By Claire Rice
Camille A woman at the top of the food chain.
Neil A man who doesn’t know where he is.
TIME AND PLACE
The near possible future.
Camille sits in a plush old office in Washington DC. Old wood, old leather, the smell of cigars and whiskey. This is the office of an old-time newspaper man. But Camille is new money. She is fashionable and fits in just fine with her surroundings, but she didn’t build the room she’s sitting in.
Neil enters. He doesn’t belong. He’s a new school government man. He comes from a great deal of money, but he doesn’t understand how it is made.
Camille Hello Neil.
Neil Camille. It’s good to see you.
Camille I’m sorry I kept you waiting.
Neil Not at all. It’s perfectly all right.
Camille How have you been? How are the kids?
Neil Great. Just great. Darcy is graduating middle school tomorrow. There’s some sort of commencement ceremony.
Camille I feel like I remember Andy had one too. It seemed sort of superfluous at the time. A little bit of a let down. Here you are kid, your last day as a big fish. Here you go. Enjoy being a little fish again.
Neil Yeah, well, Darcy –
Camille So what did you want to meet about?
Neil Well, to tell you the truth, I was hoping to avoid having this meeting but –
Camille Something’s are better face-to-face. I get it. I’ve had enough board meetings done over one computer screen or another to know the value of looking a man in his eyes. Though, there is always the walk of shame. Somehow it feels nicer to leave a bad meeting and just walk a couple of feet to your office or snap off a screen. My favorite is slamming my laptop shut. Still, though, there’s nothing like being able to smell a person’s perfume and really hear the breath as it moves in and out of their lungs.
Neil Right. Yeah. I never thought of it that way before.
Camille Do you need a coffee or anything? Water?
Neil No, I’m fine.
Camille Are you sure? We just started getting in this really great premium coffee. We’re buying that Vos water now, you want some of that? It’s really good.
Neil No, really –
Camille I read an article yesterday, in the Post actually, that people who turn down gifts do it because they think it puts them in control, but it just makes them weaker. Funny isn’t it?
Neil I don’t believe everything I read in the papers.
Camille Neither do I, and I print the damn things. When I decided to buy a whole newspaper my partners all thought I was crazy, but I’m a sucker for a garage sale. Relevancy never came so cheaply.
Neil I think we’ve gone around and around long enough. I know who’s in control here and I don’t need it shoved in my face Camille.
Camille I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Neil Cut the crap. Can we just get to it?
Camille I don’t know what to tell you, Neil. I’ve seen the government’s request and I’ve read the article in question. I’ve decided we’re printing it as is.
Neil I don’t think you understand the ramifications –
Camille I think the public has the right to know.
Neil You’re putting the lives of our men and women overseas at risk.
Camille They are already at risk.
Neil We’ve been closing the net round this group for years. This will put people in the field at risk of discovery.
Camille You are assassinating men and women without cause.
Neil You pulled the information for that story directly out of a cloud-computing…thing…that you sold us! You just reached in and took it!
Camille I did. I really did. Who needs reporters when all you need are copywriters with basic reading comprehension skills?
Neil You can’t print that story.
Camille Oh, I’ve already printed it.
Neil You what?
Camille I printed it ten minutes ago while you were waiting in the front office.
Camille Printed is a funny word. I didn’t print it. I put it up on the website and I tagged it. I wanted to run into the newsroom and yell “Stop the presses!” But it turns out that there aren’t really presses any more and there isn’t a newsroom either.
Neil How dare you?
Camille You know, I expected more from you. Neil Merchant. Head of the NSA. You’ve sat across from warlords and terrorists. Part of me wondered what I would be going up against when I took you on. Turns out, it wasn’t much.
Neil I’ll take you to court.
Camille Do it. I dare you. It’ll make great press.
Neil You’ll lose.
Camille I’ll win. The information is mine to do with what I want.
Neil It’s the government’s.
Camille It’s my cloud.
Neil It’s my information.
Camille Didn’t you read the fine print?
Neil What fine print?
Camille I bet you had some low-level agent sign up for it years ago. Just to put up some non-information; office party pictures, an extension list, and maybe a budget or two. Before you knew it, you were coming back to me asking if I could secure a whole server, a whole server room, a whole bunker for NSA secrets and lies.
Neil But the information isn’t yours. You’re a contractor.
Camille Who do you think I am? American Storage? U-haul?
Neil The information belongs to the government.
Camille The information belongs to the American people.
Neil Are you kidding me with this high and mighty bull? Are you going to tell me the theft of classified information by a publicly traded American company is for the good of society?
Camille I’m telling you if you put it in my house it belongs to me.
Neil If I put my money in a bank –
Camille It belongs to the bank if you signed an agreement saying it belonged to the bank.
Neil I don’t think any of us ever had any idea you would buy a newspaper.
Camille Or that I would use my own storeroom for my news items. We are the third estate. The last check and balance.
Neil You started out as a book retailer.
Camille I put in plain sight material people wanted and couldn’t get their hands on any other way.
Neil You are making money off the backs of dead ambassadors and civilians who died in the name of democracy.
Camille I make money off of children who work their fingers to the bone to feed families on farms in China. I make money off of rednecks who can’t read, but work in my warehouses boxing books. I make money off of code monkeys in India who know more about your secrets then either of us ever will. I make money off of people who just want a good cup of coffee in the morning, a wife who isn’t afraid to take her kids to school, and a little poke before they head off to dream land. I make money off of people who want to think about anything other than the fact that they’ve taken the same bus to work every day for ten years and they’ve hated every minute of it. I make money. That’s my ambition. That’s my business. That’s my whole life. When I die they’ll say “She made a lot of money.”
Neil It’s treason.
Camille Possibly. It’s possibly worse. But I’ll tell you what it is for sure: a taste. The story I printed today is about a terrorist cell in Algeria. My political advisors say it’s a nothing story. But what it is for sure is a taste of what I have access to.
Neil It’s blackmail.
Neil What do you want?
Camille Right now, nothing. I just want to keep you in my back pocket. You know what? I’ve got a meeting in ten that I need to prepare for. Why don’t you show yourself out.
Neil I can stop you.
Camille I doubt it. Have a nice day Neil. Enjoy the little celebration tomorrow.