Categories
fiction women

Six Minutes

Paine
I see! So you’re not paid a salary, just shares in the company, which you sell off at intervals to raise cash.

Mari
That’s the long and short of it, yes.

Paine
And how is using the company like an ATM working for you?

Mari
I wouldn’t say it like that.

Paine
What does anyone spend twenty million dollars a month on? Take me inside your world.

Mari
Well, as you know, I support various charities and organisations.

Paine
I’m reading a statement here from PCG, the children’s charity. They say they can clothe, breakfast and lunch ten thousand children for one year with two million dollars.

Mari
Is that right?

Paine
This is one of the charities that you fully support, according to your bestselling book, And An Ugly Duckling Shall Lead Them.

Mari
Naturally, I’m not that organisation’s only source of funding and you haven’t accounted for staff transportation and all that. Administrative costs.

Paine
Five hundred thousand dollars a year. I spoke to the founder of the charity. You could basically fund this charity with a small fraction of…

Mari
Okay, alright.

Paine
…your monthly salary.

Mari
I’m a working mother who takes care of her family.

Paine
Most mothers make do on less than twenty million dollars a month. Do you remember a time when you weren’t earning a boatload of cash selling off stock on automatic trades?

Mari
I think if you allow me to finish I will say that as a working mother my duty is to my family.

Paine
This is not an answer to my question. Your husband is the founder of his own tech firm. His net worth is one billion dollars.

Mari
That’s irrelevant. My husband and I both contribute equally as providers and…

Paine
Which is why the question is pertinent. How come you fully support a charity and it hasn’t enough funding when you are withdrawing tens of millions of dollars a month on regular trades?

Mari
Obviously my financial matters are private.

Paine
They’re not.

Mari
They’re not?

Paine
Every financial transaction you make as COO is public knowledge. The SEC has regular filings from you and as it is a government agency we have access to this information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mari
You are wrong. That’s snooping and you have no jurisdiction and no right.

Paine
You owe it to the public to show transparency in all of your financial dealings.

Mari
I’m not. You know, Ms Paine …

Paine
Carla, please.

Mari
… Carla. As a woman I expected you would …

Paine
Be on your side? Do you believe that every woman is obliged to defer to you?

Mari
Certainly, I don’t put myself above others.

Paine
Sounds like male entitlement to me.  Which is to say, you’re worthier than I because you have a higher salary.

Mari
Absolutely not!

Paine
Isn’t that why you’re here? So this news magazine can laud your achievements further on television?

Mari
That’s cynical.

Paine
Well, isn’t that what you were expecting, to some degree?

Mari
I have no such agenda.

Paine
Do you see how other women would find it hard to relate to you?

Mari
I think they can relate to me since I’m a busy working class mother with children.

Paine
Working class? Not upper class? You have household help and child caregivers. You’ve spoken publicly about this.

Mari
I’m a … I’m a worker.

Paine
Let’s talk about that. You said in 2012 that you were head hunted after you suggested to your CEO that you use “meetings to talk about meeting points”?

Mari
Yes. This move has made the company waste less time, making it more efficient. It was a fledgling startup with few disciplined, responsible college educated people managing it at the top.

Paine
With all due respect, there’s not a man or woman watching this segment who has not said “let’s focus on meeting agendas” at some point in the past. Had I known it would be that easy to run CBS, I would have applied for the job years ago.

Mari
Obviously it’s a media company and is hard to run. You can’t just waltz in and oversee operations without the proper qualifications.

Paine
Could you clarify your point?

Mari
I’m saying I’m qualified to do my job and you are qualified to do yours.

Paine
It sounded to me like you were saying I don’t have the ability to run CBS.

Mari
Well, can you?

Paine
Let me put my point to you differently. In 2013, you were quoted as saying you innovated the company’s operating processes by introducing, and I quote, “bulleted points lists instead of numbered lists for all internal and external correspondence and wall mounted digital clocks instead of relying on computer screens.” Am I to believe that you earn twenty million dollars a month to obsess about the formatting in word processed documents and supervise office decoration? Twenty million.

Mari
Obviously this is an understatement. My statement was edited to make my job look more simple than it is.

Paine
So you agree that the job is a simple one. Were you hired as sort of a frontispiece? A beard of sorts.

Mari
Excuse me? My job is a complex … I have a Harvard MBA!

Paine
We would certainly expect a Harvard educated COO to do more than correct formatting in Word or set watches and clocks.

Mari
Can we take a break? I need to talk to my, ahhh.

Paine
Your publicist.

Mari
Can you stop the tape, please?

Paine
My boss at CBS gave me carte blanche here so that’s not going to happen.

Mari
I want to have a private conversation.

Paine
You agreed to an interview. You signed a contract.

Mari
And I’m saying I take offence to being bullied in this way by you, Carla.

Paine
Actually, it’s doctor Paine. I have a Cambridge PhD.

Categories
fiction women

Thus, a good deed is punished

Have you ever tried to do something nice, only to have the recipient of your consideration slap you in the face? Well, it happens to many of us all the time. Instead of saying “Thanks”, people question your integrity. Why do good deeds get punished? ArsTechnica has a probable explanation.

Some people, I’d concluded, cannot receive help. I had written the following fictional dialogue for the 2014 Bartleby Snopes 6th Annual Dialogue Only  Writing Contest. However, I don’t think they’ll read it, so instead of submitting it for rejection, I buried it. But today, I’m publishing it here. Good luck to all the contestants of the Bartleby Snopes Contest. The title is “Thus, a good deed is punished.”

Thus, a good deed is punished

Quince:
It’s too dark and spooky. Why aren’t there any windows in here?

South:
What are you saying? You already know why there are no windows on the ship.

Harvey:
Even a kindergartener knows the effects of cosmic radiation on the human body.

Quince:
I’m so excited. I don’t know if I can do drones later.

Harvey:
No-one here comes with hands on experience. It’s all theoretical.

South:
It’s kind of far to have hands on experience, don’t you think?

Quince:
What do you mean, “far”? Oh, okay…right.

South:
Is she always this oblivious to context?

Harvey:
Hmmm. Did you review the schematics for the robots and drones we’ll be operating today?

Quince:
What’s that?

South:
Did you use any of your ten days in physio to reread the manuals for any of the machines you’ll be operating?

Quince:
No… I didn’t look at that.

Harvey:
Them. Look at “them.”

South:
She’s talking really fast and seems agitated. Perhaps a bit of shock after decompression?

Harvey:
Have you got full medical clearance to work? Do you have memory loss?

South:
You might be dehydrated. Have you been taking a lot of fluids?

Quince:
Why, why? What do fluids have to do with that? Are you a medical doctor?

Captain:
Peeps, listen up, we deploy five two-ton transformer catchment tanks to Titan at oh five hundred hours. Remember your simulation training? All of that is utter shagging bullocks once we’re in the atmosphere…

Quince:
What?! I’m not going into the atmosphere.

South:
“Right,” said Fred.

Captain:
…so, use. Your. Head. Miss Quince, I would like to know why you’re shouting when I’m three feet away from you.

Quince:
They said we were using robots to go into the atmosphere.

South:
Miss Quince might be dehydrated.

Captain:
Miss Quince, did you rehydrate? Dehydration can cause disorientation.

Quince:
Yes, yes, yes. I don’t have any of that.

Captain:
Did you roll your eyes at me just now? Did she roll her eyes at me, Harvey?

Harvey:
I…

Captain:
Even then, you cannot have forgotten your basic training. You received 300 hours of simulator training so, don’t make pointless…

Quince:
No, it wasn’t 300 hours.

Captain:
…statements. Excuse me? It says that in your mission documents.

Quince:
Wha-what mission documents?

Captain:
I am talking about your curriculum vitae!

South:
The training requirement is at least 300 hours, which is in your …. I give up.

Harvey:
It was in your contract.

South:
Did you read your contract? Do you even know where you are right now?

Quince:
I know, I know.

Captain:
Fine. What did you mean by “minimum training”?

Quince:
I did a twenty hour video game course at Omni Signum Theme Park, and the drone operation thingy.

South:
You put a theme park gaming marathon on your resume as qualification for a mission to Saturn? This is better than I thought.

Captain:
Harvey?

Harvey:
Miss Quince told me she would complete the minimum training requirement when I hired her, and Professor Wong Ken …

Captain:
Nobel Prize for Physics, Board of Trustees Member Professor Wong Ken?

Harvey:
He signed off on her training before the  mission. I mean, she told me she was about to start her training under his supervision, but after she signed her contract, Miss Quince refused to communicate with me.

Captain:
What was she doing for Professor Wong Ken?

Quince:
I was…

Captain:
I’m talking to Harvey, Miss.

Harvey:
He said she was building his course for particle physics. So, when I asked the Professor to confirm that she had completed her training, he said that she had. As you know, the mission preparation was done in four different countries, so the oversight is disjointed.

Captain:
Harvey, you should have done your job more thoroughly. Liesel!

Lt. Liesel:
Yes, Ma’am.

Captain:
We have a stowaway on board. She might have mad cow.

Quince:
I don’t have mad cow.

Captain:
You misled a prominent member of this organisation about your training and preparation. As its primary trustee, I am inclined to file criminal charges. When you return to Earth, you will give back your one million euro salary and then go to prison.

Quince:
I didn’t say I didn’t have minimum training.

Captain:
Three hundred hours of simulator training are what you agreed to when you signed a contract with us. Twenty hours of video games at a theme park is not enough for a mission like this. You travelled a billion miles from Earth without the proper training. You endanger your life and the life of every person on this vessel if you do not know what you’re doing.

South:
She just asked about windows.

Captain:
Exactly what I mean. You edited a textbook on physics and you don’t know that the EMR coming off those rings would fuse the cone cells in your retina?

Harvey:
By the time you finished taking pictures, you would be completely blind. By the time you uploaded them to your blog, you’d have Stage III brain cancer.

Captain:
As Miss Harvey has demonstrated, you’re not only irresponsible, but also irretractably dumb.

Quince:
And what are your qualifications?

South:
Oh, boy.

Captain:
You do realise, you insolent slagbag tartamundo, that I’m in charge of this operation? My brain had a child and from it you collected one million euros and a  prestigious assignment. You should already know my credentials, since I am your boss, you ignorant insufferable buttsore hag.

Harvey:
Ma’am? Please.

Captain:
Liesel, if she looks at me sideways, or attempts to speak again, eject her cremated remains from the cargo bay. To the left, you slagging shart gas.

Lt. Liesel:
Come with me, Miss.

Captain:
Did you hear what she just asked me, Harvey? You had one task, and that was to find me a replacement for Dr. Xi Bei. Can you believe she stood there asking me for my credentials after saying she committed fraud?

Harvey:
I accept full responsibility for this. I offered her the job because I felt sorry for her. She was n a student visa in Spain and everything she earned went home to pay bills. She was sleeping in a bunk bed in a youth hostel and living on breakfast cereal to save money.

Captain:
This is not a homeless shelter, Harvey.

South:
She has a custom-made sports car and a couture wardrobe.

Harvey:
I was of the firm opinion that we should have a representative from…

Captain:
Affirmative action does not apply to my six trillion euro space exploration project. This project is based in the Republic of France. We are the first humans, and the first all-woman crew to arrive, alive and well in the far reaches of our solar system. We have to work at a much higher standard than this. Also, why does someone with training in  physics know so little about … physics?

South:
Ma’am.

Harvey:
I apologise.

Captain:
Ultimately, it’s my responsibility. However, I do not want to have to say that we did not do our due diligence with crew selection.

Harvey:
I have a way to fix this.

Captain:
Speak.

Harvey:
We place her in a cryogenic coma, monitoring her vitals closely. I will adjust the registry so that she will not have awakened from her coma, effectively    indicating that she was immobilised for the entire trip.

South:
What about her blog? She is babbling about being a pioneer.

Harvey:
We can erase those entries right now. The system is on a delay and we have a lot of electromagnetic distortion this close to the rings, so they’re still buffering  in the cloud. We probably won’t start transmitting data back to Earth until we leave Saturn’s orbit fourteen days from now. She’ll need eighteen months of rehabilitation after re-entry. By the time she recovers, the press will be  uninterested in a person who slept through a fourteen year round trip to Saturn. Also,  we should change her status to junior research fellow, here to collect and analyse data, which she is already qualified to do. The breach of contract should be  a civil suit and not a criminal one.

Captain:
Not bad, Harvey. Go “write” your wrongs.

Harvey:
Ma’am.

Captain:
Barande!

Barande:
Yes, Ma’am.

Captain:
We’re delaying the deployment of catchment tanks for forty-eight hours. Our log will say that one of our junior research fellows did not wake up from stasis and we’re putting her in cryostasis to reduce organ damage. Then, inform all robot and drone operators that starting at oh five hundred, there will be a  sixteen hour simulator test covering every single stinking minging part on every barfing machine we have on this rig. An eight-hour organic chemistry practical exam will follow immediately after that. Anyone who loses consciousness or passes with less than one hundred percent of the total marks will be  literally frozen out of the mission. I want the best of the best on this deployment, so everyone better buck up.

Barande:
Yes, Ma’am.

Captain:
Welcome to Titan, bitches.