“Remember,” the colonel said. “Off the record. There’s a formal announcement coming soon but wait until then. With what I’ve given you, you’ll be able to put out a story immediately.” The lean man with a greying buzzcut sat behind his desk in front of a 22-year-old news intern eager for a scoop. The young woman sighed at him and lowered her notepad.
“Daddy…,” she started, but a rough throat clear from the colonel reminded her of where they were. “Colonel,” she corrected herself. “You can’t be serious about this. ‘Off the record’?” she asked, then laughed. “No one would believe me anyway.”
“If you wait until the announcement, everyone will believe you,” he said matter-of-factly.
“You are serious,” she said. She brushed her coffee-brown bangs out of the way and narrowed her hazel eyes at him. “This is really happening?” she asked. The old soldier shrugged.
“I’ve already said slightly more than I’m allowed to, but I guess in a couple of weeks it won’t matter much anyway,” he nodded. “It’s real, honey. It’s happening but don’t be scared. I’ve been there, seen it myself. Everything is just like I told you.”
“A parallel universe…,” Katie whispered with awe.
“One of many, apparently,” the colonel said. “Once the deal is finalized we’ll be able to visit other alternate universes too,” he smiled at Katie. “Who knows what kind of opportunities a talented journalist will find out in the multiverse?” Katie shook her head; her mind boggled at the concept.
“”I can’t believe everyone’s going through with it. Not just the U.S. How did that happen? What’s the price tag for Earth?” The colonel glanced at the closed office door, then shrugged.
“No money. Dana Sharp has access to super-advanced technology. She’s already demonstrated the various ways she can help, or hurt humanity. As far as we can tell, nothing is going to change much. She doesn’t want to rule us, she only wants to, “own the Earth”, even if it’s just on paper. So once the U.N. signs the Earth over to her, we get access to all her technology and continue living normally.” A chirp sounded from Katie’s purse to remind her that lunch was almost over; father and daughter knew what it meant and both stood.
“Thanks for the scoop, colonel dad,” Katie smiled as she hugged her father and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I promise I won’t tell anyone until the announcement,” she added. The colonel laughed.
“You can tell anyone you want, they won’t believe you. I just don’t want to see it printed until I tell you it’s okay.” She left her father’s office in time to see the elevator closing at the end of the hall.
“Hold the elevator please!” she shouted and sprinted down the hall; thankful she wore tennis shoes instead of heels that day. She made it to the elevator and stepped inside while trying to catch her breath from the short jog. She wasn’t out of shape exactly, but her body wasn’t ready to run right at that moment. A tall woman with dark hair wearing a white suit, the only other occupant, smiled at her.
“In a hurry?” she asked. Katie nodded as the elevator doors closed.
“Can’t afford to be late again,” she said between breaths. “You know how bosses are,” Katie commented. The woman grinned.
“I certainly do. What do you do?” she asked Katie.
“Journalist!” Katie said eagerly. Within a second her guilt flared up over telling a stranger a white lie, and she corrected herself. “..intern.”
“Really?” the woman raised a perfectly shaped dark eyebrow. “Journalist on a government base? You must be working on a juicy story,” she said.
“Oh no, my da-,” Katie interrupted herself with a nod to try and sound a bit more professional. “Yeah, it’s a BIG story,” she said. “Huge.”
“How about a taste?” the woman asked. “I’d love to hear some juicy gossip about this place.” As she asked, the elevator slowed then dinged. The doors started to open. Katie made a flurry of decisions at once without realizing it. The moment the door started to open, she hit the “Close Door’ button, then she chose the top floor. The elevator started to rise.
“You’re not going to believe this, but I have to tell someone,” she took a deep breath. “The Earth is being sold to a woman from an alternate universe named Dana Sharp. The whole Earth.”
“Really?” the woman asked. “And you know this how?” Katie smiled and puffed out her chest with pride.
“I’m a journalist and I have my sources,” she said.
“So you’re rushing back to report it, then?” the woman asked. Katie shook her head.
“My source asked me not to print anything until an official announcement was made, so I’ll wait for that.”
“I see you have integrity on top of being well-informed,” the woman smiled. She looked Katie up and down for a moment, then extended her hand.
“I’d like you to come work for me starting tomorrow.” Katie reached for her hand, but stopped herself.
“Thank you!” she said. “I can’t, though. I need to turn in a two-week’s notice, or I’ll never get a job at a major outlet. On top of that, I don’t know who you are or anything about your paper.” The woman smiled as the elevator reached the top floor.
“Don’t worry about your two-week’s notice. The world’s changing in a week anyway. I promise not turning it in won’t ever come back to haunt you. My name is Dana Sharp,” she said. “As for my paper, I don’t have one yet.” The elevator doors opened.
“Then what are you hiring me for?” Katie asked. Upon hearing the woman’s name she decided she would take the job. It confused her to learn Dana Sharp didn’t already have a news outlet.
“To see if you can impress me,” Dana said.
“Sorry, what?” Katie asked.
“Starting tomorrow, you’ll have access to any and all resources you need. You have one year to build me a major news network that spans several Earths.Do you accept?” The elevator doors closed again, but the elevator did not move.