Note: Whoops. This was in my outline for chapter 54, and even then, I think I probably want to move it earlier, still. But it’s presented now, in an awkward damned spot. The opposite of a Christmas miracle- a Christmistake.
Mikaela’s legs were sore from being on her feet most of the day. She recognized the license plate on the car, running ten minutes late. She thought she could get used to having a technopath army at her fingertips, feeding her information.
She saw the reporter’s pumps first, then her suit as she walked briskly across the parking garage towards her. “You know nobody does this, right?” she asked.
“This being?” Mikaela asked.
“Clandestine meeting in a parking garage. We video chat, we email. I seriously thought about not coming, because this is a good way to get mugged.”
“Is that why you were late?”
“I was late because the Starbucks drive-thru was a bloodbath. Apparently they ran out of pumpkin spice… somehow. So what’s the big goddamned secret too spicy to have any digital footprint at all? And should I take the battery out of my phone first?”
“Your phone’s been handled,” Mikaela said.
“You familiar with technopathy?”
“Dorks who can talk to computers.”
“Well, those dorks are preventing the NSA’s dorks from listening into our conversation, or tracking your whereabouts. Which is important, because said NSA dorks have been utilizing government resources to target US citizens.”
“Spying?” The reporter gave a fake yawn.
“Not hardly. I assume you heard about the incursion in Bellingham.”
“An army of gunmen took an entire college campus hostage. And I work in news. So yes, I heard about it.”
“They did it with NSA tech. Technically a joint research initiative with DARPA.”
“That’s juicy,” the reporter said. “If we can prove it.”
Mikaela smiled knowingly. “Of course.” She handed the reporter a grocery store tote bag.
“I think I’m good on iceberg lettuce.”
“What you’ll find in the bag are hard drives containing both the government contracts, and also communication from an Agent Louie from CBP requesting an opportunity to field-test the tech. Dates and times correspond to the campus assault.”
“Holy shit,” the reporter said. “I’ll have to get tech to authenticate, but this is the stuff Pulitzers are made of.”
“Could be,” Mikaela said. “But it’s only fair to warn you that you aren’t the only outlet with copies. Do your due diligence, but if editorial drags their heels you can tell them there are six other outlets in the region who had a head start already- and couriers will be delivering copies to the Times and the Post and every other major outlet in the country by end of business today.”
“Even Cox news?”
“Well, we didn’t send them to the Enquirer, either. I meant news outlets.”
“Burn.” She turned to leave, but stopped to look back. “This is legit, right? You wouldn’t be the first source who tried to launder a hit piece to grind an ax. Hell, if it spills good ink, I’m not sure I care if it’s even true.”
“Oh, it’s true. And you’ll even help protect the kids they used as guinea pigs for their weapon. The only people who lose on this one deserve to.” “I’ll be in touch.”