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Everyone Has Secrets

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Chapter 1: Armageddon

Armageddon was yesterday—today we have a serious problem.

* * *

Son of a bitch.

Pissed off would not begin to describe Jaime Lannister’s reaction to his sentence. Not only had all the evidence turned against him during the police investigation, but every single one of his sources had disappeared without a trail: Hallyne, Rossart, Varys. All made-up names, as if they had been mere figments of his imagination, their information a lure to snare him. And he had fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.

He adjusted his tie, feeling like he might choke in the heat of his custom-made suit. He would be wearing his usual jeans for all he cared, but his lawyer had insisted that he dress appropriately for court, and he was not about to contradict Addam while his entire career was on the line. For all the good it did me, Jaime thought bitterly. I might as well have been in my underwear in there.

Jaime squinted in the glare of the sun outside. He had barely taken two steps out of the courthouse when the reporters crowded around him, each of them speaking at the same time. Yet all he heard was a distant chatter, droning in the background while his mind raced, thinking about the consequences of the judge’s words.

He pushed his way through the crowd to the car that awaited him. Ilyn Payne, the driver hired by Millennium for official business, opened the door for him and Jaime slumped on the back seat, cursing his luck and pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. He stared at it a moment, running his thumb over the touchscreen, but his curiosity bit at him and he quickly reloaded the King’s Landing Herald website to find his name at the top of the page.

THE KINGSLAYER FOUND GUILTY OF LIBEL
Barristan Selmy

Jaime Lannister, the journalist known amongst many as ‘The Kingslayer’ for his involvement in the investigation that led to the exposure and subsequent capture of six members of the Kingswood Brotherhood, has been found guilty of libel against Targaryen Industries owner Aerys Targaryen.

Two months ago, Lannister, co-owner of the political magazine Millennium along with his brother Tyrion Lannister, published an article in which he claimed to have proof of Aerys Targaryen’s connection with a network of sexual slave trafficking in the Free Cities. During the police investigation that followed, his evidence was found lacking and Targaryen sued him for criminal defamation. At 1:41 PM this afternoon, King’s Landing District Court found Lannister guilty of fifteen counts of aggravated libel and sentenced him to pay over two million dragons in damages and costs. The verdict forecasts a bleak future for both Lannister and Millennium.

Jaime shut off the screen of his phone and threw it on the back seat. He was sure that tomorrow morning he would be on the front page of every newspaper in Westeros. Ironically enough, what bothered him the most was the use of that damned term. Kingslayer. Though his research on the case of the Brotherhood had been his biggest achievement so far, he had ended up ridiculed for it, as people believed him to have haphazardly dropped his position at LanCorp to play detective. Back then he was barely starting out as an investigative journalist, Millennium did not even have an office, and Jaime and Tyrion had only just escaped their father’s claws.

The car slowed, pulling Jaime from his thoughts. He looked outside the window and found himself in the back lot of the Millennium building. Payne was mute, so he made no indication that they had arrived at their destination—he merely flipped a button on the dash to unlock the doors and stared straight ahead. Jaime exited the car in silence, grateful that Payne had decided to park at the back so Jaime could avoid the photographers that would be waiting outside the main entrance like vultures.

Tyrion’s expression when Jaime walked into the conference room told him everything he needed to know. There was an ‘I’m sorry’ in there, along with ‘this sucks’ and ‘what are we going to do now?’. At the end the dwarf settled for, “How are you?”

Jaime sat at the far end of the table, running his hand over his eyes in an attempt to drive away his exhaustion. “For now, I’m screwed, brother. All of my sources were planted. My research was sound, but without their confirmation, it’s meaningless.” He leaned back on the chair. “I have to pay over two million dragons. Addam said they already froze my funds.” A smirk crept upon his lips. “You know what that means, right?”

Tyrion put his hands in the pockets of his jeans and shrugged. “You’re flat out broke.”

“All I’ll get to keep is my place and my car. I’ll be lucky if I have enough cash to buy the week’s groceries.”

“Touché.” Tyrion fisted his hand and placed it against the closed door with a heavy sigh. “We knew this was a long shot, that the Targaryens were too big a fish.”

Jaime rested his elbows on the table, feeling the weight of the world upon his shoulders. “It’s my fault. I was the one who insisted. I pushed it even though you warned me we’d be exposed.”

“It would have been the article that made us, Jaime. We both agreed to roll the dice.” He paused. “I just think we should’ve taken Father into consideration.”

Jaime merely narrowed his eyes in reply, unable to grasp his meaning.

Tyrion continued, “There are two possibilities. Either Tywin planned this farce with Aerys to screw Millennium over and get us back to LanCorp, or Aerys’ grudge for him is so deep that this was just a ploy to establish dominance. Something to prove that Lannisters are not untouchable.”

Tyrion was right—no other journalist would be forced to pay such a ridiculous compensation for libel, especially considering that Millennium had a run of only 10,000 copies every month. As always, the damned Lannister name was their blessing and their curse; they were sucked back into Tywin Lannister’s atmosphere, pressed down by the weight of his influence one way or another. But Jaime was already tired of being governed by his father. Both he and Tyrion had been disowned five years ago, when they decided they had enough of the family corporation and sought to walk their own path.

“All that matters right now is the result.” Jaime stood, a heavy breath leaving his lips. “I have to leave the magazine or it will sink along with me.”

Tyrion frowned and opened his mouth to reply, but soon closed it, indicating his begrudging agreement. After a moment of silence, with those words hanging in the air, he said, “I’m not happy about it, you know that. If you decide to stay, we’ll stand up for you. We’ll face this together.”

Jaime laughed softly. He had come to know very well the tone of voice his brother used when he had a hard time being honest. “I’ll take one for the team. We didn’t build this thing from the ground up see Aerys Targaryen burn it all. I’m leaving.”

Grabbing his bag, he made his way to the door. Where he was headed, he wasn’t sure. At the moment he only hoped that he could find enough spare cash in his apartment to order in some warm dinner and a few six-packs of beer.