Sampling The News by Dogfire

Summary: An interview with Rogue

Dedication: Thanks to Rogue for his editorial comments.

In an attempt to project a calm, tranquil atmosphere, the architect had selected abstract wall paintings for the meeting room within the glass box headquarters of the television station. The wall mounted television shattered the illusion. Unlike the paintings, the Video monitor vomited motion.

Computer generated graphics assaulted the screen; accompanied by intense, punchy theme music demanding attention.

The letters WFUR: CHANNEL 22 swooped into position, followed by the station theme; REEL LIFE! REAL NEWS!

The video screen cut to a warehouse fire. FIRE! screamed the caption.

The screen flicked to a headline; MURDER, followed by a video shot of a body under a bloody sheet, it's tail sticking out.

A crushed house proclaimed by a banner; MAYHEM.

Clashing cymbals introduced the teaser headline; TONIGHT, MURDEROUS FIRE.

The audio was off, sparing the gathered news staff of Channel 22 from listening to the stomach churning music. No one was watching, their attention focused on their leader's important announcement.

"Whoever leaves the coffee pot on the burner again will clean up the burnt residue with soap and their own tongue! Am I getting through to everyone!", snarled Hank Strom, the station manager.

His black, ursine head scanned the pond flat table and the assorted flotsam floating along it's shore; Judy Barlow, news researcher, hare lip twitching absentmindedly. Frank Paley, the head news anchor, weasel eyes vapid and expressionless, like his brain. Samuel Roberts, idly trimming rodent incisors by chewing on a pencil. Patrick Moria stood in front of a covered box, stubby tail wagging.

"Now that I have your undivided attention," Hank continued, "Proposals for sweeps week. Cosmos Broadcasting, our owner, is expecting ratings to drool over."

Since Cosmos purchased WFUR two years ago, the broadcast conglomerate hired a consultant. The consultant's report found the station staff talented, well-paid and self-confident; against current industry trends, this will not do. Recommendations were made; change the work atmosphere to match the latest business fad of fear, loathing, and cost cutting. Hank Strom, the new station manager, laid off or fired most of the staff, replacing them with cheaper, inexperienced, and quietly desperate workers. The return of serfdom was good news for the financial bottom line, no need to have independently minded employees stirring up trouble.

Pat Moria was the last of the original station broadcast engineers; self-reliant, outspoken, and efficient, Hank once calculated three would have to be hired to replace Pat.

Hank interrupted his musing when Sam Roberts stopped chewing his pencil and spoke. "Here's a story line for sweeps week. Last month, the British station, BBC3, broadcasted a program on dragons in the Scottish Highlands."

The assembly let out a collective groan. Followed by mutterings of not another educational nature program. Sam raised his voice.

"They interviewed a LIVE dragon. A one on one interview with Tremalaine, a 120 foot Dragon. Fantastic creature, great voice, he gave a wonderful perspective on how misunderstood Dragons are. BBC3's ratings shot into the stratosphere."

Sam resumed his nervous teething while the group debated where to tape footage of flaming dragons and screaming vixens. Conversation buzzed like a hive, until someone threw water on the idea by pointing out dragons were absent from this side of the Atlantic. Sam spat out his mangled pencil and stood up.

"We don't need dragons, giants will do!" Sam turned to Hank, "Do you remember that news bulletin from our northern bureau? Last week's report about a giant wolf rampaging through a hamlet."

Hank leaned forward and nodded, "Sure do. A 90 foot tall wolf, answering to the name of Rogue, stomped on some houses and lunched on the town folk."

"Cool! We can interview the survivors." Judy wriggled her nose, "There was a villager who witnessed Rogue eating her husband and litter of fifteen."

Hank's chair creaked under his ponderous bulk as he leaned back, "Forget it, a widow whimpering about her family becoming Rabbit McNuggets isn't a big enough story bite for sweeps week."

Sam chattered, "I was thinking about interviewing the mega lupine himself."

"That's insane! Rogue eats anyone he can get his paws on!"

Sam shook his head, "Not true! A few artists and hack writers have talked to Rogue. In exchange for their lives, some do portraits, or take down dictation to mail a letter for him. I know someone from that select group who can set up an interview with Rogue."

"How long have you been planning this?" Hank asked. Risky, he thought, interviewing an unpredictable giant, but it'll blast our ratings into orbit.

"Quite awhile. I've already talked to my contact about it. We can arrange a meeting at the West Corner of the Park this week."

"What day?"

"We're shooting for Wednesday at 2 PM."

Hank swiveled his chair towards the news anchor. "Frank, how do you feel about interviewing a 90 foot tall wolf?"

Frank Paley smiled, "I'm looking forward to the challenge. Thanks to 'my' idea, this interview will make the station the talk of the broadcasters club! Here's a title, 'The Belly of the Beast'; Rampaging to hide the hurt."

"As a follow-up, Rogue's advice on the tastiest sauces to go with a news anchor entree," a voice muttered.

The immaculately groomed news anchor glared at the offender. A wadded ball of paper bounced off Pat's snout. His lapped ears picked up Judy whispering bad boy, no biscuits for you.

"Pat, muzzle it!" Changing the subject, Hank creaked back in his chair. "I'm giving the green light on funding. Assign a news cam team on it. We'll interview Rogue on Wednesday at 2 PM!"

Sam cleared his throat, "I suggest keeping our questions short and simple for Rogue. BBC3 interviewed a dragon who's wit and wisdom rivaled an Oxford professor of Literature. According to accounts, Rogue seems to be as sharp as a sack of bowling balls."

"Good point. Frank, research and write those questions with care."

That meant Judy would do the work.

Hank glanced at Sam. "Can you get something in writing, or a promise from your contact that Rogue won't stomp on and chew up Frank and the camera crew?"

"Rogue has given his word he won't bite or step on anyone. I'd prefer we limit the interviewing crew to two. If our usual cluster of folks and news van gather around him, I can't guarantee he won't get too excited and forget his promise."

"Pat has a solution to your dilemma. Show us the camera."

Pat raised the box's cardboard lids and lifted up a helmet, patterned in military camouflage, before the gathered crowd. Two small modules with lenses flanked both sides of the helmet.

"Thanks to spin-offs from the Military, we can use this head mounted camera." Pat stood like a priest holding a sacred high tech toy.

"Normally, a standard camcorder requires videotape, cable feeds and a nearby news van for transmission. This battery powered, wireless videocam will allow us to tape the Rogue interview at a discrete distance."

"Wicked piece of gear. What about resolution?" Sam asked,

Pat replied, "The camera meets studio quality standards and it can automatically switch to infrared. You can operate it unshielded in a wide variety of environments. Underwater, in the humid Tropics, under freezing Arctic winter conditions and even in a vacuum. This camera can survive environmental conditions that would kill a camerafur."

Hank interrupted the techno geek testimony, "I don't know about this. It's untried and that helmet thingy looks cumbersome."

"This is the easiest portable camera I've ever used." Pat twirled the helmet camera in his paw pads, exposing a touch pad keyboard on the side. He pulled down a plastic lens from the front of the helmet. "A heads up display for status. Way cool and a blast to operate."

Hank thought about expenses. An idea came out of hibernation, it's time to repossess the useless pension funds of the almost vested. He casually spoke, "Pat...I realize you were planning to be the first one to use the camera. But I need you to help me with equipment purchases for Wednesday. Could you instruct Fenris, our camera tech trainee, how to operate the new video cam?"

"Sure, I'll start him on it."

Hank stood up, "Staff meeting is over everyone. Let's make Reel news!"

Pat heard his name. He turned and saw Judy Barlow looking around the cinder block corridor. She signaled a quiet sign and motioned him towards an empty office. The pair silently entered the room, she closed the door and raised her white ears towards the door; listening intently. Fluorescent lights buzzed in stroboscopic rhythms. Suffering eyeteeth, he thought, the perfect setting for fresh scuttlebutt from WFUR's rumor mill.

Judy whispered, "Do you remember Hank's compliment to you at the Christmas party. About you being worth three people?"

Pat nodded.

"I just heard from furry resources that Sam Roberts will be promoted to Senior Broadcast Engineer and they plan to hire two engineers from a temp agency!"

Pat groaned, here we go again, every year management plays staffing games to save a few bucks. "Sam hasn't enough experience under his belt."

"That's the point, Hank's going to dump you."

Pat was no wet-behind-the-ears whelp in broadcast television. He had watched it evolve into a circus; mindlessly pursuing entertainment and ratings. He recalled a time when stations had anchor journalists instead of news researchers, like Judy, covering for air-headed talent. Come this Thursday, he thought, I'll be fully vested in the Station's pension plan and not a moment too soon.

"I'm not surprised...figured we'd see layoffs at the end of the summer."

Judy put a paw on Pat's black and tan shoulders, "I'm sorry, but Hank may jump the gun!"

"Hank's a waffling bunghead. Snap decisions don't fit his style." Pat glanced at the clock, he needed to start repairing a tape drive. "I have to go, thanks for letting me know. Keep me posted, okay?"

Pat opened the office door and left.

"Good luck, Pat." Judy sighed.

Escorting duties, I hate escorting, Berian thought. The polar bear security guard wished he was outside enjoying a sunny, Wednesday morning. Sometimes they shouted, screamed betrayal or cried against his massive white chest. He escorted his charge down the back Corridor near the van garage. The grim silence coming from the former employee disturbed Berian. The delectable odor of Snell's biscuits and chew sticks wafted up from a cheerfully wrapped gift basket. The fired worker carried the basket absentmindedly, ears pinned back, jowls exposing fangs, narrowed eyes locked onto a distant target.

Berian cleared his throat, the basket blocked his view of the black and tan snout. "Pat? Is there anything else you need?"

The snarled face relaxed, "No, my desk is cleaned out and decontaminated." He looked at Berian, "I'm not pissed at you. You're just doing your job."

Berian quietly nodded, better fired employees begin talking, it keeps their minds off from doing stupid things.

"Hank is a gutless wonder. That bastard left this basket of dog biscuits on my desk with the pink 'Dear John' slip pinned to it."

Pat shoved a sheet of paper upward into Berian's nose, he calmly continued, "You know what this is? Questionnaire sheets I have to fill out; my exit interview. Can you believe that?"

Berian shook his large white head.

Pat growled, "Most businesses do a quickie exit interview before giving you the heave-ho, but this station is too chickenshit for it." He imitated the furry resources manager's squeaky voice, "New policy, you must Fax the answers to this exit survey form or no paycheck due!"

They walked passed the garage entrance. Pat stopped, nose poised to follow a lost scent trail, he held up a paw.

"My tool kit is in Van 1. Could you let me into the garage so I can retrieve it?"

Pat gave the basket to the security guard. Berian opened the garage door. He watched Pat pad over to Van 1, open the rear door, and climb into the vehicle.

Pat pulled his tool kit out from under a shelf. Fifteen years of supporting television programs through fires, floods, and insanely dull elections. He looked at the customized control panel, his pride and joy. A mischievous smile cracked his muzzle. Didn't Pappy used to say don't get mad, get even?

A minute later, Pat wiped his paws, chuckling to himself. If Sam is behind the eight ball, he'll spot it during checkout. Looking up at the equipment shelf, he spied a manila folder, the broadcast script folder. Opening it revealed a stack of rubber-banded cue cards. Frank Paley's interview questions, written by Judy. Pat visualized the news anchor fumbling cue cards and cursing the lack of a TelePrompTer. He spotted another card; Sam's handwriting, Rogue contact notes and a phone number.

Pat stuck his head out of the van, "I need to write some broadcast directions for Sam about the afternoon interview. It'll be another ten minutes."

Berian nodded, he walked over to the Van, glancing inside, he watched Pat writing notes on 4x8 cards with a felt tip pen. Pat placed the notes in a folder, filed it and picked up his tool kit.

Berian opened the loading dock door, he watched Pat step lightly through the parking lot. OOPS! He was still holding Pat's basket.

"Pat! Your gift basket!"

"Keep it, I'm not hungry. It's been fun working here. Goodbye!"

Pat waved and strode off, holding a few cards in his paw.

At the West Corner of the Park, Fenris Paley felt exposed and vulnerable standing in the middle of the stadium wide lawn. A rampart row of maple and spruce trees obscured his view of Van 1. The van was hidden in a distant bunker; it's tomb gray concrete walls camouflaged behind a row of holly bushes. He remembered his head actions were being transmitted through the helmet mounted video camera. He switched on the audio link to the news van.

"All set, what next?"

Sam radioed a reply, "Do some panning shots and adjust the audio pickup, I'm picking up wind noise."

"10-4...audio check...signal to noise is good."

"Pan to the end of the park grove...zoom in on that bush. You're doing fine."

Inside Van 1, Sam released the microphone button. The newly promoted broadcast engineer watched the monitor screen display a stable, high resolution image of the park clearing. Judy sat in the next chair, scribbling notes.

Sam nodded to Judy, "Can't picture Frank reading cue cards, he's used to a TelePrompTer."

"He'll be fine, unless he reads them out of order. By the way, congratulations on your 'promotion'." Judy glanced at the control panel and frowned, "You forgot the voice link to Frank."

Judy reached over and flipped the transceiver power switch for Frank's earphone set. She smiled at Sam. "That's one of the first things on the checklist. If you need advice, call Pat's home number."

"Knock it off!" Sam snapped, "Pat was a victim of downsizing. Spit in Hank's eye if that'll make you feel better. Don't blame me for it! Keep in mind, we got a program to produce."

The two sat silently, making final preparations. Judy glanced at the monitor; the outdoor lawn stage where the Rogue interview should commence in a few minutes. Everyone was ready.

The thought of standing in front of a 90 foot tall carnivore made Fenris Paley nervous. The young mustelid jumped at a sound of a nearby voice.

"How's it feel, Fenris, to rise quickly in the news business?"

He turned to his uncle, the news anchor held a stack of cue cards.

"Thanks uncle, mega rush. It's not what you know, it's who you know that counts!"

"You can forget competence." Frank Paley chuckled. Competence, Pat Moria's favorite word. Well competence isn't worth a single dog biscuit in the news business; ratings and connections matter. The well-dressed anchor fussed with his sprayed, manicured hair and adjusted the microphone headset strapped around his rounded ear.

Click! Sam's voice chattered in the earphone. "Heads up! One of our lookouts just spotted a large wolf moving west towards the Park clearing. Confirmed...it's Rogue!"

An enormous triangular pair of ears rose above the tree line.

"Standby, Rogue is entering the clearing!"

Rogue strode up to the trees. The immense bipedal giant stepped over the trees and into the clearing. The gargantuan wolfmorph swiveled his snout towards the television crew and advanced towards them. Each step hammered footlike paws deep into the park turf. The ground quaked from the seismic pounding. Fenris's heart skipped when a pair of hind paws larger than two Buicks blotted out his view. Rogue halted barely ten feet away from them. Frank angled his head upward, past clawed feet, up the tree trunk legs and abdomen, until he saw a summit high muzzle with yellow eyes staring back.

Rogue leaned forward, flexed his knees and slowly lowered his bulk onto his haunches. Frank gulped nervously; the news crew found themselves just inside a cul-de-sac formed by Rogue's bent hind legs and lower trunk. Rogue's proportions warped their sense of perspective. Fenris pointed his helmet camera upwards at a slight angle.

From the hidden news van, Judy pressed the mic button for Fenris's radio. "Zoom back and up, you're getting close ups of Rogue's male assets. We don't want to be too explicit here."

She wolf whistled to herself, "YOW! Impressive!"

Judy regretfully watched video camera view withdrew and rise past a white billboard of belly until it halted; showing Rogue's jocular, toothy face.

"Hi!" boomed a bass voice, "Are you the Tee Vee news crew?"

Frank Paley composed himself. "Frank Paley, WFUR, Channel 22 news. I assume you are Rogue?"

"No other, Am I on the Tee Vee?"

"Not yet, Mr. Rogue, we're taping you for a delayed broadcast at six PM on channel 22."

Rogue's erect ears twitched in mild confusion.

Judy's voice hissed through Frank's earphone, "Don't baffle him. Get to the meat of the interview!"

Frank fumbled with the cards. Where was a TelePrompTer when you need it?

"Mr. Rogue, would you like to answer a few questions?"

"Go ahead, ask", Rogue rumbled.

Frank pulled out the first cue card, cleared his throat and began.

"Mr. Rogue we know you enjoy lunch. For our viewers, we would like you to take us to your inside world."

Years of broadcasting had conditioned Frank to articulate scripted questions without comprehending them.

Inside the news van, Sam's whiskered jaw dropped, Judy's long ears snapped to attention. What kind of question was that? It wasn't on the scripted list. Sam reached for Frank's mic switch, the switch lever snapped off. POP! A circuit breaker on the control panel tripped, the voice radios for Frank and Fenris winked out; dead.

Cursing, Sam fumbled for the file drawer containing the panel schematics. He hadn't familiarized himself to the panel layout. Judy buried her head in her paws and groaned. The camera receiver and video tape recorder continued to run.

Frank automatically flipped to the second card. "Rogue, we hear it's quite an interesting place to be, so do lunch on us. We'd like to see."

From the van monitor, Sam and Judy could only witness Rogue's puzzled reaction to the question. The giant smiled at camera and at the twosome standing before him.

They heard Rogue's gleeful reply, "Oh that kind of Lunch! Sure thing!"

Hank Strom sat in a leather padded chair, ignoring the panoramic view framed by the glass walls of his spacious corner office. A wasted morning reviewing Video resumes of anchor talent.

"Hank", barked his secretaries voice from the intercom, "Sam's waiting outside with the tape."

"Send him in."

Sam Roberts sauntered in, carrying papers, a lunch bag and a video tape from yesterday's disastrous interview. He dropped the heap on the capacious, mahogany desk, retrieved the tape and inserted it into the office VCR. He found the remote and clicked on the monitor.

"I'll speed through the preliminaries."

Hank reached for the bag and pulled out french fries. "Do you mind? I haven't had lunch yet."

Sam nodded. He fast forwarded to the interview. The two watched a gray paw grip Frank like a gigantic vise and pull him up towards Rogue's open muzzle.

"I thought your contact promised Rogue wouldn't chomp anyone?"

"Technically, that didn't cover ingestion."

Hank and Sam munched on french fries as the video monitor replayed dramatic footage of Frank being tossed into Rogue's mouth. Massive jaws snapped shut. The two watched the enormous throat contract and a bulge slide down the wolf's neck. The camerafur had stood rigid with fear, a clawed paw zoomed towards the hapless Fenris.

The helmet camera faithfully recorded a rising, dizzying motion towards a gargantuan oral cave, rushing past fanged rows of teeth, bouncing over a wide, pink river of tongue and sliding towards a deep chasm.

"I'd thought it end up dark, where's the light coming from?"

"The camera automatically switched over to infrared."

Fascinated, the pair watched pulsing movement down a slick, greasy tube. It could have been a medical video of an endoscope traveling down an esophagus, except this was Fenris and the camera making the trip into Rogue's waiting belly.

A slimy sphincter opened and the camera view tumbled about, then stabilized; showing the interior of a glistening, slick chamber lined with ridges and folds. They watched the living walls of a carnivore maw throb and churn, thick, sludgy films of liquid streaming down.

"Look! There's Frank screaming and pounding the sides, he's still, or was, alive. I'll be damned Sam, this is pretty good footage. Look at that! His hairpiece and fur are falling off, must be acidic in there?"

Sam shut off the monitor. "The camera continued to transmit, all that's left are a few hours worth of stomach and intestinal movement. Believe it or not, we're still picking up a tracking signal from the video camera. It's in a pile near some bushes in the park."

"That's valuable equipment, hire some beetles to recover it. In the meantime, we'll scrape together a story about Rogue and of Frank's demise. I see great ratings from this." Hank licked his broad, black paw; delicious french fries. "By the way, how much do you think we can sell the tape to the medical colleges for educational use?"

Sam stared at his manager, "I'll look into it."

Birds chattered in the trees surrounding a tranquil park clearing. A contented creature laid on his back, chewing on a toothpick; a spruce sapling. His other paw clutched a squirming bystander against his chest. Rogue had plucked the onlooker from a nearby hiding place after pulling the sapling out of the ground. He raised his gargantuan head and examined the black and tan colored dog.

"Should I let you go or wait till I'm hungry for dessert?" Rogue asked.

Muzzle buried in the thick pile of tummy fur, the Doberman heard the deep voice echo through the gurgling belly. He winced at the thought of ending up on the other side of that furry wall. Twisting his snout sideways, he spat out lupine hairs and spoke loudly. "Rogue...I have a better idea. I'd like to talk to you about it."

Rogue slowly sat up, he held his tiny guest at eye level, gray ears at attention.

"Do tell..."

Inside Hank's office, Sam turned to leave, he paused, "I almost forgot, your secretary asked me to give you these faxed papers." He handed the sheets to Hank and left.

Hank Strom scanned the fax. From Pat Moria, answers to his exit interview questionnaire. He read the cover sheet;

'Greetings and salutations Hank, you skinflint. Congratulations on screwing up yesterdays interview. Thanks to Rogue, you'll be able to hire a cheaper, prima donna news anchor. Speaking of the canine devil, I had the good fortune of meeting him after the interview.'

The glass walled office's natural light darkened. Hank frowned, too early for clouds, wasn't it blue skies this morning? He muttered at the paper, too bad Rogue didn't eat you. He continued;

'In exchange for my life, I gave Rogue detailed directions to the headquarters of our illustrious television station. Keep a large stock of Tabasco sauce in the cafeteria.'

Hank heard a wind gust rattle the glass. He looked up to see a mist coated splotch on the window wall. Fog filled breath coming from a colossal, black nose; attached to a gigantic gray muzzle and yellow eyes. His screams were drowned out by shattering glass and a huge gray paw encircled him.

Rogue's mammoth tongue flicked over his chops. Sampling the news staff, live, made better entertainment than watching TV.

Rogue is copyrighted by his player. All rights reserved. - 8/15/98

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