Damage Control

“This is a disaster,” said Herman Goodrich. His magnetic chair glided away from the table and bobbed gently as he threw his excessive weight into it, then it obediently slid back into place. Goodrich wiped a glaze of sweat from his forehead and reached for a donut before opening his console. Around the conference table, the other members of the Department of Media Relations waited for their leader to continue, but he did not. Instead, Goodrich focused his attention on the document projected into the air before him. The silence was palpable.

“Sir?” Dugan, the second-year intern, was the only one with the courage to break it. Goodrich looked up crossly.

“Did I give you permission to speak?” he snapped.

“No, sir.”

“Then don’t. Have we suppressed the medical report?” Goodrich continued. The question was directed to Kimley, who nodded. “And the man’s family?”

“Bribed,” Kimley said, “But the ER footage is still on the net. We can’t cover up the shooting itself.”

“Would anyone care to explain to me why the Prime Minister’s ray gun was set to lethal?”

“It wasn’t, sir,” said Kimley. “The man had a pacemaker. It malfunctioned at the livestock-stun setting.”

Goodrich nodded. “A true hunting accident,” he said with some relief.

“CNN wants to interview the victim,” Kimley continued.

“Well, tell them he’s recovering. It’ll blow over.”

“Sir,” said Dugan, again interrupting.

“I told you-“

“Sir, an interview might help us in this situation.”

“You know how the Prime Minister is with interviews.”

“I mean with the victim.”

Silence.

“The victim’s dead, Dugan,” Kimley said.

“They don’t know that. I’ve been researching the automated decoys that the Secret Service uses during the Prime Minister’s transports, and-“

“You want CNN to interview a decoy?”

“It would only take a couple of hours to make a cast of the victim’s face, and we have the Prime Minister’s phone logs for voice modulation. We’d be controlling every response.”

Herman Goodrich considered this, frowning slightly.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Kimley said after a pause.

“Fine,” said Goodrich as he pushed the magnetic chair from the table. “Set it up. I want a test video in five hours.”

As she pneumatic door slid shut behind the department head, Kimley smiled at Dugan. “You’re going to be good at this,” he said.

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