Safety in Fiction


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Scene Title Safety in Fiction
Synopsis A surprise visit from author Savannah Burton brings opportunity to otherwise dull days.
Date February 5, 2017

Oneida County Correctional

While Savannah Burton was no stranger to interviews, this one was a little bit different. This particular interviewee had very little forewarning of her appearance and he also happened to be behind bars. All he had been informed of was that there was a woman, an author of several very popular fiction books, who was in the visitor’s room requesting an interview. And that’s where she left the choice up to him.

Seated on the hard metal chair in front of a table soldered into the floor, the blonde doesn’t nearly look as uncomfortable as one might expect. She clicks an expensive looking pen idly as she waits, looking through a hard-bound lined notebook which she scribbles in occasionally. It appears to be half-filled with writing, some scribbled and some neatly seated on the lines.

Footsteps out in the hallway fade in and out for a little while, with people moving somewhere deemed more important than this private room for two. It takes minutes, but finally two pairs of footsteps draw close to the barred door and then slow with a light jingle of metal on metal. A guard appears in view first, reaching for the door to swing it open while holding a hand out, palm first, toward the person behind him to gesture for them to stay put.

A man dressed in an unflattering brown prison uniform that looks a size or two too big for him wanders within view only when the guard turns towards him and steps back from the door to wave him through. The prisoner - so well behaved! - immediately makes his way into the room with his head held high and eyes darting from ceiling to walls, to the table, to a camera in an upper corner. He's never been in here, that much is clear. With no restraints, his hands are free to fidget idly by his sides as the door behind him is shut. Not locked, but shut. The guard leaves both their sight, though he does add, with a bit of an echo, "I'll be right out here if you need anything." Then, after a brief pause, "Miller, you've got until lunch. You miss it, you miss it."

The prisoner's eyes finally land on his visitor, his shoulders squared back a little. He looks… unsure, reaching out for the chair in front of him but pausing as his hand comes to rest on its back. His eyes lock with Savannah's, an obviously forced grin is cracked and accompanies a long inhale. "Zachery Miller. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

“Savannah Burton. Please, have a seat.”

She looks up at him, not budging from her position, pen and paper still at the ready, simply waiting for something. Her pen taps just so slightly on the page as she looks at him. “I’m going to speak entirely plainly. I’m an author. I write fiction, a lot of which revolves around evos. More of it that revolves around secret organizations and governments gone bad and the general end of the world.”

She tilts her head to the side. “All of this is fiction, mind you, but fiction needs good inspiration. The stronger and more realistic you make a fiction, the more likely you are to make a reader feel more. It also sells.” The last part is added with a slight smirk. “What I know is that you’re someone who might know a few things. And you could potentially share them, anonymously of course.” She pauses. “And you’d be compensated.”

Zachery blinks. That's all he does while he's spoken to. It's as though he's having some trouble processing the words coming at him as fast as they are, and the fingers of the hand he's resting on the chair tighten against the metal for a moment. His forced grin fades to nothing. Maybe Savannah's words finally registered.

"… Okay." It's not a flat agreement, nor an attempt at mockery. It's… surprise, it seems. He clears his throat as if to buy a few more seconds of thought and then says, "I'm- I'm sorry, but— this seems strange. You're my first and only visitor in over a year, and you want… to basically invest in…" What's left of his British accent after two decades in this country seems to thicken with every word, and his grin returns slightly crooked, reaching his eyes and looking a little more genuine. When he finally steps to the side and sits down, he gestures calmly toward himself. "In this?"

His back is straight, posture near perfect, but despite his tone growing in confidence he looks decidedly less than fully at ease. Seated at an angle with the table, as if expected to have to leave again at any moment, one hand clasped in the other once they come back down again. His head angles downward, looking his visitor over with visible scrutiny, interrupted briefly by another glance toward the camera in the room.

“I think you misunderstand exactly the sort of material I work on. I’ve talked to people from all walks of life. Regardless of what you might think of yourself, you’ve got a story to tell too. You’ve got the opportunity to let your insight and experience influence a piece of fiction that reaches to millions of people.” Savannah shrugs slightly, though she doesn’t seem so concerned as to get up or move from the spot at the table.

She tilts her head. “I won’t flatter myself by assuming you’ve heard of me or my books, but I have six bestselling books, which I might add, got very difficult to do during and after the war. Distribution still is a nightmare at times. But what I worked on made an impact, it put books about those with abilities in the hands of those who didn’t. They could finally see someone else’s perspective. And those with abilities? They felt like they weren’t alone. So if the idea of compensation and personal improvement doesn’t appeal to you… maybe the idea of getting some words out there will.”

"I— ah," Zachery starts, then immediately pauses. He tugs at the front of his shirt, pulling the hem of his collar away from his neck. How he misses having clothing that wasn't specifically assigned to him, though it does add a little something to the way he's trying so, so hard not to look desperately out of place at the moment. In fact, he's trying so hard he's starting to look a little like he's in the principal's office.

"Maybe you should flatter yourself." He finally starts up again, with something that sounds suspiciously like feigned confidence. "I think I may have sold some of your books, during my brief stint into retail." He might have more to say on the previous subject, since it is the main course of this meeting, but strays from it all the same. "That job suited me considerably less than this one of yours does you, I assume." His grin flashes a little brighter, and he adds in the same breath, "You seem at ease." Here? With her job? Who's to know.

Savannah observes him quietly for a moment. “I’m at ease because I know my offer is good. Sometimes there’s confidence through experience. I’ve interviewed people from all walks of life, with all sorts of differing opinions, all through the safety and security of being anonymous… unless, of course, they chose otherwise. I give credit where credit is due.”

She smiles wryly. “I can’t quite tell if you’re the anonymous type or the kind who’d like his name on something big.”

Zachery leans back in his chair, reaches a hand to the side of his neck to idly dig some fingertips into it, and then… finally relaxes a little. Both elbows on the table, arms crossed over one another, head angled at his visitor. "Burton. Savannah Burton." The name is rolled around as if in thought.

"You've researched me." Spoken as a fact. Quiet delight shows on his face, though almost certainly held back. "How… thoroughly?"

She smiles again, one that looks genuine. “Just enough. I prefer to get my information from the source. I’ve found that people have a tendency to muddy the details. I know you’re in here, I’ve got what you’ve done on a piece of paper and maybe a small bit of information from the trial, but I’d say that’s barely scratching the surface of who you are.”

There's a moment where Zachery's attention drifts away again, this time to the ceiling, in thought. His mouth opens, then… closes again, then opens again for a deadpan sounding "Yeah, alright."

Then, while pushing a knee against the table to lean back on the back legs of a metal chair that is not particularly suited for such a thing and briefly seems to want to fight him on this choice, he adds, "Yeah. Alright! You know what, put my name on it. Put it right on the cover if you like, though I doubt that— what could I possibly have to lose at this point?" Spoken not in desperation, but with animated zeal, "It'll be—"

CLANK. Something is roughly knocked into the barred door, but just once. A warning, more than anything. The guard outside the room sounds a curt few words— "Keep it DOWN."

There's a definite stiffening of Zachery's muscles as his grin weakens. But it comes back with a vengeance, as his arms go wide as if to say, 'How about it? Let's do this.'

Savannah gives a brief laugh, one sounding amused and delighted, and she glances to the door as the guard yells. “Well, he’s awfully grumpy.” Her own grin widens. “Just from your reactions, I think your input will definitely make a bit of a splash. I’m sure you’ll find the opportunity satisfying… and the benefits are many. I’ve got quite a few connections that I make available to those I work with. I’m sure there are things you’ll want to do when you get out, after all. Life goes on.”

"So I've been told." The mention of connections has left Zachery with his head tilted upward, but something else seems to make it to the front of the thoughtqueue first— and a little rushed, at that. "I have a question, actually. I know I've had a few already. But…" Still leaning back, he focuses a hard stare on Savannah's face. "So, I open up. I tell you everything. What's to keep me from lying? People muddy the details, but I'm people all the same. Will the net by the name of 'fiction' catch the debris for you, then?"

“That’s the beauty of fiction. I’m not telling your story word for word. I’m listening to your experiences and learning from them adapting similar situations to a fictional world far away from your own situation and therefore of no harm to either of us. I wrote a book about what would happen in the aftermath of a bomb hitting New York. Sure, it was based in reality but what mattered were that the stories I told about these characters felt real. You’re bringing the realism to fiction, that’s your job. It’s really pretty straightforward. My job is to find a way to make it work.” Savannah gives him a firm nod.

“We’re both safe from repercussions because, again, the details are still fiction. If you weave an interesting enough lie, I still win from it.” She stares back at him. “I’ve had plenty of people point fingers at me but the bottom line is, as long as I say it’s fiction we’re all safe. I’ve never claimed any of my writing was real… just a ‘what if’ version of events.”

There's a good few seconds where he just seems to think to himself, but Zachery eventually reaches to grab the edge of the bolted down table with both hands and lands himself back with all four chairlegs on the floor. Thunk. "… Alright. Deal. Perfect. So how do we do this? You go off, plan some more, write a rough outline, come back here to bring me some nice, new books from outside and maybe a beer or six, or twelve…" He pauses, eyes darting to the side for a moment as if waiting for the guard to speak up, but there is only silence from out in the hallway. Perhaps it's too easy of a joke. When his attention shifts back to Savannah, he quirks a brow, "… And I do my best to stick to the interesting bits of what you need to know?"

She chuckles lightly. “I come in, bringing you whatever goodies the facility will even let me in the door with, we chat, you just talk about whatever you think is your unique perspective… what you’ve done, what you’ve seen, your personal experiences shaped by the chaos of the world around you. I take notes, then those notes go to my general collection of notes and as I start writing, bits and pieces are drawn in until I’ve got a good cohesive whole of a story. That’s the rough writing process.” Savannah glances at the door for a moment. “Maybe they’ll let you out for good behavior.” She smirks at her own joke.

And Zachery smirks too, though… there's a twinge of pain in his expression. Things in here have been less than ideal, and though he seems of stable mind, a twitch of a lip betrays something more conflicted. But it's mentally waved aside soon enough. "We'll see what happens first. I get out of here for being so, so well behaved" He forces a smile that's very obviously not his own, but one he's put on many times before it may as well be, " or you finish that book of yours. Deal?" With that, he pulls a hand up above the table to hold it out in an offer of a handshake.

“Alright,” Savannah agrees, offering her hand forward to shake. She notes his smile and her expression changes slightly, and she offers one back. She knows that sort of smile far too well, from her own personal experience. The look she gives him has the tiniest bit of something else… maybe sympathy or compassion. “I’ll see what I can do about arranging some things to be sent to make your life a bit more comfortable in here. Think of it as my thanks for even considering things.”

"Any chance you could spring for a iron file?" After he pulls his hand back from the shake, he straightens again. For a second, it looks like there may be something else he wants to add, after that (presumably facetious) request, but.. he hesitates. "I should go. I've got a lunch tray with my name on it. I'd make a joke about the food, but it is actually genuinely atrocious." He pushes back from the table and rises to his feet. "See you—…" A pause, as his eyes dart to the side for a second to chew this thought over, but starts moving before he starts speaking again. "… See you another time, Miss Burton."

For once. Hopefully.

Savannah smirks at the probably half-serious joke about the file and she offers him a smile. “Well, I hope your lunch isn’t as terrible today as it might ordinarily be. At the very least, it would be bad if you missed it.” Rising to her feet, she looks from the door and then back to him. “Good luck, and I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.”

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