Paradigm - June 1997
...FRONT-LINE NEWS... - Gary Cahalane
(page 10/20)


He was safe. He told himself again. There was nothing that could happen, the rep had made that quite clear when he had signed the release forms. He was absolutely, positively safe. It was so hard to believe, for he was here, he, Tim Beddoes, was actually here, on the cygenetic front-line, where the news action really was. Tim waited for the report to begin, glorying in his surroundings and in his good fortune. He had never been in a Jungle before and had been unprepared for the startling diversity of colour and shade, the sheer volume of new smells, tastes, and sounds. He could even see the local wildlife, a small furry beast of some kind, up there in the branches, its large eyes regarded him soberly whilst its shrill mouth chattered Its outrage at his abrupt intrusion. As he became acclimatised, he began to explore, taking a tentative peek from his hiding place among the foliage. Minutes dragged by and his natural restlessness soon asserted itself. He had signed up for action, not some cute sight-seeing jaunt. Where were the thrills? Where was the bloodshed, close-up and gruesome? Where was Jo Cassidy. He decided to move. The CyGen rep had told him to stay put, but it did not matter, after all he was safe, right! All the same it was best to be careful, there were a lot of violent people out there with machine guns. He had only gone a few feet when he saw her up ahead, microphone in hand. Jo Cassidy, the best war correspondent the network had, the familiar features tense and concentrated. It was amazing. He was an actual story with a info-mational celebratory and she looked so much shorter than she did on T.V. Tim was just reaching for his autograph book when the anticipated conflict began and the jungle started to blossom with little bursts of fire.

Suddenly, news an the front-line was not such a good idea, safe or not. He lay quivering upon the ground, too scared to pay attention to a word that Cassidy was urgently reporting. Aware only that his arm ached, that he had soiled himself,

and that he wanted to be home, sitting comfortably with a cup of tea, a packet of custard creams, and an off-switch. Cassidy would know what to do. She always did. Tim stood up, his garish orange shirt presenting a lurid target. Cassidy looked up from her shelter, straight into his eyes. He wanted her gaze to be full of the sympathy that had won awards for her reports an starving orphans, but it was full of irritated rage. 'Get down you fool. You're ruining the shot.' For a instant he stood there dejected, an autograph book looking ridiculous in his hand, oblivious to the bullets that clattered and hummed all around, then something struck him. He looked down with an expression of disbelief at the hole in his chest, and at the digitised blood staining the non-combatants logo stencilled there. Those guys at CyGen thought of everything.

'Lucky I'm safe,' was all he managed to say before the pain in his chest began to grow, consuming the Jungle, consuming life.

Operatives from Cybernetic Generations Plc arrived at the untidy bedsit in Fulham within an hour. They expertly disentangled Beddoe's body from his circuit suit and made an inspection before they bagged him for waste disposal, chatting as they went about their routine tasks.

'The usual?'
'Yeah, heart attack.'
'How many does this make?'
'42. 43, something like that.'
'How long are the trials going on.'
'Who knows! til they finish. Help me move him.'
'Well if you ask me. ..Jesus! he's a heavy one. If you ask me, they've got to stop soon. Forty-odd corpses, sooner or later the companies got to learn that virtual news isn't the way to go.'

Gary Cahalane