maybe, you will hear first, of course, it would legally be the appropriate thing to do. Be patient.’

‘My patience has run out. I am sick of this. You, losing the election, will be the final straw,’ Balev lashed out cruelly.

‘I haven’t lost the election,’ Poole spun back disappointedly.

‘It’s a matter of time. The damage has been done. Between the poor election polls, Valon, and Zylinski’s charges, it is getting worse for you, and I both. How can I force my people to vote for you now? The numbers game is playing its course and it’s not looking favourable for you. What are you going to do now? What counter-plans do you have? Reliant as you are on my allies, my people, what have you as a game-changer when the allies vote for Valon?’ the politician’s blank stare back offered little confidence.

‘If you know nothing of the charges, I am wasting my time here. I will be in touch, Henry.’
Hanging up, Balev reached for a whisky resting on his desk, the ice having partially melted. Balev sighed before setting about adding more ice to the drink. With a calmer demeanour, drink in hand, Balev dialled a number on his vid-phone. Closing his office door over, he walked slowly back to his desk and sat down.

‘How is the production going?’

‘Well, on the whole, however we have had a few problems.’

‘What kind of problems?’

‘The parts have been sent over; they are all good to go. Yet there was a problem with the shipyards.’

‘What problem?’

‘Someone took one down.’

‘Took it down? You mean destroyed it?’ Balev sighed.

‘Disappointingly, yes, we lost a few.’

‘Are we aware of whom the attackers were?’

‘No, but I would hazard a guess that it was our friends at Neon One. They like doing that to us. Not likely the military.’

‘Damn them. The news keeps on getting worse. I am losing patience. It’s bad news after bad. I need to think a few things through. First, how detrimental will this be to our plans?’ Balev took a drink of whisky as a rage grew inside of him.

‘Not much. It’s bad but it’s recoverable. Phase two will be completed in time. We can purchase a few mercenaries to add some extra muscle.’

‘I will fund a new batch of products. See to it, you have my authorisation. We need to have them further down the line anyway. Ensure damage limitation too. We may be down on numbers, but the rest should be suitable for our purposes. We will make do. Unless you disagree?’

‘As I said, Georgi, I’ll make reparations for the extra, and we will move forwards as per your instructions. In the meantime, I will organise what we have. You will be informed as soon as recon brings back complete intel. After that, it’s on you.’

‘That it is. I have made my peace on this. We move forward. I planned that it would not be needed but that damn Henry Poole has let me down. I will take matters into my own hands. CEOL will not be screwed over by Benedict Valon. I will see to that. His silly tax will do nobody any favours, and CEOL, we will not adhere to it.’ Another sip of whisky touched Balev’s lips.

‘Assuming Poole will not win.’

‘How could he? The damage has been done. The people are against him and he needs to find something special to change it. The raid has hindered our operations, yet it’s causing greater damage to Poole’s election bid than to our own operations.’

‘We can survive.’

‘As you know, we had shifted the merchandise out before the raid. They can lock it down so tight that we may not do so again, but today, we do not need to ship any more. And you can create your own, now we know we need it to be done. No, Poole has let us down; the raid may be the final nail in his political coffin. I will try to avoid using plan B but if I cannot cause a swing-vote then I have no option.’ Balev closed the call, calmly placing the empty glass down onto his table.

‘My darling Angelo!’ smiled Alison Wessex as the call connection stabilised.

‘Wessex. To what do I owe the pleasure?’ Angelo da Silva tried not to be rude as he distractedly roamed inside his ship’s cockpit, activating control mechanisms.

‘I have news for you. I would adore telling you it in person? Over a coffee? Tomorrow?’

‘I’m unable to do that. For obvious reasons.’

‘The reasons are obvious, beloved. You like me. You can’t control yourself around me. I suppose I’ll have to keep trying,’ Wessex teased back causing a smile to form on Angelo da Silva’s mouth, following by a short, dull Laugh.

‘I’ve heard you say that before, haven’t I?’

‘I’d guess so, Angelo. Ok, if we have to behave, I just called to tell you that the shipyard you monitored was tied in with the Dead. I guess you had already jumped the gun and assumed as much.’

‘See, that didn’t need to be done in person. And yes, I assumed that much. What else?’

‘Why would you assume that there is more to the story? Is that not a reason to call you enough?’

‘Alison Wessex, I get the impression you’d go out of your way to call me just to get me irked.’

‘Amongst other reasons, but I will tell you one thing, irking you is not the highest reason I have to call you. Nor the most fun.’

‘So?’

‘So? Oh, yes, I was distracted. It’s those damn tattooed muscles of yours. The full story is that the shipyard was destroyed by someone recently. I can send over a video-feed I have of the destruction from a probe nearby, if you want.’

‘Yes, that I do want. And, a probe just happened to record it?’

‘Yes.’

‘So, was this Neon One or Zylinski?’

‘Or some random attack by someone else, Angelo?’

‘Like CEOL, Alison?’

‘Like CEOL? I would not expect them to lift a finger to take out a shipyard.’

‘I will assume it was MP’s or Neon One. Which was it?’

‘I may not know. If I did, I may not be able to say. Not everything I hear can be discussed, even to someone as charmingly brooding as you. And not everything is told to me by any of my sources, not just my closest connections.’

‘So, shipyard goes boom, recorded footage emerges, and that’s it. Fine, I will tell Zylinski. If it was MP’s he’ll know already.’

‘Good, also, I have more goodness for you. A few more shipyards have been found.’

‘Found? Like they were lost?’

‘Sarcasm, nice. Anyway, yes, found. Do with the information as you will. I’ll send it over to you. It’s up to Zylinski I guess to act on all the intel you provide. The co-ordinates are not near here so Zylinski can decide if out of sector counts as his problem or not.’ Alison Wessex smiled, as she slid her right hand back and forth across her left shoulder, letting it slide up and down the scarlet-hued silk blouse she wore.

Angelo da Silva took a quick break from roaming his cockpit to look at the data that she had sent. He turned back to the agent who smiled softly as he looked directly at her for the first time.

‘That’s a lot of metal gear being built. How much machinery can they build? Also, why would the Dead be building the ships? It’s not their usual protocol. They use tinkered-up floating wrecks to take people out. Are we certain this is the Dead? Why this new strategy?’

‘So many questions! You don’t believe me?’

‘I never said that.’ Angelo held her gaze as he replied looking for signs of deceit.

‘I am just an agent for various factions. I sometimes get told of Neon One information. I am passing it on. Any more, my love, I don’t know. It’s not as if I am a strategy-maker for the Dead nor Neon One. I assume flying in junkers is not as much fun as flying in a warship? You’re the pilot, you tell me.’

‘What is there to say? We all want the best ship to fly. Where have they got the cash from? It’s not a cheap production line.’

‘The Dead must have some way to make money. Drugs? Extortion, slaving?’

‘Any, all, plus it’s easy enough to blackmail some folks, easy enough for kidnapping? Just not the wealthy, they have too many bodyguards hidden behind them. The dark skies are big enough for them to do all and one. You should know that much.’

‘It’s a big operation. It’d need a huge micro-management job. It’s just not something that the Dead are known for. Fear and chaos, yes. They are just not known for structured management. I need to get this information to Zylinski. Do you have anything more to offer me?’

‘My undying love for you? No, I have nothing more to say.’

Following Angelo da Silva’s email, Zylinski looked up at several files on the holo-screen, opening the co-ordinates of each manufacturing project on a separate two foot holo-screen. Five screens spread out in front of him. Pacing along his office he looked at each screen, scrutinising the files as he moved.

‘Gods, this can’t be accurate.’ Zylinski starred at the screen in front of him, before sorting the screens by co-ordinate distance from Halcyon.

‘It looks accurate, Commander.’ The voice of Benedict Valon spoke through a further holo-screen.

‘Benedict, if this is true then the Dead are surely looking to tear through the system, one station at a time. It’s co-ordinated, organised killing, genocide.’

‘It’s war, Commander. Piracy has always been a war. This just makes the war harder to battle.’

‘We are stretched thin as we speak. The numbers game would be difficult to engage.’

‘So, do you move early, pre-emptively on the bases?’ Valon asked dryly.

‘The distance makes it unlikely to attack all at the same time. I’d be leaving local space unprotected. What if this is a trap?’ the Commander considered thoughtfully.

‘It’s an expensive ruse,’ replied Valon considering the cost involved.

‘It is one the Dead would happily pay for if it got them what they want - anarchy, evil, and deaths. I can’t risk it. It’s a tough call. If they come to us it’d be easier maybe to defend in local space. Yet, the damage those ships could do on the way here makes that option an impossibility.’
Zylinski made a concerned decision. ‘No, I can’t justify leaving them to activate. I have to plan in advance.’

‘Commander, I agree - dividing them up before they become active battleship groups would help?’

‘It’s the only option, taking them out one base at a time, terminating the production line forever in the process, stopping them building more. It’s gonna depend on how close they are to seeing action. A small attack squadron would be enough to take out the machinery and inactive fleets, but if the ships are active and manned when they arrive, or are protected, our pilots are going to die. The Dead would show no mercy. We are assuming it’s them too.’

‘So, what do you plan to do?’ Benedict Valon bit his lip, waiting for an answer.

‘I haven’t got much time but I will have to think this through as best I can. We may have days, weeks, or months depending on the timescale of the production. I will have to look through each sector map. Try to evaluate the attack odds and see if we have any way to analyse the production levels before the squadrons arrive, pre-empting battle. Any takedowns will help our people.’

‘I am at your side should you need support. I will leave you to your decisions, Commander.’

Zylinski approached Henry Poole as the politician ended a televised election rally interview, fresh smiles on his face and a glint in his eyes. As the television crew roamed off, happy with the report they had done, Zylinski waited for Poole to acknowledge his presence.

Poole kept a consistent, cheerful presence, failing to let the smile drop off his own face. Still surrounded by the general public, mostly those faithful to his public party, cheering him on amongst the noise of music blaring out from portable speakers, the man kept waving and smiling.
Henry Poole made a path towards Zylinski, waving to the crowd as he went, before he shook Zylinski’s hand whilst smiling vapidly. With the handshake not seeming enough, Poole made a decision which Zylinski soon wished he hadn’t.

Arms outstretched, the politician made a showman’s move and hugged Zylinski. Facing away from the crowd, Commander Zylinski grimaced at the open show of endearment knowing that it was a politician’s lie.

‘How can I help you, Commander?’ Poole asked still grinning.

Zylinski considered how to reply, opting on using his own fake smile.

‘I am going to send some ships to raze a few shipyards we have found with suspected links to piracy. I will let you know, if and as and when it happens. Other than that, you’re unable to help me. I just wanted to let you know and as you’re out of office kissing babies, hugging the voters, and Commanders it seems, I thought it best to do it in person,’ whispered the Commander out of earshot of the locals, his hand covering the visible side of his face.

‘Marvellous news!’ Poole boomed noisily, still grinning like the cat that got the cream, misleading the public with the statement.

‘Let me know how I can help you further and keep up the excellent work for our loving people, Commander Zylinski,’ Poole’s words stunk of smarm and over-endeavour. The military man broke off the hug and walked away, leaving the over-excited crowd behind him.

As he entered his personal shuttle, he spoke confidently over a vid-call.

‘I’ve told him. We’ve done our part, Benedict. I will again analyse the regions, and if we need to do so, the shipyards will be taken down one by one as best as we can. I’ve authorised a recon team to investigate the nearest ones, those most dangerous and closest to home will be hit first, for protection in case we have any mis-directs. If it is all smoke and mirrors then we will soon know. I have a team ready to journey over when I order it.’

‘Good man. Poole will be doing his usual meet and greet. For what it is worth, he may have been distracted, but he will have taken the message on-board and will speak to you later on. It’s not like it will matter to him when he speaks to you, just that he does speak to you. He trusts your duty of care, your experience, as do I. He also knows that you will do whatever you want as per your own military agenda.’

‘Military agenda? I serve the people, it’s their agenda.’

‘Yes, as do politicians, but sometimes we politicians also have to side with big corporations, like Poole and CEOL in order to create work and political or economic stability. You do not need to do that. Poole will be aware that, technically, you only answer to the people and to your troops.’

‘That is my duty.’

‘Your duty of care to the public, and Poole knows that much. He cannot do anything about your decisions; he can only advise and be advised. Out here, the military have their own agenda which coincides most of the time with ours.’

‘Why would Poole not ratify the attack? Even if he had a true say on the matter?’

‘Politics; one might say that a war on piracy, or anything that provokes more return of fire would ally the people to myself and my tax plans. For a month or two, this is unwanted by Poole. Also, politically it may be an invitation to apply force back at this station, from the Dead, and nobody would want that. The threat warrants an answer, but the answer may cause a further threat. I’m not the man to plan this out, you are. If you make the attacks, I and Poole will trust you.’

‘Let’s see what my recon team feeds back. If it’s wise to attack we will. I can’t let those shipyards complete their production. It’d be unwise too. Also, I need to know who runs them. It could be a valid production line, and if so, someone is playing us for fools.’

‘Wessex passed the intel on, so Neon One would be the lead on that story.’

‘Benedict, I will keep you and Poole updated as and when it’s required.’

Lynette de Cesare looked at the reports as they filed into her system. The list of charges against CEOL staff had been amended by her sources, showing those whose charges had been dropped in green.

The day had already been long and frustrating and with news regarding the pre-election opinion polls due sometime within the hour, the headache she had was not going to subside. Tallying the numbers up and splitting the data into two halves she registered the information on the news station’s database for a follow-up story.

Lynette considered how the news had gone eerily quiet since the arrests had been made. If Georgi Balev hadn’t used the news as a public forum to air his dissatisfaction, the arrests would have been forgotten completely in the public’s eye. Balev’s paranoia, his over-aggressive handling of the situation had caused more problems for him, reminding the public that the charges had been made.

With the election so close, the local populace were already picking their sides or defending their allegiances to friends and family whose opinion differed. Unknown to Lynette de Cesare, CEOL had done a recent poll of its own people, and the results were dark reading for Henry Poole and Balev.

Fear had already shown its head as Poole’s campaign rose to a charismatic crescendo of noise and promises. Reports had speculated that it was too little too late and that Lynette’s sources had advised her that Balev was becoming resounded to that fact.

Lynette knew Henry Poole would not admit defeat, not publicly at least, but privately she was curious as to what the man, not used to losing, was thinking. In the face of defeat would he crumble or bow out gracefully?

Every survey that was being released seemed to indicate that Poole’s time was up, and this thought was soon spoken aloud.

‘Even Poole must be aware of the surveys,’ queried Lynette de Cesare as her assistant approached her.

‘Of course, he will. He’s too stubborn to quit in advance. He’ll let it go through the motions before crying foul.’

‘Amir, what does he have to cry foul about?’

‘Everything; the arrests for a start. Balev has already argued that they were a ploy between Zylinski and Valon to get Valon’s tax in, and Zylinski would never complain if he got more funding.’

‘We’ve discussed this, but would they really do that?’

‘Lynette, it must have crossed Valon’s mind.’

‘I assume so. But, I just don’t see Zylinski stooping so low.’

‘You see Valon stooping that low?’

‘He’s different. He’s a politician. There is a fine line in politics which they are willing to cross to force through an issue or agenda. It’s been happening for as long as time and isn’t about to change now. Nicer people than Valon have succumbed to greed and corruption.’

‘It’s a shame we cannot say the opposite about Georgi Balev,’ jested Amir with a wink.

‘We know Poole’s career ends soon. So, what will then happen for his party?’

‘They bring in a new person, a new beginning with the same old policies and hyperbole. Nothing changes deep within Government halls.’

‘A cynic? What a shock.’

‘We both are cynics. That’s why we are journalists. It’s part of our job to be cynical. The news isn’t always what is obvious, nor announced by others. It’s what is announced by the likes of you and me. We reveal the truth.’

‘Do we truly tell the truth?’

‘It’s our jobs to do so. Lynette. You can’t doubt it, yourself?’

‘No, I sometimes just doubt the truth. Have we any more information on the mysterious Balev?’

‘Not any more than that which I sent over last time. The teams are working on uncovering more but the man is strangely absent of news.’

‘I get the impression he spends a lot of time ensuring it. He’s been quiet this last week. A few rants but mostly invisible once more to the world.’

‘It’s electioneering week, Lynette.’

‘And that means?’

‘He’s letting the politicians do their thing. He must know his angry mouth might harm any swing-votes.’

‘I’m not so sure. I don’t believe he has any faith left in Poole.’

‘Why not?’

‘Do you have faith in Poole, Amir?’

‘God no!’

‘Then why should one of the richest men have faith in him? Let’s get this report done, Amir, I think that we now have our subject.’

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