Chapter One

The door to Editor Jack Freeman's office slammed open, causing the man to jump in surprise. He looked up to find himself staring into the enraged face of Kirsten Saunders, The Daily Chronicle's Star reporter. Jack stood slowly from his desk and took off his glasses, placing them calmly beside the computer. He knew this had been coming, and was, for once, slightly prepared for the brunette's confrontation. In the past three months these confrontations had been frequent, and Jack attributed his rapidly growing grey hairs to them.

"What the hell is this I hear about the Dynamic Ind. Story going to Robert?" Kirsten's hands rested on her hips as she glared icily at Jack.

"I just felt Robert was the better choice for the story, "Jack replied calmly. "There's still the Hapfield story for you to do."

Kirsten shifted her stance and crossed her arms, a look of disgust spreading across her face. "The Hapfield Story?! You have got to be kidding me! Jack, I'm the best reporter you've got! Do you really want me doing a lame story that even a rookie could write in five minutes?" She paused for a moment, searching Jack's face. A brief look of both worry and guilt flashed through his eyes for a moment, and she realized his decision had nothing to do with her skill. "It has nothing to do with Robert being better for the job, does it?" She asked, her tone softening. "I know you wouldn't want to waste my talents on something as small as the Hapfield story, so what's the real reason?"

Sighing, Jack leaned against the window. "Kirsten, the Dynamic story is too dangerous. We know there's more going on than simply a theft of a medical breakthrough. You're only 23... I can't risk sending you out on a story as dangerous as that. Robert is the safer choice. I don't have to worry about him doing something stupid… like getting caught." He looked at her accusingly, and she knew he was trying to make her feel guilty for the previous incidents during her investigations.

"Hey! That was not my fault!" Kirsten exclaimed. "It's not like there was any indication that the police were going to be hiding in those shipping crates. Besides, Officer Davies didn't mind sharing a crate with me." She smirked slightly at the last part.

"If I recall correctly," Jack said, "That was the stupid something that got you caught."

Kirsten threw up her hands in defense. "Hey, it's not my fault Officer Davies has wandering hands."

"According to Officer Davies, he wasn't the only one," Jack retorted. "It all really comes back to the stupid somethings."

Kirsten snorted. "The only reason Robert never gets caught doing 'stupid somethings' is because he's too afraid to get close enough to the action."

"Or maybe he just has a smarter head on his shoulders."

"Look Jack, the bottom line is this; Do you want the real story, detail for detail, or the same half-ass crap that barely scrapes the surface that every other paper in town will have?" Kirsten looked Jack straight in the eyes and leaned forward on his desk. "C'mon Jack, you know if you give me the story, I'll get it back to you no matter what." She stood back up and crossed her arms again. "So what will it be Jack? Are you going to allow the paper to drop to everyone else's standards, or will you allow it to continue to have a reason why it's Falton City's top read paper?"

Jack sighed and sat back down at his desk. Kirsten had him on every point she made. She was dangerous, and headstrong, and would probably blow her cover while investigating, but if he wanted the full story, he needed her. Robert was too cautious to ever get right in there, he'd sit back and watch from a distance and record his thoughts. "Fine," he gave in, "the story is yours. But if you end up arrested again, don't expect me to pay your bail… you still owe me for the last two times.

"A wide grin broke across Kirsten's face and her eyes danced with excitement. "I promise Jack, this will be the best story I've done for you yet." She turned to leave, then stopped at the door and looked back over her shoulder. "And don't worry, I'll pay you back for the bail when I get my raise."

Jack rolled his eyes slightly as the door closed. Shaking his head slowly, he stared at the blank computer screen in front of him. "She's going to get herself in deep this time," he muttered.

Kirsten strutted triumphantly through the Newsroom, eyes locked on her target. A tall, red haired man in his late twenties stood leaning on the photocopier as he laughed with a group of coworkers. His cocky body language confirmed what Kirsten already knew he was doing; bragging about getting the Dynamic story. She couldn't wait to wipe the smug grin off his face.

One of the men tapped Robert on the shoulder and pointed in Kirsten's direction. Robert spun around and paled at the sight of the girl's triumphant grin.

"Hi Robert!" she greeted cheerfully. "I just wanted to say congratulations on the Hapfield story. I know you'll do a fantastic job." As she spoke, her tone was almost sickeningly sweet, adding salt to the wound.

Robert stared at her in shock. "Wha—But how?!" He shook his head in disbelief. "I don't understand…"

Kirsten could no longer keep her smug grin hidden. The moment was far too priceless for her. "And that is why I'm the Star Reporter and you're not," she replied. She turned and walked away, knowing he was still staring after her in disbelief. "3,2,1.." she counted silently, waiting for Robert's response.

"JAAAAAAAACCCKKK!!" Robert's whiny voice echoed through the newsroom as he ran to the Editor's office.

"Too predictable," she mused, making her way to her desk.

Later that afternoon, Kirsten left the office, finally prepared to start investigating the story. So far she had nothing; nothing being the few pieces of information that the PR office had released. Dynamic Ind. Latest medical breakthrough had been stolen last night, and the only information they had was that it was six men, Caucasian, between the ages of 20 and 40, ranging in height from 5'8 – 6'2. Not exactly a whole lot to go on for a story. Kirsten however was unfazed by this lack of a lead as she climbed into her 1995 Chevy Cavalier and started the engine. She drove through the main streets of Falton City for half an hour, mumbling randomly about how much she hated rush-hour. Finally she turned down a small, back-alley street in the centre of Old Downtown, and pulled to a stop beside a dungy looking apartment building. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as she climbed out of her car and was hit with the stench of sewage and garbage. Watching her step to make sure she didn't step on anything unpleasant, she approached a battered looking door with the number 21a on it and knocked loudly.

"I already told you I don't want any! Go away!" shouted a male voice from inside.

Kirsten rolled her eyes. "Christopher, open the damn door before I bust it down myself!"

There was silence for a moment, and then the sound of a sliding lock before the door swung open, revealing a pale young man with deep brown eyes and greasy black hair. There were large bags under his eyes from lack of sleep, and his clothes smelt and looked as if they hadn't been washed for days. "Sorry Kirst, thought you were more of those pesky kids selling Girl Guide cookies," he apologized as he motioned for her to come in.

The small apartment reflected the same disheveled appearance as it's occupant; dirty and smelly. Empty pop cans, beer bottles, and pizza boxes were strewn all over the place, and piles of rotting food sat in a corner by the back wall. The apartment was dark, except for the glow cast by the computer screen which sat on an old wooden desk.

"You know Chris, just because you're a criminal doesn't mean you have to live like a scumbag." Kirsten cautiously picked the dirty laundry off of the small chair and threw it onto the couch before sitting down.

"Well if you didn't have me scrambling around to dig up information for you all the time, maybe I'd get a chance to clean up once in a while," he replied flopping down on the couch, ignoring the dirty laundry.

"Stop making excuses for your poor lifestyle choices." She pulled her notepad out of her purse, took the cap off the pen, then leaned forward eyes gleaming with interest. "Now what do you have for me?"

Chris grinned. "I'm sure I've only barely scraped the surface of what's going on, but you're definitely getting yourself into one hell of a crazy mixed up plot." He moved into a more comfortable position and leaned towards her, resting his arms on his knees. "I hunted around and managed to find out some stuff that I don't even think the CIA knows yet. Turns out the guys who stole the 'medical' breakthrough, aren't even criminals. They're ex-naval officers who formed a political activist group to support the disarmament of all chemical weapons left both in the states and around the world."

"But what's a medical breakthrough have to do with chemical weapons?" Kirsten asked as she wrote down what Chris had already told her.

"That's the thing… I don't think it is a medical anything. See, the men were hired by Arthur Canning to steal it from Dynamic Ind." He sighed. "Arthur Canning has never been interested in anything medical, but it is a known fact he has a keen interest in anything to do with weapons, especially bio-chemical weapons."

Kirsten blinked in surprise. Arthur Canning was the real life Lex Luthor; powerful, young, and one of the only criminals who could not be convicted for nearly every crime he had commited. In a surprising turn of events however, they had recently managed to convict him of Insurance fraud, and he was serving some time for that. "Did he hire them before or after he went to prison?"

"It's hard to tell. Arthur is just as powerful while in prison as he was out of prison. Plus, word on the street says all the prison's in California are owned and operated by Canning Inc. anyways, which means he's probably living in a suite with a high class office and everything he would want."

"Are you sure it's a biochemical weapon they stole?" Kirsten scribbled furiously on the notepad as she spoke.

Chris shook his head. "I'm not sure yet, but most of the information I've found points toward that as the largest possibility. I do however have some information that I know you're going to ask for…"

"Let me guess; the names and whereabouts of the men who stole it?" Kirsten asked grinning.

"Precisely." He handed her a folded piece of paper. "Names and their base are on there. I recommend you find out as much as you can about them before you try to set up a meeting though. They will only speak to people who peak their interest, and you have to have some damn good information to do that."

Slipping the piece of paper in her pocket she winked at him. "Piece of cake." She shoved her notebook back in her purse and stood up. Walking over to Chris she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and a hug. "It's moments like these I'm proud to call you my brother."

"Yeah right, you just acknowledge me because I know how to get you information no one else can," he teased as he stood and followed her to the door. He hugged her again, and when he pulled back his expression was serious. "Be careful on this one Kirst. I have a feeling the entire situation is probably much more dangerous than anyone thinks. If the CIA aren't all over this one yet, they will be soon."

Kirsten squeezed Chris' hand reassuringly. "Thanks for the concern, but I'll be fine. I'm not a little girl anymore Chris, I can handle myself."

Chris smiled weakly. "That's what I'm afraid of."

"Stop worrying you big oaf," Kirsten said, pulling him into one more hug. "You just keep yourself out of prison while I'm gone." She opened the door and smiled again. "Love you."

"Love you too." He watched as she made her way over to her car, climbed in and started the ignition. He didn't move back inside until her car turned the corner and disappeared out of sight.

8