OFFICER’S CLUB - WINDSOR HOTEL - CAIRO
Eve arrived in Cairo to find Yahoo in firm control of the sprawling city with tanks lined up in Tahrir Square. Marissa had confiscated the nearby Windsor Hotel to use as temporary YAC headquarters. The Officer’s Club bar off the main lounge had become her personal office.
Eve, Bullinda and Yuliya entered the bar worn out from their desert trek. Their clothes were dusty and their faces thick with dirt. “You look like you need a drink,” Marissa said as she waved for them to sit-down at a low wooden cocktail table. Her jungle queen bikini was long gone and she was dressed in an striking tank general’s uniform, complete with helmet, raised goggles and freshly shinned calf-high leather boots. Her uniform was spotless but for a neat bullet hole in the top of her helmet. The sniper shot must have missed her skull by barely a millimeter. Eve wasn’t surprised she hadn’t removed or replaced it. There couldn’t be a better good luck charm. Mayer yelled to a hotel waiter dressed in white with a red fez. “Bring us a bottle of Old Grand Dad. Chop! Chop!” She grabbed four shot glasses in one hand and straddled a low chair to sit with them.
“Congrats! Africa is ours.” Marissa said as she slid the glasses to each of them. “We should be able to keep it, at least for awhile. I’ve got to say, Eve, it’s been fun getting back into the trenches.”
The waiter hurried over, opened a fresh bottle of whiskey and set it on the table. Marissa generously filled the shot glasses one by one.
“No thank you.” Eve said and turned to the waiter. “Can I get a glass of lemonade?”
“Lemonade?! Don’t be a wuss! Have a real drink. Let’s toast!”
Eve looked at the waiter firmly. “A lemonade, please.”
“Two.” Yuliya chimed in softly. The waiter nodded and headed off.
“Fine. Suit yourself.” Marissa said and downed her own shot glass.
“I don’t mind if I do.” Bullinda said cheerfully, quickly finishing not only the shot glass in front of her, but Eve’s and Yuliya’s.
“So, Eve, now that Force H is retired, do I get Bullinda back?”
“That’s up to her.” Eve said. “She has no obligations to me.” The lemonade arrived and Eve took a long sip. It was cool and it felt marvelous in her parched throat.
“No, it’s up to you, Ma’am.” Bullinda said sincerely. “If you need me, that’s where I want to be. It has been a great honor to work for you.”
Maybe it was the glucose rush from the lemonade, but Eve felt oddly touched by Bullinda’s continued loyalty after they both had failed the test of the G-Blade. She looked over at Yuliya, who was sweetly downing the lemonade gratefully. Again, Eve found herself fighting unfamiliar emotions that were swelling insider her. Yuliya was so beautiful and pure of heart, yet smart and tough. Eve couldn’t help but reflect on her past gruff treatment of her. Eve had tried to be a firm mentor and protector, but now it seemed it was she that had learned the most and needed constant protection. Had she failed Yuliya where it counted most, as a friend? She certainly had failed her as a lover. There, the word came back. Love. Was she in love with Yuliya? Did Yuliya still love her?
Eve forced her face to remain stoic. “We’ll see.” she said abruptly. Perhaps too abruptly from the hurt expression on Bullinda’s face. Eve tried to soften it by giving Bullinda a pat on the shoulder. Bullinda nodded, professionally.
Moving on, Eve asked, “What’s going on with the G-Blades?”
Mayer poured Bullinda and herself another shot of whiskey. “In Africa? We’ve captured most of the big shipments and destroyed them. Google didn’t consider this market a priority anyway. A few stray pallets slipped into the outlining areas, but it’s not much of a problem. For now.”
Eve decided not to enlighten her about the problem the stray ones caused them in the desert.
“In the rest of the world, it’s a major disaster. Civil society is breaking down, exactly the way Larry Page always hoped. And it’s just a question of time before G-Blades slip into the black market here too. No matter what measures we take to control imports. You know this, Eve. Google banned Apple products for years in their territories and it did no good because people wanted them. Now it’s payback. Google has a product people want more than anything Apple ever built.”
She took a small sip of her whiskey and then looked up, realizing how devastating what she casually just said must be to an Apple executive. “No offense. I love Apple products. But it’s the reality of what we are up against. The clock is ticking closer to doomsday.”
Eve didn’t react, so Mayer decided to change the subject.
“So, we’re here in Cairo. The continent is subjugated for the time being. I lived up to my part of the deal. You got what you wanted. Now you can tell me the truth. You never had Steve Jobs authorization for Yahoo to become Apple’s default search engine. You were, to put it nicely: bluffing.”
“I was, to put it honestly: lying.” Eve said with a hint of a smile.
Mayer nodded unhappily. She had always suspected, but Eve admitting it out loud suddenly annoyed her. “So you knew he wasn’t likely to agree to it.”
“I knew for a fact he would never agree to it.” Eve said, finishing her lemonade. The waiter brought two more glasses over to the table for her and Yuliya.
“You bitch!” Mayer said angrily. “So are you going to at least ask him now?”
“No.” Eve said, taking a sip from her fresh lemonade. Mayer furiously stood up, knocking her chair backwards. Eve slowly put her lemonade down and rose to meet the challenge. She crossed over to Mayer and looked down at her unapologetically. Eve was a good head taller, but Mayer didn’t flinch. Bullinda and Yuliya watched tensely, ready for a serious cat fight.
Eve continued. “I won’t ask him, because I don’t need to. I sent Jobs an email yesterday about it and he’s already agreed.” Eve pulled her iCom and showed Mayer the email thread. There were several densely packed paragraphs from Eve explaining the bargain and why Yahoo was critical to the war effort. Jobs reply was, as usual, brief and to the point.
Mayer’s anger melted into hopeful confusion. “But… he agreed to it? He… Yahoo will be Apple’s default search engine?”
“Yes.” Eve said with a growing smile. “Couldn’t believe it myself. So I talked to Eddy Cue to confirm it before I walked in. It’s a done deal.”
Mayer was overjoyed. “When? Will Jobs announce it at the Keynote?”
“Nope. It goes into effect tomorrow. They’re sending out a system wide update in the morning.”
Mayer hugged Eve tightly. “Thank you! This might not even matter anymore but it means a lot to me. Thank you. This would have put Yahoo right back on top. Too bad the world is going to hell first.”
ROOF - WINDSOR HOTEL - CAIRO
She was right, of course. The world was going to hell. Eve barely had time to finish her second lemonade before she was updated on how bad things were. The Fellowship of Tech, God how Eve hated that name, was winning on most of the military fronts. But the G-Blade was spreading faster than a zombie apocalypse. North America and South America were in shambles. Europe was worse. Branson had asked Mayer to continue on into the Middle East in the hopes of putting additional pressure on Google in Europe. It was mutually decided Bullinda would go back to work for Yahoo. It would need all the help it could get if it was going to open another front in Turkey. Meanwhile, it was critical for Eve to rally Apple’s potential allies in Central Asia and drive Google out before large quantities of G-Blades leaked into China on the silk road. She decided to send Yuliya on ahead to pin down her old master Granmura and see whose side he had finally decided to join. To Eve’s surprise, Yuliya accepted without hesitation. Was it because she understood the importance of the mission? Or had the time she had spend away from Uzbekistan given her the confidence, and even desire, to return not only as a free woman but an official Apple employee? Or, after all the recent drama, was she grateful to take a relationship break from Eve?
Meanwhile, Eve had to get back to Apple and see Jobs. In person. Alone. That is, after she finished one last little job in Africa.
She stood on the roof of the hotel, saying goodbye, at least for now, to Bullinda and Yuliya. She glanced down at her iCom, she had about fifty seconds left. She glanced out over the tall dust covered buildings of Cairo all around them. Down in the streets there were waves of motorbikes and busy tea shops. A turboprop plane could be heard in the distance.
“You can always text me.” Eve said. Yuliya nodded. Bullinda sighed, annoyed.
“What is it with you two, huh?” she said in her deep baritone voice.
Eve and Yuliya looked at Bullinda, confused.
“You two are nuts for each other. Anyone can see it. Give her a freaking goodbye kiss!”
Eve wasn’t sure if the order was for her, or Yuliya, but regardless, they did kiss. Softly on the lips at first, then passionately in a tight embrace. The turboprop plane appeared in the sky, heading for the hotel. An air recovery lift line lowered from it. Eve released Yuliya and looked into her lovely eyes.
“I love you.” Eve said. Yuliya softly nodded.
Eve stepped back a few feet to the edge of the roof. She clipped the magnetic sky hook off her vest harness and raised it up with her arm. As the turbojet passed overhead, a magnetic pickup on the lift line caught the hook and pulled Eve up into the sky.
To be continued…
Next episode: The Great Game