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Douglas Harbour

by Emma Mankowski 7 months ago in Short Story
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A short story

Image Credit: Flicker

Douglas Harbour, Isle of Man, United Kingdom

January 4th, 2022


Privacy activist Christian Dassault stands in front of a port in Douglas Harbour watching the ships come and go. Even the ones in the distance move slowly, sluggishly, and he wonders that they get anywhere at all. Up until this week, Christian’s life has been fast-paced. He barely stopped to take a breath. His education was intense, at a private school that demanded the best out of him until it nearly wore him down. Four years of university, and he didn’t have much interest in friends, so his time was filled with more work and study. Summer holidays were spent interning for a tech company, Ocean Cloud. His dream company. His life’s great disaster.

He worked at Ocean Dream for the 29 months following graduation from university. Rose to executive director. Took on a concurrent position as logistical operations director on his father’s political campaign. 25 year old Christian has never experienced a moment like this- simply standing on a busy, nightlit dock, staring out at the ocean. He probably looks like a delinquent. In reality, he’s a renegade, but a professional one. Regardless of semantics, he definitely looks questionable. He’s wearing jeans and a black hood pulled up over his buzzed head, and he’s smoking a cheap cigarette.

He’s always looked professional. Worn the newest suits, cut his hair in the latest styles, and used the expensive kind of cologne that made his secretary cough with annoyance, or maybe recognition or just acknowledgement. No one standing on the island dock tonight could imagine that this man had a secretary and a massive office overlooking Stockholm just last week.

Christian cares deeply about things. He’s massively motivated by his values. But his values aren’t necessarily moral, per say, but rather driven by idealistic dogmas. The biggest one, to him, was always the idea of the future. When he was a small child, he always told his mother that he hoped he would live to be old enough to see the future. As a teenager he wanted to shape the future. As a young adult, he came to the realization that he could help usher in the future, make it come faster. He naively presumed that his peers all felt the same. That was how much the idea had consumed him.

Ocean Cloud was the future. They had it, in their hands. That dazzled Christian. He wanted to touch it, to come near to it, to be in its presence. His remarkable drive astounded his superiors, who launched him to the upper levels of the company rapidly. Christian was on top of the world, getting everything he wanted and things he never knew he needed. Money included. That was never important to him, but it was nice to have a 5,000,000 kroner a year salary and a massive modern apartment paid for by the company, as well as a 24 hour chauffeuring service, and frequent company trips all over Europe to the best hotels and resorts.

Christian knew the company drew in massive revenue from its products and services. After all, they served the world. The world wanted the future, and they were willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for it. Supply and demand, his coworkers always said, supply and demand.

As executive director, Christian learned a different story. Yes, supply and demand, supply and demand, the company relied on it. For 20% of its yearly revenue, that is. The other 80%? Harvested information from Ocean Cloud’s customers that was sold to third-party organizations. That wasn’t the future. That was just business.

The first document he found was an accident. At first he was confused as to what it was. Or maybe he just didn’t want to believe it. Almost immediately he knew that it was something he wasn’t supposed to have. Flitting his eyes around the room carefully, making sure no one was watching, he scanned the paper on a printer and returned the original to its position in the filing cabinet. Taking the copy, he folded the paper into a tiny square and slid it into the breast pocket of his navy blue silk jacket. Months of suspicion and now he might finally have found something. Something that explained all of this, the numbers that didn’t add up, the employees whose titles he didn’t understand.

Later that night, in the safety of his living room, he removed the tiny square from within his garment and held it in his hand out in front of him. He tilted his head down and stared at it. He’d barely gotten a glance at it in the office, when he pulled open the wrong drawer of the filing cabinet. His curiosity had gotten the better of him when he noticed a file with an unfamiliar label, and he had decided to investigate what unlocked piece of information was so verbally hidden from the company’s very own executive director.

Now, in his home, Christian inhaled deeply before opening the envelope. Gingerly, he unfolded it, with fingers shaking. He read it through three times before the realization actually sunk in. It was a phone transcript, clearly from one of Ocean Cloud’s customers, and it contained very sensitive information. The conversation detailed some very private information, that the speaker definitely didn’t mean to be conveyed to a third party, or even their trusted phone provider, Ocean Cloud. This information was personal, confidential… valuable. Suddenly something clicked inside his brain.

The fact that Ocean Cloud was stealing private information from its clients was no secret to the employees. Christian had never been formally told, rather it was assumed that he had known that fact before even taking the job. It was a given.

What made Ocean Cloud stand out from other entities was its commitment to privacy. That was one of the things that had attracted Christian to the company. To a young, idealistic individual, it was exactly the place he wanted to be working at. A company that cared about its customers, and also made huge profits. Those things were not mutually exclusive, they even relied on each other in his eyes. It made sense to him: the company protects the customers, the customers trust the company, therefore the company makes higher earnings than other competitors. And on top of all of that was progress, the alluring mission statement of Ocean Cloud. To that, he believed they stayed true, even after his revelation. They just believed in a different kind of evolution. Christian believes in progress, of course he does. But not progress at the expense of others.

He’s thinking about progress on the dock right now. How years of work and improvement in his own life amounted to nothing. Maybe he can do some good with the information he possesses, but he doesn’t know how to. He needs a partner. He has… an associate, you might say, but he’s not sure if he can trust her enough yet to consider her a part of his mission. He left her last Saturday, after delivering some documents and soliciting her help. He hasn’t revealed to her the full extent of the operation, but maybe he should. He’s thinking about it. Right now Christian feels like he has no idea what he’s doing. He needs someone who’s done this before.

Short Story

About the author

Emma Mankowski

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