The Reporter (The Galactic Football League Novellas)Scott Sigler
By Scott Sigler & Mur Lafferty
A GFL Novella
The Reporter, A Galactic Football League novella
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2012 by Scott Sigler
eBook design by eBook Architects
Cover art design by Francis Dominick Olivieri
Published in the United States of America by Dark Øverlord Media
Also by Scott Sigler
The Galactic Football League series:
The Galactic Football League novellas:
Color Series short story collections:
Blood is Red
Bones are White
Week Four: To Pirates at OS1 Orbiting Death
Week Five: OS1 Orbiting Death at Themala Dreadnaughts
Week Six: Ionath Krakens at OS1 Orbiting Death
Hello all, this is AB Kovacs, Director of Døøm here at Dark Øverlord Media (a position some might call “publisher,” but our job titles are much more fun.) Let me give you a quick introduction on THE REPORTER, and how it fits into the Siglerverse.
This novella is co-written by Mur Lafferty and Scott Sigler.
Mur Lafferty is a writer, podcast producer, gamer, geek, and martial artist. Her books include PLAYING FOR KEEPS, NANOVOR: HACKED!, MARCO AND THE RED GRANNY and the Afterlife series. Currently she is the editor of Escape Pod magazine, the host of I Should Be Writing, and the host of the Angry Robot Books Podcast. She writes a column for the gaming magazine Knights of the Dinner table, and in the past has written for Games Quarterly, Suicide Girls, and Anime Insider.
Scott is a New York Times best-selling novelist, author of NOCTURNAL, ANCESTOR, INFECTED and CONTAGIOUS, hardcover thrillers from Crown Publishing, and the co-founder of Dark Øverlord Media, which publishes his Galactic Football League series (THE ROOKIE, THE STARTER, THE ALL-PRO, and THE MVP). He still records his own audiobooks and gives away every story — for free — to his Junkies at www.ScottSigler.com.
THE REPORTER takes place in February and March 2684, a parallel story to the action in THE ALL-PRO. To make it easy, the sections of THE REPORTER are named to match the timeline in THE ALL-PRO, Book III in the Galactic Football League Series. This story begins in Week Four of the Tier One regular season that takes place in THE ALL-PRO, and ends in Week Six.
You can enjoy this story on its own, of course, but it synchs in nicely with the rest of the GFL series. We hope you enjoy the read!
at OS1 ORBITING DEATH
Yolanda Davenport’s rituals were enough to rival those of any superstitious football player.
Audio and video recorders charged and tested? Check. Hidden recorders in bracelet and on the toe of her shoe, charged and tested? Check. Backup memory dots empty and ready for data? Check. Messageboard debugged and charged? Check. And, if all else fails, a pencil and fresh pad of paper? Check.
No one had ever accused her of being unprepared. And when one was summoned to the GFL Commissioner’s office for a private meeting, one did not go in unprepared.
Whykor the Aware led her down the white halls of the Regulator, a former warship that now housed the GFL Commissioner and his administration. She knew that she was several floors above the “hospital” where the GFL “treated” the players caught with modifications, but she still imagined she could hear the screams. The knowledge of the hospital was accepted hearsay, but no one had been able to investigate it fully. She had been to the Regulator twice before, always closely chaperoned. There would be no investigative reporting on the Regulator's secrets.
Whykor gestured to a white door in the middle of the white hall. Yolanda had to look down to read the name on it — GFL COMMISSIONER ROB FROESE. It was written at eye level, if your eyes were three and a half feet off the ground.
Which put the name at eye level for Whykor. The Quyth Worker wore black pants that perfectly fit his folded legs and stubby tail. A white, button-down shirt made his torso look somewhat Human, if a Human’s arms were down at the waist and its hands were three thick, chitin-coated thumbs. The pedipalps on either side of his mouth were thickly muscled and just as long as a Human’s arms, much longer than a Quyth Leader’s and proportionately larger than the six-foot-tall Quyth Warrior’s.
Thin fur coated Whykor’s chitin and the six antennae running in three parallel sets of two along the top of his head. Yolanda had never seen a Quyth with Whykor’s fur coloring — gray with light-black stripes. He stared at her with the single, golf ball-sized eye typical of his caste.
“Miss Davenport, his high honor Commissioner Rob Froese will see you now.” The cornea of the Worker’s single eye swirled with light green, a color signaling modesty. To even speak the Commissioner’s name humbled Whykor.
“Thank you, Whykor the Aware,” Yolanda said. “You have been most helpful.”
Threads of light orange joined the green — her words made him happy. She smiled to herself — a little kindness went a long way with that caste.
She had yet to find a Quyth Worker who would tattle on a Leader or Warrior, but one of the first rules she’d learned was to treat servants with more kindness than their keepers. It worked with all races, not just Quyth. Through the millennia, one thing never seemed to change — upper-class sentients often treated their lower classes like trash.
Her mother had taught her to treat everyone with kindness and respect — doing so generated a bond, however small, that could result in bits of whispered information or a sentient doing a small favor that would advance a story. Her father had summed it up more succinctly with the phrase he told her over and over again: it don’t cost nuthin’ to be nice.
Whykor knocked. The door opened to reveal a hulking Quyth Warrior, 6-foot-5 and easily 360 pounds — Leiba the Gorgeous, former All-Pro linebacker for the Vik Vanguard. A single, baseball-sized eye stared down, the armored eyelid blinking slowly. This one wore the dress typical of his caste — loose pants and nothing else. Most Warriors wore gray pants; Leiba wore white with the GFL’s shield logo stitched into the left knee. Enamel designs covered his black chitin, sometimes obscuring the healed cracks of battle and football, sometimes not.
It was always strange to go from looking at one Quyth caste to the next. Whykor and Leiba had the same body structure — legs that rose up from low hips, then bent down at the knee to a foreleg and thick feet, middle arms that connected to shoulders just above those hips, a narrow trunk that rose up to the one-eyed head and pedipalps on either side of the vertical mouth that was just below their single eye. The same structure, but yet so different: Leiba was much bigger, more muscular, he had a larger eye, his antennae were withdrawn into his armored head and he had no fur at all.
Whykor held his pedipalp hands down, palms out — a signal of subservience to the more dominant Warri
or caste. “Yolanda Davenport to see the Commissioner, at the Commissioner’s request.”
Leiba said nothing. He stepped aside and held the door open. Yolanda walked in, while Whykor stayed in the hallway. Leiba closed the door.
This office always impressed her. The walls were paneled with actual Old Earth wood, some kinds of which, as she understood it, had been extinct for centuries. The room felt like a period-piece holo set from the ancient days of early football. Glass cases displayed priceless artifacts from the sport’s history — statuettes, footballs and trophies that were each worth more than Yolanda would probably make in a lifetime. Flat-pictures hung on the walls, showing faces from the game’s past. She didn’t recognize most of them. Yolanda lived in the now of sport, not in the ancient past when the best athletes wouldn’t even be good enough to play in today’s Tier Three.
Commissioner Froese sat behind his desk in a chair suitable for his stature, the desk long and thin to befit his limited reach. He wore a white button-down shirt and a red tie embroidered with the GFL logo.
She’d expected to see Froese and Leiba, Froese’s bodyguard and ever-present shadow. What she hadn’t expected, however, was to find the hulking form of Tarat the Smasher sitting in one of the two chairs in front of Froese’s desk. Tarat was a retired Hall of Fame linebacker who had become a commentator on the Galaxy’s Greatest Sports Show. He fancied himself a reporter, when in fact he was nothing more than a regurgitater of rumor. He covered groundbreaking stories that would be just as easily covered by gossip reporters.
Tarat didn’t dress in the Warrior’s simple, traditional garb. He wore custom suits that resembled Human clothing. Humans ran the broadcasting industry, so Tarat seemed to do what he could to better appeal to that culture.
“Hello, Yolanda,” Tarat said. “I enjoyed your piece on Stephen Pagan’s death.”
“Thanks,” she said. The Neptune player had died on a late hit by Sala Intrigue defensive tackle Gum-Aw-Pin. With three-fourths of the season remaining, the tragic loss left the Scarlet Fliers without their starting fullback. “And I really enjoyed that piece you did on Frank Zimmer dating his punter. Hard-hitting stuff.”
A touch of black swirled over Tarat’s clear cornea, then it was gone.
Yolanda turned her attention to Froese and strode forward. “Commissioner, thank you for the invitation.” She stuck her hand out, but Froese just looked up at her.
“I see,” she said. So it’s going to be one of THOSE meetings. She sat in a chair in front of the Commissioner’s desk meant for a Quyth Leader or someone of Froese’s smaller dimensions. The Commissioner had dealt with Human-sized chairs his whole life; on the Regulator, Humans sat in Froese-sized chairs. Yolanda was used to sitting in such chairs, as she’d been interviewing Quyth Leader team owners for years.
Leiba the Gorgeous walked around the desk to stand behind Froese’s right shoulder.
“Davenport,” the Commissioner said. “I wish I could say it was a pleasure.”
“It is for me, Commissioner. An invitation to the Regulator is always an honor.”
“Not this time. This time I brought you here to tell you that you have become a major pain in my ass.”
Yolanda blinked. Froese had been irritated with her reporting before, but he had never called her out specifically for a story. The GFL relied on the press; if the league tried to cover up too many things, it would eventually backfire. Every franchise owner was also a crime lord — that was common knowledge, and it really didn’t make sense for Froese to pretend things were any other way.
“I don’t know what you mean, Commissioner,” she said. “I can’t think of anything recently that you’d have an issue with.”
The Commissioner reached into a desk drawer. He pulled out a message cube, set it on the desk and activated it. A holocover of Galaxy Sports Magazine appeared. She was well familiar with the issue, as she’d written the cover story. That cover showed Quentin Barnes — in his orange away jersey, black helmet and black armor — scrambling as Jupiter Jacks defenders — copper helmets and shimmering gold jerseys with silver sleeves and copper numbers — reached for him, trying to bring him down. Across the bottom of this image, the title:
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE GFL
IS QUENTIN BARNES THE FACE OF WHAT’S WRONG WITH FOOTBALL?
The Commissioner had dragged her here about that? Her sources were solid; she had nothing to worry about. Quentin Barnes, as she’d reported, embraced and defined all that was wrong with the Galactic Football League: fixing games, gambling on his own team, drug smuggling and even aiding and abetting murder suspect Ju Tweedy. Ju had played for the OS1 Orbiting Death right up until he’d killed Grace McDermot in a fit of passion, then fled the planet with the help of Quentin, Ju’s brother John and team owner Gredok the Splithead. Gredok signed Ju to the Krakens roster, ensuring that Ju wouldn’t be prosecuted for his alleged crime. Why? Because the GFL’s blanket diplomatic immunity to players meant the running back couldn’t be arrested or detained by local law enforcement agencies.
She looked at the Commissioner. “I wrote that story in the third week of preseason, a month ago. Why are you complaining about it now?”
“Were football fans throwing garbage on Quentin Barnes and the Krakens a month ago?”
Ah, so that was it. The Krakens had opened the season at home, and in Ionath City, the young Krakens quarterback all but walked on water. In Week Two, however, Ionath had traveled to Virilliville for a game against the Yall Criminals — the football-crazed, mostly-Sklorno crowd had not appreciated the concept that Barnes shaved points and possibly even threw games.
“Commissioner, don’t try and blame me for any reaction to a story. I report the facts.”
His small, stubby fingers laced behind his neck. He sighed. “I have been doing my own investigation into the Ju Tweedy case.”
She couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “Investigating? Is that what you call Gredok the Splithead ducking your request to interview Ju for almost a year?”
Froese sat up straight. “Yes, Davenport, I have been investigating. And my investigation indicates Tweedy is innocent of this crime. The Ionath Krakens have two of the biggest stars in the league, and your careless article ruined that.”
Yolanda bristled. “I stand by my sources, Commissioner. Tweedy very likely killed that girl, and I know Barnes helped him escape.”
“So you know this for a fact? Are you part of the OS1 police force?”
“I am not in the employ of Anna Villani, no.”
The Commissioner smiled for the first time, revealing his strange, red teeth.
Gang-boss Anna Villani owned the Orbiting Death franchise, most of the crime on OS1, and — as most people rightly assumed — many of the cops and judges on that artificial world. Some of them, anyway — Yolanda had a couple of good cops as sources, sources who had helped with the Ju Tweedy story.
Froese tapped his fingers on the desktop. “Still, you have played judge, jury and executioner. You. One sentient among billions has decided the fate of two rising stars who were further increasing the popularity of my league. Are you incapable of making a mistake, Davenport? Are you omnipotent?”
She leaned forward. “No, I am a reporter, and as I said, my sources are solid.”
“And your sources were?”
She laughed. “Commissioner. You know we’ve been through this before. You know I won’t give up my sources.” She paused. “But now I am curious. Why do you think I’m so wrong? Are you also trying to cover for Ju Tweedy? He’s already got immunity. You don’t need to do anything else to protect him.”
“Tweedy did not kill McDermot.”
“Really? It’s weird that you can know that considering you haven’t actually interviewed Ju Tweedy because Gredok is dancing circles around your so-called authority.”
The Commissioner did not respond. She knew that reaction from experience — her comment about the Krakens had gotten to him. He took a deep breath and relaxed his han
ds, which had balled into fists. Yolanda glanced up at Leiba the Gorgeous, who was still standing behind the Commissioner. The Quyth Warrior’s eye stared at her and swirled with the dark green of embarrassment laced with black.
Froese cleared his throat. “I have the information second hand,” he said. “I have no solid proof. Yet. I was in the process of a more in-depth probe when your story broke. Now I have damage control to do. And you know how I hate damage control.”
He leaned forward. “You need to retract that story.”
She had traveled for three days to hear that? “Froese, you know damn well I won’t pull a story. You’re only asking to go on record that you asked me. You know I’ll turn you down. So, for the record, no, Galaxy Sports Magazine will not retract the story. There, that part of the script is complete, so why don’t you tell me why you really brought me here?”
Froese looked meaningfully at Tarat the Smasher. Tarat seemed to pick up an unspoken signal, then turned his eye toward Yolanda.
“I have information that indicates Ju Tweedy did not kill Grace McDermot,” Tarat said. “We do not know, however, who actually committed the crime. I have a lead for you, were you inclined to follow it to get to the truth.”
She felt simultaneous stabs of excitement and irritation — irritation because despite her attitude toward Tarat, she was already interested in this “lead” and excitement because although the Warrior was a rumor monger, he got those rumors because he was the only reporter in the galaxy with more inside contacts than she had.
“So why give this lead to me, Tarat? Why not go after it yourself so you can roll it out on GGSS? What are you two angling for here?”
Tarat's eye turned yellow, a color that loosely represented nervous excitement.
“I am busy researching another story,” he said. “I also have my weekly broadcast obligations to the Galaxy’s Greatest Sports Show. More than those things, however, when I shared the name of my lead with the Commissioner, he insisted that I turn it over to you.”